By Barry Rubin
It should be getting pretty hard even for Western leaders to ignore the Turkish regime’s growing alliance with their enemies. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Lebanon included a very dangerous statement that must not go unnoticed.
Lebanon, of course, is now a virtual satellite of Iran, another strategic factor Western countries and media don’t seem to be comprehending. This relationship is symbolized by the recent exchange of visits by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.
Here’s what Erdoğan said that crossed the line into something new and extremely dangerous: if Israel attacked Lebanon or the Gaza Strip, “We will not be silent and we will support justice by all means available to us.”
The prime minister understood what he was saying. “By all means available to us” implies Turkish military support for Hamas and Hizballah in fighting Israel. That doesn’t mean, of course, that Turkey would send troops or even military supplies, but it is basically a declaration that includes both possibilities. Erdoğan didn’t even restrict himself to cases when the terrorist groups he favors would be acting defensively. If Hamas or Hizballah launch an attack on Israel and Israel retaliated, Erdogan has now bound Turkey to support the aggressors.
None of this is accidental. Erdoğan is indeed impulsive but he knew what he was saying. And he also knew that the United States would do nothing against him as a result of this statement, nor would the Europeans. Still, how is threatening to join a war against Israel going to advance Turkish membership in the European Union?
To leave nothing to doubt, a Turkish newspaper interviewed two pro-Hizballah people who were enthusiastic in agreeing with the above analysis. One said, “Turkey is moving closer to the so-called ‘resistance axis.’ [The Iran-led bloc that includes Syria, the Iraqi insurgents, Hamas, and Hizballah.] It is edging toward a definitively anti-Israeli stance.”
Another added, “What struck me about Ahmadinejad’s visit was that he was sounding more like Erdoğan.”
Might it be a matter of concern when a NATO ally offers to go to war, or at least fully to the aid, of two terrorist groups and Iran? Could urgent action be required when a U.S. ally sounds like a revolutionary Islamist country that is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, covertly helps kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, calls for Israel’s extinction, and is reaching toward getting nuclear weapons?
Nero, according to the legend, celebrated Rome’s burning by playing on his fiddle. Obama doesn’t even notice that the U.S. position in the Middle East is being incinerated.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).