Turkey’s Links to Radical Groups
Turkey is a modern republic created from the heart of the former Ottoman Empire, established in the 14th century. Following a botched coup in 2016, the political situation in Turkey has worsened with the ongoing Turkish-Kurdish conflict.
Critics of the Turkish government blame Erdogan’s autocratic form of governance for causing the tension in the country. The blame stems from the president’s decision to amend the constitution and give him more powers. This led Turkey to move from parliamentary system of governance to a presidential system through a referendum held in April 2017. The system took full effect after June 24 elections.
The parliamentary system placed legislative powers in Turkey’s Parliament with a strong mechanism of checks and balances against the potential outreach of the executive branch, the government, while the presidential system would strip Parliament of the same powers and transfer them to the presidential office; a move that government’s critics viewed as autocratic. Additionally, the president’s decision to fast-track the elections from November 2019 to June 2018 seemed suspicious and justifies Erdogan’s dictatorship tendencies.
Turkey’s Islamist government also seeks to impact its neo-Ottoman influence in the Middle East region; a move regional countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against it. The region is against the Muslim Brotherhood group whose intention is to establish an Islamic State across the region. Turkey’s administration is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood as Erdogan has come out severally to defend it when it was labeled a terror group by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Separately, Turkey has established military bases in Qatar, Somalia and possibly a naval base in Sudan as a way of expanding its influence. This goes to say that Turkey could be part of the triangle of evil alongside Iran and Islamic extremists.
Turkey’s Links to Radicalism
Turkey as a nation has faced armed rebellion from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK have waged a guerrilla war in response to the severe oppression Kurdish citizens in Turkey face. This does not qualify the reasons as to why the Turkish and the American governments label the PKK as a terror group.
On the contrary, Turkey is accused of supporting other terror factions such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is evident when Turkey denied the NATO coalition forces access to Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey to launch air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military was also indifferent to intervene when ISIS laid a siege at the Kurdish town of Kobani, just across the Turkish border. To make matters worse, Turkey directly negotiated with ISIS in 2013 to secure the release of 49 Turks held by the terrorist group in northern Iraq in exchange for 180 ISIS fighters who later returned to the battlefield. Turkey goes as far as supporting ISIS-Daesh by becoming a conduit through which arms and chemicals used in Syria were smuggled.
Recently, Turkey exhibited its negative commitment against the war on terror when it supported Qatar after other Middle Eastern countries enforced stringent sanctions against it for supporting terror. Turkey openly came out to support Qatar by exporting products to the country.
Being a NATO ally, why would member countries especially the US not take action against Turkey? It so seems that on any opportunity it gets, Turkey clearly goes against America’s war against terror.
Turkish Interference in Iraq
At a time when the old political generation in both the Senate and Congress used Turkey as a barrier to stop communism during the Cold War, the country is meddling in other countries’ internal affairs. One such example is how the Turkish government uses the Iraqi Kurdistan oil source to blackmail the region into bending toward its interests. The oil is the major revenue source for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Any move KRG makes in solidarity of the Kurdish population in Turkey is met with crippling restrictions on oil trading with the Iraqi Kurds. Turkey’s influence in Iraq stems with the presidency whose main interest is the flow of oil.
Therefore, Turkey looks at the current KRG leadership as a friend and foe. Even though the Turkish government has always been against Kurdistan’s independence, referendum calls made by the Barzani family have always been used as a bargaining chip to either get backing from the international community on their position with Baghdad or just to woe the electorate to vote them back into power.
The mutual relationship between Turkey and the KRG has been dependent on the oil pipeline through which Turkey helps the landlocked country export its oil. Turkey’s influence in Iraq would continue to worsen the region’s stability and risk the emergence of other terror activities.
Erdogan’s referendum functioned to conjure more power for his position as well as add two more five-year presidential terms to his tenure. His objective remains to use the opportunity to address Turkey’s issues through suppressing the minority Kurdish population from attaining autonomy in the region. It also seeks to advance its influence stemming from the Ottoman Empire’s way of rule.
The U.S. should consider working with the Kurds as allies given the fact that Turkey is coming out to have more sinister motives than waging a war against terrorism. The Kurds can be considered as the real loyal allies in the region following the years of suppression they have undergone. If Erdogan pursues policies outlined above during his first term in the presidential system, then it poses a great risk to stability in the Middle Eastern region.