Losing Turkey

Losing Turkey

Posted By Ryan Mauro On June 11, 2010 @ 12:30 am In FrontPage | 24 Comments

The most significant outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident is that there can no longer be any doubt that Turkey has joined the anti-Western bloc that includes Hamas, Iran and Syria. The Muslim country was once devotedly secular, an ally of Israel, and remains a member of NATO, but under the direction of Prime Minister Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (often referred to as the AKP), Turkey has gone in the completely opposite direction with enormous strategic consequences.

“Unfortunately, the AKP government of Mr. Erdogan and the oil-rich regime of Qatar joined the regional bloc opposing the more traditional governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco,” Dr. Walid Phares told FrontPage.

Erdogan’s turn to the other side is not the result of a single incident such as Operation Cast Lead or the Israeli raid on the flotilla, but is the culmination of an agenda long held by Erdogan and the AKP.

“In fact, it is not secular Turkey that we see moving against the U.S., West, Israel and Arab moderates. It is the AKP Islamist cabinet which is uncovering its long-term ideological agenda. The West should have projected this since 2002,” Dr. Phares said, referring to the year in which Erdogan’s party won a majority in the Turkish parliament.

Erdogan was imprisoned in 1998 for his involvement with the banned Welfare Party, which the Turkish government considered Islamist. Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy describes [1] the Welfare Party as the “motherboard of Turkish Islamists since the 1980s,” saying it was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. Erdogan was specifically punished for reading [2] a poem at one speech with the lines, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers.”

In 2001, he founded the AKP, which took a more moderate line, portraying itself as committed to separation of mosque and state but “faithful governance,” as Dr. Essam El-Erian, the chief of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political bureau, described [3] the AKP’s “moderate Islamist” ideology. There was no anti-Western rhetoric and the party strongly supported membership in the European Union. The group won a large victory in the 2002 elections, resulting in Erdogan taking the post of Prime Minister.

Dr. El-Erian praised Erdogan’s victory, saying that it was the result of the “exposing of the failure of the secular trend.” El-Erian confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood had close ties to the AKP, but the West treated Turkey as if nothing had changed. It wasn’t until Turkey steadfastly refused to allow U.S. soldiers to transit their territory to overthrow Saddam Hussein that the West began questioning the allegiance of Erdogan’s government.

The Erdogan government soon began a concerted effort to fuel anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment, knowing that such feelings help the AKP politically and hurt its opponents in the secular military that have long ties to the West. The Turkish media consistently reported [4] alleged U.S. atrocities, fanning the already massive anti-war sentiment. The outrageous claims can only be compared to the anti-Israeli propaganda seen in the Arab world and Iran, echoing similar themes such as the use of chemical weapons against civilians and the harvesting of organs from killed Iraqis.

The AKP won an even larger share of the vote in the July 2007 election and had even more dominance over the government. Since then, the ideology of Erdogan has become more apparent as Turkish opinion has become less hostile to anti-Western Islamism.  Shortly after the victory, Turkey’s moves towards Iran and other enemies of the West became more visible and aggressive.

Turkey began entertaining the prospect of Iran’s natural gas being delivered to European markets through its territory, and the two countries launched joint military attacks against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. The Party of Free Life for Kurdistan, or PJAK, claimed it actually saw Turkish officers working alongside the Iranian military. Newsmax.com reported [5] that eight Turkish officers were in Iran coordinating the attacks with the Revolutionary Guards.

In the spring of 2009, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iranian-backed militia leader whose followers killed dozens of American soldiers in Iraq, met [6] with Erdogan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul for “political consultations.” Most recently, Turkey has opposed sanctions on Iran and helped put together a deal with Brazil meant to delay any United Nations measures despite Iran’s lack of cooperation on the nuclear issue.

Erdogan’s government simultaneously became more anti-Israeli, particularly once the Israeli military offensive into Gaza began in response to the rocket attacks of Hamas. Erdogan went so far as to predict [7] that Israel’s actions “would bring it to self-destruction,” saying “Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.” He accused [8] Jewish-controlled media outlets of “finding unfounded excuses to justify targeting of schools, mosques and hospitals.”

On January 29, 2009, Erdogan publicly confronted [9] Israeli President Peres at the World Economic Forum over the Israeli offensive. When he was denied extra time to continue his criticism of Israel, he stormed out. Erdogan was a hero overnight in the Muslim world.

Soon after, an exhibit opened [10] in a major state-controlled metro in Istanbul that included many viciously anti-Israeli and anti-American cartoons, portraying Israeli soldiers as massacring innocent people with American weapons. The AKP won the March 29 local elections, further cementing their hold and convincing Erdogan that he was politically safe to follow the agenda he held from the beginning. Later that year, Israel had to confront [11] Turkey over anti-Israeli propaganda on prime-time state-controlled television.

In October, Turkey refused to allow Israel to participate in annual military exercises also involving Italy and the U.S. Instead, Turkey and Syria announced [12] that they would hold their own joint exercises. The Turkish-Syrian alliance began shortly after Erdogan came to power, with Syrian President Bashar Assad visiting Turkey and a free trade agreement being signed.

Turkey has also moved closer to Sudan, refusing [13] to describe the situation in Darfur as a genocide. Erdogan’s government also opposes the International Criminal Court’s indictment of President Omar al-Bashir for human rights violations. His defense of Bashir is that “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide.”

Now, Turkey is taking center stage in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident. Turkey is openly considering cutting off all diplomatic ties with Israel and is saying that its warships will escort future convoys to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. There are reports that Erdogan himself may actually join a convoy. Erdogan now openly says [14], “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization…They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

He was among the first to accept Hamas after it was elected in Gaza, and he is calling [15] their rule a “democracy” based on elections alone. Democracy is much more than elections, but Erdogan, like the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, want to equate democracy with elections so as to give themselves legitimacy as they move against the other pillars of democracy. Professor Barry Rubin says [16] that as the AKP won election victories, the Erdogan government “repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy.”

Today, the government has begun the country’s “largest-ever crackdown” on the military, prosecuting [17] 33 current and former military officers for allegedly planning a coup to overthrow the AKP government in 2003 including the former head of the special forces. Those arrested have been accused of planning to carry out acts of terrorism including the bombing of mosques, which they deny. Given the military’s pride in acting as the guardian of Turkey’s secularism, it isn’t surprising that elements of the military would desire to see the AKP overthrown. However, this could be an Islamist attempt to weaken the military and paint them as dangerous and anti-Muslim.

Erdogan’s defense of the vessel owned by the IHH, [18] a Turkish Islamist group tied to Hamas and other terrorist activity, is particularly insightful. Any true opponent of terrorism and radical Islamism would ban the group or at least officially investigate them. In 1997, the Turkish authorities raided the IHH’s office in Istanbul and made numerous arrests. IHH operatives were found with weapons-related materials and the French counterterrorism magistrate said that they were planning on supporting jihadists in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya.

“The essential goal of this Association was to illegally arm its membership for overthrowing democratic, secular, and constitutional order present in Turkey and replacing it with an Islamic state founded on the Shariah,” the French magistrate’s report said. [19]

If the goal of the IHH is to establish Sharia Law in Turkey, and Erdogan’s government is describing them as a “charity,” what does that say about Erdogan’s plans? The Washington Post has raised alarm [20] over this connection, noting the IHH leadership’s praise for Erdogan.

The West’s loss of Turkey has frightening strategic consequences. They are so frightening that the West refused to acknowledge the trend until it became undeniable in recent weeks. Professor Juan Cole, who already was a strident critic of Israel, bluntly states, [21] “Strategically, if the U.S. had to choose between Turkey and Israel, it would have to choose Turkey.” The pressure on the U.S. to restrain Israel so as to court the stronger bloc has now become greater than ever.

The situation is even more precarious for other countries in the region previously bonding together to oppose Iran. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa that are hostile to Iran’s ambitions now face an even more threatening bloc that has been enlarged by the defection of Turkey. The temptation for them to surrender the mantle of leadership to the Iranian-Syrian-Turkish bloc in order to save themselves will now reach unprecedented levels, regardless of whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons or not.

To make matters worse, Erdogan’s prestige as the preeminent challenger of Israel will lead to competition with Iran, sparking an escalation where each side tries to establish superior anti-Israeli and anti-Western credentials. Israel is now in its most isolated and dangerous situation since its birth in 1948.

Turkey Responsible for Flotilla Deaths

Turkey Responsible for Flotilla Deaths

June 2, 2010 | David A. Ridenour V.P.
The National Center for Public Policy Research
The international community should be denouncing Turkey, not Israel, for the loss of life on the so-called “Freedom Flotilla.”

That’s because Turkey, the flag state of the ship, had an obligation to ensure that the ships making up the flotilla adhered to international law.

It didn’t.

Though neither Turkey nor Israel are parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the treaty presumably spells out what the states ratifying the treaty believe to be acceptable rules of behavior. Many of those countries are now, rather hypocritically, denouncing Israel.

The Free Gaza Movement announced its intention to breach Israel’s barricade of Gaza – requiring it to violate Israel’s territorial waters.

