By John Dietrich
The Middle East conflict between Russia and Turkey being played out in Syria has a real possibility of escalating to world-shaking proportions. Business Insider states, “For most close observers, it has long seemed only a matter of time before the long, bloody proxy war between Turkey and Russia for regional predominance in the Middle East would break out into full-scale direct hostilities.” Of course “close observers” are experts and experts have had a very poor prognostication record in the Middle East. But a major conflict cannot be ruled out.
Turkey became a full member of NATO in 1952. Article 5 of the NATO treaty states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members. The United States would be obligated to enter a Russian-Turkish conflict according to this treaty. Of course, NATO will not enter a Third World War to save Turkey. When Russian-backed Syrian forces attacked a Turkish military outpost killing more than 30 Turkish soldiers, Business Insider described NATO’s response as utterly impotent. Turkey joined NATO at the beginning of the Cold War when the major threat was the Soviet Union. Present conflicts frequently involve Islamic groups opposed to the West. Islamic Turkey sometimes appears to have divided loyalties.
There is significant evidence that Turkey aided ISIS in the past. A Foreign Policy article contends that Turkey “helped fuel the rise of the Islamic State in the first place.” 30,000 militants traveled through Turkey to Iraq and Syria in 2013 to join the Islamic State. Turkey was also a major buyer of ISIS-extracted crude oil and therefore a major funder of ISIS. Putin complained, “We see from the sky where these vehicles [carrying oil] are going. They are going to Turkey day and night.” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov asserted, “President Erdogan and his family are involved in this criminal business.” Israel’s former Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon called Turkey “Hamas’ terror headquarters outside of Gaza.”
There are approximately 3.5 to 4 million migrants in Turkey. Following the immigration crisis of 2015 an agreement was reached where Turkey would restrict migrant crossing in exchange for $6.79 billion in aid. On Feb. 28 Turkey said it would no longer prevent migrants from crossing as agreed to in 2016. In response Reuters reported that the European Union pleaded with migrants to remain outside of the EU’s borders and to offer Turkey another 500 million euros in aid. The pleading and Euros will not accomplish anything.
These migrants are commonly referred to as “Syrian refugees.” However, there is ample evidence that the majority of these “refugees” are not Syrian. CNN reported on the nationality of migrants arrested by Greek authorities on Friday 28. Out of 252 persons arrested. 64% were Afghani, 19% were Pakistani, 5% were Turkish, 4% were Syrian, 2.6% were Somalian, while others accounted for 5.4%. Referring to them as “Syrian” gives them status as war refugees. But many are like Fawzi Uzbek, 37, an Afghan national who wants to reach Germany but would probably go back to Istanbul, where he has been working in a factory for about 18 months.
There is evidence that Erdogan is emptying his prisons of foreign criminals and using police to escort them to the Greek border. Turkish authorities have supported the migrants in their increasingly violent attempts to cross the border. They have been throwing Molotov cocktails and used tear gas reportedly obtained from the Turks. There is even a video of Turkish police firing tear gas at Greek border agents. Turkish police were encouraging migrants to attack Greek police.
Erdogan is using these “refugees” to secure more cash and greater European support for his conflict with Russia. He is well aware, as are the leaders of Europe, that this influx of refugees would be a social and financial disaster. Yet when Greece announced that it would not accept any asylum applications for one month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees criticized their decision. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that “The governments in Europe will change, their economies will deteriorate, their stock markets will collapse.” Erdogan claimed back in September that he would ‘flood the gates of Europe’ with refugees if Europe didn’t support Turkey in housing of refugees.