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Slaves of Two Masters Robert Dreyfuss

A Neo-Ottomanism? Ibrahim Kalin, new chief foreign affairs adviser to the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan

7of Years AKP Rule By Soner Cagaptay

Issue 1534, 27 November 2009

Weathering the Endless Storm Joshua Mellen

Editorial Cover

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Dear Readers,

Established by Hisham and Mohamad Ali Hafez



Managing Director TARIK ALGAIN

Published by

to The Majalla Digital. This week our W elcome issue brings to you an analysis of the last 7

years of Turkish governance. We have invited Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow and director of the Turkish Research Programme at the Washington Institute to evaluate the AKP’s rule. Cagaptay notes that after seven years of AKP rule, the Anatolian Turks are bending over to the power of the AKP, orthopraxy and the Islamist mindset in foreign policy are taking hold. As such, Cagaptay asks “Where is Turkey heading under the AKP, and what are the lessons that can be drawn from the AKP experience?” In addition, we also bring you a debate on Turkey, where the contributors are replying to the question “Is the current Turkish political model working?” In this edition, The Majalla also publishes an exclusive interview with Ibrahim Kalin, new chief foreign affairs adviser to the Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan. We invite you to read these articles and much more on our website at As always, we welcome and value our readers feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments or contact us if you are interested in writing for our publication.

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Adel Al Toraifi Editor-in-Chief


Issue 1534


Contents 08 Geopolitics Slaves of Two Masters

11 In Brief Around The World Quotes Of The Week Magazine Round Up Letters

18 Features 7 Years of AKP Rule

27 Debate Ataturk Begs to Differ

32 Ideas The Turkish Puzzle THE MAJALLA EDITORIAL TEAM London Bureau Chief Manuel Almeida Cairo Bureau Chief Ahmed Ayoub Editors Stephen Glain Paula Mejia Dina Wahba Wessam Sherif Editorial Secretary Jan Singfield Webmaster Mohamed Saleh Translation Sherif Okasha 27 November, 2009



37 People Profile

Between the Cracks of Islamic Politics

Issue 1534, 27 November 2009


A Neo-Ottomanism?

43 Economics

Submissions To submit articles or opinion, please email: Note: all articles should not exceed 800 words

International Economics

There and Back Again International Investor

Weathering the Endless Storm


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51 Reviews Books

A First Glance Readings Reports


A Responsibility to Protect?

56 The Political Essay Divided houses fall apart

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Slaves of Two Masters

The impact of domestic politics on negotiations with Iran Obama’s negotiating team understands that for the talks with Iran to be successful, zero-enrichment won’t fly. A deal with Iran will involve the acknowledgment of Iran’s nuclear rights in exchange for Iran’s willingness to provide complete transparency and oversight of its efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This diplomatic journey, however, is one that is vastly complicated by domestic politics in both countries.


o far, in the talks between Iran and the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program, President Obama hasn’t shown any sign that he is going to give Iran what it wants, namely, recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium, for peaceful uses, on its own soil. In public, at least, the Obama administration’s negotiators continue to demand that Iran suspend its enrichment program and shut down its centrifuges, following in the footsteps of the George W. Bush administration, which also insisted on a “zero enrichment” option. However, according to insiders – including Americans who’ve taken part in unofficial, Track Two-style talks with Iranian officials in recent years – Obama’s negotiating team understands that for the talks to be successful, zero-enrichment won’t fly. Ultimately, they know that a deal with Iran will involve the acknowledgment of Iran’s nuclear rights in exchange for Iran’s willingness to provide complete transparency and oversight of its efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That’s the win-win result that would allow both Iranian and American negotiators to claim victory in the talks. Iran could proclaim to its population that it had forced the West to accept its rights under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Tehran has signed. And President Obama could tell the American public that he had forced Iran to accept iron-clad guarantees to prevent Iran from militarizing its nuclear research. Problem is, getting from there to there involves a difficult diplomatic journey, one that is vastly complicated by domestic politics in both countries. On October 1, following months of backchannel, secret diplomacy between Iran and the United States, the P5 + 1 and Iran made important progress. Not only did Iran agree to IAEA inspection of its previously undisclosed nuclear facility built into a mountainside near Qom, but Iran agreed to ship the bulk of its low-enriched, fuel-grade uranium to Russia and France where it would be reprocessed for use in a medical reactor. Back in Iran, however, even that small victory 27 November, 2009

his willingness to given Iran more time. And Ambassador Glyn Davies, the U.S. representative at the IAEA, declared: “We want to give some space to Iran to work through this. It's a tough issue for them.”

Robert Dreyfuss caused an uproar. The deal was blasted by opponents of President Ahmadinejad, from hardliners such as Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament, to Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leader of the reformist opposition. Both leaders, for different reasons, saw the deal as an opportunity to score political points against Ahmadinejad, accusing him of selling out Iran’s interests to the United States. Soon, Iran was backtracking, seeking to make changes in what U.S. negotiators said was a final arrangement, and deal seemed near collapse. In the United States, critics of Iran charged that Iran’s equivocation is proof that Tehran isn't negotiating seriously. Instead, they said, Iran is using the talks as a delaying tactic while plunging ahead toward building a bomb, and they demanded that Obama either stop talking to Iran or put a deadline on the talks before moving toward a more confrontational stance. In fact, however, the flip-flops by Iran are the result of the Tehran regime’s shaky foundation. In the wake of the disputed June 12 election and the brutal crackdown and show trials that followed it, both Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Leader, have been greatly weakened. Their legitimacy and authority are openly questioned by establishment figures, including former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and by much of Iran’s senior clergy, including several grand ayatollahs. The turmoil in Iran’s politics makes it hard for Tehran to move quickly toward even a limited accommodation with the United States. Obama has so far ignored the pressure from U.S. hardliners. He’s publicly declared

Having made talking to Iran a signature theme of his presidential campaign in 2008, Obama will be reluctant to abandon it. And the reality is, despite the pressure from U.S. hardliners, including the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the dispute over Iran’s nuclear research is not a crisis. Though Iran has a small quantity of lowenriched uranium (LEU), it does not possess any bomb-grade, high-enriched uranium (HEU), and to turn LEU into HEU is a lengthy and laborious process that would have to occur in full view of IAEA inspectors. Ultimately, if the United States is to be successful in the talks, it will have to secure a deal that involves Iran’s continuing ability to engage in processing uranium into fuel for peaceful uses. Last June, a week before Iran’s election, Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a close adviser to President Obama, said that Iran indeed does have the right to enrich uranium under the NPT. That day, in Tehran, I was meeting with Ali Akbar Rezaie, the director general of the North American section of Iran’s foreign ministry. It isn't clear, he told me, whether the new U.S. administration is willing to make a fundamental break with the stance of George W. Bush. "President Obama didn't say that we have the right to enrich uranium. But he also didn't say that we do not have that right. It is not clear to us whether he omitted that point intentionally or not," Rezaie said, after analyzing Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo, in which the American president outlined his intention to rebuild U.S. relations with the Muslim world. "We do not know what is in his mind," said Rezaie.

Independent journalist specializing in politics and national security. A regular contributor to Rolling Stone, Robert has written about about the War on Terrorism, the Iraq War and is author of the book “Devil’s Game” 08

In Brief Around The World

Quotes Of The Week

Magazine Round Up


A peaceful Hajj Saudi Arabia broke all expectations and succeeded in securing the Hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage season). Everyone was expecting a tense atmosphere and difficult events during the Hajj, due to Iranian announcements about the organization of what is known as the "Disavowal of Pagans" Ceremony, in an Iranian attempt to politicize the Hajj. But Saudi Arabia managed to rein in any potential sedition. Thus, Iran was forced to retreat. Despite the existence of 60 thousand Shiites among the three million pilgrims who participated in this annual Islamic pilgrimage, Issue 1534

the decisiveness of Saudi Arabia was a critical factor in securing the pilgrimage season and preventing any problems from escalating. Fuad bin Abdul Salam al-Farsy, Minister of Hajj, announced that the Kingdom would not allow anyone to exploit the Hajj for political purposes. Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Interior and the second Deputy of the Prime Minister, stressed that the Kingdom would not allow any disturbances in the occasion of the Hajj. All necessary measures have been taken in order to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims. The Hajj was well-organized by various governmental bodies under

the supervision of the Ministry responsible for serving and securing the event. 100 thousand security men participated in securing the Hajj and preventing the occurrence of any problems. Such success sent an indirect regional message indicating the impossibility of imposing the Iranian political agenda on Saudi Arabia or the Gulf region. With the exception of accidents caused by heavy rains in the Kingdom, which the civil Followup governmental bodies managed to control, the pilgrimage season this year can be described as "A peaceful Hajj". 11

In Brief - Around The World

Around The World




1 Saudi Kingdom King Abdullah Ibn Abdel Aziz and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi discussed shared concerns over Iran's nuclear programme and recent clashes on the Saudi-Yemeni border. The two statesmen also discussed Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia .


3 Germany Mohamed ElBaradei, the departing chief of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, said Iran's continued refusal to accept tighter scrutiny of its nuclear activities would likely force the international community to impose new sanctions. However, he described sanctions as a "grievous violation of human rights" that "affect the weak" and "do not solve problems.

2 Egypt Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's President declared that "Egypt does not tolerate those who hurt the dignity of its sons". The President's words came after the Algerian audience attacked Egyptians in Sudan after the World Cup Qualifying match where Algeria beat Egypt 1-0. Both nations have recalled their respective envoys for talks. 27 November, 2009

4 Brazil Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for diplomacy to push for peace in the Middle East and ease tensions between Iran, the U.S. and other nations. He also defended Iran's right to have a peaceful nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is currently visiting Brazil.

5 Afghanistan Hanif Atmar, Interior Minister said the War in Afghanistan is winnable, and corruption will be fought. Atmar added that security has improved in some provinces and deteriorated in others, but he's confident the Taliban can be defeated. "We have to show the resolve, the determination, and the ability to make decisions quickly. 12

In Brief - Around The World

8 Iran





Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said that Russia has delayed the delivery of the S-300 missile system to Iran due to the pressure imposed on it by Iran's adversaries, specifically the United States and Israel. However, if left to themselves, the Russians have no problem with the sale of the S-300 system to Iran, he added.


9 UK


David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary said Afghanistan's government would collapse within weeks if NATO troops left the country right away. David added "If international forces leave, you can choose a time — five minutes, 24 hours or seven days — but the insurgents would overrun those forces that are prepared to put up resistance and we would be back at square one".

6 Pakistan Pakistani troops killed 18 militants in a fresh offensive against insurgents blamed for a wave of recent bombings in the main northwestern city of Peshawar. The operation in Bara region was the latest attempt in a broadening campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the lawless lands close to the Afghan border since last year. Issue 1534

7 US Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State expressed concern over arms purchases made by Chile and Brazil from the United States and also requested by Ecuador, and Venezuela. Hillary said they signaled the start of a regional arms race. Latin American leaders, however, have denied the claim.

10 Iraq Labid Abawi, Iraqi Foreign Undersecretary announced that Iraq has sent messages and made "several efforts to secure the release of three Americans detained in Iran”, but has received no reply. Labid believes that Iran has no plans to hand the detainees over to Iraq at the current time. 13

In Brief - Quotes Of The Week

Magazine Round Up

Quotes Of The Week

"The Israeli government is willing and ready to reach a twostate solution." Israeli President Shimon Peres during his meeting with President Mubarak.

"We won't establish our state under occupation" Salam Fayad Palestinian Prime Minister

"Countries like Iran, Brazil, Venezuela, Gambia and Senegal have the ability to create a new world order" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the light of his visit to Brazil.

"The law has to be enforced on everyone" Amr Moussa Secretary General of the Arab League regarding Egypt, Algeria and Sudan in the aftermath of the football match in Sudan.

