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Hypocrisy in Australian-Turkish chest puffing

  • 25 March 2019


The latest (now fading) stoush between Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said Australians and New Zealanders visiting Turkey would leave it 'in coffins like their grandfathers' (although the context has since been contested), and Scott Morrison (all options to erase this insult were 'on the table') amounts to less than meets the eye. But it does speak volumes about what a toxic brew hypocrisy and the prospect of a forthcoming election can produce.

In the red corner, President Erdogan's party is facing local elections on 31 March. At his election rallies, he has regularly been running footage of last week's horrific massacre in Christchurch, in which a man attacked worshippers at two mosques, killing 50 and wounding dozens more.

The president's ruling Justice and Development Party is not predicted to do well. Turkey has been engaged in a long and not terribly popular intervention (involving Turkish troops and proxy Islamist groups) in Syria which has proved spectacularly unsuccessful. Russian intervention and Erdogan's mishandling of relations with both Syria and Russia resulted in a greatly weakened position for the President, who had originally boasted that he would overthrow President Assad within weeks and annex Aleppo and other cities for Turkey, restoring Ottoman glories.

Much of the would be Sublime Porte's rhetoric has also focused on suppressing Kurdish ambitions in Turkey, Iraq and Syria — when Turkey refers to 'terrorists' in Syria, it usually means the Kurds, rather than ISIS/Daesh or other militant groups claiming to be inspired by a fundamentalist reading of Sunni Islam. It may fairly be said that the President long supported such groups as a balance against Kurdish militants operating in the North of Syria and across the border in Turkey.

This support may not have ended given that Turkey has failed to meet its commitments to Russia and Iran (given in exchange for avoiding a full military campaign by Russia and Syria) to curb the activities of militant groups in Idlib Province — the last bastion of Al Qaeda and its allies in Syria. Indeed, some US analysts have also suggested helping Turkey in this venture.

Presumably, the CIA and others who do so — and who already funnel arms to Al Qaeda and others of a similar bent in Syria — remember the success which came from using the same folk to combat the USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s (but forget details like the attacks they perpetrated in September 2001).

With all this