How ‘Allies’ Manipulate the Superpower

Reputed U.S. allies in the Mideast are pushing the Obama administration, step by step, into a “regime change” operation in Syria, despite its illegality and risks that a power vacuum would be filled by al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, as Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland says about Turkey.

By Ivan Eland

Being a superpower has its drawbacks. One of them is being manipulated by smaller countries that know that America wants to be “Big Man on Campus” in the world, usually giving its taxpayers only vague “influence” around the globe for all the money they pour into military power and foreign aid.

However, sophisticated countries usually flatter the muscle-bound purveyor of military power, labeling it the “indispensable nation,” without which the world would fall into chaos and ruin. These wily countries also normally at least make some attempt to justify U.S. armed intervention into a particular problem in their region in terms of being required for American security, as well as their own.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In other words, they try to argue that it also would be in the American interest to solve their problem. But not Turkey.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not known for his humble governing style, is issuing blunt demands for him to allow the United States to use the Turkish Incirlik air base to essentially help defend Turkey from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical army that has taken over the Sunni parts of neighboring Iraq and Syria.

In fact, Erdogan has gone farther, aiming his invective against the United States by saying that he was “against impertinence, recklessness and endless demands” emanating from “12,000 kilometers away.” In the normal world of “diplospeak,” allies rarely speak to each other in these hostile terms.

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief in the United States, stoked by recent alarmist statements from the FBI, ISIS is primarily an army that operates in the open and is a threat to those in the Middle East region, rather than being a secretive terrorist group, such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose bomb-making ability and networks of operatives in the West make it a wider threat.

And what does Turkey want in return for U.S. access to the Incirlik base from which to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria? Turkey wants the United States to create a no-fly zone on the Turkish-Syrian border, ostensibly to protect Syrian war refugees.

Yet ISIS is not known for having a vaunted air force. What creating such a no-fly zone is likely to do is to bring the United States into conflict with the air force of Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad. Establishing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory would likely deny the Syrian air force access to its own airspace and might require the United States to suppress Syria’s air defenses by force. And that’s what Turkey really wants: Its American big buddy to put out more of an effort to get rid of Assad.

Turkey and Assad used to be friends, but then Turkey decided it would like to get rid of Assad. It began allowing anti-Syrian guerrilla fighters to cross its borders to battle Assad in the still ongoing Syrian civil war. Some of the fighters that Turkey supported were radical Islamists, such as those of ISIS.

So the United States is in the absurd situation of essentially bribing Turkey to be permitted to defend it from both radical ISIS and hostile Syria, both threats of its own making. Who needs enemies when you have allies like this?!

This episode is even worse than the United States begging close ally Saudi Arabia to be allowed to defend it in Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991 after Saddam Hussein had invaded neighboring Kuwait.

Although ISIS has done gruesome beheadings of a few hostages in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group, beheadings have occurred elsewhere in the world without the United States escalating a war there — for example, by the group Boko Haram in Nigeria and routinely by the U.S.-friendly government of Saudi Arabia. Also, funding for Sunni Islamist radical groups, such as ISIS, has flowed from the Saudi kingdom into Syria’s civil war.

Thus, the U.S. government should not exaggerate the threat to the United States from ISIS and once again get distracted from the bigger threat of al-Qaeda and some of its related affiliates as it did previously when George W. Bush got diverted from al-Qaeda after 9/11 and caused many of the current problems in the region by conducting an unrelated invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Getting back into the unsolvable internecine conflict in Iraq and getting into the same in Syria are bad ideas. Despite the new Shi’i leadership in Iraq, government forces are still ethnically cleansing Sunni areas in that country.

These ethno-sectarian divisions will be insurmountable unless governance in Iraq is decentralized, so that the Sunni Arabs and Kurds no longer fear the powerful Shi’i central government. If given more autonomy to govern themselves, the Sunni Arab tribes would be more likely to overthrow the brutal ISIS, which they now fear less than the oppressive Iraqi government.

As for Syria, why not take a lesson from Bismarck and let parties unfriendly to the United States fight it out amongst themselves — ISIS and al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, against the authoritarian Assad government.

