The Dance of the Trojan Horse
Turkey, in fact, wanted to be the respectable referee in the Iran vs. West football game. Instead, it has become the ball in the game. But there is more.
After having cultivated an exemplary friendship, luring business deals and even the al-Gadhafi International Prize for Human Rights, the two most important Turks at the helm of foreign policy suddenly discovered that the Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi was a ruthless dictator.
Similarly, it took Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu nine years to understand that their man in Damascus was in fact a dictator. “Is it not amazing, Ahmet, I learned just this morning that there is no democracy in Syria?” “This cannot be true, Prime Minister, I always thought our Syrian brothers ruled their country like the Swedish rule theirs. But, just in case, I’ll check myself to see if these unpleasant rumors are true.”
Our brotherly and strategic relations with Iraq are in no better shape. Baghdad has expressed more than a few times – and in not-so-diplomatic language - its wariness of excessive Turkish meddling in Iraqi politics. “Listen, Ahmet, I suspect that the Iraqis may be starting to distance themselves from the idea of Sunni Turkish dominion.” “Prime Minister, the Iraqis have promised us to be on our side at all times. Muslims always keep their promises. But, just in case, I’ll check myself to see if the Iraqis are good Sunni Muslims like us.”
And most recently, Messrs Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have discovered, after a lengthy honeymoon that lasted a decade, that “our Iranian brothers” are dishonest. “I am totally shocked, Ahmet, that our Persian brothers are behaving like the enemies of the Syrian people. I am even more shocked that these Muslims are dishonest.” “That’s impossible, Prime Minister. But, just in case, I’ll check myself to see if the Iranians are Muslims.”
Only three years ago, when the entire world was decrying ballot rigging, Mr. Erdoğan was among the first to congratulate President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for his re-election victory. Perhaps the current state of the Turkish-Iranian affairs was best analogized recently by Soli Özel, an international relations expert at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University: “They dance together with poison daggers in their hands.” The Dance of the Trojan Horse! And the most rhythmic (and dangerous) episode of the dance may be just beginning.
With their splendid pace in capturing Middle Eastern realities, Messrs Erdoğan and Davutoğlu may even realize in a couple of years that the new rulers of Libya are not the descendants of Voltaire – especially if Turkey further loses its political and economic clout in Libya to Voltaire’s homeland. Give it another decade, and the Turkish leaders may even realize that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy either; or that another ruthless regime in Bahrain is also killing its own people.
All of that should forcefully remind Turkey’s leaders that constant zigzagging between pragmatism/interests and faith/romanticism, as well as brotherly rhetoric based on religion (and political Islam’s inevitable ingredient of loud anti-Israeli words and deeds), does not always yield the desired political results.
Most Lebanese, for example, who idolized Mr Erdoğan because of his superficial cold war with Israel, do not even remember the spectacular “One minute!” screenplay at Davos any more. For them, Turkey today is more about the X-band NATO radar on its soil, its anti-Iranian, anti-Shia, pro-U.S. policy. The days of Davos are over. These are the days when the Lebanese read in the news that only hours after Washington “ordered Turkey to curb oil imports from Iran, it did so,” or that “Turkey supplies weapons to Syrian terrorists.”
“Ahmet, when are we going to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Palestinian capital al-Quds?”
“Soon, Prime Minister, very soon…”