Tag: Recep Tayyip Erdogan


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

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

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

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


On Topic Links


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

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

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

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



TURKEY’S FAILED GRAND DESIGN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST                                                            

Burak Bekdil

           BESA, June 16, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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






Nadav Shragai

Israel Hayom, June 23, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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





Uzay Bulut

Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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

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






Sibel Hurtas

Al-Monitor, June 22, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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

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




On Topic Links


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

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

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

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










The Turmoil in Turkey: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2017— Islamic State claimed responsibility Monday for a New Year’s terrorist attack at an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people…

In Turkey, U.S. Hand Is Seen in Nearly Every Crisis: Tim Arango, New York Times, Jan. 4, 2017— Turkish officials accused the United States of abetting a failed coup last summer.

Turkey’s True Tragedy Is the Anti-Israel Tyrant Erdogan: Ruthie Blum, Algemeiner, Dec. 14. 2016  — On Sunday, after visiting the Haseki Hospital in Istanbul, where scores of survivors of Saturday night’s twin bombings near the capital city’s Besiktas stadium were being treated for serious injuries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was surrounded outside by crowds shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”).

Turkey's "Long Arm" in Europe: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 1, 2017— Officially, Turkey's General Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet in Turkish) has a mission about offering institutional religious services independent of all political ideologies.


On Topic Links


ISIS’s Jihad on Turkey: Roy Gutman, Daily Beast, Jan. 2, 2017

Turkey Brandishes Incirlik Card to Threaten US: Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2017

How Istanbul Nightclub Attack was Linked to Turkey’s Culture War: Mustafa Akyol, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2017

Turkey’s Genocidal Shame: Robert Fulford, National Post, Sept. 16, 2016





Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2017


Islamic State claimed responsibility Monday for a New Year’s terrorist attack at an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, and the Turks deserve Western support as they fight on the front lines against jihadists. The tragedy is that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems intent on alienating so many of his friends and antiterror allies, including anyone who supports democratic values.


ISIS is suspected of having carried out previous attacks in Turkey, such as June’s suicide bombings at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that killed 45. Though this is the first direct claim of responsibility, ISIS is known for attacking soft targets popular with foreigners. The victims included citizens of Belgium, Canada, Kuwait, Lebanon, India, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. ISIS said it targeted the nightclub because Christians would be “celebrating their pagan holiday.” The killer was still at large as we went to press, but the ISIS claim will make it harder for Mr. Erdogan to resort to his usual default of blaming the Kurds for every attack in Turkey. The Kurdish insurgency broke out anew after Mr. Erdogan abandoned peace talks in 2015 and some Kurds have committed atrocities.


But the escalating tempo and intensity of Turkey’s Islamist insurgency reveals the folly of Mr. Erdogan’s history of underestimating the ISIS threat. For years Ankara looked the other way as hard-line jihadists poured into Syria, destabilizing both sides of the border. He still sometimes implies he might let Syrian migrants flood Europe again to gain diplomatic leverage, as if the threat doesn’t also hurt Turkey’s security. Mr. Erdogan’s own Islamist and autocratic tendencies have also compounded the country’s vulnerability. Since an attempted coup last summer, the President has purged thousands of police officers and soldiers, and the resulting talent and resources gap may have damaged Ankara’s counterterror capabilities.


He is also using the coup and terrorism as excuses to crack down on institutions like a free press and independent judiciary that could help counter the Islamist threat. After Islamic State recently burned alive two Turkish soldiers, Mr. Erdogan’s government instructed the Turkish media not to publish images from an Islamic State video of the murders. Does he think Turks won’t hear about it? A Wall Street Journal reporter in Turkey, Dion Nissenbaum, was detained and held incommunicado last week for reasons that were never made clear. Mr. Nissenbaum was denied contact with his family, lawyers and colleagues for nearly three days before he was released and allowed to leave the country. Our Sohrab Ahmari has written about Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor and U.S. citizen imprisoned by Turkish police on charges of belonging to a terrorist group after 23 years raising a family in the country. The Turks have provided scant evidence for the charge.


Mr. Erdogan is polarizing Turkish society when it badly needs a unified front to fight jihadists. He also needs allies against Islamic State, but he sees treachery everywhere these days except among his new friends in Moscow. Turkey would be a more secure country, and a better one, if Mr. Erdogan’s response to every problem wasn’t to put more power in his own hands.           




Tim Arango                                                                                                                     

New York Times, Jan. 4, 2017


Turkish officials accused the United States of abetting a failed coup last summer. When the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated last month, the Turkish press said the United States was behind the attack. And once again, after a gunman walked into an Istanbul nightclub early on New Year’s Day and killed dozens, the pro-government news media pointed a finger at the United States. “America Chief Suspect,” one headline blared after the attack. On Twitter, a Turkish lawmaker, referring to the name of the nightclub, wrote: “Whoever the triggerman is, Reina attack is an act of CIA. Period.”


Turkey has been confronted with a cascade of crises that seem to have only accelerated as the Syrian civil war has spilled across the border. But the events have not pushed Turkey closer to its NATO allies. Conversely, they have drifted further apart as the nation lashes out at Washington and moves closer to Moscow, working with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, to secure a cease-fire in Syria.


One story in the Turkish press, based on a routine travel warning issued by the American Embassy in Turkey, was that the United States had advance knowledge of the nightclub attack, which the Islamic State later claimed responsibility for. Another suggested that stun grenades used by the gunman had come from stocks held by the American military. Still another claimed the assault was a plot by the United States to sow divisions in Turkey between the secular and the religious. Rather than bringing the United States and Turkey together in the common fight against terrorism, the nightclub attack, even with the gunman still on the run, appears to have only accelerated Turkey’s shift away from the West, at a time when its democracy is eroding amid a growing crackdown on civil society.


All of this is a reflection, many critics say, of what they call the paranoia and authoritarianism of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose leadership has so deeply divided the country that, instead of unifying to confront terrorism, Turkish society is fracturing further with each attack. The West, symbolized by the United States, is the perennial bogeyman. While seeming to pile on the Obama administration in its waning days — by accusing it of supporting Turkey’s enemies, including the Islamic State; Kurdish militants; and supporters of an exiled Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom Mr. Erdogan blamed for directing the coup — Turkish officials are also telegraphing something else: that they are willing to open the door and improve relations with the United States once President-elect Donald J. Trump takes office.


“Our expectation from the new administration is to end this shame,” Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said this week while accusing the United States of providing weapons to Kurdish militants in Syria who are fighting the Islamic State, but are also an enemy of Turkey. “We are not holding the new administration responsible for this,” Mr. Yildirim said. “Because this is the work of the Obama administration.”


Meanwhile, the nightclub assailant is on the loose. The Turkish authorities said on Wednesday that they had identified the killer, but refused to release any other details, although photographs of the man, from surveillance cameras, have been released. Also, a video surfaced that appeared to show the assailant recording himself in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. A senior United States official, who has been briefed on the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details, said the Turks had recovered the video from a raid on a house in Istanbul. The official said the Turks now believed the killer was from Uzbekistan, not Kyrgyzstan, as many reports this week had first suggested. The official expressed alarm at the growing anti-Americanism in Turkey, which seems to accumulate after each crisis here, and said it put the lives of Americans in the country in jeopardy.


The chaotic investigation has added to the anxiety on Istanbul’s streets, with vehicle checkpoints, night raids on houses and low-flying helicopters. “There is significant fear in ordinary people,” said Aydin Engin, a columnist at the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, who was detained last year as part of the government’s crackdown on the news media. “Fear prevails when it comes to going to an entertainment place, being in a crowd, going to a shopping mall, getting on the metro.”


With each passing day, public life descends deeper into what many Turks concede is a mix of darkness and seeming absurdity, with growing fears of violence and expressions of xenophobia set next to repressions on civic life. In the days before and after the nightclub massacre on the shores of the Bosporus, nationalists staged a mock execution of Santa Claus in the name of defending Islam; a reporter for The Wall Street Journal was detained, strip-searched and placed in solitary confinement — for, according to the newspaper’s account, “violating a government ban on publication of images from an Islamic State video”; and a well-known fashion designer was beaten up at the Istanbul airport and arrested for his social media posts…

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





Ruthie Blum

Algemeiner, Dec. 14. 2016 


On Sunday, after visiting the Haseki Hospital in Istanbul, where scores of survivors of Saturday night’s twin bombings near the capital city’s Besiktas stadium were being treated for serious injuries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was surrounded outside by crowds shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”). As funerals began to be held for the 44 people killed in the bombings, most of them police officers, the government declared a national day of mourning, and Erdogan vowed to bring the perpetrators of the latest mass assault in Turkey to justice.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting that morning by saying, “In the struggle against terrorism there has to be a mutuality in condemnation as well as in thwarting the attacks, and that is Israel’s expectation from all countries it has relations with.” The message he was conveying to Erdogan was harsh, but apt. Though Jerusalem and Ankara have restored diplomatic ties after a six-year split — with the incoming Turkish emissary’s arrival in Tel Aviv virtually coinciding with the attack — relations between the two are cold.


Erdogan is an Islamist tyrant, who has spent the past 14 years transforming the previously democratic country into his personal fiefdom, incarcerating anyone he deems a threat to his rule. This practice burst into full flower following the failed coup attempt against him in July, which some believe he orchestrated for the purpose of legitimizing his sweeping oppression. Nor are his repeated declarations about combating terrorism anything more than propaganda. He has illustrated in word and deed that he is selective about which groups he believes need eradicating and which others are worth bolstering. So, while joining the West in fighting Islamic State thugs, he boasts a close partnership with Hamas, the equally vicious murder machine that controls the Gaza Strip, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s outlawed terrorist organization.


Indeed, it was his instigation of the attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza that precipitated the Turkey-Israel schism. This was only bridged when Israel conceded to a list of utterly unjust and draconian demands, including $20 million “compensation” to the families of the perpetrators killed and injured on the Mavi Marmara ship by IDF commandos who shot at their assailants in self-defense.


In August, a month after the attempted coup in Turkey, a Qassam rocket struck a yard in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. Though the attack was committed by a different terrorist group, Israel made good on its oft-repeated promise to hold Hamas responsible for any such activity emanating from Gaza, and bombarded a number of targets in the terrorist-run enclave. The rocket attack and retaliatory strike took place two days after the Turkish parliament ratified the rapprochement agreement with Israel reached in June. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s Foreign Ministry ripped into Israel, “strongly condemning” its “disproportionate attacks, unacceptable whatever prompted them.”


“The normalization of our country’s relations with Israel does not mean we will stay silent in the face of such attacks against the Palestinian people,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement read. Israel’s Foreign Ministry shot back: “The normalization of our relations with Turkey does not mean that we will remain silent in the face of its baseless condemnations. Israel will continue to defend its civilians from all rocket fire on our territory, in accordance with international law and our conscience. Turkey should think twice before criticizing the military actions of others.”


As if to prove that he never “thinks twice” before engaging in hypocrisy and brutality, Erdogan launched a full-fledged military operation in the town of Jarablus, along the Turkey-Syria border, three days later. The purpose of the operation, code-named “Euphrates Shield,” was to wrest the area from Islamic State terrorists and Syria-based Kurdish militias affiliated with insurgents in Turkey. That the Kurds were also fighting Islamic State, and receiving U.S. aid to do so, was of no interest to Erdogan, who views them as a danger to his reign. This is why his first reaction to Saturday night’s carnage was to blame the Kurds and their “Western” backers. His second was to impose a ban on news coverage of the event, and arrest a number of people who posted comments about it on social media. This is but one tiny example of Erdogan’s lack of genuine desire to stomp out terrorism.


Another was apparent at the end of last month. A week before Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Na’eh, presented his credentials in Ankara, Istanbul hosted the first annual conference of the association of “Parliamentarians for Al-Quds.” During the two-day gathering, Erdogan said, “Policies of oppression, deportation and discrimination have been increasingly continuing against our Palestinian brothers since 1948. Actually, I am of the belief that the Palestinian issue serves as a litmus test for the UN Security Council.”


Erdogan’s statement was a milder version of what he had said several days earlier, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2: “I don’t agree with what Hitler did and I also don’t agree with what Israel did in Gaza,” he told interviewer Ilana Dayan. “Therefore there’s no place for comparison in order to say what’s more barbaric.” Erdogan’s open assertion that the establishment of the Jewish state is responsible for its “Nazi-like” response to decades of Palestinian-Arab terrorism tells us all we need to know about his true attitude towards the slaughter of innocent people. It is he who is Turkey’s greatest tragedy.





                     TURKEY'S "LONG ARM" IN EUROPE                

         Burak Bekdil

                                                  Gatestone Institute, Jan. 1, 2016


Officially, Turkey's General Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet in Turkish) has a mission about offering institutional religious services independent of all political ideologies. In practice, Diyanet's understanding of "offering institutional religious services" can be different from what the term should mean. Recently, the office of Istanbul's mufti, an official of Diyanet, described the location of a mosque as "… it was [in the past] a filthy Jewish and Christian neighbourhood." After press coverage, the depiction was removed from the web page.


