Tag Archives: NATO

Did Turkey Just Let a Chinese Trojan Horse into NATO?

BARIN KAYAOĞLU

17 October 2013

The Turkish government’s recent decision to award its high-altitude missile defense contract to China conjured images of the residents of Troy rejoicing the large, Greek-made wooden horse at the end of the Trojan Wars. That story did not have a pleasant end for the Trojans. It is not clear how this one will play out for Ankara and its NATO allies.

[To read the rest of the post, click here.]

Barın Kayaoğlu is finishing his doctorate in history at the University of Virginia. He was recently a Smith Richardson Foundation fellow in International Security Studies at Yale University. You can follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (Barın Kayaoğlu).

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The Paradox of Iranian and Western Paranoia

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

15 December 2011

Turkey Shooting?

Things are going badly for the Middle East these days.

Last month, a high-ranking general in Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned that, if the United States and and/or Israel attack Iran, they would retaliate against NATO’s missile defense radar in Turkey. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who is in charge of the IRGC’s ballistic missiles, said the following: “If any [attack] is staged against Iran, we will target NATO’s missile shield in Turkey and will then attack other targets.”

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, calmly urged Turkey to refrain from deploying the missile shield. But Member of Parliament (MP) Hossein Ebrahimi, who is Mr. Boroujerdi’s deputy in the commission, followed General Hajizadeh’s line by arguing that Iran has a “natural right” to hit targets in Turkey.

Although Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi tried to downplay the hostile remarks yesterday, it is doubtful whether Iran can put the genie back in the bottle.

Putting Oneself in Iran’s Shoes

In order to make sense of Iran’s foreign policy behavior, we need to understand the psychological trauma of three invasions in the twentieth century – the most recent and bloodiest at the hands of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iran-Iraq War, which started in 1980 and ended 8 years and nearly 800,000 dead Iranians later, is a constant reminder to Iranians that they cannot take their security for granted. When Saddam attacked in 1980, the United Nations did not condemn the aggression. When Saddam used chemical weapons against the Iranian military throughout the war, the world simply watched.

Today, as far as the Iranians are concerned, there is nothing to protect them from a similar fate. That is the primary reason why Tehran may develop nuclear weapons at some point. That is also the reason why Iranians do not want Turkey to station a missile defense that could neutralize their still-conventional missiles.

But whatever gains that Iranian leaders are trying to achieve, threatening Turkey only worsens their already fragile position. Just as international threats and sanctions have only intensified Iranian resolve to continue with the nuclear program, threats against Turkey will have a similar effect. While Turkish people and their leaders have repudiated claims that NATO’s missile shield would help to protect Israel, Iranian threats might force them to reconsider their position and keep the missile defense.

Iran, Israel, Turkey, United States: The Four-Way Mexican Standoff

If threatening Turkey is so foolish, then why are Iranian leaders doing it? Much of it has to do with Syria, Iran’s erstwhile ally. While Ankara supports the uprisings against Bashar al-Assad, Tehran is throwing its weight behind the Syrian President. Geopolitics is the pure and simple reason: Without Syria, Iran would have significant logistical difficulties in supporting Hezbollah and HAMAS, its most effective deterrents against Israel. But with the NATO shield in Turkey keeping watch over its missiles, a weakened Hezbollah and HAMAS would diminish Iran’s leverage against Israel. And such a development may make an American and/or Israeli attack against Iran more feasible.

The scene resembles a Western movie with Israel, the United States, and Iran pointing guns at each other’s heads. Turkey, for its part, looks like the semi-puzzled cowboy that would rather walk away from this mess. With millions of lives in danger, that is really the only smart option.

But how can the standoff be defused? The first thing to do is to understand the respective parties’ insecurities. With nearly 150 thousand U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and NATO bases in Turkey, it would be hard to convince Iran that it is not surrounded by hostile countries. Nevertheless, and despite the negative effects of recent allegations that Iranian agents tried to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, the Obama administration needs to signal to the Iranian government that it has no interest in escalating the current situation (assuming, of course, that cooler heads still prevail in Washington).

Iran should also understand the other side’s concerns and refrain from brinksmanship. Although the recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program is not the damning document that spells doom-and-gloom (as some media outlets purport it to be), the parts on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program is worrisome. For the sake of peace, Iran has to come clean with its nuclear program sooner rather than later.

Most important, Iranian leaders should stop jeopardizing their country by forcing Turkey to the Western side. Attacking Turkey would only give the United States and/or Israel the pretext that they need to strike at Iran. While a unilateral Israeli attack would not have the desired effect, a sustained U.S.-led NATO action would be extremely hurtful to Iran. And although Iranian threats to shut down oil shipments from the Persian Gulf would also be extremely destructive for the world economy, Iran would emerge from such a scenario in the worst possible way.

