How is Steven Cook wrong about Turkey? – Hakkı Öcal

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This is an age-old combat tactic: First look as if you joined them; toward the evening tell everybody that you left them. Thus you’ll undermine them.”

Steven A. Cook had received research grants from the Turkish Studies Institute, a Turkish government-funded organization in Washington. He speaks Turkish as well as Arabic. He wrote two books on Egypt, Algeria and Turkey. He works for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) now and just published a new book titled “False Dawn.” In the introductory text the publisher wants you to believe that the book is about the failed hopes raised by the Arab Spring. But on the cover there are several Turkish police and a beat-up guy carrying a Turkish flag that is tossed carelessly on his shoulder. The flag gives you the impression that it is about to be dragged on the ground. The text has more to offer about the book:

“Even Turkey, which also experienced large-scale protests, has abandoned its earlier shift toward openness and democracy and now more closely resembles an autocracy. … Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has used the recent coup against him as grounds for a widespread crackdown on his opponents, reinforcing the Turkish leader’s personal power.”

The author has recently been much more forthright on his thought about Erdoğan on that public confession space of Twitter in a numbered series of posts:

“1. Erdogan and the AKP [Justice and Development Party] valorize the Ottoman era. 2. Erdogan and the AKP see Turkey as the natural leader of the region/Muslim countries. This resonates with many supporters. 3. Erdogan probably lost the referendum on April 16. 4. Erdogan is using the Qatar crisis as a mechanism of mobilization to shore up his base. That is more important than ties with KSA/UAE [Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates].”

If you are someone who values the CFR and the people working there and read Cook’s tweets, you might wonder why and how this person jumps from Turkey’s internal affairs – the referendum on constitutional reforms – to Turkey’s foreign affairs – relations with Qatar. What kind of mindset could make someone see a relationship between the claims that Turkey’s referendum results are invalid, never mind the word “probably” to alight the doze of insult to the country, and the allegation that Turkey supports Qatar? And what about the middle of his argument that Turkey claims the leadership of Muslim countries? Which Turkish official claimed that Turkey was trying to be a regional leader? Can anybody support the idea that Turkey is the natural leader of the region? Does a CFR expert have the right to pass his perception as hard fact?

Now, this book and its author’s free shots on Twitter on Turkey will in turn feed the self-infatuation epidemic in the Western media: Turkey is becoming a tyranny and Erdoğan is a dictator-in-waiting. You may repeat that with confidence on the authority of Cook, who is a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the CFR.

Cook says if you read his book you will weep tears of joy and agony. I do not know about the joy part – I am not into schadenfreude at all – but agony with pain, hurt and suffering on behalf of truth is guaranteed.



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