The key issues this week were the Republican National Convention and the nomination of Trump, and the ongoing events in Turkey.
The Monitor analysis looks at the GOP convention and the deep divides that the convention brought out into the open.
Think Tanks Activity Summary
The Cato Institute looks at the crisis in Turkey and says this shows why the US should avoid meddling in foreign countries. They conclude, “The U.S.-Turkey relationship shows how hard it is to stop meddling once you start. Washington is constantly (and usually futilely) involved, attempting to reshape the Mideast. That requires Turkish assistance. Which in turn requires friendship with whatever government is in power, no matter how antithetical to U.S. values. Which leads to suspicions about American against the regime. Which requires a fervent show of support in response. Which …Washington should not be isolated from the world, but it should stop attempting to forcibly transform the world. In Turkey the U.S. has found itself forced to embrace a man who cannot be trusted to support people’s liberty at home or fight Islamic radicalism abroad. So why is America still supporting him?
The Carnegie Endowment also looks at the Turkish coup. They predict, “Domestically, the consequences will also be painful regarding rule of law and polarization. A large trial is expected against the plotting officers and the prime minister has already invoked the possibility of reinstating the death penalty. This alone would take Turkey further away from EU standards and could indeed mean the suspension of EU accession negotiations (which is probably the least of the leadership’s worries). More destructive will be the likely witch hunt against suspected exiled cleric Fatullah Gülen sympathizers.”
In another analysis of the Turkish coup, the Carnegie Endowment suggests, “The short-term consequences of this coup attempt can evolve in one of two directions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may seek to leverage their success in foiling this attack on democracy by advancing their agenda of a shift to a presidential system. This would take the form of a snap parliamentary election, with the hope that the ruling party would win significantly more seats in the new parliament to ease the transition to presidentialism. But this path is riddled with difficulties, as the idea of a presidential system continues to create polarization in Turkey. It is unclear whether the country can sustain its ever more acute cleavages for much longer. Win or lose, such a proposition would create conditions similar to the political aftermath of the British vote to leave the EU. The alternative is to seize this unique and unalloyed moment of political collusion to rejuvenate the momentum for democratic reforms. The strongest argument that could possibly sway Erdoğan in this direction is that Turkey that can ill afford a sustained period of instability and acrimony given the enormity of its very real security and political challenges.”
In light of this Turkish coup, the Institute for the Study of War says Turkey could become the next Pakistan. They note, “Erdogan may turn to non-state militants for security solutions while he lacks a strong military force behind him. Non-state militants can either supplement a Turkish military or serve as an interim partner while Erdogan rebuilds. Erdogan provided support to al Qaeda and associated groups in Syria even before the coup. He has allowed senior al Qaeda leaders to operate relatively freely in Turkey, although a small number of Turkish raids have targeted al Qaeda elements. He is also a primary patron of Ahrar al Sham, a Syrian Salafi-jihadi group with close links to al Qaeda… A reliance on al Qaeda to accomplish Turkish security objectives, and the resulting freedom of maneuver it would provide to al Qaeda, would transform Turkey into a state sanctuary for terrorism. The scale of the problem could be similar to Pakistani harboring of militants fighting American and allied forces in Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban. A permanent Turkish safe haven would protect some of al Qaeda’s critical capabilities and critical requirements in Syria from direct targeting, increasing the requirements to destroy the group in Syria.”
The Washington Institute says the failed Turkish coup will help Russia, not NATO. They conclude, “Prominent Russian analyst Lilia Shevtsova notes that Erdoğan, knowing that the West needs Turkey and its air bases, is “blackmailing” the West into ignoring his harsh repressions. She says that authoritarians of the world are watching how the West responds. “What the Turkish leader is doing will become textbook for other leaders, dreaming of absolute power,” she concludes, “while the West is thinking how to respond … thinking slowly.”
In another piece on Turkey, the Washington Institute says, “The coup has unleashed the religious political movement on the streets, which now seems to be rising because Erdogan has been pumping it up. The question is, what happens with it next? Erdogan may instrumentalize that movement, number one, to make sure that the last outstanding pockets of resistance turn themselves in because he is still not fully in charge of the country. Or, number two, he may instrumentalize those sentiments, this religious movement on the street, to build momentum for early elections in which the AKP would get a super majority that would allow them to make changes to the constitution and make him an executive-style president. If Erdogan becomes head of state, head of government, and head of the ruling party, that will make him the most powerful person in Turkey since Turkey became a multi-party democracy in 1950.”
