Cüneyt Ülsever - English

Turkey’s ’multi-centered’ foreign policy

7 Temmuz 2009
Some columnists such as Erdal Şafak and Taha Akyol see the new Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as an extraordinary minister and praise him every chance they have. So do I see Davutoğlu as an important academic, a humble but principled personality and a man of patience, and I remember his always-smiling eyes. Davutoğlu makes the claim to bring new breath, an understanding to Turkish foreign policy! Therefore, he claims to have a multi-centered foreign policy that depends on direct mutual interest of countries that we have bilateral relations with, aims to have zero problems with neighbors, and makes Turkey a central country in the Middle East and independent from the U.S. backwashes.

Davutoğlu paid a visit to the United States after Barack Obama was elected president and made the following remarks to describe Turkey-U.S. relations in the new period, "Turkey’s foreign policy choices and priorities overlap with Obama."


I can only make an assessment on multi-centered foreign policy through an approach based on conclusion.

I am of the opinion that if a multi-centered policy cannot be anchored to anywhere, or rather clearly if it is not equipped with basic principles, it will eventually transform into a policy that cannot reach any conclusion anywhere and that can try to please everyone. If I look at Turkish foreign policy from a conclusion-centered point of view, I see the following picture:


1) On the eve of Apr. 24, Armenian Day, Turkey approached Armenia and talked about opening the border without preconditions.

2) Obama was pleased to hear the developments and did not utter the word "genocide" on Apr. 24.

3) But Azerbaijan, on the other hand, got fumed and challenged Turkey. Obviously, Turkey couldn’t convince Azerbaijan on the Armenian initiative. And Turkey promptly made a U-turn to give a guarantee to Azerbaijan.

4) As Russia assured Azerbaijan regarding the Upper Karabakh issue, Azerbaijanis decided to sell natural gas to Russia in big amounts. Therefore, the Western product Nabucco project, to paralyze the Russian hegemony in the energy market, was harmed severely.

5) Turkey announced partnership with Russia in the "Blue Stream" project and began to talk about a strategic partnership with Russia, just about the time it had an anchor with Obama.

6) Since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offended Israeli President Shimon Peres through his remark "You know how to kill" in Davos, Turkey-Israeli relations have not been on track.

The number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey has dropped radically as sports events are being suspended.

But most importantly, Israel does not want to see Turkey as a mediator in Israeli-Syrian talks.

7) Erdoğan fell into a serious trap on the "Mine Bill" issue (See: the visits of Israeli ambassador to Ankara to southeastern Turkey and to Parliament). Erdoğan, who became a hero in the Arab World with his "One Minute" move against Peres in Davos, this time, lost prestige among Arabs.

8) Turkey became the first country to congratulate incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following the controversial presidential elections, despite the United States and the European Union. However, the very same Iranian administration wants to see Turkey neither as a broker in Iran-U.S. relations nor in Iran-EU affairs.


9) Neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt accepts Turkey as a dominant country in the Middle East. They are even disturbed by Turkey’s approach to Iran.

10) In the last period, Turkey mediated between the West, which refuses to have direct talks, and Hamas and Hezbollah. This is the only solid improvement in hand!

In a conclusion-centered approach the multi-center foreign policy does not look good!
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The ruling AKP at a crossroads

2 Temmuz 2009
First, let me include a note here: the most nonsensical remark in recent times is, "Police are the assurance of the regime," (by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and columnists Mehmet Altan and Cengiz Çandar). Police are only a guarantee of the regime in fascist and autocrat administrations. In democracies, the Police Department is just an institution implementing necessary laws in order to provide security.

This is a divine duty but since democracy has multi-dimensions and cannot work on a single dimension only, no one and no institution cannot alone assure democracy.

I wrote this note because on-going discussions reveal who contradicts with whom!

Columnists saying, "Police are the assurance of the regime" have, at the same time, an urge to add, "The military is not the assurance of the regime."

