Turkey's 'No' vote on UN sanctions on Iran is yet another clue about the ruling AKP party's real agenda. Some people like to portray Turkey as a more independent actor on the world stage and an emerging regional power. Yet the truth is that the AKP government is simply unveiling its long suppressed desires and finally showing its Islamist face. Yes, Turkey is becoming more independent but by breaking away from the west.
Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister and the AKP's leader, has roots in political Islam and loves to play to the Arab street, but this is much more than a question of boosting his ego.
I doubt that it was Erdogan's sincere worry about the terrible consequences of sanctions for the Iranian people that drove him to seek to bargain with Iran and to vote against sanctions. Rather, it was his ideological bond with Iran's authoritarian Islamist regime.
If Erdogan cared so much about the suffering of Iranians why did not he stand up and criticize the Mullahs when people were slaughtered on the streets during the protests following last year's rigged Iranian elections?
On top of that, Erdogan chooses to be close friends with Omar Al-Bashir (the Sudanese dictator), refuses to recognize the genocide in Darfur and defends his attitude by saying 'a Muslim cannot kill another Muslim.'
The AKP's Islamist rhetoric has reached its peak with its latest statements about Israel. Israel's bloody attack on a Turkish aid ship on its way to Gaza gave the AKP formidable political leverage in the region. Frustrated by the US's rejection of a fuel exchange deal with Iran brokered by Brazil and Turkey, the AKP saw a new opportunity to demonize Israel and depict it as the major problem in the region.
Israel's unjustifiable killings of nine Turks on the ship, which Erdogan labeled 'state terrorism', came as a lifeline for the Turkish government. The AKP is gradually losing support from its Islamist base and used the crisis to serve its own domestic agenda.
Erdogan's comments became borderline hysterical following the Israeli raid, and that fueled domestic anger in Turkey and irritated the country's allies. If Erdogan was indeed so upset about the loss of Turkish lives, why did not he make half the fuss about an attack the very same day by the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group, in which six Turkish soldiers died?
By signing a deal with Iran when Turkey's traditional allies were ready to go ahead with sanctions, Erdogan delivered an open challenge to the Western powers. Now with the UN vote, his government has given the message that it will not budge.
Even US officials admit the Iran sanctions were very watered down to win over Russia and China and in truth they are little more than symbolic. At the end of the day the issue for Turkey should be which camp it wants to belong to. Clearly, under the AKP, Turkey has made its choice.
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