Reuters reports: Egypt said on Saturday it was expelling Turkey’s ambassador and accused Ankara of backing organizations bent on undermining the country – an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi.
Turkey, which had forged close ties with Egypt under Mursi, responded by declaring the Egyptian ambassador, currently out of the country, persona non grata.
“We are saddened by this situation,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “But responsibility before history belongs to Egypt’s temporary administration which came to power under the extraordinary circumstances of the July 3 coup.”
Turkey has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Mursi’s removal, calling it an “unacceptable coup”. Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging protests calling for his reinstatement, has close ties with Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.
Reuters reports: Iraqi Kurdistan has finalized a comprehensive package of deals with Turkey to build multi-billion dollar oil and gas pipelines to ship the autonomous region’s rich hydrocarbon reserves to world markets, sources involved in talks said on November 6.
The deals, which could have important geo-political consequences for the Middle East, could see Kurdistan export some 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil to world markets and at least 10 billion cubic meters per year of gas to Turkey.
Such a relationship would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, when Ankara enjoyed strong ties with Iraq’s central Baghdad government and was deep in a decades-long fight with Kurdish militants on its own soil.
But Turkey imports almost all of its energy needs and growing demand means it faces a ballooning deficit, making the resources over its southeastern border hard to ignore.
Rami G Khouri writes: Observing the Middle East from the United States, where I have spent the last month, has been fascinating, because historic changes are occurring in some relationships between these two regions. This includes evolving American ties with the five key strategic players in the region: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Turkey and Egypt. The most important changes are taking place in the triangular relationship among the United Sates and each of Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Three simultaneous things are occurring here that are intriguing, but their permanent implications remain unclear because events are in their early days.
The first is the United States’ resumption of direct and serious talks with Iran in a more positive atmosphere that seeks to end the dispute over Iran’s nuclear capabilities while also addressing Iranian concerns about American policy toward Iran. Should the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 powers succeed, as I expect, this could mark a revolutionary new era when Iran would slowly resume normal ties with global powers and reshape its relations within the Middle East. This in turn could have major implications for Saudi Arabian and Gulf Cooperation Council policies, as well as conditions in Syria and Iraq, and the status of Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Washington’s evolving perceptions of Iran reflect the second change, which is a rare case of the U.S. pursuing policies in the Middle East that are not fully in line with Israeli fears or wishes. Israel and its influential American mouthpieces in Washington have lobbied overtime in recent months to prevent a U.S.-Iranian dialogue or serious negotiations that could lead to a rapprochement. They have failed to date in this. Washington has tried to placate Israeli concerns with the rhetoric that Israel expects to hear from its friends in the U.S., but President Barack Obama has ignored Israeli exhortations and moved ahead sharply to negotiate with Iran. We can expect major consequences from a U.S. foreign policy that is shaped by U.S. national interests, rather than by Israeli dictates, fears and manipulations. [Continue reading...]
News this week that eBay founder Pierre Morad Omidyar is ready to invest $250 million in a new media venture, should have come as unsettling news to staff at the Washington Post.
Jay Rosen says Omidyar “was one of the people approached by the Washington Post Company about buying the Post,” and since Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos paid $250 million for the Post, it doesn’t sound like he outbid Omidyar. On the contrary, it sounds more like Omidyar felt like if he was going to spend that amount of money, it would be better spent creating a new organization than taking over an old institution.
Technology journalist David Kirkpatrick, describes the Post’s buyer like this: “Bezos is like a trickster. He’s like a very calculating, secretive genius.” Chances are, he views his purchase as a technologist and entrepreneur would: the acquisition of a platform and a strong brand. The bits inside that structure — traditionally known as journalists — must all be aware that they are each expendable.
So what’s a lowly blogger inside the newspaper going to do when afraid that he might seen get trimmed off like a piece of fat? Take new risks and try and stand out? Or curry favor inside the organization by flattering his superiors?
There is a social and journalistic taboo around speculating about motives. After all, since motives are inherently private, such speculation can easily be refuted — even if it happens to be accurate. Still, assessing motives is something that human beings do all the time, even if discretion usually dictates that those assessments, like the motives themselves, also remain concealed. Once in a while, though, it’s worth breaking the taboo.
On Wednesday, the Post’s associate editor and columnist, David Ignatius, revealed this:
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.
Opinion writers like Ignatius revel in their occasional ability to break news, since it underlines their privileged access to high-level sources. At the same time, they have a habit of making themselves a mouthpiece for such sources. Ignatius, for instance, has been branded as “the CIA’s spokesman at The Washington Post.”
On Thursday, Max Fisher, the Post’s foreign affairs blogger, took the opportunity to give Ignatius’s column an extra boost and suggested that it might have helped resolve an enduring mystery: why it had taken the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, almost three years to apologize to Turkey for the deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
That refusal to apologize is now “much more understandable” — at least in Fisher’s mind — now that (thanks to Ignatius) we know about Turkey’s “effort to slap the Israelis” by outing their Iranian intelligence assets.
