Tag Archives: Turkey

Cybersecurity and Economic Espionage: The Case of Chinese Investments in the Middle East

cybersecurity

By Sharon Magen, a master’s student at SciencesPo in the field of International Security.

Introduction

The recent usage of emerging technologies for purposes of cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-espionage and the subsequent threat posed to the national security interests of governments in the economic sphere specifically is the cornerstone of this paper. Although many have referred to cyber security risks that are directly connected to the security sphere, national security threats posed by cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-espionage in the economic sphere have not been dealt with to the same extent, a rather puzzling state of affairs.

As cyberspace is increasingly utilized for espionage purposes in various areas, it is imperative to further study the possibility of exploiting cyberspace for intentions of espionage in the international economic arena specifically; far-reaching economic globalization has made the international economic scene vastly interconnected, thus intensifying the world economy’s vulnerability to possible cyber security breaches and intensifying the repercussions of a possible breach on national security interests on a wide scale. It is this lack of contemporary research regarding the utilization of cyber means in order to conduct economic espionage and the subsequent consequences regarding national security that has driven me to further examine this subject in this paper.

The growing importance of further observing this phenomenon, where cyber means may be utilized by foreign entities in order to conduct economic espionage so as to achieve strategic goals, has provided for the incentive of this research. The growing risk to national security posed by economic espionage by cyber means, coupled specifically with China’s economic and political rise, rather intensifies the importance of dealing with this issue. As a country seeking to become a game-changer in the global arena, it is plausible that China, significantly more than other countries, makes use of economic espionage through cyber means to the fullest extent, so as to achieve its goals in other spheres, such as the security and political spheres. It is therefore my belief that this issue should be further studied, in order to assert whether cyber espionage in the economic sphere is a threat posed by China especially, and should therefore be taken into consideration while assessing economic integration which Chinese entities.

During the past few decades, cyber interconnectedness and vast economic integration have transformed the global marketplace into an arena in which state actors and others may utilize cyber means to conduct economic espionage and advance other strategic goals. The current global reality of international cyber and economic interconnectedness presents a new type of threat to national security, as these cyber means may be utilized by foreign actors as vessels for conducting harmful economic espionage. In this case, foreign governments, through private or state-owned companies, may choose to target certain economies or foreign companies in order to make an investment which will inter alia allow that government to conduct cyber espionage in the economic sphere, such as obtaining new technologies, an act that may tip the scale in favor of the investing country, that otherwise would not have been able to receive these technologies.

This phenomenon cements cyber espionage in the economic arena as an undeniable threat to national security nowadays. This accusation is mostly directed today towards China by the United States, as Chinese companies, whom are mostly state-owned, are suspected of utilizing global cyber and economic integration as a vessel for conducting economic espionage. However, it is contended by some that China in fact is not the sole committer of cyber espionage in the economic sector, and therefore should not be targeted as such.

All countries today engage in economic espionage through cyber means to a certain degree, and therefore the question in this paper will deal with the reason for the behavior of the United States, spearheading the notion that China conducts gross economic espionage through means of cyber, whilst it is maintained that other countries do so as well. This research underlines the imperativeness of further study of world cyber integration and the economic espionage risk it entails. Although international cyber integration may present an opportunity for growth, countries must take into consideration the risk of exposing their economy to economic espionage via cyber means.

Past Research Pertaining to Cyber Economic Espionage

According to Mary Ellen Stanley, technological advancements and economic integration have vastly altered the perception of national security in the intelligence sphere, due to wide-ranging cyber economic espionage.[i] Similarly, Matthew Crosston argues that typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure through means of cyber, meant to aid as an added aspect of military might enhancement.[ii] Alongside these assertions, Souvik Saha specifically stresses the United States’ standpoint which emphasizes the Chinese encompassing involvement in economic espionage, and the undeniable national security threat it poses.[iii] Furthermore, Magnus Hjortdal stresses that cyberspace is a pivotal element in China’s strategy to ascend in the international system, and that one of the key reasons for this is conducting economic espionage to gain strategic advantage.[iv]

However, Ibrahim Erdogan argues that cyber economic espionage is an immensely lucrative industry in which all countries participate,[v] and therefore cannot be attributed to one specific country. Furthermore, when it comes to the United States specifically, Duncan Clarke contends that even allies of Washington, such as Israel, have been committing acts of economic espionage against the United States for years. According to Clarke, Israeli intelligence units continue to utilize existing networks for collecting economic intelligence, including computer intrusion,[vi] thus rendering the argument maintaining that cyber economic espionage against the United States is an act of war spearheaded by its foes, redundant. The assertion that many other countries, apart from China, commit cyber economic espionage acts against Washington, including allies, and are not reprimanded, weakens the severity of China’s acts and the argument made against it by the United States intelligence community, that it is indeed the forefront of the cyber economic espionage.

Regarding the integrity of the American intelligence agencies’ assessments, John Yoo contends that intelligence and national security agencies in the United States do not always depict an accurate portrayal of national security threats.[vii] In other words, it is plausible that the United States uses untruthful means to protect the nation’s security, thus arguably sacrificing the integrity of the government’s efforts. Robert Bejesky similarly throws into question the reliability of these organizations’ assertions; according to Bejesky, allegations maintaining that executive encouragements may induce intelligence assessments to support the position preferred by the executive branch are not without basis. The CIA for instance has a long history of politicizing intelligence, and at a 2001 panel held at a Harvard conference deliberating the account of the CIA, it had been maintained that the agency does not conduct its role faithfully when it comes to sharing unpleasant truths with the executive branch.[viii]

If so, it is feasible to comprehend that although cyber economic espionage may pose a national security threat, the United States’ formal accusation of China being the main committer of cyber economic espionage may be biased. Although China may be committing acts of economic espionage through means of cyber, it cannot be confirmed at this point that it spearheads this area more than any other country.

Growing Interconnectedness

During the past few decades, technological developments have immensely changed today’s governments’ perception of national security. Conventional acts of espionage which can be traced to a certain perceptible entity have merged significantly with cybersecurity, thus rendering the identity of the intelligence threat ambiguous, and exposing new domains in which harmful data collection may occur, such as the global marketplace.[ix] Today, the world is moving towards a single global economy, due to financial integration.[x] This current reality of cutting-edge technology and worldwide economic integration, has changed the face of espionage, and has created a world in which national security can be harmed, inter alia, via cyber means in the global marketplace.

Today there currently is a necessity to balance a nation’s economic affluence and its national security, as economic globalization may become a vessel for espionage through means of cyber, the bedrock of connectivity in today’s international market. The key methods through which international economic integration may enable cyber economic espionage, are when a foreign state-owned or government associated body conducts business in the host country, or when a foreign entity acquisitions a local business within the country.[xi] It can be contended that this type of activity is not merely a manifest of economic policy, but also functions as a well-planned intelligence collecting scheme intended to serve as an additional facet to military rivalry.[xii] Although it cannot be affirmed that cyber espionage intentions are the main incentive for economic integration, it can be asserted that economic integration enables the possibility of conducting cyber espionage activities. Countries may abuse economic integration in order to conduct cyber economic espionage so as to enhance military might.

In this regard, many claim that China is currently spearheading the sphere of cyber economic espionage.[xiii] According to this approach, China intends to harness today’s worldwide market espionage possibilities in order to enhance its regional and global supremacy. Washington especially perceives Beijing’s intention to commit economic espionage through cyberspace as a dire national security hazard, as China’s success in conducting effective economic espionage may translate into a sharp increase in China’s power potential relative to the United States. China’s current investment policy in economies such as the United States consists of mergers and acquisitions which enable opportunities for undesirable proliferation through means of cyber of intellectual property and trade secrets to Chinese firms.[xiv],[xv]

This type of activity is particularly problematic when Chinese multinational corporations, which are mostly government owned, attempt to purchase American companies with strategic significance or deal with critical infrastructure and assets. According to most recent assessments from the United States intelligence community, there is a heightened assertiveness within China’s international policies, and as part of this it has resorted to massive cyber economic espionage.[xvi] Moreover, according to Pentagon reports, China will continue to aggressively collect sensitive American technological information through cyberspace espionage.[xvii]

However, it can be contended that this assertion, that China is the main global conductor of cyber economic espionage, is meant to serve certain political policies in the United States, rather than represent an accurate status of global cyber economic espionage. Although FBI Director James Comey had stated in May 2014 that the Chinese government blatantly seeks to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries, Robert Gates, then former United States Secretary of Defense, openly stated that as much as 15 countries at that time were conducting economic espionage in order to take possession of American trade secrets and technology,[xviii] thus shifting the focus from China being the sole leading committer of this act. Furthermore, it has been contended that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) itself had committed cyber economic espionage activities against France.[xix]

Given the circumstances, the main question that arises in this regard is why the vast majority of official American security and intelligence bodies spearhead the notion that China is currently the worldwide main conductor of economic espionage through cyberspace, whilst it is maintained by other sources that other countries are committing cyber economic espionage acts as well, including the United States itself. It can be asserted, that though China does not actually head the world cyber economic espionage sphere, leading security and intelligence institutions in the United States promote this assertion in order to support political needs and policies towards China, who’s growing regional and world dominance is perceived as a threat to the continuation of Washington’s own world dominance and strategic might. In other words, it can be asserted that China’s rise poses a political threat to the United States, a fact which leads to American prosecution of Chinese interests in the economic sphere.

