Tell me who your friends are…
I forgot the rest of this well-known phrase… But it probably went on to say “… and I’ll tell you what a nice gentleman you are.” (Before any reader rushes to correct me, he should type “Turkey journalists prison” and google it).
At a recent meeting in Germany, Cem Toker, chairman of the Liberal Party, said: “Ahmet Davutoğlu should decide whether he is the foreign minister of Turkey, or the interior minister of Syria.” But why should he choose? Mr. Davutoğlu is probably the foreign minister of Turkey and the foreign and interior ministers of Syria, Iraq, Israel, Iran and half a dozen other countries in the Levant. He may also be the patron saint of the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and formerly Lebanon. And that portfolio is too heavy for one man.
No doubt, Mr. Davutoğlu’s intro into Middle Eastern politics was impressive. His outro may not be equally so. I, for instance, would expect him, after his exhausting work over the past few months, to find at least one single positive response to his vigorous quest to convince Arab/Gulf/Muslim allies to (fully or not-so-fully) recognize the breakaway Turkish statelet in northern Cyprus. But perhaps he has been too busy befriending fellow Muslims.
Over the past years the Turks have tried, sometimes successfully, to make bizarre friends in the former Ottoman lands: the eccentric Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran; internationally-renowned peace and charity organizations Hamas and Hezbollah; the dictator in Damascus who they had mistaken for the Syrian Voltaire for about eight years; and Omar al-Bashir, Sudanese President, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the man wanted by the International Criminal Court on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
One recent “favorite” friend is Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, for whom a litany of accusations from running death squads to committing terrorism and an arrest warrant wait in Baghdad. Mr. al-Hashemi has been on a nice little “vacanze Turchese” since last month, enjoying springtime in Istanbul under the blessing of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Apparently, that is the Istanbul front in the Sunni-Shia (Saudi/Turkish/Qatari-Iranian) proxy war.
The holiday was going very smoothly until Tuesday, when Interpol responded positively to a request for help from Iraq to arrest Mr. al-Hashemi: a “red notice” had been issued. Although the red notice falls short of requiring Turkey, an Interpol member, to take Mr. al-Hashemi into custody, it will increase pressure on Ankara and make it more difficult for Mr. al-Hashimi to cross international borders (but surely not the Turkish-North Iraqi border, which is an unconventional border).
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has made it clear that they “will not surrender someone we have been supporting from the beginning.” So, for the Turks, Interpol issues two kinds of arrest warrants: for those we support and those we don’t. Was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wrong then, when he said “Turkey has become a hostile country”?
In the end, Turkey has become a country that disrespects an arrest warrant from Interpol, to which it has appealed hundreds of times for similar requests in the past few years. And we are talking about “principles” in foreign policy? That’s so nice!
Baghdad (or Tehran, or Damascus) could soon be the safest haven(s) to which Turkish (and Kurdish) criminals and terrorists can flee for refuge. After Mr. Bozdağ’s statement, Iraq has officially become a funfair for the PKK. It will be utterly amusing when, next time, the Turkish authorities request the extradition of “PKK terrorists” from Baghdad. And that’s not nice.
Turkey’s overt protection for Mr. al-Hashemi, against international law, is just another example of how ambitious the neo-Ottomans can be in chasing their illusions of grandeur.