Part I- Internal
Like World War I, neo-Turkish Sultan and pretender Caliph Erdogan joins piecemeal World War III’s Western NATO Alliance.
Some observations and notes:
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu used to claim that a leaf could not move in the Middle East without Turkey’s approval.
There is hardly any country left in the Middle East that is knocking on Turkey’s door for advice or guidance.
After the secular-religious and Sunni-Alevi fault lines there is now what is potentially the most dangerous of these divisions, namely the Turkish-Kurdish fault line
The flames of the havoc created by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria have started to burn Turkish homes, despite Turkey not yet becoming a part of the war.
The death toll from the protests over ISIL attacks on Kurdish Kobane in Syria is increasing everyday .The Turkish government is imposing curfew in more and more predominately Kurdish-populated – provinces near the Iraqi and Syrian borders. In Diyarbakır , the largest Kurdish city in Turkey and elsewhere people are being killed daily and since the years following the 1980 military coup, the military was on the streets with infantry and tanks. This time, it was called on duty by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Meanwhile, local schools have been closed .There are millions of Turks in European states , with over 4 million in Germany alone with almost 25% being Kurds , who have been protesting vociferously in EU capitals .Such protests also took place when PKK iconic leader Abdullah Ocalan was apprehended in Kenya and brought to Turkey. He is in prison on an island near Istanbul and had agreed to a resolution of the Kurdish problem .It would appear that Erdogan was only playing for time to get elected as President. He has left Syrian Kurds at the mercy of ISIL, whom he prefers over Kurds. .
Peace at home and peace abroad: Kemal Ataturk
Before his death in 1938 Kemal Ataturk had advised his team that Turkey must keep out of the coming WWII in order to avoid being destroyed by the Nazis and then liberated by the Soviet Union .This advice and its implementation left Turkey unharmed and intact following the war.
Almost since the Justice and Development party, AKP was catapulted into power in Nov 2002 elections obtaining 2/3 seats with only 34% of votes , I have had this premonition that something is going wrong for the people I came to know, respect and love and this beautiful land of 40 civilizations , where I spent 10 years in two tenures ( 1969-73 ,1992-96 ,1992-98 ) travelling extensively from the Bulgarian coast to the Georgian coast along the Black Sea , from the Greek coast to Syrian coast, many times and very close to the Syrian -Turkish border, now a flame , because of stupid policies being followed by megalomaniac Tyep Erdogan with this Sancho Panza like now prime minister Davutoglu .The latter debates with Hegel in his dreams. He could be an amusing third rate copy of Nesssereddin Hoca, a folk tale comic hero which one finds from Turkey to Iran, Afghanistan and in the subcontinent as Sheikhchilli.
I have kept a watch on Turkey since 1967, first from the ministry of external affairs, then four years in Ankara, followed by twenty years later as an Ambassador from 1992 to 96, after which I stayed on as accredited journalist for another two years. Later I passed through Istanbul and Ankara a couple of times, its commercial progress accelerated by central Anatolian neo- Liberal crony capitalists of the AKP, with massive investments and transfer of green money from the Gulf States. .
Kemal Ataturk, in my opinion ,one of the all-time greatest military commanders, modernizer and state builder, who fashioned the secular Republic of Turkey from the ashes of a rotting Ottoman Empire after WWI knew what he wanted .To preserve and modernize Turkey, instead of engaging in a long war of attrition with the British for what is now Kurdish north Iraq with its oil-rich Kirkuk region, he decided to consolidate the new state and modernize it with half Kurdish people inside Turkey .Slimy British left the Turkish -Kurdish fault line legacy which is not likely to be resolved any time soon. It were the British machinations from the newly created Iraq from Turkish Ottoman provinces with support from Kurdish sheiks in Turkey that, with a heavy hand Ataturk decided to suppress them and concentrate on the task of nation building.
The tribes from Central Asia ,first the Seljuk’s and then Ottoman’s idea of nation building and reign was to leave their flock or subjects, guarded by shepherds /administrators ,without interference in religious and personal lives of subjects belonging to religions other than Islam. Thus, the system of millets was created for Orthodox Greek Christians, Armenians, and Kurds and later on Jews.
The Turkish invaders from central Asia were able to slowly move westwards after the battle won by Seljuk Turks in mid- 11 century east of Lake Van, who later rolled back the Byzantine Empire up to its capital Constantinople (now Istanbul) in Europe across the straits of Bosporus. Successive Ottoman Sultans went right up to the Gates of Vienna in Europe and up to Morocco in North Africa, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman in the East and South, Ukraine and in Caucasia in the north-east. The border between Roman and then Byzantine empires in the West and Persia in the East, more or less along the river Tigris has remained the same.
Perhaps the influence of Islam in cosmopolitan ruling philosophy of the Ottomans was increased after the Ottoman Sultan, in 15 century, defeated the Memelukes in Cairo, got hold of the last relic of the Arab Caliph and made him transfer the caliphate to the Ottoman Sultan. From that day the number of right-wing religious fanatic Islamists from Mecca, Medina and other places, assembled in Istanbul with their influence growing, thus making the outlook of the ruling Ottoman establishment more religious, extremist and fanatical opposed to ingress of science and technology and modern ideas in civil life and even warfare.
