What’s Going on in Turkey (Update)

There’s rarely a dull moment in this part of the world. Boarding a public minibus, taking your car on to the streets of Istanbul, or just crossing the road to pick up a newspaper or a loaf of bread – life is full of surprises, and you can never be 100% sure you’ll see the sun come up tomorrow. So it’s not totally surprising that foreign journos have difficulty working out what’s going on. Even those of us who’ve lived here for years still find plenty to puzzle over.

Five injured as minibus hits tree in Istanbul

If you can survive an Istanbul minibus ride . . .

Still, if you’re a professional analyst, you have responsibilities, right? Once you start putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard in the public domain, you should be making every effort to get it right, right?

So I have to tell you, I’ve been a bit disappointed by the low-level commentary I’ve been reading in the foreign press recently. For example:

‘Turkey’s increasingly desperate predicament poses real dangers’, says The Washington Post, who enumerate the fall-out with Russia, a couple of suicide bombings, renewed fighting with the Kurdish PKK, and a dip in tourist revenue as signs that Turkey is experiencing a ‘strategic nightmare’. The article quotes two Turkish academics in support of its doomsday predictions. Well, we should be grateful that those two gentlemen are free to express their anti-government opinions without being locked up. At least the writer admits that Turkey’s current problems are only ‘partly of its own making’ and ‘not entirely self-inflicted’. He (or she) acknowledges that the US State Dept continues to support the Kurdish YPG in Syria, in spite of pleas from Turkey’s Government.

In The Economist, someone hiding behind the pseudonym of Charlemagne belabours the European Union for its failure to rein in the ‘authoritarian habits of (President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’, and Turkey’s government for discarding the accession process. What? Is it any wonder Turkey’s interest in joining Europe waned after being played for fools for fifty years? ‘Charlemagne’ refers sketchily to Turkey’s battle with Kurdish separatists in the southeast, and the flood of Syrian refugees seeking safety in Turkey over the past five years as though the Turkish government is somehow to blame for all this. Brief mention is made of Bashar al-Assad’s ‘Russian enablers’, America’s use of Syrian Kurds who are ‘useful in fighting Islamic State (IS)’, Nicholas Sarkozy’s arrogant rejection of Turkey’s EU aspirations, constant vetoing by Greek Cyprus, and Germany’s worrying about ‘migrants reaching rich Europe’ as though these are merely incidental side issues – but the thrust of the article is that Turkey is the bad guy, and Mr Erdoğan is the evil villain.

Coup tanks

Turkish democracy in the good old days

And another one from The Economist: Mr Erdogan’s commitment to democracy seems to be fading’, as if the United States government has any interest in seeing democracy flourish in its vassal states. The damning evidence, apparently, is that Turkey’s AK Party government has ‘spread its tentacles’ into the courts, the police, the intelligence services, the mosques, the public education services, health systems and the media. Well, if they have, they couldn’t have had better teachers than successive US administrations.

One of several ironies in this piece is its reference to the time Mr Erdoğan spent in jail when he was Mayor of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, as one of the milder perversions of justice that prevailed before the AK party’s rise.’ Perversions of justice had, in fact, been two-a-penny before AK Party became the government – and that was probably the main reason for their coming to power out of nowhere. The anonymous writer goes on to sympathise with Turkey’s ‘increasingly beleaguered liberals’ in the same paragraph as he recalls their support for an attempt by the country’s generals in 2007 to prevent the AK Party from appointing the ceremonial president of the republic – something it had a perfect right to do under the constitution written by the military government in 1982. I have no doubt those same ‘liberals’ would have been only too happy to see Mr Erdoğan’s elected government overthrown by a military coup, and its leader tossed back into prison.


Syrians in Aleppo flee Russian bomb strikes

On to Benny Avni in The New York Post. Well, at least he has the courage to front up and put his name to the article. We’re about to see the end of NATO, apparently, because Turkey is set to get into a war with Russia. America won’t get involved because, according to Mr Avni, ‘We don’t do wars anymore.’ Run that by me again! America doesn’t do wars anymore? Well, if he means they just bomb and take out citizens of other countries without actually declaring war, I guess he has a kind of legalistic point. Syrian and Russian planes,’ he goes on to say, ‘have increased their ferocious bombing of militants and civilians in Aleppo’s vicinity, where two hospitals were bombed this week’. He quotes Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s accusation that Russia is ‘behaving like a terrorist organization’ – yet again, it seems, Turks are the evil empire.