Article 19 of the Law of the Sea Treaty specifies that “any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal state” or “the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws or regulations of the coastal state” are deemed “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security” of that state. This flotilla – as with ones before it – would have done both if allowed to proceed.

While Article 19 only gives the coastal state the authority to act within its territorial waters, the bloodshed may well have been greater had Israel waited until then. If reports are accurate that some activists carried arms, Israeli commandos would have lost the element of surprise.

It also appears that Israel may have been within international norms in boarding the ship as all states have an obligation under Articles 109 and 110 of the treaty to stop unauthorized broadcasts (those intended for the general public, but not distress calls), including in international waters. The so-called “Freedom Flotilla” was broadcasting its voyage live.

Blood is on Turkey’s hands.

President Obama should do the right thing and recall the U.S. ambassador.

Gaza Flotilla Organizer Puts Lie To “Humanitarian” Purpose

Gaza Flotilla Organizer Puts Lie To “Humanitarian” Purpose

Adam Shapiro, one of the organizers of flotillas to break the sea blockade of Gaza in 2009 and again in 2010, was interviewed on PBS. In the interview, Shapiro made clear that the primary purpose of the flotilla was political.

Only upon prompting by Gwen Ifill did Shapiro even mention a supposed humanitarian purpose:

see video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJoKlLOHPcY&feature=player_embedded#!

Shapiro was right to the extent that he recognizes the blockade as political, and the flotilla’s purpose primarily as political. The shipping of humanitarian supplies merely was the excuse and the tactic.

Much like the internationalists who have aligned themselves with Islamists on the West Bank to protest the barrier built by Israel to stop suicide bombers, the goal is the destruction of Israel.

Whatever it takes they will do, and it if means putting civilians in harms way to gain publicity and international condemnation of Israel, they will do that.

The “Humanitarian Relief” Wing of Hamas and Al-Qaeda

The “Humanitarian Relief” Wing of Hamas and Al-Qaeda

Posted By John Perazzo On June 2, 2010 @ 12:29 am In FrontPage | 11 Comments

The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (better known by its Turkish acronym, IHH) is the group that organized the six-ship flotilla which recently tried, without success, to sail all the way to Gaza. Established [1] in Turkey in 1992, the Foundation sends aid [2] to distressed areas throughout the Middle East – in the form of food, medicine, vocational education, and building supplies. A prime destination for this aid is Gaza, where – according to IHH – Palestinians are being oppressed by an unjustified Israeli naval blockade. (For the record, that blockade was put in place to prevent Hamas [3], which controls Gaza politically and has fired thousands of rockets into southern Israeli towns in recent years, from importing additional weaponry from Iran and other allies abroad.)

For several days last week, as the flotilla approached Gaza, Israel issued warnings that the ships would not be permitted to reach their destination without first submitting to an inspection of their cargoes – to ensure that no weaponry was being transported. But when the respective crews of the vessels refused to comply, Israeli commandos took action and intercepted the flotilla in the early morning hours of May 31. The IHH-affiliated activists responded with violence, instantly attacking the commandos with knives and clubs, and throwing one of them overboard. In the melee that ensued, ten activists were killed and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded. How could this be? How can we be expected to believe that a well-meaning “humanitarian relief” group would ever behave in a manner that might provoke violent reprisals from Israeli troops? A more thorough examination of IHH’s history and affiliations explains everything.

While IHH is indeed involved [4] in the aforementioned humanitarian endeavors, its overall objectives are much broader. Belying the dove of peace [2] whose image appears on its logo, IHH overtly supports Hamas [5], is sympathetic [4] to al Qaeda [6], and maintained regular contact with al Qaeda cells and the Sunni insurgency during the bloodiest stretches of the Iraq War. Moreover, IHH has supported jihadist terror networks [2]not only in Iraq, but also in Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan, and Chechnya. According to [4] Carnegie Endowment analyst Henri Barkey, IHH is “an Islamist organization” that “has been deeply involved with Hamas for some time.” A 2006 report [7] by the Danish Institute for International Studies characterized IHH as one of many “charitable front groups that provide support to Al-Qaida” and the global jihad.

Is the IHH beginning to sound less and less like a “humanitarian relief” group? Let’s look a little deeper still.

According to a French intelligence report, in the mid-1990s [2] IHH leader Bülent Yildirim was directly involved in recruiting “veteran soldiers” to organize jihad activities, and in dispatching IHH operatives to war zones in Islamic countries to gain combat experience. The report also stated that IHH had transferred money as well as “caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries. Given this track record, can Israel’s concern about the contents of the IHH flotilla cargoes really be considered excessive or unwarranted?

