Essay, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2016 Issue
Halil M. Karaveli, Erdogan's Journey
What happened to Recep Tayyip Erdogan? The Turkish president came to power in 2003 promising economic and political liberalization. But under his rule, Turkey has instead moved in a profoundly illiberal, authoritarian direction—although not toward repressive Islamism, which some feared was Erdogan’s true agenda, given his background in Islamist politics. Rather, Erdogan has become something more akin to a traditional Middle Eastern strongman: consolidating personal power, purging rivals, and suppressing dissent.
Over the summer, it briefly appeared as if Erdogan might have overreached, when a group of military officers attempted to topple him—at the direction, Erdogan has insisted, of his erstwhile ally turned bitter foe Fethullah Gulen, an influential Turkish cleric based in the United States. But when the plotters struck, Erdogan was able to quickly rally support inside the armed forces and among the broader public and managed to put down the coup attempt with surprising ease. A subsequent crackdown has been swift and merciless: the government has jailed tens of thousands of alleged Gulenists, conducted a sweeping purge of the army and the state bureaucracy, shut down media outlets, and suspended thousands of academics. Erdogan’s response to the coup attempt has demonstrated that the president’s grip on power remains stronger than even many of his fiercest critics had assumed.
No one could have foreseen the coup or its aftermath. But even long before those events, it should have come as no surprise that Erdogan had failed to live up to the expectations of many liberals in Turkey and elsewhere who had initially hailed his ascent as a sign of progress. Erdogan never really aimed to make Turkey an Islamic state, but he also never wanted to liberalize it. Read more
Middle East Forum, September 6, 2016
Svante E. Cornell, director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University, briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on August 30, 2016.
The failed July 15 military coup in Turkey brought to a head a long-standing struggle between President Erdoğan's overtly anti-Western approach and the alleged pro-Western orientation of the Fethullah Gülen movement led by the Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher.
On the face of it, Erdoğan emerged as the coup's undisputed winner because he survived the challenge and has become more assertive than ever. Yet the mass purges he unleashed have not only dented his international standing but have created a void in Turkey's public life that will make his rule increasingly tenuous. Hence the regime's conspiracy theories holding Washington culpable for the coup and hence its Syria intervention as a show of strength and an attempt to restore national pride.
Similarly, while Ankara's rapprochement with Moscow is in keeping with its anti-Western tendencies, the pragmatism of the Turkish leadership is likely to prevent it from breaking with the West. This pragmatism has also led to the normalization of relations with Israel, a tactical move to counterweigh Ankara's failed bid for regional leadership, while persisting in its anti-Semitic and Islamizing policies.
This pragmatic manifestation notwithstanding, Erdoğan's attempt to consolidate power while flouting the constitution and the most basic human rights is setting the stage for a chaotic and unstable Turkey. As there are no active pro-Western political forces remaining in Ankara, it is no longer a place that the West can work with to solve the Middle East's daunting problems. Policies need to be adjusted accordingly.
Op-Ed, The New York Times, August 1, 2016
Halil M. Karaveli, "Turkey's Fractured State"
GOTHENBURG, Sweden — The Turkish military is known to be a stronghold of Kemalism, the secularist and nationalist ideology of the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. So when the Islamic conservative Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P., came to power in 2002, many then feared that the military would stage a coup in the name of Kemalism.
Yet when a coup in Turkey did finally materialize, on July 15, it wasn’t Kemalists who were blamed, but the Gulenists, members of an Islamic fraternity led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in exile in the United States since 1999. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, echoed by the Turkish military’s general staff, claimed that what they call the “Fethullah Gulen terrorist organization” was behind the failed ouster.
ABC News Lateline, July 18, 2016
Emma Alberici spoke with Halil Karaveli, also editor of the Turkey Analyst, and asked him about the power struggle between President Erdogan and a cleric in exile which was at the heart of the failed military coup.
Article, The Turkey Analyst, July 20, 2016
The failed military coup in Turkey provides a window into just how unstable and vulnerable Turkey has become. The coup is a unique but not isolated event, more than anything a symptom of the decay of Turkish state institutions under Erdogan. The sizable post-coup repression will make matters worse, in fact increasing rather than decreasing the risk of further violence, including a new coup. Turkey is now more a problem in its own right than an ally to help solve regional problems.