The "Iran dossier" is not closed. Protests shaking the fundamentals of the oppression regime are on hold, for now. The Iranian Constitutional Court, half of its 12 members were appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei, ruled the recount of 10 percent of total votes cast. And the June 12 election results were approved once again. The case is closed but not the "Iran dossier". We learn this from a statement posted on Hussein Mousavi’s Web page after a long period of silence. In it, he declares the government illegitimate and invites people to find "creative methods" to "continue resistance".
Mousavi calls for the release of the "Children of the Revolution" and warns that the "struggle shouldn’t aim for the elimination of the Islamic Republic" but also points out the danger that the "government has left no other choice for them".
The leader of the Reformist trend, former President Seyyed Mohammed Khatami and former Parliament Speaker Mahdi Karrubi issued similar statements after Mousavi. So did Karrubi say the government was illegitimate and declared that he would fight it in every way and by any means.
The oppressive regime in Iran harshly retaliated to the protests after the presidential elections. It announced that 20 people died and 1,032 were arrested in protests, among whom were prestigious intellectuals, journalists and academics. Although heavy pressures blocked street demonstrations, cries of "Allah-u- akbar" came from the roofs as a way to recall the 1979 Revolution period to protest the government.
However, neither the regime nor the government is facing a threat, for now. But the positions of Mousavi, Khatami and Karrubi remain unchanged. No "conciliation" with the government is on the table. The crack among the administration’s elite has not been removed; it is deepened to the contrary. Therefore the government’s legitimacy is now contentious. In any case it has lost prestige in any case.
A well-known Iranian intellectual informed me via Twitter that a common friend of ours had been detained; the friend who had attended a meeting in Liechtenstein on Iran that I wrote about before. He is one of the most distinguished personas in Iran.
Former Vice President Hujjatul Islam Abtahi of the Khatami Period had participated in that meeting as a religious figure. All other Iranian participants, including our common friend, were detained. And all were criticizing Iranian policies of the West and the Western attitude, the U.S. stance in particular, against the Iranian nuclear program.
I write this because no one can convince me that the Iranian opposition is a Western plot. Iranian opponents are pure Iranians and a group of patriots who are taking action against the "oppressive regime" that had a tendency to commit fraud in the elections in order to secure its position. The Iranian government has a trump card by reflecting that the opposition is the "extension of the West".
Such a trump card in Muslim countries has its own benefits. The Islamic-conservative circles weighing in Turkey are deceived by this game of Khamenei-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad line. You hear objections from these circles in Turkey raised against the military tutelage. But do you hear any against the "oppressive regime" in Iran? Anti-laic circles in Turkey opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, do not know any kind of objection but to oppose "Islamic political patterns" or do not understand what is going on. So they are reluctant to acknowledge the incidents happening right under our noses.
Or they reach some nonsense conclusions since they try to use developments in Iran according to the internal political agenda in Turkey; for instance, looking for parallel between the biggest mass protests in Iran since 1979 and the "Republic Rallies" of 2007 in Turkey. But the Iranian equal of Turkey’s ideological-Kemalist military tutelage is the "oppressive regime" symbolized with the names of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.
Two critical items keep Iran dossier open:
1. The crack in the administrative elite which will be difficult to fix. It is possible to see the "opponent elements" including Khatami, Karrubi, Mousavi and even Khashemi Rafsancani as Mikhail Gorbachev and his friends during Soviet Communism who tried to bring about reforms. The Iranian opponents are now trying to reform the "Islamic Republic" and to "update" it. But having conciliation between the government as part of the Islamic Republic regime and the opposition will help the closure of the Iran dossier.
2. The distance between Iranian society and the government. A government without people gradually turns into a "security regime" having the Revolution Guards and the Basiji. Yet it helps the survival of the opposition for the sake of the regime. Such dynamics, however, have a potential of ending the regime.
For this reason, although protests are over, having an unclosed Iran dossier, I mean the continuation of the resistance, sets the way for a slogan for the opposition that goes something like "We’ve lost the fight but we are set to win the war." The AKP government in Turkey will, probably, face difficulties on the Iranian issue and will fall into an impasse. As long as the Iran dossier remains unclosed the AKP government will be stuck in between.
On the evening of June 12 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rushed to congratulate Ahmadinejad. He was even quicker than Khamenei. An attempt to explain away this unnecessary and inappropriate rush came in the statement: We are at an equal distance from all parties." But developments will cause difficulty for Turkey as long as the dossier not closed.
This is how I read the situation through the message I received from the family of my Iranian friend who is one of the leading intellectuals in Tehran and under arrest. His family expects President Abdullah Gül and Erdoğan to help them for the release of my friend, believing that "not any other country but Turkey has influence over the Iranian government".
To what extent do the administrators of Turkey spend their political credit in Tehran for democratic values? There is also a possibility that Turkey may turn into a passive audience in the region in the direction of the Turkish foreign policy signed by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s and could be defined as no involvement in Iran’s internal affairs, real political actualities and zero problem with neighbors.
Such policy would not have a negative effect on Turkey in the short run but how about the middle or long run? Or perhaps, if we overcome the military tutelage in Turkey, only after it, will we have more moral influence over the "oppressive regimes" around usÉ
Iran has confused "Turks." They don’t know how they could deal with the situation in Iran, how they should react, or read this. So-called leftists with a narrow anti-imperialist discourse are trying to prove that this is not a "revolution of some colors." According to them, George Soros does not have anything to do with Iran as he did in the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions. And no revolution is at issue here.
They sympathize with the "oppressive regime" in Iran just because it is "anti-American," but they cannot speak up.
Some of them see "external powers," i.e., U.S. President Barack Obama, behind the revolt as "Supreme Guide" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed in his Friday sermon. So they’re relieved.
They are not many but have quite narrow views. What they say is of no importance. Islamists are confused, too, in two ways, but in two ways. A group of them have the tendency to think that the "oppressive regime" in the Islamic Republic of Iran is synonymous with "Islam."
On that score, they are not at all pleased with Iranians’ reaction to the regime. They believe incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the elections deservedly. As a matter of fact, they make in-depth sociological analyses that "rural areas supported Ahmadinejad, but a handful of middle-class supported Mir Hussein Mousavi who looks at the West."
Some Islamists who recall that Mousavi was the prime minister of Ayatollah Khomeini stress that other opponent candidates were among the first generation administrators of the Islamic Revolution, so according to them incidents are not for a change of regime. They try to seek comfort in this view.
Some laic circles with a similar mindset sneer at the happenings.
Many Turks from different views have a common point: Developments in Iran do not mean a radical change.
I should ask them "How do you know this?" "Without knowing anything about Iran, how do you know this?"
As riots broke against Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1978, so many people had scoffed. The Shah regime was "U.S. Gendarmerie in the Gulf." It had a big and strong military armed from top to toe. Everyone was afraid of even hearing the name of the Iranian intelligence services, Savak.
And everyone knew the ill-fame of the Evin Prison in Tehran. Those who thought that the Shah regime could be overthrown must had been out of their minds.
But six months later, on Feb. 1, 1979, the regime was collapsed upon the arrival of Khomeini. And Shah had left the country long ago.
We are at the beginning of everything in Iran. It is too early to say what will happen and how it will happen.
Just like it was "too early" for Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to congratulate Ahmadinejad hours after the election commission announced the official results. I wish they had waited for a while because Tehran was shaken by the biggest mass protests since the Grand Revolution in 1979.
Checklist for an Iranian revolution
In this period of time, it wouldn’t be a smart political act to take a side in Iran yet alone it is not at all a good picture to seemingly support the current government. Is it accurate to term the incidents in Iran as a "state of revolution"?
A quite interesting article was published in the Financial Times titled "check-list for an Iranian revolution". Except two, all terms in the list exist in Iran today. And the two exceptions are "weak or divided security services" and "external help".
As the Iranian Army failed to stop masses taking out streets and got paralyzed in 1979, the Shah had left Tehran and the ways to the victory of the Revolution were cleared. In Iran in 2009, the Revolution Guards and Besij militia are undivided. They are even willing to apply brute force. But there is something else. They caused bloodshed.
A regime causing people’s blood cannot get well. It will not pull itself up, even if survives. This is what is happening in Iran.
There is another critical point in Iran. Although the security forces are undivided, "elites in administration" are.
A very serious split, this is. The Assembly of Experts, a group of clerics who are the only body in the Islamic Republic able to select or unseat the supreme leader of the Guardian Council and who are elected for eight years, led by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is involved in big talks behind the closed doors. He is seeking ways to form a "Guardianship" mechanism consists of a number of clerics instead of asking Khamenei to step down.
From Khomeini’s Prime Minister Mousavi to the former Assembly Speaker Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi, to the Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazari who was announced to be the successor of Khomeini in the city of Kum and to Hujjatul Islam, Islam’s third highest clerical rank, Mohammed Khatami, who would without doubt be elected if he becomes a nominee, a big "alliance" is acting like a massive opposition on stage.
But most importantly, the current regime, even if they win the struggle and remain seated, has already lost legitimacy. Let’s read the following lines together:
"The great unknown is the effect of violent suppression of the demonstrations. Once a regime starts killing its own people it crosses a line. Sometimes, as in Iran in 1979, bloodshed on the streets leads to such a loss of confidence and popularity that it spells the end for a government. On other occasions, if a government is brutal and ruthless enough, violent repression can work Ğ China in 1989 is the obvious recent example.
"Killing demonstrators, however, has stripped the Iranian government of its claims to legitimacy. It may secure the regime’s survival in the short term. In the long term, it surely dooms it."
Look at Iran in this angle, too...
Whenever President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama delivers a moving speech to trigger expectations, one thinks afterwards: "What’s new and unknown in it?" When he addressed tens of thousands in the cold weather following the inauguration on Jan. 20 in front of the U.S. Congress, a similar thought had occurred. Eventually, many decided that Obama delivered a "historic" speech. A similar situation occurred when he addressed the Turkish Parliament on Apr. 6.
Everyone was preoccupied with the former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s moving speech in the Turkish Parliament in 1999. But no one remembered former U.S. President George W. Bush’s speech in the garden of Galatasaray University in 2005, with the Ortaköy Mosque and the Bosphorus bridging two continents in the background.
Bush’s speech was a carbon copy of Clinton’s. Yet Obama’s address was compared to Clinton’s. Perceptions were different. When one reads them again, there could be people who think Clinton’s was a historic one too.
The first African-American president of the United States delivered another speech the other day in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. There are just a few speeches as important as this one. During Obama’s presidential election campaigns he had promised to give a speech in a "Muslim capital" and "send a critical message to the Muslim world" if he was elected. Thus, he fulfilled this promise in Cairo the other day.
How was it?
So long as Obama is the speaker and the text is good and he is a good orator, the speech had no chance but to be a good one.
