President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the well-known fan of air defence systems, is facing impeachment for an endless list of crimes. We have only got to this point because he is probably guilty of most of them.
The Speaker of Parliament, accountable to parliament and not government, has the authority to unveil official documents concerning his actions which have been hidden until now. If that happens, it is very likely that Erdogan’s rule will come to an abrupt end, simply because the list of charges is so long that even if only 10% can be proven that will be enough to sink him.
Many unofficial sources are claiming that Erdogan is going mad at hearing that the nation is no longer following him. Even former supporters who stood by him when he was accused of corruption are now leaving him. Erdogan is blaming all this on his former American aide, the Islamist Sai Baba Fethullah Gulen, the leader of a worldwide movement which is halfway between a faith organiation and bunch of jack-of-all-trade agents active from China to the US. But it is not Gulen but Erdogan himself who is the object of criticism, and it would come as no surprise if documents released by his own comrades brought about his downfall.
But the West has never liked Turkey or what it does, despite its consistent praise of “improvements” in its continually vicious internal politics or its “support” of US ambitions. It’s not seen as a Western country but a military base in hostile territory, which the West has no choice but to indulge as far as possible.
This grudging indulgence has always been part of broader US calculations in the region. Several years ago Georgia was made the US forward operating base in the region partly because it wanted a way out of Turkey. Georgia isn’t big enough to play this role all the time, but its previous government was nasty enough to let the US do whatever it wanted, including murder, torture, training terrorists and manufacturing and exporting biological weapons, so that some of the reasons it needed Turkey no longer applied.
Now the US operation has moved to Ukraine, and a lot of the nasty Georgians with it. Ukraine does have the size, military capacity and strategic location to replace Turkey to a large degree. At this stage there are still too many vested interests for the US to just walk away from Turkey. But with everybody else also wanting out, how long will Erdogan be able to bank on this remaining truth?
If Russia responds to the attack militarily NATO is obliged to defend Turkey. However NATO is now trying like hell to avoid expanding to its east, despite the number of countries knocking on its door, precisely because it doesn’t want to find itself obliged to send its forces to these countries. NATO cannot get sucked into war with Russia, or reconstitute the Turkish state, which is not homogenous to begin with?
The French are fond of talking about their “Fifth Republic”, meaning the state established in 1958, when its current constitution was adopted. France existed before then of course, but under different constitutions and political arrangements. On each occasion, the old France collapsed and was thrown into the dustbin and replaced by a new one, even though it was physically the same country. Erdogan might well achieve his longed-for place in history by being the last president of THIS Turkish Republic, even though it will mean “crashing and burning” with it.
Official Washington is awash with tough talk about Russia and the need to punish President Putin for his role in Ukraine and Syria. But this bravado ignores Russia’s genuine national interests, its “red lines,” and the risk that “tough-guy-ism” can lead to nuclear war, as Alastair Crooke explains.
We all know the narrative in which we (the West) are seized. It is the narrative of the Cold War: America versus the “Evil Empire.” And, as Professor Ira Chernus has written, since we are “human” and somehow they (the USSR or, now, ISIS) plainly are not, we must be their polar opposite in every way.
“If they are absolute evil, we must be the absolute opposite. It’s the old apocalyptic tale: God’s people versus Satan’s. It ensures that we never have to admit to any meaningful connection with the enemy.” It is the basis to America’s and Europe’s claim to exceptionalism and leadership.
“Here is my next point. This new Cold War has all of the potential to be even more dangerous than the preceding 40-year Cold War, for several reasons. First of all, think about it. The epicentre of the earlier Cold War was in Berlin, not close to Russia. There was a vast buffer zone between Russia and the West in Eastern Europe.
“Today, the epicentre is in Ukraine, literally on Russia’s borders. It was the Ukrainian conflict that set this off, and politically Ukraine remains a ticking time bomb. Today’s confrontation is not only on Russia’s borders, but it’s in the heart of Russian-Ukrainian ‘Slavic civilization.’ This is a civil war as profound in some ways as was America’s Civil War.”
Cohen continued: “My next point: and still worse – You will remember that after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Washington and Moscow developed certain rules-of-mutual conduct. They saw how dangerously close they had come to a nuclear war, so they adopted “No-Nos,’ whether they were encoded in treaties or in unofficial understandings. Each side knew where the other’s red line was. Both sides tripped over them on occasion but immediately pulled back because there was a mutual understanding that there were red lines.
“TODAY THERE ARE NO RED LINES. One of the things that Putin and his predecessor President Medvedev keep saying to Washington is: You are crossing our Red Lines! And Washington said, and continues to say, ‘You don’t have any red lines. We have red lines and we can have all the bases we want around your borders, but you can’t have bases in Canada or Mexico. Your red lines don’t exist.’ This clearly illustrates that today there are no mutual rules of conduct.
“My next point is a question: Who is responsible for this new Cold War? I don’t ask this question because I want to point a finger at anyone. The position of the current American political media establishment is that this new Cold War is all Putin’s fault – all of it, everything. We in America didn’t do anything wrong. At every stage, we were virtuous and wise and Putin was aggressive and a bad man. And therefore, what’s to rethink? Putin has to do all of the rethinking, not us.”
These two narratives, the Cold War narrative, and the neocons’ subsequent “spin” on it: i.e. Bill Kristol’s formulation (in 2002) that precisely because of its Cold War “victory,” America could, and must, become the “benevolent global hegemon,” guaranteeing and sustaining the new American-authored global order – an “omelette that cannot be made without breaking eggs” – converge and conflate in Syria, in the persons of President Assad and President Putin.
President Obama is no neocon, but he is constrained by the global hegemon legacy, which he must either sustain, or be labeled as the arch facilitator of America’s decline. And the President is also surrounded by R2P (“responsibility-to-protect”) proselytizers, such as Samantha Power, who seem to have convinced the President that “the tyrant” Assad’s ouster would puncture and collapse the Wahhabist jihadist balloon, allowing “moderate” jihadists such as Ahrar al-Sham to finish off the deflated fragments of the punctured ISIS balloon.
In practice, President Assad’s imposed ouster precisely will empower ISIS, rather than implode it, and the consequences will ripple across the Middle East – and beyond.
President Obama privately may understand the nature and dangers of the Wahhabist cultural revolution, but seems to adhere to the conviction that everything will change if only President Assad steps down. The Gulf States said the same about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. He has gone (for now), but what changed? ISIS got stronger.
Indeed, ISIS and the other Caliphate forces have very clear human motivations and clearly articulated political objectives, and none of these is in any way consistent with the type of Syrian State that America says it wants for Syria. This precisely reflects the danger of becoming hostage to a certain narrative, rather than being willing to examine the prevailing conceptual framework more critically.
Russia’s call to co-operate with Western states against the scourge of ISIS; its low-key and carefully crafted responses to such provocations as the ambush of its SU-24 bomber in Syria; and President Putin’s calm rhetoric, are all being used by Washington and London to paint Russia as a “paper tiger,” whom no one needs fear.
In short, Russia is being offered only the binary choice: to acquiesce to the “benevolent” hegemon, or to prepare for war.
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