By Gareth H. Jenkins
May 11, 2016
Ahmet Davutoğlu has left as he came, not in response to popular demand but at President Erdoğan’s behest. Apparently unsighted by his unfailing self-belief, Davutoğlu was caught unprepared when Erdoğan made his move. The overthrow of Davutoğlu has demonstrated the naivety of the EU’s policy of appeasement. The EU officials believed that by focusing on Davutoğlu, they were strengthening him politically as a counterweight to Erdoğan. This may have been naïve, self-serving or both. It was certainly not true. But it did reinforce Erdoğan’s suspicions of Davutoğlu.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Karar writes that it is obvious that ISIS has an understanding of Islam that leads it to see Turkey as an enemy, and that it intends to incite such an Islamic understanding inside Turkey. But at the same time, it is also clear that ISIS does not want to wholly be at odds with Turkey. Ultimately, it wants to be accepted as a force to bargain with in Syria and Iraq. Thus, even though they don’t hinder uncontrolled acts and though they may even resort to using violence as part of a strategy of “warning,” they have to get along with Turkey, insofar as they want to be a permanent force to reckon with in the region. The PKK’s position is no different. It’s easy to declare cantons (in Syria) when a war is raging, but much more difficult to sustain these when peace arrives… It’s obvious that you cannot categorically trust the U.S., Russia or Germany. In other words, when we pass on to the next stage in Syria, Turkey’s view of an eventual Kurdish entity is going to be a crucial factor… And what is at least as critical as this factor is the fact that the PKK runs the risk of alienating its sociological base in Turkey if it escalates the violence. In short, the two terror groups that Turkey is facing are in fact in need of Turkey’s “acceptance…” We can predict that both organizations are going to want to resort to violence in order to bring Turkey to the point that they desire, but that they at the end of the day are going to want to keep Turkey by their sides. As a new table is being set in Syria, the number of groups that would like to have violence in Turkey is thus decreasing, not increasing.
Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce writes that it is becoming increasingly clear that the Palace wants to have a big purge in the ranks of the military. It is equally clear that the general staff is resisting this. The pro-palace media provoked a reaction from the general staff by its recent stories claiming that “Gülenist officers in the armed forces are going to carry out a coup.” The General staff denied these allegations in a forceful language, stating that “no one can take action outside the chain of command.” This stance amounted to checking the demands for a purge. In fact, the fight is not really about the issue of the Gülenists, but about the relations to the United States and NATO. This is not an exclusive AKP operation, but a plan that is being implemented jointly with the neo-nationalists, the ulusalcı. The ulusalcı are attempting to regain the positions within the armed forces that they lost with the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases. The aim is to purge the cadres that have been on NATO duty in Brussels and Pentagon, and that are deemed to be close to the Western culture. Thus, it is not a question of purging Gülenists; what is taking place is a fight between the pro-NATO and ulusalcı cadres of the military. If the latter prevail, the command chain of the armed forces for years to come will be refashioned in accordance with the wishes of the ulusalcı. We are witnessing a fight that is going to determine Turkey’s place in the world.
Verda Özer in Hürriyet reports that Erdoğan offered Obama the services of the Turkish military in Syria against ISIS, in return for which he asked the U.S. to stop supporting the Kurdish PYD. According to what Turkish sources have told me, Ankara made the following suggestion to Washington during the visit of Erdoğan: “Come, give up PYD. In its place, we can – together with the Arab and Turcoman groups that we support – fight a land war against ISIS.” Turkey also asked for U.S. air cover to enable the Turkish army to intervene in Syria. To this, the U.S. replied “I will not give up on PYD.” Washington also expressed the reservation that if “the Turkish army were to intervene, Russia might hit it.” In fact, the U.S. is wary of Turkey becoming entrenched and powerful in Iraq and Syria. According to what my sources relate, Washington urged Ankara to “return to the solution process,” to which Erdoğan replied “I have not broken off the solution process, the process is in the refrigerator.” And he reminded that Turkey’s, and thus his own, focus right now is the fight against PKK. According to what the sources relate, the Turkish side made a connection between the solution process and the PYD. It emphasized that as long as the armed support of the U.S. for PYD continues, it will not be possible to restart the solution process.
Murat Yetkin in Radikal writes that there is no sign that chief of the general staff General Hulusi Akar is going to abandon the military’s traditional line, “Peace in the Homeland, Peace in the world.” Akar is a commander who appreciates very well the importance of relations with NATO, and who knows well what kind of initiative would deprive Turkey of the support of NATO. The Turkish General staff knows that it would not be possible to venture into Syrian airspace without being attacked by Russia; would it then be as amateurish as to plan for an offensive that would have to be carried out without air support? Will the army enter Syria? There’s absolute no sign of this, neither politically nor militarily; the authoritative sources with whom we have spoken emphasize that what is being undertaken is not an “attack” operation, but a “defensive” operation against the mounting threat at the borders. The “Fırtına” artillery shells give General Akar and his team of Commanders assymetrical superiority against the initiatives on the other side of the border. In this way, Turkey wants to make clear that an agreement between the U.S. and Russia that does not take its security preoccupations into consideration is unlikely to be effective. Turkey may not be able to impose what it wants, but neither will the U.S. and Russia get to impose their exclusive will.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.