TURKEY IS AGGRESSIVELY CAMPAIGNING for the return of priceless, ancient artefacts removed from the Middle East often by thieves trading with the connivance of the region's bygone colonial administrators. The resistance mounted by the major museums of Europe and America that hold the treasures is spectacularly crumbling: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has triumphantly returned home an 1,800-year old statue surrendered to him personally by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Other countries of the Middle East are poised to join the Turkish initiative with a promise of some success. But their claims are complicated by the notoriously shifting frontiers within the region.
Indeed, Turkey itself holds treasures taken with the approval of Ottoman officials in the past from neighbouring possessions as well as Southern Europe. In modern times, the 1974 Turkish invasion of Northern …