March, 2016 Turkey

Author Mahmut Bozarslan
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Turkey has been debating the trench and barricade warfare the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has launched in towns in southeast Turkey. Many couldn’t understand why the organization chose that method of warfare. But there are widespread allegations in the southeast that the organization’s leadership was deceived by reports sent by the PKK rank and file that the people were ready to join a popular uprising.


In the first of a two-part series, a Turkish analyst describes his country’s strategic character, and how it is changing through its contact with the Syrian Civil War.

If you follow Iranian foreign policy wonks on Twitter you’ll have come across plenty of photos of Qasim Suleymani. The wiry silver-haired general is often surrounded by a cadre of Shia militants in Iraq, Hezbollah fighters in Syria or Iranian commandos back from special missions. He often has a knowing smile on his lips.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
It would come as no surprise to anyone if we were to conjecture that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not one of Washington’s favorite world leaders at present.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
This is from an editorial in The Guardian’s March 19, 1927 issue, titled “Turkish newspaper editors jailed over cartoon”:

“In Constantinople [Istanbul] the profession of satirist is evidently a dangerous trade. A Turkish paper recently published a cartoon which showed the women citizens of that country rising in a balloon by the expedient of throwing out bags of ballast labelled ‘Conscience,’ ‘Honour,’ and ‘Virtue.’

Politics, Turkey

Agence France-Presse
Turkey and the US have agreed that a political settlement may be possible this year in Cyprus, the Mediterranean island divided for four decades.

By M.K. Bhadrakumar
In an abrupt turnaround, Moscow has put out feelers to Turkey signalling interest in calming tensions in the bilateral relations and opening a new page. The Russian civil aviation authorities have lifted the ban on flights to Antalya on the Mediterranean, which is known as the Turkish Riviera and a popular destination for Russian tourists.

Author Mohammed A. Salih
ERBIL, Iraq — The recent declaration of a federal structure in northern Syria by the local Kurdish administration and its Arab and Assyrian allies is likely to put the Syrian Kurds further at odds with neighboring Turkey, as it will pose serious challenges to Ankara amid renewed conflict with its own Kurds..

NURAY MERT, hurriyetdailynews
After the controversial Iranian-Turkish citizen businessman Reza Zarrab was arrested in the U.S. last week, it was not only cheered by thousands of ordinary Turkish citizens but also welcomed by all circles of opposition and dissidence as a fresh chance to weaken the ruling party. This reaction from ordinary citizens who have lost trust in the Turkish judicial system is understandable. But it is quite problematic to expect U.S. justice to compensate for the injustices of Turkey’s over-politicized judicial system and to expect international pressure to compensate for the weakness of opposition here.

Politics, Turkey

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
It would be unthinkable if the storms of the ruling ideology that is a bizarre blend of neo-Ottomanism, Islamism and nationalism should not conquer academia as it conquered other walks of life; political, cultural and social.

The arrest of Reza Zarrab, the flamboyant, well-connected and controversial Iranian-Turkish gold trader, in US recently over a fraudulent scheme to help the Iranian government launder hundreds of millions of dollars and evade economic sanctions, has shaken the Turkish government and may reopen a 2013 corruption case that Ankara was trying to project as an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Allan Hennessy, theguardian
Another day, another bombing. This time, Brussels, the European administrative capital. Within minutes of the attack, the scaremongers came flying out of the blocks. This time they did not come straight for the “Muslamic infidel”. From Ukip to Katie Hopkins to columnists at The Telegraph, they were out to promote their Brexit agenda. But of course, they settled on Islamophobia in the end, having been shamed for using death as a soapbox from which to promote their Euroscepticism.

Europe, Terrorism, Turkey

BARÇIN YİNANÇ, hurriyetdailynews
Those familiar with the history of the Turkish press, especially foreign observers, may not be convinced if they were told that the media in Turkey was freer in the recent past compared to today.

Politics, Turkey

 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP)

Ben-Dror Yemini
Op-ed: The Turkish president's successful efforts to Islamize his country are responsible for the rise in terrorism, an obvious result; he has only himself to blame.
Up until the last decade, Turkey was the very model of a secular country, despite its absolute majority of Muslim citizens.

by Daniel Pipes, The Australian,
Originally published under the title "Erdoğan's Despotic Slide in Turkey is Bad News for Europe."

A rhetorical question by the time the Economist ran this cover in June 2013.
The Republic of Turkey, long a democratizing Muslim country solidly in the Western camp, now finds itself internally racked and at the center of two external crises, the civil war in next-door Syria and the illegal immigration that is
changing European politics. The prospects for Turkey and its neighbors are worrisome, if not ominous.


 By George Friedman
The recent attacks strike at the heart of two potential threats to IS.
The attacks in Belgium and Turkey must be considered together. They are attacks in the symbolic heartlands of two potential enemies of the Islamic State, Europe and Turkey. The attacks are meant to destabilize each country and recruit potential operatives from each country’s pool of possible jihadists.
There have been two attacks this week, both apparently by the Islamic State, first in Turkey on March 19 and then today in Belgium.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
At the time of the early video productions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu suggested a rather soft, kind and empathetic diagnosis for the bloodshed: “Past anger, alienations and insults [against the Sunnis] have caused a reaction [which is ISIL]. Such an accumulation of anger [ISIL’s anger] would not have existed if Sunni Arabs in Iraq were not alienated.” Replace the words “Sunni Arabs” with “Turkish Kurds” in his original text perhaps a similar understanding should emerge – minus the Kurds’ similar video productions and the prime minister’s empathetic diagnosis.

Politics, Turkey

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey today has been overpowered by a toxic mix of domestic political infighting and a misguided foreign policy that has bred the kind of terrorist attack that we saw once again in Istanbul over the weekend. The country’s misfortune is that the political elite is unable to come together even in the face of such a tragedy, let alone the ones we have seen in Ankara over these past five months, which left so many dead.

Politics, Turkey

Molly Crabapple, theguardian
On Saturday Isis bombed Istiklal Caddesi, the central street of Istanbul’s Beyoglu neighbourhood. Many complain about its chain stores and gentrification, but for me, it will always be the grand boulevard all others aspire to. Istiklal made Broadway look like a neon bauble, and the Champs Élysée seem insipid.

NURAY MERT, hurriyetdailynews
Two blasts have hit Turkey within a week and left us with all kinds of fears. First of all, naturally, we fear for our lives and our safety; there’s no such thing as all continuing our lives as usual, in order to “frustrate the terrorists’ goal of frightening us.” It is a big lie that we can fight and compete with terrorists by not being scared, since it is an asymmetrical situation in which they have bombs and determination to sacrifice their lives for a cause and we have no protection against any weapon and such radical determination. It is both stupid and unfair to expect ordinary people to express similar determination and risk their lives to frustrate terrorists.

Politics, Turkey

By M.K. Bhadrakumar
The parting of ways between Russia and Iran over the Syrian question has always been inevitable. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s talks with the Turkish leadership in Istanbul on Saturday may signify that Tehran has begun trimming sails for a new voyage on own steam.

A migrant shaves another at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni

Mark Mardell

Even as people struggle and drown on the river border between Greece and Macedonia the proposed solution to Europe's migration crisis is dissolving before our very eyes.
European Council President Donald Tusk's invitation letter to the two-day summit in Brussels this week admits gloomily "the catalogue of issues to be resolved before we can conclude an agreement is long".
Turkey is the key, and Turkey is the lock. The youthful, populous, problematic Muslim country is a practical conundrum and an existential threat to the EU's self-definition, seen by some as the classic shadow image, the threat of the other.

Fehim Işık on the news site Haberdar writes that political Islam, represented by AKP and Erdoğan has succeeded in bringing Kemalist nationalism, represented by Baykal (the former CHP leader) and the Turkic nationalism of MHP together on the shared ground of enmity against the Kurds.

 Europe's Faustian Pact with the Sultan

Anyone who haggled about the price of a carpet in a Turkish bazaar knows these guys are more reptilian than Henry Kissinger. They always get what they want by letting you leave with the impression you got what you want for a price way higher than you were initially inclined to pay.


Are recent Russian maneuvers signs of increasing hostilities or just part of a long-term plan? It’s no secret that the relationship between Russia and Turkey is dismal, with the countries clashing over their respective roles in the Syrian civil war. Russia backs the Syrian regime. Turkey backs the regime’s opponents.

After two days of negotiations, Turkey and the European Union reached a compromise agreement on a plan to reduce the flow of migrants from the Middle East to Europe. At a summit concluding March 18, the heads of government of the 28 EU members and their Turkish counterparts approved the plan, which should take effect March 20. While the deal could help reduce the number of migrants arriving in Europe, questions remain about the signatories' ability and commitment to fully enforce it.

Author Mustafa Akyol
The latest suicide bombing in downtown Ankara that killed 37 civilians naturally shook Turkey and heightened the nation’s worries about terrorism. It also supported, especially for foreign observers, Turkey’s concern over the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — and by extension, PKK-affiliated Kurdish forces in Syria, even if they are effective against the Islamic State.

Politics, Turkey

by Burak Bekdil, The Gatestone Institute
Columnist Seyfi Sahin wrote on January 31, "I believe that the gorillas and chimps living today in the forests of North Africa are cursed Jews. They are perverted humans that have mutated."
The 74th anniversary of an embarrassing tragedy took place in Turkey on February 24, 2016.

Author Ufuk Sanli
The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), denounced as a terrorist group by Turkey, last month inaugurated its first representative office abroad — in Moscow. A Kurdish speaker at the ceremony hailed the event as “a historic moment for the Kurdish people” before lauding his hosts: “Russia is a big power and a prominent actor in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not only an actor, but also a scriptwriter.”

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
Here is a recent chronology of Turkish political voting behavior which has, fortunately, ended chaos and brought about stability to the country:

Politics, Turkey

by Burak Bekdil, The Gatestone Institute
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (2nd from left) says his latest round of talks with Europe's leaders was bargaining "a la Kayseri," a Turkish city famous for its cunning merchants.
Turkey has been sliding into an ugly Islamist despotism. Yet its relations with the European Union (EU) it aspires to join have rarely been better. Some call it a mutually "transactional" improvement: "pragmatism."
Others, in less diplomatic language, call it Turkish blackmailing on the back of the refugee crisis.

Author Semih Idiz
Recent months have witnessed much talk, suggesting the long-awaited reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is around the corner. Uncharacteristically positive remarks about Israel from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and upbeat statements from Turkish government officials have also increased expectations.

Author Kadri Gursel, TranslatorSibel Utku Bila


Increasingly cornered and isolated both at home and abroad, Turkey's president is seeking to boost his public support by placing God directly at the center of his Islamist oratory. During his term as prime minister, Erdogan used to make long speeches at weekly AKP parliamentary meetings, which most television channels broadcast live.

Politics, Turkey

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey and Russia have been locked in an angry dispute over Syria ever since the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. That move by Turkey backfired by pushing Moscow into supporting Syrian Kurdish fighters who Ankara considers to be terrorists.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
“It’s time for condolences again - till the next” was this column’s title more than 12 years ago (Nov. 18, 2003,) after the twin Istanbul bombings that killed 60 people. Since then hundreds of thousands must been killed in mostly Muslim vs. Muslim conflicts and terror attacks, including regular bombing of mosques - of the “wrong” Muslim sect.

Politics, Turkey

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Less than a month after the last terrorist attack, which left 28 dead and scores injured in the Turkish capital, Ankara witnessed a new terrorist atrocity on Sunday evening that instantly killed 30 people and was followed by a mounting death toll due to the large number of seriously injured.


The EU and Turkey have held an emergency summit amid the worsening dispute between those parties over issues such as the effectiveness of Turkey’s use of the funds allocated by the EU for the resettlement of refugees, protection from illegal migration across the EU’s external borders, and assistance to Greece – a transit point for most of these displaced people. However, as much as can be understood from Angela Merkel’s speeches and interviews, there will be no review of the migration policy of the EU as a whole.

There will be no winner in this new deal, only losers, and refugees will be the first, writes Aktar [EPA]

Cengiz Aktar

On March 7, the European Union held yet another summit with Turkey on the topic of refugees flooding Europe. The meeting was a follow-up to the first summit of November 29, 2015, as well as countless bilateral and multilateral meetings on the same topic between Turkish, European and EU officials.

Party members stand during the second general assembly of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) at Ahmet Taner Kışlalı Sports Hall in Ankara on Jan. 24, 2016. AFP Photo

William Armstrong 

Turkey’s Kurdish issue is often framed simply as “Turkish military vs. Kurdish militants.” Since the collapse of the peace process last summer, hundreds of soldiers, militants and innocent civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands of locals displaced from their homes. Since 1980 tens of thousands have died and swathes of southeastern Anatolia have been militarized.

Author Metin Gurcan
According to the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO. As of March 1, the TSK has 610,095 personnel. Of this number, 315,229 (52%) are civilians conscripted for stints of either six or 12 months. When more than half of its personnel are conscripts, it is difficult to say that the TSK is made up of volunteers and professional personnel.


Published in Articles, By Lars Haugom

The Turkish military has no known intention to intervene in the political decision-making process. However, the military has retained a capacity to do so - both by means of its continued role in security policy making and its relative institutional autonomy. The extent of any military involvement in politics will largely depend on how the Kurdish issue is handled by the government. But it is still highly unlikely that any such involvement will take the form of a direct intervention.

SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ, hurriyetdailynews
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spent almost all of March 11 at the headquarters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), attending meetings with his senior aides and AKP executives to discuss a wide range of domestic political issues.

Politics, Turkey

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews

There is a celebratory mood in government circles about the agreement in principle arrived at between Turkey and the EU on the refugee crisis. This is premature though, since EU members still have to ratify the agreement on March 18.

Guy Verhofstadt, theguardian

Our increasingly divided and desperate European leaders are failing to deliver an effective collective response to the escalating refugee crisis. Instead of devising a strategy to protect those fleeing the barbarity of Assad, Islamic State (Isis) and the Russian air force, EU leaders are obsessed with devising a system to “stem the flow” – in other words to push desperate refugees back into the Aegean sea.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony commemorating the placement of the final section of Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge in Istanbul on 6 March 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

Fadi Hakura, Associate Fellow, Europe Programme
Political interference in monetary policy and an uncompromising approach to foreign affairs are hampering Turkey’s efforts to escape the middle income trap.
All is not well in the Turkish economy. At a time when global financial markets are jittery, Turkey is witnessing a rapid depreciation of the lira and accelerating inflation, driven largely by the political interference of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish central bank.

Economy, Turkey

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

In 2014, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that a more suitable PR slogan for Turkey should be “Discover the Power,” instead of “Discover the Potential,” which was recommended by the country’s union of exporters. So, discover the power – in a few lines of facts. In the same year, 9.2 percent of Turkish women could not read or write exhibiting an illiteracy rate five times higher than Turkish men.

Author Ben Caspit
A fascinating and volatile drama has been unfolding in recent weeks around the intrigue that begins in Jerusalem and winds through Moscow, Damascus, Beirut, Ankara, Tehran and Canberra. Israel, Russia, Turkey, Australia and Iran are the key players, while Syria and Lebanon have supporting roles. To the players in the field, the game is reminiscent of a regional chessboard with a lot more than two contestants.

Author Mahmut Bozarslan
In the middle of heavy clashes Feb. 19 between Turkish security forces and groups affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Diyarbakir’s Sur district came news that a building had collapsed. Three special forces soldiers in the building were killed. Official statements did not make clear what happened.

Patrick Kingsley and Jennifer Rankin, theguardian
What does the deal involve?
It sounds simple enough: one Syrian refugee on the Greek islands will be returned to Turkey and, in exchange, a Syrian asylum seeker in Turkey will be found a home in Europe.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey appears unable to generate any good news these days. Developments point to a country that is in a rapid downward spiral. If you ask President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, as well as their ardent followers, Turkey has never had it so good.

Politics, Turkey

Erdogan’s War on Media Enters a New Phase

Aykan Erdemir, FDD Policy Brief
The Turkish government continued its systematic crackdown on independent media today, taking over Zaman, the country’s top-circulation opposition newspaper, and four other outlets owned by the same company. Simultaneously, CNN Türk announced the cancellation of programs by two of its veteran anchors, one of whom recently hosted a former deputy prime minister critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.