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Re: [MESA] Fwd: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

Released on 2012-03-07 14:00 GMT

Email-ID 71381
Date 2011-06-02 16:21:31
I will try to get in touch with them to answer these questions.


From: "Reva Bhalla"
To: "Middle East AOR"
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 5:17:48 PM
Subject: Re: [MESA] Fwd: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

have you investigated what kind of links they've had with the MB? do they
have the same ideological difference with the MB that the Gulenists have?
what did their cooperation (if any) look like before the uprisings? can
you give some more background on Mazlum-Der? im not familiar at all with


From: "Emre Dogru"
To: "Middle East AOR"
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 9:14:18 AM
Subject: Re: [MESA] Fwd: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

Mazlum-Der organized this conference about Syria in late April and Syrian
MB's public relations dude Mohammed Tayfur attended. Head of Mazlum-Der's
speech includes pretty harsh words against Assad. They organized some
protests in front of the Syrian embassy. They also sent a letter to Syrian
ambassador and asked permission to visit Syria to investigate the
Following is a report about the conference in Turkish on their
Doesn't mean that Mazlum-Der is an influential political current, but they
are more Islamist than AKP/Gulen and they are likely to have better links
with MB.


From: "Reva Bhalla"
To: "Middle East AOR"
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 4:56:19 PM
Subject: Re: [MESA] Fwd: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

yes, definitely a lot of pro-AKP bias, but i find that revealing. ive
noticed a lot from AKP officials that extreme arrogance and defensiveness
when it comes how they do things and how they conduct their foreign
policy. they think the Arabs are ready to put the pashas back on the
pedestal in a snap.

really want to learn more about you're finding on the turkish Islamist
political current's links with MB. pls send out your initial findings

agreed he's overplaying turkish influence, but the turks do seem extremely
involved in the syria situation.


From: "Emre Dogru"
To: "Middle East AOR"
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 8:51:33 AM
Subject: Re: [MESA] Fwd: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

a lot of what he says here is AKP's official policy&propaganda, which is
good to remember.
your comment on how AKP sees Arabs and how it wants to be a model to them
is spot on. All Turkish televisions were debating whether turkey could be
a model for egypt right after mubarak fell, as if it was egyptians' top
priority. my reading is that arabs don't really care about a turkish model
(certainly not egyptians) and i think they would feel turkish arrogance in
this policy, which will backfire big time. doesn't mean that they will
completely refuse anything that turkey has&suggests but i don't think that
they want to become another turkey. no matter how much davutoglu says
turkey doesn't intend to push its demands in the mideast, arabs will sense
that turkey wants to be their model, and given historical animosity, they
will be more sensitive about that. i'm curious about what Kamran thinks
about this.
source seems to be overplaying turkey's influence on syria (turks wrote
assad's speech??). but it makes sense that all these opposition
conferences aim to put pressure on assad. i think it's clear that turkish
- syrian opposition ties are not that strong. i'm working on this
currently and my initial findings show that more islamist political
current such as saadet/mazlum-der has better ties with syrian mb than
akp/gulen bloc.


From: "Reva Bhalla"
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 4:20:20 PM
Subject: [MESA] Fwd: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

i know this is long, but worth reading through. we were having this
debate earlier on Turkey's influence over Syria. I think they are building
more influence than we were giving them credit for. also found their plan
on egypt to be pretty interesting


From: "Michael Wilson"
To: "Alpha List"
Sent: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 4:02:46 PM
Subject: [alpha] INSIGHT - TURKEY - AKP's foreign policy

PUBLICATION: background/analysis
Head of DC arm of SETA, main AKP think tank; strong supporter of AKP,
close to Davutoglu
Reliability : B

Just came back from a nearly 3 hour lunch with this Turkish source. He
heads up the AKP's premier think tank SETA from DC and is supposed to act
as the face of Turkey's foreign policy in US. He and Davutoglu are close
(the source is always defending Davutoglu and thinks (our) George and D
are soul mates) and had just come back from Ankara, where had spent a lot
of hours working with Davutoglu. SETA is undergoing a major expansion
right now. Instead of just being a Turkish think tank, they are turning
into a regional think tank with offices in Cairo, Brussels and Moscow (in
addition to their current 2 in DC and Ankara.) AKP is throwing money at
the institute, trying to make it into a stronger foreign policy arm of the
government. (side note - i asked why those locations; he said Turkey
wouldn't want to be in the Caucasus because it's better not to 'offend'
Russia in its periphery; Cairo is good b/c it allow Turkey extension into
Arab world, North Africa especially; Turkey can reach into Iraq just fine
from Ankara and SETA doesn't want to be seen as an intel outlet in these
countries either.)

