IS US ABANDONING THE MIDDLE EAST?

The Hoover Institution on its blog The Caravan on September 25, 2013, published an article by Asli Aydintabas on Turkish feelings of betrayal in relation to Barack Obama. Excerpts below:

First came the harsh statements from Washington early last summer criticizing Erdogan government’s ferocious response to protests against his rule. Since the Obama administration had pretty much turned a blind eye to the Turkish leader’s creeping authoritarianism over the past few years – including the imprisonment of journalists, political show trials or tax penalties on disloyal oligarchs —Washington’s support for the secular demonstrations came as a shock.

Then of course came a bigger disappointment— the administration’s about-face on Syria… Turkey had long been campaigning for a tougher international stance against the Assad regime but Ankara’s persistent lobbying for a no-fly zone and arming of the Syrian opposition met with a prolonged state of hand-wringing from Washington. With half a million refugees and a lawless southern border, Ankara sees the war in Syria as a direct national security threat. On top, there have been enough acts of aggression–such as the shooting down of a Turkish plane and three bombing incidents costing the lives of 70 Turkish citizens – to lead the Erdogan government to regard the Assad regime as more than a nuisance—an outright enemy whose survival threatened Turkey’s stability.

On at least two occasions…the Turkish government was assured that Washington was on the verge of a momentous decision to topple the regime of Bashar Assad.

But late in August…Washington finally looked poised to tackle the matter of Syria. Though suspicious that U.S. strikes would deliver a meaningful blow to the Assad regime or even “end the war,” with a sizeable NATO base in Incirlik and 900 km of a border, Ankara was willing to support military intervention in every possible way.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Erdogan, emotive as ever, has been hammering the U.N. and “the West” over this past week, warning that an agreement to stop the use of chemical weapons would not put an end to Syrian horrors.

Erdogan should be troubled by Putin’s astonishing victory in the Syrian affair for two reasons. For a man determined to elevate modern Turkey to a regional hegemon, the Syrian war became a stark reminder that Turkey’s ambitions did not match its capabilities. Ankara wanted to do more to topple Assad, and for a brief period after the shooting down of a Turkish jet, even entertained the idea of doing it alone. But neither Turkey’s military capabilities or its international standing allowed for a more aggressive posture.

The survival of Bashar Assad is more than an irritant to Turkish officials. In many ways, the Syrian saga could mark the end of Turkey’s neo-Ottoman dreams.

But there is something even more sinister in the latest round of Kerry-Lavrov diplomacy that goes beyond Vladimir Putin outsmarting the Americans. Far more unnerving is the prospect that the agreement marks Washington’s departure and Russia’s entry to the Middle East.

With the Syrian deal, the erosion of U.S. power in the region stands as a real possibility. For almost three years now, the Obama administration has been telling the world that it has no vital interests in Syria. It has allowed Iran to run the battlefield in Damascus and turned a blind eye to Iraq and Lebanon being engulfed in a grand sectarian war.

On top, Americans have now invited the Russians into a region Moscow had long lost leverage over.

Currently, eight nations in the Middle East are ungovernable or on the brink of civil war and to think that the United States could wash its hands of Syria—or the Middle East—is a pure fantasy.

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