Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

Saudi Arabia actually spends a greater share of GDP on their military than the United States does.

I’ve written two answers that should help people who haven’t been paying attention come to a certain realization that Saudi Arabia and most Arabian Peninsula countries have been working to create powerful and modern militaries for many years.

“The USA led the rise [in military spending], but it was not alone. Of those countries for which data was available, 65% increased their military spending in real terms in 2009. The increase was particularly pronounced among larger economies, both developing and developed: 16 of the 19 states in the G20 saw real-terms increases in military spending in 2009.

— Sam Perlo-Freeman, Olawale Ismail and Carina Solmirano, MilitaryExpenditure Chapter 5, SPIRI Yearbook, June 2010, p.1″

This graph shows the % change in military spending over the last decade. On the right you can see how these amounts measure against one another, but the bars to the side are what are most important. They show long term pattern of growth and answer the question, “Which nations are most dedicated to growing their military?”

Many nations, such as China and India, are staying even with the %GDP spending and the growth in military spending shows a somewhat even with the economy. Others, however, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia show significant spikes even as the world at large, including the US, is showing a pattern of reduced military spending. The US? Why yes, check the bottom graph and several more throughout this post. Military spending in the United States has gone down significantly over the past few years even during a time when we were and are still involved in two different wars. What is interesting is, despite the narrative, though the US is leading the others in military reduction, it doesn’t seem to be determining how much they spend since the reduction in its spending is not matched by a proportional reduction in military spending overall worldwide.

Note the blue line, that’s the US. Since 2010 it has steadily been reducing its military spending in relation to GDP. Meanwhile many other nations have not. I used Russia and Saudi Arabia as two important examples because of how much their priorities seem to be changing and also given their precarious political situations presently.

Jon Davis’ answer to Why does the US government spend so much on military?

To fully appreciate the gravity with which Saudi Arabia wants to be a center for military strength, not just in the Kingdom, but throughout the Middle East, a person needs to also understand that they have worked together with other Arab-League nations to form a single pan-arab military force to combat the growing threats they perceive to Arab nations from terrorism and other nations, as well as creating a force capable of force projection, an important factor in international politics.

The Middle Eastern Cold War is Getting a Bit Warmer – Announcement of Joint Military Force by the Arab League by Jon Davis on The Defense Quorum

The recent news over the weekend is surrounding the announcement of a pan-Arabic defense force lead by the Arab League. The announcement came from a two day summit in Cairo, consisting of important world leaders from the 22 member states of the Arab League. The summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Egyptian military and security officials stated that the intention is for the proposed force to consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. The force would likely be headquartered in either Cairo, Egypt or Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

There are many questions surrounding the nature of this military confederation, many of them appearing here on Quora – Arab League Joint Military Force Announcement (March 2015). As of right now, though, there are still more questions than answers. Not much is known as most of the plans for the joint military force have yet to be made. The Cairo summit informed the AP that there will be a Chiefs of Staff meeting within the next month and a plan presented within the next four months for the implementation of the force. Whatever is delivered at that time will determine the scope of operations going forward.

So for several years Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in its military assets and even working to create defensive works to defend against attacks and clandestine smuggling networks to their north.

Yep, a wall.

So yeah, sorry you missed the news. Saudi Arabia is preparing to be the center of a major military force in the region, most likely to counter the influence of terror, not only in the form of ISIS, but also much more so, from Iran. Due to the build-up of Iran and its funding of various terror networks across the region (to which The Iranian Quds force, for example, is in large part directly responsible for the Civil War in Yemen, among others) Saudi Arabia and many Arab countries feel that their survival relies on defense. They are also the most situated to combat terrorism in the region, far better than the Americans. So yes, they are very much building a military, and no, Donald Trump did not just come up with the idea to fund them or supply them with weapons.

The Guardian: Obama administration offered $115b​n in weapons to Saudi Arabia: report

The Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous US administration, according to a new report.

The surge in sales is in part to reassure the Saudi monarchy of US backing in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal with Tehran, which raised fears in the Gulf that Washington would tilt more towards Tehran in its foreign policy.

“I think that though the Obama administration is not thrilled about the Yemen episode; it feels it can’t stay out of it, because of the need to reassure the Saudis,” Hartung said.

His report found that since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, half of which are accounted for by deals that are still in the pipeline.

“There are $57bn in sales in formal agreements so far, which is also head and shoulders above other administrations,” Hartung said.

The report comes as concerns about the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and their implication in potential war crimes in Yemen have split MPs on parliament’s arms control committee.

Arms sales over the eight years of the Obama administration have also included combat aircraft, attack helicopters, bombs, air-to-ground missiles, warships and military training. A division of Northrop Grumman is involved in a $4bn train-and-equip programme for the Saudi Arabian national guard, which has reportedly played a key role in the Yemen intervention.

That report came out in September of 2016, before Donald Trump was even the President. So the answer by another writer on this issue, that Saudi Arabia was using weapons against Yemeni children, well if he didn’t dispute that when President Obama was doing that, then the argument loses it credibility. As far as 100 billion dollars being too much, well, $115 billion is more.

Frankly, there is much to dislike about Saudi Arabia. I’ve been a leading critic of them throughout my writing, from the barbaric traditions they allow in their culture, to their absurd apathy to Syrian refugees, but collateral damage is not murdering young children. It is the cold, hard, ugly, miserable truth that war is not a clean affair, but the fastest way to stop it is for one side to so totally dominate that the other sues for peace and comes back to the negotiation table. Saudi Arabia is positioned to bring peace to the region culturally where American military solutions fail. Does it mean that we empower a nation we often find appalling? Yes. But we have greater influence to introduce reforms when we control the source of their power than if we allow the Saudis to crumble and the entire region descend further into anarchy.

Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

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The Middle Eastern Cold War is Getting a Bit Warmer – Announcement of Joint Military Force by the Arab League

The recent news over the weekend is surrounding the announcement of a pan-Arabic defense force lead by the Arab League. The announcement came from a two day summit in Cairo, consisting of important world leaders from the 22 member states of the Arab League. The summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Egyptian military and security officials stated that the intention is for the proposed force to consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. The force would likely be headquartered in either Cairo, Egypt or Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

There are many questions surrounding the nature of this military confederation, many of them appearing here on Quora – Arab League Joint Military Force Announcement (March 2015). As of right now, though, there are still more questions than answers. Not much is known as most of the plans for the joint military force have yet to be made. The Cairo summit informed the AP that there will be a Chiefs of Staff meeting within the next month and a plan presented within the next four months for the implementation of the force. Whatever is delivered at that time will determine the scope of operations going forward.

Thus far, the stated purpose seems to be to counter “outside parties” and their military agendas within Arab countries. While many Westerners may believe this relates to American and European interests, it was made very clear that this is directed toward meaning Iran. Iranian backed groups, such as the current threat in Yemen, as well as Hezbollah, and the Iranian backed Shia government in Iraq have left the Arab nations feeling pressure, compounded by the blow delivered to it in 2011 via the Arab Spring. Uprisings and protests have riddled the Arab World since that time and, given the recent push by the Shia backed Iran to fill the void. This combination of threats has solidified many of the 22 Arab League members. Recent military successes in Yemen, have also empowered those backing joint military operations.

It has already been acknowledged, however, it is doubtful that all 22 will be part of the force.

However, it is unlikely that all 22 member nations of the often-fractious Arab League will join the proposed force. Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense agreement.

Iraq, whose Shiite government is closely allied with non-Arab and Shiite Iran, has said more time is needed to discuss the proposed force.

What we will probably see it used for immediately is to try to stabilize the Yemen conflict in favor of Arab interests. If it has strong lasting power, we may see it act as a counter balance to Iran and forces like their Quds Force. The Quds are a special forces arm of the Iranian military reporting directly to Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. They are responsible for the Iranian military’s “extraterritorial operations” and reportedly number around 15,000 troops. A good analogy for the Quds would be something comparable to the United States CIA married with the Green Beret and reporting directly to the President while still technically being part of the Department of Defense. Through them, Iran has been able to support military action across multiple agendas throughout the Middle East, most notably through their commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani reportedly taking a prominent role in both the planning & execution of the offensive to liberate Tikrit from ISIL.

Currently, there is no such Arab answer in the Middle East with the means to counteract Iranian influence and capabilities such as they have shown through forces like the Quds. What the Arabs seem to want from the arrangement is a direct action force combining air strike capabilities and ground forces to be capable of quelling any national destabilization, (such as events like the Arab Spring) insurgency (such as the beginning of the Syrian War and current Yemen conflict) as well as counter-terrorism capabilities.

This isn’t, however, the first time such a force has been seriously suggested. Such a force was a major agenda with the Ba’athists since the 1960’s and has been a long established goal of various Arab League states for many years. This has always been hampered by the region’s numerous flaws, suspicions and inability to cooperate strategically across borders. Add to this and the devastating effect of the Arab-Israeli conflicts on Arab cohesion.

To the credit of the Arabs, conflicts throughout the Middle East over the last fifty years have seen a massive, though somewhat quiet, increase in military infrastructure to support such a new force. An example of this is the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq and others like it, a result of the Israeli conflict and the Middle Easts inability to muster forces fast enough to fight back against Israeli assaults. Another fact worth considering is that nations throughout the Middle East have been outspending much of the world for the last decade. Saudi Arabia, for example, has been spending as much as 10% of their annual GDP on defense spending, more than doubling even the United States military’s relative spending.

That said, if this goal does stick, one can’t know what it will lead to. The force’s staying power will mean an escalation of conflict between the Arab League and Tehran, an event which paints a new and altogether more threatening light on the recent nuclear agreements going on with Iran currently. The Arab region’s history of being politically intertwined in all regards with Islam, particularly that of extremist Wahabi/Salifist branches, is obviously concerning, given their own recent attempts at nationalization. Arab military victories would surely see a rise in Arab nationalism, which may see more growth in parties like the remaining Ba’athists, which given their history, could be even more concerning.  These three elements together, an example being a militarized Arab national state with religious backing such as Iraq circa the 1980’s is frightening.What this will mean for places like Israel we can’t know, but I’m personally not looking at that area very positively. In general, the only thing the entire Arab League has agreed on centered on the illegality of the Israeli state. Shifting focus, the presence of such a force will also only increase tensions with Iran. Finally, a militarized Arab League does hold the long term threat of one day pushing the West, such as the United States, Europe, and the UN out of many Arab countries altogether.


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Does ISIS really stand a chance in the long run?

The group that exists today is probably doomed, but the ideas that they have propagated and evolved will live on, as will most of the individuals who are taking part in the atrocities.

The ideas that the Islamic State are building themselves around are not new. By some interpretations they can be sourced to Islamic leaders in the mid 1700’s in Saudi Arabia, but more recently in the contributions to these philosophies by others in from the Egypt, Kashmere, and others since the 1920’s. These ideas have spread throughout the Islamic world and are the root cause of Islamic Jihadism today. Until these ideas are segregated from the greater Islamic philosophy, villainized properly for the barbarity they eventually lead to, and purged by Muslims from their own practices, these ideas will continue to grow, prosper, spread, and evolve in places like Iraq and Syria (ISIS) , Afghanistan (Taliban), Mali, Nigeria, and Chad (Boko Haram), and Somalia (Al-Shabaab). Even if ISIS were to be completely routed and destroyed, (magic wand thinking), the ideology behind what brought it into existence will continue to grow even if the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant no longer exists.

Second, the people who fight for ISIS will continue to exist, as well. Most of the people who fight in jihadist wars don’t come from the land where they are fighting. Instead, they follow an international call to arms against a myriad of supposed threats. Below is an estimated map of where most of the international recruits to ISIS come from. The vast majority of are from Middle Eastern and North African nations. Still, a disturbing amount are coming from Islamic communities within Western Europe.

