Turkey 2016 – 2017
Turkey Purges 4,000 More Officials, and Blocks Wikipedia
(NYT) The Turkish government expanded its crackdown on dissent and free expression over the weekend, purging nearly 4,000 more public officials, blocking access to Wikipedia and banning television matchmaking shows. A total of 3,974 civil servants were fired on Saturday from several ministries and judicial bodies, and 45 civil society groups and health clinics were shut down, according to a decree published in Turkey’s official gazette. The dismissals mean that an estimated 140,000 people have now been purged from the state and private sectors, and more than 1,500 civil groups closed, since a failed coup last year.
Simon Baptist, Chief Economist, The Economist:
Economic prospects for Turkey have dimmed markedly in recent years. A decade ago, in what might have seemed far-sighted at the time, we at The Economist Intelligence Unit moved analysis of Turkey into our Europe department. That optimism hasn’t persisted, with a key reason for the decline being a rise in political instability and polarisation. Last Sunday 51% of Turks voted, according to preliminary counts, in favour in a referendum that will entrench this situation and keep the economy weak in the medium term.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been strengthening his grip on power for some time, and the result of the referendum is not a surprise. At around 86%, turnout in the election was very high, and this may be what led to the margin of victory for the “yes” camp being smaller than anticipated, in the face of many allegations of voter fraud. The narrowness of the victory will entrench divisions in Turkish society, particularly given that Istanbul and Ankara, the country’s two largest cities, both voted against.
(Quartz) Donald Trump congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Turkish president is celebrating after voters narrowly passed a contested referendum granting him sweeping new powers. Trump’s call contrasted with the US State Department, which urged Erdoğan to respect his citizens’ fundamental rights and noted “irregularities on voting day.”
Turkey vote curtailed fundamental freedoms, say European observers
Constitutional referendum took place on unlevel playing field and campaigners did not have equal opportunities, say monitors
(The Guardian) The observer mission said voting had proceeded in a largely orderly fashion on Sunday, but it criticised a controversial last-minute decision by the country’s election board to count unstamped ballots as illegal and lifting an important safeguard against fraud.
Uncertain road ahead as Erdoğan claims victory
Opposition parties cried foul after Sunday’s referendum.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan narrowly emerged as the winner of Turkey’s referendum, at least according to his own declaration — and for now.
(Politico eu) According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, the government’s proposed constitutional amendment passed with just 51.3 percent of the votes, handing Erdoğan sweeping new powers — but not the resounding victory he had been hoping for.
By 10 p.m. Sunday night, the result was not official: More than 1 percent of ballots had yet to be counted. And after polls closed, the electoral board announced that any ballots without the official authentication stamp would also count towards the final result — prompting the opposition to cry foul.
The largest opposition party CHP said that “illegal acts” had been carried out, with the party’s deputy chairman, Erdal Aksünger, saying the result of the historical referendum was “completely invalid.”
Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP announced they would object to as many as two-thirds of ballots, saying that they suspected “manipulation in the range of three to four percent.”
Turkey: Recep Tayyip Erdogan hails referendum victory
Constitutional changes transform Turkey from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency with more powers.
(Al Jazeera) The result gives the president to be elected in 2019 new powers to appoint vice-presidents, ministers, high-level officials, and senior judges.
It will also allow the president to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and impose state of emergencies.
Speaking to Al Jazeera outside the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul, Erdal Erdinc Durucu, 37, said Erdogan has started a new age for Turkey, and ended another.
Tillerson in Turkey: Five big issues to watch
Visit to Ankara comes as passions run high in a country that’s about to vote on major changes to the powers of its president
(Middle East Eye) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s talks on Thursday with Turkish leaders about defeating the Islamic State (IS) group are widely seen as a chance to boost relations with a key partner which is growing ever-more irked by its western allies.
But Tillerson’s sit-downs with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials on 30 March in Ankara have wide cracks to smooth over – not least of which is an upcoming referendum on rewriting Turkey’s constitution to give Erdogan broad new powers.
2. Turkey wants Gulen
Turkish officials are itching to get their hands on Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed coup last July. The former administration of President Barack Obama did not act on Turkey’s request to give him up.
This month, however, former CIA director James Woolsey revealed that Trump’s first national security adviser, Retired Army Lt Mike Flynn, spoke with Turkish officials in September about plans to “whisk this guy away” in the “dead of night”.
A State Department official, speaking with reporters on condition of anonymity, said that Turkey’s extradition request is “with the Department of Justice right now” but that Tillerson is “prepared to respond” to queries from his Turkish counterparts.
Rex Tillerson’s Turkey visit: A critical juncture
The outcome of US Secretary of State Tillerson’s first visit to Ankara may determine the future of Turkey-US relations.
By Dr. Metin Gurcan, security analyst and research fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), Sabancı University.
(Al Jazeera) Tillerson’s visit will be the highest-level meeting between Turkish and American officials since President Donald Trump moved in to the White House in January and it will most certainly be dominated by three major issues that are currently shaping the political dynamics of the Middle East.
First of all, even though the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is reaching its final phase, it is nowhere close to ending and all global, regional and even local actors in the wider Middle East are now taking revisionist stances and making it clear that they do not want to return to the pre-ISIL status quo.
Secondly, Iran is becoming a very capable security actor in the Middle East by filling the gaps in its conventional military deterrence capabilities by unconventional means, such as supporting Shia militias in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and maintaining ambitious arms programmes.
And finally the US is gradually withdrawing from the Middle East – particularly in the domain of security and defence – and this withdrawal is allowing Russia to raise its profile in the region.
Erdogan Warns Europeans on Their Safety as Tensions Rise With West
(NYT) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey warned Europeans on Wednesday that they would no longer be able to walk safely in the street if Western politicians continued with perceived provocations against Turkish leaders.
Mr. Erdogan’s warning turned out to be awkwardly timed, coming hours before a deadly attack outside the British Parliament.
In a Twitter post written in English, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, quickly condemned the assault in London, noting that Turkey had “suffered similar attacks many times.”
Mr. Erdogan’s comments were a response to restrictions placed on his surrogates in European countries including Germany and the Netherlands, where they have been barred from holding political rallies in support of a referendum in which Turks will decide whether to expand their president’s powers.
Dutch elections: Turkish drama The lead-up to today’s election has been overshadowed by a diplomatic crisis. Authorities stopped Turkish ministers from entering the country to drum up support for Turkey’s own vote on constitutional reform. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, whose powers will expand if the referendum passes, may have deliberately caused the row to inflame nationalist sentiment. If he did, the gambit paid off, writes our Turkey correspondent
(WaPost Worldview) Turkey will hold a referendum next month on constitutional revisions that would scrap the country’s parliamentary system in favor of an executive presidency under the powerful President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. … The dismembering of Turkey’s parliamentary system is seen as another dangerous step in the unraveling of democracy under Erdogan’s watch. Still, there’s no guarantee that Erdogan’s “yes” camp will win — Turkish opinion polls, such as they are, suggest a neck-and-neck contest, with the country’s embittered and oft-divided opposition rallying against the president. So Erdogan, a moderate Islamist, is drawing from his time-tested nationalist playbook to win votes.
(Quartz) Turkey’s president ignited a diplomatic spat with the Netherlands. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and threatened sanctions after officials in the Netherlands banned a rally in Rotterdam, aimed at drumming up support among Turkish expats for an April referendum that would expand the president’s power. His comments have been condemned by several EU leaders—he also accused Germany of “Nazism” for banning rallies in the country last week.
Gwynne Dyer: Turkey’s referendum
…the referendum that is supposed to grant Erdogan virtually unlimited power could go either way. It will certainly be close, because the country is still split right down the middle — and it’s no longer left vs. right. It is primarily secularist vs. Islamist.
(The Telegraph) Reasonable people have long believed that the first person in a conversation to mention Adolf Hitler or the Nazis loses the argument. Turkey’s President Recep Tayib Erdogan does not subscribe to this view, and he has no intention of losing the argument.
