Atatürk's Republic

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Stunned Silence

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Update: Since writing this post last night, Erdogan has finally addressed the Mosul crisis publicly.  The context and content of his speech only reinforce my main points below.  It took him two days to speak publicly about the kidnapping of Turkish diplomatic staff but his speech lacked the depth and details you would expect at this point in the crisis.  He briefly reassured the public that every effort is being made to free the hostages, a statement that should have been made immediately after the kidnapping, then went on to slam the CHP for criticizing the response of AKP officials to the crisis.  He accused them of being allies of Assad and claimed that their criticism of the government would “provoke” ISIS.  Erdogan now only has one mode: blame and distract.  He and his government’s policies have failed and he is doing everything he can to avoid addressing the justified criticisms of the opposition.  Erdogan, his government, and Turkey are in an extremely vulnerable position at the moment, a situation of their own making.  Distraction may work for now, but if (God forbid) the hostages are harmed or killed it will be very difficult to shift the blame for such a blow to Turkey’s honor to a weak and divided opposition (which is what he is setting up to do).  Mosul, like Soma, is another sign of the slow decline of the power of Erdogan and the AKP both at home and abroad.

 

Erdogan is known for his fiery and frequent speeches.  Since last year’s protests, his conspiracy-laced pontifications have become nearly a daily occurrence.  However, the crisis in northern Iraq has literally left Erdogan dumbstruck.  Since ISIS stormed into Mosul, taking several dozen Turkish truck drivers hostage Tuesday and 49 Turks affiliated with the consulate hostage Wednesday, we have heard nary a peep from the Prime Minister.  Instead, Erdogan reached out to the United States government Thursday.  I am sure it is an understatement to say that he must have felt slighted to be connected with Vice President Biden and not President Obama.

The weaknesses of the AKP government in general and Erdogan in particular are being bared in quick succession.  Just as Soma revealed the shallow and inhumane nature of the AKP’s neo-liberal domestic policies, the crisis in Iraq is the consequence of Turkey’s poorly managed foreign policy.  Though Turkey never directly supported ISIS and its activities, the Turkish government’s all but open boarder policy for anti-Assad militants allowed many foreign fighters to enter Syria and swell ISIS’s ranks.  ISIS was always open with its hostility toward Turkey, declaring Erdogan an apostate, despite Turkey acting as as rear base for their fighters.  The fact that ISIS’s recent hostility toward Turks and Turkey seems to have taken the Turkish government off guard demonstrates a frightening level of naivete on the part of officials.

The Iraq crisis is another event in the series of Turkish foreign policy breakdowns that began with the Arab spring.  The beginning of the Arab spring marked the height of Turkey’s influence in the region and their neo-Ottoman ambitions.  As Syria and then Egypt descended into political chaos, Turkish power became all but illusory.  Some pro-government news outlets continue to publish fantastical, Turko-centric visions for a “new” middle east.  However all but the most delusional in the Turkish government must see that the loss of stability in northern Iraq, a region that was key to Turkish trade with the region, puts Turkey in its weakest international position since the rise of the AKP.  The AKP will not be resurrecting the Ottoman Empire.  They will be lucky, and smart, to maintain their one solid relationship with a Middle Eastern neighbor, namely Iraqi Kurdistan (but that’s another blog post).

Erdogan’s stunned silence in response to this crisis speaks volumes.  Over the past year, he has been doing everything possible to stir up domestic crises, involving the Gulen movement, Gezi protesters, foreign journalists and many others, which he can then go about “solving” through ministerial purges, police crackdowns and repressive laws.  Erdogan didn’t even shy away from tackling the Soma disaster head on, though his approach left something to be desired to say the least.  Now, when Turkey faces a real threat with citizen’s lives on the line, he cannot even find the time to reassure the public that the government is working to resolve the crisis.  Though some AKP ministers have tried, Erdogan’s usual tactics are not sufficient to address this serious of a situation.  Mosul is a real test of the political meddle of Erdogan and the AKP and thus far they have been found wanting.

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Written by ataturksrepublic

June 13, 2014 at 4:02 am

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