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« Reply #50 on: August 03, 2011, 12:51:36 AM »

Turkey's Military Resigns

by Austin Bay
August 2, 2011

In a democracy, when senior military officers can no longer support the policies of the elected civilian government they serve, they are supposed to resign their posts and retire -- not launch a coup.

This is one way to initially frame the complex circumstances surrounding last week's mass resignation by the most senior armed forces commanders in Turkey, the culturally Islamic nation bridging Europe and Asia and possessing NATO's second-largest military establishment.

It is a frame, however, with both encouragingly optimistic and oppressively pessimistic interpretations.

Let's start with the optimism. The Turkish military sees itself as the defender of Turkey's secular democracy. Ironically, in the process of defending democracy, on four occasions since 1960 the Turkish military has toppled an elected government, or threatened the government and precipitated its collapse. Coup leaders claimed they were protecting Turkey's political secularism and thereby ultimately defending democracy from the threat posed by Muslim recidivists and political extremists of the far left and right.

In the historical lens, the military insists it is forwarding the political and social modernization process begun by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Ataturk was a visionary, a dedicated secularist modernizer who pursued a socially transformational agenda. For example, between 1922 and his death in 1938, he emancipated Turkish women and liberalized and expanded public education.

As a war-winning general, Ataturk used the military as the primary (though not sole) instrument in his modernization process. The army had prestige, organization and educated officers -- all valuable assets in a land devastated by its loss World War I and the subsequent carnage of its victory in the ugly little conflict known as the Greco-Turkish War. When Ataturk died, however, he left Turkey with a democratic structure, not a democracy.

The optimists now argue that the modernization process Ataturk initiated has succeeded. Twenty-first century Turkey now possesses a robust and resilient democracy supported by a free press, eclectic civil society and a middle class interested in expanding economic opportunities. It no longer needs military intervention in domestic politics.

Moreover, the 1980 coup tarnished Turkey's armed forces when it imposed a constitution that circumscribed democratic rights and enshrined military privileges -- a praetorian constitution is a phrase used by its many critics. Protection of democracy decayed to coups by a praetorian guard cadre intent on determining political outcomes. Democratic Turks don't want that.

The pessimists, however, see recidivist Islamists launching a systematic, stealthy coup to end democracy and create a religious tyranny. In the pessimists' interpretation, the late July military resignations signal that current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) have succeeded in sidelining, arresting or retiring military secularists. Once Erdogan and his cronies have removed the military secularists, they will rapidly replace other secular institutions with Islamic organizations and "re-Islamize" Turkey.

Erdogan's opponents argue that the very curious Ergenekon investigation is one of several noxious examples of Erdogan's plan to slowly strangle secular institutions. Erdogan's government alleges Ergenekon is a plot by secularists to destabilize Turkey and set the stage for another military coup. The government has accused hundreds of people of being involved in the murky conspiracy, including senior military officers.

The pessimists say Ergenekon and the so-called Sledgehammer coup conspiracy are poppycock and paranoia that serve Erdogan's dark motives. In pursuing the investigations, they argue that Erdogan has used state powers to intimidate, smear and imprison his secular opponents. His electoral triumph this June, which gave the AKP a large parliamentary majority, have convinced him he cannot be stopped. The mass resignations are all that a weakened general staff can manage -- they no longer have the power to act to stop the Islamist threat Erdogan represents.

Erdogan's harshest critics, however, recognize his commitment to economic development. Arguably, he has tied his own political future to sustaining economic growth. The economic disaster in neighboring Islamic Iran serves as a reminder of the wages of dogma: ossification, corruption, poverty and violent repression.

Economic growth requires adaptation, creativity and agility -- traits the Ataturk-inspired Turkish democracy possesses. Mr. Erdogan, take note.
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« Reply #51 on: September 09, 2011, 07:44:15 AM »

.ISTANBUL—Turkey is showing signs of trading its vaunted "zero problems with neighbors" foreign policy for a more muscular approach to its bid to become the leading power in the Middle East and North Africa.

The shift, analysts and diplomats say, could trigger clashes with Israel and force Washington to choose between its closest allies in the region.

In recent weeks the policy change has been on display as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to deploy his country's navy in a dispute with Israel, approved a major aerial bombing campaign against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and pressed Egypt to let him make a politically provocative visit to Hamas-run Gaza.

A Turkish cabinet minister also threatened that Turkey would use its navy to prevent Cyprus and Israel from developing offshore natural gas fields without the involvement of Turkish-backed Northern Cyprus.

Shifting Approach
Before Arab Spring: Turkey votes against sanctions on Tehran at U.N.
After: Turkey Agrees to host radar for missile-defense directed at Iran. (MARC: Made necessary by Baraq buying off the Russians  by not placing anti-rocket missiles in eastern Europe as promised to the E-Euros because he wanted to have Russia allow alternate supply routes for Afghanistan)

Before: Pursues 'democratic opening.'
After: Launches missile strikes.

Before: Protests natural-gas drilling.
After: Threatens to deploy navy.
.On Monday, Mr. Erdogan departs for high-profile visits to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—three core battlegrounds in the wave of popular revolutions that have swept the Arab world in the past year.

Turkey isn't shifting from soft power to hard, says Ibrahim Kalin, senior adviser to Mr. Erdogan, but is using "smart power" by turning to force where necessary. "The soft power is still there," he says.

The Arab Spring forced Turkey to retool its foreign policy, analysts and diplomats say, after the revolutions rocked the regimes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi—partners in Turkey's "zero problems" approach—and for a time put Ankara in conflict with popular Arab sentiment.

Mr. Assad's crackdown also drove Ankara into more direct competition with Syrian ally Iran, whose regime Turkey had courted assiduously. Last week, Ankara agreed to host the forward radar for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization missile-defense system directed at Iran.

While the Obama administration has expressed alarm over the confrontational approach to Israel, U.S. officials said they have been coordinating closely with Turkey in responding to political upheavals in Arab countries—and Washington views Ankara as central to any efforts to stabilize the Mideast.

Turkish officials see the Arab upheavals of 2011 as playing to Turkey's strengths as a model Muslim democracy. They say their "zero problems" policy remains in tune with the Arab Spring, because it shares the same values as the protesters.

The officials now feel ready to press those advantages with Mr. Erdogan's trip next week. "We have made it clear we never had any kind of imperial intentions, but there is demand from the Arab street," Mr. Kalin said in a phone interview on Thursday.

How much Turkish leadership Arab leaders will accept remains an open question. Mr. Erdogan pushed hard, for example, to secure Egyptian permission to cross its border into Gaza, where he would likely receive a hero's welcome for his vocal opposition to Israeli policy. Egypt so far appears to have refused permission for the trip.

So far there is little sign that Israel will bow to threats and meet Turkey's demand that it should apologize for the deaths of nine people in the seizure of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010.

Nor does Cyprus appear to be rushing to compromise in reunification talks, while Syria's President Assad has so far rebuffed pressure to reform from Ankara, as well as from other capitals. Israel sees Turkey's campaign for an end to the blockade of Gaza as part of a strategic decision to gain prominence in the Muslim world at the expense of their old strategic alliance.In Iran, ex-justice minister Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi complained that Turkey is promoting "liberal Islam."

The policy shift doesn't have universal appeal at home, either. Turkey's main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu caused a storm of protest from government officials on Wednesday when he said Turkey's foreign policy had turned from one of zero problems to "zero gains."

For now though, surveys suggest Mr. Erdogan is the most popular leader in the Middle East.

In Egypt, a new zeal for revolutionary change has cast Mr. Erdogan's more confrontational attitude toward Israel and his moderate approach toward political Islam as a model for the democratic experiment. Activists are reportedly planning a welcome party to greet Mr. Erdogan's arrival.

Egyptian foreign-policy institutions are less likely to look to Turkish regional leadership with the same enthusiasm, said an official in Egypt's ministry of foreign affairs. "Egypt is not in the business of following," he said.

Mr. Erdogan, in a speech at Cairo University on Monday, will set out Turkey's vision for the region's future, one defined by "not occupation, not authoritarianism, not dictatorship," said Mr. Kalin.

Mr. Erdogan will also sign bilateral energy and other economic agreements, attend a high-level joint political-security council, meet representatives of the prodemocracy movement and address a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers, according to Mr. Kalin.

Yet Mr. Erdogan's outreach to the Arab world comes with a visibly tougher approach to foreign policy. That includes a series of warnings to Cyprus and Israel in recent days against drilling offshore for natural gas without the involvement of Turkish-backed Northern Cyprus.

"That's what naval forces are for," Egemen Bagis, Turkey's Europe minister told the Sunday's Zaman newspaper.

"In this game of brinksmanship accidents can happen, not least because parts of the Israeli government are prone to high risk-taking," says Professor Ilter Turan, professor of international relations at Istanbul's Bilgi University.

Mr. Turan sees the Turkish government's more aggressive stance as part of a wider confidence that is the result of the ruling Justice and Development Party's sweeping re-election in June.

In a sign of that confidence, Ankara—once careful to court the European Union—this summer threatened to freeze relations with the bloc over Cyprus reunification talks.

Then, in August, Turkey's once all-powerful generals effectively admitted defeat in a power struggle with the government; a new slate of top commanders appears to have accepted civilian control, boosting government confidence.

It isn't clear how far Turkey will go. For example, while Ankara has threatened to send out naval patrols, it has yet to do so. The assault on bases of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party, known as the PKK, is only the first in several years and hasn't expanded into a land campaign.

According to Henri Barkey, Turkey specialist and professor of international relations at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, Turkey is using the latest conflict with Israel in "a bid to recover lost prestige in the Arab world" after the Arab Spring. At the same time, he said, Ankara is bidding for regional leadership and challenging the U.S. to choose between its two closest regional allies.

"It's a very high stakes approach, but they are also very confident," he said.

—Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv, Matt Bradley in Cairo and Jay Solomon in Washington contributed to this article.

Associated Press
ANKARA—Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his belligerent rhetoric against Israel, saying that the country's warships will escort Turkish Gaza-bound aid ships in the future to prevent a repeat of last year's Israeli raid on a flotilla that killed nine people.

Erdogan's comments to Al-Jazeera television broadcast on Thursday was the first time Turkey said it will send warship to help attempts to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. The country had already announced it would increase navy patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in response to Israel's refusal to apologize for the raid.

"At the moment, there is no doubt that the Turkish military ships' primary duty is to protect [Turkish] ships," Anatolia quoted Mr. Erdogan as telling Al-Jazeera. "We will be making humanitarian aid. This aid will no longer be subjected to any kind of attack as the Mavi Marmara was."

Eight Turks and a Turkish American were killed aboard the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, that was part of an international flotilla trying to break the blockade, which Israel imposed in 2007 to keep militants from bringing weapons into Gaza.

Dan Meridor, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of intelligence, said Friday that Mr. Erdogan's threat was "grave and serious."

"Turkey, which declares that Israel is not above international law, must understand that it isn't either," he said.

"I do not think it would be correct to get into verbal saber rattling with him now," Mr. Meridor told Army Radio. "I think that our silence is the best answer, and I hope this will pass."

"I think anyone who is listening can make their own mind up about him and the direction he has chosen," Mr. Meridor said.

A United Nations report into the raid, released last week, said violent activists on board the Mavi Marmara had attacked the raiding naval commandos and described the blockade of Gaza as legitimate, although it also accused Israel of using disproportionate force against the activists.

Turkey rejected the report's findings saying it would never recognize the blockade's legitimacy and insisted on an Israeli apology as well as compensation for the deaths as a precondition for normalization of a relationship once seen as a cornerstone of regional stability.

Last week, it slapped a series of sanctions on Israel—once a top military trading partner—that included the expelling of senior Israeli diplomats and the suspension of all military deals. It has also wowed to back the Palestinians bid for recognition of their statehood at the U.N.

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives aboard the flotilla but has refused to apologize saying its forces acted in self-defense. It has also said it was time for the two countries to restore their former close ties.

« Last Edit: September 09, 2011, 08:33:02 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #52 on: September 09, 2011, 09:54:46 AM »

Second post

Agenda: With George Friedman on Turkish-Israeli Relations
September 9, 2011 | 1359 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

STRATFOR CEO Dr. George Friedman explains the deterioration of the long-standing relationship between Israel and Turkey and how both sides’ geopolitical interests will affect whether that relationship can be re-established.

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

Related Links
Ankara’s Tougher Regional Stance
Colin: The once close relationship between Turkey and Israel has deteriorated further after a United Nations legal panel report on an incident in May last year, when a Turkish aid convoy to Gaza was attacked by Israeli forces, resulting in the death of nine Turkish activists. The report upheld the Israeli government’s right to impose the blockade, but criticized the troops for excessive force. Turkey has now cut all military ties to Israel, and the relationship seems to be in tatters.

Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman. Two questions: to what extent does the U.N. report really escalate the problems between Israel and Turkey; and to what extent does that matter?

George: I don’t think the report itself escalates the situation in any direction. It simply creates a moment in which the crisis that occurred a year ago during a flotilla incident resumes. I think that really the problem between Israel and Turkey hasn’t been resolved — it’s been put on hold — and it really doesn’t revolve around either the flotilla or apologies. It really revolves around the question of whether Turkey and Israel can maintain their relationship they maintained during the Cold War and the years immediately after it. The world has changed fairly dramatically since the Cold War. The region in which Turkey operates is no longer threatened by the Soviet Union. It doesn’t have a common interest with Israel in fighting the Soviets. Turkey is living in a world that is increasingly Islamist as opposed to secular. It’s accommodating itself to it. Israel, in the meantime, has its own interests in trying to preserve what it thinks are its territorial interests, and they simply don’t coincide with what Turkey is saying. Therefore, these are two countries that were once linked with common interests. Those interests have withered, and the relationship is seriously in trouble.

Colin: In this context, do you think Israel and Turkey can repair their relationship and, if they can, what will that new relationship be?

George: Well this is not like a marriage that gets repaired or unrepaired. These are more like businesses who have interests and the question is: will those interest realign? And there are certainly some common interests, though they’re not as deep as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Because the foundation of the relationship has changed, the nature of the relationship is going to change. Also, the tolerance on the part of each side is going to change. From the Israeli point of view, the Turks have changed to becoming unrecognizable, they say. It used to be a secular republic, and they fear that it has become a religious one. From the Turkish point of view, the Israelis have become inflexible and unrealistic in their policies inside the Palestinian Territories 3.18, and the Israelis have simply not been willing to change their visions. So you have two countries — the basis of the relationship having very much dissolved in the past years — each having a view of the other as having changed irrevocably and neither really desperately needing the other. If you look at it on balance, Israel probably needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Israel simply because if Turkey were to throw its weight behind anti-Israeli forces in the region, which it has not done to this point, that would represent a serious challenge to Israel. On the other hand, there is relatively little that Israel can do to Turkey, certainly not in order to change its foreign policy. So you have had deterioration in the relationship. It is hard to imagine it being repaired, certainly not on the basis of which it was before and certainly not to the depth at which it operated before. And also there is a suspicion on both sides that the other has drifted in directions that are not acceptable.

Colin: The relationship degrades. To what extent will this affect Turkey’s relationship with the United States?

George: Well, Turkey is trying very hard not to allow its relationship with the United States to be affected by its problems with Israel. It has gone out of its way to try to draw a distinction between the two. The United States frankly needs Turkey a great deal, particularly as it withdrawals from Iraq, as Iran becomes more assertive in the region. It needs a Turkey that is prepared to align with the United States. Turkey, on the other hand, is not prepared to go it alone yet. It is not in a position to police the region, if you will, simply without U.S. support. So the Turks are trying to be very careful with the Americans to make it very clear that the cause of this rift comes from Israel and Israel’s unwillingness to apologize; Israel’s unwillingness to accept Turkey as it is today; Israel’s intransigence. The Israelis, at the same time, are very aggressive in trying to make it clear that Turkey has moved into the camp of the enemy of the United States by joining with the Islamists and trying to make the case that it alone is the only secure ally the United States has in the region. Those are public relations campaigns. The fact of the matter is that United States has uses for both countries. The use of Israel is certainly declined over the years since the end of the Cold War, but it still has uses in intelligence sharing and other matters, whereas Turkey is an ascendant power and, as an ascendant power, the United States is going to want to have a close relationship with it. The United States is not going to choose between Turkey and Israel and it won’t allow itself to be maneuvered in that direction. But, on the other hand, it is also not going to allow itself to be split off from either country by the other.

Colin: And this begs another question. With much of the Middle East in turmoil, especially its other neighbor, Syria, isn’t there an opportunity for Turkey to assert itself — to take some kind of leadership role?