The argument — the referendum, more precisely — is about whether Erdogan should be given absolute power in Turkey for the indefinite future. He was seriously annoyed when various German municipalities dared to doubt his rendezvous with destiny.
Erdogan’s devout supporters only grow more enthusiastic when foreigners criticize him. And with 140,000 Turkish officials, judges, soldiers and journalists arrested, dismissed or suspended since last July’s failed coup attempt, most of his domestic critics have fallen silent: Reporters Without Borders now ranks Turkey 151st out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom.
… Erdogan has used the coup attempt to whip up support for the planned referendum in April that would grant him untrammelled power as executive president. Turkey has been under emergency rule, with mass arrests and government by decree. Nasty, but not necessarily effective.
… The Turkish economy is crashing, internal and external wars are multiplying, and there are far too many people in jail for months on end without being charged. Despite a reign of terror in the Turkish media, Erdogan’s victory in the referendum is still not assured.
Flynn lobbied for Turkish government, documents reveal
Former US national security adviser was paid $530,000 for work that ‘benefited the Republic of Turkey’
(Midddle East Eye) The retired US general and his firm acknowledged lobbying efforts that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” from August to November of last year.
Lobbying firms that work for foreign governments are required by US law to register with the Department of Justice, but this regulation is rarely enforced, according to the AP report.
Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who hired Flynn’s firm, said he disagrees with the former general’s disclosure because he is not a part of the Turkish government.
Turkey’s Erdogan makes Nazi jibe over Germany rally ban
In his analysis, BBC’s Mark Lowen describes a new low in relations between Turkey and Germany.
They are NATO allies and major trading partners but that has not stopped Turkey’s president from lashing out at Germany in an exchange you might expect from countries at war. He also cites Austrian chancellor Christian Kern who has called for an EU-wide ban on political campaigning by Turkish politicians.
“A collective EU response to prevent such campaign events would make sense so that individual countries like Germany where appearances are forbidden don’t end up being pressured by Turkey.” …
He also said the decades-long talks over Turkey joining the EU should be abandoned because the country had been “trampling on human rights and basic democratic rights. We can’t continue negotiating about membership with a country that has been distancing itself from democratic norms and rule-of-law principles for years.”
(Quartz) Recep Tayyip Erdogan edged closer to complete power. The Turkish parliament approved constitutional changes that allow the president to appoint and dismiss ministers and intervene in the judiciary. It abolishes the post of prime minister for the first time in the country’s history. A second round of voting and a referendum are needed for the reforms to pass.
Turkey New Year’s Gunman Reportedly Captured in Istanbul
(Haaretz) ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 39 at a nightclub.
The reports could not be confirmed; but Hurriyet said the man, who media quoted police as saying had operated under the cover name Ebu Muhammed Horasani, was caught in an operation along with his son. The district where he was found is on the European side of the city.
(The Atlantic Daily) Tragedy in Turkey: Authorities are still searching for the attacker who killed 39 people and wounded at least 70 in a shooting at an Istanbul nightclub early on New Year’s Day. Yesterday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, describing the gunman as a “heroic soldier” acting on the orders of the Islamic State’s highest leader. Though ISIS has been suspected of terror attacks in Turkey before, it hasn’t claimed one outright until now, while the Turkish government has had an inconsistent stance toward the terrorist group. For these reasons, writes Graeme Wood, the Istanbul attack is pivotal: It adds Turkey to the list of countries against which ISIS is waging outright war.
Istanbul: ISIL claims responsibility for Reina attack
Group says it carried out New Year’s Eve raid on Istanbul nightclub where “Christians celebrate their apostate holiday”
(Al Jazeera) The announcement came as a manhunt was under way in Turkey for at least one assailant who attacked those celebrating New Year at the Reina nightclub.
Shortly after the ISIL claim, AFP news agency citing local media said that police have detained eight suspects over the attack.
The Dogan news agency said police were pressing on with operations after making the first arrests over the attack.
As well as the 39 dead, about 70 others were wounded and three of those people remain in critical condition, Binali Yildirim, Turkey’s prime minister, said on Sunday.
Gwynne Dyer: Reunification of Syria
(Jordan Times) In terms of what a post-civil war Syria will look like, the great unanswered question is: what happens to the Syrian Kurds?
They are only one-tenth of the Syrian population, but they now control almost all the Kurdish-majority areas across northern Syria.
Was Erdogan’s price for switching sides a free hand in destroying Rojava, the proto-state created by the Syrian Kurds? Very probably yes.
Istanbul nightclub attack caps off dreadful year for Turkey
Failed military coup, foreign policy setbacks and a string of terrorist atrocities have left country reeling
(The Guardian) The New Year’s Eve attack on an Istanbul nightclub concluded a dreadful year for Turkey, during which the country was shaken by a failed military coup, a policy setback in neighbouring Syria and a string of terrorist atrocities.
… In all there were several dozen serious terrorist attacks in Turkey in 2016, often targeting the police and army but just as often hitting civilians. Government officials have also pointed the finger of blame for some attacks at Syrian Kurds. They claim the Syrian Kurd People’s Protection Units (YPG) are allied to the PKK and share its aims of carving out autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria and Turkey.
Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria by ground and air in 2016 inflamed the situation. It was ostensibly designed to assist the fight against Isis. But Erdoğan’s main purpose in ordering the only direct Syrian intervention by any Nato member country was to contain the YPG’s territorial advances and prevent any linkup with the autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
This effort is still under way. The YPG were specifically excluded from the Syria ceasefire jointly brokered by Turkey, Russia and Iran last week.
Erdoğan’s intervention has also brought strains with Iran, Turkey’s historical rival dating back to the time of the Ottoman and Persian empires. Although both governments oppose Kurdish minority aspirations, Sunni Muslim Turkey resents Shia Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq and Syria and in other areas it views as within its traditional spheres of influence.
Viewed overall, Erdoğan’s Syrian policy flopped badly in 2016. In the light of the Russian and Iranian-led battlefield successes, notably the fall of Aleppo, Erdoğan was forced to freeze his key demand that Assad step down. And having burned his bridges with Washington, he has also been obliged to throw his weight behind Moscow’s peacemaking efforts.
But the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara last month by a man shouting “Remember Aleppo” underlined how fragile the bilateral relationship – in tatters a year ago after a Russian warplane was shot down – remains.
Nightclub Massacre in Istanbul Exposes Turkey’s Deepening Fault Lines
… the killings brutally highlighted a dilemma for Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Even though he has cracked down on opponents and put in place security measures to bring stability to his rattled country, the attacks keep mounting.
Turkey has been reeling for several years now, as it has been increasingly drawn into the Syrian civil war. By opening its borders to foreign fighters trying to reach Syria, critics say, it inadvertently supported the rise of the Islamic State, which is now carrying out attacks within Turkey. Then, in 2015, a stalled war with Kurdish militants was renewed, and this summer, Turkey suffered from an attempted coup.
The attack on Sunday morning — a strike on the Western, urbane face of Istanbul — is likely to further diminish Turkey’s democracy by giving Mr. Erdogan a freer hand to expand his crackdown on opponents, which accelerated after the coup attempt. It is also likely to erode the country’s economy, which has already suffered because of a decline in tourism and foreign investment.
Islamic State Claims New Year’s Massacre at Istanbul Nightclub
(Bloomberg) The massacre was the latest in a string of assaults that have multiplied as Turkey steps up its war against Islamic State and Kurdish militants. More than 1,400 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Turkey since June, 2015.
Turkey and Russia ‘agree terms of Syria ceasefire’
Countries have agreed proposal that should come into force by midnight, says Turkish foreign minister
Russia, Iran and Turkey said last week they were ready to help broker a peace deal after holding talks in Moscow where they adopted a declaration setting out the principles any agreement should adhere to.
Last week, Russia’s foreign minister said Russia, Iran and Turkey had agreed that the priority in Syria was to fight terrorism and not to remove Assad’s government.
Common ground on Syria unites Russia and Turkey against the west
Despite the killing of Moscow’s ambassador to Ankara, the two nations stand together in their joint peace plan for Syria
Why killing of Russian diplomat may well bring Turkey and Russia closer
Putin and Erdoğan are likely to find common ground in their desire to blame third parties for death of Andrei Karlov
Diplomatic analysts said that neither leader had an incentive to disrupt a loose accord they have reached over Syria, allowing each to pursue their war aims. Turkey has ensured that its incursion into northern Syria did nothing to weaken the siege on Aleppo by Russian and pro-Assad forces. Meanwhile, Moscow is widely believed to have given its assent to Turkish ambitions to take the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, to further its aim of blocking the consolidation of a Kurdish ministate, Rojava, on Turkey’s southern flank.
Turkey: Erdoğan rule could extend until 2029 under proposal
AKP likely to table referendum bill to amend constitution and nationalist support would now allow motion to pass
Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) is likely to table a bill for a referendum on the constitution in the coming months, and nationalist support would now allow the motion to pass. According to details of the amendments leaked to media outlets in recent days, under the proposal Erdoğan would be able to continue in office until 2029.
Turkey indicts top Syrian Kurdish leader
Turkey has issued arrest warrants for the leader of the main Syrian Kurdish party (PYD) allied with the western anti-“Islamic State” coalition. Ankara accuses the PYD of ties to Kurdish gueillas in Turkey’s southeast.
Turkey’s post-coup brain drain
Whether sacked in the post-coup purge or for signing a petition decrying violence against Kurds, Turkish academics are leaving in droves and don’t plan to return. They say more will follow, irreparably damaging Turkey.
… hundreds of academics who have worked overseas and returned to Turkey – only to become unemployed amid the government’s post-coup purges – are leaving the country once again. Since declaring a state of emergency and enforcing various decree laws after the coup attempt, nearly 110,000 Turkish civil servants have either been dismissed or detained; 36,000 have been arrested. In addition, all academics were banned from leaving the country.
Education has been a notable target for the Turkish government since July 15’s coup attempt. Since then, the government has shut down 15 universities and around 1,000 secondary education institutions.
Turkey withdraws bill after protests over child-sexual assault clause
Rare concession to popular will comes after critics say freeing offenders from jail if they married their victims would legitimise rape
Turkey orders trial for newspaper staff, detains more pro-Kurd officials
(Reuters) Turkish authorities ordered on Saturday that the editor and senior staff of a leading opposition newspaper be arrested pending trial, as more pro-Kurdish officials were detained, sparking protests against the widening state crackdown.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon on a crowd of around 1,000 protesters in central Istanbul who were trying to get to the offices of the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper. Nine of its journalists and executives were detained on Monday
Prosecutors said staff at the paper, one of the few still critical of President Tayyip Erdogan, were suspected of crimes committed on behalf of Kurdish militants and U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of instigating a coup attempt.
Since the failed coup in July, more than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended in a crackdown that Erdogan’s critics say is quashing legitimate opposition.
Turkey arrests pro-Kurdish party leaders amid claims of internet shutdown
Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP co-leader known as the ‘Kurdish Obama’, held with at least 11 MPs as post-coup crackdown continues
US, Europe criticize Turkey over Cumhuriyet raids, detentions
The detention of executives and columnists from the critical daily Cumhuriyet newspaper has been criticized by officials from the United States and Europe, with the U.S. State Department saying it supports Turkey’s efforts to locate those responsible for the attempted coup, but was deeply concerned by the continuing pressure on the news media.
Executives and columnists of Cumhuriyet were detained in a series of raids on their homes early on Oct. 31, after prosecutors initiated a probe against them on “terrorism” charges. The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office said the operation was based on accusations that the suspects were “committing crimes on behalf of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”.
Turkey-Kurdish rivalry complicates push against Islamic State in Syria’s Raqqa
(Reuters) Fighting between Turkey and Kurdish militias in northern Syria is complicating plans to drive their mutual enemy Islamic State from its Syrian capital Raqqa, an operation U.S. officials have said may start within weeks.
Turkish jets and armor, in support of Syrian rebels, have struck Kurdish fighters in recent days as both sides compete to capture land from Islamic State that Ankara wants as a buffer zone against militants near its border.
Those clashes could foreshadow a wider battle as they also eye control over Manbij, a city northwest of Raqqa. This was taken from Islamic State in August by local fighters backed by Kurdish groups, and offers strategic control over a large area.
The push against Islamic State is crystallizing such fears, with Syrian Kurdish leaders anticipating a “stab in the back” from Turkey if they join the Raqqa operation. For its part, Ankara says the Kurds’ main militia should not be involved at all.
Kyle Matthews: The increasing incompatibility of the Turkish-Western alliance
Even before the attempted coup against the Erdogan government in July, Turkey’s policies towards Syria, ISIS and its own citizens have been putting it at odds with its Western allies. Is an end to this alliance inevitable?
(Open Canada) Western countries, including the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany, have come to depend on the Kurds as the most reliable partner in fighting ISIS on the ground. Their NATO-member ally Turkey, however, doesn’t show the same enthusiasm. It views the Kurds, not ISIS, as the real threat, and is targeting them within Syria. Ankara has rebuffed the U.S. diplomatically for expressing concern that military action should be focused against ISIS exclusively.
Perhaps the most worrisome sign emerging is Erdogan’s continued push towards authoritarianism and religiosity that is leading to a fundamental clash with Western states. In fact, we are witnessing diverging and incompatible interests between Turkey, the U.S. and a large number of European states in general. These diverging interests apply not only to the Syrian conflict and the fight against ISIS, but remain heavily concentrated on Erdogan’s policies within Turkey itself. …
Turkey’s position on Syria and ISIS then becomes very problematic, given that the jihadist group has targeted European civilians and is committing genocide in areas under its control. Erdogan has long called for a regime change in Damascus and – though this would seem to be in sync with the goals of Western governments – appears to have provided supported for some of the most anti-Western militants fighting in Syria.
(Project Syndicate) Sinan Ülgen engages the views of Carl Bildt, Dani Rodrik [see 12 Sept, below] Marietje Schaake, and others on the future of one of the world’s most strategically important countries in the aftermath of July’s failed coup
All of these authors rightly highlight both the importance of the relationship between Turkey and Europe and its increasing fragility. But they offer little guidance about how to overcome the fundamental fact that the conventional framework for bilateral engagement has become dysfunctional. In the absence of any appetite for restarting accession talks, which have been effectively suspended since 2010, or of determined political leadership to put negotiations back on track, geopolitics seems to be imposing a new order on this critical relationship.
Turks See Purge as Witch Hunt of ‘Medieval’ Darkness
(NYT) Two months after a failed military coup, for which officials have blamed the disciples of Mr. Gulen, a wide-scale purge led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reached witch-hunt proportions, according to a growing chorus of critics. More than 100,000 people — teachers, military officers, judges, functionaries, airline employees, even baklava salesmen — have been arrested or fired from their jobs, all on accusations of connections to Mr. Gulen, who steadfastly denies any involvement.
In its early stages, the purge was supported by many of Mr. Erdogan’s opponents, who long chafed under what they called the president’s growing authoritarianism but who said that Mr. Gulen’s influence within society needed to be wiped out.
Now, though, many have turned against the president, saying that he is using the failed coup as a pretext for enhancing his own power and that he is wielding a state of emergency to target critics of all stripes, beyond the rule of law.
Dani Rodrik: Erdoğan’s Tragic Choice
Turkey’s never-ending cycle of victimization – of Islamists, communists, secularists, Kurds perennially, and now the Gülenists – has gained velocity. Erdoğan is making the same tragic mistake he made in 2009-2010: using his vast popularity to undermine democracy and the rule of law rather than restoring them – and thus rendering moderation and political reconciliation all the more difficult in the future.
(Project Syndicate) By the end of 2013, Erdoğan’s alliance with the Gülenists had turned into open warfare. With the common enemy – the secularist old guard – defeated, there was little to hold the alliance together. Erdoğan had begun closing Gülenist schools and businesses and purging them from the state bureaucracy. A major purge of the military was on the way, which apparently prompted Gülenist officers to move pre-emptively.