Therefore, another question that arises in this regard is whether other countries similarly argue that China is the global forefront of cyber economic espionage. If it is asserted that other countries equally claim that China is indeed the global leader of cyber economic espionage, another question that would arise in this regard would refer to the reasons supporting this argument. If other countries contend that China is the world leader of cyber economic espionage, despite it being asserted that many other countries in fact participate in cyber economic spying, the question is why they do so. It is my assumption that this is due to security motives, having to do with China’s rise and the security threat it poses via economic growth. This would assist in asserting the assumption that China’s rise de facto poses a threat to American strategic interests.

That being the case, it can be argued that the vast majority of official American security and intelligence bodies currently head the notion that China is the forefront of global cyber economic espionage in order to serve political and foreign policy purposes, and do not therefore portray an accurate assessment of the global cyber economic espionage scene. According to other sources there are a number of global actors that currently take part in cyber economic espionage, therefore not leaving the field for any singular country to spearhead. However, I contend that it is possible that the formal approach of the vast majority of the American intelligence institutions towards China in the cyber economic espionage sphere is intended to serve the United States’ grand strategy towards China’s rise, as they hold the belief that China’s rise may pose a threat to American strategic interests.

The hypothesis claiming that the United States leads the global notion that China is the current forefront for international cyber economic espionage due to political, foreign policy and security reasons can assist in understanding the gap between the popular claim within the American intelligence community and other entities regarding China’s role in the current cyber economic espionage arena. Many contend that China’s vast economic growth coupled with its enhancing military capabilities places it on a collision course with the United States.[xx] It can be asserted that in order to battle against China’s rise, the United States advocates an argument which depicts China as a country with minimal respect for intellectual property, sovereignty, and other critical factors that comprise the bedrock of global trade. International trade serves as China’s bread and butter, fueling its growth and ability to expand its military capabilities. If the United States can damage China’s ability to conduct global trade by asserting that it promotes cyber economic espionage, it would thus damage Beijing’s capabilities in the security sphere.

 My methodology for examining this theoretical assumption entails the assessment of other countries’ approach to China’s supposed cyber economic espionage intentions. If other countries similarly claim that China is the main conductor of global cyber economic espionage, despite the fact that it has been asserted that other countries take part in such espionage acts as well, it would be vital to assert what are the reasons for this type of behavior. In order to assess the approach of other countries towards Chinese cyber economic espionage, I contend that it would be most affective to focus on countries that are not western, such as the Middle East countries. This in my opinion may contribute in portraying a more balanced assessment of other countries’ approach towards China’s cyber economic espionage intentions.

Consequently, in this paper I examine the approach of select Middle East countries to China’s massive involvement in world trade and the possibility of its gross cyber economic espionage activities, in order to assess Washington’s claim. To this end, I examine the cases of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The rationalization for choosing these two countries is such; the main nexus that binds Beijing to the Middle East region concerns economic security, as more than half of China’s oil and natural gas imports are sourced from the countries of the region.

However, in contrast to the majority of other actors in the region, hydrocarbons do not play a big role in Turkey’s relations with the China, thus making Ankara a meaningful choice for a study of relations with China within the Middle Eastern context. If so, an outtake on the Turkish possible responses to Chinese alleged cyber economic espionage may provide an original contribution on investigating this matter. Regarding the UAE, it is important to note that the federation is only the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. Being a source of oil and natural gas imports for China, but not one of China’s principal suppliers, the UAE represents a significant case study in this sense, as it cannot be characterized as being overly essential to Chinese interests. Therefore, the UAE’s approach to Chinese cyber espionage intentions will not be tilted in favor of Beijing.

If proven that these two Middle Eastern countries have taken action against Chinese economic transactions, it can be affirmed that this is due to the national security threat posed by cyber economic espionage. The apprehension that through cyber economic espionage China could access key economic interests in a host country’s economy and realize its interests regardless of the host country’s interests could in my opinion propel them into taking action against Chinese economic transactions, thus initiating the suspension or cancellation of Chinese backed investments and so on.

 In order to measure these Middle Eastern countries governments’ approach to possible Chinese cyber economic espionage through, I will examine possible objections and restrictions made at a government level towards Chinese economic transactions and Chinese funded projects within the country. I contend that upon presenting a consistent trend of government level objections to projects funded by the Chinese, it can be affirmed that this is due to the fact that there is a tangible threat to national security posed by cyber economic espionage, enabled by economic integration.

Turkey

Although more than half of China’s oil and natural gas imports are sourced from the countries of the Middle East region, thus deepening Beijing’s dependence on the region, hydrocarbons do not play a pivotal role in Turkey’s relations with China. Nonetheless, Turkey is a rising power in the region, and has not directly experienced the upheavals felt in the Arab world in the past few years, a fact which still places Ankara as a pivotal partner of Beijing in the region, in the economic and political spheres alike.[xxi] Regarding the Turkish government’s stance on possible Chinese cyber economic espionage activities, it is important to note that in November 2015, Ankara had cancelled a 3.4 billion dollars long-range missile defense system tender provisionally awarded to a Chinese state owned firm in 2013.[xxii]

Turkey had originally entered negotiations in 2013 with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) to finalize the billion dollar contact. Even though French-Italian consortium Eurosam and US-listed Raytheon had also submitted offers, the Turkish government had preferred talks with the Chinese company, a fact which raised serious concerns over the compatibility of CPMIEC’s systems with NATO missile defenses, as Turkey is a member. In its official statement given by a representative from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office, the Turkish government had declared that it had cancelled the deal with China mainly because Turkey had decided to launch its own missile project.[xxiii]

Though the Turkish government officially maintained that the core reason for its cancellation of the multi-billion dollar deal with the Chinse frim had been its decision to self-develop the long-range missile defense system, it can be contended that this was actually done because of concrete concern within the Turkish government regarding Chinese cyber economic espionage. As previously asserted, Turkey had led a comprehensive process in order to decide on a foreign company to lead this project. If Turkey had indeed wished to self-develop this defense system, it would have done so from the beginning, and would not have conducted a complete procedure so as to choose a foreign firm to conduct this project.

In other words, it can be argued that after Turkey had decided to continue with CPMIEC in order to further this project, serious concerns had risen within the Turkish government and out of it regarding subsequent possible exposure of sensitive NATO systems to Chinese eyes. Although the deal did not explicitly determine the direct exposure of critical and classified systems to the Chinese, this transaction could have enabled Chinese access to systems through which harmful data collection could be conducted. Transactions such as this may inadvertently permit foreign penetration through means of cyber, as foreign firms gain access and exposure to computerized systems through which such infiltration may be conducted. Such harmful data collecting activities through means of cyber that are enabled by seemingly innocent business transactions are especially perilous when these transactions involve critical infrastructure of the host country.

If so, it is significantly plausible that Turkey had canceled this multi-billion-dollar deal with China due to cyber economic espionage concerns. Although it can be contended that other motives had brought the Turkish government to the decision to call-off the collaboration with the Chinese state-owned firm, such as the formal Turkish response that contended that Turkey had decided to self-develop the long-range missile defense system, this, as stated, is problematic to comprehend as Turkey had initiated a long process of selecting a foreign contractor. If so, it can be contended that the Chinese cyber economic espionage threat was a pivotal motive in Turkey’s decision to call-off the deal, as it is perceived as a real danger by the Turkish government to its national security.

