Turkey 2012 – 2013
Turkey’s economic success threatened by political instability
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces his biggest crisis since coming to power following corruption scandal and protests
(The Guardian) …the danger of a worsening economy is compounding the instability, essentially political, that has seized the country in the past year, generating the biggest crisis of Erdoğan’s 11 years in power – just before local and national elections this year and next.
The crisis threatens the economic gains made by the Erdoğan government: since his AK party came to power in 2002 Turkey’s staggering annual inflation rate of up to 100% has been brought down to single digits, while GDP has risen by more than 45% in real terms.
Turkish graft scandal deepens with more arrests, police dismissals
(Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government purged hundreds of police officers overnight, media said, as part of a crackdown on a rival he accuses of trying to usurp state power by tarring him with a specious corruption investigation. … Erdogan, facing the biggest challenge of an 11-year rule that has seen the army banished from politics, the economy booming and Ankara pressing its role in the Middle East, portrays the raids and arrests as a “dirty plot” by an Islamic cleric. The cleric backs no political party but exercises broad, if covert, influence in police and judiciary.
Protesting Turkish prosecutor piles pressure on PM
(Reuters) – A Turkish prosecutor accused police on Thursday of obstructing his pursuit of a high-level graft case, adding to public scrutiny of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government as it hunkered down defiantly.
Three ministers had resigned after their sons were among dozens of people detained on December 17 as part of the probe into corrupt procurement practices, which has exposed Turkey’s deep institutional divisions and left the pugnacious premier facing arguably the biggest crisis of his 11 years in power.
Erdogan responded by replacing half his cabinet with loyalists on Wednesday while investors took fright, and the lira currency fell further on Thursday to an all-time low.
Enigmatic Turkish cleric poses challenge to Erdogan’s might
(Reuters) There have long been ideological differences, many of [Fethullah] Gulen’s followers seeing him as a more progressive and pro-Western influence on Turkey than Erdogan, whose views on issues from abortion to alcohol consumption have triggered accusations of interference in Turkish private life.
Those tensions have spilled into the open in a power struggle at the heart of the ruling party that could shape Turkey’s political landscape for the next decade.
Hizmet’s power lies more in its influence within the AK Party bureaucracy than any ability to sway voters at the ballot box. With most of the electoral map AK Party orange, there is little sense it could unseat Erdogan even if it wanted.
But it could act as a check on what it might see as Erdogan’s excesses, throwing its weight for example behind the opposition in March local elections, with the commercial capital and largest city Istanbul the key prize.
Russia urged PKK to say Turkey armed Syrian opposition
Russian intelligence pressures PKK and PYD to spread false reports that Turkey gave chemical weapons to the Syrian opposition, Turkish daily claims
Russian intelligence pressured the PKK and its political offshoot in Syria, the PYD, to spread false reports that Turkey supplied opposition forces fighting against the Assad regime with weapons, including chemical ones, according to a report in Haber Turk daily.
The report indicates that Turkish intelligence learned, by listening to a phone conversation between an administrator of the PKK’s Syria branch and another member, that Russia would be pleased if the misinformation would spread.
In exchange, PYD leader Saleh Muslim would earn the opportunity to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Turkey connects Europe and Asia with new railway tunnel under the Bosporus
Sheryl Saperia: Turkey — Friend or Foe?
Is it time for Canada to designate Turkey as a state sponsor of terror?
The question may strike some as surprising. After all, Turkey is a member of NATO; it conducts joint security operations with Western allies; it has contributed to a $200-million fund to combat violent extremism; and it co-chairs the Global Counterterrorism Forum.
Yet under the rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is heading in a troubling direction.
Perhaps most striking are the ties Erdogan’s AKP government has forged with Hamas – a group that promotes a violent Islamist agenda, has links to Iran, and is listed as a terrorist entity in Canada.
In December, 2011, Erdogan’s Ministry of Finance reportedly set aside $300-million for the Hamas government in Gaza. He has so far welcomed Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to Ankara three times this year
Kurdish rebels threaten new fight in Turkey as Syria clashes intensify
(Reuters) – Kurdish rebels are ready to re-enter Turkey from northern Iraq, the head of the group’s political wing said at his mountain hideout, threatening to rekindle an insurgency unless Ankara resuscitates their peace process soon.
Accusing Turkey of waging a proxy war against Kurds in Syria by backing Islamist rebels fighting them in the north, Cemil Bayik, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) told Reuters the group had the right to retaliate.
Turkey blows Israel’s cover for Iranian spy ring
(WaPost) The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.
Turkey presents reforms aimed at pressing Kurdish peace process
(Reuters) – Turkey on Monday announced reforms seen as designed to salvage a peace process with Kurdish insurgents, including changes to the electoral system, broadening of language rights and permission for villages to use their original Kurdish names.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said the proposals, presented by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, were not enough to satisfy Kurdish militants who this month halted their withdrawal from Turkish territory.
Erdogan has invested much political capital in the peace initiative, which has drawn strong public support but is increasingly attracting fierce nationalist criticism over perceived concessions to militants officially deemed terrorists.
In a major policy speech, Erdogan said parliament would debate whether to reduce the threshold for a political party to enter parliament to 5 percent of the national vote, or even eliminate the barrier completely, and introduce a “narrowing” of the current constituency system.
The current 10 percent threshold, among the highest in the world, has kept pro-Kurdish groupings outside of parliament and has been one of the main grievances of Turkey’s Kurds who make up around a fifth of the country’s 76 million population.
Dani Rodrik: Erdoğan Is Not Turkey’s Only Problem
(Project Syndicate) Türkan Saylan was a … staunch secularist who established a foundation to provide scholarships to young girls so they could attend school. In 2009, police raided her house and confiscated documents in an investigation that linked her to an alleged terrorist group, called “Ergenekon,” supposedly bent on destabilizing Turkey in order to precipitate a military coup…. the case against her associates continued and became part of a vast wave of trials directed against opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies in the powerful Gülen movement, made up of the followers of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
… Gülen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, where he presides over a huge informal network of schools, think tanks, businesses, and media across five continents. … Back home, Gülen’s followers have created what is effectively a state within the Turkish state, gaining a strong foothold in the police force, the judiciary, and the bureaucracy. … The ultimate goal seems to be to reshape Turkish society in the movement’s own conservative-religious image. Gülenist media have been particularly active in this cause, spewing a continuous stream of disinformation about defendants in Gülen-mounted trials while covering up police misdeeds.
Troop Exercises: Turkey Prepares for Retaliatory Syrian Gas Attacks
(Spiegel) Since the nerve gas attack in Syria last Wednesday, in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed near the capital Damascus, politicians and generals in Turkey have been asking a frightening question: If the situation escalates, for example if the US carries out a military strike, would Syria fight back? And would Syrian President Bashar Assad dare to attack Turkey, and therefore NATO, using chemical weapons?
How Turkey Went From ‘Zero Problems’ to Zero Friends — And lost its leverage everywhere.
(Foreign Policy) Not so long ago, Turkey seemed to have found the elusive formula for foreign policy success. Its newly-adopted philosophy, “zero problems with neighbors,” won praise both at home and abroad as Ankara reengaged with the Middle East following a half century of estrangement. It expanded business and trade links with Arab states, as well as Iran, lifted visa restrictions with neighboring countries, and even helped mediate some of the region’s toughest disputes, brokering talks between Syria and Israel, Fatah and Hamas, and Pakistan and Afghanistan
Just a few years later, in the wake of the Arab Spring and its aftermath, that once-reliable formula is starting to look like alchemy. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now burned his bridges with the military regime in Egypt, squabbled with Gulf monarchies for refusing to stand by deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, and started a war of words with Israel for having a hand in the coup that removed Morsy from power. …
Erdogan is struggling with a new array of foreign policy challenges in other parts of the world, too. Turkey’s image in the West took a beating this summer with the protests in Gezi Park. Erdogan’s decision to put down the demonstrations with riot police, tear gas and water cannons undermined his relationship with the European Union: In late June, in the midst of the post-Gezi crackdown, Brussels decided to postpone a new round of accession talks with Ankara until October. Erdogan himself, meanwhile, has come under scathing criticism in the American press.
Turkey has done virtually nothing to undo the damage. Instead, officials have accused Western countries of orchestrating the protests and various “dark forces” — including what Erdogan cryptically calls the international “interest rate lobby” — of bankrolling them. The prime minister’s new top advisor, Yigit Bulut, has no qualms about calling the European Union “a loser headed for a wholesale collapse” while Egemen Bagis, the very minister responsible for the accession talks, quipped, ”If we have to, we could tell them, ‘Get lost’.”
While Turkey’s foreign policy struggles in the Middle East may have been inevitable, its isolation elsewhere seems self-inflicted. Today, the country risks returning to the mindset of the 1990s, when tensions abounded with Arab and European countries, conspiracy theories poisoned the political debate, and Turks – convinced they were a country under siege — repeated faithfully, “The Turk has no friend but the Turk.” Erdogan, it seems, has taken his country from “zero problems” to international headaches as far as the eye can see.
Turkey’s Jailed Journalists
(The New Yorker) What country jails the most journalists?
Measuring strictly in terms of imprisonments, Turkey—a longtime American ally, member of NATO, and showcase Muslim democracy—appears to be the most repressive country in the world.
According to the Journalists Union of Turkey, ninety-four reporters are currently imprisoned for doing their jobs. More than half are members of the Kurdish minority, which has been seeking greater freedoms since the Turkish republic was founded, in 1923. Many counts of arrested journalists go higher; the Friends of Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, a group of reporters named for two imprisoned colleagues, has compiled a detailed list of a hundred and four journalists currently in prison there.
The arrests have created an extraordinary climate of fear among journalists in Turkey, or, for that matter, for anyone contemplating criticizing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. During my recent visit there, many Turkish reporters told me that their editors have told them not to criticize Erdogan. As I detail in my piece in the magazine this week, the arrests of journalists are part of a larger campaign by Erdogan to crush domestic opposition to his rule. (March 9, 2012)
Really helpful commentary from Erdogan
Turkey: Israel behind Egyptian leader’s ouster
(AP) — Turkey’s prime minister on Tuesday accused Israel of being behind the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, offering as the only evidence for his claim a statement by a Jewish French intellectual during a meeting with an Israeli official.
In the nationally televised speech, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also took a swipe at Muslim nations, accusing them of betraying Egypt by supporting the country’s military-backed new leaders.
The evidence Erdogan gave for the alleged Israeli involvement was a meeting in France before elections in Egypt in 2011 between an Israeli justice minister and an unnamed intellectual [read on, turns out the intellectual' was the philosopher gadfly Bernard-Henri Levy] whom he quoted as saying the Muslim Brotherhood would not be in power even if it wins elections. …
The Turkish leader has drawn parallel between Morsi’s ouster and a series of anti-government protests in Turkey in June that he has blamed on an international conspiracy to topple his democratically elected government through illegal means. [emphasis added]
Ergenekon Verdicts: Erdogan Silences Dissent in Divided Turkey
(Spiegel) The convictions would seem to be consistent with Erdogan’s stated goal of curtailing the political influence of the once all-powerful generals. Indeed, at first glance it’s an understandable aim given that the army staged three coups in recent decades and regards itself as the true guardian of the national interest.
But the evidence was questionable, and in some cases non-existent. The government hasn’t targeted a small, secret group of conspirators but half the military leadership. Many author, journalists, lawyers, businesspeople and opposition politicians are in jail. Erdogan, many critics are convinced, is waging a witchhunt against his political opponents.
The anti-capitalist Muslims
(The Economist|Charlemagne) The anti-capitalist Muslims have dented Mr Erdogan’s efforts to paint the protests as part of a long battle between coup-addicted, dissolute, secular “white Turks” and downtrodden pious “Black Turks”. Mr Erdogan has derided the protesters as marauders and accused them of drinking and copulating in an Ottoman-era mosque. Yet in the two weeks before protesters were brutally evicted by riot police, they formed protective human chains around their anti-capitalist Muslim friends as they did their daily prayers. “After this experience I am ready to cross myself in a church and to light a menorah in a synagogue,” said Mr Eliacik, who is being sued by Mr Erdogan for calling him “a meathead” and “a dictator” in tweets.
