Turkey and Russia: Cleaning up the Mess in the Middle East

The neocon plan to transform the Middle East and Central Asia into a pliant client of the US empire and its only-democracy-in-the-Middle-East is now facing a very different playing field. Not only are the wars against the Palestinians, Afghans and Iraqis floundering, but they have set in motion unforeseen moves by all the regional players.

The empire faces a resurgent Turkey, heir to the Ottomans, who governed a largely peaceful Middle East for half a millennium. As part of a dynamic diplomatic outreach under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey re-established the Caliphate visa-free tradition with Albania, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria last year. In February Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister, Ertugrul Gunay, offered to do likewise with Egypt. There is “a great new plan of creating a Middle East Union as a regional equivalent of the European Union” with Turkey, fresh from a resounding constitutional referendum win by the AKP, writes Israel Shamir.

Turkey also established a strategic partnership with Russia during the past two years, with a visa-free regime and ambitious trade and investment plans (denominated in rubles and lira), including the construction of new pipelines and nuclear energy facilities.

Just as Turkey is heir to the Ottomans, Russia is heir to the Byzantines, who ruled a largely peaceful Middle East for close to a millennium before the Turks. Together, Russia and Turkey have far more justification as Middle Eastern “hegemons” than the British-American 20th century usurpers, and they are doing something about it.

In a delicious irony, invasions by the US and Israel in the Middle East and Eurasia have not cowed the countries affected, but emboldened them to work together, creating the basis for a new alignment of forces, including Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

Syria, Turkey and Iran are united not only by tradition, faith, resistance to US-Israeli plans, but by their common need to fight Kurdish separatists, who have been supported by both the US and Israel. Their economic cooperation is growing by leaps and bounds. Adding Russia to the mix constitutes a like-minded, strong regional force encompassing the full socio-political spectrum, from Sunni and Shia Muslim, Christian, even Jewish, to secular traditions.

This is the natural regional geopolitical logic, not the artificial one imposed over the past 150 years by the British and now US empires. Just as the Crusaders came to wreak havoc a millennium ago, forcing locals to unite to expel the invaders, so today’s Crusaders have set in motion the forces of their own demise.

Turkey’s bold move with Brazil to defuse the West’s stand-off with Iran caught the world’s imagination in May. Its defiance of Israel after the Israeli attack on the Peace Flotilla trying to break the siege of Gaza in June made it the darling of the Arab world.

Russia has its own, less spectacular contributions to these, the most burning issues in the Middle East today. There are problems for Russia. Its crippled economy and weakened military give it pause in anything that might provoke the world superpower. Its elites are divided on how far to pursuit accommodation with the US. The tragedies of Afghanistan and Chechnya and fears arising from the impasse in most of the “stans” continue to plague Russia’s relations with the Muslim Middle East.

Since the departure of Soviet forces from Egypt in 1972, Russia has not officially had a strong presence in the Middle East. Since the mid- 1980s, it saw a million-odd Russians emigrate to Israel, who, like immigrants anywhere, are anxious to prove their devotion and are on the whole unwilling to give up land in any two-state solution for Palestine. As Anatol Sharansky quipped to Bill Clinton after he emigrated, “I come from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest. You want me to cut it in half. No, thank you.” Russia now has its very own well-funded Israel Lobby; many Russians are dual Israeli citizens, enjoying a visa-free regime with Israel.

Then there is Russia’s equivocal stance on the stand-off between the West and Iran. Russia cooperates with Iran on nuclear energy, but has concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions, supporting Security Council sanctions and canceling the S-300 missile deal it signed with Iran in 2005. It is also increasing its support for US efforts in Afghanistan. Many commentators conclude that these are signs that the Russian leadership under President Dmitri Medvedev is caving in to Washington, backtracking on the more anti-imperial policy of Putin. “They showed that they are not reliable,” criticised Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi.

Russia is fence-sitting on this tricky dilemma. It is also siding, so far, with the US and the EU in refusing to include Turkey and Brazil in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme. “The Non-Aligned countries in general, and Iran in particular, have interpreted the Russian vote as the will on the part of a great power to prevent emerging powers from attaining the energy independence they need for their economic development. And it will be difficult to make them forget this Russian faux pas,” argues Thierry Meyssan at voltairenet.org.

