Over a month after the February 6 earthquake the UN says parts of central and southern Turkey continue to face a humanitarian crisis. The quake registered 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale. The big earthquake and its aftershocks killed over 46,000 people in Turkey and damaged over 200,000 buildings (one report said 215,000). In the days following the quake over 70 aftershocks were recorded. The February 6 quake killed over 6,000 people in Syria. The Turkish government says around two million survivors are now living in temporary accommodations. A second earthquake occurred on February 20. It did far less damage but seriously hindered relief operations. All Turkish media report the February 6 quake as the worst natural disaster in the history of modern Turkey. There are political consequences. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing intense criticism for his slow response to the massively destructive February 6 earthquake and poor leadership decisions. Critics point out Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD, the agency tasked with handling the disaster) is run by a political appointee who has little emergency management experience. Since the quake Erdogan’s standing in polls has dropped. Now he is indicating he may delay elections beyond June 18. Turkey has a constitutional provision that says presidential and parliamentary (national) elections must be held by June 18. Opposition politicians contend Erdogan does not have the power to delay elections past June 18 and a delay would violate the constitution. The earthquakes have also made governmental failure to enforce construction standards an election issue. What lies behind the failure? A substantial number of citizens think it was corruption by national and local officials. Others point to occasional “construction amnesties” by the government to allow construction firms to ignore safety codes in areas where housing shortages exist. In 2018 Erdogan allowed one in the city of Kahramanmaras. In March 2019 he publicly touted new housing in Kahramanmaras as one of his administration’s major achievements. Most of the opposition parties have backed a single candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Subsequent national polls showed that Kilicdaroglu would receive 56.8 percent of the votes compared to 43.2 percent for Erdogan. (Austin Bay)
March 9, 2023: Turkish interference in Libyan internal affairs is making the formation of a Libyan national government even more difficult. The UN agrees that the Turkish demands are illegal but refuses to do much about it. That is actually normal for the UN. The United States and European governments are demanding that the UN act but the UN refuses without admitting that it is simply impossible for the UN to obtain enough international support to pressure the Turks to get out of Libya. UN efforts in Libya to help establish a national government have failed and are now seen as part of the problem. The UN still considers its efforts as a positive force in Libya. While most Libyans are ready to form a national government, the UN and Turkey remain the primary obstacles to achieving that. There are other obstacles, like Egypt, which has long been a major factor in Eastern Libya politics because the Egyptians want to look after the many Egyptians who work in Libya as well as keeping Islamic terrorists in Libya from getting into Egypt or smuggling weapons into Egypt.
March 7, 2023: Turkey’s energy ministry said that the earthquakes have delayed natural gas production from its new Black Sea offshore field. Production was supposed to begin the last week of March. Production may begin in April.
March 6, 2023: The Turkish government summoned the U.S. ambassador to express its disagreement with a trip to northeast Syria U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley made March 4. Milley visited a U.S. military mission located in territory controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a key ally of the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey contends the SDF is really part of the Syrian Kurd People's Protection Units (YPG). Turkey insists the YPG is a wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey regards the PKK and YPG as terrorist organizations.
March 5, 2023: The Turkish Navy quietly accepted delivery of its new flagship, the 27,000-ton LHD (Landing Helicopter Dock) Anadolu, which was designed to operate the F-35B VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) stealth fighter. The Turkish orders for F-35Bs were canceled in 2019 when Turkey received a Russian S400 air defense system. This was a security risk for NATO, which exists to protect member states from Russian aggression. With the S400 Turkey could not become part of the NATO air defense system and could not operate F-35s because these new aircraft contained a lot of top-secret tech that could be compromised because of the presence of the Russian air defense system. Turkey dismissed those concerns but its NATO allies thought otherwise and now Turkey cannot obtain F-35s.
March 4, 2023: Geologists and seismologists continue to analyze Turkey’s February quakes. The quakes occurred one along two “rupture” lines of the East Anatolian Fault. The more western quake (February 20) now has an estimated magnitude of 7.5 magnitude. The February 6 quake was 7.8 magnitude at its epicenter. Its rupture line runs almost 300 kilometers. The rupture stops just north of the port of Antakya (Antioch).
