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Syrian Operation Overshadowed Domestic Political Aims of Erdogan

Most of the Western military analysts are not successful in understanding the real reasons of Turkey’s recent military operations in Syria, by the reason that not truly comprehends the true extent of the Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian tendency.

FATİH YURTSEVEN

Since 2010, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gradually accumulated all governmental and administrative power by cunningly eliminating his political opponents such as Suleyman Soylu (former leader of Democrat Party and current Minister of Internal Affairs) and Numan Kurtulmus (former leader of People’s Voice Party and current vice president of Central Executive Committee of AKP), who had heavily criticized the President, by inviting them to his party. Within 17 years, Erdogan has also managed to control the vast majority of the media, which normally has a critical role in enlightening and influencing Turkish society with respect to the appropriateness of the Turkish military operations in Syria. Today, every segment of Turkish society is under the heavy influence of the government-led media, which professionally shapes the public perception regarding the “victories and enemies” of the “leader of the century”. In March 2016, President acquired the sufficient power to dismiss the elected Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu without stating any legitimate reason. The western-minded military cadre was the only remained obstacle in front of Erdogan to force the Turkish army to enter into the territory of Syria behind the Free Syrian Army, which includes brutal fighters. The fake coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was “the gift of God” for the President to get rid of the top officers such as Akın Ozturk, former Commander of Turkish Air Force, who strictly rejected any kind of Turkish military involvement in Syria.  The first major military operation, Operation Euphrates Shield, started on August 24, 2016, only one month after the dismissal of nearly half of the top officers in the wake of July 15, 2016. According to a joke, Napoleon Bonaparte envied the President’s media and said that if I had had such a proponent media, I would have foisted Waterloo as a big victory to France public.

The President lost his chance to continue his political life within the parliamentary democracy due to his family’s involvement in the corruption allegations. In a normal democratic country, independent courts would question the illegal actions of both the government and its members. The president decided long ago to ruin the parliamentary democracy in Turkey and establish a one-man rule both to passivize his enemies and rule the country based on his wills like a private company. For this reason, President had to make up a series of military victories in a foreign country to create a strong image similar to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The President called July 15 fake coup attempt as the new independence war of Turkey. According to polls before July 15, most of the Turkish citizens were not willing to support the new tailor-made presidential system, which would give superpowers to the elected President. After July 15, the supports for Turkish-style presidential system significantly increased. But it was not enough for the President. Because this support should have continued during the long and challenging constitutional amendment process. During a military operation in a foreign country, it is natural to observe the increase in the nationalistic sentiments. Operation Euphrates Shield gave the desired opportunity to divert the Turkish public attention away from the debates about the details of the new presidential system. This operation was also extremely functional for the President to maintain the public support for the new presidential system at a required level. Before the constitutional referendum on April 16 for the ratification of new presidential system, the President reached one of the “brightest” victory in Syria with the help of Operation Euphrates Shield.

The emergency state in Turkey was in force more than one year before the start of Operation Olive Branch. After a controversial referendum for new presidential system in 2017, nearly %51 of Turkish population accepted the AKP’s proposal for new administration system. The other major Turkish military operation was Operation Olive Branch, which started in January 2018. What a coincidence, this operation ended on March 18, 2018, which is the anniversary of the Canakkale (Gallipoli) Victory.  Normally, Turkey would elect its new president in November 2019. On the other hand, on 18 April 2018, President Erdogan stated that “Our preference has been to try to hold out till the date in November 2019. However, whether it be the cross-border operation in Syria or the historic developments in Iraq and Syria has made it so that it is paramount for Turkey to overcome uncertainty”. As it is seen from the statement of Erdogan, the military operation in Syria became the main reason for the snap presidential election in Turkey. Turkish media had to apply self-censorship due to the heavy atmosphere in Turkish political environment. Just one month after the start of the operation, 786 people were detained due to their social media messages about criticizing the Turkish military operation in Syria. Moreover, more than 1500 crew of Turkish Armed Forces (including jet pilots and controllers) who have attended operation Olive Branch was seperated from their uniform just a few days after the end of the operation due to have been in a relationship with Gulen movement. Of course, people who were poisoned by government-led media couldn’t dare to ask “If this crew were betrayer, why did they participate such an important operation? If they are not betrayer why were they removed from Army?” With the help of rising nationalism, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected as the first president of new system on 24 June 2018. Nevertheless, Erdogan could not live happily after ever as the strong president of Turkey. Because the Turkish economy heavily deteriorated due to the populist policies of Erdogan to become the first president of Turkey.

