Frustrated by the West, Turkey looks East to mend ties and transform regional dynamics

The recent mending of ties between Russia and Turkey comes almost 9 months after the ill-fated Turkish shooting of a Russian jet that saw relations plummet to historic lows. The tune of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after the patching up of ties was a far cry from months of harsh rhetoric, economic sanctions and deep animosity.

This sudden thawing of ties has been on the card for a few weeks as Erdogan tried to mend ties with Moscow with a number of reconciliatory statements. There is no doubt that improvement of ties is linked directly with the failed military coup in Turkey last month. Erdogan, AKP and Turkey were rocked by the coup and have been vociferous in their disappointment of the EU and US response.

Ankara even made a thinly veiled threat to leave NATO owing to the lack of support since the coup, western criticism of the strong post-coup crackdown and EU threats to end Turkish EU membership bid if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty. The US on the other hand has refused to extradite exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan accuses of spear-heading the coup.

Turkey has also suffered greatly from an economic angle since the downing of the jet with bilateral trade significantly hit as a result of the Russian sanctions. At the same time, Turkey was already experiencing somewhat frosty relations with the EU and US even before the coup over developments in Syrian and the region, such as US support for the Syrian Kurdish fighters who Turkey deems as terrorists but who are in fact the most effective group against the Islamic State (IS). EU and US have been consistently critical that Turkey could have done much more to stem the flow of IS fighters and arms across its porous border. Then relations with EU soured further over the migrant deal which Turkey has criticized and even now is not fully implemented.

Turkey could not sit idle with a lukewarm West on the one hand and a bitter and powerful Russia on East. Any less favorable view of the West for Turkey, invariably means that Turkey will turn further east towards Russia. Restoration of economic ties and tourism is an obvious benefit but Turkey gets a natural leverage against NATO and the West with the revival of ties with Russia. It’s showing Western powers that Turkey does not need them that they need Turkey and that Turkish foreign policy is dynamic enough to deal with the changing socio-political picture in the Middle East.

Russia also benefits from resumption of trade and a warmer Turkey that may help to boost Russian strategic influence in the Middle East that it craves as well as diluting Western leverage in the region. It also speeds up the deal to provide natural gas to Europe via Turkey. Turkey, of course, relies heavily on Russian gas for its needs.

At a critical juncture in Syria and the Middle East, the warming of ties adds another angle to an already complicated Middle Eastern picture. However, economic and energy ties are easiest to fix. No side really benefits from loss of trade and lucrative energy deals. But on the political front it’s much trickier.

9 months of fierce rhetoric and rock bottom ties will not heal overnight. Neither will their entrenched positions on Syria. Turkey is unlikely to forgo its support of Syrian rebels and Russia is obviously a huge backer of the Syrian regime. But it may increase the chance of some compromise over the fate of Assad and certainly a closer cooperation to deal with IS as a counter weight to US led coalition efforts against the same group.

Ultimately, the biggest bargaining chips is the Kurdish forces in Syria that are enjoying a stronger autonomy and strategic standing by the day. Turkey can much more readily accept a Syrian reality that does not match their objectives and vision if the price is that Syrian Kurds are stifled and Russia gives up support for them.

Can Turkey force Russian hands on Syrian Kurdish support and autonomy? Can Turkey accept Assad to stay in power if Russian concedes on key Turkish demands?

Key bilateral relations that are dominated by two parties with different strategic agendas will have to make way for some tough compromises.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

As Turkey mend ties with Russia, what now for the changing dynamics in the region?

With a strong geopolitical standing, Turkey has historically been a keen lever between the East and West. After increasingly lukewarm relations with its NATO allies in the West in recent years and a bitter feud with the biggest Eastern power in Russia, Turkey could not sit idle as its regional leverage was diluted and new events at home unfolded.

The mending of ties between Moscow and Ankara comes almost 9 months since the fatal downing of a Russian jet that propelled relations to historic lows. Now the tune of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin could not be more different.

