Seen as a rogue outlier in Nato, Turkey found and acted upon the opportunity to get the West to support its military operation in northern Syria. Turkish forces and alleged mercenaries occupy parts of this region. A vast array of human rights abuses was reported during the peak of its military intervention and Ankara faced condemnation from the Western world. All major NATO members including Germany, France, UK and Canada have refused arms sales to Erdogan’s Turkey. Tensions further escalated when Turkey stepped up its belligerence towards fellow Nato member Greece in the eastern Mediterranean and the West largely backed Athens through this tussle. The list of Turkey’s excesses can go on, but the West has decided to overlook all that now. US President Biden’s own stance on Turkey used to be one of admonishment. Today, that seems to change with Ankara’s new leverage in the game.
Aside from a few words of condemnation at the start of the war in Ukraine, Turkey has remained on good terms with Russia throughout. When Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, visited Ankara this month his Turkish counterpart kindly suggested that the West should ease sanctions against Russia if Russia relaxed its blockade of Ukrainian ports. When Mr Lavrov repeated his claim that Russia had invaded Ukraine to liberate it from neo-Nazis, his host said nothing.
Mr Erdogan’s move to block Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to nato has further damaged Turkey’s standing in the alliance. The strongman has signalled that he wants the Nordic countries to extradite several members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (pkk), an outlawed armed group, and to drop a partial arms embargo against his country. He may also be shopping for concessions from America in exchange for withdrawing his veto, or from Russia for doing the opposite. Mr Erdogan occasionally sounds hostile to nato enlargement as a matter of principle. In a recent guest column for The Economist, he went as far as to blame Finland and Sweden for adding an “unnecessary item” to nato’s agenda by asking to join the alliance.
Kakabaveh says she believes the NATO memberships stalemate will be resolved with a backroom deal between the U.S. and Turkey. If it isn’t, and Sweden is unable to join NATO because of her, Kakabaveh won’t have any regrets. She is against NATO membership anyway, saying it would undermine Sweden’s ability to be a voice for peace in the world.
“I am for disarmament,” she says. “The world needs more peace and diplomacy.”
Driven apart by clashing regional interests, Turkey and Iran appear headed for a face-off in Syria, with Tehran explicitly opposing Ankara’s plan for a fresh military operation against Kurdish-held areas, wary of risks to its own posture in the region.
Turkey has failed to get a green light from the United States to press ahead with the plan, while Russia appears to be stalling. The Iranians, meanwhile, have sent militia reinforcements to two Shiite settlements northwest of Aleppo, not far from a key area in Ankara’s crosshairs, while trying to talk Turkey out from making the move — apparently with little success thus far.
Any Turkish operation would attack the Kurdish YPG militia, a key part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that controls large parts of north Syria and is regarded by Washington as an important ally against Islamic State. Ankara sees it as a terrorist group and extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
A spokesman for the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) said Russia was reinforcing positions near Tal Rifaat, Manbij, the southern outskirts of Kobani, and Ain Issa – all towns within 40 kilometers of the Turkish border.
“Since the announcement of the operation, the Syrian regime and its Iranian militias have mobilized and [are] sending reinforcements to the YPG,” Major Youssef Hammoud told Reuters.
The desire of the European Union (EU) to reduce its dependency on Russia for gas and diversify its sources of supply by turning to the resources of Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Eastern Mediterranean regions theoretically gives Turkey a major role in the EU’s diversification and energy security policy. However, this strategic role …
Kurdish rights hardly figure in the debates, and if they do, only as a prop for taking Turkey to task for its slide into authoritarianism.
An ethnic group spread across southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northern Syria, and western Iran, Kurds are seen at best as assets in the fight against the Islamic State and at worst a threat to Turkish security and territorial integrity. Turkey’s estimated 16 million Kurds account for up to 20 per cent of the country’s population.