90) War And Peace In Asia Minor

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia:” (Revelation 1:4)

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Asia? One looks askance at the idea. Quite like, “the Jews?”

Recall that Paul had transferred leadership of the body of believers in YHVH’s Savior to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor led by the church in Ephesus, as the church in Jerusalem was gasping its last breaths. 

Recall also that Asia (Minor) of Revelation – Turkey in today’s geopolitical nations – is the northern border of God’s earthly kingdom.

Turkey was considered an exceptional piece of land, where we have the two famous rivers flowing through it: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The rivers flowed all the way down to Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”) and gave the land the shape of what became known as the Fertile Crescent…

The people in Turkey today are likely an extension of former civilizations like the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Turkic…Turks were originally from…Mongolia.

Since political entities changed regularly, the term “the North” is systematically used in prophecies to reference the incursion into God’s Promised Land against rebellious Israel:

More detail in following posts, this is just focusing on Asia’s / Turkey’s geocentricity throughout history. 

And in an unmistakeable subplot threaded throughout the Bible demonstrating God’s sovereignty, all four kingdoms rose and fell in power – while surviving as an entity – in Asia / Asia Minor / Anatolia / Turkey.

Planted like a bridge between Asia and Europe, the peninsula of Asia Minor has been from the beginning of history a battlefield between the East and the West. Across this bridge the religion, art, and civilisation of the East found their way into Greece; and the civilisation of Greece, under the guidance of Alexander the Macedonian, passed back again across the same bridge to conquer the East and revolutionise Asia as far as the heart of India. Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, have all followed the same route in the many attempts that Asia has made to subdue the West.

Unless otherwise referenced the following is taken from CHRONOLOGY OF ASIA MINOR (ANATOLIA) 500.000 BC – 330 ADSee the post Father Abraham for more details.

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Although the campaign failed spectacularly they came close to re-capturing Babylon. Xenophon established precedents for many logistical operations, and is considered a military genius. His detailed campaigns in Asia Minor and in Babylon outlining both military and political methods used by Cyrus the Great to conquer the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC inspired Alexander the Great

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  • 331 BC – Alexander the Great reclaims Anatolia for Greece and continues on to conquer Babylon and the Achaemenid Empire in Persia. On his death Alexander’s empire divided up by his four generals who, as well as other kingdoms, engage in constant bloody wars to expand their territory, wealth and power.

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  • ~300 BC – Antioch just around the bend “in Syria” to distinguish it from the many cities named after her founder, becomes the seat of the head of government of the sixteen provinces of the Seleucid Empire, named for the Alexander’s general whose allotment was the Near East. Its geographical, military, and economic position for the spice trade, the Silk Road, and the Royal Road brought power rivaling Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East.
  • 263 – 230 BC – Rise of Pergamum kingdom which becomes strong ally in Rome’s regional interests against the Seleucid Greeks.
  • 189 BC – Seleucid hegemony over Asia ended as in battle after battle Rome methodically incorporates the Hellenized city-states of Asia.
    • 130 BC – City-state of Pergamum becomes the first Roman province in Asia Minor.
    • 101 BC – Cilicia (southern Anatolia) becomes a Roman province.
    • 84 BC – Lycia incorporated into Roman province of Asia
    • 81 BC – Pontus annexed into Roman province
    • 74 BC – Bithynia bequeathed to Rome
  • 64 BC – the last Seleucid king Antiochus XIII Asiaticus executed by Pompey the Great. The Romans make Antioch the seat of the governor of the province of Syria. Antioch was called “the cradle of Christianity” as a result of its longevity and the pivotal role that it played in the emergence of both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity. The city may have had up to 250,000 people during Augustan times, but declined to relative insignificance during the Middle Ages because of warfare, repeated earthquakes, and a change in trade routes, which no longer passed through Antioch from the far east.
  • 53 BC – 44 BC The Battle of Carrhae (present-day Harran, Turkey)one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian / Persian Empires triggered civil war raging across the Roman world. 
    • Crassus, the richest man in Rome, funded and led the expedition to win military glory and amass the finances needed for a coup against Republican Rome by the “first” triumvirate including himself, Julius Caesar and Pompey.
    • When Crassus was killed and and his legions wiped out, a balance of power could not be maintained between the two remaining powers Julius Caesar and Pompey, and civil war erupted.
    • Julius Caesar won, only to be assassinated in 44 BC for his authoritarian ambitions.

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  • Not surprisingly, their alliance soon imploded into war between rivals for supreme authority.
    • 37 BC – Antony logically allies with Egypt’s resources to support his bid, meets with Cleopatra at Tarsus in Asia Minor to form an alliance. Yep, as in “Saul of”.
    • 32 BC – Antony the soldier and Cleopatra the queen get married at Antioch, the agreement being that this capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire and the capitol of the Western Roman Empire in Rome would be transferred to Alexandria in Egypt. Rome responds to this outrage by declaring war on Queen Cleopatra’s Egypt.
    • 31 BC – Cleopatra and Antony defeated by Octavian at the battle of Actium.
    • 30 BC – Octavius visits Antioch to flex his muscles, Cleopatra and Antony commit suicide.
  • 30 BC – Roman Senate rewards the man of peace who ended a decade of world war by voting him (with a white stone) into a new political position with higher authority and bestowing on him a new name / title of Augustus projecting his new way / power. He was now Augustus / godlike, the first emperor of the new Roman Empire. Previously only applied to Roman deities of the Empire, this ushered in the Roman Imperial cult.
    • A deceased emperor…could be voted a state divinity (divus, plural divi) by the Senate and elevated as such in an act of apotheosis. The granting of apotheosis…allowed living Emperors to associate themselves with a well-regarded lineage of Imperial divi…This proved a useful instrument to Vespasian in his establishment of the Flavian Imperial Dynasty following the death of Nero and civil war, and to Septimius in his consolidation of the Severan dynasty after the assassination of Commodus.
    • The imperial cult was inseparable from that of Rome’s official deities, whose cult was essential to Rome’s survival and whose neglect was therefore treasonous. Traditional cult was a focus of Imperial revivalist legislation under Decius and Diocletian. It therefore became a focus of theological and political debate during the legalization of Christianity under Constantine I.
  • 29 BC – Ephesus replaces Pergamum as capital of the Roman province of Asia.
  • 48-58 AD – Paul naturally crossed the same bridge to revolutionize the West with the Eastern Semitic religion of YHVH’s Savior, leaving behind churches throughout the Roman province of Asia.
  • 70 AD – Antioch becomes the main center of Hellenistic Judaism after the Second Temple is destroyed
  • 379-395 – Theodosius I adopts Christ as the imperial cult and Christianity as Rome’s state religion while perpetuating the rites and practices that characterized the imperial cult in the theology and politics of the Christianized Empire.

We see that the ancient theocratic systems changed very little over thousands of years from Sumer to Rome, adapting more or less smoothly to the changed nationalities, languages, customs, even the atheistic influence of certain Greek philosophers and the Wizard of Oz-like facade of a republican government in the Roman Empire.

Bear in mind as you read the following that there are no straight lines of ancestry for the ancient gods. From their origins they weave and warp through time and divergent cultures. As detailed in the post The Seed of the Serpent, undying hyper dimensional beings must reproduce by cloning, so lines of descent really get messy. Relationships and identities between similar gods are impossible to keep straight. As detailed in the post Light and Life, immortals are hermaphrodites, so gender assignments change with culture shift or are lost over time in missing pieces of cuneiform tablets, left to the best guess of archeologists with a vested interest in a revolutionary new thesis. A sibling pair will be alternatively referred to as husband-wife and both can be true, note the pharaonic practice of keeping its power all in the family.  And of course, the gods themselves are liars.

With such murky depths to plumb, the principles of Occam’s razor are used in the following analysis:

a scientific and philosophical rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.

  1. Inanna is the ancient Sumerian goddess of love, sensuality, fertility, procreation, and also of war.
  2. She later became identified by the Akkadians and Assyrians as the goddess Ishtar,
  3. with the Phoenician Astarte
  4. and the Greek Aphrodite, among many others…through her great beauty and sensuality…

3d-inanna-ishtar-upon-lion1-1She is often shown in the company of a lion, denoting courage, and sometimes even riding the lion as a sign of her supremacy over the ‘king of beasts’. In her aspect as goddess of war, Inanna is depicted in the armor of a male, in battle dress (statues frequently show her armed with a quiver and bow)…

We can see in the Adversary’s iconography “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” who, who in biblical prophecy ultimately prevails after millennia of apparent defeats (Revelation 1:1-5), and the triumphant woman who rides a beast who, from the opposing perspective, is named The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth. (Revelation 17:3-5)

Inanna is an independent woman who does as she pleases, quite often without regard for consequences  and either manipulates, threatens, or tries to seduce others to fix the difficulties her behaviour creates…

Her husband / son Dumuzi – who suffers for her rash choices in the poem The Descent of Inanna – transforms in time into the dying-and-reviving god Tammuz and, annually at the autumn equinox, the people would celebrate the sacred marriage rites of Inanna and Dumuzi (Ishtar and Tammuz) as he returned from the underworld to mate again with her, thus bringing the land to life. The Sacred Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi was central to the fertility of the land and was re-enacted at important festivals (such as the Akitu Festival at Babylon) by the king and a priestess having sexual intercourse

Archeologists of Turkey, have recently unearthed an 16,000 year-old mother goddess figurinethe eldest in Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Near East…

CYBELE
As with Greek Gaia (the “Earth”)…Cybele embodies the fertile Earth…

Followers of Cybele…expressed her ecstatic and orgiastic cult in music, especially drumming, clashing of shields and spears, dancing, singing, and shouting—all at night.

At Ephesus, the Romanized Diana was passionately venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood, and kept decorated with jewelry. Most similar to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities, and least like Greek ones, her body and legs were enclosed within a tapering, pillar-like enclosure from which her feet protrude, and her breast was covered with many egg-shaped forms. She wears a mural crown (like a city’s walls), an attribute of Cybele. Shrines, bulls’ horns, and goddess images were found in her temple, showing the continuation linked to other mother goddesses of classical times like Artemis (whose cult flourished at Ephesus, and thus preceded that of the Christian Mary, who was imaged there with a crescent moon, just as her predecessor), Cybele and Aphrodite…

The Temple of Diana, the equivalent Roman goddess…was located in an economically robust region, visited by merchants and travelers from all over Asia Minor. Influenced by many beliefs, the temple was…for peoples of all faiths from many lands.

With this historical background, we can better understand that the Lord Jesus Christ sent his last apostolic messages to the seven churches in Asia. For the same reason that he sent his first apostolic message by Paul to establish these churches here. Ever been to a bustling international airport? The international travelers through these cities who heard about YHVH’s Savior would carry his message back to far-away lands.

Ephesus, which we’ll be exploring shortly, was a Greek and Roman city. The Greeks came here about 3,000 years ago, right after the…Trojan War….At the end of the (10 year) war the…legendary leader of the Greeks…decided…to build a new city.

Ephesus had a major port located at the end of the famous Silk Road. So imagine all the goods brought here with the caravans, and then distributed to the then known world through this Ephesian port. Ephesians needed a port…

Apostle Paul…spent considerable time on his second visit, from 52 to 55 A.D., more than two years. (Acts 19:1- 41) The longest time Paul stayed in one place during his missionary journeys was Ephesus. Why did Paul pick this spot? Why John came here? What was the big deal for these two disciples in Ephesus? The population. Almost 300,000 people at its peak, and about 200,000 in the first century. We mentioned earlier that Ephesus was the western end of the Silk Road, which means it’s not only the goods, but also the words spread out very easily through this port. And the majority of the population of Ephesus were pagan (or gentiles). So it was a virgin territory for Christianity. In other words, that was the best place where Paul meant to be, having the opportunity, the chance, to convert a civilized Ephesus, which was the capital of the Asian province of the Roman Empire, known as Lumen-Asia (“the light of Asia”). This was a major move on Paul’s part to spread out the words of the Lord. That’s why he spent such a long time here in Ephesus.

a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus…he began to speak boldly in the synagoguehe mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ…And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul…came to Ephesus: and…went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:24-19:10)

Paul's Missionary Journeys

The monotheistic Jews in the synagogues were disputing

  • IF Yeshua of Nazareth was The Messiah prophecied by the prophets,
  • IF resurrection was true, and
  • HOW one attains righteousness to ensure a good experience after death.

The pagan Greeks and international peoples traipsing through this bottleneck trade route from the Far East had no problem with believing any of this.

After all, resurrection to godhood had happened to many of their heroes like Gilgamesh, Alexander the Great and the Caesars. Accepting the god-man Yeshua of Judea – with a cultural twist – into their pantheon of existing gods and goddesses was business as usual for the Greeks.