The Egyptian coup is a warning to Turkey – but will Erdoğan listen?
Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Erdoğan’s AK party has alienated opponents. Ennahda in Tunisia shows a way forward for democratic Islamists
(The Guardian) The uncomfortable truth the AKP does not want to accept is that the massive protests that preceded the coup represented a broad-based rejection of Morsi’s policies. It should acknowledge this fact, and recognise that it was not political Islam the protesters rejected. Although many of the individual protesters are hostile to political Islam, others are Islamists. Neither do the Gezi Park protesters want to exclude Islamism from Turkish politics. What both movements reject is an aggressive majoritarian understanding of democracy, according to which the election winner takes all and imposes his agenda on the rest of society. The protest movements, by contrast, insist that vibrant opposition is as important a part of democracy as an elected government. The protesters’ key demand was to be taken seriously and listened to. The demonisation of opposition as the work of mysterious foreign forces, by both the AK party and the Muslim Brotherhood is therefore not just a misdiagnosis of the problem, it is the problem.
Tunisia shows a different way forward for democratic Islamists. [Update:It did until July 25th Tensions have run high in Tunisia since Mohammed Brahmi's assassination, now there is cause for worry]
How Turkey’s Leaders Are Exploiting Egypt’s Coup
(US News) If you’re reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stranger still, if you are reading the Turkish press, you might conclude that you are in Egypt, because that seems to be the only topic of conversation.
This is why: Conventional wisdom has it that the Egyptian coup was a “nightmare” for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, putting an end to his ambitious foreign policy fantasies. To an extent, this is true.
But from the domestic political perspective, it’s just the opposite: It’s his most hopeful dream come true. Not only did it turn foreign media attention away from Turkey, it enabled him to turn all domestic attention away from Turkey, lending credibility to his spurious claims that the Gezi Park protesters were coup-plotters (despite extensive, serious research suggesting that they were anything but).
Erdogan attacks west over Egypt
(Financial Times) Turkish prime minister’s comments highlight a split between Ankara and its western partners that has grown since he cracked down on protests
Turkey annuls protest park development
A COURT in Turkey has annulled a government decision to redevelop Gezi Park in Istanbul that sparked protests which snowballed into deadly nationwide unrest
Turkey’s Leadership Watches Uneasily as Egypt’s Brotherhood Stumbles
(WSJ) Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who weathered a month of nationwide protests against his own government in June, has invested heavily to forge a strong alliance with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, born from shared strategic interests and shared roots in political Islam. The collapse of the Islamist government in Cairo would mark the removal a key ally for Ankara and could further undermine Turkey’s bid to become a regional model for emerging Arab democracies.
… Analysts said that the prospect of the fall of Egypt’s democratically-elected Islamist government, could represent a serious blow to Turkey’s aspirations of regional leadership.
Turkish Talks to Continue Despite Berlin Tiff
(Spiegel) The European Union agreed on Tuesday to continue accession talks with Turkey, but only after a progress report due in October. The compromise deal serves to defuse the recent acrimonious dispute between Ankara and Berlin.[see EU delays Turkey membership talks after German pressure]
Turkey: An economic miracle under threat?
[Al Jazeera examines] how ongoing street protests and the government’s response to them will affect the Turkish economy.
Turkey was the beacon of light for nations emerging from the Arab Spring – with its democratic traditions and an economic miracle which rose from more than five decades of IMF bailouts and loans.
But could the street protests undermine a decade of stellar growth? Now its image and its economy are both at risk from the growing protest movement, and the government’s heavy-handed response to them. …
The simple story is that so much of Turkey’s success depends on foreign investment and cash. If those investors get spooked by the protests and government’s reaction to them, then Turkey’s economic future will not be in its own hands.
Turkish police use water cannon to disperse remembrance gathering
Erdoğan blames foreign-led conspiracy for Turkey and Brazil unrest as protests reignite in Taksim Square
‘Hateful’ Speech in Istanbul – Erdogan Throws Fuel on Flames
(Spiegel) He cleared out Gezi Park with brutal violence, disparaged the protesters as terrorists and railed against the foreign media. After a brief conciliatory respite, Prime Minster Erdogan is inflaming the conflict in Turkey once more. But the protest movement shows no signs of backing down.
In the middle of the week, he met with demonstrators who are commited to the preservation of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. He said that judges would deliberate on the future of the controversial park and held out the prospect of a referendum. Would Erdogan, the despot of the past two weeks, transform himself into a mediator? Since Sunday night at the latest, the answer has been a resounding no.
Edhem Eldem: Turkey’s False Nostalgia
(NYT op-ed) THE demonstrators who have filled the streets of Istanbul and other Turkish cities for nearly three weeks complain that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P., has adopted an increasingly authoritarian attitude that threatens basic freedoms. They also resent his tendency to meddle in the personal lives of citizens — by condemning abortion or trying to control the sale and consumption of alcohol.
But Mr. Erdogan isn’t the first Turkish leader to have flirted with authoritarianism and social engineering. This is important to remember, since many of his opponents tend to hark back to a nostalgic past, best illustrated by the profusion of Turkish flags and images of the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Turkish police storm protest camp using teargas and rubber bullets
Hundreds of security forces move in with bulldozers during a concert for activists, leaving many wounded
(The Guardian) The lightning evening assault on the park and nearby square followed a warning from Erdogan that protesters should quit Gezi Park or be removed by security forces ahead of a rally of his supporters in Istanbul on Sunday.
No clear result after Turkish PM, protesters meet
‘We have arrived at the end of our patience,’ PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan says
(CBC) Representatives from Taksim Solidarity, a group that has been organizing much of the activity in the Gezi occupation, said they had been promised the construction at the park would be frozen, and said they would take the meeting’s conclusions back to the protesters later Friday.
Turkish police battle protesters after Erdogan warning
(Reuters) – Turkish riot police using tear gas and water cannon battled protesters for control of Istanbul’s Taksim Square, hours after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan demanded an immediate end to 10 days of demonstrations.
Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu appeared on television, declaring that police operations would continue day and night until the square, focus of demonstrations against Erdogan, was cleared (6pm EDT)
A FB post from one young friend (who has never met a demonstration she didn’t want to join):
Flags are back up in Taksim! This morning, the Governor of Istanbul assured people that the riot cops (who were using water cannons and teargas) were just in Taksim to “take down the banners and flags” on the Atatürk monument and Atatürk Cultural Centre.
