Jun 07 2018

Erdogan weaker than appears - U.S. experts

The United States should not think Turkey equals its leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkey analysts H.Steven Blum and Svante Cornell in an article for news site RealClear World. 

"Erdogan is much weaker than he appears. The economy is floundering under his watch, and he relies on shifting informal coalitions of interest groups to remain in control," Blum and Cornell say in an article which argues that neither appeasement of Erdogan nor wholesale condemnation of Turkey is an option.

Agree or not, Cornell, who has been writing on Turkey for over a decade, and Blum, former Deputy Commander of U.S. Northern Command, make a bold claim when they say Erdogan is not as strong as many argue. At a time when some Turkey experts tied to various think tanks succeed saying nothing new in their 1200-word of analyses, the original take in Cornell and Blum's article for is well worth reading.

Cornell, who was commentating on Turkey during the heyday of Ergenekon sham trials almost a decade ago, hosted Gareth Jenkins in Washington's Johns Hopkins University and provided a platform to challenge the prevailing understanding of the Ergenekon trials at that time.

Jenkins, in his 2010 Washington visit, perhaps for the first time told the U.S. audience, including the Congressional meeting, that the most of the Ergenekon indictments, which accused top military officers and secular figures of membership of a "deep state" criminal organisation, were based on bogus and conspiracy theories. 

In their RealClear World article published Wednesday, the authors recommend for U.S. policy makers "to identify issues where Erdogan does not have support in the Turkish bureaucracy and in Turkish society" and press on them. 

"Much of the (Turkish) establishment is skeptical of Erdogan’s close ties to Russia, the purchase of S-400 missiles, and especially of the Islamist rhetoric that targets Israel, Jews, and the West at large," Cornell and Blum continued. "On these issues, American pushback -- to date, almost nonexistent -- could help weaken Erdogan’s domestic position and mitigate the damage he wreaks on the region."

The authors added that "Turkish society’s resilience against Erdogan’s social engineering is remarkable," given the 15 years he has had in power.

Turkey and the United States are facing severe difficulties in maintaining their 70-year alliance. The AKP government has demanded that the U.S. government extradites the leader of the Gulen Movement, Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says is the prime suspect for the 2016 coup attempt.

The U.S. and Turkey this week agreed on a road map to remove the Syrian Kurdish fighters from Manbij. Turkey labels them as terrorists for their linkage to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is recognized as such by the U.S. and Turkey. Still there are questions over how the roadmap is going to proceed.

U.S. administration officials, on the other hand, have repeatedly called on the Ankara government to release U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed in Turkey for over 18 months on espionage charges. Washington has also warned Ankara not to go ahead with the purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.