Turkey living through extraordinary times, again
Turkey is living through extraordinary times, I would say, and the readers would ask, “When it was not?” Indeed, this country has always been at some sort of a critical junction. Yet, was it ever in a position like the situation we are in now?
Turkey is fighting a war in Syria. So far Operation Euphrates Shield appears to be progressing well. Turkey lost four sons in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks so far, but managed to seal the border area, and so far block Syrian Kurdish aspirations to create an independent state along its border by linking the Kurdish-majority enclaves of Kobane and Afrin, which are about 120 miles apart.
Of course Turkey has a right to defend itself against the Kurdish militias as well as ISIL. While for the Americans the Democratic Union Party (PYD) or its People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces are seen as the most effective partner in the fight against ISIL, and the Pentagon has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in arming and training the YPG, Ankara considers them nothing further than an extension of the clandestine Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist gang by Washington as well.
Turkey is also trying to establish state control in some southeastern settlements where benefitting from the post-coup attempt deficiencies the separatist gang tried to coil up once again. The situation in neighboring Syria, the anger of the PYD toward Turkey’s effective operation that killed so far its statehood aspirations, further exacerbated the terrorist threat at home. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım declared that Turkey would no longer be on the defensive but would have an offensive and determined approach in battling terrorism. The result of the changed and stepped up anti-terrorism resolution of Turkey produced so far not only an increased casualty toll but also enabled the establishment of state control in areas that, as Yıldırım confessed, the state could not successfully enter for the past 25 years.
Could Turkey take the war to Raqqa, as lame duck American President Barrack Obama suggested in China on the sidelines of a G-20 Summit? Or, could Turkey stop at its present positions, turn a blind eye to the YPG control of Manbij – a strategic city on the western bank of the Euphrates? Did not the Americans repeatedly pledge to Turkey that once the city was captured from ISIL, all YPG elements would withdraw east of the Euphrates? Why are they still staying in the city? Worse, what would happen if somehow Turkey and the Turkey-supported Free Syrian Army (FSA) gang engage in a serious confrontation with the YPG for control of Manbij? If Obama was serious in his suggestion that the target ought to be Raqqa, how would Turkey move on the city, considered to be a regional capital of ISIL, without passing through Manbij or feel safe in the so-far “liberated” Jarablus area without capturing at least the town of Al Bab?
The Syria situation, which might turn into a Turkish Vietnam if Turkey indulges too deep into that country and neglects developing an applicable exit strategy, can be ignored by the Americans and the rest. Anyhow, if the United States government cared a bit about Turkey’s territorial and national integrity challenges its alliance with the PYD could pose, it would not have entered into such a deal. Could it be a secret or something that could not be foreseen by American executives who developed the “allied relations” with the PYD, invested millions of dollars to provide it with all sophisticated weaponry that such arms systems, explosives and ammunition could end up with the PKK? American-made drones, anti-air and anti-tank rocket capabilities and sophisticated arms systems captured in operations against the PKK clearly demonstrate that for Turkey, the U.S. has become a not-so-trustworthy ally. Another already complicating factor in Turkish-American ties is of course Fethullah Gülen living in Pennsylvania as a “lawful permanent resident.” Whether Turks would like to see it or not the U.S. has a clear separation of powers system and neither the president nor any U.S. executive could decide on the extradition of anyone in the absence of a federal court ruling. In a country where court verdicts can be strongly influenced by the political authority and a president who considers himself the head of the legislative, executive and of course judiciary at the same time, it is indeed very difficult to understand the separation of powers principle or the notion of an independent judiciary.
Over 60,000 people were laid off from their jobs in public offices on the grounds that they had played some sort of a role in the “Fethullah Terror Organization” (FETÖ) and in the July 15 failed uprising. The president has been yelling that not 60 or 100,000, but perhaps 200,000 people would be laid off and the fight against FETÖ would be continued without any mercy. Every other way scores of commanders are sacked from the military. While on the one hand the president, prime minister, justice minister and all government executives stress Turkey would abide by norms of law, uphold justice and avoid any form of revanchist approach while bringing FETÖ and other terrorist gangs in front of justice, the situation in the country contradicts such statements.
How could a journalist of 35 years, for example, be considered a member of a terrorist gang, if she, or he, was never ever in the past decades involved in anything other than reporting? If someone donated money generously to a charity, and if that charity organization engaged in some criminality, should the state detain those who donated money as members of a terrorist gang or inform people of the situation and ask them to stop such donations?
So, what we are living through cannot be normal, or even semi-normal, times…