In 1996, IHH continued to burnish its credentials as a “humanitarian relief” organization when an examination of its telephone records [2] showed that repeated calls had been made to an al Qaeda guest house in Milan and to Algerian terrorists operating in Europe. That same year, the U.S. government formally identified [1] IHH as having connections to extremist groups in Iran and Algeria.

In December 1997, Turkish authorities, acting on a tip from sources claiming that IHH leaders had purchased automatic weapons from other regional Islamic militant groups, initiated a domestic criminal investigation [8] of IHH. A thorough search of the organization’s Istanbul bureau uncovered a large assortment of firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions, and a “jihad flag.” In addition, Turkish authorities seized a host of IHH documents whose contents ultimately led investigators to conclude that the group’s members “were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.”

Near the end of 2000, IHH organized protests [2] against proposals to overthrow that humanitarian icon, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein [9]; American and Israeli flags were burned at these rallies.

During the April 2001 trial [10] of would-be “millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam, it was revealed that IHH had played an “important role” in the plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999. Some reasonable observers might contend that to classify such a pursuit under the heading of “humanitarian relief” would require an unduly broad definition of that term.

In 2002, investigators found [8] correspondences from IHH in the offices of the Success Foundation [11], a Muslim Brotherhood [12]-affiliated organization whose Secretary was Abdul Rahman Alamoudi [13]. For the record: The Brotherhood was the ideological forebear of Hamas and al Qaeda; it supports jihad; and it seeks to impose shari’a law on the entire civilized world. Mr. Alamoudi, for his part, is currently serving a prison term of nearly a quarter-century for his role as a funder of international terrorism. He is best known for having proudly declared himself to be a passionate supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah [14]. The connections to “humanitarian relief” seem rather tenuous here.

According to [8] a report [15] issued by a website close to Israeli military intelligence: “[S]ince Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, IHH has supported Hamas’ propaganda campaigns by organizing public support conferences in Turkey.” The report also states that IHH continues to operate widely throughout Gaza and to funnel large sums of money to support the Hamas infrastructure.

In January 2008, an IHH delegation [2] met with Ahmed Bahar, chairman of Hamas’ council in the Gaza Strip. At the meeting, the delegation not only boasted about the large amount of financial support it had given Hamas during the preceding year, but also declared its intent to double that sum in the future. Once again, we are left to wonder how any of this falls under the rubric of “humanitarian relief.”

In 2008 Israel banned [16] IHH from the country because of the organization’s membership in the “Union of Good” (UOG), a Hamas-founded umbrella coalition [17] comprised of more than 50 Islamic charities (most of which are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood) that channel money and goods to Hamas-affiliated institutions. In December 2008, the U.S. government designated [18] UOG as a terrorist entity [8] that was guilty of “diverting” donations that were intended for “social welfare and other charitable services,” and using those funds “to strengthen Hamas’ political and military position.”

In January 2009, IHH head Bülent Yildirim met [2] with Khaled Mash’al [19], chairman of Hamas’ political bureau in Damascus, and Mash’al thanked Yildirim for the support of his organization.

In November 2009 [2] IHH activist Izzat Shahin transferred tens of thousands of American dollars from IHH to the Islamic Charitable Society (in Hebron) and Al-Tadhamun (in Nablus), two of Hamas’ most important front groups posing as “charitable societies.”

This, then, is the IHH: a pack of anti-Semitic supporters of terrorism, cloaking themselves in the vestments of victimhood, and bleating to the world about how unfairly they have been treated by the very nation whose extermination they have worked long and hard to bring about. It’s actually a story that has become quite familiar.

Turkish Jihadists Attack Israel

Turkish Jihadists Attack Israel

Posted By Phyllis Chesler On June 1, 2010 @ 12:10 am In FrontPage | 46 Comments

Visit NewsReal [1]

One may describe Hitler as a “vegetarian” (which he apparently was) but he was still a genocidally exterminationist Jew-hater whose relentless racism and imperial ambitions led to the death of more than 60 million people.

One may also describe the Turks on board the “freedom flotilla” (Orwell himself could not have suggested a better logo) as “humanitarian activists.” But they are still pro-terrorist Turkish jihadists whose mission was to kill Jews, one way or the other. This was a mission which aimed to further demonize the already shamefully tarnished reputation of the Jewish state. This mission planned to force a violent confrontation; were Israeli soldiers to dare defend themselves and if Muslims are therefore martyred—even better public relations, even better for international lawfare against the Israel.

