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Turkey: Center of the New Caliphate

by Dr. Steve Elwart


The Arab Spring and the rise of Islam in the region may prove to be the key to Turkey’s emergence as a true regional and world power. The stated goal of both Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood is a restoration of the Muslim Caliphate with Turkey as its head, as it had been for over 600 years.

While Syria’s Assad Regime enjoys the backing of both Russia and China as it goes through a program of systematic atrocities against its own people, the nation Assad truly fears is neighboring Turkey.

Turkey, a NATO member and the most powerful military force in the region, helped foster the creation of the Syrian National Council, Assad’s main rebel opposition group.

Turkey operates nine refugee camps along the Turkey-Syria border and has been an increasingly vocal advocate of the establishment of a “buffer zone” inside Syria to protect Syrian refugees.

Turkey is also publicly discussing invoking two international agreements, both of which would provide political cover for an armed intervention in Syria.

One instrument is the 1998 Adana Agreement. The other is Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which says an armed attack against any single NATO member constitutes an attack on all NATO members.

Turkey and Syria both signed the Adana Agreement after Turkey threatened to invade Syria because the Assad Government was harboring the senior commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party—the PKK, a Kurdish organization which has been fighting the Turkish state for greater political rights for the Kurds in Turkey.

The language of the agreement, however, is not limited to just the PKK. It also states that Syria “will not permit any activity that emanates from its territory aimed at jeopardizing the security and stability of Turkey.”

Turkey already harbors 25,000 to 30,000 Syrian refugees inside its borders and expects even more. Turkey is sending diplomatic signals that this surge of refugees across its border violates that treaty.

NATO Article 5 offers another legal avenue. On April 9, Syrian security forces fired across the Turkey-Syria border and wounded four people in a refugee camp in one of Turkey’s western provinces. That constituted an armed violation of Turkey’s border. Turkish Prime Minister Endogen angrily claimed that “NATO has responsibilities to do with Turkey’s borders, according to Article 5.”

All this is occurring at a time when Turkey is reemerging as a significant regional power. This country, spanning two continents, is in the process of returning to its former glory when it was the center of Islam, embodied in the Ottoman Empire.

End of an Empire

At end of World War I, the price of Turkey fighting on the side of a defeated Germany was the end of the Ottoman Empire. Though its political borders had changed, there was one thing that remained constant—Turkey’s fear of Russia.

For its part, Russia also feared Turkey. Turkey had the capability of exploiting a part of Russia’s strategic vulnerability—its access to the oceans.

Russia is a country that is almost land-locked. Much of Russia’s coastlines are inhospitable to a seaport; the ports of St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Murmansk experience near zero or subzero temperatures most of the year. Their access to the oceans is also constrained by potential adversaries. The Port of Odessa is the facility Russia possesses that gives that nation ideal year-round naval power projection. The city is located on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and is the home port to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Russian interest in the Black Sea extends over more than two centuries. Catherine the Great annexed the Crimea in 1783. Odessa serves as a major freight and passenger gateway to Ukraine and to Russia.

For any Russian sea traffic to gain access to the Mediterranean and the world, it has to pass through the Bosporus Strait and Istanbul, controlled by Turkey.

One goal of Russian national policy is to gain control of the Bosporus Strait—both to prevent a blockade and to project its power into the Mediterranean.

Therefore, the Russians have had a particular interest in reshaping Turkish sovereignty. Part of the reason that Russia is backing Syria in the current revolt is to try to stop Turkey’s expansion into that area.

In World War I, the Ottoman Turks aligned with the Germans, who were fighting the Russians. After World War I and during World War II, when the Soviets were weak or distracted, Turkey remained neutral until the closing months of the War, when it declared war on both Germany and Japan.

After the Second World War, when the Soviets were powerful and backed a planned coup in Turkey, the Turks allied themselves with the United States and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), despite their distance from the North Atlantic.

In the post-war world, Turkey had very few options. The Soviet Union emerged from World War II with an economy in ruins, but militarily powerful. One consequence from the global war was that the Soviet Union rivaled the United States in geopolitical influence.

Turkey had very limited options. Western Europe was in shambles, Mainland China had turned to Communism, and Soviet military stationed on Turkey’s northern border formed an existential threat to that country’s sovereignty.

The Soviet Union knew that to secure its access to the seas it had to exert control over the Bosporus and Asia Minor. The subjugation of Turkey was of extremely high interest to the Soviets.

So important was Turkey to the Soviet Union that one of the demands the Soviet Union made to end the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis was the removal of U.S. Jupiter Intercontinental Missiles from Turkey.

Unable to deal with the Soviets alone, Turkey‘s only option was to ally itself with the United States. From the United States’ point of view, Turkey was of strategic importance. Turkey faced the Soviets to the north and two Soviet clients, Syria and Iraq, to the south. An alliance with Turkey was a crucial part of the United States’ overall global strategy.

This strategic logic dissolved in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

A New Paradigm

For the first time since the start of the early 20th century, Turkey didn’t view Russia as a threat. The largest component of Turkish foreign policy was gone and with it, Turkey’s need for protection from the United States.

Turkey’s relationship with the United States was close for a time, but that relationship radically changed in 2003 with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Turkey viewed the Iraq invasion as a destabilizing influence in the region. It saw the invasion as unnecessary, aiding Iran in becoming the regional hegemon, and disrupting Turkey’s internal politics. For the first time since the end of the Second World War, Turkey not only refused to participate in an American initiative, they also refused the Americans the use of Turkish facilities to mount the invasion.

Once Turkey decided not to collaborate with the United States, its foreign policy could never be the same. Turkey’s diplomatic break with the United States left the Turks free to consider other relationships.

One option was joining with Europe, which, on the whole, also opposed the American invasion. Turkey’s refusal to accommodate the Americans was not enough to win Turkey membership into the European Union, a goal for Turkey since the formation of the Union.

Turkey and the European Union

Membership in the EU was not seen in terms of foreign policy alone. For secularists it symbolized the goal of reshaping turkey into a European country committed to European values. For Islamists, it provided a vehicle for capturing Europe peacefully.

Ever since the time of the Crusades, Muslims have tried to capture Europe for Allah. This jihad was effectively ended with Suleiman’s Siege of Vienna in 1529. The siege signaled the pinnacle of the Ottoman Empire’s power and the maximum extent of Ottoman expansion in central Europe.

The creation of the European Union provided a new avenue for a Muslim takeover of the continent.

The free movement of persons within the European Union is granted to EU member citizens by treaty. The concept of free movement of persons within the EU came about in 1985, which abolished border controls between EU countries.

While the illegal immigration of Muslims from Turkey is a problem for Europe now, Turkish membership in the EU would have made the problem even worse. European members worried that Turkey’s membership into the Union would not only provide an entry for Turks into Europe, but also any immigrant using Turkey as their gateway.

Europe’s rejection of Turkey into the EU actually worked to Turkey’s benefit in that it left Turkey with a more dynamic economy today than most of Europe and without liability for Greece’s debt.

This also left Turkey as an emerging great power.

The Rise of Turkey

The Arab Spring and the rise of Islam in the region may prove to be the key to Turkey’s emergence as a true regional and world power. The stated goal of both Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood is a restoration of the Muslim Caliphate with Turkey as its head, as it had been for over 600 years.

The rise of Turkey, the Arab Spring, the reemergence of the Muslim Caliphate, along with Iran’s dream of preparing the way for the Mahdi, Islam’s prophesied redeemer, all point to a convergence that could very well take events foretold in Biblical prophecy and put them on today’s front page.


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