Meltdown in Turkey?

A series of bombings and the assassination of the Russian ambassador have left Turkey reeling. Does the meeting with Russian and Iranian foreign ministers in Moscow signal that Ankara is looking for a way out?

Daniel McAdams: Hello everybody and thank you for tuning in to the Liberty Report. You were probably expecting to see Dr. Paul’s face, but you got mine. He is away for the day. But, I am going to do a quick show on what is happening in Turkey and what it might mean, because it is very significant. I may not have been following it, but there is a lot going on and it is quite important.

I remember back in July there was a coup attempt against the Turkish government and that gave way to an enormous crackdown, thousands of arrests, people fired, a general instability after the coup attempt. But, I have got just a few bullet points that I am going to put up and let’s go over them, kind of one by one and discuss some of the things.

In the past week or so we have seen a state of bombings in Turkey and in the past 10 days 60 people have been killed in PKK bombings, this is the Turkish Workers Party, this has caused instability, uncertainty, nervousness among the population, crackdowns, something very significant. And then we had this, just a couple of days ago the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara and this is an enormously significant event that nobody really knows who is behind it. ISIS has claimed credit for it, but it is certainly not certain. And also the issue of what does it mean for Turkish-Russian relations. Remember when the Sukhoi was shot down by the Turks, the Russian fighter jet, it was a huge chill and a break in relations between Russia and Turkey. I don’t think to be the case this time, because I think actually the assassination in a strange way serves to cement Russian-Turkish relations together, particularly as the role of the US is diminished in the region after Allepo.

One of the things that you may have noticed is the reaction in the US to the assassination of the Russian Ambassador. The Assassin apparently claimed this is for Allepo as he shot. There were several US media outlets yesterday that literally were gleeful about the assassination, the Russians got what they deserved for Allepo, it really is an extraordinary reaction, but I think the US mainstream media is trying to paint it as this is revenge for Russia’s want and bombing of east Allepo, they are continuing with the line that they have taken. That isn’t the case I don’t think. I don’t think it has anything to do with that and I think in fact we’re seeing a major shift in what is happening in Syria and in the Middle East.

I think there is no other indication that suggests more than the foreign ministers meeting yesterday in Moscow, the Turkish, Russian and Iranian foreign ministers met to look for a peace plan for Syria. Somebody was notably absent in that meeting, I will give you three guesses who. The US was not there. There are a number of reasons why, but probably I think the most significant is the US has not shown itself to be a reliable negotiating partner when it comes to Syria. You remember early in the beginning of this year, the US and Russia agreed that the Americans would separate its so-called moderate fighters from those that were internationally recognized as terrorists. That never happened and the US continued to insist that the ceasefire be held and that the regime change be the number one goal in Syria and that is something that the Russians have not been able to countenance, have not been able to withstand.

So, essentially the role of the US has diminished, the meeting with these three foreign ministers with Turkey representing the pro-rebel side, but in shifting evolutionary way and that they have not demanded that Assad immediately stepped down, they accepted the reality that in the short term at least Assad’s political survival is assured particularly after Allepo.

What does Turkey find itself, what is the situation it finds itself in the Middle East? After the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, I think that the Turkish government felt it was grabbing the tiger by the tail and would use the momentum of the Arab Spring to overthrow Assad in Syria. We saw the fall of other authoritarian figures in Tunisia, Egypt, etc and I think this was the move that Turkey felt it could do into its neighbor next door. That hasn’t worked out very well. It has backfired as a matter of fact because Assad didn’t go as easily as the others. He had genuine support on the ground and he also had allies that he could call in.

So, Turkey looks around and sees that east Allepo has fallen or has been liberated, depending on your perspective and essentially the back has broken of any significant chance of a military overthrow, absent the introduction of foreign military forces directly, which is unlikely. Turkey looks around at this regime change operation, which has been spearheaded with the assistance of the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel has been more on the sidelines but certainly cheering this regime change. They see this in tatters and they also see that what has happened the result of this regime change has been a de facto Kurdish control of the border regions all along the top of Syria and Iraq. That is extraordinarily troubling for Turkey.

I think that has pushed Turkey into negotiations with Russia and Iran into looking for some sort of a solution, a long term peace agreement in Syria. What it will look like we don’t know we will have to see, but significantly the US is not involved, at least not directly. Why is the US role diminished in the region? First of all, there is the issue of us operating illegally in Syria without the strength of international law, without US declaration, US Congressional authorization. You have the ongoing operation in Mosul in Iraq that the US is involved in and you have the entire five-year regime change operation in Syria that has fallen flat on its face. The US has not been able to turn away from its demands that regime change be the goal, even to this day they still feel this way, so they are not able to turn around on a policy that has so obviously failed.

And then the other issue is the transition in America, in the US, with anticipation of a different foreign policy under the next President. President Obama’s term has been characterized by regime change throughout the region and support for regime change and uprisings and from what we hear from the incoming Trump administration, that will not be a priority, so I think the US has sidelined because of that as well. We don’t know what the next foreign policy will be. John Kerry does not enjoy the same kind of stature that he had a couple of years ago when he was negotiating, so we won’t see any big deals. The question is what will come out of this, even as the facts are continually changing on the ground.

John Kirby, the State Department Spokesman said I have not seen any celebrations in Allepo after the liberation and meanwhile if you simply go on the Internet you will see hundreds of clips people celebrating, hundreds of clips of Christmas trees going up, with people celebrating Christmas regardless of their background. So, clearly what we are being told and what is happening on the ground is different and I think there is a meltdown not only in Turkey, for Turkey’s role in this, but I think there is a meltdown in the US media, because everything they have said about Syria thus far has been shown to be false.

What does the future hold, what do we see in January with the new administration is difficult to say, but I think with these three governments working together in Moscow we may actually see something that is more workable piece that will hopefully allow the United States to extricate itself from a disastrous intervention in Syria and hopefully eventually in the Middle East and beyond.

I want to thank everyone for tuning in today to the Liberty Report and please come back soon.