Above the Fold: Turkey battles to be relevant

Kalin issued a statement telling the world that Turkey was going to host a trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran.

By MICHA HALPERN
July 7, 2019 21:32
3 minute read.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in full fighting mode. He is fighting a battle for recognition and significance in the international arena. He is a man who loves to battle and he is, as always, fighting to win.

Erdogan is working hard to turn himself into a relevant player on the international stage. Once that happens, he reckons, it will translate into important political currency at home. Erdogan is convinced that he has what it takes to transform himself into a world leader. He wants to sew his oats mediating not one world conflict, but two – simultaneously. The first conflict is Syria and the second is Iran and the US.

Ibrahim Kalin is the spokesman for the Turkish president. Following a meeting of the Turkish cabinet, Kalin issued a statement telling the world that Turkey was going to host a trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran.

“The meeting,” according to Kalin, “will mainly be on Idlib and other parts of Syria, on the general security situation, transition processes, constitutional commission and re-settlement.” The spokesperson explained that following the trilateral meeting, there would be another summit about Syria attended by Russia, Germany and France. That meeting will take place at the end of August or at the beginning of September. He said that this plan is a byproduct of the G20 meeting that took place at the end of June.
The Syria announcement came on the heels of another Erdogan announcement, this one made after the G20 meeting. Erdogan dug in at the G20 meeting. While there, Turkey’s president offered to mediate the conflict between the United States and Iran. He said that he wanted to help ease the tensions that continue to ratchet up between the two countries.

This proposal, surprising as it may seem, is actually a very good idea.

Erdogan is perfectly positioned to mediate this conflict. He is distrusted by both parties – and yet, he is also close with them. Erdogan shares strategic economic objectives with both the United States and Iran.

That’s not to say that it will be easy. Before he can even get started on engaging these two enemies, Erdogan will have some serious mine fields of his own to navigate.

The United States is calling on NATO to expel Turkey because they are now in possession of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile. Turkey signed and sealed a deal with Russia to get the missiles, and the first batch of brand new weapons have already been delivered to Turkish soil.

Asked about the S-400s, Kalin said: “This is not a defense system that would pose a threat or danger to our current security system, especially within the NATO system.” Why? Because, he said: “First of all, it is a defense system, not an attack system against another country, therefore it is not a threat to another country.”

The United States disagrees. It is not about defense, it is about weapons sales and technology. The United States is upset over Turkey’s possession of the S-400 because it signals a fracture in the NATO defense system. Turkey is embracing Russia. The United States is upset because this Russian system is not part of the NATO mechanism. More importantly, in buying arms from Russia, Turkey is signaling to the United States that they have lost a valued customer. And as a valued customer, Turkey received highly advanced US fighter jets.

Information about those jets, secret information, will now be put in the hands of the Russians. The new technology of the S-400 can easily be tweaked to be more effective against US technology and that tweak can impact US military effectiveness across the globe.
Erdogan is a thug and a tyrant, but he is no fool. Erdogan knows full well what he is doing. The president of Turkey must be watched carefully – all eyes upon him. Erdogan is a fighter and this is just the beginning of his quest.

The writer is a political commentator. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.

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