In a 70th anniversary session of the United Nations, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told journalists his country wanted neither the so called Islamic State nor Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorial regime on its doorstep.
Davutoglu, in office not much longer than a year, is seen by many in Turkish media and politics as a puppet of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ‘strongman’ and designer of the ‘New Turkey’ (or New Ottoman Empire as some other perspectives would have it). As leader of the AKP party, Davutoglu takes a more moderate, good cop role to counteract Erdogan’s more explosive and divisive comments and stances.
Erdogan’s relationship with Syria’s al-Assad went from cordial, even friendly at the beginning of the former’s reign in the early 00s to inexplicably dire by the end of his prime ministership. A common opinion was that this part of the middle-east could only house one old school dictator, and Erdogan was damned if it was going to be al-Assad.
Al-Assad, inheriting his position from his even more hardline father, is an Alawite muslim, part of the elite class of Syria. In Turkey, this sect of Islam is called Alevi, and Erdogan has been carrying out a prolonged cultural attack on them for some time. Sunnis are the majority force in Islam in this part of the world, and its leaders often see Alevis or Alawites as dangerous or pernicious as Judaism or Christianity.
The AKP sees itself as the party of the people, or the religious poor in Turkey. This is in stark opposition to al-Assad’s elitist position, perfect English, and glamorous wife. Thus, previous covert gun-running to the Islamic State was seen as tacit approval of Sunni ISIS and their draconian values. This all changed this summer when Ankara began bombing IS positions in tandem with Kurdish PKK forces (who were already fighting IS along the Turkish/Syria border).
“We don’t want to see either Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIL], or the Syrian regime on our borders,” Davutoglu said in New York. With Russia now engaged in air strikes in Syria, and just one month from a make or break re-election in Turkey which the AKP are far from certain to win, Davutoglu clearly needs all the international approval for ‘moderation’ he can get. #News