There is something going on between the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, and the Security/Justice Depts.!

And please let’s not allow anyone to serve this as a struggle for democracy!


I’ve been writing for two days: the United States is looking for a new ally in Turkey and that’s why we have the devil to pay.

The Fethullah Gülen Movement that seems influential in the Security and Justice Depts. has been playing a critical role in U.S. Northern Iraq policy since 2003. With the March 29 local polls, however, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was defeated despite the Gülen Movement’s support in Southeastern Turkey. Since then, U.S. President Barack Obama has been looking for a new ally to pull it out from the Iraq quagmire.

I wrote yesterday, the said document fulfilled its function and will not be in use anymore! According to newspapers, the civilian prosecutor’s office arrested Navy Captain Dursun Çiçek for "being a member of the Ergenekon crime gang," not for having his signature on the said document!

We’ll see when it will be served again.


The AKP is at a crossroads!

Erdoğan has buried the hatchet with the Gülen Movement since 2003, but especially since the July 22, 2007 general elections.

It’s a common belief that the pro-Gülen is nested in the Security and Justice mechanisms. I, personally, am doubtful of Gülen and his close circle’s ability to control these departments.

The original Ergenekon case, which I believe was mostly set up abroad (see: tons of documents owned by Tuncay Güney), brought the AKP and Gülen sympathizers, or those who pretend so, together.

But now, will the AKP be able to cooperate with the TSK in Northern Iraq and in Southeastern Turkey and not miss the "Historic opportunity", as President Abdullah Gül put? For such collaboration the TSK wants the government to distance itself from Gülen.

Will the AKP be able to seek cooperation with the TSK, which was forced to be an alternative to this strong movement that the AKP has become a good friend with since 2003?

This is the question, I think.


The AKP disappointed President Obama on the Armenian issue. Plus it scared Azerbaijan away and pushed Azeris to Russia! Azerbaijan is about to kill the Nabucco Project by selling natural gas to Russia in exchange for a solution in the Upper Karabakh conflict.

Israel doesn’t want Turkey’s brokerage anymore. The World Public Opinion company in the United States released a study recently showing that Erdoğan’s popularity, which increased with his "one minute" show against Israeli President Shimon Peres during the World Economic Forum in Davos, was shattered by the "mine bill".

That is to say, the AKP is not efficient as far as U.S. interests are concerned. If the AKP cannot provide assistance to the United States in Northern Iraq, things will get worse!

The AKP is indeed at a crossroads, both inside and in the presence of the United States.
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Obama’s difference!

1 Temmuz 2009
Obama is leaving the Greater Middle Eastern project behind; the term ’moderate Islam’ is falling into disuse. Obama now needs an ally that will protect northern Iraq against other elements in Iraq if necessary and will assist U.S. troops in leaving Iraq. A possible ally is the TSK! If the TSK and the Turkish government work together in peace, the U.S. will be delighted. As columnists, especially pro-government or Islamist colleagues, were getting caught up by Obama-mania, I was writing, "Only the waiter changed, not the kitchen." But, I added, "The way he serves makes a difference, though."

Here is the difference: the difference that the new waiter has made without changing anything in the kitchen!


Obama wants to withdraw U.S. troops from the region by turning Iraq over to safe hands and not jeopardizing its hegemony over Iraqi oil and natural gas that they confiscated in a difficult and nonsensical war.

In the meantime, we experience "coup-mania" in Turkey in a period where we have never been so close to a zero coup possibility!

After April 27, when I said, "This is a coup," during an NTV program, columnists excitedly refused the term and said "[Chief of General Staff] Büyükanıt doesn’t even know this." Now, the coup possibility is so far away that these same columnists are now bullying the present Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ!

Since he is not afraid, there is no coup possibility in the air!


What is happening, then?

The United States is having a different ally in Turkey!