Under the headline, “Now we know why Netanyahu wouldn’t apologize for the Gaza flotilla raid,” Fisher is nevertheless forced to concede that this “explanation” explains virtually nothing: “This does not explain, of course, why Netanyahu wouldn’t have apologized between the initial 2010 raid and this reported 2012 spy outing.”
Indeed. On the other hand, Netanyahu’s unwillingness to apologize may in fact answer what Fisher regards as a remaining mystery: “Why did the Turkish government out these Israeli spies?” Urrmmm… how about because the Israelis wouldn’t apologize for killing nine Turkish citizens. (Note, Turkey now denies the outing ever occurred and says Ignatius’s story is a smear campaign.)
Now if Fisher really wanted to dig into the bad blood between Turkey and Israel, he might want to make a less complimentary reference to Ignatius and look back at the 2009 row at Davos which the columnist seriously mishandled.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan took exception to a thundering address delivered by Israeli president Shimon Peres who claimed that the IDF’s conduct, while slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, was above reproach. Ignatius tried to hush Erdogan by insisting that everyone would rather get to dinner, after which the Turkish prime minister famously stormed off the stage.
Fisher wants to point out that “many developments in international relations happen in secret,” as indeed they do, and that only later are some of these mysteries unraveled by sage-like columnists.
But in this case, the columnist was no sage and the most important developments were highly visible.
CNN reports: Turkey’s top diplomat angrily rejected U.S. newspaper reports alleging the Turkish government leaked Israeli intelligence secrets to Iran.
“This is just a smear campaign. This is not true. It is dirty propaganda,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, according to a ministry spokesman.
Davutoglu was referring to a column published in the Washington Post on Thursday. Citing “knowledgeable sources,” the Post’s David Ignatius reported that in early 2012, the Turkish government revealed to Iranian intelligence “the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.”
The Mossad is Israel’s intelligence service.
The reported leak took place at a time when relations between Turkey and Israel were at an all-time low, after Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and an American activist during a botched 2010 raid against the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish aid ship seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Until then, Turkey and Israel had enjoyed decades of close military, intelligence and economic ties. [Continue reading...]
David Ignatius writes: 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.
Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. In that confrontation at sea, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish-organized convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine Turks were killed.
Netanyahu finally apologized to Erdogan by phone in March after President Obama negotiated a compromise formula. But for more than a year before that, the Israeli leader had resisted entreaties from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to heal the feud.
Top Israeli officials believe that, despite the apology, the severe strain with Erdogan continues. The Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, is also suspect in Israel because of what are seen as friendly links with Tehran; several years ago, Israeli intelligence officers are said to have described him facetiously to CIA officials as “the MOIS station chief in Ankara,” a reference to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United States continued to deal with Fidan on sensitive matters, however.
Though U.S. officials regarded exposure of the Israeli network as an unfortunate intelligence loss, they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants. This practice of separating intelligence issues from broader policymaking is said to be a long-standing U.S. approach. [Continue reading...]
Like many of Washington’s leading op-ed writers, Ignatius has a habit of parroting his sources — part of the long-standing gentleman’s agreement that the privilege to talk to high officials tends to be reserved for the most sycophantic members of the press. Thus this piece raises no questions about the operations that Israel’s Iranian agents would have been conducting — most likely acts of terrorism targeting civilian Iranian nuclear scientists — nor acknowledges that Turkey might have perfectly legitimate political reasons for not wanting to be complicit in Israel’s secret war against Iran.
Hürriyet Daily News reports: A new regulation will allow Turkish police to detain those who possess the “risk of conducting a protest” from 12 to 24 hours without the demand of a prosecutor or a judge, prompting acute worries from opposition deputies.
The new regulations that will be conducted jointly by the justice and interior ministries will allow the police to detain a suspect who “may hold a protest” for up to 24 hours without any court decision while also increasing the penalties for resistance to police and damaging public property.
The move to strengthen police powers was precipitated by the countrywide Gezi Park protests, which began at the end of May.
Organizations which “tend to hold protests” will be monitored and their members could be detained by police if intelligence reports suggest they are planning to conduct a demonstration or action.
A judge will also be able to extend the 24-hour detention period if desired. Under the current law, a judge’s or prosecutor’s order is necessary to detain people in such cases.
The regulations will also increase the penalties for resistance to police and damage to public property. Those who possess Molotov cocktails might be sentenced to up to five years in prison under the new regulations. The draft also includes a board to regulate security forces, which will monitor malpractice within the institutions.
Criticizing the moves, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy leader Semih Yalçın said the regulations were “signs of police state.” [Continue reading...]
