A surprise election setback for Turkish President Erdogan’s party reflected growing public resistance to his dictatorial style, his aggressive behavior toward Turkey’s neighbors and an economic downturn, as Alon Ben-Meir explains.
By Alon Ben-Meir
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s May 2013 plan to raze Gezi Park in Central Istanbul and replace it with a replica Nineteenth Century Ottoman barrack prompted anti-government protests in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey, which led to violent confrontations in which the police used disproportionate force.
Thousands of demonstrators were injured, and thousands more faced legal proceedings and lost their jobs. Some defendants were charged with terrorism offenses (many are still on trial) and many others spent up to 10 months in detention before being bailed out.
I believe that the Gezi Park incident was a historic turning point marking the beginning of the end for Erdogan’s political fortunes. What appeared to be a reaction to Erdogan’s plan was, in fact, triggered by a much deeper and long-simmering public resentment toward the Erdogan government.
The steady erosion of sociopolitical conditions, the growing restrictions on free speech, and the pervasiveness of the governing Justice and Development Party (known as AKP) created deep anxiety and fear among the general public as they witnessed the gradual transformation of their country from a democracy to a police state. There are five dimensions that demonstrate how Erdogan has badly regressed from what could have otherwise been his great legacy:
–The first is the social dimension in which, undoubtedly, Turkey made noteworthy progress between 2002 and 2010. In 2001, Turkey adopted the Accession Partnership that provided Ankara with a roadmap to bring about “democracy and the rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities” as a prerequisite for EU membership negotiations to begin.
The parliament passed several laws to protect the rights of defendants and detainees, transfer supervision of civil society organizations from the police to civil authorities, institute judicial reforms, and guarantee freedom of speech. In addition, Turkey passed laws allowing Kurdish radio broadcasts as well as providing the option for private Kurdish-language education.
But these reforms began to erode as Erdogan started to compromise on the progress that sustained his power base, all for the sake of amassing more power, while pushing ever more the Islamization of the country.
According to Human Rights Watch’s 2015 World Report, the government increasingly betrayed its principles and committed violations, including unjustified prosecutions for alleged speech crimes, the “abusive” use of terrorism charges such as “membership of an armed organization,” prolonged pretrial detention (especially of journalists, student and lawyers), and the systematic intimidation of any individual or party that objects to, or opposes, government policy, not to speak of the rampant corruption at the top.
–The second dimension is the political reform that Erdogan has embraced, including changes in Turkey’s National Security Council (NSC) regulations to reduce the military’s omnipotent power over it by increasing its number of civilian members and appointing a civilian as Secretary General, increased governmental transparency, and the abolishment of the State Security Courts.
In recent years, however, Erdogan started to freeze these political reforms and rob them of their essential purpose of developing a progressive form of democratic governance. He used a democratic faÃ§ade to direct electoral authoritarianism, where politically-motivated indictments detained nearly one-third of the high military brass, and government opponents were put under house arrest on trumped-up charges of conspiring to topple the government.
–The third dimension is economic development, where the government aggressively embraced capitalism and, due to diplomatic openings in the global market (especially in the Middle East), managed to open several new markets for Turkish exports.
These efforts have accelerated economic growth to unprecedented levels in Turkey’s modern history. From the time the AKP took power in 2002, Turkey’s per capita income almost tripled by 2011, with the GDP exceeding $774 billion that year, making it the eighteenth largest economy in the world.
That said, Turkey’s economic growth has not benefited the Turkish population equitably. Tens of millions of people still suffer from economic disparity. In 2012, the Turkish economy’s growth slowed to 2.2 percent, far behind the 9 percent growth of 2010 and 2011, a downturn that has seriously eroded Erdogan’s political base.
–The fourth dimension is foreign policy, which was centered on the principle of ensuring “zero problems with neighbors” that Prime Minister DavutoÄŸlu (the then-foreign minister) espoused and worked diligently to implement.
Yet presently, the picture looks drastically different. There is hardly any neighboring country (and many others in the region) that Turkey does not have a problem with, including Armenia, Greece (over Cyprus), Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, etc.
Turkey has also strained its relations with the United States and the European Union over their differing policy toward Syria and the campaign against ISIS. The irony is that while “zero problems with neighbors” requires a savvy political and diplomatic approach to resolve problems, Erdogan largely opted for a confrontational approach.
–The fifth dimension is the growing imbalance between Islam and democracy. By all accounts, the government has gone far beyond a healthy mix of religion and democracy. Erdogan has systematically embraced religiously-oriented policies both domestically and within Turkey’s foreign relations. He favors any organization or country with strong Islamic credentials (such as Qatar and Hamas) over others, regardless of the conflicting issues involved.
Instead of striking a balance between a democratic form of government and Islam as the religion of the state, Erdogan’s deliberate abandonment of political and social reforms in favor of growing Islamic indoctrination (in contradiction to the republic’s founding principle) began to backfire. Erdogan badly underestimated the strength and popularity of Turkish secularism.
To be sure, Erdogan’s backsliding on all fronts has finally caught up with him. His successes during his first two terms seem to have blinded him. As a result, his ambition to change the constitution to grant him near-absolute power as president was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate.
The Turkish public will do well to remember that only through the power of the ballot were they able to stifle Erdogan’s blind ambition, and by the wise use of the ballot in the future they can restore Turkey’s potential as a great democratic power and a significant player on the global stage.
Erdogan’s dream to preside as President during Turkey’s one hundredth anniversary in 2023 with near-absolute power and become the AtatÃ¼rk of modern Turkey has now evaporated. His insatiable lust for power, his arrogance and his dictatorial manner in wielding authority have finally done him in.
As Shakespeare once observed, “it is excellent to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.”
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. [email protected] Web: www.alonben-meir.com
A bridge between continents, Turkey remains the cornerstone of Europeâ€™s energy security, especially now that the EU and Russia are on less-than-friendly terms.
Energy-hungry and Russian-gas-dependent Europe has had to look for alternative means of satisfying its growing energy needs, especially when it comes to sources of cheap and reliable energy. And since its only logical alternative lies in the energy-rich South Caucasus region, Turkey benefits from a tremendous geostrategic advantage.
Although powers have been careful to disguise their energy agendas, rationalizing their ever increasing aggressive stance toward energy hegemony under false premises, itâ€™s apparent that oil and gas remain at the core of many territorial, political and even religious disputes.
Looking at how the U.S. and the EU have risen against Russia since the Crimean crisis, Turkey is bound to play an important role in this circle of power. And bearing in mind how important Turkey stands to become against Russia and to Europe in terms of its energy wielding capability, Ankaraâ€™s shadow is likely to stretch further and wider over the coming decade, assuming of course Russia does not foil such a plan.
The New World War No One Is Taking About: The Global Clamor For Oil And Gas
By Catherine Shakdam
200 is a magic number of casualties.
At least, that’s according to the focus groups conducted by the marketing and sales consultants who managing the US/NATO terror war on Syria.
Apparently brand ISIS sells much better than brand Al Nusra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights… You know, it’s amazing what you can observe from a two-bedroom terraced home in Coventry — almost as much as an much as you can see from an apartment in Leicester.
Rami Abdulrahman and Eliot Higgins really should work together — oh, wait, they already have.
Yes, we all are in a state of shock and grief once again.
But now we are wary of the American government’s complicity in helping and supporting the Turkish governmentâ€™s complicity in helping and supporting the ISIS and other Jihadist forces.
And let’s all cheer for “Free Kurdistan” — once more, with feeling.
We can almost see it from space with DigitalGlobe images on Google Earth
Strangely, on this map I have here http://www.oilempire.us/new-map.html something seems to be missing from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. And it looks like a lot more than 200 people.
