10 new wars that could be unleashed as a result of the one against ISIS -Washington Post

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“The borders of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” are shrinking fast. The group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria are collapsing one by one. The U.S.-led war has reached a point where questions are being raised about what comes next.

So far, the answer seems likely to be: more war.”

 

This article probably oversimplifies things in the sense that it suggests that these wars are discrete events. Rather, the conflicts being played out in Syria are the product of long submerged tensions that were unleashed first by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then the Arab Spring. Once the state system began to collapse in 2010, they were bound to come to the fore. The article is effective though, in the way it identifies the various schisms and how they have been effected by recent events.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/07/10-new-wars-that-could-be-unleashed-as-a-result-of-the-one-against-isis/?postshare=9411473249551782&tid=ss_tw

Inside a Failed Coup and Turkey’s Fragmented Military -War on the Rocks

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This post from the blog War on the Rocks has a slightly different take on Turkey’s failed coup than the current dominant narrative which paints the attempted putsch as a very small, disorganized, and incompetent affair. This interpretation of events has serious implications for the lessons we draw from the events. As the author suggests, the Turkish military remains deeply divided. To the extent this is account is accurate, it is difficult to give credence to the conspiracy theories that suggest Erdogan faked the coup to provide a pretext for a power-grab.

“The story of the coup suggests a relatively large plot that drew support from numerous parts of the Turkish Armed Forces, spanning various commands around Turkey. The number of senior officers involved, including the commander of Incirlik air force base where U.S. aircraft are now based for the fight against the Islamic State, suggest that the Turkish military is divided. The narrative following the coup is that this was a small, ill-conceived group of plotters who failed to overthrow the elected government, but this narrative is at odds with information coming out about the extent of the plot. This was a larger and far more credible attempt than has thus far been reported.

The fact that this was relatively well planned — if hastily implemented — coup attempt has several implications — namely that the Turkish military’s senior leadership is deeply factionalized, with one sizeable minority of officers willing to use force, even though their decision risked civil war. This suggests that Turkey is unstable and faces serious challenges in the near term in ways that will surely impact American and Western security interests in the Middle East and Europe.”

Inside a Failed Coup and Turkey’s Fragmented Military

Why Turkey’s coup failed -VOX, Rudaw & Various

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After a night of uncertainty, Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in power. Initial reports seemed to indicate that the coup was well organized and on the verge of succeeding. However the plot came unraveled relatively quickly. In the aftermath, there have been mass arrests of military personnel and political opponents, and reports of vigilante justice handed out by pro-Erdogan mobs. See http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/turkish-soldier-beheaded-pro-government-8433319 but be warned, the images are graphic and disturbing.

There are many questions to be answered. The first is why stage a coup? There are a number of reasons why part of the military would want to overthrow Erdogan. Once a major success story, Erdogan’s foreign policy had floundered since the Arab Spring. Not only has Turkey been growing increasingly isolated, his missteps had helped pave the way for Rojava, an independent Kurdish enclave in Northern Syria. They also left Turkey open to terrorist attacks from ISIS. His foreign policy had in fact broken down to the point where the Foreign Minister was sacked and several key policies were reversed. Ties were restored with Israel and overtures made to Moscow and reportedly Damascus as well.

On the domestic front, Erdogan’s reopened the civil war with the PKK, leading to bombings in major cities, and making parts of south eastern Turkey look like Syria. (See: http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/140720162 and  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/turkey-thousands-kurds-flee-historic-sur-district-diyarbakir-curfew-expanded-1540429  Note: several of the images that cycle through the frame at the top right of this blog were taken in Diyarbakir in 2011 before the most recent fighting). Step by step, Erdogan was also concentrating all of the power of the state within his own hands. In doing so he was undermining the country’s nascent democracy and threatening the remaining secular traditions of the Turkish state that the military had historically preserved. To make matters worse, he had embarked on an anti-Gülen crusade that threatened anyone not loyal to Erdogan and the AK Party.  Muhammed Fethullah Gülen was once Erdogan’s ally, but after a falling out in 2013,  Gülen and his followers were branded as subversives. This may have forced the coup leaders’ hand: Either act, or risk being purged.