A great description of what actually happened from Joshua: “Taksim this morning was some well produced propaganda from the AKP government. A friend called it “Tayyip filming a B movie”. Police came to clear Taksim Square (but not Gezi Park) with tear gas and water cannons, and plainclothes policemen, all dressed the same, posed as activists throwing molotov cocktails at the police. The media was magically well positioned by the police to catch it all on the news, and help the govt paint activists as violent. Shameful.” Related photos from BBC
Turkey’s Erdogan to meet protesters
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to meet the organisers of ongoing protests against his government on Wednesday, says his deputy.
(BBC) “The prime minister gave an appointment to representatives of some of the groups that have been organising these protests – he will meet some of them on Wednesday upon their request and he will meet other groups in the coming days,” Mr Arinc was quoted as saying.
“They will be briefed on the facts and our prime minister will listen to their thoughts.” [emphasis added]
Twelve hours earlier, Reuters reported - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned protesters who have taken to the streets across Turkey demanding his resignation that his patience has its limits and compared the unrest with an army attempt six years ago to curb his power.
In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel
The conflict over public space is always about control versus freedom, segregation versus diversity. What’s at stake is more than a square. It’s the soul of a nation.
(NYT) After Tahrir Square in Egypt and Zuccotti Park in New York, Taksim is the latest reminder of the power of public space. The square has become an arena for clashing worldviews: an unyielding leader’s top-down, neo-Ottoman, conservative vision of the nation as a regional power versus a bottom-up, pluralist, disordered, primarily young, less Islamist vision of the country as a modern democracy. …
So public space, even a modest and chaotic swath of it like Taksim, again reveals itself as fundamentally more powerful than social media, which produce virtual communities. Revolutions happen in the flesh. In Taksim, strangers have discovered one another, their common concerns and collective voice. The power of bodies coming together, at least for the moment, has produced a democratic moment, and given the leadership a dangerous political crisis. …
The prime minister has emerged as the strongest leader Turkey has had since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic — but he remains not much of an architect or urban planner. Like other longtime rulers, he has assumed the mantle of designer in chief, fiddling over details for giant mosques, planning a massive bridge and canal, devising gated communities in the name of civic renewal and economic development. The goal is a scripted public realm. Taksim, the lively heart of modern Istanbul, has become Mr. Erdogan’s obsession, and perhaps his Achilles’ heel.
Turkey’s Class Struggle
(Project Syndicate) On the surface, the fight appears to represent two different visions of modern Turkey, secular versus religious, democratic versus authoritarian. Comparisons have been made with Occupy Wall Street. Some observers even speak of a “Turkish Spring.” … to say that Turkey has become more democratic is not to say that it has become more liberal. This is also one of the problems revealed by the Arab Spring. Giving all people a voice in government is essential to any democracy. But those voices, especially in revolutionary times, are rarely moderate.
What we see in countries such as Egypt and Turkey – and even in Syria – is what the great British liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin described as the incompatibility of equal goods. It is a mistake to believe that all good things always come together. Sometimes equally good things clash.
So it is in the painful political transitions in the Middle East. Democracy is good, and so are liberalism and tolerance. Ideally, of course, they coincide. But right now, in most parts of the Middle East, they do not. More democracy can actually mean less liberalism and more intolerance.
Turkey’s protesters seize world’s attention, but what’s their goal? (+video)
(Christian Science Monitor) Turkey’s protest movement is burgeoning, but has so far failed to find a common goal or person to coalesce around, other than opposing Prime Minister Erdogan. Spread of Protests Underline Social Divisions in Turkey – PBS interview with the CSM Istanbul correspondent.
Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan: Why Turkey is Rebelling
(Project Syndicate) we should not mistake transitional growth with long-term success, which requires strong institutions, including protection of property rights and civil liberties. This, in turn, will help to realize investments in education (especially for women) and technology, together with structural reforms, all of which have been highlighted as areas of concern in several studies of Turkey in recent years. It is far too early to ask, “How did Turkey do it?” and declare an answer based on policies that will boost short-run growth but that will run out of steam if not properly augmented.
Whether or not Turkey is a long-run development success remains to be seen. The indicators so far are not very favorable. The recent events in Taksim Square and in other Turkish cities are a stark reminder of the country’s still-weak institutional infrastructure.
Turkey’s Violent Protests in Context
(Stratfor) The rapid escalation of anti-government protests in Turkey in recent days has exposed a number of long-dormant fault lines in the country’s complex political landscape. But even as the appeal of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (also known by its Turkish acronym, AKP) is beginning to erode, it will remain a powerful force in Turkish politics for some time to come, with its still-significant base of support throughout the country and the lack of a credible political alternative in the next elections. …
The protests so far do not indicate that Erdogan’s party is at serious or imminent risk of losing its grip on power, but they do reveal limits to the prime minister’s political ambitions. Erdogan is attempting to extract votes from a slow-moving and highly fragile peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party to help him get enough support for a constitutional referendum. The referendum would transform Turkey from a parliamentary system to a presidential system and thus enable Erdogan, whose term as prime minister expires in 2015, to continue leading Turkey as president beyond 2014, when presidential elections are scheduled. The sight of protesters from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (known as the BDP) joining Republican People’s Party supporters for the June 1 protests does not bode well for Erdogan’s plan to rely on those votes in the constitutional referendum. Though the Justice and Development Party, which remains highly popular with Turkey’s more conservative populace in the Anatolian interior, so far does not face a credible political contender for the October local elections or 2015 parliamentary elections, Erdogan’s political maneuvering to become president will face more resistance.
The ruling party’s main secular opposition is alarmed at Erdogan’s policies that compromise the core founding principles of the state as defined by Kemal Ataturk. From social measures that ban the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. to foreign policy measures that have Turkey trying to mold and influence Islamist rebel groups in Syria, these are policies that directly undermine the Ataturkian mandate that Turkey must remain secular and avoid overextending itself beyond the republic’s borders. But the growing dissent against the party is not a simple Islamist-secular divide, either. A perception has developed among a growing number of Turks that the party is pursuing an aggressive form of capitalism that defies environmental considerations as well as Islamic values. Within business circles, frustration is building over the number of concessions handed out to Erdogan’s closest allies.
