Media Conference Call: The Situation in Turkey

Media Conference Call: The Situation in Turkey

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Steven A. Cook and Henri Barkey discuss the protests in Turkey and how they will affect Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule.

OPERATOR: It is now my pleasure to turn the conference over to Bernard Gwertzman.

BERNARD GWERTZMAN: Hi. I'm Bernard Gwertzman of the Council on Foreign Relations. And it's my pleasure to moderate this call-in show on Turkey. And our two esteemed panelists this afternoon are Steven Cook, who has written considerably about Turkey, and Henri Barkey of Lehigh University, a professor who's also an expert on Turkey.

As you know, there's been considerable upheaval in Turkey over the last week. And I'm going to ask our two commentators to discuss the situation there. Now, the Prime Minister Erdogan is returning to Turkey tomorrow after a brief trip abroad. What is he going to find when he arrives there?

Steven, why don't you take that question first.

STEVEN COOK: Well, I think that the prime minister is going to be confronted with the continuation of the protests. I think before he left he clearly tried to intimidate those people who had come out to demand change. It clearly didn't work. The aggressive tactics of the police didn't work. And now he's confronted with a bigger issue, and I would suggest the most significant political challenge of his decade in office.

GWERTZMAN: And, Henri, is he going to try to soften his tone? He was rather strongly opposed to any -- to any protest before he left.

HENRI BARKEY: Well, he -- I think he will do two things. I mean, he will bank on the fact that the protest cannot last forever. People have to go back to work. They will fizzle out. But at the same time, he will also soften his tone. The real issue will be whether or not he still goes ahead with the construction of the shopping mall in that -- in that particular park.

He may -- I mean, he should postpone the decision, at least for the time being. But this is a person who's -- once he makes up his mind has difficulty changing his mind.

But other thing is, I mean, he's a good politician. I mean, he will essentially assess the situation. I think he's, as Steven said, this is his most serious political challenge since he came to power. And therefore, he will definitely figure out a way to get over it. He has to. He doesn't have a choice. I mean, he may try a few things; they may not work, and he will -- he will adapt.

GWERTZMAN: Now, talk about the park where this whole opposition started. Talk about it. It's -- what is it called? Compare it to, say, Central Park in New York, or some other big parks.

BARKEY: Well, it is not very big. It's actually the length of a few blocks in New York, I would say. And it is not an important park in the sense that it doesn't have -- it doesn't cover a huge area so that -- where people spend time the way they do here in Central Park.

That said, it is one of the few green areas left in Istanbul. And it is centrally located. So if you are in downtown Istanbul and you want to have a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, it is a place to go and sit for a few minutes. And in the old days, it used to have casinos and -- I mean -- (inaudible) -- casinos, which is different, they're essentially tea houses, et cetera, and it was a very popular destination. In recent years, it's basically has served as a -- as a -- as I said, as a place of respite.

So technically, it's not very significant, but it's only significant because it's one of the two last places in central Istanbul where you still have trees and greenery.

And -- but I think the reaction to Erdogan's decision to build a mall there is more about the fact that he did this without consulting and -- like he usually does. He makes a decision and then it gets implemented. And that's what the reaction is all about.

GWERTZMAN: Now, Steven, how widespread is this protest? Is it all throughout the country?

COOK: It has spread to different parts of the country. There was a report from the Interior Ministry over the weekend that was rather surprising, that it had gone, as I said, far and wide.

Now, clearly, the numbers have been biggest in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. And those are Turkey's most important cities. The bulk of the population is -- are in those areas, and at least in the case in Izmir and Istanbul, part of the -- of the kind of narrow belt where the main opposition party, Republican People's Party, have done well in elections.

But that's not say -- that's not to say that this is something that's being directed by the opposition. I think people out in the streets are as angry at the opposition as they are at Erdogan, because the opposition is so massively ineffective in the face of the kind of overwhelming power of the Justice and Development Party.

People have tried to paint this as Islamist versus secularist, and so on, and while it's true that you -- there is a kind of secular task to much of this -- much of the protesting, I think that the grievances that people are expressing run beyond the Islamist secularist divide. They're really about what Turks have perceived to be the very clear authoritarian turn of Erdogan and the -- and the Justice and Development Party, which has become a machine in Turkey that has been very, very difficult to contest.

