Tag: Missile Defense

WHITHER IRAN—MORE NEGOTIATIONS, ANOTHER OFFER, ECONOMIC BLOCKADE, MILITARY ACTION—TO BE DECIDED IN 2013

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Time for an Economic Blockade on Iran: Mark Wallace, Real Clear World, Dec. 13, 2012—The recent demonstrations and protests in Iran over the increasingly perilous state of its economy are the latest and most powerful sign that the economic war is having a tangible impact. There is no doubt that punitive financial and economic sanctions have contributed greatly to the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial.

 

US and Partners Prepare Modest Offer to Iran: Barbara Slavin, Al- Monitor, Dec 19, 2012—Weeks of deliberations among the United States and its fellow negotiators have produced an offer to Iran very similar to the package Iran rejected last summer, casting doubt on chances for breaking the long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

 

2013: The year of Iran: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Dec. 19, 2012—We’ve been saying it for years: This coming year represents the moment of truth on Iran.Except that this year, it’s for real: 2013 represents the moment of truth on Iran. The year the Iranians pass the point of no return in their drive to the bomb. Or the year, one way or another, they are dissuaded.

 

Changes to Canada’s Terror List a Shot Across Iran’s Bow: Campbell Clark, The Globe and Mail, Dec. 20, 2012—The Canadian government has listed the clandestine branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and, at the same time, removed a controversial Iranian opposition organization, the People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.

 

On Topic Links

 

Congress Approves New Iran Sanctions, Missile Defense Funding: JTA, Dec. 24, 2012

'Hamas preparing for West Bank takeover': Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23, 2012

Iran's Conservatives Push for a Deal: Ray Takeyh, National Interest, Dec. 21, 2012

Feeling the Pain in Tehran: Nazila Fathi, Foreign Policy, Dec. 21, 2012

Christianity 'close to extinction' in Middle East: Edward Malnick, The Telegraph, Dec. 23, 2012

 

 

TIME FOR AN ECONOMIC BLOCKADE ON IRAN

Mark Wallace

Real Clear World, Dec. 13, 2012

 

The recent demonstrations and protests in Iran over the increasingly perilous state of its economy are the latest and most powerful sign that the economic war is having a tangible impact. There is no doubt that punitive financial and economic sanctions have contributed greatly to the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial. Iran now suffers from hyperinflation and the rial has fallen by 80 percent in the past year. As history has shown, durable hyperinflation such as this can result in public unrest and, occasionally, regime change.

 

The conventional wisdom of the past was that sanctions against Iran would have little impact because of Iran's vast oil wealth. That was, in retrospect, flawed thinking. In the past year, Iran's acceleration of its nuclear program and defiance of the IAEA, its sponsorship of terrorism and its destabilizing behavior in countries like Syria finally prompted the international community to act. The loss of Iranian oil has had little effect on the market so far, as countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya have made up for the loss.

 

The sanctions now in place are beginning to have a dramatic impact, as Iran's currency is collapsing. As a result of hyperinflation, we have seen Iran's currency exchange market become paralyzed. Licensed exchange bureaus refused in recent days to do business at the officially imposed rate of 28,500 rials to the dollar, while black market dealers were offering the dollar at a rate of 35,500 rials, sparking protests and a violent crackdown. Significantly, the ire of the protesters was primarily directed at the regime for its mismanagement, and for actions that led to sanctions in the first place.

 

If history is any guide, the leaders of Iran have reason to worry, as there is a correlation between hyperinflation and regime change. In Indonesia, hyperinflation and the collapse of the rupiah from 2,700 to the dollar to nearly 16,000 over the course of a year was one of the principal sources of discontent, which brought people out to the streets to overthrow the Suharto regime. In the case of Yugoslavia, hyperinflation was the motivating force that led Slobodan Milosevic to start a war to divert attention from the monetary crisis facing the country — a war that led to his ultimate defeat.

 

Regardless of the precipitating event, hyperinflation can signal the death knell of a regime. We often forget that a "Persian Spring" preceded the Arab Spring, and that Iran has not only restive minorities, but a restive middle class frustrated with a corrupt theocratic regime, culminating in protests over the 2009 election. If the regime faces increased and durable hyperinflation, Iran's demographics suggest that the mullahs' brutal hold on power could face serious challenges.

 

At this critical stage, it is time for U.S. and EU policymakers to do all they can to build upon and ensure the durability of Iran's hyperinflation. The best way to do so is by implementing a total economic blockade that would pit the vast purchasing power of the world's two largest economies against that of Iran. Such an economic blockade would bar any business, firm or entity that does work in Iran from receiving U.S. and EU government contracts, accessing U.S. and EU capital markets, entering into commercial partnerships in the U.S. and EU or otherwise doing business in the U.S. and EU. The result would be an immense economic barrier to entry into Iran's marketplace, and would place unprecedented pressure on the rial.

 

Other steps to pressure the rial could be taken as well. As the rial devalues, Iranians seek the safe haven of dollars and gold in the currency markets of Afghanistan and Iraq and the gold markets in Turkey. Stemming the ease of accessibility to dollars and gold would further pressure the rial. Other creative ideas include impeding the flow of sophisticated currency printing technology and other products that have been previously provided to Iran's central bank by European vendors. In fact, recently the German currency printer Koenig & Bauer AG announced the cessation of its provision of bank note printing equipment and services in Iran under pressure from United Against Nuclear Iran, seriously impeding Iran's ability to manipulate its money supply and maintain the integrity of the rial.

 

It is time to present the mullahs in Iran with a clear choice — they can forego a nuclear weapon or they can have a functioning economy. To be sure, there is no guarantee that even a total economic blockade will prevent Iran from changing its strategic calculus to develop a nuclear weapons capability. But as the prospects of war over the next months increase, does the international community not owe it to itself to say it has exhausted all other options? It surely makes sense to try, particularly since we have seen the impact current sanctions are having on the regime. And the human cost of hyperinflation, though at times great, is far less than those of a nuclear-armed Iran or a preemptive military conflict.

 

Ambassador Mark D. Wallace is CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for U.N. Management and Reform.

 

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US AND PARTNERS PREPARE MODEST OFFER TO IRAN

Barbara Slavin

Al- Monitor, Dec 19, 2012

                 

Weeks of deliberations among the United States and its fellow negotiators have produced an offer to Iran very similar to the package Iran rejected last summer, casting doubt on chances for breaking the long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

 

The “refreshed” proposal includes spare parts for Iran’s aging Western jetliners — a perennial carrot — and assistance with Iran’s civilian nuclear infrastructure but no specific promise of sanctions relief, Al-Monitor has learned. Perhaps as a result, Iranian officials appear to be in no hurry to agree to a date to meet again with the so-called P5 +1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

 

Following US presidential elections, US officials began mulling a more generous proposal but have settled for a conservative position. Iran will be expected to agree to concessions before knowing exactly what it would get in return. Iran has been sending mixed signals in advance of new talks. Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi said Monday [Dec. 17]: “Both sides … have concluded that they have to exit the current impasse,” and that “Iran wants its legitimate and legal right and no more.” But Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Tuesday [Dec. 18] that Iran would not stop enriching uranium to 20% U-235, a key international demand.

 

Another factor reducing expectations for upcoming negotiations is Iran’s reluctance so far to agree to a one-on-one meeting with the United States at which the Obama administration might be more forthcoming than in a multilateral setting.  Both sides appear to be unwilling to undertake major risks, diminishing the chances for a breakthrough or a breakdown of negotiations. The US and its partners appear to feel that time is on their side as economic sanctions bite deeper into the Iranian economy. Iran, meanwhile, is amassing larger quantities of low-enriched uranium that could improve its bargaining position down the road.

 

There is also the question of transition in both countries. Although Barack Obama was re-elected president, he will be naming new secretaries of state and defense soon and there may be a new US negotiating team. Iran is beginning to gear up for its own presidential elections next year and jostling has already begun within the conservative elite over who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the ultimate decision maker.

 

Patrick Clawson, an Iran specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he has been told that the Obama administration has “a firm determination not to let the [US] transition slow down the process.” While some members of the US negotiating team are departing, the head negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, is likely to stay on for at least a while and has a good relationship with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the probable nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

 

A bold offer to Iran would require President Obama to spend political capital that he may prefer to use for other purposes including avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff,” getting his nominees for a new Cabinet approved and now in the wake of mass shootings at a school in Connecticut, gun control.

 

Barbara Slavin is Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, where she focuses on Iran. 

 

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2013: THE YEAR OF IRAN

David Horovitz

Times of Israel, December 19, 2012

 

We’ve been saying it for years: This coming year represents the moment of truth on Iran.

 

Except that this year, it’s for real: 2013 represents the moment of truth on Iran. The year the Iranians pass the point of no return in their drive to the bomb. Or the year, one way or another, they are dissuaded.

 

It’s the now or never year. But will it be now or never? Speak to some of those who claim to know Barack Obama best of all, and the response is definitive. The president is not bluffing. He means it when he says he will thwart a nuclear Iran by whatever means necessary — up to and most certainly including the use of force. This is not about protecting Israel, or rather not just about protecting Israel. It’s about American credibility. It’s about American interests throughout the Middle East — defending those interests against an Iranian regime that is already ideologically and territorially rapacious and that would be terrifyingly more potent if its ambitions were backed by a nuclear weapons capability. And it’s about the president’s sense of his historic obligation and legacy — Obama as protector, pushing hard now for gun control at home, and determined to reduce, ideally eliminate, the nuclear peril worldwide.

 

Speak to some of the president’s bitter political rivals, and the assessment is withering. An Obama resort to force? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. Forget the fine rhetoric about containment not being an option. This is a president bent on extricating the United States from combat zones, not plunging his forces into new military misadventures. This is a president who knows the electorate shudders at the prospect of confrontation with Iran.

This is a president who wants to appoint Chuck Hagel, firm opponent of a resort to force against Iran, as his next defense secretary. This is a president who had to be dragged into Libya by the French and the British, and who hasn’t lifted a finger as Bashar Assad waged war in Syria for almost two years. This is a president whose commitment to Israel can be gauged by his readiness to pick a major fight with Benjamin Netanyahu over building in an established ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of East Jerusalem (Ramat Shlomo) two years ago, a president who couldn’t spare half an hour for Netanyahu in the US this fall, even as he was insisting Israel hold its fire on Iran and thus entrust its security to him.

 

So which Obama are we betting on? The stakes for Israel could hardly be higher.  The coming months will provide ostensible evidence for both assessments. The US will engage in new efforts at diplomacy, insisting it is seeking a negotiated solution to the standoff.

 

A necessary precursor to a US-led resort to force, some will say. It is typical of Obama, they will argue, that he is both exhausting all other options, and being seen to exhaust all other options, in order to maximize perceived international legitimacy and support for armed intervention when — not if — he gives the order to strike.

 

Far from it, others will counter. Diplomacy and more diplomacy and more diplomacy — that’s the Obama way. And when it’s too late, the president will tell his public that he tried — that he pleaded and cajoled and demanded. That he did everything short of military action. But that Iran would not be budged. And that he opted not to resort to a preemptive military strike, recognizing that the America that just reelected him would have been horrified by such action, and that he is confident the Iranians would not dare target the United States.

 

Where do these absolutely conflicting assessments leave Israel? Worried. Wary. Uncertain.  It’s just possible that the two leaders, despite their frustrations with each other — “you did your best to help my rival”; “you’ve never really understood the challenges my country faces” — have reached a private understanding. If so, it could only be in the form of a pledge by Obama to Netanyahu: If the Iranians haven’t suspended the program by this or that date in 2013, America will strike.

 

That could explain the relative absence of bitter rhetoric emanating from Jerusalem these past few months. No more talk of the need for US-set red lines. No more dismal daily declarations from the prime minister that sanctions haven’t slowed the Iranian program “one iota.” It would explain the cessation of US administration warnings to Jerusalem to hold fire, the cessation of off-record briefings by administration officials warning Israeli journalists that their government is flirting with disaster, bringing the region to the brink of apocalypse.

 

Or it could be that there are no understandings — merely that, their public sparring over, the American and Israeli leaders have retired to their respective corners, a little bruised but far from broken, to plan their next moves.  If so, the dilemma for Netanyahu — who surely wanted to hit Iran last summer, but was derailed by the weight of opposition from the US and from his own security chiefs present and past — is unenviable, indeed. Existentially unenviable.

 

If he heeds the assessments of those Obama confidantes, watchers and friends who believe the president does have the stomach to order in the bombers, then just maybe he dares let Israel’s already much-narrowed window of opportunity to thwart Iran close altogether — even though to do so is to place Israel’s destiny in the hands of others, a breach of every independent Zionist fiber of the prime ministerial being.

 

And if he heeds the Obama critics, the insiders and the observers who scoff at the notion of a presidential resort to force, he will be preparing for a desperate, immensely risky utilization of Israeli military power, unprecedentedly far away, on targets hardened against precisely such intervention, over the objections of Israel’s greatest ally, with potentially catastrophic repercussions even if everything goes as planned.

 

He will be torn, furthermore, between a certain fealty to his late father’s fierce mindset — confront the threat, take action, use the Jewish nation’s hard-won restored sovereign power to strike down the latest advocates of Jewish genocide — and his own far more cautious inclinations, his tendency to talk the talk (on defying international pressure on settlements, refusing to negotiate with terrorists, ousting Hamas) but not always walk the walk.  He’ll know he could be saving Israel, or he could be dooming it. We’ll all find out, it rather seems, in 2013.

 

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CHANGES TO CANADA’S TERROR LIST
A SHOT ACROSS IRAN’S BOW

Campbell Clark

The Globe and Mail, Dec. 20 2012

 

The Canadian government has listed the clandestine branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and, at the same time, removed a controversial Iranian opposition organization, the People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.  The two moves together mark an effort to label, isolate and pressure Iran, with whom Canada broke off ties earlier this year.

 

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced in a statement that the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard, a clandestine arm of the elite military unit that exerts powerful influence over Iran’s government and economy, has been added to the list. It was added for providing arms and training to terror organizations including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he said.

 

“The listing of terrorist entities sends a strong message that Canada will not tolerate terrorist activities, including terrorist financing, or those who support such activities.” That listing makes it illegal for Canadians to support or finance the organization, although that is likely to be a largely symbolic step in this case. Earlier this year, Ottawa declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and it recently imposed sanctions that limit doing business with the Revolutionary Guards.

 

But the Canadian government also took another step aimed at backing opponents of the Tehran regime, by removing the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.

 

The MEK, once one of the groups involved in Iran’s 1979 revolution, has long been included on the terror list, but Western nations, considering it an opponent of the regime in Tehran, have started removing it from lists of terror organizations. The European Union stopped listing the MEK as a terror group in 2009, and the U.S. followed suit in September of this year.

 

But the MEK remains controversial, as human-rights groups have accused it of abuses at its camps in Iraq, and some dissidents within Iran dislike the West’s recent willingness to accept the group’s activities.

 

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Congress Approves New Iran Sanctions, Missile Defense Funding: JTA, Dec. 24, 2012—The final version of a defense funding act headed for President Obama’s desk includes enhanced Iran sanctions the president opposed as well as additional funding for Israel’s missile defense.

 

'Hamas Preparing for West Bank Takeover: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23, 2012—Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal instructed the terror group's sleeper cells in the West Bank to prepare themselves for armed struggle to take control of the Palestinian territory, The Sunday Times reported.

 

Iran's Conservatives Push For A Deal: Ray Takeyh, National Interest, Dec. 21, 2012—As Washington contemplates another round of diplomacy with Iran, an intense debate is gripping the Islamic Republic’s corridors of power. An influential and growing segment of Iran’s body politic is calling for a negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue. Such calls have transcended the circle of reformers and liberals and are increasingly being voiced by conservative oligarchs.

 

Feeling the Pain in Tehran: Nazila Fathi, Foreign Policy, Dec. 21, 2012—Iran's Ministry of Intelligence did something remarkable last month: It used its website to publish a report (link in Farsi) calling for direct talks with the country's foe, the United States. In the report, entitled "The Zionist Regime's Reasons and Obstacles for Attacking Iran," the traditionally hawkish ministry highlighted the benefits of diplomacy and negotiations with the United States: "One way to fend off a possible war is to resort to diplomacy and to use all international capacities."

 

Christianity 'Close to Extinction' in Middle East: Edward Malnick, The Telegraph, Dec. 23, 2012—Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report. The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”. The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree. "A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”

 

 

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A COMPLEX, UNSTABLE REGION: EGYPT AND TURKEY ARE RIVALS, BOTH FEAR A NUCLEAR IRAN & SYRIA IS THE WILD CARD

Contents:                          

 

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Growing Ties Between Egypt, Turkey: New Regional Order?: Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, Nov.13, 2012—Egypt and Turkey are forging an alliance that showcases two Islamist leaders maneuvering to reshape a Middle East gripped by political upheaval and passionate battles over how deeply the Koran should penetrate public life.

 

Why Turkey Should Be Tough On Iran: Can Kasapoglu, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2012—A nuclear Iran will be tantamount to the collapse of the over five-century-old balance of power between Turkey and Iran, which was first created by the Battle of Chaldiran between the Ottoman and Safavid empires in 1514.

 

Turkey in the Syrian Crisis: What Next?: Veli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Oct.26, 2012—Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad treats Turkish military reprisals as pin-pricks. Nonetheless, while massacres continue inside Syria, confrontations and counterblows proliferate along the country's border with Turkey, including exchanges of mortar-shell fire. But how long will this stalemate continue?

 

On Topic Links

 

 

The Kurds’ Evolving Strategy: The Struggle Goes Political in Turkey: Aliza Marcus, World Affairs Journal, Nov./Dec. 2012

A Kurdish Wedge Between Iraq, Turkey: Joost Hiltermann, Real Clear World, Oct. 24, 2012

Erdogan Pays for His Foreign Policy: Halil Karaveli, National Interest, Nov.12, 2012

 

 

 

GROWING TIES BETWEEN EGYPT, TURKEY:
A NEW REGIONAL ORDER?

Jeffrey Fleishman

Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2012—

 

Egypt and Turkey are forging an alliance that showcases two Islamist leaders maneuvering to reshape a Middle East gripped by political upheaval and passionate battles over how deeply the Koran should penetrate public life. The relationship may foreshadow an emerging regional order in which the sway of the United States gradually fades against Islamist voices no longer contained by militaries and pro-Western autocrats.

 

Each country has a distinct vision of political Islam, but Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia, and Egypt, the traditional heart of the Arab world, complement each other for now. Turkey's strong economy may help rescue Egypt from financial crisis, while Cairo may further Ankara's ambition to rise as a force among Islamic-backed governments.

 

What bonds and rivalries may ensue is unclear, but they are likely to affect what rises from the bloodshed in Syria, the influence of oil nations in the Persian Gulf, future policies toward Israel and the volatile divide between moderate and ultraconservative Islamists. The nations offer competing story lines playing out between the traditional and the contemporary.

 

"Turkey has done a good job so far of balancing the relationship between the religion and state. It is secular," said Ahmed Abou Hussein, a Middle East affairs analyst in Cairo. "This is not the case in Egypt. We haven't found the balance between religion and state yet. We're all confused, not only the Islamists."

 

The two countries recently conducted naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited Ankara in September and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to arrive in Cairo this month with promises of closer cooperation and a financial aid package that may reach $2 billion….The nations' deepening ties come amid international and domestic pressure emanating from revolutions that are recasting political rhythms in the Middle East and North Africa.

 

Erdogan is moving to fashion Turkey's democracy into a model for Arab governments even as he has been criticized by human rights groups for the arrest [and deaths – Ed.] of thousands of Kurdish activists. Morsi is seeking to restore Egypt's global stature after years of diminishment under deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.

 

Turkey's diplomatic finesse and economic allure have allowed it to deftly exert its regional influence. But the civil war in Syria has shredded relations between Ankara and Damascus and left Erdogan, who has threatened Syrian President Bashar Assad with wider military action, searching for a plan to end the conflict on his border.

 

Turkey has also drawn the ire of Iran, a Syrian ally, for signing on to a U.S.-backed missile shield. And Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki this year called Turkey a "hostile state" and accused it of agitating sectarian tension in his country….

 

Egypt's deeper problems bristle on the home front, including unemployment, poverty, crime and decrepit state institutions that became more glaring after last year's overthrow of Mubarak. Both Morsi and Erdogan, who rose to power nearly a decade ago, curtailed the political influence of their nations' generals, but each has been accused by secularists as having authoritarian streaks tinged with Islam. The countries have a tendency to harass and arrest dissidents and journalists.

 

A closer fusion of Cairo and Ankara stems in part from the influence Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood had on Islamist organizations across the region, including Erdogan's Justice and Development Party. While the Brotherhood was being persecuted by Mubarak, a brash Erdogan riveted the "Arab street" with his populism and chiding of leaders, such as Mubarak, for their compliance toward the West.

 

The question is, how will Erdogan and Morsi maneuver the politics of a Middle East that both want to influence, and which Egypt regards as its historic and strategic territory? "I don't think Egypt even under the Muslim Brotherhood would appreciate a Turkey that would nose around on Egypt's political turf," said Kemal Kirisci, a professor of political science and international relations at Bogazici University in Istanbul.

 

But Turkey offers Egypt a pragmatic — some analysts suggest modern — approach to the West, the global economy and stability…."What is interesting about Turkey's success is its commitment to practical visions and plans," said Seif Allah el Khawanky, a political analyst. "Morsi's administration doesn't have this." Both countries are working toward new constitutions. Turkey's politics spring from a secular democracy and a history of defined political parties that have tempered the influence of Islam. Turkish women who wear hijabs are banned from political office. Egypt's Islamist-dominated government, however, is pushing for a constitution firmly rooted in sharia, or Islamic law, and there is little inclination among conservatives to import the Turkish model…..

 

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WHY TURKEY SHOULD BE TOUGH ON IRAN
Can Kasapoglu

Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2012

 

A nuclear Iran will be tantamount to the collapse of the over five-century-old balance of power between Turkey and Iran which was first created by the Battle of Chaldiran between the Ottoman and Safavid empires in 1514.

 

Only after Selim the 1st (or Yavuz Sultan Selim Khan – the first Sultan of the empire who claimed the caliphate) overcame the Safavid Empire of Persia was Istanbul able to exert full control and authority over eastern Anatolia and Northern Iraq. However, for some time now Ankara’s sovereignty in eastern Anatolia and vital national security interests in Northern Iraq have been under significant Iranian threat via proxy war, subversive activities, and political and military machinations. Iran also stands in the way of Turkey’s regional hegemonic agenda, especially in Syria, and in a greater sense in the Levant region.

 

Throughout history, this corridor has always been a natural route for Turkish expansions into the region we call Greater Middle East today. As a matter of fact, just a couple of years after Sultan Selim Khan vanquished the Safavid Empire in Chaldiran he fought another regional power, the Mamluk Sultanate, at the Battle of Merj Dabik, and conquered Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, or in other words a large portion of the Levant.

 

At this juncture, understanding the geopolitical mentality of the Ottoman expansion and its correlation with Iran is of crucial importance. In order to project power in the Levant, Turkey has to be safe from the Iranian threat. And vice versa: Iran, whether the Safavids or the contemporary Islamic Republic, must keep Turkey under constant threat to secure the Levant and/or avert Turkish expansion. Thus, Turkish decision-makers should well understand the geopolitical logic of Selim Khan’s perception of Iran as the rock [standing] between Turkey being caged into Anatolia or being a real regional power (which is definitely not same thing as being popular in the region).

 

Iran’s desire to keep Turkey constantly under threat resurfaced in the 1990s and 2000s via Tehran’s proxy war attempts. Be it the Kurdish Hezbollah or PKK terrorism, Tehran will do its utmost to keep Ankara in trouble with constant low-intensity conflicts.

 

Put simply, if the whole Turkish 2nd Army, which is responsible for the Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian borders, was not dealing with the terrorism threat, it would probably be occupied with power projection activities beyond its field of responsibility. Iranian strategists are aware of this fact. Turkey overcame Damascus when it was harboring PKK in the 1990s through an escalation strategy and gunboat diplomacy. Can those measures be taken against a nuclear Iran? This is just a hypothetical question for now, however, in the near future it could be a very real scenario facing the Turkish security establishment.

 

To counterbalance a nuclear threat from Iran, Turkish leaders will have only two options. The first is to pursue mass conventional military modernization and procurement, and an aggressive shift in military doctrine. This means an additional burden on Turkish taxpayers and a great cost in terms of investments in social improvement and economic development.

 

The second option is to pursue its own military nuclear program. Technically, however, this would be almost impossible to accomplish due to Turkey’s ties with the Western security system and commitment to the NPT regime….

 

After the Cold War, there is no US tactical nuclear capability left on Turkish soil. It is known that there are nuclear warheads at the Incirlik base, but Turkey does not hold the trigger mechanism. Briefly, a nuclear Iran cannot be, or only at a very steep cost, deterred by Ankara. This reality probably spells the end for Turkey’s historical imperial character….

 

Moreover, within the sectarian fragmentation of the region, a nuclear Iran will most likely spearhead the Shi’ite bloc against Turkey more aggressively. Thus, Ankara either gets tough with Iran now, or lets a nuclear Iran get tough with Turkey in the near future.

 

In summary, Turkish decision makers should simulate the first day of Iran’s nuclear breakthrough, and count down to the present day. Then they can clearly see that every single day counts, and that Tehran’s nuclear breakthrough has to be prevented at all costs. Turkish mass media keeps voicing the opinion that the military option would be a nightmare for the region, and defends muddle-through efforts that can do nothing but buy time for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

They are correct in saying that the military option would be a nightmare – but on the other hand, it would also be a nightmare to allow a tyranny which is also Turkey’s historical geopolitical rival in the region to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

 

We will soon see whether anyone in Turkey today clearly perceives the Iranian threat as did Sultan Selim Khan, or whether “sober and wise” intellectuals, seeing the mushroom cloud over Istanbul, keep repeating that “the military option against Iran would be a nightmare for the region” – probably from the safety of an NBC shelter.

 

(The author, who served as a post-doctoral fellow for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, holds a PhD from the Turkish War College, and a Master’s degree from the Turkish Military Academy.)

 

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TURKEY IN THE SYRIAN CRISIS: WHAT NEXT?

Veli Sirin

Gatestone Institute, October 26, 2012 at 3:15 am

 

Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad treats Turkish military reprisals as pin-pricks. Nonetheless, while massacres continue inside Syria, confrontations and counterblows proliferate along the country's border with Turkey, including exchanges of mortar-shell fire. But how long will this stalemate continue?

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his public comments, is addicted to candor, if not bluster. He condemns the weakness of the United Nations in the face of the Syrian bloodletting, yet is even more dismayed, it seems, to realize that Turkey cannot wage war on the Al-Assad regime. Turkey cannot save Syria; it cannot march to Damascus; it cannot remove the Al-Assad state apparatus, and it cannot reconstruct Syria as a Turkish protectorate.

The Syrian Army is a significant military force, and would respond with a wholesale offensive, devastating poor Turkish villages. The Syrian war is spreading into Lebanon; its extension northward could produce a general conflagration in the area.

 

For these reasons, and not out of sympathy for the Syrian tyrant, the overwhelming majority of Turks oppose a military campaign against Damascus. The Turkish political opposition calls on Erdogan to renounce his bellicose rhetoric. Turkey will, it is hoped, avoid a war with Syria, even as Erdogan postures as a great military figure and proposes a "vision" for resolution of the crisis.

 

Erdogan tours the Middle East and in many places is applauded. This, of course, increases his popularity at home. Arab sympathy for Erdogan most likely reflects his adoption of an anti-Israeli stance. He has also called for Islamic unity. "Brotherhood" and "community" are the pillars on which Erdogan has constructed his project for a Muslim-dominated Mediterranean.

 

Turkish "neo-Ottomanism," combining Islamist supremacy with patriotic fervor, is not limited to Ankara's initiatives in foreign policy. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has made Ottoman nostalgia a central feature of Turkish cultural life.

