vol. 5 no. 16
27 August 2012
WHAT THE COLUMNISTS SAY
The deadly terror attack in the city of Gaziantep on August 20, in which ten were killed, several of whom were children, and sixty nine were wounded, has caused Turkish commentators to ring alarm bells over where Turkey is headed. It is generally assumed that the Kurdish PKK (who has however not assumed responsibility for it) undertook the attack, and did so on behalf of Syria and Iran; the terror attack was generally interpreted as a direct response to Turkey’s intervention in Syria on the side of the rebels there; many commentators write that Turkey has now become dangerously exposed, and that foreign powers, chief among them Iran, as the sponsor of Syria, are now exploiting Turkey’s own internal vulnerabilities. Many warn that the government must take this new threat to Turkish national security much more seriously and predict that Gaziantep is not going to be the last time terror strikes. In particular, liberals urge the AKP government to address the Kurdish problem much more vigorously, by promoting democratization.
GÜRSEL: TURKEY IS FACING A NEW THREAT TO ITS NATIONAL SECURITY
Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet writes that it was not a coincidence that terror struck at Gaziantep. Gaziantep is the city that economically has benefited the most from the AKP’s earlier integration policies with Syria. Gaziantep is the forward base of Turkey’s economic outreach to the Middle East. For those reasons, Gaziantep is a particularly symbolic choice of target for those who have chosen terrorism as a means to convey a message to Turkey. It may be that the patrons of terror that elected Gaziantep as a target are aiming to force Ankara to retreat, to reduce the support that it is providing to the rebels; or they may be seeking to provoke Ankara to become even more involved at the side of the Sunni rebels. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters it the fact is that Turkey has exposed itself to provocations. Turkey is faced with a new threat to its national security. And given the fact that there are multiple means inside the country as well as outside of it that the regional alliance that poses this threat can exploit against Turkey, one would have to be extremely optimistic to assume that terrorism will be confined to what happened in Gaziantep. And as we know, the Shiite axis with which Turkey has found itself in confrontation over Syria is indeed apt at deploying the instruments of terrorism and destabilization. So the question is: if we have to destroy the centers of terrorism in the Middle East that are threatening Turkey, or at least to deter them, how is this aim going to be achieved, and at what price?
ÖZKÖK: LADYS AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE MIDDLE EAST
Ertugrul Özkök in Hürriyet writes that Turkey that once dreamt of Europe, the country that was thrilled by the prospect of becoming part of the EU has now instead woken up in the nightmare of the Middle East. The years have passed, and we have all forgotten that exciting morning when we woke up to the news that the EU had accepted to start membership negotiations with Turkey. Eventually, we started to think “we don’t have anything to learn from them, they should on the contrary look to us as”; we not only indulged in haughtiness, we also turned our faces to the Middle East. And we not only turned our face toward the Middle East, we poked our nose into it. We fooled ourselves into believing that our very incomplete democracy could serve as a model for the non-existent democracies of the Middle East. We mistook the “Arab farce” that plays in the Middle East for the spring mass of democracy. Well, that “deep strategy” brought the Middle East – with its car bombs against civilians – to Gaziantep. The Arab Spring brought bitter winter to Turkey before the summer was over, and we all share the responsibility for this; those who nourished childish, romantic dreams of “strategic depth”, the neo-nationalists that assailed the EU project as the conspiracy of the West, and we the others who simply neglected to keep the dream of Europe alive.
ERGIN: QUO VADIS?
Sedat Ergin in Hürriyet warns that Turkey has exposed itself to retaliation by taking sides in the Syrian civil war, and by being very explicit about its position. Turkey is also in confrontation with the regime of al-Maliki in Iraq, while the relations with Iran have deteriorated seriously. The two countries are indeed belligerents in the fight over Syria. In this environment the PKK is offered new opportunities and it can forge new alliances that strengthen its hand against Turkey. Even worse, Turkey has become exposed to the political culture of the Middle East, with its bombings and assassination, as the terror attack in Gaziantep demonstrates. As we are fast moving toward the abyss, Turkey urgently needs to pull the breaks, address the question “where are we headed” and reassess its foreign and internal policies.
