The AKP’s reckless foreign policies

Developing Just Leadership

Ahmet Aslan

Rabi' al-Awwal 20, 1437 2016-01-01

Special Reports

by Ahmet Aslan (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 11, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1437)

Turkey has moved from zero-problem to zero-friendship policy with its neighbors. The only exception is the Zionist regime in Occupied Palestine that had murdered 10 Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 but it seems all is forgiven now!

The recent reckless actions of the Turkish government have made it very difficult to understand and anticipate where the country is really heading. Shooting down a Russian aircraft, invading Bashiqa in Iraq, and rapprochement with Israel have taken place at such an incredible speed that even the pro-AKP sycophants are finding it difficult to reconcile with.

The chain of events started with one of the most ill-conceived and dangerous mistakes modern Turkey has ever made: Turkish F-16s shooting down a Russian bomber that allegedly strayed into Turkish territory for a few seconds. Turkey has been frustrated by Russia’s direct involvement in the Syrian conflict but has been unable to draw its Western allies to take action against the second most powerful military power. Russia’s nuclear arsenal is even larger than that of the US and it has a very sophisticated missile delivery system. No wonder nobody, including the US, wants to start a conflict with Russia that may lead to a nuclear Armageddon.

But the AKP has behaved foolishly and did the unthinkable. The Ankara regime authorized the army to fire on Russian aircraft. Full details of the shooting are yet to unfold but no country, even America’s spoiled child Israel, would have taken such hostile action and risk direct confrontation with Russia. Thankfully, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been more prudent than his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayip Erdogan or Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, so the Russian leader has not responded in the same way as the Turks did. Instead he has chosen a slow and more painful way of responding to Turkish provocations.

No one has truly been able to understand Turkey’s motives in shooting down the Russian plane but it seems the AKP was motivated by wishful thinking that if they could show the Russians how serious Turkey was in its commitment to the Syrian policy, then they would be able to scare away the Russians. In the best case scenario, Turkey counted on NATO support and assumed that if it shoots down a Russian plane, the latter would not risk direct military confrontation with NATO, thereby forcing it to pull back from Syria. It is possible that Turkey may even have considered a brief military confrontation with Russia that would have drawn NATO into the conflict. The assumption was that it would end in a swift defeat of Russia forcing it to abandon its involvement in Syria.

But things have worked out quite differently from what Turkey had anticipated. The Russians have immense experience in conflict management and throughout the Cold War they made their enemies pay dearly for even small hostilities. At the start of Russia’s military campaign in Syria, Putin did not want to upset Turkey. Russia and Turkey are major trading partners and Moscow does not want to make enemies unless it becomes absolutely unavoidable. Thus, Russia did not reveal that Turkey has ongoing illicit oil business with the takfiri terrorists (aka ISIS/ISIL or Da‘ish) and other Turkish illegal acts. Russia also did not target Turkey’s interests directly in Syria.

But immediately after the downing of the Russian plane, Moscow launched a massive propaganda and military campaign against Turkey. Aside from economic and political pressure, Russia has completely sidelined Turkey in Syria. Since the incident, thanks to sophisticated Russian air defense systems, Turkish aircrafts cannot come even close to the Syrian border. The talk of a no-fly zone has been abandoned. Moscow is also working on materializing Turkey’s worst nightmare. The Russians are working with the Syrian government and Kurdish groups to launch a massive campaign to seal the Turkish-Syrian border.

The move is particularly painful for Turkey due to the involvement of Kurdish PYD forces. The Kurds have already established separate de facto autonomous cantons at the border and if the planned military campaign achieves its objective, the PYD will be able to connect the cantons to each other and will emerge as an effective political force.

Turkey seems to be trying to come to terms with this painful reality as it is helpless in the face of Putin’s unforgiving wrath. The AKP government is, therefore, trying to develop alternative policies to reassert its significance in the region. This is why a large number of Turkish troops were dispatched to Bashiqa near Mosul under the pretext of “training and assisting” Sunni forces in their fight against ISIS. Ankara believes that if it is sidelined in Syria, it can still influence Iraq, thus its regional power status will remain intact.

Turkey dispatched an around 600-strong military unit supported by 25 tanks into Bashiqa without the permission of the central government in Baghdad. The Turks were so arrogant that they did not even inform the Iraqi government prior to this incursion. This was naturally taken as an insult by the Iraqis and prompted the Baghdad government to demand the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops.

Ankara had no persuasive argument to justify its incursion in the face of mounting international pressure. The Iraqi government had not authorized the Turkish troops’ “training” activities; therefore, its action amounted to an illegal incursion. Ironically for an alleged 17-second incursion, Turkey shot down a Russian plane, yet it abandoned this very principle in its blatant incursion into another country. Further, Turkey’s Mosul consulate staff had surrendered to a handful of ISIS terrorists without firing a shot during the latter’s takeover of Mosul in June 2014 so the Turkish army is in no position to offer its support to anyone against ISIS.

As a result of the decisive stance of the Iraqi government and other stakeholders against the Turkish incursion and despite the fact that both Erdogan and Davutoglu had said Turkish troops would not leave Bashiqa under any circumstances, they were forced to leave. This has caused a huge embarrassment to the Turkish government.

Turkey made another attempt to break the political siege of Russia by making rapprochement with the Zionists. It was Erdogan who first broke the news by stating that Turkey may consider resolving its problems with Israel. On December 20, a week after Erdogan’s announcement, the AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik described the Israeli state as a “friend” of Turkey, “Undoubtedly the state of Israel and its people are friends of Turkey. So far our criticism has been against Israeli government’s excessive and unjustified actions.”

This was a major U-turn in Turkey’s ostensible anti-Israel policy since the Mavi Marmara incident of May 2010 and exposes the hypocritical nature of Ankara’s foreign policy. The AKP was in a hurry to declare the Syrian government an enemy due to its “oppressive” actions. But based on changing circumstances, it quickly declared Israel, which has been oppressing the Palestinians for more than half a century, as a “friend.”

There is no room for ethics or principles in Turkey’s interaction with its Muslim neighbors. It behaves very much like the Western imperialist powers when they deal with Muslims. It is enough for Turkey to take action if it serves its interests regardless of the consequences. It has been playing a destructive role in the Muslim East similar to that of the Zionist regime in Occupied Palestine. This will cost it dearly.

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