Except for rare exceptions during my end of stay as a journalist in Turkey, beginning with late 1960s, in my wide travels right up to poor East and south-east of Turkey, I found people, simple pious, very honest ,proud and very hospitable. After the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 there was the transfer of nearly 1million Orthodox Greeks in a population of around 12 million. There were also 30,000 Christian Turks from central Asia who had not converted to Islam; they were also exiled to Greece. There are Christian Turks known as Gagaus in Moldova, who had migrated there along the north Black Sea from central Asia.
The entry of increasing Islamism in the Turkish population and polity began in early 1970s, when Hoca Necemettin Erbakan established his Islamist national order party. His political parties when banned, emerged under another name .Erbakan was part of the coalition government since 1973, opting for departments like education, health et cetera to put his Islamic leaning followers into key positions in the ministries. In early 1990s, he established the Welfare party, along with the current president of Turkey, Tyep Erdogan and his predecessor, Abdullah Gul. Abdullah Gul worked for many years in an Islamic bank in Jeddah before he returned to Ankara to join Erbakan's party to head its Dept. of foreign affairs. At his invitation I visited the party headquarters which I would have done in any case, unlike most other ambassadors, who kept away from Erbakan's party
With billions of dollars of help from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, Gul, having worked in Jeddah, AKP was catapulted into power with only 34% of votes, but 66% of seats, because of high thresh hold of 10% to keep smaller and basically Kurdish parties out of the Parliament. Since then, slowly but surely, Erdogan, with his authoritarian almost fanatical belief in Islam and as God’s Caliph in this age has worked even crudely and bluntly towards his objective of ultimate power as president with a presidential system, but has not yet achieved it .But he has succeeded in sidelining, annoying, punishing almost all the stakeholders in Turkish polity even his colleagues and supporters .Even president Gul’s palace was bugged.
Verily a headstrong , fanatical and unthinking Erdogan has reduced Turkey to a Tyranny , a political state between Kingdoms and democracy in Greek historical evolution , when once elected you continued winning elections by hook or crook .From 34% support AKP won 50% votes in 2010 elections and almost that much in the direct presidential elections a few months ago .He abused his position, TV channels , cowed down media , sending his fanatical and paid supporters to make sure that they brought out voters in his support on the pains of severe punishment . He has cowed down even the irrepressible media by jailing them , getting them expelled by pressurizing media owners and personally attacking journalist like Amberine Zaman , also writing for New York Times , whose Bangladesh Ambassador father and Turkish mother I have known since we were together in Senegal in late 1970s.
Erdogan has great propensity to go after anyone who dares cross his path , which is greatly acclaimed by his tutored cheerleaders at public speeches .Almost all leaders ,of Israel, almost all neighbors, of France, Germany and even of USA have received his fury and tirades.
Since end 2002 ,Erdogan was joined by Hikmet party boss Fatheullah Gulen, now residing in America that has a large number of followers in education ( all over Turkic states in central Asia and elsewhere ) ,judiciary ,civil services ,business community ,media and other walks of life. But since end of 2013, there has been an open battle between him and Gulen, because the latter’s supporters exposed massive high-level corruption, including Erdogan’s own son .Erdogan had used Gulen’s followers and sympathizers in judiciary, police and other areas to go after opponents of his policy and cult like following. Since the beginning of 2014 Erdogan has gone after Gulen supporters and has put most of them behind bars, the very cadres which were used to go after Erdogan’s secular and other opponents , especially the secular Turkish Armed Forces , which have been defanged and humiliated .
Using Gulen’s and his own supporters in police, judiciary and media ,Erdogan blatantly jailed on farmed up charges against senior military officers, including generals ,even his former chief of powerful army staff. Thus, under the pretext of removing the influence of military , the Turkish Armed Forces, which under the command of founder of the republic Kemal Ataturk had fashioned a secular republic , and which had been originated and grew for nearly 5 centuries ,have been sidelined .It is feeling insulted and aggrieved and its loyalty in case of war may be in some question .After World War I Ataturk and his supporters used the Armed Forces for socializing and secularizing the polity and even for commercial trading and other mercantile activities, because, barring a hand full of Jews, the Armenians having been slaughtered in World War I and trading Christian Greek populations had been expelled to Greece in exchange for Muslim speaking Turkish Ottoman citizens.
I have regularly written in the context of the struggle between the spiritual and temporal leader ship in Islamic countries like Turkey, Pakistan, and Egypt that the pendulum has been changing from time to time. In Pakistan the military is making life of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, not a great politician precarious. In Egypt Field Marshall El Sisi forced out the Muslim Brotherhood President and his supporters after they had gained power not by fair means after the long reigning Pharaoh Gen Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power during the so called Arab Spring.
Erdogan believes that he has solved the problem of Armed Forces’ interference in Turkish politics. Recently, most of the military officers who had been imprisoned on trumped up charges have been released by the Courts, which at the highest level remain independent. It is quite logical to believe that the Turkish Armed Forces, which carried out to the coup d'états as in 1961 and 1980, 1/2 coup d'état in 19 71 and 1/4 coup d'état in 1995 are nursing their humiliation and at appropriate time make an effort to regain their historic prestige, standing and role since the Turkish hordes started entering Anatolia.
