February 23, 2016

Bedfellows With ISIS: Turkey Is Following In Pakistan's Footsteps By Creating A Jihadist Wonderland

Islamism brings ruin to nations. 

Turkey's alliance with ISIS in Syria has isolated it from its neighbours and its NATO and Western allies. It may be too late to change course now. Once you get in a pit of snakes it's not easy getting out without suffering bites, potentially poisonous.

An excerpt from, "Turkey can still avoid ‘Pakistanisation’" by M K Bhadrakumar, Indian Punchline, February 21, 2016:
The legacy of Erdogan’s interference in Syria in militarizing the Arab Spring, which began originally as a non-violent movement seeking democratization, is going to make the ‘Pakistanisation’ of Turkey complete. Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdoroglu actually coined this wonderful generic expression — ‘Pakistanisation’ —  during a speech in Istanbul on Saturday. He said that Erdogan’s government dispatched jihadists to Syria and in the process Turkey has “become embroiled in a process of Pakistanisation”.

It is an amusing coinage, because Turkey is actually leagues ahead of Pakistan in its social formation, development and political and intellectual culture. How can Turkey follow Pakistan’s footfall? But on reflection, one can see the merit in Kilicdoroglu’s stunning remark.

His intention was to give a shock therapy to his countrymen by drawing attention to Pakistan’s tragic story. In a nutshell, in the early part of the seventies when political volatility ensued after the overthrow of King Zahir Shah in 1973 (which was a palace coup by cousin Daoud Khan), Pakistan began sponsoring the Islamist groups, nurturing them and eventually moulding them into violent insurgent groups to defeat the communist regime and capture power in Kabul nearly twenty years later. The saga of jihadi culture, which was born, ultimately began devouring Pakistan itself.

Kilicdoroglu’s worry is that his country too will get disfigured and weakened, as has happened to Pakistan, when the blowback from Syria begins. Indeed, the analogy is rather stunning. For a start, both Pakistan and Turkey were encouraged to take this path by the Americans. If Zbigniew Brzezinski was the patron saint in Pakistan’s case, it was the then CIA director David Petraeus who nudged Turkey to collaborate with the US to create an armed insurgency in Syria. In both cases, Uncle Sam scooted and was nowhere to be seen to rescue the Pakistani house on fire or to force Erdogan to do course correction.
Just as the leaderships of the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence developed vested interests, Erdogan too cannot easily distinguish anymore between the jihad next door from his personal agenda of concentration of political power in his own hands. The Pakistani establishment propagated the thesis of ‘strategic depth’ to justify whatever it wanted to do in Afghanistan, while Erdogan has the Kurdish problem readily available to stoke the fires of Turkish nationalism. If drug trafficking created vested interests among the Pakistani elites, so did oil trading amongst the Turkish elites.
An excerpt from, "Concern that Turkey might turn into ‘Pakistan of the Mediterranean’ rises" by Cumali Onal, Today's Zaman, April 11, 2014:
Turkey's active support for the rebels in the war ongoing right next to it in Syria is increasing concerns that the country might end up like Pakistan, which actively participated in the Afghan-Russian war and the ensuing civil war.

After leaking the contents of a security summit held late last month at which scenarios of intervention in Syria were discussed, United States journalist Seymour Hersh claimed that Turkey was involved in a sarin attack that resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,000 civilians in the city of Ghouta in Syria on Aug. 21. His claims have led to the question arising of whether Turkey is becoming a "Pakistan of the Mediterranean."

The first person to ever express such a concern was President Abdullah Gül, who said in an interview with the Guardian in November that Syria is turning into an “Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean,” a statement which has led experts to this question: If Syria is Afghanistan, who is Pakistan?

Prominent Turkish journalist and Middle East expert Cengiz Çandar, in his column in the Radikal daily on April 9, mentioned Hersh's allegations and commented, “Erdoğan's government's support for al-qaeda -- namely al-Nusra and its allies -- out of despair with the Syrian mire will spell huge trouble for Turkey.”
An excerpt from, "How Can Turkey Overcome its Foreign policy Mess?" by Graham E. Fuller, February 18, 2016:
Turkey’s Syrian policy has done more to destroy Turkey’s international position than any other single factor. But let’s be clear: Ankara is not primarily responsible for the present disaster in Syria. Syrian president Bashar al-Asad is. But Erdogan has hugely exacerbated the problem, encouraged radical jihadist elements fighting in Syria, helped stir up sectarian passions, and mishandled the Syrian Kurds. All these policies have  damaged relations with countries that really matter for Turkey: Iran, Iraq, Russia, China, the US, the EU, Kurdish communities, and of course relations with Syria itself.

Instead Ankara has opened a dubious, dangerous, and futureless coalition with Saudi Arabia. And it has created a damaging confrontation with Russia in which Turkey is already the loser.
Growing Kurdish power in the entire region is a reality—it has been on an upward curve for the last 25 years, invariably benefitting from each regional conflict to achieve greater de facto autonomy and world awareness. If Ankara is determined to stop Kurdish progress towards greater autonomy—anywhere in the region—it will only alienate the Kurds; above all such a posture will only hasten the emergence of greater Kurdish political, economic and cultural demands. Efforts to block this process of Kurdish emergence will not only fail, but will guarantee an uglier and more dangerous relationship for Turkey and the entire regional Kurdish reality long into the future.

Ironically, handled right and granted broader autonomy, most Kurds will inevitably look to Turkey as a regional protector, economic entrepôt and cultural magnet—as long as  Ankara does not alienate them. Where else could the Kurds look for valuable geopolitical ties in the region?
Finally Turkey should cooperate with Washington where it can, but only to the extent that Washington’s own policies in the region are wise and productive. Since 9/11 (and arguably even much before) US policies in the Middle East have been disastrously bad, failing and destructive. Ankara would not cooperate. President Obama in recent times, however, has dialled back the level of US intervention and aggressiveness, especially now in Syria. If Ankara can undertake all these policy shifts its relations with Washington will much improve. That is assuming the next American president approaches the Middle East with wisdom — for which there is little guarantee.