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HomeHeadlineGet ready for Turkey's "Putin" and the war cabinet.

Get ready for Turkey’s “Putin” and the war cabinet.

The only disturbance in the silence before the storm, the whining caused by the terrifying rapid decline of the Turkish Lira. The bitter consequences of election economics have started to emerge. Economists emphasize that the ongoing process is just the beginning. Meanwhile, the new cabinet of the regime has been announced. It is no longer surprising that the analyses attempting to interpret the cabinet change – I use the term “analysis” loosely, as most of them are not analysis but rather praise – are competing with each other in Pollyannaism. Although we may have become accustomed to it, we should not overlook the fact that these commentators, who desperately evade the truth, are among the most important actors in the chain of events that have caused the storm.

The question on everyone’s mind is when the economy will recover. Like a miraculous doctor brought to the emergency room, Mehmet Şimşek in the cabinet is expected to somehow revive the patient. Come on, doctor, do something! Cardiac massage, artificial respiration, an adrenaline shot, whatever you can do! Mehmet Şimşek is portrayed as a magical figure with extraordinary healing abilities, and all hopes are pinned on him.

However, there is a much more significant change in the cabinet. No, I am not referring to the removal of Süleyman Soylu or Hulusi Akar. The appointment of Hakan Fidan, the head of intelligence, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs is one of the reasons that increases my concerns about Turkey’s near future.

First of all, let me start by saying this. This is not a cabinet of tranquility, stability, reconstruction, or progress towards improvement. This is a war cabinet. Yes, the economic collapse has reached an unstoppable level. From now on, the issue is finding an excuse for the collapse. A solid excuse, one that everyone can accept, an excuse that will prevent society from feeling the pain. The regime needs a national cause. Therefore, Hakan Fidan took over the position from Çavuşoğlu.

Erdoğan and his power stakeholders are preparing to say, “the economy collapsed because of…” This “because” must be very convincing. No one should blame Erdoğan after this “because.” There should be no rebellion, no protest, no uprising, no democracy vigil, no new Gezi-like popular movement breaking out.

Everyone knows that when a foreign problem arises, the majority of the Turkish society rallies around the government. National causes benefit governments. That’s why any government in trouble tries to distract attention with a national cause. I recommend you watch the movie “Wag the Dog.” It depicts how a troubled and unpopular US president seeks the help of scriptwriters to create an artificial foreign problem and how it is used as political material. When we give an example from Turkey, we don’t need a movie. Automatically, I’m referring to the tape that contains conversations about how Davutoğlu, Fidan, Sinirlioğlu, and other regime figures talked about “sending a few men to Syria and launching four or five missiles” to justify a military attack on Syria. In this conversation, the master of creating justifications was the then-head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), Hakan Fidan. I have serious doubts about what kind of operations an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in the Turkish Armed Forces could plan. Even to go to the bathroom at that rank, you need permission from three commanders. They don’t let you plan operations. They say sit, you sit; they say stand, you stand. But “talented Mr. Fidan” rose quickly. Did his Persian connections, the favors he received from Islamist soldiers during the AKP era, his cunningness, his network-focused work, or something else play a role? It’s unknown. Maybe it’s all of that, and even more! However, after completing his master’s and doctoral studies at Bilkent University, this NCO found himself in a rapid career leap. He served at TİKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) and graduated from the ABC school of intelligence. Then he represented Turkey at the International Atomic Energy Agency, became a staunch advocate for Iran’s nuclear program, added it to Turkish foreign policy, and gained the appreciation of Eurasian-focused circles. Turkey had already started distancing itself from NATO during those times. Fidan became one of the strong and sturdy rowers of this boat. Then, on December 17, he gained even more trust from Erdoğan due to his proximity. Figuratively speaking, he learned, managed, camouflaged, and consolidated his position by discovering all the dirty laundry, connections, money flows, and organizational networks of his boss. He created a bulky archive. He observed, learned, and recorded who had the upper hand in the state apparatus.

Then, on July 15, 2016, he managed – or perhaps even planned or made decisive contributions to – a much more complex operation. Otherwise, if July 15 had truly been a coup attempt, Hakan Fidan would have been one of the first heads to roll. The second would have been Hulusi Akar! This process saved Hulusi and provided him with a guarantee to maintain his position for a long time. But what about Hakan Fidan? He received much more. As his knowledge and archive grew, his influence against Erdoğan and potential rivals also increased.

Hakan Fidan is the foremost candidate for leadership after Erdoğan in the regime’s future. He is a man who possesses a troll army, infrastructure agents he has cultivated, media feeds, a network within the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), the mysterious secrets of senior bureaucrats he records in his daily journals, and the knowledge of the state and connections to control it!

Now, the only barrier in front of him is the sick and weakened Erdoğan. He will remain in the political spotlight for a while, gaining experience and influence. He will solidify his relationships at the local and national levels. He will further consolidate the regime. He will firmly establish his intelligence network. He knows that Ibrahim Kalın cannot fill his position. Even if he does, it will take time.

In this process, I believe that Fidan will gain prominence as the leader in the post-Erdoğan era. A kind of Turkish Putin. Just as Putin took power in Russia after the corrupt Yeltsin and established his own administrative empire, Fidan has the same potential and ambition. They are colleagues, after all.

I would like to explore this topic further in other articles, with your permission.

Let’s talk about the topic of excuses. They need to generate excuses for a destructive crisis! Fidan will do this.

These excuses will be 1) the annexation of Northern Cyprus (its inclusion within Turkish borders), 2) war with Armenia alongside Azerbaijan, followed by a Turkish Anschluss (integration or confederation), 3) a large-scale and bloody operation in Syria. They will choose one of these excuses. After the international crisis that this will cause and the subsequent upheavals, they will come out and say, “We took risks for our national cause, and foreign powers have also attacked our economy!” In the meantime, they will try to obtain support from Russia, China, and even the Gulf countries. I believe the easiest and most effective option is Cyprus. They will connect the occupied Northern Cyprus, which is already de facto part of Turkey, to themselves using a model similar to Hatay. When they declare this, all hell will break loose. And the excuse they desire will be handed to them on a silver platter. These are the most effective moves I can see in chess.

Fidan will be the most influential player in this crisis. He will handle all negotiations. His name will be known globally. Then, one day, Erdoğan will pass away. I have explained the rest above. I will delve into this topic in more detail. But one thing is certain: we will hear Hakan Fidan’s name much, much more frequently in the coming period.

Turkish version of this article first published at TR724.COM

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Dr. MEHMET EFE CAMAN
Dr. MEHMET EFE CAMAN
Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.
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