"In Turkey, Atlanticism Does Not Mean Liberalism" by Halil Karaveli, Foreign Policy
Turkey identifies as Western only in a military-strategic sense that does not imply belonging to the West in political-ideological terms—and it never has. Turkey shows how leaders who stand in opposition to the liberal and democratic values that NATO supposedly upholds can still embrace Atlanticism. Turkey was a democracy when it joined the bloc, but its democratic rule was regularly suspended by military coups without its membership being called into question. On the contrary, the coups aligned with NATO interests, as the military was loyal to the Western alliance and suppressed left-wing calls for a nonaligned Turkey.
In fact, NATO resources were mobilized in the service of anti-democratic forces in Turkey in the past, notably under Bahceli’s predecessor as MHP leader, Alparslan Turkes. A military officer, Turkes received counterinsurgency education in the United States in the 1950s. He played a leading role in Turkey’s 1960 military coup and was later connected to the political killings of leftist activists in Turkey in the 1970s. The latter campaign, led by right-wing militias, was motivated by the fear of a communist takeover. The Turkish military, the police, and the intelligence community benefited from covert NATO support and advice in their anti-communist campaign. No NATO allies questioned the role that Turkish security forces played.
Both NATO adherence and authoritarianism remain salient in Turkey. The Turkish parliamentary majority that ratified Sweden’s NATO accession was the same group of parties that made it possible to imprison lawmakers in 2016 by stripping parliamentarians of their immunity. That November, the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, and eight other HDP parliamentarians were arrested. They remain behind bars, in violation of fundamental democratic principles.
During the Cold War, anti-communism bound together liberal democracies and right-wing dictatorships, offering Atlanticism some ideological leeway. But NATO can no longer overlook violations of democratic principles among its members as lightly as it did back then, when the overriding goal of resisting communism conferred political legitimacy on authoritarian governments in Turkey, Greece, and Portugal. Today, as global forces pit Western democratic capitalism against Russian and Chinese authoritarian capitalism, the West’s claim to moral superiority relies exclusively on its pretention to represent democracy.
Unless Western democrats and U.S. lawmakers begin caring as much about the liberation of imprisoned elected officials in Turkey as they do about Sweden joining NATO, Atlanticism will appear to lose some of its liberal democratic purpose. A fully democratic Turkey would strengthen the bloc as much—if not more—than Sweden’s accession.
"Turkish opposition unite against unusual foe: CHP as a central target" by Murat Yetkin, Yetkin Report
Since the May 2023 election defeat, Turkey’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has grappled with internal conflicts that have taken a toll on the party. However, in addition to this, an unprecedented situation has emerged in Turkish politics: the CHP, not President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), appears to be the central target for nearly all opposition parties in their local elections campaign.
This trend has intensified as Turkey gears up for local elections scheduled for March 2024.
Over the weekend, the Saadet Party also joined this shift. Birol Aydin, the Saadet Party’s candidate for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, asserted that Istanbul cannot afford to lose another five years with the current IBB Mayor.
My concern lies in the fact that opposition candidates predominantly target the CHP rather than the AKP in their campaign propaganda. There’s usually no smoke without fire. With all his political experience and intuition, Erdogan seeks to exploit the fissures within the CHP and further weaken the rival. CHP members are already providing ample material to all their rivals.
LEADERS ON THE MOVE
CHP's İzmir mayoral candidate sparks criticism over ties to 'gang of five'
On January 29, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced Cemil Tugay, the current mayor of Karsiyaka district, as the mayoral candidate for the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality in the upcoming local elections on March 31. But the party is now criticized for nominating Tugay, linked to one of the "gang of five" pro-government businessmen. The "gang of five" is known for winning major tenders during President Erdogan's tenure.
The city’s current mayor, Tunc Soyer, close to former CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, was not renominated. On social media, Soyer characterized the party's choice to notify him about their decision just five minutes before the Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting as a "political discourtesy."
Former CHP deputy chairman Eren Erdem shared documents on social media platform X alleging Tugay's links to pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz, accusing him of selling municipal land below value and approving illegal construction.
In response, speaking to journalist Ismail Saymaz, Tugay explained that the land sale aimed to cover municipal debts and consulted with Kilicdaroglu and Soyer at the time.
