Tuesday 8 July 2014

zeugma or void-fraction

Stars and Stripes’ article reporting on the border that Turkey shares with the Levant is described with the same characteristic fright as many outlets are reserving for the situation at the US border with Mexico. Western officials are very concerned about this NATO march’s ability to secure a border designated as porous, as it has been used as a point of entry (and egress) for militants to join in arms the insurrection against the governments of Syria and Iraq. The border itself is described as a thousand kilometer expanse of rugged wilderness—with a few population centres straddling the shallow basin of the River Euphrates that marks the boundary. This area at the crossroads of several trade routes has held a pivotal position and hosted a variety of people throughout history, and one of those population centres is the ancient city of Gaziantep, which has over a million residents from all sorts of backgrounds and confessions and also hosts an outpost of the US military and a missile battery.

In antiquity, Gaziantep (Antep) was also the site at Zeugma (literally a yoke, as in a yoked ox) of the famed bridge of boats that spanned the river. Crossing here allows certain elements to enter the Mideast without detection, and according to some estimates, ten-thousand foreign volunteers have defected in this way. With an aside of humility, NATO leaders seem to be slowly recognising that sectarian strife is not a matter to be settled by Western meddling, though staunching the current of insurgents and materiel is important. That hint of humbleness becomes a bit more feigned in the next breath, with criticisms volleyed at the Turkish government for tolerating “jihadists” and generally provoking unrest in Syria. Tensions between Turkey and Syria presently stem from Turkey’s European aspirations, secular government and NATO-membership (which it once invoked against Syrian aggressions, threatening the bring the wrath of the whole organisation down on its neighbour) but the discord has older roots—significantly, Syrian rancor over the self-annexation of the Republic of Hatay (from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) coinciding with the outbreak of WWII. The former sanjak seceded from French occupied Syria, proclaimed independence and voted to accede to Turkey, because of a greater ethnic kinship to that country. That vignette is told with a similar parallel construction to another current event. The concern, which is slowly garnering more attention as the border region is surreptitiously fortified and drones are on the beat, is over the so-called “returnees,” the veterans (gazi) of these battles coming back via the same route to Europe. Regardless of success or failure in establishing a Caliphate, Western leaders fear that the violence will spread, coming home to roost. What do you think? Has NATO been too neglectful of this front and possible breach?