YOU TELL ME: OTTOMANIA, OR NOT?

October 22, 2015 By Joseph P. Farrell

With all the events going on in the Middle East since the abortive American attempt to overthrow the Assad government via proxies and "covert ops", one of the things that has been lost in the shuffle is Turkey's role, which, if you've been following that, has been to intervene in northern Syria, partially in an effort to deal with what it perceives as a Kurdish problem, and partially to...well... does the term Ottomania come to mind?

While I haven't said much about Turkey's important role, it would be said that the mess is as much of Ankara's making as it is of Washington's or Riyadh's. But when Mr. D.K. shared this, it was a topic worth mentioning, for if this story is true, then Turkey's role may be less than "altruistic", or less even, than simply a desire to be "rid of a problem" like the Kurds:

Justice Ministry expands tasks of committee following up on theft of industrial facilities

That's right: Syria's justice ministry is investigating allegations that Turkish intervention has been, in effect, a plundering operation, dismantling Syrian manufacturing infrastructure and shipping it back to Turkey:

Justice Minister Najm al-Ahmad issued a decision on Friday on expanding the tasks of the legal committee formed in August to prepare legal action against the terrorist gangs that dismantled industrial facilities in Aleppo and Idleb provinces and smuggled them to Turkey.

The new resolutions stipulates that, in addition to its original tasks of prosecuting any legal or natural persons that contributed to the aforementioned stealing of facilities, the committee is now tasked with preparing legal action on the cases related to the dismantling of industrial facilities in the provinces of Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Hasaka, and Qamishli, and/or the stealing of any materials and equipment imported for facilities within Syria within the same provinces, and transporting them to Turkey.

Terrorist organizations supported by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have dismantled dozens of factories in northern Syria, particularly in Aleppo, and smuggled them to Turkey.

The story comes amid visits both of the Saudi and Turkish ambassadors to Moscow in the past few days, and even signals that Russia is attempting to broker an easing of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran:

High-level Iranian and Saudi visits to Moscow raise speculation - http://rbth.com/international/2015/08/19/high-level_iranian_and_saudi_visits_to_moscow_raise_speculation_48607.html)

Granted, while the second article is dated, it does indicate that Russia means business in the region, and is determined to put an end both to terrorist activities, and then tensions and interests behind them. It remains to be seen, however, if Russia will adopt a simiar tough attitude vis-a-vis Iran and Hezbollah. There are also stories like this:

Saudi foreign minister in Moscow for Syria-focused talks

So what might Moscow's game be, in the light of all that has unfolded? My high octane speculation of the day is that Moscow is attempting to call Washington's "war on terrorism" bluff in a major way. After all,. how can one have a war on terrorism when one supports one of its most egregious state sponsors? If this view is correct, then Moscow will also be attempting to put pressure on Tehran to end its sponsorship of groups like Hezbollah. Russia's launch of the cruise missiles from the Caspian sea, viewed in this hypothetical context, was therefore as much about sending messages to Riyadh, and erstwhile ally Tehran, as it was about sending messages to Washington. Growing Chinese influence and reliance upon Riyadh's and Tehran's oil will inject another element of pressure on the two Islamist regimes.

In that light, this story appeared, which I leave in the "you tell me category," for it alleges that Mr. Putin issued some very sharp words to Mr. Erdogan, words which imply that the quasi-Ottoman "revisionism" policy that Turkey is embarked upon could end up backfiring;

Putin to Muslim Turkish Ambassador: “Tell your dictator President he can go to hell along with…”

The source for these allegations is, let it be noted, allegedly the Moscow times. If so, it wouldn't be the first time that Mr. Putin's government has issued strong words. And with the Russian intervention in Syria, Moscow has served notice that it intends to back them up. I suspect, therefore, that behind the scenes, Moscow is letting everyone in the region know that the terrorism card no longer plays, and that it's much better to get along, to make beneficial progress for all. In this highly charged atmosphere in the Middle East, it is a good thing that cooler heads have prevailed in the White House and the State department, for the war on terror seems to have included, recently, an ongoing power struggle between Mr. Obama and the warhawks in the national security establishment who have, in their track record, only lit the middle East aflame, while accomplishing next to nothing in an actual war against terrorism.

The bottom line? I'm speculating that the message from Moscow and Beijing, privately, and behind the scenes, is that Riyadh and Tehran can either be part of the war on terror for real, or not; they can be cooks in the kitchen, or entres on the menu...

But that, of course, is really high octane speculation. This is one for the "you tell me" category...

See you on the flip side...