Turkey’s Foreign Policy Dead End

Article Summary
Hasan Cemal reviews Turkish foreign policy since 2009 and sees a quagmire for Turkey.

November, 2009. In Baghdad, we signed 48 accords, mostly on the economy and energy with the central government, followed by joint council of ministers meetings in Baghdad. We signed 52 agreements with Syria and held joint cabinet meetings in Damascus, followed by 54 accords with Lebanon.

Does anyone remember these accords now or wonder whatever came out from them?

Ankara’s relations with the central government in Baghdad and the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are going from bad to worse. In Syria, we are enemies with Assad. With Israel, we have not been talking for a long time. Because of Syria, our relations with Iran have soured. Patriot missiles to be deployed near the Syrian border have become a source of  tension with Russia.

The only good relations we seem to have are with the Iraqi Kurdistan government, but we are aware of the nuances and differences of view between KRG President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalil Talabani in their assessment of relations with Turkey. We should also ask whether Baghdad and Tehran are scheming to torpedo Ankara’s relations with Barzani.

When you look the general picture I am trying to draw, another issue jumps to the forefront: The PKK’s steadily expanding room for maneuver against Turkey. Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran, Israel and even Russia are so intimately involved in the region; they can manipulate PKK any time they want. Some may already be doing just that.

A source in Erbil who knows the PKK well and follows it closely told me two weeks ago: “Today the PKK has no shortage of weapons, ammunition or anything else. Moreover they [no longer] have to carry [weapons and supplies] on muleback. They had to carry them like that in the past and sensitive firing systems of missiles used to break down before reaching the mountains. Not any more. They bring them from Iran in trucks and deliver them to the PKK. Today the PKK has missiles, antiaircraft guns and heavy machineguns against planes and helicopters. That is why Turkish planes and helicopters cannot fly at low attitudes as they used to do.”

What am I trying to portray here?

In summary this: True, the civil war in Syria or the Arab Spring was not Turkey’s doing. True, it wasn’t us who carried out the inhuman, illegal attack against the Mavi Marmara flotilla. These are all true but they don’t change the quagmire we are heading into.

Turkey has been raising the bar excessively and opening up new fronts for itself.

Look where we reached from ”zero problems with neighbors":

From 48 accords with Iraq, 52 with Syria; mediation between Israel and Palestine; nuclear dialogue with Iran; developing ties with Russia, a personal relationship with Obama, and the Oslo process with the PKK, this is the point we have come to.

How can we open so many fronts?

What kind of foreign policy is this?

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