Türkiye's Communications Director Professor Dr. Fahrettin Altun's book on changing geopolitics encompasses both the West's forever wars and the efforts of peace building by allies like Türkiye.

Türkiye’s Communications Director Professor Dr. Fahrettin Altun’s most recent book titled ‘Türkiye as a Stabilizing Power in an Age of Turmoil’ hit the shelves in late 2021 and is available in the US this week. 

Focusing on Türkiye’s role in a conflict-ridden world where 80 million refugees exist and 730 million suffer from poverty, the book mainly emphasises the need for reform in the current international order as Altun’s book stresses that the existing order is built on the self-interest of big players.  

The book focuses on particular case studies from the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) to explain how the international system has failed to produce effective conflict resolution mechanisms while Türkiye pursues a conflict resolution approach.
The book focuses on particular case studies from the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) to explain how the international system has failed to produce effective conflict resolution mechanisms while Türkiye pursues a conflict resolution approach. (AA)

Professor Dr. Fahrettin Altun’s book also tells what happened behind the scenes in Syria, Libya, Cyprus and Iraq. Because, when it comes to the stances taken by major players on these issues, according to Altun, “Türkiye has often had to deal with the cost of the failures of the international community” when it was trying to conduct “diplomacy in a way to resolve rather than exacerbating conflicts” - contrary to what others did. 

The Cyprus Issue

Calling the Cyprus issue one of Türkiye’s long-standing foreign policy challenges, Professor Dr. Altun in his book explains Ankara’s compatible approach to the conflict in line with UN-sponsored talks under the Annan Plan, and further reveals the obstacles created by the EU and Greek-Cypriot side. 

Stressing the potential political risks that were taken during the process by the then-Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan at home, the book says; “A resolution to the conflict through UN-sponsored talks would not only pave the way for lasting peace but also allow the island to eventually become part of the EU under the Annan Plan”.

As the Annan Plan was calling for a two-state solution on the island that could bring peace and stability to the region, 76 percent of Greek Cypriots voted to reject the plan as their leadership “put forth little effort to convince their constituencies”, the book says. 

Revealing the hypocritical stance taken by the EU (as the Greek-Cypriot side was rewarded with immediate EU membership in the aftermath of their rejection of the Annan Plan) despite the failure of the process because of the Greek-Cypriot side, the book further claims that it was one of the worst strategic decisions ever taken by the EU as “the union’s own laws preclude extending membership to countries with unresolved border issues”.

Professor Dr. Altun underlines the current situation of the conflict: “Despite Turkish efforts over the years, Türkiye’s contribution to regional peace and stability using international conflict resolution mechanisms has been robust, but nevertheless has been hampered by a lack of vision by other parties.”

Syria

Another case handled in the book is Syria - a conflict topping the global agenda for the last decade. 

When Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad took charge of the country, succeeding his father, Hafez al Assad, he promised for a ‘New Syria’. Türkiye following the development focussed on rebuilding its political ties with the country through cross-border trade and visa liberation. 

On the on hand, Türkiye tried to deepen its ties with Syria but also shared the same approach as the US - one of concern about Syrian support for terrorism. Nonetheless, Türkiye also thought “further militarisation of the region would be a recipe for disaster” as well. 

Although Syria had become a base for the PKK terror organisation responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Turkish civilians, Ankara turned a new page and it paved the way for both Türkiye and Syria to improve their economies. Türkiye’s approach until the Arab Spring was seen as a successful example of diplomacy and even appreciated by the international community. 

“Positioning itself a reliable interlocutor between Syria and the West, Türkiye’s engagement allowed the Syrian regime to consider options outside some of its traditional allies,” the writer argues. 

Thanks to the efforts made by the Turkish state, Professor Dr. Altun in his book also argues that talks between Syria and Israel took place, which were revealed in 2008. 

“Given the sceptical Turkish domestic views about either country, then Prime Minister Erdogan’s vision for peace and political capital spent on diplomacy was innovative and groundbreaking by any measure.” 

Despite the fact that, as the book also mentions, it was Israel’s heavy-handed military operations which ended Türkiye’s mediation efforts. 

“Erdogan directly criticised the Israeli leadership for attacking Gaza while negotiating with Syria through Türkiye’s mediating role to help regional stability and peace. The potential rapprochement ended because of Israeli government’s military operations in Gaza.”

Following the Arab Spring, it was also Türkiye which “worked some 9 months to convince the Assad Regime to implement meaningful change,” the book adds. 

Criticising the international community’s failure in Syria, Professor  Dr. Altun also underlines the fact that Türkiye tried its best to solve the conflict through peaceful negotiations but decided to cut its ties when the regime started attacking its own citizens in the month of Ramadan in August 2011. 

