What will it take for Ankara to wake up?
Again we see that Ankara is bedeviled by events just across its border, which it can’t control or prevent because of the futile way the government is trying to impose its conflicting agenda on developments that have their own dynamics.
Turkey is currently the least effective of all players as matters in Syria unfold in a manner that contradicts almost everything President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu say. Take Erdoğan’s persistence in equating the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and using this as an excuse for not helping the Kurds in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).
While the link between the PKK and the PYD is known, no one in the world seems to care today. What matters is what is going on in Syria with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). All that Turkey has achieved is to force Washington to declare that it does not see the PKK and the PYD as the same thing, and to admit that it is supplying arms to the PYD’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
So what is Ankara doing despite Erdoğan’s open declaration that Turkey cannot condone arms being supplied to the YPG? Absolutely nothing – the simple reason being that it can’t do anything, except eat humble pie and accept the situation.
It is trying to save the day now with talk about opening a corridor for the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga to enter Rojava, but even that is not free of confusion. If Ankara had pursued a more hands-on policy with regard to the Syrian Kurds, instead of first wasting time on the argument that they are allies of Bashar al-Assad, and second on trying to convince the West that the PKK and the PYD are the same thing, matters would have been different.
Turkey would not have infuriated and alienated Kurds across the board at a sensitive moment in the government’s own domestic Kurdish peace process, and at a dangerous moment in the Middle East. Instead, it would have broadened the Kurdish base of support for Turkey and enhanced its prestige in the world as a regional patron state.
Achieving this, however, requires a capacity to understand the big picture and act accordingly.
Erdoğan and Davutoğlu should seriously consider, without their usual hackneyed conspiracy theories, why Turkey failed in its recent bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Since 2010 Turkey’s international prestige has been plummeting.
It first started doing so in the West but that was alright for Erdoğan as long as he had support in the Islamic world, and the Middle East in particular. Following the Arab Spring, Turkey’s prestige in the region among the powers-that-be also went into a nose dive.
The more Erdoğan agitated the streets with his pro-Sunni, pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Hamas rhetoric, the more ground Turkey lost in a region where it once had ambitions of being a key player. Today, Turkey is seen as a hindrance and not a help in both the West and the East.
Its policies that are out of touch with developments on the ground have left it friendless to a large extent, especially in arenas where it is important to have friends.
The cover being used by Erdoğan and Davutoglu for this state of affairs is of “a principled foreign policy whose value the world will understand in time.”
Meanwhile, their ideologues refer to Turkey’s international isolation as “precious loneliness.” This, however, is not “precious loneliness” but increasingly “dangerous loneliness,” as daily Milliyet columnist Kadri Gursel said recently. One wonders what it will take for those who have dragged the country into this situation to wake up to what is really transpiring, instead of saying one thing one day and being forced to do the opposite the next.