European View

The embarrassment that makes us accessory to dictatorships

by Alberto Negri

24 Exclusive content for IT24

Why do we accept autocrats and dictators? Because we need them: we are accomplices, not partners. They know it, they let us use them, before eluding control and blackmailing us following a script that we know by heart.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is only the latest in the list, but perhaps the most dangerous.
He’s dangerous because he is not only backed by a conservative electoral majority but is also part of the western security system, with 24 bases of the North Atlantic alliance, nuclear weapons included.

With the purge of the armed forces and of the administration, Erdogan has put under pressure the secular generals, more loyal to NATO than to him.

The United States and Europe don’t know what to do: they sleep with the enemy, who is also their friend and ally. The embarrassment is palpable and flirts with irony.

The US consulate in the last few days celebrated in Istanbul, postponed since July 4, the national day. The invitation literally read it was “not” dedicated to the US Independence Day, but to the “US-Turkey strategic partnership.”

Western politics is served: Washington can certainly keep Erdogan under pressure, but only to a certain extent. The same goes with the European Union, which has signed an agreement with Ankara to let it keep 3 million of Syrian refugees.

There is a double standard of international politics that Erdogan paid for first and took advantage of later, by using the same European rules to eliminate the secular generals with fake trials.

And by the way, who defended Turkey when it clashed with Israel about aid to Gaza, where today 90% lives with UN aid? And who ever supported Egyptian President Morsi, backed by Erdogan, although regularly elected?

This is why the Turkish president made peace with Israel: when in the region you are welcome in Tel Aviv, at home you can do what you want – this is our standard and Erdogan knows it well.

The reconciliation with Putin closes a perfect triangle: three countries that do not have human rights in much consideration and occupy like Israel other people’s lands, from the Palestinian territory to the Syrian Golan. This is the indestructible message that for decades we have sent to the Muslim world.

Not only. We think we can use autocrats as we please: once with Saddam to wage war to Iran, today with Erdogan to wage with jihadists a war to Assad’s Syria because this would help the Sunni anti-Iran front, or the Gulf monarchies that fill our pockets with money in military contracts and investment.

The US calls it “dual containment” policy, of both the Sunni and Shiite front, where the US also blocks international banks which want to do business with Tehran, without ever objecting against the Saudis who cut heads flat out. The death penalty threatened by Erdogan changes depending on circumstances: have we ever seen sit-ins outside the Saudi embassy?

This is why we have tolerated Turkey drifting into Islamism, Erdogan clamping down on whoever doesn’t agree with him, eliminating the PKK as well as Kurdish civilians. Have we already forgotten when he hit the anti-Jihadists in Kobane?

Then, eventually something doesn’t work, like the war against Assad, and we pretend that it wasn’t Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, to encourage Turkey to send on the “jihad highway” thousands of militants who are now going back to their and our own countries to be terrorists.

The result is the following: we neither have democracy in Syria, backed by Putin, nor in Turkey. A masterpiece of hypocrisy and probably also of stupidity.