Saudi Arabia backs Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister

Turkey’s Putin Deserves to Go

by Michael Rubin, MEF

ISTANBUL – Yesterday Turkey’s constitutional court overturned a new law that would have allowed women in the secular republic – established in 1923 by the Westernizing Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – to wear Muslim headscarves in universities.

It now appears all but certain that this summer the court will go even further when it decides a larger case against the country’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development (AK) Party. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AK stand accused of violating “the principles of a democratic and secular republic.” Penalties could range from a suspension of the party’s public financing to its disbandment and the suspension of its leadership from politics. Such a development should be welcome in the United States.

Some former U.S. diplomats argue that the court is antidemocratic. “The party’s neutering would be a serious setback for democracy,” wrote Mark Parris, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, on this page last month. Such sentiment, though, exculpates the offender and could land a mortal blow to democracy in Turkey.

Mr. Erdogan’s impatience with the rule of law and his dictatorial tendencies make him appear less an aggrieved democrat, and more a protégé of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – a man whom Western officials now acknowledge to be a dictator. It may be too late in Moscow, but it’s déjà vu all over again in Ankara.

Both diplomats and Turks embraced Mr. Erdogan’s rise. In February 2001, Turkey’s economy crashed. In a single day, the stock market dropped 18%, the Turkish lira lost one-third of its value, and per capita income plunged. Corruption scandals abounded and delegitimized established leaders. Mr. Erdogan’s promises of a fresh start resonated not only with the Turkish public – who saw a fresh face untainted at the time by corruption – but also with a wide array of U.S. officials, who saw in him and his party a liberalizing force that could reconcile political Islam with Western democracy.

In the November 2002 elections, the AKP won 32%, a landslide by Turkish standards, and one amplified into unprecedented control because a quirk in Turkish electoral law gave Mr. Erdogan’s party almost two-thirds of the parliament. Benefiting from his predecessor’s IMF reform package and a huge influx of funds from Saudi Arabia and Gulf emirates, Mr. Erdogan presided over economic growth averaging nearly 7% per year.

Slowly, the gap between myth and reality widened. As the AKP grew secure amidst first parliamentary and then municipal electoral success, Mr. Erdogan turned on the democracy he had opportunistically embraced. He instituted an interview process to ensure the political loyalty of professional civil servants and, in an attempt to pack the judiciary with his own apparatchiks, he tried to force almost half Turkey’s judges to retire early. When the courts found against the government for illegal seizure of opponents’ property, Mr. Erdogan refused to honor the verdicts.

The crisis heightened last summer: Rather than continue a long tradition of seeking a consensus candidate for the presidency, an office meant to be above politics, Mr. Erdogan imposed his own party’s choice (the unabashedly Islamist Abdullah Gul) over opposition objections.

Mr. Erdogan’s disdain for press independence rivals the Kremlin’s. He has sued more journalists than any predecessor, and has leaned on the owners of media outlets to rein in editors. Those who do not abide the prime minister’s wishes face consequences. Police have referenced wiretaps of journalists during interrogations of editors.

In April 2007, Turkey’s Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) – staffed entirely by Erdogan appointees – seized control of Sabah newspaper and ATV television, flagships of Turkey’s second-largest media company. Earlier this year, they transferred ownership to an Erdogan ally after the prime minister stepped in to force the withdrawal of all competing bidders, and also removed state bank governors who’d objected to financing the sale because of the proposed loan’s breach of their bylaws. The AKP used its absolute majority in parliament to shut down the ensuing investigation.

That too is a pattern. His cabinet faces almost 30 corruption probes, and the prime minister more than a dozen. Mr. Erdogan has transformed parliamentary immunity into carte blanche for profit.

Rather than show contrition in the face of the constitutional court’s review, Mr. Erdogan has accelerated his attacks on civil liberties. Even the vice president of the constitutional court has claimed that he is a victim of illegal police surveillance.

An autocratic Turkey is not in U.S. or European interests. Mr. Erdogan pays lip service to Europe but disdains its institutions, arguing, for example, that only Muslim clerics are qualified to adjudicate Turkish human rights.

Rather than bridge the gap between Islam and the West, he has widened it by encouraging the most virulent anti-American and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. According to the Pew Global Attitudes survey, Turkey is now the world’s most anti-American country.