Rising inflation and unemployment are the waking call for the Turkish society about the future damages of the new presidential system. In the local election on March 31, 2019, Turkish citizens gave a strong warning to Erdogan, who lost the major cities of Turkey including Istanbul. However, Erdogan had entered a dead-end-street long before and did not have the chance to improve the economic and political conditions of Turkey. Because of the wrong foreign policy preferences, nearly 4 million Syrian refugees have come to Turkey. Turkey’s inactivity against ISIS after 2012 and participation of foreign fighters to ISIS via to Turkish border strengthened the position of YPG in Syria as a legitimate actor, which wants to establish a Kurdish state in the North of Syria. The insufficient Turkish military cadre, which appointed after July 15, 2016, does not have sufficient level of courage to explain the negative consequences of the military operations in Syria by using the members of Free Syrian Army. Today, the main problem for Turkish citizens is the catastrophic consequences of the long-lasting economic crisis in Turkey. Nearly every one out of four adults in Turkey is unemployed. Almost half of employed people are working for minimum wage designated by government. The government has imposed new taxes to close the huge budgetary deficit. In such a political environment, Erdogan clearly knows that he will lose the supports of Turkish citizens. The “Operation Peace Spring” started in such an adverse political atmosphere and temporarily gave Erdogan the kiss of life. Einstein stated that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”. It is the insanity of Erdogan to force Turkish military forces in the wrong direction for the sake of preserving his power. And, it is time for the military analysts in Western countries to predict the future detrimental consequences of Erdogan’s usage of Turkish military in an uncontrolled way.

Politics

Arms trafficking to Libya and Erdoğan family

Viktor Baranets: “The disclosure of the total number of Turkish soldiers killed in Libya may lead to a military coup in Turkey. The secret is in the arms trafficking.”

FATİH YURTSEVER

Is Erdoğan’s Arms Trade in Danger in Libya?

While the agenda of all people in Turkey and the world is the struggles with the coronavirus, the life continues from where it left off for Erdoğan in his 1150-room sheltered massive palace under the supervision of doctors. However, the recent developments in Libya and the Mediterranean seem to discomfort Erdoğan.

The first development began with the publication of the “Ghost Ships” news prepared by BBC reporter Benjamin Strick using open source information. On the day of the report, the ambassadors of the EU countries decided to start an operation named IRINA on March 31 to control the arms embargo imposed on Libya in line with the UN Security Council Decisions.

A news analysis with a headline, “Erdoğan’s Ambitions Cost the Lives of dozens of Turkish Soldiers in Libya,” was published on March 27 at the Russian Federal News Agency. According to the analysis, Turkish soldiers continue to die in Libyan territory, and Erdoğan is hiding casualties from the public due to possible domestic political consequences. Military advisor to the Pravda newspaper, retired Colonel Viktor Baranets, also mentioned that disclosure of the exact number of dead Turkish soldiers might lead to a military coup in Turkey.

Turkey’s military force in the region is around 2000 soldiers. Turkish soldiers use the Mitiga civil airport as a military base. As a result of the attacks carried out by General Hafter forces since the beginning of February, 16 Turkish soldiers and two civil engineers who controlled the UAVs died. According to local sources, more than 50 Syrian mercenaries and Turkish soldiers were killed in the clashes in Ain Zara Region on March 22. Sources close to General Hafter claim that, despite the calls made, the Erdoğan regime did not receive the bodies of the soldiers killed. Viktor Baranets stated that the claim might be true, as sending bodies to Turkey would cause outrage at the grassroots level and thinks it will trigger a military coup in Turkey.