If the United States would resist getting more involved in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars, it could then tell Turkey to “go fish” and defend itself. The arrogant Erdogan would be flummoxed at the abnormal astuteness of a muscle-bound, but usually kind of dim, U.S. government.

Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy. [This story originally was published as a blog post at WorldPost.]

13 comments for “How ‘Allies’ Manipulate the Superpower

  1. John
    December 11, 2014 at 22:53

    As for Syria, why not take a lesson from Bismarck and let parties unfriendly to the United States fight it out amongst themselves — ISIS and al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, against the authoritarian Assad government.

    Is not thaht already happening and the US is weaking ISIS and strengthening FSA only to a point where powers balance each other out and civil war will never end? The Syrian Civil war is a proxy war and both sides, the Gulf States vs. the Shiite half moon fear to loose this war as for their life, so that this war will last forever.

    The most reasonable is to help Assad to win on concession to internal and domestic affairs. The only powers who are able to do so are the USA together with Russia, but those to antigonists just upgrade the cold war. This will not end as long the neocons have the State Department.

    What a tragedy!

  2. December 9, 2014 at 22:14

    What’s spread here is a bold lie.

    In reality ithe real story was not that ‘Allies’ Manipulate the Superpower but that the Superpower Manipulates ‘Allies.’

    The truth is that Erdogan and Turkey were good friends with Assad and Syria. But it was the Superpower USA that wanted regime change in Syria in the first place and which managed to convince Erdogan and Turkey to follow this devastating policy, not the other way round.

    What can be said of Erdogan and Turkey is of course that he was a lackey of the warmogering US, and that charge weights heavy on him, but it doesn’t turn the tables of the truth behind it.

    I find it disgusting how US people try to deflect the crimes of their own Superpower managers to some Mid East US lackeys. And, sorry to say it blunt, I didn’t expect that kind of cynical propaganda to meet here at Consortium News. That ugly propaganda sounds more like The New Rupublic.

    • Zachary Smith
      December 9, 2014 at 23:27

      I couldn’t help noticing you didn’t mention Israel.

      Perhaps that ErdoÄŸan fellow is simply taking a leaf out of their book. Or trying to.

      • December 11, 2014 at 09:32

        Speaking about Israel you are certainly right. Israel is the master power in the US. The Israeli lobby in the US has even made a US law guaranteeing Israel’s QME, thereby subjugating US strategic interests to Israeli interests, and the US has regularly report to the Israeli lobby how well he is abiding by that law.

        However, this whole article didn’t mention Israel at all. It was all about Turkey. And in the US-Turkish-relationship the tables are certainly turned the other way around as they are in the US-Israeli-relationship.

  3. Abe
    December 9, 2014 at 21:38

    […] we all know what happens to those puppets when they end up in a rift with the CIA. Don’t we? The rift always brings expiration. Once a puppet is considered expired, then lo and behold, all of a sudden, the reversal branding and marketing begins: All old skeletons are dug out of the deep closets and leaked to the media. His previously overlooked human rights violations are looked at and scrutinized under a microscope. The terrorist card is brought into the equation. And the list goes on …

    Violating Imperial Commandments

    All Empire-installed puppets and regimes must commit to the Empire’s commandments. This is a fact. It is the reality. Thou shall not violate the Imperial commandments. Because if you do, thou shall be disgraced, exposed, uninstalled, and may even be given death. All you have to do is look at the past century’s history. See what happens when an installed puppet gets too confident and inflicted with hubris, and ignores one or more commandments. This is when they are reborn as dictators, despots, torturers, and yes, terrorists. This is when their backyards get dug up to find a few grams of weapons of mass destruction. So did Erdogan get too confident? Did he violate a commandment or two? It seems that he did.

