Who is Betraying America?: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2018 — Did US President Donald Trump commit treason in Helsinki when he met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin? Should he be impeached?

NATO has Weaknesses, and Trump Right to Prod It: Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, July 15, 2018 — As President Trump put Germany and other allies on notice for the harm they are doing to NATO with their failure to spend adequately on our common defense, Democrats in Washington came to Germany’s defense.

Pivots and Pitfalls as President Trump Eyes New Mideast Peace Push Through Gaza: Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, The Hill, July 12, 2018 — Gifting an Elton John CD to “Little Rocket Man,” pulling the plug on the Iran nuclear deal, slapping billions of dollars in tariffs on China, shaking up NATO’s status quo, downsizing the State Department.

Is Donald Trump the Oscar Wilde of Our Degraded Digital Age?: Dominic Green, CapX, July 16, 2018— Observers of the diplomatic tour that sacked Brussels, laid waste to Britain, and then ended on a nuclear-tipped grand finale in Helsinki know that, like Oscar Wilde, Donald Trump travels the world with nothing to declare but his genius.

On Topic Links

Listening to the Prophetic Voice: Tisha B’Av 5778: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, July 21, 2018

What, If Anything, Did Trump and Putin Agree On in Helsinki?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2018

After Brussels, Trump Will Have Few Offerings for Putin: Aurel Braun, Globe and Mail, July 12, 2018

Donald Trump and the Carl Schmitt Spectrum: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 22, 2018



Caroline Glick

Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2018

Did US President Donald Trump commit treason in Helsinki when he met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin? Should he be impeached? That is what his opponents claim. Former president Barack Obama’s CIA director John Brennan accused Trump of treason outright. Brennan tweeted, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki [with Putin] rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous.”

Fellow senior Obama administration officials, including former FBI director James Comey, former defense secretary Ashton Carter, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates parroted Brennan’s accusation. Almost the entire US media joined them in condemning Trump for treason. Democratic leaders have led their own charge. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee insinuated the US military should overthrow the president, tweeting, “Where are our military folks? The Commander-in-Chief is in the hands of our enemy!”

Senate minority leader Charles Schumer said that Trump is controlled by Russia. And Trump’s Republican opponents led by senators Jeff Flake and John McCain attacked him as well. Trump allegedly committed treason when he refused to reject Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the US elections in 2016 and was diffident in relation to the US intelligence community’s determination that Russia did interfere in the elections.

Trump walked back his statement from Helsinki at a press appearance at the White House Tuesday. But it is still difficult to understand what all the hullaballoo about the initial statement was about. AP reporter John Lemire placed Trump in an impossible position. Noting that Putin denied meddling in the 2016 elections and the intelligence community insists that Russia meddled, he asked Trump, “Who do you believe?”

If Trump had said that he believed his intelligence community and gave no credence to Putin’s denial, he would have humiliated Putin and destroyed any prospect of cooperative relations. Trump tried to strike a balance. He spoke respectfully of both Putin’s denials and the US intelligence community’s accusation. It wasn’t a particularly coherent position. It was a clumsy attempt to preserve the agreements he and Putin reached during their meeting. And it was blindingly obviously not treason.

In fact, Trump’s response to Lemire, and his overall conduct at the press conference, did not convey weakness at all. Certainly he was far more assertive of US interests than Obama was in his dealings with Russia. In Obama’s first summit with Putin in July 2009, Obama sat meekly as Putin delivered an hour-long lecture about how US-Russian relations had gone down the drain.

As Daniel Greenfield noted at Frontpage magazine Tuesday, in succeeding years, Obama capitulated to Putin on anti-missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, on Ukraine, Georgia and Crimea. Obama gave Putin free rein in Syria and supported Russia’s alliance with Iran on its nuclear program and its efforts to save the Assad regime. He permitted Russian entities linked to the Kremlin to purchase a quarter of American uranium. And of course, Obama made no effort to end Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Trump in contrast has stiffened US sanctions against Russian entities. He has withdrawn from Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. He has agreed to sell Patriot missiles to Poland. And he has placed tariffs on Russian exports to the US. So if Trump is Putin’s agent, what was Obama? Given the nature of Trump’s record, and the context in which he made his comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, the question isn’t whether he did anything wrong. The question is why are his opponents accusing him of treason for behaving as one would expect a president to behave? What is going on?

The answer to that is clear enough. Brennan signaled it explicitly when he tweeted that Trump’s statements “exceed the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’” The unhinged allegations of treason are supposed to form the basis of impeachment hearings. The Democrats and their allies in the media use the accusation that Trump is an agent of Russia as an elections strategy. Midterm elections are consistently marked with low voter turnout. So both parties devote most of their energies to rallying their base and motivating their most committed members to vote.

To objective observers, the allegation that Trump betrayed the United States by equivocating in response to a rude question about Russian election interference is ridiculous on its face. But Democratic election strategists have obviously concluded that it is catnip for the Democratic faithful. For them it serves as a dog whistle. The promise of impeachment for votes is too radical to serve as an official campaign strategy. For the purpose of attracting swing voters and not scaring moderate Democrats away from the party and the polls, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer say they have no interest in impeaching Trump. Impeachment talk, they insist, is a mere distraction.

But by embracing Brennan’s claim of treason, Pelosi, Hoyer, Schumer and other top Democrats are winking and nodding to the progressive radicals now rising in their party. They are telling the Linda Sarsours and Cynthia Nixons of the party that they will impeach Trump if they win control of the House of Representatives. The problem with playing domestic politics on the international scene is that doing so has real consequences for international security and for US national interests…

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





Marc A. Thiessen

Washington Post, July 15, 2018


As President Trump put Germany and other allies on notice for the harm they are doing to NATO with their failure to spend adequately on our common defense, Democrats in Washington came to Germany’s defense. “President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement.

Sorry, Trump is right. The real embarrassment is that Germany, one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, spends just 1.24 percent of its gross domestic product on defense — in the bottom half of NATO allies. (The U.S. spends 3.5 percent of GDP on its military.)

A study by McKinsey & Co. notes that about 60 percent of Germany’s Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and about 80 percent of its Sea Lynx helicopters are unusable. According to Deutsche Welle, a German parliamentary investigation found that “at the end of 2017, no submarines and none of the air force’s 14 large transport planes were available for deployment due to repairs,” and “a Defense Ministry paper revealed German soldiers did not have enough protective vests, winter clothing or tents to adequately take part in a major NATO mission.”

To meet its promised NATO commitments, Germany needs to spend $28 billion more on defense annually. Apparently Germany can’t come up with the money, but it can send billions of dollars to Russia — the country NATO was created to protect against — for natural gas and support a new pipeline that will make Germany and Eastern European allies even more vulnerable to Moscow.

Sadly, Germany is not alone. Belgium, where NATO is headquartered, spends just 0.9 percent of GDP on defense — and fully one-third of its meager defense budget is spent on pensions. European NATO allies have about 1.8 million troops, but less than a third are deployable and just 6 percent for any sustained period. When Trump says NATO is “obsolete,” he is correct — literally. This is not a new problem. I was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and vividly recall how, when it came time to take military action in Afghanistan, only a handful of allies had any useful war-fighting capabilities they could contribute during the critical early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom.

At NATO’s 2002 Prague summit, allies pledged to address these deficiencies by spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense and investing that money in more usable capabilities. Instead, defense investments by European allies declined from 1.9 percent of GDP in 2000-2004 to 1.7 percent five years later, dropping further to 1.4 percent by 2015.

Little surprise that when NATO intervened in Libya a decade after 9/11, The Washington Post reported, “Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time.” An alliance whose founding purpose is to deter Russian aggression could not sustain a limited bombing campaign against a far weaker adversary.

President Barack Obama called NATO allies “free riders,” and President George W. Bush urged allies to “increase their defense investments,” both to little effect. But when Trump refused to immediately affirm that the United States would meet its Article 5 commitment to defend a NATO ally, NATO allies agreed to boost spending by $12 billion last year. That is a drop in the bucket: McKinsey calculated that allies need to spend $107 billion more each year to meet their commitments.

Since polite pressure by his predecessors did not work, Trump is digging in on a harder line: Last week in Brussels, he suggested NATO members double their defense spending targets to 4 percent of GDP. This is not a gift to Russia, as his critics have alleged. The last thing Putin wants is for Trump to succeed in getting NATO to spend more on defense. And if allies are concerned about getting tough with Russia, there is an easy way to do so: invest in the capabilities NATO needs to deter and defend against Russian aggression.

Trump’s hard line also does not signal that he considers NATO irrelevant. If Trump thought NATO was useless, he would not waste his time on it. But if allies don’t invest in real, usable military capabilities, NATO will become irrelevant. An alliance that cannot effectively join the fight when one of its members comes under attack or runs out of munitions in the middle of a military intervention is, by definition, irrelevant. NATO needs some tough love, and Trump is delivering it. Thanks to him, the alliance will be stronger as a result.





Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper

The Hill, July 12, 2018

Gifting an Elton John CD to “Little Rocket Man,” pulling the plug on the Iran nuclear deal, slapping billions of dollars in tariffs on China, shaking up NATO’s status quo, downsizing the State Department. Forget tweets. When it comes to foreign policy, President Donald Trump continues to shake well and stir, often shocking friend and foe alike. Now there are signs the Trump administration is about to nudge the Middle East’s Richter scale with a push for peace that focuses on … Gaza?

Yes, Gaza. Led by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it appears the United States, with the support or understanding of Israel and key Gulf states, will seek ways to improve the daily lives of Gaza’s people, starting with their electrical grid and water services. Yes, the same Gaza that is ruled with an iron fist by Hamas, a duly-elected terrorist organization whose genocidal, Jew-hating charter calls for Israel’s destruction and invokes the classic anti-Semitic screed, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The same Hamas that has barred Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from setting foot in the Gaza Strip since his election more than a decade ago.

Is there a method to this new madness? Actually, yes. The Abbas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) never liked President Trump’s views on the Middle East; Abbas and the PA heaped scorn on the U.S. ambassador to Israel even before the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Furthermore, Hamas has made clear it considers any Trump peace plan dead on arrival. Finally, the PA’s ambassador to Tehran has declared President Trump “is a tool of international Zionism.” So, instead of following the well-trodden path of previous U.S. presidents and many European leaders, who have sweetened the PA coffers every time that Abbas cried wolf, the Trump team has decided to bypass Abbas’ West Bank-based regime and instead offer long-suffering Gaza residents hope for a better future.

Israelis would welcome a quiet southern border without having to launch a major military incursion. Gulf states, already pouring millions of dollars into Gaza, would welcome some stability for Palestinians and the region. Working closely with Israel to confront the existential threats from Iran, the United States also could set the stage for open economic and diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and, ultimately, Saudi Arabia. The Trump team believes such seismic developments would force the PA into the game, or sideline it permanently.

This represents a visionary approach, but the Trump administration should keep in mind a few words of caution. First, Team Trump will discover there is no reliable interlocutor on the ground in Gaza. Qatar, a major donor in Gaza, is unlikely to be a reliable partner; it is openly playing a double game, cozying up to Washington and Tehran simultaneously. Second, the administration should not expect any meaningful support from the United Nations. If ever there was an opportunity for the United Nations to live up to its charter, this is it. But, sadly, abject failure to pave the way for long-term peace that recognizes the Jewish state’s right to security and sovereignty is part of the United Nations’ DNA.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency is the largest single employer in Gaza but, rather than playing a moderating influence, UNRWA is de facto controlled by Hamas’ diktats. Witness UNRWA schools closing on May 14-15, the bloodiest days of Hamas-driven riots at the Israeli border; Hamas wanted as many kids at the border, with the hope of driving up the death toll beyond Hamas’ members. Meanwhile UNRWA’s alleged new peace curriculum is actually a war curriculum; not a single map in its new textbooks mentions Israel but there’s still mention of “martyrs” (read “killers of Israelis”).

Every international drive to help the people of Gaza rebuild homes after the last war with Israel resulted in building materials diverted by Hamas to its network of underground terror tunnels. Major humanitarian donors, from the Gulf States to the European Union to Japan, acknowledge there is precious little transparency on how funds are actually spent. So, while it may be worthwhile for President Trump and his team to think out of the box to create new paths toward peace, a good place to start is by acting out of the box. The worst thing America can do is to write another “trust me” check to Hamas. Suits and ties do not transform terrorists into statesmen.

If Hamas really wants to play ball, it must return Israelis — dead and alive — still held hostage in Gaza. And the dropping of its charter must precede any involvement of Hamas in the U.S. plan. If Hamas won’t act in good faith, then the United States should find and empower Palestinians who’ve had enough of terrorist rule. Bolstering Gaza with huge funds could backfire, not only by reversing Israeli success in degrading Hamas’ paramilitary capability, but also by allowing Hamas to emerge the big winner in the West Bank. By swapping an enfeebled Abbas with the Hamas-aligned Muslim Brotherhood, we would enable terrorists to threaten Israel’s heartland…

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




Dominic Green

CapX, July 16, 2018

Observers of the diplomatic tour that sacked Brussels, laid waste to Britain, and then ended on a nuclear-tipped grand finale in Helsinki know that, like Oscar Wilde, Donald Trump travels the world with nothing to declare but his genius. And, like the divine Oscar, the less-than-divine Donald is a comedian who mistakes himself for a philosopher, and who knows that if you want to tell people the truth, you should make them laugh. None of the leaders of NATO laughed when Trump told them to raise their defence budgets to 2 per cent of GDP.

Neither did Theresa May double up when Trump mused on an open mike in the garden of Chequers about Boris Johnson’s suitability for her job. Nor did the collective heads of the chuckle fest that is the European Union surrender to a spontaneous outburst of collective jollity when Trump described the EU as an American “foe” when it came to trade. But these are the jokes, folks. There is much truth to all these statements, and much more truth than the professional politicians dare to admit. The laughs, unfortunately, are on us, and all of them are rather bitter. Trump lies in the gutter press, while looking up at the stars and the autocrats.

Trump was accurate when he said that Theresa May’s latest proposals for Brexit aren’t really the Brexit for which her public voted in 2016 and elected her in 2017. Trump is accurate in noting that the EU’s trade regulations do not create a level playing field; African farmers might well agree with him. And Trump is right that most NATO members, and European states in general, have been passing the tab for their security to the US for decades. That includes “you, Angela”, as Trump referred to Angela Merkel, who presides over a massive budget surplus but last year spent only 1.25 per cent of GDP on defence.

This week, when NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg crawled from the smoking rubble of NATO’s headquarters, he protested that eight NATO states are on course to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence this year—an increase from three states in 2014. Those eight were Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, the UK and the US. Stoltenberg didn’t mention Turkey, which spent 3.1 per cent of GDP on defence last year. But then, every else would prefer it if Turkey spent a bit less.

The truth is that five of those eight states have raised their defence budgets because of Russian expansionism. And while Greece spends a lot on defence because it fears Turkey, Turkey in part spends a lot on defence because it fears Russia. Which brings us and The Donald to today’s meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.

Before the summit, Trump deployed his usual tactics. First he lowered expectations: there wasn’t a fixed agenda, and maybe nothing was going to come of it. Then he raised the ante, by warning that “NATO, I think, has never been stronger” since his recent dose of tough love. And then he raised it further by tweet, while changing the subject: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

This was a classic piece of Trump truth-telling. It started with a feeling of truthiness, but it wasn’t really true in objective terms, and it ended with raging subjectivity. It’s true that US-Russian relations have declined steadily since Putin came to power in 2000, and declined sharply since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. It’s true that they are now as bad as at any point since the end of the Cold War. But they’re nowhere near as bad as relations between Khrushchev and Kennedy, who came close to war over the Cuban Missile Crisis…

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




On Topic Links

Listening to the Prophetic Voice: Tisha B’Av 5778: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, July 21, 2018—At this time, as we recall the destruction of our two Temples, we read three of the most searing passages in prophetic literature, from the beginnings of Jeremiah and Isaiah.

What, If Anything, Did Trump and Putin Agree On in Helsinki?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2018—US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Israel, Syria and Iran at their meeting in Helsinki on Monday and in subsequent comments to the press. The public comments provide some insight into their view of the future Middle East. With the Syrian regime conducting a major offensive in the south, the US deeply involved in eastern Syria and Israel demanding that the Iranians leave, these were central topics of concern.

After Brussels, Trump Will Have Few Offerings for Putin: Aurel Braun, Globe and Mail, July 12, 2018—Despite a most inauspicious start, this year’s NATO summit in Brussels turned out to be neither the train wreck that many feared nor an unalloyed success. All the members, it appears, can derive a degree of comfort from what essentially remains a difficult work in progress.

Donald Trump and the Carl Schmitt Spectrum: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 22, 2018—Has Donald Trump been reading Carl Schmitt in secret? The thought came to mind the other day when the US president was concluding his two-day “working visit” to the United Kingdom with a series of impromptu statements before flying to Scotland to play golf. It was by using the term “foe” to describe Russia, China and even the European Union that Trump reminded me of Schmitt.





Saving NATO from Turkey: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Oct. 16, 2017— The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, faces an existential problem.

Turkey Is Behaving like an Enemy Now: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, Oct. 12, 2017— Turkey, along with the American-Turkish relationship, is going so far off the rails so quickly right now that there's no chance you're aware of everything that's going on unless you track it professionally or get Google Alerts in your inbox.

The Turkish Love-Hate Relationship with America: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Oct. 10, 2017— Turks often expose degrees of confusion when asked about their foreign policy preferences.

This is Kurdistan’s Last Chance: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Globe & Mail, Oct. 18, 2017 — On Monday, what had been feared transpired: Paramilitary units supported by elements of the Iraqi army attacked in the vicinity of Kirkuk.


On Topic Links


The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth  : Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy, Oct. 12, 2017

Bernard-Henri Lévy Slams Turkish President Erdogan for Pushing ‘Crudest, Worst’ Antisemitic Campaign in Wake of Kurdish Independence Vote: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Oct. 9, 2017

‘We Don’t Trust Americans Any More’: Roadblock on Kurdish Quest for Independence in Iraq: John Beck & Loveday Morris, Telegraph, Oct. 22, 2017

The Kurds: Neither the Twin of Palestine Nor the Clone of Israel: Jose V. Ciprut, BESA, October 23, 2017



Daniel Pipes

Washington Times, Oct. 16, 2017


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, faces an existential problem. No, it’s not about getting member states to fulfill agreed-upon spending levels on defense. Or finding a role after the Soviet collapse. Or standing up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Rather, it’s about Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist, dictatorial ruler of Turkey whose policies threaten to undermine this unique alliance of 29 states that has lasted nearly 70 years.


Created in 1949, NATO’s founding principles ambitiously set out the alliance goal “to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of [member states’] peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” In other words, the alliance exists to defend Western civilization. For its first 42 years, until the USSR collapsed in 1991, this meant containing and defeating the Warsaw Pact. Today, it means containing and defeating Russia and Islamism. Of these latter two, Islamism is the deeper and longer-lasting threat, being based not on a single leader’s personality but on a highly potent ideology, one that effectively succeeded fascism and communism as the great radical utopian challenge to the West.


Some major figures in NATO appreciated this shift soon after the Soviet collapse. Already in 1995, Secretary-General Willy Claes noted with prescience that “Fundamentalism is at least as dangerous as communism was.” With the Cold War over, he said, “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security.” In 2004, Jose Maria Aznar, Spain’s former prime minister, warned that “Islamist terrorism is a new shared threat of a global nature that places the very existence of NATO’s members at risk.” He advocated that NATO focus on combating “Islamic jihadism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” and called for “placing the war against Islamic jihadism at the center of the allied strategy.”


But, instead of a robust NATO on the Claes-Aznar model leading the battle against Islamism, it was internally hobbled by Mr. Erdogan’s opposition. Rather than assert the fight against Islamism, the other 28 members dismayingly deferred to the Islamist within their ranks. The 28 stay mum about the near-civil war the Turkish regime wages in southeastern Anatolia against its own Kurdish citizens. The emergence of a private army (called SADAT) under Mr. Erdogan’s exclusive control seems not to bother them. Likewise, they appear oblivious to Ankara’s unpredictably limiting access to the NATO base at Incirlik, the obstructed relations with friendly states such as Austria, Cyprus and Israel, and the vicious anti-Americanism symbolized by the mayor of Ankara hoping for more storm damage to be inflicted on the United States.


Maltreatment of NATO-member state nationals hardly bothers the NATO worthies: Not the arrest of 12 Germans (such as Deniz Yucel and Peter Steudtner) nor the attempted assassination of Turks in Germany (such as Yuksel Koc), not the seizure of Americans in Turkey as hostages (such as Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge), nor repeated physical violence against Americans in the United States (such as at the Brookings Institute and at Sheridan Circle). NATO seems unfazed that Ankara helps Iran’s nuclear program, develops an Iranian oil field, and transfers Iranian arms to Hezbollah. Mr. Erdogan’s talk of joining the Moscow-Beijing dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization ruffles few feathers, as do joint exercises with the Russian and Chinese militaries. A Turkish purchase of a Russian missile defense system, the S-400, appears to be more an irritant than a deal-breaker. A mutual U.S.-Turkish ban on visas fazed no one.


NATO faces a choice. It can, hoping that Mr. Erdogan is no more than a colicky episode and Turkey will return to the West, continue with the present policy. Or it can deem NATO’s utility too important to sacrifice to this speculative possibility, and take assertive steps to freeze the Republic of Turkey out of NATO activities until it again behaves like an ally. Those steps might include:


Removing nuclear weapons from Incirlik; Closing NATO’s operations at Incirlik; Canceling arms sales, such as the F-35 aircraft; Exclude Turkish participation from weapons development; Refuse to share intelligence; Refuse to train Turkish soldiers or sailors; Reject Turkish personnel for NATO positions.


A unified stance against Mr. Erdogan’s hostile dictatorship permits the grand NATO alliance to rediscover its noble purpose “to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization” of its peoples. By confronting Islamism, NATO will again take up the mantle it has of late let down, nothing less than defending Western civilization.                                                     




                                                  Michael J. Totten

World Affairs Journal, Oct. 12, 2017


Turkey, along with the American-Turkish relationship, is going so far off the rails so quickly right now that there's no chance you're aware of everything that's going on unless you track it professionally or get Google Alerts in your inbox. Where to even begin? We could start, I suppose, with the fact that a Turkish court sentenced a Wall Street Journal reporter to two years in prison in absentia for "promoting a terrorist organization." Her real crime? Interviewing and quoting members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). In other words, doing her job.


The reporter, Ayla Albayrak, is in the United States now, so President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can't get his grubby mitts on her, but let this be a lesson to all journalists who write about Turkey. You can and will be sentenced to prison. Whether or not you're a journalist, Americans can be sentenced to prison just for existing in Turkey. Conspiracy theorists who manage to bend a state to their will are capable of extraordinary destruction.


Last year, the government arrested and imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has lived there for decades, on bogus terrorism charges. He is being warehoused along with thousands of other innocent people for allegedly associating themselves with Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish cleric and former Erdoğan ally who is currently living in exile in rural Pennsylvania and blamed for the botched military coup last summer.


Lest you believe these people might actually be guilty of something, consider this: A NASA scientist is also currently jailed there. The authorities arrested him while he was visiting on vacation. The evidence against him? Having an account at a bank supposedly "linked" to Gülen, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean, and for having a one-dollar bill in his pocket, which is supposedly how Gülenists identify themselves to each other.


These are just three of the individuals gratuitously punished by the regime. There are tens of thousands more who have been purged from their jobs, imprisoned or both. If you've ever seriously wondered if political leaders who wallow in conspiracy theories are dangerous or simply exasperating, look no farther than Erdoğan. Conspiracy theorists who manage to bend a state to their will are capable of inflicting extraordinary amounts of destruction on a virtually limitless number of people.


I have reported from police states in the past. I risked deportation for doing so, not imprisonment, even in communist countries. When it comes to the treatment of journalists, the Turkish government is more oppressive even than China's or Cuba's. Turkey has in fact jailed more journalists than any other country in the entire world. Erdoğan says they're all terrorists. Probably none of them are. Being branded a terrorist in Turkey is only faintly more plausible than being fingered a witch in Salem, Massachusetts, 300 years ago.


On the off chance that you aren't quite convinced, the director of Amnesty International in Turkey is also facing 15 years in prison on terrorism charges. Meanwhile, an employee at the US Consulate in Istanbul was arrested for "facilitating the escape" of some "Gülenists." The United States government responded by refusing to issue non-immigrant visas to anybody from Turkey, and the Turkish government responded in kind. So if you're an American planning on visiting Turkey any time soon on business or as a tourist, sorry. You can't.


Under current conditions, you probably shouldn't go anyway. Turkey is holding a number of Americans hostage and isn't shy about admitting that they are hostages. "Give us the pastor back," Erdoğan himself said last month. "You have one pastor as well. Give him (Gülen) to us. Then we will try him (Brunson) and give him to you…The (pastor) we have is on trial. Yours is not – he is living in Pennsylvania. You can give him easily. You can give him right away." Taking hostages is an act of war. It's what Iran, North Korea, and Hezbollah do. Needless to say, this is not how a NATO ally is supposed to behave. Taking hostages is an act of war. It's what Iran does. It's what North Korea does. It's what Hezbollah does. It is not what genuine allies like the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Germany do.


Erdoğan is not going to settle down if the United States doesn't deport Gülen, which Washington refuses to do as there is scant evidence that the exile had anything to do with last year's coup attempt and reams of evidence that the old man couldn't possibly get a fair trial if he were shipped back to Ankara even with the best lawyers on earth. Erdoğan probably won't settle down even if he does manage to throw Gülen into a dungeon or onto the executioner's chopping block. Stalin didn't settle down after one of his goons dispatched his rival Leon Trotsky with an ice axe in Mexico City, nor did the Ayatollah Khomeini settle down after the Shah Reza Pahlavi died from cancer in the United States in 1980. Authoritarian conspiracy theorists are never sated. They can only be resisted until they are overthrown or in the ground. Turkey is still in NATO. We'll see if that lasts much longer.            



THE TURKISH LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH AMERICA                                                  

Burak Bekdil

BESA, Oct. 10, 2017


Turks often expose degrees of confusion when asked about their foreign policy preferences. A public opinion poll in the mid-2000s found that most Turks viewed the US as a threat to world security – but the same poll found that Turks expected the US, before every other ally, to come to Turkey’s help if needed.


Conspiracy theories have always been abundant in the Turkish psyche. Schoolchildren grow up hearing maxims like “A Turk’s only friend is another Turk” and “Our Ottoman ancestors had to fight seven worlds (the big powers).” According to this worldview, the world’s major powers construct intricate conspiracies as they tirelessly plot to stop Turkey’s rise. In an age of rising populism, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has systematically fueled the common thinking that “the entire world is conspiring against us.” His Islamist, anti-western, isolationist narrative is creating a vicious circle that threatens to take Turkey’s foreign policy calculus hostage – not only today, but well into the future.


Until Erdoğan came to power in November 2002, most Turks would not have known or even been interested in the names of their foreign ministers. In the 1990s, I saw a group of party supporters clamor to kick the then foreign minister out of a party meeting, mistaking him for a journalist. Erdoğan’s ambitious neo-Ottoman ideology introduced foreign policy into Turks’ daily lives. Coffeehouse talk changed from standard ruminations on inflation, joblessness, economic hardships, and football to pontifications about the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, America, the EU, and Russia.


Two different surveys in 2011, conducted just after Erdoğan’s party had won 49.5% of the national vote in a general election, found the following: 75% of Turks thought problematic relations between Islamic countries and the West were the West’s fault; 53% blamed poverty in Muslim countries on the West and America; 82% had a negative opinion about Christians;  only 9% believed Arab groups had carried out the 9/11 attacks; 41% thought the most violent religion in the world is Judaism; 65% said they approved of Erdoğan’s foreign policy


In August, the Washington-based Pew Research Center’s global survey found that 72% of Turks saw America as a threat to their country’s security. In Turkey, a NATO member state, the US is perceived as a greater threat than Russia or China. “America’s influence is a top concern in Turkey,” the survey read. “This figure [72%] is up 28 percentage points since 2013, when just 44% named US power and influence as a major threat.”


Bizarrely, similar numbers of Turks view the US and ISIS as a threat to their country. Pew did not ask Turks about their perceptions of ISIS this year, but its 2015 research found that 73% of Turks had a negative opinion of ISIS and 72% had a negative opinion of America. (In that poll, 8% of Turks had a favorable opinion of ISIS while 19% had no opinion.)


The explanations for anti-Americanism vary in different countries. For instance, in Greece, the sentiment is a largely historical phenomenon, as many blame the violent Greek civil war on the US. In Turkey, it has a different nature. As Turkish society becomes more and more ethnically and religiously conservative and xenophobic, anti-American thinking gains ground and spreads to more segments of the society. Erdoğan’s populist rhetoric only makes things worse.


“It [the presumed American hostility toward Turkey] is because we are Muslim,” a schoolteacher explained to me when I asked her why she thought America was conspiring against Turkey. Her husband, a government banker, broadened the issue: “Also because we [Turkey] stand against the Jewish oppression of the Palestinians … America doesn’t like this.” Such theories, pumped up by Erdoğan and his powerful media machinery, are quite palatable to the conservative masses, making this kind of manipulation a winning game for Erdoğan. The more Turks feel “imperial” again – the more they believe they have a strong leader and government at long last – the more votes Erdoğan can garner.


In this game, Erdoğan has to show that he really cares about “my nation’s foreign policy preferences” – a concern he does in fact share. The deal he offers is to make voters feel proud again in exchange for their support. All Erdoğan has to do is give the impression that he is fighting the world powers, America included. He then tells the world powers in private that they should ignore his rhetoric, which is only for domestic consumption. “Still, since taking power in Ankara in 2002, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has mainstreamed anti-Americanism,” wrote Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute.


Erdoğan’s generation of Islamists was anti-American largely because of the Arab-Israeli dispute, although they feared Soviet communism more than American imperialism. Future generations of Turkish Islamists will hate America even more because they will have gone through long years of indoctrination by a beloved leader and his powerful propaganda machine. One of the schoolboys who today admires the “great leader” and his brave fight against “the Satan” will one day become his country’s foreign minister, prime minister, or president.





Bernard-Henri Lévy

Globe & Mail, Oct. 18, 2017


On (Oct. 16), what had been feared transpired: Paramilitary units supported by elements of the Iraqi army attacked in the vicinity of Kirkuk. Baghdad's putatively federal army put into action the threats of the country's leaders and, at the risk of ruining any chance of future co-existence with the Kurds, responded to the peaceful referendum of Sept. 25 with a dumbfounding and vengeful act of force.

Not long ago, it was Saddam Hussein operating with gas and deportations. Then, on Monday, Saddam's Shi'ite successors, answering to Tehran, sent tanks, artillery and Katyusha rockets into the oil fields that are the life blood of Kurdistan. They are doing the same in the Sinjar Mountains, in the southern city of Jalawla, and in the Bashiqa area on the Plain of Nineveh, which the Kurds only just reclaimed from Islamic State.


And now, scandal mounts around the fact that Kurdistan's so-called friends, the countries that for two years running relied on it to keep the Islamic State at bay and then to defeat it, the people who swore by the Peshmerga, by its heroes and by its dead, have, as I write these lines, responded with nothing more than deafening silence, appearing willing to abandon to their fate the men and women who fought so valiantly for them.


Whether one agreed or disagreed with the referendum that President Masoud Barzani consistently described as a democratic prelude to negotiation with Baghdad, it is completely unacceptable that the response to that referendum should be an act of force piled onto the blockade of Irbil's skies and borders, the relentless economic and political pressure, and the transformation of Kurdish territory into an open-air prison over the past three weeks. In the face of this unprecedented act of punishment, the international community should have immediately sounded a solemn warning to Iraq (and to its Iranian masters and their ally of convenience, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan): Cease the aggression. Pull back the militias and the regular forces supporting them to the lines that existed on Oct. 15.


In response to an advance aimed at choking Kurdistan's second-largest city and at breaking through the Peshmerga's lines with support from Iraq's 9th Armoured Division, the federal police and counterterrorism units, the West – notably the United States and France – should have called immediately for a ceasefire and denounced this replay of Danzig in the Middle East. And, seeing that the Iraqi forces and the militants of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq did not stand down, the international forces that were deployed in the area as part of the battle against the Islamic State should have been positioned to help our oldest and bravest ally in the region. For two years now, the Kurds have stood against the Islamic State almost alone along a 1,000-kilometre front line, serving as the West's rampart against barbarism.


When the Iraqi army fled before the caliphate's troops in the summer of 2014, it was the Kurds who held on and retook the territory. And if they were in Kirkuk on Monday it is, first of all, because they had been a majority there until the Arabization imposed by Saddam Hussein, but also because it is thanks to the Kurds – and the Kurds alone – that the city did not become a fiefdom of the Islamists like Mosul and Raqqa. In other words, coming to their rescue was a matter of honour and justice.


On one side we had the sinister new Gang of Four (Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq), who are bound together by their hatred of democracy and human rights; on the other we have a small but great people who aspire only to liberty, ours as well as their own, and who harbour no aim to divide neighbouring empires. What form of blindness – or what base calculations – could have caused us to hesitate for a second between the two?


I repeat: on one side, a clutch of dictatorships with which the United States and Europe are engaged in a delicate balance of power that permits no lowering of our guard and no concession on matters of principle; on the other, a proud people who for a century have resisted successive attempts at subjugation and whose crime today is to have voiced a desire to live in a society guided by the very same principles that we in the West embrace. Who in Washington, Paris or London could have had any doubt? Who would have dared oppose calling the UN Security Council into emergency session for a resolution to halt a war launched by Baghdad while the corpse of the Islamic State was still twitching? We should not have abandoned Kurdistan – the only real pole of stability in the region…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth  : Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy, Oct. 12, 2017—This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed the U.S.-Turkey relationship from bad to worse. On Tuesday, he claimed that “spies” had infiltrated U.S. missions in Turkey and said that Turkey didn’t consider the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, to be a legitimate representative of the United States.

Bernard-Henri Lévy Slams Turkish President Erdogan for Pushing ‘Crudest, Worst’ Antisemitic Campaign in Wake of Kurdish Independence Vote: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Oct. 9, 2017—Leading French-Jewish intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy on Monday slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for orchestrating “the crudest, the worst” antisemitic campaign against him over his support for the September 25 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan — in which 93 percent of voters declared their backing for the creation of a sovereign Kurdish state.

‘We Don’t Trust Americans Any More’: Roadblock on Kurdish Quest for Independence in Iraq: John Beck & Loveday Morris, Telegraph, Oct. 22, 2017—Solemn protesters holding aloft Kurdish flags surrounded the U.S. embassy and UN consulate here over the weekend, while a man scaled the walls of the Iranian embassy to tear down its flag. United in their anger, they chanted “Yes, yes, Kurdistan” and carried signs saying: “We want our country.”

The Kurds: Neither the Twin of Palestine Nor the Clone of Israel: Jose V. Ciprut, BESA, October 23, 2017—Not all Kurds seek sovereignty. Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria differ from one another and from the Kurds of the Diaspora (western Europe and the Americas). It is not inconceivable that Turkish, Iranian, and Syrian Kurds would be content with autonomy alone, provided it were real. Nor is it unthinkable that they might be citizens of a single Kurdish state but permanent residents elsewhere, or might benefit from dual nationality.







A Year After Failed Coup, the Question of Justice Still Looms in Turkey: Simon Waldman, Globe & Mail, July 12, 2017— Last week, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), led a march from Ankara to Istanbul…

As Turkey and NATO Drift Apart, Russia, China, and Iran Stand to Gain: Marc C. Johnson, National Review, July 19, 2017— On paper at least, NATO is looking pretty healthy.

Erdoğan’s Mission Impossible: Sustainable Turkish-Arab Solidarity: Burak Bekdil, BESA, July 20, 2017— The modern Turkish language refers to an impasse without a solution as “an Arab’s hair.”

The End of Turkey’s Jews?: Michael Rubin, Commentary, May 9, 2017— Much has been written about Turkey’s turn toward Islamism and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s growing autocracy.


On Topic Links


EU Threatens to Sanction Turkey for Imprisonment of Journalists: Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2017

Turkish Report Exposes Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria: Benjamin Harvey and Taylan Bilgic, Bloomberg, July 19, 2017

Another Turkish Ambassador Confronts Me: Daniel Pipes, Gatestone Institute, July 18, 2017

Is Turkey Headed for Another Coup?: Mohammed Ayoob, National Interest, July 18, 2017





THE QUESTION OF JUSTICE STILL LOOMS IN TURKEY                                                           

Simon Waldman

                                                  Globe & Mail, July 12, 2017


Last week, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), led a march from Ankara to Istanbul (about 425 kilometres) under the banner “adalet”, Turkish for justice. He was protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party, which also features the word justice in its name – the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Justice is an important rallying cry in today’s Turkey. The trouble is, it means different things to different people.


Contrasting conceptions of justice loom over the country as it commemorates one year since last summer’s attempted coup. The perpetrators were a faction within the military loyal to Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic preacher. After the putsch was thwarted, the government declared a state of emergency. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people were either arrested or fired. They include soldiers, police officers, judges, school teachers, university professors and civil service workers.


Turkey’s opposition considers the crackdowns a purge of the government’s opponents, but for Mr. Erdogan and the AKP government, justice is being served. To understand the meaning of justice for Mr. Erdogan and the AKP, one needs to set aside notions such as equality, fairness or the rule of law. Instead, they seek to right past wrongs and reshape Turkish society to represent the interests of its conservative and religious support base, for decades marginalized and suppressed.


The establishment in 1923 of the modern Republic of Turkey took place under the leadership of decorated general Mustafa Kemal. Later adopting the surname Ataturk, meaning father of the Turks, he built a secular state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. Outward expressions of Islamic identity were considered an affront to the new modern and “civilized” state. A secular elite emerged while the military became the self-styled guardians of Ataturk’s vision. The armed forces intervened in 1960, 1971 and 1980 against governments not to its liking. In 1997, there was a “postmodern coup.” The military staged a behind-the-scenes intervention against the openly Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party, from which founding members of the AKP, Mr. Erdogan included, were members.


This is why Mr. Erdogan and the AKP see coup plots, some real and some imagined, everywhere they turn. In 2008, the AKP was brought before the constitutional court charged with violating secularism. Narrowly escaping a ban, the AKP was heavily fined instead. That was real. From 2008 onwards, there were the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations alleging a clandestine alliance between military factions and members of civil society to ouster the AKP government. These were imagined; the convictions were later overturned after irregularities were found. They were also said to be Gulenist fabrications. Mr. Erdogan even considered the 2013 Gezi Park protests a coup attempt.


Regardless, last summer’s events were all too real. This time, Mr. Erdogan, who called it a “gift from God,” seized the opportunity to rid himself of political competition and then spearhead a referendum to gain additional power. He won by the slimmest of margins in an election marred by irregularities and an unfree campaigning environment. Regardless, he will now seek to change Turkey socially, politically and culturally, or at least try.


But Mr. Erdogan’s supporters only consist of half the country. What about the other half? From their perspective, even before last year’s events, AKP rule only brought more cronyism, repression and authoritarianism. Arrests of writers, intellectuals and critics were commonplace. Turkey was considered the world’s largest prison for journalists. But since the post-coup state of emergency, repression has become an everyday reality.


Until 2013, the AKP were bedfellows of the Gulen movement, even encouraging and facilitating Gulenist infiltration into state apparatus. When the sons-in-law of two AKP politicians were arrested, they were soon released, highlighting the extent of nepotism in the country. Surely, if the government was serious about justice it would have taken more care separating the innocent from the guilty, and not absolving itself?


Instead it tries to crush its opposition. Leading members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish and liberal party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), such as Selahattin Demirtas were arrested and remain detained under politically motivated charges related to terrorism, and CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoglu was jailed under spurious espionage charges. As Turkey commemorates the attempted coup, the lofty goal of justice is as far away as ever.                                                                





Marc C. Johnson

National Review, July 19, 2017


On paper at least, NATO is looking pretty healthy. From Tallinn on the Baltic to Dubrovnik on the Adriatic, Churchill’s Iron Curtain has more or less ascended from Eastern Europe, in no small part owing to the NATO expansion process begun after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But if policymakers have confidence about the political stability and martial resolve of the former Warsaw Pact states, they are also disquieted by developments on NATO’s southern flank. Turkey, long a bulwark against Soviet (later Russian) adventurism, has started to look wobbly.


Most of the concern within NATO’s leadership and in the halls of its member states’ parliaments can be traced back to one man: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and since then its president. Turkey’s foreign policy has shifted since Erdogan’s arrival. Once a stalwart secular Western partner, Turkey is now an increasingly antagonistic and theocracy-curious fair-weather friend. The government of the secular republic founded by Ataturk is now focused more on consolidating political power with appeals to Islamic constituencies than on playing the role of NATO’s southernmost partner. And it’s getting worse, not better.


Erdogan has a long list of grievances, some more understandable than others, with NATO’s largest member states. Not without some justification, he feels that Ankara has been unfairly strung along by Brussels in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Turkey’s recent open flirtation with a re-imposition of the death penalty — a red line for the EU’s acquis communautaire — suggests that Erdogan has more or less given up on membership. Erdogan’s open hostility to Germany in particular has been notable. When the German parliament recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915–17, he refused to guarantee the security of German troops posted at Incirlik Air Base, prompting Angela Merkel to threaten to withdraw them. Erdogan’s retort: “Auf wiedersehen.” The German troops began leaving Incirlik in early July.


The Turkish president appears to be interested in building good relations with the Trump administration, but here, too, significant bilateral issues remain unresolved. Erdogan is principally focused on the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric whose followers were blamed for the failed coup against him last year. So far the new White House has stuck to the previous administration’s position — namely, that it is a matter for courts to decide. (The recent mini-riot caused by Erdogan’s bodyguards in Washington, D.C., didn’t help relations.)


Another person Erdogan wants back in Turkey, but for entirely different reasons, is Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman. Zarrab was charged last year with money laundering and skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran. The Economist speculated that the Zarrab case, if pursued in open court, could expose high-level Turkish government corruption. The American prosecutor in the case argued that if Zarrab was granted bail (even the $50 million his legal team proposed), he would be spirited back to Turkey and never face justice in the United States. That prosecutor, Preet Bharara, was dismissed from his position by President Trump in March of this year, but Zarrab remains in custody.


Erdogan’s frustration with the United States doesn’t end there. Ankara, along with Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran, considers many of the Kurdish fighters supported by the United States against the Assad government to be terrorists. Turkey was relatively restrained in its military activity within Syria during most of the Obama administration. Since early 2016, however, the Turkish army has been more assertive, using its participation in joint military operations against ISIS as cover for also hitting Rojava Kurds. If the Kurds were to supplant the Islamic State in Northern Syria, Erdogan fears, they would support PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) forces within Turkey.


Erdogan’s participation in the anti-ISIS alliance has brought him closer to two countries, Russia and Iran, with which Turkey had previously maintained frosty relations. The Obama administration’s Iran deal resulted in the lifting of many sanctions that Turkey was eager to see go away, and Turkey is already benefiting from additional commerce between itself and Iran. And Erdogan eagerly stepped into the middle of the recent Qatar diplomatic crisis, appearing to take Iran’s side in the dispute and even fast-tracking the deployment of additional Turkish troops to Doha. Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015 marked a low point in the bilateral relationship, but tensions have eased since then; Erdogan met with Putin for an hour at the recent G20 event in Hamburg. Turkey is near agreement with Moscow to purchase a version of Russia’s most advanced air defense system, the S-400, in a deal rumored to be worth $2.5 billion. Russia is so keen on moving the deal forward that it reportedly plans to loan Turkey the money to purchase the system. The Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik was quick to trumpet the deal as a “tectonic shift,” a “game-changer in the arms market.”


