See Part I
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds an extraordinary congress on May 22 where Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu doesn't seek a new mandate as party chairman. The event takes place against the background of chaos and internal strife. Some scenarios predicted by experts and politicians look quite realistic.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan founded the party. He and Davutoglu are old comrades-in-arms. Now the President may be inclined to form a technical government till the next snap election. The goal is to get a clear majority of votes to push through a constitutional reform granting vast powers to the President. To facilitate the desired outcome, Erdogan may envisage several scenarios to destabilize situation in the regions that Ankara believes to be vital for its geopolitical aims.
First scenario – the destabilization of Nagorno-Karabakh to make Russia leave the negotiation process or even withdraw from the OSCE Minsk group. The Azerbaijani military will stage a provocation to make Armenia recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state with ensuing involvement of Yerevan into the conflict as a warring party. This scenario will make Russia follow the Collective Security Treaty Organization commitment to help Armenia and defend the Russian military base stationed in Gyumri. This development of events will stymie the economic and political relations between Moscow and Baku, including the energy sector. The scenario presupposes deterioration of internal situation in Armenia with some people staging protests under anti-Russian slogans. In an interview with Azerbaijani outlet Haqqin.az, Paruir Airikyan, an opposition leader, made a tentative step. According to him, the April skirmishes were initiated and provoked by Russia pursuing its aims. Airikyan said, Azerbaijan and Armenia should say «Goodbye, Russia!» as a preliminary condition for peaceful settlement. The politician believes that no solution to the problem could be found till Russia had a say in the process. Such initiatives fully dovetail with policy goals of Ankara.
Second scenario – provoking exacerbation of tensions in the areas close to the Turkey-Syria border to create a pretext for getting the Saudi Arabia-led Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf or the Gulf Cooperation Council entangled into the conflict. This could be done but Turkey will have to shoulder a heavy burden. It may also lead to its political isolation. Today Turkey has the image of a country spreading instability beyond its national borders.
According to Dr Barış Doster, Marmara University, Turkey, Ankara’s reliance on strategic partnership with Washington is erroneous. He believes the situation has changed. The United States is losing its strength. Russia’s influence in the Middle East is growing. Assad is winning in Syria. With the nuclear deal reached, Iran is emerging as a regional actor with growing influence in Syria and Iraq. Masoud Barzani, the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan, the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the only remaining Turkey’s allies.
The Radical, puts it even more bluntly. The outlet writes that the policy implemented by Turkey during the recent seven years has created serious problems in its relationship with Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Russia and the United States. Turkish sources report that Erdogan strives to prevent any possibility of crisis management in Syria. He realizes that sooner or later the conflict will be solved. The Turkish President does each and everything he can to preclude a peaceful settlement. Erdogan believes that peace in Syria does not meet Turkey’s interests. Someday there will be changes in Syria, Radical writes. Could the relations between Turkey and a new Syria get back to the 2010 standards becoming predictable and stable again? Especially when the world community is expressing readiness to work with the government elected by Syrian people. «Where will the staunch refusal to recognize reality lead Turkey to?» asks Radical.
Haydar Çakmak of Turkish Yeni Çağ believes Erdogan wants Turkey to be deeply entangled in the Syrian conflict.
The analyst warns that an intervention means losing what has been achieved in the relations with the Arab world during the recent 50 years. «Let Saudis go into Syria if they want to», he writes. According to him, «Turkey could limit its involvement to logistics and political support. The Justice and Development Party has already committed a blunder in Syria being adamant in its insistence that Assad must go. If Turkey crosses the border, it will make another big mistake».
Third scenario – inciting tensions between Russia and NATO to increase Turkey’s role in South-Eastern Europe. The West may make concessions on other issues of importance for Ankara: the relationship with the EU, Northern Cyprus and the Kurds. Turkey may take advantage of the fact that the activated NATO missile defense site in Romania covers its territory, reports Turkish Star gazette. The outlet says, Russia is the target for NATO. It does not mean that the Alliance will attack it. It means that Moscow will exert pressure on Europe. The missile defense site makes NATO take measures to counter the Russian threat. According to some reports, the expansion of NATO was the reason for deterioration of the situation in the Kurdish-populated parts of Turkey, including the skirmishes between Kurdish demonstrators and Turkish police in Sirnak, the capital of Şırnak Province near the border with Syria and Iraq.
These three scenarios could be activated separately of simultaneously. One should closely watch the events unfolding inside Turkey, especially those related to the election of the Justice and Development Party leader and the appointment of Prime Minister. There may be changed in the attitudes towards Turkey among its closest allies.