There are several problems with this beyond the sheer terror that it invokes. First that I will mention, is that if the core of ISIS were magically destroyed, all of these individuals would return home to their native countries. In places like France, this phenomenon has directly caused at least one massacre, as well as others in Spain and London, not to mention the rest of the Middle East. The fear that many international security agencies have had is that these individuals will go back home and bring terror with him, once again, independent of what is going on in actual war zones like Syria and Iraq. Charlie Hebdo provided proof of concept in this concern, dubbed “islamophobic” only a month ago.

Moving on from this is the international conflict it invokes. What happens if we were to be able to just capture all these individuals, not kill them, but not let them go back home? Well, they are still citizens of those foreign governments and now they are under US (or whoever’s) control. How would the Russian community respond to hearing of Russians being held by Western forces indefinitely for actions that took place overseas? What about the Chinese, or the French, or the Saudis? The United States doesn’t even understand the rationality behind it and will fight the very act of detaining known terrorists, so I have to ask about the strain this sort of event would have on international relations. Probably, in at least a few cases, important bonds would break down and geopolitical stability would be damaged.

Third, even if ISIS were to disappear, the Jihadi Wars will continue. As I have said, the land may be deprived of the jihadists, but their ideas will not go away, nor will the individuals disappear. They will continue to go on and spread their ideals and attempt to reform their home mosques to their own version of Islam. If we were to even hope to track all these people, it would require the creation of perhaps another separate CIA or an international intelligence task force with the sole purpose of tracking these individuals. It’s an almost impossible problem, let alone the philosophical and legal burdens that implies. This means that keeping track of them is a pipe dream. They will also take with them the connections: financing, weapons dealers, fanatical religious leaders, the media. These relationships will be able to grow, as well. So too will their will their tactics and the ideas which form the pillar of their fundamentalist agenda. All this will be happening as they reintegrate into their native homelands, unaware of the jihadist’s past.

Eventually, the call to arms will move somewhere else. It may be that the fight is called for Somalia, or West Africa. Perhaps it will be in the Kashmere region. It may just as easily move to places like Chechnya, Kazakhstan, Serbia, or even in Southwestern China or France. When that happens, the same mujahid fighting today will flock to the region, this time with their sons and their friends who they have converted to their perverted view of Islam. The rest of the world won’t make the connection between say, Chechnya in 2020 and ISIS today, but by the same connection, no one was tracing the link to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, or between them and the Mujahideen of Afghanistan in the 1980’s or between all of them and some Saudi cleric three hundred years ago.

If we ever want to truly see the forces which caused the rise of the Islamic State to fail, we are going to have to support Muslim’s effort to purge the jihadists’ ideology from their own belief system. Their media outlets and outreach need to be secured and silenced and as many of them as possible need to be killed right now, before they go on to pollute the rest of Islam with their fanatical belief system.


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“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”

Support takes on many forms. If one were to ask if Turkey is providing assistance to the Islamic State in the form of weapons, training, and financing, I’ve seen no evidence to validate that. There is, however, much more to the point that seems to imply that yes, Turkey is supporting ISIL through inaction and as a roadblock, preventing anti-ISIL Kurdish forces in taking part in the fighting of North central Syria. Even more dangerous, there may be a few very good reasons why the Turks would want to see ISIL forces succeed, in as far as it reaches their own borders.

Ian Traynor with The Guardian recently posted an article on the growing dissent brewing in Turkey as government officials remain aloof towards towards the siege “a stones throw from their borders”.

To understand the conflict you’re going to need to understand the strategic importance of Kobane, a significant location to Kurds throughout the region. Kobane is an important point on the map because it represents the northernmost town in central Syria, literally on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Recently, the city has represented a vital choke point for fleeing refugees to Turkey. In late September, a key bridge from the Euphrates was taken which allowed ISIL forces to encircle the region. Within days, at least 50 villages were taken which sent tens of thousands of fleeing villagers on a mass exodus to Turkey. The brunt of these flowed through Kobane.