Diyanet's "institutional religious services" may sometimes even overlap with what in other countries people call intelligence. In a briefing for a parliamentary commission, Diyanet admitted that it gathered intelligence via imams from 38 countries on the activities of suspected followers of the US-based preacher Fetullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accused of being the mastermind of the attempted coup on July 15. As if it is the most normal thing in the world, Diyanet said its imams gathered intelligence and prepared reports from Abkhazia, Germany, Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.


After several other political absurdities, Turkey has finally won the title of having the world's first spook-imams — and that is official. This is unnerving for many European countries hosting millions of Turks. In October, a Turkish-German political scientist, Burak Copur, warned that growing support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could lead to Germans of Turkish descent creating a violent Turkish nationalist movement. In July, Cem Ozdemir, an ethnic Turk and leader of Germany's Greens Party, warned of the influence of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which he claimed took its funding and its orders directly from Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). A similar statement was made the month before by integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz.


The Dutch government has warned people about "agent imams" from Turkey, and has solicited complaints about malfeasance. The Netherlands also said it would challenge every instance of the "long arm" of Ankara extending to its territory, after a report that the Turkish embassy had sent home many Dutch Turks who might have sympathized with July's failed coup. Turkey's ambassador to The Hague was summoned after reports that a Diyanet official acknowledged he had compiled a list of "Gülenists".


Germany was less diplomatic in expressing its discontent about Turkish spies. Earlier in December, German police arrested a 31-year-old Turkish man suspected of providing information on Kurds living in Germany to Turkish intelligence agencies, according to the German federal prosecutor's office. A statement from the office said: "The accused is strongly suspected of working for the Turkish intelligence agency and providing information about Kurds living in Germany, including their whereabouts, contacts and political activities". Turkey is exporting its political wars and tensions to Europe. That is not a good sign for the Old Continent.






The Government of Canada is proceeding to address unproven increases in instances of “Islamophobia” while calling for countering unsubstantiated charges of “systemic racism and religious discrimination”. This issue was originally tabled in Parliament in the form of a House of Commons “E” petition (e-411) by Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. The petition called for the condemnation of “all forms of Islamophobia” and received UNANIMOUS consent by Canadian Members of Parliament on 26 October, 2016. This was followed in rapid-fire fashion by a second motion sponsored by Iqra Khalid, Member of Parliament from Mississauga Erin-Mills. The first initiative was progressed with little public input and scant interest displayed by the media at-large. The second motion was tabled on 01 December, 2016 and called for the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to produce related findings and recommendations within 240 calendar days of the motion’s acceptance…


Given the current Government’s stated goal of obtaining a seat at the United Nations Security Council, pressures from within and outside the country from powerful Islamic lobby groups and the Government’s demonstrated proclivity to progress the “Islamophobia” initiative with undue haste and in the absence of evidence, there is a real risk that the fundamental right to “free speech” by all Canadians will be unnecessarily curtailed to accommodate the sensibilities of a specialized group….No such breach of the rights of Canadian citizens (should) be countenanced…all Canadians’…fundamental right to free speech (should be) preserved.                                                                                                                        

[To review the resolutions, and the petition related to them, click the following link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


ISIS’s Jihad on Turkey: Roy Gutman, Daily Beast, Jan. 2, 2017—Ten days before the New Year's attack on an Istanbul night club for which the so-called Islamic State now claims responsibility,  it posted a grisly video on social media showing its forces burning two Turkish soldiers alive—and coupled it with a warning of worse atrocities to come.

Turkey Brandishes Incirlik Card to Threaten US: Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2017—Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu renewed calls today for Washington to sever ties with the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the top ally of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, and to provide air support to Turkish forces fighting to dislodge the jihadists from the Syrian town of al-Bab.

How Istanbul Nightclub Attack was Linked to Turkey’s Culture War: Mustafa Akyol, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2017—On New Year’s Eve, many Turks, including myself, were hoping to begin a less bloody and less depressing year than 2016. It took only one hour and 15 minutes, however, for 2017 to present its first carnage. A lone gunman, later identified as a militant of the Islamic State (IS), entered Reina, one of Istanbul’s top nightclubs, and killed 39 people who were celebrating the New Year. He also triggered a deep fault line in Turkish society between the more secular, Westernized Turks, and more traditional Islamic ones.

Turkey’s Genocidal Shame: Robert Fulford, National Post, Sept. 16, 2016 —A question Adolf Hitler once asked still haunts the history of political atrocities: “Who remembers the Armenians today?”










Democracy’s Disintegration in Turkey: New York Times, Mar. 7, 2016— If there was any doubt about why the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized the newspaper Zaman last week, consider this: Within 48 hours after the takeover, the paper began publishing pro-Erdogan propaganda.

A Weakened Turkey Seeks Israel's Help to Break Growing Isolation: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 1, 2016— Even if Israel and Turkey soon announce an end to their diplomatic crisis, which began almost six years ago as a result of the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship incident, relations between the two countries will not go back to how they once were.

Turkey's "Fall and Fall": Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 28, 2016 — Less than a decade ago, many Western statesmen and pundits were racing ahead to praise Turkey's Islamist leaders as "post-modern, democratic, reformist, pro-European Union Islamists" who could play the role model for less democratic Muslim nations in the Middle East.

In Turkey, a Kurdish City Confronts Its Ruins: Ayla Albayrak, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 3, 2016— Thousands of residents from a small Turkish city caught in the country’s fight against Kurdish separatists returned to their homes this week to find their community in ruins.


On Topic Links


How Turkey Held the EU for Ransom: Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico, Mar. 8,2015

The Middle East’s Alphabet Soup of Kurds, Explained: Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2016

Islamist Turkey is Imploding: Alex Alexiev, American Thinker, Feb. 24, 2016

Saudi Arabia and Turkey Are Walking into a Trap: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 16, 2016




New York Times, Mar. 7, 2016


If there was any doubt about why the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized the newspaper Zaman last week, consider this: Within 48 hours after the takeover, the paper began publishing pro-Erdogan propaganda.


Zaman, Turkey’s largest circulation daily, was one of the country’s few opposition media outlets before the police used tear gas and water cannons on Friday to disperse a crowd outside the paper’s headquarters chanting, “Free press cannot be silenced” as it raided the offices. The police acted after a court in Istanbul, without explanation, put the paper under the administration of a panel of trustees.


Before the takeover was complete, the journalists put out a Saturday edition of the newspaper with the headline, “The Constitution Is Suspended.” In the end, the newspaper’s editor was fired and efforts were underway to eradicate the paper’s entire online archive, according to news reports.


The attack on Zaman is no surprise. The paper has been associated with Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Mr. Gulen, once an ally of Mr. Erdogan, broke with the Turkish leader about two years ago and the media group switched from being pro-government to anti-government.


This crackdown is merely the latest of Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian moves, which have included imprisoning critics, sidelining the military and reigniting war on Kurdish separatists. He now controls much of the media and has made Turkey a leader among countries that jail journalists. Along with his campaign to wipe out a free press, his government’s prosecutors have opened nearly 2,000 cases against Turks in the last 18 months for insulting Mr. Erdogan, which is a crime.


Turkey was once on track to be a model Muslim democracy, though it now seems unlikely that Mr. Erdogan ever believed in democratic principles. The fact that he is moving the country ever further from that path raises serious questions about whether Turkey can continue to be a trusted member of NATO, which was founded as a security alliance based on common values.


It is unsettling that the United States and Europe have responded so meekly to Mr. Erdogan’s trampling of a free press. The Obama administration said the move against Zaman was “troubling,” while the European Union said Turkey “needs to respect and promote high democratic standards and practices, including freedom of the media.”


They may well be muting their criticism in hopes of persuading Turkey to help contain the refugee crisis that is roiling Europe. On Monday, Mr. Erdogan offered a harder stance, setting new demands for his cooperation, including billions more in aid and earlier membership in the European Union for Turkey. That’s not the approach of an ally, and Mr. Erdogan’s turn toward authoritarianism will not strengthen Turkey, NATO or the European Union.





Yossi Melman                                  

            Jerusalem Post, Mar. 1, 2016


Even if Israel and Turkey soon announce an end to their diplomatic crisis, which began almost six years ago as a result of the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship incident, relations between the two countries will not go back to how they once were. The golden era of cooperation in the security and intelligence fields between the two countries up until a decade ago will certainly not come back. 


Turkey was a large and important market for Israel's security industries, which provided drones, intelligence systems, tank and planes upgrades, and more. For years, there was close cooperation between the Mossad and Turkey's intelligence agency, the MIT, which included meetings, an exchange of each countries' situational assessments and more. This cooperation began in 1958 with the initiation of an intelligence pact between Iran's SAVAK, under the Shah, the Mossad and Turkish intelligence. The codename in Israel for this pact was "Clil" (Complete).


These intimate relations were ended by Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he rose to power in 2002, first as prime minister, and currently as president. It was a gradual process that deteriorated after the Marmara incident. However, the 2010 flotilla was merely a symptom of a deeper issue. Yet, despite the security and intelligence disconnect and the diplomatic crisis, both commercial and tourism ties did grow under Erdogan.


The initiative for a turnaround in relations has come from Ankara – if indeed there is a reconciliation afoot as Turkish media have reported and Turkey's foreign minister expects. Erdogan's foreign and defense policies have failed miserably. He saw himself as the renewer of the days of the Ottoman Empire and as a modern-day, 21st century Sultan. He aimed to turn Turkey into a regional power, and perhaps into the strongest force in the Middle East, but this did not happen.


Instead, Turkey finds itself in a conflict with Russia and Iran over Syria, where Erdogan hoped to see President Bashar Assad ousted. Erdogan supported the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and now he finds himself at odds with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Because of Turkey's uncompromising fight against its Kurdish population, as well as in Syria and Iraq, Ankara is also losing its influence with NATO and with the US. Turkey is now more isolated than ever and is therefore interested in renewing ties with Israel, in the hope that the Jewish state can help Ankara improve its standing in Washington. Turkey also needs natural gas from Israel in order to diversify its sources of energy and to reduce its dependency on Russian gas.


Most of the disagreements between Israel and Turkey stemming from the Marmara incident have already been rectified. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the incident in which nine Turkish citizens were killed. Israel has already made clear that it is prepared to pay some $25 million in compensation to the families of the victims. Turkey has deported senior Hamas military wing official Salah Aruri from the country and has tightened its supervision of the organization's members at Israel's request. Ankara has also agreed to institute special legislation that will prevent IDF commanders from standing trial for the Marmara incident.


However, the bigger problem to be solved is connected to Hamas in Gaza. Turkey is looking for a foothold in the Strip. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon is strongly opposed to this, with his main argument being, to use a schoolyard expression, "You started it." Meaning, Erdogan broke the rules, and therefore he bears the responsibility for rectifying the situation. Egypt's Sisi as well is not prepared to easily forgive and grant Erdogan a prize for his behavior, as if nothing happened.


If the golden formula is found, and the crisis is indeed solved, it will be part of a three-way deal: Israel-Egypt-Turkey, in which the strategic alliance with Egypt is much more important to Israel than rehabilitating ties with Turkey. Anyways, as the phrase goes, it's not over until it's over.




Burak Bekdil                    

Gatestone Institute, Feb. 28, 2016


Less than a decade ago, many Western statesmen and pundits were racing ahead to praise Turkey's Islamist leaders as "post-modern, democratic, reformist, pro-European Union Islamists" who could play the role model for less democratic Muslim nations in the Middle East. It was "The Rise and Rise of Turkey," as Patrick Seale put it in the New York Times in 2009. In reality, the "post-modern Islamists" were just Islamists gift-wrapped in a nicer package. Today, Turks are paying a heavy price for the neo-Ottoman, revisionist, miscalculated strategic vision of their leaders.


In July, a Turkish-Kurdish suicide bomber murdered more than 30 pro-Kurdish activists in a small town along Turkey's border with Syria. Three months later, jihadist suicide bombers murdered more than 100 pro-peace activists in the heart of Ankara, in the worst single act of terror in Turkish history. The Turkish government manipulatively put the blame on a "cocktail" group of terrorists, including Kurds. In January, jihadists murdered 10 German tourists in Istanbul in another suicide bomb attack.


On October 10, 2015, jihadist suicide bombers murdered more than 100 pro-peace activists in the heart of Ankara, in the worst single act of terror in Turkish history…Most recently, on February 17, a Kurdish militant murdered nearly 30 people, including military personnel, just a few hundred meters away from the Turkish parliament in Ankara.


In a span of only seven months, more than 170 people have lost their lives in bomb attacks. This number excludes the more than 300 security officials killed by Kurdish militants, and more than a thousand Kurdish militants killed by Turkish security forces since a Turkish-Kurdish ceasefire ended last July.


