Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan made clear during a state visit in Tokyo Jan. 7 that the upcoming ‘Geneva 2’ conference on Syrian peace must work to remove Pres. Bashar al-Assad from power citing Assad’s culpability in the deaths of thus far 130,000 Syrians.
Prime Minister Erdogan doubling down on his long held position that Assad must go is no genuine surprise to anyone. However, there is an ongoing though off the grid dispute between Ankara and Washington on the issue.
Officially, the Obama Administration is not calling for the removal of Assad, though there is a concession that there should be dialogue on the subject; a position identical to Moscow's. Actions or lack thereof always however, speak louder than words.
Pres. Barack Obama’s ‘Neville Chamberlain’ style appeasement in agreeing to a Russian brokered disarmament plan of Assad’s chemical weapons has barely seen that disarmament move an inch months after it was made. Added to this are false promises of helping to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels which have never been kept, leaving the al-Qaida affiliated rebel groups the most heavily armed force in Syria after Assad's Syrian Army.
There is also the promised humanitarian aid which is halted on a whim in response to whatever YouTube videos are posted purportedly of Syrian rebel ‘terrorists’ committing heinous crimes with no verification of who was actually committing them. One of Assad's tactics is to field small teams posing as rebels to commit horrid acts in the name of the rebel Free Syrian Army.
What has followed in Turkish domestic politics since the Russian deal was given the nod in Washington, and Mr. Erdogan subsequently maintaining Assad had to go however is quite revealing when one examines the events.
Prime Minister Erdogan had forged solid, totally secure power in Turkish politics after a decade in office. In one fashion or another he has humbled or swept aside any politician or political force that could oppose him; even completely purging the crème of the Turkish military officer corps with several high ranking generals and junior officers placed on trial and/or imprisoned on dubious charges of plotting a coup.
However, another force recently fomented against Erdogan within the Turkish Judiciary. An investigation was launched into graft and corruption in the highest ranks of the Erdogan regime and his ruling AKP Party with an official probe suddenly launched on Dec 17 2013.
The investigation now seems to have been pushed and influenced by a Turkish Islamist scholar Fethullah Gulen, founder of the Gulen Movement who currently resides not far from Washington DC, in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania. Prime Minister Erdogan has been referring for some time to ‘outside forces' seeking to destabilize Turkey; contentions widely viewed up to now as pure paranoia.
However, Erdogan’s first public mention of this threat coincides with the beginning of the then secret police investigation which has now burst wide open into Turkish news media; leading to a high number of public resignations and the implication of Erdogan’s own son in graft accusations. Prime Minister Erdogan has sacked his ambassadors in Washington, London and Paris.
For its part the Turkish Army has openly stated they will not get involved in the unfolding political mess; a key development in Erdogan’s favor in view of the long history of coups by the army when Turkish politics has gotten out of control in the past.
The possible connection between the graft investigation, the Turkish Cleric and the Obama Administration is not something to be dismissed lightly. The pattern of developments in Turkey matches the modus operandi of what Pres. Bill Clinton termed during the 2008 Democrat presidential primary campaign as, ‘Chicago thug politics’.
A pattern repeated countless times in American national politics since Inauguration Day 2009; preceded locally in Chicago with Republican candidate Jack Ryan being forced by a torrid, yet never proven sex scandal to drop out of his 2004 Senate race against Barack Obama, who won against GOP candidate Alan Keyes who was drafted to run too late to have any impact on the race.
The motives with regard to Erdogan's troubles if there is a Washington connection are precisely the same as they have always been. Pres. Obama’s prime goal in the Middle East is the humbling of Israel with the chief prize of forcing Israel to return to the 1949 borders; a goal stated openly several times by Pres. Obama; including in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a White House press conference.
Part of the pressure being applied is maintaining the threat of Iran’s equivalent of Hitler's ‘Condor Legion’ in Lebanon, Hezbollah. There is no hope of maintaining that threat against Israel if the Assad regime loses the Syrian Civil War. Without Assad in power over Syria acting as the logistics base for Hezbollah, the latter cannot survive in Lebanon since Iran does not have the air or seaborne logistics to do it themselves.
The importance of this being evidenced by Iran’s direct intervention with combat troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Syrian battlefields alongside Assad’s forces; and those of Hezbollah also sent to prop up Assad’s bloodied forces at the behest of Teheran.
If there is a ‘Chicago style’ operation at work in Turkey driven from Washington, its unlikely aimed at unseating Erdogan in favor of a return to power of pre-Erdogan era politicians. Such an event would herald a massive shift in Turkey away from Islamism and back to the days of friendly relations with Israel and keeping Islamism under foot.
Instead it is more likely the ‘end game’ would be to install someone in Turkey cut from the same cloth as the Cleric. Such a move would not only remove the thorn of Erdogan’s insistence that Assad must go. It would also shut off Turkey as a conduit for arms flowing from Arab Sunni ruled nations to Syrian rebels, the only tangible support they currently receive.