Turkish Referendum 2017

I realize everyone is obsessed with North Kora right now, but the Turkish referendum that is set for April 16 may turn out to be even more significant.

Erdogan’s AKP and the MHP nationalists have proposed a set of amendments to the Turkish constitution that would remove the office of the Prime Minister, annul a ban on the President retaining membership of his political party, and vastly increase the Presidency’s power over the legislature and the judiciary. If these proposals are confirmed by the electorate, Turkey becomes an executive Presidency.

In the past week, “Yes” has assumed a lead, though that shouldn’t be weighed too heavily since these polls have been fluctuating widely. However, PredictIt currently gives a 68% chance of “Yes.” This tallies exactly with the odds given by major betting sites.

One curious aspect of Turkish politics is that the AKP is far friendlier towards Turkey’s 3 million Syrian immigrants than the Kemalist CHP, and Erdogan has even gone so far as to moot giving them citizenship – a suggestion that was not well received by most Turks. Another interesting thing I noted is that whereas the constitutional amendment is supported by the MHP leadership, some 65% of its rank and file are prepared to vote “No.”

This might hint at some very curious parallels with Russia. There, for instance, Zhirinovsky’s LDPR slavishly supports the Kremlin, and by extension its Eurasianist (read: Greater Turkestanization) project, even though its base are nationalist xenophobes who refuse to rent out their apartments to people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. I wonder if there is a similar dynamic at play in Turkey, with nationalist MHP voters being mostly opposed to Erdogan’s Ottomanist (read: Islamist-Arabization) project, but nonetheless feeling dutybound to support the Leader out of their authoritarian and neo-imperialist instincts, and hatred of the liberal elites in the cosmopolitan areas.

Anyhow, I suspect that “Yes” will be bad for Syria, and by extension, Russia’s goals in Syria (assuming there’s no convoluted 3D chess involved). Erdogan tilts towards the invade/invite end of the spectrum, and with his power becoming absolute in Turkey, he will have space to resume the “invade” part in Syria with greater vigor. Considering the sharp reversal in US-Russian relations over Syria in the past ten days, and Erdogan’s own unlimited propensity for treachery, I have dark forebodings that Putin might soon come to regret helping him survive the 2016 coup attempt.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. This might hint at some very curious parallels with Russia.

    There are parallels with America, too. On both sides of the political spectrum.

  2. German_reader says

    “One curious aspect of Turkish politics is that the AKP is far friendlier towards Turkey’s 3 million Syrian immigrants than the Kemalist CHP”

    I don’t find that curious at all, Erdogan after all is an Islamist who in the past has even played patron to Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, as well as Islamist factions in Syria, so it’s fitting he’s more welcoming towards Sunni Arabs than the Kemalist nationalists.
    Obviously sucks for secular Turks but then those should probably consider getting out of Turkey anyway. Pity, so much wasted potential.

  3. “Considering…Erdogan’s own unlimited propensity for treachery, I have dark forebodings that Putin might soon come to regret helping him survive the 2016 coup attempt.”

    It was sheer idiocy for Putin to help Erdogan survive the 2016 coup attempt – if he indeed did so. Another one of the supposed “chessmaster” Putin’s great blunders in the last few years. The very idea of wooing Erdoganist Turkey out of the U.S./NATO/jihadi camp and into a “Eurasian partnership” with Russia and Iran as a neutral, friendly, responsible and non-threatening regime, was hopelessly stupid and unworkable from the start. The whole driving ideology of the Erdogan regime is aggressive and expansionist neo-Ottomanist Pan Islamo-Turkic nationalism – a huge danger for the whole region, Europe, Central Asia, Russia and all of Russia’s allies, and entirely incompatible with any Russian national middle or long-term interests.

  4. Erdy has always been able to bulldoze obstacles put in his way by internal opponents with limited delay, which is why whatever the polls said few doubted the outcome of this referendum.

  5. Uebersetzer says

    The same author assured us, when Erdogan was snarling at the EU, that Russia would back him up. Even if true, it was hardly likely that Erdogan would return the favour – his anti-Assad fervour seems undiminished, for example, and neo-Ottomanism hardly suggests friendliness to Russia.
    I think Yes will win, simply because No media outlets are few in number, the fascism implicit in the Turkish political system makes many Turks expect a Fuehrer figure and Erdogan’s creatures will stuff the ballot boxes if the real votes do not stack up.