Outside its borders, Turkey is floating on a sea of chaos too. The country is in an increasingly dangerous proxy war against a bloc of Shiite and Shiite-dominated governments in Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran, plus their Russian supporters. In addition, for Turkey's neo-Ottomans, Lebanon, Libya, Israel and Egypt are all "hostile lands."


Government officials privately claim that Turkey's enemies were using terror groups to launch attacks on Turkish targets. "It's like you know well who is behind the attacks but cannot prove it … The masterminds can be one or more of the countries we have locked horns with," a senior security official told this author recently. Not a nice feeling to be the common target of a number of thuggish-to-rogue states with the capability of manipulating terrorists.


The players in the eastern Mediterranean theater, including Turkey, are running after a bigger slice of a smaller pie. Turkey's sectarian ambitions are no secret. Nor are Iran's. Today there are nearly 50,000 Shiite militiamen fighting in Syria, where a majority of the population is Sunni (as in Turkey).


Russia, on the other hand, since September 30 has been bombing targets hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russian aircraft have carried out about 7,500 sorties, 89% of which have hit Assad's opponents from groups other than the Islamic State (IS). Only 11% have targeted IS, which is everyone's common enemy.


Russia has also piled up a very serious military inventory around the Caspian Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. Russia is in the process of encircling Turkey militarily — in Syria, the Crimea, Ukraine and Armenia. Most recently, Moscow announced the deployment of a new batch of fighter aircraft and attack helicopters to an air base outside the Armenian capital, Yerevan, 25 miles from the Turkish border.


Turkey looks helpless. Even its NATO allies look deeply reserved over any help they would be prepared to extend to Ankara in case of a conflict with Russia. Recently, Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, warned the Turkish government that it cannot count on NATO's support if its tensions with Russia escalated into an armed conflict.


Russia's fight is not about defeating the Islamic State, but about expanding its sphere of influence in the eastern Mediterranean, including the mouth of the Suez Canal. In a way, Russia is challenging NATO through Syria — the same way Turkey is challenging the Shiites through Syria, or Iran is challenging the Sunnis through Syria.


There are a number of questions concerning the possibility of peace returning to this part of the world. Will the Muslims ever stop hating and killing each other, including bombing their mosques, along sectarian lines and end their 14-century-long war? Will there be functional governments in Damascus and Baghdad any time soon? Will the Sunni world ever stop its own radicalization without peace being imposed upon it from the non-Muslim world? Will the Shiite world ever control its own sectarian expansionist ambitions?


Will the Sunni and Shiite worlds ever stop hating Jews and committing themselves to annihilating the State of Israel? Will Turkey's Islamists ever realize that their neo-Ottoman ambitions are too disproportionate to their power and regional clout? Will the Western world be prepared to challenge Russia, the new thuggish kid on the block called the eastern Mediterranean? If yes, how? Will the players in the eastern Mediterranean ever be happy with a bigger pie and their slices not necessarily getting smaller? The answers of this author to those questions are negative.           




Ayla Albayrak     

                                                Wall Street Journal, Mar. 3, 2016


Thousands of residents from a small Turkish city caught in the country’s fight against Kurdish separatists returned to their homes this week to find their community in ruins. Neighborhoods at the heart of a monthslong battle have been reduced to rubble reminiscent of the besieged cities of neighboring Syria. Security officials are slowly clearing the city of makeshift bombs they say were left by Kurdish militants. Police snipers keep watch from rooftops at the city’s entrance for any new signs of trouble.


Residents said they pulled two bodies out of collapsed rubble on Wednesday, one of which appeared to be that of a young boy. “I have no hope for this place anymore,” said Firat Duymak, an 18-year-old resident. He returned to Cizre after burying his father, who he said refused to leave the town as the fighting worsened.


Turkey launched its military campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, last July after the collapse of a two-year-old cease fire stoked a new era of fighting in Kurdish towns and cities. Cizre, a Kurdish-majority city of 130,000 on the Syrian border, has been the scene of some of the worst of it. Emboldened by the successes of U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in neighboring Syria, who have started to carve out a quasi-state along the Turkish border, a new generation of PKK militants are challenging Ankara’s control in southeastern Turkey, where the Kurds have struggled for decades to secure greater autonomy.


Ankara has responded by repeatedly bombing PKK sanctuaries in northern Iraq. It has shelled U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters it accuses of funneling weapons into Turkey and sent tanks to confront militants across southeast Turkey in places like Cizre, a city that traditionally has been a strong base of support for the PKK. The U.S., Turkey and European Union have designated the PKK a terrorist group. Last fall, Turkey sent tanks and troops to clear the city of hundreds of PKK fighters. Thousands of its residents fled the fighting to neighboring villages and nearby cities.


On Wednesday, Turkey partially lifted a blanket curfew on Cizre and declared it safe for residents to return. What they found left many in despair. Mr. Duymak said his 55-year-old father, Mahmut, was one of the few Cizre residents who decided to stay to help people injured in the fighting. As the battles intensified, Mr. Duymak said, his father was trapped in a basement with several dead bodies and injured residents who waited for ambulances to take them to safety. Help never arrived, he said.


“When I received his body for burial, it was just a bag of flesh and bones,” Mr. Duymak said as he stood near the rubble covering the basement where his father died. The basements of Cizre became a rallying cry for Kurdish politicians during the military operation. Kurdish leaders said dozens of innocent, injured civilians had been trapped by the fighting, while the government said it was impossible for ambulances to rescue them because of PKK attacks.


Turkish officials dismissed as terrorist propaganda the claims of Kurdish politicians and some residents that Turkish forces had deliberately targeted civilians and deprived residents of medical care. Officials said the basements were being used as militant bases and as makeshift PKK hospitals to treat wounded fighters.


On Thursday, Ali Ihsan Su, governor of Sirnak province, blamed the PKK for destroying Cizre. “Terrorists damaged citizens’ homes by planting explosives from their kitchens to their bedrooms, burning down and destroying their homes,” he said. “They acted in extreme savagery, attacking lives of people, regardless of whether they were soldiers, police, women, men, young or old.”


While the governor blamed the PKK, the owner of one commercial building, who asked not to be identified, said Turkish security forces had been the ones to damage his place while using it as a command center. “They hung a big Turkish flag on the exterior of our building,” he said. “I don’t know why they created this havoc, it’s inhumane.”


Throughout the town, residents found graffiti supporting Turkish forces. Turkish flags were painted on walls alongside slogans threatening to kill “traitors of the state.” Graffiti in one room of the commercial building threatened a female teacher with rape and accused her of being a traitor. Outside the wall of the building, someone had spray-painted a final warning: “If your ass starts itching again, we will return.”


The Sirnak governor’s office declined to comment on the claims of damage caused by security forces, but it has vowed to help the city rebuild and offer aid to “all victims of terrorism.” The Turkish military said it killed more than 600 PKK fighters in Cizre, making it the scene of the most deadly operation so far. According to figures from the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit that analyzes global conflict, 344 Turkish security forces, at least 298 PKK militants and as many as 259 civilians in the region have been killed since last July.


This week, Cizre residents began to rebuild. As they considered the aftermath, a few blamed Kurdish fighters for wrecking their town. “This is the PKK’s fault,” said Isa, a 26-year-old furniture seller who refused to give his last name out of fear of reprisal. Isa said the young Kurdish separatists seemed harmless when they first started handing out antismoking and antidrug leaflets three years ago. That changed when they took up arms against Turkey, built barricades in the city and dug trenches, declaring “self-rule”, he said.


One day, four boys with Kalashnikovs came to his shop to ask for curtains they could use to shield fighters from Turkish snipers. “I refused and they shouted at me, saying I’d be chucked out when Kurdistan was set up,” he said. “They made us targets too.”


On Topic


How Turkey Held the EU for Ransom: Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico, Mar. 8,2015—Shopping in a Turkish bazaar is never wise for the novice. The EU learned that lesson the hard way when it discovered the carefully crafted refugee deal it believed it had sold to Turkish leaders in the run-up to Monday’s summit turned out to be little more than the beginning of the negotiation.

The Middle East’s Alphabet Soup of Kurds, Explained: Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2016 —When it comes to many of the interlocking conflicts of the Middle East, the Kurds seem to be a kind of glue. For decades, millions of Kurds have lived as part of stateless ethnic minorities across a vast expanse of the region, from Iran in the east to Turkey in the west. To varying degrees, they were marginalized, oppressed and under-represented.

Islamist Turkey is Imploding: Alex Alexiev, American Thinker, Feb. 24, 2016—In the past two weeks a number of events have taken place in Turkey that, taken together, indicate that this erstwhile U.S. ally is spinning dangerously out of control with neither Ankara nor Washington and its European allies having the slightest clue of what to do.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey Are Walking into a Trap: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 16, 2016—After Russia's increasingly bold military engagement in war-torn Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite bloc, the regional Sunni powers – Turkey and its ally, Saudi Arabia – have felt nervous and incapable of influencing the civil war in favor of the many Islamist groups fighting Assad's forces.
















Jew-Hating Turkish President ‘Mas-Kom-Ya’ Erdogan Extols Hitler’s Presidency: Andrew G. Bostom, Breitbart, Jan. 4, 2016 — Upon returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited a striking example to illustrate his quest for consolidation of executive powers.

Russian Imperialism Meets Illusions of Ottoman Grandeur: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2015 — In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks."

Experts say Hamas and ISIS Cooperating to Fight Their New Common Enemy: Egypt: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2016— Hamas and Islamic State in Sinai have been cooperating in the smuggling of weapons, demonstrating that while Hamas is a nationalist Islamist movement, it also has common roots from which to build a functioning relationship with jihadists.

The Coptic Pope Goes to Jerusalem: Samuel Tadros, Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2016 — In a move that has sent shockwaves throughout Egypt, the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, travelled to Jerusalem Thursday at the head of a distinguished delegation of bishops from the Coptic Church.


On Topic Links


Just What the Middle East Needs: Turkey’s Getting an Aircraft Carrier: Thomas Seibert, Daily Beast, Jan. 5, 2016

Is Turkey Heading to Partition?: Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2016

Gunmen Fire at Bus Carrying Israeli Tourists in Egypt: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 7, 2015

Saving Gazans or Saving Gaza’s Terrorist Tunnels?: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Dec. 29, 2015





Andrew G. Bostom

Breitbart, Jan. 4, 2016


Upon returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited a striking example to illustrate his quest for consolidation of executive powers. Per a recording broadcast by the Dogan news agency, Erdogan invoked Adolf Hitler’s Germany as an effective presidential system, stating, “There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany.”


Clumsily attempting to explain away Erdogan’s unambiguous remarks, a senior Turkish official claimed the good President intended to highlight Nazi Germany as an example of “how not to implement” such a system, averring, “There are good and poor examples of presidential systems and the important thing is to put checks and balances in place.” Citing Hitler is sadly concordant with the current Turkish President’s well-established animus towards Jews—rooted in Islam’s conspiratorial Jew-hating canon within Turkey and beyond.


For example, Erdogan’s religiously-inspired Jew-hatred did not pass unnoticed by Gabby Levy, an Israeli ambassador to Turkey, as recorded in a WikiLeaks cable from October, 2009, sent by the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Levy’s views were validated by US ambassador James Jeffrey in “C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 001549. SUBJECT: ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TRACES HIS PROBLEMS TO ERDOGAN. REF: ANKARA 1532. Classified By: AMB James F. Jeffrey.” Here are relevant extracts from Ambassador’s Jeffrey’s 2009 cable:


    Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan’s hostility, arguing the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel. Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan’s harshness to deep-seated emotion: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously and his hatred is spreading.” [US ambassador Jeffrey’s observations] Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel…


As I have detailed in the past, Erdogan wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play titled Maskomya, staged throughout Turkey during the 1970s. He was serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of Erbakan’s National Salvation Party at the time. “Mas-Kom-Ya” is a compound acronym for “Masons-Communists-Yahudi” — “Jews” — and the play focused on the evil nature of these three, whose common denominator was Judaism. When Valley of the Wolves was released in Turkey in 2006, it became the most expensive film ever made in Turkey. The film included a “cinematic motif” which featured an American Jewish doctor dismembering Iraqis allegedly murdered by American soldiers in order to harvest their organs for Jewish markets. At the time, then-Prime Minister Erdogan not only failed to condemn the film, he justified its production and popularity. His wife, Emine, also attended a gala screening of the film and sat next to the movie’s star.


Erdogan’s perfidious tribute to Hitler’s executive attributes is compounded by his morally cretinous equation of Jews/the Jewish State of Israel with the Nazis and Hitler, across two decades. As Istanbul mayor, during a June 1997 celebration of the mass murderous 1453 jihad conquest of then Byzantine Constantinople, Erdogan declared: “The Jews have begun to crush the Muslims of Palestine, in the name of Zionism. Today, the image of the Jews is no different from that of the Nazis.” Nearly 20 years later, addressing an August 2014 rally prior to his election as President of Turkey, Erdogan intoned, “Just like Hitler tried to create a pure Aryan race in Germany, the State of Israel is pursuing the same goals right now.”


