Is Turkey at a Crossroads?
Posted by Emile Tubiana on July 11, 2010
Is Turkey at a Crossroads?
If Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have learned from World War I and from World War II, he could have avoided entangling himself with Hamas, the surrogate of Iran, against Israel, the strongest ally of the United States.
Turkey entered World War I with the wrong partner. Ataturk understood that Turkey should not risk any new adventure. In World War II Turkey succeeded with much difficulty to stay neutral and in consequence has avoided a new catastrophe.
When Erdogan followed the bad idea of allowing the Turkish flotilla to head toward Gaza, his first intention was to show Ahamadi nejad of Iran that he is a good partner on whom he can rely, and who can break the Israeli blockade, as well as to show the Muslim and the Arab countries that he could be their leader who defends their interest. Most importantly, he wanted to show his constituencies that he is a leader who can balance the different influences coming to Turkey from Europe, from Asia, the Arab countries, Iran, and the Muslim world. He didn’t want to ask the military for any advice, since they could have objected to this adventure, knowing that they needed Israel to complete the supply of the entire order the army has placed. The army knows very well that it needs the Israeli technology. Their drones not only gather important information but they also maintain and update the old and existing Turkish equipment. As Mr. Erdogan is facing a general election during the coming year, the flotilla problem and the conflict with the Kurds are weakening his party.
Already the flotilla action caused him enough problems within his people. The US lawmakers slammed Turkey for its ties to Iran and charged Ankara for the nine Turks killed in this adventure of Gaza. On top of that, the Kurdish issue became the most burning problem. The ongoing conflict costs Turkey 40,000 people and billions of dollars. Mr. Erdogan realizes that he can no longer buy time and play smart. And he is losing popularity. He is criticized by his political opponents who claim that Mr. Erdogan is putting the interest of other Islamic countries ahead of Turkey’s.
His Syrian friends were also unhappy with his flotilla adventure, knowing that Turkey’s relations with Israel as his strategic partner is damaged to a point that Turkey can no longer play the broker role between Israel and Syria.
In light of the new sanctions for Iran, the new friendship became more of a burden for Turkey. Probably it will cost Turkey its best relations, not only with Israel, but with the Europeans and the USA. In fact Erdogan is being used by Iran for its nuclear project, The Arab states are unhappy with Iran’s behavior which will no longer be tolerated by the USA, by the Europeans and by Israel. The US assistant secretary Philip Gordon’s statement to the Associated Press and the meeting between Obama and Erdogan in Toronto, didn’t advance the Turkish cause and have given Erdogan a cold shower.
No one understood why Mr. Erdogan wanted Israel to apologize, while he knew well that he was the one who started this unfortunate adventure by wanting to break the Israeli blockade. It is also less understandable why Turkey, which is suffering from terrorism, is trying to help Hamas, which was declared a terrorist organization by the USA and is well known as the surrogate of Iran. Mr. Erdogan wanted to show the Arabs that he is trying to help the Arab cause, while knowing well the truth, from the Israelis and from his embassy in Israel, that Gaza does not lack food or medicine. In light of this development he could not expect a warm friendship with the United States when Turkey voted “No” – against sanctions on Iran. The deterioration of the relations between Turkey and Israel was not well received by the United States.
Mr. Erdogan chose a flagrant way to help Hamas, instead of the good relations with Israel, which could have enhanced the Turkish situation and put Turkey in a positive light in the eyes of the Europeans and the Americans. In fact Erdogan unveiled in front of the world, that his cause is no longer Turkey’s, but Iran’s cause.
Copyright 2010 Emile Tubiana