The Heritage Foundation looks at a newly discovered secret part of the Iran nuclear deal that reduces restrictions after only 10 years. They conclude, “State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied that the new document was “secret” since it was known to the countries negotiating the deal, but he acknowledged that the details had been kept away from the public. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was much more enthusiastic about the newly revealed document. Yesterday, he crowed that it was created by Iran’s “negotiators and industry experts” and was a “matter of pride.” Indeed, he should be proud. The document outlines how Iran plans to escalate its uranium enrichment efforts with the blessing of the Obama administration until it reaches the point where a nuclear breakout would require only a few weeks of work.”
The CSIS looks at the challenges of building a national army in Yemen. Throughout the paper the author underscores two key aspects that are crucial to the understanding of Yemen’s political history and current state of affairs. The first is the virtually constant struggle between those who wanted to increase state authority (most prominently, the central government) and those who privileged traditional tribal influence in politics. There is no better institution to observe this ongoing conflict between “centralizers” and “tribalists” than the armed forces. The second important factor to grasp is that domestic conflicts in Yemen are not binary, one foe opposing another, but multipolar with certain groups—including both state and non-state actors—cooperating with one another on some issues but not on others. Moreover, the positions of individual actors often fluctuate in response to various impulses—inancial, political, psychological—in their environments. This is the main reason that Yemen’s contemporary predicament is so enigmatic, so intractable, and, ultimately, that lasting peace has been and will continue to be so difficult to hammer out.
The CSIS looks at stability and instability in the Gulf region. They note, “The entire Gulf region has also changed radically in location, education, and employment. A once rural and pastoral region has become hyper-urbanized. Education has improved radically since the 1950s, as has access to media. Different sects, ethnic groups, and tribes have been displaced or pushed together. Societies retain traditional elements but are no longer traditional. Economic development has often lagged and been limited or blocked by given governments. The Gulf region is far too dependent on petroleum and a “rentier” social contract that has become critically dependent on high petroleum prices and export revenues. The 40% to 60% drop or “crash” in prices and revenues in 2014-2015 has exposed the fact that economics can be as dangerous as violence, and the linkages between economics and demographics mean that “oil wealth” can quickly become “oil poverty” in terms of per capita incomes.”
The 2016 Republican National Convention
Traditionally, political conventions are tightly scripted events meant to impress the voters. And in some ways, the Republican National Convention is a traditional event. The Roll Call of the States was scripted so Trump’s home state of New York would give him the number of delegate votes to officially win the nomination. And, there were numerous political speakers to speak in glowing terms of Trump, Pence, and the Republican Party.
But it wasn’t as tightly scripted as convention organizers had wanted. On Wednesday night, former presidential candidate Ted Cruz came on stage to a standing ovation, and left to a chorus of boos, when he refused to endorse Trump. In the process, he unintentionally united the party around Trump as never before, while permanently destroying his chances to win the nomination in the future.
Tea Party leader and former vice presidential nominee in 2008, Sarah Palin, whose endorsement of Cruz’s long-shot Senate bid in 2012 was credited by Cruz himself as the reason why he won the race that launched his national political career, gave the following statement: “Cruz’s broken pledge to support the will of the people tonight was one of those career-ending “read my lips” moments. I guarantee American voters took notice and felt more unsettling confirmation as to why we don’t much like typical politicians because they campaign one way, but act out another way.”
Fox News commentator and regular critic of Trump Charles Krauthammer said, “What Cruz delivered was the longest suicide note in American political history and this morning he added an addendum.”
Ironically, it was this episode that demonstrated the divided nature of the party and the battle for its future after November.
A Party divided
While Trump and his supporters were taking center stage in Cleveland, there were other Republicans meeting in Cleveland who were intentionally not attending the convention, including the Bush family and Ohio Governor Kasich. These were the establishment Republicans who had lost out to Trump and were working on retaking the party
Their hope is that after a horrible loss in November, Republicans will turn to them for leadership and a return to power.
That strategy is faulty and the current GOP establishment is probably headed to the graveyard of political factions much as the Rockefeller Republicans of the 1960s and 1970s – a march to oblivion helped on by Ronald Reagan.
The fact is that the GOP has started to change. That change began in 2009 with the Tea Party movement. The movement, which was actively supported by the GOP establishment then in order to win back Washington, was decidedly anti-Washington in tone. Since the GOP had lost the presidency, and Congress, they had no problem fostering that anti-Washington feeling.
However, once the Republican Party had won back the House of Representatives in 2010, the goals of the Tea Party were no longer in tune with the Republican establishment.
Despite the ambivalence of the Republican establishment, the Tea Party continued with new leaders like Sarah Palin, talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and others. Although establishment Republican candidates were winning most Republican primaries, some outsiders like Ted Cruz were making inroads.
The result is that over the last 6 years, the Tea Party Republicans have established a foothold within the Republican Party and although they represent a minority of Senators and Representatives in Washington, they have managed to create tighter bonds with the grassroots Republicans back home than the conventional Republicans did. And, as evidenced by the Trump victory represent a majority of Republican voters.
This tight bond with grassroots Republican voters and the failure of establishment Republicans to counter many of Obama’s policies created a growing distrust of the Republican Party in Washington. And, it was bound to explode this year as different candidates fought for the nomination.
The antipathy of Republicans for the establishment was best seen in the disastrous showing of Jeb Bush, who spent $150 million to garner just 3 delegates. Other establishment Republican candidates like Lindsey Graham also fared poorly.
The only question was who would be able to best represent the disaffected Republican grassroots. Many thought it would be Cruz or Dr. Carson. However, they were outmaneuvered by businessman Donald Trump, who waged an unconventional campaign and proved the political experts wrong.
And, after Wednesday night’s public political suicide by Cruz, Trump is now firmly in control of the GOP – at least until November.
The future of the Republican Party will be determined in November. If Trump wins and keeps the Congress Republican, he will have solidified his control much as Reagan did in 1980, after beating GOP establishment favorite George Bush.
If he loses, the future of the party is in question. The establishment will try to regain control – something made easier by Cruz’s speech. Had Cruz been politically smarter, he would have been the likely leader of the GOP going into the future.
There are others who will fill in. Wisconsin Governor Walker, former Texas Governor Perry, and Indiana Governor Pence will be around to pick up the pieces. And, if Trump fails in November, their names will be frequently mentioned in regards of a 2020 run.
Around the Convention
- Everything done at a political convention is done for show, not necessarily for real. An example was when Virginia delegate Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli threw away his credentials after the Cruz supporters lost a critical procedural vote.
Anyone who has been at these conventions knows that security is very tight – especially on the floor of the convention – and no one can walk around without his or her credentials hanging around their neck. In addition, delegate credentials are one-of-a-kind and can’t be replaced. Someone really throwing their credentials away would probably have been apprehended before they were able to leave the building. In addition, they would have been unable to get on their bus to get back to their hotel and would have been refused entrance to their hotel.
Interestingly enough Cuccinelli was back in the convention later. Either he didn’t throw away his credentials or he made sure they were quickly retrieved as soon as the TV cameras left.
Who Wasn’t There. Political conventions are usually a “Must Attend” event for big name politicians. However, this time, many were notably absent including the two past presidents and former nominees Romney and McCain. McCain, is in a tight race for reelection against conservative Kelli Ward and although he is not considered an ally of Trump, has refrained from criticizing him in Arizona, which gave Trump all of its 59 delegate votes.
Outside the Convention. Although protestors promised massive riots outside the GOP convention, it was actually quieter than previous conventions. A massive police presence and security kept protests under control and in many cases, the number of police at demonstrations outnumbered the protestors.
Speeches – Who Won and Who Lost. Trump was winner with a well scripted, well delivered speech that was very different from his impromptu speeches on the stump. For those who heard Trump for the first time, it was a good introduction>
Undoubtedly Ted Cruz was the biggest loser as he failed to make even a tepid push for Trump’s election. He also added credibility to the charges that he is the most disliked Senator in the US Senate.
