Aftermath of the 2018 Turkish Elections
U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist, and All-Source Intelligence Analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Retd.)
16 July, 2018
The elections in Turkey were nothing more than the continuation of Erdogan’s grasping of all the powers he could and more in Turkey since the coup two year ago. Last year they had the referendum which changed the political system and this year he actually took officially, I would say, the radar of Turkey in his hands. He has more powers than Kemal had and definitely has more powers than our President, because in our democracy in the United States there is a balance of powers. Erdogan doesn’t have any balance. He controls everything and he has put either relatives in cabinet posts or very close friends and associates – the Minister of Finance that is very important for a country is in the hands of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak.
And then we have a number of others that are already known in Turkey and they are very rich people, like the Minister of Education, who is the owner of a private college, the Minister of Health owns a chain of pharmacies, and the Minister of Culture and Tourism has a successful travel agency. So the whole thing is now in his hands. He has control over sixty five boards, commissions, committees, established with laws and other regulations and are merged in nine entities, namely social policies council, law policies, security and foreign policies, local governments, health and food, economy, education and science, technology and innovation. Now, the President is on a chair in these boards, but at the same time he has already installed other chairs because he cannot be President everywhere, he has his own representatives in the same boards. So, these boards, according to the new system, propose policies, oversee implementation of the policies, make decisions, long-term strategic decisions and these decisions are beyond the responsibilities of the ministers. So, in essence Erdogan controls even the ministries.
He has installed eight directorates which include the Directorate of General Staff, Directorate of National Intelligence, Directorate of Religious Affairs, and for the first time Turkey sees the Directorate of Strategy and Budgeting. So, how it is going to work? I am not sure and I don’t believe anybody can be sure, but also he has the Directorate of Communications which actually will organize media and communications activities. In essence, he is going to control even the press and he has already thrown to prison a lot of journalists, religious people who are against him, other politicians, and that’s how he got actually elected, because he didn’t have any real opposition to begin with.
So, slowly he’s trying to become a modern sultan and he hopes to get the caliphate again. But in my opinion he has a problem with that because the caliphate was a product of occupation of lands, and since he had occupied all the Islamic centres and mostly Sunni people, he became himself a caliph, like the Pope, if I could say, like the Ecumenical Patriarch, this kind of a thing. There is no democracy in that caliphate. So, what he wants to do is to control even the religion of other countries, and through the religion of other countries impose his own power to other countries, his own influence. And that would be Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo in Europe, and also he could control the Muslims in Greece, in Thrace especially, the Dodecanese islands, the occupied territory of Cyprus in the north and also Saudi Arabia, all the Arab countries, Iran, Afghanistan, Western India and Pakistan. So, this is what he wants to do. The problem he has with that is that he is not in political control of those countries. Also, most Arabs, most Muslims, I should say, do not consider the Turks to be real Muslims. And this is because they gamble a lot, which is against the Quran, and also they drink alcoholic beverages, which is also against the Quran. So, that’s what we have on the religious side. I don’t believe he’s going to make it.
At the political side, I think he might keep the power for a few years but I don’t see him staying, because the world is unlike when Kemal was, or sultans before. Today, even if he controls the social media, there is always a way for people to find out what is happening outside of the country and to get to be influenced from outside of the country.
I don’t believe that he will be able to control the Muslims in Western Europe, although I’m sure he will send his own people to agitate, I would say, other countries, mostly Germany, and I say that because in Germany, in the west, most of the Muslims there that come from Turkey are not Turks – they are Kurds and that would be a problem.
Also in Constantinople most of the Muslim inhabitants, the non-Greeks of Constantinople, are Kurds – they are not Turks. So, I believe it is a matter of time. He is not going to stay like that and I do believe that Turkey, because of the control he has, might not be able to sustain the economy it has right now. Some people say it will be stronger. I am not an economist, but I don’t believe in a controlled economy. I cannot see how a controlled economy can flourish. Economy requires innovation, education is very important. And if these two are controlled, investments are controlled, I don’t see how can the economy become better. Again, I’m not an economist – that is just my belief. In a free economy you have movement of ideas, movement of economic culture, businesses come and go, if they don’t like what they see they can always change the product, they change the way it works. When you control the economy like that, I don’t know how he can make it better, allow the economy to grow. That’s my belief as a non-economist.
Turkey is losing its importance. Turkey kept importance all these years because of the location. The Straits do not have the importance they used to have. Never mind that people say they still do. They don’t. And number of reasons is supporting this. One is that they are getting shallower and shallower, while the ships are getting bigger and bigger, so you cannot pass through the Dardanelles big ships like they used to pass one hundred years ago, because the ships were smaller and the bottom of the Dardanelles were deeper. At the same time we have different weapons that we didn’t have a hundred years ago like missiles – you do not need to be close, let’s say, to Crimea if you want to bomb it. You can do it from Chicago. So, they have lost that. And Erdogan has realized that and I’m sure he wants to open a canal, the Istanbul Canal, which will be actually a line from Küçükçekmece down south, up north – I don’t remember the town today. But it’s like an alternate route which is going to be dug like a regular canal.
Also, he wants to expand the airport in Istanbul, Constantinople, which is actually outside in Yeşilköy, and some other airports, so that he can buy the F-35s. Personally, I don’t believe the United States will sell F-35s to Turkey, but Turkey has a very strong lobby. It has a very strong lobby because it pays money to lobbies. I was reading the other day that the President of PSEKA (The International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus”), Mr. Christopher, stated that Turkey spent a hundred and two million dollars just in lobbying. Greece, for example, has spent nothing.
The problem now would be that if Turkey continues to be the way Erdogan wants it to be, it is going to come in opposition mainly of Germany, and this is because Germany would never allow Turkey to direct traffic, if I can say that. I don’t know how NATO is going to take care of that because he is becoming more of a liability as he goes and against NATO standards. To be a NATO country you have to follow the OSCE, and have democracy, and Turkey is losing it. The question I have is how NATO is going to handle this, because to my knowledge there is no mechanism to kick a country out, just like in the EU. I have not seen anywhere a mechanism that allows the other party members to say to the country, to Turkey or whosoever, “We don’t want you, you are a liability to us, you don’t serve anything, get out of here.” But, again, that would be related to how Russia is going to act. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure about the United States because it seems to me that the exception of the President all the others are against Russia and our President now says, “Russia is our friend.” That makes a few countries, especially in the Baltic Sea, nervous because they used to be under the Russian occupation since 1918, or so. I don’t know how that is going to work. It is a matter of, I think, a guessing game right now. But as long as Erdogan is pushing the West, the West is going to react against him. And I don’t know how Russia and Turkey are going to work together or against each other, because now they have the problem in Syria, the problem of Kurdistan in Iraq, in part of Syria. I’m sure in few years we are going to see the tiles will fall where they may and we will see how it’s going to go.