Wednesday, 08 October 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The U.S.-led attacks against ISIS are criticized by Islamist commentators in Turkey. Ali Bulaç, a leading Islamist intellectual, writes that the attacks lack legitimacy in the eyes of the mainstream Sunni Arab world. Abdülkadir Selvi in the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak writes that Turkey is not going to allow the use of the İncirlik air base in the attacks, as this would expose Turkey to the danger of being attacked by ISIS. Taner Akçam in Taraf writes that it is highly unlikely that Turkey would go to war against ISIS, as the organization is Sunni Islamic. Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site delivers a harsh indictment of the Turkish government, which he accuses of supporting ISIS as a proxy force against the Kurds in Syria.


Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak writes that the moment of decision is approaching for Turkey regarding the fight against ISIS. There are a few sensitive points from the Turkish point of view. The first one relates to the İncirlik air base. Turkey has never opened the door for the use of İncirlik. Ankara is not ready to allowing war planes and armed drones use İncirlik in operations against ISIS. That is because it is thought that that would turn Turkey into a front in the war. If war planes were to take off from İncirlik to bomb ISIS, the fear is that Turkey, starting with İncirlik, will become an open front.  ISIS might not stage attacks in New York or Paris, but Adana is not as far away as London is.


Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site writes that the government of Turkey is trying to erase the Kurdish presence in Kobani by lending direct and indirect support to ISIS gangs. The aim is to hand over the region to Sunni Arabs and to create a long term Muslim Brotherhood rule. The perspective of Ankara on the matter goes far beyond thinking “let’s first get rid of the Kurdish trouble, then we’ll take care of ISIS.” That was evident when police looked on when leftist groups that were protesting against ISIS at the Istanbul University were attacked by a group of people with masks, carrying sticks. We know this well from the experience of the years leading up to the 1980 coup: Attacks like this don’t take place unless they have been sanctioned by the government. What happened at the Istanbul University is in fact nothing but an outwardly expression of Ankara’s policy. In a situation like this, the government fails to see that there can be no peace, nor negotiations and that they are undermining the ability of keeping this society together. After this, it’s near-impossible for the Kurds to have any confidence in the assurances of the AKP. And rest assured that a similar reaction is soon going to erupt in the Aegean region against the dictates of the Sunni Anatolia. The AKP is, with great success, ripping apart the stitches that held society together.


Ali Bulaç in Zaman writes that as the U.S. and its allies have started attacking ISIS, Turkey is the country that is in the worst position. Turkey is pressured to come on board the coalition. The legitimacy of the operation against ISIS is questionable in the eyes of the peoples of the region, respectable organizations, currents and fraternities. Yusuf al Qaradawi, the president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, has declared his opposition to the U.S. led military operation, even though he refutes the ideas and methods of ISIS. Qaradawi’s views have the dignity of fatwas among the mainstream of the Sunni Arab world. And what’s more, the spokesmen of the Muslim Brotherhood in both Egypt and Syria have declared that they are opposed to the military intervention that the U.S. is undertaking using ISIS as a pretext. It would be very naïve to think that the operation is solely about ISIS. No one approves what ISIS does, but the issue is not only about ISIS. The solution is not military occupation or redesigning the region with the intervention of outside forces but to make sure that internal dynamics of the countries of the region are activated in a healthy direction.


Taner Akçam in Taraf writes that ISIS is not a ”terrorist organization”, and notes that he has predicted that the war is quickly going to turn into the “national independence war” of the Sunni Arabs, which he says it has by now. Calling ISIS a terrorist organization is going to help solve the problem as much as calling the PKK a terrorist organization helped solve the Kurdish issue. Because of the Sunni identity of ISIS, I very much doubt that Turkey or the other Sunni states of the region are going to engage in a serious war effort against ISIS. That will only happen if and when another force, instead of ISIS, that represents the Sunni Arabs is found. And none is visible on the horizon. Besides, it should be added that with the attacks of the Western powers, the Sunni Arabs are going to coalesce even more. Their war is going to become more “anti-imperialist.” The problem is not going to be solved unless the Sunni Arabs are offered another political alternative than being the underlings of Damascus and Baghdad.


Murat Belge in Taraf writes that the way the government behaves gives the impression that it is getting away with anything it wants. Yet despite the determined effort to entrench this plebiscitarian dictatorship, there are also reflexive reactions and a chaotic situation. This is especially visible in the realm of foreign policy. We are faced with an unprecedented kind of government in Turkey’s special, pitiful history. The closest parallel is the era of [the conservative prime minister Adnan] Menderes [in the 1950s], but Menderes’ arbitrariness was nothing compared to that of Erdoğan. During that time, İnönü [the opposition leader] did something intelligent and started an opposition to Menderes that built on the institutions of democracy. Today, just as during the era of Menderes, we are faced with a government that has gone berserk, and which is trying to quash all opposition by erecting a fascist-authoritarian structure. In this situation, the forces of democracy need to be principled and patient in rallying an opposition front.

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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.


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