President Erdogan recently indicated he wants Turkey to hold its 2023 national elections on May 14. That is about a month sooner than everyone else anticipated. In fact, the polls were scheduled for June 18. Erdogan’s call for May 14 caught the country but especially his political opponents, off guard. For Erdogan May 14 has historical significance that he thinks benefits him politically. On May 14, 1950 Adnan Menderes was elected prime minister. Menderes was the first Turkish leader to be elected in a multiparty election (multiparty system). Menderes was hanged for treason in September 1961. The junta established following the 1960 military coup regarded Menderes as an enemy of the state. Erdogan calls Menderes his political inspiration. Erdogan is trying to connect the coup that toppled Menderes to the curious attempted coup Erdogan faced in July 2016. but is really trying to get the public to ignore Turkey’s economic and fiscal mess which he is mostly responsible for, particularly all the money wasted in corruption. In Fall 2022 annual inflation hit 86 percent, a 24-year high. Erdogan is also silencing and jailing his opponents. On December 14, 2022 a Turkish court convicted Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of “insulting officials pursuing their duties''. This was a thoroughly trumped-up offense since he was criticizing Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board for a bad decision. Imamoglu was sentenced to at least 2 years and seven months in prison. Thousands of protestors immediately hit the streets. Fearing that Imamoglu may beat the trumped-up slander charge, on January 11 another pro-Erdogan court announced the mayor would face corruption charges. Imamaoglu is a member of the Republican People's Party (CHP). He isn’t a lock on winning the nomination of the CHP-lead six-party coalition bloc, the Nation Alliance. There are several opposition candidates jockeying for the Nation Alliance nomination. Imamaoglu, however, presents Erdogan with a major political threat. The young and charismatic Imamaoglu is regarded as highly capable and he has national stature.
Turkey continues to maintain its military forces in Libya and thereby block efforts to hold national elections and bring an end to eleven years of civil war. The key problem is an illegal treaty signed by the Tripoli GNA government that granted Turkey some of Greece’s offshore oil and natural gas rights in an area between Libya and Turkey that ignores existing, and internationally recognized, claims on that area. Turkey and Greece are both NATO members and NATO backs Greece in this matter.
During the last year Turkey has become a major player in Syria, which previously depended heavily on Iran for assistance. Back in the 1980s Iran became a patron of the Shia minority government of Syria. It was only natural for Iran to come to the aid of the Shia Assad government when most of the Syrian population (Sunnis) went to war with the Assads. In 2015 Russia got involved too as the Assads were its reliable partner in the Middle East. Then there was Israel, which Iran wanted to destroy but the Russians wanted to protect and Turkey was somewhere in the middle. Now Turkish and Russian mercenaries in Syria are fighting each other. Iran has become a major ally of Russia because of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Turkey is trying to exploit this, if only because Turkey and Russia have been rivals for centuries. Reviving diplomatic and economic ties with Israel is part of that. Historically, what is going on in Syria is an unnatural act. Russia, Turkey and Iran have centuries of mutual hostility and frequent wars defining their relationship. That made their alliance in Syria unusual and now things are returning to the usual state of mutual hostility and competition. Russia and Turkey want Israel on their side while Iran only wants to destroy Israel.
The new threat in the Middle East is an increasingly aggressive Turkey. Currently Turkey is trying to restore its good relations with Israel. For over a decade the Erdogan government in Turkey demonized Israel in order to gain support from Arab neighbors. That did not work and Turkey had to use force and coercion to subdue and exploit Arab neighbors. Reviving good relations with Israel is now a major goal. One reason for this is the fact that many Turks wanted to keep good relations with Israel and now a lot more agree with that. The Islamic party in Turkey and its leader Recep Erdogan are in danger of being voted out of office and every vote counts, especially those of pro-Israel Turks. (Austin Bay)
January 23, 2023: Discussions among and between active and retired NATO leaders about the continuing problems with Turkey and how Turkey might be expelled from NATO. There are numerous reasons for doing this but the most immediate one is the growing tensions between Greece and Turkey over illegal Turkish claims on Greek offshore waters that might contain oil and natural gas deposits. Nearby nations with offshore oil or gas fields (including Israel) as well as NATO oppose Turkish claims on Greek offshore resources. Turkey says it will fight to enforce its claim and apparently believes it can bully its opponents into backing down. That level of intimidation is questionable, but does have a chance of success if Turkey can placate enough of its critics diplomatically. Greece and Turkey have had armed conflicts in the past but those did not escalate into Turkey being declared an outlaw NATO member and subject to attack by all NATO members. The NATO treaty covers the impact of one member attacking another; expulsion from NATO for the attacker. This clause of the treaty has never been used and the Turks seem to believe that not enough NATO members would agree with enforcing this rule against Turkey. That may be true, but the number of NATO members leaning towards expulsion is growing.
