(RIEAS Senior Analyst)
The developments that occurred over the past few weeks and after the end of the Gaza war, have showed to an extent that Turkey acquires a louder voice in the Middle Eastern affairs by promoting itself as the main Muslim power and in parallel trying to combine that with its ability of assisting the US to withdrawing its troops from Iraq.
The forthcoming Obama voyage to Turkey will mostly center on the Iraq issue and more specifically how Ankara could assist in securing an exodus for the American Army via its ports and airfields. In that sense it is quite natural for the Greek policy makers to fear that Turkey’s role will be highly elevated and that may have deteriorating effects for the relations of the two states.
In reality all the aforementioned considerations are not valid in any sense since the Americans do not need Turkish assistance to secure their withdrawal from Iraq. They can perfectly use the Basra port or the highway connecting the country with Jordan. Turkey could just ease American retreat but just that. The real stake of Obama’s trip could not be other than the all timely issue of Kurdish insurgence and the real possibility of the declaration of independence by the Kurds of Northern Iraq.
According to all current information, Washington will move a substantial part of its Iraqi forces into secure areas in Northern Iraq and in that sense it will not leave the country. As it can be understood that will elevate the role of the Kurds in the Middle East as the sole ethnic group that secures American presence in a period where Washington is under a serious negotiation process with powers such as Iran, Syria and in a wider extent with the whole Muslim world.
Therefore Turkey is in a really bad position because it will have to formulate a strategy concerning its perennial Kurdish issue which no government was able to solve over the past generation. Moreover it is for the first time that Ankara understood that it is not the exclusive strategic partner of the Western partners in the region as it has been since 1979 and the fall of the Shah of Iran. In a sense history clocks back 30 years and imminent culminations are bound to occur in Turkey because of that.
Turkey is in geopolitical terms the gateway of the Middle East towards the West and the physical barrier between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Its role was highly elevated during the Cold War period and it could be considered as a political miracle that it was able to retain much of its geopolitical capital twenty years after the fall of the Soviet bloc. Albeit, the winds of geopolitical change have arrived causing a significant stress period for Turkey’s policy makers since they will have to adjust in the new environment sooner rather than later.
The rest of Turkey’s neighbors such as Iran have the same considerations regarding to Kurdish independence moves but are in better position to negotiate with the Americans, whilst the Russians would be rather pleased to view Turkey’s geopolitical role decreasing. Israel is heavily dependent on USA and maintains excellent relations with the Kurds therefore will not obstruct to the future changes. Lastly Syria despite its Kurdish worries, would feel much secure if Turkey stops being a strong and domineering neighbor in its northern borders.
The bottom line of this brief report is aimed towards the Greek policy makers that once more are streaming false analyses to their own public thus playing upon the anxiety of the Greek public towards Turkey. It is fascinating for any analyst to view a country that gains inexpensively through the actions of third powers and at the same time the leadership of that state to deny any success in a kind of masochist tendency that has penetrated through the entire domestic diplomatic and political community.
It is high time for some serious talk amongst the Greek political class of the new developments to occur and stop blaming its non existent bad luck in a game non suitable for a nation that has the ability to understand of the machinations being played in the Middle East.
Concluding, it must be said that there is no need for Athens to take any bold initiatives but rather to carefully assess the alternative scenarios after Obama’s trip finishes. What would be Ankara’s stance? Will they be affirmative towards a Kurdish independence or not? Last but not least, will they seek to bargain for gains in other fronts?
It is best to think forward rather than believing that the world hasn’t changed a bit the past few years.