Friday, 30 August 2013

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The foreign policy of the Turkish government is subjected to severe criticism by several commentators. The government is accused of having embroiled Turkey in conflicts with just about everyone in the Middle East as well as with its Western allies. Hasan Cemal writes that he cannot recall any other period when Turkey was this isolated and he finds Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent statement that Israel was behind the coup in Egypt particularly appalling. Ertuğrul Özkök asks who authorized Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to commit Turkey to war against Syria, pointing out that the issue has not yet been the object of any parliamentary deliberation. İhsan Dağı argues that Turkey has lost all leverage since it abandoned its “zero problems with neighbors” policy and instead set out to bring about regime change in other countries, which he points out exposes Turkey to retaliations in a similar vein. Another major topic is the power struggle that now rages in the open between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Fethullah Gülen movement. Ali Bayramoğlu notes that the tripartite alliance that sustained the power of the ruling party has now definitely broken up, and that the Gülen “cemaat” has become an open political challenger.      


Ertuğrul Özkök in Hürriyet notes that foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was very quick in declaring that Turkey is going to participate in the “coalition of the willing that are going to hit Syria.” Before assuming this historic responsibility he did not feel the need to ask for the opinion of the parliament. I don’t know if he was given such an authority by the cabinet. I am not aware that the National Security Council expressed such a wish, that Turkey takes part in hitting Syria. I wonder what the parliament that represents popular will thinks about this. Are the parliamentarians as eager to see that Turkey acts together with the volunteers who are going to declare war on Syria? And what about the voters? The opinion surveys show that 65 percent of the population disapproves of the Syria policy of the government. They are thus not volunteering to take part in this war. Is the foreign minister who alone assumes this historic responsibility also prepared to assume the responsibility for what will follow: is he also going to accept the responsibility for the massacres that the forces of Nusra, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are going to perpetrate when the Assad regime has fallen?


İhsan Dağı in Zaman writes that Turkey has turned into a country which is embroiled in conflict with just about everyone in its region and internationally. We need to return to the policy of “zero problems with neighbors”. Back in those days, Turkey was a country that sought cooperation in the region and the world, and which was trying to bring an end to conflicts. Those days, Turkey had influence, it wielded power, and it was looked upon with admiration and jealousy by everyone. Now, let alone seeking cooperation, we give the impression of being a power that pours gasoline on fires. The government has abandoned the zero problems approach and instead adopted a regime change policy. “Regime change” is an endeavor that not even the strongest states in the world are able to cope with. If you want to change the regimes in the Middle East what you have to do is not to prepare revolutions through the agency of the state but to create an atmosphere of peace and trust that enhances economic relations and that makes it possible to increase contacts at the level of civil society. If you pursue an ideological, utopian and interventionist state policy, you will end up being in confrontation with everyone. And when you try to change everyone, others will replicate by trying to change you.


Hasan Cemal in the news site t24 writes that the foreign policy that Turkey started to pursue a decade ago was a balanced one. Now, however, can you point out single a country with which Turkey is not embroiled in conflict? Our foreign policy is not in capable hands. I cannot recall any other period when Turkey was this isolated. Foreign policy is not supposed to be governed by emotions, but by realities and interests. It is utterly unbelievable that Erdoğan could say “Israel is behind the coup in Egypt”.  Because of Prime Minister Erdoğan, Turkey is today not only increasingly isolated in the West, but it is also becoming isolated in the East. We have never seen the like before.


Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet comments on the statement that was published by the Foundation of Journalists and Writers that is the principal institution of the movement of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen. This very interesting statement of the foundation is edited as a response to the allegations that are made against what is publicly referred to as the “cemaat”. The document contains rebuttals to eleven accusations that are made against the movement, and it is basically an attempt to deny what the AKP has been accusing the Gülen movement of being responsible for. However, what renders this document particularly interesting is the fact that some of these accusations were not previously known to the public. One is the accusation that the Gülen movement was behind the Gezi park protests in Istanbul in May-June; the second allegation is that prosecutors and judges who are close to the movement set free protesters; and the third accusation that is brought up is that police close to the Gülen movement deliberately used excessive violence against the protesters and set their tents to fire in order to provoke bigger protests. I have not heard any AKP representative pronounce any of these accusations, nor have I seen them being expressed in media close to the AKP. Thus, this tells us that these allegations have been brought up in contacts between the representatives of the AKP government and the leaders of the “cemaat”. We are therefore led to conclude that the struggle between the “cemaat” and the AKP has reached a very serious level. The fact that the Gülen movement is apparently seen by the AKP to have been behind the Gezi protests that were a social explosion against Erdoğan suggests the extent to which the AKP has come to perceive the Gülenists as a threat.


Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak writes that as of today, the tripartite alliance that upheld the power of the AK Party since 2002 has been broken up. This alliance consisted of the core of the political power, that is cadres with a background in either the National Outlook Movement or other Islamic-conservative circles, secondly of the Gülen “cemaat” with its high operational capability and thirdly of democrats-liberals from secular circles that provided the AK Party with a liberal legitimacy at the rhetorical level. This trio has now split up and the former allies are engaged in a fight against each other. The break between the “cemaat” and the AK Party is both a result of their power struggle, and an expression of political divergences within the conservative camp. If we take into account the statements that are being made, and the discussions that are ongoing, it has to be concluded that the relation between the “cemaat” and the government has been totally broken off, with the “cemaat” having become an open political player.

Read 6334 times Last modified on Saturday, 12 October 2013

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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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