January 21, 2023: President Erdogan is accused of using Turkish firm SADAT PMC (Private Military Contractors) t0 threatened or otherwise disrupt and weaken political opposition (individuals, political parties or media) to Erdogan in the upcoming presidential elections. Erdogan and SADAT deny the accusations. Nevertheless, Erdogan and SADAT are closely linked. SADAT was founded in 2012 by a pro-Erdogan Turk who saw business opportunities supplying training services for Middle Eastern and other Moslem majority nations. Training, usually conducted by Turks with police or military experience, covered police work, special operations and military training in general. This included weapons training as well as training on the use of just about any weapons. If you could afford the fees, SADAT would take care of your training needs. During the 2016 attempted coup against Erdogan SADAT personnel actively opposed the coup, often with physical violence. After this the founder and president of SADAT was appointed a presidential advisor. That led to SADAT getting a lot of government contracts for things like training Syrian Arab mercenaries working for Turkey inside Syria and Libya. The SADAT work in Libya was criticized by the UN for violating military sanctions. Now SADAT is thought of as Erdogan’s private army.
January 18, 2023: Kuwait announced it is buying Turkish-made TB2 drones (UAVs). The deal is worth an estimated $370 million.
January 17, 2023: Turkey is facing increasing criticism from U.S. officials for what they regard as a “slide to authoritarianism.” Who’s the guilty party?” President Erdogan is seen as the ringleader. Turkey’s 2017 acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense system remains a problem, and Erdogan pushed that deal. That decision got Turkey kicked out of the F-35 consortium. Several U.S. legislators have said they will oppose providing Turkey with updated F-16s that Turkey wants since it can’t have the F-35. Turkey, however, remains a NATO ally. The Americans are well aware Erdogan managed to mediate the Ukrainian grain transportation deal that brought Ukrainian grain to world markets. Turkey has also sold UAVs and munitions to Ukraine.
Mindful of possible refusal of the United States to provide the F-16 updates, back in August Turkey announced an F-16 upgrade program. In December Turkey announced an F-16 upgrade using Turkish resources. This upgrade includes airframe upgrades that will extend the flight time of the F-16s from 8,000 to 12,000 flight hours. Turkey is also installing new cockpits that incorporate improved electronics manufactured in Turkey. In early December it was announced that Turkey would include a new Turkish developed AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar in the F-16 upgrade. The Turkish AESA claims to be similar in performance to the American APG-83 that is used in the F-22 and F-35 as well as the latest model of the F-16. Turkey would not release the cost of this upgrade program because of security reasons and that probably means that it is a more expensive and more uncertain upgrade the Turks would get from the United States, Turkey sees any additional cost as a good investment because Turkey has been a major center for upgrading F-16s and originally wanted the new Turkish AESA for its new, larger 1.45-ton UAV, the TB3. This UAV is designed to operate from Turkey’s first aircraft carrier, that was originally supposed to use F-35B VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) stealth fighters. The TB3 has folding wings and a much more powerful compact turbo-diesel engine that enables it to take off and land on the short deck of the Turkish carrier, which looks line acc amphibious support ships that all look like small aircraft carriers and usually carry only helicopters to carry the thousand soldiers or marines to shore. The Turkish developed engine was recently delivered. The Turkish AESA is taking longer.