The patching of ties has a number of angles but is certainly fuelled by the recent failed military coup in Turkey. Turkey was already at loggerheads with the US over support of Syrian Kurdish rebels whom Turkey accuses of been terrorists but who have proved by far the most effective group against the Islamic State (IS) and then there is the continuous friction with the EU over a migrant deal that even today is not fully implemented.

The failed coup rocked Erdogan, the AKP and Turkey leading to severe crackdown of opponents in various circles that has been criticized by the US and EU, not to mention the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty which would all but end any lingering hope of EU membership.

Erdogan has been heavily critical of US refusal to hand over exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen whom he accused of orchestrating the coup with thinly veiled threats that Washington would soon need to choose between Gulen and Turkey.

For the US and EU, Ankara remains a key ally but they have also grown frustrated in recent years as Ankara has driven a hard bargain over the migrant crisis, access to Turkish airbases and the lack of direct action against IS.

By papering over ties with Russia, there is obvious economic benefit as Russian sanctions took their toll on Turkey. However, Turkey is clearly showing their Western and NATO allies that Turkish foreign policy is dynamic enough to deal with the changing sociopolitical picture in the region. Turkey is demonstrating that they are not short of options and that the West is more in need of Turkey than any carrot of EU membership or ties with its western allies.

The thinly veiled threat from the Turkish Foreign Minister that they could leave NATO owed to lack of US and EU support in the aftermath of the coup reinforces this point.

Russia, of course, gets numerous benefits of its own with a Turkey that is disappointed with their allies and turns to their shoulder. It boosts Russian quest to play a stronger strategic role in the Middle East and at the same time as diluting Western influence.

However, at the same time, months of animosity will not just evaporate overnight. Not without tough compromises from each side. For example, Ankara can stomach most Syrian realities, even if it includes Assad, if it somehow curtails the increasing strategic and powerful Syrian Kurdish forces who enjoy a great deal of autonomy.

But it remains to be seen if Russian would drop their support of Syrian Kurdish forces or on the other hand if Turkey could drop its strong support of Syrian opposition.

Either way, a Turkey that is leaning increasingly towards the East, transforms an already complicated Middle Eastern picture. The extent of any new reality depends on US action on Gulen, whether EU will continue to appease Turkey to shore up the migrant deal and whether Russian and Turkey can bridge their differences over Assad and the Kurds.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

The liberation of Mosul rest on the Kurds

If the liberation of Ramadi, Tikrit, Sinjar and more recently Manbij in Syria proved painful and tricky leading to streams of refugees, then Mosul will prove much worse.

Islamic State (IS) has held Mosul for over two years. If the liberation was anything other than bloody and complicated, then it would not have taken months of planning.

The battle for Mosul raises more questions than answers for Baghdad. IS would not have rolled into Mosul with such ease if it did not have support of some locals and various other armed Sunni groups. Without addressing the sectarian discord that plagued Mosul and Sunni heartlands long before IS was even established, the post-liberation of Mosul will provide much trickier to manoeuvre.

Then there is the thousands of civilians that will flee the city, mostly like to the relative safety of Kurdistan. Kurdistan already houses 1.8 million internally displaces persons at a great financial burden that mostly goes unnoticed.

The Iraqi Defence Minister Khalid Obeidi recently warned that the Iraqi government will not allow the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to liberate the city of Mosul. This was compounded by threats from Shia Popular Mobilization Units for Kurdish forces not to enter Mosul.

Ironically, the Shiite militias are likely to play a more effective role than the actual Iraqi army in any battle for Mosul. If Peshmerga are deemed as too sensitive to be deployed within the mainly Sunni city, then the presence of these militias will hardly soothe sectarian tensions. At least, there is a large population of Kurds in Mosul.

For all these warnings, there is no way that Mosul can be liberated without the support of the Peshmerga regardless of any coalition firepower. This was acknowledged by Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, who stated that Mosul operations without the Peshmerga will be impossible. However, Barzani stressed that “they will have supportive role but will not enter the city”.

