Τρίτη 26 Αυγούστου 2014

KRG, PKK make unlikely allies as they battle IS together

PKK soldiers stand at attention at the funeral of Deniz Firat, a PKK journalist who was killed by IS in Makhmur, south of Erbil, while filming PKK guerrillas fighting IS, Aug. 9, 2014.  (photo by Kamal Chomani)
Attacks led by the Islamic State have brought together all Kurdish forces who are, for the first time in modern history, joining efforts to protect the people.
On Aug. 3, this collaboration took place: YPG, the People’s Protection Units of Rojava (Syria’s Kurdistan) joined Iraqi Kurdistan Region peshmerga forces and rescued some of the peshmerga forces after the Islamic State (IS) offensive on Sinjar after the Kurdistan Region had put an embargo on Rojava for almost three years.
In the past three years, there have been political conflicts between the two biggest Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), led by Abdulla Ocalan, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Masoud Barzani, over ruling Rojava and sharing power between their two affiliated parties; the pro-PKK Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the pro-KDP Kurdistan Democratic Party-Syria (KDP-S).
Diyar Qamishlo, representative of The Syrian Kurdistan's Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM) in Iraqi Kurdistan, told Al-Monitor that in the past three years since Rojava’s revolution started, PYD was able to form three cantons. On the other side, KDP-S and KDP accuse PYD of ruling Rojava unilaterally.
“We helped the peshmerga forces and rescued them from death. We did this wholeheartedly as we believe this was what people expected us to do,” said Qamishlo.
Ali Hussein, KDP’s member of the Leadership Council, did not hide his party’s concerns about PKK. He told Al-Monitor, “We have had relations with PKK since the 1980s and we have had common ideas, but we have also had differences. The problem of PKK and PYD is that they are not coordinating with other parties in Rojava. They should share power with them, but of course we have appreciated the collaborations.”
Sa’di Ahmed Pira, a PUK politburo member, is optimistic that the changes in regional political dynamics will strengthen the relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government, including KDP, and PKK. He told Al-Monitor that PKK and YPG military support for peshmerga forces in fighting IS had already been agreed upon.
Last year, the KDP dug a long trench between Iraqi Kurdistan and PYD-controlled areas of Syria. At that time, the trenches were considered as a “betrayal” by pro-PKK media and loyalists. Pira said that these events will not return, because “the ones [KDP] who dug the trenches are now filling them after being assured that YPG forces will not be a threat. IS had one positive [effect], which is that it brought us all together.”
Hitherto, PKK and YPG forces have taken part in fighting against ISIS in the three front lines: Jalawla, Makhmour and Sinjar. Soon after the IS attacks, YPG joined peshmerga forces and helped rescuing them and hundreds of thousands of Yazidis who had been stranded in Mount Sinjar.
Despite that peshmerga has better weaponry than YPG and PKK guerrillas, the latter have been more successful in fighting IS.
Salah Dilmani, brigadier of Ballak 118 Brigade, who has led the fighting against IS in Jalawla frontline, highly appreciated YPG and PKK support of peshmerga. Dilmani told Al-Monitor of his happiness about PKK’s intervention and showed willingness to continue these military collaborations. “We should not be ashamed that YPG and PKK forces are much more skillful in fighting against IS, undoubtedly, they have very good experiences.”
Though the number of PKK and YPG forces has not been revealed, some have been suspicious about their wishes to control Sinjar. Osman Ocalan, a former PKK leader, doubted that PKK wanted to create a Sinjar Canton and settle its power in the area. To remove these concerns, Hageed Damhat, PKK’s spokesman, said that the PKK “has no wishes to create any cantons for Sinjar or control the city. We just want to help people escape from death; we want liberation of the city and nothing more.”
But Diyar Qamishlo of YPG did not hide that Shingali people have formed the Sinjar Protection Units, which were affiliated with the YPG. He said, “But these people have been organized to stop IS attacks, not to control the town for us. They decide what they will do, not us.”
Some in KRG believe that KDP’s bad relations with Rojava were due to its good relations with Turkey, because the latter never wants a de facto region for PKK in Syria.
Mohammed Ali, a member of the Gorran Movement Political Room, spoke to Al-Monitor about KRG and Rojava relations and the future of these relations.
“In the past few years, the policy of KDP has dominated KRG’s position toward PKK and Rojava, which I condemn. It is obvious that KDP’s policy has been in favor of the Turkish authority rather than the interests of the Kurdish nation. Therefore, the relationship between KRG-PKK should be institutionalized and nationalized. The policy of KRG’s institutions, especially the parliament, government and presidency of the region, should reflect the interests of the Kurdish nation rather than the interests of one party or group,” Ali elaborated.
Accordingly, Aliza Marcus, author of “Blood and Belief,” a book on the PKK, expects that this current conflict in Iraq is going to improve the PKK's respect among Kurds in Syria and Iraq. “For Iraqi Kurds in particular, the PKK's willingness to support people under IS attack was very important. Now that [KRG President Massoud] Barzani himself has met with the PKK and thanked them for the efforts, he will come under more pressure to go ahead with a national congress.”
Marcus, unlike others, does not think the KRG-PKK relations improved after IS attacks “The PKK and KRG will never be the closest of friends. There's a lot of violent history and mistrust between them. But it will be very hard in the future for the KRG to criticize the PKK's presence or block the PYD in Syria. The KRG needs the PKK right now, and the PKK has proven its commitment to Kurdish nationalism by sending fighters to help.”
Dilmani believes that “KRG is forced to be closer to PKK and build healthier and better relations, as the current situation has proven PKK’s strength and security collaboration.”

Τετάρτη 20 Αυγούστου 2014

Turkey’s only Greek-language newspaper faces closure

Mihail Vasiliadis, owner of the Apoyevmatini newspaper, looks at the paper in his office in Istanbul, July 12, 2011. (photo by MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images)

I was shaken when I read the news that Turkey’s only Greek-language newspaper, Apoyevmatini, had ceased publication. I knew it was inevitable, but it was nonetheless going to be the end of a history that I did not want to come to a close. The number of non-Muslims in Turkey has dwindled so much that every negative report I hear about them adds to my fears that one day nothing will be left behind of them in this country.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz
Contributor, Turkey Pulse
Orhan Kemal Cengiz is a human rights lawyer, columnist and former president of the Human Rights Agenda Association, a Turkish NGO that works on human rights issues ranging from the prevention of torture to the rights of the mentally disabled. Since 2002, Cengiz has been the lawyer for the Alliance of Turkish Protestant Churches.
II contacted Mihail Vasiliadis, the editor-in-chief of Apoyevmatini. He told me the news report had been wrong, but his explanation of why it was wrong and what the real story was made me ponder Turkey's yesterday and tomorrow.
Vasiliadis said that the newspaper will not be closed “for the time being,” but that unless he soon finds additional resources to cover rent payments, the paper's 90-year-old office in the Syrian Arcade in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district will indeed have to be shuttered. He had hoped to turn the space into a museum on Istanbul's Greek press, but could not find support for the project. He said that he is able to put the paper together from his home, for the time being.
Apoyevmatini's founders had been cousins of Vasiliadis’ father. The newspaper is published these days by Vasiliadis and his son alone. The Syrian Arcade had been built by Dimitri Vasiliadis, an uncle of the newspaper's founders, thus making Apoyevmatini a privileged tenant. Although the newspaper's ownership changed hands many times over the years, its location remained the same.
Vasiliadis describes Apoyevmatini as the “world's highest circulation” newspaper, by which he was referring to the ratio of the target audience to readership. He says almost every potential reader is a subscriber. A 2011 report by the London-based Minority Rights Group estimated that there were only 3,000 Greeks left in Istanbul. According to Vasiliadis, that number is now 1,700 to 1,800. These figures are even more distressing given that at one time, more than a million Greeks lived in Turkey, pointing to the sad history and withering away of a minority.
Vasiliadis said there are 605 Greek families in Istanbul, and 600 of those are Apoyevmatini subscribers. One wonders if indeed with such phenomenal access to its target audience whether Apoyevmatini should be considered as one of the highest circulation newspapers in the world. Regardless, the newspaper does not have the money to pay its rent.
Vasiliadis and his son work into the early hours of the morning, five days a week, to put out the paper. Their distributors deliver each edition by hand, one by one, to Istanbul’s Greeks. The money subscribers pay only meets distribution costs.
Apoyevmatini’s history of declining circulation follows the history of minorities in Turkey. Vasiliadis said there were about 120,000 Greeks in Istanbul during the 1930s and 1940s, at which time the newspaper had a circulation of 35,000. During the paper's heyday, 35 people worked to publish it.
Thear year 1964 was a crucial turning point for the Greeks of Turkey and Apoyevmatini. Istanbul Greeks paid dearly for the tensions that developed between Turkey and Greece over the Cyprus issue. Some 13,000 Greeks living in Istanbul were given 24 hours to leave the country. They were allowed to take $20 and 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of belongings. The number 20 thereafter became a traumatic symbol among Istanbul's Greek community.
Apoyevmatini’s circulation fell below 10,000 after the 1964 expulsions. That same year, Apoyevmatini was denied the option of printing paid official announcements, marking the beginning of the end of the newspaper.
Vasiliadis took over the newspaper in 2002, when its circulation had fallen to 80. Yorgi Adasoglu, who was managing the newspaper, had developed cancer and could not leave his home. As he approached death, so did the newspaper. At this point, Vasiliadis entered the picture to buy the paper founded by his father's cousins. After he managed to attract advertisements from Greece, the newspaper returned to life. It fell back into a coma in 2011, however, when the economic crisis in Greece slashed the paper's advertising revenue.
Just as Vasiliadis was running out of hope, something interesting happened. In 2011, Vasiliadis attended a discussion on minorities. In an account of the meeting reported on a website, Vasiliadis said he had reached the point of closing Apoyevmatini. A young Turk pursuing his doctorate in Holland was following the meeting online. He was touched by the report, leading him to launch a Facebook page featuring the slogan “Apoyevmatini is Turkey’s common heritage” and calling on Turks to subscribe. Vasiliadis said that within one week, 400 Turks who did not know a word of Greek had subscribed. He tried to publish a Turkish edition of the paper at least once a week, but ultimately could not afford it.
Vasiliadis said he cannot bring himself to tell his non-Greek-speaking customers that their subscriptions have expired. He is carrying on with the money raised from classified advertisements and other subscriptions. Vasiliadis and his son are now publishing the paper from their home.
In an earlier article, I had reported that Greeks were returning to Turkey. I asked Vasiliadis if their numbers can raise the Greek population in Turkey and also help his newspaper survive. He said their number is small. Those returning are not coming to work and settle in Turkey, but tend to be retirees and people seeking to recover their property. The Greek community can resurrect itself only if those who return actively engage in Turkey's work and economic life.
Vasiliadis proposed that to compensate for the 13,000 Greeks forcefully deported in 1964, the Turkish state should give work and residence permits to 13,000 Greeks as a good start. He said he can continue publishing Apoyevmatini until 2015, despite soon having to close the office.
The history of Turkey’s only Greek-language newspaper is one of the narratives in the sad, painful history of minorities in Turkey. One can only hope that the end of this saga will be the end of the misfortunes of Turkey’s minorities.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/cengiz-only-greek-language-newspaper-closing-down.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=4c13a54043-August_19_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-4c13a54043-93086189#ixzz3AyFhIZns

Τρίτη 19 Αυγούστου 2014

Σκληρό άρθρο του Spiegel κατά της Μέρκελ: Η πολιτική της απέτυχε, η Ελλάδα παραμένει υπερχρεωμένη