In fact, one of the great ironies of Erdogan's decade in power has been that there has -- more people have been brought into the political arena, yet at the same time, the ability to contest seriously and effectively in the political arena, has been -- has been curtailed.

GWERTZMAN: And yet -- (chuckles) -- Erdogan recently reached a deal with the Kurdish opposition to settle the long-standing, you know, separist (sic: separatist) uprising in the Kurdish areas. Wasn't this a sort of significant undertaking?

COOK: Let me defer to my teacher, Professor Henri Barkey, on this issue. Because this really is one of his great specialties.

BARKEY: Thank you, Steven. But, yes, I mean, look, this was a very, very important and a historical step on his part to engage not just the Kurdish opposition but to engage the PKK, which is the Kurdistan Workers' Party, an insurgence -- an insurgent group that the Turks have essentially labeled terrorists and refuse to talk and whose leader is in jail, in Turkey. So from that perspective, it's -- this was a very bold move.

And this is -- this is Erdogan. I mean, he's capable of making amazingly bold moves. Most of the time, he's been -- he's been right. And this is -- because he is right so often, he doesn't understand that sometimes he can also be wrong and that he can make mistakes. And in many ways, Turkey today is far more democratic than the Turkey of 10 years ago. I mean, there are issues you can discuss that you could not discuss before, and especially on the Kurdish issue.

But at the same time, he has created -- and it's not only his fault -- he has created essentially a one-party, one-man state. And he -- (inaudible) -- very little dissent. Turkish leaders have always tended to be authoritarian in temperament, so he is not that distant from his predecessors. And so he's -- the way he runs the country, he really runs it out of the back of his pocket. I mean, he really thinks of it as it's a household. He talks about my generals, my police officers, my judges, my, my -- everything is his. And this is essentially what has started to annoy people because -- just because you think it's your household doesn't mean you can tell people when they can buy alcohol and when they cannot buy alcohol, or whether they can kiss each other one -- in the metro or not. I mean, so his authoritarianism is much more one of culture and doing things by fiat rather than by political system.

GWERTZMAN: (Inaudible) -- interesting. One last question and I'll turn it over to the audience out there. Normally you would think that building a mall in the center of Istanbul would be a major question for the city authorities of Istanbul, not for the federal government, national government. But is it different in Turkey that the national government would make that decision?

COOK: Well, remember that the Justice and Development Party is, as I said before, a considerable machine, and that includes a connection to big firms, big businesses that are engaged in this type of redevelopment. And Erdogan's allies stand to gain from this kind of project -- in addition to the fact that the Justice and Development Party is obviously involved in the municipal government. So you have those two things that come together.

And of course, as Henri was implying, Erdogan is the sun around which not just the Justice and Development Party (rounds ?), but Turkish politics and economics revolve. And these kinds of major projects are things that are -- things that Erdogan knows about. When we're going back to the time that he was the mayor of Istanbul in the mid and late 1990s, there were plans to redevelop Istanbul. He had talked about building a mosque on Taksim Square -- an idea that he resurrected before he went off to North Africa. So this isn't terribly surprising, that the prime minister and the government are directly involved in this.

And also remember that this is -- Turkey is a parliamentary system. So the government is made up of members of the parliament, and people have the constituencies in Istanbul and that they -- that they have to answer to. So it's -- in the context of Turkish politics, it's not a -- given all these things, it's not surprising to me that Erdogan and the government are directly involved in this project.

GWERTZMAN: Well, Operator, you can ask for questions now.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our first question comes from Garret Mitchell with Mitchell Report.

QUESTIONER: Thanks very much for doing this.

Steven, let me ask you because -- well, we were pretty clear from the piece that you recently did from Foreign Affairs that this current situation is not anything that Erdogan needs to be terribly concerned about. I think that's a clear summary of what you had to say -- that the opposition is not really in a position to capitalize on Erdogan's missteps.

I want to ask a very hypothetical question. And that is, suppose that prediction turned out to be wrong, and this did morph into something much more significant. I'm not suggesting that it will, but let us suppose that it did. What would -- what would Erdogan have needed to do or failed to do such that what looks like a -- maybe a Turkish version of Occupy Wall Street turned into something larger that was beyond the park and was about Erdogan's rule, et cetera?