 

Examples of this attitude are plentiful. With an AKP municipal government, Istanbul every year now celebrates May 29, commemorating the conquest of the city by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. In 2010, Istanbul considered itself the "European Capital of Culture," and the budget for the program emphasized renovation of Ottoman architectural sites. Istanbul no longer projects itself only as a bridge between east and west, but as the center of Ottoman civilization. None of these developments is reassuring.

 

NATO, in an urgent meeting on the Syrian disaster in June, declared clear support for Turkey. The hurriedly-assembled NATO ambassadors described Syrian attacks on the Turkish frontier as a breach of international law and a menace to regional security. But NATO concluded diffidently, "As indicated on June 26, the alliance is monitoring closely the Syrian situation."

 

The U.S. promised to support Turkey. Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesperson, said late last year, "We continue to call on other governments to join the chorus of condemnation and pressure against the Assad regime so that the peaceful and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people can be realized. President Obama has coordinated closely with Prime Minister Erdogan throughout the crisis in Syria and will continue to do so going forward." The U.S. appealed to Al-Assad to step down from power, agree to an armistice in the fighting, and initiate a political transition.

 

After Turkey forced a Syrian passenger aircraft to land in Ankara on October 10, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle visited his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in Istanbul. Westerwelle placed his country unambiguously on the side of Turkey. The German representative declared, "Under international law, Turkey must not tolerate transport through their airspace of weapons or military supplies to Syria." In a similar case, with a violation of German airspace, [he] said his government would have done the same thing. "Turkey is our partner," Westerwelle added, "and they can count on our solidarity."

 

The German foreign minister, however, distanced Germany from Erdogan's harsh criticism of the UN Security Council, which Erdogan has said should be reformed, as at present two permanent members, Russia and China, possess veto power over any action on Syria.

 

Erdogan repeats to the world that a humanitarian disaster is taking place in Syria. "If we wait for one or two of the [UN Security Council's] permanent members… then the future of Syria will be in danger," he insists. But his opinion is not supported by most of the rest of the world. Erdogan, in an October 13 speech in Istanbul, invoked the Balkan tragedy that occurred two decades ago. "How sad is," he said, "that the UN is as helpless today as it was 20 years ago, when it watched the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in the Balkans."

 

No one can predict where all this oratory will end up. It is only certain that there are victims on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border, and in the conflict inside Syria. Since the beginning of October, the Turkish army has directed fire at 87 locations inside Syria, and has killed at least 12 Syrian soldiers, according to a report based on Turkish military sources, and published in the Turkish daily Milliyet on October 20. The paper stated that Syria had launched mortar rounds or other shells across the border 27 times, and that in the Turkish response, five Syrian tanks, three armored vehicles, one mortar, one ammunition transporter and two anti-aircraft guns were destroyed, with many more military vehicles damaged.

 

The Europeans tend to their own affairs, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council negotiate among themselves, Turkey claims it is considering unilateral action against Syria. But Erdogan is, to many, no more than an impotent, tantrum-prone, and dangerous demagogue – which the Obama administration and other "concerned powers" will not publicly admit. Some say that notwithstanding a possible Erdogan strategy for the establishment of Syria as a Sunni Islamist ally – or vassal – of an AKP-led Turkey, he and his party are needed for any positive action by NATO against Al-Assad. But presumptions that he can act consequently to rescue the Syrian people are mistaken. And the rest of us can only wait and hope for the best.

 

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The Kurds’ Evolving Strategy: The Struggle Goes Political in Turkey: Aliza Marcus, World Affairs Journal, Nov./Dec. 2012—The new face of the Kurdish rebel fight in Turkey could easily be Zeynep, a thirty-year-old university graduate with a full-time management job in Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of the Kurdish southeast.

 

A Kurdish Wedge Between Iraq, Turkey: Joost Hiltermann, Real Clear World, Oct. 24, 2012—The mood in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk – the three largest cities in Iraqi Kurdistan – is newly buoyant these days, and with good reason. Iraq's Kurds, who occupy the semiautonomous

 

Erdogan Pays for His Foreign Policy: Halil Karaveli, National Interest, Nov. 12, 2012—Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is used to prevailing over his foes. The once all-powerful Turkish generals who defied him now linger in prison. By all accounts, Erdogan is the most powerful leader of the Turkish republic

 

 

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