04 July 2011

The Arab Spring: New Developments

When I started this blog, my main goal was to provide an alternative framework to inane explanations like Secretary Rice's 2005 freedom speech being the root cause of the Arab Spring or President Obama's 2009 speech being the real inspiration behind the movement, not to mention too-numerous-to link-to Facebook and Twitter claims.

All of which prompted Jon Stewart to ask a very pertinent question: if two speeches and a social networking site are all it took to bring democracy to a country why did the US invade Iraq?

My main argument was that, far from being a spontaneous revolutionary upheaval, the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt was a series of well coordinated and logistically well prepared popular protests which were followed by de facto coup d'etats, with both armies disobeying their commander in chief and refusing to intervene to quash the uprisings.

This is not to take away or diminish the heroism of those who fought and died: all I am saying, under other circumstances, the same heroism would have ended very differently.

I also claimed that Syria was one of the main targets of this well executed intervention and Syria will be the biggest loser in this process.

Finally I maintained (and I believe I am the only person who ever claimed this) that the tension between Israel and Turkey was largely artificial and the objective of that Kabuki theater was to establish Turkey as an honest broker/super power in the region who can legitimately act as a peace builder.

My causality was NOT based on "CIA runs the world" type conspiracies or its antisemitic variants: I simply asked the question: after hundreds of billions spent to places itself into the heart of the Middle East how could the US ensure the stability of the region in order to control the distribution of oil and natural gas? Take a look at the present and future pipelines and you will see where I am coming from.

Since this cannot be done by military means, I concluded that they might be trying to bring stability by solving two of the most intractable problems in the region: Israel and Palestinian dispute and the Kurdish claims for a homeland.

I suggested that they will solve both issues through Turkey but without harming Turkey's territorial integrity as some people believ.

In other words, to me, as a heuristic explanatory device, Occam's Razor is always better than Twitter, freedom speech or people-who-never-rebelled-became-in-one-day-ready-to-die type of explanations.

I am not linking to any of my writings on this, as I think, if you are curious, you could read my discussions in the first two months of this blog. The two people who read this blog would not enjoy more repetitions.

Since those early days, new developments seem to support my alternate view on reality. For instance, the very same guy (Danny Ayalon) who went to great lengths to show how his department humiliated the Turkish Ambassador to Israel declared that this was a
'a golden moment of opportunity for rapprochement and to put the relations back on the right track.'

'Of course, Turkey has the right and it has the obligation to its own people to conduct its foreign policy in its best interests. We don’t expect from Turkey not to deal with the different elements. But we don’t think it should be a zero-sum game. It should not be at the expense of the relations with Israel. I don’t think it serves Turkey and I don’t think it serves the region'
Compare that with previous statements coming from his office.

Or take a look at this article from Jerusalem Post:
For Israel, the benefits of renewed ties are also clear. Turkey can assist the country on a plethora of issues concerning its national security, from the Palestinian attempts to gain recognition at the United Nations, to Hamas’s political platform and the makeup of the Palestinian unity government, to the unrest in Syria, to the nuclear ambitions of Iran.

In all of these areas, Turkey can play a vital role – and it is eager to do so. Reports that President Barack Obama and Erdogan have increased their dialogue suggest that the US also understands the benefits of providing Turkey with the leadership tools it needs to exert influence throughout the region in a way that can advance shared Turkish and Israeli interests. [my emphasis]
The article continues with this vital quote:
With reconciliation in the works, what could the renewed ties look like? First, Turkey’s relations with Israel will strengthen its role as a regional mediator, particularly between the Palestinian factions. It is telling that Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently visited Turkey, receiving Ankara’s aid to reach a unity government. Even more so was Ayalon’s moderated rhetoric regarding Turkey’s outreach to Hamas, telling reporters that “We have no right to tell [Turkey] not to make contact with different [Palestinian] factions,” and that if Turkey is successful in moderating Hamas, “we would kiss the hands of every Turk.” In fact, Turkey’s role as a stable, influential voice in the Muslim world places it in a prime position to engage Hamas, and to reemerge as an influential conflict mediator.
Can you still believe that we-sat-the-ambassador-so-low-it-was-funny view to reflect the reality of this complex relationship?

The second thing that happened was the thug behind Bashar, Maher al-assad, his brother and Republican Guard Chief decided to stop the flow of border crossing into Turkey. The purpose if to preempt a widely expected Turkish move to create a buffer zone inside Syria. With generally good relations between the two neighbors in the last three years, and the precedent set by the First Gulf War of 1991, not to mention military superiority of the Turkish side, it would be difficult to stop such an incursion into Syrian territory. Once there, as they did in Iran, Turkish army could conduct all kinds of "humanitarian missions." Hence the biggest priority was to stop such a creation by simply cutting off the flow.

I still believe that things will deteriorate badly to warrant a "humanitarian intervention" but it is not easy to give a time frame.

The third development was the recognition of the Libyan rebels by the Turkish government as the legitimate representative of Libyan people. I know that France was first to do it (and I mocked them for it) and they have been pulling all kinds of crazy stunts like dropping arms (and with it angering the Russians). But I doubt that all their efforts would lead to winning "hearts and minds" as I don't think that they have the same colonial meta narrative in Libya that they have in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Granted it is a love-and-hate relationship with those three but there are many cultural and linguistic ties that would have made things easier. There is none of that in Libya.

Libya's former colonial power Italy was there too short a period to have bigger advantages than France,. Besides their initial foot dragging and long term collaboration with the Qaddafi regime could become huge problems after his departure.

Enter Turkey. A Muslim country who worked on mostly construction projects in Libya using reasonably pious workers and who remained neutral in most situations. Davutoglu, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs and the chief architect of the neo-Ottoman framework that underlines all of this, gives the rebel government a $100 million and the next day another $200. That's hearts and minds stuff from a "friendly" Muslim country. Of course, Turkey's objective is to be in on the sharing of projects and, well let's say ii, the spoils at the end of the process. But chances are they will appear much more palatable to various factions, tribes and general population in Libya.

I hate to use the infamous FU (Friedman Unit) but the next six months will lead to very drastic changes in the region.

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