Turkey Analysis – Will Kremlin Retaliate with a Covert Operation Against Erdogan?

  • Currently Erdogan has 41.9% support in Turkey.
  • Russia no longer agrees to abide by the Sochi Agreement pertaining to Syria.
  • The Kremlin stated its dissatisfaction with failed second round talks in regards to Syria this week.

The results of the new survey are available pertaining to the approval of the head of state of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The poll results were posted on Twitter by the @Metropol. The survey posed a straightforward question of whether or not the public approves of the current head of state’s activities. Thus far Erdogan is at a 41.9% approval rate.

Each party in Turkey

1) AKP – Justice and Development Party.  This party is Erdogan’s ruling party and it remains constant.

2) CHP – Republican People’s Party. It is the second largest party in Turkey. The party is against Erdogan. It also secured a majority of seats during municipal elections in the largest cities of Istanbul and Ankara. The party is considered Kemalists and secular social democrats.

Kemalism, also known as Atatürkism or the Six Arrows (Turkish: Altı Ok), is the founding ideology of the Republic of Turkey. Kemalism, as it was implemented by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was defined by sweeping political, social, cultural and religious reforms designed to separate the new Turkish state from its Ottoman predecessor and embrace a modernized lifestyle, including the establishment of democracy, secularism, state support of the sciences and free education, many of which were first introduced to Turkey during Atatürk’s presidency in his reforms.

It opposes operations in Syria and in their last speech stated that they want Turkey to leave Syria and to have Syrian refugees return to their homeland in peace. It also supports the current president of Syria Bashar Al-Assad.

The population of Istanbul is 15.2 million and Ankara is 5.4 million. The population of Turkey is 80.81 million people.

3)  MHP – The fourth largest number of seats in Parliament and coalition partners.  Far-right, nationalists, pan-turkists. The only large group among whose supporters the operation in Syria will add support to Erdogan.  Here among these two groups, Erdogan is popular and it is obvious that they support the operation in Syria.

4)  HDP – A party in the Parliament – One of the main parties that would enjoy seeing Erdogan dead and openly would be happy if he is literally in the coffin. It is the Democratic Party of people and supports the Kurds. Hence, its disdain for Erdogan.

5) iYi – Fifth largest party in Turkey. Their main interest is for Turkey to join the EU. They clearly disapprove of Erdogan and his political positions.

Taking a closer look, Russia has a direct interest in Erdogan losing power if he continues on this path. For one the Syria situation is an issue for Russia and it is not in its benefit. The latest second round of talks between Putin and Erdogan pertaining to Syria was unsuccessful and yielded no results.  The desire of Erdogan suddenly to purchase US anti-missile systems suggests the possibility of them being used against Russian positions in Syria. Suddenly, Erdogan is saying that he could have productive dealings with US President Donald Trump.

The Kremlin stated that Russia is not happy and no longer wants to abide by the Sochi agreement in regards to Syria. Under a 10-point plan, Turkish Russian patrols will enforce a 10-kilometer Syrian buffer zone on Turkey’s border.

However, the memorandum of understanding ends Erdogan’s goal of Turkish forces creating a 450-kilometer-long and 30-kilometers deep buffer zone into Syrian territory. A much smaller strip, 120-kilometers long and 30 kilometers into Syrian land, was secured by Turkish forces last week and is under Ankara’s control.

Under the deal, Ankara is now relying on Moscow and Damascus.

“The implementation of the deal is passed on to both the Syrians and the Russians,” said former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, who served in the region.

It is plausible to believe, given Putin’s dissatisfaction, that we could see Russian covert action in Turkey. The CHP party, aforementioned above, would be a likely interested party to see Erdogan gone. The Kremlin’s experience in cyber warfare and covert operations could be used in the next step in escalation. This could be a memorable year since Russia is celebrating the 75th anniversary of their victory in World War II.

Erdogan’s continuous swinging pendulum between the West and East, playing all sides, might come to an end because of the situation in Idlib. The UN has warned of the escalating dangerous situation in Syria.

Turkey can’t afford to have Russia as its enemy. First, crossing Putin is a bad idea. The outcome will lead to a lot of complications and additional disruption of the geopolitical balance and the fragile peace in the Middle East. Second, Iran always had tensions with Turkey. Given Iran’s closeness to Russia and how even anything negative about Russia is being removed from their academic books, it’s obvious that Iran will back Putin on this.

This could mean Erdogan will be a target and the Kremlin won’t tolerate his actions. Is there a covert operation coming to Turkey from Russia?

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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