Politurco is a new and rapidly growing online platform focused primarily on Turkish politics, the Middle East and the Muslim world. Our commitment to providing topical information in accordance with the highest standards of journalistic and academic ethics and integrity has attracted not only a range of new expert contributors, but also praise from readers. The following is a review of a selection of the best recent Politurco articles on the most important political, economic and social developments in Turkey.
Many of this month’s articles focus on the critical issue of the state of U.S.-Turkey relations, and explore how we arrived at this juncture and provide insight on how the situation may further develop.
In “Turkey is no longer a flank but a wagon by Russia” from August 23, author Abdulmelik Alkan undertakes a striking in-depth review of Turkish foreign policy. He examines the three main ideological orientations in Turkish foreign policy, Kemalism, neo-Ottomanism and Eurasianism, and shows how all three have been reshaped in recent years by the ruling AKP. As Eurasianism becomes more prevalent, Turkey orients increasingly towards Russia and China, economically and geo-politically. As a consequence, Turkey no longer acts as balance to Russia in the South Caucasus or Black Sea. The author successfully advocates that Western countries establish bilateral and multilateral re-engagement policies in the South Caucasus, to counteract this Russian-Turkish alignment.
Ahmet Kurucan asks the question, “Why should the ‘definition of sovereignty’ be revised in Islamic thought?” in an another spectacular article published on August 14. The author expertly emphasizes the concept of sovereignty from the point of early-period Islamic history. He notes that sovereignty arguments were first raised by the Kharijites, who took a statement from the Quran out of context and used it for political ends. Thus political power was based on the Quran, where together with the concepts of predestination and fate, the state and the religion merged, and obedience to the caliph became obedience to Allah. In this view, the caliph is accountable only to Allah; therefore, rising against the caliph meant rising against Allah. This mentality has had significant consequences for Islamic communities and believers.
In his remarkable August 6 article entitled, “The threat of sanctions can influence Turkey’s behaviour,” Professor David Phillips discusses the U.S. sanctions imposed on Turkey following a number of problematic developments in the country, including the imprisonment of Pastor Brunson. Phillips states that the threat of sanctions is much more effective than sanctions themselves, arguing that if the U.S. really wants to influence Turkish behaviour it should discreetly convey plans to sanction Erdogan’s son Bilal and son in-law Berat Albayrak. Phillips details some of the activities in which Bilal and Berat are allegedly involved that are actionable under the Global Magnitsky Act. In Bilal’s case, this includes allegations of extortion, bribery and money laundering, as well as financing of terrorism. Berat is suspected of expropriating private and public assets for personal gain, bribery, and corruption related to government contracts and natural resources, as well as financing of terrorism.
In her insightful article, Doctoral researcher Deniz Zengin writes in “Turkish Refugees Crossing Evros River” about the plight of the more than 41,000 Turks who have fled to Europe in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt. These refugees put themselves in the hands of human traffickers, leaving everything behind to escape persecution in Turkey. Zengin details the perilous journey to Greece, pointing out that an untold number of Turkish refugees have died while crossing the river. If they make it, at the end of the journey is a refugee camp, where the new arrivals are processed and try to reclaim their lives.
Investigative journalist Faruk Mercan makes important and eye-catching observations on the Turkish justice system in his August 8 article entitled “Turkey Following Iran’s Footsteps.” He illustrates deficiencies of the justice system using the case of Pastor Brunson, and drawing parallels between the current Turkish system and that of Iran under Khomeini. He also points out the similarities between Erdogan’s caliphate project and Khomeini’s state ideology. Mercan states that Erdogan has used Khomeini’s tactics to consolidate his authoritarian rule and turn Turkey into a second Iran.
