All the news not fit to print
Email | Back to History | Back to the world news | Home | Support this website

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Articles on Turkey after 2013
Turkey vs Iran
Articles before 2013

  • (may 2013) Turkey vs Iran.
    (Note: my website is banned in Turkey; Turkish residents cannot read my articles).

    Turkey has a problem on its border, Syria, but, generally and historically, has a problem with the other millennial power of the Middle East: Iran. For centuries the Ottomans (with capital in Istanbul) and the Safavids (with capital in Isfahan) fought over control of that region and of Central Asia. One of the most deadly and longest lasting religious/ethnic conflict of the last thousand years has been the feud between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main branches of Islam. Millions have died in this endless Sunni-Shiite civil war. Every year hundreds of Sunnis and Shiites are killed in Pakistan by the opposing faction. And future historians will view the civil war in Iraq not as a war of the USA but as a Sunni-Shiite war, which is obviously what it is (the USA just happened to be a naive wielder of weapons of mass destruction for the Shiites to fight the Sunnis who were in power). Turkey (the descendant of the Ottomans) is Sunni. Iran (the descendant of the Safavids) is Shiite. Syria is run by an Alawite elite, a hierarchy topped by its Western-educated president Bashar Assad, and the Alawites are allied with the Shiites of Iran. In the past Syria has helped Hezbollah, the Shiite militia of Lebanon, against both the Jewish state of Israel and the Christian majority in Lebanon. Iraq used to be run by a Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein, but is now in the hands of the Shiite majority, and the other two main ethnic/religious groups (Sunnis and Kurds) are increasingly uncomfortable.
    This is the background necessary to understand what Turkey's leadership is thinking. Turkey has been active on several diplomatic fronts. First and foremost, it has tried and is trying in every possible way to drag the USA and the European Union into the Syrian conflict. It is also shameless the way Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls for military action by the USA while refraining to put his own weapons and soldiers where his mouth is. Unfortunately for him, the USA elected a president who has no appetite for military intervention. Barack Obama has reluctantly helped France remove Qaddafi from power in Libya, and has reluctantly given his blessing to the various Arab revolutions without risking the life of a single soldier. He is unlikely to change strategy with Syria. Initially he said that chemical weapons would be a "red line". Then he clarified that he meant "systematic" use of chemical weapons, not just the occasional atrocity. And now that Turkey keeps providing evidence of systematic use of chemical weapons Obama wants absolute proof, something which, usually, happens only many years after a war has ended. Europe is in the middle of the eurocrisis and totally paralyzed internationally. Gone are the days when France's president Sarkozy could easily bomb Libya. The new president, Francois Hollande, has to worry about an economic depression and all sorts of looming economic problems. The last thing his country wants is to get involved in an expensive war campaign. Britain has the same problem, except it's even bigger because Britain may decide to quit the European Union (and Scotland may decide to quit Britain). Germany has never participated in any military campaign. Obviously Syria is a very low priority for the Europeans. Bottom line: neither the USA nor the Europeans are likely to listen to Erdogan's enthusiastic call for action.
    The USA has an additional reason: avoid upsetting Russia. Russia has been adamant that it doesn't want to lose the last friend it has in the Middle East, and its last navy bases. Barack Obama has gone out of his way to please the Russians on the missile shield and other issues and is unlikely to change strategy on Syria. Obama has even accepted that Russia sells sophisticated missiles to Syria while opposing any arm shipment to the rebels. As long as Russia vetoes military intervention, it turns a regional problem into a global Russia-USA problem. Just what Obama does not want.
    Back to Turkey. First Obama brokered a reapproachment between Turkey and Israel. They had been on hostile terms since Israel killed several Turkish citizens who were trying to bring food to the Gaza Strip, a part of the Palestinian territory that Israel keeps under siege. Turkey reacted the way any country would react: it got really mad at Israel. Finally Obama convinced the prime minister of Israel, the ever unpleasant Benjamin Netanyahu, to call Erdogan and apologize. There is no doubt that Turkey was eager to accept Israel's apologies. Now they are friends again, as they have been since the creation of Israel. Turkey, a secular state, has been allied with Israel throughout all the Israeli-Arab conflicts, occasionally reproaching Israel but de facto siding with Israel. Their military cooperation dates from at least 1958. Turkey has always seen the modern heavily westernized Jewish state more appealing than the backwards Muslim states. Coincidence or not, after the two country made peace Israel has launched a strike inside Syria to destroy weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Turkey has accused Syria of masterminding terrorist attacks within its borders (thereby laying the moral, if not legal, foundations for future reprisals).
    Meanwhile, Turkey has been extending a huge line of credit to Egypt, a country that is starving for cash after tourist revenues have been decimated by the revolution. The new government of Egypt finds itself bound to the old peace treaty with Israel that is forced on them by the USA and now also bound to the pressure of Turkey. What Turkey wants from Egypt is that it stays out of the Syrian mess. Basically, Turkey is buying Egypt's neutrality, so that, for example, Israel can bomb Syria without fearing the anger of the Egyptians.
    Next, Turkey has made peace with the Kurds. This was unthinkable until last year but it suddenly happened. Turkey was still massacring civilians in its Kurdish regions (and on the other side of the border, inside Iraq) and the two sides (the Istanbul government and the Kurdish rebels of the PKK) seem on the verge of a historical agreement for Kurish autonomy. At the same time Turkey has befriended the Kurds in Iraq. Like it or not, Iraq is de facto split into three regions, with the Kurds relatively independent in the north and the Sunni fighting for similar autonomy in the west. And de facto the Kurds in the north act as a buffer between Sunni Turkey and the Shiite core of Iraq. Given the trade potential of that border, it is not science fiction to imagine that very soon North Iraq will become an economic satellite of Turkey, the way it never became a subject of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.
    Finally, Turkey has been pressuring the Palestinians to make some kind of peace with Israel. The Arab world is still determined to side against Israel no matter what, and the main reason is the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Netanyahu's repeated violations of human rights with his obsession for building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land have exacerbated the Arab hostility towards Israel, which would prevail over anything else if Israel entered the civil war in Syria: whichever side gets help from Israel is guaranteed to lose the support of the Arab world. Only some kind of peace between Israel and the Palestinians can reverse the damage caused by Netanyahu's shortsighted and, frankly, racist anti-Palestinian policies.
    At the end of the day, what Turkey has done is creating the preconditions for: containing Iran's influence; limiting Hezbollah's ability to help Syria's army; keeping Iraq at a safe distance from the Syrian civil war; and directly influencing the outcome of the war. In other words, Turkey is isolating Syria's regime more than any United Nations resolutions or Barack Obama speech.
    Turkey's next problem is Russia. It is only Russia that keeps the world from bombing Assad out of power. If Russia withdraws its veto, Turkey could realistically forge an international alliance under the umbrella of the United Nations to at least provide the rebels with a "no-fly zone". This would de facto break up Syria into two (or more) states, one run by the Alawites (a tiny enclave like the one that Hezbollah has in Lebanon) and one run by the Sunnis (from the border with Jordan to the border with Turkey, including Kurds and Christians). Needless to say, this Sunni Syria would be Turkey's most grateful and most trusted ally in the world.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page

  • Articles before 2013

Email | Back to History | Back to the world news | Home | Support this website

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.