UAE

The UAE is a federation comprised of seven separate emirates, which together represent the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. The UAE has the seventh largest proven reserves in the world of both oil and gas, and in 2010 China imported 64,500 tons of liquefied natural gas from the UAE valued at more than 23 million dollars. Furthermore, the China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Corporation (CPECC) assisted with the construction of the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline Project, which now enables the transport of 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day from Abu Dhabi’s collection point at Habshan to the export terminals at Fujairah. Oil transported through the pipeline bypasses the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to block if it is attacked militarily. However, it is imperative to point out that the 3.3-billion-dollar project had experienced repeated delays, initiated by the UAE.[xxiv]

Although it had been officially stated that The UAE has been forced to delay the construction of a pipeline allowing oil to bypass the Strait of Hormuz due to construction problems,[xxv] according to industry sources close to the project, the reason for the delay was that although CPECC was already preparing to commission the pipeline, the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations (ADCO) was not involved in this initial preparation process, a rather perplexing situation, as ADCO would first have to make sure that the commissioned pipeline design suited its standard prior to commencing the production procedure.[xxvi]

The Chinese commencement of designing the pipeline without the participation and involvement of ADCO, the UAE state firm in charge of the project, plausibly points to the fact that there was a Chinese intention to commit an act of sinister nature, regarding the construction of the pipes; such pipelines include highly sophisticated control software that can be hacked and even manipulated prior to its assembling. In 2004 for instance, Thomas C. Reed, an Air Force secretary in the Reagan administration, wrote that the United States had effectively implanted a software Trojan horse into computing equipment that the Soviet Union had bought from Canadian suppliers, used to control a Trans-Siberian gas pipeline.[xxvii]

If so, it is quit plausible that the Chinese had begun the UAE commissioned pipeline design without involving ADCO because they had something to hide, such as the insertion of cyber espionage measures. This would not be an isolated incident for the Chinese, as in 2013 The former head of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Michael Hayden, contended that it is clear that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei spies for Beijing,[xxviii] a fact which rather solidifies the argument that China indeed utilizes business transactions in order to conduct cyber espionage. In the case of the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline Project, the numerous delays due to Chinese repetitive exclusion of ADCO from the pipeline design process can be explained by the fact that CPECC had engaged in illicit activities concerning the manufacturing of the pipeline, namely the insertion of cyber espionage measures. However, it is important to note that in this case, although it can be contended that China had engaged in cyber economic espionage, the UAE had only delayed the project, and had not opted to cancel it entirely.

If so, it is apparent that although these two Middle East countries do not share Washington’s vehement stance towards the Chinese cyber economic espionage threat, there is an understanding of the possible threat, reflected by their cancellation or delay of business transactions with Chinese firms. Although none of these Middle East countries have gone out and exclaimed, as the Americans have, that China makes use of cyber means in order to conduct economic espionage, their behavior towards major Chinese investment points to a government level comprehension that Chinese economic conduct differs from that of other countries, due to a heightened threat of cyber economic espionage.

These two Middle East countries, as others, are not cemented in great power politics such as the United States, and therefore lack the incentive, as well as the protective means, to denounce Chinese economic conduct due to Beijing’s use of such demeanor in order to conduct cyber espionage and enhance its strategic might. Therefore, although it is possible to witness a government level resistance to major business transactions with Chinese firms, it is mainly done so through inconspicuous ‘soft’ methods such as project suspension. However, project suspension coupled with cancellation of business transactions with Chinese firms in my opinion forms a stable foundation for the argument that Chinese business transactions specifically are not treated the same as transactions done with firms from other countries, therefore pointing to the fact that they pose a threat.

However, due to the fact that the anti-China steps taken in the economic sphere are mostly discreet, it is speculative to assume that these steps were taken in light of Chinese cyber economic espionage intentions. Even when publically announcing the suspension or cancellation of Chinese funded projects, those governments do not state that this is due to misconduct rooted in cyber economic espionage. That being said, it can be conferred from their actions that Chinese economic conduct is in fact treated differently than economic transactions originating from other countries, a fact which perhaps further solidifies the American notion that China’s economic behavior is not innocent, for if it were so, there would be no publically announced suspension or cancellation of major Chinese funded projects in both countries.

In the literature review section of this paper, I have noted Crosston’s approach, which states that typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure, meant to aid as an added aspect of military might enhancement. Additionally, according to Saha, recent assessments from the United States intelligence community contend that there is an intensified decisiveness within China’s international policies, and as part of this it has resorted to substantial cyber economic espionage. China’s focus on the infrastructure, energy and telecommunication sectors in terms of business transactions, which are all considered critical to national security, may suggest that the Chinese indeed intend to utilize information gained by means of cyber through economic integration in these sectors for strategic purposes. The suspension and cancellation of key Chinese funded projects, prima facie due to technical reasons, suggests that these governments see Chinese further economic involvement in their countries as a threat.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is feasible to comprehend the vast impact of global cyber interconnectedness and economic integration on the perception of a country’s national security. Whilst pertaining to be of economic nature only, typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure through cyber means, meant to aid as an added aspect of a nations’ power enhancement. International economic conduct may permit opportunities for proliferation of economic intelligence through means of cyber into the investing country’s hands, thus compromising the receiving country’s national security. The American claim that China currently spearheads cyber economic espionage worldwide by means of economic integration seems to be sustained by other governments as well, further to the reaction of the governments of Turkey and the UAE to business transactions with Chinese firms. Although these countries’ reaction is not as intense and straightforward as that of the American government, it is nevertheless apparent that they are striving to restrict or monitor it, at the very least.

In regards to the main question of this research, dealing with the reason for the official American intelligence bodies approach, claiming that China is currently the worldwide main conductor of cyber economic espionage, whilst it is maintained by other sources that other countries are committing economic espionage acts as well, in light of the findings regarding the two previously examined Middle East nations, it can be contended that the United States does so because Chinese investments in particular are conceived as a national security threat, a notion shared by other countries. As seen in the cases Turkey and the UAE, the suspension or suspension of Chinese projects, point to the fact that business transactions with Chinese firms are indeed looked upon, not only by the United States, as a source of peril. Although some sources may maintain that China is no different than any other country when it comes to cyber economic espionage, it is in fact proven that other countries, and not only the United States, perceive China specifically as an ominous threat when it comes to economic integration and possible cyber economic espionage.

Even though the global market place is becoming increasingly interconnected via cyber means, countries must take into consideration the risk of exposing their country to national security risks, due to the fact that international economic integration may prove to be a vessel for cyber economic espionage. Indeed, in this research it has been asserted that the United States is not exaggerating in its description of the cyber economic espionage intentions of the Chinese; rather, as a superpower, it is one of few countries that have the prerogative to openly state their opinion on the matter. It is critical therefore, to assess Chinese business transactions differently than those originating from other countries, in light of the fact that the Chinese specifically use economic integration means in order to conduct cyber espionage and enhance Beijing’s military and strategic might on the path of its rise.

Bibliography:

[i] Mary Ellen Stanley, “From China with Love: Espionage in the Age of Foreign Investment,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law 40, no. 3 (2015): 1033-1079.

[ii] Matthew Crosston, “Soft Spying: Leveraging Globalization as Proxy Military Rivalry,” International Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence 28, no. 1 (2015): 105-122.

[iii] Souvik Saha, “CFIUS Now made in China: Dueling National Security Review Frameworks as a Countermeasure to Economic Espionage in the Age of Globalization,” Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business 33, no. 1 (2012): 199-235.

[iv] Magnus Hjortdal, “China’s use of Cyber Warfare: Espionage Meets Strategic Deterrence,” Journal of Strategic Security 4, no. 2 (2011): 1-24.

[v] İbrahim Erdoğan, “Economic Espionage as a New Form of War in the Post- Cold War Period,” USAK Yearbook of International Politics and Law no. 2 (2009): 265-282.

[vi] Duncan Clarke, “Israel’s Economic Espionage in the United States,” Journal of Palestine Studies 27, no. 4 (1998): 20-35.

[vii] John Yoo, “The Legality of the National Security Agency’s Bulk Data Surveillance Programs,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 37, no. 3 (2014): 901-930.

[viii] Robert Bejesky, “Politicization of Intelligence,” Southern University Law Review no. 40 (2013): 243-551.

[ix] Mary Ellen Stanley.

[x] Lucyna Kornecki and Dawna Rhoades, “How FDI Facilitates the Globalization Process and Stimulates Economic Growth in CEE,” Journal of International Business Research 6, no. 1 (2007): 113-126.

[xi] Mary Ellen Stanley.

[xii] Matthew Crosston.

[xiii] Stuart Malawer, “Confronting Chinese Economic Cyber Espionage with WTO Litigation,” New York Law Journal, December 23, 2014.

[xiv] “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” The Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, April 14, 2016, https://www.ncsc.gov/publications/reports/fecie_all/Foreign_Economic_Collection_2011.pdf

[xv] Souvik Saha.

[xvi]  Ibid.

[xvii] Geoff Dyer, “China in ‘Economic Espionage’,” Financial Times, May 19, 2012.

[xviii] Zachary Keck, “Robert Gates: Most Countries Conduct Economic Espionage,” The Diplomat, December 17, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/robert-gates-most-countries-conduct-economic-espionage/

[xix] “WikiLeaks Reveals NSA’s Economic Espionage against France,” Progressive Digital Media Technology News, Jun 30, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1692699265?accountid=14765

[xx] Souvik Saha.

[xxi]Altay Atli, “A View from Ankara: Turkey’s Relations with China in a Changing Middle East,” Mediterranean Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2015): 117-136.