Was it historic?
We will see in the future. But without a doubt, since Obama was delivering a speech concentrated on "U.S.- Islam," it was a significant address.
I think the most beautiful part of this "assertive" speech is the down-to-earth moments and remarks.
"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings," said Obama, he continued: "I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight.
No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground..."
After such a humble emphasis that we are not accustomed to hearing from a "leader of the only superpower," Obama referred to the Koranic verse "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." And he said "That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can..."
"Humility" in this respect penetrated his entire speech. Even if there is no other reason, I think, this is a profound, quite satisfactory because he was an "American President" and a "philosophic" speech as it is expected from him.
I believe the following paragraphs will make the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan happy. He is the co-chair of the "Alliance of Civilizations" which Obama referred to during his speech: "...freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."
And this part:
"...Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."
It is possible to think that "traditional laics" of Turkey - come on let’s not say Jakobin laics here - will not be pleased by Obama’s approach. Likewise, some fanatical Muslims will be disturbed by the sections in which he put special emphasis on gender equality and "women rights". One of the most striking parts of Obama’s speech was the "emphasis on democracy" which will give goose bumps to the regimes in Muslim countries, including Egypt, that seriously lack democracy.
"Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people."
I am pushing political aspects of the speech. The most striking parts were his claims of "global civilization" starting from being "humble" and the sine quo non "place of Islam and Muslims" in this.
What else can make this speech more "important" and perhaps "historic"? African-American U.S. President Obama continues to be a "chance" for the world.
Nations and countries being able to confront with their past can take steps forward. Unless this is done, pain and identity issues hold nations and countries back from making leaps forward. This is the state of Turkey today. But, of course, it is a progress even to discuss our history. However, we cannot say that this is confrontation.
The state of Turkey built an image and identity through a concept of modern history reflected in textbooks. We all are proud of our 1,000-year-old state experience and of our glorious Seljuks and Ottoman past. It’s good for our self-esteem to be proud of a glorious history. But the history also has "bloody pages"; therefore, "burdens," too.
And this is not just for us, Turks. This is the case for every nation and country, especially if they are coming from an imperial past. The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia had to deal with boring pages of their history. Still, no one can say that they came up all clean. And we haven’t made as much progress as they have. We haven’t beaten yet the narrow understanding of taking confrontations as insults.
If we cannot face our history, we cannot let go of the past and stumble. This is why the subject is crucial.
The 85-year-old social historian Professor Kemal Karpat helped us hash out the issue again. Two days ago, Milliyet daily’s Devrim Sevimay and Taraf daily’s Neşe Düzel interviewed him. The Milliyet’s Taha Akyol wrote an article complimenting the approach in Karpat’s latest book, "The Third Way."
I read the Karpat interviews very carefully. Aside from his extraordinary efforts and knowledge, I see that Karpat’s analyses are quite "problematic." We see now a subtle and distilled version of a "nationalist understanding of history" rather than the "Third Way." Since I have known him for a long time, I very well know that Karpat’s background of Romanian Babadağ and Turkish Tatar have an influence over his analyses.
The professor’s intuitions are as strong as his knowledge. While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was mayor of Istanbul, Karpat knew that Erdoğan would be a prime minister.
During our long walks by the oceanside, Karpat insisted that Erdoğan, who was in prison then, would be the prime minister of Turkey someday. Karpat was right. In short, I know what he thinks and how he thinks. I never am disrespectful to him. But the professor gives totally "defensive reactions" when the issue is our "historic burden."
His anger and his "Third Way" are revealed in the interview by Düzel: "My objection is É telling one-sided stories of the incidents and sentencing Turks all the time. I am from Rumelia. Since I am a Turk, I was subjected to insults. My properties were ripped away. And I came to Turkey to save myself. Why aren’t theirs [wrongdoings] being told?"
This is Karpat’s state of spirit leaving its mark in his analyses. The professor, as a Muslim Turk, deeply feels the agony of Turkish Muslims coming from Rumelia and the Caucasus through big immigration waves and the massacre committed against them.
But even Kamuran Gürün rejecting the Armenian thesis that "1.5 million Armenians were killed by Turks in the genocide" and says, "No, the number of Armenians who died during the deportation is 300,000," Karpat comes up with a brand new figure in the interview to Düzel: "about 100,000-200,000." He also claims that about a million Armenians ran away to Armenia with the Russian army.
These new theses are "problematic" because in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Armenian Democratic Republic was established by Tashnaks in 1918-1920. And the population of Armenia in 1918 was 500,000. To this, 300,000 "Ottoman Armenians" who escaped with the Russian army were added. After the Bolsheviks transferred the Eastern provinces of Kars and Ardahan to Turkey, the Armenian population rose to 1.3 million in 1919.
In addition to this figure, 300,000-350,000 "Ottoman Armenians" settled in Armenia. This inflation in population within a year was caused by Armenians living in Kars and Ardahan after they crossed the River Aras and settled in Armenia. (See: "Armenia, A Historical Atlas" by Robert Hewsen, Chicago University Publication, 2001 edition; the U.S. Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Report dated 1919.)
In the interview, Karpat says, "These are not the Armenians exposed to deportation. The political figure behind the deportation decision was Talat Pasha. The difference between the Armenian population before and after the deportation in Talat’s notes is 972,246 É about a million.
They have nothing to do with the Russian army withdrawing, or escape to Armenia or the battlefront. These are Armenians from Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Malatya, Antep, Maraş, Çukurova, Kayseri, Sivas, Tokat, Konya, Ankara, Kütahya, Bursa and even Tekirdağ, etc. Children, women, the elderly É That is to say, they are not included in the category of Armenian rebels or gangs."
All right, but what should we say about what happened to Muslims and Turks in Rumelia and Caucasus?
Big disasters prove the history is not "innocent" and "one dimensional." They are mostly examples of "ethnic cleansing."
The events in Rumelia caused "ethnic cleansing" in the end, but it was a big wave of immigration after the Russian-Bulgarian attacks in the 1877-78 war. I, as a Rumelian immigrant whose family was sent to Turkey through exchange, know very well the agony of ethnic cleansings.
But the "deportation" is something else. Even if no one is killed, it is a form of huge "ethnic cleansing." Besides, more than one was lost! If we use history as a tool for daily political debates, we cannot go anywhere.
But if we see everything as they are, we can have a key to the solution to many issues we face today.
If history is politicized, we have the wrong results. But it is "functional" in building a "modern state and society."
If we cannot get mature, we cannot face our history. And if we cannot face our history we cannot move forward.
The "Only Way" about history is being able to see it "as it is" without needing a "Third Way."
Turkey, and of course Kurds, still do not know the answer of the question "Who is the PKK? How many PKKs are there?" with exact clarity even after the violent atmosphere lasted for so many years; therefore such a question can be asked. The anger against bloodshed grows, and unfortunately it becomes ordinary as it does, but a clear answer to the question above does not exist. Therefore, the "right analysis" does not exist either. The PKK is the name of an armed Kurdish organization produced within the national and global conditions of the last quarter of the 20th century by the Kurdish problem, declaring itself with various mutinies and cannot seem to be resolved. How many of them are there?A few. Its leader is one; in İmralı. Its highest level of military leaders is in Kandil. The better part of its financial resources and civil organization is in Europe. Its considerable population and psychological support are in Turkey; especially in the Southeast.
Its leader is in prison. Its military command is on a mountain outside of the borders of Turkey. An organization with its personnel spread through a wide geography and based on an ethnicity divided after World War I would happen to be one on paper and a few in practice. Therefore, the expression of desire for peace from some part of the PKK while another continues to take lives can coexist. There are the healthy responses expressed in the statements of Democratic Society Party’s, or DTP’s, leader Ahmet Türk. DTP addresses "the electorate of PKK". The newly used dialect of Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, should also be noted; despite all the right previously attributed traits about him. Considering Ahmet Türk, we can deduce that DTP has started to liberalize itself from PKK or there is now the chance for the pro-peace line among the many routes in PKK can gain strength. Everybody from Obama to Deniz Baykal has conversed with Ahmet Türk; Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan still has not.
The importance of this lacking is this: the crossroads in front of Turkey, as we have mentioned numerous times before, shapes between the choices of "PKK turning into DTP or DTP turning into PKK".
It is beneficial to power the first for the solution; to clear a path for DTP to have a meaningful role in the political life of Turkey and the solution of the Kurdish problem. As long as the evaluation of this option is delayed, the "organic tie" between the two organizations start to benefit the "hawks" of PKK in the same level DTP becomes meaningless and made to become meaningless.
The Prime Minister’s opinion of DTP turning into PKK does not matter at this point. For what we call "politics" is needed in such a situation. The "violent atmosphere" bleeds as much as you legitimize DTP, and especially the line Ahmet Türk symbolizes, and you start to prevent the Kurdish problem spilling blood.
Professor Mustafa Erdoğan said "The messages the President gave in recent weeks had created a optimistic mood for the resolution of the Kurdish problem. The signals coming from PKK circles were also in the same direction. But, unfortunately, this optimistic mood is about to be dissolved now. Despite the obvious changes of stance of DTP and CHP, the government seems to have a mood of not willing to take the initiative on this matter" on the same day, in the same newspaper with Mehmet Altan and indicated that he "wants to be wrong" very much. Besides the apparent "jamming" of the government, the "positive messages" of the President are liable to be problematic. Months ago, in front of us, Abdullah Gül gave hope with his statement of "good things are going to happen soon" on the Kurdish problem. He gave a message in the same direction during his visit of Baghdad. Mentioned a "historical opportunity" in Damascus. He repeated the mentioned message of his in Tajikistan.
Behind the "optimistic messages" of Gül, in his own words, there is "the matter being openly discussed by governmental institutions and there is a harmony among all institutions".
Come on then. Start saying solid things. Above all, reflect it to acts. Acts beyond words are very important. Thus, Mustafa Erdoğan writes:" Establishing peace requires ’giving Kurds their due’ beyond the silencing of guns. This needs to be started, before all, ’forgiving each other with Kurds’; to make them at least feel we understand the suffering they have been put through and we are ashamed of those who responsible let alone approving them. The practical results of "giving due" are constitutionalizing the respect towards cultural identities and recognizing cultural rights in scope of that on one side, while easing the political representation of Kurds and institutionalizing administrative decentralization in the whole of Turkey on the other. Lasting peace is not possible without those. Other socio-economical precautions would not fruit results without providing those."
Have not we learned it is like this for all this time? What are we waiting for?
Unless we take solid steps toward this direction, unless we act, the point we will end up in will be asking the "Who is the PKK? How many PKKs are there?" question with regular breaks and clinging onto whether if PKK will prolong the ceasefire or not on June 1.
However, the true answer, the true reality will continue to be valid as it is expressed in the following determination: "Turkey’s wellness in general is related to the wellness of Kurds. Turkey cannot reach peace and prosperity before Kurds do. Turkey cannot become free before Kurds do."
With the start of debates over the landmines along the Syrian border, we have learned what a "minefield" Turkey is. They are not in the land but also in minds, too. Clearing landmines is a difficult task, but I am afraid eliminating mines in the mind will take time enough to bury us all. In the meantime, "mines laid by terrorists" are not included in statistics. Such mines killed six soldiers the other day in the county of Çukurca. First, President Abdullah Gül sent "optimistic" signals for the solution of the Kurdish issue, then "alarm bells" went off and then the mines laid by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, terrorists killed soldiers.
It seems that just days before the unilateral ceasefire of the PKK expires on June 1, the atmosphere of the near future has turned gloomy again.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should better hurry to meet the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, leader Ahmet Türk. After a joint voice against "violence" raised by 72 non-governmental organizations the other day in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır and Türk’s remarks about the latest Çukurca attack, Erdoğan should, or must, immediately take action for the removal of black clouds gathering over the near future of the Southeast.
Now, let’s go back to the landmine issue.
First, let’s clear minds about dozens of figures before we start with debates over "mine clearing." Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül revealed official numbers the other day. The decision to have landmines was reached in 1956 and in the period 1957-1959 mines were laid in an area 510 kilometers in length and 350 meters in width.
At this point, we have to clear up boloney though. For this said piece of land, which is claimed to be awarded to an Israeli company, some said, "It makes two Cyprus islands in size."
But as Cyprus sits on a 9,600 square kilometer area, the subject area is 216 square kilometer, 186 square kilometer of which belongs to the Treasury and the rest is shared among the State Railways, other institutions and farmers in the region.
Why is this information important? Because if the landmine bill is adopted, the land cleared of mines will not be awarded to foreigners for farming.
And the other issue is to allow "organic" farming in this piece of land after the mines are removed, which at this point the claims of "awarding it to Israelis" come in. At this point, we cannot ignore what Minister Gönül says. "Whether or not this field is appropriate for farming will be determined after mines are cleared.
Perhaps the mines contaminated the area. We don’t know this yet. The reason is a mine is a chemical substance." The translation is that groups raising hell now are mostly rambling about a situation in which Israel is at the center.
Let’s give some more details about the figures. The total number of landmines along the Syrian border is 615,145. In addition, 75,115 mines exist in a 42-kilometer-long area on the Iraqi border.
On the Iranian border, there are 191,428 landmines and 21,984 cover 17 kilometers of the Armenian border. The landmines that were along the borders with Greece and Bulgaria, I mean our NATO allies, have been removed.
Besides, a total of 2.5 million anti-personnel landmines are kept in the military’s depots. In total, it makes about 3.5 million landmines. A terrifying number this is. Now it becomes self-evident that why we keep saying "We are surrounded by enemies in four directions" and why we have such big security concerns.
And of course all these lay in our subconscious as well.Another critical part of the matter is this: A global landmine ban (The Ottawa Mine Treaty) was signed in Sept. 2003 in the Canadian city of Ottawa. Turkey sıgned onto this agreement in March 2004. Turkey promised destruction of 2.5 million mines in stock by March 1, 2008 after signing the treaty, but failed to do so. Until the date, number of mines removed was around 1,000 or 2,000 even though it’s been over a year since the date passed.
This was the requirement of Article 4 in the Ottawa Mine Treaty. And Article 5 foresees destruction of landmines by March 1, 2014. Yet our "track-record" is evident.
It is not an easy task but let’s look at Serbia. Serbia-Montenegro signed the treaty just six months after Turkey, in September 2004. There were a total of 1.3 million landmines, 40,000 of which were in Montenegro. Serbia-Montenegro removed all mines by May 16, 2007.
Do you think Turkey makes a sloppy job or inaptitude in the issue?
I think the problem is mines in "minds."
When we talk about Turkey, we are talking about a country where the opposition parties’ "democracy criteria" are even way behind that of the controversial governing party.
All the opposition parties in Turkey in the age of globalization have failed to clean out the "nationalism" virus from their bodies. And the ruling party also has plenty of that virus, too. Every single step cannot be taken for this reason.
A "constitutional change" in internal politics is a must for a freer Turkey, its democratization and integration with the European Union.
But the said "virus" is inside the current Constitution as well. This is why we cannot reach consensus over a new charter.
As for the foreign politics, one of the two main troubles is Cyprus and the other is the relations with Armenian.
Both seem like "conditioned to our brother" but the real problem is the "nationalism" inside so deep and so spread that it is easy to use this as a pretext.
In the Kurdish issue, if "identity rights" of Kurds are expanded, violence can be eliminated and we can find solutions. The "nationalism" obstacle mounted in minds is the question here again.
So Mr. President keeps mumbling the same thing for months and somehow fails to solidify it. If he speaks up clearly, his already-controversial-position will be questioned by tough "nationalism" shots.
With plenty of "mines in minds" already, it not an easy job to bring millions of mines out of storage and remove tens of thousands of landmines.
It takes years. Enjoy itÉ
New Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has been working so hard ever since taking office that it is getting difficult to follow where he is and with whom he is meeting. After flying from a meeting of the foreign ministers of Islamic countries in the Syrian capital of Damascus to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, Davutoğlu issued a quite striking statement in a joint news briefing with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov. "A strong Azerbaijan means a strong Turkey," he said. This is an approach stemming from the concept of "one nation, two states." It may be music to the ears, but how true is this "concept"?
A two-day workshop on "Turkish-Armenian relations" hosted by SETA in Istanbul continues. Another meeting on the same topic will be organized by TESEV on Friday. And next week, a meeting similar to the European Stability Initiative will be held in Istanbul. "Normalization" in Turkish-Armenian relations seems to have become clogged over the "Azerbaijan condition." But it also seems to be the main topic for the activities of non-governmental organizations and think tanks.
The SETA workshop is being held behind closed doors and the "Chatham House rules" are being applied. In other words, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker or speakers, nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. Armenian and Turkish participants are bringing the "one nation, two states" concept to the agenda. I have written my opinion here before. So to share what was told in this meeting will not be violation of the Chatham House rules.
I believe that the "one nation, two states" concept is invalid, wrong not only in terms of "political requirements" but also historically. The majority of people living in Turkey and an overwhelming majority of Azerbaijanis share a "common identity" and a "cultural closeness" on account of coming from the same ethnic background. There is no doubt about it. We can also talk about traditional mutual love.
However, all these things are not enough to describe Turkey and Azerbaijan under the concept of "one nation, two states." In the aftermath of World War I, in the period from 1918 through 1921, Turkey and Azerbaijan met at a crossroads for a short time until the Soviets came to rule first in Azerbaijan, and then in the entire Caucasus. Before the Ottomans period, as Turks were just about to step in to Anatolia, we could talk about "one nation," but then again, the concept of "nation" back then was quite different from what we have today.
Examples of "one nation, two states" situations today include Greece and the South Cyprus Greek Administration, which is officially called the Republic of Cyprus, in addition to Albania and Kosovo. If Turkey claims to be a "modern state" based on the "citizenship principle," which it is, it cannot generate a special status for Azerbaijan such as a "one nation, two states" notion because where will we put the millions of Kurds who are not assimilated? They are our citizens. Where would we place our non-Muslim Armenian citizens in such a concept?
All right, but is referring only to Azerbaijan by the "one nation, two states" notion disadvantageous? Yes, it is. The concept limits Turkey’s role as "a regional power." Under this concept, Turkey could not play its role in the Caucasus, could not normalize relations with Armenia and could not open its borders. And it would also limit Turkey’s influence in the entire region.
Therefore, this approach and its imperative policy would not create a "well-intentioned" solution for the Karabakh issue because such an approach would bind Turkey’s Caucasus policy to Azerbaijan. In this respect, to set the equation as "A strong Azerbaijan means a strong Turkey" is wrong. But the opposite is correct: "A strong Turkey means a strong Azerbaijan." The first formulation leaves Turkey outside the Caucasus, therefore weakening it.
"Our message to regional actors, especially to Armenia, is quite clear. The regions should be cleared of occupations and tensions," said Davutoğlu. That is correct. What he meant here is a solution to the Karabakh issue, and an end to the Armenian occupation in Azerbaijani territory, where five parts in the Karabakh region are totally, and two more partially, under Armenian occupation. This is the problem. How will this be accomplished? How will the Karabakh issue will be resolved and how will the occupation be ended? There is no answer to these questions yet. The Karabakh issue broke out between 1988 and 1992. The seven sections of Azerbaijani land were occupied in 1992. Since 1994, there has been no solution, though a fragile ceasefire continues.
Davutoğlu also sees the Minsk Group, in which Turkey is a member but is taken seriously, as a tool for solutions. "The Organization of Security and Cooperation for Europe, or OSCE’s, Minsk Group and the international community should make every effort to resolve this issue," he said. For years, there has been no one making efforts for a solution in the Minsk Group, except for the three co-chairs, Russia, the United States and France. The Minsk Group co-chairs, in a report released in July 2007, stressed that reciprocal principles are the solution but that they are at the end of their creativity in determining, formulation and application of these principles. And that they didn’t think a different result could be reached in additional meetings with new brokers on either side. If the parties cannot agree on the principles introduced, then they should exert efforts for an alternative in order to find common ground for a solution. In short, the co-chairs expressed that they were fed up with the Karabakh issue.
The co-chairs of the Minsk Group are not even ambassadors. It can be rightfully said that the Minsk Group could not create "adequate pressure" on Azerbaijan and Armenia to find a solution. If Turkey asks for an upgraded representation in the Minsk Group and positions itself in a spot to find a solution, it could play more effective role than this "joint discourse." But Turkey cannot claim such a position by keeping the Armenian border Ğ the only one closed in Europe Ğ shut.
Opening the border has nothing to do with the solution. However, problems with Syria about sheltering members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, didn’t cause the Hatay border to be closed down. And the Turkey-Greece border has never been closed despite the still-unsolved Cyprus issue, in addition to the array of problems between the two countries, from continental shells to the FIR line.
Under these circumstances, if you keep saying that the border gate between Turkey and Armenia cannot be re-opened without finding a solution to the Karabakh issue, you tie Turkish foreign policy to Azerbaijan and make Turkey’s playing a regional role impossible.
The point the "one nation, two states" notion will eventually reach only weakens the power of your state.
Professor Türkan Saylan was a special person; there is no doubt about that. Even if you didn’t know her personally or closely, this is obvious. Her short life story is enough to explain how special she was. Saylan was 74, and we knew that it was time for her to go after long years of battling cancer. So it was not surprising to see such a crowd attending her funeral ceremony. All these are fine. But Saylan’s funeral was not a normal funeral ceremony. It was a political show. And everyone knows the reason. If the Ergenekon crime gang investigation’s 12th wave of arrests hadn’t involved her, just 35 days before her death, Saylan’s funeral could’ve not turned into a big political show.