Turkey, specifically the AKP, is in overdrive right now. Davutoglu says
it's all overwhelming, but that Turkey should recognize the opportunity
that has opened up. It was very difficult, for example, for Turkey to
expand influence into North Africa before. AKP did not have good relations
with Egypt, virtually nothing with Tunisia, etc. Now, it's open access.
SETA has been organizing all kinds of conferences -- notably focusing on
"reformed" Islamists - for opposition groups in nearly every Arab country.
They bring them to Ankara, give them tours of the ministries, have them
observe parliamentary proceedings, teach them governance, etc. (They don't
publicize the events, but the source said the NED funded one of these
conferences with a Jordanian institute and wanted Turkey to take charge of
it.) Turkey's internal security forces are training security forces in
countries like Syria in how to deal with civil disobedience (ie. dont
shoot protestors). AKP's natural preference is to raise 'reformed' or
moderate Islamist political opposition in these countries, with Turkey
serving as the model.

The source's attitude on this issue was something that I noticed a lot
back when I was in Turkey. It's this whole 'all Arabs want to be like
Turks' attitude during the region. The Arabs are seen as backwards, and if
you talk to the Turkish military folks, they're seen as dirty, not even
worth dealing with. But the AKP says since we have the Islamist linkage,
we bring down the barriers between Turkey and the Islamic world, we CAN
work with them, do business with them, teach them how to govern
democratically and bring their militaries under civilian control, but they
will always be inferior to us. As he put it, this whole Arab Spring will
be a Turkish Spring, meaning that Turkey will transform the Arab Spring
into the AKP model and they will all be grateful for it.

AKP doesn't really have strong ties with the Ikhwan (MB) in these
countries, nor does Gulen, but they are working on building those ties
now. Another source I was talking to the other day (a former Gulenist)
explained to me the big ideological differences between Gulen movement and
the MB, where the Gulenists do not agree with the Sayyid Qutb line of
thinking on political Islam and believe that Islamists should stay out of
governance. He was explaining to me how this was drilled into them growing
up by the Gulenist mentors and how that posed a big ideological barrier
between the movement and the MB (note the MB never set up in Turkey.) You
can argue that this aversion to 'political' Islam by the Gulenists is not
as strong anymore given that the Gulenists rely on AKP as their main
political vehicle and you even have 2 Gulenists running this time in
Turkey's election in Istanbul. Point is, AKP and its allies are
encouraging Islamist opposition groups in these countries to emerge from
the Arab Spring and wants to mold them according to its own model of
moderate Islam (you can imagine how this would greatly complicate things
with Israel and US.)

The source said Turkey is putting an unbelievable amount of pressure on
Syria to engage in real reforms. It's not that AKP is trying to overthrow
Assad, but they see a bigger security risk in having the Syrian regime
suppress the opposition. He was saying how an increasing number of PKK are
coming from Syria, and that SYria's policies toward its Kurds lead to
radicalization, which creates security problems for Turkey. Bashar's
second speech was written by the Turks. The policy on citizenship for
Kurds was pushed by AKP, and Bashar listened. AKP wants to see more, real
reforms that allow for a legalized opposition. That's why AKP is giving
the opposition groups in Syria a platform in Turkey - to intimidate the al
Assad regime and build up links with developing alternatives to the Al
Assads. It doesn't mean that the political transition will happen
overnight, but Turkey is trying to push the regime to open up politically
and allow for competition to enable these other political groups, like the
MB. (SETA has been the main group organizing these conferences with the
Syrian opposition.)

He says that the US is pushing Turkey to pressure Syria harder, and that
the pressure is coming from the top. Turkey is pushing back saying that
they want to deal with Syria on their terms and that they don't want to
push the Syrian regime over the edge.