“Will ECHR pass the justice test?” is the question posed by Ekrem Dumanli, former Editor-in-Chief of Turkish Daily Zaman, in an insightful August 17 article. The author notes the accusations of double standards against the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR), in particular regarding the case filed by Feza Media Group which owns Zaman Newspaper. He sets out the alleged violations of Turkish domestic law and explains how anti-terrorism legislation was misused in the Zaman case and against other media groups. The ECHR rejected the cases, advising the petitioners to first exhaust all domestic legal options. While acknowledging that this is indeed the usual procedure, the author expressed the hope that the ECHR will recognize the extraordinary circumstances in Turkey and accept the cases in recognition of the fact that no domestic legal remedy is currently available to the victims.
In an August 9 article entitled, “Hidden Politics: Facts of the Brunson Crisis Between the U.S and Turkey,” investigative journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan provides an in-depth look at one of the most important cases currently affecting U.S-Turkish relations. As the author explains, there was a tentative agreement between the U.S. and Turkey regarding Brunson’s release, in exchange for certain concessions on the Halkbank case, but the agreement was doomed by Turkey’s insistence on closing two investigations into Halkbank. He argues that Erdogan’s real goal in imprisoning Brunson was to secure the release of Reza Zarrab and close the Halkbank investigations, in order to protect himself from a possible investigation regarding terrorist financing. The future of Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. depends on whether he succeeds or fails.
Dr. Ahmet Kurucan asks, “How Politics Shape Religion?” in an August 10 article. Kurucan successfully points out that politics has intervened in religion and religious law in Turkey during the AKP’s 16-year reign, to the point where religion is being controlled by politics. He notes that this political interference is influencing the development of ideas and debates, as it has throughout history, citing the political oppression that turned the caliphate into the sultanate. Kurucan argues that studying the mentality behind this interference will enable a better understanding of Turkey throughout history and will enable Turks to modify this mentality by adding experiences of Western democracy, in order to resolve Turkey’s contemporary problems.
“Erdogan plays with fire on the strategic chess board” is the title of an August 25 article by Dr. Bulent Kenes debates the relationship between diplomacy and war. He gives a short overview of the history of sanctions, which have emerged as a new chapter between diplomacy and war; they are coercive measures that aim to bring about a desired change in the other party without resorting to war. In some cases, sanctions have been ineffective, such as in the cases of Cuba and Iran. Kenes explains that increasingly, states are using “smart sanctions”, which target a regime rather than the entire population. This is the case in the recent sanctions placed on Turkey by the U.S., although the author cautions that full-scale sanctions will likely follow. In Libya and the former Yugoslavia, where full-scale sanctions failed to bring the desired result, the West ultimately engaged in strategic bombing to achieve its goals. Kenes argues that Erdogan is playing with fire, with unpredictable results for the whole country.
Investigative journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan’s article, “Is Turkey entering the provocations process?” of August 16, also deals with the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey. He begins with an account of the secret audio recording of then-Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s conversation with intelligence and defense officials, in which they discussed fabricating an attack on Turkey from Syrian territory. The author states that the tape, which was released in March 2014, demonstrates the mentality of Turkey’s ruling elite, who are willing to do anything for their political gain. In the case of Pastor Brunson, Erdogan intended to use him as a bargaining chip; he lost Trump’s goodwill, but guaranteed his continued dominance in Turkey. According to the author, it is possible that if the economic situation in Turkey deteriorates far enough, some sort of provocation will be staged, similar to what happened recently in Venezuela with the alleged assassination attempt on embattled President Maduro’s life.
An August 13 article by Abdulmelik Alkan on “The Caspian Sea has “legal and special Status”,” covers the August 12 meeting of the leaders of the Caspian Sea littoral states of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. The meeting resolved the legal status of the oil and gas-rich Caspian Sea and will enable implementation of agreements in areas such as transport, trade, prevention of incidents, counter-terrorism, fighting organized crime, law enforcement cooperation, etc. All littoral states will now be able to use the surface of the sea, its mineral reserves, and other resources cooperatively, taking ecological and environmental issues into account. Alkan notes that Russian officials have stated that the sea has been given a special status, which means that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea would not apply.