Friday, April 25, 2014

Turkey and the insatiable hunger for war, By Garba Shehu

Published:

The Turks have a history of warrior spirit, but conventional wisdom demands that just because you are strong is not enough reason to go out looking for trouble.

I can’t imagine that there is anything to the Turkish urge for war with Syria beyond ambition and expediency. What has changed that Turkey has become the puppet for imperial design to rip Syria apart so as to achieve two things: one to deprive Iran of an ally in the Middle East and two, to provide Israel the comfort of a weakened Iran and Hamas?

For a country with sound economic credentials and the good prospect of dominating trade and politics in the Muslim world, the climb-down by Turkey must come as surprise to many watchers. The last decade has seen Turkey growing to become the most influential and most powerful Muslim country in the world. Their economy enjoys the fastest growth in the region. Militarily, only Israel is ahead of Turkey. Economic progress has brought with it political influence, with this NATO State towering over rivals like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The talk was in the air of the return of the old Ottoman with Turkey exercising wide-scale influence across not only the Middle-East but also the newly-independent Balkan and Asiatic states.

Let there be no doubt that Syria has become the world most embarrassing political stalemate. It is not right that Syrians continue to kill one another on genocidal scale and they continue to be unwilling to listen to anyone, including the United Nations. But it is also not difficult to understand why there persists a stalemate and deadlock in the international system in dealing with that crisis. Syria has become the testing ground of the new world order. Russia and China, which aligned with the United States and NATO to fight two Iraqi wars have learnt a thing or two they didn’t know about the emergent unipolar world. The collapse of world communism meant that the United States remained the world’s only remaining super power. This went into their head and America became arrogant and began to misbehave. The U.S. carried Israel on its wings. Using this privilege, Israel for instance gave the world its largest prison, the Gaza strip in which were cocooned more than two million Palestinians who still live in more or less prison conditions.

But the breaking point did not come until Russia and China, after playing crucial roles in bringing down the Iraqi dictator were told that they had no benefits to get from Iraqi reconstruction. For Russia, this was even more painful given the part they played in ridding the world of its genre of “extremist Islam”, having brutally cleansed Chechnya of such rebels, ensuring thereby that the rise of radical Islam the West’s assumed to be its next enemy, after the collapse of communism, did not prosper.

To say that the Turkish role so far, including their readiness to go into a surrogate war with Syria is reprehensible is to state the obvious. Turkey gave inspiration of the kind of leadership they could give to the Middle-East on several occasions under the enduring government of Recep Tayyep Erdogan. Erdogan had himself ridden to power on the crest of Islam, much to the discomfort of the secular, guardian Army and their NATO/EU allies. In dealing with the Gaza prison situation imposed by Israel, Erdogan joined the liberal west and civil society movements in Europe to send a flotilla of ships to deliver food and medicines to the hostages. Israel fired upon them, killing 15 Turks. Turkish bullish  reaction to the attack led many to believe that the country had come of age on the world stage. But beyond the  nasty diplomatic interchanges nothing really could be said to have come out of this.

From that confrontation with Israel, Turkey with a life-long aspiration of joining the European Union as a member came away with a sense of deficit, having come short of Euro-American standards of international conduct. In addition, it must be remembered that Turkey have their own rebels, the Kurds, who have been fighting a separatist war. They must therefore understand what insurgency means. Turkey, it must also be remembered, recently barely, barely managed to escape international condemnation and sanction following concerted lobby that sought to brand the past brutal suppression of the Kurdish struggles as a genocidal activity. In fact, the French parliament had last year passed a law to that effect in spite of vehement Turkish  protests. There is a sense that Erdogan has mellowed down to escape these Euro-American pressures. There is also fear that the Turkish military may have been infiltrated by interests other than Turkish.

Before this turnabout and the yearning for war, Turkey had the best of relationships with Syria of all the countries in the region. To enhance trade and communications, both countries had abolished visa requirements for their citizens. When the tension between the government and rebels rose in Syria, the Turkish government warned Syria to adopt reforms, calls that went unheeded. Six months after this, Turkey issued a threat but this again did not change anything. From that point, Turkey began to allow rebels cross into its territory. Incidents involving the firing of rockets from the Syrian side of the border and such retaliatory attacks by Turkey all go to reinforce existing tensions. While these so-called Syrian rockets may well have been fifth columnist actions by the rebels, Israel or their own Armenian rebels, the decision by Turkey to force a Syrian airliner on a Moscow to Damascus flight last week  is the most dramatic action so far and one that is bound to fetch certain consequences from Russia.. To a major power, this is an insult that will not go unpunished. On board that flight were 13 Russian citizens who were subjected to unwarranted searches, coupled with the fact that  equipment on board the plane were seized.

Clearly from the foregoing, there is a calibrated effort by nations within and outside the region to goad Turkey into a war with Syria, a war that has inevitably been in the making but which no one, not America, Egypt or Saudi Arabia wants to spearhead or finance. When all these nations decline to come to wage a war against Syria and Turkey, an old friend of Syria in this tough neighbourhood shows they are prepared to act the script of others, we should all take a bow.

But all those financing the insurgency-Turkey, Syria, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar-need to know that Western interest in bringing down the Assad regime has nothing to do with the so-called humanitarian intervention. Humanitarianism was the false principle which was applied to Libya where rebel gangs were armed and bankrolled by the NATO-led “peace-makers”. As it turned out in the end, Col. Muammar Ghaddafi was the actual target. How come someone who came in to “protect civilians” takes sides by arming the opposition?

This experience was also the background to Russian and Chinese opposition to any UN resolution that may order the use of force on Syria. Col. Ghaddafi is gone but Libya is no longer a completely stable country. The war has opened old-held tribal rivalries. The government installed by NATO is currently battling to disarm and disband different gangs carrying weapons that have refused integration into the formal national army. With Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya worse off in terms of stability they once enjoyed, don’t blame those who accuse the NATO nations of an agenda to weaken strong and stable Muslims nations in the Middle-East. The American journalist, Brian Browne, has been a consistent critic of Western hypocrisy on Syria. He said throughout history, it has been impossible to conduct a civil war without killing own people by both sides. He accused Western governments and media of playing down the excesses of members of Free Syria rebel army, whose killing of innocent and defenceless civilians was never criticized or reported. What ails Turkey?

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