George: Well, a leadership role is one of those things that people love to use. With leadership comes responsibility; with responsibility comes decisions; and with decisions comes possibility of error and bogging down. So, everybody likes the idea of leadership. The question is: what’s the price for it? Now I think the Turks, very reasonably, are looking around at a region that the United States wasn’t able to pacify, and it doesn’t have the appetite to get engaged in that. For example, it doesn’t know what the price of pacifying Syria would be; it doesn’t know what the future would hold, and, therefore, it evades it. Leadership is a very heavy burden, and the Turks are not going to adopt that before they’re ready.

Colin: George, we’ll leave it there. Thank you. George Friedman, ending this week’s Agenda. Back again next week and, until then, bye for now.

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« Reply #53 on: September 20, 2011, 06:06:08 AM »

Turkey's Rhetoric May Lead To Choppy Waters

Texas-based energy firm Noble Energy began exploratory drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone on Monday, defying Turkish demands to cease and desist. Since the island of Cyprus is divided into two, with one part internally recognized as part of Greece and the other, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, Noble Energy was already venturing into controversial waters. What Noble Energy, Cyprus, the United States and much of Europe likely did not anticipate, however, was that Turkey — for lack of better options — would try using this drilling dispute to herald its return to the eastern Mediterranean.

 Turkey finds itself in an exciting, albeit uncertain position these days. Regional developments — from Iran filling a power vacuum in Iraq, to protracted unrest in Syria and a brewing Egypt-Israel crisis — are pushing Turkey into action. The United States is certainly aware of the problems that are quickly piling up in the Middle East, but Washington is still trying to regain its footing after more than a decade of fighting wars in the Islamic world. Turkey is in a position to ease the United States’ burden in this region. Washington and Ankara will have their fair share of disagreements, but Turkey’s considerable military, political and economic power can help Washington manage the neighborhood while pursuing common strategic interests on other issues, such as the containment of Russia.

“Turkey, unprepared to deal with the more difficult issues, is instead expending a great deal of effort on low-cost rhetorical moves designed to enhance its regional clout.”
Turkey, however, is not quite ready to fulfill this role, and is especially unprepared to project influence in the eastern Mediterranean. It takes time to build up regional clout, and to be credible a country needs to display military strength and political willpower. This may mean losing friends in some places, but for a country with ambitions like Turkey, that could be a small price to pay if it means Turkey’s neighbors will start taking Ankara more seriously. But hard power is, well, hard. Turkey, unprepared to deal with the more difficult issues, is instead expending a great deal of effort on low-cost rhetorical moves designed to enhance its regional clout.

As Turkey is learning in its dealings with Israel, however, rhetoric is of little use when not backed by substance. Condemnations against Israel are a great way for Turkey to enhance its appeal in the Arab street, especially amid pro-Palestinian fervor in the region as the United Nations vote over Palestinian statehood approaches. This led Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week to make a high-profile visit to Cairo, where he tried to evince a fatherly image, that of a regional caretaker come to help Egypt fend off an intractable neighbor. Yet there are no strong indications Turkey is prepared to follow through on threats to deploy frigates to escort Turkish aid ships to Gaza.

Israel finds itself in an increasingly vulnerable position, and cannot afford to alienate a regional neighbor like Turkey, but it also knows that Turkey does not want to get into a shooting war with Israel Defense Forces. Israel and Turkey also have little interest in a covert battle of pitting militant proxies against one another, as Israel’s firebrand Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened recently, announcing that Israel would support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey. That bold statement may not have enjoyed the backing of all of Israel’s leadership, but it did give the Turks pause.

As Turkey realized the limits of its actions with Israel, it quickly turned its attention to the island of Cyprus. On the surface, Cyprus appeared to Turkey a far easier target in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey thus reacted quickly to the news of Noble Energy’s drilling plans, and said that frigates, gunboats and the Turkish air force would be closely monitoring their actions. Moreover, Turkish officials have threatened to send their own oil platform to drill in the disputed waters off the coast of Cyprus, under a continental shelf agreement with the Turkish Cypriot government, and even to provide naval exports for its exploration crews.

Turkey reckons that Europe is far too distracted with the eurozone crisis to come up with a coherent policy for Greece’s troubled finances, much less an energy dispute in Cypriot waters. Ankara also assumed that the United States, already dealing with multiple, growing crises in the eastern Mediterranean, and looking for Turkish assistance to put out many of these fires, would defend Turkey and pressure the Greek Cypriots and Noble Energy to hold back on drilling.

But the Turks appear to have miscalculated. The United States has been extremely quiet in recent days, but an “unnamed senior U.S. official” leaked to reporters that Washington supports “the right” of Cyprus to explore for energy. In other words, Washington was sending a careful, yet deliberate message to Turkey: to not count on U.S. backing in this fight, and to back down. In many ways, Turkey was using the Cyprus dispute as a litmus test in its relationship with the United States. Although Washington has a strategic need to develop a much stronger relationship with Turkey, it does not appear ready to fend for Ankara in this particular dispute. This is bound to cause friction in the coming days between Washington and Ankara.

The Turkish government may need to factor in an additional concern. Greece may indeed be far too distracted with its financial crisis to react decisively to Turkey’s actions against Cyprus. But if Turkey actually tries to follow through with its threat — carrying out overflights and providing naval escorts to energy exploration crews in disputed Cypriot waters — things could get messy. And if a hard-pressed Greek government is looking for a distraction to rally public support, a conflict with Turkey may not be a bad idea — especially if it’s one the Turks weren’t anticipating.

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« Reply #54 on: September 20, 2011, 08:39:41 PM »

second post of day:

Turkey has been an American ally and a member of NATO since 1952. Sometimes it even acts like one.

The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan—the popular three-term prime minister who lately has made his reputation abroad by bashing Israel and distancing Turkey from the West—agreed last week to host a powerful American radar on Turkish territory. The deal helps protect Turks and Europeans from Iranian missiles and deter Tehran's nuclear and regional aspirations.

The X-band radar station, located some 400 miles west of the Iranian border, will be a linchpin of a new missile defense system. The U.S. plans to put 48 interceptors in Romania and Poland that could intercept small- and medium-range missiles. Two years ago, the Obama Administration pulled the plug on plans to build a broader defense shield based in Europe that also protected the continental U.S. against a long-range missile attack. That was a mistake, but this new system is better than none at all.

For Turkey and NATO, the agreement is a security and diplomatic win. During the Cold War, Turkey stood on the frontline against the Soviets. Mr. Erdogan may pal around with Iran's despotic leaders and promote a booming cross-border trade, but he seems to realize the threat from Tehran's atomic ambitions.

This thaw was long in coming. Ankara damaged the U.S. at the onset of the Iraq war in 2003 by, at the last minute, forbidding American troops from invading through Turkey. The security relationship has never recovered, even as Turkey sent troops to Afghanistan and backed this year's Libya intervention. Also welcome are talks to base American drones in Turkey to fight Kurdish militants. The U.S. has been a steadfast ally against Kurdish terrorism, though it gets little credit from Turkey's leaders or public.

The Erdogan government did manage to spoil last week's moment by making even the radar about Israel, leaking that Israel wouldn't get any data gathered by the radar. U.S. officials say they will share any information from the U.S.-owned radar with all allies.

Israel poses no danger to Turkey, even as terrorism and nuclear proliferation do. Were Mr. Erdogan to temper his antipathy for Israel and confront those security challenges squarely, he'd become a more credible leader in the Middle East and a more respected partner for the West.

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« Reply #55 on: September 27, 2011, 05:56:03 AM »

With several remarkable asides thrown in and several years behind the curve,Pravda on the Hudson tries catching up with Stratfor:
ISTANBUL — Not so long ago, the foreign policy of Turkey revolved around a single issue: the divided island of Cyprus. These days, its prime minister may be the most popular figure in the Middle East, its foreign minister envisions a new order there and its officials have managed to do what the Obama administration has so far failed to: position themselves firmly on the side of change in the Arab revolts and revolutions.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, front left, prayed with Libyan and Turkish leaders in Tripoli on Sept. 16.
No one is ready to declare a Pax Turkana in the Middle East, and indeed, its foreign policy is strewn this year with missteps, crises and gains that feel largely rhetorical. It even lacks enough diplomats. But in an Arab world where the United States seems in retreat, Europe ineffectual and powers like Israel and Iran unsettled and unsure, officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision for what may emerge from turmoil across two continents that has upended decades of assumptions.

Not unexpectedly, the vision’s center is Turkey.

“Turkey is the only country that has a sense of where things are going, and it has the wind blowing on its sails,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The country’s foreign policy seized the attention of many in the Middle East and beyond after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour this month of three Arab countries that have witnessed revolutions: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Even Mr. Erdogan’s critics were impressed with the symbolism of the trip.

Though many criticize his streak of authoritarianism at home, the public abroad seemed taken by a prime minister who portrayed himself as the proudly Muslim leader of a democratic and prosperous country that has come out forcefully on the side of revolution and in defense of Palestinian rights.

One Turkish newspaper, supportive of Mr. Erdogan, called the visits the beginning “of a new era in our region.” An Egyptian columnist praised what he called Mr. Erdogan’s “leadership qualities.” And days later, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke boldly of an axis between Egypt and Turkey, two of the region’s most populous and militarily powerful countries, that would underpin a new order in the region, one in which Israel would stay on the margins until it made peace with its neighbors.

“What’s happening in the Middle East is a big opportunity, a golden opportunity,” a senior Turkish official said in Ankara, the capital. He called Turkey “the new kid on the block.”

The trip marked a pivot after what many had viewed as a series of setbacks for a country that, like most of the world, utterly failed to predict the revolts in the region.

After long treating the Arab world with a measure of disdain — Israel and Turkey were strategic allies in the 1990s — Turkey had spent years cultivating ties with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. More than 25,000 Turks worked in Libya, and Syria was seen as the gateway to Turkey’s ambitions to economically integrate part of the Middle East.

Even after the uprisings erupted, Turkey opposed NATO’s intervention in Libya. Until last month, it held out hope that Mr. Assad, despite evidence to the contrary, could oversee a transition in Syria.

Though Mr. Erdogan came out early in demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down in Egypt — at the very time American officials were trying to devise ways for him to serve out his term — that stance came with little cost. Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Erdogan were not fond of each other, and Egyptian officials resented Turkey’s growing profile.

“The old policy collapsed, and a new policy is required now toward the Middle East,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

In an interview, Mr. Davutoglu, viewed by many as the architect of Turkey’s engagement with the region, laid out that new policy. In addition to a proposed alliance with Egypt, he said Turkey would position itself on the side of the revolts, especially in neighboring Syria, which represents Turkey’s biggest challenge. He insisted that Turkey could help integrate the region by virtue of its economy, with its near tripling of exports since Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party took power in 2002.


(Page 2 of 2)

The outline suggested an early version of the European Union for the Middle East — economic integration and political coordination — and Mr. Davutoglu said such an arrangement would eventually require at least a degree of military cooperation.

“There should be regional ownership,” he said. “Not Turkish, not Arab, not Iranian, but a regional ownership.”
The vision is admittedly ambitious, and Mr. Davutoglu’s earlier prescription of “zero problems” with neighbors has run up against the hard realities of the region. Turkey faces a growing crisis over rights to gas in the sea off Cyprus, still divided between Greek and Turkish regions and still a foreign policy mess for Turkey. Relations with Israel collapsed after Israeli troops killed nine people on board a Turkish flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza last year.

Iran, Turkey’s neighbor to the east and competitor in the region, is bitter over a Turkish decision to accede to American pressure and host a radar station as part of a NATO missile defense system. Syrian and Turkish leaders no longer talk with one another.

But the sense of rising Turkish power and influence is so pronounced in the country these days that it sometimes borders on jingoism. It has touched on the country’s deep current of nationalism, and perhaps a hint of romanticism, harbored by the more religious, for Turkey’s return to an Arab world it ruled for more than four centuries.

“We’re not out there to recreate the Ottoman Empire, but we are out there to make the most of the influence we have in a region that is embracing our leadership,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, deputy chairman of external affairs for Mr. Erdogan’s party.

Even those who bristle at what they see as Mr. Erdogan’s arrogance acknowledge that he represents a phenomenon, at home and abroad. He brought his populism to the Arab world, where he displayed an intuitive sense of the resonance that the Palestinian issue still commands, in contrast to American officials who have misunderstood it, failed to appreciate it or tried to wish it away. In speeches, he catered to the West and his domestic critics by embracing a secular state, even as he prayed in suit and tie in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

For a region long stirred with anger at seemingly impotent leaders, submissive to American and Israeli demands, Mr. Erdogan came across as independent and forceful.

Cengiz Candar, a Turkish columnist with a résumé in the Arab world dating from the early 1970s, called it Mr. Erdogan’s “animal-like political intuitions.”

He added: “And these intuitions tell him, apart from the emotions, that you’re on the right track. As along as you take these steps, Turkey is consolidating its stature as a regional power more and more and you will be an actor on the international stage.”

There remains a debate in Turkey over the long-term aims of the engagement. No one doubts that officials with his party — deeply pious, with roots in political Islam — sympathize with Islamist movements seeking to enter mainstream Arab politics, namely the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and, more so, the Nahda Party in Tunisia. Mr. Candar calls them “kinsmen.” “They speak a common dialect,” he said.

But relations remain good with the United States, even if American officials accuse Mr. Erdogan of overconfidence. Some Turkish officials worry that the crisis with Israel will end up hurting the relationship with Washington; others believe that Turkey is bent on supplanting Israel as the junior partner of the United States in the Middle East.

The bigger challenges seem to be within Turkey. Although Turkey has opened new embassies across Africa and Latin America, its diplomatic staff remains small, and the Foreign Ministry is trying to hire 100 new employees per year. Mr. Kiniklioglu, the party official, estimated that no more than 20 people were devising foreign policy.

The exuberance of Turkish officials runs the risk of backlash, too. The Arab world’s long-held suspicion toward Turkey has faded, helped by the soft power of popular Turkish television serials and Mr. Erdogan’s appeal. Yet senior officials acknowledge the potential for an Arab backlash in a region long allergic to any hint of foreign intervention. Somewhat reflexively, Egyptian Islamists, piqued last week by Mr. Erdogan’s comments about a secular state, warned him against interfering in their affairs.

And across the spectrum in Turkey, still wrestling with its own Kurdish insurgency in the southeast, critics and admirers acknowledge that the vision of a Turkish-led region, prosperous and stable, remains mostly a fleeting promise amid all the turmoil. “The image is good,” said Mr. Kalaycioglu, the professor. “Whether it’s bearing any fruit is anyone’s guess. Nothing so far seems to be happening beyond that image.”

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« Reply #56 on: September 27, 2011, 06:51:17 AM »

And across the spectrum in Turkey, still wrestling with its own Kurdish insurgency in the southeast, critics and admirers acknowledge that the vision of a Turkish-led region, prosperous and stable, remains mostly a fleeting promise amid all the turmoil. “The image is good,” said Mr. Kalaycioglu, the professor. “Whether it’s bearing any fruit is anyone’s guess. Nothing so far seems to be happening beyond that image.”