[xxii] “Turkey Says ‘yes’ to China’s Trade Initiative, ‘no’ to its Missiles,” South China Morning Post, November 15, 2015, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1879097/turkey-says-yes-chinas-trade-initiative-no-its-missiles

[xxiii] “Turkey Cancels $3.4 Bln Missile Deal with China,” The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, November, 15 2015, http://www.ccifc.org/fr/single-news/n/turkey-cancels-34-bln-missile-deal-with-china/

[xxiv] Manochehr Dorraj and James English, “The Dragon Nests: China’s Energy Engagement of the Middle East,” China Report 49, no. 1 (2013): 43-67.

[xxv] “UAE Delays Project to Bypass the Strait of Hormuz,”. Al Bawaba, January 9, 2012,

http://www.albawaba.com/business/uae-delays-project-bypass-strait-hormuz-408210

[xxvi] “UAE Delays Oil Pipeline to Bypass Hormuz to June,” Oil & Gas News, January 16, 2012,http://search.proquest.com/docview/916274658?accountid=14765

[xxvii] John Markoff, “Old Trick Threatens the Newest Weapons,” The New York Times, October 26, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/science/27trojan.html?_r=2&ref=science&pagewanted=all

[xxviii] “Huawei Spies for China, Says Former NSA and CIA Chief Michael Hayden,” Business Insider, July 19, 2013,http://www.businessinsider.com/huawei-spies-for-china-says-michael-hayden-2013-7

 

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The Justice and Development Party (AKP): where Justice and Development have found new definitions

by Diana Ecaterina Borcea, a Romanian native who is also an incoming first year undergraduate at King’s College London. Diana will start pursuing a BA in War Studies this September. Her main interests in the research of international relations cover subjects like security and conflict in Eastern Europe, history of diplomacy & conflicts, military strategy and war in international order.


 

15 Jul 10:30 pm: the seizure of the key locations in Ankara (and the Bosphorus bridges) takes place

15 Jul 11:00 pm: guns are fired in Ankara and tanks start sieging close to the parliament

16 Jul 12:30 am: President Erdoğan’s call for people’s public rally is aired

16 Jul 2:30 am: the parliament is under attack and a coup members’ helicopter is shot down

16 Jul 9:30 am: the main stage of the coup is declared to be over and soldiers start surrendering

16 Jul 3:00 pm: eight coup participants fly to Greece to seek asylum.

AKP

AKP emblem

 

 

Bottom line? Over 270 people killed and almost 1500 wounded. This tragic outcome is deeply overwhelming even for a country where there have been no fewer than five major coups in the past six decades, with the latest one included. With Turkey’s bleeding stability, few days after the failed coup, questions started rising and the importance of the political leadership became a major element in understanding what really happened in Turkey. Identifying both the causes and the potential long-term consequences of the plotter’s overthrow basically means looking into the state’s leading party, which has been holding not only the majority of seats in the Parliament for thirteen years, but also the enthusiasm and support of the Turkish people.

 

Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Turkish), internationally known as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has become the strongest Turkish political association in the past decade and presents itself as a conservative right-wing, democratic party, which does not resemble any components of the Islamic agenda, according to its spokesperson, Hüseyin Çelik. Holding the reins of power in Turkey since 2002, AKP, whose leader was the actual President of the Republic (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) has, however, consolidated a system leaning towards authoritarianism, facing accusations of having a secret agenda, which does not bear a resemblance to the democratic ideology at all. Moreover, the Western press and important Turkish media insiders have repeatedly underlined that Erdoğan’s party is responsible for acts against Turkish secularism and for the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Under these controversial circumstances, in its thirteen years of power, AKP has faced numerous closing dates, one of which happened in 2008, when the party confronted dissolution by the Constitutional Court for violating article 86 from the Political Parties Law, because it attempted to change the secularism of the state. These tense moments did not, however, prevent AKP from tightening regulations regarding the usage of internet, abortion and alcohol consumption in 2013. The measures taken in the night between 15th of 16th of July – blocking access to social media (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) are identical to the ones imposed in 2014, which demonstrates the authoritarian operational mode of AKP.  So, is Erdoğan’s AKP actually protecting Atatürk’s Republic and its people?

 

The answer could be heard from the voices of the thousands gathered in the Taksim Square (Istanbul), who chanted for democracy and the Republic, but not as they once did for the President. The concerns for the Turkish democracy became stronger, as it is already noted that the first major consequence of the coup is giving the government both the justification and the power to tighten its control over the state, declaring, in the process of finding and eliminating the plotters, a three-month long state of emergency. Despite the waves of Western accusations for being an Islamist-influenced party and for its anti-democratic measures, AKP still has its mass supporters, who have also made their voice heard after the coup. The President’s lasting popularity is based on genuine facts, which include Turkey’s economic revival since 2003, the religious pervasiveness of the party and the very fact that Erdoğan is a man of people. As a result, by representing a conservative, religious lower-class, the President has assured his major support, shadowing the worrying fact that immediately after the coup, his government started a massive purge of soldiers, policemen, judges, prosecutors and even teachers in order to secure the post-coup safety of his governance.

 

What is more, the Turkish leader has publicly refused to eliminate the execution of the coup plotters, stirring EU reactions, which have clearly stated that in such case, Turkey will no longer be able to adhere to the Union. This adds up to the radical constitutional package presented earlier this week, which has also caught the international focus by being denominated as “a constitutional reform package aimed at EU integration.” Following these considerations, AKP’s political strategy does not seem hard to unveil. A foreign isolationist policy combined with the massive media shutdown in Turkey might protect the government’s reputation from the objective, alarming western critique, by which the President himself has proved to be so affected (2014 media access block). Is that, in this case, a well-designed plan to cover the abuses and injustices committed with Ankara’s leadership consent?

 

The certainty illustrates that the aforementioned events are definitely not singular or non-repeatable. The deaths of hundreds of people seem to fade in comparison with Erdoğan’s policy and his party movements, which is why the aforementioned tragic bottom line might as well be a header. On the edge between authoritarianism and military dictatorship, Turkey’s faith is in the hands of the so-called “Justice” and “Development”. Regardless of the isolation-related uncertainties, the future of Ankara relies on the guidelines of the new definitions offered to these two terms, as seen and understood by Erdoğan’s long-lasting impenetrable party.

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ISIS: Foundations and Response after the Paris Attacks – Interview with John Bew and Shiraz Maher

By Sam Wyatt and Tabby Urban. Sam is a Welsh second-year student at KCL reading BA International Relations. He is also the East Asia and Pacific Editor at International Relations Today. Tabby is a German second-year student at KCL reading BA International Relations. She has interned with the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Bucharest, and lived in the Middle East for several years. She is also the Middle East and North Africa Editor at International Relations Today.

 

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Dr. John Bew is a Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. His research interests include Grand Strategy, Anglo-American Foreign Policy since 1789, terrorism and political violence. He’s a contributing writer for the New Statesman, and Senior Fellow at the KCL based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR). His most recent book is Realpolitik: A History and was published by Oxford University Press.

 

Dr. Shiraz Maher is a Lecturer at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, as well as an adjunct Professor at John’s Hopkins University, USA. His research interests and expertise include the study of radicalisation, political movements and in the Middle East, as well as jihadist movements in the broader Middle East. He’s a contributing writer for the New Statesman, and Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR). His most recent book is Salafi-Jihadism: The History of an Idea.

 

 

IRT: Many European politicians have said that “Paris changes everything.” Do you agree, or are we merely seeing history repeat itself as there are observable parallels between President Bush’s rhetoric on the “War on Terror” and President Hollande’s declaration of “War on Isis” after the November 13th attacks?

 

JB: Both. First of all, Paris does change a lot, because of the scale and obviously because of the movement of the UN, and the building up of a new coalition. Britain will most likely join further air strikes, and there’s been a massive escalation of the French campaign against Isis. Secondly, yes, also because the French have used remarkably similar language to George Bush’s “War on Terror” and that’s for legal reasons for one, but it’s also because of the serious gravity of the threat. Paris changes everything mainly because of the new international coalition that’s emerging, which will certainly make a significant change on the ground in Syria. Especially for the French, this is a massive turning point, even more than the Charlie Hebdo attacks. This also makes you wonder what effect an attack such as the one in Paris would have on Britain, because even the attack on Tunisia, where 30 Britons were killed, had surprisingly little impact on Britain’s policy towards Isis. So yes, Paris changes everything and yes, there are strong echoes of President Bush’s “War on Terror.”

 

IRT: Moving on to the issue of radicalized Western nationals, which we have seen execute the majority of the terror attacks on the West. How do you think we could combat this home-grown terrorism and do you see any differences in the radicalization process in countries like Britain and other European countries, like France?

