Tuesday, June 04, 2013


"The immediate explanation for the rising protests in Turkey can be found in the fierce reaction of the country’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Behind the turbulence lies a much bigger question posed in recent years by the prime minister’s Justice and Development party, or AKP. Where, in Mr Erdogan’s mind, does Turkey sit in the world? Not so long ago Ankara looked west. Now it has turned east. Mr Erdogan has responded to the disturbance with a public rage that more than matches the anger of those who have occupied Istanbul’s Taksim square and staged protests in other big cities. The demonstrators have been branded extremists and looters, Turks who drink alcohol have been labelled alcoholics and Twitter has been called a curse on society. The opposition Republican People’s party, the heir to the secularist tradition of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, stands accused by the prime minister of stirring up unrest because of its successive defeats at the ballot box. Alongside the heavy-handed response of teargas-firing police, the prime minister could scarcely have given a more telling display of the authoritarianism against which the protesters have set their face. Mr Erdogan has won three elections and, caught in the hubris that comes with a decade in office, has acted as if this puts him beyond the constraints of Turkish democracy. The unease has been gathering for some time. Crackdowns on the press, arrests of political opponents, the increasingly Islamist hue of domestic policies and the suspicion that Mr Erdogan sees no end to his own hold on power have all conspired to stir disquiet. It has long been an open secret that the prime minister wants to swap his present post for that of a supercharged presidency. He wants to change the constitution to give effect to the transition. The ambition creates unease reaching well beyond his political opponents, including, some say, in the office of the current president Abdullah Gul. The irony in Mr Erdogan’s denunciation of protest is inescapable. After a hesitant initial reaction to the Arab uprisings, the Turkish government has cast itself as the champion of freedom in the Middle East. The social networks Mr Erdogan now denounces played a noteworthy role in mobilising opposition to authoritarian rule elsewhere".
Phillip Stephens, "Recep Tayyip Erdogan is only proving the protesters right." The Financial Times. 3 June 2013, in www.ft.com
"The Turks wasted no time. A day after Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron made their first triumphant visit to Tripoli after the end of Muammer Gaddafi’s reign over the Libyan capital, Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept into town to cement political and economic ties with a region whose importance to Ankara has grown dramatically. Preparations had been intense. A special Turkish Airlines flight full of cleaners, cooks and repairmen arrived in advance to spruce up the Turkish-operated Rixos Hotel, a five-star complex that hosted foreign journalists during the preceding six-month war. Mr Erdogan brought along not only his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and other ministers, but dozens of Turkish businessmen. “There is great interest in Turkey, in us,” he explained to Turkish reporters during the September 2011 trip, as heavy fighting between rebel forces and Gaddafi’s loyalists continued to the east and south of the capital. “This in turn lays important responsibilities on our shoulders. If we ... are able to comprehend our position and influence, believe me, we will be in a very different place in the world.'"
Borzou Daragahi," Middle East: Regional push resumes following Arab spring." The Financial Times. 9 May 2013, in www.ft.com.
One does not have to be necessarily anti-Turkish (as I admittedly am for historical [The Armenian Genocide among other] reasons), to have a good and delicious sense of schadenfreude over the events in that country in the past five to six days. However, let us be perfectly clear: whatever has happened and may happen in Turkey in the coming days, it is not a replica of what occurred in the Arab World in Anno Domini 2011. The circumstances are quite different indeed. The first and most important is that notwithstanding certain caveats that a neutral observer may have, the AK regime in Ankara, whatever its many, many faults is au fond, genuinely popular and enjoys legitimacy among the majority of the Turkish population. If not, repeat not among the urban, educated, predominately, secular Turkish bourgeoisie. Especially of course in Constantinople and Ankara itself. Something which one could not truthfully say about most of the regimes in the Near and Middle East back in 2011 or perhaps even to-day. If one wished to paint a historical model or example of what is occurring in Turkey at the moment, perhaps the evenements of May 1968 in Paris comes closest to mind. Which of course highlights the fact that whatever may occur in Turkey in the next days and weeks, it will not result in the overthrow of the parliamentary regime, ruled by the AK. What may occur in Turkey in the near future, and this is something which has been predicted and posited in this journal for quite sometime, is that Premier Erdogan will, inevitably be forced to pull in his horns as it relates to Turkish foreign policy. And, that any illusions that anyone has had in the recent past about Turkey's so-called 'Great Power' aspirations in the Near and Middle East, have been punctured. Id. est., people like the egregiously ultra bien-pensant Phillip Stephens. Who not so long ago was quite happy to tout and proclaim to one and all, that Turkey under the AK was the coming regional power. And that the EU & the USA were stupidly at fault for not opening its arms to the tender embraces for Premier Erdogan, and taking the 'new Turkey' at its own worth, viz:
"The irony, of course, is that the new, assertive, Turkey has more to offer the west than its pliant precedessor. With a mind of its own, it has greater strategic credibility in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This is the Turkey the west really must not lose 1."
Now in fact, this entire (to my mind always fanciful) notion has become unstuck. Just as France in the aftermath of Mai Soixante-huit became a more introvert and less of a Great Power of Charles de Gaulle's vision, so Turkey will become a more introverted and less rhetorically bombastic regional power. As the American intelligence forecasting firm, Stratfor noted yesterday:
"Though dissent is rising, Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party still have a substantial support base, and the opposition continues to lack a credible political alternative (local elections scheduled for October likely will indicate how much support for the party has waned). At the same time, Turkey is pursuing a highly ambitious agenda abroad, from negotiating peace with Kurdish militants and developing oil pipelines in Iraqi Kurdistan to trying to fend off Syrian-backed militant attacks. Turkey was already highly constrained in pursuing these foreign policy goals, but they will take second place to Turkey's growing political distractions at home as Erdogan prioritizes the growing domestic challenges and as foreign adversaries such as Syria try to take advantage of preoccupied Turkish security forces to try to sponsor more attacks inside Turkey 2."
For those who had dubious idea that Erdogan's Turkey would resurrect the hollow 'greatness' of the Ottoman Empire, this turn of events looks unfortunate. For those of us who remembers Gladstone's essential truism about Ottoman Empire, the recent events are all to the good 3.
1. Phillip Stephens, "West must offer Turkey a proper seat." The Financial Times. June 17, 2010, in www.ft.com.
2. Stratfor, "Analysis: Turkey's Violent Protests in Context." Stratfor: Strategic Forecasting. 3 June 2013, in http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/turkeys-violent-protests-context.com
3."Let the Turks now carry away their abuses, in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and Yuzbachis, their Kaimakans and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province that they have desolated and profaned. This thorough riddance, this most blessed deliverance, is the only reparation we can make to those heaps and heaps of dead, the violated purity alike of matron and of maiden and of child; to the civilization which has been affronted and shamed; to the laws of God, or, if you like, of Allah; to the moral sense of mankind at large. There is not a criminal in a European jail, there is not a criminal in the South Sea Islands, whose indignation would not rise and over-boil at the recital of that which has been done, which has too late been examined, but which remains unavenged, which has left behind all the foul and all the fierce passions which produced it and which may again spring up in another murderous harvest from the soil soaked and reeking with blood and in the air tainted with every imaginable deed of crime and shame. That such things should be done once is a damning disgrace to the portion of our race which did them; that the door should be left open to their ever so barely possible repetition would spread that shame over the world." William Ewart Gladstone. The Bulgarian Horrors and the Questions of the East (1876).


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