Adam McConnel

“The Russo-Turkish Alliance” (2)

Though the current situation is likely temporary, Turkey has no other choice for the time being than to be friendly and yet cautious with Putin. On the other hand, those predicting an alliance between Turkey and Russia fail to take the essential interests of the two states into consideration.

“The Russo-Turkish Alliance” (1)

According to an extremely superficial reading of the present situation, Turkey’s complete departure from the Western sphere is imminent. From now on, Turkey is apparently in Moscow’s orbit. It is true that Ambassador Karlov’s assassination has not pushed Turkey and Russia apart. At the same time, there is a more unsettling reality hanging over the near future of Turkish-Russian relations. Because of drastic mistakes by the West and especially the U.S., Turkey is currently left alone to face Russian might.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil and Secretary of State

If Tillerson is confirmed we will never have confidence that Tillerson is working for just U.S. foreign policy. Instead, he will be dogged by concerns that his ultimate aims benefit his sector, his company, his personal oil interests. And because Tillerson is a top executive in oil, he has person-to-person relations with leaders of foreign states, often including non-democratic régimes, such as with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Waiting for Trump’s secretary of state

In relation to Turkey’s region and his potential policy stance that, Trump continues to make public comments that are inherently contradictory. On Tuesday (6th December), he told a gathering of supporters that he would reduce American involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean but at the same time give full throttle to the struggle against DAESH. Exactly how he would accomplish that is not clear.

Mohamed Heikal on Nasser and the Cuban revolutionaries (2)

According to Heikal, Guevara’s first visit to Egypt in 1959 did not help develop ties between the two régimes because Guevara was convinced that the success of a revolution was proved by the number of people forced to flee the new system. Nasser was unimpressed by such an attitude, stating that his revolution was aimed at “liquidating the privileges of a class but not individuals of that class.”

Mohamed Heikal on Nasser and the Cuban revolutionaries (1)

For twenty years I’ve had Heikal’s book on my shelf; in the 1990s I also spent a year in Egypt and heard Heikal’s name many times. So I had a general idea of who he was, though I could not exactly place him in historical perspective. Now, however, I understand Heikal as a specific type of alla franca person, attracted to power and influence, and prominent in the post-WWII era of decolonization and national revolutions in the developing world. Turkey, too, has produced its share of Heikal-like press figures, I realize.

More murkiness on Trump’s secretary of state

Romney is a Mormon, which would make his image as secretary of state more complicated than Trump seems to foresee. From the little information that is available, Romney (similar to Hillary Clinton) seems to have taken a more hawkish stance on Syria than Barack Obama; that would potentially be a positive for Ankara.

Trumpian foreign relations and Turkey: Is this the beginning of a honeymoon?

Who might be worse as secretary of state: Bolton or Giuliani? The first is a radical neo-con interventionist. He is also very hostile to the idea of democratizing the UN, which he sees as useful only to the extent that it can be a tool for U.S. interests abroad. The second is a screaming Islamophobe. Meanwhile, Michael Flynn, too, has a history of anti-Muslim tweets and statements. It is difficult to see how he might construct positive relations with actors in the Muslim world.

Turkish pundits and the “liberal U.S. media” (2)

Those who voted for Trump voted with full cognizance of Trump’s policy stances. True, economic factors and resentment may have played an important role, but in the end they were aware of Trump’s racism, Islamophobia, long history of harassment of women, and xenophobia. I’m saying something exactly the opposite of the nastiness about “ignorant or uneducated” voters: Trump’s voters knew exactly what they were doing.

Turkish pundits and the “liberal U.S. media” (1)

Republicans, representing the center-right, receive votes from a strange combination of financial and corporate elites, i.e. the upper- and upper-middle-classes, as well as conservative rural Americans or others who support similar ideals. Generally that means Republican voters are wealthy white Americans plus conservative, often poor, white Americans.

