2016 EMF Conference Part 11: Turkey’s Struggle for World Hegemony of the Islamic People – Dr. David Altman 5-7 December 2016
EMF Conference Part 11: Turkey’s Struggle for World Hegemony of the Islamic People
Dr. David Altman – Senior Vice President, Netanya Academic College Strategic Culture of Turkey
EMF Conference 5-7 December 2016
For centuries Turkey was perceived in Europe as a cultural outsider and a military threat. That changed after the collapse and division of the Ottoman Empire. The newly established Republic of Turkey entered the process of secularisation, modernisation and Europeanisation aimed at including it in the Western institutional architecture. However, under the rule of the AKP and Recep Tayyip Erdogan much of this process has been reversed. Over the last years Turkey has been steadily drifting away from the West, driven by Erdogan’s ambition for world hegemony of the Islamic people. What does that mean for the region and beyond? What conditions need to be fulfilled for Erdogan to achieve his goal?
Christodoulos Pelaghias (C.P.): Welcome to the East Mediterranean Forum. My co-host again is Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, and with us is Dr. David Altman of Netanya University. David, hello, welcome.
David Altman (D.A.): What a pleasure to be here, and what a pleasure to talk to you about everything.
C.P.: Our subject is Turkey’s struggle for hegemony, and David, you have some thoughts to share with us.
D.A.: Yes, I think it’s a great pleasure to speak to you and to speak about the subject who I think is one of the most important things in the whole atmosphere that we are facing. But let me start with something else. When we are speaking in conferences, we have to take into consideration something very important. A lot of times we are speaking from personal experience while the audience are not sharing with us our experience. In 1973, I was the president of the students of Israel, I studied political science and sociology and I used to become a very popular speaker about the war in Israel at that time, on the October War. And usually people used to listen about everything, and after a while, after about ten years of being a speaker which was very popular, I saw that I lost the audience. And I said to myself, what happened? The stories are the same stories, the events are the same events. Why are they not listening to me with the same patience? And then I discovered that most of the people that I’m speaking now didn’t share with me the experience. They were born ten years later, and after ten years they don’t know what I’m talking about all together. Some of them are listening to stories, some of them are not even listening to the stories, and they are not part of a story. And that created a revolution in the whole my speaking in conferences. Because you have to take into consideration that most of the people that we are speaking to them about previous experiences, they don’t know anything about it, and if they know, they know very little. And what they know, that is what was given to them but far away from the truth.
Our subject is very, very important. When we are speaking about Turkey you have to clarify whether you are speaking about this issue of today, the situation of today. The world of today is facing a complete change in all what we knew before. It is not the same world, it is not the same atmosphere, and it is not the same government. It won’t be the same government anywhere in the world. Everything is changing.
But it has to do with something and unfortunately it starts with Turkey. How did it start with Turkey? The changes in the 21st century are essential ones. And it reflects on everything. But exactly hundred years ago changes were created in the Middle East. It was the First World War as we call it, and that changed the world completely. The First World War left the world speechless because up till now we had war in the region, people used to take the horses, went to the battlefield, two hundred people were killed in one side, two hundred people were killed in the other side, and then they all went to drink tea and to speak together, and to play soccer somewhere around. And then there was the First World I that cost the people who attended sixteen and a half million people that were killed. And the war changed the world. The world was not ready for it. And the world started to think, what is happening? If sixteen and a half million people can die, what will happen? What can we do? Why did it happen?
Of the things that they were worried about was Turkey. Turkey was the empire that for seven hundred years threatened the whole world, specially Europe. And during this war big part of the casualties you can really say that Turkey was responsible for. Not only, but more so Europe was afraid of the ability of the Ottoman Empire to take parts of Europe which they took: one country, another country, Bulgaria in the Balkans, all the time one Muslim country, one Muslim country, and the threat of a Muslim country not far away with such power has to do something. And then they are having a war. And for the first time the whole empire is flat. So what is happening to officers? Not high officers, captains, are sitting and dividing the empire among themselves. And what is happening? This is the Sykes-Picot agreement. Captain Sykes and Major Picot are sitting together and starting to make new plans and creating new nations, new countries, which has nothing to do with reality. No natural border, no people who belongs to one sect, or to one religion, or to one minority, but concentrating together. And in a very short while having a new map, a new political map in the whole region of what used to be the Ottoman Empire.
