My column: End of a pipe dream

Here is my TZ column…  on Turkey, ISIL and Iraq:

A foreign policy expert anonymously offered this “insider view” in Sunday’s Zaman on June 14: “Turkey has always denied the reports that it has allowed terrorists to use the Turkey-Syria border as a transit point. But Turkey’s denial could not prevent the emergence of a belief that Turkey condoned terrorists going into Syria to fight against Assad regime. But ISIL [ Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] is a threat to Turkey, too, with plots for attacks inside Turkey. The people who direct Turkish foreign policy must have finally changed their position, but in the meantime, ISIL took off and became powerful. Turkish foreign policy is very late in addressing the threat of ISIL. They should have acted months ago.”
 
This is a reminder that the most active player in policies which involve “regime change” in any neighborhood is the one that ends up paying the bill. The US did it in Vietnam and Iraq, and Soviet Russia did it in Afghanistan. If “regime change” includes also a miscalculation, a blend of naivety and romanticism coupled with overreaching ambitions, the subject in the question runs into trouble, which may have lengthy consequences.
 
This is what happened to Turkey in Syria. While its zero problem neighborhood policy did not produce any tangible results in soft power formats, it ventured such an act to help topple the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — and failed. And, now, it continues with a heavy bag of vandal Salafist groups — symbolizing the entry of the Islamic Medieval age of infighting and destruction — less able than before to be part of major conflict resolution.
 
Iraqi Kurdistan, arguably the only part where one can note success in the “zero problems” context, risks also being lost, if wrong and untimely moves are taken, now that ISIL’s advance has brought Iraq to a breaking point. Mosul’s fall to Salafist-dominated armed groups and Kirkuk taken over by KRG Peshmergas are key events that signal some sort of irreversibility to the earlier status quo.
 
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s choices have always been dominated by a state of mind that resembled ideological hallucination: Priorities in the Middle East forced it to abandon the main tenets of soft power, particularly that of inclusivity. The temptations to build up an Ottoman-like sphere of influence stemmed from a false equality between Salafism and Wahabism in Arab lands and the benevolent Sufism of Anatolia. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu since approximately 2010 ignored the fact that the Salafi and Wahhabi segment saw Ottomans and its traditions as the enemy, accusing them of the “defeat” of Islam worldwide.
 
As Tayfun Atay, a respected sociologist on religion, put it in his powerful article in the Radikal daily: “Only three years ago, Erdoğan talked about the benediction of secularism for Islam when in Egypt and Tunisia, figuring in the Middle East and elsewhere as a unique example of ‘secular Islam.’ He received criticism from Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood circles, and in time, returned from the Middle East undergoing ‘salafisation,’ abandoning his own traditional and historic roots of religion. They [AKP, yb — Yavuz Baydar — this is his insert :)) ] turned down a historic chance of architecting a ‘liberal Islam,’ sociologically crucial ‘secular Islam,’ which would mark a global turning point. They disappointed, indeed made ashamed, all those leftist, liberal, socialist, conservative Muslim and non-Muslim circles who believed, trusted and supported them. They had come to power based on a social consensus and disintegrated the society with almost no chance of consensus left. Now they are struggling to deal with this internal disintegration, as they try to stave of a ‘war within Islam’ across the border to spill over to our territory.”
 
What a colleague called Afghanistanization abroad and Pakistanization at home now is the result of a shift in the AKP three years ago and the huge misreading of the events. It is now at the stage of obstinacy and denial.
 
Therefore, any reasoning about regional policy in Ankara should require cautious reading. ISIL’s move, its carving up a huge land between Syria and Iraq, exposes Turkey’s vulnerabilities and its limitations even further.
 
Given the stakes, the AKP has only one rational way out: Make peace with the Kurds of both Iraq and Syria and endorse their state-building along its border.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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One Response to My column: End of a pipe dream

  1. nervana111 says:

    Reblogged this on Nervana and commented:
    What a line and an interesting piece:
    “The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s choices have always been dominated by a state of mind that resembled ideological hallucination.”

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