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Turkish Security Interests in the Region: Bringing the State Back in

turkeyThe challenges of the Middle East – the Turkish approach Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, December 2015 Meeting Briefing Document A contribution from USAK Turkish Security Interests in the Region: Bringing the State Back in The spark that came from Tunisia in 2010 caused a conflagration first in Egypt and has now ignited an uncontrollable blaze in Syria and Iraq. It has collapsed the region into a state of violence, chaos and divisions. As of 2015, the world faces a wholly different Middle Eastern equation, with further instability to come. Turkey as a whole hoped and still hopes that the day will come when its Arab neighbors enjoy political and economic conditions at least comparable to those of Eastern European countries. Though Turkey’s foreign policy of course has to be pragmatic, many people in Turkey never enjoyed the spectacle of seeing the great countries of the Arab world ruled over by chronic dictatorships, which in almost every case derived from military coups. So Turkey welcomed the Arab uprisings as the long-overdue elimination of authoritarianism and dictatorship. Turkey believes that the international community has to assist the process actively. After the collapse of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, both the EU and US engaged in solidarity policies with the former Soviet Bloc countries to help them transition to democracy and a market economy; but the Arab world is left alone. The process of democratic change and political transformation in the Arab world has turned out to be one of absolute chaos and turmoil. This failure, which is the biggest security challenge that the region and wider world face today, has created six of the most important security problems for Turkey:  The Syrian refugees: The Syrian crisis means that Turkey is no longer confronted just by a temporary situation, but something which has to be treated as a disaster of catastrophic proportions. Refugees also represent grave security risks, not only in terms of the increased probability of crime, but the threat posed by the probable involvement of PKK/ISIS and some other groups.  ISIS and similar radical groupings: ISIS has consolidated its presence by becoming an agent acting on behalf of someone else rather than just an actor acting on its own. ISIS empowers its relations with local tribes particularly in Raqqa (Syria) and Anbar (Iraq) through marriages. 2 The consolidation of ISIS in Syria is perhaps one of the greatest security risks that Turkey faces in the region.  PKK/PYD: It is fairly clear that time works to the advantage of the PKK and PYD. In Northern Syria, PYD, the PKK’s Syrian branch, is growing steadily stronger at the expense of the moderate Arab and Kurdish tribes there.  Sectarian/ethnic/ideological tension: The sectarian conflicts taking place inside Turkey’s neighbours, Syria and Iraq, might spill over into Turkey. The tensions inside Turkey such as Turk-Kurd; secular-Islamist; Alawite-Sunni, and the wider foreign policy reflection of these problems, i.e. Arab-Turk, Shia-Sunni and Islamist-secular are intertwined in an unprecedented way.  The crisis with Egypt: The unfavourable view of Turkey caused by the Egyptian crisis has already been accepted by an increasing number of people in the Arab world. A regional-wide bad impression of Turkey, because of the tensions with Egypt, could give credence to other attempts to swing regional opinion against Turkey. Moreover, it is also clear that further tension between Turkey and Egypt could also create other problems for Turkey given its economic interests.  Russian intervention and implications for security: Russia’s intervention in Syria had already clouded the image of the “special partnership” between Russia and Turkey. The military incident that led to the downing of a Russian SU-24 by a Turkish F16 has worsened the relationship between the two sides. This rise in tensions between the two countries has shown that well-established economic cooperation is not enough to deepen the trust, as political and security developments continue to lay bare the instability in Russia and Turkey’s shared area. Turkish view on ways to bring the Syrian conflict to a close Along with acknowledging that the Geneva and Vienna Conferences are favorable developments, it is necessary to note that there are still many challenges in the implementation of the proposed procedure. Neither the Syrian opposition nor the regime was included in the Vienna talks. Even though it has been claimed that the transition process will fall under complete leadership of the Syrians, it should be noted that their absence at the negotiating table up until this point is a cause for uncertainty. The expectation here is that actors who participated in the Vienna talks convince both the Syrian regime and the opposition to sit down at the same table. The ability of the parties of the Vienna talks to persuade the relevant Syrian groups to join negotiations may be harder than expected. For example, Jordan, as a primary interlocutor of the proposed negotiations, has engaged in missions in Syria in close coordination with the US, a reality that may bring about certain difficulties. On the other side of the equation, Russia and Iran want to deactivate many opposition elements as possible interlocutors. This is especially true of Iran, which has declared many opposition groups “terrorists” and “radicals” while also maintaining the more or less explicit aim of devastating the Sunni movement. Moreover, the inclusion of some nonmoderate/unreliable groups in the opposition party to the negotiations may be requested by the Gulf countries under the leadership of Saudi Arabia. Even if a general consensus on political solution may be considered a positive step in prohibiting radicalization in Syria, the reality on the ground weakens the viability of a potential ceasefire. In this 3 regard, a number of groups which may not be recognized by the international community as legitimate political representatives are fighting in Syria and control substantial areas of territory. Many groups that are neither terrorist organizations on par with ISIS nor identified as moderate because of their Salafi tendencies continue to fight against Assad. In addition, it should be noted that these groups have significant social bases in the region. Even though such groups will not be brought to the negotiating table in its initial stages, they should nonetheless be included in management systems of implementing an effective ceasefire. While a different transition process may be followed for the above specified groups, the struggle against organizations like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra should be coordinated by international actors. Until now, however, not much progress has been made on this front. This can be illustrated in the fact that Russia is launching operations against various opposition groups supported by the US and Saudi Arabia under the pretext of the “struggle against ISIS”. In addition, while the opposition wing largely consisting of Sunnis faces elimination, the struggle against Shiite organizations which promote radicalization and support Assad’s regime often seems to go unnoticed. At this point, it is important how the structures that are acting as conventional armies in Syria and Iraq with the explicit support of Iran will be treated. Although it is a positive development that global and regional actors who disagree with each other on even the most general of topics related to Syria reached a fragile agreement in Vienna, it must be admitted that the actual implementation of certain points of this agreement face major hurdles. Saudi Arabia and Iran’s are still engaged in a regional power struggle with powerful sectarian fallout. Beyond Syria, Russia’s existential interest in the Mediterranean Sea, the strategic importance of Tartus Port, and the country’s aspirations to become active in the Middle East have determined Russia’s regional policy. In the same way, China’s traditionally negative view of international intervention affects the nature and depth of the overall action that will be taken in Syria. Views on the nature of ISIS and the ways to fight it In order to formulate a more realistic and effective strategy against ISIS, there is a vital need to provide objective answers to questions of what ISIS is and what it is not, why it has flourished, how it has gotten this strong. ISIS is NOT parallel structure acting solely under the control of intelligence agencies, as some conspiracy theorists claim. It is NOT an Islamic organization (caliphate, Islamic State) that people join solely for religious or ideological reasons, and it is NOT a great power possessing exceedingly extensive military capacity. Still, like every terrorist organization, ISIS has members that work for different intelligence agencies (various proxies, regional and global actors). Like every radical group that utilizes religious and ideological discourse, it is able to deceive and recruit young people who do not have a wealth of religious knowledge and who are undergoing identity crises. Religion is used as an instrument, but the presence of some elements with a deeplyheld extreme Jihadi ideology should be acknowledged as well. Like many non-state / pseudo-state actors (Hezbollah, Shia militias, PYD etc.), ISIS has an armed wing, but ISIS is much more than a terrorist organization. It has land, money, a flag, armed groups, etc., but not recognition. Though it is not a full-fledged state, we can define it as a pseudo-state. ISIS is not shy in using the sentiments of hatred, revenge, and desperation cultivated as the result of a political conjecture where certain groups have been ostracized through discriminatory practices in states where legitimate state authority is very weak. ISIS converts these sentiments into feelings of 4 sympathy to garner support. Additionally, there are strong anti-Western sentiments derived from this sense of injustice. ISIS is a multinational organization that, while achieving all of the above, is able to persuade various target audiences through propaganda tactics and utilizing modern communication channels. This helps them to recruit new members from all over the world. It is true that the constellation currently fighting ISIS is referred to as “international coalition”. However, it is also essential to create a “domestic coalition” in order to defeat ISIS. It is for this reason that no military strategy should be put into practice without first gaining the support of Sunnis in Iraq. Detailed ideas on the creation of such coalition are included in the appendix attached to this paper. The fact that almost 80% of airstrikes in Syria concentrated on Kobane adds to the sense that the international community does not really care as much about the rest of the country as the fate of the majority, who are bombed day in and day out, is forgotten or ignored. All this suggests that a domestic anti-ISIS coalition in Syria also needs to be formed. While the marginalized Sunnis should be an essential component of this internal coalition in Iraq, the Syrian opposition should form the core of such a constellation in Syria. For this, the Syrian opposition needs to be provided with a genuine political roadmap that includes the following assurances: keeping the goal of the ousting of Assad (as an individual) and the transformation of the existing regime (change in leadership), and continuation of political and military support of the Syrian opposition. Views on other challenges / opportunities in the region Even if Iran has hidden or explicit goals to develop nuclear weapons it is extremely difficult to fulfill these goals when the JCPoA agreement is completely and effectively implemented. Iran was prevented from getting nuclear weapons and a regional nuclear arm race was stopped. Accordingly, this agreement is a crucial matter for not only Iran and the P5+1 countries but also Turkey and other countries which have worries about security and the stability of the region. The peace and stability expected as a product of the nuclear agreement are dependent on the urgent resolution of regional problems. Otherwise, Iran, free from the international sanctions regime, will not hesitate to