SANCAR: THE HARD-LINE POLICIES OF THE GOVERNMENT SERVE THE INTERESTST OF EXTREME TURKISH NATIONALISM AND THE PKK
Mithat Sancar in Taraf observes that the Kurdish problem is Turkey’s weakest spot. It is not difficult to predict that Turkey is going to become ever more vulnerable on this spot as long as no steps are taken to arrest the fighting inside the country; the government has not only failed to take steps that would provide stability and enhance democratization, it is instead doing the opposite. The authoritarian practices of the government, based on nationalism, only serve to increase polarization and tension. This is something that increases the appetite and strengthens the hand of those forces that want to pursue an anti-democratic agenda. It is in this light that we need to evaluate the fact that nationalist and neo-nationalist circles seize every opportunity to make anti-Kurdish provocations with an eye to fan civil war. Meanwhile, the PKK does not abstain from committing acts that help prepare the ground for civil war. The calculus of the PKK is probably that this will force those Kurds who are presently either undecided or neutral to rally to its side. If the government pursues its hard-line policies, both nationalist and neo-nationalist forces and the PKK are going to find more opportunities for realizing their schemes. Do we need to spell out what this would mean? In order to prevent such a nightmare scenario from becoming reality, there is no other way than to implement policies that ensures the equality of the Kurds both within Turkey as well as in the region.
ALTAN: THE AKP DOES NOT ASPIRE TO SOLVE THE KURDISH QUESTION
Ahmet Altan in Taraf writes that there are probably a good many who think that the AKP is going to end the war (with the Kurdish rebels) once the right conditions have arisen. I for my part don’t think so any longer. After all, is the AKP losing in strength while it is getting stronger? Today, military tutelage has lost most of its grip; the CHP (Republican People’s Party) has changed its position on the Kurdish matter and is much more disposed to be of help to the government in finding a peaceful solution. So who are the actors that are supposedly preventing the right conditions for a solution to arise? Is it the MHP (Nationalist Action party)? MHP has always been the same, there is no change there. Is it the PKK? If we are going to wait until the PKK has created the conditions for ending the war, then I believe that we are in for very long wait. The leadership of the PKK has absolutely no incentive to be helpful in this regard; they stand to gain nothing from peace. The only way we can persuade them to accept peace would be to hand territory over to them, a territory over which they can establish one party rule. The fundamental problem, which exists independently of the PKK, and which we need to address, is that Kurds and Turks live in the same country but the former don’t have the same rights as the latter. To solve the problem, you have to address that fact. Now, my question is: what is the AKP doing to address that inequality? As I see it, the AKP is not out to solve the Kurdish problem, it wants to defeat the PKK. But even if it were to succeed in that endeavor, the Kurdish matter would remain unresolved as long as Kurdish-Turkish equality has not been enshrined. Let alone taking any steps in that direction, the AKP is not even uttering a single word that would decrease tensions; it is on the contrary increasing tensions by deploying a language of violence.
© Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center, 2012. This article may be reprinted provided that the following sentence be included: "This article was first published in the Turkey Analyst (www.turkeyanalyst.org), a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center".
The Turkey Analyst
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It is published bi-weekly, and includes topical analysis, as well asa summary of the Turkish media debate. It is edited by Halil M. Karaveli.
The Turkey Analyst welcomes article submission. Please contact Halil M. Karaveli, Managing Editor.
The Joint Center
The Joint Center was created in 2005 through the merger of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, and the Silk Road Studies Program, at the Stockholm-based Institute for Security and Development Policy.
The Turkey Initiative
The Joint Center launched a Turkey Initiative in 2006 in order to improve understanding of Turkish domestic and foreign affairs in Europe and the United States.
To subscribe to the Turkey Analyst email announcements, please contact the Joint Center with an email containing "subscribe Turkey Analyst" in the subject line.