US think tanks have published two major reports since the beginning of this year discussing the Turkish political landscape and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ability to stay in power. Turkish political scientist Onur Erim has explained why US scholars are increasingly targeting the Turkish president.
In March, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American think tank based in Washington, DC, published a policy note titled “The Outlook for Turkish Democracy: 2023 and Beyond”. The study weighs Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chances of winning the 2023 elections and names his potential political rivals who are allegedly mulling how to defeat the Turkish president.
According to the think tank, should Erdogan cope with the economic crisis multiplied by the coronavirus pandemic and come out on top in 2023 that “would likely seal [Turkey’s] trajectory away from liberalism and the West for a generation”.
Turkish political scientist Onur Erim deems the Washington Institute’s report, as well as previous ones, as pushing ahead with an attempt to throw Erdogan’s political survivability into question.
“The institute that prepared the report and similar think tanks set a specific goal: to instill into the public the idea that President Erdogan could lose in the upcoming elections, that there are candidates who have the potential to defeat Erdogan, and that if he wins the 2023 vote this will lead Turkey to even bigger problems”, the political scientist elaborates.
Erim presumes that in its recent study The Washington Institute for Near East Policy promotes the views of the American-Israeli lobby and that therefore it is hardly surprising why it is targeting Erdogan.
“The US authorities, with the exception of Trump, dream of Turkey without Erdogan because they have ultimately realised that the Turkish leader will not bow down to their blackmail and threats, and will not dance to their tune”, he opines.
“In general, although the reason for publishing this report is completely obvious, its assessments and conclusions are extremely superficial and unprofessional”, the political scientist says. “In particular, the section about Erdogan’s inner circle and its characteristics does not stand up to criticism, and much more resembles a compilation of several newspaper articles than a serious analytical study”.
The recent study has added fuel to the fire ignited by the RAND Corporation research paper titled “Turkey’s Nationalist Course” which suggested that “mid-level officers are reported to be extremely frustrated with the military leadership and concerned about being removed in the continuing post-coup purges”.
The paper further presumed that this discontent within the military could lead to the repetition of a 2016 scenario at some point. The report was harshly criticised by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), according to the daily Hurriyet.
Turkey and the US have had a series of diplomatic rows over Washington’s assistance to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which are seen by Ankara as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as the US resistance to Ankara’s decision to deploy Russian-made S-400 air defence systems in the country.
Nevertheless, Washington signalled support for Ankara amid the Turkish-Syrian clashes over the province of Idlib, insisting that the US and Turkey have common geopolitical goals in Syria and Libya. A the beginning of April, United States Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison voiced the idea of providing Turkey with an unspecified assistance “package” for Idlib in exchange for the country’s giving up S-400 systems. Still, last week Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made it clear that Ankara’s position on using Russian S-400 air defence systems had not changed.