To paraphrase an old saying about paranoia, just because Iran, the United States, Israel, and Turkey are paranoid does not mean they should start shooting at each other. In fact, it would be best if they could all slowly holster their guns and step away from each other before they cause irreparable damage to the world.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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Libya Harekatıyla Birlikte Türkiye Batı’ya “Geri Döndü”

BARIN KAYAOĞLU

31 Mart 2011

[Click here for the English version of this article.]

Başbakan Erdoğan’ın, NATO’nun Libya’ya harekat düzenlemesine karşı çıkmasının üzerinden 10 gün geçti ya da geçmedi. Başbakan’ın Batı ülkelerine eleştirilerinin odağında özellikle Fransa’nın Libya’nın petrol ve doğal gaz kaynaklarına el atmak için uluslararası toplumu harekete geçirmeye çalıştığı yönündeki inancı vardı. Hatta Başbakan Fransa’ya karşı o kadar kızgındı ki – aslında hiç de diplomatik olmayan bir şekilde – İstiklal Marşı’nın “medeniyet dediğin tek dişi kalmış canavar” dizelerini okudu.

Cumhurbaşkanı Sarkozy ve Başbakan Erdoğan (Resim: ntvmsnbc.com)

Ancak daha sonra Ankara beş savaş gemisi ve bir denizaltıdan oluşan bir filoyu Muammer Kaddafi’ye karşı uygulanan silah ambargosuna katkı sağlamak üzere görevlendirdiğini 23 Mart’ta açıkladı. Bundan iki gün sonra da Amerikan güçleri Libya’daki operasyonlarını bitirdikten sonra NATO ittifakının harekata komuta etmesine izin verdi.

Türkiye’nin ani dönüşü ne şekilde izah edilebilir? Daha da önemlisi, son yıllarda Batılıların sıkça dile getirdikleri Türkiye’nin “Doğu’ya kayması” endişelerinin aksine, Ankara Batı’ya “geri dönüyor mu”?

Hem evet ve hem de hayır.

Şurası kesin: Türk deniz gücünün Kaddafi’ye karşı uygulanan ambargoda görev almasıyla Türk Hava Kuvvetleri’nin Kaddafi’nin güçlerine saldırmasıyla ve/veya isyancı güçleri diğer NATO müteffikleriyle birlikte koruması arasında çok büyük fark var.

Ancak son günlerde Ankara’nın Libya politikasındaki meydana geldiği zannedilen ani değişiklik, gerçekte Türk dış politikasında son zamanlarda görülen eğilimlerle tutarlılık arz etmektedir. Hatta Ankara’nın son kararı aslında Türkiye’nin ne kadar da Batılı olmaya başladığına işaret etmektedir.

Bundan bir buçuk yıl kadar önce dış ticaretten sorumlu Devlet Bakanı Zafer Çağlayan, Libya hükümetinin yabancı ülkelerde 100 milyar dolarlık yatırım yapmak istediğini belirtmiş ve Türkiye’nin bu paradan azami ölçüde istifade etmesi gerektiğini dile getirmişti. Başka bir kaynağa göre Türk şirketleri, sadece son iki yılda Libya’da toplam sekiz milyar dolara yakın inşaat ihalesi aldı. Yine başka bir rapora göre Türkiye önümüzdeki 10 yıl içinde Libya’nın altyapı projelerine 35 milyar avru (euro) yatıracak.

İşte bu yatırımlar ve Libya harekatına katılma kararı tam olarak da Türkiye’nin – ekonomik hedefleri siyasi araçlarlarla gerçekleştirme anlamında – “Batılı” karakterine  işaret etmektedir.

Tabi bu da mizahi olabilecek kadar ilginç bir durum: Bugüne kadar birçok Türk vatandaşı, diğer ülkelerdeki insanlar gibi (ve kısmen de haklı olarak) gelişmiş ülkelerin gelişmekte olan ülkelerdeki siyasi sıkıntıları o ülkeleri “sömürmek” için kullandığına inanagelmişlerdir.

Tabi bu düşünce kalıbı son günlerde Ortadoğu’da ve Kuzey Afrika’da cereyan eden olayları açıklamakta yetersiz kalır. Ancak şu da bir gerçek ki siyasi idealleriyle ekonomik zorunluluklar arasında seçim yapmaları gerektiğinde birçok Batı ülkesi hala demokrasi ve insan haklarını kolayca arka plana itebilmektedir. Genellikle de siyasi ideallerle ticari çıkarları birbirine karıştırırlar.

Türkiye “Doğu’ya gidiyor” olabilir de olmayabilir de. Benzer şekilde, ekseni “kayıyor” olabilir de olmayabilir de. Ancak son tahlilde, Türkiye’nin çok daha “Batılı” davrandığı şu günlerde Batı’yla olan bağlarının çok büyük önem arz ettiği de inkar edilemez bir gerçek.

Barın Kayaoğlu, Amerika’da Virginia Üniversitesi’nde Tarih Bölümü’nde doktora adayıdır ve her türlü yoruma, soruya ve fikir alışverişine açıktır. Kendisiyle bağlantıya geçmek için buraya tıklayın.

