Hulusi Akar, Erdogan’s apparent heir, is no problem for the US or the West


Steven A. Cook writes in a recent Foreign police that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be too ill to be re-elected; and that Hulusi Akar, the Minister of National Defense and former Chief of Staff, seems best placed to take over the leadership of the country after Erdogan. But that, according to Cook, is not good news for the United States. “No one should expect Akar to be friendly with the United States,” he warns.

Cook believes that Akar “made common cause with a fiercely nationalist and anti-Western group of officers” and that “they colluded to punish officers who … spent a lot of time in Europe and / or the United States. United “for” alleged ties to the controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen. Finally, Cook lists the fact that the Turkish Minister of National Defense was “directly responsible for Turkey’s aggressive posture in the Mediterranean during the summer of 2020 which pitted Ankara against its own NATO allies Greece and France “as proof that Akar is anti-Western.

Cook is wrong about Hulusi Akar. It would be unfortunate if American policymakers would heed his advice and dismiss Akar as an enemy of the United States. On the contrary, Akar would work, if he became president, to reestablish Turkey’s alliance with the United States. Tellingly, he recently urged the United States to rely on Turkey to project power on behalf of the West in the Middle East.

Steven A. Cook writes in a recent Foreign police that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be too ill to be re-elected; and that Hulusi Akar, the Minister of National Defense and former Chief of Staff, seems best placed to take over the leadership of the country after Erdogan. But that, according to Cook, is not good news for the United States. “No one should expect Akar to be friendly with the United States,” he warns.

Cook believes that Akar “made common cause with a fiercely nationalist and anti-Western group of officers” and that “they colluded to punish officers who … spent a lot of time in Europe and / or the United States. United “for” alleged ties to the controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen. Finally, Cook lists the fact that the Turkish Minister of National Defense was “directly responsible for Turkey’s aggressive posture in the Mediterranean during the summer of 2020 which pitted Ankara against its own NATO allies Greece and France “as proof that Akar is anti-Western.

Cook is wrong about Hulusi Akar. It would be unfortunate if American policymakers would heed his advice and dismiss Akar as an enemy of the United States. On the contrary, Akar would work, if he became president, to reestablish Turkey’s alliance with the United States. Tellingly, he recently urged the United States to rely on Turkey to project power on behalf of the West in the Middle East.

Akar lamented that the United States is acting in a way that does not suit an ally, but he did not backfire on the United States. He only insisted that Washington stop funding and arming the Kurdish militia in Syria, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been leading an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. Cook wrongly claims that Akar ” comes from a place similar, ideologically, to Erdogan. Akar, however, is not an Islamist – he is a conservative nationalist, historically the dominant force in the Turkish military and state establishment. Traditionally, this group has been decidedly pro-American. They saw the Soviet Union / Russia as an existential threat against Turkey, which led them to seek protection from the US and NATO during the Cold War.

Since 2015, when Erdogan’s party lost its majority, he has counted on the support of conservative nationalists to stay in power. Conservative nationalists are secular, but they do not hesitate to use religious rhetoric when the interest of the state is supposed to demand it, as was the case during their Cold War campaign against the left and c This is the case today with their attempts to strengthen national unity. . They see Erdogan as particularly helpful in this regard. And Erdogan is no less pro-Western than Akar. It is true that the United States has recently alienated itself from the dominant faction of the Turkish military and state by supporting the Kurds in Syria. Formerly pro-American conservative nationalists increasingly view America as an existential threat. If Washington persists in its pro-Kurdish policy in Syria, the Turkish military could indeed end up turning into a fiercely anti-Western force.

Yet, contrary to what Cook claims, Akar is not allied with the anti-Americans in the military; he is opposed to them. It is true that Akar joined the anti-Western officers against a common enemy, the Islamist brotherhood Gülen which infiltrated the army and tried to overthrow the government in 2016. But it was not because these officers had spent a lot of time in Europe or the United States, as Cook suggests, that they were punished by Akar, who was then the Chief of the General Staff, but because he suspected them – rightly so title – to be in collusion with the putschists. And Cook seems unaware that Akar no longer makes common cause with the anti-Western officers; the alliance of the conservative nationalists with their anti-Western faction was temporary, and the recent purges have instead targeted anti-Western officers who oppose the measures taken by Erdogan and Akar in the Black Sea region against Russia that targeted to endear Turkey to the United States.

Cook makes the mistake of seeing an anti-Western motive behind Turkey’s 2020 moves in the Mediterranean that have led to conflict with its NATO allies France and Greece. Yet the fact that Akar was responsible for these movements – which Ankara considered to be in the national interest – does not make him an enemy of the West. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s first president, was staunchly pro-Western, but he also did not hesitate to aggressively push Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, claiming the then-French Alexandretta province, which led to the Turkey on the verge of war with France in 1938. In 1974, Social Democratic Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, another pro-Western Turkish leader, risked war with Greece by ordering the invasion of Cyprus.

Cook’s policy advice – dismissing Akar as anti-American – is counterproductive. This would only reinforce anti-Western inclinations in the military. Not only would it be possible for the United States to work with Akar, but Washington must also be accommodating to what were its traditional allies in the Turkish state – conservative nationalists like Akar – lest they lose. from the field against the pro-Russian Western anti-faction.


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