Two simple questions here:
1. If Saylan hadn’t been interrogated as part of the 12th wave of arrests, could the funeral ceremony of the 74-year-old president of the Association for Supporting Contemporary Life, or ÇYDD, have been this large?
2. If Saylan had died at a later time, not on May 18, months later for instance, could we have seen such ceremony?
The simple yet honest answer to these questions is obvious. And the answer confirms that Saylan’s funeral ceremony was a big political show against the Ergenekon case.
Immediately after the 12th wave of Ergenekon arrests, on Apr. 19, I had completed my article as follows: "As soon as I heard about the detention of Tijen Mergen and of Saylan in the midst of her 70s, first thing that crossed my mind was that a third party was involved in this investigation to stain this case."
And I thought about this piece while I was watching this political show against the Ergenekon case on May 19 as an exploitation of Saylan’s funeral ceremony. The Republican Rally organized in Ankara on May 17, the "Solidarity Walk" attended by well-known figures of the cinema and theater worlds on May 18 from Galatasaray to Taksim in Istanbul, and the court decision from Sincan against President Abdullah Gül concurrentlyÉ
And the "anti-Ergenekon" show during Saylan’s funeral ceremonyÉ
Someone adding all these up said, "The pro-Ergenekon groups are at work." Is it so? I wouldn’t know really. But a "social-political picture" that makes one consider this is self-evident. Daily Taraf’s Ahmet Altan wrote the following the other day: "The rallies are increasing. These masses do not represent the majority but about one-fourth of the population. The Ergenekon partnership, backed by such a big crowd and by legalists, may turn everything into a mess. We might have big massacres and bloodbaths. The only power to prevent this is the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, again. If the AKP speeds up the EU accession bid, takes ’conservatism’ in local municipalities under control, and does not exclude city-dwellers, crowds in the street may withdraw their support for Ergenekon. Otherwise, as far as I see, trouble is approaching. And this time, it is approaching badly."
The most glorious, meaningful and striking of the said rallies was Saylan’s so-called funeral ceremony. Yes, it was not a funeral ceremony. There is a certain style and manner for funerals. But it was not seen in the Teşvikiye Mosque on May 19. What was seen instead?
We saw, instead, wreaths reading "Turkish Armed Forces" on them, which were applauded by the crowd for just this reason. Slogans like, "We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal" or "Turkey is secular and will remain secular," and a half-hour long eulogy for Saylan by a "modern" imam who is quite a political figure, the author of a book titled "Religion Politicized, Politics turned out Religion" and who is a former deputy candidate of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, followed by a funeral prayer. The CHP administrative staff; retired Gen. Tuncer Kılınç asking, "Will the state apologize?" towards camera; and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals Sabih Kanadoğlu were in the front of Saylan’s coffin. People who are remembered as being the state themselves asked the question, "Will the state apologize?"
A group of artists who didn’t turn a hair as prominent Turkish authors were accused of belittling Turkey and taken to the court Ğ the artists who failed to show their sensitivities when Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was murdered and who just watched shameful interference to freedom of thought and expression Ğ were this time trying to reflect their "sensitivities" toward the Ergenekon detainees. After a solidarity meeting with pro-Ergenekon groups, these artists were not taking the leading role at the Teşvikiye Mosque during Saylan’s funeral.
On May 19, it was not Saylan’s funeral ceremony but a political show against Turkey’s biggest investigation. Most of the participants were there for quite different reasons or motives, but this still doesn’t justify the "political essence" of the ceremony.
Where are we heading toward?
Are we really heading into "bloodbaths, massacres and big trouble caused by the Ergenekon that legalists and famous artists support"? Are we really heading into "big trouble" indeed? Similar scenes from 2007 were supported by the strange 367-quorum incident and e-memorandum of the military but all were hit a blow by the July 22 elections. Back then, the presidential election crisis was at issue.
Former elite administrative made a counter-attack following the July 22, 2007, elections and filed for the closure of the AKP. The latest scenes are the rings of resistance exhibited through Ergenekon. But success in an "internal resistance" without an "external conjuncture" support is impossible. There is no "conjuncture" that exists in favor of Ergenekon; in fact, there isn’t any "internal conjuncture" either. The only thing the pro-Ergenekon side relies on is having trump cards if the government makes incredibly bad mistakes.
Otherwise, they have nothing in handÉ
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan read plenty of poems in the Azerbaijani Parliament during a trip to Baku and removed all doubts of Azerbaijanis, President İlham Aliyev being at top, but caused Turkish diplomacy to be bogged down in the Caucasus. Let me say this right at the beginning: He showed an example of bad diplomacy. Erdoğan surrendered the Caucasus diplomacy, which is way beyond Turkey’s dimensions, to Aliyev’s control. Behind Mr. Prime Minister’s "Baku Show," he took the state with five ministers, if there is no guarantee of the United States and Russia for the solution of the "Karabakh issue" very soon, Erdoğan, through his remarks, sentenced Turkey to diplomatic inertia and the status quo of recent years, which needs to be changed. "Karabakh is a cause. Closing the border gate with Armenia is an effect of the Armenian occupation there. Unless the occupation ends, the border gate will not be opened." Who says this? The prime minister of Turkey says it. I think the real question is who makes the prime minister of Turkey say this.
The border gate’s closing is not directly linked with the Armenian dominance in the Karabakh. The border was closed in 1993 after the Azeri territory in the Karabakh district, a total of five pieces of land and some part of two pieces, was occupied by Armenia.
The Armenian control in Karabakh was achieved in 1992 with the Hocali massacre and the coming down of Şuşa, along with an ethnic cleansing. The border was open then and remained opened. The Karabakh issue’s history dates way back before the border closing. Nagorno Karabakh was an "autonomous region" within the borders of the Azerbaijan Soviet Republic during the Soviets era. According to the 1989 census, 76.9 percent of the population (145,500) consisted of Armenians and 21.5 percent (40,700) of Azeris. In December 1989, Armenia Soviet Republic and Nagarno Karabakh Region Soviet decided reunification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Now, be careful. It was still the Soviet era. The decision, of course, was rejected by Azerbaijan. In 1988, due to the conflict over Karabakh, both countries were involved in ethnic cleansing, escalating the tension. Azerbaijan declared independence on Aug. 30, 1991. Three days later, on Sept. 2, 1991, Armenia proclaimed independence of the "Upper Karabakh Republic" from Azerbaijan.
The Upper Karabakh issue is more complex than it is assumed. And the surrounding Azeri territory was occupied by the Russian-backed Armenians gradually in order to have trump cards and for military reasons. We’re talking about 7,409 square kilometers of land here, which together with the Upper Karabakh makes 11,722 square kilometers, 13.4 percent of total Azeri land.
In the talks over two years under Swiss brokerage to seek normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations, the Karabakh issue, just like the so-called genocide allegations, was not set as a pre-condition, but "parallelism" looked for between "normalization" and the progress in Karabakh. This implicitly meant re-opening of the border gate between Turkey and Armenia by the time of signing the "Solution Principles in Karabakh" agreement in addition to a timeline for Armenian withdrawal from the Karabakh region set between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Erdoğan conditioned the "end of occupation" in Karabakh to the re-opening of the border gate. Since the final status of Karabakh may take quite long time, Erdoğan’s engagement makes normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations impossible in a foreseeable future. Erdoğan surrendered "diplomatic ropes" of Turkey to the hands of Aliyev. And Aliyev on the other side expressed content for being able to have control over Turkey by saying "Remarks of my dear brother is the most precious answer. There cannot be more open answer."
Aliyev’s father the late president Haydar Aliyev and the Armenian President Robert Kocharian of the period got very close to a solution during the talks held in the Key West of the United States in 2001. Haydar Aliyev’s solution model was a "package" solution. After taking the seat in 2003, his son Ilham Aliyev left his father’s solution route and adopted a "step by step" model. Aliyev met his Armenian counterpart Kocharian five times in the period 2003-2005 and with the current Armenian President Serge Sarkisian three times in the last one year.
From now on, Erdoğan will act at the discretion of Aliyev in order for Turkey to play a role in the Caucasus or in the international community via the Caucasus. This is to Baku’s benefit. Probably the most annoying part of the "Baku Show" was that Turkey showed once again how incapable it is in problem-solving. The Heybeliada (Halki) Seminary issue has been unresolved since 1973. In the Cyprus issue, Turkey left the "dissolution is the best solution" policy 30 years later but then locked itself in the opening of ports issue.
Even re-opening the border gate with Armenia has a slim chance. This is one of the damages caused by the "one nation, two states" demagogy. This is a demagogy because one should ask: Why it is not "one nation, three states"? If the Turkish nation is identical with that of Azeri, 25 percent of Iran and 35 percent of the Iranian capital of Tehran consist of Azeris. More Azeris live in Iran than Azerbaijan.
What about Kurds?
If Kurds have a "nation," then we should talk about "one nation, four states," referring to Turkey-Iraq-Iran-Syria. Or as it was reflected in a press briefing recently, since Turkey and Azerbaijan is a "one nation two states" and Turkey’s "unitary state structure" is beyond question, then is it a bad thing to resolve the Kurdish issue by agreeing with the principle of "two nations, one state"? Anyway, we’ll see how the "diplomacy goal" Erdoğan scored in Turkey’s own goal in Baku.
First, let me make a correction here. It is about the date of outlawed-Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, leader Abdullah Öcalan’s referral on Jan. 8, 2008 to İlter Türkmen as a "wise man" to contribute to the solution of the Kurdish issue. I had said that Öcalan mentioned the former Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Marti Ahtisaari, yet I didn’t recall if he pronounced the name "Türkmen." Yes, Öcalan had mentioned Türkmen too.
The Referans daily is a good guide to follow developments about the Kurdish issue, especially Cevdet Aşkın’s 3-year-old column. In December 2007, Aşkın made the following note:
"Abdullah Öcalan said in a statement to the Fırat news agency on Friday that in the solution of the Kurdish issue an addressee problem is being experienced. ’The dissolution and blockage is a serious issue. I call for all democrats, whom I don’t bother to distinguish as rightist, leftist, to adopt a solid approach against this. Better assessments should be made in the next two months. A wise-men commission should be formed immediately. I don’t say that it should consist of people we choose. This could be a commission of those who were assigned by the state. For instance, İlter Türkmen can be one of them. Why am I using him as an example? Because Türkmen is a man who served the state and knows the state better than us. Arms may be laid down in the frame an outline determined by the wise men.’"
Meaning, if Aşkın had been followed closely, we could’ve realized that this "wise men" issue was introduced by Öcalan himself one and a half years before another PKK leader Murat Karayılan told journalist Hasan Cemal.
