Love thy neighbor

Love thy neighbor

In the Mediterranean to the south, Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with European Union member Cyprus. In its east, Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with Armenia, now a reinforced Russian military base.  

Further south of Cyprus, Turkey does not recognize the administration in Cairo, and, consequently, Egypt is “hostile land.” Go west on the coast, and you will see dangerous waters off Libya for any Turkish vessel; the same country where every Turk is treated as a terrorist.  

In Lebanon, Turkish citizens have been high value currency in the country’s kidnapping market in recent years. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is no longer the rock star in Beirut the way he once was – merely because he was “heroically hostile” to Israel. He still is: The relative quiet on the Turkey-Israel axis is not because Mr. Erdoğan no longer feels “heroically hostile” to Israel, but because he now has more imminent enemies – and because there are no elections in sight.  

In the Black Sea to the north, Turkish citizens are humiliated daily while important men in gray suits in Ankara rush from one meeting to another in efforts to calculate “where other than in the commercial sphere the Bear that is Russia might hit us.” The skies of northern Syria are no longer safe for Turkish fighter aircraft to fly in.  

Syria is Syria. No more talks with the Russians to convince them of a Syria without its president, Bashar al-Assad, who, in Turkey’s single-dimension policy calculus, should ideally be replaced by “moderate” (Sunni) Islamists.
Now Turkey is about to finish writing a similar story with Iran. There is no more of “our dear Muslims brothers” – the silent war between Ankara and Tehran is much less silent. Turkey wants Iran to scrap its sectarian policies while gearing up its own sectarian policies. This is not realistic. The inevitable parallel between Turkey’s Syria and Iran stories is that both administrations are non-Sunni and despise Mr. Erdogan’s “moderate” darlings of jihadists. So, no more “our dear Muslim brothers…” 

And now, Iraq. According to the Foreign Ministry’s latest travel advisory, all of Iraq other than the Kurdish north is too dangerous for Turkish citizens; they should leave the country at once. The same moment Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claimed, unconvincingly, that Turkey’s troop deployment to Iraq was merely a sign of “solidarity” with Iraq, Baghdad’s city council launched a boycott against all Turkish products and companies. Not quite a sign of solidarity. In addition, Iraq’s legitimate government has asked Turkey, in an ultimatum, to withdraw its troops stationed near Mosul.  

Turkey insists it is keeping those troops there “for the stability of this region.” It all looks like a man occupying one room in his neighbor’s house; the neighbor says, “Get out!” and threatens to call the police and sue, while the man shrugs it off, smiles and replies: “Hey, neighbor, I am here for your own good and the stability of your house.”  

Mr. Davutoğlu’s office issued a more honest statement, though, other than the rather funny “solidarity and stability” narrative: That “our troops are there because we don’t want to be neighbors with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).” 

The trouble is, we are already neighbors with ISIL, and it looks like it is too late to convince the jihadists to move to another neighborhood. So, we don’t want to be neighbors with ISIL? As a matter of fact, as one recent study found, we are not just neighbors with ISIL, but we also share the same house with many of them. The pollsters most recently found that 8 percent of Turks sympathize with ISIL – and that makes over 6 million people! 

President Erdoğan’s spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, has said that “Turkey is fighting multiple wars of propaganda with ISIL in the center.” He did not say, though, which ISIL is at the center of that war; the one neighboring Turkey in Syria, or the one INSIDE Turkey.