Published 21 April 2017
Eagle Eye Issue 284
Summary: The successful passage of a referendum aiding President Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate power in Turkey will likely mark the end of official resistance to the governing AKP and present challenges to Turkish democracy and relations with the EU.
Development: A constitutional referendum that changes the fundamental duties and powers of the president and parliamentary system of government was approved on 16 April by 51.41 percent of the vote. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) backed referendum includes articles that abolish the role of the prime minister, expand presidential terms by an additional year, shrink the size of the country’s highest judicial court to 13 from its original 22, and grant almost total control of appointment of ministers and senior public officials to the president. It should be noted that six of the justices on the highest court are appointed directly or indirectly by the president.
Turkish President Erdogan has urged Turkish citizens to respect the vote’s outcome, but a mid-election day change by the Supreme Electoral Council to allow non-stamped ballots, in addition to several accusations of voter irregularities, have led the Republican People’s Party (CHP) backed opposition to contest over 60 percent of the submitted votes. Following the election, Turkey’s parliament granted a three month extension of the state of emergency declared following the coup attempt in July 2016, with government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus stating that this extension serves to continue purging an alleged network of Fethullah Gulen supporters in the country.
Analysis: Despite its irregularities and controversies, President Erdogan is likely to treat the referendum as a mandate to continue his campaign against the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), other Kurdish militants and alleged Gulen-supporters in Turkey as well as in Syria. While Turkey’s High Electoral Board has stated that it will evaluate complaints and appeals on the referendum on 19 April, it remains unlikely that the opposition will be able to reverse the outcome, both due to the consolidation of power gathered by Erdogan in the purges of officials and judges following the July coup and the popular support Erdogan is able to draw on from alleged public pressuring and intimidation. A continuation of these purges from public offices is likely to continue, as Erdogan seeks to ensure the AKP domination of Parliament necessary for maintaining control of the Turkish government. Given the extensive purging of high ranking officials in both the military and the state government (Erdogan boasted in February of approximately 43,000 arrests and 95,000 firings from state posts since the coup), the capacity for the Turkish military to act as the guardians of the country’s democratic and secular Ataturk values will remain weak if not non-existent.
Erdogan’s proposal for a referendum to revive the death penalty carries serious weight in light of these purges, as this would dramatically expand his party’s ability to suppress and intimidate parliamentary and public opposition to expansions of the AKP and Erdogan’s control. In the short term, Erdogan holds both the political mandate due to the referendum results, as well as the popular support to continue with his expansion provided he continues to garner patriotic support toward his party following the failed coup. This is likely to take the form of greater dismissal and a belligerent attitude toward Europe as a means of fueling nationalist support.
In the short term, this is unlikely to affect Turkish-US relations, as President Trump has both congratulated Erdogan on the results and pledged close cooperation with Turkey in Syria in the fight against Kurdish militants, according to Turkish presidential sources. Despite this, Turkey and the US have different definitions regarding which Kurdish militants are a threat and should be targeted. On a separate note, Turkish relations with Europe are likely to degrade. During his bid to get the referendum passed, Erdogan insulted European nations and showed contempt for democratic values. The EU may not take action against Turkey given the current Brexit negotiations, but it is likely that cooperation between Turkey and the EU will be stifled. The referendum could be particularly devastating for Greece, which has been in dispute with Turkey over multiple issues dating back to the failed Turkish coup.
If the US decides to boost support against the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG), and the veracity of the reporting from Turkey is difficult to ascertain given the biased media, there will likely be a significant impact on the maneuvering and activity of the YPG operating in Syria. The YPG has already clashed several times with Turkish forces in Operation Euphrates Shield but the US has supported the group in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). However, the extent the referendum will affect YPG operations remains to be seen, as this depends on the extent to which the YPG expansion moves westward, toward Turkey’s border.
[Jake Delinger and Eagle Eye Editing Board]
On 18 April, French authorities arrested several suspects in coordination with a thwarted attack set to be conducted before the 23 April presidential election. National security topics are a key theme in the French presidential campaign. Candidate Marine Le Pen strengthened her stance on foreign extremists and border controls after the arrests.
[Madison Landry, email@example.com]
On 17 April Pakistan’s military announced plans to build a fence along the 1,623 mile border with Afghanistan. Construction has begun in high threat zones, with 42 security posts completed and another 63 on the way. By the end of 2019 the fence should be completed with a total of 338 security posts. The fence is designed to prevent terrorist infiltration, which is currently a problem along the porous Afghan – Pakistani border.
On 17 April, two Russian TU-95 ‘Bear’ bombers were intercepted by US aircraft after they entered the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which extends 200 miles off the coast of any US area and is monitored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The bombers were flying in international airspace and were not required to file a flight plan per international law, as US airspace only extends 12 miles off the coast. However, entry into the ADIZ without a flight plan generally results in US interception of the aircraft for identification purposes. US aircraft escorted the bombers for approximately 12 minutes as they flew parallel to the Aleutian Islands, coming as far east as Kodiak Island, before turning back west.