COOK: Well, thanks for -- thanks for the question. I do think -- let me just start out by saying, I do think that this is, as I said before, the most significant political challenge to Erdogan's decade in power. That said, I don't think that what we're looking at in Turkey is another -- the Turkish analogue of the Egyptian uprising.

Turkey's democratic practices are hardly perfect, and there have certainly been reversals over the last few years, but Erdogan -- governments changes in Turkey by the ballot box. And I don't think that he's going to come crashing down. But in your hypothetical, what would Erdogan have to have done or failed to do in order for this to blow up into something that's much more serious?

And I think it's very, very, very simple. Thus far, we've heard from the deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, who has expressed some conciliatory words. And I think that those words were important, but they need to be said by Prime Minister Erdogan. My -- the question I have is whether he can -- as Henri implied before, whether he can bring himself to do that -- to reverse himself. This is not someone who we've seen many times demonstrate much in the way of contrition, but I think that that -- the only way in which -- in which they're going to defuse this crisis in the short run is for Erdogan to come out and say something.

Now, it's also entirely possible that over time, this peters out. You get a hard core of people who continue to be in and around Taksim Square, but otherwise, everybody picks up and goes back to work. It's very hard for me to imagine -- and maybe this is just my lack of imagination -- a scenario in which this situation gets wildly out of hand where, you know, kind of drastic measures are taken where, you know, the military is back on the streets, or you have, you know, a kind of significant long-term instability in Turkey.

GWERTZMAN: Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queuing instructions.) Our next question comes from Peter Coy with Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine.

QUESTIONER: Hi. I saw some articles saying that Erdogan said that Turkey's alcohol law was written by a couple of alcoholics, by whom he seemed to be referring to Ataturk, which, if so, would be a crime under Turkey's constitution. You're not allowed to insult Ataturk. Have you heard anything about that?


BARKEY: Well, look, it was an -- it wasn't a comment about the alcohol law, as far as I could -- I understood it. He made a generic statement saying, we can accept laws made by two drunkards, but not laws that are religiously inspired. Now, people interpreted those two drunkards to be Ataturk and his successor, Ismet Inonu, but there is no such evidence to the fact. I mean, we don't know if that's what he meant, or it's -- or he was saying this -- it was an off-the-cuff remark -- I doubt very much that he would dare to accuse Ataturk of being a drunkard, even though Ataturk was known to like his liquor. But -- so I don't think this -- I mean, this is -- it was bad form, the way he said it. It diminished him, but it is not a big issue where somebody is going to say, oh, you have to go to jail now.


GWERTZMAN: Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queuing instructions.) We are currently holding for questions.

GWERTZMAN: What is the economic situation in Turkey since this, you know, park episode caused people to go out on the streets? Is it -- is the stock market affected or are people worried about the markets? Steve, Henri?

COOK: Yes. On Monday the stock market dropped, I think, 10, 10.5 percent. And you've also had a -- some value of the Turkish lira has come off. I think that -- you know, Turkey is a country, it has a big current account deficit. It is sensitive to, you know, swings and changes in foreign direct investment and needs that foreign direct investment. And one of the geniuses of the little more than a decade of Justice and Development Party rule has been a stable government, one that investors feel strongly will maintain its commitments.

The Justice and Development Party is not solely responsible for Turkey's economic comeback, but has certainly been a very good steward of the -- of the Turkish economy. And that's because they've had a tremendous amount of stability and have stuck to their commitments. They continue to stick to their commitments, but there is now a question in the minds, clearly, of investors -- or there may be a question in the minds of investors -- about the stability of Turkey.

I -- again, I think that if there was an election that were to happen, there might be some -- you know, Erdogan may not get 49.95 percent of the vote, but he'd still get a very, very strong tally that would allow him to claim a mandate. Again, this is not a situation where we're going to see the kind of destabilization of the political system in Turkey, but it is clearly -- these protests are clearly a message that's sent from a good number of Turks -- not the majority, but certainly a significant number -- that are frustrated. They feel like they've been hemmed in by -- as -- again, as Henri said -- a one-party, one-man state, and that they have no options. And they're finding their voices through the streets.

GWERTZMAN: Do you have anything you want to add on that, Henri?

BARKEY: Yeah. Look, I was going to say something earlier. You know, both Steve and I said that this was the biggest crisis Erdogan has faced since he came to power. In fact, as I was thinking about it, it is the biggest crisis because he mismanaged it. In fact, he was -- he faced a much bigger crisis in 2007 when the military -- (inaudible) -- and warned him, and warned even of a -- of a potential coup if he went ahead and nominated the current president, who was then foreign minister, as -- for the presidency.