Unfortunately, nothing was kept. One by one, every country that was established at that time beside very few had a change, had a revolution. In Iraq which was a kingdom, it was Qasir and it was Arif, and it was all the generals who took their place. In Syria we had set of one problems, in Lebanon we had other problems. In every place we had minorities, we had people who could not live together. All what is happening today that we are suffering today started at Sykes-Picot and in San Remo agreement that was taking place. That was the leftover of Turkey. At the meantime in Turkey the world was in a shock – what are we doing with Turkey? The new leader of Turkey is a powerful man, a great general, but he comes with a wonderful proposal: let’s change the world, we are not a threat to you anymore, we are not a religious country, we are secular, completely secular. All the threat of religion that we carried with us as an empire is lost. Europe was in shock. He became the dearest son of the new world, the man who promises to take away the threat. But they said, prove it to us. How can you prove that that is not going to happen? And Kemal Atatürk did several very, very importantly things. First of all, he changed the language, the writings. The Arab letters were taken out from the Turkish language. Numbers and letters. The dressing were changing. You were not allowed to be dressed not with the chador, not with the tarboosh, and not with the Turkish regular things, just to show that I’m serious. But what was more important than anything else, the resting day of the Muslims, which is Friday, was changed to a Sunday. That was a religious revolution. He said, now you can believe me that I am not anymore a religious persoon, I’m a secular person, you can accept me as one of yours.
In every aspect Europe went out of their way to satisfy Kemal Atatürk. They brought him in, they took a lot of immigration from Turkey, because Turkey is not religious anymore, so it’s not a threat. They put them in every institution as NATO and other things which came later on. Turkey became the favorite son to a certain degree. Not completely, because they were still afraid, because religion is religion, and the history is there, and six hundred years of threat are not perishing in one moment.
But in the meantime Turkey had a lot of changes in itself. Kemal Atatürk was not there, the society started to shift. We cannot speak about one Turkey, but still it was a secular country which was well-accepted with a lot of willingness for concessions to Turkey. As such as they were not accused anymore with the Holocaust to the Armenians, they were not accused in other things which usually… For example, the Kurds who wanted always to get the part of independence were refused by the world, because everyone didn’t want to aggravate Turkey. And Turkey got whatever they wanted to do.
At the meantime, the world itself changed completely. The big powers of 1916, 1918, the First World War and the Second World War, as England and France were no longer big powers. Now we don’t have any more four big powers as England, France, America and Russia. We’re having America and Russia, and that’s it. And the truth of the matter that England and France are losing more, and more, and more of their international situation. And that created a lot of willingness between new powers to take over. And I’m jumping, because I said it’s a very big story and it’s a big undertaking to describe the whole situation, but always Turkey is playing a very important role in it.
In 1954, Gamal Abdel Nasser comes into power in Egypt. Gamal Abdel Nasser was a very great leader and he started to speak not only of becoming the leader of big Egypt, but he wanted very much to become the leader of the Arab people. He spoke about three circles. First of all, he spoke about the Arab countries. The Arab countries are twenty two countries in the world of today. And he wanted very much to be the leader of the Arabs. He spoke about the pan-Arabism which is starting now to move, with that he wanted to come to the Islamic nations, which are fifty one Islamic nations in the whole region. And for that he wanted to go to the non-identified countries which is a very big group, which will make him a leader of a third power in the hegemony of the whole world. And as an Arab leader he had more success. He went first of all for the unification with Syria. It was not such a success, with the Islamic country it was even lesser success because he had to fight against very strong leader Sukarno as (inaudible) people who belonged to the other countries. And he passed away in 1970, and all his dreams to become the leader of the Muslim countries, or the Arab countries died with him.
Another leader came in another country. His name was Muammar Gaddafi. 1969 he became the leader of Libya. As a leader of Libya, he had great dreams and great desires. First of all, he tried to make a unity with Yemen and then he started to do some connections with Africa, with Chad and other countries. He understood immediately, like Nasser, that if I want to become one of the leaders who fights on the leadership of the world, I have to have an access to nuclear power. That is very important for me also. So Nasser tried to do it and Israel stopped him in a very known way, as we know. But then Gaddafi started to have his own plan of having nuclear weapon to start to build his strength with having nuclear reactors and nuclear plan, which was very, very dangerous for everyone. And we’ll speak about it later.