The importance of the Peshmerga is not lost on the United States who relies heavily on the Kurdish forces. This culminated in a recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between US and Kurdish officials in recent weeks that included provisions of military support to the Peshmerga forces.

Too often US has tip-toed around Baghdad when dealing with the Kurds due to political sensitivities but with the huge sacrifices of the Peshmerga, their critical role both now and the future and the much changed socio-political landscape in Iraq across the Middle East, the Kurds must be dealt with in their own right.

It’s disrespectful to Kurdish sacrifices to deal with Kurdistan through Baghdad when both zones are separated from each other and the Kurds have been all bu

Terror in Europe and the Middle East is one and the same

With Europe still recovering from the Nice massacre a little over a week ago that saw 84 people killed and 303 injured when a French-Tunisian terrorist chillingly drove a 19-tonne lorry into large crowds watching fireworks on Bastille Day in Nice, Germany was coming to terms with a shocking attack of its own on Friday.

An 18-year old German-Iranian gunman went on a shooting rampage in a busy Munich shopping centre killing 9 people and wounding 16 more. The motives of the gunman are not clear and he is believed to have acted alone but nevertheless the end outcome is the same.

Such attacks in France, Belgium and now Germany naturally strike fear and anxiety into the hearts of the population. IS have already threatened Nice-style attacks on popular parts of central London

The Munich attack comes just days after an Afghan teenager wounded four people in an axe and knife attack on a train near Wuerzberg.

Whether any act is done in the name of the Islamist State (IS) or not, these shooting attacks are clearly influenced by the mass terror that is perpetrating across Europe and the Middle East.

The fact that many of the attackers are not migrants from Iraq, Syria or beyond but citizens of the country they attack only makes the matter worse as it intensifies Islamaphobia and increases the ethno social divide.

Whilst the European governments are increasingly rattled by each attack leading to stronger security measures as well as airstrikes on IS targets, the seeds of this problem were sown long ago. Hardline groups were largely unhindered in Syria as the civil war spiraled from 2011 and in some cases even tolerated as a card to defeat Bashar al-Assad.

IS did not just dominate huge swathes of territory, possess thousands of fighters and advanced weaponry or revenues of millions of dollars a month overnight.

Now many yearn for the stable rule under Assad than the continued chaos and suffering gripping Syria whose outcomes are clearly felt across the globe.

Too often conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East are seen as battles in distant lands. Whilst the increasing attacks on the West were always going to dominate the media and unnerve the populations, it should not be viewed differently from attacks across the Middle East that often receive much less attention.

In the run up to the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Fitr, at least 200 people were killed as an IS suicide bomber struck a bustling market area in Baghdad. The Baghdad attack on the heels of massacres in Bangladesh, Turkey, Yemen, Lebanon and Jordan

The war on terror does not end or begin in Middle East or Europe, it’s one and the same and the devastation should not be viewed differently by any part.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Failed military coup only tip of the ice-berg for a highly polarised Turkey

The dramatic failed military coup that sent shockwaves across Turkey and the world may have quickly subsided but the aftermath of the events will be felt for much longer.

Whether it was just a faction of the military or not, it was no small matter. The coup forces ranged from low-ranking soldiers to senior officers demonstrating the broad nature of the move. Furthermore, it was not a handful of troops but several hundred that were able to deploy tanks and helicopters and carry out their moves with a degree of confidence and clear planning.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged triumphant by early Saturday morning but was clearly as shocked as any as the events initially unfolded with the government simply unable to comprehend the size and support of the coup. A president speaking by Skype on his mobile to address the nation speaks volumes.

Helicopters and fighter jets roaring above the sky, sound of heavy gunfire and explosions and tanks rumbling through the streets in Istanbul and Ankara hardly paint a picture of an isolated incident. However, the tide of the coup clearly turned as thousands of Erdogan supporters heeded his call and took to the streets.

The mass of supporters confronted the rebel soldiers and surrounded tanks. At time of reporting the government had stated that 104 coup plotters had been killed and over 2800 arrested whilst more than 90 people had died and over 1100 were injured.

