With Friends Like that, Who Needs Enemies?

What is it with the New York Times? I can’t say I actually read the rag myself, but people often send me articles from it that are highly critical of Turkey. Well, ok, I live there, and I admit there are always things to get a feller riled up – pretty much like anywhere, I guess. However, the NYT does seem to hunt down writers with a singularly negative view of a country that, on the whole, seems to me to have a lot going for it.
The latest piece that turned up in my mailbox (thanks Tom) was entitled ‘Turkey, the Unhelpful Ally’ written by one Halil M Karaveli. The article needs attention, which I intend to give. Before getting on to that, though, I did check out Mr Karaveli. NYT tells us that: ‘Halil M. Karaveli is a senior fellow at the [Stockholm-based] Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies Program, which are affiliated with the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, and with the Institute for Security and Development Policy, in Stockholm.’ It does seem, however, that the connection with Sweden is stronger than with Johns Hopkins; and that letter ‘M’ apparently stands for ‘Magnus’. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that it sits rather strangely with the Islamic tenor of the rest of his name. Maybe he has an ex-pat Turkish father.
I don’t want to get personal here. People are entitled to their own opinions, however unbalanced they may be. I’m more interested why the New York Times insists on publishing this stuff. Maybe I’m getting a wrong impression of the paper, since all I see of it is the articles people send me. Nevertheless, I did a little background checking and found an interesting online blog: Who Truly Owns the New York Times? which I recommend you take a look at.
More importantly, however, I want to comment on what Halil Bey actually had to say, and to add my own thoughts, so here we go:
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘Mr. Obama has invested considerable political capital in Turkey, cultivating a close relationship with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. . .  In a recent interview with the Turkish newspaper ‘Milliyet’, Mr. Obama thanked “the Turkish government for the leadership they have provided in the efforts to end the violence in Syria and start the political transition process.” But this praise is undeserved.’
I say, well, maybe Mr Karaveli knows more than Mr Obama and his advisers, but he didn’t get elected President of the USA – and I wonder which side of the political fence he sits on? What’s left if he’s not  a Democrat?
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘America can’t expect the Sunni Arab autocracies that have financed the Syrian uprising, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to help empower secular and moderate leaders in Syria. . . Turkey has provided a crucial sanctuary for the Sunni rebels fighting Mr. Assad and has helped to arm and train them . . . Turkey also appeared to be an American asset insofar as it could potentially offset the influence of more conservative Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia.’
I say, in fact America has invested considerable financial capital in Saudi Arabia and Qatar – in 2010, selling the Saudis tens of billions of dollars of military hardware in an all-time record arms deal. The Bush family were, and probably still are great friends of the Saudi royal family – and doesn’t the US know where those arms are going? Does Saudi Arabia have its own arms industry?
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘AMERICA’S stated goal is to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria. The United States also insists that any solution to the Syrian crisis should guarantee religious and ethnic pluralism.’
I say, isn’t it high time America stopped interfering in the affairs of sovereign states in the Middle East and elsewhere? Does anyone really believe the US cares about religious and ethnic pluralism in Syria, democracy in the Middle East or any of that other high-sounding stuff? It’s the oil, sweetheart! And on the whole, it seems US governments would rather deal with dictators than democratically elected leaders.
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘the Turkish government has continued to throw its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood dominated the Syrian National Council, which is headquartered in Istanbul, and has succeeded in eclipsing other groups within the new opposition coalition, effectively thwarting the American effort to empower non-Islamists.’
I say, unsubstantiated assertion is a lower-level skill in debating, and I’m sure wouldn’t stand unchallenged long in a court of law. Similarly, the use of scare-mongering but largely meaningless labels like Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist. And what is the significance of the underlined past tense? Do they still dominate it? Or has someone else taken over?
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘All of this suited the United States.  Washington no longer had to fear that Turkey might be “drifting eastward,” as it did during the short-lived Turkish-Iranian rapprochement a few years ago, when Turkey broke ranks with its Western partners over the Iranian nuclear issue.’
I say, Turkey is not a puppet of the US, nor a private in their army, so ‘breaking ranks’ is not an appropriate phrase to use here. In fact, Turkey and Brazil tried to broker a deal which might break the deadlock over Iran’s nuclear programme. That it didn’t come off was in large part due to US opposition.
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘Under more peaceful circumstances, Mr. Erdogan might be able to live up to American expectations and promote a pluralistic vision for the Middle East. That won’t happen if the region is increasingly torn apart by violent religious conflict and its leaders believe that playing the sectarian card will enhance their power.’
I say, one of the main forces tearing the Middle East apart is Israeli intransigence, which most of the world, apart from the US, seems to recognize.
Halil M Karaveli says, ‘Removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq in 2003 had the undesirable consequence of empowering Iran. A decade later, America’s effort to remove Mr. Assad is partly an attempt to remedy this geopolitical setback. But, as in Iraq, it has had unwelcome consequences.’
‘Take it easy, Ben baby – don’t rush me’
I say, I suspect many Americans might think that the US invasion of Iraq (call it what it was!) had more undesirable consequences than merely empowering Iran. And the sad fact is that interfering militarily in the internal affairs of sovereign states will inevitably have unintended and undesirable consequences. Informed observers, for example, believe that the US-engineered coup that overturned Iran’s democratically elected government and propped up the despotic rule of the Shah, led, twenty-six years later to the Islamic revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Will those guys never learn?
Now my latest ‘Time’has an article telling me that the US is building up its military strength in the Persian Gulf with a view to attacking Iran. It features a two-page-spread photo of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu conferring closely on the White House lawn, with two clean-cut young military personnel saluting dutifully in the foreground. How many lives will be lost this time around? And for what?

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One thought on “With Friends Like that, Who Needs Enemies?

  1. Pingback: Why the Hate? Is there something I’m missing? | Turkey File

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