Another leader emerged to compete with Qaddafi. He was Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein said that he is the leader of the Sunni Arabs, and he is the one who will represent this power. He started with his willingness to buy the nuclear reactor from France, which fortunately enough Israel got rid of it very nicely. And it never stopped him from trying more. But he also said, if I’m going to be the leader, my way to leadership has to have next to me nuclear power. The story with Saddam Hussein, we know what happened and we know how he finished. And after what happened to Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi decided he’s ready to get rid of his nuclear plant because he understood that he won’t be able to continue with the same. And he really became in a way friendly to the West much more than anybody else.
Another country joined their march to leadership. And this is a relatively small country. We are talking about a country that has no more than 300,000 citizens: its name is Qatar. Very, very rich, very well protected because the biggest air base of America in the region is in Qatar, and very original. They didn’t want to have nuclear, because it was too big for them, but they had the new weapon that the world is learning now to appreciate, which is the media. They did everything to control the media, and they reached the stage that every Arab home in the world is having al Jazeera in their private television, even if they live in a tent in the desert. They were so influential everywhere and every leader in the Arab world could not ignore any more Qatar. The leader of Qatar pushed by his second wife finally invested a lot of money in advertising the country and marketing the country, he became the god of the media, he had his station in every language possible, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and of course Arabic. And he wanted very much to compete on the leadership of the Arab world. He had also a strong relationship with the leaders of the Sunni religion leadership. And he became one of the very, very strong powers who compete to become the leaders of the Islamic world.
At that time Iran, who started in 1979 to be guided by Ayatollah Khomeini, made a big revolution there, and started a Sharia country, and of course went after nuclear power, because if you want to get your recognition as a leading country, you have to put your hand on nuclear reactors. The story with Iran we know, because it was published in the world all the time, including the concessions that were made by the United States. I won’t get into it because this is not our subject of today.
The leadership of Qatar changed. The son of the Al Thani became the new leader guided by his mother Sheikha Moza who is really the person behind the throne, and she is pushing Qatar to strong position in all the subjects in the world. But he is a very young leader with a great willingness to be very influential in many places, very well heard. He’s buying everything that can advance his country in art, in culture, in sports, just to put them on the map. And while he is very successful, he accepted that maybe we should join forces with some others, therefore he is supporting every terror organization in the world, and he is expecting to find somebody who might be his supporter to become the leading force of the Islamic movements in the new world, which have no leadership today, because of the changes that happened in our world.
And then came another man who is a very unique person. His name is Tayyip Erdoğan. Tayyip Erdoğan came into power in Turkey and changed everything. First of all, he revolutionized the country. The country became again a religious country. Still, they are resting on a Sunday for now, but dressing, praying, speaking, languages – everything changed to Islam. I must quote to you something very, very important which will show how much it is. The greatest man in the religious world of the Sunnis today is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is the leader, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Brotherhood. And he speaks about how important it is to elect a leader of the Islamic world, and he says as follows:
“The unity of the righteous people of Islam decided that we should believe in the caliphate. This has to be the leadership of the Muslims and it has to be established in Istanbul, which will be the capital of the new caliphate. The new Turkey which combines the religious and the state, the new and the old, the Arab and what is not Arab, and united the whole nation in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States, and everywhere.”
Qaradawi says also that the best-qualified leader to this caliphate is Recep Erdoğan:
“This is a leader who knows his God and knows himself, he knows his people, and he knows the nation, and the world. You should stand around him and to swear loyalty to him and tell him, ‘Go ahead, go ahead’.”
That is the publication written by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Now, this is not a statement by somebody, not by a little small rabbi, or by a small (inaudible). This is a leadership statement. Why is it made? Because there is now a competition about what is happening in the world.