Yet, it could have been a much worse bloodbath. Popular support against the rebel soldiers helped to quickly take the steam out of the coup attempt and any heavy handed retaliation against the supporters would have quickly turned into much wider scale of violence.

But the crisis is far from over and the post-mortem is likely to be painful and protracted. Erdogan was quick to blame the “parallel structure” in clear reference to influential exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen who denied any involvement but regardless of who takes the rap for the coup, the dramatic events shows the highly polarised nature of Turkey.

Erdogan may have strong support but he equally has many foes. Then there is battle of ideology, identity and nationalism seeing a deepening divide between Islamists and secularists, reformists and conservatists and not forgetting the great divide between Kurds and Turks with the PKK and government continuing to wage war.

A highly paranoid Erdogan has been swift to consolidate power and banish opposition voices. Now it seems that the failed coup justifies to Erdogan his instincts based on suspicion, distrust  and a sense of anxiety.

This means that Erdogan now holds even more ammunition to continue with policies against Gulen, dissident voices and those who he deems as terrorists. As Erdogan dramatically arrived in Istanbul on the morning of the coup he decried that “What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price.”

The number of arrests in Turkey quickly accelerated and is likely to yield thousands more in the coming days.

The fact that Erdogan urged his followers to remain on the streets and in key public places in case of a second coup demonstrate the fragile nature of the state. Erdogan and the AKP clearly realise that the coup attempt goes much deeper than those soldiers and generals involved.

The post-mortem will be harsh and messy and may only lead to a deeper polarisation of opposing camps. Erdogan called the failed coup a divine gift so that certain conspiring forces can be weeded out. And ironically, the coup strengthens Erdogan’s hand than really weaken his grip, allowing him to move more confidently towards the strong presidential system he craves.

The coup against a democratically elected government, whatever the scale of the country’s polarisation, was always going to be denounced by European and global powers.

The West have always looked at Turkey as a model of democracy in a fiery region but Turkey is much of a powder-keg as any.

The polarisation of Turkey into many camps naturally weakens the fight against the Islamic State (IS) or attempts to ferment regional stability.

Many of the battles between the Islamic, secularists, nationalists and reformists span many decades and has never really subsided but only contained. One of these old battles is of course the Kurdish issue. For decades, Ankara has been cutting the branches and not dealing with the root of the problems that has led to vicious cycle of war.

Hundreds of people have been killed in south east of Turkey in recent months but this has received little coverage than any event in west of Turkey as it has simply become normal to accept bloodshed in Kurdish parts of Turkey and accept them as by-products of terrorism and not as one of the many imbalances in the setup or health of the state.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Failed coup attempt provides Erdogan with new ammunition

The failed military coup in Turkey was intended to usher a new order, however, in the end it was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that emerged with a stronger hand and a great opportunity.

Dramatic footage as the coup unfolded of heavy gunfire, tanks and helicopters resembled a war zone. A weary looking Erdogan addressing the nation via FaceTime on his mobile summed up the uncertainty and desperation of the government as the coup unfolded.

Thousands of Erdogan supporters heeded his call and took to the streets effectively blunting the coup and eventually allowing the pro-government forces to wrestle back control.

As a sense of normality seemingly returned to Turkey, the aftermath of the dramatic events will echo much louder.

Erdogan has long tried to dampen dissident voices and stifle opposition circles. Erdogan can now clearly argue that his suspicion and distrust of the so called “parallel infrastructure” was not so far-fetched after all. He now has strong grounds to consolidate power, move towards his ambition of a presidential system and deal with long-time foe and influential exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen who he accused of perpetrating the coup.

Gulen was quick to deny any involvement but the AKP strongly pressured Washington to extradite him.

As the arrests quickly stacked up in the aftermath of the failed coup, thousands more can be expected in the coming days. There is even talk in Turkey of reinstating the death penalty. Either way, the government will come down hard and will point to the thousands of supporters on the streets as testimony to the endorsement of his policies.

However, do the thousands of supporters that ultimately helped the government emerge triumphant really paint the full picture?

