TAP – Read the two consecutive articles here to see Erdogan is overreaching to the point of impossibility.
The unexpected alliance between Turkey and Libya is a geopolitical earthquake that changes the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean and across the Middle East. Turkey’s audacious move has enraged its rivals in the region and cleared the way for a dramatic escalation in the 9 year-long Libyan civil war. It has also forced leaders in Europe and Washington to decide how they will counter Turkey’s plan to defend the U.N-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and to extend its maritime borders from Europe to Africa basically creating “a water corridor through the eastern Mediterranean linking the coasts of Turkey and Libya.” Leaders in Ankara believe that the agreement “is a major coup in energy geopolitics” that helps defend Turkey’s “sovereign rights against the gatekeepers of the regional status quo.” But Turkey’s rivals strongly disagree. They see the deal as a naked power grab that undermines their ability to transport natural gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe without crossing Turkish waters. In any event, the Turkey-Libya agreement has set the stage for a broader conflict that will unavoidably involve Egypt, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Russia and the United States. All parties appear to have abandoned diplomatic channels altogether and are, instead, preparing for war.
On November 27, Turkey and Libya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that commits Turkey to providing military assistance to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). The MoU also redraws Turkey’s maritime boundaries in a way that dramatically impacts the transport of gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe.
Israel is particularly worried that this new deal will undermine its plans for a 1,900-kilometer EastMed pipeline connecting the Leviathan gas field, off the coast of Israel, to the EU. YNET News summarized Israel’s concerns in an ominously titled article: “Turkey’s maneuver could block Israel’s access to the sea”. Here’s an excerpt:
“Two of Israel’s wars (1956 Sinai campaign and 1967 Six-Day War) broke out over navigation rights. Israel must take note of a new reality taking hold in the Mediterranean. It must regard Turkey’s actions as a substantial strategic threat and consider what it may do to respond to it…
This EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zones) designation essentially carved up much of the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Libya, prompting a wave of international condemnations first and foremost from Greece, Egypt, and Cyprus, who may be directly or indirectly affected…..Turkey’s disregard for the economic waters of Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt.
Ankara is in effect annexing those areas pending an appeal to international tribunals, which can take many years to resolve. In practical terms, Turkey created a sea border the width of the entire Mediterranean.” (“Turkey’s maneuver could block Israel’s access to the sea”, ynet news)
The analysis from America’s premier Foreign Policy magazine was no less foreboding. Check it out:
“Turkey is meshing together two Mediterranean crises in a desperate bid to reshape the region in its own favor, with potentially nasty implications both for the ongoing civil war in Libya and future energy development in the eastern Mediterranean.
This month, Turkey’s unusual outreach to the internationally recognized government of Libya has resulted in a formal agreement for Ankara to provide military support, including arms and possibly troops, in its bid to hold off an offensive from Russian-backed rebels in the eastern part of the country. The military agreement came just weeks after Turkey and that same Government of National Accord reached an unusual agreement to essentially carve up much of the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean between them—threatening to cut out Greece and Cyprus from the coming bonanza….” (“Newly Aggressive Turkey Forges Alliance With Libya”, Foreign Policy)
While these new developments are likely to intensify the fighting on the ground in Libya, they also portend a deepening of divisions within the region itself where new coalitions are forming and battle-lines are being drawn. On the one side is the Turkey-Libya Axis, while on the other is Greece, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, France, Germany, UK and probably the United States although the Trump administration has not yet clarified its position. In any event, the war between Libya’s internationally-recognized government and Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is just a small part of a much larger struggle over vital hydrocarbons in a strategically-located area of the Mediterranean. Here’s a clip from an article at War On The Rocks that helps to underscore the stakes involved:
“The discovery of significant deposits of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean beginning in 2009 was a game-changer that upended regional geopolitics. It prompted new and unexpected alliances between Israel, Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt to maximize their chances of energy self-sufficiency. The bulk of the gas lies in Egypt’s Zohr field, the Leviathan and Tamar fields in Israeli waters, and the Aphrodite near the island of Cyprus. With recoverable natural gas reserves in the region estimated at upward of 120 trillion cubic feet, the strategic implications could not be bigger. This is about the same amount as the proven gas in the whole of Iraq, the 12th largest reserve globally….(Israel’s gas field) Leviathan is estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and a potential half a million barrels of oil.” (“Hydrocarbon Diplomacy: Turkey’s Gambit Might Yet Pay a Peace Dividend”, warontherocks.com)
Turkey’s ambitious gambit makes it more likely that its rivals will increase their support for the Libyan warlord, Haftar, who is, by-most-accounts, a CIA asset that was sent to Libya in 2014 to topple the government in Tripoli and unify the country under a US puppet. Haftar’s forces currently control more than 70% of the Libyan territory while almost 60% of the population is under the control of the GNA led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. According to Turkish news: “More than half of Haftar’s troops are mercenaries from Russia and Sudan, who are mainly paid by the Gulf states.”
