Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Greater Turkey?

Source: "Turkey’s New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire"--Foreign Policy.

     From Stars & Stripes:
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started talking about Turkey’s borders, hinting they should be shifted outward a bit. In Syria and Iraq, his army is involved in wars over territory once ruled from Istanbul. Maps of a Greater Turkey have circulated. 
That has led to speculation that Erdogan, fresh from surviving an attempted coup, wants to crown his 14-year rule in Turkey by annexing chunks of its neighbors. ...
The article goes on to reassure readers that it is merely a political ploy to strengthen support among Turkish nationalists. The theory is that the comments are to bolster Erdogan's popularity "as his country stands on the brink of potentially having a major referendum that could see its parliamentary democracy system replaced by an executive presidency, handing the ruling AK Part[y] boss significantly greater powers than he already has."

     But even the Stars & Stripes article admits that behind the smoke is some fire. Deeper into the article, it states:
Erdogan’s foreign policy has become more assertive since the coup attempt. In August, he sent troops into Syria, where they’re pursuing Islamic State but also clashing with fighters linked to the separatist Kurdish PKK — the group that’s a main target of Erdogan’s crackdown at home. Its Syrian affiliates have established control over much of that country’s north during five years of civil war, and in doing so, emerged as a favored U.S. fighting force in the ground war against Islamic State. 
In recent days, Turkey has been sending tanks and troops to its Iraqi border too, ready to bolster a 2,000-strong force that’s already inside the country — despite loud protests from Baghdad. 
Erdogan insists that Turkey will join in the ongoing liberation of Mosul, the biggest Iraqi city in Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Caliphate. Justifying that stance, which has dismayed many allies, he’s repeatedly referred to Turkey’s past rule over the region. 
Pro-government media dug up the history of oil-rich Mosul and Kirkuk, provinces of the Ottoman Empire that almost became part of the Turkish republic created after World War I. Instead they went to another new state, Iraq, which was then under a British mandate, and Turkey formally dropped its claim over them in the late 1920s. 
Still, “Mosul maintains a position of unique historical relevance in Turkey’s collective memory,” the Soufan Group, a security analyst, said in an emailed report. It said Erdogan’s deployment of troops nearby is part of “Turkey’s effort to strategically position itself and the forces it supports to prevail in the aftermath of the battle.” 
As in Syria, Islamic State isn’t Turkey’s only enemy in Iraq, and not necessarily the most important one. Erdogan has called Sinjar, west of Mosul, a “sensitive target” for Turkey. Over the past year, it’s become a base for PKK fighters who helped drive the jihadists out of the town.
      A couple of weeks ago, Foreign Policy published an article exploring the same topic, which noted:
 In the past few weeks, a conflict between Ankara and Baghdad over Turkey’s role in the liberation of Mosul has precipitated an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism. On two separate occasions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul, near which Turkey has a small military base. And, alongside news of Turkish jets bombing Kurdish forces in Syria and engaging in mock dogfights with Greek planes over the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s pro-government media have shown a newfound interest in a series of imprecise, even crudely drawn, maps of Turkey with new and improved borders.
 It goes on:
These maps purport to show the borders laid out in Turkey’s National Pact, a document Erdogan recently suggested the prime minister of Iraq should read to understand his country’s interest in Mosul. Signed in 1920, after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, the National Pact identified those parts of the empire that the government was prepared to fight for. Specifically, it claimed those territories that were still held by the Ottoman army in October 1918 when Constantinople signed an armistice with the allied powers. On Turkey’s southern border, this line ran from north of Aleppo in what is now Syria to Kirkuk in what is now Iraq.
 This is tied to threats of 4th or 5th generation warfare through leveraging Turkish minorities in neighboring countries. In that regard, the article explains:
Erdogan’s use of the National Pact also demonstrates how successfully Turkey’s Islamists have reappropriated, rather than rejected, elements of the country’s secular nationalist historical narrative. Government rhetoric has been quick to invoke the heroism of Turkey’s war of independence in describing the popular resistance to the country’s July 15 coup attempt. And alongside the Ottomans, Erdogan routinely references the Seljuks, a Turkic group that preceded the Ottomans in the Middle East by several centuries, and even found a place for more obscure pre-Islamic Turkic peoples like the Gokturks, Avars, and Karakhanids that first gained fame in Ataturk’s 1930s propaganda. 
Similarly, in Syria and Iraq, Erdogan is aiming to achieve a long-standing national goal, the defeat of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), by building on the traditional nationalist tools of Turkish foreign policy — namely, the leveraging of Turkish minorities in neighboring countries. The Sultan Murad Brigade, comprising predominantly ethnic Turkmens, has been one of Ankara’s military assets inside Syria against both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the PKK. Meanwhile, the Turkmen population living around Mosul and its surrounding area has been a concern and an asset for Ankara in Iraq. Turkish special forces have worked with the Iraqi Turkmen Front since at least 2003 in order to expand Turkish influence and counter the PKK in northern Iraq. 
Over the past century, the Turkish minorities in northern Greece and Cyprus have played a similar role. That is, their well-being has been a subject of genuine concern for Turkish nationalists but also a potential point of leverage with Athens to be used as needed. (Greece, of course, has behaved similarly with regard to the Greek minority in Turkey. Not surprisingly, both populations have often suffered reciprocally as a result.) In the case of Cyprus, for example, Turkey’s 1974 invasion was as much about defending its strategic position as it was about protecting the island’s Turkish community. Following his statements about Lausanne, Erdogan further upset Greece by stating, “Turkey cannot disregard its kinsmen in Western Thrace, Cyprus, Crimea, and anywhere else.” 
 As I see it, though, there is no disconnect between Erdogan's pleas to form a Greater Turkey and his willingness to actually attempt it. We saw it with pre-World War II Germany, for instance, and both Hitler's rhetoric about uniting the German people, and the actions he took with respect to Czechoslovakia and Austria. Besides, the map above ties in quiet neatly with the description of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 and, for that reason, Erdogan and his plans bear continued scrutiny.

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