Turkey’s Shifting Diplomacy
by ALASTAIR CROOKE
Published: November 27, 2009
BEIRUT ‘ While the United States and Europe have been struggling to
find a path forward in the Israel-Palestine conflict, Afghanistan and
Iran, the strategic ground upon which their assumptions about the
region rest has begun to shift dramatically.
Most significantly, Turkey has finally shrugged off the straightjacket
of a tight U.S. alliance, grown virtually indifferent to
E.U. membership and turned its focus toward its former Ottoman
neighbors in Asia and the Middle East.
Though not primarily meant as a snub to the West, this shift does
nonetheless reflect growing discomfort and frustration with U.S. and
E.U. policy, from the support of Israel’s action in Gaza to Iran to
the frustrated impasse of the European accession process. It also
resonates more closely with the Islamic renaissance that has been
taking place within Turkey.
If Turkey continues successfully down this path, it will be as
strategically significant for the balance of power in the region as
the emergence of Iran as a pre-eminent power thanks to the collapse of
the Soviet Union and the later destruction of Sunni dominance in Iraq
by the U.S. invasion.
In recent months, a spate of new agreements have been signed by Turkey
with Iraq, Iran and Syria that suggest a nascent commonality of
political vision. A new treaty with Armenia further signals how
seriously Ankara means its `zero problem’ good neighbor policy.
More importantly, however, the agreements with Iraq, Iran and Syria
reflect a joint economic interest. The `northern tier’ of Middle
Eastern states are poised to become the principal supplier of natural
gas to central Europe once the Nabucco pipeline is completed ‘ thus
not only displacing Russia in that role but gradually eclipsing the
primacy of Saudi Arabia as a geostrategic kingpin due to its oil
Taken together with the economic stagnation and succession crisis that
has incapacitated Egypt, it is clear that the so-called moderate
`southern tier’ Middle Eastern states that have been so central to
American policies are becoming a weak and unreliable link indeed.
Political players in the region can’t but notice the drift of power
from erstwhile U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia toward the northern
tier states, and are starting to readjust to the new power
reality. This can most clearly be seen in Lebanon, where a growing
procession of former U.S. allies and critics of the Syrian government,
including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat and, reportedly,
some of the March 14 movement’s Christian leaders, are making their
pilgrimage to Damascus. That message is not lost on others in the
If the Obama administration is not fully cognizant of these
developments, its awareness will surely be raised as it attempts to
mobilize the world for a new round of punitive sanctions against Iran.
These sanctions are likely to fail not only because Russia and China
won’t go along in any serious way, but precisely because the much
touted `alliance of moderate pro-Western Arab states’ is turning out
to be a paper tiger.
Given the shifting balance of power, the `moderates’ are in no
position to seriously confront Iran and its allies. Hopes that the
recent Saudi bombing of the Houthi rebels in Yemen would incite
sectarian Sunni hostility toward Shiite Iran have not been
realized. On the contrary, the Saudis’ action has been clearly seen in
the region as a partisan and tribal intervention in another state’s
In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not only embraced
the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election, but has insisted as
well on the right of Iran as a sovereign nation to enrich
uranium. Unlike Western leaders, he doesn’t at all seem inordinately
worried about Iran’s course.
The U.S. and Europe are going to have to grapple with the pending
replacement of its `southern tier’ allies in the Middle East by the
rising clout of the `northern tier’ states. It would be best to make
this adjustment sooner rather than later. None of the issues that
matter to the West ‘ the nuclearization of Iran, Israel’s security,
the future of energy supplies ‘ can be solved by ignoring the emergent
reality of a new Middle East.
Alastair Crooke is a former British intelligence agent in the Middle
East and the author of `Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist
Global Viewpoint / Tribune Media Services
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress