I suggested during our conference call yesterday that the only friend the Muslim Brotherhood has in high places is Barack Obama. I didn't mean that facetiously.
Turkey's application to join the SIno-Russian Shanghai Cooperation Organization following Prime Minister Erdogan's July 19 pilgrimage to Russia is a diplomatic humiliation for the United States, and of the first order. Just when Washington is demanding that Russia withdraw support for the Assad regime in Syria, and when Turkey is the linch-pin for American logistics in support of the Syrian opposition, Erdogan has proposed in effect to joint the Russian-Chinese club (without being compelled to hand in his NATO credentials). As AL Monitor wrote July 19:
The Erdogan government speaks with confidence when it says that the Syrian issue will have no negative impact on bilateral ties with Russia. In fact, there is an expectation in Turkey that Russia will come to understand that it has erred in its Syria policy and that it is time to abandon its support for a dying regime.
That may be so, but Turkey stands to lose if it continues to portray Russia as a wrong-doer. The bilateral relationship is lopsided in Russia's favor because of Turkey's dependence on Russian natural gas.
Moscow, meanwhile, has quietly signaled that it can use its economic leverage over Turkey.
After the Syrians downed a Turkish jet on June 22, Turkey called on NATO member countries to show solidarity and expressed its intention to intercept Russian vessels delivering cargo to Syria. Six days later, the Russian government's food-safety and quarantine service Rosselkhoznadzor issued an announcement disclosing that it had detected 33 cases of infestation in Turkish exports to Russia of fruits and vegetables.Turkish exports of fresh produce to Russia amounted to $2.6 billion by May and are projected to reach $6.2 billion by year's end.
There is more to it than economics (and much more than Russian economics: the cash-strapped Turks, who are financing most of their enormous current account deficit on the interbank market, probably hope for more Chinese investment).
The fact is that the Muslim Brotherhood and its various offshoots represent a threat to everyone in the region:
The Saudi monarchy fears that the Brotherood will overthrow it (not an idle threat, since the Brotherhood doesn't look like a bad choice for Saudis who aren't one of the few thousand beneficaries of the royal family's largesse;
The Russians fear that Islamic radicalism will get out of control in the Caucasus and perhaps elsewhere as Russia evolves into a Muslim-majority country;
The Chinese fear the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim people who comprise half the population of China's western Xinjiang province.
But the Obama administration (and establishment Republicans like John McCain) insist that America must support democratically-elected Islamist governments. That is deeply misguided. The Muslim Brotherhood is about as democratic as the Nazi Party, which also won a plebiscite confirming Adolf Hitler as leader of Germany. Tribal countries with high illiteracy rates are not a benchmark for democratic decision-making.
It appears that the Russians, the Turks and the Saudis will keep Syria at a low boil, making it difficult for either side to fully impose its will on the other, and impossible for a Sunni Islamist regime to emerge. What is remarkable, though, is the success of Russian diplomacy: despite all of the Obama administration's courtship, the Erdogan government has decided to signal its dependence on Moscow in the most visible (and, for Washington) humiliating way possible. It may be that the Turks were compelled to apply for membership in the SCO by the utter fecklessness and stupidity of American policy, both of the administration and of the Senate leadership. As long as the United States declares its support for the humbug of Muslim democracy in Egypt and Syria, the rest of the world will treat us as hapless lunatics and go about the business of securing their own interests without us.