Turkey also wanted 40 new F-16s and is now negotiating to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoons instead. Meanwhile the American government has assured Turkey that they will get the new F-16s as well as the updates.
January 16, 2023: In a phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Erdogan restated his offer to help mediate a ceasefire and an end to the Ukraine war.
Erdogan said that Sweden and Finland will have to extradite some 130 "terrorists" to Turkey if they want Turkey’s parliament to approve their bids to join NATO.
January 15, 2023: Greece confirmed it intends to close its land frontier with Turkey. Greece will install over 160 kilometers of improved steel fence and improve security in all sectors. The stated goal is to curb refugee flows. But the Greek government is also tired of what it calls “war rhetoric” from Turkey.
January 14, 2023: Turkey announced that an army ground offensive operation into Syria is possible any time.
In the United States a powerful member of Congress announced continued opposition to the U.S. government’s proposed sale of new F-16 jet fighters to Turkey. Erdogan was accused of continuing to undermine international law, disregard human suffering and democratic norms…” Erdogan was also accused of destabilizing behavior inside Turkey and against NATO allies.
January 12, 2023: Rwanda and Turkey signed three bilateral cooperation agreements. The two nations now have 24 cooperation agreements, including cultural issues, science, technology and education.
January 11, 2023: According to a recent report citing U.S. and European officials, Turkey has provided Ukraine with cluster munitions that can be delivered by both tube and rocket artillery. Turkey began shipping the “dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs)” in November 2022.
January 10, 2023: Turkey’s Constitutional Court has decided to hear the Erdogan government’s case for disbanding the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The HDP is Turkey’s largest Kurdish party and overall, the third largest party. The government claims the HDP has violated anti-terror laws.
January 9, 2023: The Turkish Army has begun taking delivery of the domestically manufactured Firtina (Storm) 155mm self-propelled howitzer. The T-155 Firtina is a Turkish variant of the South Korean K-9 self-propelled howitzer. Turkey has obtained much similar tech from South Korea when fellow NATO nations refused to do so because of Turkish bad behavior.
January 8, 2023: Sweden announced that it remains confident Turkey will approve its application to join the NATO military alliance. However, it cannot meet all the conditions President Erdogan demands be met. Sweden said that all requests for extradition of individuals must be addressed “within Swedish law.” In May 2022 Sweden and Finland both applied to join NATO.
January 6, 2023: Initial assessments of Turkey’s economic activity in November 2022 bode ill for the entire year. Turkey will likely have $48 billion budget deficit for 2022,
January 5, 2023: Egypt hosted a conference between the two rival Libyan governments that produced an agreement to resolve differences over elections and hold those elections as soon as possible. The conference did not come up with a timeline, only that both sides would work out problems delaying national elections. That’s what everyone has been working on for over a year. The obstacle is the Turkish occupation force, which insists that its treaty with the weaker Tripoli government over offshore water rights. Turkey needs Libya to affirm those righting so Turley has a claim on offshore petroleum and natural gas. Not what Libya produces, but potential underwater deposits in waters between Libya and Turkey. The Tripoli (GNU) government illegally signed an agreement with Turkey in order to get Turkish intervention. There is no united government of Libya so the GNU could not pledge Libya to support the Turkish claims. Greece and the UN as well as most NATO nations oppose Turkey on this issue. Turkey will protect its offshore exploration and extraction operations with its navy and air force. Turkey believes Greece won’t be able to get other NATO members to assist in blocking Turkish oil and natural gas operations in the disputed waters. Both Turkey and Greece are NATO members but the NATO agreement doesn’t cover a situation like this and the Turks are taking advantage of that. The UN believes this deadlock will lead to partition, with Libya becoming two nations. Each will have some of the oil but most will belong to the Tripoli faction.
January 2, 2023: President Erdogan confirmed he is considering holding national elections before the scheduled June 18 date. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman said that mid-June is in the holiday season and people will be traveling.