Controversial judge appointed to top court raises concerns over judicial independence
Turkish President Erdogan appointed Yılmaz Akcil, a judge known for controversial decisions, as a member of Turkey's Constitutional Court. Akcil, a member of the Council of State, was chosen from three candidates nominated by the court's general assembly. The decision on Akcil's appointment was published in the Official Gazette on January 31.
However, the appointment has raised concerns about the politicization of the country's judiciary. Notably, Akcil voted in favor of canceling a 1934 decision that converted Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum. He also voted against canceling a presidential decree for Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.
Far-Right Islamist ally enters mayoral race in Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir
The far-right Islamist ally, New Welfare Party (YRP), announced on February 3 its participation in the mayoral race for Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir provinces in the upcoming local elections on March 31. The party, which decided against an alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will reveal its candidates on February 10.
YRP leader Fatih Erbakan stated that the decision was made after considering the views of their constituents, and they found no fair requests during talks with the AKP. Erbakan also expressed disappointment in the AKP alliance following the general elections, citing that their agreement was disregarded.
DEM Party decides to field own candidate in Istanbul local elections
The Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) announced its decision to nominate its own candidate for the upcoming local elections in Istanbul. DEM Party spokeswoman Aysegul Dogan revealed the decisions made by the party's main decision-making body on February 4.
Dogan stated that all constituencies and appointed candidates will be disclosed by February 9. When asked about the potential candidacy of Basak Demirtas, the wife of the imprisoned former leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Dogan confirmed that she is among the potential candidates for Istanbul.
Turkey's Central Bank Governor resigns; Fatih Karahan appointed as successor
On February 2, Turkey's central bank governor, Hafize Gaye Erkan, resigned, citing the need to safeguard her family from a "reputation assassination" campaign. In a statement on social media, she expressed concern about the impact on her family, particularly her young child, and requested the President to relieve her from duty. Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek acknowledged Erkan's resignation as a personal decision, ensuring the uninterrupted continuation of the economic program.
Following Erkan's resignation, President Erdogan appointed Deputy Central Bank Governor Fatih Karahan as the new central bank governor on February 3, according to the official gazette. In July of the previous year, Erdogan had appointed Karahan as one of the three new deputy governors of the central bank. Fatih Karahan, 42, holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, has a background as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and has experience at Amazon as a principal economist in 2022.
On February 4, in a press statement, Fatih Karahan emphasized their commitment to maintaining "the necessary monetary tightness" until inflation reaches targeted levels. Karahan said the bank's main objective and priority is to achieve price stability.
Turkey and Greece aim to double bilateral trade to $10 billion
Turkey and Greece aim to nearly double their bilateral trade volume from $5.8 billion in 2023 to $10 billion, as announced during the Turkish-Greek Economic Forum in Istanbul on February 2, organized by the Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK). The goal follows the signing of 15 agreements a few months ago and a friendship declaration between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Erdoğan in December. Both countries underscored the positive climate in relations and the potential benefits for regional prosperity.
The 6th meeting of the Turkey-Greece Joint Economic Commission resulted in initiatives for deeper economic cooperation, including infrastructure development, border crossing improvements, and collaboration in tourism and standardization.
Greece also announced visa facilitation for Turkish tourists visiting the Aegean islands starting from March 1.
Turkey records significant drop in 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index
The 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International has been released, revealing Turkey's significant decline in corruption. The report highlights Turkey's score dropping to 34 out of 100, garnering attention for its sharp decrease. The findings indicate an 11 percent decrease compared to 2014 and a 7 percent decrease compared to 2018.
Turkey has been on a consistent downward trajectory in the index since 2013. The previous year, it held the 115th position out of 180 countries, starkly contrasting its 52nd rank in 2013. Widely referenced by numerous international organizations and companies, the Corruption Perceptions Index serves as a benchmark in various areas, ranging from international credit ratings to economic assessments.
Former Turkish Interior Minister accused of accepting $20 million in bribes
Former Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu is accused of receiving $20 million in bribes from Ahmed Nazari, an Iranian linked to a large-scale fake investment scam, and the slain casino boss Halil Falyali, involved in illegal gambling and drug trafficking.
