Fascinating Wikileaks despatch
from Ankara to Washington, December 2004, covering inter alia proposed Turkish membership of the EU (via
). The AKP
is the (Islamic) ruling Turkish party, Erdogan
is Prime Minister, Gu
l is now President but was then Foreign Minister (FonMin).
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, you may recall, has said that he will 'fight'
for Turkey's membership of the EU. Let's hope that's a cast-iron promise.
My views on the Embassy transcriptions are
a) Wikileaks shouldn't have released them. As Dalrymple points out
, secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. As for the US sources quoted, IMHO wikileaks are endangering them.
b) It's not as if they reveal smoking guns, cunning plots or illegal activities (so far) - in which case release might be justifiable - rather they show the US diplomats to be high-calibre and thoughtful people doing their job - to make sense of the rest of the world - to the best of their considerable ability. This task will be much harder now and in that sense Wikileaks action is directed against the US with IMHO no justification. No wonder they're cross and I don't blame them.
c) that doesn't mean I support the harassment of Mr Assange on very dubious charges, supported by a number of useful feminist idiots.
d) Aren't I being hypocritical in quoting them, then ? They're out there. The Turks will certainly have read them - they're all over Turkish blogs. And they throw an interesting light on potential Turkish accession to the EU - an accession which would give the entire Turkish population the right to live and work in the UK.
I don't like it when they build motorways all over the UK, or whack a disgusting dual carriageway down the centre of the Vale of Neath - but I still drive on them, taking the good with the bad. So here.
Emboldening is mine :
¶6. (U) Erdogan indexed his political survival to getting a negotiation date from the EU. He achieved that goal. The Wall Street Journal and other Western and Turkish media have opined that the EU owes Turkey a fair negotiating process leading to accession, with the Journal even putting the onus on the EU by asserting that while Turkey is ready the question is whether Europeans are ready for Turkey.
¶7. (C) But there's always a Monday morning and the debate on the ground here is not so neat. With euphoria at getting a date having faded in 48 hours, Erdogan's political survival and the difficulty of the tasks before him have become
substantially clearer. Nationalists on right and left have resumed accusations that Erdogan sold out Turkish national interests (Cyprus) and Turkish traditions. Core institutions of the Turkish state, which remain at best wary of AKP, have once again begun to probe for weaknesses and to feed insinuations into the press in parallel with the nationalists' assertions. In the face of this Euro-aversion,
neither Erdogan nor his government has taken even minimal steps to prepare the bureaucracy or public opinion to begin tackling the fundamental -- some Turks would say insidious -- legal, social, intellectual and spiritual changes that must
occur to turn harmonization on paper into true reform. The road ahead will surely be hard.
¶8. (U) High-profile naysayers like main opposition CHP chairman Baykal, former Ambassador Gunduz Aktan, and political scientist Hasan Unal continue to castigate Erdogan. But theirs is a routine whine. More significant for us is that many of our contacts cloak their lack of self-confidence at Turkey's ability to join in expressions of skepticism that the EU will let Turkey in. And there is parallel widespread skepticism that the EU will be around in attractive form in ten years.
¶9. (C) The mood in AKP is no brighter, with one of FonMin Gul's MFA advisors having described to UK polcounselor how bruised Turkey feels at the EU's inconsistency during the final negotiations leading to Dec. 17 (EU diplomats in Ankara have given us the other side of the story). Gul was noticeably harder-line than Erdogan in public comments in the lead-up to the Summit, and was harder-line in pre-Summit negotiations in Brussels, according to UK polcounselor.
¶10. (C) AKP's lack of cohesion as a party and lack of openness as a government is reflected in the range of murky, muddled motives for wanting to join the EU we have encountered among those AKPers who say they favor pursuing membership...or at least the process. Some see the process as the way to marginalize the Turkish military and what remains of the arid "secularism" of Kemalism. We have also run into the rarely openly-spoken, but widespread belief among adherents of the Turk-Islam synthesis that Turkey's role is to spread Islam in Europe, "to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683" as one participant in a recent meeting at AKP's main think tank put it. This thinking parallels the logic behind the approach of FonMin Gul ally and chief foreign policy advisor in the Prime Ministry Ahmet Davutoglu, whose muddy opinion piece in the Dec. 13 International Herald Tribune is in essence a call for one-way multi-cultural tolerance, i.e., on the part of the EU.
¶11. (C) Those from the more overtly religious side of AKP whinge that the EU is a Christian club. While some assert that it is only through Turkish membership and spread of Turkish values that the world can avoid the clash of civilizations they allege the West is fomenting, others express concern that harmonization and membership will water down Islam and associated traditions in Turkey.
¶12. (C) AKP also faces the nuts-and-bolts issue of how to prepare for harmonization. In choosing a chief negotiator Erdogan will need to decide whether the risks that the man he taps will successfully steal his political limelight outweigh
the political challenge his choice will face since it will be the Turkish chief negotiator's responsibility to sell the EU position to a recalcitrant Turkish cabinet. It is because the chief negotiator is likely to be ground down between EU
demands and a prickly domestic environment that some observers speculate Erdogan might give the job to his chief internal rival Gul.
¶13. (C) At the same time the government must reportedly hire a couple thousand people skilled in English or other major EU languages and up to the bureaucratic demands of interfacing with the Eurocrats who descend on ministries as harmonization starts. If the government continues to hire on the basis of
"one of us", i.e., from the Sunni brotherhood and lodge milieu that has been serving as the pool for AKP's civil service hiring, lack of competence will be a problem. If the government hires on the base of competence, its new hires
will be frustrated by the incompetence of AKP's previous hires at all levels.
¶17. (C) Inside the party, Erdogan's hunger for power reveals itself in a sharp authoritarian style and deep distrust of others: as a former spiritual advisor to Erdogan and his wife Emine put it, "Tayyip Bey believes in God...but doesn't trust
him." In surrounding himself with an iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors, Erdogan has isolated himself from a flow of reliable information, which partially explains his failure to understand the context -- or real facts -- of the U.S. operations in Tel Afar, Fallujah, and elsewhere and his susceptibility to Islamist theories...
Erdogan's other foreign policy advisors (Cuneyd Zapsu, Egemen Bagis, Omer Celik, along with Mucahit Arslan and chef de cabinet Hikmet Bulduk) are despised as inadequate, out of touch and corrupt by all our AKP contacts from ministers to
MPs and party intellectuals.
¶21. (S) Third is corruption. AKP swept to power by promising to root out corruption. However, in increasing numbers AKPers from ministers on down, and people close to the party, are telling us of conflicts of interest or serious corruption
in the party at the national, provincial and local level and among close family members of ministers. We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding
presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame.
¶22. (S) Among the many figures mentioned to us as prominently involved in corruption are Minister of Interior Aksu, Minister of Foreign Trade Tuzmen, and AKP Istanbul provincial chairman Muezzinoglu. As we understand it from a contact in the intel directorate of Turkish National Police, a continuing investigation into Muezzinoglu's extortion racket and other activities has already produced evidence incriminating Erdogan. In our contacts across Anatolia we
have detected no willingness yet at the grassroots level to look closely at Erdogan or the party in this regard, but the trend is a time bomb.
Two Big Questions
¶24. (C) Turkey's EU bid has brought forth reams of pronouncements and articles -- Mustafa Akyol's Gulenist-tinged "Thanksgiving for Turkey" in Dec. 27 Weekly
Standard is one of the latest -- attempting to portray Islam in Turkey as distinctively moderate and tolerant with a strong mystical (Sufi) underpinning. Certainly, one can see in Turkey's theology faculties some attempts to wrestle with
the problems of critical thinking, free will, and precedent (ictihad), attempts which, compared to what goes on in theology faculties in the Arab world, may appear relatively progressive.
¶25. (C) However, the broad, rubber-meets-the-road reality is that Islam in Turkey is caught in a vise of (1) 100 years of "secular" pressure to hide itself from public view, (2) pressure and competition from brotherhoods and lodges to
follow their narrow, occult "true way", and (3) the faction-and positivism-ridden aridity of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet). As a result, Islam as it is lived in Turkey is stultified, riddled with hypocrisy, ignorant and intolerant of other religions' presence in Turkey, and unable to eject those who would politicize it in a radical, anti-Western way. Imams are for the most part poorly educated and all too ready to insinuate anti-Western,
anti-Christian or anti-Jewish sentiments into their sermons.
Exceptionally few Muslims in Turkey have the courage to challenge conventional Sunni thinking about jihad or, e.g., verses in the Repentance shura of the Koran which have for so long been used to justify violence against "infidels".
¶26. (C) The problem is compounded by the willingness of politicians such as Gul to play elusively with politicized Islam. Until Turkey ensures that the humanist strain in Islam prevails here, Islam in Turkey will remain a troubled, defensive force, hypocritical to an extreme degree and unwilling to adapt to the challenges of open society.
¶27. (C) A second question is the relation of Turkey and its citizens to history -- the history of this land and citizens' individual history. Subject to rigid taboos, denial, fears, and mandatory gross distortions, the study of history and practice of historiography in the Republic of Turkey remind one of an old Soviet academic joke: the faculty party chief assembles his party cadres and, warning against various ideological threats, proclaims, "The future is certain. It's only that damned past that keeps changing."
¶28. (C) Until Turkey can reconcile itself to its past, including the troubling aspects of its Ottoman past, in free and open debate, how will Turkey reconcile itself to the
concept and practice of reconciliation in the EU? How will it have the self confidence to take decisions and formulate policies responsive to U.S. interests? Some in AKP are joining what is still only a handful of others to take tentative, but nonetheless inspiring, steps in this regard. However, the road ahead will require a massive overhaul of education, the introduction and acceptance of rule of law, and a fundamental redefinition of the relation between citizen and state. In the words of the great (Alevi) Anatolian bard Asik Veysel, this is a "long and delicate road."
UPDATE - just to be even handed, here are the Tel Aviv cables
. Interesting one on Israeli organised crime
, adding new insights to the chapter on Israel in Misha Glenny's McMafia
, which mostly focuses on the Russia connection. I note that the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist (by magnetic bomb attached to his car from a passing motorcycle) was a clone of the 2008 Tel Aviv killing of crime boss Yaakov Alperon.