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« Reply #100 on: November 12, 2015, 09:45:04 AM »

Powerful Again, Turkish President Erdogan Faces Choice Between War and Peace With Kurdish Militants
So far, leader is sticking to hard-line rhetoric
By Yaroslav Trofimov
Nov. 12, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET

ISTANBUL—As a consummate politician, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has benefited from renewed war with Kurdish militants to rally voters and regain control over Turkey in a rerun of elections this month.

As a once-again powerful president, Mr. Erdogan now is facing a momentous choice. Should he press on with the war in hopes of finally crushing the PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party? Or should he row back and eventually restart the peace process with the PKK that he pursued in the earlier years of his rule?

“If Turkey doesn’t resolve its Kurdish issue, it will turn into another Syria,” warned Bayram Balci, a Turkish affairs specialist at Sciences Po university in Paris. “Kurdish populations are gathering strength across the Middle East, and no Turkish leader can afford to ignore that.”

So far, Mr. Erdogan is sticking to the hard-line rhetoric that, during the Nov. 1 election, helped him lure Turkish nationalist voters opposed to any compromises with the Kurdish minority’s aspirations for self-rule.

“The period ahead of us is not one of talks and discussions; it’s a period to achieve results,” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech last week, adding that Turkey will keep hitting the PKK “until all its members surrender or are eliminated.”

Following the vote, the PKK has also pledged to intensify the war.

“A free and democratic living can only be attained by means of a committed resistance against those who trust they can break the will of the peoples,” said the group, which is classified as terrorist by Turkey and the U.S.

Middle East Crossroads

In recent months, hundreds of people have died in fighting between the PKK and Turkish security forces, many of them civilians. Scores of urban areas in Kurdish-populated southeast Turkey have effectively become no-go areas for authorities.

“Both sides are sharpening their knives,” said Tahir Elci, a prominent attorney and head of the bar association in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in Kurdish-dominated parts of Turkey. “Both sides are chasing utopian goals. Both sides are getting farther from what is reasonable.”

And yet, many leaders on both sides also know that they cannot defeat each other on the battlefield.

The PKK and the Turkish state, after all, have been at war since the 1980s, in a conflict that cost at least 40,000 lives and depopulated large parts of the southeast—without destroying the PKK.

“The military solution has not been successful for more than 25 years,” said Umit Pamir, the former Turkish ambassador to NATO and the United Nations.

Mr. Erdogan was once seen as a peacemaker and enjoyed the support of many Kurds, thanks to lifting some long-standing restrictions on Kurdish language and culture. His apparent readiness to settle the Kurdish problem prompted the PKK to declare a cease-fire in 2013.

But the military successes of a PKK affiliate, which now runs a ministate in Syrian areas along Turkey’s border, have spurred a backlash. In recent months, Mr. Erdogan repeatedly expressed displeasure with the PKK affiliate’s victories against Islamic State in Syria, saying he sees no difference between the two organizations.

The cease-fire collapsed in July, shortly after Mr. Erdogan’s AKP Justice and Development Party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years—in part because of an unexpectedly strong showing by a Kurdish party backed by the PKK.

On Nov. 1, as Turkish voters sought stability amid renewed violence, AKP regained a comfortable majority in a rerun election.

That majority should enable Mr. Erdogan to tackle the Kurdish conflict, some of his allies say.

“It was Erdogan who had initiated the Kurdish opening, and now that he has emerged from the second election in a position of strength, I hope he will resume the Kurdish opening where it was left off,” said Yasar Yakis, one of the founders of AKP who served as Mr. Erdogan’s foreign minister. “If it’s not done by Erdogan, it can never be done by another leader.”

Galip Dalay, research director at the al-Sharq Forum think tank, forecast that Mr. Erdogan would in coming months try to woo Kurdish citizens with concessions on issues such as language rights—while still refusing to negotiate with the PKK.

“It’s taken for granted that there is no military solution, but you cannot go back to the talks as if nothing happened,” Mr. Dalay said. “The peace process in its previous form and structure will not go on for quite some time.”

Such an approach, however, is unlikely to quell the spreading unrest.

“You now have a very nationalistic Kurdish new generation that is not willing to settle for cosmetic changes,” said Gönül Töl, director of the Turkish studies center at the Middle East Institute.

A choice to press on with the military campaign may also underestimate the potential costs to Turkey, which must increasingly grapple with a separate threat from Islamic State.

“The risks of failing to grasp the refreshed opportunity for a political solution are quite serious,” said Francis Ricciardone, head of the Middle East Center at Atlantic Council who served until last year as U.S. ambassador in Ankara. “No matter how bad things may appear in this region, history shows that they can always become far worse.”
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« Reply #101 on: November 25, 2015, 01:28:07 PM »

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downing of a Russian Su-24 by Turkish F-16s on Tuesday was "a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists." In another oblique reference to Turkey, Putin said the Islamic State is "protected by the military of an entire nation." He expressed concern and disbelief that Turkey did not try to contact Russia following the incident and instead rushed to convene a NATO meeting when Russia has "always treated Turkey as not only a close neighbor, but also a friendly nation."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin have been well aware that competition between their countries has been growing on multiple fronts. And until Tuesday, both took great care to avoid having that competition devolve into outright confrontation. A number of factors will drive Moscow and Ankara to try to temper the latest bout of hostilities, but neither leader will be able to avoid the uncomfortable reality that geopolitical forces are once again pulling these old rivals further apart.

Turkey and Russia cannot help but step on each other's toes. Turkey is the gatekeeper to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea through its control of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. That means if Russia wants to send container ships, oil cargoes and warships westward, they pass through Turkey. If NATO wants to threaten the Russian underbelly from the Black Sea, Turkey has to give the green light. This is a point not lost on Putin's Russia.

As two Eurasian powers with long imperial pasts, Russia and Turkey have overlapping spheres of influence in parts of the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. This dynamic brought both empires to war multiple times over nearly five centuries. Not surprisingly, Turkey was profoundly uncomfortable when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 to reinforce its position in the former Soviet space. Though Turkey saw an imperative to keep Russian ambitions in check, it preferred letting the United States, Poland, Romania and others take the lead. After all, Russia supplies 55 percent of Turkey's natural gas needs, and Ankara was not interested in risking disruptions to that supply or to the broader Turkish-Russian trade relationship that could further strain the Turkish economy.

But Russia has been getting too close for Turkey's comfort more recently. In the Caucasus, several factors are challenging the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict zone that could eventually draw Russian and Turkish intervention. In the Middle East, Russia's military intervention in Syria on the side of the Alawite government squarely challenges Turkey's ambitions to bring Sunni power back to Syria through the toppling of President Bashar al Assad. Turkey's downing of the Russian fighter jet shows that Ankara is now willing to act on its frustration with Russia and bear the consequences.

The most immediate consequence will be felt in Syria. The preliminary steps toward a power-sharing deal are effectively stalled for now. The videos of Turkmen rebels shooting Russian pilots and attacking search and rescue missions will only reinforce Russia's claims that the rebels Turkey, the United States and others have been sponsoring cannot be trusted and therefore do not deserve a place at the negotiating table. There were already major doubts about whether the rebel sponsors could be talked into negotiating with the Syrian government at this stage of the fight anyway.

The battlefield, however, will remain just as intense. Turkey is serious about moving ahead with a plan to create a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border to root out the Islamic State, keep a check on the Kurds and reinforce its rebel proxies against the al Assad government. The United States also remains committed to the fight against the Islamic State and is willing to facilitate Turkish operations in northern Syria toward that end. Russia is unlikely to back down from its operations in Syria targeting both Islamic State and rebel forces. In fact, Russia will be reinforcing its bombers with accompanying fighter jets to deter another shoot-down. The potential for further skirmishes on the Syrian battlefield cannot be ruled out.

The less visible, but no less significant, consequence concerns Turkey's relationship with NATO. Turkey's careful balance with Russia and differences with the West over working with Islamist forces have long been a source of frustration for other members of NATO, especially given the significant role Turkey could play in counterbalancing Russia and in responding to threats such as the Islamic State. As the Islamic State threat escalated and as Russia became more involved in Syria, Turkey started drifting closer toward its NATO allies. Turkey's recent decision to officially cancel a controversial deal to purchase a multibillion-dollar air defense system from China gave hope to NATO members that Turkey was prepared to remove some of the ambiguity from its role in the security alliance. And with Turkey's competition with Russia now on full display following the downing of the Russian Su-24, the United States and a number of Central and Eastern European powers will see an opportunity to draw Turkey deeper into NATO.

Russian officials and media have proposed retaliatory measures against Turkey, such as energy cutoffs, trade restrictions and undefined military responses. Russia certainly has the means to squeeze Turkey economically, though cutting off natural gas would also undermine Gazprom's commercial reputation at a time when Russia is fighting to retain market share in the West. Russian military interference against Turkish operations on the Syrian battlefield is also possible, though such actions are very risky for Russia itself. So long as Russia remains in a standoff with the United States and the West at large — a situation that will not abate anytime soon — Russia will need to play it carefully with Turkey. Only now, it is dealing with a Turkey that is sitting a lot more comfortably with its NATO partners than it was just a couple of months ago. 
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« Reply #102 on: November 26, 2015, 06:57:20 PM »

Why Turkey Can't Sell a Syrian Safe Zone
Geopolitical Diary
October 7, 2015 | 01:24 GMT Text Size

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Brussels on Tuesday with an ambitious agenda: to promote the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria. Erdogan can see that the Europeans have no good solutions to their immigration crisis other than to manipulate the route and flow of migrants. The latest idea gaining traction in a host of European capitals is to keep the hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean off of Europe's shores by bottling them up closer to home instead. Brussels would, of course, pay Ankara to take care of its problem by housing more refugees traveling overland. But Turkey, which already hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians and has spent $7.6 billion on the refugee crisis so far, isn't buying into Europe's offer. Erdogan wants more. Much more.

Now that Turkey has Europe's attention and Russia has blindsided the United States in Syria, Erdogan is attempting to use the chaotic climate to dust off his plans for a Syrian safe zone. The Turkish version of a safe zone entails reinforcing rebel forces that are friendly with Turkey to flush out the Islamic State from a zone measuring 80 kilometers (50 miles) by 40 kilometers in Syria's northern Aleppo province. A no-fly zone, according to the Turkish proposal, would accompany the safe zone. Once the zone is declared safe and free of terrorist activity, refugee camps would be set up and Syrian migrants could live within their country's borders again.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The motives behind Turkey's plan are many and thickly layered. Most important, Turkey needs to avoid augmenting the burden migrants are placing on it at home while its economy is deteriorating. Second, Turkey is legitimately threatened by the Islamic State and wants to create as much distance as possible between its borders and those of the self-proclaimed caliphate. But the reasons don't stop there. Turkey can see that its southern neighbor will be fragmented for the foreseeable future. Ankara does not want to eradicate the Islamic State only to see Kurdish forces take its place. Rather, it wants to establish a physical foothold in northern Syria to ensure that the Kurds cannot create a viable autonomous state that could exacerbate Turkey's own Kurdish problem at home.

There is also a broader objective framing Turkey's strategy. A divided Syria undoubtedly creates risk, but it also presents an opportunity for Turkey to expand its sphere of influence in the Levant. This is the main driver behind Turkey's campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government and replace it with a Sunni Islamist-led administration that takes its cues from Ankara. After all, someone would have to provide security to make the zone in northern Syria "safe"; Turkish forces and civilian personnel presumably would take the lead in reinforcing such a corridor, potentially placing Turkish boots back on Arab soil.

Meanwhile, there is a murkier motive to consider. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party will enter the Nov. 2 elections with a low chance of winning enough votes to regain its majority in parliament. The likelihood of the elections resulting in another hung parliament, coupled with Erdogan's reluctance to share power, raises the potential (albeit in an extreme scenario) for Turkey to use the premise of a military operation in Syria to stave off a third round of elections.

But Russia is botching Turkey's plans. Russia, Turkey and NATO are still arguing over whether two alleged Russian violations of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border were intentional (as Turkey and NATO claim) or accidental (as Russia insists they were). Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday that Russia was ready to form a working group and that it would be pleased to host Turkish Defense Ministry officials in Moscow to avoid further misunderstandings in Syria. Ankara has no choice but to interpret Russia's actions as a signal that Moscow is willing to interfere in a Turkish-led safe zone if Ankara tries to push ahead with its plans.

Moscow's strategy has already begun to bear fruit. The European officials who met with Erdogan in Brussels listened politely to his ideas for a safe zone and promised to discuss the idea further. But no European power wants to risk getting mixed up with a brazen Russia on the Syrian battlefield. The Europeans would rather bargain with Erdogan on issues such as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and Turkey's acceptance of more migrants on the Continent's behalf instead.

The United States has kept Turkey's safe zone plan at arm's length for similar reasons. However, Russia's military adventurism in Syria is accelerating U.S. plans for a rebel offensive that could still at least partially fit with Turkey's interests.

