Turkey in the Caucasus Conflict

RECENT developments in the geo-political scene across the world have been, perhaps, the most pivotal since the end of cold war in late 80s. It is easy to fall into binaries and take sides, mostly based on emotions; the world however is much more complex and multilayered. I’ll try to de-clutter the hubris and present a view which is closer to the realities of our world.

The Caucasus flare up raging between Azerbaijan and Armenia is the latest that could possibly escalate into war and have wider consequences, amidst wide range of developments in other parts of the world. Be it the US-China trade war or Pakistan brokering peace in Afghanistan.

While the Caucasus neighbors have been fighting over the years, in past, Moscow would ultimately force the two post-Soviet nations to come to the negotiating table. This time the situation is slightly different because of the active role Turkey is playing in supporting Azerbaijan.

Erdogan announced unconditional support to Azerbaijan with which it claims to share ethnic and cultural ties. Ankara’s support has altered the balance in a region where Moscow had regional hegemony.  This just goes to prove that there are no true allies where interests conflict; for Turkey and Russia seemed to be allies in keeping the west’s role limited in Syria, Libya and other places. It is unlikely that Russia on its part will try to engage with Turkey, which probably means Russia will rely on diplomacy than aggressive military response. Kremlin, in fact, has given a statement that downplayed suggestions of going into a fight.

Turkey’s response is interesting but not surprising for anyone who is following Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman narrative, which is that Arab nationalists should feel guilty/shame for having betrayed the Ottoman Empire in WWI.

Turkey is trying to emerge out as a power-house broker in the region. Owing to its strategic geography, straddled between Europe and Asia Minor, Erdogan’s ideas stem out clearly to benefit its own end.

Last month, after the historic deal between UAE and Israel, Turkey threatened to sever ties with UAE. Erdogan claims to be standing up for Palestine, but in reality this is just an expression of war within the Sunni bloc — with Turkey and Qatar in one corner, and the Saudi and Emiratis in another corner. Turkey’s dodgy role in Palestine crisis must not be overlooked. By allying with the ‘jihad’ forces to overthrow government in Syria, Turkey was on the side of Israel, you like it or not.

Israel’s main enemies have always been Syria, Iran and Hezbollah and not Turkey, which in fact sold jet fuel to Israel during the 2014 Gaza war. It serves Turkey for the Palestinians to suffer. Why? Because set-back for Palestinians only vindicates Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman narrative. It follows therefore that before Palestine is liberated, every other former Ottoman territory must be reconquered by Erdogan — the new wannabe Sultan.

For Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, liberating Palestine is a geopolitical priority. This is because Palestine has always primarily been a Syrian/Levantine struggle, while as for Turkey/Qatar, Palestine is more of a blunt offering for the neo-Ottoman Ikhwani agenda.

Traditionally, in the Muslim circles, the heart of Islam looks to Mecca and brain to Istanbul. Turkey is geo-politically important to all energy producers of the world. Since Turkey has the potential as a transit country to increase the geographic diversification of energy resources to the West, while at the same time easy access to Caspian Basis, Caucasus regions and Asia; it will be interesting to see the trajectory Ankara takes in coming years, with implications for the wider Muslim world.

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Faheem Gundroo

Faheem Jeelani Gundroo is an ICT Engineer based in Dubai, with interest in travel, history and current affairs. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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