Prima facie, Turkey goofed up on Syria. A dream-like relationship, which PM Recep Erdogan’s government painstakingly fostered in recent years, lies in tatters. Turkey’s veteran foreign-policy columnist Mehmet Ali Birand laments that Erdogan’s “calculations seem to have gone wrong.”
But then, Erdogan is a calculating politician and Turkish intelligence is very strong on Syria. And Ankara would have known that the Syrian regime wasn’t going to wither away. For sure, Erdogan scripted a game plan while apparently spoiling for a fight with Syria.
To my mind, what he “lost” in ties with Syria he more than made up in ties with Saudi Arabia and the wealthy Persian Gulf states. And what he may gain by way of “green money” isn’t something that Syria could compensate.
The “green money” from the oil-rich Persian Gulf countries is steadily flocking to Turkey as an alternate destination since the 9/11 attacks. Erdogan is now changing Turkey’s tax laws for it to happen with greater ease. Gulf investors are viewing Turkey with great interest – to tie up with the so-called “Anatolian tigers”, the business houses that form the backbone of the AKP.
A fascinating thing about Turkey is that often there are rational explanations for all the noisy madness that is happening. Alas, there is so much hair-splitting needlessly going on today about Turkey and the Arab Spring – making it all out to be an epic struggle for the soul of Islamism. Let me retrieve from my archives a classic essay (2005) by Michael Rubin, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, titled “Green Money, Islamist Politics in Turkey.” Rubin was prescient.
Posted in Politics.
– November 4, 2011