1) Obama is leaving the Greater Middle Eastern project behind; therefore, the term "Moderate Islam" is falling into disuse.

2) Therefore, the new U.S. administration does not need the Fethullah Gülen movement anymore. Even more so, it is a necessity to approach the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, as a possible new ally and to alienate the Gülen movement!

3) In fact, the Gülen movement, despite all its efforts in 2003 to 2009, has already shown that it has no influence over Kurds in southeastern Turkey and in northern Iraq. The results of the March 29 local polls are self-evident.


Obama, in the new period, needs an ally that will protect northern Iraq against other elements in Iraq if necessary and will assist U.S. troops in leaving Iraq. A possible ally is the TSK! If the TSK and the Turkish government work together in peace, the United States will be delighted. In fact, didn’t President Gül announce, "For the first time, two institutions, the TSK and the government, are thinking alike," and termed this as an "historic opportunity" for the resolution of the Kurdish issue?


At a time when the fear of a coup is almost zero, why is a "piece of paper" causing a big stir?

After the March 29 local elections, officials are engaged in heavy works. That’s why! And that’s why the document is appropriated with the date "April 2009"!

Two possibilities about the document are coming toward the same thing:

1) We saw during the airborne attacks to the north that the TSK included any type of individuals, even if they are minorities! They have served until recently.

2) The Gülen movement is so expanded now that to orchestrate it from a single center is impossible.

I am of the opinion that whether or not the document is original, it was not prepared by the central will of both sides!


I think we will never learn if it is genuine or not. The document served its purpose. The ball is in the government’s court and it fulfilled its function!

Now, it is the government’s decision!

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will either go its separate ways with the Gülen movement, its close ally since 2003, but even more closely since the July 22 elections, and will benefit from this "historic opportunity" with the TSK, orÉ

To be continued tomorrow... 
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Are the US’s allies in Turkey changing?

30 Haziran 2009
I have a mindset that whenever change or unrest occurs or whenever a new document is introduced to cause a stir in Turkey, I immediately think of a development abroad. I cannot help it but I am trying to look at the incident in Turkey from the outside.

For instance, no one can convince me that the Ergenekon case was prepared by internal dynamics only.

I noted several things about the "infamous document" on Sunday. I said that I found this document’s being appropriately dated as April 2009 interesting.

But why was it dated April 2009?

The said document was revealed on June 4. A case was filed in an Istanbul court on June 6. The document was published by Taraf daily on June 12. But the publisher used "April 2009" for the date.

On the other hand, Fethullah Gülen on April 8, 2009 released a paper on www.herkul.org and gave a brief on the content of the said document under the title "tahşiye" on June 4. The word "tahşiye" comes from the Ottoman language, a word that the late Bediüzzaman Said Nursi most often used in his Risale-i Nur Collection. It means a small explanatory note jotted down on a book page or a piece of paper.

Gülen, in his statement, writes: "God forbid... People who act as if they are on our side may be forced to have Kalashnikovs someday and be involved in action. Others may say afterwards ’Look, they are armed if necessary.’"

He, in a way, makes a prediction about the "Plan to finish off the AKP and Fethullah Gülen". On the other hand, the Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ in his April 14 statement openly pointed out Gülen as a target!

Now, let’s look at the recent past:

1) Turkish-American relations were harmed gravely by the March 1, 2003 deployment note in Parliament. The United States, for the first time, began to look for a new ally instead of Turkey in its policies in the region.

2) The Bush Administration back then planned to "change" some regimes in the Middle East. So they supposedly proscribed democracy. Democracy and Islam recalled the "Gülen Movement," rightfully at first. The Greater Middle East Project was designed on a development that the Gülen Movement already experienced and that may evolve into democracy.

And I think this was a good decision, theoretically. In 2003-2009, this alliance did work and the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, devolved.

3) The Bush administration’s selfishness screwed up in the Greater Middle East Project and failed to establish order in Iraq.

4) On the other hand, the Gülen Movement between 2003 and 2009 exerted tremendous efforts to be effective both in northern Iraq and in Southeastern Turkey. They fed expectations inside the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in a way that the party could wipe off the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, in the Southeast.

And the expectation was of a great deal of interest to U.S. northern Iraq policies.

5) However, that didn’t happen. The AKP was crushed in the southeast on March 29 and it emerged that the Gülen Movement was not very influential on Kurds.

6) In the mean time, Barack Obama was elected president and started to look for new allies to help the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and to protect U.S. interests in the country as he promised previously.

7) A new ally in Turkey could have been the TSK under Gen. Başbuğ; the ally that has all the required qualifications and has not been cold to U.S. policies in northern Iraq since March 1.

8) The new ally, however, would introduce new terms: the deactivation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, by the United States and putting a distance between themselves and the Gülen Movement.

9) In fact Obama was ready to make a U-turn and was aware that the "old allies" in Turkey were disturbed by the Greater Middle East Project.

I’ll continue tomorrow.
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Thought atmosphere in Turkey

23 Haziran 2009
The attitude of intellects in Turkey about events/documents determines a question: "Can I benefit from this event/document, or not?"

I apologize for exceptions here, but a large number of intellectuals whose thought system is supposed to be built on an independent way of thinking are affiliated with some things and they look at events/documents from that window of thought or politics of that affiliation, also known as the principle of "serve the purpose".

Case studies by Professors Binnaz Toprak and Yılmaz Esmer, and Tarhan Erdem were always analyzed in the light of "serve the purpose principle". Research results not serving the purpose were always taken as if a curse.


Now, we have a document in hand that is a shame for Turkey in any case. But we don’t know yet whether it is real or not. Criminal investigation will determine that. If the original document is not revealed, the investigation will be impossible. Still "our intellectuals" have already made their attitudes clear.

Those who believe the document is original and "serves the purpose" act in the following way:

The Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, made military coup d’Žtats one after the other, released various notes on some certain individuals and made false accusations about some. So, this document must have been real!

In a cartoon by Salih Memecan, two men with the said document in hand are talking. One asks the other: "May 27?" The other answers "Real!" The first asks again, "March 12?" and the other answers, "Real! And that goes on... "Sept. 12?" real, "Feb. 28?" real, "Apr.27?" realÉ

The man asking questions finally shows the document and asks one more time: "This document?" This time the other replies "It could be fabricated!" (Sabah daily, June 17, 2009)

According to Memecan, people who are waiting for the results of the criminal investigation are stupid despite all these real coups.

I, as a stupid person waiting for the criminal investigation report despite all coups, remember, "once guilty always guilty!" or, "give a dog bad name and hang him!"

I, as a person who was put before the court during the Feb. 28 process and who said, ’This is a military note!" on NTV on the morning of Apr. 27, 2007, still prefer the document be examined at the criminal lab.

But some friends love to yell, "Revenge, revenge!"


Another example is by Ali Bayramoğlu, a man whom I’ve never doubted his intellectual capacity. On the first day, Bayramoğlu wrote the following:

"Let’s accept that despite all the developments, all efforts of conciliation and civilization, the military, as an institution or a group, dares to destroy the legitimate government and to put a certain group of people on a target point." (Yeni Şafak daily, June 16, 2009)

Bayramoğlu’s opinion is certain even on the first day of the incident!

He wrote the following the next morning: "We’ll continue to ask questions and be doubtfulÉ This document or another one for that matter could be fabricated. But ten of them are genuineÉ" (Yeni Şafak daily, June 17, 2009)

Bayramoğlu seemed not to insist on his opinion but still insisted on an approach of the "once guilty always guilty" opinion towards the TSK.


Thought atmosphere in Turkey badmouths those that are not "serving the purpose" but places one on a pedestal if it "serves the purpose".

The fact is that the document is a shame for Turkey in any case. Yet we don’t know if it is genuine or not!
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Ahmadinejad and the Middle East

16 Haziran 2009
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected president in Iran, announcing victory in the first round after a record voter turnout of 80 percent. Attempts to see the result as "fraud" ended in smoke and Western claims fizzled out. Among these claims voiced by experts on Iran were those saying that Ahmadinejad would face a reaction for ruining the economy and that Iranian people want reforms and integration with the West.

Though Mir Hussein Musavi in the reformist wing conquered the hearts of Westerners, he lost the election by a large margin.

Just like in Turkey, it is confirmed in Iran once again that modern people are in the minority and conservatives are in the majority.

Despite the economy going backward, the poor, who increase in number every day, leaned on Ahmadinejad. Moreover, they put their ideological choice before their economic needs.

* * *

I am interested in the Iranian elections in terms of balances in the Middle East. In this sense, Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy in the new period is a matter of curiosity.

Some claim Ahmadinejad will adopt rather soft policies in this term, especially as he has Barack Obama as the president in the United States. I disagree with them.

I think some do not want to understand what ideology means, in Iran in particular. They even presume that Islamist political ideology has grasped only the poorly educated group. They try to establish an inverse relationship between education levels and ideology.

* * *

But in organizations following political Islam, including al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, the leaders are educated quite well.

Research shows that the central administrative body of al-Qaeda consists of many members with Ph.D.s and master’s degrees; university graduates are among the less educated in their ranks. Interestingly enough, most have degrees in physics, medicine, chemistry and engineering.

That means that physicists with Ph.D.s are determined to convert the entire world to Islam, saving it from Christian and Jewish imperialists. For that, they see getting killed in the name of Allah and Islam as the greatest honor of all. Ahmadinejad himself received a Ph.D. in transportation engineering from the Science and Technology University in Iran in 1997.

* * *

Ahmadinejad is a man who sincerely believes that Israel must be eradicated in the Middle East, and for that cooperation is needed with Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Palestine (Hamas).

Moreover, U.S. collaborators in the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian administrations must be taken down!

No one can convince Iran that it does not need nuclear weapons to stand up against the U.S. and Israel, or even the European Union. In order to buy some time, Iran is ready to make any moves in the presence of the West.

* * *

Ahmadinejad has faith that taking an additional step for Islam will bring him closer to God.

This ideal is meaning of his life. And now, he has won enough votes to make him believe that the Iranian people agree with his struggle. Moreover, the majority let him know that ruining the economy is unimportant.

More difficult days await us in the Middle East!
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Obama, the Middle East and the EU

9 Haziran 2009
The address of U.S. President Barack Obama last week in the Egyptian capital Cairo conquered the hearts of Muslims. Following the former U.S. President George W. Bush’s obnoxious speech, Muslims found Obama’s speech very friendly. As Obama mentioned Turkey and got into discussion with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy about Turkey’s accession to the European Union, he was almost called "Dear Hussein."

And we have begun to think that he would even convert to Islam.

But I have said since day one that Obama, as a Democrat, of course exerts efforts to bring a new style of approach to U.S. foreign policy. He wants to adopt an understanding of a multi-center rather than a single-center world. However, as all the previous U.S. presidents, Obama too took an oath to protect his country’s national interests.

The main difference between Obama and Bush is that Obama announced in advance that he would adopt a "consult first and then strike if necessary" approach rather than the opposite.


Obama’s withdrawing troops from Iraq and Iraq’s self-determination on its fate is not the same thing.

Handing over administration in Iraq to the Iraqis, more precisely, does not mean that Iraq will be able to sell its crude oil freely to any country they want.

And the United States’ seeking dialogue with Iran, as in the Israeli example, does not mean that the right to produce nuclear arms is Iran’s domestic issue.

To the more, Iran’s relations with Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas continue in the future as they are today, this will never be a free foreign policy choice of an independent country.

The best example for the "consult first and then strike" policy is Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States searched dialogue channels with Taliban first in the Af-Pac region but as Taliban took over the control in the Pakistani Swat region, they did not say, "We cannot do anything.

This is Pakistan’s own issue."

I am not writing all these to criticize U.S. foreign policy or my purpose is not to blame Obama for hypocrisy.

For the biggest imperial state of the world, seeking sustainability in status quo around the world goes by nature. And Obama’s real mission is the protection of U.S. interests as long as the status quo works in favor of the United States and where there is U.S. interest.

Think about it for a second, what could’ve happened if the Magnificent Suleyman had said "I am the ruler of the seven worlds and I’ve decided to scale down the Ottoman state in order to have dialogue with other states."


In an international order based on voluntary give-and-takes, Obama’s love for Turkey is not just for Turkey’s submission to the U.S. but also for U.S. expectations of Turkey.

First of all, the membership of Turkey, as one of the most crowded countries in Europe and a U.S. ally, to the EU will be a key in the hands of the United States in the U.S.-Germany-France chest game.

On the other hand, as the United States pulls out from Iraq its closest friend to entrust northern Iraq is Turkey. If Turkey overcomes the outlawed-Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, issue, it would be the strongest guarantor state behind northern Iraq after the United States leaves Iraq. In fact, negotiations continue.


Obama is an excellent orator, and his team applies a perfect public relations strategy.

But I cannot help myself but to think, "Let’s see what they want" as my elder kisses me on the check.
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Let’s accept it: Our mentality is different than EU’s

3 Haziran 2009
Yesterday, I wrote about a field study titled "Radicalism and Extremism Research" by Professor Yılmaz Esmer and shared my opinion on the results. According to the findings, Turkish people do not want neighbors who do not believe in God (75 percent), who drink (72 percent), who live out of wedlock (67 percent), who are Jews (64 percent), who are Christians (52 percent) and who are an American family (43 percent). Eighty-six percent of participants believe the United States, and 76 percent believe the European Union want to divide us.

Columnists analyzing the results point out lack of tolerance in society and distrust toward others. I, on the other side, made the following comment for the study:

People who cannot stand others and think others will harm them cannot trust others. They believe others will divide the country. The reason is these people have no self-confidence and lack proper personality development.

And it’s natural for people with low self-esteem to answer a question "Which is a priority for you?" as "religion" (Islam-CU) (62 percent). It is also normal if only 16 percent of participants have "laicism" as an answer and 13 percent as "democracy."


Be it a congregation or a community or a group or a nation, people who cannot stand others and are afraid of others cannot be "individuals." Or what’s more, you cannot say they have strong personality.

This is where we break up with the European Union!

Perhaps some Europeans stay away from others or cannot stand others or are afraid of others or hostile against others, but I am sure that a similar field study in the EU would not give figures as high as those in this study.

The reason is that most Europeans have more self-confidence than us. Therefore they have a different pattern of personality development. The European society consists of people who know how to make personal choices.

Don’t ever think that they don’t care about their own religion. Europeans only have less share of religion in worldly matters.

They are more sensitive in research, questioning and obedience to authority than our society. They have sensitivity towards individual rights, therefore democracy and secularism.

Europeans are even more hawkish than Turks who give importance to "sufficient income" (4 percent) about priorities.


Esmer’s research is thought-provoking. Turkey’s geopolitical and even economic integration with the EU is possible, but how Turks and EU citizens become "one" and melt in the same pot as we have such a different mindset. That, I don’t get it.


It is really difficult for me to see that we will be an EU member as 76 percent of our people believe the EU would divide us and that we are allies with the United States as 86 percent of Turks believe Americans want to divide us.

According to Esmer’s study, the government should pay a great deal of attention to the EU membership bid and should not even show the trace of populism in relations with the EU. Then, the question is this:

Does the AKP do politics despite its grassroots?
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