Whatever the truth is there, the cooperation with Iran and now Turkey, Syria and Egypt on developing peaceful nuclear power, and the recent agreement to sell Syria advanced P-800 cruise missiles show Russia is hardly the plaything of the US and Israel in Middle East issues. Israel is furious over the missile sale to Syria, and last week threatened to sell “strategic, tie-breaking weapons” to “areas of strategic importance” to Russia in revenge. On both Iran and Syria, Russia’s moves suggest it is trying to calm volatile situations that could explode.

There are other reasons to see Russia as a possible Middle East powerbroker. The millions of Russian Jews who moved to Israel are not necessarily a Lieberman-like Achilles Heel for Russia. A third of them are scornfully dismissed as not sufficiently kosher and could be a serious problem for a state that is founded solely on racial purity. Many have returned to Russia or managed to move on to greener pastures. Already, such prominent right wing politicians as Moshe Arens, political patron of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are considering a one-state solution. Perhaps these Russian immigrants will produce a Frederik de Klerk to re-enact the dismantling of South African apartheid.

Russia holds another intriguing key to peace in the Middle East. Zionism from the start was a secular socialist movement, with religious conservative Jews strongly opposed, a situation that continues even today, despite the defection of many under blandishments from the likes of Ben Gurion and Netanyahu. Like the Palestinians, True Torah Jews don’t recognise the “Jewish state”.

But wait! There is a legitimate Jewish state, a secular one set up in 1928 in Birobidjan Russia, in accordance with Soviet secular nationalities policies. There is nothing stopping the entire population of Israeli Jews, orthodox and secular alike, from decamping to this Jewish homeland, blessed with abundant raw materials, Golda Meir’s “a land without a people for a people without a land”. It has taken on a new lease on life since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, made an unprecedented visit this summer, the first ever of a Russian (or Soviet) leader and pointed out the strong Russian state support it has as a Jewish homeland where Yiddish, the secular language of European Jews (not sacred Hebrew), is the state language.

There has been no magic hand guiding Turkey and Russia as they form the axis of a new political formation. Rather it is the resilience of Islam in the face of Western onslaught, plus — surprisingly — a page from the history of Soviet secular national self-determination. Turkey, once the “sick man of Europe”, is now “the only healthy man of Europe”, Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, was told at the UN Millennium Goals Summit last week, positioning it along with the Russian, and friends Iranian and Syrian to clean up the mess created by the British empire and its “democratic” offspring, the US and Israel.

While US and Israeli strategists continue to pore over mad schemes to invade Iran, Russian and Turkish leaders plan to increase trade and development in the Middle East, including nuclear power. From a Middle Eastern point of view, Russia’s eagerness to build power stations in Iran, Turkey, Syria and Egypt shows a desire to help accelerate the economic development that Westerners have long denied the Middle East — other than Israel — for so long. This includes Lebanon where Stroitransgaz and Gazprom will transit Syrian gas until Beirut can overcome Israeli-imposed obstacles to the exploitation of its large reserves offshore.

Russia, in its own way, like its ally Turkey, has placed itself as a go-between in the most urgent problems facing the Middle East — Palestine and Iran. “Peace in the Middle East holds the key to a peaceful and stable future in the world,” Gul told the UN Millennium Goals Summit — in English. The world now watches to see if their efforts will bear fruit.

Eric Walberg is a journalist who worked in Uzbekistan and is now writing for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo. He is the author of From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization and Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games. Read other articles by Eric, or visit Eric's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. 3bancan said on September 30th, 2010 at 8:11am #

    I’ve got a strange feeling Eric Walberg is emulating Bozh’s “best” achievements…

  2. Gary S. Corseri said on September 30th, 2010 at 8:50am #

    Thank you, Eric… An excellent overview of how the US-EU-Israel schemes to revive the British Empire in the Middle East have backfired, after the deaths, murders, tortures and displacements of tens of millions in the region and economic collapse in the aggressor states.

