You have to hand it to Turkey’s Islamist leaders. They sure know how to get their way. In the seven years since they first took power, the Islamist AKP party has successfully transformed Turkey from a staunch ally of the US and Israel and a member of NATO into a staunch ally of Iran and a member of NATO.
And that’s not all. Turkey’s Islamist leaders have used the Western language of democracy and freedom not only to abandon the West. They have used that language to destroy the foundations of Turkey’s Western-style secular democracy and transform the governing system of NATO’s sole Muslim member into a hybrid of Putinist autocracy and Iranian theocracy.
On September 12, the AKP took an enormous step toward consolidating its achievements and expanding its power. The Islamist regime won a national plebiscite on constitutional amendments that remove the remaining obstacles to its absolute power.
As a National Review reader noted, the vote was a mockery of democracy. It was held at the end of Ramadan during which the AKP provided 30 consecutive free post- Ramadan fast dinners to voters in key voting districts.
SINCE TAKING office, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party have used both lawful and unlawful means to intimidate, repress and silence all significant organs of secularist opposition to their rolling Islamic revolution. The media, civil service, police and business community have all been co-opted and intimidated into submission.
According to the Kemalist constitution, the military was the constitutional protector of secular Turkey. It was constitutionally bound to combat all threats to Turkey’s secular regime – including threats posed by political parties and political leaders. Over the past seven years, the AKP has done everything it could to demoralize and criminalize the military’s leadership and eviscerate the military’s constitutional powers and organizational independence. Most recently, President Abdullah Gul began intervening in promotions of generals to block all non-Islamists from acquiring command positions.
The constitutional amendments just passed further emasculate the military, placing it under the jurisdiction of AKP-controlled civilian courts.
In 1980, in accordance with its constitutional responsibility, the military ousted a precursor of the AKP from power in what the West incorrectly characterized as a coup. The new constitutional amendments make the military commanders who ousted the Islamists vulnerable to criminal prosecution for their actions. No doubt, in the near future these generals will be brought into court in shackles and charged with subverting the will of the people.
The message to any general with any thought of removing Erdogan and his colleagues will be crystal clear.
Aside from the chastened military, the only remaining outpost of secular power in Turkey has been the judiciary. In the past, the judiciary has overturned many of the government’s actions that it ruled were unconstitutional and illegal. The new constitutional amendments will work to end judicial independence by giving the government control over judicial appointments. The AKP’s justice minister will also have increased power to open investigations against judges and prosecutors.
Not surprisingly, Erdogan has praised the results of the plebiscite. As he put it, “The winner today was Turkish democracy.”
Now, with his constitutional amendments in hand, the only thing separating Erdogan from absolute power are next year’s elections. If he and his party win, with their new constitutional powers, they will have no obstacles to remaining in power forever. If they win, whether Erdogan declares it or not, Turkey will be an Islamist state with no effective domestic checks on the power of its rulers to do what they wish at home and abroad.
Erdogan also promised that the new amendments will facilitate entrance into the European Union. And judging by the EU’s initial response to the vote, he may be correct. The European Commission’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fule, hailed the vote as “a step in the right direction.”
Fule said that the constitutional changes “address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey’s efforts toward fully complying with [EU] accession criteria.”
The EU has been one of AKP’s primary enablers. Ruled by their ideology of multiculturalism, European leaders have refused to recognize the unique role the Turkish military played in securing the country’s secular regime. That regime was of course, the EU’s most vital strategic asset in Turkey. And so they gave the AKP the international cover it required to remove the greatest threat to its Islamic revolution.
AS FOR the US, President Barack Obama praised the plebiscite as proof of the “vibrancy of Turkish democracy.” As Michael Rubin has noted in National Review, not only has Obama approved the sale of 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey, the Defense Department has demurred from conducting a study to see whether the sale will threaten US interests in light of Turkey’s burgeoning strategic ties with Iran. And not wishing to embarrass the administration that has given a full-throated endorsement to Erdogan’s regime, the Democrat-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee has refused to ask the Pentagon to conduct such a review.
After the Obama administration canceled the F-22 project, the F-35 will be the US military’s only advanced fighter. In light of its strategic alliance with Iran, Turkey’s possession of the jets could constitute a serious threat to US air superiority in the region.
As for NATO, the US’s most important military alliance had no comment on Turkey’s rolling Islamic revolution. This is not in the least surprising. NATO has stood at a distance as Turkey has undermined its mission in Kosovo and transformed it into a virtual Turkish colony. So too, NATO has had no comment as Turkey has worked consistently to disenfranchise Bosnia’s non-Muslim minorities and intimidate the Serbian government. At this late date, it would have been shocking if NATO had a comment of any kind on the AKP’s consolidation of its Islamist thugocracy.
Iran, for its part, is not at all squeamish about both recognizing the significance of events in Turkey and extolling them. It has reportedly agreed to contribute $25 million to the AKP to help Erdogan in his bid for reelection next year. Turkish-Iranian trade has gone up 86 percent in the past year.
In a visit to Istanbul this week, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said, “Turkey is the best friend of Iran in the world. Turkey is very important for Iran’s political and economic security. Our Supreme Leader [Ali] Khamenei also asks for acceleration of political, economic and security relations with Turkey.”
And still the West sleeps.
As it watched the AKP’s steady transformation of Turkey from staunch ally to staunch enemy, for seven years Israel tried to make light of what was happening. Indeed, its decision to opt for denial over strategic disengagement prompted it to continue selling Turkey state of the art military equipment. The IDF now acknowledges that Turkey has shared this equipment with the likes of Syria and Hizbullah.
Israel hoped that Turkey would grow so dependent on its military relationship that it would abandon its intention to ditch the alliance. That foolish hope was finally destroyed when Turkey committed an act of war on the high seas on May 31 with its terror flotilla to Gaza.
EVERY MOVE since then to make light of Turkey’s actions has been shot down by yet another Turkish affront. In its latest slight, Turkey loudly – an apropos of nothing – announced that Gul will not have time to meet with President Shimon Peres at the UN General Assembly in New York next week.
And still, perhaps out of deference to Obama, Israel has remained circumspect in its statements about the dangers Islamist Turkey poses not only to it but to the free world as a whole. And this is a shame. But then, it is hard to imagine Israeli warnings making any difference.
The US and Europe’s refusal to consider the implications of Turkey’s abandonment of the West in favor of Iran goes hand in hand with their abandonment of the cause of liberalism throughout the Middle East and the world as a whole. Among other things, their dangerous behavior is emblematic of their consummate elitism.
The likes of Obama and the heads of Europe view their own publics as mere nuisances. For Obama, the groundswell of opposition to his radical and failed economic reforms doesn’t indicate that there is something wrong with what he is doing. As he has made clear in repeated statements in recent weeks, as far as he is concerned, his steady loss of support is simply proof of the American people’s ignorance.
As for Europe, it is not a great stretch to say that the entire EU is an elitist project consolidated against the will of the peoples of Europe. The EU leadership thought nothing of ramming its expanded powers down the throats of its unwilling constituents. After the Lisbon Treaty was rejected in referendum after referendum, Europe’s leaders conspired to pass it by bureaucratic fiat.
This contempt for their own people leads the leaders of the West to disregard human rights abuses from China to Syria as unimportant. So too, it has paved the path for Obama’s courtship of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US and Egypt and his decision to back the mullahs against the Iranian people in the aftermath of the stolen presidential election in June 2009.
Making deals with authoritarian leaders is so much easier than actually selling the case for the West and its values to the peoples of the world. This is particularly so given the contempt with which Western leaders hold their own publics.
Unfortunately, it is this contempt for the peoples of the West, of
Turkey, Iran, China and the rest of the world that is making Erdogan’s
revolution a preordained success. At this late date, the only possible
way for the Turkish opposition to win next year’s fateful elections is
if it receives massive political and other support from the West. Only
if the US, the EU and NATO state outright that they view the turn to
Islamism as dangerous to their interests and to their relations with
Turkey will the opposition gain the necessary momentum to put up a
fight. Only if the West puts its money where its mouth is and matches
Iran’s generosity toward the AKP with generosity of its own toward its
political opponents will there be any chance that the until now
unstoppable Islamist transformation will be checked.
Obama and his European colleagues may believe that they will not be
blamed for the loss of Turkey. After all, its transformation into Iran’s
best friend started seven years ago. But they are wrong. If they
continue to sit on their elitist laurels, Turkey will be lost on their
watch and they will not be forgiven by their own peoples for their
failure to act in time.