Erdogan goes out on a limb and falls off
Friday, July 13, 2012 4:52:46 PM
Turkey's leaders: Bulent Arinc (Vice PM), Tayyip Erdogan (PM), Abdullah Gul (Pres).
Play with fire and get burned
Erdogan has been playing a dangerous game. His war against Syria is not popular in Turkey, and now he has been pushed out of the way by the U.S. and Russia.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan never saw it coming.-- Pepe Escobar, "Why Turkey won't go to war with Syria", Al Jazeera, 06 Jul 2012
He knew he was in trouble when the Pentagon leaked that the Turkish Phantom RF-4E shot down last week by Syrian anti-aircraft artillery happened off the Syrian coastline, directly contradicting Erdogan's account, who claimed it happened in international air space.
And it got worse; Moscow, via Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, offered "objective radar data" as proof.
Turkey's would-be Napoleon has been stabbed in the back by the U.S. and stabbed in the front by Russia.
Erdogan faces domestic opposition as well
Knowing Erdogan's ability to whip up nationalistic sentiments, the opposition parties quickly concurred that Turkey must respond to incident. But they point out that Erdogan needlessly provoked Damascus and has destroyed Turkey's friendly ties with Syria.-- M K Bhadrakumar, "Syria puts double whammy on Turkey", Asia Times, 26 Jun 2012
The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdarglu, pointedly asked on Sunday after meeting with Erdogan: "Why have Turkey and Syria come to the brink of war?" The CHP's deputy head Faruk Logoglu, who is a distinguished former diplomat (ex-head of the Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to the US), said:
"We are very critical of the way AKP [Erdogan's Justice and Development Party] is handling the situation. There should be no outside intervention of any sort and any intervention must be mandated by a resolution of the UN Security Council. In the absence of such a resolution, any intervention would be unlawful."In short, the Turkish opposition will be free to dissociate from any response that Erdogan decides on, especially if things go haywire downstream. ....
[E]ven within Turkey, there is skepticism about what really happened. The veteran Turkish editor Yousuf Kanli wrote:
"Did the plane violate Syrian airspace? ... On the other hand, why was the Turkish reconnaissance plane flying so low, in an area close to a Russian base, and why did it keep on going in and out of Syrian airspace so many times in the 15-minute period before it was downed? Was it testing the air-defense capabilities of Syria (or the Russian base) before an intervention which might come later this year?"
Mumtaz Nizami, commenting on the above article, argues that Turkey's deference to ZATO and the Saudis is a deal with the devil:
Dovutoglu and Erdogan sacrificed Turkish interests on the behest of EU and US which are simply not going to order NATO to over run Syria. Now may be Erdogan should go to Saudis and Qataris which them selves have no guts and not a drop of common sense except off course their money for which they have no better use but to create blood shed. This jet every body knows testing the readiness and depth of first Syrian resolve and readiness then Russian. Well now the West and US know. As far Turkey is concerned it is still time to stop doing the dirty work for West and Saudis.-- Mumtaz Nizami, commenting on M K Bhadrakumar, "Syria puts double whammy on Turkey", Asia Times, 26 Jun 2012
Outwitted by Syria
Escobar tells us that Syria has taken advantage of the downing to plead for a return to peaceful relations:
Erdogan has very few cards left to play, if any. Assad, in an interview with Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper, regretted "100 per cent" the downing of the RF-4E, and argued, "the plane was flying in an area previously used by Israel's air force".-- Pepe Escobar, "Why Turkey won't go to war with Syria", Al Jazeera, 06 Jul 2012
The fact remains that impulsive Erdogan got an apology from wily Assad. By contrast, after the Mavi Marmara disaster, Erdogan didn't even get an unpeeled banana from Israel.
The real suicidal scenario would be for Erdogan to order another F4-style provocation and then declare war on Damascus on behalf of the not-exactly-Free Syrian Army. It won't happen. Damascus has already proved it is deploying a decent air defence network.
The reforms made by Assad include citizenship for Syrian Kurds (07 Apr 2011). In Turkey, however, the battle with the Kurds continues. Thus Erdogan is throwing stones from a glass house:
As for the Turkish military, their supreme obsession is the Kurds in Anatolia, not Assad. They do receive some US military assistance. But what they really crave is an army of US drones to be unleashed over Anatolia.-- Pepe Escobar, "Why Turkey won't go to war with Syria", Al Jazeera, 06 Jul 2012
Turkey routinely crosses into Northern Iraq targeting Kurdish PKK guerrillas accused of killing Turkish security forces. Now, guerrillas based in Turkey are reportedly crossing the border into Syria and killing Syrian security forces, and even civilians. It would be too much to force Ankara to admit its hypocrisy.
Erdogan, anyway, should proceed with extreme caution. His rough tactics are isolating him; more than two-thirds of Turkish public opinion is against an attack on Syria.
It's come to the point that Turkish magazine Radikal asked their readers whether Turkey should be a model for the new Middle East. Turkey used to be "the sick man of Europe"; now Turkey is "becoming the lonely man of the Middle East", says the article.
100,000 Russians in Syria, and Russian gas in Turkey
Turkey is also subject to oil and gas pressure from Russia:
Most of all, Erdogan simply cannot afford to antagonise Russia. There are at least 100,000 Russians in Syria - doing everything from building dams to advising on the operation of those defence systems.-- Pepe Escobar, "Why Turkey won't go to war with Syria", Al Jazeera, 06 Jul 2012
And then there's the inescapable Pipelineistan angle. Turkey happens to be Gazprom's second-largest customer. Erdogan can't afford to antagonise Gazprom. The whole Turkish energy security architecture depends on gas from Russia - and Iran. Crucially, one year ago a $10bn Pipelineistan deal was clinched between Iran, Iraq and Syria for a natural gas pipeline from Iran's giant South Pars field to Iraq, Syria and further on towards Turkey and eventually connecting to Europe.
During the past 12 months, with Syria plunging into civil war, key players stopped talking about it. Not anymore.
Game, set match for Erdogan. When one plays the game of war with the big boys, one tends to lose.