President Erdogan: the Man Who Went to War with Everyone

Turkey had a terrible year in 2016 and within minutes of the opening of 2017, dozens who were celebrating the New Year, were massacred in a posh waterside club in Istanbul. In the past year terror attacks hit military and civilian targets throughout the country including the vital air hub, the Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

But the tragedies of this year did not come out of the blue: they were the result of a series of relationships gone awry over the past
ten years of the present regime.


There was a purge of the army command beginning in 2010 carried out by the governing AKP regime and its Gulenist allies in the judiciary. Hundreds of top army and navy officers were thrown into jail with what everyone now agrees was falsified evidence.

Then there were the Gezi riots in Istanbul in May and June, 2013. These were set off by the government's determination to build an Ottoman monument in a park that was one of the last green area in the city. At the same time, the government attacked secularist Turkish society with the imposition of Islamic practices, e.g. the restriction of alcohol. Thousands were arrested.

Then Erdogan attacked the Gulenists, Erdogan's former allies, led by a charismatic Muslim imam who is now in exile in Pennsylvania. Financial, business and educational institutions of the group were purged and closed. Gulen and his followers are remarkably similar to Erdogan in their visions for a Islamist society. The problem is that each leader would like to have complete control. Military officers jailed in the previous purge were released, and the Gulenists were publicly blamed for the earlier purge of the military.

Then there was the Turkish entanglement in the war in Syria. Erdogan turned on his former friend Assad and helped rebels against the Syrian government. Many of the rebels were fundamentalists or jihadists. Turkey became an access route for fighters to join the battle against the Syrian government. Perhaps even more ominously, extremists against the Syrian government set up shop throughout Turkey recruiting fighters.

Turkey angrily attacked Israel over the seizure of a Turkish boat bringing aid to Gaza in 2010. Several Turks were killed. Israel, a former friend of Turkey, was now an enemy 

Perhaps the most daring act of war was the deliberate shooting down of a Russian plane over Syria. Russia was aiding the Syrian government against Erdogan's allies. For months it appeared that Turkey was on the brink of war with Russia.

Relations with Israel and Russia were recently normalized in a turnabout that left one's head spinning.

After the June, 2015 elections, which the AKP did not win outright, the government allowed peace talks with Kurdish militants to lapse. A long cease-fire between the state and the PKK rebels was broken and a brutal war exploded in the South East of Turkey. The full fury of the Turkish army was unleashed in civilian areas.

Turkey also initiated a military build-up against Kurds in Syria (Rojava) to prevent them for establishing an autonomous region in that country. 

An incompetent military putsch broke out on July 15, 2016 killing more than 300 people. The state retaliated jailing or firing more than 50,000 military and public employs suspected to be involved in the coup. The Gulenist group has been blamed for this uprising and their institutions are shuttered through out Turkey. 

A continued war against the press and the jailing of dozens of  journalists leave Turkey at the bottom of the measures of freedom of the press world-wide. The government controls the normal media and is now trying to shut down the social media.

The US has been blamed in the Turkish official media for conspiracies involving the putsch and the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara alienating one of Turkey's oldest allies and for supporting the Gulenist movement.

Measures are now being prepared and passed to give the President virtually unlimited power to govern the country, by passing the independent judiciary and legislature.

Erdogan is cementing relations with Russia and President Putin, leaving the US  out of discussions about the future of Syria. He also is preparing to cut ties with the European Union which had been thirty years in the preparation.
The sum result of these attacks on all real or perceived enemies of the regime has opened Turkey to a horrendous period of domestic terrorism and political fragmentation. Turkish democracy may not survive this. Turkish government and political integrity also may not.

The way out of this mess is obvious. Turkey must walk back on as many of these conflicts as possible. Erdogan has a strong character, and he is not interested in  reestablishing strong civil society or in reestablishing a foreign policy of friendship and cooperation for all the country's neighbors. And it is a tragedy.


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