Second, as the map shows, it is a valuable Kurdish town in that it is the centermost Syrian Kurdish city. It would be, and has been an effective staging point for People’s Protection Units (Kurdish militia) forces to attack from to assault ISIL near a central region. Without it, central Syria is effectively lost to the People’s Protection Units and ISIL forces would have free reign. This also isolates the far Western cities of Efrin and Cindires for the Kurdish militias in the East far more than they were so before. Along with this, losing Kobane means that many of the logistical networks holding up Kurdish fighters in the major Syrian city of Aleppo would be lost. If Kobane falls, Kurds will have no logistical supply location between East and West Syria except when they travel through Turkey. They must go deep through Turkish lands to be able to supply and help protect their other cities, which now are surrounded by ISIL forces.

Lastly, shoring up resistance in Kobane will free up ISIL fighters as their central region will be much more solidified with one less town to fight against. You can see this illustrated clearly in the map below. The purple region in the north central part of Syria just went from, “ISIL is attacking this” to “This is no longer a problem for ISIL”. This means they have a relatively secured path from Aleppo to Mosul all the way to Fallujah in the central part of Iraq. This Sunni Triangle will now be a massive and much more secured region for the insurgency forces, if Kobane is lost. By some reports, there have been as many as 9,000 jihadist forces involved of the siege. Once these forces are no longer involved in the fighting of Kobane, they will be free to augment forces and carry out operations elsewhere.

Now the city is embattled on the edge of Syrian Turkish border. The battle has been declining for Kurdish and FSA against ISIL militants Outnumbered, by most estimates 6:1 the Kurdish defense forces are in a losing battle for the future of Kobane, even with coalition air raids. The tide only seems to be turning a major corner after weeks of desperate and heroic fighting by the defenders and countless American and coalition air strikes. This being the case, many are asking, why the Turks are literally sitting sidelined for this fight, only a mile outside the battlezone of Kobane, where they have the potential to prevent a possible massacre as well as deliver a major defeat against the ISIL insurgency.

Traynor’s Guardian article displays some disturbing truths about the precarious stance of the Turkish government.

What’s important to know is that, while Kurdish forces are gaining great notoriety for their ability to maintain Northern Iraq and Syria, they have not been well liked throughout the region and primarily in Turkey.

If you look at the region many would consider Kurdistan, the region populated mostly by those of Kurdish ancestry, you’ll see that a massive block of Turkey is actually populated predominantly by Kurds. Kurds also comprise between 10% and 25% of the population and have been subjected to official repression for decades. Over the past three decades, Kurdish nationals in Turkey have been fighting for independence and equality with the rest of their fellow Turkish citizens. One group above all others, has been leading the fight toward independence in the form of an actual insurrection against the Turkish government.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, commonly referred to by its Kurdish acronym, PKK, is a Kurdish militant organization which from 1984 to 2013 fought an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey. The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent, Marxist–Leninist state in the region known as Kurdistan. The name ‘PKK’ is usually used interchangeably for the name of its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (HPG), which was formerly called the Kurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK). The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the United States, and the European Union.

For that reason, Turkish views of many Kurdish fighters are less than admirable. This is personified most by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he equated the Kurds of Kobani and their defenders with the islamic jihadist insurgents.

“It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly.”

Yet more concerning is that the ISIL Crisis is uncovering what appears to be signs that the fanatical jihadists aren’t being viewed with such vehement scorn as they are viewed from the West.

“A significant part of the Turkish public believes the Sunnis of Syria and the Middle East are fellow victims of injustice and that Isis represents a legitimate Sunni grievance,” the International Crisis Group said this week in a report from Ankara.