The simple answer is that a highly polarised Turkey has been on the edge for some time. There are conflicting camps of Islamists, secularists, nationalists, reformists and not to mention inter-ethnic strife with the Kurds highlighted by a raging war against the PKK and unrest in the south east.

Erdogan may enjoy strong support but this should not mask his many opponents either. The fact that Erdogan and the AKP urged their supporter to remain vigilant in the face of any secondary coup attempt highlighted the vulnerabilities and uncertainties that remain.

Whilst the failed coup gives the government a strong card, it hardly means that the polarisation is about to disappear. For example, any arrest of Gulen or his extradition to Turkey will quickly expose loyalties.

Furthermore, to just point to the coup as a work of a small minority is short-sighted. The coup plotters involved hundreds of figures from senior generals to low ranking soldiers. They clearly must have enjoyed support and encouragement from non-military circles. A coup doesn’t just come about at a moment’s notice without careful planning.

The coup plot may leave Erdogan with a stronger hand but not necessarily a stronger Turkey. It has too often skimmed over the hostility of rival camps or stifled dissident voices. With so many conflicting sides having different interests in the makeup and future of the country, further turmoil is only a natural by-product.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Aftermath of Chilcot Report – Iraqi invasion through narrow lens and overlooking inhumanity

The obsession with the legitimacy, legality and value of the invasion of Iraq and the ousting of Saddam Hussein from power in 2003 was renewed with the release of the Chilcot Report.

The much anticipated report by John Chilcot gave fresh fuel to sceptics of the invasion in the UK and the West with mass media focus on the anarchy and mass suffering unleashed by the decision to remove Saddam by George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

However, the war is been viewed with narrow lens and without any real perspective.

Can the numerous fires raging across Iraq and the Middle East really be ascribed to the downfall of Saddam and were Iraqis better off under Saddam’s rule?

It is often overlooked why Iraq enjoyed relative stability under Saddam. It was not due to charismatic and popular leadership but owed to his iron-fisted rule and zero tolerance to the various uprisings launched by the Kurds and Shiites.

This week, US presidential candidate, Donald Trump, even went as far as praising Saddam for his stance against terrorists. Yet, these same “terrorists” were Kurds who were battling decades of repression, campaigns of genocide and even chemical attacks.

Saddam was not in power for a year or two by the time he was toppled, he had ruled since 1979. Mass graves from Saddam’s tenure are still been unearthed. These graves did not discriminate between men, women or children – it was all the same to the Baathist regime.

Regardless of flawed Western intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) capability at time of invasion, Saddam had already expressed his ease in deploying such weapons in Halabja as well as on Iranian forces.

Moreover, anyone who can raze thousands of villages, murder thousands of civilians and repress and torture en-mass does more damage than any WMD could ever do. Dictators such as Saddam are no different to any WMD.

Then there is the notion that the overthrow of Saddam started the anarchy that is rife across the Middle East and even led to the rise of the Islamic State (IS). An invasion of a country cannot be attributed to centuries of sectarian animosity or ethnic strife. Western and regional foreign policy mistakes since 2003 such as those that led to IS, cannot be masked every time by the Iraq invasion.

The seeds of discontent were sown in the Middle East long before Saddam was even born. The Sykes-Picot agreement that selfishly carved the Middle East was the real precursor to the flames of today.

Just because the effects of such arbitrary borders were masked by successive dictators across the Middle East does not justify the methods for the so-called stability of those regimes.

Sooner or later dictators fall and the injustice of the Middle Eastern landscape was always going to bite with or without Saddam.

One of those nations chained by history were the Kurds who have flourished under post-Saddam rule. Does the iron-fisted “stability” provided by Saddam justify holding a nation hostage to their human rights and freedoms?

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

West overlooks that Saddam was the ultimate weapon of mass destruction

13 years after the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, UK and Western media remain engrossed with the obsession that the actions of former U.S. President George W Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair unearthed the raging bull that is visible across the Middle East today.

