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Crafty_Dog
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« on: July 31, 2007, 03:05:38 PM »

Woof All:

With this analysis of the geopolitics of Turkey by the ever impressive Stratfor.com , we open this thread.

TAC,
Marc
=========================

The Geopolitics of Turkey
By George Friedman

Rumors are floating in Washington and elsewhere that Turkey is preparing to move against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an anti-Turkish group seeking an independent Kurdistan in Turkey. One report, by Robert Novak in the Washington Post, says the United States is planning to collaborate with Turkey in suppressing the PKK in northern Iraq, an area the PKK has used as a safe-haven and launch pad to carry out attacks in Turkey.

The broader issue is not the PKK, but Kurdish independence. The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group divided among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and, to a small extent, Syria. The one thing all of these countries have agreed on historically is they have no desire to see an independent Kurdistan. Even though each has, on occasion, used Kurdish dissidents in other countries as levers against those countries, there always has been a regional consensus against a Kurdish state.

Therefore, the news that Turkey is considering targeting the PKK is part of the broader issue. The evolution of events in Iraq has created an area that is now under the effective governance of the Iraqi Kurds. Under most scenarios, the Iraqi Kurds will retain a high degree of autonomy. Under some scenarios, the Kurds in Iraq could become formally independent, creating a Kurdish state. Besides facing serious opposition from Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions, that state would be a direct threat to Turkey and Iran, since it would become, by definition, the nucleus of a Kurdish state that would lay claim to other lands the Kurds regard as theirs.

This is one of the reasons Turkey was unwilling to participate in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Americans grew close to the Kurds in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, helping augment the power of an independent militia, the peshmerga, that allowed the Iraqi Kurds to carve out a surprising degree of independence within Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Turks were never comfortable with this policy and sent troops into Iraq in the 1990s to strike against the PKK and pre-empt any moves toward more extensive autonomy. Before the war started in 2003, however, the Turks turned down a U.S. offer to send troops into northern Iraq in exchange for allowing the United States to use Turkish territory to launch into Iraq. This refusal caused Turkey to lose a great deal of its mobility in the region.

The Turks, therefore, are tremendously concerned by the evolution of events in Iraq. Whether northern Iraq simply evolves into an autonomous region in a federal Iraq or becomes an independent state as Iraq disintegrates is almost immaterial. It will become a Kurdish homeland and it will exist on the Turkish border. And that, from the Turkish point of view, represents a strategic threat to Turkey.

Turkey, then, is flexing its muscles along the Iraqi border. Given that Turkey did not participate in the 2003 invasion, the American attitude toward Ankara has been complex, to say the least. On one hand, there was a sense of being let down by an old ally. On the other hand, given events in Iraq and U.S. relations with Iran and Syria, the United States was not in a position to completely alienate a Muslim neighbor of Iraq.

As time passed and the situation in Iraq worsened, the Americans became even less able to isolate Turkey. That is partly because its neutrality was important and partly because the United States was extremely concerned about Turkish reactions to growing Kurdish autonomy. For the Turks, this was a fundamental national security issue. If they felt the situation were getting out of hand in the Kurdish regions, they might well intervene militarily. At a time when the Kurds comprised the only group in Iraq that was generally pro-American, the United States could hardly let the Turks mangle them.

On the other hand, the United States was hardly in a position to stop the Turks. The last thing the United States wanted was a confrontation with the Turks in the North, for military as well as political reasons. Yet, the other last thing it wanted was for other Iraqis to see that the United States would not protect them.

Stated differently, the United States had no solution to the Turkish-Kurdish equation. So what the United States did was a tap dance -- by negotiating a series of very temporary solutions that kept the Turks from crossing the line and kept the Kurds intact. The current crisis is over the status of the PKK in northern Iraq and, to a great degree, over Turkish concerns that Iraqi Kurds will gain too much autonomy, not to mention over concerns about the future status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The United States may well be ready to support the Turks in rooting out PKK separatists, but it is not prepared to force the Iraqi Kurds to give them up. So it will try to persuade them to give them up voluntarily. This negotiating process will buy time, though at this point the American strategy in Iraq generally has been reduced to buying time.

All of this goes beyond the question of Iraq or an independent Kurdistan. The real question concerns the position of Turkey as a regional power in the wake of the Iraq war. This is a vital question because of Iran. The assumption we have consistently made is that, absent the United States, Iran would become the dominant regional power and would be in a position, in the long term, to dominate the Arabian Peninsula, shifting not only the regional balance of power but also potentially the global balance as well.

That analysis assumes that Turkey will play the role it has played since World War I -- an insular, defensive power that is cautious about making alliances and then cautious within alliances. In that role, Turkey is capable of limited assertiveness, as against the Greeks in Cyprus, but is not inclined to become too deeply entangled in the chaos of the Middle Eastern equation -- and when it does become involved, it is in the context of its alliance with the United States.

That is not Turkey's traditional role. Until the fall of the Ottomans at the end of World War I, and for centuries before then, Turkey was both the dominant Muslim power and a major power in North Africa, Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. Turkey was the hub of a multinational empire that as far back as the 15th century dominated the Mediterranean and Black seas. It was the economic pivot of three continents, facilitating and controlling the trading system of much of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Turkey's contraction over the past 90 years or so is not the normal pattern in the region, and had to do with the internal crisis in Turkey since the fall of the Ottomans, the emergence of French and British power in the Middle East, followed by American power and the Cold War, which locked Turkey into place. During the Cold War, Turkey was trapped between the Americans and Soviets, and expansion of its power was unthinkable. Since then, Turkey has been slowly emerging as a key power.

One of the main drivers in this has been the significant growth of the Turkish economy. In 2006, Turkey had the 18th highest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, and it has been growing at between 5 percent and 8 percent a year for more than five years. It ranks just behind Belgium and ahead of Sweden in GDP. It has the largest economy of any Muslim country -- including Saudi Arabia. And it has done this in spite of, or perhaps because of, not having been admitted to the European Union. While per capita GDP lags, it is total GDP that measures weight in the international system. China, for example, is 109th in per capita GDP. Its international power rests on it being fourth in total GDP.

Turkey is not China, but in becoming the largest Muslim economy, as well as the largest economy in the eastern Mediterranean, Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and east to the Hindu Kush, Turkey is moving to regain its traditional position of primacy in the region. Its growth is still fragile and can be disrupted, but there is no question that it has become the leading regional economy, as well as one of the most dynamic. Additionally, Turkey's geographic position greatly enables it to become Europe's primary transit hub for energy supplies, especially at a time when Europe is trying to reduce its dependence on Russia.

This obviously has increased its regional influence. In the Balkans, for example, where Turkey historically has been a dominant power, the Turks have again emerged as a major influence over the region's two Muslim states -- and have managed to carve out for themselves a prominent position as regards other countries in the region as well. The country's economic dynamism has helped reorient some of the region away from Europe, toward Turkey. Similarly, Turkish economic influence can be felt elsewhere in the region, particularly as a supplement to its strategic relationship with Israel.

Turkey's problem is that in every direction it faces, its economic expansion is blocked by politico-military friction. So, for example, its influence in the Balkans is blocked by its long-standing friction with Greece. In the Caucasus, its friction with Armenia limits its ability to influence events. Tensions with Syria and Iraq block Syrian influence to the south. To the east, a wary Iran that is ideologically opposed to Turkey blocks Ankara's influence.

As Turkey grows, an interesting imbalance has to develop. The ability of Greece, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Iran to remain hostile to Turkey decreases as the Turkish economy grows. Ideology and history are very real things, but so is the economic power of a dynamic economy. As important, Turkey's willingness to accept its highly constrained role indefinitely, while its economic -- and therefore political -- influence grows, is limited. Turkey's economic power, coupled with its substantial regional military power, will over time change the balance of power in each of the regions Turkey faces.

Not only does Turkey interface with an extraordinary number of regions, but its economy also is the major one in each of those regions, while Turkish military power usually is pre-eminent as well. When Turkey develops economically, it develops militarily. It then becomes the leading power -- in many regions. That is what it means to be a pivotal power.

In 2003, the United States was cautious with Turkey, though in the final analysis it was indifferent. It no longer can be indifferent. The United States is now in the process of planning the post-Iraq war era, and even if it does retain permanent bases in Iraq -- dubious for a number of reasons -- it will have to have a regional power to counterbalance Iran. Iran has always been aware of and cautious with Turkey, but never as much as now -- while Turkey is growing economically and doing the heavy lifting on the Kurds. Iran does not want to antagonize the Turks.

The United States and Iran have been talking -- just recently engaging in seven hours of formal discussions. But Iran, betting that the United States will withdraw from Iraq, is not taking the talks as seriously as it might. The United States has few levers to use against Iran. It is therefore not surprising that it has reached out to the biggest lever.

In the short run, Turkey, if it works with the United States, represents a counterweight to Iran, not only in general, but also specifically in Iraq. From the American point of view, a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq would introduce a major force native to the region that certainly would give Iran pause in its behavior in Iraq. This would mean the destruction of Kurdish hopes for independence, though the United States has on several past occasions raised and then dashed Kurdish hopes. In this sense, Novak's article makes a great deal of sense. The PKK would provide a reasonable excuse for a Turkish intervention in Iraq, both in the region and in Turkey. Anything that blocks the Kurds will be acceptable to the Turkish public, and even to Iran.

It is the longer run that is becoming interesting, however. If the United States is not going to continue counterbalancing Iran in the region, then it is in Turkey's interest to do so. It also is increasingly within Turkey's reach. But it must be understood that, given geography, the growth of Turkish power will not be confined to one direction. A powerful and self-confident Turkey has a geographical position that inevitably reflects all the regions that pivot around it.

For the past 90 years, Turkey has not played its historic role. Now, however, economic and politico-military indicators point to Turkey's slow reclamation of that role. The rumors about Turkish action against the PKK have much broader significance. They point to a changing role for Turkey -- and that will mean massive regional changes over time.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2007, 05:01:51 PM »

stratfor.com

TURKEY: The Turkish military will safeguard a secular and democratic Turkey against the "evil" Islamic forces in the upcoming presidential election, military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit states on the military's Web site. The military has seized power from civilian governments three times in the past and has threatened to do so again if presidential candidate Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul wins the election.
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2007, 08:52:55 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Envisioning Turkey under the AK Presidency

The Turkish parliament on Tuesday elected a former Islamist as the staunchly secularist republic's 11th president. After close to four months marred by controversy and contention, Abdullah Gul, the No. 2 man in Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, made it into the president's chair after the 3rd round of voting. He secured 339 votes in the 550-seat legislature, but he only needed a simple majority of 276.

Gul's election brings to an end the latest chapter of a long struggle between religiously inclined political forces and Turkey's ultra-secularist military establishment -- with this round going to the Islamists. By no means does this mean that the men in uniform have thrown in the towel. Far from it: the generals will be closely watching the AK, and especially the behavior of the 56-year-old Gul. This much was spelled out by military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit on Monday in an Internet statement that said "our nation has been watching the behavior of centers of evil who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic," and warned that "the military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey."

Modern Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk" in 1923 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, an essentially Islamic polity. Kemal, who himself was a military commander, implemented radical changes whereby the Turkish republic was established as a secular entity along the lines of European states. Since then the military has served as the praetorian guards responsible for preserving the Kemalist character of the constitution and the secular fabric of the republic.

To this end, the military has intervened on four separate occasions (three of them being coups) -- in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997 -- and has banned four of the AK's predecessor groups because their Islamist ideology was seen as a threat to the secular order. Therefore, the military establishment is all too aware of what happened Tuesday. The Turkish political system has entered an unprecedented phase in its evolution, where a single party not only has been able to form two consecutive governments on its own, but also now controls the presidency -- which by extension means it controls the judiciary, because the president appoints key judges.

As far as civil-military relations are concerned, the military clearly has lost the current (and what appears to be a decisive) battle -- but the ideological struggle and the contention over secularism is far from over. More importantly, for the first time since the founding of the Turkish republic more than 80 years ago, a political force rooted in Islamism essentially controls all of the key civilian institutions of the state.

There is a lot of trepidation both within and outside Turkey that this will lead to a major Islamist-secular struggle in the country -- which could lead to a period of domestic instability, despite the fact that the AK took 47 percent of the vote and controls a lion's share of seats in Parliament. This is certainly a possibility. It will not be long before Gul will be caught between his national duties as the head of an ultra-secularist state and his commitment to his party's conservative ideology. One cannot expect him simply to behave as a neutral president.

But the AK did not fight hard to win the presidency just for the sake of winning. The party will gradually want to use the position to further consolidate its hold over the state, trying to redefine the secular character of the state -- moving away from the French style, which expressly renounces religious activity, toward the American model, which provides for more tolerance. Undoubtedly, this will lead to a new wave of struggle between the ruling party and the military.

Two factors are tying the military's hands at the moment. First, of course, is the AK's parliamentary majority. Second is the fear that any direct intervention by the military into politics could have serious repercussions, not just for stability and security in Turkey, but also for the economy. A coup would adversely affect foreign investment in the country, taking it back to the financial crisis that hit prior to the AK's rise to power in 2002. This would explain the uneasy accommodation reached in the past five years between the AK government and the generals.

For its part, the AK might have won the presidency, but it will still continue to tread carefully as far as the domestic policies are concerned, and will avoid tampering with the secular order of things. Over time, however, the party will become emboldened, because of the lack of any serious moves by the military to undercut its power. This is when there will be a behavioral change in Turkey, as the AK government begins to feel confident in engaging in policies that it currently might not want to risk.

Such a change will be most apparent and immediate in the foreign-policy arena, given the changes under way in the region. Iran has for the most part moved away from negotiating with the United States over Iraq and is now trying to take advantage of the expected U.S. drawdown of forces from the country. We have already discussed at length Turkish interests in Iraq with regard to Kurdish separatism. This issue undoubtedly will be of a primary concern to the Turks, especially now that a settlement on Iraq appears highly unlikely. Of even greater significance will be future Turkish behavior toward the larger emerging conflict surrounding Iraq: Iran and the Shia versus the Arab states and the Sunnis.

Here is where an AK regime will be forced to balance pan-Islamic issues with Turkish nationalist objectives. On one hand, Turkey will focus on making sure that the ethno-sectarian conflict does not enable Iraqi Kurds (and by extension Turkish Kurds) to further their separatist agenda. On the other hand, Ankara will have to decide whether to side with the Arab states -- who are fellow Sunnis -- against Iran, or align with Iran, or chart a more neutral course.

This would not have been a complicated matter under a purely secular Turkish government, which would have viewed the issue solely from the point of view of Turkish national interest. But because the AK has pan-Islamic ties to various actors in the Arab/Muslim world, the matter becomes complex. The Saudis and the Iranians subscribe to competing notions of Islam -- not just in the sectarian sense but in ideological terms. That will put an AK-ruled Turkey in a difficult spot.
stratfor.com
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2007, 11:45:50 AM »

And here's the WSJ's take on this:

President Gül
August 29, 2007
Turkey's political process reached its expected conclusion yesterday, when the parliament elected Abdullah Gül of the neo-Islamist AK Party as the country's new president. Despite continued grumbling from a wary military, Ankara may finally be able to resume politics as usual.

Yesterday's election, in which Mr. Gül won 339 votes from the 550-member legislature, caps a turbulent four months. The AKP first nominated its co-founder back in April. The result was an electoral boycott by the main opposition party, a threatened coup by the army and a seemingly extralegal annulment of the balloting up to that point by the nation's highest court. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also of the AKP, called early elections to secure a new mandate. Last month his party won a solid victory.

The military tried scare tactics again Monday, writing on its Web site that "centers of evil" were trying to "corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." Yet a word to the wary of all kinds: Mr. Gül promised during the recent parliamentary campaign to uphold secularism and Turkey's constitution, and the electorate displayed its confidence in him.

Given the military's record of four coups since 1960, its threats can't be taken lightly. Even so, Turkey's generals are traditionally very sensitive to the desires of the country's silent majority, which right now wants stability above all else.

Fortunately, that's what the AKP most likely wants right now, too. It will try to avoid rocking the boat so that it can stay in government. It's been in power for five years now, and parties typically become less, not more, radical the longer they rule. Should the AKP drift from its program of reforms designed to propel Turkey toward European Union membership, its supporters will become agitated.

The Turkish president's authority is fairly limited in any case, though Mr. Gül will wield important veto powers. Under his secularist predecessor, that was seen as a check on any ambitions the AKP might have of foisting Islamism on the country.

So far, there is no indication that Mr. Gül has any hidden agenda for marked change in Turkey. "Secularism -- one of the main principles of our republic -- is a precondition for social peace as much as it is a liberating model for different lifestyles," he said after yesterday's parliamentary vote. "As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias." Until Mr. Gül gives us cause to believe otherwise, we'll take him at his word.
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2007, 12:12:06 PM »

Yet another post this AM on Turkey:

WSJ

Well Connected,
A Saudi Mogul
Skirts Sanctions
By GLENN R. SIMPSON
August 29, 2007; Page A1

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Yassin Qadi is a well-known multimillionaire, founder of a large supermarket chain here and a close friend of the Turkish premier. "I trust him the same way I trust my father," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on national television last year.

But the Saudi businessman also is a major financier of Islamic terrorism with close business associates who are members of al Qaeda, according to the U.S. Treasury and the United Nations Security Council. At Washington's request, the Security Council ordered Mr. Qadi's assets frozen a few weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.

 
The asset freeze has largely crippled Mr. Qadi's international business empire. But previously undisclosed records show he has managed to free up millions of dollars of holdings in Turkey, in apparent violation of the Security Council sanctions -- and without incurring punishment by Turkish authorities.

The case of Mr. Qadi shows the challenges Washington faces in separating friend from foe in the Islamic world. The records detailing his business activities also suggest how easy it can be to skirt sanctions designed to restrict funding of terrorism -- especially for well-connected figures.

Mr. Qadi's friendship with the prime minister also plays into the growing debate in Turkey over the role of Islam in a secular society. Turkey's Parliament for the first time yesterday elected a politician with an Islamist background, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, to the presidency. Immediately after being sworn in, Mr. Gul pledged impartiality, saying, "Secularism -- one of the main principles of our republic -- is a precondition for social peace." But the development nonetheless has heightened concern about the direction this pivotal nation, poised between East and West, is taking.

Within Turkey, a Muslim nation of 70 million with a constitutionally mandated secular government, the role of Islam has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, as rising religious sentiment clashes in some quarters with the country's longstanding commitment to secularism. Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party are broadly popular, but their Islamist roots draw criticism and provoke controversy, especially among critics in the military.

Amid this debate, Mr. Erdogan has been blasted for his ties to Mr. Qadi by political opponents in Turkey and some conservatives in Washington, who say the Turkish government has a hidden Islamist agenda. Mr. Qadi -- who lives near the Red Sea city of Jidda, the Saudi business capital -- denies all links to terrorism and says his U.N. blacklisting is unjust. Officials of Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party and aides to the prime minister didn't respond to requests for comment.

Pro-Western Rule

Since coming to power in 2002, the Justice and Development Party has run one of the most pro-Western governments to rule Turkey. It has encouraged a Western-style market economy and made painful overhauls in a bid to join the European Union. The party just won an overwhelming new mandate in parliamentary elections.

But tensions are likely to persist. U.S. diplomats lodged strong objections last year when the Erdogan government intervened in Turkish courts to try to lift the freeze on Mr. Qadi's Turkish assets, according to U.S. officials. The Turkish government reversed course.

"That Erdogan personally vouches for this man...raises the possibility that the prime minister of Turkey is far less interested in combating terrorism than he says," said former Defense Department aide Michael Rubin, a conservative critic of the Turkish government who has close ties to top officials in the Bush administration.

The cosmopolitan Mr. Qadi is an architect by profession who trained with the Chicago-based firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the 1970s. He speaks fluent English and has a son who is an American citizen. Mr. Qadi, whose own father belonged to Jidda's business elite, inherited several million dollars in 1988. He also married into money by wedding a member of the Jamjoom family, one of Saudi Arabia's leading business clans, and is now an influential business figure whom the Saudi media and other Saudi businessmen often defend against U.S. and U.N. terrorism allegations.

The sanctions prohibit international travel by Mr. Qadi, a longtime globe-trotter. It is unclear whether his assets are frozen in Saudi Arabia, which some U.S. officials and private-sector experts claim has failed to take action against powerful business figures suspected of supporting terrorism. In an effort to reclaim his reputation, Mr. Qadi has filed civil suits in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Turkey and other countries. He has also submitted voluminous briefs to the U.S. Treasury in Washington. All of these efforts have been unsuccessful to date.

Mr. Erdogan has defended his friendship with Mr. Qadi, saying the Security Council's terrorist blacklist doesn't prove someone is a terrorist.

Guy Martin, a London-based lawyer for Mr. Qadi, called his terrorist designation "a gross and ongoing miscarriage of justice."

Mr. Qadi, whose business empire is based mostly in Saudi Arabia, is a longtime partner of Turkish businessman Cüneyd Zapsu, as well as other key Justice and Development Party figures. Over the past year, Turkish media and opposition leaders have disclosed that Turkey's financial police investigated the activities of Mr. Qadi and alleged al Qaeda supporters in Turkey. That led them to delve into the relationships of Mr. Qadi and other Saudis with senior Justice and Development figures, including Mr. Erdogan.

Among Mr. Qadi's largest Turkish investments is the discount-supermarket chain BIM, one of Turkey's biggest companies, with more than 1,500 outlets and annual sales of about $1.5 billion. BIM, which trades on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, is a discounter modeled in part on Wal-Mart and other low-price chains. Mr. Zapsu also was among BIM's founding partners.

Mr. Zapsu, who in 2001 helped Mr. Erdogan found the Justice and Development Party, also supported an Islamic charity Mr. Qadi founded that is at the center of the U.S. and Security Council decision to freeze the Saudi businessman's assets. A Turkish financial-police report seen by The Wall Street Journal found that in the 1990s, Mr. Zapsu and his mother gave $300,000 to Mr. Qadi's Muwafaq charity, which U.S. officials labeled a front for al Qaeda shortly after 9/11.

Central Intelligence Agency reports say Muwafaq, now defunct, specialized in purchasing and smuggling arms for Islamic radicals. The U.S. government's special commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and law-enforcement agencies have cited Saudi-backed Islamic charities as a primary source of funding for al Qaeda.

Mr. Zapsu also has business ties to two Islamic banks funded with Saudi capital -- Dallah Al Baraka and Dar Al Mal Al Islam -- that were accused of supporting al Qaeda in civil suits filed by families of Sept. 11 victims in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Both defendants adamantly deny the allegations, and the court dismissed claims against Al Baraka.

Mr. Zapsu said in an email that his business and personal relationships with Mr. Qadi were investigated by Turkish police. He said prosecutors decided last year "that there was no reason for a court case and no wrongdoing." Mr. Zapsu said he sold his interest in BIM in 2003 and no longer is involved with the company.

Finance Probes

Two reports by Turkey's financial police allege potential money-laundering and other possible crimes by Mr. Qadi and unnamed associates. But Turkish prosecutors declined to bring criminal cases in both 2004 and 2006, citing a lack of evidence. Mr. Erdogan's political opponents say the probes were quashed by the Finance Ministry. The top officer on the case was recently fired. According to the government, he abused his authority to investigate top politicians.

Mr. Qadi arrived in Turkey in 1996, within a month of alleged al Qaeda logistics coordinator Wael Julaidan. The two men are longtime business partners and engaged in large transactions with a Turkish firm controlled by two of al Qaeda's top leaders, according to business records and U.S. intelligence files. Lawyers for Mr. Julaidan say he denies supporting al Qaeda.

A lengthy paper trail involving an offshore company in the Isle of Man shows how millions of dollars of assets in Turkey once controlled by Mr. Qadi have been shifted in recent years to his associates, in potential violation of the U.N.'s asset freeze. Corporate records show a 26.4% stake in BIM that was originally controlled by Mr. Qadi passed to two of his business partners, through a company called Worldwide Ltd. in the Isle of Man, a tax haven in the U.K.

Worldwide originally was controlled by several people who use the same Jidda business address as Mr. Qadi. In 2004, two Jidda businessmen who are longtime associates of Mr. Qadi took control of Worldwide, Isle of Man filings state. The following year, when BIM released a new financial report, Worldwide disappeared from its list of major shareholders and the two businessmen appeared on the list for the first time. Together with another Isle of Man company, they control precisely 26.4% of BIM shares.

One of the men, Abdul Ghani Al Khereiji, is a longtime business partner of Mr. Qadi who co-founded the Muwafaq charity, records show. He didn't respond to requests for comment. The other new BIM shareholder, architect Zuhair Fayez, also is a longtime associate of Mr. Qadi. Mr. Fayez said in an email that his shares in Worldwide "were not purchased from Mr. Qadi," but he didn't elaborate.

Transferred Stake

In a statement, BIM said Worldwide transferred its stake to the two men in March 2005. "Our information...is that the assignment procedures were made in accordance with the law," BIM said. The company said it "has no knowledge of the share structure of Worldwide." If Mr. Qadi benefited from the sale of Worldwide shares, that would breach the U.N. sanctions against him.

Some of Mr. Qadi's dealings in Turkey are recounted in a 2006 book, "Charitable Terrorist," by Nedim Sener. Mr. Qadi has filed a defamation suit in an Istanbul court against Mr. Sener, who in the Turkish daily Milliyet also wrote of a real-estate deal involving Mr. Qadi that may also violate the Security Council sanctions. The sanctions, legally binding on U.N. member states, ban any large financial transactions or international travel by the roughly 350 individuals designated as terrorists or their sponsors.

Christophe Payot, a spokesman for the U.N.'s sanctions committee, declined to discuss any possible violations by Turkey or Mr. Qadi. The panel's chairman announced in May it would examine "possible instances of noncompliance" with the al Qaeda sanctions.

The U.N. sanctions aren't always effective, according to experts on the subject. Many countries either don't write or police laws to enforce them, or aren't equipped to track designees who use offshore companies and complex corporate structures. In the case of Mr. Qadi's Turkish assets, the problem is that "there are so many ways of structuring and layering things, they are not clearly his assets," said Victor Comras, an attorney and former U.N. terror-finance expert.

Write to Glenn R. Simpson at glenn.simpson@wsj.com
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« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2007, 06:35:48 PM »

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6988697.stm

Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK

Police in Turkey's capital, Ankara, have prevented a large bomb from exploding, the city's governor said.
Sniffer dogs detected a van stuffed with explosives in the centre of the city, preventing a "possible catastrophe", Governor Kemal Onal said.

