Will Russia help give a new birth to a resurgent Ottoman Empire? It’s a tricky bit of diplomacy, but their recent successes suggest they could do so — and thereby destroy the major international alliance controlling Russian aggression.
CounterJihad, October 13, 2016:
A significant claim is being pushed by the Turkish government, one that could redraw the lines of the old Ottoman Empire:
Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders. He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire….
[A]ccording to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen[:] “The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes,” Ulgen said.
Turkish forces are currently in Syria and Iraq. But the Turkish presence at the Bashiqa base, close to the Iraqi city of Mosul, has become the center of a deepening dispute with Baghdad. The base is ostensibly tor training Sunni militia to fight Islamic State.
On Tuesday, Erdogan dismissed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s calls to withdraw Turkish troops, telling him “he should know his place.”
Ulgen went on to point out that Turkey has historical claims not only to Mosul, currently contested in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). Both Mosul and oil-rich Kirkuk were part of the original design of the modern-day Turkey. The Turks’ traditionalists and nationalists view the treaty that gave them away as having been forced on them at the end of World War I.
If Russian diplomacy can broker a deal that allows Turkey to expand into Iraq and Syria, it could cement Turkey’s move into Russia’s sphere. Until recently, that looked unlikely at best. Last year, Turkmen fighters shot down a Russian jet over repeated incursions by the Russian air force. At that time, relations between the two nations became quite tense. Russia is backing Iran’s play in the region, apparently in the hope that a powerful Shi’a Iran will create a buffer zone between Russia and the Sunni jihadist forces that have acted to inflame Muslim minorities in Central Asia. Likewise, the war in the Middle East draws attention away from Russia’s strategic moves in Eastern Europe, such as last week’s deployment of nuclear missileson the very borders of Poland and the Baltic States.
Turkey’s latest move appears likely to inflame Iraq’s government, and Russia’s ally Iran intends to control Iraq at the end of this conflict. Surrendering territory, especially oil-rich territory, may be a difficult negotiation. On the other hand, Kirkuk is also disputed with the Kurds, and whichever government formally holds it after the war is going to have to fight to keep it. Iran may be willing to be persuaded to concede the fight to Turkey in return for a more firmly-controlled corridor between Tehran and the Levant.
That will require some subtle diplomacy to negotiate, but right now Russia is having significant success in its diplomatic moves. In the wake of a new energy deal between Turkey and Russia, the Russian diplomatic corps seems to have a lot of momentum on its side. Turkey was already looking away from NATO and Europe in the wake of its Islamist purge following an alleged attempted coup. Should Russia be able to get a process of negotiation going between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on the issue of Turkish territorial expansion, Russia would assume the leadership role in the region. Should it actually resolve the negotiations successfully, it could expect Turkey to become part of the Russian sphere of influence. That would potentially derail NATO, as NATO’s decisions must be taken by a unanimous vote. If Turkey becomes as strong a Russian ally as China, NATO could become as useless an organ for opposing Russian ambition as the United Nations Security Council (on which Russia has a veto).
American diplomacy is meanwhile spinning its wheels. The United States broke off talks with Russia, and then called for war crimes investigations into Russia and Assad for their campaign in Syria. American Secretary of State John F. Kerry also accused Russia of interfering with America’s elections. However, it appears that Kerry now wants a new push for a cease-fire in Aleppo, which would require Syria and Russia to sign on.
American diplomatic weakness is partially a function of American military weakness in the region. Russian diplomatic success is partially likewise a function of its deployment of air and naval-gunnery forces, as well as its so-far successful alliance with Iran. Better American leadership might help, but for now, the situation is rapidly sliding away from America and towards the Russians.