But some things are echoed when it is time. Apparently, to talk about the PKK’s laying arms down, coming down from the mountain and the likelihood of seeking solution to the Kurdish issue within this frame is more appropriate in 2009 compared to late 2007.
The other day I again wrote about the Kurdish issue under the title "Signs of optimism" and ended my article by saying "The atmosphere lately is that signs of optimism are more than that of pessimism in finding solution to the Kurdish issue."
If the matter is problems that Turkey has always fail to find solutions, such as the Kurdish or the Cyprus issues or normalization with Armenia, it is possible to become both optimistic and pessimistic at times. But "optimism" is nurtured by "political boldness" in the direction of solution. There is no reason to be suspected about intentions for solution. I wonder if there is political courage or if it is adequately enough. We are not sure. Let’s remain prudent. "Prudential optimism" or "prudential pessimism" means being "realistic" in this particular case.
There was a news story titled "Kurdish intellects as well say ’wise men’" in the Radikal daily the other day. Almost all of the distinguished Kurdish figures who have nothing to do with the PKK say solution initiatives should be made "behind closed doors."
Solution, without doubt, cannot be found "behind closed doors." The frame to build a backbone or a roof for a historic Turkish-Kurdish togetherness symbolizes conciliation of masses. Therefore, finding a solution behind closed doors is naturally impossible."
For the sake of the solution, however, it is necessary to hold "solution initiatives" behind closed doors. As a matter of fact, the subject matter is being discussed in the press and on television. But if political decision-makers or people who would be influential in the decision-making process openly discuss the matter before public audience, this could easily turn into a personal problem and easily clog solution channels. Have you ever seen anything good for Turkey coming out of parliamentary group meetings on Tuesdays?
Turkish political structure is not practical to generate solutions. Main political issues of Turkey are not resolved but they cause clogging. Türkmen, as the wise man of our country, in an interview with daily Milliyet’s Devrim Sevimay two days ago, emphasized this point by relating to "political boldness." "Actually this is the entire problem in Turkey. Government, in fact, sees what it should do but cannot have courage to do. We did the same with the Cyprus issue as well. It happened again in the Armenian issue.
While we are about to do something reasonable and durable, reservations surfaced suddenly and clogging came after," replied Türkmen to a question that for the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, it is something daring to prepare a solution package that may cost votes for the party in the west of the Euphrates River.
Since we are once bitten twice shy, let’s be careful now and not forget that "lack of political boldness" may arise in these days while we have high hopes for steps to take us to possible solution of the Kurdish issue.
Just for this reason, pulling the matter back to behind doors may pave the way for something more beneficial for Turkey.
Let’s remember once again the point we have reached: The reasons driving the PKK to the mountain no longer exist. The PKK looked for shelter in the mountain for a more "separatist" project and to seek Kurdish independence through arms struggle. The organization now declares that they no longer have such goals and all the things they have announced as targets do not require arms struggle. They are doable, applicable. However, the PKK cannot climb down from the mountain. But it should. Conditions should be set to allow this and this is not something that the PKK decides alone.
Therefore though the point we have reached seems a piece of cake compared to the happenings in the past, it is not actually simple and easy. Efforts to end violence may turn into the Myth of Sisyphus in which the Korinthos King Sisyphus was condemned to repeat forever the same task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again; a story of starting from the scratch and its turning to be an eternal trouble.
But political boldness is above all even if initiatives are made behind closed doors temporarily. Do Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government have it? Let’s hope they do É
As there is a radical revision of ministers, everyone is posing questions about the ministries or columnists are writing pieces based on their own views about the newly appointed Cabinet members. No one has asked me about my opinions regarding the Education or Transportation ministries for instance. But I was asked questions about newly appointed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
First of all, let me tell you that I was not surprised at all by his appointment even though he is the only minister appointed from outside Parliament. Moreover, as speculations continued for possible changes among ministers, I had said to my close circles that we should expect to see Davutoğlu as the new foreign minister and this would be something quite natural.
During the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Davutoğlu has become a shining star in Turkish foreign politics so much that it is known that he is the "only influential person" over President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Davutoğlu’s "high profile" has always reminded me of the situation between National Security Chief Adviser Henry Kissinger and State Secretary William Rogers of the late U.S. President Richard Nixon’s period in the United States. Eventually, Rogers left his seat to Kissinger. Since then, no one remembers "Rusk," but all know Kissinger.
So Davutoğlu had to be the foreign minister sooner or later, and that has happened.
If seeking some kind of parallelism between Davutoğlu and Kissinger, one can say that both have academic backgrounds and both are hooked on "strategy."
In this sense, Davutoğlu in general Ğ with the exception of the late Professor Fuat Köprülü in Turkish tradition, whose area of interest was not international affairs Ğ is an unusual kind.
For this reason, one may want to dwell upon remarks of Deniz Zeyrek, who said, "A name who indulged himself in orchestration behind the curtain but had never had the pleasure of being a decision-maker," that were published the other day in Radikal daily. But if Davutoğlu’s creative personality in finding solutions to issues that are never seen in most of career diplomats is considered, this is enough to say that he will make a successful foreign minister.
Davutoğlu indeed put his mark on every single recent success story of the Erdoğan government in Turkish foreign politics. And he has done it as an "invisible man." Results of what he has done so far, on the other hand, are very visible and have huge repercussions in the international arena.
We better wait and see if he would be have similar results as he sits as foreign minister, but clues that he would be successful are plenty.
Davutoğlu’s bright track record is rather about his performance in the Middle East. That is why Tuesday’s headlines were like "New Direction is the Middle East" for Turkish foreign politics. Starting from this, different views were voiced that the European Union accession process may be harmed as a result.
I know Davutoğlu’s not-renowned times. We attended a few television programs and panels together, and our perspectives had coincided in many subjects.
And in the last year, we attended two panels, one in Austria and the other at Brookings Institute in Washington. The panel was held at the Kreisky Center in Austria. I witnessed that Davutoğlu brilliantly defended the thesis "Turkey may be European in Europe, Middle Eastern in the Middle East and Caucasian in the Caucasus," setting out from Turkey’s unique identity and the Ottoman past.
Well, the meaning is, it may not be correct to think that Davutoğlu’s effective performance in the Middle East may harm the EU process negatively.
However, Davutoğlu should pay special attention to the Middle East, but this should be because it needs to be so. The reason is that the Middle East is the most problematic region in the world, and it is also an area where Turkey can have solid results in a way to be impressive in the international community. Moreover, the Middle East is the region that would be the backbone of Turkish-American relations during the President Barack Obama period in order to build rock-solid relations between Turkey and the U.S. At this point, it is necessary to note Davutoğlu’s "know-how" is a "plus" for Turkey.
Although Davutoğlu is known as a "strategist," results of the strategy in his mind are not known yet. I am of the opinion that his being a "really good tactician" is Davutoğlu’s most important and valuable quality. I wouldn’t know how much he is aware of it, but his "tactical moves" in the Middle East have become Turkey’s "gains." Speaking of tactics, he can make mistakes possibly. But what is destructive is a "strategic mistake," not a tactical one. Tactical mistakes can be corrected.
Davutoğlu made tactical mistakes in the Middle East issue. But there were corrected by conditions and himself. A series of tactical mistakes made during and after the Iraq War didn’t seem like a "chain of mistakes" owing to Davutoğlu’s corrections and Turkey’s adaptation to the conditions slowly. On the contrary, the public opinion read them as "Turkey was following the right political path in the Middle East."
What they were, is the subject of another article. However, Davutoğlu’s "zero problems with neighbors" policy is the right one. Besides, Turkey’s "soft power" approach toward the Middle East has increased its role and influence both in the region and the international arena.
In conclusion, it is impossible to say now about Davutoğlu’s performance as an "executive" in the Foreign Ministry and his successes or failures in the area. But as a "mastermind of politics," Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will be quite successful. I have no doubts about that.
I hereby wish him success as the new foreign minister of Turkey.
Political party leaders hold parliamentary group meetings on Tuesdays. Owing to the Political Parties Law, as one of the by-products of the Constitution prepared during the Sept. 12 military coup in Turkey, the parliamentarian system is being shaped by polemics among "little Führer" party leaders, so to speak. Tuesdays are usually considered "special days of tension" in "Turkish political life." This Tuesday was not an exception. The Azerbaijan-Armenia issue was another topic of polemics. Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal said ongoing Turkey-Armenian talks are the biggest diplomacy mistake of the Republic’s history. He made a call to President Abdullah Gül: "He should go to Baku immediately and meet İlham Aliyev. He should clear-up misunderstandings, if any. Turkey cannot hold back the attention shown to Somali and Bahrain from Azerbaijan."
It is debatable if "Turkey-Armenia talks are the biggest diplomacy mistake of the Republic’s history," but it is surely beyond dispute that Baykal’s remarks were "just a plain example of demagogy." Prime Minister and the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made some remarks on the subject. Since he has not criticized Azerbaijan to date, Erdoğan’s "new" remarks the other day were quite interesting.
"A very sensitive issue for Turkey is being turned into a matter of exploitation. Some people are trying to benefit out of it. Here, the Azeris’ attitude is also wrong. In every meeting we have attended so far, we have backed Azerbaijan. We have considered them more than they can consider themselves. We have never left them alone. People talking here and there are making a mistake. But this will not help anyone," said Erdoğan.
He was right.
The latest developments proved that I was right. Azeri President İlham Aliyev, turning his back to Turkey and not participating in the "Alliance of Civilization" forum in Istanbul on April 6, paid a visit to Moscow on April 16-17. The "natural gas" card is one of the most important strategic cards Azerbaijan has in hand.
And Azeris have shown that they could play it against Turkey and the West. Aliyev said in the joint news conference held April 17 with his Russian counterpart Demitry Medvedev that he didn’t see anything wrong with selling Azeri gas to Russia. Experts signal what Aliyev meant by that is the Shahdeniz-2 project with annual 14-16 billion cubic meter gas production capacity may be shifted to Russia. Aliyev also said Azerbaijan may increase the amount of crude oil being sent to the Baku-Novorossisk.
In advance of Aliyev’s Moscow trip, some Azeri commentators and strategy experts said if Turkey doesn’t consider Baku’s interest in Turkey-Armenia normalization talks, Aliyev can take steps to offset the "current geopolitical and economic balances" in the South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan is concerned about the possibility of Turkey lifting economic sanctions over Armenia; in other words opening the land border between Turkey and Armenia, which has been closed since 1993. In fact, Aliyev in his address at the Azeri National Security Council said that they were following possible geopolitical changes in the region and would take necessary measures. He also said Azeris are entitled to exercise their right to determine their own policy in the face of an emerging new condition in the region and that they wouldn’t hesitate to use this right.