Η ευρωκρίση είναι εδώ, ο Άνγκελα Μέρκελ κυνηγάει ανεμόμυλους, η πολιτική της μεταφέρει τα προβλήματα και δεν τα επιλύει, ενώ συνολικά μοιάζει με κάποιον ιδιοκτήτη σπιτιού που γεμίσει υγρασία και το μόνο που κάνει είναι να το... βάφει.
Με αυτή τη σκληρή ανάλυση το Spiegel επιτίθεται ευθέως στην Γερμανίδα καγκελάριο, εγκαλώντας την για αναποτελεσματικότητα στα μέτρα που επέβαλε για την αντιμετώπιση της κρίσης.
Όπως αναμεταδίδει η Deutsche Welle, o αρθρογράφος Βόλφγκανγκ Μινχάου σημειώνει μεταξύ άλλων: «Ο πολυδιαφημισμένος πραγματισμός της Άγκελα Μέρκελ αποδεικνύεται οφθαλμαπάτη», εξηγώντας ότι οι κινήσεις της καγκελαρίου στο πεδίο της διαχείρισης της «ευρωκρίσης» είναι συγκρίσιμες με τις προσπάθειες ενός ιδιοκτήτη κατοικίας να καταπολεμήσει την υγρασία στους τοίχους του σπιτιού του με ένα νέο βάψιμο. «Ο ευρωχώρος είναι ασθενής. Δεν θα πρέπει πλέον να κάνουμε λόγο για κρίση. Η κρίση συνεπάγεται αλλαγή και η δική μας η ασθένεια είναι χρόνια» επισημαίνει ο γερμανός αναλυτής, επικαλούμενος τη μείωση του ρυθμού ανάπτυξης στις χώρες της ευρωζώνης. «Στη Γερμανία είναι λιγότερο αισθητή αυτή η ύπουλη αρρώστια, αλλά και εδώ σημειώθηκε ξαφνικά πτώση της ανάπτυξης κατά το δεύτερο τρίμηνο του έτους. Συρρικνωνόμαστε στον ίδιο ρυθμό με την Ιταλία και με πιο ισχυρούς ρυθμούς σε σχέση με τη Γαλλία» παρατηρεί ο Μινχάου, υπενθυμίζοντας, μεταξύ άλλων, ότι τα επόμενα χρόνια η Γερμανία θα υποστεί και δημογραφικό σοκ.
Όπως η Ιαπωνία
Ο γερμανός αναλυτής συγκρίνει την κατάσταση στην ευρωζώνη με εκείνη της Ιαπωνίας την προηγούμενη δεκαετία για να υποστηρίξει ότι σε τελική ανάλυση «η Ιαπωνία είχε τύχη μέσα στην ατυχία της», καθώς κατόρθωσε να εξομαλύνει τη μείωση του χρέους του ιδιωτικού τομέα με την χρέωση του κράτους. «Εάν οι Ιάπωνες είχαν υιοθετήσει το γερμανικό «χρεόφρενο» ή τους δημοσιονομικούς κανόνες της συνθήκης του Μάαστριχτ, η χώρα θα είχε καταρρεύσει», εκτιμά ο Μινχάου, προβαίνοντας στο εξής συμπέρασμα: «Aκριβώς με αυτή την απειλή είμαστε τώρα αντιμέτωποι... Η κατάρρευση συνιστά μια κατάσταση διαρκούς αδυναμίας με μηδενική ανάπτυξη, υψηλά πραγματικά επιτόκια, υπερτιμημένες συναλλαγματικές ισοτιμίες- και όλα αυτά επί δεκαετίες».
Η Ελλάδα και η Πορτογαλία
«Βρίσκουμε μπροστά μας τώρα τις εσωτερικές αντιφάσεις μιας Νομισματικής Ένωσης, η οποία θέλει να είναι μόνο νομισματική και τίποτε περισσότερο. Αντί να επιλύσουμε την κρίση χρέους με μια διάσκεψη για το χρέος, μεταθέτουμε το πρόβλημα, δημιουργώντας πολύπλοκες ομπρέλες προστασίας, οι οποίες μεταφέρουν σε τελική ανάλυση τα χρέη από τη μία γωνία του συστήματος στην άλλη. Αυτό φαίνεται καλό, αλλά στην πραγματικότητα δεν αλλάζει τίποτε στην υπερχρέωση της Ελλάδας και της Πορτογαλίας», επισημαίνει ο Βόλφγκανγκ Μινχάου.
Ο γερμανός αναλυτής αμφισβητεί και την πολιτική της αγοράς κρατικών ομολόγων από την ΕΚΤ, στην οποία επιρρίπτει ότι παραμέλησε την παραδοσιακή νομισματική πολιτική, παρακολουθώντας άπρακτη την πτώση του πληθωρισμού. «Στο επισφαλές θεμέλιο μιας απατηλής ελπίδας για ανάκαμψη στηρίζεται η σημερινή φήμη της Μέρκελ. Η κατάσταση μας είναι συγκρίσιμη με εκείνη του ιδιοκτήτη μιας κατοικίας, ο οποίος βλέπει με φρίκη τον λεκέ της υγρασίας να βγαίνει κάτω από τον βαμμένο τοίχο και ο οποίος όχι μόνο έχει ξοδέψει τσάμπα λεφτά για το βάψιμο, αλλά πρέπει τώρα να δαπανήσει ακόμη περισσότερα, επειδή μετέθεσε στο μέλλον τη λύση του προβλήματος. Εμείς όλοι, εκτός από τη Μέρκελ, θα κληθούμε να πληρώσουμε ακριβά την πολιτική της καθυστέρησης», καταλήγει ο γερμανός αναλυτής.