The absurd contradictions pointed out more in the comments than the article itself, are the result of what comes down to one aspect of human nature that often overrides all others.
Whether it’s individual greed or that of a cult or culture, it comes down to greed for wealth and political power — with the two often being synonymous at the very highest levels — with each feeding and enhancing the other in a cycle of cancerous “growth” for lack of a better word.
With one principle of overriding greed, irrational logic and decisions seem to make sense in the minds of those who deceive us as well as in many of those who are dreceived and betrayed by the lies and mischaracterizations.
What kind of person would willfully enjoin in the creation and promotional selling of an illusion to enrich themselves at the expense of other peoples lives and possibly all life on earth if it accidentally or intentionally came, or escalated, to that final end?
Some degree of psychopathy or overriding greed would be required or possibly cowardice to oppose and confront the greed.
There are those whose personal constitution will resist what is defined today, by it’s purpose and result, as evil. These people, whom we can legitimately call heroes, often go unnoticed while others among their ranks openly risk and sacrifice with the intention of promoting equality toward liberty and justice for all..
Greed the great deceiver, even deceiving it’s disciples — making human zombies of them along with those they enlist.
I have learned quite a lot by reading “Autonomous Democracy In North Kurdistan,” New Compass Press. “The Council Movement, Gender Liberation, and Ecology â€” in Practice”
Pundits Ben-Meir and Fuller are preoccupied with personalities and policy propaganda.
Meanwhile, independent journalists and geostrategic researchers persistently point out the pertinence of pipelines.
F. William Engdahl http://journal-neo.org/2015/06/25/sanctions-and-the-birth-of-the-new-russia/ examines the energy equation:
Sending a clear signal to their NATO-tied governments that they do not regard Russian sanctions as a hindrance to further cooperation with Russia in development of Russiaâ€™s vast undeveloped hydrocarbon resources, Britainâ€™s BP and the Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, as well as Germanyâ€™s E.ON, made major new agreements with Russia in St. Petersburg.
Russian energy giant Gazprom and Shell signed a memorandum on the construction of a third technical line for a liquefied natural gas plant on Sakhalin Island on Russiaâ€™s Pacific Coast. Gazprom also signed a memorandum on the construction of a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea with E.ON, Shell and Vienna-based OMV oil and gas company.
The Baltic deal calls for construction of a new gas pipeline to Germany alongside the current Nord Stream line. The new project will have a total capacity of 55 billion cubic meters annually, twice as much as the current Nord Stream volume.
Despite tense relations between Moscow and Brussels, Europe will need more gas in the near future and Russia is the only country that can meet the demand at a competitive price. â€œConsidering the decline of local extraction of gas in Europe and the increase in demand European companies need to develop new infrastructure to guarantee Russian gas supply to European consumers,â€ Gazprom said in a statement.
After foolish Brussels attempts to sabotage further Gazprom-EU gas deliveries, it has dawned on EU governments that as chaos in Ukraine spins out of control, a major share of the EU gas pipeline supplies from Russia threatens to go down with it.
As a consequence of EU pressures on Bulgaria and other EU states, last December, during talks with Turkish President Erdogan in Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced, to the shock of Brussels, that South Stream, a $45 billion project to deliver Russian natural gas via underwater pipeline through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to other Balkan and southern European markets, was dead.
Instead, Putin announced talks with Erdogan to create what is now called Turkish Stream, a pipeline that will bring Russian gas through Turkey directly to the borders of Greece. What route it takes to which EU countries from that border will depend on EU decisions.
Notably in that context, during talks in St. Petersburg between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian officials including Putin and Russian and Greek energy ministers, Greece signed a memorandum to bring Russian gas from the Turkish Stream pipeline into EU member (at least still so), Greece. Greece and Russia signed the memorandum for the project, which Tsipras described as â€œGreek Stream.â€ At the same conference, Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik revealed that â€œSerbia will unquestionably participate in the Turkish Stream.â€
That was by no means all in terms of energy deals reached in St. Petersburg. Gazprom and French gas company ENGIE discussed the need for new routes of direct gas supplies to Europe. And Russian oil giant Rosneft signed a deal with the British oil and gas company BP who bought a 20 percent stake in Taas-Yuryakh Neftegazodobycha in Eastern Siberia, creating a new British-Russian energy joint venture.