A political analyst Rasim Musabekov in Baku stressed that Aliyev was not bluffing and Baku can make a radical turn. Musabekov was also quoted by the Turan News Agency on April 7 as saying Aliyev’s phone call to Medvedev was not a coincidence while U.S. President Barack Obama was in a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gül. In the meantime, following the Aliyev-Medvedev meeting, the Turan news agency again quoted Nevruz Mammedov of the Azerbaijani presidential foreign policy department as saying selling Azeri natural gas to Russia and Iran may set an alternative to the Nabucco Project backed by the West. And if the countries partnered in Nabucco make no move, Azerbaijan would have left no chance but to consider its own interests.
No one can object any of these. Azerbaijan will surely protect its national interest. Then what is the point behind the "one nation, two states" slogan? If in the eyes of Azerbaijani administrators, the national interests of Azerbaijan do not overlap with those of Turkey, can we defend that Turkey has its own interests but they most certainly should be in line with Azeris’?
Turkey has always watched out Azerbaijan’s interests and adjusted its own interests accordingly, even if contradictions existed at times. Gül visited Baku immediately after visiting the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Sept. 6. You cannot count how many times Erdoğan made a trip to Baku and Aliyev to Turkey. That is to say there is nothing for the Azeri administration should necessarily know about Turkey-Armenian rapprochement that is surprising to them.
What happened then?
What happened was that Russia became involved in the equation. Azerbaijan has decided to flirt with Russia in order to make progress in its relations with Armenia.
That is possible. But this doesn’t mean Turkey has made a mistake against Azerbaijan. However, we can surely say the opposite.
It’s been claimed that Aliyev asked Russia to pressure Armenians to evacuate the Armenian-occupied Azeri territory in exchange of transferring Azeri gas to Russia, and this is the reason behind the close-up between Azerbaijan and Russia. If Azerbaijan succeeded at this, however, is doubtful. Russian columnist Rauf Mirkalov of the Zerkalo (Mirror), a Russian daily, wrote, in Karabakh Russia wants a solution completely under its control. Or in other words, Russia asks to have a Russian peace force in the region in dispute. But neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia is ready to accept this. According to Vefa Gülizade, who has been an adviser for many Azeri state heads, unless there is an agreement over the final status of Karabakh, any progress in this issue is unlikely.
Matt Bryza, U.S. representative in the Minsk group, announced that Aliyev and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian are examining this mutually painful agreement in order to make a progress in the Karabakh issue and that the "real" progress would be made a few weeks later, according to Voice of America on April 17.
On May 7, the Aliyev-Sarkisian summit will be held in the Czech capital Prague. Azeri and Armenian state heads will be getting together for the third time in a year. We’ll see the developments afterward.
To follow them without panicking is beneficial. And pressuring Turkey unfairly on the Azeri issue is useless.
All the attention for days has been directed to U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama’s speech in Parliament as much as it has been on his trip to Turkey. What would be his "message"? Would he really give a "message"? Would it be a historic speech? To the first question, Obama clearly answered "yes" in Turkish during his Parliament address. "This is my first trip overseas as president of the United States. Some people have asked me if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a message to the world. And my answer is simple: evet Ğ yes," he said.
Yes, indeed. An American president having extraordinary popularity around the world like Obama’s choosing Turkey as his first trip overseas is a message all alone. Besides, this message is so important that even before he stepped in Turkey, Obama said in the European Union Summit held in the capital of Czech Republic, Prague, on April 5 that the United States wants to see Turkey as an EU member and this is an important sign of developing relations between the West and the Islamic world.
Despite French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s objections, Obama repeated his remarks at Turkish Parliament and to the more; he made a strong emphasis on them. After saying that the United States gives strong support to Turkey’s accession to the EU, Obama said, "Turkey is bound to Europe by more than the bridges over the Bosporus, but also through its history, culture, rule of law and democracy."
Mr. President added that Europe brings different nations, ethnic groups and beliefs together and that Turkey’s entry to the EU would reinforce the European stance. He signaled to anti-Turkey groups, in a way, that he, as the leader of the West, would insist on Turkey’s accession to the EU. Given the spirit of all his speeches and remarks as well as the words he chooses, this was both a "political" and a "philosophical" approach, because Obama’s number one priority is a rearrangement of relations between the West, especially the United States, and the Muslim world based not on force, but on a peaceful manner. At this point, Turkey’s special place in Obama’s strategic perspective comes out.
In the eye of the new U.S. administration, Turkey is a "Western" country. But in terms of demographic structure it is a Muslim country. And as far as the geographical situation is concerned, Turkey is a country where the "East meets the West."
The meaning is this: If there would be close-up between the West and the Muslim world as Obama describes, Turkey, at this point, would take a special role. But in order for Turkey to act its role as it is supposed to be, it should be tied with the West. Unless uniting Turkey’s membership in NATO, with the EU membership, it would not be possible for Turkey to become a "positive role model" for the Islamic world as the Obama’s United States imagines. Therefore the United States will continue to really support Turkey’s full membership to the EU. Perhaps this is the most important side of Obama’s Turkey trip.
But Turkey has its own responsibilities for such support. It should continue to walk in the direction of reforms, democracy and the rule of law. Obama in his speech at Parliament said on the subject: "You abolished state security courts É You've lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting Kurdish, and the world noted with respect the important signal sent through a new state Kurdish television station. É For democracies cannot be static Ğ they must move forward." Obama also added, "É steps like reopening Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond." He said that the United States has confidence in Turkey on the issue of minorities and freedom of faith. So, he happened to signal what kind of progress they expect of Turkey.
The most striking part of his speech was exactly on the subject. "I say this as the president of a country that not very long ago made it hard for somebody who looks like me to vote, much less be president of the United States," he said. Obama stressed that he has never forgotten and will never forget his African-American heritage and its meaning in terms of democracies and progress. For this reason, his remarks on the 1915 incidents, or the Armenian issue, saying, "É reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future. I know there's strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915," were also critical. Obama, however, stressed that the place to discuss similar issues is Turkish Parliament and that discussing the issue among Turkish and Armenian officials is more important than his own views on the subject.
Obama’s speech was very good. It was an address to all. Therefore it was also built masterfully. But the most striking side of it was that his decency and brilliance was harmonized with the text quite beautifully. Especially as he talked about Muslims’ contributions to the United States, Obama counted himself in as part of the Muslim community living in the United States and claimed his Muslim middle name, Hussein. And it was a sincere sign of his positive approach to the Islamic world.
We’ll digest his speech in Turkish Parliament and discuss for days his various statements. We’ll read the excerpts repeatedly.
His remarks during a joint press conference together with Turkish President Abdullah Gül had important clues about how to shape up Turkey’s future: a model partnershipÉ
Yes, we learned a new concept on Tuesday: "model partnership."
Obama talked about a "model partnership" between the United States and Turkey as he emphasized the importance of Turkey not only for the United States but also for the world.
Until today, over 20 years, the "strategic partnership" concept, which it was music to the ear, yet was not entertained deservedly in order to define Turkey-U.S. relations, perhaps for the first time is finding its true meaning with Obama. This will be a model or an exemplary partnership. In the presence of the U.S., Turkey will be perceived as one of the most important countries in the world and will be treated accordingly. So the United States and Turkey are building kind of a "company" together for cooperation and solidarity to resolve world issues.
We are at the beginning of a new period for all. If you ask me to describe Obama in three words as the president of the United States giving a start to this new term, I would say, "He is decent, sensitive and friendly."
Picture this. You wrote a detailed article about the importance of President Abdullah Gül’s uttering "Kurdistan." Before your article is published in the newspaper, you learn that Mr. President, upon his return to Ankara, says, "I did not use such a word." Do you think your piece will turn null and void?
This is not important. What is important is that President Gül’s breakthrough is clogged; steps to be taken for the solution of the Kurdish issue are blocked because the word "Kurdistan" is not a debate over semantics. It is directly about finding a political solution to the issue.
I previously gave the results in-depth. It is needless to repeat them here.
This is what I am interested in.
After saying, "I did not use such an expression," Gül clarified what actually he meant as follows:
"Inside Iraq there is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq, according to the Iraqi Constitution. This is what I said. I met their prime minister as well. This is normal.
Various debates occur on such issues. We are dealing with quite difficult matters. So we all should be very careful in the subjects especially as we make progress in struggles with terror, such meaningless and harmful discussions are unnecessary."
That’s fine, Mr. Gül, but don’t you encourage unnecessary discussions the minute you remarked, "I did not say it," although it is normal for you to talk about such matters?
We know that you uttered the expression. How do we know?
We know this through the notes Erdal Şafak of the Sabah daily, Mustafa Karaalioğlu of the Star daily and Murat Yetkin of the Radikal daily took in the plane on our way to Baghdad.
Then, does it mean that they are all wrong?
Besides, your remarks, "According to the Iraqi Constitution, inside Iraq there is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq. This is what I said," are incorrect.
Why? Because the "Kurdistan region" is uttered in the articles 4, 117 and 141 of the Iraqi constitution. In Article 141, the word "Kurdistan" is repeated three times and there is no expression of "a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq" stated in the article. Only, the "regional Kurdish administration" is used in Article 141.
That is to say, if you want to say what you want to say by referring to the Iraqi constitution, the text reveals that you are talking about the "regional Kurdish administration."
In a country where Kurds couldn’t be called "Kurds" for years or where the word "Kurdistan" couldn’t be pronounced but people were satisfied to say "Kurds" only, you cannot refer to a regional administration as though you are talking about a municipality. So don’t you see that by acting so could in fact mean the continuation of sequestering the "difficult issues" into dissolution?
This is the heart of the matter. Therefore this is not a discussion of semantics or "unnecessary discussions."
If nothing else is required for the solution of the Kurdish issue, political "boldness" is certainly necessary. Without "political courage," without showing, or could not showing "political chivalry" to solve this deep multi-dimensional problem and to make any progress in this direction is almost impossible.
The reason is that solution of the Kurdish issue requires the generation of hard-to-digest results, ability to make compromises and the merit to come up with new ideas.
"Political will" only is not enough. "Sine quo none" requires political boldness.
To do all is difficult, quite difficult indeed, but once this is achieved a terrific "award" we all will have.
With the "national consensus" to spread over its influence to the entire region and even to the international community and with self-reconciliation of the Republic inside, Turkey will fly high.
For all these reasons, discussions over "Kurdistan" are necessary. This is not about the semantics at all. For the solution of the Kurdish issue, "political boldness" is vital.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül. We had seen him six months ago in New York; the day before he came together with Gül. This time I saw the Iraqi president 10 or 15 minutes after he met the Turkish president. The two will be together again next week in Baghdad Talabani met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday night upon his arrival to Istanbul. The two leaders were together last year in Baghdad as they signed the "strategic cooperation" protocol between Turkey and Iraq. We had returned to Turkey with Erdoğan following a dinner for the Turkish Prime Minister hosted by Talabani.