And what did Erdogan did -- do at the time? He faced the generals. He called their bluff. And he -- you know, he made them sit down and behave like generals should do, to listen to civilian authority. That in fact was a much more serious threat because it was a threat to the constitutional system of Turkey. This is not a threat to the constitutional system of Turkey. But because he mismanaged it, it appears as if it's a bigger crisis.

So in terms of how the markets will react in the future, I think it all depends on how he manages the crisis when he comes home because if he lets it fester, even though most of the people may go -- may go home or to their jobs, but he lets it fester, it's going to show that he's losing his ability to -- his deftness at crisis management. And that will probably shake markets more than anything else.

At the moment, yes, the markets collapsed the first day, they recovered almost half of what they -- then they lost a little bit more today. The Turkish lira came -- (inaudible) -- but the Turkish lira was anyway overvalued so it's not necessarily such a bad thing for the Turkish lira to lose some of its value. So I don't necessarily think of it as a big crisis, except if he continues to mismanage it.

GWERTZMAN: You know, as a former diplomatic correspondent myself, I can see where this is a big problem for the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, who is counting on the Turks to sort of lead the way toward this Geneva conference on Syria since the Turks have had a major role to play on sort of managing the crisis on their border. How has the Turks -- how are the Turks handling the Syrian crisis right now since they're just overflowing with refugees? Anyone want to handle that one?

MR. BARKEY: Well, I --

MR. COOK: Go ahead, Henri. I'll follow.

MR. BARKEY: I would just say that, you know, the assumption about Secretary Kerry expecting the Turks to lead in Geneva is not correct. The two leaders at Geneva are now the Russians and the Americans. The Turks, in some ways, are seen by the Syrians as being so, shall we say, pro the insurgency that they really don't have much of a role to play in this in terms of the Geneva negotiations.

So I think the Turks are facing a very difficult situation. It's not just the refugees. It's the instability that's coming through. It's the fact that they're getting increasingly involved in supporting the rebels by supplying them with weapons, et cetera.

So the longer the Assad regime survives, the worse it is on Turkey. And clearly after the news we have today that the town of Qusayr has now fallen to Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, it's actually a bad sign for Erdogan. And I think that's much more worrisome in general than Geneva.

MR. GWERTZMAN: No, what I meant was I think Kerry was counting on the Turks to help organize the opposition to Assad to get them to Geneva, not to be an impartial observer there. But anyway, that was what I was thinking.

But, Steve, do you have something to add on that or --

MR. COOK: No, I don't see how at this point that effort to kind of wrangle the Syrian opposition is upended by the protests in the streets. The question is -- when it comes to Turkey's role in Syria, first it's clear that Erdogan had no place to go but Geneva, and so he demonstrated a certain amount of contrition when he was in Washington the third week of May.

And then the other question is whether the Turks have what it's going to take to bring that opposition to Geneva. And it's not at all clear that they can. I think that the Syrian opposition to some degree defies influence by external priorities and is fated to fight with each other forever.

MR. GWERTZMAN: Is there any questions out there, Operator?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Elise Key (ph) with HaberTurk, BBC Turkish.

Q: Hello? My first question is, Mr. Obama called him after the second elections and told Mr. Erdogan that he's an expert and he is the master of the elections. So my question is, will Obama call Mr. Erdogan still as a master?

MR. COOK: Well, let me take this question.

Q: How will he react?

MR. COOK: I don't know whether President Obama would continue to call Prime Minister Erdogan a master, but I don't think that's really the issue here. I think the United States, over the course of the last three or four years, has missed some important opportunities to -- it didn't have to be necessarily in a nasty or aggressive way, but to remind Prime Minister Erdogan and highlight for Prime Minister Erdogan the importance of continuing a truly democratic transition to a fully consolidated democracy.

I think that there has been significant reversals in Turkey, particularly in terms of freedom of expression and freedom of the press through a variety of means, and that while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2011, made a strong statement when she was visiting Istanbul. By and large the administration has been quiet. I think that they have recognized that there have been some reversals but have made the determination that Turkey is a strategic ally.