Woman in red becomes leitmotif for Istanbul’s female protesters
(Reuters) – In her red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag slung over her shoulder she might have been floating across the lawn at a garden party; but before her crouches a masked policeman firing teargas spray that sends her long hair billowing upwards.
Endlessly shared on social media and replicated as a cartoon on posters and stickers, the image of the woman in red has become the leitmotif for female protesters during days of violent anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul.
Defiant Erdogan denounces riots in Turkish cities (video)
(Reuters) – Anti-government protesters responsible for Turkey’s worst riots in years are “arm-in-arm with terrorism”, Prime Minister Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said, in a defiant response to three days of unrest in dozens of cities across the country.
The Protests in Turkey, Explained
(Mother Jones) How bad is the crackdown on the press? Pretty bad. At the same time CNN International was broadcasting live from Taksim Square on Friday, CNN Turk, the network’s Turkish-language affiliate, was showing a cooking show and a documentary about penguins. …
So how are people in Turkey learning about the protests? Mostly through social media. “Revolution will not be televised; it will be tweeted,” reads a popular Istanbul graffiti scrawl. According to an analysis by NYU’s Social Media and Political Participation Lab, the Twitter hashtag #direngezipark had been used in more than 1.8 million tweets as of this morning—far more than the Egyptian hashtag #Jan25 was used during the entire Arab Spring uprising. And about 85 percent of those tweets that are geocoded have come from within Turkey.
How Democratic Is Turkey?
Not as democratic as Washington thinks it is.
(Foreign Policy) It seems strange that the biggest challenge to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authority during more than a decade in power would begin as a small environmental rally, but as thousands of Turks pour into the streets in cities across Turkey, it is clear that something much larger than the destruction of trees in Istanbul’s Gezi Park — an underwhelming patch of green space close to Taksim Square — is driving the unrest.
The Gezi protests … are the culmination of growing popular discontent over the recent direction of Turkish politics. The actual issue at hand is the tearing down of a park that is not more than six square blocks so that the government can replace it with a shopping mall but the whole affair represents the way in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has slowly strangled all opposition while making sure to remain within democratic lines. Turkey under the AKP has become the textbook case of a hollow democracy.
Thousands take to streets on third day of Turkey protests
(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey’s four biggest cities on Sunday and clashed with riot police firing tear gas in the third day of the fiercest anti-government protests in years.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan blamed the main secular opposition party for inciting the crowds, whom he called “a few looters”, and said the protests were aimed at depriving his ruling AK Party of votes as elections begin next year.
AP via the National Post adds a new dimension: Plan to build mosque on public square inflames violent anti-government protests in Turkey Erdogan … also reiterated that his government would not back away from plans to uproot trees at Taksim as part of his urban renovation plans for the area. In a statement that could cause more controversy, he also declared that a mosque would be built at Taksim. The mosque plans have long been contentious because it would further shrink the green spaces in Istanbul’s city centre. Some argue that there are already plenty of mosques around Taksim.
Hundred of Thousands gathering in Turkey’s Taksim
Occupy Gezi Protest: Erdogan Defiant As Police And Protesters Clash
(HuffPost) Though he offered some concessions to demonstrators, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained largely defiant in the face of the biggest popular challenge to his power in a decade in office, insisting the protests are undemocratic and illegitimate.
Turkey’s building boom unrest conceals fear of corruption
(The Guardian) Istanbul riots started over proposed parkland development but government’s increasingly authoritarian policies fuel unrest
Turkey arrests anti-government protesters
(Al Jazeera) At least 60 people detained as Istanbul protest spreads to Ankara and Izmir, with tear gas sprayed and many injured.
Istanbul park protests sow the seeds of a Turkish spring
A protest in a small Istanbul park has become a lightning rod for grievances against the government, and it could be explosive
(The Guardian) An Occupy-style movement has taken off in Istanbul. The ostensible issue of conflict is modest. Protesters started gathering in [Taksim Gezi] park on 27 May, to oppose its demolition as part of a redevelopment plan. But this is more than an environmental protest. It has become a lightning conductor for all the grievances accumulated against the government. …
In April, a Justice and Development party (AKP) leader warned that the liberals who had supported them in the last decade would no longer do so. This was as good a sign as any that the repression would increase, as the neoliberal Islamist party forced through its modernisation agenda.
The AKP represents a peculiar type of conservative populism. Its bedrock, enriched immensely in the last decade, is the conservative Muslim bourgeoisie that first emerged as a result of Turgut Özal’s economic policies in the 1980s. But, while denying it is a religious party, it has used the politics of piety to gain a popular base and to strengthen the urban rightwing.
It has spent more than a decade in government building up its authority. The privatisation process has led to accelerated inequality, accompanied by repression. But it has also attracted floods of international investment, leading to growth rates of close to 5% a year. This has enabled the regime to pay off the last of its IMF loans, so that it was even in a position to offer the IMF $5bn to help with the Eurozone crisis in 2012.
In the meantime, the AKP has gradually consolidated its support within the state apparatus and media, and no longer needs its liberal backers.
The timing of this cheer-leading article (27 May) was certainly unfortunate in light of most recent events. Well worth reading the comments posted since it was published.
Jeffrey Sachs: Why Turkey is Thriving
(Project Syndicate) A recent visit to Turkey reminded me of its enormous economic successes during the last decade. The economy has grown rapidly, inequality is declining, and innovation is on the rise. … Turkey’s successes have deep roots in governmental capacity and its people’s skills, reflecting decades of investment and centuries of history dating back to Ottoman times. Other countries cannot simply copy these achievements; but they can still learn the main lesson that is too often forgotten in a world of “stimulus,” bubbles, and short-term thinking. Long-term growth stems from prudent monetary and fiscal policies, the political will to regulate banks, and a combination of bold public and private investments in infrastructure, skills, and cutting-edge technologies.
