IS TURKEY GOING ROGUE?
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Recep Tayyip Erdogan effectively bought the June, 2011, elections by pumping credit into the Turkish economy.
But, in reality, Turkey may be, along with Iran, one of the most dangerous states of the region. Count the reasons:
Islamists Without Brakes: When four out of five of the Turkish Chiefs of Staff abruptly resigned on July 29, 2011, they signaled the effective end of the republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Atatürk. A second republic headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist colleagues of the AK Party began that day. The military safely under their control, AKP ideologues now can pursue their ambitions to create an Islamic order.
An Even Worse Opposition: Ironically, secular Turks tend to be more anti-Western than the AKP. The two other parties in Parliament, the CHP and MHP, condemn the AKP's more enlightened policies, such as its approach to Syria and its stationing a NATO radar system.
Looming Economic Collapse: Turkey faces a credit crunch, one largely ignored, in light of crises in Greece and elsewhere. As analyst David Goldman points out, Erdogan and the AKP took the country on a financial binge: bank credit ballooned while the current account deficit soared, reaching unsustainable levels. The party's patronage machine borrowed massive amounts of shortterm debt to finance a consumption bubble that effectively bought it the June, 2011, elections. Goldman calls Erdogan a "Third World strongman" and compares Turkey today with Mexico in 1994 or Argentina in 2000, "where a brief boom financed by shortterm foreign capital flows led to currency devaluation and a deep economic slump."
Escalating Kurdish Problems: Some 15-20 percent of Turkey's citizens identify as Kurds, a distinct historical people; although many Kurds are integrated, a separatist revolt against Ankara that began in 1984 has recently reached a new crescendo with a more assertive political leadership and more aggressive guerrilla attacks.
Looking for a Fight With Israel: In the tradition of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Saddam Hussein, the Turkish Prime Minister deploys anti-Zionist rhetoric to make himself an Arab political star. One shudders to think where, thrilled by this adulation, he may end up. After Ankara backed a protest ship to Gaza in May, 2010 -- the Mavi Marmara -- whose aggression led Israeli forces to kill eight Turkish citizens plus an ethnic Turk, it has relentlessly exploited this incident to stoke domestic fury against the Jewish state. Erdogan has called the deaths a casus belli, speaks of a war with Israel "if necessary," and plans to send another ship to Gaza, this time with a Turkish military escort.
Stimulating an Anti-Turkish Faction: Turkish hostility has renewed Israel's historically warm relations with the Kurds and turned around its cool relations with Greece, Cyprus, and even Armenia. Beyond cooperation locally, this grouping will make life difficult for the Turkish diplomats in Washington, D.C.
Asserting Rights over Mediterranean Energy Reserves: Companies operating out of Israel discovered potentially immense gas and oil reserves in the Leviathan and other fields located between Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus. When the government of Cyprus announced its plans to drill, Erdogan responded with threats to send Turkish "frigates, gunboats and … air force." This dispute, just in its infancy, contains the potential elements of a huge crisis. Already, Moscow has sent submarines in solidarity with Cyprus.
Other International Problems: Ankara threatens to freeze relations with the European Union in July, 2012, when Cyprus assumes the rotating Presidency. Turkish forces have seized a Syrian arms ship. Turkish threats to invade northern Iraq have worsened relations with Baghdad. Turkish and Iranian regimes may share an Islamist outlook and an anti-Kurd agenda, with prospering trade relations, but their historic rivalry, contrary governing styles, and competing ambitions have soured relations.
While Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu crows that Turkey is "right at the center of everything," AKP bellicosity has soured his vaunted "zero-problems" with neighbors policy, turning this into a wide-ranging hostility and even potential military confrontations (with Syria, Cyprus, and Israel). As economic troubles hit, a once-exemplary member of NATO may go further off track; watch for signs of Erdogan emulating his Venezuelan friend, Hugo Chávez.
That's why, along with Iranian nuclear weapons, I see a rogue Turkey as the region's greatest threat.
© 2011 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Originally Published in National Review Online, September 27, 2011
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes.org, September 27, 2011
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
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