My last piece on Fikra Forum
A failed attempted coup happened while President Erdogan was in holiday on the Aegean Sea. Erdogan said was organized by Gulen “parallel state”, other parts suggested it was a hoax organized by Erdogan himself to increase even more its power. We don’t know who is right but one thing is certain: if it was not staged it was bad organized. With one surprising element: the image of military surrendering to civilians was a show of the strength of Turkish population. We don’t know yet though if it was also an image of the democratic health of Turkey or just an image of the increasing massive support that Erdogan has (not necessarily good for democracy, as past multitudes supporting strong leaders democratically elected teaches us).
Now, after the military purge, Erdogan and the AKP have two paths: improve the democracy in Turkey creating a national reconciliation with the secular and leftist forces, giving back liberal freedoms to the press and the civil society and taking the lead again for a peace process on the Kurdish issue, or follow the Putin style: expansion of power towards the absolute (including a strong Presidential system), an increased social and political polarization and the elimination of any element of a liberal democracy (if there is still some in Turkey) apart the elections.
The democratic retrocession of Erdogan is evident already since some years, first of all with the failure of the solution of Kurdish issue, that arrived to target not only civilian Kurdish population besides the PKK in the Eastern regions, but also the first pro-Kurdish party entered in the Parliament, the HDP. Second with an “autoritarianization” of his executive, with the increased exclusion of secular forces in the government and in the bureaucracy of the state, from eliminating few years ago the last Kemalist elites, to eliminating the alternative Islamist approach to politics represented by Gulenists, considered today terrorists in Turkey, to also moderate parts of the AKP more recently, including the only diplomatic Prime Minister Turkey had until now, Ahmet Davutoğlu. Finally with the repression of civil society, from the journalists to the NGOs and the people assembled to protest in the streets to even incarcerating academics that signed petition to ask the government to defend civilians in Kurdish regions (being compared to the same level of terrorists).
So did the AKP moderate political Islam experiment also failed, pushed by external factors but also because of not being able to be inclusive, as it has been for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ennahda in Tunisa, or will it be able to survive and improve with more inclusiveness and liberalism in the near future? One decisive factor in this will be if Turkey will soon win against Jihadist terrorism of ISIS, allowed to grow at the beginning by Erdogan as a tool against Assad and the Kurds, but that finally turned against him too (as usually happen with terrorism, Al Qaeda docet). Because if a government cannot guarantee basic security and safety to its population for a protracted period of time there is not much future for that government, even if it keep expanding the middle class and the economic development, unless it changes its policies both inside and outside the country. Will be Erdogan and the AKP able to create a more efficient and effective foreign policy with at the same time more inclusive and united government?
A more efficient and effective foreign policy should be based on one side on a real fight to ISIS and on the other on a new diplomatic approach to the solution of the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars (as the excluded Davutoglu tried to do) including accepting the presence of Kurds at the negotiating table on Syria. Outside the country terrorism can be won with military and financial fight against the cancer born in the states and pragmatic diplomacy towards the states that host that cancer. Instead Erdogan until now kept the same narrative of showing muscles inside and outside, asking Turkish society and institutions to be strong and Western countries “to take a firm stand against terrorism”. He refused to start a real military intervention against ISIS with the support of some allies – not in the sense of NATO forces as Article 5 has never been invocated for terrorist attacks after 9/11 having become a routine unfortunately today – but in the sense of world powers like Russia, US or France, mostly affected by the Jihadist terrorism, and the regional powers more closely involved, in particular Saudi Arabia. And at the same time he gave complete power to the Army to repress the Kurdish movement, empowering the military even too much with the risk of possible backlashes, including the last coup as some analysts had foreseen.
A more inclusive and united government is what a country instead needs at domestic level, to win against terrorism, as it can be really won only with national unity. Governments need to be strong but they need to be also inclusive if they want to be effective in the fight for a country survival in the long term. Governments need to have a broad political representation and also the support of a civil society that feel listened and included in the polity. This is the lesson we had in Italy for example in the 1970s and in 1990s, when we won both the Communist terrorism and the Mafia terrorism, because of political compromises and massive civil society participation. Instead Erdogan and the AKP regime are until now representing an increasing exclusive government.
Will Erdogan and the AKP be able to create such shift in the foreign and domestic politics after the failed attempted coup or will they insist in the repression of oppositions in all level of society, from politics, to military, to civil society to foreign actors considered as scapegoat like the Gulen movement? Will a new form of “moderate political Islam” born soon in Turkey, taking from the lesson learned of the past AKP mistakes and bridging the gap between secular and traditionalist Muslims? Future will say but will not be easy, as even in Tunisia the balance between secularist forces and Political Islam is not able to curb the backlash from Islamist radical forces producing so many foreign fighters. But for now Turkey survived another military coup attempt. All opposition parties, including the pro-Kurdish HDP and Gulen movement, condemned the coup attempt and the supporters of Erdogan went to the streets blocking army tanks. We hope that also civilians opposing Erdogan will be able to demonstrate freely in the streets soon again.
Here we are again, after Ankara and Bruxelles, but also Ivory Cost and Nigeria in the last ten days, speaking about how to fight ISIS and terrorism in general. And here we are again with politicians and leaders missing the point of the whole picture. We cannot “fight” or “battle” against terrorism, as it is like to fight against guns or worst, again ourselves. We can only defeat it or succumb to it. Terrorism is a human product and as Giovanni Falcone, Italian judge killed by the Mafia, once said about Mafia we can say today of terrorism: “is a human phenomenon, and as all human phenomena has a start, an evolution and will have also an end”. We will defeat it in time, the point is how to do it earlier instead than later, that means how to prevent it working on its roots instead of reacting to it just working on its fruits.
If we don’t want to succumb to it for the next decades there are three paths to start, as I already wrote on this blog after Paris last November and Egypt last February 2015: diplomacy, inclusion and protection, which means new approaches to foreign policies, integration policies and security policies.
To change foreign policy in the Middle East, Europe will need to invest in mediation and diplomacy efforts and disinvest in bombing and trading arms to the region: we cannot expect to build sustainable peace and economic development if we keep with the old colonialist approach of wars and power politics, “divide and rule” and profit from selling weapons. Foreign policy should mean first of all diplomacy, this should be the real goal of a successful foreign policy, but after the two world wars Western foreign policy meant mostly military invasions and arms trade. And terrorism is the direct result of this. We need instead change direction, start to support negotiating efforts, like we did with Iran, to help to build a new regional order, involving the regional powers of the Middle East, first of all Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as all the other actors, including the non-state actors on the ground, often defined terrorist groups because of their fight for self-determination, like PKK/PYD for Kurds, Hezbollah for Shia in Lebanon and Hamas for Palestinians. Unless we will be able to involve all of the legitimates needs and request of all the actors on the ground, we will never have peace in the Middle East, as these groups will never abandon the armed struggle and transform from armed groups to political parties or social movements.
We will also need to stop fueling sectarianism in the region with identity construction discourses and weapons sale. This will require both a change in the political and media discourse of Western powers and also their industrial transformation in the long run, from economies based on arms production and resources exploitation to new technological productions and green industries. Europe need to stop the flows of money and weapons from some of the Middle East powers, often our allies like Saudi Arabia or Turkey, to DAESH/ISIS and its affiliated terrorist groups, forcing instead these allies to make a real military battle to defeat the ISIS armed group that is controlling the territory between Syria and Iraq, with our external support in particular protecting civilians and minorities. If they will not be able to do it, because of their opposed interests (Sunni versus Shia dominated powers, or Turks versus Arabs versus Kurds), then the external powers, in primis US and Russia, will have to intervene in force, asthey did in the past for common enemies like Nazism. And finally the EU needs to integrate Turkey: only with Turkish membership we will shift towards a real pluralistic Union, not anymore a religiously homogeneous continent but a pluralistic one, as in its ideals, that will welcome moderate Muslim countries and will increase its Muslim population from the current 45 million to 120 million, making the narrative of “clash of civilizations” just a ridiculous rhetoric of the past.
Second, to change the type of integration we have today in Europe we need to create a new social contract in the continent, based on real inclusion and participation and not anymore on the isolation of communities of immigrants that has been created by both multiculturalism and assimilationism, in particular now with the arriving of millions of refugees. This marginalization created the humus for the terrorism, and often not only in the streets or houses but in the prisons, where small criminals become terrorist for a lack of a better future. It is not a case that the last attack has taken place in Bruxelles, the capital of European Union, and Belgium in general, a place where pluralism should be the basic factor but where the “European bureaucrats” don’t create a real Belgium identity, that instead is divided between Fleming and Walloon, making the integration of immigrants, their feeling of belonging to a state, even more difficult. The European Union therefore need to re-discover again its meaning, the foundation of a continent “United in diversity” as its motto says, respecting the differences but giving to everyone the same European identity and equal access to resources, following closer the United States example, who has been more able to put in practice the principles of its Declaration of Independence that says: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Until now these unalienable rights have been given only to some part of the European population and so the European dream is still to be realized.
Finally, even if this is the least important of the three, to change the approach to security we will need two processes, one at individual level and one at political level. At individual level we need to learn as citizens to be more aware of our environment, in order to proactively be able to self-protect us more, controlling abandoned packages, reporting suspect people etc. in order to live free to move where we want and at the same time being aware of living in dangerous times. But on the other side, at political level, we need to build a more efficient and less frightening Big Brother, based on real intelligence control, that doesn’t mean necessary loss of privacy or principal freedoms, but instead more integration and exchange of information among European states and agencies, to facilitate a real common police and common security policies. It is not a question of suspending our rules and Constitutions, like France did last year, it is a question of maintaining our freedom and at the same time work in a more efficient way. It is not possible and neither acceptable that one of the most advance security system in Europe, the Belgian police, took 4 months to get one of the attackers of Paris. This is the right thing to do, find the perpetrators and arrest them as normal criminals, without making them dangerous heroes reacting to their action with full military force, but cannot be done in an amateurish way.
