Tag Archives: Turkey

Bits and Pieces – 20170402, Sunday

Commentary: I think this will be a weekly blog post from here on. Sunday makes a good wrap. Either the number of articles that I wish to present to you has declined in occurrence or I have simply absorbed them as I reported them and they no longer appear important enough to bring to your attention.

As an example, the Russian hacking scandal when it broke was big news. Now that it has been thoroughly debunked, the bits of news that still trickle out demonstrate little more than the desperation of the powers that want to dump Trump. As an example, as reported today, Tuesday, the tables of linking Trump and his advisors are being turned on the Democrat camp: Here’s The Story Behind Trump’s Podesta-Russia Tweet. Interesting but not ground-breaking news.

As you may know, I am collecting crises. More properly, I am trying to identify systems that are near their critical point. In such a system, when the critical point is reached, the smallest related event may trigger a systemic realignment and release of potential energy or tension. Charles-Hugh Smith, a prolific thinker and writer talks about these systems or crises: The Overlapping Crises Are Coming, Regardless Of Who’s In Power. If you can think of any, please let me know

Bits and Pieces – 20170314, Tuesday

Commentary: Last post I presented the idea that the left actively seeks a totalitarian state. Here’s an article that suggests that we may already be there: Welcome to Totalitarian America, President Trump! This idea might marry the narrative of the Deep State with a number of other narratives: the militarization of police forces; the large scale military exercises conducted in American cities in the last few years; the complete control over personal communications by the various branches of the intelligence community (NSA, CIA); the subjugation of the economic interests of the American people to those of Wall Street; and so on.

I had concluded years ago that democracy by its nature, is a phase in a cycle: democracy -> socialism -> totalitarianism ->  revolution -> democracy. The reason is that democracy allows politicians to promise and provide socialist entitlements in return for being elected and retaining self-rewarding (corruption in the extreme) power. As socialist programs pile up creating a socialist democracy, the cost of the socialist programs eventually reaches the point (we are there now – Ontario’s medical system; massive deficits and debt) where they must collapse with widespread civil unrest. This leads to repressive control of the population and suspension of constitutional and civil rights, and the democratic process. At this point the state has become totalitarian leading to the eventual emergence of resistance which for survival becomes increasingly militant and violent. Eventually revolution results. At this point democracy may seem the best option for the future  (we’ll do it right this time).

As a final note, I have an extensive commentary on money that emerged as I wrote this. It would be worth your while to rea and understand some of the issues around an asset that you think you have control over but don’t.

Bits and Pieces – 20170219, Sunday

The Deep State: I came across this article on Jim Quinn’s The Burning Platform blog: DHS INSIDER SAYS IT’S SPY VS SPY. The article discusses the split in the intelligence community – a major component of the Deep State – between those who support the president and those who want to overthrow him. A news item that I had barely taken note of and dismissed called “PizzaGate”, is discussed as “PedoGate”, a pedophilia resort run by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad to capture videos of high-ranking politicians having sex with minors to  use as leverage over them. The article also sheds light on the background for US Mideast policy and war, the reasons for the antagonistic approach to Russia, and relationships with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

By the way, WJC are the initials of Bill Clinton. I had previously read an article or two referencing Bill’s taking a 13-year old girl to a resort Island, an event where the Secret Service was told to stay away from.

Bits and Pieces – 20161201, Thursday

What We’re Reading Today

Commentary: I went looking for, and found, a word that I have never encountered in use: misandry. I suspect that there is ample opportunity in our present culture for its use, especially applied to those who would use its sister term, misogyny.

Bits and Pieces – 20161123, Wednesday

What We’re Reading Today

Commentary: We see civil unrest as the major global theme for 2017. Certainly it will mark the American scene. Marine le Pen may win in France: Another One Bites the Dust: Sarkozy Outed in First Round of French Elections. There is an upcoming referendum in Italy which will have profound effects. In short, it will be a turbulent year in Europe with the EU and the euro at stake.

On another note, there is so much news on many fronts I’m at a lot as to what to pick. The first US recount is being called courtesy of Jill Stein but likely funded by Democratic sources or George Soros or both: Jill Stein Raises Enough Money To Force Wisconsin Recount – Michigan & Pennsylvania Up Next. Maybe Trump should call for a recount in Nevada.

