“And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, but do not transgress [the limits] - truly, Allah does not love the transgressors!” (Sura “The Cow”, 2: 190)
Failures and casualties - this was the context for Turkey for the year 2016. The main problems: the Kurds in the south-east of the country, a series of large-scale terrorist attacks in Turkish cities, an attempted military coup in mid-July. Victims among the civilian population, the internal security forces, among military personnel, according to separate estimates, reach thousands of people. At the same time, Turkey’s attitude to the Kurdish issue becomes a kind of litmus for solving foreign policy problems in Turkey.
Jerusalem: Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The completion of the military operation of the Turkish army in the Kurdish populated areas of the south-eastern provinces of the country did not lead to a final suppression of the resistance of the Kurds, although it weakened considerably.
The frontal attack of the authorities affected not only the Kurdistan Workers' Party banned in the country. The repressive policy also touched legal pro-Kurdish political associations: the parliamentary Party of Peoples Democracy was actually beheaded by the arrests of the police. The radicals retaliated by actually transferring the guerrilla war from rural areas and cities in the east and south-east of the country to the center - in Istanbul and Ankara.
Turkey also had to open a second front of hostilities in the north of the Syrian province of Aleppo after a major terrorist attack in the city of Gaziantep, the responsibility for which was imputed to the “caliphate”.
The operation “Shield of the Euphrates” launched here in August 2016 was carried out jointly with the militants of the “Free Syrian Army”. It ended only in March 2017, the losses of Turkey amounted to more than 350 people and 11 tanks. At the same time, the Syrian Kurds stated through the media that the operation was aimed at occupying the Syrian territories, and their retreat was dictated by the need to "save the lives of civilians." These actions of Turkey led to a cooling of relations with the United States. In fact, in parallel with the defeat of Daesh north of Aleppo, the Turkish military solved the problem of weakening the formations of the Syrian Kurds as much as possible and preventing the expansion of their controlled territory in the southern underbelly of Turkey.
The main domestic event of the year for Turkey was the failed attempt at a military coup in the night from 15 to 16 July. Versions and hypotheses about the causes and driving forces of these events were enough: from the imitation of the coup by the authorities to suppress the opposition to the American conspiracy and the CIA special operation, from the conspiracy of the Hizmet movement and its leader Fethullah Gülen to the statement about a real military coup.
Nevertheless, these events gradually pulled Turkey into a common crater of Middle Eastern destabilization. And the vector of reformatting the political system of Turkey, which the authorities are leading from parliamentary to presidential republic, does not contribute to the stabilization of society.
Turkey has moved away from tough confrontation with Russia. Their cooperation has resumed: frozen energy projects have resumed, the Russian tourist flow, cooperation in Syria. The parties did not allow the creation of a single Kurdish corridor along the Syrian-Turkish border. At the same time, Ankara, having received a buffer zone, began to rally opposition groups of the Syrian Free Army into it. In other areas of economic cooperation, for example, in the construction of Rosatom, the first Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey, no qualitative changes have occurred. A definite symbol of the fact that the two countries will continue to pursue difficulties in relations was the murder in the Turkish capital of 19 December of the Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov.
Turkey’s relations with NATO allies in 2017 year worsened relations, especially with Germany. The reason is the same: the Kurdish question. The Turkish government protested against the fact that Germany is protecting the "Kurdish and Gulenist terrorists" leading the fight against Turkey. In fact, a serious break with Germany reached such a level after the withdrawal of German soldiers from the Incirlik military base in the southern province of Adana. And in this regard, the trend is the policy of desecularization, due to the new course of Erdogan, cooling between Turkey and the Western allies, “not wanting to recognize” the new self-determination of Turkey. Up to the question of the refusal of negotiations with Turkey on joining the EU, which was proposed to be placed on the agenda of the next summit of the alliance in September 2017.
Israel: political pragmatism
Israel is not part of the turbulence zone in the Middle East, despite the perimeter of potential threats: the jihadists of the Egyptian Sinai, the militants of the Palestinian Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the terrorist groups in Syria.
Since the Cold War, Israel has been an integral part of the Western political order, but since 2016, the Israeli military-political leadership has been closely coordinating with the Russian side. The parties equally understand the national interest as security, and under threat in a particular case - Islamist terrorism. The Israeli Prime Minister said: “Among the things that unite us is our common struggle against radical Islamist terrorism. ... Russia has made a huge contribution to achieving this result. " Despite the existence of common interests, foreign policy differences between Russia and Israel are significant. The main contradictions arose against the background of attitudes towards Iran and the peace process in the Middle East. Moreover, Russia continues the policy of the Soviet Union to support the Palestinians in the peace process. The anti-Iranian vector in Israel’s foreign policy remains unchanged. This is understandable: at the moment the only state in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons - This is Israel, so the Iranian nuclear program Tel Aviv is not particularly needed.