Conversely, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came on the stage to boos, but after a pro-Trump speech left to cheers. That made him one of the winners of the convention.
A big winner was Donald Trump Jr. who gave a fiery speech that had Republicans wondering if he might have a political future.
Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence gave a good speech and will have a political future no matter what happens in November. After largely being overshadowed by Trump during his official debut last weekend, Pence used the prime-time stage on Wednesday night to bridge the divide between the conservatives who have fallen in line behind Trump and those still holding out – a well timed speech after what Cruz had said earlier. By the end of the speech, delegates began to chant, “We Like Mike! We Like Mike! We Like Mike!”
Several former presidential candidates spoke in support of Trump, including Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Ben Carson. These speeches will definitely help them as the GOP realigns itself.
The Iran Nuclear Deal Continues to Unravel
By James Phillips
July 20, 2016
The steady drip of disturbing revelations about President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement continues unabated. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that key restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities will significantly ease after 10 years, long before those restrictions expire after 15 years. The AP acquired a confidential document, leaked by an anonymous diplomat involved in the Iran nuclear issue, which it described as an add-on agreement in the form of a declaration submitted by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The document, the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action, details Iran’s plans for expanding its enrichment activities and makes it clear that some of the most restrictive provisions of the nuclear agreement are relaxed after only 10 years, although they will function as more permissive constraints for up to 15 years.
Turkey in Crisis: Another Painful Lesson Why U.S. Should Avoid Foreign Meddling
By Doug Bandow
July 18, 2016
Turkey was convulsed by an attempted coup last week. Nominally democratic but in practice increasingly authoritarian, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has initiated a broad crackdown that goes well beyond the military. He has the makings of becoming another Vladimir Putin—except supposedly on America’s side, but even that is up for debate. Turkey’s dubious evolution should remind Americans how hard it is for U.S. officials to play social engineers to the world. Instead of constantly meddling in hopes of “fixing” other nations, Washington should step back when its interests are not vitally affected, which is most of the time. The physicians’ injunction, “First do no harm,” would be a good principle for American foreign policy. Ankara joined NATO during the Cold War. The U.S. was not much concerned about whether Turkey was a democracy. Washington wanted to secure the Balkans and project U.S. power into the Middle East. Containment of the Evil Empire was the principal objective.
The Challenges of Building a National Army in Yemen
By Zoltan Barany
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 18, 2016
Yemen’s is an ancient civilization and Yemenis have been regarded as a distinct people since the time of the Prophet. It has been remarkably isolated from the outside world and “almost completely sealed off from modern influence” until the middle of the 20th century. Even today, it is one of the most inscrutable Arab states as the title of a recent book, Arabia Incognita, readily conveys. Much of Yemen’s rapidly growing population – estimated at 27 million in 2016 and expected to grow to 60 million by 2050 – live in thousands of tiny settlements that are hardly accessible from the capital, Sana’a, and have been notoriously difficult to bring under a central administration either by political or military means. With an estimated more than three guns per citizen, the country also has the highest number of weapons in private hands in the world. Yemen had suffered from a number of calamities – depletion of oil reserves, water shortage, population explosion, well over 35% unemployment – long before the 2011 uprising and the subsequent civil war. It is the Arab world’s poorest country and, quite possibly, the most corrupt. As one commentator recently wrote, the government in Sana’a “makes even the Karzai regime, in Afghanistan, seem like a model of propriety.”4 For decades political leadership in Yemen has been a parasitic oligarchy synonymous with tribalism, patronage, nepotism, incompetence, and the reckless looting of state resources.
Stability and Instability in the Gulf Region in 2016
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
June 15, 2016
The Gulf has long been an unstable and constantly changing region—but the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003; the region-wide upheavals that began in 2011; the rise of ISIS in late 2013; the Yemeni civil war that began in 2013; and the massive drop in petroleum prices and revenues that accelerated in 2015—have combined to increase risk at every level. The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a new analysis that addresses all of these variables in ways that cover key trends and risks for the entire Gulf region—and separately for each Gulf country.
