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  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Susan Cersosimo, Kamaran Palani
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: There are major security events, issues and trends within Iraq since 2003 and Syria since 2011, that have influenced and impacted Turkey-European Union (EU) relations. In this policy paper we deconstruct the causal mechanisms that act as the primary drivers impacting bilateral relations. We then compare and contrast Ankara’s and Brussels’ current security interests, priorities and perceptions toward security threats originating in this troubled neighbourhood. Finally, we classify opportunities as culminating in three possible discrete or combined security policy scenarios: conflict, cooperation and/or convergence and make recommendations to improve Turkey-EU relations. To address how Iraq’s and Syria’s security environment evolved to its current state and predict the subsequent outcomes and impacts on EU-Turkey relations, we look back and critically analyse Ankara’s and Brussels’ views on the following key events, issues and trends: security and political dynamics following the second term of al-Maliki, the withdrawal of the US forces in 2011, the 2011 Syrian revolution, the war against the Islamic state (IS), The Global Coalition against Daesh (GCD) backing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, the rise of Kurdish nationalism and aspirations for statehood in Iraq and autonomy in Syria, the enhanced influence of Iran in Iraq and the growth of IS with subsequent mass displacement of person across both Iraq and Syria. Iraq is now largely free of IS reign, yet is still threatened by terrorism, mass population displacement and weak governance, among other ills. In parallel, now that the Syrian civil war enters its seventh bloody year, generating large numbers of casualties and millions of displaced persons, Brussels and Ankara are strongly incented to converge and/or cooperate on security policies which mitigate the escalating humanitarian crisis and ease the path to a durable peace agreement. However, finding durable solutions to address high value, high impact problems stemming from Iraq and Syria requires identifying and mitigating the causes vs symptoms of these countries’ instability and insecurity affecting Ankara’s and Brussels’ own security interests, priorities and threat perceptions. Central security priorities for the EU in post-IS Iraq include stabilization, the return of internally displaced people and refugees and eliminating violent jihadist organizations and ideologies. While Turkey shares these objectives in principle, Ankara’s security interests concentrate primarily on neutralizing the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its affiliates’ presence and influence. Since 2014, Ankara and Brussels have mostly bifurcated on how they perceive security threats in Syria. Turkey-EU leaders continue to disagree on the Kurd’s role in the Syrian war and how Turkey should control its borders to cut flows of foreign fighters into Syria. As the IS invaded parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, European states began providing PKK affiliated Kurdish groups in Syria with both intelligence and military support. Alternately, since the Kurdistan Region of Iraq held its referendum for independence on 25 September 2017, EU and Turkish leaders have mostly converged on how they perceive security threats in Iraq with both staunchly supporting the country’s territorial integrity, thus, both refused to recognize the referendum’s legitimacy. We consider the issue of terrorism as a highly relevant driver of EU and Turkish security policies, perceptions and priorities. Though we see both countries as highly concerned with this issue, they diverge on which organizations pose the greatest threat. Ankara places the PKK at the top of its terrorist list – both within its borders and across the region – while Brussels prioritizes neutralizing jihadi terrorist threats on its soil, thus, the probability of convergence and cooperation and positive impact on EU-Turkey relations is moderate for this issue. Moreover, the IS is not given the same degree of priority by the two sides in the neighbourhood, including Iraq and Syria. Unlike the EU, Turkey considers the threat posed by the IS equal to the one posed by the PKK, but not as strategic. Here, the two sides diverge. In sum, dissent between Brussels and Ankara is highly likely given the Turkish Armed Forces’ broad kinetic engagement in both Iraq and Syria which negatively impacts EU and US efforts to roll back terrorism, stabilise the region, deliver humanitarian aid and help displaced persons return to their homes. Thus, regardless of whether Baghdad and/or Damascus formally grant Ankara permission to launch assaults, the EU views these actions as bellicose destabilizers competing with its own interests, thus, degrades EU-Turkey relations. Ultimately, this study calls for the EU and Turkey to prioritize mending cracks and fissures in their relationship and focus on the gains to be made through rapprochement on security issues originating in Iraq and Syria. Likewise, the EU can use its tremendous mediating capacity as an honest broker to settle entrenched disputes between warring parties in Iraq and Syria and for Turkey restart the peace process at home. More than ever, both must develop a long-term strategic security framework to ensure that bilateral security interests, priorities and interventions do not derail current stabilisation and reconstruction procedures in Iraq and/or progress toward a durable peace in Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Syria
  • Author: Nilsu Gören
