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Reader comment on item: Developments in Syria and Turkey

Submitted by David W. Lincoln (Canada), Jun 10, 2013 at 11:24

Daniel, I came across this over on the facebook page of a priest in the Antiochian Patriarchate, who is based in Washington State.

Plenty of coherence amidst the details is what I see.

Today, while at the market in Konya, a man heard my wife and I speaking Arabic and English. He came over and introduced himself in fairly good English. He asked us about the situation in Syria and pitched in his own views. He mentioned that the US and Russia are supposed to meet in August in Istanbul to discuss the situation in Syria. In his view, the US and Russia are going to exclude Turkey from the decision making process. He didn't say it, and neither did we, but what is well known is that Russia is insisting that the 12 Kurdish political parties be involved in the talks. Already, the Syrian Kurds have announced their desire to separate from Syria. After the invasion of Iraq, the north of Iraq, commonly known as "Iraqi Kurdistan" began a process (under the patronage of the US) of creating what is in an independent nation in everything but name. For example, Iraqi Kurdistan issues its own visas separate from a visa to Iraq, manages its own borders, has its own military (known as the "Peshmerga") and really only pays lip service to Baghdad.

For Turkey, this is a disaster, if they are cut out of the equation, this is a disaster for them. Though Kurds are officially only roughly 15% of Turkey's population, most Kurds are hesitant at best to identify themselves as this to anyone outside of the Kurdish community or Americans - The Turkish government has even made it illegal to count Kurds. This is why so many believe that 15% is simply the baseline, not the accurate number. Expert opinions range as high as 30% of the population and with ethnic Turks having two children (to the point that the current prime ministry, Erdogan, has made it a mantra that each family is encouraged to have three) while ethnic Kurds have upwards of ten, it's not long before Turkey's ethnic landscape changes dramatically. For the Turks, the Kurds are the most vile enemy on earth and they're looking at a future in which Turkey is numerically dominated by Kurds. Due to this, they're freaking out.

With those perspectives in mind, it should be realized that the Arabs haven't been a main player in the Middle East since the mid 8th century. In 750AD, the Persians resumed power under the guise of the Abassid who promptly build Baghdad (old Persian for "God's Garden") and moved their capital there. Over time, the Mongols invaded and then the Turks took over and remained the dominant force until the end of WWI. Since then, it's been Israel and Iran who have vied for power. Turkey has tried to regain strength, but it just doesn't have what it needs. It has neither the organization nor the brainpower to do it (believe me, the vast majority of Turks are like sheep and - ironically - have NO desire to incorporate anyone or anything "non-Turkish" into Turkey. For them, having a part of the country or a population which doesn't speak Turkish as their first language is a disaster/embarrassment). The Arabs have really just been something to control and direct vs. something that controls and directs itself (Simply since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, T.E. Lawrence organized them, the French and British colonized them, the socialists armed and trained them, and now the US and Iran are vying for influence/control in the area).

Turkey missed its chance to become a major player in the region when it insisted on funding the unpopular Islamicists in Syria (particularly Jebhat al Nusra and the Islamic Brotherhood - which actually rules Turkey under the name "AKP") instead of funding the extremely popular and largely secularist Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Council (which hosts a much larger number of Christians than the government as well as other minorities). What Turkey has allowed is for the US and Russia to carve up the area and establish a Kurdish state in Syria, which will automatically usher in a Kurdish state in Turkey in the near future. The Turkish Kurds live in the area that contains most of Turkey's hydroelectric dams and natural gas reserves. If the Kurds break away or gain a level of autonomy, it will be a disaster for Turkey, just imagine if about a 1/4 of the US suddenly broke away).

But it all makes sense. In the last several years, Israel has rekindled its normally happy relationship with Kurds and has even been rumored to have been sending weapons to various Kurdish groups. Also, Russia has warmed up to them and the US, of course, is the main friend of Kurds (when people ask us where we're from, we asked them to say first. They'll say Turkey and my wife says "Syria" but when I say "America", they'll usually smile, lean in, and point to themselves and say "Ben Kurdomanim!" ("I'm Kurdish!"). Israel is a strategic position, but the US attempt at creating an anti-Iranian buffer state in Iraq (the real reason for the invasion, just look at a map of US military bases in the world, they're concentrated on the boarders of Iran), it needs a new friend in the area. Russia is also anxious about Iran, which it views as a possible loose canon. The solution? The Kurds. They're treated badly and have national aspirations, they're completely unorganized and thus fairly easy to take advantage of an, unlike the Arabs, they're generally very loyal - and even better, there are huge numbers of then in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and - best of all - Iran.

What is clear that is going on now is that the US and Israel and keeping the war going in Syria as a way to wear down Hezbollah and get rid of radical Sunni elements. The Sunnis and the Shia hate each other passionately. To the other, each one is the ultimate in moral filth, infidelity to God, and betrayal. The way the US and Israel look at it, let them battle it out for awhile and watch as the cream of Hezbollah's military crop is eliminated. Several months ago, Hezbollah sent in 2,000 of their best soldiers and it's believed that more than half have been killed or seriously wounded. Several thousand more of lesser skill are rumored to have gone in and are effectively doing all of the fighting as the regular Syrian army has completely atrophied due to KIAs and the majority of it defecting to the opposition or simply running away to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, or Iraq. It's gotten to the point at which the government has begun to draft 15 and 16 year old boys as well as men in their 50's (known as the (lijaan sha3bia) to fight.

What all this means is that he defense of southern Lebanon (done almost exclusively by Hezbollah) has been stripped and will continue to be stripped in order to control Syria. It also means that Iran drains its economy supporting Syria and Hezbollah in what has proven to be an extremely costly war for both sides.


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