|Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen.|
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
It is an irrefutable fact that the United States sponsors the militants, but only for a limited period of time in order to achieve certain policy objectives. For instance: the United States nurtured the Afghan jihadists during the Cold War against the erstwhile Soviet Union from 1979 to 1988, but after the signing of Geneva Accords and the consequent withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the United States withdrew its support to the Afghan jihadists.
Similarly, the United States lent its support to the militants during the Libyan and Syrian civil wars, but after achieving the policy objectives of toppling the Qaddafi regime in Libya and weakening the anti-Israel Assad regime in Syria, the United States relinquished its blanket support to the militants and eventually declared a war against a faction of Syrian militants, the Islamic State, when the latter transgressed its mandate in Syria and dared to occupy Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in early 2014.
The United States’ regional allies in the Middle East, however, are not as subtle and experienced in Machiavellian geopolitics. Under the misapprehension that alliances and enmities in international politics are permanent, the Middle Eastern autocrats keep on pursuing the same policy indefinitely as laid down by the hawks in Washington for a brief period of time in order to achieve strategic objectives.
For example: the security establishment of Pakistan kept pursuing the policy of training and arming the Afghan and Kashmiri jihadists throughout the ‘90s and right up to September 2001, even after the United States withdrew its support to the jihadists’ cause in Afghanistan in 1988.
Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Turkey has made the same mistake of lending indiscriminate support to the Syrian militants even after the United States’ partial reversal of policy in Syria and the declaration of war against Islamic State in August 2014 in order to placate the international public opinion when the graphic images and videos of Islamic State’s brutality surfaced on the mainstream media.
Keeping up appearances in order to maintain the façade of justice and morality is indispensable in international politics and the Western powers strictly abide by this code of conduct. Their medieval client states in the Middle East, however, are not as experienced and they often keep on pursuing the same counterintuitive policies of training and arming the militants against their regional rivals, which are untenable in the long run in a world where pacifism has generally been accepted as one of the fundamental axioms of the modern worldview.
Regarding the recent thaw  in the icy relationship between Russia and Turkey after the latter shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 in November last year on the border between Syria and Turkey, although the proximate cause of this détente seems to be the attempted coup plot against Erdogan’s Administration last month by the supporters of the US-based preacher, Fethullah Gulen, but this surprising development also sheds light on the deeper divisions between the United States and Turkey over their respective Syria policy.
After the United States’ reversal of regime change policy in Syria in August 2014 when Islamic State overran Mosul in Iraq in June 2014 and threatened the capital of another steadfast American ally, Masoud Barzani’s Erbil in the oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, the Obama Administration has made the Kurds the centerpiece of its policy in Syria and Iraq.
Bear in mind that the conflict in Syria and Iraq is actually a three-way conflict between the Sunni Arabs, the Shi’a Arabs and the Sunni Kurds. Although, after the declaration of war against a faction of Sunni Arab militants, the Islamic State, the Obama Administration has also lent its support to the Shi’a-led government in Iraq, but the Shi’a Arabs of Iraq are not the trustworthy allies of the United States because they are under the influence of America’s archrival in the region, Iran.
Therefore, the Obama Administration was left with no other choice than to make the Kurds the centerpiece of its policy in Syria and Iraq after a group of Sunni Arab jihadists transgressed its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq from where the United States had withdrawn its troops only a couple of years ago.
The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which has recently captured Manbij near the border with Turkey only a couple of weeks ago, are nothing more than Kurdish militias with a tinkering of mercenary Arab tribesmen in order to make them appear more representative and inclusive in outlook.
As far as the regional parties to the Syrian civil war are concerned, however, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf Arab States may not have serious reservations against this close cooperation between the United States and the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, because the Gulf Arab States tend to look at the regional conflicts from the lens of the Iranian Shi’a threat. Turkey, on the other hand, has been more wary of the separatist Kurdish tendencies in its northeast than the Iranian Shi’a threat, as such.
Notwithstanding, any radical departure from the longstanding policy of providing unequivocal support to the American policy in the region by the political establishment of Turkey since the times of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is highly unlikely. But after this perfidy by the Americans of lending their support to the Kurds against the Turkish proxies in Syria, it is quite plausible that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Turkey might try to strike a balance in its relations with the Cold War-era rivals.
Remember that Turkey has the second largest army in the NATO, the United States has been conducting air strikes against the targets in Syria from the Incirlik airbase and around fifty American B-61 hydrogen bombs have also been deployed there, whose safety became a matter of real concern during the attempted coup when the commander of the Incirlik airbase, General Bekir Ercan Van, along with nine other officers were arrested for supporting the coup; movement in and out of the base was denied, power supply was cut off and the security threat level was raised to the highest state of alert, according to a report  by Eric Schlosser for the New Yorker.
Sources and links:
 Turkish Foreign Minister’s exclusive interview to Sputnik News:
 The H Bombs in Turkey by Eric Schlosser: