The current Turkish authorities are reputed as unreliable heedless partners. Even inside Turkey, many people regard the ruling Justice and Development Party as an unpredictable force. But there is one thing Erdogan’s party does well – forcing Turks to fight internal and external “enemies” on a daily basis.
Today, Turks actually have lots of enemies in the Middle East, but Erdogan also claims that they have no fewer ones inside their country including:
- parliamentary opposition;
- separatist Kurds in the southeastern provinces;
- the so-called parallel state, whose activities are associated with Turkish theologian Fethullah Gulen.
Among the other internal enemies are human rights activists but the key targets are the three above-mentioned forces.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule is based on force. Not only does his regime defy any dissidence but it is most aggressive in oppressing it.
Erdogan is very cruel towards the Kurds living in the southeast of his country. Here his army is fighting the “terrorists” of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He has several brigades and hundreds of heavy weapons in the region. While NATO partners are urging Erdogan to close the last corridor connecting ISIL with the outer world (98-km-long Jarabulus-Aazaz section), he is enlarging his army in his own territory. Instead of fighting ISIL and blocking the section, he is punishing Turkish Kurds.
Americans are worried to see how Turks are treating Syrian Kurds, the key anti-Jihadist force along the Turkish-Syrian border. For Turks, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union and its military wing are equivalent to ISIL. They regard them as terrorists even though they are not organizing terrorist attacks and are not executing people in public. Turkey is one of the forces to blame for the failure of the Jan 29 Geneva talks.
And the Americans are forced to pay a high price for Turkey’s policy on Kurds – though it was they who provoked this attitude by denying the facts that the Turks are trading oil with ISIL. In exchange, the Turks are now blaming their American partners for supporting Kurdish “terrorists” in Syria and are laying ultimatums like either we or them.
Recently Erdogan said that he was ready to go to extraordinary lengths to beat the “terrorists” in the Kurdish provinces. On Jan 26 he urged his authorities to “normalize the life” in their country. There is no need for us to explain what is normal for him: oppressing the opposition, preventing any ethnic group from expressing its national identity, eradicating any dissidence. Erdogan’s style is to terrorize his opponents with “espionage” and “treason” charges and to plot coups.
In the same speech Erdogan said that he would continue fighting the “parallel state,” particularly, the US-based dissident Fethullah Gulen. He has instructed his team to search for Gulen’s supporters in the government and has advised them to use “brave” men for this “anti-terrorist” campaign. Doesn’t this resemble the methods once used by Hitler? Erdogan needs “brave” men all along the frontline.
Before the last year’s parliamentary elections Erdogan’s party did its best to convince their people that they were saving them from a civil war and that their key enemies were ISIL, PKK and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C). This force became known last year, when its men took hostage a Turkish prosecutor and attacked the US Consulate General in Istanbul. On Jan 29 pro-governmental Yeni Safak reported links among the “parallel state,” DHKP-C and... Israeli Mossad. The source was sure that all that is happening in Turkey now has been organized by the “parallel state.” The goal of these three forces, according to Yeni Safak, is civil war and coup.
The author of the “parallel state” myth is Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Many people see him as an alternative to confused neo-Ottoman Erdogan. But Davutoglu will hardly be able to dispel the atmosphere of fear created in his country under Erdogan’s rule. And it is due to Erdogan that Davutoglu is in power. One more alternative to Erdogan is former President Abdullah Gul, but Erdogan is keeping Gul too far from politics.
This is what Turkey is facing now after 13 years of Erdogan’s rule. In the late 2010s it had a chance to attain political stability and economic prosperity but the war in Syria has put an end to this prospect. Now Turkey is in conflict with almost all of its neighbors and is no longer as good with its western partners as it was before. Erdogan is warning the Americans that he may review his relations with them if Obama continues supporting Syrian Kurds. In the meantime, he is threatening the Europeans with more refugees from Syria. So, we can see that the regime currently ruling in Turkey is unpredictable, provocative, aggressive and repressive.
Several years ago, when there was no war in Syria, intellectuals in Turkey were wondering about their country’s strategic choice. The Turks had two alternatives: either “big Finland” or “small China” (1), i.e. either an economically strong democratic country with limited geopolitical ambitions or an authoritarian ambitious but economically unstable state. Erdogan chose the latter and was wrong. He had no enough common sense and institution to turn his country into a “small China.” Present-day China is authoritarian but it is not imposing its methods on anybody unlike Erdogan and his party.
Nor is it any longer possible for Erdogan to go back to the “big Finland” option as the state is has built over the last 13 years can hardly be rebuilt into anything close to democracy in the decades to come.
So, today, Turkey is facing an absolutely different future – “Asian Yugoslavia.” Only NATO membership and the border with the EU are keeping that country from disintegration. Today Turkey is being “Balkanized” and Erdogan is quite persistent in doing this.
(1) Halil Karaveli, Turkey’s Future: If not a «Big Finland,» Maybe a «Small China?» // The Turkey Analyst, November 12, 2015.
EADaily’s Middle East Bureau