Turkish neo-nationalists and global ultra-nationalists form an axis of evil

Neo-conservative scholar Michael Rubin addressed a forum on global leadership hosted by Bahçeşehir University in İstanbul last week (L). Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin (R), Workers' Party Chairman Doğu Perinçek (C), who was arrested recently in connection with a police crackdown on the Ergenekon gang, and former Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals Vural Savaş, are seen together in İstanbul in this photo dated December 2004 (R).

June 01, 2008, Sunday/ 10:56:00
Why would Gündüz Aktan, a former ambassador and a declared nationalist, refer to both Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) and Schmitt's staunch critic, Leo Strauss (1899-1973), in the same article as sources of inspiration to define the current domestic political struggle in Turkey?

Aktan did this in his farewell article to the readers of the Radikal daily on June 9, 2007 and claimed that Turkey's situation coincided with Schmitt's view that politics is a struggle of different lifestyles that can be fatal. Schmitt is known to be the ideologue of National Socialism, and Leo Strauss was a Nazi survivor who immigrated to the US to become the theoretician of the neo-conservative ideology. What brought these two unlikely bedfellows together and made them a source of inspiration to Aktan was their uncompromising antagonism against liberalism. Schmitt believed that through its endeavor to reconcile opposites, liberalism was an effort to change the intrinsic characteristics of politics and Strauss believed in "the continuation of the existing hegemony" by any means necessary. Schmitt believed that war is a way to keep the current hegemony so it has to exist to prevent the spread of liberalism. Strauss believed that "noble lies," robust internationalism, declarations of emergency, immunity from accepted rules and laws and, finally, the aestheticization of violence were all legitimate methods to preserve the standing hegemony.

Turkish neo-nationalists (Ulusalcı) do not have the intellectual depth of Gündüz Aktan, but their operational strategies overlap with those of Schmitt and Strauss to such an extent that it is unexplainable without a link between the various embodiments of the Ulusalcı ideology -- such as the Şemdinli gang, the Red Apple Coalition, the Ergenekon gang and the Republican rallies -- and the two conflicting ideologues of neo-conservatism. The link is in human form: Michael Rubin, Daniel Pipes, Matthew Bryza, Barry Rubin, Zeyno Baran and Soner Çağaptay (directly) and Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Robert Novak (less explicitly).

The most visible link between the American neo-cons and the Turkish Ulusalcıs is the love affair between Rubin and the self-marginalized Turkish daily Cumhuriyet. Rubin, an associate of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is the inventor of the term "Islamofacism." In his articles in the Middle East Forum journal he has openly praised names like Serdar Akinan, Tuncay Özkan and Nihat Genç and compared Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to French racist Jean-Marie Le Pen and Austrian fascist Jörg Haider. What is interesting and unacceptable about Rubin is the fact that though he has attacked Turkey after the March 1 memorandum with the worst of words, he was still invited to the War Academy in Turkey to give a conference. Rubin's claims about Fethullah Gülen reflect the rhetoric of the Ulusalcıs to the point that he uses Gülen's name in its distorted form (Fetullah), as is done by the Ulusalcıs of Turkey.

For an anti-imperialist newspaper like Cumhuriyet, Rubin, a political strategist working with figures like William Kristol and Robert Kagan who are leading the openly imperialist Project for the New American Century (PNAC), should be the last name to be praised or used as a reliable source in their pages. But this fellow and Cumhuriyet have developed a fruitful relation wherein Rubin cites Cumhuriyet's distortions as a source and then Cumhuriyet carries them to its headlines as if they belonged to Rubin himself. This vicious circle of "referencing" is used by other Ulusalcı publications. Aydınlık weekly, for example, uses its relations with Andrey Melnikov of Nezavisimaya, a daily published by the Izvestia Group in Russia, and Yana Amelina, a foreign policy editor for the Russian News Agency, in the same way. They are informed directly by Aydınlık or through its grandmaster Doğu Perinçek's son Mehmet Perinçek, who has a post-graduate degree from Moscow, and later on Aydınlık refers to them as reliable sources of information about the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the future of Turkey, Islam and the Gülen Movement. These Russian names are expectedly from the supporters of the Eurasia Movement and have good relations with Mehmet Perinçek due to his active role in Eurasianist circles. The Moscow bureau of the Ulusalcıs is run by Mehmet Perinçek and, in a striking similarity to Rubin, they have also organized conferences in Turkey managing to reach the core of the secularist establishment.

Political analyst Emre Uslu says that it is almost impossible to detect the organic links of the Ulusalcıs with the West because these people were the ones who once managed almost all relations between Turkey and the West. So their relations may be a continuation of old innocent relations. These relations are also hard to detect, according to Uslu, because they are being managed by institutions, think-tanks and academicians that have legitimate covers.