Given Tukey’s history of coups (see http://www.vox.com/2016/7/16/12204508/turkey-military-coups-history) perhaps the more pressing questions were why did it not happen sooner, and how could it have failed? The answers to the two questions are partially intertwined. Since taking office Erdogan has replaced key members of the military elite, and changed its culture through recruitment and indoctrination. What was once an institution with a strong, coherent secular identity, and a reliable chain of command has become divided -to say the least. There are still some remnants of the old guard, but most of the senior command and a large part of the rank and file are pro-Erdogan, pro-AK. That makes launching a coup so much more complicated. In the past, secular generals could be sure they were all of the same mind and that their underlings would follow their orders. Not any more. As was clearly evident last night, the military was divided with key mobile units remaining loyal to the government. See VOX  (http://www.vox.com/2016/7/16/12205352/turkey-coup-failed-why)

As the VOX article discusses, the plotters also made some fundamental errors. Most obviously, they did not capture Erdogan in the initial stages of the coup. As long as he remained free, he could rally the loyal parts of the military and his civilian supporters to his side. In a sense, there was a logic to the plotter’s strategy. Erdogan was out of the capital on vacation, that left him out of touch and somewhat vulnerable. But the plotters did not count on the availability of social media and Erdogan’s charisma. They also failed to take advantage of the brief period when the controlled the regular media. They were not able to convince enough of the military that they were going to win and that they had a plan. (see the blog War is Boring for a discussion of the battle for perceptions https://warisboring.com/turkish-coup-plotters-lost-the-battle-of-perception-fbb695cbe442#.k976qx5br). These were fatal mistakes.

Finally, one of the most surprising elements of the story is the support Erdogan received  from world leaders and even his opponents, including Kurdish groups. (See:  http://aranews.net/2016/07/kurds-turkish-opposition-parties-reject-military-coup/) There is no one answer to this. From a western perspective, Erdogan is the leader of a NATO state and an elected one at that. Turning on him during a coup was never likely. In the Middle East, few leaders like to see a coup take place. Its a bad precedent for them even if they don’t like the leader. For the domestic opposition, certainly there was a realization that a coup meant the end of elections for the foreseeable future and the loss of what ever gains they had made under the system. Finally, the Iraqi Kurds in Erbil have carved out a working relationship with the Erdogan government which also gives them leverage vis-a-vis Baghdad. A new military government would be an unknown quantity. (See David Romano’s piece in RUDAW http://rudaw.net/english/opinion/16072016).

Successful coups rarely give rise to democracy, no matter how awful the established leader was. When they fail, they make a bad situation worse.

More links:

Turkey coup: Who was behind Turkey coup attempt? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36815476

Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup – by Erdoğan, not the army
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/16/turkey-coup-army-erdogan

 

 

 

What Brexit could mean for the U.K. economy -Globe and Mail

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Wise old saying: “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.”

Perhaps someone should have reminded the British of this before they voted, or even began the referendum process. The result was a surprise to the pollsters, the leader of the “Leave” campaign, and many of those who voted to exit.Its not clear what happens next or what the repercussions will be. Britain’s economy is so closely tied to the EU that its impossible to say what will happen if they try to disentangle it. Similarly, the legal implications are too complex to predict at this point in time. It is also possible that Article 50 will not be implemented. The vote, after all, was not binding, only advisory.

Below is a sampling from list of the possible economic consequences to the BREXIT vote published by the Globe and Mail:

Economic growth

  • Britain’s economy would grow more slowly outside the EU than if it stayed in, according to a raft of projections made in the run-up to the referendum by the government, the Bank of England, think tanks, international organizations and hundreds of academics.
  • The fall in sterling, which on Friday hit its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, could help exporters – although demand in many countries around the world remains weak.
  • The OECD and the IMF have said a Brexit will hurt the rest of the EU and affect other countries further afield. The OECD has said output in the EU, not including Britain, will be around 1 per cent weaker by 2020 than otherwise if Britain left bloc, a palpable hit for a region which is growing only weakly.
  • The OECD has said there could be deeper economic fallout if a Brexit undermines confidence in the future of the EU, a scenario not included in its forecasts.

Monetary policy

  • BoE Governor Mark Carney responded to the vote quickly, saying the central bank was ready to provide 250 billion pounds of additional funds to support markets. He also said the Bank will consider additional policy responses in the coming weeks.
  • Before the vote, Carney said it was too simple to assume the Bank will cut interest rates from what is already a record low of 0.5 per cent to cushion the economy after a Brexit vote. The BoE says it would have to weigh up slower growth against higher inflation caused by a weakening of the pound.

Twin deficits

  • Britain racked up its biggest current account deficit on record last year, equivalent to 5.2 per cent of economic output. The shortfall reflected higher flows of dividends and debt payments to foreign investors than similar flows into the country, as well as its wide trade deficit. Mr. Carney has said a Brexit could test the “kindness of strangers” who fund the balance of payments deficit.
  • Mr. Osborne said during campaigning for the referendum that he would have to raise taxes and cut spending if Britain voted to leave the EU to prevent the slowdown in growth from hurting his push to bring down Britain’s still large budget deficit. After Mr. Cameron’s resignation, it was not clear if that plan would be maintained.

Sterling and gilts

  • Sterling plunged to a 31-year low on Friday, its biggest fall in history. George Soros, the billionaire who earned fame by betting against the pound in 1992, said it could go as low as $1.15. On Friday, it was trading at around $1.39.

