Erdogan, Flush With Victory, Seizes New Powers in Turkey: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, July 19, 2018— Even before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was inaugurated last week, he began elbowing his way into the front ranks of the globe’s strongmen.

Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018— Is Turkey going to be another Iran?

Post-Election Turkey: The Birth of an Islamist-Nationalist Alliance: Burak Bekdil, BESA, June 29, 2018— Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 sent messages on many wavelengths.

NATO’s Real Crisis Is Turkey, Not Trump: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, July 11, 2018 — From the perspective of Europe, the crisis within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a name: Donald Trump.

On Topic Links

DEBATE: What’s Next for Turkey?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, July 19, 2018

Is Turkey Playing a Double Game with NATO?: Debalina Ghoshal, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018

Time to Wake Up to Erdogan’s Turkey: Sarah N. Stern, Breaking Israel News, July 11, 2018

Is Turkey Safe for Israelis and Jews?: Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line, June 16, 2018


ERDOGAN, FLUSH WITH VICTORY, SEIZES NEW POWERS IN TURKEY                             Carlotta Gall

New York Times, July 19, 2018

Even before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was inaugurated last week, he began elbowing his way into the front ranks of the globe’s strongmen. Hours before taking the oath of office — after 15 years already in power — Mr. Erdogan published a 143-page decree changing the way almost every government department and public body in the country operates. In the days since, he has issued several equally lengthy decrees and presidential decisions, centralizing power and giving him the ability to exert control in nearly all areas of life with almost unchecked authority.

At a moment when democratic systems around the world are under increasing pressure, Mr. Erdogan, who was re-elected in June, is among those leaders, like Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Viktor Orban of Hungary, who are using the levers of democracy to vastly expand their authority. Among the changes Mr. Erdogan has put in place under the new presidential system are these:

The prime minister’s office has been abolished; The military has been brought under firmer civilian control; The president will draft the budget, choose judges and many top officials; The president can dismiss Parliament and call new elections at will; The president appoints the head of the National Intelligence Agency, the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Central Bank, as well as ambassadors, governors and university rectors, among other top bureaucrats; Virtually none of the president’s appointments require a confirmation process. None of the amendments Mr. Erdogan decreed were subject to public debate before becoming law. The vast accumulation of power fulfills Turkey’s shift from a parliamentary system to the presidential one that was narrowly approved by voters in a referendum last year.

The voluminous decrees, analysts say, promise months of administrative upheaval as agencies are abolished and government employees reassigned. Critics have voiced concern at the lack of checks on the president’s increased powers. “The state is being reorganized around Tayyip Erdogan,” the columnist Asli Aydintasbas wrote in the secular opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet last week. Many of the changes, analysts point out, merely formalize what was already the case: It is Mr. Erdogan who makes the decisions. But the consolidation of his power is far-reaching.

Mr. Erdogan has also amended the counterterrorism law in expectation of lifting the state of emergency, which expires on Thursday and was put in place two years ago after a failed military coup against him. The new measures bring the powerful Turkish military firmly under civilian control — a step that the president says is in line with changes required under the European Union’s accession process. The bloc has dangled admission before Turkey for years.

But Mr. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists have long called for a presidential system and for greater civilian control over the military. Turkey’s recent history has been filled with military coups, and the Islamists chafed more than others under military rule. Mr. Erdogan has placed the chief of staff of the armed forces under control of the Defense Ministry, and the Supreme Military Council, which decides senior appointments in the armed forces, has been reconfigured to include more civilian ministers than military commanders.

Mr. Erdogan appointed a loyalist, the former chief of staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, as his first defense minister under the new system. General Akar opposed the 2016 coup — he was taken prisoner on the night of the failed coup by rogue officers — and has overseen a comprehensive purge of the armed forces in the two years since. “It seems Erdogan has planned the transition to be as smooth as possible by naming Akar, Turkey’s top soldier, as the defense minister,” the columnist Murat Yetkin wrote in The  Hurriyet Daily News.

Mr. Erdogan outlined his own powers in one new decree after his inauguration. He will appoint the chief of staff of the armed forces — along with the commanders of the land, air and naval forces and the deputy chief of staff — by presidential decision, which needs no confirmation process. The president will also make promotions in the upper ranks of the security forces from colonel upward. Decree 703, issued just before Mr. Erdogan was sworn in to his new term, also removed many of the regulations in the selection process for appointments. For instance, the president will appoint the rectors of Turkey’s public and private universities, without the usual shortlisting procedure by the university and Higher Education Board.

“Yes, U.S. President Trump can appoint a replacement to a vacant seat in the Supreme Court, but he does not appoint a police chief in Massachusetts or a public theater director in Boston,” Ms. Aydintasbas commented in Cumhuriyet. “He cannot appoint a state governor or even a university rector,” she added. The decree also lowers the qualifications for judges appointed to the government’s administrative courts, which regulate government departments. Previously, judges had to hold law or political science degrees, but they can now be drawn from any degree program, as the Justice Ministry sees fit…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






 Amir Taheri

Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018

Is Turkey going to be another Iran? With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest electoral victory the question is making the rounds in Western political circles. Despite the fact that Sunday’s election gives Erdogan immense new powers, my short answer to the question is a firm: no!

In analyzing the nature of political power in any form the first question to ask concerns the provenance of that power. For where does power comes from determines where it may go. In Iran in 1979 power was like a box of jewels thrown in the street, ready for anyone to pick up. The Shah had left the country and most members of the Council of Monarchy he had appointed were in the French Riviera, while the army Top Brass had declared “neutrality” which meant the military wouldn’t stop anyone from picking up the box of jewels in the street.

By a fluke of fate and a combination of bizarre circumstances, it was Ayatollah Khomeini who had the nerve and the imagination to pick up the box after the Shah’s last Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar had also gone into hiding waiting to be spirited out of Tehran to Paris.

However, Erdogan, unlike Khomeini has obtained his box of jewels in the form of 52 per cent of the votes cast in an election boasting one of the highest turnouts in Turkish history. Even if we make allowances for abstentions and real or alleged irregularities in the process, none could deny that Erdogan enjoys a solid support base from at least 32 per cent of the Turkish electorate.

In contrast, unlike Erdogan who has been on the Turkish political scene for almost three decades, including 15 years at the top, Khamenei, when he seized power, was a largely unknown figure to most Iranians. The best surveys we had at the time was that the exiled mullah would not collect more than five to 10 percent of the votes in any free and fair election.

Khomeini’s support came from Tehran and a few other big cities, notably Isfahan, while Erdogan’s support base is in rural areas and small and medium cities. The uprising that brought Khomeini to power was a largely urban middle class affair while Erdogan depends on the rural population, the working classes and the petty-bourgeoisie for support. Khomeini was solidly backed by all shades of leftist parties and ideologies from social democrats to Maoists to Islamic-Marxists. Erdogan, on the other hand, is the bête-noire of the Turkish Left.

While Khomeini and his entourage adopted a good chunk of the lexicon of the left, including such worn-out clichés as “the downtrodden (Mustazafin) and “Imperialism” (Istikbar), Erdogan’s political vocabulary owes more to populism than to proto-Marxism. Khomeini’s entourage featured numerous theologians and so-called Islamic scholars while a variety of violent Islamist groups, including the Fedayeen Islam, the Hezbollah (founded in 1975), the Islamic Coalition and the Hojjatieh Society.

In contrast there are hardly any theologians or religious scholars in Erdogan’s entourage. Despite his occasional penchant for Islamist shibboleths, Erdogan faces stiff opposition from a wide range of Islamist groups, starting with the Hizmet, khidmah in Arabic (Service) movement led by exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, not to mention the 100 or so Sufi fraternities and the crypto-Shiite Alawite community. In fact, Turkey’s Islamic networks fear the take-over of their organizations and businesses by the state while Erdogan adopts a pious pose and makes occasional noises against Kemalist secularism.

To most Iranians, Khomeini was an unknown quantity and his seizure of power more like a lottery than a rational choice. Warts and all, Erdogan, however, is well-known to Turks who have had time to see him in action as party leader, Mayor of Istanbul, Prime Minister and President. Khomeini showed disdain for economic issues, once declaring that “economics is for donkeys” and boasting that his revolution was not meant to bring prosperity but a chance for martyrdom.

In contrast, Erdogan played the card of economic development from the start when he transformed Istanbul from a decrepit almost bankrupt urban sprawl into a bustling megapolis with global ambitions. Under the Khomeinist system, Iran today is at least 40 per cent poorer in real terms than it was under the Shah, according to surveys by the central Bank of Iran. Under Erdogan’s stewardship, in contrast, the Turkey has experienced a doubling of its annual Gross Domestic Product, a performance better than the so-called “Chinese miracle.”

Right from the start, Khomeini’s message met with thinly disguised hostility by Iran’s ethnic minorities. And for years after seizing power the ayatollah and his clan had to use the utmost violence to crush the minorities through mass executions, widespread arrests and even full-size military operations against Iranian-Arabs in Khuzestan, Iranian Kurds in three provinces, Iranian-Turcomen in Golestan province and Iranian Baluch in Sistan-and-Baluchistan.

In contrast, Erdogan owed his initial access to power to massive support among Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The subsequent wars he has waged against armed Kurdish groups, mostly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), does not nullify the fact that even in the latest election and his AKP party did well in most Kurdish-majority areas of Anatolia…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






Burak Bekdil

BESA, June 29, 2018

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 sent messages on many wavelengths. The voters asserted the unchallenged popularity of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the longest-serving Turkish leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. They welcomed an infant center-right party, IYI (“good” in Turkish); recognized the country’s Kurds as a legitimate political force; and gave a cautious nod to an emerging social democrat politician, Muharrem Ince, Erdoğan’s closest presidential rival.

More strategically, Election 2018 marked the official birth of an Islamist-nationalist alliance that will recalibrate Turkey’s foreign policy calculus in line with the strong wave of religious/nativist nationalism that brought this alliance to power. In power since November 2002, Erdoğan easily won the presidential race with 53.6% of the national vote in the first round (any number beyond the 50% mark would have sufficed). But his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won only 42.5% of the parliamentary vote, down seven percentage points from its result in the elections of November 2015. The AKP won 293 seats in Turkey’s 600-seat house, falling short of a simple majority of 301.

Had this been just another parliamentary election, the AKP would be unable to form a single-party government. But legislative changes that followed the April 2017 referendum now allow political parties to enter the parliamentary race in alliance with other parties. Erdoğan chose as his ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has its ideological roots in the militantly ultranationalist, pan-Turkic ideology of the 1970s. On June 24 the MHP won 11.1% of the national vote and 50 seats, bringing up the “allied” (i.e., the governing) seats to 343 – which gives the AKP-MHP alliance a comfortable parliamentary majority.

Four decades after emerging as marginal parties in the 1970s, Turkey’s militant Islamists and militant ultranationalists won a combined 53.6% of the national vote and 57% of parliamentary seats. Erdoğan has said in the past that he would put foreign policy “in line with what my nation demands,” highlighting the Islamist sensitivities of his voter base. He will now be adding nationalist sensitivities to that foreign policy calculus. This is likely to mean confrontations, perhaps bold ones, with several nations both inside and outside Turkey’s region.

Turkey’s new ruling ideology will, first of all, make it practically impossible to return to the negotiating table for peace with the Kurds. That is an MHP red line that Erdoğan will prefer not to cross. MHP’s militaristic posture will also boost Ankara’s desire to show more muscle in Kurdish-related disputes in northern Syria and northern Iraq. (MHP’s only solution to the Kurdish dispute is military might.)

Turkey’s decades-long, obsessive foreign policy goals include making Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state, asserting an ideological kinship with Hamas, stoking sectarian hostilities against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and making threats about drilling off the shores of the divided island of Cyprus. To these will probably be added an “Uighur cause,” a subject about which the MHP is particularly sensitive.

The AKP’s election manifesto stated an intention to “overcome problems and improve bilateral relations with the United States.” But the manifesto also said Turkey would make an effort to “improve bilateral relations with Russia.” It said, “We will continue our close coordination with Russia on regional subjects, especially on Syria.”

In practice, Erdogan’s balancing act between Russia and the US resembles Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas’s “pendulum policy” during WWII. Vargas offered support to Hitler and Mussolini at times, but ended up siding with the Allies. MHP’s involvement in government policy will be totally irrelevant when it comes to operating the modern-day Turkish pendulum.

Erdoğan’s relations with the US are ideologically hostile but de facto transactional. They will remain so. His relations with Russia are largely transactional and will probably gain further ground, politically as well as militarily, as the discrepancy between Turkish and western democratic cultures widens. Erdoğan ideologically belong to the strongmen’s club.

As Turkey’s gross democratic deficit, largely created under Erdoğan’s governance, is blended with MHP’s notoriously isolationist, xenophobic ideology, Turkey’s theoretical goal of accession into the European Union (EU) will gradually become null and void. Erdoğan will soon announce plans to shut down the ministry dealing with accession negotiations with the EU and turn it into “a department of the Foreign Ministry.” This should not surprise anyone.