Ayrıca kendisini Twitter’dan (@barinkayaoglu) ve Facebook’tan (BarınKayaoğlu.com) da takip edebilirsiniz.

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With Libya, Turkey “Returns” West

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

March 27, 2011

[Yazının Türkçesi için buraya tıklayın.]

Barely ten days ago, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had objected to a NATO intervention in Libya. Part of Mr. Erdoğan’s criticism sprung from his belief that, in moving the international community to intervene in Libya, France wanted to get its hands on the North African nation’s oil and natural gas. The Turkish Prime Minister was so angry that he recited a very anti-Western part of the Turkish national anthem (“Civilization is but a one-tooth monster”). 

President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Erdoğan (Photo courtesy of ntvmsnbc.com)

And then, on March 23, Ankara decided to send five warships and a submarine to the Libyan coast to enforce the arms embargo against Muammar Qaddafi. Two days later, Turkey agreed to let the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) take over command once U.S. forces conclude their operations in Libya.

What explains this sudden change in the Turkish stance? More important, after Westerners have worried about Turkey’s “Eastern shift” in the past few years, is Ankara finally “heading back” West?

Yes and no.

To be sure, Turkish naval forces enforcing the international embargo against Qaddafi is very different than the Turkish Air Force attacking Qaddafi’s armies and/or defending the rebels with other NATO allies.

But not only is the seeming shift in Ankara’s Libyan policy consistent with recent trends in Turkish foreign policy, it is also a testament to the country’s Western character.

A year and a half ago, the Turkish minister of foreign trade had mentioned the Libyan government’s interest in investing $100 billion abroad and had hoped that Turkey would get a substantial portion of that money. One source indicates that Turkish construction projects initiated in Libya within the past two years alone are close to $8 billion. Another report estimates that Turkey will invest €35 billion in Libya’s infrastructure over the next ten years.

That is precisely the indication for Turkey’s “Westernness” – pursuing economic ends with political means.

And it’s an ironic twist: Turks, just like other nations in the developing world, regularly blame developed countries (with some justification) for manipulating political troubles in developing countries in order to “exploit” them. Although I don’t think that statement explains recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, it is certainly true that, in the contest between political ideals and economic needs, many Western countries frequently choose the latter over the former. Most of the time, they mix both.

Turkey may or may not be “moving East.” Its foreign policy axis may or may not be “shifting.” But in the final analysis, Turkey’s Western commitments still matter – especially as Turkey acts very “Western” these days.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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After One Year, Obama Surge in Afghanistan Has Mixed Results and Mixed Future

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

December 20, 2010

A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances. General George S. Patton

The Obama administration’s new “Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review” is remarkably optimistic when compared to the conditions on the ground.

In his speech at West Point Academy on December 1, 2009, President Obama had defined the situation in Afghanistan quite dramatically: “What’s at stake,” Mr. Obama had said, “is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility – what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the entire world.” To that end, the American president outlined the three core elements of his “surge”: “a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.”

The Obama administration’s new report claims that “the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas,” admitting, however, that “these gains remain fragile and reversible.”

Indeed, the “Obama surge” in Afghanistan has been a mixture of success and failure. The additional 30,000 troops sent in 2010 and adopting new tactics have given Afghan and international forces a fresh respite. Actually securing Afghanistan, however, has remained an elusive accomplishment: Insurgent attacks are on an all-time high; failure to resolve the allegations of fraud in last September’s parliamentary elections is shaking the already unstable foundation’s of Afghan democracy; and, in the aftermath of last summer’s floods, Islamabad’s already limited will to clamp down on Taliban strongholds within Pakistan has ground to a halt.

We can reach several conclusions from Mr. Obama’s stance on Afghanistan. First of all, the people of Afghanistan and their government will have to assume greater responsibility for their security – and a lot sooner than the target date of late 2014. America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

More important, we need to see that Afghan security forces, the United States, and NATO allies are fighting more than an organization or a network of myriad groups – they’re actually fighting decades of misery borne out of foreign meddling, occupation, and underdevelopment. Virtually every Afghan official and private citizen will tell you that “90%” of Taliban militants join the group out of economic deprivation and lack of a “meaningful future.” Thus, without building a viable economic order in Afghanistan, all security gains will remain reversible.

The problem is that America’s economic prospects also look bleak. As the veteran American journalist Leslie Gelb pointed out last week, “continuing the war [in Afghanistan] tears at our own nation’s very vitals. How on earth can the [Obama] administration justify spending billions to build roads, schools, and hospitals in Afghanistan when America’s physical and intellectual infrastructure is simply collapsing?” “Of course, I feel for the Afghans;” Mr. Gelb continued, “but I feel far, far more for Americans.”

When Mr. Obama runs for re-election in 2012, he will face just that criticism – from friend and foe – that he has to focus on “America first.” As such, he will probably begin a substantial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan next summer in order to strengthen his hand at home. It will be wise for Afghan and international leaders to take note of that fact.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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