December 31, 2022: Despite a recent steadying in the value of Turkey’s currency (the lira), statisticians expect Turkey’s economic growth rate to slow. Inflation for the entire 2023 year will be around 24 percent.
December 30, 2022: Turkish grain production increased over 21 percent in 2022. This increase somewhat compensated for the interruptions in deliveries of grains from Russia and Ukraine.
Turkey’s defense ministry announced that the military had successfully tested its indigenously- manufactured Siper long-range air defense missile system. The missile hit a target 100 kilometers distant.
December 29, 2022: Sweden and Finland are saying they have both adopted a common “future ally” approach to Turkey. They wish to avoid inciting new disagreements with Turkey and insure they are admitted to NATO. So far 28 of NATO’s 30 members have ratified Sweden and Finland’s applications. Hungary will likely ratify them sometime in February or March 2023. Turkey, however, continues to refuse to approve the applications. A senior Finnish leader has said that he believes Erdogan’s decision to delay approval involves Turkish domestic politics.
In northern Syria (Aleppo Province) fighting resumed between Syrian troops, Islamic terrorists and Turkey backed Syrian militiamen, leaving four of the militiamen dead as well as four of the Islamic terrorists, including a senior Hezbollah commander. Fighting in this area has become constant lately, with Syrian soldiers, Kurdish SDF militia, Islamic terrorists and Turkey backed militias firing on each other. Turkish sponsored forces have become more aggressive recently.
December 28, 2022: President Erdogan reduced an age requirement on retirement. Now over two million people can retire immediately. The decision covers people who started working before September 1999.
The defense ministers from Turkey, Russia and Syria met in Russia in an effort to improve the relations between Turkey and the Assad government. Turkish opposition to the Syrian Kurds and the willingness of the Assads to tolerate Kurdish autonomy have become a major problem between Turkey and Syria. Not much progress was made because the Turks insist that the Kurdish forces move away at least 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. The distance is what the Turks call a buffer zone that Syrian mercenaries will patrol. The Turks will supply artillery and air support. Turkey is moving Syrian refugees in Turkey to the zone. The Kurds and Assads oppose this Turkish policy but the Turks are adamant.
December 26, 2022: Turkey has raised its estimate of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea to 710 billion cubic meters (bcm). That is an increase by almost 30 percent. Analysis raised reserves in the Sakarya field from 540 bcm to 652 bcm. A newly discovered field, Caycuma-1, has an estimated 58 bcm. One bcm is equivalent to 6.1 million barrels of oil.
December 22, 2022: Turkey will raise its minimum wage to 8,500 lira ($455) a month starting in 2023. That’s an increase of around 55 percent. Approximately 30 percent of Turkey’s work force relies on the minimum wage.
Turkey accused Sweden of not even fulfilling commitments to Turkey and demanded Sweden take concrete actions against groups Turkey links to terrorism. On December 19 Sweden’s Supreme Court blocked the extradition of a journalist linked to Fethullah Gulen’s Muslim movement. Turkey refers to Gulen’s organization as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). Erdogan claims FETO organized the 2016 coup.
December 17, 2022: Erdogan said courts would resolve any errors in an appeal process following the conviction of Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on charges of “insulting public officials.”
December 16, 2022: A bomb in a car parked on a highway in Diyarbakir province detonated and damaged a police vehicle. Nine people were wounded. Security personnel arrested five people suspected of staging the terror attack. The five are believed to be members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
December 14, 2022: Bayraktar, the Turkish firm that developed and produced the popular TB2 missile carrying UAV, successfully flight tested its new Kizilelma jet-propelled UAV. Production of the new jet UAV is now planned to begin in 2024, and it will operate from the new LHD TCG-Anadolu. This ship has a flight deck large enough for Kizilelma to take off from and land on because of its ski-jump design. Kizilelma can carry 1.5 tons of weapons and travel at speeds of up to 800 kilometers an hour at altitudes of about 12,500 meters (40,000 feet) for up to five hours. The UAV has an AESA radar enabling it to use air-to-air missiles and GPS guided bombs. A satellite link is used to remotely control Kizilelma.