ANKARA: Zero Problems, A Hundred Troubles – Revisited


Hurriyet, Turkey
Sept 8 2011

In “Enemy-less Turkey” in this column less than a year ago, I asked
a few questions, hoping that the followers of the science fiction
theory dubbed “zero problems” might give a convincing answer:

“Why does Turkey spend billions of dollars in naval systems, including
new frigates, corvettes, submarines, coastal surveillance systems and
even a ‘landing platform dock that can carry up to eight helicopters?’
Which country in our seas of peace poses a security threat to
Turkey..? None, according to the (national security) threat paper.

What, then, justifies the generous naval spending?

“Since Turkey has no enemies in its vicinity… what will it do
with new-generation tanks and air-defense systems and frigates and a
landing platform dock? Which government would spend tens of billions
of dollars on equipment it thinks it will not need?”

Put another away, I was wondering why a country with a strictly
no-problems-with-neighbors doctrine would spend $5 billion for new
weapon systems every year? Apparently, the founder of the doctrine
knew better than me and many others.

The always self-confident Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu set out
to work with the ambitious zero-problems-with-neighbors dictum as if
the world’s most volatile region had waited for him as the promised
peacemaker for two millennia. And he has miraculously found millions
of “buyers” in the marketplace of ideas, ironically, even among the
people he is now in a cold war with, not to mention the naïve sons
of Aristotle.

He has traveled half the world more than a few times, shook hands
with hostile statesmen, built “brotherly” relations with Muslim
leaders in this part of the world, won prize after prize, posed for
cameras thousands of times, always smiling, always hopeful for the
best fruit: peace.

He built an alliance with Syria, thought he could persuade Iran to
give up its nuclear program, thought Aegean disputes would soon go
away and thought that Cyprus would finally be reunited. He thought
a landmark peace with Armenia was feasible. What’s more? “The return
of the Ottomans,” theoretically, would make al-Quds an Arab-only city,
and “we would all happily pray at the al-Aqsa mosque in the Palestinian
capital al-Quds.”

After two years of hard work Professor Davutoglu has been able to
attain, sadly, a cold war with Israel. That cold war has already turned
into a conventional war in the virtual world. An Israeli online news
site reported that Turkish hackers “hijacked” 350 Israeli websites
last Sunday.

The situation may look calmer, but deep down it may not be so when
it comes to our great Muslim brothers and friends, Syria and Iran. Mr.

Davutoglu must be the last person Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
would wish to see these days. Tehran’s nuclear program goes on at full
speed while “zero-problem neighbor” Turkey has agreed to host a NATO
radar system on Turkish soil to intercept any future Iranian missile
threat. And the head of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and
Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi – no doubt, a brother
and friend of Minister Davutoglu – has made this not-so-brotherly
statement: “Muslim countries should not serve NATO’s interests.”

The situation on the Aegean and Mediterranean is not better. To punish
Israel, Turkey has pledged to increase its naval presence and warned
against potential joint exploration activity by Cyprus and Israel
in the eastern Mediterranean. “This is why we have a military,” EU
Minister Egemen BagıÅ~_ said in a threatening tone which naturally
was perceived threateningly in Athens.

Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesman Gregory Delavekouras declared
Minister BagıÅ~_’s statement as threatening and commented that:
“This conduct is opposed to the policy Turkey has declared: that of
zero problems with its neighbors.”

Even the country with which we Turks feel as “one nation-two states”
apparently feels irritated by its Turkish brothers. WikiLeaks has
quoted Azerbaijan’s president, Ä°lham Aliyev, as confiding to American
diplomats that all his country hopes to do is protect itself from
Turkey’s neo-Ottomanism and Islamism. So, once again Mr. Davutoglu
succeeded at what looks unthinkable: Making nemesis neighbors Armenia
and Azerbaijan feel equally distant to Turkey (like the nemesis trio
Israel, Syria and Iran do as well).

Apparently, this is not how you build a sea of peace. But why the
dramatic ending? There may be dozens of reasons but, speaking of
WikiLeaks, I suggest readers start by recalling another cable which
quotes a former U.S. ambassador as putting it most realistically:
“With Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources to cut themselves
in on the action, the Turks have to ‘cheat’ by finding an underdog,
a Silajdzic, Meshaal or Ahmadinejad.”

From: A. Papazian

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