use its economic power for financing its allies in the region, and conservatives and hawks will be more powerful than liberals and moderates. Iran’s influence in the region, particularly in the Gulf, will be strengthened by triggering religionbased tensions. For this purpose, Iran will exploit religious differences and deepen fissures with the objective of dividing national unities. Tehran will try to replicate its experience in Iraq in those countries with a significant Shia population. The geographical region stretching from Kuwait to Bahrain and to the eastern part of Saudi Arabia is vulnerable in this context. The legitimation of the Iranian nuclear program could also facilitate the spread of its influence due to an increased ability to seize control of international trade routes and maritime straits which are crucial for the transportation of the energy resources. If realized, such American-Iranian cooperation will leave many regional countries with a set of strategic challenges. In the same vein, the lifting of American economic sanctions on Iran will help Tehran to lend more support to cross-border sectarian militias. Attempts to stop the spread of these groups will undermine many regional countries’ stability. 5 As for the Israel-Palestine conflict, there seems to be no way to resolve it, even as we see an escalating spiral of violence. At a time when the other conflicts and crises in the Middle East are more prominent, it is not difficult to see that the international community will not exert more effort to resolve this issue. The combination of the indifference of the international community and of self-replicating violence, damages not only the people of Gaza but also everyone living in the territories of Israel and Palestine. Especially in the last two years, the tensions in the West Bank have intensified as much as in the Gaza Strip. We frequently witness conflicts in and around the al-Aqsa Mosque. One of the fundamental causes of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is the increasing number of settlements. August 2015 saw the highest number of demolitions since June 2010, with 142 Palestinian-owned structures demolished and more than 200 Palestinians displaced. In parallel with the settlement policies of the Israeli government, violence perpetrated by settlers against the Palestinians has increased. As a result of all these developments, Israel has been losing its credibility in the eyes of the international community, and the nature of its democracy has begun to be questioned. There are a number of repercussions of the Israeli-Palestinians conflicts on the Middle East. It is becoming a link in the chain of radicalization, as it may serve for ISIS and other radical organizations as a tool to recruit militants. The conflicts worsen the relations between Turkey and Egypt, since Turkey blames Egypt closing its doors to Gaza while Egypt blames Turkey increasing the tensions through support to Hamas. It leads to the destruction of Israeli-Turkish relations. Sympathy toward the Palestinians is widespread in Turkey, both in government and the wider population. Israeli action against either Gaza or the West Bank is likely to draw severe criticism from Ankara. There are six policy recommendations in this situation: 1) In order to relieve the situation in Gaza, Hamas should be included as a participant in negotiations. 2) Israel and the US, who have improved security cooperation with President Abbas, should be prepared for the post-Abbas period. This is also important for Turkey and the other regional actors. 3) Internationalization of the Palestinian issue: the international community should support the efforts of Palestine to transfer the issue into the international arena. 4) Preparing the ground for possible future negotiations: The main policy challenge now is balancing two different goals: active conflict management, with modest expectation, and keeping the door open to conflict resolution in the future. Therefore, the responsibility of Turkey and the international community is to facilitate the necessary steps to be taken in this transition period, to prepare the ground for possible future negotiations. 5) Ceasing settlement construction, which is a major cause of unrest. Bringing this to an end would form a basis of sustainable negotiations in the future. 6) Support institution-building in Palestine: Lack of institutions, basically the lack of effective and united leadership, is one of the main problems of Palestine, efforts should be made to address this immediately. 6 Identification of areas for possible Russia-Turkey-European common interest and cooperation If inclusive mechanisms of governance are not adopted and the state fails to provide welfare, protection, and social and political rights, more people will turn to non-state actors in their pursuit of public goods. The search for alternative statehoods has already seen practical effect in the region, particularly in the case of Iraq. Feeding on Sunni resentments and feelings of exclusion, ISIS and likeminded groups have swallowed the existing pseudo or failed states of the region, establishing their own systems of social assistance and taking root in their respective societies. Previous exclusive authoritarian state structures have already run their course. Thus, reverting to them will only delay the inevitable day of reckoning during which the social failings of earlier statebuilding processes have to be reconciled with inclusive institutional bases. The policy-makers in the region should work on new models for social contracts which ensure that social attachment to the state can be generated in its own due course through the expansion of social, cultural, and political rights as well as improvement of state services. These social contracts should not enshrine the old methods in which social and political rights are bought, sold or restricted under the shadow of cooptation and oppression. Instead, any prospective state project should attempt to create popular support by incorporating local elements and adopting a society-generated approach. Given the fragmented nature of the diverse local base, strengthening local governance could be