The historic march of our holy nation...
In a speech in Sarajevo in October 2009, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu heralded: “As in the 16th century, when the Ottoman Balkans were rising, we will once again make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey, the center of world politics in the future. That is the goal of the Turkish foreign policy, and we will achieve it.”
That mission has been partly accomplished. Most headlines on world politics refer to the former (and present) Ottoman lands: Civil war in Syria; nearly 1,000 Muslims killed by other Muslims in Iraq in a span of a month; a military coup in Egypt and hundreds of deaths; and simply blood, sweat and tears across Turkey. The Balkan and Caucasus nations should be happy not to have joined the former Ottoman lands to become the center of world politics.
In an April 2012 speech, Mr. Davutoğlu was even more specific: “On the historic march of our holy nation, the AK Party signals the birth of a global power and the mission for a new world order. This is the centenary of our exit from the Middle East... whatever we lost between 1911 and 1923, whatever lands we withdrew from, from 2011 to 2023 we shall once again meet our brothers in those lands. This is a … historic mission.”
Some of the other foreign policy goals Mr. Davutoğlu had earlier specified as part of that bounden historic mission was to “pray altogether at the al-Aqsa mosque in the Palestinian capital al-Quds (otherwise mistakenly known by the world as Jerusalem)” and to “pray together in a liberated Damascus.” It is not certain yet how soon the foreign minister will add to this portfolio “praying altogether in a liberated Cairo,” but there is every indication that “meeting our brothers” in the former Ottoman lands is becoming increasingly riskier.
Crossing the border into Syria could be a lethal adventure unless the traveler is a jihadist bound for Raqqa or Deir ez-Zor, or a Kurdish paramilitary patrolling in Ras al-Ayn or Hasaka. As for praying in Damascus, Mr. Davutoğlu could always seek permission from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iraq and Iran could be less lethal but equally unadvised for the neo-Ottoman traveler.
A “passage to the Gaza Strip” has not been made possible even for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – undoubtedly an embarrassment for a sultan. Meanwhile, Mr. Davutoğlu’s quest to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque in the Palestinian capital al-Quds may have to wait for a few more centuries, if not longer. Instead, Mr. Davutoğlu could always pray at a mosque of his choice in Cairo, likewise a former Ottoman land, to be followed by a gathering of Muslim Brothers in al-Adawiya square: a nice package tour in another center of world politics, the emergency rule in Cairo permitting.
In Lebanon, however, where Mr. Erdoğan was a rock star a couple of years earlier, Mr. Davutoğlu’s ministry has had to urge Turkish citizens to leave after two Turkish Airlines pilots were abducted. The ministry also advised Turkish nationals to avoid traveling to the former Ottoman lands where local militias declared Turkish citizens as legitimate targets. As opposed to Mr. Davutoğlu’s self-declared goal of “meeting our brothers,” Ankara has announced that it will withdraw the bulk of Turkish peacekeepers from the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon.
What an unfortunate tragedy for a foreign minister whose passion of merely meeting our brothers in former Ottoman lands has not been made possible by dark forces who must have used telekinesis to stop the Great Turkish Party in the Middle East. What goes on in Lebanon is particularly heart-breaking, but not unpredictable.
I recall mentioning in this column twice: “On a fine February afternoon at the Cafe Nicola in Lisbon in 2011, my Lebanese friend sipped his wine, turned to me and explained the real meaning of the glittering ‘Turkish model’ for the Arab Spring: ‘[Turkey is a model] because anyone who stands against Israel is a friend of Arabs.’ Then he added: ‘But that thinking has only built temporary alliances which later easily turned into longer-term hostilities among the Arabs.’”