We should know that Erdoğan is a very sophisticated man. Erdoğan stands behind everything which happened lately in the whole Middle East. One of the things that he saw all the time that the West is afraid of intruding, of refugees to come. He is responsible personally for the wave of refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa to Europe. And how did he do it? He was in a bad position long time ago with Turkey. Then he made better relationship with Hafez Assad and they quarreled long time ago about some parts that were taken by Turkey and they had dispute, but then they fixed their relationship. And one of the presents given to Assad by Erdoğan was – he gave him water from the sources that they had, and the whole territory between the rivers and Damascus, which was really a desert, started to flourish. They had fields of wheat and fields of cotton and millions of people made a living. It was a great success. Then he started to quarrel with Syria. They stopped the water. At the same time it was a big drought in the whole region, all the fields went down. And all the people who lived in this region had nothing to eat, and they started to fill the cities of Damascus and Aleppo with refugees that started the move against the government, and the whole revolution started with the moving inside Damascus.
At the same time, he was one of the best friends of Gaddafi. Five billion dollars every year was given by Turkey to develop the capital of Libya. But he was the one who convinced NATO that they had to put down Gaddafi. And he stood behind NATO supporting the civil war where they killed Gaddafi in the streets. I’m not a friend of Gaddafi, I have no admiration for him. But he was a friend of the West. When he died, the island of Lampedusa who was the buffer between people who used to come from Africa to Europe opened completely. A flow of refugees started to come from Africa and from the Maghreb into Europe. So you have now people who are coming from Libya, people who are coming from Syria, and the man who is in control which the West is asking to prevent it is Mr. Erdoğan who gets money to block the refugees, which he does a very poor job, as every one of us knows.
What is happening today that everyone wants to be, and he is very clever, and he is friendly with every country possible. Even after the dispute that he had with Russia, he found a way to make peace with it because he does not want now to be in a position that he is quarrelling too much with people. Even with Iran he is having a relationship. But one of the things which bothered him today and if he wants to compete on leadership of the world, he has to have nuclear power. And now he is aiming to make relationship with Pakistan who is the only country who has now available nuclear power, and that is going to be one of his aims to make stronger relationship and to become one of the people who are trying to run the world and to change everything.
The truth of the matter that he is playing wonderful politics. He, for example, was against Daesh, and then he became friendly with Daesh. Why? Because Daesh was the enemy of the Kurds, and the Kurds are very important. Today we had some publications about in the WikiLeaks, as much as you can trust the WikiLeaks. You should know that he is very clever, very fishy, and very, very dangerous. Our region will be the first place that he can put his finger, and wherever he touched, grass never grow. We have to know that one of the changes in our region will come from the people who wants to lead the Islamic nation. He is the candidate, he is the man that the religious people are speaking about him, and as long as he will take this position seriously, quiet won’t be in our region. I must say that I can see his way of action in every direction, including Turkey. I visited Cyprus in 2004. I visited the Turkish part and the Greek part. I saw at that time that it was terrible even to think about unity with the little part that was taken by the Turks, and it was no willingness even to discuss how to make complete peace between the two. At that time that I visited there, Turkey was present in the island by little minority – less than third of the population. Now when I visited – I had a meeting with my friends of ERPIC in November ’15 – they are already fifty percent. Settlers in Israel is a problem, all Europe is raving how can you recognize settlers, settlers are dangerous for peace. But in turn in Cyprus settlers are half of the population today and very welcome, very good, it’s very important, let’s do something together. I am not going to lecture to Cyprus what to do. But as more as you look around, the future looks very strange, because a willingness of Turkey was all the time to become part of Europe. Of becoming united – half Turkey, half Cyprus together. It is the first step of Turkey to become part of Europe without even having to be elected or voted for. And therefore I expect lot of difficulties for all of us about what is happening. Because if you will see what is happening in the part of the Mediterranean opposite Syria, this is something which is boiling, and boiling, and boiling. And refugees are being sent to the whole region. And that is my estimation about what is happening in our region. Thank you very much for listening to me.
Andrew Lambert (A.L.): You’ve mentioned that Qatar and the Sheikha Muza support every terror organization in the world. I find that quite surprising, particularly with the American presence in Qatar. Do we have firm evidence for that, or is this just following the money?
D.A.: Hamas lives because of Qatar, and Hezbollah also. And you cannot ignore what they are doing there. And everyone is consulting even when they are giving it, and nobody prevents them to do it. And the truth of the matter that a lot of recognition in Europe to those two movements were led by Qatar. So I’m saying it very openly: they are supporting terrorism without being ashamed, because when you have the money, you are not ashamed to do anything.
