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September 20, 2012, Thursday

Where is Turkey heading?

Since December 2011, Turkey entered a turbulent period and was not able to escape. There are three sources of this turbulence, all of which are related to the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) overconfidence and shortsighted vision toward domestic and foreign relations.

Domestically, first the Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) intensified attacks deeply affected Ankara. Second, the AKP lost its confidence while believing that it needs no one to share ideas about the measures that need to be taken against major issues.

In terms foreign policy, the AKP's shortsighted vision of Syria and overemphasized trust towards Iran pushed the government into a corner which it could not escape from without an outsider's help.

In terms of the PKK's terrorist attacks, Ankara has completely failed to anticipate its strategy and aims. Major institutions, politicians and AKP officials sincerely believe that the PKK wants peace. In fact there are still strong advocates of the idea that peace with the PKK is possible, and they highlight such policy preferences at any opportunity.

In reality, those who think that Turkey should find a way to negotiate with the PKK, no matter what it does, believe that Turkey cannot win this war against the PKK. Rather than believing in peace, they do not believe in Turkey and the Turkish government. It is sad to state this but those who do not believe in Turkey's capabilities and its security forces are also the ones who rule the country. Therefore, no matter what the PKK's demands are, they want to sit down with the PKK and negotiate with it.

From the PKK's perspective, it is exactly the view of those state officials who think that they cannot defeat the PKK that encourages the PKK to intensify its terror campaign. In addition, the international conjecture is on the side of the PKK and Ankara is desperately seeking a way, including contacting the mediator state during the Oslo process, to stop the waves of terrorist attacks, which further encourages the PKK to carry out better and more coordinated attacks.

This is the exact reason why the PKK has coordinated suicide-like attacks. According to officials, in the last few months the PKK lost more than 500 militants, yet it continues to deploy militants around Hakkari province to control that region. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç called these waves of attacks a type of “suicide mission for the PKK.”

The PKK has intensified these attacks because it sees the panic in Ankara and pushes hard to frustrate Ankara and make it give up. It seems the strategic logic of the PKK, at least for now, is working better than that of Ankara's and puts Ankara in an uncertain position.

In addition to Ankara's shortsighted vision toward the PKK, the AKP government felt overconfident and did not listen to warnings from its supporters. Instead the AKP government took the warnings as a sign of intervention in its reign. Those who warned the AKP to be careful of the PKK were considered members who wanted to establish a “parallel government to share in the AKP's power.” Now the AKP can neither step back from its claim of being the only one in power, controlling everything in Ankara, nor can it declare that its old policy was wrong.

In terms of international relations, Iran, after the AKP government had given it its full support, stabbed the AKP in the back and gave its full support to the Syrian regime. Iran is well aware of the fact that the prolongation of the Bashar al-Assad regime equally means deepening the chaos inside Turkey. In addition, Iran also provided support to the PKK to further destabilize Turkey.

All in all, what the AKP did in the last one year has slowly but surely pulled Turkey into an uncertain future. At the beginning of 2012, I predicted that this would be a difficult year. For now I must revise my prediction. I don't see a bright future in the short term and my pessimism further deepens as I look ahead into the future.

The AKP has a big convention at the end of this month. The last bit of optimism that I have wishes to see Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan leave his wrong policies, revitalize the party's bases by delivering a speech to welcome all segments of society and rediscover the way which the AKP used to run state affairs in the last 10 years before the June 12, 2011 election.

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