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Turkey --- Success Story Turns to Disaster
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Turkey, once a pillar of Mideast stability, looks increasingly like a slow-motion truck crash. What makes this crisis so tragic is that not very long ago Turkey was entering a new age of social harmony and economic development.

Today, both are up in smoke as this week’s bloody bombing in Ankara that killed 99 people showed. America’s ham-handed policies in the Mideast have set the entire region ablaze from Syria to South Sudan and Libya. Turkey sits right on top of the huge mess, licked by the flames of nationalist and political conflagrations and now beset by 2 million Syrian refugees.

As Saddam Hussein predicted, George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq opened the gates of hell. Attempts by Washington to overthrow Syria’s Alawite regime – a natural US ally – have destroyed large parts of that once lovely nation and produced the worst human disaster since the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the late 1940’s and 1967.

Washington’s bull-in-a-China-shop behavior in the fragile Mideast came just as the Turkish government of Recep Erdogan had presided over a decade of stunning economic growth for Turkey, pushed the intrusive armed forces back to their barracks, and achieved friendly relations with neighbors. No Turkish leader in modern history had achieved so much.

Equally important, the Erdogan government was on the verge of making a final accommodation with Turkey’s always restive Kurds – up to 20% of the population of 75 million – that would have recognized many new rights of the “people of the mountains.”

This was a huge achievement. I covered the bloody guerilla war on eastern Anatolia between Turkey’s police and armed forces, and tough Kurdish guerillas of the Marxist-Stalinist PKK movement. By 1990, some 40,000 had died in the fighting that showed no hope of resolution.

Thanks to patient diplomacy and difficult concessions, PM Erdogan’s Islamist –Lite AK Party managed to reach tentative peace accords with the PKK and its jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan in spite of fierce resistance from Turkey’s generals, violent semi-fascist nationalist groups and equally dangerous leftist revolutionaries.

Peace with the Kurds went down the drain when the US intensified the war in Syria and began openly arming and financing Syria’s and Iraq’s Kurds. Various Kurdish groups became involved in the Syria fighting against the Assad regime in Damascus and against the Islamic State – which had been created by Saudi Arabia and the CIA to attack Shia regimes. Turkey struck back, and the war with the Kurds resumed. A decade of patient work kaput.

Turkey’s prime minister – and now president – Erdogan had led his nation since 2003 with hardly a misstep. Then came two disastrous decisions. First, Erdogan dared criticize Israel for its brutal treatment of Palestinians and killing of nine Turks on a naval rescue mission to Gaza. America’s media, led by the pro-Israel Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Fox News have made Erdogan a prime target for savage criticism.


Second, for murky reasons, Erdogan developed a hatred for Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad, and allowed Turkey to serve as a conduit and primary supply base for all sorts of anti-Assad rebels, most notably the so-called Islamic State. Most Turks were opposed to getting involved in the Syrian quagmire. Doing so unleashed the Kurdish genii and alienated neighbor Russia.

Turkey’s blunder into the Syrian War has enraged the restive military, which has long sought to oust Erdogan and return the nation to Ataturkism, the far-right political creed of Turkey’s anti-Muslim oligarchs, urban and academic elite. Now, Turkey’s long repressed violent leftists are stirring trouble in the cities. Fear is growing that Turkey might return to its pre-Erdogan days of bombings, street violence, and assassinations – all against a background of hyperinflation, soaring unemployment and hostile relations with its neighbors.

One hears rumbles of a Turkish conflict with Armenia over its conflict with Turkish ally, Azerbaijan. Greece is nervous and moving closer to Israel. Oil and gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean are heightening tensions.

With the biggest and best armed forces in the region save Israel, Turkey may yet intervene in Syria – which used, before 1918, to be part of the Ottoman Empire.

The US often accuses Erdogan of wanting to be an Ottoman Sultan, yet is pushing him to use his army in Syria.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Kurds, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. Kiza says:

    Only Margolis can write tosh such as this. Here are a few pearls:
    About Erdogan: “No Turkish leader in modern history had achieved so much.”
    About Erdogan and Assad: “… for murky reasons, Erdogan developed a hatred for Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad …”

    Margolis is an example of a North American journalist of German extraction. To his North American readers he appears educated and knowledgeable, because he has read 3-4 books about the topic, whilst his readers have read none. This is why he has a significant reader following. But quite often he writes about things he understands only superficially.

    Traditionally, Turkey has been getting away with more than any other regional power in the World. The big, mostly European, powers of the 19th and 20th century were giving much to it for three reasons:
    1) its great strategic position (like a bridge between Europe and Asia),
    2) to be a counterweight to Russia,
    3) very powerful army (Turks are as militant as the German Prussians).