In April, 2019, Haftar launched an offensive on the government in Tripoli but was easily repelled. In recent days, however, Haftar has resumed his attacks on the city of Misrata and on the Tripoli airport in clear violation of the Berlin ceasefire agreement. He has also received shipments of weapons from the UAE despite an arms embargo that was unanimously approved two weeks ago at the same Berlin Conference. We expect that support for Haftar will continue to grow in the months ahead as Berlin, Paris and particularly Washington settle on a plan for reinforcing proxies to prosecute the ground war and for blunting Turkey’s power projection in the Mediterranean.
The Turkey-Libya agreement is a clumsy attempt to impose Turkey’s preferred maritime boundaries on the other countries bordering the Mediterranean. Naturally, Washington will not allow this unilateral assertion of power to go unchallenged.
And while Washington’s strategy has not yet been announced, that merely indicates that the foreign policy establishment was caught off-guard by Turkey’s November 27 announcement. It does not mean that Washington will accept the status quo. To the contrary, US war-planners are undoubtedly putting the finishing touches on a new strategy aimed at achieving their objectives in Libya while at the same time dealing a stinging blow to a NATO ally that has grown closer to Russia, caused endless headaches in Syria, and is now disrupting Washington’s plans for controlling vital resources in the East Mediterranean.
Washington sees Turkey’s assertive foreign policy as a sign of “defiance” which requires a iron-fisted response. But any attack on Turkey or Turkish interests will only intensify the bad blood between Ankara and Washington, it will only put more pressure on the threadbare NATO alliance, and it will only push Turkish president Erdogan further into Moscow’s corner. Indeed, the Trump team should realize that an overreaction on their part could trigger a fateful realignment that could reshape the region while hastening the emergence of a new order.
Mike lives in Washington state. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published by “Unz” –
Mike lives in Washington state. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Even though the Syrian Army, with the aid of its international friends and allies, especially Russia, has been able to score many victories and liberate most of Syria’s major cities from the control of terrorist groups, the fight is far from over.
Before the situation in the American-controlled North-East is addressed, the Western regions, including Idlib and its surrounds must be put back fully under the legitimate government control.
As a matter of fact, politically speaking, the situation now is perhaps more complex to deal with than nine years ago when the “War on Syria” took form. Almost exactly nine years ago, the enemies of Syria combined efforts to launch a joint attack. United only by their hatred for Syria, they had diverse agendas, but they combined efforts in order to capitalize on each other’s strengths. The Wahhabi version of Islamists, headed by Saudi Arabia, joined hands with the Muslim Brotherhood version headed by Turkey and financed by Qatar, and they all joined hands with NATO, Israel and Lebanese ultra-right militia among other vendetta groups, for the single purpose of deposing President Assad and replacing the legitimate secular Syrian Government with one that is sectarian and pliable to the will of the Western roadmap.
They failed in achieving their combined objectives and some of the armies they created, such as Jaysh Al-Islam, headed by former Syrian Army officer Zahran Alloush, ceased to exist. Alloush was killed in a Syrian Army attack in December 2015, but the casualties also included conspirators who were sidelined and lost their careers; the most prominent of which is Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, who was perhaps the single biggest architect of the attack on Syria.
The tides began to turn in favour of Syria after the Syrian Army scored its huge victory in the Battle of Qusayr in mid-2013. This was a decisive battle that basically disabled the terrorists from linking the Damascus province with their northern supply lines. Without this victory, in retrospect, it would be arguable if Syria would have been able to earn much support from Russia; if any at all. Syria had to show a fighting spirit, resolve, determination and respect for her to reach such an echelon. After all, Russia does not only by tradition honour and respect those who stand up with dignity against all odds, but on the geopolitical scene, and after decades of being sidelined by the Western bloc, any Russian global move had to be fully and thoroughly assessed before any venture was to be undertaken.
It was crucial for Russia therefore, and for President Putin in particular, to ensure that the presence of Russian troops in Syria had very high chances of success.