While these developments were taking place, a French frigate was participating in the Operation NATO Marine Guard on March 28 and forced the route of the ship named PS PRAY, which departed from Istanbul Haydarpaşa Port, on the grounds that it carries weapons and air defense weapon systems to Libya. This news was published in the Russian, Bulgarian, and Greek press. So what do Turkish soldiers die for in Libya? What is on the other side of the coin?

Making no bones of the Libyan issue, the Erdogan regime earns serious money from the arms sale to the Libyan Government of National Accord, despite the arms embargo imposed in line with the UN Security Council Decisions. It is crystal clear that this money is not deposited to the Turkish Central Bank. As it is comprehended from the images published in the BBC, some of the vehicles and weapons are manufactured in the Sakarya Tank and Pallet Factory. This factory was recently sold to Qatar and Ethem Sancak partnership within the scope of privatization due to the pretext of “factory’s financial problems,” and one of the main reasons behind this sale is to have easier arms trade.

In order to shield arms trade and eliminate the public reactions for the possible military losses, the Erdoğan regime signed an agreement to restrict the Maritime Jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean with the Libyan Government of National Accord. After the news bombardment made about the agreement on protecting Turkey’s rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, the support of the Sarrac Government and the shipment of arms & troops were not seriously discussed in public, since this topic was considered as a “national issue.”

However, as a result of an attack on a merchant ship in the Port of Tripoli on February 18, journalists Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkloğlu, and Yeniçağ newspaper writer Murat Ağırel were arrested after the news published on the Odatv Website about the murder of military-origin National Intelligence Service (MIT) members, who were understood to be in the region to coordinate the arms trade. The arrest of journalists can be considered as a sign of how much the Erdoğan regime is in the mire in Libya. If the journalists were not bulldozed and intimidated, any journalist would comprehensively investigate this topic in the future, and perhaps the dirty face of the arms trade and the real number of deaths would be revealed. It is evident from now on that there will be no news about these topics without running the risk of going to jail. The common people in Turkey will continue to learn such news from foreign media.

Of course, seeing the published news on these issues in the Russian media should not be interpreted favorably. When such files or similar events came to the table or were highlighted in the press before, the Erdoğan regime made the concessions that mortgage the future of the country.

European countries have preferred to remain silent on what the Erdoğan regime has done so far on Libya and Syria in exchange for keeping the Syrian refugees in Turkey. But it seems that the EU has changed its attitude towards the agglomerating of refugees on the Greek border. The IRINA operation, which will be launched on March 31 to control the arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean, is a concrete indicator of this change. Moreover, forcing a cargo ship, which was is claimed to be loaded with weapons by a French frigate to change its course before the operation begins, can be considered as a sign of what will happen next.

“I said, ‘Sign a deal.’ Get it done. They really didn’t want to. All of a sudden, they start fighting. Fighting, fighting, fighting. And it was vicious, and other countries got involved. Now I say ‘Let’s sign a deal,’ they said, ‘Okay, let’s sign a deal,'” President Trump stated in an interview with a broadcaster in the USA, referring to the termination of Operation Peace Spring. As can be understood from this example, the only red line for Erdoğan is his own survival and the money he will earn from the arms and oil trade. Just as Erdoğan has made money by marketing ISIS oil before, he can sit on the table with PYD to continue the similar trade today.

We cannot fully understand the events unless the Libya issue is considered from this point of view. Erdogan “hurt” Europe by stacking refugees at the Greece border, but he also used the biggest trump card he had. Now it’s time for the European countries. Let’s see if they can prevent the flow of money from Libya to Erdoğan’s safe box. Either how will Erdoğan compromise to European leaders this time so as to continue his arms trade?

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Turkish warships escort arms trafficking in Libya

While the Turkish Navy escorts civilian ships trafficking arms to Libya, the US Navy rescues a Turkish yacht burning in our inner sea, Marmara.