27 November, 2009


Magazine Round Up 1 The New Yorker The fifth war This article examines the five wars that have been fought by the United States since the Second World War. First reviewing Vietnam, Iraq, Korea and the Gulf War, the author describes in brief the reasons behind the US intervention and the consequence of their involvement in each war. This discussion brings the author to what he calls the Fifth War, or the war in Afghanistan, and poses an intriguing question: Could there be nonmilitary ways for the United States to reach its goals in Afghanistan? 14

3 Newsweek 118 days in Hell

2 2 New Statesman Interview with Omar Bin Laden

Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari spent 118 days, 12 hours and 54 minutes in what he describes as hell. On June 21, Bahari was arrested by the intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC. He was taken to Tehran's notorious Evin prison and he was accused of being a spy for the CIA and MI6. In an outstanding article he conveys the story of his captivity and provides important insight and analysis about the mysterious inner workings of Iran.

This issue of the New Statesman provides an interview with one who holds the most infamous name in the whole world: Omar Bin Laden. In this interview Bin Laden's son is being asked about his memory of September 11 and his views on his own father's involvement. Moreover, he is asked whether he knows the whereabouts of his father, and if he does would he ever inform anyone? Bin Laden’s son has answered that this would be a very difficult situation for him just like it would be for any son.


4 4 Time Indomitable Gaul This essay describes the protective nature of the French culture in the face of globalization. Leo Cendrowicz uses French comic hero Asterix as a metaphor for the counter-globalization policies of the country that have become the most protectionist in Europe. Nevertheless, Cenrowicz argues that France, despite its effort, is as globalized as any other country on the continent. As the world's fifth largest economy, corporations still remain under the grasp of American enterprises; and none can ignore the spread of the English language in France. According to Cendrowicz, the time has come to rethink the Asterix metaphor.

Cover Of The Week

Cover of the Week Prospect How dictators watch us on the web The internet is meant to help activists, enable democratic protest and weaken the grip of authoritarian regimes. But does it? This article points out that the web could be a tool in the hands of dictators just as it could be used by activists. Especially in new democracies or countries under the rule of authoritarian regimes, the web could be used against reformers. Instead of helping citizens promote democratic causes, it backfires and helps authoritarian governments keep track of and counter-attack such movements. Issue 1534


In Brief - Letters



A football match that fractures diplomatic relations Dear Mr. Abdul-Sadeq, what you are speaking about is just deceitful plans, mischievous arrangements made by minds controlled by the conspiracy theory. These mentalities are chronically weak and sick. What we saw in Sudan is a kind of savagery and terrorism. It really hurt all Egyptians. I thank Mr. President Hosny Mubarak and his two sons who have done their best to keep Egypt's dignity intact. Keep your illusions and false tales for yourself. We admire most our president. Mohammed Hafez I would like to tell all Egyptians who are defending Mubarak, you should wake up. It is just a play well-plotted by the Egyptian regime to absorb the anger of opposition concerning the bad circumstance which experiences in different fields. Mubarak's two sons launched a fierce assault against Algeria through satellite channels. Unfortunately, he managed to contain different sectors of the Egyptian people in preparation for Gamal's succession of ruling the country. Tomorrow, when the Egyptian people come to their true mind, they will be aware of their daily problems including rise in prices, unemployment and problems of administration and Education. At this time, they will understand this tricky game which was arranged against them. The football match was just an excuse that Egyptian regime makes to draw people's attention away from the serious problems that the Egyptians face in their daily life. The reality that the government tries to hide is that the Egyptian's dignity was lost when they let down Palestinians during Gaza war and did not open Rafah border crossing. Abdul Sadeq 27 November, 2009

Juhayman’s Sins I believe that extremist movements might have very well been influenced by the Juhayman movement because it was one of the very first acts of modern terrorism in modern history. Al Qaida's thought is not very far from the Juhaymani rationale, yet it is far more institutionalized. Jacob Griffin

It is an insightful analysis of the life of this man who led the rebel group that stormed the great Mecca Mosque in 1979. However, we should stress that this so-called rejectionist Islamism led by this man is intellectually and sociologically distinct from the two other strains of Saudi Islamism, namely, reformism and jihadism. Kazem Elsobky 16

In Brief - Magazine Round Up

Issue 1534



27 November, 2009

18 18

7 Years of AKP Rule Turkey’s Bend under the AKP By Soner Cagaptay

Issue 1534



7 Years of AKP Rule Turkey’s Bend under the AKP Soner Cagaptay The rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a party rooted in Turkey’s Islamist opposition, to government in 2002 introduced new social, political, and foreign policy winds across the Turkish society. After seven years of AKP rule, the Anatolian Turks are bending over to the power of the AKP, orthopraxy and the Islamist mindset in foreign policy are taking hold. Where is Turkey heading under the AKP, and what are the lessons that can be drawn from the AKP experience?

u.s. president barack obama and turkish prime minister recep tayyip erdogan tours the blue mosque on april 7, 2009 in istanbul, turkey. president obama is on a two-day visit to turkey to highlight links between turkey, which is a muslim majority country and the united states. © getty images


he Anatolian landscape is dotted by a tall slender tree in the aspen family, known to the Turks as kavak. This is a fragile-looking but sturdy tree, so when the harsh Anatolian wind blows across the steppe, kavak can bend at incredible angles, adjusting to the power of the wind, and somehow not break. Turkey is like the Anatolian kavak. The country has come to bend with the powerful political, social and foreign policy choices that its elites have ushered in over the ages, bowing to the power of the Anatolian winds. Ever since the sultans started to Westernize the Ottoman Empire in the 1770’s, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk continued these reforms making 27 November, 2009

Turkey a secular republic in the 1920’s, and the various political parties of the Turkish democracy in the twentieth century cast their dice with the West, the Turks have adopted a pro-Western stance in foreign policy, embraced secular democracy at home, and marched towards the European Union (EU). This is changing. The rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a party rooted in Turkey’s Islamist opposition, to government in 2002 introduced new social, political, and foreign policy winds across the Turkish society. These forces include solidarity with Islamist and antiWestern countries in foreign policy

and orthopraxy in the public space, promoting outward displays of homogenous religious practice and social conservatism, though not necessarily directed by faith. After seven years of AKP rule, the Anatolian Turks are bending over to the power of the AKP, orthopraxy and the Islamist mindset in foreign policy are taking hold. According to a recent poll by TESEV, an Istanbul-based NGO, the number of people identifying themselves as Muslim increased by ten percent between 2002 and 2007; in addition, almost half of those surveyed describe themselves as Islamist. Moreover, orthopraxy seems to have become internalized: bureaucrats in Ankara now feel 20

Features compelled to attend prayers lest they be bypassed for promotions. Public display of religious observance, often devoid of faith, has become a necessity for those seeking government appointments or lucrative state contracts. Where is Turkey heading under the AKP, and what are the lessons that can be drawn from the AKP experience? The Rise and Demise of Moderate Islamism The AKP has roots in Turkey’s Islamist movement, including the Welfare Party (RP), the mother ship of Turkish Islamism. The AKP’s founders, including party leader and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cut their teeth in the RP, an explicitly Islamist party, which featured strong anti-Western, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, and anti-secular elements. The RP joined a coalition government in 1997 before alienating the secular Turkish military, the courts, and the West, leading it to being banned in 1998. Yet the party never truly disappeared. Erdogan and his comrades drew a lesson from this experience; the Turkish Islamists would be better served to reinvent themselves in order to be successful. In due course, Erdogan re-created the party with a proAmerican, pro-EU, capitalist and reformist image. When the AKP came to power in 2002, after taking advantage of the implosion of the country’s centrist parties in the 2001 economic crisis, it tried to reassure the moderates’ concerns it might chip away at the country's secular, democratic and pro-Western values. The AKP renounced its Islamist heritage and began working instead to secure EU membership and to turn Turkey into an even more liberal and pro-Western place. At the time, few thought that the party could transform Turkey for the worse. After all, Turkey had been a multiparty democracy since 1946; it had a vigorous free media, secular courts, a large business class, and a strong army, all deemed to be guardians of Western values. What is more, the United States support for the secular, Western Turkey and the EU process were viewed as the fail-safes of Turkish liberalization process that would entice the AKP Issue 1534

to maintain its pro-West stance and reform path. The AKP indeed promoted reforms, pro-business and proEU policies after coming to power. However, soon the party’s transformation appeared to be a cynical one. The AKP began to undermine the liberal values it supposedly stood for. For instance, it began to hire top bureaucrats from an exclusive pool of practicing, religious conservatives.

The AKP’s lacking commitment to liberal values is a testimony to the party’s tactical view of EU membership: the AKP pushes for EU membership when it brings the party public approval, but not to make Turkey truly European Concurrently, the percentage of women in executive positions in government dropped. In years past, Turkish women served as chief justice, prime minister, and ministers of the Interior and Foreign Affairs. Some 30 percent of Turkey's doctors and 33 percent of its lawyers are women. Yet under the AKP, women are largely excluded from decision-making positions in government: there is not a single woman among the 19 ministerial undersecretaries appointed by the AKP. Moreover, whereas in 1994, the percentage of women in executive positions in government was 15.1 percent, according to IRIS, an Ankarabased women's rights group, today this statistic is at 11.8 percent. The AKP’s lacking commitment to liberal values is a testimony to the party’s tactical view of EU membership: the AKP pushes for EU membership when it brings the party public approval, but not to make Turkey truly European. The nail in the coffin for the AKP’s EU tactical drive came in 2005, when the

European Court of Human Rights upheld Turkey's old ban on Islamic headscarves (known in Turkish as turban) on college campuses. The AKP had hoped Europe might help recalibrate Turkish secularism into a more tolerant form. But this wasn't in the cards. Thus, as soon as actual talks of EU membership began in 2005, the AKP became reluctant to take on tough, potentially unpopular reforms mandated by the EU, making accession seem less and less a likely. Statements such as Erdogan's calling the West "immoral" in 2008 only eroded popular support for EU membership: by last year, about one-third of the population wanted their country to join the EU, down sharply from more than 80 percent in 2002, when the AKP first came to power. Efforts by secular Turkish institutions to curb the AKP have backfired. In 2007, the secular opposition and the military, which issued a declaration against the AKP on its website in spring that year, attempted to block the AKP from electing its own presidential candidate, Abdullah Gul. The AKP successfully challenged the claim, suggesting that the secular opposition and the military did not want Gul to run because of his personal religious views. The AKP thereby created a secular-vs.Muslim divide, in lieu of Turkey’s traditional Islamist-vs.-secular political divide along whose fault line it had always lost in the past. The party successfully positioned itself on the winning Muslim side of the new fault line. Additionally, when the Turkish Constitutional Court tried to prevent the AKP from appointing Gul as president, the AKP cast itself as the underdog representative of Turkey's poor Muslim masses. The two strategies worked: the AKP won 47 percent of the vote in the July 2007 parliamentary elections, defeating the opposition in a monumental victory and exposing the fact that hell does not freeze over when the Turkish military is ignored. Rise of Authoritarian Democracy and Orthopraxy The effective elimination of military and court pressures against the AKP has hastened the 21