Not too far in the future, the Kurds will outnumber the Turks. We'll see who the insurgents are then.
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« Reply #57 on: September 27, 2011, 09:07:51 AM »

Interesting. I have not seen any discussion of respective population growth , , ,
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« Reply #58 on: September 27, 2011, 12:03:32 PM »

**To quote Mark Steyn "The future belongs to those who show up".

Turkey Can’t Act Rationally

September 9, 2011 - 1:07 pm - by David P. Goldman

Why Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan chose the year 2038 as the point at which his country will cease to exist, I do not know, but that’s what he’s been saying in stump speeches to his home audience, as I report in my new book, How Civilizations Die. He can’t be too far off. A generation from now, Turkey will cease to exist in its present form. The ratio of Turks to Kurds today (defined by cradle tongue) is about 4:1, but Turks have 1.5 children on average, while Kurds have 4.5. In little over a generation, Kurds will comprise half the military-age population of Anatolia. After decades of civil war and 40,000 casualties, Turkey’s Kurdish problem is as vivid as ever.
Erdogan, like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is inherently incapable of rationality. Turks and Persians both show a total fertility rate of 1.5, which portends national disaster–as both leaders have said repeatedly in public. In Turkey, Iran, and almost everywhere in the Muslim world, women with a high school (let alone university education) stop having children. Paradoxically, the best-educated populations–Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey and Iran–have the same fertility rate as the Europeans. Demographically, the Muslim world has passed from childhood to senescence without ever having reached adulthood.
What’s the rational self-interest of a doomed culture? Rather than return to the Western fold, Turkey is likely to become more and more erratic. “Fatalism” does not begin to describe the mindset of the new Turkish Islamism. Its guru, Fethullah Gulen, whose movement controls several Turkish banks, the Zaman news organization, and billions of dollars of other business assets, is a madman by Western standards. He is less a modern Islamic thinker than an Anatolian shaman who lives in a world infested by magic beings, by jinn and sorcerers, as one can verify by consulting his published writings. Erdogan, the small-town Anatolian boy made good, comes from this magical world. He has a peasant’s shrewdness and self-preservation instincts, and a politician’s knack for the pulse of his constituents. The conjunction of his magical world-view and the misery of his country’s long-term prospects, though, cannot have a good outcome.
Update, Sept. 27: Erdogan’s security personnel beat up UN security guards when they attempted to stop the Turkish delegation from going through the wrong door on the way to the General Assembly. The New York Post account includes video. Erdogan mistakenly headed for the visitors’ gallery rather than the General Assembly room, and the guards were attempting to direct him to the correct entrance. That’s without precedent. What planet is this guy from? Hmmmm…. Short temper, craving for sugar? You know who Erdogan reminds us of.
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« Reply #59 on: November 16, 2011, 05:47:16 PM »

Director of Analysis Reva Bhalla discusses the risks Turkey will likely consider in deciding how far it wants to go in supporting the Syrian opposition.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•   Intelligence Guidance: Iran’s Next Move, Eurozone Crisis, Pressure on Syria
•   The Syrian Regime, Under Pressure but Holding
•   The Syrian Opposition: Perception and Reality
Syrian activists claimed Wednesday that army defectors belonging to the Free Syrian Army fired machine guns and RPGs at an Air Force Intelligence base in Hastara, just north of Damascus, around 2:30 a.m. local time. They also claimed to have targeted military checkpoints in the suburbs of Douma, Qaboun, Arabaeen and Saqba. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims, but the reports are directing attention toward the capabilities of the Free Syrian Army and just how far the Turkish government is willing to go in supporting this group of army defectors.
The Free Syrian Army is a group of mostly Sunni conscripts and mid- to low-rank officers who fled to Turkey. This group, led by a Col. Riad al-Asaad, has, with the permission of the Turkish government, set up a base of operations in southern Turkey and has announced the creation of what it calls a temporary military council to oust the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
This group of army defectors is operating under extremely heavy constraints considering that the Syrian security apparatus is dominated by the country’s Alawite minority, the vast majority of which view the current struggle as an existential crisis against the Sunni majority. Unless serious cracks in the army occur among this Alawite command, it will be very difficult for lower ranking Sunni members to find the opening they need to wage a successful coup. Another factor greatly hampering this group is that they need a sanctuary to organize and sustain an armed resistance within effective operating range of the main areas of resistance.
Turkey’s willingness to host the Free Syrian Army raises the question of whether Turkey would be willing to go further in supporting an armed opposition in Syria. Speculation has been raised over whether the refugee camps in southwestern Turkey, where the Free Syrian Army leadership is located, could be extended into a staging ground for Syria’s fledgling armed opposition. Turkey has many options in terms of arming, advising and training these forces, and an idea that has also been raised prominently in the Turkish press and in private talks among Turkish officials is that of Turkey establishing a military buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border with Arab League and possibly U.N. backing. Speculation over how far such a buffer zone would actually extend into Syrian territory varies greatly and there is no clear indication that Turkey is close to a decision on this matter.
Though Turkey has been trying to demonstrate that it has real clout — beyond rhetoric — in pressuring Syria, there are also risks in escalating matters and going so far as to commit forces to the problem. First, it’s important to keep in mind that the areas where the opposition is concentrated — in Homs and Hamas, as well as the Damascus suburbs and Daraa in the southwest — are a fair distance from the northern border with Turkey.
Second, Turkey’s primary security imperative in dealing with Syria is to ensure the instability in Syria does not reach a level that would encourage Kurdish separatist activity from spilling across the border. So far, Kurdish protesters in Syria have been relatively contained. And while there are several thousands of Syrian refugees living in Turkish refugee camps, Turkey is no longer facing an imminent crisis of refugees flooding across the border since most of the Syrian military’s crackdowns have been focused much further south.
Further Turkish escalation would make Turkey vulnerable to Syrian and Iranian militant proxy attacks, a factor that is likely weighing heavily on the minds of the Turkish leadership as they are already dealing with a significant rise in PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) activity and are more interested in focusing their military assets on uprooting PKK cells in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Syria and Iran may not have a great deal of influence on the PKK’s command structure based out of Qandil mountain, but there are a number of splinter factions that could be exploited to demonstrate to the Turks the repercussions of pushing the al Assad regime over the edge.
If Turkey were to seriously contemplate further escalation in Syria and absorb the risks associated with such action, it would be more likely in response to their concerns over the Kurdish threat than their concerns for Syrian citizens. This is why it will be extremely important to watch for signs of unusual Kurdish militant activity in Turkey that the Turkish leadership could trace back to Syria. That would be the game changer that could lead to more serious action from the Turks.
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« Reply #60 on: December 14, 2011, 06:05:29 PM »

Dispatch: U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Turkey
December 14, 2011 | 2032 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Middle East Analyst Reva Bhalla examines the Iranian and Russian reactions to growing U.S.-Turkish strategic ties.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will be traveling to Turkey Thursday for a high-profile visit to showcase a growing U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership. The United States has every reason to display its strategic alliance with Turkey, but with Russia and Iran watching closely, Turkey still has a complex balancing act to maintain.
Panetta’s visit to Turkey comes just two week before a U.S. radar system is scheduled to be installed in eastern Turkey as part of the U.S.-led ballistic missile defense shield. The meetings are also expected to cover a $111 million deal between Ankara and Washington for U.S. drones that would be transferred from Iraq to Turkey as well as the U.S. sale of three AH-1 Super Cobra helicopters to Turkey. These are all items that Turkey has long been requesting from the U.S. to show its support in Turkey’s fight against the Kurdish militant group, the PKK.
There are a lot of reasons why the United States is paying more attention to Turkey these days. The U.S. will next week complete its withdrawal from Iraq, leaving behind a power vacuum for Iran to rapidly fill and use to project influence in the wider region. Turkey, a Sunni, non-Arab country with deep economic, military and political reach in the Middle East, is the natural geopolitical counterweight to Iran in the U.S.’s absence. Mesopotamia, lying between these two powers, is where you can expect to see Iranian-Turkish competition at its fiercest. Though Iran undoubtedly has the strongest foreign hand in Iraq these days, Turkey has been outpacing Iran in building up its intelligence, military and economic assets in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
The most obvious illustration of growing Turkish-Iranian competition can be seen in Syria, where Turkey has very publicly thrown its support behind the Syrian opposition, to the point of hosting Free Syrian Army defectors who are using their Turkish refuge to try and organize an insurgency against the regime in the Syria. Turkey, like the United States, Saudi Arabia and others in the region, see the regime crisis in Syria as the best possible way to cut through Iran’s Shiite arc of influence. Turkey’s moves have greatly unnerved Iran, which much preferred the days when Turkey attempted to be more of an honest broker between the U.S. and Iran and took care to avoid confrontation with its Persian neighbor. This is why the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps recently went so far as to directly threaten an attack on NATO’s missile defense installations on Turkish soil if the U.S. or Israel attacked the Islamic Republic. That was a warning that definitely caught Turkey’s attention, but has not prevented Turkey from following through in its BMD dealings with the United States.
Another key regional power eyeing Panetta’s visit in Turkey is Russia. Russia has already been escalating its protest against U.S. BMD plans in Central Europe in recent weeks, and even threatened to cut off a vital U.S. supply line to Afghanistan if Washington doesn’t reconsider its BMD plans. Russia is not happy with the thought of Turkey aligning itself more closely with the United States on such a strategic defense matter. The BMD installations themselves are not what’s important – what Russia cares about is the fact that the U.S. military is using the BMD shield to enlarge its military footprint in the former Soviet periphery with the ultimate aim of placing a check on Russian power. The Russians, however, do not want to provoke a confrontation with the Turks at this time. The last thing Russia wants is to give Turkey a reason to interfere in Russian designs in areas, like the Caucasus and the Black Sea, where Russian and Turkish influence overlap.
Turkey, highly conscious of its energy dependency on Russia and wary of inviting Iranian proxy attacks on Turkish soil, is not looking necessarily for a collision with Moscow or Tehran over BMD. At the same time, these three powers are operating in an extremely unique geopolitical environment in which all three regional powers — Turkey, Iran and Russia — are rising, while the global hegemon, the United States, is off balance. The growing Turkish-U.S. strategic relationship makes a great deal of sense in this context, but with that comes greater friction between Turkey and its historical regional rivals.
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« Reply #61 on: April 20, 2012, 01:52:28 AM »

The emergence of Turkey
The transition of this minor country into a great power means keeping its balance while the world around it is in chaos.


Turkey is re-emerging as a significant regional power. In some sense, it is in the process of returning to its position prior to World War I when it was the seat of the Ottoman Empire. But while the Ottoman parallel has superficial value in understanding the situation, it fails to take into account changes in how the global system and the region work. Therefore, to understand Turkish strategy, we need to understand the circumstances it finds itself in today.

The end of World War I brought with it the end of the Ottoman Empire and the contraction of Turkish sovereignty to Asia Minor and a strip of land on the European side of the Bosporus. That contraction relieved Turkey of the overextended position it had tried to maintain as an empire stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to the Balkans. In a practical sense, defeat solved the problem of Turkey's strategic interests having come to outstrip its power. After World War I, Turkey realigned its interests to its power. Though the country was much smaller, it was also much less vulnerable than the Ottoman Empire had been.
The Russia Problem

At the same time, a single thread connected both periods: the fear of Russia. For its part, Russia suffered from a major strategic vulnerability. Each of its ports -- St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Murmansk and Odessa -- was accessible only through straits controlled by potentially hostile powers. The British blocked the various Danish straits, the Japanese blocked access to Vladivostok and the Turks blocked access to the Mediterranean. Russian national policy had an ongoing focus of gaining control of the Bosporus both to prevent a blockade and to project power into the Mediterranean.

Therefore, the Russians had a particular interest in reshaping Turkish sovereignty. In World War I, the Ottomans aligned with the Germans, who were fighting the Russians. In the inter-war and World War II periods, when the Soviets were weak or distracted, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it declared war on the Axis. After the war, when the Soviets were powerful and attempted covert operations to subvert both Turkey and Greece, the Turks became closely allied with the United States and joined NATO (despite their distance from the North Atlantic).

From 1945 until 1991 Turkey was locked into a relationship with the United States. The United States was pursuing a strategy of containing the Soviet Union on a line running from Norway to Pakistan. Turkey was a key element because of its control of the Bosporus, but also because a pro-Soviet Turkey would open the door to direct Soviet pressure on Iran, Iraq and Syria. A Soviet-allied or Soviet-influenced Turkey would have broken the center of the American containment system, changing the balance of power. Along with Germany, Turkey was the pivot point of U.S. and NATO strategy.

From a Turkish point of view, there was no other option. The Soviets had emerged from World War II in an extremely powerful position. Western Europe was a shambles, China had become communist and the surplus military capability of the Soviets, in spite of the massive damage they had endured in the war, outstripped the ability of nations on their periphery -- including Turkey -- to resist. Given the importance of the Bosporus and Asia Minor to the Soviets, Turkey was of fundamental interest. Unable to deal with the Soviets alone, Turkey thus moved into an extremely tight, mutually beneficial relationship with the United States.

During the Cold War, Turkey was a strategic imperative of the United States. It faced the Soviets to the north and two Soviet clients, Syria and Iraq, to the south. Israel drew Syria away from Turkey. But this strategic logic dissolved in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. By then, the union had fragmented. Russian power withdrew from the southern Caucasus and Balkans and uprisings in the northern Caucasus tied the Russian military down. Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan gained independence. Ukraine also became independent, making the status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea unclear. For the first time since the early years of the Soviet Union, Turkey was freed from its fear of Russia. The defining element of Turkish foreign policy was gone, and with it, Turkish dependence on the United States.
The Post-Soviet Shift

It took a while for the Turks and Americans to recognize the shift. Strategic relationships tend to stay in place, as much from inertia as intention, after the strategic environment that formed them disappears; it often takes a new strategic reality to disturb them. Thus, Turkey's relationship with the United States remained intact for a time. Its ongoing attempts to enter the European Union continued. Its relationship with Israel remained intact even after the American rationale for sponsoring Turkish-Israeli strategic ties had diminished.

It is much easier to forge a strategic policy in the face of a clear threat than in the face of an undefined set of opportunities. For Turkey, opportunities were becoming increasingly prevalent, but defining how to take advantage of them posed a challenge. For Turkey, the key breakpoint with the past was 2003 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. From Turkey's point of view, the invasion was unnecessary, threatened to empower Iran, and posed domestic political challenges. For the first time since World War II, the Turks not only refused to participate in an American initiative, they also prevented the Americans from using Turkish territory to launch the invasion.

Turkey had encountered a situation where its relationship with the United States proved more dangerous than the threat an alliance with the United States was meant to stave off. And this proved the turning point in post-Soviet Turkish foreign policy. Once Turkey decided not to collaborate with the United States -- its core principle for decades -- its foreign policy could never be the same. Defying the United States did not cause the sky to fall. In fact, as the war in Iraq proceeded, the Turks could view themselves as wiser than the Americans on this subject and the Americans had difficulty arguing back.

That left the Turks free to consider other relationships. One obvious option was joining with Europe, the leading powers of which also opposed the American invasion. That commonality, however, did not suffice to win Turkey EU membership. A host of reasons, from fear of massive Turkish immigration to Greek hostility, blocked Turkey's membership bid. Membership in the European Union was not seen in terms of foreign policy alone; rather, for secularists it symbolized the idea of Turkey as a European country committed to European values. But the decision on membership was not Turkey's to make. Ultimately, the European decision to essentially block Turkey's membership left Turkey with a more dynamic economy than most of Europe and without liability for Greece's debt.

The failure to integrate with Europe and the transformation of ties with the United States from an indispensible relationship to a negotiable (albeit desirable) one finally forced Turkey to create a post-Cold War strategy. That strategy grew out of three facts. First, Turkey faced no immediate existential threat, and even secondary threats were manageable. Second, Turkey was developing rapidly economically and had the most powerful military in its region. And third, Turkey was surrounded by increasingly unstable and dangerous neighbors. Iraq and Syria were both unstable. Iran was increasingly assertive, and a war between Iran and Israel and/or the United States remained a possibility. The Caucasus region was quiet, but the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and ongoing tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia were still significant factors. The Balkans had quieted down after the Kosovo war, but the region remained underdeveloped and potentially unstable. In the past year, North Africa became unstable, Russia became more assertive and the United States began appearing more distant and unpredictable.

Three processes define Turkey's strategy. The first is its rise in relative power. In a region of destabilizing powers, Turkey's relative strength is increasing, which provides Ankara with new options. The second is the possible dangers posed to Turkish interests by the destabilization, which draws Turkey outward, as Ankara seeks ways to manage the instability. The third is the reality that the United States is in the process of redefining its role in the region following the Iraq War and no longer is a stable, predictable force.
The Transitional Stage

Turkey is emerging as a great power. It has not yet become one for a host of reasons, including limited institutions for managing regional affairs, a political base that is not yet prepared to view Turkey as a major power or support regional interventions, and a region that is not yet prepared to view Turkey as a beneficial, stabilizing force. Many steps are required for any power to emerge as a dominant regional force. Turkey is only beginning to take those steps.

At present, Turkish strategy is in a transitional stage. It is no longer locked into its Cold War posture as simply part of an alliance system, nor has it built the foundation of a mature regional policy. It cannot control the region and it cannot simply ignore what is happening. The Syrian case is instructive. Syria is Turkey's neighbor, and instability in Syria can affect Turkey. There is no international coalition prepared to take steps to stabilize Syria. Therefore Ankara has taken a stance in which it refrains from overt action, but keeps its options open should matters become intolerable to Turkey.

When we consider the Turkish periphery as a whole, we see this transitional foreign policy at work, whether in Iraq or in the Caucasus. With Iran, it avoids simply being part of the American coalition while refusing simply to champion the Iranian position. Turkey has not created a regional balance of power, as a mature regional power would. Rather, it has created a Turkish balance of power in the sense that Turkish power is balanced between subordination to the United States and autonomous assertiveness. This period of balancing for an emerging power is predictable; the United States went through a similar phase between 1900 and World War I.

Turkey obviously has two main domestic issues to address as it moves forward. We say "as it moves forward" because no nation ever solves all of its domestic problems before it assumes a greater international role. One is the ongoing tension between the secular and religious elements in its society. This is both a domestic tension and an occasional foreign policy issue, particularly in the context of radical Islamists, where every sign of Islamic religiosity can alarm non-Islamic powers and change their behavior toward Turkey. The other is the Kurdish problem in Turkey, as manifested by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group.

The first problem is endemic in most societies these days; it defines American politics as well. It is something nations live with. The PKK problem, however, is unique. The Kurdish issue intersects with regional issues. For example, the question of Iraq's future involves the extent of autonomy enjoyed by Iraq's Kurdish region, which could have an effect on Turkish Kurds. But the major problem for Turkey is that so long as the Kurdish issue persists, foreign powers opposed to Turkey's rise will see the Kurds as a Turkish weakness and could see covert interventions into the Kurdish regions as an opportunity to undermine Turkish power.

