Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roger Cohen Prepares Face for New Egg Attack

From l to r, Brazilian FM Amorim, Brazilian Pres.  Lula da Silva,
Iranian FM Mottaki, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Turkish PM  Erdogan, Turkish FM Davutoglu, all joined hands after signing a nuclear fuel swap deal.

In a paean to Turkey's Iran-shilling foreign policy architect, Ahmet Davutoglu, Roger Cohen has shown himself once again to be a hubristic mis-reader of events. Davutoglu's paradigm shift towards "Zero problems with neighbors", is why Turkey's foreign policy tilted towards the Muslim and Arab world and eased its movement against Israel. For, Cohen, however, that's just fine. Frankly, I had wondered if Cohen had shared a meal with the FM because every time he dines with VIPs his views seem to be filtered through rose colored champagne glasses.

To be sure, Davutoglu's foreign policy program reads brilliantly. It works on the economic level, it has b(r)ought Turkey new friends. Yet if Turkey has no enemies, why is it spending so much on military hardware? As Burak Bekdil says today in Hurriyet Daily, “Deterrence” cannot be the explanation. Deterrence can be applicable to situations in which the country that aims to be “deterrent” suspects the other(s) of aggressive intentions. Since Turkey has no enemies in its vicinity (well, according to the government at least…) what will it do with new generation tanks and air defense systems and frigates and a landing platform dock? Which government would spend tens of billions of dollars on equipment it thinks it will not need?

Because of course, there is one enemy in the neighborhood. In a recent Newsweek interview, Davutoglu, explained the situation: "'Zero problems with neighbors' is a value. But another equally important value is to establish peace. If any actor blocks peace processes, keeps civilians under blockade, massacres civil people on international waters, the peace value could not be disregarded for the sake of “zero problems with neighbors.” These policies of Israel are a menace to regional peace. Excusing these policies that go against peace just to develop zero-problem relations is out of the question."

For Cohen all this concern about Turkey and Israel is really just nonsense. When Israel 'murdered' eight Turkish citizens -- you remember those IHH flotilla humanitarians -- he says, "Far from U.S. solidarity, Turkey got U.S. hostility. One congressman wrote to President Obama demanding that he “condemn Turkey’s reaction to the incident.” That last sentence cries out for an exclamation mark. It reflects the Turkey-equals-Iran-lover-and-Israel-hater surge in Congress. That’s the kind of cheap jingoistic nonsense that boxes in Obama’s Mideast policy and condemns it to tired failure..." 

Cohen has shown before how completely off the mark he was in describing Iranian democracy, he still prefers to belittle concerns about Ahmadinejad and is casually sanguine about the Iran-Turkey pact: "I think Turkey’s immediate recognition of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following his violent electoral putsch of June 2009 was the low point of Davutogluism. But I also think Turkey has Iran policy about right. Isolation comforts the hard-liners. Sanctions won’t turn Iran. A Turkish-Brazilian swap deal for Iran’s low-enriched uranium, reached last May, was a means “to open the way for diplomatic negotiations.”

I guess Roger also doesn't think it's a problem that Turkey has forced the US to agree to "...Turkey’s demand that no information gathered by the (NATO’s planned missile-defense) system — whose primary goal is countering threats from Iran — be shared with Israel," and is cutting off intelligence sharing with Israel.

And we haven't even touched on the Kurdish question. Several excellent articles in Tablet's recent series seem to gather and analyse their facts with a bit more depth than Cohen's If-it's-Tuesday-it-must-be-Turkey superficiality.

Given worries about the potential Iran-induced breakdown of Lebanon, I think ol' Rog should gather a bit more intel before going out on a limb, risking pie-in-the-sky-egg-on-face assessments and giving the all-clear to Turkey's foreign policy.

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