[Kylin Andreotti, firstname.lastname@example.org]
It was reported on 19 April that Exxon Mobil representatives requested approval to resume the company’s Black Sea drilling venture with Russian firm Rosneft. Rosneft, headquartered near the Kremlin, is majority owned by the Russian government. The venture was stalled in 2014 due to the US sanctions on Russia but the request is being reconsidered by President Donald Trump’s administration.
[Madison Landry, email@example.com]
Summary: The deployment of US Marines to Northern Australia presents an opportunity for both Australian defense industries and the US armed forces to demonstrate their capabilities in the Pacific region without the fear of escalating tensions.
Development: On 18 April, the first of 1,250 US Marines scheduled to deploy to Northern Australia for six months arrived in Darwin, Australia, according to Marine commander Lieutenant Colonel Brian Middleton. The troops are part of a 25-year annual deployment program launched under the Obama Administration in 2011. 13 deployed aircraft will also be featured, the largest peacetime aircraft contingent to arrive in Australia. Lieutenant Colonel Middleton stated that the troops are expected to conduct military exercises alongside Australian and visiting Chinese troops. Additionally, the deployment will be the first in the program to include MV-22 Ospreys in its exercises.
Analysis: The deployment of US troops to Australia provides opportunities for the American military to demonstrate its capabilities in the region and for the Australian government to further expand its arms and military ties with the US. A demonstration of aquatic deployment and aircraft operations, including the capabilities of the MV-22 Osprey, compliments the shows of force in the past weeks by the US military. While the MV-22 has conducted long trips between the US and Asian nations before, the exercises will provide a safe environment in which to further demonstrate US aerial capability in Pacific regions. Meanwhile, this deployment is an excellent opportunity for the Australian defense industry to market its products to the United States. For instance, the Australian federal government launched cooperative initiatives such as the $550 million Next Generation Technologies fund in March of this year, and companies such as Kord Defence are directing marketing to branches of the military. Lastly, the deployment is a reminder to US allies in the South China Sea that the US is still paying attention despite initial fears of a more isolationist approach under the Trump administration.
[Jake Delinger firstname.lastname@example.org]
Summary: The CCP is increasing efforts to reduce corruption, but its attempts to do so could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy and increase domestic dissent rather than eliminate it.
Development: On 19 April, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) enacted a new policy that will require party officials to declare additional personal information to the Party. Some of the newly required information includes economic information, such as properties, assets, and income, as well as officials’ foreign travel and marital status. The CCP describes the measure as an effort to reduce corruption among government officials. The information audits can be conducted randomly and false reporting will be punished per the new law. Additionally, on 18 April Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to retain party loyalty and be aware of the political direction.
Analysis: Xi Jinping’s calls for reducing corruption are not new. In 2013 citizen groups within China called for greater transparency among the country’s officials. Xi has accused several key figures of corruption in his bid to pursue the “China Dream.” This new measure is also not particularly surprising given the CCP’s authoritarian nature. However, requiring intrusive information from such a large set of officials is likely to create backlash. The new measure also provides Xi and the CCP with a pretext to fine, fire, or imprison any officials who are not adhering to the CCP closely enough. By calling on the military to more strictly adhere to CCP standards, Xi appears concerned about the prospect of a rift between the PLA and CCP. This paranoia is natural given the PLA’s size and potential to conduct a power grab should it so desire. Yet, by increasing requirements on officials, the CCP could be creating more enemies than it is working to catch. China’s domestic security apparatus could easily be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information to sort through, assuming that intelligence agencies will be involved in the auditing process. For US intelligence services, recruiting sources in China could be made more difficult by this development, but opportunities for new types of corruption may spring up as a result of the CCP’s attempt to tighten control.
[Cameron McCauley, email@example.com]
Summary: British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a June general election deciding who will take Britain through the Brexit negotiations.
Development: British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on 18 April that she is calling for a June general election. The announcement came as a shock to many given May’s previous refusal to call for a snap election. Some 552 lawmakers out of 650 in Parliament approved the measure on 19 April. Opposition parties now only have about seven weeks to prepare for a vote that wasn’t supposed to happen for another three years. Polls suggest that May will emerge strengthened from this election due to a currently fractured Labour Party.
Analysis: It is believed that this election will be a way for May to increase political power domestically and enhance her leverage over Brussels during the Brexit negotiations. If everything works out as May hopes, then she will be reelected prime minister and will have a mandate to call for a hard Brexit. However, in the unlikely event the opposition wins they may use the opportunity to push their own political agenda and stall or reduce the terms of Brexit.