    Fascinating, too, about Birobidjan’s possibilities as a new “promised land”–one without the expropriation and blood-sacrifice of land and people in Palestine.

    The “Great Chessboard” is alive and well and you cover the emerging power formations with brevity and dexterity. Of course, there’s also the SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), including China, Russia, Iran and smaller central Asian nations. That would likely be a whole other kettle of fish–and I look forward to reading your take on it.

  3. MichaelKenny said on September 30th, 2010 at 9:30am #

    Quite good! The centrepiece of this is Israel. Once the one-state solution is accepted publicly, the there will be a series of “liberations”: the vast amounts of private Jewish money currently being spent to hijack the American body politic and bully Europe will be diverted to investment in Palestine. The Israel Lobby will release its stranglehold on US politics, stop attacking the EU and stop trying to undermine Russian democracy. In the Muslim world, terrorism will disappear and all the energy now being devoted to the Palestinian cause will be recycled into peaceful projects. Turkey will shake off Attatürk’s “European” illusion and Turkey will become the leader of the new Middle East. Russia is slightly more problematic, as it is the last of the European empires and, sooner or later, the non-Russian peoples are going to want their independence. China already dominates the economy of the Russian Far East and Vladivostok is more or less run by Chinese triads as a gambling centre for wealthy Chinese (with blond Russian girls in the strip clubs!). The Caucasus have been bubbling for some time and the flowering of Islamic civilisation will undoubtedly attract them in that direction. Ultimately, Russia, shorn of its “empire” and the largest country in Europe, is probably destined to become the leading member of the EU. At the moment, though, Russia is caught between its inherent “Europeanness” and the realities of its current borders, which probably explains its hesitations. Incidentally, I wouldn’t set too much store by the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. 90% of its population is Russian and only 1.2% is Jewish (about 2000 people).If Jews started flooding in there, the Russian population might not be terribly happy and neither might the Chinese, on whose border it sits. It could easily turn into an “oriental Palestine”, with the Jews being seen as white colonists stealing the yellow man’s land!

  4. 3bancan said on September 30th, 2010 at 9:43am #

    MichaelKenny said on September 30th, 2010 at 9:30am #

    If MK had been in Bozh’s class, I’m not too sure Bozh would have been the last in that class…

  5. hayate said on September 30th, 2010 at 9:58am #

    Interesting piece. I’ve looked at the role Russia and China as one of being peace brokers. Trying to keep a very bad world situation degrading into a much worse one. For several years, I’ve considered the time we are in right now to be very similar to 1930′s Europe with israel and it’s american colony now emulating the role of the nazis in being the rogue bull in the capitalist chinashop. The israeloamericans need to be brought down, but done so in a way that they wont get their back up against a wall and give the world WW3, as hitler gave the world WW2, and as both the israelis and the americans have threatened they would do rather than see their lone superpower status disappear. Subtly, rather than confrontation, is the current path.

    It’s also good to see other countries now realising it’s time to pursue their own independence from israeloamerican/eu hegemony and now getting active in taking down the rogue bull.

    Gary S. Corseri

    “Of course, there’s also the SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), including China, Russia, Iran and smaller central Asian nations.”

    Iran is not a member of the SCO. It has observer status, like Pakistan. They have sought to join, but in fact, it’s unlikely Iran will be joining in the near future since the sanctions against them prevent this.

  6. bozh said on September 30th, 2010 at 10:16am #

    The piece by walberg leaves out the fundamentals or abcds of life. Which are?
    People are owned. Which constitues root of all evil. The ratio of owners and owned usualy stands 1 to hundred or even 1-1k;especially in ancient times.
    However, the onepercenters [another person also used this label] controls 100% of all land, water, seas, moneys, governmental powers.
    It ought to be noted that that what is important is not actually how much they control, but that they can change it at moments notice.
    In cosmetic matters the onepercenters generally stand aside letting people argue over them to their hearts’ content.

    But when it comes to owning people and commanding them to kill-rob aliens or domestics and retaining absolute rule and ownership of people, they bring on tanks to ensure that it does not diminish an iota.