  6. reiner Tor says

    I think Putin’s thinking might have been: “Turkey will stay a US ally under a junta anyway, but Erdogan will purge the military, making Turkey weaker; there’s also a chance that this abortive coup attempt will drive a wedge between the US and Turkey”. And the first part might have worked out well. The second would just have been a bonus anyway, it was never very likely. How much chance is there that a vulnerable junta would’ve turned against the Americans all for regime change?

  7. It was sheer idiocy for Putin to help Erdogan survive the 2016 coup attempt – if he indeed did so.

    There wasn’t a better option. The alternative would be no less anti-Russian.

  8. (1) The junta that would have replaced Erdogan would also have been anti-Russian, possibily more so actually, but I think they would have had much less interest in Syria.

    (2) Turkey’s space for real action in Syria were tied by America’s lack of enthusiasm until a week ago, when everything changed.

    Now many more options are on the table, from increasing weapons supplies to Idlib to helping implement an NFZ (if the US goes ahead with that).

    (3) .

    The same author assured us, when Erdogan was snarling at the EU, that Russia would back him up.

    “Yes” would still distance Erdogan from the Europeans, which is probably good, but now he might well be able to compensate that with the US under Trump, which seems to have abandoned the Bannon-inspired foreign policy of non-intervention and a loose civilizationational solidarity with Christendom in favor of a boomer-con last hurrah, which would sync well with Erdogan’s vision for the region.

  9. Last July Putin must’ve thought that the next US president would be Hillary Clinton. So he couldn’t have thought there would be a lack of enthusiasm for Syrian “regime change” on the American side. Now I’m not even sure Trump’s foreign policy will be any different from what Hillary’s would be, so his calculations might be correct even with a benefit of hindsight.

    Once there’s an American push for intervention, the Turkish junta would be just as bad as Erdogan.

  10. Seamus Padraig says

    Erdogan tilts towards the invade/invite end of the spectrum, and with his power becoming absolute in Turkey, he will have space to resume the “invade” part in Syria with greater vigor.

    No referendum is going to change the facts on the battle field. Right now, the Turks are bogged down in a two-front war against the Kurds, both the PKK and now the YPG. They’re not even close to overthrowing the Syrian government in faraway Damascus. And should they ever try, they would find themselves at war with Russia, a nuclear power.

    Considering the sharp reversal in US-Russian relations over Syria in the past ten days, and Erdogan’s own unlimited propensity for treachery, I have dark forebodings that Putin might soon come to regret helping him survive the 2016 coup attempt.

    I have to agree with some of the other commenters here: Putin lost nothing by trying. Anyone replacing him was going to be at least as pro-Washington, and probably a bit more palatable to the Euro-muppets, too. In Turkey, Russia now has a very unreliable enemy, while America has a very unreliable ally. I would say the latter is worse than the former.

    And don’t assume that Trump’s betrayal of his campaign promise not to attack Syria will, by itself, automatically repair relations between Washington and Ankara. There is still the nettlesome issue of Greater Kurdistan. The US now seems to favor creating an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and eastern Syria; the Turks are not going to be pleased with that at all.

  11. If these proposals are confirmed by the electorate, Turkey becomes an executive Presidency.

    Won’t this be a “good thing” in the event the US is able to place Fethullah Gülen into the Presidency.

  12. Hey iffen,

    It seems we thought history was going only one way – so now we are all surprised that it is going another. There are a few monarchies that I consider to be fairly stable and fairly responsible ones. And I can guarantee you many have grass-roots approval ratings well past 80%. These kinds of numbers would be dreams to the governments in the West.

    “Three years ago, a magazine editor was jailed and his publication closed over an opinion poll that asked the question: Do you approve of the king? It got a favorable answer of more than 90 percent. But the prosecutor argued that the monarchy cannot be judged, and therefore it was a criminal offense.”

    LOL! They get high ratings even if you can’t ask the question!

    The Turks had a certain form of government and ideology forced down their throats – we are watching them throw it up. Hopefully any residual mess won’t be too much to clean up.

    Is a return to monarchy a bad thing? Not much in my book as long as it is relatively benevolent and looks out for its people (including the minorities) – skimming a little off the top (and getting to marry three or four of the most beautiful women in the nation) to keep things stable and running is part of the package (not that these perks don’t happen in democracies). I have seen neither the US, nor Russia, nor China or anybody else really care as long as they are willing to give them favorable concessions or policies.