A slightly more balanced article appeared on Friday in Time Magazine. Ian Bremmer lists five facts that ‘Explain Why Turkey Is in Deep Trouble’. First is that 2.6 million civilians fleeing Syria’s civil war have now taken refuge in Turkey, costing that country’s government an estimated $8.5 billion. This is one reason why Turkey got involved in the Syrian conflict. The other reason is the rise in Kurdish separatist activity in Iraq and Syria, encouraged by the United States, who have been cynically using them against first, Saddam Hussein, and more recently, against the new bogey, ISIS/Daesh. Turkey’s big fear is that members of its Kurdish population will take advantage of the situation to pursue their own separatist aims, hence the third fact which is increased terrorist activity within Turkey’s own borders. Bremmer’s fourth fact, the apparent rise in President Erdoğan’s popularity can be seen as a pro or a con, depending on your point-of-view; but undoubtedly his last, that Turkey is experiencing disturbing diplomatic problems on the international stage, is true.


Invisible tentacles control US government

Shooting down that Russian warplane seriously upset Vladimir Putin, even though his pilot was in the wrong; and the USA can’t come out and say they gave Turkey the ok to do it, even though they probably did. As noted above, Turkey’s worries in Syria are three-fold: Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to go is creating a massive refugee problem; America wants Turkey to join in the fight against ISIS/Daesh; and Kurdish militants, supported by the United States, are creating instability in Turkey itself. It may be ok for Americans to support their country, right or wrong – but other sovereign states must have the right to make decisions for their own good.

Still, if we can believe the results of a recent poll, an ‘Overwhelming Majority of Americans Believe that Both Parties Are Too Corrupt to Change Anything’. Apparently 84% of all Americans believe their political leaders are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right. 70% agree that the federal government today no longer has the consent of the people, and a majority of voters would join a third party if it had a chance of success.

So what are America’s allies to think? While most news media are focusing on events in Syria, it was quietly reported over the weekend that US aircraft had carried out strikes against ISIS in Libya, resulting in at least forty deaths – the second such strike in three months. I’m not a big fan of Fox News either, but an opinion piece on their website noted, with some justification, that Libya devolved into a failed state when NATO assisted Qaddafi’s radical jihadist opponents in killing him and then promptly abandoned the country. Left in the wake were two rival governments competing for power, which created space for Islamists to turn Libya into a cesspool of extremism’ and asked ‘Have Western leaders learned anything?’

In the mean time, giving the lie to accusations that dissenters speaking out against Turkey’s government and President Erdoğan are silenced or imprisoned, the Nobel organisation’s current darling, writer Orhan Pamuk, has criticised the European Union for failing to take action against his democratically elected government. Comparing Turkey’s leaders to the regime in Saudi Arabia, Pamuk implied that Europe’s leaders had done some kind of unholy deal with Mr Erdoğan and the AK Party to stem the flow of refugees across the Aegean.

Obama laugh

And still we hope . . .

Laughably, Pamuk is reported as saying “I am a person who says ‘Let’s talk about literature only’ but it is no longer possible” – apparently forgetting that his outspokenness on the Kurdish issue and the Armenian ‘genocide’ were significant factors in winning him that Nobel Prize for ‘literature’. And despite repeated claims that he was victimized for his words, as far as I am aware, he has never actually spent time in prison, unlike President Erdoğan; and he seems free to live a comfortable, high-profile life in Istanbul, giving self-publicising interviews to local news media.

So who can you believe? It’s starting to look as though multi-billionaire tycoon Donald Trump could be the next president of the United States. And if not him, then Mrs Bill Clinton is looking next most likely – and if you think you can believe anything either of those two tell you, Allah korusun, as Turks say.


5 thoughts on “What’s Going on in Turkey (Update)

  1. You should take time out and watch Russia Today TV a bit. It used to be that the station used its time to revile the USA and NATO, now Turkey is No. 1. You have also missed Russia’s support for the more radical elements among the Kurds in Turkey itself, and also Syrian Kurds. Russia supports the Kurds not because it loves them, but as a means to drive a wedge into NATO. i e. the U.S., a NATO member, also supports the Syrian Kurds, but Turkey does not and at times even shells them. (Never mind that there are thousands of Russian citizens fighting alongside Daesh.)

