Monday, September 13, 2010


In under-reported but very fascinating news, the Prime Minister of Turkey has won a fairly decisive victory in the form of Constitutional amendments weakening the military and the courts.

I just want to say that Turkey continues to be a fascinating player in the Middle East, as this vote pretty handily illustrates. There are so many competing interests, so it is difficult to figure out where to place Turkey on the "with us" or "agin us" scale.

Case in point:
  1. Prime Minister Erdogan is head of a religious Muslim party.

  2. Turkey has a strange Constitution that uses the military as another branch of government, which checks the power of the Executive.

  3. Turkey's military has been instrumental in protecting the secular nature of the nation, whereas Erdogan's party has tried to increase the reach of religion in the nation.

  4. The Turkish military is uncomfortable with Erdogan, and there have been rumors and investigations into coup plots, although nothing particularly substantive emerged.

  5. This election marks 30 years to the day since the military coup in 1980 that brought three years of military control, which largely stabilized the country after a spate of political killings, but curtailed the political rights of the nation for a while.

  6. The E.U. pressed for these reforms, so their victory increases the chance of Turkey joining the E.U. (although many barriers remain, including Germany's resistance to opening up to immigration from Turkey).

  7. This means that the E.U. has increased the democracy in Turkey (by weakening the military), but it has also increased the power of the religious Muslim party.

  8. Also, lately, Turkey has become closer to Iran and more distant from Israel thanks to the terrible foreign policy of Netenyahu's party, and the horrible Avigdor Lieberman.

  9. The United States is uncomfortable with Turkey's relationship to Iran, unhappy with its divisions from Israel.

  10. The United States has also relied heavily on logistical support from Turkey for the War in Iraq, making it a key military ally. Hence our inability to call a spade a spade, where the Armenian Genocide is concerned.

  11. However, Turkey has also complicated our endeavour in Iraq, thanks to their invasion of Kurdistan in 2008, sparked by Kurdish separatist group the PKK. At the time, President Bush was between Iraq and a hard place (ha ha) thanks to his pretty vehement belief that nations have the right to strike against nations that harbor terrorists.
So, Turkey: closer to Iran, or to the European Union? Are its interests aligned with the United States?

Clearly, there's no one answer. They're a pluralist democracy outside of Christian Europe, mired in the complex geopolitics of the Middle East but with diplomatic and trade ties with the West. All of which makes for a fascinating nation.