Security had been tightened in the city ahead of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Bomb attacks against the UK consulate, a bank and synagogues in Istanbul killed more than 60 people in 2003.

Six people were killed in Ankara in May by a suicide bomb blamed on Kurdish separatists.

'Meticulous police work'

Ankara's governor said a large quantity of explosives had been left in the van which had a false licence plate.

It was parked in a multi-storey garage in Kurtulus, a densely populated area of central Ankara.

The garage and nearby houses and businesses were evacuated while the police bomb squad worked to defuse the explosives.

"The meticulous work of the police averted a possible catastrophe," said Mr Onal.

"I do not even want to think about what would have happened if the attack had succeeded."

Security fears were heightened elsewhere in Europe as police in Germany moved to help secure Spangdahlen USAFE, air base after a bomb threat was made by telephone.
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2007, 11:22:58 PM »

Turkey: Pressure to Send Forces into Northern Iraq
Summary

Turkey said Oct. 9 that it might send forces into northern Iraq. The announcement came two days after Kurdish rebels, in their largest attack against Turkish security forces in more than a decade, killed 13 soldiers. Pressure arising from domestic political situations and regional geopolitics has driven Ankara to the point where it can no longer avoid military action inside northern Iraq. Any such undertaking will not be major, however, because of the limited strategic objective and tactical options.

Analysis

A day after chairing a meeting of top civilian and military officials, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement saying his government has authorized all necessary action against the Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), including a possible military operation across the border in northern Iraq. The move comes two days after PKK guerrillas killed 13 Turkish troops in the largest such attack in more than a decade. All of these developments follow the signing of a counterterrorism agreement between Ankara and Baghdad.




The security agreement does not do much to counter the threat from the PKK. On the contrary, it seems to have only emboldened the militants, because it appears that Turkey is unwilling to follow through on its threats of cross-border unilateral military action. The Turks also are watching how the PKK's patrons -- the Iraqi Kurds who enjoy far-reaching autonomy in northern Iraq -- are growing bolder in their moves to forge energy deals with international firms independent of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, and to gain control over the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Additionally, Ankara knows that neither the PKK nor the Iraqis -- nor even Washington -- take its threats of action seriously anymore.

But more important, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which recently won control of both parliament and the presidency, is under increasing pressure from the military, which accuses it of being soft on Kurdish separatism. Therefore, the AK Party government can no longer afford to avoid military action.

That said, Turkey's military options are limited. The Turkish military already has a special forces presence in northern Iraq, and Turkish artillery has fallen on Iraqi soil plenty of times before. However, northern Iraq is a large area with an inhospitable terrain, and winter is coming. PKK rebel hideouts are concentrated in the Qandil Mountains along the Iranian border. Furthermore, to effectively root out the PKK, Turkey would have to commit to a long-term military incursion -- and in a country currently occupied by a fellow NATO member (though the United States has few troops in far northern Iraq).

Because of the magnitude of the undertaking, and because Turkey lacks the necessary intelligence for such a mission, any cross-border military operation will not be geared toward rooting out the PKK from its sanctuaries in northern Iraq. The purpose of such action will be to force Baghdad to pressure Arbil and try to instigate internal divisions among the Kurds -- likely between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani's hawkish Kurdistan Democratic Party and the more moderate Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The Turks also want to get the attention of the United States, which thus far has had no incentive to do anything regarding the PKK because it could upset its Iraqi calculus, and because Washington does not expect the Turks to do much beyond rhetoric and small-scale action. However, Turkey itself has substantial room to escalate the situation.

Helicopter gunships already are reportedly operating on the Turkish side of the border. Both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can deliver ordnance across the border quickly. Turkey's modest unmanned aerial vehicle fleet also might find use in targeting and reconnaissance. But even though Turkish aircraft can dash quickly in and out of northern Iraq, the U.S. Air Force closely monitors Iraqi airspace. Turkish artillery and multiple rocket launchers are an attractive alternative. Ankara is well-equipped to deliver punishing artillery strikes as far as 20 miles inside Iraq. (And it has a limited ability, depending on the ammunition available, to strike perhaps as far as 30 miles). Turkey's special forces presence in northern Iraq could be expanded or more aggressively employed. However, any expansion would probably come from Ankara's five commando brigades, rather than from the heavily conscripted regular units of the Turkish army that might not be particularly well-suited to the kind of subtlety and operations necessary in a situation other than war across the border.

Meanwhile, Iran would be more than eager to jump into the fray and warm up to Ankara by taking action against the PKK. Tehran has an interest in helping the Turks keep the Kurds boxed in and making the United States look bad in Turkey's eyes.

With the KRG facing pressure from Turkey on one side and most likely Iran on the other, it will be forced to order the peshmerga to crack down on the PKK. (Peshmerga-PKK clashes have occurred in recent months whenever Ankara has increased the rhetorical pressure.) Turkey also can use the PKK issue to sustain pressure on the Iraqi Kurds on other issues -- especially oil deals and Kirkuk autonomy. The Iraqi Kurds' current priority is to protect the flow of foreign investment, which involves keeping the Turks at bay. The KRG will be willing to rein in the PKK for this purpose.

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« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2007, 06:01:48 AM »

NY Times
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and CARL HULSE
Published: October 11, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — A House committee voted on Wednesday to condemn the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in World War I as an act of genocide, rebuffing an intense campaign by the White House and warnings from Turkey’s government that the vote would gravely strain its relations with the United States.

President Bush Wednesday urged the House not to take up a resolution on the Armenian genocide.

Opponents of the House resolution on the Armenian genocide wore stickers expressing their position at the session on Wednesday.
The vote by the House Foreign Relations Committee was nonbinding and so largely symbolic, but its consequences could reach far beyond bilateral relations and spill into the war in Iraq.

Turkish officials and lawmakers warned that if the resolution was approved by the full House, they would reconsider supporting the American war effort, which includes permission to ship essential supplies through Turkey and northern Iraq.

President Bush appeared on the South Lawn of the White House before the vote and implored the House not to take up the issue, only to have a majority of the committee disregard his warning at the end of the day, by a vote of 27 to 21.

“We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915,” Mr. Bush said in remarks that, reflecting official American policy, carefully avoided the use of the word genocide. “This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.”

The resolution was introduced early in the current session of Congress and has quietly moved forward over the last few weeks. But it provoked a fierce lobbying fight that pitted the politically influential Armenian-American population against the Turkish government, which hired equally influential former lawmakers like Robert L. Livingston, Republican of Louisiana, and Richard A. Gephardt, the former Democratic House majority leader, who backed a similar resolution when he was in Congress.

Backers of the resolution said Congressional action was overdue.

“Despite President George Bush twisting arms and making deals, justice prevailed,” said Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat of California and a sponsor of the resolution. “For if we hope to stop future genocides we need to admit to those horrific acts of the past.”

The issue of the Armenian genocide, beginning in 1915, has perennially transfixed Congress and bedeviled presidents of both parties. Ronald Reagan was the only president publicly to call the killings genocide, but his successors have avoided the term.

When the issue last arose, in 2000, a similar resolution also won approval by a House committee, but President Clinton then succeeded in persuading a Republican speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, to withdraw the measure before the full House could vote. That time, too, Turkey had warned of canceling arms deals and withdrawing support for American air forces then patrolling northern Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.

The new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, faced pressure from Democrats — especially colleagues in California, New Jersey and Michigan, with their large Armenian populations — to revive the resolution again after her party gained control of the House and Senate this year.

There is Democratic support for the resolution in the Senate, but it is unlikely to move in the months ahead because of Republican opposition and a shortage of time. Still, the Turkish government has made it clear that it would regard House passage alone as a harsh American indictment.

The sharply worded Turkish warnings against the resolution, especially the threats to cut off support for the American war in Iraq, seemed to embolden some of the resolution’s supporters. “If they use this to destabilize our solders in Iraq, well, then shame on them,” said Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York who voted for it.

The Democratic leadership, however, appeared divided. Representative Rahm Emanuel, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, who worked in the Clinton White House when the issue came up in 2000, opposes the resolution.

In what appeared to be an effort to temper the anger caused by the issue, Democrats said they were considering a parallel resolution that would praise Turkey’s close relations with the United States even as the full House prepares to consider a resolution that blames the forerunner of modern Turkey for one of the worst crimes in history.

“Neither of these resolutions is necessary,” a White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said Wednesday evening. He said that Mr. Bush was “very disappointed” with the vote.

A total of 1.5 million Armenians were killed beginning in 1915 in a systematic campaign by the fraying Ottoman Empire to drive Armenians out of eastern Turkey. Turks acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died but contend that the deaths, along with thousands of others, resulted from the war that ended with the creation of modern Turkey in 1923.

Mr. Bush discussed the issue in the White House on Wednesday with his senior national security aides. Speaking by secure video from Baghdad, the senior American officials in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, raised the resolution and warned that its passage could harm the war effort in Iraq, senior Bush aides said.

Appearing outside the West Wing after that meeting, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates noted that about 70 percent of all air cargo sent to Iraq passed through or came from Turkey, as did 30 percent of fuel and virtually all the new armored vehicles designed to withstand mines and bombs.

“They believe clearly that access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will,” Mr. Gates said, referring to the remarks of General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker.

Turkey severed military ties with France after its Parliament voted in 2006 to make the denial of the Armenian genocide a crime.

As the committee prepared to vote Wednesday, Mr. Bush, the American ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, and other officials cajoled lawmakers by phone.

Representative Mike Pence, a conservative Republican from Indiana who has backed the resolution in the past, said Mr. Bush persuaded him to change his position and vote no. He described the decision as gut-wrenching, underscoring the emotions stirred in American politics by a 92-year-old question.

“While this is still the right position,” Mr. Pence said, referring to the use of the term genocide, “it is not the right time.”

The House Democratic leadership met Wednesday morning with Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Nabi Sensoy, and other Turkish officials, who argued against moving ahead with a vote. But Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who now holds Mr. Gephardt’s old job as majority leader, said he and Ms. Pelosi would bring the resolution to the floor before Congress adjourned this year.

In Turkey, a fresh wave of violence raised the specter of a Turkish raid into northern Iraq, something the United States is strongly urging against. A policeman was killed and six others were wounded in a bomb attack in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday, the state-run Anatolian News Agency reported.

The Associated Press reported from the town of Sirnak that Turkish warplanes and helicopters were attacking positions along the southern border with Iraq that are suspected of belonging to Kurdish rebels who have been fighting Turkish forces for years.

The Turkish government continued to prepare to request Parliament’s permission for an offensive into Iraq, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggesting that a vote could be held after the end of Ramadan. Parliamentary approval would bring Turkey the closest it has been since 2003 to a full-scale military offensive into Iraq.

Sedat Laciner, from the International Strategic Research Institution, said that the Turkish public felt betrayed by what was perceived as a lack of American support for Turkey in its battle against the Kurds.

“American officials could think that Turkish people would ultimately forget about the lack of U.S. support in this struggle,” Mr. Laciner said, using words that could apply equally to views about the Armenian genocide. “Memories of Turks, however, are not that easy to erase once it hits sensitive spots.”

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Sabrina Tavernise from Baghdad.

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« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2007, 07:24:26 AM »

Second post of the morning:

stratfor

Geopolitical Diary: Turkey's Designs on Northern Iraq

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might ask parliament to authorize a move by Turkey's military into northern Iraq. Erdogan said on Wednesday that, "A request for approval of a cross-border operation could be sent to parliament tomorrow. After the holiday, we plan to gain authorization for one year." Erdogan should have no difficulty gaining parliament's approval after attacks by Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party killed 15 Turkish soldiers.

How far the Turks plan to move in Iraq is the important question. During the 1990s, the Turks moved into Iraq to create buffer zones against Kurdish attack, so there is a precedent for a move of that nature. The Turkish government is under public pressure to do something about these attacks, and the re-creation of a buffer zone is one thing it could do that would be effective and satisfy public opinion.

A Turkish incursion into northern Iraq at this time would be opposed by the European Union and the United States. However, the European Union has lost a great deal of leverage with the Turks by not admitting them to the union and making it fairly clear that they will never be admitted. As for the United States, the Turkish view is that they opposed the invasion of Iraq and refused to participate in it. Their expectation is that the United States, having created the situation, should take steps to stop attacks inside Turkey. Since the United States clearly can't do that, the Turks will act by themselves. Put simply, the United States and the European Union do not have leverage with Turkey, and Turkey will pursue its own interests.

The resolution does not mean that the Turks will immediately move into northern Iraq, but we are not as sure as others are that the Turks aren't quite serious. First, there is the security issue. It is not a trivial matter for the Turks. It is difficult for the government not to take some steps, and the fact that the United States and the European Union oppose such a move will simply make it that much more popular.

There also is a more important geopolitical issue: The Turks oppose the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Iraq because they feel it will encourage Kurdish separatism in Turkey. The future of Iraq is up in the air, to say the least, and the most important issue for the country is whether an independent or highly autonomous Kurdish region will emerge. This uncertainty is something the United States can live with; it is not something the Turks will live with. Therefore, the Turks view American policy in Iraq with extreme concern on this issue. Moving into Iraqi Kurdistan, however limited the incursion, would serve as a signal to both Kurds and Americans that there are limits beyond which Turkey is not prepared to go. It also would put Turkish troops into position to exercise control in the region in the event that the situation in Iraq gets completely out of hand.

There is another factor. As we have said previously, there is increasing activity by Western oil companies in the Kurdish region. That oil revenue is an attractive prize. Whatever Turkish intentions are now, the process of preventing the emergence of an independent Kurdistan would put Ankara in the position of being able to at least participate in -- if not control -- the development of this oil. The Turks are not talking about this, and they might not be thinking about it, but the solution to the security problem could lead there.

The United States must be very careful. Turkey is an ally, but at this moment the Americans need the Turks more than the Turks need the Americans. Apart from logistical support in Iraq, the United States sees Turkey as a counterweight to Iran in the region. However, Turkish and Iranian interests converge on the question of an independent Kurdistan. Turkey has little in common with Iran ideologically, but should the United States adamantly oppose Turkey on this, it would bring Ankara and Tehran closer, and this is the last thing Washington wants right now.

U.S.-Turkish tensions are exacerbated by Congress' consideration of a resolution accusing Turkey of carrying out genocide in Armenia early in the 20th century. This is an incredibly sore point with the Turks right now, increasing domestic political pressure on Turkey to refuse to bend to the United States. Therefore, we take Turkey's resolution seriously and think that a move into Iraqi Kurdistan, at least to create a buffer zone, is a very real possibility -- and one that could lead to more far-reaching consequences.
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2007, 02:58:03 PM »

Secretary of State Pelosi
October 16, 2007; Page A20
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, famous for donning a head scarf earlier this year to commune for peace with the Syrians, has now concluded that this is the perfect moment to pass a Congressional resolution condemning Turkey for the Armenian genocide of 1915. Problem is, Turkey in 2007 has it within its power to damage the growing success of the U.S. effort in Iraq. We would like to assume this is not Speaker Pelosi's goal.

To be clear: We write that we would like to assume, rather than that we do assume, because we are no longer able to discern whether the Speaker's foreign-policy intrusions are merely misguided or are consciously intended to cause a U.S. policy failure in Iraq.

Where is the upside in October 2007 to this Armenian resolution?

The bill is opposed by eight former U.S. Secretaries of State, including Madeleine Albright. After Tom Lantos's House Foreign Affairs Committee voted out the resolution last week, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Washington. Turkey serves as a primary transit hub for U.S. equipment going into both Iraq and Afghanistan. After the Kurdish terrorist group PKK killed 13 Turkish conscripts last week near the border with Iraq, Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, asked the parliament to approve a huge deployment of the army along the border, threatening an incursion into Kurdish-controlled Iraq. This of course is the one manifestly successful region of post-Saddam Iraq. In a situation teetering on a knife-edge, President Bush has been asking Mr. Erdogan to show restraint on the Iraq border.

Somehow, none of this is allowed to penetrate Speaker Pelosi's world. She is offering various explanations for bringing the genocide resolution to the House floor. "This isn't about the Erdogan government," she says. "This is about the Ottoman Empire," last seen more than 85 years ago. "Genocide still exists," insists Ms. Pelosi. "We saw it in Rwanda; we see it now in Darfur."

Yes, but why now, with Turkey crucial to an Iraq policy that now has the prospect of a positive outcome? The answer may be found in the compulsive parochialism of the House's current edition of politicians, mostly Democrats. California is home to the country's largest number of politically active Armenians. Speaker Pelosi has many in her own district. Mr. Lantos represents the San Francisco suburbs. The bill's leading sponsors include Representatives Adam Schiff, George Radanovich and Anna Eshoo, all from California.

Pointedly, Jane Harman, the Southern California Democrat who Speaker Pelosi passed over for chair of the intelligence committee, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times Friday, questioning the "timing" of the resolution and asking why it is necessary to embarrass a "moderate Islamic government in perhaps the most volatile region in the world."

Why indeed? Perhaps some intrepid reporter could put that question to the three leading Democratic Presidential candidates, who are seeking to inherit hands-on responsibility for U.S. policy in this cauldron. Hillary Clinton has been a co-sponsor of the anti-Turk genocide resolution, but would she choose to vote for it this week?

Back when Bill Clinton was President, Mr. Lantos took a different view. "This legislation at this moment in U.S.-Turkish relations is singularly counterproductive to our national interest," he said in September 2000, when there was much less at stake in the Middle East. According to Reuters, he added that the resolution would "humiliate and insult" Turkey and that the "unintended results would be devastating."

If Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos want to take down U.S. policy in Iraq to tag George Bush with the failure, they should have the courage to walk through the front door to do it. Bringing the genocide resolution to the House floor this week would put a terrible event of Armenia's past in the service of America's bitter partisanship today. It is mischievous at best, catastrophic at worst, and should be tabled.

WSJ
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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2007, 11:20:17 AM »

Turkey: Re-evaluating the U.S. Alliance
Summary

A pending resolution before the U.S. Congress that calls the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide has brought to light a growing strain in U.S.-Turkish relations. This latest episode seriously threatens to complicate U.S. military logistics into Iraq should Turkey carry out threats to limit U.S. access to the air base in the southeastern Turkish city of Incirlik. The Armenian genocide issue, as well as U.S. protests over Turkish incursions into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels, strike at the core of Turkish geopolitics, and will push Ankara into re-evaluating its long-standing alliance with the United States.

Analysis

New U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen called up his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, on Oct. 15 to discuss the repercussions to U.S.-Turkish relations from the proposed Armenian bill before the U.S. Congress. The bill labels the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide. The big fear in the Pentagon is that if the resolution passes, Turkey will follow through with threats to further limit use of Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey for support of operations in Iraq.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the current strain between Washington and Ankara with a Turkish idiom, saying recently, "Where the rope is worn thin, may it break off." Such big threats coming out of Ankara over a symbolic resolution on an event that occurred almost a century ago might seem odd at first glance. But they become clearer once it is understood that the Armenian issue, as well as Turkey's military push into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels, are issues that cut to the heart of Turkish geopolitics -- and thus carry significant implications for the future of U.S.-Turkish relations.

Prior to World War I, Turkey was a model multiethnic and multireligious empire that commanded the Mediterranean and Black Sea trade routes. The Ottoman Empire was the geopolitical pivot between Europe, Russia and Persia, allowing it to develop into a global economic and military power. The outcome of World War I, however, drastically altered the geopolitical landscape of the region as the West infected the empire with ethnic nationalism that broke the bonds of Ottoman control. Turkey then faced a choice: Try (and fail) to continue as a multiethnic empire as its minorities broke away, or jump on the bandwagon and consolidate its own emerging nationalism. It chose the latter. The geography of Turkey is not amenable to clearly defined borders, however, which meant the birth of the modern Turkish republic defined by nationality inevitably would entail ugly episodes such as the 1915 Armenian mass killings and repeated killing of Kurds in order to solidify a self-sufficient Turkish state.




This takes us back to a pivotal point in Turkish history: the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which sealed the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. At that time, the victorious European powers drew up a treaty to dismember the Ottoman Empire by ceding territory to Greece (including the key northern shore of the Dardanelles), giving Armenia more territory than it could manage and creating the conditions for an independent Kurdish state. The West, in essence, had abolished Turkish sovereignty.

These were, of course, unacceptable terms to the Turks, who then spent the next three years regaining their territory from the Greeks, Armenians and Kurds and reversing the terms of the treaty to ensure the survival of the Turkish nation-state as opposed to the multiethnic Ottoman Empire. But the damage had still been done. To this day, Turkey is locked into a sort of Sevres syndrome, under which any Western interference in Turkey's ethnic minority issues must be confronted as long as Turkey defines itself by its nationality. So, if Turkey feels the need to set up a solid buffer zone along its border with northern Iraq to contain the Kurds and swoop in with troops when it sees fit, there is little the United States can do to stop it.

The same argument was taking place in Turkey following the 1991 Gulf War, when the Iraqi Kurds were granted autonomy. Soon enough, Turkey in 1995 sent 35,000 troops into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels and squash Iraqi Kurdish aspirations for independence. The same episode is repeating itself today, as Iraqi Kurdistan has made strides in attracting foreign investment and extending its autonomy since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Turkey opposed the invasion by refusing U.S. access to Turkish military bases, and now is threatening to set up roadblocks along the U.S. military's logistics chain into Iraq and upset Washington's relations with the Kurds.

And this probably is just the beginning. Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey's neighborhood -- and its relationship with Washington -- has drastically changed. Attempts to become a Central Asian or European power have failed, and the Turks are looking in different directions for opportunities. The Iraq war has proven that U.S. and Turkish security concerns are no longer in lockstep, leading Turkey to re-evaluate its alliance with the United States.

From the Turks' viewpoint, the United States can no longer be viewed as a stabilizing force, as it has been since World War II. Moreover, Turkey no longer is a weak economic force and is not as reliant on the United States for its security. Turkey's rapid economic growth and its strong military tradition are creating the conditions for Ankara to pull itself out of its post-World War I insularity and extend itself in the region once again. As a result, Turkey's foreign policy no longer needs to tie itself to the United States, and Ankara can afford to make bold moves concerning issues -- whether those issues relate to the Kurds, Armenians or Greeks -- without losing too much sleep over any follow-on damage to its relationship with the United States. If the United States is going to act as the destabilizing force in the region through creating a major upheaval in Iraq, Turkey must at the very least attempt to take control of the situations within its old sphere of influence.

But this does not mean Turkey can make a clean break from the United States either, at least not any time in the near future. Turkey's growth is still fragile and needs more time to become consolidated. Turkey also faces resistance in every direction that it pushes, from Greece in the Balkans, Iran, Iraq and Syria in the Middle East and Russia in the Caucasus. Turkey's current position puts it into a geopolitical context where Iran is rising to Turkey's southeast and a resurgent Russia is bearing down on the Caucasus and even hinting at returning its naval fleet to the Mediterranean. In the near term, a major power is needed in Iraq to keep the Iranians at bay, and the Turks would prefer that the Americans do the heavy lifting on this since Iraq already is in disarray. Meanwhile, Turkey will move forward with its grand strategy of keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check.

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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2007, 10:32:47 PM »

Not exactly a perfect ally, but a valuable one according to this WSJ editorial:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/weekend/hottopic/?id=110010760

The Turkish Front
The path to a better Middle East goes through Ankara.

Saturday, October 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Some day, we may look back on this week as a turning point in America's relations with its closest Muslim ally, Turkey, and perhaps for the entire Middle East. Unfortunately, only a seer can say whether it'll be a turn for the better.

The ructions over the House's foray into Ottoman history and Turkey's threat to invade northern Iraq don't look good. But clear-eyed leaders will spot an opportunity in this crisis to renew an alliance for this difficult new era. American and Turkish interests overlap, and the countries need each other as much as they did during the Cold War.

The more sober politicians in Washington and Ankara understand this. Wednesday's parliamentary approval of a possible Turkish incursion to chase down Kurdish terrorists in their Iraqi hideouts was remarkable for its restraint. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waited more than a week after the latest strike by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (or PKK) killed 13 Turkish soldiers to bring up the measure. No democratic government could ignore such attacks and the growing public outrage.

The Turks have also ruled out any rash move into northern Iraq. Ankara would prefer that the Iraqi Kurds and U.S. squeeze the PKK hiding in the Qandil mountains and avoid the risks of launching its own incursion. The vote this week is a wake-up call from the Turks--not least to the Iraqi Kurds, who have an opening to improve ties with their most important neighbor.

Meanwhile, with uncanny timing, Congressional Democrats this week were about to stick a finger in Turkey's eye. Whether the massacres of up to 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 constitute "genocide," as a nonbinding House resolution declares, is a matter for historians. In the here and now, the resolution would erode America's influence with Ankara and endanger the U.S. effort in Iraq. Worse, Mr. Erdogan's ability to work with Washington would be constrained by an anti-American backlash.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the week promising to bring the resolution to the House floor. But she is now having second thoughts--if not out of good sense, then because her rank-and-file are peeling away as they are lobbied against the anti-Turk resolution by the likes of General David Petraeus. Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert tabled a similar resolution when asked by President Clinton in 2000, and we'll soon see if Ms. Pelosi will do the same for a Republican President.

The PKK also reads the papers, and its leaders timed their attacks on consecutive weekends this month as the resolution moved through the House. The Marxist separatist group, whose 20-year war has claimed almost 40,000 lives, would love to divide the U.S. from Turkey. Unless managed right, the Turkish response this week also imperils improving bilateral ties between Ankara and Baghdad; the countries had only recently signed a counterterrorism pact. In Turkey itself, PKK support is dwindling, and Mr. Erdogan's ruling party swept the Kurdish-majority areas in July's elections.

To avoid the trap set by the PKK, the U.S. needs to press the Iraqi Kurds to act against them. This doesn't have to hurt America's friendly dealings with the Kurds. But someone has to remind Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdish region, that the PKK poses a grave threat to the economic boom and stability of northern Iraq. His aggressive rhetoric toward Turkey, and the Kurdish peshmerga militia's disinterest in cracking down on the PKK, gives the wrong impression of complicity with the terrorists. With typical bluster, Mr. Barzani yesterday said he'd fight the Turks--hardly helpful.

Short of declaring war on the PKK, the peshmerga could easily cut off supply lines of food and arms into the Qandil mountains. The Turks want the U.S. to nab a few big PKK fish, which is easier said than done. But Ankara isn't unreasonable to expect to see more of an effort. In return, its troops can stay on their side of the border.