 

SM: In terms of a pattern of radicalization for the individuals going (to Iraq and Syria to join Isis), it’s fairly consistent across Europe. There’s a sense that these individuals have not bought into the societies in which they’ve been raised, and they don’t feel a sense of connectedness with the national story of whichever country they have migrated from. So in that context, we haven’t seen a great change from the same classical issues that arose in the post 9/11 context. People weren’t set to feel British or French or German or any other Western nationality at that time, and we see a continuation of that today. For instance, when Mohammad Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the 7/7 attacks in London, produced his suicide video, he said to Britain: “you are bombing, killing, imprisoning and torturing my people.” That was very telling, because who are “his people”? His people were the people he was killing that day in the 7/7 attacks, and not the citizens of a country he’d never been to and who spoke a language he didn’t speak. So in that sense there hasn’t been a real change in the drivers of this radicalization, and it’s been fairly consistent. The only main change that we see is that at that time it was civilizational discourse: here’s the West waging a war against Islam, which was the radical narrative. Now, the narrative has been, up until relatively recently, much more internalized within the Muslim community. Here, there is a battle between a Sunni and Shia future in Islam, and that was an intra-civilizational discourse. That is changing a bit with what we’ve seen happen in Paris, and this increased sabre-rattling between the West and fighters on the ground, particularly in the “Islamic State.”

 

IRT: So how would we combat this radicalization as a country? Should we aim at more inclusive policies?

 

SM: There’s no “quick fix”. Everyone needs to appreciate this, particularly the politicians, who look for these “quick fixes” and “one size fits all” approaches to this kind of trend. If you look over the last 14 years, we’ve had this “War on Terror,” and we’ve had prevent strategies in place for the best part of a decade, and yet we have more people getting up and leaving this country to go abroad and to engage in violent jihad. This is not just true for Britain, however, it’s true for Europe as whole – everything we’ve done has in this sense been a failure over that time. To tie this in with the Tory government, the prevent strategies have been aimed a lot more “up-stream,” whereas under Labour, prevent was very much concentrated with the violent extremists. The Conservatives were much more interested in combating anti-extremism per say and recognised the symbiotic relationship between extremist individuals and those who are violent extremists and how they feed off of one another. That’s going to be an important part of the challenge that comes in at this stage, and I believe that that’s going to be one of the most interesting and effective long-term soft power initiatives that governments can use. But the key is to recognise that it is long-term and unfortunately, the way I see it, the threats and dynamics we face are generational. Therefore, we can’t expect this First World War mentality of “it’ll all be over by Christmas.”

 

IRT: Looking at the cyber space, which Isis uses extensively for propaganda and recruitment services, do you think that “Anonymous,” who have also declared “war” on Isis, are credible threat to the organisation?

 

SM: In the most simple terms, no. “Anonymous” are a hacktivist collective, and using another narrative to explain this better, Isis propaganda is like a poster put up at the university for an event. Imagine I don’t like this event and the people that are behind it, so I rip the poster off the wall. That’s effectively what “Anonymous” are doing: they’re ripping the posters off the wall that Isis has put up, but the event’s still going ahead, the room is still booked, and the speakers are still confirmed. So in essence, you’ve done nothing that will actually damage them.

 

IRT: In your opinion, is Isis more of a state-building group, or is it transforming into a global terrorist organisation?

 

JB: There’s still a strong element of both. We’ve had a series of evolutions in terms of terrorist threat after Al-Qaeda, which is a modern Islamist and post 9/11 terrorist threat and which had franchised and had several affiliated organisations. Isis is still simultaneously a state and brand, so it can make a claim to be an “Islamic State,” albeit one with weak borders, and a largely unhappy population under its control. The Isis appeal, however, is a brand, which is more popular than the Al-Qaeda brand ever was in Western society. The two things, state building and global terrorist recruitment, are therefore not mutually exclusive. The problem and the difficulty is that there is no simple home vs. away aspect of this threat – there are clearly connections. The mixture of the two, both the home-grown and the foreign fighter element, are present in the Paris attacks. However, it is also possible that the attacks could have happened with people returning from the “Islamic State.” Hence, the two things co-existent and are all the more potent because of their co-existence. They also have to be tackled separately, as you can’t have the same policy for Isis abroad and within. This is also because the problems that they feed upon are different. Isis the “state” has benefited from the collapse of state order in the Middle East, while Isis the “franchise” feeds off long-term problems of discontent, alienation, lack of integration and ideologies that pre-date Isis and are associated with certain brands of Islamism. So essentially, the two aspects of Isis are connected, but the solutions are fundamentally different, and they have to be treated in this way. Any military response to Isis has to be performed under the premise that Isis is a de facto or pseudo “state.” Any response to the problem of domestic radicalisation has to start from the premise that a lot of those at threat are indigenous to those populations.

 

SM: All I’d really add to that is that Isis is a very sophisticated, quasi-state-building movement that uses terrorism. You therefore can’t classify them as simply a terrorist movement and I think it’s unhelpful for any policy maker to see them in that way. To really understand them, you have to go inside and really understand their theological view of the world. They have two very contradictory aims, but which make sense to the internal dynamics of the group: they believe in the Caliphate, so in the state-building element of that, which is to expand the “state” and develop it in any meaningful way. But at the same time, the “state” is just the means to an end. The philosophical end is to hasten the end of time and to essential meet your maker. So in that sense, the project is simultaneously constructive in the physical and real sense, but all of that constructiveness is there to achieve the philosophical destructiveness, which is to bring about the end of time in and of itself.

 

IRT: Tying in to this apocalypse idea, with “Dabiq” in northern Syria being the place where Isis will eventually meet and conquer the enemy, are boots on the ground inevitable? Or would this simply be playing into Isis’s propaganda purposes and being what they essentially want?

 

JB: To answer this question, you have to go back to the early debates at the start of Syrian civil war about intervention or non-intervention. These actually are debates that we’ve been having constantly since the end of the Cold War. In the initial phase of the Syrian civil war, which was escalated massively by the Regime and who have done their fair share of killing civilians in Syria. At the start of the civil war, there was a debate about what to do, and boots on the ground were inconceivable from a Western perspective. Since 2011, we’ve seen a lot of disputes, with the UK parliament’s Syria vote in 2013, with last year’s strange compromise whereby the British contribute to airstrikes against Isis in Iraq, but not in Syria, right through to the debate on Syria, which is going to happen next week in parliament. The irony is that as that process has pro-longed further and where there has been no intervention, the likelihood of boots on the ground is now greater than ever. The longer you leave it, and don’t do anything, the more likely it is that your nightmare scenario is approaching. I think that there will be Western boots on the ground. Obviously, there are external boots on the ground already with the Iranian and Russian forces. There are also creeping American boots on the ground in an advisory capacity. Whoever the next American President will be, will probably put more people on the ground, and Obama is more likely to as well in the remainder of his term in office. In the short-term, the way to lose an argument on Syria is to say that we need boots on the ground. But the fact is that we need to re-enter that mental space where boots on the ground are conceivable, because the mental frame from before has led to a consistent “no” policy, and we’re in a lot more of a mess than we were with any sort of the minor and lesser varieties that were mooted since 2001. Simple answer therefore is: nobody wanted to go there, even the advocates of some limited form of intervention, such as I was in 2013. I would recommend reading Robert Kagan’s long essay on World Order in the Wall Street Journal, which is very controversial, but basically argues that boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq are highly likely.

Do we put boots on the ground also goes back to an era where we had shared Western approaches to these problems. Now, however, we entering an era where there is no coherent Anglo-American or Western approach. So Britain has to face a different question: as France and the US are intensifying their approach against Isis, does it do the same? Does Britain want to be part of this Western alliance? Ultimately, when the chips are down, it has chosen to be part of this in the last 100 years. That choice is coming up again. We’ve just had the SDSR (Strategic Defence and Security Review), which shows that Britain’s two new “strike brigades” of 5,000 probably won’t be ready until 2025. Britain is therefore in no fit state to put boots on the ground at the moment anyway, but that’s a different question and more UK-centric.

 

IRT: Do you think that Assad and Isis can be tackled simultaneously, or should one be taken out before the other? What can be considered the “end-game” for Syria especially?

 

JB: Personally, I think another problem with policy has been this obsession with first of all “end games” and second of all “exit strategies.” There’s a good reason why we talk about end games and exit strategies, especially after we have seen how wrong things in this respect went during the Iraq War. Therefore, of course we’re concerned about these things. You don’t, however, have a strategy that always envisages a neat end game, where everything is wrapped up nicely. I think one of our problems has actually been to talk about angels without any strategy at all. We’re talking about a desired end state of affaires. An ideal one, particularly in 2001, was all about Assad and a transition to a feasible democracy. That is something that I, morally and emotionally, would prefer the outcome to be. However, the problem that I have with this approach is the role of the Western diplomats, who ran so far ahead of themselves and adopted a policy of “Assad must go” without the ability or the willingness to bring this about. It’s therefore very important to be careful about what you say in these circumstances, and if you do say something, you should mean it. If we keep going about proclaiming things we can’t follow through with, this will start to diminish our authority. I salute the instinct of “Assad must go,” but we need to get back in the business of being able to do things and not just talking about them.