    So what about wars?They are also masters of that. And all wars are waged for land for the wealth can only come from it and the slaves working it.
    It that difficult to espy or at least postulate that world fascists or plutos are uniting like never before to obtain the planet.
    US cannot do it alone [or yes??, whatever]. And the fascists cannot allow peace in even for a day and yet have to take it easier on aliens whose land they want because not to overly disturb own serfs!

    How can tiny israel, devoid of minerals, water be happy with what they got? And who wld be? Thus, it also cannot let peace in even for a minute.
    One gains nothing from peace.

    So israel appears just another military base among some 700. It is dangerous to fly aircraft from US and bomb lands 5-10k miles away.
    But flying plains from afgh’n, iraq. paelestine, pak’n to use WMD against a nearby land makes life much easier for our masters

    And by starving afrikans and asians, fascists can obtain enough meat to fight countless wars.
    True, american soldiers cannot defect and settle in any fascist land. Even canada is returning some deserters. So, obtaining american meat for the grinder makes the job much easier.
    Manufacturing 10-20 mn poor boys, obtains enough meat to suit masters’ purposes.tnx

  7. bozh said on September 30th, 2010 at 10:28am #

    Regarding russia, i must say that i do not in which direction it is going: towards ever greater egalitarian society or is emulating US where the differences in wealth and power appear huge or ideally fascistic;i.e., ideally inegalitarian.
    Since i don’t know, i leave russia out of my thoughts. I do condemn russia for not leaving chechnya. Russia does allow massive theft. It had been reported that there are now also b’naires. There is s’mthing wrong there.tnx

  8. hayate said on September 30th, 2010 at 1:46pm #

    They’re back:

    Door-to-door spies in Utah County?
    Reported by: Brent Hunsaker
    Last Update: 9/29 2:15 am

    (excerpts)

    SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah (ABC 4 News) – Sales people working neighborhoods in Northern Utah County have been asking some odd questions that have nothing to do with making the sale. Folks are reporting that they’re asking about the new National Security Agency’s data center that is being built at Camp Williams.

    The sales people say they’re Israeli art students and are selling their works to raise money for a gallery. Some have even produced what appear to be legitimate Israeli passports.

    So, why would art students be interested in an NSA data center?

    Blogs and even church bulletins are buzzing. One such bulletin sent out to LDS women in Highland said, “This is a scam! These are not art students and federal law enforcement groups are actually investigating their ties to organized crime and terrorist groups.” The note went on, “Part of their mission here is to gain information on the new NSA installation coming to our area.”

    Saratoga Springs residents have complained to their police department about the art students. Officer Matt Schauerhamer tracked down one group at a restaurant. He does not know if they were spies, but they’re definitely not artists. “I told them, ‘If you’re actually an artist, why don’t you draw something?’ I gave them a piece of paper and gave them my pen. They produced a picture that was about on par with what my kindergartner could have done.”

    Officer Schauerhamer cited the group for soliciting without a city business license and then passed along their information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He said ICE is investigating.

    ABC 4 also contacted other agencies that might have interest in possible door-to-door spies. We were told by a spokesman for Utah Homeland Security that they were unaware of the Israeli artists and the FBI had no comment.

    http://www.abc4.com/content/news/slc/story/Door-to-door-spies-in-Utah-County/sjOWsjk_zEqf6QeAfk4ZJw.cspx

    Gee, the israeli run homeland security scam was unaware of the spies. They’re probably helping them.

  9. mnbob said on September 30th, 2010 at 2:35pm #

    Delusional!

  10. hayate said on September 30th, 2010 at 9:26pm #

    Looks like the israeloamericans have attempted another Latin American coup. Several articles here:

    http://en.rian.ru/trend/ecuadorian_coup_2010/

  11. hayate said on September 30th, 2010 at 9:36pm #

    Eva Golinger has a few things to say about this israeloamerican coup attemt in Ecuador:

    Coup d’état continues in Ecuador

    Published 01 October, 2010, 01:04

    Edited 01 October, 2010, 05:28

    Chaos broke out in Ecuador when members of the nation’s military and national police forces turned to violence to protest a new law that reduces their pay and benefits.