In the coming months, the United States will be focused on the areas east and west of the Euphrates River. To the east, the United States will ramp up its support for Kurdish forces and their allies in preparation for a move toward Raqqa against the Islamic State. Greater U.S. support for Kurdish forces will not please Turkish leaders, but the United States' simultaneous boost in aid for the rebels Turkey has been preparing to the west will. Here, the United States and Turkey will work together to try to carve out a border zone free of the Islamic State's presence. The Americans are avoiding the label of a safe zone to keep the operation from conflating with Turkey's more ambitious agenda. Nonetheless, the United States will be indirectly taking the first crucial steps toward Turkey's ultimate goals for northern Syria.

Of course, Turkey will still have to contend with Russia. Moscow will do whatever it can to play off the fears of the NATO alliance. If a buffer zone were established in Syria and if Turkey, a NATO member, tried to protect the airspace over the zone, who would shoot down the Russian air force in the event that it crossed into the zone? In Brussels, Erdogan reiterated that "an attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO." But if NATO proves too afraid of the consequences of responding to Russian interference, then NATO's credibility will have been dealt a major blow. And that is exactly the outcome the Russians are hoping for.
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« Reply #103 on: November 28, 2015, 10:18:06 PM »

Turkey is the Wrong Partner to Fight Terror
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
November 28, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right), seen here with Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal (center) and Ismail Haniyeh in June 2013, famously declared that "there is no Islamic terror."

Sadly, the free world feels compelled to partner with the wrong country in its fight against Islamic terror.

The host of this year's G-20 summit, which came right after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, was Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In his usual Sunni supremacist language, he accused the victims of jihad rather than the jihadists. "New tragedies will be inevitable," he said, "if the rising racism in Europe and other countries is not stopped. Racism, coupled with enmity against Islam, is the greatest disaster, the greatest threat."

Yet Erdogan willingly ignores the rising racism, xenophobia, and anti-western, jihadist sentiments that increasingly command the hearts and minds of his fellow Turks. A quick look at a few sports games and fan behavior in recent weeks would reveal much about the Turkish mind and heart.

Erdogan ignores the jihadist sentiments that increasingly command the hearts and minds of his fellow Turks.

On October 13, three days after a twin suicide bomb attack in Turkey's capital, Ankara, killed more than 100 Kurds and pro-Kurdish, leftist and secular Turks, the central Anatolian province of Konya, a hotbed of political Islam in Turkey, hosted a Euro 2016 football qualifier between Turkey and Iceland. Before the kick-off, both teams stood for a moment of silence to protest the bomb attack -- a typical gesture to respect the victims. Sadly, the moment of silence was marred by whistles and jeers: apparently the football fans of Konya were protesting the victims, not their jihadist killers.

Anyone under the impression that the whole world stands in solidarity with Paris should think again. Hundreds of Turkish fans booed and chanted "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is greater" in Arabic) during a moment of silence for the Paris attack victims before a Turkey-Greece soccer friendly. Once again, the Turks were exhibiting solidarity with the terrorists, not their "infidel" victims.

More recently, on Nov. 21, Turkish police had to deploy 1,500 policemen so that Turkish fans could not harm the visiting Israeli women's national basketball team. One thousand five hundred police officers at a women's basketball game! Despite that, Turkish fans threw objects at Israeli players as they were singing Israel's national anthem. Fans also booed the Israeli players while others applauded the fans who threw the objects.

Turkish fans threw trash at the visiting Israeli women's national basketball team last week.

Unsurprisingly, Turkish fans waved Palestinian flags. Israeli women basketball players were barred from leaving their hotel other than for training and the game.

None of that is surprising although, at least in theory, Turkey is a candidate state for membership in the European Union. A new study by Pew Research Center revealed that 8% of Turks have a favorable opinion of the Islamic State (IS), higher than in the Palestinian territories, where support for IS stands at 6%, and only one point lower than in Pakistan. Nineteen percent of Turks "do not know" if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of IS -- which means 27% of Turks do not have an unfavorable opinion of the jihadist killing machine. That makes more than 21 million people! Of the countries polled, Lebanon boasted a 100% unfavorable opinion of IS and Jordan, 94%. In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, 4% reported a favorable opinion of IS, half of Turkey's.

This is Erdogan's "neo-Ottoman" and increasingly Islamist Turkey. After the Paris attacks, this author saw tweets that called the victims "animal carcass;" that said "now the infidels will lose their sleep out of fear;" and others that congratulated the terrorists "who shouted Allahu Akbar."
Meanwhile, and so funny, the free world cannot see that its ally to fight the jihadists is another jihadist. How should Erdogan fight Islamic terror – something he does not believe exists? One of Erdogan's famous remarks is, "there is no Islamic terror." But he thinks that "just like fascism," Zionism is a crime against humanity.

There is a Turkish saying that could perhaps describe the free world's alliance with Erdogan's Turkey against jihadist terror: "Kuzuyu kurda emanet etmek" ("to trust the wolf with the sheep").

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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« Reply #104 on: December 08, 2015, 08:27:06 AM »

Turkey's Human Wave Assault on the West
by Gregg Roman and Gary C. Gambill
The Hill
December 7, 2015
Turkey is trying to overwhelm Europe by sheer force of numbers.

For months, Western policymakers have agonized over what to do with the masses of Sunni Muslim migrants flooding Europe by the boatload, particularly Syrians. Largely missing from this discussion is the question of why this flood is happening.

For starters, it doesn't have much to do directly with the civil war in Syria or the rise of ISIS. The vast majority of the 886,662 migrants who illegally entered Europe this year embarked from Turkey, a little over half of them Syrians who took shelter in the country over the past four years. "EU officials have said ... Ankara was very effective in previous years in preventing the outflow of refugees from the country," according to the Wall Street Journal.

What caused the spike in migration is that Ankara stopped containing it. Over the past year or so, the Turkish government has allowed human traffickers to vastly expand their operations, bringing prices down tenfold (from $10,000-$12,000 per person last year to around $1,250 today, according to one report). This spawned what the New York Times calls a "multimillion-dollar shadow economy" profiting from the traffic, ranging from the smugglers to manufacturers of cheap rafts, life vests, and other equipment.

Turkey opened the spigot of migrants to extract financial, political, and strategic concessions in exchange for closing it.

By the spring of this year it had become easier and cheaper than ever before to illegally enter Europe through Turkey, and more people have taken advantage of the opportunity Ankara has created.

So why did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan open the spigot? Put simply, to extract financial, political, and strategic concessions from European governments in exchange for closing it.

Ankara certainly hasn't been shy about asking for money over the course of its negotiations with EU officials in recent weeks. On November 29 the EU agreed to provide Turkey with an "initial" $3.19 billion and take steps to expedite its bid to join the EU in exchange for Turkish promises to better patrol its coastlines.

Erdogan also used the crisis to generate foreign political support ahead of snap elections on November 1, essentially a re-do of the June 2015 elections that saw the ruling AKP lose its parliamentary majority for the first time. Though Western diplomatic protocol frowns on state visits during election time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Istanbul for high-profile meetings with Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu just two weeks before the vote. The European Commission postponed the release of a report detailing the erosion of the rule of law, freedom of expression and judicial independence in Turkey until after the election in order, according to Reuters, "to avoid antagonizing" its president.

Most worrisome, perhaps, is Turkey's pursuit of strategic payoffs for its human wave assault on Europe. In a letter sent to European leaders at the September 23 EU migration summit, Davutoglu proposed the creation of a "safe zone" and U.S.-enforced no-fly zone stretching from the Turkish border 80 km into northern Syria, where his government has backed a variety of Sunni Islamist insurgents against both pro-regime Syrian forces and local Kurds.
Although the start of Russian military intervention in Syria on September 30 put an end to this fantasy for the time being (which perhaps explains why the Turks were so trigger-happy in shooting down an SU-24 that only slightly violated their airspace on November 24), you can bet Erdogan will use the migrant crisis to pressure the West into supporting his ambitions in Syria.

The most vexing question is what to do with a government that uses human beings as a diplomatic pressure tactic.

If all of this sounds familiar, it's because the late Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi used to play the same game, turning the pipeline of illegal trans-African migration into Europe on and off as a way of extracting concessions. The most vexing question, then as now, is not what to do with the migrants, but what to do with a government that so callously manipulates masses of downtrodden human beings as a diplomatic pressure tactic.

On this there's room for debate. But the first step in doing anything about it is to call Erdogan out for what he is – dangerous and manipulative – no partner for Western leaders. Still, after meeting with the Erdogan in Paris on Tuesday, President Obama praised Turkey for being "extraordinarily generous when it comes to its support of refugees."

The next step, instead of bribing Turkey with ransom payments to end the hemorrhaging of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into the West, should turn the tables on Ankara. The potential loss of Western support to Turkey as it deals with both Russia and ISIS should be the sword of Damocles, convincing Erdogan to contain the refugee crisis.

Western material support to Turkey should be cut off entirely unless Ankara puts an end to the refugee crisis it is manufacturing and begins to play a constructive role in bringing stability to the region. How appropriate that an ancient Greek tragedy disrupt the current calamitous Turkish-born reality.

Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum. Gary C. Gambill is a research fellow at the Middle East Forum

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« Reply #105 on: December 08, 2015, 12:57:23 PM »

second post

By Reva Bhalla

With the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet still fresh on his mind, Russian President Vladimir Putin had some choice words for his erstwhile ally Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he delivered his state of the nation speech to the Russian Federal Assembly on Dec. 3. Putin angrily lamented "we were prepared to cooperate with Turkey on most sensitive issues and go further than their allies. Allah knows why they did it. Apparently Allah decided to punish the ruling elite in Turkey by taking their sanity."

While Putin may sound a bit dramatic, there is a hard geopolitical truth behind his shock and dismay toward Turkey. Russia knows the importance of keeping Turkey as a friend when it is facing off with bigger powers to the West. That is because Turkey holds the keys to the Dardanelles and Bosporus — the only way Russian merchant vessels and warships can reach the Mediterranean from Russia's warm water ports in the Black Sea. All of Putin's calculations in dealing with the United States are now turning on an uncomfortable reality that Moscow can no longer fully rely on Turkish neutrality in one of the most strategic spots on the map.
Stressing Over the Straits

The year 1946, when World War II had just wrapped up, offers a useful snapshot into Moscow's extraordinary obsession with the Turkish straits. Since losing its empire after World War I, an economically devastated Turkey had struggled to piece together a nation, wisely choosing to sit out the second round of global conflict. A decade earlier, when Hitler's troops had invaded the demilitarized Rhineland and Mussolini was openly declaring his desire to take over Anatolia, an anxious Turkey demanded a revision to the doctrine governing the straits, arguing that the straits needed to be remilitarized and placed under Turkey's exclusive control. The result was the Montreux Convention of 1936, which formalizes Turkey's role as custodian of the straits, ensures freedom of passage for merchant vessels in times of peace and imposes size, type and tonnage restrictions on non-Black Sea war vessels. Under the convention, war vessels from non-Black Sea states Turkey permits to enter the straits cannot stay in the Black Sea for longer than 21 days. In times of war, Turkey is expected to ban belligerents from the straits altogether to keep the Black Sea conflict free.

But the Soviets were never completely satisfied with Turkey's neutrality, knowing that Ankara was likely to tilt West when things got rough. The Soviets told the Turks in 1946 that if they were sincere about being allies, then they should give the Soviets basing rights in the Dardanelles. The Soviets bandied a number of threats to convey its seriousness to Turkey, such as Soviet territorial claims to portions of eastern Turkey, stirring up Kurdish separatists and backing Syrian claims to Hatay province.

A frazzled Turkey looked across the Atlantic for U.S. help. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Edwin Wilson explained to U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes that, "the real [Soviet] objective towards Turkey is not a revision of the regime of the Straits, but actual domination of Turkey. In the vast security belt of the Soviet Union, which extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Turkey constitutes a sole gap … the Soviet objective, therefore, is to break down this present independent Turkish government and to establish in its place a vassal or "friendly" regime in Turkey, which will complete the security belt of subservient countries on Russia's western and southern frontiers and put an end completely to Western influence in Turkey."

The time had thus come for the United States to bring Turkey under its security umbrella.