The book further explains that although Türkiye called on the international community to intervene in Syria militarily - after exhausting the diplomatic route - to stop the regime’s brutal attacks on the opposition, the response of the West was ineffective which resulted in the displacement of millions.

Initially, “The Obama administration appeared willing to consider supporting the opposition and drafted plans with Türkiye to provide military training and arms,” the book says.

“President Obama changed his mind in the eleventh hour and backed away,” while “changing the balance of power on the ground” that paved the way for Russia and Iran’s increasing influence in the country in support of the regime. 

Besides, the international community focused on terrorist groups following the refusal of the Obama administration to support the opposition in 2012 and 2013 for which the book says “the dynamics on the ground shifted in an irreversible way” as the regime “gained confidence in being unconstrained in the war it had waged on its own people”.

Later on, the regime started using international terror groups to divide the opposition and created a rhetoric in which it argued that “the real problem in Syria was terrorism, not the absence of political rights, regime violence”. 

“Türkiye’s advocacy and diplomatic efforts to revise this perception, and the regime’s crimes were not sufficient to mobilise the international community”, the book contends. 

Giving the capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul by Daesh as an example to emphasise the international community’s “lack of focus” and “catastrophic failure”, Professor Dr. Altun also reveals how the Obama administration tried to legitimise its support for the YPG (the Syrian offshot of the PKK terror group) under the cover of fighting Daesh on the ground in Iraq’s neighbour, Syria. 

Iraq

The Gulf War had a significant impact on Türkiye making the country more vulnerable against cross-border PKK terror activities following the group’s increasing presence in northern Iraq.

Although the establishment of a no-fly zone by the international coalition in northern Iraq “created a safe haven for Iraqi Kurds over time, it also resulted in a relatively weaker authority that could not address the PKK situation” according to the book. 

“Despite the relative ease of the initial stages of the invasion, the security situation deteriorated significantly with the ‘de-Baathification’ process to rid the Iraqi institutions of former Saddam Regime elements,” it adds.

Over time this resulted in increasing violence and further division between Iraqi groups: “The US failure to keep the Iraqi state intact and secure a political compact between the Shia and Sunni groups fomented a ripe environment for the rise of radicalism and extremist terrorism.” 

“Al-Qaeda in Iraq became even more prominent than its original terror organisation in Afghanistan” and “the seeds of more than a decade of struggle were sown at that moment.”

He says that is when Türkiye realised the importance of working with all political forces in Iraq, in contrast to the US, “to ensure that everyone engaged in the political process”.

Libya

With its current political deadlock and civil war for over a decade in Libya, Professor Dr. Altun’s book shines a light on the two-faced policies of the West through the past few years. 

When the Arab Spring eventually arrived in Libya, its leader, Muammar Gaddafi was still threatening the people who would intend to rebel against his rule.

Arab countries, along with major Western powers after considering Libya’s major oil sources, saw an opportunity to topple him to advance their own “geoeconomic interests”, the book says.

When the people who took to the streets against the Gaddafi regime called for help, the Arab League urged the international community to establish a no-fly zone over the country which was followed by a military intervention by NATO forces.

“Türkiye’s policy to the last minute was to try political solution between Qaddafi and the opposition in order to prevent conflict and regional instability”, the book says and adds: “Turkish leadership once again demonstrated its long-standing commitment to conflict resolution through diplomacy for the sake of regional stability and peace”.

“Türkiye attempted to find a negotiated solution between the regime and the opposition in addition to its Western allies”, but when the efforts made by Türkiye proved unsuccessful because of “Gaddafi’s intransigence”, Erdogan called on Libya’s ruler to resign.

Professor Dr. Altun, while further explaining Türkiye’s mediation efforts also says: “Although these attempts lasted until the very last minute, right before the start of the NATO operation….Ankara supported the NATO mission on its non-military aspects to avoid being seen by the Libyan people as a hostile nation.”

The book argues that Türkiye also tried its best to give a chance to diplomacy in Libya after the end of the Gaddafi regime.

According to Professor Dr. Fahrettin Altun, Türkiye, during the post-Gaddafi process “has worked with the UN-recognised government in Tripoli” while several actors like “Russia, the UAE and France supported divisive figures” like warlord Khalifa Haftar against the internationally-recognised government. 

Underlining Türkiye’s role in protecting the UN-backed government in Haftar’s bloody war, the book says; “Once again Türkiye’s consistent policy to work against division, civil war and instability in Libya has paid off” where Ankara has emerged as a stabilising power.

As the cases mentioned in the book set an example for Türkiye’s role in the conflicts where others have failed, Professor Dr. Altun further claims that “unlike nations that seek status and power primarily through implementation of a naked self-interest policy, Türkiye consistently approaches international conflicts through a vision of bringing about stability to further its national goals.”

Source: TRT World