Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Turkey is not isolated, Iran is | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) meets with Iran’s new President Hasan Rouhani (R) at his office in Tehran on August 5, 2013. Moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani assumed Iran’s presidency promising to work to lift punishing international sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic over its controversial nuclear program. (AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE)

“Turkey has gone from sick man to lone man”! That was the title of a cartoon about Turkey that appeared in Iran’s Fars News Agency the other day.

The Iranian agency was saying Turkey had become isolated in the world because of its foreign policy. “The sick man” label, from the time of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, was obviously fresh in their minds. The 90-year-old Republic of Turkey had been ignored and they were talking about a Turkey that had changed from “sick man” to “lone one”.

Is Turkey really alone? Yes. Turkey is currently alone! Turkey is alone as a pragmatic, envied, courageous and resolute nation. It has indeed been left alone. Those who do what is right are often left alone!

Unwilling to lose the approval of the West, some figures think we should act in agreement with them. These people want Turkey to remain silent in the Middle East, not to interfere in Africa and give concessions to communist terror organizations such as the PKK in order get on well with the Kurds.

They believe that a Turkey under the command of the West will prosper, yet they forget that a Turkey that was under the command of the West suffered a massive economic, political and social collapse in the 1990s.

Turkey’s opposition to Bashar Al-Assad is an admirable policy in my opinion. Had Turkey done the opposite, it would have threatened its own existence. Of course, Turkey speaking out against Assad has cost it a lot in material and political terms. Annual revenue of USD 2 billion was lost.

Turkey opened its cities to 400,000 Syrians and provided for all their needs. Now, however, radical groups kidnap Turkish pilots because Lebanese pilgrims are being held by Syrian opposition!

As I have described in detail in an earlier piece, the threat of Kurdish communist groups on the Turkish border put Turkey on a defensive footing. The PKK/PYD terrorist groups that were encouraged to appear on our southeast border were entirely supported by Assad.

Turkey’s opening up to Africa has also annoyed some Europeans, particularly those who want to exploit Africa. Turkey suddenly drew the attention of the world to the terrible picture in Africa.

It opened embassies in countries nobody had touched before, organized conferences and sent doctors, education specialists and scientists there. With these initiatives, Turkey did what nobody had done since colonial times. And what do you think happened? Our embassy in Somalia was hit with a bomb.

Turkey’s presence there has obviously troubled someone. While everything, from the turmoil in the Middle East to the protests in Brazil, is being associated with Turkey, it is easy to see that Turkey is now a global player.

Sometimes you have to play for big stakes and take big risks. Turkey took those risks and it is paying the price for standing up for what is right.

That is why Turkey stands alone. It did not remain silent or follow its own interests, because it put ethics above politics.

Of course Turkey is not perfect, some bad policies have cost it a great deal. There is still much that needs to change. The country needs to smooth down the rough corners and become a more powerful democracy. Democracies do not remain static, they change and grow.

To return to the Fars News Agency report, what amazed me most was that such criticism emanated from a country such as Iran, the real “lone man,” not just in the Middle East but across the world, and for so many years!

It has always played the nuclear card, not just against the West, but even against its Arab neighbors. It has incited division between Shi’ites and Sunnis rather than encouraging Islamic unity. It has always used the threat of the PKK and Hezbollah, even against friendly countries like Turkey. It has supported Shi’ite radicalism against Sunni radicalism.

The “unloved Iran” that has problems with almost all its neighbors–apart from Assad and Lebanon–and across most of the world, with the exception of a few communist regimes such as North Korea. Iran has been isolated for years.

Even its own people are not happy in their own land. Many people in a country rich with oil and gas, are living in poverty. Inflation for June was a staggering 106 percent.

Disparities in income, trade embargoes, corruption, bribery and nepotism, have made its people’s lives difficult. While the elite from the time of the Shah are uneasy about being marginalized, the powerful radicals are becoming ever more radical and the communists are becoming stronger by the day. The people of Iran are deeply unhappy.

Iran is the lone man because it is a country whose foreign policy relies largely of making threats and demonstrating rage, not because like Turkey, it does what is ethically and morally right.

If it is to be loved again, Iran needs unity not division. Iran, the lone man, needs to be conciliatory instead of a country that invests all it has in nuclear programs. It needs friends, not enemies.

During his swearing-in, the words of new President Hassan Rouhani’s were striking: “The key word is moderation. Moderation does not mean renouncing religious values, nor does it mean extreme conservatism. It means being on one’s guard against extremes. Change requires moderation.”

These words are reason for hope. Perhaps we will see a change in Iran’s angry face from now on. Maybe Iran will be a party that calls on the Islamic world to unite rather than split. Maybe it will be a country that brings Shi’ites and Sunnis together, rather than inciting them against one another.

And maybe Iran will be a country that works to eradicate radicalism and all perverse ways of thinking.

Maybe that reform will make the country loved instead of unloved, and the people of Iran will be not only happy, but free.

Iran is a strong country, it can do it. It would be great to be friends with such a country!