BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Turkey’s usual good luck is kicking in again.
In the last week, there have been at least three developments that have started neutralizing the damage to Turkey caused by Erdoğan’s arrogance and presumptuousness on the international scene.
The strange case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the most obvious. Saudi Arabia’s (highly likely) killing of this man is making Turkey look good. There are clearly all kinds of games going on with Turkey trying to play this situation to get the most out of it behind the scenes. Regardless, since Turkey is seemingly on the side of “law and order” while leaking lurid details of what may well have been a murder/dismemberment. Ankara is showing itself as a party to this mess that is standing up to the kingdom that still cuts off hands and heads, while just recently, barely, starting to allow women to drive.
Trump is doing his usual dance. One minute he comes up with an “explanation” suggesting it was rogue elements within Saudi Arabia that murdered Khashoggi, and the next he says he’s waiting to get the audio proof the Turks claim they have of the murder, which, supposedly Vice President Pence will get during his trip to Turkey. Clearly, Turkey is trying to get a payoff from both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, it’s really obscene. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Erdoğan laid a trap for Saudi Arabia. How else can we explain the “fact” that the Turkish government has a recording of what allegedly occurred INSIDE the Saudi consulate?
Then we have the release of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who lived and worked in Turkey for two decades before being arrested for supporting the PKK and Gulen organizations’ “terrorist” activities. By all accounts, this is ridiculous, and Erdoğan finally seems to have recognized he wasn’t going to be able to blackmail the U.S. into an exchange of Brunson for Fethullah Gulen who remains safely ensconced in his Pennsylvania redoubt. So he cut his losses and arranged to “drop” some of the charges against Brunson and let him off with time served for the others. But what is not being loudly publicized is that the U.S. agreed to quietly ease up on the economic measures it took against Turkey over the last few months. But again, Turkey gets to “look good” for releasing a guy who never should have been jailed in the first place!
The third example is a bit more subtle. It involves Turkey’s role in Syria. It seems Ankara played an important role in settling things down enough so that the carnage anticipated from the Syrian army’s attack on Idlib province has been averted for now. Idlib is where the last of the various rebel forces (mostly Turkey-supported) have retreated. There is another pocket IS-Daesh in the desert areas, according to a map, but that is very thinly populated.
It seems Turkey’s warming relations with Russia, coupled with its intent to continue buying Iranian petro-products despite the re-asserted U.S. embargo, gave significant leverage with both of those countries. Moscow and Tehran seem to have prevailed on Damascus to hold off. Both sides are supposed to create a heavy-arms free zone. So, imagine, Turkey is going to hold itself out as a “peacemaker” when it was one of the parties responsible for the civil war in Syria!
See what I mean by Turkish luck?
Finally, there is also the comment made by outgoing Ambassador Richard Mills. Before leaving Yerevan, Mills gave an interview. For a detailed critique of Mills’ comments, see Ara Khachatourian’s “Good Riddance to the Tone Deaf U.S. Ambassador Mills.” His most outlandish assertion (other than that some lands must be “exchanged” with Azerbaijan for peace) is that the reason for the oligarchic economic system that has been bleeding Armenia is the blockade from its east and west. This, he argues, coupled with the small size of Armenia’s economy makes it easy for a few people to control markets. Perhaps the good ambassador could explain to us what “blockades” account for the same oligarchic system coming into existence in economies large and small throughout the former Soviet Union. But the subtlety here is that Turkey and Azerbaijan get off without being named as the blockaders, in violation of international law, no less.
Push back. Disseminate these obvious inconsistencies. Talk up Turkey’s real nature and policies, especially under Erdoğan’s rule.