Turkey is already wary of Syrian and Iranian efforts to constrain Turkey through Kurdish militancy. The more powerful Turkey gets, the more uncomfortable at least some in the region will become, and this actually increases Turkey's vulnerability to outside intervention. Therefore Turkey must address the Kurdish issue, since regional unrest and separatism fueled by outside enemies could undermine Turkey's power and reverse its current trend toward becoming a great power.

There is a paradox, which is that the more powerful a nation becomes, the more vulnerable it might be. The United States was undoubtedly safer between the Civil War and its intervention in World War I than any time since. So, too, Turkey was likely safer between 1991 and today than it will be when it becomes a great power. At the same time, it is unsafe to be simply a junior ally to a global power given to taking risks with other countries.

The idea of safety among nations in the long run is illusory. It doesn't last. Turkey's current strategy is to make it last as long as possible. This means allowing events around it to take their course on the reasonable assumption that at present, the outcome of these events doesn't threaten Turkey as much as Turkish intervention would. But as we have said, this is a transitional policy. The instability to its south, the rise of an Iranian sphere of influence, a deepening of Russian influence in the Caucasus and the likelihood that at some point the United States might change its Middle East policy again and try to draw Turkey into its coalition -- all of these argue against the transitional becoming permanent.

Turkey is interesting precisely because it is a place to study the transition of a minor country into a great power. Great powers are less interesting because their behavior is generally predictable. But managing a transition to power is enormously more difficult than exercising power. Transitional power is keeping your balance when the world around you is in chaos, and the ground beneath you keeps slipping away.

The stresses this places on a society and a government are enormous. It brings out every weakness and tests every strength. And for Turkey, it will be a while before the transition will lead to a stable platform of power.
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« Reply #62 on: June 08, 2012, 11:15:49 AM »
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« Reply #63 on: June 25, 2012, 10:32:56 PM »

Turkeys chances of staying a secular state are now close to zero -
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« Reply #64 on: August 07, 2012, 01:06:02 PM »

Turkey's Cautious Approach to Syria
August 7, 2012 | 1100 GMT
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Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani (R) with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Arbil on Aug. 1

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with the president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, in northern Iraq on Aug. 1. Their meeting was one of many diplomatic meetings and visits in the wider region regarding the conflict in Syria. Much attention is focused on Turkey in anticipation of a transition in Syria. But so far, Ankara has resisted pressure to expand its involvement in the Syrian conflict. Facing a litany of risks domestically and regionally, Turkey has pursued a pragmatic and cautious foreign policy, working with proxies and resisting pressure for direct military involvement. Although this strategy makes sense given the pressures and limits Turkey is facing, the many groups and governments across the region whose expectations of Turkey have grown in recent years will be disappointed.


Turkey is on the cusp of becoming a regional power. The Syrian crisis has created an opening for Ankara to expand its influence into Syria and perhaps even into Iraq, both at Iran's expense.

.Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed ways to accelerate the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Ankara has hinted that it would be willing to insert forces in Syria to create a buffer zone, ostensibly to help refugees fleeing regime forces. But Turkey has said it will do so only with help from the international community, in this case from NATO. Ankara even turned to NATO when Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance plane in late June. However, NATO has had no appetite for military intervention in Syria.

Despite its trepidations, Turkey already has played an active role in the Syrian crisis. It has supported Syrian rebels since the start of the conflict and has served as the main sanctuary and hub outside the conflict zone for the rebel Free Syrian Army. Turkey has denied supplying weapons, however. It also reportedly has opened a logistical and operations hub in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the southeastern Turkish city of Adana.

Obstacles to Direct Involvement
Turkey has held back on direct involvement, which would be risky on several fronts. Turkey cannot go into northern Syria against the Kurds without getting bogged down in the larger Syrian conflict. Rather than move against separatist Syrian Kurds, Ankara has relied on Barzani in northern Iraq. Ankara also is leaning heavily on its main ally on the Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, to reach out to fellow Syrian Kurds to rein in Turkey's own militant Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by the Kurdish acronym PKK.

Military intervention would also likely provoke the Iranians, who are desperate to salvage their influence in Damascus. Tehran has issued vague threats of repercussions should Turkey intervene more formally in Syria. Were Turkey to intervene, it could find itself in conflict with Iran's allies in the Levant in addition to battling Syria's Kurds and jihadist elements.

And intervention is widely unpopular in Turkey. The Turkish media have portrayed any intervention as doing the United States' bidding, something of which the government certainly does not want to be accused. Opposition groups, from the smaller ultranationalist to the main opposition party to the pro-Kurdish party, already are trying to exploit the ruling Justice and Development Party's handling of Syria in general and the Kurdish issue in particular. Indeed, opposition reports and rumors in Turkey suggest Davutoglu will soon be replaced as foreign minister because of his handling of the Syrian situation.

Economic questions also demand a cautious approach. The ruling party does not want to risk involvement in an unpopular conflict when potential economic problems could already threaten the ruling party.

Finally, a leadership transition is under way in the ruling party as it seeks to position itself for an attempt to change the Turkish political system from a parliamentary to a presidential or semi-presidential one. Maintaining the party's domestic popularity is key to both efforts.

However, Turkey's ruling party may be prepping its domestic constituencies for expanded involvement. Turkey has seen a steady stream of news reports on the threat posed by separatist Syrian Kurds and on their relationship with the PKK. While regional attention has been focused on military activities in Syria, Ankara has been embroiled in a hard-fought campaign in Turkey's southeastern province of Hakkari on its border with Iran and Iraq. This past weekend, eight soldiers and more than 100 militants died and at least 1,000 villagers evacuated the province. 

Still, Ankara may not be confident that the military would be on board with an intervention in Syria. Moreover, it does not want to put the armed forces in the lead over so controversial a subject. After all, the Justice and Development Party has spent the last decade reducing the role of the Turkish military in domestic affairs.

The Price of Caution
Though Turkey has slowly increased its visibility and role in the Middle East in recent years as it transitions to becoming a regional power, it is not yet able to shape or control events in the region. Instead, it has sought small and strategic relationships with regional players, both governments and smaller, non-state actors.

It may be keeping its options open while it watches Syria's other stakeholders jockey for position, namely Iran, Russia, the United States, France, Qatar, Israel, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia -- a country Turkey does not want a break with but does not want to see emerge as the main beneficiary of the Syrian collapse. (Riyadh is involved in a hostile rivalry with Tehran and has been backing rebels and jihadist groups in the Syrian rebellion.)

But Turkey's strategic pragmatism will come with a cost. High regional expectations of Turkish leadership would go unfulfilled. Thus, Turkey's relationships will not grow and its influence will not expand, at least in the near term. Although Turkey has ample reason to play it safe, it risks appearing overly meek -- hampering its ability to build relationships around the region and potentially benefiting its rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran.


Read more: Turkey's Cautious Approach to Syria | Stratfor
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« Reply #65 on: September 26, 2012, 09:43:20 AM »

Turkey's Kurdish Calculus
Ankara re-embraces its old allies in Washington, at the expense of Tehran and Damascus..

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has made a bloody comeback in Turkey. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, PKK-related violence has killed some 700 people since the summer of 2011. This deadly toll recalls the horrors of the 1990s, when thousands of civilians were killed in PKK terror attacks and a brutal war in eastern Turkey between the government and Kurdish militants.

The resurgence of PKK violence is no accident. It is directly related to Turkey's defiant posture in support of the Syrian uprising and against the Assad regime and its patrons in Iran. The upside for the West is that Ankara is starting to re-embrace its old friends in Washington.

The breakdown in Turkish-Syrian ties began in the summer of 2011. Since then, Damascus has once again allowed the PKK to operate in Syria. Meanwhile, to punish Ankara for its Syria policy, Iran's leaders have made peace with the Kurdish rebels they had been fighting, letting the PKK focus its energy against Turkey.

This was not Ankara's plan. When the Syrian uprising began in spring 2011, Turkish leaders initially encouraged Bashar Assad's regime to reform. In August 2011, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spent six hours in Damascus asking Assad to stop killing civilians.

The Syrian tyrant not only disregarded Turkey's pleas; he also sent tanks into Hama hours after Mr. Davutoglu left the capital. Thereafter, Ankara broke from Assad and began calling for his ouster. Turkey began providing safe haven to Syrian opposition groups, and media reports have even indicated that Ankara has been arming the Syrian rebels.

Assad responded by letting the PKK operate in Syria after keeping a lid on the group for more than a decade. In 1998, Assad's father had cracked down on the longtime presence of Kurdish militants in Syria, after Turkey threatened to invade if Syria continued to harbor the PKK. This spring, Assad allowed the PKK to move some 2,000 militants into Syria from their mountain enclave in northern Iraq. Assad, in effect, signaled to Ankara: "Help my enemy, and I will help yours."

The Iranian regime has spoken in similar tones. In September 2011, immediately after Ankara started to confront the Assad regime, Tehran reconciled with the PKK's Iranian franchise, the Party for Freedom and Life in Kurdistan. Tehran had been fighting its Kurdish rebels since 2003, as part of a strategy to take advantage of the rift between Turkey and the U.S. at the onset of the Iraq War. By helping Turkey defeat Kurdish militias, Iran had hoped to win Ankara's favor at the expense of its own archenemy: Washington. But Iran flipped this posture last year, and by making peace Kurdish militants, it gave the PKK freedom to target Turkey.

The new stance on the PKK could not have worked so well against Turkey had the Syrian uprising not excited Kurds across the Middle East, including in Turkey. As Syrian rebels eroded the regime's power in northern Syria this summer, Kurds started taking control of cities there, just across the border with Turkey.

Encouraged by this development, the PKK has tried to wrest control of Turkish towns, targeting especially vulnerable spots in the country's rugged and isolated southernmost Hakkari province, which borders Iraq and Iran. Although the PKK has not yet secured any territory, the battle for Hakkari has caused hundreds of casualties over recent months.

Iran appears to be complicit in this new PKK assault, at least in part. Last month Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters that the government had "received information that [PKK] terrorists infiltrated from the Iranian side of the border" before launching a massive assault on the town of Semdinli in Hakkari. Tehran denies this.

Rejuvenated by its welcome in Syria and Iran, and also by Ankara's stunted "Kurdish Opening"—an aborted effort in 2009 that had aimed to improve Kurds' rights in Turkey—the PKK is now spreading tension beyond the Kurdish-majority areas of southeastern Turkey. On Aug. 20, the group killed nine people with a car bomb in Gaziantep, a prosperous and mixed Turkish-Kurdish city that had been spared from PKK violence. Once again, the Syrian-Iranian axis cast its shadow over the assault: Turkish officials alleged Syrian complicity in the Gaziantep attack, and when Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met with Turkey's prime minister in Istanbul on Sept. 18, he was also reportedly admonished.

Ankara's Middle East policy rests on one basic premise: that anyone who supports the PKK is Turkey's enemy. It follows that Ankara has a problem with Damascus until Assad falls, and a long-term problem with Tehran even after Assad falls.

Accordingly, these shifting stones in the Middle East are also bringing Ankara closer to its longtime ally the U.S. Turkey has agreed to host NATO's missile-defense system, which aims to protect members of the Western alliance from Iranian and other nuclear threats.

After weeks of attacks and riots against their embassies elsewhere in the Middle East, Americans may well be wondering if the Arab Spring has had any positive consequences at all for the U.S. The severing of Turkish-Iranian ties, at least, can count as one.

Mr. Cagaptay is a Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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« Reply #66 on: October 30, 2012, 10:33:37 AM »
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« Reply #67 on: December 13, 2012, 04:15:43 PM »

Life Deteriorating for Turkish Women
Wed, December 12, 2012
 Abigail R. Esman

Secular and religious Turkish women took to the streets to protest against Prme Minister Erdogan, who sparked outrage when he delivered two fiery speeches attacking abortion and Caesarean births as "secret" plots designed to stall Turkey's economic growth in May 2012. (Photo: Reuters)At a casual café in Istanbul, a woman in her twenties sits and stares morosely at her plate, stirring her food absently with her fork. Her four-year-old son reaches out and starts to scramble across the table towards her; annoyed, she scolds him and pushes him back into his seat. Her husband, dark and swarthy, goes right on eating.
She is small, this woman, though growing plump. She wears no makeup; and on this street, the Istiklal Caddesi, where other Turkish girls sway their hips and saunter in micro-miniskirts and counterfeit Louboutins, her only form of adornment isn’t really adornment at all: A plain tan scarf splashed with dark brown and salmon-colored flowers, a hijab she wears not for fashion, but for piety.
One sees more and more of these women lately in Istanbul. They are part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “new religious generation,” an active force in a movement that is turning Turkey, secularized nearly 100 years ago by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic,Turkish women in a cafe in Istanbul, 2007. The situation of women in Turkey has deteriorated as the Islamists have gained more power. further and further from the West and more towards its Islamic – even Islamist – neighbors in the Middle East.  It is a movement that can have profound consequences for the West – Turkey is, after all, a full member of NATO – as much as for the Turks themselves.
But right now, nobody is feeling it more than Turkish women.
This country, split between East and West, and for the past century a bridge between them, is now feeling a profound split from within, as religious groups gain power over the secular elite that has long held the country’s reins.  “Young people are becoming more religious,” a friend tells me – significant when you consider that the majority of Turks are under the age of 30.
The effect this is having on women is two-fold. For the religious, it signals a return to patriarchal lifestyles: Not only are they willing to accept arranged marriages for themselves, but they insist on the same fate for their daughters.  Few enter the workforce, reflecting the government’s increasing emphasis on family and the Prime Minister’s view, explicitly put forth in a This popular Turkish women's fashion magazine created a stir last year when it promoted a woman in a hijab on its cover for the first time.speech on International Women’s Day 2008, in which he called on his “dear sisters” to produce “at least” three children --- and preferably more.  Two years later, he went even further: “I don’t believe in equality between men and women,” he said.
These changes have an even more profound effect on less religious women, the ones who prefer to marry for love, to work outside the home, to live a Western, secularized life. As Turkish men become more conservative – and younger, conservative men mature -- they are less willing to accept these kinds of behaviors in their wives and sisters, their nieces and their daughters – and the numbers show it.
Domestic and “honor” violence statistics have soared since Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2003; recent studies show a nearly 15- fold increase reported in honor killings between 2002 and 2009. (It is also well worth noting that, while UN figures show the number of honor killings globally at 5,000 per year, a Christian Science Monitor report cited nearly 1,000 in Turkey alone for the first seven months of 2009 – which, if true, tells a lot about both Turkey and the real rate of honor killings worldwide. However, other reports put the number of honor murders at a high of 160 in 2011.
None of these figures, however, include statistics for Turkey’s latest trend, known as “honor suicide” – when a woman (or girl) chooses to end her own life rather than wait for her family to do it for her, or to endure a life of misery with a man her family has forced her to wed.   (Honor suicides have also been reported among young gay Turkish men.) True ciphers for this trend are hard to come by, however, as more and more honor killings are being declared “suicides” in family-kept conspiracies aimed at keeping the murderers out of prison.
Other women simply succumb.  In one unspeakable story, the family of an 18-year-old girl locked her in a room with the man they’d chosen for her husband  --  and encouraged him to rapePromotion for the film "Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare" shown in New York in 2010.The film addresses the obstacles and challenges women in Turkey face that prevent them from reaching their potential. her.  If they had sex, the reasoning went, she would be forced to marry him for “honor.”  Instead, she escaped, and both the family and the groom-to-be were arrested, though the family later released.  The young woman, known only by her initials – O.A. -- subsequently recanted, and the couple married in September. One can only assume it was a marriage made in fear, and not in love.
But sexual molestation – family sanctioned and otherwise – is commonplace. Human Rights Watch cites a May, 2011 study that puts the number of Turkish women who have experienced “physical or sexual violence inflicted by a relative at some point in their lives” at a staggering 42 percent—reflecting the UN Development’s ranking of the country at number 83 on its Gender Inequality index – lower than Iran.  (The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index for 2011 listed Turkey at number 122 out of 135 countries).
Is it any wonder the hijabed woman in the Istiklal Caddesi café looked so defeated?
In fairness, honor killings long predate the arrival of Erdogan and his Islamizing efforts, and so arguably the spike in numbers of reported incidents reflects not a rise in the incidence of such murders but rather, a growing awareness of them and willingness of women themselves to seek help. (Interestingly, of the 12 honor killings reported annually in the Muslim community in Holland, the majority take place in Turkish homes, even as it is the Moroccan immigrants who tend to be more inclined to radicalize.)

