Once NATO’s formidable eastern anchor, Turkey is increasingly becoming a major problem for Washington policymakers and a contributor to the Mideast chaos.
The change is all the remarkable since at the outset of the Obama Administration, the President saw then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as one of his closest international friends. And, indeed, in 2009 Obama went to Turkey to make the first of two Mideast seminal speeches offering apologies to the Muslim world for what he saw as past U.S. mistakes with an invitation for cooperation.
But in late August Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter publicly was calling on now President Erdogan “…to control the border, the long border that they have with both Syria and Iraq …. It’s overdue, because it’s a year into the campaign [against Daesh, or ISIL], but they’re indicating some considerable effort now, including some — allowing us to use their airfields. That’s important, but it’s not enough.”
If truth be told, it took nine months of torturous negotiations to get Erdogan’s permission to the use NATO bases in Turkey for the relatively feeble American bombing campaign against Daesh, now considered a threat to stability in the region and rapidly becoming a coordinating body for worldwide Islamic terrorism.
Traffic through that border has included volunteers for the Daesh [ISIL] forces and a flood of Muslim refugees crossing into Greece and the EU. There are even suggestions that elements in Turkish intelligence aided Muslim groups fighting the shaky government of Syria’s Basher al Assad, sabotaging the faltering Obama’s so far unsuccessful effort to create an anti-Assad Syrian force to counter the growing strength of Daesh and other Muslim groups.
Since Obama’s visit, however, Erdogan has taken Turkey down a divisivepath breaking off Ankara’s longstsanding military alliance with the Israelis. Erdogan has permitted Hamas, the Palestinian group controlling Gaza which Washington calls terrorists, to operate out of Turkey, and Erdogan has made an outrageous anti-Semitic remarks picked up by sympathetic media.
Erdogan – who once said democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination – has pushed a creeping Islamization eroding the mandatory secularist heritage of modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Attaturk. He moved to the presidency, hoping to create an authoritarian presidential system. But in June elections, his Justice and Development Party [AKP] failed to get the necessary majority to change the constitution, and he has now called new snap elections for November – after refusing to negotiate in good faith for a coalition.
Whipping up war hysteria, by abandoning the effort to reach an agreement with Turkey’s huge Kurdish minority – a radical part of which fought a bloody three decades war with the government – he apparently thought to get a new mandate. But the polls indicate he may again fall short. A sagging economy whose liberalization had bolstered Erdogan’s rule won’t help.
His whirling dervish foreign policy – which once saw itself as Neo-Ottoman, restoring the old Turkish empire in the region – is in tatters. And he has become a major deterrent for American goals in the area; not least, since the most effective fighters against Daesh have been the Kurdish minority inside Syria and the Peshmergah, hardened veterans of Iraq’s regional Kurdish government.
Erdogan – and the other countries which split the Kurdish peoples in the region – fear Kurdish military successes could eventually produce an united independent Kurdistan. The Iraqi Kurdish regional government, pumping oil out through Turkey [including to Israel], is already a relatively prosperous and semi-independent. And so long as Obama does not commit more American ground forces against Daesh, is probably the only hope of Washington to contain if not “degrading and eventually destroying” Daesh [ISIL], what he once dubbed “the varsity” team in the area.
Meanwhile, despite optimistic statements out of the Obama Administration, the military situation in the area is deteriorating, almost as rapidly as Turkey’s home front, with Obama’s critics predicting his Iranian negoaitions will produce a nuclear armed Persia, Turkey’s traditional enemy.
Tag Archives: Turkish elections
The results of the Turkish election are almost too good to be true.
Islamism-light has been handed a whopping defeat. Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan got nowhere near the two-thirds majority in the parliament which he staked his political reputation on – and the future of Turkey.
With all the wacko nonsense he and his close followers have been spouting about foreign [even the old canard about the Jews] plots against him and Turkey, he was increasingly a menace. There was little doubt that if he got his two-thirds mandate, he would amend the constitution and continue toward an authoritarian state with at least mild Islmicist overtones. In fact, this week’s vote while giving him a 41% of the seats in the 550-seat Grand National Assembly, was an 8% drop since the last 2011 elections. He will have a hell of a time forming a coalition without making major concessions on the right, the left and to minority ethnic groups.
But there were other goodies in the outcome: The Kurds whose “militants” waged a bitter and bloody 30-year war against the central government for language and other rights for their 20% of the population came in strong. The minority Turkish chauvinists liked to call “Mountain Turks” not only passed the 10% entry requirement with 13% [and help from non-Kurds] but came up with a hefty 49 seats. The largely rural far right Nationalist Movement Party [MHP, the “Grey Wolves”] drew a little over 16 percent, with counterintuitively to foreigners almost half its seats to women. That’s a spit in your face rebuff to Erdogan’s recent blatantly anti-women’s liberation slurs. Three Armenians, with their troubled history of persecution and annihilation from the failing Ottoman Empire, won seats from three different parties along with one Roma [Gypsy].
Chairman Murat Karayalçın of the main opposition, the old Attaturk Republican People’s Party [CHP], who got just over 25 percent of the vote, has called on the opposition parties to join him in coalition. It’s something he says they promised before the elections. That wouldn’t be easy, given the CHP’s continued nostalgia for Attaturk’s state capitalism which Erdogan’s AKP [Justice and Development Party] had tossed aside in the last decade for a partial liberation of the economy bringing on the recent burst of prosperity and his popularity.
The bad news, of course, is that Turkey enters this new period of vote swapping with its economy on a downward slide. Turkey was one of the worst-affected during the global economic crisis with its economy shrinking by a staggering 5% in 2009. The more recent growth that averaged 7.2 percent per year has collapsed into what the IMF expects to be only 3 percent in 2015 and 2016.
If political stability could be restored quickly, Turkey might continue to depend heavily on foreign investment to meet its balance of payments crisis and technological transfer needs. Somehow the new coalition, whatever it is, needs to go ahead with the large part of the economic reform Erdogan had largely abandoned going into the elections. Even that, though, isn’t likely given all its other problems – not the least the crisis in neighboring Greece – to renew a serious invitation to join the EU, long an aim of Turkey’s serious economic planners.