The much-anticipated Chilcot Report drew a damning assessment with the notion that the UK decision was based on “flawed” intelligence leading to an invasion that went “badly wrong”.

The report was met with hysteria in the media with frequent pointing to Iraq as the original sin that highlight why the Islamic State (IS) was able to rise and unleash terror and why the Middle East is engulfed in flames.

Such viewpoints since 2003 simply fail to assess and accept the bigger picture.

The Iraqi invasion has also become an excuse for the numerous Western foreign policy failings since 2003 that ultimately allowed groups such as IS to flourish.

Evidence clearly points to a misalignment of evidence around Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction capability in 2003 but why is Saddam, Iraq or the Middle East been viewed with such narrow lens and lack of real perspective?

Saddam came to power in 1979, 24 years before the invasion of Iraq. Saddam was not any ruler, he was a brutal dictator who knew how to placate and control a disparate nation.

The seeds of the wide discontent on show today in Iraq and Middle East go well beyond 2003, the aftermath of the Arab Spring or even the birth of Saddam. The ultimate root cause is that Iraq and much of the Middle East was arbitrarily thrown together to fulfil selfish imperial interests.

There may have been relative stability in southern Iraq under Saddam compared to mass violence and chaos of today, but this was due to the iron fist rule of Saddam than due to a charming and popular leader who represented or was admired by the whole country.

Then of course, is the baffling disregard by Western critics of the Iraq war on the campaigns of genocide against the Kurds. Was the pre-2003 era really that glorious or are these so called experts picking and choosing facts to serve their arguments rather than viewing the bigger picture?

How can anyone overlook the devastating chemical bombing of Halabja in 1988 where thousands perished symbolised by mothers and fathers died on the spot holding their infants? Where even today the population and surrounding lands pay a price.

Thousands of Kurdish villages were razed in broad daylight and thousands more Kurds were confined to mass graves under the infamous Anfal campaign. Many of these mass graves have only been discovered after the overthrow of Saddam.

To those who question Saddam’s capability to possess and use WMDs need to look no further than Halabja. However, the biggest WMD remains to be Saddam himself.

The Kurds have flourished remarkably under self-rule and in their dawn of freedom. Kurdistan forms a sizable portion of Iraq, so how can the successful Kurdistan model be ignored with focus on Baghdad and the Sunni triangle that has been the hotbed of violence?

The real question is why topple Saddam in 2003? Why not when he committed such grave acts against his own population or when he launched a devastating war on Iran or when then invaded Kuwait? The simple answer is that Saddam’s barbarous rule was masked as he served Western interests.

Is it really the fault of Blair and Bush that Sunnis and Shiites have held centuries of animosity? Is it really their fault that Iraq, even with the advent of democracy, has been ruled by corruption, controversy and policies that have widened the ethno-sectarian divide than really unite a country?

The notion that Iraq would have been a better place today if Saddam remained in power is seen through narrow and tainted lens. No dictator can survive forever!

Yes, Middle East was more stable under Saddam and prior to the Arab Spring but this was all due to a common factor – the unsustainable scenario of dictators who ruled with a strong hand.

The invasion of Iraq simply opened Pandora’s Box. With the artificial ethno-sectarian lines across the Middle East, sooner or later the locked-up devil would have been unleashed.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

UK exit is as much a question of the fabric of the EU as the future of the UK

The UK referendum on EU membership was always going to be a tenuous and divisive affair whose impact would echo well beyond these shores.

European and world leaders woke up to a new reality on Friday as the exit camp won the day against polling projections. Fluctuations in the Pound were as wild as predictions ahead of the final vote. It was a tight race that threatens to intensify the deepening divisions within the UK.

51.9% may have voted for an exit but the 48.1% that wanted to remain can hardly be ignored. Nor can the stark regional variations to the vote. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted resoundingly to remain clouding the long-term future of the UK.

Scotland will almost certainly hold a new independence referendum and Northern Ireland may well face sociopolitical uncertainty with calls for a referendum to unite both parts of Ireland.