Schadenfreude Sharks, Part 2

A number of pro-AKP and/or pro-Erdoğan Turkish pundits are feeling some justifiable “schadenfreude” over the stunning end to the Democratic Party’s eight-year sway over the U.S. presidency. They need to recover from their gloating as soon as possible. Eight years has apparently been enough for them to forget what a Republican administration means. We are faced with the possibility of a re-emergence of neo-conservative influence over U.S. foreign policy. Remember how Paul Wolfowitz came to Turkey after the “1 Mart Tezkeresi” to turn the thumbscrew? We may be seeing more of him soon.

Gülen’s cult (6) How, in 2012-13, his followers helped the Syrian civil war reach Turkey

The truck bombs that exploded in Reyhanlı, on 11th May 2013, killing more than fifty people, are likely to have resulted from tacit collusion between al-Assad’s operatives and Gülen’s adherents. The Gezi Park protests of May-July 2013 were triggered not so much by the threat to dig up a couple of trees, but rather by a brutal police attack that may also have been an intentional provocation launched by the Gülenist network that controlled Istanbul security at the time.

Gülen’s cult (5) the 2012 plot against Hakan Fidan

Imagine what might have happened in the U.S. if some American president had authorized the CIA director to conduct comparable negotiations, and then some provincial district attorney had come out of nowhere to subpoena the head of the CIA on grounds of treason! As far as I know, the only journalist who correctly understood what happened at the time was Sabah’s Ferhat Ünlü. He seems to have been the first to use the term “a parallel state,” and he further described the Fidan crisis as the beginning of “Armageddon.”

My personal knowledge of Fethullah Gülen’s cult (4)

Zaman was Gülen’s main newspaper, but he also controlled the daily Bugün and all the other media sources connected to it. Samanyolu TV was also his. These media sources were used for purposes other than just reporting the news through an ideological lens. Those newspapers and TV channels were used to broadcast information intended to prepare public opinion for police investigations and court cases aimed at jailing or at least weakening Gülen’s enemies in politics or state institutions. That was blatant incitement or slander.

My personal knowledge of Fethullah Gülen’s cult (3)

Through study sessions held at private student dormitories run by Gülen’s adherents, my friend did achieve a high score on the nationwide entrance examination for elite high schools. But as soon as his score became known, Gülenist teachers began to pressure him to enter a military high school even though he wanted to go to a science high school. It was only by avoiding teachers he knew to be Gülenists, that he was able to circumvent their pressure and eventually gain entrance to Middle East Technical University.

My personal knowledge of Fethullah Gülen’s cult (2)

The first step was to get an admission letter from an English-language education school in the U.S. At that time the primary destination was Houston, Texas, and the schools that were handing out admissions to such students were probably connected to Gülen’s network. With this admission letter it was then easier to gain a student visa. After arriving in Houston (or Austin), Turkish students could get in contact with Turkish business people to find jobs.

My personal knowledge of Fethullah Gülen and his cult (1)

At the dersane, over time I became acquainted with some of the students, and it was an entirely normal occurrence for students to give religious texts to their teachers (essentially all foreigners from Christian societies). So students gave me, too, a copy of Said-i Nursi’s Risale-i Nur, translated into English, plus one or two of Gülen’s works. I would understand later that this was entirely normal because Gülen had emerged from Nursi’s earlier religious movement.

Imagine an oligarchy

At a certain point, society became able to force a system of democratic representation, and thereby to elect its own political representatives. But when that happened, those popularly elected representatives found themselves confronted by an entire permanent (military-bureaucratic) establishment that was thoroughly controlled by the oligarchy.

Steven Cook’s coup nostalgia (4)

Cook’s last sentence is worth printing here: “Turkey’s democracy has not been lost -- there was no democracy for it to lose.” In sheer factual terms this is an outright lie. For somebody who claims to be a scholar, it is a shameful blot that will not be easy to erase. It is also a grave insult for the entire Turkish people.