Yet in June, 2006, despite Erdogan’s (and his coterie’s) already well-established public record of visceral Islamic Jew-hatred, the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] awarded, and Erdogan personally accepted, the ADL’s “Courage to Care Award.” Then-Prime Minister Erdogan even had the temerity to claim in his acceptance speech, “Antisemitism has no place in Turkey. It is alien to our country.” Erdogan’s mendacious hypocrisy notwithstanding, 69% of Turks share his intense level (i.e., affirming ≥ 6/11 antisemitic stereotypes) of Jew-hatred according to the ADL’s own 2014 “Global 100: A Survey of Attitudes Toward Jews in Over 100 Countries Around the World.”


The Islamic revival movement of Erdogan’s mentor Erbakan, which spawned the current ruling AKP party, has always employed a virulently Jew-hating discourse, hinging on canonical themes from Islam. Thus central to this hatred are frequent quotations from the Koran and hadith [traditions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and the early Muslim community], nurtured by early Islam’s basic animus towards Judaism. For example, Milli Gazete, mouthpiece of the traditionalist Islamic revival, published articles in February and April of 2005 rehashing toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel and virulently Jew-hating and anti-non-Muslim “dhimmi” (per Koran 9:29). The articles used Koranic motifs, including these prototypical comments based upon Koran 2:61/3:112, which stamp eternal humiliation on the Jews for numerous transgressions, including “prophet killing”:


    In fact no amount of pages or lines would be sufficient to explain the Koranic chapters and our Lord Prophet’s [Muhammad’s] words that tell us of the betrayals of the Jews… The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews…


Also in April 2005, a Turkish jihadist organization monthly, Aylik, published 18 pages of antisemitic material produced by those claiming responsibility for the November 15, 2003, dual synagogue bombings in Istanbul. “Why Antisemitism?,” an article written by Cumali Dalkilic, combined traditional Koranic Jew-hating motifs with Nazi Jew-hatred and Holocaust denial. Another article’s title, “The Tschifits Castle,” repeats the very pejorative if commonplace Turkish Muslim characterization of Jews, “Tschifit,” which translates as “filthy Jews“—a debasing term for Jews whose usage was recorded by the European travelers Carsten Niebuhr, in 1794, and Abdolonyme Ubicini, in 1856, based upon their visits to Ottoman Turkey.


Nine years later, AKP lawmaker Cuma Icten lauded as a “magnificent speech” Imam Sait Yaz’s July 2014 sermon in Diyarbakir, broadcast on Oda TV, punctuated by these comments, redolent with Koranic themes:     “The most rabid and savage enemies of Islam on Earth are the Jews. Who says this? Allah says this [Koran 5:82]… The Jews and the Christians will never accept you unless you submit to their religion [Koran 2:120]. These Jews spoil all the agreements on Earth [2:100-101; 5:13] and have murdered [Koran 2:61/3:112]  17 of their own prophets… And I declare here: All Jews who have taken up arms to murder Muslims must be killed, and Israel must be wiped off the map! And it will be wiped out with Allah’s help!”


Moreover, it is well past time to dispel the corrosive myth of an alleged half millennium of Ottoman Turkish comity towards the dhimmi Jewish communities it ruled under the Sharia. This false narrative, as I detail in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, has been perpetuated and projected on to the comportment of the modern era Turkish Republic by Turkey’s oppressed dhimmi Jewish community, and mimicked in the behaviors of major Jewish organizations outside Turkey, notably the ADL. Courageous historian Rifat Bali, a Jew who still resides in Turkey, condemned these local and international Jewish communal attitudes and [in]actions, after the November 15, 2003 Istanbul synagogue bombings: “…all seemed determined to ignore…[rather than] to confront face to face the anti-Semitism which is incorporated in the political Islamic movement…[i.e., which currently governs Turkey].”…

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





RUSSIAN IMPERIALISM MEETS ILLUSIONS OF OTTOMAN GRANDEUR                                                     

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                                    

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2015


In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks." Almost three and a half years have passed, with Assad still in power, and Davutoglu keeps on making one passionate speech after another about the fate of Syria.


Turkey's failure to devise a credible policy on Syria has made the country's leaders nervous. Both Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have lately resorted to more aggressive, but less convincing, rhetoric on Syria. The new rhetoric features many aspects of a Sunni Islamist thinking blended with illusions of Ottoman grandeur. On December 22, Davutoglu said, "Syrian soil is not, and will not be, part of Russia's imperialistic goals." That was a relief to know! All the same, Davutoglu could have been more direct and honest if he said that: "Syrian soil will not be part of Russia's imperialistic goals because we want it to be part of Turkey's pro-Sunni, neo-Ottoman imperialistic goals."


It is obvious that Davutoglu's concern is not about a neighboring territory becoming a theater of war before it serves any foreign nation's imperialistic goals. His concern, rather, is that neighboring soil will become a theater of war and serve a pro-Shiite's imperialist goals. Hardly surprising. "What," Davutoglu asked Russia, "is the basis of your presence in Syria?" The Russians could unconvincingly reply to this unconvincing question: "Fighting terror, in general, and ISIL in particular." But then Davutoglu claims that the Russian military hits more "moderates" (read: merely jihadist killers, not to be mixed with jihadist barbarians who behead people and cheerfully release their videos). Translation: more Islamist targets and fewer ISIL targets.


A legitimate question to ask the Turkish prime minister might be: What is the basis of "moderate" Islamists' presence in Syria — especially when we know that a clear majority of the "moderate" fighters are not even Syrians. According to Turkish police records, they are mainly Chinese Uighurs, several Europeans and even one from Trinidad and Tobago. Could the basis be the religious bond? Could Prime Minister Davutoglu have politely reminded the Russians that the "moderate" fighters are Muslim whereas Russia is not? But then, one should ask, using Davutoglu's logic, "What is the basis of the U.S.-led Western coalition's airstrikes in Syria?" Since when are the Americans, British, Germans and French Muslims?


In Turkish thinking, there is just one difference between non-Muslim Russia's presence in Syria and non-Muslim allies' presence: The non-Muslim Russians seriously threaten the advancement of our pro-Sunni sectarian war in the Levant, whereas the non-Muslim allies can be instrumental in favor of it. Hence Turkey's selective objection to some of the non-Muslim players in Syria.


Earlier in 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he found it difficult to understand what Russia was doing in Syria, since "it does not even border Syria." By that logic, Turkey should not be "doing anything" in the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan or any of the non-bordering lands into which its neo-Ottoman impulses have pushed it over the past several years. By the same logic, also, Turkey should be objecting to any allied (non-Muslim) intervention in Syria, or to any Qatari or Saudi (non-bordering) intervention in the Syrian theater.


In the unrealistic imperial Turkish psyche, only Turkey and the countries that pursue regional ambitions convergent with Turkey's can have any legitimate right to design or re-design the former Ottoman lands.

Such self-righteous and assertive thinking can hardly comply with international law. The Turks and their imperial ambitions have already been declared unwelcome in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Nor would such ambitions be welcomed in any former Ottoman land to Turkey's west. But if, as Turkey's Islamists are programmed to believe, "historical and geographical bonds" give a foreign nation the right to design a polity in another nation, what better justification could the Russians have had for their post-imperial designs in Crimea?


When they have a moment of distraction from their wars against Western values, the West, Israel, Jews or infidels, the Sunni and Shiite Islamists in the Middle East fight subtle-looking (but less subtle than they think) and cunning (but less cunning than they think) wars and proxy wars, and accuse each other of pursuing sectarian policies. Turkey's rulers are no exception.   




                                                          EXPERTS SAY HAMAS AND ISIS COOPERATING TO FIGHT

                                    THEIR NEW COMMON ENEMY: EGYPT

Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2015


Hamas and Islamic State in Sinai have been cooperating in the smuggling of weapons, demonstrating that while Hamas is a nationalist Islamist movement, it also has common roots from which to build a functioning relationship with jihadists. “Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment,” according to a Washington Institute for Near East Policy report on Tuesday by Ehud Yaari, a Lafer international fellow at the think tank.


Yaari, a Middle East commentator for Channel 2, points to a secret visit by Islamic State in Sinai’s military leader, Shadi al-Menai, to Gaza this month to hold talks with Hamas’s military wing. Both Hamas and Islamic State trace their origins to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Sheikh Hassan al-Banna. Hamas is a direct offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and until its official founding in 1987, it ran its activities through the Islamic Association founded in the mid-1970s and headed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It was the first intifada that led the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza to embark “upon a direct and violent confrontation with Israel,” as explained in detail by Anat Kurz and Nahman Tal in a 1977 article for the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies titled, “Hamas: Radical Islam in a National Struggle.” “The operational turn was marked by an organizational change – the establishment of Hamas,” they wrote.


While all Islamist movements, including Islamic State and al-Qaida, are offshoots from the more pragmatic Muslim Brotherhood, they have no patience and use violence to seek immediate results to achieve their goals. Despite some shared goals between Salafist jihadists and Hamas, such as wanting to establish a caliphate to rule the world, they go about it in different ways. Islamic State, for example, totally rejects the modern concept of nationalism, while Hamas, and its mother movement the Muslim Brotherhood, accept the reality in order to build its power base in each state over time.


In addition, “Hamas rejects the Salafi jihadist concept of declaring Muslims as apostates (takfir), if they fail to follow the strict Salafi interpretation, and the declaration of jihad against irreligious Muslim rulers,” says Prof. Meir Litvak, the director for the Alliance Center of Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University in a journal article “‘Martyrdom is Life’: Jihad and Martyrdom in the Ideology of Hamas.” Litvak, an expert on Hamas, told The Jerusalem Post that while Hamas and Islamic State have ideological differences, they have a common enemy now, which is the Egyptian government. “Hamas needs the Salafi jihadists to break the Egyptian siege on Gaza. The Salafists need Hamas’s technical know-how to produce short-range rockets and other weapons,” he said. “Hence, they ignore their ideological differences for the time being and cooperate.”


Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told the Post, “Hamas has always been part of the global jihad movement, despite persistent claims that it is a nationalist terrorist group with strictly nationalist aims.” Hamas and al-Qaida trained together in Sudan during the early 1990s and the two terrorist groups maintained close ties for more than a decade, said Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the US Department of the Treasury. Furthermore, Hamas also cooperates with other Shi’ite terrorist supporters and is plugged into the Iran-sponsored terrorist network, he commented.


The Gaza-based group’s “deep ties to Hezbollah have yielded finance and operational gains over the years,” added Schanzer. “It is further instructive to note that illicit channels of finance are often shared by multiple actors." In this case, Islamic State and Hamas appear to be sharing the same channels for weapons smuggling and perhaps other financial means. “In some cases, this is simply a marriage of convenience. In others, it is a deeper strategic cooperation,” continued Schanzer, adding that in the case of these two terrorist groups, the shared disdain for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government could be an indication of the latter.                                                                       




Samuel Tadros

Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2015


In a move that has sent shockwaves throughout Egypt, the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, travelled to Jerusalem Thursday at the head of a distinguished delegation of bishops from the Coptic Church. The short flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv can be measured in minutes; the psychological distance stretches back decades. It is the dream of every Copt to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem before one’s death, and for centuries the Copts did. In the process, the Coptic community acquired a dozen churches and several monasteries in the Holy Land as well as partial rights to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After the six-day war in June 1967, it became impossible to make the pilgrimage with Egypt and Israel at war.


Those who held hopes that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979 would open the gates of Jerusalem to Coptic pilgrims were quickly disappointed as the late Pope Shenouda III (1971-2012) quickly made his decision known: No Copt would be allowed to travel to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. Copts would only enter Jerusalem with Muslims, he declared. The decision was purely political, with the man once described as Egypt’s most astute politician reasoning that if Copts went to Israel for the pilgrimage, the rest of the Arab world would see them as traitors. Many sins could be forgiven in the Arab world, he presumably reasoned, but visiting Israel is not one of them…


For thirty plus years, Pope Shenouda held firm. Nonetheless, the lure of visiting Jerusalem continued to have its hold on the hearts and minds of Copts, and some decided to ignore the Pope’s ban and make the pilgrimage. The situation became embarrassing to a Pope known for his stubbornness. In the 1990s as the hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinians encouraged more Copts to make the journey, the Pope decided to enforce his ban by prohibiting those travelling from receiving communion. Was redemption not possible? Well, one way was presented; those making the pilgrimage would then publish an apology in Egypt’s leading newspaper asking forgiveness from the Pope. Only then would they be allowed to take communion. The formula soon turned into a farce when tourism companies included the fee for the newspaper apology as part of the travel package to Israel.