On April 6, 1946, the USS Missouri arrived in Istanbul on the pretext of delivering the ashes of a Turkish ambassador to the United States who had died on U.S. soil. A jubilant Turkey celebrated the arrival of the U.S. battleship with special postage stamps and gifts for U.S. naval officers. As Ambassador Wilson put it, "the USS Missouri visit is thus apt to take on the character of one of those imponderable events, the influence of which extends far beyond the immediate theater in which it occurs." The ostentatious display of a U.S. security guarantee was the prelude to U.S. President Harry S. Truman's February 1947 request to Congress to provide foreign aid to Turkey and Greece "to assist free people to deal with their destinies in their own way." This was the Truman Doctrine that locked in the Cold War, with Turkey sitting squarely on the U.S. side.
An Old Rivalry Revived

The Turkish-Russian confrontation is now back, not because either side willed it, but because geopolitics compelled it. Putin and Erdogan are the inheritors of two historical empires that fought several wars from the 17th century to the 19th century. With both countries resurgent, they were bound to butt heads again. The first sign came in August 2008, when Russia's invasion of Georgia woke Turkey up to a Moscow ready and willing to apply military force to re-create buffers in the former Soviet sphere to counter Western encroachment. At that time, Russia was not happy at the sight of Turkey allowing U.S. warships into the Black Sea to deliver aid to Georgian ports; Moscow conveyed its displeasure by holding up thousands of Turkish trucks at the Russian border. But both sides went out of their way to avoid a bigger breach.

The 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea was the next big Russian punch to the Turkish gut. Roughly 300,000 Turkic-speaking Tatars remain on the Crimean Peninsula as a remnant of Ottoman history. Turkey's quick defense of the Tatars in the wake of the Russian invasion stemmed from more than a concern for its ethnic kin: Turkey understood that the balance of power in the Black Sea was shifting. Russia's seizure of Crimea meant Moscow no longer has to deal with pesky lease arrangements with a mercurial government in Kiev. Russia now enjoys the freedom to beef up its Sevastopol-based Black Sea Fleet, a fleet largely designed to counter Turkey's naval strength.

Russia's push into Syria in 2015 was the red line for Turkey. In this chapter of Turkish expansion, the Islamist Justice and Development Party is logically prioritizing its volatile Middle Eastern backyard. The Turkish focus is on northern Syria and northern Iraq, a belt of former Ottoman provinces that naturally extend eastward from Turkey's Hatay province. Russia's involvement in Syria in defense of the Alawite government runs directly against Turkey's objective of expanding its own military footprint in Aleppo, keeping a check on Kurdish separatist activity and eventually replacing Syrian President Bashar al Assad with a Sunni government friendly to Turkish interests.

Syria is of peripheral interest to the Russians, just as Ukraine is of peripheral interest to the Turks. But there are a number of factors drawing the Russian military dangerously close to Turkey's core interests along the Syrian-Turkish border. The Islamic State is a real threat to Russia, and Moscow has a legitimate interest in targeting the threat at its source. At the same time, Russia's relationships in Syria are concentrated in Alawite circles. Russia sees its leverage with the Alawite government as its main way to negotiate with the United States, keep Iran dependent on Moscow and deal with threats like Islamic State. The more crowded the battlefield, of course, the greater the chances of a Turkish and Russian collision.

To supply its forces in Syria, the Russian navy has been relying on the so-called Syrian Express, a naval supply route from Sevastopol on the Black Sea to its Eastern Mediterranean naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus. As gatekeeper of the straits, Turkey could theoretically complicate this supply route. In peacetime, Turkey could still claim it is abiding by the Montreux Convention and allowing Russia free access while increasing inspections on passing Russian ships. While it would prove an annoyance to Russia, Moscow's main worry is Article 20 of the Montreux Convention, which says that in wartime Turkey as a belligerent has full discretion when allowing or preventing the passage of warships through the strait, potentially cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean.
Turkey's Double-Edged Sword

The straits are powerful tools Turkey can use against Moscow, but Ankara cannot easily quit Russia. Turkey is the second-largest buyer of Russian natural gas, a significant importer of Russian oil and metals, and the largest buyer of Russian wheat and sunflower oil. A contentious relationship with Russia will bring enormous economic pain to the Turks. Nowhere is this truer than in their energy relationship. Unlike oil, coal or wheat, which can be sourced from alternative suppliers, Turkey has no quick and reliable alternative for natural gas, an important energy source for industry and households. Russia supplies around 55 percent (or about 27 billion cubic meters of its 50 bcm annual needs) of Turkish natural gas consumption. That supply is split between two pipelines that each can hold 16 bcm of natural gas; Blue Stream, which runs directly from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea; and the Gas-West pipeline, which transits Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria before reaching Turkey. Turkey is not close to closing the straits to Russia nor is Russia close to cutting off natural gas to Turkey. But even so, Turkey must start taking its energy security much more seriously now that it is in an open confrontation with Russia.

The problem for Turkey is that there are no quick-fix solutions to its energy dilemma. Turkey has only two liquefied natural gas import terminals, at Marmara Ereglisi (8.2 bcm annual capacity) and Aliaga (5 bcm annual capacity). With limited LNG import and storage capacity (3 bcm), Turkey has much work to do — and investment to raise — to build out this infrastructure over the course of several years.

Ankara's alternative pipeline suppliers carry their own set of complications. Turkey imports roughly 20 percent of its natural gas from Iran; such imports could grow as Iran begins to repair its energy sector after years of sanctions. It will take considerable time, however, and expanding the Iran-Turkey energy relationship would still carry big risks for Turkey. Iran is just as much a geopolitical challenger to Turkey as Russia is, and the more assertive Turkey becomes in the Middle East, the more its competition with Iran will grow in Syria and Iraq.

Iranian-Turkish competition only further complicates Turkey's ambitions for Iraqi Kurdistan, where Erdogan has developed close business ties to Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani. Turkey has already helped Barzani develop an independent oil export route at the expense of Iran's allies in Baghdad and is now gearing up to do the same for natural gas to feed the Turkish market. But the collapse of Turkey's peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (whose fighters rely on Iraqi Kurdistan for refuge) and a power vacuum in northern Syria exploited by Kurdish separatists will drive Turkey's military to become more aggressive beyond its borders in both Syria and Iraq. Turkey's control over the revenues from those oil export sales gives Ankara substantial clout over the Iraqi Kurdish government, but Barzani and his allies are also in the untenable position of doing business with the Turkish enemy at the same time Turkey is incrementally enlarging its military footprint in Kurdish territory. This creates an easy opportunity for Iran and Russia to exploit Kurdish divisions and militancy to push back against Turkey.

While pursuing an extraordinarily complicated energy plan in Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey is also trying to edge its way into the Eastern Mediterranean energy scene. Both Israel and Cyprus have seen their offshore natural gas export plans stall because of export and regulatory obstacles while Egypt has emerged as the new potential natural gas hub of the region. As the debate continues over the many proposals for pipelines and LNG export terminals, Turkey will have added urgency to prod along reunification talks in Cyprus to remove one of the key blocks to Turkey's energy integration with its estranged eastern Mediterranean neighbors.

The most geopolitically compatible energy source for Turkey is Azerbaijan, which is preparing to send 6 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey starting from 2019 through the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (and another 10 bcm that will be sent onward to Europe through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline). This will help Turkey shave down its energy dependence on Russia by about 12 percent, but Turkey will still need to look elsewhere to truly loosen Russia's grip. The Caucasus, like the Middle East, will redevelop into another big arena for Turkish-Russian competition. Russia is already hard at work trying to pull Baku closer to the Kremlin through diplomatic maneuvering over Nagorno-Karabakh and will do what it can to obstruct plans by Turkey and Azerbaijan to create an energy link across the Caspian with Turkmenistan.
The Turkish Awakening

Four years ago, Stratfor co-hosted a simulation in Istanbul with the Turkish Industry and Business Association to paint a picture of the energy world in 2040 and Turkey's place in that world. We saw a world in which a reluctant Turkey was inevitably going to be drawn into conflicts in the Middle East and with Russia, making it all the more imperative for Turkey to strategize a future that would deny Russia the ability to cripple Turkey economically. Then-Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (now prime minister) concluded the simulation with a message that Turkey is "not about to follow a new expansionist policy" and that Turkey's way of coping with energy challenges is to take advantage of its geographic position and maintain a stable relationship with its neighbors.

This was a time when Davutoglu's "zero problems with neighbors" policy was still clouding the vision of the Turkish political elite. The policy proved to be shortsighted, but was also expected from a country that was awakening from a decadeslong geopolitical slumber and was in no mood to create trouble in the region. But all the signs were there: Russia was already making aggressive moves in its near abroad, the European Union was showing early signs of unraveling and the Syrian civil war was just getting started.

Four short years later, Turkey has shot down a fighter jet belonging to its main energy supplier and is preparing for a military push into its Mideast rim. And Putin now has to figure out how to manage a Turkey that is much more willing to work with the United States and its Central and Eastern European peers to balance Moscow's aggressions. Ankara has been suppressed for some time, but there is no denying it now: Turkey's time has come.
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« Reply #106 on: January 01, 2016, 07:23:20 PM »
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« Reply #107 on: January 03, 2016, 09:44:45 AM »

The muslim world hearts Hitler.
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« Reply #108 on: January 06, 2016, 10:09:09 PM »

Russian Imperialism Meets Delusions of Ottoman Grandeur
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
December 31, 2015

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Slightly edited version of an article originally published under the title "Russian Imperialism Meets Illusions of Ottoman Grandeur."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) says he doesn't understand why Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) intervened in Syria, since Russia "does not even border Syria."

In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks." Almost three and a half years have passed, with Assad still in power, and Davutoglu keeps on making one passionate speech after another about the fate of Syria.

Turkey's failure to devise a credible policy on Syria has made the country's leaders nervous. Both Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have lately resorted to more aggressive, but less convincing, rhetoric on Syria. The new rhetoric features many aspects of a Sunni Islamist thinking blended with delusions of Ottoman grandeur.

On December 22, Davutoglu said, "Syrian soil is not, and will not be, part of Russia's imperialistic goals." That was a relief to know! All the same, Davutoglu could have been more direct and honest if he said that: "Syrian soil will not be part of Russia's imperialistic goals because we want it to be part of Turkey's pro-Sunni, neo-Ottoman imperialistic goals."

Erdogan's rhetoric on Syria blends Sunni Islamist thinking with delusions of Ottoman grandeur.

It is obvious that Davutoglu's concern is not about a neighboring territory becoming a theater of war before it serves any foreign nation's imperialistic goals. His concern, rather, is that neighboring soil will become a theater of war and serve a pro-Shiite's imperialist goals. Hardly surprising.

"What," Davutoglu asked Russia, "is the basis of your presence in Syria?" The Russians could unconvincingly reply to this unconvincing question: "Fighting terror, in general, and ISIL in particular."  But then Davutoglu claims that the Russian military hits more "moderates" (read: merely jihadist killers, not to be mixed with jihadist barbarians who behead people and cheerfully release their videos). Translation: more Islamist targets and fewer ISIL targets.
A legitimate question to ask the Turkish prime minister might be: What is the basis of "moderate" Islamists' presence in Syria?

Could the basis be the religious bond? Could Prime Minister Davutoglu have politely reminded the Russians that the "moderate" fighters are Muslim whereas Russia is not? But then, one should ask, using Davutoglu's logic, "What is the basis of the U.S.-led Western coalition's airstrikes in Syria?" Since when are the Americans, British, Germans and French Muslims?

In Turkish thinking, there is just one difference between non-Muslim Russia's presence in Syria and non-Muslim allies' presence: The non-Muslim Russians seriously threaten the advancement of our pro-Sunni sectarian war in the Levant, whereas the non-Muslim allies can be instrumental in favor of it. Hence Turkey's selective objection to some of the non-Muslim players in Syria.

For Davutoglu, only countries with regional ambitions convergent with Turkey's have the right to tamper in former Ottoman lands.

Earlier in 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he found it difficult to understand what Russia was doing in Syria, since "it does not even border Syria." By that logic, Turkey should not be "doing anything" in the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan or any of the non-bordering lands into which its neo-Ottoman impulses have pushed it over the past several years. By the same logic, also, Turkey should be objecting to any allied (non-Muslim) intervention in Syria, or to any Qatari or Saudi (non-bordering) intervention in the Syrian theater.

In the unrealistic imperial Turkish psyche, only Turkey and the countries that pursue regional ambitions convergent with Turkey's can have any legitimate right to design or re-design the former Ottoman lands.

Such self-righteous and assertive thinking can hardly comply with international law. The Turks and their imperial ambitions have already been declared unwelcome in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Nor would such ambitions be welcomed in any former Ottoman land to Turkey's west. But if, as Turkey's Islamists are programmed to believe, "historical and geographical bonds" give a foreign nation the right to design a polity in another nation, what better justification could the Russians have had for their post-imperial designs in Crimea?

When they have a moment of distraction from their wars against Western values, the West, Israel, Jews or infidels, the Sunni and Shiite Islamists in the Middle East fight subtle-looking (but less subtle than they think) and cunning (but less cunning than they think) wars and proxy wars, and accuse each other of pursuing sectarian policies. Turkey's rulers are no exception.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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« Reply #109 on: January 30, 2016, 09:26:48 PM »

Turkey's Free Speech Assault is Beyond 'Worrying'
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
January 27, 2016

A criminal indictment was filed against Sedat Ergin (left), editor-in-chief of the country's most influential newspaper, Hurriyet, for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right).

