Turkey’s contradictory policy on Muslim East uprisings

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mustafa

Ramadan 01, 1432 2011-08-01

News & Analysis

by Tahir Mustafa (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 6, Ramadan, 1432)

Turkey’s policy vis-à-vis the uprisings in the Muslim East (Middle East) have left many observers bewildered. It has not only joined the US-NATO assault on Libya but Ankara has also recognized the Libyan rebels in the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) as “legitimate representatives” of the Libyan people.

Turkey’s policy vis-à-vis the uprisings in the Muslim East (Middle East) have left many observers bewildered. It has not only joined the US-NATO assault on Libya but Ankara has also recognized the Libyan rebels in the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) as “legitimate representatives” of the Libyan people. Turkey also officially withdrew its ambassador, Salim Levent Sahinkaya, from Libya. He had left the Libyan capital Tripoli in March due to the fighting and had not returned or been replaced. The break has now become official. On a visit to Benghazi to meet rebel leaders on July 3, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced an aid package of $200 million to support them.

Turkey has now joined France, Italy, UK, Spain, Germany, Austria, Latvia, Denmark, Bulgaria, Croatia, Canada, Australia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, the Maldives, Panama, Senegal and Gambia in recognizing the NTC. In the US, some congressmen such as the rightwing Republican John McCain, have also called for recognition of the NTC as legitimate representatives. The NTC leadership is made up largely of CIA-financed opportunists.

Equally troubling is Ankara’s position regarding the uprising in Syria. Informed observers of the situation are not taken in by the propaganda that the Syrian uprising is entirely indigenous. There is a noxious nexus of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syrian and Lebanese financiers that are involved in regime destabilization with a view to forcing Damascus to submit to the US-Zionist agenda. Even the tribal-owned al-Jazeera has been pressed into service to advance this nefarious plot. The primary objective in Syria is not the rights of the people, legitimate as they are, but to delink it from the resistance against Israel.

The House of Saud, habitual troublemakers of the Muslim world whose sole role has been to divide Muslims, are also deeply involved through money and propaganda. While King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was upset with US President Barack Obama for abandoning Hosni Mubarak, the ailing and aged ruler of Egypt (consider how Arabian rulers are beholden to Uncle Sam), the Saudis are actively involved in destabilizing Syria on behalf of Zionist Israel. Some rulers are good, others are bad, according to Saudi logic.

Saudi media outlets are also openly calling for regime change in Syria but clearly not in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Jordan. Do not even think about the liberation of Palestine from the clutches of the Zionists; that would constitute bid‘ah. Al-Sharq al-Awsat, the Saudi mouthpiece published from London, even tried to put a spin on the Muslim East uprisings without referring to Saudi displeasure at Mubarak’s ouster from power. In the process, the paper made an unintended admission. In its June 20 commentary, al-Sharq al-Awsat claimed: “The problem with Syria today is that everybody is looking at what is happening there as if it is the conclusion of the Arab scene, and that the same pattern exists for each country. Many believe that the Syrians are ‘copying’ the Tunisians, the Egyptians, and others, and this is simply not true.” Al-Sharq al-Awsat clearly slipped by stating that it is “different” from other uprisings; it is, but not in the manner intended by the paper. The Syrian uprising is instigated from outside by people with a very different agenda in which the rights of the Syrians are inconsequential. In this sense, the Syrian uprising is not the same as those that occurred in Tunisia or Egypt but this is not what al-Sharq al-Awsat meant.

But more puzzling and troubling is Turkey’s role in allowing itself to be used by the West to advance the US-Zionist agenda in the Muslim East. For decades, Turkey was shunned by the European Union and its membership was rejected on the pretext that it was not European enough and that it was too Muslim. Further, in May 2010, Israeli commandos attacked and murdered eight Turkish peace activists and an American youth of Turkish origin on the Mavi Marmara in international waters. The boat was carrying food and medicines to the besieged people of Gaza. Turkey took a principled stand on the issue and demanded Tel Aviv apologise for the crime it committed in international waters before relations would be normalized.

So what exactly has happened that has led Turkey to join the US-Israeli-Saudi nexus to undermine the resistance front against the Zionist regime and how does it benefit Ankara’s long-term interests in the Muslim world? While aid flotillas from Europe, Canada and the US were struggling to deliver much-needed food and medicines to the besieged people of Gaza, albeit unsuccessfully because of US-Israeli-Greek collusion, the Turkish government impounded the Mavi Marmara and prevented its joining the international flotilla. What forced Ankara to abandon its principled stand?