  13. German_reader says

    I don’t think Erdogan can be described as “benevolent”, in the way the kings of Jordan or Morocco might perhaps be. Instead of keeping things stable, he comes across more like a megalomaniac who wants to turn Turkey into a world power and recreate the Ottoman empire as a Turkish sphere of influence. His rule also seems to cause a lot of fear among Turkey’s non-Sunni minorities, e.g. see here for a report about Alevis:

  14. Uebersetzer says

    A newly-established opposition TV channel ran clips from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator during the referendum campaign, a film that was also popular with some TV channels that were closed down after the state of emergency, Godwin’s Law, as Mao Cheng Ji etc. might think, or an accurate perception of life under Erdogan?

  15. It seems we thought history was going only one way – so now we are all surprised that it is going another.

    Yes, count me as part of we now. In just a few short years I have come in from the cold. Although it still “Paines” me to say it, in many ways I am a Burkette now. The 1st amendment for me and my countrymen; whatever, for you and yours. 🙂

  16. Uebersetzer says

    Numerous reports from all over Turkey of AKP supporters assaulting people who voted No or intended to.
    A local leader of the HDP was arrested in Izmir Buca while turning up to vote.
    In a village in Sirnak (a heavily PKK area) the local governor turned up to vote “on the citizens’ behalf”. Perhaps they had all been driven away by the army but he still thought they should exercise their democratic rights. I am sure he did not vote “No” 400 times, though.
    Particularly in the Kurdish south-east, security forces can interfere with voting.
    I think Yes will win but there has been enough chicanery to cast doubt on its validity, with the state of emergency not even being lifted for the election. The old saw about it not mattering who votes but who counts the votes is appropriate here.

  17. The 1st amendment for me and my countrymen; whatever, for you and yours.

    Solid answer – it’s about time to put a nail in the coffin of “White man’s burden”.


  18. Uebersetzer says


    There has been a lot of brazen stuff, like “Yes” voters voting twice and sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.
    It is against the law to take pictures in the voting booths but AKP supporters frequently do.

    And in Suruc, scene of a mysterious bombing in July 2015, 400 votes emerge from a ballot box but there are only 360 voters registered for that ballot box.

  19. Uebersetzer says


    It is claimed that AKP supporters in Mersin have been offering 100 lira (about 30 dollars) to people to vote “yes”.

  20. Hey GR,

    There is no doubt truth in what you are saying, but whenever I hear people talking about Erdogan, I hear a lot of hyperbole that surrounded Trump. The Ottoman era is over – period. It’s not coming back. The most Turkey can do try to influence its regional sphere in its favor which is what most countries try to do.

    The Ottomans – at one point – were able to engage the Safavids or Timurids on one front while trying to gobble up different Eastern European monarchies on the other and they had the most tactically formidable and disciplined army in the world.

    A small unsuccessful foray into a Syria wracked with civil war to bolster friendly Turkmen allies – comes nowhere close – at all.

    I’d also like people to think about the mentality of Erdogan and his close circle after the attempted coup – how would other governments/leaders react? I personally see this as par for the course especially given that, historically, an assassination attempt often sent governments into a panicked, hyper-paranoid state.

    I also share the concerns about two major issues:
    1) mob intimidation that forces the vote in a specific direction
    2) violence against minorities

    Neither is acceptable and I think it shows the degree to which Salafi-Wahhabi extremist ideology has penetrated Turkey – which is definitely a concern.

    With all this in mind, I’ll leave you with a comment that was recently made by a Muslim foreign policy analyst I respect and which reflects much of my thought on the matter:
    “When I speak to Turkish Islamist-leaning friends in favor of the referendum, they note that voting ‘Yes’ is not really about empowering Erdogan. In their view, a popularly-elected president ensures that whoever wins must appeal to the whole of the country, including the religious. In their view, ‘Yes’ ensures that long after Erdogan is gone, any serious contender for President must be a moderate to conservative Islamist.”

    This is beyond Erdogan – it is what Turkey is changing into for the foreseeable future.


  21. Uebersetzer says

    The problem with this analysis is that “a moderate to conservative Islamist” does not appeal to the whole of the country. Ten to fifteen million Alevis, for example, tend to back secularism because they are not a majority, just a large minority, and it is always dangerous for them when the Sunnis get that old-time religion, and this kind of fish definitely rots from the head under Erdogan. Although he can be tactical, Erdogan is a polarising figure, not someone who really appeals to the whole of the country. His supporters do include Salafi-Wahhabi types.
    Early results seem to suggest that “No” is well in front in Kurdish areas, despite a good deal of chicanery, some examples of which I have described.
    As I have mentioned before, Erdogan high-handedness was present before the attempted putsch.

  22. Uebersetzer says


    Man shares film with the slogan “I am going to bury the CHP at the ballot box” in the course of which he fires a gun, according to Cumhuriyet newspaper (pro-CHP).

  23. Uebersetzer says


    Reaction to an electoral board decision that votes lacking an official stamp are to be counted. An official says this is unprecedented in Turkish elections.
    It could also facilitate tampering with the vote.

  24. Uebersetzer says


    CHP statement: “Manipulation is going on”. I certainly don’t think the campaign and the voting are occurring in a genuinely free atmosphere.

  25. Uebersetzer says

    62% for “No” in Izmir but the third-largest Turkish city is a CHP stronghold.
    Most Kurdish, and heavily Alevi/CHP areas are “No”, sometimes heavily, but overall it might be 55% to 45% for “Yes”.

    Tunceli is “No” – the most heavily Alevi area of Turkey. Surrounded by “Yes” and Sunni provinces.
    Mersin is also “No” – AKP bribe money was not effective, if indeed it was paid out.

  26. Uebersetzer says


    Police are collecting and recording the results from each ballot box. I don’t know if this is unprecedented in Turkey, but it is sinister. It does suggest they might be attempting to identify dissenters, as I am unconvinced that votes in Turkey are genuinely secret.

  27. Hey Uebersetzer,

    The problem with this analysis is that “a moderate to conservative Islamist” does not appeal to the whole of the country.

    Doesn’t have to – democracy is a fickle b****.

    Stepping into an Alevi’s shoes, I could see backing secularism too, but they are a minority. The country can’t be run solely on their concerns. It is imperative that their rights are looked out for just as I expect Iran to look out for the rights of its (growing) Sunni minority.

    Look, I don’t know how things will play out. My hope and prayer is that after the dust settles and the concerns of the religious Sunni majority are ensconced legally and not threatened – that they will be more magnanimous in their relations with minorities due to not having to worry about losing power. The same with their foreign policy. This has precedence – there was a time the Ottoman Empire was considered fairly enlightened in its treatment of minorities by many European monarchs – but became hyper-violent as it started collapsing. The big elephant in the room for me is a growing Kurdish demographic (in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria) who are a contiguous population and left out of a piece of the pie at the time of the Great Game.

    Could the more religious Sunni majority become more oppressive? Possibly. Again, this depends on whether they lean more towards the new Salafi-Wahhabi trends or stick with their traditional Hanafi-Sufi roots. Time will tell.

    I see both good trends and bad trends – so I simply don’t know, I’m just bringing another perspective to the table.

    Keep in mind Turkey’s history of how many times the army hung or deposed the elected representatives of the people (did the West say anything other than, “now, now gents…”) – and now a coup. This is the ridiculous history they are recovering from:
    “The world’s first hat revolution took place in Turkey in 1925. On November 25 of that year, the parliament passed a law that made it mandatory for all men to wear Western-style hats in public places; all civil servants had to wear them, and no other type of hat would be allowed. Those who went hatless would be left alone, but if one wanted to wear a hat then one had to either wear the proposed model (and not the traditional turban or fez) or face the consequences, which could be as severe as the death penalty.”

    That kind of secularism deserves to die a slow, agonizing, painful death.

    My guess is that, even if it is defeated this time around, I don’t think we have seen the end of this referendum, merely a delay.


  28. Uebersetzer says


    No was in front in the ballot boxes used by both Prime Minister Yildirim and pro-Yes MHP leader Bahceli.

  29. Uebersetzer says

    Siirt in the Kurdish south-east is narrowly No (52%). Erdogan returned to parliament from this area so he could become prime minister back in 2002 or 2003, but although there is a lot of Sunni rural piety which he has been able to use, it is a Kurdish area and state repression has caused him to lose some ground.
    Latest results overall 54% Yes, 46% No and the gap is closing, but I still expect Yes to win. No results announced yet from Turkish people living abroad.

  30. https://twitter.com/trtworld/status/853637409564741637

    Not surprising. Turks in Germany/Holland are Gastarbeiters from rural Anatolia. Turks in UK, USA, Asia are businessmen, students.

    Problem for “No”: Many more of the former than the latter.

  31. Uebersetzer says

    Fascism in Turkey has a “secular” and a “religious” component. Erdogan leans more to the latter, some of the Kemalists more the former. In December 1978 Sunni and far right fanatics murdered at least 108 Alevis in Maras. Some jihadi practices we have seen in Syria were used – chopped-up pieces of human bodies were suspended from telephone poles, for example. The “secular” army took three days to arrive. Nobody like Erdogan was in power at the time, but somebody made sure NATO’s second-largest army did not stop the pogrom. An army that removed and executed Menderes also failed to protect Alevis.
    There was also the Sivas massacre (1993), and a predecessor party to the AKP’s, in charge at the town hall, probably delayed or prevented the police from stopping the Sunni mob killing 37 people. An Islamist local government worthy was photographed whipping up the mob. Since 1993, this type has only grown more powerful in Turkey. The fact is, Sunnis have no reason to fear pogroms in Turkey – Alevis do, and don’t underestimate the radicalising influence of the Syrian conflict.

  32. Uebersetzer says

    In some countries the Alevis have a disproportionate tendency to emigrate – a lot of London Turks are Alevis from Maras province, and although economic reasons were important, the 1978 Maras massacre is a motive for Alevis to emigrate. It would be interesting to see the share in the UK. Even in Germany and Holland, No voters are probably disporoportionately Alevi.

  33. German_reader says

    lol, I wonder what kind of spin German media will use to explain away those results.

  34. Kurdish demographic (in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria) who are a contiguous population and left out of a piece of the pie at the time of the Great Game.

    They would never have survived. I am certain that most of the Arab governments in the region would have allied and launched an immediate attack.

  35. Uebersetzer says


    Deputy prime minister says “Yes” did not get as many votes as it expected, although he expects Yes to win. I think they were expecting an overwhelming mandate rather than something closer to 55-45. Turkey’s divisions continue to be underlined and I think many reacted against giving Erdogan dictatorial powers.

  36. Uebersetzer says

    Interestingly more No proportionately in Turkey than in Germany.

  37. Uebersetzer says

    The CHP are claiming No is in front, and it could be they don’t accept a Yes result. There has been enough monkey business to give them some grounds, and I do think the referendum won’t make Turkey more stable.

  38. Uebersetzer says

    Two people wounded in Istanbul/Kartal while counting votes. There was apparently an argument. There were deaths in Diyarbakir earlier, possibly an election-related dispute.

  39. Uebersetzer says

    The CHP chairman in Istanbul, Cemal Canpolat, is claiming 54% for No in Istanbul, a key battleground, whereas the official figures put Yes ahead. I think the CHP is preparing to reject the results. A pro-AKP media commentator, Cem Kucuk, is saying to “prepare for war”. It could be a hot summer.
    Meanwhile, the PKK have wounded several soldiers and village guards in a rocket attack in Hakkari.

  40. German_reader says

    That sounds rather disturbing, do you think there could be genuine civil war in Turkey?

  41. There is already a civil war in the South-East.

  42. Uebersetzer says

    A Turkish friend says that in many places, especially in the countryside, soldiers and police were checking to make sure villagers voted “yes”. He said, “this is the reality of fascism”.

  43. I realize there aren’t many (unironic) Erdogan fans here, but considering the vote is basically 50/50, that seems rather implausible.

    Still, hopefully someone does a mathematical analysis for electoral fraud.

  44. The biggest complaint I’m seeing is some last minute change to make ballots acceptable which don’t have the official seal of the organization of the Electoral Board.

    CHP is disputing the result on account of the above.

    Some sort of alternative count, the details of which I haven’t looked into, seems to be happening in which the result is trending at about 4% lower than the current one of 51% YES.

  45. Uebersetzer says

    There is perhaps an element of hot air in it, but even on the official results the AKP have lost some ground compared to their parliamentary results. They were expecting a more decisive Yes, and I would not underestimate the polarisation in Turkey. No were well ahead in most Kurdish areas, the secular West and Alevi areas, as well as ultra-nationalist areas like Mersin that hate the PKK but don’t trust Erdogan. It reminds me of Venezuela a couple of years back with Maduro being just a little ahead of the opposition candidate after Chavez died, but the opposition doing well enough to keep pushing.

  46. Uebersetzer says

    In Turkey many of the reported irregularities tend to take place out in the sticks, like the village governor (AKP-appointed) voting on behalf of the local people. There were enough AKP supporters tweeting pictures of themselves voting Yes twice to suggest some funny business, and the arrest of an HDP official in Izmir on the way to vote suggests some willingness to mess with the voting process. The AKP controls the machinery of state and really wanted Yes. The CHP and HDP told their people to go to the polling stations and watch very carefully the ballots being removed and verified because they suspected manipulation, but it is risky for the HDP to do that as they are prone to arbitrary arrest, and the CHP is not well organised in the rural sticks of Turkey.
    I think the AKP did not expect it to be so close and might have interfered more if they had realised it would be close.

  47. German_reader says

    I know, but that one is limited to the Kurdish issue, I meant general civil war.

  48. German_reader says

    Thanks for the answer; I guess we’ll just have to see how this turns out.

  49. Uebersetzer says

    Yes. And yesterday, police in a troubled and heavily Alevi area of Istanbul gunned down youths in a car, allegedly for refusing to stop. Two dead, one injured.

  50. Uebersetzer says

    Gezi in 2013 had elements of incipient civil war, and there may be a new Gezi around the corner.

  51. Uebersetzer says
  52. Uebersetzer says

    In CHP areas, according to CHP Halk TV, people have started banging pots and pans as a protest. This is reminiscent of the Gezi events of 2013.

  53. Anonymous says

    I’ve been a diehard Trump supporter from early on. I got banned from Free Republic today for being critical of some Kurt Schlichter article from Breitbart which praised Trump new foreign policy starting with bombing the Syrian government military.

  54. Anonymous says

    I hate to post this nonsense but this is the kind of jingoistic warmongering which influenced the retards on the right to fully backed the Iraq war. Judging from the comments on Free Republic they have learned nothing. These are the kind of people who are seeing their country and civilization taken from them daily but want and need to bomb some people in the Middle East they perceive as not respecting American power.

    Kurt Schlichter on Townhall:

    After eight years of Barack Obama’s pathetic fecklessness, America has got its feck back…
    Trump gets that we can’t fix Syria, and he has zero intention of dropping in tens of thousands of America’s sons and daughters to teach its inhabitants to play nice. But spraying sarin on little kids crossed the line, morally and strategically. Assad didn’t have to use it; he chose to, and he chose to because he thought he could rub Trump’s nose in America’s impotence the way he had done to Sissy O’Redline.


    While Hillary was no option, I do miss Obama right about now. Not because he was feckless but because he read books and analyzed things.

  55. Uebersetzer says

    I am not convinced Yes in fact won, but even going by the official figures it would seem that some AKP voters and a great many MHP voters voted No. MHP leader Devlet Bahceli called for Yes but it is clear he could not take much of his base with him.

  56. LondonBob says


    Fred Halliday (Middle East scholar at LSE until his death in 2010) forecast in 2007 that the Iraq war had already set in train six major processes, which will take years to work themselves through:

    the wholesale discrediting of the US, its allies, particularly Britain, and any campaign for the promotion of democracy in the Arab world

    the unleashing across the middle east, and more broadly within the Muslim world, of a revitalised militant Islamism, inspired if not organised by al-Qaida, which has used the Iraq war greatly to strengthen and internationalise its appeal

    the shattering of the power and authority of the Iraqi state, built by the British and later hardened by the Ba’athists and the fragmentation of Iraq into separate, antagonistic, ethnic and religious zones

    the explosion, for the first time in modern history, of internecine war between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq, a trend that reverberates in other states of mixed confessional composition

    the alienation of all sectors of Turkish politics from the west and the stimulation of an authoritarian nationalism there of a kind not seen since the 1920s

    the fomenting, albeit in slow motion and with some constraints, of a new regional rivalry, between two groupings: Iran and its allies (including Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas), versus Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – a rivalry made all the more ominous and contagious by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    Sadly, this stands up well today.

  57. LondonBob says

    Justin Raimondo proudly boasts he was banned from there over his opposition to the Iraq War.

