By Svante E. Cornell
July 20, 2016
The failed military coup in Turkey provides a window into just how unstable and vulnerable Turkey has become. The coup is a unique but not isolated event, more than anything a symptom of the decay of Turkish state institutions under Erdogan. The sizable post-coup repression will make matters worse, in fact increasing rather than decreasing the risk of further violence, including a new coup. Turkey is now more a problem in its own right than an ally to help solve regional problems.
Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce comments a news article in the Wall Street Journal according to which the “Palace” (President Erdoğan) is concerned about a prospect of a military coup. The United States will support a coup in Turkey if vital American interests are threatened, and the Turkish Armed Forces will never stage a coup unless it has American support for it. For the moment, Turkey does not have a stance that threatens American interests. Yes, the American administration cannot stand Erdoğan. It dislikes his authoritarian style. However, that’s not a reason enough for a coup. Besides, the Turkish regime does everything that the U.S. administration tells it to do in the region and in Turkey. Yes, it takes some effort to bend Turkey, but this is not anything new. Turkey was always a troublesome ally. The Erdoğan regime is not doing anything, nor has it taken any such decisions, that would jeopardize the interests of American companies. Furthermore, American interests are served by the fact that Turkey has become totally dependent on the West since the downing (last year) of the Russian plane (in Syria.) The same reasons apply to the Turkish military. The military is convinced that Turkey can only survive with the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. And the AKP gets the blame for all human right violations, ensuring the image of the Armed Forces is unharmed.
By Gareth H. Jenkins
May 11, 2016
Ahmet Davutoğlu has left as he came, not in response to popular demand but at President Erdoğan’s behest. Apparently unsighted by his unfailing self-belief, Davutoğlu was caught unprepared when Erdoğan made his move. The overthrow of Davutoğlu has demonstrated the naivety of the EU’s policy of appeasement. The EU officials believed that by focusing on Davutoğlu, they were strengthening him politically as a counterweight to Erdoğan. This may have been naïve, self-serving or both. It was certainly not true. But it did reinforce Erdoğan’s suspicions of Davutoğlu.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Karar writes that it is obvious that ISIS has an understanding of Islam that leads it to see Turkey as an enemy, and that it intends to incite such an Islamic understanding inside Turkey. But at the same time, it is also clear that ISIS does not want to wholly be at odds with Turkey. Ultimately, it wants to be accepted as a force to bargain with in Syria and Iraq. Thus, even though they don’t hinder uncontrolled acts and though they may even resort to using violence as part of a strategy of “warning,” they have to get along with Turkey, insofar as they want to be a permanent force to reckon with in the region. The PKK’s position is no different. It’s easy to declare cantons (in Syria) when a war is raging, but much more difficult to sustain these when peace arrives… It’s obvious that you cannot categorically trust the U.S., Russia or Germany. In other words, when we pass on to the next stage in Syria, Turkey’s view of an eventual Kurdish entity is going to be a crucial factor… And what is at least as critical as this factor is the fact that the PKK runs the risk of alienating its sociological base in Turkey if it escalates the violence. In short, the two terror groups that Turkey is facing are in fact in need of Turkey’s “acceptance…” We can predict that both organizations are going to want to resort to violence in order to bring Turkey to the point that they desire, but that they at the end of the day are going to want to keep Turkey by their sides. As a new table is being set in Syria, the number of groups that would like to have violence in Turkey is thus decreasing, not increasing.
Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce writes that it is becoming increasingly clear that the Palace wants to have a big purge in the ranks of the military. It is equally clear that the general staff is resisting this. The pro-palace media provoked a reaction from the general staff by its recent stories claiming that “Gülenist officers in the armed forces are going to carry out a coup.” The General staff denied these allegations in a forceful language, stating that “no one can take action outside the chain of command.” This stance amounted to checking the demands for a purge. In fact, the fight is not really about the issue of the Gülenists, but about the relations to the United States and NATO. This is not an exclusive AKP operation, but a plan that is being implemented jointly with the neo-nationalists, the ulusalcı. The ulusalcı are attempting to regain the positions within the armed forces that they lost with the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases. The aim is to purge the cadres that have been on NATO duty in Brussels and Pentagon, and that are deemed to be close to the Western culture. Thus, it is not a question of purging Gülenists; what is taking place is a fight between the pro-NATO and ulusalcı cadres of the military. If the latter prevail, the command chain of the armed forces for years to come will be refashioned in accordance with the wishes of the ulusalcı. We are witnessing a fight that is going to determine Turkey’s place in the world.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.