The so-called “humanitarians,” at least on one boat, came armed with metal bars and knives. They were fighters, not pacifists, and they called out traditional Islamic battle cries: “[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” According to Palestinian Media Watch [2]:

“Khaibar is the name of the last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad’s army in 628. Many Jews were killed in that battle, which marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia. There are Muslims who see that as a precursor for future wars against Jews. At gatherings and rallies of extremists, this chant is often heard as a threat to Jews to expect to be defeated and killed again by Muslims.”

“This video [3] shows Israeli soldiers being beaten with long and heavy metal rods on one of the Turkish boats. Jeff Dunetz (“YidWithLid [4]”) has a series of disturbing and informative videos in which we can see the planned nature and intensity of the Turkish-Palestinian violence against Israeli soldiers—an attack which involved stabbings, beatings, firebombing attempts, throwing soldiers overboard, etc.”

Earlier today, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon [5] said that the Turkish-led flotilla was: “An armada of hate and violence in support of Hamas’ terror organization and was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organizers are well known for their ties with global jihad, Al-Qaeda, and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror. On board the ship we found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces. The organizers intent was violent, their method was violent, and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome.”

Indeed, the death count currently stands at an estimated nine (mainly Turkish) dead and 34 wounded. Predictably, the Arab, European, and liberal media are viewing Israel as the vicious aggressor; as committing “obscene [6]” acts. Al-Jazeera’s website [7] calls what happened “a massacre.” They refer to the dead as “martyrs.”

Some say that the Israeli commandos could have used taser guns, rubber bullets, or simply sent far more soldiers onto each boat. But the Israelis initially boarded the boats armed with paintball guns. And one wonders: How many Israeli soldiers can fit on a boat? One Israeli now suggests that Israel should have surrounded all the boats, stopped them dead in their tracks, shot out their motors.

Said I: And then done what with them?

Said he: Negotiate.

Said I: Are you crazy? Negotiate with terrorists? And then feed them, house them, coddle them—terrorists who would not even agree to bring food and a note to Gilad Shalit? Incredibly, Israel has been doing just that, treating the wounded terrorists in Israeli hospitals [8] and preparing to intern the remaining “activists” in air-conditioned tents [9] in Ashdod.

Said he: There should have been better military planning.

I am sure that Monday morning quarterbacking is always more ingenious than what happens in the moment of battle. The problem is that, once again, the Israelis are being attacked for having defended themselves and the jihadists are still being seen as “martyrs.”

Why did Turkey attack Israel? How much Iranian support did they have? Turkey was once a haven for Jews in flight from the Christian Inquisition.

Once, long ago, Muslim Turkey gave asylum to Dona Gracia HaNasi [10], the noble and generous leader of the Jews who had fled from Christian Spain and Portugal. Dona Gracia, a widow, was the wealthiest Jew of her time and, after living in Italy, found final refuge in Constantinople in 1552. Some wealthy Jews still live in Turkey today—yes, despite the bombing [11] of two Turkish synagogues in 2003. I wonder how safe they are and for how long.

As to women? Locked up in harems—but if they were lucky/most unlucky, perhaps in the Sultan’s own harem or seraglio. For example, in 1784, a French girl, Aimee Dubucq de Rivery, [12] was kidnapped on the open seas by Algerian pirates who sold her into the Turkish Sultan’s harem. Aimee became known as “Naksh,” The Beautiful One, for her fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair. Improbably, incredibly, Aimee became the mother of the next Sultan, whose name was Sultan Mahmoud II, the Reformer. Some see [13] the influence of the Sultan Valideh (The Veiled Sultan) in Selim’s letter of friendship to King Louis XVI—and in other pro-European gestures and customs.

Myths [14] die hard. People still believe that Jews, Christians and other infidels lived safe and happy lives in Muslims lands. This is a Big Lie [15].

As a matter of historical fact, the Turks have a long and bloody history of cruelty and genocide. They colonized the entire Middle East, forced conversions or murdered those who resisted. Islamic gender and religious apartheid flourished.

To this day, the Turks continue to deny the Armenian genocide. And, the days of Kemal Ataturk are long gone. In the early 1920s, Ataturk imposed a secular democracy upon the Islamists and unveiled the women. Now, the Islamists are winning again: Women are veiling, honor killings are on the rise (both in Turkey and among Turks in Europe). Recently, a father and grandfather heartlessly buried [16] a 16-year-old daughter and granddaughter alive for the “crime” of presumably talking to boys. I have also written about a great Turkish feminist hero, my friend Seyran Ates [17], here; Ates was shot for her work among Turkish immigrant girls and women in Berlin. Her 15-year-old client died. Ates, a lawyer, was left for dead—but miraculously survived.

