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Archive for August 2011

Mavi Marmara: No end in sight

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A fun excerpt from an informative (if nothing else) AJE opinion piece on the ever-present MV Mavi Marmara issue:

The position of the Turkish ambassador to Israel is one that has been traditionally characterised by ups and downs, both figurative and literal. At a January 2010 meeting in Jerusalem, for example, then-ambassador Oguz Celikkol was deliberately seated at a lower altitude than his Israeli interlocutors, who were displeased with the portrayal of Mossad in the popular Turkish television series Kurtlar Vadisi or Valley of the Wolves.

The Israeli government eventually apologised for the treatment of Celikkol, setting the dangerous precedent that is perhaps to thank for Erdogan’s current conviction that Israel can indeed be made to apologise for things.

Failing an Israeli apology (which apparently constitutes a “Plan A”), Erdoğan has a backup plan:

As for the “Plan B” that Erdogan has threatened to pursue if Israel fails to issue an apology, compensate fatalities, and cease blockading Gaza, the Turkish newspaper HaberTurk lists the components of this plan, which are said to include a visit to Gaza next month by Erdogan, a suit against the Israeli government and relevant soldiers, and a reduction in defense cooperation and economic ties. 

Turkey will additionally refrain from reinstalling an ambassador in Tel Aviv, a post that has been vacant since the Mavi Marmara incident, and will refuse to accept a replacement Israeli ambassador to Turkey when the current one terminates his stint in September.

Erdoğan must know that his “Plan B” (apparently an apology from Israel constitutes a “plan”) will be hard to take too seriously. The last thing Israel will do is stop the blockade.

But PM Erdoğan will, as he is known to do, continue shaking his fist—if only for his constituency.

Written by M. James

August 31, 2011 at 12:31 am

An “internal affair”

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Turn the clock back three months. From this post, here was my take on Turkish-Syrian relations:

If Turkey is to “trust the masses” and maintain its role as a supporter of the Arab Awakening, it cannot support a Syrian regime that appears to oppress its citizens, and it must sell al-Assad’s government short—in spite of recent amicability—to retain its legitimacy.

To be sure, Turkish-Syrian relations have had their sharp ups and downs between then and now, but the conclusion is still the same. And Turkey may have finally vocalized that real trouble is brewing for the Syrian regime:

“This is our final word to the Syrian authorities: Our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally,” Mr. Davutoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, the Turkish capital. “If the operations do not end, there would be nothing more to discuss about steps that would be taken,” he said, without saying what that action might include.

And, given the extensive border between the two countries, Erdoğan has claimed that the happenings in Syria are—in fact—”internal affairs” for Turkey. Even more audacious:

“We have to listen to the voices from over there, we hear them, and of course we will act accordingly,” Mr Erdogan said.

But why the dilly-dallying so far? Because—Turkey has been strategically waiting for Aleppo and, ideally, Damascus, to join the unrest. Without Aleppo and/or Damascus supporting a Turkish invasion, the legitimacy of intervention is questionable. It would be an enormous risk for Turkey to intervene on a stalwart Assad with a peaceful Aleppo and Damascus, and with an indecisive (and apparently confused) international community as backup. And what about Turkey’s military capacity since the resignation of the generals? The word “demoralization” has been thrown around frequently since then. Can Turkey even project power with its military at the moment?

If Turkey chooses not to invade, though, Ankara’s bold words and professed morals will ring false in the ears of the world. Damascus will grin. Riyadh will frown. The West will continue its finger-wagging. Erdoğan knows this more than anyone.

So don’t be surprised if Turkey begins addressing its “internal affairs” in the near future.

Written by M. James

August 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm