Turkey: Erdogan’s gamble to win parliament elections!

Turkey: Erdogan’s gamble to win parliament elections!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff


And finally, Washington has also got Turkey to fight Syria and ISIS, though Istanbul always indirectly supported ISIS against Syrian government, and thus there is possibility of escalation of first direct Turkish military confrontation with the ISIS “terrorist organization” since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

The ISIS is suspected to be a US sponsored terror outfit meant to terrorize global Muslims and force Islamic world to serve US interests. As Al Qaeda and Taliban increasingly became ineffective, the ISIS was put into operation with a new “mandate”.

However, Turkey has its own agenda and Ankara’s possible war now would not be restricted to ISIS but could also target Turkey’s other foe, the PKK, the militant Kurdish pro-separatist organization, considered by Turkish government to be a serious problem. Turkey always wanted to silence the PKK for quite a long time. But a number of factors played into Erdogan’s decision to go big now. Apart from ISIS, Kurdish movement, forthcoming general poll also play important roles in the calculation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the war strategy.

Ankara’s sudden activism comes after months of possible pressure from Washington. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Barack Obama did agree to increase coordination with Turkey on US air operations against ISIS and to continue to train vetted Syrian opposition fighters to support Turkey’s efforts. Despite, its anger for Israel over its atrocities in Palestine, Turkey maintain  solid relations with  USA –  directly and through NATO.

Turkey’s desire to carve out safe zones in northern Syria is nothing new, but its political will to unilaterally turn the plans into realty is. Throughout the conflict, Turkey has argued that such zones are needed to defend its borders and to allow Syrian refugees to return home. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated the idea that, once ISIS has been cleared from the areas, safety zones will form by themselves.

Turkey has ramped up intelligence sharing and lifted restrictions on American jets flying from Turkey’s Incirlik military base to Syria. Turkey also called an emergency NATO meeting, which resulted in a show of solidarity for Turkey’s right to defend itself against terrorism but no agreement on next steps. Turkey proposed the creation of a no-fly zone around the Syrian border but USA turned this plan down

In the months after ISIS’ initial rise, Turkey seemed to conclude that the organization was just like any other opposition group in Syria—no better, no worse—and so it chose to prioritize Assad and the Kurds as the biggest threats to its own stability. Erdogan even complained that Western obsession with ISIS was rooted in Islamophobia and anti-Turkish bias. After all, the Western media chose to zero in on ISIS’ black market trade routes across Turkey’s borders rather than on the countries from which the fighters actually originated.

Recently, Erdogan’s political calculations shifted as ISIS escalated its rhetoric about establishing a proper and genuine caliphate back in Istanbul. Such comments were particularly galling in the run-up to the national election, in which Erdogan was positioning his conservative Muslim party as a force for the democratic advancement of Turkey as an important regional power beyond its Ottoman legacy.

Although USA has backed the operations against ISIS, president Obama doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Erdogan on his decision to strike the PKK, and Washington believes that the Kurdish communities in Syria and Iraq are useful partners in countering ISIS. Managing the strategic differences between the USA and Turkey will become harder if Ankara escalates too far in its campaign against the Kurdish communities south of its borders.

President Erdogan’s future itself is even more uncertain.  He had previously been willing to gamble on peace with the Kurds. Now Turkey’s actions against the PKK and its strong rhetoric could undermine Kurdish unity both at home and regionally. That could create further domestic instability as Turkey’s considerable military might is put to the test against the battle-hardened terrorist groups that control stretches of Syria.

Turkey’s political parties bicker among themselves for power in coalition negotiations is a clear win for Erdogan and could make early national elections advantageous. Erdogan could use such an election to regain a majority of seats for his party and also, potentially, to secure a large enough share of seats in Parliament to move for his constitutional reforms to turn Turkey into a presidential system.

To be sure, by opening a two-front war against the PKK and ISIS, Erdogan has marched into uncharted territory. And the operation is certainly going to strain Turkey’s military and security services, making it more dependent on US assistance.

In the coming months, both ISIS and the PKK could ramp up violence against the Turkish government, infrastructure, and civilians. If both groups escalate their attacks, it could tremendously harm Turkey’s economy as well.

President Erdogan possibly hopes to win the parliamentary poll with maximum number of seat.  These days, ruling dispensations try to win elections and stay in power by various gimmicks, apart from ruthless campaign rhetoric, including creation of war scenarios. Israel, for instance, wages aggressive wars against the besieged Palestinians to ensure solid Jewish votes for the ruling party. Indian ruling government prefers a war with neighboring Pakistan or at least or a crossfire standoff at the border to win polls.

It remains to be seen, though, whether Erdogan’s calculated risk will pay off in the form of greater security, more regional influence, and more power at home, or , alternatively, would create further domestic instability, uncertainty and disaster for his Islamist a party and  program.

Turkey would do better if it, instead of going for a war against ISIS and PKK, tries to bring together Kurdish communities at home, in Syria and Iraq and bring about Kurdish unity regionally. President Erdogan must look to the future and not the past.  He must show vision and courage if genuine Islamist setting remains his goal.


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