Geopolitics

With ISIS At The Border, Will Turkey Invade Syria?

Complaints about Ankara's inaction have come from the West and Kurds. But Turkey's regional ambitions may very well push it into Syria to crush ISIS. The risk could be huge.

 Turkish tanks take up position on the Turkish - Syrian border at Suruc, Turkey.
Turkish tanks take up position on the Turkish - Syrian border at Suruc, Turkey.
Ismet Berkan

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL – The criminal organization that calls itself the “Islamic State” (ISIS) continues its siege of Kobani on Syrian soil, just next to Sanliurfa in Turkey's Suruc District.

This tragedy of humanity is happening just on the other side of our border, visible and audible to the naked eye and ear.

The border does not matter much because the Kurds living in Kobani and its surrounding villages (of which the majority had to flee to Turkey) are people who either moved there from Turkey or left there when the artificial border was drawn in the last century.

There is no meaning in "this' or "that" side of the border in humanitarian terms. Most people have relatives in both countries. This situation makes the tragedy that much more devastating.

The people are angry towards Turkey; which for many is their own state and government. Their anger is justified.

The ISIS attacks on Kobani have been ongoing for nearly three weeks. Turkey has not even issued a warning to ISIS as it did when the Tomb of Suleyman Shah was threatened; Turkey did not say "do not attempt an ethnic cleansing here or you will deal with me;" it did not even tried to intimidate ISIS by lining up its tanks or helicopters along the border.

One cannot help but think: would the policies of our government be the same if Kobani was a Turkmen settlement instead of a Kurdish one?

This is the plain reality with Kobani right now, but we must also look at the bigger picture: the future of Syria and Iraq.

I do not think anybody would claim that Turkey would be OK about being neighbors with ISIS, whose crimes against humanity have already filled large dossiers. So that does not explain its failure to intervene in Kobani.

Things might seem different if Turkey showed its muscle, but the big picture would not change. ISIS gives a name to the conjectural threat in the region, which is a state of chaos and lack of a government right in front of our noses. It is a situation that could potentially last for decades.

The price of ambition

The US is pushing us to intervene, and some of the Turkish media is promoting it too. So we must ask: Should Turkey enter a war? If Turkey invades Syria would it become the missing force of the region that establishes order?

This is the hard question we must be asking. Of course, we should ask this without forgetting about Kobani and the political mistake we have made there.

Can Turkey fill the void left by the US? Like him or not, blame him or ignore him, but Barack Obama's election to the White House has produced very important consequences that affect us here and now.

These consequences did not just fall from the sky. Obama's basic foreign policy promise was to retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan. He later announced this alongside a great change in strategy: the center of the world for America would "pivot" from Europe and the Middle East to the Pacific Basin.

And so indeed, America started to move away from Europe and the Middle East.

But the power vacuum left in Europe is filled with the cruelty of Russia, and the European Union could not stand in for the US. Meanwhile, Turkey tried to fill the vacuum in the Middle East, but it was a failure.

Now, many players, including ISIS, are taking advantage of that vacuum. The idea of stepping in to the role held by the US, being the big brother and police for the region, may sound sweet to some in Ankara. But we should never let ambition overshadow logic.

Entering Syria is easy; the hard parts are staying – and then leaving.

If we have to talk in military terms, it may not be so difficult for the Turkish Armed Forces to enter Syria, crush ISIS militarily, or even invade the whole country and end the Assad and his Ba'ath regime.

But what would happen when they cross the border? Do you think the Turkish army would be welcomed in Syria with flowers? Do you imagine Turkey rolling in and returning home shortly after founding a "fair regime" there?

Let nobody forget that we are talking about war; one that may not achieve its peace for decades. The government is about to make a very tough decision, a decision that should be based on facts, not dreams.

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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