Defending his quest for an executive presidential system Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Hitler's Germany as an effective form of government. Yes, he said, you can have the presidential system in a unitary state as in Hitler's Germany. His office later claimed that the president's "Hitler's Germany" metaphor had been "distorted" by the media. Erdogan's words on Hitler's Germany may or may not have been distorted, but the way he rules Turkey reminds one powerfully of how Hitler ruled the Third Reich.

With or without a distortion of Erdogan's words, a criminal indictment was filed against Sedat Ergin, editor-in-chief of the country's most influential newspaper, Hurriyet. Prosecutors demanded up to five years in prison for Ergin, for allegedly insulting Erdogan. The indictment claims that Hurriyet insulted the president by paraphrasing his Sept. 6, 2015 remarks about an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on the Iraqi border, which killed 16 Turkish soldiers.

Such insane charges are no longer news in Erdogan's Turkey. On Jan. 11, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the host and the producer of a popular talk show on charges of "terrorist propaganda." The move came after a caller, identifying herself as a schoolteacher, protested the civilian casualties during recent security operations against the PKK. The caller was urging the public to raise its voice against the deaths of "unborn children, babies and mothers." She did not even mention the PKK.

500 journalists were reportedly fired in Turkey last year, while 70 others were subjected to physical violence.

According to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association, 500 journalists were fired in Turkey in 2015, while 70 others were subjected to physical violence. Thirty journalists remain in prison, mostly on terrorism charges. Needless to say, the unfortunate journalists invariably are known to be critical of Erdogan.

Journalists are not the only ones threatened by a judiciary and law enforcement apparatus staunchly loyal to Erdogan. On Jan. 15, police detained scores of academics whom Erdogan had labeled "dark people" for signing a declaration that denounced military operations against the PKK.

Over 1,100 Turkish and 300 foreign academics signed the declaration that Turkish prosecutors think "insulted the state and engaged in terrorist propaganda on behalf of the PKK." Just before the arrests, Erdogan decried the signatories and called on the judiciary to act against the "treachery."
"Just because they have titles such as professor, doctor in front of their names does not make them enlightened. These are dark people," Erdogan said. "They are villains and vile because those who side with the villains are villains themselves."

In their declaration, these "traitors" said they refused to be "a party to the crime" and called on the government to halt what they called a "massacre."
One convicted mafia leader, a notoriously nationalistic man, publicly threatened the signatories that "we will take a shower in their blood." Unlike the "terrorist" academics, he has not so far been indicted for that threat.

"For Turkish democracy (whatever that is) this is yet another low. It confirms that this is a 'democracy' with rapidly diminishing freedom of speech. It is 'democracy' where the 'voice of the nation,' which practically is the voice of the political majority and its glorified leader, intimidates and silences dissenting voices," wrote Hurriyet columnist Mustafa Akyol.

The Turkish Justice Ministry's statistics perhaps best explain the huge democracy deficit in the Turkey of Erdogan. Turkey's prisons have a total capacity to house 180,176 inmates. As of January 13, Turkey had a total of 179,611 inmates, meaning that there will not be any space if Turkish prosecutors detain just 565 more.
Europe, cherishing its "transactional" relations with Turkey, prefers to look the other way.  All of this is happening not in Germany of the late 1930s but in Turkey of the 21st century.  Meanwhile, Europe, cherishing its "transactional" relations with Turkey, prefers to look the other way and whistle.  All the European Union could say about the prosecution of the academics who signed the declaration was that it is "extremely worrying." Brussels cannot see that Turkish affairs passed the threshold of "extremely worrying" a long time ago.

Prominent journalist Can Dundar, who has been in jail on terrorism charges since Nov. 26, was right when he wrote in an open letter to Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, that "the rapprochement between Turkey and the European Union over refugees should not overshadow violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey during the country's EU accession process."

In reality, Turkey's irregularities are too big to be hidden behind the usual diplomatic words such as "concern" and "worrying." Ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's meeting in London with Britain's David Cameron, more than two dozen prominent writers, including David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Hari Kunzru, William Boyd, Ali Smith, Sarah Waters and Monica Ali, called on the British prime minister to urge the Turkish government to halt its crackdown on freedom of speech.

The English, Welsh and Scottish branches of PEN put it in plain language: "Over the past five months, intimidation, threats and even physical assaults against journalists, writers and publishers have become the norm [in Turkey]."
Turkey is now more than "worrying."

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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« Reply #110 on: March 16, 2016, 12:44:11 PM »

The European Union Caves to Turkey's Blackmail
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
March 15, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (2nd from left) says his latest round of talks with Europe's leaders was bargaining "a la Kayseri," a Turkish city famous for its cunning merchants.

Turkey has been sliding into an ugly Islamist despotism. Yet its relations with the European Union (EU) it aspires to join have rarely been better. Some call it a mutually "transactional" improvement: "pragmatism."

Others, in less diplomatic language, call it Turkish blackmailing on the back of the refugee crisis. Even Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu admitted that his latest round of negotiations with Europe's leaders was bargaining a la Kayseri, a Turkish city famous for its tough-bargaining merchants.

In reality, modern Turkey has never been this galactically distant from the core values enshrined by the European civilization and its institutions, including even the EU.  Turkey has never been so galactically distant from core European values.

When Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that the detention for 92 days of two journalists, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, constituted a breach of their basic rights, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hide his anger. He said he would not respect or obey the Supreme Court's ruling.  The journalists had been charged with espionage and terrorism after their secular newspaper, Cumhuriyet, ran photos and a story about Turkish intelligence sending trucks full of arms to jihadists fighting in Syria. Prosecutors demand life sentences for the prominent journalists.

Erdogan does not mind playing the supreme leader beyond the check on power of law. In a March 11 speech, Erdogan said:

The Constitutional Court has to be one of the institutions that should be the most sensitive about the interests and rights of the state and the people. But this institution and its president have not hesitated to rule against the country and its people on one of the most concrete examples of a massive attack towards Turkey in recent times.  Turkey is now a country where the elected president publicly says that he will not obey a ruling from the Supreme Court.
In one of its boldest moves against free speech, Turkish courts, controlled by Erdogan's government, put the newspaper Zaman, one of the last remaining media critics of Erdogan, under state control. A court actually appointed administrators to run the newspaper. Editor-in-chief Sevgi Akarcesme said that this was effectively the end of media freedom in Turkey. said in a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu that press freedom in Turkey is "under siege."
Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey ranks 149th amongst the 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index 2015.

It's not just the press. Prosecutors also detained four prominent businessmen who run a multibillion-dollar conglomerate for alleged ties with Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who was formerly a staunch political ally of Erdogan. Gulen's followers broke with Erdogan after the two groups entangled in a power-sharing struggle in late 2013.

The newspaper Zaman too, was a Gulenist outlet critical of Erdogan's undemocratic practices. After its seizure by the judiciary, the newspaper now features a distinctly pro-government slant. One of its front pages after take-over featured a picture of a smiling Erdogan.

Against such a gloomy background, the EU's ties with Turkey, instead of going into the deep freeze, are flourishing. Two ministers from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government have voiced support for Turkey's EU membership bid in an apparent praise for Turkey's potential "usefulness" in Europe's efforts to deal with a pressing refugee crisis. "I am for the opening of the chapter on justice and human rights, finally," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas of Social Democrats (SPD) told German magazine, Spiegel, in an article published on March 11. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said: "It is right to accommodate further the negotiations on Turkey's EU membership now."
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), accuses Turkey of "blackmailing" the EU.

Such praise came when Turkey and the EU are in negotiations over a re-admission agreement in which Turkey will take back some of the illegal Syrian migrants who reach Greek shores –-and then travel to central Europe—in return for a visa-free travel regime for 79 million Turks and speeding up Turkey's several decades-long membership process. After the latest round of talks with the EU, Davutoglu proudly told reporters of a "Kayseri-style bargaining," not hiding his pleasure at tricking the Europeans by the notorious business cunning and acumen of the people of Kayseri.

Quite realistically, Nigel Farage, a British opposition figure, accused Turkey of "blackmailing" the EU over the Syrian refugee crisis and its proposed EU membership. The UKIP party leader told the European Parliament it was "outrageous" that Turkey had been offered concessions on joining the bloc in exchange for doing a deal to accept more refugees and migrants.

None of what has been going on in Turkey is surprising. By a popular vote, the country has been dragged into an Islamist tyranny. Yet it is only by a grotesque irony that the European leaders might surrender.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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« Reply #111 on: March 21, 2016, 09:47:08 PM »

Turkey's Erdoğan Gambles and Loses
by Daniel Pipes
The Australian
March 19, 2016

A rhetorical question by the time the Economist ran this cover in June 2013.

The Republic of Turkey, long a democratizing Muslim country solidly in the Western camp, now finds itself internally racked and at the center of two external crises, the civil war in next-door Syria and the illegal immigration that is changing European politics. The prospects for Turkey and its neighbors are worrisome, if not ominous.

The key development was the coming to power of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2002, when a fluke election outcome gave him total control of the government, which he then brilliantly parlayed into a personal dominion. After years of restraint and modesty, his real personality – grandiloquent, Islamist, and aggressive – came out. Now, he seeks to rule as a despot, an ambition that causes his country incessant, avoidable problems.

Initially, Erdoğan's disciplined approach to finance permitted the Turkish economy to achieve China-like economic growth and won him increasing electoral support while making Ankara a new player in regional affairs.

After years of restraint, the real Erdoğan – grandiloquent, Islamist, and aggressive – came out.

But then conspiracy theories, corruption, short-sightedness, and incompetence cut into the growth, making Turkey economically vulnerable.

Initially, Erdoğan took unprecedented steps to resolve his country's Kurdish problem, acknowledging that this ethnic minority making up roughly 20 percent of the country's population has its own culture and allowing it to express itself in its own language.

But then, for electoral reasons, he abruptly reversed himself last year, resulting in a more-than-ever determined and violent Kurdish insurgency, to the point that civil war has become a real prospect.

Initially, Erdoğan accepted the traditional autonomy of the major institutions in Turkish life – law courts, the military, the press, banks, schools.
(Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar (right) and journalist Erdem Gül (left) were jailed on charges of terrorism and espionage when they exposed Erdoğan's covert support for ISIS.)

No longer; now he seeks to control everything.

Take the case of two prominent journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül: because their newspaper, Cumhuriyet, exposed the Turkish government's clandestine support for the Islamic State (ISIS), Erdoğan had them imprisoned on the surreal charges of espionage and terrorism. Worse, when the Constitutional Court (Turkey's highest) reversed this sentence, Erdoğan accused the court of ruling "against the country and its people" and indicated he would ignore its decision.

Initially, Erdoğan maintained cautious and correct relations with Moscow, benefiting economically and using Russia as a balance against the United States. But since the reckless Turkish shoot-down of a Russian warplane last November, followed by a defiant lack of apology, the little bully (Erdoğan) has more than met his match with the big bully (Russia's Vladimir Putin) and Turkey is paying the price. French President François Hollande has publicly warned of "a risk of war" between Turkey and Russia.

Initially, Erdoğan's accommodating policies translated into a calming of domestic politics; now, his bellicosity has led to a string of minor and major acts of violence. To make matters worse, many of them are murky in origin and purpose, building paranoia. For example, before the Kurdish group TAK claimed responsibility for the bombing on Mar. 13 that killed 37 near the prime minister's office in Ankara, the attack was variously blamed on Kurds, ISIS, and the Turkish government; . It was interpreted as intending to justify a more forceful campaign against domestic Kurds or to punish the government for attacking the Kurds; to encourage a Turkish military invasion of Syria or to frame Erdoğan's political archenemy, the Gülen movement.
The scene in Ankara on March 13.

Initially, Turkey became a plausible candidate for membership in the European Union thanks to Erdoğan's muted behavior. Now, his slide toward despotism and Islamism means the Europeans go merely through the motions of pretending to negotiate with Ankara, while counting on the Republic of Cyprus to blackball its application; as Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil notes, "modern Turkey has never been this galactically distant from the core values enshrined by the European civilization and its institutions."

In the early months of the Syrian uprising, Erdoğan offered sage advice to the dictator in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, about relaxing his grip and allowing political participation. Things have gone so awry that – as Dündar and Gül reported – Erdoğan now supports ISIS, the most fanatical and Islamist organization of today, and perhaps ever. That support has taken many forms: permitting foreigners to cross Turkey to reach Syria, allowing recruitment in Turkey, providing medical care, and provisioning money and arms. Despite this, ISIS, fearful of betrayal by Ankara, threatens and attacks Turks.
Erdoğan's error of backing ISIS and other Sunni Islamist organizations in Syria has hurt him in another way, leading to a massive influx of Syrian refugees to Turkey, where, increasingly unwelcomed by the indigenous population, they cause new social and economic strains.

