Powder Kegs Exploding: Violence Escalates In Turkey, Yemen As Mid-East Tips Towards Chaos

On Friday we checked in on two of the world’s most important conflicts: 1) that which is unfolding in Turkey where President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has effectively granted Washington access to Incirlik (you know, for “anti-terror” sorties) in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence to a brutal crackdown on the Kurds as AKP looks to usurp Turkey's fragile deomcracy, and 2) that which is unfolding in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting to restore the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. 

In Turkey, Erdogan has successfully undermined the coalition building process necessitating new elections in November when he hopes the escalation of violence across the country will prompt voters to restore AKP’s parliamentary majority allowing the President to rewrite the constitution and consolidate his power. Journalists are being arrested, a terror “tip line” has been set up, a 24-hour Erodgan Presidential TV channel is in the works, and the country has, for all intents and purposes, been plunged into civil war with ISIS acting as a smokescreen for Erdogan’s power grab. 

As for Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthis have been driven back by Saudi and UAE troops but the problem, as WSJ noted last week, is that the ragtag militia in Aden is “a motley group that spans the spectrum from southern secessionists to ultraconservative Salafi Islamists to supporters of al Qaeda." In other words, it doesn't seem all that far-fetched to suggest that should restoring Hadi ultimately prove to be impossible, an independent South Yemen could end up falling into the hands of extremists, which would be ironic not only for the fact that it would represent the latest example of US foreign policy gone horribly awry, but also because according to at least one source, the Saleh government - whose fighters are now allied with the Houthis - for years worked with AQP while accepting US anti-terror funding. Notably, were Yemen to split in two, it would also effectively create a permanent Iranian colony on Saudi Arabia's southern border.

In the two days since we detailed the latest on the two conflicts, both situations have deteriorated meaningfully. In Turkey, roadside bombs killed several Turkish soldiers on Sunday prompting a swift response from Ankara. Here’s more from Rudaw:

Several Turkish soldiers were killed or wounded Sunday by roadside bombs blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, the official Anadolu Agency reported.


It said the Turkish air force had launched air raids on PKK targets in the country’s Kurdish southeast following the attack. 


“Explosives reportedly planted by PKK terrorists on a road in the southeastern Hakkari province on Sunday have killed and wounded several soldiers,” AA reported.


It said the attack took place in the town of Daglica in Yuksekova district on Sunday evening. The bombs reportedly went off near two Turkish military vehicles carrying soldiers.


Security sources said several soldiers were killed or wounded, AA reported, adding there was no official statement on casualties.


PKK’s armed wing the Peoples Defence Force (HPG) however, said in a statement that the roadside bomb killed 15 Turkish soldiers.


“Guerrillas conducted an action against Turkish soldiers in Geliye Doske (Dagl?ca) area in Hakkari's Gever (Yuksekova) district today afternoon, which left 15 soldiers dead,” said the HPG.


The group added that a number of weapons seized in the ambush.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the private ATV channel that the war on terror would be waged “with much greater determination” since the attack.

Yes, "much greater determination", which means more violence and more crackdowns on the media and anyone deemed to be a PKK sympathizer. Case in point, from AFP:

Supporters of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday stormed the headquarters of the Hurriyet newspaper in Istanbul after accusing the daily of misquoting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the publication said. 


A group of 150 people chanting slogans supporting the AKP pelted the offices of Hurriyet in Istanbul's Bagcilar district with rocks, knocking out windows and the front door.

It’s worth noting that a military campaign waged with “much greater determination” also means traders will continue to pressure the lira and Turkish stocks - and they too, will employ “much greater determination”: 

“One thing that all market participants agree on is continued volatility in the Turkish markets on global turmoil and political and geopolitical risk in Turkey,” Gulsen Ayaz, a director of institutional equity sales at Deniz Yatirim in Istanbul, told Bloomberg by e-mail. “Yesterday’s attack by the PKK has once again heightened the latter and the markets are pricing this.”

Of course as Erdogan will be happy to tell you, this could all have been avoided if voters had simply cast their ballot for AKP in June. Again, from AFP

"If a party had got 400 seats in the elections and reached the required number in parliament to change the constitution, the situation would be different," he said in a live interview with pro-government A-Haber channel. 

The violence and market turmoil comes on the heels of a two-day G20 meeting in Ankara. 

Meanwhile, in Yemen, the Houthis carried out the deadliest strike yet on the Saudi coalition killing 45 UAE troops when a missle hit a weapons depot in Marib province on Friday. “The sands of Marib are swallowing the invaders and their mercenaries," a Houthi official purportedly said on Twitter.

That attack - which also killed 10 Saudis - has precipitated stepped up airstrikes and now, the deployment of more thatn 1,000 troops from Qatar. Here's Bloomberg

Gulf Arab nations are expanding the ground war in Yemen, pouring more troops into the country to defeat Houthi rebels they say are backed by regional rival Iran.


About 1,000 troops from Qatar entered Yemen on Sunday from the Wadia post on the border with Saudi Arabia, the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television reported. The soldiers, backed by armored vehicles and missile launchers, were on their way to Yemen’s oil-rich central Marib province, it said. Qatar’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.


The deployment comes after 45 troops from the United Arab Emirates and 10 Saudi soldiers were killed in Marib on Friday, the worst setback to date for the Saudi-led coalition since it began its offensive in March. Mounting losses will test the will of the Gulf states to extend their involvement after helping the internationally recognized government of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi retake parts of southern Yemen.


Expanding the ground war carries a “huge risk of heavy casualties” for the Gulf Arab monarchies, said Ibrahim Fraihat, senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. “Yemen has historically proved to be a very tough spot for foreign armies to fight and win.”

Maybe so, but if the coalition doesn't score a decisive victory over the Houthis it won't be for lack of trying because after all, the establishment of an Iranian proto-state on Saudi Arabia's southern border is absolutely out of the question in Riyadh's eyes. 

So as the coalition drives towards Sana'a - which the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper says will be "liberated" after a "decisive battle" in Marib - and as Turkey, the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar mull options for the final push to oust Assad in Syria, the only remaining question is whether Iran will remain on the sidelines and allow the Houthis to be routed and Assad deposed, or whether, like Moscow, Tehran finally decides that the time for rheotric has come to an end. 

And on that note, we'll close with the following from AP:

Iran's foreign minister on Monday criticized demands for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying such calls have prolonged the Arab country's civil war.


Mohammad Javad Zarif went so far as to say that those who have in the past years demanded Assad's ouster "are responsible for the bloodshed in Syria."