Archive for September 24th, 2012

Turkey And Syria

by lizard

In a discussion from my Case Against Blind Support for Israel post, The Polish Wolf makes some comments that deserve some closer inspection. I’ll include his first comment in full, since it starts out with some praise that is appreciated, especially from someone I’ve had a few passionate disagreements with.

One of your best posts, I would say. We are in complete agreement – some forces in Israel definitely want a war in Iran, and would prefer the US to take the brunt of the consequences. I think conservatives are making more of the split between Netanyahu and Obama than their really is, but any daylight between the two is a good sign. The US seems more interested now in aligning with the new populist Sunni states than with Israel. Ultimately I think the big Israeli mistake was allowing their relations with Turkey to erode so badly – in hard power Turkey is an equal to Israel, their soft power far exceeds the Israelis, and they have a stable government with support from the majority of their people – in other words, they are an equally potent ally without all the side effects. If Israel wants to get back their special relationship with the US, they need to start with repairing their relationship with Turkey.

One of the things I emphasize over and over again, in post after post, is how US foreign policy produces unforeseen consequences, aka, blowback.

Part of why that happens, IMHO, is because of a national arrogance derived from having the most deadly (and expensive) military the world has ever seen. It seems to create a sense that we don’t really need to understand the other players on the global stage because, in the end, the people with the biggest guns win.

Interventionists like the Polish Wolf support the notion of a smarter, nicer, and ultimately necessary US imperial presence in the world. Though we mostly disagree, he, unlike a majority of Americans, actually tries to understand the perspectives of other countries—something I’d say even our top-level state department officials need to try doing.

So with that mutual desire in mind to understand other nations, especially ones who are in military alliances like NATO with us, I’d like to challenge the claim that Turkey has “a stable government” supported by a majority of its people.

First, when I think of stable governments, I don’t usually envision ongoing trials of high-ranking military officials for planning a coup:

Three Turkish generals are among 15 high-ranking active duty officers arrested during the weekend for a failed coup plan, court officials said.

The officers were tried in absentia and sentenced to jail time in the Sledgehammer coup case, which ended on Friday, Today’s Zaman reported.

More than 300 officers convicted in the coup conspiracy, for which planning started in 2003, were sentenced in the Friday hearing.

Ten officers were arrested Sunday by Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, including two generals and seven colonels. Five more people were arrested Monday.

Of those arrested Sunday, Maj. Gen. Ayhan Gumus was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The rest received terms of 13 years four months.

Dissent within Turkey’s military ranks is incredibly important to take into consideration as Turkey’s overt involvement in the escalating Syrian crisis continues.

For a little context, back in June, Syria shot down a Turkish warplane it claimed had violated its airspace. This after cross border attacks by the Free Syrian Army based out of Turkey were being used by Turkey’s PM, Erdogan, as a possible justification to invoke article 5.

It was reported just yesterday in the Denver Post that the Free Syrian Army has finally moved its headquarters from Turkey to Syria, “with the aim of uniting rebels and speeding up the fall of President Bashar Assad’s regime.”

Here’s more from the link:

Brig. Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh, who heads the FSA’s Military Council, said that the group made the move last week. He would not give the location of the new headquarters or other details.

The FSA is the most prominent of the rebel groups trying to topple Assad, though its authority over networks of fighters in Syria is limited. Its commanders have been criticized for being based in Turkey while thousands are killed inside Syria.

I guess the FSA is the most prominent rebel group, thanks to how the western media has been “reporting” the crisis in Syria. Of course this little group called al-Qaeda is also one of the rebel groups, but widespread reporting of that little factoid would probably confuse an American audience, considering we’ve spent over a trillion dollars allegedly trying to eradicate them off the face of the earth.

So because the mainstream news isn’t blaring the involvement of our nemesis in Syria, it gets relegated to jack asses like Alex Jones and anonymous bloggers like me to say HEY, NOW WAIT JUST A GODDAMN MINUTE!

You can also find it reported at places like Digital Journal (the article got 43 likes on Facebook!) Here’s a snip:

A top strategist at the prestigious U.S. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is crediting al-Qaeda forces in Syria with the resurgence of the rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

“The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks,” writes Ed Husain, a Senior Fellow of Middle East Studies with the CFR, which is considered in political circles to be America’s most influential foreign-policy think tank.

So what is Turkish sentiment about getting involved in Syria? This article from The Kurdish Globe is worth reading. The quick answer: it’s complicated. Here’s how the article starts out:

Developments in Syria are being watched by the world press with ever-increasing interest. What will be the fate of rebels and of Assad’s regime and what is the current situation in Syria are the most frequently asked questions. Turkish state authorities are also closely following the events in Syria, and they very often convey their opinions and make statements about Syria. However, their statements and some of their opinions include a variety of arguments that are partly contradictory and conflicting. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its supporters are especially harsh in criticizing Assad’s Syria and his treatment of rebels. Other political parties in Turkey do not want to be involved with the policies regarding Syria or do not have much to say about it.

Later in the piece, the political opposition is described in more detail:

…Turkish opposition parties are dissatisfied with Turkey’s Syria policy and have criticized the AKP and Erdogan because of his harsh statement against Syria. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, “Erdogan says Syria is an internal affair and that Turkey has run out of patience on the Syria issue. What will the government do then, Is it going to conduct a military operation” He should explain why Turkey has run out of patience.” He accused Erdogan of being “a subcontractor” of the Western powers in the Middle East.”Turkey is on the way to becoming a pawn of the United States. We shouldn’t get involved in possible military action in Syria,” he added.

Syria is not a crisis happening in a vacuum. It’s a crisis happening in an incredibly volatile region, where sectarian conflicts and domestic uprisings get highlighted and supported, or violently suppressed, based not on human rights, but geopolitics.

That’s something I hope well-intentioned interventionists understand.




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