quarta-feira, 26 de abril de 2017

The Erdogan enigma
Daniel Pipes - Israel Hayom 
I nominate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the most inconsistent, mysterious and unpredictable major politician on the world stage. His referendum victory this month formally bestows him with near-dictatorial powers that leave Turkey, the Middle East, ‎and beyond in a greater state of uncertainty than ever.‎
Here are some of the puzzles:‎
Mystery 1: Holding the referendum. The Turkish electorate voted on April 16 in a remarkable ‎national plebiscite that dealt not with the usual topic -- floating a bond or recalling a politician -- ‎but with fundamental constitutional changes affecting the very nature of their government: ‎Should the country continue with the flawed democracy of the past 65 years or centralize ‎political power in the presidency? Under the new dispensation, the prime minister vaporizes and ‎the president holds vast power over parliament, the judiciary, the budget, and the military.‎
Turks generally saw the 18 proposed changes to the constitution as a momentous decision. ‎Famed novelist Elif Safak spoke for most when she wrote that Turkey's referendum "could alter ‎the country's destiny for generations to come." After the referendum passed, some of those ‎opposed to it cried in the streets. "Turkey as we know it is over; it is history," wrote Yavuz ‎Baydar, a journalist. Defense & Foreign Affairs assessed the referendum as perhaps "the most ‎significant and transformative change in Eurasia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa since the ‎collapse of the USSR in 1990-91."‎
But there's a catch: For years, Erdogan has held the powers the referendum gives him. He is the ‎boss in Turkey who can bend the country to his wishes. Anyone -- cartoonist, cafeteria manager, ‎or Canadian -- accused of "insulting the president" can be fined or jailed. A former prime minister ‎or president who dares disagree with Erdogan vanishes from public life. He alone makes war or ‎peace. What Erdogan wants, he gets, regardless of constitutional niceties.‎ 
Erdogan's fixation on officially imbuing the office of the presidency with the vast powers he ‎already has in practice prompted him to steal an election, fire a prime minister, start a near-civil ‎war with the Kurds, and provoke a crisis with Europe. Why did he bother with all this for a mere ‎superfluity?‎
Mystery 2: The referendum results. Erdogan brought enormous pressure to bear for a momentous ‎victory in the referendum. He made full use of his control of most media. Mosques were ‎mobilized. In the words of one international organization, in several cases, "No" supporters "have ‎faced police interventions while campaigning; a number were also arrested on charges of insulting ‎the president or organizing unlawful public events." Opponents also lost their jobs, met with ‎media boycotts, faced electricity outages, and got beaten up. A week before the referendum, ‎Erdogan even announced that the "No" voters risk their afterlife. Then, according to a Swedish ‎nongovernmental organization, "widespread and systematic election fraud, violent incidents and scandalous steps taken ‎by" the election board "overshadowed the voting."‎
Despite this, the referendum passed by a perplexingly meager 51.4 to 48.6%. Were it fairly ‎conducted, why would Erdogan take the chance of losing, thereby diminishing his stature and ‎reducing his sway? Were the referendum fixed -- entirely possible, given his party's record -- why ‎was the affirmative vote so low and not a more imposing 60, 80, or -- why not -- 99%? The ‎unimpressive 51.4% majority virtually invited opposition parties, supported by the ‎European Union and others, to challenge the legitimacy of the referendum, raising awkward ‎questions that Erdogan surely preferred not discussed.‎
Mystery 3: Gulen: Erdogan wantonly ended a key alliance with fellow-Islamist Fethullah Gulen, ‎transforming a stalwart ally into a determined domestic opponent who challenged Erdogan's ‎primacy and revealed his corruption. In his political war with Gulen, an elderly Muslim cleric ‎living in the Poconos of rural Pennsylvania, Erdogan implausibly claimed that Gulen's movement ‎had planned and led an alleged coup attempt in July 2016; then he cracked down on Gulen's ‎followers and anyone else who met with his displeasure, leading to 47,000 arrests, 113,000 ‎detainments, 135,000 firings or suspensions from jobs, and many, many more entering the ‎shadows of "social death." Erdogan went further, demanding that Washington extradite Gulen to ‎Turkey and threatening a rupture if he did not get his way: "Sooner or later the U.S. will make a ‎choice. Either Turkey or [Gulen]."‎