Παρασκευή 15 Αυγούστου 2014

Henry Kissinger: To settle the Ukraine crisis, start at the end

By Henry A. Kissinger March 5

Henry A. Kissinger was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977.

Public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.

Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.

The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.

The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities.

The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system.

Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century. Not surprisingly, its leaders have not learned the art of compromise, even less of historical perspective. The politics of post-independence Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the root of the problem lies in efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on recalcitrant parts of the country, first by one faction, then by the other. That is the essence of the conflict between Viktor Yanu­kovych and his principal political rival, Yulia Tymo­shenko. They represent the two wings of Ukraine and have not been willing to share power. A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction.

Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle. Each has made the situation worse. Russia would not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.

Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers.

Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. Here is my notion of an outcome compatible with the values and security interests of all sides:

1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

2. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.

3. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.

4. It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

These are principles, not prescriptions. People familiar with the region will know that not all of them will be palatable to all parties. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough.

Τρίτη 12 Αυγούστου 2014

Erdogan’s victory unlikely to bring stability for Turkey

The key question about Turkey’s first direct presidential elections was never centered on whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the main contender, would win or lose. He was always slated to win and he did, with 52% of the vote in the first round of voting in the elections on Aug. 10.

A presidential election campaign banner of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a slogan that reads "Man of the nation", hangs on a street near his ruling AK Party headquarters in Ankara, Aug. 11, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