Electoral success should never put politicians above the rule of law. That Mr. Erdogan won 47% in the last election heightens the tragedy, but should not buy immunity. In the U.S. and in Europe, the judiciary is the guardian of democracy. That it is as well in Turkey underlines the maturity of Turkey’s democracy. Mr. Erdogan may aspire to be Mr. Putin, but he should neither have U.S. nor European support for his ambitions.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

June 8, 2008 | 8 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

7 Comments / 8 Comments

  1. Well, I am certainly not a friend of the islamic fanatics in Turkey, but I am not a friend of the “secular” Turks neither, although they are real “friends” of the secular government in Israel, what I mean is:

    Turkey shows us a possible scenario for Israel: a traditional political party is backed by the overwhelming majority of the people and wins the elections, but the country has been ruled for decenies by a fanatically-secular clique (pseudo-judges, stupid generals and devoted pseudo-journalists) and the “Supreme Court” rules that everything which is contrary to their selfdefined selfish (financial and hedonistic) interests is “antidemocratic”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?!

  2. Vince it all depends on the Turkish army who are the sworn guardians of the secular Turkish constitution. So long as the Turkish Army remains true to their sworn obligation Turkey will resist the complete takeover of Islamic forces If the Turkish Army is or becomes subverted than the game is up.

  3. soren a secular Muslim State is a contradiction of terms as no state with a majority of Muslims no matter how initially secular in secular institutions will eventually be subverted by the more zealous Muslims in that society.

  4. Laura, by “no islamic country has the right to exist,” do you mean no muslim-majority country governed in part or entirely by islam or do you mean no muslim-majority country period (even if it’s secular)?

  5. Based on Ez 38 , a good sized(though still small in overall terms) number of Christians have been predicting that Turkey will turn against Israel and soon. Of the coalition of nations in Ez 38 , it seems that Turkey is the last one not be in the alliance (yet) today.

    This is from 2006 when Eritrea sent an envoy to Iran to establish relations. They cite a Reuters news story

    ASMARA, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Eritrea said on Friday it had sent an envoy to Iran to establish diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran as its relations with western nations sour over a border dispute with Horn of Africa neighbour Ethiopia.

    Andeab denied that an anti-western agenda was behind Eritrea’s blossoming relations with Iran, Libya and Sudan [All are Ez 38 countries].

    Elsewhere the blog author is expanding on his theory that Turkey will be from where the future adversary of Israel comes from.. in distinction to Syria that someone else had suggested:

    I agree with the “Syrian” theory somewhat. However, the danger is in assuming that the AC will come from Syria as opposed to either Syria or Turkey. Could it be Syria? Yes. But I still think that Turkey is the better bet. Lets walk through it:

    The ancient regions of Assyria and modern Syria are not one and the same. Ancient Assyria also included much of Eastern Turkey.

    As did the Seleucid division of the Greek Empire.

    Beyond this, consider for instance the fact that Magog, Mescheck, Tubal, Togormah and Gomer were all within Turkey. Five out of eight nations listed in Ezekiel all are part of Turkey.

    Turkey was the “head” of the former Muslim Caliphate.

    Satan’s throne is in Turkey. [Revelation 2:12] The actual Temple is now being rebuilt in Bergama.

    Legio Fretensis (the Tenth Legion that destroyed the temple was garrisoned in Turkey.

    Consider the following verses:

    He (the Messiah) will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece (Javan or Ionia), and make you like a warrior’s sword. Then Yahweh will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Yahweh will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms of the south, and Yahweh Almighty will shield them. They will destroy and overcome with slingstones… Yahweh their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!
    —Zechariah 9:6-17

    Javan or Ionia was actually part of the Turkey and not necessarily Greece as we know it today. Thus according to this verse, when Messiah comes back, we will see the Israelites fight against the Javanites (Turks).

    Beyond all this, Turkey is now politically positioned to fulfill the prophecies of an evil man in a sheepish mediators clothing. At least better than any others.

    Just the other day , this (long) story was noted. I’m only pasting snippets the story is very long

    Newly launched peace talks between Syria and Israel mediated by Turkey have focused the international community’s attention on Turkey’s role in the Middle East. Political observers have been cautiously awaiting whether the attempt would bring any hope for Middle East peace. The head of the Center for Strategic Studies in Beirut, Lebanon, Muhammad Nureddin, whose works are often cited by Islamist publications in Turkey, suggests the biggest challenge before Turkey is to convince Syria to end its connections with Hamas, Iran, Hizbullah and the insurgency in Iraq. Damascus, however, strongly rejects those proposals (Yeni Safak, May 26). A counter-argument came from Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center in Beirut, who recently spent time in Damascus talking to negotiators involved in the talks. Salem said: “There is a growing unease among some Syrian leaders about the influence of Iran in the Middle East. Peace between Syria and Israel would cause a serious rupture in the Syrian-Iranian relationship as it would represent a fundamental parting of the ways” (McClatchy Newspapers, May 21).

    [Snip. Part about how lawlessness due to the PKK in Southeast Turkey is allowing Iran to funnel weapons to Syria/Lebanon and the efforts to oppose that]

    In addition to Iran’s attempts to use Turkish territory to ship military munitions to Lebanon’s Hizbullah, international political observers also have concerns over pro-Hizbullah demonstrations in Turkey. Israel National News recently reported that radical Turkish Islamists have been organizing nightly programs in cities across Turkey under the slogan: “A free al-Quds [the Muslim term for Jerusalem]; A world without Israel.” Meeting halls are decked out with photos of Hizbullah chief Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah and former Hamas chief Shaykh Ahmad Yassin. PLO flags are found draped over the speakers’ podiums. Similar events are frequently held in the mainly Kurdish southeast and eastern parts of the country, with huge audiences turning out as efforts are increased to indoctrinate those populations (, May 25;, March 23;, March 23).

    One of the events that concerns Western political observers is the demonstration organized in Sakarya province on March 22 by Nureddin Sirin, an Islamist activist who has dedicated his life to the cause of “free Jerusalem.” The meeting was supported by the Islamist Anatolia Youth Organization (Anadolu Genclik Dernegi, or AGD) and co-sponsored by other Islamist organizations (, May 28).

    To understand recent trends better, one needs to look at who Nureddin Sirin is, as well as ask why the massive demonstration was held in Sakarya and why the AGD supported these events.

    Nureddin Sirin is an Islamist who writes for the Islamist magazine Tevhid and newspaper Selam on how to free Jerusalem from Israel. He also owns the Islamist website In the last two decades, Sirin organized or participated in hundreds of events and meetings to keep the Jerusalem issue alive in Turkish politics. As a result of these activities, he spent 10 years in prison (Gercek Hayat [Istanbul], December 29, 2007). His recent organization of a demonstration in front of Holland’s embassy in Ankara on April 4 put Sirin back in police custody, but he was released shortly thereafter (, April 4). So far Nureddin Sirin’s attempts to recruit Turkish Islamists for Hizbullah’s military wing have been unsuccessful. Because of its large base in Lebanon’s Shiite community, Hizbullah may not actually need any Turkish militants to join its armed struggle. Where Nureddin Sirin is successful, however, is in keeping the anti-Israeli discourse alive in Turkey, as well as his organization of aid campaigns whenever Israeli defense forces strike Palestinian or Lebanese civilians.

    The massive demonstration was held in Sakarya because the city has—thanks to the neo-nationalist (ulusalci) movements—become a hotbed of anti-Kurdish, anti-Western and anti-Israeli campaigns in recent years. Since 2006, four demonstrations were organized that ended with provocations and violent protests (Zaman, May 4). Perhaps those Islamists who organized the anti-Israeli demonstrations attempted to use the established anti-Israeli sentiments among the people in Sakarya in their favor. The AGD organizes similar events on a regular basis but typically fails to draw many people. As late as May 28, the Anatolia Youth Organization organized a “Jerusalem Day” event in the eastern Malatya province but only a couple of hundred people attended (, May 28).

    The key question, however, is why the AGD became so active in recent months. The Anatolia Youth Organization is the youth wing of the Islamist Saadet (Felicity) Party, a political party that expresses the Milli Gorus (National Vision) ideology of veteran Turkish Islamist and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Perhaps it is directly related to the struggle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AKP) against state elites and its attempt to bring Israel and Syria together to discuss a peace agreement. The AKP is itself a splinter group from the Milli Gorus movement that took power by tempering its Islamist message, but Public Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya has opened a lawsuit against the AKP to close down the party on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Many political observers agree that the Constitutional Court may shut down the AKP. In such a case, the Saadet Party hopes to regain some of its Islamist strongholds that it lost to the AKP. If, in addition, the peace talks between Israel and Syria end with an agreement seen to favor Israel, the Saadet Party then would have an advantage against the AKP by capitalizing on existing anti-Israeli sentiment.

    The futher Turkey is driven into Islamist politics the more anti-israel it will become

    Here are more Turkey-related topics from that blog.*&as_q=turkey&num=100&