Which brings us to Erdoğan's latest gambit. The many Syrian refugees wanting to go on to northwestern Europe provide him with a handy mechanism to blackmail the European Union: pay me huge amounts of money (€6 billion at latest count) and permit 80 million Turks to travel visa-free to your countries, or I will dump more unwelcome Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, et al. on you.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu speaks at a conference on immigration.

So far, the ploy has worked. Led by Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Europeans are succumbing to Erdoğan's demands. But this may well be a Pyrrhic victory, hurting Erdoğan's long-term interests. In the first place, forcing Europeans to pretend they are not being blackmailed and to welcome Turkey with clenched teeth, creates a foul mood, further reducing, if not killing off, Turkish chances for membership.

Second, Erdoğan's game has prompted a profound and probably lasting shift in mood in Europe against accepting more immigrants from the Middle East – including Turks – as demonstrated by the poor showing of Merkel's party in elections earlier this month.

This is just the start. In combination, these errors by Erdoğan point to more crises ahead. Gökhan Bacik, a professor at Ipek University in Ankara, notes that "Turkey is facing a multifaceted catastrophe," the scale of which "is beyond Turkey's capacity for digestion." If Iran is today the Middle East's greatest danger, Turkey is tomorrow's.

Daniel Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.
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« Reply #112 on: April 05, 2016, 08:54:00 PM »

Erdoğan's One-Man Islamist Show
by Burak Bekdil
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2016 (view PDF)

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Explosions rip through a group of protesters staging an anti-government peace rally in Ankara, October 2015, resulting in the worst ever single terror attack in Turkey's modern history. The upsurge in violence helped propel President Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) to a stronger showing in the November elections, but he did not receive enough votes to change the constitution.
Secular and liberal Turks sighed with premature relief when on June 7, 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) lost its parliamentary majority in general elections for the first time since it came to power in November 2002. With 41 percent of the national vote (compared with 49.8 percent in the 2011 general elections), the AKP won eighteen fewer seats than necessary to form a single-party government in Turkey's 550-member parliament. More importantly, its parliamentary seats fell widely short of the minimum number needed to rewrite the constitution in the way Erdoğan wanted it so as to introduce an executive presidential system that would give him uncontrolled powers with few checks and balances, if any.[1]
Undaunted by what looked like an election defeat, Erdoğan chose to toss the dice again. At his instructions, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu pretended to hold coalition negotiations with opposition parties while secretly laying the groundwork for snap elections.[2] In Erdoğan's thinking, the loss of a few more seats would make no difference to AKP power, but re-winning a parliamentary majority would make the situation totally different. Then a terrible wave of violence gripped Turkey.
First, the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK), which had been fighting a guerrilla war from mountain hideouts in northern Iraq, declared an end to its unilateral ceasefire begun in 2013.[3] Then on July 20, a Turkish suicide bomber killed more than thirty people at a pro-Kurdish gathering in the small town of Suruc.[4] Claiming that the Turkish state had a secret role in the bombing, the PKK killed two policemen in the town of Ceylanpinar.[5] The three-decades-old violence between the Turkish and Kurdish communities had suddenly roared back with a vengeance. In one of Turkey's bloodiest summers ever, more than a thousand PKK fighters and Turkish security officials were killed.
Then in October, ISIS attacked in the Turkish capital. Two suicide bombers, one Turkish the other Syrian, killed some one hundred people at a pro-peace rally in the heart of Ankara, the worst single terror attack in the country's modern history.[6] By then, Erdoğan had already dissolved parliament and called for early elections on November 1, calculating that the wave of instability would push frightened voters toward single-party rule.
Erdoğan's gamble paid off. The elections gave the AKP a comfortable victory and a mandate to rule until 2019: 49.5 percent of the national vote, or 317 parliamentary seats, sufficient to form a single-party government but still short of the magical number of 330 necessary to bring a constitutional amendment up for referendum. Once again, political Islam had won in Turkey. But how, in a span of just five months, did a government mired in rising unemployment, economic slowdown, terror attacks, and soldiers' funerals succeed in increasing its national vote by about nine percentage points? A combination of factors offers some clues.
A Splintered Opposition
The AKP's renewed victory illustrates the hopelessly divided and polarized state of the Turkish political scene. To begin with, not all Kurds are PKK supporters. The summer-long violence between the PKK and the Turkish military seems to have won over those Kurds with relatively more loyalist sentiments toward Turkey as well as those who sympathize with the Islamist AKP for reasons of piety. This caused a shift of votes, measured at 1.4 percentage points, from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to the AKP.
The AKP's renewed victory illustrates the hopelessly divided and polarized state of the Turkish political scene.
More importantly, the violence improved the AKP's position vis-à-vis the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which shares more or less the same voter base. In the June elections, some of the AKP's votes seem to have shifted to the MHP (which won 16.3 percent of the balloting overall), apparently due to nationalist disapproval of the AKP's peace overtures to the Kurds. Once they scrapped the peace process and launched an all-out war against the restive Kurdish minority, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu could boast of their newfound nationalist spirit. In the November elections, the MHP lost 4.1 percent—all of which apparently went to the AKP.
Add to this the disappearance from the political scene of two splinter parties, one with an Islamist and the other with nationalist manifestos, which had won 2 percent of the vote on June 7, allowing the AKP to pick up another 1.5 percent of the overall vote.
The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) shares more or less the same voter base with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and gained strength in the June 2015 general elections. MHP leader Devlet Bahceli (left) sat down for inconclusive talks with prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (right) in August 2015, but as Turkey spiraled into violence, and Davutoglu's AKP party scrapped its peace process with the Kurds, the MHP lost ground in the November balloting.
Finally, in the June elections, some AKP voters apparently refrained from voting in the face of Erdoğan's lavish public lifestyle, his assertive unconstitutional intervention in party politics, and growing allegations of corruption and nepotism. Ipsos, the global market research company, found that nearly half of those who had abstained were AKP voters.[7] Yet they returned to the ballot box in November to help their ailing party, earning the AKP another 2 percentage points. Was this "non-buyer's remorse" or something more troubling? Are Turks displaying a form of Stockholm syndrome in which hostages, psychologically beaten into submission, develop sympathy and positive feelings toward their oppressors?
Interestingly, a study released shortly before the November elections found that only a quarter of Turks were not afraid of Erdoğan; as many as 68.5 percent said they were. The research also found that even some of Erdoğan's own supporters were afraid of him.[8] In any event, the turnout rate was nearly 4 percent higher in November than in June—half of which apparently went to the AKP.
Erdoğan's Road to an Elected Sultanate
Erdoğan has never hidden his ambitions to legitimize his de facto executive presidency. As he said in a 2015 speech,
There is a president with de facto power in the country, not a symbolic one. The president should conduct his duties for the nation directly but within his authority. Whether one accepts it or not, Turkey's administrative system has changed. Now, what should be done is to update this de facto situation in the legal framework of the constitution.[9]
To legitimize his rule by changing the constitution, his AKP party needs at least 330 seats but has only 317. Since the November elections, all three of the major opposition parties have said that they would not support any AKP-sponsored amendment in favor of an executive presidential system. But in Turkish politics nothing is impossible.
The secular, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is unlikely to be in favor of Erdoğan's sultanate-like presidential system under any scenario.[10] The Nationalist Movement Party has firmly denied any potential support although it has cooperated with the AKP in some controversial legislative work in the past, such as a bill that legalized the Islamic headscarf on university campuses.[11] That leaves the pro-Kurdish HDP as Erdoğan's only possible partner.
The Kurdish party's rhetoric on the presidential system has been tricky. It refused to support any presidential amendment "in a unitary Turkey" but does that mean it would withhold support from an AKP-sponsored presidential bill in a "federal Turkey?"[12] A federal Turkey, meaning one with an autonomous Kurdish region, is the HDP's main objective. Thus it could find itself in a transactional relationship with the AKP for some degree of Kurdish autonomy in return for supporting Erdoğan's modern-day, elected sultanate.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is tirelessly seeking to rewrite the Turkish constitution to increase his control of the country in its entirety. While a study released shortly before the November elections found that more than 68 percent of Turks were afraid of him, his party still won a comfortable election victory and gained enough seats in parliament to form a single-party government although still short of the number needed to bring a constitutional amendment up for referendum.
For that to happen, the current wave of violence between Kurds and the Turkish military would have to come to a halt. At the beginning of 2016, there were no such signs, and what looked like a localized civil war, contained mainly to Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey, continued to claim lives daily.[13] Worse, Erdoğan and the Davutoğlu government look less prone to any reconciliation. Even a call for peace could be deemed "terrorist propaganda."
In January, for example, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the host and the producer of a popular talk show on such charges. The move came after a caller, identifying herself as a schoolteacher, protested the civilian casualties during the security operations against the PKK. The caller was urging the public to raise its voice against the deaths of "unborn children, babies, and mothers." She did not
even mention the PKK.[14] Shortly after that, Turkish police detained scores of academics for signing a declaration denouncing military operations against the PKK. In their declaration, the so-called traitors wrote that they refused to be "a party to the crime" and called on the government to halt what they said was a "massacre."[15]
More than 1,100 Turkish and three hundred foreign academics signed the declaration, which Turkish prosecutors claimed "insulted the state" and engaged in "terrorist propaganda" on behalf of the Kurdish group. Erdoğan decried the signatories and called on the judiciary to act against this "treachery." Erdoğan said,
Just because they have titles such as professor [or] doctor in front of their names does not make them enlightened. These are dark people. They are villains and vile because those who side with the villains are villains themselves.[16]
Alongside any fresh ceasefire—not likely but not altogether impossible—HDP will want renewed talks for a political solution to Turkey's Kurdish dilemma. Beginning in 2011, Erdoğan did enter into negotiations with the Kurds and convinced them to call for a ceasefire in 2013. He might try that again.
Davutoğlu often publicly presents a milder Islamist posture than Erdoğan.
But both Erdoğan and the Kurds would have less appetite this time for such a new political adventure. Kurds trust him less than they did between 2011 and 2013. At the same time, Erdoğan has discovered that he wins more votes if he plays to the nationalist Turkish constituencies rather than Kurdish ones. He will be more reluctant to shake hands with the Kurds than he was in 2013 and is able to read the election results of June and November 2015.
Erdoğan's ambitions also leave in limbo his right-hand man, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. In Turkey, the prime minister is the head of the executive while the president's constitutionally-defined role is largely symbolic. When Davutoğlu was campaigning to win more votes for the AKP in 2015, he was in a real sense campaigning to end his own political career as the chief executive of the country. There is some speculation that Davutoğlu, who often publicly presents a milder Islamist posture than the president, may eventually break with his patron and his authoritarian style, especially in light of the charges of corruption, favoritism and extravagance that beset the president. However, that expectation is too optimistic given Davutoğlu's character and devotion to ideology.
Since Davutoğlu was chosen by Erdoğan to succeed him as prime minister in the summer of 2014, he has alternated between conducting himself ethically and in a Machiavellian fashion. While he may even view himself as a paladin for advancing the interests of Turkey and Islam (or Islamism), he knows that in order to further these goals he must continue to serve the man whom he sees as the champion of Turkish Islamism, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He must, therefore, remain prime minister and, as such, must ignore the issues that challenge his ethical and religious side.
This helps explain why Davutoğlu repeatedly uses one particular word in public speeches: "dawa" (dava in Turkish) or the "political cause."[17] His loyalty is not to the seat he occupies or to worldly ambitions but to the struggle for the advancement of Islamism under the Turkish banner, to the dawa. It is unlikely then to expect Davutoğlu to betray his boss or the dawa.
Turkey by the Numbers
In Turkish politics, Erdoğan remains unrivalled. There is no credible indication that any of the three opposition parties could increase their votes so as to threaten the AKP in the near future, and there is no internal rival for leadership. The main opposition Republican People's Party's returns seem to be stuck in neutral, at a mere 25.4 percent in the November 2015 balloting, down marginally from 25.9 in 2011.[18] The nationalist MHP is in the midst of a chaotic leadership race while its national figures edge toward a number below the 10 percent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation (11.7 percent in the November 2015 election). Although it won parliamentary representation for the first time in history in 2015, the pro-Kurdish HDP conducts itself under the violent shadow of the militant PKK.
The separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) recently declared an end to its unilateral ceasefire begun in 2013. Although the Turks have a clear military advantage, the Kurdish minority also possesses a secret weapon: The fertility rate in Kurdish-speaking parts of Turkey is higher than in the Turkish-majority regions. The Kurds may emerge as the Turkish Islamists' main rivals in the not-too-distant future simply by having more babies.
There are, moreover, sociopolitical and demographic reasons to anticipate that both Islamists and Kurds will perform better in any future Turkish election. From a political perspective, Turkey is becoming increasingly right-wing and religiously conservative. F. Michael Wuthrich of the University of Kansas' Center for Global and International Studies has demonstrated that Turkish voting bloc patterns have progressively shifted to the right from 59.8 percent in 1950 to 66.7 percent in 2011.[19] This pattern, presumably still in progress, will work in favor of the AKP or any other political party championing Islamist-nationalist ideas. In 2015, Erdoğan boasted that the number of students studying to be imams rose from a mere 60,000 when his party first came to power in 2002 to 1.2 million in 2015.[20] When those students reach the voting age of eighteen, marry, and have children, their pious families will likely form a new army of five to six million AKP voters.
But the Kurds also have their own demographic advantages. Presently, the total fertility rate in eastern and southeastern, Kurdish-speaking Turkey is 3.41, compared to an average of 2.09 in the non-eastern, Turkish-speaking areas. For his part, Erdoğan has urged every Turkish family to have "at least three, if possible more" children.[21] But things are not moving as he wishes. The total fertility rate in Turkey dropped from 4.33 in 1978 to 2.26 in 2013. Unsurprisingly, it currently stands at 3.76 for women with no education and at 1.66 for women with high school or higher degrees.[22]
Just like less-educated (and more devout) Turks grew in number and percentages over the past decades and brought Erdoğan to power simply by combining demographics and the ballot box, the Kurds may, therefore, emerge as the Turkish Islamists' main rivals in the not-too-distant future simply by using the same political weapon.
Turkey seems to be stuck between two unpleasant options: Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian, de facto one-man rule or the same rule legitimized by a rewritten constitution. The sultan will not give up his ambition to raise "pious generations."[23] But do Turks care how their country is trending?
Nearly half of AKP voters do not think they live in a democratic country but are happy to vote for the party anyway.
A recent survey by Kadir Has University in Istanbul suggests that a substantial number of Turks are fully aware of the current trajectory. The survey found that 56.5 percent of Turks do not think Turkey is a democratic country while 36.1 percent think it is. Similarly, 59 percent think that there is no freedom of thought while 33.1 percent said there is. A mere 9 percent of Turks think there "definitely" is a free press in the country although another 31.3 percent agree to some extent. These numbers leave almost 60 percent who are sure they no longer have these civil liberties.[24]
More alarmingly, when narrowed down to AKP voters—49.5 percent according to the November 2015 elections—the study finds that these Turks do not care all that much about democratic values. Only 58.3 percent of those who vote for the AKP think Turkey is a democratic country; 56.7 percent think there is freedom of thought in the country, and 54.8 percent think there is a free press. In other words, nearly half of AKP voters do not think they live in a democratic country but are happy to vote for the party anyway, without blaming it for the democratic deficit. This is truly worrying for Turkey and, looking beyond Anatolia, for NATO (of which Turkey is a member), and the EU (to which Turkey aspires).
The country is being dragged into increasing levels of authoritarianism with few if any checks and balances. The opposition parties fail to impress the voters and show no sign of credibly challenging Islamist rule. An unresolved rift between a growing Kurdish population and a shrinking Turkish one has the potential to explode, especially as Kurds outside Turkey gain de facto independence. Meanwhile, a frightening number of Turks just do not seem to care that the representative, democratic republic bequeathed to them by Kemal Atatürk is becoming just one more relic in the junkyard of history.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow of the Middle East Forum. He has also written for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997.
[1] Hürriyet (Istanbul), Jan. 27, 2016.
[2] Reuters, Aug. 3, 2015.
[3] Al-Jazeera America (New York), Nov. 5, 2015.
[4] BBC News, July 20, 2015.
[5] Al-Jazeera (Doha), July 22, 2015.
[6] BBC News, Oct. 10, 2015.
[7] Emre Çetin, blog, Jan. 11, 2015.
[8] Ertuğrul Özkök, "The Turkish Public Is Afraid of the President," Hürriyet, Oct. 22, 2015.
[9] Hürriyet, Aug. 14, 2015.
[10] Today's Zaman (Istanbul), Dec. 30, 2015.
[11] Bianet (Istanbul), Feb. 10, 2008.
[12] Akif Beki, "Başkanlık 'federasyon'da tıkanıyor," Hürriyet, Jan. 7, 2016.
[13] Hürriyet, Jan. 20, 2016.
[14] Ibid., Jan. 11, 2016.
[15] The Washington Post, Jan. 15, 2016.
[16] U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 15, 2016.
[17] Birgün Gazetesi (Istanbul), Aug. 6, 2015.
[18] Taha Akyol, "Where to, CHP?" Hürriyet, Jan. 19, 2016.
[19] F. Michael Wuthrich, National Elections in Turkey: People, Politics, and the Party System (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2015), p. 30.
[20] Cumhüriyet (Istanbul), Sept. 28, 2015.
[21] Hürriyet, Jan. 3, 2013.
[22] A. Banu Ergöçmen, presentation, Hacettepe University's Institute of Population Studies, Ankara, May 11, 2015.
[23] Fox News, Feb. 13, 2015.
[24] Hürriyet, Jan. 27, 2016; "Eğilimler Araştırması 2015 Sonuçları Açıklandı," Kadir Has University, Istanbul.
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« Reply #113 on: April 17, 2016, 12:30:38 PM »

