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PostKuwait: Small Nation, Big Hearts (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 01/14/14 5:11 am)
Kuwait City--It is not of course the smallest one, but neither is Kuwait one of the biggest countries of the world. It has a small population of less than 3.5 million people--that is, it has a population far less than that of Ankara. Yet, thanks to its oil wealth, Kuwait is one of the richest countries in the world and Kuwaitis have sufficient generosity to spend a portion of that wealth for charity. The first International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria was such a success that with the call of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, will be hosting today the second such conference. The UN secretary-general, and a large group of international dignitaries headed by American Secretary of State John Kerry, are expected to attend the summit.
Turkey has been doing everything possible to help restrict human sufferings in Syria. There are over 800,000 refugees on Turkish territory--with the unregistered the number is estimated to be well over one million. Turkey has been extending precious "logistical" support to Syrian "opponents." Yet, there is a huge number of displaced within Syria, besides more than two million refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. Particularly, children and women are suffering most from the ongoing tragedy which, sorry to say, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, cannot be terminated with lofty rhetoric.
Was it because of the current internal strife between the "elected" and "non-elected" political Islam, I cannot say for sure, but reports of ammunition, howitzers or arms of all sorts loaded on trucks roaming around in the Turkish-Syrian border region must be an alarming sign for anyone with some brains. At least three such trucks were "captured" and "allowed to continue" for this or that reason over the past year. Should the Turkish intelligence be allowed to continue such covert operations in the area, even though its operations were long ago unveiled by other intelligence services? After all is it indeed in Turkey's best interest to carry weapons and ammunition, and thus in a way pour fuel on the fire in Syria?
Is it indeed correct that a sizable portion of the around 80,000 "Islamist opposition fighters" operating in Syria are indeed Turks, Turkomans, Azeris or Chechens? War is a serious destabilizing factor for Syria and beyond. Look at what's happening in Iraq. Ending war might be even a bigger security threat, if what to do with the insurgents trained in Syria cannot be decided. Indeed, how is Turkey going to cope with the threat of thousands of ex-fighters who would return from the Syria battleground? Supporting a war might be very costly and I am afraid we are still far away of even estimating the probable cost...
Turkey as a big regional power willing to play the role of "regional elder brother," must have maintained its capability to engage with all parties to the conflict as a trustworthy broker, a peacemaker rather than aligning with a Selafist and blood-thirsty group of zealots so wild to eat the hearts of their adversaries in front of cameras. The "Sunni solidarity" obsession of the Turkish government has destroyed the reputation of Turkey as an honest peace broker in the territories which used to be the former territory of the last Turkish empire, the Ottomans. Kuwait was just a tiny hamlet in the Basra province of the Ottomans. With a humanitarian perspective, wıth a hand extended for help to the needy, this small state grew in the hearts into a big and capable country, carved itself such an image which could not be bought with billions of dollars. As the UN secretary-general has said, Kuwaitis deserved gratitude for their "very generous support" which indeed was a product of "vision" of the leadership.
The second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria will of course help raise precious donations which might ease a bit the dimension of the human tragedy in Syria, but as long as the war continues the problem will continue to exacerbate. Worse, if the day after is ignored, the aftermath of the civil war might pose even a greater regional security risk... It is high time for Turkey to wake up, stop war-mongering and carrying weapons to one of the fighting groups, and embrace the reality of the need to realign itself as a regional peace broker.
JE comments: My big surprise of the morning: until this post from Yusuf Kanli, WAIS had no dedicated topic header for Kuwait. I've remedied that situation, with a big thanks to Yusuf for his report. In the next couple of days, I hope he'll be able to send a brief summary of the Syria Humanitarian conference.
I don't question Kuwait's commitment to international humanitarianism, but what about that nation's foreign-born workers, who comprise 40% of the population?
on Dismantling Empires
(Cameron Sawyer, Russia
01/14/14 11:42 AM)
I think that the situation in Syria (see Yusuf Kanli, 14 January) must remind us of the usually tragic consequences of the dismantling of empires. I suppose it must be somewhat politically incorrect to say so, but how many new nations which were born out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire (and subsequent British Mandate) have been able to govern themselves? There are a few, of course, but I think they are in the minority. Would not the Middle East--the most conflict-ridden region on Earth--be vastly better off had the Ottoman Empire continued and modernized, rather than being ripped to shreds after WWI? It could have happened, it would have happened, if the Ottomans had simply not made the fateful decision to side with the Germans.
The root cause of nearly all the geopolitical problems of the last 100 years is World War I. The number of different problems which were born out of that unnecessary and pointless conflict are staggering. There would have been no Hitler, no Lenin, and no Stalin, without the Great War. No World War II, no Cold War, no Korean War, no war in Vietnam. No snake pit which is the Middle East. No Israeli-Palestinian conflict. World War I must be one of the sharpest turns for the worst which ever happened to humanity.
I'm just back from nearly a week in Istanbul, so have had occasion to think about the Ottomans these days.
JE comments: Great to hear from our Esteemed Chair, Cameron Sawyer, after a lengthy silence. Regarding Cameron's point on WWI as the cause of (nearly) all Geopolitical Evil that Followed--no disagreement from me; I've said the same thing. But what would have happened to the Ottoman Empire had it stayed out of the Great War? This is too complex a "what if" to address in a sentence or two, but my first thought is that France and the UK would have stoked the flames of tribalism and nationalism, to the point that the Empire wouldn't have endured through the 1920s in any case. The only thing I can say with certainty is that there would have been no meat grinder in Gallipoli...
Cameron is a great admirer of Turkey and the Turkish people. I hope he'll share with WAISworld an anecdote or three from his week in Istanbul.
on Dismantling Empires
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
01/15/14 3:53 AM)
Cameron Sawyer (14 January) is extremely correct about his accusations against the Great War, but he is missing the point. It was not WWI that created all the mess in the Levant; it was the greediness and the treachery of two other empires, the French and the British, that created the mess.
The Ottoman empire was a monstrosity, and many oppressed peoples needed their independence and freedom, but they were not supposed to become divided into silly states dominated from London and Paris. Still now we have the problem of the Kurds divided and oppressed.
Also the great problems that developed in the 1920s and '30s in Central Europe were not the fault of something strange and indefinite such as WWI; it was the greediness of the government men in France and the UK, who wanted to do in Europe what they had done in the Levant. The real point is that the mistakes of the treaty of Versailles were not the fault of WWI but of those who drew up such treaties.
By the way, what do Europe and Turkey have in common except 700 years of war one against the other?
JE comments: My response to Eugenio Battaglia's last question is that Turkey is in Europe, or at least part of it is (Thrace). Since the geography-geek days of my childhood, I've known that Turkey and Russia are the only nations in two separate continents. But Eugenio is asking something more: what is "European" about Turkey? Interestingly, there were a few centuries during which Byzantium was the epicenter and last "civilized" vestige of European culture.
As for WWI, Eugenio makes an important point: the war shouldn't be blamed; the blame belongs to the people who started (and finished) it. Although this distinction was lost on the cannon-fodder in the trenches, who fought on with a tautological resignation: "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here..." (sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne").
- on Dismantling Empires (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/15/14 3:53 AM)