By Edmond Y. Azadian
The Western media have a convenient way of duping themselves and their readers; for example, medieval potentates in the Middle East, who exercise the crudest and primitive methods of governances, are called “moderate Arab monarchies.” They have also found a euphemism to characterize the violent policies of Turkey by calling its ruling AKP Party “mildly Islamic,” notwithstanding the terror and bloodshed that the party causes throughout the Middle East and beyond — the Uighur region in China and most recently, in Thailand.
Turkey and its ruling party must be judged by their actions and not by the mask they wear. There is nothing “mild” when the Turkish government trains and arms terrorist groups including ISIS and unleashes them to destroy any monument or group which does not fit their zealous interpretation of Islam. Recent atrocities against the Armenians in Kessab and Aleppo came to prove that — by extension — Turkey has long-term plans to continue the Genocide, not only by denying it in terms of history, but also by exterminating the survivors’ descendants.
The destruction of the Roman ruins of Palmyra in Syria is only the continuation of a century-long abuse, neglect and desecration of Armenian churches, shrines and monuments in historic Armenia. Armenians do not have the voice and the clout to move the conscience of world leaders and organizations to be able to protect their heritage left in Turkey. Now that very same force — the “mildest kind of Islam” — is threatening the most valuable vestiges of human civilization, it is time to act.
The Turkish-supported Azeri crime against the Armenian cross stones (khatchkars) in the province of Nakhichevan was motivated by the same destructive philosophy of bombing an ancient Buddhist temple in Afghanistan and now the Erawan Shrine in Thailand. The Daily Telegraph has reported on August 29 that the key suspect in the Erawan shrine bombing was a member of the Turkish ultranationalist Grey Wolves organization, which is associated with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II, was a member of the Grey Wolves who were also behind the murders of Hrant Dink and the Catholic Bishop Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar for Anatolia, in Trabzon in 2010.
Semih Idiz, a columnist for Hurriyet newspaper, writes in the English edition of the publication on September 2, “Turkey has a serious problem with its international image. An increasing number of people around the world see the country as a breeding ground and facilitator of Islamic terrorism.”
The conclusion of the above article is even more scathing as the columnist writes, “The AKP always harps on about an international campaign aimed at maligning Turkey’s name and creating negative perceptions about the so-called great successes the country has achieved under AKP and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in terms of democracy and the rule of law. All one can say is that those who claim those attributes should look in the mirror occasionally to understand the true reasons why Turkey’s reputation seems to be going down the sinkhole.”
But why has Turkey arrived at this stage and unleashed turmoil in the Middle East?
In the first place, because the Western powers wanted to believe the Turkish pretenses that Ankara belongs to the NATO bloc and shares the same values and policies. But Mr. Erdogan’s actions proved that all those pretenses were self-serving and vying for a medieval sultanate with the West’s support.
Erdogan’s “mildly Islamic” government was an ally of the virulently Islamic Moslem Brotherhood government in Egypt under Mohammed Morsi. Although Turkey would not cede an inch of territory to the Armenians and Kurds, it was supporting a party in Egypt which does not entertain the notion of the nation-state, and was planning to share its national territory with Sudan and above all, gift the Sinai Peninsula to the Palestinians, to facilitate the policy of Israel’s former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and its party, Yisrael Beytenu, to dump Palestinians from the West Bank in the desert and thus achieve their two-state solution. President Abdel Fatah Sisi’s move saved Egypt from disintegration.
Ankara is also fighting through ISIS to destroy the powerful government of Syria to replace it with a docile regime which would become an extension of Turkey.
In the current war against radical Islam, Turkey has proved to be on the wrong side of history. By pretending to join the 60-nation coalition assembled by President Obama, Turkey obtained the license to dismantle Kurdish organizations and blatantly undermine the forces that the US had trained in Syria to fight ISIS. Compared to the 300 strikes against Kurdish targets, Turkey has bombed only three ISIS bases.
