Turkey faces new threats which must be confronted
Prime Minister Erdoğan is so embroiled in domestic squabbling that he appears not to be aware of what is going on around Turkey, let alone the rest of the world. All of his expectations in Syria are in tatters. He also failed to comprehend the situation in Egypt in the lead-up to last year’s military coup.
Despite some friendly overtures last year, Ankara continues to have strained relations with Baghdad. The latest developments in Iraq’s Nineveh Province, and particularly the regional capital of Mosul, have also caught Ankara off guard.
Erdoğan says the results of the March 30 local elections are also an endorsement of his government’s foreign policy, but one has to be truly gullible to see much success for the government in that area.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was claiming a few years ago that a leaf could not move in the Middle East without Turkey’s consent. Today there are forest fires raging there and all Ankara can do is look on.
The advances being made in Iraq and parts of northern Syria by The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) show Turkey’s new neighbors could very well be a band of head-cutting Islamic fundamentalists soon. This was obviously not what Ankara expected when it developed what clearly appears now to be overambitious and misguided regional policies based on barely veiled sectarian preferences.
Davutoğlu is reportedly on the phone around the clock to his counterparts in Arbil, Baghdad, Tehran, and Washington to discuss developments in Mosul and is no doubt considering options with them. What is apparent at this stage, however, is that there is no diplomacy that can be conducted with ISIL or any of its affiliates in Iraq or Syria.
This is a forest fire which left unchecked will spread. The countries of the region and the world that are worried over these developments will have to act sooner or later. This is clearly going to create some strange bed-fellows, too. Already, we see Iran and the U.S. on the same page in terms of the radical groups operating in Iraq and Syria.
Developments are also working to the advantage of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tellingly, President Obama complimented el-Sisi on his recent “electoral success,” while Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani did the same for al-Assad.
The point today is not whether the Egyptian and Syrian elections were democratic or not. The focus has to be on what has to be done to prevent the region from becoming another Afghanistan, which is neither in the interest of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or any other Islamic country in the region.
Talking on the phone with foreign colleagues is all very well for Davutoğlu, and makes it look like he is not sitting idly by as developments unfold. But he has some genuinely deep strategic thinking to do now in order to act and ensure these developments do not threaten Turkey.
Now is the time for Ankara to reinforce ties with western allies – who need Turkey also in view of what is developing in the region – rather than alienating them further with jibes and insults because of their more than justified criticism of undemocratic steps by the Erdoğan government.
Now is also the time for Ankara to think hard on who it has to cooperate with in the region to confront emerging threats, rather than maintaining animosities that prevent pragmatic dialogue and cooperation.
Now is also the time for Erdoğan to consider – without discriminating on the basis of religiosity, sect, ethnicity or ideology – whether his personal mission is more important than the welfare of the country. He must see that only a democratic and secular Turkey imbued with inner peace can ward off the regional threats brewing against it.