    Thus, Turkey is one of those nations, just like Germany, which cannot have it good for long without being taken over by imperial ambitions to rule the region. Turkey has had a fantastic economic development run, which has made Turkey one of the most economically prosperous countries. But right on cue, Turkey started getting involved with Muslims remnants of the former Ottoman Empire in all the countries which used to be part of the empire. Erdogan is a perfect example of a Turkish neo-imperialist, the empire restorer. He started positioning Turkey as a “protector” of the rights of Sunnis, from Bosnia in the North West to Levant in the South, and even Uighurs in China.

    Probably the single biggest Margolis tosh is to blame US for the current Turkish predicament. The main reason for the current Turkish predicament is its own neo-imperialist ambition. For example, Erdogan had a perfect relationship with Assad, but he destroyed this by steering up trouble in Syria, trying to gain control over Syria, just because it was once part of the Ottoman Empire. Secondary, there is a little bit of Israeli revenge for Mavi Marmara and Turkish statements, by means of US helping the Kurds, but Kurds are more a shot over the Turkish bow by USrael than a serious problem. USrael will drop the Kurds down (again) at the next Middle Eastern junction. Kurds are the “use and discard” nation for USrael-EU.

    Erdogan is not good for the future of Turkey and I believe that he will be replaced soon. Then the future of Turkey will depend on its new leadership. But it is very hard to imagine that Turkey could shed its neo-imperialist ambitions, no matter who leads. Turkish neo-imperialism could be moderated only by an economic slowdown.

    • Replies: @22pp22
    , @Greg S.
    , @Junior
  2. Bliss says:

    Second, for murky reasons, Erdogan developed a hatred for Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad

    Erdogan is an Islamist while Assad is a secular Baathist. What did you expect?

  3. 22pp22 says:

    I know little about the Middle East, but I do know Britain. When Margolis comments on Britain, he reveals a stunning level of ignorance. Do you have much experience of the Middle East? If so, can you recommend better sources?

    • Replies: @Kiza
  4. Kiza says:

    Professor Juan Cole is a good source, although there is a rumor that he works for the British Intelligence: Nevertheless, he is a great source of information when taken with a grain of salt.

    The second one is professor John Mearsheimer at Chicago University: He is probably the most reliable independent researcher of the ME and political science in general. Quite open about Israel and famous for it.

    These two are good sources in English.

    • Replies: @22pp22
  5. Greg S. says:

    Kiza, your post appears to be a smear job against an article that is more or less accurate simply because you hold a grudge against Margolis for his opinions on Britian.

    Margolis has spent a lot of time in places like Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and middle east – places that to this day are in turmoil because of the fake borders and intentional political and religious divisions whipped up by British colonialism.

    If people think current U.S. “empire” is bad, they should examine the horrors perpetrated by the British during their empire. Those guys were downright evil. I find this is an opinion that English people “don’t like.” But facts are facts.

    As for the article in hand, while Turkey is not blameless (I don’t see Margolis implying this), without the U.S. actions in the region, none of what Turkey has done regarding Syria would have been possible.

    Seems to me like one imperialist sees no fault in another…

    • Replies: @Kiza
    , @22pp22
    , @Wizard of Oz
  6. Erdogan said, “Islam is Islam. There are no modifiers. Democracy is the train we ride to our ultimate objective.”

    That’s is as succinct an analysis as you could wish for.

    Peace, love, truth,

    The Grate Deign

  7. Kiza says:
    @Greg S.

    You could not be more wrong about my “motivation” for “smearing” Margolis. For me, Margolis is simply an American of Prussian origins who defected to Canada during Vietnam War (smart move) and who I suspect of writing on CIA’s behalf now. His expertise is the military and the countries that you mention, which he has covered extensively during his journalistic career. But Turkey is not one of those countries. Therefore, I feel justified to hold my opinion of his article and of him, especially because I pointed out my contrary opinion. A “smear job” is when you attack someone without relevant contrary information. Not applicable here.

    I do criticize US war-first policies more than almost anyone else here, but in this instance blaming US for Turkey’s predicament is a diversion from reality. At an emotional level, the Prussians are commonly admirers of Turkey for the strength of its military.

    PS. It is really hard to find a journalist who does not also work for an intelligence agency.

  8. 22pp22 says:

    Thanks very much for that. I also read French, German, Japanese and Russian. Are there any good sources in those languages.

    • Replies: @Kiza
  9. Kiza says:

    I wish I could recommend authoritative sources in other languages, but I cannot. I do follow literature in French, German, Russian and a bit of Mandarin, but none of these are as dedicated to ME as the English sources mentioned. If I do come across other language sources, I will be glad to post them on this website. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to read a variety of opinions because Anglo-literature does suffer from groupthink and from a strong organized propaganda (more than any other language).

