Wednesday, 4 May 2011

New Mideast players proliferate

[above: Istanbul] I got an alert from the U.S. embassy in Santiago (where someone apparently thinks I still live) warning me to be careful of attacks on Americans in the wake of recent developments. So much for the blithe triumphalism over the killing of OBL. Perhaps some sage element could have alerted the beery teens waving flags at Ground Zero to celebrate the assassination that a tad less provocation might be in order to discourage retaliation. Oh well.

We are indeed safer today but less as a result of bin Laden’s sudden death than due to the marvelous winds of change blowing vigorously through the Arab world and offering millions of people a political channel to obtain a better life. I suspect Israel would be a safer place, too, if the millions belonging to its Palestinian underclass thought they had a chance to save their lands and their livelihoods democratically and were less tempted by pointless acts of revenge as the sole alternative to helplessness and defeat.

The speeches from Washington have been fairly sober given that we do now have adults in charge, for better or for worse, rather than the insufferable frat boys of a few years ago. But I suspect that the most important speech of the week was not spoken by any American but rather by the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr Erdogan. You know, that backward, Islamic country not civilized enough to become part of the wondrous European Union.

Erdogan called on Libya’s Qaddafy to step down, and he later tongue-lashed the Syrians for massacring its inhabitants as well. This is highly significant because the Turks dragged their feet over NATO’s intervention in Libya and just happen to share a border with Syria. So the PM’s comments are not idle chatter or long-distance posturing of the Capitol Hill variety.

Although Obama is riding high domestically, the U.S. has a lot on its hands in the region and considerable weaknesses due to over-extension in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Turks are more and more independent of their NATO allies and may be expected to assert themselves in what happens next.

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