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Turkey and NATO are experiencing a mutual crisis of confidence. Turkish policy makers lack confidence in NATO guarantees and fear abandonment—both prominent historical concerns. At the same time, policy makers within the alliance have begun to question Turkey’s intentions and future strategic orientation, and how well they align with NATO’s. One important factor contributing to this mistrust is Turkey’s recent dealings with Russia. Turkey is trying to contain Russian military expansion in the Black Sea and Syria by calling for a stronger NATO presence at the same time that is seeking to diversify its security strategy by improving ties with Russia and reducing its dependence on the United States and NATO. Turkey’s contradictory stance is no more apparent than in its evolving policy regarding the Syrian civil war. The threat topography of NATO’s southern flank reflects a complex web of state and non-state actors involved in asymmetric warfare. The Turkish shoot down of a Russian jet in 2015 highlighted the complexity and helped to precipitate military dialogue between NATO and Russia in Syria. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan seem to have overcome their strategic differences in their preferred outcome for Syria and have de-escalated the tensions following several rounds of peace talks headed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran and involving some, but not all, factions involved in the Syrian conflict. Yet several important questions about Turkish security policy and its impact on Turkish-U.S./NATO relations remain. What are the security implications of Turkey’s military actions on the southern flank? How is the continued fight against extremism in the region, including ISIS, likely to affect relations? And how should the West respond to Turkey’s security ties with Russia, including the Russian sale of advance military equipment to Ankara? The answers to all of these questions depend in part on whether Turkey’s behavior with Russia in Syria is a tactical move or a strategic shift away from NATO. Understanding these dynamics is key to devising policies and actions to minimize security risks between the U.S., NATO, and Russia. This paper argues that Turkey has economic and political interests in developing closer relations with Russia, but that these interests are not as strong as Turkey’s strategic alliance with the West, and NATO in particular. Turkish policymakers, who lack confidence in NATO, are pursuing short-term security interests in Syria as a way to leverage Western acquiescence to their interests regarding the Kurdish populations in Syria and Iraq. These objectives, however, are not aligned with Russia’s security objectives and do not add up to a sustainable long-term regional security strategy. In the short term, Turkey’s contradictory approaches to relations with NATO and Russia are likely to lead to ambiguity and confusion in the regional security architecture, with Syria being the most visible example of this disarray. To combat this approach, U.S. leadership and NATO should work to convince Turkey that the alliance takes Turkish security concerns in Syria seriously and to minimize the risks of Turkey’s acts as a spoiler in the region. For instance, addressing Turkish concerns over Washington’s arming of the Kurdish rebel group, the YPG, in northern Syria, will go a long way to resolving the key issue motivating Turkey’s decision to partner with Russia.
  • Topic: NATO, National Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Turkey, Syria
  • Author: David Koranyi
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: There has been much controversy around Nord Stream 2, a planned extension of the undersea gas pipeline stretching from Russia to Germany. By lying down two extra pipes in addition to the two already in operation since 2011-2012, the second phase would see the doubling of the capacity of the route, from 55 to 110 billion cubic meters (bcm) and commence operations in 2019 at a cost of 9.5 billion euros. This would mean that over 70% of Russian gas exports could be channeled through a single pipeline through Germany. Nord Stream 2, coupled with constructing the �irst two lines of Turkish Stream (with a capacity of 31.5 bcm) would also allow for the complete circumvention of the Ukrainian transit route.
  • Topic: European Union, Gas, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Germany
  • Author: Genci Mucaj
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: A few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the regional transformation underway in the Middle East. From the Arab Spring to the rise of ISIS, to a catastrophic Syrian war, we see a Middle East in turmoil and crisis. While the region’s geopolitical map varies, the root causes of conflict remain the same. What Is Pan Arabism, Sunni Islam and Shi’ism? In the early 1960s, Pan Arabism led by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt attempted to unite Egypt and Syria as well as other Arab countries in one Pan Arab Union where member nations would be linked by a common language and culture despite differences in their respec­tive religious beliefs. The failure of this noble effort, I believe, resulted in the beginning of radical Islam. Arabism’s secular ideology that aimed to bring together people of all faiths in a modern Arabic society faced strong opposition from traditional Islam. The Islamic con­servative backlash was especially acute in tribal societies and led to the creation of a movement which became known as political Islam. In subsequent years, Arab countries suffered deep socio-economic and political crises. Rapid population growth[1] and a rural exodus in favor of large cities overwhelmed housing, employment and other resources, leading to social dislocation, instability and political radicalization. The radicalization of Sunni Muslims became a defensive tool against other religions and sectarianism. Individual Sunni scholars put their emphasis on incorporating Sharia law in all forms of government whereby their Holy Book would be the sole political manifesto. This action created constant institutional ambiguity as there was no recognized clerical religious authority