Turkey to Keep Troops in at Least Five Nations

Rick Rozoff

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency cited Ersin Tatar, president of the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, insisting that Turkish troops in Northern Cyprus would never leave. To exploit an issue that is topical as well as tragic, he gratuitously added that his domain would not suffer the fate of another territory currently under attack: “The world should know that Turkey’s role will not be removed. Turkish troops will not withdraw from Cyprus and [the] Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will not become Gaza.” As though there was even the most remote possibility it could become so.

Given Turkey’s recent history of invasions and wars in Arab nations – Iraq, Syria, Libya and most recently Yemen – the pan-Turkic Tatar presumably is only interested in the Palestinians insofar as most of them are Muslims. A fair assessment of his comparison, spurious as it is, would have argued in favor of saying Northern Turkey would not become another Nagorno-Karabakh. But his pan-Turkic and religious loyalties prevent him making that analogy. That is, from being truthful.

To ensure the connection (which is no real connection) wasn’t missed, he’s further paraphrased as emphasizing, “the terror in Gaza and the world’s reaction once again proved the importance of Turkey’s role as a guarantor country and its troops in the context of the Cyprus island.” Is he leaving the door open for Turkish – that is, NATO – troops to be deployed to Gaza and the West Bank? One could be forgiven for thinking so.

Tell that to Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans and Yemenis – just in the Arab World.

And to indicate the future Turkey and its ethnic kin in Cyprus plan for the Greeks on the island, he also cited saying that when the Cypriot government in Nicosia, Greece, the European Union and the United Nations demand Turkish troops – the only foreign troops in the nation, as Turkish troops in Iraq (soon) and Libya are the only foreign troops in those countries – depart, “Turkish Cypriots can now read this demand better in the light of past developments on the island and ongoing violence in Gaza,” as “such requests were invalid as his country viewed Turkey’s status as indispensable.”

The same Turkish news agency has recently reported the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and its Turkish sponsor have celebrated recent developments at the 5+1 Cyprus talks in Geneva as a “turning point.” Foreign minister of the Turkish Cypriot entity, Tahsin Ertugruloglu, was cited as saying, “the policy of the Turkish side was clearly reflected on the agenda of the international community, raised in a way that does not cause any doubts, and this is the beginning of a process.”

To illustrate how cooperative, how ready to compromise, the Cypriot Turks are, knowing as do other Turkish proxies from North Africa to the South Caucasus how entirely they can depend on support, in the final analysis military support, from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ertugruloglu said this in response to the position of the government of President Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia:

“This [Anastasiadis’ position] is an indication of the Greek Cypriot side’s bigoted, domineering and historical misperception of the Cyprus issue as a whole.

“Therefore, we do not owe anyone an apology for the policy we have put forward in Geneva, nor do we have the idea of backing down from the position put forward in Geneva at the later stages of the Cyprus issue.” That is how his comments were recorded, approvingly, in the Turkish press.

That is the way a person speaks when he knows he has a nation NATO of 85 million people and an army of almost half a million troops behind him.

As mentioned, the Turkish Cypriot’s solicitude for Palestinians seems incongruous with current pan-Turkic, neo-Ottoman behavior in the Arab world. Earlier this month the government of Iraq summoned the Turkish chargé d’affaires in Baghdad and delivered a protest note over Turkish violations of Iraq’s national sovereignty, which in fact Turkey has perpetrated for thirty years, particularly since 2008. The incident which prompted the recent Iraqi action was the visit to a Turkish military base in the north of the country by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of the General Staff General Yasar Guler and Turkish Land Forces Commander Umit Dundar. The visit occurred against the still-ongoing Turkish Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt military operations in Iraq which began on April 23.

In neighboring Syria, Turkey has also staged military invasions in recent years and it also has military bases there, with no sign of deescalating or leaving.

Shortly after the Turkish defense chief and chief of the general staff toured the military base in Iraq, the two, accompanied by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and National Intelligence Organization chief Hakan Fidan, visited Libya. Turkey first deployed troops to Libya in 2019 (or at least the first Turkish troops were killed in combat operations there early in that year, identified by Erdoğan as martyrs), and were – and remain – the only foreign government armed forces there.

The U.S. Defense Department revealed that Turkey had deployed between 3,500 and 3,800 Syrian mercenaries to Libya in the beginning of 2019 in addition to its own troops. In December of 2000 Ankara extended the troop deployment by eighteen months.

During the above-mentioned visit to Libya by Turkey’s defense and foreign ministers and military and intelligence chiefs, the Turkish press disclosed that “Within the framework of the cease-fire agreement and the Berlin Conference, the withdrawal of foreign powers does not apply to the Turkish military presence in Libya.” The Daily Sabah piece further said: “The fact that Turkey, a NATO ally, voluntarily assumes the role serves the interests of both the European Union and the United States.”

As with Libya earlier, last year Turkey was accused of deploying 4,000 Syrian mercenaries to assist its Azerbaijani client in its attack on Nagorno-Karabakh.

With the assistance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s closest ally aside from the Turkic quasi-colonies in Azerbaijan and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkey has had troops in Nagorno-Karabakh since last year. Russia has supported Turkish military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria and Libya.

Although Turkey has consistently condemned Russia for its annexation of Crimea and has regularly denounced Russia’s treatment of Turkic-speaking ethnic Tatars there, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently said:

“Turkey and Turkey’s commitment to its independent course of development, which is quite firm, are generally the subject for heightened attention and, perhaps, concern at NATO. And, of course, this is a subject of US concern and the way the United States is trying to raise its voice at Ankara…obviously indicate that Washington does not like how [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is confidently leading Turkey forward and that they would prefer a more compliant Turkey.”

Odd that the nation identified as NATO’s main target would support one of the military bloc’s major powers as consistently as it does, especially as in all five cases discussed above Turkey has attacked traditional Russian allies.