    Turkish PM Erdogan: The Speedy Transformation of an Imperial Puppet
    By Sibel Edmonds

  4. Abe
    December 9, 2014 at 21:11

    If Erdoğan accepts the Russian offer of forming an energy alliance, it would mark a sharp policy change for Turkey, a geopolitical shift of immense importance and Erdogan knows as much, even if he seems to have a confused idea of a clear strategy for Turkey. A Russian-Turkey energy hub on the Greek border would signal a decisive change of strategy by Erdogan. A significant hint of that was contained in the statement that the new gas supplies to Turkey from Russia will be paid in local currencies, not in the US dollar. Turkey already is Russia’s largest foreign gas customer after Germany. Erdogan has also asked to be accepted in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by Russia and China.

    Putin Pipeline Moves and EU Stupidity
    By William Engdahl

    • Abe
      December 9, 2014 at 21:27

      Perhaps, as in July 1990, the Superpower told Erdogan that it has “no opinion” on pipeline deals with Russia since the “issue is not associated with America”, and Erdogan believed he was given free rein to handle the matter as he saw fit.

      Or maybe there’s another regime change project in the pipeline that was waiting for a pretext.

      According to ISIS, “Erdoğan has helped us a lot, but we don’t need him anymore. Turkey is next.”

  5. F. G. Sanford
    December 9, 2014 at 18:57

    On George Orwell’s advice, I decided to make a comment after reading this article. “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious”. PLEASE NOTE: by referencing this quote I make no claim to intelligence. I am merely attempting to restate the obvious. It occurs to me, based on numerous sources, that an independent Kurdistan would destabilize Turkey, so Turkey will never support that proposition. Bantustanization of Iraq has already occurred, and it has not solved anything. Sunni factions are not likely to take it upon themselves to defeat other Sunni factions when all the Sunni factions have common benefactors: the Sunni monarchies. (Those might qualify as the “wily countries” to which Dr. Eland refers.) It is a well established fact that ISIS has freely and openly operated across Turkey’s common border with Iraq and Syria. Despite having the 2nd most powerful military in the region, Turkey has not reacted. The only other countries that could provide cross-border logistical support to ISIS are Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and Israel. Iran is Shia, so that is not likely. Lebanon is the refugee destination, so that is not likely either. Rand McNally concurs with my analysis. Other map makers may dispute these findings. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey are all supposed to be our strategic partners, and all officially claim to oppose ISIS. While claiming to oppose ISIS, Israel has conducted at least eight airstrikes against Syria, confining those strikes to Syrian assets and infrastructure deep within Syria. ISIS forces have simultaneously concentrated close to the Syrian border with Israel, and have gone unmolested. Reports claim Israel has opened its border to accommodate ISIS casualties for medical treatment. Turkey, meanwhile, has signed a huge oil deal with Russia. Foreign analysts claim that the U.S. response to this is still inchoate, but it will gradually result in demonization of Turkey’s Erdogan. Most American analysts have apparently not yet absorbed the significance of this move. Some American aircraft have been lost over ISIS territory, and officials say they “crashed”. ISIS spokespersons have not claimed to possess MANPAD devices obtained from Libya, though they could not be reached for comment. A recent attempt to negotiate release of hostages by a South African aid group was thwarted when a special forces unit failed to extract them. Officials deny that this rescue attempt was to preclude a civilian organization from successfully negotiating with terrorists. U. S. Intelligence officials denied any knowledge of the civilian efforts, despite having all their telephones tapped. I regret that restatement of the obvious seems so contrary. But as Orwell points out, “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper”. And to think, I do all this for free!

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 9, 2014 at 21:59

      F.G. You may serve us with your comments, but (oh thanks)…but certainly the arms dealers aren’t selling their weapons for free. Besides fighting for control of pipelines, I sense the weapons industry is doing just fine, thank you, with their sales of guns and ammo to these warring middle eastern nations. That’s all I have to say in this one. Have a nice evening!

  6. Abe
    December 9, 2014 at 17:41

    Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications – possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day.

    The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” confirms what has been reported by geopolitical analysts since at least as early as 2011 – that NATO member Turkey has allowed a torrent in supplies, fighters, and weapons to cross its borders unopposed to resupply ISIS positions inside of Syria.

    Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey

  7. Abe
    December 9, 2014 at 17:39

    Not only is Israel using terrorists in a proxy war against Syria, it is also using terrorists to harass and expel UN monitors in attempts to prevent any documentation of their state-sponsorship of terrorism. Similar tactics are used by NATO along the Turkish-Syrian border. The same UN report would also note that among the militants operating under apparent Israeli protection was terrorist group Al Nusra – listed as the Nusra Front in the report. Reports of Israeli attacks on Syrian aircraft further indicate that Israel is intentionally providing sanctuary for terrorists against Syrian attacks imposing a defacto “buffer zone” between Israeli territory and Syria where literally Al Qaeda can arm, stage, and carry out attacks further into Syria.

    It is clear that without Israeli and Jordanian support on Syria’s western and southern fronts, and NATO member Turkey’s help in the north, the Syrian government would have restored order within its borders long ago. That the very source of ISIS and Al Qaeda’s strength appears to originate within NATO territory and within buffer zones carved out by Israeli forces, reveals the Syrian conflict as the proxy military operation it truly is – as well as exposing Al Qaeda and ISIS as not the independent menaces they are portrayed as across the Western media, but as a proxy mercenary force created, directed, and perpetuated by the West.

    Israel claiming that it must strike Damascus to eliminate “regional threats” while Al Nusra maintains tanks and artillery literally on Israel’s borders is the verbatim fulfillment of Seymour Hersh’s 2007 report where it was warned the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel were conspiring to carry out this exact military campaign, with Al Qaeda filling the ranks of their own regional mercenary army.

    Old Tricks, Old Dogs: Israeli Attacks on Syria
    By Tony Cartalucci

  8. Zachary Smith
    December 9, 2014 at 17:17

    Turkey and Assad used to be friends, but then Turkey decided it would like to get rid of Assad.

    Were Turkey and Syria once friends? Only if you narrow the time frame drastically.

    This paper analyzes changes in Turkey’s relations with Syria, Iran, and Israel since the 2003 Iraqi war.

    Turkey and Syria

    Traditionally, tensions between Turkey and Syria revolved around three issues: first, the status of the Turkish province of Hatay (Syria had irredentist claims over Hatay Province, which was annexed to Turkey in 1939); second, water rights (Syria argued that Turkey’s construction of dams over the Euphrates River restricted its share of the flow of water); and third, Syria’s harboring of PKK terrorists (including their leader, Abdullah Öcalan), and its training of PKK terrorists in the Bekáa Valley in order to realize its own irredentist demands. Syria’s support for the PKK had brought Turkey and Syria to the brink of war in 1998. Upon a warning from the Turkish military, Syria expelled Öcalan and banned the PKK.

    Another article I read spoke of the new warmth between the two nations, and said it made perfect sense for both of them. So what happened? The answer to that question is one I couldn’t detect.

    But I can speculate. Erdogan has very recently gotten it into his head that the destruction of the Assad government is a good idea. What has ‘somebody’ promised him to cause such a 180 degree turn in his attitude? Could it have something to do with gas and oil? Syria is supposed to have enormous offshore reserves of both. Might it be about a secret pipeline scheduled to go through Syria which Turkey wants to control, or to forbid entirely? Water? Land?

    Israel has designs upon Syria. Perhaps that crappy little nation promised to carve up Syria and share the pieces with Turkey. Sort of like Germany and the USSR did with Poland before WW2.

    This episode is even worse than the United States begging close ally Saudi Arabia to be allowed to defend it in Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991 after Saddam Hussein had invaded neighboring Kuwait.

    My own recollection was that Saudi Arabia was very, very frightened and welcomed the US to come defend it. But I could be wrong, and would like to see any evidence Dr. Eland has for his own viewpoint. The news reporting back in those days was as terrible as it is today, and without the internet available to permit finding other viewpoints a person was at the mercy of the traditional providers.

  9. Abe
    December 9, 2014 at 16:39

    Eland gets it wrong every time. It is truly baffling that Consortium News persists in publishing the screeds of this libertarian hack.

    NATO member Turkey acts at the behest of the Superpower.

    The “diplospeak” is political theater for the easily confounded, like Eland.

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