March 3, 2023: Based on February statistics, Turkey’s annual inflation is 55 percent. Turkey’s main opposition alliance, a coalition of six parties headed by the Kemalist Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Good Party (IYI) party has received a huge setback. Called the “table of six,” the alliance now has five members. Today IYI leader Meral Aksener indicated she intends to remove her party from the alliance. She objects to the alliance’s decision to select CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu as the nominee to face Erdogan in May’s presidential election. Aksener refuses to support Kilicdaroglu.
Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) reported it had killed a senior PKK commander in operations in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. The commander was identified as Saad Ali Badal. MIT claimed Badal planned to attack Turkish soldiers at a base in Bashiqa (Iraq, Nineveh province). It is believed Badal is connected to an attack on ethnic Turkmen in the city of Kirkuk (northern Iraq). The Turkmen belonged to the Iraqi Turkman’s Front. Badal allegedly has ties to Iran.
The Israeli domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet, similar to the British MI5) revealed that it had arrested four members of a Hamas terrorist cell (group) that had received training in Syria and Turkey before returning to the West Bank, where they were arrested.
March 1, 2023: President Erdogan now says the national elections will be held on May 14. That is about a month sooner than everyone else anticipated. In fact, the polls were scheduled for June 18. Erdogan’s call for May 14 caught the country but especially his political opponents, off guard. For Erdogan May 14 has historical significance that he thinks benefits him politically. On May 14, 1950 Adnan Menderes was elected prime minister. Menderes was the first Turkish leader to be elected in a multiparty election (multiparty system). Menderes was hanged for treason in September 1961. The junta established following the 1960 military coup regarded Menderes as an enemy of the state. Erdogan calls Menderes his political inspiration. Erdogan is trying to connect the coup that toppled Menderes to the curious attempted coup Erdogan faced in July 2016. but is really trying to get the public to ignore Turkey’s economic and fiscal mess which he is mostly responsible for, particularly all the money wasted in corruption. In Fall 2022 annual inflation hit 86 percent, a 24-year high. Erdogan is also silencing and jailing his opponents.
At the G20 meeting in New Delhi, India, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The diplomats discussed diplomatic efforts to “normalize” relations between Turkey and Syria’s Assad dictatorship.
February 28, 2023: Relief agencies now estimate the February 6 earthquake killed 6,000 people in Syria. The total dead in Turkey has now risen to 46,000 (February 6 quake). There is serious damage to infrastructure in both countries. The February 20 quake injured around 150 people in Syria. The February 20 quake killed at least three people in Turkey and injured around 200. At least three people remain missing.
February 27, 2023: The U.S. is sending a military mobile field hospital to Turkey to aid earthquake victims. The hospital has an emergency room, two operating rooms and an intensive care unit. It has 100 patient beds. The hospital is also fully supplied with medical equipment and supplies.
February 24, 2023: The latest death toll for the February 6 quake stands at 44,000, but recovery crews continue to find bodies. Rescuers are also responding to the February 20 quake. The government has arrested another 80 people for “complicity in the collapse of buildings” in February’s earthquakes. That brings the total arrest to over 180.
February 20, 2023: A second earthquake struck southern Turkey. The initial measurement is magnitude 5.8. The rupture line is west of the February 6 quake and runs through south central Turkey. The town of Kahramanmaras (also known as Maras) lies between the February 6 and February 20 rupture lines.
February 19, 2023: In northwest Syria (Idlib province) fighting resumed in the northern part of the province where there was much damage and over 20o deaths as a result of the February 6 earthquake. There was also damage to local housing and buildings used by relief agencies. The families of the Islamic terrorists depend on food aid trucked in from Turkey. The road has been closed because the quake damage most much more severe in Turkey. The informal truce in Idlib province was a day-to-day thing and was not expected to last long.
February 18, 2023: Analysis of the February 6 earthquake continues, as do aftershocks. 11 days after the quake more bodies are being recovered. Seismologists now say the quake registered at 7.8 on the Richter scale.