This hasn't been an easy year for Turkey. For most of it, Mr. Erdogan and his neo-Islamist party fought a cold war with the country's secular establishment, led by the military. His commanding election victory in July ended that political crisis, only to see Congress and the PKK distract anew from his primary task, which is building the Muslim world's most vibrant free-market democracy.

Turkey wants a unitary, stable and prosperous Iraq, and should know that any wrong moves in the north could jeopardize that. The Turks unabashedly support Israel's right to exist and can't abide a nuclear Iran. On these and other issues, Ankara is an indispensable partner for America. Mr. Erdogan is expected to meet President Bush next month to discuss Iraqi Kurdistan and probably the Armenian resolution. The U.S.-Turkey friendship is too important to let it be ruined by parochial politics in either country.
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« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2007, 03:02:03 AM »

Tends to agree that militant Kurds are undermining our relation with Turkey:

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22872
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2007, 09:16:46 AM »



WSJ

A Kurdish Lesson
Terrorist groups often have nine lives.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, October 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

A debate among U.S. military brass over whether to declare victory over al Qaeda in Iraq coincides with threats by Turkey to strike terrorist camps in northern Iraq belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Note the irony: The PKK, which in recent days has killed scores of Turkish soldiers, was itself declared dead as a terrorist group in 1999.

There are excellent reasons to avoid pronouncements concerning AQI's defeat. One is to deny the group the chance to offer testaments in blood to its own resilience. A second is to avoid another political embarrassment of the "Mission Accomplished" kind. But the main reason is that the experience of terrorist organizations world-wide shows that even in defeat they are rarely truly finished. Like Douglas MacArthur's old soldiers, terrorist groups never die. At best they just fade away.

Some examples: In its heyday in the 1980s, Peru's Maoist Shining Path was every bit as brutal as al Qaeda. The 1992 capture of its charismatic leader, former philosophy professor Abimael Guzmán, was supposed to have dealt a fatal blow to the group's capacity to operate, as was the capture seven years later of his successor, Óscar Ramírez. Yet as recently as last year, the Peruvian government was forced to declare a state of emergency in the Huánuco region to deal with terrorist activities by the group.

Or take the Taliban. In April 2005, American Gen. David Barno told reporters he believed that, with the exception of a few bitter-enders, the Taliban would be a memory within two years. The opposite happened. In 2006, the rate of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan soared, and the Bush administration was forced to deploy 6,000 additional troops to recover territory lost to the Taliban and turn back their anticipated spring offensive.





What about the PKK? Late in 1998 Turkey massed troops on its border with Syria, with the declared intention of expelling the PKK and its leader Abdullah Öcalan from Damascus if the Syrians didn't do so themselves. (A banner headline in the Turkish paper Hurriyet declared "We're going to say 'shalom' to the Israelis on the Golan Heights.") The late Syrian strongman Hafez Assad got the message, and sent Öcalan packing. He was eventually captured by Turkish intelligence in Nairobi, and sentenced to death by a Turkish court (commuted to a life sentence when Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002). Öcalan has since apologized to the Turkish people for the 37,000 deaths he caused in the 1980s and '90s and called for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. The PKK itself declared a ceasefire.
That should have been the end of it. As Turkish analyst Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy observes, Öcalan was a cult-of-personality figure in an organization that, unlike the cellular structure of al Qaeda, was run along strictly hierarchical lines.

For the next few years the Turkish government made real, if limited, strides in accommodating peaceful ethnic Kurdish cultural demands in education and broadcasting. What remained of the PKK--5,000 or so fighters--mainly retreated to northern Iraq, where their bases were attacked by Turkish forces no fewer than 24 times.

So might things have remained had the U.S. invasion of Iraq not rearranged the strategic chessboard. The Turks did not help themselves by failing to support the war, which caused strains with Washington and prevented them from carrying out further cross-border raids. That, in turn, created an opening for Iran, which until then had been the PKK's sole remaining state sponsor. Concerned about its isolation in the region, and sensing an opportunity to make common cause with the moderately Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tehran abruptly switched sides, going so far as to shell PKK positions in northern Iraq. Not surprisingly, the Turks began to take a more favorable view of Iran.

The U.S. role is scarcely more creditable. The Ankara government has been pressing the Bush administration to hit PKK bases for at least four years. The administration has responded with a combination of empty promises of future action and excuses that U.S. forces are already overstretched in Iraq. For the Turks, who contribute more than 1,000 troops to NATO's mission in Afghanistan, U.S. nonfeasance is a mystery, if not an outright conspiracy. "How is it that Turkey fights America's terrorists, but America does not fight Turkey's terrorists?" is how Mr. Cagaptay sums up the prevailing mood.





Yet the real mystery isn't U.S. behavior, which was mainly dictated by a desire not to rock the boat in what was (at least until this month), the only relatively stable region of Iraq. It is the forbearance shown to the PKK by Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan's president, who has otherwise sought to cultivate better relations with Ankara and Kurdish moderates in Turkey, and who would have much to lose if an invading Turkish army turned his province into a free-fire zone. One theory is that Mr. Barzani wants to use the PKK as a diplomatic card, to be exchanged for Turkish concessions in some future negotiation. But all that depends on his ability to rein in the PKK at the last minute and avert a Turkish invasion. Yesterday's kidnapping (or killing) of another eight Turkish troops puts that in doubt.
Meanwhile, the PKK has fully reconstituted itself as an effective fighting force under the leadership of Murat Karayilan, who was canny enough to see Congress's Armenian genocide resolution as an opportunity to take scissors to the already frayed U.S.-Turkish relationship. The resolution was turned back at the 11th hour, but it remains to be seen whether it has already done its damage.

All the more reason, then, for the U.S. to pre-empt the Turks by taking the decisive action against the PKK it has promised for too long. But the story of the PKK's resurgence should also remind us of the dangers of premature declarations of victory against terrorist groups, especially when such declarations foster the illusion that you can finally come home. Against this kind of enemy, there are no final victories, and no true homecomings, and no real alternatives other than to keep on fighting.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

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« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2007, 11:05:42 AM »

Second post of the AM:

Iraq, Turkey: Igniting the Kurdish Rivalry
Summary

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Oct. 21 that the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) will announce a cease-fire on the evening of Oct. 22. With no love lost between the PKK and Iraq's Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has every reason to use its leverage with the PKK to keep the Turks at bay, thereby safeguarding KRG interests and remaining the darling of energy investors. But the motivation behind Turkey's troop buildup along its border with Iraq extends far beyond the PKK issue: Ankara is keen on reigniting an intra-Kurdish rivalry in order to keep Iraqi Kurdistan in check.

Analysis

After saying that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) would not even hand over a Kurdish cat to Ankara if Turkey did not back off, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani hinted Oct. 22 that Iraqi Kurdish forces already have moved against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) when he announced an end to PKK activities against Turkish troops scheduled to start the same evening. Talabani's statement comes against the backdrop of 100,000 Turkish troops stationed along the Turkish-Iraqi border in preparation for a large-scale offensive against PKK elements in northern Iraq. This situation became even tenser after a provocative attack Oct. 21 by Kurdish rebels that killed at least 17 Turkish soldiers.

The KRG might be able to rein in the PKK and stave off a Turkish incursion in the short term. But its ability to prevent an incursion in the long run is doubtful, especially in light of the underlying reasons for a Turkish move into Iraq.

The KRG is well aware that the conflict with Ankara extends far beyond the PKK issue. Turkey has every interest in putting a stranglehold on Iraqi Kurdish aspirations for greater autonomy. In an effort to do so, Turkey has approved a yearlong military operation that will involve building up its forces on the border, moving into Iraq and creating a buffer zone for rooting out the PKK and keeping the Iraqi Kurds in check. An integral part of Ankara's long-term plan for containing Iraqi Kurdistan involves reigniting the conflict between Iraq's two main Kurdish parties: Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls the southeastern Iraqi Kurdish region, and Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls the Northwest.

The Kurds occupy the mountainous territory where Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq come together. But the mountains that have provided them a refuge also have given birth to deep-seated tribal rivalries that are regularly exploited by neighboring powers. The worst infighting in recent years occurred in 1994, when the PUK and KDP were engaged in a full-blown civil war. The fighting became so intense that Barzani called on Saddam Hussein for help battling the PUK. Moreover, the KDP worked alongside Turkey during the 1997 Turkish invasion of Iraq aimed at fighting the PKK, with the PKK and the PUK working together against the KDP. The PUK also received some help from Iran in reclaiming territory from KDP forces during the Kurdish civil war. These events demonstrate that more often than not, intra-Kurdish rivalries will take precedence -- even in the face of a common enemy (be it Turkey or Hussein).




The current unity between Iraqi Kurdish leaders is highly anomalous. Barzani and Talabani set aside their differences in 2003, just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in order to maximize Kurdish benefits in post-Hussein Iraq. This united Kurdish front allowed the Kurdish region to develop into the country's oasis, with energy investors worldwide hungrily eyeing its vast oil fields -- much to Turkey's displeasure. But Turkey also is well aware that the Barzani-Talabani truce is extremely fragile. Everything from telecom companies to peshmerga units still are clearly divided between the PUK and KDP in Iraqi Kurdish territory. The fate of Kirkuk also has caused friction between the two parties as they compete to claim the legacy of having gotten the city officially designated Kurdish territory.

Turkey has every reason to exacerbate intra-Kurdish tensions through military action in an effort to break the KRG apart. Should Turkish troops move deep into Kurdish territory -- to Dohuk and beyond -- clashes between peshmerga and Turkish forces are highly likely. This could further strain the PUK-KDP alliance. Turkey also could drive a wedge between the parties by attempting to align with Talabani, whom Ankara views as a more pragmatic leader, over Barzani, whom the Turks see as a belligerent tribal warlord. And 74-year-old Talabani's worsening health itself could very well ignite another intra-Kurdish power struggle. Should Talabani feel threatened by Barzani's political ambitions, Ankara could find another opening to intervene and keep the Kurdish parties split.

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« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2007, 10:16:50 AM »

WSJ

Storm Clouds Over Northern Iraq
By NORMAN STONE
November 5, 2007; Page A19

ANKARA -- Condoleezza Rice stepped from an aircraft onto Turkish soil last week for a short, and surely uncomfortable, visit. The U.S. secretary of state fielded sharply pointed and well-informed questions about Iraq and the ongoing attacks on Turkish troops just across the border. Many of those questions will no doubt be repeated in Washington during today's scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Bush.

Despite assurances from Ms. Rice that Turkey and the U.S. share a "common enemy" in Kurdish militants, the situation boils down to something of a conundrum: What for America is a solution -- the Kurds -- is for Turkey a terrible problem. In the last few months a terrorist organization, the PKK (it stands for Kurdish Workers' Party) has been killing young Turkish soldiers -- reportedly, at times, with American weapons -- and has established safe havens just over the Iraqi border.

 
The PKK is -- along with Sendero Luminoso in Peru, and the Basque terrorists in Spain -- the last of the Mao-inspired "National Liberation Fronts" that caused such mayhem in what we have to call the developing world. The PKK was founded in 1979, by Turkish-educated students, and in the 1980s and 1990s it was responsible for 37,000 deaths, most of them Kurdish.

Now, from its apparent safe haven in Kurdish northern Iraq, and with an office in Armenia -- was the timing of the U.S. Congress resolution anent the "genocide" coincidental? -- the PKK is back, and this time in a much more dangerous form. The attacks in Turkey have been well-organized, and seemingly on the basis of serious intelligence. So it was that Ms. Rice landed in a Turkey in uproar -- and with an increasingly anti-American citizenry.

One must remember that Turkey and the U.S. have long been key allies, if not dear friends. Adnan Menderes, the first Turkish prime minister to be democratically elected (in 1950), said "whatever America does, is right for us." Menderes opened up the economy and joined NATO. Turkey is a relatively new country, established in 1923 in the rubble of the old Ottoman Empire, and foreign models have been very important. The dominant one was once French, but is now American; and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Americans in Turkey have good reason to be pleased.

Turkey is now in the same league as, say, South Korea or Taiwan or even Japan as a testimony to the incredible positive influence of postwar America. With her geographical location and her demographic problem, she could have been an Egypt. Instead, she is a Spain -- industrialized, literate, and the only place between Athens and Singapore where people actually want to live: Turkey is home to two million refugees, many from Iran.

American hard power is here, in the shape of NATO institutions and the great air base at Incirlik; and the IMF has been called upon to support the Turkish currency. But it is the "soft power" that you cannot miss. The Turks have even set up private universities on the American model, far more of them than in Western Europe, and thousands of Turkish students make for the States each year.

So, will the PKK and the troubles in northern Iraq bring this so positive relationship to an end? Probably not. Mr. Erdogan and the Turkish elite understand the value of their alliance with the U.S. -- and are unlikely to let the mess of Iraq undo it.

The Turks know Iraq historically and very well. In the days of the Ottoman Empire, three disparate provinces had been ruled from Baghdad, which the Turks had taken in 1638. The empire had originally been Balkan-based, looking to Europe. But the long war with Persia sucked the Turks into the Middle East, and the character of the empire changed.

In the 19th century, following French precepts, the Sultans tried to centralize it, but over Iraq they gave up, and simply did deals with the local powers-that-be, whether the Sunni elite in Baghdad, the Shia (and proto-Iranian) groupings in the south, or various Kurdish tribal chiefs in the mountainous north. One way of controlling them was to set up a "tribal school" in Istanbul, where the sons were educated (they often fought).

One result was that, of all the elements in Iraq, it was the Kurds who were in the end closest to Turkey. After World War I, the British took over Iraq, and there were also shadowy ideas of dividing eastern Turkey between Armenian and Kurdish nation-states. The Kurds, on the whole, opted for Turkey, and contributed much to her war of independence. They were good fighters, which the Armenians, mainly traders, were not, and the Turks won in a remarkable comeback.

At the time, they drew up a "National Pact," and the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq were included as a territorial claim. The British, then occupying Iraq, did not intend to let these oil-rich areas fall into Turkish hands, and manipulated the League of Nations into leaving the Kurdish area in the British-dominated Iraqi colony (or "mandate" as it was known). They then faced a war of all against all, and their chief expert, Lawrence of Arabia, sagely wondered why it was that the British, with 100,000 men, tanks, aircraft and poison gas, could not control a region that the Turks had run with a native army of 14,000 men, executing 90 men per annum. Then, as now.

The Turks' National Pact had much to be said for it, and when the first Iraq War occurred, the then Turkish leader, Turgut Özal (himself half-Kurdish) might even just have annexed Kurdish northern Iraq, if the first Bush administration had been in a creative mode.

Iraq in the end is just another of those artificial, post-1918 creations, like Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia. Kurds, nomadic tribes for the most part, are settled all over the Middle East, even in Afghanistan, but the Kurdish state is really Turkey; and Istanbul, where (after Black Sea migrants) Kurds are the largest group, is the biggest Kurdish city.

These millions of Kurdish migrants are rapidly becoming assimilated, speaking Turkish among themselves, with, in heated moments, some Kurdish words. Some have become very successful indeed; many have intermarried; even Black Sea taxi drivers, fulminating against dirt and thievery, will say that they have several Kurdish friends.

The Istanbul-based Kurds do not vote for a Kurdish nationalist party at all, and just follow the Turkish ones, secularist, religious (they like the present government) or middle-of-the-road. The fact is that most Kurds in Turkey just want their children to go ahead in the national language -- the more so as there is not even a single Kurdish language: there are four, or even seven, depending on how you classify dialects.

However, in the southeast of Turkey there is a huge Kurdish problem. The region is far poorer than anywhere else: Hakkari on the Iraqi border has a tenth of the GDP per head of Istanbul, and there is a terrible demographic problem, of endless raggedy children, little girls of four dragging tiny tots of two across motorways. The tots will in some cases grow up to hate the Turkish state, to join the PKK, and to look at northern Iraq as the future Kurdistan.

And there they will encounter some sympathy. Northern Iraq is uneasily settled as a Kurdish entity, as the result of a compromise between the chiefs of two tribal federations, Massoud Barzani on the border, Jalal Talabani to the east, and now, formally, president of Iraq. They have fought, in the recent past, but made up their differences in a flood of dollars (which, incidentally, flow back to Turkey, where the dollar and even the euro have been plunging as a result).

Mr. Barzani's own family has a long history of fighting for Kurdistan, and all Turks think that he is playing politics. He does not like the PKK: let the Turks deal with them. On the other hand, with the PKK out of the picture, he will be the lion of the Kurds, as his father tried (with Soviet help) to be.

Meanwhile, if American-Turkish relations are soured, then so much the better: The Americans in Iraq cannot do without him. There is also huge money to be made out of oil, and out of the smuggling of heroin and hashish, as 500,000 trucks go back and forth every year through Mr. Barzani's fiefdom.

So he plays his game, allowing the PKK to raid southeastern Turkey, in the expectation that the resulting trouble can only bring him profit. Mr. Bush and Mr. Erodgan, in their meeting today, should make certain he's wrong.

Mr. Stone is a professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Ankara and author of "World War I: A Short History" (Penguin, 2007).
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« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2007, 07:33:29 PM »

Iraq, Turkey: Border Problems Resolved
November 12, 2007 21 50  GMT


A political advisor to Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said border problems between Iraq and Turkey had been resolved, Fars News Agency reported Nov. 12. He said steps taken by the Iraqi central government to soothe Turkey's concerns had helped to reduce "Kurdish Workers' Party-related problems." He also said Kurd officials in northern Iraq helped the central government in taking these steps.

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« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2007, 07:03:27 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Reading Turkey's Airstrike in Iraq

Turkey announced on Sunday that it had bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq in a predawn raid. According to Turkish media, the attacks involved more than 50 planes, began at 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, continued for three hours and were followed by artillery attacks. They reportedly focused on the areas of Zap, Avasin and Hakurk, but went as deep as Qandil, where senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the targeted group, reportedly were based. This is a much more substantial strike than the last notable one, which occurred in mid-November.

Notably, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said that the United States cleared the attack, opening Iraqi airspace and also providing intelligence. According to Reuters, a U.S. Embassy official in Ankara said in response, "We have not approved any decision. It is not for us to approve. However, we were informed before the event." We interpret this statement to mean that the United States did in fact approve the attacks, since "it is not for us to approve" is not Washington's position on foreign powers launching airstrikes on Iraq.

Most interesting is the Turkish claim that the United States provided intelligence to the Turks for the airstrikes. This makes sense. The Americans definitely do not want a major Turkish invasion into Iraq at this time. Washington is trying to stabilize the country, and a Turkish invasion is the last thing the United States needs. At the same time, the Turkish government is under intense domestic political pressure to do something about PKK actions inside Turkey. It is politically impossible for Ankara to remain passive.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with U.S. President George W. Bush earlier in the month, and the two sides undoubtedly laid out their concerns: The United States didn't want an invasion, but Turkey had to do something effective. Non-PKK Kurds were loath to provide intelligence on PKK facilities and personnel that would benefit the Turks, regardless of intra-Kurdish political differences. The solution was for the United States to provide intelligence to the Turks, and for Turkey to warn the Americans so that the airspace would be clear and no U.S. personnel would be in the strike zone.

That was the price the United States had to pay to avoid a Turkish ground invasion. The decision might strain U.S.-Kurdish relations, but that is the price Iraqi Kurds have to pay to keep Turkey out. For the Turks, it was the most effective measure they could take without having a confrontation with the United States. All the players are looking for the lowest cost possible. But it's not clear that they bought the outcome they were hoping for.

It is difficult to strike a guerrilla group from the air and be successful. Airstrikes alone are unlikely to stop the PKK -- the militants would have to be engaged on the ground in order to be defeated. Therefore, if all that took place Sunday morning was an airstrike, the PKK will be back striking Turkish targets in no time. If, on the other hand, the airstrikes were cover for covert ground action against the PKK -- either by Turkish special forces or by those of another country -- then it might be that the PKK was in fact hurt badly enough to interrupt, if not end, the cycle of violence. In that case, the crisis might subside.

Over the next few weeks we will get a better sense of what happened before dawn on Sunday, based on whether the PKK hits back.

Situation Reports

0922 GMT -- IRAQ, TURKEY -- The Iraqi government has demanded that Turkey stop conducting airstrikes in northern Iraq, saying the Dec. 16 strikes destroyed hospitals, schools and bridges, Press TV reported Dec. 17, citing the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. "We demand that Turkish authorities stop such actions against innocent people," the statement said. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied the strikes hit civilian areas. To protest the strikes, Baghdad has summoned Turkey's ambassador to Iraq.

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« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2007, 04:16:32 PM »

Turkey's Terror Problem Is Ours
By MICHAEL RUBIN
December 18, 2007; Page A21

It's been nearly two months since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) sparked an international crisis with a major attack inside Turkey, and more than six weeks since President Bush promised Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would aid Turkey's fight against terrorism. Heady talk of intelligence sharing and cooperation followed and, indeed, may have been a factor in this weekend's Turkish air strikes on PKK targets in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Yet at the same time the Bush administration -- more precisely its increasingly assertive State Department -- has embraced an ill-advised diplomatic strategy toward the PKK that will likely backfire on our long-standing NATO ally, and could serve to undermine what is left of President Bush's "global war on terrorism."

 
Rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, near the Turkish border in the remote village of Lewzhe, in northern Iraq, July 2007.
With 100,000 Turkish troops amassed alongside the Iraqi frontier, it is understandable that U.S. diplomats want to avert a military crisis. But, rather than take a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism, the State Department is counseling Turkey to offer political concessions. On Dec. 13, for example, State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Dell Dailey said, "We have not looked at a military solution as the solution to the PKK. Our preference is a political solution," both inside Iraqi Kurdistan and inside Turkey.

The desired political solution seems to be Iraqi Kurdish action to close down the safe haven on Iraqi soil in exchange for a general amnesty law in Turkey to forgive most PKK members and perhaps other Kurdish-language broadcasting and constitutional reforms as well.

Such a deal at this time would be cockeyed. Turkey has a legitimate grievance against both the PKK and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. During its Oct. 21 attack on Turkish troops, PKK tactics mirrored those taught by U.S. Special Forces to Mr. Barzani's peshmerga fighters, suggesting its complicity in training terrorists. A diplomatic solution should not reward such behavior.

This needn't mean solely a military solution either. Rather, U.S. officials should threaten isolation and a cessation of all financial assistance until Mr. Barzani ceases his safe haven. Confronted with such demands since 2003, Mr. Barzani has always begged for more time, only to let his promises lag when the diplomatic spotlight passed.

It is trendy to seek "root causes" of terror and to discount terrorist ideology. For State Department officials who believe the PKK is just an outgrowth of inequality and discrimination in Turkey, a deal may seem logical. The group's ideology should negate such a compromise. The PKK has its roots in the revolutionary turmoil of the 1970s. Its leader, a university drop-out named Abdullah Öcalan, immersed himself in the Marxism and Maoism fashionable among intellectuals of the day and became a committed revolutionary. Cloaking himself in Kurdish nationalism, Öcalan's first target was not the Turkish military, but rather nonviolent Kurdish civil rights groups.

In August 1984, the PKK launched an insurgency in southeastern Turkey. Like Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, it targeted the educated and modern. PKK terrorists executed school teachers for being public servants. PKK gangs burned medical clinics and murdered their staff. Health care collapsed. As al Qaeda would do two decades later in Iraq, the PKK destroyed critical infrastructure to drive a wedge between the state and the local population. Before ending in 1997, the PKK campaign claimed 30,000 lives, the majority ethnic Kurds killed by the PKK itself.

The terror campaign ended not with political concession, but coercion: Turkey threatened to expand its military campaign to Syria, which sheltered the PKK. As the Turkish military mobilized along Syria's frontier, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad blinked and order the PKK out. Öcalan sought Greek protection. Rather than try to negotiate compromise with a terrorist, U.S. forces took a no-nonsense approach. U.S. (and Israeli) intelligence tipped Ankara off to Öcalan's whereabouts. On Feb. 16, 1999, Turkish Special Forces captured the PKK leader outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. Today, Öcalan serves his life sentence time on the prison island of Imrali, but controls his organization through trusted lieutenants.

Every time the PKK finds a safe haven, it renews violence. Iran briefly sheltered PKK fighters after their expulsion from Syria. No sooner had the PKK established camps than it restarted its terrorism. Turkey responded by bombing both PKK targets and Iranian Revolutionary Guards posts around the Iranian town of Piranshahr. While Tehran seldom takes diplomatic demarches or deals seriously, faced with a military red-line, the ayatollahs, too, backed down. No U.S. official, obviously, counseled that Turkey should compromise.

And yet, in the name of diplomacy, the Bush administration now does. The White House validates Mr. Barzani's decision to play the terror card. For the State Department to accept Mr. Barzani's excuse -- that Kurdish solidarity prohibits a crackdown upon the PKK -- is naïve. Kurdish solidarity is an oxymoron. Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Barzani fought the group he now protects. His change of heart came after the Turkish parliament's 2003 decision not to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Overestimating the chill in U.S.-Turkish relations, he took a hard line against Ankara. As Turkey at the time offered amnesty to those rank-and-file PKK members without blood on their hands, Mr. Barzani welcomed the PKK leaders he once fought. Turkish authorities say they have photographs of senior PKK commanders receiving medical treatment in Erbil hospitals and meeting with Barzani associates in nearby restaurants. Last spring, Mr. Barzani threatened in an al-Arabiya television interview to unleash insurgency inside Turkey.

So as Mr. Barzani denies complicity in terrorism, he nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain. To link demands for Mr. Barzani to crack down with any Turkish political concession suggests that President Bush has learned nothing from his predecessors' failures. The Bush administration's strategy today mirrors the Clinton administration's approach to late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat, in which the State Department matched every empty Arafat promise with demands for good-faith concessions from Israel, the democracy he victimized. While Kurdish officials tell credulous diplomats that the PKK threat would disappear if only Ankara offered greater concessions, the opposite is true: Concessions fuel terror.

Any Turkish compromise prior to a complete disarmament and expulsion of PKK terrorists from northern Iraq could encourage Syria and its Lebanese proxies to demand concessions in exchange for insincere promises to cease terror support. Pakistan, too, may once again leverage its support and safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership into demands upon both Washington and Kabul.

Turkey has been a poor ally in recent years, but fighting terror requires alliances to trump politics. Every country has the right to defend its citizens from terrorism. Mr. Barzani may give silk carpets to diplomats, provide lavish spreads during their visits, and have his praises sung by high-powered Beltway lobbyists, but so long as he provides the PKK a safe haven, he is a terror enabler. Forcing Turkey to negotiate with the PKK or its intermediaries would only justify its terrorism, and would be no wiser than counseling compromise with Hezbollah, Hamas, or al Qaeda.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2008, 12:28:12 PM »

Turkish Regress
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
June 19, 2008

Turkey's soccer team scored three goals in the last 15 minutes against the Czechs the other night to make the quarterfinals of the European championship. Now if only miracles happened in Turkish politics.

The country needs one to get out of its latest self-inflicted crisis. For the second time in a year, a clash between the old secular establishment and an elected government with roots in Islam has split and paralyzed Turkey. Tensions look bound to escalate, putting the Muslim world's strongest democracy in peril.

The current fight is ostensibly over Islam and its most potent symbol, the headscarf. But that's a proxy for a broader struggle over political power. The so-called secularists have run the place since Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey through their control of the military, state bureaucracy and schools, and the courts. But in this century, the ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, has claimed the votes and the reform credentials.

Now the Kemalists have the AKP on a back foot. In coming weeks, Turkey's highest court will -- barring the miracle -- outlaw the AKP for "anti-secular activities." The court tipped its hand recently by striking down an AKP-backed law to lift the prohibition against women wearing headscarves at public universities. The law led a Kemalist prosecutor to bring the case against the AKP in the first place. Seventy-one politicians, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also face a five-year ban from belonging to any party. Such a decision would undo the outcome of last summer's elections. The AKP won 47% of the vote, a landslide by Turkish standards.

Other consequences are harder to predict, but none is welcome. Turkey's negotiations on membership with the European Union, along with its modernization drive, would be put on hold -- again. Political infighting has already stalled reform, and Turkey would be consumed for many more months with sorting out who should run the government.

A ban on Mr. Erdogan's party would amount to a judicial coup. It's also perfectly legal. Under the 1982 constitution, the courts can outlaw parties and have done so on nearly two dozen occasions. The secular elite says the military and the courts are the only checks and balances Turkish democracy has against an AKP with a wide majority in Parliament and its own man in the presidency. Never mind that the AKP won those offices fair and square.

The crux of the secular case against the AKP has always been a hypothetical fear that its secret agenda is to Islamize Turkey. If women are allowed to wear headscarves at university, goes the oft-heard argument, all women will soon be forced to wear them everywhere. Stories are told of AKP mayors who outlaw alcohol or force girls to cover their hair.

Some Turkish Islamists can be as pushy in telling women how to dress modestly as some secularists can be in telling them not to. Yet these tend to be isolated incidents, and the AKP's record in power tells a wholly different story. In his first term in office, Mr. Erdogan did more than any Turkish leader in the past two decades to strengthen democractic institutions and open up the economy. Minority rights, especially for the Kurds, were expanded. So were civil liberties. Turkey's economy flourished. Membership talks started with the EU.

Critics say the AKP is aggressive and intolerant. If anything, the party has been so obliging of the opposition that its reform efforts have suffered. In deference to the secularists, Mr. Erdogan backed off on plans to decriminalize certain political speech and liberalize the law on political parties to make it harder to ban them. In the headscarf case, the AKP moved only at the behest of the secular Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. The MHP, naturally, isn't in the high court facing a ban. In retrospect, Mr. Erdogan may have walked into a trap. This supposedly overbearing Prime Minister these days looks weak.

The AKP's rise reflects that of a new elite in a fast-changing Turkey. Its supporters tend to hail from blue-collar families, from the rural areas as well as the lower-class suburbs that rose around Istanbul and other cities in recent decades. They tend to work in the booming private sector. They also tend to be more socially and culturally conservative.

The urban, educated secular establishment is a minority that finds this emerging reality discomfiting. They don't trust ordinary Turks to make up their own minds about whom to vote for, and claim to know what's better for them.

Here's an irony. Through their actions these past few months, the secularists are now the leading opponents of the West and pose a threat to secularism itself. Under the AKP, Turkey was moving at a dizzying pace to try to reconcile Islam and democracy, turning away from the mildly authoritarian precepts of Kemalism toward Western liberalism.

In the Turkish context, that would mean keeping Islam and politics separate while giving Turks greater space to practice their religion (or not). The job was imperfectly and barely half done. Now that modernization drive, watched closely across the Muslim world, has been stopped cold. The next neo-Islamist Turkish government may not be as eager to liberalize as this one has been.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2008, 01:17:19 PM »

Turkey's Islamists
Inspire a New
Climate of Fear
By ZEYNO BARAN
August 2, 2008; Page A11

Istanbul

This week's verdict by Turkey's Constitutional Court -- which rejected an attempt to ban the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) for undermining the country's secular foundations -- has been hailed by the U.S. and the EU as a great step forward for democracy and rule of law. Fair enough. Banning a party that last year renewed its mandate in office with 47% of the vote would have been a huge setback for Turkey. But that doesn't mean we should all sigh with relief and conclude that liberal democracy is flourishing under the Islamic-oriented AKP's rule.

Government surveillance of AK Party critics and leaks to media of personal phone conversations have created a climate of fear. There is concern among some liberals that the country is becoming a police state. The foundation of a healthy democracy -- the right to dissent and hold an elected government accountable -- is gradually being undermined.

When asked about mass wire-tapping, Minister of Transportation Binali Yildirim gave a Kafkaesque response: "It is not possible to prevent being listened to; the only way is not to talk [on the phone]. If there is nothing illegal in our actions, we should not be concerned about such things."

Some examples of recent intrusive practices in Turkey include the appearance on YouTube of voice recordings of prominent figures either from the military or antigovernment circles. Several anti-Islamist senior military officers have reportedly resigned over the past few years when faced with the possibility that their private conversations would be leaked. The leaks involve some top-secret military documents, so they are also highly illegal and might pose a serious security breach for the NATO alliance.

In this context, several aspects of the so-called Ergenekon trial are worth highlighting. Ergenekon is alleged to be a secret antigovernment organization named after a pre-Islamic Turkish myth. The case involves a network of ultranationalists -- including journalists, military, business and civil society leaders -- who allegedly have been involved in a range of terror attacks since the early 1990s, and most recently conspired to attempt a coup against the AKP.

The investigation began in June 2007, when over two dozen hand grenades were found in an Istanbul house. The same type of grenade was used in the attacks on the Istanbul offices of the prominent anti-Islamist newspaper Cumhuriyet in 2006. At the time, many believed the attack against the newspaper was carried out by Islamists. Now, according to the prosecution, this and other such attacks were not carried out by Islamists, but by Ergenekon conspirators.

The indictment reads like a Solzhenitsyn novel; it includes private conversations between suspects, who discuss their conversations with prominent figures, such as former president Suleyman Demirel and business tycoon Rahmi Koc. While these do not by themselves make a case, they are highly embarrassing when reprinted on the front pages of major newspapers. The message that many people took from the indictment is that those critical of the government are officially on notice.

The case is built around retired Brig. Gen. Veli Kucuk, an alleged leader of Ergenekon, who is accused of a number of illegal activities, including some of the most shocking crimes in recent Turkish history. Ergenekon conspirators are also accused of planning to murder the current chief of the Turkish military's general staff, Yasar Buyukanit, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk (among others), and of planning attacks on NATO facilities.

Most Turks would welcome the elimination of such furtive armed networks, and the clear restoration of the rule of law. However, the timing of this case, as well as the movie-like aspects of the indictment, have aroused suspicions that the AKP or its supporters are behind a campaign of intimidation -- and that they are striking back in the legal arena against the same people who tried to ban the party.

First, the timing. The Istanbul court declared its acceptance of the indictment and released the 2,455 page document on July 25 -- the weekend prior to the start of the AKP closure case. While AKP and its supporters claim the two cases are not related, those in opposition see the two closely linked, and point to the headline of the strongly antimilitary daily Taraf the next day: "Founded in 1923, cleansed in 2008" -- i.e., it declared the collapse of Mustafa Kemal's secular Turkish Republic.

Second, the leading opposition paper Cumhuriyet seems to be a key target. The phones of its senior journalists have been tapped, and some conversations deemed anti-AKP leaked to the press -- including one involving a readout of an off-the-record conversation between the paper's U.S. correspondent and members of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's staff. The paper's senior editor and columnist, Ilhan Selcuk, was arrested in March as a result of the information extracted from his private phone conversations. He is one of the leading figures among the 86 people charged with being a member of a "terrorist organization."

A third point made by those who managed to go through those 2,455 pages is that the indictment is full of unsubstantiated speculation, and that its attempt to blame all kinds of terror attacks and assassinations on Ergenekon is far-fetched. These include the killing of prominent anti-Islamist scholars and journalists, and what were thought to be Kurdish acts of terror and killings by the Islamist group Hezbullah (unrelated to the Lebanese organization).

The Ergenekon trial has so far raised more questions than answers. If the allegations can be proven, it would be a huge success for the AKP for having the courage to tackle such a horrendous entity. If, however, it turns out to be mostly a show trial, then those concerned about Turkish democracy and rule of law need to reconsider where Turkey is headed.

Ms. Baran, a native of Turkey, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of its Center for Eurasian Policy.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2009, 01:18:38 PM »

Summary
Turkey’s international profile has risen as a result of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s criticism of Israel in the wake of the conflict in Gaza. Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party are making use of the Gaza crisis to further their goals of reasserting Turkey’s leadership of the Arab Middle East, and of the wider Muslim world. While there are not many external obstacles to this goal, there is significant domestic resistance that could not only hobble Turkey’s ascent, but also plunge the country back into domestic instability.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Turkey’s Re-Emergence
Turkey considers itself a key player in efforts to secure a bilateral cease-fire ending Israel’s military operations in Gaza, because Ankara has been able to convince Hamas to stop fighting, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Jan. 19.

Turkey is not the only regional player that has influence over Hamas — Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt do as well — but unlike its Arab neighbors, Turkey has openly criticized its ally Israel over the Gaza operation. Erdogan on Jan. 4 said Israel was “perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction,” warning that “Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.” Erdogan’s comments are not entirely unprecedented, as he also has criticized previous Israeli operations in the Palestinian territories — but his past comments have been nowhere near as severe.

There has been considerable concern, both within Turkey and internationally, that these comments could indicate that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is reverting to its Islamist roots. That is unlikely to happen, however. A significant chunk of the party is composed of non-Islamists, and the party itself was founded by individuals who broke with the Islamist core of Fazeelat, the AK Party’s predecessor, which was outlawed in 2001. In addition, the Turkish republic’s firm grounding in secularism makes it difficult or impossible for the ruling party to trend too far toward Islamism without being disbanded by the establishment.

The reason for Ankara’s harshly critical position toward Israel’s Operation Cast Lead can be found, rather, in the politics of the Arab world. At a time when the Arab masses perceive their leaders as either actively supporting Israel or at least doing nothing to stop it, Erdogan is gaining tremendous respect and appreciation in the Arab street for his condemnation of the Israeli offensive and his rhetorical defense of the Palestinians.

Opportunity in the Middle East
Turkey was not the only one taking a firm stance against Israel, however; Iran was actually helping Hamas, not just rhetorically, but militarily. Tehran’s support for both Hezbollah and Hamas has earned it and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a considerable degree of popularity in Arab societies, along with fear and loathing among the Arab palaces. But Iran, an ethnically Persian and religiously Shiite state, can go only so far in positioning itself as a leader of the Muslim world, which is predominantly Sunni and Arab. Iran’s weak economic situation also limits its possibilities as a regional hegemon.

Turkey, which boasts the world’s 17th-largest economy, has no such problems. While it is true that Turks are ethnically different from Arabs, both are Sunni. Much more importantly, the Arabs lived for some four centuries under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, whose Turkish rulers were seen as caliphs — leaders of Sunni Muslims — by many Muslims around the world.

This political arrangement, rooted in Islam, came to an end with World War I as Turkish and Arab nationalism accelerated the disintegration of the Ottoman sultanate. Some 90 years later, however, Arab nationalism is all but dead. Islamism has been instrumental in undermining, to varying degrees, the legitimacy of the largely secular Arab states, while the AK Party has brought religion back into the Turkish public arena. Furthermore, the Arab masses generally view their own leaders as corrupt and inept.

Meanwhile, Turkey has somewhat settled itself after 70 years of internal religious-secular struggle. The issue is not completely resolved by any means, but there is general agreement within Turkey that it is time for the country to expand its international influence again. Taken together, these factors have created conditions under which Turkey could emerge as the region’s powerhouse and the leader of the Islamic world.

Related Links
Hamas and the Arab States
Turkey: The Caucasian Challenge
Geopolitical Diary: Envisioning Turkey under the AK Presidency
Iran: Hezbollah and Tehran’s Sunni Gambit
The Geopolitics of Turkey
Geopolitical Diary: Israel’s Strategy in Gaza

Because Turkey’s attempt to gain entry into the European Union has for all intents and purposes been blocked, Turkey has been turning its attention to the other regions it borders — The Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. Where the first two of these represent opportunities because of historical and ethnic links, they also pose significant challenges, because attempting to expand there would place Turkey into conflict with Russia — a battle Ankara is not eager to join at this time. So while the Turks will certainly lay some groundwork in Central Asia and the Caucasus, any movement there will be tentative and with only long-term results in mind. By comparison, the Middle East is wide open — and there is great precedent for Turkish involvement there.

The view among the Arab masses is that Turkey’s leaders are far more politically competent than their Arab counterparts; Erdogan is seen by the Arab street not only as genuine in his support for the Palestinians, but also as bearing qualities that Arab leaders lack. It is this opportunity that is motivating Ankara’s decision to break with the past and criticize Israel harshly. Growing Muslim solidarity in the region, especially in Turkey, helps explain massive demonstrations organized by Turks protesting the war in Gaza. These demonstrations and Erdogan’s statements have had a deep impact on the Arab psyche at a time when the masses in the Arab world are in search of leadership. (For that matter, even the Arab regimes would welcome Turkey on a certain level as a counterweight to Iran, and to radical Islamist actors in the region.)

Relations with Israel and the West

Meanwhile, Turkey’s pursuit of leadership of the Middle East and the Muslim world does not automatically damage Ankara’s relations with Israel and the West. Turkish ties to both are built on solid footing. Turkey was among the first states to recognize Israel after the birth of the Jewish state in 1948, and since then the two countries have had close diplomatic and military relations.

Even the AK Party’s attempts to create more balance between its relations with Israel and with the Arab states have not altered the historical relationship between Turkey and Israel. In fact, under the Erdogan administration, Ankara has been mediating indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria. Despite the AK Party’s Islamist roots, the current Turkish leadership is much more pragmatic in its strategic outlook than Iran and other radical Islamist actors in the region.

The AK Party government is well aware that close relations with Israel, the United States and the West will allow it to enhance its influence in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. Conversely, Ankara is trying to position itself as a go-between for the Arab/Muslim world and the West — but to do that, it needs to enhance its influence among Arabs and Muslims. Hence the harsh criticism against Israel.

In many ways, Israel and the West would actually prefer Turkish leadership in the Middle East and the Islamic world to that of Iran or the Arab states. Turkey is a secular, Westernized Muslim state and a NATO ally, and it is well-positioned between the Islamic and Western spheres. From the Israeli and Western point of view, Turkish leadership could serve as a counter to radical Islamist tendencies from Iran and from Sunni nonstate actors.

Roadblocks At Home

The Islamist roots of Erdogan and his AK Party could help provide an opening for Turkish leadership in the Islamic world, but these same roots pose a threat to Turkey’s domestic stability. Though the AK Party government has achieved a considerable degree of accommodation with the country’s secular establishment (led by the armed forces), tensions remain. The government’s move toward Islamic solidarity on the foreign policy front raises fears among the secularists that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Turkish nationalism, and the subsequent establishment of the modern republic in the aftermath of World War I, grew out of the view that Turkey should shed its Islamic past and, especially, disassociate itself from the Arab world. Attempts to reverse course now could therefore lead to greater tensions between the government and the country’s praetorian military, which is very wary of the possibility that a drive by the AK Party government toward greater alignment with the Arab/Muslim world could undermine the secular foundations of the republic.

This does not mean that the Turkish military is not interested in expanding Ankara’s influence. It fully supports such plans, but not at the cost of weakening the secular fabric of the republic (and the army’s own position in the state). Historically, the military has wanted to steer the country away from the Muslim world and toward the West. Entry into the European Union, however, requires that the armed forces come fully under the control of the civilian leadership — a prospect the military establishment abhors, especially with the AK Party at the helm. The military does not want to give up its ability to stage coups to throw out governments it dislikes — especially those it perceives as undoing the legacy of the founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

This is why the Turkish general staff is willing to live with the European Union’s refusal to accept Turkey as a member. But the military does view Turkey’s return to its old stomping grounds in the Arab world with great trepidation. Thus, while external conditions might be ripe for a resurgence of Turkish influence in the Arab/Muslim world (and by extension internationally), there are strong countervailing forces that could hold back the country — or even reverse course toward domestic political instability.
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« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2009, 11:02:18 AM »

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan created a stir at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday with a lengthy condemnation of Israel’s recent actions in the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan’s speech was clearly prepared beforehand — read directly from papers he was holding — so this was no off-the-cuff comment that could be written off. And sitting right next to the Turkish prime minister the whole time was none other than Israeli President Shimon Peres. After Peres delivered a counterpoint, Erdogan went on what detractors would probably label a rant, which ended with a brief argument with the moderator about time limits before he abruptly walked off the stage, having said, “I do not think I will return to Davos.”

Back in Turkey, the response was mixed: Some were surprised by their leader’s actions, and some were thrilled to see him lambaste both Israel and the European elites at Davos. Indeed, it is a matter for debate both within and outside Turkey just where Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party are taking Turkish policy in the near future. There are those who see his bold criticisms of Israel as a clear bid to seize a leadership position for Islamic sentiment throughout the Middle East. Others see Turkey asserting itself in order to counter, or perhaps collaborate with, a resurgent Russia. Still others see Turkey pushing to join, or perhaps utterly reject, the European Union. The one thing that is clear is that Turkey is moving more assertively than it has in decades.

It has been almost 90 years since the world has seen Turkey as a place that projects any power on its own. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks have been extremely insular, dabbling only rarely in events beyond their borders. Granted, Turkey was a key participant in the NATO alliance during the Cold War, given that it shared borders with the Middle East, Iran, the Soviet bloc (Bulgaria) and the Soviet Union itself. It has been a long time, however, since Turkey pursued an activist foreign policy — and most of the world has forgotten just what that means.

Turkey occupies on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. The Anatolian plateau is high and easily defensible, and as a peninsula it also supports a thriving maritime culture. Both are excellent assets for growing a successful state. But Turkey’s most important feature is its critical location. It sits astride the land routes connecting Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East — not to mention the straits connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It is the only country in the world that is positioned to project influence readily into all of these regions.

A deeper look reveals that the territory that comprises modern-day Turkey has been at or near the center of the human story for thousands of years. It was the home of the Hittite empire some 3,300 years ago, and afterward its Aegean coast was part of Classical Greece. Not only was Anatolia a key component of the Roman Empire, but Byzantium — based in what is now Istanbul — was Rome’s immediate political, cultural, religious and economic successor. That entity in turn was succeeded by the Ottomans, who crafted what was at the time the world’s greatest empire — which almost unilaterally enabled humanity to emerge from the Dark Ages, even at times conquering a good portion of what would eventually become Western civilization. For about half of the past two millennia, Anatolia has commanded the world’s most powerful economic and military forces.

The bottom line is this: Any time in human history that the Anatolian Peninsula has not been a leading force in geopolitics has been an aberration. The land that links Europe to the Eurasian steppe to the mountains of Asia to the Mediterranean basin and the deserts of Arabia is geographically destined to play a major role on the global stage. If the world has a pivot, it lies in Turkey.

And although the direction of its movement remains up for debate, Turkey — after more than 90 years of quiescence — is moving again.
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« Reply #23 on: March 20, 2009, 12:38:45 PM »

Turkey, U.S.: Strengthening Ties as Ankara Rises
STRATFOR Today » March 19, 2009 | 1837 GMT

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganSummary
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Turkey on April 6-7 and meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey have many areas of mutual interest, including Iraq, Middle Eastern diplomatic efforts, Iran and Central Asia. Obama’s visit indicates that his administration recognizes Turkey’s growing prominence, and it gives the United States a chance to coordinate policy with a rising power.

Analysis
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed late March 18 that U.S. President Barack Obama will be visiting Turkey on April 6-7. In an interview with Turkish news channel Kanal 7, Erdogan said he had invited Obama to attend a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative in Istanbul on April 7, but “did not expect” Obama to arrive a day early for an official state visit to Ankara. “Combining the two occasions is very meaningful for us,” he added. Obama’s trip to Turkey will follow a visit to London for the G-20 summit on the global financial crisis, a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, and a trip to Prague to meet with EU leaders.

Obama’s decision to visit Turkey this early in the game highlights his administration’s recognition of Turkey’s growing prominence in the region. The Turks have woken up after 90 years of post-Ottoman hibernation and are in the process of rediscovering a sphere of influence extending far beyond the Anatolian Peninsula. The Americans, on the other hand, are in the process of drawing down their presence in the Middle East in order to free up U.S. military capabilities to address pressing needs in Afghanistan. With the Turks stepping forward and the Americans stepping back, there are a number of issues of common interest that Obama and Erdogan will need to discuss.

The first order of business is Iraq. The United States is putting its exit strategy into motion and is looking to Turkey to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq. The Turks would not have a problem with granting the United States such access, but they also want to make sure that U.S. withdrawal plans will not interfere with Turkey’s intentions of keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check. With key Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani retiring soon and Kurdish demands over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk intensifying, the Turks want to make clear to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq that Ankara promptly will shut down any attempts to expand Kurdish autonomy. Turkey will not hesitate to use the issue of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters hiding out in northern Iraq as a pretext for future military incursions should the need arise to pressure the KRG in a more forceful way, but such tactics could run into complications if the United States intends to withdraw the bulk of its forces through northern Iraq. Therefore, the decision on where to base U.S. troops during the withdrawal process will be a political one, and one that will have to address Turkish concerns over the Kurds. Washington likely will see this as a reasonable price to pay, as it has other problems to handle.

Related Special Topic Page
Turkey’s Re-Emergence
Beyond Iraq, the United States is looking to Turkey as the Muslim regional heavyweight to take the lead in handling some of the knottier issues in the Middle East. The Israeli-Syrian peace talks that went public in 2008 were a Turkish initiative. These negotiations are now in limbo, with the Israelis still working to form a new government, but the Turks are looking to revive them in the near future. Turkey, Israel, the United States and the Arab states all share an interest in bringing Syria into a Western alliance structure, with the aim of depriving Iran of its leverage in the Levant. However, the Syrians are setting an equally high price for their cooperation: Syrian domination over Lebanon. These negotiations are packed with potential deal breakers, but Turkey intends to take on the challenge in the interest of securing its southern flank.

Iran is another critical area where the United States and Turkey see eye to eye. The fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the Shia in Iraq have given Iran a platform for projecting influence in the Arab world. But the Turks far outpace the Iranians in a geopolitical contest and will be instrumental in keeping Iranian expansionist goals in check. Erdogan’s outburst over Israel’s Gaza offensive was just one of many ways Turkey has been working to assert its regional leadership, build up its credibility among Sunnis in the Arab world and override Iranian attempts to reach beyond its borders. At the same time, the Turks carry weight with the Iranians, who view Turkey as a fellow great empire of the past and non-Arab partner in the Middle East. Washington may not necessarily need the Turks to mediate in its rocky negotiations with Iran, but it will rely heavily on Turkish clout in the region to help put the Iranians in their place.

Some problems may arise, however, when U.S.-Turkish talks venture beyond the Middle East and enter areas where the Turkish and Russian spheres of influence overlap. Turkey’s influence extends into Central Asia and deep into the Caucasus, where the Turks have a strong foothold in Azerbaijan and ties to Georgia, and are in the process of patching things up with the Armenians. As the land bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey is also the key non-Russian energy transit hub for the European market, and through its control of the Bosporus, it is the gatekeeper to the Black Sea. In each of these areas, the Turks bump into the Russians, another resurgent power that is on a tight timetable for extracting key concessions from the United States on a range of issues that revolve around Russia’s core imperative of protecting its former Soviet periphery from Western meddling.

The U.S. administration and the Kremlin have been involved in intense negotiations over these demands. Washington is still sorting out which concessions it can make in return for Russian cooperation in allowing the United States access to Central Asia for supply routes to Afghanistan, and in applying pressure on Iran. As part of these negotiations, Obama will be meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at the G-20 summit and later in the summer in Moscow. Though it is still unclear just how much the United States is willing to give the Russians at this juncture — and how flexible the Turks will be in challenging Russia — Washington wants to make sure its allies, like Turkey, are on the same page.

But as STRATFOR has discussed in depth, Russia and Turkey now have more reason to cooperate than collide, and recent diplomatic traffic between Moscow and Ankara certainly reflects this reality. In areas where the United States will want to apply pressure on Russia, such as on energy security for the Europeans, the Turks likely will resist rocking the boat with Moscow. The last thing Turkey wants at this point is to give Russia a reason to politicize its trade relationship with Ankara, cause trouble for the Turks in the Caucasus or meddle in Turkey’s Middle Eastern backyard. In short, there are real limits to what the United States can expect from Turkey in its strategy against Russia.

Obama and Erdogan evidently will have plenty to talk about when they meet in Ankara. Though the United States and Turkey have much to sort out regarding Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, this visit will give Obama the stage to formally recognize Turkey’s regional prowess and demonstrate a U.S. understanding of Turkey’s growing independence. Washington can see that the Turks are already brimming with confidence in conducting their regional affairs, and can expect some bumps down the road when interests collide. But the sooner the Americans can start coordinating policy with a resurgent power like Turkey, the better equipped Washington will be for conducting negotiations in other parts of the globe.
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« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2009, 07:26:26 PM »

Turkey and Obama’s Deeper Game
But it was not simply a matter of domestic politics. It is becoming clear that Obama is playing a deeper game. A couple of weeks before the meetings, when it had become obvious that the Europeans were not going to bend on the issues that concerned the United States, Obama scheduled a trip to Turkey. During the EU meetings in Prague, Obama vigorously supported the Turkish application for EU membership, which several members are blocking on grounds of concerns over human rights and the role of the military in Turkey. But the real reason is that full membership would open European borders to Turkish migration, and the Europeans do not want free Turkish migration. The United States directly confronted the Europeans on this matter.