Baghdad opposes PKK armed groups in Iraq
Central government rejects gradual retreat of PKK rebels from Turkish territory to Iraq’s Kurdish region
Prospects for Peace: ‘The Differences Lie Between Turkey and Cyprus’
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides discusses prospects for fresh talks on a peace and reunification deal with Northern Cyprus and the growing humanitarian catastrophe in nearby Syria.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Turkish government is pushing for the immediate start of talks on a solution to the Cyprus conflict. Is an agreement imminent?
Kasoulides: This is an effort to take advantage of the weak economic situation in Cyprus, as well as in Greece, in order to get a settlement closer to Turkish terms. But we cannot deal primarily with this question as long as the economic problems of the Greek Cypriots are not faced. The economic problems require the full attention of our government, and Turkey should have shown an understanding for our situation before calling for a resumption of talks.
Kurdish peace will make Turkey ‘major power’ in Middle East
(The National UAE) A political solution to Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish separatists would make the country a more active player in the Middle East, boost economic growth and change relations with Iraq and Syria, analysts said yesterday.
Analysts say Turkey has much to gain from ending the nearly 30-year conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed, although some have cautioned that the question of how to strengthen the rights of Turkey’s 13 million Kurds, the main PKK demand in exchange for disarmament, is still unresolved.
But they said a solution would bolster Turkey’s economy and strengthen its drive to become the leading power in the region.
Turkey in the World
By Tuncay Babalı, Ambassador of Turkey to Canada
(OpenCanada.org) In the last few years, Turkey and Canada opened new consulates in their respective countries; Turkish Airlines initiated direct flights to Toronto; and Air Canada will have direct flights beginning this summer. Turkey and Canada had three exploratory talks regarding the initiation of negotiations over a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. Canada’s Senate Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee is conducting a study on economic and political developments in Turkey in order to examine the implications of these developments regionally, globally, and especially for Canadian interests and opportunities.
Where were the world’s first wine grapes grown?
Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley. We know the names of famous wine appellations today. But where was the world’s first wine appellation? Grape geneticist Dr. José Vouillamoz and bimolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern think they might know. Their research published last fall revealed that most of the wine grapes cultivated today come from the southern region of Turkey, and that farmers there grew grapevines to make wine as long ago as 8,000 B.C. (and possibly before).
Vouillamoz and McGovern discovered the origin of domesticated grapevines by using DNA sequencing, which revealed that the greatest number of matches between the DNA in domestic wine grape varieties and the DNA in wild varieties occurred in southern Turkey.
This DNA sequencing also provided insight into surprising family connections between some of our favorite grape varieties: syrah is the great-grandchild of pinot noir, and gouais blanc, known to make only a neutral quaffing wine, is the surprising Casanova of wine grapes, fathering more than 80 other grape varieties, including some popular ones like chardonnay, riesling and gamay.
The wine elite may flock to Bordeaux and Napa Valley today, but Turkey was where it was at in the Stone Age!
Turkey Said to Sign Oil Deal With Kurds, Defying Baghdad
(Bloomberg) The Kurdish government will sell oil and gas directly to Turkey in a deal that so far has bypassed the Iraqi government in Baghdad, which has warned the Kurds not to sign separate energy accords. Turkey may also take the Kurdish government’s stake in concessions operated by Exxon Mobil Corp. on the enclave’s border with the rest of Iraq, one of the people said.
“Large-scale oil exports would change the economic position of Kurdistan,” said Robin Mills, head of consulting at Dubai-based Manaar Energy Consulting and Project Management. “If this deal goes through, it’s an aggressive move by Turkey that really means busting relations with Baghdad.”
Turkey feels like it’s on a roll while Europe founders
(Postmedia News) The explosive growth of China, India and, to a lesser extent Brazil, have received far more global attention. But in its own way Turkey has emerged as a powerhouse with tentacles reaching deep into Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Middle East — reestablishing traditional connections that ended with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Turkey has become Iraq’s largest trading partner since the wars there have ebbed. Much of the money comes from oil and gas business conducted with Iraq’s Kurds. This breakthrough may help to ease tensions between Turks and the country’s restive Kurdish minority.
Turkey has major energy plans of its own in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and is aggressively seeking foreign help to build a second nuclear power plant. Given the problems between Canada and the U.S. over pipelines, it is interesting that Turkey has no qualms about building them to enable its neighbours to export fuel and contribute to its prosperity.
Led by construction companies, which have become international conglomerates, Turkey has huge and growing commercial interests in energy-rich Central Asia.
Israel-Turkey Relations: Normalization Of Ties Will Not Be Quick, Erdogan Says
“We have said: `an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” he said. “Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry.”
(HuffPost) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested “normalization” of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before relations are restored between the two nations.
Erdogan’s comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.
Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Statement Regarding the Claims of the GCASC on Hydrocarbon Resources in the Eastern Mediterranean
The idea of the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) to offer the natural resources of the island as collateral for a solidarity investment fund or any other borrowing scheme to be established due to its current economic crisis, ignoring the inherent rights of the Turkish Cypriots who are co-owners of the Island, is a dangerous manifestation of the illusion of being the sole owner of the Island, which may lead to a new crisis in the region. The views of the Presidency of the TRNC, expressed in the statement of 21 March 2013 are shared. The Turkish side is committed both to protecting the rights and interests on its own continental shelf and to maintaining its support to the Turkish Cypriot side.
(AFP via Global Post) Making up: a timeline of Israel-Turkey relations
Is Turkey’s secular system in danger?
(BBC) Those who founded the Republic in 1923 might well be turning in their graves: their vision of Turkey as a strictly secularist and nationalist state – not just a separation of state and religion, but also the removal of religion from all aspects of public life – is being questioned.
In the lead-up to the 89th anniversary of the Turkish Republic on 29 October, political values have never been more openly debated, thanks to a public consultation process, initiated by Turkey’s parliament, for a new constitution.
Syria and Turkey — What the Arab papers say
This week’s print issue of The Economist argues that despite the huge risks involved, the time has come for the West and the Arabs to intervene in Syria. In this Newsbook post we take a look at the Arabic press over the past week, where debate has focused on whether, amid heightened tensions with Turkey, Syria’s crisis has entered a more dangerous phase that could lead to a broader conflict in the region.
