Folly is a Turkish delight!
America may be the single country Turks (politically) dislike the most, but the American president is for them the most trusted world leader. Confusing? Mind you, you are only beginning to get confused. After Barack Obama, the two most trusted leaders are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin, with the combined confidence vote for the Iranian and the Russian slightly surpassing that of the American.
We have a cabinet minister for the European Union who thinks that France has no place in European politics, past or present. But that should be too normal in a country where the democratically-elected party has a criminal record for unconstitutional activity, and its leader has publicly announced that the police are the guardians of our "democratic regime" (although he later added other institutions to his list of guardians).
But what’s all that compared to President Abdullah Gül’s red-carpet welcome in recent months to Turkey’s last coup leader, Kenan Evren, while "independent" prosecutors have been witch-hunting men aging 60-85 for plotting a coup that never happened. One theory maintained that the rise of the Islamist elite to political and economic supremacy would prune radical Islam both in Turkey and its vicinity. With a quick look around the south we can easily see how successful the "Turkish experience" has been.
At home, however, "the experiment" has transformed the masses into a bizarre mix of ethnic and religious conservatism, with a clear majority of Turks, according to one recent study, refusing to have atheist, Jewish, Christian and American neighbors. More alarmingly, a Los Angeles Times article (Turks increasingly turn to Islamic extremism, June 28, 2009) reported that Al Qaeda's reliance on Arabs was altering as recruits from Turkey and Turkic-speaking areas of Central Asia were forming a recent wave of trainees.
But Turkey is a great power and its influence is "felt everywhere in the region," according to Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former and current foreign minister. Judging from recent regional affairs, however, is that not a little bit of self-aggrandizing? On the contrary, Minister Davutoğlu thinks, "we are being too modest." Are we? Let’s recall.
Just when Mssrs Gül, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu were rubbing their hands in anticipation of a prize-winning Turkish mediation for a historic Israeli-Syrian peace, the Jewish state launched a military offensive in Gaza, and that had been long planned. Now after Mr Erdoğan’s Davos tirade the Israelis naturally have no confidence in any Turkish mediation, in any peace mission. In the meantime, Mr Erdoğan’s bubble-like popularity in the Arab world after he reminded President Shimon Peres that "the Jews knew too well how to kill" tends to fade away just like every other fantasy play gets obscured by realities.
Another Turkish ambition for the position of messenger was with Iran, and that too has failed after Mr Ahmadinejad plainly said that Iran could talk to any country without the need of any facilitator/mediator i.e, Turkey.
But Mr Erdoğan does it all the time. What did he say when he retreated from his loud veto for Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s appointment as NATO’s secretary general? That he had removed his objections on condition that (a) Turkey would get the position of the deputy secretary general of the alliance, and (b) Denmark would ban the pro-PKK broadcaster Roj TV. Unsurprisingly, none of these presumed conditions has been fulfilled.
Sadly, empirical evidence suggests that there is something catastrophic about any Turkish initiative for any part of the world. After Gaza, we saw death walking about the streets of Tehran.
Before Gaza, we saw it walking about Georgia, just after powerful men in Ankara planned to exert "Turkish soft power" into the Caucasus. After the Russo-Georgian war of 2007, Mr Erdoğan proposed a Caucasus stability pact since when the region has never been stable.
Most recently, only days after Mr Gül paid a visit to Urumqi, home of ethnic Uighur Turks in China, this city turned into a bloodbath with hundreds dead and now the ethnic mob is overrunning the city in what appears to be a second Ğ and possibly worse Ğ Tiananmen. Only days ago, Mr Gül had advised the Uighurs to integrate with the (Han) Chinese.
It would be wise if stockbrokers watched out for Ankara’s future efforts for peace elsewhere in the world and took positions accordingly, with the risk of unrest a serious possibility in any sane political assessments.
Ah, we should not forget that another Turkish attempt for "regional political engineering" in foreign lands, this time in neighboring Bulgaria, has yielded similar results, with the nationalists rising to power although Mr Erdoğan’s government reportedly moved to block the outcome. A smart trader could have guessed that result and invested on a nationalist victory merely by looking at Ankara.
No doubt, folly is a Turkish delightÉ