FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Turkey’s Syrian Gambit

by SHAHAB JAFRY

It’s strange that Turkish PM Erdogan’s calls for the fall of Syria’s government have become even louder than the Saudis’. He knows a Libya-like aerial blitzkrieg is not coming, and street gangs lynching Bashar Assad is a very remote possibility. It’s far more likely that the Baathists’ worst case scenario is an Alawite stronghold around Latakia on the Mediterranean, in alliance with the PKK in the Kurdish north, preparing for an eventual, historic partition of Syria.

Russia will retain the deepwater port at Tartus, ensuring Kremlin protection, and complicating inevitable Turkish retaliation to Kurdish infiltration and espionage, most likely financed by the future former potentates of Damascus if Turkey fails to exercise restraint right now. How the following sectarian-ethnic death rattle will benefit any country, let alone Turkey, is difficult to see.

Erdogan said, “our anger is powerful”, but is his anger at Bashar al Assad so powerful that he will compromise Turkey’s political and economic stability? Make no mistake, should he come good on his threats of military intervention, the billion-dollar-a-day-turnover Istanbul Stock Exchange will go into a tailspin, immediately compromising hot money crucial for the exchange, and engineering a nosedive in the lira. On top of 10 per cent plus inflation, GDP slowdown as recession deepens in Europe, and a $70 billion current account black hole, it’s hard to see most Turks agreeing with adventures that will certainly debase the currency and dry equity markets hooked on offshore capital.

Of course Erdogan also knows economic stagnation will hurt his ruling AKP’s already deteriorating social and political standing. True, its 10-years in power— which saw it overcome the secular military-aristocracy alliance that has dominated Kemalist Turkey since its inception — established one of the most vibrant democracies in the Muslim world. But not quite.

Erdogan’s political longevity has seen him tilt more towards certain attributes of dictators the Spring is antithesis to, rather than champions of democracy cheering ‘rebels’ on Arab streets. He has become increasingly less tolerant of the press. And while journalists are still more secure in Ankara than Moscow, court appearances and jail sentences have increased, as have fines. The military too is increasingly dissatisfied, especially since the arrests of dozens of generals and admirals as part of an investigation into an alleged coup attempt.

This means the army, the merchant elite as well as the secular bureaucratic hierarchy will exploit AKP’s weaknesses as and when they come. Yet Erdogan hosts the splintered FSA, facilitates arms smuggling into Syria (along with GCC heavyweights), employs anti-aircraft batteries at the Syrian border, threatens raids on Kurdish pockets and signals imminent military intervention inside Syrian territory. Even by modest risk management standards, the gambit envisaging strengthened regional muscle while eroding internal stability is dangerous at best.

And Syria’s fate notwithstanding, the case for Turkey eventually falling foul of its western friends is not as weak as the popular press likes to imply. Remember, he bears many characteristics that have been known to set off alarm bells across the Atlantic – Islamist that upset liberals, betraying increasingly aggressive regional designs. And significantly, it was his personal confrontation with Israeli President Shimon Peres at Davos ’10, when he accused the moderator (Washington Post’s David Ignatius) of giving him less airtime, that culminated in the tragic flotilla incident sometime later. Needless to say, as his rhetoric towards Tel Aviv worsens, so too will his standing with Washington.

For Syria to prompt Turkey’s prime minister to trigger potentially grave political and economic headwinds in his own country is questionable, particularly since Ankara’s continued push for Damascus’s fall brings domestic paralysis ever closer. Look to financial markets for the trigger.

The beginning of a lira fall will be Mr Market’s first vote of no confidence in Erdogan’s policy posture, dubbed neo-Ottoman tendency in sections of the press, with good reason. And the longer he sticks to his inflexibility, the more he ensures that of all possible people concerned, the only ones coming out of near term chaos happy and satisfied are day traders poised to short the lira right through the 1.80-1.90 corridor.

Shahab Jafry is a financial and political journalist covering Mena and Pakistan. He can be reached at jafry.shahab@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail