In the wake of Suruç (1) Can there be a “Geneva” for the Middle East?

Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan'ın "Dolmabahçe mutabakatını tanımıyorum" demesiyle 28 Şubat öncesinden çok daha geriye gidilmiş oldu.

Halil Berktay

The Turkish original of this article was published as Suruç’un ardından (1) Ortadoğu’nun “Cenevre”si nerede? on 21st July 2015.

[21st July 2015] I had only just posed a question about whether IS should concern only the West (9th July: IŞİD sırf Batı’nın meselesi mi?). I had also emphasized that I considered it impossible for Turkey not to get involved, one way or the other, in a Middle East where the Sykes-Picot arrangement together with all its keystones was so rapidly coming apart. Over the next few days, first the PKK began to stir. The KCK came up with a proclamation that was widely construed as “terminating the truce”; it was promptly followed by roadblocks and setting fire to several TIR trucks (see Vahap Coşkun, Kabak tadı, 15.7.2015; A fare long grown stale, 19.7.2015). Then a suicide bombing took place at Suruç. A live bomber, said to have been a woman at the time of writing [though this turned out to be incorrect — tr. note], made her way among the 300 young people from the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations who had arrived from Istanbul the previous day in order to cross the border to Kobane. She then blew herself up, killing, by last count, 31 others while injuring more than a hundred, with some still said to be in critical condition. Television screens keep displaying heart-rending images.   

 

While there is no hard evidence as yet, it is to IS that everything points. In an article written only hours after the explosion, Vahap Coşkun spelled out just why this is so (20th July: Çıkış kapısı [The way out]). He enumerated how Turkey had been gradually escalating its anti-IS measures, and reminded everyone that in return IS had declared Turkey to be “under the rule of Satan.” It is also fairly clear that there doesn’t seem to be any other fanaticism around, that, let alone having any sense of mercy for civilian life, is so ruthlessly prepared to murder innocent youth and children, and with an attitude of “the more the better.”

 

What, then, is left to say? Might it be best to remain silent? But then, all kinds filthy opportunists have already been talking all the time. It is as if they have ceased to be human; instead they have become so many bastards spawned by politics, people with no morals nor any conscience. They commit violence and then they also clothe it in lies. Helpless as I feel in the face of such suffering, I can just barely bring myself to make four or five points. Three of them, I am going to put down today. They mostly have to do with the problem’s international dimensions. 

  

(1) At bottom and lurking in the background, what the West has to account for has assumed gigantic proportions. Gorbachev was absolutely right when he noted, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, that the West was not really able to digest this “victory,” instead becoming power-drunk and beginning to commit hubris. Indeed, ever since Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” prophecy that was actually more like a ritual prayer for disaster, the West has been behaving like an elephant in a glass menagerie. Especially in the Middle East, virtually every intervention has produced the opposite of what was intended. Over Afghanistan, of course both the USSR and the US have been culpable.  First the Soviets went in on the pretext of protecting their revolution, and then the US developed the theory and practice of a “green belt” which eventually gave rise to the Taliban. In Iraq, Saddam’s overthrow based on totally trumped-up accusations and pretexts opened a Pandora’s box not of democracy but an unparallelled degree of jihadism including the Al Qaeda. First supporting and then abandoning the Arab Spring (for fear of what might happen to Israel) threw Libya into chaos, restored a military dictatorship in Egypt, and created an environment of ethnic and confessional conflict in Syria that is worse than even Iraq. It is this hell that first spawned Al Nusra and then IS.

 

(2) It simply cannot go on like this; the devastation, destruction and all-around collapse in the Middle East cannot possibly be undone by more and yet more unilateral, unplanned , short-term tactical interventions by the West which lack any overall vision, or by betting on “first Turkey, then the Kurds, then maybe Iran.” First and foremost, the US must give up its single-handed attempts at social engineering, and settle down for a long rethink. The situation is grave enough to call for a new international concept and consensus, a multilateral initiative. This could perhaps be met through a major Middle Eastern conference.  In the face of serious crises, countries are capable of getting together to address specific questions. Following the Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu, the Geneva Conference met in 1954 to reshape Indochina. Leave aside the question of whether its Accords were implemented or not. On the day, given the prevailing circumstances and power relations, it was a certain attempt at making peace and creating a new stability. What was then considered necessary for Vietnam is ten times, a hundred times more urgent for today’s Middle East. Given the present composition of the Security Council, the UN is not likely to be any good. Acceptable solutions to outstanding questions may be sought probably only at some kind of extremely well-thought and prepared Middle Eastern “Geneva” with a tight regional focus and compass, which would bring not only countries but various organizations to the table, and ultimately prove binding for all of them.    

 

(3) But of course, this entails an enormous difficulty for the US and the entire West: What is to be done about Israel? Will the Palestinian question be also on the agenda? As solutions are being sought and proposed for Iraq or Syria, will the Gaza Strip, for example, be also laid on the table? Or else, will the West shrink yet again from addressing this single biggest source of Islamist extremism that keeps jihadism alive? So that the wound keeps bleeding, turning not its own body but also the whole region, the Middle East in the broadest sense, into a vast gangrenous jumble?

 

Tomorrow I hope to touch upon IS, Turkey, and the HDP — and more specifically, the HDP’s chronic, habitual lying; not its problems of language and tone of voice but of content: its deliberate, purposive lies and falsehoods.