Most people think of Turkey – now renamed ‘Turkiye,’ – as an exotic land of spices, little cups of sweet coffee and fierce-looking men with bristling mustaches.
They would be surprised to learn that Turkiye (and ex-Turkey) is the most populated nation in Europe (excluding Russia) and an industrial and military powerhouse. In fact, Turkiye’s tough military is the second largest fighting force in NATO after the US Army.
This past week, Turkiye’s leader for the past 20 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was re-elected in a landslide electoral victory. The massive voter turnout again illustrated the wide gap in this nation of 84.7 million between Islamic-oriented conservatives and westernized urban dwellers who support efforts to Europeanise Turkiye and purge it of Islamic culture. This was the national policy last century of the founder of modern Turkiye, Gen. Kemal Ataturk.
Erdogan now has a five-year term to continue his plan to transform this ancient nation into a modern democracy based on Islamic principals of helping the poor, modesty, support of beleaguered Muslims and social welfare – all of which are fiercely resisted by the cash-loving Saudis and the other Gulf mini-states created by Imperial Britain.
After decades of US-backed army rule, financial disasters and inept politicians, Turkiye seems to have finally found its feet under Erdogan. Finances are still wonky, but manufacturing and exports are up. The education system and big business are still controlled by anti-Erdogan groups who are profoundly anti-Muslim and eager to be regarded as A-class Europeans. The mighty army has been forced back into its barracks.
Meanwhile, Turkiye remains under siege by its foes, notably the United States. Why? Turkiye used to be such an important American ally. Its soldiers rescued many US troops in Korea and gave the Red Chinese a solid thrashing. Turks provided the southern bastion of NATO and kept unruly Arabs in line.
But later on, Erdogan, a devout Muslim, kept voicing support for the oppressed Palestinians and giving them more legitimacy. This put Erdogan on Israel’s hate list. Turkish influence in Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, all of which have sizeable Muslim minorities, troubled the US and the Greek government – which has close military and intelligence ties to Israel.
`My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ as the old Arab saying goes. Big discoveries of offshore oil and gas in the Aegean Sea are making Israel, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt serious competitors. The US is not far behind.
Most Turks believe the 2016 attempted coup again Erdogan was engineered by CIA and a US-based cult leader to install a more pro-American general in power and return Ankara to Washington’s domination. Fortunately for Turkiye, the coup failed. Otherwise, Turkiye might have ended up like an Argentina or military-run Brazil.
Washington prefers to deal with the world through military dictators and strongmen. They are all over the Mideast, Africa and Central Asia. We may see a new wave of military despots coming soon in Latin America.
Turkiye is now slowly recovering from the monster earthquake that ravaged Hatay province. This vast natural disaster that smote Turkiye and Syria will retard development by at least six years. The new government in Ankara will have to enforce proper building codes. Efforts by the international financial community to undermine and destabilize Turkiye must cease. Israel’s secret arming and finance of Syria’s rebellious Kurds and Syria’s Sunni rebels will lead to small Mideast wars unless the US acts to end them.
Turkiye is obviously the key to damping down these regional conflicts and playing a major role in some sort of peace deal between Ukraine and Russia. But a peace deal between Moscow and Kiev is unlikely as long as the US and its allies keep trying to destroy the Russian state. Brazil’s newly re-elected president, Lula da Silva, rightly warns the West (read USA) must begin respecting Russia’s national interests if there is to be any peace around the Black Sea.
President Erdogan is the result of real democracy at work. A clean election is grounds for cheers for Turkiye and Europe. The Pentagon didn’t get the four-star Turkish general it wanted – this time.
Copyright. Eric S. Margolis 2023