Why did Erdogan pick a fight with Gulen, creating turmoil within Turkish Islamist ranks and ‎jeopardizing relations with the United States?‎
Mystery 4: Semantic purism. The European Union reluctantly agreed to visa-free travel for 75 ‎million Turks to its huge Schengen Zone, a benefit that would potentially allow Erdogan to push ‎out unwanted Kurds and Syrian refugees, not to speak of increasing his influence in countries ‎like Germany and the Netherlands. But the EU made this access contingent on narrowing ‎Turkey's vaguely worded anti-terrorism laws; it demanded "revising the legislation and practices ‎on terrorism in line with European standards." Erdogan could have made this meaningless ‎concession and arrested anyone he wanted on other charges, but he refused to ("It's impossible to ‎revise the legislation and practices on terrorism," intoned one of his ministers) and forewent an ‎extraordinary opportunity.‎
Mystery 5: Canny or megalomaniacal. Erdogan became prime minister in 2003 and for eight ‎years governed cautiously, overseeing remarkable economic growth, mollifying the military ‎leadership that held the country's ultimate power, and successfully pursuing a policy of "zero ‎problems with neighbors." In contrast to the hapless Mohammed Morsi, who lasted just a year as ‎president of Egypt, Erdogan timed his moves with such deftness that, for example, hardly ‎anyone noticed in July 2011 when he subdued the military.‎
That was then. Since 2011, however, Erdogan repeatedly has fomented his own problems. He ‎gratuitously turned Syria's Bashar Assad from his favorite foreign leader (the two and their ‎wives once even vacationed together) into a mortal enemy. He shot down a Russian fighter plane, ‎then abjectly had to apologize. He lost out on a pipeline transporting eastern Mediterranean gas ‎to Europe.‎
He illegally built himself on protected land an absurdly large palace, the largest in the world since ‎Nicolae Ceausescu's disastrous People's Palace in Bucharest. In a particularly ignoble farce, ‎Erdogan showed up at the funeral of American boxer Muhammad Ali to give a speech, deliver ‎presents, and have his picture taken with family members, only to be rejected in all these requests ‎and slink back home.‎
He makes enemies everywhere he goes. In Ecuador, Erdogan's bodyguards handcuffed three ‎pro-Kurdish Ecuadorian women and roughed up a parliamentarian who tried to protect them. ‎When asked about this incident, the deputy speaker of Ecuador's legislature replied, "Until ‎Erdogan's bodyguards assaulted a deputy, our public was not aware of Turkey. Nobody knew ‎who was a Turk or a Kurd. Now everybody knows and naturally we are on the side of the Kurds. ‎We don't want to see Erdogan in our country again."‎
What happened to the cunning leader of a decade back?‎
Erdogan's Islamist supporters sometimes suggest that he's on his way to declaring himself caliph. ‎As the 100th anniversary of the Istanbul-based caliphate's abolition approaches, he may find ‎this tempting; depending on whether he uses the Islamic or Christian calendar, that could happen, ‎respectively, on either March 10, 2021 or March 4, 2024. You heard it here first.‎
Sadly, Western responses to Erdogan have been confused and weak-kneed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel ‎agreed to hauling comedian Jan Bohmermann into court for ridiculing Erdogan. U.S. President Donald Trump ‎actually congratulated Erdogan on his tyrannical victory and rewarded him with a meeting next ‎month. And Australians defer on account of the Gallipoli commemorations.‎
It's time to see Erdogan for the dictatorial, Islamist, anti-Western egomaniac he is, ‎and protect his neighbors and ourselves from the damage he is already causing and the greater ‎problems to come. Removing U.S. nuclear weapons from Incirlik Air Base would be one step ‎in the right direction; even better would be to put Ankara on notice that its active NATO ‎membership is in jeopardy pending a dramatic turnaround in behavior.‎

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