Left-wing Turkish group attacks US Navy civilian, as US warships exercise in Black Sea, drawing Moscow’s ire

Protesters shout slogans where the USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, is docked in Istanbul, Nov. 3, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
Protesters shout slogans where the USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, is docked in Istanbul, Nov. 3, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - On Tuesday, a left-wing group, known as the Youth Union of Turkey (TGB), attacked a civilian employee of the US Navy and then posted photos to two Twitter accounts.

Turkish authorities responded by arresting 17 people, as the Istanbul governor’s office reported, explaining that the US Navy employee had been aboard a ship which had paid a port visit to the city.

Besides attacking the American—by placing a hood over his head—the group chanted, “You are our enemy,” Reuters reported, “Yankee go home,” while it also condemned US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which forms the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), America’s main partner in fighting ISIS in Syria.

Radical Leftist Party

The TGP is the youth auxiliary of Turkey’s Patriotic Party (VP), which is headed by the 79-year old Dogu Perincek. A lawyer, Perincek has been involved in radical left-wing politics pretty much his entire adult life, starting in the 1960s, when he was a supporter of China’s Mao Zedong.

The VP “has taken a U-turn over the years from being radically anti-Erdogan to becoming pro-Erdogan,” Dr. Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament, told Kurdistan 24.

“Just like the VP, the TGB is known for its ultranationalist, conspiratorial, and anti-Western orientation,” Erdemir added. “They support hardline policies on the Kurdish issue and fully support Ankara’s pivot away from NATO and its values toward the authoritarian bloc of China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea.”

“The support that Erdogan receives from the VP and TGB shows how much his Islamist policies have come under the influence of ultranationalism and Eurasianism,” Erdemir observed, “as the common denominator of anti-Westernism has united former adversaries under the same banner of authoritarianism and illiberalism.”

The TGB was established in 2006. In 2011, the group placed a white sack over the head of a US sailor, repeating that action in 2013, while chanting anti-American slogans.

According to the Turkish media, such moves were revenge for an incident in 2003, as the second US war against Saddam Hussein began. US troops are said to have detained—and put hoods on—a Turkish special operations team suspected of plotting to assassinate a US-backed Iraqi official.

As the US planned that war, it expected that Ankara would be part of the Coalition, as it had been in 1991. However, at the last minute, on March 1, 2003, the Turkish parliament voted against participating, and US forces, which had expected to enter Iraq from Turkey, were re-routed to Kuwait to enter Iraq from the south.

US-Russian Tensions in the Black Sea

The TGB’s assault followed the entry of US warships into the Black Sea on Saturday, amid heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

In 2014, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. It now claims that Crimea is part of Russia, but the international community, including Turkey, have not accepted that claim. In fact, Turkey is aligned with Ukraine.

Recent tensions have been created by Russian troop deployments along its border with Ukraine. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby described them on Friday as “unusual Russian military activity.”

Kirby was reluctant to provide details, but pressed by journalists, he explained that it is “a matter of scale,” involving “the size of the units that we're seeing.” And he cautioned, “Any escalatory or aggressive actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States.”

Moscow, for its part, has dismissed reports of a Russian troop build-up as “fake,” while President Vladimir Putin, speaking to military leaders on Monday, warned that one of the US ships was in Russia’s “crosshairs.”

TGB/VP Links to Russia, China?

It is obviously possible that the VP and TGB are actively supported by Russia, China, or both, and that, at least occasionally, they act on directions from the countries that support them.

If such a relationship exists with Russia, it is not evident from the internet. However, close ties with China certainly are.

The first Asia-Africa Youth Gathering was held in Beijing in 2016. Elif İlhamoğlu is the Vice-President of that group and attended that meeting on behalf of the TGB.

Earlier this month, she wrote a report, based on an interview with former Turkish Foreign Minister, Yasar Yakis, who held that post in 2003, when the Turkish parliament voted against joining the US-led Coalition against Iraq.

In speaking with Ilhamoglu, Yakis advocated ending Turkish opposition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and her article is titled, “Begin normalization with Syria to keep Kurds within the unitary state.”

The daughter of the VP leader, Kiraz Perincek, has long worked for China International Radio, while a prominent VP member, Kamil Erdoglu, is the News Director for the Turkish language broadcast of China International Radio.