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Turkey’s Basket-case Moment

by John Brian Shannon | July 19, 2016

On Friday, July 15 at 19:29 GMT, both bridges linking Turkey to Europe were closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. A few minutes later, military helicopters and fighter jets were patrolling the skies over Istanbul and Ankara. Shots rang out.

So began Turkey’s basket-case moment where a coup was suspected to be in progress, although as is normal in these cases accurate information was difficult to obtain.

Read: TIMELINE-Turkey’s attempted coup (Reuters)

Thankfully, many brave Turkish citizens posted the events unfolding before their eyes on their social media accounts and that’s how the world became informed about the attempted coup in Turkey. (Thank You for posting in English!)

Almost as quickly as it began it was over — with reports of 265 dead and thousands injured in clashes around the country.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have vowed to crack down on perpetrators, threatening to invoke the death penalty. (Which might cost Turkey it’s shot at EU membership if they follow through on that threat)

As of Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 13:00 hrs GMT, Turkey submitted a formal extradition request to the United States for cleric Fethullah Gülen, the supposed mastermind behind the Turkish coup. Gülen who was once one of Erdogan’s closest allies now lives in Pennsylvania and opposes the direction President Erdogan has taken the country (and let’s be honest, he probably wouldn’t mind becoming President of Turkey himself)

Read: Turkey Formally Requests Extradition of Exiled Cleric Fethullah Gülen From US (ABC News)

Fethullah Gülen. File photo. gulenmovement.ca

Fethullah Gülen. File photo. www.gulenmovement.us

President Erdogan has indicated will hand over files to the United States government supporting his contention that Mr. Gülen is the mastermind behind the July 15th coup attempt.

How convincing these files are is anyone’s guess. But someone, somewhere, initiated this coup.

But until the evidence is heard and adjudicated by a legal court, it’s all hearsay and people shouldn’t rush to judgement until the facts become available.


What will happen and what should happen, are two different things.

What should happen is that Turkey’s government should file the case with the International Criminal Court and leave it at that. The Turkish government could offer to reimburse the court for the full costs of the investigation, and make available Turkish officials who have relevant information. And whatever their ruling, President Erdogan and the Turkish government should thenceforth abide by that ruling.

As Fethullah Gülen was residing in the United States during the coup attempt, and therefore his purported crimes didn’t occur while he was inside Turkey, an international court is the ethical way to deal with this case.

Hypothetically, had he been masterminding the coup attempt from inside Turkey, it would be a much different matter. It would then be a matter for the Turkish justice system, and in that situation no other country would have any business telling Turkey how to conduct it’s internal affairs. (Although ‘fair comment’ about the case is to be expected and even welcomed)

But no, cleric Fethullah Gülen was living in a different country and is apparently involved in a long-running clash for power with the presently-serving President of Turkey.

How impartial can we expect a Turkish court to be in such a case?

Two factions are fighting for supremacy in Turkey, one of them (Recep Erdogan) won the last election with 52% of the vote, while the other (Fethullah Gülen) fled to the U.S. some years ago — yet still enjoys some level of support among the Turkish population.

At this point, the hostility between the two men is palpable and it looks like reconciliation between the two is highly unlikely, which points to a longer-term lack of vision and a lack of commitment to Turkey’s people on both sides of the argument.

It’s fair to say that Recep Erdogan has worked to improve the lot of Turkish citizens while in office, serving multiple terms as Prime Minister and President of Turkey.

And it’s also fair to say that much that could’ve gone wrong, didn’t… due to Erdogan’s deft handling of the multiple (and huge) challenges faced by his country in recent years.

Turkey has generously accepted and hosted millions of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Arab Spring countries — even accepting Kurds whose PKK membership is uncertain.

All in all, President Erdogan has done well once everything is factored-in; At least an 8-out-10 score on the proverbial leadership scale.

Which leads some observers to conclude that July 2016 would be the most unlikely and inopportune moment for an experienced political operator and religious figure like Fethullah Gülen to pull the trigger on a Turkish coup.

There is no doubt, someone, somewhere, initiated this putsch. Whether it turns out to be Mr. Gülen remains to be seen.