 

SM: The whole point about Assad going is an important one in the context that every crime that Isis has committed, Assad has committed the same crime. We talk about the sexual slavery brought about by Isis, but sexual violence was brought into this conflict by the Assad regime. We’ve seen the “Islamic State” behead people, torture people – but these are things that the Assad regime has been doing since the very beginnings of the Syrian conflict. However, people were too afraid to raise their voices against the regime. So in that context, there’s no moral equivalence to be drawn here – the Assad regime has not only committed the same acts as Isis, but has perpetrated them on an industrial scale. It is sometimes said that at least Assad is somewhat of a status quo power, whereas Isis fundamentally wants to re-order the world, and they’ve got the blood of our citizens on their hands. The first part of that is true, because yes, Isis wants to destabilize the status quo, whereas Assad was generally happy with what he had in 2010. But the idea that Assad’s hands are clean of Western blood is nonsense. For every foreign fighter that got through to kill British and American troops in 2003, if you want to take a very narrow and self-interested line, you have to ask yourself how they were getting there. They were going through Syria – they were travelling with the complicity of the Syrian state and the acquiescence of its intelligence agencies. These, in conjunction with Iran, wanted to de-stabilize Iraq so as to give the West a tough and torrid time there. So precisely this brutalized experience that we’ve had in Iraq in 2003 and thereafter was not solely, but in a large part, due to a policy pursued by the Syrian regime. The idea that we should now give this man a “free pass” is a very dangerous. Of course, nobody is explicitly saying that we should give Assad a “free pass” directly, but just that we have to work with him for now. I think that this fundamentally miscalculates the situation that’s on the ground. Isis is deeply unpopular, and the Syrian people don’t want Isis there. But they don’t want Assad either, and so any attempt by us to simply go in and remove Isis, is mistaken. How are we going to achieve this? At the moment, our strategy is to bomb them from the air, which is largely ineffective. We are not going to disrupt the group and destroy it through this campaign, and whilst we do that, we share the airspace with Syrian regime jets and helicopters that mercilessly bomb civilians. Hence, the Syrian people, who were once very pro-Western, are standing there saying: “What is the West doing?” It is not exactly aiding our abuser, but at the same time aren’t doing anything to stop it either. We’ve therefore lost a lot of good will and prestige on the ground. Even if Isis were removed from the equation tomorrow, the conflict itself would persist, because what Syrian people want is a removal of the regime. This is the regime that is principally responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths, the refugee crisis and indeed for the growth of a movement like Isis, which was given space to develop due to the ineffectiveness of the regime.

 

JB: I think where we would strongly agree is on the dangers of being sold a false dichotomy: either Isis or Assad. This has been a strong component of the debate right from the start. There are people that say Assad shouldn’t have been allowed to cross red lines with the chemical weapons attacks on his own people and within the vicinity of his own capital. Others would then ask if you therefore want Isis to win. This has been an argument for inaction, but it shows the false dichotomy that has been set up to dumb down the debate, and this should never have been the dichotomy. Unfortunately, as this conflict has unfolded, the choices have gotten worse. This, in turn, shows the detrimental effects of doing nothing across the board, which I think is the biggest issue here. Early on in the conflict, Shiraz and I would talk separately to people on the ground, who were involved in the “Moderate Opposition.” One of the things that they said in conversation with the Russians, for example, is that Russia didn’t want to see a complete implosion of Syria and Iraq along the lines that this happened for very selfish and strategic reasons. But the Russians, earlier on in the conflict said that they can bring Assad to the table on a chain, but the opposition can’t bring anyone. The rebels have created this external opposition, which is not very grounded and has little sway on the ground. So while having this diplomatic posture of “Assad must go” we’ve actually lost any sort of leverage as to how that might be achieved. To re-iterate what Shiraz said, there’s no stability choice here. We’ve had a massive collapse of order in the Middle East, with Isis playing off on this, and there’s also no stability in a Syria under Assad. Working with Assad is therefore not the right answer. But taking a serious approach would mean being able to juggle the full complexity of the conflict, being able to play two games at once, being able to think of short-term and long-term goals, while at the same time being able to take the tactical choices in order to achieve these. I think this is a lost art in Western foreign policy, because we deal in absolutes and “Home by Christmas” approaches. But what we see in the world, with Russia, Turkey, the Kurds, and the Iranians, is a different way to conduct foreign policy, politics and security. This is ugly, morally complex and sometimes contradictory. We have to learn how to play that game again, because we can’t continue down the path we’re going down at the moment.

 

IRT: Talking about the role of Turkey, which has had first hand experience with Isis terrorism, but is also not always aiding the efforts to combat Isis, mainly because of their targeting of the Kurdish militants, how do you see the role of Turkey evolving in the conflict?

 

JB: Turkey has immediate interests that involve the security of its own state, its borders, as well as its whole perception of what it needs to do in order to survive. First of all, we have to appreciate that the stakes are very high for the Turks. Secondly, Kurdish terrorism is a serious problem in Turkey and continues to be. Thirdly, Isis is and could be a very serious problem for the Kurdish state, and we’ve seen Isis directed attacks in Turkey. So let’s not forget that Turkey has a real problem here. Relating to the complexity of the game we’re playing in the Middle East, it has to be kept in mind that we need Turkish air space to have an effective campaign against Isis. We see that the Turks have used the alliance with the West as a cover to wage their own war against various Kurdish organisations. This shows just how messy this conflict is getting, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. What you’re left with when you fail to play big power politics, don’t try to manage borders, don’t do anything when states are collapsing, and don’t do anything when industrial scale killing is going on, is that you end up having less and uglier choices and many other actors fill the void. There was a brief moment with Turkey when official senior figures in the Obama administration responsible for the conduct of foreign affaires went out and did get Turkish acquiescence for a blunting of the Assad regime’s capabilities right at the start of the conflict. But that door has closed. Instead, we’ve had further unravelling of events. More than anything, the shooting down of a Russian plane, allegedly over Turkish airspace, tells you everything you need to know about this conflict and how complicated it’s become. So overall, there’s no easy answer and there might have been a moment where Turkey could have been a key strategic asset, but that is gone now. Even the Kurdish-Turkish relations were improving up to this moment and there were some very intelligent articles in 2001 and 2002 about how this stabilization of the relationship may be the key. But that has been blown up now. Turkey, therefore, will be a massive player in whatever happens, perhaps an even bigger player than Iran.

 

SM: The important thing to remember as well is that Kurdish forces have killed a staggering amount of Turkish soldiers in the last few months. If you look at this from the national security perspective of the Turks, you’re responsible for Turkish security. That is therefore a massively pressing issue on Turkey’s doorstep, which is directly affecting your armed forces and your national interests, and therefore requires your attention. The second aspect is that we told the Turks at the start of this conflict, and when the Free Syrian Army essentially came into being, to keep their borders open. The West was only giving non-lethal aid, but it was central for the Turks to allow the free passage of weapons through their borders when the Saudis and Qataris started supporting the Free Syrian Army. If you look at interviews towards the end of 2011 and throughout 2012, the West was saying to Assad that he needed to bring the conflict to an end. Assad replied saying that he could end the whole conflict in a couple of weeks, if one could get Turkey to close the border. What he really meant by saying this was to choke off the supply lines of these rebels, and this would end the opposition movement in military terms. This is true, but the supply lines were never closed, because we had an interest in keeping them open in order to allow the flow of supplies. In that time and in that context of having those supply lines open, of course the jihadists began to use them as well. They used them to establish a very sophisticated network. Think about the debate we’re having in the UK about securing our borders as an island, and then consider the length of the Turkish border with Syria, and with Turkey being a landmass. The idea of sealing off the border is a fantasy – it’s a huge amount of territory that is also very difficult to control. The final point on this is that I’m very sympathetic with the Turks. Look at the situation in Pakistan in the 1980s, but in the post 9/11 climate as well: you have a conflict going on in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. You have a number of highly motivated and committed jihadists landing in your country who wish to do nothing to it – they just want to use it as a thoroughfare to join the armed conflict next door. The moment you begin to close that border to domestically crack down on these individuals in your own territory, what happens? The crisis comes home. So in Pakistan, when they closed the border and made life harder for those cross-border operations, certainly Islamabad, but also Lahore became the target of attacks. It fundamentally changed the entire nature of Pakistani society, because the domestic terrorism threat became so severe, and it had become so severe because of the clamping down on the tribal areas in the FATA provinces. The same thing would happen Turkey. When we’ve done field-work going down to Turkey, there are members of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra in Istanbul and other cities. There have been the odd occasional bombs that have gone off, but nothing sustained or comparatively significant. But I guarantee that if you started to close down the border to Syria and really made life difficult for these jihadists, they will start saying that the Turkish state has become the enemy and that they are the ones prohibiting jihad. Therefore, they will feel the urge to wage jihad in Turkey, which would result in massive instability. So for Turkey to just let people jump the border is a policy that makes complete sense from their own pragmatic national security perspective.

