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Turkey and the Middle East: multiple challenges, few options 12 novembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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Today’s Zaman (Turkey) Wednesday, 12 November 2014, p. 10

Faruk Loğoğlu *

Turkey’s neighborhood is in flames, ravaged by civil wars and terrorism and exacerbated by intervention from outside. Presently centered in Syria and Iraq, this conflagration could readily engulf Turkey itself unless the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) opts fo for major policy shifts soon. While the challenges are many and daunting daunting, Turkey still has trump cards that it can deploy to reverse the deepening trend of increasing turbulence in the region.

Compou Compounding the core Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict that continues to permeate all other tensions in the region, there are at least five other principal challenges facing the Middle East. Predictably, they are closely interconnected in a complex web, making thei their resolution all the more difficult.

Topping t the list is the growing threat of wide-scale sectarian conflict among Muslims.Muslim The ever-existing fault lines between Sunni and Shiite in the Arab worldw have been shattered under the weight of long-standing grievances, economicec and political inequality, and hostility, fueled by different historicalhistoric narratives. With intervention from within and without the region, the situation,sit particularly in Iraq and Syria, is getting worse by the day. In this senselessse internecine fighting, non-Muslims are also becoming victimized and the cultural heritage of the region is being decimated.

The eth ethnic and sectarian division not only embroils opposing groups withinwi the countries of the region but it also unleashes and raisesraise interstate tensions. The confrontation of Shiites backed by Iran and Sunnis backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar provides a fertile ground for sectarianism as a mode of action, mobilization and political expression.

The second challenge is the danger of the territorial division of Iraq and Syria along ethnic and sectarian lines. In recent years, the dream of an independent Kurdistan has gained traction in northernno Iraq. Most recently, the Kurdish cause has gained international sympathy and backing from the Kurdish resistance in Kobani against the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Motivated by the presumed failure of their home countries to answer their demands,demand the Kurdish drive for independence has thus acquired a regional character,cha with the Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran becoming more united, vocal and coordinating and interacting more. Tod Today the Kurds feel the international community is behind their asp aspiration for a homeland of their own. On the other hand, ISIL has already declared itself as a “state” and controls territory in both Iraq and Syria. The problem is while the act of dreaming independence cannot be denied, any attempt to realize and sustain it could only lead to further and prolonged fighting, violence and instability in the region.

The third region-wide problem is terrorism, fueled by sectarian and ethnic divisions. The terrorists seek to justify t their violence with a host of grievances dressed usually in religious disc discourse. Terrorism in the Middle East today is not an occasional or isola isolated phenomenon, but an endemic, trans-boundary condition accept accepted as a fact of life. While the international effort to stop terrorism rem remains sorely inadequate there is unfortunately continuing support provi provided to terrorists by states inside and outside the region.

The Mid Middle East is today a wetting and training ground for terrorists and a hub for their global deployment.

A fourth challenge and by far the most important one, being the source of all o other problems, is the deficit in political, economic, social and scientific prog progress in the region and the persistence of conditions that prevent that prog progress. Education based on knowledge, gender equality, the rule of law an and secularism are largely absent in the Middle East. These deficits in turn prevent the growth of political pluralism, social justice and fundamental freedoms in the region. The Muslim world is trapped in a “Catch-22” si situation: Their golden age is in the future, but the terrorists claiming to be fighting for them seek that golden age in the past.

Finally, there is the significant responsibility of Western powers and Russia fo for the persistence of turmoil, instability and backwardness in the M Middle East. Vying for influence in the region, American and Rus Russian confrontation has not served the interests of the people living there. For that matter, this confrontation prolongs the ongoing ten tensions in the region. The overriding instinct to protect Israel and the ever-important priority of secure access to oil and gas have traditio traditionally shaped the approach of Western powers without regard to the needs and aspirations of the Arab world.

To sum up,u it is clear that the Middle East is under tectonic stress and that what we are witnessing today in terms of terrorism and civil war could be just the harbinger of worse things to come. This situation then is a wake-up call for all, especially for the countries of the region who must take ownershipow of the challenges facing them. The international community tooto must realize that terrorism and violence can no longer be contained and that we are all under threat. The days of wars between states may be over, but today violence is permanent and global.

It is in th this fluid and dangerous environment that Turkey can play a pivota pivotal constructive role if it makes the right choices at the right time. That will be the subject of our follow-up article.

* Faruk Loğoğlu is a CHP Adana deputy and a retired diplomat.

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