Turkey’s dance

Turkey’s dance

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar could be seen as a return to the bad old Sunni alliance against Iran in the region. For the time being, it is not clear if the move is part of a Turkish governmental attempt to influence the new U.S. administration, or a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s new Mideast policy. Although Trump’s new Mideast policy is far from clarity and coherence, his verbal attack on Iran must have encouraged the anti-Iran alliance in the region. Besides, Turkey’s governing circles may be thinking that it is also a chance to balance Russia’s growing power in Syria and its recent pro-Kurdish stance.  

Nevertheless, it is rather difficult for Turkey’s rulers to handle good relations with Russia on one hand and pursue an anti-Iran policy on the other. Trump’s Russia policy might still be quite opaque, but Turkey may find itself in a terrible quagmire in all circumstances. If Trump switches to confrontational politics toward Russia, Turkey will be in a difficult position in having to choose sides; if not, it will mean that the U.S. and Russia will need to find common ground on Iran and its regional allies. In the latter case, the anti-Iran coalition may be seriously undermined and Turkey may find a little space to maneuver. Finally, regardless of the direction of U.S.-Russia relations, both parties expect Turkey to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) more than anyone else, while both parties’ attitude toward the role of the Kurds largely converges despite Turkey’s efforts to change their views.

Another major problem with “the anti-Iran coalition” is its tacit alliance with Israel, or rather, with its current government. Trump may be thinking that a new policy of engaging Arab countries for some sort of Palestinian-Israeli settlement could be achieved on the basis of their common anti-Iran stance. Nevertheless, it is rather shaky ground since the imagined settlement of the Palestine-Israel is even more difficult now that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump sound as if they have started to consider a one-state solution rather than a two-state solution. Unfortunately, the one-state solution they have in mind is a far cry from the dream of some Israeli and Palestinian progressives. It was a dream of the common democratic state of Israel in equal terms for Jews and Arabs, whereas the new one-state project(s) is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in which Palestinians will have minority rights and Jordanian passports, if necessary. Under such circumstances, the policy seems destined to fail from the beginning, despite the efforts of Jordan’s king and Trump’s sonin-law, who is a staunch advocate of Israel as a Jewish state and considers the settlements in the West Bank as a historical-religious right.  

For the time being, it seems that there is no common agreement among the U.S., Israel and some Arab countries, other than the fact that they are all antiIran. That is why, as the Arab allies of the U.S. try to use the opportunity to push the new administration toward a more anti-Iran stance, the new U.S. administration and Israel will try to use the opportunity to convince Arabs for a new IsraeliPalestinian settlement.    

So far, Turkey’s rulers and their supporters have managed to adjust to the politics of “frenenmity” concerning Israel by turning a blind eye to the Netanyahu government’s aggressive politics in pursuit of a more powerful role in the region and more Israeli tourists. Still, they are playing the same game with the Russians as they seek an uneasy alliance with Russia for the sake of a greater say in Syria and the Mideast and more Russian tourists. In fact, I can imagine Russian, Saudi, Emirati, Iranian and Israeli tourists dancing in the same discos in Turkey’s touristic towns, but Turkey’s dance with many partners may not be as smooth.

Gratitude to Maher Osserian

I want to thank you, Mr. Maher Osserian, for informing me that the content of Niall Arden’s book, “Desert Fire,” is largely fiction. I did not know the story behind the book and, in fact, I am always cautious about this genre of fictitious war memoirs, and Arden’s book in particular does not seem genuine in many ways. However, the story of friendly fire against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq in 2003 has always been controversial and elicited much speculation. That is why I did not shy away from referring to the book since that particular part of the work touches on the speculation in question. Still, I could have perhaps mentioned that speculation directly rather than referring to the book.