WTF, Turkey?

by wjw on March 28, 2014

Crikey, the news out of Turkey is just insaaaaane!

For one thing, two major forces for modern Islam are trying to destroy one another.  Prime Minister Erdogan— who leads the “moderately Islamic” AK Party— is now doing his best to destroy his former allies, the organization of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen (who I fictionalized in Deep State as “Riza Tek.”)

The Gulen organization (informally called “Hizmet”)  is a significant voice in progressive Islam, and runs charter and prep schools, clinics, radio and television stations, charities, financial entities, and apparently owns a lot of real estate.  They are pacifist, strongly committed to education, and supporters of science.  (In fact, they publish a very glossy science magazine, which alas I can’t read.)  Founder Gulen lives in the U.S., and has been denounced by radical Islamic organizations as a tool of the CIA.

Erdogan has been elected three times, was massively popular (until last year, anyway), and presided over a huge boom in the Turkish economy (at least until this year), which assured his popularity among seculars as well as Islamists.

Erdogan is also authoritarian, paranoid, and inclined to toss critics in jail on trumped-up charges— there are more journalists in jail in Turkey than anywhere else, which is really saying something.  Erdogan denounces his opponents as “terrorists, radicals, and marginal people,” at least when he isn’t claiming they’re tools of the Deep State, the creepy cabal of military officers and politicians who ran the country for the first seventy-odd years of its existence.

And so things moved along till last year, when anti-Erdogan demonstrations broke out in most of Turkey’s provinces.  These faded, and then in December a number of Erdogan’s allies, plus the sons of three cabinet ministers, were arrested on corruption charges, a number having been found with shoeboxes full of cash in their homes.  Erdogan fired all the cops and judges involved and replaced them with new faces, but the indictments remain, and will move through the court system at glacial pace for quite a while, no doubt generating unfortunate headlines for the government all the while.

While all this was raging, there was posted on YouTube several recordings of Erdogan and his son in which Erdogan advises his kid to hide all the money in his house.  There was also a recording in which Erdogan promised to remove restrictions on environmentally restricted land for a development, if Erdogan got two luxury condos for himself.

Erdogan denounced the recordings, and his government managed to pass laws greatly restricting Internet access.  Twitter has been banned (or not— it’s hard to say whether the ban is legal, or if legal, effective).

Erdogan blames the Gulen organization for all this, which may well be true.  But I’d suspect Erdogan’s own security detail may be doing the actual dirty work— who’s in better position to record the prime minister in his more private moments?   Erdogan’s paranoia may be justified.

And just now— with an election scheduled for this weekend!— there’s a new YouTube recording of the foreign minister, the head of Turkish Intelligence (MIT), a member of the general staff, and various other officials discussing  provoking a war with Syria by having some “Syrians” blow up the tomb of Sultan Suleiman (the Magnificent).

I mean, Jesus Christ!  Talk about transparency in government!   (And I’d hate to lose that tomb, it’s a pretty nifty one.)

Now, it might actually be a good thing if Turkey were to get rid of the Asad regime and rein in the ISIS fanatics— or if not “good” exactly, preferable to letting the civil war drag on and on and generate many more fanatics— but planning a false-flag operation via YouTube is probably Not the Thing.

Here’s an excerpt, suitably translated:

Ahmet Davutolu: “Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.”

Hakan Fidan: “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

Feridun Sinirliolu: “Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”

Ya?ar Güler: “It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”

Erdogan has banned YouTube and claimed the leak was “immoral.”  Because what else can he do?  Oh wait— blame it on Gulen!

(And Snowden, eat your heart out.)

Rosie March 28, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I got an earful about the current regime from my Christian Armenian guide when I visited western Turkey a few years ago. But this takes it to a whole new level.

wjw March 28, 2014 at 7:42 pm

As I thought would happen, Erdogan blamed Hizmet for the leak.

Also, a correction: the tomb the plotters were talking about isn’t that of Suleiman the Magnificent, but Suleyman Shah, which is actually in Syria, though it’s considered Turkish national territory.

There. All clear now?

Esebian March 31, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Aaaand the AKP won the local elections in spite of all the above. No doubt thanks to a general “I got mine”/”What’cha gonna do, I need to get by” attitude among broad swathes of the populace, an army of spin doctors and an even greater army of jackbooted soldier-cop thugs silencing the opposition by threatening to go Gezi Park on them again.

Not the most stable state of affairs. You think we will see Erdogan getting yanukovyched following a new economic downturn or major embarassment?

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