Dancing on a shark’s fin
A couple of light years ago Turkey was proudly spearheading efforts to build what this column said would become “The Middle Eastern Steel and Coal Community,” with (almost) founding members Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Today, Jordan is the weakest and silent link in Turkey’s new pastime, deposing neighboring dictators; Turkey has declared Syria a “hostile country;” while Iraq has declared Turkey a “hostile country.” It’s as if time runs at a much faster pace in this part of the world.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s biggest fans in the Middle East until recently, the (Lebanese) Hezbollah and the Palestinian liberation groups, have threatened to fight should the Turks intended to interfere in Syria.
Fortunately, everyone sighed with relief when the top Turkish military commander, Gen. Necdet Özel, said Turkey did not intend to declare war on Syria. Gen. Özel is a lucky commander, for his remarks, if they had been made a couple of years previously, could have been perceived as a military intervention in politics and, therefore, he could have been taken to court for plotting to overthrow an elected government.
Despite every visible failure, the illusions of grandeur in Ankara are still as visible as these failures. All that may bring about an additional workload to personnel at the Foreign Ministry as the number of news articles the staff must now hide from Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s attention is sharply increasing.
Most recently, Reuters started to play with fire. In an analysis on Turkey’s foreign policy, Reuters argued that “Turkey’s bark seems worse than its bite.” The wire service also wrote that: “Ask the Syrians, who shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet on June 22 and got away with it. ... Ask the Israelis, who killed nine pro-Palestine Turkish activists on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship and got away with it.” The danger for Turkey, Reuters commented, is that [Turkey’s] truculence ... begins to look toothless.”
The potential sixth member of the Middle Eastern Union, Iran, no longer views Ankara as a Middle Eastern Brussels. Instead, for the Persians, the paint on the Trojan Horse has faded and now reveals the Crescent and Star. News reports say tourist arrivals in Turkey from Iran fell by 37 percent in the first four months of 2012 compared to the corresponding period of last year, and Tehran has not denied that it prompted Iranian travel agencies to avoid Turkey.
Mr. Davutoğlu may still think that it is a pure coincidence that only six days after Syrians (Syrians?) shot down the Turkish RF-4E, the Russian government’s food and quarantine authorities announced that they had detected 33 cases of infestation in Turkish fruit and vegetable exports to Russia. Mr. Davutoğlu better take the Russian threat of a trade embargo seriously since Russia is Turkey’s third biggest export market and fruits and vegetables account for one-fifth of all exports to that country.
If you add to this picture the fact that “football diplomacy with Armenia” now resembles a deserted stadium; that a casus belli against Greece remains hanging in the Aegean skies; that EU accession negotiations look like negotiations between two deaf and mute men; that the violent Kurdish conflict is now older than any Turk over 27 years of age but is still killing and that the joint Cypriot-Israeli efforts to explore for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean risks a second Turkish casus belli, you can see how successfully Turkey has isolated Israel and pushed the Jewish state into complete solitude.