    The fact that the U.S. has done stupid things in the ME does not let Russia off the hook. NATO was formed to deter Russian aggression, and Turkey has the second most powerful fighting force in NATO. Those countries that have suffered Russian aggression in the past appreciate Turkey and its place in NATO. You may not wish to believe it, but people in my neck of the woods cheered when Turkey took that Russian plane down.

    P.S. Check out the Eurovision contest and Ukraine’s entry, a song entitled “1944”, about the Soviet Union’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Certainly I didn’t mean to suggest that Russia is innocent by any means. I’m sure you’re right that Putin is trying to split NATO – but at the same time, the USA is surely playing into his hands by supporting the Kurds in the long-term knowing that Turkey has to oppose separatism for its own survival. Also, the EU have undoubtedly been angering Russia for a long time by constantly pushing their boundaries further into what Russia, with some justification, considers its own sphere of influence. It’s hardly surprising that they said ‘There’s no way you’re getting Ukraine!’

      I’ve also heard from other sources that some in European countries nearer to Russia were not unhappy to see Turkey down that Russian plane – and I’m also pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it without Uncle Sam’s knowledge and tacit agreement.

  2. You passively wrote: “I’ve been a bit disappointed by the low-level commentary I’ve been reading in the foreign press recently.”
    I and many others are disgusted by the mainstream media…

    You asked, “So who can you believe?”
    Please note, many individuals (some may be your readers) do not realize this is an Age of Deception.
    Even as profitable careers are made in training to become an expert in propaganda, public relations, statistical analysis, social behavioural sciences, military grade psyops, and mass marketing to manipulate public opinion.

    In the past I wrote softly, I did not want my pen to offend.
    However, over the decades, the awareness of an elitist secretive culture with the doctrine of silence intruded and became institutionalized. Their secret offenses are too pervasive and dangerous to tip-toe around.
    …”The silence and secrecy is like a cancer echoing from the speech by President Kennedy and many other officials in powerful institutions, warning of repugnant secrets lurking in the shadows.”

    Is The Truth Pill Too Bitter?
    Is it too bitter when belief collides against Truth?
    I certainly know of some alluringly sweet deceptions spun by institutions surviving on the public trust.

    In this Age of Deception is it too much to ask to stop believing in officials and start searching for truth?

    Over the decades I noticed our Truth seeking efforts have penetrated the fog of cognitive dissonance and citizens’ biases of blind loyalty and obedience.
    Even mainstream mass media are now showing the sword-cuts with decreased viewers and subscribers.
    Stephen Kinzer wrote in the Boston Globe:
    …”delivering contrived narratives that are generated by the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House and misinforming the public; the ignorance this process generates is very dangerous because Americans “act on it”
    …“The United States has the power to decree the death of nations,” he says. “And it can do so with popular support because many Americans, and many journalists, are content with the official story.
    * *
    Very interesting anagram:
    Words = Sword

    “There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” -attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte

    “In a time of universal deceit – telling the Truth is a revolutionary act.” -George Orwell

    I look forward to your sword slicing through the layers of deception, because the readers deserve to be exposed to the Truth in a time of universal deceit.
    Rather than looking for someone to trust we can look for truth, and that requires slicing through the layers of deception.


    • You’re right, Ron. I know I soft-pedal a bit in some of my blog posts. On the other hand, some people think I am too harsh and hyper-critical. Like you, I’m getting less tolerant of deliberate or lazy ignorance as the years go by. I appreciate your comments, and your prodding to keep me up to the mark. For sure, ‘The chain of obedience’ is the biggest problem – few have the courage to speak out against wrong-doing, injustice or immorality by those in authority. Interesting quote from Bonaparte. Who’d have thought he believed that the spirit was mightier than the sword!

      • 🙂 It is your pen, write as you choose. I am glad you correctly see me prodding rather than Pushing you.

        Research reveals many elite (and royal bloodlines) were tutored, mentored and exposed to restricted archives and lost knowledge. Perhaps Napoleon was recorded repeating a more ancient wisdom. Regardless, the dynamics of truth and words are capable of slicing as effectively as a sword… Influential institutions of deception appear to be in a worldwide panic.
        Crude bullying, and violence as a form of coercion is to be expected as their institutional illusions and deception become less effective.
        Knowledge of the truth needs to be shared to amplify awareness and advance us beyond this Age of Deception.

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