There was only an en passant reference to Syria at the end of my analysis of Erdogan’s defeat three days ago. This subject deserves closer scrutiny. His controversial policy vis-à-vis Damascus now appears to have been a major factor in his defeat, and Turkey’s likely fine-tuning of her posture in the months ahead may have major repercussions for the Greater Middle East.
Turkey’s three opposition parties, the social-democratic, neoKemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), the sternly nationalist Action Party (MHP), and the predominantly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) may not have much in common on social, cultural, ethnic and religious issues, but they all agree that Erdogan was mistaken in entering the Syrian fray. He did so by arming Islamic militants fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, by quietly allowing thousands of foreign jihadists to cross from Turkey into Iraq and Syria, and by enabling the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Jabhat al-Nusra – a hard-line jihadist fighting force if there ever was one – to become major players in the conflict. Turkey’s assistance to the latter group is a matter of well documented record.
It is now apparent that the ruling AKP performed poorly, in contrast to its earlier showing, in all provinces bordering Syria. and especially among the millions of Kurds disenchanted with Turkey’s failure to help their Syrian brethern in Kobani. As a reliable news source has noted,
The change of power structure in Turkey came precisely at a time when the new Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey partnership is changing the balances in the field against Assad’s regime. The double-pronged strategy of the partnership sought to arm and expand the territory dominated in the northern front of Idlib and Hatay and the southern front of Daara, Quneitra, Suwayda and Damascus via Jordan. The Turkish prong of this strategy is now up in the air.
Erdogan had agreed with the recently enthroned Saudi King Salman to supply weapons and training to al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch of Jabhat al-Nusra and the affiliated Army of Conquest (Jaish al-Fateh), led by Ahrar al-Sha. These al-Qaeda affiliates are hard-core jihadists, of course, whose only claim to respectability (in the eyes of Washington’s “foreign policy community”) is the fact that they are anti-Bashar and not affiliated with ISIS. They are horrible people nevertheless, and designing them as “moderates” in the mainstream Western media simply serves the bipartisan neocon-neolib agenda of bringing down Assad – regardless of consequences for Syria’s Christians, for Syria itself, and for Israel’s vulnerable Golan frontier.
It is noteworthy that HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, speaking to CNN International, stated point blank that any coalition government would have to discontinue Turkey’s “support IS and other radical groups in the region.” Turkey’s eventual disengagement from Erdogan’s axis of evil with the worst purveyor of Islamic agenda in the world – Saudi Arabia – would be a long overdue ray of hope in the nightmarish Middle Eastern equation.
[You can find part i here]
Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs editor of Chronicles, is the author of The Sword of the Prophet and Defeating Jihad.