By Charles J. Mouratides
The Islamic State’s (ISIS) relentless assault against Syria and Iraq, and its conquests necessitate three major geostrategic actions that may determine peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean. These imperatives and the dynamic principles that follow them will fuel prosperity, too.
1. Urgent imperative is to declare, now, an independent Kurdistan state and to support the Kurds militarily – including international “boots” on the ground. Kurdistan would consist of existing essentially autonomous Kurd districts in Syrian and Iraq.
Kurdish territories, despite promises, were arbitrarily handed to made-to-order Moslem countries by European imperialist powers a century ago. The Kurds are an unusual moderate society longing resurrection of their own country on lands they have occupied for centuries. Fulfilling their dream will give them internationally recognized borders to defend as they build their nation.
Nearby Arab states recognize that they are facing indefinite, unrelenting ISIS aggression unless Islamists are defeated decisively. To the West, it has never been as apparent that we are witnessing a cultural and religious war. No need to speculate on this by citing history. ISIS itself has openly declared a crusade, a frequent phenomenon in history by many religions. It is fighting a war of conquest to establish a religious state of its own choosing, a caliphate. Historically, this takes the Muslim Middle East back to the 7th century.
2. Second imperative is to deal with the double game played, again, by Turkey. It pretends it is opposing the Islamist aggression, while it supports ISIS and seeks to gain from the resulting chaos. For a month, Turkish tanks have been waiting idle, within spitting distance, as ISIS slaughtered Kurds in Kobani, on the Syrian border. This hypocrisy backfired on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last week when Kurds rioted throughout Turkey. It is estimated there are 20 million Kurds in Turkey.
Turkey refused to join the 40-country coalition led by the U.S. to defeat ISIS. It has supplied weapons to ISIS – a charge never denied by Turkey which openly seeks business venues with the new Islamist State, and access the Kurdish oil wells usurped by ISIS.
Shaded area in the middle shows the sections of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran where Kurds have concentration of populations. It is estimated that a total of 30-35 million Kurds live in these countries. In Syria and Iraq, the Kurdish areas are largely autonomous.
Turkey’s friendship to the Islamists should not surprise anyone; least of all the West which has witnessed that country’s soft-pedalling Islamist tenants. That is especially true about Prime Minister Erdogan, and his foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglou, both preaching a Balkan-Middle East return to Ottoman caliphate under Turkey’s scepter.
Erdogan, triumphant in Turkish politics, has pushed a social/educational agenda similar to ISIS beliefs. It would be unrealistic to expect something different from the man who has been consistent in his social and religious agenda all his political life.
3. The third imperative is to capitalize on a unique East Mediterranean condition and the opportunities it creates for the region: The relationship between Hellas/Cyprus and Israel. Tourism is blossoming, but we are still waiting for other important aspects of the historic rapprochement crafted unexpectedly by then Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, Hellenes and Israelis are the peoples who can be naturally friendly – diplomatically, politically, culturally and socially. They are the only non-Moslem countries in the Levant basin, not driven by Islamic tenants that periodically lead to Jihadism. They are the only thoroughly modern countries with similar views on human rights. They are secular democratic states with a worldview driven by an evolving society’s needs and concerns. Despite their own religious peculiarities, neither aims to eliminate every other religion and its followers.
The loose alliance between Hellenes and Israelis must be strengthened to produce long-term, practical benefits based on – and driven by – three interests:
a) Energy-Sea Resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel has rapidly developed exploration and drilling engineering in the Eastern Mediterranean waters that connect it with Greece and Cyprus. For the benefit of all countries in the region, they must also deal with other sea resources and pollution hazards.
Greece must internalize that the only neighbor that can provide the support it needs to capitalize on its own Eastern Mediterranean energy fields is Israel.
That is especially true because Turkey has raised claims in the Greek Aegean. Other states and territories – such as Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – are sure to raise their own future extravagant claims with the backing of Turkey. Egypt today seems ready to align itself with Greece, but it had previously succumbed to Turkey’s pressure. Egypt once supported Turkey which claims an Exclusive Economic Zone extending to Egypt (!), including the sea around the Greek island Gavdos, south of Crete.
b) A true, consistent military alliance with Israel and the U.S. is key to Greece’s security and interests. Greece’s EU membership has its definite limitations forced by European ‘partners’ historically motivated by interests at the expense of Greece. But that is the topic for another column. On the other hand, the U.S. and Israel are slowly realizing that Turkey, despite NATO membership, practices geopolitics inspired by Islamic principles and its own illusions for hegemony in the Balkans and Middle East.
Europeans delay Turkey’s EU membership because of cultural differences that even Germany could not ignore. Pressuring Turkey does not imply support for Greece. The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed extensive German-Ottoman/Turkish military cooperation and shared lessons in genocide techniques.
c) Finally, it is necessary to Cooperate in scientific and technological development through universities, and in the marketplace where Israel leads internationally. Innovation today is the engine that pushes national economies rapidly forward even with relatively limited investment. This is an area where CHI Circle has concentrated its advocacy and programs.
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