The problem that the Gentile Ephesians had with Paul was NOT believing in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Son of God, but excluding all other gods for the worship of only one.

“ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands [as fit vessels for the spirits of the gods]So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” (Acts 19:26-28)

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Ottoman Empire, empire created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia (Asia Minor) that grew to be one of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Ottoman period spanned more than 600 years and came to an end only in 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic

At its height the empire encompassed most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including present-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, and parts of Ukraine; portions of the Middle East now occupied by Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The term Ottoman is a dynastic appellation derived from Osman I (Arabic: ʿUthmān), the nomadic Turkmen chief who founded both the dynasty and the empire about 1300…

the Ottomans were leaders of the Turkish warriors for the faith of Islam, known by the honorific title ghāzī (Arabic: “raider”), who fought against the shrinking Christian Byzantine state.

The historical accumulation of titlesof the Ottoman ruler includes Padishah (Emperor) of Iraq / Babylon, Persia / Iran, Greece / Turkey, and a host of other known states, as well as Caesar of Rome (Kayser-i Rûm) of much of Eastern EuropeIstanbul as its capital and control of lands around the Mediterranean Basin, was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries until its dismantling after WWI. 

Turkey is the legal successor to the Ottoman Empire. A revolution by the Young Turks in 1908 turned the Empire into a constitutional monarchy…a coup d’état in 1913 created a one party regime which allied the Empire with Germany against the British incursions into Ottoman territory. After being reduced to a small homeland in the Anatolian heartland by the British and French division of spoils after the war, the Turkish War of Independence against the occupying Allies was a rare success. Led by Mustafa Kemal who gave himself the name / way Atatürk / Father pf the Turks, the Republic of Turkey abolished the Ottoman monarchy but not the dreams of restoring the Empire.

“in terms of its sphere of influence, Turkey is a Middle Eastern, Balkans, Caucasian, Central Asian, Caspian, Mediterranean, Gulf, and Black Sea country all at the same time…

Whereas the historical literature about Turkey emphasizes the country commitment to the West since the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, later known as “Atatürk” (Father of the Turks), little is written about the country relations with Arab and Muslim countries…Hence, in the 90th year of existence as a republic in the Middle East any scientific analysis of Turkey with its impressive examples of political, economic, cultural as well as societal development should also spotlight its relations with the countries it formerly shared one single empire with…

After having secured its Western borders by signing the Balkans Pact with Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia on 9 February 1934, Turkey…signed a pact with Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq in 1937…

[In the 1950’s] Turkey initiated an assertive foreign policy in the region and to a certain extent achieved renewed importance in the Arab and Islamic world…

the first Islamic country to recognize the Jewish state of Israel on 18 March 1949, less than one year after Israel’s official proclamation of independence on 14 May 1948, Turkey changeful relations with Israel peaked in a trilateral security alliance [with monarchal Iran as the third member] in 1958. Israel and Turkey are considered as two main democracies and Western-oriented states in the Middle East which are often said to have shared common values and common interests in regard to their regional antagonists throughout history…

whenever Israel was in direct confrontation with Arab states and whenever Israel was directly humiliating Palestinians, Turkey was on the side of the Palestinians. Likewise, whenever Arab countries were intimidating Turkish concerns, Turkey returned to Israel’s side…

Combined with rational decisions of realpolitik (closeness with the US because of financial necessities, NATO-membership to counter communist influence, and close ties with European organizations to fulfil the Kemalist state ideology of Westernization alike modernization)…a Turkish “Ostpolitik” started to become part of a newer Turkish ideology. Turkey relations with countries which were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire and which were now part of the Islamic world were no more avoided or discreet…

In 2002 Recep Tayyip Erdoǧanformed a pragmatic Islamist government that successfully cultivated diplomatic relations with Western powers. 

Having gained America’s confidence, Turkey is now openly edging its way into the place vacated by the United States in the Middle East. Turkey is cozying up to its Muslim neighbors to the east with a desire to re-establish the influence and power lost by the Turkey-based (that’s a really bad homonym I know) Ottoman Empire not that long ago. 

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Turkey, which has strong historical and ethnic ties in Afghanistan…has developed close intelligence ties with some Taliban-linked militia. Turkey is also an ally of neighbouring Pakistan, from whose religious seminaries the Taliban first emerged.