Features party's return to its core values. The AKP began abandoning its displays of pluralism, dismissing dissent, ignoring checks and balances, and condemning the media for daring to criticize them. In due course, Turkey's media has been transformed for the worse. The government used legal loopholes to confiscate ownership of independent media and subsequently sell them to AKP supporters. In 2002, proAKP businesses owned less than 20 percent of the Turkish media; today pro-government people own around 50 percent. In the meantime, the relationship between the AKP and Turkey’s secular business lobby, organized through the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD), also changed. TUSIAD support for the AKP had been a crucial source of support for the AKP. The pro-business, pro-EU group provided the party with domestic and international legitimacy, and armed it with the means to fight off accusations that it was an Islamist party. But in 2007, the relationship between TUSIAD and the AKP, always an uneasy one, faltered when Erdogan targeted TUSIAD, a key node of secular power in Turkey. The AKP attacked Aydin Dogan— whose family holds the presidency of TUSIAD and owns roughly half the Turkish media in a group of companies known as Dogan Yayin— characterizing Dogan as a rich and corrupt businessman. In two waves in 2009, the AKP slapped Dogan Yayin, a conglomerate whose media outlets have published corruption allegations against the AKP with a record 3.2 billion tax, forcing the media mogul to come to terms with him and stop of the AKP criticism in Dogan media outlets. Together with the punitive use of taxes and audits, the party’s use of wiretaps, especially as part of the Ergenekon case which alleges a coup plot against the government, has been its other vehicle for cracking down on the opposition. When the case opened in 2007, AKP watchers saw it as an opportunity for Turkey to clean up corruption, such as security officials' involvement in the criminal underworld. But the case is much more than that. It is a tool for the AKP to curb freedoms. Hundreds have been detained in 27 November, 2009

over a dozen waves of arrests. Legally, the case is unfitting of a country in accession talks with the EU: some people arrested in relation to Ergenekon have waited eighteen months in jail before being taken to a court or seeing an indictment. These arrests, alongside fears of illegal wiretaps to build evidence for Ergenekon, have left Turkish liberals paralyzed, and the country has dangerously shut off frank political conversations. As a sage once said, “countries become police states not when the police listens to all citizens, but when all citizens fear that the police listens to them.” That the AKP has effectively outsmarted the internal checks which had hitherto imposed moderation on its policies has not been without consequences: the AKP has become Turkey’s new elite in charge politically, economically, and socially. The party is supported by a growing business community, which it nurtures through government contracts that are awarded by using orthopraxy as a yard stick. The AKP has sway over the media, and exerts power over the Turkish military through the Ergenekon case and proven ability to force political opposition into submission through its control of domestic intelligence. Last but not least, the AKP controls the executive and legislative branches. Former AKP member Abdullah Gul is now the Turkish president with the power to appoint judges to the high courts. As the new elite, the proverbial “wind over the Anatolian landscape,” the AKP is shaping Turkish society in its own image, promoting orthopraxy through administrative acts. Accordingly, it is not religiosity that is on the rise in Turkey -- i.e., the number of people attending mosque services or praying -- but rather government-infused social conservatism. Indications of social conservatism, such as wives wearing turbans, are used as benchmarks to obtain government appointments, promotions, and contracts. Social conservatism, however, is not in itself the problem, and a conservative Turkey can certainly be European. The problem is that a government-led project of this type is incompatible with the idea of a liberal democracy. And given 22

Features Turkey's nature as an elite project, AKP-led social conservatism is reshaping Turkish society. Last year in Istanbul, I came across a young Muslim-Greek Orthodox Turkish woman who had applied for a job with an AKP-controlled Istanbul city government branch. In her job interview, she was told the government would hire her if she agreed to wear a headscarf. When she responded that she was Greek Orthodox, the woman was told "you don't need to convert; all you have to do is cover your head." Solidarity with anti-Western and Islamist Regimes If religion constitutes one part of the AKP’s foreign policy calculus, domestic aspirations are another. The AKP has drawn a lesson from the events of the 1990s, when its predecessor, RP, was forced to step down from government through a show of popular discontent. The AKP now knows that it can stay in government only so long as it has strong popular support. Therefore, the party relies on an easy tactic of populist foreign policy that criticizes the West to enhance its domestic standing—a strategy that has seemingly been successful for the AKP. Not only are Turkish attitudes toward the United States and the West deteriorating, but the AKP also now draws broad support for its foreign policy through the transformation of the Turkish identity. If Turks think of themselves as Muslims first in the foreign policy arena, then one day they will think of themselves as Muslims domestically, further strengthening the position of party. In the past, Turkey's foreign policy paradigm centered on the promotion of national interests vested in the West. Starting in 1946, Turkey chose to ally itself with the West in the Cold War, and since then successive Turkish governments have pursued close cooperation with the United States and Europe. Turkey viewed the Middle East and global politics through the lens of their own national security interests. This made cooperation possible, even with Israel, a state Turkey viewed as a democratic ally in a volatile region. The two countries shared similar security concerns, such as Issue 1534

Syria's support for terror groups abroad -- radical Palestinian organizations in the case of Israel, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey. In 1998, when Ankara confronted Damascus over its support for the PKK, Turkish newspapers wrote headlines championing the Turkish-Israeli alliance: "We will say 'shalom' to the Israelis on the Golan Heights," one read. The AKP, however, viewed Turkey's interests through a different lens -- one colored by a politicized take on religion, namely Islamism. Senior AKP officials called the 2004 U.S. offensive in Fallujah, Iraq, a "genocide," and in February 2009, Erdogan compared Gaza to a "concentration camp." The AKP's foreign policy has not promoted sympathy toward all Muslim states, rather, the party has promoted solidarity with Islamist, anti-Western regimes (Qatar and Sudan, for example) while dismissing secular, proWestern Muslim governments (Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia). This two-pronged strategy is especially apparent in the Palestinian territories where at the same time that the AKP government has called on Western countries to "recognize Hamas as the legitimate government of the Palestinian people," AKP officials have labeled Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the "head of an illegitimate government." According to diplomats, Abbas' last visit to Ankara in July 2009 went terribly. As the cancelled military exercises with Israel show, the AKP's a la carte, moralistic foreign policy is not without inherent hypocrisies. An earlier example came last January, when, a day after Erdogan harangued Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as Jews and Israelis, at the World Economic Forum for knowing "well how to kill people," Turkey hosted the Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha in Ankara. This is a dangerous position because it suggests -- especially to the generation coming of age under the AKP -- that Islamist regimes alone have the right to attack their own people or even other states. 23

In September, Erdogan defended Iran's nuclear program, arguing that the problem in the Middle East is Israel's nuclear arsenal.

harsh rhetoric and opt out of any close cooperation.

Some analysts have dismissed such rhetoric as domestic politicking or simply an instance of Erdogan losing his temper. But Erdogan is an astute politician, and he is now reacting to changes in Turkish society. After seven years of the AKP's Islamist rhetoric, public opinion has shifted to embrace the idea of a politically united "Muslim world."

Like the Anatolian kavak¸ Turkey has been transformed under the AKP with the prevailing winds inside the country. In this regard, the various lessons can be drawn from the AKP experience in Turkey.

The AKP's foreign policy now has a welcome audience at home, making it more likely to become entrenched. After Erdogan stormed out of his session at the World Economic Forum, thousands gathered to greet his plane as it arrived back home in what appeared to be an orchestrated welcome. (Banners with Turkish and Hamas flags stitched together appeared from nowhere in a matter of hours.) Together with the establishment of friendly and money-based relations with Russia, under the AKP Moscow has become Turkey’s top trading partner, the transformation of Turkish identity under the AKP has potentially massive ramifications. Guided by an Islamist worldview, it will become more and more impossible for Turkey to support Western foreign policy, even when doing so is in its national interest. Turkish-Israeli ties -- long a model for how a Muslim country can pursue a rational, cooperative relationship with the Jewish state -- will continue to unravel. Such a development will be greeted only with approval by the Turkish public, further bolstering the AKP's popularity. Thus, the party will be able to kill two birds with one stone: distancing the country from its former ally and shoring up its own power base. The same dynamic will also apply to Turkey's relations with the European Union and the United States. As the United States devotes much of its energy abroad to Muslim countries, from opposing radicalism to countering Iran's nuclear program, the AKP will oppose these policies through 27 November, 2009

Lessons of the AKP Experience

Since the advent of Islam, Muslims have come to think of themselves as a cultural-religious community, just like people from other faiths do. However, the attacks of September 11 have changed this identification, jumpstarting a transformation of the global Muslim community from a cultural-religious one into a religious-political one. For a long time it was assumed that the attacks of September 11 primarily aimed to hurt the United States. However, now it seems that while the attacks aimed to hurt the United States, their primary target was to mobilize Muslims around the concept of a united “Muslim world,” a politically charged and new union which Al Qaeda defines as a political-religious community in perpetual and violent conflict with the West. The AKP’s transformation of Turkey’s identity into one that identifies with Islamists should be viewed within this background. If this transformation had happened before the attacks of September 11, one would have ignored it. However, the transformation of the Turkish identity after September 11 means that the Turks are losing their ability to view the U.S. and West as allies. The AKP experience also demonstrates that Islamists distort Islam, re-imagining it as inherently illiberal at home. What is more, the Islamists also distort Islam by casting it as the basis of their antiWestern and ideologically-driven foreign policy. Seven years after the AKP came to power, Turkey's Islamists have returned to their roots. The AKP experience also shows that when in power, even when they are elected democratically, Islamists are driven by their illiberal and majoritarian instincts, subverting

democracy and transforming societies. In Turkey, the AKP has shifted Turkish foreign policy away from the West, helped catalyze a transformation of the Turkish identity towards Islamist causes, and is busy imposing an illiberal view of society, defined by orthopraxy as well as a disregard for check and balances, such as media freedoms. Additionally, the AKP experience demonstrates that when Islamist parties moderate, it reflects not a strategic change but a tactical response to strong domestic and foreign opposition. Once these firewalls weaken, Islamist parties regress in a process driven by popular sentiment. A recent survey shows that the AKP's popularity jumped 10 percent after the Dtvos incident, suggesting the party could pass the game-changing 50 percent threshold in the upcoming March 29 local elections. The AKP's renewed Islamism may play well at the polls. But the country’s democracy and liberalization process, including the EU accession process, as well as its Western allies, will be left worse off for it. In 2002, many suggested that the AKP's rise to power presented Turkey with an opportunity to "go back to the Middle East" and adopt more of an Islamic identity. The hope was that such a shift would help "normalize" Turkey, recalibrating the secularizing and nationalist reforms of Kemal Atatürk, who turned Turkey to the West in the early twentieth century. The outcome, however, has not been so positive. Turkey's experience with the AKP proves that Islamism may not be compatible with the West, after all.

Soner Cagaptay - Senior fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has written extensively on Turkish policy in scholarly journals and major international print media, including Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, Jane's Defense Weekly, and Newsweek Türkiye. 24

Now Follow

Debate Ataturk Begs to Differ

Is the current Turkish political model working? After seven years of the Justice and Development Party's rule of Turkey, the country has witnessed throughout this period many political and social changes. These changes have made Turkey an Islamist country in its attitude. In this debate, three writers present their views and provide us with an evaluation of the Turkish model. Dr. Gamal Abdul-Gawad, Director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, stresses that the Turkish model is an inspiration force hard to emulate because the country combines three influential historical factors that have come into play in this country. Mohamed El-Ahamry analyses what has happened in Turkey, attributing it historically to the bold insurgents. Yigal Schleifer, correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor tries to answer the most important question: What’s the way forward for Turkey to get out of its internal deep divisions?

