RE: INSIGHT - TURKEY - some notes so far

RE: INSIGHT - TURKEY - some notes so far

Released on 2012-10-19 08:00 GMT

Email-ID 1127660
Date 2010-03-11 02:02:43

RE: INSIGHT - TURKEY - some notes so far

Yeah. Even in Istanbul, an AKP town, I met many people back in '07 who were frustrated with the growing social pressure to behave more in keeping with religious traditions.

From: []
On Behalf Of Reva Bhalla
Sent: March-10-10 7:47 PM
To: Analyst List
Subject: Re: INSIGHT - TURKEY - some notes so far

also, Gulen movement/AKP claim that some 65% to 70% of the population will support their constitutional reforms and that they accept this need for change. It's really hard to tell, though. Just from talking to people around here (and Emre can provide better perspective on this of course), you get the feeling that there are a lot of people who are really uncomfortable with some of these changes, especially when it comes to mixing religion with politics. There is a sense that there is social pressure growing to become and act more 'Muslim'. Then again, this is what im getting from Istanbul. In Anatolia, in areas where AKP is strong, and they have business support especially, the numbers could well work in their favor. The AKP is taking a risk, as the Zaman guys noted, in pushing these reforms toward a referendum, but it could work. 

----- Original Message -----
From: "Reva Bhalla" <>
To: "Analyst List" <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 6:37:50 PM GMT -06:00 US/Canada Central
Subject: Re: INSIGHT - TURKEY - some notes so far

a little anecdote i forgot to add. while we were waiting for our meeting at the prime minister's building, there was a young guy in the waiting room who was waiting for his boss who was meeting with Erdogan's advisor. the guy used to work for an MP and is in the parliament scene in Ankara. when he found out we were from Stratfor, he got really excited and told us
about how he and his friend sent a letter to the parliament's head of information or whatever as a petition for all Turkish MPs to get Stratfor subscriptions. Obviously he's a big fan and this is something we can pursue as an institution deal. (getting the appropriate contact info for this). At the AKP think tank we visited in Ankara today, they also told us clearly 'we know the power of Stratfor'. Everyone here wants to influence us one way or another. Turkey needs a voice in DC. THey're hoping it's us.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Reva Bhalla" <>
To: "analysts" <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 6:24:34 PM GMT -06:00 US/Canada Central
Subject: INSIGHT - TURKEY - some notes so far

Going to sum up a few meetings so far. i will go into more detail later when it's not 230am and not exhausted from traveling 12 hrs traveling between istanbul and ankara. Emre will fill in any other details I've missed. We will be meeting next with two Turkish energy experts (send questions if you have them -- we need good turkey energy sources), CEO of Sabanci group (one of the Istanbul giants), TUSKON business association (Gulenist) and then on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the head of Dogan media, then Isbank (also a bastion for the nationalists and Istanbul giants)

For the first part of my trip, Emre and I have been hanging out with hardcore Gulenists. We started at Zaman headquarters (Zaman is main Gulenist newspaper and media voice for AKP, Today's Zaman is the English-language daily). We met with the Editor in Chief of Today's Zaman and the head of Cihan news agency (which runs their major media outlets). Cihan is now the most powerful media outlet in Turkey. It used to be Hurriyet, dominated by the nationalists, but they're under attack (will get to that later). 

They explicitly represented themselves as part of the 'jamaah', or the 'movement', as they like to call it. The way they represent their agenda is that this is about democratization in Turkey, human rights, world peace, etc. The guy was actually quoting Western liberal philosophers trying to show how much in common they have with them in respect for these democratic values, and this is what's essential for Turkey's candidacy in the EU. The irony, they claim, is that people think because they're Islamist, they're fundamentalist and not modern, whereas the authoritarians (in their view) ie. the military, are the ones who are seen in the West as modern. This is what frustrates them.