For those in the West claiming, as the neo-conservatives at the US State Department and in the Obama White House or office of Defense Secretary â€œAshâ€ Carter do, namely that Putin is stealthily laying the basis for rebuilding the Soviet Union, were there any basis to it which is not at all clear, the more Russiaâ€™s economy depends on mutual cooperation and respect for EU countries, the more absurd such charges become.
In War on Syria: Fateway to WWII http://educate-yourself.org/cn/War%20On%20Syria%20_Cartalucci_Bowie2.pdf journalists Tony Cartalucci and Nile Bowie observed:
Under the direction of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan and Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu, Turkish foreign policy has aggressively shifted away from the touted â€œZero Problemsâ€ policy, transforming into an intrusive spearhead ripping into the Syrian state. Turkeyâ€™s close geographic proximity to Syria has given rise to arms trafficking, turning the Turkish-Syrian border into a flashpoint for insurgent fighters taking refuge with the full complicity of Ankara. The increasing militarization of Turkeyâ€™s border with Syria serves as an uncomfortable indication of the conflictâ€™s severity, where match and tinder can meet at any moment with debilitating consequences for the region.
In May 2012, the Council on Foreign Relations sponsored an Independent Task Force led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, and twenty-five others, who issued a report entitled, â€œU.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership.â€ The document is written in the context of how Turkey can benefit the United States with respect to Syria and Iran, not without empty promises to entice Turkish leaders into falling on their swords for Western ambitions across the Middle East. The CFRâ€™s attempt to flesh out an improved alliance between the US and Turkey, claiming the new relationship would trump the potential for US cooperation with any BRICS nation (except perhaps India), serves as a patronizing political stunt attempting to fill Turkish leaders with delusions of grandeur, tempting them to lead the charge against Syria and Iran in exchange for Western support behind Ankaraâ€™s ambitions of regional hegemony. In late July 2012, Reuters confirmed the existence of rebel base in Adana, a southern Turkish city roughly 100 km from the Syrian border, requested by Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud during an official visit. Adana is also home to a US-NATO base at Incirlik, confirming suspicions of direct covert American involvement.
The depreciation of Turkeyâ€™s status to an acquiescent arm of the US Intelligence establishment may likely come at great cost to Prime Minister ErdoÄŸan, as the collapse of the Syrian state could yield a closer collaboration between Syrian Kurdish rebels operating in northern Syria and Turkeyâ€™s own Kurdish militant resistance, pushing the insurgency further into eastern Turkey and, consequently, destabilizing the country.
The Moon of Alabama blogger has a LOT more about this news.
The source you cite is suffused with spin, Zachary.
The notion of a “Turkish proxy attack on Syria through islamists forces” ignores the reality that the Al Qaeda forces, both al Nusra and ISIS, actually are US/NATO proxies.
Attacking Syria from Turkish territory, the Al Qaeda forces receive military supplies through Incirlik Air Base, a United States Air Force base located 5 miles east of Adana, Turkey, the fifth largest city in the country. Adana is 35 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. An ISIS training camp is located in the vicinity.
There’s a furious effort afoot to make the US/NATO war on Syria “Erdogan’s war”.
Consortium News seems quite happy to play along.
Thereâ€™s a furious effort afoot to make the US/NATO war on Syria â€œErdoganâ€™s warâ€.
I hadn’t thought of that angle. The way I saw all of this was that he was looking for a pretense to dive into Syria openly. Since Syria is teetering now, he might consider embracing that “ErdoÄŸan’s war” – especially if Syria fell as a result.
Of course, Iran might openly join the war with large forces, and that would be an intervention of another color.