Behind the scenes, Washington has been trying to nudge Ankara and Tel Aviv to come closer by offering to Turkey the role of a new Middle Eastern “moderate” model that others could emulate. It seems Turkish nationalism is being stoked to damage its relations with Muslim neighbours, especially Islamic Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Some commentators have suggested that because of Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s close personal relations with the Syrian Ikhwan, they are forced to take a tough stand against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. They do not want to be seen as being soft on suppression of public dissent, especially of their Ikhwani friends. But this does not explain their cozying up to the Zionists, for whom terrorism is a way of life. How does the Turkish government explain its 180-degree turn in its relations with the Muslims and embrace of the Zionists that murdered their citizens? Further, why has Turkey taken such a hard-nosed approach to Syria with Erdogan describing the suppression of demonstrators as “barbaric” while soft-peddling his criticism of the equally brutal suppression of people in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia?

The other troubling aspect is that the Europeans are demanding Turkey exert greater pressure on Syria.

According to Zvi Bar’el, a senior Turkish official told the Israeli daily Haaretz, “Syria is turning into a threat not only against Turkey,” but if the regime in Damascus “decides to attack the Kurdish minority too, we might have a serious problem.” But this plays both ways. Syria has not attacked the Kurds; instead, the Syrian regime has made efforts to try and accommodate the legitimate demands of the people. This may fall short of Turkish expectations but Ankara cannot dictate as to what kind of regime should be in power in Damascus. There are plenty of illegitimate rulers in the Muslim East; is Turkey going to go after all of them? And why start with Syria; what about the more brutal regimes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen?

The other troubling aspect is that the Europeans are demanding Turkey exert greater pressure on Syria. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I hope our Turkish colleagues will bring every possible pressure to bear on the Assad regime with a very clear message that they are losing legitimacy and that Assad should reform or step aside. And I hope they will be very clear and very bold about that.” Naturally, only the Europeans and Americans can confer legitimacy on any regime. Would the British care to tell us what kind of legitimacy their allies in Riyadh have with whom they just signed a $40 billion arms contract — weapons that the Saudis are only adept at using against other Muslims?

The French have been no less strident. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said: “Some believe there’s still time for him [Assad] to change his ways and commit to a [reform] process. For my part, I doubt it. I think the point of no return has been reached.” Surely Turkish diplomats are aware that the regime in Syria is not as weak as presumed by the Europeans; it is wishful thinking on their part that leads them to utter such statements. Even Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said he expected Assad’s departure in a time frame of six months, hardly the kind of timeframe that would lead Ankara to make stridently undiplomatic remarks.

Under Turkish prodding and to address the concerns of the people Assad outlined steps for revising or rewriting the constitution and the formation of a national dialogue committee to draw up new election laws. He set time limits for reaching reforms: a new parliament to be elected this month and the package of political reforms will be finalized by September. These are important steps that Assad has taken. A broad-based opposition group actually met in Damascus on July 3 without interference from the regime to express their demands. Opposition groups abroad, the same groups that are working in tandem with the Saudis, the Zionists and the Americans to undermine the regime, immediately condemned the conference.

Unless they dig themselves out of this hole, they may cause immense damage to the Ummah.

The US-Zionist-Saudi game is to pump up Turkey by stoking its nationalistic feelings so that it would make demands of its neighbours — Syria, Iran and Lebanon — that they would be unable to meet. Is Turkey being set up for failure after which it would be told that it is not worth wasting time with its Muslim neighbours? The surprising part is that despite its sophisticated policy so far, Turkish officials appear to have fallen into the trap.

Unless they dig themselves out of this hole, they may cause immense damage to the Ummah. Hopes reposed in Turkey’s gradual return to the fold of Islam and its rightful place as a leading player in the Ummah will be severely affected, which can only give comfort to the enemies of Islam. Surely that is not what the Turkish people or government want?

Friendship with the Zionist entity that is led by war criminals is not worth antagonizing the entire Muslim Ummah. This policy ought to be carefully considered by Turkish officials before they venture too far in embracing the Zionist criminals.

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