During the NATO meeting, a key item on the agenda was the selection of a new alliance secretary-general. The favorite was former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Turkey opposed his candidacy because of his defense on grounds of free speech of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish magazine. NATO operates on consensus, so any one member can block just about anything. The Turks backed off the veto, but won two key positions in NATO, including that of deputy secretary-general.

So while the Germans won their way at the meetings, it was the Turks who came back with the most. Not only did they boost their standing in NATO, they got Obama to come to a vigorous defense of the Turkish application for membership in the European Union, which of course the United States does not belong to. Obama then flew to Turkey for meetings and to attend a key international meeting that will allow him to further position the United States in relation to Islam.

The Russian Dimension
Let’s diverge to another dimension of these talks, which still concerns Turkey, but also concerns the Russians. While atmospherics after the last week’s meetings might have improved, there was certainly no fundamental shift in U.S.-Russian relations. The Russians have rejected the idea of pressuring Iran over its nuclear program in return for the United States abandoning its planned ballistic missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The United States simultaneously downplayed the importance of a Russian route to Afghanistan. Washington said there were sufficient supplies in Afghanistan and enough security on the Pakistani route such that the Russians weren’t essential for supplying Western operations in Afghanistan. At the same time, the United States reached an agreement with Ukraine for the transshipment of supplies — a mostly symbolic gesture, but one guaranteed to infuriate the Russians at both the United States and Ukraine. Moreover, the NATO communique did not abandon the idea of Ukraine and Georgia being admitted to NATO, although the German position on unspecified delays to such membership was there as well. When Obama looks at the chessboard, the key emerging challenge remains Russia.

The Germans are not going to be joining the United States in blocking Russia. Between dependence on Russia for energy supplies and little appetite for confronting a Russia that Berlin sees as no real immediate threat to Germany, the Germans are not going to address the Russian question. At the same time, the United States does not want to push the Germans toward Russia, particularly in confrontations ultimately of secondary importance and on which Germany has no give anyway. Obama is aware that the German left is viscerally anti-American, while Merkel is only pragmatically anti-American — a small distinction, but significant enough for Washington not to press Berlin.

At the same time, an extremely important event between Turkey and Armenia looks to be on the horizon. Armenians had long held Turkey responsible for the mass murder of Armenians during and after World War I, a charge the Turks have denied. The U.S. Congress for several years has threatened to pass a resolution condemning Turkish genocide against Armenians. The Turks are extraordinarily sensitive to this charge, and passage would have meant a break with the United States. Last week, they publicly began to discuss an agreement with the Armenians, including diplomatic recognition, which essentially disarms the danger from any U.S. resolution on genocide. Although an actual agreement hasn’t been signed just yet, anticipation is building on all sides.

The Turkish opening to Armenia has potentially significant implications for the balance of power in the Caucasus. The August 2008 Russo-Georgian war created an unstable situation in an area of vital importance to Russia. Russian troops remain deployed, and NATO has called for their withdrawal from the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There are Russian troops in Armenia, meaning Russia has Georgia surrounded. In addition, there is talk of an alternative natural gas pipeline network from Azerbaijan to Europe.

Turkey is the key to all of this. If Ankara collaborates with Russia, Georgia’s position is precarious and Azerbaijan’s route to Europe is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and also manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under U.S. auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.

From the American point of view, Europe is a lost cause since internally it cannot find a common position and its heavyweights are bound by their relationship with Russia. It cannot agree on economic policy, nor do its economic interests coincide with those of the United States, at least insofar as Germany is concerned. As far as Russia is concerned, Germany and Europe are locked in by their dependence on Russian natural gas. The U.S.-European relationship thus is torn apart not by personalities, but by fundamental economic and military realities. No amount of talking will solve that problem.

The key to sustaining the U.S.-German alliance is reducing Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas and putting Russia on the defensive rather than the offensive. The key to that now is Turkey, since it is one of the only routes energy from new sources can cross to get to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey — which has deep influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans — is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and a long-term solution to Germany’s energy problem can be found. On the other hand, if Turkey decides to take a defensive position and moves to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is locked into Russian-controlled energy for a generation.

Therefore, having sat through fruitless meetings with the Europeans, Obama chose not to cause a pointless confrontation with a Europe that is out of options. Instead, Obama completed his trip by going to Turkey to discuss what the treaty with Armenia means and to try to convince the Turks to play for high stakes by challenging Russia in the Caucasus, rather than playing Russia’s junior partner.

This is why Obama’s most important speech in Europe was his last one, following Turkey’s emergence as a major player in NATO’s political structure. In that speech, he sided with the Turks against Europe, and extracted some minor concessions from the Europeans on the process for considering Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Why Turkey wants to be an EU member is not always obvious to us, but they do want membership. Obama is trying to show the Turks that he can deliver for them. He reiterated — if not laid it on even more heavily — all of this in his speech in Ankara. Obama laid out the U.S. position as one that recognized the tough geopolitical position Turkey is in and the leader that Turkey is becoming, and also recognized the commonalities between Washington and Ankara. This was exactly what Turkey wanted to hear.

The Caucasus is far from the only area to discuss. Talks will be held about blocking Iran in Iraq, U.S. relations with Syria and Syrian talks with Israel, and Central Asia, where both countries have interests. But the most important message to the Europeans will be that Europe is where you go for photo opportunities, but Turkey is where you go to do the business of geopolitics. It is unlikely that the Germans and French will get it. Their sense of what is happening in the world is utterly Eurocentric. But the Central Europeans, on the frontier with Russia and feeling quite put out by the German position on their banks, certainly do get it.

Obama gave the Europeans a pass for political reasons, and because arguing with the Europeans simply won’t yield benefits. But the key to the trip is what he gets out of Turkey — and whether in his speech to the civilizations, he can draw some of the venom out of the Islamic world by showing alignment with the largest economy among Muslim states, Turkey.
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« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2009, 10:49:47 AM »

For the record I do not agree with some of this article, but think it worth reading:

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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy ASLI AYDINTASBAS
Published: April 6, 2009
Istanbul

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AS a Turkish journalist who for years covered the United States, I’ve spent the last few days repeatedly answering the inevitable question from my fellow Turks: “Does Washington see Turkey as a moderate Islamic republic?” That description may sound like a compliment to American ears. But in Turkey, it is an outright insult.

Since 2004, when the “moderate Islamic” formulation was innocently introduced by Colin Powell, the American secretary of state at the time, Turks have believed that Washington values Turkey’s religious identity over its secular democracy — that it would rather Turkey become a conservative American ally in the Muslim world than evolve into a European democracy.

“Who describes Belgium or Britain as a moderate Christian country?” people ask here. In a nation where the religion-versus-state debate is the hottest topic, secularists have elevated the “moderate Islam” controversy to an all-encompassing theory.

They claim that Washington supports — or, at least, that the George W. Bush administration supported — the Islamic-oriented government of the Justice and Development Party so that it might serve as a compliant model to the rest of the Muslim world. (Paradoxically, Islamic fundamentalists also hate the term “moderate Islam,” assuming that it implies a watered-down version of religion.)

Even if the “moderate Islam” conspiracy theorists were off base, it is true that ever since Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2003, Washington has viewed Turkey as a simplistic duality: pious masses led by the Justice and Development Party against the small secular elite and the military. As Americans banked on the government’s electoral majority, they lost touch with the rest of the population.

No doubt President Obama was briefed, just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was before she came here last month, to never speak of “moderate Islam.” And he hasn’t so far. In fact, he has done the opposite. The new American president — whose dark skin and Muslim middle name of Hussein have made him a folk hero here — went out of his way on Monday to acknowledge Turkey’s plurality in all its colors, and telling Europe that in welcoming Turkey it would gain “by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith.”

Mr. Obama’s visit to Ankara was a carefully calibrated series of messages and symbolic gestures that spoke to Turkey’s different segments. He met with the government leadership as well as opposition leaders from secular, nationalist and Kurdish parties. He pledged to support “Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as a modern and prosperous democracy," as he wrote in the guestbook at the mausoleum of the founder of secular Turkey.

In our eternal identity crisis, we Turks have lately been thinking only in opposites — that you are either secular or religious, Kurd or Turk, European or Middle Eastern. It took a young foreign leader on his first visit here to remind us that we are all of those things, and much more.

It wasn’t all roses, of course. In his speech to Parliament, President Obama urged Ankara to face up to the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, something most voters here object to.

And Mr. Obama’s brief mention in Parliament that Turkey should undertake further democratic reforms seemed insufficient. Since 2007, Prime Minister Erdogan has become more authoritarian, lashing out at his critics, suing journalists and alienating liberal Turks who once supported him. Last Sunday, voters in municipal elections delivered a serious warning: the party’s overall support fell to 39 percent, from 47 percent two years ago. The elections revealed a divided map, four different Turkeys: the liberal coastline, the conservative inland, the ultra-nationalist middle and the Kurdish nationalist southeast. The Justice and Development Party will grow when it embraces all Turkey’s colors and shrink as it denies them.

It is wonderful that the president reminded Europeans that Turkey’s place is in Europe. But let’s hope he also reminds Turks that getting there requires more tolerance and reform. This trip will undoubtedly improve America’s popularity in the Muslim world — with Mr. Obama’s scheduled visit to the Blue Mosque here on Tuesday likely resonating far beyond Turkey’s borders. But so far, it has been all about us — our own democracy struggling between Europe and Islam.

Asli Aydintasbas is a former Ankara bureau chief of the newspaper Sabah.
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« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2009, 03:25:53 PM »

http://www.nypost.com/php/pfriendly/print.php?url=http://www.nypost.com/seven/04082009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/os_amateur_hour_163368.htm

O'S AMATEUR HOUR
By RALPH PETERS

April 8, 2009 --
THE real climax of President Obama's Spring Apologies Tour wasn't his photo op with our troops in Baghdad or even his "American Guilt" concerts in Western Europe.

While fans in the press cheered wildly at every venue, the real performance came in Turkey. And it was a turkey.

Obama means well. Just as Jimmy Carter, his policy godfather, meant well. But the road to embassy takeovers and strategic humiliation is paved with good intentions -- coupled with distressing naivete.

On every stage, Obama draped Lady Liberty in sackcloth and ashes, drawing plentiful applause but no serious economic or security cooperation in return. Then, in Turkey, he surrendered our national pride, undercut our interests and interfered in matters that aren't his business.

On the latter point: Suppose the European Union president went to Cuba and insisted that the world's sunniest concentration camp should be welcomed into NAFTA? That's the equivalent of what our president did in Ankara on Monday when he declared that he supports Turkey's bid for EU membership.

The Europeans don't want Turkey in their club. Because Turkey isn't a European state, nor is its culture European. And it isn't our business to press Europe to embrace a huge, truculent Muslim country suffering a creeping Islamist coup.

The Europeans were appalled by Turkey's neo-Taliban tantrum on-stage at last week's NATO summit. The Turks fought to derail the appointment of a great Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as the new NATO secretary general. Why? Because he didn't stone to death the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Mohammed.

Which brings us to the even bigger problem: Obama has no idea what's going on in Turkey. By going to Ankara on his knees, he gave his seal of approval to a pungently anti-American Islamist government bent on overturning Mustapha Kemal's legacy of the separation of mosque and state.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, means headscarves, Korans, censorship and stacked elections. The country's alarmed middle class opposes the effort to turn the country into an Islamic state. Obama's gushing praise for the AKP's bosses left them aghast.

Obama's embrace of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (now orchestrating show trials of his opponents) was one step short of going to Tehran and smooching President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

What was Obama thinking? He wasn't. He relied on advice from State Department appeasement artists who understand neither Turkey, Islam nor the crises raging between the Bosporus and the Indus. State's answer is always "More love, more humility, more aid."

Well, I, for one, don't think our country has anything to apologize for, either to Turkey or to Europe.

Insisting that America's always guilty, Obama omitted any mention of Turkey's wartime betrayals of our troops, its continuing oppression of its Kurd minority or the AKP's determination to turn a state with a secular constitution into a Wahhabi playground.

When it came to the Armenian genocide, Obama bravely ducked: He never dared use the g-word.

And Obama's disdainful remarks about President Bush were just shabby.

After those overpriced tour T-shirts have shrunk in the wash (trust me -- they will), what will we have gained from Obama's superstar act?

He told the Europeans that the global economic crisis is all our fault. No mention of European greed, overleveraged governments, destructive Euro-loans or Chinese currency manipulation. We did it. Whip us, please.

In return, the Europeans gave him . . . nothing.

Even though Obama was right when he said that Europe faces a greater terror threat than we do, the entire continent only ponied up 2,500 short-term non-combat troops for Afghanistan. The Europeans know we'll do the heavy lifting.

He gave the Russians yet another blank check, too. (Meanwhile, in Moscow, Putin's thugs beat an aging pro-democracy dissident to a pulp.) In return, the Russians promised to . . . well, actually, they didn't promise anything.

Then Obama went to Turkey, undercut secular political parties, infuriated the Europeans -- and disclaimed our country's Judeo-Christian heritage. (Did Turkey's leaders respond by denying Islam's importance to them? Naw.)

In Turkey, Obama got . . . nothing we didn't already have.

Then he went to Iraq and told its prime minister that Iraq would get nothing.

I believe that our president wants to do the right thing. But he doesn't have a clue how. For now, he's enraptured by the applause. But he hasn't tried to charge his fans for their tickets. And they've already made up their minds they won't have to pay.

Ralph Peters is Fox News' strategic analyst and the author of "Looking for Trouble."
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« Reply #27 on: October 30, 2009, 10:37:31 AM »

It's been a decade since Turkey threatened to invade Syria because Damascus was harboring Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish PKK terrorist group. "We will say 'shalom' to the Israelis on the Golan Heights" is how one Turkish newspaper then described the country's mood, capturing its attitude toward Syrians and Israelis alike.

Times change—and so do countries. Earlier this month, Turkey cancelled an annual multinational air force exercise because Israel was scheduled to participate in it, despite historically close ties between the Turkish and Israeli militaries. In a recent interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that "there is no doubt he is our friend."

Mr. Erdogan was also among the first to offer Ahmadinejad a congratulatory call after June's fraudulent elections and has called Iran's nuclear program "peaceful and humanitarian." As for Syria, relations have never been warmer: The two countries are even planning joint military exercises.

Nations do not have the luxury of picking their neighbors, and the Turks can certainly be forgiven for not wanting to be at daggers drawn along several hundred miles of common borders. But what's happened to Turkey's foreign policy—and the values that inform those policies—since Mr. Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party came to power in 2003 looks more like a fundamental shift in Turkey's strategic priorities than it does a mere relaxing of regional tensions.

In January, for instance, Mr. Erdogan publicly rebuked Shimon Peres at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, calling the Israeli President a "liar" and saying—in connection to the war in Gaza—that "when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill." Soon thereafter, Mr. Erdogan hosted a dinner in honor of Ali Osman Taha, the vice president of Sudan. Apparently, there were no lectures about Darfur.

Nor has Israel been the only country in the Middle East affected by Turkey's changing attitudes. As analyst Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy notes, "the AKP's foreign policy has not promoted sympathy toward all Muslim states. Rather, the party has promoted solidarity with Islamist, anti-Western regimes (Qatar and Sudan, for example) while dismissing secular, pro-Western Muslim governments (Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia)." That also goes among the Palestinians, where Mr. Erdogan has called on the world to recognize Hamas while being dismissive of Mahmoud Abbas, the Authority's more secular-minded president.

In other words, Mr. Erdogan's turn against Israel is symptomatic of a broader shift in Turkish policy, one that cannot bode well for core U.S. interests. As a secular Muslim state, Turkey has been a pillar of NATO and a bulwark against the political radicalism (Communist, Baathist, Islamist) of its various neighbors. Now Mr. Erdogan may be gambling that Turkey's future lies at the head of the Muslim world, rather than at the tail of its Western counterpart.

Perhaps none of this should be all that surprising, given how long Europe has brushed off Turkish ambitions to join its Union. One may hope that the Turks, who have long been proud of their traditions of secularism, tolerance, freedom, and as a bridge between East and West, may not be so tempted to trade them in for darker glories.
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« Reply #28 on: January 07, 2010, 11:47:19 PM »

Turkey's Ongoing Resurgence

TURKISH ENERGY MINISTER TANER YILDIZ joined Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov at a Jan. 6 ceremony in southeastern Turkmenistan to inaugurate a natural gas pipeline running from the central Asian state to Iran. Just prior to the ceremony the top Turkish official held a meeting with the two heads of state in Ashgabat. Yildiz’s visit to Turkmenistan was previously unannounced and reportedly took place at the invitation of President Berdimukhammedov a day before.

That the Turkish energy minister was present at the event — a largely Turkmen-Iranian bilateral matter — is extremely interesting from an energy point of view. But events like these provide an opportunity for STRATFOR to step back and take a strategic view of Turkey’s ongoing resurgence on the global scene. Obviously, attendance at the pipeline ceremony was about the Turks trying to enhance ties with a historical foe — the Persians — and attempting to get closer to their fellow Turkic brethren in the Central Asian stomping grounds of their forefathers.

Looking to the east constitutes just one small aspect of Turkey’s plans to reassert itself as a player in the various regions it once ruled or influenced. After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey, under the ruling Justice and Development Party, has embarked upon a policy of cautiously expanding its influence into Europe, the Caucuses, the Middle East, Central, South and even East Asia.

Ankara has not been under any illusion regarding the extent it would be able to successfully expand into these various regions. Centuries of experience — beginning with the difficulties in establishing its empire in medieval times to losing turf to superior forces in the modern age — prove how challenging that prospect would be. And now, in an age where the nation-state has been firmly established as the pre-eminent international actor, it is well aware of how far it can go.

“After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey has embarked upon a policy of cautious expansion.”
More importantly, in each of its target regions, Turkey is running into varying degrees of resistance from a variety of players. In Europe, there is no shortage of countries that have made it abundantly clear that they won’t accept Turkey as an equal member in their political and economic bloc, the European Union. European opposition to Turkey rivals Turkey’s desire to become a member, which is why Ankara continues to push for membership despite overwhelming odds against it. In this regard, Turkey is trying to use its ethnic and religious ties to the Balkans to recreate an enclave in southeastern Europe.

After all, the Ottomans became a player on the European continent over a century prior to taking over the Middle East. In contrast, the trajectory of modern Turkey reveals far more success in the Middle East. Unlike in the past, there are no rival Muslim powers in the form of the Mamluk Sultanate in the Arab world or the successive dominions in Persia.

The growing conflict between the Sunni Arab states and Iran and its Arab Shia allies provides the Turks with an opportunity to mediate between the Iranians and the Arab states that seek to use Ankara to its advantage. The complex Arab-Israeli conflict coupled with the U.S. role in the Middle East creates additional space for the Turks to advance their interests. While it has been busy re-emerging in the Middle East, Turkey has also been very active in the northern rim of the Caucuses.

The Caucuses, however, have proven to be a very tough region because of Russia, which is also in the middle of a resurgence. The region has been a historic battleground between the Turks and the Russians: the Turks lost the region to the Russians nearly a century ago, and the Russians ruled it directly as recently as the early 1990s. Moscow therefore has more leverage over the two principal regional rivals — Azerbaijan and Armenia — which is why Ankara has failed to create a meaningful space there.

The Russian advantage also keeps Central Asia largely out of Turkey’s reach despite being its region of origin during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The countries even continue to share ethnolinguistic ties to the largely Turkic Central Asian republics. Russia has not stopped them from continuing to develop creative ways to try to expand into Central Asia.

Taking advantage of its close ties to the United States coupled with Washington’s interest in Ankara taking a lead in the affairs of the Middle East, Turkey is inserting itself in Southwest Asia in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. This is particularly true in Afghanistan, where it is trying to use its influence among ethnic minorities that share ties with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The jihadist complexity of southwest Asia and the strong Russian influence to its north will, however, continue to limit Turkish moves.

Ultimately, what we have is a careful Turkish strategy that involves probing into its various surrounding regions, attempting to take advantage of potential opportunities. Where the Turks find resistance, they retreat. In places where they encounter little or no resistance, they advance. These very preliminary and exploratory moves will define Turkish attempts at geopolitical revival for some time to come.
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« Reply #29 on: February 23, 2010, 04:13:32 PM »

Not a particularly reliable source, but an apparently important event is flagged:

February 22, 2010

Turkey Detains Top Military Brass In Conspiracy Probe

By REUTERS
Filed at 1:39 p.m. ET


ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained former heads of the air force and navy on Monday among 40 people held in an investigation into an alleged plot to undermine the Islamist-rooted government and trigger a military coup.

The swoop, one of the largest against the secularist armed forces, added to a growing sense of foreboding in the Muslim nation, where a clash between the government and the judiciary had already raised fears of a political crisis.

A NATO member with hopes of EU membership, Turkey is locked in a long power struggle between the AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam, and conservative, nationalist secularists, whose bastions remain the military and judiciary.

Armed forces chief General Ilker Basbug postponed a trip to Egypt as a result of the detentions, state-run Anatolian news agency said.

Among those held, according to broadcasters, were former Air Force Commander Ibrahim Firtina, former Naval Commander Ozden Ornek and ex-Deputy Chief of the General Staff General Ergin Saygun.

Speaking in Madrid at the start of an official visit, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said more than 40 people were detained in the raids.

News channel CNN-Turk put the number at 49, including 17 retired generals, four serving admirals, 27 officers and one enlisted man.

MARKETS UNEASY

The detentions would have been unthinkable in the past for a military that has ousted four governments since 1960.

But its powers have waned in recent years because of democratic reforms aimed at securing EU membership and most analysts doubt that the armed forces would mount a coup.

The suspects held in Ankara were flown to Istanbul for questioning over the "Sledgehammer" plot after police raids in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

According to media reports the plot, denied by the military, dated from 2003 and involved provoking a crisis with old foe Greece and planting bombs in mosques and museums in Istanbul to stir chaos and justify a military takeover.

"I don't know what the result of this is, but after the security forces have finished this process the judiciary will make its assessment," Erdogan told a news conference.

Turkish markets were rattled by the prospects. The lira weakened to 1.5265 lira in Tuesday-dated trade from an intrabank close of 1.5180 on Monday, the level at which it ended last week, and the main share index ended 1.36 percent lower, having begun the day nearly 1 percent higher.

"The government is now embroiled in an open and bitter power struggle with the judiciary and the military, raising the risk of a head-on confrontation that would badly damage political stability," Wolfango Piccoli from the Eurasia political risk consultancy said.

REFERENDUM THREAT

Erdogan also said he would call a referendum on constitutional reform to overhaul the judicial system, if he fails to get parliament's backing for change to curb the power of judges and prosecutors.

The AK Party, which first swept to power in 2002 ending the secularists' decades-old grip, has enough votes in the 550-seat parliament to pass a bill calling for a referendum.

"The judicial system should be objective and independent at the same time," Erdogan said.

He did not give any timeframe for a possible referendum.

Turkey is due to hold its next general elections in 2011 and Erdogan has repeatedly denied he plans to call an early vote.

The clash with the judiciary followed the arrest of a prosecutor who had investigated Islamic groups.

That prosecutor has been accused of links to an alleged far-right militant network, "Ergenekon." More than 200 people, including military officers, lawyers and politicians, have been arrested in the case since it came to light 2-1/2 years ago.

Critics of the government say the Ergenekon investigation has also been used to hound political opponents.

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/...0arrest&st=cse
 
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« Reply #30 on: March 10, 2010, 10:40:02 AM »

TWO EVENTS OCCURRED ON THURSDAY that involved Turkey. In the first, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs forwarded a resolution to the House floor for full debate, which called for the condemning of Turkish actions in what many Armenians refer to as the 1915 genocide. The response from the Turkish Foreign Ministry was vitriolic, complete with an ambassadorial recall and threats to downgrade Turkish-American relations at a time when the Americans sorely need Turkish help in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the second development, which preceded the events on Capitol Hill by several hours, the Turkish government announced it would host its own version of the World Economic Forum (WEF) this October in Istanbul. The WEF gathers several hundred business and political leaders every year to discuss pressing global issues in Davos, Switzerland. Invited are all of the leaders from the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Arab world.

Here at STRATFOR these developments generated a bit of a “hmmm.” It is not that we are strident followers of the discussions in Congress (much less at Davos), or that we are blindly impressed or appalled by anything Turkey does. However, we are students of history, and seeing Turkey reaching for the position of a regional opinion leader at the same time it has an almost allergic reaction to criticism is something that takes us back a few hundred years to another era.

Much of Turkey’s rich history is bracketed within the period known as the Ottoman Empire — to date one of the largest and most successful empires in human history. But what truly set the Ottomans apart from the rest of history’s governments was not the size or wealth of the territory it controlled, but the way the Turks controlled it. We have to dive into a bit of a geography lesson to explain that.

The core territory of the Ottoman Empire of the past — as well as the Turkey of today — is a crescent of land on the northwest shore of the Anatolian peninsula, including all of the lands that touch the Sea of Marmara. In many ways it is a mini-Mediterranean. It is rich in fertile land, has a maritime culture and wealth that comes from trade. It is a natural birthplace for a powerful nation, and in time it became the seat of an empire.

But the lands to its east — what is currently eastern Turkey — are not so useful. The further east one travels, the drier and less economically useful the Anatolian peninsula becomes. So in the early years of the Ottoman expansion, the Turks pushed not east into Asia, but north into the Balkans — moving up the rich Danube valley into the fertile Plains of Hungary before being stopped by a coalition of European forces at Vienna.

This expansion left the Turks in a bit of a quandary. The size of their conquered territories was now larger than their home territories. The wealth of their conquered territories was potentially larger than that of their home territories. The population of their conquered territories was comprised of different nationalities and religions, and combined was larger than that of their home territories. The Turks very quickly came to the uncomfortable realization that they not only needed their conquered peoples to make their empire functional, but that they needed those conquered peoples to be willing participants in the empire. The Ottomans may have started out as Middle Eastern, but their early successes made them European.

This realization shaped imperial policy in a great many ways. One was the development of a Millet system of city organization where the Turks only control a portion of the city, leaving the rest of the population to live among, and police, their own. One was the establishment of the Janissary corps, an elite military force that reported directly to the sultan, but was stocked exclusively with non-Turks. Another was the simple fact that the chief vizier, the second most powerful man in the empire, was almost always not a Turk. And it was all held together by a governing concept the Turks called suzerainty: regional governments would pay taxes to the center and defer to Istanbul on all issues of foreign and military policy, but would control the bulk of their own local affairs. By the standards of the Western world of the 21st century, the system was imperial and intrusive, but by the standards of 16th century European barbarity, it was as exotic as it was enlightened.