NATO’s dog, ErdoÄŸan, has a charming signature trick: appearing to bite the hand while wagging the tail.
Consortium News’ charming coterie of Middle East experts (many ex-CIA) analyze the crisis at Turkish-Syrian border as the disastrous result of ErdoÄŸan’s personal “ambition.”
Now poor US/NATO are compelled to respond. Alas, the burden of empire.
Has anybody checked in the cellar at ConsortiumNews for pods?
On a whim I just put “turkey” into the Google News search bar, and found this:
It seems that ErdoÄŸan has instructed the Army to intervene in Syria on the pretense of fighting ISIL. Naturally the real goal is to reverse some victories Syrian Kurds have recently made in that nation. And to prepare for the next Turkish election.
That appears to me to be a reasonable assessment. By starting a shooting war, hopefully most of the Turkish voters will “rally round the flag” and support the President. And an attack on the Kurds – even the Syrian ones – could cause some desirable reaction from the Turkish Kurds – the ones who got over the 10% number in the previous election. If they don’t ‘bite’ the bait, maybe the Security Service can make it look as if they did. And as I’ve written previously, Israel might lend a hand.
First, a fine article. The general impression is that a state, such as Turkey (and perhaps it’s leader / ruler, and its citizens), is a known commodity, stable, predictable. But no.
I think, Damn, anyone who achieves power these days goes wild. Not just rulers; it goes right on down to bit players, throughout a society. Even the receptionist, clerk, teacher’s assistant and parent (…whoever) seem to be laying in wait to take a healthy chunk or a gratuitous shot.
Then I thought that Erdogan has gone Shah – straining the above sentiment. Maybe the mistake is mine. As discussed here and elsewhere, application of the standard of sense is no longer of any use.
Oddly enough, and maybe it was just for show, but last year Erdogan was referring to Israel’s 2014 attack and killing spree in Gaza as war crimes — while simulaneously he had kept ISIS supply line open through Turkey, making him an accessory to the crimes Israel, the Saudi’s and the US are perpetrating through ISIS — their proxy regime changers in Syria.
It seems the western media and politicians are all hypocrites with their loyalties and principles being for sale. Leading politicians and news organizations are buying and selling each other along with anyone and anything else they can in the 21st century, and life is just one big free-for-all battle royal where anything is fair game depending on who else politically backs you and your actions.
Considering all the back stabbing and double dealing being acceptable in our various cultures — with today’s available weapons, improvised and otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before someone is willing to use them.
With the publication of this article Alon Ben-Meir, following closely on the heels of an article by ex-CIA officer Graham E. Fuller, Consortium News has firmly established itself as a propaganda outlet supporting the US/NATO terror war on Syria.
“Turkey has also strained its relations with the United States and the European Union over their differing policy toward Syria and the campaign against ISIS.”
In reality, ErdoÄŸan’s policy toward Syria and Al Qaeda was authored in Washington and Tel Aviv.
Turkish voters are understandably incensed with ErdoÄŸan’s support of US/NATO attacks on Syria using brands of Al Qaeda, including Al Nusra and Islamic State forces.
Now western mainstream media, with Consortium News solidly in tow (albeit with a different spin). are desperately attempting to pin the tail on NATO’s dog, ErdoÄŸan.
There is no question that ErdoÄŸan deserves rebuke on many fronts.
But for Robert Parry to feature authors like Fuller and Ben-Meir, who should be criticized on Consortium News for their blatant pro-US/NATO bias regarding the terror war on Syria, is disgusting.
Turkey has also strained its relations with the United States and the European Union…
That’s a good catch. It’s perfectly obvious that the US and Europe have both been deliberately overlooking ErdoÄŸan’s misbehavior in Turkey. Much like they’re doing in the Ukraine.
And equally obvious that Turkey is a full partner of Israel in the effort to destroy Syria.