Under a revealing headline of “Turkey duped the US and ISIS is reaping the rewards,” Patrick Cockburn writes in the Independent dated August 30: “The disastrous miscalculation made by the United States in signing a military agreement with Turkey at the expense of the Kurds becomes daily more apparent. In return for the use of Incirlik Air Base, just north of the Syrian border, the US betrayed Syrian Kurds who have so far been its most effective ally against Islamic State.”
While in the New York Times, former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric S. Elderman accuses Erdogan (“America’s dangerous bargain with Turkey”) of unleashing a “new wave of repression aimed at the Kurds in Turkey, which risks plunging the country into civil war.”
It dawned gradually on Washington that Turkey’s policy is diametrically opposed to its own stated agenda. For a long time, Obama administration has refrained from using the mantra of “regime change” in Syria. Even Secretary of State John Kerry did not rule out the possibility of sitting down at a negotiating table with the Assad regime representatives to seek a political solution to the crisis.
Patrick Cockburn further writes in the above article, “There are signs of growing understanding in Washington that the US was duped by the Turks or at best, its negotiators deceived themselves, when they agreed on their bargain with Ankara.”
It is no longer a secret to anyone that Erdogan administration’s obsession is to undo the Kurdish advances in Kobani and along the Syrian-Turkish border. Simultaneously, it plans to neutralize Kurdish political achievements in the last parliamentary elections, hoping that the forthcoming November 1 elections will prove to be more promising.
Because of Turkey’s determined campaign to neutralize the most effective fighting force against ISIS — the Kurds — Washington inadvertently finds itself aligned with the strangest bedfellows. In Iraq, the Shia militants, considered Iran’s proxies, have been fighting alongside the US and allied forces against the Islamic state, while in Syria, a new picture is emerging: most probably with Washington’s tacit agreement, Russia is building a new base in Syria and introducing ground forces. When the US decided to remove the Patriot missiles from Turkey, it was believed that the move was to express Washington’s displeasure regarding Erdogan’s political course. That, perhaps may be true, but it is more logical that the move also intended to accommodate the Russian involvement, which is trying to destroy the Islamic State. All these developments seem reasonable, not withstanding benign public criticisms by the Obama administration.
Erdogan’s game plan has begun to look foolhardy. Turkey’s porous border with Syria which had facilitated the infiltration of ISIS forces into the Syrian theater, also helped the Kurds to introduce heavy armaments in Turkey. At this time, Turkey has become a dangerous place to visit. The tourism sector has become a minor casualty compared with the prospect of Turkey’s dismemberment. In many areas, the government has lost control and the Kurds have set up their own checkpoints.
Prime Minister Mehmed Davutoglu is an astute student of history and realizes that the old treaties may be revived to haunt his country. Turkey owes its current territory to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. But before that, Turkey was the signatory of the Treaty of Sevres of 1920, which was never applied. That treaty was designed by President Woodrow Wilson, with the help of General James Harbord. (Incidentally, the chief of staff of the Turkish Army Necdet Ozel has written his PhD thesis on the Harbord Mission.).
That treaty had promised more territory to Armenia and an independent homeland to the Kurds.
Syria is vulnerable against the danger of partition but Turkey is also not immune.
We may underestimate Turkish leaders’ foresight to our own detriment. In front of a potential danger of territorial loss, Ankara cannot do much, except further repression against the Kurds who inhabit the territory. But they can deter another claimant, namely Armenia, by an advanced trap.
Currently analysts in Armenia are worried about the escalation of tension on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The recent war games by the combined forces of Turkey and Azerbaijan and the Turkish-made bombs falling not only in Karabagh but also in the sovereign territory of Armenia, are indications that Turkey is planning to engage Armenia in a war to knock it from the equation, should a territorial partition become a reality.
At this time, Armenia should be worried with this existential threat. Let the rest of the world worry about the wave of terrorism spread around the globe by Turkey, destroying past civilizations on its murderous path.