THE TURKISH DEMOCRACY PROJECT, a political advocacy group launched this summer with the stated goal of promoting democracy in Turkey, has the surprising characteristic of having no Turkish members on its leadership board. In a press release announcing its creation, the organization said that it was “committed to encouraging Turkey to adopt more democratic policies.” The two Turkish people publicly involved with the project — former Turkish politician Aykan Erdemir and academic Suleyman Ozeren — were removed from its website’s list of advisory council members not long after its launch.
The Turkish Democracy Project boasts a roster heavy with hawkish former U.S. public officials and diplomats with close ties to Israel and the Gulf Arab states.
Despite having no actual Turks publicly affiliated with the group, the Turkish Democracy Project boasts a roster heavy with hawkish former U.S. public officials and diplomats with close ties to Israel and the Gulf Arab states, including former Bush administration counterterrorism official Frances Townsend, former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and former President Donald Trump’s famously aggressive national security adviser John Bolton. “It’s time to sound the alarm on Turkey,” Bolton, best known for his advocacy of U.S. confrontation with Iran, said on Twitter at the time of the Turkey Democracy Project’s launch.
Under its heavy-handed ruling AK Party, democracy in Turkey has faced serious setbacks in recent years, but what the Turkish Democracy Project specifically does to address that problem is unclear. The organization does, however, have links to a network of well-funded dark-money groups promoting U.S. foreign policy positions in the Middle East that dovetail with Saudi, Emirati, and Israeli security interests.
At the center of it all is Mark Wallace, a former George W. Bush administration ambassador to the United Nations. Wallace is presently the head not just of the Turkish Democracy Project, but also the anti-Iran organization United Against Nuclear Iran, or UANI; the counterterrorism advocacy group Counter Extremism Project, or CEP; and even an arts-based nonprofit focused on human rights in Iran called PaykanArtCar. Eight out of 11 of the Turkish Democracy Project’s senior leadership and advisory board members hold positions with UANI, CEP, or both. Read more..