Turkey’s Erdogan appoints his spokesman as intelligence chief: Who is Ibrahim Kalin?
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed the presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin as the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), state news agency Anadolu reported on Monday.
Kalin has been a close associate of Erdogan for a long time and served as the presidential spokesperson since 2014.
The 51-year-old also served as deputy chairman of the Security and Foreign Policy Council of the Turkish Presidency and chief adviser to Erdogan since 2018.
Kalin holds a M.A. from the International Islamic University of Malaysia and a Ph.D. from George Washington University. He is a fellow at Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
He also founded SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research – a pro-government non-profit research institute – in Ankara, and served as director from 2005 to 2009.
Shaping foreign policy
Kalin, as the spokesperson for the Turkish President, has played a vital role in steering the country's foreign policy, notably in crisis situations like the Syrian conflict. Faced with escalating tensions in its neighboring country, Turkey had to carefully balance its humanitarian stance with its security interests. Kalin was central to this process, coordinating with major powers such as Russia, the US, and Iran to establish ceasefire agreements and initiate peace talks.
His effort to maintain the Idlib ceasefire agreement with Russia in 2020, for example, demonstrated his active role in shaping and executing Turkey's diplomatic strategies in the region.
In addition to regional disputes, Kalin has also influenced Turkey's relationship with the European Union (EU), a key aspect of its foreign policy. Despite a multitude of challenges, including disagreements over human rights and immigration issues, Kalin has been at the forefront of dialogue with the EU.
One of his notable contributions was during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, when he helped negotiate the Turkey-EU refugee deal aimed at controlling the migrant flow into Europe. His proactive role in these negotiations and his advocacy for Turkey's EU membership have significantly shaped Turkey's foreign policy approach towards its European engagement.
What is MIT?
The National Intelligence Agency (MIT) is the country's primary intelligence organization. Its responsibilities encompass a broad range of intelligence activities, both domestically and internationally. This includes collecting information on issues that could potentially impact national security, analyzing intelligence data, conducting counterintelligence operations, and coordinating with other security and intelligence agencies. The MIT also has a role in shaping foreign policy by providing the government with critical information about global affairs. It can undertake covert operations if mandated by the executive.
Under Erdogan's leadership, the MIT has played a significant role in both domestic and foreign affairs. Erdogan has broadened the powers of the agency, allowing it to be more directly involved in counter-terrorism operations and internal security matters. In 2014, for instance, the Turkish Parliament passed a bill increasing the powers of the MIT, providing it with more extensive surveillance capabilities and granting immunity to its senior officials.
The chief of the National Intelligence Agency holds substantial power and influence, both due to the nature of the position and the expanded mandate under Erdogan. The MIT chief can directly influence policy decisions by providing critical intelligence to the president and the government. The position's influence is also evidenced in the chief's ability to oversee a broad range of domestic and international operations and investigations that are critical to Turkey's national security.