Israel continued to carry out air strikes on arms convoys from Damascus to Beirut with every suspicion that Hezbollah was the final destination for the delivery of goods. Fears of a possible destabilization on the northern borders of Israel on the 10 anniversary of the Second Lebanon War (July-August 2006) were not confirmed. At the same time, Israel is distrustful of Iran and the militant groups targeting it in the region, despite the introduction of Tehran’s nuclear program into a strict international control framework. Therefore, Israel has attempted to converge on the anti-Iranian platform with the Saudis, including the opening of confidential communication channels.
Deploying active diplomacy, public and private activities in several directions at once, Israel remained an island of stability in the region. Including in the hand of Tel Aviv played the results of elections in the United States. This eliminated the need to implement the principle of "two states for two nations" in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which the previous US administration persistently sought from the ally for eight years. Moreover, Trump promised to transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which in fact would be a recognition of the “eternal city” as their capital. But the fulfillment of this one of the first election promises, as it became apparent in June 2017, is postponed indefinitely. Moreover, it becomes a means of manipulating Israel in the process of resolving the conflict with Palestine. In recent years, all of Israel’s foreign policy has been characterized by the subtle cooling of relations with its main ally, the United States. Relations with another center of world politics - the European Union - have deteriorated. To a large extent, the Israelis ’tough policy towards the Palestinians is to blame.
But Israeli foreign policy is always weighed, so multi-vector approach is always used for balance, as is the case with Russia and the United States. In addition, she has one more vector outlined - the countries of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Myanmar). One of the points of the strategic program “Looking to the East” is the development of cooperation with Tokyo, especially in the military sphere. This turn is also explained by the fact that sales of Israeli weapons in the Old World and North America remained low. Israel’s military-industrial complex exports remain at the same level at the expense of Southeast Asia, for which Israel has become the main supplier of arms and military technology exporters.
"Caliphate": still viable
In fact, ISIL (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) does not have a single significant ally, but the leaders of the Caliphate nevertheless confidently declare more and more wars, terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa are being drawn into their orbit. Whereas, in September 2014, an international anti-terrorist coalition was assembled to combat it, which became the largest association of its kind in stories - today it includes 68 countries.
Iraq and Syria remained at the epicenter of the terrorist activities of Daesh and other jihadist organizations. Assad fights back from the militant groups with difficulty and hardly keeps the front against ISIL militants (terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation). The United States refused to fight directly against the Caliphate, limiting itself to Iraq’s support and bombing. But the Iraqi army against the Caliphate does not stand without external support. Iran is engaged in confrontation with the United States and the war in Yemen (with a part of the territories of Yemen actually controlled by ISIL (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) through local representatives of Al-Qaeda).
The Kurds, not having a full-fledged state, cannot fully wage a war against the Caliphate, and now only a multitude of fronts save them, on which the Caliphate is trying to attack with a lack of strength. Turkey supports the enemies of Assad, conflicts with the Kurds, with LIH (terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) - targeted actions. The monarchies of the Persian Gulf are also experiencing not the best period. Along the way, during the “Qatari crisis” a split occurred in the region: Qatar’s political influence, which is suspected of assisting terrorists, has fallen, six Arab states have announced that they have severed diplomatic relations with it. Only Iran in the course of this war, playing indirectly, is in a noticeable plus.
The territorial limits of the "caliphate" for 2016 year significantly decreased in two Arab countries. However, it retains the potential for offensive operations and effective counterstrikes on virtually all sectors of the front. In 2016, the Caliphate was reoriented: he refused to seize the territories, sending forces to gain access to new resources. First of all, human ("jihadist infantry") and material, of course. In April 2017, the government of Iraq stated that the terrorist organization now controls no more than 7% of the country’s territory - less than 30 000 q. km In Syria, the forces of ISIL (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) are also defeated.