Civil Unrest: Pat Buchanan talks about the rough road ahead for Trump: A Besieged Trump Presidency Ahead.

Trump team: Two new appointments: Trump Offers Ben Carson HUD Secretary Job and Trump Names Former Political Opponent As UN Ambassador, Replacing Anti-Putin Samantha Power. Either Trump is fundamentally non-partisan reaching out to opponents of all political persuasions or he is wisely following that old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. His statement that he does not intend to prosecute Hillary reversing an election promise might be an attempt along these lines to build bridges. Of course he can change his mind lager especially if new evidence or circumstances arise. It could be a tactic to forestall a blanket pardon of her actions by Obama while he’s still in the Whitehouse. It is certain that Hillary will not change her opposition to Trump.

Trump policy: Trump may be on track to label China a currency manipulator when in fact it is the US that is indirectly the global currency manipulator: China Press Lashes Out – It’s The Dollar, Not The Yuan That Threatens Global Stability and The U.S. dollar is stronger than it’s been in 13 years. That’s bad.

Main Stream Media (MSM): Angela Merkel is desperately trying to hold onto power and is closely following the US playbook with another made-in-USA strategy: Merkel Declares War On “Fake News” As Europe Brands Russia’s RT, Sputnik “Dangerous Propaganda”. This may affect any detente between the EU and Russia: EU / Russian Thaw Hits A Media Iceberg. Also, Is “Fake News” The New ‘Conspiracy Theory’?.

Bits and Pieces: A tidbit on banks: Forget Deutsche Bank, These 2 American Banks Are Now “The Most Systemically Dangerous In The World”.

Previously we had included links to articles that showed that the establishment was regrouping to fight Trump on all fronts. The first strike may be coming: Scientists Find “Persuasive Evidence” Of Vote Hacking, Demand Clinton Recount In 3 States.

Keeping up with Turkey: Major Foreign Policy Shift: Turkey Abandoning EU For SCO. And then this: Europe Votes To Suspend Turkey EU Accession Talks, Sending Lira Crashing To Record Low Despite Unexpected Rate Hike. Merkel had paid Erdogan a few billion to keep refugees out of the EU. What if Turkey gets annoyed enough to force them across the border into the EU?

There are signs that Trump is moving to heal divisions and the public is responding: Trump Victory Sends Black American Consumer Confidence Surging To 22-Month Highs. If a significant number of the non-bvoting public and the ‘vote against Trump’ public can be won over, the attempt by the establishment and the left to overturn the election becomes more dangerous and difficult for them.

Bits and Pieces – 20161111, Friday

What We’re Reading Today

Commentary: While the MSM remain in denial (see below) and celebrities are melting with the snowflakes and threatening to move to Canada – if they do I’m moving to the US –  I’m looking at that progressive side of society that is actively protesting Trump’s election.  This is civil unrest that may go underground for a while but is not going away. As the MSM talking heads and their stable of experts are demonstrating, they just don’t get why things didn’t go their way and aren’t going to stand for it. This I think will be the main issue for Trump’s presidency.

So I am pondering the divisions that emerged in this election. It was recognized by the prescient that the real issue was the divide between the large segment of society that has been left behind economically and the elite who have profited handsomely from the monetary policy of their central bank and a government bought by the lobbyists of corporate America. Alongside this has been the progressive agenda in all its forms supported by its main representatives, the MSM, academia, and the liberal intelligentsia. Then there is the radical left that had supported Bernie Saunders, particularly the young college kids: Anti-Trump Demonstrators Take to the Streets in Several U.S. Cities.

The WWIII Chronicles: Introduction

As 2015 draws to a close I am beginning the development of a theme that has been ruminating in my mind for more than a year. The theme is that we are witnessing the initial skirmishes of the hot phase of World War Three (WWIII) identified by many as the New Cold War or Cold War 2. There are almost daily events that we can weave into this theme which is why we are starting this journal as a set of chronicles.

Although we like to think in terms of linear causation with the result we attribute specific events as seminal markers, that is not how the world works. A linear deterministic mode of thinking can never capture the evolution of a complex system of the actions and interactions of many actors.