I think that not calling out Prime Minister Erdogan was a mistake, and there are certainly ways to do it without lecturing the prime minister. But it's important to remember that every time Prime Minister Erdogan has been to the United States, or has had a bilateral meeting with President Obama, the administration has let these issues go. And it's ironic. You know, Prime Minister Erdogan comes to Washington and consistently says, friends speak bitterly to friends. I don't understand why that has to be one way.

QUESTIONER: And my second question is, did you know anyone else that -- who calls his population -- calls the people on the street looters? That there are a few looters?

COOK: I think that -- Henri, do you want to take it or should I?

BARKEY: (Off mic) -- focusing on Erdogan, but I would like to remind you that Nicolas Sarkozy, at one point, did the same thing about -- talking about hooligans and vandals on the streets of Paris.

COOK: I think he used "cockroaches," no? I'm not sure. I can't remember.

BARKEY: I don't remember that, but I remember -- you know, whatever it is, it wasn't very nice. So Erdogan is not the only one. I'm sure you can go and find many other people who have said things like that.

QUESTIONER: Yeah, thank you.

COOK: And he -- you know, just to add -- the prime minister has used rather unfortunate language with regard to the protestors, and I think that that's something that he'll -- he will have to address.

QUESTIONER: Yeah, OK. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Steven Tepper with Arnold and Porter.

QUESTIONER: Hi. We know that at least half of the country, you know, is still very supportive of Erdogan, and that includes Islamist elements and others. Why have we not seen -- and do you think we are going to see counterdemonstrations and even, you know -- hopefully not, but even clashes in the street between demonstrators and others?


BARKEY: Look, I think in part, the government has not wanted to mobilize counterdemonstrations. They can mobilize if they want to, but, you know, that would make things a lot worse. I mean, the last thing you want to do is give the impression that Turkey is unstable, especially when you're -- Turkey today gets -- (inaudible) -- tourists a year visiting. So do you want to discourage them from coming? Do you want to discourage foreign investment by -- so that -- the government is going to make sure that there are no counterdemonstrations.

And I would also say that this particular movement has been quite broad in the sense that you've had religious people participate as well as nationalists who necessarily supported Erdogan in the past. I mean, you see a great deal traffic on the different social media that suggests that this is not just a Istanbul elite that is -- that is out in the street. It happens to be mostly young. That's true. I mean, if there's one characteristic that defines this movement, is that it's mainly run by 25 to 35-year-olds, but beyond that, I think there are people from all walks of life.

GWERTZMAN: Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Yves Messy (ph) with Seven Rivers Capital Partners.

QUESTIONER: Yes, hello. My question -- (inaudible) -- my question is, have there been any major disruptions to business from what you've noticed on a daily basis in the major cities, like Istanbul, you know, Izmir? And my second question would be, what does this recent bout of events mean for Erdogan's recently announced infrastructure projects -- (inaudible) -- major airport that's being -- that was announced two weeks ago? What are your thoughts on disruptions to daily business and -- (inaudible) -- infrastructure projects by the Erdogan administration?

GWERTZMAN: Thank you.

COOK: I think I got the question; he was sort of fading out there.


COOK: No, no, no. I think I got it. The -- obviously, business has been disrupted in and around the Taksim area along Istiklal Caddesi in downtown Istanbul, and Kizilay and Ankara and those places where -- immediately around places where -- that have been zones of protest. But otherwise, I'm not aware of any kind of major business disruptions in Turkey. Everything seems to be functioning as normally.

As far as these other big infrastructure projects, there is obviously opposition to these kinds of things. And one would hope that Erdogan would find it within himself to go back to the pragmatism and consensus-building that marked parts of his first term between 2003 and 2007.

But the fact of the matter is, as both Henri and I have emphasized, the Justice and Development Party continues to enjoy a vast reservoir of support among Turks. There is a growing middle class in Turkey that feels wealthier and returns the favor to the Justice and Development Party through their votes. And then of course, there is the dock of his natural -- the Justice and Development Party's natural constituents.

So if the prime minister's past behavior, that is from 2007 through now, is any indication, the -- he is likely to press ahead with these large infrastructure projects.

I have to say that, you know, as someone who is a frequent visitor to Istanbul, I wouldn't mind a third airport, given how difficult it is getting in and out of Attaturk International Airport.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

GWERTZMAN: Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from -- (name inaudible) -- with Cihan News Agency.