I just got back from Germany yesterday and had a chance to converse at dinner the night before about the prosecution (with Merkel signing off on it) of the German comic for insulting Erdogan.

Though I have been rather limited to news access while gone, I gather that Merkel's logic is that this is necessary to keep the deal with Turkey blocking further invasion of Europe/Germany going (at the cost of billions of Euros btw).

Here's a thought-- maybe we should be making Turkey worry about the continuation of its status in NATO.  Russian is making moves in the Caucusus region as well as Turkey and Turkey may come to be glad to its NATO protection.

Now that we are thinking of it, is it a good idea for NATO (i.e. the US and the Euro dwarves) to be in mutual defense relationship with Turkey?
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« Reply #114 on: May 03, 2016, 12:37:15 PM »

Erdogan Expands His Assault on Journalists Beyond Turkish Borders
IPT News
May 3, 2016

A caricature depicts Ebru Umar working away despite a Turkish ball and chain tied to her ankle.

Ebru Umar was angry. A Dutch journalist of Turkish heritage, she has been known to take that anger to the page. On the night of April 24, from her summer home in Kusadasi, Turkey, she took it instead to Twitter, raging against a letter the Turkish Embassy in the Netherlands sent to Turkish organizations throughout the country. The message: Please report anyone who has insulted Turkey or its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If possible, include the perpetrator's name, e-mail address, and other identifying information.

In tweets laced with profanity, including "#f***ererdogan," Umar decried the edict (which the embassy had later unconvincingly explained was "misinterpreted" as a result of "unfortunate wording"). Even more, she condemned the many Dutch-Turks who supported it. Tweeting late into the night, she cursed Erdogan, cursed his supporters, and battled verbally with Dutch Turks who responded by threatening to turn her in to the police. Then she went to bed.

Soon after, a knock at her door signaled that someone had followed through with the threat: Turkish police officers stood outside. Umar spent the night in prison. Though she was released the next day, she may not leave the country. This land arrest could easily end in days, or it could last years. Meantime, as Dutch officials negotiate with the Turkish government to bring her home, she continues writing and condemning the oppression facing her and other journalists.

That's not just in Turkey, which now stands 151st in a list of 181 countries ranked for press freedom.

"The biggest problem [in Turkey] is freedom of thought, and especially freedom for journalists to engage in political commentary," Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk declared last year.

Increasingly, Turkish officials are making demands of, and threats against, journalists abroad.

The notice from Turkey's embassy to the Netherlands, for instance, followed Germany's decision a month ago to charge comedian Jan Boehmermann for reading an anti-Erdogan poem on his talk show. The poem referred to yet another incident in Germany: the satirical broadcast of a song titled "Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan," which included such statements as: "Equal rights for women: beaten up equally."

Shortly after the "Erdowie" satire aired, Erdogan demanded it be deleted from the station's web site and wiped from the internet. The TV station refused.
But if German broadcasters had defied Turkey's demands, Chancellor Angela Merkel has proved more malleable. There are political reasons for this. As Dutch journalist Jeroen Wollars said on Dutch TV program "De Wereld Draait Door" the day after Umar's arrest, Germany has become completely dependent on Erdogan in the face of the recent agreement over Syrian refugees, which essentially gives the Turkish president the power to stop the wave of refugees to Europe or permit it to continue. Hence, when the Turkish government demanded Boehmermann be prosecuted for insulting its president, Merkel caved. The 35-year-old satirist now faces jail time on the grounds of section 103 of the German penal code, which criminalizes insulting a foreign head of state.

"Erdogan has become extremely aggressive since the deal," noted Turkey-based Dutch journalist Lucas Waagmeester on "De Wereld Draaait Door." "And it's not just Erdogan – it's the Turkish soul." In pursuing that aggression, Holland must have seemed like a strategic target. Dutch Turks voted heavily for Erdogan in Turkey's snap election last November, suggesting that they would be sympathetic to his call.

But no one had counted on Ebru Umar.

Legally, Umar faces the same dilemma confronting Boehmermann: Dutch law also prohibits insulting foreign world leaders. (Though in the shadow of the Boehmermann case, several parliament members have called for repealing the law.) Meantime, pundits on Dutch news and talk shows debate the issue, speaking of the "long arm of Erdogan" and condemning her arrest.

But not everyone agrees. The day Umar was released from jail, her Amsterdam apartment was burgled, her old laptop stolen, and the word "whore" scrawled in the hallway. "NederTurks," as Umar calls them – second and third-generation Dutch Turks – continue to threaten her on Twitter, and say in media interviews that she "deserved" to be arrested.

She insulted our president, they say. In other words, they view Erdogan as their president, and take conservative Turkish values – not Dutch – as their own. What's more, identifying with Erdogan indicates that they support restricted speech, a more Islamist culture, and have turned against the free secular society in which they were born.

For this, Umar views them as traitors to their country, and to their parents and grandparents who left everything behind, she writes, to give them freedom:
"I think your parents, who left house and home to give you a homeland of freedom and security, are proud of you. Your parents who for years have missed their families, have lived and worked in often appalling conditions so that you, their children, could have a better life than they did. Congratulations for your totally failed Dutch-ness. Congratulations for your total loyalty to a pair of mountain goats from Turkey – goatf*ckers, if you will, whom you follow as soon as they call on you to behave like the NSB [a Dutch fascist party active from the 1930s to 1945]. Any idea what the NSB was? Oh, wait, no – the lessons in school about WWII have been scrapped, right? Yes, thanks."

Dutch officials have begun voicing concern about Ebru's safety if she does return to The Netherlands. Even so, she has refused police protection. A similar reaction by another outspoken writer, Theo van Gogh (whose column she took over after his 2004 murder by a Muslim radical), proved fatal.

Meantime, what the Dutch are calling the "long arm of Erdogan" continues to extend its grasp. On April 25, as Umar was leaving her prison cell, American freelancer David Lepeska, who has lived in Istanbul for years, returned from a brief holiday in Italy only to be denied re-entry at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. Instead, the freelancer, who has written for Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy and others, was held for 20 hours before being ushered onto a flight to Chicago without explanation. Contacted by e-mail the following day, he said only, "A bit heartbroken, but determined to return."

But even if he is able to go back to Istanbul, what kind of country will he be returning to? In March, authorities seized control of the country's most popular newspaper, Zaman. In August, 2015, two American journalists working for Vice were arrested and charged with terrorism, along with their Turkish associate. Last Thursday, two editors from Turkish daily Cumhurriyet were sentenced to two years in prison on blasphemy charges for reprinting the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons.

For all its exotic charms and celebrated cultural riches, Turkey is fast becoming a land where no journalist, no matter where he or she may come from, can be safe.
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« Reply #115 on: June 08, 2016, 05:16:55 PM »

One of the world's architectural masterpieces built by Holy Roman Emperor Justinian ordered be used by Ergodan to be used for Muslim prayer during Ramadan:

That would be like me going to Mecca and holding a Friday night Jewish service there.
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« Reply #116 on: July 15, 2016, 05:35:06 PM »

Sounds like coup is good for us and probably Israel:
« Last Edit: July 15, 2016, 08:38:19 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #117 on: July 16, 2016, 08:06:21 AM »

Relations between Turkey and Israel will remain status quo but Israeli leaders would not have shed tears if the sectarian Ergodan was ousted.

"This is also the reason that Erdogan purged institutions in the state and instituted changes within them to strengthen his hold on power. He put his loyalists in key positions in Turkey's intelligence agency, police, justice system, education system and the army. He harassed the media, trying to take it over and marginalized business leaders who he saw as hostile to the throne."