Investigative journalist Cevheri Guven released audio recordings featuring Cemil Onal, Falyali's financial manager, disclosing details of the bribery scheme. The funds allegedly ensured Turkish citizenship for Nazari, wanted in the EU with a red notice. Onal described a covert operation to shield Nazari and Falyali from police investigations, implicating Soylu as the facilitator. Onal also exposed their criminal network, involving evading US sanctions on Iran and laundering illicit oil revenues in Dubai.
Nazari is currently imprisoned in Dubai for an alleged assassination attempt on mob boss Sedat Peker.
UK abandons migrant return deal with Turkey over human rights concerns
According to a report from The Times, the UK Home Office abandoned plans for a migrant return deal with Turkey. The deal, which involved repatriating Turks and Kurds escaping government repression in Turkey, was halted due to human rights concerns and potential persecution of political dissidents.
The Home Office's internal assessment deemed Turkey not a "generally safe" country for migrant repatriation, highlighting issues like the misuse of anti-terrorism laws, lack of judicial independence, and concerns about trial fairness, especially in political cases, the report said.
The report added that allegations of torture and mistreatment in police custody and prisons also played a role in the decision, and the reconsideration aligns with broader international concerns about Turkey's compliance with European Court of Human Rights rulings.
Jailed opposition lawmaker stripped of parliament status amidst legal crisis
On January 30, the Turkish parliament officially announced the removal of jailed opposition lawmaker Can Atalay's parliamentary status after the Court of Cassation upheld his conviction in September. Bekir Bozdag, the deputy speaker of parliament and a member of President Erdogan's ruling AK Party, made the announcement following a contentious debate in the general assembly.
Atalay, 47, representing the Workers' Party of Turkey (TIP), an ally of the pro-Kurdish DEM party, was elected to parliament in May while serving an 18-year prison sentence. Despite the Constitutional Court's twice ruling in October and December that his imprisonment violated his right to be elected, the Court of Cassation refused to release him, leading to a judicial crisis.
On February 2, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court, seeking the nullification of Can Atalay's parliamentary status removal. The petition, delivered by CHP group deputy chairman Gokhan Gunaydin, highlighted the party's position that stripping Atalay's parliamentary status was unjust and urged the Constitutional Court to intervene promptly. Gunaydin, addressing the press, declared, "The expulsion of Can Atalay is null and void."
Concerns rise in Germany as reports surface of Turkish-Islamist party linked to Erdogan
A report by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag has sparked concern in the country about the establishment of a Turkish-Islamist party in Germany closely tied to President Erdoğan. The party, called Demokratische Allianz für Vielfalt und Aufbruch (Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Awakening, or DAVA), reportedly plans to participate in the upcoming European elections on June 9. The report names four individuals with ties to Erdogan or his AKP party as top candidates.
Some German politicians fear this move could deepen divisions among religious and ethnic groups and draw parallels to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. They also fear that the new party would increase Erdoğan's influence over the Turkish population in Germany.
However, speaking to BBC Turkish, DAVA officials, including Chairman Teyfik Ozcan and Deputy Chairman Fatih Zingal, deny any affiliation with Erdoğan and stress their aim to represent all under-represented religious and ethnic minorities in German politics. They state that while they may share some views with the AKP, describing DAVA as an "offshoot" would be inaccurate. They also reject claims of funding from the Turkish government, stating that their revenue comes from membership fees and donations.
The Bild am Sonntag report also indicated DAVA's intention to run in the European Parliament election in Germany, a plan confirmed by Zingal, who mentioned the party's establishment process will be completed following the elections at the latest.
Canada lifts weapons export controls to Turkey
On January 29, Canada announced the removal of weapons export controls to Turkey, including drone optical technology, as per an online notice. According to the statement, it would now assess each export individually and retain the right to cancel permits if misuse is detected.
Canada had previously suspended drone technology sales to Turkey due to its findings that the optical equipment on Turkish-made drones was used by Azerbaijan forces against Armenian forces in the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. The lifting of the export freeze was linked to Turkey's recent acceptance of Sweden into NATO, as per last week's developments.
