Turkey Trying Too Hard
What could be more loathsome than "rump-kissing" on the political playing field? It is possible that being a spineless sycophant could be more odious, but often times the two go hand in hand, making for truly repugnant displays of political maneuvering.
As crude as this may sound, such harsh words are not altogether out of place when describing the current state of Turkish foreign affairs. The trial of Abdullah Ocalan aside, Turkey has been busy over the past few days showing the world how well it can march to the beat of western sentiments. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stuck his nose in Iran's recent problems with civil unrest, calling the Islamic Republic an "oppressive regime." Then on Wednesday, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel sought to strengthen relations with Israel by becoming the first foreign leader to call upon Ehud Barak since Barak soundly defeated Benjamin Netanyahu on May 17.
What Turkey hopes to gain from such statements and political overtures is unclear. In the case of criticizing the Islamic Republic of Iran, it would seem that Turkey wishes to further distance itself from the Muslim world; possibly a case of "see, we're not like those 'fundamentalists.'"
For Turkey to systematically pursue such a course is nothing new, but it is peculiar that Ecevit was so eager to weigh in against the Iranian government while the rest of the world was making more even-handed calls for peaceful resolution of the situation. Secularism has been an earmark of 20th century Turkish politics, now possibly burning bridges will as well.
As for cozying up to Israel, there should be little surprise that Turkey would continue with such maneuvering. After all, the two nations already have a strategic military relationship. And as far as regional enmity is concerned, Turkey has all but ruined its credibility with Muslim nations in the region by allowing the United States to use Turkey as its base of operations for continued air strikes against a crippled and suffering Iraq.
Turkey needs to recognize two things. First, it must acknowledge that its considerable challenges on its domestic front will not disappear with a few flurries of international activity. 13 million Kurds aren't going to vanish overnight. Economic prosperity is not going materialize in the blink of an eye. And people like Merve Kavakci aren't going to keep silent in the face of government attempts to curtail the right to practice the religion of Islam.
Second, Turkey must realize that friendship with Israel is no instant meal ticket to international acceptance. While the United States may toss Turkey a few bones in the short-run, and while European nations may make encouraging statements about the possibility of Turkey becoming a member of the club, Turkey's destiny lies with the Muslim world.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iview.com