Are people from Turkmenistan Turkish

Turkey: The instrumentalization of the Turkmen

Geopolitical interests in the conflict between Russia and Turkey

Syria is hugely important to Russia's geopolitical strategy. The Russian fleet in the Syrian Tartus secures the strategic presence in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The connection with the Assad regime in Syria gained importance as a result of the Libyan War in 2011: Russia had agreed to a UN no-fly zone over Libya with great stomach ache.

NATO, especially Great Britain and France, had overstretched this mandate and actively sided with their air force and supported regime change in Libya. Today Libya is a failed state with a strong IS presence. Russia wanted to prevent a similar development in Syria from the start.

The US and NATO also tried from the start to contain Russian influence in Syria as much as possible. They rely on their regional allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Due to their own Islamist orientation, these countries had and still have no interest in bringing about a multi-ethnic and multi-religious solution and relied unilaterally on Sunni, jihadist and Salafist alliances - depending on their own preference, more on al-Qaeda, IS or the Muslim Brotherhood.

Confessional-sectarian dimensions

It was not until December 28, 2015, during the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) offensive against IS at the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates (Kurds' success against IS interferes with Turkish interests) that Saudi weapons allegedly addressed to Yemen were seized. It is no secret that in the hegemonic war in Yemen between Saudi Arabia (with NATO support) and Iran, Salafist groups close to IS and al-Qaeda were supplied with weapons against the Shiite Houthi rebels and from the air by Saudi fighter planes get supported.

The sectarian dimension of Saudi politics is also evident in the establishment of an Islamic military alliance to which 33 Muslim states are supposed to belong (at least Lebanon and Pakistan deny knowing of their alleged membership), while Shiite-dominated states such as Iraq and Iran, but also Syria, are actively excluded (Saudi Arabia proclaims new Islamic anti-terrorist coalition).

The states mentioned are all either NATO members themselves or their close allies; the USA and NATO also rely on tactical alliances with jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. This was what made the rise of ISIS possible in the first place.

Inevitably, contradictions arose here: While the USA tended towards a new division of the Middle East as part of the "Greater Middle East Project" (origin and goal of the "Greater Middle East" program), Turkey is still sticking to its neo-Ottoman project . Observers oppose the assumption that IS activities were probably tolerated for a long time1 At the same time, Turkey is acting as part of an anti-IS coalition.

Russia's direct military engagement has changed the balance of power in Syria. Russia wants to maintain its influence in the region with or without Assad and help shape Syria's future. As a result of the Paris attacks and the refugee crisis in the EU, the G-20 summit in Antalya saw a rapprochement between the forces led by Russia and the USA on a joint strategy.

Obviously, Erdogan and Davutoglu felt this rapprochement process as a repression of their own influence, which is based heavily on cooperation with various Islamist militias. The shooting down of the Russian fighter jet interrupted this rapprochement for the time being.

Turkmen and neo-Ottoman claims

These Islamist militias also include Turkmen militias in the Turkish-Syrian border area, south of the Hatay (see also geopolitical interests behind the conflict between Russia and Turkey). There are good reasons why Russia also regards many Turkmen militias as opponents, as they form a link in Turkish politics to jihadist gangs and work closely with al-Qaeda representatives in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

The Turkmen in Syria make up around 100,000 to 200,000 people. They live mainly in the cities of Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Latakia as well as in the area between the Euphrates and Tigris in Rojava.

After the lost Russian-Ottoman war between 1877 and 1878, the Ottomans settled some of the war refugees in Syria. Today's Turkmens are the remnants of the Ottoman-Turkish population who remained in Syria after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. They have no direct connection to Turkmenistan and apart from their name they have little in common with the inhabitants of the Central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan.

In Syria, the Ottomans deliberately settled them near Damascus because they were considered particularly loyal. This is followed by the fascist Turkish MHP, which represents the ideology of uniting all Turkic peoples in a common empire. The Turkmen are particularly sensitive to this ideology, the unification of the Turkic peoples. The nationalist propaganda of Turkey is at work here, because the Turkish province of Hatay was detached from Syria by France in 1939 and transferred to Turkey, with the argument that many Turkmen live there (geopolitical interests behind the conflict between Russia and Turkey).

The young Turkish Republic of Ataturk had adopted the maxim of the fascist Young Turk movement, according to which the Turkmens were their brothers and sisters - in the sense of a Greater Turkish Empire. In Syria under Assad, however, the Turkmens were just as oppressed and discriminated as the Kurds and were forcibly resettled in the Kurdish areas in order to curb the influence of the Kurds.

Turkey, on the other hand, is trying to take over the Turkmen for itself. The Turkish secret service MIT tried to win them over as allies against Assad and the Kurds in Syria. Which also partially succeeded. Many Turkmens are now fighting alongside al-Nusra in northern Syria near Jarabulus. But there are also units that fight on the side of the YPG / YPJ or the SDF, because they understand that they are being instrumentalized by Turkish politics.

Turkey is trying to exert influence in Iraq, Iran, Georgia - and in Russia with the Crimean Tartars. The Turkmens around Idlib, who were oppressed by the Assad regime, feel sympathy for the Islamist al-Nusra front, which is also supported by the Turkish government. The Turkish secret service also tried to interfere in the activities of the Turkmen and was able to fall back on a certain attractiveness for nationalist ideas.