[Jess Embrey, Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org]
MONTENEGRO: Accession to NATO Confirmed by US
Summary: Montenegro’s acceptance to NATO by the US Senate likely encourages other Balkan NATO hopefuls and will almost certainly further strain Russian-US relations.
Development: On 11 April, President Trump signed off on a Senate resolution that approved Montenegro’s acceptance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Montenegro will become the 29th NATO member if accepted by the Netherlands and Spain. The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 13 April expressing its opinion that Montenegro’s inclusion in NATO will further destabilize the Balkan region. This follows a coup attempt on Montenegro’s prime minister last October, ostensibly to prevent the nation’s entrance into NATO. Montenegrin officials blamed Russia for the coup, while Russia dismissed those claims. On 13 April, Montenegrin officials charged 14 people, including two Russians, with plotting to overthrow parliament and assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
Analysis: Montenegro’s accession to NATO, despite it being a small nation, is vital for promoting stability and a pro-West climate in the Balkans. The country is also strategically located along the Adriatic coast, bordering NATO member nation Croatia and NATO hopefuls Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Montenegro’s entrance to NATO is crucial in that it encourages its neighbors to continue to pursue NATO membership, which will effectively keep the Adriatic coast closed to any potential Russian military usage. The US’s approval of Montenegro also comes as a check on Russian influence in the region. Russia is strongly opposed to the expansion of NATO and has consistently protested Montenegro’s accession to the organization. This move, however advantageous to the US, puts a further strain on US-Russian relations, as Russia views NATO as a threat to its own security. Russia had considered Montenegro well under its influence and may seek greater influence with other nations in the Balkans to deter them from NATO.
Summary: The US will deploy forces to train the Somali Army, but the efforts are not likely to help Somalia in the ongoing fight against al-Shabab because current foreign assistance has failed to significantly strengthen Somalian troops.
Development: On 14 April, US military officials confirmed plans to deploy about 40 troops to Mogadishu to train Somali National Army (SNA) forces fighting al-Shabab. The SNA currently lacks discipline, is poorly equipped, and has a low morale. Presently, the US has counter terrorism advisors in Somalia, and the United Kingdom and Turkey have already assisted with training Somali troops in addition to the 22,000 African Union (AU) soldiers aiding in the fight against al-Shabab.
Analysis: Despite the current foreign assistance to the SNA, it is still a mediocre combat force and 40 US soldiers will likely make little impact. While training boosts Somali efforts against al-Shabab, it does not address the root issues in the SNA. For instance, until foreign forces provide the SNA with weapons, it will remain ill-equipped. Additionally, US forces are unlikely to significantly change SNA soldiers’ morale until those soldiers feel a responsibility to Somalia. Furthermore, in comparing the 22,000 AU forces and British and Turkish training in SNA efforts against al-Shabaab, the assistance provided by 40 US troops remains minimal. Seeing as these foreign efforts will not address the issue of the SNA’s morale, discipline, or equipment, Somali forces will likely not see an improvement in the SNA’s strength against al-Shabaab. Deploying US troops represents a shift in US policy toward Somalia and may inadvertently increase al-Shabab’s effectiveness by allowing the terror group to focus its marketing on a fight with the West.
Summary: The UAE and Brazil recently agreed to let Emirati passport holders travel to Brazil without a visa, increasing Emirati global influence and threatening Saudi Arabia’s dominance.
Development: It was reported on 18 April that agreements between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Brazil will enable UAE passport holders to travel to Brazil without a visa, which was a previous requirement for any visit. A similar agreement was recently made with Argentina. In addition to lifting some visa requirements, the UAE has been opening consulates and embassies in Central and South America as a way to establish and/or strengthen diplomatic and economic ties in the region.
Analysis: Granting UAE passport holders the ability to travel without a visa to an increasing number of nations serves as part of an effort by the UAE to establish greater trade, tourism, foreign investment, and diplomatic ties internationally, as partially evidenced by the establishment of consulates and embassies. These all play into the UAE’s efforts to further diversifying its economy, as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are attempting to do. Saudi Arabia is trying to get more nations involved in its Vision 2030 plan and other Gulf nations seem to look to it as a model for economic diversification. Yet, the UAE has already made greater progress in increasing international trade, and decreasing its oil dependency by 25 percent. The likely belief is that if more diplomatic and economic relations are created, the UAE will gain more global influence. Assuming this progress continues, the UAE could surpass Saudi Arabia as the face of the Gulf nations. If the UAE comes to be seen as the more desirable partner, especially by Western nations, and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan does not produce the desired effect, Saudi Arabia’s influence could decline. Saudi’s reputation is already suffering due to its continued alleged human rights abuses, both in Yemen and domestically.
[Cat McClure, email@example.com]
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