Š getty images

Issue 1534



Between the devil and the deep blue sea Turkish Islamism revisited 100 years after Ataturk, Turkey is experiencing another revolution. The difference this time is that it is a noiseless revolution without a god-like leader. Yet, its ideas are still very persuasive and it enjoys a combined religious and worldly spirit, benefiting greatly from Turkey’s close relationship to the West. Mohamed El-Ahamry


here are significant differences between Ataturk and Ahmed Dauad Oglu in terms of personality, theory, interpretation, and government. The former believed that his country was saturated in an Islamic hue, Sufism, underdevelopment, corruption, besides its proximity to the Muslim world. He believed that Turkey had to move towards the West with her heart, mind, language, and culture. He saw in the East and "Islam" a burden that Turkey must rid herself of. He was able to achieve his objectives through force, decisiveness, and terrorism. He hanged hundreds of people because they were slow to adapt to wearing a hat. The transformation of Turkey was not that much different from the French revolution in terms of violence. Some of the ideas of Turkey's ruler were inspired by the French revolution. Ataturk assumed the position of the philosopher of the revolution like other third world military rulers, who aspire to become philosophers after coming into power. Ataturk also witnessed the Bolshevik revolution. He shaped Turkey according to those two models – France and Russia. But the changes he made were not radical ones. In fact they were dangerously pretentious changes rather than being useful changes. And, as Oglu demonstrates in his writings on thought and behavior, artificial changes do not last for long. His writings are not that different from those of Malik bin Nabi on obsolete ideas and imported ideologies. One hundred years later, Turkey has experienced or is experiencing another revolution. The difference is that this revolution is a quiet noiseless and without a god-like leader. Its ideas are very persuasive. It enjoys a combined religious and worldly spirit, and has benefited greatly from the experience of the West. The new revolution has a higher level of intellectualism than the first revolution. The ideas of the new revo27 November, 2009

lution are complex. They are a combination of French-Ataturk secularism and the contemporary Islamic movement. They are a result of the suffering resulting from trying to reconcile two different ideals - secularism and Islamism. The new revolution is like a new edifice that will be built on the solid political, moral, religious and social foundations of Turkey. The building will also require looking into modern models, methods and innovations. The current revolution could not have been possible if its ideas were not followed by practical steps to implement them. It could not have been possible if those who started it did not have the courage to rebel against their own culture and ideas. They rebelled against Arbakan, the founder of the revolution, and his views. Arbakan saw their act as an act of treason and betrayal. But his position can be justified. It is consistent with the man's struggle, history and devotion. In my opinion both sides are right. Betrayal is the discourse of conservatives, and progress is the slogan of modernists. Practical steps concerned with implementing intellectual ideas are the crux of the matter. Merely inspirational ideas are not very effective. The success of an honest Government requires providing security, housing, incomes, justice, freedom and democracy. A modernizer is a person living in the present moment. It is expected of him to try to cope with events and control them if possible. On the contrary, a conservative is loyal to the good old values that are not expected to last for long. These values are ideas that have become obsolete even if they are good, utopianistic, nostalgic, and inspiring. But they are like our old beloved fathers and ancestors who cannot stay with us forever. Despite all their efforts to hang on to life, in the end they are destined to die. Despite being old-aged, exponents of

the discourse of the new revolution are vibrant and bold. Old men like these (most of them are more than 60 years old) should have been overwhelmed by such a discourse as that propagated by younger generations. But they managed to overcome their fear by putting their ideas to the test of actual practice. On the international level, they strengthened their relations with Europe, America, Armenia, Iran, and Syria. On the internal level, they provided a fantastic package of services. In the past five years they built more roads than the Turkish Republic had built in a whole century. They were not content with strident speeches and propaganda, and provided the people with real homes. Their policy is to end all kinds of crises, either internal or external. Their discourse is perfect, if not overly idealistic. But such idealism will certainly find itself in the face of the harsh facts of reality. The current government is bringing a courageous philosophy into a country that hasn’t been used to this kind of courage for the past century. It is a flexible philosophy in a country accustomed to being inflexible. It is a practical government in a country that has a wide imagination, embraces the rhetoric of the past, and relies on its nostalgic heritage in its confrontations with the West and the Muslim countries. This kind of intelligence and enthusiastic activity has created many enemies to this government. Some of these enemies are: a reactionary philosophy looking for revenge; envious neighbours ready to plant Israeli, Kurdish, secular, Islamist, Iranian, national, European and Arab thorns in the Turkish flesh in order for such a success to fall into decay. This might lead to the emergence of a new Ataturk who might manipulate the present or the past, but confrontation will give him legitimacy in the end.

Researcher in Islamic Studies 28


The Turkish Model

An inspirational force hard to emulate

This thinker traces the three phases that were necessary for the secularization of Turkey: the fall of the caliphate, the rise of secular nationalism, and democratic political development. Gamal Abdel Gawad


one of the countries of the Islamic world have a similar Islamic and secular heritage as that of Turkey. Modern Turkey is the only Islamic state that transformed into a secular state - or at least one of the Islamic world's most secular states. Three major historical processes have interacted together to form a modern Turkey: the fall of the caliphate, the rise of secular nationalism, and democratic political development. The fall of the Sultans caliphate and the rise of secular nationalism were two interrelated processes. The political illegitimization of the Islamic caliphate state did not occur when Mustafa Kemal abolished the caliphate in 1924. It actually happened before, when the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the First World War and the Allies invaded its territory. While the National Resistance Movement led by Mustafa Kemal was busy fighting the multi-foreign occupation that took hold of the territory of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the government of the Sultan/Caliph was negotiating the unjust occupation and division of the Ottoman territories. Never in any state of the Islamic world was there such an open confrontation between nationalism and secularism on the one hand, and religion as well as religious authority on the other. While the religious authority was losing ground, secular nationalists were laying the foundation of their power. This allowed them to establish the Turkish Republic on a purely secular and national basis. This allowed secular nationalism in Turkey to become so deeply rooted that it is now difficult to challenge it, as it is this ideology that is behind the modern Turkish state. The third historical process by which modern Turkey was shaped, was the process of expanding the system of political representation to include new social and political forces. These new forces did not enjoy the Issue 1534

same degree of representation in the phase immediately following the founding of the Republic. Turkey's transformation from an authoritarian one-party system to a democratic multi-party system was a difficult process. Since the first multi-party elections in 1950 and until now, the establishment of democracy in the country has been a prolonged phase of conflict and tension. The two parties of this conflict were the forces which adopted a republican model based on secular nationalism, and the various other forces, including Islamist forces, which attempted to challenge this model. Through more than half a century of tension and conflict between the two poles they were able to learn the mechanisms of negotiation and how to exchange concessions, in a complex process of mutual co-optation. Consequently, Turkey reached its current status of democratic and institutional maturity. Negotiation, making concessions, and mutual co-optation were not only about procedural matters related to the allocation of power between state institutions. They were also key concepts related to national identity of the state. This process of building national consensus has gone through several phases. During the first phase, pluralistic governance mechanisms were established in a way that could not be reversed. This allowed for the transition of power between different political forces that belonged to the same political system. The peaceful exchange of power which occurred during democratization rendered the Turkish political system flexible and capable of absorbing new forces. Finding bases for peaceful rotation of power between parties that had a shared understanding of the fundamental foundations of state and society, and this allowed the state to move to a second phase. In this phase the absorption and integration of the Islamic movement

in the Turkish political system became possible. From an early period, political Islamic movements prevailed in Turkey. The Islamic movement in Turkey has produced its ultimate version: the Justice and Development Party (AKP), characterized by an Islamic rationale that allows it to express the strong Islamic sentiments which many Turks share. The party has also national, secular, and democratic merits that allow it to fully and peacefully integrate with the Turkish political system. The controversy and political conflict that had lasted for more than half a century, and allowed for such a development, happened under a strong secular national system. This system was protected by a highly politicized army so powerfully committed to the ideology of secular nationalism that it became the main protector of the legacy of the Republic. At the same time, the high professionalism of the army prevented it from seeking to acquire political power for itself. In so much as the secular nationalist system that Mustafa Kemal established in Turkey was unique, the army he built was also unique. No such army ever existed in the Middle East. Thus, Turkey's political experience contains unique factors that prevent it from being replicated in other countries. The great success of Turkey has made activists and intellectuals in the Middle East look up to it for inspiration. Though these countries are Muslim majority countries they are still suffering from oppression, identity crises, and political exclusion. Reproducing the experience of Turkey in other countries of the region is not possible. But there are a number of lessons that can be learned from this experience. These lessons might inspire the active players in these countries to form ideas and programs that are suitable for their communities.

Director of Ahram Center for Strategic Studies 29


Time to Step Out of the Shadows Peace at Home, Peace Abroad

What’s the way forward for Turkey? To really step out from under the shadow of its domestic divisions, Turkey needs to have a frank and wide-ranging discussion about what Turkish identity means today and what kind of country it would like to become. Yigal Schleifer


urkish politics have long lived by one of the most enduring mottos of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the country’s modernizing and secularizing founder: “Peace at Home, Peace Abroad.” The slogan is eminently sensible and the government of the liberal Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been working hard – and mostly succeeding – in living up to the “Peace Abroad” dictate. Following an approach it calls “Zero Problems with Neighbors,” Ankara has forcefully realigned the country’s foreign policy in recent years, seeking a greater engagement with the surrounding region and to establish itself as a neighborhood soft power broker and mediator. In recent months, for example, Turkey signed a historic agreement that could pave the way for renewed diplomatic relations with Armenia and also signed a high-level cooperation agreement with Syria, a country that less than a decade ago it almost went to war against. Ankara has also seen a dramatic rise in terms of its trade relations with its immediate neighbors and in terms of its political and diplomatic clout in its surrounding region. Achieving “Peace at Home” has been a different matter. While Ankara has achieved notable success in the foreign policy field, Turkey today faces deep and potentially destabilizing domestic political divisions and a political system that sometimes flirts with dysfunctionality. With a political culture that emphasizes confrontation over cooperation and a political opposition that seems unable to develop 27 November, 2009

a forward-looking vision for the country, Turkey may find its efforts at democratization and at burnishing its foreign policy credentials defeated by its political divisions at home. At the heart of Turkey’s domestic trouble lies the country’s ongoing effort to define its post-Ottoman identity. The Kemalist vision laid out by Ataturk – that of a secular, western-oriented Turkey that emphasized a uniform sense of Turkish identity – was successful in helping the country rise out of the rubble after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But the rise of the AKP, which represents an emerging Islamic elite that is less connected to the Kemalist approach, has put that vision to the test. In many ways, the AKP is trying to formulate a post-Kemalist identity for Turkey, one that provides greater room for religious identity and ethnic diversity. This effort has been met by deep suspicion from Turkey’s Kemalist establishment and the AKP’s political opposition, with the country’s domestic politics often characterized by a marked level of antagonism. A good example is the recent debate in parliament over the government’s ongoing “democratization initiative,” a reform effort mostly aimed at solving the decades-old Kurdish problem by the introduction of increased cultural and political rights. When the government first tried to present its program to parliament on November 10 (unwisely, since that day is also the anniversary of Ataturk’s death), members of the two main opposition parties, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP)

and the hard-line Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), almost came to blows with members of the AKP and left little room for actual debate. The opposition has blocked many of the government’s other reform efforts, particularly those dealing with Turkey’s ongoing European Union membership process, often times by appealing to nationalist sentiments. The AKP, at times, has also done its part to raise domestic tensions, filling ministries and governmental agencies with like minded (i.e. religiously conservative), though not necessarily qualified, functionaries and taking disturbing steps to create a pliant, pro-government media. The sometimes heavyhanded way in which an ongoing investigation into an alleged coup plot, known as Ergenekon, has been conducted has also created suspicion and given secularists the sense that the government is targeting them and their institutions. What’s the way forward for Turkey? To really step out from under the shadow of its domestic divisions, Turkey needs to have a frank and wide-ranging discussion about what Turkish identity means today and what kind of country it would like to become. Having that conversation when nobody will listen to each other will be difficult. Freelance writer based in Istanbul, where he works as a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and writes Istanbul Calling (istanbulcalling., a blog covering Turkish politics and foreign policy 30


27 November, 2009


The Turkish


Breaking the Cycle of Polarization By Ricardo Borges de Castro

Issue 1534



The Turkish Puzzle

Breaking the Cycle of Polarization Ricardo Borges de Castro

Turkey has a functioning and established democracy. As the country makes its way to membership in the European Union, the Turkish political system has been strengthened and reformed. Yet, it is puzzling that, parallel to this process of change, there is a growing political polarization that the democratic system and society at large seem unable to deal with.

Turkish children wave flags as tens of thousands of Turks attend an anti-goverment rally, May 5, 2007 in western Turkish city of Manisa. Tens of thousands of flag-waving Turks demonstrated on Saturday in the third anti-government protest in a month amid a bitter conflict over the role of religion in the mostly Muslim country's politics. © getty images


he idea of a clash between two distinct realities is ubiquitous in discussions about Turkish politics. Today, this is extended to all types of potentially opposing relationships: state versus society, secular versus pious Turks, Turks versus Kurds, and Sunni versus Alevi. Albeit not denying the existence of such antagonisms in Turkish society and politics, they need not be a foregone conclusion. Both at the level of the state and at the level of society there is room for improvement and to solve the 27 November, 2009

apparent and pervasive divisions.

could be drawn elsewhere.