Supporters of the current government will argue that Erdogan has put into place several measures defending women against domestic abuse: New programs train women to combat violence with physical force, and judges are now permitted to impose restraining orders against non-spousal abusers (fiancés, brothers, boyfriends and so on).
But from all indications, this has hardly helped. Police usually send women back to their families, however bloodcurdling their abuse, however desperate the threat may be to their lives.   Despite a law “recommending” women’s shelters for communities larger than 50,000, according to the Christian Science Monitor, “few have paid attention to the vaguely worded, noncompulsory legislation, and so far only 65 are operating, compared to the 1,400 that would exist with proper implementation.”  The truth is, a government eager to be viewed as a friend to Iran – in part a the backlash against the EU’s continued rebukes – is not likely to step up to the plate for women’s rights.
Which is also likely why Human Rights Watch reports that “illiteracy figures released by the government show great disparities between men and women: 3.8 million of the 4.7 million people who are illiterate [in Turkey] are women.”  Not coincidentally, they are also conservative Muslims (or the daughters and wives of conservative Muslims), trapped in homes ruled often by tribal and barbaric customs of misogyny and violence – in short, Salafist interpretations of the Koran.
They are women without hope.
But rather than work to educate these women, or to establish a culture that promotes their equality and freedom, the government’s primary emphasis is being placed on those things that create and perpetuate the violence in the first place:  The building of a more conservative Muslim society that keeps women at home, supports a more pious lifestyle, and discourages women – and others – from pursuing their independence.
Turkish pianist Fazel SayThis, after all, is the government that has also imprisoned hundreds of journalists on trumped-up charges, and is now prosecuting pianist Fazel Say for “insulting Islam” in his Twitter feed. 
Evidently, despite its name -- the Justice and Development Party – Turkey’s ruling politicians have a long way to go before they begin understanding what justice truly is. And until that time, the despicable abuse and the cowardly, heartless killing of Turkish women will go on.
Abigail R. Esman, an award-winning writer based in New York and the Netherlands, is the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West
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« Reply #68 on: December 27, 2012, 05:16:41 PM »
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« Reply #69 on: February 06, 2013, 08:31:27 AM »

Recent steps taken by the government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.
Here is the evidence:
Starting in 2007, Ankara applied three times, unsuccessfully, to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (informally known as the Shanghai Five). Founded in 1996 by the Russian and Chinese governments, along with three former Soviet Central Asian states (a fourth was added in 2001), the SCO has received little attention in the West, although it has grand security and other aspirations, including the possible creation of a gas cartel. More, it offers an alternative to the Western model, from NATO to democracy to the U.S. dollar as reserve currency. After being rejected for membership on the third try, Ankara applied for “Dialogue Partner” status in 2011. In June 2012, it won approval.
One month later, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reported that he had said to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, “Come, accept us into the Shanghai Five [as a full member] and we will reconsider the European Union.” Mr. Erdogan reiterated this idea on Jan. 25, noting stalled Turkish efforts to join the European Union: “As the prime minister of 75 million people,” he explained, “you start looking around for alternatives. That is why I told Mr. Putin the other day, ‘Take us into the Shanghai Five; do it, and we will say goodbye to the EU.’ What’s the point of stalling?” He added that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “is much better, it is much more powerful [than the EU], and we share values with its members.”
On Jan. 31, the Foreign Ministry announced plans for an upgrade to “Observer State” at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. On Feb. 3, Mr. Erdogan reiterated his earlier point, saying, “We will search for alternatives,” and praised the Shanghai group’s “democratization process” while disparaging European “Islamophobia.” On Feb. 4, President Abdullah Gul pushed back, declaring, “The SCO is not an alternative to the EU. … Turkey wants to adopt and implement EU criteria.”
What does this all amount to?
The SCO feint faces significant obstacles: While Ankara leads the effort to overthrow Bashar Assad, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization firmly supports the beleaguered Syrian leader. NATO troops have just arrived in Turkey to staff Patriot batteries protecting that country from Syria’s Russian-made missiles. More profoundly, all six SCO members strongly oppose the Islamism that Mr. Erdogan espouses. Perhaps, therefore, Mr. Erdogan mentioned SCO membership only to pressure the European Union or to offer symbolic rhetoric for his supporters.
Both are possible. I take the half-year-long flirtation seriously for three reasons. First, Mr. Erdogan has established a record of straight talk, leading one key columnist, Sedat Ergin, to call the Jan. 25 statement perhaps his “most important” foreign policy proclamation ever.
Second, as Turkish columnist Kadri Gursel points out, “The EU criteria demand democracy, human rights, union rights, minority rights, gender equality, equitable distribution of income, participation and pluralism for Turkey. SCO as a union of countries ruled by dictators and autocrats will not demand any of those criteria for joining.” Unlike the European Union, Shanghai members will not press Mr. Erdogan to liberalize, but will encourage the dictatorial tendencies in him that so many Turks already fear.
Third, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization fits his Islamist impulse to defy the West and to dream of an alternative to it. The SCO, with Russian and Chinese as official languages, has a deeply anti-Western DNA, and its meetings bristle with anti-Western sentiments. For example, when Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the group in 2011, no one contradicted his conspiracy theory that Sept. 11 was a U.S. government inside job used “as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for killing and wounding over a million people.” Many backers echo Egyptian analyst Galal Nassar in his hope that ultimately the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “will have a chance of settling the international contest in its favor.” Conversely, as a Japanese official has noted, “The SCO is becoming a rival bloc to the U.S. alliance. It does not share our values.”
Turkish steps toward joining the Shanghai group highlight Ankara’s now-ambivalent membership in NATO, starkly symbolized by the unprecedented joint Turkish-Chinese air exercise of 2010. Given this reality, Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey is no longer a trustworthy partner for the West, but more like a mole in its inner sanctum. If not expelled, it should at least be suspended from NATO.
Daniel Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum

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« Reply #70 on: April 01, 2013, 04:48:42 PM »


The recent thaw in tensions between Israel and Turkey will have little impact on the countries' long-term relationship. Though Israel and Turkey have certain common interests, the Turkish government in Ankara can be expected to maintain distance from Israel while attempting to exert influence in the surrounding region. Turkey will use its acceptance of the U.S.-brokered apology by Israel on March 22 over the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in 2010 to try to secure stronger U.S. backing for its policies in the region. The United States, meanwhile, will continue to be selective in its involvement in the Middle East. Washington's recent diplomatic feat in Israel was intended to expand U.S. options, both by opening a door for greater coordination with Turkey and by reasserting U.S. primacy in its relationship with Israel.

U.S. President Barack Obama's success in pressuring Israel to apologize may have appeared rushed and lacking in diplomatic fanfare, but it illustrated how the United States intends to manage the increasingly volatile region. For example, U.S. restraint in Syria has shown that Washington intends to involve itself less directly in the Middle East, to whatever extent this is possible, in order to focus more on other parts of the world. This strategy requires the United States to strengthen like-minded countries such as Turkey to maintain a balance of power in the region and reduce the need for a costly intervention.
The openly hostile relationship between Turkey and Israel has made it difficult politically for the White House to advance its relationship with Ankara without appearing to sacrifice the interests of its long-time ally. But Obama also needed to assert control over the U.S. relationship with Israel, which tried to force the United States into action on Iran by threatening to unilaterally strike the country and by using its relationships in the U.S. Congress to pressure the president. Any attempt by Israel to act unilaterally against Iran would face severe constraints, but the United States still needs to limit the possibility of getting pulled into a conflict it would rather avoid. Obama carefully appealed to Israeli concerns while in the country, but his ability to push Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into issuing an apology toward the end of the visit offered a tangible demonstration of U.S. dominance over Israeli foreign policy.
Turkey's Interests
Ever since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized Israel at the World Economic Forum in 2009, Ankara has tried to use its confrontational stance toward Israel to build credibility in the Muslim world. But this strategy has limits: While Turkey may have gained favor among its neighbors, Ankara's ability to affect Israeli action has diminished. This reality was starkly on display during Israel's Pillar of Cloud operation in the Gaza Strip in late 2012. While Egypt demonstrated its ability to influence the behavior of both Israel and Hamas by negotiating and enforcing a cease-fire, Turkey appeared powerless to do much in spite of its mediation efforts.

VIDEO: Turkey's Geographic Challenge
Turkey quibbled over the exact phrasing of the March 22 Israeli concession to ensure it was termed an "apology" rather than an "expression of regret." It did this because eliciting an apology from Israel, whose willingness to take unilateral action is strongly resented across the region, carries enormous symbolic value. The diplomatic victory came at a critical political juncture for Erdogan: The Turkish prime minister is trying to combat the growing perception that Ankara is impotent in foreign affairs while also attempting to negotiate a cease-fire with Kurdish militants and rewrite Turkey's constitution. Factions from across the Turkish political spectrum have praised the ruling party for securing the Israeli apology, eagerly heralding the move as a restoration of Turkish confidence in the region. Erdogan will use this newfound political capital as he pursues thornier domestic issues in the months ahead.
Turkey also hopes to use warmer relations with Israel to strengthen ties with the United States. Without U.S. backing, Turkey -- still early in its resurgence as a regional power -- has struggled to exert influence in the Middle East and achieve tangible results and is looking to Washington to reinforce its positions throughout the region. In Syria, Turkey has been pushing for stronger U.S. support for Sunni rebels. In Iraq, Turkey needs U.S. political backing to counter Iran more effectively and to strengthen energy ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government. In the Caucasus, Turkey wants greater U.S. involvement in Georgia and Azerbaijan to balance out Russia's growing influence. Though the United States is unlikely to become as involved in such areas as Turkey hopes, easing tensions with Israel could help facilitate a U.S.-Turkish strategic dialogue on many of these issues.
Turkey also had energy politics in mind when it considered restoring a working relationship with Israel. Over the past couple years, Ankara has watched in frustration as Israel and Cyprus attracted foreign investors to develop the countries' offshore natural gas reserves. To compensate for its soured ties with Turkey, Israel had aligned more closely with Greece and Cyprus, leaving Ankara on the sidelines of energy development in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish officials have talked openly about Ankara's interest in developing an undersea pipeline with Israel to link the country to the European market -- a project that would involve a multitude of political and technical complications. For its part, Israel wants to use its energy assets to reinforce strategic political relationships in the region. But part of what Turkey hopes to achieve by establishing a working relationship with Israel is to undermine the Israeli-Cypriot energy partnership and deter further cooperation between Israel and Greece in what Ankara considers its geopolitical domain.
While Turkey may have mended ties with Israel, at least on the surface, Ankara will remain somewhat distant. For example, Turkey issued only a restrained response to Netanyahu's apology, and Erdogan said on March 25 that ties cannot be fully normalized until Israel lifts its blockade of Gaza. Turkey's goal is to reinforce its credibility as a regional alternative to the United States -- one capable of dealing effectively with Israel while retaining popular support both at home and in the near abroad.
In light of the supposed Israeli-Turkish reconciliation, the United States may hope to elicit stronger cooperation from Turkey against Iran, but Ankara will still need to exercise caution in how it deals with Tehran. Turkey has carefully balanced its competition with Iran in Syria and Iraq by cooperating with Tehran in other areas, such as helping the Iranian regime circumvent U.S. sanctions. Iran remains a significant supplier of natural gas to Turkey, and the robust trade links between the two countries have helped keep the geopolitical rivalry from escalating. Moreover, the prospect of closer coordination among Turkey, Israel and the United States against Iran -- while Ankara is trying to maintain a delicate truce with militants from the Kurdish Workers' Party -- could spur threats or attempts by the Iranian and Syrian regimes to facilitate Kurdish attacks. Turkey's sensitivity to Kurdish militancy and Iran's ability to exploit this concern will affect the degree of Ankara's cooperation with Jerusalem and Washington against Tehran.
Israel's Lack of Options

 Israel is facing the uncomfortable reality that the strategic foundation that has defined the U.S.-Israeli relationship since 1973 has weakened considerably. During the Cold War, Israel was an integral part of the U.S. strategy to balance Soviet-backed Egypt and Syria. Today, Israel can do little to substantially affect the conflicts happening near its borders. The violent fragmentation of Syria and Lebanon in the northern Levant is among the most urgent drivers of Israel's need to re-establish a working relationship with Turkey -- an impetus expressed by Netanyahu himself in a statement on March 23. And while Israeli leaders also frequently emphasize the urgency of the Iranian nuclear situation, Israel's inability to carry out a unilateral military strike against Iran and handle the political and military consequences of such an operation without the United States means it cannot detach itself from U.S. policy in the region.
If Israel cannot afford to alienate the United States while the Middle East is destabilizing, then it also cannot avoid Turkey. Ankara still faces substantial barriers to its influence in the Arab world, but it has succeeded in cultivating ties throughout the region, particularly among Islamist groups whose relevance has been growing at the expense of regimes relied upon by Israel for decades to maintain a regional balance of power. Moreover, despite Turkey's limitations, Washington sees strengthening relations with Ankara as a strategic way to influence the region, while the U.S. relationship with Israel is a liability toward this end. Therefore, Israel needs Turkey far more than Turkey needs Israel in order to maintain its relationship with the United States.
The subordination of Israeli policy to U.S. interests is not easily acknowledged, but it was arguably the most important result of Obama's trip to the region. The United States now has a much lower tolerance for Israeli efforts to force policy preferences on Washington. And the more Israel's vulnerabilities grow, the more it will need to rely on the United States to help mitigate threats on its borders. The United States would like to rely more on Turkey to help manage the region, but Washington first needs a closer relationship with Ankara to shape areas of common interest. Though Turkey will place limits on how far it goes in working with Israel, even a diplomatic gesture between these two powers could facilitate the U.S. strategy to manage this volatile region from a distance.

Read more: The U.S. Role in Warming Israeli-Turkish Relations | Stratfor
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« Reply #71 on: April 05, 2013, 12:57:46 AM »
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« Reply #72 on: May 06, 2013, 08:43:05 AM »

The Political Benefits of a Nuclear Deal in Turkey
May 6, 2013 | 1002 GMT

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced May 3 during Abe's visit to Ankara that the Turkish government has selected a Japanese-French consortium to build a nuclear power plant on the Black Sea coast. The deal is still in its preliminary stages, and another costly nuclear deal between Turkey and Russia has seen little progress. Still, the announcement itself has the potential to shape perceptions on the revival of the nuclear power industry after Japan's Fukushima reactor disaster, maintain political relationships and drive investor interest in Turkey.


The power plant, which would have a production capacity of 4,500-5,000 megawatts, would be located on the Sinop peninsula on Turkey's northern Black Sea coast. Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Itochu Corp., along with French utility firm GDF Suez, make up the consortium that beat out China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co. in the final bidding round. The plan calls for the installation of four Atmea-design 1,100-megawatt reactors (a smaller and less expensive version of the third-generation European Pressurized Reactors) jointly developed by French nuclear engineering firm Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The plant would be operated by GDF Suez with a local Turkish partner. No details have been released yet on the distribution of stakes or on a financing plan for the estimated $22 billion project, but a representative of Japan Bank for International Cooperation, a state-owned policy financing institution, was part of the Japanese delegation in Turkey. Turkey would also need to create a nuclear safety regulatory agency to provide building permits. Preliminary estimates aim to start construction in 2017 and begin operations by 2023, should the deal be finalized.
The road from a preliminary nuclear cooperation agreement to an operational nuclear facility is a long and difficult one. The government, engineering and utility firms, regulatory bodies, environmental lobby groups and banks need to sort out critical details, such as an environmentally safe location for the site, the disposal of nuclear waste, operational control over the facility, supply of nuclear fuel, questions over transfer of technology, competition from other energy sources and financing for the multibillion-dollar project. This process takes on average 10-15 years, an extensive investment period during which many things can change. Until the construction crews break ground and the loans are lined up, prospects for a nuclear power plant deal coming to fruition should be treated with caution.
That said, the mere signing of a deal can still yield notable benefits in creating favorable perceptions on nuclear energy and in maintaining strategic political relationships.
A Public Relations Boost for Nuclear Power

Demand for nuclear power took a substantial hit following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, affecting the bottom line for major nuclear industrial powers like Japan as well as France, which saw a slowdown in its overseas nuclear investments. At the same time, an increasingly competitive natural gas market has influenced countries who are already reticent toward nuclear power. For example, Germany, which has a developing political relationship with Russia and depends on Russia for 40 percent of its natural gas needs, has committed to completely phasing out nuclear power by 2022. At the same time, Central European countries like Hungary and Slovakia are being tempted by Russian offers to build and finance nuclear power plants as Moscow seeks to diversify its energy tools of influence in Europe.
The French nuclear industry -- including major firms Areva and EDF, with the government holding majority shares in both -- has been facing rising political and financial resistance to nuclear power at home and throughout Europe. Nuclear power plant projects involving EDF in Normandy and Areva in Finland are both running behind schedule and over budget. While not uncommon, these delays and risings costs come at a time when EU infrastructure funding is increasingly jeopardized. French industrial powers are therefore looking beyond Europe for business and a fresh vote of confidence. Areva, for example, is building two European Pressurized Reactors for China's Taishan plant and in late April signed a deal with China for a facility to process nuclear fuel. A multibillion-dollar deal in Turkey helps drive the perception that France's nuclear industry is recovering. On another level, nuclear cooperation between France and Turkey could help alleviate the growing strain in political relations between Paris and Ankara over Turkey's political estrangement from the European Union.
For Japan, the Turkish nuclear deal is a major public relations victory. Sinop is the first contract for Japanese companies to export a nuclear power plant since the Fukushima crisis. In the years preceding the disaster, Japan had embarked on a campaign to lock down nuclear cooperation agreements and infrastructure export deals with emerging markets. In addition to renewing existing agreements with Russia and South Korea, Japan signed agreements with Kazakhstan (2007), Indonesia (2007), Vietnam (2008), the United Arab Emirates (2009), Jordan (2009), Italy (2009) and Mongolia (2009). It also held talks with many other states in Southeast and East Asia, the Middle East and Central Europe. But with criticism rising over Fukushima, and the subsequent shutdown of all of its reactors (only two of which have restarted to date), Japan risked losing out in nuclear export deals to competitors.

