Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Turkey Is Playing a Dangerous Game with the Powerful Russians

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Turkey Is Playing a Dangerous Game with the Powerful Russians

Article excerpt

Byline: Professor Norman Stone

IF YOU are a Muslim you must ask yourself the question -- what went wrong? Islam is associated with backwardness, with failed states, its only contribution to the modern world the airport security queue. There is an exception -- Turkey. It works, as millions of western European visitors can attest. It makes things and exports them; Istanbul is a financial centre; Turkish Airlines is one of the world's best; the roads are better than in Britain.

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is entitled to say that his country presents a model for the rest of the Muslim world. He is himself highly religious, and respects the imperial Ottoman past, when Istanbul reigned over the Middle East and kept the peace in an area that in modern times has been explosively difficult.

He kept telling President Assad of Syria to introduce a proper democracy that would follow Turkish, religious lines. Assad would not, and earned Erdogan's hatred; Erdogan is a good hater, and he can call on American support, through Nato, while the Europeans can also be browbeaten with threats of a refugee tidal wave. So the Syrian civil war dragged on, and Turkey fairly obviously helped even the brutes of Islamic State take about a third of Syria. The Americans went along with this, strewing bombs here and there, clearly not wishing to be closely involved. There is tension, in that the Kurds are the most effective on-the-ground fighters against IS, and Erdogan persists in seeing them -- the majority population in Turkey's south-east -- as enemies. That came unstuck a month ago when Russia intervened. Assad is their man and he has been able to re-take parts of the country -- including the approaches to the second city, Aleppo, on the Turkish border.

There is a small Turkish population in the way, and they too were bombarded, to Turkish protests, which were waved aside. …

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