Jobs

  • Most forecasters have said Britain’s unemployment rate – now at a 10-year low of 5.0 percent – would rise after leaving the EU, although after the financial crisis Britain managed to avoid job losses on the scale seen in other countries.
  • As seen after the crisis, wages will probably bear the brunt of any post-Brexit slowdown, according to the IMF. Britain’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research think tank estimated real consumer wages will be between 2.2 per cent and 7.0 per cent lower in real terms by 2030 than if Britain had stayed in the EU.

Trade

  • World leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany and France have warned Britain that leaving the EU would hurt its standing as a global trading power.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama said Britain would join “the back of the queue” for talks with the United States. This week, French President Francois Hollande said leaving the EU would put at risk Britain’s access to the single market.

 

For the full list see: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/european-business/what-brexit-could-mean-for-the-uk-economy/article30614021/

UPDATED: The Algerian Connection: Will Turkey Change Its Syria Policy? -Carnegie

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This article suggests that Turkey’s Syria policy is changing, driven by two factors. The first is Iran and Russia’s commitment to supporting Assad, which makes Turkey’s policy of regime change unrealistic. The second is the Assad regime’s opposition to an independent Kurdish entity on the border with Turkey, something which gives the two common ground. The change in Turkey’s Syria policy would also be part of a larger regional adjustment, which includes improving relations with Israel. It is an interesting argument, but it is still in the realm of speculation.

  • “….a complete reversal of Turkish policy is hard to imagine, and neither side has given any public signal of having revised its views. Turkish officials continue to demand Assad’s resignation, while the Syrian president recently slammed “Erdogan’s fascist regime” and vowed to make Aleppo “the graveyard in which, by the grace of God, the hopes and dreams of this butcher will be buried.”
  • Of course, even if contact has in fact be re-established via Algeria, that does not mean that Ankara and Damascus are any closer politically. Conflict diplomacy is full of secret back channels, track-two talks, and other under-the-table maneuvers, but most never actually lead anywhere.
  • Perhaps the new Turkish attitude was best summed up by an anonymous senior official from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in remarks to Tulay Karadeniz of Reuters: “Assad is, at the end of the day, a killer. He is torturing his own people. We’re not going to change our stance on that,” the official said. “But he does not support Kurdish autonomy. We may not like each other, but on that we’re backing the same policy.”

http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=63847

 

Since this was published, Turkey has indeed signed a deal to normalize relations with Israel.

https://www.rt.com/news/348497-israel-turkey-normalize-ties/

And, Turkey has apologized to Moscow for downing a Russian jet over the Syrian-Turkish border last year.

 

The Assad government, however, will be more difficult…..

 

The new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan -ROAR

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The PKK was once animated by a misture of nationalism and Marxist/Leninism. However, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan adopted a form anarchism while in prison, Murray Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. This article provides a detailed discussion and analysis of this ideology and how it fits with the PKK’s agenda:

“That day (minus the pacifism) might not be far off. The PKK/KCK appear to be following Bookchin’s social ecology to the book, with almost everything up to and including their contradictory participation in the state apparatus through elections, just as prescribed in the literature.

As Joost Jongerden and Ahmed Akkaya write, “Bookchin’s work differentiates between two ideas of politics, the Hellenic model and the Roman,” that is, direct and representative democracy. Bookchin sees his form of neo-anarchism as a practical revival of the ancient Athenian revolution. The “Athens model exists as a counter- and under-ground current, finding expression in the Paris Commune of 1871, the councils (soviets) in the spring-time of the revolution in Russia in 1917, and the Spanish Revolution in 1936.”

Bookchin’s communalism contains a five-step approach:

  1. Empowering existing municipalities through law in an attempt to localize decision-making power.
  2. Democratize those municipalities through grassroots assemblies.
  3. Unite municipalities “in regional networks and wider confederations … working to gradually replace nation-states with municipal confederations”, whilst insuring that “’higher’ levels of confederation have mainly coordinative and administrative functions.”
  4. “Unite progressive social movements” to strengthen civil society and establish “a common focal point for all citizens’ initiatives and movements”: the assemblies. This cooperation is “not [perused] because we expect to see always a harmonious consensus, but — on the contrary — because we believe in disagreement and deliberation. Society develops through debate and conflict.” In addition, the assemblies are to be secular, “fight[ing] against religious influences on politics and government,” and an “arena for class struggle.”
  5. In order to achieve their vision of a “classless society, based on collective political control over the socially important means of production,” the “municipalization of the economy,” and a “confederal allocation of resources to ensure balance between regions” is called for. In layman’s terms, this equates to a combination of worker self-management and participatory planning to meet social needs: classical anarchist economics.”

 

https://roarmag.org/essays/pkk-kurdish-struggle-autonomy/