Syria: Map of ISIS and coalition action in Iraq and Syria | Aug 8 to Sept 30 2014

Syria: Map of ISIS and coalition action in Iraq and Syria Sept 30, 2014 | 30/09/14
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Iraq airstrikes map as of September 30, 2014

Iraq airstrikes map as of September 30, 2014. Source: Institute for the Study of War, US Central Command

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  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a “caliphate” in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria

ISIS: Defining Canada’s role in the fight against ISIS

ISIS: Defining Canada’s role in the fight against ISIS | 28/09/14
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Since ISIS has ramped up its actions in Iraq and Syria, Western nations have reacted by militarily attacking concentrations of ISIS fighters and their weapon stockpiles.

The military action is a logical second step. The first step would have been to be work the diplomatic angle all throughout the Iraq War — and even moreso after the coalition largely vacated the country in 2011.

Weak diplomacy by the West, post-Iraq War, led to the very power vacuums that caused the formation and rapid rise of ISIS. Power vacuums are always filled, that’s human nature.

What diplomats do, is ensure that qualified people attain positions of power, and not only qualified, but people who recognize the value of peaceful societies and are willing to devote significant efforts towards negotiating politically and economically sustainable outcomes.

Ergo, the West is back in Iraq and the U.S. Air Force is flying counter-terror missions over northern Syria. There are now 1.2 million new refugees inside Iraq and hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Kurdish refugees. All of whom are now streaming across the Turkish border every week.

ISIS forces 100,000 Syrian Refugees to Turkey in 48 hours on September 23/24, 2014.

ISIS forces 100,000 Syrian refugees to flee into neighbouring Turkey over a 48 hour period on September 23/24, 2014.

Over a 10-day period in September, some 500,000 refugees fled across the border into the vastly overwhelmed UNHCR camps in Turkey bringing the total Iraqi/Syrian/Kurdish refugee count in Turkey to 1.5 million as of October 1, 2014

With no sign of letup it must be said. Refugee numbers look set to increase as ISIS fighters tear most of northern Syria to pieces along with some lightly-defended areas of northern Iraq.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said they are preparing for the flight of the entire 400,000 population of Kobane, a Syrian town surrounded by approaching ISIL fighters on the three sides.

Assistant Professor Erkan Ertosun, a lecturer at the faculty of economic and administrative sciences at Ankara’s Turgut Özal University, speaking to Samanyolu Haber TV station on a live broadcast, said:

“The Syrian refugees living in streets, abandoned buildings or construction areas were able to withstand those conditions during summer. When winter arrives, they will no longer be able to support those conditions.”

As well as accommodation problems, the Syrian refugees face difficulties about communicating with local people, finding jobs and healthcare issues.

In accordance with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s instructions, the refugees in Turkey have been given “guest” status rather then that of refugee due to Turkey’s open-door policy toward Syrians at the Turkish border.

Ertosun claimed that Turkey’s open-door policy toward Syrian refugees may lead to irreversible problems, adding;

“This is the most critical refugee problem in the history of the country.”Today’s Zaman

Combined with coalition bombing campaigns we might see refugee numbers surpassing 1 million per month beginning soon.

Is Canada a ‘clone’ of the United States, or do we have our own Foreign Policy?

Canada is a sovereign nation and although it maintains friendly ties with many nations, there should be nothing stopping the Prime Minister of Canada and his FM from deciding on an independent course of action. It’s been happening all along throughout Canada’s history, and we were charting our own course even before Canada made the switch from being a colony of Great Britain, to being a full-fledged country.

Multilateralism,  Multiculturalism, and growing the Interdependence between nations

It was Canada that had the world’s fourth-largest Navy in WWII, Canada was a charter member of the League of Nations, and later a founding member of the United Nations. Canada helped to found the Commonwealth of Nations (later called the British Commonwealth, or Commonwealth) with the British monarchy as its head and helped other countries (even India, a republic!) to join that Commonwealth.

It was Canada that developed the concept of peacekeeping and we’ve led the world in the fight against the use of land mines. We spirited American hostages out of revolutionary Iran and we have sustained many peacekeeping operations bringing stability to conflict regions and preventing wider wars.

Our efforts in this have been unparalleled and all Canadians should rightfully feel proud of our contribution and we must respect the sacrifice of our troops. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize for diffusing the Suez Crisis in the 1950’s by single-handedly convincing the UN to send in a Canadian-led peacekeeping force to end the crisis by separating the combatants.

Canada was also a founding member of NATO and is solely responsible for “Article 2” of the NATO constitution (also known as ‘the Canadian Article’ of 1949) which reminds members that the alliance should not be purely military in nature, but should involve peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid.

