Turkey's Troubled Neighborhood


Which of the countries on this map have great power and wealth?

Every country on this map except for Turkey and Russia has been diminished by economic, war, and internal politics. And at the center of this regional mess, Turkey at the moment is a giant. Also, one very important element is missing from the map: at the north end of war-torn Iraq is the Kurdistan Region, consisting three northern provinces of Erbil, Dohuk, and Suleimaniye. Oil rich and for the moment unified, it is not-so-quietly forging a "strategic relationship" with Turkey. None of this could have been imagined ten years ago.

Whence Turkey' success?

File:Ahmet-Zogu-1895---1961.jpg 2
King Zog of Albania
Turkey is ruled by an enigmatic figure, Prime Minister (perhaps soon to be president) Receb Tayyip Erdoğan. He is a man with two abiding interests: religion and power (Turkey's and is own). One is reminded of Ahmet Zog of neighboring Albania (1895 - 1961) who led his country first as prime minister, then as president, then as king. One major difference is that Erdoğan has done well by Turkey in many ways - Zog less so in Albania. But one is also reminded of the President of Russia.

Turkey has emerged in this neighborhood as far and away the strongest power, both economically and militarily, excepting Russia, of course. In addition, Erdoğan has defied both Israel and the United States and gained regional prestige by both moves. Israel backed down in an historic apology for its killing of Turkish peace activists in the raid on the ship Mavi Marmara in 2010, and by not going along with the United States, notably in the Iraq war, but also in Turkey's approach to Israel and Kurdistan, he has shown that Turkey is nobody's lap dog. Turkey is like the proverbial 500 kilogram gorilla: it can sit almost anywhere it wants - at least in its neighborhood.

First, we must note that part of Turkey's increased influence stems from the weakening of other countries. Greece and (Greek) Cyprus are bankrupt. Iran is strapped by sanctions. Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Armenia - well no need to go on.

With power comes opportunity.

The cease fire between the Turkish government and the PKK opens up an extraordinary path to a possible future. Together, the Kurds in Iraq and the Kurds in Turkey have the opportunity of pulling together all the Kurdish peoples, if not in an independent sovereign state, which they have dreamed of for so long, but at least as a regional national entity. The French in France and the French in Belgium are divided by a line on the map, but the fact is this line is virtually invisible on the ground. Movement of people and commerce goes on with a freedom brought about by the European Union.The origins of this union stem from the immediate end of World War II, when in 1950 the French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a European Coal and Steel community. He believed that this would prevent France and Germany would every go to war again. Could such a union bind together Kurds and Turks in the future diminishing the possibility of further armed conflict?

Much of this depends on Mr. Erdoğan and Prime Minister Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government. But a lot more depends on the Turkish and Kurdish peoples, if they can work their way free from the suspicion and hatred that has divided them for so long.

Inşallah -  إن شاء الله‎ - God willing.
1, Map by Iliyas Yildirim at http://www.pas.rochester.edu
2, Photograph from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zog_of_Albania.


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