Internal opposition to president Erdogan continues to harden. Earlier this summer members of his own ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) openly complained about Erdogan’s “Presidential System.” Well over half of Turkey’s voters believe it has failed and done nothing more than enhance Erdogan’s personal power. Erdogan’s AKP critics contend Erdogan’s strong presidency has weakened parliament (it has) and the stature of members of parliament. They didn’t sign on for that. Erdogan is undoubtedly more personally powerful, but he is now held personally responsible for all domestic and international failures. Turkey’s next presidential elections are scheduled for 2023. But there are signs that opposition leaders are preparing to challenge Erdogan. A snap election is not impossible. Erdogan has been in power for 19 years.
October 13, 2021: In northern Syria (western Aleppo and northern Raqqa provinces) Turkish airstrikes hit several U.S. backed SDF (Syrian Kurd militia). While mainly Kurdish, SDF also includes Syrian Arabs and Turkmen and was a major reason for the defeat of the Islamic State in eastern Syria, leading the offensive to drive ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) out of their capital, Raqqa. The SDF continues to provide security in eastern Syria against the remaining ISIL factions that hide in the mountains and deserts and carry out occasional attacks. The U.S. provides air support for these SDF counterterror operations. Russia has generally stayed out of this war between Turkey and the SDF but recently the SDF warned its senior leaders and other key personnel to avoid travelling. The SDA believes Russia has agreed to target these personnel with attacks using airstrikes. This new policy would also improve relations between Turkey and Russia.
October 9, 2021: Turkey indicated that Kurdish opposition political leader Selahattin Demirtas may be released from prison on probation in early November. European nations have been pressuring Turkey to release Demirtas.
October 8, 2021: Egypt said they are seeing “progress” in talks to restore full relations between Egypt and Turkey.
October 7, 2021: In an interview with U.S. media, president Erdogan said that Washington’s refusal to sell Turkey F-35 fighter jets and Patriot missiles meant Turkey had to buy the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. Turkey wants the U.S. to return its $1.4 billion initial payment to participate in the F-35 consortium.
October 6, 2021: Turkey wants to buy 40 F-16 fighters and up to 80 F-16 modernization kits from the U.S. and is encountering some resistance from the Americans. Turkey wants the planes and kits to modernize its air force since it cannot acquire F-35s. Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35s.
October 5, 2021: China has become a major customer of
natural gas and that is threatening other major customers like Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Western Europe. Currently the largest customer is Western Europe, especially Germany. China will eventually become the largest customer and is already acting like it is. This is already a major problem because Russia does not have enough natural gas to supply all the export demands. Natural gas sales contracts specify a minimum amount to be delivered each year. Beyond that it is a matter of who can pay the most or has the least current disagreements with Russia.
October 3, 2021: Officially Turkey has 182,000 registered Afghan migrants. It is believed there are another 125,000 unregistered Afghan migrants in Turkey. This is in addition to an estimated 3.7 million Syrian refugees already there.
October 2, 2021: New political parties continue to appear in Turkey. The proliferation of new parties likely reflects public dissatisfaction with Erdogan. There are 116 recognized political parties in Turkey, with 13 new ones formed in the first nine months of 2021. That’s compared to 27 formed in 2020. Many of the factions are small and include former members of the AKP. There is already talk of left-right alliances to oppose Erdogan and other coalition arrangements. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) is reportedly talking to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) about resolving policy differences. The CHP is Turkey’s Kemalist party, founded by Kemal Ataturk a century ago to lead his effort to separate church and state in Moslem majority Turkey. Key issues in the election will be Kurdish rights and a revival of the parliamentary system. In other words this is a rejection of Erdogan’s strong presidency.
October 1, 2021: Turkey’s Energy Ministry reported that by 2027 a new Black Sea natural gas field will supply over one-third of Turkey’s domestic requirements. The Sakarya field will be producing 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas by the end of 2023. That could translate into a $750 billion boost to Turkey’s economy. The field has an estimated recoverable natural gas reserve of some 550 billion cubic meters.
September 30, 2021: In northwest Syria (Aleppo province) Syrian Kurdish separatists of the YPG (People’s Protection Units) fired a guided missile into Turkey, killing two policemen. Turkey said it would retaliate because the YPG had done this before and were warned that a repeat would have consequences. Turkey considers the YPG a component of the Turkish PKK (Turkish Kurdish separatists). The U.S disagrees with Turkey about YPG/PKK cooperation and has found the YPG an effective and reliable component of the SDF that controls much of northeast Syria (mainly Kurd majority Hasaka province). SDF forces have clashed with Turkish troops and their Syrian mercenaries in Syria frequently, usually in response to a Turkish attack or attempt to gain control of more territory occupied by the SDF. One thing Turkey and the U.S. do agree on is that the YPG is the most unpredictable faction of the SDF.
September 29, 2021: President Erdogan and Russian leader Putin met at the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi to discuss subjects of mutual interest. In the week prior to the meeting Erdogan accused the U.S. of supporting “terrorist organizations,” specifically the Syrian Kurd YPG in northern Syria. Turkey contends the YPG is an affiliate Turkish Kurds PKK.
Cyprus’ foreign ministry accused president Erdogan of militarizing Turkish foreign policy and attempting to create a new Ottoman empire in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
September 28, 2021: The new American government’s nominee for ambassador to Turkey, former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, criticized president Erdogan for authorizing Turkey’s purchase and testing of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. Flake said that acquisition of any additional Russian weaponry would lead to additional U.S. sanctions on Turkey. Erdogan recently indicated that he was open to purchasing more Russian missile systems.
September 27, 2021: The EU (European Union) and UN revealed a joint project that will clear 80,000 land mines along Turkey’s border with Iran. The project will begin with demining a 400-hectare (1000-acre) area.
September 17, 2021: In the northwest Syria (Latakia and Idlib provinces) there has been another round of Russian airstrikes on Islamic terrorist rebels trapped in Idlib and ignoring the 2020 ceasefire agreement with Turkey, Russia and Syria that only worked if everyone stopped attacking each other and not enter territory they did not already control. The key weapon of reprisal for Syria has been Russian airpower. This time some of the Russian airstrikes were on rebels who were very close to Turkish positions, risking Turkish casualties. Russia blames all this on Turkey’s more accommodating attitude towards Islamic terror groups that were willing to work with Sunni Moslem governments, which Russia is not. Everyone in Syria agrees that ISIL is bad and most everyone is hostile towards Iran. While Turkey and Russia try to maintain something resembling a military alliance, the two governments still have fundamental differences about how to handle Islamic terrorism. Increasingly those differences get Turkish forces killed or wounded by Russian airstrikes and artillery fire.