In any case, the coup attempt has fully validated Erdoğan’s paranoia, which helps explain why the crackdown on Gülenists and other government opponents has been so ruthless and extensive. In addition to the discharge of nearly 4,000 officers, 85,000 public officials have been dismissed from their jobs since July 15, and 17,000 have been jailed. Scores of journalists have been detained, including many with no links to the Gülen movement. Any semblance of the rule of law and due process has disappeared.
A great leader would have responded differently. The failed putsch created a rare opportunity for national unity. All political parties, including the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), condemned the coup attempt, as did the vast majority of ordinary people, regardless of their political orientation. Erdoğan could have used the opportunity to rise beyond Islamist, liberal, secularist, and Kurdish identities to establish a new political consensus around democratic norms. He had a chance to become a democratic unifier.
Instead, he has chosen to deepen Turkey’s divisions and erode the rule of law even more. The dismissal and jailing of opponents has gone far beyond those who may have had a role in the putsch. Marxist academics, Kurdish journalists, and liberal commentators have been swept up alongside Gülenists. Erdoğan continues to treat the HDP as a pariah. And, far from contemplating peace with the Kurdish rebels, he seems to relish the resumption of war with them.
Unfortunately, this is a winning strategy. Keeping the country on high alert against perceived enemies and inflaming nationalist-religious passions serves to keep Erdoğan’s base mobilized.
Turkey’s Syria offensive shows how each party is fighting its own war
End to war now seems further away than ever as the Kurds, US and Turkey each have goals that are rarely compatible
Analysis By Martin Chulov
(The Guardian) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has suddenly emerged as a decisive player in whatever comes next. And, having feuded with Vladimir Putin for nine months after Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet last November, both leaders have now found common ground on Syria: the Kurds.
Putin’s ploy to use Kurdish militias to get to Erdoğan was a deft bait and switch. Neither man sees a breakdown of the Syrian border as advancing their goals. Moscow has not objected to Turkey’s advances and has even turned its guns away from the Ankara-backed rebels.
The Kurds, meanwhile, claim they have been abandoned by the US, which continues to see the war as a tailored fight to contain a cornerstone of a global jihad. For all the other stakeholders, a new phase of an interminable struggle for ethnic, sectarian and national identity is being played out.
It is for now impossible to reconcile competing visions for what will emerge from Syria. And it is just as difficult to see how any of the major players’ key goals can be met. Turkey’s detente with Russia has put both sides ahead in the lineup. On the other hand, a US-Turkish joint push into Syria appears to have been derailed by mutual distrust.
Turkey in a Secret Alliance With ISIS While It Attacks a US Ally, The Syrian Kurds (audio)
(Background Briefing with Ian Masters) We try to get some clarity on why the U.S’s most effective proxy in its fight against the Islamic State, the Syrian Kurds, are under military attack from America’s NATO ally Turkey following a recent meeting between Vice President Biden and Turkey’s President Erdogan at which Biden clearly got played. A former foreign policy expert and senior advisor to the State Department under presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, David Phillips, the Director or the Peace-Building and Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, joins us to discuss Turkey’s intelligence service the MIT’s continuing secret arrangements with the Islamic State who are working with the Turks in their fights against America’s most effective allies in the region, the YPG Peoples Protection Forces of the Syrian Kurds.
Erdogan’s Waterloo: Turkey Invades And Occupies Syria
By David Phillips
(HuffPost) Operation Euphrates Shield violates Syria’s sovereignty. Supporting Turkey would make the U.S. complicit in Turkey’s land grab.
Turkey keeps pushing south. It has no intention of relinquishing territory. To justify its presence, Turkey will populate a Syrian enclave for refugees.
Turkey wants a seat at the table of the Geneva peace process. It seeks equal standing with Russia and the United States.
Given Turkey’s sordid history supporting Islamists, it will be more difficult to negotiate an end to Syria’s conflict with Turkish troops on-the-ground.
Erdogan abhors U.S. cooperation with the YPG, which he calls a terror group. Erdogan wants the U.S. to make a choice between Turkey and the YPG, but was repeatedly rebuffed.
The Obama administration must be steely-eyed about Turkey’s intentions. Erdogan says the primary purpose of Operation Euphrates Shield is to fight ISIS. This is patently false.
Turkish airstrikes and artillery ‘kill at least 35 civilians in Syria’
Monitoring group says many more wounded as Turkey continues cross-border offensive against Isis and Kurdish forces
(The Guardian) Turkey entered northern Syria on Wednesday, sending soldiers, tanks and other military hardware in support of its Syrian rebel allies and seizing the border town of Jarablus from Isis.
But most fighting so far has appeared to be with rebels aligned to the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a broad grouping that includes the YPG, rather than Isis.
The Turkish government wants to stop Kurdish forces gaining control of an unbroken swath of Syrian territory on its border, which it fears could embolden the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.
Severin Fischer: Turkey and the Energy Transit Question
(CarnegieEurope) With the realization of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP)—a smaller version of the originally planned Nabucco Pipeline and now a Southern Gas Corridor project—two new variables will enter the equation of European energy security. First, natural gas from Azerbaijan could reach European markets for the first time around 2019. Second, Turkey will obtain the position of a transit country for European gas imports; admittedly with limited influence, since only 10 billion cubic meters per year are foreseen for the European market (between 2-3% of total EU gas consumption in 2014.)
In addition to the TANAP project, the recent easing of tensions between Turkey and Russia has revitalized debates about the construction of Turkish Stream, a project that was initiated after a direct pipeline connection between Russia and Bulgaria through the Black Sea (“South Stream”) was cancelled in 2014 due to regulatory conflicts between Gazprom and the European Commission. Turkish Stream would mainly supply the Turkish market, but could also bring gas destined for the EU market to the Turkish-Greek border.
Moreover, should gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea south of Cyprus be commercially and technologically feasible, project developers will be tempted to think about a possible pipeline project serving the Turkish market and potentially re-exporting gas to Southeastern Europe. The Turkish corridor would also be mandatory for all hypothetical deliveries from Iraq, Iran, or Central Asia. …
The threat of Turkish influence over how much Azeri or (some of the) Russian gas would enter European markets and the potential for rent-seeking in transit fees looks troubling in the current political environment. The willingness of Turkey’s government to link issues such as refugee treatment, visa liberalization, and financial transfers, as has happened recently, should serve as a warning.
This leads to the conclusion that both Russia’s and Europe’s interests would be best served if Turkey were kept out of bilateral energy relations in the future; a possibility that can only materialize if Turkey does not assume a gate-keeper role for several suppliers simultaneously.
From sporadic to systematic ISIL attacks in Turkey
Wedding bombing highlights need to find a political settlement to the Syrian crisis and Turkey’s Kurdish issue.
Carl Bildt: Taking Turkey Seriously
(Project Syndicate) One silver lining of the recent putsch is that, after years of division, it has united Turkey’s democratic political parties around the shared goal of defending democracy against future internal threats. The West’s lack of empathy for Turkey during this traumatic period has been astonishing; it can be in no Western country’s interest that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to meet with Erdoğan in the episode’s aftermath.
… the West’s attitude toward Turkey matters. Western diplomats should escalate engagement with Turkey to ensure an outcome that reflects democratic values and is favorable to Western and Turkish interests alike.
A democratic and European Turkey could be a bridge to deliver reform and modernity to the Muslim world; an alienated and authoritarian Turkey could bring conflict and strife back to Europe’s eastern borderlands. What happens on the Bosphorus affects us all.
(Quartz) Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. It will be their first meeting since the Turkish air force shot down a Russian plane in November, with items like the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project and nuclear power plant construction on the agenda.
How to Play Nice With an Angry Erdogan
(NYT Opinion) Barring a sudden conversion of the man whose whim is Turkey’s will, or his unexpected departure from power, American-Turkish relations are unlikely to improve soon. Turkey’s cooperation with its NATO allies, especially in Syria, will be sporadic and halfhearted. At home, a free press and the rule of law will remain memories. Yet the United States and Turkey still share important interests. The most vital of these is assuring that Turkey does not slide toward the upheaval that has engulfed some of its neighbors. In a region where Americans have no true friends, the United States-Turkey tie is too important to cut.
