The suffixe “oğlu” denominates “the son of” -as in “Jefferson”, for example . So here is a tale of three “-oglus”, destined for the consumption of the much esteemed foreign reader who may or may not be a student of Turkish internal politics’ intricacies. This is also a tale about a popular and populist leader, a “democrator” so to speak, who according to some is on his way to establish a “party-state”.
Some more platitudes: The main opposition party here is the CHP and its leader is Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu. The original CHP is Atatürk’s party and hence is “the” party that founded the Republic of Turkey back in 1923. Since the one-party era ended in 1950 however, vascillating between mainstream nationalism and left-of-the-center approaches, CHP emerged as the victor of the elections only twice: in 1973 and 1977, winning %33 and %41.3 of the votes respectively.
In our times, Mr.Erdoğan’s AKP is in power uninterruptedly since 2002. As Erdoğan’s rise began with his 1994 İstanbul municipal elections win, CHP expects to reciprocate that success story and kick-start its long march to the summit with Mr.Ekrem İmamoğlu’s electoral victory this year.
Fun fact to take note of, Mr.Erdoğan’s was the lowest percentage win till today registered with only %25.19. Whereas back in 1973, CHP’s Ahmet İsvan, a Robert College graduate who continued his studies in the US, to say a through and through “white Turk”, had broken an all time record with a %63 election’s victory. That was because he had garnered all the have-nots’ support in his time. So much for your cardboard cutout “white Turk” stereotype Ms./Mr.Turkey Pundit, please do excuse me now.
That’s past history though. Fast forward to our day, meet our third “-oglu”, Ms.Canan Kaftancıoğlu, a medical doctor by profession, motorbike rider, mother and CHP’s İstanbul branch chairwoman. According to many, her clear-eyed politics, steely willpower and no-nonsense organizational skills played a key role in Mr.İmamoğlu’s win.
The question then almost invites itself: Is CHP finally getting its act together? Not so fast, tiger. Enter another character to our tale: Mr.Necati Özkan is a seasoned professional and succesful entrepreneur in the PR business. Mr.İmamoğlu happens to cooperate with Mr.Özkan since his days as İstanbul’s peripheral but up and coming neighborhood Beylikdüzü’s district mayor.
Victories have many parents, but defeats are orphan, or something in that vein, they say. That’s where our plot thickens. Mr.Özkan’s book with according to some the quite extravagant title “Hero’s Journey” hit the shelves no later than five months after Mr.İmamoğlu declared his stunning victory on the 23rd of June. And, all hell broke loose, again, inside the CHP.
Mr.Özkan’s sin or profanity, is to claim that “the campaign machine” of which he is the master-mind single-handedly delivered İstanbul at Mr.İmamoğlu’s feet. Whereas, Ms.Kaftancıoğlu, rightly claims her or rather the party organization’s of which she is the chair’s due in the elections results. When asked, Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu plays the family’s wise patriarch by patting down the bickering teens and warns against rolling out in public contradictory narratives.
Let’s now take a step back. Presidential system was adopted by %52 of the votes following the referendum on the 16th of April, 2017 and Mr.Erdoğan’s had won the presidential elections on the 24th of June, 2018 with again %52 of the ballots cast. Today, according to trustworthy opinion polls (as conducted by Metropoll et al.), when questioned who they would vote for if there was a presidential election the same weekend a mere %1.1 answered “Kılıçdaroğlu” in late October.
According to same polls, Mr.İmamoğlu would get around %26 and Mr.Erdoğan around %45 of the votes. Then, how and/or why Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu remains the main opposition leader? Well because, pushing aside with the back of their hands Mr.Özkan’s PR strategies and Ms.Kaftancıoğlu’s grassroots network, some claim that it was actually the so-called “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine” that carried the day in İstanbul as well as in other metropolitan cities like Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Mersin, Antalya in the latest elections.
What is the secret of the “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine” then? That’s “winning with a disappearing act”, in a nut-shell. That is, now you see Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu and he dexterly shuffles the deck of cards lurking in the shadows, and now you don’t, the cards are open on the table with brand new names facing the voter. Ergo, CHP rises as the legendary phoenix from its ashes.
In the meantime, one after the other HDP’s elected mayors in the Southeast are being forcefully replaced by government appointed officials. HDP as the third opposition party in the parliament is literally under siege. CHP lent its full support to the “Operation Peace Spring”. Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu had the chutzpah to declare that due the military takeover of Afrin, international aid organizations are now being able to deliver vital humanitarian aid to the local community of that district.
Did you inquire about the state of the rule of law? Case in point, renowned writer Ahmet Altan was released from prison only to go back in where he came out from, a day later. Freedom of expression? Almost not a single day goes by, without a journalist being brought in for questioning, to remain permanently or not –depending on whether she or he is lucky- under custody. Ditto for the open nerve issues like the Armenian Genocide: The number you are calling can’t be reached at the moment, please try again later.
Whether you call it “coup permanent”, “militarism”, “authoritarian regime”, “illiberal democracy” or whichever elegant description you choose from your political sciences lexicon, one thing is sure and that is “freedom is NOT on the march” in these climates down here. Sleeping beauty CHP represents his majesty’s loyal opposition at best, or at worst, the metaphorical “dead horse” that one can’t flog to win any race.
CHP’s local elections slogan “everything gonna be alright” remains but a distant memory by now. Hence your humble servant reaches out to his imaginary guitar and pretends singing his inept opposition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWsX4_PCwbc blues: “Born under a bad sign / Been down since I began to crawl / If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have no luck at all”.
The imam too is apologetically in a hurry. I try to appear comforting in reiterating over and over again that everything is in order according to Islam. I even attempt to reassure him by patting his shoulder but my hand remains hanging in the air as the wide-eyed imam is aghast of this potential physical contact.
At the end of the day, Ankara’s undisclosed three-way bet appears to the naked eye as resting first on a hybrid mitigation approach as opposed to the full throttle suppression. Second, that the storm will pass quicker than others expect. Third, that Turkey will find itself on the winning end once the skies clear.
The Moscow Protocol puts the task on Ankara’s shoulders of stopping the armed militia like the HTS and the Turkey backed SNA from endangering traffic on that road to be jointly controlled. By the same token, while effectively offering the use of the road on a plate to Damascus, it allocates the burden of preventing the SAA to take it over and make a northbound push to Russia.
Not quite. One can safely assume that Moscow dictates the, call it “new order” or the “new status quo” in Idlib. And at that, effectively getting in between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian Arab Army. No more, no less and temporarily. Compared to a potential full-blown Turco-Syrian war, encouraged first and foremost by the U.S., it is no small feat either.
The assumption of those who predicted a sudden death to Erdoğan-Putin bromance is proven to be only wishful thinking. The two leaders, as shared with the public by Kremlin’s spokesperson Peskov are slated to meet in Moscow either on the 5th or the 6th of March. How many more Syrian Air Force Soviet made attack jets will be downed by then is anybody’s guess. The tally stands at three at present time.
Title is from a song by Sheffield band Pulp’s well known 1995 debut album: “Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits / Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh…” With a sleight of hand replace “biscuits” with “promises” and there you have it, a concise executive summary of Erdoğan’s Syria and Libya policies.
The art of diplomacy, among other things, is to create time and space for a rationale within the possible outcomes. That would be in this case, for the recently heavily fortified TAF observation posts establish a new frontier line leaving the control of the M4 and the M5 highways together with all the towns along them to Damascus and keep a much narrower pocket including the Idleb town to host the almost a million Syrian IDPs and hence allowing them conditions not push for the Turkish border.
Bana, on her term, travelled numerous times from Istanbul to Misrata than to Genoa and so forth. Recently though, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailed through the disputed eight parcel declared by Greek Cyprus and, “to add insult to injury”, also topped its flag displaying mission by monitoring the same Bana being escorted by Turkish navy fregates to Libya. Before AFP had time to break the news, President Macron had already denounced Turkey as breaching the UN imposed arms embargo to Libya.
I have no single bit of sympathy at all for this ridiculous Trumpian unilateral MEPP that makes a mockery of diplomacy and the Palestinian land. But I do worry about the fact that Turkey carries no weight to dictate its will upon all the rest of the world. For that matter, no other power, be it regional or global, not even the U.S. enjoys that sort of latitude. There is no need for Ankara to constantly pick unnecessary fights while in the meantime there is no shortage of conflicts that Turkey’s national security all around it.
Today, a shaky hodge-podge opposition coalition of sorts seems to have emerged following the metropolitan municipality victories in 2019, first and foremost winning the prized duchy of Istanbul among them. Now, the secularist nationalists and muslim democrats with the Kurds and leftists suspiciously eyeing but soldiering on with them have a quite clear shot at the presidency in 2023 the latest -in ceteris paribus conditions.