Because ErdoÄŸan controls an especially nasty security system, I see his options as being wide open. Doing something to cause the Kurds to drop below the magical 10% level in the next election is definitely in his interest.
Lots of ways to do that – a “Katherine Harris/Jeb Bush” effort like in 2000 Florida, or something violent. Whatever it takes.
These days, nothing strains relations with the United States and the European Union like having a civil conversation with Moscow:
The Turkish Stream project is both important and urgent for Russia. Having abandoned an earlier version, the South Stream, which would have taken Russian gas beneath the Black Sea to Bulgaria, in response to European sanctions, Moscow now relies on the yet-to-be-built Turkish route for access to Western markets. Russian energy company Gazprom has recently announced that deliveries are envisioned to start as early as December next year.
From the Turkish perspective, however, the picture is more complicated. The aims of Turkeyâ€™s energy policy are two-fold: first, to satisfy surging energy demand from a growing economy, and second, turning Turkey into an energy transit corridor between the producers to its east and the consumers to its west. Under the right conditions, Turkish Stream can serve both aims, and this is why, instead of rushing to jump on the Russian bandwagon as the debt-ridden Greeks did, Ankara wants to bargain its way to an optimal deal.
Turkey is an energy-buying country and it currently depends on imports for about 93% of its oil consumption and 98% of its gas consumption. Russia is a main source for Turkeyâ€™s energy imports: out of the 41.1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas Turkey bought from abroad during 2014, 26.9 bcm came from Russia. In recent years, Turkey managed to diversify its sources; ten years ago, in 2004, Russiaâ€™s share in Turkeyâ€™s gas imports was 80%, it has gone down to 65% by 2014. However, given the large volumes involved, and the instability plaguing alternative sources in the Middle East, Turkey is likely to remain dependent on Russia for its gas in the foreseeable future.
Russia-Greece pipeline: Will Turkish Stream ever stream?
By Altay Atli
For a while it looked to me like ErdoÄŸan could have his cake and eat it too. First, he’d have the Russians over a barrel, for except for the southern route, there was no other way to bypass Ukraine. Perhaps he could use his position to get cheaper than usual energy, the “passage” fees, and then have the ability to cut off downstream customers. Places like Greece, and perhaps Italy. POWER!
Well, all of a sudden there is news about a Russian/German scheme to drastically enlarge North Stream – North Stream-2.
The Russians retain their energy markets in the west, and suddenly ErdoÄŸan can go fly a kite if he gets too demanding.
Germany seems to be angling to take over Europe, and increasing control of the gas supply lines would surely help. (wasn’t Germany in the lead to howl about the now-aborted South Stream?) Should some of the small countries start causing trouble, then they in turn will begin to have delivery problems.
On the other hand, Germany’s drive towards renewable energy sources makes that nation relatively immune to any similar Russian stunt. (It reminds me how the militarization of the US Police has been a deterrent to anybody else trying the ‘destabilization’ attacks we run against other nations) So at first glance, it seems to be a win/win solution for both Russia and Germany.
In 2011, Nord Stream AG started evaluation of the expansion project which would include two additional lines which would increase the overall annual capacity up to 110 billion cubic metres (3.9 trillion cubic feet).
In January 2015 it was announced that the expansion project was cancelled as the existing lines run at half capacity due to EU restrictions on Gazprom.
However, in June 2015 the agreement to build two additional lines was signed http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/06/18/energy-gazprom-pipeline-idUKL5N0Z42OB20150618
As journalist Pepe Escobar has noted, “Nothing of significance takes place in Eurasia without an energy angle.”
These days, if you really want to piss off the United States and the European Union, try creating “a pipeline for peace, stability in the whole region.” http://thebricspost.com/greece-joins-new-russian-gas-pipeline-project-to-europe/
As Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras noted, â€œGreece is at a difficult point, and to overcome it, it needs to â€˜divorceâ€™ the illnesses of the past.â€
US/NATO gotta nip that in the bud before the contagion spreads.