Turkey’s Challenge and the Syrian Negotiation | Stratfor
By Reva Bhalla
(Stratfor) Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zubi harshly criticized the Turkish government early last week over Ankara’s proposal that an interim government succeed the al Assad regime, saying that “Turkey isn’t the Ottoman Sultanate; the Turkish Foreign Ministry doesn’t name custodians in Damascus, Mecca, Cairo and Jerusalem.” Being the spokesman for a pariah regime requires a mastery of propaganda. Al-Zubi has not disappointed in this regard, mounting a strong rhetorical offensive against Syria’s powerful northern neighbor.
While his latest rebuke of Turkey will not save the al Assad regime (much less his own career), he is tapping into a powerful narrative in the region, one that will have stronger and stronger resonance in the Arab world as Turkey is forced to play a more assertive role in the region.
As Ankara is discovering, the resurgence of a nation can be an awkward and rocky process. Things were simpler for Turkey in the early part of the past decade when the regional climate allowed Turkey to re-emerge cautiously, with a white flag in hand and phrases like “zero problems with neighbors” on its lips. The region has since become far more unforgiving, with violent political transformations nipping at Anatolia’s borders, Iran putting up stiff competition for regional influence, Russia’s resurgence proceedingapace and the United States increasingly losing interest in the role of global policeman. The region is pushing Turkey into action regardless of whether Ankara is ready to take on the responsibility.
Turkey Is No Partner for Peace
How Ankara’s Sectarianism Hobbles U.S. Syria Policy
(Foreign Affairs) At first glance, it appears that the United States and Turkey are working hand in hand to end the Syrian civil war. On August 11, after meeting with Turkish officials, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement that the two countries’ foreign ministries were coordinating to support the Syrian opposition and bring about a democratic transition. In Ankara on August 23, U.S. and Turkish officials turned those words into action, holding their first operational planning meeting aimed at hastening the downfall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Beneath their common desire to oust Assad, however, Washington and Ankara have two distinctly different visions of a post-revolutionary Syria. The United States insists that any solution to the Syrian crisis should guarantee religious and ethnic pluralism. But Turkey, which is ruled by a Sunni government, has come to see the conflict in sectarian terms, building close ties with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood–dominated Sunni opposition, seeking to suppress the rights of Syrian Kurds, and castigating the minority Alawites — Assad’s sect — as enemies.
Turkey presses Security Council on Syria
Western powers said Thursday they were “not ruling out any options” in delivering humanitarian assistance to besieged Syrians after Turkey, which has taken in more than 80,000 refugees, implored the UN Security Council to take immediate steps to establish camps within Syria. “How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?” Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, asked the council. BBC (8/30), Google/The Associated Press (8/30), The Christian Science Monitor (8/29), Al-Jazeera (8/31)
Turkey to press UN on Syria haven for refugees
Turkey says it can absorb few, if any, additional Syrian refugees, and it will ask the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to take steps to create a haven within Syria for the many thousands of people displaced by fighting. The UN refugee agency said up to 200,000 refugees could flee to Turkey, in which some 75,000 refugees are registered. France said it would recognize, when formed, a provisional government comprising opponents of President Bashar Assad. The Christian Science Monitor (8/27), AlertNet/Reuters (8/28), Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (8/27), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (8/27)
Claire Berlinski: A Phantom Wrapped in an Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle
Why we should worry about Turkey’s missing jet
(Gatestone Institute) … A question keeps coming back to me. I assume that of course the Turkish jet was on a reconnaissance flight, and a perfectly justified one at that. It was a calculated risk gone bad. NATO may even have put them up to it, for all I know. But why didn’t the Turks try to cover up the downing of the plane? Suppressing the story would have been child’s play for Erdoğan. It’s what I would have done in his position. Making an issue of it obviously carries a huge risk of escalation—and a certainty of losing face.
What are the possible answers to this question? Hypothesis one: Erdoğan actually does want a war with Syria. … Hypothesis two: The government didn’t believe they could cover it up. They decided that if they tried, it would leak anyway, and gossip from abroad would do them substantial damage. … Hypothesis three: The government thought they could use the incident for their benefit.
What to Make of the Latest Iranian-Turkish Row
(IPS) – Turkish-Iranian relations have been rocky since the deepening of the Syrian imbroglio, but the latest row suggests a new low.
In no uncertain terms, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu expressed displeasure with recent harsh statements coming out of Tehran regarding Turkish culpability in the quagmire Syria has become.
Tehran has been unhappy with Ankara’s role in supporting the insurgency in Syria. But assessing that Erdogan’s Syria policy is not that popular at home, Iran seems to have made the decision to highlight the dangers of what it considers to be a Turkish policy of reckless involvement in the Syrian crisis for Turkey itself and eventually for the political standing of the Justice and Development Party.
U.S.,Turkey plan for worst-case scenario in Syria
U.S. Secretary of State and Turkey’s foreign minister plan for post-Assad Syria
(CBC) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Turkey’s foreign minister said Saturday that their countries are creating a formal structure to plan for worst-case scenarios in Syria, including a possible chemical weapons attack on regime opponents.
Clinton and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said their two nations would set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as conditions there deteriorate. They said the group will co-ordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the potential fallout in the case of a chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.
Syria’s Pipelineistan war – This is a war of deals, not bullets.
(Al Jazeera) Deep beneath “Damascus volcano” and “the battle of Aleppo”, the tectonic plates of the global energy chessboard keep on rumbling. Beyond the tragedy and grief of civil war, Syria is also a Pipelineistan power play.
More than a year ago, a $10 billion Pipelineistan deal was clinched between Iran, Iraq and Syria for a natural gas pipeline to be built by 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field, traversing Iraq and Syria, with a possible extension to Lebanon. Key export target market: Europe.
During the past 12 months, with Syria plunged into civil war, there was no pipeline talk. Up until now. The European Union’s supreme paranoia is to become a hostage of Russia’s Gazprom. The Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would be essential to diversify Europe’s energy supplies away from Russia.
It gets more complicated. Turkey happens to be Gazprom’s second-largest customer. The whole Turkish energy security architecture depends on gas from Russia – and Iran. Turkey dreams of becoming the new China, configuring Anatolia as the ultimate Pipelineistan strategic crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and gas to Europe.