So, by promoting this peace, love and democracy campaign, they say they are fighting for constitutional reform, business and political pluralism, civilian control over military, judicial reform, etc. That there is no secret agenda. (my note -- what Emre and I noticed is that in all our meetings with Gulenists, they recited almost the same lines verbatim. they're very well rehearsed in selling this model. At the root of this, however, is power. The established elite, ie. the military, Istanbul business giants, etc. are being threatened by an Islamist political vehicle fueled by the Anatolian small-to-med business class.) Both of the sources talked about how they need to raise an Anatolian business class to undermine the Istanbul giants (they essentially articulated our own theory, which was cool.).

We discussed the Ergenekon case a lot, which gave them plenty of opportunity to bash the military for being so irresponsible and disrespectful to the civilian government. What struck us most is how they claim they have allies within the military, people high up in rank, who are disaffected with the establishment and are WILLING to provide leaks to the Gulenist newspapers and intelligence services that support these coup allegations. We heard the exact same story the next day at a Gulenist organization that we visited. More likely this is an allusion to their successful penetration of the military (have sent more detailed insight on this previously)

We also discussed the Gulen schools that are spreading across the globe, expanding Turkish influence. Of course these are the schools with teh best resources, facilities. Students will learn how to speak Turkish, the national anthem, how to be the 'right kind of Muslim', etc. In essence, it buys them loyalty. We are still working on getting a complete database of Gulenist schools. They claim that have more than 2,000 in 200 countries so far.

Today's Zaman editor in chief also talked about his experience at Turkish Daily News, which is now owned by Dogan group (which owns Hurriyet and is under attack now by AKP/Gulen). He said at TDN the tax evasion was so obvious and went into detail about how they did it and how his salary was parceled out to allow them to write off most of it. this story was used
by him to claim that they at Zaman didn't start this media war with Hurriyet, it was Hurriyet that started it because they were involved in all this bad business, etc. 

The next day, Emre and I visited a major Gulenist organization that puts together these massive conferences all over the world to promote their agenda, raise funds, recruits, etc. Their office is in a very expensive part of Istanbul. They've got the best facilities, this beautiful theater system. In short, they've got money. Now you have to ask yourself, where is the money coming from? the head of the organization that met with us and propagandized us kept talking about all these peace love and harmony efforts to spread the Gulen ideas and democratize Turkey, spread Turkey's influence, etc. But their funding comes mainly from co-opting the Anatolian business class. Again we heard about how they have allies within the military 'brave' enough to issue leaks on their coup plots.

After getting a very long tour of the entire building, top to bottom, they sat us down for a Gulen propaganda film in their theater. Emre sitting in the middle of the Gulen guy and I. The Gulen guy is so overcome by the speech shown in the video by Fethullah Gulen, that he starts crying. Meanwhile im trying really hard not to laugh. It was an interesting experience.

That evening I had dinner with the editor in chief of Hurriyet, way on the other side of the political spectrum. He gave his version of the tax evasion case, said that Zaman and Gulen started the whole thing and that Bulent Kenes (Zaman editor who we met with) was part of the problem, he profiteered from that system. In short, it's very, very tense. The night I met him, he had just found out that Zaman was suing them for running an article by Soner Cagaptay, who Gulenists are trying extremely hard to defame (it's very obvious).

This source confirmed what I have heard earlier about Gulen penetration of military and how they win the support of the Anatolian business class by giving them a lucrative place in the supply chain. He gave an example of the Gulen school influence -- he met with the Algerian ambassador - trained in a Gulen school, spoke fluent Turkish, extremely friendly to the Turkish government. A very well-oiled system.

Today, Emre and I took a road trip to Ankara. We first visited the USAK think tank, which was opened by Abdullah Gul (the president) in 2009. THey also have a gorgeous office building. The head of the think tank started out by telling us what Turkish 'soft power' looks like. He said that during the Cold War times, Turkey looked at the Arab world in disgust, like they were inferiors. Now Turkey is paying attention to its neighborhood, wants to stabilize,e tc (the Davutoglu line). What was most interesting is when he talked about how Turkey already has plenty to work from in the MIddle East. He said, Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis, even Iranians -- they're ALL TURKS.

He says they look like Turks, they have TUrkish relatives from Ottoman history, they want to be like Turks, they love Turkish lifestyle, etc etc. He said that there is 'no such thing as an Arab' or Arab nationalism under Nasser. They're all Turks and Egypt is not a power to be taken seriously. (if any Arab were in that room, their head would have probably exploded). they're nothing. Israel is also nothing compared to Turkish economic, regional, political, population power. He went on to explain how Turkey can solve everyone's problems, by opening borders, removing visa restrictions and improving trade with Egypt, Syria, Iran, etc. A key part of this strategy is also to benefit the AKP's strategy of raising its own business class --- the Turkish merchants who benefit from increased trade in the Mideast are the Antaolian businessmen, and AKP is making sure of that. 

This AKP think tank is in all the big Turkish delegations. He said that in their last trip to Syria, Bashar tells them he wants to open the border and wants to democratize (on the latter, yeah freakin right). He also claims that after their meetings, the members of the Syrian business council were practically begging them to stay because they said once the Turks in that delegation left, everything would go back to the same. Overall, we got the impression from several of these meetings that Turkey is extremely focused on the Syria track and increasingly more so on the Egyptian track.

They expect and claim these countries welcome the Turks with open arms. They also couldn't stop talkinga bout how Turkish television programs over satellite are spreading os much influence throughout the mideast and shows them how to be modern Turks. Saudi Arabia apparently has banned or is trying to ban these shows. I myself have seen how Turkish soap operas are extremely popular in the mideast.

He confirmed our analysis that Russia has no intention of seeing through a Turkey-Armenia deal - it wouldn't make any sense. He says the AKP leadership was so naive to think that the talks would go anywhere. Now it's time to turn back to Azerbaijan and Georgia and fix things with them. AFter all, he says, Azerbaijan doesn't want to become another dependent of Russia's. 

One other interesting thing he said about the Russian factor in those Armenia talks was that Turkey really expected the US to get more involved. He said Russia of course was an obstacle, we knew that. But, the US could have made concessions to Russia to allow this Armenia deal through. In other words, they expected the US to be part of a grand bargain in which
the US would recognize that Turkey-Armenia relationship would bring all kinds of benefits, ie. strengthen an ally in the Caucasus, take care of the genocide issue, etc. Turkey also expected US to pay a price to Russia for this project. Here is where there appears to be a misunderstanding, especially since this Armenia-Turkey deal is likely very low on US priorities when it comes to how to bargain with Russia. 

We then met Erdogan's chief advisor at the prime minister's building. This guy is also a Gulenist, but not openly so. The Hurriyet people say he is and Emre and i noticed the way he was talking on the phone and using certain phrases marked him as one. We got a lot of the Davutoglu diplomatic line from him (he's a very smooth and articulate guy, as Kamran knows). He said that there needs to be more time in the Iran negotiations and that things only got really serious in the past 6-7 months. US can't expect all this to happen overnight. He claims taht prior to the Iranian Revolution anniversary in February, that Iran actually agreed to the Turkey fuel swap deal. When they took the deal to the US, he says the US was totally unprepared then came back and said they can't do it. Turkey was pissed. They feel that this, in addition to the Armenia issue and everything else, just goes to show how the Obama administration doesn't have strong political leadership (Bush at least fought the armenia
resolution) and that the US doesn't understand or appreciate Turkey's role in the region. They feel betrayed, to use his words.

He says it's hypocritical for US to get mad if Turkey talks to Russia when everyone applauds US and Russia negotiating. He says the reason Turkey is so active in the east is because they're actually receptive to them there (hint, hint - go tell your government to wake up and appreciate us). He, like the guy at the AKP Usak think tank, talked about how Turkey needs the US as a partner in this region. US just needs to recognize it. 


To the top