April 26, 2011
James G. Wiles
The Islamist government of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has just been invited by the Person Who Does Not Like to Be Referred to as the Leader of the Free World to expand Turkey’s role in the Middle East.
Ankara has to be delighted. The Levant, until 1919, was part of the national territory of the Turkish Republic’s predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire. Throughout its former imperial domains, economically-booming Turkey (which refused in 2003 to allow American troops to invade Iraq from Turkish territory) is now pushing to expand its influence and access. It has also been trying to play a role in Libya, formerly the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.
In a joint statement released by the White House, Prime Minister Erdogan and President Obama announced that they had conferred by telephone and agreed to a condemnation of the violent repression currently underway in Turkey’s neighbor, Syria. The two leaders demanded that Syria President Bashir Assad end all government-sponsored violence and enact a program of meaningful democratic reform. The statement came in the wake of reports that the Syrian Army on Monday used tanks for the first time against demonstrators.
This joint Turkish-American initiative on Syria follows on a unilateral offer last week by Prime Minister Erdogan for Turkey to mediate a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Now that President Obama has welcomed Turkey to an expanded role at the diplomatic table, let’s see if he can persuade the Turks to bar the so-called Gaza Peace Flotilla from undertaking its second proposed voyage to Gaza City later this month. The new expedition to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip has been dubbed by its organizers “Freedom Fleet 2.”