A robust democratic system is the best answer for Turkey’s current problems. This may be a cliché, but it is true nonetheless. Moreover, the good thing about democracy is that it is work in progress; it can be improved while the game is being played. Like in most democracies in the world, there is not a silver bullet to solve all of Turkey’s shortcomings. But there are a few areas that can be privileged in this discussion. Obviously, attention

There are two related issues that Turkey must face to address the current polarization of the political system: her history and the quality of her democracy. The first deals with the framework and background in which Turkey’s democracy is played. It is the stage so to speak. The second focuses on specific areas of Turkey’s political system, namely civil society and its democratic freedoms and rights. In other words, it is about the actors. 34

Ideas The Stage Dealing with history is not an easy task. In particular, no nation enjoys facing its faults. Yet, ignoring them is not an option. They are always there, and, at each juncture, a country will be facing them. At present, Turkey is already in the healthy and courageous process of looking at her sometimes painful past. The current governmental initiative of the ‘democratic opening’ to deal with the Kurdish issue; and the protocols signed in Switzerland, between Turkey and Armenia on 10 October 2009, despite all the drama, point in the right way. But this may not be enough. A debate this year, on whether to prosecute the military leaders of the 12 September 1980 coup, suggested that there is still a need in Turkish society to address the country’s political past. Albeit a legitimate aspiration, a trial may not be the best way forward, and it is doubtful that in the current political climate it would be helpful at all. In other words, instead of addressing the central issue, which is that of coming to terms with her history, Turkey would perhaps be engulfed in an additional period of acrimony and polarization. In societies that have been torn apart by conflict and other political ills – some more gravely than Turkey – governments have established truth and reconciliation commissions. Conversely, where there was lack of political will to follow that path, independent commissions, sponsored by civil society groups, were formed. Both models, however, shared the aim to document and deal with past errors, and, eventually, open the door for reconciliation. In the Turkish case, the ideal mechanism in looking into earlier decades could be an adhoc independent commission for national reconciliation composed by representatives from civil society organizations, universities, and political parties. Clearly, all political views within Turkish society must be represented. Exceptionally, to guarantee neutrality, such commission could be chaired by an Issue 1534

international personality like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, supported by a steering committee made up of Turkish members. This is a road with obstacles, but the opportunity to constructively debate Turkey’s past and strengthen her democratic culture should not be missed.

There are two related issues that Turkey must face to address the current polarization of the political system: her history and the quality of her democracy Parallel to the process of addressing her history, Turkey should work on a new and liberal constitution. There has been an attempt in recent years to tackle this issue. Yet, increasing political dissent ended up shelving a draft text prepared in 2007 by a group of legal experts headed by Professor Ergun Özbudun. A new constitution would offer a fresh framework to enhance the role of Turkish civil society. The Players The state has always been a relevant and dominant player in Turkey. Indeed, it is part of one of the country’s traditional dichotomies: the state versus society. Again, this clash is not inevitable. A stronger civil society in Turkey can contribute to a higher level of civic and democratic culture and to better governance. The strengthening of civil society encompasses several areas. Notwithstanding, two essential sectors deserve special attention in the Turkish case: fundamental freedoms and women’s rights. Turkey needs to continue down the road of reinforcing basic freedoms. Indeed, the country has come a long

way since it was named a candidate country for EU membership in 1999. Yet, there are still limitations that prevent the Turkish public to fully enjoy their freedoms, particularly those of speech and the press. In order to have a constructive debate about their past and future, Turks must be able to freely express and write their views and opinions without fear of prosecution. This is the only way forward, and is yet to be fulfilled. Women in Turkey are still far from assuming their place in politics, society and the workplace. Turkish democracy can not function properly if a significant number of its citizens are excluded. Some numbers speak for themselves: according to the United Nations Development Programme in Turkey, women’s labour force participation rate is 24.8 percent compared to men’s 71.3 percent; adult literacy ratio is 80.4 percent among women and 96.0 percent among men; the proportion of seats in Turkey’s national assembly held by women is a meagre 9.1 percent; and only 0.56 percent of mayoralties are run by women. Increasing the participation of women in decision-making centres, education, and workforce, can bring women’s issues to the forefront, give them the necessary economic independence, and strengthen democracy. Furthermore, it can contribute to tackle the persistent problem of violence against women. The Turkish government and parliament recently took measures to address gender issues, but they need to be fully implemented and embraced by a society which is still quite conservative when it comes to women’s role(s). Turkey is going through an exciting and complex process of change. To succeed, it needs to critically, but constructively, engage with her history and to improve her democratic culture. This may be the only way to finally break the cycle of polarization. Researcher focusing on Turkey, St Antony’s College, Oxford University 35


Between the Cracks of Islamic Politics

Bulent Arinc, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey By: Nicholas Birch Issue 1534


People - Profile

Between the Cracks of Islamic Politics Bulent Arinc, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Bulent Arinc, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, notorious for his boldness and perceived by opponents as the paramount hardliner of Turkish politics, is an important figure in the AK Party that has been at the front of controversial conservative initiatives in Turkey during the last 7 years.

27 November, 2009


People - Profile "I worry when people stick 'ism' and 'ist' on the end of words. Islam is good. Islamism isn't. Ataturk is good. But those who exploit his memory by calling themselves Kemalists are not. Ataturk was a mortal, not a demigod.... Secularism means freedom. The West is secular, but not secularist." The speech he gave to university students in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on 11 November was typical of Bulent Arinc, Deputy Prime Minister and a key figure in Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. It was frank to the point of bluntness. It seemed to have been designed to raise the hackles of Turks attached to the staunchly secular - and authoritarian - heritage of the hero of Turkey's independence war. But it also showed just how profoundly Turkish political Islamic attitudes have changed over the past three decades. Many millions in Turkey would disagree with the last sentence: for his enemies, Bulent Arinc is the leader of a hard-line faction inside the government, proof that the AKP's insistence that it has left Islamist policies behind in favour of "democratic conservatism" are a charade. When the Chief Prosecutor in Ankara called for the closure of AKP in March 2008 on the grounds that it was a "focal point of antisecular activities", Mr Arinc topped the list of politicians cited in the 162page indictment. As frictions between the government and Turkey's army and judiciary escalated after 2004, nobody was more outspoken than him in denouncing what he saw as the illegal machinations of bureaucratic elites. "There is no regime problem in this country, there is a debate about who controls the regime", he said on one occasion. Until then, the incumbent had been a staunch secularist whose wife, a retired school teacher who did not cover her head, symbolised the modernising ideals of the Republic. With the country ideologically polarised, and (we now know) senior officers plotting to overthrow the government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pragmatically planned to put forward a compromise candidate. Bulent Arinc, whose wife, like Mr Erdogan's, covers her head, refused. "Our people want a civil-minded, pious and democratic president... whose wife wears a headscarf", he said. During a two-hour meeting with Mr Erdogan in which he offered to sacrifice his position as speaker of the parliament, Issue 1534

he got his way. The next day, Mr Erdogan announced Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as the party's candidate, sparking judicial attempts to sabotage the election and veiled threats of military intervention in April 2007.

form the AKP. For many traditionalminded Islamists, the first two were little better than traitors. But they saw Arinc's departure as the inevitable conclusion of years of principled opposition.

A journalist who has known Bulent Arinc for nearly two decades, Sedat Bozkurt thinks his behaviour during the presidential crisis was characteristic of the man. "He is stubborn, independent-minded and, while ambitious, uninterested in the trappings of high office", he says. They are qualities that have won him a lot of admirers, and a fair few enemies, since he began to climb the political ladder back in the late 1980s.

It is this link with the more conservative end of Turkey's political spectrum that explains Arinc's weight inside the AKP, a party which combines nationalists, traditional Islamists and liberals. It may also explain why Erdogan appointed him deputy prime minister after a more traditional-minded Islamic party doubled its support at local elections this March.

A soldier's son with a successful criminal law practice in his western Turkish home town of Manisa, Arinc, like growing numbers of young provincial men in the 1970s, was attracted to multi-party Turkey's first explicitly Islamic politician, Necmettin Erbakan. By 1991, Erbakan's Prosperity Party (RP) was strong enough to win 18.5% in elections. Erbakan's ideology - Milli Gorus or 'National View'" - had much in common with the left-wing-tinted Islamic ideas swirling around the rest of the Muslim world: anti-western, anti-secular and opposed to economic liberalism, it mixed calls for a more just and moral society with support for state-backed industrialisation.

Widely considered one of the most polished orators in Turkish politics today, Bulent Arinc quickly rose through the ranks. By 1991, he was RP's regional head in Manisa. Four years later, he was a member of parliament in an RP-led coalition government. Among RP's older generation, though, he had made a name for himself as a trouble maker. But Arinc persisted. Behind closed doors, he called for more intraparty democracy. He questioned RP's anti-European stance. And he criticised Erbakan's decision to form a coalition government in 1995 with a party notorious for its corruption. In 1995, in the face of opposition from Erbakan's inner circle of white beards, RP members elected him to the party's executive council. It was the first sign of the cracks that would divide Islamic politics after the RP was edged out of power by a military-coordinated campaign in 1997 and closed down. In 2001, former Erbakan proteges Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, along with Arinc, broke away to

All this does not mean, as some critics claim, that Arinc is a patsy for the National View inside AKP. While he remains probably the most religiously conservative of the triumvirate ruling the AKP (although Erdogan runs him close), he has changed a lot since the days when Erbakan's ideology had a near monopoly on Islamist circles in Turkey. While Prosperity was anti-Western, Arinc, at least until 2005, was one of the most outspoken supporters of Turkey's European Union accession bid inside the AKP. As regards military involvement in politics, Arinc comes across as the most civilianminded of them all: it is difficult to imagine Erdogan criticizing a nursing home which encouraged frail inmates to stand to attention for the national anthem, as he did. "This is garrison culture", he said. Like Erdogan and Gul, though, Arinc has changed most in his attitudes towards the Kurdish problem. When Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds at Halabja in 1988, Erbakan, like Turkish nationalists, didn't say a word. His party didn't have any suggestions either for solving the Kurdish conflict that had begun in Turkey's southeast in 1984. Today, Arinc and Erdogan are crisscrossing the country in their efforts to persuade the Turkish people of the urgent need for a peaceful solution to the war. It is a radical policy switch whose success depends heavily on Erdogan's personal charisma. But Arinc, wildly applauded by Kurdish students in Diyarbakir on November 11, has a key role to play too. Conservatives trust him more than any other AKP member. If he can carry them with him, then he will have succeeded in doing the near impossible - weaning Turkish Islam away from nationalism. 39

People - Interview

A Neo-Ottomanism?

Ibrahim Kalin, new chief foreign affairs adviser to the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan Ibrahim Kalin, a foremost scholar of Islamic Studies, talks with The Majalla about the foreign policy identity of Turkey, its changes, its consistencies, and how it is positioning itself in the Middle East as a power to be reckoned with.


brahim Kalin has been chief foreign affairs advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan since May 2009, when his predecessor Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed Foreign Minister. Before then, he divided his time between a teaching post at Georgetown University and the SETA Foundatoin for Political, Economical and Social Research, an Ankara-based think tank he set up. Mr Kalin has a PhD from George Washington University, and has written books on Islam and the West and the concept of knowledge in later Islamic philosophy. Ankara - 16 November 2009 The Majalla: Would you agree that Turkish foreign policy has radically changed in the past five years or so? I believe there is as much continuity as there is change. Take Israel for example. People think Turkey has turned its back on Israel because AK Party is an "Islamist party" with a hidden agenda. That is not true. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise Israel in 1948, but it was also among 27 November, 2009

the first to pull out its ambassador when Jewish extremists set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque in 1968. When the Jenin incident happened in 2002, it was the late Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, a secular politician, who called it a genocide, not the AK Party. Until 2008, this government was facilitating IsraeliSyrian negotiations. The Israelis trusted us. The Syrians trusted us. And we trusted them. The Gaza campaign broke that trust. Relations go up and down. Q: Excluding Israel, though, there seem to be many more ups than downs in Turkey's bilateral relations recently: Russia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Greece, Africa. Turkey has a new confidence. As a state, we feel that we have a story, something to offer the region at a time when the West is confused about Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Caucasus. In all these, we feel we have a good grasp of the issues because of our geographical proximity, our cultural ties, our history. But this isn't just about politics. It is extraordinary how well Turkey has utilized globalisation. After Russia, we are the biggest economy

in the region, and our economy is much more balanced than Russia's. Our businessmen are everywhere. As politicians, therefore, we cannot remain indifferent. We cannot pretend we live in an island of peace. Q: Is there a risk that Turkey’s move towards multilateral relations based on balancing could fail with Iran? In essence, we are saying the same thing about Iran as our American and European friends. Some people criticised this government for congratulating Mahmud Ahmedinejad after elections earlier this year. But this is what the Americans did too. Barack Obama may personally identify more with the protestors on the streets of Iran. But he knows that you have to talk to the key power brokers there if you want to solve the issue of Iranian nuclear power. Turkey understands this perfectly too. Q: What is Turkey's view on Iran's alleged nuclear armament programme? Our position is very clear. We are against any country having nuclear 40

People - Interview weapons. We want to live in a nuclearfree region, and this goes for Iran as it does for Israel, or any other country that may harbour the idea of getting nuclear weapons one day. On the other hand, it is any country's right to have a peaceful nuclear energy programme. We are now in the process of trying to build our first nuclear power plant, and that doesn't concern our Western allies because they trust us. They don't trust Iran, and Iran's Arab neighbours don't either. What Turkey is saying is that the onus is on Tehran to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful, but on the other hand that trust cannot be built up by isolating Iran, and occasionally threatening it, as the George Bush administration did. Q: Have you noticed concerns among the Middle East's Arab states at improving Turkish-Iranian relations? I haven't, although I know some Arab policy makers and intellectuals are worried about Turkey's increasing activism in the region, especially on the Palestine issue. Egypt in particular is concerned that Turkey is trying to steal their role as a broker in the region. Our line is that we are there to help Egypt too. The Palestine issue does not help Egypt either. It creates tremendous political pressure in Egyptian society and it makes things more difficult for Hosni Mubarek and his regime. We can never claim the same role as Egypt in Arab politics. We are not Arabs. We are not geographically at the heart of the Arab world. Q: So you would disagree with descriptions of Turkey's new foreign policy as neo-Ottomanism then? The basic elements of such a world order are simply not there. I personally am critical of the nation-state model, but the reality is that it has been accepted by the vast majority of peoples in the region. Plus let's not forget that that all the great powers have been part of the region's history for the last century and a half. The simple objective elements of what you might call neo-Ottomanism do not exist. The fact that Turkey is not interested in this sort of imperial vision is by the by. Q: What are you advocating for the region then? Ask an ordinary Turkish person what their geographical vision is and you will see that it extends far beyond national borders. It goes all the way to Central Asia, to China, ancestral lands. It includes former lands in the Balkans, the Middle East, North Africa. I think that is the way it should be. What is the European Union project? It is a way of abolishing all borders. In this part of the world we are accustomed to the idea of borders as strict as the Berlin Wall. But walls are being dismantled around the world. Why can't we do the same thing here? Of course, it will never be as Issue 1534

structured, as rooted in law as is the case with the European Union. But it means that we look at Syria in a different way now, Iraq in a different way. Rather than state to state relations, it is more a question of improving people to people relations. Q: Has come to eradicate the aftereffects of the Cold War in the region? Exactly. In October, almost exactly 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a delegation of Turkish ministers crossed over to Syria in a sort of symbolic removal of the border there and announced that Syrian and Turkish citizens would be able to visit without visas. We are just catching up, basically. This is why I emphasized earlier the importance of Turkey's society and entrepreneurs. After decades spent living in a polarised world, Turks are beginning to realise that there is more to life than black and white, the Warsaw Pact and the Western alliance. Q: Is there a growing sense of Ottoman nostalgia in Turkey? I think what we are seeing is the slow recovery of memory of the Ottoman empire after 80 years of Republican propaganda that depicted it as backward and autocratic. For me, the renewed interest is rather like the way that the founders of post-modern philosophical thought in Europe, people like Nietzsche and Heidegger, found their inspiration in pagan Greeks who were thinking and writing before the modern framework was shaped. On one level, Turks, like the descendants of other imperial peoples, feel pride in their past. More importantly, the Ottoman empire is a reminder that we were once a nation composed of multifarious identities. The knowledge that we were able to live in harmony for 600 years will, I think, help the Turkish imagination in the 21st century. Q: Some, both inside Turkey and outside, have begun suggesting recently that Turkey is 'sliding away from the West.' There is an element of hypocrisy here. When the US takes steps to improve relations with Russia, that is seen as helping world peace. When Turkey does the same, it is accused of flaunting NATO principles. The accession proceedings of other EU candidate countries move forward step by step. But Turkey is told it will never be a full member. When Turkey protests, some say 'the government has abandoned efforts to join the EU' and is moving closer to the East. Q: You don't agree judgement, then?



It shows how influential eurocentrism

and the psychology of the Cold War still are. Neither this government nor the Turkish people have the intention of parting ways with the West. While our exports east are increasing, well over half of Turkey's exports still go to Europe. Turkey is not making preparations to leave NATO. Nor is it preparing to leave the dozens of European political and cultural organisations - like the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Parliament - of which it is a member. On the contrary, the efforts and sacrifices it is making to join the EU are unparalleled by any other state. Q: There does seem to have been a considerable reduction in the government's enthusiasm for the EU project since 2005, though. French and German flouting of agreements signed when Turkey began accession proceedings in 2005 has negatively affected the public, not just the government. Media reporting is partially to blame: we hear much more about [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey accession than about the United Kingdom's support. But the process is still manageable. While polls show roughly 40% of Turks don't believe that Europe will ever accept them in, they also show a majority of Turks supporting accession. My personal concern is that if the EU process drags on too long, Turkey will lose its appetite completely. Q: So what can be done? The nature of debates in Turkey, the West and the world are changing. Turkey is no longer a stagnant country living in the shadow of super powers in a Cold War world. History no longer flows from west to east. There is no longer a convincing western axis. The question is whether Europe has the strategic vision to project itself into the new world. Will it transform itself from a continental power to a soft power effective over a wider region? Or will it remain imprisoned in technical debates about EU legislation, its geopolitical vision extending no further than the Bulgarian-Turkish border? Those who interpret change as a threat will be discarded by history. That is why Turkey, independent of the Europeans' state of mind, must follow through its own reforms with determination. If we know what we are doing at a time when Europe and America are feeling muddled, whose fault is that? Interview conducted by Nicholas Birch – worked as a freelance reporter in Turkey for seven years. He currently writes for the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London 41

Economics International Economics

International Investor



and Back Again

Issue 1534


Economics - International Economics

There and Back Again

Turkey’s Economy Under Seven Years of AKP Rule

Natali Bulamacioglu The verdict on the AK Party’s management of the economy is at best mixed. Although the government succeeded in fixing many of the economy’s imbalances in the early stages of its mandate, the intermittent political tensions the Party indirectly created infused uncertainty and instability in the country’s economy. Although there are encouraging signs that the economy may get back on track, there is still a long road ahead.

Turkish people throng a street of the Mahmutpasa marketplace,on March 24,2009. in Istanbul.


n this day and age, markets matter at least as much as politics. Under the impact of Globalisation, markets and politics interact increasingly with one another both at the national and international levels. This interdependence is particularly noticeable during and after national elections. Revealingly enough, a common indicator used to assess the level of success of a general election is the reaction of international financial markets and investors to the election’s outcome. Of late, this trend has been reinforced by the growing use of international markets as an alternative source of capital to 27 November, 2009

cover domestic needs of national governments. In this context, general elections have become full of ‘promises of commitments’ with the purpose of signalling a candidate’s ‘intentions’ to favour ‘market-friendly’ policies when and if elected. From this standpoint, one could say that the implicit objective of some candidates in Turkey’s 2002 general election was to build a positive reputation in the eyes of international investors. This was no different for the AK Party; during its campaign, the AK Party strived to prepare the general public to

© getty images

the implementation of what its leaders deemed necessary promarket reforms. High among its promises stood the commitments to reform Turkey’s economy, to finalise Turkey’s deal with the International Monetary Foundation (IMF), and to accelerate the country’s accession to the European Union (EU). 2002 was also a turning point for Turkey in economic terms. Above all, it represented a break with the unsuccessful economic programmes adopted by previous governments. To understand how significant this economic policy break was under the AK Party 44

Economics - International Economics

rule, one needs to go back to 2001, one of the blackest years in Turkey’s recent economic history. 2001 was a bad year. Turkey experienced a severe recession which resulted in the devaluation of the Turkish lira, rising unemployment and poverty, and a painful deterioration of the real economy. Politically, 2001 was mainly the product of the inability of governments to manage and further the economic reforms introduced by Turgut Özal (Turkey’s 8th president), who, between 1989 and 1993 strived to transform Turkey into a “little America”. Economically, it was the culmination of years of banking crises, chronic inflation, poor economic growth, high nominal and real interest rates, and galloping public debt burden. In this context, the domestic and international business community enthusiastically welcomed the stability promised by the AK Party and quietly worked to bring the party to power. The result was without appeal – even if unexpected for many observers: the AK Party won the 2002 general election by a landslide. Today, it is commonly believed that the business environment in Turkey has improved significantly since the AK Party government took office in 2002. This improvement, however, has not been homogeneous and there are now clear signs that the economy’s overall verve seems to be running out of steam. Early in its mandate, the AK Party succeeded in generating macroeconomic stability by vigorously pushing ahead with macroeconomic reforms which successfully fine-tuned monetary, fiscal, exchange rate policies, and structural reforms in the banking system and public finances. As a result, the average GNP growth rate accelerated, the inflation rate hit its bottommost in 35 years, Issue 1534

public debt fell drastically and foreign direct investment jumped. The honeymoon period for Turkey’s economic growth seems to be over. Economic growth has now given way to growing inflation rates and a rising current-account deficit. Other economic indicators also seem in tune with this downward trend: foreign investment inflows have dried up, unemployment is rising, budget deficit soaring, and GDP shrinking. Although the global financial crisis has undeniably contributed to the recent deterioration of the Turkish economy, domestic political tensions also stand high among the culprits. The pre and post election period have been painful for Turkey; the ‘old fears’ of the Islamist movement resurged with the prospect of an AK Party government. During the past seven years, there have been many instances where economic stability was jeopardised by the growing political friction between Islamists and the secularist fringes of the military and population at large. A good illustration of this tension and its impact on the Turkish economy is the 2008 dispute between the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Mr. Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, and the AK Party. In March 2008, Mr. Yalçınkaya, after the suggestion of Doğu Silahçıoğlu (a retired army general), asked the Court to abolish the AK Party. Mr Yalçınkaya justified his action by asserting that the AK Party had become a “hotbed of anti-secular activities” and that the party’s existence and activities was therefore contrary to the secular tenets of the Turkish constitution. This unfolding of events led to an automatic fall in investor confidence that was translated into a spike in borrowing rates for the treasury as well as a plunge in

the Istanbul stock market index. This economic and financial setback was only solved in July when the court failed to grant Mr. Yalçınkaya’s motion. Since 2007, the economic consequences of these political skirmishes have been reinforced by the outbreak of the Global Financial Crisis in late 2007. It is true however that, as Turkey’s Minister of the Economy Mr. Ali Babacan stressed in a recent public lecture at the London school of Economics, that the Turkish banking sector weathered the financial crisis comparatively well thanks to tough prudential regulations. As a consequence, Turkey’s banking sector did not need to be bailed out during the recent crisis. Nevertheless, the major economic indicators have fared less well and their fall has been reflected in the recently held local elections. Rising unemployment, shrinking GDP, an unstable currency and the prospects that the economy may contract, have led the AK Party to loose a substantial share of the votes it used to get. To finish with an optimistic note, Fitch, one of the leading rating agencies, has recently revised Turkey’s credit rating on domestic and foreign currency upwards. A recent statement released by IMF has also expressed the organisation’s enthusiasm regarding Turkey’s announced “medium-term framework” which aims at reversing the deterioration of its public finances, and stimulating the private sector and economic growth. Given these domestic and international developments, only time will tell how efficient will Turkey be in promoting economic growth and sheltering its economy from future global economic upheavals. London-based researcher. 45

Economics - International Investor

Weathering the Endless Storm The Viability of Lebanese Banks

Lebanese banks have been smart investments for the past two years as the policies instituted by the Central Bank have allowed commercial banks to prosper in the economic downturn. However, it remains to be seen if this growth is sustainable or simply an outlier in an often volatile industry.

