Lies, cheap lies and cheaper lies

Lies, cheap lies and cheaper lies

Turkey’s claim that its regional foreign policy is not sectarian “at all” is as convincing as its government’s claims over the past few years that the Turkish state is “at a strictly equal distance” from every faith, including citizens with no faith at all.
I smiled recently when I read a fellow Hürriyet columnist writing about why Turkey’s foreign policy calculus actually was “not sectarian at all.” Proof? As he wrote:

“Yes, in Turkey’s ambitions for the planned Mosul operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) there is something about protecting the Sunni population. But this is against Shiite expansionism. Ankara is not pursuing sectarian policies ... Ankara only does not want Shiite participation in the Mosul operation. But it is essentially objecting to sectarianism.”

Interesting logic: The Turkish government wants to protect Sunnis and it is against Shiite participation in the Mosul offensive - therefore it is against sectarianism. But actually there is further evidence that Ankara is “not at all sectarian.”

Take, for instance, Turkey’s call on Muslim countries to unite against the U.S. bill that allows families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for their losses. Of course it is purely a coincidence that Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabi/Sunni nation and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “Turkey and Saudi Arabia are being targeted … We see that all pitfalls and plans are pointed against the Islamic world. That is why the states of the Islamic world need to be in cooperation and solidarity with each other.” 

Why should the president of Turkey be upset about the prospect that the families of the 9/11 victims may sue Saudi Arabia? Did nobody tell the president that the families are not going to sue Turkey? Why does Mr. Erdoğan think the U.S. bill targets “Turkey and Saudi Arabia,” not just Saudi Arabia? If he does not think that Turkey could also be sued for 9/11 why is he so upset? After all, he is not a member of the Saudi royal family.
There are some other amusing coincidences that show the world why Turkey is “not pursuing sectarian policies.” Think for a moment: How powerfully would Turkey condemn it if some Shiite militiamen attacked and killed more than 100 members of the Muslim Brotherhood? How powerfully would it condemn if the Nusairi (Alawite) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked and killed more than 100 Syrian (Sunni) rebels? What words would Mr. Erdoğan use to scold such massacres? I think we all know. 

All the same, as this article went to print there was still no powerful condemnation of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrike that hit a funeral hall packed with thousands of mourners in Yemen’s capital on Saturday, killing over 140 people and wounding more than 525 in one of the deadliest single attacks of the country’s civil war. Should we be surprised that Ankara’s “silence” could be about the fact that the perpetrators of the attack were Sunni and the victims Shiite-backed Houthis?

It is for the same “non-sectarian” reason that Turkey is at odds with Baghdad’s Shiite-controlled government, which increasingly loudly calls Turkish troops in northern Iraq “occupiers” and asks for their withdrawal. As Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently responded to Baghdad: “We know very well that [the Iraqi government] does not represent the entire Iraqi people.” That was a not-so-subtle reference to the fact that Iraq’s Shiite-controlled government does not represent Iraq’s Sunni population. But does Mr. Çavuşoğlu think his own government, with 50 percent of the national vote, represents the entire Turkish nation? 

Turkey’s sectarian ambitions failed in Syria. Its grand Islamist design in Egypt, through the Muslim Brotherhood, has also failed. Its pro-Hamas Islamism failed in Lebanon due to the same sectarian divide that has divided the Islamic world for the last 14 centuries. Its Sunni-ism in Iraq will also fail.