Sounds like Obama here.  Enforce some laws and not others (such as immigration law to increase his power by shipping in people who will vote for his party by the millions).  Executive orders all over the place to strengthen his (Democrat) hold on power.  Place flaming liberal loyalists all over government and intimidate those who disagree in the media and use propaganda with jurnolisters .
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« Reply #118 on: July 17, 2016, 07:21:14 AM »

Warning :  a lot of adds:
« Last Edit: July 17, 2016, 10:27:10 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #119 on: July 18, 2016, 12:33:23 AM »

Turkey's Manipulation of Europe, Then and Now
by Efraim Karsh
The Times Literary Supplement
July 17, 2016

Originally published on June 24 under the title "Holding the Balance of Power: Turkey's Complicating Relationship with Europe during the First World War and Since."
A Turkish regime exploiting an international crisis to manipulate Europeans. Sound familiar?

It is a historical irony that, for the second time in a century, Turkey is exploiting a major international crisis to manipulate the most powerful European nation into a hugely misconceived and self-defeating policy.

Having exacerbated the Syrian civil war by allowing jihadists of all hues to cross Turkish territory to fight his friend-turned-nemesis Bashar al-Assad, then spurred a massive humanitarian crisis by allowing hundreds of thousands of Syrian refuges (and assorted Middle Eastern migrants camped in Turkey) to infiltrate Europe illegally, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan capitalized on Chancellor Merkel's recoil from her "open door" migration policy to extract substantial financial and political concessions from the European Union that, if fully implemented, will irreversibly change the EU's demographic and cultural identity.

Ottoman culpability for the outbreak of the First World War was of course infinitely smaller, yet the ailing Muslim empire was equally adroit in harnessing German vulnerabilities and anxieties to its advantage. In The Ottoman Endgame, Sean McMeekin lays bare the full extent of Istanbul's manipulation and deceit, beginning with its success in goading Berlin into a secret defence alliance unpalatable to most German decision-makers, including the Chancellor, the Foreign Minister, the Ambassador to Istanbul, and numerous senior officers who considered the Ottoman army a "problem child."
Sean McMeekin, The Ottoman Endgame. 550 pp. Allen Lane. £30, 9-781846-147050.

He shows, for example, how the Ottoman Minister of War, Enver Pasha, clinched the alliance treaty by promising to turn over to Germany the soon-to-be-delivered UK-built Ottoman flagship, knowing full well that the vessel had been requisitioned by London; and how, immediately after signing the agreement, the Ottomans extracted a string of far-reaching concessions, left out of the preceding negotiations lest they prevent the treaty's conclusion, by allowing two German warships into the Dardanelles (in contravention of the 1841 London Convention stipulating the closure of the straits to military vessels), only to have them incorporated into the Ottoman navy so as to comply with Istanbul's declaration of neutrality - made in flagrant violation of the nascent alliance treaty.

Indeed, in order to get their ally to comply with its contractual obligation to join the war, the Germans had to pour vast quantities of weapons and money into the bottomless Ottoman pit and had to endure months of insinuated threats of defection before the Sultan declared war on the Anglo-French-Russian Triple Entente on November 10, 1914.

Nor was the objective balance of power between the two allies reflected in the actual relationship between them throughout the war. Quite the reverse; in line with their long-established practice of using their perennial weakness as a lever for winning concessions from powerful allies, the Ottomans exploited their First World War setbacks to attract ever-growing military, economic, and political support from Berlin for paltry returns.
The Ottomans exploited their wartime setbacks to attract greater military and economic support from Berlin.

Thus, for example, in the late-war negotiations on the renewal of the bilateral alliance, Istanbul secured the reiteration and expansion of the original German pledges as well as a commitment both to avoid a separate peace treaty and to accord the Ottoman Empire vast territorial gains in Thrace, Macedonia, and Transcaucasia. Similarly, in the summer of 1917, when Enver set out to establish a special 120,000-strong new army, code-named Yilderim ("Thunderbolt"), the Germans agreed to assign to it thousands of troops despite their great reluctance to divert any forces from the main theatre of war in Europe.
Last but not least, the Germans so resented the Ottoman foray into Transcaucasia following Russia's departure from the war in the wake of the October 1917 Revolution that they threatened to withdraw all their officers from the Ottoman Empire were it to march on the Azeri capital of Baku, and planned to resist such a move "with all available means," including sabotaging the railways used to supply the Turkish army. These attempts at influence, however, came to naught as Istanbul considered Transcaucasia the natural preserve for its imperial ambitions, going so far as to order its forces to engage in battle any German units that stood in their way.

McMeekin's meticulous documentation of this pushing and shoving goes a considerable way to discrediting the conventional paradigm of Ottoman victimhood. Yet he seems reluctant to follow his factual findings to their logical conclusion. "The decision by Turkish statesmen to enter the war in 1914 is best understood as a last gasp effort to stave off decline and partition by harnessing German might against the more dangerous powers with designs on Ottoman territory - Russia, Britain, and France (in roughly that order)", he writes. "Given the security problems facing the empire in 1914, there was no realistic scenario in which it could have endured indefinitely on some kind of status quo ante, only bad and worse options."
Istanbul's plunge into World War I was a straightforward attempt to revive imperial glory and regain lost territories.

This conclusion is hardly supported by the historical facts (or, indeed, by The Ottoman Endgame's narrative). Far from a desperate bid to stave off partition by the European powers (merely a year before the outbreak of the First World War, Britain and Russia prevented the destruction of the Ottoman Empire by its former Balkan subjects), Istanbul's plunge into the whirlpool was a straightforward attempt to revive imperial glory and regain lost territories. Had the Ottomans stayed out of the conflict, as begged by the Triple Entente, they would have readily weathered the storm and the region's future development might well have taken a different course.

No empire can of course endure indefinitely and the Ottoman Empire was no exception to this rule. Yet, having lost its European colonies well before the First World War, it faced no intrinsic threat to its continued existence for the simple reason that its mostly Muslim Arabic-speaking Afro-Asian subject population was almost totally impervious to the national idea - the ultimate foe of empires in modern times and the force that had driven the Ottomans out of Europe.

Even more far-fetched is the author's speculation that in the event of a German victory "a semi-victorious Britain (whatever this creative euphemism means) may still have picked off Ottoman Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Syria in exchange for accepting the German position in Russia and Ukraine." For one thing, there is no reason to assume that a victorious Germany would have shown greater magnanimity to a defeated Britain (or France) than that accorded to it by the two powers. For another, having shown no interest in colonizing the Ottoman Empire before the world conflict, Britain remained wedded to its continued existence for months after Istanbul's entry into the war, leaving it to a local Meccan potentate - Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of the Hashemite family - to push the idea of its destruction.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk extricated Turkey from its imperial past reestablished it as a modern, largely secularist nation-state.

In his concluding comments, McMeekin rightly deems Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's extrication of Turkey from its imperial past and its reestablishment as a modern, largely secularist nation-state to have been a resounding success. What he fails to note, however, is that for quite some time this legacy has been under sustained assault. In the thirteen eventful years since it first came to power in November 2002, Erdoğan's Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) has largely undone Atatürk's secularist reforms; transformed Turkey's legal system; suppressed the independent media; sterilized the political and military systems; and embarked on an aggressive foreign policy blending anti-Western rhetoric with Neo-Ottoman ambition to "reintegrate the Balkan region, Middle East and Caucasus... together with Turkey as the centre of world politics in the future" (in the words of Foreign-Minister-turned-Prime-Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu).

This in turn means that while for Atatürk and his erstwhile successors Turkish-European relations, notably Ankara's bid for EU membership, were a matter of political and cultural affinity on top of anything else, for the AKP these relations are strictly instrumental: a springboard both for harnessing European economic and financial resources to the AKP's grand ambitions without real reciprocation, not unlike Istanbul's First World War alliance with Berlin, and for establishing an Islamist bridgehead in Europe with a view to its gradual expansion. As Davutoğlu told a large gathering of Swiss Turks in January 2015:
Islam is Europe's indigenous religion, and it will continue to be so... I kiss the foreheads of my brothers who carried the tekbir [i.e., the call Allahu Akbar] to Zurich... How holy those people were, who came and sowed the seeds here, which will, with Allah's help, continue to grow into a huge tree of justice in the centre of Europe. No one will be able to stop this... We will enter the EU with our language, our traditions, and our religion... Would we ever sacrifice one iota of that culture? With Allah's grace, we will never bow our heads.

Efraim Karsh is emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at Kings College London, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and principal research fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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« Reply #120 on: July 18, 2016, 08:07:50 AM »


Editor's note: As a coup in Turkey unfolds, this analysis, first published in December 2013, explores the competing circles of power that are now challenging the conservative rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has long sought to move the country away from control of its older secular elites, which include the military. We republish this analysis for its contextual insight.

Turkey's Bosporus, the 31-kilometer (19-mile) waterway transecting historic Byzantium — the present-day sprawling metropolis of Istanbul — provides an instructive metaphor for the roiling Turkish scandals currently grabbing headlines. Surface currents on this busiest of world straits flow from north to south, from the Black Sea through the Bosporus and on to the Mediterranean. Unseen, however, a deeper current below runs south to north, against seeming logic actually pulling water from the Mediterranean up and into the Black Sea from which it came. The Black Sea is what geologists call a "meromictic" lake, with some 90 percent of its volume devoid of oxygen, all of it low in salinity. The Mediterranean, by contrast, is highly saline. The result is a complex hydrology discovered only in 1935. The currents and crosscurrents mystify scientists to this day.

Much the same can be said of Turkey's politics: What one sees from above obscures the complexity and interplay of currents below. On the surface, Turkey appears to be a modern state with a political system and parties easily analogized to their counterparts in Europe or North America. In this view, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a reformist group credited with defanging a prickly military that mounted three coups between 1960 and 1980, delivering to the country a vibrant democracy. The AKP came to power in 2002 on a trilogy of promises to promote freedom, end poverty and end corruption. Until recently, Turkey under the AKP was touted by many in the West as a model for the Middle East and Islamic world.

More recently by this account, the AKP that came to power as a coalition of Islamists and liberals, is newly at odds with a group known as the Gulen movement, a powerful religious fraternity whose global network of media outlets, schools and commercial enterprises make it a serious player in Turkish politics. It is led in turn by a lay preacher named Fethullah Gulen, self-exiled and living in Pennsylvania.

Some 80 people have been swept up in a recent wave of arrests and charges, with at least four AKP ministers threatened with corruption indictments. A raid on the president of the largest state-owned bank found $4.5 million in his home. Scenes of the arrest of the son of the minister of interior, the nation's top cop, rivet Turkish TV watchers. Prosecutors tied to the Gulen movement meanwhile lead the drama. That the movement and its allies in the police and judiciary are seen as the animators of the now infamous "Ergenekon" and "Sledgehammer" court cases that silenced many an AKP critic and put hundreds of officers — including the former chief of the army's general staff — behind bars, serves to cement this view of the obvious current of Turkish politics. That the government's reaction was to remove the lead prosecutor, an erstwhile AKP hero, puts the capstone on this conventional narrative.

But within Turkey's complex political hydrology, something deeper ensues. For Turkey is not a modern state. Rather, it is the collapsed star of empire. It is the heir to the dynasties and sub-dynasties that wove the Ottoman Empire into a tapestry of shifting alliances among fiefdoms known as "millets." In turn, the Ottoman Empire itself, which conquered the Byzantine Empire in 1453, did not so much replace its predecessor as subsume and mimic it. No wonder that Turkey's politics remain, in a word, Byzantine.

It is not excessively simplistic to argue that the fundamental dynamic of the Ottoman Empire was an endless struggle between the center, in Istanbul, and the periphery that reached at the empire's height from Budapest in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, sweeping up to encircle the Black Sea in what is today Russia and the Caucasus. Those centrifugal forces eventually tore the empire apart, leading to the establishment of today's Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Secular republicanism nominally replaced theocratic monarchism, but old habits and reflexes endured.

One enduring tradition was a rent-seeking system of wealth creation at odds with any notion of Weberian capitalism. Innovation and entrepreneurialism was — and is — an almost alien concept. In its place was an intimacy between business and government that made the two often hard to distinguish. State-run enterprises dominated throughout the 20th century as vast private fortunes depended both on government largesse, connections and high tariff walls. The center of power, moved to the new inland capital of Ankara, was supreme, and tight central control under the tutelage of the military was the rule.

Political parties other than the founding Republican People's Party were not allowed until the late 1940s. When they arrived their hues were — and still are — more akin to fiefdoms or even the millets of old. They function as patronage systems, arbitrating factional disputes and managing the alliances of powerful families and the state. The first multiparty elections were held in 1950. Those elections, which yielded rule by a party of the periphery and hinterland, the Democrat Party, also signaled a return to the fundamental tension. Its leader, Adnan Menderes — whom Erdogan sees as a mentor — challenged the rule of the center and the patronage networks that both supported and were nurtured by that center. The result was the coup of 1960. Menderes was hanged. His gallows, constructed next to a makeshift military courthouse during his trial, speaks volumes about presumption of innocence in Turkey and hints at the independence of the judiciary even today.

Great family fortunes were allowed to accumulate, with the Eczacibasis, the Kocs, the Sabancis and the Dogans all synonyms today for Turkey's largest conglomerates. These replaced, and in some cases outright seized, the assets of the former commercial and subservient Ottoman classes, the non-Muslim minorities now largely departed.

