Erdogan & Co.: Bad News for Jihadists

June 23, 2015

3 min read

Burak Bekdil

Turkey’s recent elections mean, among other things, that Erdogan, Davutoglu & Co.’s dreams of a new Middle East, built on a strictly pan-Islamist ummah[Muslim community] population and subservient to a supremacist Turkish empire, are, for some unknown time, over.

When more than 55 million Turks voted on June 7, they did not only vote to deprive President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the worse-than-Putinesque powers he had long been campaigning for; they also said a democratic “No” to his Islamist foreign policy ambitions.

Erdogan, in the next few years, will probably be too distracted by his own efforts to re-establish his totalitarian reign to have the energy to pursue any ambitions to build the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas-type of neighborhood he seems to be craving: a neo-Ottoman/Turkish leadership in the Middle East.

In his campaign for the June 7 parliamentary elections, Erdogan asked the Turks to give him enough seats to rewrite the constitution in such a way that he could officially become the strongman executive President of Turkey. The Turks gave him 71 seats fewer than he needed for a constitutional amendment, and 108 fewer than he needed directly to amend the Turkish charter. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which Erdogan founded and through which he has comfortably ruled Turkey since 2002, is, for the first time, in a parliamentary minority. The AKP has been forced to negotiate with opposition parties to secure a vote of confidence in parliament.

At an extraordinary time like this, the AKP, Erdogan and the troubled Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, do not have the time or energy to rewrite the history of the Middle East in favor of the resurrection of a Turkish empire.

The outcome of Turkey’s 2015 election must have made a not-so-modest contribution to alcohol consumption in Turkey, and also, privately, some more-modest contribution to champagne consumption in several Muslim capitals, including Damascus, Tehran and Cairo.

A weakened Erdogan, Davutoglu & Co. is bad news for the jihadists fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It is bad news for Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their ideological next of kin in neighboring countries. It is, generally speaking, bad news for political Islam and its followers. It is bad news, also, for Hamas.

Why do bad things always happen to them? At right, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; at left, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

In other words, Erdogan, Davutoglu & Co. — instead of devoting time, energy and resources to rebuilding the Middle East along “post-modernist” Islamist [the tamed Islamists, not the “bad” ones] and neo-Ottoman lines — will now have to fight an existential domestic political war. The bureaucracy, especially the military and in foreign ministry, will probably be less likely to play the obedient role of yes-men in policy-making.

All of which will be good for Turkey, its Western friends and its antagonized neighbors.

There are already signs of cracks in foreign policy thinking within the AKP. A new book release is telling: Twelve Years With Abdullah Gul was written by Ahmet Sever, the chief press advisor to Erdogan’s predecessor as president.

The book went to print after having been “vetted” by former president Gul, Erdogan’s comrade-in-arms, who is expected to make a comeback into Turkish politics.

Gul is the co-founder of the AKP, together with Erdogan. In 2007, he was elected president after then-Prime Minister Erdogan nominated him. Compared to the passionate Erdogan, Gul, in rhetoric, is a moderate Islamist.

In an interview with the Turkish daily, Hurriyet, Sever, “the man who worked with Gul for 12 years,” said:

“Gul did not approve of Turkey’s foreign policy in general, and its policy on Syria and Egypt in particular. He believed that [then] Prime Minister Erdogan and [then] Foreign Minister Davutoglu went too far by behaving more like the prime minister and foreign minister of Syria and Egypt than of Turkey. He believed that this was against Turkey’s national interests. He [Gul] said that personally to Davutoglu too.”

Turkey’s recent elections mean, among other things, that Erdogan, Davutoglu & Co.’s dreams of a new Middle East, built on a strictly pan-Islamist ummah [Muslim community] population and subservient to a supremacist Turkish empire, are, for some unknown time, over.

It is an opportunity that Messrs Erdogan and Davutoglu are too distracted by survival politics, and have too little time and energy to fine-tune an ambitious foreign policy designed to benefit political Islam.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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