Turkey and Ukraine forge partnership for post-war reconstruction
On January 31, Turkey and Ukraine signed an agreement allowing Turkish construction firms to participate in rebuilding Ukraine's infrastructure damaged during Russia's invasion. In a meeting held in Istanbul, Turkish Trade Minister Omer Bolat, Transport Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu, and Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov signed a document outlining the framework for "Turkish-Ukrainian Reconstruction Task Force," which was established based on a 2022 memorandum of understanding for Ukraine's reconstruction.
Minister Bolat announced that the task force would identify projects in Ukraine and assess financing conditions. Minister Kubrakov highlighted the key areas requiring reconstruction, such as housing and transportation, including roads, bridges, railways, and Ukraine's water transport infrastructure.
US ready to welcome Turkey back to F-35 program if S-400 dispute resolved
A senior US official stated that the United States is open to welcoming Turkey back into the F-35 program if the ongoing dispute over Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile defense system, specifically the S-400, is resolved. US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told CNN Turk during her visit to Turkey on January 29 that resolving this particular matter would lead to the resolution of the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) issue, enabling a return to discussions about the F-35.
A White House official on January 31 reiterated that Turkey's deployment of the Russian missile defense system remains problematic, emphasizing that Turkey's return to the F-35 fighter jet program is not possible without addressing US concerns. US national security spokesman John Kirby mentioned that discussions continue, and a resolution to US concerns could pave the way for Turkey's return to the F-35 program.
Turkey still eyes purchase of 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets despite F-16 deal
A Turkish defense ministry official revealed on February 1 that Turkey remains interested in purchasing 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets. This move comes after the United States approved the $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, following Turkey's completion of the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership. In November, Turkey announced talks with Britain and Spain for Typhoons, but Germany objected to the idea.
The official, speaking anonymously to Reuters, stated that while Turkey doesn't expect Congress to block the F-16 sale, they still aim to buy Eurofighter Typhoon jets and hope for a positive stance from Germany on this matter.
According to the Greek Kathimerini Daily, the United States has agreed to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey with the condition that they are not used for overflights above the Greek islands. The US State Department reportedly sent a confidential letter outlining the condition to relevant House of Representatives and Senate committees. The letter states that any violation would prompt State Department intervention, and if the issue persists, the F-16 program could be terminated.
Turkey detains seven suspected of espionage for Israel's Mossad
Turkish authorities detained seven individuals suspected of selling information to Israel's Mossad intelligence service, a Turkish security official said on February 2. The suspects are believed to be involved in tracking and monitoring local targets.
Speaking on anonymity, the security official said the joint operations were carried out by Turkish police and the country's MIT intelligence agency in Istanbul and Izmir as part of an investigation led by the Istanbul chief prosecutor's office.
Turkey has previously warned Israel about potential 'serious consequences' if it attempts to target members of the militant Palestinian group Hamas residing outside Palestinian territories, including in Turkey.
Turkish intelligence chief and Hamas leader discuss ceasefire and humanitarian aid
Turkey's intelligence chief, Ibrahim Kalin, engaged in talks with Hamas's political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, in Doha on February 3 as part of ongoing efforts to broker a ceasefire in the Gaza war.
The sources informed that the discussions included topics such as the exchange of hostages between Israel and Hamas, recent developments in Gaza, efforts to achieve a ceasefire, and ending the Israeli siege.
Kalin and Haniyeh also explored ways to ensure a continuous flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.
Erdogan to discuss new mechanism for Ukrainian grain exports with Putin
During his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Erdogan will discuss a new mechanism for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, according to Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan.
"Efforts are underway to explore "new methods" for transporting Ukrainian grain to global markets. The previous grain deal operated within a specific mechanism, but there is now a possibility of adopting a different approach." Fidan said on February 4.
Putin is expected to visit Turkey on February 12 to meet Erdogan.
Fidan: Turkey to provide drones to Egypt
On February 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said normalizing relations with Egypt is important, citing the need for Egypt to access specific technologies. Fidan revealed an agreement to supply Egypt with unmanned air vehicles and other technologies.
He also announced that President Erdogan would discuss various bilateral and regional matters, including trade, energy, and security, during his visit to Egypt on February 14 with his counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.