David Kilgour: Turkey’s New Crisis Puts Rule of Law in Question
Tragically for Turkey and the world, indications are mounting that Erdogan is using the attempted coup d’état to terminate the democracy Turks defended with their lives in favor of a tyranny not very different from the model in Putin’s Russia. As Amnesty International has recently indicated, the choices Turkey makes in the coming weeks will be an affirmation of the primacy of the rule of law and human rights or a return to the dark days of mass repression, torture, and arbitrary detention.
(Epoch Times) Erdogan’s government appears to have assisted ISIS in various ways, including providing a logistical, economic, and political base in Turkey. An estimated 25,000 foreign combatants joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria through Turkey. During 2015, ISIS was enriched by $1 million to $4 million daily because most oil it obtained was smuggled through Turkey. The respected Guardian newspaper (U.K.) reported that ISIS computers seized by U.S. commandos in Syria contain irrefutable evidence of collusion with the Erdogan government.
By assisting ISIS to replace al-Qaeda as the Sunni jihadists in Syria, Erdogan escalated the ISIS conflict into a full-scale regional war between Sunnis and Shiites. When Erdogan finally agreed in principle to fight ISIS (or pretend to), NATO reluctantly went along with his wishes, agreeing that it would withhold much-needed support from the Kurds, who had fought ISIS effectively from the war’s beginning.
David T. Jones: Talking Turkey With Ankara
So assuming that the present is prologue so far as Turkish sociopolitical repression is concerned, what do we do?
In a word, “nothing.” We need Turkish active cooperation and support in battling Islamic terrorism (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. We are flying missions from Turkish airbases against ISIS combatants. We are depending on Turkish border control to stifle the flow of prospective ISIS supporters through the country.
Likewise, Europeans are depending on Turkey to stem the cascade of Syrian/Middle Eastern refugees into Europe—the price hasn’t been cheap, but less costly than the social/political disruption caused by an untrammeled flood of refugees. Even before the coup attempt, relations with Erdogan were fraught with difficulty and complexity; he is unlikely to be more cooperative now.
Separately, Turkey’s NATO membership has been thrown into question. Individual members have raised concerns over Turkish democracy, but without the historical appreciation that NATO is a defense alliance not a social welfare organization. NATO has tolerated, perhaps with a grimace, the several Turkish military dictatorships and its invasion of Cyprus (and continued support for a Turkish-Cypriot enclave).
And NATO has endured the Greek military dictatorship (1967–1974). NATO will doubtless do the same for the evolving Erdogan dictatorship, hoping that its Islamic leanings will not consume the remaining elements of Turkish democracy.
Erdogan to West: ‘Mind your own business’
Turkey’s president criticises Western countries for failing to show solidarity with Ankara over failed coup attempt.
(Al Jazeera) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Western leaders for failing to show solidarity with Ankara over a failed coup attempt, saying countries who worry more about the fate of the perpetrators than democracy cannot be Turkey’s friends.
With Army in Disarray, a Pillar of Modern Turkey Lies Broken
(NYT) Now, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wages a widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees, the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited. … The Turkish military is a crucial ally in fighting terrorism, reining in the Islamic State, and in controlling the migrant tide that has overwhelmed Europe. Chaos within the military symbolizes not only its waning power in the country — and the rise of the police, which Mr. Erdogan built up as a bulwark to the military — but also its diminished reliability as a partner to the West.
But it is perhaps the psychological blow that is greatest for a nation that is so badly splintered. Religious and secular, rich and poor, every man served in the Turkish military, and to all, the urban elite and pious poor, it was a symbol of Turkish identity.
How Turkey became a petri dish for Islamist politics
Erdogan defeated his old rival, but in the process unleashed some radical forces. Here’s Adnan Khan on the war of the Islamists
By most accounts, Erdogan is no radical Islamist. Many experts have cautioned against painting him and his inner circle with an ultra-orthodox brush. A more accurate description, they argue, would be to place his party in the same ideological category as the Tea Party in the U.S.: socially conservative nationalists and free-market capitalists who believe they are on a God-given mission to make Turkey great again.
Key to that mission is positioning Turkey as the leader of the Muslim world, and Erdogan as its champion. During the early weeks and months of the Arab Spring, for instance, Erdogan planted the seeds of his aspirations for regional dominance by supporting anti-regime protesters in Egypt, Libya and Syria. His strong support for the Palestinian cause earned him a kind of cult status in the occupied territories.
The feeling of Muslim empowerment has rippled through Istanbul’s cobblestone streets in the wake of the failed coup. Pakistanis, Syrians and Saudis have marched alongside Turks, chanting slogans and waving their own nations’ flags. Muslim leaders, including Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, considered the world’s leading jihadi ideologue, have tweeted their support for Erdogan. … Academics and journalists who have followed Turkey’s religious permutations for decades worry that Salafists, historically a marginal group in Turkey’s theological universe, have now gained a permanent foothold in their country. They point to the exponential rise in religious texts from Saudi Arabia translated into Turkish, many of them at Guraba Press.
“This is a very dangerous situation,” says Niyazi Dalyancı, a member of the board at Turkey’s journalists association. “The ground in Turkey is fertile for these kinds of extremists, and now that ISIS is losing ground in Syria and Iraq, its fighters are coming here. They shave their beards and find safe haven among these Salafis.”
Turkish President Erdoğan to visit Russia on Aug 9, says minister
(Hurriyet) Erdoğan’s visit to Russia will mark the first such meeting as part of mutual efforts to normalize bilateral ties after months of tension due to the downing of a Russian warplane by the Turkish Air Forces in November.
It will also be Erdoğan’s first announced trip abroad since the failed military coup attempt in Turkey on the night of July 15.
Putin called Erdoğan on July 17, a day after security forces quashed a coup attempt staged by a group of high-ranking officers within the army. He reportedly told the Turkish president that “Russia found anti-constitutional acts and violence unacceptable and is hoping for the restoration of order and stability in Turkey.”
One European friend of Wednesday Night observes: I would not be surprised, if they agree then to dismantle the trade embargo, allow travel and increase co-operation. The most important decision would and could be, that Erdogan agrees to close the border between Turkey and Syria. That would more less end the war there, as the rebels have been getting both their supplies and manpower through that route. Russia would be more than happy to leave Syria.
Quite titillating to see Russia and Turkey together stopping a war started and financed by the Saudis and USA. However, the US having fought on both sides, can at last declare victory, although not take credit for it.
Turkey: Erdogan moves to shutter 2,340 institutions
(Al Jazeera) In his first decree under new state of emergency laws, Erdogan moves to close schools and extend legal detention time
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued a decree to close 2,341 institutions – including schools, charities, unions and medical centres – in the wake of an attempted coup, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported Saturday. The decree … also extends the legal time a person can be detained to 30 days.
A government official insisted the institutions targeted all have connections to the movement of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blames for the failed putsch.
Turkey: United against a coup, divided on the future
Turkey has suspended 37,500 civil servants and police officers in the wake of the coup, including many from the education ministry, and also revoked the license of 21,000 teachers. The education ministry said it was looking to close more than 600 schools.
The number of people detained has surpassed 10,000 while more than 4,000 of those have been arrested.
Turkey coup attempt: State of emergency announced
(BBC) Turkey’s president has declared a state of emergency for three months following Friday night’s failed coup.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said citizens should not have “the slightest concern with regards to democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms”.
The state of emergency would protect those values from attacks against them, he said, in a speech in Ankara.
More than 50,000 state employees have been rounded up, sacked or suspended in the days since the coup attempt.
On Wednesday, 99 top military officers were charged in connection with the events of the weekend.
Officials continued to take action against university and school employees, shutting down educational establishments, banning foreign travel for academics and forcing university heads of faculty to resign.
In the aftermath of the failed coup, the Turkish government escalated its wide-ranging crackdown, ordering the expulsion or arrest of nearly 50,000 security and civil service personnel.
