BERLIN — Deciphering the behavior of the President is a challenging task, and not only in the United States. Narcissism, paranoia and megalomania are the terms the psychiatrist would use to describe the brand of personality disorders driving the erratic behavior that has become routine not only in the White House but also in the thousand-room presidential palace in Ankara. And the clinical diagnosis would be on the mark. That said, it fails to explain the political calculation that the affected subject has contrived to rationalize his outrageous actions. Yet, no doubt, there must be a method to the madness. The actor is after all a political animal.
Consider the recent moves by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with regard to Germany, which, from any sane objective standpoint, he should consider his closest European ally and trade partner. Erdogan has been on the warpath with Germany ever since the Bundestag (Parliament) last year passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. He has consistently sought provocations and conflict.
After refusing German parliamentarians access to German troops stationed in Incirlik, which led Germany to redeploy them to Jordan, he ruled against a similar request to visit troops in Konya, and a major crisis was averted only after German legislators were allowed to do so in the context of a NATO delegation. Shortly thereafter Erdogan, addressing a mass rally of his supporters, issued a call, or better, an order, to German citizens of Turkish descent not to cast their votes in the September parliamentary elections for the ruling CDU or SPD parties, or for the opposition Green Party, on grounds that they “are waging a campaign against Turkey.” When German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel denounced the bid as unacceptable interference into the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, the Turkish head of state (again in a speech to a rally of supporters) responded with cheap ridicule. “Who are you,” he asked Gabriel rhetorically, “to talk to the President of Turkey? You should know your place!” i.e. he should address his remarks to his ranking counterpart, the foreign minister. He slammed Gabriel for “trying to teach us a lesson,” adding, “How long have you been in politics? How old are you anyway?” Gabriel, he said, was “a catastrophe.”
The Long Arm of Turkish “Justice”
Days later, it became clear that the huffing and puffing was only the prelude to an act of far graver import. On August 19, on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Turkey, and implemented through Interpol, Spanish police arrested a German citizen of Turkish descent during his vacation in Grenada. Dogan Akhanli, a well-known novelist, playwright and human rights activist residing in Cologne and Berlin, was awakened that Saturday morning by loud banging on the door of his hotel room. Three Spanish policemen in bullet-proof vests and armed with submachine guns, asked him for identification, and, having ascertained he was the same person Interpol was pursuing with a “Red Notice”, slapped handcuffs on him and hauled him off to prison.
From Grenada, he was transferred to Madrid, and then, thanks to the prompt intervention of his lawyer, Ilyas Uyar, and German political authorities, released the following day, on condition he remain in Spain for 40 days and report weekly to the authorities. During that ominous number of days, the Turkish authorities will have to supply documentation to substantiate their demand that he be extradited to Turkey for trial.