Erdogan Is Finished and Very Soon

Picture from The American Free Press, 26 February 2016

Many of us who follow events in Turkey have been mesmerized by the ability of the former Prime Minister, now President of the republic, to gain more and more power over the past decade. But power is a fickle bitch. It can end suddenly and with humiliation.

I was trained as a social scientist and historian, and I have not lost the historian's tendency to make predictions based on his or her understanding of events in the past: "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." Of course, the accuracy rate of these predictions has been abysmal. But still, sometimes one comes along that you can take to your bookie. 

While we were being mesmerized, the cracks in Erdogan's clay feet have spread up his legs and are working away at his abdomen. The fall is inevitable.

Consider the following:

Erdogan has for years followed a policy of divide and conquer within the country. He successfully used it for a long time against the army, which he muzzled with the help of a religious ally, Fethullah Gulen. Then he turned and more or less destroyed the power of Gulen's grip on education, the police and the courts. Gulen's group, known as the Hizmet, and other opposition leaders had pointed out that Erdogan, with his family and friends, were bilking the economy of vast amounts of money for personal gain. 

 In June of 2013 resentment built up into a major riot in Istanbul sparked by Erdogan's desire to build a mosque and/or mall in Gazi park, one of the few green areas in the center of the city. This protest movement was put down with excessive police force. Faced with criticism, Erdogan threw the leading opposition journalists in jail.

Erdogan sees Turkey as a unitary state that should be dominated by ethnic Turks and Sunni Muslims. He has reviled the largest religious minority in the country, the Alevi, a non-Sunni sect of Islam that make up approximately 13 million of the 75 million citizens of Turkey. The head of the chief opposition party, the CHP, is Alevi, as Erdogan reminds us with scorn from time to time.

The largest ethnic minority and greatest threat to Turkish territorial integrity are the Kurds, an Indo-Iranian people that make up approximately 16 million people in Turkey and a further 11 million people in surrounding Iraq, Iran, and Syria. At first Erdogan helped broker a cease-fire with the Kurdish armed resistance movement, the PKK, which has been at war with the Turkish state since the mid-eighties of the last century. This collapsed after June elections of last year when the ruling political/religious party lost its hold in parliament. Fighting broke out anew, and the Turkish army has been pounding the PKK base in the mountains of Iraq, the Kurdish area of Syria, but most importantly the Kurdish towns in Southeastern Turkey.

The Kurds are losing a considerable amount of their enthusiasm for a Turkish unitary state, if they ever were wildly enthusiastic about it. As a rule of the thumb, if you kill someone's mother, she or he may become a terrorist

This brings us to the current crisis, the war in Syria. When the civil war broke out four years ago, Erdogan turned on this former buddy, President Bashar al-Assad, an Alevite, and member of a Shiite sect not to be confused with the Alevi in Turkey. He began to support and arm Sunni groups rebelling against Assad including some of the most deadly of the jihadist militias. At the beginning of Turkey's involvement, the Syrian foreign minister warned him, if you put scorpions in your pocket, you will be stung.

Erdogan has been stung, and the poison is leaching into his system and that of Turkey. Jihadist terror has come home to roost with bombs destroying the sense of security that Turkey had enjoyed for the first years of his tenure. 

Then Erdogan did a very stupid thingFurious that Putin had intervened in Syrian civil war, he was desperate to find a way to recoup the Turkish position in the conflict. On 24 November, 2012 Turkey shot down a Russian jet that it claimed violated Turkish air space for a few seconds.  The Russians slapped economic sanctions on the Turks, threaten to knock down any Turkish planes flying over Syria and began a military build-up that would assure their absolute dominance in the case of a conflict with the Turkish army.

It is impossible to know the actual security and economic condition throughout Turkey since there is no longer a free press in the country, but signs of fissures within Erdogan's virtual dictatorship are beginning to appear. 

Two top journalists who had been arrested for criticizing the regime were just released by the courts, a sign that the judiciary is not under full control.

More significant, recently Erdogan has been threatening to send the Turkish army to stop the Syrian Kurds from uniting their territory in the country and to back the Islamist rebels against the Syrian government. Disturbingly for him, the US and Russia both support these particular Kurds. 

Then came a major blow. NATO would not support a Turkish invasion. Then the Turkish army announced that it would not invade Syria without a UN Security Council mandate. This was the first open rebellion by the military since Erdogan decapitated the high command in 2008 in a series of trials based on alleged coup plans.

The historian's argument is simple: if you alienate your allies and antagonize powerful enemies, if you destroy your countries security and undercut economic growth, people will begin to plot behind your back and you will be destroyed by enemies from within or without. Soon.

Livingston Merchant: Greeks, Turks, and Kurds


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