And we nearly admitted Turkey into the European Union. One wonders if they would have intensified their anti-Israel Islamism had they been accepted as “Europeans,” or whether their candidacy was merely a calculated move in tandem with pre-existing pro-Iranian plans. For years, Turkey has opposed [18] sanctioning Iran for its nuclear program. Turkey was among the first to congratulate Ahmadinejad [19] on his re-election victory. During 2009, Turkey improved its economic ties to Iran.

I am waiting for the United Nations and for the United States to condemn this unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.

Istanbul and Moscow: The Capitals of an Emerging Axis of Evil

Istanbul and Moscow: The Capitals of an Emerging Axis of Evil

Joel J. Sprayregen

I logged over 15,000 air miles in the past three weeks, my ports of call including Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul and London.  I enjoyed opportunities to exchange views with informed leaders of government, business and think tanks.  Changes — many repugnant to believe in — are proceeding rapidly in each country I visited.  I choose to focus on changes in Turkey and Russia which are harmful to the national interests of the United States.

Turkey presents the more immediate concern.  Ataturk’s secular republic, established after the Ottoman collapse in World War 1, was long hailed as the enlightened model for Muslim countries.  Turkey is pivotal because of its location as the boundary between Europe and the Middle East (remember, Napoleon said “Geography is destiny”), its large population, industrial capacity (15th largest economy in world) and formidable army (second largest in NATO).  For more than a half-century after World War 2, Turkey anchored NATO’s front-line southeast flank against Soviet/Russian aggression and even (until 2004) against Saddam Hussein.  Turkey evidenced democratic values in striking contrast to the Muslim despotisms in neighboring Iran, Iraq and Syria, the latter two countries sometimes abetting Kurdish terrorism against Turkey.
The Dismantling of Ataturk’s Secular Republic
That rosy view of Turkey has vanished.  Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and his AK Party are dismantling the foundations of the secular republic and pursuing Islamist domestic and foreign policies.  This process is facilitated by the corrupt ineptitude of sclerotic secular political parties.  It was also facilitated by oafish bungling of European Union officials.  EU officials titillated Turkish desires for membership but were blindsided when Europeans predictably balked at making 72 million Turks citizens of Europe and extending borders of the EU (which aspires to be a United States of Europe) to the suburbs of Damascus and Baghdad.  Europeans remembered what Napoleon had said.  Turks, a justifiably proud people, resent Europe’s rebuff.
Exacerbating their misjudgments, EU officials insisted that the powers of the Turkish army be curbed.  This suited Erdogan because he knew that the army was the historic guardian of secularism.  Aggravating the exacerbation, the Europeans insisted that Turkey empower its AK-dominated Parliament to assume powers of the courts to protect the secular republic.  All this was coming to a head while I was in Istanbul.  The Parliament was able to abolish some but not all judicial prerogatives.  Other initiatives–including court-packing proposals reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt’s which enflamed Americans in the 1930s–may be submitted to referenda in coming months. Turkish friends told me that–although it is a long shot–Erdogan’s remaining Islamist constitutional initiatives could yet be defeated by voters.
Turkey Confirms Vacuity of Obama’s “Engagement” and Joins Up with State Supporters of Terrorism
The domestic Islamist transformation of Turkey-a country with  vast secular population, excellent universities, emerging civil society and a previously free press now being intimidated-is tragic enough.  But the transformation of Turkish foreign policy increasingly presents a clear danger to American interests. The “zero problems” foreign policy of AK Foreign Minister Davutoglu advertises friendliness with proximate neighbors.  In practice, this means allying with rogue states Iran and Syria (whom even President Obama recently saw fit to designate a state sponsor of terrorism).  Worse, Turkey now embraces terrorist murder squads like Hamas and Hezbollah and fetes their leaders as honored guests.  Turkey hosted Sudanese President Bashir, who is under indictment for crimes against humanity by the International Court of Criminal Justice.  Turkey’s new alliances have left in tatters-but not yet completely dismembered-its traditional military alliance with Israel.   Turkish-Israel ties were important because they brought together two countries that were military powers and the only democracies in the region.  I have sat through disconcerting meetings in which Erdogan likened Hamas terrorists to “boys throwing rocks at helicopter gunships.” 
A country with a worldview that demonizes resistance against terrorism is a problematic member of NATO, which was founded to protect democratic values proclaimed by Roosevelt and Churchill in the Atlantic Charter.  It also exposes the danger in Turkey’s present role as a non-permanent member (backed by the U.S. in elections) of the U.N. Security Council.  I was not surprised upon return to the U.S. to find that Turkey and Brazil cooked up a scheme to avert sanctions against Iran.  The Turkish-Brazilian announcement of “ending” the Iran crisis with possible enrichment in Turkey of some Iranian uranium galvanized our State Department to announce that it had secured Russian and Chinese agreement on a weak sanctions resolution, but this was a lie intended to mask exposure of the complete failure of Obama’s “engagement.”  Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov knocked the wind out of our State Department’s sails by stressing that the resolution is far from complete and adding:  “Our position on Iran is to give them another chance.” 
