Friday, January 11, 2008

Turkey's increasing role

The following article on Syrian-Turkish reveals Turkey's new strategic alignment.

From Syria's perspective, any friend is relished, but it's Turkey's willingness to engage with a neighbour the US describes as "dangerous" that has circles in Washington frowning.

From SyriaComment:

'Turkey Steps Up Role in Middle East

And this is exactly what Turkey's new government wants, says Henri Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University. He says Turkey's leaders intend to become players in Middle East politics. The opening to Syria is a major move to do just that.

"It is quite smart on their part … to say, 'Look we have good relations with everybody, everybody can come and talk to us, we will listen to anybody, we will help anybody,' so this is the way the Turks are pushing themselves up in the region," Barkey says.

It is a new role for Turkey, a welcome lifeline for Damascus, and a problem for the United States: Turkey, a key U.S. ally, is reaching out to Syria — which President Bush has called a dangerous regime.'


It became obvious with the election of Turkey's new leadership that Ankara will attempt to reassert itself in a region it once controlled.

Turkey's attempt to become a major player, or a major broker, may come as unwanted interference from the US and Europe.

The US, the original broker for peace negotiations, has lost immense credibility with its adoption of neocon policies. The Arabs, particularly Syria (the last major Arab country left that has yet to sign an agreement, or become an American puppet), have little trust left in Washington's ability to broker a fair deal with Israel.

The EU has toed a similar line behind the US in its policies towards Damascus and Beirut, and Russia is still far off from being a key player in the region.

So Syria-Turkey's relationship is a win-win solution. Taking aside economic and cultural benefits to this new alliance, Syria will be aiming to boost Turkey's role as a credible peace broker to replace Washington's long held title as the go-to venue for peace talks.

No doubt, Ankara's influence on the region, particularly on Israel, currently has little flair compared to the influence Washington exerts. As demonstrated, Bush has repeatedly vetoed Israel's ability to commence negotiations with Syria, despite Turkey's diplomatic efforts to kickstart talks.

The interests of the US and Turkey are sharply diverging as Ankara seeks to assert itself in the region. The Bush administration has particular strategic interests in the Middle East that want to keep Syria in the dark. Turkey, on the other hand, prefers to hold Syria's hand and walk it to Jerusalem in the eventual hopeful outcome of a settlement.

Regardless, no peace settlement will occur without Washington's blessing, but the fact Turkey has received Syria's endorsement as a trusted broker for peace will only complicate the US' Middle East strategy. Already struggling to compete with Iranian influence in the region, Turkey is one other Middle Eastern competitor the US doesn't need.

A new US administration will have a lot of work to do in regaining the trust the Bush administration has all but destroyed. Its hardline stance and attempt to become the only player in the region has only invited further players, such as Turkey and Russia, to the Middle Eastern scene. The US has only made matters for itself all the more complicated.

No comments: