Tag: Israel-Turkey Relations

TURKEY’S AIM TO “REINCARNATE” OTTOMAN EMPIRE RISKS CONFLICT WITH NATO & WESTERN PARTNERS

Middle East Regression: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 31, 2017— A century after the Ottoman Empire's demise, it has been reincarnated.

Turkey Will Not Emerge Victorious From the Battle of Afrin: Akil Marceau, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2018— Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, must be turning in his grave like a whirling dervish. “Peace at home, peace in the world,” was his motto.

Hamas: Turkey's Longtime Love: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 22, 2018— Despite the nominal 'normalization' of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel, Ankara is still fully supporting a terrorist organization — one that Washington, among others, lists as terrorist.

Turkey’s Jews Are Scared – But Afraid to Talk About it: Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line, Feb. 4, 2018— Movie producer Jozef Ercevik Amado sits at a bar in central Istanbul stressing how, as a Jewish Turk, he can live his daily life without any fear.

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey: U.S., Iran, Russia Are Working Against Turkish Interests In Syria, President Says: Stratfor, Feb. 6, 2018

Analysis: Turkey Causing Major Escalation in Syrian War: Yochanan Visser, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 9, 2018

Shin Bet Investigation Exposes Depth of Turkey's Hamas Support: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Feb. 15, 2018

Turkey Stokes Unrest Over Jerusalem Recognition: Dmitri Shufutinsky, Daily Caller, Feb. 13, 2018

 

 

 

MIDDLE EAST REGRESSION

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Arutz Sheva, Jan. 31, 2017

 

A century after the Ottoman Empire's demise, it has been reincarnated. Once again, Turkey is conquering parts of the Arab World, with Syria serving as its current goal. Using the "war on terror" as its lame excuse, Turkey has managed, in the last two weeks, to take over a strip of Syrian land along the border shared by the two countries, in order to prevent the Kurds from controlling a contiguous region.

 

Turkey intends to extend its "security belt" on Syrian soil to cover the entire length of its 500 mile-long border with Syria, and to widen that strip to a depth of 18 miles inside Syrian territory. If Turkey succeeds in doing this, that "security belt" will be larger than the State of Israel, and span over 9000 square miles. The Turks intend to turn the area into a no-man's land.

 

The only name that this plan can be given is "ethnic cleansing." The tens of thousands of villagers and town-dwellers who have lived on this "belt" for hundreds and  even thousands of years will have to uproot themselves and scatter in  all direction, all because Erdogan does not want an independent or non-independent Kurdish entity south of the Turkish border. Calling the Syrian Kurds "terrorists" who must be expelled from their historic living space is exactly the same as calling all the Arabs or all the Jews "terrorists" and treating them all as equally guilty. Erdogan's racism is simply beyond the pale.

 

What is most shocking about Turkey's behavior is the world's total silence. The Security Council has not met to discuss the new takeover and has not uttered a single word of condemnation. There are no demonstrations and the streets of the Arab, European and North America are as silent as the tomb. For those who have short memories, Turkey conquered 37% of the island of Cyprus in 1974 and established a state there that not one country recognized "de jure" – barring Turkey itself, of course. Its presence there is "occupation" any way you look at it, but who is aware of it?  Who condemns Turkey for occupying more than a third of Cyprus?  Has it crossed anyone's mind to boycott, sanction or divest of investments in Turkey – BDS – because of its 44 year occupation of Cyprus? Now it is the turn of the Turkish takeover of Kurdish Syria. Is the world going to wake up now and realize what Turkey is doing?  Will it demonstrate? Condemn? Boycott? Do anything at all?

 

It is not only the current occupation that presents a problem, it is Turkey's problematic behavior way before 1974. Anyone with a conscience remembers what happened to the Christian Armenians in Turkey. They suffered mass genocide from 1894-1896 and another during WWI from1915-1918. Millions of Armenians and Christians were cruelly murdered by Muslim Turks and the world's absolute silence is what led Hitler to believe, in 1941, that the world would do nothing if he did the same to the Jews. The cynical world in which we live acts in accordance with its best interests and the West – read that the US and Europe – fears that angering impulsive and hot-headed Erdogan may result in his forcing them out of Incherlake air force base, which is the foundation of every Western campaign plan in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iran.

 

The big unknown is how the Kurds will react in response to the threats of ethnic cleansing Erdogan has in store for them: Will they sit quietly and wait for death to strike or will they put up a fight against the Turkish forces?  Another question lurking in the background is how the Kurds in Turkey will react to what may happen to their Syrian brothers. Reminder: Every Turkish city includes a Kurdish neighborhood. If the Kurds wish to, they can sow destruction over all of Turkey. The price they will have to pay is steep, but they are well aware of that.

 

The question of Kurdish response is not without its own problems. We recently witnessed what occurred in the Kurdish region of Iraq, where the Kurds lacked solidarity, were split into warring factions, and at times, even fought one another. Erdogan may be counting on that divisiveness to allow him to continue the brutality he has shown against the Kurdish Syrians without having to worry about the Kurds in Turkey coming to the aid of their Syrian brethren. Enter another factor, the volunteers pouring in to help the Kurds from all over the world. Some have arrived from France, others from the USA, the UK, Algeria, Japan and more. They are being drafted through social media in a way reminiscent of how ISIS succeeded in getting volunteers. Some have adopted Kurdish names and learned the Kurdish language. If this phenomenon continues to grow and leads to foreign volunteers falling in battle, the Turks are going to find themselves lost in an international blizzard…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

 

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TURKEY WILL NOT EMERGE VICTORIOUS FROM THE BATTLE OF AFRIN

Akil Marceau

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2018

 

Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, must be turning in his grave like a whirling dervish. “Peace at home, peace in the world,” was his motto. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his successor and current Turkish head of state, has transformed this into “war at home, war in the world.” This secular republic was established in 1923 by Ataturk to align with the West. Today, it is allied to fundamentalist Muslim groups in a war unleashed against the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

 

Present-day Turkey is separating itself from Western values and is now in open conflict with its Western partners on multiple hot topics. Erdogan’s Turkey has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, supports the Hamas movement in Gaza, and has for years allowed aspiring European jihadists to transit through Turkey to Syria. He continues to arm and finance Syrian Salafist armed groups from the Muslim Brotherhood. Western intelligence services and think tanks are perfectly aware of the structural reasons that, if this evolution continues, will see us accelerating toward an inevitable divorce between Turkey and the West.

 

This Turkish Islamist shift is torpedoing Western plans in the current phase to end Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism, the cause of the deadly attacks on the streets of European capitals. The latest military intervention in Syria clearly prevents the stabilization of areas which required cost of heavy fighting and thousands of deaths to liberate.

 

The Kurdish enclave of Afrin borders Idlib province, largely controlled by local groups affiliated with al-Qaida. The fall of the enclave would consequently reinforce these groups and other Salafist movements linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, all of which are part of the Turkish-led military intervention. Not one bullet had been fired from Afrin at Turkey. The enclave had been, until now, preserved from the war. Its peace and security offered refuge to tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing both the regime and jihadist groups. The only possible justification for the Turkish military intervention is to halt the establishment of a Kurdish zone in northern Syria. A zone that is already creating its own administrative structures and local elections.

 

Turkey is fearful of the consequences regarding its own Kurdish population, whose legally elected representatives to the Turkish Parliament are either being prosecuted or are already in prison. With 15 to 20 million Kurds living in its territory and 40 years of failed military interventions, shouldn’t Turkey be convinced that such an option is not exportable and will only lead to the same failure in neighboring Syria? On top of which, the local Syrian Kurdish population is hostile and, given the military complexity on the ground, the Western powers involved in the Syrian conflict are not in any position to offer support.

 

The Kurds, as part of a secular, multi-faith society, have proven to be the most reliable allies and the only option on the ground able to fight ISIS alongside the international alliance. Today, they are paying the price for this alliance, attacked by Turkey and Sunni Salafist groups within Syria. This is a replay of the attack by Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia on Kurdish territory following the recent Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence.

 

In an Arab-Muslim world devoid of leadership, especially in its Sunni version, and still struggling with modernity, the all-out populism of the Turkish president, who dreams of himself as a new caliph, acts as a performance enhancer for the mass of the disinherited. His dubious alliances with Islamist networks in countries across the region as well as his vocal position on the status of Jerusalem, outsmarting any Arab leader on this issue, provides a Trojan horse in his strategy of regional domination.

 

When Erdogan and his Islamic AKP party came to power, many in the West hoped that he would form the “Christian Democrats of the East.” Unfortunately, those who placed their bets on the “Islam Democrats” have been roundly disappointed. When, in 1998, Erdogan was tried and jailed for reciting a jihadist poem, “the minarets are our bayonets, the domes are our helmets, the mosques are our barracks,” the army was still guardian of Turkish secularism. After silencing the moderates from his own party, such as former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former president Abdullah Gul, the 2016 coup d’etat then gave him the opportunity to purge both the army and judicial apparatus.

 

Thousands of academics, teachers and journalists have also been fired, and many arrested. Erdogan’s hands now free to ally with jihadist groups, he launched the current military operation with a public recitation in mosques across the country of the “Victory” verse from the Koran, banned demonstrations hostile to the war and imprisoned opponents of it. This Turkish intervention will fail. Encouraged behind the scenes by Russia and Iran to distance Turkey from the West, these two countries will never allow Turkey to become a serious player on the Syrian chessboard. As veterans, they consider it their private hunting ground and retain exclusive leverage, with Turkey being the novice in this demonic alliance.

 

Faced with the massive challenge that political Islam poses now and for some time to come, let us not forget that its victims are overwhelmingly Muslims themselves. We must not waiver from the values and ethics that are the foundations of Western democracies. These values remain the best weapons to fight the international jihadist. Abandoning the Kurds to slaughter would be a major moral defeat for the West. Furthermore, the fall of Afrin would be a defeat of Western strategy in its fight against terrorism, reinforcing the jihadists and forcing us back to square one.                                               

                                                                       

 

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HAMAS: TURKEY'S LONGTIME LOVE

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Feb. 22, 2018

 

Despite the nominal 'normalization' of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel, Ankara is still fully supporting a terrorist organization — one that Washington, among others, lists as terrorist. The Shin Bet's report, the Istanbul conference and its contents, the official Turkish support for that conference and Turkish Foreign Ministry's explicit support of Hamas make new evidence that Turkey insists on siding ideologically with a terrorist organization — ironically at a time when Erdogan claims Turkish troops are fighting terrorists in Syria.

 

In 2014, Turkey hosted Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas commander whom the Palestinian Authority had accused of planning multiple attacks against Israeli targets. At that time, the newspaper Israel Hayom called Turkey's important guest "an infamous arch-terrorist believed to be responsible for dozens of attacks against Israelis". In August 2014, speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, Arouri admitted that Hamas had instigated the "heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], which captured three settlers in Hebron." The "heroic action" consisted of Hamas operatives kidnapping and murdering three teenage boys, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence that led to the 50-day war in Gaza.

 

In December 2014, a Hamas leader confirmed that his organization was using NATO member Turkey as a refuge for logistics, training and planning terrorist attacks. The same month, then-Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hosted the chief at that time of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, at a high-profile party congress in Konya, Central Turkey. Taking the stage at the event, Mashaal congratulated the Turkish people "for having [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Davutoglu." His remarks were received passionately, with thunderous applause, the waving of Palestinian flags and thousands of party fans shouting, "Down with Israel!"

 

In June 2016, Jonathan Schanzer forcefully reminded the public that although Arouri had been expelled from his safe base in Istanbul, "many other senior Hamas officials remain there [a]nd their ejection from Turkey appears to be at the heart of Israel's demands as rapprochement talks near completion." Schanzer named half a dozen or so Hamas militants enjoying refuge in Turkey. These included Mahmoud Attoun, who had been found guilty of kidnapping and murdering a 29-year-old Israeli. Also enjoying safe haven in Turkey were three members of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades. Ten Hamas figures were believed to be in Turkey, Schanzer said: "There are a handful more that can be easily identified in the Arabic and Turkish press, and nearly all of them maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter, where they regularly post updates on their lives in Turkey."

 

Stubbornly ignoring Hamas's violent past –and present — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed more than once that Hamas is not a terrorist group but a legitimate political party. He has also repeatedly described Hamas militants as "freedom fighters". In November 2016, Erdogan said again that he did not view Hamas as a terrorist organization; he called it instead a "political movement born from [a] national resurrection," and mentioned that he meets with Hamas "all the time".

 

Erdogan's ideological love affair with Hamas is obligatory for all Islamists in this part of the world, and they do not tend to forget it. In February, a deported Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) board member, Sami al-Arian, denounced the United States as "our enemy." The venue was an Istanbul conference sponsored by Diyanet, Turkey's powerful religious affairs authority. Diyanet's president and Turkey's top cleric Ali Erbas, an Erdogan loyalist, said: "Diyanet is with the suffering Palestinian Muslims who have been serving as the guardians of al-Aqsa for years despite any kind of invasion and violence, and will continue to be by their side and provide any kind of support for them." Arian, meanwhile, is the founder of a charity called the Islamic Committee for Palestine and raises money for PIJ. It was only too normal that Diyanet sponsored an event featuring hatred of the U.S. and Israel while promoting the "Palestinian cause."

 

Recently, the U.S. government declared Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh a "specially designated global terrorist" and imposed a raft of sanctions against him. Immediately afterwards, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. for this decision. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the timing of Washington's decision was "suspicious". Apparently, the Turkish love affair with Hamas is not only about nice words. Israel's Shin Bet security service has announced that a Turkish law professor was deported and that an Israeli Arab was facing indictment over involvement in a Hamas effort to funnel money for terrorism to the West Bank and Gaza via Turkey. According to Shin Bet, both men were recruited by a Hamas operative who was deported from the West Bank after Israel released him from prison in 2011 as part of the deal to ensure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

 

Enter Arouri — again. The Hamas recruiter, according to Shin Bet, was one of the chiefs of Hamas's West Bank Command, headed by Arouri, until recently Turkey's very important guest. The Hamas West Bank Command's mission is to plan and fund acts of terror in the West Bank. The Shin Bet also accused Turkey of aiding Hamas's military build-up by means of a Turkish company called SADAT, a security services and training specialist. SADAT's owner, Adnan Tanriverdi, is a retired Turkish general who is now one of Erdogan's chief advisors…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

 

 

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TURKEY’S JEWS ARE SCARED – BUT AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT IT

Kristina Jovanovski

The Media Line, Feb. 4, 2018

 

Movie producer Jozef Ercevik Amado sits at a bar in central Istanbul stressing how, as a Jewish Turk, he can live his daily life without any fear. But the backlash to the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has made some in the Jewish community feel unsettled. “There are all these Israeli consulate protests and that’s not something that I enjoy… it’s scary,” Amado says. He says that some of his fellow citizens who talk to him believe he isn’t fully Turkish. “I think the essence of the problem is with otherness or foreignness… There’s this hospitality in Turkey, incredible hospitality, but then when you hit the wall, for some reason, that you don’t belong in that conversation or there, then it’s something different.”

 

The Jewish minority – believed to number around 15,000 – has been under threat for decades, including deadly terrorist attacks targeting synagogues in Istanbul. But the Turkish government’s shift toward greater Muslim conservatism has put the minority under the spotlight. That shift has only strengthened since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a strong stance against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In December, Turkey hosted a meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, denouncing the decision. Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College CUNY who focuses on Turkey and Israeli/Palestinian issues, says supporting Palestinians is beneficial for Erdogan because it will play well with Turks across the political spectrum. “Politically, [Erdogan] doesn’t have much to lose, in the sense it does capture not just his own audience but other audiences.”

 

However, Turkey still has motivation to protect its relationship with Israel, partly due to their strong economic relations. Turkish Airlines, for instance, was the most popular airline for people flying to and from Israel last year according to the daily Haaretz. Fishman, who has lived in both Turkey and Israel, says there has been a sharp rise in antisemitism over the last couple of years. “It’s not something that’s systematic within the law that you’re going to feel [discriminated] against on a daily basis, but the weight of antisemitism is there.” A 2015 poll reported that 71% of respondents in Turkey held antisemitic beliefs, a result borne out by a terrorist attack against a synagogue in 1986 that killed 22 people, while a series of deadly bombings in 2003 also targeted synagogues…

 

Betsy Penso, a lawyer who volunteers for an organization called Avlaremoz, which keeps track of antisemitism online and in the media, says hate speech seems to be on the rise. “I think it’s getting stronger… since there is no punishment, people continue to write it, [and] nobody says anything to them.” Part of that, she suspects, is the advent of social media, which have allowed people to voice opinions they may already have held but kept to themselves. Yet, social media have also allowed the small Jewish minority a chance to speak up as well. “Avlaremoz” means “Let’s talk” in Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish dialect. Penso says it is to contrast a tradition among Turkish Jews called “Kayadez” – to be invisible or unseen – which means people do not speak out on issues – even among their own families. “They’ve faced lots of things… they believe if they speak, they won’t be welcome anymore, so they don’t speak.” She says much of the problem for Turkey’s Jews is that many fellow citizens equate them with Israel and blame them for the actions of the government. “They see us as foreigners for sure,” Penso says…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Turkey: U.S., Iran, Russia Are Working Against Turkish Interests In Syria, President Says: Stratfor, Feb. 6, 2018—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States is working against the interests of Turkey, Iran and possibly Russia by sending military supplies to northern Syria, Reuters reported Feb. 6. Erdogan also repeated his call for the United States to withdraw its troops from Manbij, Syria, despite a Jan. 29 report that the United States would not.

Analysis: Turkey Causing Major Escalation in Syrian War: Yochanan Visser, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 9, 2018—More than two weeks after Turkey launched another invasion into Syria dubbed “Olive Branch” by the Erdogan regime, it looks as though the Turkish army is slowly drowning in the Syrian swamp.

Shin Bet Investigation Exposes Depth of Turkey's Hamas Support: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Feb. 15, 2018—Hamas is operating freely on Turkish soil, gathering terrorist finances and looking for ways to upgrade the capabilities of the Hamas armed wing in Gaza, an Israeli security source has told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). It is highly likely that these activities occur with the knowledge of Turkish authorities, the source said.

Turkey Stokes Unrest Over Jerusalem Recognition: Dmitri Shufutinsky, Daily Caller, Feb. 13, 2018—For decades, politicians and pundits have claimed that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would destabilize and further radicalize the Middle East. Two months after President Trump signed the order to move the embassy, however, the Palestinian Territories are relatively calm.

                                                              

 

 

TURKEY ATTACKS U.S.-BACKED KURDS AMID ANKARA’S INCREASING ISOLATION & NEO-OTTOMAN EXPANSIONISM

Erdogan’s Fire and Fury: Robert Ellis, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018— Under the bizarre name “Olive Branch,” Turkey has launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria.

Don’t Abandon the Kurds to the ‘Mercies’ of Turkey’s Tyrant: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Jan. 22, 2018— The United States has been the protector and ally of the Kurds for a quarter-century.

Turkey, the Arab World Is Just Not That into You: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2018— He runs around in a fake fire extinguisher's outfit, holding a silly hose in his hands and knocking on neighbors' doors to put out the fire in their homes.

Erdogan's Israel Obsession: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Dec. 24, 2017— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostility toward Israel can be puzzling at times.

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria: Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018

Watching Turkey's Descent into Islamist Dictatorship: Andrew Harrod, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018

Turkey is Becoming New Hub for Salafist-Jihadi Exodus from Syria: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2018

Turkey’s Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Jan. 24, 2018

 

 

 

ERDOGAN’S FIRE AND FURY

Robert Ellis

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018

 

Under the bizarre name “Olive Branch,” Turkey has launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria. This operation had been expected for the past week and only needed Moscow’s blessing to begin.

 

US support for the struggle by Kurdish forces to drive Islamic State (ISIS) from northern Syria has long been a thorn in Turkey’s side, as has the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region (Rojava). The backbone of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is considered by Turkey to be part and parcel of Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

 

 

Matters came to a head on January 13, when the US-led Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) announced the formation of a 30,000-strong “Border Security Force,” half of which would consist of SDF veterans. The force would be deployed along the border with Turkey, the Iraqi border and along the Euphrates River Valley, an area which contains two of Rojava’s three regions. This was a red flag to Turkey’s already belligerent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatened to “strangle” this force “before it’s even born.” The Pentagon said this was “a mischaracterization of the training that we are providing to local security forces in Syria” and instead it was a “kind of security or stabilization force” or “some sort of hold force.” According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all.”

 

Erdogan warned that Turkey would destroy all terrorist nests in Syria, starting from the Afrin and Manbij regions, and that it would do so in about a week. In August 2016, a month after the attempted coup in Turkey, the Turkish army crossed the Syrian border and in Operation Euphrates Shield occupied most of the area west of the Euphrates and east of the third Kurdish region, Afrin, effectively blocking any attempt to create a Kurdish corridor south of the Turkish border.

 

But Manbij, which lies west of the Euphrates, was captured by the SDF from ISIS in 2016 and is a thorn in Turkey’s eye. The Pentagon immediately distanced itself from Afrin and stated it did not support YPG elements in Afrin and did not consider them part of their fight against ISIS. “We are not involved with them at all,” the Pentagon’s spokesman added.

 

The Syrian government has warned Turkey that combat operations in the Afrin area would be considered an act of aggression which would be met by Syrian air defenses. However, as Syrian airspace is controlled by Russia, on Thursday Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and head of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) Hakan Fidan were sent to Moscow to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov to pave the way for the operation. In August a Russian Center for Reconciliation was set up near the city of Afrin, but the personnel have now been withdrawn “to prevent potential provocation and exclude the threat to the life and well-being of Russian military [personnel].”

 

On Saturday the Turkish General Staff announced that it had launched “Operation Olive Branch” to establish security and stability on Turkey’s borders, to eliminate terrorists and to save “our friends and brothers” (a reference to opposition forces backed by Turkey) from oppression and cruelty. It also claimed the right to self-defense while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity. In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern and called on the sides to exercise constraint.

 

However, the Russian Defense Ministry put the blame for Turkey’s “extremely negative reaction” fair and square on “the provocative US steps aimed at the separation of regions with a predominantly Kurdish population” and “the Pentagon’s uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons to the pro-US forces in northern Syria.”

 

Nevertheless, Russia’s attempts to include Syria’s Kurdish minority in an overall settlement for Syria have suffered a major setback. A draft constitution for Syria put forward by Russia in Astana a year ago safeguarded the status of what it termed “Kurdish cultural autonomy.” With regard to the National Dialogue Congress which will take place in Sochi next week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated, “The Kurds are definitely part of the Syrian nation and we need to take their interests into consideration.”

 

Furthermore, the opportunity for what Lavrov has called “a constructive dialogue” with the US has also been sacrificed on the altar of President Erdogan’s ambition. Former Turkish foreign minister Yasar Yakis believes an accommodation over the Kurdish question in Syria is a possible area of convergence between the US and Russia – if political and military developments do not get out of control. Which is what they at present show every sign of doing.               

 

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DON’T ABANDON THE KURDS TO THE ‘MERCIES’ OF TURKEY’S TYRANT

Ralph Peters

New York Post, Jan. 22, 2018

 

The United States has been the protector and ally of the Kurds for a quarter-century. And the Kurds have proven to be, man-for-man and woman-for-woman, the best fighters in the region. Without Kurdish boots on the ground, we would not have made the sweeping progress achieved against the Islamic State caliphate. Now, with ISIS crushed (but still wriggling and snapping), we’re turning our backs on our Kurdish allies in Syria as they’re attacked by a NATO ally gone rogue — Turkey, which is led by an Islamist strongman, the odious “President” Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

 

The Kurds are fighting for freedom and a state of their own. There are at least 30 million Kurds divided between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and possibly 10 million more — none of the states where they’re captive have allowed an honest census. Kurds have been butchered en masse, denied fundamental rights, imprisoned, tortured, raped, cheated and scapegoated. (All of which should sound unnervingly familiar to those who know Israel’s backstory.)

 

After letting the Kurds down at Versailles a century ago, when we acquiesced to denying them a state, we finally stepped up to do the right thing in the wake of Desert Storm — after Saddam Hussein had used poison gas on Iraq’s Kurdish population. In return, the Kurds have fought bravely beside us in a succession of conflicts. Outside of Israel, no one has done more to support our priorities — especially in combatting Islamist terrorists. Now we’re on the verge of permitting another slaughter of Kurds. To please Turkey. We should be on the side of the underdogs, not of the rabid dogs.

 

As Turkish tanks roll into Syria’s Afrin Province to kill Kurds, it’s time to recognize that Turkey’s no longer an ally and no longer belongs in NATO (Erdogan is even buying Russian air-defense systems). Turkey’s dictator-in-all-but-name has gutted democracy, imprisoned tens of thousands on false charges, suppressed the free media, rigged the courts, backed Islamist hardliners in Syria — and, for political advantage, reignited a conflict that had gone quiet with Turkey’s internal Kurdish population. Oh, and Erdogan’s a prime supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Turkey and abroad.

 

Why on earth are we permitting his attack on our Kurdish allies? It really comes down to two related issues. First, inertia. Turkey has been our ally (if a difficult one) since the early Cold War, so we blindly accept the notion that it must remain an ally forever — even as Erdogan works against our strategic interests. Second, restricted use of a single air base has paralyzed our Turkey policy. Unquestionably, Incirlik air base, in southeastern Turkey, has a prime strategic location. Our operations would be more challenging without it. And Turkey uses that as leverage. It’s time to call Erdogan’s bluff. We should not sacrifice the future of 30 million to 40 million pro-American Kurds for the sake of a couple of runways.

 

Erdogan’s excuse for sending his air force and army across the border into Syrian territory liberated by Kurds is his bogus claim that the Kurds we’ve backed — who fought ISIS house to house — are all terrorists. In the alphabet game of the Middle East, Erdogan insists that Syria’s Kurdish YPG forces — our allies — are indistinguishable from the PKK, a Turkish domestic resistance group that had abandoned terror to seek a political accommodation. While oppressed Kurds everywhere do feel a measure of solidarity with one another, claiming that the YPG is the same as the PKK is like blaming Rand Paul for Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.

 

What should we do to stop Turkey from using US-supplied, US-made weapons to kill our only dependable regional allies outside of Israel? It’s time to embrace the future rather than clinging to the past. It’s time to imagine a strategy without Incirlik air base and with Turkey suspended from NATO until it returns to the rule of law and honest elections. It’s time to recognize that the Kurds deserve and have earned a state of their own. And, right now, it’s past time to draw a red line for Erdogan, who cannot be permitted to slaughter Kurds who have been fighting beside us and for us. The Kurds aren’t terrorists. The terrorist sits in his president’s chair in Ankara.               

 

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TURKEY, THE ARAB WORLD IS JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2018

 

He runs around in a fake fire extinguisher's outfit, holding a silly hose in his hands and knocking on neighbors' doors to put out the fire in their homes. "Go away," his neighbors keep telling him. "There is no fire here!" I am the person to put out that fire, he insists, as doors keep shutting on his face. That was more or less how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's neo-Ottoman, pro-ummah (Islamic community), "Big Brother" game has looked in the Middle East.

 

After years of trial and failure Erdogan does not understand that his services are not wanted in the Muslim neighborhood: The Iranians are too Shiite to trust his Sunni Islamism; the (mostly Sunni) Kurds' decades-long dispute with the Turks is more ethnic than religious; and Sunni Arabs do not wish to revisit their Ottoman colonial past. Still, Erdogan insists.

 

Turkish textbooks have taught children how treacherous Arab tribes stabbed their Ottoman ancestors in the back during the First World War, and even how Arabs collaborated with non-Muslim Western powers against Muslim Ottoman Turks. A pro-Western, secular rule in the modern Turkish state in the 20th century coupled with various flavors of Islamism in the Arab world added to an already ingrained anti-Arabism in the Turkish psyche. Erdogan's indoctrination, on the other hand, had to break that anti-Arabism if he wanted to revive the Ottoman Turkish rule over a future united ummah. The Turks had to rediscover their "Arab brothers" if Erdogan's pan-Islamism had to advance into the former Ottoman realms in the Middle East.

 

It was not a coincidence that the number of imam [religious] school students, under Erdogan's rule, has risen sharply to 1.3 million from a mere 60,000 when he first came to power in 2002, an increase of more than twenty-fold. Erdogan is happy. "We are grateful to God for that," he said late in 2017. Meanwhile, the Turkish Education Ministry added Arabic courses to its curriculum and the state broadcaster, TRT, launched an Arabic television channel.

 

Not enough. In addition, Erdogan would pursue a systematic policy to bash Israel at every opportunity and play the champion Muslim leader of the "Palestinian cause." He has done that, too, and in an exaggerated way, by countless times declaring himself the champion of the Palestinian cause — and he still does it. Erdogan's Turkey championed an international campaign to recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital city of the Palestinian state, with several Arab pats on the shoulder.

 

His spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, happily said that the dispute over Jerusalem after President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital "had in fact united the Muslim world." A united Muslim front around the "Palestinian capital Jerusalem" is a myth. Iran, for instance, renounced Turkey's Jerusalem efforts because, according to the regime, the entire city of Jerusalem, not just eastern Jerusalem, should have been recognized as the Palestinian capital. Before that, Turkey accused some Arab countries of showing a weak reaction to Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

 

The Turkish-Arab fraternity along Muslims lines is an even bigger myth. For instance, the Saudi-led Gulf blockade of Qatar imposed in June came as a complete shock. One of his Sunni brothers had taken out the sword against another?! Turkey's Sunni brothers had once been sympathetic to his ideas but no longer are. Only two years ago, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were mulling the idea of a joint military strike in Syria.

 

For the Sunni Saudis, the Turks were allies only if they could be of use in any fight against Shiite Iran or its proxies, such as the Baghdad government or the Syrian regime. For the Saudis, Turkey was only useful if it could serve a sectarian purpose. Meanwhile, as Turkey, together with Qatar, kept on championing Hamas, Saudi Arabia and Egypt distanced themselves from the Palestinian cause and consequently from Turkey. Both the Saudi kingdom and Egypt's al-Sisi regime have viewed Hamas, an Iranian satellite, with hostility, whereas Turkey gave it logistical and ideological support. Another reason for the change in Saudi Arabia's position toward Turkey — from "friendly" to "semi-medium-hostile" — is Saudi Arabia's newfound alliance with Egypt's President el-Sisi. El-Sisi replaced the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, in Egypt, while Turkey and Qatar, have effectively been the embodiments of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Erdogan offered to build a Turkish military base in the Kingdom, for example, but in June, Saudi officials turned him down.

 

Erdogan might benefit by being reminded of a few facts and shaken out of his make-believe world. For instance, he might recall, that his worst regional nemesis is an Arab leader, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not an "infidel king." He must realize that he is no longer the "rock star" he was in the streets of Amman or Beirut that he once was – when the only currency he could sell on the Arab Street was his anti-Semitic rants. Turkey does not even have full diplomatic relations with the most populous Sunni Arab nation, Egypt. More recently, a tiny sheikdom had to remind Erdogan that his expansionist, "ummah-ist" design for the Middle East was no more than a fairy tale he persistently wanted to believe. In December, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet that accused Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago. In response, Erdogan himself lashed out: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery … What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has.”

 

But that was not the end of what looks like a minor historical debate. The row symbolized the impossibility of what Erdogan has been trying to build: An eternal Arab-Turkish fraternity. Anwar Gargash, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said there was a need for Arab countries to rally around the "Arab axis" of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Did Erdogan hear that? If not, he should have heard this one: Gargash also said that "the Arab world would not be led by Turkey." In what better plain diplomatic language could the idea have been expressed? Meanwhile Erdogan keeps living in his make-believe world. Last summer, as part of his futile "euphemizing Arab-Ottoman history" campaign, he claimed that "Arabs stabbed us in the back was a lie." Not even the Arabs claim they did not revolt against the Ottomans in alliance with Western powers.

 

If none of that is enough to convince Erdogan he should read some credible polling results. Taha Akyol, a prominent Turkish columnist, recently noted some research conducted by the pollster Zogby in 2016. The poll found that 67% of Egyptians, 65% of Saudis, 59% of UAE citizens, and 70% of Iraqis had an unfavorable opinion of Turkey. Do not tell Erdogan, but if "polling" had existed a century ago, the numbers might have been even worse.                                            

 

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ERDOGAN'S ISRAEL OBSESSION

Prof. Efraim Inbar

Israel Hayom, Dec. 24, 2017

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostility toward Israel can be puzzling at times. When his Justice and Development (AKP) party rose to power through democratic elections in 2002, ties with Israel had been solid for a number of years. Erdogan visited Israel himself in 2005. His government purchased weapons from and held joint military maneuvers with Israel. Under Erdogan, Turkey attempted to serve as mediator between Israel and Syria and expressed interest in collaborating with Israel on projects to benefit Palestinians. Economic ties between the two countries continue to flourish, and Turkey's official airline operates around 10 flights per day between Tel Aviv and Istanbul. The reasons for the change can be found in Erdogan's personality and Turkey's strategic environment. Erdogan has acquired status and unprecedented political power, and he is fearlessly working to realize his personal preferences in both Turkey's domestic and foreign policies.

 

Erdogan's treatment of the Jewish state stems from his negative opinion of Jews in general. Erdogan had issues with anti-Semitic remarks in the past, which stem from his Islamist education and the anti-Jewish atmosphere in Islamist circles in Turkey. Many in those circles believe that the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was secretly a Jew. They see Jews as having been a central agent in Turkey's process of secularization under Ataturk, a process they consider destructive. Therefore, Jews are the bitter enemy sabotaging Turkey's Muslim identity. A shrewd politician, Erdogan is aware that his anti-Semitic positions earn him praise that translates to votes come election time. Opinion polls from the previous decade indicate that around half of all Turks do not want a Jewish neighbor and believe Jews are disloyal to the state. In Turkey, anti-Semitic sentiments are no longer politically incorrect.

 

Another important factor behind the poor relations between the two countries is Turkey's desire to wield influence in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Turkey's foreign policy has broken off from the Kemalist outlook that saw ties with Middle Eastern states as a cultural and political burden, and Turkey now draws more from its imperial Ottoman heritage. Under Erdogan, Muslim identity plays a large part in Turkey's foreign policy. The desire to become a regional and global leader demands that Turkey lower the profile of its relations with Israel.

 

At the same time, Turkey is distancing itself from the West, and the United States in particular. With the fall of the Soviet Union, there is less strategic need for NATO membership, especially given EU opposition to Turkey joining the organization. Alongside a weakened EU, America's diminished presence in the Middle East under former President Barack Obama and now under President Donald Trump has bolstered the Turkish trend of deviating from the West in its policy on Israel. And yet Turkey maintains diplomatic ties and excellent financial ties with Israel, which has a vested interest in ties with as important a Muslim state as Turkey. While Israel cannot let Erdogan's attacks slide, its response must differentiate between Turkish society and its popular but problematic leader.

 

The struggle for Turkey's identity is not over. Only half of all Turks voted for Erdogan in the last elections. In the Middle East, countries that can afford to oppose Erdogan are few and far between. Turkey and Iran are historic rivals, and tensions between them also stem from the Sunni-Shiite divide. Today, Turkey cooperates with Iran, largely out of both countries' concern over Kurdish nationalism and the Muslim character of their foreign policies. In the future, Turkey may decide to oppose Iran's expansion and as a result improve ties with Israel. The international reality is fluid, and Israel must keep all options open.

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria: Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018—Simmering tensions between Turkey and the United States spilled into the open on Wednesday as President Trump warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the growing risk of conflict between the two nations. The Turkish president, for his part, demanded that the United States end its support for Kurdish militias.

Watching Turkey's Descent into Islamist Dictatorship: Andrew Harrod, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018—"Deep trouble" in Turkey's relationships with Europe and the United States was a recurring theme in the December address of Michael Meier — representative to America and Canada for Germany's Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), or the Foundation for Social Democracy. His introduction to the Middle East Institute (MEI) and FES' eighth annual Turkey Conference, at Washington, DC's National Press Club was an appropriately gloomy preface to the discussion of Turkey's troubled past and present.

Turkey is Becoming New Hub for Salafist-Jihadi Exodus from Syria: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2018—As the Islamic State (IS) has lost territory in Syria and Iraq, and as efforts are being made to separate radical elements from moderate Sunni opposition groups in and around Idlib, the violent Salafist-jihadi networks are migrating to Turkey.

Turkey’s Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Jan. 24, 2018—While Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East have been under the world’s magnifying glass, Turkey has been silently projecting its military presence in the area to such an extent it has become a source of worry to the “moderate” Arab states and specifically to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

                                                              

 

 

“NEO-OTTOMAN” TURKEY SUPPORTS QATAR IN GULF CRISIS & TRIES TO GAIN FOOTHOLD IN JERUSALEM

Turkey’s Failed Grand Design for the Middle East: Burak Bekdil, BESA, June 16, 2017— In many ways, the recent crisis between Qatar and its Gulf and other Muslim “friends” marked, among other things, the last nail in the coffin of Turkey’s “grand Middle Eastern design”.

A New Ottoman Empire?: Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, June 23, 2017— Four years after the Ottoman Empire faded away and withdrew from the land of Israel, the man who wrote the words to Turkey's national anthem — Mehmet Akif Ersoy — tried to hoist his country's flag.

Turkey's Elite Get Lenient Treatment in Post-Coup Probes: Sibel Hurtas, Al-Monitor, June 22, 2017 — Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the abortive coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey, Where Are Your Jews?: Uzay Bulut, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2017 — The Turkish newspaper Milliyet published a news report on March 20 entitled “Synagogues from the era of Byzantium are about to disappear forever!”

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkish Takeover in Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, June 2, 2017

Turkey Rolls the Dice by Supporting Qatar in Its Feud With Saudi Arabia: Iyad Dakka, World Politics Review, June 19, 2017

Perspectives on Turkey’s 2017 Presidential Referendum: Ödül Celep, Rubin Center, June, 2017

Soft Sharia in Turkey: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 18, 2017

 

 

TURKEY’S FAILED GRAND DESIGN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST                                                            

Burak Bekdil

           BESA, June 16, 2017

 

In many ways, the recent crisis between Qatar and its Gulf and other Muslim “friends” marked, among other things, the last nail in the coffin of Turkey’s “grand Middle Eastern design”. Once again, Turkey’s leaders were trapped by their own ideological shallowness into betting on a losing horse.

 

Very important Turks in dark suits saw the start of the Arab Spring as a golden opportunity to realize their neo-Ottoman ambitions. In Tunisia, their Islamist brothers in arms, the Ennahdha Party, would come to power and annihilate the “secular infidels”. Rachid Gannouchi, Ennahdha’s chief ideologue, never hid his admiration for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stealth Islamization by popular vote.

 

Erdoğan received one rock-star welcome after another on his visits to Beirut and Egypt. He failed, however, to detect that Lebanese Muslims’ devotion to him was merely praise for his outspoken hatred of Israel. He also failed to predict the turn of political events in Egypt, investing all his political resources in the Muslim Brotherhood. In Iraq, he calculated that with some western backing, he could end the Shiite rule in Baghdad and build a Sunni regime instead. In Gaza, Hamas was, and still is, Erdoğan’s ideological next of kin.

 

In Syria, the non-Sunni [Nusayri] president, Bashar al-Assad, is Erdoğan’s worst regional nemesis. Erdoğan’s expectation, it appears, was that Assad would be toppled and replaced by a coalition of Sunni jihadists. Eventually, a pro-Sunni belt in the Middle East would take shape, totally subservient to the emerging Turkish empire and to its emerging caliph, Erdoğan. Such was Erdoğan’s grand design for the region. Qatar was not simply the “lubricant” of Turkey’s fragile economy but also Erdoğan’s main ideological partner.

 

The story is not progressing according to that script, however. Hezbollah in Lebanon decided Erdoğan was simply “too Sunni” for their tastes, notwithstanding his virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric and ideology. In Tunisia, Ennahdha, to Erdoğan’s disappointment, signed a historic compromise with the country’s secular bloc instead of fighting to annihilate it. The Brotherhood in Egypt lost not only power but also legitimacy as international pressure mounted in recognition of the group’s links with violence. In Baghdad, the rulers are still Shiite and controlled by Tehran. In Syria, Assad remains in power, backed by Iran and Russia, and Erdoğan’s jihadist comrades are almost entirely devoid of strategic importance. Moreover, an emerging Kurdish belt in northern Syria has become a Turkish nightmare. Hamas, like the Brotherhood, is getting squeezed day by day, both regionally and internationally. Erdoğan’s ambition to end the naval blockade of Gaza is already a long-forgotten promise. And now Qatar is in trouble, along with Erdoğan himself.

 

It is not just Erdoğan’s other friends in the Gulf and the Muslim world that are now strangling Qatar through a punishing isolation. Erdoğan must also contend with US President Donald Trump, who declared that Qatar – Turkey’s staunchest ally – “had been a high-level sponsor of terrorism.” Erdoğan, still a firm believer in ideology as foreign policy, is not getting any closer to reality. Immediately after the Gulf and other Muslim sanctions were placed on Qatar, the Turkish president signed two treaties with the Gulf state: one to send troops to a joint Turkish-Qatari military base in Qatar, and the other to provide Turkish training for Qatari gendarmerie units. Turkey, along with Iran, also quickly moved to send food stocks to Qatar in an attempt to ease the sanctions.

 

Erdoğan said the sanctions were wrong; that Ankara would continue to improve its already good relations with Doha; and that “we will never abandon our Qatari brothers.” With a caliph’s self-confidence, he ordered that the crisis be resolved before the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan (i.e., the end of June). As to Qatar’s connection to terror, what connection? Erdoğan says he has never seen Qatar supporting terrorism. This declaration is reminiscent of his past statement that “I went to Sudan and did not see any genocide there,” made in support of his “good friend” Omar Bashir, who was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.

 

The cast of the Gulf drama reveals ideological kinships. As part of their anti-Qatar campaign, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt accused 59 individuals and 12 charity organizations of terror links. One of the accused is Yousef al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. Who is Qaradawi? In 2004, Qaradawi said, “There is no dialogue between us [Jews and Muslims] except by the sword and the rifle.” In 2005, he issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Jewish fetuses. And in 2013, when millions of secular Turks took to the streets to protest Erdoğan’s Islamist policies, Qaradawi rushed to Erdoğan’s aid by declaring that the “Turkish protesters were acting against Allah’s will.”

 

Once again, Erdoğan’s Turkey stands on the wrong corner at the wrong moment. Some of his men fear Turkey may be next in line for international sanctions for standing in solidarity with what Washington views as a high-level sponsor of terror. This may be unlikely, but Erdoğan is ignoring two potential dangers. First, he is operating on the flawed assumption that business as usual will resume no matter how the Gulf crisis ends, and that the Turkish-Qatari alliance will be up and running according to the same ideals. Second, he believes the West is too weak to sanction Turkey either politically or economically, so it has little to fear on that front.

 

He is wrong on both counts. Doha may not be the same place after the Gulf Arabs find a way out of their crisis. A less Turkey-friendly Qatar may well emerge. Turkey’s two staunchest ideological allies, the Brotherhood and Hamas, will likely be further pruned in their own corners of the Arab world, with non-Arab Turkey possibly remaining their only vocal supporter. And the impending “slap” Ankara is ignoring may come not from Washington but from Erdoğan’s Muslim friends in the Gulf. Shortly before the Qatar campaign, Turkey’s defense bureaucracy was curious as to why the Saudis kept delaying a ceremony for a $2 billion contract for the sale of four Turkish frigates to the Kingdom in what would have become Turkey’s largest-ever single defense industry export. Now they have an idea why. That deal, if scrapped, may be just one of the starters on a rich menu.

 

 

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A NEW OTTOMAN EMPIRE?

Nadav Shragai

Israel Hayom, June 23, 2017

 

Four years after the Ottoman Empire faded away and withdrew from the land of Israel, the man who wrote the words to Turkey's national anthem — Mehmet Akif Ersoy — tried to hoist his country's flag. He slipped a line into the anthem to which the Turks still cling. Arusi describes the flag "waving like the shining sky" and praises it: "Oh coy crescent do not frown, for I am ready to sacrifice myself for you! … If you frown, our blood shed for you will not be worthy." But it's doubtful whether back in 1921 even Ersoy believed that less than 100 years later, flags bearing Turkey's moon and star would once again wave over the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount — and under the rule of a Jewish state, no less.

 

Turkey once again wants to gain a foothold and influence in Jerusalem. It is investing a lot of money to gain its objective. The Turkish national and cultural awakening in the Israeli capital, which is keenly felt by the residents of east Jerusalem, has the backing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sees himself as the patron of the Muslim Brotherhood and the man who will reinstate the Ottoman Empire and become the father of the Ottoman caliphate that will one day return — even to Jerusalem.

 

Turkey is scattering vast sums around east Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount to acquire a foothold and influence here. Erdogan's loyal partners in this "holy" act are the members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, which rejects the legitimacy of Israel and which has now been outlawed; and Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem, one of the most extreme figures in Islam who has decreed suicide bombings legitimate and expressed hope that the U.S. and Britain be destroyed. Sabri is currently the head preacher at Al-Aqsa mosque…

 

It turns out that the Turkish money is flowing into Jerusalem via a number of entities, the most important of which is TIKA, an aid organization funded mostly by the Turkish government that sends enormous amounts of money to some 140 countries. Since 2011, TIKA has been headed by Dr. Serder Cam, who formerly served as chief of Erdogan's parliamentary staff. Members of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center recently discovered that between 2004, when TIKA first established a branch office in Ramallah, and 2014, it invested millions of dollars in no fewer than 63 projects in Jerusalem…

 

At the request of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Youth and Sport, TIKA has also invested in the construction of a sports stadium in the A-Tur neighborhood on the way to the Mount of Olives; in refurbishing the archive of Ottoman and Muslim documents on the Temple Mount; in acquiring a water tank for the benefit of worshippers on the Mount; in rebuilding the Muslim cemetery at the foot of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, near the Golden Gate; in funding archaeological salvage excavations on the Street of the Chain in the Old City; and plenty of other community and religious projects.

 

Turkey's trusted allies in Jerusalem — mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, who maintain ties to the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement — frequently fly Turkish flags on the Temple Mount and along the way to it. TIKA has also printed hundreds of thousands of copies of an informational booklet in three languages (Turkish, Arabic and English) about the 76 Muslim historical sites and buildings in the Al-Aqsa compound. The booklet launch was a festive ceremony attended by members of the Muslim Waqf and representatives of the Turks and the Palestinians.

 

The crown jewel of Turkey's activity in Jerusalem was replacing the faded old crescent on top of the Dome of the Rock with a shiny new golden crescent donated by the government of Turkey. It was a Turkish association that provided part of the funding for the buses that in recent years have picked up operatives from the Murabitun and Murabitat fundamentalist groups from Palestinian villages in the Triangle region and shuttled them to the Temple Mount, where they spent years instigating riots and unrest until their organizations were outlawed and banned from the Mount.

