Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
On Monday, July 18, in a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed readiness to strengthen cooperation with Iran and Russia, in order to restore peace in the region. The main topic of conversation between the two presidents was the attempted military coup in Turkey, and the Middle East as a whole. The two leaders shared the view that there are forces in the world that do not find the peaceful development of the Islamic world convenient. The Iranian President was even a bit more specific, hinting that is not only terrorists, but also some “great powers”. Its not hard to guess that this transparent allusion refers to the United States, whose presence in the region for the past two decades is very noticeable and not in a good sense.
Erdogan, quoted by the IRNA agency stated: “Today, much more than before we are filled with determination, that together with Iran and Russia we can help solve regional problems and return peace and stability to the region.” What caused this radical change in the interests of Erdogan, that he is even ready to cooperate with Iran – a country with which he has always been competing for influence in the Middle East?! Or maybe his views have changed after the recent events in Turkey. Or perhaps he appreciates the fact that all previous battles he started, ended in failure on all fronts. The USA became cold toward him and not only do they not give him the expected support, but they began to support the Kurdish separatists.
After the downing of the Russian aircraft, Moscow froze relations with Ankara and imposed an economic embargo. Europe despite being a hostage to Ankara, hardening its tone towards the President, for gross violation of democratic rights and freedoms, and especially for the persecution of journalists and the shut down of opposition media. The Islamic State failed to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. On the other hand, the Kurds in Turkey began a civil war. Apparently Erdogan has made the appropriate conclusions and abruptly switched his foreign policy priorities. The first signal was that he suddenly and quickly wanted closer relations with Israel and Russia. It’s a little strange, but it chronologically coincided with the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul. Then came information that a meeting between Erdogan and Putin was being prepared. Initially, it was to be at the G20 forum in Shanghai, however the meeting was postponed for later. Before such a meeting could take place, an unaccountable and poorly organized military coup was attempted. The first official version of the coup was that the organizers are certain officers, who are unhappy with the rapprochement with Israel and Russia. For greater authenticity the downing of the Russian aircraft was connected to them, supposedly aimed at worsening relations with Moscow. The second version was that the coup was prepared by Turkish officers working for the interests of the special services of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The likely reason for this version is the escalation of tension in relations between Cairo and Ankara in recent months. Finally, the third version is the one that Erdogan himself announced – that the organizer of the coup was his mortal enemy Fethullah Gülen. But all this has a pre-history. When the process of regulating the Middle East conflict did not go as planned by Erdogan, he tried at the expense of NATO. to strengthen his regional and geopolitical influence by promoting the doctrine of neo-Ottomanism. The West did not look kindly on his tactics and he suddenly found himself trapped in a global conflict, developing in the territories of Syria and Iraq. The refugee problem evolved similarly, and Erdogan stated: “You created this (the refugee wave). Now you deal with this mess. You created this problem through joint efforts, and now on our territory there are 2 million refugees.” He then opened the floodgates and migration wave swept over Europe.
The initial warm welcome by Merkel, and the subsequent humiliating deal with Erdogan created problems in Germany itself and initiated the series of terrorist acts in Paris, Brussels and Nice. Then there was the Brexit, one of the main reasons for which, was the failed EU migration policy. After the attempted coup, Erdogan wanted the extradition of Gulen from the US. The Americans naturally asked for proof, but Erdogan can hardly provide such. He is aware that Americans will not extradite Gulen, but he hopes to provoke tensions between Washington and Ankara, and to continue playing the “Eastern Card”.
The same scenario was used when Turkey applied for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Turkey was then granted observer status and immediately Erdogan blackmailed the EU, saying that “if we are not accepted in the European Union, we will join the SCO.” After the putsch, Erdogan declared himself to be the supreme commander of the army and launched massive repression, victims of which are already over 50 000 people. The goal is to permanently control the army and the judiciary. This will ensure a smooth change of the constitution and legitimize his autocratic rule. This time the West was sharply critical of Erdogan’s actions, and even John Kerry said that the question of Turkey’s exclusion from NATO is on the table, and the EU announced that it is freezing the issue of the visa regime for Turkish citizens. At the same time we must not forget that 65% of Turkey’s trade volume is with the EU and Erdogan can hardly afford to aggravate relations with the community to such an extent, as to face another economic embargo after the lesson, which Moscow gave him. The West’s policy in the Middle East is as usual applying a double standard. Behind the scenes of talks for a peaceful settlement, is ongoing a scenario for fragmenting the entire Middle East region. With the possible realization of this scenario, additional outbreaks of tension would potentially be formed on the southern border of Russia, and Turkey is likely to get a new border with the state of Kurdistan. Such a future scenario could prompt Russia to form some kind of an alliance with Turkey.
The geopolitical situation now is quite unusual and unpredictable. On one hand, the Turkish proposal for an alliance with Iran and Russia means that Erdogan will have to recognize the Assad regime, and negotiate with him in an appropriate format. That is not so bad, because of the prospect of settling the conflict, and preventing a scenario for the fragmentation of the Middle East. On the other hand, despite the arrests and repression in Turkey, new upheavals can start in which pro-Western opposition encouraged by the West, could go against Erdogan, and that will throw the country into a civil war to which the Kurds will hardly remain indifferent. In this environment it’s easy to see why Ankara is seeking support in the creation of some kind of tactical alliances. Moreover, Erdogan’s proposal for an alliance with Iran, Turkey and Russia is not accidental. Today the fashion in the Middle East is the so-called “triangular diplomacy” that is very productively used by Tehran. This diplomatic approach was implemented by Yevgeny Primakov in creating the alliance between Russia, India and China. It can’t be denied that Iranian diplomacy appreciates this approach. Therefore, Turkey proposal is not accidental. It takes into account the active role of Iran in the region, and its friendly relations with Russia. Whether this will be advantageous for Russia and Iran is too early to say. But the fact is that such a historical precedent in the region we have not seen. Another advantage of such an alliance is that Turkey is a NATO member, and if its not excluded from the alliance, it will be a sustainable, albeit indirect channel for consultations with NATO, which is not unimportant.