Recep Tayyip Erdogan's double-dealing over Islamic State and Syria have put Turkey on the path to disaster.
One of the big gains of his rule had been a ceasefire with the militant Kurdish PKK in south-east Turkey. Erdogan actually returned to the Turkish Parliament after being banned from a Kurdish region in 2002 for his Islamic activities. It seemed his mix of religion and politics meant a Muslim leader could reach out to fellow Muslim Kurds as well as ethnic Turks.
But as elections in June showed, the bulk of Turkey’s Kurds now support opponents of Erdogan’s AK Party. This is largely the result of his backing anti-Assad forces in Syria who are not only Sunni but hostile to Syria’s Kurds.
Like his allies in Nato, Erdogan had expected the Assad regime to implode as quickly as other Arab dictatorships in 2011. But unlike the rest of the West, Erdogan took sides in the sectarian politics of Syria. Turkey’s sympathy for jihadists there and its blind-eye to weapons supplies to Isil have bitterly divided the Turkish public.
"Erdogan’s ambition to dominate Turkish politics and the Middle East has hit the buffers."
Syria’s implosion along ethnic and sectarian lines is a warning to Turkey. Many of the dividing lines in Syria reach over the border. France partitioned its Syrian mandate in 1939 to give Antioch to Turkey. Many of the “Turks” there still use Arabic and regard the mainly Sunni rebels in Syria (and the Sunni refugees who have flooded into their border region) with barely veiled hostility.
In July, Kurds in the southern city of Suruc suffered a savage suicide attack. The Turkish state’s failure to forestall such terrorism and the Turkish army’s response to an Isil attack on the Kurdish town of Kobani last year are works of malign indifference. This fuels suspicions among Erdogan’s opponents that his government is behind terrorist violence that so often has Kurds as victims. It is all horribly reminiscent of how Pakistan’s Inter-Services Institute intelligence agency played a double game with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Of course, Turkey, like Pakistan, does not just face home-grown problems. Both live in difficult neighbourhoods. Both can argue that Western allies have pursued policies which have made their situation worse. But each should deal with self-inflicted wounds too.
Erdogan’s ambition to dominate Turkish politics and the Middle East has hit the buffers. Turkey lacks the resources to play the old Ottoman role. Anyway, few Arabs – and not many Turks – wish to see it revived.
His relations with Putin’s Russia have soured as the Kremlin sent warships and supplies to Syria through the Bosporus as well as the oil that energy-poor Turkey needs. Erdogan upped the ante by threatening to cancel Russian energy imports and a nuclear power project. Now Russian and Turkish warplanes shadow each other, fingers on the trigger.
Desperate to achieve a majority in next month’s parliamentary elections, Erdogan seems prepared to drop the mantle of statesman and gamble that if Turks polarise on sectarian lines, his side will be the majority. This strategy is reopening Turkey’s domestic wounds.
Intensifying internal divisions while playing politics in a neighbour’s civil war is a recipe for recreating Pakistan’s problems on Europe’s doorstep. That would be disaster for us as well as the Turks.
Mark Almond was a visiting professor at Ankara’s Bilkent University and is preparinog “Secular Turkey: A Short History”.
Han har svårt med vinklarna
- Inte 180 graders skillnad på Turkiets islam och ISIS:s, det är 360 graders skillnad.
Turkiets premiärminister Ahmet Davutoglu försöker slå i folk att islam är ”fredligt och humant”!
Skämt eller lögn? Muslimer är inte särskilt kända som skämtare, precis tvärtom.
Och då återstår... det andra alternativet.