ISTANBUL: Dancing On A Shark’s Fin


July 13 2012

A couple of light years ago Turkey was proudly spearheading efforts
to build what this column said would become “The Middle Eastern Steel
and Coal Community,” with (almost) founding members Iraq, Syria,
Lebanon and Jordan. Today, Jordan is the weakest and silent link
in Turkey’s new pastime, deposing neighboring dictators; Turkey has
declared Syria a “hostile country;” while Iraq has declared Turkey a
“hostile country.” It’s as if time runs at a much faster pace in this
part of the world.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s biggest fans
in the Middle East until recently, the (Lebanese) Hezbollah and the
Palestinian liberation groups, have threatened to fight should the
Turks intended to interfere in Syria.

Fortunately, everyone sighed with relief when the top Turkish military
commander, Gen. Necdet Ozel, said Turkey did not intend to declare
war on Syria. Gen. Ozel is a lucky commander, for his remarks, if they
had been made a couple of years previously, could have been perceived
as a military intervention in politics and, therefore, he could have
been taken to court for plotting to overthrow an elected government.

Despite every visible failure, the illusions of grandeur in Ankara
are still as visible as these failures. All that may bring about
an additional workload to personnel at the Foreign Ministry as the
number of news articles the staff must now hide from Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu’s attention is sharply increasing.

Most recently, Reuters started to play with fire. In an analysis on
Turkey’s foreign policy, Reuters argued that “Turkey’s bark seems worse
than its bite.” The wire service also wrote that: “Ask the Syrians,
who shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet on June 22 and got away
with it. … Ask the Israelis, who killed nine pro-Palestine Turkish
activists on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship and got away with
it.” The danger for Turkey, Reuters commented, is that [Turkey’s]
truculence … begins to look toothless.”

The potential sixth member of the Middle Eastern Union, Iran, no
longer views Ankara as a Middle Eastern Brussels. Instead, for the
Persians, the paint on the Trojan Horse has faded and now reveals the
Crescent and Star. News reports say tourist arrivals in Turkey from
Iran fell by 37 percent in the first four months of 2012 compared to
the corresponding period of last year, and Tehran has not denied that
it prompted Iranian travel agencies to avoid Turkey.

Mr. Davutoglu may still think that it is a pure coincidence that
only six days after Syrians (Syrians?) shot down the Turkish RF-4E,
the Russian government’s food and quarantine authorities announced
that they had detected 33 cases of infestation in Turkish fruit and
vegetable exports to Russia. Mr. Davutoglu better take the Russian
threat of a trade embargo seriously since Russia is Turkey’s third
biggest export market and fruits and vegetables account for one-fifth
of all exports to that country.

If you add to this picture the fact that “football diplomacy
with Armenia” now resembles a deserted stadium; that a casus belli
against Greece remains hanging in the Aegean skies; that EU accession
negotiations look like negotiations between two deaf and mute men;
that the violent Kurdish conflict is now older than any Turk over 27
years of age but is still killing and that the joint Cypriot-Israeli
efforts to explore for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean risks
a second Turkish casus belli, you can see how successfully Turkey
has isolated Israel and pushed the Jewish state into complete solitude.

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