AKP wants to help Egypt rise in the region. It's not that Turkey views
Egypt right now as a serious competitor, but it thinks that if Egypt could
get its shit together under Turkish tutelage, then that will allow Turkey
to better manage the region, especially when it comes to controlling and
reforming Hamas, dealing with Libya, Tunisia, etc. (Interesting to note
that the Turks are thinking along these lines already - just as US is
looking to Turkey to share the burden, Turkey is already looking to
develop proxies to share the burden within the region.) Things will go
very badly if the military in Egypt doesn't follow through with its
promises in the elections. Turkey wants to make sure the opposition,
especially the MB, is given the room to rise. It doesn't matter if Israel
doesn't like it -- that's Israel's problem.

He expressed frustration a lot throughout the discussion - that the US
still views Turkey as junior, and tells it 'do this' or 'do that' in its
foreign policy. The AKP doesn't like being treated that way, which results
in a lot of issues when Turkish and US officials meet. Davutoglu feels
that the security issues in the Persian Gulf region are exaggerated, and
that the US plays up the Persian-Arab divide in trying to get Turkey to do
something. From AKP's point of view, the question is, 'what do you want us
to do?' The AKP wants to tame the sectarian conflict, not exacerbate it
by openly taking sides and making Iran out as the big, bad threat.

This broadened up into a discussion on Davutoglu's 'zero problems with
neighbors' foreign policy. The source explained how a lot of people see
this foreign policy as naive, but he says Davutoglu is not as naive as he
appears. He may be an academic, but he's cunning. He knows he has problems
iwth neighbors, but in his view, it doesn't serve Turkey's purposes to
articulate those problems and brand neighbors as rivals. If Turkey tells
its neighbors taht its whole strategic purpose is to resolve its problems
and remove conflict, then it feels that it can work with them more
effectively. this is the approach it takes with Iran, Russia, etc.,
avoiding confrontation. He said how on the surface, Turkey won't take
aggressive action against Iran, but in the meantime of course AKP will
bolster the Sunnis in Iraq. I countered that that assumes that events in
Turkey's neighborhood will occur according to Turkey's timeline and when
Turkey is ready to deal with those problems - the world doesn't work that
way. When problems push up against Turkey's interests, Turkey will have to
respond one way or another, even if it doesn't seem 'neighborly.' Overall,
the impression I get is that the AKP's foreign policy guys are still under
the impression that this Davutoglu foreign policy doctrine is still the
best way to go about conducting foreign policy. There is very little
attention paid to the prioritization of foreign policy interests. Turkey
still seems to be running around trying to put out fires and seize
opportunities but is still severely lacking focus and discipline. What
Davutoglu does understand, according to the source, is that the best way
for Turkey to learn is by doing. Davutoglu apparently compares Turkey's
experience to the US post WWII when US didn't even have an intel agency.
He believes that all of these regional developments will push Turkey into
action and force Turkey to learn quickly how to manage its neighborhood.

(Side note - Davutoglu doesn't want to translate his 500 page book on
Strategic Depth into English, though it's been translated into Arabic and
Russian. I asked why, especially since English is the lingua franca,
wouldn't more people understand Turkey's foreign policy choices if they
could read the book that the foreign policy chief wrote? He didn't want to
give into the idea that English is the lingua franca - you can still sense
this strong aversion to recognizing US power and wanting to assert Turkey
independently of the US.)

He thinks AKP will win big in the next election. There is really not much
the secularist establishment can do to undermine their support. As long as
the economy is okay, the AKP is secure. The ideological and political
divisions within TUrkey are so severe still. This was especially clear
following the assassination attempt against Erdogan recently. He talks
with disgust about how the military could never do what the AKP has done
in the past decade. When teh military ran things, they only cared about
themselves whereas the AKP build trust between the state and the people.
He said that the secularist groups still refuse to deal with Islamic
countries. Even when SETA tries to reach out to the secularist think
tanks, business associations for projects in places like Tunisia, Egypt,
etc., they reject them with the attitude that Arabs are beneath them, we
don't need to work with them. He says (and this is what davutoglu argues)
that the AKP's mentality is what allows Turkish foreign policy to expand.

The military doesn't have much option of trying to undermine AKP in the
lead-up to elections. He pointed out the leaks recently on how some
retired members within the military had meetings with PKK leadership, the
allegation being that the military 'deep state' is trying to orchestrate
attacks and undermine AKP's Kurdish policy.

Emre Dogru
Cell: +90.532.465.7514
Fixed: +1.512.279.9468

Emre Dogru
Cell: +90.532.465.7514
Fixed: +1.512.279.9468

Emre Dogru
Cell: +90.532.465.7514
Fixed: +1.512.279.9468