In Tehran, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu may have told his Iranian hosts that the X-band NATO radar on Turkish soil would be used to intercept missile threats from Bolivia. His Iranians hosts may have nodded and smiled.
And next month, Mr. Davutoğlu may tell U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Turkey could perfectly parent the naughty mullahs in Tehran; that everything would soon come up roses in the Middle East thanks to Turkish polity; and that, by the way, Iran never intended to build the atomic bomb. Mrs. Clinton, too, may nod and smile. The fact is, Turkey has never been the maverick interlocutor in the Islamic world that it claims it has been.
Turkey’s belly-dancing around the Western-Persian conflict is not new. Ankara naively thinks that it can win hearts and minds in Tehran by opposing the sanctions; in Washington, it thinks it can do so by agreeing to host the NATO radar hostile to Iran. Professor Davutoğlu may confidently believe that his powers of persuasion work more than perfectly in Tehran and Cairo – like they more than perfectly worked in Damascus and Beirut!
The foreign policy wizard may think that “the rise of a ‘Shiite Crescent’ could turn into an opportunity if Turkey and Iran enhance their dialogue.” And, in response, the Iranian soldiers may have shot two Turkish villagers who had illegally crossed into their territory to smuggle fuel.
Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have grinned at Mr. Davutoğlu’s not-so-creative pleasantries. But he, too, probably nodded and smiled. In other words, the sky is the limit! Mr. Davutoğlu may even have gone as far as to believe that he fully agreed with influential Shiite politician Muqtada al-Sadr on the future of Iraq. What future? A Shiite Crescent over the skies of Iraq? The Shiite Crescent which will turn into an opportunity?
All the same, sadly, Mr. Davutoğlu and his briefcase full of neo-Ottoman ambitions are simply not so wanted in Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus or in influential office rooms in Beirut. Soon, they will be unwanted in Egypt and Libya, too.
Instead of living in his make-believe world, Mr. Davutoğlu should think over and over again to find out why the Algerian government told Ankara to stop referring to French colonization in Turkey’s fight with France over the Armenian genocide denial bill. Or why does one Arab leader after another should keep on saying the “Turkish model” is just unwanted in the “new Arabia.”
Ankara increasingly fears that a sectarian split, which has been a bitter fact of life in the Islamic world in the last millennium, would finish off the remaining bits of Turkey’s ambitions to play the leader of Middle Eastern “Islamdom.” Ankara has hoped to play the “Muslim leader” role in the entire region, not just in its selected parts divided along warring sects.
A sectarian conflict will completely push Turkey out of the “Shiite Middle East” and limit its target zone to the Sunni Middle East only, where Turkey will not be welcomed since it is too un-Muslim, too un-Arab, too western and too secular. Only in an undivided Islamic region would Turkey have had a limited influence. Hence the nervousness in Ankara…
Despite his sometimes illusionary policy-making, Mr. Davutoğlu, no doubt, is a hard-working, decent man of knowledge. But perhaps the pillar of his policy assumptions is not so strong. Simple populism based on “Zionist-bashing” is too weak of a bond to keep Muslim solidarity up and running.
There is more than enough empirical evidence, Mr. Davutoğlu, to suggest that Muslims, sadly, tend to slaughter each other over the Shiite vs. Sunni divide or, if this is not applicable, over the pious vs. secular one. All of that failing, there has been enough killing in the Muslim world over “who is more pious than the other (among the pious of the same sect),” and over “who is more nationalist than the other (among the secularists)” splits.
But don’t give up, Minister Davutoğlu. Just enough with your “neo-Third Worldism” based on the Muslim fraternity fallacy with the neo-Ottoman spice on top!