TURKISH POLITICAL CRISIS IN WORKS YET AGAIN
National Journal, DC
Aug 13 2007
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again nominated
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to be president, in a direct challenge
to millions of his countrymen and the military, AP reports. Gul is a
member of the ruling AK party, which is viewed by critics as advocating
Erdogan’s decision will likely reignite a tense confrontation between
his government and Turkey’s fiercely secularist military. In the
spring, when Erdogan first announced he wanted outgoing President
Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a secularist, to be succeeded by Gul, more than
a million Turks took to the streets and the military threatened a coup.
Parliamentary elections were moved up to last month to help resolve
the crisis. To most observers’ surprise, voters decisively sided with
the AK party in that vote.
Soon after, the AK tried to smooth things over by offering to pick
a non-Islamist for the speakership. But Erdogan wouldn’t say whether
he would settle on a compromise candidate.
Today’s announcement indicates Erdogan believes Gul can win and
that the military is bluffing. One factor that is very much out of
his control is how the population reacts. Turks are hungrily eyeing
assimilation into the EU for their quickly modernizing nation.
Europe, on the other hand, views the overwhelmingly Muslim country
with skepticism. Turks eager to cleave their identities from more
radical Islamist countries may take to the streets in protest again.
Meanwhile, last month’s vote shows that political Islam seems to be
catching on in Turkey. The war in Iraq is a likely factor; studies
show it’s had a radicalizing effect in Muslim nations.
What Washington will do about another spurt of unrest is far from
clear. The White House counts Erdogan as an ally on the war on terror,
despite some bad blood over Ankara’s having refused to play staging
ground in the run-up to the Iraq war. Like most world leaders, Erdogan
has inched away from President Bush, whose unpopularity went global
Turkey also has a somewhat legitimate beef with the White House over
its failure to lend a hand against PKK terrorists after promising to
do so. The State Department reported that more than 500 people had
been killed in cross-border skirmishes with the militant Kurdish
group last year. On July 30, columnist Robert Novak reported that
U.S. special forces and the Turkish military were engaged in a secret
operation. That may have been the Bush administration’s way of averting
a full-on military response against Iraqi Kurds after Turkish tanks
began amassing along the border earlier this summer.
Though Washington would probably prefer to see Turkey remain the
prosperous secular Muslim democracy it is today, don’t expect to hear
much criticism of Erdogan from the White House. Ankara has indicated
its cooperation in the Iraq war comes with a price.
The latest example concerns the Ottoman Empire’s alleged genocide of
Armenians in the early 20th century. Washington lobbyists and lawmakers
are duking it out over a congressional resolution condemning Turkey
for denying the genocide ever happened. Guess which side the White
House is on?
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress