For those many daily commuters regularly taking the short ferry ride between Kadıköy and Karaköy, or Asia and Europe for tourists, the presence for days in a row of a beat up ro-ro ship at the docks of usually empty Haydarpaşa port was perhaps not worthy of attention. Yet, the Lebanese flag bearing ship was signalled as being “of interest” by many expert spotters. Those docks are seldom busy except the brand new ro-ro liners going back and forth to Ukraine and the half-burnt carcass of a gas tanker which was pulled there from the Strait of Kerch following an accident some months ago.
Bana, on her term, travelled numerous times from Istanbul to Misrata than to Genoa and so forth. Recently though, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailed through the disputed eight parcel declared by Greek Cyprus and, “to add insult to injury”, also topped its flag displaying mission by monitoring the same Bana being escorted by Turkish navy fregates to Libya. Before AFP had time to break the news, President Macron had already denounced Turkey as breaching the UN imposed arms embargo to Libya. According to AFP, Bana carried mad in Turkey armoured vehicles to GNA (“Gov’t of Nat’l Accord”).
This was the same Mr. Macron who preferred to keep his mouth tightly shut when it comes to UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt making a mockery of that UN arms embargo to Libya. And to be honest, this was the global name of the game since a while now, what with the Russian agents poisoning Putin’s opponents in Western Europe at will and Russian planes raining hell on civilians in Syria; U.S. openly assassinating its enemies of choice and calling these acts legitimate targeted killings; Israel annexing Golan Heights as Russia did so with Crimea and condemning Palestinians to dwell indeterminately in Bantustans etc etc.
Therefore, was I so-to-speak scandalised by learning my own country’s arms delivery operation to the GNA? Not the least bit to be honest. I may be firmly opposing Erdoğan’s Tripolitanian adventure as I do criticise his Syrian policy but I cannot cry “foul” in this particular case in point. It would have been all fine and dandy had the lacklustre Bana not signalled fire on board and had to dock in Genoa. That was also when the OO7 Bond movie took an unexpected Inspector Clouseau twist. The Italian Coast Guard inspected the fire safety measures on board and promptly declared the ship unseaworthy for un unspecified time being. Simultaneously, maybe seizing an opportunity to literally jump ship, the Lebanese second captain of Bana asked for asylum from Italian authorities.
If I do not wave a metaphorical red flag and cry foul, why do I think the Bana incident should be worth a closer look? Well because I think this farcical story exemplifies an utterly dysfunctional foreign policy and a similarly amateurish approach to intelligence and national security matters. It is not any different to deliberately eschewing the responsibilities enumerated in the (not trilateral but bilateral) Sochi MOU and then to expect that Russia would turn a blind eye to the resulting situation on the ground indefinitely. It is not any different from defending a position that internationally accepted maritime law cannot be implemented in the Aegean Sea for over half a century successfully and then to claim that Turkey legally breaks an imagined siege to its Mediterranean shores by signing a deal with the GNA that itself stands on moving sand.
It is not any different of adopting a mantra of territorial integrity and national unity for Iraq and Syria and then to fall back on hot pursuit rights to create permanent military bases and even to carve out zones of military control on the lands of these two countries. It is not any different on leaving the deterrence strategy of a regionally unmatched air force superiority and finding one’s self booted out of F-35 program for the sake of an ill-defined air defence capacity and buying two batteries of S-400 with merely its 120 missiles. Last but not the least, it is no any different from turning one’s back to a military alliance and a family of nations that one nation belongs to and to gamble on swift gains by flirting with Russia and turn again towards the US and the EU when push comes to shove.
Having joined the Foreign Ministry in December 1992, I was assigned later on in early 1993 to the Military Affairs Desk at the NATO Department. We had adopted a half-joking manner to click the heels of our well shined loafers together instead of knocking the already open doors of our superiors’ offices and to follow it up with a slight nod of the head salute while entering their rooms. At the end, the deputy director had had enough of our mimicry and had decried that we had turned the ministry into the Prussian Joint Chiefs of Staff. When I see the agonizing attempts of the opposition to define their stand in all of the above mentioned foreign policy challenges I hear the same click of the heels: The opposition’s stand is the same as standing to attention.
Hence, kindly make no mistake dear reader and expect more of the same in the foreseeable future. The Turkish foreign policy will keep on recklessly sailing from port to port as poor old huffing and puffing Bana does in the Mediterranean.