In my conversations with U.S. officials, I have found dismaying unawareness of the consequences of the ugly reality that Turkey is now a functional ally of Iran and not of the United States. Our officials are hardly aware that-while Erdogan and Obama have fulsomely flattered each other-Erdogan uses his controlled media to incite populist hatred of the U.S.  The Turkey-Brazil machinations confirmed the vacuity of Obama’s Iran policy. Perhaps our Government will begin to understand what Turkey has become.  A Turkish deputy defense minister came to my farewell brunch on the Bosporus.  Upon my return to the U.S., I was the dinner guest of Turkey’s Ambassador in Washington, a brilliant diplomat and friend of democracy.  Both tried to convince me that Turkey aspires to lead the Islamic world in a moderate direction and to deny nuclear arms to neighboring Iran.  To this point, they have not convinced me, but at least dialogue continues.
Challenges from Russia:  More Complex but Less Imminent
The challenges to U.S. foreign policy I found in Moscow are more complex but less imminent.  This may sound strange after all the years of the Cold War in which the USSR was Global Enemy Number 1.  Smart Russians do not want to reignite even a Cold War with the U.S.  Moscow was girding for its High Holiday period-from May Day to the 65th anniversary of V-E Day.  On Moscow’s outskirts, I saw posters depicting the Hammer and Sickle as holiday symbols.  These were banned from central Moscow, along with posters depicting Stalin.  The Russian government wanted to make clear that heroism-and massive sacrifice-of the Russian people defeated Nazism and that Stalin, whatever his accomplishments, committed unpardonable crimes.  I witnessed restrained but effective dispersal of pro-Stalin demonstrators.
Well-connected Russians with whom I spoke regretted the dissolution of the Soviet Union and were opposed to assertions of U.S. military power in east Europe.  But of more immediate concern were the problems of (1) Islamic terrorism (Russia’s Muslim population may be as high as 20%), as evidenced in recent subway bombings and (2) Chinese expansionism, particularly as threatening Russia’s vast Far East-three times the size of Europe-which has a shrinking population of 7.5 million while hundreds of millions of Chinese live just across the border.  China’s economic engine is securing access to resources everywhere it can.  Our hyped sanctions “deal” allows the Chinese exemption from energy sanctions on Iran (which, if implemented, would constitute real pressure on Tehran).  Thus, Obama has achieved a double whammy in foisting “sanctions” that are guaranteed to fail while abetting China in its competition with out country and the rest of the world to near-monopolize global access to resources.
Obama policies have encouraged Russians to believe we lack coherency.  Obama caved in to Russian demands and reneged on a commitment to provide missile defense to the Czech Republic and Poland without getting anything in return, as acknowledged to me in a dinner meeting  with David   Sanger, chief diplomatic reporter for the N.Y. Times, a consistent flack for the President. The Russians have played a clever cat-and-mouse game in fending off tough U.N. sanctions against Iran, but they have to this point practiced restraint in neither finishing the Busheir nuclear plant nor supplying Iran with the S-300 ground-to-air missiles. (though an egregious lacuna in the proposed START treaty allows them to do so, if they choose.)  A Russian announcement of new arms supply to Syria gives reason for vigilance, but I would be surprised if the Russians try to undermine Israel’s security.  Picking up some loose Arab money while annoying Washington is a familiar Moscow tactic.  Obama’s obsession with nuclear disarmament (we have now idiotically proclaimed that we will not respond with nuclear weapons to a massive biological or chemical attack by a hostile country) has aided the Russians in allowing them to destroy obsolete weapons while we destroy deployable stock. 
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which Obama and Russia’s president signed in Prague in April so grotesquely favors Russian and undermines U.S. interests that our Senate may refuse ratification.  Peter Brookes, former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, provided worrisome details in a May 14 N.Y. Post article, pointing out that “the Russians got a great deal” on the new treaty “at our expense.”  Obama seems to believe that unilateral U.S. shedding of strategic weapons will incentivize Iran and North Korea to obey U.N. arms resolutions.  Watch the Senate ratification hearings. And who knows what the Russians made of Joe Biden’s foolish remarks about diminished Russian power.  In Kiev, I learned that the Russians have largely succeeded in forcing Ukraine-with its 60 million people and strategic location-back into relative servitude.
Does Our Government Understand the Implications of a Turkish-Russian Strategic Partnership?
Nature abhors a vacuum.  Both Russia and Turkey perceive the naive vacuity of our foreign policy.   They, along with the rest of the word, heard Obama recently say that we are a super-power, “whether we like it or not.”   Thus, I was not surprised to read upon returning to the U.S.  that   Russian President Medvedev had made a state visit to Turkey’s Islamist President Gul.  Medvedev proclaimed establishment of “a full -scale strategic partnership” which includes Russia’s building a nuclear power plant in Turkey as well as energy pipelines. This is hardly a new Warsaw Pact, nor an existential axis of evil. But neither can it be dismissed casually by incantations of “engagement” or defaulting, as the Europeans do, to soft power.
A Russian-Turkish alliance stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea presents a new set of problems for American diplomacy.  A NATO member in “strategic partnership” with Russia is contrary to more than a half century of NATO doctrine.  The problem is magnified when the NATO ally becomes an ally of Iran and holds joint military exercises with Syria.  My soundings in Moscow suggest that the Russian government comprehends these changing dynamics and the advantages this gives to the Kremlin.  I see no evidence that the same can be said of our government.