Expert on Islam, Sam Harris, recently explained why this may happen by describing some very troubling patterns that modern liberal tolerances haven’t yet come to deal with about the religion. He stated that when we try to truly study and understand muslims, we see the fundamentalist leanings are much larger a percentage of the total population than at first we wanted to believe. His view is that, while most muslims by a wide margin are not fanatical terrorists, the number of those sympathetic to the jihadist’s call may be higher than many believed. It’s important to remember that not all muslims are like those we experience in the West, those who are well educated and well socialized to American and Western values. The values that much of conservative Islam hold are not congruent with life in much of the rest of the world. For that reason, many of us have come to the belief that muslims across the world are like the muslims we know in our cities and that we know as friends. When you change locations however, you see a culture which is much different, and where values we hold are viewed as intolerable. He describes running throughout much of the Middle East a deep inner circle of Islam, one which “wakes up every day wanting to kill apostates and hoping to die if they don’t” as the jihadists. Outside of this group are the islamists. They as convinced of the idea of martyrdom, but aren’t willing to to kill themselves to see others brought down. They are willing to fight and want to see an end to democracy and the instillment of an Islamic theocracy. They’re just not going to blow up a bus to do it. Harris fears that between these two groups, you have a section that represents as much as 20% of the Islamic population. Outside of this population you will see the conservative branch of Islam. These groups completely don’t agree with the acts and atrocities of groups like ISIL, but in much larger numbers than we have led ourselves to believe, still have extremely intolerant views “towards women’s rights, toward homosexuals that are deeply troubling… and they keep women and homosexuals immiserated.”

An International Crisis Group added that private polling within Erdoğan’s religion-based Sunni Muslim AK party revealed sympathy for Isis. With his constituency seeing the Islamic State as anything other than a murderous jihadist horde, “This makes it hard for a Turkish government to directly attack Isis.” reported the International Crisis Group.

The New York Times also recently reported that as many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials there. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers. Turkish fighters recruited by ISIS say they identify more with the extreme form of Islamic governance practiced by ISIS than with the rule of the Turkish governing party, which has its roots in a more moderate form of Islam.

In response to numerous factors, Turkey has gone to great lengths to secure their Southern border. This, only after, thousands of Turkish recruits made their way through, along with perhaps thousands more international travelers. Regardless, now military forces are no longer allowing passage into Syria. This has the effect, however, of essentially blockading Kobane from the rest of their Kurdish allies.

Looking back at the map of the Middle East which focuses on levels of high Kurdish population, you’ll see that Kobane indeed rest on a very narrow “peninsula” of Kurdish population stretching from their main population center in Turkey to Syria. Also present in Syria is a very strong region of Syrian Kurds protected by the People’s Protection Units, and further to the East, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraqi Kurds who have a long history of support against fanatical islamists. These two groups, along with the PPK in Turkey all wish to take part in aiding the stranded fighters in Kobane. To do this, however, they must either go through the extremely occupied region of central Syria or through Turkey. The Turkish blockade of northern Syria, however, is in effect, a second siege preventing potentially thousands of willing supporters for the Kobane defense effort.

While I can see the Turkish stance as being, perhaps, logical from their point of view, the facts of the matter are that it has outraged many thousands of Kurds living in Turkey presently. Over the past few weeks, thousands have gone into the streets across to protest Kurdish inaction and what they view as preferential treatment for the fanatical islamist regime. In actions across Turkey, at least 30 people were killed and hundreds more injured as protests turned to riots.

The last week has meant much for the future of the Middle East. A small town on the Syrian border has made present yet another ethnic divide ripping the region apart. Instability has spread to showcase a future for Turkey where militant collapse in their Eastern half, the same type of collapse which saw ISIL go from a backwater terrorist faction, to the modern State of Terror. In a report by the AP, the situation has just gone from isolated protesting in the streets to an all out conflict, reminiscent of beginnings of civil wars from Libya, and now most notably, Syria.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a sign of further turbulence for the U.S. led-coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkish warplanes have struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in southeastern Turkey, media reports said Tuesday.

It was the first major airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since peace talks began two years ago to end a 30-year insurgency in Turkey. It added to tensions between the key U.S. coalition partner and PKK, a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. that is also among the fiercest opponents of the Islamic State group.