    The coup d’état has not ended and it has not failed, argued author and lawyer Eva Golinger, who is in Caracas, Venezuela. The coup d’état is ongoing, she said.

    Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said he was attacked by police with tear gas. He has been hospitalized due to injuries.

    “President Correa in Ecuador has been sequestered by police and military forces. He is in a military hospital where he was taken after he was attacked by the police forces, but he’s now being detained. He is not there anymore n his own will,” said Golinger.

    She explained that members of Correa’s government and his supports have attempted to gain access to the President, but the military is denying them access. Meanwhile, opposition groups have spoken out in favor of the Coup d’état and are calling for Correa’s resignation.

    “The law that apparently the police were protesting seems to be just be an excuse for some plans that were already underway to execute a coup against Correa,” Golinger said.

    Read more

    In a telephone interview earlier in the day, Correa said there were forces working to assassinate him, but he insisted that even if he is killed his policies will continue in his absence.

    Correa’s government and policies have been in conflict with the United States for years, including his rejection of a US based that had been located in the country. Today the US still maintains a presence through the US Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy.

    ”Some of the groups coming out calling for the president’s resignation are known as groups receiving funding from these US agencies. So, again there is an indications already in just the beginning moments of this coup that’s underway of backing from different US agencies,” said Golinger.

    Coup attempts in Latin America in recent years took place in nations that are or were members of the Bolivarian Alliance, which works to oppose US hegemony in the region.

    “It seems to be that this is an attempt to deter Latin American integration and independence,” said Golinger.

    http://rt.com/Top_News/2010-10-01/coup-continues-ecuador.html

  12. mary said on October 1st, 2010 at 1:18am #

    CIA infiltration of the Ecuadoran police -

    http://machetera.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/quitos-police-cia-breeding-ground/

  13. hayate said on October 1st, 2010 at 10:19am #

    A headline today in the zionist run israeloamerican media (from the ap goatbuggers):

    Ecuador calm after revolt; Correa alleges coup

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101001/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_ecuador_protest

    “Alleges”

    Yeah, right.

    :D

    There are a few accurate passages in the piece,but the tone is condescending and subtly hostile towards Correa and the only part where american involvement is discussed is here:

    “Both Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia alleged in Buenos Aires on Friday that the United States was somehow behind the police rebellion.”

    It’s quite obvious the israeloamericans were behind the coup attempt, just like in Honduras – another coup the israeloamerican media worked to cover up their involvement in. The authors screwed up at one point:

    “Correa said after his rescue that he asked the rebelling police if they had read the law and none had. He blamed what he called hostile rumor-mongering by privately owned media, with which he is sharply at odds, for misinforming them.”

    And who owns that media? Quislings, israeloamerican quislings. Other business and guv quislings were calling for Correa’s resignation thursday. It wasn’t just a riot,it was a highly organised coup attempt, made to look like a riot. The bulk of the cops were goaded on by an israeloamerican run media and then israeloamerican quislings in guv and business immediately showed their support to the rioting. There is no doubt there was a core group of cops working for israeloamerica at the centre of the police rioting some of whom were probably tasked to kidnap or murder Correa. The rioting was too organised, with cops simultaneously taking over different important areas of transportation and communications.

  14. hayate said on October 1st, 2010 at 10:29pm #

    Russian courts on workers’ side

    Oct 1, 2010 20:56 Moscow Time

    In the period since 2008 when the latest crisis struck, Russia’s courts have reinstated 90 percent of unfairly sacked employees. The mid-crisis year of 2009 saw a 50-percent jump in illegal dismissal lawsuits. The trend this year is definitely down.

    Speaking for the media Friday, the national trade union organizer Mikhail Shmakov gave the credit for this to his unions.

    http://english.ruvr.ru/2010/10/01/23538290.html

    Those naughty Russians! Siding with the workers. Don’t they realise this is still the israeloamerican century and such blatant anti-capitalist, let alone, antisemitic, behaviour is strictly verbotten. They’re just asking for a “color revolution” if they insist upon carrying on in that manner.