February 17, 2023: Finland is concerned that the Turkish earthquakes will further delay its bid to join NATO. So far 28 members of NATO have approved Finland’s and Sweden’s applications. Hungary and Turkey have yet to act. A senior Finnish official said it is up to Turkey to decide if it wants to treat Finland and Sweden differently.
February 13, 2023: In the wake of the February 6 earthquake, Turkish authorities announced they have issued over 100 arrest warrants for individuals involved in constructing buildings that did not meet construction standards and collapsed in the earthquake. The arrest warrants include engineers and architects as well as the construction contractors. The arrests may not appease angry citizens who are accusing the government for failing to enforce construction standards. Opposition politicians are already calling for corruption investigations.
February 9, 2023: The government confirmed it is using Aksungur military UAVs to transmit live video of the areas hit by the February 6 earthquake.
February 8, 2023: Seismologists report the February 6 earthquake was a 7.5 to 7.8 magnitude quake – huge. An estimated 6,000 buildings have collapsed in Turkey.
February 7, 2023: A Day after a major earthquake near the Syrian border, the extent of the Turkish losses became clear. Over 40,000 died and many more were injured. Several hundred Turks were left homeless and the financial cost was estimated at over $80 billion. This disaster puts more pressure on the Turkish government to pull their forces out of Libya. While most nations sent emergency aid to Turkey, international pressure is still on to get the Turks out of Libya. The Turks never had many Turkish troops in Libya because if any of these were killed it would cause a political crisis back in Turkey. The actual combat in Libya took place during the first ten months of 2020 and caused about 2,000 deaths, most of them Libyans. Since then, a handful of Turks and several thousand Arab mercenaries have, at a cost of over five million dollars a year, remain in Libya. With the earthquake, just having these expensive forces in Libya is a problem. National elections in Turkey this year mean that if current leader Erdogan fails to get reelected, that would probably lead to the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Libya. Even before the earthquake, Turkish voters were angry with Erdogan’s economic failures. Maintaining troops in Libya is not only expensive but has produced no economic benefits for Turkey and caused growing international criticism, including disputes with NATO allies and Western economics in general.
February 6, 2023: Major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria today. The East Anatolian Fault is a complex fault with several “rupture lines.” Its general direction is north to south. The earthquake registered 7.8, on a scale where anything over six is considered major, devastated the Turkish-Syrian border in northeast Syria. Iran ordered its Islamic terrorists support units (Quds Force) in the area to provide any quake relief they are capable of. Some other Islamic terrorist groups did the same. This has long been a major combat zone on the Syrian side of the border. Most of the earthquake damage took place on the Turkish side. Total deaths are expected to exceed 50,000 and the total won't be known until the massive numbers of collapsed structures, especially in residential areas, are searched. The quake brought a halt to combat in Syria and Turkish military operations in the area as well as the food and other aid for the many civilians trapped in the Syrian Idlib province combat zone. This disrupts the operations of Islamic terror groups in the area. Islamic terrorists in other parts of Syria, particularly near the Israeli and Iraqi borders, reduced or suspended operations because of fears they would be subject to more attacks as a result of the temporary neutralization of Islamic terrorist operations in northern Syria. Israel and Iraq have both sent rescue and relief aid to Turkey.
January 31, 2023: The Turkish government signaled that it is very unlikely to approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO before this year’s national election. The election will be held sometime between May 14 and June 18. Both Sweden and Finland want to formally join the alliance at NATO ‘s July 11 summit meeting.
January 28, 2023: Turkey’s national oil company, TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Corporation), confirmed it is seeking permission to conduct exploratory drilling off the coast of Derna, Libya (eastern Libya). The area may have significant undersea gas reserves. That sounds like positive news. However, In the minds of an increasing number of Turks, Turkey’s war in Libya has become Erdogan’s war. It may emerge as an issue that harms Erdogan’s re-election. The vote is now tentatively set for mid-May but could shift to June. (Austin Bay)