Is Turkish foreign policy successful?
The release of Turkish pilots by Lebanese Zuwar al-Imam Rida group (a branch of the Lebanese Hezbollah) put an end to a 71-day ordeal. A “jubilant” Turkish prime minister welcomed the released hostages at the doors of the Qatar Airways plane that flew them to Turkey. On the news channels it was reported that the released pilots were flown from Lebanon to Turkey by a special Turkish Airlines plane while reporters stood in front of the huge “Qatar” sign on the plane… The name of the game is clear: Fool the nation, the premier is in need of a victory.
From the slashed fund of the Prime Ministry (or the National Intelligence Agency which nowadays has a bigger budget than the prime ministry) or perhaps as a generous donation by the Qatari sheikh, 150 million dollars ransom is said to have been paid to the Sunni al-Nusra group (an al-Qaeda branch) operating in Syria with Turkey’s “logistical” support. In return al-Nusra released a group of Shiite Lebanese pilgrims it has been holding as hostage for the past year. In return of the release of the Lebanese hostages as part of a deal brokered by the Qatari government, the Zuwar al-Imam Rida group released the two Turkish pilots abducted in Beirut 71 days ago.
Even this short summary of the ordeal demonstrates vividly that for either the Turkish intelligence or the prime minister there ought to be nothing to proudly celebrate apart paying the 150 million dollar ransom. It was the Qataris that mediated the release of the pilots as well as the Lebanese Shiite hostages held by al-Nusra. This incident alone is a demonstration of the “great success” of Turkey in foreign policy as well as in its “increased capabilities” of the intelligence agency. Shall I elaborate a little bit more? The Shiite Lebanese pilgrims were abducted by the al-Nusra gang almost a year ago. Al-Nusra is notorious with its summary beheadings, particularly of captured Shiites and pro-government elements. Knowing Turkey’s support for asl-Nusra, Lebanese Shiite Zuwar al-Imam Rida group appealed to Turkey to help to securely release the pilgrims. Al-Nusra demanded a ransom of $150 million for the release of the hostages. For days, members of the group demonstrated in front of Turkey’s Lebanese Embassy, Turkey preferred to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to all such appeals. The group hijacked two Turkish pilots and told Turkey.
After weeks of bargaining, which also involved some Sunni Arab envoys accredited to Ankara, and as was put by a Turkish minister, “an effective and exemplary cooperation,” was achieved between Ankara and Doha as a result of which the ransom was paid, the Lebanese pilgrims and the pilots were released and flown in to Beirut and Istanbul simultaneously onboard special Qatari Airways planes.
Somehow Turkish news channels neglected a live report of the arrival of Lebanese pilgrims, but extensively reported the extravagant celebrations thrown in Istanbul by the premier and his party.
The end result? Of course it was great to see the Turkish pilots and the Lebanese pilgrims were liberated. Whoever contributed to the efforts that won their release must be appreciated. But, should we not question how this ordeal came into being? How this ordeal came to a conclusion? Was it appropriate at all for Turkey or Qatar on behalf of Turkey to pay a ransom to a terrorist organization? Would such ransom money be considered financial support to a terrorist gang? Or, can we still claim that Turkey’s foreign policy is a successful one?
It smells awful, does it not?