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Turkey weathered the storm of Saddam Hussein's fall and the rise of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. For nearly a decade now this stable Kurdish enclave has already been de facto, if not de jure, a state. But this legal fiction has kept the lid on the pressure cooker, thanks to the wisdom of Kurdish leaders who understood the need to work with Turkey and shy away from maximalist tendencies. Turkey too accepted that it could live with an autonomous Kurdistan, as long as the latter did not stoke the fires of Kurdish separatism on the Turkish side of the border. Kurdish aspirations and Turkish anxieties were put off for another day. But now, with Syria's Kurds suddenly able to join their Iraqi brethren by extricating themselves from the disintegrating Assad regime, that day may be about to dawn. If the millions of Kurds who live in eastern Turkey and do not particularly love the Atatürk legacy were to stir, this fragile truce would go up in flames.

And here is the irony. The day that Erdogan left Turkey to go to Egypt in an effort to assert his role as regional leader, alongside Egypt's new Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, in a high-profile bid to mediate a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, he proved how incapable the region's new forces are of confronting reality. 

Referring to Hamas's barrage of rockets, which hit Israel hundreds of times over years before provoking its reaction, Erdogan announced that Israel's response stood on "fabricated grounds". Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, also decried Israel's efforts to defend its civilian population as mere electioneering. While these words may echo a genuine and popular sentiment in Turkey and across the Muslim world, they betray a double standard that Turkey refuses to acknowledge.

Turkey's hand with its Kurdish insurgency has hardly been lighter than Israel's with Hamas. Turkey has routinely used overwhelming military force in a decades-long conflict that has left more victims than all the Israeli-Palestinian confrontations since 1948 combined. And its recognition of the Kurdish problem is light years behind Israel's basic recognition of Palestinian national aspirations.

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geoff garside
January 5th, 2013
8:01 PM
This is a very long-winded article that doesn't say very much save that Erdogan has reoriented Turkey's position in the world. But we know that. The discussion of nationalism is superficial. The whole poinjt about Erdogan is that he is an opportunist, who stands somewhere between Kemalism and the Turkic (not Turkish) nationalism that now has a place in the AKP ranks (Tv shows about Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkmenistan, the Caucuses etc, folk dance festivals celebrating Turkich culture). There are also concrete examples of Erdogan's playing off different countries against one another or just being unpredicatble - so he is hostile to Israel but perfectly open armed towards american business, especially agribusiness, which is now destroying turkey's agricultural sector and swelling already bloated cities like Istanbul. And what about his 'at least 3 children' family policy?

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