BOLD ANALYSIS

FATİH YURTSEVER

What kind of quagmire does the Erdogan Regime drag Turkish warships off of Libya?

While Turkey has a busy agenda with Idlib and coronavirus, local news sources in Libya shared information last week that Turkish warships shot down an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) belonging to General Haftar Forces. Previously, some news websites had published various videos and pictures showing that Turkish warships accompanied the commercial ships carrying weapons for the Government of National Accord forces.

According to the information in the local press, The Turkish Task Force consists of two frigates.

The Turkish warships escorted the ships, loaded with weapons from Turkey, to the port of Tripoli. A UAV of General Haftar forces, departed from Misrata Airport, was allegedly downed with the fired Standard-1 Guided Missile by one of the Turkish warships during one of these “military missions.” Carrying out duties in the Mediterranean for about two months, the Turkish warships returned last week to their bases by completing their missions.

As it can be deduced from the news, the Erdogan regime continues to drag the Turkish Armed Forces into a deadlock in Libya, just like it did in Syria. The warships which have been serving in the Mediterranean for about two months do not have a duty to accompany the merchant ships, which allegedly carry weapons, according to the resolution passed in the Assembly. Moreover, in accordance with the decisions taken by the UN Security Council, an arms embargo is being imposed on Libya.

Warships perform their activities at seas during peacetime according to international law and rules of engagement. It is forbidden to use force by warships against any element other than self-protection and legitimate self-defense. Although it does not pose a threat to ships and perforation of the arms embargo on Libya is categorical, downing a UAV to prevent video recording of accompanying activities means, to say the least, the violation of international law.

The Permanent Representative of the Arab Republic of Egypt, in the letter sent to the UN Security Council on March 10, 2020, accused Turkey of disregarding the arms embargo imposed on Libya and carrying the jihadist groups and pro-al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria to Libya. As a result of the meeting held in Munich in January, the decisions taken by the UN Security Council for ensuring a ceasefire and stability in Libya, registered by decision number 2510, made Turkey’s situation and operations even more fragile.

The EU has announced that it will launch a maritime operation to prevent illegal arms trade in Libya and to control the arms embargo implemented in line with the UN Security Council Decisions. The decision to terminate the activities of Turkish warships off the coast of Libya, as far as it is understood, was taken after the EU announced that it would carry out maritime operations.

Due to the rogue activities of the Erdogan regime, Turkey is perceived as an unreliable partner in the sea, as in every field, and an ally to keep an eye on. Italy has good bilateral relations with Russia and considers Turkey as a country that can be made about, in some measure, partial cooperation for Libya. Relations with France is tense due to the sharing of the Maritime Jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean and the serious opinion differences regarding Cyprus.

In an atmosphere of tension, France sent its aircraft carrier duty group to the Eastern Mediterranean.

As a result of the actual reflection of that statement on the field, The Greek elements and the French aircraft carrier conducted a military drill in the south of Crete. The French Defense Minister also previously stated that “We stand with Greece in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean issues against Turkey.”

Although having sufficient legal arguments in terms of international law on Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and Libya, due to the illegal activities of the Erdogan regime with unlawful practices, Turkey gets lonely each day and causes coalitions against itself. Turkish Armed Forces, which has a commendable position among NATO countries, continues to lose credibility due to the unlawful practices, purges, and politicization.

Turkish Navy is the most evident face of security architecture and foreign policy in the international arena. However, such news about the Navy disregarding the arms embargo or dawning a Libyan UAV, although they serve for the purposes of the Erdogan regime in the short term, they continue to produce evidence that in the long term Turkey will be put in trouble.

While our warships were busy with illegal activities in the Mediterranean Sea, the US’ USS ROSS destroyer extended its helping hand to a burning yacht in the Marmara Sea while passing from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea, rescuing the people on board, and handing them over to the Turkish Coast Guard. The US Embassy in Ankara announced the news on its official Twitter account. Search and rescue at sea is a humanitarian mission, and all ships at sea must assist anyone seeking assistance as far as possible.