Eli Lake

Bloomberg, July 11, 2018

From the perspective of Europe, the crisis within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a name: Donald Trump. It’s easy to understand why. The U.S. president calls the European NATO members freeloaders. He declined at last year’s summit to reiterate the entire point of the alliance, that an attack on one is an attack on all…

Yet while the rhetoric is dangerous, U.S. policy — so far — has not reflected Trump’s tantrums. U.S. forces remain in Poland (and Germany, for that matter). The sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, meddling in Eastern Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 U.S. election remain. The U.S. has supported the accession of Macedonia into NATO and sold Ukraine anti-tank missiles. The weak link in the alliance, in fact, is Turkey. Here is a country slipping into the sphere of influence of Russia — the very country that NATO was created to deter.

In December Turkey finalized a deal to purchase the S-400 air defense system from Moscow, and in April the Turks broke ground on a Russian-made nuclear power plant. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last month won an unfree and unfair election, has recently held talks with Putin to discuss the future of Syria. Russia’s attempt to “flip” Turkey — the term used by U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison — is extraordinary considering the two countries came close to war in 2015 when a Turkish jet shot down a Russian one that had flown into Turkish territory.

Ideally, this week’s NATO summit would be an opportunity for the U.S. president to cajole European allies into presenting a unified opposition to Erdogan’s conduct. There is no mechanism for kicking a member out of the alliance, but Turkey should at least begin to feel some pain and pressure for its drift toward Russia. Trump has not availed himself of that opportunity. Just look at his confrontational remarks on Wednesday about Germany or his tweet on Tuesday complaining that NATO allies are “delinquent” in their defense spending.

Past presidents, including Trump’s immediate predecessor, have lodged similar complaints about Europe not paying its fair share. But context matters. Trump doesn’t prod allies behind the scenes; he issues tweets and diktats aimed at maximizing humiliation. Any chance to shift the focus to Turkey is lost. “The president’s seeming inability to draw a distinction between democrats and authoritarians has meant that Erdogan is getting away with murder not only domestically but also within NATO by playing footsie with Russia and Putin,” says Gary Schmitt, a scholar and strategist at the American Enterprise Institute. The emphasis of this NATO summit, he says, should be as much on Turkey’s misbehavior as on members’ defense spending.

The irony is that, for all of his brashness, Trump can claim some success with his campaign to get the allies to pay more for defense. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the summit’s opening that member states are no longer cutting military spending. Eight allies are expected this year to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, the longstanding benchmark for the alliance. Meanwhile, NATO has committed to have 30 air squadrons, 30 combat vessels and 30 mechanized battalions ready to deploy within 30 days to defend the Baltic States by 2020.

Any other American president, presented with this evidence of Europe’s renewed commitment to the 70-year-old trans-Atlantic alliance, would be happy to take yes for an answer. Trump is not, to state the obvious, like any other American president. As he treats the NATO summit as a stage for a play about Europeans ripping off America, Turkey is drifting ever closer to Russia.




On Topic Links

DEBATE: What’s Next for Turkey?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, July 19, 2018—Q: Turkey’s fate has been associated with that of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ever since 2002. After having won multiple elections and referenda and surviving an attempted coup d’état in July 2016, he is consolidating power in an unprecedented manner. The elections of June 24, 2018 were his most recent test, and he passed it successfully.

Is Turkey Playing a Double Game with NATO?: Debalina Ghoshal, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018—In January, 2018 Turkey reportedly awarded an 18-month contract for a study on the development and production of a long-range air- and missile-defense system to France and Italy, showing — ostensibly — Turkey’s ongoing commitment to NATO.

Time to Wake Up to Erdogan’s Turkey: Sarah N. Stern, Breaking Israel News, July 11, 2018—On June 25, we awoke to the somber news that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had secured a victory in Turkey’s presidential elections. The reason this news is so grim is because he is a very dangerous man who wants to establish a Turkish Islamist caliphate, as he has simultaneously been eroding human rights inside Turkey and grabbing more power for himself.

Is Turkey Safe for Israelis and Jews?: Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line, June 16, 2018—Amid the most recent diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, journalist Ohad Hemo with Israel’s Channel 2 was preparing for a live broadcast in the center of Istanbul when he noticed a crowd gradually gathering around him and his cameraman.