By Gallia Lindenstrauss
February 4th, 2016, The Turkey Analyst
In view of the challenges Turkey is facing in the Middle East, Ankara is attempting to further solidify its relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and specifically with KRG’s president, Massoud Barzani. While this policy may assist Turkey in increasing its influence over the future of Iraq and assist it in diversifying its energy suppliers, it is less likely to help Turkey in its internal struggle with its Kurdish minority, or in countering the Kurdish aspirations in Syria. Yet, as the only still relevant remnant of Turkey’s ‘zero Problems’ policy, Turkey-KRG relations do have the potential to assist Ankara in maintaining and solidifying its influence over the future of Iraq.
By Ipek Velioglu
January 15th, 2016, The Turkey Analyst
Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian jet in the Syrian border led to a crisis between the two countries. Although Russia and Turkey always had divergent political agendas, they maintained a good relationship. In the last decade, thanks to the personal relationship of the leaders, Russia and Turkey created a strong economic partnership, especially in the energy field, and kept it separately from the political sphere. But this time is different: the deterioration in political relations will have a strong impact on energy cooperation. Russia slammed economic sanctions on Turkey and big investment projects are at risk. Given its dependency on Russian natural gas, Turkey is concerned about its energy security, making the quest for alternative suppliers and sources highly relevant.
Murat Belge in Taraf writes that Turkey’s downing of the Russian plane is going to have repercussions for its Western allies. The question now is, did we warn our allies before taking an action that could have forced all the members of the NATO to go to war against Russia? For instance, were the people of Norway, or Denmark, Italy or Canada aware that they could have found themselves at war with Russia before the month of November was over? How probable is it that a Dane would approve of his state declaring war against Russia just because a Russian war plane flew over Turkish air space for seventeen seconds? Isn’t he or she going to think that one ought to reconsider being allied to a country that can behave so irresponsibly?
Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak notes that Russia is giving air support to the Kurdish PYD forces in Syria, helping them to cross to the west of the Euphrates. Do you think that the U.S. would mind if the Kurds were to succeed in their advance? It would not at all be surprising if the U.S. prefers that the Kurds – rather than the Sunni opposition that the Russians are hitting – acquire control over the area. In that case, Turkey will have only one counter-measure that it has often said it will deploy: To hit the PYD. You can imagine what the consequences of such an extreme and bad scenario – a probable fight between PYD and the Turkish army – would have on relations with the U.S., with Russia and how societal tensions in the southeast would escalate. Since Russia joined the game, everything has been turned upside down. This has also been a strike against Turkey that supports the Sunni opposition and it has turned into an endeavor to push out Turkey from the area.
Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet writes that the Russian planes are hitting the armed groups in Syria that Ankara support, and that the Russian offensive risks paving the way for a Kurdish advance, connecting the three Kurdish cantons. Ankara relies on the armed groups that Russia is hitting to defend the 98 kilometer long corridor that separates the Kurdish areas. Russia is in all probability aiming to create the conditions for the capture of this corridor by Syrian government forces. This is the main reason why Ankara shot down the Russian plane in this area. The loss of the forces that Turkey has built up during all these years means that its whole Syria policy is crumbling. The question is if this area might come under the control of PKK? Russia’s operation in the area creates the possibility that the corridor of 98 kilometers might be taken over by PKK/PYD. What happens if the U.S. and Russia were to come to an agreement on this? Would they do it? Let us here remind that Ankara has declared that it will certainly intervene if that were to come to pass. However, if the area comes under the control of the Assad forces that might perhaps prevent the realization of what Turkey fears – the establishment of a contiguous Kurdish corridor that reaches to the Mediterranean. Ankara ought to keep this in mind and make its plans accordingly. Otherwise it will lose everything. Peace with Assad is the solution!
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.