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Byline: Tunku Varadarajan; With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling

An Extreme Egyptian Pyramid Scheme

Francois Reagan'

France has proved once more that when it comes to addressing the increasingly complex and baffling "Arab Spring," it is the uncontested leader of the free world. Not content with having led the Western cavalry charge in Libya that resulted in the toppling of the dastardly Gaddafi, the French have seized the Syrian bull by its bloody, battered horns. Last week, Francois Hollande--whose bookish exterior masks the heart of an interventionist superhero---bestowed his country's blessing on the coalition of Syrian opposition groups, recognizing it as the legitimate representative of Syria's hapless people. In becoming the first Western country to offer its imprimatur to the Syrian -opposition--and also to withdraw, formally, all recognition from the sanguinary Assad regime--France clearly hopes to spark a series of copy-cat acts of recognition by other states in Europe. (Sure enough, Turkey swiftly followed suit.) There is more to all of this, of course, than an exercise in feel-good rhetoric. As any international lawyer worth his salt will point out, once the opposition has received a critical mass of recognition internationally, it would be in a position, as the "legitimate" government of Syria, to call on other, friendly governments to come to its aid--militarily, if need be. Clever man, that Francois. Ronald Reagan would have been proud of him.


Turkey's adamantly secular Army has a surprise for us. Its General Staff has approved the inclusion of elective Koran courses in the curriculum of military high schools. Turks, and Turkey watchers, have reason to be startled--even gobsmacked--by the news. The military is (perhaps one should now say "was") the citadel of Kemalism. Were the ghost of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to return furtively to the Turkey of Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan, it would recoil in dread. A gloomy historian of Turkey told this columnist that teaching the Koran to would-be soldiers is a "breaching of the dyke. …