Why Turkey is so important | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 17, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 17, 2016

Why Turkey is so important

Many mistakenly believe that the war against Assad started in 2011 with the Arab Spring. But actually, it started at least as early as 2000 when Qatar proposed to construct a USD10 billion, 1,500 kilometre pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, connecting Qatar directly to the European energy market and reducing the EU's energy dependence on Russia. Assad, being a close ally of Russia, refused to allow the pipeline to run through Syria and, instead, approved another running from Iran's gas field through Syria to the ports of Lebanon. In a 2007 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, said that soon after the 9/11 attacks, he had received a memo from the then US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. This memo, according to him, in fact, described “how the US government was going to take down seven countries in five years” — one of which was Syria.

In February 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote, “Secret cables and reports by the US, Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. 

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In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria…. intelligence documents, published by WikiLeaks, show that by 2012”, some US allies “were arming, training and funding radical Jihadist Sunni fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to overthrow the Assad's Shia allied regime…. the CIA also armed Jihadists with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons from Libyan armouries that the agency smuggled by ratlines to Syria via Turkey.”

Russian and Syrian governments too have constantly made similar allegations. But when speaking of allies, one must remember that Washington does not really have any; it only has junior partners (its European partners). And although the Gulf monarchs allied with Washington probably had quite a bit to gain from the overthrow of Assad, none would have tried to do so without Washington's directives. But why would Washington be so desperate to overthrow Assad you ask? Well, there are, of course, many reasons. The most important, however, is to weaken Russia. To overthrow a pro-Russian leader in Syria and replace him with one more willing to do Washington's bidding.

The equation is very simple. Washington wants Full Spectrum Dominance, an euphemism for hegemony, as the US military's doctrine defines it. As Dr Paul Craig Roberts the former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy wrote on May 5, “Washington's position shows that Washington is a firm believer that only Washington's interests are important. If other people wish to retain national sovereignty, they are simply being selfish. Moreover, they are out of compliance with Washington, which means they can be declared a 'threat to American national security'.” Thus, for US hegemony to succeed there must be no independent sovereign nations left to pursue their own interests. It needs to have its puppets in place everywhere so that all countries follow the Washington directive. By refusing Qatar's offer, Assad has already proved inadequate for that job.

And for a long time, it was Turkey that played the major role in helping Washington try to achieve the overthrow of Assad. In December 2015, German newspaper Deutsche Welle reported that “Military and logistic support from Turkey was the key factor in extremists' takeover of Idlib, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said.” The Iranian Press TV in June 2016 reported that “Turkey and Saudi Arabia have widely been blamed for the deadly militancy in Syria through supporting militants with funds, training and weapons.” The Russian Foreign Minister has also stressed the need for “stopping the flow of terrorists and weapons to Syria via Turkey”.

Such support to jihadists from Turkey at the bidding of Washington may well be ending, given the recent coup attempt in Turkey, alleged by some to have been masterminded by the West. As RT reported on August 11, “In an interview with Turkey's NTV television on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said that Ankara 'will again, in an active manner, with its planes take part in operations' against Islamic State targets…. Ankara has called on Moscow to carry out joint operations against the 'common enemy'.” And that is why Turkey is so important. As RT reported on August 12, “Putin has, for some time now, been trying to promote the idea of an alternative bloc to curb American domination of the global political order. With cooperation with China steadily increasing, bringing Turkey into the mix would be the icing on the cake.”

Because for both Putin and Assad, this may be the most decisive step yet towards ending the proxy war in Syria. Thus, as Eric Draitser, pointed out, “The failed coup in Turkey last week was a political and geopolitical earthquake as it has the potential to fundamentally alter the Middle East, NATO, and potentially the balance of power globally…. Despite his commendable service to US imperialism in Syria, including hosting both terrorist and Syrian expatriate proxies of the US, Erdogan has clearly upset the apple cart with Washington. Perhaps his most egregious crime came just recently when he issued an apology for the November 2015 downing of a Russian jet. But, of course, it wasn't the apology itself that set off official Washington, it was the reorientation of Turkish foreign policy away from the US, NATO, and Europe, and towards Russia, China, and the emerging non-western power bloc.” Something that Washington, to its horror, may only have quickened with the failed coup attempt, if it was, indeed, behind it.

The writer is a member of Editorial Team.

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