But Japan was not willing to forgo nuclear technology as a core tenet of its economic strategy. The legislature approved preliminary nuclear agreements with Vietnam and Jordan in December 2011. And with the Liberal Democrats taking power in late 2012 and launching an economic revitalization program, new funds are becoming available to push nuclear exports more aggressively.
Turkey' Seismic Hazard

Japan already has a reputation for superior technology and the ability to provide quality human and technical support in these nuclear deals. The fundamental challenge that Japan faced in seeking the contract was in trying to present the crisis at Fukushima as something other than proof of faults in its engineering and construction. Japan needed to shift the narrative and emphasize the extraordinary circumstances at Fukushima (the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that breached the Daiichi plant's walls), and use them to stress the value of Japanese expertise and experience in coping with such a catastrophic scenario. The Turkish plant in Sinop lies on the Black Sea coast, just off the North Anatolian Fault, where the epicenters of Turkey's biggest earthquakes in recent decades have been located. Erdogan noted specifically that the decision to grant Japan the contract arose from the two countries' shared proneness to earthquakes and Japan's ability to give first-hand advice on security and safety measures. The Turkish decision also paves the way for Japan to pursue nuclear export deals in other emerging markets, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council states, which can afford nuclear power, are trying to sustain their energy resources for the long term, and are not comfortable with allowing Iran to be the only nuclear power in the Persian Gulf region.
Turkey's Interest in Nuclear Power

Turkey in many ways is an obvious candidate for nuclear power. Turkey is the world's 17th-largest economy by GDP, and though its growth estimates will be tempered by the depressed European market, its industrial development and population of 73 million are rising steadily and are thus driving up electricity consumption. Turkey's lack of domestic resources to match this growing demand has forced it to import more than 90 percent of its energy resources. Beyond a ballooning current account deficit, this also creates major dependencies on energy suppliers like Russia and Iran, with which Turkey has complicated political relationships.
Turkey has been toying with nuclear proposals since 1970, but proposal after proposal has fallen by the wayside due to commercial feasibility issues, lack of demand up until the 1990s, the availability of cheaper energy alternatives and heavy environmental resistance. Most of Turkey is located in seismically active zones, making it difficult for the Turkish government to win the public's confidence in moving ahead with these projects. Under the Justice and Development Party, Turkey has the political continuity and popular support to carry its nuclear plans forward, but it still faces growing constraints in trying to finance these costly projects, especially with Europe in economic decline.
Turkey's Electricity Consumption and Generation

These nuclear deals, while difficult to bring to fruition, still carry political value for Turkey. In 2010, Turkey signed a deal with a Russian-led consortium led by Atomstroyexport and Inter RAO to build a $20 billion 4.8-gigawatt power plant near Turkey's southern coastal town of Akkuyu. This deal to build one of the largest nuclear power facilities in the world is still in the political phase and may well remain there. Though Ankara often expresses its desire to diversify its energy supply away from Russia, this is simply is not a realistic option for Turkey in the foreseeable future. Even if these two latest nuclear projects were implemented, they would only address a fraction of Turkey's electricity demand at an enormous cost. Moreover, the nuclear deal with Russia would not lessen Turkey's dependency on Russia. Russia pursues these deals, much like it is currently doing in Central Europe, with the strategic intent to maintain operational control of the project beyond the construction phase by supplying nuclear fuel and engineers to run the plant. Turkey is likely well-aware of the political conditions that could come attached to this deal, but having it on the table allows Ankara to maintain a careful balancing act with Russia, especially as they both have opposing interests in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Turkey has stated goals to build several nuclear power plants in the next decade, but those goals are probably overly ambitious. The Japanese-French nuclear deal likely has a higher chance of proceeding than the Russian deal, but it is still too early to tell. At the very least, the announcement of the multibillion-dollar energy project drives investor interest in Turkey as the country aims to rapidly develop infrastructure to meet the demands of its growing economy and to commemorate the 2023 centennial of the Turkish Republic. In the face of still-considerable financial and environmental resistance at home, Japan and France will meanwhile try to use this deal to revive interest in nuclear power beyond their borders.

Read more: The Political Benefits of a Nuclear Deal in Turkey | Stratfor
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« Reply #73 on: May 06, 2013, 03:06:06 PM »

second post of day

Turkey's Geographical Ambition
May 1, 2013 | 0912 GMT

By Robert D. Kaplan and Reva Bhalla

At a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia's Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable.

Erdogan and Putin are ambitious because they are men who unrepentantly grasp geopolitics. Putin knows that any responsible Russian leader ensures that Russia has buffer zones of some sort in places like Eastern Europe and the Caucasus; Erdogan knows that Turkey must become a substantial power in the Near East in order to give him leverage in Europe. Erdogan's problem is that Turkey's geography between East and West contains as many vulnerabilities as it does benefits. This makes Erdogan at times overreach. But there is a historical and geographical logic to his excesses.

The story begins after World War I.

Because Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of that war (along with Wilhelmine Germany and Hapsburg Austria), the victorious allies in the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 carved up Turkey and its environs, giving territory and zones of influence to Greece, Armenia, Italy, Britain and France. Turkey's reaction to this humiliation was Kemalism, the philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the surname "Ataturk" means "Father of the Turks"), the only undefeated Ottoman general, who would lead a military revolt against the new occupying powers and thus create a sovereign Turkish state throughout the Anatolian heartland. Kemalism willingly ceded away the non-Anatolian parts of the Ottoman Empire but compensated by demanding a uniethnic Turkish state within Anatolia itself. Gone were the "Kurds," for example. They would henceforth be known as "Mountain Turks." Gone, in fact, was the entire multicultural edifice of the Ottoman Empire.

Kemalism not only rejected minorities, it rejected the Arabic script of the Turkish language. Ataturk risked higher illiteracy rates to give the language a Latin script. He abolished the Muslim religious courts and discouraged women from wearing the veil and men from wearing fezzes. Ataturk further recast Turks as Europeans (without giving much thought to whether the Europeans would accept them as such), all in an attempt to reorient Turkey away from the now defunct Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and toward Europe.

Kemalism was a call to arms: the martial Turkish reaction to the Treaty of Sevres, to the same degree that Putin's neo-czarism was the authoritarian reaction to Boris Yeltsin's anarchy of 1990s' Russia. For decades the reverence for Ataturk in Turkey went beyond a personality cult: He was more like a stern, benevolent and protective demigod, whose portrait looked down upon every public interior.

The problem was that Ataturk's vision of orienting Turkey so firmly to the West clashed with Turkey's geographic situation, one that straddled both West and East. An adjustment was in order. Turgut Ozal, a religious Turk with Sufi tendencies who was elected prime minister in 1983, provided it.

Ozal's political skill enabled him to gradually wrest control of domestic policy and -- to an impressive degree -- foreign policy away from the staunchly Kemalist Turkish military. Whereas Ataturk and the generations of Turkish officers who followed him thought in terms of a Turkey that was an appendage of Europe, Ozal spoke of a Turkey whose influence stretched from the Aegean to the Great Wall of China. In Ozal's mind, Turkey did not have to choose between East and West. It was geographically enshrined in both and should thus politically embody both worlds. Ozal made Islam publicly respected again in Turkey, even as he enthusiastically supported U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the last phase of the Cold War. By being so pro-American and so adroit in managing the Kemalist establishment, in the West at least Ozal -- more than his predecessors -- was able to get away with being so Islamic.

Ozal used the cultural language of Islam to open the door to an acceptance of the Kurds. Turkey's alienation from Europe following the 1980 military coup d'etat enabled Ozal to develop economic linkages to Turkey's east. He also gradually empowered the devout Muslims of inner Anatolia. Ozal, two decades before Erdogan, saw Turkey as a champion of moderate Islam throughout the Muslim world, defying Ataturk's warning that such a pan-Islamic policy would sap Turkey's strength and expose the Turks to voracious foreign powers. The term neo-Ottomanism was, in fact, first used in the last years of Ozal's rule.

Ozal died abruptly in 1993, ushering in a desultory decade of Turkish politics marked by increasing corruption and ineffectuality on the part of Turkey's sleepy secular elite. The stage was set for Erdogan's Islamic followers to win an outright parliamentary majority in 2002. Whereas Ozal came from the center-right Motherland Party, Erdogan came from the more openly Islamist-trending Justice and Development Party, though Erdogan himself and some of his advisers had moderated their views over the years. Of course, there were many permutations in Islamic political thought and politics in Turkey between Ozal and Erdogan, but one thing stands clear: Both Ozal and Erdogan were like two bookends of the period. In any case, unlike any leader today in Europe or the United States, Erdogan actually had a vision similar to Ozal's, a vision that constituted a further distancing from Kemalism.

Rather than Ataturk's emphasis on the military, Erdogan, like Ozal, has stressed the soft power of cultural and economic connections to recreate in a benign and subtle fashion a version of the Ottoman Empire from North Africa to the Iranian plateau and Central Asia. Remember that in the interpretation of one of the West's greatest scholars of Islam, the late Marshall G. S. Hodgson of the University of Chicago, the Islamic faith was originally a merchants' religion, which united followers from oasis to oasis, allowing for ethical dealing. In Islamic history, authentic religious connections across the Middle East and the Indian Ocean world could -- and did -- lead to wholesome business connections and political patronage. Thus is medievalism altogether relevant to the post-modern world.

Erdogan now realizes that projecting Turkey's moderate Muslim power throughout the Middle East is fraught with frustrating complexities. Indeed, it is unclear that Turkey even has the political and military capacity to actualize such a vision. To wit, Turkey may be trying its best to increase trade with its eastern neighbors, but it still does not come close to Turkey's large trade volumes with Europe, now mired in recession. In the Caucasus and Central Asia, Turkey demands influence based on geographic and linguistic affinity. Yet, Putin's Russia continues to exert significant influence in the Central Asian states and, through its invasion and subsequent political maneuverings in Georgia, has put Azerbaijan in an extremely uncomfortable position. In Mesopotamia, Turkey's influence is simply unequal to that of far more proximate Iran. In Syria, Erdogan and his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, thought -- incorrectly, it turns out -- that they could effectively mold a moderate Islamist Sunni opposition to replace President Bashar al Assad's Alawite regime. And while Erdogan has gained points throughout the Islamic world for his rousing opposition to Israel, he has learned that this comes at a price: the warming of relations between Israel and both Greece and the Greek part of Cyprus, which now permits Turkey's adversaries in the Eastern Mediterranean to cooperate in the hydrocarbon field.

The root of the problem is partly geographic. Turkey constitutes a bastion of mountains and plateau, inhabiting the half-island of the Anatolian land bridge between the Balkans and the Middle East. It is plainly not integral to a place like Iraq, for example, in the way that Iran is; and its Turkic language no longer enjoys the benefit of the Arabic script, which might give it more cultural leverage elsewhere in the Levant. But most important, Turkey is itself bedeviled by its own Kurdish population, complicating its attempts to exert leverage in neighboring Middle Eastern states.

Turkey's southeast is demographically dominated by ethnic Kurds, who adjoin vast Kurdish regions in Syria, Iraq and Iran. The ongoing breakup of Syria potentially liberates Kurds there to join with radical Kurds in Anatolia in order to undermine Turkey. The de facto breakup of Iraq has forced Turkey to follow a policy of constructive containment with Iraq's Kurdish north, but that has undermined Turkey's leverage in the rest of Iraq -- thus, in turn, undermining Turkey's attempts to influence Iran. Turkey wants to influence the Middle East, but the problem is that it remains too much a part of the Middle East to extricate itself from the region's complexities.

Erdogan knows that he must partially solve the Kurdish problem at home in order to gain further leverage in the region. He has even mentioned aloud the Arabic word, vilayet, associated with the Ottoman Empire. This word denotes a semi-autonomous province -- a concept that might hold the key for an accommodation with local Kurds but could well reignite his own nationalist rivals within Turkey. Thus, his is a big symbolic step that seeks to fundamentally neutralize the very foundation of Kemalism (with its emphasis on a solidly Turkic Anatolia). But given how he has already emasculated the Turkish military -- something few thought possible a decade ago -- one should be careful about underestimating Erdogan. His sheer ambition is something to behold. While Western elites ineffectually sneer at Putin, Erdogan enthusiastically takes notes when the two of them meet.

Read more: Turkey's Geographical Ambition | Stratfor
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« Reply #74 on: May 18, 2013, 12:15:20 AM »
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« Reply #75 on: June 03, 2013, 11:30:58 PM »

The rapid escalation of anti-government protests in Turkey in recent days has exposed a number of long-dormant fault lines in the country's complex political landscape. But even as the appeal of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (also known by its Turkish acronym, AKP) is beginning to erode, it will remain a powerful force in Turkish politics for some time to come, with its still-significant base of support throughout the country and the lack of a credible political alternative in the next elections.


The foundation for the current unrest was laid May 28, when a small group of mostly young environmentalists gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square for a sit-in to protest a planned demolition of walls, uprooting of trees and the perceived desecration of historical sites in the square's Gezi Park. The initially peaceful demonstration turned violent the night of May 30, when police tried to break up what had grown to more than 100 protesters.

The environmental protesters were joined the next day by high-level representatives of the Justice and Development Party's main opposition, the secular Republican People's Party (known as CHP). The message of the protests soon evolved from saving Gezi Park's trees to condemning Erdogan and his party for a litany of complaints. Anti-government chants included "Down with the dictator," "Tayyip, resign," and "Unite against fascism."

The protests grew rapidly when the weekend began, with more than 10,000 people gathering in Taksim Square on June 1. Many of these made their way to the square from the district of Kadikoy, a Republican People's Party stronghold on the Asian side of Istanbul, by walking across the Bosphorus Bridge banging pots and pans in defiance of laws against pedestrian use of the bridge. Some reportedly threw Molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones at police, prompting the use of tear gas and water cannons on the protesters. However, this quickly drew condemnation, leading the government to temporarily withdraw police at the cost of allowing more protesters to gather.

Erdogan's response was defiant. While admitting excessive force by the police and ordering an investigation of the matter, he said that he would not give in to "wild extremists" who belong to an "ideological" as opposed to "environmental" movement and that he would bring out a million supporters from his party for every 100,000 protesters. The same night, riots broke out and some 5,000 protesters threw stones at the prime minister's office in the Besiktas neighborhood in Istanbul.

On the morning of June 2, heavy rains kept protesters away from Taksim Square save for a few dozen who huddled around bonfires. More protesters made their way back to the square in the afternoon while Erdogan made another defiant speech blaming the Republican People's Party for the unrest and vowing to proceed with the development plans. Clashes between police and protesters have resumed, and close to 1,000 people have been detained and dozens injured.

Erdogan's Limits

The size and scope of the protests must be kept in perspective. By the end of June 1, protests had reportedly spread to Izmir, Eskisehir, Mugla, Yalova, Antalya, Bolu, Adana, Ankara, Kayseri and Konya. Many of the areas where protests were reported are also areas where the Republican People's Party would be expected to bring out a large number of supporters. Konya, Kayseri and Ankara, strong sources of support for the Justice and Development Party, were notable exceptions. The largest protests, in Istanbul and Izmir, brought out predominantly young protesters in the tens of thousands. The protests would be highly significant if they grow to the hundreds of thousands, include a wider demographic and geographically extend to areas with traditionally strong support for the ruling party.

The protests so far do not indicate that Erdogan's party is at serious or imminent risk of losing its grip on power, but they do reveal limits to the prime minister's political ambitions. Erdogan is attempting to extract votes from a slow-moving and highly fragile peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party to help him get enough support for a constitutional referendum. The referendum would transform Turkey from a parliamentary system to a presidential system and thus enable Erdogan, whose term as prime minister expires in 2015, to continue leading Turkey as president beyond 2014, when presidential elections are scheduled. The sight of protesters from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (known as the BDP) joining Republican People's Party supporters for the June 1 protests does not bode well for Erdogan's plan to rely on those votes in the constitutional referendum. Though the Justice and Development Party, which remains highly popular with Turkey's more conservative populace in the Anatolian interior, so far does not face a credible political contender for the October local elections or 2015 parliamentary elections, Erdogan's political maneuvering to become president will face more resistance.