Let me remind here that Talabani had visited Ankara as the president of Iraq early last year and following this trip the ice has started to thaw between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds.
Nowadays, top-level bilateral talks involving Talabani seem ordinary. His arrival to Turkey and meetings are so common that almost none is news anymore. The Iraqi president stresses this in his room at Istanbul Swiss Hotel, remembering the days when he secretly visited Ankara with the permission of the late President Turgut Özal.
One of his basic characteristics is loyalty to old friends. The Kurdish president of Iraq has proven this on every visit to Turkey. Talabani has never neglected people who met him in difficult days, on the days he was treated like a "suspect" and people who helped him to make a progress in bilateral relations with Turkey. As it was before, this time again he wanted to meet me, Hasan Cemal, M. Ali Birand and İlnur Çevik. So we met over a lunch.
We talked about everything; the most important one being the disarmament of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
President Gül’s one-week-old remarks that "good things will happen in the upcoming term regarding the Kurdish issue" were understandable enough and caused excitement. After meeting with Erdoğan and Gül, Talabani must have had something to say on the subject.
So he stressed two points in particular:
1. The period is no longer a period of sovereignty struggle. Armed struggle is replaced by methods of politics, diplomacy, mass movements etc., and especially mass communication tools. We are living in a communication age, not living in Mao, Che Guevera and Ho Chi Minh periods. Therefore, there is no ground for the PKK to continue with armed struggle. A big part of the PKK members have begun to see this. Such an understanding gives rise to a new medium for the PKK’s disarmament.
2. In parallel, Kurdish parties of Iran, Syria, Europe and Turkey will probably have a conference in Arbil in late April. or early May and call for the PKK to lay down arms. This meeting is the brainchild of Massoud Barzani and the conference will be held under his initiative and with a "green light" from Turkey.
Talabani says Kurds in Turkey should be patient; the issue will gradually be resolved over time, through "evolutionary" developments and they will provide assistance.
The steps taken in Turkey in the near past are very positive, adds Talabani, giving importance to such steps. The Iraqi president especially refers to the TRT-6 Kurdish broadcasts. "Even a single sentence uttered in Kurdish by a Turkish prime minister was unthinkable in the near past," he says. With the TRT-6, the policy of denying Kurdish existence has come to an end and the point we have arrived today cannot be underestimated, he continues.
One of the clearest evidence of the "rapprochement" between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds is a possible visit by Barzani following the March 29 local elections in Turkey. Talabani is aware of the preparations in this direction and confirms that "Mr. Barzani will soon visit Turkey".
Do Americans or Turkey have a "solution plan for the Kurdish issue" where they also can play a role?
While talking with Talabani you realize that there is no document or study that can be referred as a "plan," but only several guiding principles.
He is optimistic about the approach of the new U.S. administration to the Kurdish issue and to the rapprochement between Turkey and the Iraqi Turks. He knows U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Chief Adviser Gen. James Jones and Ms. Clinton, so he says. Talabani adds that Gen. Jones believes there is no military solution to the Kurdish issue and that the general shared his views with the officials of the Turkish General Staff as he was the chief NATO commander.
I, as a person who has known him for 36 years, can witness the "eternal optimism" as his most unique characteristic. The Iraqi president gives a profile most fitting to his optimism regarding the future of the country. He says people in Baghdad are in the streets and at restaurants until midnight and invites us all to Baghdad.
Talabani said that he met U.S. President Barrack Obama twice in Baghdad before Obama was elected. Over a recent phone call, Obama asked Talabani "If you prepare a dinner table for me as you did last time, I will visit Baghdad and be your guest." Talabani responded "We will prepare a better table." The Iraqi president expresses hope to see Obama in Baghdad in the near future again, following a trip to Turkey for instance.
Let’s go back to the issue of the PKK’s disarmament. The most important development about the solution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey is without doubt will be a step to be taken in this direction. Hasan Cemal asks Talabani "What is the likelihood of this?"
Talabani pausing for a second says "60 percent."
Considering Talabani’s optimism, this is a quite low percentage.
Given that it is not a "fifty-fifty" situation, or even better, if you think that this is higher than 51-49 percent, let’s keep hope aliveÉ
I think I said before that I don’t discuss the matters that I have scarce amount of knowledge. Economy is one of them. I had previously announced here that I am an economy illiterate. But I couldn’t make the Turkish Cypriot business tycoon Asil Nadir believe this in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a few conversations, I told him that I am an economy illiterate but he thought that I was pulling his string. He even told that I am quite good in the subject of economy. I know myself. It is impossible for him to make me believe in this. When I told him that my approach has nothing to do with the economy, but psychology, "What you call economy is 80 percent psychology," he defended. It was important for me to hear such an assessment from a successful businessman. I think relying on that "economy is 80 percent psychology," I rarely touched upon the economy here in this column, but of course not without forgetting the fact that, in fact, I am an economy illiterate. The reason was that I sensed an incredible reluctance in Turkey toward the global financial crisis. The crisis did not originate in Turkey, but acting like we will never be affected by that and ignoring the situation is not right, so I wrote. The crisis stemming from the only "super power" state in the unipolar international system had to have global impact. And it did happen. As its effects were felt in Turkey, we began to discuss the issue.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed, "It will bypass us." Nowadays, as we experience the local election campaigns, which have slowly turned into a referendum for the government, discussing the crisis is an issue only if it is needed as part of the campaign trails. A potential standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, is included. Opponents are accusing the government of delaying the IMF agreement. But the pro-government approves the line of Erdoğan against the IMF. In the mean time, whether the crisis will bypass Turkey or it will ruin us is a topic of political polemics. I, as an economy illiterate, am not interested in this side of the matter. I am looking into general political and economic trends, data and theses that I think reasonable.
The unemployment figure of December 2008 was announced the other day as 3,274,000, a total of 838,000 more people being unemployed. The number has increased from 10.6 percent last year to 13.6 percent this year. The unemployment is quite critical especially among young people. It is up from 20.6 percent to 25.7 percent. The relation between the population of young in a country and the unemployment rate gives the clues about social ups and downs, future of the county and therefore how political structure will be shaped up. So it is quite important. For instance, 66 percent of the Iranian population is 30 years old, 50 percent is under 20 and the unemployment rate in Iran stands at 15 percent.
What does it mean? It means new jobs for 800,000 young people every year. In a decade it means new jobs for 10 million youngsters. Ten million is the total population of Greece; it is the total population of Israelis and Palestinians. You go figure the rest and make an evaluation about the trend in Turkey. Starting from this, you can write disaster scenarios for Turkey. But what will we say to the following comment by Süleyman Yaşar, the most striking economy commentator of recent times.
"In the bulletin published by the Treasury Directorate last week, international capital flow to Turkey has increased to $872 million in January 2009, a $22 million increase since last year. Despite the global financial crisis, the increase in direct foreign investment in Turkey indicates the trust that the world has for Turkey."
Yaşar also pointed out the G-20 financial ministers and central bank governors meeting held over the weekend in London. He stressed the decisions taken in the meeting strengthened Turkey’s hand and put an end to the disagreement between the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, and Turkey.The G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting ended with decisions to have recovery plans for economic growth and employment. Turkey supports them. Therefore, as the IMF discussed the magnitude of the prevention package and the budgetary figures, it will have to consider Turkey’s demands for economic growth.
So, can we reach the conclusion that the Erdoğan government in talks with the IMF has won the upper hand despite all criticism? I don’t know because I am an economy illiterate.
What I know is this: U.S. President Barack Obama will be in London on April 2 as part of his first overseas expedition and will participate in the G-20 summit. Turkey will be at the same meeting. The summit will in a way provide political approval to the decisions taken by finance ministers last weekend. The last stop of Obama’s trip will be Turkey.
Meaning? The meaning is if the U.S.-led international system collapses, Turkey will collapse too. Otherwise, Turkey takes the lead in the countries that will never ever be let bankrupt. This is why Obama’s first visit being to Turkey is important. In the meantime, let me not forget that "the U.S. will beat the crisis in 2010," announced the U.S. Federal Reserve, or FED, governor Ben Bernanke the other day.
As it is known, 2010 is at the same time as the deadline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. In a way, security of Iraq, of the Iraqi Kurdistan actually, will be assigned to Turkey in 2010 É
But let’s go back to economy and continue with Bernanke’s assessment on the current crisis. He said, "Éit is impossible to understand this crisis without reference to the global imbalances in trade and capital flows that began in the latter half of the 1990s... We collectively did not do enough to reduce those imbalancesÉ"
And therefore the crisis loomed.
David Ignatius completes the rest in his article published in the Washington Post:
"The basic imbalance was that the United States consumed far more than it produced. America financed this excess consumption by borrowing money from China and the other rising nations of Asia whose export-led economies were generating huge savings. Both sides became addicted to the flows of trade and capital: America loved gorging on cheap foreign imports; the foreigners loved the rapid growth that came from shoveling goods into the insatiable U.S. market."
The G-20 summit convenes to find a remedy to the situation. Washington seeks for a coordinated global attitude in order not to repeat the imbalances of the past as it was mentioned above. If the Europeans and China agree, it will be easy to rid of this crisis. By looking at the fact that the first leg of Obama’s first overseas expedition is the G-20 Summit to be held in London and the last leg is the Ankara-Istanbul line in Turkey. So I can say the following:
Turkey, as the only "international actor" in Obama’s London-Istanbul line, it is being regarded as one of the "doctors" of the crisis, rather than its victims. In this period, no negative economic data should ruin the confidence felt for Turkey about the future.
A few officials attending the meeting told no one but only he was talking. He, the rehber as Iranians term, is the top religious leader of the country: Sayid Ali Khamanei. Those who could not speak in front of him were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, Foreign Minister Manucher Mouttaki, Khamenei’s special adviser Ali Akbar Valayati, foreign minister of the Khomeini period.
President Abdullah Gül’s meeting with Khamenei was given the utmost importance by the international community, Washington in particular. The meeting was anxiously awaited and lasted an hour.
From the Turkish delegation only Gül spoke. He told Khamenei what he had told us on the plane on our way to Tehran.
The "message" Gül gave was simple. "A new term has begun with the Obama administration. The new U.S. administration is willing to have contact with Iran. We believe they are sincere. There is a big opportunity that should be appreciated. You, as Iran, should take advantage of it. This will be good for the sake of our region and of all."All right but how did the rehber or Iranians respond?
According to the Turkish side, they carefully listened to Gül. It was clear that they were following the Obama administration’s new initiative. However, they wanted to see more to believe that the U.S. really wants this. The Iranians attitude was "wait and see" in a way.
But it is time to expect a move from both parties. Yet what should we expect from the "wait and see" approach?
