BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Imagine someone gets elected mayor of a city. What would people think if s/he first formally called on a local thug? Some might look the other way if the newly-elected mayor and thug have been friends since childhood. But what if her/his next call was on another thug, this time a much wealthier one? What if the second thug is also a childhood friend? Would people still give the mayor the benefit of the doubt? Or, would they start thinking that s/he, too, is a thug?
Self-styled, latter day, wannabe-Sultan Erdoğan (technically now President of Turkey) has done just what’s described above. His first formal foreign visit was to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus and its leadership. No one but Turkey recognizes this “state” that covers some two fifths of the island. Next, our sultan paid a foreign visit to Azerbaijan and its leadership. What are other countries/leaders thinking/saying? I don’t know. Crickets.
But wait, what a coincidence! Both of the illegitimate leaders Erdoğan visited fit in with his Islamist/Ottomanist, but deep down, Turkist, mindset. It sure looks to me like he wants to reinforce the “Turkish connection” now, especially since his and Foreign-Minister-turned-Prime-Minister Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” neo-Ottoman policy is in a shambles. Couple that with the Erdoğan/Davutoğlu/Fidan (the last being Turkey’s intelligence agency’s [MIT] chief) sponsored fiasco in Syria. This bit of adventurism saw Turkey “covertly” supporting the extremists who now constitute the Islamic State. You can see our “Sultan” wants to hang out with “friends” regardless of how shady they are.
Has the usually very-politically-astute Erdoğan suddenly become tone-deaf to the international reverberations of such visits? No, he’s just reinforcing and building coalitions.
And what coalitions is the Republic of Armenia building? There’s the Russian-axis, where Yerevan is taken for granted and treated demeaningly. There’s the Iranian connection, which, for larger geopolitical reasons, is limited in its efficacy. What options have the two Armenian republics and the Diaspora?
It seems to me the misfortune of the Yezidis of Iraq and the appropriate pronouncements emanating from Yerevan and Stepanakert may be suggestive of a path, especially if Yezidis really do move into our republics. There is a whole swath of peoples/nations/groupings/sects that, if connected by cooperation, could defend all these groups’ interests. In a rough, counter-clockwise, geographic arc from north to west, this (not comprehensive) list would include the Lezghis, Armenians, Ajars, Kurds, Zazas, Yezidis, Assyrians, Alevis/Alewites, and the jumble that is Lebanon (Druze, Maronite, and Orthodox, to name just three). Heck, maybe even the Turkmens of the region might hop aboard, despite their natural affinity for Turkey and the latter’s self-anointed status as their “protector” within Iraq’s borders.
Such a coalition could become a strong counterbalance to the Turkish coalition long-desired and pursued by Turkey. I am not even advocating changing borders. Rather, I simply propose to recognize the legitimate interests of these groups and the creation of a means to assert and defend those interests.
Given the “balance-of-terror” mindset of the nuclear Cold War era, and the “divide-and-conquer” approach used by great powers for millennia, it seems to me this approach might receive a favorable audience in those circles.
What do you think? Would this help Armenian interests? Is it even remotely achievable?