His popularity among Turkey’s conservative and devoutly Islamic masses, combined with the fact that he used all the political advantages of being in power in full against his rivals, ensured an outcome that was apparent weeks in advance.
The debate as to whether these elections were totally fair can nevertheless be expected to linger for some time as Erdogan’s critics point to the democratic shortcomings during the period of campaigning for the presidency.
Those shortcomings were also underscored by international organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in reports they issued prior to the elections indicating that government resources were used for Erdogan’s campaign.
Given his by now well-established reputation as a caustic politician who does not mince his words or stay his hand against his rivals, many also expect Erdogan to continue to fan the flames of division in Turkey despite his claim that following his victory he will be everyone’s president.
Having not only paraded his Islamist credentials, but also gone vindictively on the warpath against social groups he considers to be his natural enemies, all eyes will be on him now to see if he can indeed become the impartial leader of a genuinely secular and democratic Turkey.
Another problem that Erdogan faces is the fact that he has a strong accumulation of negative international expectations to contend with, which means he will also have to transform the bellicose image he has built for himself — especially in the West — to be seen as the respected and influential world leader he no doubt wants to be.
Continually hitting at the West, as well as the current regimes in the Middle East — a tactic he carried to new heights during the Gaza crisis — may have enhanced his image among his Turkish supporters. But Erdogan will find out, unless he changes his ways, of course, that this kind of populism will come at a price for Turkey.
Turkey has also entered into politically uncharted territory with these presidential elections, given Erdogan’s openly declared intention to use executive powers, as “the elected leader of the nation,” even though the present constitution does not allow for this.
Turkey today has a popularly elected president with executive ambitions, and an elected prime minister in whom executive powers are legally vested. How this will work, without one starting to step on the other’s toes sooner or later, is a question that even many members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) do not have a clear answer for yet.
The bottom line is that for this system to work de facto — if not de jure — at least until the next parliamentary elections, Erdogan needs a compliant prime minister to realize his political ambitions. This means that all attention will now be focused on the question of who takes over the AKP's leadership.
That person, who is expected to be selected by Erdogan himself — or at least approved by him — in the coming weeks, will have to follow presidential directives without question. More crucially, however, he will also have to avert a leadership struggle within the AKP and keep it unified as it prepares for the next parliamentary elections planned for 2015.
The name of outgoing President Abdullah Gul, who together with Erdogan is a founding member of the AKP, has been mentioned most frequently in this context as the most likely person who can maintain party unity. Gul, however, continues to appear reluctant to assume that role and consequently become a prime minister who would be at Erdogan’s beck and call.
Recent speculation from quarters close to the AKP also indicates that Erdogan may not be too enthusiastic about Gul either, given the fact that Gul would be reluctant to carry out his directives without question. The question of who will become the AKP’s new leader will therefore remain a crucial one in the coming days, especially now that all of the AKP’s energies will be focused on a strong win in the next parliamentary elections.
There is some suggestion that the date of those elections may be brought forward by the government to strike while the iron is hot after Erdogan’s first-round victory in the race for the presidency. Regardless of whether the date is brought forward or not, however, the AKP needs to win at least a two-thirds majority in parliament in these elections, whenever they are held.
This is necessary to change the constitution and transform the current system in Turkey into the de jure presidential one that Erdogan desires. The risk for Erdogan is that if this can't be achieved he will find himself trapped in the presidency, unable to exercise the powers he wants to use due to obstacles that will be placed in front of him by the Constitutional Court. The highest court of the land remains immune to government pressures today.
Erdogan will nevertheless try to exercise all the powers he can until the next general elections by relying on the current strong position of the AKP in parliament, even though it does not have the necessary numbers to change the constitution on its own. Meanwhile, his supporters will justify this by insisting that Erdogan’s powers come from “the nation” that voted for him overwhelmingly.
They will argue that Erdogan’s exercise of executive powers is legitimate because he never made a secret of his intentions to use these powers before the elections. The strong result he got in the elections, his supporters will insist, shows that the nation elected him for this purpose.
None of this will prevent the opposition from opposing Erdogan and applying to the Constitutional Court to have his decrees and directives annulled if these are seen to be exceeding constitutional limits. This in turn will ensure that political tensions in Turkey will continue as Erdogan reveals his intention of taking control over the entire executive branch.
Erdogan’s election as president, despite his ballot box victory, is therefore unlikely to usher in the period of political calm and stability that many Turks desire in the foreseeable future.

Semih Idiz is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse. A journalist who has been covering diplomacy and foreign policy issues for major Turkish newspapers for 30 years, his opinion pieces can be followed in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. His articles have also been published in The Financial Times, The Times of London, Mediterranean Quarterly and Foreign Policy magazine.