Taking World war I as an example, The Week gives us the common cited simplistic immediate cause of the war as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary. The Week also outlines several geopolitical situations that fed into an active hot phase of hostility. By ‘hot phase’ we mean military action.

Under construction

References

  1. How did the First World War start?

The Turkish Enigma

By George Friedman

In my “Net Assessment of the World,” I argued that four major segments of the European and Asian landmass were in crisis: Europe, Russia, the Middle East (from the Levant to Iran) and China. Each crisis was different; each was at a different stage of development. Collectively the crises threatened to destabilize the Eurasian landmass, the Eastern Hemisphere, and potentially generate a global crisis. They do not have to merge into a single crisis to be dangerous. Four simultaneous crises in the center of humanity’s geopolitical gravity would be destabilizing by itself. However, if they began to merge and interact, the risks would multiply. Containing each crisis by itself would be a daunting task. Managing crises that were interlocked would press the limits of manageability and even push beyond.

These four crises are already interacting to some extent. The crisis of the European Union intersects with the parallel issue of Ukraine and Europe’s relation to Russia. The crisis in the Middle East intersects with the European concern over managing immigration as well as balancing relations with Europe’s Muslim community. The Russians have been involved in Syria, and appear to have played a significant role in the recent negotiations with Iran. In addition there is a potential intersection in Chechnya and Dagestan. The Russians and Chinese have been advancing discussions about military and economic cooperation. None of these interactions threaten to break down regional boundaries. Indeed, none are particularly serious. Nor is some sort of inter-regional crisis unimaginable.

Sitting at the center of these crisis zones is a country that until a few years ago maintained a policy of having no problems with its neighbors. Today, however, Turkey’s entire periphery is on fire. There is fighting in Syria and Iraq to the south, fighting to the north in Ukraine and an increasingly tense situation in the Black Sea. To the west, Greece is in deep crisis (along with the EU) and is a historic antagonist of Turkey. The Mediterranean has quieted down, but the Cyprus situation has not been fully resolved and tension with Israel has subsided but not disappeared. Anywhere Turkey looks there are problems. As important, there are three regions of Eurasia that Turkey touches: Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.

I have argued two things in the past. The first was that Turkey was an emerging regional power that would ultimately be the major power in its locale. The second was that this is a region that, ever since the decline and fall of the Ottomans in the first quarter of the 20th century, has been kept stable by outside powers. The decision of the United States to take a secondary role after the destabilization that began with the 2003 invasion of Iraq has left a vacuum Turkey will eventually be forced to fill. But Turkey is not ready to fill that vacuum. That has created a situation in which there is a balancing of power underway, particularly between Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

A Proximate Danger

The most violent and the most immediate crisis for Ankara is the area stretching from the Mediterranean to Iran, and from Turkey to Yemen. The main problem for Turkey is that Syria and Iraq have become contiguous battlegrounds featuring a range of forces, including Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish elements. These battles take place in a cauldron formed by four regional powers: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. This quadrangle emerged logically from the mayhem caught between them.

Each major power has differing strategic interests. Iran’s primary interest is the survival of the establishment and in assuring that an aggressive Sunni polity does not arise in Iraq to replicate the situation Tehran faced with Saddam Hussein. Iran’s strategy is to support anti-Sunni forces in the region. This support ranges from bolstering Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up the minority Alawite establishment in Syria led — for the moment — by Bashar al Assad, and assisting the Iraqi army, itself controlled by Shiites and Iraq’s Shiite militias. The United States sees Iran as aligned with American interests for the moment, since both countries oppose the Islamic State and Tehran is important when it comes to containing the militant group. The reality on the ground has made this the most important issue between Iran and the United States, which frames the recent accord on nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia sees Iran as its primary enemy. Riyadh also views the Islamic State as a threat but at the same time fears that an Iraq and Syria dominated by Iran could present an existential threat to the House of Saud. The Saudis consider events in Yemen from a similar perspective. Also in this context, Riyadh perceives a common interest with Israel in containing Iranian militant proxies as well as the Islamic State. Who exactly the Saudis are supporting in Syria and Iraq is somewhat murky, but the kingdom has no choice but to play a tactical and opportunistic game.

