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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Turkey, At Energy Crossroads, Sliding Towards Authoritarianism

Erdogan Dictator

Last week’s resignation of Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu has marked one more stepping stone in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s path to authoritarian rule. Erdogan has followed this path for a while now, envisioning a “New Turkey,” restored to the glory of its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, at its heyday.

Interestingly, despite numerous warnings from scholars and observers, Erdogan has been left to do more or less whatever he wants. His persecution of the Kurdish minority has been merciless, in spite of calls from human rights groups to stop the violence. Turkey is also squarely at odds with the U.S., which is providing weapons to Kurdish fighters in Iraq.

Terrorist attacks are a frequent occurrence in Turkey these days as the destruction of the Syrian civil war spreads across the region. This unfortunate fact adds kindling to the fire Erdogan has stoked since he came into power: Turkey is surrounded by enemies but it can overcome them under his presidency and regain its grandeur - though, only if no one interferes with his rule. Hence the crushing of anti-government protests. The latest instance of this came on May 1, when 200 people were arrested.

The Turkish president hopes to consolidate power even further with his initiative to change the country’s system from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. Related: Germany About To Make Big Changes To Its Renewables Policy

In a recent interview with Sputnik, former Secretary-General of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ertu?rul Yalç?nbay?r, said: “In my view, May 5 [the day Davutoglu announced that he would not run for the post of chairman of the ruling AKP] should be considered as the date of the actual structural transition of Turkey to the presidential system.”

Erdogan is not happy with opponents at home and he is not happy with Turkey’s international partners, most notably the EU. In the latest show of strength, Erdogan refused to amend Turkey’s anti-terrorist laws in line with the EU’s in order to win a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens.

In the face of the increasingly undemocratic rule of President Erdogan, one may wonder why the EU is courting Turkey so insistently. One answer is the migrant crisis, which has been partially resolved with the EU-Turkey agreement that has seen migrants being taken back to Turkey in exchange for cash. Another reasons comes down to oil and natural gas: Turkey is a major hub for Middle Eastern and Central Asian hydrocarbons and its importance for the energy security of Europe will only grow, as evidenced by the map of existing and planned pipelines below. Related: World’s Largest Shipping Company Preparing For Another Oil Price Crash

(Click to enlarge) 

Source: BQ Magazine

The EU needs an amicable Turkey and it’s unclear how much Europe is ready to swallow in order to ensure Turkey’s cooperation. Related: It’s Not Looking Good For Canadian LNG

Apparently, it can swallow a lot. There have been reports that Erdogan’s regime supports ISIS, despite the fact that the country’s military has taken part in airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria. And while much of this news can be considered Russian propaganda, no one is quite sure exactly how much. Turkey is reportedly one of the channels for ISIS oil, and Erdogan’s own son is purported to have benefitted from that. One Turkish MP was quoted as saying that the President uses ISIS to deal with the Kurds.

In short, the political developments in Turkey should give its European neighbors cause for concern. After all, Turkey is preparing to become an EU member.

It seems, however, that membership in the EU is not as high on the agenda in Ankara. Complete control over the country is, however. And Erdogan is not exactly concerned about European opinion right now – Europe needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe and, moreover, one of Erdogan’s stated aims is to make Turkey independent from the West. How realistic this is is another question; but the fact remains that Turkey is firmly on the path to an authoritarian regime, with all the grim but predictable consequences from such a development.

By Irina Slav of Oilprice.com

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  • Derek H. on May 09 2016 said:
    "Turkey is also squarely at odds with the U.S., which is providing weapons to Kurdish fighters in Iraq."

    The article you linked to states that Turkey doesn't want the US to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria, not Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds (the KRG, or Kurdistan Regional Government) and Turkey have very good ties (Turkey have trained and supplied their soldiers with weapons to fight ISIS) and both of them have fought the PKK which is a terrorist organization that has ties with the YPG in Syria. It is the YPG that Turkey doesn't want the US to arm since they have ties to the PKK, not because the group is Kurdish.

    "And while much of this news can be considered Russian propaganda"

    It is propaganda, just like how Russia claimed that they had no troops in Ukraine and latter admitted that they've always had troops in Ukraine. Or when Turkey shot down a Russian bomber that passed through its territory, at first Russia claimed that none of its bombers had been shot down then it claimed that it had been shot down but that it never passed through Turkish territory and then finally admitted that it did pass through Turkish territory.
  • Stavros Hadjiyiannis on May 10 2016 said:
    The fact that Turkey supports ISIS as well as all the other jihadists in Syria and Iraq is an obvious fact to anyone familiar with the situation on the ground as well as with the geopolitics at play. But that is only half the story. The fact is that the entire Western alliance is fully complicit with this latest form of Hybrid Warfare against their geopolitical rivals.

    Another thing. If there was indeed a way to make the Southern Gas Corridor a viable alternative to Russian or Iranian gas, then the war to bring down Bashar al-Assad would have been superfluous. All the talk about alternative energy routes is mostly bluster on the part of NATO-GCC as only the Qatari pipeline to Europe can act as a serious and viable alternative to Russian gas.

    Why is Europe so accommodating of Turkey? Well, the answer could not be clearer. Without Turkey, NATO-GCC's Hybrid War against Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria would collapse. For this reason the so called Western world has to please Erdo?an whichever way they can.
  • Dr. Adnan Kirmani on May 11 2016 said:
    It has become quite fashionable to write an article condemning Turkey and condemning Erdogan. He is portrayed as a demon. Most people, including IRINA SLAV conveniently forget that Turkey hosts at this moment in time probably more refugees than any other country in the world. Ms. Slav also conveniently forgets that Mr. Putin of Russia is probably the most authoritarian dictator currently, even probably more than Bashar-ul-Assad. She also forgot that President Erdogan is an elected leader, elected by an election judged largely fair by international monitors, while no one even remotely considers elections now held in Russia to be either fair or credible. A smear campaign has been started by media against Turkey simply because Turkey refuses to be a yes man to West.

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