It goes without saying that Russian air-defense systems are not NATO-compatible, but this isn’t even the first time Turkey has looked outside NATO for such options. It approached a Chinese weapons manufacturer a few years ago but bowed to pressure from Washington to abandon the deal when it emerged that the Chinese company had also supplied missiles to Iran. And Turkey’s spending on defense has been declining since 2009, from the NATO-mandated 2 percent then to 1.7 percent in 2016.


Taken together, these developments raise the question of whether Turkey intends to remain in NATO, and — if push came to shove — whether Ankara would honor its mutual-defense pledge under Article 5 of the NATO agreement, especially if that would mean responding to a military threat from Russia or Iran. It is difficult to make the case that leaving NATO would be a good move for Turkey. But if Erdogan needed a short-term political boost, threatening to leave could position him well domestically as a leader willing to stand up to “Western powers.” His post-coup crackdown on the press (along with public servants) leaves him with fewer journalists likely to call departure from NATO a diplomatic or strategic blunder.


Moreover, there is a precedent for such a seemingly rash action. In 1966, during a period of worldwide societal upheaval, Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO’s military structure. While Paris never fully withdrew its support for the treaty, the country did not rejoin the alliance militarily until 1996. Who would be the biggest loser if Turkey felt the need to withdraw — in whatever form — from NATO? It’s hard to say. Clearly, though, it would be viewed as a massive strategic windfall for Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and other capitals with an interest in counteracting the influence of the United States and NATO. And it’s a scenario that seems more plausible now than at any point in the alliance’s history.                  






Burak Bekdil

BESA, July 20, 2017


The modern Turkish language refers to an impasse without a solution as “an Arab’s hair.” To convince others he is telling the truth, a Turk swears: “I should be an Arab if I am telling a lie.” If Turks wish to describe a negative that is accompanied by something tempting, they say, “Neither an Arab’s [ugly] face nor sweets from Damascus.”


Most of the dozen or so common and rather racist Turkish proverbs denigrating Arabs and their culture date back to Ottoman times, despite the fact that during that period, Turks and Arabs lived in peace, shared a common religion, and did not have major political disputes. After the founding of the modern Turkish state in 1923, however, the Turks’ dislike of Arabs gained rational ground. Modern Turkish textbooks teach children how treacherous Arabs stabbed their Ottoman ancestors in the back during WWI, how Arabs collaborated with non-Muslim western powers against Muslim Ottomans, and how Arabs fought Ottoman soldiers in desert battlegrounds.


All that ingrained anti-Arabism in the Turkish psyche had to be reversed after a Sunni imam took over as Turkey’s prime minister in 2002. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now president, firmly believes religion must shape friendships and enmities between nations – and even among members of the same nation. With that in mind, he has tried systematically to inject love of the Arab into Turkish society. Since Erdoğan came to power, the number of students enrolled at imam schools – where pupils are taught to pray in Arabic, among other classes – has risen from 60,000 to more than 1.2 million. The Education Ministry added Arabic courses to its curriculum. The state broadcaster, TRT, launched an Arabic television channel.


An exponentially growing number of Turkish Islamists and pundits rediscovered Arabia and its culture. Islam, they argue, and the umma “which one day will unite under a single banner,” should iron out its cultural and linguistic differences. Ali Bulac, a prominent Islamist columnist and one-time Erdoğan favorite (now jailed for belonging to a rival Islamist community, the Gülenists), wrote an op-ed in 2008, “Sushi and Oratorios,” criticizing world-renowned (and secular) Turkish pianist Fazil Say. He wrote, “First of all, music is not a universal product, music belongs to a time, a religion and a place. Say does not play our music, he plays Western music. Our music is Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdul Wahab and Abdul Khader Marari. Our people will never enjoy theater, opera, an oratorio or a symphony forced on them by the republican elites.” In Bulac’s mentality, Say’s symphonic masterpieces are not Turkish, but the tunes of Kulthum, Wahab, and Marari – all Arabs – are “ours.”


That kind of thinking has implications for Turkish foreign policy. Erdoğan and then foreign minister (later prime minister) Ahmet Davutoglu launched a charm offensive in 2009 that they hoped would make Erdoğan a “rock star” on the Arab street. To accomplish this, they reflexively confronted all things Israeli or Jewish. This tactic had the desired effect: tens of thousands of Arabs greeted Erdoğan passionately in the main squares of Beirut and Cairo. This was good, but not enough. Erdoğan and Davutoglu devised a plan to launch a Muslim EU and Muslim NATO all in one. In that regional design, two countries were of great strategic importance: Saudi Arabia, which has regional clout; and Qatar, which has money and an ideological commitment to the Islamist cause.


The Saudi-led Gulf siege of Qatar imposed on June 5, therefore, came as a complete shock to Erdoğan and his pro-Sunni optimists. One Sunni brother had taken out the sword against another. Once again, Erdoğan chose religious ideology as his lighthouse. He did not abandon his ideological bond with his brothers in Doha, the same bond he has with his brothers in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. His pro-Qatar, pro-Hamas, and pro-Brotherhood position put him on the same wavelength as al-Qaeda, which, in a video, condemned the sanctions against Qatar and pledged support for the Brotherhood.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “At the top of the quality chain, if I can call it that, there are elements of Muslim Brotherhood that have now become part of governments. There are members of parliament in Bahrain that are parts of government. There are members in Turkey that are parts of government.” Not even one-time Sunni brothers in Saudi Arabia are sympathetic to the Turkish position. Erdoğan offered to build a Turkish military base in the Kingdom, but Saudi officials turned him down.


On a doctrinaire and rhetorical level, too, Erdoğan is showing signs of inconsistency. On June 13, he said Gulf sanctions on Qatar were inhumane and violated Islamic values. Which Islamic values? one might be tempted to ask. Erdoğan likened the sanctions to the death penalty, but this was the first time he had ever objected to the death penalty as imposed by his Saudi “brothers.” Naturally, the Saudis show no inclination to be educated about “Islamic values” by a man who dresses in western suits and ties. 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 United Arab Emirates citizens, and 70% of Iraqis had an unfavorable opinion of Turkey. If “polling” had existed a century ago, similar numbers would likely have been found in Arabia.

This is the century-long Turkish alienation. Turkey is too far away and alien to Asian Muslims, too western for Middle Eastern Sunnis, too Sunni for the Shiites, and too Turkish for Arabs of all religious denominations.                                   



THE END OF TURKEY’S JEWS?                                                                                                        

Michael Rubin                                                                                                              

Commentary, May 9, 2017


Much has been written about Turkey’s turn toward Islamism and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s growing autocracy. Turkish officials and their proxies argue, however, that Turkey remains both tolerant and democratic. The problem, they say, is limited to the followers of Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen and Kurdish politicians and activists whom Erdogan accuses of terrorism. Turkey’s minorities, they say, are safe. The Turkish Heritage Organization, for example, argued, “Turkey has been a safe haven for Jews, Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis and Muslim nations for generations.”


That may have once been true for minorities besides Armenians and Kurds but, increasingly, it’s no longer the case for Yezidis, Christians, and Jews. The Erdoğan years have been scary ones for Turkey’s Jews, with wild anti-Semitic conspiracy theories becoming increasingly commonplace. Many Jews have nonetheless remained hopeful that the repression and intolerance would pass. There were reasons for hope: Turkey was never a perfect democracy but, even after setbacks, its developmental trajectory was toward greater tolerance.


No longer. In many societies, Jews have been the canary in the coal mine. When a country loses its Jews, it is a sign that its democratic evolution has halted. Four years ago, some Turkish Jews began to leave. That trickle appears to be turning into a flood. From the European Jewish Press:


Today Turkey’s Jews, most of whose ancestors sought refuge here from the Spanish Inquisition, are on edge. Their school and synagogues are behind security tunnels, shielded by steel blast protection. “In 2016, the Jewish immigration from Turkey has doubled. In percentage terms, the largest increase of Aliyah registered during this period was the immigration from Turkey,’’ notes the Jewish agency. ‘’It appears to be connected to growing political instability in that country and fears that the Jewish community is being targeted,” the agency says. According to Jewish Agency estimates, more than 220 Turkish Jews moved to Israel by the end of 2016. And 74 Turkish Jews moved to Israel between January and March, almost the triple last year’s quarterly number. The figures seem to reflect a growing insecurity among Turkish Jews, many of whom blame Erdoğan of using anti-Israel rhetoric with anti-Semitic overtones.


The Forward reported that the descendants of many of the Jews who fled Spain for the safety of the Ottoman Empire more than 500 years ago now seek to return to Spain or Portugal:


Over the past 15 months—a stormy political stretch culminating in a disputed vote to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s already substantial executive powers — close to 4,700 Turkish Jews applied for or received passports from Spain, Portugal and Israel. When children of applicants to Spain are added in, the number balloons to over 6,200. The number is cause for concern in a community that totals just 15,500…


Erdogan may meet with American Jewish and Israeli community leaders and offer assurances but, increasingly, such meetings appear to be little more than empty photo opportunities. Simply put, the numbers don’t lie. A centuries-old community appears to be ending faster than most imagined it would or could.




On Topic Links


EU Threatens to Sanction Turkey for Imprisonment of Journalists: Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2017—Turkey's arrest of human rights defenders, journalists and opposition is "alarming", the European Union said on Thursday (July 20), calling for their "immediate release". European Commission Chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said that EU funding for the country would not necessarily be stopped as a sanction against Turkey, as funding is a matter decided jointly by the EU's member states.

Turkish Report Exposes Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria: Benjamin Harvey and Taylan Bilgic, Bloomberg, July 19, 2017—Turkey’s state-run news agency published U.S. base locations in northern Syria, a move that threatens to deepen distrust between the two allies by exposing American soldiers on the front lines of the fight against Islamic State.

Another Turkish Ambassador Confronts Me: Daniel Pipes, Gatestone Institute, July 18, 2017—In February, Turkey's ambassador to Israel told this author to stay away from his country; at least he did so diplomatically. In June, Turkey's ambassador to Bulgaria treated me in a remarkably rude and undiplomatic manner.

Is Turkey Headed for Another Coup?: Mohammed Ayoob, National Interest, July 18, 2017—On July 15 Turkey commemorated the first anniversary of the 2016 failed military coup with a great deal of pomp, grandeur and public rallies in the major cities.










Turkey: Erdogan's Grab for Absolute Power: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 29, 2017— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's one-man show goes on…

NATO’s Weak Link: Max Boot, Commentary, Jan. 17, 2017— NATO is in big trouble—and not just because of incoming President Donald Trump’s habit of calling it “obsolete.”

The Real Reason Erdoganists Still Love Trump Despite 'Muslim Ban': Mustafa Akyol, Al-Monitor, Jan. 31, 2017— The executive order by US President Donald Trump, banning the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States, has sparked major protests all across America.

Turkey’s Relentless Attack on the Press: Editorial, New York Times, Jan. 14, 2017— It should come as no surprise that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would praise Donald Trump for refusing to talk to a CNN reporter at a news conference.


On Topic Links


Israeli Tourists Flock to Turkey Amid Rapprochement: Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017

How Turkey’s Jewish Alliance Schools Have Become History: Uzay Bulut, Algemeiner, Feb. 7, 2017

Angela Merkel, Meeting With Erdogan in Turkey, Emphasizes Free Speech: New York Times, Feb. 2, 2017

Turkey’s Argentina Road: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 18, 2017




Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 29, 2017


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's one-man show goes on; he may soon progress from effectively having absolute authority to actually having absolute authority. He would apparently like to put an official seal on his increasingly autocratic regime. If a simple majority of Turks vote "yes" in a national referendum on proposed constitutional amendments in April, Erdogan will effectively consolidate the power of three legislative bodies into one powerful executive office: himself. He would then be installed as a leader with virtually unlimited authority.


Although the current constitution grants him largely symbolic powers, Erdogan has acted as the effective head of the executive branch since he became Turkey's first elected president in August 2014. He has explicitly — and, it appears, happily — violated the constitution by acting as an absolute head of government. In May 2016, he forced Ahmet Davutoglu, his own confidant and prime minister, out of office; Erdogan evidently suspected that the man was not working hard enough to push for the absolute executive presidential system Erdogan has evidently been craving. Only seven months ago, Davutoglu had won a parliamentary election with 49.5% of the national vote.


Erdogan replaced Davutoglu with Binali Yildirim, who has proven to be more enthusiastic about terminating the prime minister's office and transferring all powers to an all-powerful president. As Erdogan's (and Yildirim's) ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lacked the parliamentary majority to put any constitutional amendment to public vote, the proposed changes therefore required support from the opposition benches. (A minimum of 330 votes is required in the country's 550-member assembly, as opposed to 317 seats controlled by the AKP.)


A year ago, that would have looked unimaginable. But a nationalist opposition party, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), made a U-turn from its public pledges of "never letting Erdogan become the executive president," and decided to support the reform bill. Political observers are still trying to figure out what may have pushed the MHP from one extreme to the other; there is not yet a clear explanation.


Erdogan's "Turkish-style presidency" is already a presidency with too much power held by one man. If approved in the referendum, the changes will make Erdogan head of government, head of state and head of the ruling party — all at the same time. Erdogan would have the power to appoint cabinet ministers without requiring a confidence vote from parliament, propose budgets and appoint more than half the members of the nation's highest judicial body. He would also have the power to dissolve parliament, impose states of emergency and issue decrees. Alarmingly, the proposed system lacks the safety mechanisms of checks and balances that exist in other countries such as the United States. It would transfer powers traditionally held by parliament to the presidency, thereby rendering the parliament merely a ceremonial, advisory body.


With support from MHP, the reform bill passed in parliament with 339 votes in favor — nine more than required to put it to a national vote. The way the Turkish parliament debated the bill looked like a prelude to the way Erdogan's totally autocratic presidency will fuel tensions in the months ahead. Several rounds of fist-fighting broke out. Brawls were daily scenes in parliamentary sessions. Screaming matches and physical altercations sent lawmakers to hospitals.


In one instance, an independent female lawmaker handcuffed herself to the microphone on the lectern for an hour to protest the presidential bill. Deputies from the government benches tried to remove her but opposition deputies sprang to her defense, while punches and kicks were exchanged. The assembly saw its first-ever brawl between female lawmakers who punched each other and pulled one another's hair. One female opposition deputy was thrown to the floor and her prosthetic artificial arm knocked off, injuring her severely.


Nevertheless, Erdogan is happy. He will soon launch his "yes" campaign together with the nationalists in the opposition (MHP). He is confident that he will win — he has not lost a single election or referendum since he came to power in November 2002. Observers expect that a clear majority of his party loyalists (around 40% of 50%) will vote "yes" in addition to around half of the nationalists in opposition (around 6% of 12%). That makes a combined 46% of the vote. Some of the splinter Islamist parties and non-AKP voters who favor a presidential system, too, are expected to vote "yes," lifting the pro-Erdogan vote to a range of 50% to 55%. There is a sizeable group of "undecided" whose preferences may be influenced by Erdogan's huge propaganda machinery or by the argument that a strong president would strengthen Turkey as it confronts a broad array of internal and external security threats.


The opposition (Kurds and secular and liberal Turks), on the other hand, looks fragmented and helpless in telling the masses that reforms would concentrate excessive powers in the hands of a leader who has increasingly displayed authoritarian tendencies. There are concerns that the opposition, under the state of emergency Erdogan's government declared in 2016, may find it too difficult effectively and freely to campaign against the proposed amendments.


Even in the unlikely event of a win for the "no" campaign it will not be the end of the world for Erdogan. He would be bruised, perhaps badly. But he would play another card: a snap election. He would win new parliamentary elections and push for similar amendments, once again trying his chances. He would have nothing to lose. He appears to rely on a popular support keeping him afloat.


From a policy-making point of view, however, a "yes" or a "no" vote will not fundamentally change the dynamics under which Turkey is being ruled. At the moment, Erdogan is effectively the absolute ruler. If he wins the vote, he becomes the absolute ruler. If he loses he remains effectively the absolute ruler until he tries again to become the absolute ruler.                                                              





Max Boot

Commentary, Jan. 17, 2017


NATO is in big trouble—and not just because of incoming President Donald Trump’s habit of calling it “obsolete.” Also deeply problematic is Turkey’s future as a NATO member. As summarized by Henri Barkley, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been having a love-in recently with Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin, leaving the U.S. on the sidelines as a jilted suitor. Not even the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian jet in 2015 or the more recent murder of the Russian ambassador in Ankara has slowed down this rapprochement.


Turkey and Russia are now coordinating closely when it comes to Syria, with Erdogan having apparently given up hope of ousting Bashar Assad and becoming increasingly alarmed by the gains made in northern Syria by the U.S.-backed YPG militia. That Kurdish group has links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging a long-standing war against Ankara’s rule. Russia is even conducting air strikes in Syria in support of Turkish troops, which are there ostensibly to fight Islamic State but exist in reality to stop the Kurds from carving out their own state in northern Syria.


Along with the increased Russia-Turkey cooperation has come an intensification of the already-high level of anti-American invective from Erdogan. He and his minions, faithfully echoed by the government-controlled press, regularly blame the U.S. not only for staging a failed military coup last summer against Erdogan (a ridiculous accusation believed by as many as 79 percent of Turks) but also for supposedly supporting Islamic State. Turkey’s president said as recently as Dec. 27 that “it’s very clear” that the U.S. backs ISIS, an accusation rightly dubbed “ludicrous” by the State Department spokesman.


Meanwhile, Erdogan has been busy stamping out the last remnants of Turkish democracy, an affront to the common values that Turkey is supposed to share with other Atlantic Alliance members. Erdogan is filling his prisons with thousands of academics, journalists, military officers, judges, and other prominent citizens who are accused, based on spurious evidence, of being tools of Fethullah Gulen–the exiled Muslim preacher who has become for Erdogan what Trotsky was for Stalin, a convenient scapegoat.


Accounts abound of the Orwellian ordeals suffered by Turkey’s political prisoners as they try to figure out why they were jailed and how they can get out. A recent Wall Street Journal article detailing the arrest and imprisonment of a well-known Turkish judge was particularly infuriating and affecting. Significantly, the Erdogan regime even dared to lock up Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Nissenbaum for two and a half days, allowing him no contact with his wife or colleagues—a sign of how little Erdogan fears Washington’s wrath.


More concerned about cooperation about ISIS than progress on human rights, President Obama has largely given Erdogan a pass on his increasingly illiberal rule. President Trump is likely to continue and even intensify that trend. He might even extradite Gulen from Pennsylvania to face a kangaroo court in Turkey, as suggested by National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And he might very well increase cooperation with Russia in Syria, which might put the U.S. and Turkey in greater sync even if neither Russia nor Turkey has shown much interest in fighting ISIS. But will Trump be willing to abandon U.S. support for the YPG, one of the few militias in Turkey that cannot be accused of being tainted by radical Islamist ideology?


Certainly, the U.S. and the rest of NATO can’t afford to simply write off Turkey, which is an important player in the Middle East with considerable military capacity and political influence. But it is harder than ever to claim that Turkey shares common interests, values, or an outlook with the rest of NATO, and that in turn puts yet another question mark over the alliance’s future.







Mustafa Akyol

Al-Monitor, Jan. 31, 2017


The executive order by US President Donald Trump, banning the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States, has sparked major protests all across America. Most Muslims, naturally, were happy to see this solidarity offered to them by Jews, Christians, atheists and many others who do not share their faith.


However, the same solidarity did not come from some of the Middle Eastern governments that often claim to be the defenders of the faith. These include, as noted in a recent article in The New York Times, key Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which seem to have political expectations from Trump that they do not want to spoil. Notably, they also include Turkey, which not only has political expectations from Trump but also has a political elite that has a curious adoration for the new American president.


In fact, to say that the Turkish government said nothing about the “Muslim ban” would be wrong. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made a critical remark on the ban Jan. 28, noting, “Regional issues cannot be solved by closing the doors on people.” Yet he said this only when he was asked about it, and only in a tone that was conspicuously indirect and mild. Then, three days later, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus criticized the ban more openly, calling it “a discriminative decision,” which he hoped would be corrected.


Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ultimate authority, has so far said nothing about the “Muslim ban.” Moreover, his propaganda machine, consisting of at least 10 national newspapers, several TV channels and thousands of social media trolls, has also been unusually silent about the issue. Daily Sabah, the flagship of the pro-media empire, has been absolutely silent on the ban. Daily Star, another key newspaper in the pro-Erdogan media, published only a small and neutral report. Daily Aksam did run a headline on the ban, but only with a subtitle: “He [Trump] must be given a chance.” With the possible exception of daily Yeni Safak, which has been criticized lately for not being Erdoganist enough, the pro-Erdogan media’s stance on the Muslim ban has been unmistakably cautious.


In fact, despite the ban, the pro-Erdogan media ran opinion pieces that kept praising Trump. According to one of them, Trump was a revolutionary who ended “the military coup era” in America, defeated “global capitalism” by the “national will” and formed a Cabinet of “the most intellectual generals in history.” According to another writer, Trump has been unfairly turned into a boogeyman by the conspiratorial forces of the CIA, George Soros, Hollywood and the music industry.


No pro-Trump opinion piece was as notable, however, as the one penned by Hilal Kaplan, a key pundit in the pro-Erdogan media. In her column in daily Sabah, Kaplan took great pains to explain why the “Muslim ban” did not matter much, why Trump is still a promising leader and why his liberal opponents are the real bad people. Accordingly, the American president who is responsible for destabilizing the seven banned Muslim nations was none other than former President Barack Obama. It was of course bad that American Muslims were in trouble, but what really mattered were “Muslims in our region.” (And Trump, somehow, would be better for them.) Ultimately, Kaplan explained, what really matters is Turkey’s interests: “Turkey is strong,” she argued. “The umma will also be strong.” (And Trump, somehow, would be better for Turkey.)


I have seen this pro-Trump spirit among Erdoganists on social media as well, when I tweeted about the irony at hand: “American liberals are defending the rights of Muslims. But our supposedly 'Islamist' media is applauding Trump against those liberals.” In return, the usual pro-Erdogan arguments in favor of Trump poured in: American liberals were protesting Trump not because they loved Islam, but because Trump threatened their dirty interests. In fact, all Americans were anti-Islam and Trump deserved respect because he was at least honest about it.


One wonders why all this persistent sympathy for Trump exists in Turkey’s pro-Erdogan universe. Erdogan, after all, often presents himself as the defender of all Muslims, and this should have normally required a clearer stance against the Western narratives and policies that offend Muslims. Why does Trump get so much leniency from a usually pro-Islamic political line?


There are two answers to this question. The first answer is pragmatic. Erdogan and his team have some important expectations from Trump. One is that he may help extradite Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey sees as the mastermind of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The other one is that Trump may stop the Obama administration’s policy of supporting the Syrian Kurdish forces, who Turkey considers to be terrorists. It is in fact not clear whether the Trump administration would take such steps, but Ankara wants to see what it can get from Trump and does not want to offend him before any possible progress.


The second answer is ideological. Trump’s populism resonates with the populism of Erdogan, creating an affinity of worldviews. When Trump condemns the “mainstream media,” or his strategist Stephen Bannon says the media should “keep its mouth shut,” Erdoganists see a very familiar style of strongman politics that they admire. When Trump condemns the conspiracies of “internal bankers,” he says something that confirms the conspiracy theories of Turkey’s new ruling class. Basically, both Erdogan and Trump represent a nationalist, nativist, populist battle cry against the global liberal order, and this creates common ground between the two sides. The fact that Trump dislikes Islam while Erdogan champions it, apparently, is not important enough to disrupt this new transatlantic connection.







New York Times, Jan. 14, 2017


It should come as no surprise that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would praise Donald Trump for refusing to talk to a CNN reporter at a news conference. For years, Mr. Erdogan has been crushing independent voices as part of a broader effort to assert authoritarian control. Earlier this month, the Turkish police arrested the top legal adviser and a former chief executive of Dogan Holding, a conglomerate that owns the newspaper Hurriyet and CNN Turk. This followed the detention in mid-December of another company executive, Barbaros Muratoglu, reportedly accused of “aiding a terror group,” namely the organization of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The company has denied links to Mr. Gulen.


Once allies, Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gulen are bitter rivals and Mr. Erdogan has charged Mr. Gulen with masterminding an aborted coup in July. Although the attempted overthrow was a legitimate threat, Mr. Erdogan has exploited the episode to cement his control. He has declared a state of emergency that greatly expands his executive powers, jailed thousands of soldiers, seized hundreds of companies and purged thousands more public officials, police officers, teachers, judges and prosecutors — most of whom were also accused of being followers of Mr. Gulen. Many have been placed in pretrial detention despite a lack of evidence.


Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown on the press has accelerated. Some 120 journalists have been jailed since the coup attempt and Turkey has now surpassed China as the world’s main jailer of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.


The family that owns Dogan Holding has long been influential in Turkey’s secular establishment and ran afoul of Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist-based A.K.P. Party in 2009. With the company targeted again and fearful of losing more assets, the newspaper Hurriyet is widely seen as pulling punches to appease Mr. Erdogan by firing journalists and quashing even mildly critical news stories.


There is little doubt that Mr. Gulen has tried to cause mischief in Turkey by calling attention to corruption and Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to undermine democracy. But so far Mr. Erdogan has not provided the kind of evidence needed to extradite Mr. Gulen. Mr. Erdogan undoubtedly believes that Mr. Trump may be more amenable to this demand.




On Topic Links


Israeli Tourists Flock to Turkey Amid Rapprochement: Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017—Israeli tourism to Turkey increased by almost 80 percent over the past three years, rising from 164,917 visitors in 2013 to 293,988 visitors in 2016, according to a new report in the Turkish press.

How Turkey’s Jewish Alliance Schools Have Become History: Uzay Bulut, Algemeiner, Feb. 7, 2017—The Turkish website Avlaremoz, which reports on Jewish-related issues, recently covered the story of a Jewish school that used to be based in Istanbul. The Haskoy Alliance Girls’ School, which opened in 1874 and began to welcome boys in 1877, still carries the French inscription “Alliance Israélite Ecole des Garçons” (Jewish Alliance Boys’ School). Today, however, it serves as the student guesthouse of Kadir Has University. It was established under the Alliance Israélite Universelle, the first modern international Jewish organization.

Angela Merkel, Meeting With Erdogan in Turkey, Emphasizes Free Speech: New York Times, Feb. 2, 2017—Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany emphasized the importance of freedom of opinion in talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Thursday, during a visit meant to help improve frayed ties between the two NATO allies.

Turkey’s Argentina Road: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 18, 2017—Not too long ago Turkey was the economic star of the Middle East, and the boom years of the last decade helped Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party stay popular. But these days Turkey is a growth laggard trying to stop a run on its once-strong currency. This is what happens when the desire for political control trumps sound economic policy.















The Aid Workers Aiding Hamas: Hillel C. Neuer, UN Watch, Aug. 19, 2016— The arrest of Palestinian humanitarian officials in Gaza from two separate international organizations…

Obama’s R-Word for Iran: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 18, 2016— The Obama Administra

tion’s handling of the Iran ransom-for-hostages story brings to mind the classic Chico Marx line in the movie “Duck Soup”: “Who are you going to believe—me or your own eyes?”

On Big Things and Small, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Seem More Alike Each Day: Rex Murphy, National Post, Aug. 5, 2016— I think Hollywood could have saved itself some turmoil this year, and made a few bucks in the process, if it had held off on the new Ghostbusters movie and gone for something a little more current.

Happy Talk for Anxious Allies: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Aug. 8, 2016— Donald Trump’s various remarks about pulling out of NATO and his accusation that many American allies are "free riders" have made allies on several continents nervous.


On Topic Links


Felix Bonfils’s Photographs Of Eretz Yisrael: Saul Jay Singer, Jewish Press, Aug. 17, 2016

Hillary’s Deadly Iran Deal: Shmuley Boteach, Algemeiner, Aug. 8, 2016

The Democrats’ Challenge: White Working-Class Men: Clifford Orwin, Globe & Mail, July 30, 2016

The Truth Behind The Video Hillary Claimed Caused The Benghazi Attack: Jeff Dunetz, Jewish Press, Aug. 16, 2016





Hillel C. Neuer

UN Watch, Aug. 19, 2016


The arrest of Palestinian humanitarian officials in Gaza from two separate international organizations – charged with siphoning aid resources to support Hamas terrorism – along with allegations about at least two other entities raises troubling questions about the culture within the United Nations and non-governmental agencies that allowed such crimes to take place.


First there was the announcement by Israel’s Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on August 4 that Mohammed El-Halabi, director of the Gaza branch of World Vision — a billion-dollar Christian aid agency — was indicted for systematically diverting tens of millions of dollars in aid money to Hamas. According to the Shin Bet, El-Halabi admitted to being a lifetime Hamas member who was dispatched in 2005 to infiltrate World Vision. El-Halabi had a good chance of being accepted because he had already worked for UNDP, the UN Development Agency — where he also helped Hamas — and because his father, Khalil al-Halabi, holds a senior post at UNRWA in Gaza which he, too, uses to support Hamas.


Once in World Vision, El-Halabi employed a sophisticated apparatus for transferring funds and resources to Hamas. Over several years, El-Halabi helped Hamas construct terror tunnels, pay their salaries, and build military bases. In addition, according to the charge sheet, in 2014 Halabi recruited a Palestinian aid worker from Save the Children, a major NGO based in the UK, to join Hamas’ military wing. After the revelations, Australia and Germany froze their funding to World Vision, and the organization suspended its Gaza operations. Save the Children, for its part, is “making inquiries into this matter.”


Then on August 9, Israel announced that it had indicted Waheed Borsh, an engineer for UNDP, for diverting UNDP resources to build a jetty for Hamas’ naval forces, and to prioritize house construction for Hamas members. Borsh also helped Hamas recover hidden weapons found by UNDP workers. In reaction, UNDP said it was “greatly concerned” over the charges, and is now conducting a “thorough internal review” of the “processes and circumstances surrounding the allegation.” A thorough internal review is indeed necessary, but of far more than particular allegations against two individuals.


All UN agencies and NGOs in Gaza — and the Western countries which provide the bulk of their money — need to ask themselves why Hamas is apparently able to infiltrate their organizations with such ease.


Take World Vision, for example. Tom Getman, World Vision’s former head of Palestinian operations, went on to represent the organization at the UN Human Rights Commission, where he fomented a rabid, theologically-based hatred of the “Zionist enterprise” and its “idolatry.” In a video interview with fellow anti-Israel activist Rev. Steven Sizer, Getman called Hezbollah terrorists and anti-Semites his “friends,” citing their spiritual advice about going after Israel. “Like our friends [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah, and [Hezbollah’s late spiritual leader] Sheik Fadlallah – and many others in the Middle East – have said to us, the problem with you Christians is you don’t do what’s in the book.”


How can World Vision be expected to weed out Hamas agents when overtly pro-Hezbollah officials like Getman are in charge? That’s asking the foxes to guard the henhouse. The same holds true for the UN agencies in Gaza, which have a history of pandering to the Hamas regime. During the Gaza war of 2014, despite UNDP’s duties of neutrality and impartiality, the organization sided with Hamas against Israel, whitewashing the systematic exploitation by Hamas of homes, schools, mosques, and hospitals to store weapons, install rocket launchers, and hide entrances to terror tunnels.


Frode Mauring, then the UNDP Special Representative on Palestine, tweeted vehemently against Israel. He expressed sympathies for Gaza’s population, but not for millions of Israelis forced into bomb shelters to escape thousands of Hamas rocket barrages. On July 14, 2014, for example, Mauring tweeted, “Israel showed restraint in Gaza before attacking? You must be kidding.”


After the war, UNDP published a “Preliminary Assessment” prepared by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem, a Palestinian NGO that advances the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) agenda against Israel. The 30-page document failed to mention Hamas once. Discussion of damage to Gaza buildings omitted that Hamas used them for rocket launching against Israeli civilians, deliberately jeopardizing Palestinian civilians. How can we expect UNDP to remedy internal “processes” when its leaders openly broadcast a see-no-evil approach to Hamas terror?


The latest arrests ought to be a wake-up call. Palestinians deserve to be helped, but Hamas — an organization that exults in murdering Jewish children — is the opposite of humanitarianism. If the UN and NGOs fail to correct their ways, taxpayers in the US, Canada and Europe should do it for them, by demanding a permanent freeze to the funding of terror.




                                           OBAMA’S R-WORD FOR IRAN 


Wall Street Journal, Aug. 18, 2016


The Obama Administration’s handling of the Iran ransom-for-hostages story brings to mind the classic Chico Marx line in the movie “Duck Soup”: “Who are you going to believe—me or your own eyes?” After everyone in the Administration from President Obama on down denied that a $400 million cash payment to Iran had anything to do with the same-day release of four American hostages, the State Department on Thursday said your own eyes had it right the first time.


While still not using the R-word, State Department spokesman John Kirby said of the two events: “We of course wanted to seek maximum leverage in this case as these two things came together at the same time.”

Credit here goes to Wall Street Journal reporters Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee, who on Aug. 3 broke the story of the $400 million payment to Iran coincident with the hostage release in January. Despite Mr. Obama himself trying to knock down the Journal’s story by asserting, “we do not pay ransom for hostages,” the reporters this week established the linkage.


U.S. officials acknowledged to the Journal that they wouldn’t allow a plane from Iran Air, loaded with pallets of cash, to take off from a runway in Geneva until the hostages’ plane in Tehran was “wheels up.” State’s Mr. Kirby was finally obliged to admit this publicly. One may reasonably ask: Why did the Obama Administration persist with such an obviously preposterous cover story? Mr. Obama offered one honest answer amid his original denial. We didn’t pay a ransom, the President said, “precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.”


There’s another reason. Mr. Obama didn’t want to sully what he obviously considers the crowning foreign-policy achievement of his Presidency with an admission that a grubby payoff to Iran’s mullahs is what got it done.


Coming clearer by the day is the reality that Mr. Obama in fact ransomed his second term’s entire foreign policy to getting the nuclear deal, which along with lifting sanctions was supposed to be the incentive for Iran to help stabilize the Middle East. Iran had its own ideas about that.


On Tuesday the Russian foreign ministry ostentatiously announced that four of its Tu-22M3 bombers had flown from an Iranian airfield to hit anti-Assad forces in three Syrian provinces. The long-range bombers then returned to Russia.


Russia doesn’t need the Iranian air base to bomb Syria. Russia and Iran were making a political point about their budding alliance in the Middle East. They did this, moreover, after persuading Secretary of State John Kerry to persuade Mr. Obama to share with Russia U.S. intelligence on bombing targets in Syria. Mr. Obama sided with Mr. Kerry despite Pentagon objections. Oh, and Vladimir Putin is now sending tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to newly built installations near the border with Ukraine. Perhaps this is the Russian’s way of thanking Mr. Kerry for the intel.


Mr. Obama, meanwhile, spent August denying that a ransom was a ransom. Since the January “leverage” moment, Iran has taken three more Americans as hostage and is now demanding the return of $2 billion in funds that U.S. courts have ordered held for the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. The eyes of the world can simply stare.








Rex Murphy                                    

National Post, Aug. 5, 2016


I think Hollywood could have saved itself some turmoil this year, and made a few bucks in the process, if it had held off on the new Ghostbusters movie and gone for something a little more current. There’s a great story sitting on the scriptwriting tarmac, just waiting for the proper writers to put a little creative wind under its wings. It may be seen as a cross between The Price is Right and a State Department version of Casino Royale.


The plot: shady individuals in the U.S. government load up a huge cargo plane with pallets of stacked hundred-dollar bills — close to $400 million in total — and fly them off to Switzerland, where they are covertly exchanged for Swiss Francs, Euros and other currencies, then sent on to Iran. All this under a shroud of secrecy and in the darkness of night. The cargo plane with the mountain of laundered cash lands in Tehran and moments later, another plane takes off with some American hostages, who are now free to return to the United States.


A spokesman for the U.S. State Department (I see Charlie Sheen in this challenging role) claims that there is “no connection” between the release of the hostages and the $400 million delivered to the very same airport where the hostages were waiting to be flown out. And he flatly rejects a statement from one of the hostages who said that they were kept on the tarmac in Tehran for “hours and hours,” while their handler told them they were “waiting for another plane (and) if that plane doesn’t come, we never let (you) go. ” The cash arrives in Tehran; the hostages leave Tehran. No connection. Pure coincidence.


In real life, this would be very, very hard to believe, but as a movie, it’s as credible as any. The problem is that it’s not a movie. It’s this week’s real news. So when U.S. President Barack Obama, wearing the smile of a cat belching on its way past an empty goldfish bowl, tells Americans and the world that the cash and the hostages have “nothing to do” with each other, some people — at least those over the age of 10 who are not employed by MSNBC — are a little troubled.


They are probably the same cynical skeptics who raised an overworked eyebrow when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went on national television to tell America that FBI Director James Comey found all her statements to be “truthful,” right after he invalidated nearly every statement she had ever made about her private email server. We should remember that on the matter of truth and how to escape its embracing tentacles, cloud its appearance and erase its presence, Clinton has trained at the dojo of the great sensei himself, the Houdini of equivocation and denial, Bill Clinton. But for Hillary Clinton, it may also be the case that her capacity for taking what has just been said and claiming that it actually meant the opposite derives from a past trauma.


Could it stem from the post-traumatic stress from the time she “was under sniper fire in Bosnia?” After all, battle stress from non-existent bullets fired by non-existent snipers can leave a secretary of state unnerved. This could easily lead her to imagine, for example, that an unseen video triggered the Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, when all the world knows otherwise — that terrorists saw an under-defended American embassy on an anniversary of 9/11 and stormed it, leaving its ambassador and four others murdered.


But why acknowledge the many confusions and contortions contained in her statements, when she could simply dismiss the truth? As Clinton herself so plangently put it, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” This is the same tact taken by Obama when he declared of his health-care policy — on numerous occasions, I might add — that, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan; if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor; if you like your hospital, you can keep your hospital.” These were all lies — explicit, unqualified, and direct lies — every time they were spoken.


On big things and small, Obama and Clinton seem more alike each day. Perhaps that is why Obama is so invested in seeing her take over from him. They both share an exceptional insouciance when it comes to asserting that what is the case is actually not the case, and what is not the case is the case. Considering this affinity, and their sovereign dexterity in exchanging reality for fiction, it is no wonder he sees her as the “most qualified person in American history to be president.” Exactly. Just like the planeload of cash that had nothing to do with the release of the hostages.





                       HAPPY TALK FOR ANXIOUS ALLIES

Elliott Abrams              

          Weekly Standard, Aug. 8, 2016


Donald Trump’s various remarks about pulling out of NATO and his accusation that many American allies are "free riders" have made allies on several continents nervous. I spent last week in Japan (yes, pretty far away from Cleveland), where his name arose in every single meeting I had—with academics, at NGOs, and in sessions with government officials. At a time when the Chinese military is growing rapidly, might the United States actually reduce its own commitments? Would the "pivot to Asia" be replaced by a flight from responsibility?


In my prepared speeches, I explained the "pendulum theory" of U.S. foreign policy to the Japanese. This is the view best described in Maximalist, the 2014 book about foreign policy since Truman, written by my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Steve Sestanovich. As he described it, American foreign policy has swung like a pendulum from doing too much to doing too little. Maximalists (he lists Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and George W. Bush) have sought "a big package of countermeasures" against threats; retrenchers (he lists Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Obama) have wanted to "shift responsibilities to friends and allies, to explore accommodation with adversaries, to narrow commitments and reduce costs."


In this view, the United States nearly always swings too far, and then the public becomes restive and unhappy, and events and public opinion combine to swing the pendulum the other way. If we do too little, dangers grow visibly and produce a reaction: "We must do more." Perhaps there is an overreaction, and a few years later the pendulum swings again: "We must pull back."


I told the Japanese we have reached the end of one swing of that pendulum now, with Obama's policies and the cuts in defense spending reached under him—of course, with the consent of Congress. The latest polls (by the Pew Center) find that "public support for increased defense spending has climbed to its highest level since a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks." And I argued the pendulum would swing under Hillary Clinton, who has generally supported a more muscular foreign policy than Obama (remember her push in 2012, along with then-secretary of defense Leon Panetta and then-CIA director David Petraeus, for more support of the Syrian rebels—advice that Obama rejected), and even under Trump, whose slogan is "Make America Great Again."


But the Japanese pay close attention to American politics and have heard Trump say, over and over, that he wishes to disengage from the world in various ways, from building walls to stopping immigration to pulling out of commitments like NATO and NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. How could I be sure he would not do precisely what he says he will do?


The best answer I could conjure up was Jimmy Carter and Korea. Campaigning for president in January 1975, Carter told the Washington Post that if elected he would order the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces from Korea. In June 1976, he restated this intention in a speech to the Foreign Policy Association in New York City. During the transition process in late 1976 Carter told the incoming secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, and incoming assistant secretary of state for Asia, Richard Holbrooke, that the pace of withdrawal might be studied but canceling the withdrawal was not an option, and in January 1977 President Carter issued orders to begin the withdrawal. In a press conference on May 26, 1977, President Carter said this:


We have, however, considered very carefully the question of our troops to be withdrawn from South Korea, the Republic of Korea, ground troops. This is a matter that's been considered by our government for years. We've been in South Korea now more than 25 years. There has never been a policy of our government evolved for permanent placement of ground troops in South Korea. .  .  . I think it's accurate to say that the time has come for a very careful, very orderly withdrawal, over the period of four or five years, of ground troops.


This was a disastrous proposal, sure to create tension in Asia and leave our allies in the lurch. There was broad opposition. Not only the government of South Korea but also that of Japan was strongly opposed. Members of Congress on the armed services and foreign relations committees told administration officials that the withdrawal was a dangerous error. The U.S. intelligence community and military (led by the top U.S. Army officer in Korea, Gen. John Vessey, who later became chairman of the Joint Chiefs) added their opposition. Within the administration itself, many officials agreed with Holbrooke that the policy had to be reversed. Direct opposition to the policy grew, and there were many leaks of studies and assessments that concluded the withdrawal would be dangerous. In April 1979 the Joint Chiefs formally stated their opposition to withdrawal from Korea.


In July 1979, Carter reversed himself. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski read to the press a statement from the president: Last February it was announced that withdrawals of U.S. ground combat forces from Korea would be held in abeyance pending the completion of a reassessment of North Korea's military strength and the implications of recent political developments in the region. That reassessment has been completed, and these policy issues have been discussed with our key allies in Asia, with principal defense and foreign policy advisers, and leaders of the Congress. Circumstances require these further adjustments in the troop withdrawal plan: Withdrawals of combat elements of the 2d Division will remain in abeyance. .  .  . The timing and pace of withdrawals beyond these will be reexamined in 1981.


After January 20, 1981, of course, Carter was no longer in a position to reexamine anything but his election defeat and the foolishness of his initial decision for withdrawal from Korea. So, I told the Japanese, Trump might find exactly what Carter found: that the world is a very dangerous place and that some of his own ideas turn out to be likely to make it more so. Like Carter, he might find that the combined weight of American allies, his own military and intelligence advisers, and key members of Congress forces him to reconsider even ideas that seemed obvious and certain to him when campaigning. Carter was stubborn, and it took him two and a half years to reverse himself; Trump might be the same way, but there could still be a happy ending. Carter was stubborn in part because he'd been a Navy officer and thought he had relevant expertise; perhaps Trump would be more—and more quickly—impressionable when top CIA officials and ranking generals tell him that some of his ideas are pretty much nuts…

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


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!