Except during the war for independence, the Turkish Armed Forces have not really fought against a professional army. A Turkish brigade fought valiantly in the Korean War in 1950s in order to join North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to counter pressure from Moscow, which wanted return of two Turkish provinces in North East and joint control over the Straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles.
In 1974 Turkish Armed Forces invaded Cyprus when its regime in a coup d'état went for union with Greece i.e. ENOSIS. The Turkish Armed Forces were able to easily quell the resistance of police level resistance and even occupied 40% of the Cyprus territory more than it had planned for .Since 1984, the war mostly in SE Turkey over 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, but including 5000 soldiers have died in the rebellion led by secular gender equal Marxist guerrilla forces of PKK, whose leader Abdulla Ocalan has been imprisoned on an island in Marmara Sea near Istanbul since 1999. I have given a little history of the Turkish Armed Forces and its fighting quality for the readers to judge what can be achieved if it is ordered to invade Syria in search of Islamic state fighters and as now appears against Kurds...
Historic role and the stake of Turkish Armed Forces
The evolution and development of Turkish Armed Forces originates from Turkish tribes who migrated and invaded Anatolia and then under Ottomans were organized into a fighting force in which the corps of janissaries, composed of young Christian children from Anatolia to begin with and then from kingdoms and states conquered in Eastern Europe formed the spearhead of attack. Those selected out of them on pure merit and trained in the Ottoman Palaces provided 80% of the ruling elite, like Prime Ministers, the governors of the provinces, military commanders and other high positions except that of Sheikh ul Islam. The armed forces were modernized and trained by German Armed Forces up to World War I. After World War II, when Turkey joined NATO in 1950s, its forces have collaborated in training and other matters with NATO's military philosophy, policies, objectives, technology and armaments etc.
Not only for modernizing and westernizing a backward Ottoman polity which before World War I could be compared with that of Saudi Arabia now without its energy resources, it should be remembered that it was Kemal Ataturk, who forbade the Turkish Fez and baggy trousers and turban etc. and veils for women. The West looking at Erdogan, Abdulla Gul and others in latest Western clothing would think that these leaders have modern European thinking, as they have been playing around with the process of joining the European Union, without both sides not being very serious or keen about it. But the fact remains that they may not be as extreme and reactionary, but may not be much different than many leaders in the Gulf, .The Muslim brotherhood is admired by Erdogan.
The Turkish Armed Forces, which until the introduction of capitalism by Pres. Turgut Ozal, in 1980s introduced trading and industrial mechanisms, mores of production, through establishment of state-controlled banks, trading companies and industrial undertakings. Thus, the Turkish Armed Forces played a major role and are stakeholder in Turkish polity and economy.
Therefore, the Turkish Armed Forces have expertise, wherewithal, long experience of even foreign and defense policy studies and options. After the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1990, Pres. Turgut Ozal was very keen to join the Americans led coalition to invade Iraq from North, but the military brass was so opposed to this that the Turkish Chief of staff resigned giving a sleepless night to Ozal , since it was a first . Normally the governments resigned on such differences Turkey got nothing out of the war and lost trade with Iraq.
When the U.S.-led illegal invasion of Iraq by Pres. George Bush and his poodle liar Tony Blair was contemplated in 2003, and in order to win approval of Western nations, the newly elected Islamist AKP leaders led by Erdogan were very keen that Turkey should join US, UK, led invasion of Iraq. The Turkish military was noncommittal, but might have agreed in order to get control over north Kurdish Iraq, a PKK hideout. However, with many thousands Turks protesting against the U.S.-led invasion in front of the Parliament, the Turkish parliament narrowly defeated motion to join US in the invasion from the north. In fact, hoping for the yes the Americans had already loaded military hardware from the Turkish port of Mersin to go to Turkish-Iraq border.
When Erdogan as Prime Minister, expressed a desire to become president, it brought out millions in protests in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, so he got Abdullah Gul elected as the President .In the pre-Islamist AKP period, the secular parties across the spectrum had worked out a modus Vivendi with the Armed Forces, having persuaded first to have Ozal elected as the Pres. and later another politician Suleyman Demirel and then a retired Chief Justice of the Turkish Supreme Court.
When I reached Ankara in early 1969, the use of word Kurd was taboo. It was used only in whispers, until around September 1969 as part of a tour of eastern Turkey, I reached, Diyarbakir, where I was greeted by Kurdish young boys singing Kurdish songs, but telling me in Turkish, Kurdum, Kurdum.
The problem of Kurds as a problem facing the governments of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran was brought to my attention in 1969 in Ankara, by a charming lady counsellor of Syria. She said that the Kurds of the four countries want to have an independent state of their own, which would also provide an exit to the Eastern Mediterranean through the Syrian port of Tartus. Never mind that the port of Tartus now provides strategic tier in Russia’s MAD equilibrium with U.S.-led West .Putin made Obama blink on Syria last year.
Internal part II and External to follow; Watch this space.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|