Try to bypass Ankara in this game, and you’re in trouble. Until virtually yesterday, Ankara was advising Damascus to reform – and fast. Turkey did not want chaos in Syria. Now Turkey is feeding chaos in Syria.
TURKEY: Caught Between Syria’s Kurds and a Hard Spot
(IPS) In a display of muscle-flexing, Turkish tanks this week carried out military exercises on the Syrian border, just a few kilometres away from towns that Syrian Kurds had seized from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The seizure of the Kurdish towns sent alarm bells ringing in the Turkish capital. “It took a lot of people by surprise in Ankara. It is one of the toughest and serious issues in the last period of Turkish history,” said Metehan Demir, a military expert and columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet.
“The capture of Kurdish towns in Syria is perceived by Kurdish groups in Turkey as the signal for (a) future autonomous Kurdish region on Turkey’s border, which is seen as the start of (a) wider Kurdish state, including Iran, Iraq and Turkey,” Demir added.
Turkey says it won’t let Kurdish rebels operate in north Syria
Turkey’s warning comes after reports that a Kurdish faction allied with the banned PKK rebel group had seized territory in Syria’s northeast.
Pepe Escobar,: Why Turkey won’t go to war with Syria
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has yet to understand the new deal struck between Russia and the US.
(Al Jazeera) … Time to shuffle those cards — Erdogan has very few cards left to play, if any. Assad, in an interview with Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper, regretted “100 per cent” the downing of the RF-4E, and argued, “the plane was flying in an area previously used by Israel’s air force”.
The fact remains that impulsive Erdogan got an apology from wily Assad. By contrast, after the Mavi Marmara disaster, Erdogan didn’t even get an unpeeled banana from Israel.
The real suicidal scenario would be for Erdogan to order another F4-style provocation and then declare war on Damascus on behalf of the not-exactly-Free Syrian Army. It won’t happen. Damascus has already proved it is deploying a decent air defence network.
Every self-respecting military analyst knows that war on Syria will be light years away from previous “piece of cake” Iraq and Libya operations. NATO commanders, for all their ineptitude, know they could easily collect full armouries of bloody noses.
As for the Turkish military, their supreme obsession is the Kurds in Anatolia, not Assad. They do receive some US military assistance. But what they really crave is an army of US drones to be unleashed over Anatolia.
Turkey routinely crosses into Northern Iraq targeting Kurdish PKK guerrillas accused of killing Turkish security forces. Now, guerrillas based in Turkey are reportedly crossing the border into Syria and killing Syrian security forces, and even civilians. It would be too much to force Ankara to admit its hypocrisy.
Erdogan, anyway, should proceed with extreme caution. His rough tactics are isolating him; more than two-thirds of Turkish public opinion is against an attack on Syria.
Turkey learns who its real friends are – so much for ‘strategic realignment’
The Syrian crisis has exposed the folly and weakness of Ankara’s attempts to become a regional superpower
(The Guardian) With President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, not that of Saddam Hussein, now viewed in Ankara as a dangerous enemy, and with the prospect of a bilateral or regional conflict inching closer following Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish military plane, Erdogan has swiftly changed his tune. Unwilling to take on Assad by himself, Erdogan turned to the US and Nato for support this week. So much for Turkey’s much discussed “strategic realignment”.
Syria puts double whammy on Turkey
(Asia Times) The shooting down of a Turkish fighter aircraft by Syria on Friday has become a classic case of coercive diplomacy.
Dam Threatens Turkey’s Past and Future
(IPS) – Hasankeyf, a small village in southeastern Turkey, has been under threat for 15 years. Home to approximately 3,000 people, the site is one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements, with an archaeological record going back at least 9,500 years.
Now, the Ilisu Dam – part of a massive hydroelectric project undertaken by the State Hydraulic Works – will flood Hasankeyf and the surrounding region, effectively washing away millennia of history.
In addition to destroying a historical site, which includes vestiges of every empire that ever inhabited Mesopotamia, the dam will also cause immense ecological harm to the Tigris River valley.
Projections place the amount of hydroelectric power the dam will produce at less than 2 percent of Turkey’s total energy needs. Not an entirely insignificant amount but certainly, according to various sources, not enough to justify the destruction of an entire ecosystem, invaluable cultural heritage, and the livelihoods of several thousand people.
The Turkish government has openly proclaimed that the main function of the dam system is to bolster the country’s counter-insurgency strategy against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which mobilises from the mountainous Iraqi-Turkish border. Together, the strategically placed dams created by GAP will form a massive wall of water close to Turkey’s border with Iraq.
Pepe Escobar: The new Iraq (oil) war
Turkey is positioning itself to be the transit country for energy due its location at the crossroads of east and west.
(Al Jazeera) When Ashti Hawrami, oil minister of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, delivered a particular explosive bit of news over a week ago at the regional capital Irbil, one could feel the tectonic plates of Pipelineistan rippling all across the Middle East – and beyond.
Hawrami, alongside Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz, announced that essentially Iraqi Kurds would build a one-million-barrel-a-day oil pipeline to Ceyhan, in Turkey, to reach the border by August 2013. Then a second phase would connect it to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, and a second pipeline would open in 2014.
Turkey’s Fears: What Threats Could Syrian Crisis Unleash?
(IPS) Until October 2011, Turkish leaders attempted to convince Assad to use moderation. But those efforts led nowhere.
Turkish position up to that point was consistent with a decade-long rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus, which followed 65 years of relations strained by a territorial dispute over Hatay, formerly an independent French protectorate and now part of Turkey.
… Syria has become the black sheep of the Arab world, even for those who dispensed kisses on both of Assad’s cheeks five months ago, and Gadhafi’s fall in October also seems to have persuaded the Turkish leadership that Assad’s end is inevitable.
Turkey is also trying to position itself as the democratic paradigm for Muslim statehood and society and restore its commercial pre-eminence in North Africa. In Libya alone, regime change has caused Turkish businesses to lose or put on hold contracts totalling 25 billion U.S. dollars.
In addition, Erdogan and Davutoglu’s new tone coincides with warming relations with the White House, following Ankara’s decision to be a loyal partner despite its earlier objections to foreign intervention in Libya.