What’s Next for Turkey
By Marc Pierini
July 16, 2016
By military coups standards, it looked like the real thing for several hours: curfew, jets, helicopters, tanks, infrastructure and state television under control of the army. Then, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared via FaceTime on a private TV channel, obviously taken by surprise, but firm. He produced one of his typical populist moves, calling the people to the streets and to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport. While police forces loyal to him were doing the fighting in Ankara, hundreds of people took to the streets in Istanbul and started disarming soldiers. Then U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, and even the three Turkish opposition parties, came to the rescue: democratically elected governments should be respected.
The Anatomy of Turkey’s Botched Coup
By Sinan Ülgen
July 19, 2016
Despite its checkered history of military meddling in politics, Turkey seemed in the past decade to have moved away from the darkness of military coups. Yet on July 15, many Turks watched with horror a televised coup attempt. Although it unraveled within hours, it triggered a bitter debate on the future stability of this NATO ally and key actor in the ongoing fight against the self-styled Islamic State. The coup attempt is widely understood as having been orchestrated by the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a recluse Islamic cleric based in the United States, to overthrow the Turkish government. The timing is understood to be linked to the meeting of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council in August 2016, when many Gülen-affiliated officers were to be purged from the military top brass. This claim would make the Gülenists a uniquely destructive nemesis of the Turkish army.
How Turkey Could Become the Next Pakistan
By Jennifer Cafarella
Institute for the Study of War
July 19, 2016
The failed coup attempt by elements of the Turkish Armed Forces on July 15 will enable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to establish himself as an authoritarian ruler in Turkey. His priorities in the next few months will be to solidify the loyalty of the Turkish military establishment and complete the constitutional reform necessary to replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an executive presidency, his longstanding goal. A post-coup Erdogan is much less likely to submit to American pressure without major returns. Erdogan immediately demanded the extradition of political rival Fethullah Gulen from the U.S., accusing Gulen of plotting the coup and condemning the U.S. for harboring him. Erdogan will likely deprioritize the fight against ISIS, undermining the counter-ISIS mission in Syria, as he focuses on consolidating power. He may even revoke past concessions to the U.S., including permission to use Turkey’s Incirlik airbase for counter-ISIS operations.
How the Failed Turkish Coup Helps Putin
By Anna Borshchevskaya
July 19, 2016
The coup attempted in Turkey this past weekend against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mattered for Russia, and for Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular, for many reasons — it resonated in the pro-democracy community, and raised questions about Putin’s next steps in the Middle East and the future of Russia-Turkey relations. Putin and Erdogan spoke on the phone this weekend. Reportedly, Moscow initiated the call. It came as no surprise that Putin stressed in his conversation with Erdogan, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “a principal position of unacceptability of government coups, be it in Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen or anywhere else.” Putin fears any coup that attempts to overthrow an authoritarian because it might serve as an example for his own people. He is also convinced that the West was behind massive protests in late 2011 to early 2012 against his return to his third presidency. Predictably, one member of Putin’s United Russia party, Shamsail Saraliyev, said that the U.S. is behind the coup in Turkey — the recent improvement in Russian-Turkish relations and the renewed flood of Russian tourists to Turkey were inconvenient to the U.S., according to this view. “Therefore, it would be good for Turkey right now to reset its relations with everyone — primarily with Russia, its strategic partner,” he concluded.
Troubling Forces Unleashed in Turkey
By Soner Cagaptay
July 19, 2016
The Cipher Brief
The Cipher Brief: Who instigated the coup attempt against Erdogan? Who do you think they drew support from? How is this different from previous coup attempts?
Soner Cagaptay: This coup goes beyond everything we know about the Turkish military in the sense that when the military orchestrated coups in the past, they were usually top down. This time, it seems to have been splintered within the military, with some high level officials taking part, but not the chain of command of the top brass. Definitely not the chief of staff — who was taken hostage by pro-coup forces. So number one, it goes against everything we know about the Turkish military. Number two, in the past, when the Turkish military carried out coups, it never fired at its own people, and this time the military fired on its own people. This is going to have long-term debilitating effects on the military’s standing. It’s hard to talk about who is actually behind it. It’s definitely not the Turkish military as a whole but a group within the Turkish military. And it’s not as small as people suggested originally. It’s a pretty sizeable group, for example, 20 percent of all admirals and generals and one-third of all one and two star generals. So it’s a very sizeable population.