A.L.: Let me just widen it back to Turkey again. You said that Erdoğan wants to have a nuclear weapon. Do you think he will press ahead with that, whatever happens in Iran, or do you think he will wait and see what happens in Iran, and then get a nuclear weapon?
D.A.: He is aiming now to have special relationship with Pakistan, which lost a lot of touch with the West. They are not as friendly as they used to be before and there is no great control on Pakistan. And Pakistan looks to him as something moving and shaking that he can put a finger there. He is not having to control, it’s enough that he will be connected, that people will say I have an influence on nuclear power, I don’t have to own it. But they’re not far away with one finger to touch, to be accommodated with a nuclear reactor.
A.L.: Okay, but it’s quite interesting when we look at Pakistan and the Chinese influence, and the reestablishment of, perhaps, a New Silk Road. Do you see that as a new alignment with the Shanghai Cooperation Council? Do you see that as a new way that Turkey will exploit its old historical interest in the Far East?
D.A.: Well, this is exactly Erdoğan. Erdoğan believes very much that the whole Islamic region from what we used to call Russia is still available to influence. And he is as more as he will come stronger, and he will have a finger to nuclear power, he will be stronger. Then he will be able to really build a new area around him as the leader of the Islamic people.
C.P.: You think that he’s biding his time as far as Russia is concerned? Right now he can perhaps wait a little longer before he tries to make it difficult for them to be in Syria? Or you think that he’s going to accept the Russian presence?
D.A.: He really suffered very much from the time that Russia hit him on his hands for his behavior. He’s very clever and very careful. Now he behaves very nice. But it is only actions outside. It is not his strong belief. He don’t want to follow anybody. He wants to lead. He won’t become the slave of Russia. He will use his relationship not to aggravate them as long as he can that he will be able to build his power and then they will have to talk to him with respect and not with inferiority.
A.L.: And how do his relations develop with Israel, in particular? You didn’t mention that in much detail.
D.A.: Well, this is a phenomenon also. He knows that Israel plays a very, very important role. And he knows that Israel don’t want to touch him, as long as he’s not touching Israel. Exactly as he is doing with Russia, he is doing with Israel. He says, let’s be friends, we have nothing to fight against each other. But for the time being, as soon as it will be better to have somebody else, he will make his calculation, he is not a friend. The love is not pouring out of him. We had a lot of good relationship with Turkey. We had a lot of people in Turkey who wanted very much relationship because they felt that friendship with Israel is good for them. That’s not the case with him, according to my opinion. And I think that for the time being it’s good for him and it’s good for us.
C.P.: David, do you see a post-Erdoğan Turkey developing? I mean, we’re all human, we all have an expiration date. Do you see the pendulum going back to a more secular, more Atatürk policies after Erdoğan?
D.A.: The truth of the matter that he is building himself very, very clever. You should see the way he is doing things. Erdoğan builds a shrine, thousand and one rooms, billions of dollars to build. Why? Because he wants to create pride among the people. One of the lessons people has to learn, and it affected now America also, that after the fall down of the Soviet Union, people in Russia felt humiliated, they felt that the whole big name that they had before does not exist anymore, and nobody takes them seriously. So, it’s right that we don’t have too much food, but where is our pride? Putin brought the pride to Russia and got immediately huge support by the people. Erdoğan is the same. Erdoğan came to the people and said, listen, who counts you? You became nobodies. You are not even able to protect your religion, your religion is not important. Nothing, you are giving away your God for some recognition of cheap people. Follow me. And he builds himself as a prophet. That’s what Qaradawi says. That is the meaning of having around him the religious leadership who supports him. This is the danger. Because if that will be the danger, after him will come somebody else of the same opinion, of the same way, of the same power. And I don’t see an immediate revolution in the whole of Turkey. Turkey is going down as a democracy. It’s not a democracy. It was not a democracy for a long time, now it’s even less, and less, and less.
C.P.: Is there more support for a Turkish caliphate beyond the Muslim Brotherhood? Is Qatar also… Is the new sheikh in Qatar agreeing with that?