The exit vote is a test of the strength of the union. Will the allegiance to the union overpower the desire to be part of the EU?

UK exit means stepping in to the unknown and thus global markets were always braced for turmoil in case of an exit. It will take many years for the dust to settle and for the full economic and political effects to be known.

However, exit of the EU does not mean that the UK is no longer influential on the European or global stage. The UK had a prominent economic and strategic role long before the EU was established and in spite of scaremongering, the EU powers are not about to alienate the UK and sacrifice the trade links that are vital for each side.

At the same time, UK will continue to have a strong voice in geopolitical and security matters. In other words, the end of a formal union does not mean the end of long-standing alliances with many of these member states, even if the UK always had somewhat of a Eurosceptic view and a strong desire for sovereignty.

UK trade ties with US and other major economies will not suddenly evaporate even if the terms of such agreements will naturally have to be reviewed and renegotiated.

As questions are asked of the future of the UK, there is equal spotlight on the future of the EU. Is a UK exit a one-off fire that will quickly disappear, or does the exit mark intrinsic problems with the very fabric of the EU that must be addressed before it leads its wider unravelling?

A period of self-reflection is needed as much for the EU as the UK. Nationalist and disenchanted voices in France, Germany and beyond are already calling for referendums of their own. This is a test for the future of the EU as much as the UK.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

The wide ramifications of UK exit from the EU as economic and political uncertainty ushers a new era

The UK referendum on whether to remain or exit the European Union was always going to be a highly emotive, divisive and controversial affair, and it certainly did not disappoint.

The Brexit campaign divided the nation, political parties and businesses with claims and counter claims and campaigns of fear. Topics such as immigration, economic ramifications and national sovereignty played on the minds of many. It was projected to be a very tight contest but Remain camp lingered firmly in the driving seat on referendum day.

However, it was the Exit camp that won the day with 51.9% of the vote with Britons, Europeans and global powers waking up to a new reality that sent shockwaves across the continent.

The value of the Pound against the Dollar see-sawed wildly on the night before settling at lows not witnessed since 1985. The global markets were braced for turmoil and this was even before UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation in a teary speech.

Fluctuations and anxiety in markets are to be expected, after all, we are entering the unknown. The UK has two years to negotiate its exit once it invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Economic uncertainty is topped by a deepening national divide. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to remain. An exit from the EU, now threatens the very existence of the UK with Scotland very likely to press ahead with a second referendum on independence with view to rejoining the EU.

There is already much talk of a referendum on uniting both parts of Ireland after the Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. Allegiance to the UK will be tested versus desire for EU membership.

This social, political and economic uncertainty will take time to settle. But once the dust eventually settles, it remains unclear exactly what UK is left behind. However, in spite of all the scaremongering, pulling out of the EU is one thing and pulling out of the European continent is another.

The UK has always had a firm and influential place in Europe and this will not change. UK’s long-standing strategic ties with major powers and key global economies is not about to dissipate either as a result of the vote.  Existing the EU does not mean that countries such as France or Germany will stop trading with the UK or will not work with UK in key geopolitical and security matters. Nor will it mean an end to the free movement of people.

Putting stringent borders between UK and EU will benefit no side. It just means that the terms of engagement will be different and no party is bound by any common law except mutual interests.

The web of years of EU legislation will naturally take time to untangle and the period of uncertainty is hard to quantify.

But the UK’s decision to leave the EU has as wide ramifications for the EU as it does for the UK. EU leaders have a battle on their hand to ensure that the UK leaving is a solitary fire that they can quickly extinguish. But anti-EU voices are already growing in France, Germany and Denmark. Discontented nationalists are already pushing for referendums of their own.

Now the arduous task of exit negotiations with the EU will begin. As much as the EU will still rely on trade and political ties with UK, they will hardly roll the red carpet for an easy exit either.

The EU will not want to alienate the UK as it will backfire and harm their own interests but it will equally want to make a show of the exit as a warning to all member states. Either way, the EU will never be the same again and is in desperate need to reform and face a tough period of self-reflection.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc