The elections in Turkey this week took many people by surprise. The AK Party won, which was expected. But it carried the vote with an unexpectedly large margin.
Should we be worried? Barry Rubin says yes and no…
Answer A: In political terms, the Justice and Development (AK) party which won 47 percent of the votes in Turkey’s July 22 elections and will have almost two-thirds of the parliament seats is a pragmatic, conservative, business-oriented moderate party despite its roots as an Islamic-oriented one.
Answer B: In societal terms, the Justice and Development (AK) party is probably transforming Turkey from a secular into a more Islamic society, with a big effect on the status of women, the situation of minorities, and Turkey’s foreign policy.
If the Democrats in our country have their way and the war in Iraq is aborted quickly, Turkey will be front and center in the daily news. Leaving aside Iran’s plans for the moment, you can expect a quick invasion of northern Iraq by the Turkish army and a repression of the Kurds. Given the legendary Peshmerga fighters, it will be a bloody, bitter, and prolonged conflict. Given the outlaw nature of the Kurdish PKK, deemed a terrorist organization, and its clandestine profile in Turkey, northern Iraq and in the Kurdish section of Iran, expect the worst: a lot of civilian deaths and what Turkey will see as valid incursions by their army into the Kurdish areas. Attempting to negotiate anything will be futile, though one can expect the perfidious French to make such noises.
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At American Thinker James Lewis’ “Turkey Betrayed Again” might be more appropriately titled “France’s Envy and Hatred Continues to Cause World-Wide Problems.”
Looking at the results of the election, Mr. Lewis is rightly worried about the growing fundamentalist Islamism in Turkey. It has been a political fact since Turkey’s inception as a nation-state after World War I. Ataturk was genius enough to hold the Islamists at bay – e.g., he forbid the fez, had the Koran published in Turkish, developed a Turkish alphabet, severely curtailed the traditional garb for Muslim women, etc. It was he who dragged Turkey closer to the western world, but as much as Turkey and the world needs such a man, we will not see his like again.
Mr. Rubin says that the Islamic conservative base of the AK party remains to be seen:
The party got rid of some of its hardliners and brought in a lot of non-Islamic conservatives and technocrats. It has gone slowly and carefully on making any changes regarding secularism while the economy has improved under its rule (though this probably would have happened any way). Among a lot of intellectuals, it has now become fashionable to embrace the party, ridiculing fears about its intentions.
For America, though, Turkey has caused serious problems and cannot be considered trustworthy. Its relationship with France and hopes for admission into the EU led it to renege on its promise to allow the US to invade Iraq from the north, as was originally planned.
Meanwhile, as Mr. Lewis points out, France continued its cynical con game. Not only did the US get shafted by France (via Turkey’s refusal to let us have a base there), but Turkey was left holding the short end of the stick:
Modernists are feeling desperate. They have gambled and lost at least three important battles: First, they placed their hopes on the United States and the Atlantic alliance. That strengthened their domestic position until 9/11/01. Then they placed their hopes on the European Union. When the United States knocked out Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Turks voted to block the US Fourth Army Corps from invading Iraq from the North. They were egged on by Jacques Chirac and his Euro-imperialist ally Dominique de Villepin (now facing their day in court over corruption and forgery charges).
Chirac and Villepin ambushed Colin Powell at the United Nations, whipped up an anti-American hate campaign in Europe, and helped to block America’s move to attack Saddam from the north. As a result, Saddam’s Baath Party was given enough time to organize a resistance, and to tie down American troops in the war we see today. Without French sabotage, the Iraq war might have been over by now. It didn’t help that the French gave EU passports to Saddam’s fleeing generals, who promptly disappeared somewhere in Europe to carry on sabotage of American efforts.
Mr. Lewis notes that Turkey thought its betrayal of the US would be the leverage it needed into the EU, but the latter, now brimming with angry Islamists, is wary of what these election returns mean. Besides, the long shadow of the Ottoman Empire still lies over Eastern Europe. They aren’t likely to accede to Turkey’s partnership, no matter what party is in power.
Turkey will be a major player if we pull out precipitously from Iraq. Don’t underestimate the damage it will do in the north.