“After more than 90 years of being in a geopolitical coma, the Turks are on the move again, and are deciding what sort of power they hope to become.”
But things change — particularly when borders shift. During two centuries of retreat following twin defeats at the gates of Vienna, the empire’s northern border crept ever further south. The demographic balance of Turks to non-Turks reverted to the Turks’ favor. The need for a multinational government system lessened, and by the Ottoman Empire’s dying days, the last threads of multinationalism were being ripped out.

But the Turks were not alone in what would soon come to be known as the Turkish Republic. There were also substantial populations of Armenians and Kurds. But unlike the Hungarians, Romanians and Bulgarians who dwelt in the fertile, economically valuable lands of Southeastern Europe — and whose cooperation the Turks needed to sustain a viable empire — the Armenians and Kurds called the steep, desiccated, low-fertility valleys of eastern Anatolia home. These lands held little value, and so the Turks had scarce need of its inhabitants. The Turks felt these lands held negligible promise, and that the need for an egalitarian governing system had passed: one result was 1915.

In our minds, today’s twin events highlight the challenge that Turkey faces. After more than 90 years of being in a geopolitical coma, the Turks are on the move again, and are deciding what sort of power they hope to become. Within that debate are two choices.

The first would herald a “Great Turkey” rooted in the founding of the Turkish Republic that celebrates its Turkish-ness. This is a very comfortable vision, and one that does not challenge any of the tenets that modern Turks hold dear. But it is also a vision with severe limitations. There are very few Turks living beyond the borders of modern Turkey, and even Turkey’s ethnic cousins in Central Asia and Azerbaijan are extremely unlikely to join any such entity. This vision would always rail at any challenge to its image. This is the Turkey that objects so strenuously whenever the 1915 topic is broached.

The second would herald a “Greater Turkey,” a multinational federation in which the Turks are the first-among-equals, but in which they are hardly alone. It would resurrect the concept of Turkey as primarily a European, not Middle Eastern, power. In this more pluralist system, Turkey’s current borders would not be the end, but the beginning. It is this version of Turkey that could truly — again — become not simply a regional, but a global power. And it is this Turkey that calls all interested, perhaps even the Armenians, to Istanbul in October to honestly and openly see what they think of the world.

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« Reply #31 on: May 14, 2010, 07:46:06 AM »

Turkey's Struggle to Become a Major Player
TURKISH PRESIDENT ABDULLAH GUL MET WITH his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, in Ankara on Wednesday. The Russian president described his country’s relations with Turkey as having entered a new “strategic” phase. Medvedev and Gul also signed several energy deals worth some $25 billion, which are likely to increase Russia’s energy influence over the Turks.

While Medvedev’s trip to Turkey may give the impression that relations between the two historic rivals are improving, it should not be forgotten that this visit takes place against the backdrop of a successful move by the Russians to frustrate Turkish plans to expand the latter’s influence in the Caucuses. STRATFOR has written extensively on how the Kremlin was able to undermine Turkey’s moves to normalize relations with its historic foe Armenia by creating problems between Turkey and its ally Azerbaijan. This incident, along with its attempts to play nice with Russia, shows that Turkey, while on the path of regional resurgence, is not in a position to compete with its traditional rival to its north.

More importantly, this weakness vis-a-vis Russia highlights a key obstacle to the Turkish objective of trying to serve as a bridge between the East and the West. During the nearly eight years of the rule of the Justice & Development Party, Turkey has been in the process of reviving itself as a major player on the international scene. One of the ways in which it has been trying to realize this aim is by trying to be a transit state supplying the West with oil and gas.

From Russia’s point of view, this Turkish policy is unacceptable because it undermines European dependence on Russian energy resources. But it is also not in Russia’s interest to adopt a hostile attitude toward Turkey. Hence the Kremlin’s move to engage Turkey in a complex set of bilateral and multilateral relationships in the Caucuses, and thereby successfully checkmating Ankara.

“It is not in Russia’s interest to adopt a hostile attitude toward Turkey.”
One can explain this outcome as a function of Russia being in a far stronger position than Turkey. However, there is more to it than the simple notion of Moscow having a better deck of cards than Ankara. There is also a deeper geopolitical problem that has to do with Turkey awakening from a nearly 90-year geopolitical coma, which could explain Turkey’s miscalculation –- leading it to not only fail in its attempts to normalize ties with Armenia, but also upset relations with its longtime ally, Azerbaijan.

Acting as a state, and following the lead of the West in terms of foreign policy, has led the Turkish leadership to struggle to assume a more independent and leading role. After the implosion of the Ottoman dominion, its successor, the modern Turkish republic based on the Ataturkian model, was an entity that was content to be part of the West. The current leadership has broken with that doctrine and is steering the country toward an increasingly independent foreign policy. But its track record so far indicates that it has a long way to go before the country actually is able to shape geopolitical events and increase its influence on the international scene. This is because the state is dealing with internal problems. Its political and business elite is expanding influence and levers while having to learn how to maneuver on the ground.

Russia is a principal obstacle in its path to great power status, but Turkey is not having much luck elsewhere either. Ankara has been pursuing the role of mediator in a number of disputes to increase its geopolitical influence in the regions it straddles. Key among these disputes has been the Israeli-Syrian peace talks, which floundered and eventually led to deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations. More recently, Ankara has been increasingly involved in Iraq as well as the Iranian nuclear controversy.

In Iraq, Turkey has run up against Iran, which is far better placed, given that Tehran has had a long head start. On the Iranian nuclear front, it appears to be doing better, but again finds itself caught between Washington and Tehran. Elsewhere, the Turks are trying to make inroads into southeastern Europe –- another former stomping ground. The prospects here look more promising due to the European Union crisis, but again, Turkey has a long way to go.

These initial setbacks do not mean that Turkey is not moving toward great power status, but they do show that the Turks are having to learn from scratch what it means to be a major player. Turkey will eventually get there, but for the time being it appears as though its current leadership may be getting ahead of itself.
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« Reply #32 on: May 31, 2010, 06:44:58 PM »

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=belligerent-on-all-fronts-turkish-pm-raises-misgivings-2010-04-12

With bruising criticism of Israel and defense of Iran, and onslaughts against Turkey's military and secularists, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stoked questions on where he is steering his country.

During a visit to Paris last week, Erdoğan branded Israel — once Turkey's top regional ally — "the principal threat to peace" in the Middle East, and objected to fresh sanctions against Iran — a newfound friend — over its nuclear activities.

Such outbursts have become an Erdoğan hallmark since Israel's devastating war on the Gaza Strip last year, feeding doubts — both at home and abroad — on what vision he is nourishing for Turkey, NATO's only mainly Muslim member and a candidate to join the European Union.

The rupture in ties with Israel has been accompanied by an unprecedented drive by Erdoğan's government for closer links with the Arab world, notably Syria.

Much to the bewilderment of Western allies, Erdoğan has also jumped to the defense of Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, indicted for war crimes in Darfur, arguing that "no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide."
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« Reply #33 on: June 01, 2010, 12:28:07 AM »



Stratfor has been very clear that it sees Turkey as returning to its natural role as a major player in the region.  With the US being led , , , as it is, it is no surprise that Turkey is going with the strong horses in the region.  With President Obama tuirning on Israel as he has, it is entirely predictable that Turkey is changing course as it apparently is.

The decision to send the flotilla to Gaza is a major piece of news with important big picture implications:
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Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion
May 31, 2010




By George Friedman

On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation’s planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.

A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.

The ‘Exodus’ Scenario
In the 1950s, an author named Leon Uris published a book called “Exodus.” Later made into a major motion picture, Exodus told the story of a Zionist provocation against the British. In the wake of World War II, the British — who controlled Palestine, as it was then known — maintained limits on Jewish immigration there. Would-be immigrants captured trying to run the blockade were detained in camps in Cyprus. In the book and movie, Zionists planned a propaganda exercise involving a breakout of Jews — mostly children — from the camp, who would then board a ship renamed the Exodus. When the Royal Navy intercepted the ship, the passengers would mount a hunger strike. The goal was to portray the British as brutes finishing the work of the Nazis. The image of children potentially dying of hunger would force the British to permit the ship to go to Palestine, to reconsider British policy on immigration, and ultimately to decide to abandon Palestine and turn the matter over to the United Nations.

There was in fact a ship called Exodus, but the affair did not play out precisely as portrayed by Uris, who used an amalgam of incidents to display the propaganda war waged by the Jews. Those carrying out this war had two goals. The first was to create sympathy in Britain and throughout the world for Jews who, just a couple of years after German concentration camps, were now being held in British camps. Second, they sought to portray their struggle as being against the British. The British were portrayed as continuing Nazi policies toward the Jews in order to maintain their empire. The Jews were portrayed as anti-imperialists, fighting the British much as the Americans had.

It was a brilliant strategy. By focusing on Jewish victimhood and on the British, the Zionists defined the battle as being against the British, with the Arabs playing the role of people trying to create the second phase of the Holocaust. The British were portrayed as pro-Arab for economic and imperial reasons, indifferent at best to the survivors of the Holocaust. Rather than restraining the Arabs, the British were arming them. The goal was not to vilify the Arabs but to villify the British, and to position the Jews with other nationalist groups whether in India or Egypt rising against the British.

The precise truth or falsehood of this portrayal didn’t particularly matter. For most of the world, the Palestine issue was poorly understood and not a matter of immediate concern. The Zionists intended to shape the perceptions of a global public with limited interest in or understanding of the issues, filling in the blanks with their own narrative. And they succeeded.

The success was rooted in a political reality. Where knowledge is limited, and the desire to learn the complex reality doesn’t exist, public opinion can be shaped by whoever generates the most powerful symbols. And on a matter of only tangential interest, governments tend to follow their publics’ wishes, however they originate. There is little to be gained for governments in resisting public opinion and much to be gained by giving in. By shaping the battlefield of public perception, it is thus possible to get governments to change positions.

In this way, the Zionists’ ability to shape global public perceptions of what was happening in Palestine — to demonize the British and turn the question of Palestine into a Jewish-British issue — shaped the political decisions of a range of governments. It was not the truth or falsehood of the narrative that mattered. What mattered was the ability to identify the victim and victimizer such that global opinion caused both London and governments not directly involved in the issue to adopt political stances advantageous to the Zionists. It is in this context that we need to view the Turkish flotilla.

The Turkish Flotilla to Gaza
The Palestinians have long argued that they are the victims of Israel, an invention of British and American imperialism. Since 1967, they have focused not so much on the existence of the state of Israel (at least in messages geared toward the West) as on the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Since the split between Hamas and Fatah and the Gaza War, the focus has been on the plight of the citizens of Gaza, who have been portrayed as the dispossessed victims of Israeli violence.

The bid to shape global perceptions by portraying the Palestinians as victims of Israel was the first prong of a longtime two-part campaign. The second part of this campaign involved armed resistance against the Israelis. The way this resistance was carried out, from airplane hijackings to stone-throwing children to suicide bombers, interfered with the first part of the campaign, however. The Israelis could point to suicide bombings or the use of children against soldiers as symbols of Palestinian inhumanity. This in turn was used to justify conditions in Gaza. While the Palestinians had made significant inroads in placing Israel on the defensive in global public opinion, they thus consistently gave the Israelis the opportunity to turn the tables. And this is where the flotilla comes in.

The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project. As with the Zionist portrayal of the situation in 1947, the Gaza situation is far more complicated than as portrayed by the Palestinians. The moral question is also far more ambiguous. But as in 1947, when the Zionist portrayal was not intended to be a scholarly analysis of the situation but a political weapon designed to define perceptions, the Turkish flotilla was not designed to carry out a moral inquest.

Instead, the flotilla was designed to achieve two ends. The first is to divide Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. The second is to create a political crisis inside Israel between those who feel that Israel’s increasing isolation over the Gaza issue is dangerous versus those who think any weakening of resolve is dangerous.

The Geopolitical Fallout for Israel
It is vital that the Israelis succeed in portraying the flotilla as an extremist plot. Whether extremist or not, the plot has generated an image of Israel quite damaging to Israeli political interests. Israel is increasingly isolated internationally, with heavy pressure on its relationship with Europe and the United States.

In all of these countries, politicians are extremely sensitive to public opinion. It is difficult to imagine circumstances under which public opinion will see Israel as the victim. The general response in the Western public is likely to be that the Israelis probably should have allowed the ships to go to Gaza and offload rather than to precipitate bloodshed. Israel’s enemies will fan these flames by arguing that the Israelis prefer bloodshed to reasonable accommodation. And as Western public opinion shifts against Israel, Western political leaders will track with this shift.

The incident also wrecks Israeli relations with Turkey, historically an Israeli ally in the Muslim world with longstanding military cooperation with Israel. The Turkish government undoubtedly has wanted to move away from this relationship, but it faced resistance within the Turkish military and among secularists. The new Israeli action makes a break with Israel easy, and indeed almost necessary for Ankara.

With roughly the population of Houston, Texas, Israel is just not large enough to withstand extended isolation, meaning this event has profound geopolitical implications.

Public opinion matters where issues are not of fundamental interest to a nation. Israel is not a fundamental interest to other nations. The ability to generate public antipathy to Israel can therefore reshape Israeli relations with countries critical to Israel. For example, a redefinition of U.S.-Israeli relations will have much less effect on the United States than on Israel. The Obama administration, already irritated by the Israelis, might now see a shift in U.S. public opinion that will open the way to a new U.S.-Israeli relationship disadvantageous to Israel.

The Israelis will argue that this is all unfair, as they were provoked. Like the British, they seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard? As with a tank battle or an airstrike, this sort of warfare has nothing to do with fairness. It has to do with controlling public perception and using that public perception to shape foreign policy around the world. In this case, the issue will be whether the deaths were necessary. The Israeli argument of provocation will have limited traction.

Internationally, there is little doubt that the incident will generate a firestorm. Certainly, Turkey will break cooperation with Israel. Opinion in Europe will likely harden. And public opinion in the United States — by far the most important in the equation — might shift to a “plague-on-both-your-houses” position.

While the international reaction is predictable, the interesting question is whether this evolution will cause a political crisis in Israel. Those in Israel who feel that international isolation is preferable to accommodation with the Palestinians are in control now. Many in the opposition see Israel’s isolation as a strategic threat. Economically and militarily, they argue, Israel cannot survive in isolation. The current regime will respond that there will be no isolation. The flotilla aimed to generate what the government has said would not happen.

The tougher Israel is, the more the flotilla’s narrative takes hold. As the Zionists knew in 1947 and the Palestinians are learning, controlling public opinion requires subtlety, a selective narrative and cynicism. As they also knew, losing the battle can be catastrophic. It cost Britain the Mandate and allowed Israel to survive. Israel’s enemies are now turning the tables. This maneuver was far more effective than suicide bombings or the Intifada in challenging Israel’s public perception and therefore its geopolitical position (though if the Palestinians return to some of their more distasteful tactics like suicide bombing, the Turkish strategy of portraying Israel as the instigator of violence will be undermined).

Israel is now in uncharted waters. It does not know how to respond. It is not clear that the Palestinians know how to take full advantage of the situation, either. But even so, this places the battle on a new field, far more fluid and uncontrollable than what went before. The next steps will involve calls for sanctions against Israel. The Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world.

And this will cause a political crisis in Israel. If this government survives, then Israel is locked into a course that gives it freedom of action but international isolation. If the government falls, then Israel enters a period of domestic uncertainty. In either case, the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it. In doing so, Israel ran into its own fist.

 
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« Reply #34 on: June 03, 2010, 11:01:40 AM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704875604575281392195250402.html?mod=WSJ_article_related

Descending into islam.
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« Reply #35 on: July 06, 2010, 05:31:15 AM »

Turning East, Turkey Asserts Economic Power
By LANDON THOMAS Jr.
Published: July 5, 2010

 
ISTANBUL — For decades, Turkey has been told it was not ready to join the European Union — that it was too backward economically to qualify for membership in the now 27-nation club. That argument may no longer hold.  Today, Turkey is a fast-rising economic power, with a core of internationally competitive companies turning the youthful nation into an entrepreneurial hub, tapping cash-rich export markets in Russia and the Middle East while attracting billions of investment dollars in return.

For many in aging and debt-weary Europe, which will be lucky to eke out a little more than 1 percent growth this year, Turkey’s economic renaissance — last week it reported a stunning 11.4 percent expansion for the first quarter, second only to China — poses a completely new question: who needs the other one more — Europe or Turkey?

“The old powers are losing power, both economically and intellectually,” said Vural Ak, 42, the founder and chief executive of Intercity, the largest car leasing company in Turkey. “And Turkey is now strong enough to stand by itself.”

It is an astonishing transformation for an economy that just 10 years ago had a budget deficit of 16 percent of gross domestic product and inflation of 72 percent. It is one that lies at the root of the rise to power of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has combined social conservatism with fiscally cautious economic policies to make his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., the most dominant political movement in Turkey since the early days of the republic.

So complete has this evolution been that Turkey is now closer to fulfilling the criteria for adopting the euro — if it ever does get into the European Union — than most of the troubled economies already in the euro zone. It is well under the 60 percent ceiling on government debt (49 percent of G.D.P.) and could well get its annual budget deficit below the 3 percent benchmark next year. That leaves the reduction of inflation, now running at 8 percent, as the only remaining major policy goal.

“This is a dream world,” said Husnu M. Ozyegin, who became the richest man in Turkey when he sold his bank, Finansbank, to the National Bank of Greece in 2006. Sitting on the rooftop of his five-star Swiss Hotel, he was looking at his BlackBerry, scrolling down the most recent credit-default spreads for euro zone countries. He still could not quite believe what he was seeing.

“Greece, 980. Italy, 194 and here is Turkey at 192,” he said with a grunt of satisfaction. “If you had told me 10 years ago that Turkey’s financial risk would equal that of Italy I would have said you were crazy.”

Having sold at the top to Greece, Mr. Ozyegin is now putting his money to work in the east. His new bank, Eurocredit, gets 35 percent of its profit from its Russian operations.

Mr. Ozyegin represents the old guard of Turkey’s business elite that has embraced the Erdogan government for its economic successes. Less well known but just as important to Turkey’s future development has been the rapid rise of socially conservative business leaders who, under the A.K.P., have seen their businesses thrive by tapping Turkey’s flourishing consumer and export markets.

Mr. Ak, the car leasing executive, exemplifies this new business elite of entrepreneurs. He drives a Ferrari to work, but he is also a practicing Muslim who does not drink and has no qualms in talking about his faith. He is not bound to the 20th-century secular consensus among the business, military and judicial elite that fought long and hard to keep Islam removed from public life.

On the wall behind his desk is a framed passage in Arabic from the Koran, and he recently financed an Islamic studies program just outside Washington at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where Mr. Erdogan recently spoke.

Whether he is embracing Islam as a set of principles to govern his life or Israeli irrigation technology for his sideline almond and walnut growing business, Mr. Ak represents the flexible dynamism — both social and economic — that has allowed Turkey to expand the commercial ties with Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria that now underpin its ambition to become the dominant political actor in the region.

Other prominent members of this newer group of business executives are Mustafa Latif Topbas, the chairman and a founder of the discount-shopping chain BIM, the country’s fastest-growing retail chain, and Murat Ulker, who runs the chocolate and cookie manufacturer Yildiz Holding.

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Page 2 of 2)



With around $11 billion in sales, Yildiz Holding supplies its branded food products not just to the Turkish market but to 110 markets globally. It has set up factories in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine and now owns the Godiva brand.

The two billionaires have deep ties to the prime minister — Mr. Erdogan once owned a company that distributed Ulker-branded products, and Mr. Topbas is a close adviser — but the trade opportunities in this part of the world are plentiful enough that a boost from the government is now no longer needed.
In June, Turkish exports grew by 13 percent compared with the previous year, with much of the demand coming from countries on Turkey’s border or close to it, like Iraq, Iran and Russia. With their immature manufacturing bases, they are eager buyers of Turkish cookies, automobiles and flat-screen televisions.

This year, for example, the country’s flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines, will fly to as many cities in Iraq (three) as it does to France. Some of its fastest growing routes are to Libya, Syria and Russia, Turkey’s largest trading partner, where it flies to seven cities. That is second only to Germany, which has a large population of immigrant Turks.

In Iran, Turkish companies are building fertilizer plants, making diapers and female sanitary products. In Iraq, the Acarsan Group, based in the southeastern town of Gaziantep, just won a bid to build five hospitals. And Turkish construction companies have a collective order book of over $30 billion, second only to China.

On the flip side, the Azerbaijani government owns Turkey’s major petrochemicals company and Saudi Arabia has been a big investor in the country’s growing Islamic finance sector.

No one here disputes that these trends give Mr. Erdogan the legitimacy — both at home and abroad — to lash out at Israel and to cut deals with Iran over its nuclear energy, moves that have strained ties with its chief ally and longtime supporter, the United States. (Turkey has exported $1.6 billion worth of goods to Iran and Syria this year, $200 million more than to the United States.)

But some worry that the muscle flexing may have gone too far — perhaps the result of tightening election polls at home — and that the aggressive tone with Israel may jeopardize the defining tenet of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: peace at home, peace in the world.

“The foreign policy of Turkey is good if it brings self-pride,” said Ferda Yildiz, the chairman of Basari Holding, a conglomerate that itself is in negotiations with the Syrian government to set up a factory in Syria that would make electricity meters.

Even so, he warns that it would be a mistake to become too caught up in an eastward expansion if it comes at the expense of the country’s longstanding inclination to look to the West for innovation and inspiration.

“It takes centuries to make relations and minutes to destroy them,” he said.
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« Reply #36 on: July 06, 2010, 10:38:36 AM »

BTW, for those not familiar with Turkey or POTH (Pravda on the Hudson a.k.a. The NY Times)  "socially conservative" in the article of the previous post is POTH's term of the moment for "Islamist".

With this in mind, Turkey's demand for Israel's apology for the flotilla brouhaha when it really supported creating an interantional incidennt to burnish its credentials in the Arab world ()see GM's post this morning in the Israel thread) and its move east as described in the POTH piece is understood.

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« Reply #37 on: November 23, 2010, 10:09:10 AM »

Part 5: Turkey

We arrived in Istanbul during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God’s command and praises the God who stayed his hand. It is a jarring holiday for me; I was taught that it was Isaac who God saved. The distinction between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between Hagar and Sarah, between Abraham and the Jews and Abraham and the Muslims. It ties Muslims, Jews and Christians together. It also tears them apart.

Muslims celebrate Eid with the sacrifice of animals (sheep and cattle). Istanbul is a modern commercial city, stunningly large. On this day, as we drove in from the airport, there were vacant lots with cattle lined up for those wishing to carry out the ritual. There were many cattle and people. The ritual sacrifice is widely practiced, even among the less religious. I was told that Turkey had to import cattle for the first time, bringing them in from Uruguay. Consider the juxtaposition of ancient ritual sacrifice so widely practiced that it requires global trade to sustain it.

The tension between and within nations and religions is too ancient for us to remember its beginnings. It is also something that never grows old. For Turkey, it is about a very old nation at what I think is the beginning of a new chapter. It is therefore inevitably about the struggles within Turkey and with Turkey’s search for a way to find both its identity and its place in the world.

Turkey’s Test
Turkey will emerge as one of the great regional powers of the next generation, or so I think. It is clear that this process is already under way when you look at Turkey’s rapid economic growth even in the face of the global financial crisis, and when you look at its growing regional influence. As you’d expect, this process is exacerbating internal political tensions as well as straining old alliances and opening the door to new ones. It is creating anxiety inside and outside of Turkey about what Turkey is becoming and whether it is a good thing or not. Whether it is a good thing can be debated, I suppose, but the debate doesn’t much matter. The transformation from an underdeveloped country emerging from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire to a major power is happening before our eyes.


At the heart of the domestic debate and foreign discussion of Turkey’s evolution is Islam. Turkey’s domestic evolution has resulted in the creation of a government that differs from most previous Turkish governments by seeing itself as speaking for Islamic traditions as well as the contemporary Turkish state. The foreign discussion is about the degree to which Turkey has shifted away from its traditional alliances with the United States, Europe and Israel. These two discussions are linked.

At a time when the United States is at war in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and in confrontation with Iran, any shift in the position of a Muslim country rings alarm bells. But this goes beyond the United States. Since World War II, many Turks have immigrated to Europe, where they have failed to assimilate partly by choice and partly because the European systems have not facilitated assimilation. This failure of assimilation has created massive unease about Turkish and other Muslims in Europe, particularly in the post-9/11 world of periodic terror warnings. Whether reasonable or not, this is shaping Western perceptions of Turkey and Turkish views of the West. It is one of the dynamics in the Turkish-Western relationship.

Turkey’s emergence as a significant power obviously involves redefining its internal and regional relations to Islam. This alarms domestic secularists as well as inhabitants of countries who feel threatened by Turks — or Muslims — living among them and who are frightened by the specter of terrorism. Whenever a new power emerges, it destabilizes the international system to some extent and causes anxiety. Turkey’s emergence in the current context makes that anxiety all the more intense. A newly powerful and self-confident Turkey perceived to be increasingly Islamic will create tensions, and it has.

The Secular and the Religious
Turkey’s evolution is framed by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the creation of modern Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk’s task was to retain the core of the Ottoman Empire as an independent state. That core was Asia Minor and the European side of the Bosporus. For Ataturk, the first step was contraction, abandoning any attempt to hold the Ottoman regions that surrounded Turkey. The second step was to break the hold of Ottoman culture on Turkey itself. The last decades of the Ottoman Empire were painful to Turks, who saw themselves decline because of the unwillingness of the Ottoman regime to modernize at a pace that kept up with the rest of Europe. The slaughter of World War I did more than destroy the Ottoman Empire. It shook its confidence in itself and its traditions.

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« Reply #38 on: November 23, 2010, 10:10:48 AM »

For Ataturk, Turkish national survival depended on modernization, which he equated with the creation of a secular society as the foundation of a modern nation-state in which Islam would become a matter of private practice, not the center of the state or, most important, something whose symbols could have a decisive presence in the public sphere. This would include banning articles of clothing associated with Islamic piety from public display. Ataturk did not try to suppress Muslim life in the private sphere, but Islam is a political religion that seeks to regulate both private and public life.