Turkey’s political alliances are changing quickly

Turkey’s political alliances are changing quickly
Posted: Saturday, Mar 20th, 2010
BY: DR. LAINA FARHAT-HOLZMAN

In my college sociology text (decades ago) was a surprising survey asking who would American fathers most object to their daughters marrying. At the top of the list came Turks — yet few of these fathers had ever met one. This reflected a fear so old that it was buried deeply in the Western memory bank.

In 1452, the Ottoman Turks conquered the old Byzantine Empire, that eastern part of the Roman Empire that had been a great power for a thousand years. They overran Constantinople and then conquered much of Eastern Europe (the Balkans and Greece), getting as far as Vienna, when turned back. They also took over the southern Mediterranean region that the Arabs had originally taken. They ruled with an iron hand, but permitted some self-governance of non-Muslims, some of whom flourished by knowing whom to buy off. Corruption was rampant.

Europe had much to fear from the Turks, but as Europe became stronger, they feared them less and in many ways were enchanted by Turkish culture.  In the 18th century, this interest was apparent in a flourishing of harem-fantasy art and even a comic opera by Mozart: “Abduction from the Seraglio.” Although in treating such an abduction as comedy, it was still a real possibility that travelers in the Mediterranean could be so abducted and wind up on the Muslim slave market or in a harem.

The Ottoman Empire was beginning to fall apart in the 19th century and finally collapsed after World War I. Out of this crumbled empire emerged a new country, modern Turkey.  In 1923, Turkey’s first president (with dictatorial powers), an admired general, was Kemal Ataturk.

Ataturk created a modern state — which he envisioned as part of Europe, rather than part of the Muslim world. He changed the alphabet from Arabic to Latin (much opposed by the Muslim clerics), abolished women’s veils, established public schooling and a civil service, and modernized the military, giving it the duty to preserve the new democracy for secular, not religious governance. His remarkable transformation of Turkey served them well over many decades. They had a strong alliance with the United States, which brought them into NATO as a defense against the Soviet Union (despite protests from Greece).

Turkey also had a fruitful relationship with Israel, contrary to the inflamed passions of the Arab world, as well as a solid relationship with Iran, whose own shah/dictator modernized that country on a model established by Ataturk. Both countries thrived during that period.

For the past decade, however, Turkey has changed. Demographics have played an unforeseen role here: secular Turkey has only a modest birthrate, but the less educated eastern part of the country, more conservative and more religious, has flooded into Istanbul and Ankara, and through voting they are transforming Turkish society. The military intervened in a prior election of an Islamist party, but because of Turkey’s desire to enter the European Community, the military has refrained from interfering this time with what appears to be a creeping Islamization of the government.

Under what some Europeans call “mild Islamism” (like being a little pregnant?), an Islamist government not only came to power, but has changed the country’s direction. They have cooled toward the United States and are freezing out Israel. Their new best friends are Iran and the rest of the Muslim world. So far, some of the more draconian social legislation they have proposed has failed, but they fully intend to add control of the military to that of the courts and other institutions. Even worse, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was recently awarded the Saudi King Faisal “International Prize for Service to Islam.” How will that sit with secular Turks?

In February, the government supposedly quashed a military plot to stage a coup and have rounded up Turkey’s most distinguished top military. A show trial is guaranteed — and Turkey’s secular population will be gradually suppressed. Ataturk is turning over in his grave, and Turkey’s former friends had better rethink their alliances.

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Laina  Farhat-Holzman is a writer, lecturer and historian. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or http://www.globalthink.net. The opinions of columnists are not necessarily those of the Register-Pajaronian.

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