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Turkey's Geographical Ambition

STRATFOR - Geopolitical Weekly TUESDAY, AUGUST 12, 2014 

At a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia's Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable.
Erdogan and Putin are ambitious because they are men who unrepentantly grasp geopolitics. Putin knows that any responsible Russian leader ensures that Russia has buffer zones of some sort in places like Eastern Europe and the Caucasus; Erdogan knows that Turkey must become a substantial power in the Near East in order to give him leverage in Europe. Erdogan's problem is that Turkey's geography between East and West contains as many vulnerabilities as it does benefits. This makes Erdogan at times overreach. But there is a historical and geographical logic to his excesses.
The story begins after World War I.
Because Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of that war (along with Wilhelmine Germany and Hapsburg Austria), the victorious allies in the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 carved up Turkey and its environs, giving territory and zones of influence to Greece, Armenia, Italy, Britain and France. Turkey's reaction to this humiliation was Kemalism, the philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the surname "Ataturk" means "Father of the Turks"), the only undefeated Ottoman general, who would lead a military revolt against the new occupying powers and thus create a sovereign Turkish state throughout the Anatolian heartland. Kemalism willingly ceded away the non-Anatolian parts of the Ottoman Empire but compensated by demanding a uniethnic Turkish state within Anatolia itself. Gone were the "Kurds," for example. They would henceforth be known as "Mountain Turks." Gone, in fact, was the entire multicultural edifice of the Ottoman Empire.
Kemalism not only rejected minorities, it rejected the Arabic script of the Turkish language. Ataturk risked higher illiteracy rates to give the language a Latin script. He abolished the Muslim religious courts and discouraged women from wearing the veil and men from wearing fezzes. Ataturk further recast Turks as Europeans (without giving much thought to whether the Europeans would accept them as such), all in an attempt to reorient Turkey away from the now defunct Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and toward Europe.
Kemalism was a call to arms: the martial Turkish reaction to the Treaty of Sevres, to the same degree that Putin's neo-czarism was the authoritarian reaction to Boris Yeltsin's anarchy of 1990s Russia. For decades the reverence for Ataturk in Turkey went beyond a personality cult: He was more like a stern, benevolent and protective demigod, whose portrait looked down upon every public interior.
The problem was that Ataturk's vision of orienting Turkey so firmly to the West clashed with Turkey's geographic situation, one that straddled both West and East. An adjustment was in order. Turgut Ozal, a religious Turk with Sufi tendencies who was elected prime minister in 1983, provided it.
Ozal's political skill enabled him to gradually wrest control of domestic policy and -- to an impressive degree -- foreign policy away from the staunchly Kemalist Turkish military. Whereas Ataturk and the generations of Turkish officers who followed him thought in terms of a Turkey that was an appendage of Europe, Ozal spoke of a Turkey whose influence stretched from the Aegean to the Great Wall of China. In Ozal's mind, Turkey did not have to choose between East and West. It was geographically enshrined in both and should thus politically embody both worlds. Ozal made Islam publicly respected again in Turkey, even as he enthusiastically supported U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the last phase of the Cold War. By being so pro-American and so adroit in managing the Kemalist establishment, in the West at least Ozal -- more than his predecessors -- was able to get away with being so Islamic.
Ozal used the cultural language of Islam to open the door to an acceptance of the Kurds. Turkey's alienation from Europe following the 1980 military coup d'etat enabled Ozal to develop economic linkages to Turkey's east. He also gradually empowered the devout Muslims of inner Anatolia. Ozal, two decades before Erdogan, saw Turkey as a champion of moderate Islam throughout the Muslim world, defying Ataturk's warning that such a Pan-Islamic policy would sap Turkey's strength and expose the Turks to voracious foreign powers. The term neo-Ottomanism was, in fact, first used in Ozal's last years in power.