 

The Turkish obsession with Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount is both consistent and methodical. Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a researcher on Turkey from the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, mentions that for years, the Turks sent regular delegations to inspect events involving the archaeological excavations around Mughrabi Bridge and the Western Wall tunnels. "Mehmet Gormez, chairman of the Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, is the one who two years ago on Al-Qadr Eve directed the prayer on the Temple Mount, and under Gormez, Jerusalem became a station on the Hajj route [the holy journey to Mecca]. In other words, on the way to Mecca, [Muslims] pray at Al-Aqsa, and only then proceed to Jordan, and from there to Saudi Arabia," Yanarocak explains.

 

The researcher also notes that the backdrop of the official TV station of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate now includes an image of Al-Aqsa mosque alongside the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. "Turkish schoolbooks are including Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem more and more, too," Yanarocak observes. A reminder: Only a few weeks ago, despite the reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey and the supposed end to the Mavi Marmara crisis Erdogan spoke at an international forum of Waqf charities for Al-Quds, the Muslim name for Jerusalem. He called Israeli rule over Jerusalem "an insult" and called on his people and on Muslims worldwide "to protect Jerusalem's Muslim identity" and ascend the Temple Mount.

 

Erdogan took that same opportunity to attack Israel's muezzin bill, which was intended to limit noise from Muslim calls to prayer, and threatened: "We will not allow the muezzin on Al-Aqsa to be silenced. … Any stone that is moved in the city could be significant." He also complained that "only" 26,000 Turks visit Jerusalem each year and added that "although that is a larger number than any other Muslim state, it's much lower than the hundreds of thousands of Americans, Russians and French [who visit]." Indeed, thanks to Erdogan, Muslim tourism to Jerusalem is changing. Today, it is mainly religious groups who visit Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, then leave.

 

Yanarocak explains that Erdogan "believes he is the leader of the moderate Sunni world, and he takes every opportunity to stress that he is the descendant of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Jerusalem for hundreds of years, the heir to Salah a-Din and Suleiman the Magnificent. He defines the Turks as the grandchildren of those two and aspires to restore Islamic rule and the [Turkish] empire to Jerusalem."…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

Contents

TURKEY, WHERE ARE YOUR JEWS?

Uzay Bulut

Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2017

 

The Turkish newspaper Milliyet published a news report on March 20 entitled “Synagogues from the era of Byzantium are about to disappear forever!” “Among the historical and cultural heritage of Istanbul that is on the verge of extinction are Byzantine synagogues which belong to the Turkish Jewish community,” said the report. “Most of the historic synagogues which numbered in dozens in the early 20th century are located in the Balat and Hasköy areas. Many run the risk of disappearing forever”.

 

“A lot of historic monuments belonging to the Jewish community and built during the Byzantine era are in ruins,” said Mois Gabay, a columnist for the Jewish weekly Salom, and a professional tourist guide. Gabay added that Turkish Jews who lived in the region of Golden Horn, also known by its Turkish name as Haliç "left Turkey a long time ago”.  When there are no more Jewish congregants, it becomes almost impossible to preserve synagogues.

 

Jews in Turkey are mostly known for being the descendants of the immigrants who moved to the Ottoman Empire after being expelled from Spain. However, Jews have been living in Asia Minor since antiquity. Professor Franklin Hugh Adler explains: “Jews, in fact, had inhabited this land long before the birth of Mohammed and the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, or for that matter, the arrival and conquests of the Turks, beginning in the eleventh century. On the eve of the birth of Islam, most of world Jewry lived under Byzantine or Persian rule in the lands of the Mediterranean basin.

 

“At the beginning of the Turkish Republic, in 1923, the Jewish population was 81,454. In Istanbul alone there were 47,035 Jews, roughly thirteen percent of a city that then numbered 373,124.” Today, there are fewer than 15,000 Jews in Turkey, whose entire population is almost 80 million. What happened? Since 1923, when the Turkish Republic was established, Jews have been exposed to systematic discrimination and campaigns of forced Turkification and Islamization. With the Law of Family Names accepted in 1934, Jews as well as other non-Muslim and non-Turkish citizens had to change their names and surnames and adopt Turkish sounding names. The 1934 Turkish Resettlement Law resulted not only in the forced assimilation of non-Turks, but also in their forced displacement. Jews who had lived in Eastern Thrace were forcibly sent to Istanbul. The last of the Jewish “Alliance Israélite Schools” was shut down by the Turkish government in 1937.

 

Jews were deprived of their freedom of movement at least three times: in 1923, 1925 and 1927. During the Holocaust, Turkey opened its doors to very few Jewish and political refugees and even took measures to prevent Jewish immigration in 1937. During the Ottoman Empire, Jews had been allowed to engage in Zionist activities — activities that support the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland in the historic Land of Israel — but during the rule of the new republic, these activities were banned.

 

Hate speech in the Turkish media against Jews has also been a serious and continued problem for decades. For example, in the one-party regime of the CHP (Republican People’s Party) government between the years 1923 and 1945, “The Turkish satirical magazines were full of caricatures of the ‘Jewish merchant’: dirty, materialistic, afraid of water, hook nosed, a black marketer, an opportunist, and utterly unable to speak Turkish without a comical Jewish accent; in short, a similar figure to Jewish types encountered in Nazi iconography,” writes Rifat N. Bali, the leading scholar of Turkish Jewry…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                                                   

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TURKEY'S ELITE GET LENIENT TREATMENT IN POST-COUP PROBES

Sibel Hurtas

Al-Monitor, June 22, 2017

 

Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the abortive coup attempt on July 15, 2016. During this period, 150,000 people have been arrested and 50,000 remain behind bars, including journalists, academics, students, public servants and even shopkeepers. Absent from this long list of alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric accused of masterminding the putsch, are political figures who made no secret of their sympathy for Gulen in the past. This has long stirred controversy and sparked accusations that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is protecting its own.

 

In September 2016, two months after the coup attempt, the arrest of businessman Omer Kavurmaci — the son-in-law of Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas — led many to believe that the operations would extend to political quarters, since the Topbas family’s sympathy for Gulen was no secret. The expectations, however, did not materialize. Moreover, the judiciary made a surprise decision in May 2017 to release Kavurmaci while pending trial, on the grounds he suffers from epilepsy and sleep apnea.

 

Then, in June 2017, the authorities arrested Ekrem Yeter, the son-in-law of AKP co-founder Bulent Arinc. An associate professor in medicine, Yeter was among hundreds of academics expelled from universities through legislative decrees that the government used to its advantage under the state of emergency. Yeter became a suspect because the health association that he chaired was shut down after the coup attempt for alleged affiliation with the Gulen community, which the government has since rebranded as the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization.

 

Yeter reportedly testified that he had joined the health association after his father-in-law advised him to contribute to the association. He testified that AKP heavyweights such as Labor Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu and Agriculture Minister Faruk Celik had attended the health association’s events. Given the zeal with which prosecutors pursue alleged Gulen sympathizers, one would have expected that a testimony providing fresh names would lead to an expanded investigation. But this did not happen. Moreover, Yeter walked free after a few days in jail when a court ruled he had a permanent residence and therefore he could report to the police regularly and was not a flight risk. The release of the two men was seen as special treatment, leading social media users to coin the term “sons-in-law law,” which politicians and journalists were quick to adopt. Pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, for instance, wrote, “Along with criminal law, civil law, commercial law and international law, there is now a new bunch — 'sons-in-law law.'"

 

The contrast between the treatment of different suspects was inescapable. The evidence prosecutors have against the sons-in-law and the evidence used to imprison journalists is beyond comparison. Kavurmaci, for instance, stands accused of financially supporting Gulen even after the coup attempt. Yeter is accused of implementing Gulenist projects via ministries and medical faculties. Cumhuriyet and Al-Monitor columnist Kadri Gursel, meanwhile, has been in jail since November 2016 for alleged links with Gulenists, the supposed evidence for which is telephone records showing that individuals who downloaded the ByLock application — the alleged secret communication channel used by Gulenists — had called or texted the journalist. Moreover, the bulk of those calls and text messages remained unanswered. The charges against other Cumhuriyet writers and journalists still in jail are of a similar nature.

 

“More than 150 journalists remain in jail, including some with a lifelong record of opposing [the Gulenists], while the sons-in-law walk free,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), at a June 13 CHP meeting in parliament. In a sarcastic tone, he added that perhaps “mothers are to blame because they have failed to find the right fathers-in-law for their sons.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkish Takeover in Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, June 2, 2017 —The fireworks and fanfare of the Jerusalem liberation jubilee have shoved under the radar a blockbuster expose about the unruly situation in east Jerusalem. Alarm bells should be ringing about the nefarious intensifying involvement of Erdogan's Turkey and other radical Islamist groups in Jerusalem political and social affairs.

Turkey Rolls the Dice by Supporting Qatar in Its Feud With Saudi Arabia: Iyad Dakka, World Politics Review, June 19, 2017—Like the rest of the world, Turkey was blindsided by the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut all diplomatic, trade and transportation ties with Qatar earlier this month.

Perspectives on Turkey’s 2017 Presidential Referendum: Ödül Celep, Rubin Center, June, 2017—The April 16, 2017, presidential referendum has created an unprecedented sociopolitical division in Turkey. The referendum has led to odd unions between former foes. It has also brought a variety of diverse political groups into one block, particularly the “no” block.

Soft Sharia in Turkey: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 18, 2017—The good news about Turkish justice is that despite 15 years of not-so-creeping Islamization, court verdicts do not yet sentence wrongdoers to public lashing, stoning, amputations or public hangings in main city squares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMID TURKEY-EU ROW, ANTISEMITIC ERDOGAN CALLS OPPONENTS “FASCISTS” & “NAZI REMNANTS”

Europe's 'Turkish Awakening': Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 14, 2017— Turkey, officially, is a candidate for full membership in the European Union.

In Turkey-Netherlands Row, a Foreboding Sign For Jews: Cnaan Liphshiz, Times of Israel, Mar. 15, 2017— The thousands of people who gathered outside the Turkish consulate of this port city on Saturday patiently waited for hours, chatting with friends and relatives.

Erdogan Critics Beware: Turkey Probably is Watching: IPT News, February 27, 2017— For some Americans, concerns about Russian spying and interference in its elections are growing, with new reports emerging nearly every day.

Following Russia’s Lead is the Smart Move for Turkey and Israel: Micah Halpern, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2017— Russian President Vladimir Putin is a world-class master when it comes to getting what he wants. He leaves nothing to chance.

               

On Topic Links

 

Russian Air Defense Architecture … for NATO Member Turkey?: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Mar. 14, 2017

Cyprus Deal Could Speed up Israel-Turkey Gas Project – Envoy: Times of Israel, Mar. 1, 2017

Is Turkey Lost to the West?: Patrick J. Buchanan, CNS News, Mar. 14, 2017

Turkey’s New Curriculum: More Erdoğan, More Islam: Zia Weise, Politico, Feb. 13, 2017

 

EUROPE'S 'TURKISH AWAKENING'

                                      Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Mar. 14, 2017

 

Turkey, officially, is a candidate for full membership in the European Union. It is also negotiating with Brussels a deal which would allow millions of Turks to travel to Europe without visa. But Turkey is not like any other European country that joined or will join the EU: The Turks' choice of a leader, in office since 2002, too visibly makes this country the odd one out.

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now campaigning to broaden his constitutional powers, which would make him head of state, head of government and head of the ruling party — all at the same time — is inherently autocratic and anti-Western. He seems to view himself as a great Muslim leader fighting armies of infidel crusaders. This image, with which he portrays himself, finds powerful echoes among millions of conservative Turks and [Sunni] Islamists across the Middle East. That, among other excesses in the Turkish style, makes Turkey totally incompatible with Europe in political culture.

 

Yet, there is always the lighter side of things. Take, for example, Melih Gokcek, the mayor of Ankara and a bigwig in Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). In February Gokcek claimed that earthquakes in a western Turkish province could have been organized by dark external powers (read: Western infidels) aiming to destroy Turkey's economy with an "artificial earthquake" near Istanbul. According to this conspiracy theory, the mayor not only claims that the earthquake in western Turkey was the work of the U.S. and Israel, but also that the U.S. created the radical Islamic State (ISIS). In fact, according to him, the U.S. and Israel colluded to trigger an earthquake in Turkey so they could capture energy from the Turkish fault line.

 

Matters between Turkey and Europe are far more tense today than ridiculous statements from politicians who want to look pretty to Erdogan. The president, willingly ignoring his own strong anti-Semitic views, recently accused Germany of "fascist actions" reminiscent of Nazi times, in a growing row over the cancellation of political rallies aimed at drumming up support for him among 1.5 million Turkish citizens in Germany. The Dutch, Erdogan apparently thinks, are no different. In a similar diplomatic row over Turkish political rallies in the Netherlands, Erdogan described the Dutch government as "Nazi remnants and fascists". After barring Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country by airplane, the Dutch authorities also escorted another Turkish minister out of the country. Quite a humiliation, no doubt. An angry Erdogan promised the Netherlands would pay a price for that.

 

Europe, not just Germany and the Netherlands, looks united in not allowing Erdogan to export Turkey's highly tense and sometimes even violent political polarization into the Old Continent. There are media reports that the owner of a venue in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, has now cancelled a pro-Erdogan rally, although Sweden's foreign ministry said it was not involved in the decision. Europe's anti-Erdogan sentiment is going viral. Denmark's prime minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, said that he asked his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim, to postpone a planned visit because of tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands. Although Turkey thanked France for allowing Foreign Minister Cavusoglu to address a gathering of Turkish "expats" in the city of Metz, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called on Turkish authorities to "avoid excesses and provocations".

 

None of the incidents that forcefully point to Europe's "Turkish awakening" happened out of the blue. At the beginning of February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Erdogan held a tense meeting in Ankara. Erdogan clearly rejected Merkel's mention of "Islamist terror" on grounds that "the expression saddens Muslims because Islam and terror cannot coexist". The row came at a time when a German investigation into Turkish imams in Germany spying on Erdogan's foes made signs of reaching out to other parts of Europe. Peter Pilz, an Austrian lawmaker, said that he was in possession of documents from 30 countries that revealed a "global spying network" at Turkish diplomatic missions.

 

At the beginning of March, after Turkey said it would defy opposition from German and Dutch authorities and continue holding rallies in both countries, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for an EU-wide ban on campaign appearances by Turkish politicians.In response, further challenging Europe, Turkey arrested Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German reporter for a prominent German newspaper, Die Welt, on charges of "propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence." Yucel had been detained after he reported on emails that a leftist hacker collective had purportedly obtained from the private account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey's energy minister and Erdogan's son-in-law.

 

Erdogan's propaganda war on "infidel" Europe has the potential to further poison both bilateral relations with individual countries and with Europe as a bloc. Not even the Turkish "expats" are happy. The leader of Germany's Turkish community accused Erdogan of damaging ties between the two NATO allies. Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, which is an umbrella for 270 member organizations, said: "Erdogan went a step too far. Germany should not sink to his level".

 

The most recent wave of tensions between Erdogan's Turkey and Europe, which it theoretically aspires to join, have once again unveiled the long-tolerated incompatibility between Turkey's predominantly conservative, Islamist and often anti-Western political culture and Europe's liberal values. Turkey increasingly looks like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. During my 1989 visit to Iraq a Turkish-speaking government guide refused to discuss Iraqi politics, justifying his reluctance as: "In Iraq half the population are spies… spying on the other half." Erdogan's Turkey has officially embarked on a journey toward Western democracy. Instead, its Islamist mindset is at war with Western democracy.              

                                                                           

 

Contents

 

IN TURKEY-NETHERLANDS ROW, A FOREBODING SIGN FOR JEWS                                 

                                                   Cnaan Liphshiz

                                            Times of Israel, Mar. 15, 2017

 

The thousands of people who gathered outside the Turkish consulate (in Rotterdam) on Saturday patiently waited for hours, chatting with friends and relatives. Waving Turkish flags, they had gathered on a chilly evening to listen to a Cabinet minister from Turkey arguing in favor of a government-led referendum next month in that country. The referendum would give even greater powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose critics already say rules the country with an iron grip.

 

Erdogan is eyeing the 3 million Turkish nationals living in Europe who can cast their votes in Turkish embassies. But the chummy atmosphere evaporated as word spread that Dutch police had arrested the minister, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya. In reality, she was escorted out of the country to Germany on orders of the Dutch government. Ahead of Wednesday’s general elections in the Netherlands — immigration and Islam have become major issues in the heated campaign — the government vocally objected to Turkey’s campaigning on its soil.

 

Hundreds of young men began confronting police, hurling stones at them while shouting “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “Allah is the greatest.” Some in the crowd then shouted “cancer Jews” in Dutch at the riot police, who used water cannons to disperse the crowd, according to witnesses. It was one of several incidents recently in the Netherlands where anti-Semitic slogans were shouted at demonstrations that had nothing to do with Jews.

 

Occurring as the far right prepares to make historical gains in the voting, the riots in Rotterdam, where five people were moderately injured, triggered the worst diplomatic crisis in years between Turkey and the European Union, and reopened a polarizing debate about the loyalty of some Dutch of Turkish descent. But for Dutch Jews, the affair also underlined a growing concern over the defiance of a minority among local Muslims, whose anti-Semitic attitudes and actions are generating an anti-Muslim backlash in a once-tolerant society.

 

“We saw again that the word ‘Jew’ and ‘homo’ are curse words in these groups,” Esther Voet, the editor-in-chief of the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad, told JTA. “Those protesters have such hostility toward Jews that it just comes out.” Voet also called the violent protesters in Rotterdam a “fifth column” in Dutch society, adding that she was “in some ways glad the riots exposed what many would rather deny.” Across Western Europe, surveys consistently show a relatively high prevalence of anti-Semitic sentiment among Muslims, many of whom associate Jews with an establishment they feel is oppressive and hostile to their identity and faith.

 

But the use of slogans about Jews during violent confrontations that do not involve Jews is a recent development. And it is shocking to many European Jews because “it shows the centrality of anti-Semitism as a core identity value” among some Muslim immigrants and their descendants, according to Manfred Gerstenfeld, a scholar of anti-Semitism who has written extensively about the Netherlands.

 

In 2014, amid protests over Israel’s strikes against Hamas in Gaza, anti-Semitic hostility led dozens of French Arab rioters to besiege a Paris synagogue, which community members defended for long minutes in a savage street brawl as police scrambled to dispatch officers in time to prevent a bloodier scenario. Yet despite several close calls – Dutch police in 2015 arrested several alleged Islamists suspected of plotting to blow up a synagogue in Amsterdam — the Netherlands in recent decades has seen neither major jihadist attacks nor deadly incidents of anti-Semitism of the kind that have occurred in France and neighboring Belgium since 2012.

 

In covering the Rotterdam rioting, the Dutch media largely ignored the anti-Semitic shouts, focusing instead on the far wider ramifications of what quickly evolved into a showdown featuring Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany. After the incident with Kaya and the Dutch government’s refusal to admit into the country Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Erdogan accused both Germany and Holland of having a “Nazi heritage,” leading to condemnations of Turkey by other EU leaders and Jewish groups. Turkish protesters subsequently were allowed to gather outside the Dutch Embassy in Ankara, leading to its brief closure as the Dutch and Turkish governments exchanged threats of financial sanctions…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                           

 

Contents

 

ERDOGAN CRITICS BEWARE: TURKEY PROBABLY IS WATCHING                                         

                                        IPT News, February 27, 2017

 

For some Americans, concerns about Russian spying and interference in its elections are growing, with new reports emerging nearly every day. But in Europe, officials are fighting off an even greater incursion from another country, which is now spying even on civilians: Turkey.

 

Recent investigations and leaks in Germany, Austria and The Netherlands confirm ongoing efforts by Turkey's government to intimidate European-Turkish citizens suspected of having ties to Fethullah Gulen, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's one-time ally, whom he now blames for the failed coup against him last July. Imams in Germany connected to the Turkish state, for instance, admitted to spying on teachers in German state-run schools. Even teachers and parents have been asked to spy on the classes and report in any criticism of Erdogan or his government.

 

In Austria, parliamentarian Peter Pilz has referred to a "global spying network," with Austria's union of Turkish-Islamic groups sending reports on Gulen-tied organizations back to Ankara. Targets have included educational institutions, cultural centers, and various NGOs. And in The Netherlands, the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has revoked the passports of several Dutch-Turks thought to support Gulen. (Turkey maintains consular offices in several Dutch cities; to date, reports of passports being revoked are limited to the Rotterdam office.)

 

Erdogan's involvement in European affairs beyond Turkey's borders, especially in the affairs of Europeans of Turkish descent, is nothing new. In 2008, while speaking at a rally in Cologne, Germany, he encouraged all European Turks to resist assimilation, which he called "a crime against humanity." In 2013, he interfered in a Dutch child abuse case against a Dutch-Turkish mother after the child was given over to lesbian foster parents. And last year, he called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to prosecute a German comedian who had written a song critical of him.

 

But the latest efforts indicate an even greater bravado, says Elise Steilberg, a Dutch columnist who frequently writes on Turkish politics. "The clearer it has become that Erdogan aims at a one-man-rule, and that in working toward his goal of constitutional change he won't hesitate to use unconventional means, the more obvious it has also become that he will do anything to get as many European Turks behind him as possible," she said in a recent e-mail. "Erdogan is now openly using all available channels to increase his influence within Europe."

 

The Dutch passport situation is a salient example of this effort. Both dual Dutch-Turkish citizens and Turkish citizens with residency permits have reported that their passports were confiscated at the Rotterdam office. In each case, they were said to have ties to Gulen, to Kurdish groups, or to journalists and others critical of the Turkish government. For dual citizens, this is bad enough, but those with only Turkish citizenship are rendered stateless by such a move. Some have argued that this action represents a flagrant violation of United Nations conventions, but Turkey is not a signatory to those conventions.

 

There is, however, an option offered to those whose passports are revoked, reports Dutch newspaper Trouw, which first broke the story. To obtain a replacement, they will be provided a one-day passport that allows them to return to Turkey. On arrival, they will be held in custody, effectively imprisoned until they can plead their case in court – a process that can take six months. In one particularly disturbing case described in Trouw, a Turkish woman was forced to relinquish her passport because her husband is a Gulenist. She is not.

 

But Ankara has not stopped at the door of its consulates. With Dutch elections set for March 15, Turkey is allegedly paying imams in The Netherlands to urge Dutch-Turks to vote for the anti-integration Denk (Think) party, led by Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Ozturk, both of whom are Turkish-born. Among Denk's objectives: a culture of "acceptance" rather than integration, the creation of a "racism register," and the formation of a "racism police." In an interview with Elsevier, Dutch Turkish Council Director Sefa Yurukel described the "vote Denk" messages distributed by the imams as containing "the typical arguments of Islamists." Further, he said, they indicate that Denk likely enjoys support from the Diyanet, a government body that oversees religious affairs in Turkey and among the Turkish people worldwide.

 

It is just that sort of effort to monitor and manipulate the behavior of Turkish citizens, even those who do not live in Turkey, that has Steilberg most concerned. While "of course all countries spy" on one another, she says, the idea of civilians spying on civilians is especially chilling. Already the Dutch have experienced some of the worst of this, as when Twitter users in the Netherlands reported to the Turkish authorities the anti-Erdogan tweets of Dutch-Turkish columnist Ebru Umar. Umar, who was in Turkey at the time, was immediately arrested, and was not permitted to return to the Netherlands for several weeks. She was eventually released only thanks to the intervention of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Now, as such government intervention becomes increasingly intertwined with religious manipulation and intrigue, the reaches of Turkey's growing theocracy into European culture seems an imminent, and ever-expanding threat.    

 

Contents

 

FOLLOWING RUSSIA’S LEAD IS THE SMART

MOVE FOR TURKEY AND ISRAEL        

Micah Halpern                                                              

 Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2017

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a world-class master when it comes to getting what he wants. He leaves nothing to chance. Putin has created a series of summits in Moscow with one goal in mind: to cement Russia’s role in the Middle East and to delineate the roles of other nations, insuring that there be no unintended conflict between parties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow last Thursday for a public, much heralded face-to-face summit with Putin. On Friday, Putin convened another summit. This one was much quieter, yet once again face-to-face, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Putin covered much of the same ground with Erdogan as he did with Netanyahu. Islamic State (ISIS), Iran, Syria, terrorism and borders were the main topics. But there were several important differences.

 

Both Israel and Turkey are regional players and Russia wants to make certain that they are all on the same page with regard to ISIS. He also wants to make certain that there is agreement on Syria’s President Bashar Assad – in other words, he wants to make sure that everyone is on his page. Israel says it doesn’t care about Syrian leadership – all it wants is stability and for Iran to be kept as far away as possible. Turkey wants its border quiet and the ability to cross over borders when needed to pursue and punish terrorists. They want freedom to operate in Syria and even to station troops there when necessary. Netanyahu already has an agreement with Putin that allows Israel free access to Syria.

 

The Israeli agreement was hammered out almost a year ago, on the eve of Passover, and was precipitated by a near crisis: Russian MiGs locked on to Israeli fighter jets. Israel did not respond militarily, choosing instead a diplomatic response. On arguably one of the busiest days on the Jewish calendar, Netanyahu took his military aides and jumped on a plane for a halfday visit in Moscow. Putin claimed no knowledge of the incident. He said he gave no permission and will never give permission for his troops to engage Israel – not in the air, on land or on the sea. He stipulated that he receive prior notice before an Israeli operation and promised not to pass that intel on to anyone. Conflict with Israel is not in Moscow’s interest. A Russian/Israeli dogfight would be a crapshoot. Putin does not gamble, he needs to always know the outcome.

 

In this case, there is strong possibility that Russia would lose and that loss would be a tremendous blow to Russia’s power in the region. The results could cascade into a colossal failure in Russian Middle East strategy. They would lose face just as they are gaining power. A loss to an Israeli jet could not be chalked up to luck or technical problems as is common when ISIS scores a victory. It could only mean that Israel is the superior fighting force in the region. Russia would lose face. Israel and Russia need to keep on good terms to make certain the region does not spiral into crisis.

 

Turkey wants the same level of cooperation. It wants the same freedom of operation. That will not happen. Russia and Turkey are talking – but there is much distrust. Putin thinks Turkey has an exaggerated sense of its own power. Turkey has challenged Russia numerous times, including downing a Russian plane, an incident that ruptured the relationship between the two countries until Turkey begged forgiveness.

 

When Netanyahu goes to Putin, he shows great respect for the Russian president. In return, he gets respect. Netanyahu also approaches Russia with caution and with the knowledge that Putin, and Putin alone, determines Russian policy. Contrast that with Netanyahu’s approach to the US. After the first meeting between president Bill Clinton and Netanyahu, Clinton remarked how shocked he was after meeting the Israeli. He said Netanyahu was so cocky that he was confused as to who was the leader of the free world. Netanyahu knows where power lies in the US. He has great support on both sides of the congressional aisle and among donors from both parties. He enters the White House knowing that he has leverage.

 

Not so in Russia. During both summits everyone agreed on ISIS and Syria. The two elephants in the room were US President Donald Trump and Iran. No one wants Iran in Syria. And Iran still supports Hezbollah and has significant troops and advisers there to defend Assad and keep him in power. Iranian and Hezbollah forces are the front line in Syria, keeping it from descending further in to crisis. While Iran and Hezbollah prevent Syria from being controlled by ISIS or al-Qaida, Russia is there to control and manage the situation. Putin and his Russia have the power. For now, Israel and Turkey are content to follow Russia. It’s the smart thing to do.

 

Contents                                                              

 

On Topic Links

 

Russian Air Defense Architecture … for NATO Member Turkey?: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Mar. 14, 2017—Turkey tried it with China, unsuccessfully. Now it might try to have another go, this time with Russia. Shrugging off admonitions of caution from its western allies, NATO-member Turkey shows unmistakable signs that it seeks to build a Russian-made air defense system.

Cyprus Deal Could Speed up Israel-Turkey Gas Project – Envoy: Times of Israel, Mar. 1, 2017—A Cyprus peace deal would speed up Israel’s project to provide gas to Turkey, the new Israeli ambassador to Ankara said Wednesday.

Is Turkey Lost to the West?: Patrick J. Buchanan, CNS News, Mar. 14, 2017—Not long ago, a democratizing Turkey, with the second-largest army in NATO, appeared on track to join the European Union. That's not likely now, or perhaps ever.

Turkey’s New Curriculum: More Erdoğan, More Islam: Zia Weise, Politico, Feb. 13, 2017—With President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans for greater powers firmly on track, Turkey’s government has set about shaping the country’s future outside the halls of parliament.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESPITE ISRAEL-TURKEY RAPPROCHEMENT, ANKARA REMAINS CRITICAL OF JEWISH STATE & HOSTILE TO WEST

Erdogan's Gritted-Teeth Peace with Israel: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 6, 2016 — Modern Turkey has never been so disconnected from its Western allies.

A Message to Trump: Turkey’s Erdoğan Can’t Be Trusted: Ben Cohen, JNS, Nov. 25, 2016— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was at his repellent best when he was interviewed by Israeli television journalist Ilana Dayan this week.

In Post-Coup Turkey, Jews Plan Their Future Abroad: Cnaan Liphshiz, Times of Israel, Nov. 19, 2016 — At a chic café overlooking the Bosphorus, two Turkish Jewish women are discussing their plans to emigrate when the call to Friday prayers blasts from the loudspeakers of a nearby mosque.

Turkey's Erdogan Continues Harsh Repression of Political Opponents: Stephen Schwartz & Veli Sirin, National Review, Nov. 21, 2016— Turkey's Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears as the sole person in his country's politics who knows what he wants.

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey's Shredded Syria Policy: Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor, Dec. 7, 2016

Iranian-Made Drone Involved in Attack on Turkish Soldiers in Syria: Sevil Erkuş, Hurriyet Daily News, Dec. 8, 2016 Erdogan in a Corner After Blunders and Bluster : Melik Kaylan, World Affairs, Dec. 1, 2016

Turkey: Child Rapists to Go Free, Journalists Not?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 27, 2016

 

 

ERDOGAN'S GRITTED-TEETH PEACE WITH ISRAEL

Burak Bekdil                                                       

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 6, 2016

 

Modern Turkey has never been so disconnected from its Western allies. Its Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently accused the West of helping the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). His evidence? Because, he said, ISIS is fighting with Western weapons — overlooking, of course, that they were probably captured or stolen.

 

This dislike and hostility is not unrequited. On November 24, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a motion calling to suspend Turkey's membership talks with the European Union (EU), citing "disproportionate, repressive measures" taken by Erdogan's government. The motion, although non-binding, passed 479 to 37 in favor. In retaliation, Erdogan threatened that "if the EU goes further," Turkey will open its border gates and let refugees stream toward Europe.

 

The Turks, too, are distancing themselves from the idea of EU membership. According to a survey by the pollsters ANDY-AR, 75.3% of Turks believe that their country is drifting away from accession, while only 19.9% believe it is not. Forty-four percent think freezing membership talks would be a positive development. Confirming the growing anti-Western mood, Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote in a newspaper column: "With its internal problems, micro-nationalisms and the Brexit process, Europe is narrowing down its strategic outlook and losing its relevance."

 

Against this backdrop, Turkey is normalizing its relations with Israel — in theory, at least. Ankara and Jerusalem agreed to appoint ambassadors to each other's country after an absence of more than six years. Two prominent career diplomats, Kemal Okem and Eitan Na'eh, will struggle to improve ties in Tel Aviv and Ankara, respectively. They will have a hard job. The diplomats may be willing, but with Erdogan's persistent Islamist ideological pursuits, they would seem to have only a slim chance of succeeding.

 

Turkey's dwindling Jewish community is uneasy over increasing signs of anti-Semitism in an increasingly Islamized country. In Istanbul, where a majority of Turkey's 17,000 Jews live, unknown people recently started hanging posters in a posh district. The posters call on Muslims "not to be fooled by the missionary activities of Jew-servant Jehovah's Witnesses." They say: "These people are trying to destroy the religion of Islam." Signed: Sons of Ottomans. Feeling unsafe, more than 2,500 Turkish Jews have recently applied for Spanish citizenship, and hundreds applied for Portuguese citizenship. Only last year, 250 Turkish Jews emigrated to Israel. That being the case, Islamist Turks are warning their fellow Muslims against missionary activities of Jehovah's Witnesses who are, according to them, "servants of Jews."

 

This is not surprising. Erdogan has pragmatically agreed to shake hands with Israel, but his ideological hostility to the Jewish state and his ideological love affair with Hamas have not disappeared.  Only a week after Turkey and Israel officially resumed full diplomatic relations, in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television, Erdogan refused to back down from his earlier comments equating Israel's military action in Gaza in 2014 to Hitler's atrocities.

 

Erdogan said: "I don't agree with what Hitler did and I don't agree with what Israel did in Gaza." Erdogan thinks that Israel's military action in response to Hamas's rockets indiscriminately targeting Israeli citizens is no different than the murder of six million Jews by a lunatic. "There is no point in comparing and asking who is more barbaric," Erdogan concluded. In other words, Erdogan thinks that Hitler and the Israel Defense Forces are "equally barbaric."

 

What else? Erdogan said that he is in constant contact with Hamas officials and that he does not believe Hamas is a terrorist organization. What, then is Hamas? According to Erdogan, Hamas is a "political movement born from the national resurrection." During the interview, Erdogan was asked if he was aware of the shock his reference to Hitler caused among Jews. He replied: "I'm very well aware … But is the Jewish community aware of what is done (in Gaza)?"

 

Much of Erdogan's hostile sentiment over Israel is religious. So is his admiration of Hamas. There is a point of irony, too, in this equation. The total amount of humanitarian aid Turkey has ever sent to Gaza is worth about half of the value of goods, measured at about 400 trucks, that Israel sends to Gaza each and every day. In other remarks, Erdogan accused Israel of restricting Muslim worship. He called on all Muslims to embrace the "Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem" — which he seems to think is a Muslim city. Yes, blessed are the peacemakers. Nevertheless, the Turkish-Israeli "peace" will not be easy to sustain.

                                                                       

 

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A MESSAGE TO TRUMP: TURKEY’S ERDOĞAN CAN’T BE TRUSTED                                                                             

Ben Cohen                                                                                                

JNS, Nov. 25, 2016

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was at his repellent best when he was interviewed by Israeli television journalist Ilana Dayan this week. Although the interview was supposed to cover the restoration of Turkish-Israeli bilateral ties this past summer, Erdoğan used the occasion to spit his usual invective against Israel and Jews more generally. Many of Erdoğan’s favorite topics — the supposed symbiosis between Nazi Germany and the Jewish State, Israel’s insulting intransigence in the face of his personal attempts to negotiate a solution to the Palestinian question, Israel’s alleged desire to change the religious status of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (known to Muslims as Al-Haram al-Sharif) — arose in the conversation, and he addressed them in the fanatical, embittered tone that has come to symbolize his ascendance as a Turkish dictator.

 

Like the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Erdoğan has developed a reputation for offensive quotes that shore up, at the same time, his aloofness from and contempt for the morals and values of the West. And as with Ahmadinejad, the Nazi Holocaust and its 6 million Jewish victims provide an ideal tool for Erdoğan in this regard. In the summer of 2014, when Israel went to war in Gaza to bring an end to the barrages of missiles and rockets that Hamas terrorists fired over the border, Erdoğan declared that the actions of the Israel Defense Forces constituted “barbarism that surpasses Hitler.” Ponder that for a moment: the president of a European Union (EU) candidate country and NATO member state sounding off like some anonymous lunatic on Twitter by leveling the ugliest insult imaginable against the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

 

That wasn’t the first time that Erdoğan gave voice to his deep-seated antisemitism. In 2009, while appearing on a panel in Davos with the late Israeli President Shimon Peres, Erdoğan stormed off the stage screaming insults as he exited the room. “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill,” he told Peres. Even more bizarrely, Erdoğan cited Gilad Atzmon, a leading UK-based antisemite, saying that “Israeli barbarism is far beyond even ordinary cruelty.”

 

The Ilana Dayan interview, perhaps, was regarded as an opportunity for Erdoğan to make amends to both Israel and the Jewish people. But when asked about his notorious 2014 statement, Erdoğan simply reasserted the moral equivalency between Nazi Germany and Israel. “I don’t approve of what Hitler did, and neither do I approve of what Israel has done,” he growled. “When it’s a question of so many people dying, it’s inappropriate to ask who was the more barbarous.” Yet again, this profoundly antisemitic insult, which places the Jewish state in the same soiled universe as the Nazis, has been spread around the public domain by one of the world’s most well-known heads of state. As tempting as it is to conclude that while political rhetoric is one thing, political action is another — an impression increasingly conveyed in the aftermath of the US presidential election — in Erdoğan’s case, such a distinction isn’t really possible.

 

That’s because Erdoğan really is a dictator. In the months since Turkey’s failed and rather murky coup attempt against Erdoğan this past July, more than 40,000 people have been arrested or detained, including many journalists and opposition politicians. The civil service and the higher education sector have been purged, and hundreds of independent NGOs, such as the Association of Lawyers for Freedom, have been “temporarily” shut down. The strategy here was captured well by Thor Halvorssen, the president of the Human Rights Foundation. “Erdoğan has transformed Turkey from a democratic country to an authoritarian regime,” Halvorssen said. “He has done this by abusing the state of emergency powers he claimed after an attempted coup that, by the hour, looks more like a very convenient justification for the total dictatorial takeover of Turkey by his nationalist political party.”

 

Sure enough, Erdoğan has now laid out his plan to execute those ambitions. The president is now preparing a bill for a referendum on Turkey’s constitution. A “yes” vote in that referendum would mean the abolition of the prime minister’s office and the transformation of Erdoğan into an executive president empowered to stay in office until 2029.

 

The internal crackdown in Turkey is mirrored in Erdoğan’s aggressive strategy for Turkey’s “near abroad.” As Burak Bekdil of the Gatestone Institute think tank recently pointed out, Erdoğan is complaining aloud that Turkey lost the borders of the Ottoman Empire under duress in the years following World War I — during which the Ottoman rulers systematically exterminated more than 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey’s imposed borders, Erdoğan says, “are the greatest injustice…done to the country and the nation.” At the same time, Turkey is pushing deeper into Syrian territory, using the offensive against the Islamic State as a cover to defeat the Syrian Kurds, who have proved themselves to be the most reliable and courageous allies in the fight against Islamic State barbarism. Now the US and its allies are holding off support for Turkey’s push on the town of Al-Bab, uncertain as to what exactly Erdoğan’s intentions are.

 

That is why clarifying America’s policy on Turkey is such an urgent task for the incoming American administration. Erdoğan has praised President-elect Donald Trump, projecting ever so slightly when he told Ilana Dayan, “A country without a strong leader will go down.” But that embrace has the potential to be poisonous. One can only hope Trump understands that a Turkish dictatorship closely aligned with Russia — Erdoğan has been talking about spurning Turkey’s EU membership bid in favor of the Moscow-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organization — is neither in America’s interests nor in the interests of regional US allies, among them Israel and the Kurds. That needs to start from the realization, as Ilana Dayan amply demonstrated during her interview, that Erdoğan is not going to change.   

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                      

IN POST-COUP TURKEY, JEWS PLAN THEIR FUTURE ABROAD                                                                

Cnaan Liphshiz                                                                                                  

Times of Israel, Nov. 19, 2016

 

At a chic café overlooking the Bosphorus, two Turkish Jewish women are discussing their plans to emigrate when the call to Friday prayers blasts from the loudspeakers of a nearby mosque. Unable to talk over the deafening singing that fills the café in the Bebek neighborhood of western Istanbul, the women turn to their smartphones to read the news. At least they try to.

 

Turkey’s government has jammed access to the internet on this November day, reportedly to prevent terrorists from communicating with each other. It spurs major traffic disruptions and overloads several cellular towers. “This is Turkey,” said one of the women, a 42-year-old businesswoman and mother named Betty, who asks that her last name not be used for security reasons. “If they don’t want you to communicate, you won’t,” adds her friend Suzette, who makes the same request about her surname.

 

Betty and Suzette are among the thousands of Turkish Jews seeking foreign passports this year amid growing religiosity in a society where civil rights activists and some ethnic minorities are feeling the weight of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s Islamist president who has used anti-Israel rhetoric. “Of course we’re thinking about emigrating,” said Betty while scanning the top floor of the café — a quiet place that she proposes for an interview because she does not want to be overheard speaking about Jews to a journalist. “Everyone in the Jewish community is because it is hard to imagine a future for ourselves here. Many Muslims are, too.”

 

Of the 4,500 Sephardic Jews who have applied recently for Spanish citizenship, at least 2,600 are Turks, according to Pablo Benavides, the consul general of Spain in Turkey. Last year, a law of return went into effect for Sephardic Jews whose ancestors were chased out of Spain during the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago. Hundreds more have applied for naturalization in Portugal, where a similar law also went into effect last year. Indeed, Turkish Jews are the largest single group of applicants for a Portuguese passport. And approximately 250 Jews from Turkey have immigrated to Israel in the past year — a figure that is more than double the 2015 tally and constitutes more 1 percent of Turkey’s Jewish community of approximately 17,000 people.

 

The rush to obtain Spanish and Portuguese passports may not reflect any imminent desire to emigrate. Several applicants, including 38-year-old Nedim Bali, describe the move merely as a contingency plan. But the figures nonetheless seem to reflect a growing insecurity among Turkish Jews, many of whom blame Erdogan of using anti-Israel rhetoric with anti-Semitic overtones. In 2014, he accused protesters angered by his handling of a mining tragedy of being “spawn of Israel” — a country that Erdogan had previously accused of murdering Palestinian babies.

 

And in 2010, Erdogan suspended diplomatic relations with Israel over the slaying by commandos of nine passengers aboard a Gaza-bound ship that had sailed from Turkey in defiance of Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip, which is controlled by Hamas. Relations were restored officially only earlier this year and remain cold, though earlier this week Israel appointed an ambassador to Turkey as part of the countries’ reconciliation.

 

Still, discomfort over Erdogan’s rhetoric is being compounded by his crackdown on the opposition, media and civil liberties amid an increase in terrorist attacks and following the failed coup attempt in July to topple the Erdogan government. Arbitrary internet blackouts like the one that occurred on Nov. 4 are common in Turkey, where the government since July has assumed vast executive powers under emergency laws. Even before these measures, Turkey was criticized routinely for its human rights abuses and undemocratic practices — the criticism has escalated with the abuses.

 

Earlier this month — amid a wave of arrests, newspaper closures and a purge of thousands of people suspected of complicity in the coup try — the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned by what appears to be an increase in official pressure on opposition media outlets in Turkey.” To countless Turkish Jews and non-Jews, the failed overthrow was significant, not only because it ushered in more repressive policies, but because it demonstrated a potential for instability, according to Rifat Bali, a Jewish writer, publisher and historian from Istanbul.

 

“We turned on the TV and it was unbelievable. We thought Turkey was past the stage of coups, but we were wrong,” he said, recalling the July 15 attempt, which ended after countless civilians, called to act by a besieged Erdogan, confronted and effectively paralyzed rebellious army units. The episode led to an explosion of nationalist sentiment in Turkey — never a particularly cosmopolitan country — where countless Turkish flags, including some the size of buildings, now dominate public urban spaces.

 

Regime stability is of paramount importance to Turkish Jews, whose synagogues are under heavy army guard following terrorist attacks and threats. A 2015 survey by the Anti-Defamation League suggested that 71% of the population holds anti-Semitic views — by contrast, in Iran the figure was 60 percent. Before Erdogan’s rise to power in 2003 — the year he was elected to lead the ruling Islamist AKP party — the army was an important political player, poised to neutralize forces perceived as detrimental to a ruling class that was committed, on paper at least, to Turkey’s Western allies and to some principles, including a separation between religion and state…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                           

 

Contents                                                                                                                    

                     TURKEY'S ERDOGAN CONTINUES HARSH

REPRESSION OF POLITICAL OPPONENTS                                                                  

Stephen Schwartz & Veli Sirin

                      Weekly Standard, Nov. 21, 2016

 

Turkey's Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears as the sole person in his country's politics who knows what he wants. Erdogan seeks absolute power and acts against all obstacles to his ambitions. He is eager to identify new "enemies" whose purported conspiracies he believes justify his harsh rule. Through the end of October and most of November, Erdogan has carried out a spree of enhanced repressive measures. This latest onslaught reflects his current fixation on a referendum, proposed for spring 2017, to ratify or reject constitutional amendments that would provide a dramatic increase in his presidential powers.

 

To hold the referendum, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) must first gain a parliamentary majority authorizing its placement on the national ballot. The party needs 330 legislative votes, out of 550, to permit the referendum. AKP won 317 deputies in the national elections of November 2015. AKP lacks the two-thirds majority, or 367 parliamentary seats, to allow immediate enactment of the constitutional changes. Erdogan is promised a coalition majority of 357 for a referendum by joining with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 40 seats. MHP is an extremist party with a background of antisecularist violence during the 1970s and anti-Kurdish agitation.

 

From 2012 to 2015 the Turkish authorities conducted a "peace process" with the Turkish Kurds. Erdogan sought backing from the Kurdish-dominated People's Democratic Party (HDP)—the third biggest force in the national legislature, with 59 deputies, after the November 2015 election—for his reinforcement of the presidency. When the HDP declined to support him, the ceasefire collapsed and fighting resumed in Turkey's Kurdish southeast.On November 4, HDP chairperson Selahattin Demirtas was arrested, as noted by the Guardian, with at least 10 of his colleagues in the party's leadership. The HDP representatives' parliamentary immunity from prosecution was abolished this year.

 

According to Erdogan's government, the HDP, as a Kurdish-interest party, is a front for the radical Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). But as the London Independent pointed out, the HDP alleges they are under attack for "daring to oppose" the new presidential system. HDP chief Demirtas had made defiance of the scheme a priority for his party, denouncing it as leading to a dictatorship.

 

On November 17, the New York Times observed that the number of journalists arrested in Turkey since the coup attempt in July has reached 120. Of them, 10 were employed by Cumhuriyet (Republic), the country's leading newspaper and a pillar of the secular tradition known as 'Kemalism' for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who modernized Turkey beginning in the 1920s. Cumhuriyet is the last independent media institution under Erdogan's rule. At the end of October, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, Murat Sabancu, was arrested with a group of his colleagues. On November 11, Cumhuriyet's chairman, Akin Atalay, was detained at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. All are charged by Ankara with terrorism.