Ataturk sought to guarantee the survival of the secular state through the military. For Ataturk, the military represented the most modern element of Turkish society and could serve two functions. It could drive Turkish modernization and protect the regime against those who would try to resurrect the Ottoman state and its Islamic character. Ataturk wanted to do something else — to move away from the multinational nature of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk compressed Turkey to its core and shed authority and responsibility beyond its borders. Following Ataturk’s death, for example, Turkey managed to avoid involvement in World War II.

Ataturk came to power in a region being swept by European culture, which was what was considered modern. This Europeanist ideology moved through the Islamic world, creating governments that were, like Turkey’s, secular in outlook but ruling over Muslim populations that had varying degrees of piety. In the 1970s, a counter-revolution started in the region that argued for reintegrating Islam into the governance of Muslim countries. The most extreme part of this wave culminated in al Qaeda. But the secularist/Europeanist vision created by Ataturk has been in deep collision with the Islamist regimes that can be found in places like Iran.

It was inevitable that this process would affect Turkey. In 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. This was a defining moment because the AKP was not simply a secular Europeanist party. Its exact views are hotly debated, with many inside and outside of Turkey claiming that its formal moderation hides a hidden radical-Islamist agenda.

We took a walk in a neighborhood in Istanbul called Carsamba. I was told that this was the most religious community in Istanbul. One secularist referred to it as “Saudi Arabia.” It is a poor but vibrant community, filled with schools and shops. Children play on the streets, and men cluster in twos and threes, talking and arguing. Women wear burqas and headscarves. There is a large school in the neighborhood where young men go to study the Koran and other religious subjects.

The neighborhood actually reminded me of Williamsburg, in the Brooklyn of my youth. Williamsburg was filled with Chasidic Jews, Yeshivas, children on the streets and men talking outside their shops. The sensibility of community and awareness that I was an outsider revived vivid memories. At this point, I am supposed to write that it shows how much these communities have in common. But the fact is that the commonalities of life in poor, urban, religious neighborhoods don’t begin to overcome the profound differences — and importance — of the religions they adhere to.

That said, Carsamba drove home to me the problem the AKP, or any party that planned to govern Turkey, would have to deal with. There are large parts of Istanbul that are European in sensibility and values, and these are significant areas. But there is also Carsamba and the villages of Anatolia, and they have a self-confidence and assertiveness that can’t be ignored today.

There is deep concern among some secularists that the AKP intends to impose Shariah. This is particularly intense among the professional classes. I had dinner with a physician with deep roots in Turkey who told me that he was going to immigrate to Europe if the AKP kept going the way it was going. Whether he would do it when the time came I can’t tell, but he was passionate about it after a couple of glasses of wine. This view is extreme even among secularists, many of whom understand the AKP to have no such intentions. Sometimes it appeared to me that the fear was deliberately overdone, in hopes of influencing a foreigner, me, concerning the Turkish government.

But my thoughts go back to Carsamba. The secularists could ignore these people for a long time, but that time has passed. There is no way to rule Turkey without integrating these scholars and shopkeepers into Turkish society. Given the forces sweeping the Muslim world, it is impossible. They represent an increasingly important trend in the Islamic world and the option is not suppressing them (that’s gone) but accommodating them or facing protracted conflict, a kind of conflict that in the rest of the Islamic world is not confined to rhetoric. Carsamba is an extreme case in Istanbul, but it poses the issue most starkly.

This is something the main opposition secularist party, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), can’t do. It has not devised a platform that can reach out to Carsamba and the other religious neighborhoods within the framework of secularism. This is the AKP’s strength. It can reach out to them while retaining the core of its Europeanism and modernism. The Turkish economy is surging. It had an annualized growth rate of 12 percent in the first quarter of 2010. That helps keep everyone happy. But the AKP also emphasizes that it wants to join the European Union. Now, given how healthy the Turkish economy is, wanting to join the European Union is odd. And the fact is that the European Union is not going to let Turkey in anyway. But the AKP’s continued insistence that it wants to join the European Union is a signal to the secularists: The AKP is not abandoning the Europeanist/modernist project.

The AKP sends many such signals, but it is profoundly distrusted by the secularists, who fear that the AKP’s apparent moderation is simply a cover for its long-term intentions — to impose a radical-Islamist agenda on Turkey. I don’t know the intentions of the AKP leadership, but I do know some realities about Turkey, the first being that, while Carsamba can’t be ignored, the secularists hold tremendous political power in their own right and have the general support of the military. Whatever the intentions imputed to the AKP, it does not have the power to impose a radical-Islamist agenda on Turkey unless the secularists weaken dramatically, which they are not going to do.

The CHP cannot re-impose the rigorous secularism that existed prior to 2002. The AKP cannot impose a radical-Islamist regime, assuming it would want to. The result of either attempt would be a paralyzing political crisis that would tear the country apart, without giving either side political victory. The best guard against hidden agendas is the inability to impose them.

Moreover, on the fringes of the Islamist community are radical Islamists like al Qaeda. It is a strategic necessity to separate the traditionally religious from the radical Islamists. The more excluded the traditionalists are, the more they will be attracted to the radicals. Prior to the 1970s this was not a problem. In those days, radical Islamists were not the problem; radical socialists were. The strategies that were used prior to 2002 would play directly into the hands of the radicals. There are, of course, those who would say that all Islamists are radical. I don’t think that’s true empirically. Of the billion or so Muslims, radicals are few. But you can radicalize the rest with aggressive social policies. And that would create a catastrophe for Turkey and the region.

The problem for Turkey is how to bridge the gap between the secularists and the religious. That is the most effective way to shut out the radicals. The CHP seems to me to have not devised any program to reach out to the religious. There are some indications of attempted change that came with the change in leadership a few months ago, but overall the CHP maintains a hostile suspicion toward sharing power with the religious.

The AKP, on the other hand, has some sort of reconciliation as its core agenda. The problem is that the AKP is serving up a weak brew, insufficient to satisfy the truly religious, insufficient to satisfy the truly secular. But it does hold a majority. In Turkey, as I have said, it is all about the AKP’s alleged hidden intentions. My best guess is that, whatever its private thoughts and political realities are, the AKP is composed of Turks who derive their traditions from 600 years of Ottoman rule. That makes Turkish internal politics, well, Byzantine. Never forget that at crucial points the Ottomans, as Muslim as they were, allied with the Catholics against the Orthodox Christians in order to dominate the Balkans. They made many other alliances of convenience and maintained a multinational and multireligious empire built on a pyramid of compromises. The AKP is not the party of the Wahhabi, and if it tried to become that, it would fall. The AKP, like most political parties, prefers to hold office.

Turkey and the World
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« Reply #39 on: November 23, 2010, 10:11:22 AM »

Turkey and the World
The question of the hidden agenda of the AKP touches its foreign policy, too. In the United States, nerves are raw over Afghanistan and terror threats. In Europe, Muslim immigration, much of it from Turkey, and more terror threats make for more raw nerves. The existence of an Islamist-rooted government in Ankara has created the sense that Turkey has “gone over,” that it has joined the radical-Islamist camp.

This is why the flotilla incident with Israel turned out as it did. The Turks had permitted a fleet to sail for Gaza, which was blockaded by Israel. Israeli commandos boarded the ships and on one of them got into a fight in which nine people were killed. The Turks became enraged and expected the rest of the world, including the United States and Europe, to join them in condemning Israel’s actions. I think the Turkish government was surprised when the general response was not directed against Israel but at Turkey. The Turks failed to understand the American and European perception that Turkey had gone over to the radical Islamists. This perception caused the Americans and Europeans to read the flotilla incident in a completely unexpected way, from the Turkish government’s point of view, one that saw the decision to allow the flotilla to sail as part of a radical-Islamist agenda. Rather than seeing the Turks as victims, they saw the Turks as deliberately creating the incident for ideological reasons.

At the moment, it all turns on the perceptions of the AKP, both in Turkey and the world. And these perceptions lead to very different interpretations of what Turkey is doing.

In this sense, the ballistic missile defense (BMD) issue was extremely important. Had the Turks refused to allow BMD to be placed in Turkey, it would have been, I think, a breakpoint in relations with the United States in particular. BMD is a defense against Iranian missiles. Turkey does not want a U.S. strike on Iran. It should therefore have been enthusiastic about BMD, since Turkey could argue that with BMD, no strike is needed. Opposing a strike and opposing BMD would have been interpreted as Turkey simply wanting to obstruct anything that would upset Iran, no matter how benign. The argument of those who view Turkey as pro-Iranian would be confirmed. The decision by the Turkish government to go forward with BMD was critical. Rejecting BMD would have cemented the view of Turkey as being radical Islamist. But the point is that the Turks postured on the issue and then went along. It was the AKP trying to maintain its balance.

The reality is that Turkey is now a regional power trying to find its balance. It is in a region where Muslim governments are mixed with secular states, predominantly Christian nations and a Jewish state. When you take the 360-degree view that the AKP likes to talk about, it is an extraordinary and contradictory mixture of states. Turkey is a country that maintains relations with Iran, Israel and Egypt, a dizzying portfolio.

It is not a surprise that the Turks are not doing well at this. After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey is new to being a regional power, and everyone in the region is trying to draw Turkey into something for their own benefit. Syria wants Turkish mediation with Israel and in Lebanon. Azerbaijan wants Turkish support against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Israel and Saudi Arabia want Turkish support against Iran. Iran wants Turkey’s support against the United States. Kosovo wants its support against Serbia. It is a rogue’s gallery of supplicants, all wanting something from Turkey and all condemning Turkey when they don’t get it. Not least of these is the United States, which wants Turkey to play the role it used to play, as a subordinate American ally.

Turkey’s strategy is to be friends with everyone, its “zero conflict with neighbors” policy, as the Turks call it. It is an explicit policy not to have enemies. The problem is that it is impossible to be friends with all of these countries. Their interests are incompatible, and in the end, the only likely outcome is that all will find Turkey hostile and it will face distrust throughout the region. Turkey was genuinely surprised when the United States, busy finally getting sanctions into place against Iran, did not welcome Turkey’s and Brazil’s initiative with Iran. But unlike Brazil, Turkey lives in a tough neighborhood and being friendly with everyone is not an option.

This policy derives, I think, from a fear of appearing, like the Ottoman Empire, so distrusted by secularists. The Ottoman Empire was both warlike and cunning. It was the heir to the Byzantine tradition and it was worthy of it. Ataturk simplified Turkish foreign policy radically, drawing it inward. Turkey’s new power makes that impossible, but it is important, at least at this point in history, for Turkey not to appear too ambitious or too clever internationally. The term neo-Ottoman keeps coming up, but is not greeted happily by many people. Trying to be friendly with everyone is not going to work, but for the Turks, it is a better strategy now than being prematurely Byzantine. Contrary to others, I see Turkish foreign policy as simple and straightforward: What they say and what they intend to do are the same. The problem with that foreign policy is that it won’t work in the long run. I suspect the Turkish government knows that, but it is buying time for political reasons.

It is buying time for administrative reasons as well. The United States entered World War II without an intelligence service, with a diplomatic corps vastly insufficient for its postwar needs and without a competent strategic-planning system. Turkey is ahead of the United States of 1940, but it does not have the administrative structure or the trained and experienced personnel to handle the complexities it is encountering. The Turkish foreign minister wakes up in the morning to Washington’s latest demand, German pronouncements on Turkish EU membership, Israeli deals with the Greeks, Iranian probes, Russian views on energy and so on. It is a large set of issues for a nation that until recently had a relatively small foreign-policy footprint.

Turkey and Russia
Please recall my reasons for this journey and what brought me to Turkey. I am trying to understand the consequences of the re-emergence of Russia, the extent to which this will pose a geopolitical challenge and how the international system will respond. I have already discussed the Intermarium, the countries from the Baltic to the Black seas that have a common interest in limiting Russian power and the geopolitical position to do so if they act as a group.

One of the questions is what the southern anchor of this line will be. The most powerful anchor would be Turkey. Turkey is not normally considered part of the Intermarium, although during the Cold War it was the southeastern anchor of NATO’s line of containment. The purpose of this trip is to get some sense of how the Turks think about Russia and where Russia fits into their strategic thinking. It is also about how the Turks now think of themselves as they undergo a profound shift that will affect the region.

Turkey, like many countries, is dependent on Russian energy. Turkey also has a long history with Russia and needs to keep Russia happy. But it also wants to be friends with everyone and it needs to find new sources of energy. This means that Turkey has to look south, into Iraq and farther, and east, toward Azerbaijan. When it looks south, it will find itself at odds with Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia. When it looks east, it will find itself at odds with Armenia and Russia.

There are no moves that Turkey can make that will not alienate some great power, and it cannot decline to make these moves. It cannot simply depend on Russia for its energy any more than Poland can. Because of energy policy, it finds itself in the same position as the Intermarium, save for the fact that Turkey is and will be much more powerful than any of these countries, and because the region it lives in is extraordinarily more complex and difficult.

Nevertheless, while the Russians aren’t an immediate threat, they are an existential threat to Turkey. With a rapidly growing economy, Turkey needs energy badly and it cannot be hostage to the Russians or anyone else. As it diversifies its energy sources it will alienate a number of countries, including Russia. It will not want to do this, but it is the way the world works. Therefore, is this the southern anchor of the Intermarium? I think so. Not yet and not forever, but I suspect that in 10 years or so, the sheer pressure that Russian energy policy will place on Turkey will create enough tensions to force Turkey into the anchor position.

If Moldova is the proof of the limits of geopolitical analysis, Turkey is its confirmation. There is endless talk in Turkey of intentions, hidden meanings and conspiracies, some woven decades ago. It is not these things that matter. Islam has replaced modernism as the dynamic force of the region, and Turkey will have to accommodate itself to that. But modernism and secularism are woven into Turkish society. Those two strands cannot be ignored. Turkey is the regional power, and it will have to make decisions about friends and enemies. Those decisions will be made based on issues like energy availability, economic opportunities and defensive positions. Intentions are not trivial, but in the case of Turkey neither are they decisive. It is too old a country to change and too new a power to escape the forces around it. For all its complexity, I think Turkey is predictable. It will go through massive internal instability and foreign tests it is not ready for, but in the end, it will emerge as it once was: a great regional power.

As a subjective matter, I like Turkey and Turks. I suspect I will like them less as they become a great power. They are at the charming point where the United States was after World War I. Over time, global and great powers lose their charm under the pressure of a demanding and dissatisfied world. They become hard and curt. The Turks are neither today. But they are facing the kind of difficulties that only come with success, and those can be the hardest to deal with.

Internally, the AKP is trying to thread the needle between two Turkish realities. No one can choose one or the other and govern Turkey. That day has passed. How to reconcile the two is the question. For the moment, the most difficult question is how to get the secularists to accept that, in today’s Turkey, they are a large minority. I suspect the desire to regain power will motivate them to try to reach out to the religious, but for now, they have left the field to the AKP.

In terms of foreign policy, they are clearly repositioning Turkey to be part of the Islamic world, but the Islamic world is deeply divided by many crosscurrents and many types of regimes. The distance between Morocco and Pakistan is not simply space. Repositioning with the Islamic world is more a question of who will be your enemy than who will be your friend. The same goes for the rest of the world.

In leaving Turkey, I am struck by how many balls it has to keep in the air. The tensions between the secularists and the religious must not be minimized. The tensions within the religious camp are daunting. The tensions between urban and rural are significant. The tensions between Turkey and its allies and neighbors are substantial, even if the AKP is not eager to emphasize this. It would seem impossible to imagine Turkey moving past these problems to great power status. But here geopolitics tells me that it has to be this way. All nations have deep divisions. But Turkey is a clear nation and a strong state. It has geography and it has an economy. And it is in a region where these characteristics are in short supply. That gives Turkey relative power as well as absolute strength.

The next 10 years will not be comfortable for Turkey. It will have problems to solve and battles to fight, figuratively and literally. But I think the answer to the question I came for is this: Turkey does not want to confront Russia. Nor does it want to be dependent on Russia. These two desires can’t be reconciled without tension with Russia. And if there is tension, there will be shared interests with the Intermarium, quite against the intentions of the Turks. In history, intentions, particularly good ones, are rarely decisive.
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« Reply #40 on: November 23, 2010, 10:35:35 AM »


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« Reply #41 on: November 23, 2010, 10:50:15 AM »

4th post of the morning

Summary
Despite reservations on NATO’s proposed ballistic missile defense (BMD) network, Turkey agreed Nov. 20 at the alliance’s summit in Lisbon to participate in the plan. Ankara will experience some fallout from this decision in managing its delicate relationships with Russia and Iran. Nonetheless, the decision to join the NATO BMD network allows Ankara to keep ties with Washington on a more solid footing — a critical factor in enabling Turkey to consolidate its geopolitical gains in its near abroad.

Analysis
Turkey agreed Nov. 20 to integrate itself into NATO’s planned ballistic missile defense (BMD) network during the alliance’s summit in Lisbon.

Though a potential Iranian missile threat is often cited as the motivation for the U.S.-led BMD project, a deeper, strategic purpose lies in its ability to provide the United States with a platform to underwrite a Eurasian alliance aimed at containing Russia’s growing influence in its former Soviet territory. Turkey is also concerned about Russia’s growing influence, but until this point has been reluctant to sign on to a BMD proposal. However, sensing a geopolitical opportunity in its near abroad, Ankara believes that its relationship with the United States — which has frayed over the past year — must be strengthened in order to take full advantage of its blossoming role. Washington welcomes Turkey playing that role, particularly in the Middle East, as long as Ankara remains a strong partner with the West, something it is attempting to affirm with its consent to the deal.

The United States had already secured bilateral commitments from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania to participate in the project. Turkey, given its prime geographic positioning in the region, remained a key component to the project. A forward-deployed sensor, like the portable X-band radar currently positioned in Israel, would provide additional sensors closer to the Middle East to more rapidly acquire, track and plot an intercept of ballistic targets.


Turkey’s Opportunity

Turkey has reached a point where it has the wherewithal to assert its regional autonomy, which has manifested in it taking very public positions against the United States regarding Israel and Iran. Naturally, Turkey does not want to be seen as part of a military project that singles out Iran at a time when Ankara has invested a great deal of diplomatic capital in trying to earn Tehran’s trust to mediate the long list of disputes Iran has with its adversaries. In addition, Turkey currently depends on Russia for the bulk of its energy supplies, and has little interest in provoking a confrontation with its historic rival, especially as Turkey is trying to expand its foothold in the Caucasus and Central Asia, where Moscow carries substantial influence.

But other strategic considerations eventually outweighed Turkey’s reasons to resist the project. Turkey, under the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party, has seen its relations deteriorate considerably with the United States over the past year, only exacerbated by Turkey’s crisis in relations with Israel over the flotilla incident. A movement, which is making some progress, has more recently developed in both Washington and Ankara to put U.S.-Turkish relations back on a strategic track in light of more pressing geopolitical demands.

The United States needs to militarily extricate itself from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, in particular, Turkey faces an historic opportunity to fill a vacuum created by the U.S. exit and reclaim its influence in the broader Middle East. The United States sees Turkey as a strong regional ally whose interests are most in line with those of Washington, especially when it comes to the need to contain Iran, manage thorny internal Iraqi affairs, elicit more cooperation from Syria and balance against Russia in the Caucasus. If Turkey is to reap the geopolitical gains in its surrounding region, it cannot afford a rupture in relations with the United States triggered by Ankara turning its back on BMD.


Negotiating the Deal

Turkey thus bargained hard over its BMD participation, taking care to assert its autonomy in these negotiations and avoid grouping itself with countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, which are looking for a highly visible U.S. commitment against Russia. The Turkish demands were for its BMD participation to take place under the aegis of NATO, as opposed to a bilateral treaty with the United States. The project also had to ensure that all of Turkish territory be protected by the BMD systems placed within the country, and command-and-control over the system. Finally, Turkey demanded that no countries (like Russia, Iran or Syria) be cited as the source of the missile threat.

In signing on to the deal at Lisbon, Turkish President Abdullah Gul claimed that Turkey’s NATO allies met all of Ankara’s demands. Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defiantly asserted that Turkey was not forced into this project against its will, and that Turkey’s demands over command-and-control of the system were “misinterpreted.” In fact, the United States rejected this demand (the design of the system would not allow for Turkey to operate the system autonomously) and it appears that Turkish officials were finding a way to back down from this stipulation. Turkey did, however, achieve its aim of removing mention of specific targets and made clear it was only signing on to the NATO BMD plan, as opposed to a bilateral BMD commitment to the United States.

Behind the scenes, U.S. officials made clear that it would be unwise for Turkey to risk a rupture in relations with Washington at this time, and that its commitment to the project was critical to securing U.S. cooperation on other issues important to Turkey. The United States also argued that Turkey’s desire to avoid a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear ambitions was best met with Turkish participation in a missile shield that would (theoretically) increase the region’s defenses and thus reduce the need for military action. The NATO alliance aims to complete discussions over the details of what the system will entail and how control of the system will be distributed by June 2011.


Fallout with Iran and Russia?

Having taken the BMD leap, Turkey will now have to downplay the strategic significance of this deal to Russia and Iran to prevent a fissure in relations with both countries.

With Iran, Ankara will have to convince Tehran that Turkey’s maintaining a close relationship with the United States — and thus preserving the leverage it holds with Washington in the region — is the Iranians’ best buffer against an attack. There are likely serious limitations to this argument, but Iran is also not about to sacrifice a crucial diplomatic ally as tensions continue to escalate with the United States.

Turkey will likely face a much more difficult time ahead in dealing with Russia. Turkey is watching nervously as the U.S.-Russian “reset” of relations is weakening with snags over the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, continued U.S. support for allies in the former Soviet periphery and, of course, the more obvious U.S. push for BMD. Turkey has been among those supporting Russian inclusion in the NATO BMD plan. This is a move that would at least symbolically dilute the very premise of the project, but does not preclude the significance of the United States working directly with critical NATO allies in installing and operating missile defense installations in the region. The details of what Russian inclusion would actually entail have yet to be sorted out, and it remains unlikely that Russia would be integrated into the system in terms of operational control or veto over the system’s use. So far, Moscow has agreed to discuss its inclusion in the project, but this idea remains very much in limbo.

For Turkey, this means Ankara must keep a close watch on the trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations to decide its next moves. As Turkey continues its difficult balancing act, it will rely primarily on its trade and energy deals with Russia in an attempt to mitigate the rising pressure it is already facing from Moscow. No amount of diplomatic statements can ignore the fact that Ankara is giving its symbolic commitment to a defense shield that has Russia squarely in its sights.

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« Reply #42 on: November 24, 2010, 10:52:41 AM »

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« Reply #43 on: January 23, 2011, 12:01:22 PM »

I've only read the first page of the piece, but it looks to be interesting in a POTH sort of way , , ,
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/magazine/23davutoglu-t.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha210
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« Reply #44 on: March 05, 2011, 12:04:10 AM »

Turkey's Moment of Reckoning
In a high-powered visit to Cairo, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Thursday with the members of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). In addition to meeting with the military elite, the Turkish leaders are also talking to the opposition forces. On Thursday, Gul and Davutoglu met with Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and over the course of the next three days they are expected to meet with opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei and Arab League chief Amr Mousa, as well as the Jan. 25 Youth Coalition.

” Whether Ankara is ready or not, the Middle East is accelerating Turkey’s rise.”
Turkey’s active role in trying to mediate the unrest developing in its Islamic backyard should not come as a surprise (at least not for STRATFOR readers). Turkey has been on a resurgent path, using its economic clout, geographic positioning, military might and cultural influence to expand its power throughout the former Ottoman territory. In more recent years, this resurgence has largely taken place at Turkey’s own pace, with it managing a post-Saddam Iraq, intensifying hostilities with Israel for political gain, fumbling with the Russians in the Caucasus over Armenia and Azerbaijan, fiddling with Iranian nuclear negotiations, and so on. With geopolitical opportunities presenting themselves on all of its borders, Turkey, having been out of the great power game for some 90-odd years, could afford some experimentation. In this geopolitical testing phase, Turkey could spread itself relatively far and wide in trying to reclaim influence, all under the Davutoglu-coined “zero problems with neighbors” strategy.

The invisible hand of geopolitics teaches that politicians, regardless of personality, ideology or anything else, will pursue strategic ends without being necessarily aware of their policies’ contributions to (or detractions from) national power. The gentle nudges guiding Turkey for most of the past decade are now transforming into a firm, unyielding push.

The reasoning is quite simple. The Iraq War (and its destabilizing effects) was cold water thrown in Turkey’s face that snapped Ankara to attention. It took some time for Turkey to find its footing, but as it did, it sharpened its focus abroad in containing threats and in exploiting a range of political and economic opportunities. Now, from the Sahara to the Persian Gulf, Turkey’s Middle Eastern backyard is on fire, with mass protests knocking the legs out from under a legacy of Arab cronyism. Whether Ankara is ready or not, the Middle East is accelerating Turkey’s rise.

In surveying the region, however, Turkish influence (with the exception of Iraq) is still in its infant stages. For example, in Egypt (where the Turks ruled under the Ottoman Empire for 279 years from 1517-1796), there is not much Turkey can do or may even need to do. The Egyptian military very deliberately managed a political transition to force former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak out and is now calling the shots in Cairo. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) welcomes the stability ushered in by the military, but would also like to see Egypt transformed in its own image. Having lived it for decades, the AKP leadership has internalized the consequences of military rule and has made the subordination of the military to civilian (particularly Islamic) political forces the core of its political agenda at home. Turkey’s AKP has a strategic interest in ensuring the military in Egypt keeps its promise of relinquishing control to the civilians and providing a political opening for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has tried to model itself after the AKP. Davutoglu has in fact been very open with his assertion that if the military fails to hand over power to the civilians and hold elections in a timely manner, Turkey’s support will go to the opposition. The Egyptian SCAF is unlikely to be on the same page as the AKP leadership, especially considering the military’s concerns over the Muslim Brotherhood. This will contribute to some tension between Turkey and Egypt moving forward, but Turkey will face serious arrestors if it attempts to change the military’s course in Egypt.

Where Turkey is needed, and where it actually holds significant influence, is in the heart of the Arab world, Iraq. The shaking out of Iraq’s Sunni-Shia balance (or imbalance, depending on how you view it) is the current pivot to Persian Gulf stability. With the United States withdrawing from Iraq by year’s end and leaving little to effectively block Iran, the region is tilting heavily toward the Shia at the expense of U.S.-allied Sunni Arab regimes. Exacerbating matters is the fact that many of these Arab regimes are now facing crises at home, with ongoing uprisings in Bahrain, Oman and Yemen and simmering unrest in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This is spreading real concerns that Iran is seizing an opportunity to fuel unrest and destabilize its Arab neighbors. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on March 2, in the first public acknowledgment of this trend, that the Iranians were directly and indirectly backing opposition protests in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, and “doing everything they can to influence the outcomes in these places.”

