Would Turkey’s Military Stand By?

By Rachel Ehrenfeld & Norman A. Bailey*
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 @ 12:40AM

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Left: Turkish police officers stand on guard, securing the site of the explosion in Ankara. Protesters clashed with riot police after the bombings, accusing officers of blocking a road being used by ambulances to transport the wounded. (Burhan Ozbilici/The Associated Press)

Introduction: Saturday’s double suicide bombings in Ankara that killed and wounded hundreds of Kurds and supporters of the opposition to Turkey’s Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) who rallied for peace, suspiciously looks as if it was steered by him. His meek reaction to the bombing did not help, nor did the blackout on the media.

Since 2003, when Erdogan first became Prime Minister, he has moved towards radical Islam as an effort to advance Turkey as an “Islamic democracy.” Using the Muslim Brotherhood’s oxymoron invention of “Islamic democracy” he worked to replace Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Western legal codes with shari’a, “cleansing” the judiciary and the military and slowly turning the secular Turkish republic into an authoritarian state. However, his efforts to consolidate power by changing Turkey’s constitution from a parliamentary system into a presidential one hit a hurdle last June, when for the first time since 2002, the AKP lost its majority in parliament.  A general election will be held in less than three weeks, unless, according to government officials, increase in violence will force the postponement of the elections. However, his opponents claim that widespread violence would give Erdogan reason enough for declaring the implementation of martial law. (R.E)

What would the military do?

In his Globes commentary, Norman Bailey ponders whether Turkey’s military would rise to prevent a total failure of the state:

“Famed commentator David Goldman, writing under the pseudonym “Spengler” in the “Asia Times”, has published an analysis in which he asks the question whether Turkey is in danger of becoming another Middle Eastern failed state, joining Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya in that status.

This is a matter of utmost gravity. If Goldman is right, a situation of chaos in Turkey would affect not just the Middle East, but also the Black Sea states, the Balkans and NATO, of which Turkey is a member. The position of the Kurds would change dramatically, as the Kurdish area of southeastern Turkey would undoubtedly secede and form a state with the Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq. This would put pressure on Iran, which also has a large Kurdish population. The Islamic State (IS) would find its area of operations greatly expanded, moving into southern Turkey from its Syrian base. Russia and the other littoral countries of the Black Sea would be concerned about access to the Mediterranean through the Bosporus. In other words, a failed Turkey would be a more serious focus of instability than all the other Middle Eastern and North African failed states taken together.

How did Turkey get into such a mess that such speculation is even possible? Not only has President Erdogan’s dreams of a re-created Ottoman zone of influence gone up in smoke, but the domestic situation in Turkey is even more serious, as symbolized by the recent bombing attack on a peaceful demonstration in Ankara, killing a hundred or more persons and wounding hundreds. The government blames IS; a substantial portion of the population blames the government.

Erdogan has systematically alienated four major groups in Turkey, representing perhaps sixty percent of the population: the secular Kemalists (followers of Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic); the Kurds, who are about twenty percent of the population; the millions of Alevis (a Sunni sect similar to the Alawite Sh’ia sect in Syria); and the Gulenists, followers of a charismatic religious leader exiled in the U.S.So is Turkish descent into failed state status likely? I would argue not. That matters will get worse is almost a certainty. Next month’s election for parliament will solve nothing and only add to the uncertainties. I believe the recent history of Egypt is more likely to be replicated in Turkey. At the point that chaos threatens, the army will step in and take over.

Although Erdogan has succeeded in neutralizing the armed forces, they still see themselves as the guardians of the Republic and the legacy of Ataturk. The Kemalists will be delighted. The Gulenists and Alevis can be easily mollified simply by ending their persecution. A sticking point will be the Kurds, who may try to take advantage of the coup to declare separation, which the army would be forced to oppose violently. 

But if the Kurdish leader Ocalan is released from prison and offered a wide degree of autonomy for his people, that danger could also be avoided.For Israel, such a development would be highly positive, as was the case in Egypt. The substantial commerce with Turkey would be protected, and the new government could be expected to renew diplomatic ties and end support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. From a new focus of anarchy Turkey would be converted into an element of stability, both for the region in general and for Israel in particular.”

* Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.

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