On Topic Links


Felix Bonfils’s Photographs Of Eretz Yisrael: Saul Jay Singer, Jewish Press, Aug. 17, 2016—Travelogues and other reports written in the second half of the 19th century, most famously Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, establish the presence of thriving Jewish communities throughout Eretz Yisrael, particularly in Jerusalem. See, for example, my Jewish Press article “Mark Twain, Eretz Yisrael, and the Jews (June 18, 2015) for a full discussion on this subject.

Hillary’s Deadly Iran Deal: Shmuley Boteach, Algemeiner, Aug. 8, 2016—Let’s focus for a moment on two major headlines that appeared on the same day last week. The first claimed that Donald Trump was continuing to feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of murdered American war hero Humayun Khan. The second said that President Obama last January sent the Iranian regime $400 million in cash, which in all likelihood will be used to fund terrorism.

The Democrats’ Challenge: White Working-Class Men: Clifford Orwin, Globe & Mail, July 30, 2016—U.S. party nominating conventions have evolved into festive coronations. Yet the gaiety at this week’s Democratic gathering was forced, and the coronation beset by grumbling. Some deemed the new queen insufficiently progressive, others, spooked by recent polls, feared she was a loser.

The Truth Behind The Video Hillary Claimed Caused The Benghazi Attack: Jeff Dunetz, Jewish Press, Aug. 16, 2016—It’s been proven many times over that the YouTube video about the life of Mohammed had absolutely nothing to do with the Benghazi attack that killed four American heroes. It has also been proven that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama knew from the start the story they were telling America about the video was a lie. But the true story of the video that went viral thanks to Clinton and Obama has never been told until now.





Coup-Weary Turkey: Directionless and Insecure: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 8, 2016— Turkey once boasted of having NATO's second biggest army, equipped with state-of-the-art weapons systems.

Can Turkey Really Turn to Russia?: Semih Idiz, Ak-Monitor, Aug. 2, 2016— Russia appears to be the main beneficiary of the July 15 attempted coup in Turkey.

Turkey’s New Anti-Americanism: New York Times, Aug. 4, 2016— Shaken by a failed coup attempt, Turkey’s government and many of its citizens are desperate for someone to blame.

Regional Implications of the Failed Coup d’État and Purges in Turkey: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Aug. 1, 2016— The failed coup d’état and subsequent purge in Turkey have rattled both local and distant onlookers.


On Topic Links


Erdogan’s Purge Is a Sectarian War: Edward Luttwak, Foreign Policy, Aug. 3, 2016

Erdoğan's Coup Survival: Don't Call It Democracy: IPT News, Aug. 3, 2016

The Erdogan Loyalists and the Syrian Refugees: Suzy Hansen, New York Times, July 20, 2016

Turkey’s Intolerance: National Post, June 21, 2016




Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Aug. 8, 2016


Turkey once boasted of having NATO's second biggest army, equipped with state-of-the-art weapons systems. That powerful army now lacks command: After the failed coup of July 15, more than 8,500 officers and soldiers, including 157 of the 358 generals and admirals in the Turkish military's ranks, were discharged. The top commanders who were purged had made up 44% of the entire command structure. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the military's shipyards and weapons factories will be transferred to civilian authority; military high schools and war academies have been shut; military hospitals will be transferred to health ministry; and the gendarmerie, a key force in anti-terror operations, and the coast guard will be tied to the interior ministry.


Those changes leave behind an army in deep morale shock, with political divisions and polarization. Its ranks are suffering not just trauma but also humiliation. The Turks are lucky their country was not attacked by an enemy (and they are plentiful) at a time like this. Conventional war, however, is not the only threat to Turkey's security. The Turkish army's worst decline in modern history came at a time when it was fighting an asymmetrical war against Kurdish insurgents inside and outside of Turkey and, as part of a U.S.-led international campaign, the Islamic State (ISIS) in neighboring Syria.


The attempted coup not only quickly discredited the Turkish military but also left the country once again directionless in foreign policy. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slamming his NATO ally, the United States, almost daily. His government big guns have been implying an American hand behind the failed coup by a faction of officers they claim are linked to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, once Erdogan's best political ally. "The putschist [Gulen] is already in your country, you are looking after him. This is a known fact," Erdogan said, addressing Washington. "You can never deceive my people. My people know who is involved in this plot, and who is the mastermind."


The White House immediately denied Erdogan's claim. Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the U.S. was one of the first countries to condemn the failed coup, and noted that a successful one would have put American troops serving in Turkey at risk. "It is entirely false. There is no evidence of that at all," Schultz said. "We feel that talk and speculation along those lines is not particularly constructive." The failed coup has become a Turkish-American dispute — with a military dimension, too.


Erdogan also criticized U.S. General Joseph Votel, who voiced concerns over "the long-term impact" of the coup on the Pentagon's relations with the Turkish military. According to Erdogan, Votel's remarks were evidence that the U.S. military was siding with the coup plotters. The Pentagon's press secretary, Peter Cook, flatly denied that claim: "Any suggestion anyone in the department supported the coup in any way would be absurd." Erdogan probably wants to play the tough guy and is slamming Washington day after day not just to look pretty to millions of anti-American Turks but also to pressure Washington in Turkey's quest to extradite Gulen, presently the biggest snag between the two allies.


But there is another dimension to Erdogan's ire: He wants to mend fences with Moscow. Turkey's relations with Russia were frozen after Nov. 24, when Turkey, citing a brief violation of its airspace along Turkey's border with Syria, shot down a Russian military aircraft. Russia's President Vladimir Putting ordered punishing economic sanctions, imposed a travel ban on Russian tourists visiting Turkey and suspended all government-to-government relations. Unable to ignore the damage, a repentant Erdogan conveyed regrets to Putin; the regrets were accepted and the two leaders are scheduled to meet on August 9, when the Turks hope that relations with Russia will be entirely normalized.


Normalization, unfortunately, will not come at the price of Turkish "regrets" alone. For full normalization, Turkey will have to digest the Russian-Iranian-Syrian line in Syria's civil war — a pact which Turkey has loudly detested ever since civil war erupted in Syria in 2011. This will be another foreign policy failure for Erdogan and an embarrassing U-turn. But the more Ankara feels distant to Washington, the more it will want to feel closer to Moscow.


Meanwhile, after the coup attempt, Turkey's troubled relations with the European Union turned even more troubled. European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said that the EU's deal with Turkey on halting the flow of migrants toward the bloc may collapse. "The risk is big. The success so far of the pact is fragile. President Erdogan has already hinted several times that he wants to scrap it," Juncker said. It is not just the migrant deal that may entirely suspend Turkey as a candidate country for the EU.


As Western leaders call on Erdogan to respect civil liberties and democracy, Erdogan insists he will consider reinstating the death penalty. "The people have the opinion that these terrorists [coup-plotters] should be killed," Erdogan said in interview with CNN. "Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come? That's what the people say … as the president, I will approve any decision to come out of the parliament." Such a move would kill Turkey's accession process entirely. Federica Mogherini, EU's foreign policy chief, warned that if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty, it will not be joining the European Union. "Let me be very clear on one thing," she said; "… No country can become an EU member state if it introduces [the] death penalty."


The attempted coup not only destabilized NATO's second largest army and exposed it to the risk of serious operational vulnerabilities; it also left Turkey at risk of engaging in potentially dangerous liaisons with playmates of different kind — Russia and Iran & Co. — at least for now.                                                                                                                            





Semih Idiz                                                                                                             

Al-Monitor, Aug. 2, 2016


Russia appears to be the main beneficiary of the July 15 attempted coup in Turkey. Moscow clearly sees a strategic opportunity for itself given the sharp increase in anti-American and anti-European sentiments in Turkey, which are being fanned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan supporters, and many Turks opposed to Erdogan, are convinced of a US finger in the attempt to topple Erdogan. The fact that Fethullah Gulen — the Islamic cleric accused of masterminding the coup — resides freely in Pennsylvania, and the belief that the United States is dragging its feet over Ankara’s demand for Gulen’s extradition, has raised anti-American feelings among Turks to a fever pitch.


This belief has also increased calls for Turkey to seek strategic partnerships with Russia and to replace ties with the United States, NATO and the European Union. These calls are clearly being monitored closely in Moscow. Eyes will therefore be focused on Erdogan’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Aug. 9. The current political climate between the two countries is also conducive to deepening ties. Ankara and Moscow are presently reconciling after half a year of tensions following the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey in November while it was on a mission against forces opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


The pilot of the jet was shot dead in his parachute by anti-Assad fighters supported by Ankara, which increased Russian fury against Turkey at the time. Despite Turkey’s insistence that the jet had strayed into its airspace, which Russia still denies, Erdogan apologized to Putin in a letter he sent in June over the incident, in which he referred to Russia as a “friend and strategic partner.” Turkey’s economic losses due to the embargoes imposed by Moscow after the downing of the jet and the fact that this incident seriously diminished Turkey’s hand in Syria forced Erdogan in the end to seek reconciliation.


The failed coup has also increased Russia’s importance for quarters close to Erdogan. Calls from pro-Erdogan circles for Turkey to seek strategic partnerships with Russia and to develop a strategic Eurasian dimension to replace ties with the United States, NATO and the EU are clearly being monitored closely in Moscow with satisfaction. With more strategic foresight than the United States and Europe, Russia played its cards right as the coup attempt was underway and was the first country to immediately condemn this attempt unequivocally. “We thank the Russian authorities, particularly President Putin. We have received unconditional support from Russia, unlike other countries,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told news channel Haberturk TV.


Turkey is angry with Europe over its “wait and see” stance during and after the coup attempt. The general view is that Europe’s dislike of Erdogan prevented it from providing unequivocal support for the democratically elected president and government of Turkey. Europe’s critical position on the massive crackdown against alleged coup plotters and sympathizers in Turkey and its reactions to Erdogan’s support for the death penalty for the coup plotters is adding more grist to the anti-Western mill in Turkey.


An unsubstantiated report by the Iranian Fars News Agency, on the other hand, also put Russia in a favorable light with Erdogan supporters. Quoting various Arab sources, Fars said Moscow had alerted Erdogan hours ahead of the coup, enabling him to take the necessary precautions for his safety.


In the meantime, Ankara is pinning the blame for the downing of the Russian jet fighter on a maverick pilot who allegedly was part of the coup plot, thus providing another indication of how fast things are moving in Turkish-Russian ties. The fact that Erdogan was calling on NATO, during its recent Warsaw summit, to prevent the “Black Sea from turning into a Russian lake” appears a distant echo now. There are indications, however, that while Moscow believes it has the upper hand against Ankara now, and will try and secure maximum advantages for itself as it responds to positive overtures from Turkey, it will still play hard to get.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an early sign of this after the failed coup attempt when he openly declared that the future of Turkish-Russian ties would still depend on Turkey’s position on Syria. "Much will depend on how we will cooperate on the settlement of the Syrian crisis," Lavrov said, according to TASS. “During discussions of the Syrian crisis, we provided many facts that prove that Turkish territory is used for providing supplies to terrorists and sending militants to Syria. These facts remain on the table," he added.


However, given Russia’s growing conflict with the West, which Moscow believes is trying to encircle it militarily, many doubt that Putin will want to squander the opportunity to turn Turkey away from the West. The Russian daily Pravda spelled it out plainly in a recent editorial: “Russia should not trust Erdogan, but one may have no doubt about the fact that the Turkish president is now trying to improve Turkey's relations with Russia. This makes Turkey Russia's ally in the endeavor to split the consolidated position of the West.”…

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






           New York Times, Aug. 4, 2016


Shaken by a failed coup attempt, Turkey’s government and many of its citizens are desperate for someone to blame. Instead of undertaking a thorough investigation of the facts, though, they have accused the United States of complicity in the insurrection. This has ignited a new wave of anti-Americanism that, combined with a sweeping government crackdown against enemies real and imagined, poses a serious risk to NATO, relations with the United States and Turkey’s long-term stability.


The main culprit behind the July 15 coup, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders, is Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and has denied any involvement in the attempted overthrow. But the pro-government press, political leaders and ordinary citizens across all segments of society are also pointing fingers at Washington, which has denied any involvement.


When Gen. Joseph Votel, the top American commander in the Middle East, told a security conference last week of his concerns about the effect of the purge on Turkish officers, including some who worked with the Americans and are now jailed, Mr. Erdogan faulted him for taking “the side of the coup plotters.” On Tuesday, Mr. Erdogan kept at it, giving a speech in which he said that in standing by the putschists, the West supported “terrorism.”


Meanwhile, the pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak accused the C.I.A.; Gen. John Campbell of the Army, formerly a NATO commander in Afghanistan; and Henri Barkey, who runs the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, of being behind the insurrection. The evidence against Mr. Barkey? When the coup erupted, he was on an island near Istanbul holding a workshop for academics. The paper called it a “secret meeting” and said he made several telephone calls, hardly a suspicious activity. It also ran a headline claiming the United States had tried to assassinate Mr. Erdogan that night.


It makes no sense that the United States would seek to destabilize a NATO ally whose cooperation is crucial to alliance security as well as to the fight against the Islamic State, especially when much of the region is in chaos. While it is understandable that the Turks are rattled by the coup attempt, in which Mr. Erdogan said 237 people died, they are playing a duplicitous and cynical game. Mr. Erdogan has faulted Western nations for not condemning the coup firmly enough, but his real beef seems to be that they have expressed alarm over his use of the crisis to purge some 66,000 people from the military, government ministries, schools and universities. That is far more than could possibly be justified, and so sweeping as to radically upend the character and competency of those institutions.


American officials assume, with good reason, that Mr. Erdogan is ratcheting up his criticism to press Washington to comply with his demand that Mr. Gulen, a former ally who broke with him a few years ago, be extradited to Turkey. Turkey has given the administration documents but no formal legal request for extradition, and so far the Americans see no evidence that Mr. Gulen was culpable. The Turks need to be reminded that Mr. Gulen has a legal right to be in the United States, and that the Justice Department would have to go through a rigorous process before deciding whether he could be handed over, especially to a country where due process is increasingly unlikely and torture is reportedly used against detainees.


Turkey’s real job is to get to the bottom of who orchestrated the coup and why. But that requires setting aside conspiracy theories in favor of unbiased fact-gathering. The expectation in Washington is that tensions over Mr. Gulen will worsen, and could draw Turkey closer to Russia. Still, American officials say the Turks have given private assurances, including to Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he visited Ankara on Monday, that they will continue to cooperate in the fight against ISIS. So far the assurances are holding.


Over the long term, the United States and NATO have a more profound problem on their hands: What to do with a vital ally that is veering far from democratic norms? American officials say they have begun to study options, including whether NATO might one day have to decide on some kind of consequences, so far unspecified, for antidemocratic behavior. Even the mention of possible action by NATO would be likely to infuriate Mr. Erdogan. But it is hard to see how Turkey can be a trusted ally if it embraces principles and practices so at odds with the West, or how the country can ensure its own continued development and security without NATO as an anchor.                       






Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman                       

   BESA, Aug. 1, 2016


The failed coup d’état and subsequent purge in Turkey have rattled both local and distant onlookers. To begin with, the self-mutilation of the second-largest army in NATO can hardly be of benefit to anyone but those who seek to destabilize the region (and Europe). As the anti-IS alliance gathered this week in the US to weigh its next steps, and with the decisive battle of Mosul looming on the immediate horizon, the effective absence of Turkey from the battlefield is keenly felt – as is the decision by Erdoğan to disable all operations from Incirlik AFB.


Tensions between Turkey and the US have been rising for a while, as the Obama administration came reluctantly to the conclusion that the Kurdish forces in northern Syria (and their brethren in Iraq) are the most committed fighting force in the war on Baghdadi's "Caliphate". Just as opportunities to reduce IS seem to be taking shape, and an extra impetus is needed in any case after the horror in Nice, Turkey appears to be signaling that this objective is scarcely on Erdoğan's radar – despite the Istanbul Airport massacre and the rising cost for Turkey of past tolerance of IS practices. Moreover, Erdoğan's aggressive and persistent demand that Gulen be extradited – a demand with which the US is unlikely to comply – is adding fuel to the fire. Given what is at stake, it will be necessary for some European players to suppress their outrage at Erdoğan's overreactions and focus on securing his cooperation with a strategically important campaign at a decisive moment in the war against IS.


Meanwhile, relations between Turkey and the Sunni Arab "forces of stability" in the region, mainly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are fast going from bad to worse. On July 16, Egypt refused to enable the UNSC to lend unanimous support to the democratically elected government in Ankara, questioning the UN's ability to declare who is a democrat and who is not. This was Sisi's way of settling a score. For three years, day in and day out, Erdoğan and his party – which see themselves as patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region – have been questioning the Egyptian regime's political and moral legitimacy. The Egyptians and the Saudis could hardly contain their glee when news of the coup first emerged; or their disappointment when Erdoğan prevailed. Such reactions will poison relations for some time to come. Erdoğan has already openly stated that he considers Sisi to be the same as the conspirators (the "putschists"). (This ignores the fact that the Egyptian military, unlike Turkey's hapless crew, came in only after millions had taken to the Egyptian streets demanding Mursi's ouster.)


All this turmoil provides Iran, which was quick to lend political support to Erdoğan, with ample opportunity for mischief. As the lines of battle are drawn across the region, most violently in Syria and Yemen, the Iranian regime looks upon Saudi Arabia and her allies as an enemy camp in active contention. Iran can thus be expected to use this opportunity to try to draw Turkey closer.


To accomplish this goal, Iran might attempt to delineate a common ground in seeking to diminish the Kurdish role in the IS war. At the same time, it will likely seek to enhance the profile of its proxies in Iraq, thus making the US and the West more dependent on Iran's contribution to the common cause. Presumably, given the tone already taken by John Kerry and others in Washington, this will end up eroding even further any motivation on the part of the Obama administration to keep up the necessary pressure against Iran's ongoing missile projects and support for terror – even if there are elements within the administration who feel strongly that Iran remains an active threat to world peace and to US interests.


None of this serves the interests of Israel, the US, or Europe. There is little that can be done as the storm rages other than to keep channels of communication open and watch attentively for signs of Iranian fishing expeditions in Ankara or elsewhere. There can be no stop, however, to the anti-IS campaign, even if the emphasis for air support would need to shift once again to Jordan (indirectly backed by Israel's strategic presence). The campaign cannot be held hostage to Erdoğan's political agenda.


As passions abate, Turkey will emerge from crisis mode and remember that it still needs to be a member of the community of trading nations, a useful NATO ally, and a team player in the eastern Mediterranean. Sophisticated methods will need to be found to communicate to the AKP and its triumphant leader that their future does not lie with Iranian schemes to split the Sunni world and gain regional dominance for the Shi'a. To stay stable, Turkey will have to rebuild her alliance with the stabilizing elements whose help will be needed if Turkey and the region are to go back to business. It was the rise to relative prosperity that built up Erdoğan's base of popular support. Alienation from the West is not the way to sustain it.




On Topic Links


Erdogan’s Purge Is a Sectarian War: Edward Luttwak, Foreign Policy, Aug. 3, 2016—Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the secular Turkish Republic that replaced the Islamic Ottoman Empire, died in 1938, but Turks still define themselves as pro- or anti-Ataturk — though women need not say anything because their headscarves, or lack thereof, proclaim their allegiance.

Erdoğan's Coup Survival: Don't Call It Democracy: IPT News, Aug. 3, 2016— Nihad Awad, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) executive director, is in Turkey this week. It isn't clear why, but Awad is taking advantage of his travels to post upbeat photographs celebrating that country's recent failed military coup.

The Erdogan Loyalists and the Syrian Refugees: Suzy Hansen, New York Times, July 20, 2016—In an old part of Istanbul, in a district named Fatih for the Muslim conqueror, tucked inside ancient Byzantine walls in a neighborhood known as Karagumruk, there is a narrow barbershop with pistachio green and glittery countertops called Golden Scissors.

Turkey’s Intolerance: National Post, June 21, 2016—Turkey’s assault on a small group gathered for a Pride parade on Sunday, may reflect real security concerns in a country that has suffered a spate of terrorist bombings, but it also demonstrates the growing intolerance of an increasingly autocratic government.









We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 



Is Turkey the Next Terror Target? Observers See Growing Links to Extremism: Stephen Starr, National Post, Oct. 31, 2014— Looming over Istanbul’s financial district of Sisli gleams Trump Towers.

Time to Kick Turkey Out of Nato: Jonathan Schanzer, Politico, Oct. 9, 2014 —To its credit, Ankara did play a significant role in NATO’s operations in Libya by sending aircraft, frigates and other assets in 2011.

Erdogan's Book of Defeat : Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 31, 2014 — Shortly after the Arab Spring rocked several capitals in the Middle East, the Turks devised a plan that would enable their country to emerge as the new Ottoman Empire.

Turks Hate Everyone (Except Turks): Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Nov. 3, 2014 — A new Pew Research Poll found that more Turks dislike Israel than dislike either Hezbollah or Hamas.

On Topic Links


How Turkey Went Bad: Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, Oct. 13, 2014

Normalization Between Ankara and Jerusalem? Guess Again.: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 30, 2014

Growing Kurdish Unity Helps West, Worries Turkey: Joe Parkinson, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 22, 2014

Hamas Operates Command Center in Turkey: Israeli Defense Minister: I24 News, Oct. 22, 2014

Burying Ataturk In Erdogan’s Castle: Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 3, 2014





GROWING LINKS TO EXTREMISM                                                                               

Stephen Starr                                                                                                       

National Post, Oct. 31, 2014


Looming over Istanbul’s financial district of Sisli gleams Trump Towers. At 40 stories high, it is one of the city’s brashest and most iconic links with the Western world. But in Sisli’s thoroughfares and alleyways, streets that house the offices of Dentons, the international law firm, as well as the Canadian government’s trade service and its local consulate, would-be jihadists en route to Syria and Iraq have been holing up. For almost three years, Canadians from British Columbia to Montreal as well as Britons, Germans and citizens of a host of Arab countries have all landed in Istanbul en route to their quest for jihad in Syria.


Locals in Sisli say before the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham (ISIS) forces conquered a series of cities in western Iraq last June, they saw foreign men “dressed in jihadist clothing drinking tea on the side of the streets.” The would-be jihadists weren’t acting alone — they didn’t choose Sisli without reason. In a district where grand shopping malls sell the finest French perfume and the latest shoes from New York, some of the conservative locals sympathize with the plight of Syrians being slaughtered by their own government and are happy to discreetly help those passing through. “[The locals] didn’t give the Western guys money, but they would find them apartments to stay in,” said Mehmet, a café owner in the area who asked not to be fully identified.


Many Canadians have passed through Istanbul. After making their way to Syria, several have joined a group known as Jund Al-Aqsa, a small, independent jihadist group operating in Idlib and Hama provinces of western Syria. As recently as last month, Swedish video journalist Tam Hussein went inside northern Syria where he met a Canadian jihadist who he believes has been fighting there for more than a year. “Abu Azzam was a Canadian of south Asian descent belonging to Jund Al-Aqsa. He was very quiet, softly spoken; he appeared middle class, educated,” he said. “He was proud of the fact that his family were devout and he had never really integrated [in Canada] and kept his morals.” Mr. Hussein said Abu Azzam was in his mid-20s but wouldn’t say where in Canada he was from. He thought Canada was a decedent country, according to Mr. Hussein. “He had very little problem with [Canada] except that they were making a mistake siding with the U.S.”


Today, Mehmet says Sisli’s foreign jihadists have gone underground since ISIS captured the world — and Turkish authorities’ — attention last summer. The locals’ empathy, however, remains, spurred on by Turkey’s increasingly Islamist and divisive government. One figure is responsible for this more than any other: When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first appeared on the political scene in 2002, polls found Turks were evenly split on the role they felt Islam played in their country’s politics and which for decades has been vehemently secular. Today, according to a Pew Research Center poll, 69% say Islam is the dominant force in political life. In recent years, Mr. Erdogan’s Justce & Development Party (AKP) has introduced laws clamping down on alcohol sales and modified long-standing laws banning government workers from wearing headscarves. Comments from him and leading government figures suggesting pregnant women should not appear in public have added to a sense among many that conservatism has taken hold of political and private life in Turkey like never before.


Emboldened, and against the backdrop of a sectarian war in neighbouring Syria, extremists have stepped forward. In September and again last week, ISIS sympathizers beat up students at Istanbul University who were attempting to hold anti-jihad demonstrations. In the city’s Bagcilar district, a “gift shop” sold jihadist-themed T-shirts, headbands and other items for several months this year before closing recently, while in September a video clip of two men on a city streetcar wearing militant-styled clothing went viral. The growing links to extremism are not only confined to the streets. In January, Mr. Erdogan’s son, Bilal, was accused of meeting a Saudi businessman believed by the United States to be an Al-Qaeda financier. Some observers say the June kidnapping by ISIS of dozens of Turkish diplomats and their families in Mosul, Iraq, forced Ankara to turn a blind eye to the increasing jihadist activity in Turkey and Syria. The hostages were released two weeks ago.


Ankara has been berated for not helping Kurds facing an onslaught from ISIS in Kobani, Syria, and for ignoring extremist activity inside the country, but some observers see this as a wholly intentional policy. As the AKP is deeply rooted in conservative Islam and broadly distrusts the Kurds, it is allowing militant Islam flourish. Others say Turkey’s lax approach to growing extremism among elements of Turkish society may be coming home to roost. “I think the government contributed to the rise of extremism when it employed a harsh discourse against opponents, currying favour with the political Islamist base, and employed anti-Western discourse to survive political scandals,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman. As ISIS embraces a radical and distorted version of Sunni ideology, there is great risk of radicalization of Turkish youth in a country that is overwhelmingly Sunni. “When the Syria crisis started, the young attracted to radical groups in Syria were in the dozens. It went to hundreds and even thousands now. There is definitely a pattern formed here. Yet we have not seen a comprehensive plan to attack ISIS ideology,” Mr. Bozkurt said. Others see the AKP’s obsession with removing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as entrenching Turkey in an unwinnable war. “The AKP provided arms, money, recruits and training to anyone who claimed to be fighting against Assad. This disastrous policy turned Syria into an open field of radical terrorists and similarly increased the appetite of groups like ISIS in Iraq,” said Faruk Logoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). “This dreadful policy has turned Turkey into a country highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks.”




TIME TO KICK TURKEY OUT OF NATO?                                                             

Jonathan Schanzer                                                                                             

Politico, Oct. 9, 2014


The Kurdish town of Kobane in western Syria is under siege by the Islamic State. A U.S.-led coalition has hit at the jihadists sieging Kobane…but bombs alone may not suffice. It is the Turkish military, whose tanks are currently sitting on the Syrian border, that may be in the best position to save stave off a mass slaughter. But the Turks refuse to join the fight, even though the Turkish Parliament voted on Oct. 2 to deploy the Turkish army to fight in Iraq and Syria, and to allow foreign troops on Turkish soil. A week after the vote, Turkey has not participated in any U.S.-led operations against the Islamic State.


Turkey’s stock as a Western ally is plummeting. Ankara stubbornly resists joining the coalition unless it broadens its fight to topple Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Turkey’s 200 or more F-16 fighter jets sit idle as the Islamic State makes alarming gains across Syria and Iraq. This stands in sharp contrast to other Muslim world allies – including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and even Jordan – that have taken part in the aerial campaign against the Islamic State. Turkey’s absence is conspicuous. It’s the only NATO ally among these Muslim world partners. To be clear, the fight against the Islamic State is not a NATO mission, but it serves as a reminder of how little Erdogan’s regime has done to help preserve order in the Middle East.


In many ways, Turkey has made the fight against the Islamic State more difficult. Apart from permitting some unarmed American drones to fly out of its territory, Ankara has refused to allow the West to operate from Turkish airbases. This has forced strike aircraft to fly their sorties from the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, Shaheed Mwaffaq in Jordan or Al Dhafra in the UAE. As for the Incirlik air base that NATO operates in Eastern Turkey, Ankara has made it clear that for the time being, it is currently off limits for armed operations. But this should come as no surprise. Incirlik has long been off limits. Ankara refused to allow the United States to utilize the air base for kinetic operations in the 2003 Iraq war and its aftermath. Instead, the base has been used for logistics, support and training. Turkey owns the facility, but technically, according to Article 5 of the NATO charter, it cannot restrict the NATO activities on the base in an approved operation. Still, it can restrict U.S. personnel and equipment. And it has consistently done so, to the frustration of American military planners.


Admittedly, one could argue that the Turks were right to hold off on joining America’s ill-fated war in Iraq. But that would be ignoring Turkey’s role in other international conflicts. Take the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan since 2001, where Turkey limited its role to logistics and training and refused to take part in combat. Similarly, Turkey deployed nearly 400 personnel to NATO forces in Kosovo, as well as other personnel to other international operations in the Balkans, but with responsibilities limited to training, observation and support. To its credit, Ankara did play a significant role in NATO’s operations in Libya by sending aircraft, frigates and other assets in 2011. But only on Erdogan’s terms: The Turks had an interest in seeing Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood – the group upon which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) draws its ideological inspiration – emerge as the power broker in Tripoli. Sure, there have been other smaller international operations. But the post-9/11 patrols of the Mediterranean Sea and patrols on the Red Sea to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, or even the Turkish frigate now sailing with a NATO maritime group on a six-month stint, hardly change one uncomfortable fact: Turkey is not a reliable Western ally.


But Turkey’s lackluster record as an active NATO partner cannot be judged upon its military activity alone. After all, NATO has struggled to play a useful role in preserving world peace. The organization has been beset by chain-of-command problems that have made its operations less than effective for decades, to the point that few expect much from it any longer. The competing rules of engagement of the various militaries within the Afghanistan coalition introduced a new level of dysfunction. But membership in NATO still holds significance. The alliance was designed to be an elite group of countries that stood for Western values. The NATO charter, set forth in 1949, holds that member states will protect one and all from attack at the hands of ideological foes. The Turkish Republic, founded and governed as an avowedly secular state, agreed to these terms in 1952, three years after NATO’s founding. Of course, NATO was initially engineered to fight communism. But over the years, the threats to the international system have changed. The latest challenge is a jihadist ideology that fuels the Islamic State, but also al Qaeda and other terror groups and their state sponsors.


Yet, it has become clear that Turkey, once a bulwark of secularism in the Muslim world, is now ambivalent at best, and complicit at worst, about fighting these forces. The fact that the AKP is a splinter of the Muslim Brotherhood provides a good indication of its leanings. More troublingly, it is a champion of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and allows several of its senior figures to operate out of Turkey. It has failed consistently to uphold international standards on fighting terrorism finance, including the designation of al Qaeda figures on its own soil. It has been reluctant to even acknowledge that groups like the Nusra Front—which has pledged fealty to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri—are terrorist organizations. Its dangerously lax border policies have contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. And it has helped Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, evade sanctions at the height of the international community’s efforts to hinder its illicit nuclear program.


Tellingly, in September of last year, Ankara announced that it would purchase a missile-defense system from a Chinese company that was under U.S. sanctions for aiding Iran’s proliferation efforts. Intense U.S. and NATO pressure scuttled that deal. But other troubling Turkish policies continue unabated without a peep from the West. The crisis in Kobane once again brings the challenge of Turkey into sharp relief. Despite the best efforts of Washington and other coalition members to bring Turkey along, it now appears clear: Turkey under the AKP is a lost cause. It is simply not a partner for NATO. Nor is it a partner in the fight against the Islamic State.




ERDOGAN'S BOOK OF DEFEAT                                                                        

Burak Bekdil                                                                                             

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 31, 2014


Shortly after the Arab Spring rocked several capitals in the Middle East, the Turks devised a plan that would enable their country to emerge as the new Ottoman Empire. While deliberately and systematically antagonizing Israel, Ankara would: replace the Shia-controlled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with a Turkey-friendly Sunni ruler; support the Sunni in Iraq and Lebanon and boost their political influence; support Hamas in the Palestinian territories and provoke it to violence against Israel; and make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood or their various brethren rule Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Saudis were already "our Muslim brothers." Eventually, all former Ottoman lands would produce governments subservient to the emerging Turkish Empire.


Nearly four years later, Syria's Assad is comfortably sitting in his presidential palace in Damascus and possibly laughing at the mess the Turks created by supporting Syria's jihadists. These jihadists have only wreaked havoc along Turkey's nearly 900-mile-long borders with both Syria and Iraq. The Shia in Iraq are as powerful as before, and remain obedient to Turkey's regional sectarian rival, Iran. The Shia in Lebanon — where Turks are a high-value currency on the hostage market — are increasingly hostile to Turkey. No one knows who rules Libya after the downfall of Colonel Qaddafi, but none of the warring factions want any Turks meddling in the former Ottoman colony. Meanwhile, a coup in July 2013 toppled the Turks' most-trusted regional ally, Egypt's then president, Mohamed Morsi. Today, not only the Turks but also Turkish products — including even soap operas — are unwanted in Egypt.


With the downfall — ironically, instead of Assad — of their Islamist allies in the region, the Turks recently discreetly moved to win back Egypt, the most populous Muslim nation in the region. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Hassan Shorky Selim, on the sidelines of the UN summit in September. The Egyptian minister abruptly cancelled the meeting, citing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "insulting words about [Egyptian] President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi." A statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry called Erdogan's words "lies and fabrication." More recently, Cairo announced that it would not renew a three-year transit trade agreement with Turkey. The decision indicates a further worsening of bilateral ties, which had been downgraded, as in the instance of Israel, to the level of chargé d'affaires. The transit trade agreement, signed in 2012 when Morsi was in power, had facilitated Turkish exports to African nations and the Gulf through Egypt's mainland, via Egyptian ports. Turkish companies previously sent their cargo to Gulf and African customers through Syria, when relations with Syria were normal. After Erdogan chose cold war with Syria, the Syrian route was closed to the Turks. The Turks then signed the transit deal with Egypt to use their ports and mainland as the alternative route. Now that Egypt will terminate this agreement, Turkish companies will be deprived of an easy route to Gulf and African customers.


Ironically, only six weeks before General al-Sisi ousted Egypt's Islamist President Morsi, Turkey had granted Egypt a $250 million loan to finance Turkish-Egyptian joint defense projects. The loan, the first of its kind, was intended to boost defense cooperation and Turkish exports of defense equipment to Egypt. At that time, Turkey was hoping to sell Egypt scores of Turkish-made drones, tactical naval boats and helicopters. Egypt's hostile move was a "shock" to Ankara, but only to Ankara. "Apparently everyone dealing with the Egyptians knew this was coming, except the Turks," said one EU ambassador in Ankara. It was not a secret that Egypt and the Turks' "Muslim brothers, Saudi Arabia" aggressively lobbied against Turkey's failed bid in September to win the seat of the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The EU ambassador said: "There may be further Egyptian moves to retaliate against Turkish hostilities. After Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Israel, Turkey has completely lost Egypt."


That mishap left Turkey's Islamists with one ideological ally in the former Ottoman lands: Tunisia, where the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Ennahda party was in a coalition government — until this past weekend. Ennahda, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, conceded defeat in elections that are expected to make its main secular rival, Nidaa Tounes party, the strongest force in parliament. This defeat is a huge setback for Erdogan's Tunisian ideological allies, who had headed a coalition government with two non-religious partners for more than two years. Tunisia was the final chapter in Erdogan's book of defeat. Neo-Ottomanism was a childish dream. It is, now, a "sealed" childish dream.


In the entire Middle East, Turkey now has only two allies: Qatar, which looks more like a rich, family-owned gas station than a state; and Hamas, a terrorist organization. But Turkey has a rich menu of hostilities: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, (discreetly) Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, (as always) Cyprus, (now) Tunisia, (also discreetly) Morocco and Algeria, and (most warring factions of) Libya. In an April 2012 speech, then Foreign Minister Davutoglu defined Turkey's policy goal as: "On the historic march of our holy nation, the AK Party signals the birth of a global power and the mission for a new world order. This is the centenary of our exit from the Middle East… whatever we lost between 1911 and 1923, whatever lands we withdrew from, from 2011 to 2023 we shall once again meet our brothers in those lands. This is a … historic mission." That was a not-so-covert message of a strategic goal of reviving the Empire. Only nine years before the deadline to "meet our brothers" and the birth of Turkey as "a global power with a mission to build a new world order," Turkey looks rather dramatically isolated.      





TURKS HATE EVERYONE (EXCEPT TURKS)                                                      

Lori Lowenthal Marcus                                                                                                   

Jewish Press, Nov. 3, 2014


A new Pew Research Poll found that more Turks dislike Israel than dislike either Hezbollah or Hamas. In fact, Israel is the most disliked country in Turkey, according to the poll, with 86 percent having an unfavorable opinion of the Jewish state. Of course, Israel is portrayed by the leadership in Turkey as a detestable nation, so it is no wonder that the people share their leader’s view. As Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has grown first slowly and now ever more quickly away from the policies of the secular heavyweight Ataturk, his belligerence and growing Islamic fervor has frequently found expression in his criticisms of Israel.


The most public ugliness between Israel and Turkey was over the Mavi Marmara disaster in May 2010. Erdoğan blamed Israel completely, loudly and with great fervor, despite the anti-Israel, terrorist-supporting Turkish thugs who attacked the Israelis (who were not permitted to use their live side weapons) boarding their ship when it attempted to break Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza. See the video clip at the end of this article. Ten Turks died in the ensuing meleé and Erdoğan, with his buddy Mr. Obama, demanded Israel both apologize and provide compensation.


Surely the Turks look favorably upon the United States. After all, U.S. President Obama has fawned over the Turkey’s leader Erdoğan, referring to his Turkish counterpart as his closest friend in the Middle East. No, nearly two-thirds of all Turks have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S., and that less than loving picture has remained fairly constant for more than a decade. But neither Israelis nor Americans should feel bad. The Turks don’t much like anyone. Other than Turkey. Almost four-fifths of Turks have a positive opinion about their own country.


How do other countries stack up in the opinion of Turks? Not too well. In addition to Israel, the U.S. and Iran being viewed unfavorably by more than three-quarters of all Turks, Russia, Brazil and China are disliked by well more than half of the population. In fact, the only state which almost – almost – half of the Turkish population does not detest is Saudi Arabia, and still, only 26 percent have what they consider to be a favorable opinion of the Saudis. Even NATO, of which Turkey has been a member for 60 years, does not rank high with the Turks. Only 19% of the Turkish population has a favorable opinion about NATO, and 70 percent have an unfavorable one.


But perhaps of greater interest is that well more than half of the population has an unfavorable (66 percent) opinion of the European Union, and only a quarter think favorably about the EU. Turkey has been trying desperately for years to join the EU. No doubt its star has fallen with EU members as well. Another interesting finding is that although Turkey is currently on the hot seat with ISIS gaining strength on its borders, only half of Turkey’s population expressed concern about the growth of Islamic extremism in its country.


What does Israel (sic) really detest? Not so much ISIS. It is the tiny Jewish State which is rock bottom as far as the Turks are concerned. Only two percent of the population of Turkey has a favorable opinion of Israel.




On Topic


How Turkey Went Bad: Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, Oct. 13, 2014 —Only twelve years ago, the Republic of Turkey was correctly seen as a stalwart NATO ally, the model of a pro-Western Muslim state, and a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.

Normalization Between Ankara and Jerusalem? Guess Again.: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 30, 2014—Until Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state and Israel is pushed back to its pre-1967 borders, it will be "halal" for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world faces.

Growing Kurdish Unity Helps West, Worries Turkey: Joe Parkinson, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 22, 2014—Kurds in Iraq and Syria set aside long-held rivalries and took steps to unify their forces this week to battle Islamic State, gaining greater international legitimacy but magnifying fears in Turkey that a powerful enemy is on the rise.

Hamas Operates Command Center in Turkey: Israeli Defense Minister: I24 News, Oct. 22, 2014—Hamas has two command centers, one in the Gaza Strip and one in Turkey, Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday.

Burying Ataturk In Erdogan’s Castle: Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 3, 2014—What can anyone say about Turkey’s new presidential palace that has not already been said? It is enormous. It is gaudy. It is expensive.





















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What Does Vladimir Putin Want?: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8, 2014 — Vladimir Putin aims to reconstitute the Russia of the czars.

Ukraine Abandoned: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Sept. 4, 2014, 2014— At his first press briefing after the beheading of American James Foley, President Obama stunned the assembled when he admitted that he had no strategy for confronting ISIS, a.k.a. the Islamic State, in Syria.

NATO Sends a Message of Uncertain Resolve: George F. Will, National Post, Sept. 7, 2014— Speaking on Aug. 29 — at a fundraiser, of course — Barack Obama applied to a platitude the varnish of smartphone sociology, producing this intellectual sunburst: “The truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy…”

NATO Needs U.S. Leadership and a Return to Action: Derek Burney & Fen Osler Hampson, Globe & Mail, Sept. 2, 2014 — The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is desperately in search of new purpose and resolve.


On Topic Links


How NATO Backed Russia Into a Corner: David Pugliese, Postmedia, Sept. 4, 2014

NATO’s Gesture Won’t Deter Putin: Max Boot, Commentary, Sept. 2, 2014

Strange Bedfellows: Putin and Europe’s Far Right: Alina Polyakova, World Affairs, Sept. 10, 2014

A “Berlin Airlift” for the Ukrainian Winter: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Sept. 2, 2014

Russia Is Building a Star Fort on This Strategic Arctic Island: Annalee Newitz, IO9, Sept. 9, 2014                



WHAT DOES VLADIMIR PUTIN WANT?                                                              

Bret Stephens                                                                                                        

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8, 2014


Vladimir Putin aims to reconstitute the Russia of the czars. He wants to avenge the historic humiliation, as he sees it, that was the collapse of the Soviet Union. He's got to do what he's got to do to stay in power, probably for life, if necessary by whipping Russians into nationalist frenzy. And he wants to have a lot of fun while doing all of it. To adapt Mel Brooks : It should be good to be king.


All true. But maybe Mr. Putin is after bigger game. And maybe our failure to think about how Mr. Putin thinks about himself explains our consistent failure to anticipate his moves and check his ambitions. "What a novel my life has been!" said Napoleon on St. Helena. It wasn't an idle remark: Napoleon had been an aspiring writer as a young man. Suppose Mr. Putin is also living his life as a novel. How would he write the next chapter?


Here's a guess: Not by quivering in fear that a fresh round of sanctions is going to spark the third Russian Revolution, or that NATO is going to stop him from another advance into Ukraine or some other tempting neighbor. There's a reason men who are on a roll never take a break: audentes fortuna iuvat. Fortune favors the daring. Right now, fortune for Mr. Putin comes, first, in the shape of Barack Obama. The Russian was bound to see the American president as the classic self-infatuated liberal, half as clever and twice as weak as he imagines himself to be. As a former KGB agent working in East Germany, Mr. Putin would have had training, and perhaps experience, in reducing these types to human rubble.


Nothing Mr. Obama has done since coming to office can have dissuaded Mr. Putin from that impression. The U.S. president isn't an impediment to Mr. Putin's ambitions. He's an opportunity. When else will Mr. Putin have an American adversary who thinks that foreign policy is a global popularity contest, and that it's OK for Russia to gain ground, territorially speaking, so long as the U.S. retains ground, morally speaking? Could anything be better?


Well, yes: Energy prices that remain stubbornly high, despite global supply increases, shoring up Russia's export earnings in an economy that should be in free fall. A European recovery that remains stubbornly elusive, despite ultra-loose monetary policy, causing deep reluctance to increase military spending or impose punitive sanctions on Russia. The return of the politics of illiberalism to Europe, nowhere seen more clearly than in the rise of the Front National in France. (NF leader Marine Le Pen would defeat French President François Hollande 54% to 46% if the election were held tomorrow, according to a recent Ifop poll.)


All this is wind in Mr. Putin's sails, and it does no good to say that, in the long run, Russia is in decline and possibly doomed. "In Russia," historian Dietrich Geyer once observed, "expansion was an expression of economic weakness, not exuberant strength." That may be a consolation for future generations, assuming the pattern holds. But it doesn't help present-day Ukrainians, Estonians, Kazakhs or Poles. In other words, Mr. Putin has the incentive, and probably the desire, to move with haste. He will want to finish his "land bridge" to Crimea by way of the port of Mariupol. He will be tempted by provinces in northern Kazakhstan where there are large Russian populations. And he will give serious thought to a Baltic incursion, if only to showcase the hollowness of NATO's military guarantees.


Friday's kidnapping by Russian forces of an Estonian counterintelligence officer named Eston Kohver, just as NATO was wrapping up its summit in Wales and in the same week that Mr. Obama visited Tallinn, was a carefully premeditated expression of contempt—and intent. With Mr. Putin, humiliating his opponents tends to be the appetizer; the main course is their destruction. Just ask former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, or now, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.


Which brings us, at last, to the question with which we began: What does Mr. Putin want? It can't be money, power or territory, all of which he has in effectively unlimited supply. It could be his own political standing, although that's debatable: His political grip was plenty tight before he decided to intervene in Ukraine. It might be his concept of the Russian national interest, although that's also debatable: For Mr. Putin, Russia is as much the vehicle of his self-interest as he is the vehicle of Russia's. So it usually is with strongmen purporting to act for the sake of the nation.


In 1838, a 28-year-old lawyer gave a speech to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Ill., on the subject of "the perpetuation of our political institutions." There were some men, said Abraham Lincoln, whose ambitions could be satisfied with a "gubernatorial or a presidential chair." But that was not true for everyone. "Think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon?—Never!" Such men, Lincoln warned, would seek distinction at any cost, and if there was "nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would boldly set to the task of pulling down." Mr. Putin is no Bonaparte. But it's beginning to look like he thinks of himself as one. A West that continues to pursue a policy of toothless opposition and de facto accommodation will feed his vanity, his ambitions and his illusions.




UKRAINE ABANDONED                                                                                          

Charles Krauthammer                                                                                      

Washington Post, Sept. 4, 2014


At his first press briefing after the beheading of American James Foley, President Obama stunned the assembled when he admitted that he had no strategy for confronting ISIS, a.k.a. the Islamic State, in Syria. Yet it was not nearly the most egregious, or consequential, thing he said. Idiotic, yes. You’re the leader of the free world. Even if you don’t have a strategy — indeed, especially if you don’t — you never admit it publicly. However, if Obama is indeed building a larger strategy, an air campaign coordinated with allies on the ground, this does take time. George W. Bush wisely took a month to respond to 9/11, preparing an unusual special ops-Northern Alliance battle plan that brought down Taliban rule in a hundred days.


We’ll see whether Obama comes up with an ISIS strategy. But he already has one for Ukraine: Write it off. Hence the more shocking statement in that Aug. 28 briefing: Obama declaring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — columns of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and a thousand troops brazenly crossing the border — to be nothing new, just “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now.” And just to reaffirm his indifference and inaction, Obama mindlessly repeated his refrain that the Ukraine problem has no military solution. Yes, but does he not understand that diplomatic solutions are largely dictated by the military balance on the ground? Vladimir Putin’s invasion may be nothing new to Obama. For Ukraine, it changed everything. Russia was on the verge of defeat. Now Ukraine is. That’s why Ukraine is welcoming a cease-fire that amounts to capitulation.


A month ago, Putin’s separatist proxies were besieged and desperate. His invasion to the southeast saved them. It diverted the Ukrainian military from Luhansk and Donetsk, allowing the rebels to recover, while Russian armor rolled over Ukrainian forces, jeopardizing their control of the entire southeast. Putin even boasted that he could take Kiev in two weeks. Why bother? He’s already fracturing and subjugating Ukraine, re-creating Novorossiya (“New Russia”), statehood for which is one of the issues that will be up for, yes, diplomacy.  Which makes incomprehensible Obama’s denial to Ukraine of even defensive weapons — small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Indeed, his stunning passivity in the face of a dictionary-definition invasion has not just confounded the Ukrainians. It has unnerved the East Europeans. Hence Obama’s reassurances on his trip to the NATO summit in Wales. First up, Estonia. It seems to be Obama’s new “red line.” I’m sure they sleep well tonight in Tallinn now that Obama has promised to stand with them. (Remember the State Department hashtag #UnitedforUkraine?)


To back up Obama’s words, NATO is touting a promised rapid-reaction force of about 4,000 to be dispatched to pre-provisioned bases in the Baltics and Poland within 48 hours of an emergency. (Read: Russian invasion.) first, we’ve been hearing about European rapid-reaction forces for decades. They’ve amounted to nothing. Second, even if this one comes into being, it is a feeble half-measure. Not only will troops have to be assembled, dispatched, transported and armed as the fire bell is ringing, but the very sending will require some affirmative and immediate decision by NATO. Try getting that done. The alliance is famous for its reluctant, slow and fractured decision-making. (See: Ukraine.) By the time the Rapid Reactors arrive, Russia will have long overrun their yet-to-be-manned bases.


The real news from Wales is what NATO did not do. It did not create the only serious deterrent to Russia: permanent bases in the Baltics and eastern Poland that would act as a tripwire. Tripwires produce automaticity. A Russian leader would know that any invading force would immediately encounter NATO troops, guaranteeing war with the West. Which is how we kept the peace in Europe through a half-century of Cold War. U.S. troops in West Germany could never have stopped a Russian invasion. But a Russian attack would have instantly brought America into a war — a war Russia could not countenance. It’s what keeps the peace in Korea today. Even the reckless North Korean leadership dares not cross the DMZ, because it would kill U.S. troops on its way to Seoul, triggering war with America.


That’s what deterrence means. And what any rapid-reaction force cannot provide. In Wales, it will nonetheless be proclaimed a triumph. In Estonia, in Poland, as today in Ukraine, it will be seen for what it is — a loud declaration of reluctance by an alliance led by a man who is the very embodiment of ambivalence.                                                                       



George F. Will                                                                                                                 

National Post, Sept. 7, 2014


Speaking on Aug. 29 — at a fundraiser, of course — Barack Obama applied to a platitude the varnish of smartphone sociology, producing this intellectual sunburst: “The truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy. In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.” So, if 14th- century Europeans had had Facebook and Twitter, they would have noticed how really disagreeable the Hundred Years’ War was.


Obama did have a piece of a point: Graphic journalism, now augmented by billions of people with cameras in their pockets, can give an inflammatory immediacy to events. His intention was to dispel the impression that the world has become not just unusually “messy” but especially dangerous. Unfortunately, this impression derives not from social media static but from stark facts, including this one: A nation with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is dismembering another nation. And the nuclear power is governed by an unconstrained despot fueled by a dangerous brew of disappointment, resentment and contempt.


Writing for The Federalist website, professor Tom Nichols of the Naval War College describes Vladimir Putin as neither a realist nor a nationalist but rather someone saturated with Soviet nostalgia. In 1975, Nichols writes, the world seemed to be going the Soviet Union’s way. Extraordinary U.S. exertions in Vietnam had ended in defeat, a president had resigned and the economy was sagging into stagflation. “By contrast,” Nichols says, “the Soviets were at the top of their game,” with a modernized military and a new generation of missiles: “The correlation of forces, the great wheel of history itself, was finally turning in their favour,” and because history’s ratchet clicks only in a progressive direction, “it would never turn back.” 


In 1975, Putin, 23, joined “the most elite Soviet institution,” the KGB, which would guarantee “he would be somebody in the brave new Soviet future.” But in the 1980s, “he watched the Soviet descent to oblivion begin, accelerate, and then end in a humiliating wreck.” Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and a Polish pope ignited a Western resurgence — military, economic and moral. By 1990, Putin was 38 and aggrieved. Today, “Putin’s speeches and public utterances,” Nichols notes, “tend to show more nostalgia for his Soviet youth than his Russian adulthood.” Remember “the explosion of bad taste and Soviet kitsch” in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A participant in NATO’s 1949 founding famously said that the alliance’s purpose was to protect Europe by keeping “the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” When the Cold War, which prompted NATO’s creation, ended, the alliance began to gingerly undertake what it calls “out-of-area operations,” as in Afghanistan. Now, however, it is back to its original business of keeping Russian forces out of NATO members, which now include Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the last two being contiguous to Russia.


If NATO’s meeting in Wales was, as one European defence intellectual said, a “credibility summit,” it was at most a semi-success. The decision to augment by around 4,000 an existing rapid response force of around 13,000 is a far cry from Poland’s request that 10,000 NATO troops be stationed with heavy weapons in that country. Watching NATO flinch from this, Putin might reasonably conclude that NATO is ambivalent about Article 5 (an attack on any member will be considered an attack on all) and therefore wants its means of responding to remain some distance from where events might require a response.


Although ambiguity has its uses, a British diplomat of the early 20th century, Lord Curzon, reportedly advised that it is generally wise to know your own mind and make sure your adversary knows it, too. Putin might read NATO’s mind in what Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times calls “the learned helplessness” of American allies who “have come to rely excessively on the U.S. to guarantee their security.”


Time was, Rachman writes, America accounted for roughly half of NATO’s military spending; now it accounts for about 75 percent. Only four of NATO’s 28 members (America, Britain, Estonia and penurious Greece) fulfill their obligation to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense, and Britain may soon fall below that threshold as its army shrinks to about 80,000, its smallest size since after Waterloo (1815). As Putin casts a cold eye on his enemies, he might reasonably infer from their atrophied military muscles that they have palsied wills.







Derek Burney & Fen Osler Hampson                                                                     

Globe & Mail, Sept. 2, 2014


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is desperately in search of new purpose and resolve. When alliance leaders meet in Wales this week, the escalating incursions by Russia in Ukraine and the Islamic State’s barbaric antics in Iraq and Syria provide the immediate challenges. What is urgently needed is leadership from the United States, a semblance of strategy and tangible commitments from the disparate allies to confront these major threats to global order. Fine words and carefully crafted statements will not suffice.


Thus far, NATO’s expansion to 28 members has added more jumble and mumble than commitment. NATO has become flabby and increasingly irrelevant. Repeated calls to increase defence spending, including most recently by a new group of policy experts in their June report to the secretary-general, have largely fallen on deaf years. For the past decade, NATO summits have been dull or meaningless, more posturing than purpose. The U.S. penchant to “lead from behind” has not inspired. Nor has President Barack Obama’s refrain about not “doing stupid stuff.”


The alliance’s record in Afghanistan and Libya is mixed at best. With a botched presidential election and no immediate resolution of Afghanistan’s leadership crisis in sight, a more certain U.S.-ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) commitment may be needed to prevent an implosion. The 2011 campaign to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and avert a major humanitarian disaster drew no support from Germany and NATO’s Eastern European members. Libya’s recent descent into tribal and sectarian warfare is a stunning indictment of a job half-done and a failure to calculate the consequences and what was needed to avert chaos after Mr. Gadhafi’s removal.


Despite all the rhetoric that sanctions against Russia are working, President Vladimir Putin is still on a roll. Calling bluntly for a “New Russia” and “statehood” for Eastern Ukraine as he brazenly increases overt military action, Mr. Putin is banking on a tepid alliance response. The EU’s weekend decision to kick the sanctions can down the road yet again is not likely to change his assumption or his behaviour. This is the gravest crisis confronting NATO. As two U.S. elder statesmen, George Shultz and William Perry, contended recently in The Wall Street Journal, either NATO must collectively act with training and military assistance to Ukraine, or the U.S. should act alone to help the Ukrainians defend their own country.


In Central Europe, NATO should make precise commitments to the new entrants, providing troops on the ground, new military bases and anti-ballistic missile defence. Canada needs to strengthen ties too, explicitly with Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, with whom we have common interests, while supporting efforts to inspire a lead U.S. role and concrete support for Ukraine.


The Middle East is trickier. Sporadic air strikes may have slowed the momentum of the Islamic State’s territorial gains, but there is little evidence of a strategy to eradicate the “cancer.” This is not a fight for NATO and the West alone. More is needed from regional players, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who are not immune to the threat, and Qatar, which has played a major role in financing the Islamic State and Hamas. A full-scale assault on the Islamic State’s funding sources should be a collective priority, as should be concrete actions against those who preach in support of these radicals from the comfort of mosques in “liberal” democracies. Cutting off oil and other purchases from supporters will help.


The moderate voices of Islam should take a clearer stand before revulsion against the depravity of the Islamic State turns against the faith itself. Saying that this battle is not really about religion is false comfort to those being persecuted and slaughtered in the name of religion. Because many Western citizens have joined forces literally with the Islamists, collective action should be taken to revise and tighten immigration procedures, giving much more prominence to well-founded concerns about the direct, lethal threat such individuals pose to our security.


Long gone are the days of the NATO summitry of the 1970s, when secretary of state Henry Kissinger provided masterful beginnings to the discussions and the U.S. led from out front. There was no doubt then about unity, resolve or leadership. The U.S. must lead again now by putting down some tangible markers against new, existential threats and seeing who responds. Those who do should get a say and those who do not should rest on the sidelines. It is time for deeds, not pulpy communiqués.



On Topic


How NATO Backed Russia Into a Corner: David Pugliese, Postmedia, Sept. 4, 2014 —NATO leaders meeting here have been quick to brand Russia an aggressor state, intent on dominating Eastern Europe.

NATO’s Gesture Won’t Deter Putin: Max Boot, Commentary, Sept. 2, 2014 —You can bet Vladimir Putin is shaking in his Gucci loafers as he learns that NATO is going to respond to his aggression in Ukraine … by creating a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops that could deploy to Eastern Europe.

Strange Bedfellows: Putin and Europe’s Far Right: Alina Polyakova, World Affairs, Sept. 10, 2014—There’s love in the air between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Western Europe’s far-right political parties.

A “Berlin Airlift” for the Ukrainian Winter: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Sept. 2, 2014—Russian aggression remains very much in the headlines, as President Vladimir Putin last week re-opened the southern front and more recently reportedly bragged that he could capture the Ukraine in just a couple weeks.

Russia Is Building a Star Fort on This Strategic Arctic Island: Annalee Newitz, IO9, Sept. 9, 2014—For decades, Wrangel Island has been classified as a nature preserve. Situated in the icy Chukchi Sea which flows between the Russian and Alaskan coasts, this quiet, hilly island is now home to a rapidly-growing Russian military base comprised of "prefabricated modules" arranged in a star formation.


















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La solution du conflit exige impérativement une approche réaliste !

Zvi Tenney

Le CAPE de Jérusalem, 12 février 2013


A la veille de la visite en Israël du Président Obama, on entend de plus en plus de déclarations du genre faite il y a quelques jours par Hillary Clinton, à savoir, « qu’avec le renforcement en Israël des partis de centre-gauche après les dernières élections, il y avait à présent plus de chance de faire avancer une solution du conflit palestino israélien ». Ceux sont là des déclarations que l’on entend aussi bien en Europe qu’en Amérique.


Cela laisse sous-entendre clairement que la solution de ce confit dépend de la volonté israélienne de faire des concessions aux Palestiniens que seul le centre-gauche politique en Israël est disposé à faire.


N’est-ce pas là une vision aberrante quand on se souvient que les concessions quasi absolues faites par Ehoud Barak alors P.M., qui s’était engagé en Juillet 2000 à démanteler toutes les implantations, acceptant l’établissement d’un Etat palestinien sur 97 % de la Judée Samarie et 100 % de la bande de Gaza, n’ont abouti à rien , comme d’ailleurs celles réitérées dans le même sens en 2008 par le P.M. d’alors Ehud Olmert ?


N’est-ce pas curieux que toutes ces déclarations fassent fi également du fait que le démantèlement de toutes les colonies israéliennes dans la bande de Gaza et sa restitution totale aux autorités palestiniennes ont eu les résultats désastreux que l’on connaît ?


D’où provient ce refus obstiné de discerner la véritable et fondamentale cause de ce conflit palestino israélien, à savoir le refus arabe d’accepter l’existence d’Israël en tant qu’Etat du peuple juif ?


Pourtant même le Président Abbas considéré comme « modéré » a déclaré dernièrement haut et fort et sans ambages « qu’il n’acceptera jamais, même dans mille ans, un Etat juif au coté de l’Etat palestinien ». Les médias officiels et les manuels scolaires de l’Autorité palestinienne n’en font d’ailleurs pas un secret, loin de là.


Il est donc incompréhensible de voir les Européens nous pointer du doigt comme responsables de la prolongation du conflit et soutenir les Palestiniens, sans tenir le moindre compte du manque de leur implication à la réalisation de la « solution à deux Etats » et de leur refus de reconnaître Israël, en tant qu’Etat Juif.


Pire encore, les gouvernements européens continuent de transférer des fonds aux Palestiniens, même s’ils sont parfaitement conscients du fait que l’Autorité palestinienne – qui est dirigée par le Fatah et le Hamas – éduque des générations de jeunes gens à poursuivre la lutte contre Israël jusqu’à son anéantissement..


Il faut signaler à ce propos que des membres du Parlement européen ont dernièrement échoué dans leurs tentatives répétées de déterminer comment les fonds européens transférés généreusement aux Palestiniens sont utilisés et employés à financer le terrorisme, l’incitation antijuive et celle contre Israël. Un rapport interne élaboré par l’Union Européenne sur le sujet n’a pas eu permission d’être publié…..Et pour cause !


La question se pose donc pourquoi le Monde occidental, si soucieux de faire progresser un processus de paix dans notre région, ne s’occupe pas de ce refus palestinien de toute solution du conflit qui inclurait un Etat juif et préfère faire pression sur Israël qu’il s’obstine à considérer comme étant seul détenteur de la clef de la solution pacifique du conflit ?


Quel gouvernement pour Israël ?

Victor Perez

terredisrael.com, 14 février 2013


Les élections passées, chacun s’interroge sur la coalition qui régira pour les années à venir le quotidien israélien. Benjamin Netanyahou a reçu un mandat de vingt-huit jours pour rechercher le programme commun à une majorité de partis prêts à gouverner. Soit un minimum de soixante et un sièges de députés. Ainsi, Yesh Atid de Yaïr Lapid, Habayit Hayehudi de Nephtali Bennet, Shass et Yaadout Hatora, mais aussi Kadima et Hatnouah de Tsipi Livni seront probablement appelés à être dans le futur gouvernement autour du Likoud et d’Israël Beiteïnou. Soit une majorité parlementaire de quatre-vingt huit députés. De quoi asseoir cette nouvelle administration dans une réelle stabilité.


En sera-t-il ainsi ? C’est le vœu du Premier Ministre qui neutraliserait les appétits de chacune des composantes et de leurs chefs. A commencer par Yaïr Lapid qui se voit chef avant d’avoir préalablement connu les rugosités de son siège de député.


Il va de soi que rien ne garantit actuellement que tous ces partis acceptent de siéger dans un tel gouvernement, dirigé de surcroît par un Netanyahou qui fut, pour la plupart de ces partis, hué lors de la campagne électorale. Il ne leur restera plus alors qu’à tenter de subsister dans l’opposition avant de voir fondre, lors de nouvelle élections, leur nombre d’élus, ou de disparaître de l’horizon politique pour n’avoir rien apporté à leurs électeurs. Les partis Kadima et Hatnouah particulièrement.


Si Shass et Yaadout Hatora ont une base d’électeurs solide qu’ils retrouveront qu’ils soient dans la majorité ou l’opposition ils ont tous deux un intérêt vital à siéger au gouvernement. On les y verra donc siéger !


Il n’en est pas de même avec Yesh Atid et Habayit Hayehudi. Deux partis voguant sur un mécontentement momentané et n’ayant donc rien de pérenne pour l’instant. Ce qui les incitera à accepter le programme commun proposé par le Premier ministre plutôt que de pousser leur intransigeance et de risquer de connaître le même sort que le parti Kadima, mouvement politique qui passa, dans la dernière législature, de la posture de premier parti du parlement avec vingt-huit députés à péniblement deux, ou encore celui du parti Shinouï de Tommy Lapid passant de quinze à zéro élus et du parti des retraités, surprise des élections de 2006 et disparu en 2009.


Il y a donc de fortes probabilités pour que ce gouvernement, soutenu par quatre-vingt huit députés, voit le jour. Si ce n’est dans le temps imparti, le délai supplémentaire légal de quatorze jours permettra d’affiner les positions de chacun.


Ainsi, Benjamin Netanyahou pourra sereinement proposer une loi pour le service militaire pour tous sans que les religieux ne puissent s’y opposer ni mettre en danger la coalition formée, continuer les constructions dans les implantations sans que Yesh Atid et Hatnouah n’y voient une quelconque obstruction à un processus de paix que par ailleurs Habayit Hayehudi ne soutient pas. Chaque parti faisant le mort lors d’une loi lui déplaisant.

Si l’on peut considérer que cette façon de faire est jouer l’un contre l’autre, il n’en reste pas moins qu’une majorité du peuple israélien verra dans ce gouvernement de rassemblement le respect de ses choix.


Ce qui démontrera que le scrutin proportionnel est le système respectueux par excellence des désidérata du peuple israélien. Un système que l’on nomme démocratie.


La Turquie abandonnerait-elle l'Occident ?

Daniel Pipes

The Washington Times, 6 février 2013

Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert


Ls récentes mesures prises par le Gouvernement de la Turquie suggèrent qu'il se pourrait qu'il soit prêt à laisser tomber le club des démocraties de l'OTAN pour une bande russe et chinoise d'États autoritaires.


