By Dmitry Sedov
The very complexity of Middle East situation and the games of their own played by such influential powers as Iran and Israel resulted in Turkey’s getting bogged down in a web of contradictions. Trying to become a dominant regional force using the Syrian crisis as leverage will hardly lead Turkey out of the precarious situation.
The Turkish leadership has done its best to get the Syrian rebels tied by the burden of future commitments hoping they will become the backbone of dependent regime under the Turkey’s influence. Meanwhile the Turkish powers are tightening the screws inside their own country. The Ergenekon case came to surface in 2008. It’s not over as yet. Ergenekon is the name given to an alleged clandestine, secularist ultra-nationalist organization in Turkey with possible ties to members of the country’s military and security forces. The would-be group, named after Ergenekon, a mythical place located in the inaccessible valleys of the Altay Mountains, is accused of terrorism in Turkey. 330 of armed forces commissioned officers and generals are behind bars now accused of participation in an attempted coup d’etat. The Turkish media is persecuted. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists reports, «The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has waged one of the world’s biggest crack¬downs on press freedom in recent history. Authorities have imprisoned journalists on a mass scale on terror-ism or anti-state charges, launched thousands of other criminal prosecutions on charges such as denigrating Turkishness or influencing court proceedings, and used pressure tactics to sow self-censorship. Erdoğan has publicly deprecated journalists, urged media outlets to discipline or fire critical staff members, and filed numerous high-profile defamation lawsuits. His gov¬ernment pursued a tax evasion case against the nation’s largest media company that was widely seen as politically motivated». That’s what gives rise to protests each time the official Ankara calls for intervention in Syria. Erdogan tries to take advantage of the chaos caused by the Arab Spring in order to make Turkey become a dominant regional power, but the plans are not echoed by due public support.
Not so long ago the relations with Syria were the backbone of Turkish foreign policy. The bilateral trade was burgeoning, the visa regime was repealed. Erdogan and Assad spent vacations together. The Greater Middle East concept authors exerted pressure on Turkey to make it change the policy in 2011.
The present situation in the region is a real headache for Turkey. The support of rebels requires huge expenditure. Turkey had to accommodate over a hundred of thousands Syrian refugees on its soil spending over 300 million dollars for the purpose. But it’s not the main issue of concern. The international terrorists have moved to Syria from North Africa. Where will they strike next? The politicians in Ankara have reasons to be anxious about the future after the Syria’s crisis is over. The Patriot air defense missiles deployed in Turkey are a real irritant for the «Allah servants».
Now the events unfold in the aftermath of Patriot deployment. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, a Marxist group with a history of political violence in Turkey, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the American Embassy in Ankara releasing a statement calling the United States «the murderer of the peoples of the world.» The organization came out in support of Assad, the explosion was not the first terror act committed by the group. This time they killed an embassy guardian, a few passers-by were wounded. The suicide bomber had enough explosive to destroy a three storey building.
Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson, speculated that the masterminds of the embassy bombing may have been partly motivated by U.S.-Turkish policy on Syria. «A successful attack would embarrass the Turkish government and security forces, and it would have struck at the United States, which is widely – if wrongly – thought to have manipulated the Erdogan government into breaking with Bashar al-Assad and supporting efforts to remove him from power», Wilson, director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, wrote in an analysis. «That might rekindle public support for the group. Alas for DHPK/C, this seems unlikely», he added.
One can recall thousands hit the streets in Turkey to protest the government’s policy at the times the situation in Syria aggravated. In October 2012 the Turkish parliament sanctioned new military actions against the neighbor, the demonstrations flooded Istanbul. No doubt, anti-NATO and anti-US sentiments will flare up again when the flows of extremists coming from Syria will reach critical numbers, they will mix up with Kurdish militants and become part of a «terrorist cocktail» that would serve as a tool to destroy the state.
According to estimations, there are about 15-20 millions of Alevi Muslims in Turkey or one fourth of population. Unlike the Kurds, the Turkish Alevis don’t have plans to create an independent state; their only demand is equality with the Sunni majority. But they have strong blood ties to Syrian Alawites and are capable of influencing Turkish policies. In case the situation worsens again, there would be enough Alevis ready to lend a helping hand to Damascus.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party is a Kurdish organization which has since 1984 been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdistan and cultural and political rights for the Kurds in Turkey. It’s a leading Kurdish force in the Middle East. The Damascus consent to cede the control over the Kurdish inhabited territories in Syria was inspiring for their brethren in Turkey. Syrian government forces have abandoned many Kurdish-populated areas, leaving the Kurds to fill the power vacuum and govern these areas autonomously, including providing for their own security. The Kurds saw the action as a step on the way of establishing an independent state together with their brethren in Iraq. Under the circumstances, the radicalization of Turkish Kurdistan is inevitable. Actually it is already taking place. Kurdish militants regularly attack Turkish military and officers of justice. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is a Syrian affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It is one of the most important Kurdish opposition parties in Syria as well as a charter member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change and the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan. The PYD calls for the constitutional recognition of Kurdish rights and «democratic autonomy», rejecting classical models such as federalism and self-administration. While condemning authoritarian rule in Damascus, the PYD is responsible for disrupting Kurdish efforts to form a united opposition front. Its influence among the Turkish Kurds is on the rise.
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The stability of Middle East has always been intertwined with interethnic and interconfessional relations in the region. General order and Ankara’s siding with radical extremist forces engendered by the Arab Spring are incompatible things. The Turkey-fuelled rebellion in Syria will hardly be limited by the territory of one country; it could spill over and destabilize Turkey itself. Today Ankara coordinates activities with Washington’s Persian Gulf puppets on strings. But Turkey is a major actor in West Asia; it has much greater international responsibility in comparison with the Gulf oil monarchies. Will Turkey be able to be up to par and face its international responsibility with dignity?
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation