Why Turkey’s strongman Erdoğan’s Kashmir statement must be taken with a bag full of salt
Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan lifted Kashmir again this week for the umpteenth time. Obviously no one paid attention and it buried itself in the last few pages. Normally a world leader talking about Kashmir would raise some annoyance, but this time the MEA didn’t even bother to respond (at least not in the usual way), as it turns out that no one takes it seriously anymore. Inconsistent and friendless ErdoÄan except his equally inconsistent and ignored Pakistani counterpart.
It is a far cry from 2003, when ErdoÄan took office as Prime Minister and promised a conflict-free foreign policy under the leadership of his then foreign policy adviser and later Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄlu. At that time, things actually looked good with Turkey repairing its barriers not only with all of its Mediterranean neighbors, but also with countries like India with which it had slightly antagonistic relations. Yet it took only seven years for the faÃ§ade to stand out and the true face of radical Islamism and international terrorism to be revealed. The question is, how did it go so badly? How did someone seemingly so moderate become so fanatic? How did the man at the head of Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union become the biggest supporter of transnational terrorism in the 21st century?
Behind Turkey’s attempt to join the EU
What you have to understand about ErdoÄan is that he is a very intelligent politician, to the point of being half too intelligent, and a totally incompetent economist. For him, only one thing matters: ErdoÄan.
Its biggest bet lies in its mock attempt to join the European Union. Ultimately, he knew from the start that the EU would simply never accept a large Muslim state as a member. But it was only when the membership attempt did indeed fail that we realized that the main target of said membership was not the EU or Turkey, but rather a grand attempt to neutralize its own army. problem.
The Turkish army is ostensibly attached to secularism. Of course, this is complete nonsense as any reading of modern Turkish history will show at least three cycles of political Islamization carried out by Turkish military dictatorships. However, this never stopped the military from staging coups, claiming secularism was in danger. Since ErdoÄan came from a declared Islamist party, he had to neutralize the army by institutionalizing secularism and removing the trump card from the army. And that was the genesis of Turkey’s attempt to join the EU knowing it was doomed to fail.
One of the main criteria for EU membership is democracy and civil liberties, with any military intervention in government being automatically disqualifying. Therefore, ErdoÄan used the candidacy for EU membership simply to keep the army in its barracks while he consolidated power and once the EU formally rejected Turkey’s membership, ErdoÄan was strong enough to purge the army and make it toothless, something no Turkish leader before him had managed to do. to achieve. In fact, the military was so badly eroded that when it tried to stage a coup in 2016, it was amateurish and failed before it even started. However, this gave ErdoÄan the opportunity for a second round of purges not only of what was left of the military, but also of all other institutions, from universities to courts.
In the footsteps of China, Lebanon
Deceptive and oblique attacks are the hallmark of ErdoÄan. During his first term as Prime Minister, alongside the drive to join the EU, he launched a major program of economic liberalization. It had nothing to do with a core belief in economic freedom, but it was about creating an artificial economic bubble that would provide massive jobs to its main constituency, which was conservative rural Anatolia. This economic bubble was based on a large trade deficit and focused entirely on the construction industry. Today Istanbul, for example, has more skyscrapers than most European capitals with much larger and more stable economies.
This construction boom produced nothing and did nothing to industrialize Turkey. But what he did was provide a significant number of relatively well-paying skilled construction jobs for ErdoÄan’s rural electorate, encouraging them to move to urban areas and skew the area’s voting patterns. urban areas in its favor. This pattern is reminiscent of the Chinese and Lebanese models, who also came to roost. As of this writing, China is witnessing the collapse of one of its largest construction companies (Evergrande), with significant ripple effects on the Chinese and global economies.
Likewise, there was the construction boom in Lebanon, which secured a monopoly on buildings for the ruling Hariri family, with a surge in short-term jobs but no lasting effects on the economy except debt. huge. Is it any wonder that Lebanon’s ruinous national debt is the immense personal fortune of the Hariri families? As might be expected, with Lebanon’s now ruined economy and the looming collapse of Evergrande, the Turkish economy began to rapidly collapse with inflation rates not seen in more than two decades and a significant reduction in prosperity and consumer spending over the past five years.
Turkey’s biggest enemy
As can be seen, two parallel processes marked ErdoÄan’s reign. The first was an absolute consolidation of power and the second the ruin of the economy. ErdoÄan’s foreign policy is a synthesis of these two trends: the greater his political power and the worse the economy, the more he interferes in the affairs of other countries. Whether it’s exporting terrorism to Syria and Libya, with his own family embroiled in shady deals with ISIS, or the desperate race for Mediterranean gas alienating both Egypt and the United States. France, or to encourage a vicious Azeri military intervention in the Armenian-majority Artsakh region, supplying Syrian jihadists to commit beheadings and unspeakable atrocities there.
It escapes no one that ErdoÄan talks about Kashmir is as ridiculous as Hitler talks about the Sudetenland and Danzig, using foul ethnocentric language to invade and annex other countries. After all, Turkey occupies northern Cyprus, subjected to the same ethnic cleansing of Christians as Kashmir has seen from Hindus and in full violation of UN resolutions recognized by no one other than Turkey. It is also the same Turkey that occupies and ruthlessly crushes the cultural aspirations of fellow Muslim Kurds, while launching military expeditions into Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan, killing women and children. This is not the black calling pot of the kettle, it is low grade lignite charcoal calling for a faulty black diamond.
In the end, you have to understand that ErdoÄan has played all his cards and has nothing but demagoguery. It makes him a lot more dangerous than ever, but it also makes him a sad, pathetic joke. So what do we do with his latest comments on Kashmir? Cautious and ridiculous at the same time – the caution that the world’s first sponsor of terrorism deserves, but also the ridiculousness of a total and unrelated failure to which it is inappropriate to engage in a civilized manner. After all, why should we do anything when Turkey’s greatest enemy is its own president?
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is a senior researcher at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
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