Friday, May 28, 2010
It took about 10 days for New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman to call the Turkish-Brazilian mobilized nuclear enrichment deal and its attachment of three leaders' happy picture “as ugly as it gets,” and a move to, “weaken the global coalition to pressure Iran to open its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors.” Still, one wonders if things can get any uglier.
As Lula da Silva, the Brazilian leader, met with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Brazil on Thursday, Silva was reported telling to the press on behalf of both countries that: "We did everything [the West] wanted and everything we could, now they have to say clearly whether they want to build peace or if they want to build conflict – Turkey and Brazil are for peace."
Turkey believes that it has even a particular and more valid argument for taking a side. Iran is Turkey's one of the most valuable trade partners, and this partnership has an ever-promising future to continue in that direction. As a significant wealth source, a mutually beneficial partnership with Iran is a significant driving force along with the Turkey's regional power aspirations.
The ideology, religion and solidarity among the Easterners, against the Westerners, can only play a limited role in today's world. The human race has passed the time of being satisfied by exclusive prizes that are promised for the next world. Now the hot commodity is to provide life standards in which to include some resemblances of those prizes in advance – now!
Nowadays, like any democracy, the public opinion matters dramatically in Turkey. It does the most visibly so when it comes to ask for a freer environment for businesses to thrive, therefore to reach more foreign markets at faster pace to export. Today's politicians, including Turkish materialistic/pro-market/pro-Islamic/conservative ones, as result of daily taken opinion polls, feel the need on their neck continuously.
Turkey, a country which vows to lead the Muslim world once more, sent long-planned aid ships to Gaza and challenged the Israeli blockade this week. An apparent move to flex some muscles for the sought leadership role.
Including me, most disagree with the Israeli blockade regime, and with the way the Turkish administration currently pursues to defy it.
The moral argument of the Eastern world, (what was the argument?) was rebuked by one of its own, Carnegie Endowment’s Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour, in Friedman's same article. Sadjapour is quoted as saying: "Lula and Erdoğan’s visit to Iran came just days after Iran executed five political prisoners who were tortured into confessions. They warmly embraced Ahmadinejad as their brother, but didn’t mention a word about human rights. There seems to be a mistaken assumption that the Palestinians are the only people that seek justice in the Middle East, and if you just invoke their cause you can coddle the likes of Ahmadinejad.”
This harsh rebuke, which puts the Turkish leadership's policy on the Palestine issue, as a category of mere populism, like of Ahmedinejad's.
What is more, Turkey argues that there is no credible, corroborating evidence to convince that Iran enriches uranium for a nuclear bomb.
While it looks like the prevention stage against Iran to have nuclear bomb making capability seems to have passed, the West certainly tries to deter Iran to reach it now, just before entering a containment period. It will be worthwhile to see, what will today's Turkish leadership say, once Iran tests its first nuclear weapon within the foreseeable future and tilt the power needle in favor of the Persians after centuries of struggle with Turks.
The U.S. administration was very careful with the language it chose when assessing the latest Turkey-Brazil meeting on Thursday late afternoon. When I asked, one White House Senior Official explained to me why today's U.S. administration does not accept the nuclear deal which is similar to the one eight months ago itself sought to achieve. The official said: "We should be clear that the original IAEA proposal, which was made 8 months ago and to which Iran agreed to and walked away from, was always meant to be a confidence-building measure … not a solution. The reason we are moving forward on sanctions is that Iran has repeatedly failed to live up to its international obligations to its overall program."
An extraordinarily long e-mail chose the “coldest” words possible when addressing the issue, with no praise or open criticism for Turkey. The official also responded to those statements that came from the leaders of Turkey and Brazil on the same day later in e-mail, and why the U.S. administration disagrees "seriously" with the their initiative:
- "Today is not October 2009. Eight months have passed and in that time Iran has deliberately moved its nuclear program closer to weapons capability by enriching to 20 percent.
- Two weeks ago, the Iranian Foreign Minister ruled out suspending 20 percent enrichment even in the context of an agreement on the reactor fuel issue.
- And, let’s remember that there were three commitments that Iran made in Geneva, including to meet with the P5+1 on its nuclear program by the end of October 2009. Iran continues to resist that discussion, saying the case is closed.
- Iran is the subject of five U.N. Security Council resolutions, and has not moved to meet its obligations."
For many, the U.S., under Obama's leadership, reset the buttons and took many steps that have been viewed as concessions to both Russia and China, in big part to secure their support for the boiling Iranian predicament. According to various channels in Washington, Turkey's spoiler role over the issue "annoyed" and made "furious" some administration officials.
Did the relations between Turkey and the U.S. reach the stage of “as ugly as it gets” or is there more ugliness to see. In spite of my own disappointment, I hedge for the latter.
Here are some potential screenplays that might be noted as setbacks for Turkey's regional leadership ambitions if they are to happen in coming days and weeks:
1. Netanyahu receives the warmest welcome from Obama's White House, which has invited Jewish Supreme Court justices and successful entrepreneurs, rabbinical scholars, Olympic athletes and others to show more love before the November elections.
2. Following or prior to number one happens, the U.S. administration backs up the Israeli side over the Turkish-Israeli flotilla crises. Netanyahu condemns the Turkish behavior over the flotilla crises, while Obama idly watches him or away.
3. The U.S. administration rejects the "nuclear enrichment deal," for the reasons cited above, along with other European allies and possibly with Russia and China.
4. Sanctions regime package sails through the United Nations Security Council and Turkey faces its hardest decision yet and loses in all options.
Turkey, for its spot on a map and a host of other specialties, will be always a valuable ally in the region for the U.S. and will become eventually a powerhouse. What matters the most, and makes a world of difference and losses: Turkey might miss yet another chance to stretch better for Western civilization for decisions that are being made today.