When in August 2021, ISIL killed 13 American military personnel and at least 169 Afghan civilians during the U.S. evacuation of Kabul:

…as chaos gripped Kabul airport…which Turkish troops have guarded for six years [Turkish] President Erdogan said he viewed messages from Taliban leaders with “cautious optimism”….“Turkey is ready to lend all kinds of support for Afghanistan’s unity…”

Prof Ahmet Kasim Han, an expert on Afghan relations…says further ties in Afghanistan allow President Erdogan to “broaden the chessboard” of his foreign policy and play to his AK Party’s support base.

“They consider Turkey as a country with a manifest destiny – an exceptional position within the Muslim world… based on Turkey’s…Ottoman heritage as the seat of the caliphate.”

The Turkish proposal to secure and operate the Kabul airport is influenced by…fraying U.S.-Turkish relations…Turkey has found itself sidelined and its political sensitivities ignored…

A greater Turkish role in Afghanistan would also allow [capitol city] Ankara to…become the most important foreign military actor in Afghanistan and a key political patron of the traditional leaders of country’s Turkic minorities, thus furthering its geopolitical and economic linkages with the largely Turkic nations in Central Asia.

Fundamentalist Muslims have good reason to line up with Turkey to clear the Western nations / The Romans out of their land.

As the Syrian Civil War created vast ungoverned spaces after its March 2011 initiation, some of the Syrian jihadists who had joined ISIS in Iraq returned to Syria. They returned partly because they were originally Syrians and had family and clan connections in Syria. The other reason was because the Syrian town of al-Dabiq [just below Syria’s northern border with Turkey] is the site of a prophecy, allegedly by the Prophet Mo- hammed, that the final battle between Islam and the “Romans” (literally the Christian West) would begin at al-Dabiq. ISIS propaganda often featured al- Dabiq.

There is a dark side to Turkey’s ambitions.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey…between 15% and 20% of the population…primarily concentrated in the east and southeast of the country, within the region viewed by Kurds as Turkish Kurdistan…

Massacres…have periodically been committed against the Kurds since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923…During the Kurdish–Turkish conflict, food embargoes were placed on Kurdish villages and towns…many instances of Kurds being forcibly expelled from their villages…Many villages were reportedly set on fire or destroyed…political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned.

Iran—formerly an ally with Turkey and Iraq – became one of Israel’s main security threats in the region after regime change following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This fact shows that even though former allies worked closely together, they can dramatically drift apart when once-shared concerns diverge or fundamentally change…

By 2015, aid to anti-Assad forces became the most expensive US covert action program in history, topping 1 billion USD. However, some of the funds and arms wound up in the hands of violent extremists, while some of the troops with the units funded by the United States defected to other groups, taking their arms with them. After the rise of ISIS in June 2014, more US aid went to groups professing to be anti-ISIS, but some of these groups had violent jihadi orientations…

As the conflict inside Syria was radicalized, more regional actors were taking part in the war. What has made Syria a turning point for the regional policy of Turkey, Iran, Israel, and Iraq?

  • Assad [Syria] received support from Iran and Hezbollah
  • triggering pacts between Israel and Arab countries who had mutual interests in curbing Iranian influence in the eastern Mediterranean
  • ad Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries increased their support for Sunni opposition groups,
  • which fueled Iran’s and Hezbollah’s increased support to Assad.
  • triggering Turkey to fund extreme jihadi groups affiliated with al-Qaeda-linked organizations, because they were anti-Assad and anti-Kurds.
  • triggering Russia to support Assad
  • triggering concerns that Russia will establish a broader base of influence in the Middle East

Rodríguez: What are the reasons for this to be a turning point in international politics?

Sorenson: The internationalization of the Syrian conflict raised real doubts about the validity of the previous international order [with America reigning supreme]….Great-power rivalry was increasing…but the Syrian Civil War gave Russia new opportunities, as Russia has positive, if tenuous relations, with Iran, most Arab states, Turkey, and Israel. Russia has no domestic barriers to expansion beyond its laggard economy [which, as with Germany for WWII, is not a barrier but an impetus to war] while the American public is tiring of two long wars that have cost close to 2 trillion USD just in direct costs…

Trump’s exit from Syria represent [s] a game-changer in the US geopolitics…

The United States has rested its security on forward presence and forward engagement since World War II. So…decision to withdraw American forces from Syria…was seen widely as a signal that the United States under Trump was withdrawing from its larger global role. The US Syrian withdrawal came as Trump questioned Ameri- can alliances in both the Pacific and NATO…appeared to downplay the European threat posed by Russia under [Pres. Vladimir] Putin….talked openly about withdrawing residual American forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel and other American friends in the region interpreted the American withdrawal as both a retreat from a region and abandonment of a[n]…ally…

After Trump’s exit, Turkey has entered again in the war scene with virulence.