As Gül put it and the Turkish delegation voiced, "There is an accumulation of 30 years. This cannot be eliminated in a few days." Meaning, in order to pave the way for Iranian-American relations "care and patience" are necessary. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect a dramatic attempt from Iran until the presidential elections scheduled for June.
President Gül also recalled the "legitimate security concerns" of Iran.
Still, things cannot be left alone. There is a ground for Turkey to conduct an active diplomacy between Iran and the United States, and the timing is right. An official participating in the Gül-Khamenei meeting said: "The Iranian side listened. They did not send the United States any signal or gesture. They did not give us a message to convey to Americans either. Quite obviously, however, the Iranians left the door ajar."
Another high-ranking official, who is very influential in Turkish policy, likened the meeting to the first round of a boxing or wrestling match. Turkey knows and directly sees both parties. The United States and Iran are in the "pinch headlock" position right nowÉ
Gül talks about a new period, new terms, new climate and therefore new opportunities. He proposes the Muslim world and primarily Turkey should catch up to the same wave length as Barack Obama and to turn this into an active asset. However, when it comes to the United States and Iran, things are not easy. No one can say that only the Iranian issue is clear in the new U.S. approach. The United States is still in search of something. In the Obama administration, several different tendencies exist regarding Iran.
Besides, there are power centers both in Iran and the United States that are against having contacts with Iran and vice versa. Similar formations are in the region, too. For instance, it is just a dream to see that Israel wants an Iranian-American rapprochement. Obviously this will be a slow process. Time is the issue because it is necessary to do things quickly at times.
Turkey’s playing a role of "constructive actor" in international politics and especially between the transatlantic and the region is important. In the new term’s window of opportunity we see that Turkey has already taken the stage. Could Turkey mediate between Iran and U.S.? Yes, it could.
There is no other country that could do this better than Turkey and with the mutual consent of both parties. But Turkey’s role goes beyond that. Turkey is an active actor on the international stage. This is more just being a broker.
The atmosphere in Tehran the other day was extremely good. There was not a single cloud in the sky. It was a sunny day filled with the joy of living under clear blue skies.
Nevruz is approaching.
A new year means new hopes. The climate is appropriateÉ
In the Iranian capital Tehran it is gloomy kind of weather familiar to what is seen in Western cities. No sun. It is not the depressing kind in Istanbul the other day but it is also not the kind that is expected just before Nevruz, harbinger of spring and traditional New Year celebrated in Iran. This weather has no similarity with the atmosphere in Tehran that has occurred upon the arrival of Turkish President Abdullah Gül. It is totally different here. As we chat in the plane on our way to Tehran, Gül seemed quite optimistic for the future. The change in U.S. atmosphere with new President Barack Obama nurtures Gül’s optimism. Mr. President says that a friend of his living in the United States gave him Obama’s books two years ago and said, "Watch out, if he runs for presidency, he would be elected." Gül adds; "At that time, I couldn’t believe that Obama could be elected president. Since I read his books, I knew his thoughts. And now the new U.S. approach overlaps with those I read two years ago."
Turkey and the United States have almost everything in common, according to Gül who believes the new U.S. foreign policy approach brings alone an opportunity to solve many problems as he also believes the "sincerity" of the United States in this new approach.
In this context, Gül gives importance to Obama’s first visit to Turkey for dual talks. As it is known, Obama will stop by first in London for the European Union talks, then in Strasburg for NATO and then in Prague due to the Czech Republic being the EU’s term president.
But he will visit Turkey just for Turkey.
Is it a surprise to hear that the U.S. president will pay a visit to Turkey soon? "No," says Gül, "We knew this before [U.S. State Secretary] Hillary Clinton announced it in Ankara. Washington let us know in advance."
Gül says that Obama’s call after settling in the White House was more than a congratulatory conversation and that they talked about many issues and that he over the phone invited Obama to Turkey. The invitation was reiterated at a later time. Therefore Obama’s quick and positive response to this invitation encourages Gül’s optimism that Turkey will witness positive developments in 2009.
"The climate is suitable," says President Gül regarding the possibility of 2009 being a positive year with normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations, Iranian-American relations, with developments in the Middle East and most importantly with the progress to be achieved in Afghanistan and in the Afghanistan-Pakistan line. The climate is favorable.
"Sometimes it doesn’t happen no matter how hard you try. Conjuncture is not appropriate. If it is, leaders may not be suitable. But this time, the climate is suitable. Since America will launch a different policy approach, everyone should be prepared accordingly. And we don’t have to wait for America. Everyone has to develop his own policies, suggestions in parallel with this new term," continues Gül.
A while ago the Turkish state system had decided to focus on Afghanistan, all related units and institutions of the state have launched studies on Afghanistan, he adds.
President Gül had previously reminded that Afghanistan is the number one issue on the U.S. agenda. As we talk through, he stresses about possible important developments in the Kurdish issue in 2009. When I ask, "Is this about the external dimension of the issue or internal or both?" Gül quickly answers; "Both. The issue has not only had an external dimension. It is multi-dimensional. We have seen where we can go by only focusing on the external dimension of it," as he implies northern Iraq. We leave Tabriz behind, are approaching Tehran É The details of this vital issue are not revealed but in 2009 striking, new and positive developments in the Kurdish issue will not be a surprise. Likewise, normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations is waiting for the "political will." All technical works are complete. The issue is linked to progress in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations as well due to the Karabakh conflict. Apparently, that side of the story is also going well. "However," Gül warns at this point, "You cannot leave this alone. You should get involved and take action."
What should be our deduction here?
It is that the most important meeting of the day will take place between Gül and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev and that the meeting is directly relevant to normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations and the truce over the Karabakh issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Before midnight the other day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry team working on the "Armenian dossier" was heading to the Çankaya Presidential Residence. We were reminded that the "joint declaration" that was announced after Ms. Clinton’s visit to Ankara emphasized a "message" in which the United States asked the inclusion of a sentence like, "both Turkey and Armenia contribute to normalization of bilateral relations and to the efforts of the Minsk Group working on a solution in the Karabakh issue."You may expect critical news from the Caucasus in April. We are in Tehran. The Iranian part of this expedition was talked on the other day.
The question in every body’s mind is, "Will Turkey play a broker between the United States and Iran?" or, "Will Gül convey a message from the United States to Iran?" At the Esteghlal Hotel (the Hilton of the Shakh period) which I had been in many times in the last 30 years, I am reading the Iran News’s headline that Turkey seriously considers mediation between the United States and Iran. The story is based on Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s remarks before his departure to Tehran.
President Gül did not make any remark like "We will mediate" but everything he said revealed Turkey would encourage the start of contacts between Iran and the United States as the top agenda item of the international community.
I am writing this piece as Gül meets his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinajad. After the meeting, there is another one which we have not been informed in advance. The meeting is with Gül and Ayatollah Khamenei, the "Rehber" (the Great Leader), as the number one decision-making post in Iran.
We know that Gül will tell Khamenei that Iran should use this window of opportunity that is open in the Obama period, suggest to him to participate in the Afghanistan Conference as the United States calls and requests from Khamenei the release of two Iranian-American prisoners, as a "positive gesture" for the future.
We will see the results of Turkey’s role soon.
The additional indictment in the Ergenekon crime gang case is about to be released. It was expected two weeks ago and the media knew this. So the Istanbul Republic acting chief prosecutor’s denying some part of the information is not convincing. The second Ergenekon indictment is given special importance because it is about retired generals such as Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon, who served as force commanders, army commanders and commanders of war academies. It is approximately 1,000 pages. The information that some of the defendants attempted to oust the government through nondemocratic ways and organized Republic rallies in 2007 for the purpose is also included in the second indictment.
As soon as it is revealed, we have a chance to see whether or not the accusations are supported by concrete evidence. Announcement of the indictment has been delayed as questions have aroused about the future course of the Ergenekon case for the reason that no one is sure if the Ergenekon case is a legal payoff against the "military coup attempts."
An Ergenekon lawsuit process not targeting the coup attempts, such as "Moonlight" and the "Gold Coin" in 2003 and 2004, will unavoidably come to a deadlock at some point. Adequate amount of clues about the said military coup attempts are already included in the "Coup Diaries" associated with former Naval Force Commander Adm. Özden Örnek.
We don’t know yet if the "Coup Diaries" are in the second Ergenekon indictment. Will the "Coup Diaries" be a part of any Ergenekon indictment? We don’t know that either.
In the meantime, through "rhythmic" developments all the retired generals who are involved in the case were transferred from the prison in Silivri to the compassionate arms of the military hospitals. And that gives rise to suspicions that Ergenekon will be indeed a payoff time with the military coups.
At the 12th anniversary of the Feb. 28 process, presumably the last successful military coup, a series of activities were organized and the process became the subject of numerous articles. Is there any signal that the perpetrators of Feb. 28 will be taken to the court?
If the Ergenekon case does not take a direction to pursue the "military coup attempts" against the 2000s and against the current government, we cannot find a way for the prosecution of the Feb. 28 process, let alone the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup.
If the door is not closed on the military coups by means of "law and judicial process" but of "political power balances," that is if the Ergenekon does not pursue investigations on the "military coup attempts," having discussions about Feb. 28 and Sept. 12 today makes no sense. And in this case, talking about a "Constitution change" is unrealistic.
We shouldn’t forget that the 1982 Constitution, which stands as an obstacle in front of solutions to many problems and as a source of many questions, is the "product of a military coup." With this constitution, neither Turkey can be a democratic country nor can the rule of law be achieved in Turkey.
And the real obstruction before Turkey’s accession to the European Union is neither French President Nicolas Sarkozy nor his German counterpart Angela Merkel.
As long as the 1982 Constitution exists, there is no need for a "mine" search on Turkey’s way to the EU. Just for this very reasons and evocations, the Ergenekon issue is not an ordinary legal process. If it is not conducted as it should be, it still has to have a "boomerang" effect. And the "Ergenekon boomerang" may blackout Turkey’s future.
What could be the shortest definition of the Ergenekon? Having activities to topple down the elected government, to dysfunction Parliament and to create a coup environment by a military coup d’tat, it could be.What could seemingly provide the desired environment for a military coup? An environment of chaos, assassinations, sabotages and social upheavals. The Republic rallies in 2007 were the latter. Regardless of sincere feelings of the participants, the rallies were a tool envisaged by a "scenario" and by the screen writers to have a "military coup." The Ergenekon indictments can be convincing and effective if they are prepared in a way to reveal the "purpose" not only the "means" and if they are supported by concrete evidence.
An Ergenekon process, not including the "Coup Diaries," not pursuing the Feb. 28 process and not combining the Hrant Dink murder case with its own investigation phase, has a risk to be left half-done due to exhaustion.We cannot say that it will be so.But we can wish for not to be so.