MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: THE NATO/TURKISH WARS IN MIDEAST

Why Turkey should not receive new F-16 fighter jets and new weapons  – Washington Kurdish Institute July 27, 2022

The US should not provide Turkey with new F-16 fighter jets. For nearly two decades, under the erratic leadership of current authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been an undependable ally, often working directly against the interest of the US and NATO

 

Turkey in Syria

For years, Turkey has executed unprovoked attacks against the Syrian Kurds, the most reliable ally of the US and Europe in the country who have been fighting the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and other jihadist groups since 2014. At the moment, Turkey has proclaimed its intention to launch a new large-scale invasion of areas administered by the Syrian Kurds and their allies, which would be the third such invasion of these relatively peaceful regions of Syria by the Turkish Armed Forces. When ISIS represented a major threat to global security, the US-led global coalition trained and equipped the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to stop the genocidal terrorist group as it expanded throughout Syria and beyond. Since the defeat of ISIS as a territory-holding entity in 2019, the US has continued working with the SDF on a daily basis to eliminate remaining ISIS terror cells, which continue to pose a security threat. At the same time, the US and European nations are working with the United Nations (UN) to stabilize the country, which has suffered greatly after over a decade of war.

 

Turkey’s unprovoked campaigns of military aggression against the Syrian Kurds has already done great damage to the US-led war against ISIS, and Erdogan’s plans to invade and occupy more land in Syria, supported by F-16 fighter jets, drones, and other modern military equipment, will throw ISIS a lifeline and provide them the opportunity to regroup in Syria. Such an invasion will fan the flames of bloodshed in Syria and exacerbate an already catastrophic refugee crisis, while strengthening the positions of both Russia and Iran in the country.

Turkey has never been part of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. It hindered US efforts by blocking US use of the Incirlik Air Base for months in 2014 when ISIS was at its strongest. In fact, there is a wealth of evidence of Turkish support for ISIS, and Turkey has long recruited former ISIS members for its Syrian proxy militias, which consist of al-Qaida offshoots and other jihadist groups. These Turkish-backed militias have committed atrocities against Syrians, mainly Kurds, which have been well documented by the US government.  Many US officials, including military commanders, have repeatedly warned of the disastrous consequences of a Turkish invasion of Syria, including more mass displacement, similar to previous Turkish invasions of nearby areas. Additionally, an invasion may provide thousands of ISIS detainees in SDF prisons the opportunity to escape. Furthermore, such an invasion may force the SDF to cooperate with the Assad regime as well as its chief allies, Russia, and Iran, as a last resort to protect millions of Kurds, Arabs, and Christians living in the region. During Turkey’s previous invasions of Syria in 2018 and 2019, the Turkish Armed Forces depended heavily on their F-16 fighter jets, using air power indiscriminately to kill civilians along with well over a thousand SDF fighters, the heroes of the war on ISIS who were trained and equipped by US taxpayers.

 

Turkey and its wars on Armenians

In 2020, Turkey supported Azerbaijan’s dictatorial regime in its aggression against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey’s air support, which has included F-16 fighter jets and drones, directly resulted in hundreds of Armenian casualties and displaced thousands. The sale of additional F-16s will further empower Erdogan, providing him with ample resources to support additional campaigns of military aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey threatening war against Greece and Cyprus

Turkish President Erdogan and other Turkish officials have repeatedly threatened and provoked Greece, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, and gone so far as to discuss challenging Greek sovereignty over a number of Greek islands. At the same time, Erdogan is expected to visit the northern Cyprus, occupied by Turkey for nearly 5 decades, and there is speculation that he may even announce formal annexation of these areas. Since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the island has been divided, with the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member state, having no control over the northern portion of the island, and only Turkey recognizing the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In 2020, Turkey nearly sparked a war with Greece after aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, and tensions remain high between the two countries as Turkey continues its belligerent approach. The sale of F-16s to Turkey will put Greece, a reliable NATO member, in greater danger, and also increase the prospects of renewed war and displacement in Cyprus, also a close ally of the US.

 

Turkey in Iraq

Under the pretext of fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey has occupied a large swath of land inside Iraqi Kurdistan, constantly expanding its zone of operation in the region. To date, Turkey has established more than forty military bases and posts in Iraq scattered throughout at least three provinces. In addition to expanding its long-term military presence in the country and maintaining a significant intelligence presence, Turkey periodically uses warplanes and drones to strike areas of the country, killing and displacing Kurds, Arabs, Christians, and others, and has recently focused on using its air power to target the Yazidi community, who are still working to recover from the recent genocide at the hands of ISIS. Turkish intervention in Iraq has undermined the sovereignty of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, destabilizing the already delicate situation in the country. The Turkish aggression against Iraqi Kurdistan and occupation of areas throughout the country have resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.

 

Turkey is breaking US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela

For years, Turkey and Iran have been close trade partners, with supposed US ally Turkey helping Iran circumvent US-imposed sanctions in various ways, including billions of dollars of gold trading. The Department of Justice charged Turkey’s state-owned bank “with fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s participation in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.” Such activities have not been limited to Iran. In 2019, Turkey began trading gold with Venezuela, backing its dictator Nicolás Maduro, a vocal enemy of the US. At present, Turkey and Venezuela are publicly aiming to take their cooperation to the “next level.”

 

Turkey and the Arab states

For years, Turkey worked against the leading Arab states such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. However, following the recent deterioration in Turkey’s economy, Erdogan has made efforts to repair diplomatic relations with these countries. Nonetheless, under Erdogan, Turkey remains a major host and patron of Hamas and radical Muslim Brotherhood groups and individuals who are hostile to the leadership of these countries.