 

The assault on Cumhuriyet, the favorite media of the secular elite, suggests that in the wake of the crackdown on the HDP, the Republican People's Party (CHP), which represents the Kemalist legacy in politics, will be a fresh target of Erdogan's rage. Removal of parliamentary immunity for the HDP could be extended to the 134 CHP deputies. The CHP is an opposition party, but it has echoed the AKP in blaming the failed July coup on the followers of the Sufi preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Yet already on November 8, Erdogan and the AKP filed a criminal complaint against CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu and several CHP elected representatives for allegedly "insulting the president." The CHP luminaries had expressed concern about the consequences of Erdogan's post-July state of emergency, which remains in effect…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents           

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey's Shredded Syria Policy: Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor, Dec. 7, 2016—Turkey’s outsize ambitions in Syria lie in shreds as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad press on to assert control over the rebel strongholds that remain in Aleppo. Ankara's long-running support for the rebels in the war-ravaged city has seemingly been reduced to appeals from Turkish rebel sympathizers on Twitter, with #HaleplcinAyaktayiz, “We Are Mobilized for Aleppo,” trending on the social media site.

Iranian-Made Drone Involved in Attack on Turkish Soldiers in Syria: Sevil Erkuş, Hurriyet Daily News, Dec. 8, 2016 —An Iranian-made unmanned drone was used in an attack on a Turkish military camp in northern Syria on Nov. 24, killing four soldiers, a senior Turkish official has told the Hürriyet Daily News. Turkey identified the drone as Iranian-made, but it was still not identified whether Hezbollah, the Quds Force or another Shiite militia group in Syria had used it, said the official, who spoke on anonymity.

Erdogan in a Corner After Blunders and Bluster : Melik Kaylan, World Affairs, Dec. 1, 2016 —Turkey's President Erdogan has put himself in a geostrategic corner with almost no options. Having publicly railed against the US for allegedly supporting the failed coup at least tacitly, he has roused popular feeling against Turkey's NATO alliance.

Turkey: Child Rapists to Go Free, Journalists Not?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 27, 2016—Turkey, officially, is the world's biggest jailer of journalists. But its ruling Islamist party has drafted a bill that would release about 3,000 men who married children, including men who raped them. Public uproar has only convinced the ruling conservative Muslim lawmakers to consider revising the bill.

 

 

 

WHILE TURKEY’S RAPPROCHEMENT WITH ISRAEL TAINTED BY ANTISEMITISM, “DEAL” IGNORES IRAN’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD & REGIONAL AMBITION

Backstage at Turkey's Shotgun Wedding with Israel: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 14, 2016— There is every indication that Turkey and Israel are not far away from normalizing their troubled diplomatic relations.

Erdogan, the AKP and Antisemitism: Dr. Simon A. Waldman, ISGAP, June 1, 2016 — Turkey’s 15-20,000 Jewish community is on high alert.

Canadian’s Arrest Shows Why We Must Press Iran on Human Rights: Marina Nemat, Globe & Mail, June 10, 2016— Homa Hoodfar, a professor at Concordia University and a Canadian-Iranian, has been arrested in Iran.

Done Deal?: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, May 23, 2016— All administrations are short-sighted.

 

On Topic Links

 

Hamas Still Finds Harbor in Turkey: Jonathan Schanzer, Weekly Standard, June 8, 2016

Europe’s Turkey Dilemma: Migration vs. Democracy: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2016

Iran’s Anger Over Ontario Court Ruling Threatens Liberal Attempts to Mend Diplomatic Ties: Stewart Bell, National Post, June 14, 2016

Iran’s Chess Board: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2016

 

 

 

BACKSTAGE AT TURKEY'S SHOTGUN WEDDING WITH ISRAEL                                                                          

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                       

Gatestone Institute, June 14, 2016

 

There is every indication that Turkey and Israel are not far away from normalizing their troubled diplomatic relations. According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, for instance, the former allies are "one or two meetings" away from normalization. If, however, Ankara and Jerusalem finally shake hands after six years of cold war, it will be because Turkey feels increasingly isolated internationally, not because it feels any genuine friendship for the Jewish nation.

 

In all probability, the "peace" between Turkey and Israel will look like the definition of peace in Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary: "In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting" — despite the backdrop for peace looking incredibly (but mischievously) convenient. On May 29, a Jewish wedding ceremony was held in a historical synagogue in the northwestern province of Edirne for the first time in 41 years. A few months before that, in December, the Jewish year 5776 went down in history possibly as the first time in which a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony was held in Muslim Turkey in a state-sponsored event. All that is nice — but can be misleading.

 

There are two major problems that will probably block a genuine normalization. One is Hamas, and the other is the seemingly irreversible anti-Semitism which most Turks devour. In a powerful article from this month, Jonathan Schanzer forcefully reminded the world that although Saleh Arouri, a senior Hamas military leader, was expelled from his safe base in Istanbul, "… many other senior Hamas officials remain there. And their ejection from Turkey appears to be at the heart of Israel's demands as rapprochement talks near completion."

 

Schanzer says that there are ten Hamas figures currently believed to be enjoying refuge in Turkey, and he names half a dozen or so Hamas militants there, including Mahmoud Attoun, who was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of a 29-year-old Israeli. Also enjoying safe haven in Turkey are three members of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades. Schanzer adds that, "There are a handful more that can be easily identified in the Arabic and Turkish press, and nearly all of them maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter, where they regularly post updates on their lives in Turkey."

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed more than once that Hamas is not a terrorist group but a legitimate political party. He has held innumerable meetings with senior Hamas officials including Khaled Mashaal, head of its political bureau. In addition, Erdogan came up with the idea that Zionism should be declared a "crime against humanity."

 

Anti-Semitism, as mentioned, is the other problem. Erdogan deliberately spread anti-Semitic sentiments to an already xenophobic society until he decided to go (relatively) silent when he recently realized that Turkey's cold war with Israel was not sustainable. This does not mean that his or Turkish society's views regarding Jews have changed. Earlier this year, for instance, one of Erdogan's chief advisors appeared in pro-government media to attack political rivals as "raising soldiers for the Jews." This sentiment is not confined to government big guns.

 

The first Jewish wedding at Edirne synagogue after 41 years was, no doubt, a merry event, both for the Turkish Jewish couple and politically, but it failed to mask the ugly side of the coin. Unlike a normal Turkish wedding (or, say, a Jewish wedding in the U.S.), unusually tight security measures were taken in the neighborhood around the synagogue, including the closure of roads leading to the synagogue and security searches of the wedding guests. The guests had to go through a metal detector at the door of the synagogue. Road closures and a metal detector for a wedding?!

 

There was more. Turks happily expressed their feelings in social media to "celebrate" the Jewish wedding. "One of my biggest dreams is to kill a Jew," wrote one Twitter user. "[Hitler] did not do it in vain," wrote another. The Hitler series went on with "He was a great man," "Where are you Hitler?" and "We are all Hitler." This is the backstage scene in the country where a Jewish couple happily married at a synagogue for the first time in 41 years — the same country supposedly to "normalize" its ties with Israel.

 

Contents                                                                                               

                                          

               ERDOGAN, THE AKP AND ANTISEMITISM

Dr. Simon A. Waldman                            

                         ISGAP, June 1, 2016

 

Turkey’s 15-20,000 Jewish community is on high alert. Just a few months ago Sky News broke a story that Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL, was planning attacks specifically against Turkey’s Jews. Inevitably, security was heightened, schools were closed and community events were postponed. The alert points to the precarious situation of Turkey’s declining Jewish population. It also begs the question of the position of Turkey’s domineering President Recip Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the party which he co-founded, led and still wields incontestable influence.

 

The position of the Jewish community since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 has been hazardous at best. During the late 1920s and 1930s Jews were victim to the “citizen speak Turkish campaign”,[in] an effort on the part of the authorities to create national linguistic cohesion. Ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, including Jews, were harassed in the streets, at times assaulted, while being told to “speak Turkish” by authorities and fellow citizens alike. The campaign was a contributing factor to the decline of Ladino, the Judaic-Spanish vernacular spoken by Turkish Jews for centuries but now just a handful of people.

 

During the 1930s Nazi propaganda entered Turkish shores. In Thrace, a region in the European side of Turkey, many Jews faced violent attacks and antisemitic propaganda… During World War II, Jews along with other non-Muslim minorities were hit with the Capital Gains Tax (Varlik Vergisi). Jews were often forced to pay as much as 10 times the tax rate. Failure to pay meant being sent to a work camp. The policy virtually wiped away the wealth of many Jews, Turkifying (arguably Islamifying) the country’s economy… Many Jews chose to leave and rebuild their lives in the newly found state of Israel after 1948.

 

However, the above incidents took place under the People’s Republican Party, the secularists who currently sit in opposition to Erdogan and the AKP. What about incidents during the AKP’s period in office, since 2002 until present? In 2003, while the AKP was in power, Neve Shalom along with another synagogue (as well as the British Consulate and HSBC) were bombed by a Turkish faction of al-Qaeda. 57 people were killed, hundreds were injured. Neve Shalom was also the site of a 1986 gun attack by the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organisation which slaughtered 22 worshipers.

 

Erdogan’s personal antagonism towards Israel is well known. He famously walked out on a speech given by Shimon Peres at Davos in 2009, accusing that the then Israeli President “knows well how to kill” while his wife called Peres a “liar.” There was also the ill-fated Mavi Marmara incident when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish Gaza bound vessel, killing nine Turkish citizens. The response was more firebrand rhetoric on the part of Erdogan and the AKP in front of large anti-Israeli gatherings across Turkey’s cities. He mockingly repeated the Jewish commandment “thou shall not kill” to cheering crowds in condemnation of Israel’s actions. Meanwhile, Turkish television, increasingly beholden to the whims of the government, broadcasted the Valley of the Wolves which contained antisemitic motifs while viewers watched the hero’s quest to avenge the Turkish deaths.

 

Although one may stress the point that antipathy towards Israel is not the same as antisemitism, Erdogan straddles a fine line. Erdogan has openly stated that he does not approve of negative attitudes towards the Jews of Turkey who he considers citizens. However, this would appear in contradiction to his call for Turkey’s Jews to condemn Israel in the wake of the 2014 operations against Hamas. In other words, Erdogan linked Turkey’s Jews with Israel, putting the community on the firing line by a Turkish public who often make no distinction between Israel and Turkey’s Jewish population. Worryingly, in May 2014, Erdogan raised eyebrows after calling a demonstrator, during protests after a mining disaster, a “spawn of Israel”.

 

In understanding anti-Jewish attitudes among Erdogan and the AKP, its Islamic origins need to be stressed. Many founders of the AKP were from the Welfare Party, which derived from the Milli Gorus (National Outlook) movement which came into the fore during the 1970s. An important aspect of the Milli Gorus is a unique Turkish form of antisemitism that borrows elements of traditional antisemitic conspiracies. It blames the demise of the Islamic caliphate of the Ottoman Empire on the Donmes (followers of the “false” messiah Shabbtai Zvi during the seventeenth century) who they claim established the secular republic of Turkey at the expense of Islam… Meanwhile, international Zionism continues to exercise shadowy power and manipulate Turkish politics and the monetary system.

 

The movement saw power when Necmettin Erbakan of the Islamic Welfare Party become Prime Minister in 1996 and lasted until he was ousted in a military intervention. Erbakan reportedly commented that Jews are the cause of all mischief while his party disseminated material claiming all kinds of conspiracies linked to international Zionism. Erbakan has also been quoted as commenting that the Crusades were organized by Zionists and that the world is created by one center, namely “the racist, imperialist Zionism” and that the US dollar is Zionist money.

 

Today there are still plenty of examples of such discourse including publishing houses that produced Turkish translations of Mein Kampf and the proven forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which were best sellers in Turkey from 2005 onwards while the AKP was in its first term as well as other publications alleging Jewish conspiracies. This is why AKP deputies have fallen into conspiratorial antisemitic gibes. The then Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, for example, claimed that Jews were behind the Gezi Park Protests of 2013. Erdogan himself said that Jewish capital was behind the New York Times after the prestigious daily criticised his rule. One of Erdogan’s chief advisors was even so brazen as to attack government rivals for “raising soldiers for the Jews”. 

 

Antisemitism has been and continues to be an immense problem in Turkey. Once home to over 100,000 Jews, it has reduced to a mere 15-20,000. And Jews continue to leave. Erdogan and the AKP have done little to reverse this phenomenon. If anything their comments, worldview and rhetoric have helped to fuel it.

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                          

CANADIAN’S ARREST SHOWS WHY WE                                                            

MUST PRESS IRAN ON HUMAN RIGHTS                                                                                          

Marina Nemat                                                                                                      

Globe & Mail, June 10, 2016

 

Homa Hoodfar, a professor at Concordia University and a Canadian-Iranian, has been arrested in Iran. She was conducting research. Her passport and other documents were confiscated in March, shortly before she was supposed to return to Canada. She was interrogated and released on bail. Now, she’s in Evin prison.

 

My school friend, Shahnoosh Behzadi, was executed in Evin in 1981 and is buried in a mass grave. She was 15. I was 16 when I was arrested in 1982 and taken to Evin prison. I was taken into a room and tied to a bare wooden bed, lying down on my stomach. Two men stood over me. One of them took off my socks and my shoes and lashed the soles of my feet with a length of cable, which was as thick as a garden hose and made of heavy rubber. With every strike of the lash, it felt like my nervous system exploded. If the devil appeared, I would have sold my soul to get out of that room. They gave me documents to sign, and I signed everything. Later, one of my interrogators raped me after forcing me to “marry” him.

 

Today, Iran’s prisons are as brutal as in the 1980s. In 2003, Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist was killed under torture in Evin. However, recently, when dealing with dual nationals, Iranian officials are usually more careful with physical torture. Dual nationals are used as hostages to trade for favours with the West, so they are usually not visibly “damaged.” Iranian authorities have shown that they have no regard for human life and dignity, but they do care about money and power, so it’s to their advantage that hostages survive. The same is not true for Iranian prisoners who have no trading value; most are brutally tortured, physically and psychologically.

 

Since Hassan Rouhani became the Iranian President, various governments and politicians around the world have rejoiced that Iran now has a “moderate” leader. No doubt, Mr. Rouhani’s language is much milder than that of his predecessor, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, who was very vocal in his hatred of the West. After him, Mr. Rouhani, who uses mild, diplomatic language, felt like an angel. But the number of executions has climbed under his watch. Writers, bloggers and journalists were still arrested and put in prison. None of the members of the Baha’i faith who were put behind bars only because of their beliefs were released and more were arrested. The laws of Iran, which value the testimony of a woman as half of a man’s, and that of a Christian or a Jew as half of a Muslim’s, remained the same. The West negotiated with Iran, and a nuclear deal was achieved. But the United States and other Western countries decided to overlook Iran’s terrible human rights record.

 

For a while during the reign of Mr. Rouhani, women received some superficial freedoms: the hijab laws relaxed a little, and women who wore makeup and tight clothing were not arrested as frequently by morality police. However, for the past few months, Iranian women have been under fire again. It looks like the government of Mr. Rouhani wants to make sure that Iranians understand that the nuclear deal doesn’t mean more freedoms. A few weeks ago, a few Iranian models, beautiful girls who had dared post their hijab-less photos on Facebook, were arrested and forced to confess to their “immorality.” They had to repent from their “sins.”

 

Homa Hoodfar is a new hostage of a horrific, brutal system that has been torturing, killing and raping for more than 35 years. We need to speak out not only about her but also about all the other prisoners and hostages of the regime. No, I’m not asking for the West to attack Iran. War doesn’t fix anything in the long run. However, let’s speak out and name and shame the torturers. Trade with Iran is lucrative. But let’s set parameters and stick to them when it comes to relations and trade, or the hostage taking, killing, torture and rape will continue bloodier than ever before, and we will become accomplices.

 

Contents           

 

             

DONE DEAL?                                                                                                              

Reuel Marc Gerecht                                

Weekly Standard, May 23, 2016

 

All administrations are short-sighted. Even the brightest, most reflective people can develop acute tunnel vision when they join the paper-pushing, crisis-a-minute senior ranks of the National Security Council and the State Department. When the president becomes obsessed with one issue, as Barack Obama was with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he and his advisers are less likely to appreciate the possible unintended consequences of their actions.

 

Of course, with a president at odds with so much of American foreign policy since World War II, it is tricky separating unintended from desired consequences. Given how many bright people in Washington supported the nuclear agreement who aren't blind to Iran's nefarious behavior and don't want to handcuff Washington in the Middle East, though, it's possible the president, like so many others, failed to see how the agreement would circumscribe American action.

 

But it's certainly clear now that if the next president intends to restore American primacy abroad, or just return some capacity to coerce adversaries in the Middle East, he or she will have to be prepared to watch the Iranians walk away from the nuclear agreement. Downing the Islamic State is probably impossible so long as Washington is held hostage by the accord. As unpleasant as it may be to accept, there is now only one presidential candidate who could abandon Obama's defining foreign accomplishment, challenge the Islamic Republic's regional ambitions, and destroy the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

 

Though President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are quick to deny it, the nuclear accord has already become a straitjacket on policy. Just look at the administration's dithering awkwardness in responding to Russian plans to sell the clerical regime advanced fighter/fighter-bomber aircraft, which violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and make a mockery of the timelines for legal conventional arms sales that were on the sidelines of the nuclear talks.

 

And look at the minor sanctions thrown at Tehran for its most recent ballistic-missile tests, which challenge the credibility of the agreement's time-limited restraints on the mullahs' atomic ambitions. There had been a blanket prohibition on nuclear-capable missile research under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929: "Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology." That wording was changed in Resolution 2231, which implemented the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action: "Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  .  ." Kerry and Ambassador Stephen Mull, the lead coordinator on implementing the agreement, were either daydreaming or fibbing when they told Congress that Resolution 2231 clearly restricted Tehran's lawful capacity to launch long-range ballistic missiles. The White House tried to spin its response to the tests—minor sanctions against individuals and companies in easily replaced procurement networks—as a serious punishment for Iran's continuing missile development, which the Islamic Republic's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has declared off-limits to U.N. oversight.

 

Then consider the White House's assiduous ambivalence about extending the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, which underpins the more punishing 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act and expires at the end of this year. Extension doesn't mean enforcement: It would allow the president to threaten "snapback" sanctions against Iran's energy sector, in particular the critical upstream foreign investments in the oil and natural-gas industries. The administration has urged Congress to hold off, obviously worried that an extension could seriously upset the mullahs. But it's been hinting it will support renewal later in the hopes of siphoning Democratic support from the bipartisan effort for extension, which would allow Congress to pass new sanctions against the clerical regime for its continuing ballistic-missile development, human-rights violations, and support to terrorists. If the administration is so reticent now about showing just a bit of muscle, there is little reason to believe that as the agreement progresses Obama will be any more inclined to play tough against Tehran. In the end, he may choose to veto an extension, so as not to legislatively arm his successor, who may not share his hope that commerce will moderate the mullahs.

 

Perhaps most tellingly, look at the restrained Washington rhetoric around the Islamic Republic's actions in Syria. The president and his aides are harsher towards Vladimir Putin than they are towards Khamenei, even though Iran's contributions, both military and financial, to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's survival have been greater than Russia's. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian Sunnis have been slaughtered in the last five years and millions have been made homeless, displaced, and pushed towards Europe, and it's the clerical regime, not Russia, that has been the primary enabler of this horror show.

 

If the deal stands beyond Obama's presidency, there will be no meaningful pushback by the United States and Europe against Assad. Any serious military effort to aid the Syrian opposition would perforce target Iranians and Russians, who have become the linchpins of Assad's military power. Putin's recent decision to withdraw some of his forces doesn't really change this calculation. Russian aircraft are still bombing Syrian targets, and Moscow has kept naval and air bases in Syria, so any planes or helicopters withdrawn can quickly be sent back. If the United States decided to check the Assad-Iran-Russia axis, especially by giving military backing to the creation of a safe haven in Syria (once, perhaps still, Clinton's preferred Syrian strategy), it would challenge Iran's insistence on the survival of the Shiite Alawite regime.

 

Washington would also come into conflict with Tehran if the United States gathered and led a large Sunni Arab force in Iraq capable of pushing back against the Islamic State. The rise of the Wahhabi Sunni jihadist group has made Iraqi Shiite Arabs, who have had a long, tense, and sometimes bitter relationship with Shiite Iranians, much more dependent on Tehran. Iran has a strategic interest in preventing Iraqi stability and any Sunni-Shiite political settlement there…                                                                                                       

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents           

 

On Topic Links

 

Hamas Still Finds Harbor in Turkey: Jonathan Schanzer, Weekly Standard, June 8, 2016—Turkey is one or two meetings away from normalizing ties with Israel, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the media Tuesday. Ties between the two countries have been frosty since 2010, when Ankara sponsored a flotilla to the Gaza Strip, a territory held by the terrorist organization Hamas, in a bid to break the Israeli-led international blockade. Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, leading to a confrontation that resulted in ten deaths.

Europe’s Turkey Dilemma: Migration vs. Democracy: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2016—The Middle East refugee crisis and Turkey’s slide toward authoritarianism have put the European Union in front of a moral dilemma…

Iran’s Anger Over Ontario Court Ruling Threatens Liberal Attempts to Mend Diplomatic Ties: Stewart Bell, National Post, June 14, 2016 —An Ontario court decision that holds Iran financially accountable to victims of the terrorist groups it sponsors is threatening to complicate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempts to mend diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic.

Iran’s Chess Board: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2016—Strategic thinking has always been Israel’s Achilles’ heel. As a small state bereft of regional ambitions, so long as regional realities remained more or less static, Israel had little reason to be concerned about the great game of the Middle East.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

TURKEY’S RUSSIAN & KURDISH CONFLICTS ESCALATE, MEANWHILE, AN UNEASY “HANDSHAKE” WITH ISRAEL

Will Turkey, Russia Fan Flames Into an Inferno?: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Feb. 4, 2016 — On Jan. 30, Turkey said its airspace was again violated by a Russian warplane.

Undoing Years of Progress in Turkey: Abdullah Demirbas, New York Times, Jan. 26, 2016— Entire towns and districts are under siege. Tanks ram through narrow alleys closed off by barricades and trenches.

The 'Ripple Effect': Canada's Support for the Kurds Brings Unintended Consequences: David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 5, 2016— Whenever he is asked what direction Canada will take in fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan points to what he calls the “ripple effect.”

Turkey and Israel: A Loveless Date: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 9, 2016 — There is official evidence and credible speculation that Turkey and Israel may be on the brink of a historic handshake.

 

On Topic Links

 

Merkel Voices 'Outrage' Over Syrian Offensive and Russian Airstrikes: Arne Delfs, Onur Ant, Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg, Feb. 8, 2016

Turkey: Reaching Limits But Will Keep Taking in Refugees: Mehmet Guzel & Suzan Fraser, Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2016

Precarious Syria Talks Leave its Future Uncertain: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2016

Turkey Planning $5 Billion for Gaza Seaport: Ari Yashar, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 5, 2015

                  

WILL TURKEY, RUSSIA FAN FLAMES INTO AN INFERNO?                                                                              

Metin Gurcan

Al-Monitor, Feb. 4, 2016

 

On Jan. 30, Turkey said its airspace was again violated by a Russian warplane. A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said a Russian Su-34 warplane on Jan. 29 had violated Turkish airspace despite repeated warnings in Russian and English.

The statement said this was yet another concrete indication of Russia’s escalation despite clear warnings by Turkey and NATO. The statement said, “We are calling on Russia clearly to act more responsibly and not to violate NATO airspace.” It warned that Russia would bear full responsibility for any consequences that could arise from these “irresponsible actions.”

 

The Russian ambassador in Ankara was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on the night of Jan. 29 to receive a protest of this violation. In turn, the Russian Defense Ministry called the claims "pure propaganda," according to the statement. That incident followed a Turkish F-16's downing Nov. 24 of a Russian Su-24 warplane that was giving air support to ground forces operating in Syria’s Bayirbucak region.

