Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appointed his spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin as head of MIT, Turkiye’s National Intelligence Agency. TRT World’s editor-at-large Yusuf Erim commented about this appointment on his twitter account;
Before analyzing this appointment, I think it’s important to understand where Turkish foreign policy has been heading. Since the 2016 failed coup attempt we have seen a shift in Turkiye’s national security understanding that favors a preemptive and cross-border counter-terrorism policy, supported by the establishment of forward defensive lines and a foreign policy that is balanced, dynamic, transactional to adapt to multipolarity and has a forward deployed diplomatic posture to deal with regional developments.
Former Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, and Intel Chief Hakan Fidan were Erdogan’s original core trio that ushered in the change in national security and foreign policy.
The President’s new cabinet signals that these policies will be advanced as the cross-pollination of diplomacy, defense, and intel are furthered with the appointment of hybrid bureaucrats. Just as Fidan brings his intel skill set to the Foreign Ministry, the appointment of Erdogan’s senior advisor Ibrahim Kalin as chief of intelligence brings a strong geopolitical understanding to the MIT. Turkiye doesn’t have a national security advisor role in its government, but Kalin’s role has basically been a defacto NSA over the years. He’s been a point man on many files and visibly active on US, Greece, and Israel relations.
With Fidan stepping into the light as top diplomat, Kalin will most likely continue the shadow diplomacy that intel oversees amd the Turkish President utilizes in sensitive situations where Turkiye has strained or frozen diplomatic relations with a country.
Kalin may not have the typical spymaster CV, but judging from the way Erdogan utilized Fidan, the President wants a multidimensional 4D chess-player that can harmonize diplomacy, defense and intel. Kalin’s academic and think-tank background, coupled with the years of experience at the president’s side overseeing critical files, make him perfectly suited to be a part of this synergistic force-multiplying structure.