Special interview by soL with Kemal Okuyan the GS of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) on Turkish Government's Afrin operation
ICP, 31 January 2018
The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), Kemal Okuyan, answered the questions of soL news regarding Afrin operation.
soL: Do you think that Afrin operation can resolve the political situation in Syria? In other words, can it bring about a process that could terminate for good the ongoing Syrian war which already seems to have lost pace compared to the previous years?
Kemal Okuyan: Syria was the last stop of the wave of Arab Spring. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s Neo-Ottoman Project and Arab Spring constituted a whole, and together they ran into a stone wall in Syria. The resistance of the people of Syria should not be underestimated. Russia played a role in the equation only after Syria proved its resilience. Thus the crisis in Syria transitioned on to a new phase. Today Syria has become an arena of rivalry for the hegemonic forces. It seems that neither the US nor Russia is able to impose its strategy on the other. Until very recently, the US was the play-maker while Russia kept reacting to the offensive moves of the US. Russia felt the need to develop its own strategy at a certain point, and now it’s the US’s turn to react. The disruptive activities of the US and Russia in Syria create some vacuum, and that’s why AKP [Turkey's ruling party] had the chance to revise and act on its plans in Syria. Getting back to the question, I believe that Afrin operation cannot solve the political situation in Syria. It can only make it more complicated.
"THEY ARE TRYING TO CONVINCE THE U.S."
soL: The AKP government argues that Afrin operation is a response to Turkey's border security concerns. How would you comment on that?
KO: Well, it depends on how you interpret security. The political power in Turkey threatened the safety of the people and dealt a big blow on the security in Syria by de-facto abolishing the Turkey-Syria border. Different areas of domination in Syria emerged as a result of Turkey's policies and the Kurdish have declared their sovereignty in some of those areas. If the AKP government did not really have a fantasy of praying in Damascus, they achieved what they wished for. Syria has been de-facto divided despite the fact that the Syrian government disdained by the AKP did not fall, at least for now. Some say that the AKP government had "amended its past mistakes". A government that has defective roots would not amend its faulty policies, it can never do that, it cannot do the right thing. Its attempts to get closer to Russia do not change the heart of the matter. The AKP government maintains its previous Syrian policy due to some economic, political and ideological reasons, or rather, tries to maintain it. They would do anything for a regime change in Syria if they had the chance. They are trying to convince the U.S. for that by giving the message "Take PYD out of the equation and then we can together move against the Syrian government."
soL: Would Russia let that happen?
KO: It already does not. As I said before, the hegemonic powers are acting hand in hand. However, if the AKP becomes the favorite actor of the U.S. and NATO once more, it would definitely act imprudently and go after new ventures.
"ERDOĞAN DEVELOPS HIS ABILITY OF UNSETTLING BALANCES"
soL: Do you think that Erdoğan would take the risk of clashing with Russia again?
KO: When he feels secure, of course. And yet, this question gets meaningless after a certain point since the U.S. imperialism would not follow Erdoğan's route in Syria. Nothing is certain, however. Although it became clear that Erdoğan cannot be a player in Syria, he is slowly bettering the ability of disturbing balances.
Some comment that Syria has been de-facto divided, and Russia and the US came to an agreement on that.
There are four important military forces in Syria when we exclude armed forces which do not belong to a state, like the Hezbollah that has a state-like weight in certain ways: Russia, the U.S., Iran and Turkey. We can also include Israel in the list which constantly reminds its existence through the lands it occupies and the air strikes it launches. The Syrian state welcomes the military forces of Russia and Iran at the moment. This whole picture would not change over night. Everybody talks about preserving the territorial integrity of Syria, but it may become an empty talk at a certain point. Assad government is concerned about that. The fact that Damascus depends on the help and protection of Moscow does not mean that it is content with that situation. Therefore, Erdoğan clearly gives the message that "if other forces are staying in Syria, so are we". He wants to be part of the equation again.
"THE REASON OF RIVALRY IS SHAMEFUL"
soL: Is the issue of security insignificant?
KO: Whose security? The existence of the U.S. imperialism, its projects and allies are by default security threats to the humanity, the oppressed people. The fact the Kurdish problem has become a deadlock does not justify the initiatives developed or the positions secured by the help of the U.S. The AKP government is not in a position to talk about these facts. If the US government makes a step forward and says "Turkey is our most important ally, we, unfortunately, had taken it for granted", all those advisers, ministers, sons-in-laws (of Erdoğan) and all those people would get hysterically happy. They all want to be the "unique" partner of the US. It is really shameful!
"ERDOĞAN IS TRYING TO SAVE HIS OWN NECK"
soL: There is a general consensus that Afrin operation has commenced as part of some calculations in domestic policy. Do you agree with that?
KO: It is wrong to separate domestic policy from foreign policy. Erdoğan is trying to secure 2019, and more than that, his own neck. The international arena is quite complicated at the moment. There has to be a relation between the actions taken in domestic policy and foreign policy. In other words, a step in foreign policy driven solely by domestic concerns is doomed to fail. No one would let such a freedom. The domestic policy concerns have a great role in Afrin operation, of course, but Erdoğan is trying to secure the support of the U.S. and the NATO.
soL: How would it be possible?
KO: Erdoğan will try to prove that playing into the hands of PYD is not a wise act, both in military and diplomatic terms. In terms of domestic policy, he will prove that he is in control of the domestic arena and that other options the US is trying to nurture for political power is hopeless. Afrin serves both of these ends. He is also holding onto his Russia card.