Since his ascension as Pope in 2012, Pope Tawadros has tried to ease the tension. While officially maintaining his predecessor’s position, he has allowed Copts abroad to make the journey. And without making any public fuss about it, removed the ban on communion for those who defy the church’s position inside Egypt. It became obvious to church observers that his heart was not fully behind Pope Shenouda’s ban. In all cases, even under his predecessor, the Coptic Church had regularly sent monks and priests to Israel to maintain its property there. The church also ordains a Metropolitan, the second highest position in the church hierarchy after the Pope, based in Jerusalem and responsible for a wide diocese stretching from Israel to the Gulf.


Metropolitan Abraham’s death … is what brought the Pope to Jerusalem, where he will head the funeral service. The Church has already attempted to portray the visit as exceptional—that is, very different from pilgrimage, but it is unlikely anyone will buy that. Islamists will use the visit to further incite animus and hatred against the Copts. And Egypt’s deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli political class will condemn the Pope’s visit.


Why did the Pope decide to go to Jerusalem? He must have known that he will pay a heavy political price for his decision. But since his ascension to the Papacy, Tawadros has shown that once he is convinced of the soundness of a decision, he ignores its political costs. No matter what his calculus might have been, there is no turning back now. Next April when it is time for pilgrimage, thousands of Copts will make the journey no matter what the Church says officially. Pope Tawadros’ short trip may not be as historical as Sadat’s 1977 visit to Israel, but for Egypt’s Copts it may prove to be no less significant.


On Topic


Just What the Middle East Needs: Turkey’s Getting an Aircraft Carrier: Thomas Seibert, Daily Beast, Jan. 5, 2016—Turkey is getting ready to widen the reach of its military considerably by building a multipurpose aircraft carrier with “trans-continental” capabilities.

Is Turkey Heading to Partition?: Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2016—“Red lines” have been a fixture in Ankara’s policies toward the Kurds for decades. Blurring or shifting, thinning or thickening, decreasing or increasing, myriad red lines were drawn as Ankara grappled with the painful consequences of the Kurdish problem and sought to keep it under control instead of resolving it. The more the problem became regionalized, the more the red lines crossed borders.

Gunmen Fire at Bus Carrying Israeli Tourists in Egypt: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 7, 2015—Gunmen opened fire on Israeli Arab tourists as they boarded a bus in Cairo on Thursday but there were no casualties, security sources said, while the Interior Ministry said the attack was directed at security forces.

Saving Gazans or Saving Gaza’s Terrorist Tunnels?: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Dec. 29, 2015—Fourteen Gaza tunnel diggers were rescued on December 28, 2015 after their smuggling tunnel collapsed, purportedly because of Egyptian flooding of the extensive tunnel system in Gaza.










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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Israel Kasnett

Jerusalem Post, February 17, 2012

This week is the eighth annual Israeli Apartheid Week—the start of an annual campaign that seeks to delegitimize Israel and, according to the official website, “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.…”

The events will take place from February 20 to March 10 in Europe, February 26 to March 3 in the US, March 5-11 in Arab countries and South Africa, [and March 5-9 in Canada]. The website encourages activists to “Join us in making this a year of struggle against apartheid and for justice, equality, and peace.”

To be clear, these activists are not pro-Palestinian as they claim, but rather are anti-Israel. In their blind vigor to delegitimize Israel, they fail to understand that a Palestinian society that kills its own young girls in “honor killings” is not just. A society that treats its own women as second-class citizens is not interested in equality. A society that glorifies suicide bombers is not interested in peace.

And there is no logical reason these activists should take any more interest in the Palestinians than they do in the causes of others. There are millions of people around the globe suffering from far worse, but these so-called activists have decided to launch a BDS campaign on the one democracy in the Middle East solely because it is Jewish. These are people who are not concerned that the Palestinians do not have a state of their own. Rather, they are concerned with the fact that the Jewish people do.

Anti-Israel events such as Israel Apartheid Week are damaging since they reinforce, for those who are easily swayed, the false notion that Israel is an apartheid state and deserves to be sanctioned by the international community.… Thankfully, numerous pro-Israel groups today…have managed to stem the influence that anti-Israel groups have on unsuspecting students.… Will pro-Israel activists change the minds of those who are bent on defending Palestinians unconditionally? The answer is no. But activists can steer the argument in the right direction.…

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack.…” Good luck to all of you on campus who fight for Israel daily. Don’t ever give up. You are the Diaspora IDF.

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, January 22, 2012

“Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are,” goes the old adage. If that’s the case, Israel, America and the Western world are in big trouble. U.S. President Barack Obama has just named the semi-dictator of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as one of the five world leaders with whom he has a “friendship and bond of trust.” Woe be to us.

Obama told TIME Magazine that his diplomatic endeavors had been more effective because he shared “trust and confidence” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Erdogan, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, in that order.…

Israeli media, of course, played up the fact that Obama did not list Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.… But that, unfortunately, is not surprising, and it misses the point. The point—and the shocker—is that Obama does feel a kinship to Erdogan, one of the most anti-Western, anti-Israel, pro-Islamist and nasty leaders on the globe.

Erdogan has led a major reorientation in Turkish foreign policy away from the West and towards the West’s worst enemies, including Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Everyone knows that he has crashed Turkish-Israel relations, which are seen as a burden within the framework of the new Turkish foreign policy. Erdogan hardly lets a week pass without disparaging or criticizing Israel or the Jews. This undoubtedly fits well with the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments prevalent in the Muslim world. But Erdogan is Obama’s friend, with whom Obama shares a “friendship and bond of trust.”

Erdogan has curtailed freedom of the press, the freedoms of academia and the independence of the judiciary in his own country, as he attempts to build a centralized, authoritarian presidential system to suit his ambitions. Human rights in Turkey have gone from bad to worse.…

Turkey has become a very unreliable member of NATO. Led by the AKP (Erdogan’s political party), the Turkish Parliament denied permission to U.S. troops to use Turkish territory to open a northern front against Iraq in 2003. During the Georgian crisis in the summer of 2008, Ankara was slow in responding to American requests to send ships into the Black Sea via the Bosporus Strait. An even more flagrant deviation from NATO values has been the nascent military relationship and “strategic partnership” (Erdogan’s words) between Turkey and China, including the unprecedented inclusion of Chinese warplanes in a 2010 Turkish military exercise, called Anatolian Eagle, that had previously included the U.S. and Israel.…

Turkey further deviated from the Western consensus by hosting Sudanese Islamist President Omar Hassan al-Bashir twice in 2008. Bashir was charged with war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Since then, Erdogan has hosted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Ankara and backed Hamas.

Erdogan has visited Iran numerous times since 2009 and has sided with Iran on the nuclear issue, declaring Turkish support for Tehran’s “peaceful nuclear program” and voting repeatedly against American-initiated sanctions against Iran.… Erdogan has agreed to establish a $2 billion crude oil-refinery in northern Iran in defiance of the U.S., and voted against every attempt to censure Iran for building secret uranium enrichment facilities. Turkish banks openly cooperate with Iranian banks to circumvent Western sanctions.…

Erdogan is so unhinged when it comes to Israel that in 2009 he preposterously accused Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of threatening to attack the Gaza Strip with a nuclear weapon. More recently, he has threatened Israel with war over gas fields in the Mediterranean.

Turkey is an important country whose foreign policy reorientation changes the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of the radical Islamist forces. It is negatively affecting the pro-Western orientation of the Central Asian republics. It is considerably weakening the Western strategic alliance, and working assiduously to undermine Israel’s safety and security. Erdogan is directly responsible for this. But of all the world’s leaders, one of the five Obama feels closest to is Erdogan.… Unbelievable.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner

Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2012

In the wake of Gov. Rick Perry’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential race, pundits argue[d] over the reasons for his rise and fall. But one thing is for certain: Perry was the only candidate who told the truth about Turkey’s support for anti-Israel Islamic terrorists.

Perry was roundly criticized after he remarked, in the January 17 candidates’ debate, that Turkey “is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.” In response, The US State Department called Turkey “a stalwart ally” of the United States that “plays a very positive and constructive role in the region.” The New York Times…asserted flat-out that Perry’s statement was “inaccurate” and characterized Turkey’s governing party as “moderate.” Huffington Post columnist Dorian de Wind mocked Perry as an “uninformed Texas cowboy.”

But within hours, Gov. Perry’s critics were left with more than a little egg on their faces as the foreign minister of Iran, the world’s leading terrorist state, arrived in Turkey for a visit aimed at further strengthening the already-friendly relations between the two countries. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi announced in Ankara that trade between his terrorist regime and Turkey, which had been just $5 billion annually in the past, hit $15 b. in 2010 and will reach $30 b. by 2015. Salehi, by the way, has met his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, no less than 11 times in the past 12 months. How is that “positive and constructive”?

The truth about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government is that they have become experts at playing both sides of the fence—making “moderate” noises when Western ears are listening, while collaborating with Islamic terrorists and terrorist regimes whenever they can get away with it.

Thus while the United States has been struggling to find ways to stop Iran’s nuclear development, Erdogan has been defending the Iranians. During his visit to Tehran…in October 2009, he denounced Western sanctions against Iran as “arrogant.…” Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad reciprocated by praising Erdogan for his “clear stance against” Israel.

In December 2010, Erdogan traveled to Libya—Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya—to receive the “Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.” Erdogan was not the least bit embarrassed to accept such an award from one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.… He told reporters that relations between Turkey and Libya were “growing,” and that there was “much Turkish investment” in Gadaffi’s Libya. Three months later, the US was leading the NATO assault on Turkey’s Libyan friends.

Turkey’s support for the Hamas terrorists has been consistent, passionate and unequivocal. The Turkish government sponsored the May 2010 flotilla that was intercepted while attempting to bring prohibited materials to the Hamas regime in Gaza. Erdogan’s claim that the flotilla participants were peaceful civil rights activists crumbled as the whole world watched the chilling YouTube video of the Islamic extremists on board trying to beat an Israeli soldier to death with baseball bats. Other Israeli soldiers were stabbed and nearly drowned. Erdogan said it was the Israeli soldiers who were “terrorizing” the Muslim baseball players.…

[Erdogan also] told PBS’s Charlie Rose last May: “I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party. And it is an organization. It is a resistance movement.…” According to media reports last month, Turkey intends to give Hamas $300 million in aid. And [in January], Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh received the red carpet treatment on an official state visit to Turkey.…

Those who befriend Iran and finance Hamas have made it clear that they are with the terrorists. Just like Rick Perry said.

Yesim Erez

Pajamas Media, February 1, 2012

Both U.S. policy and Middle Eastern Islamists have repeatedly held up the “Turkish model” as an ideal.… During the last year, Western governments and mass media have urged new, post-revolutionary Arab governments to follow the ‘Turkish model” as a way of achieving a moderate democracy. The problem with this approach is that the Turkish model is not so moderate, democratic, or admirable.

Since achieving power almost a decade ago, the AKP has built, step-by-step, a Putin-style permanent regime by knocking over institution after institution, changing laws to give itself more power, and intimidating opponents.

Now, the last two surviving institutions, [the military and the judiciary], have received this treatment. Top military officers have been forced to resign, and scores have been arrested and imprisoned on flimsy charges. In 2010 the AKP pushed through a series of constitutional amendments that included increasing the number of members in Turkey’s Constitutional Court—its equivalent of a supreme court—from eleven to seventeen, allowing the AKP to achieve a majority of its own supporters. The size of the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges (HSYK), the body that approves judges and prosecutors, was increased from seven to twenty-two appointees. AKP filled the positions with partisans, ensuring itself absolute power over the judiciary branch of government in Turkey.

Under the AKP, Turkey has become a world leader in imprisoning journalists, students, and politicians of opposing viewpoints exercising their rights to free speech. According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the number of people in Turkey’s prisons doubled between 2006 and 2010. Close to half of them are being held without trial.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2011 “Global Gender Gap Report” measuring the gap between men and women in economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment, Turkey bottomed at 122 out of 135—down from 106 in 2006, and heading in the direction of Saudi Arabia.…

Since Western governments and media don’t criticize [Erdogan’s] regime, it can claim that it has increased Turkey’s prestige and power in the world. But central to this strategy is the conquest of all national institutions, like the mass media. In 2009, for example, the Dogan Media Group—one of the largest media enterprises to be accused of being “anti-government”—was slapped with a tax fine of about $3 billion, an amount that exceeded its market value. The fine is held over its head as a way of achieving a more positive stance toward the government.…

If the current Turkish regime is the model for the entire Middle East or Muslim world, this is a rather questionable model.…

Kemal Kılıçdaroglu

Washington Post, February 5, 2012

Many in Washington have been debating whether Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be a model for the Arab Spring.… But the reality in Turkey makes clear that the AKP model does not hold.

