Thursday, 07 July 2016 00:00

Gürcan: The prospects of IS in Turkey

Metin Gürcan in t24 writes the ISIS needs Turkey. ISIS has not yet declared Turkey a war zone. While ISIS is steadily losing ground in Syria and Iraq, Turkey is a centre for it in terms of logistics and finance. I see that the Turkey strategy of ISIS has four different levels: First, it aims to create a division between on the one hand Sunnis who become more Salafist and others, by carrying out acts of violence that increase the already significant tension along the sectarian, ethnic and political fault lines in Turkey. Second, it seeks to ensure that Turkey does not become an active member of the global anti-ISIS coalition by attacking foreigners in Turkey. Third, it seeks to radicalize the Islamist youth in Turkey that has become increasingly alienated from the traditional Islamic structures. Fourth, it will encourage the ideologically radicalized to take radical action, exporting the extremist Salafist groups that it has raised in the Turkish pool abroad. In fact, we can see that ISIS is very good at following the evolution of political Islam in Turkey, in recognizing that it can steal a role in the wake of the power struggle between the AKP and the Gülen fraternity, and as a result of the fact that traditional Turkish Islamism has fared so badly in its encounter with capitalism: this is something that increases the popularity of jihadist Salafist movements among increasingly alienated young Islamists in Turkey.

Güray Öz in Cumhuriyet writes that it is obvious that the AKP is working to bring about a fundamental regime change, and he says that this aligns with bourgeois class interests. One could say that the objective is to put in place an “eastern despotic” regime that is Sunni Islamic in ideological terms. This will inevitably have certain consequences for those who have so far engaged with Western capital and politics in terms of their economic and cultural relations; they will have to be “persuaded.” In fact, we can observe that the capitalist class is content, that its profits are doubling, and that they are prepared to share their gains (with new business interests.) They may not be fully content with the country’s course, but it will not be difficult to persuade them. What we are talking about is not any resistance of some members of the capitalist class, but of some unease. International “concerns” also fall into this category; international players are busy trying to convince the ruling party and its leader to be more “middle of the road.” Unfortunately, those who could make a difference about where Turkey is headed -- those who defend the interests of popular classes -- are not in any position to influence the country’s course. Unless leftists, progressives and democrats get their act together, “Islamic despotism” will not be easy to dissolve.

By Halil Karaveli

December 7th, 2015, The Turkey Analyst

The interplay of Western interests and internal Turkish dynamics has more often boosted authoritarianism than democracy in Turkey. Turkey’s strategic value as a “sentinel” during the Cold War gave Turkish governments a tacit license to suppress freedoms and democratic rights. The historical pattern is now being repeated. It is reassuring for the authoritarian Turkish regime that Turkey has once again become indispensable as a guard-post for its Western partners.

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Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet observes that HDP representatives are now hoping that Erdoğan is going to resume the peace process and that he will make concessions to the Kurds if they back the presidential system that he insists on introducing. But is Erdoğan going to bargain with HDP in the parliament while he is fighting the PKK ferociously on the ground? It’s less likely for the time being. At most, they might consider making minimal concessions to HDP that don’t threaten the unitary state, when they think that they are close to “finishing off the matter.” And this is because of the alliance between Erdoğan/AKP and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The greatest ally of the AKP in the country is the TSK. One reason why Erdoğan is able to pursue his authoritarianism so brazenly is the “alliance” he has entered into with TSK. They have reached an agreement with TSK on the war against PKK, on the unitary integrity etc. Erdoğan cannot step outside these limits, until a new situation. That means it’s probably not on the agenda to seek endorsement from HDP in order to get an amended constitution accepted in parliament.

Hasan Cemal on the t24 news site writes that the military and Erdoğan have converged on three points, and that there does not seem to be any disagreement at all between them. The three points are the Kurdish problem, the fight against PKK and northern Syria…  I wonder if not a fourth point could be added to these three, and that is about democracy. Democracy and the rule of law no longer figure on Tayyip Erdoğan’s agenda. There is an Erdoğan on the stage that has turned his back on the West and who dislikes the EU…  Erdoğan is facing east. He has his gaze on Russia, Central Asia, China, and of course on the Islamic world. This eastern orientation was quite strong among the military during especially the 1990’s and during the first years of the 2000’s. The big pashas used to say “The European Union means first class democracy. Turkey is not ready for such a democracy; it would lead to our breakup. Let’s make an opening to the East, to Russia, China; that would be much better for Turkey…”  Could it be that Erdoğan and the military have met at the same point – that is in a common “antipathy toward democracy” – or perhaps more accurately in a shared “fear of democracy,” as Turkey is swinging from “military tutelage” to “civilian despotism?” Yes, I’d say that’s possible. Would not Erdoğan’s civilian despotism be strengthened when he sort of designates the military to deputize him? If this is indeed the case, it most certainly would strengthen his despotism.

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Joint Center Publications

Op-ed Lawrence Stutzriem and Svante Cornell "Turkey and Qatar's Support for Extremist Groups", Realcleardefense, May 23, 2017

Article Halil Karaveli "Turkey's Authoritarian Legacy", Cairo Review of Global Affairs,  May 1, 2017

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Assasination in Ankara"Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2017

Essay Halil M. Karaveli "Erdogan's Journey"Foreign Affairs, October 19, 2016

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Turkey's Fractured State", The New York Times, August 1, 2016

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell "A botched coup and Turkey’s descent into madness", Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, July 19, 2016

Article Halil M. Karaveli , "Turkey's Decline", Foreign Affairs, March 2, 2016.

Article Halil M. Karaveli , "La Turquie, est-elle destinée à durer?", Centre for International Policy Studies, January 27, 2016.

Monograph Eric Edelman, Svante Cornell, Aaron Lobel, Halil Karaveli, "Turkey Transformed: The Origins and Evolution of Authoritarianism and Islamization under the AKP", Bipartisan Policy Center, October 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell and M.K. Kaya, "The Naqshbandi-Khalidi Order and Political Islam in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, September 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell, "Understanding Turkey's Tilt", Journal of International Security Affairs, no. 27, Winter 2014.

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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