The ISIS is about to fall since October 2016, when the operation of the Iraqi army on the return of Mosul began. It was not possible to complete the operation to liberate Mosul before the end of 2016, 2017 failed to do this in May, when the terrorists moved their stake from there, in September 2017 managed to free 20 settlements of Mosul. And this is despite the six-month preparation for an attack on the Iraqi megalopolis captured in June 2014, and the 100-thousandth grouping of troops drawn up to it. The domestic political situation in Iraq was directly dependent on achieving quick and convincing victories over DAISH. The government of Haider al-Abadi had to stop not only terrorist risks, but also the increased activity of political opponents.
In Syria, where the civil war has exceeded five years, there has been a turnaround in 2016. The government of Bashar al-Assad retained its capacity, the Syrian army has not lost its combat capability. However, the “vitality” of the Damascus authorities was determined solely by the support of Russia and Iran. In March, 2016 came the first major victory in five years over Daesh near Palmyra. But as soon as the Russian grouping of forces switched to an operation in Aleppo, the city was lost by the Syrian army and national defense forces. If it were not for the defeat of Islamist militants in eastern Aleppo, the military results of 2016 for Damascus would have been zero, even with a minus sign. That Baghdad failed near Mosul and Ankara in the Syrian Al-Bab, the Assad troops reached Aleppo in the eastern regions with the support of Moscow and Tehran.
It was reported on the concentration of government forces in the area of Eastern Guta, a suburb of Damascus, for deploying a large-scale offensive against the militants of the largest on the southern front of the Jaysh al-Islam group. The most significant in three years was the breakthrough of September 5 2017 jointly by the government forces of Syria and the allied forces of the Deir ez-Zor blockade that lasted more than three years. It is planned that Allied forces will take the self-proclaimed center of ISIL (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) - Raqqi.
It’s probably premature to talk about the irreversible transition of a strategic military initiative to the Syrian army. Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front of the joint efforts of Russia and Iran, such a transition to the end of 2016 has largely succeeded, as in 2017. Reaching the basic elements of resolving the Syrian conflict - a cease-fire throughout the Arab Republic and separating sane opposition groups from the jihadist factions - Russia failed in bilateral cooperation with the United States. The Geneva accords of Moscow and Washington from 9 September 2016 remained on paper. Great hopes are now associated with the peacekeeping potential of the Russia-Iran-Turkey triangle. According to the results, Iran won: he managed to defend his satellite, excluded the most dangerous player (Turkey) from the anti-Assad front, and ensure that Damascus remains in control. The agreement with Iran and Russia allows Ankara not only to get out of the conflict, but also to preserve a certain influence on post-war Syria through idlib deprivations. And also to prevent the creation of a broad Kurdish autonomy in Northern Syria.
Meanwhile, there are big doubts about the fact that the countries in Aleppo managed to spread to the entire military-political map of the Syrian conflict. Bringing the US out of the contour of external efforts for a Syrian settlement is the desired geopolitical prize of Moscow and Tehran. But the big question is whether Turkey will become a consistent partner of Russia and Iran in this alliance.
For Russia, the Syrian conflict is the first military action in the post-Soviet history that takes place with its participation not within the limits of the former USSR. These actions can be assessed in different ways: from the enthusiasm for increasing the geopolitical influence of the Russian Federation to the “Syrian trap” and second Afghanistan. But with all the remaining open questions, the increasing importance of the Russian presence in the region is hard not to be noted even to skeptics. The Russian military presence in Syria has received an indefinite character. The Hmeimim airbase and the Navy logistics station in Tartus are being converted to permanent operation. Since the beginning of the military operation of the Russian Aerospace Force of the Russian Federation in Syria (September 30, 2015), tremendous work has been done in the framework of the fight against international terrorism at distant approaches.
The initiative to fight terrorism in the Middle East is now firmly held in the hands of Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, the euphoria about the battle for the “Syrian Stalingrad” (Aleppo) is unjustified, the Caliphate is still viable. Among other things, in the arsenal of the United States and some Middle Eastern forces there remain significant levers of torpedoing the joint efforts of Moscow and Tehran, all the more so if they are more persistent in inviting Ankara to their “anti-jihadist club”. True, this situation is somewhat compensated by the tense relations between Turkey and EC2017. And those preferences that it provides cooperation with Russia and Iran.
The main problem points of the region are numerous. This includes weak statehood, the collapse of secular states, local conflicts, and the continuing civil war in Syria for more than five years, the regrouping of foreign policy blocs, the strengthening of extremist positions in many countries of the region, and the mass migration of people to Europe. Alas, the anti-terrorist coalition from the 68 states, which is unprecedented in number, gives in to this problem. So the optimistic scenario for the Middle East is still in the distant future.