D.A.: First of all, Qaradawi sits in Qatar. He would never say something that Qatar wouldn’t agree with. So that’s first. Second, because of Iran, the Sunnis are believing that the fight is who’ll be the leader, and they want to be the leaders, but they are fighting on leadership and not just to maintain. The truth of the matter that Islam of today is fighting for a greater recognition, and the greater part in playing the role in the world. Billion six is the number of Islam, and of China, and of the other world. So this is a struggle of power. Why are they always speaking about that: we the Muslims, we are 1.6? To show that we are having the numbers. You have to take me into consideration, you have to take me serious. The only problem that I have is that I don’t have a leader. Give me the leadership, I will show you what I can do. That’s all.
A.L.: Can I ask you to say a few words about the recent coup that took place. Who do you think principally was supporting it, and what you think a political outcome will be?
D.A.: From the very first moment such a coup can only be done by a leader. Because nobody will ever attack an empty place, nobody will attack things which had happened, nobody will make a coup without try to take control on television, on radio, newspapers. It was not a coup. It was a plot. That is my estimation from the very first moment that when I read, when I saw the beginning – this is not a coup. That was a plot, that was planned, and that was a very good plan because that helped to put everyone in order and to organize what has to be organized, according to my opinion.
A.L.: So you think it was set up basically, probably by Erdoğan and his friends?
D.A.: Absolutely. According to my opinion.
A.L.: Do you think any other nations were involved in it?
D.A.: I don’t believe that he did it because he is a very confidential person and he believes in the conspiracy and he always believes that he speaks to somebody, somebody else knows. So it’s not like him to share such a plan with somebody.
A.L.: And what will be the impact? According to the BBC, there are a 105,000 people that have either been dismissed from their jobs or placed in prison. What will be the effect on Turkey itself (inaudible) secularism and politically?
D.A.: Turkey will go back to religion and one of the signs will be that they will change from Sunday to Friday. And that will be the moment that they will say that they are strong enough to declare about their being real Muslims. And it will happen. That’s according to my judgment. They cannot continue to play around with this story.
A.L.: And that presumably will clearly end their aspirations in Europe.
D.A.: Europe has a problem. Europe has a great problem. I must say that for a very long time, Europe started to share their responsibility with others, but not to take care about their own responsibility. The army in Europe is very, very weak. In China, the decision to have one child was a decision that they made politically. But in Europe they made a decision spiritually, and they have one only son in the family. To have an army with one only son is very difficult. You cannot run an army with only one, with a single son of a family. It is not the same army anymore. I don’t think that Europe even expressing willingness to protect itself. And therefore every time when they needed something, they went to Turkey. A lot of times when they needed some involvement, even in Syria, they wanted very much Turkey to go. Turkey didn’t go according to their will, they went according to their will, they use the forces against the Kurds. But Europe, the only one who fights in Europe is Russia. Who fights in Europe? Who does anything in Europe? The only stupidity was when they went to bombard Libya. What was so urgent to go and kill a man who came across and wanted to live with them in peace and got rid of all his nuclear reactors and all nuclear power that he started to hide? Who was behind it? It was Turkey that convinced them to do it. They never took part in anything, including in Syria.
Listen, we should know. I spoke about the First World War. Sixteen and a half million – the world was in a shock. But then we had the Second World War which we had twenty six million people who were here killed during the war. And now when we are talking about half a million, a million in Syria, who cares about it? Who does anything about… Who lifted a finger to prevent? It’s not only to protect the people in Syria. It is themselves, even the world, that I am doing something to convince someone… who believes them? Who in the Middle East believes that somebody of those big nations will lift a finger for somebody else? This is a story.
A.L.: And it’s happening in Yemen, for example, as you rightly say.
D.A.: Exactly, exactly. Hundreds of people are being killed and who lifted a finger?
A.L.: Nobody. Can I ask you about the final point, if I may? There is, of course, quite a large Turkish diaspora scattered around the Middle East and the Near East. I’m thinking of Turkmen in places like Kirkuk. Do you see there’s a likelihood that we’re going to see more Turkish bases around, say, the Gulf and further east and see Turkey gradually building up some sort of neo-colonial empire?