Only the beginning.
(Quartz) Turkey conducted mass arrests after a failed military coup. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to cleanse the Turkish state of dissidents; the state has arrested 6,000 people in the wake of the coup, which saw thousands of citizens take to the streets in support of the president. Turkey is now threatening war on any country that supports cleric Fethullah Gülen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania.
Dani Rodrik: Turkey’s Baffling Coup
(Project Syndicate) The coup attempt is bad news for the economy as well. Erdoğan’s recent, somewhat skin-deep reconciliation with Russia and Israel was likely motivated by a desire to restore flows of foreign capital and tourists. Such hopes are now unlikely to be realized. The failed coup reveals that the country’s political divisions run deeper than even the most pessimistic observers believed. This hardly makes for an attractive environment for investors or visitors.
But, politically, the failed coup is a boon for Erdoğan. … he will have the political tailwind to make the constitutional changes he has long sought to strengthen the presidency and concentrate power in his own hands. The coup’s failure will thus bolster Erdoğan’s authoritarianism and do little good for Turkish democracy. Had the coup succeeded, however, the blow to democratic prospects surely would have been more severe, with longer-term effects. That provides at least some reason to cheer.
Robert Fisk: Turkey’s coup may have failed – but history shows that it won’t be long before another one succeeds
Too late did Erdogan realise the cost of the role he had chosen for his country – when you can no longer trust your army, there are serious issues that need to be addressed
(The Independent) … it would be a grave mistake to assume two things: that the putting down of a military coup is a momentary matter after which the Turkish army will remain obedient to its sultan; and to regard at least 161 deaths and more than 2,839 detained in isolation from the collapse of the nation-states of the Middle East.
For the weekend’s events in Istanbul and Ankara are intimately related to the breakdown of frontiers and state-belief – the assumption that Middle East nations have permanent institutions and borders – that has inflicted such wounds across Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other countries in the Arab world. Instability is now as contagious as corruption in the region, especially among its potentates and dictators, a class of autocrat of which Erdogan has been a member ever since he changed the constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds.
The Purge Begins in Turkey
It seems more likely that the officers who led the revolt represented the remnant of the military’s old secular order. Now they’re finished.
(The New Yorker) On Saturday, Turkish soldiers and police—those who had remained loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the uncertain hours of the previous day—were rounding up their enemies across the security services, reportedly arresting thousands. There will be thousands more. In the high-stakes world of Turkish politics—nominally democratic but played with authoritarian ferocity—justice for the losers will be swift and brutal.
Turkey’s bungled putsch: a strangely 20th century coup
(Reuters) “This coup was obviously planned quite well but using a playbook from the 1970s,” said Gareth Jenkins, a researcher and writer on military affairs based in Istanbul.
It was more like Chile in 1973, or Ankara in 1980 than a modern Western state in 2016.
Erdogan, frequently accused of interfering with social media and muzzling the press and broadcasters, used modern communications technology nimbly to get his message out to the population of nearly 80 million, outflanking the plotters.
Who’s Really To Blame For Turkey’s Coup?
President Erdogan appears to be firmly back in control after a bloody coup attempt and an effort to kill him. But the true story of the plot remains unclear.
ISTANBUL — The big unanswered question Saturday was the motive of the coup, which the government immediately blamed on Erdogan’s former ally, Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric now living in exile in the U.S. Erdogan had been planning a major military purge next month, directed against any Gulenist supporters who hadn’t already been removed from the military ranks, and it’s possible that fear of losing their jobs united the officers behind the coup.
Kyle Matthews: Can we link the Istanbul attack to blowback?
More than 40 people were killed Tuesday following an attack at Turkey’s main airport. While the Turkish government blames ISIS, are its own policies contributing to the making of a monster?
(Open Canada) Turkey, once seen as a stable country, is now being confronted by a new threat that seems to be growing, not abating. Prior to the Istanbul airport attack, in 2016 alone Turkey has been hit by six other terrorist atrocities. While some were carried out by Kurdish militants in response to a worsening civil conflict between the Turkish government and the country’s Kurdish minority, others were carried out by ISIS, which controls large portions of Syria and Iraq.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should seriously consider the path he has taken his country on. The conflict in Syria is now seriously destabilizing Turkey, partly because of Turkish policy. Evidence has emerged that demonstrates Turkey has been providing weapons and other forms of support to ISIS in northern Syria, with the aim of fighting Syria’s Kurdish minority and overthrowing Bashir al Assad. In 2015, ISIS carried out three terrorist attacks in Turkey against the Kurdish minority and peace activists, which in total killed 140 people and injured more than 900.
Istanbul airport attack: Turkey says bombers were from Russia and central Asia
Announcement follows dawn raids on suspected Isis cells in Istanbul, where 16 people were detained, and Izmir
Three foreign nationals – a Russian, an Uzbek and a Kyrgyz – carried out the shooting and triple suicide bombing at Atatürk airport in Istanbul, Turkish officials have said, but questions remain over security shortcomings that allowed the attackers to breach several control points and kill 43 people.
The announcement, made to western and Turkish news agencies, came as Turkish police carried out raids against suspected Islamic State cells in Istanbul and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, arresting a further three foreign nationals.
Israel and Turkey end six-year standoff
The animosity began when nine Turkish activists on a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip were killed by Israeli forces
Israel and Turkey have announced a reconciliation deal to end a six-year diplomatic standoff that started when Israeli naval commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists travelling on an aid flotilla making for the Gaza coast.
A deal negotiated in Rome on Sunday will restore full ambassador-level relations, provide for about $20m in compensation for the families of those killed and wounded aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010, and clear the way for potentially lucrative contracts for Israel to transmit natural gas to Turkey..
Turkish president consolidates power as new PM calls for presidential system
New prime minister supports plans to cede more power to Erdoğan, but critics fear the erosion of democracy
(The Guardian) Speaking to members of the party that he and Erdoğan co-founded, Binali Yildirim called for changes to the Turkish constitution to give more authority to Erdoğan’s office, and erode the powers of the prime minister.
“Are you ready to bring in a presidential system?” Yildirim asked members of the ruling AK party, who had just elected him their party leader – and presumptive prime minister.
As prime minister, Yildirim will technically be the head of the Turkish government. But he said he supported plans to cede power to Erdoğan, since the latter has a huge personal mandate after becoming the first Turkish president to be elected directly by the public in 2014.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Is Stepping Down. Here’s Why That’s Alarming.
With the departure of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one step closer to ultimate power
(World Post) When Erdogan, a controversial but still widely-supported leader, assumed the largely ceremonial role of president in 2014 after hitting his three-term limit as prime minister, his grand ambitions to push for a presidential system were no secret. He made them perfectly clear going into the August 2014 election, from which he emerged as Turkey’s first popularly elected president.
Erdogan has since staunchly advocated rewriting the constitution and has set Turkey on a path toward an executive presidential system that he argues would better suit the country — and in which he would likely assume more power.
The president hand-picked Davutoglu, his longtime former foreign minister and a more reserved intellectual, to replace him.
Yet Davutoglu turned out to be more vocal and opinionated than expected, positioning himself as a voice of reason on issues like press freedom and E.U. relations.
Turkey’s crackdown swells the ranks of Kurdish militants
(Financial Times) “Kurds are upset with the PKK but they’re more upset with the state,” said Mehmet Kaya, head of the Tigris Communal Research Centre, a think-tank in Diyarbakir, the south-east’s biggest city. “There’s hate in the region but no hope [of a new peace process]. There are more people joining the PKK right now than at any point in its history.”
… Since the crackdown was launched more than 1,000 people, including at least 253 civilians and 376 members of the security forces, have lost their lives in southeastern Turkey alone, according to the International Crisis Group. On Monday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, said more than 5,000 PKK fighters had been “killed, wounded or captured” in military operations in Turkey and northern Iraq since July 22.
‘How Happy Is the One Who Says, I Am a Turk!’
by Steven A. Cook
The war between the military and Kurdish insurgents is really a conflict over what it means to be a citizen of Turkey. That’s why there’s no end in sight to the bloodshed.
