Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Turkey's Call for Gadhafi to Go a Boost for NATO

On any other day, Turkish leader's pronouncement that he was shedding a neutral posture and calling for Moammar Gadhafi to step down "for the sake of the country's future" would have been bigger news. The White House would have seen to that, if it were not otherwise occupied.

But blown away by the death of Osama bin Laden, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's stunning reversal of course was barely mentioned on the cables and was relegated to the inside of most American newspapers, if it appeared at all.

"The people of Libya should determine their future in solidarity and unity, it is a priority for us. Hence, we will stay in touch with National Transitional Council to ensure that the elements in our road map can be carried out," the BBC quoted Erdogan as saying.

Turkey's news was welcomed as preparations were made for today's meeting in Rome of the Libya Contact Group made up of NATO, Arab and African foreign ministers. The group aims to come up with a plan to get money to the Transitional National Council for food and medicine.

The about-face is a big deal for Turkey, on the diplomatic front, and it comes not a moment too soon. Conditions have worsened in Misurata, as Gadhafi loyalists, including snipers, are now taking aim at relief shipments. Erdogan also announced Turkey had closed its Tripoli embassy and withdrawn its employees, but maintained its embassy in rebel-held Benghazi.

Turkey does $2 billion worth of trade with Libya and 25,000 Turks are employed in that country. The Turkish government has the ears of the Arab League, Gulf States and African Union -- and it is the only secular Muslim member of NATO. If  Turkey goes all-in for regime change in Libya it brings added diplomatic clout and potential military firepower with it.

 A move by NATO to put boots on the ground is still not expected in the immediate future, but if the alliance ultimately determined that it must put an armored column in front of the rebel army, the Turks would make a logical and powerful spearhead (with European forces protecting their flanks and rear and American A-10s above their heads).

1 comment:

  1. You said : Turkey does $2 billion worth of trade with Libya and 25,000 Turks are employed in that country, how about France and British Sir?