The think tanks actively engaging the Turkish Ulusalcıs are AEI, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Hudson Institute. The institutional relations between the American neo-cons and the Turkish Ulusalcıs are run by the office of Dick Cheney, Richard Perle of AEI and Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute on the American side and, on the other side, by Mustafa Süzer, former owner of Kentbank and a close associate of Perle, and İlhan Selçuk, "big brother" of Cumhuriyet. Süzer's meetings with Dick Cheney were disclosed in the Turkish press and never denied by either side. Selçuk is also reported to have spoken with Cheney's advisors and established a back-channel with the US vice president's office through Elçin Poyrazlar, the Washington representative for Cumhuriyet. Writing in the Yeni Şafak daily, Taha Kıvanç claimed that this back-channel had already been established before the American occupation of Iraq and that Selçuk had promised the Americans Turkey's support in return for American neo-con support for the Turkish Ulusalcıs to come to power in Ankara.

Cengiz Çandar claimed in a recent article in the Referans daily that the Ulusalcıs are using the pretext of a future American operation in Iran as an opportunity to convince the neo-cons that an Ulusalcı government in Ankara would serve them better.

The think tank connections of the Ulusalcıs are working both ways: The Ulusalcıs receive tactics and information from the think tanks, and they also try to influence the American administration through the think tanks. One example of this reciprocity can be seen in the articles of the Washington Institute's Çağaptay, in which Çağaptay has not only labeled Turkey's AK Party government as a danger to Turkish-American relations, but has even guided former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on how to prevent the AK Party's further growth and Constitutional reforms. The Hudson Institute meeting in which the scenario of a possible military intervention in Turkey was discussed with two high-ranking Turkish generals in attendance is another example.

This advisory connection is evidenced mainly in newspaper articles from neo-con writers. The Washington Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times frequently publish articles by the American allies of the Ulusalcıs. Figures like Rubin, Pipes, Jim Hoagland and Novak try to convince Americans that post-July 22, 2007 Turkey is no longer an ally of the US; that the AK Party government would feel better at home in Iran than in the US; that the AK Party uses the rhetoric of EU membership and economic development to conceal its real intentions; that the real allies of America in Ankara are the soldiers and the American should work with them alone; that Turkey should not be taken into the EU; and that Turkey will soon become a second Iran in the region. One protagonist of this last absurd idea is Rubin, who wrote recently in National Review Online that a prospective return of Gülen to Turkey would have the same effect as Khomeini's return to Iran from Paris and called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not to support the AK Party government even in the name of democracy. Rubin was sarcastically critical of the American Ambassador in Ankara Ross Wilson, who managed to convince Rice to stand by democracy in Turkey, claiming that Wilson knew only partying in the garden of the embassy.

Ulusalcıs also have allies in the US State Department. Richard Perle is said to have worked on the name of the Turkish Ulusalcıs to convince -- successfully - Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried that the AK Party is no good for the American policies in or around Turkey. Ali Aslan, the Washington representative of the Zaman daily, thinks that this is the only explanation that could explain why Fried could not stand firm against the e-memorandum of April 27, 2007. It was also claimed that State Department diplomat Matthew Bryza, long-time boyfriend and, more recently, husband of Zeyno Baran, was the person who wrote the declaration read by Fried that gave the Turkish military the "green light" by saying that the Americans were not on any side of the discussion. The extent to which Bryza was influenced by his wife is not known, but the similarities in their rhetoric against the AK Party are striking. Baran, who was already a controversial figure due to her involvement in the infamous Hudson Institute meeting, her article in Newsweek that predicted a military coup in 2007 and her involvement with the colored revolutions in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Ukraine, is known to have given speeches on several occasions claiming that the AK Party would, in time, return to its Islamist roots and that the Turkish public voted for the AK Party on July 22 with the assurance in mind that the army would oust the AK Party if it tried to change the system in Turkey.

Another channel for Ulusalcıs to reach American ears is the lobbyists that worked for Turkey in the past but lost their contracts with Ankara. These companies are contracted by Ulusalcıs because their names are already associated with that of Turkey. Ulusalcıs are even able to reach low-ranking employees of lobbyists that are currently working for Turkey. One such case is the Livingston Group, which campaigns against Armenian genocide allegations. Frank Gaffney, an employee of this company, wrote in a Washington Times article that Turkey should be kept out of the European Union.

The Eastern connections of the Turkish Ulusalcıs are more detectable but smaller in number. Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin from the Eurasia Movement is well known in this regard. He even protested the recent arrests of Ulusalcı Ergenekon militants in Turkey and claimed that Ergenekon was a supporter of Russia in Turkey. He claimed that Veli Küçük was the mastermind of the military project to turn Turkey's face to Russia. Küçük, on the other hand, had activities organized around the Azerbaijan Cooperation Association. Sources following the Ulusalcı organizations claim that Doğu Perinçek's daughter, Kiraz Perinçek, who is at the head of the Turkey department of Chinese Radio, and Adnan Akfirat, the head of the Turkish-Chinese Business Association, are working to create a rapprochement between Turkey and China.

The Western and Eastern connections of the Ulusalcıs are a reflection of the pre-July 22 election alliance forged between the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in Turkey on a global scale, and these relations are no less paradoxical. Ulusalcıs want Turkey to close its gates to the world and to "continue their traditional authoritarian elitist hegemony" within these closed gates. But they are not powerful enough to close those gates from within, so they turn to their traditional enemies, "the American imperialists," to shut them in Turkey's face. The irony is that there are some Americans who are lending their ears to that call. 

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