 

IRT: How do you see the role of other regional powers emerging in the conflict? We’ve seen that Iran has recently become more involved, since it participated in the Vienna Conference on Syria, but do you see them getting together and finding a common solution any time soon?

 

SM: Each of the countries in the region has their own interests in the conflict. They are broadly aligned sometimes, but not always. Even if you look at the Sunni side of the balance, for example, you see that the Saudis are often not aligned with the Turks and the Qataris, who actually align more often. Take those official state actors out of the equation, and you find that there are well-organised and rich networks of individuals who also fund some of these organizations. Blocking off those supplies of money is incredibly difficult. This is a conflict where we in the West don’t have a direct influence to block the flow of funds and therefore weaponry was going to Al-Qaeda in 2003 when they were killing our own troops. Trying to do it now is even harder. The point is that on one side you have all these different powerful states with deeply vested interests that are not just important in the grand geo-political equation of the region, but which is also complicated further by the religious split between the Shia and Sunni communities. That makes it clear to me that at least on that side, you’re not going to get a resolution any time soon. On the flip side again, the Iranians and the Russians are pursuing different agendas, although they’re on the same side in the region. For Iran in particular, its objectives in Syria are very different to the ones in Iraq. In Iraq, Iran wants to build the militia al-Hashd al-Sha’bi, and is therefore completely different from what they’re pursuing in Syria. The different agendas behind the backing of all these troops in the region therefore suggests to me that we won’t see a resolution any time soon. More importantly, even if you were to get some level of official agreement between these countries, the two most important actors on the ground, Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, would not be bound by any agreement that these partners reach. In this case, you would see a continuation of the conflict, so I fear that any agreement may essentially be limited to the paper that it’s written on.

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Who to blame?: What caused the Ankara Bombings?

by Uygar Baspehilivan, a second-year BA International Relations student at King’s College London.

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‘Halay’ is a traditional Turkish folk dance, that is performed by forming a circle or a line, while holding each other with the little finger or shoulder to shoulder or hand to hand with the last and first dancer holding a piece of cloth. It has been danced for centuries in Turkey, mostly at weddings and gatherings and is considered to be a symbol of unity in Turkish culture. Whenever it is danced, it brings back memories of joy and bliss; or at least it did, until 10th of October, when footage of a terrorist attack to peaceful protestors in Ankara surfaced the internet, showing the moment of attack in the midst of people dancing the halay. In the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkish history, the death of 106 people in central Ankara forever changed the meaning of halay in Turkish psyche, and the worst part is; we don’t know who to blame.

The Turkish-Kurdish conflict, although being a pre-eminent conflict in modern Turkish politics, had been in a hiatus for a couple of years after the start of the so-called ‘solution process’ between the Turkish government and the internationally recognised terrorist group PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) led by Abdullah Ocalan. However, the general elections in 2015, witnessed a rapid re-escalation of the conflict, with the increasing popularity of the pro-Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party) in the young moderate left, and the downturn of the ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) due to its then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vastly criticised polarising policies and practice of excess police violence in Turkey’s internationally supported Gezi Parki protest. This is a classic case of declining and increasing power politics with a pinch of ethnic strife. Yet that little pinch of ethnic strife transformed the political problem into a potential civil war.

In June, the results of the general elections pointed towards a peaceful resolution of the political clash, with the AKP winning 41% (9% decrease from the last general election) of the votes yet losing its parliamentary majority and HDP receiving 13% of the votes and 80 seats at the parliament (With an ethnic group entering the parliament, this was a milestone in Turkish politics). AKP had to form a coalition and Turkey, for the first time in years, seemed to be on a road of moderation and cooperation. However, the president, in his newly built palace (costing 1.2 billion pounds) had different plans. Until today, Turkey’s presidential role had always been a representative one, ever since the death of its first president and founder Kemal Ataturk. Nonetheless, after becoming the president and giving up his role as prime minister to his close associate Ahmet Davutoglu, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aspired to re-consolidate his role as Turkey’s primary leader and adopted a presidential system mirroring that of the U.S. This goal of his, however, was nearly impossible without a parliamentary majority, which now belongs to the HDP. Hence, the problem, according to Erdogan, was the increasing Kurdish popularity and the solution should be the re-ignition of Turkish-Kurdish ethnic conflict to consolidate the nationalist votes and decrease the votes going to the Kurdish party from the leftist youth.

The following two months saw Turkey at its least productive; with the moderate left main opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) and the right-wing nationalist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) striving to strike a deal with the AKP to play a role in the new government. However, a coalition government was not what AKP was seeking; for the passing of the presidential bill was a priority on the party’s agenda and the cries for national interest and domestic goodwill were merely ploys to strengthen the AKP’s authority. Popular media produced extended coverage of the coalition talks and the illusion of a co-operative spirit continued alongside with it, but most knew that these were going to be unsuccessful enterprises and that the clocks were ticking for a new election. The AKP needed the presidential bill to pass, and the way to achieve this was to regain parliamentary majority. On 24th of August, Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his decision to hold early elections on 1st of November. The Wall Street Journal, criticising the decision, reported; ‘This is the first time a president called for snap polls since Turkey became a republic in 1923, a move that could stoke further political turmoil at a sensitive time.’ The WSJ could never have been more correct; and in the following months after the decision, demolishing all hopes for a peaceful future that were built after the first elections, Turkey started to drift towards a civil war.

Sometimes, coincidences happen in politics. And sometimes, these coincidences seem to be more than what they appear to be on the surface. Only 4 days before President Erdogan declared his decision for early elections, Turkey witnessed a bombing attack in Suruc, Sanliurfa, killing 34 people, mostly of Kurdish ethnicity. Even though no organisation or group claimed to be responsible for the attack, it was immediately attributed to ISIS and Turkey declared a war on terrorism. On 26th of July, ‘Turkey’s air force has attacked Islamic State positions in Syria and Kurdish PKK militants in northern Iraq to defend the country’s security,’ Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu declared. Yet the problem that no one was addressing was that the PKK had not been a threat to Turkey’s security since 2009. Predominantly portrayed as a war against ISIS, the ratio of attacks on PKK bases to ISIS bases revealed a different side to the story. Attacks against ISIS were mostly side-lined by the media and the military itself. Instead, the TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) concentrated most of its attacks on PKK bases leading to the re-ignition of Turkish-Kurdish conflict. This coincidental attack was everything AKP needed at that moment: a reason to call for early elections, a way to decrease the Kurdish votes and a chance to rally nationalist votes.

In the months following the attacks, Turkey transformed into a state driven by a civil ethnic conflict, deaths of young soldiers were in the headlines daily and the rhetoric of the government only intensified the growing hatred between the opposing sides. In response, the Kurdish terrorist group PKK ended the ceasefire it declared in 2013 and started conducting attacks on the Turkish police and military in the Eastern Region.  This re-ignited the nationalist extremist sentiments of the Turkish right, and led to several civilian attacks on Kurdish citizens. With both sides in conflict with one another, President Erdogan made a highly disturbing comment, making it obvious that his supposed political impartiality was nothing but a ruse. He stated; “If we want the settlement process [to solve the Kurdish issue to succeed] we need to elect 400 deputies so that a party in firm control of the government can achieve it”. It was an undisguised political statement that was perceived from the opposing parties as a message of threat, saying ‘if you do not give AKP the parliamentary majority and indirectly cause the presidential bill to pass, this military conflict, that I ignited, between the Kurdish and the Turkish, will continue’.

The result of the elections on the 1st of November is unpredictable; will it, as Erdogan desires, decrease the HDP votes under the 10% mark and kick them out of their parliamentary seats or will it result with an even vaster downfall of AKP votes. One thing that is clear, however, is that the results will not stop Turkey from polarizing even more until it comes to a state of civil war. It cannot be avoided unless the AKP government escapes from the claws of Erdogan’s power-hungry ways and goes through compromises with HDP. In order to secure a stable state, it is inevitable for the HDP and the Kurdish minority to reconcile in the realm of daily Turkish politics.

On the 10th of October, in the midst of all these instabilities, the conflict with the PKK, the bombings of IS, the problem of the inflow of refugees and the larger involvement in the Syrian civil war, Turkish citizens were getting ready to say ‘stop’ to this. Before the peace rally, people gathered at the Ankara train station to march to Sihhiye. Whilst dancing to halay as a sign of solidarity, twin explosions killed at least 106 people and left 250 wounded, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkish history, right before the elections. Although blame was once again put on ISIS, these attacks were actually the ultimate culmination of the poorly made decisions and ‘coincidences’ that drove Turkey to this era of instability, which began in the summer of 2015. Aside from asking ‘how did we come here’, the question that is asked should be ‘could we have prevented this’ and the answer is a big YES. What Turkey turned into today, was not inevitable. A coalition government could have been easily formed, the Kurdish people could have been easily instated into Turkish politics and the politics of the Middle East (IS, Syria) would be as far to Turkey as it is to Europe. These ‘could’s and ‘would’s portray the grim reality of the current Turkish situation; This is not a problem of geopolitical position or sectarian violence or ideological conflict; this is a problem of power-politics, between a power-hungry president and an increasing Kurdish political assertiveness and the blame, whoever did the bombing attacks, should be acredited to the poor decision-makers within the state of Turkey.

