Highlights from the Middle East Institute’s Conference on Turkey

Highlights from the Middle East Institute’s Conference on Turkey

These are my notes of some highlights from the Annual Conference on Turkey held at the National Press Club on June 14.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) says US is suffering from military fatigue and a no-fly-zone in Syria would be very expensive.

Henri Barkey of Lehigh U says the US urged Turkey to have good relations with Kurdish Regional Government but now wants them to back off due to Iraqi fears.

Steve Heydeman of the US Institute of Peace  says AKP bias towards Syrian Muslim Brotherhood undermines both unity of Syrian opposition & its own regional influence.

Turkish assemblyman Volkan Bozkar says Turkey gave the US evidence of Syria’s use of chemical weapons that the Obama administration now confirms. He says that Volkan Bozkar says the No-fly-zone in Iraq was disaster for Turkey as it gave PKK abandoned weapons.

Bulent Aras, Chairman of Turkey’s Strategic Research Center, says that  neither Islamic nor leftist thought, but universal norms of good governance brought Arab spring to the streets.

Saban kardas of the TOBB University of Economiocs says Turkey has always seen itself as a region power. What’s new is its global activism. It challenges injustice, not the liberal order.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay says Erdogan’s agreement to wait for a court decision and hold a referendum means the end of the incident as far as the government’s concerned. He says that in the Arab spring the people in the streets wanted change while in Turkey the people in the streets defend the status quo. Regarding negotiations with Kurd separatists, he says that both the government and the PKK have kept faith and done what they agreed that they look forward to solving problems with politics not violence. Inresponse to questions, he said that the alcohol regulation, like all teh AKP regulations, is taken from the EU model. About jailed journalists he claims the AKP’s reform package will eliminate prosecution for thought, but that most have been charged with terrorism, not thought crimes.

Ayse Bertul Celik of Sabanci University says that Turkey’s youth want not a new political party but civic engagement. The youth distinguish between “We are all the same” and “We are together despite our differences.”

Author Aliza Marcus say that Turkey will not drive any tanks into Kurdistan because they would run over too many pipelines.

Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation says Turkish-Iranian rivalry is tempered by economic relations. US will pressure Turkey to end it’s gold trade with Iran. Encouraging sectarianism in the region may backfire since the most sectarian Sunnis are also anti-American.

Denise Natalie of the National Defense University says the Kurdish Regional Government’s public expenditures are too high for it to afford independence from Baghdad for a closer relationship with Ankara. The US tells Turkey don’t buy your gas from Russia or Iran or the KRG. What is Turkey, importing 90% of its fuel supposed to do?

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

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