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January 15, 2014 11:20 am
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Erdogan’s Russia Problem (and Vice-Versa)

avatar by Rachel Ehrenfeld

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: World Economic Forum.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing Islamist tendencies and his crackdown on the military and the media have upset many in Turkey. Revelations of a gold-for-oil scheme and the extent of his and his associates’ corruption; bribes to members of his government; and his son’s corrupt land and construction deals with Yassin al Qadi, a U.S.-designated terrorist who has funded al Qaeda, brought condemnation from the liberal opposition and thousands of protesters to the streets. Criticism of Edrogan’s growing totalitarianism is increasing within Turkey and without.

During the past 11 years, Erdogan has managed to consolidate power and move towards a radical Islamic state under the guise of advancing Turkey as an “Islamic democracy.” However, as we have been witnessing over the last four years, how the oxymoron of “Islamic democracy” – a Muslim Brotherhood invention – has been used successfully to turn the ‘Arab Spring’ into a scorching Arab summer. Erdogan’s “democracy” replaces Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Western legal codes with shari’a, turning the secular republic into an authoritarian, Islamic state.

While Erdogan’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch – Hamas, of Morsi in Egypt, and of al Qaeda fighters in Syria did not seem to upset the Obama Administration, it has made the Russians nervous. With good reason: The large Chechen community in Turkey that supports the separatist and Islamist terrorists in Russia’s Caucasus.

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Indeed, Erdogan’s current crisis began with a 2011 Russian crack-down on a drug-money-laundering ring in this area, which laundered revenues from trading Afghan opium with the Taliban. The investigation also revealed illegal gold transactions in Russian banks, which the Chechens shared with their Turkish counterparts. This probe led to the December 17, 2013, arrests of the sons of a Turkish minister and 34 other suspects, and to mass demonstrations against the government.

Erdogan lashed out against the State’s prosecutors that until recently supported him, handing long prison terms to reporters and deposed military officers for allegedly plotting a coup. He denounced the corruption allegations and the arrests, and claimed prosecutors who conspired to oust him made up the charges.

While Erdogan’s authoritarianism would not be particularly bothersome to Putin, who dislikes the idea of being surrounded by democratic-minded states (as we’ve seen in his policies on Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine), Chechen terrorism certainly is. Clearly, Russia would prefer a secular Turkey to an Islamist Turkey leaking jihadist into Russia or the former Soviet republics.

Discord with Russia may or may not play into Edrogan’s hand, but the upheaval surrounding Erdogan’s corruption scandal presents the military and the Turkish liberal opposition with a unique opportunity to prevent the country from going the way of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since the U.S. doesn’t seem to care, Putin is likely to step in, offering aid to the leaders of a Turkish military secular coup. After all, Putin did so successfully in Egypt after General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi removed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. This would advance Putin’s efforts to become a greater player in the Middle East and on the world stage.

In the meantime, Erdogan and his lawless government are still in charge.

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  • Atilla

    I hate Erdoğan but you are highly likely to be a jewish who is suffering from Mavi Marmara Syndrome..This article targets Turkey rather than Erdoğan..By the way..I wonder Why did Netenyahu apologize to him???

  • Atilla

    disgusting article by a biased author

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    It would be the height of irony if Putin, an autocratic Russian nationalist with disdain for democracy and a KGB-ingrained dislike of America, has to be the one to encourage the secular Turkish military to mount a coup to preserve secularism and democracy in Turkey because we-and yes I regrettably mean the president and the state secretary, are too enamored of the ideals of Jeffersonianism refuse to similarly practise realpolitik. The sooner Erdogan goes the way of Adnan Menderes the better of Turkey, for Israel, for America. (If you’re too young to remember Menderes, google him and you’ll find out.)

  • John Smith

    Rachel this article is disappointing to say the least. I challenge you to prove that Turkey is a radical Islamic state? I challenge you to prove that sharia laws have been implemented in Turkey.

    If the Chechen’s don’t want to live under Russian rule how can they be labeled terrorists? If they are terrorists how about the leadership of Chechnya who have come under the Russian wing? So do you lose your terrorist tag if you come under Russian rule? How about you be consistent. In fact if you bothered to do your research the Russian leadership is interested in Turkish help to moderate Muslims in the Caucasus area. Trade between Turkey and Russia is reaching 100 billion USD any destabilisation of Russia will affect Turkey. So I don’t understand your rationale in this article.

    Trading with your neighbour is not illegal. I don’t understand how trading with your neighbour is illegal. If the Iranian’s prefer trade in Gold then again what is the problem?

    20,000 protestors don’t seem much of a threat do you really think that is going to cause Erdogan sleepless nights? Wishful thinking to say the least.

    What aid can Putin give the so called secular camp in Turkey? Oh by the way this so called Secular camp who you label as liberal have a questionable history in minority rights. I suggest you look up Ishak Alaton.

    I’m disappointed in this article because I read your credentials however the content in this article does not meet the reality.

    • California Gal

      “Since the US doesn’t seem to care…” Awful. Biased opinions and rhetoric. Same writing style as the National Enquirer.

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