 

What makes the more recent violation different, however, is the type of the Russian plane involved. The Su-34 Fullback was armed with R-77 and R-73 air-to-ground missiles and designed for air-to-air combat. After the Nov. 24 downing, Russia had announced that Su-34s were now flying combat air patrols near the Turkish border.

 

The Su-34 is a tactical bomber that was being developed in the late 1980s to replace the Su-24. Its main function is to hit targets deep behind front lines at long distances with sophisticated guided missiles. It is fully equipped with advanced navigation and targeting systems. Su-34 development and mass production was stalled for a long time because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent economic problems. The project was reactivated in the early 2000s and mass production began.

 

According to Arda Mevlutoglu, an aeronautics and space engineer, today Russia is believed to have about 100 SU-34s in its arsenal. He said there are six Su-34s and 12 Su-24s in Syria, supported by 12 Su-25 close air support planes. “Russian air power in Syria relies on Su-34s when attacking important ground targets," he said. "Now it appears that they are using Su-34s also against targets close to the Turkish border. This signifies that Russia is now more cautious about the possibility of encountering Turkish F-16s.”

 

Mevlutoglu’s disclosures can be best interpreted in the following way: Russia has upped its game by using Su-34s that have interception capability in critical operational missions near the Turkish border, and is saying that if Turkey challenges the planes, it will have to pay the price.

 

We hear about airspace violations only if the violated country reports it. Although Russia denies that it has violated Turkish airspace, if Turkey says it was violated, it means Turkey wants the international public to know about it. The intention is hidden in the emphasis on ‘‘NATO airspace” in the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement. That is how Turkey wants to get the support of NATO — in particular, the United States. Ankara believes Russia was probing the strength of Turkey-US and Turkey-NATO ties.

 

Another element that sets the latest airspace violation apart from earlier ones is its location. Although Ankara has not announced the location, observers believe it took place in the Turkish border region that faces the Azaz-Munbij front, which is currently controlled by the Islamic State. If this is accurate, Russia is telling Turkey openly that it seriously intends to maintain the de facto no-fly zone it has established over the Jarablus-Munbij areas, which are also of major concern for Turkey.

 

Russia’s first airspace violation with the Su-34 over the critical Azaz-Munbij front was clearly a deterrent message against Turkey. Turkey, by responding with strong words, had indicated that it has seen the Russian move and was notifying the United States and NATO that their support is required. If Russia is serious in its intentions, there will probably be more hot contacts between Russian Su-34s flying on the Azaz-Munbij front that includes Jarablus, and the Turkish F-16s that are flying round-the-clock patrols on the Turkish side.

 

Can Ankara-Moscow relations be normalized? According to Russian expert Habibe Ozdal of the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Agency, more time is needed to know. Commenting on the airspace violation, she accurately predicted some new "aftershocks" in bilateral and regional issues are unavoidable, She said, "Although the opposing views of Turkey and Russia about the PYD’s [US-supported Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party] participation in the Geneva talks are known, these Russian moves in Syria escalate tensions. It is clear that Russia is not targeting Turkey militarily. But at this phase there is no room for mistakes in bilateral relations. All military, political, social and cultural relations between Ankara and Moscow have been suspended, but meanwhile, the process to determine the future of the Middle East continues. It is obvious that the crisis in relations won’t serve the interests of both countries.”…               

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]          

 

Contents

                                   

   

 UNDOING YEARS OF PROGRESS IN TURKEY                                                  

                           Abdullah Demirbas

New York Times, Jan. 26, 2016

 

Entire towns and districts are under siege. Tanks ram through narrow alleys closed off by barricades and trenches. Residents are trapped indoors for weeks because of curfews. Those who venture outside risk sniper fire. Their bodies lie on the streets for days before they can be collected. Bullets fly in through windows and buildings collapse under shelling, killing those seeking shelter at home.

 

This is not Syria. This is Turkey, the European Union candidate country once hailed as a champion of the Arab Spring. The conflict that restarted here after the breakdown of talks between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., last summer has turned into a devastating war in Kurdish towns and cities.

 

One of the most affected places is the city of Diyarbakir’s historic Sur district, where I was mayor from 2004 to 2014. Sur has been under 24-hour curfew since the beginning of December. Many of its neighborhoods lie in ruins. Its historic buildings are damaged, once busy shops are shut, hospitals lack staff, and schools are closed. Tens of thousands of people have fled.

 

Sur’s walls surround an ancient city that has been inhabited for millenniums. Its narrow streets, spacious courtyards and elegant stone structures are reminders of a rich multicultural legacy — a legacy that has survived, albeit in an impoverished state, a century of conflict. Small but increasingly visible communities of Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis and other minorities live alongside adherents of diverse interpretations of Islam in what is now a predominantly Sunni Kurdish town.

 

Over the past decade, our municipality worked hard to revive and preserve this heritage. We oversaw the restoration of many historic buildings, including mosques and churches. The reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church, which is now the largest Armenian church in the Middle East, after nearly a century in ruins has encouraged “hidden” survivors in Turkey of the 1915 genocide to rediscover and embrace their heritage. Efforts to restore the old synagogue in memory of Sur’s once vibrant Jewish community were underway before the eruption of violence last summer.

 

In 2012, Sur’s community leaders established an interfaith dialogue group bringing together representatives of the region’s different religions, cultures and civil society groups. Known as the Council of Forty, it has played a crucial role in keeping sectarian violence from reaching our city. Thanks to its efforts, Sur came to symbolize the vision of peaceful coexistence in a region plagued by intolerance. It causes me immense grief to see that pluralism fall apart along with Sur’s buildings.

 

Sectarianism is destroying Syria before our very eyes. To avoid the same fate in Turkey, the Council of Forty has called on the government to lift the curfews, and asked all sides to end hostilities and return to peace talks within the framework of parliamentary democracy.

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said recently that military operations in the besieged Kurdish towns would continue until they were “cleansed” of terrorists.” “You will be annihilated in those houses, those buildings, those ditches which you have dug,” he threatened. But what peace can be built through destruction? Decades of military policies against the Kurds have shown only that violence begets more violence. Many residents of these towns are poor families who were forced to flee the countryside when the conflict between the Kurds and the Turkish state was at its peak in the 1990s. Those who are digging trenches and declaring “self-rule” in Sur and other cities and towns of southeastern Turkey today are mostly Kurdish youths in their teens and 20s who were born into that earlier era of violence, poverty and displacement, and grew up in radicalized ghettos.

 

Now a new generation will grow up with the trauma of killing, destruction and forced migration. Where will they go? What will become of them? And how will an angrier generation of Kurds and Turks find common ground? The truth is that my generation may be the last to reach a peaceful settlement through dialogue. Dialogue is possible when those in power want it. Last spring, the two sides were on the verge of a breakthrough after two and a half years of negotiations. The Kurds, when given a real and fair choice, have repeatedly picked politics over violence and opted for coexistence in a democratic Turkey, where their rights and identities are recognized, over separation. But as the destruction goes on, their faith in a political solution withers.

 

In 2007, Sur became the first municipality in Turkey to offer services in local languages, including Kurdish, Armenian and Assyrian, besides the official Turkish — a move that infuriated the authorities in Ankara, the capital, and led to my removal as mayor. In 2009, months after being re-elected with two-thirds of the vote, I was arrested on charges of separatism. (I was released five months later on health grounds and kept my role as mayor throughout my arrest.) As I was rounded up along with hundreds of Kurdish activists and elected politicians, my teenage son left our house to join the P.K.K. “You are wasting time with your politics and dialogue,” he told me. I dedicated my life to trying to prove him wrong and bring him home in peace. I have been discouraged before, but never lost hope. Today, I struggle to keep that hope alive.

 

 

Contents

THE 'RIPPLE EFFECT': CANADA'S SUPPORT FOR THE KURDS

BRINGS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

David Pugliese                                                                        

Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 5, 2016

 

Whenever he is asked what direction Canada will take in fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan points to what he calls the “ripple effect.” The Liberal government, he says, wants to ensure that its actions don’t make matters worse. In Afghanistan, for instance, the West’s support for corrupt individuals helped drive some of the population into the arms of the Taliban.

 

In Iraq, Islamic extremists took advantage of grievances felt by some groups and recruited those individuals into their ranks, explains Sajjan, a former Canadian Forces officer and Afghan war veteran. This time will be different, he says. “When we look at the decisions we make, the policies we create, we have to figure out what ripple we’re creating,” Sajjan said recently at a foreign policy conference in Ottawa. “We may not be able to control all the ripples that are out there, but we can control the ripples that we create.”

 

Can we? The ripples Canada is making in Iraq now, even before it announces its next steps, may already be flowing in directions we did not intend. Since the fall of 2014, Canada has been providing equipment and military training to Kurdish troops in northern Iraq. Canadian special forces have been working closely with the Kurds, providing them with skills needed to field a modern army.

 

And while the Kurds have used that training to fight Islamic extremists, such skills will also be useful in the future for another goal that Canada does not endorse: their plan to separate from Iraq. “The problem with training foreign forces is that you never know what they will put those skills to use for in the future,” said Walter Dorn, a professor with the Royal Military College. “With the Kurds there is the danger we are supporting a secessionist movement.”

 

The Liberals still have to decide how they want to proceed with the Iraq mission, an announcement that is imminent. Military sources say the government is leaning towards keeping the Canadian military’s aerial refuelling aircraft within the U.S.-led coalition, as well as providing more surveillance planes.

 

But also high on the list of options is providing the Kurds even more training. A new Kurdish special forces unit could be developed with Canadian expertise. Canadian training could also be expanded to include Kurdish police, Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion has said. When the Conservative government first committed Canada’s military to fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) in the fall of 2014, it said its goal was to protect the security of a unified Iraqi state. CF-18 fighter jets have been providing support to Iraqi security forces as they try to take back land seized by ISIL.

 

But Canada’s military efforts in northern Iraq are another matter. There, the Kurdish people have their own semi-autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government, as it is known, is technically still aligned with the federal government in Baghdad. The Liberals, like the Conservatives, maintain that Canada remains committed to a unified Iraqi state. But Canadian military officers privately acknowledge that, although it’s not their goal, they are indeed training an independent Kurdish army.

“We are providing training to essentially an independent military force that may or may not be used in other ways down the road besides fighting ISIL,” said retired Lt.-Col. Chris Kilford, who until 2014 was Canada’s military attaché in Turkey. Canada’s policymakers are aware of the problem of supporting the Kurds too much. But their alternatives are limited. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars and years training the Iraqi military yet it seems incapable of making many inroads against ISIL.

 

The Liberal government has suggested that one of its options could be providing aid to Lebanon and Jordan, to shore up those countries in a troubled region. That might be a safer bet – if one is trying to minimize ripples. The Kurds have never hidden their plans to eventually form an independent country. In December, Sajjan meet with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and his son Masrour, who heads the intelligence services of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Both are strong advocates for an independent Kurdistan. Massoud Barzani has suggested that Iraq is finished as a nation. It has already been broken up into various regions controlled by different forces or ethnic groups, such as the Kurds…

 

Full independence is next on the agenda. “We are not pushing for forced separation,” Masrour Barzani said in July 2015 during an interview with Al-Monitor, a news site that covers developments in the Middle East. “We are talking about an amicable divorce.” Indeed, the Kurds have emerged as the real winners from the chaos that has engulfed Iraq and Syria with the arrival of ISIL. Western nations have seen them as reliable allies in the war and have provided them with air support, training, equipment and cash. As a result, the YPG, the Kurdish force that is battling ISIL, has been able to carve out its own mini-state in northeastern Syria…                                                                                                                                                 

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

Contents

 

         TURKEY AND ISRAEL: A LOVELESS DATE

Burak Bekdil                                   

                                                Gatestone Institute, Feb. 9, 2016

 

There is official evidence and credible speculation that Turkey and Israel may be on the brink of a historic handshake. Some say that it may be a matter of weeks, some speak of a couple of months before old friends, new foes, Turkey and Israel, will befriend each other once again. Probably until they become foes once again. Ankara and Jerusalem look like two teenagers being forced into an unwilling date by their classmates, friends, foes and schoolteachers, and also because they feel alone and threatened; not because they feel even halfheartedly warm toward one another. They are nervously, grudgingly going on their date.

 

After nearly six years, staggering diplomacy and pragmatism will probably win over emotions and deep mistrust. Since Turkey and Israel downgraded their diplomatic ties in 2010, Turkey's Islamist leaders have been careful about distinguishing between the "Israeli people" and "Israeli government." Deviating from that rhetoric for the first time, Omer Celik, spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party, said that "the Israeli state and people are friends of Turkey." That was a powerful confidence-building effort on Turkey's part. Celik's statement found an echo in Israel. On January 23, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was hopeful about normalization of ties with Turkey, and that normalization would be good for both countries.

 

But, as peace looked to be blossoming, reality showed its face. Speaking in Athens, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon bluntly told the world where he sees Turkey in the global fight against Islamic terror. The Turkish government has to decide, he said, "Whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation in fighting terrorism, [and] this is not the case so far." More disturbingly, Ya'alon said that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time," that Turkey allowed jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and back home, and that Turkey still hosts Hamas's "external terrorist brokers in Istanbul."

 

All that, under different circumstances, would have triggered a prompt and strong backlash from Ankara. Surprisingly — or not — Ankara remained unusually mute and mature. The denial of Ya'alon's allegations came from Ankara, but not from the Turkish government. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, rejected the Israeli minister's claims and insisted that there is no evidence to support the allegations. Bass said: "In fact, ISIS oil smuggling has decreased over time, due to the efforts of Turks and other counter-ISIS coalition members to target oil extraction and transportation infrastructure. Turkey continues to take steps to improve the security of its border with Syria, working with the United States and other international partners."

 

Why were the Turks — always childishly angry at any accusation from Israel — silent, and why did the U.S. ambassador jump in like a referee in a boxing ring? It is vital for U.S. interests that the country's two Middle Eastern allies stop their feud and shake hands. And the American ambassador wanted to diffuse a potentially explosive dispute before it seriously began. Yet the ground is, and will probably remain, shaky in the Turkish-Israeli dating scene. Recent research found that nearly 60% of Turks view Israel as a security threat to their country. Worse, anti-Semitism in Turkey, fueled in recent years by the same Islamist government that now shyly wants to make peace with Israel, does not allow the Turks to be aware that it is time to be a bit more mature and a lot more pragmatic.

 

Turkish vandals spray-painted graffiti on a synagogue in Istanbul, just days after a one-time prayer service was held — the first in 65 years. They wrote on the external walls of the building, "Terrorist Israel, there is Allah," in white paint. "Writing anti-Israel speech on the wall of a synagogue is an act of anti-Semitism," said Ivo Molinas, editor-in-chief of Salom, a weekly newspaper of Istanbul's Jewish community, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper, Today's Zaman.

 

That will be the problem after any possible Turkish-Israeli handshake. Diplomacy is about ups and downs. But stereotypes and public perceptions of who is the foe or friend are often sticky. Turkey's ruling Islamists have systematically nurtured and exploited anti-Semitic sentiments. Now that the nearest election is four years away and there is no longer an emerging Turkish empire on the Arab Street, government-sponsored anti-Semitism in Turkey is suddenly supposed to be a thing of the past. By a simple twist of fate, the architects of Turkish anti-Semitism will now have to use the same propaganda machine they used to fuel anti-Semitism to diffuse, it if they want a sustainable courtship with their old Jewish friends.

 

On Topic

 

Merkel Voices 'Outrage' Over Syrian Offensive and Russian Airstrikes: Arne Delfs, Onur Ant, Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg, Feb. 8, 2016—German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage over Russian-backed attacks in Syria as a government offensive drives thousands of civilians to the Turkish border, exacerbating the already critical refugee crisis Merkel is struggling to resolve.

Turkey: Reaching Limits But Will Keep Taking in Refugees: Mehmet Guzel & Suzan Fraser, Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2016—Turkey has reached the end of its “capacity to absorb” refugees but will continue to take them in, the deputy premier said Sunday, as his country faced mounting pressure to open its borders to tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled a government onslaught.

Precarious Syria Talks Leave its Future Uncertain: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2016—UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura this week announced the suspension of just-convened peace talks in Geneva intended to resolve the Syrian civil war. The failure of the talks was predictable, and foreseen by most serious analysts on Syria.

Turkey Planning $5 Billion for Gaza Seaport: Ari Yashar, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 5, 2015—In the midst of ongoing normalization talks with Israel, Turkey is planning to invest $5 billion in reconstructing the Hamas stronghold of Gaza including a seaport – which Israel has fiercely opposed due to the blatant threat of weapons smuggling.

 

 

                  

 

 

 

AMID IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH TURKEY & GREECE, AND A BOOMING TECH INDUSTRY, ISRAEL EYES MOON LANDING

A Gas-Powered Rapprochement Between Turkey and Israel: Keith Johnson, Foreign Policy, Dec. 18, 2015 — Turkey’s quest for new sources of energy to escape Russia’s clutches may have helped power the latest push for reconciliation with Israel, five years after the two countries acrimoniously split.

Israel’s Emerging Relations in the Eastern Mediterranean: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Dec. 8, 2015— Two events, apparently unrelated, yet interwoven in unpredictable ways, demonstrated last month that regional dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean are at a new and possibly formative stage.

End-of-Year Reports Rank Israel High on Tech, Low on Infrastructure: David Shamah, Times of Israel, Dec. 27, 2015— A plethora of year-end reports peg Israel as a pretty good place to do business, rated among the top countries for higher education and research, and with excellent technology.

He Drove Cars on Mars – Now He's Trying to Put Israel on the Moon: Tali Heruti-Sover, Haaretz, Dec. 14, 2015 — Prof. Oded Aharonson had a comfortable life in the United States, to which he had moved from Israel when he was 13.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israeli Medical Apps Dominate International Competition in Germany: Algemeiner, Dec. 9, 2015

Recent Linkups By China-Israel VCs And Tech Startups Spell More Opportunity Than Risk: Rebecca Fannin, Forbes, Nov. 19, 2015

An Israeli Gas Pipeline to Turkey? Bad Idea: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Dec. 20, 2015

Panama and Israel Sign Free Trade Agreement: Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2015  

 

 

 

                               

A GAS-POWERED RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN TURKEY AND ISRAEL                                           

                                Keith Johnson    

Foreign Policy, Dec. 18, 2015

 

Turkey’s quest for new sources of energy to escape Russia’s clutches may have helped power the latest push for reconciliation with Israel, five years after the two countries acrimoniously split. But a full restoration of ties between Ankara and Jerusalem, which has proven elusive before, requires further concessions on thorny issues like the future of Gaza, and concrete energy ties between the two nations are likely years away at best.

 

Israel and Turkey said on Thursday that secret diplomatic talks in Switzerland had paved the way for the long-awaited reconciliation. Both sides mapped out steps that will need to be taken to restore ties that were broken when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish vessel bringing relief supplies to Gaza in 2010.

 

According to Israeli media reports, Israel will pay Turkey compensation for that raid. Turkey, in turn, has agreed to crack down on Hamas terrorists operating from Istanbul. The two sides then need to reach an agreement about Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has torpedoed past efforts at rapprochement. Once ties are restored, the two countries said they planned to “explore” cooperation on natural gas, with Israel exporting some of its offshore bounty to Turkey.

 

“I think the reconciliation was a long time in the making, and security cooperation between the two sides had already deepened over the last year,” said Brenda Shaffer, a Georgetown University expert on eastern Mediterranean nations. She said the detente is “about politics and security, not gas” — although Turkey is also happy to quench its energy needs from sources other than Russia, given Ankara’s ratcheting tensions with Moscow over the last month. “Ankara has an interest now in showing the Russians it has other options to get natural gas,” Shaffer said.

 

Indeed, while both sides had come close to making amends before, especially in 2013 and 2014, leaders in both countries recently had signaled a possible thaw. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers last week his government had been in talks with Turkish officials regarding exports of natural gas. Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that a restoration of ties between the two embittered countries would be good for “the entire region.”

 

The deteriorating situation in Syria, and especially Russia’s sudden leap into the ongoing civil war there, appears to have landed like a cannonball in the middle of the diplomatic dance between Turkey and Israel. Both sides are concerned about security threats boiling out of a disintegrating Syria, especially the Islamic State. And with Russia throwing its military might behind Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad and behind groups hostile to Turkey and Israel, the two countries saw grounds for common cause. “Both countries see Russia’s presence and Russian-backed groups in Syria as a threat,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

 

The final catalyst seems to be Turkey’s newfound need to find an energy supplier other than Russia, from whom it imports more than half of its natural gas. In October, after the Russian military jumped into Syria, Turkey warned it could harm ties between Ankara and Moscow. After Turkey shot down a Russian jet that invaded its airspace in late November, relations took a nosedive. Russia slapped economic sanctions on Turkey, cancelled a high-profile natural-gas pipeline, and threatened further reprisals.

 

Turkey, fearing that Russia could use its control over energy exports as a geopolitical bludgeon, quickly started scouring the region for other sources of gas. Israel made a huge discovery of gas off its coast years ago, but has been struggling to figure out just who to sell it to. “I think the tension between Russia and Turkey is what makes Israeli gas even more desirable from the Turkish side,” Cagaptay said. “If Russia decides to put Erdogan in a difficult situation, they could limit the sale of Russian gas.”

 

That doesn’t mean that Israeli gas will be fueling Turkish power plants anytime soon, even if the two sides manage to normalize relations. For starters, the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields has been held up for the past year due to domestic issues. Even preliminary deals that Israel appeared to have reached with friendly neighbors have gone south in recent months. Plans to export Israeli gas to Egypt and Jordan — the two Arab states with which Israel has a peace accord — have both foundered on domestic political opposition there.

 

What’s more, planning, financing, and building a natural-gas pipeline can take decades, even when there are few political or diplomatic complications, let alone the daunting technical challenges of laying pipe on the deep Mediterranean seabed. For example, Azerbaijan made a huge gas find in 1999, but took 14 years to secure a final decision on an export pipeline through Turkey, and gas won’t start flowing until 2018, Shaffer noted. “While this reconciliation will give impetus to a lot of ‘energy diplomacy’ between Turkey and Israel, and that is a good thing to help smooth relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, it will not bring in the short term a concrete deal on natural gas supply,” she said.

 

There are also domestic political complications, especially in Israel, where both the left and right jeered the rapprochement. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said reconciliation could have happened earlier, but Netanyahu dragged his feet. Conservative Avigdor Liberman, a former foreign minister under Netanyahu, slammed the accord as a sellout to a “radical Islamist regime.” All those hurdles to actual energy trade — diplomatic, domestic, commercial, and technical — are real. But Russia’s unbridled fury at Turkey — Moscow has decried Turkey’s “stab in the back,” has accused Erdogan of being in bed with the Islamic State, and has taken potshots at a Turkish fishing boat — could nevertheless end up steamrolling those challenges and paving the way to turn Israeli gas exports from dream to reality.

 

In Israel, Netanyahu last week pointed to the diplomatic dividends of energy trade to justify overriding Israeli technocrats and pushing for the controversial development of Israeli gas fields. He said that exporting energy to neighbors was crucial to safeguard Israel’s future security. Turkey, for its part, sees itself acutely vulnerable to any sudden interruption of Russian gas supplies. “Earlier, diversifying energy supplies was a long-term need that Turkey had. With the crisis with Russia, this has become a pressing need,” Cagaptay said. “A pipeline would be a huge deal, meaning the next time the Turkish-Israeli relationship faces a political shock like in 2010, that pipeline would keep them together, given its political, economic, and commercial ramifications,” he said.    