If we will be able to do all this, the Jihadist terrorism will end sooner than later. The path is still long though, it will take probably one generation, but we will then be able to go on with the development of the Middle East and also the other excluded parts of the world, in particular Africa, helping the progress of all the nations on the Earth. If we will fail, terrorism will continue for generations to come, at least until some people of the world will be marginalized and will not share an equal Liberté Egalité Fraternité.
My opinion piece on Jakarta Post
The consequences of bringing back Iran to the international community after 35 years cannot be foreseen right now. Israel and Saudi Arabia are not afraid of an Iranian bomb, but of a new leader in the Middle East apart themselves. If the right wing regime of Netanyahu in Israel and the Saudi regime in Saudi Arabia could become in the last decades more and more extreme in their philosophy and actions, it is because they could use the external ‘enemy’ as a factor of social cohesion. And because their possible rivals on the geopolitical chess were weak. It is the divide et impera, ‘divide and rule’ philosophy of the Roman Empire, that made the complexity of the region of the Middle East anarchic, chaotic and never able to integrate itself, since at least one hundred years, since the end of the Ottoman Empire. But these divisions sooner or later will have to give space to some alliances and unions, and the region one day will be united as Europe today. That day people will remember the 2015 as the start of the end of the chaos in the Middle East. It seems a far stretch now but if we deeply think and analyze the history and the politics of that region it doesn’t seem so impossible.
Diplomacy is back in the international relations, after decades of power politics, and this not only with Iran, but with Russia and Cuba too. Also for us, the political scientists, a new paradigm, more European than North American, might start to see the light in the international relations theory: mediations and negotiations as the only solutions to security dilemmas, anarchic system and mistrusting realist views. In particular two non-Arab countries of the Middle East could play a fundamental role for the stabilization and development of the area. In the future regional order of the Middle East Iran could be what Germany has been for Europe, the engine, and Turkey what France has been, the torch. When Iran and Turkey will finally understand that supporting each other is better than competing, that will create the leadership that the Middle East desperately need since one century. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries sooner or later will have to understand that their role is the bridge between Maghreb and Southwest Asia, the region to which they belong historically, geographically and ontologically, is not the Levant but North Africa. It is with their Arab brothers that they have to find a new Renaissance, starting with a renovated Arab League, a new economic integration and a new approach between religion and politics, instead of looking for spheres of influence in the Levant fighting with their competitors, in the Shia crescent.
At the domestic level they need to overcome the fixation in the Shari’atization of civic life and public policy and understand that democracy and emancipation is a natural development of human empowerment. They have good example in the Maghreb to follow, first of all Tunisia, but also Morocco. When the education and the globalization will increase in Gulf countries, together with the end of the oil blessing, on which bases the monarchies maintained their societies backwards, also the Saudis will have to find other ways for their legitimization respect to the Wahhabi sect. And some good Iranian military blow in the next few years (not nuclear fortunately since today) against the Salafist terrorism and may be also the countries backing it, will accelerate the process. But Saudi Arabia will do its process of democratization gradually, as Turkey and Iran already did one century ago. And even if Iranian people have been imprisoned by a religious and military elite that betrayed the ideals of the 1979 revolution (as everyone who hijack the revolutions, since the Bolshevik one in 1917 to the Arab Spring in 2011) also Iran will soon go towards a more modern democracy, as the cold war is ended and the Ayatollah regime finally starts to be out of touch with the contemporary world and with his people. That will be the moment in which also Israel will feel more safe. Today is the starting of this process. As the welcome back of China in 1979 after 30 years contributed to the stability in Asia, the new Iranian rapprochement will be a fundamental element for the stability in the Middle East in the XXI century.
ISIS and the rest of Jihadists will make more blood unfortunately, like yesterday with the poor students of the college in Kenya, but when the need of money, the request of weapons and the thirst of power will not be satisfied anymore, also the Jihadist threat to the world will be erased, as it has been done with the Soviet one. Iran will have its role in this, militarily and culturally, together with Turkey, when both countries will have walked also on their path to empower their democracies, going back to the ideals that at the beginning of XX century inspired their Constitutional revolutions. But for today we need to celebrate and be enthusiast, as the Iranian people on the streets. The prodigal son is back for this Good Friday. I am happy for Iran, for Israel and for the Middle East. I am happy also for China, Russia, the US and Europe, that learned to cooperate and mediate. I am happy that the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy today is an Italian diplomat, Federica Mogherini. Remembering how Berlusconi stupidly refused 10 years ago the Iranian offer to participate to the negotiation. And I am happy that Obama will not be remembered only because of being black. The American Congress will have to learn to be more humble in these last years of his mandate. The Norwegian Noble Committee had been farsighted as usual.