The ruling party's main secular opposition is alarmed at Erdogan's policies that compromise the core founding principles of the state as defined by Kemal Ataturk. From social measures that ban the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. to foreign policy measures that have Turkey trying to mold and influence Islamist rebel groups in Syria, these are policies that directly undermine the Ataturkian mandate that Turkey must remain secular and avoid overextending itself beyond the republic's borders. But the growing dissent against the party is not a simple Islamist-secular divide, either. A perception has developed among a growing number of Turks that the party is pursuing an aggressive form of capitalism that defies environmental considerations as well as Islamic values. Within business circles, frustration is building over the number of concessions handed out to Erdogan's closest allies.

Rising Dissent

The polarization of the state could be plainly seen in the reporting of the Gezi Park protests. The protests appear to have emboldened once critical newspapers such as Hurriyet to reassume an anti-ruling party stance unseen in the recent years of Erdogan's media taming. Hurriyet has broadcast Erdogan's "defeat" with headlines such as "Erdogan no longer almighty." On the other end of the political spectrum, the state-funded news agency Anatolia is reporting the protests as a "brawl" between police and firework-throwing youth extremists, while stressing a democratic message that the government permitted the Republican People's Party to demonstrate in Taksim.

Far more interesting is reporting from the Justice and Development Party's traditional sources of support. Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the ruling party, has condemned the park project and sympathized with the protesters. The same was seen in Zaman newspaper, run by followers of the moderate Islamist Gulen movement. The Gulenists form a crucial component of the ruling party's broader support base but also keep their distance from the ruling party. The movement has been increasingly critical of Erdogan, strongly suggesting that he and his party have become too powerful. Editorials from the newspaper admonished Erdogan for his "excessive" behavior and sided with the protesters.

Though dissent is rising, Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party still have a substantial support base, and the opposition continues to lack a credible political alternative (local elections scheduled for October likely will indicate how much support for the party has waned). At the same time, Turkey is pursuing a highly ambitious agenda abroad, from negotiating peace with Kurdish militants and developing oil pipelines in Iraqi Kurdistan to trying to fend off Syrian-backed militant attacks. Turkey was already highly constrained in pursuing these foreign policy goals, but they will take second place to Turkey's growing political distractions at home as Erdogan prioritizes the growing domestic challenges and as foreign adversaries such as Syria try to take advantage of preoccupied Turkish security forces to try to sponsor more attacks inside Turkey.

Read more: Turkey's Violent Protests in Context | Stratfor



Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for calm on Monday and blamed a weekend of antigovernment protests on "extremist forces," while demonstrators vowed to press on with their occupation of a central Istanbul park and Turkish markets plummeted.

Faced with the biggest opposition to his rule since coming to power a decade ago, Mr. Erdogan didn't back down on Monday, telling reporters in Istanbul before leaving for a trip to North Africa that the protesters were a marginal group seeking to terrorize the public. Earlier Monday, the Turkish Medical Association said one protester, hit by a taxi while seeking to block traffic on a highway, had died. Still, Mr. Erdogan said the government, which still retains the 50% support it got in the 2011 elections, wouldn't yield to minority demands.

Turkey Prime Minister Erdogan calls for calm as anti-government protests on "extremist forces" continue. Photo: Associated Press.

"We will stand tall and not let those who are hand-in-hand with terrorism take over public institutions," said Mr. Erdogan.

But the prime minister's continued to draw rebukes, both domestically and abroad. The U.S., a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, reiterated its concern about the response to protests on Monday, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling for a full investigation into reports of excessive use of force by the police. And at home, senior officials differed over how to deal with the demonstrations as President Abdullah Gul said for the second time in three days that citizens had a right to protest peacefully.

Police detained about 2,000 protesters after violent clashes erupted in several Turkish cities over government plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul. Emre Peker looks at the real reasons for the demonstrations and the risks they pose to the country. Photo: AP

A collection of scenes gives a snapshot of the last 24 hours of Istanbul protests, which were going on for the sixth consecutive day on Sunday. Video by Ayla Albayrak via #WorldStream.

More Video from #WorldStream

Protestors camp out Monday morning in Istanbul's Gezi Park
Protestors set up food stalls in Gezi Park
In Gezi Park, people commemorate those killed in recent bombings
"Democracy doesn't only mean elections. If there are differing views, events, objections outside of elections, there is nothing more natural than those to be expressed in various ways. Naturally, peaceful demonstrations are a part of that," Mr. Gul said in televised comments.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, met with the president in Ankara Monday evening to discuss the protests. Mr. Kilicdaroglu requested an audience with Mr. Gul after trading barbs with the prime minister over the weekend. Mr. Gul, who is a co-founder of the governing party led by the prime minister, is widely seen as a more moderate leader who better manages expectations and demands from different political factions.

Investors reacted negatively to the government's inability to quell protests that swelled after a series of police crackdowns on protesters that began Thursday. Turkey's benchmark Bourse Istanbul 100 index closed down 10.4%, its biggest daily drop in a decade. The index is down 15% since the demonstrations started, and off 1.6% in 2013. Meanwhile, the yield on two-year benchmark government bonds surged. The Turkish lira was down 0.68% against the dollar.

"Even though the Turkish markets are selling off today, investors are not necessarily waking up to a new reality," said Lars Christensen, chief analyst at Danske Bank DANSKE.KO -0.35% . Politics in Turkey is becoming more polarized, he said in a note. "Sooner or later this will have negative consequences for political stability. However, in the case of Turkey, markets should certainly not be surprised by these risks."

Also on Monday, the Confederation of Public Workers' Unions known as KESK announced a nationwide strike for Tuesday in solidarity with the antigovernment protests, now popularly called Occupy Gezi after the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. KESK said it moved ahead a previously planned walkout for Wednesday to demand better workplace and income security, calling on its 240,000 members to wear black and start the strike at noon Tuesday.

The explosion of unrest reflects a wellspring of frustration among a large and diverse section of Turkey's population. The prime minister's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has delivered strong economic growth and political stability, but a growing number of Turks say it has also adopted increasingly authoritarian tactics and has attempted to more aggressively Islamize Turkey's secular state.


Gunshots Reported at Iraq Border
Clashes With Kurdish Rebels
Heard on the Street: Chill Wind Blows Over Turkey
Blog: Amid Turkey Unrest, Social Media Becomes a Battleground
The protest started as a small effort to save Gezi Park in central Istanbul's Taksim Square from being turned into a mixed-use building modeled after an Ottoman barracks, but mushroomed into a countrywide protest as police repeatedly attacked peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons. Fueled by social-media images of the showdown, protests ricocheted around Turkey, and by the end of the weekend, hundreds of people had been injured and almost 2,000 detained in demonstrations that spread to roughly half of Turkey's 81 provinces, the government said.

Mr. Erdogan has won national elections three times and remains Turkey's most popular politician, without a clear rival in his party or the opposition. His popularity has emboldened him to take a tougher line on everything from alcohol consumption to the media.

Enlarge Image

Associated Press
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media in Istanbul on Monday.

While recent opinion polls continue to show Mr. Erdogan retaining a strong lead over Turkey's opposition, some pollsters have said that Turkish society has become more polarized under the AKP government.

On Saturday and Sunday, some demonstrators turned violent, attacking police with stones and bottles, burning official vehicles and city buses and setting up barricades by ripping up sidewalks.

Yet following the police withdrawal Saturday evening from the park, the only green space in central Istanbul, relative calm returned to Taksim. Most of the demonstrators worked together with municipal workers to clean the park and other areas littered during the protests.

Mr. Erdogan on Monday continued to paint the demonstrators as radicals who were aligned with the CHP in a bid to remove the ruling AKP from power. There are radical groups among the protesters, but the majority of those demonstrating were middle-class Turks, alongside a broadening coalition including socialists, nationalists and conservatives.

Sitting at a barricade around Gezi Park on Monday, university students said they wouldn't budge until the government resigned. Some said they wanted an apology by Mr. Erdogan for the police intervention that has left more than 1,500 people hospitalized. The prime minister warned that he was telling AKP backers who want to mobilize against the protesters to stay home, implying that he alone was holding back clashes among different social factions.

"Previously, the government used to say it wouldn't enact policies despite the people, but now, that's exactly what they are doing," said Mustafa, 26, who declined to give his last name and said he voted for AKP in all three national elections since 2007.

"I don't want him to resign and don't think we can find anyone better than him right now. But the prime minister needs to change his tone. I find his strong language wrong, it's causing a lot of anger. What's causing all of the people to pour out to the street is plainly this despotic stance."
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 11:41:46 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #76 on: June 05, 2013, 11:09:27 AM »

From the article:

World leaders don't always have the liberty of choosing their allies, but they do get to pick their friends. And while Barack Obama has been criticized for his Vulcan-style diplomacy, the U.S. president has made a few buddies in office. Now, as anti-government protests grip Turkey, one of them is embarrassing him.
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« Reply #77 on: June 20, 2013, 04:51:33 AM »

It can be good to consider outside the box possbilities; here is a possibly fringe type comment on the situation in Turkey

Comment posted (in three segments) on SFGate 6/9/13 in response to:

On May 29, 2013, Iran invaded Turkey with millions of Shiite-inspired violent Turkish demonstrators under the guise of protests over building a mall. By imagining Turkey was protected by NATO, Prime Minister Erdogan thought he was immune to such an Iranian invasion. Erdogan was wrong. After the Iranian Shiite invasion, US President Obama fully betrayed Erdogan by unleashing against him massive, virtually unlimited criticism of Turkey.

As background, a Turkish analyst named Abdullah Bozkurt in a recent April 2013 article entitled "Iran's clandestine operations in Turkey,"
wrote the following:
"Iran's clandestine presence in Turkey is largely hidden from public view in part because Iran prefers to keep a low profile on its activities in Turkey and hides behind ostensibly charitable causes, cultural and educational programs. In fact, this sinister campaign of Iran poses greater danger for Turkey's national security than potentially a nuclear-armed Iran because of the disruptive nature of activities that are aimed to shake the very fabric of social make-up in Turkish society, creating tremors along fault-lines across the board."

For example, intelligence indicates that Iran has cultivated strong ties with some Alevi communities in Sivas and neighboring provinces in the heartland of the country where Iranian influence has long gravitated, even during Ottoman times centuries ago. Iran knows that the fragile balance among diverse groups, especially between the Sunni majority and Alevi minority groups, is the soft underbelly of Turkey and wants to use that as a trump card against Turkey. The worry is that Iran banks on this asset it has developed for some time, very much like a volcano flow slowly burning the composition of society. The marking of Alevi houses in different cities and towns in the past couple of years has been a test-run for Iranian intelligence for the reckoning day with Turkey, even though officials publicly downplayed them as the work of children.
Hence, in reality, the violent Turkish demonstrations are nothing less than an Iranian volcanic invasion of Turkey's "underbelly" through Iran's massive Alevi/Caferi network.

How did Iran come to invade Turkey?

First, the Syria Civil War has exposed a tectonic structural fault-line in Turkey in large part based on Shiite-Sunni lines, with a mixture of politics. Erdogan has come out strongly for the Syrian rebels and his chief opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has come out equally as strongly for Assad's murderous rule. This fissure was heaved open with the recent Reyhanli terrorist blast which murdered close to 51 Turks.
Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu have traded incendiary, if not outright war-like, charges at each other over the blast, and over Turkey's Syria policy.

Second, Turkey succeeded in the unthinkable: making a medium-term peace with the Kurds. This took the possible Iranian use of the Kurdish card off the table. In fact, Erdogan turned the Kurds into a medium-term ally to defend against the Iranians and the Iranian stooge Iraqi PM al Maliki. This made the Iranians desperate to have to pull the trigger on their Alevi/Caferi Turkish attack.

Third, at the recent May 2013 Erdogan visit to DC, even after 100,000 Syrians have been murdered, and despite the loving Erdogan/Obama smiles, on Syria, Obama left Erdogan with zippo-nada-nothing. So, Turkey has no US backing to do anything except watch Assad murder another 100,000 Sunnis. That leaves Erdogan up a Sunni-creek without a paddle. What's worse, Erdogan saw that Obama fully intended to enable and help Assad and his Iranian-masters win in Syria. Thus, Erdogan reasons, "If Obama wants Assad and Iran to win in Syria, Turkey will shortly face an existential Iranian nuclear threat."

Fourth, there are millions of Shiites or Shiite-affiliated Alevi peoples in Turkey. Many come from the lower-classes to begin with. There are anywhere from 4.5M to 25M Shiite Alevies in Turkey (11%-33% out of the total Turkish population of 75,000,000). Because they are Shiite, many keep their true religious affiliation absolutely secret, for fear of discrimination. Some Shiite Turkish Caferi Muslims are even out-right legally second-class citizens based on the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and don't get any funding for their non-Sunni mosques or imams, while Sunni Muslim institutions get total state funding. Suffice it to say, these Turkish under-class citizens are 100% for Assad, and 1,000,000% against Erdogan's Anti-Assad policy.

But the shocker in not Erdogan's "foreign" allegations to the Turkish riots, it's Obama's incendiary pro-rioter, anti-Erdogan reaction to the violence. In almost an eerie replay of Obama's toppling of Mubarak, Obama appears to be toppling Erdogan.

For on May 31, the US Ambassador to Turkey Ricciardone twice gave a totally pro-riot "statement" that: "Of course, nobody could be happy to see those saddening images. I am not happy either. I wish a speedy recovery to all those injured. But if you are asking me about U.S.
foreign policy, as you know, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to have peaceful protests are fundamentals of a democracy.
I am not going to say anything further." Then, on June 3, in his daily briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney says the White House believes "the vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful." He also says "all democracies have issues that they need to work through." Not to be out-done, US Sec. of State Kerry lobbed an explosive, pro-riot bombshell at Erdogan: "We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by the police. We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force."

Obama's mouthpieces have more criticism for a mostly democratic Muslim NATO ally then they do for the mass-murderer Assad. It seems like Obama is more intent to stoke the pro-Iranian flames of the riots in Turkey, than he is to stop the mass-murder of Sunnis in Syria.

In sum, it has become clear that Obama wasn't the "Manchurian Candidate;" he was the 'Iranian Candidate.' From November 2008 to now, Obama's Middle East policy has been a sub rosa American installation of an Iranian absolute hegemony over the entire Middle East. The catastrophic consequence of Obama's rabidly pro-Iranian Shiite Caliphatic coronation is an existential threat to the Middle East, and the world.
and this from the not always reliable WND:
« Last Edit: June 20, 2013, 04:54:26 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #78 on: November 15, 2013, 08:35:08 AM »

 ISTANBUL — Late one night last summer, at the height of antigovernment demonstrations sweeping Turkey, a group of protest leaders rushed to the home of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the capital, to negotiate a solution to the growing crisis.

They came away with a tentative agreement, but it was never accepted by the rank-and-file protesters, and so the movement was later crushed by the water cannons and tear gas of Mr. Erdogan’s police force.

Then last month, one of those leaders, Eyup Muhcu, was summoned by a local prosecutor and interrogated as part of a spreading investigation of those who led the protests. “There is no concrete charge, yet we were called in to give official statements,” said Mr. Muhcu, an architect and a member of the Taksim Solidarity Platform, a group of activists that played a central role in the demonstrations.

“For what?”

For the government, the answer seems clear, Mr. Muhcu said: to silence the opposition.

“It has come to a point where members can’t even tweet without fear of being investigated for their thoughts,” said Mr. Muhcu, one of the few activists still willing to offer a public critique of the government.

As the memory begins to fade of those sweeping protests, which began to save Gezi Park in central Istanbul from being razed and became the most serious challenge to Mr. Erdogan’s decade in power, the government has moved aggressively against its perceived adversaries. More than a thousand students, teachers, doctors and activists — even mosque imams — have been hauled in for questioning for their role in the civic unrest.

Dozens of journalists have lost their jobs for reporting on the demonstrations, and one of Turkey’s wealthiest families now has an army of tax inspectors digging through its accounts, apparently for giving refuge in a fancy hotel it owns to demonstrators escaping clouds of tear gas last summer.

But in a country with a long history of military coups, police brutality, torture and disappearances, many Turks and outside experts said they were actually expecting a more brutal crackdown after the protests. They note that while many people have been questioned for their participation, comparatively few have been charged with crimes, although a prosecutor in Ankara has threatened to charge nearly 500 people in a single court case.

“It is not a witch hunt, but definitely the government has tightened the screws,” said Saban Kardas, a professor at the University of Economics and Technology in Ankara. “It’s a preventive move, so these protests don’t happen again.”