a helpful institutional approach to state-building in the sense of promoting social internalization and the appeasement of anti-state coalitions. Such an approach is the only way to dismantle the topdown state-building legacy while also allowing for the process to trickle down to the society’s broader factions. Therefore, special consideration should be directed towards external actors and their much needed assistance in propping up state system in the region. While Western actors have played crucial roles in ensuring the transition processes and the re-institutionalization of state mechanisms in Eastern Europe after the Cold War, similar help was not granted to the MENA region after the Arab uprisings. Given the existing metamorphosis of radical organizations into increasingly dangerous and mobile entities in the extra-regional sphere, as well as the migratory pressures resulting from the deepening conflict zones in the region, many international actors are vulnerable to the negative consequences of the collapse of the entire state system in the region. This calls for international cooperation in endorsing state-building processes and in promoting a sense of a “Middle Eastern Westphalian order”. 7 Appendix: creating a “domestic coalition” in Iraq in order to defeat ISIS A domestic coalition in Iraq can to be achieved with progress on two fundamental issues: incorporation of Sunnis into the political system and state institutions, and reform of the Iraqi security apparatus. Determining the parties that will represent Sunnis is of utmost importance in order to ensure that the overall Sunni community attaches credibility to the political roadmap. In this respect, a process of political bargaining should not be entered into with the exclusive participation of the incumbent Sunni politicians in Baghdad. Representation at the bargaining table should be comprehensive and include tribal leaders, those currently in exile, and former moderate members and army officers of the Ba’ath party who did not internalize the mentality of the Saddam regime but rather worked for it for pragmatic purposes. Engaging tribes, influential Sunni personalities, and former Ba’ath members is crucial as they exert a considerable amount of influence over the larger Sunni community and some of them constitute a significant part of both the military and political support behind ISIS. The Sunni leaders in Baghdad are no longer trusted in the eyes of the larger Sunni community. They are perceived as either corrupt or as having been co-opted by the central Shiite government. That is why political bargaining should not be limited to Baghdad. Even though a political roadmap would help to remove some uncertainties, its existence alone would not be sufficient enough to compel the Sunni parties to fully engage in the problem solving process. In this sense, the roadmap should be buttressed by concrete steps. The issue in question should not be viewed merely as a matter of terrorism but as an existential threat, especially considering that the Iraqi state as an institution is in jeopardy of collapsing altogether and that “trust”, the cornerstone of state-society relations, has largely ceased to exist. In order to restore Iraqi society’s confidence in the state, trust-building measures should include the following: 1) In line with the demand by Sunnis, the de-Baathification law should be repealed. 2) Amnesty should be granted for hundreds of thousands of prisoners and detainees. As for the reform of the Iraqi security apparatus, it is first and foremost needed as an accompaniment to a larger political reform. Coalition airstrikes are not sufficient to stop ISIS. Currently it is impossible for the US and other coalition allies to deploy ground forces in Iraq to supplement the airstrikes being carried out against ISIS. Nonetheless, it is planned for this gap to be filled by the Iraqi Army, the Peshmerga, and Shiite militias. However, any ground operation is highly unlikely to succeed without the support of Sunnis. Such an operation will only succeed if and when the Sunnis start to see the Iraqi Army as their army. Immediate steps to achieve the security reform need to be taken: 1) The current Iraqi government’s development of alliances with splinter groups of radical predisposition, as opposed to mainstream, moderate, and centrist groups needs to be amended. 2) The Iraqi Army needs to be wiped clean of its overtly biased Shiite elements. In particular Shiite militias need to be excluded from participation in Iraq’s security apparatus. Shiite militias, and by virtue thereof, the Iraqi Army are controlled by the Iranian intelligence and security services. 8 3) While on the one hand the Iraqi security structure should move to separate itself from Shiite militias and a sectarian overtone, it should also move to proportionately include more and more Sunni components. 4) Parallel to the incorporation of former politicians of the Ba’ath era into the political systems and state institutions, many talented members of the old Iraqi Army should be utilized in new combatant forces. This will not only appease Sunnis, but it will also boost the capacity of the Iraqi Army. Sunnis are more likely to support an army in which they are included rather than ISIS. Past cases clearly show that Sunnis are likely to support the central government against al-Qaeda/ISIS. It was after the brutal crackdown led by the central government on a protest camp in Ramadi that Sunni leaders turned to ISIS as a last resort. Seeing that pragmatism has always dictated the Sunni community’s relations with ISIS, the same could be true of its relations with the central government if its demands are met in a genuine way. Similar urgent policy actions are also required in Syria in the fight against ISIS. Like in Iraq, there is a lack of confidence in Syria as to the resolve of the international community to solve the problem in the country. The prevailing perception among the opposition in Syria is that the international community was only alerted to the crisis after ISIS began to persecute minority groups such as the Yazidis in Iraq or the Kurds in Syria

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