                                                                       

Contents

              

ISRAEL’S EMERGING RELATIONS IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN                                                   

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman

BESA, Dec. 8, 2015

 

Two events, apparently unrelated, yet interwoven in unpredictable ways, demonstrated last month that regional dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean are at a new and possibly formative stage. Turkey downed a Russian fighter operating in Syria, which raised fears of a broadening conflict, and placed two of the world's most headstrong leaders on what seemed like a collision course. Meanwhile, despite his roots in the country’s traditionally anti-Zionist left, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras paid a short and warm visit to Israel. So did Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades. When visiting Israel, Tsipras went so far as to recognize that Jerusalem is, and will continue to be, "the eternal capital of the Jewish People" (while offering similar recognition to the putative Palestinian "state").

 

Both these visits, as well as the Russian conflict with Turkey, reflect – directly or by inference – aspects of the growing cost of Turkey's vaulting ambitions under President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu. Whether or not the term "neo-Uthmanism" serves any explanatory purpose, there was clearly an open bid by Ankara in recent years to use the regional turmoil, the so-called "Arab Spring" (perhaps the mother of all misnomers…), as a springboard for the assertion of Turkish leadership and even hegemony. This was shaped by the ideological imperatives of the AKP leaders and their sense of affinity and obligation towards the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, such as the Hamas regime in Gaza.

 

As Syria descended into civil war and disintegrated, Erdogan – who once upon a time tried to position himself as Bashar Assad's friend – turned into a stern supporter of the insurgency. Even if one doubts the claims of Turkish-Islamic State connivance now put forward by the Russians, there is reason to believe that the relevant Turkish agencies were not too choosy when offering help to Assad's various enemies (including the buying of oil and gas from rebel-held areas). Meanwhile, Turkey sustained her traditional nationalist stance towards the Cyprus question, and tensions with Greece did not abate.

 

The results are now very much in evidence. As has been said all too often, from Davutoglu's promise of "zero problems with the neighbors" the road led very quickly to "zero neighbors without problems." However, the escalation of Russian-Turkish tensions need not be taken too far. Neither President Vladimir Putin nor Erdogan seem to desire war, despite the bravado and the sanctions. Some opportunities for sober dialogue are now being set up (despite Putin's refusal to meet his Turkish counterpart in Paris).

 

But the shooting did demonstrate just how far apart Ankara and Moscow are on the future of Syria, making it quite unlikely that the current multilateral diplomatic efforts can come to fruition. This may change only if Turkey will be isolated and ignored by the other key players (which would be a dangerous game to play) – or alternatively, if she is given other good reasons to change, and at least modify, her strategy and her priorities. Otherwise, it will continue to be very difficult to bring about even an interim reduction in the intensity of the Syrian conflict, let alone resolve it.

 

Neither Israel nor Greece was necessarily looking at the Turkish challenge alone when they embarked on a trajectory of intense cooperation in recent years. There are excellent reasons to improve relations, not the least of which is the hope for joint energy projects, which is scheduled to be the key item at the planned tripartite Greek-Cypriot–Israeli summit. The two countries have helped each other at times of forest fires and natural disasters, and have drawn closer in military matters too. The Israeli government stood by Greece at her hour of need, willing to encourage Israeli investment and tourism. There is a broad scope for technological cooperation, in vital fields such as renewable energies and water conservation.

 

Indeed, in Athens this proved by now to be an enduring aspect of national policy, across party lines, including  PASOK (social-democrats), ND (conservatives), and Syriza left-wing  leaders alike. As the positive interactions of Tsipras with young Israelis during his visit made manifest, there is also an underpinning of cultural and historical affinity to this sense of partnership. (The Israeli liberal daily newspaper Haaretz even dedicated the leading essay in its cultural supplement to the long-lasting love affair of Israelis from all walks of life with modern Greek music).

 

The long shadow of Turkish policies, however, is never too far away. Israeli awareness of the potential benefits of closer association with the Hellenic world grew exponentially after the collapse of Israeli-Turkish relations. The same could be said for the other side of the coin: For many years, Israel's image as Turkey's friend and military ally did little to endear her to Greek and Cypriot public opinion…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                            Contents

                                       

                                           END-OF-YEAR REPORTS RANK ISRAEL HIGH ON TECH,

                      LOW ON INFRASTRUCTURE   

David Shamah                                                     

           Times of Israel, Dec. 27, 2015

 

A plethora of year-end reports peg Israel as a pretty good place to do business, rated among the top countries for higher education and research, and with excellent technology. But the country scores only so-so marks for government-fostered bureaucracy, economic freedom, physical infrastructure, and labor efficiency. The reports — by business magazine Forbes, the World Economic Forum, and the Heritage Foundation — all rank Israel as one of the 30 best economies in the world to do business. But they point out that, with reforms, Israel could be doing much better.

 

Israel ranks as the 25th-best country in the world to do business, according to the Forbes Best Countries for Business rankings for 2015. With a “technologically advanced market economy,” the economy has good prospects, especially when the country starts reaping the benefits from the Laviathan gas field later this decade. However, over the long term, the magazine said, Israel faces structural issues, including low labor participation rates for its fastest-growing social segments — the ultra-orthodox and Arab-Israeli communities.

 

While Israel can be proud of its “globally competitive, knowledge-based technology sector,” Forbes points out that many Israelis are not benefiting from it. The tech sector “employs only 9% of the workforce, with the rest employed in manufacturing and services — sectors which face downward wage pressures from global competition,” said Forbes. Israel’s closest competitor in the Middle East is the United Arab Emirates, which ranked in 40th place…

 

A much more extensive report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) places Israel as the 27th most-competitive economy in the world — “competitive” used in the sense of being most likely to succeed. The WEF report ranks 144 countries around the world on 12 “pillars of success,” including the effectiveness of institutions (government and private), quality of infrastructure, economic environment, health, education, financial markets, innovation, and “technological readiness,” which measures an economy’s ability to absorb and utilize new technologies.

 

On that parameter, Israel ranks as fourth best in the world, and it scores even better on “capacity for innovation” and “quality of scientific research institutions.” Israel also does well on other components of the “innovation pillar,” including availability of scientists to tackle issues, per-capita patent applications, university-industry collaboration, and more. Israel also ranks close to the top in health (10th overall), and is the fourth-best place to get venture capital for a start-up.

 

The country receives only middling scores for other important areas of competitiveness. It ranks 43rd worldwide for the quality of its government institutions, 44th on the quality of its ethics, 55th in transport infrastructure, 70th in port infrastructure quality, and so on. In this study, the US ranks far better — the third-most competitive economy — as opposed to its rank on the Forbes list. The most competitive economy in the WEF report is Switzerland; Denmark, first in the Forbes ranking, is No. 12 on the Forbes list.

 

In terms of economic freedom, Israel ranks No. 33 in the world. “A democratic and free-market bastion in the Middle East, Israel has entrenched the principles of economic freedom during its development,” reported the Heritage Foundation. “A small, open economy, Israel relies on its competitive regulatory environment and well-established rule of law to attract international investment. While government spending is sizable, the government has not interfered heavily with industrial activity.”                              

                                                                       

Contents                       

                                 HE DROVE CARS ON MARS –

                                 NOW HE'S TRYING TO PUT ISRAEL ON THE MOON

Tali Heruti-Sover

           Haaretz, Dec. 14, 2015

 

Prof. Oded Aharonson had a comfortable life in the United States, to which he had moved from Israel when he was 13. At 21, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in physics from Cornell University, he returned to Israel for two years to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. At 23, he began his Ph.D. in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As soon as he completed his doctorate he started working at California Institute of Technology in planetary science, his area of specialization.

 

The close cooperation between Caltech and NASA allowed Aharonson to be involved in most of the U.S. missions to Mars, he says. “It was my baby.” Aharonson was a senior member of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ science team. The vehicles, which NASA sent at a cost of $1.2 billion and which recently found apparent evidence of water on the red planet. Aharonson says that to simplify matters, he often just says he was “the driver of the Mars rovers.”

 

Aharonson brought all his enormous knowledge and experience back to Israel, when he was appointed the head of the newly established Center for Planetary Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot in 2011. He is determined to make it an active part of international efforts to crack the secrets of the universe.

 

“The rovers landed on Mars in 2002, and since then there is a team that receives the pictures from them every day, looks at them and argues: ‘Is it worth photographing this part, that mountain.’ Every scientist has his own agenda and you need to reach a decision. This is not one meeting a day, but a series of meetings, at the of which a mission plan is formulated. My job was to take that plan and along with the engineers translate it into the language of the rover in order to send the orders that would help the rovers drive, photograph, send data — and do the same thing the next day.”

 

For almost a decade Aharonson “drove” the rovers on Mars, until he felt he needed to return home. “I had a wonderful job, tenure, a house and a car, but I felt that all the people I cared about, and who cared about me, are in Israel.” While he was thinking things over — “because it meant giving up a lot” — he took a business trip to Moscow. At one point he went to a restaurant with a Russian colleague.

 

“He looked at me and said: ‘All of your friends are very focused on their joy, on the question of what will make them happy, but it’s possible to look at happiness a different way: If you go to Israel, another physicist will come and drive the rovers, because at Caltech there are many talented people; but if you remain in the United States, whatever it is you would do in Israel won’t happen.’ This was a Soviet perspective, not personal but general rather. He didn’t measure my value by my level of personal happiness, but by the effect on the state; I, wanting to advance the area of planetary sciences in Israel so that Israel can become involved in a field that doesn’t exist, recognized that he was right.”

 

Four years down the road, Aharonson says that while he sometimes misses the comforts of the United States, but is happy about his decision to return, moving in the opposite direction of the “brain drain.” Aharonson is 42, unmarried and living in Tel Aviv. “Maybe I won’t have one-time opportunities to control spacecraft on Mars, but here there are other one-time opportunities,” he says. Not at a billion dollars per project. “Our scale is $50 million, projects that are not small but are small relative to the big NASA missions, and are nonetheless a breakthrough in the well-known Israeli method — smaller, cheaper, faster.”

 

Aharonson’s flagship project is the establishment of the planetary sciences center at Weizmann. He is also the mission scientist on the SpaceIL project to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. SpaceIL is a nonprofit organization established to compete in Google Lunar XPRIZE, a $30-million competition to land a privately funded robot on the moon. Google is offering a $20 million prize to the first nongovernment team to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, have it travel 500 meters on the lunar surface and transmit high-definition images and video from the moon. The original deadline of December 2015 has been extended to the end of 2017.

 

Asked if SpaceIL will succeed, Aharonson says “certainly,” and explains why. Of the more than 30 teams from throughout the world that entered the competition, 16 remain. Israel is leading in many ways and the team has a launch contract that has been approved by Google, which is very important, he says. “We have a budget that allows us to sign a commitment for a launch, one of the hardest tasks in this process. We still need to build a spacecraft and it needs to work there. You must understand that we are not doing it for the $20-million prize,” explaining that it will cost around $50 million to put the Israeli robot on the moon — all from donations.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

 

On Topic

 

Israeli Medical Apps Dominate International Competition in Germany: Algemeiner, Dec. 9, 2015—Four Israeli companies were among the 10 winners in the 2015 Medica App Competition, held in the German city of Dusseldorf.

Recent Linkups By China-Israel VCs And Tech Startups Spell More Opportunity Than Risk: Rebecca Fannin, Forbes, Nov. 19, 2015—It’s long been said that Chinese and Israeli culture is alike – entrepreneurial, hard-working, family oriented and spiritual. Now these two leading startup nations are coming closer together in the venture capital and technology innovation world and advancing the potential for disruptive breakthroughs.

An Israeli Gas Pipeline to Turkey? Bad Idea: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Dec. 20, 2015—News that the Turkish and Israeli governments are about to renew full diplomatic relations after years of tensions causes me to smile cynically — and to worry again about Israeli gullibility. The two states enjoyed close relations in the 1990s, when a common world outlook led to a strong military bond, growing trade, and exchanges of people and culture. Writing in 1997, I characterized this bilateral as having “the potential to alter the strategic map of the Middle East, to reshape American alliances there, and to reduce Israel’s regional isolation.”

Panama and Israel Sign Free Trade Agreement: Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2015—Panama signed a free trade agreement with Israel, its first with a Middle Eastern nation. The agreement was signed on Saturday in Panama City to seal a set of negotiated deals including access to markets, customs, services and investments, intellectual property, trade obstacles, institutional issues and conflict resolution.

 

                   

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

ERDOGAN & AKP LOSE TURKISH MAJORITY—WILL THE ANTISEMITIC, ISLAMIST PRESIDENT RESPECT DEMOCRACY?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

Turkey: "An End to an Era of Oppression": Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 8, 2015— For the first time since his Islamist party won its first election victory in 2002, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was nowhere to be seen on the night of June 7. He did not make a victory speech. He did not, in fact, make any speech.

Do the Turkish Elections Offer a Modicum of Hope in Preserving its Democracy?: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2015 — Regardless of the results of the parliamentary election on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably going to push ahead in consolidating power for himself and his party and continue to Islamize the state.

How the Kurds Upended Turkish Politics: Kimberly Guiler, Washington Post, June 4, 2015 — Turkish voters delivered a crushing blow Sunday to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost its 12-year majority in parliament and saw its vote share drop from 50 percent in the 2011 general election to 41 percent.

Young Turkish Jews Trickling Away From Shrinking Community: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, June 6, 2015 — Five centuries after Sultan Bayezid II welcomed Sephardic Jewish refugees to Istanbul, Turkey’s Jewish community is slowly dwindling.

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey’s Unimportant Election: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, June 4, 2015

President Erdogan’s Growing Grip Faces Electoral Test in Turkey: Joanna Slater, Globe & Mail, June 5, 2015

Turkey's Flotilla: What Was It Really About?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 4, 2015

Ahead of Polls, Erdogan Slams Foreign, ‘Jewish’-Backed Media: Times of Israel, June 6, 2015

Erdogan vs. the New York Times, and Democracy: IPT News, May 28, 2015

 

                   

TURKEY: "AN END TO AN ERA OF OPPRESSION"

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                      

Gatestone Institute, June 8, 2015

 

For the first time since his Islamist party won its first election victory in 2002, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was nowhere to be seen on the night of June 7. He did not make a victory speech. He did not, in fact, make any speech.

 

Not only failing to win the two-thirds majority they desired to change the constitution, the AKP lost its parliamentary majority and the ability to form a single-party government. It won 40.8% of the national vote and 258 seats, 19 short of the simple majority requirement of 276. Erdogan is now the lonely sultan at his $615 million, 1150-room presidential palace. For the first time since 2002, the opposition has more seats in parliament than the AKP: 292 seats to 258.

 

"The debate over presidency, over dictatorship in Turkey is now over," said a cheerful Selahattin Demirtas after the preliminary poll results. Demirtas, a Kurdish politician whose Peoples' Democracy Party [HDP] entered parliament as a party for the first time, apparently with support from secular, leftist and marginal Turks, is the charismatic man who destroyed Erdogan's dreams of an elected sultanate. Echoing a similar view, the social democrat, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party [CHP], commented on the early results in plain language: "We, through democratic means, have brought an end to an era of oppression."

 

What lies ahead is less clear. Theoretically, the AKP can sign a coalition deal with the third biggest party, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party [MHP], although during the campaign, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli slammed Erdogan harshly for the embarrassing corruption allegations against the president. At the same time, a CHP-MHP-HDP coalition is unlikely, as it must bring together the otherwise arch-enemies MHP and HDP. The AKP management may be planning for snap, or early, polls but there are hardly any rational reasons for it except to risk another ballot box defeat. Parliament may try a minority government, supported by one of the parties from outside government benches, but this can only create a temporary government.

 

Two outcomes, however, look almost certain: 1) The AKP is in an undeniable decline; the voters have forced it into compromise politics rather than permitting it to run a one-man show, with in-house bickering even more likely than peace, and new conservative Muslims challenging the incumbent leadership. 2) Erdogan's ambitions for a too-powerful, too-authoritarian, Islamist executive presidency, "a la sultan," will have to go into the political wasteland at least in the years ahead.

 

The AKP appeared polled in first place on June 7. But that day may mark the beginning of the end for it. How ironic; the AKP came to power with 34.4% of the national vote in 2002, winning 66% of the seats in parliament. Nearly 13 years later, thanks to the undemocratic features of an electoral law it has fiercely defended, it won 40.8% of the vote and only 47% of the seats in parliament, blocking it from even forming a simple majority.                                     

 

Contents                                                                                               

   

DO THE TURKISH ELECTIONS OFFER A MODICUM OF HOPE IN                                  

PRESERVING ITS DEMOCRACY?                        

Ariel Ben Solomon                                                                                                                                 

Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2015

 

Regardless of the results of the parliamentary election on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably going to push ahead in consolidating power for himself and his party and continue to Islamize the state. The question is how fast he will be able to move. If the election results force his AK Party to form a coalition government, it could slow the pace a bit, but many of the state institutions have already been brought under his authority. The oft-repeated Erdogan quote bears repeating – “democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination.”

 

Rachel Sharon-Krespin, director of the Turkish Media Project at MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening that the preliminary results so far, showing that Erdogan’s AKP might be forced to form a coalition government, could provide some hope for Turkish democracy. “It would be an irony if the Kurds would save Turkish democracy,” she said, referring to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which was projected at press time to make the 10 percent threshold and get into parliament.

 

Sharon-Krespin wrote in a recently released report published by MEMRI that these elections are crucial as they will determine if Erdogan can become an absolute ruler or whether “his era has come to an end.” However, she said that in Turkey it is “highly expected that these elections would be rigged,” adding that a Twitter account, known as a whistle- blower and established to reveal truthful leaks, said a team has been set up by the AKP to rig the elections and have a presence at every ballot box. Asked what would happen if the final results will suggest tampering and rule out other parties making it into parliament, Sharon-Krespin replied that there would “definitely be protests,” particularly in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country.

 

However, if the Kurdish party is able to make it in, it could be good for minority rights, and that means it would be positive for Turkish Jews. Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told the Post, “Let’s be clear, Erdogan got off the train of democracy several years ago. “The AKP has always been over represented in parliament, sometimes getting twice as many seats as they would have if other parties passed the 10% threshold,” he said.

 

If the Kurdish HDP and the previous main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) pass the 10% threshold, then the AKP supermajority is over, added Rubin. “But Erdogan has tasted dictatorship and he likes it. He does not care much for elections unless people vote for him,” continued Rubin, adding that just as “we saw in local elections in places like Ankara, he won’t hesitate to fudge the numbers when the votes are counted off site to ensure the right results. “Most Turkish politicians tell me he gets at least a 5% bonus from fraud.” Not only can he manipulate the results, said Rubin, but “Turkey’s democracy may be too far gone” since “Erdogan has staffed the bureaucracy with his cronies so elections may not change much.” “Erdogan looks in the mirror and sees a sultan,” he asserted, going on to say that this may be the last chance for voters “to let him and the world know that the emperor has no clothes.”

 

Daniel Pipes, scholar and president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told the Post that the significance of the elections are being overrated. “Now, it hardly matters how the elections come out, just as it hardly does in Iran,” he said. “Erdogan signaled long ago that he sees democracy as a means to an end. He rode the democracy bus until it brought him to near-dictatorship,” argued Pipes. Asked about Erdogan’s possible foreign policy after the election, he replied that “Erdogan is a brilliant political operator within the Turkish domestic context but far less capable abroad. His confidence leads him to take risks and alienate other governments.” “I expect something in this arena will bring him down,” he predicted.

 

According to an article by Pipes published in the Washington Times, he sees a possible foreign policy fiasco developing, perhaps with Russia in Ukraine, Israel in Gaza, the civil war in Syria or the gas fields of Cyprus. “And when that moment arrives, hardly a soul will bring up the results of the June 7 election; and none will remember it as a turning point,” he concluded.                                                       

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

   

HOW THE KURDS UPENDED TURKISH POLITICS                                                                         

Kimberly Guiler

Washington Post, June 8, 2015

 

Turkish voters delivered a crushing blow Sunday to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost its 12-year majority in parliament and saw its vote share drop from 50 percent in the 2011 general election to 41 percent. Although the party still earned a plurality of votes in the election, the result has all but doomed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ambition to rewrite the Turkish constitution and transform his office into a super-presidency, consolidating his grasp on power.

 

The elections also represented a significant victory for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which passed Turkey’s required 10 percent electoral threshold, increasing its vote share from 6 percent in 2011 to nearly 13 percent. HDP broadened its appeal by reaching out to secular and liberal Turks, especially those who coalesced during anti-government demonstrations in 2013. In addition, the party appears to have attracted former Kurdish AKP supporters, who had become disheartened by Erdogan’s increasingly hostile attitude towards the Kurdish peace process and disillusioned by widespread corruption and extravagant spending on the part of Erdogan and his inner cadre.

 

Voters who defected from the AKP may have also been responding to Turkey’s deteriorating economic situation. The country’s growth rate, which was 7.5 percent per year on average between 2003 and 2006, decreased to 2.58 percent by the end of 2014. On April 24, the Turkish lira reached a record low of 2.742 against the U.S. dollar, and levels of foreign direct investment have also been on the decline. These economic issues have been amplified by the erratic behavior of Erdogan, who has been interfering with the independence of regulatory bodies in an effort to determine central bank interest rate policies ahead of the election.

 

HDP was able to capitalize on mounting dissent by emphasizing a rights-based platform and urging the electorate to vote strategically. In particular, the party’s campaign materials argued that a vote for HDP was a vote against the presidential system and against a single-party AKP government. One campaign poster read, “In this election, a vote for HDP does not have to be a vote for those who comprise HDP. In such critical elections, voters can vote strategically. The most fruitful, most assured and shortest road for those citizens who want to get rid of the AKP and Erdogan regime is to vote for HDP and to help HDP pass the threshold.”

 

Although Turkey’s Kurdish population expressed jubilation over the election results — setting off fireworks and waving HDP’s flag in the streets of the primarily Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Sunday evening — other voters in Turkey appear conflicted, if not angered, over the result. HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas’s post-election speech, in which he openly thanked Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Öcalan, set off a wave of incensed comments across social media as some Turkish voters wondered whether HDP’s assurances regarding inclusivity and democracy were just empty promises.

 

In coming days, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will be tasked with the job of forming a coalition government. Turkish law stipulates that if a coalition is not formed after 45 days, Erdogan will be able to call for a new election. Pundits are already predicting that an early election is likely, as the leaders of the major parties have all stated in public speeches that they will not form a coalition government with the AKP.

 

Interestingly, whereas the AKP was able to form a single-party government in 2002 with only 34.28 percent of the vote, today the party will be unable to do so with a greater percent of the vote. The AKP’s unlikely rise to power in 2002, despite its relatively small share of the vote, occurred after all existing parties but two failed to pass the electoral threshold. As editor of the English-language Hurriyet Daily News Murat Yetkin shrewdly pointed out, the AKP may have been a victim of its own dependence on the unfair 10 percent threshold rule. If the threshold had been lowered to 5 or 7 percent, argued Yetkin, the AKP still would have been prevented from adopting Erdogan’s presidential system, but its parliamentary majority would have been salvaged.

 

Whatever the result of the forthcoming coalition negotiations, one thing is clear: Erdogan and the AKP no longer have the enthusiastic, broad-based popular mandate the party enjoyed during its heyday. At the hands of the Kurds, we may finally be witnessing the beginning of the end of Erdogan.

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

   

YOUNG TURKISH JEWS TRICKLING

AWAY FROM SHRINKING COMMUNITY                                                                                          

Ilan Ben Zion

Times of Israel, June 6, 2015

 

Five centuries after Sultan Bayezid II welcomed Sephardic Jewish refugees to Istanbul, Turkey’s Jewish community is slowly dwindling. Faced with rising anti-Semitism, growing authoritarianism and dire economic circumstances, young Turkish Jews have increasingly set their sights on Israel, Europe and North America.

 

Despite a rich history under the Ottomans — rising to prominence as ministers, traders and buccaneers — and active involvement in public life in the early Turkish Republic, Turkish Jews no longer contribute significantly to the country’s political or cultural life. In 1948 Turkey was home to about 80,000 Jews; three years later nearly 40% had left. Talking with members of the community today, one is likely to hear the future for Jews in Turkey described as “bleak”.

 

The departure of Jewish youth is by no means an exodus. The numbers are small, but so is the community from which they’re leaving. Officially, 17,300 Jews live in Turkey today, the vast majority in Istanbul, making it the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. A decade earlier, it was closer to 20,000.  This much is clear: class sizes in Jewish kindergartens are shrinking, the birth rate is dropping and the community is aging.

 

Hard statistics concerning the emigration of young Jews, however, are difficult to come by. The official figure, for example, doesn’t account for the rising number of high school graduates who have left for opportunities abroad. Mois Gabay, a columnist for the Jewish Şalom newspaper, wrote last year about the growing trend of young Turkish Jews moving abroad. He told Deutsche Welle in January that “40 percent of Jewish graduates chose to seek higher education abroad” in 2014. In 2013 it was half that figure. He said that number was expected to rise. “I cannot tell you if young Jews are leaving, or how many young Jews are leaving,” he said over the phone. He added, though, that the community couldn’t ignore the fact that collective anxiety was taking hold.

 

Faced with anti-Semitic rhetoric that’s been given free rein by the government in recent years and amplified by social media, some young Jews have also opted to move to Israel for ideological reasons. Immigration to Israel by Turkish Jews has remained steady at roughly 100 per year since 1980. In the past decade, 1,002 Turkish Jews have immigrated to Israel, according to statistics published by Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry.

 

“I always felt I didn’t belong to the Turkish people, I felt like a stranger, like I didn’t belong to them,” Israel Maden, 29, said. He grew up in Istanbul’s Göztepe neighborhood, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and was an active member in the local Jewish youth club. Like many Turkish Jews, Maden has family living in Israel, and “the idea of leaving and coming to Israel was always there.” In 2009, he immigrated to the country whose name he carries. Maden’s experience compared to that of Lisya Malki, a 31-year-old mother of one who moved to Israel in 2008 and now lives in a small town north of Tel Aviv. “Even though I grew up there, we had our own holidays, our own culture,” she said in Hebrew tinged with a slight Turkish accent. “I was a Jew living in Turkey, that’s what I always felt.”

 

Alongside the ascendance of Islam and authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the volume of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric in Turkey has grown in state-sponsored media. “Turkey has gained a much more conservative outlook that’s getting stronger day by day,” said Selin Nasi, an Istanbul native and PhD candidate in political science at Bogazici University. Islam has become “a way of conducting policy,” she said, and authoritarianism is on the rise.

 

Ahead of Sunday’s national elections, Erdogan on May 8 employed a Quran as a campaign prop — an unprecedented move in an officially secular government — waving it around onstage. His move was a cause of concern for Turkey’s religious minorities, including the Jews, and he was speedily accused of exploiting religion for political purposes. Erdogan and his party’s open embrace of political Islam has also translated into strained ties with Israel, and the country’s Jews. Despite largely symbolic gestures, such as the recent restoration of the Edirne Great Synagogue (which has no accompanying community), tensions run high.

 

“Bilateral disputes between Turkey and Israel have an undeniable impact on attitudes toward Turkish Jews,” Nasi said, referring to tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem over Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.

Previously close ties between Israel and Turkey were frayed nearly to the breaking point in May 2010 after Israeli soldiers boarded the MV Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying activists attempting to break the IDF blockade on the Gaza Strip. In skirmishes between activists and Israeli troops, nine Turkish citizens were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis. Tens of thousands of Turks protested in Istanbul, and hundreds attempted to storm the Israeli consulate.

 

Similar attacks on the Israeli diplomatic mission took place last summer during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, and latent anti-Semitic propaganda proliferated unchecked. While recent months have been calm compared to last summer, Turkish Jews nonetheless “come across hate speech on a daily basis,” Nasi said. “We know that some of the press, particularly close to the government, is involved in this hate speech and they are not sanctioned at all,” Nasi said. “The government totally turns a blind eye.”

 

Although anti-Semitism and ideology play a role in bringing Jewish youths such as Malki and Maden to Israel, Turkish Jews are also affected by the same socioeconomic pressures pushing middle class Turks to look abroad for a better life. Turkey’s economic boom in the first decade of the 21st century has slowed, and its currency has lost 20 percent of its value against the dollar in the past year alone. As tuition prices in Turkey’s increasingly competitive universities have skyrocketed in recent years, the quality of education lags behind schools in western Europe, the United States and Canada…

 

Another indicator of the anxiety pervading the community is the number of Turkish Jews who have jumped at the opportunity to acquire Spanish citizenship. The vast majority of Turkey’s Jews are descendants of Spanish exiles who were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire. Earlier this year the Spanish government announced its intention of extending citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in 1492. Shortly thereafter 5,000 Turkish Jews — roughly a third of the community — applied for dual citizenship, potentially opening the doors to life in Europe, according to a recent Financial Times report.

 

Leaders from the Istanbul community declined to respond to inquiries concerning the departure of young Turkish Jews. The community’s official organ is notoriously tight-lipped and maintains a low profile. Rifat Bali, a prominent Turkish Jewish native to Istanbul, on the one hand denied there being “an exodus of young Jews” and called reports of one a “baseless allegation.” On the other hand, he acknowledged that since the 1980s young Jews of “more or less well to do families,” like their Muslim counterparts, leave for education abroad. “As with all communities which are demographically so small and aged we will see numbers continuing to decrease,” Bali said by email.

 

Almost universally, the prognosis for the future of Turkey’s Jews, who have called Anatolia home for nearly 2,000 years, is grim. Malki, the young mother now living in Israel, said there are few Jewish men of marrying age still in Istanbul and, predictably, the birthrate is dropping. “In Turkey, there’s no future for Jews,” she said. “There is racism, there is anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.” There are a million and one reasons for Jews to leave, she said.

 

“We have to admit that even if there is not an exodus of Jews leaving,” Fishman said, in light of its gradual senescence and young Jews trickling away,” the overall future of the community is not looking very hopeful.”

 

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

Turkey’s Unimportant Election: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, June 4, 2015— Almost every assessment of the national parliamentary election to take place in Turkey on June 7 rates it among the most important in the republic's nearly century old history.

President Erdogan’s Growing Grip Faces Electoral Test in Turkey: Joanna Slater, Globe & Mail, June 5, 2015—One weekday morning last December, Mehmet Emin Altunses woke up in a predicament familiar to most 16-year-old boys: He had overslept.

Turkey's Flotilla: What Was It Really About?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 4, 2015—Five years ago this week, on May 31, 2010, a Turkish flotilla with hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists aboard sailed toward the Gaza Strip in order to break Israel's naval blockade.

Ahead of Polls, Erdogan Slams Foreign, ‘Jewish’-Backed Media: Times of Israel, June 6, 2015— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday stepped up his attacks on foreign media a day ahead of legislative elections, telling the Guardian to “know your limits” and lamenting that “Jewish capital” was behind the New York Times.

Erdogan vs. the New York Times, and Democracy: IPT News, May 28, 2015—For 13 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has worked to impose his Islamist vision on Turkey's proud secular democracy, reshaping the country into a neo-Ottoman republic.

 

 

 

              

              

TURKEY, GENOCIDE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: ANKARA TURNS AGAINST ISRAEL, EUROPE & US

Last Thursday, France’s National Assembly passed a law making it a crime to deny that the atrocities against Armenians committed by Ottoman Turks from 1915-1918 constituted a genocide.

 

In response, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chastised French President Nicholas Sarkozy, accused France of committing its own genocide in Algeria, and cited the bill’s passage as “a clear example of how racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe.” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also weighed in, stating that “Europe has philosophically and ideologically reverted to the Middle Ages.”

 

Erdogan’s Islamist AKP government has since escalated the confrontation, recalling Turkey’s ambassador to France for “consultations,” and imposing a slew of military and economic sanctions. Clearly, one can now add France to an ever-expanding list of countries—including Israel, and Syria—to which Turkey’s alleged “zero problems” (Davutoglu’s words) foreign policy does not apply.

 

Yet Turkey’s involvement in a growing number of diplomatic altercations has been predictable. Empowered by his Islamist Party’s landslide victory in last June’s elections, Erdogan’s overarching neo-Ottoman ambitions have naturally enmeshed Turkey in a multitude of regional disputes. Coupled with ongoing internal repression, Erdogan’s AK Party has solidified its grip on the country by suppressing dissent. Turkey’s hegemonic drive is likely to intensify and, as Erdogan’s tentacles stretch further abroad, additional controversies should be expected.

 

TURKEY SAYS FRENCH LAW DAMAGES
‘FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION’
Zvi Bar’el

Haaretz, December 28, 2011

A Holocaust must not be denied, according to France, be it the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian. While the French Parliament passed a law in 1990 against denying the Jewish Holocaust and against manifestations of anti-Semitism, the Armenian Holocaust has not won identical status. The lower house last week passed a bill defining denial of the slaughter of the Armenian people as a crime, but it still needs the Senate’s approval to become law.

Turkey is not waiting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already imposed a string of sanctions on France, including a prohibition on the landing of French warplanes and the anchoring of French warships in Turkish territory. More sanctions, including a trade freeze between the two countries, are expected, and if the law is passed in the Senate, Turkey is liable to widen the breach.

Although the murder of approximately 1.5 million Armenians—or “the death of Armenians in a situation of war,” as the Turkish version has it—took place in 1915, under the Ottoman Empire, Turkey sees the definition of genocide as casting direct blame on it. This is not just a matter of legal repercussions that might stem from casting blame. In Turkey’s view, refuting this accusation is “a matter of pride,” as Erdogan has defined it, or more precisely: “a correction of an historical distortion.” Turkey says the French law damages the freedom of expression.

Erdogan is not a champion of freedom of expression. The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel laureate for literature, can testify to the travails he endured at the hands of the Turkish legal system for his statements on the slaughter of the Armenians.

In a conflict between freedom of expression and honor, honor will win. Israel, too, has learned that the red line in Turkish foreign policy is honor—whether the subject be the killing of Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara or casting historical blame. Thus, Turkey froze trade with France in 2001 when a law similar to the recognition of the Armenian genocide came up before the French Parliament. Similarly, Turkey narrowed its relations with Israel because of an apology that has not been made and the refusal to pay compensation for the Turks who were killed. Turkey also decided to cut relations with Syria when Syrian President Bashar Assad thumbed his nose at its requests and warnings to cease the bloodshed.…

In its relations with Iran, Turkey had aspired to establish a diplomatic axis, but things are tense in the context of Turkey’s policy toward Syria. As for Iraq, Turkey is attacking the bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK ) and is liable to enter into conflict with the Iraqi regime. As for Cyprus…no solution is in sight. According to Erdogan, Turkey will sever ties with the EU during Cyprus’ stint in its rotating presidency. Now, France has joined the list of “hostile countries.”

Turkey’s foreign policy is not detached from domestic political considerations, which dictate its conduct. In each of the crises Erdogan can rely on broad public support and in some of them, as in the cases of France and Syria, the opposition also supports him. Turkey defines its foreign policy as based on “values”—not on interests. The assessment of the policy shapers is that a crisis with a neighboring country in the context of damage to Turkey’s honor or damage to interests that are important to Turkey merits diplomatic and political investment even if in the short term Turkey pays a price.

Turkey can return to Syria as a hero after Assad’s fall; Iran will be needy for purposes of maintaining order in Iraq. Turkey has earned political capital among the Palestinians from its punishment of Israel. It will also be hard for France to relinquish the activity of about a 1,000 French companies in Turkey and trade worth an estimated $12 billion.…

ARMENIAN MEMORIAL
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, December 24, 2011

Knesset members of radically different political orientations will seek this week to sway the Knesset Education Committee to promote Israeli recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), MK Arye Eldad (National Union) and MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) will argue for a special annual Armenian memorial day in Israel.

As Jews, we entertain understandable reservations regarding the overuse the genocide term, already applied to numerous diverse incidents of mass-slaughter, including Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge purges and Rwanda’s tribal carnage. But the massacres and violent deportations by Ottoman Turks, which claimed as many as 1.5 million Armenian lives during World War I, are different.

They’re closer to a premeditated scheme to cleanse Turkey of Christians, even if not imbued with the Nazis’ systematic, all-encompassing ideology of “scientific” racism. Not every last Armenian was hunted down as in Germany’s methodical, industrialized extermination process that targeted and pursued every last hidden Jewish baby. Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer explained it best: “The Nazis saw the Jews as the central problem of world history.… The attitude towards Jews had in it important elements of pseudo-religion. There was no such motivation present in the Armenian case; Armenians were to be annihilated for power-political reasons, and in Turkey only.… Yet even if the Armenian case is not seen as a holocaust in the extreme form, which it took towards Jews, it is certainly the nearest thing to it.”

It, therefore, amply deserves Israeli recognition. Previous attempts to secure such recognition were foiled by Foreign Ministry opposition. Every care was taken not to vex Turkey, for years Israel’s sole quasi-ally in the region. Presumably, now that Turkey has turned ultra-hostile—particularly after Operation Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara confrontation—such constraints should no longer be relevant.…

Turkey continues to cast a dark shadow over Israeli considerations even in the stark absence of any viable relationship with that country. Turkey continues to prevent Israel from doing the right thing even when there’s no expedient realpolitik incentive to avoid the moral high ground.

But Ankara intimidates elsewhere as well. France’s lower house of parliament has moved to criminalize Armenian Genocide-denial. In response, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had thrown a super-temper tantrum.…

In retaliation, Erdogan cut ties with France, recalled his ambassador for consultations. He said Turkey was cancelling all economic, political and military meetings with its NATO partner and it would cancel permission for French military planes to land, and warships to dock, in Turkey.… His unmistakable aggressive stance towards the French parliamentary initiative contains a message for Israel too.…

Erdogan’s ruffian demeanor isn’t Israel-specific. There’s no plausible reason not to answer his hectoring defamations with incontrovertible historical truths. Why, for starters, not quit our unsavory habit of resisting Knesset resolutions on Turkey’s infamous atrocities against the Armenians? We could elaborate on Turkey’s first Armenian massacre of 1890 (100,000-200,000 dead); Turkey’s subsequent mega-massacres of 1915 in which over a million Armenians perished in a series of bloodbaths and forced marches of uprooted civilians in Syria’s direction; the WWI slaughter of tens of thousands of Assyrians in Turkey’s southeast; the ethnic cleansing, aerial bombardments and other operations that cost Kurds untold thousands of lives throughout the 20th century and beyond and still deny them the sovereignty they deserve; and finally, the 1974 invasion and continued occupation of northern Cyprus (which fails to bother the international community).

TURNING AWAY FROM EUROPE
Philip Terzian

Weekly Standard, December 19, 2011

One way to gauge the present state of European unity is to know that Turkey, which has energetically sought membership in the European Union for the past decade, is now having second thoughts about the enterprise. According to the German Marshall Fund, in 2004, three-quarters of Turks thought EU membership was a good idea; last year, that percentage had dropped to little more than a third. A recent story in the New York Times featured a pointed question from a prominent supporter of the Erdogan government in Ankara: “The EU has absolutely no influence over Turkey, and most Turks are asking themselves, ‘Why should we be part of such a mess?’” The reasons this has come to pass tell us as much about Europe, and its faltering quest for economic and political unity, as about Turkey.

It is not difficult to comprehend why and how the notion of Turkish membership was ever seriously contemplated. The EU itself is the culmination of several decades’ worth of wishful thinking: that the experience of two devastating wars had persuaded Europeans to set aside national differences in a common, transnational cause; and that the cause had persuaded postwar Europeans to surrender their currencies (and, to some degree, national sovereignty) in favor of a common monetary zone and limited authority in Brussels.

Now we know how that turned out. As long ago as 1914 socialists were surprised to discover that working-class Europeans tended to think of themselves as Frenchmen and Germans and Italians, not Europeans, when hostilities broke out. And while Europeans, for differing reasons, might have welcomed the creation of the eurozone—Germans as a means of ratifying economic dominance, Greeks for the opportunity to hitch their wagon to the stars—they have since learned the familiar lesson that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Public opinion in Germany is becoming impatient with the idea of bailing out the EU’s less provident members, and public opinion in Greece is similarly impatient with austerity dictated from Berlin.

Turkish membership in the EU depends, to a large degree, on a comparable suspension of disbelief. Turkey is a huge country located predominantly in Asia minor, populated overwhelmingly by Muslims, and ruled by a broadly successful Islamist government. It is difficult to guess how much the average Irishman or Belgian feels in common with a nation that borders on Iraq, but it is not so difficult to gauge public sentiment in Cork or Antwerp about open borders and employment for tens of millions of workers who face Mecca to pray.

The problem, of course, is that public opinion—or put another way, democracy—has never been critical to the European enterprise. The political leadership of Europe welcomed the prospect of Turkish membership in the EU for the same reason past Turkish governments sought admission. The military alliance between Turkey and the West—NATO—gave something to both sides: It kept Turkey, caught historically between East and West, in the Western camp during the Cold War; and it offered Turkey’s growing economy and Westernized elites increasing access to European markets.

Now all that is turned on its head. The strategic rationale for Turkish membership in NATO hasn’t existed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and between the Arab Spring and the growth of Islamist sentiment in the Muslim world, the Erdogan government sees its opportunities to wield influence in the East, not the West.…

Then there is the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member situated off Turkey’s southern coast. The northern third of the island has been under Turkish military occupation since 1974, and Turkey remains not only hostile to the prospect of withdrawal and reunification—its puppet state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is recognized by no other country—but increasingly, even violently, hostile to Cyprus itself. Turkey has threatened military action against Israeli and Cypriot proposals to drill for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, far from Turkey’s territorial waters, and plans to boycott discussions with the EU next year when Cyprus assumes its rotating presidency.

Suffice it to say that the EU constitution does not permit membership for a state whose army (illegally) occupies a large chunk of territory in a member-state.…

Turkey’s gathering sense of itself as the supreme Muslim power in the region appeals to the “reset” mentality in the White House—Erdogan says things about Israel in public that President Obama must think privately—and reduces European influence in the Middle East.

Neither of these developments can be welcome. Turkey’s tiny Christian neighbor Armenia, for example, which harbors unhappy memories of Ottoman misrule, and is subject to economic and diplomatic blockade, has lost the prospect of European Union membership as a moderating influence on Ankara. And any Turkish government that turns resolutely away from Europe, and plays to the Islamist gallery, is by any measure bad news for Washington and the long-term objectives of American policy.

OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY IN A BRIEF: THE PRESIDENT AS TURKEY
Barry Rubin
Pajamas Media, December 8, 2011

On October 5, 1938, Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons, regarding the Munich agreement in which Britain and France forced Czechoslovakia to cede the strategic Sudetenland to Germany, leading a few months later to that country’s extinction and a year later to World War Two:”I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat.…”

Viscountess Astor shouted, “Nonsense!”

People ask me: How can U.S. government officials believe such silly and wrong things about the Middle East? Let’s go behind the scenes for a case study of how this works.

[Consider] a November 28 transcript about Vice-President Joe Biden’s trip to Turkey and Greece. The main briefers are Biden’s national security advisor, Antony Blinken, and Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussain.

The briefing shows the U.S. government’s bizarre love affair for Turkey’s Islamist regime, cluelessness about the “Arab Spring,” and disinterest in supporting Israel, contradicting the president’s frequent statements that he has done more for Israel than any predecessor.

For years the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been waging war seeking to create a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey. Apparently, the United States is getting increasingly involved in that war defined as, “Our assistance in the fight against PKK terrorism.” The U.S. government gave Turkey three SuperCobra attack helicopters and four Predator UAVs. Since that regime works closely with terrorist groups and Iran, one wonders how secure this technology will be and how far U.S. involvement is going to go.

Has there been a serious discussion in the United States about becoming a partner in the Turkey-PKK war and what might Turkey be doing in exchange for U.S. help? This concept of getting something for giving something is pretty absent in the Obama administration. True, the Turkish regime has agreed to host a NATO radar system but only after grumbling a lot and imposing stringent conditions, especially that no intelligence be shared with Israel. And that’s no favor to the United States since, as the briefers note, Turkey is supposed to be a zealous member of NATO.

What else do you have, Blinken? Well, that Turkish government is visibly helping out a lot: in Afghanistan, Iraq, against the Syrian regime, in Libya, and Egypt. “So in many, many areas we’re working very, very closely with Turkey.” Yes, but the problem is that the Turkish regime is working hard in those places to make itself leader of the region and to promote radical Islamism in all of those countries. In Egypt, Libya, and Syria for sure that means helping the Muslim Brotherhood, not to mention its work on behalf of Hamas and Hizballah.

Imagine if an American president in the 1970s had been besotted with Fidel Castro and explained how the Cubans were doing all that great work in Latin America.

Then the briefer throws out a cliché that means the exact opposite of what he thinks: “Turkey has a very important story to tell as a country that can…set an example for other countries that are making transitions in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, in North Africa.” But what is that example? The Turkish example used to be secularism, democracy, a lack of ambition abroad, a free enterprise economy, and a strong pro-Western orientation. That was the previous regime. The current regime likes Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkey “has set an example” all right. An example of how radical Islamist forces can pretend to be moderate as they not only gain state power but do so with America’s blessing. It is a very terrible example.

There’s something naive and dopey about Obama administration briefers that reminds me of Occupy Wall Street spokesmen or a community organizer. Where’s the sharp-edged, worldly cynical, realist, the sense that threats and enemies are about, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sneer that is a part of any good foreign policy?

Remember that Turkey’s government voted against additional sanctions against Iran last year and tried to sabotage them diplomatically. Erdogan has denied Iran is seeking nuclear weapons; Turkey is systematically violating anti-Iran sanctions. “Turkey shares our goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran,” says the briefer. Perhaps that’s what Turkish leaders say but it has no relation to what they do.…

When asked about Israel, Blinken says something else revealing, after the boiler plate on how everyone should get along: “It pains us to see the two of them at odds because they’re both such close partners of the United States.…” Traditional briefers would say something like: “The United States urges Turkey to act decisively to mend this relationship.” Obama administration briefers sound like bystanders, fearful of taking leadership or pushing for what U.S. interests require. And since they already make clear that the United States will give Turkey whatever it wants and thinks the bilateral relationship is great, nobody in Ankara will pay attention.…

Blinken can’t and won’t deal with a huge flaw in U.S. policy. This is Obama administration style: it is totally doctrinaire and is deaf to criticism, not even bothering to construct a cogent argument in response. That’s the perfect formula for marching off the cliff, and taking all of us with them.

Here’s the bottom line: “[Turkey’s] example can be very powerful to countries now going through transition. So it’s very encouraging to see Turkey play a strong leadership role.”

Yes, that’s it. Turkey’s Islamist regime, not the United States, is taking leadership and setting the example. It’s leading in an anti-American direction and setting a bad example. American interests are being trashed; American allies are in despair.

Now multiply this example by a few hundred times and you have Obama foreign policy.