Turkey’s once-worldly aims falter, even close allies concerned


Date posted: February 3, 2014

MICHAEL SHANK

From a political perspective, defending Turkey’s blend of political Islam and neoliberal economic policies was not terribly difficult a decade ago.

After all, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan helped build the 17th largest economy in the world and what would be the sixth largest among European Union countries. His plan was to be a top-10 economy by 2023, and operating under free-market fundamentals, Turkey was quickly tacking toward that goal.

Externally, Turkey seemed to be the perfect partner for Washington. She was the second-largest troop contributor to Afghanistan, backed the invasion of Libya, armed the rebels in Syria, denounced the military coup in Egypt and came to the rescue of countless Tsunami-stricken regions from Indonesia to Japan.

Erdogan can’t seem to help himself to the riches that power proffers.

Internally, however, the country was falling apart. The violent crackdown last year of its protesters in Gezi Park illustrated how the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had lost control of the country. Gezi captured the mounting frustration among Turkey’s citizens regarding the rollback of personal and press freedoms and the persistent undermining of democratic institutions.

Now, revelations in recent months of serious and pervasive corruption within the AKP and more extreme crackdowns on the media, the criminal justice system and academic freedoms show yet again how quickly Turkey’s once-worldly aims have completely unraveled, unsettling even its closest allies.

Critics both in and out of the country are describing Erdogan’s antics as dictatorial and autocratic, not a good sign for a leader who wants to liaise economically and politically with the West.

Power appears to have gone to the prime minister’s head. Angling to become president in order to extend his rule, Erdogan is foolishly profiling and purging former friends in the Hizmet movement, recently firing hundreds of government employees who are allegedly (no one knows for sure as there’s no evidence) sympathetic to the movement’s founder, Fethullah Gulen – a move that dispels any notion in the West that the AKP and Gulen are somehow in cahoots.  Since there is no indication that those fired did anything wrong, many feel that Erdogan is attacking the Hizmet movement to create a distraction and thus cover up his corruption and anti-democratic crackdown.

Needless to say, the country’s keenness to curry favor with America — wallpapering Washington D.C.’s billboards with Western-friendly “Travel Turkey” advertisements and bringing on board Kobe Bryant and Kevin Costner as spokesmen for Turkish Airlines – has quickly subsided.

Though Erdogan has met recently with EU officials in Brussels, Iran’s leaders in Tehran and President Francois Hollande of France (one of the main obstacles to Turkey’s EU bid), he has clearly lost his leverage in the region.

Favorable views of Turkey fell from 78 percent in 2011 to 59 percent in 2013, according to last month’s poll by a well-respected nongovernmental organization in Istanbul called the Turkey Economic and Social Studies Foundation. To put Middle Easterners’ views in perspective, that means China is now more popular than Turkey.

Attempting to salvage some of Turkey’s former preeminence as a political and economic powerhouse in the region, Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, criticized AKP’s diplomatic apparatus this month, saying, according to a transcript of the speech posted on his office’s website, that “the key to solving problems, whether domestic or foreign, is common sense, a sensible approach, dialogue and an empathy that makes sure you understand your interlocutor.”

This is exactly what Washington and the rest of the world wants from Turkey. The potential for Turkey to play a positive role in diplomatic partnership with the U.S. is great – having already brokered negotiations, releases and ceasefire attempts in Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Libya.

The world needs Turkey as a regional mediator, especially when it comes to the more intractable dialogues with Syria and Iran. Few parties are so well positioned to establish a working relationship between the Western and Arab and Muslim worlds. While Qatar, Malaysia and others are keen arbiters, Turkey has unique leverage, given its role and relations in the region.

But if the West wants Turkey at the foreign policy table, it cannot simply stand silent on the domestic front – as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently intimated — without encouraging Erdogan to ease up on the crackdowns.

A top-10 economy doesn’t become one, or sustain itself after becoming one, through continued corruption and constant crackdowns. Erdogan knows this, yet he can’t seem to help himself to the riches that power proffers. Before alienating his few remaining allies, he would do well to return to prudent precedent and the very leadership that turned Turkey into a 21st century powerhouse before it’s too late.

Michael Shank is director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Source: FoxNews , February 1, 2014


Related News

The role of civil society in Turkey’s democratization

BÜLENT KENEŞ  May 22, 2012 Neither the state nor political parties can act as guarantees for democratization and democracy. With the fact that the main impetus behind and guarantee for our democratization is our ever-growing civil society, we need to consider whether we are attaching due importance to “Civil Society Organizations”. In the speech I […]

‘Humiliating people not allowed in Islam’

A man identified as Mustafa Petek asked the Religious Affairs Directorate on March 24 if Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the Hizmet movement, deserves to be a target of hate speech by state officials. The Religious Affairs Directorate, in response to the man’s query on hate speech, said, “In Islam, no one is allowed to humiliate a person or refer to him using adjectives that don’t represent him.”

Father Alexei on Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet Movement

Father Alexei Smith served as an elected member of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for six years, and currently is a member of the Spirituality Commission of the Archdiocese. He served as president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California for five years. In 2007, he awarded the prestigious Religious Leadership Award of the Valley Interfaith Council.

Another suspicious death: Doctor dies of heart attack in prison

Ali Özer, a 48-year-old doctor who was jailed due to his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, has died of a heart attack in Çorum Prison. This is 57th such suspicious death or suicide since last summer’s so-called coup attempt against Erdogan regime.

Turkey after the purge: Journalists and judges pay the price

Immediately after the failed coup, the administration published lists of people that Erdogan claimed had participated in the coup. The lists included people from all professions, and journalists were no exception. Turkey now has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world, with three times the number jailed as Iran and China.

ECtHR Asks Turkish Gov’t For Explanation Over The Case Of Abducted Lawyer

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to evaluate the application of Emine Özben whose husband Mustafa Özben (42), a Bar-registered lawyer and academic, was abducted on May 9, 2017 in Ankara  by elements linked to Turkish security and intelligence services on August 4, 2017.

Latest News

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

Grondahl: Turkish community strong in wake of threats from back home

In Case You Missed It

Turkish expats in Singapore concerned over state of emergency back home

Erdogan’s Maarif Foundation To Contribute Radicalism, Exacerbate Muslim-Christian Tension In African Countries

Major reshuffle in Turkish judiciary amid graft probe row

Witch hunt spreads to courthouse

Gülen’s solution to Kurdish issue discussed at panel

Candidates on ‘red list’ denied jobs despite high test scores, Taraf reports

Mongolia’s Elite Schools sponsor reading halls at pediatric hospital

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News