"ERDOĞAN PRAYS FOR THE CHP"
soL: Can he succeed?
KO: A powerful U.S. is needed for what Erdoğan wants to achieve in general and in Syria. The U.S. does not have such a strength and finds itself in a harder situation after every step it takes. Erdoğan fools himself for sure if he believes he can manipulate Russia. He prays for the CHP [parliamentary main opposition party] in domestic policy. It is obvious that CHP is a bourgeois actor, and yet, more than that, it has such an unprincipled character that it annuls even the projects that involves CHP itself. Following the coup attempt in July 15, CHP could have said to the AKP government "Fethullah [US based Islamic preacher, the former ally of the AKP government ] is your product, he attempted a bloody coup, you have no legitimacy". CHP did the opposite and took part in the Yenikapı meeting of the government. CHP is doing the same thing at the moment. They even say that "we support the AKP in foreign policy." How can they expect the AKP to be principled in foreign policy if it acts unprincipled in domestic policy? Even the Islamist Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) and the fascist Good Party (İyi Parti) have portrayed a more questioning attitude. CHP is not an alternative for the AKP in the eyes of the imperialist and capitalist centres. It can never get hold of the political power in the near future. The mission of the CHP is to clear the way for the alternative political power and act as an ally of it. That's how the CHP is getting ready for 2019. Erdoğan hit two birds with one stone by means of Afrin operation. CHP is a political actor who cannot even accomplish such simple missions expected from it.
soL: Can you name the "two birds" Erdoğan killed with one stone by means of Afrin operation?
KO: By means of a nationalist discourse, Erdoğan increased his votes that have been descending. However, the real achievement is CHP's. CHP propagated a foreign policy campaign that is partly pro-US, partly pro-German, partly pro-Russian and partly pro-FSA. CHP and some "wise" columnists justified such a terrible foreign policy under the pretext of "homeland defence". Erdoğan also unsettled a coalition against him getting organized for 2019. There is the operation of Afrin between CHP and pro-Kurdish HDP. Just a week ago CHP had announced such a coalition in its congresses. Well, they can all forget about these since we are talking about the bourgeois politics. The ones who had been criticizing Barzani only a couple of months ago are now trying to secure investment opportunities with him. Everyone acts as a friend and a foe simultaneously both in the region and the domestic policy.
"EVERYBODY HAS THE RIGHT TO PURSUE DIRTY POLITICS "
soL: The Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) is being criticized for losing touch with real politics in their effort to pursue principles and relying too much upon the ultimate emancipation.
KO: I do not want to answer this question. Everybody has the right to pursue dirty politics if that is what they desire. In addition to this, there is no such thing as the ultimate emancipation, there is only one emancipation! Pro-system remedies are doomed to fail in a country where even the staunchest anti-Erdoğan figures are looking for ways to back Erdoğan.
soL: Is Turkey heading towards an early election?
KO: There is such a tendency but there won't be an election until Erdoğan gets quite convinced that he will win. Nevertheless, an early election possibility gets stronger when we look at the economy, foreign policy, the atmosphere in the country, and the Supreme Electoral Board's tendencies. Everybody thinks that Erdoğan exploits the international tension and that's true. When this tension gets out of control, it will damage lots of actors. That's why I believe that Erdoğan will get into the election only after he settles with the U.S. and Germany. There are some difficulties to it but it is not impossible.
THE ELECTION OPERATION OF THE SUPREME ELECTORAL BOARD
soL: You talked about the Supreme Electoral Board. What is it doing?
KO: The Supreme Electoral Board is not able to guarantee election reliability and acts helpless in face of all kinds of election frauds. However, it does everything it can to narrow down the arena of politics. They are trying to reduce the number of political parties that are eligible for the elections. The Board acts as it wishes since nobody objects to its decisions. For example, the TKP has already proved it is eligible for the elections but the board keeps setting new rules. They have three aims: to reduce the number of parties for the elections, setting new barriers in front of anti-system parties, and not allowing the Good Party enter the elections or making its position ambiguous. There are members of political parties within the Board and they are content with such decisions against other parties. We have reliable information that the barriers set by the Board are not initiated only by the ruling AKP.
"TKP IS FULFILLING ITS TASK"
soL: So, what will TKP do if it cannot participate in the elections?
KO: TKP is fulfilling its task, getting organised, telling people the truth and continuing its struggle. We are eligible for the elections, and we rely on that. Otherwise, it will not only be our problem if the Board is to act disregarding that, it will also become a problem of the Board itself. We can always find a way to say our word during the elections. Our real agenda at the moment is getting the option of socialism stronger, to which more and more people are getting drawn to every day.
soL: Is the Board the ultimate decision maker in elections?
KO: The mechanism is complicated. The Supreme Court, the office of the Chief Prosecutor, the offices of the governors and the general directorate of national security are able to do all kinds of unlawful interventions in the elections. The Board acts like the coordinator of such interventions and takes the decisions.
soL: The TKP is in the process of organizing 15 mass meetings. What is the purpose of these meetings?
We are on a breakthrough of getting organized on the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Suphi, the first leader of the Communist Party of Turkey, and his comrades. 15 meetings in different cities and districts for the memory of the 15 communists...We keep opening new branches of our party. We are struggling to strengthen the option of the people. This is also our response to civilian and official attacks on our party, and the acts of taking our comrades into custody on trumped up charges.