QUESTIONER: Hi, my question is about the media. How do you see the media specifically, the Western media, covering this issue in Turkey? I mean, are you surprised to see the -- all media, which I see, they're covering everything, what's going on in Turkey?

BARKEY: I mean, you're surprised by the fact that the news -- that this is being covered?


BARKEY: Well, look, Turkey is an important country. I mean -- and this is quite a dramatic picture. So you would expect the media to report on it.

And also, there's been -- the other factor is that the number of journalists in Istanbul now has increased considerably, not just because of the importance of Turkey, but also because of what's happening in the neighborhood. So if you're a journalist living in Istanbul because you're covering Syria, et cetera, and big demonstrations happen in your -- in front of you, you're going to report on them. I mean, that's what journalists do. And these are very significant events. And from that perspective, I'm not surprised that they've been covered.

The most surprising thing is the way the Turkish media has covered it and the way the Turkish media, especially the -- (inaudible) -- government media, at the beginning completely ignored the event as if nothing was happening in Istanbul and elsewhere. And that's where the Turkish media essentially proved to be a very diminished institution and ended very poorly, I think, in my mind.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

GWERTZMAN: OK, next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Ariel Cohen with the Daily Caller.

QUESTIONER: Yes, hi. Just going back to your previous question that was asked, what do you think that President Obama could have done to maybe help prevent the situation in Turkey? And then furthermore, how would you like to -- the White House to respond at this current time?

COOK: It's funny, people ask these questions. After I came back from Egypt during the uprising there, people wanted to know what the administration should have done.

I think that there's probably not anything that the administration could have done to prevent the current situation. I don't think that there's much that the administration can do now, other than the kinds of things it's been doing, which is saying, you know, we support the right of Turks to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, and so on and so forth.

But I do think that there were moments in the past, important moments where the president or the secretary of state or others could have spoken up, and it might have kind of pulled Erdogan back or at least, set a marker that, you know, the United States was watching what was going on. And as important strategically as Turkey is to the United States, the United States still cares about what goes on in Turkey.

And one great example of this goes back to the referendum -- the constitutional referendum of September 2010, in which the Turks -- in which Erdogan essentially engineered it in a way so that he could pack Turkey's highest courts with people of his own.

Now, everybody knows that the Turkish judicial system needs to be reformed. But what they did was essentially something that would benefit specifically the prime minister and the Justice and Development Party, rather than taking a long view about what is important in terms of building a truly democratic Turkey with a -- with a professional and neutral judiciary.

We praised that referendum. We praised it. Instead of -- and there were a whole host of other packages that were reforms that were part of the referendum package. And they were all put together and you could vote "yes" or "no." And most people, obviously, voted "yes." And the United Stats, along with the EU I should say, praised this. And those of us who pay careful attention to Turkey on a day-to-day basis saw this really for what it was.

Now, apologists for the Justice and Development Party will say, well, they had -- they've had all kind of problems with the judiciary and so they were correcting a wrong. But in fact, they were correcting a wrong with another wrong. And I thought that that was a missed opportunity, as well as other opportunities just in the course of -- the course of diplomacy and particularly recently with the pressure on freedom of expression has been, as I said, a missed opportunity.

GWERTZMAN: All right.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

GWERTZMAN: Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Lee Cullum with North Texas Media.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. I have come late to this presentation and wish that I had heard more of it because I -- what I've heard has been fascinating.

I spoke with an observer from Pakistan, living here in the U.S. now, a few days ago who said that he thinks he sees the fine hand of the Bashar Assad in the trouble in Turkey, that Assad is stirring things up to take revenge for Erdogan's support of the rebels. Is there any germ of truth in this?

BARKEY: Absolutely none. Absolutely --

COOK: Let me second that -- none.

BARKEY: None. I mean, first of all, you're giving -- he's giving Assad too much credit. This is a regime that is in -- on the ropes. But, two, I mean, the Turkish public is not going to do things because two-bit dictator in a neighboring country wants them to do something. I mean, this is a genuine movement. No, absolutely not.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. I'm not surprised by your answer. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. There are no more questions in the queue at this time.

GWERTZMAN: All right, well, I think we've about covered the bases today. Thank you very much, folks.

BARKEY: Thank you.

COOK: Thank you very much, everyone.

GWERTZMAN: Right. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

OPERATOR: This concludes today's teleconference. You may now disconnect.





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