The world > 5

The world > 5

The United States and Russia have decided not to talk anymore about Syria as of Monday night.  It looked like Washington was calling its bluff in the first place but the Kremlin responded with “sorrow,” accepting the terms of the ground fight. What this means though may not be as we think.

The Obama administration is gearing up for its final weeks as the ground assault for Mosul approaches. To avoid any possibility of a bad “October surprise,” Washington will be scaling down in Syria and surging its troop presence in Iraq. Thus, all the offers Ankara made to take Raqqa together and form a no-fly zone hand in hand with the U.S. is all up in the air. Turkish troops are on their own on the ground in Syria. In a smart but brutal move, the U.S. looks like it left the war theater to Russia and Iran, accepting their power base there. But could it come back for Aleppo?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a speech Monday morning, again lashed out against the representation of the major powers in UNSC. “The number should be 20 and representation should be permanent,” he said. “All countries should take turns,” he added. Erdoğan did not really specify how “permanent” and “rotating” membership in the UNSC could be established. But Turkey once had a seat there. And a pretty powerful one indeed. The president was furious at the 5+1 and questioned, “Where are the Muslims in this picture? Is there one country that is representing the billions of Muslims?”

His theory is sadly true but then again, who should be the “permanent” representative of Muslims in the Security Council? Russia has a huge Muslim population, so does China. Would Indonesia take the helm as the biggest Muslim country in the world? Or maybe Iran? Saudi Arabia with big bucks perhaps? 

It was almost exactly eight years ago. There was intense lobbying and schmoozing going on in the halls and corridors of the U.N. in New York. Turkey was about to be elected as a Security Council member for 2009-10. Ali Babacan, then the foreign minister, had been camping in New York for almost a month to convince even the smallest South American states, tiny Pacific islands and African diplomats, etc. Ironically, the Gülenists were the biggest force behind the negotiations at that time. There were lunches, cocktails, receptions everywhere. Turkey was using every opportunity to showcase its global “soft power.” And it paid off nicely; Turkey won the Security Council seat by an overwhelming 151 votes, beating Austria and Iceland. 

I remember how proud I was covering the vote from the Press Gallery in the General Assembly. Our Armenian and Greek colleagues congratulated us thinking, this could be the opportunity to resolve so many troubled issues.

Who remembers that now? Not even President Erdoğan, probably.

The only thing that remained from Turkey’s presence on the UNSC was the June 2010 historic vote against the sanctions imposed against the Ahmadinejad government in Iran. Brazil and Turkey voted no, and even Russia voted in favor of the sanctions. In the end, Iran’s leader changed and the country moved onto the world stage. Turkey’s nominations to be on the Security Council failed.

The world is definitely bigger than five. But if you have one seat at that table, you should make good use of it even if it is just for a short time.