One answer to the problem of U.S. domination was to avoid bilateral arrangements with the Americans where possible and to involve Canada in multilateral organizations (e.g., the Commonwealth or United Nations), where U.S. influence would be somewhat diffused. Most Canadians welcomed the UN, which the Canadian government took a vigorous part in creating. But Prime Minister McKenzie King, mindful of his own lifetime battle to remove Canada from the trammels of British imperialism, was dubious of a world to be dominated by the Great Powers. King’s advisers, wanting to find some way for Canada to play a significant role in the world, advanced the concept of the “middle power”—that is, a state strong economically though perhaps not militarily. The idea in practice meant that Canada should concern itself primarily with economic policy in world affairs and with aid to developing countries. Canada decided to use its considerable knowledge of nuclear fission not for military purposes but exclusively for peaceful and economic ones. — Encyclopedia Britannica

Simply doing ‘whatever the Americans do’ is not foreign policy!

If Canada wants to continue to be taken seriously as a world power then it must continue to present notable and worthwhile initiatives on the world stage — as it has done all along. A lack of our own clear and decisive foreign policy means that we simply allow ourselves to become America’s ‘cabin boy’ and based on our past successes, we deserve better than that.

Which takes leadership. Sometimes, fearless leadership.

How can Canada contribute best, using unique Canadian strengths and attributes, to the efforts underway in Iraq and Syria — and to the growing refugee problem in Turkey?

The UNHCR is overwhelmed as hundreds of thousands of refugees cross into Turkish territory every week. The other major Western powers have plenty of warplanes, whether Canada contributes six CF-18’s to the effort or not, is of little consequence to the overall situation!

What can make a huge difference and again allow Canada to ‘punch above its weight’ as it has done in previous decades is to ‘own the humanitarian aid effort’ that is presently taking place in Turkey

Canada has huge airlift potential, it has specially trained personnel that can set up ‘tent cities’ it has enormous stores of food aid and other aid that it can send, and it can even transport aid from other countries to the troubled zones.

The goal here isn’t to displace the UNHCR, just that so much more assistance is needed than what has been delivered thus far. And with hundreds of thousands of people arriving each week, the need is growing fast.

What good are coalition efforts as ISIS slowly gets destroyed over the next 24 months and millions of citizens of Iraq and Syria flee to Turkey — only to die of lack of care — after having reached a so-called ‘safe haven’?

That’s coming — whether we like it or not. Whether coalition bombers continue their campaign or not, ISIS will be driving people from Iraq and Syria. Perhaps millions of people. Some 1.5 million refugees from those two countries are already settled inside Turkey. Another 500,000+ have arrived in the past 2 weeks, and almost certainly another 400,000 on the way.

By the end of November, Turkey may be be hosting 3 million people fleeing terror from two different countries.

All of this places severe strains on the very real human beings caught in this traumatic situation, it also permanently strains the resources of the Turkish government and the UNHCR.

Canada, as one of the founding members of the UN must put its money where its mouth is, and contribute!

Not only will Turkey and the UNHCR require additional assistance in the coming weeks and months, but Canada should push for a UN-backed resolution allowing for a robust force of Canadian peacekeeping troops to protect such refugee encampments from ISIS fighters who will shoot at refugees across the Turkish/Syrian border — and there is no reason it wouldn’t be approved by the UN and by fellow NATO-member Turkey.

The logical place for 6 CF-18’s and a squadron of Canadian rescue helicopters is on the Turkish side of the border protecting a 50-mile-wide strip of land wherever and whenever the refugee camps come under cross-border attack (and at some point, they will) from ISIS fighters.

It’s time for Canada to again ‘punch above its weight’ and handle the part of the overall effort which cannot be handled by the coalition due to their particular commitments

Leadership. Commitment. Multilateralism. Humanitarian Assistance. Unconventional solutions to common problems. Historically, those are the things that Canada is known for in the international space. We should stick to what we do best and let other countries (in this case, the coalition) do what they do best.

I wish the Americans, the Brits, the French, and other coalition members well in their fight against ISIS. But somebody needs to help the refugees already in Turkey, plus the recent arrivals, and sufficient help must be preplanned to help more hundreds-of-thousands soon to cross into Turkey — otherwise, the whole coalition effort to save Iraqi and Syrian civilian populations is mostly in vain, isn’t it?

It looks like it’s time to make our unique contribution. Therefore, let us excel as always.

The world needs ‘more Canada’ and this is another chance to show the world who we are.

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