The return to violence between the two parties suggests that Turkey’s focus may not be on the Islamic State group, even as it negotiates its role with the U.S. and NATO allies fighting the extremists. Turkey has provoked frustration among allies, by saying it won’t join the fight against the Islamic State militants unless the U.S.-led coalition also targets Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The article mentions Turkey negotiating its role with the U.S. and NATO over how it will be engaged in the war against ISIL. The Turkish government agreed on Monday to let US and coalition forces use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, there was even a promise by Ankara to train several thousand Syrian moderate rebels in the fight, as well. Many hailed this as good news, seeing another major regional player now joining the battle against ISIL. I have to wonder.

Given the apathy and resentment shown by Turkish officials to the plight of foreign Kurdish fighters, even to the point of allowing jihadi fundamentalists to occupy a key region a stone’s throw away from their own border, along with their complete inability to take direct action against the terrorist organizations, along with signs that a major segment of their population may be sympathetic to the goals of the islamists, I have to wonder what motivations are behind any actions to allow American or any other Western intervention in the conflict.

To pose my own pessimistic view, one which I hope others will consider given the information I have shared, I think it is because Turkey may want an American security blanket against it’s own insurgency which looms around the corner. The rise of Kurdish prestige and victories over the last year has galvanized their spirit and the renewed call for Kurdish nationalism. As I have said before in this post, the nation with the largest single stake in the future of the Kurds is Turkey. Kurdish autonomy has spread throughout the region, giving rise to the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and another like it in North Eastern Syria. This zeal is going to invite more Kurds to carry on the torch of autonomy and independence which has no one to hurt than Turkey. In the political environment that is the Middle East, one of ever growing chaos, reorganization and upheaval, I have to wonder if Turks true focus is ISIL at all. I truly wonder if really, the recent allowance to allow coalition forces to use Turkish military bases and train Syrian defense forces was really only an effort to ensure their assistance in the event of a future Kurdish uprising. Turkey has long been a friend of the United States amidst much less moderate neighbors. Now, however, it seems that conservative Islamic factions within Turkey have grown tired of their Western friendly policies and are now acting in accord with ISIL forces, even if indirectly. This won’t sit well with the Kurds of the region who, until only yesterday, enjoyed a brief two year lull in a 30 year feud with the nation. Now, it seems, they are hedging on the possibility of Kurdish uprising with the presence of US and NATO allies to keep Turkish lands within the sovereign control of Ankara.

The Enemy of My Enemy

There is a Arabic saying that translates “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has unanimously gained no friends across the world. No nations and no allies have come out to show support for the fanatical regime, even among fellow Islamic terrorist organizations. In the case of Turkey, however, there hasn’t really been much done to show that they actually do view them as enemies. Instead, they seem to be looking at others as potential risks within their own borders. They’ve seen a problem which has existed for decades, namely the Kurdish population within Turkey and seen its sudden rise to popularity in the world’s stage, as well as its rise to power in military and political efficacy. This can only mean bad things for the future of Turkey. For all these reasons, one has to wonder if the Turks really see ISIL as their enemy or merely as the enemy of their longstanding enemy, the Kurds. If we view it in that light, we can see how it shouldn’t surprise anyone how much help Turkey has provided, if by nothing else than timely inaction, to the Sunni jihadists. Perhaps it is simpler than this. Perhaps, in light of President Erdoğan’s statement that, “It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly,” exactly that is being done; allow the two enemies of Turkey to fight each other to their mutual oblivion.

To be clear, Turkey has never aided ISIL through troop support, nor is there any evidence that they have provided weapons, financing or aid of any kind, but their policy of preventing the success of Kurdish forces, primarily in the battle for Kobane, as well as their inability to prevent the same sort of assistance being given to Islamic State fighter, they have given more indirect assistance than one could have imagined possible in keeping these terrorist’s alive. For those of us watching this conflict in the future, I am reminded of yet another Arabic saying, oddly fitting this time:

“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”


Sources:


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