to decide on specific matters of governance. This vacuum allowed many Sunni organizations, militants, self-proclaimed caliphs and radicalized groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Al Nusra and other lesser known groups to impose their own view of Sharia. While the Sunnis do not have one supreme authority figure who sets the moral tone, the Shi’ites do. In the Shi’ite denomination, there is one supreme religious leader who unites all Shi’ites together, with Iran as its foremost state and Khomeini as the supreme, undisputed leader. Iran Iran’s sphere of influence in the Shi’ite world extends from the Strait of Hormuz with Houthis in Yemen, to Lebanon with Hezbollah, to Iraq and Syria. Shi’ite radicals put their emphasis on the character of the ruler who oversees the implementation of Sharia law. Foreign fighters who support Bashar al-Assad in Syria are sponsored by Iran, come in large numbers from Afghanistan and include other Shi’ites from countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union. Syria is extremely important to Iran. It links Tehran with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it closes the circle of influence in the region, making Iran a regional superpower. Besides the manpower Iran supplies for the war in Syria, it is estimated that Iran has spent nearly $1 billion in cash to prop up the Assad regime. Lifting the embargo and applying the 5+1 format conditions in the Iran Nuclear Agreement will make Iran economically viable once again. The Agreement is seen as a victory for Iran and its domestic policy, but it will have absolutely no effect in changing Iran’s policy in the region. Under no circumstances would Iran allow Assad to lose Syria, and that’s where old partners as well as adversaries have found common ground. Last August, Russian aircraft conducted raids in Syria after launching from Iran’s Hamedan military base, sending an important message to the West about this new/old alliance. Turkey, the Refugee Crisis and the European Union Iran’s new role in global geopolitics has implications for another key player in the region—Turkey. Turkey’s foreign policy and its international influence has waned as Ankara is faced with growing domestic violence. The ongoing terrorist threats in Turkey are not only from the Kurdish separatist movement and its Syrian PDY arm but are also from a faction of a radical group that deserted the Assad Army known as the Syrian Liberation Army (SLA). The SLA was originally supported by Turkey, a few European Union (EU) member nations and the Gulf States with the aim of getting rid of Assad. In part because of these domestic concerns, Turkey failed to recognize Russian and Iranian power-sharing ambitions in the region. The influence of Iran in the Shi’ite world and Russia’s interests in the region cannot be underestimated. New geopolitical alliances and the refugee crisis in Europe have created a serious dilemma. The European Union’s underlying principles have been called into question. Dealing with the influx of refugees fleeing war-torn areas goes beyond borders. The lack of a unifying foreign and defense policy will remain an EU challenge for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Turkey and Greece and other countries whose Mediterranean shores have accepted waves of refugees cannot face these challenges alone. Viewing the refugee crises as a regional issue is a mistake. This crisis is certainly a global concern. The European Union is now desperately trying to convince Turkey to shoulder more of the burden even though Turkey has been housing over 2.5 million refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Europe and the whole world were transfixed last year, watching hundreds of thousands of desperate people crossing mountains, rivers and iron fences that were built across Europe. Most of these refugees ended up living in tents provided by the Turkish government. Turkish concerns about the plight of the refugees, however, fell upon deaf ears. This early warning of a pending humanitarian crisis was something that EU leaders failed to understand. By closing its borders, the European Union will not resolve the refugee crisis. It may, in fact, lead to bigger problems. Conflicts must be tackled at their origin. The European Union must find a way to balance its economic and security concerns with its inherent humanitarian obligation to help alleviate the suffering of immigrants who have walked thousands of miles in order to reach southeast Europe. Turkey and the European Union have serious issues when it comes to Turkey’s demand for nine billion euros to keep the refugees inside its borders. It certainly would cost the European Union less to have Turkey become a full EU member rather than continuing to deal with mounting pressure from the influx of refugees from the Middle East and beyond. Security is a global issue and cannot be handled in isolation. Europe is stronger, safer and bigger with Turkey and the Balkans inside its structures rather than outside. There is no better solution for these turbulent times than a strong and unified European Union. While the United States is trying to take a leadership role to find a solution, there are numerous bumps in the road. The Iran deal is viewed by some as a good step to satisfy and control Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it is not enough. Europe is still trying to come to grips with Britain’s departure from the European Union. Russia’s attempts to increase its sphere of influence, on the other hand, makes the landscape even more complicated unless each individual player in the West maintains its geo­political influence in the region. The U.S. role in the crisis is vital, particularly in convincing the EU partners to stick together.
  • Topic: Nuclear Power, European Union, ISIS, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Selin Nasi
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: Turkey Israel deal: A key to long term reconciliation ?