    Nevertheless, in English my favorite source of info overall, after, are London Review of Books, American Conservative Mag, Wired, Rolling Stone, RT, Asia Times and South China Morning Post.

  10. 22pp22 says:
    @Greg S.

    Margolis commented on the Scottish elections, but was unaware of the precise meanings of Britain, England and Great Britain. That’s pitiful. You also use English and Britain interchangeably. Pakistan exists as a separate state from India, because the Muslims did not want to be a minority in Hindu-majority India. Islam takes a dim view of Polytheism and most Hindus are polytheistic. The British had nothing to do with those divisions. They has existed for a millennium before the British ever sent foot in India.

    British India was a complex entity and some of the native states were more oppressive than the worst British colonial governor. Sind’s native ruler was deposed because he was so cruel and the debate as to whether the British had to to the right to remove him was anguished. The Times newspaper carried the headline “Peccavimus” which means we have sinned (pun on Sind).

    I am well aware of the facts and the PC interpretation of them is false. Religious strife was not stirred up by the British as it would have made British India ungovernable. The worst excesses perpetrated by the British were the Cromwellian Settlement in Ireland and the suppression of the Afrikaners. Few Brits try to excuse them.

    Famines occurred in British India, but they had also occurred prior to the arrival of the British. Ditto slavery, which was not a British invention.

    The Norman Conquest of England reduced the population by a third, but I’m kind of over it and my best mate is a Frog.

    You interpret British history as you do because you have a deep emotional need to do so, not because you are aware of the “facts”.

    • Agree: Wizard of Oz
  11. Junior [AKA "Jr."] says:

    I’d like to thank you for your very informative comment, Kiza, because I was VERY confused by this article. I think that you may be right about it being misinformation because I kept having to re-read certain paragraphs to make sure that I wasn’t missing something and I was STILL lost. I know relatively little about Turkey and worry, as you say in your later post, about groupthink and organized propaganda.

    Your post seems more in line with what I do know about Turkey than Mr. Margolis’s because he did seem to be shifting the blame more towards the US than Erdogan. No doubt that they BOTH, along with the Saudis, Israel, and Gulf Coast Nations are ALL responsible in their ways but it almost seemed that he was saying that the US forced Erdogan into helping to create ISIS. Also, his “for murky reasons” line raised a red flag for me because it seemed that he was being secretive or obfuscating all of a sudden when in the whole rest of the article he had NO problem speaking his mind freely.

    Various Kurdish groups became involved in the Syria fighting against the Assad regime in Damascus and against the Islamic State – which had been created by Saudi Arabia and the CIA to attack Shia regimes. Turkey struck back, and the war with the Kurds resumed.

    The above quote also didn’t really make sense to me because he didn’t include Turkey as part of creating ISIS by doing such things as funneling arms to them. And the “Turkey struck back” part also didn’t make sense to me because he seemed to be implying that the Kurds attacked Turkey and that’s why the war resumed. I also didn’t understand why he didn’t bring up the false-flag bombings that Turkey has conducted on Kurds in Turkey and their secretive bombing of Kurds in Syria and Iraq as the reason for the war resuming. Very confusing stuff and I wasn’t sure if it was because of my lack of Turkey knowledge that I didn’t understand but your post cleared it up.

    I thought that Mr. Margolis brought up an interesting topic that I had not thought of when he brought up the “Kurdish guerillas of the Marxist-Stalinist PKK movement” because I had always thought that it was more of an Ethnic issue and had never heard of the PKK as an ideological Marxist entity. I know that the Kurds of the North are different from the Kurds in the South and don’t even speak the same language from what I understand but ARE they Marxist? I tried looking it up but am getting different answers ranging from “they are”, “they were”, to “it has nothing to do with it”. What’s your opinion?

    I’m also curious what your opinion is of the CFR’s plan for partitioning in relation to Kurdistan being formed and what that means to Turkey? Which by the way, I think is the reason why Mr. Margolis wrote this Erdogan propaganda piece.

  12. @Greg S.

    “Facts are facts” you say but don’t give any. Evil isn’t a fact. And certainly not a concept with such detailed and generally accepted denotation and connotation that you can presume your use of it has added anything at all to information for or persuasion of readers.

  13. Svigor says:

    Margolis is an example of a North American journalist of German extraction.

    Is that supposed to be funny?

    Margolis has spent a lot of time in places like Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and middle east – places that to this day are in turmoil because

    They’re full of Pakis, Indians, Afghanis, and Middle Easterners.

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