Bibliography:

The Wall Street Journal

BBC

Seattle Times

The Guardian

The Atlantic

Cumhuriyet

Hürriyet

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A Response to ‘Viewpoint of a Nationalist: The European Migrant Crisis’

by Dhia Muhsin, a second year British-Iraqi student interested in political violence, human rights and counter-insurgency in the MENA region. He is reading BA International Relations at King’s College London.

My father immigrated to the UK in 1992 after our family experienced relentless persecution in Iraq at the hands of Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist regime; I continuously wonder what would have happened if I were born in Najaf as opposed to London. An answer I have come to, on the many occasions where I have asked myself this, is that I would have died as part of Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign against anyone who was not with him. If I had not died due to Saddam then I may have died due to the sanctions imposed on Iraq, by the United Nations, that resulted in the death of approximately 500,000 children. Even if I had not died due to the imposed sanctions, I would have died due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq at the hands of the occupying military’s abuses. If I had not died for the latter, then I may have died due to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is now Da’esh (ISIL). If it was not I who had died then it would have easily been my sister, or my mother, or my father, or all of us; I owe my life to migration when millions have lost their own due to their lack of it.

As I write this, I’m aware of the privilege I have to be at the institution I am studying at. To have the opportunity to live healthily in a country where I have had access to uninterrupted healthcare and schooling is lasered into my conscience as I think of the Rohingyans fleeing persecution in Myanmar, where many have drowned as a result of overcrowded ships that have capsized in a state of literal statelessness. The Syrians giving up what little despotism has left them with, as some sell their homes in order to afford for their families the unguaranteed voyage of danger to Europe. Here, where they seek refuge from chemical attacks; the migrant Afghans seeking a life of opportunity who have been, perpetually, labelled by academics and journalists as a nation of people belonging to a failed state, thanks to a history of intervention. Simultaneously, in my mind are the 18,000 Palestinians who sought refuge in Yarmouk, where they live a nightmare of besiegement by the Assad regime on one side and Da’esh on the other. I am also remembering the 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria and the 220,000 Syrian refugees living in Iraq, where both have fled one oppression to find sanctuary in another. The 1 million Somali refugees living in neighbouring countries such as Yemen, where Saudi Arabia have been tenaciously committed to a military campaign that has claimed the lives of approximately 400 children. The South Sudanese refugees seeking safety in Ethiopia and Kenya and Sudan , who have had sexual violence inflicted onto them; the Eritrean women with their children living in Calais’s “jungle”, where even in the limbo of seeking refuge are women exposed to the nightmare of rape, as many women past, present and future have had to endure. These people do not want to turn “to stealing, joining gangs, trafficking and other illegal forms of gaining money” because they simply want to survive, when many of them are highly skilled, qualified to work and immediately able to contribute to society. The trend of stripping and sterilising refugees and migrants of their skills is toxic. But I guess condemnation and hollow sympathies, where superpowers attempt to wash their hands of the blood belonging to their complicity, is a reasonable ‘reputation’ to aspire to?

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That said, given the privilege and inability for ‘nationalists’ to accept a moral responsibility for the preservation of human life, by providing derailing and weak reasons for not accepting more refugees, it is no surprise that only after being exposed to the harrowing ‘everyman’ image of, martyr, Aylan Kurdi, people have finally woken up to witness a snapshot of the nightmares lived by refugees. It is telling of how disturbing human nature is when after the plethora of images of mass graves and executions online, it takes an image depicting the lifeless innocence of a martyred child to move the international community to action.

According to David Cameron “we have taken a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps” because (of course) a few refugees fleeing certain death at the hands of Da’esh or Assad’s barrel bombing campaign means there’s a chance they are counterfeit and fake; somehow putting up an aesthetic of oppression within a refugee camp by total choice.

Whilst abdicating themselves of the privilege they have of simply being able to live without the fear of an IED killing them, or the fear of biological weaponry claiming the lives of their families or despotism silencing their struggles, ‘nationalists’ never cease to raise up the clichéd, yet mythical, argument that ‘services will be strained’ if we provide people with refuge. Funnily enough, a quarter of NHS doctors are non-British practitioners, and whilst many refugees are qualified engineers, lawyers and academics, they have been dehumanised and have had the false image that they are unskilled burdens with little to offer to our ‘developed’ society, forcibly imposed onto them. If one of the benefits of remaining in the European Union is that Britain has access to highly skilled professionals, then why does the refugee status of an individual, who may be just as skilled and just as worthy of a place within the British economy, strip their life’s work of any success they have made for themselves in a country jeopardising their survival? Blaming the possibility of worsened living conditions on people trying to survive with the simple human right to live is inexcusable when you consider past governments have barely been able to show real progression with the housing crisis. This is a problem for the British government to be held accountable for whilst the refugee crisis is a crisis that we must take a moral responsibility, especially since the number of refugees accepted by the United Kingdom has fallen by 76,439 since 2011. The British economy, if anything, will be under a greater strain if it were to perpetuate its, frankly, poor and incomprehensible aerial campaign of airstrikes in the MENA region, where not only money is spent inefficiently but ineffectively in their attempt to ‘degrade’ Da’esh. Such money could be channelled to the aforementioned “strains” on British services where the amount of social housing could be increased and improved, and to also provide to those in need when a £17.3-to-23.4 billion nuclear deterrent is facing renewal.

Truthfully, no one needs the ignorant xenophobia, nor the crocodile tears of ‘nationalists’ to colour the morality of the ‘debate’ on migration, when the many migrants seeking sanctuary from the MENA region are refugees and victims of recklessly half-hearted neo-imperial adventures, undertaken by western superpowers.It is so crucial for a nation built off of the criminal spoils of colonialism, where the illegal immigration to the global south resulted in the death of millions, that there must be some kind of twisted, corrupted, understanding of how migration conditions survival; this is before the award of asylum for refugees can be seen as the very smallest form of colonial reparation. Simply saying “we need to better the situation in these countries that the migrants are fleeing from” is problematic for two reasons: 1) post-9/11 western interventionism has been going on for over a decade and has yielded a myriad of negative outcomes; 2) it is, in a handful of cases, a guise for neo-imperialism whereby western states seek greater hegemony over particular, resource-rich, states. Saying that “we need to better the situation” beats around a bush that the British government has treated very poorly.

The very least that these ‘scared nationalists’ can do is ask why the British government has not pressured the Gulf, where not a single refugee has been granted refuge, and why they have not accepted responsibility for exacerbating the destabilised nature of MENA. This comes under notable individuals and state sponsors of terrorism being known to proliferate Da’esh and Al-Qaeda’s ideologies, making their presence an even larger issue and by extension worsening the refugee crisis. Complicity does not just lie in the blasé considerations of whether refugees should be accepted into the UK or not, but also in the blind eye that the government turns to when the actions of allies are not questioned; even this does not serve to fix the wider issue of the world’s refugee crisis, that this wave of overnight-activism is attempting to solve. However, if countries torn by wars, that we have partly exacerbated, can accept refugees then we have no excuse.
1: http://fas.org/news/iraq/1999/08/990812-unicef.htm
2: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/12/refugees-yarmouk-israel-palestinians-arab-isis
3: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e486426.html
4: http://syrianrefugees.eu/?page_id=83
5: http://refugeesinternational.org/where-we-work/africa/somalia
6: http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/unicef-nearly-400-yemeni-children-killed-in-saudi-war/
7: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e45a846.html
8: https://irtodayblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/viewpoint-of-a-nationalist-the-european-migrant-crisis/
9: https://irtodayblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/viewpoint-of-a-nationalist-the-european-migrant-crisis/
10: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/02/david-cameron-migration-crisis-will-not-be-solved-by-uk-taking-in-more-refugees
11: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/26/nhs-foreign-nationals-immigration-health-service
12: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/aug/10/10-truths-about-europes-refugee-crisis
13: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-scotland-32236184
14: https://irtodayblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/viewpoint-of-a-nationalist-the-european-migrant-crisis/
15: http://speisa.com/modules/articles/index.php/item.1219/the-wealthy-saudi-arabia-and-the-other-gulf-states-receive-zero-syrian-refugees.html
16: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/sunni-monarchs-back-youtube-hate-preachers-antishia-propaganda-threatens-a-sectarian-civil-war-which-will-engulf-the-entire-muslim-world-9028538.html

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