(Foreign Policy) while Turkey may not owe its existence to colonial administrators in Paris and London, it was very much the product of someone’s imagination: Mustafa Kemal, known universally as Ataturk, or Father Turk. He forged an ethno-national state out of a piece of a multi-ethnic and multicultural empire where one had never existed. … Ataturk’s ideals have been embraced by many citizens of Turkey, but they risk writing two important groups out of the narrative of Turkey’s history: the traditionally religious, and the Kurds.
The EU deems Turkey safe for refugees. It may not be safe for anyone
Europe approves a critical deal to send asylum-seekers back to Turkey just as terrorism reaches Istanbul
(The Economist) ON MARCH 18th, as part of an agreement to stem the influx of refugees from the Middle East, the European Union endorsed Turkey as a “safe” country for asylum seekers—a necessary precondition for sending migrants back there under international law. The following day, a suicide bomber killed at least five people, including himself and four foreigners, on Istanbul’s most popular pedestrian shopping street. Turkey has now endured five big terror attacks since October, at a cost of nearly 200 lives. Residents of Turkey would therefore disagree with the EU’s assessment: the country no longer feels safe for anyone. …
The deal itself still faces legal, political, and logistical challenges that could cause it to unravel. Turkey will find it difficult to meet all of the exacting conditions required for visa liberalisation by this summer, and Greece may find it hard to set up the infrastructure needed to ensure orderly mass returns.
Pessimists fear that Mr Erdogan, who once boasted of being able to flood Greece and Bulgaria with refugees, may use his leverage over the EU to press for still more concessions. The president does not seem terribly malleable; he will heed the advice of international bodies only “as long as it is fair,” he said recently. “If it is not, sorry.” Rather than change course, he could ratchet up military action in the southeast and put the squeeze on any domestic opponents who get in the way. Nevertheless, the renewal of a European connection may be the best chance of keeping the country from going off the rails. “Even some limited engagement has an upside,” says Atilla Yesilada, a political analyst. “Leaving Turkey out in the cold has no benefits.”
The Human Cost of the PKK Conflict in Turkey: The Case of Sur
(International Crisis Group) Domestic political discourse is polarised and hardening, while the space for dissent on the Kurdish issue or other contentious ones such as democratic reform is shrinking, as Ankara adopts an increasingly defensive, often heavy-handed line. The effort of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to lift parliamentary immunity from five HDP deputies, including its co-chairs, for supporting terrorism threatens to dismantle a significant legal outlet for millions of predominately Kurdish voters. It also supports the PKK’s argument that “self-defence” is needed as political options for solving the conflict are narrowed by the rupture of talks with the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and arrest of local HDP political representatives.
Turkey denies press accreditation to German journalist in crackdown on free press
The Turkish government is under increasing pressure as a Kurdish separatist movement gains strength. The government is responding by cracking down on independent voices of political opponents, the press and academia.
(Seeking Akpha) The European Union has linked advancing Turkey’s membership bid to a settlement of the decades-old Cyprus dispute, further complicating efforts to win Ankara’s help in resolving the continent’s migration crisis. Following a preliminary EU-Turkish migration deal last week, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades threatened to veto Turkey’s accession talks unless Ankara meets its obligation to open its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic, effectively recognizing his state.
(Quartz) EU and Turkey return to the table. In a fresh round of talks, the EU wants Turkey to confirm it will take back all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey, but it must first meet a series of conditions before it gets the billions in aid and visa-free EU travel for its citizens that it’s demanding.
Erdogan claims fighting terrorism outweighs democracy in Turkey
Combating terrorism is Turkey’s highest priority, even higher than the rule of law, Turkish President Erdogan has said. Following a recent bomb attack in Ankara, he has pledged to crack down on Kurdish dissidents.
“Democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” have “absolutely no value any longer,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told local leaders in Ankara on Wednesday.
Kurds challenge Damascus with declaration of self-rule
(The Times) A Federation of Northern Syria would span a belt of territory along the Turkish border controlled by the Kurdish PYD and its allies, officials said.
How the PKK is entering energy wars
The PKK has stepped up attacks on oil and gas pipelines in Turkey.
(Al-Monitor) The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), denounced as a terrorist group by Turkey, last month inaugurated its first representative office abroad — in Moscow. A Kurdish speaker at the ceremony hailed the event as “a historic moment for the Kurdish people” before lauding his hosts: “Russia is a big power and a prominent actor in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not only an actor, but also a scriptwriter.” …
In the wake of the [Nov. 24] plane crisis, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his aides moved to accelerate projects to reduce Turkey’s dependence on Russian natural gas. Russia supplies 55% of the gas Turkey consumes, and Gazprom lists Turkey as its second-largest buyer after Germany.
For Turkey, the only quick alternative lies in the rich gas fields of neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan. With 5 trillion cubic meters (176 trillion cubic feet) of gas reserves, Iraqi Kurdistan whets the appetite of international investors and is eager to put its gas on the global market. Ankara’s game plan is simple: Begin building a pipeline this year, and get the gas flowing in 2019. Officials say the pipeline will have an initial capacity of 10 billion cubic meters a year, before a twofold increase in a short period of time. …
Whether Ankara can break free from Putin’s pincers depends on how the PKK problem in Turkey develops. In 2012, Erdogan managed to bring the PKK to the negotiating table, enlisting the support of the United States, Britain, the EU and Russia. Today, he is left with no friends but Saudi Arabia, Qatar and arguably Israel. He could hardly bring the PKK back to the table at a time when the Kurds — unlike him — enjoy strong Western sympathy for their fight against the Islamic State.
This stalemate has come to threaten not only Turkey’s national security but also its energy supplies. Any delay in the energy projects, meanwhile, means more money flowing to Russia’s coffers.
Unable to reach an internal agreement, the EU has turned to Turkey in an effort to solve the refugee crisis. But by doing so, Europe is strengthening President Erdogan’s position as he transforms his country into a Putin-style autocracy
(Spiegel) Europe has a new best friend. His name is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish president, of all people, the very man who is doing everything in his power right now to transform his country into autocracy modelled after Vladimir Putin’s Russia emerged as the victor at this week’s special EU-Turkey summit in Brussels. This is bad, even alarming, news.
Because the European Union apparently sees Erdogan as a potential miracle solution to the refugee crisis, he will likely get almost everything he wants: billions of euros for refugee support, accelerated EU membership talks and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens who want to visit Europe. On top of that, he gets the EU’s failure to criticize the president’s undemocratic behavior.
Doug Saunders: It’s time to turn our backs on Erdogan’s Turkey
This will be remembered as the month when Turkey’s elected regime crossed the moral red line into acts of genuine totalitarianism. It is a moment to back away from our close alliance with that regime.
Canada and its allies are relying on Turkey. … Turkey, however, has become a problem. A really big problem. A week ago Friday, Turkish soldiers and police surrounded the offices of Zaman, the country’s largest and by some measures best newspaper, fired tear gas, broke down the doors and seized control of the paper and its media empire with authorization from courts appointed by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party.
This is bad enough in itself, but it is part of an unprecedented campaign to shut down or seize control of all forms of political, bureaucratic and media opposition – officially in the name of shutting down the Islamist and Kurdish movements. Mr. Erdogan claims they are security threats, but in practice, these crackdowns give him absolute executive power by eliminating all institutions of democratic and popular dissent.
Mr. Erdogan won November’s election on a fear campaign aimed at Turkey’s Kurds, who make up about a fifth of the country’s population. The Kurdish-Turkish violence that drove those fears is entirely the creation of Mr. Erdogan, who abandoned his long and successful unity-building efforts in 2013 after Kurdish-led moderate political parties became popular with non-Kurdish Turks seeking a modern and European-minded alternative. They therefore became threats to his goal of gaining an absolute majority he could use to rewrite the Turkish constitution and make himself president for life. …
Kurds in Syria and Iraq are our most important allies in Syria’s civil war, and are key to finding a peaceful settlement to that conflict. By turning them into enemies strictly because they threatened his own grandiose political ambitions, Mr. Erdogan has destroyed the unified and open Turkey he earlier helped to create. And he has done so using the tools not just of authoritarianism but now, by silencing the media, of totalitarianism. It is time to stop treating Turkey as an ally, but as a country that has stepped beyond the pale.