The outcome of the Berlin Conference on Libya is anybody’s guess and whether it will make any difference is anybody’s guess as well. The safest bet is to claim that we are just starting a long de-escalation period with its inevitable ups and downs unless General Hafter manages to upend it militarily.
President Erdoğan’s combative foreign policy appears to let off steam and slow down on both Syrian and Libyan fronts. It is too early to tell whether finally reason had found a foothold in Ankara. For Mr. Erdoğan the hardest bit to tackle in 2020 will be the U.S. President’s repeated invitation for the NATO’s mission to be expanded to the Mid East and namely to Iraq.
Turkey, if it stops short of going all in in Libya and taps into its long forgotten diplomatic arsenal, has a unique opportunity to step forward with its home brew de-escalation efforts. President Erdoğan already had both Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Saleh on the phone. Briskly, Ankara can step forward and play on both its hundreds year long relations with Teheran and its half a century old NATO membership.
Mr.Erdoğan went to Tunisia but came back empty handed following his meeting with his counterpart Mr.Saied. The joint diplomatic, military, intelligence team that was dispatched to Moscow got no deal after three days long talks. Italy, Britain, France and Germany are seriously considering imposing a No Fly Zone which will definitely put a hold to armed drones provided by Turkey to GNA.
Vienna, no need to be a historian to reach that conclusion, is an imperial capital. Coming from Istanbul, I can’t help but think about the parallelism of these two cities being amputated of their respective empires almost simultaneously at the end of World War I.
Ankara went ahead and put the pedal to the metal in all files. No restraint, no consultation, no foresight: Just jump in head-on wherever, whenever you see trouble. Why? Simply because it almost always paid off at the ballot box. Second, there was no payback, no price tag attached to any of all these reckless foreign policy moves, manoeuvers and adventures.
So here I was back at heart of the blob. Or alternately, here I was knee-deep back in the swamp. Ten years ago this city was sort of abuzz. This time though, if President Macron kindly allows me to borrow the description he recently used for NATO, DC appeared to me sort of “brain-dead”. A good friend who had navigated these treachourous waters for decades had warned me that I would come to witness “the demise of an empire.”
Never in the history of mankind, less than ten richest persons in the world possessed more than half of the global wealth. But also, never in the history of mankind, humans lived so long and a billion people to global population was added in such a short span of time. Statesmen are in short supply in our time and at the same time all the public upheaval from Santiago to Najaf can be understood as a global rejection of being lead by anyone anyway.
It seems like Erdoğan’s Turkey not only wants to go it alone almost in all foreign policy issues but also actually expects almost all other countries, friend or foe, to, at best, applaud its acts and decisions or to understand them and to remain silent, at worst. That’s not a realistic goal.
Where will Iraq go from here, I do not know. The historical process triggered by the U.S. military that toppled the most brutal dictator of its era in 2003 does not yet appear to have arrived at its final destination. It is perhaps a good enough thing to be alive for some of us, but then again, for some of us to merely survive is not enough. The brave young generation of Iraq, unlike the frequent traveler that your humble servant was, plays this game for their lives: They want to live, to be free and pursue their happiness as they see fit.
The relations between Turkey and the U.S. are beyond repair. The bilateral relations are either going to look like “operational” as in U.S.-Egypt relations for example, in which case people who consider themselves democrats will definitely go under the bus. Or, another option may appear to be, as it derives from the dominant narrative of Erdoğan, a character similar to the U.S.-Russia relations: Turkey playing the part of an equal and indispensable but difficult partner.
Turkey is anchored in the West since the Paris Peace Conference in 1856 that ensued the Crimean War. Today, over the control of a godforsaken piece of land of 120 to 32km, Putin is invited to kill too many birds with one stone.
As the U.S. pulled out, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA), supported by Russia, moved into Manbij and Kobane to the west and to the Qamishli axis to the east of the said rectangular field of ongoing operations. Hence, there is no reason why the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should heed the U.S.-Turkish Joint Statement, and there is no reason why the congressional sanctions effort should stop—it didn’t.
Last week marked the fourth anniversary of the Ankara Train Station massacre. The pain caused by the hundreds of dead and injured subsists. The victims simply demanded peace. But they paid a high price for it.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, rather ungrammatically, that they would 'raggedy' Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu if he doesn't mind his own business. He openly and directly threatened him with these words