Another piece fell into place that same day when Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Sultan said during a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul in Riyadh said that the Saudi royals “want to see Turkey as a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia.” Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the pillars of Arab power in the region, but that power is relative. Egypt is just now reawakening after decades of insularity (and enjoys a great deal of distance from the Iran issue) and Saudi Arabia is feeling abandoned by the United States, that, for broader strategic reasons is doing whatever it can to militarily extricate itself from the Islamic world to regain its balance. The Saudis are thus issuing a distress signal and are doing so with an eye on Turkey.

Will Turkey be able to deliver? Ankara is feeling the push, but the country is still in the early stages of its revival and faces limits in what it can do. Moreover, filling the role of an effective counter to Iran, as the United States and Saudi Arabia are eager to see happen, must entail the AKP leadership abandoning their “zero problems with neighbors” rhetoric and firming up a position with the United States and the Sunni Arabs against the Iranians. Regardless of which path Ankara pursues, Turkey’s time has come.

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« Reply #45 on: April 01, 2011, 04:47:04 PM »

Colin: According to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States joint Chiefs, the airstrikes over Libya have destroyed between 20 and 25 percent of Gadhafi’s forward forces, which means at least three quarters are still intact. And Mullen says Libyan tanks and armored vehicles outnumber the opposition 10 to one. Across the Mediterranean, unrest in Syria and the possibility of war between Israel and Hamas is unsettling Turkey. It’s from Istanbul that STRATFOR founder gives us a different perspective on the Middle East conflicts.

Colin: Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman.

George: I’m in Istanbul right now, in a hotel room overlooking the Bosphorus, which is not only an extraordinary site for a tourist, but is really exciting for anyone who’s in geopolitics. This is the point where Asia meets Europe; this is the point where the Black Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea. This is one most fought after spots in the entire world and it’s quite an experience to sit in a hotel room, having a drink and looking out over the Bosphorus.

Colin: It’s a very good place to observe what’s happening in the Middle East.

George: Indeed, one of the reasons I’m here is to get a sense from the Turks, and officials and people of what exactly is going on. This is a wonderful listening post and at this point it is also very important because the Turks are playing a more active role in everything that’s happening.

Colin: George, I’d like to come back to the Turks in the moment. Let’s just look briefly at Libya as it enters the third week of the civil war. We have the military assessment, but on the other side we have the defection of one of Gadhafi’s men with blood on his hands, Moussa Koussa, the former intelligence chief and foreign minister. He’s shown up in Britain and is being debriefed in a safe house. How much of a blow is this to Gaddafi?

George: It’s not clear that’s it very much of a blow. This was his foreign minister. As for blood on his hands, this is a regime that for 42 years had blood on its hands. It’s fairly extraordinary the world is suddenly discovering that Gadhafi and the people around him are monsters. But, on the other hand, that’s important to bear in mind that Gadhafi is on the whole winning. The airstrikes are not effective. They’re certainly not stopping him; he’s been able to move from the defensive to the offense. He’s retaken some territory and the eastern alliance that NATOs clearly backing, whatever it says, is simply not able to gel into an effective military force. I think the Turkish position from the very beginning was that this was a fairly arbitrary war. The decision to move into Libya instead of any of these other countries was random, but, more to the point, that it didn’t be provide any stability for the region. And in fact probably destabilized it somewhat, opening a door they feared for some very radical Islamists and moreover not being able to get rid of Gadhafi. They’re certainly very concerned about what’s happening in Syria. That’s right on their border. They’re also always concerned about what the Iranians are doing, although they try to reach out and have decent relations with them. They’re worried about what’s happening in Iraq. The Turks are generally worried. They’re especially worried about the possibility of another Hamas-Israeli war and the reason they’re worried about Hamas-Israeli war is that if Hamas were to carry out strikes that the Israelis chose to counter with another attack in Gaza, this might strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; it could destabilize the regime there. And the Turks don’t want to see that happen right now. They want to see a stable Egypt; they want to see a stable Mediterranean. So the Turks have many, many things that made him uneasy, and one of the things that makes them uneasy is their NATO partners. They can’t quite figure out what it is they think they’re doing.

Colin: As you said, the Turks are concerned about what’s happening in Syria.

George: It is not so much about democracy versus repression. It is, however, a very long-standing struggle between the minority Alawite regime, which is minority of Shia, and the majority Sunni Muslims. The Sunni Muslims were brutally repressed by the current president’s father years ago. Tens of thousands were killed. This is a rising by them again. The rhetoric, which is used to appeal for Western support, is about democracy and they certainly do mean democracy in a certain sense, but the really important question is the role of the Sunnis in Syria and of the radical Islamists within the Sunni movement. The Turks, however much they move toward the Islamic position in the AKP, are not really interested in the radicalization of their borderland and they’re very concerned about what Syria is going to do. They also I think feel helpless. I don’t think that Assad is particular to taking advice from the Turks. I don’t think the demonstrators are asking for Turkish mediation, although the Turks are prepared to provide it. I think it’s a very uncomfortable position for the Turks to be in.

Colin: Looking ahead, what do you think Turkey’s strategy will be?

George: The Turkish strategy has been to try to avoid entanglements. It’s a policy of 360 degrees, as they put it, and it’s a policy of having no enemies, of being friends with everyone. But of course the greater Turkish power is, the weaker their neighbors become, the more the Turks get involved. And as the United States has found a long time ago, as soon as you get involved, you’re involved on somebody’s side. There’s no such thing as a neutral intervention. That’s a fantasy. As the Turks are drawn deeper into mediation, they will try to resist the temptation to side with one side or the other, but they’re too powerful to simply do that. Every step they take will favor someone. So they’re going to be drawn into a position that they don’t want to be drawn into of taking sides. They’ve liked the past two years of growing prestige, but not really confronting particularly the other Muslim countries.

Colin: But presumably they’ll continue to look east, given that the European Union is deeply divided about Turkey’s possible future membership.

George: I doubt very much that the Turkish leadership at this point is keen on joining the EU. Turkey grew last year 8.9 percent, far outstripping the birthrates of the EU countries. They keep it on the table as something they want to do, because it’s a symbol of their commitment to, if not secularism at least a respect for secular desires to be regarded as a European rather than an Islamic state. So the government will continue to try to become a member, knowing full well that the Europeans won’t accept them and being utterly delighted that they aren’t part of the European Union that’s suffering all of the diseases of the European Union right now. And particularly at a time when you have such a deep divide between France and Germany over a host of issues, but particularly over the Libyan war, the Europeans are not a force to be reckoned with as a whole and the Turks are happy to be staying out of their way.

Colin: George, we’ll leave it there and look forward to hearing more from you in Turkey. George Friedman ending Agenda this week. Until the next time, goodbye.

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« Reply #46 on: June 13, 2011, 07:17:30 AM »

Turkey put on a democratic clinic yesterday for the rest of the Muslim world with another free and spirited national election. In their wisdom, the Turks chose to reward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for their recent run of good economic fortune, while putting a check on his largest political ambitions.

His ruling Justice and Development Party, whose roots are in Turkey's Islamist movement, won half the vote and 325 seats in parliament, according to preliminary results. Mr. Erdogan will be only the second man in the history of the Turkish republic to claim the premiership for a third term. But his party, known by the acronym AKP, fell shy of the 330 votes needed to send changes to Turkey's constitution to a referendum—and far short of Mr. Erdogan's dream of a "super majority" of 367 to get them adopted by parliament alone.

Mr. Erdogan wants a French-style republic with a strong presidency and himself as the president. But his often divisive rhetoric and his attacks on the media and opponents had stoked fears of creeping authoritarianism. In his victory speech last night, Mr. Erdogan claimed to get the message. "We'll go to the opposition and we'll seek consultation and consensus," he said. "We will bring democracy to an advanced level, widening rights and freedoms. The responsibility has risen, and so has our humility."

Turkey needs a legitimate overhaul of its political system to become a true liberal democracy. Its judiciary and military are still too much powers in themselves, and minority rights and checks and balances are missing in a flawed structure that dates to modern Turkey's founding in 1923. But any reform needs to be implemented with a national consensus, with clear checks on the power of any one man, party or institution.

The AKP's capable stewardship of Turkey's economy explains its run of electoral success. Exports have quadrupled in a decade and per capita income has nearly tripled. Turkey shows the merits of free market policies, including open trade and sound fiscal management. The AKP has also alleviated many concerns about creeping Islamization, which wasn't an issue in this campaign. If Mr. Erdogan stays true to his word last night and smooths his intolerant edges, Turkey could become a true model for liberty in the Middle East.
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« Reply #47 on: June 14, 2011, 11:01:50 AM »

Turkey's Elections and Strained U.S. Relations
June 14, 2011


By George Friedman

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won Parliamentary elections June 12, which means it will remain in power for a third term. The popular vote, divided among a number of parties, made the AKP the most popular party by far, although nearly half of the electorate voted for other parties, mainly the opposition and largely secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP). More important, the AKP failed to win a super-majority, which would have given it the power to unilaterally alter Turkey’s constitution. This was one of the major issues in the election, with the AKP hoping for the super-majority and others trying to block it. The failure of the AKP to achieve the super-majority leaves the status quo largely intact. While the AKP remains the most powerful party in Turkey, able to form governments without coalition partners, it cannot rewrite the constitution without accommodating its rivals.

One way to look at this is that Turkey continues to operate within a stable framework, one that has been in place for almost a decade. The AKP is the ruling party. The opposition is fragmented along ideological lines, which gives the not overwhelmingly popular AKP disproportionate power. The party can set policy within the constitution but not beyond the constitution. In this sense, the Turkish political system has produced a long-standing reality. Few other countries can point to such continuity of leadership. Obviously, since Turkey is a democracy, the rhetoric is usually heated and accusations often fly, ranging from imminent military coups to attempts to impose a religious dictatorship. There may be generals thinking of coups and there may be members of AKP thinking of religious dictatorship, but the political process has worked effectively to make such things hard to imagine. In Turkey, as in every democracy, the rhetoric and the reality must be carefully distinguished.


Turkey’s Shifting Policy

That said, the AKP has clearly taken Turkey in new directions in both domestic and foreign policy. In domestic policy, the direction is obvious. While the CHP has tried to vigorously contain religion within the private sphere, the AKP has sought to recognize Turkey’s Islamic culture and has sought a degree of integration with the political structure.

This has had two results. Domestically, while the AKP has had the strength to create a new political sensibility, it has not had the strength to create new institutions based on Islamic principles (assuming this is one of its desired goals). Nevertheless, the secularists, deriving their legitimacy from the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, have viewed his legacy and their secular rights — one of which is the right of women not to have to wear headscarves — as being under attack. Hence, the tenor of public discourse has been volatile. Indeed, there is a constant sense of crisis in Turkey, as the worst fears of the secularists collide with the ambitions of the AKP. Again, we regard these ambitions as modest, not because we know what AKP leaders intend in their heart, but simply because they lack the power to go further regardless of intentions.

The rise of the AKP and its domestic agenda has more than just domestic consequences. Since 2001, the United States has been fighting radical Islamists, and the fear of radical Islamism goes beyond the United States to Europe and other countries. In many ways, Turkey is both the most prosperous and most militarily powerful of any Muslim country. The idea that the AKP agenda is radically Islamist and that Turkey is moving toward radical Islamism generates anxieties and hostilities in the international system.

While the thought of a radical Islamist Turkey is frightening, and many take an odd pleasure in saying that Turkey has been “lost” to radical Islamism and should be ostracized, the reality is more complex. First, it is hard to ostracize a country that has the largest army in Europe as well as an economy that grew at 8.9 percent last year and that occupies some of the most strategic real estate in the world. If the worst case from the West’s point of view were true, ostracizing Turkey would be tough, making war on it even tougher, and coping with the consequences of an Islamist Turkey tougher still. If it is true that Turkey has been taken over by radical Islamists — something I personally do not believe — it would be a geopolitical catastrophe of the first order for the United States and its allies in the region. And since invading Turkey is not an option, the only choice would be accommodation. It is interesting to note that those who are most vociferous in writing Turkey off are also most opposed to accommodation. It is not clear what they propose, since their claim is both extreme and generated, for the most part, for rhetorical and not geopolitical reasons. The fear is real, and the threat may be there as well, but the solutions are not obvious.


Turkey’s Geopolitical Position

So I think it is useful to consider Turkey in a broader geopolitical context. It sits astride one of the most important waterways in the world, the Bosporus, connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. That alone made Ataturk’s desire for an inward Turkey not playing great power games difficult to attain. Given that it is part of the Caucasus, shares a border with Iran, borders the Arab world and is part of Europe, Turkey inevitably becomes part of other countries’ plans. For example, in World War II both powers wanted Turkey in the war on their side, particularly the Germans, who wanted Turkish pressure on the Baku oil fields.

After World War II, the Cold War drove Turkey toward the United States. Pressure in the Caucasus and the Soviet appetite for controlling the Bosporus, a historic goal of the Russians, gave Turkey common cause with the United States. The Americans did not want the Soviets to have free access to the Mediterranean, and the Turks did not want to lose the Bosporus or be dominated by the Soviets.

From the American point of view, a close U.S.-Turkish relationship came to be considered normal. But the end of the Cold War redefined many relationships, and in many cases, neither party was aware of the redefinition for quite some time. The foundation of the U.S.-Turkish alliance rested on the existence of a common enemy, the Soviets. Absent that enemy, the foundation disappeared, but in the 1990s there were no overriding pressures for either side to reconsider its position. Thus, the alliance remained intact simply because it was easier to maintain it than rethink it.

This was no longer the case after 2001, when the United States faced a new enemy, radical Islamism. At this point, the Turks were faced with a fundamental issue: the extent to which they would participate in the American war and the extent to which they would pull away. After 2001, the alliance stopped being without a cost.

The break point came in early 2003 with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which came after the AKP election victory in late 2002. The United States wanted to send a division into northern Iraq from southern Turkey, and the Turks blocked the move. This represented a critical break in two ways. First, it was the first time since World War II that the Turks had distanced themselves from an American crisis — and in this case, it was one in their very neighborhood. Second, it was a decision made by a government suspected by the United States of having sympathies for Islamists. The Turks did not break with the United States, eventually allowing U.S. air operations to continue from Turkey and participating in assistance programs in Afghanistan.

But for the United States, the decision on Iraq became a defining moment, when the United States realized that it could not take Turkish support for granted. The Turks, on the other hand, decided that the United States was taking actions that were not in their best interests. The relationship was not broken, but it did become strained.

Turkey was experiencing a similar estrangement from Europe. Since medieval times, Turkey has regarded itself as a European country, and in the contemporary era, it has sought membership in the European Union, a policy maintained by the AKP. At first, the European argument against Turkish membership focused on Turkey’s underdeveloped condition. However, for the last decade, Turkey has experienced dramatic economic growth, including after the global financial crisis in 2008. Indeed, its economic growth has outstripped that of most European countries. The argument of underdevelopment no longer holds.

Still, the European Union continues to block Turkish membership. The reason is simple: immigration. There was massive Turkish immigration to Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. Germany and France have significant social strains resulting from Muslim immigration, and allowing Turkey into the European Union would essentially open the borders. Now, a strong argument could be made that  EU membership would be disastrous for Turkey economically, but for Turkey it is not the membership that matters nearly as much as the rejection. The European rejection of Turkey over the immigration issue alienates Turkey from the Europeans, making it harder for the AKP to counter allegations that it is “turning its back on the West.”

Thus, the Turks, not wanting to participate in the Iraq war, created a split with the United States, and the European rejection of Turkish membership in the European Union has generated a split with Europe. From a Turkish point of view, the American invasion of Iraq was ill conceived and the European position ultimately racist. In this sense, they were being pushed away from the West.


Turkey and the Islamic World

But two other forces were at work. First, the Islamic world changed its shape. From being overwhelmingly secular in political outlook, not incidentally influenced by Ataturk, the Islamic world began to move in a more religious direction until the main tendency was no longer secular but Islamic to varying degrees. It was inevitable that Turkey would experience the strains and pressures of the rest of the Muslim world. The question was not whether Turkey would shift but to what degree.

The other force was geopolitical. The two major wars in the Muslim world being fought by the United States were not proceeding satisfactorily, and while the main goal had been reached — there were no further attacks on the United States — the effort to maintain or create non-Islamic regimes in the region was not succeeding. Now the United States is withdrawing from the region, leaving behind instability and an increasingly powerful and self-confident Turkey.

In the end, the economic and military strength of Turkey had to transform it into a major regional force. By default, with the American withdrawal, Turkey has become the major power in the region on several counts. For one, the fact that Turkey had an AKP government and was taking a leadership position in the region made the United States very uncomfortable. For another, and this is the remarkable part, Turkey moved moderately on the domestic front when compared to the rest of the region, and its growing influence was rooted in American failure rather than Turkish design. When a Turkish aid flotilla sailed to Gaza and was intercepted by the Israelis in 2010, the Turkish view was that it was the minimum step Turkey could take as a leading Muslim state. The Israeli view was that Turkey was simply supporting radical Islamists.

This is not a matter of misunderstanding. The foundation of Turkey’s relationship with Israel, for example, had more to do with hostility toward pro-Soviet Arab governments than anything else. Those governments are gone and the secular foundation of Turkey has shifted. The same is true with the United States and Europe. None of them wants Turkey to shift, but given the end of the Cold War and the rise of Islamist forces, such a shift is inevitable, and what has occurred thus far seems relatively mild considering where the shift has gone in other countries. But more important, the foundation of alliances has disappeared and neither side can find a new, firm footing. As exemplified by Britain and the United States in the late 19th century, rising powers make older powers uneasy. They can cooperate economically and avoid military confrontation, but they are never comfortable with each other. The emerging power suspects that the greater power is trying to strangle it. The greater power suspects that the emerging power is trying to change the order of things. In fact, both of these assumptions are usually true.

By no means has Turkey emerged as a mature power. Its handling of events in Syria and other countries — consisting mostly of rhetoric — shows that it is has yet to assume a position to influence, let alone manage, events on its periphery. But it is still early in the game. We are now at a point where the old foundation has weakened and a new one is proving difficult to construct. The election results indicate that the process is still under way without becoming more radical and without slowing down. The powers that had strong relationships with Turkey no longer have them and wonder why. Turkey does not understand why it is feared and why the most ominous assumptions are being made, domestically and in other countries, about its government’s motives. None of this should be a surprise. History is like that.

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« Reply #48 on: June 22, 2011, 01:26:55 AM »

Monday, June 20, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Turkey's Inevitable Problems With Neighbors

Syrian President Bashar al Assad delivered a long and uneventful speech Monday, during which he basically divided Syria’s protest society into three categories: the good, the criminal and the Salafi. Assad claimed that instability caused by the latter two was to blame for the delay in implementing reforms. Rather than promising concrete reforms that have been strongly urged by the Turks, the Syrian president emphasized that security had to come first, while trying to present himself as a neutral mediator between the population and security forces. Not surprisingly, the speech fell on deaf ears throughout Syria, but also in Ankara, where the government let its growing impatience show and told the Syrian president once again that he isn’t doing enough to satisfy the demands of his people.

With more than 10,000 Syrian refugees spilling across the Turkish border to escape the army’s siege, the situation in Syria is undoubtedly growing desperate. However, we have not yet seen the red flags that would indicate the al Assad regime is in imminent danger of collapse. The reasons are fairly straightforward. The al Assad clan belongs to Syria’s Alawite minority, who only 40 years ago were living under the thumb of the country’s majority Sunni population. Four decades in power is not a long time, and vengeance is a powerful force in this part of the world. The Alawites understand that they face an existential crisis, and if they allow their grip over the Baath-dominated political system — and most importantly, over the military — to loosen even slightly, they will likely become the prime targets of a Sunni vendetta aiming to return the Alawites to their subservient status. This may explain why al Assad felt the need to stress in his speech that his minority government would not take “revenge” against those who stand down from their protests.

“Washington is trying to push Turkey into a role it’s not quite ready for; meanwhile, Turkey is trying to sort out its growing pains while appearing influential abroad.”
Turkey is understandably nervous about what is happening next door in Syria. Ankara would prefer a Syria ruled by a stable Sunni regime, especially one that would look to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for political guidance. However, the Turks can see that Syria’s Alawite leadership will not surrender power without a long and bloody fight. Recreating a sphere of Turkish-modeled Sunni influence in the Levant may be a long-term goal for Ankara, but the Turkish government is certainly not prepared to pay the near-term cost of civil strife in Syria spilling across Turkish borders.

Turkey has so far addressed this dilemma mainly through rhetoric, issuing angry speeches against Syrian leadership, while floating the idea of a military buffer zone for Syrian refugees. For awhile, assuming the role of regional disciplinarian played well to an AKP public-relations strategy that portrayed Turkey as the model for the Arab Spring and the go-to mediator for the Mideast’s problems. But the more Syria destabilizes — and with each time it ignores Ankara’s demands — the more Turkey risks appearing impotent.

The crisis in Syria will likely lead to a recalibration of Turkish foreign policy. The architect of Turkey’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, coined the phrase “zero problems with neighbors” to describe the guiding principle of Turkey’s interactions with surrounding regimes. Turkey obviously has a problem with Syria’s leadership, and not a small one. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Turkey may not yet have what it takes to deal with Syria, beyond issuing rhetorical censures. Establishing a military buffer zone as a haven for Syrian refugees not only would call for an international mandate, but would entail Turkish troops occupying foreign land — which would likely set off alarm bells among Arabs who already suspect Turkey of harboring a so-called neo-Ottoman agenda. Turkey’s ardent support for Libyan rebels against Moammar Gadhafi and public backing for Syrian opposition forces have already unnerved Arab monarchist regimes that are trying to undermine the effects of the Arab Spring and are growing distrustful of Turkish intentions.

Moreover, any move construed as Turkey trying to facilitate the downfall of the al Assad regime would undoubtedly create problems with Iran, a neighbor Turkey has taken great care to avoid aggravating. Iran relies heavily on the Alawite regime in Syria to maintain a foothold in the Levant through groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Since the return of Syria to Sunni control would unravel a key pillar of Iranian deterrent strategy, we can expect that Iran is doing everything possible to undermine the very Syrian opposition forces looking to Ankara for support. Turkey has avoided confrontation with Iran thus far while working quietly to build a Sunni counterbalance to Iranian-backed Shia in Iraq in the face of an impending U.S. withdrawal. A power vacuum in Syria filled by Turkish-backed Sunnis would reinforce a nascent confrontation between Iran and Turkey with deep geopolitical underpinnings.

Nations do not have friends; they have interests. And Turkey, a historically influential country sitting on one of the most geopolitically complex pieces of real estate in the world, is now finding that a foreign policy built on avoiding problems with neighbors grinds against reality. In STRATFOR’s view, this was inevitable, which is why we took interest in Monday’s issue of Today’s Zaman, an English-language outlet loyal to the movement of Fethullah Gulen and strongly supportive of the ruling AKP. Two editorials in Monday’s publication held that the Syrian crisis has exposed the coming demise of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy.

That this idea is being introduced into the public discourse is revealing, not only of Turkey’s internal debate on this issue, but also of the message that Ankara may be trying to send to the United States and others: It needs time to develop the wherewithal to meaningfully influence its neighborhood. The United States wants Turkey to help shoulder the burden of managing the Middle East as it looks to extricate its military from Iraq. Washington especially needs to develop a strong counterbalance to Iran — a role historically filled by Turkey. This obviously presents a conflict of interests: Washington is trying to push Turkey into a role it’s not quite ready for; meanwhile, Turkey is trying to sort out its growing pains while appearing influential abroad.

Turkey’s evolution will be difficult and uncomfortable, but this should not come as a surprise. “Zero problems with neighbors” worked well for Turkey at the start of this century, as it came out of its domestic shell, yet took care to avoid being seen as a resurgent power with imperial interests. After a decade of regional conflict, Turkey is finding that problems with neighbors are not only unavoidable, but may even be necessary as the Turkish state redefines its core interests.

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« Reply #49 on: August 02, 2011, 11:56:34 PM »


August 2, 2011


VIDEO: DISPATCH: SHIFTING TURKEY'S MILITARY TO FOREIGN POLICY

Analyst Kamran Bokhari examines how the resignations of four Turkish generals signal
the changing role of Turkey's military from  the dominant domestic political actor
to the foreign policy tool of the civilian government.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology.
Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Turkey's civilian government has gained the upper hand in its power struggle with
the country's military after four top generals of the Turkish armed forces tendered
their resignations last Friday. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is at
a point where it would like to put the domestic balance of power to rest so as to be
able to use the military for its assertive foreign policy agenda. However, it will
be many years before the civilian government in Ankara will be able to do so,
because it's a long process to go from the military having dominance over the
political system to a civilian government using the military on the foreign policy
front.
 
Initially, when the top four generals of the Turkish armed forces – the air chief,
the army chief, the naval chief, and the joint chief – all tendered their
resignations collectively, it appeared that we were at the cusp of yet another and
much more fierce civil-military tug-of-war in Ankara. But the way in which the
civilian government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan handled the situation and
the fact that there has not been a backlash from the military establishment shows
that civilians are finally gaining the upper hand in what has been a decades-long
struggle between the men in uniform and the civilians in Turkey.
 
From the point of view of the ruling party, with the military seemingly under
civilian control, the AKP will want to move from the domestic arena to the foreign
policy front. And on that foreign policy front, the AKP has already been pursuing an
assertive agenda in terms of trying to bring the country back onto the world stage,
at least in terms of the regions that Turkey straddles: the Caucasus, Southeastern
Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia.
 
The intent and desire of the AKP is one thing, but the reality is that it takes a
long time to prepare a military to become an instrument of an assertive foreign
policy agenda. In the case of Turkey, it is much more difficult because this is a
military that was heavily geared towards securing or being the guardian of the
country's secular foundations, and now it has to move from that role to one in
which: a) It respects the constitutional government in Ankara and pledges loyalty to
it; and b) Serves the agenda of that government onto the foreign policy front. And
that requires a lot steps and a lot of changes that will take time – if not decades,
at least several years.
More Videos - http://www.stratfor.com/theme/video_dispatch
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