The fragmentation of Syria’s enemies began to take form before Russian action in the skies and on the soil of Syria. The Saudi’s first and biggest disappointment was when the USA refused to level Damascus to the ground after Prince Bandar orchestrated the alleged Ghouta chemical attack in September 2013. That was Bandar’s last draw after the loss of Al-Qusayr and his attempts to blackmail Putin by threatening him to unleash Islamists in Chechnya.
From that point in time onwards, the Saudi role in the “War on Syria” dwindled and came to an end with the demise of Alloush. But as the tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia emerged in 2017, Qatar remained “represented” via its ally Turkey.
Erdogan was initially determined to victoriously pray at the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus early in the piece. But he is still determined to get a bite of the cherry, a consolation prize, despite all the setbacks that his former camp has endured.
After Turkey downed the Russian Su-24 in November 2015, the relationship between Turkey and Russia reached its nadir. But the pragmatist Erdogan soon apologized to Putin and eventually reached an agreement about how to deal with the deadlock situation in Idlib.
But Erdogan is not coming clean about his commitment to what became to be known as the Sochi Agreement.https://thedefensepost.com/2019/10/22/russia-turkey-syria-mou/.
Erdogan defiantly continues to wear the hat of a fully-fledged NATO member, a close friend and ally of Russia, the leader of the nation that is desirous to enter the EU, an Islamist who wants to rebuild the Ottoman Empire, and a nationalist who is willing and able to deal with Kurdish issue. What he does not see is that whilst those antics gain him popularity amongst sympathetic Muslim supporters, on the international scene, he is increasingly making a mockery out of himself.
His clear-to-see contradictions seem mind-boggling, but to the pragmatic Erdogan who is trying as hard as he can to be Sultan, his mind is fixated on Islamism and nationalism, and he is performing as if he has found himself a Fatwa that permits him to dance to the tunes of the devil to reach his ultimate objectives.
Among other things, to Putin, Erdogan portrays himself as Russia’s friend who is reconsidering his alliance with the US and even wants to buy Russian S-400 defence missile systems. To America, he remains as a NATO member and an American ally who wants to buy America’s latest state-of the-art F-35 fighter jets. On one hand, he makes verbal attacks against Israel, but continues to opt to have strong diplomatic ties with that state. He pledges support for the Palestinian cause but offers no evidence to put his words into action.
If Erdogan truly deserves any recognition and respect at all, it would have to be for his ability to meander his way through and survive amongst all the contradictions that he has deliberately and systemically implanted along his path.
He could be running out of options; at least in Syria, but this doesn’t stop him from making yet more contradictory statements within a few days of each other. By the end of January 2020 he threatened to take a new offensive in Syria over the Russian-backed Syrian Army offensive in Idlib. https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/202001311078189883-erdogan-threatens-new-offensive-in-syria—report/ A few days later, he made a U-turn and declared that he will not allow the situation in Idlib to sour his relationship with Russia.https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/202002041078225599-turkey-will-not-escalate-tensions-with-russia-over-syrias-idlib—erdogan/? But in between the two statements which are only four days apart, the Syrian Army has shelled Turkish positions and purportedly killed six Turkish soldiers and injured about a dozen. Whilst such an unprecedented incident should have sent Erdogan firing up as one would expect, according to Palestinian veteran journalist, Abdul Bari Atwan, this wasn’t to happen this time.
In a translation-worthy article, Russia and Syria have decided to take action in Idlib and they are no longer waiting for Erdogan to abide by his promises and agreements.
Atwan’s article’s title translates as: “What does the Syrian shelling of Turkish troops in Sarakob and the killing of six Turkish soldiers signify? And, what is the Russian message to Erdogan? And, did the Russians and the Turks tear up the Sochi Agreement? And, who will emerge as a winner in the bone-crushing battle in Idlib?”
According to Atwan’s analysis, the Syrian shelling of Turkish positions signaled the end of the line of joint Russian-Syrian patience with Erdogan’s lack of commitment to the Sochi Agreement. Atwan argues that opinion polls within Turkey indicate that Erdogan does not have the support of escalating in Syria and neither that of sending troops to Libya for that matter.
Did Atwan see the end of the line of Erdogan’s lies and contradictions this time? I personally hope he did. I must admit that in my previous analysis I have predicted several times that Erdogan had made his final and detrimental mistake . Somehow he always manages to slither out of the hole he was in and keep going.
Has he made his final and lethal mistake or is he going to relent and let Syria be?
Time will tell.
This article was published by “The Saker” –