Last week two former US ambassadors to Turkey, Mort Abramovitz and Eric Edelman, in The Washington Post called on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to either reform or resign.
But they should know better, because Erdogan will do neither.
They have all their facts in order but they draw the wrong conclusions. Erdogan is not a normal president – in fact, the Turkish Medical Association in a press release two years ago, when Erdogan was still prime minister, expressed concern about his emotional state and behavioral pattern, which seriously deviated from the normal. Among the examples they put forward was the discriminatory and polarizing language he used since the Gezi Park uprising in 2013 and claims that “the interest rate lobby” was behind the uprising.
Prominent Turkish columnist Kadri Gürsel sees signs that the president believes he is on a mission from God, and in his countless speeches Erdogan never misses an opportunity to invoke the Almighty. He shows clear signs of paranoia, not only in the belief that his arch-enemy, a reclusive imam resident in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gülen, and his faith-based organization are terrorists – dubbed FETO (The Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) – but also in his belief in “a mastermind.”
During the defense of Kobani against Islamic State (ISIS) in October 2014 Erdogan claimed there was “a greater mastermind” behind the Syrian Kurds’ resistance, and before the last elections in November he answered criticism by international media organizations of the lack of media freedom in Turkey by claiming they took orders from “a supreme mind.”
A year ago a pro-government TV channel even produced a “documentary” called The Mastermind with “evidence” that the Jews were behind it all.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has already tweeted a reply to the two former ambassadors, stating that the days when they gave instructions to Turkey are over.
Interestingly enough, it is the same Ibrahim Kalin who as chief adviser to Erdogan when he was prime minister gave a keynote speech at the Istanbul Forum in October 2012. It is this speech which Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) were not keen should come to light, as it is in fact a blueprint for Turkey’s failed foreign policy.
In keeping with then foreign minister – but now prime minister – Ahmet Davutoglu’s ideas, it calls for a new geopolitical framework, in which the West does not have a monopoly over the democracy debate and the global human rights discourse.
Kalin states that the European model of secular democracy, politics and pluralism seems to have little traction in the Arab and larger Muslim world, and instead calls for a new “valued-based and principled” – read, Islamist – foreign policy. This is the same Ibrahim Kalin who the following August in a tweet plaintively called Turkey’s gradual isolation “precious loneliness.”
At the same time, a former AKP supporter, Lebanese editor Jihad al-Zein, concluded that since the Gezi Park uprising “Erdogan’s behavior has seemed closer to that of an old-style Arab military ruler who considers any opposition or disagreement with his opinion as a conspiracy.” This can clearly be seen in the witch hunt for Turkey’s Gülenists and the seizure of the Koza Ipek Media Group in October and the Feza Media Group (including Turkey’s largest daily, Zaman) on March 4.
The denunciation by the two former ambassadors of the AKP government’s policies comes rather late in the day, as US policy toward Erdogan’s Turkey has long been deluded. As Sedat Ergin, editor-in-chief of Hürriyet, the flagship of the beleaguered Dogan Media Group, put it: “There was a scenario that they had bought and they did not want to listen to anything that would refute that scenario.”
Witness the statement by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in 2007 that the AKP was “a government dedicated to pulling Turkey west towards Europe,” or President Barack Obama’s optimism in 2009 that Turkey and the US could build “a model partnership.” This has now been replaced by a note of alarm. Last August, when the US realized the Incirlik agreement was being regarded by Turkey as carte blanche to hammer the Kurds, Obama anxiously explained: “The agreement that we are working on is carefully bound around: How do we close off that border to foreign fighters entering into Syria?” However, Turkey refused to do so, so the job has been left to the Syrian Kurds, the US’s only real ally in the Middle East.
There is talk of an alternative to the AKP, led by former leading members of the party, including former president Abdullah Gül, who is also disgruntled, but this is unlikely as long as Gül continues to prevaricate.