Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Syrian Dictator Asad to Turks: Enter the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Shed Your Blood for Us

By Barry Rubin

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (known as "the giraffe" among his people when they think no secret police are listening) was in Turkey recently and had a proposition for that country.

"Turkish blood and Arabic blood is the same," he told the Turkish prime minister. "Israel has to be kept in quarantine not to spread its disease. From now on the Turkish flag will remain in the coasts of Palestine,till the Palestinian nation will reach all their rights." Remember that for Assad that means wiping Israel off the map.

So that's what Iran's chief Arab ally has to offer Turkey, involvement in a decades'-long conflict, the abandonment of Turkish nationalism, unity with the Arabs (and Iranians), conflict with the West, battle with Israel and...the ultimate triumph of Iranian ambitions and Islam.

Not so attractive compared to Turkey's record of almost 80 years of peace, relative prosperity, social progress, and links to the West. Up until now, Turkey has wanted to be more like Europe, does it now want to be more like Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria?

Even the revered Fatiullah Gulen, a popular but controversial figure who many Westerners considered a moderate Muslim and many Turkish seculariss view as a wolf in sheep's clothing, has been viciously attacked by the IHH and the militant Islamists for having "saved" Israel. He made a general statement against violence in English which people in the West see as proof of moderation and followers in Turkey say is being misinterpreted. Still, the attempt to intimidate such a powerful figure--who has lots of money, his own media, and an entire school system, plus great influence in the Turkish police--may not be taken lightly by Gulen's followers.

Now the regime has taken another step against its NATO allies and the West by voting no on relatively minor sanctions against Iran that even Russia and China supported. Here are two Turkish newspaper columns--though I note that both are in English, not Turkish--criticizing the regime's policy on the issue.

So, which road for Turkey: That of Kemal Ataturk or that of Ruhollah Khomeini?

Last year, speaking in Gaza at a Hamas rally, B├╝lent Yildirim, the Turkish chief organizer of the Gaza flotilla, said something more about that vision: "I wish we could take you away from here to Istanbul, and bring Istanbul here to be hit by the bombs instead of you." Yes, if you want to be a martyr and a pawn for Iran, Syria, and revolutionary Islamists, entering the Middle East's bloody conflicts and instability is a good idea. Otherwise, not.

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