Of the many pundits analysing the Turkish referendum vote, the most absurd, even by the standards of pro-Erdogan propagandists, comes from someone called Patrick Cockburn writing in Britain’s Independent newspaper.
Recently, an exclusive Duran report exposed The Independent reporting fake news about Russia and Iran threatening military retaliation against American forces in Syria, when in fact the polar opposite is true. This has been repeated and confirmed many times by many officials, including the Presidents of Russia and Iran.
Now though, completely fake news has been replaced by totally absurd analysis. Cockburn’s byline summary states,
“Turkey is surrounded by many actual or potential enemies – Syrian, Kurdish, Iranian, Russian – who see how easy it will be to exploit and exacerbate the country’s deep divisions”.
First of all, Syria, Iran and Russia are not Turkey’s enemies. Turkey has invaded and occupied Syria. The inverse is not true and will certainly never be true in the foreseeable future. Syria has no designs on Turkey but under Erdogan, Turkey does and is acting upon its designs for Syria.
In fact, prior to the current conflict, Damascus and Ankara had fairly normal relations.
Erdogan’s gross miscalculation of his ability to re-Ottomanise Syria may yet be his downfall as Russia and Iran as well as the Syrian Arab Army are staying the course. Inversely, US interventions since the infamous missile attack on Shayrat Airbase are down.
As for Iran, it is Turkey who constantly sides with its fellow NATO members in respect of the increasingly strange and provocative accusations towards Iran. Iran has no ambitions in Turkey and in fact both oppose Kurdish separatism in their respective countries.
As for Russia, Putin always calls Turkey a partner and in spite of severe differences in their Syrian policies, it was Russia who invited Turkey to the Astana Peace Talks which the US is not a party to.
Turkey and Russia at times have a deeply tense relationship, but Russia is not going to be drawn into another Russo-Turkish war. That is history, not the present, in spite of the fact that Russia and Turkey are fighting on opposing sides in Syria. It is actually surprising just how well Russia and Turkey do conduct bilateral relations, given the current geo-political environment.
As for Kurds, Turkey’s Kurdish issue has been burning since before Erdogan was even born. It is true that Erdogan’s new found powers may exacerbate the conflict, but there was a time, not so long ago when then Prime Minister Erdogan actually had somewhat passable relations with the Kurds (by the standards of any modern Turkish leader). So again, such automatic assumptions are neither black and white nor necessarily causal in respect of the referendum.
After slandering Bashar al-Assad, Cockburn goes on to write a statement which frankly is both racist and inaccurate. He said,
“In the past foreign observers have often made the mistake of thinking that Turkey was similar to Middle East states. In reality, it was a much more modern state closer in its political history to the countries of southern Europe….
….There was a sophisticated and influential media and an intellectual energy in Turkey superior to most countries in Europe. It is this that is now being eliminated as Turkey becomes yet another member of the corrupt and tawdry club of Middle East autocracies”.
I do not deny that the Turkish Republic which Ataturk founded was certainly a modern state, but cannot the same thing be said of Ba’athist Syria and Ba’athist Iraq (certainly under Presdient Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr)? Cannot the same be said for Nasserist Egypt, socialist Algeria, pre and indeed post-civil war Lebanon and The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya?
Was modernisation not a common theme among all these states?
It should be noted that when many European and British writers say ‘Middle Eastern’, it is actually derogatory term for Arab states and occasionally Iran. When such observers call Turkey ‘European’, they are actually implying that Turkey is superior to Arab states or Iran.
“Erdogan tried to whip up Turkish nationalist feeling during the election campaign, by carefully-staged theatrical rows with the Netherlands and Germany. But Turkey is surrounded by many actual or potential enemies – Syrian, Kurdish, Iranian, Russian – who see how easy it will be to exploit and exacerbate the country’s hatreds and deep divisions”.
Russia has no official position on the referendum. Russia probably doesn’t even care a great deal, as Erdogan’s victory was a foregone conclusion in many respects.
Russia is in fact one of the only countries in the world capable of dealing with Erdogan without totally losing patience Much of this comes down to the personally calm demeanour of Vladimir Putin. Now that Erdogan has a crown to match his Sultanic behaviour, it will make little difference to Moscow.
Iran will also not see it as any great change in respect of Tehran/Ankara relations. Erdogan’s domestic crackdowns that will almost certainly follow the vote will only lead to ‘more of the same’ in respect of Ankara’s stance towards Iran.
Interestingly, Cockburn does not mention Greece nor Cyprus. It is Cyprus in particular which may be the country to suffer most from Erdogan’s newly expanded powers.
Erdgoan has never been a friend to the Cyprus peace process and his referendum victory may yet embolden him. This may especially the case since 54% of eligible voters living in Turkish occupied Cyprus voted ‘NO’ in the referendum. Clearly, Turks in Cyprus are not looking forward to living under the new ‘Sultan’.
Cyprus is a place that Erdogan can use like a political football in his game of neo-Ottomanism. Bosnia-Herzegovina, one of the only places in the Balkans somewhat nostalgic for Ottoman colonial rule, may also become such a political football for Erdgoan.
Erdogan has long since lost any meaningful potential friends in the Arab world and the Kurdish issue has been burning since long before the referendum. Events in Syria and Iraq will have a far greater impact on Kurdish-Turkish relations than the referendum.
The obsession with Russia and its regional partners has clearly clouded the judgement of Patrick Cockburn. It’s no surprise that the guttural Independent would publish such a deeply misguided piece.