United States Secretary of State John Kerry toured the nations of the Middle East seeking allies who would be willing to provide support for the operations spelled out by President Obama for dealing with ISIS. Secretary of State Kerry began his trip visiting NATO partner Turkey in hopes that as a fellow NATO nation they would eagerly support the efforts of their NATO ally. This assumption was sorely mistaken. While I was not privy to the look on Secretary Kerry’s face when Turkish President Erdogan, or whichever functionary was assigned to give the government refusal of intent to cooperate in any way, but I can take a good guess at his feigned surprised, you can knock me down with a feather astonishment look on the face of John Kerry. Why anybody would be surprised at the Turkish refusal should not be holding high position in the government of the United States as anybody holding even the smallest knowledge of recent history should remember that it was Turkey that refused to permit and United States, a NATO ally, troops to be deployed from Turkish soil when the Second Gulf War to remove Saddam Hussein from office was initiated. This prevented a second front from being established in the north of Iraq and permitted many top officials from the Hussein government to make their escape into Syria and possibly even into Turkey itself. The official commentary from the State Department simply stated that Turkey is opting out completely from the coalition and its efforts in Iraq and Syria. This should have further been expected considering Turkey being amongst the original and continuing supporters of ISIS.
The other problem is that Secretary of State Kerry is running into brick walls where many nations he has approached claiming they support the idea of what the United States has laid out but we are not really able to assist these efforts at this time. In Egypt President Sisi and the rest of the military hierarchy are not about to forgive President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the United States support for the Muslim Brotherhood and their continuing opposition of the military government which won the election after the army overturned the government of President Morsi as part of bringing an end to the massive demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi and their application of oppressive laws designed to make a path for Sharia and an end to the secular civilization in Egypt. There will be no support coming out of Egypt for anything coming from the Administration of President Obama, period. Secretary Kerry must have felt like he had won the lottery after his stops in Turkey and Egypt when Saudi Arabia and the Emirates promised financial support but denied to offer any boots on the ground against ISIS. Part of the reasons behind the Sunni refusals also is due to the threat to Shiite Iran that ISIS potentially poses and that ISIS is far more likely to take its fight to purify the true Religion of the Prophet, Sunni Islam, ISIS is predictably more likely to take their forces against Shiite Iran before they tackle the perceived impure governance by the Saudi Royal Family and the other leaders in the Emirates and across the Sunni world. Check back with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt after SISI had been severely degraded after their successful overthrow of the Shiite Mullahs in Iran, providing there is any semblance of ISIS that survives an assault on Iran. Until then, the Sunni Arab leaders will not feel the threat and could see the potential for ISIS to, at the least, degrade the arch threat they face, Iran and their sycophants Syria and Hezballah. These results mean that President Obama and his grand plan will place all their expectations for victory on the two groups who have an immediate reason to take on this struggle, the remaining remnants of the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga Militias who rescued many of the Yazidi peoples who were surrounded and threatened by ISIS forces and are defending the lands populated by Kurdish peoples. Of these two groups the Kurdish Peshmerga Militias are by far the more capable and likely the most capable of forces who make up their lack of numbers with a fierceness and steadfast convictions. The rest are unlikely to offer any ground forces, or even air support, without the United States also putting forces on the ground and even then they will be reluctant and only provide support troops who are able to serve in the rear and unable to perform combat duties with any measurable effect.
Still, the reluctance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and other nations from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is to be expected as these nations are often willing to fight to the very last American troop before they will risk a single of their own troops. They might be willing to provide support troops or combat troops who would hold and guard supply depots and support areas such a motor pools but would be restricted as a condition of their deployment into the theater. Many understand that any problems in MENA locations which the United States determines as a threat, even if it also threatens the nations which are parts of MENA, will refuse to provide troops to fight anywhere outside of their own borders and support any numbers of United States troops being deployed to eradicate the threats to these nations and once the threat has passed they demand that the United States troops leave their territories until the next threat. All of this has been the exact scenario in countless confrontations ever since the Ottoman Empire was defeated as part of World War I and the division of those lands into individual nations over the following couple of decades. This was even the case for most of the fighting during World War I against the Ottoman Empire on behalf of the Arab tribes who resented Ottoman rule and mostly refused to join the battle. The main exception, and it was such an exception that it became the theme for a blockbuster movie, was the Arab revolt which was organized, held together, and led by a single British officer, and possible madman, Major T. E. Lawrence (often mistaken for Peter O’Toole). In all honesty, the film “Lawrence of Arabia” took so much liberty in depicting the Arabs as unorganized tribal forces who suffered from rivalries and discipline difficulties where the reality is most of those led by Major Lawrence were disciplined forces under direct command of their officers, uniformed, and many were captured initially fighting as part of the Ottoman Army and volunteered, initially demanding, to be permitted to fight to overthrow the Ottoman Turks. The movie engendered numerous law suits contesting how many actual people were portrayed to such inaccuracy that the families took umbrage and insult to their honor. There is also the fact that there were other British and French intelligence officers who, like Lawrence, led Arab units. The possible reason that the movie was centered around T. E. Lawrence was likely due to two factors, American journalist Lowell Thomas gave Lawrence much coverage in the West, particularly in the United States, and the extensive and self-aggrandized recounting of Major Lawrence’s accomplishments and importance found within his penned accounting titled, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” Maybe we could use another rather eccentric British officer about now, or maybe not.