We can expect to see Turkey reintegrate Iran, Iraq into an alliance – oh, wait – Turkey already did that in the Baghdad Pact of 1955.

And a Jerusalem Post headline in March 2021 reads “Iran, Russia and Turkey Signal Growing Alliance“.

For many years, Ankara would say one thing to Moscow and Tehran about partnership while telling Washington’s Iran hawks that it was “against Russia and Iran…” 

However, the reality was that Turkey was always working closely with Russia and Iran…

This is the long-term goal of Turkey in finding an accommodation with states in the region and bringing together its alliance with Iran and Russia to legitimize its continued occupation of parts of Syria and bases in Iraq.

The Real Outcome of the Iraq War:  US and Iranian Strategic Competition in Iraq” which is available on the CSIS web site at: http://csis.org/files/publication/120308_Combined_Iraq_Chapter.pdf

Since the 2003 war, both the US and Iran have competed to shape the structure of Post-Saddam Iraq’s politics, governance, economics, and security.

the US invasion now seems to be a de facto grand strategic failure in terms of its cost in dollars and blood, its post-conflict strategic outcome, and the value the US could have obtained from different uses of its political, military, and economic resources. The US went to war for the wrong reasons – focusing on threats from weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi-government sponsored terrorism that did not exist. It had no meaningful plan for either stability operations or nation building. It let Iraq slide into a half decade of civil war, and failed to build an effective democracy and base for Iraq’s economic development. The US failed to establish anything like the strategic partnership it sought.

Iran has very different goals from the US. It seeks to ensure that Iraq does not…reemerge as a threat to Iran. It seeks to rid the country of American influence – particularly of American military personnel – to the greatest extent possible. Iran has aggressively used its networks, patronage, economic ties, religious ties, aid money, and military support to various factions in Iraq to achieve these goals…

Iran seems likely to be the de facto winner of the US invasion of Iraq. It now enjoys deep ties in a neighboring country with which it once fought a fierce and bloody eight-year war. Iran has a great deal of cultural, military, and economic resources available to influence Iraq. 

This US-Iranian competition will not only have a major impact on Iraq, but the far broader range of US and Iranian competition in the Arab world – especially the Southern Gulf, in Turkey, and in dealing with Iran’s efforts to create an area of influence that includes Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and which poses a major challenge to Israel…

For more than two decades, the United States has seen the politics of the Middle East as a tug of war between moderation and radicalism—Arabs against Iran. But for the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, it was blind to different, more profound fissures growing among the region’s three non-Arab powers: Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

For the quarter century after the Suez crisis of 1956, Iran, Israel, and Turkey joined forces to strike a balance against the Arab world with U.S. help. But Arab states have been sliding deeper into paralysis and chaos since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, followed by the failed Arab Spring, leading to new fault lines. Indeed, the competition most likely to shape the Middle East is no longer between Arab states and Israel or Sunnis and Shiites—but among the three non-Arab rivals…

Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear capability and its use of clients and proxies to influence the Arab world and attack U.S. interests and Israel are now familiar. What is new is Turkey’s emergence as an unpredictable disrupter of stability across a much larger region. No longer envisioning a future in the West, Turkey is now more decidedly embracing its Islamic past, looking past lines and borders drawn a century ago. Its claim to the influence it had in the onetime domains of the Ottoman Empire can no longer be dismissed as rhetoric. Turkish ambition is now a force to be reckoned with.

For example, Turkey now occupies parts of Syria, has influence in Iraq, and is pushing back against Iran’s influence in both Damascus and Baghdad. Turkey has increased military operations against Kurds in Iraq and accused Iran of giving refuge to Turkey’s Kurdish nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey has inserted itself in Libya’s civil war and most recently intervened decisively in the dispute in the Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Officials in Ankara are also eyeing expanded roles in the Horn of Africa, and in Lebanon, while Arab rulers worry about Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its claim to have a say in Arab politics.

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