As I argued separately in Asia Times, the background to the Ankara bombing includes 1) Washington’s shift from supporting feckless or non-existent “Sunni moderates” to backing the Kurds, 2) the end of Turkish air cover for ISIS and other Sunni opponents of the Assad regime thanks to Russian inteference, as well as 3) the prospective electoral humiliation of the AKP in November. Turkey was supposed to be a pillar of stability in the region. It is now the main source of instability. Putin and Obama likely will iterate towards a political solution in Syria, but at Turkey’s expense. By employing what is widely perceived to be state terrorism against the Kurds, Erdogan threatens to spread the civil war into Anatolia itself. I assume that no-one believes Erdogan’s “Reichstag Fire” argument that the Kurds bombed themselves in Ankara Saturday.
Turkey is the odd man out. The Gulf States seem ready to negotiate with Putin, who met today with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince in Sochi, and reportedly will meet Saudi Arabia’s defense minister Oct. 11.
The answer to my Sept. 20 question–is Putin a statesman or spoiler?–appears to be the former, as even Peggy Noonan appears to believe. The US shift to the Kurds and away from the mythical “Sunni moderates” opens the way for a deal with Russia. The loudest objector is Turkey. Of course, if the Gulf States decide that Erdogan has wandered too far off the reservation, they can stop financing his $60 billion a year current account deficit and refinancing his $300 billion foreign-currency external debt. That would get his attention real quick.
Categories: Chatham House Rules