However, the Marmara Sea is Turkey’s inland sea. The Navy, especially the Coast Guard, has to monitor the activities in the Marmara Sea closely. It is first of all the Coast Guard’s and then the Navy’s shame that a US destroyer helped a boat burning in our inland waters. There is only one lesson to be learned from this incident: Becoming an apparatus of the unlawful affairs of the Erdogan regime, the Turkish Armed Forces and Navy not only move away from their essential duties but also they lose their deterrence and lose their dignity. Unfortunately, Turkey’s most respected institutions are being pushed into the swamp at the expense of the security of the Erdogan regime.

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Famous oligarch arrested, billion dollars shared between two figures

Azeri businessman Mubarism Mansimov Gurbanoğlu is one of the most well-known oligarch businessmen. It is possible to see him in the same photograph with various leaders, including Trump. Gurbanov changed his surname after becoming a Turkish citizen.

On the morning of March 16, 2020, he was arrested for being linked to the Gülen Community. It was surprising for everyone because Gurbanov had no link with the Gülen movement.

The Gülen movement is regarded as the most dangerous terrorist organization by the Erdoğan Regime. There is no country or regime other than Erdoğan that describes the Gulen Movement as a terrorist organization. In Turkey, being a member of the Gülen movement means to stay in prison for many years.

The assets of many businessmen were confiscated as part of the crackdown on Gulenists. The amount of seized assets has been over 10 billion euros.

According to the first information received, Gurbanov was also arrested for this reason. Gurbanov’s statement from his social media account during his detention also pointed out to this:

“Even the enemy would not make this dishonor you do… Look at yourself, your past and where your children are educated, rather than calling me FETÖ… As you know, I applied to the courts to defend my rights. Private and government companies will lose their legal battle. They see that this day is now close, they are becoming angrier and angrier. ”

The term “FETÖ” (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) is a phrase used by Erdoğan for the Gülen Movement.

Gurbanov is the owner of the most luxurious yacht port in Turkey’s Aegean coast. He also owns the only authorized company in oil imports from Azerbaijan.

Gurbanov’s yacht port has recently been transferred to a former politician named Mehmet Ağar. Ağar and his family became the owner of an international port without paying any money.

Mehmet Ağar has been one of Turkey’s most feared names since the 90s. He was the Ministry of the Interior and led the war against the Kurds in the 90s. Ağar was a policeman before.

Ağar allegedly killed a large number of Kurdish businessmen and received high amounts of money from some of them.

A blacklist of the Kurdish businessmen with close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was created, and those on the list started to be killed one by one.

The businessmen, whose names were on the list or not, were asked for money by blackmail. It was even claimed that İbrahim Tatlıses, the famous Kurdish singer, paid 10 million dollars to Mehmet Ağar to remove his name from the list. Ağar and Tatlıses denied this claim.

This method, which was used against the Kurds in the 90s, is now used against the Gülen movement.

The blackmail on businessmen whose name is on the blacklist is quite common. Numerous lawsuits have been filed about this topic. But the situation is different for higher businessmen.

For a long time, there was pressure on Gurbanov to give up his authority to import oil from Azerbaijan. SOCAR Energy, Azeri-Turkish partnership, wanted to get this authority, which brings billions of dollars to Gurbanov every year.

Gurbanov was trying to save the ultra-luxury yacht port from Mehmet Ağar, and also, he continued his judicial struggle against SOCAR.

At this stage, Gurbanov was arrested on charges of being a member of the Gülen movement. It means that the state can seize all of Gurbanov’s assets and rights.

There are close relations between SOCAR and the Erdoğan family. If the right to import oil passes to the state, it is no surprise to say that this right will be transferred to SOCAR.

Mehmet Ağar is still very strong in the police force. Erdoğan rules the judiciary. In the arrest of Gurbanov, the collaboration of Ağar and Erdoğan captures attention. It is the curiosity about how they will share the spoils.

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