The Israelis are in a similar position to the Saudis. They oppose the Iranians, but their main concern must be to make certain that the Hashemites in Jordan don’t lose control of the country, opening the door to an Islamic State move on the Jordan River. Jordan appears stable for the moment and Israel and the Saudis see this as a main point of their collaboration. In the meantime, Israel is playing a wait-and-see game with Syria. Assad is no friend to the Israelis, but a weak Assad is better than a strong Islamic State rule. The current situation in Syria suits Israel because a civil war limits immediate threats. But the conflict is itself out of control and the risk is that someone will win. Israel must favor Assad and that aligns them on some level with Iran, even as Israel works with Sunni players like Saudi Arabia to contain Iranian militant proxies. Ironies abound.

It is in this context that the Turks have refused to make a clear commitment, either to traditional allies in the West or to the new potential allies that are yet emerging. Partly this is because no one’s commitments — except the Iranians’ — are clear and irrevocable, and partly because the Turks don’t have to commit unless they want to. They are deeply opposed to the Assad regime in Syria, and logic would have it that they are supporting the Islamic State, which also opposes the Syrian regime. As I have said before, there are endless rumors in the region that the Turks are favoring and aiding the Islamic State. These are rumors that Turkey has responded to by visibly and seriously cracking down on the Islamic State in recent weeks with significant border activity and widespread raids. The Turks know that the militants, no matter what the currently confrontational relationship might be, could transition from being a primarily Arab platform to being a threat to Turkey. There are some who say that the Turks see the Islamic State as creating the justification for a Turkish intervention in Syria. The weakness of this argument is that there has been ample justification that Ankara has declined, even as its posture toward the Islamic State becomes more aggressive.

This shows in Turkey’s complex relations with the United States, still formally its major ally. In 2003 the Turks refused to allow U.S. forces to invade Iraq from Turkey. Since then the relationship with the United States has been complex and troubled. The Turks have made U.S. assistance in defeating Assad a condition for extensive cooperation in Syria. Washington, concerned about an Islamic State government in Syria, and with little confidence in the non-Islamic State militancy as a long-term alternative, has refused to accept this. Therefore, while the Turks are now allowing some use of the NATO air base at Incirlik for operations against the Islamic State, they have not made a general commitment. Nor have they cooperated comprehensively with Sunni Saudi Arabia.

The Turkish problem is this: There are no low-risk moves. While Ankara has a large army on paper, it is untried in battle outside of Turkey’s 30-year insurgency in its southeast. Turkey has also observed the outcome of U.S. conventional forces intervening in the region and doesn’t want to run the same risk. There are domestic considerations as well. Turkey is divided between secular and Islamist factions. The secularists suspect the Islamists of being secretly aligned with radical Islam — and are the source of many of the rumors floating about. The ruling Sunni-dominated Justice and Development Party, better known by its Turkish acronym, AKP, was seriously weakened in the last election. Its ability to launch the only attack it wants — an attack to topple Assad, would appear to be a religious war to the secularists and would not be welcomed by the party’s base, setting in motion rifts that could bring down the AKP. An attack on the Sunnis, however radical, complicates relations with the rebel factions in northern Syria that Turkey is already sponsoring. It also would risk the backlash of reviving anti-Turkish feelings in an adjacent Arab country that remembers Turkish rule only a century ago.

Therefore Turkey, while incrementally changing — as evidenced by the recent accord to allow U.S. Predator drones to fly from Incirlik — is constrained if not paralyzed. From a strategic point of view, there appears to be more risk than reward. Its position resembles Israel’s: watch, wait and hopefully avoid needing to do anything. From the political point of view, there is no firm base of support for either intervening directly or providing support for American airstrikes.

