Monday, June 18, 2007

Turkey teetering on dramatic change; will it turn to Europe/America or Russia/Iran? Then what?

Der Spiegel Online has an interesting opinion piece by a Turkish writer:

The Turkish Threat to World Peace
In Turkey, the military and the government are engaged in an all-out struggle for power. The country is deeply divided, and decidedly unstable. Turkish writer Ahmet Altan describes his country's paradoxes and warns of the potentially dire consequences.

Ahmet goes on to describe a large cultural divide between two groups in Turkey: the first, a growing, deeply religious Islamic majority, and the second, a shrinking Westernized secular minority. He then explains the conflict:

[...] The first group has been despised, discredited, and pushed around throughout the years of the Republic. Now this group has become politically organized. It is large. And it now has the political power to win every election.

The second group is in the minority. And it currently has no chance of ever winning another election.

It is at this point that there emerges a historical paradox: Because the more Western, second group knows that it will never come to power again if it observes Western political ideas, it is becoming antagonistic to Western democratic values.

But those in the first group, whose values are inimical to the West, know they will only take power by accepting Western criteria. The result is that they are trying to appropriate democratic values and enhance their relations with the West.

"The army" has an important role in this cultural disintegration. If it supports the first group, and the criteria of Western democracy are observed, the army will lose power as well. In fact the army is made up of children of the first group who are cooperating with the second group, inimical to them, in order hold on to power. In a sense, the army is betraying its own roots.

The two groups now appear to be mobilized for their final battle for power. [...]

The article goes on to discuss the threat of a military coup, and what that would mean politically for Turkey and the rest of the world, and the balance of power in the Middle East.

A military coup could be disastrous for the West. Europe would not accept it; American would be in an extremely difficult position to support it. As a result, if Turkey were to turn towards Russia and Iran as allies rather than Europe and the United States, the balance of power, and the control over world oil supplies, could shift dramatically.

I've been critical of the US policy towards Turkey in the past; but I have to say, this article explains a lot, and makes clear why we are doing what we are doing, and shows why it would be very difficult to do anything else.

Ahmet maintains that the decisions Turkey makes could even lead to a world war! Is that overly dramatic? Is it justified? See for yourself; I recommend reading the whole thing.

Also of interest is another article in Der Spiegel, which asks a crucial question which is causing a lot of anxiety and tension in Turkey presently:


Turkish Head of State Calls for Referendum

Be sure and read this for more details of the recent events involving the power struggle in Turkey.

Related Links:

Turkish Troubles; are we on the wrong side?

Turks show massive support for secularism

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