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Israel
  • Author: Kevin Appleby
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: From February 23, 2017 to March 6, 2017, His Eminence Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, California; His Excellency Silvano Tomasi, c.s., delegate secretary for the Holy See’s Dicastery on Integral Human Development; and Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) and the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), joined in a mission to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Greece to examine the situation of refugees and the displaced in these states. The visit came against the backdrop of several actions and events which could adversely impact these populations in the immediate, near, and long-term future: (1) the proposed reduction in the number of refugees to be admitted by the United States from 110,000 to 50,000 a year, including a 120-day shutdown of the US refugee program; (2) the one-year-old agreement between the European Union and Turkey to halt Syrian and other refugee groups from migrating to and entering Europe; (3) the ongoing war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), most notably in the fight for the city of Mosul and surrounding villages in northern Iraq; and (4) the ongoing persecution of religious minorities in the region, including Christian groups. Overall, the delegation found that, despite heroic work by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and agencies in the region, including refugee protection organizations, the humanitarian need of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) far outweigh the support given to them by the international community. In fact, the world community appears to be withdrawing its support, rather than increasing it.1 The following findings and recommendations from the mission are based on the delegation’s conversations with actors in the region, including refugees and displaced persons, care providers, representatives of the Catholic Church, their aid agencies, and United Nations (UN) officials.
  • Topic: Migration, Religion, Refugee Issues, European Union, ISIS, Displacement, NGOs, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Europe, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Athanasios Manis
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: There is no doubt that the Turkish referendum of 16 April 2017 marks a sea change for Turkey’s political system. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have narrowly won the referendum that turns his de facto hegemonic presidency into de jure. 51.28% of Turkish citizens approved the 18 proposed constitutional amendments, while 48.72% opposed them. However, the provisions of the constitutional amendments and the statements made by the main political protagonists and antagonists give little hope that the referendum result will bring political stability or economic prosperity; or allow Turkey’s leadership to play a constructive role in Syria and Iraq - at least in the short-term. Furthermore, it is unlikely to enhance the level of cooperation with the EU and the US over the war against the Islamic State (IS) and the refugee crisis.
  • Topic: Elections, European Union, Democracy, Geopolitics, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Nilsu Gören
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This paper provides an overview of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) missile defense debate from a Turkish perspective. While Turkey participates in the EPAA by hosting a U.S. early-warning radar in Kurecik, Malatya, its political and military concerns with NATO guarantees have led to the AKP government's quest for a national long-range air and missile defense system. However, Turkish decision makers' insistence on technology transfer shows that the Turkish debate is not adequately informed by the lessons learned from the EPAA, particularly the technical and financial challenges of missile defense.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Toni Alaranta
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: After the re-run of the parliamentary election on 1 November 2015, it is certain that Turkey will again be ruled by the Justice and Development Party’s (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) one-party government. Based on this premise, this study provides a future-oriented analysis in the form of three scenarios: 1) an authoritarian Islamist state; 2) a consolidated liberal democracy; and 3) the dissolution of the Turkish state. The study also identifies three major drivers: a) the AKP and the Islamic-conservative state project; b) regional instability; and c) the Kurdish question. Regarding scenario one, there are factors and processes present that decidedly increase the possibility of an authoritarian Islamist state in Turkey. On the other hand, the republican tradition of parliamentary democracy has at the same time proved to be remarkably resilient, suggesting that the course of events depicted in the positive scenario two still have a significant chance in the long run. Scenario three, the dissolution of the Turkish state, would create enormous instability in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood and exponentially increase unpredictable tendencies and conflicts. The internal and external forces that could produce such a dramatic outcome are still rather weak, but they do exist in an embryonic form. Thus, the republican modernization project attaching Turkey to the Western legacy of secular humanism should not be underestimated and may well prevail in the end. For the time being, however, it seems to be on the losing side as the political process is consolidating the Islamic-conservative version of Turkish nationalism. At the present moment this current is pointing to a concentration of power and a non-pluralist authoritarian regime whereby national identity is increasingly constructed in a form that conceptualizes political liberalism as an existential threat.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Turkey
  • Author: M. Murat Erdoğan
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: This second paper of the DCAF-STRATIM paper series by M. Murat Erdogan analyses the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, and the resulting challenges for both the refugees themselves and for Turkish society. The author argues that although the Turkish government does not officially acknowledge Syrians as refugees, Turkey has maintained an open door policy and provides them with considerable opportunities, rights and services€. The author calls on Turkey to review its approach towards Syrian refugees as the current approach is based on the wrong assumption of it being a temporary phenomenon€. The author expects a high probability that significant numbers of Syrians will permanently remain in Turkey. Since the first wave of Syrian refugees reached Turkey on 28 April 2011, the flow has not halted. With the Syrian civil war in its sixth year, expectations for a peaceful Syria in the short- and medium-term have faded considerably. The author calls for smart strategies, in line with human rights, and supported by Turkish society, for integration and co-existence based on efficient registration, better coordination between relevant agencies, a focus on education and the provision of working permits.
  • Topic: Demographics, Human Rights, Refugee Issues, Refugee Crisis, Syrian War, State
  • Political Geography: Geneva, Turkey, Middle East, Syria