On Nov. 9 I visited the Silivri prison where hundreds of journalists, publishers, military officers, academics and politicians are being held. Trials were opened in 2007 on charges that an ultranationalist underground organization had plotted for years to overthrow the government. Many of those indicted have been detained for years without trial. There has not been a single conviction to date. Justice is at stake—and, so far, has been flagrantly denied. At work is an insidious attack on the rule of law by Turkey’s governing party. These trials could have been an occasion for Turkey to achieve a much-needed catharsis for correcting past wrongs, but they have been turned into instruments to silence the opposition and suppress freedoms.

Among those being held are eight opposition members of parliament. Turkey’s high election board declared that these people were qualified to stand for elections, and all won seats in parliament. That they are incarcerated violates their rights under Turkish law as elected representatives of the people.

A universal norm of the rule of law is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Another is that evidence leads to the arrest of a suspect. In today’s Turkey, however, people are treated as guilty until proven innocent. One gets arrested; then authorities gather evidence to establish an infraction. Presumed guilt is the norm. Sadly, all opponents of the government are viewed as potential terrorists or plotters against the state.

The AKP is systematic and ruthless in its persecution of any opposition to its policies. Authoritarian pressure methods such as heavy tax fines and illegal videotaping and phone tapping are widely used to silence opponents. Even more disturbing is the AKP’s claim that such things are being done in the name of democratic progress. The latest government target is the primary vestige of our democracy, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which I lead.

While at the Silivri center in November, I likened the conditions to those of a concentration camp and said that prosecutors and judges were not meting out justice and did not deserve to be called upholders of justice. This month, I learned that the prosecutor’s office had opened an inquiry into my comments, contending that I was “seeking to influence a fair trial” and “insulting public officials.…” Clearly, an effort to single out the leader of the main opposition party ratchets up the pressures on freedom of expression.…

It all boils down to this: In today’s Turkey, when one criticizes the justice system, one is prosecuted. When one appeals to the courts, one is penalized. But here is why I stand behind my words: I have the right and duty to be critical of all that is wrong in my country. It is my inalienable right to point to injustices and to ask for justice. If the courts are not performing their duty, one can, and should, stand up and say so.…

Turkey today is a country where people live in fear and are divided politically, economically and socially. Our democracy is regressing in terms of the separation of powers, basic human rights and freedoms and social development and justice. Citizens worry deeply about their future. These points are, sadly, reflected in most major international indexes…which rank Turkey quite low in terms of human rights, democracy, freedoms and equality.…

A nation plagued by multiple forms of division and polarization is doomed to failure. Tactics such as oppression, preying on fear and restricting freedoms can help sustain a government’s rule for only so long. Never in history has a government succeeded in ruling permanently through authoritarian measures. Oppression does not endure; righteousness does. Turkey will be no exception.

(Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP),
the main opposition party in Turkey.

The Fall of the Israel-Turkey Relationship

On Sunday, October 23, a devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southeast Turkey, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more. In a show of solidarity, Israeli officials called their Turkish counterparts to offer sympathy and relief aid. Turkey’s response prompted Commentary magazine editorialist, Jonathan S. Tobin, to pen the following:


“How determined is Turkey to repudiate its decades-long alliance with Israel? [The] decision by the Turks to…refuse assistance from Israel is a stunning indication of how far the Islamist government in Ankara is willing to go to make a point.… [Turkey’s Prime Minister Recip Tayip] Erdogan would apparently prefer to see his compatriots die rather than to allow Jews to help them.…”


Admittedly, Turkey did eventually accept Israel’s help, an act Defense Minister Ehud Barak hoped “may help reduce tension and open a new page in our relations with Turkey.” However, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, quickly downplayed the gesture, reaffirming that the “political conditions remain” and that despite the support Ankara would not change its position vis-a-vis the Jewish state.


This episode begs the question: how did the once-strong Israel-Turkey relationship deteriorate to such a degree?


Many identify as the turning point the now-infamous May 2010 flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish nationals were killed when Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish government-sponsored ship attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.


However, a closer examination shows that Turkey’s dismantling of its strategic partnership with Israel began long before.


Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline B. Glick notes that since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002, the regime “has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro-Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism.” Israel recently chastised Turkey’s Education Ministry for sponsoring an antisemitic website.


Glick also highlights the Turkish government’s support for terrorist groups like the al Qaida- and Hamas-linked IHH, which organized the flotilla to Gaza. Erdogan’s allegiance to Hamas, for instance, was already made overt following Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, when the Turkish prime minister acted as the “international community’s” most vocal critic of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Most conspicuous was Erdogan’s public, and well-publicized, rebuke of President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009. Erdogan has also stated, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”


More recently, Erdogan’s National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel a “major threat.” With respect to Iran, in particular, Turkey has become the regime’s economic lifeline, allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass UN sanctions. And Turkey is one of a handful of countries to have invited the President of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a formal visit.


It is worthwhile noting that Israel’s Operation Cast Lead has been largely vindicated. The military operation, aimed at halting Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of missiles at civilian population centers, provoked global condemnation, culminating in the UN’s issuance of the biased Goldstone Report. Yet Richard Goldstone, the UN fact-finding mission’s chief investigator, this year retracted many of his most dubious accusations—including charges of “war crimes” levied against IDF soldiers—in sequential op-eds written in both the Washington Post and NY Times.


This past September, after repeated delays at the behest of the Turkish government, the UN finally released the Palmer Report, the findings of an independent inquiry into the Mavi Marmara episode headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. The report exculpated Israel for its defensive actions against Turkish militants aboard the ship, stating that IDF commandos “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers…requiring them to use force for their own protection.” Moreover, the report confirmed the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure…and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”


Israel accepted the Palmer Report’s findings. Turkey rejected them outright, declaring the report “null and void.” Ironically, it was Turkey that had initially demanded the official UN probe.


Immediately following the report’s release, Turkey elevated its confrontation with Israel to new heights. Erdogan’s government downgraded the Jewish state’s diplomatic standing to second secretary level, effectively giving Israel’s ambassador 48 hours to leave the country. Turkey froze military cooperation with Israel, fortified its naval presence in the Mediterranean, and warned that the Turkish war ships would escort future flotillas to Gaza.Turkey also pledged to refer Israel’s blockade of the Strip to the International Court of Justice—despite the Palmer Report’s corroboration of the legality of the blockade—while simultaneously threatening to sue the IDF soldiers who took part in the raid.Turkish officials even went so far as to harass forty Israelis on a Tel Aviv-to-Istanbul flight by sequestering them upon landing and subjecting them to humiliating “searches.”


Concurrently, Erdogan embarked on a tour of Arab states to support the Palestinians’ unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations. Using the trip as a platform to up his anti-Israel rhetoric, Erdogan called Israel “a spoiled child,” and claimed “the Israeli people are [always] resorting back to the issue of genocide in history and…acting as if they are the victims all the time.” At a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Erdogan stressed that Israel had to “pay a price for its aggression and crimes,” and subsequently accused Israel of committing “state terrorism,” claiming Israeli policies were “cause for war.”


Erdogan also steadfastly adhered to a previous demand that Israel apologize to Turkey for the flotilla incident, despite the Palmer Report’s recommendation that Israel only make “an appropriate statement of regret.”


Yet Turkey’s shift away from Israel was clearly predictable. Since taking office, Erdogan’s Islamist AKP party has reshaped Turkey in a manner that foreshadowed conflict with the lone democratic state in the Middle East. The government has used unlawful means to suppress and silence all significant organs of secularist opposition. The regime has limited press freedoms, blocking websites such as YouTube and imprisoning more than 60 journalists. According to the International Press Institute, Turkey has more jailed journalists than any other country in the world, including China and Iran.


The repression has also extended to Turkey’s military. The Kemalist constitution originally designated Turkey’s military as the protector of secular Turkey, bound to combat all threats posed by religious political parties. Over the past decade, however, the AKP has done everything possible to criminalize the military’s leadership and reduce its constitutional powers. To date, more than 160 officers have been charged with involvement in claimed coup plots. The witch-hunt peaked in 2007 with the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy, which resulted in the conviction of senior military commanders on trumped up allegations of attempting to topple the AKP government.


A government that suppresses internal freedoms can be expected to oppose and confront countries—including Israel—which maintain and promote freedom. Turkey fits the bill. In an interview earlier this year, former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel warned that the AKP has established “an empire of fear” in Turkey.


As a result, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes in September wrote a National Post article designating Turkey, in addition to Iran, as “the most dangerous state of the region.” Pipes focuses on the AKP’s Islamization of the country, calling the phenomenon “Islamists without brakes,” and points to the abrupt resignation of four out of five Turkish chiefs of staff on July 29 as the end of the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk.


“A second republic headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist colleagues of the AK Party began that day,” Pipes asserts. “The military safely under their control, AKP ideologues can pursue their ambitions to create an Islamic order.”


Today, Erdogan is well positioned to capitalize on his Neo-Ottoman ambitions. Flush with victory after June’s election, in which his AKP won 50% of the vote, Erdogan’s goal of expanding Turkey’s influence throughout the Middle East has been given new life.


“Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul. Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, and the West Bank,” Erdogan said of his landslide win.


Barry Rubin, director of Israel’s Global Research in International Affairs Center also believes “The elections in Turkey mark[ed] a revolution, an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt.” Like Pipes, Rubin claims that “The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.”


(Charles Bybelezer is Publications Chairman
for the
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)


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


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


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


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


Zvi Bar’el

Haaretz, December 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jerusalem Post, December 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip Terzian

Weekly Standard, December 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry Rubin
Pajamas Media, December 8, 2011

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

Viscountess Astor shouted, “Nonsense!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Hamas Rejects German Mediator’s Offer on Shalit


JERUSALEM—Hamas [has] rejected an offer to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit made by [a] German mediator, a deal which the Israeli government had accepted.

Hamas political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk called the offer “unjust” and said the German mediator “endorsed the unfair and unjust positions of the Zionist government.… There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission.…”

A German government spokesman confirmed on Monday that Israel had accepted the mediator’s proposal.…

 “This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. “However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people.…”

June 25 marked the fifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a cross-border raid near Gaza. (JTA, June 28.)



Baruch Cohen

In loving memory of Malca, z’l

In memory of the victims of the Yassi Pogrom


“Besides Germany itself, Romania was thus the only country which implemented all the steps of the destruction process from definition to killings” (pg. 485).

“Witnesses and survivors testifying to the manner in which the Romanian conducted their killing operation speak of the scenes unduplicated in Axis Europe” (pg. 486).

Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews

“The Judaic religion is a satanic fatally criminal and perverse faith. The murderous satanic character of Yid religion…logically and unavoidably breeds nomadic and parasitic Judaism the way we see it now around the world.”


A.C. Cuza—Leader of the Romanian Christian Party,
1924 “Shvut”—Tel Aviv University, 1963

From Diaspora Research Institute Centre
for the History of Jews in Romania,
Tel Aviv, 1993


In Romania, the killings of Jews began in June 1940 with the retreat of the Romanian army from territories ceded to Soviet Russia. The extermination policy of Romanian Jews, which had been latent in Romania since the 1920s, was received enthusiastically by civil and military administrators, as well as the infamous fascist Iron Guard movement.

On June 11 and 12, 1941 the Romanian and German governments signed several accords in Munich and later in Berchtesgaden. Romania not only became a most devoted ally of Germany, but unconditionally supported Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

On the eve of Saturday, June 28, 1941, the chilling cry of air sirens could be heard throughout Yassi. The government claimed it was a “false alarm”. Later in the day, however, the sky was set ablaze by rockets, signaling to the public to begin the pogrom against the Jews. The following day, Duminica Aceia, the Sunday That Was, would unfold as the bloodiest day in the history of Romanian Jewry.

The Yassi Jews were forcibly gathered and brought to the police headquarters where they were fired upon at random. Within twenty-four hours, a proud, creative, and culturally rich Jewish community was destroyed. Yassi was the cradle of Yiddish theatre, yet in a matter of moments the internationally renowned Abraham Goldfarb Yiddish Theatre was no more! Of the 35,000 Jews who lived in Yassi, an estimated 10,000-12,000 were brutally maimed or murdered. An additional 2,420 Jews were crammed into two death trains, the horrors of which continue to this day to echo in the souls of the few who managed to survive.

“By the number of its victims, by the bestiality of the means used to torture and kill, by the vast scope of the pillaging and destruction, by the vast scope of the public authorities to whom the life and property of the citizens were entrusted,” writes Matatias Carp in his book Cartea Neagra: The Black Book, “the Pogrom of Yassi marked at the local level the crowning of an accursed, injurious effort which violated the Romanian conscience for a period of three-quarters of a century, and it opens at the worldwide level the most tragic chapters in history. It became the signal, not only to the Romanian Antonescu’s government, but also to all fascist Europe or massacres which during the following years were to kill six million Jewish people.”

Curzio Malaparte, an Italian journalist for the Corriere dela Sera, at the time reported that “there were groups of Jews in the street followed by soldiers and inhabitants of city arrived with sticks and iron bars, groups of gendarmes firing weapons into the doors and windows of Jewish homes.” As Malaparte writes in his book Kaput, “packs of dogs ran up gendarmes, and soldiers armed with guns were watching over them seeking to separate the corpses and put them at the cage of the streets.”

The Romanian government’s policy regarding the Jews was clear and deliberate, as noted by I.C. Butnaru in his book The Silent Holocaust: “Ion Antonescu, Romania’s Fuhrer, clearly stated [that] ‘It makes no difference to me that we’ll go down in history as barbarians. The Roman Empire performed a series of acts of barbarian according to our present standards and nevertheless it was considered the most significant political establishment. There has not existed a more favorable moment in our history. If it is needed, shoot all of them with machine guns.”

Such are the terrible recollections of the notorious “Sunday That Was,” the day of the Yassi Pogrom!

Zakor! Remember! Never again! Never forgotten!

Itgadal V’itkadash.

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)


Butnaru, I. C. The Silent Holocaust: Romania and its Jews. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992

Hieberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Chicago: Quadrangle Paperback Books, 1967

Matatias, Carp. The Black Book – Cartea Neagra: Vol 2. Bucharest: Diogene, 1996.


Barry Rubin

Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2011


The elections in Turkey [held June 12] marked a revolution. When Iran’s revolution happened and the Islamists took over in 1979, everyone knew it. In contrast, Turkey’s revolution has been a stealth operation. It has succeeded brilliantly, while Western governments have failed shockingly to understand what’s going on.

Now we are at a turning point—an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt. Of course, it will take time, but now Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.

Here are the election numbers: The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system, this will give it 325 members of parliament, or about 60% of the seats. On the opposition side, the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) got about 26% of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13%, giving it 54 seats. There are also 36 independents, all of them Kurdish communalists. Eleven parties didn’t make the minimum 10% barrier (they received only about 1% or less each).…

The outcome is…overwhelmingly bad…[as] the AKP’s percentage of voters keeps rising. Most of the people who back the party don’t want an Islamist regime, and don’t think of the AKP in those terms. It rather seems to them to be a strong nationalist party respecting religious tradition that is making Turkey an important international power and is doing a good job on the economy.

The AKP got almost—remember that, almost—everything it wanted. It increased voter support more than any other party, and will be in power for four—and perhaps many more—years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy, and shifting public opinion against Americans and Jews to a larger degree.

The only point on which the AKP seemingly fell short is that it didn’t get the two-thirds of parliament needed to pretty much write Turkey’s new constitution any way it wanted.

But so what? Deals with a few willing parliamentarians from other parties could provide the five additional votes needed for submitting an AKP-authored constitution to a referendum. The government can offer individuals a lot, including what I will delicately call personal benefits for their support. And given the way the parliamentary elections went, the AKP can almost certainly win that referendum.

In short, the AKP is entrenched in power, and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguising itself as a “center-right” reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support—Turkey has demonstrated this—it becomes more ambitious, daring and extreme.

This would include:

• A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist society.

• A more presidential style of government, empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become chief executive.

• A government that can infiltrate, take over and transform the remaining hold-out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the remainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists.

• A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like Iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hezbollah and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

• A government against US and Western interests.

• A government that, to put it bluntly, hates Israel, and many of whose members hate Jews.

• For Israel, the end of any dreams of restoring the alliance with Turkey, or even normal diplomatic relations.

This is the regime that sponsored the first Gaza flotilla and is now behind the second. From an Israeli perspective, Turkey’s government is now on the side of our enemies.

It is hard to state these unpleasant realities, and many will not want to face them. There will be no shortage of soothing analyses and encouraging talk about Turkish democracy succeeding, moderate Muslim politics, and how “great” it is that the army’s political power is destroyed.

Don’t be fooled.

This is a [occurrence] for the United States and Europe, as well as for the prospects of stability and peace in the Middle East. And it isn’t great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either. It is the end of the republic as established by Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

Yet how many people in the West actually appreciate what’s happening? How many journalists will celebrate the election as a victory for democracy? Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them.

The AKP has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA] Journal and Turkish Studies.)


Ryan Mauro

FrontPage, June 13, 2011


Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in [the June 12th] elections. The Islamists won half of the vote, leaving them short of the two-thirds majority they sought in the parliament, which would have allowed them to rewrite the constitution unobstructed. However, the AKP’s huge victory means the Islamists will still control Turkey and oversee the writing of a new constitution.

The election actually results in a slight loss for the AKP. The party currently holds 331 of the 550 seats in parliament, and is projected to now only have 325. The Islamists must win the support of only five non-AKP seats to put up a draft constitution for a referendum. The popularity of Prime Minister Erdogan and his party means that such a referendum is very likely to pass. The AKP may not have the two-thirds majority that would have allowed for a unilateral writing of the constitution, or even enough to unilaterally submit a draft for a referendum, but not much stands in its way.

“Elections taking place today are likely to be the last fair and free ones in Turkey. With Turkey’s leading Islamist party controlling all three branches of the government and the military sidelined, little will stop it from changing the rules to keep power into the indefinite future,” wrote Dr. Daniel Pipes of the electoral results.

In September, 58 percent of Turks voted in favor of a referendum that paved the way for a new constitution. Tellingly, Iran endorsed the referendum. A key objective was to undermine the power of the military that has acted as a vanguard of secularism. It asserts civilian control over the military and increased the power of the president and the parliament over the judiciary. Both the presidency and the parliament are controlled by the AKP.

The Erdogan government’s reforms were welcomed in the West because they make Turkey more democratic structurally, but these reforms have coincided with disturbing crackdowns on political opponents. The government has blocked many websites, including YouTube, without having to explain why. Over 60 journalists have been imprisoned for what they’ve written. Two of them were arrested in March and have still not been informed of the charges against them. As Dr. Barry Rubin points out, the Erdogan government has “repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy.”

There has also been a concerted effort to decrease the political influence of the military. Over 160 current and former military officers have been charged with involvement in an alleged coup plot in 2003. It has been called the “the largest-ever crackdown on Turkey’s military.” The government claims that elements of the military sought to carry out attacks, including the bombing of mosques. Those arrested have also been accused of planning to foment conflict by provoking Greece to shoot down a Turkish military aircraft. Top officials including the former commander of the First Army and former leaders of the air force, special forces and navy have been arrested. Erdogan’s opponents allege that the arrests are politically-motivated.

Erdogan was originally a member of the Welfare Party, which has been called the “motherboard of Turkish Islamists.” He was arrested for his involvement in the party. He later formed the AKP, which has been praised by the Muslim Brotherhood for “exposing of the failure of the secular trend.” Erdogan’s foreign policy has become increasingly hostile to the West as his party has grown in power.

His National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel as a “major threat.” Erdogan opposed the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir because, in his words, “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide.” He has received an award from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and has dragged his feet in confronting him. Erdogan said in June 2010, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

Erdogan has brought Turkey closer to Iran. In December, Ahmadinejad addressed the Economic Cooperation Organization in Turkey and declared that an “Islamic World Order” must replace the secular capitalist world order. Turkey has opposed U.N. sanctions on Iran, and Erdogan and President Gul met with the Iranian-backed militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr in the spring of 2009 despite the American and Iraqi blood on his hands. Turkey has denied reports that the Iranian regime secretly donated to Erdogan’s campaign.

Turkey has held joint military exercises with Syria and has been accused of having a joint military campaign with Iran against Iraqi Kurdish militants. Fortunately, Erdogan has turned on Syrian President Assad in the wake of his violence against his people. Turkey is hosting meetings of the Syrian opposition, but Erdogan may be trying to assist the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Erdogan has become increasingly confrontational towards Israel, with the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident as the prime example. The extremist IHH group behind the ambush of Israeli soldiers has strong ties to the Erdogan government and the AKP. A French counter-terrorism magistrate determined that the IHH’s goal is “overthrowing the democratic, secular and constitutional order present in Turkey and replacing it with an Islamic state founded on the Shariah.” The Israeli Defense Forces now has photos of IHH members with guns onboard the Mavi Marmara.

Erdogan’s AKP will now begin working on a new constitution. Turkey’s fate will soon be decided, and the Islamists are in the driver’s seat.


Marc Champion & Jay Solomon
Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2011


Unrest in Syria is triggering early signs of a thaw in relations between Israel and Turkey, as Ankara adapts its assertive foreign policy to meet fallout from the Arab Spring.…

In the latest sign, Turkish newspapers published an interview with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in which he called for reconciliation with Ankara and praised Turkey’s Syria policy, appealing to a common interest in the stability of a country both Israel and Turkey border. “The leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan over the issue of Syria was very, very encouraging. This should be noticed and appreciated in the region,” said Mr. Ayalon, who became infamous in Turkey after he humiliated Ankara’s ambassador on camera last year.

Mr. Ayalon’s comments followed surprisingly warm letters of congratulation to Mr. Erdogan for his June 12 re-election, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Knesset.

Turkey, for its part, pressed a Turkish charity not to send the Mavi Marmara, the Gaza-bound aid ship on which Israeli commandos last year killed nine passengers, for a repeat voyage later this month.

That is a significant change from a year ago, when Turkey’s relations with Israel and then the U.S. chilled in the wake of the Mavi Marmara clash and Ankara’s decision to vote against a U.S.-backed resolution to impose new United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran.

It also appears Syria’s crackdown has pushed Ankara and Washington into closer cooperation. U.S. officials said Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and President Barack Obama have discussed Syria twice by phone during the recent crisis and have developed a similar view on how to handle President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials said Washington in many ways is now following Ankara’s lead on Syria, as Turkey tries to persuade the regime to change, but not necessarily to leave power. “The president and Prime Minister Erdogan have a very close relationship,” said a White House official. “They talk often and get a lot of interesting things done.…”

Turkey and Israel remain at odds, however, over the Palestinian issue.… Mr. Erdogan [recently] called Israel’s treatment of Gaza “inhumane” at a news conference in Ankara with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He also pledged to support Mr. Abbas’s bid to secure UN recognition in September—a move Israel and the U.S. oppose.

An Israeli diplomat acknowledged relations with Ankara remain difficult. “There are things going on behind the scenes, but when it comes to heads-of-state meetings, we are not there. It is more quiet diplomacy,” he said.




Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 10, 2011


The January 21-22 meeting in Istanbul between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), aimed at reaching at least some understandings regarding Iran’s nuclear program, concluded in a resounding failure. To understand why is to shed light on the larger question of Iran’s regional role.

In the course of the meeting, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, head of the Iranian delegation, laid down two preconditions: a cessation of the sanctions against Iran, and recognition of its right to nuclear fuel and enrichment. In practice, the insistence on such preconditions rendered the meeting superfluous. “These preconditions are not a way to proceed,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton noted at the end of the meeting. But they came as no surprise. As Tehran had declared both before and during the talks, it did not want to deal with the nuclear issue at all but with the “entire range of regional and international problems.”

It was a small, if telling, example of how Iranian behavior prior to, during, and following the talks attested to Iran’s sense of supreme self-confidence. Western pressure notwithstanding, Iran draws encouragement from its progress on the nuclear program, from regional developments in Lebanon and Iraq, and from the frozen negotiations in the Palestinian arena. It senses that it can persist in its provocations against the West without paying any price whatsoever.… Indeed, last month’s talks in Turkey offered Iran an opportunity to show how the center of power has shifted from Western dominance to Islamic hegemony under Tehran’s leadership.…

Upon the conclusion of the talks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad hastened to emphasize that…the West had to reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran as a fait accompli. Western behavior towards Iran must take this fact as its point of departure, the Iranian leader insisted. “Conditions are now prepared for reaching good agreements in future sessions,” Ahmedinejad said, “if the opposite side complies with justice and respect (for Iran’s nuclear rights).” He boasted that the world powers had failed to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, that even hundreds of superpowers could not budge Iran from its positions.…

Iran now has sufficient low-level enriched uranium to manufacture a nuclear bomb or two. If the Iranian leadership should decide, on the basis of strategic considerations at home or abroad, to do so, it could enrich uranium to the high level requisite for nuclear weapons. (Iran currently claims that it can already enrich to a level of 20 percent to supply the research needs of the Tehran reactor.)

A recent study by the Federation of American Scientists warned of complacency and a dulling of the sense of urgency on the part of the West. Inter alia, the report concluded that “despite a drop in centrifuge numbers during 2010, the total enrichment capacity of Iran’s main facility has increased relative to previous years.… It would take Iran anywhere from five months to almost a year to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single crude bomb.…”

Reports of a delay in Iran’s nuclear progress due to the damage inflicted by the Stuxnet computer virus only reinforce Iran’s position, and at the same time allow the country to continue making progress on its clandestine military nuclear program. In their current scope, the sanctions may damage the Iranian economy and may impede the nuclear program’s pace, but are not likely to induce Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards to forgo the military nuclear program, vital for anchoring regime stability. For the moment, then, Iran only derives encouragement from the West’s persistent haplessness.