Ideological violence, the Cold War and Turkey's Kurdish separatist impulses were all part and parcel of Turkey's grand political dramas of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. But whenever a government strayed too far from the centralist line, the military stepped in. Coups occurred in 1971 and again in 1980, with the political classes allowed to return only after a punitive breather each time.

Surges between these two poles created other and lesser commercial dynasties as each party upon obtaining power sought to buttress its gains with a new wealthy class of supporters created through access to state bank credits, public tenders and other patronage.

As globalized trade surged and tariffs fell during the 1980s, another new party and government led by the late Turgut Ozal took power. The Motherland Party spawned another round of assertiveness and economic rise in the hinterland. This empowered the so-called Anatolian Tigers, a breed of conservative bourgeoisie whose wealth stemmed from Turkey's embrace of the trends of globalization in textiles, cement, furniture manufacture and construction. Lesser clashes between the center and periphery ensued, including a "post-modern coup" in 1996, whereby the military quietly forced Turkey's first Islamist government from power. Once again, the old guard reasserted itself.

Ultimately, however, this newest class cleared the way for Erdogan's success in 2002. It also was fueling the rise of the Gulenist movement, which drew and draws its power from a similar if narrower base.

The first AKP government was a coalition of sorts of Islamists, secular conservatives weary of the state's fickle economic management, liberals with an eye on the model of the then-surging European Union, and, of course, the Gulenists.

The economy was improving, and in 2004, Turkey under the AKP began its negotiations to join the European Union. This embrace of the European Union masked many of the center-periphery distinctions, and a flood of portfolio and foreign direct investment greased the traditional cogs of patronage. But this also opened new fissures between the old and new ruling elites, with foreign direct investment in some years exceeding the entire volume of foreign investment into Turkey from the time of the republic's founding until 2000.

The sheer momentum of the EU embrace and economic growth aided greatly in the assault on military power, and with help from many quarters, the AKP curtailed the ability of the generals and jailed those who resisted. Real crimes were certainly addressed in a series of trials, though the motivations had to do with, once again, the currents below.

But the AKP's assault on the old guard was not limited to the military. Bastions of old-line commercial power, beginning with the media and telecommunications empire of the Uzan family, were effectively seized and redistributed to AKP allies. The media and energy empire of the Dogan family was hit next with billions of dollars in tax fines when the group stepped out of line in its reporting. More recently, the powerful Koc industrial and retail dynasty was cut down to size with a series of inquiries that followed support for protesters who rallied in the last spring and early fall in Istanbul's Gezi Park in opposition to Erdogan and the AKP's rule.

For its part, the Gulen movement is at odds with the AKP over many things. On the economic front in particular these include a set of proposed education reforms that would close private university prep classes, a moneymaker for the movement in a sector that vastly outstrips the size of the formal budget for national education. And indeed the movement appears the broker in the new anti-AKP coalition forming among the factions. But this is only the obvious political current.

The Gulenists, however, are clearly not alone. Erdogan's premiership has aroused great enmities among once-loyal liberals, conservatives and critically, the old elite who once thought they could do business with the AKP. With assets in the police, media and judiciary, the Gulen movement is a minor rival, but a useful and public one for the disparate groups now coalescing to cut Erdogan down to size.

The intent will likely be to tame the AKP, not kill it. The emerging electoral punch of the anti-AKP coalition in a presidential election next summer is unlikely to derail the AKP's formidable machine. Nor is it likely to deny Erdogan's move from premiership to presidency. But local elections in March are another matter. The prize of the Istanbul mayoralty, the post from which Erdogan launched his career two decades ago, is one the emerging anti-Erdogan coalition could snag with the help of the Gulenists. That will not devastate the AKP, but it will be a huge psychological blow and slow the party's swagger.

It will also signal the return of normalcy in Byzantium. After a decade in the shadows and on the defensive, the power brokers of the Ottoman-derived center are back to challenge the upstarts from the periphery of Turkish politics. Turkish politics flow in odd ways and multiple directions, just like the waters of the country's Bosporus.
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« Reply #121 on: July 20, 2016, 01:21:43 PM »
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« Reply #122 on: July 20, 2016, 04:06:11 PM »

I can't find where I posted my question, which side were we on, the military coup or the Erdogan disaster?

Don't Weep For Turkey's Erdogan -- He's Killing His Nation's Democracy

rkey: Foreign support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the coup was based largely on the idea of defending a democracy. But it's Erdogan who seems intent on destroying Turkey's democracy.

Everyone around the world seemed to agree that Turkish democracy was worth defending from a coup. "The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically elected government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed," a statement from the U.S. State Department read.

"Germany stands on the side of all of those in Turkey who defend democracy and the rule of law," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is home to millions of Turkish gastarbeiter.

Indeed, across the world the response was remarkably the same: Whether we like Erdogan or not, coups are bad and, after all, Erdogan was democratically elected. To support Erdogan is to support democracy. End of story.

Well, to a point.

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People forget Erdogan's own conflicted feelings about democracy. In the past, he has likened democracy to a train: You get on and then get off once you get to where you're going. In short, democracy for him isn't a bred-in-the-bone conviction but rather a political convenience, useful only for grabbing power then discarding it like yesterday's trash.

Case in point: Following the coup, Erdogan arrested 8,777 officers from the Interior Ministry, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency, including  103 generals and admirals and thousands of police officers. He also detained judges, lawyers, senior aides and others, said Anadolu.

This looks a lot more like a purge than a legitimate security action, particularly since Turkey's government has described the plotters -- none of whom has had a trial yet -- as a "cancer" that must be "cleansed" from Turkey's public institutions.

In an interview with CNN, it became quite clear that Erdogan won't be governing in the future as a small-d democrat. Apparently, he's getting off the train.

This is problematic for a number of reasons.

For one, Turkey has an outstanding application to join the European Union, based on the notion that it is a legitimate democracy.

But as Erdogan threatens to reinstate the death penalty to take care of those who allegedly plotted against him, the EU warns it will end any hope he has of future membership in the EU.

"Let me be very clear on one thing ... no country can become an EU member state if it introduces (the) death penalty," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

For another, Turkey is a NATO member. But it has been shaky in its support of NATO since Erdogan, a committed Islamist, took over, even denying NATO the use of airbases during the Iraq war. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the Turkish government could fall foul of NATO's "requirement with respect to democracy" and "diversity" if it fails to uphold the rule of law after the coup attempt.

No doubt Vladimir Putin, looking to expand his baneful influence in the Mideast, is licking his lips.

But the fact is, as head of the Turkish state since 2003 -- first as prime minister and since 2014 as president -- Erdogan has methodically exerted control over Turkish institutions and cashiered thousands of officers in Turkey's military, the traditional pro-Western bulwark against those who would end Turkey's secular democracy, first established by Ataturk in 1923.

And he's become more bold of late.

"Developments in the aftermath of the June and November 2015 parliamentary elections convinced many Turks that it was no longer possible to change the government through democratic and peaceful means," wrote Yüksel Sezgin, director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, in the Washington Post. "Erdogan would not recognize the results of June 2015 parliamentary elections in which his ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) lost its parliamentary majority and called for repeat elections in November 2015."

"In the meantime, he destroyed the peace process with the Kurdish rebels that he started a few years earlier and launched a major military campaign in the Kurdish cities, which left thousands of people homeless, injured and dead," Sezgin added.

In short, Erdogan has silenced media that criticize his regime, bullied the judiciary, harassed political foes and arrested those who pose a threat to him, all in his bid to restore an Islamic form of government based on Shariah law.

No, that doesn't mean the coup plotters would have been better.  But certainly Erdogan is no democrat -- at least not in the Western sense. We should stop defending him as such. Sadly, what remains of Turkey's democracy of 75 million may be gasping its last breaths, as Erdogan uses the coup as a pretense to seize greater and greater power. What a pity.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2016, 09:25:45 AM by DougMacG » Logged
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« Reply #123 on: July 21, 2016, 05:13:04 PM »

My understanding is that ever since Attaturk, the military had a role in defending secularism in governing-- a role which they have fulfilled several times.
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« Reply #124 on: July 27, 2016, 01:11:10 PM »

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« Reply #125 on: July 29, 2016, 07:55:10 AM »
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« Reply #126 on: July 31, 2016, 11:11:00 AM »
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« Reply #127 on: August 02, 2016, 04:20:52 PM »

Personally I would not give Obama any credit for this:
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« Reply #128 on: August 02, 2016, 06:58:56 PM »

Perhaps he simply prepares domestic opinion for his next move, , ,
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« Reply #129 on: August 11, 2016, 08:45:03 AM »
« Last Edit: August 11, 2016, 10:11:40 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #130 on: September 04, 2016, 12:16:04 AM »

•   Zhirinovsky vs. the Turks
Turkey's Exhausting Zigzagging between East and West
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
August 23, 2016

Turkey has been a republic since 1923, a multi-party democracy since 1946, and a member of NATO since 1952. In 1987, it added another powerful anchor into the Western bay where it wanted it to remain docked: It applied for full membership in the European Union (EU). This imperfect journey toward the West was dramatically replaced by a directionless cruise, with sharp zigzags between the East and West, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist AKP party came to power in 2002. Zigzagging remains the main Turkish policy feature to this day.

Until the summer of 2015 Turkey was widely known as the "jihad highway," because of its systematic tolerance for jihadists crossing through Turkey into neighboring Syria to fight Erdogan's regional nemesis, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey supported various jihadist groups in the hope that they would help Ankara unseat Assad. Then, under pressure from its NATO allies, it decided to join the U.S.-led, international campaign to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria. Feeling betrayed, ISIS started to blow up Turkish cities.

At the end of 2015, Turkey risked tensions with Russia in order to advance its pro-Sunni Islamist agenda in Syria. Russia, together with Iran, provided the lifeline Assad needed to stay in power while Turkey stepped up its anti-Assad campaign. In November, Turkey once again zigzagged toward the West when it shot down a Russian military aircraft, citing the violation of its airspace along its border with Syria. Turkey also threatened to shoot down any Russian aircraft that might violate its airspace again. It was the first time in modern history that a NATO ally had shot down a Soviet or Russian military airplane.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) with Erdogan in Istanbul in December 2012.

An angry Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, imposed punishing economic sanctions, which cost the Turkish economy billions of dollars. Turkey started zigzagging again. In July 2016, Erdogan apologized for downing the Russian plane, and in August he went to Russia to shake hands for normalization. Once again, Russia is trendy for the Turks, and the West looks passé.

Turkey's newfound love affair with Russia will inevitably have repercussions in Syria, and that pleases Iran. "Not only will Turkey have to 'digest' that [Russian-Iranian-Syrian] line, it will have to join it, entering into a pact with Putin and the ayatollahs. Clearly, this is where Erdogan has decided is the best place to pledge his allegiance," wrote Meira Svirsky at The Clarion Project. There are already signs.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Russia have similar views on the need for a ceasefire in Syria, the provision of humanitarian aid, and a political solution to end the crisis. That must have caused shy smiles in Moscow: the Turkish John Wayne on his knees begging to work on Syria only months after he threatened to shoot down any Russian aircraft and kick the Russians out of Syria. Now Turkey is calling on Russia to team up and carry out joint military operations in a bid to crush ISIS in Syria.

After the last Turkish zigzag, Turkey and Russia found where they converge: Putin accuses the West of violating agreements by expanding NATO to Russia's borders and fomenting unrest in nearby Georgia and Ukraine, while in Turkey, the pro-Erdogan media accuses the U.S. of orchestrating the coup. There are more alarming signals from Ankara. Cavusoglu, the foreign minister, said that Turkey may look outside NATO for defense cooperation.

Fuad Kavur, a prominent London-based film director and producer, described the Turkish zigzag in a private letter (quoted with permission):

Erdogan's recent maneuverings remind me of how Hitler hoodwinked the West. Until four days before he invaded Poland, the West, ever sleepwalking, were utterly convinced Hitler was going to attack USSR, because he had come to power on an anti-Communist ticket. The West had a rude awakening only when, on 23 August 1939, Von Ribbentrop signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Molotov; and on Sept. 1, Hitler took half of Poland. Few days later, Stalin took the other half.

What is the moral of the story? Until a few weeks ago, the West was comfortably day-dreaming that, despite his foibles, Erdogan was a staunch U.S. ally and an eager EU candidate. After all, had he not, only recently, downed a Russian jet? Then, suddenly, what do we see? Putin and Erdogan kissing and making up ... It is a matter of 'my enemy's enemy...'.

From the beginning, Russia was too big for Turkey to bite. A few billion dollars of trade losses and friendly reminders from Western allies that Turkey should keep up to better democratic standards were sufficient to get Ankara kneel down -- and perform another act of zigzagging. This, in all probability, will not be the last such act.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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