À partir de 2007, le gouvernement d'Ankara a fait une demande, trois fois sans succès, pour faire partie en tant que membre invité de l'organisation de coopération de Shangaï (ou OCS, officieusement connue comme les Cinq de Shanghai). Fondée en 1996 par les gouvernements russe et chinois, en compagnie de trois (et en 2001 d'un quatrième) anciens Etats soviétiques d'Asie centrale [le Kazakhstan, le Kirghizstan, le Tadjikistan et l'Ouzbékistan (NDLT)], l' OCS a très peu retenu l'attention de l'Occident, même si elle a de grandes ambitions de sécurité militaire et d'autres aspirations, y compris la création éventuelle d'un cartel du gaz. En outre, elle offre une solution de rechange au modèle occidental, de l'OTAN, pour la démocratie, et pour le remplacement du dollar américain comme monnaie de réserve. Après ces trois refus, Ankara a demandé le statut de «partenaire de dialogue» en 2011. En juin 2012, il a gagné et sa demande a été approuvée.


Un mois plus tard, le Premier ministre turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan a fait un communiqué sur ses dires au président de la Russie Vladimir Poutine : «Allez, acceptez-nous dans les Cinq de Shanghai [en tant que membre à part entière] et nous allons changer d'avis sur l'Union européenne." Erdoğan a repris cette idée le 25 janvier , notant les efforts turcs toujours au point mort pour rejoindre l'Union européenne (UE): "[Si vous agissez] en tant que Premier ministre d'un pays de 75 millions de personnes", a t-il expliqué, "vous commencez à chercher des alternatives. C'est pourquoi j'ai dit à Mr. Poutine l'autre jour: «Allez, prenez-nous dans les Cinq de Shanghai, faites-le, et nous allons dire au revoir à l'UE. Pourquoi ces atermoiements ?" Il a ajouté que l'OCS "est beaucoup mieux, est beaucoup plus puissante [que l'UE], et nous partageons des valeurs en commun avec ses membres."


Le 31 janvier, le ministère des Affaires étrangères a annoncé son plan pour passer au niveau supérieur d'«État observateur» à l'OCS. Le 3 février Erdogan a réitéré la remarque précédente, en disant: «Nous allons chercher d'autres possibilités,» et il a loué le "processus de démocratisation" du groupe de Shanghai tout en dénigrant l'«islamophobie» européenne. Le 4 février , le président Abdullah Gül est allé dans le sens opposé, en déclarant que "L'OCS n'était pas pas une alternative à l'UE …. La Turquie veut adopter et mettre en œuvre les critères de l'UE."


La manœuvre feinte d'aller vers l'OCS rencontre des obstacles importants: si Ankara mène l'action pour renverser Bachar al-Assad, l'OCS soutient fermement le leader syrien assiégé. Les troupes de l'OTAN viennent juste d'arriver en Turquie pour l'équiper de batteries de missiles Patriot protégeant ce pays contre des missiles de fabrication russe de la Syrie [Ankara a demandé à l'OTAN de déployer des missiles Patriot le long de la frontière turco-syrienne qui s'étend sur 820 kilomètres (NDLT)]. Plus fondamentalement, les six membres de l'OCS dans leur totalité s'opposent fermement à l'islamisme que soutient Erdogan. Peut-être, par conséquent, Erdogan a-t-il mentionné l'adhésion comme membre de l'OCS seulement pour faire pression sur l'Union européenne, ou comme discours symbolique destiné à ses partisans.


Les deux sont possibles. Mais je prends le long flirt de six mois au sérieux pour trois raisons. Tout d'abord, Erdoğan a établi un record de franc-parler, ce qui conduit un auteur d'articles, un auteur-clé, Sedat Ergin , à qualifier la déclaration du 25 janvier d'Erdogan comme étant peut-être la «plus importante» déclaration de politique étrangère qu'il ait jamais faite.


Deuxièmement, comme le journaliste turc [auteur de chroniques paraissant régulièrement] Kadri Gürsel, le souligne,« Les critères de l'UE exigent de la part de la Turquie [que soient respectés] la démocratie , les droits de l'homme , les droits syndicaux, les droits des minorités, l'égalité entre les sexes, la répartition équitable des revenus, la participation et le pluralisme. L'OCS en tant qu'union de pays dirigés par des dictateurs et des autocrates n'exigera aucun de ces critères d'adhésion. " Contrairement à l'Union européenne, les membres de Shanghai ne feront pas pression sur Erdoğan pour qu'il libéralise mais ils encourageront les tendances dictatoriales qui sont en lui et que tant de Turcs redoutent déjà.


Troisièmement, l'OCS correspond bien à son impulsion islamiste qui le pousse à défier l'Occident et à rêver d'une solution de rechange. L'OCS, avec russe et chinois comme langues officielles, a un ADN profondément anti-occidental et ses réunions sont hérissées de sentiments anti-occidentaux . Par exemple, lorsque le président iranien Mahmoud Ahmedinejad s'est adressé au groupe en 2011, personne ne refusa sa théorie du complot à propos du 11 septembre selon laquelle [cet attentat] ne serait qu'un coup monté de l'intérieur par le gouvernement des USA "comme un prétexte pour envahir l'Afghanistan et l'Irak et pour tuer et blesser plus d'un million de personnes. " De nombreux bailleurs de fonds font écho à l'analyste égyptien Galal Nassar dans son espoir qu'en fin de compte l'OCS "aura une chance de régler la compétition internationale à son avantage." A l'inverse, comme un fonctionnaire japonais a noté, "L'OCS est devenue un bloc rival de l'alliance américaine. Elle ne partage pas nos valeurs."


Les démarches turques en vue de devenir membre du groupe de Shanghai mettent en évidence l'adhésion maintenant ambivalente d'Ankara dans l'Organisation du Traité Atlantique Nord, nettement symbolisée par l'exercice sans précédent des forces aériennes conjointes turco-chinoises de 2010. Compte tenu de cette réalité la Turquie d'Erdogan n'est plus un partenaire digne de confiance pour l'Occident mais ressemble plus à une taupe introduite dans le saint des saints[espion au cœur de la maison de l'Occident (NDLT)]. Si elle n'est pas expulsée, elle devrait au moins être exclue temporairement de l'OTAN.


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Is Turkey Leaving the West?: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Feb. 7, 2013Recent steps taken by the government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.  Starting in 2007, Ankara applied unsuccessfully three times to join as a guest member the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (or SCO, informally known as the Shanghai Five).


In Turkey, AKP Proposes 'Elected Sultan Regime': Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013There has been a long-standing consensus among Turkey’s political parties, civic society and opinion leaders on eliminating the country’s authoritarian constitution — the legacy of a putschist military — and replacing it with a civilian, libertarian version.


Erdogan's Kurdish Issues: Morton Abramowitz, Jessica Sims, National Interest, January 28, 2013Turkey’s political discussion changes quickly. Yesterday it was mostly Syria. Today it is making peace with Kurds. That has been a boon to prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political standing—at least for the moment.


On Topic Links


Confronting Turkey: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2013

Erdogan's Syria Policy: Wrong from the Start: Tulin Daloglu, Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013

Why Turkey is Talking to its PKK Nemesis: Pelin Turgut, Time World, Jan. 15, 2013
Questions Obama Didn't Answer: Cengiz Çandar, Al-Monitor, Feb. 11, 2013




Daniel Pipes

National Review, Feb. 7, 2013


Recent steps taken by the government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.  Starting in 2007, Ankara applied unsuccessfully three times to join as a guest member the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (or SCO, informally known as the Shanghai Five). Founded in 1996 by the Russian and Chinese governments, along with three former-Soviet Central Asian states (and in 2001 a fourth), the SCO has received minimal attention in the West, although it has grand security and other aspirations, including the possible creation of a gas cartel. It offers an alternative to the Western model, from forsaking NATO and democracy to displacing the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency.


After those three rejections, Ankara applied for “dialogue partner” status in 2011. In June 2012, it won approval. One month later, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reported his saying to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, “Come, accept us into the Shanghai Five [as a full member] and we will reconsider the European Union.” Erdoğan reiterated this idea on January 25, noting stalled Turkish efforts to join the EU: “As the prime minister of 75 million people,” he explained, “you start looking around for alternatives. That is why I told Mr. Putin the other day, ‘Take us into the Shanghai Five; do it, and we will say goodbye to the EU.’ What’s the point of stalling?” He added that the SCO “is much better, it is much more powerful [than the EU], and we share values with its members.”


On January 31, the foreign ministry announced plans for an upgrade to “observer state” at the SCO. On February 3 Erdoğan reiterated his earlier point, saying, “We will search for alternatives,” and praised the Shanghai group’s “democratization process” while disparaging European “Islamophobia.” But on February 4, President Abdullah Gül pushed back, declaring that “the SCO is not an alternative to the EU. . . . Turkey wants to adopt and implement EU criteria.” What does this all amount to?


The SCO bid faces significant obstacles. If Ankara leads the effort to overthrow Bashar Assad, it will cause problems, because the SCO firmly supports the beleaguered Syrian leader. NATO troops have just arrived in Turkey to man Patriot batteries protecting that country from Syria’s Russian-made missiles. More profoundly, all six SCO members strongly oppose the Islamism that Erdoğan espouses. Perhaps, therefore, Erdoğan mentioned SCO membership only to pressure the EU, or to offer symbolic rhetoric for his supporters.


Both are possible. But I take the half-year-long flirtation seriously for three reasons. First, Erdoğan has established a record of straight talk, leading one key columnist, Sedat Ergin, to call the January 25 statement perhaps his “most important” foreign-policy proclamation ever.


Second, as Turkish columnist Kadri Gürsel points out, “The EU criteria demand democracy, human rights, union rights, minority rights, gender equality, equitable distribution of income, participation and pluralism for Turkey. SCO as a union of countries ruled by dictators and autocrats will not demand any of those criteria for joining.” Unlike the European Union, Shanghai members will not press Erdoğan to liberalize but will encourage the dictatorial tendencies in him that so many Turks already fear.


Third, the SCO fits his Islamist impulse to defy the West and to dream of an alternative to it. The SCO, with Russian and Chinese as official languages, has deeply anti-Western DNA, and its meetings bristle with anti-Western sentiments. For example, when Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the group in 2011, no one refused his conspiracy theory about 9/11 being a U.S. government inside job used “as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for killing and wounding over a million people.” Many backers echo Egyptian analyst Galal Nassar in his hope that ultimately the SCO “will have a chance of settling the international contest in its favor.” Conversely, as a Japanese official has noted, “The SCO is becoming a rival block to the U.S. alliance. It does not share our values.”


Turkish steps toward joining the Shanghai group highlight Ankara’s now-ambivalent membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, starkly symbolized by the unprecedented joint Turkish-Chinese air exercise of 2010. Given this reality, Erdoğan’s Turkey is no longer a trustworthy partner for the West but more like a mole in its inner sanctum. If not expelled, it should at least be suspended from NATO.

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Kadri Gursel

Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013


There has been a long-standing consensus among Turkey’s political parties, civic society and opinion leaders on eliminating the country’s authoritarian constitution — the legacy of a putschist military — and replacing it with a civilian, libertarian version. The current constitution was drawn up under the tutelage of generals who toppled the civilian government in the 1980 military coup, and it was endorsed in a 1982 referendum by 92 percent of voters. Despite nearly 30 amendments since then, it has preserved its authoritarian spirit.


On Oct. 19, 2011, the four parties in Turkey’s parliament set up the Constitution Conciliation Commission as part of an agreement to scrap the existing ragbag constitution and to draft a new one that meets contemporary norms. Commission progress was initially slow. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the other two opposition forces — the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) — are all represented equally.


When the commission began to discuss core issues that would determine whether the new system would be a democracy, such as the constitutional setup of executive, legislative and judiciary powers, it became clear why the AKP felt the urge for a new constitution. In November, the AKP submitted a proposal outlining an authoritarian presidential system that subjugates the legislature to the executive power. With this proposal, the ruling party effectively destroyed the ground for any constitutional compromise with the CHP and the MHP.


It has long been known that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan aspires to abolish Turkey’s parliamentary regime, shift to a presidential system and become its first president. Let's look at what this proposal — drafted based on Erdogan’s wishes — would do.


The proposed constitution stipulates that elections for the single-chamber legislative assembly and the president, who holds the executive power, will be held on the same day. The clause is designed to ensure that the political tendency of the voters shapes simultaneously both parliament and the presidency, and that both elections eventually produce the same political outcome. As a result, the room for checks and balances between the legislative and executive powers is restricted from the very start….


Under the AKP proposal, the president is entitled to extraordinary powers — including dissolving parliament, calling parliamentary and presidential elections, and governing the country through presidential decrees that evade legislative processes. Under the proposal, the president holds such extensive powers over parliament that the presidency is capable of blocking virtually any legislation. If the president is unhappy with a given bill and returns it to parliament, the legislature can pass the bill unchanged and send it back for ratification only with a three-fifths majority. A simple majority is enough for the procedure under the current constitution.


On Feb. 5, the AKP submitted a further proposal for the judicial section of the new constitution, demonstrating that Erdogan also aspires to eliminate the separation of powers — an indispensable principle of democracy….Under the plan, seven members would be elected by parliament, while the president would directly appoint another seven. The proposal means that a total of 14 board members would be determined by the political authority, as parliament's picks are by simple majority — in other words, the governing majority. As a result, the political authority takes full control of the HSYK, a strategic body that shapes the judiciary. This would entirely eradicate judicial independence.


The Constitutional Court, which is supposed to keep the government under constitutional supervision, would face a similar fate under AKP proposals. Under the existing system, three of the 17 court members are elected by parliament from among several candidates. The president names the remaining 14 members — four of them by his own choice, and 10 from among candidates nominated by the higher judicial organs.


Under the AKP proposal, parliament elects nine of the Constitutional Court members, and the president picks directly another eight. The higher judicial organs make no nominations. If members of the Constitutional Court were determined directly by the political authority, it would become almost impossible for this body to exert any supervision over the executive power and the quasi legislature.


In sum, Erdogan’s a-la-carte presidential system would eradicate the separation of powers and concentrate all power in the hands of a single person. It makes it impossible for institutions to fulfill their duties of checks and balances.


If this proposal becomes Turkey’s new constitution, Turkey will no longer be a democracy. It's a proposal for an authoritarian regime with an “elected sultan” ruling Turkey. To make it happen, the AKP has to bargain and hammer out a deal with the Kurdish party, and then ensure that more than 50 percent of the people vote “yes” for the new constitution at a referendum, scheduled to be held no later than the last quarter of 2013.


Kadri Gürsel is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse and has written a column for the Turkish daily Milliyet since 2007.


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Morton Abramowitz, Jessica Sims

National Interest, January 28, 2013


Turkey’s political discussion changes quickly. Yesterday it was mostly Syria. Today it is making peace with Kurds. That has been a boon to prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political standing—at least for the moment.


2012 marked the AKP’s ten-year anniversary as the ruling party, a rare feat in Turkish politics. The party has been one of the few constants in a new, more vital Turkey. But it was a difficult year for Erdogan because of Syria’s unending civil war. After a year of intense criticism over his handling of Syria, including from members of his own party, Erdogan’s political fortunes seemed to be suffering.


For the first time, the prime minister was losing public support, and his effort to constitutionally change Turkey’s political system to a powerful presidential one was running into trouble. More specifically, Erdogan had little to show for his efforts to bring down Assad: more than 150,000 Syrian refugees in camps, another 80,000 in Turkish towns and cities, an ever-rising budgetary bill and no sign that his former friend Bashar al-Assad would go. Even worse, the removal of Assad’s forces from Kurdish-inhabited areas allowed the PKK’s Syrian offshoot to gain dominance and perhaps the ability to create another Kurdish autonomous zone in a new Syria.


None of this has changed—if anything Syria is worse—but the mood in Turkey has changed. Erdogan’s political standing received a major bump when he announced that the government had resumed discussions with the PKK’s only leader ever, Abdullah Ocalan. More impressive, he allowed Kurdish parliamentarians to meet with Ocalan for the first time after 14 years of solitary imprisonment. His effort won endorsement across the political spectrum (except for the nationalists) and served to deflect criticism over the continuing Syrian disaster. Turkey has turned hopeful that, however great the uncertainties, talks with Ocalan can morph into a sustained negotiation to end the fighting and address the demands of Turkey’s large Kurdish population. The AKP’s approval rate remains over 50 percent.


The peace process is inherently difficult. The bona fides of both sides remain to be proven, emotions are deep, and the cohesion of the PKK is uncertain. But regional events can sharply intrude on that process and on Erdogan’s efforts to change the political system: the crisis in Syria could worsen even if Assad goes, with greater sectarian bloodletting; there is the prospect of more refugees, and an uncertain future for the Kurds in a destroyed Syria; and perhaps more immediately, the deepening crisis over Iraq’s unity and the future of its quasi-independent Kurdish area.


Syria’s descent into civil war has been enormously costly for Turkey and for Erdogan. Syria marked the end of Turkey’s “zero problems” policy, but more than that revealed the limits of Erdogan’s influence in the Middle East. This contrasted badly with the image of respected deal-maker that Erdogan tried to cultivate.


Erdogan was forced to abandon his early briskness toward Turkey’s traditional security alliance and instead hoped to persuade Obama to get rid of Assad. Help didn’t come and he felt somewhat abandoned, leaving Turkey to deal with Syria on its own.


But he came to see the need to draw closer to NATO and asked for and received Patriot missiles with little domestic protest. Once sceptical of NATO missions and his Western bona fides questioned abroad, Erdogan’s marked change confirmed the value he came to place on the U.S. connection despite its inaction on Syria.


His public plea for more assistance opened a new line of criticism, this time from his brethren in the Islamist media who questioned how Erdogan could be both a partner in NATO intervention in Syria and the voice of Arab democrats. Many also questioned the wisdom of putting all eggs in the Assad-must-go basket, while the political opposition hammered Erdogan for failing to keep Turkey out of the Syrian crossfire, stop the refugee exodus and show some progress. Erdogan will initially benefit politically from Assad’s departure no matter how it happens….


In a post-Assad Syria, Erdogan will probably put his weight behind the Sunnis, who his religious base also supports. Turkey could find itself in the uncomfortable position of backing a Muslim Brotherhood government influenced by Saudi or Qatari money and more radical than it would like. This would put it at odds with the U.S. vision of a moderate, inclusive government in which the Kurds have a bigger say.


The fate of the Syrian Kurds will directly impact on Erdogan’s own handling and control of his domestic Kurdish peace process. The PKK, with a safe haven across Turkey’s border, could be a direct security threat to Turkey and one Erdogan wants to avoid. He boldly put down a red line that Turkey would not accept any autonomous Kurdish area in Syria—but whether he can prevent one is uncertain. An unruly battle between Kurds and Assad’s successors over a second autonomous Kurdish region on Turkey’s border could be politically corrosive for Erdogan and Turkey, particularly if it comes in the middle of Turkey’s own Kurdish peace efforts.


A more immediate pressing regional concern for Turkey is the steady political disintegration of Iraq and the possible emergence of an independent Kurdish state. Iraq is increasingly divided on sectarian lines. Turkey’s relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have grown close and Ankara is supporting the Kurds in their deepening disputes with Baghdad over the direct export of oil and Kurdish claims to the Kirkuk region.


Turkey has become bitterly opposed to Prime Minister Malaki and fearful of Iranian domination of Iraq. The Turkish government has made it clear that the Iraqi political problem is Malaki’s dictatorial approach; he must be removed if Iraq is to remain united. This has put Turkey at odds with the United States, which believes that Malaki is central to preserving a united Iraq. Thus, Turkey has an anomaly: it wants to keep Iraq united for fear of the impact of an independent Kurdish state on Turkey’s own Kurds, but is at the same time contributing to Iraq’s dissolution. It also has to be concerned that Arab Iraq would fight to prevent the Kurdish region from exiting Iraq.


Erdogan’s political future has a lot riding on events in Syria and Iraq. His Syrian policy continues to cost him politically. His vast improvement of relations with the KRG has become popular and very profitable for Turkey, which has been crucial in helping transform the Kurdish region. But the possibility of a breakthrough on the century-old Kurdish question, however difficult, has made those issues increasingly important. Negotiations with Ocalan and the Kurds will be long and the prospects for success remain dubious, but as long as progress seems to be made through the first half of this year, Erdogan may be able to get his constitutional changes with help from Kurdish parliamentarians—instead of, as he originally planned, from his now antagonistic nationalists….


The Kurdish issue in Turkey has now become an American problem as well. The United States has stayed always away from the issue, except to give considerable support to Turkey’s efforts to destroy the PKK in northern Iraq. But what the United States does on Syria and Iraq may now directly affect Turkey’s internal situation. Today, Washington is not on the same page with Turkey over Iraq and quite possibly also over Syria—if and when Assad goes. For the first time, the United States will need a region-wide Kurdish policy. U.S.-Turkey relations might become a little tense.


Mort Abramowitz, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, is a former ambassador to Turkey. Jessica Sims is a research associate at The Century Foundation.


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Confronting Turkey: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2013How can one explain the reticence of the US and other Western powers in the face of Turkey’s aggressive declarations? On Saturday night, Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign minister of Turkey, a country that is a member of NATO and a candidate to join the EU, threatened to launch a military offensive against Israel, an important US ally.


Erdogan's Syria Policy: Wrong from the Start: Tulin Daloglu, Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013How far can goodwill get you? If it is supported by facts and grounded in actions, perhaps as far as you want it to. If not, remain alert. Take for instance, the trouble caused for Turkey by the “zero problems with neighbors” policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Why Turkey is Talking to its PKK Nemesis: Pelin Turgut, Time World, Jan. 15, 2013Turkey’s government revealed earlier this month that it had begun talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader serving a life term on an island prison. These talks are aimed at establishing a ceasefire and eventual disarmament of the PKK, in exchange for addressing unspecified Kurdish grievances.

Questions Obama Didn't Answer: Cengiz Çandar, Al-Monitor, Feb. 11, 2013If anyone is looking for clues about the current state of Turkish-American relations, the Feb. 10 issue of the Milliyet daily presents an opportunity. The importance of those relations is not limited to the bilateral level; they carry significance for the whole Middle East region and even for the international system in general. 




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