Hugh Pope and Nigar Goksel profile a country deemed too autocratic, too Muslim and too wayward to join the European club.
Originally published in Chatham House
Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in country’s south east and northern Iraq. Military throughout month continued operations targeting PKK militants in rural areas of country’s south east, mainly in Bitlis, Mardin and Diyarbakır provinces; fatalities further decreased this month likely owing to harsh winter conditions in mountainous areas. Military also continued air raids targeting PKK positions in northern Iraq during month. Following recent clashes in northern Iraq between PKK/People’s Protection Unit (YPG) and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), Defence Minister Hulusi Akar 19 Jan visited Iraq’s capital Baghdad and later Erbil to meet high-ranking Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials; following meeting with KRGPM Masrour Barzani, Akar said: “We should increase our cooperation and together stand against the PKK with determination”, and pledged military support to oust PKK from Sinjar if requested. Govt efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) persisted: police detained more than 80 HDP members or affiliates throughout month; notably, Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office 13 Jan reportedly launched proceedings to remove immunity of nine HDP MPs, including party’s co-chair Pervin Buldan, for allegedly inciting violence during 2014 Kobani protests. Govt continued operations targeting Islamic State (ISIS), as police throughout month detained over 180 individuals for their alleged links to ISIS; notably, police operation in Şanlıurfa city 12 Jan apprehended ISIS member who was allegedly involved in ISIS terrorist attacks in Turkey in 2015 (Suruç) and 2016 (Sultanahmet).
Turkey, like many countries, must figure out how to handle thousands of citizens coming home from jihadist battlefields abroad. None has mounted a domestic attack since 2017, but the danger is not gone. Authorities should consider adding enhanced social programs to their law-and-order approach.
Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire.
Gulf states are competing for influence in the Horn of Africa to control the Red Sea, transposing internal rivalries onto a fragile region. Horn governments should increase their bargaining power with their powerful neighbours, who should recognise the risks their policies pose to regional security.
Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, half of whom are under eighteen. Despite European aid, tensions are rising as the country strains to accommodate the influx. The answer is smarter integration policies aimed particularly at meeting the needs of vulnerable youth.
Much of north-eastern Syria has been safe during the civil war. But in the event of U.S. military withdrawal, a mad scramble for control could be unleashed. Washington and Moscow should help their respective allies in Syria reach a decentralisation deal for the area.
Rivalry persists between Russia and Turkey in their shared neighbourhood of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. But Moscow-Ankara relations have warmed overall. Building on their wider rapprochement, the two powers can work together to tamp down flare-ups of regional conflicts.
Drones have enabled [Turkey] to drive the PKK out of mountainous pockets where they had established a significant presence.
It seems that what is left of ISIS networks now is that they are getting organized in smaller groups of five or six people who may not be connected to each other even.
The adversarial positions of the UAE and Turkey across the Middle East and North Africa are spilling into the East Mediterranean dispute.
Turkey is also one of the candidates to rebuild Beirut harbour. There is also a section within Lebanese society – amongst Sunni Muslims – who have some sympathy for Turkey’s neo-Ottoman project.
The use of drone technology appears to have significantly shifted the balance of power on the ground, allowing Turkish forces to go after militants in areas previously difficult to penetrate.
Getting out [of Idlib] altogether, allowing the refugees to come into Turkey and letting Assad take that space is not an idea that’s going to resonate with Turkish society.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Nigar Göksel, Crisis Group’s Turkey director, dissects Turkey’s assertive moves in places ranging from Syria and Iraq to Libya, the eastern Mediterranean, and now Nagorno-Karabakh.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report "Calibrating the Response: Turkey’s ISIS Returnees".
Crisis Group's Libya Senior Analyst Claudia Gazzini and Turkey Project Director Nigar Göksel held a panel moderated by our Communications & Outreach Director Hugh Pope to discuss Crisis Group's 29 April report on outside intervention in Libya.
In this interview, Crisis Group's Libya Expert Claudia Gazzini try to provide some insight into Turkey's relation with Libya and the Mediterranean neighbourhood.