Ozal died suddenly in 1993, ushering in a desultory decade of Turkish politics marked by increasing corruption and ineffectuality on the part of Turkey's sleepy secular elite. The stage was set for Erdogan's Islamic followers to win an outright parliamentary majority in 2002. Whereas Ozal came from the center-right Motherland Party, Erdogan came from the more openly Islamist-trending Justice and Development Party, though Erdogan himself and some of his advisers had moderated their views over the years. Of course, there were many permutations in Islamic political thought and politics in Turkey between Ozal and Erdogan, but one thing stands clear: Both Ozal and Erdogan were like two bookends of the period. In any case, unlike any leader today in Europe or the United States, Erdogan actually had a vision similar to Ozal's, a vision that constituted a further distancing from Kemalism.
Rather than Ataturk's emphasis on the military, Erdogan, like Ozal, has stressed the soft power of cultural and economic connections to recreate in a benign and subtle fashion a version of the Ottoman Empire from North Africa to the Iranian plateau and Central Asia. Remember that in the interpretation of one of the West's greatest scholars of Islam, the late Marshall G.S. Hodgson of the University of Chicago, the Islamic faith was originally a merchants' religion, which united followers from oasis to oasis, allowing for ethical dealing. In Islamic history, authentic religious connections across the Middle East and the Indian Ocean world could -- and did -- lead to wholesome business connections and political patronage. Thus is medievalism altogether relevant to the post-modern world.
Erdogan now realizes that projecting Turkey's moderate Muslim power throughout the Middle East is fraught with frustrating complexities. Indeed, it is unclear that Turkey even has the political and military capacity to actualize such a vision. To wit, Turkey may be trying its best to increase trade with its eastern neighbors, but it still does not come close to Turkey's large trade volumes with Europe, now mired in recession. In the Caucasus and Central Asia, Turkey demands influence based on geographic and linguistic affinity. Yet Putin's Russia continues to exert significant influence in the Central Asian states and, through its invasion and subsequent political maneuverings in Georgia, has put Azerbaijan in an extremely uncomfortable position. In Mesopotamia, Turkey's influence is simply unequal to that of far more proximate Iran. In Syria, Erdogan and his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, thought -- incorrectly, it turns out -- that they could effectively mold a moderate Islamist Sunni opposition to replace President Bashar al Assad's Alawite regime. And while Erdogan has gained points throughout the Islamic world for his rousing opposition to Israel, he has learned that this comes at a price: the warming of relations between Israel and both Greece and the Greek part of Cyprus, which now permits Turkey's adversaries in the Eastern Mediterranean to cooperate in the hydrocarbon field.
The root of the problem is partly geographic. Turkey constitutes a bastion of mountains and plateau, inhabiting the half-island of the Anatolian land bridge between the Balkans and the Middle East. It is plainly not integral to a place like Iraq, for example, in the way that Iran is; and its Turkic language no longer enjoys the benefit of the Arabic script, which might give it more cultural leverage elsewhere in the Levant. But most important, Turkey is itself bedeviled by its own Kurdish population, complicating its attempts to exert leverage in neighboring Middle Eastern states.
Turkey's southeast is demographically dominated by ethnic Kurds, who adjoin vast Kurdish regions in Syria, Iraq and Iran. The ongoing breakup of Syria potentially liberates Kurds there to join with radical Kurds in Anatolia in order to undermine Turkey. The de facto breakup of Iraq has forced Turkey to follow a policy of constructive containment with Iraq's Kurdish north, but that has undermined Turkey's leverage in the rest of Iraq -- thus, in turn, undermining Turkey's attempts to influence Iran. Turkey wants to influence the Middle East, but the problem is that it remains too much a part of the Middle East to extricate itself from the region's complexities.
Erdogan knows that he must partially solve the Kurdish problem at home in order to gain further leverage in the region. He has even mentioned aloud the Arabic word, vilayet, associated with the Ottoman Empire. This word denotes a semi-autonomous province -- a concept that might hold the key for an accommodation with local Kurds but could well reignite his own nationalist rivals within Turkey. Thus, his is a big symbolic step that seeks to fundamentally neutralize the very foundation of Kemalism (with its emphasis on a solidly Turkic Anatolia). But given how he has already emasculated the Turkish military -- something few thought possible a decade ago -- one should be careful about underestimating Erdogan. His sheer ambition is something to behold. While Western elites ineffectually sneer at Putin, Erdogan enthusiastically takes notes when the two of them meet.

Read more: Turkey's Geographical Ambition | Stratfor
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