Observers may recall that the western media harshly criticized Turkey in 2003 over its decision of not sending its troops to Iraq as part of the Multi-National Force- Iraq (MNF-I). Citing an “international threat,” the mainstream western media said, “This is unbecoming of a NATO member.” Turkish stand left many fuming to such an extent that some had suggested imposition of sanctions.
Turkey, once again, adopted an entirely different approach when the United States started targeting terrorist strongholds in Somalia and Yemen. When the US was busy in its military actions, Turkey stepped up its efforts to reconstruct and democratize those countries.
Turkish soldier were part of the international forces dispatched to Afghanistan under the banner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Interestingly, unlike other members of the NATO coalition, Turkish soldiers were considered as guardians of the Afghans. The people of Afghanistan wholeheartedly embraced them and considered them as their protectors against the “Taleban” and the “foreign forces” in their country.
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey laid great emphasis on using diplomacy to find a solution to the problem but its advice fell on deaf ears in most western capitals. As a matter of fact, the western inaction with regards to Syria shall forever remain embedded in the minds of generations to come. Despite the appalling savagery, all the solutions offered by Turkey remained unanswered and the country was left is disarray.
Over the time it has become obvious that Turkey does not agree with the western policies toward the Middle East and does not trust the West in this regard. The reason behind this distrust is the West’s policy of searching for solutions using only military means, which has so far miserably failed in stopping the bloodshed.
Turkey’s stance, however, has always remained different as far as the MENA region is concerned and time has always proven Ankara’s approach to be politically correct and logical. Countries in need look up to Turkey for help. In almost all regional or global crises, Turkey has been involved directly or indirectly. What is the reason behind the growing importance of Turkey in the corridors of global power?
Turkey is the only Muslim, Middle Eastern member of the NATO. Most of the current regional conflicts are unfolding along its borders. Those fleeing their war-torn countries are seeking refuge in Turkey. Turkish citizens are being kidnapped and of course Turkey cannot remain apathetic toward the turmoil in its backyard. It is divided from that bloody geography with a very thin border of 1,300 km. 100 meters beyond that line, flags of terrorist organizations like the so-called Islamic State (IS), the PKK, or Al-Nusra or Assad’s forces, flutter in the breeze. It is not so easy for NATO countries to grasp this situation when they monitor the region using satellite images or a map.
In 2012 Nicholas Burns, the former US Permanent Representative to NATO, stressing the extraordinary importance of Turkey’s NATO membership said that Turkey needed to be offered some opportunities so that it could enjoy the impact it deserved. This statement is very important, and especially in this particular time, needs to be taken into consideration. Turkey is better equipped with the knowledge of the political dynamics of the region, as it is nested with the regional culture and religion. It is in a much better position to analyze the threats facing the region.
It is no secret that the West has failed in resolving conflicts in the Middle East. It is imperative to heed the Turkish advice of using diplomacy as a tool to attain peace instead of acting irresponsibly like the cowboys of the Wild West by launching missiles and further annihilating any remaining chances for peace and stability. The current regional turmoil poses a great threat to Turkey. It’s the only country that is harboring more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria and Iraq. This being the case, it must be kept in mind that Turkey does not act on flimsy grounds.
Following the recent release of Turkish hostages, once again analysts are trying to build pressure on Turkey to join the anti-IS coalition, which is reminiscent of the 2003 brouhaha prior to the invasion of Iraq. The approach is erroneous now as it was in 2003. The world appears to be committing the same mistake once again. Military intervention did not help Iraq or Afghanistan. How could this approach prove to be otherwise now? The powers that be should realize that bombardment does not contribute to the elimination of terror.
The West should understand that a coalition that unites to wage a war is exactly what these terrorist organizations want to whip anti-West sentiments for their diabolical designs. Those who think, “How much further they can proceed!” are simply wrong. This sequence of fury and violence can reach unprecedented levels.
For this end — rather than known, tested, unsuccessful methods of brute force — it is compulsory to resort to ideas based on sound knowledge of the region. At this point we need to remind our readers that the PYD — a branch of the PKK, the terror organization — surrendered more than 60 villages in Syria and all their weapons to the IS in a day. Two weeks ago in an article, “Ignoring the cost of arming the PKK,” this writer had predicted a similar outcome. While the PYD ran away without looking back, the 160,000 Syrian Kurds left behind are now the guests of Turkey. When we consider the fact that many Kurds in Iraq and Syria are about to join IS, it would be beneficial for the West to set aside the delirium of arming the PKK. It is obvious that when confronted, the PKK would be defeated by the IS and the arms produced by the US and Europe will be captured by the IS. The West should realize that this is a clash of ideologies.
As for Turkey, it should remain in a western coalition as a guide, a power that paves the ways for diplomatic solutions. It should not form part of an alliance merely to wage wars. It should avoid being part of a scenario in which both the ones who die and the ones who kill are Muslims. This is a scenario that devastates the Middle East and leaves it in a savage state by the support of external military intervention. The source of savagery of one side is ideological; while this is the case, not caring about this ideology and trying to wrest their weapons from their hands has been tried and failed many times. The West that has somehow never learned from this experience hopefully this time realizes that the use of weapon is not a solution, without going any further. And we hope Turkey becomes the vanguard of an education system by replacing the inaccurate concept of Islam being promulgated by IS and its likes with true Islam.