D.A.: I think it will try because the truth of the matter that the way of today is to try to build bases outside the centers and to spread. Russia is doing it, others are doing it. So definitely I can see it among those people who are trying to play a role. And I don’t see anybody who prevents himself from taking places outside the centers, they want you to spread in many other places. Because having long fingers – that’s the new way of making politics today. By the way, look what is happening in Syria. In Syria, Latakia is going to be a part of Russia. Iran is going to get a port there. Syria wants to get a port in the region. Everyone is ready take a gift to chew it all the time. That’s the situation. It’s a terrible situation. There is no leadership. Erdoğan is right. Erdoğan feels that there is a vacuum in leadership. There is no one leader. The only stupid thing that the leadership is acting is about nonsense. About big things, you don’t hear them. They are fighting about shall we do a general meeting about… Nothing important is being… Even refugees. Who are speaking about refugees? We have… Thirty eight million people are refugees this year in the region. Who is doing anything about? Who speaks about? Who is trying to give any solution? The world is silent because there is nobody to speak. And every leader is afraid to lose his chair because they are all in their chairs. And the public is not happy with the leadership. So this is the situation. By the way, this is the reason of the change in the United States.
A.L.: Just predicting ahead for a little bit, looking into a crystal ball. How do you see relations with Turkey, between Turkey and China, and Turkey and Trump?
D.A.: Turkey in China is to be seen. China is playing slowly. China is trying to be careful, because they know that on the edge of doing too much they are planning now with a Chinese Sea, which they are trying to change the history of this region. And they don’t want to create too much tension. If they will start building relationships, they don’t want to share power. As yet China is a power unto itself. Russia was likely more to make some relationship with Turkey, because Russia is in a weaker position than China. But Russia is clever. Putin will not fall into the trap because he doesn’t trust Erdoğan. This is the story. Erdoğan is disliked by everyone, because nobody trusts him. He betrayed everyone. He was the best friend of Bashar Assad and he betrayed him. He was a friend of Russia them. He was a friend of Qaddafi and he betrayed him. He was a friend of Europe but he pushed the refugees to Europe.
C.P.: David, exactly on this issue. This question of a single leader for the Muslim people. Is Erdoğan the person that will attract support from everybody? I mean, it doesn’t seem that the Arab world is a democratic place so that they will elect a new caliph. I think this idea of a single leader is always going to be a pipe dream.
D.A.: I will tell you a story. I visited once in Cuba, I went with the chief rabbi of Israel, and I went to see Fidel Castro. And it was a very interesting conversation. And he said, you know, you are coming to visit the country which never had any anti-Semitism. I like the Jews, I help, I support, I did a lot of things. And then we asked him, if you’re so friendly, why won’t you recognize Israel and have a relationship with Israel? And he said, I’ll tell you the truth. The world was divided to left and right. My left lost and I had to stick to the minorities of the people who can support me. What I can get from them is more than I can get from you. Therefore, I cannot be your friend because I have to give away the relationship with them. That was his honest answer. But that was his philosophy. The people who feel betrayed, the people who feel inferior, the people who feel that they are not getting the right recognition, or the right power, or are not united. This is a new power. North Korea for example. They are all surrounding… Saddam Hussein at that time who was his friend. The truth of the matter that he will appeal to a lot of people who feel that nobody takes them seriously. And he has a charisma, he has power, he has a lot of support, and he creates leadership which should be supported, especially if the religious authorities will stand behind him. I won’t see it as an option which is not really in a reality. Definitely not. I see that he can be very influential in his activities and people will follow him.
A.L.: How will Trump get on with Erdoğan?
D.A.: I don’t know. The truth of the matter that he is a man who speaks straight and looks less afraid from anybody else. He is attacking the biggest power in the world: he’s attacking the media. Nobody up till now of any leader in the world was brave enough to attack them. He is doing it. So it gives you some expectations that the man can be a new kind of a leader. But this is not… We don’t have enough evidence. As yet, he is the only one who didn’t show any fear from anybody. He stood behind what he says, you can agree with me, you cannot agree with me, I’m going full steam ahead. And he did it. It might be good for the world, but we don’t have enough evidence to build the case around it.
A.L.: Well, he could volunteer for isolationism of course, couldn’t he? “America first.”
D.A.: Yes, but you see that he’s successful there. It is not simple, nobody did it before. They are all hiding. They are all afraid to speak. And he won against every television station in America.
C.P.: David, thank you very much.
D.A.: Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to be with you and looking forward to continue to see you.