The problem is that the worst-case scenario for Turkey is the creation of an independent Kurdish republic in Syria or Iraq. That would risk lighting a touchpaper among Kurds in southeastern Turkey, and regardless of current agreements, could destabilize everything. This is the one thing that would force Turkey’s hand. However, the United States has historically had some measure of influence among the Kurds in Iraq and also in Syria. While this influence can be overstated, and while Washington is dependent on the Kurdish peshmerga militias for ground support as it battles the Islamic State from the air, it is an important factor. If the situation grew out of control, Ankara would expect the United States to control the situation. If Washington could and would, the price would be Turkish support for U.S. operations in the region. The Turks would have to pay that price or risk intervention. That is the lever that would get Ankara involved.

Added Complications

The Turks are far less entangled in the Russian crisis than in the Middle East, but they are still involved, and potentially in a way that can pyramid. There are three dimensions to this. The first is the Black Sea and Turkey’s role in it. The second is the Bosporus and the third is allowing the United States to operate from its air base in Incirlik in the event of increased Russian military involvement in Ukraine.

The crisis in Ukraine necessarily involves the Black Sea. Crimea’s Sevastopol is a Russian Base on the Black Sea. In this potential conflict, the Black Sea becomes a vital theater of operations. First, in any movement westward by the Russians, the Black Sea is their right flank. Second, the Black Sea is a vital corridor for trade by the Russians, and an attempt by its enemies to shut down that corridor would have to be addressed by Russian naval forces. Finally, the U.S./NATO strategy in addressing the Ukrainian crisis has been to increase cooperation with Romania. Romania is on the Black Sea and the United States has indicated that it intends to work with Bucharest in strengthening its Black Sea capabilities. Therefore, events in the Black Sea can rapidly escalate under certain circumstances, posing threats to Turkish interests that Ankara cannot ignore.

The Black Sea issue is compounded by the question of the Bosporus, which is a narrow strait that, along with the Dardanelles, connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. The Bosporus is the only passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. For the Russians, this is a critical trade route and the only means for Russian ships passing into the Mediterranean. In the event of a conflict, the United States and NATO would likely want to send naval forces into the Black Sea to support operations around its perimeter.

Under the Montreaux Convention, an agreement signed in 1936, the Bosporus is under Turkish control. However the convention also places certain restrictions on traffic in the Bosporus. Access is guaranteed to all commercial traffic, however, Ankara is authorized to refuse transit to countries at war with Turkey. All countries with coasts on the Black Sea are free to operate militarily in the Black Sea. Non-Black Sea nations, however, suffer restrictions. Only warships under 15,000 tones may be sent, and no more than nine at any one time, with a total tonnage of 30,000 tons. And then they are only permitted to stay for 21 days or less.

This limits the ability of the United States to project forces into the Black Sea — American carrier battle groups, key components of U.S. naval power, are unable to pass through. Turkey is, under international law, the guarantor of the convention and it has over time expressed a desire to be freed from it so Ankara can exercise complete sovereignty over the Bosporus Straits. But it has also been comforted by knowing that refusal to allow warships to pass can be referred to international law, instead of being Turkish responsibility.

However, in the event of a conflict with Russia, that can no longer be discounted: Turkey is a member of NATO. If NATO were to formally participate in such a conflict, Ankara would have to choose whether the Montreaux Convention or its alliance obligations take precedence. The same can be said of air operations out of Incirlik. Does Turkey’s relationship with NATO and the United States take precedence or will Ankara use the convention to control conflict in the Black Sea? Even prior to its own involvement in any conflict with Russia, there would be a potentially dangerous diplomatic crisis.

To complicate matters, Turkey receives a great deal of oil and natural gas from Russia through the Black Sea. Energy relations shift. There are economic circumstances on which the seller is primarily dependent on the sale, and circumstances on which the buyer is dependent. It depends on the room for maneuver. While oil prices were over $100, Russia had the financial option to stop shipping energy. Under current pricing, Russia’s ability to do this has decreased dramatically. During the Ukrainian crisis, using energy cut-offs in Europe would have been a rational response to sanctions. The Russians did not do it because they could not afford the cost. The prior obsession with the fragility of the flow of energy from Russia is no longer there, and Turkey, a major consumer, has reduced its vulnerability, at least during the diplomatic phase.