Joshua Mellen


hough the liquidity crisis experienced by the global economy has become a hackneyed subject due to more than a year’s worth of intense punditry, investors are still eager to find low-risk investments in order to weather a seemingly endless storm. Furthermore, the savvy investor remains interested in opportunities with higher rewards and it seems that in the face of considerable outside turmoil, Lebanon has situated itself as an interesting place for speculation, particularly in the financial services sector. The media has publicized the foresight of Riad Salameh, the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, and Lebanese banks have become increasingly popular destinations for equity investment and cash deposits, particularly those of expatriates. Nevertheless, the clairvoyance of Mr. Salameh may be successful only in times of crisis. The capacity for Lebanese banks to grow further as the global economy restarts remains to be seen. Riad Salameh has been hailed as one of the few central bankers to properly prepare his economy for the impending liquidity crisis. Speaking to BBC News, he explained, “I saw the crisis coming and I told the commercial banks in 2007 to get out of all international investments related to international markets.” In addition, he restricted these banks from participating in any collateralized debt obligations, forced the consolidation of the Lebanese banking industry, and mandated that any locally headquartered bank must carry 30% of its assets in cash reserves. One year later, as the world’s largest banks were forced to accept government cash injections in order maintain the solvency necessary for day-to-day operations, Lebanese banks such as Bank Audi, BLOM Bank, and Byblos Bank had high liquidity. The relative performance of these banks catalyzed significant deposit inflows, much of which came from Lebanese citizens living abroad who saw these banks as relative safe havens. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), after the first half of 2009, private 27 November, 2009

sector deposits were up 16.9% against the same time in 2008 and there has been an increase in the proportion of Lebanese pound deposits versus US Dollar deposits as investors sought to take advantage of the 7% deposit rate of the national currency. All these criteria have led the big three Lebanese banks to report significant profit gains of 1.9%, 5.8%, and 2.0% respectively. In addition, as of 10 November 2009, the share prices of Bank Audi and BLOM Bank have risen 72% and 31% respectively. In the short term, Lebanon may seem like a safe alternative destination for savings deposits and an intriguing equity solution to an otherwise dangerous sector. However, the outlook for these banks will probably not include sustainable growth. Lebanon is forced by its political situation to have an engaged and conservative central bank in order to ensure the safety of the banking system. When the financial markets stabilize and the appetite for risk increases, Lebanese banks will be impeded by the policies instituted by Mr. Salameh. The BBC has quoted him as saying, “The system we created has been tested against wars, against instability, against political assassinations. And our sector would be much more developed if Lebanon did not have political and security risks, but it has also induced us to have a conservative reflex because we were always getting ready for the worst case scenario.” This dogma is perfect for weathering a multi-national economic crisis but it does not lend itself to growth in the industry. Mr. Salameh’s policies can be seen as a necessary course action due to constant pressure from noneconomic forces; yet, the good fortune bestowed upon Lebanon’s banks may not last another year. Makram Sader, Secretary General of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, remains sceptical of the industry’s capacity to sustain its current performance. Currently, Lebanese commercial banks have been posting spectacular results despite the lack of a government in Beirut. Speaking to the Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star at

the beginning of November, Mr. Sader said, “It is wrong to assume, as people think, that the economy and banks will continue to prosper without the need of a government. Investors will not be encouraged to make a commitment if there is no government in the country.” Mr. Sader brings up the most important aspect of investment in Lebanese banks: despite the possibilities of consolidation, there is a very real limit to the advancement of Bank Audi, BLOM Bank, and Byblos Bank and without a significant change in the political and social problems of Lebanon, the unsystematic risk will always be viewed as too high to attract the necessary foreign investment. Furthermore, the inability of these banks to invest their own cash reserves into the advancement of the Lebanese economy creates a vicious form of stagnation that will only be exacerbated once the effects of the liquidity crisis peter out and other financial institutions regain liquidity. While the policies instituted by Riad Salameh have allowed the Lebanese banking industry to sidestep the pitfalls of the current liquidity crisis in financial services, it seems as though this good fortune is not sustainable. In the face of economic recovery, Lebanon will be forced to maintain a banking policy of intense conservatism in order to counter security concerns and as global banks revel in recovery, the deposits, which allowed Bank Audi, BLOM Bank, and Byblos Bank to experience prosperity in 2008 and 2009, will return overseas due to diminished domestic savings rates. Only political stability will allow the Lebanese banking system to capitalize upon their current liquidity and invest their enormous cash reserves in the future of the Lebanese economy. Until then, Lebanese financials will be smart investments, but only in times of global economic distress.

London based researcher, formerly of Goldman Sachs, specialising in global equity and emerging markets. 46

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Economics - Markets

BA-Iberia merger deal

British Airways and Spanish airline Iberia have reached a preliminary agreement for a merger to create the world’s third largest airline by revenue. Under its terms, Iberia would take a 45% stake and BA a 55% stake in the new carrier

“Hot Money” and Emerging Market Stability

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, conveyed in a conference early last week in Singapore his fears that capital flows to emerging markets could undermine the stability of currencies and asset prices. He encouraged emerging economies to use a range of tools such as tighter fiscal policy and lower interest rates to address the externalities linked to such funds.

Australia and Islamic Finance

BA Iberia Total Aircraft 245 174 419 Destinations 148 109 257 Passengers per year 33m 28.5m 61.5m Staff 45,140 22,514 67,654 Revenue £8.9bn €5.4bn $23.1bn Iberia has biggest share of EuropeLatin America market. BA is leading airline on North Atlantic routes and has strong Europe-Asia connections

Sources: BA, Iberia Pictures: Getty Images Issue 1534

Based on 2008-09 figures © GRAPHIC NEWS

Australia has become increasingly interested into developing Islamic Finance as a tool to attract wealth and create jobs. Australia natural resources endowments such as gold copper and Nickel, and its key location at the corner of East Asia are a key asset for sukuk issuance. If Australia is willing to adapt its tax laws to allow its Sharia finance market to flourish, the country would be well placed to claim a share of this US$ 1 trillion industry.

OECD growth forecast China is leading the global economy out of recession but the recovery will be marred by high unemployment and huge government debt across the industrialised nations

GDP GROWTH (Percentage)

U.S. Japan Germany France Italy UK Netherlands Spain Euro area Russia China India

2009 -2.5 -5.3 -4.9 -2.3 -4.8 -4.7 -4.3 -3.6 -4.0 -8.7 8.3 6.1

2010 2.5 1.8 1.4 1.4 1.1 1.2 0.7 -0.3 0.9 4.9 10.2 7.3

2011 2.8 2.0 1.9 1.7 1.5 2.2 2.0 0.9 1.7 4.2 9.3 7.6

Source: OECD Picture: Getty © GRAPHIC NEWS


Reviews Books

Issue 1534




Reviews - Books

A First Glance The Middle East: A Beginners’ Guide Philip Robins One World Oxford 2009 Philip Robins takes on the challenge of introducing the Middle East in his latest book The Middle East: A Beginners’ Guide. Robins sheds light on a variety of issues that need to be taken into account in order to understand the current affairs of the region.


t intrigues us with its paradoxes, abundant in one of the most desirable of resources but marred with historic tensions, the Middle East is an enigma to many but an interest to practically all. Philip Robins takes on the challenge of introducing the Middle East in his latest book, The Middle East: A Beginners’ Guide. Robins, a Reader on the Middle East at Oxford University, sheds light on a variety of issues that need to be taken into account in order to understand the current affairs of the region. And in this challenge he does succeed; while limiting his aims to introducing a complex region, Robins manages to provide more than just a historical account of the Middle East. A combination of political, sociological, anthropological and economic analyses come into play in his presentation of the region – painting a complete picture of the obstacles that face this region’s development. Robins’ background in academia shines through every page of his book, engaging the reader in the nuanced factors that regularly affect politics in the region. Concurrently, his thematic approach manages to highlight how different issues within the region are interrelated – and thus the importance of a multifaceted approach to a foreign policy directed at the Middle East. Although the book manages to cover much ground, it is equally able to sift through the numerous issues that might have been addressed and highlights the most important ones. Interestingly, The Middle East: A Beginners’ Guide,is thus able to underscore the main issues behind some of the more controversial subjects that come up in any discussion of the region, most notably the role of conflicts, as well as the role of gender and religion in the region. The chapter dedicated to conflict, is perhaps one of the most enlightening, especially for those interested in a contextualization of the region on an international scale. That is, while the 27 November, 2009

focus of the chapter is to discuss the most eminent conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ArabIsraeli conflict, the Gulf wars and the Iran-Iraq war, the international dimension of these conflicts is not ignored. The chapter is also valuable for its objective insight into these conflicts. Nonetheless, Robins is not afraid to voice his analyses of the clearly mistaken policies of countries at specific points in time. As such, he is able to highlight some of the underlying causes for the failure behind the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Similarly, he is critical of the American government’s arrogance in the second Gulf War, and points out what they might have done on the ground to avoid the problems in state-building that Iraq faces to this day. After the discussion of each conflict, the reader is equipped with an understanding of the stakes of the conflict, and how its outcome altered the power structure of the region. In what is normally considered a more controversial discussion of the issues of the Middle East, Robins equally addresses the religious dimension of the state of the region in an objective and informative manner. A thorough explanation of the sectarian conflict sets the tone for a discussion of the trend of the politization of Islam that has been occurring throughout the region. This insight is particularly important for a comprehensive understanding of countries that are undergoing problems in state-building, as religious politization has come in the way of the stability of governmental institutions. With regards to the less controversial topics addressed in his book, Robins does an exceptional job of explaining the obstacles that have stood in the way of the region’s development. An important paradox that he highlights is the extreme poverty and extreme wealth that characterize many of the Middle East’s countries. More specifically,

Robins explains the role that oil has had in inhibiting this development, exemplifying the so-called “resource curse” and “Dutch disease”. What renders this chapter unique in comparison to other economic analyses of the region is Robins’ ability to link economic challenges with the statesociety relationships that developed. He notes that, despite exceptions, there has been a tendency in the states of the region to develop “allocation” characteristics. That is, states in which “income is generated by flows directly to the state in the form of oil rents, and as a result society is bypassed as the main locomotive of economic growth and source of state income”. The danger in these cases is that states feel disconnected from society, as though society owes them instead of the opposite relationship which has come to categorize the state-society relations of democratic countries in Western Europe. This insight, while unable to explain all problems in the states of the Middle East, does present an informative perspective on some of the governance issues that the region faces. The Middle East, Robins recognizes, is among many things, a diverse region. This complicates the presentation of the book by themes, yet Robins manages to include in each thematic division the “exceptions to the rule”. Most notably, he is able to demonstrate the way in which Turkey and Israel have a place of their own in the Middle East. As examples, he highlights their unique ability to diversify economically, and the special ties both have to powers outside the region. The Middle East: A Beginners’ Guide is a comprehensive review for the well informed, and an imperative read for those just beginning to discover the intricacies of the region. Enjoyable, clear, and concise, The Middle East: A Beginners’ Guide is an asset to the collection of books aimed at introducing the region. 52

Reviews - Books

Question and Answer Session with the author The Majalla: What were your aims in writing this book? Most of the introductory books on the Middle East are dry histories or themed text-books. I wanted to write something that would convey the atmosphere and dynamics of the region, but without losing either its historical background or its salient political values. Hence, there is a chapter on Arab society and dedicated sections on Arab values of hospitality and clan solidarity, as well as punchy commentary on the more familiar topics of the realm of “high politics�

The Majalla: As an expert on the region, do you find it difficult to limit your writing to an introduction of the region? If

so what would you have liked to include that you didn't have a chance to? The region is so rich and diverse, and includes so many countries, that it would have been possible, easier even, to write a very long book. But that was not the brief. I was asked to produce a work of 200 pages and it was a matter of professional honour to deliver! I would have liked to have included something on music and also on poetry; that’s my greatest disappointment. At least I managed to go some way towards doing justice to sport in the Middle East.