Turkish first lady praises harem as ‘school for women’
Emine Erdoğan makes comment after her husband caused thousands to demonstrate against his government on International Women’s Day
(The Guardian) Emine Erdoğan’s comments were made a day after the president caused protests by saying he believed that “a woman is above all a mother” in a speech marking International Women’s Day. Critics have accused Erdoğan’s government of trying to impose strict Islamic values on Turkey and curtailing women’s civil liberties.
“The harem was a school for members of the Ottoman dynasty and an educational establishment for preparing women for life,” Emine Erdoğan said at an official event on the Ottoman sultans in Ankara, according to Turkish TV stations.
President Erdoğan has been criticised for urging Turkish women to have at least three children and railing against efforts to promote birth control as “treason”.
He and his wife regularly speak of their attachment to Islamic principles and the values of the old Ottoman empire, on the ruins of which the modern Turkish state was founded in 1923.
Turkish police fire tear gas for 2nd day after seizing newspaper
EU pressured to take stance over erosion of media rights in Turkey
A court on Friday appointed a state administrator to run the flagship Zaman paper and the English-language Today’s Zaman, affiliated with a U.S.-based cleric the government accuses of plotting a coup
18 – 19 February
Is Turkey crushing Kurdish self-rule in Syria?
(Al Monitor) Turkey’s stance against Syria and the Kurds marks a dramatic return to the tensions of 17 years ago, when Ocalan was captured, with one major difference: Turkey today appears headed for a debacle.
Syrian Kurdish leader: Turkey is escalating situation in Syria
The leader of the main Syrian Kurdish party has told DW that Turkish accusations his group was behind the bombing in Ankara are fabricated. He warned of a dangerous Turkish escalation in Syria.
(Deutsche Welle) Turkey’s accusations that the PYD was behind the bombing targeting the Turkish military in the heart of Ankara are made up, the leader of the main Syrian Kurdish group Salih Muslim (pictured) told DW, warning that Turkey was trying to escalate the situation in Syria.
“We completely deny these accusations because we have nothing to do with Turkey’s internal affairs,” Salih Muslim told DW. “We think it is fabricated by the Turkish side.”
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday accused the PYD and its armed wing, the YPG, of carrying out the Ankara bombing that killed 28 people and wounded dozens.
Children of the PKK: The Growing Intensity of Turkey’s Civil War
(Spiegel) The civil war is escalating in southeastern Turkey, with the government pledging to stamp out militant Kurds. Young Kurds, who used to hurl stones and Molotov cocktails, are now fighting on the front lines in several cities.
Just one year ago, it looked as though the peace process, which Erdogan initiated with the PKK back when he was still prime minister, would hold. In 2013, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan called for a cease-fire, which ultimately held for more than two years. But then came the June 2015 elections, in which Erdogan’s Islamist-conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its absolute majority. It blamed its diminished results on the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which received a sensational 13 percent of the vote, marking the first time it had ever sent delegates to Turkish parliament.
That was the moment at which Erdogan finally lost all interest in the peace process, and called for new elections to be held in November. The five months prior to those elections were among the bloodiest in Turkey’s recent history. In the wake of a devastating attack on the Kurds in Suruç, for which Islamic State (IS) is believed to have been responsible, the PKK killed Turkish police officers in revenge and accused Turkey of collaborating with Islamic State. In response, Erdogan intensified his attacks on PKK positions — and the PKK countered by calling for Kurds to declare autonomy in Turkish cities. The violence that ensued, combined with the AKP’s pledges to ensure security, led to Erdogan’s party regaining its absolute majority in the November vote.
Turkey’s President Erdogan slams US for supporting Kurds in Syria
Erdogan’s criticism of the US comes at a time when the two long-time allies find themselves facing conflicting security threats. Turkey fears a Kurdish-controlled region on its border while the US fears IS attacks.
(Deutsche Welle) During a speech in Ankara to provincial leaders, Erdogan chided the US, “Are you [on] our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organization?”
The US does consider the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – which has waged a bloody independence movement in eastern Turkey for more than three decades – a terrorist organization, but views the PYD separately, as their most viable option to fight the Islamic State inside Syria.
Despite being strategic, long-term, NATO allies, the US and Turkey have differing security concerns in Syria.
Ankara fears military gains by Syrian Kurds against Islamic State along its 560-mile border with Syria will rekindle a Kurdish separatist movement within Turkey.
By contrast, Washington’s biggest fear is the ongoing threat of IS terror attacks, like the one that devastated Paris in November, and left 130 people dead. They see the PYD as their most reliable proxy among various bands of militants fighting inside Syria.
Erdogan’s Foreign Policy Is in Ruins
Just a few short years ago, Turkey was heralded as one of the region’s rising powers. What happened?
It was a classic case of enhancing soft power through democratization and economic reforms at home, coupled with shrewd diplomacy aimed at establishing Ankara as a mediator in the region’s conflicts.
This policy lies in ruins today. It is the victim of the unpredictable turnabout in the Arab Spring, especially in Syria; hubris; and miscalculations in domestic and foreign policy. With the exception of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Turkey’s relations with almost all of its neighbors have soured. At the same time, tensions with the United States, European Union, and Russia have all dramatically increased. If Ankara has any sway today, it is mostly because of its geography — which gives it proximity to Syria and the refugee calamity — and its willingness to use strong-arm tactics in diplomatic transactions. …
The crux of the matter is this: Turkish foreign policy is no longer about Turkey but about Erdogan. Floundering at home and abroad, the Turkish president has embarked on an illiberal course at home undermining what are admittedly flawed institutions and reconstituting them in his image. His omnipresence and unchallenged position mean that foreign policy is the product of his worldview, whims, and preferences. There is no one who can challenge him. The systematic approach of the early years has given way to indulgence; this more than anything explains the ups and downs of Turkish foreign policy.
Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing attacks on Kurds
Ankara accused of violating academic freedom by detaining 27 signatories of petition calling for end to ‘massacre’ of Kurdish people
(The Guardian) Police detained 27 academics over alleged “terror propaganda” after they signed a petition together with more than 1,400 others calling for an end to Turkey’s “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people”. The US ambassador to Turkey condemned the crackdown as “chilling”. Local media reported that all the group were later released.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has severely criticised the signatories, including political scientist Noam Chomsky and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, and called on the judiciary to act against their alleged treachery. … All 1,128 Turkish signatories of the petition are under investigation, according to the Doğan news agency. If convicted, they could face between one and five years in prison.
Chomsky hits back at Erdoğan, accusing him of double standards on terrorism
US academic says Turkish president – who has condemned leftwing critics for ignorance – has been aiding Isis, which he blamed for bomb attack on Istanbul
(Quartz) A police station in Turkey was bombed… At least six people died and 39 were injured in the car-bomb attack in the south-eastern part of the country, which was blamed on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party. The bomb was set off at the entrance of the Cinar district’s police compound. …as it was revealed that Istanbul’s bomber entered as a refugee. Turkey said that the man who blew himself up last week in the historic center of the city, killing 10 German tourists, came from Syria in the flow of thousands of refugees. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s prime minister, said that five people were now under arrest in connection with the incident.
Turkey Is Being Torn Apart By ISIS Bombings And Kurdish Clashes
Political instability and ISIS attacks are causing turmoil in the nation.
(World Post) The suicide bombing that killed 10 German tourists in the heart of Istanbul on Tuesday is the latest outburst in a nearly yearlong spate of violence in Turkey.
In the past 12 months, the country’s security situation has deteriorated against a backdrop of political turmoil and the continually deepening conflict in neighboring Syria.
Islamic State militant-linked terror attacks, including the most recent bombing on Tuesday, have killed over a hundred people, and clashes have escalated between Turkish government forces and the separatist militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).