By Halil Gürhanlı
April 7, 2016
With the refugee deal with EU, the regime in Turkey earns the silence of its European critics as the country proceeds towards complete authoritarianism. The EU leaders get to have their cake and eat it too, outsourcing gate-keeping while maintaining the moral upper-hand. However, this is a joint “achievement” gained at the expense of millions of Syrian refugees. It tarnishes EU’s status as a normative power. Meanwhile, Turkey is also a loser, as it will not be politically and financially compensated for carrying the refugee burden.
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.
Verda Özer in Hürriyet reports that Erdoğan offered Obama the services of the Turkish military in Syria against ISIS, in return for which he asked the U.S. to stop supporting the Kurdish PYD. According to what Turkish sources have told me, Ankara made the following suggestion to Washington during the visit of Erdoğan: “Come, give up PYD. In its place, we can – together with the Arab and Turcoman groups that we support – fight a land war against ISIS.” Turkey also asked for U.S. air cover to enable the Turkish army to intervene in Syria. To this, the U.S. replied “I will not give up on PYD.” Washington also expressed the reservation that if “the Turkish army were to intervene, Russia might hit it.” In fact, the U.S. is wary of Turkey becoming entrenched and powerful in Iraq and Syria. According to what my sources relate, Washington urged Ankara to “return to the solution process,” to which Erdoğan replied “I have not broken off the solution process, the process is in the refrigerator.” And he reminded that Turkey’s, and thus his own, focus right now is the fight against PKK. According to what the sources relate, the Turkish side made a connection between the solution process and the PYD. It emphasized that as long as the armed support of the U.S. for PYD continues, it will not be possible to restart the solution process.
Ahmet Altan on the news site Haberdar writes that the army and AKP are working in tandem. Maybe the army is seeking to obtain what it has been trying to do for years by mobilizing the AKP – with its vast majority – behind it. This could be a dream come true for the army, that it now thanks to AKP and its majority can crush the Kurds, the leftists and the religious conservatives outside of AKP so handily. And it could be that AKP is thinking that it makes sense to cooperate with the army in order to force the Kurds to accept a presidential system, to silence its opponents, and wipe out the other religious conservatives from the field. But beware, while cooperating, you run the risk of turning into the force with which you cooperate. While the AKP is turning into an image of the old state, the military is becoming more like the AKP. The daily Cumhuriyet has recently exposed how the army is collaborating with ISIS at the Syrian border. The conservative base of the AKP will not long take the “militarization” of the party; in fact, that is one of the reasons behind the internal fissures that are slowly becoming visible. Meanwhile, the attempt to turn the army into an AKP army could have truly disastrous consequences in terms of the internal cohesion of the military. The Turkish army could split like the Lebanese army.
Cengiz Çandar in Radikal writes that Turkey is seeking a closer relation with the EU because the historical rivalry between it and Russia has been revived, with Turkey being encircled on three fronts by a Russia that has annexed Crimea to the north, has strengthened its military ties with Armenia to the east and has become entrenched to the south by its support to the Kurds in the vicinity of Aleppo and has denied Turkey access to the north Syrian air space. In this context, Ankara (which does not mean exclusively the AKP government) views the PKK as an “asset” that Russia is using or will use against Turkey. The Turkey-EU “refugee bargaining” becomes intelligible by looking at this big picture. Turkey, which is “besieged” by Russia and feels to under “strategic threat” is reorienting in the direction that remains open for it, that is to the West, across the Aegean Sea. At the same time, Ankara is exploring a “common ground” with Iran in countering the Kurds, just like Turkey did back in 1937, when the Saadabad treaty was concluded with Persia. This “political maneuver” by Turkey is also an attempt to break the Russia-Iran entente over Syria.
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.