  58. The same happened to me over the same issue around the same time. As I’ve noted here before, there are lots of similarities between the political dynamics today and in 2001-3.

    Both candidates roped in a lot of antiwar/noninterventionist votes by criticising past stupid war-making, and both proceeded to betray that vote by engaging in further stupid war-making once elected. There was the same partisan loyalty to the new Republican regime from those who either were never bothered about the stupid warmongering or who simply deceived themselves about it. Free Republic was straight up hypocritical on the topic.

  59. Assad didn’t have to use it; he chose to, and he chose to because he thought he could rub Trump’s nose in America’s impotence the way he had done to Sissy O’Redline.

    This kind of thinking that assumes everything is about America is straightforwardly delusional, but quite common amongst Americans in my experience. It’s the same kind of delusion that makes otherwise reasonably rational Americans believe that the old men who have climbed to the top 0f the power pile in Iran are secretly wannabee national suicide bombers who are just waiting until their country has a nuclear weapon to destroy their families and everything they’ve worked for, just in order to hit out at America.

    Presumably the writer isn’t actually stupid enough to believe it without a strong incentive to convince himself, so we should assume some psychological process is in play, whether denial or excuse making or whatever.

  60. Uebersetzer says


    This kind of petty intimidation makes me suspect there was some messing with the result, and there would have been more if the Erdogan supporters had not been arrogantly confident.

  61. Uebersetzer says

    “the alienation of all sectors of Turkish politics from the west and the stimulation of an authoritarian nationalism there of a kind not seen since the 1920s”

    The US/UK invasion of Iraq was unpopular with most people in Turkey – the right guessed correctly that it would re-ignite the Kurdish issue, the left saw it as imperialism. Among Kurdish nationalists there was some quiet calculation that it would boost their cause, but even they did not openly express support for the invasion.
    The authoritarian nationalism was already there, though, although the dislike of the West not so much. The 1980 military coup was authoritarian nationalism the West liked.

  62. Hey Randal,

    This kind of thinking that assumes everything is about America is straightforwardly delusional

    S0lid analysis. It boggles my mind that so many Americans think everybody has some kind of care about what they do or how they live. Nobody cares – seriously! They only care if the US is unleashing bombs on them or unleashing their banking cartels to squeeze them dry.

    Sometimes I think that some Americans feel it is a bigger sin that somebody simply ignores them over actually hating them.


  63. Hey Uebersetzer,

    I agree with much of what you say here. What you are describing also happens in India where Muslims are the minority and you have fascist tendencies in certain areas or with certain governors – so I know what you are talking about. Unfortunately, this is the lot of the minorities (religious or ethnic) in this kind of power dynamic – and it has always been so. The Sunnis were thrashed quite thoroughly by Shiah militia in Iraq. I’m not fearing pogroms as much at this point – the last one you mentioned occurred over 20 years ago – unless the instability continues. Which is one of the reasons why I think it is imperative, if one actually cares about the minorities, that we give Turkey some breathing room – adding one more point of pressure (economic, political, etc.) is not going to help things at this point. I can guarantee you it will get worse if the army and police forces are further fractured or destabilized.

    You are right in that the Syrian conflict has radicalized things. Could it have been otherwise? Unlikely. One can see radicalization that has steadily occurred in Pakistan over the years ever since the Soviet-Afghan conflict. The parallels are very similar in Turkey even including destabilization due to massive amounts of refugees. I actually think expecting Turkey to operate normally, whether under Erdogan or not, given the current circumstances simply ignores everything that is going on there. An aquaintance recently visited Egypt; he told me there are tens of thousand refugees there that barely anyone is talking about and they are having a difficulty integrating them with their own economic problems.

    Let’s step back for a moment and think; imagine a civil war conflict in Mexico – what kind of effect would that have in America? Radicalization of certain Latinos, even in our military? Spill-over of the civil war into the US along ideological factions? Even now we are struggling with the fallout of a drug-war that has spilled into our country.

    I actually think what is happening in Turkey and many other places is simply fallout that occurred from the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq. People in that area warned us of the dire consequences and we failed to heed the advice.


  64. Or unless they’re trying to move in by the millions.

  65. Dear West,

    We the undersigned will stop sending boat people once you stop trashing reasonably functioning countries.

    Signed – The Muslims