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    Syrian Kurds and the Turkish government
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 01 August 2013
    The Turkish government thought the Syrian uprising was going to end in no time. Bashar al-Assad was going to fall soon, to be replaced by “our close friends,” the Muslim Brotherhood. With “our boys” in power, a broad Middle Eastern alliance was going to be established. This plan seemed sound with no real obstruction in sight. Of course, things didn’t turn out as planned. Al-Assad enjoyed an unexpected level of international support, cleverly implemented his counterinsurgency strategies and reinforced his position. The armed opposition, however, remained fragmented and disorderly.Unlike the early days of the conflict, Turkey is trying to deal with economic, social, diplomatic and security problems caused by Syria. The most important issue on both the government’s and the people’s [More]
    Turkey’s traditional problems and Prime Minister Erdoğan
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 20 June 2013
    The government is trying to deal with historically bequeathed traditional problems. These are the Kurdish problem, the Alevi question and the secular-Islamist divide. They are interwoven problems and when they trigger each other, their cumulative effect could become more complex than it may first seem and more difficult to manage. Sometimes there might be a number of reasons incorporated into a unified identity that pushes a single actor to become an activist or a dissenter. Embracing an “official” function representing one of the sides will only make it more difficult for the government to manage the problem. The demonstrations triggered by the Taksim Gezi events spread to other Turkish cities. The cities or suburbs where there are no demonstrations give an idea regarding the dee [More]
    Erdoğan and the changing character of demonstrations
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 13 June 2013
    So far the Justice and Development Partly (AKP) government has won all the political struggles against its traditional rivals. However, a new breed of opponents, limited in number, proved to be a challenge over the last couple of weeks.Erdoğan and his bureaucrats were not able to accurately assess the phenomenon in its infancy. This was a new movement, its form unfamiliar, its strategies unprecedented. Yet the government saw this as an ordinary law enforcement issue and left its management to the police.On the contrary, this was a political issue and the protestors had a mosaic structure. Those who directly participated or indirectly supported the movement were not a homogenous group. They had no formal structure, no leader, no organization with traditional features and no open [More]
    Government, demonstrations and the future of talks with the PKK
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 06 June 2013
    Demonstrations in Istanbul spread to other cities. They will probably continue for a while. Everyone is discussing their causes and consequences. The government’s disregarding of a large section of the society and the excessive force used by the police against the demonstrators are subject to harsh criticism. Prime Minister Erdoğan is both claiming that his policy is right and he won’t retreat and also trying to lower the tension through his deputy Bülent Arınç.Mind you, Turkey was busy with something completely different a few weeks ago. The agenda was government-Öcalan talks and the “peace process.” The PKK announced that the withdrawal of their armed militants began and the question was which political steps the government would take.As always, Turkey’s agenda quickly change [More]
    Syria and the regional sectarian war
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 30 May 2013
    The more active stance taken by Hezbollah and Iran in the Syrian civil war made the Turkish government angry and triggered a series of reckless sect-oriented statements. Both at the beginning of and during the conflict, the government declared that theirs was not a Sunni perspective, they did not want a sectarian war in the region and they will never be a part of such a war. But as the civil war continues and the regional polarization deepens, the sectarian preferences and attitudes became more visible.Bashar al-Assad’s consolidation of power before the Geneva conference and the slow pace of the responses from the U.S. and other Western governments are getting on the Turkish government’s nerves. Lacking initiative, the government is reacting ideologically and emotionally. Hezbolla [More]
    Problems of change and security in Turkey’s Syria policy
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 23 May 2013
    Before his visit to the U.S., Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons against the opposition. He believed this argument could convince U.S. President Barack Obama to engage in a limited military intervention. Now he seems to have understood that he won’t be able to change Obama’s Syria policy, which leaves out the possibility of military intervention.Although Erdoğan still hopes that al-Assad will be overthrown and the Baathist regime will be replaced, he realized this won’t happen fast and soon. Today the Syrian civil war is a problem for both foreign and domestic affairs. There are three elections in 2014, all prone to the effects of the Syrian problem.As the settlement of the Syrian conflict becomes more unlik [More]
    Constitutional change and the Kurdish problem
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 09 May 2013
    These days, the PKK will be gradually withdrawing its militants. This process is expected to last until September. In order to understand how this process might unfold, one needs a closer look at the PKK’s political-military strategy and the Constitution-making process.The withdrawal will stir two kinds of political process. The first kind will involve the regions left behind by the PKK militants. There, it will be important for the PKK to continue to control the people with new tools without succumbing to other sub-state actors. The second process will entail the increasing pressure on the prime minister regarding the political arrangements to be made after the withdrawal.The government does not want to see a gunfight between the state security forces and the militants during the [More]
    Barzani and the PKK
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 02 May 2013
    The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has announced that it will withdraw its militants to Iraqi Kurdistan. This could cause some trouble for the Iraqi Kurdish administration, and the more frequent diplomatic visits by the Turkish and U.S. governments show that they seem to have noticed Barzani’s concerns. Let’s consider the history of these concerns.Relations between the PKK and the Iraqi Kurdish groups go back to the late 1970s, when Öcalan was ideologically closer to Talabani than Barzani. However, regional developments and geopolitics forced Barzani and Öcalan to get closer.In 1982, as the Iran-Iraq War continued, Iran, Syria, Barzani and the PKK formed an alliance in Damascus. Iran persuaded Barzani to cooperate with the PKK. In return, Barzani helped the PKK form its first camps i [More]
    New opportunity spaces for the PKK as a ‘united operation force’
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 25 April 2013
    The negotiations between the government and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan are continuing. The government has two particular concerns; the first regards the reaction of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the second regards the powerful signs that negotiations with Öcalan will complicate the problem in the medium term.In recent weeks, the MHP demonstrated that it has the capacity to mobilize masses and put the government in a difficult position. In other words, it seems that the power of the street made the prime minister very angry.Another concern of the government is that the Öcalan-based strategy of “managing the process with one man” could be interrupted and that the process will have unintended, medium-term consequences. Erdoğan is wor [More]
    Possible scenarios of the government-PKK negotiations
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 11 April 2013
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government is pursuing an Abdullah Öcalan-centered policy to resolve the Kurdish question. This policy not only empowered the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Öcalan, but also was a surprise for the society. Öcalan suddenly became the legitimate, powerful and sole representative of the new era. The current state of affairs is of vital importance for Turkey’s future, and the Kurds themselves, in light of the government’s strategy, regional developments and the conditions of the Kurds. The most important question is about the direction this process can take.I think there are four different scenarios. First of all, there is the best-case scenario in which everything goes according to Erdoğan’s plan: Öcalan an [More]