Iran today is demonstrating that it is capable of detrimentally influencing regional politics (the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) and regional stability (in Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Afghanistan). Iran also sees itself as inspiring the democratic awakening in the Arab world (Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan), viewing events in Egypt as the direct continuation of Khomeini’s revolution.… Therefore, we must restore a sense of urgency and once more put a credible military threat on the agenda. (According to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, in 2003 such a threat caused Iran temporarily to abandon the military track of its nuclear program due to apprehensions about an American attack.)

American President Barack Obama has the opportunity to “correct” the line that he adopted at the start of his term vis-à-vis Iran, a line that allowed Iran to harden its position on the nuclear issue and intensify its influence in Middle Eastern affairs.… The alternative is grim: a weakening of the moderate Arab camp, a strengthening of the “resistance camp” (Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and the other Palestinian terror organizations influenced by Iran), and a steep decline in American influence in the region. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “We have time. But not a lot of time.”


John R. Bolton
LA Times, February 3, 2011


Despite the media’s recent focus on Egypt, events in Lebanon may well tell us more about the troubled prospects for Middle Eastern democracy. The fall of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, replaced by a Hezbollah-dominated coalition, dramatically imperils Beirut’s democratic Cedar Revolution.

Financed and dominated by Iran, terrorist Hezbollah has consistently refused to disarm and become a legitimate political party. Instead, it enjoys the best of both worlds, contesting elections while retaining the military ability to enforce its will against uncongenial results. History will rightly blame the West for the tragedy of the takeover in Beirut, because of its unwillingness to stand against Hezbollah and its Iranian puppet masters.…

In mid-January at The Hague, the prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon submitted long-awaited indictments regarding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Although the indictments are not yet public, they are widely expected to finger top leaders in Hezbollah, Syria and potentially Iran, and they are doubtless behind Hezbollah’s decision to assert itself by collapsing the government of Hariri’s son.

Rescuing Lebanon from radicals and terrorists will require strong action, noticeably absent in recent U.S. policy. We can no longer pretend that the special tribunal’s existence is an adequate response to the real problem in Lebanon: Tehran’s long-standing drive for regional hegemony. It was always a mistake to confuse the effectiveness of an international criminal court with courts of real constitutional governments, and harmfully naive to think that the special tribunal could operate in a vacuum, as the events in Lebanon make painfully clear.…

For years before Hariri’s February 2005 murder, the West explained away or ignored Hezbollah’s clear role as an active agent of Syrian and Iranian influence. Western dupes and sympathizers noted Hezbollah’s support for schools and hospitals among Lebanon’s Shiite Muslims as if it were a different Hezbollah from the one terrorizing Israel and subverting and intimidating Lebanon’s faltering efforts at representative government. Hezbollah’s diaphanous justification for its military capability—expelling Israel from Lebanon—in effect ended in 2000 when Israel complied with U.N. Security Council resolutions by withdrawing its forces from southern Lebanon. Of course, protecting Lebanon is legitimately the responsibility only of the Lebanese armed forces, which in fact Syria and Hezbollah have also been working to bring under their control.

Western support for Lebanese democracy has been for the most part limited to a series of Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolution 1559, calling for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, and Resolution 1595, creating an international investigation commission to assist Lebanon in prosecuting the Hariri assassination. But Hezbollah foiled these efforts in 2006 by provoking war with Israel. The Security Council ultimately imposed a cease-fire and called for “the disarming of all armed groups in Lebanon,” for an embargo against rearming Hezbollah and for Lebanon’s government to take control of its entire territory, in order to eliminate Hezbollah’s state within a state.

But, as so often before, the West did not follow through. Instead, Iran and Syria rearmed and restored Hezbollah to greater strength (unequivocally demonstrating that Hezbollah was their proxy).

The West must insist on enforcing the Security Council resolutions in support of Lebanese sovereignty and peaceful, representative government, or stop engaging in meaningless gestures. This is our last opportunity before Hezbollah’s armed capabilities swallow democracy in Lebanon, perhaps permanently, and dramatically increase the risk of renewed hostilities throughout the region.…

Unlike Washington’s repeated prior failures, we must refuse to recognize any Hezbollah-dominated government as legitimate.… The White House has been obsessed for two years with pressuring Israel to make concessions to Palestinians instead of focusing on the manifestations of Iran’s menace. Perhaps the humiliation of Hezbollah’s collapsing of Saad Hariri’s government as Hariri was meeting in the Oval Office will help spur Obama into meaningful action. If not, the lights will be going out in Lebanon for a long time to come, with devastating consequences in the broader Middle East.


(John R. Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.)

Matthew RJ Brodsky

Ynet News, January 5, 2011


…The Obama administration is eyeing an opportunity to make headway with Syria. The theory is nothing new: If the regime in Damascus can make peace with Israel, end its sponsorship of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, distance itself from Iran, and reorient itself toward the West, then the U.S. would further isolate Tehran’s rulers while giving a critical boost to peace efforts around the region.

To that end, President Obama confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Syria and reports have surfaced of a recent back channel opened between the White House and Syrian officials in Damascus. While Team Obama may see such a development as a panacea for what ails the Middle East, the reality is that Syria will simply use the opportunity to play all sides against each other and pocket concessions, while preserving the very status quo that Washington seeks to alter.

The timing could not be any better for the Assad regime. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating the string of assassinations in 2005 including that of the pro-freedom, former Lebanese premier, Rafik Hariri, is set to hand down indictments in a matter of weeks. Hezbollah will likely be held responsible with the support and orders coming from Assad’s inner circle. Moreover, just last month U.S. satellite imagery revealed a compound in Western Syria with hundreds of missile-shaped items, functionally related to the North Korean-designed nuclear reactor destroyed in September 2007. For more than two years, Syria has blocked International Atomic Energy Agency access to the remains of the al-Kibar nuclear site and similar installations.

The pattern is already familiar. Damascus makes tactical choices for diplomatic engagement without making the strategic decision to change its worldview in a manner consistent with a state seeking either peace or a regional realignment. By engaging with Syria now, the U.S. not only ensures that Damascus will not be held to account, but it rewards their rogue behavior and emboldens America’s enemies.…

The Assad regime always benefits from the process of peace, but it is the process and not the peace that interests Damascus. That is because Syria has no intention of trading alliances or stopping its support for terrorists as its regional importance rests solely on its capacity to light fires around the region.… President Assad still considers Hamas to be a legitimate resistance group and preserving Hezbollah’s strength is a strategic imperative for the regime whose first foreign policy priority is regaining and retaining its domination over Lebanon. Simply put, for Syria, the rewards for a peace agreement acceptable in Jerusalem and Washington are far outweighed by the benefits provided by its strategic and longstanding alignment with Tehran.

[The Obama administration’s] current flirtation with Damascus, then, only provides benefits to Syria. This distraction points to an American foreign policy in the Middle East that for two years has been built on a fundamental misreading of the region. Indeed, it still rests upon the belief that the problem is one of communication, rather than the decisions and strategic calculations of states and actors such as Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

President Obama came into office with engagement as his mantra, seeking to reset U.S. relations around the globe. One can only hope the White House finds the reset button quickly when it comes to its current approach to the Middle East.

(Matthew RJ Brodsky is Director of Policy of the Jewish Policy Centerin Washington, DC.)


Avigdor Lieberman

Jerusalem Post, January 5, 2011


Contrary to popular assertions, the current crisis [between Israel and] Turkey did not begin yesterday and certainly not after the events surrounding the flotilla in May.… The exact genesis of the current crisis can be traced to the moment in January 2009 when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally attacked and humiliated [Israeli] President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Everyone who saw this unsettling scene was left in no doubt that this outburst was not improvised or reactive, but part of a carefully thought-out strategy.…

The completely unilateral change in [Israeli-Turkish] relations is not reflective of [Israel’s] actions; rather it is the result of Turkey’s internal politics. Turkey’s relations with Israel are only a small reflection of what is occurring in Turkish society. The best example of this is Ankara’s decision not to vote for sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council, in direct opposition to its allies in NATO.

Unfortunately, recent events in Turkey are reminiscent of Iran before the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei. Like Turkey, Iran was among Israel’s closest allies and the two nations held good relations between both governments and people. Similarly, the Khomenei revolution was the result of internal factors and had absolutely no connection to Israel.

During the last couple of months, the incitement against Israel has reached new heights. During Erdogan’s visit to Lebanon in late November, he said that Turkey will not “remain silent” while Israel will “kill women and children using modern aircraft, tanks…phosphorus munitions and cluster bombs.” It is important to note that Erdogan’s visit followed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon a month prior. It was difficult for us to perceive any differences in the vitriol of the two.…

The hatred and incitement reached its peak during the dreadful spectacle when a crowd of 100,000 welcomed the terror ship Mavi Marmara back to Istanbul chanting jihadist slogans and “Death to Israel.” The lack of condemnation for these outrageous scenes from any official Turkish sources makes it extremely hard for us to show restraint. We will not be a punching bag and will react, as any other sovereign nation, to such insults and abuse.

If the Turkish government is truly honest about seeking to normalize relations with Israel, it needs to stop looking for excuses and attaching preconditions.… We are seeking a return to a frank and honest dialogue with Turkey, and I invite my counterpart, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, to Jerusalem, or any other location, where we can discuss all issues of relevance to both nations and the wider region. Allies can have disagreements; it is how we deal with these disagreements that is the true mark of any relationship.

(Avigdor Lieberman is the Israeli deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.)


Max Boot
LA Times, February 13, 2011


…Remember Iraq? That country we [the U.S.] invaded in 2003? The one where more than 4,400 American soldiers have lost their lives and more than 32,000 have been wounded? The one where we’ve spent nearly $800 billion?

As recently as 2008, Iraq dominated American politics. But now it’s a nonstory. Other subjects have pushed it off the front page, from the economy and healthcare to Afghanistan, Tunisia and Egypt. In a way, Iraq has been a victim of its own success. Because it seems to be doing relatively well, policymakers have shifted their attention to more urgent concerns. But there is a danger that our present inattention could undo the progress that so many have struggled so hard to attain.

Iraq has made impressive gains since 2006, when it was on the brink of all-out civil war. Violence is down more than 90% even as the number of U.S. troops has fallen to 50,000 from 170,000. The Iraqi political system continues to function with the recent inauguration of a new coalition government led by returning Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. And the economy is picking up steam, as contracts are signed with foreign companies that can tap the country’s vast oil reserves.

But there remain disquieting reminders of darker days. More than 250 Iraqis died in terrorist attacks in January, up from 151 in December, with most of those attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose obituary has been written more than once. Roughly as many civilians died in Iraq last year as in Afghanistan—about 2,400. Remind me again which country is at peace?

The political situation [in Iraq] remains as uncertain as the security situation; indeed, the two are closely connected. The formation of a new government occurred only after an agonizing nine-month deadlock in 2010. Iyad Allawi, who won the most votes, lost the prime minister’s office and accepted as a consolation prize leadership of a new strategic policy council with undefined powers. His primarily Sunni Muslim backers remain convinced they will be frozen out of power by the Shiite prime minister. Maliki, in turn, is deeply suspicious of Sunni groups such as the Sons of Iraq, as well as of his Shiite rivals in cleric Muqtada Sadr’s movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Shiites and Sunnis are united chiefly by their desire to curb Kurdish autonomy, a prospect that fills the Kurds with understandable dread.

In short, Iraq remains a volcano. It has been capped for the moment but could erupt again. Especially because the most effective cap—a U.S. military presence—is due to be removed at the end of the year. Prospects of a security accord that would keep American forces in Iraq past 2011 are rapidly dimming. Maliki, who spent long years of exile in Syria and Iran—no fans of the United States—has always been suspicious of America. He would certainly prefer not to have tens of thousands of U.S. troops under a four-star general looking over his shoulder. President Obama, for his part, came to office pledging to withdraw from Iraq and, judging by his State of the Union address, appears determined to do just that.

Unless both men change course and soon, the mission now performed by 50,000 U.S. troops will be left to about 1,000 diplomats and perhaps 100 soldiers in an Office of Security Cooperation, with thousands of mostly non-American contractors providing security and logistical support.…

This is worrisome because if there is any lesson in American military history, it is that the longer U.S. troops stay in a post-conflict area, the greater the odds of a successful transition to democracy. The iconic examples are Germany, Japan and South Korea. When U.S. forces leave prematurely, on the other hand, the odds of a bad outcome greatly increase, whether in the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, Haiti in the 1930s and 1990s, or Somalia in the 1990s. Foreign peacekeepers are still in Bosnia and Kosovo long after the end of their conflicts. Does anyone think that Iraq is more stable than those postage-stamp-size countries on the periphery of Europe?

Iraq may very well muddle through no matter what. It has so far. But I would be a lot more confident about its future if we were making a bigger commitment. It would be a tragedy if, after years of struggle and sacrifice, we were to lose Iraq now…because of our own attention deficit disorder.

(Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.)