Steven Cook’s coup nostalgia (3)

Even in the late Ottoman era, the legal profession in Turkey never had any autonomy or independence. In the Republican era, the judiciary’s function became even more vital to maintaining ideological control over Turkish society. As the new military-bureaucratic elite imploded into Anatolia and began to play god to society by beginning to shape an entire nation in its own image, it also forged the kind of legal profession that it needed. Otherwise put, the lawyers and judges that were trained and educated to fill the ranks of the Republican judiciary totally identified with Kemalism’s top-down modernizing project, and wholly internalized an attitude of absolute loyalty to the new state.

Steven Cook’s coup nostalgia (2)

There is something terrible about attaching negative value to “fail”ing as against positive value to “succeed”ing in carrying out a military takeover.

Steven Cook’s coup nostalgia (1)

Despite initial indications “that the military had finally returned to its old form,” alas, “it was not to be,” laments Cook while noting that President Erdoğan “looked shaken upon returning to Istanbul from his vacation.” Neither can Cook bring himself to see the Gülenists as a key factor in understanding the Turkish situation.

(8) Thomas Friedman’s top-down Turkish democracy

Trump has never borne the responsibility of elected office. Erdoğan, on the other hand, was first elected to office in the early 1990s, and has continually held public office since 2003, winning election after election by massive margins. Just this one point, with all its underlying corollaries (extending to a purely negative, reactive versus a positive appeal, or to a one-man populism versus a well-organized party, or the question of sustained, demonstrable public trust), is enough to illustrate that Tayyip Erdoğan and Donald Trump are categorically different.

(7)Roger Cohen fears the Turkish people

If Mr. Cohen were to pause and consider the implications of his observation that“Turks do not want to go backward,” he might feel misgivings about the rest of his column. After all, it is exactly those same Turks who have repeatedly elected President Erdoğan and the AKP, by large and growing margins, over the past fifteen years. Again, it was exactly those same Turks who turned out en masse on 15th and 16th July to oppose the coup. As they stood against the tanks, were they going backward, do you think, or forward?

(6) For those who do not understand

Hours after the Turkish government declared a state of emergency, the German Foreign Ministry took the astonishing step of criticizing the Turkish government for the action. Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s comments revealed how ignorant he is about Turkish affairs. Germany’s neighbor France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, and has just extended that state of emergency for another six months. The German Foreign Ministry has not said anything about that. Then two days later, in a case of grotesque and horrific irony, Germany itself had to declare a state of emergency when an assailant in Munich killed a number of civilians.

(5) The heroic citizens of Turkey

What the citizens of Turkey did on the night of 15-16 July 2016 should be remembered along with other acts of heroic mass defiance and self-sacrifice in the face of murderous force exercised by the state: Tiananmen. Prague. Rabia Square.

What we experienced Friday night (4)

The failure of the international press is all the more notable because the only thing they had to do was to get someone who knows Turkish to sit and monitor the Turkish TV channels. There was no excuse for maintaining a “we don’t know what’s happening” or “it looks like régime change in Turkey” narrative anytime past 02:00 Turkish Standard Time (15th July, 23:00 GMT).

What we experienced Friday night (3)

Back on television, incredible things were happening. The citizens of Istanbul and Ankara had taken to the streets, surrounded the junta’s troops, and either convinced them to surrender or wrestled them into submission.

What we experienced Friday night (2)

Many details are still somewhat vague, but by morning (on the 16th) it was clear that the coup plotters had aimed specifically at capturing or even killing President Erdoğan. A prominent Gülenist by the name of Tuncay Opçin (who appears to have fled to the U.S. last year) tweeted, about 36 hours before the event that “they” would “catch him in bed and hang him at dawn.”

What we experienced Friday night (1)

Over the past several months rumors had been circulating that Gülen’s adherents in the Turkish security forces were mobilizing for yet another extraordinary initiative, perhaps a putsch. In response, only a couple of days ago the AKP leadership announced that this year’s High Board of Military Appointments would be focused on purging Gülen’s followers from the security forces. For Gülen’s cultists, it was now or never.