The Majalla:

Is there any

particular theme covered in the book that you find has a significant importance for the future of the Middle East and its diplomatic relations with the West? For some reason, no-one writes about leadership in the Middle East. Yes, there are biographies of leaders like Asad and Sadat, but little about the craft of leadership. I was particularly happy to include a chapter on that topic, especially written from a comparative perspective, and placing the issue in a wider global perspective. Understanding leadership from the top and society from the bottom are two entry points into the political culture of the region that the West needs to absorb very carefully.

Readings Reports

Who Owns our Low Carbon Future? Intellectual Property and Energy Technologies Chatham House Report Bernice Lee, Ilian Iliev and Felix Preston September 2009 Ensuring access to climate-friendly technologies at affordable prices is a critical issue for international public policy - and one that cuts across economic, legal, security and geopolitical concerns. This report examines two issues: patent ownership of climatefriendly technologies, and the rate of technology diffusion. A polarized debate continues between proponents of strengthening intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes to encourage innovation of climate technologies on the one hand, and those calling for more IP-related flexibilities to ensure access to key technologies by developing countries on the other.


Realistic Emerging Economies Peter Sands, Group Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Council on Foreign Relations November 2009 In the aftermath of the financial crisis emerging economies proved more resilient than the West's and have led the global economic recovery. But questions loom about what policies and regulations are needed to sustain global growth and prevent economic shocks. Peter Sands, group chief executive of London-based banking giant Standard Chartereddiscusses the risks and short-term realities of broad-reaching economic reforms. He says policymakers should focus less on capital supports-such as the repayment of the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Issue 1534


Reviews - Reports

A Responsibility to Protect? Protectionism Continues to Climb Chad P. Brown Brookings Institute July 23, 2009 WTO Reform: The time to start is now Uri Dadush The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace September 2009

Protectionism is largely considered a negative trend amongst financial institutions, while liberalization is heralded as a means for global economic growth. However, protectionism has been on the rise in the face of the global financial crisis. The Carnegie Endowment of International Peace and the Brookings Institute look to understand the causes behind the rise in this trend, and propose ways of reducing protectionism.


nternational Financial Institutions in Washington have founded much of their policy on the conviction that trade liberalization is imperative for growth. This maxim, it is argued, is especially important when the world is facing a particularly strong economic downturn. However, liberalization efforts are increasingly threatened during economic crises as local markets seek to reduce competition as much as possible. In two recent reports by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institute, the question of liberalization and the mechanisms in place to facilitate this practice are assessed. The two 27 November, 2009

think tanks highlight the underlying problem in liberalization efforts – the state of the economy. Yet the focus of their reports differs, with the Carnegie foundation detailing the reforms necessary for the WTO to balance trends in the way of liberalization, and the Brooking Institute focusing on the trends of protectionism themselves. It is perhaps most appropriate, therefore, to begin the situation assessed in the reports by examining the work of the Brookings Institute, as it most clearly lays out the causes behind the rising trend in protectionism. Their report explains that despite the commitment of

the G20 to refrain from imposing protectionist measures, virtually all of them have in fact implemented protectionist policies. The G20 states, it notes, have largely turned to trade remedy policy instruments such as antidumping, safeguards and anti-subsidy policies. As is echoed by the Carnegie report, the majority of these new policies have been put into place in response to domestic industry demands for protection from import competition, evidenced by the sharp increase in this trend that coincided with the spread of the global financial crisis. The study additionally demonstrates that protectionist investigations 56

Reviews - Reports were mainly targeting Chinese exports, being named in over 80 percent of the new countrylevel investigations. However, the Brookings Institute also noted a new trend in protectionism, particularly the use of global safeguard policy to reduce international competition. “ While use of the antidumping policy in 2009 has levelled off after initial escalation, safeguards use has spiked only more recently… compared to the same period in 2007 the first half of 2009 saw a 40.5 % increase in the imposition of new import restricting measures.” Unfortunately, according to the report, these trends are expected to continue. Interestingly, the report by the Carnegie Endowment complements the assessments of the Brookings Institute, as its focus on the possibility of reforming the WTO is presented as a means to reduce the trend in protectionism. Uri Dadush explains that the World Trade Organization is an essential plank of globalization that provides a degree of predictability and stability to trade relations. “In a world of sluggish growth and burgeoning protectionist pressures, the importance of rules and increases and the need to strengthen them becomes more urgent.” The WTO’s purpose is to promote trade liberalization by having countries commit to anti-protectionist measures on a global scale, that is, in contrast to regional economic agreements that provide countries within that agreement exclusively with a preferential trading status. Yet, as the Carnegie Endowment highlights the WTO is living off the gains of its predecessor the GATT system. “In a crucial aspect of its traditional mission to reduce tariffs, the WTO has become increasingly ineffectual. In newer areas, such as cutting agricultural subsidies and opening up markets for services trade if has also failed to deliver.” Instead, the WTO’s inefficient negotiation system has been overtaken by the regional and unilateral agreements that liberalize trade selectively – a process which economists argue is insufficient to allow trade to promote growth on a global scale. Sluggish WTO negotiations have been overtaken by unilateral liberalization Issue 1534

(autonomous) processes. In addition, it notes that in the most important areas for the international community, like food security and financial regulation, the WTO is largely absent. The financial crisis, the report argues, has exposed the inadequacy of the WTO disciplines ranging from antidumping practices to industrial tariffs in developing countries. “The ease with which tariffs were raised in the EU on Chinese steel products, and in India on various products, illustrated the weakness of antidumping disciplines and the large gap that sill exists between bound and actual tariffs in most developing countries.” For the WTO to promote liberalization to the degree it has in the past, serious reform is necessary. Reforms should, according to Dadush, include a reassessment of the function of the organization, as well as assisting members in enacting trade reforms, and reducing reliance on consensus rule, among other changes. While these are undoubtedly important measures that should be considered for the improvement of the organization, neither the Carnegie nor the Brooking’s report address one major obstacle for liberalization: how to

undermine domestic demand for protectionism. Albeit their informative insight on the dynamics of protectionism, and the relation these trends have with the current financial crisis, neither report offers concrete suggestions for governments that would prefer to liberalize but are force to protect in order to please their constituencies. That is, the reports underestimate the importance of local politics in international liberalization efforts, despite their recognition that these are behind recent trends in protectionism. This weakness may be accounted for by the recognition that politicians are by definition political and naturally bend to the will of voters. Yet, the normative values behind this discussion imply that such excuses are insufficient reasons to allow trends in protectionism to continue to rise. For the complete reports please refer to the following sites: articles/20090723/_protectionism_ bown.aspx http://www.carnegieendowment. org/publications/index. cfm?fa=view&id=23841# 57

The Political Essay

Divided houses fall apart

Why nobody wants another Hezbollah in the north of Yemen

The Iranian government has an interest in portraying the Saada conflict as a sectarian war, as its reactions to the recent clashes between Saudi Arabia’s security forces and the Houthi rebels in the Saudi province of Jazan have shown. It is difficult to discern if Iran is supporting the Houthis in any other ways than ideological backing. However, one thing is certain. Apart from Iran, nobody wants another Hezbollah in the north of Yemen.


he recent clashes between Saudi Arabia’s security forces and the Houthi rebels in the Saudi province of Jazan are a small but important chapter of a long story. This story’s central plot is the conflict between Abdullah Saleh’s Yemeni Government and the Shia rebels that occupy the northeast region of Saada. Dating back to 2004, the conflict represents “the greater geopolitical and historic context that has developed around and within Yemen”, as a recent cover story of The Majalla has shown. The fighting was intensified by the latest Yemeni government offensive, operation “Scorched Earth”, launched last August against the Houthi rebels. This offensive, for its size and intensity, placed the rebels under severe pressure. Feeling squeezed and suffering severe casualties, the rebels crossed the Yemeni-Saudi border, attacked Saudi border patrols, and took control of a mountainous section within Saudi territory. These actions naturally lead to a reaction from the Saudi security forces and the Saudi military. After the clashes between Saudi border forces and the Houthis took place, with casualties on both sides, the Saudi government received the backing of the other GCC countries, as well as of Syria. Saudi Arabia simply defended its territorial sovereignty, and it has done so while in contact with the Yemeni government, as Prince Khaled bin Sultan, Assistant Minister of Defence and Aviation for Military Affairs, recently explained. For Saudi Arabia, it’s not only an immediate security issue of defending its territory. It’s also a strategic matter. The Saudis cannot afford to have a pro-Iranian armed group meddling in its territory. Much speculation exists on Iran’s backing to the rebel insurgency. Iran’s support to groups such as Hezbollah, or the warning by Iran’s Foreign Minister, against 27 November, 2009

Manuel Almeida foreign intervention in the Saada conflict, are two examples that fuel these speculations. The Yemeni government clearly believes such support exists, and it recently claimed it intercepted an Iranian ship carrying weapons and technical support for the Houthis. The Houthi rebels’ rhetoric also adds to this possibility. They justify their revolt against the Yemeni government partly for its close ties with the United States. In spite of all this, the Houthi’s leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, who spent much time in Iran for indoctrination, denies that his group receives Iran’s support. Judging by what has been published by some Iranian press, it seems the Iranian government has an interest in portraying this conflict as a sectarian war. Considering that President Saleh and his establishment are Zaydis, as are the Houthis, such claims are not easy to justify. Moreover, history tells us that Zaydis have traditionally enjoyed good relations with Salafists in Saudi Arabia. As Professor Rashid Al Khayoun, historian of Medieval Iran emphasized, when it comes to Islamic law, Zayidi’s are Sunni in practice. Zaydis, to which the Houthis belong to, are the most moderate of Shia groups and the closest to Sunni Islam. In fact, Zaydis do not believe in many religious dogmas that Twelver Shiism professes, such as the notion of a hidden Imam. All this, however, should not

disguise the fact that, in times of conflict and deprivation, it becomes easier to influence people’s minds with propaganda. The Saada conflict is now being a stage of an exploitation of religious discourse to legitimize war. The Houthis have become a revivalist group, supporting the belief that the Zaydi identity is threatened by the Sunni or Salafi identity. Signs of migration of Yemeni Zahidi’s to Twelver Shiasm are already too apparent, and behind this migration are political and not religious reasons. Being the poorest country in the Arab world, the Yemen’s mission of achieving stability and assuring harmony between its different sects is surely a massive one. However, the Yemeni government has done little to address the economic and social demands of either the northern or the southern Yemeni population. This scenario, together with the everyday violence that characterizes Yemen, creates the atmosphere for the episodes that we are now witnessing. And there is the potential for the situation to worsen, if the economic climate, wealth distribution, and political representation do not improve. With the southern threats of separatism, al-Qaeda’s strong presence in the country, and the Houthis rebellion in the north, one can imagine several possible appalling scenarios. Armed groups and other nonstate actors only survive under very specific conditions. One of them is state weakness, of which the situation in Yemen is a good example. Another is the logistical and financial support from foreign governments. In the case of the Houthis rebellion, it is difficult to discern if Iran is supporting the Houthis in any other ways than ideological backing. However, one thing is certain. Apart from Iran, nobody wants another Hezbollah in the north of Yemen, creating tensions in Yemen and beyond. 58

The Majalla,1534, English  

The Majalla,1534, English

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