, 17 tweets, 3 min read
1-Turkey’s relations with Assad was at its best when Arab Spring reached Syria. Turkey first tried genuinely to convince Assad of a peaceful solution. Davutoglu was first foreign leader to travel to Damascus few weeks into the crisis, held 10-hours long talks w/ Assad. He failed.
2- Turkey was hesitant to support the revolution directly. But what made them change their mind was the Libya blunder. Turkey did not support anti-Qaddafi protests first due to huge economic ties. But they soon realized Qaddafi is falling and new order could turn against Turkey.
3- Turkish leadership caught up quickly and compensated for its late support to Libyan rebels by great logistic and advocacy for the rebels. Libyans accepted the change and Turkey became a main player in post-Qaddafi period. So they had that in mind when thinking of Syria.
4- In addition to the ‘lesson’ learnt from Libya, they saw the Egypt experience. How the new order in Egypt dominated by Islamists was proving to be a great ally. The thought of such an ally in Syria was a delicious one.
5- Turkish leadership suddenly saw itself at the leadership of the pro-Arab Spring wave. The Syrian revolution had greatest emotional support across the Sunni world and not supporting it would have killed Erdogan’s image in the Muslim world as the ‘mazlumlarin sesi’.
6- Turkey finally made its mind. It took the side of thE Syrian people. And when the Syrian revolution got militarized, they provided support. Turkey had chosen a path of no-return. Assad had to go. The goal in Syria became ‘praying victory at Ummayid mosque’.
7- Turkey was fully aware how the pro-PKK Kurds had exploited Assad’s weakness to slowly take charge in the Kurdish areas. But Turkey was amidst another promising path: peace process with PKK. There was a ceasefire. They watched PYD rise in Syria but did nothing.
8- Fast forward. Everything changed. Counter-Arab Spring wave gained momentum. Egypt MB failed. Russia & Iran came to Assad’s rescue. Syrian opposition failed. ISIS appeared. From Russia/Iran media & Saudis to Gulenists, Erdogan was linked to ISIS. AKP lost 1st election in 15 yrs
9- Erdogan soon realized not only his neo-Ottaman dreams are difficult to achieve, he is about to lose power facing a more united opposition while Turkey is about to be neighbors with a pro-PKK autonomous region. And suddenly the panic kicked in. Turkey changed course in Syria.
10- At home, Erdogan embraced a more nationalist tone. He allied with a faction of the ultra-nationalist Turks, MHP. Then in foreign policy, while kept his pro-democracy rhetoric and relative support for MB, he no longer did it aggressively. He finally accepted reality.
11- Erdogan realized that it is difficult if not impossible for a nation state to act as an empire. Its allies in the region were weak while its enemies were stronger than ever. He had to choose between being the president of Turkey or the leader of the MENA Muslim Democrats.
12- Although I am yet to make a final judgement for this is this still in the making, one can say with a great degree of certainty that Erdogan is happy to be the president of Turkey alone. The Milli Gorus rhetoric may continue but the policies are largely Kemalist.
13- Kurds may not be as oppressed as the 1990s or worse the 1920s, but Erdogan will no longer say in parliament “Kurdistan was used by Ottomans and the First Parliament”. He will also abandon the multi-ethnic confederation he once dreamed of.
14- Finally, Turkey’s policy in Syria is no longer ‘praying at the Ummayid mosque’. Turkey is now correcting a “mistake”. They are happy to get back to pre-2011. Erase PYD rule, force back all Syrian refugees out, and let Assad be in power.
15- This is a sad moment in Turkey’s history. The most popular leader since Ataturk who was different is failing himself and millions across MENA. He abandons a great vision for the small gains, the greatness of Ottomans to the narrow confines of Turkey.
16- It is even sadder when all these might not be enough to keep him in power. He may choose the ‘Old Turkey’ and end his ‘New Turkey’ dreams but the ‘Old Turkey’ does not like him. But even if he kept power, he will do so as a guardian of a system he spent his life opposing.
17- Erdogan changed everything except the system and the system seems to have changed him. When he is gone, or may be even before his going, the Old Turkey will come back full force. The 1990s Turkey is only one blink away. Sad for them. Sad for MENA. But the hope continues. END.
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