The only actual effrontery which, though expected in this office, likely somewhat blindsided the Administration of President Obama would be the utter refusal to cooperate by the Turkish government. The government of newly elected and first publically elected President, Erdogan’s refusal not only to provide troops on the ground, but to refuse to provide air support, the use of Turkish airfields or even the use of Turkey itself to house troops or supplies or to launch strikes on ISIS in both Iraq and Syria should be taken as a virtual resignation from NATO as he has proven that under his guidance Turkey has split from NATO and moved closer to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. This should have been expected as this was the exact reaction and lack of consideration or cooperation which Turkey gave President George W. Bush for utilizing Turkish ground from which to launch a second front in the initial stages of the 2003 start to the Second Iraq War. Apparently the Turkish refusals were just as much a shock and surprise as they were a little over a decade ago. Perhaps President Obama had relied on two things, the fact that he believes he is the anti-Bush President and thus should succeed where President George W. Bush had failed, and that he considers Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be one of if not his closest friend and confidant amongst all the leaders in the world. Apparently the friendship felt by President Obama is not reciprocated nearly as much as he might have anticipated and hoped. Still, with what is reputed to be some of the finest information gathering abilities available to advise an American President, one would have thought that President Obama would have been advised on how poorly his hopes for coordination and cooperation his plan would be rejected by the Arab nations he was presumably offering to help and particularly he would have been informed that the only NATO ally was not going to be onboard with the plan. Why President Obama was not forewarned is a question whose answer we will never know.
Still the Turkish refusal to once again assist their NATO allies in efforts in the Middle East begs some serious questions. The first, most obvious and of paramount importance is why Turkey remains within NATO. Perhaps there is no means of removing a member once they have been accepted. The one obvious fact is that the experiment of allowing a nation which historically, since the fall of the Byzantine Empire, has sided with the Muslim and Arab forces of the world including being the central home to the last Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, would be considered and granted membership in NATO, a Europe centered mutual defense organization. The reason has more to do with the when and why NATO was originally established. On April 4, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, was established with twelve Western nations making up its membership; Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States. The organization was established to resist the pressures of the Soviet Union and their iron grab over Eastern Europe and to provide a united front which was to provide a greater defensive front for the individual nations by tying their defense against aggressions into the Three Musketeers pledge of all for one and one for all. A short period later on February 18, 1952, two additional states were granted membership; Greece and more importantly Turkey. The most obvious reason leading to the inclusion of Turkey in NATO was desirable as Turkey ruled over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles which are the two straights which control access to the Mediterranean Sea from the Black Sea which served as the southern route for Russian and Soviet Naval vessels, their western most all season port in the Crimean Peninsula. As the Soviet Union collapsed the reasoning behind NATO, and especially Turkey, should have dissipated leaving the entire alliance to the dustbin of history. But such treaties and similar large organizations, such as labor unions, find new but not necessarily improved, raison d’être. This has been the reality of NATO with it coming up with reason after reason as the years pass which its members generally agree are sufficient excuses to continue the organization. But now that the newest raison d’être is to provide a unified front and mutual protection against potential threats emanating out of Iran or any other threats across the Middle East, the consistent refusal by Turkey to permit any use of their lands and bases or to volunteer their troops or air force joining efforts in the Middle East. What the reason is for having kept Turkey as a member of NATO after their refusal, especially the manner in which they revoked permission with hours left before the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iran, causing the delay of the deployment of the forces which were to have assaulted Iran from the north and removing entirely the northern front from the strategy, potentially making the entire plan more likely to fail, is beyond reason and can only be attributed to the belief that the Turkish refusal to honor their obligations as a NATO ally was a once only event. With it now established as their policy and not an exception, there is absolutely no conceivable reason to permit Turkey to remain as a member in NATO and doing so is simply an endangerment to the entire membership of NATO. Somehow, it is very doubtful that their refusal again to cooperate in efforts by NATO ally members will have any consequences as any insult or antagonism of Western nations and alliances comes without consequences. Working contrary to the efforts and intentions of any other alliance or nation will definitely have immediate and serious consequences, especially efforts against, the Chinese, the Russians and the Arab and Muslim worlds. Working contrary to the United States is one of the few acts which has no apparent consequence, well, unless the nation refusing to obey the United States is Israel, the nation which appears to be held to a singular set of rules, consequences and restrictions with expectations of morality of actions on a scale beyond that applied anywhere else and to no other nation, even the United States though they come in a relative second place on the expectation scale imposed by such as the United Nations, the NGOs, the plethora of human rights organizations and the opinion of the web of nations.
Beyond the Cusp