The government, it seems, has mounted a delicate balancing act, analysts say: crack down just hard enough to keep critics of the government off the streets, especially as Turkey prepares for three elections over the next 18 months, but not so hard that Turkey’s international image is further damaged, especially in financial circles crucial to sustaining the economy.

Turkey has also been chastened by the failure of its Middle East policy, once seen as a reorientation away from the West toward the Arab world, and has recently restarted long-stalled negotiations to join the European Union.

“This is Turkey, a candidate for the E.U. and a NATO member,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the head of the Ankara office for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research organization. “Some things that may be normal in Belarus won’t be acceptable here.” Still, he added, “What is happening in Turkey is not suitable for a civilized, democratic country.”

Turkey’s secular opposition, the Republican People’s Party, recently circulated a document titled, “Turkish government’s retaliation to Gezi,” in which it equated Mr. Erdogan to Machiavelli, and wrote, “the one-man government has initiated a ruthless campaign for retaliation against the persons involved in the Gezi movement.” Inside is a list of 77 journalists who were either fired or forced to resign, including Yavuz Baydar, who had been the ombudsman for the pro-government newspaper Sabah.

After being fired for criticizing his newspaper’s coverage of the protests, Mr. Baydar wrote in The Guardian, “the country’s journalists are enslaved in newsrooms run by greedy and ruthless media proprietors, whose economic interests make them submissive to Erdogan.”

While the greatest political consequence of the protests may be that Mr. Erdogan has, for now, been forced to abandon plans to establish a more powerful presidency — which he would run for in an election next year — then analysts say the greatest impact on the culture has been an even greater intolerance by the authorities for dissent, and a coarsening of the political discourse.

Some critics and analysts say they have seen something more sinister: a rise in anti-Semitism, in a country with strained relations with Israel. In his fiery speeches during the protests, Mr. Erdogan blamed an assortment of foreign actors for the unrest, including the “interest rate lobby” — what many regarded as code for Jews — and “Zionists.” Some of Turkey’s Jews, a community of roughly 15,000, are emigrating because, according to a recent report in an English-language Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News, of “anti-Semitism, triggered by harsh statements from the Turkish government.”

Steven A. Cook, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a longtime commentator on Turkish affairs, recently wrote, “Turkish political discourse is darker and the attacks on foreign observers of Turkish politics have become relentless.”
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« Reply #79 on: November 18, 2013, 09:52:07 AM »


A large, conscripted military may no longer be the most appropriate way for Turkey to protect its interests and defend against external threats. Ankara appears to have acknowledged as much Oct. 21, when it voted to reduce the length of time conscripted soldiers are required to serve. The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, will effectively shrink the military by 70,000 members. This is no small diminution, considering that Turkey, with its 750,000 soldiers, has the second-largest military among NATO members. Political and economic considerations may have informed Ankara's decision, but ultimately the move was made to reflect the changing geopolitical conditions under which Turkey now finds itself.


Historically, Turkey's location and geography has necessitated a robust military. Located at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, the country was critical terrain during the Cold War. In 1952, Turkey became a member of NATO, serving as the southwestern bulwark against the Warsaw Pact. It mustered a large standing military by establishing compulsory service for all Turkish men. Though the Cold War ended two decades ago, Turkey has maintained this practice.

Turkish Armed Forces

Conscription is mandated by the Turkish Constitution, but the legislature determines how it will be enacted. Currently, a healthy Turkish man with no college education serves for 15 months. Prior to 2003, the minimum requirement was 18 months. The upcoming change will reduce this term to 12 months. Of course, there are some exceptions to the mandate. Men with college education have a shorter commitment of six to 12 months, and men over the age of 30 can buy their way out of service for a fee.

Exemptions notwithstanding, conscripts constitute the majority of Turkish service members, comprising some 500,000 soldiers. With such a short service time, many conscripts fail to gain experience after their basic training. As a result, the Turkish military has a small professional core that is augmented by lightly trained forces.
Old Structures, New Threats

This structure made sense during the Cold War, when Turkey was facing similarly structured Soviet and Soviet-backed militaries. Mobilizing an entire population of even lightly trained service members, should the need arise, certainly has its advantages. But times have changed, as have Turkey's primary strategic threats. Whereas once the country was confronted with the prospect of a Soviet ground invasion, it now contends with domestic terrorism, Kurdish insurgents and, more recently, border issues with neighboring Syria, still in the throes of civil war. Smaller, more agile professional forces, along with Turkey's paramilitary forces, are better suited to address these security concerns.

However, force structures are not determined by threats alone. For decades, the Turkish military acted as the guardian of the Kemalist principles upon which the country was founded. Maintaining a large standing army helped the military extend its influence into the political affairs of the state. But the rise and political consolidation of the ruling Justice and Development Party over the past decade has severely undermined the Turkish military's political influence. The mere sight of once-invulnerable Turkish generals in jail confirms that Turkey's civilian political leadership has supplanted the military establishment.

Clearly, there is a political element to the conscription reform, as evidenced by the Justice and Development Party's political consolidation and its imperative to curb the military's influence. Equally important, a presidential election will take place in 2014 and general elections in 2015. A circumscribed military service requirement will likely buy the ruling party considerable political capital among voters, many of whom would rather study, work and earn a living than perform an increasingly archaic social service.

Aside from political considerations, military modernization and increasingly capable military technology demand that force structures maintain highly trained, professional personnel. New technologies and the requisite personnel operating them require more time and more money. The current conscription model does not address these requirements sufficiently. Therefore, the military is being reconfigured as a smaller, better-trained and more expensive per capita professional force supported by higher-end technological platforms.

This transformation likely will continue for the foreseeable future. Conscription will be modified to the point that it faces elimination, which would probably require a constitutional amendment. Other countries that have undergone similar reconfigurations, including former Warsaw Pact members that later joined NATO, have learned that this process can take decades to complete and that a smaller military is not necessarily a cheaper military.

Read more: Turkey: How Conscription Reform Will Change the Military | Stratfor

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« Reply #80 on: December 04, 2013, 05:12:12 PM »

Guest Column: Turkey's Democratic Reforms Aren't All That Democratic
by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
December 4, 2013

Over dinner at the newest hot restaurant in Istanbul, my friend exhales his fury. "This is democracy?" he snaps. "What kind of democracy?"
It has been barely a month since Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reversed a precedent established 90 years ago by the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and lifted a ban on headscarves in government buildings, including the parliament. On Oct. 31, the day the new law went into effect; four female parliamentarians arrived wearing the hijab. This was not so much for religious reasons – they'd never worn them there before¬ – but in a gesture, as it were, of conquest: the Islamists had won.
Not that they expressed it this way: rather, they and the ruling Islamist AKP (Freedom and Justice) Party heralded the event as a welcome, democratizing act. What is astonishing is that many in the West did, too. In America, the New York Times chirped, "The lifting of the head scarf ban was part of a package of democratic changes Mr. Erdogan unveiled in September."
It is this news that I have just informed my friend, which elicited his retort. Only an hour earlier, his wife and I had walked past a university student's home recently raided by police. The reason: boys and girls were suspected of living there, two sexes under one roof – and this behavior, Erdogan had declared only weeks after his "democratizing" reversal of the headscarf ban, would not be tolerated.
He wasn't kidding. According to a report in the Turkish Radikal newspaper, six police officers also raided an apartment in Manisa, where three female students lived. Male guests had been seen there, the authorities said, and the women were subsequently fined 100 lira (about $45) each.
But that's not all, my friend tells me. Just days after passing the law to permit hijabs in parliament, AKP Vice President Hüseyin Çelik publicly condemned a popular TV presenter, Gözde Kansu, for appearing on air in a revealing dress, her cleavage clearly visible through a keyhole neckline. Kansu was fired the next morning, an indication of just how intimidated the media is by their government these days. This is the country the Committee to Protect Journalists has named "the world's worst jailer of the press," a nation where, while police bombarded peaceful anti-AKP protesters with water cannons and tear gas last summer, CNN's local bureau ran a documentary on penguins.
"This," says my friend, "is why it's not democracy. It would be, if women could wear hijabs or a miniskirt. But they can't."
Yet few in the West have made this simple connection to appreciate just how dangerously close the AKP is to instituting an Islamist state.
Rather, as Turkey's secular democracy gradually declines before their eyes, Westerners continue to speak of its strength, of Turkey's success as a model Muslim country operating as a secular, democratic republic – and one with an independent, strong economy to boot. Worse, some even criticize the concerns of the secular intellectual class – those who, like my dinner companions, perceive the new headscarf laws not as a gesture towards freedom but as one of impending Islamist oppression – as "paranoia."
It isn't. Because the concern isn't just about the headscarf, as the raids on student housing showed. Nor is it about the recent prohibition on alcohol sales after 10 p.m., or the call for women to have at least three children, or for the European-born children of Turkish emigrés to refuse assimilation into European culture – the very culture that is their birthright. The worry isn't even the imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators opposing the regime during last summer's Gezi riots, or of generals accused and imprisoned – largely without evidence – of plotting military coups.
Common misperceptions among Westerners are somewhat understandable: Erdogan and his minions have mastered the political art of packaging. The hijab perhaps presents the perfect metaphor for the veiled actions of a leadership working to de-secularize almost every aspect of Turkish life, covering its Islamist intentions with pretty little homilies elegantly woven with oppression and deceit.
Hence the anti-government protestors are "terrorists" and "radicals" seeking to destroy the economy and peace. Journalists who criticize the prime minister are "terrorists" and "radicals" seeking to overthrow the government, or to promulgate a society of hate. Alcohol sales after 10 p.m. promote alcoholism. Even ending the long tradition of public school uniforms last year was presented as " a victory for freedom." But look more closely, and the real purpose appears in sharper definition: to permit hijabs in public schools – schools that Ataturk decreed were to be kept secular. And this change leads – as do the hijabs in parliament – to the very antithesis of what democracy and freedom stand for: the separation, at all levels, of church and state.
What this really is about is what happens when you put all of these societal and legislative stones together and see the road they build. It is about women's rights and the incursion of a society that incorporates Islamist visions and sharia. As Kemal Kilicdaoglu of the opposition Republican People's Party recently observed, "Women in Saudi Arabia are struggling to be granted the right to drive. If you come across such a ban [in Turkey] tomorrow, don't be surprised."
That position is quite a distance from Ataturk's spirit. "He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap," Ataturk wisely observed. It was precisely by opposing this theocratic ideal that he built the modern Turkey, founded on the vow that "it is just such people that we have fought and will continue to fight."
Nonetheless, my friend's anger gives me hope because I know that he is not alone: the force of Turkey's intellectual elite remains strong. "Occupy Gezi" bore witness last summer to its members' dedication and endurance, but it did something more: it was a retrieval of the power of democracy, a small but significant battle won in that continuing fight, begun nearly a century ago, for a democratic Turkey, secular, independent, and free.
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.
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« Reply #81 on: September 04, 2014, 06:07:21 AM »

Turkey Struggles to Halt 'Jihadist Highway'
By Ayla Albayrak and Joe Parkinson
Sept. 3, 2014 4:58 p.m. ET

Workers in April lay concrete slabs to build a wall in the Turkish town of Reyhanli to help stop jihadists and smugglers between Turkey and Syria. Cihan News Agency/Reuters

ANTAKYA, Turkey—Turkey is struggling to close a "jihadist highway" that lets foreign militants slip across its border into Syria, amid pressure from Western governments and mounting security fears at home.

Turkish forces have stepped up arrests, patrols and interrogations in recent months, but the rapid advance of Islamic State extremists in Iraq has made Ankara's initiative even more urgent, say Turkish officials, Western diplomats and residents.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama signaled an expansion of American aims in the effort to halt Islamic State, saying the U.S. would "degrade and destroy" the extremist group and turn it into "a manageable problem" with the help of international partners.

Turkey became the primary route for foreign jihadists to join Syria's civil war because of the country's easy visa policies for travel, its porous 565-mile border with Syria and its modern transportation infrastructure.

Ankara, which grew hostile to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his deadly crackdown on protesters in 2011, also allowed foreign militants who sought to oust him to freely operate, diplomats say. Ankara has denied turning a blind eye to their presence.

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With Turkey's latest policy shift, long-bearded militants once seen openly traveling to battle or receiving medical treatment here in the leafy border villages of Turkey's Hatay province have begun keeping a lower profile, residents and officials say.

They are shaving their beards, trading their baggy trousers and tunics for Western clothing and flying into tourism hubs on Turkey's Mediterranean coast rather than directly to Syria's border. Other fighters sneak into Syria through Lebanon and Jordan.

"Now we are asked questions and our bags are checked," said Mohammed Al-Ahmad, a 20-year-old former Syrian fighter with the Free Syrian Army who was returning to Turkey from a family visit in Syria. "This wouldn't have happened last year."

Limiting Turkey's ability to overtly crack down on jihadists is the Islamic State's June kidnapping of 49 Turkish diplomats and their families in Mosul, Iraq, U.S. officials and people close to the Turkish government say. Turkish officials declined to comment on the hostages' status after the government in June banned domestic media from reporting on the issue.

American and European officials have for two years repeatedly urged Turkey's government to tighten its border policy and to be more discriminating over which rebel factions they were helping, diplomats say.

In response, Turkish officials have complained that their Western partners have failed to provide adequate intelligence on suspects, hindering Turkey's effort.

Still, in recent months, Ankara has moved more forcefully to shut down what many observers call the "jihadist highway" after reassessing the threat from Islamic State, the diplomats say.

In the eight months through August, Turkey detained or deported more than 450 foreign fighters, according to the Foreign Ministry—sometimes entire busloads of would-be fighters—more than double the 2013 total.

Turkish security forces have also launched operations to choke off smuggling routes that have helped fighters reach the battlefield and provided a market for Islamic State to sell oil from the territories it controls across the frontier.

"There has been a clear shift in policy after Turkey turned a blind eye to those crossing to Syria since 2011," said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul.

Turkey's effort follows the rapid and brutal advance of Islamic State in its effort to establish a self-styled Islamist nation in the Arab world's heart and on Turkey's southern frontier. Islamic State's growth has prompted Ankara and its Western allies to step up intelligence sharing and security cooperation.

Their tactics were brutally spotlighted last month by the beheading of American journalist James Foley, his killer's London accent apparently identifying him as one of an estimated 500 Britons believed to have joined the jihadists. The group on Tuesday released a video showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff.

But Ankara concedes that its intensified efforts aren't airtight, with these Turkish borderlands remaining a way station for aspiring militant fighters and exposing Turkey to potential Islamic State attacks. Some fighters are using the daily Syrian refugee flows across the border as camouflage.

"The border security has been increased, but the border cannot be taken under control only by military and police measures," Lutfu Savas, Antakya's mayor said on Wednesday. "It's not just the ISIS, there are many illegal groups here in Hatay and other provinces. These groups have within the past couple of years learned the border geography better than we now do."

Thousands of foreign fighters from countries including Turkey, Britain, Europe and the U.S. have joined Islamic State's ranks in its self-proclaimed caliphate, say Western diplomats and Turkish officials.

The vast majority hail from Saudi Arabia and North Africa, according to Turkish and Saudi officials. The countries are concerned the jihadists will return to their home countries to wreak havoc.

Turkish officials say that makes it even more important for Western nations to provide names and data on suspects so Ankara can stop them at airports of entry rather than the far more difficult task of trying to locate people along the border with Syria.

"The threat is very serious," a Turkey foreign-ministry official said. "Countries are worried about a couple of hundred people returning but we have all of them accumulating here. This is why we are ringing alarm bells."

Turkey's allies and foes have criticized it for a policy of aiding and sheltering some Syrian rebel groups aiming to topple Mr. Assad.

Turkish officials say that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a "zero tolerance" policy against al Qaeda-linked groups in November and that the government designated the Islamic State's precursor a terrorist group as long ago as 2005.

Evidence of Ankara's recently stepped-up efforts can be seen at strategic points along Turkey's meandering border with Syria. Turkish police now confront and question men at Hatay Airport, especially targeting those arriving by direct flights from Saudi Arabia, witnesses say.

Turkey requires no visas for travelers coming for short holidays from Middle Eastern countries and the European Union.

Scrutiny has increased at Turkey's busiest border gates, Cilvegozu in Hatay province and Oncupinar in neighboring Gaziantep province, the most-used crossing to reach Aleppo, Syria's largest city and the site of several rebel bands including Islamic State. Only three of 13 border gates between Syria and Turkey are now fully open, a Turkish official said, with foreign nationals allowed to pass through only two of them.

"I recognize them just by their looks," one Turkish military policeman said of the foreign fighters as he guarded a border village that officials raided last month to halt smuggling. "We stopped and captured a Russian man in his 20s, as he was returning from Syria. He was detained and deported after he failed to show us his documents."

—Adam Entous in Washington contributed to this article.
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