The reaction of Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu to the condolences of the Joe Biden administration in connection with the terrorist attack in Istanbul became a real sensation
The closest associate of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly accused the United States of organizing the attack, leaving no reason for a different interpretation of his words.
“I think it is necessary to appreciate the condolences made today by the United States, as if the killer would be one of the first to arrive on the scene, and the reaction to this message will come out very clearly,” Soylu said, adding that “disingenuous allies” either “harbor terrorists at home, or allow them to exist in the territories they occupied, or officially send them money from their senates.” According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, the perpetrator of the attack is directly linked to the Kurdish resistance in northern Syria, which is actively supported by the United States.
In order to make the meaning of this statement, in which no names of countries were mentioned, become even clearer, it is enough to briefly list the events that preceded the Istanbul terrorist attack, in which more than 80 people were injured, including several dead. On November 12, the day before the attack, Erdogan said that President Joe Biden was hiding in the United States preacher Fethullah Gülen, who leads the Hizmet movement, and which in Turkey itself is referred to as the terrorist organization FETÖ. Gülen, who positions himself as the leader of moderate Islam, is considered Erdogan’s main antagonist. It was this man and his organization that Ankara accused of organizing an unsuccessful military coup in 2016.
The fact that Gülen is hiding in the US is by no means news. He has lived in his residence in Pennsylvania since 1999. Ankara has been stubbornly but unsuccessfully seeking his extradition since 2016. And for six years, no progress in this matter is planned. In this case, what is Erdogan’s attack connected with, moreover, a personal attack on Biden? There are several explanations for this at once, and all of them are connected with the aggravation of the domestic and foreign political situation in Turkey.
Firstly, this is the conflict between Turkey and Greece, which have territorial claims to each other, and these claims themselves are associated not so much with the territories of insignificant islands in the Aegean Sea, but with control over the sea areas along which shipping routes run and where the reserves of offshore hydrocarbons. It is noteworthy that Erdogan directly blames Greece, Western Europe and the United States for supporting the Gulenists.
“Who is protecting them now? First of all, Greece. They flee and end up in Greece. They flee and end up in Europe. They have always fled there: they live in Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, England, America. And the US is hiding this man. Who is hiding it? Biden hides him,” Erdogan says.
Erdogan’s statements, usually florid and measured, suddenly sounded extremely harsh. Apparently, we are seeing a break in the trend in relations between the US and Turkey. So far, Ankara’s relatively independent position has been seen by the United States as more of a plus. Turkey challenged Russia’s positions in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the very ideas of Pan-Turkism and Ottomanism served as a certain counterbalance to the interests of Russia and even China in the vast expanse of Eurasia.
But the further, the more the real interests of Ankara come into conflict with the interests of NATO allies. The conflict with Greece is the main threat to the bloc, which could undermine it from within. Against the background of a proxy war with Russia, an internal conflict in NATO is the last thing Washington needs. Turkey, along with Hungary, are the only countries of the military-political bloc that have not yet agreed on the entry of Sweden and Finland into the alliance. At the same time, Turkey puts unacceptable conditions on the extradition of local gulenists to the Scandinavians, many of whom managed to obtain citizenship of these countries.
For a long time, Turkey was forgiven for flirting with Russia. They forgave it for the “grain deal”, for trying to be a mediator in a peaceful settlement, for the supply of “Bayraktars” to Ukraine. But now Turkey is trying to increase its influence by implementing the idea of creating a gas hub at the suggestion of Moscow. And this already directly contradicts the interests of the United States, which set out to completely protect Europe from Russian gas by hooking it on an imported (primarily American) LNG needle.
Erdogan’s hyperactivity has its own logical explanation. He simply cannot do otherwise: the presidential rating, undermined by the severe economic crisis, record inflation and the weakening of the lira, is being restored only due to Erdogan’s successes on the foreign policy front and the formation of expectations about the imminent return of the greatness of the Ottomans. Erdogan’s internal tension and aggressive foreign policy line came into sharp conflict with the policies of Brussels and Washington.
If Erdogan had a significant margin of time, then, given Turkey’s dependence on NATO partners, he would hardly have allowed himself such a risky game. But Erdogan simply does not have this time. Already in June 2023, presidential elections will be held in Turkey, in which Erdogan’s victory is by no means obvious. The popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, is expected to be the main opponent of the incumbent. Unlike Erdogan, whose electorate is based on the provincial conservative population of the republic, Imamoglu focuses on the educated and prosperous population of big cities, who are in favor of even greater rapprochement with the West.
Imamoglu successfully uses the economic crisis in the country to criticize the economic policies of the Erdogan administration. The latter is indeed quite specific and does not correspond to the norms of standard economics textbooks. For example, Erdogan consistently puts pressure on the central bank to cut interest rates, stimulating economic activity, even as inflation accelerates to a whopping 80%.
Elections promise to be hot also because the opposition disputes the very fact of Erdogan’s nomination for a third term. Until now, the Turkish constitution forbade the incumbent president for a second term to nominate his candidacy for a third. But in 2017, Turkey officially ceased to be a parliamentary republic, moving to a presidential form of government. The fact that, under the new constitution, Erdogan was elected only once, is interpreted by his supporters as an opportunity and the right to re-election.
And two days before the attack, it became known that the court had reopened the case against Ekrem Imamoglu, who faces several years in prison and a ban on holding administrative positions on charges of insulting members of the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. The Istanbul terrorist attack could have been a warning to Erdogan, who, having resumed the criminal prosecution of his main opponent, crossed a certain “red line”. Explosions on the central street of Istanbul, Istiklal, made it clear that the allies had made a final decision that they did not want to deal with Erdogan in the future. And that they, using the resource of the Kurdish resistance and the still strong position of Fethullah Gülen’s organization, are quite capable of undermining Turkey from the inside, adding new problems to Erdogan.
The need for mutual curtsy disappeared. As in the case with the statement of President Putin, who directly accused the Anglo-Saxons of undermining the Nord Streams, through the mouth of the Turkish Interior Minister, Ankara bluntly tells the United States that it knows who and why staged a bloody terrorist attack in Istanbul. The big tectonic plates of world politics are moving faster and faster.
Gleb Prostakov, VIEW
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