The Turkmen population in Iraq, especially in Mosul, has long served Turkey to justify Neo-Ottoman claims. How quickly the tide can turn, however, became clear when the Turkish government left the Turkmen population of Mosul in the hands of ISIS.

The Sunni card

In mid-December, the Turkish government tried to expand its position of power in the Sunni center of Iraq by stationing 2,000 Turkish soldiers with heavy artillery near Mosul. Here, too, the Turkmen rather than the Sunni map seems to play a role.

According to the Kurdish online platform lekolin A six-person delegation consisting of representatives of the Turkish secret service MIT, the Saudi Arabian secret service GIP and the deputy Masrour Barzanis, the chairman of the security council of the Kurdish autonomous region of the South Kurdish KDP, met with the "emir" of the IS of Mosul in the village of Bezan on December 12th.

It was allegedly discussed that the Iraqi government is preparing an operation against Mosul with Iranian and Russian air support. Before this happens, IS should hand over the city of Mosul to the Sunni militias trained in Turkey, the Turkish soldiers and the KDP Peshmerga. In return, the forces of the IS should be integrated into the Sunni militias and the IS should be able to protect its de facto power in the region. According to the report, known ISIS members are to be channeled into Turkey and can stay there.

It cannot be reliably assessed whether this information is correct. It is known that after the liberation of Ramadi, the Iraqi government announced that Mosul would be the next liberation target. It is no secret that this conflicts with the interests of the Sunni alliance around Turkey and Saudi Arabia. There were also repeated references to cooperation with IS forces, not just from Syria.

Turkmen and jihadists

The capture of the Turkmens by the Islamists is strategically important for them, as it could give them access to the Mediterranean. This makes them a threat to Russia, as the Mediterranean base of the Russian fleet is located in Tartus, as well as a direct threat to the Alawites, a Shiite Islamic religious community to which Assad's family belongs.

The Alawites comprise around 3 million people worldwide and used to call themselves Nusairians. The name Alawit is derived from "follower of Ali - (ʿAlawīyūn)" and has only been used since the end of the 19th century. The Alawite belief is a secret religion that is assigned to Shiite Islam. 2

For the IS and the associated Islamist groups, the differentiated Shiite population belongs to the infidels who need to be destroyed - like the Christians and the Yazidis. According to IS, Shi'aism relativizes the dogma of the pure doctrine of Wahabiism. This also applies to all other different Islamic interpretations.

The Turkish reactions to the downing of the Russian fighter jet make the actual regional conflict clear again: Domestically, the downing was preceded by a targeted campaign to support Turkmen militias, which was particularly sharply directed against Russia.

The Turkmen militias work closely with jihadist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra (both associated with al-Qaeda). This is also evident in the person of the deputy commander Alparslan Celik of the Turkmen militia, who announced the downing of the Russian plane and the alleged murder of one of the pilots.

There are many indications that he is to be counted among the cadre of the fascist MHP (Gray Wolves) in Elazig, Turkey. His first name is reminiscent of the MHP boss Alparslan Türkes. It is common practice in Turkey to give your sons a name that represents the political or religious orientation of the family.

It has meanwhile become known that Turkish soldiers in civilian clothes are fighting on the side of Turkmen militias and together with jihadists in Syria. The reactions to the downing of the Russian plane are indicative: Neither Turkey nor NATO toyed with the idea of ​​de-escalating the conflict.

NATO supported the Turkish position that the downing of the plane was justified and that it was up to Russia to apologize. Instead of escalating, Russia relied on sanctions in the economic and diplomatic framework, verbally responding to the provocative actions of Turkey and NATO, but held back (Putin: Ankara will not get away with "any tomatoes").

Rojava: the third way

While there is apparently only the choice between Russia and the USA, Rojava is going its own, a third way. That the Kurdish movement has analyzed the situation in the region well is evident from the statements made by KCK chairman Cemil Bayik to BBC Türkce:

We are neither on the side of Russia nor on the side of America ... If you don't accept us, we won't accept either. Nobody should develop such a tactical relationship with the Kurds anymore. Those days are over. Only those who develop strategic relationships with the Kurds can win. Anyone who says, as before: "Let us use the Kurds, the Kurds are good warriors, let them fight and thus assert our economic and military interests", is wrong. The Kurds are not the Kurds of yore. The Kurds are now taking their fate into their own hands.

Cemil Bayik

The democratic movement in Rojava is waging a pragmatic fight against IS and does not allow itself to be instrumentalized by foreign interests. Although this is correct and important in the long term, it can make the situation in Rojava more difficult in the short term. Because parts of the international coalition are taking action against IS together with the YPG, but are silent about Turkey's daily attacks on Rojava.

Another escalation is imminent when the city of Cerablus (Jarabulus) is liberated from IS rule, because this is the last crucial connection between Turkey and the IS-controlled area. Any attempt at liberation by the YPG will result in attacks by Turkey. Turkey is actively defending the open border with IS on the Euphrates River, which separates Kobanî and Cerablus (Jarabulus) and thus also the YPG and IS.

Any advance of the YPG on the city is prevented by air and artillery attacks. The advance of SDF / YPG / YPJ from the south over the Tishrin dam, however, brings a fall of the IS stronghold Minbij and finally Jarabulus within reach.

If Jarabulus can no longer be held by the IS, an invasion of Turkey or other militias allied with it must be expected under the label of "liberation". This heralds the attacks on the westernmost, isolated canton of Afrin by Jabhat al-Nusra and other militias allied with Turkey, as well as regular shelling by the Turkish army.

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