The United States is constructing an alliance system that includes the Baltics, Poland and Romania that is designed to contain any potential Russian advance westward. Turkey is the logical southern anchor for this alliance structure. The Turks have been more involved than is already visible — conducting exercises with the Romanians and Americans in the Black Sea. But as in the Middle East, Ankara has carefully avoided any commitment to the alliance and has remained unclear on its Black Sea Strategy. While the Middle East is more enigmatic, the Russian situation is potentially more dangerous, though Turkish ambiguity remains identical.

Similarly, Turkey has long demanded membership in the European Union. Yet Ankara’s economic performance over the last 10 years indicates that Turkey has benefitted from not being a member. Nevertheless, the secularists in particular have been adamant about membership because they felt that joining the union would guarantee the secular nature of Turkish society. The AKP has been more ambiguous. The party continues to ask for membership, but it has been quite content to remain outside. It did not want the EU strictures secularists wanted, nor did it want to share in the European economic crisis.

Turkey is nevertheless drawn in two directions. First, Ankara has inevitable economic ties in Europe that are effected by crises, ironically focused on its erstwhile enemy Greece. More important at the moment is the immigration and Islamic terrorism crisis in Europe. Many of the Muslims living in Germany, for example, are Turks and the treatment of overseas Turks is a significant political issue in Turkey. While Ankara has wanted to be part of Europe, neither economic reality nor the treatment of Turks and other Muslims in Europe argue for that relationship.

There is a growing breach with Europe in an attempt to avoid absorption of economic problems. However in southeastern Europe discussions of Turkish investments and trade are commonplace. Put into perspective, as Europe fragments, Turkey — a long-term economic power, understanding of what the short-term problems are — draws southeastern Europe into its economic center of gravity. In a way it becomes another force of fragmentation, simply by being an alternate economic benefactor for the poorer countries in the southeast.

The potential interaction of Turkey in the Middle East is an immediate question. The mid-term involvement with Russia is a longer question. Its relation to Europe is the longest question. And its relationship with the United States is the single question that intersects all of these. For all these concerns, Turkey has no clear answer. It is following a strategy designed to avoid involvement and maintain maximum options. Ankara relies on a multi-level strategy in which it is formally allied with some powers and quietly open to relations with powers hostile to its allies. This multi-hued doctrine is designed to avoid premature involvement; premature meaning before having achieved a level of strategic maturity and capability that allows it to define itself, with attendant risks.

In one sense, Turkish policy parallels American policy. U.S. policies in all three regions are designed to allow the regional balance of power to maintain itself, with Washington involving itself selectively and with limited force. The Turks are paralleling the United States in principle, and with even less exposure. The problem the Turks have is that geography binds them to the role of pivot for three regions. For the United States this role is optional. The Turks cannot make coherent decisions, but they must. So Ankara’s strategy is to be consistently ambiguous, an enigma. This will work until outside powers make it impossible to work.

The Turkish Enigma is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk

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By Reva Bhalla

In June 1919, aboard an Allied warship en route to Paris, sat Damat Ferid Pasha, the Grand Vizier of a crumbling Ottoman Empire. The elderly statesman, donning an iconic red fez and boasting an impeccably groomed mustache, held in his hands a memorandum that he was to present to the Allied powers at the Quai d’Orsay. The negotiations on postwar reparations started five months earlier, but the Ottoman delegation was prepared to make the most of its tardy invitation to the talks. As he journeyed across the Mediterranean that summer toward the French shore, Damat Ferid mentally rehearsed the list of demands he would make to the Allied powers during his last-ditch effort to hold the empire together.

Turkey’s Geographical Ambition

Editor’s Note: We originally ran this Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan column on May 1, 2013. We are republishing it in light of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Aug. 10 election as Turkey’s new president.

By Robert D. Kaplan and Reva Bhalla

At a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable.

Erdogan and Putin are ambitious because they are men who unrepentantly grasp geopolitics. Putin knows that any responsible Russian leader ensures that Russia has buffer zones of some sort in places like Eastern Europe and the Caucasus; Erdogan knows that Turkey must become a substantial power in the Near East in order to give him leverage in Europe. Erdogan’s problem is that Turkey’s geography between East and West contains as many vulnerabilities as it does benefits. This makes Erdogan at times overreach. But there is a historical and geographical logic to his excesses.

The story begins after World War I.

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