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SEMİH İDİZ > Playing with fire, Turkey will get burned

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Turkey’s new ambassador to Chad appears to have stepped on a political banana peel, angering the French and casting a shadow over Ankara’s drive to muster international support against terrorism.

Our own Barçın Yinanç and prominent columnist Cengiz Aktar of daily Taraf have highlighted tweets by “Ambassador” Ahmet Kavas that not only reflect an undiplomatic antipathy toward France in particular, and the West in general, but also suggest that we may have an “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” who actually sympathizes with al-Qaeda.

In his tweets dated Jan. 25, Kavas vents his anger over France’s intervention in Mali, saying, among other things, “The word terrorism is a French invention. It cannot be the work of Muslims,” and adding “Al-Qaeda is different from terror.” One can only imagine the righteous indignation that would flow from Ankara if the French ambassador in Turkey, or any Western envoy for that matter, tweeted, “The PKK is different from terror.” We can only conclude, on the basis of his own remarks, that our “ambassador” in N’Djamena sees al-Qaeda not as a terrorist organization, but as a group waging a legitimate jihad against nefarious infidels.

There are scores of genuine Islamic scholars in Turkey and abroad who would dispute this claim vehemently, of course. If, on the other hand, Kavas feels his remarks were distorted by the media, he is free to send us a message proving us wrong. This column will be left open for him. We nevertheless expect the rebuttal to be clear and unambiguous on the question of al-Qaeda terrorism, and not beat around the bush with remarks about “anti-Muslim colonialists.”

Kavas, however, represents only one expression of the difficult position the Islamist Erdoğan government increasingly finds itself in this respect. It is clearly caught between burning hatreds – based on its religious ideology and seen most visibly in the case of Israel and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime – and the need to appear to be what it is not. For example it finds it difficult to accept as “terrorist” some groups that have been designated by the West as such, and this applies to Syria also where “Jabhat al-Nusra,” a jihadist group fighting the al-Assad regime, is reportedly receiving considerable support from Ankara. Reports and commentary in the Turkish and Kurdish media have suggested that the Erdoğan government is not only using this group against al-Assad, but also against Syrian Kurds.

Today’s Zaman reported in January that Ankara expressed its discontent to Washington over its listing of Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist organization, by arguing that the announcement “was ill-timed.” This message was reportedly conveyed during the talks Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu had in Washington last month.If there is any truth to any of these reports, it indicates that the Erdoğan government is playing with fire in order to force outcomes that suit its own ideological expectations, rather than considering the consequences for Turkey’s long-term security interests. The recent car bombing at the Cilvegözü border crossing between Turkey and Syria may be a premonition of things to come, as Ankara gets embroiled with jihadists in Syria and elsewhere.

If we return to our “ambassador” in Chad, though, sending 25 tweets full of innuendo and insinuation against countries Ankara is trying to improve ties with at the moment, while appearing to sympathize with radical Islamic causes can hardly pass for “diplomatic finesse.” It also begs questions about the government’s selection criteria for such “outside appointments,” when there are sufficiently competent professional diplomats in the Foreign Ministry who understand the real world we live in and are equally capable of understanding Africa.

February/21/2013

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Faruk Timuroglu

2/21/2013 11:49:42 PM

Turkey already got burned Mr. İdiz. PKK is the kingmaker to carry RTE to his Sultan-Presidency. Thus, if the French ambassador tweets, “The PKK is different from terror” that would show his grasp of reality on the ground. However, U.S. ambassador not yet comprehend that Chief of the General Staff İlker Başbuğ is Chief of terrorist organization.

Johanna Dew

2/21/2013 8:36:02 PM

@supertramp: despite all the story telling and myth growing Turkey is not in a position to be independent as it has no natural resources, no high technology and lack innovation and money, no warfare and has no international brands and institutions etc. to fulfill your dreams..) Consider me a well informed and concerned friend..:)

Blue Dotterel

2/21/2013 6:08:28 PM

@Turk Uzan, true, the deal mentioned is a small one, but it is also true that bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel is at its highest level since trade began between them in the 1940s. Clearly, the Mavi Marmara killings have not been allowed to get in the way of business. This is why I have never taken the gov't stance on the Mavi Marmara or Gaza seriously. It is all show for the gullible masses. Israel and Turkey are working hand in glove for Israel's real interests.

Murat

2/21/2013 5:59:54 PM

This is what happens when you make a kapici a minister, and the cayci an ambassador. Maybe more courses on diplomacy in Imam and Hatips needed.

Stephen Brunette

2/21/2013 4:33:57 PM

Thank you Mr Idiz for helping expose this fine example of lunatic foreign service ambassadors the AKP is promoting. Doesn't really matter, this sad excuse of an ambassador is dead in the sights of western intelligence agencies, and don't worry, one day will answer for his crazy rants, he may like Gitmo!

Rimon Tree

2/21/2013 4:04:00 PM

@Johanna "China and Russia are not Turkish friends." Right! Neither are the Arabs, but esteemed PM continues to realize this and keeps appeasing them though this will be futile.

anton supertramp

2/21/2013 3:53:39 PM

@johanna,they are not friends and you are? :) Turkey should do what it takes to get in position that requires no support from anyone, otherwise so called friends might one day witdraw support :)

Hakan Salci

2/21/2013 2:22:16 PM

And?? Why is everyone surprised by such statements from our overwhelmingly qualified Ambassadors? Surely they have been hand picked by our Great Leader himself for their intellectual and international mastery; so what's the problem if they state that 'Al-Qaeda' are not terrorists? Indeed what did anyone expect from such a ruling party. Patience wears thin and soon the same plot that brought the AKP to power will reverse..very soon I hope and stop Turkey from being the laughing stock of the World

Turk Uzan

2/21/2013 2:16:13 PM

He should be forced to resign .. this is a shameful display,

Turk Uzan

2/21/2013 1:53:53 PM

@ Blue, "Turkey just signed a $100 million dollar defense deal with Israel" .. ho really, and when did we do that? 100 millions btw is a very tiny amount for a defense deal... You are probably talking about Turkey who bought planes from Boeing who had a contract with a Jewish company for part of the surveillance system. Israel after the relationships broke refused to hand over these parts to Boeing but finally had to hand them over because of Boeing's pressure
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