Mustafa Akyol writes: It has now been a month from the beginning of the Gezi Park crisis and the subsequent anti-government protests that shook Turkey. Most observers, including myself, have concluded that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have both misunderstood and mismanaged the crisis. However, I also think that the AKP elites have learned some lessons and are willing to take some helpful steps.
For sure, the misunderstanding still goes on, and at its heart lies the AKP propaganda, if not self-delusion, that all the protests were orchestrated by “dark powers” which wanted to sabotage Turkey’s glorious progress. A film prepared by the AKP public-relations department lays out this scheme very clearly, by explaining how Erdogan’s success provoked a long list of conspirators, ranging from the interest-rate lobby to foreign companies and their domestic “spies.” Uncritically pro-Erdogan commentators in the media take these conspiracy theories to new heights every day, blaming almost every political actor in the world except the AKP itself. According to one popular theory, for example, one of the conspirators was the German Lufthansa, which wanted to take on revenge Turkey for the success of Turkish Airlines and the construction of Istanbul’s third airport, which promises to be Europe’s largest.
There are also worrying signs of a probable witchhunt against the protesters. In fact, we should grant that some of them — especially those who come from the far left — were inexcusably violent as they tried to storm the prime minister’s office or set AKP buildings on fire. In other words, the police is justified in investigating such criminals. But other steps by the authorities, such as the government’s demand from public offices the lists of public servants who joined the protests, are concerning. Similarly worrying are Erdogan’s public threats against businessmen who supported the protests. The government has to understand that while vandalism is a crime, peaceful protests are perfectly legitimate and no one can be tried for joining them. [Continue reading...]
Steven Cook writes: “Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gan! Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gan!” chanted supporters of the Turkish prime minister, as a friend and I made our way through the absolutely mammoth crowd that descended on the Kazlicesme area of Istanbul last Sunday to hear their leader speak. As with Erdogan’s rally in the capital, Ankara, the day before, the people who turned out here, many of whom were decked out in scarves, T-shirts, and masks supporting the prime minister, vastly outnumbered the Gezi Park protesters who have captured global headlines. Young, old, well-to-do, decidedly modest, religious, and secular all declared their devotion to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdogan. When the prime minister surveyed the 295,000 souls who had come to express their devotion and thundered, “Taksim Square is not Turkey!” it was a vindication of his vision, his economic policies, and the strength of his leadership. Yet the irony was that at Kazlicesme, Erdogan’s demonstration of strength revealed his profound weakness and political vulnerability.
Anyone with even a passing interest in Turkey knows something about the Erdogan mystique. He’s the tough guy from the Kasimpasa neighborhood — literally and figuratively down a steep slope from Taksim Square — who has remade Turkey over the last decade. For the media personalities parachuted into a maelstrom of tear gas, water cannons, and pepper spray, Turkey under Erdogan is best described as an economic and political success story, a “model” of a “Muslim democracy and prosperity” for the Arab world. But Erdogan’s reservoir of support is based on a much more tangible set of factors. The fact that he presides over the 17th-largest economy in the world — it was the 16th in the 1990s — is less important than the fact that more people are participating in it than ever before. There are still fabulously wealthy and terribly poor people in Turkey, but the overall gap between the two has narrowed. That is no small accomplishment. In other high-growth countries like Brazil, China, and Russia, for example, that gap has grown.
Consistent with the kind of grassroots work that the AKP’s precursor, the Welfare Party, perfected in the 1980s and 1990s, Erdogan — the guy who used to sell the Turkish version of the bagel, called simit, from a cart on the street — has focused much of his time in office on improving the lives of ordinary Turks. In places where transportation was thin, health care was basic, and government services were non-existent, the prime minister has paved roads, built airports, established “Erdogan-care,” and forced local governments to be responsive to their constituents. As a result, Kasimpasa is not so rough-and-tumble anymore and the people there love him for it. [Continue reading...]
Joost Lagendijk writes: Erdoğan’s rise to power is inextricably connected with changes in Turkey’s society and economy in the 1980s and 1990s that challenged the old power structures and created new spaces for conservative businessmen, media and politicians. The self-made man from Kasımpaşa is the most successful among a new generation of pious Muslims who went into politics, especially after he realized that, in order to reach his goals, he had to moderate his policies and rhetoric. Still, since he became Istanbul mayor in the 1990s, his battle has been with the old elite and their representatives in politics and society, knowing that he could count on the support of the downtrodden and marginalized plus the growing middle classes and new business elites who shared his social conservatism and economic liberalism. His sympathies have always been with like-minded companies that rose with him and not with the old and established ones like the Koç family.
That struggle has made him the most successful politician since Atatürk and brought Turkey a lot of gains that are often overlooked these days. The country has become more prosperous since the AKP came to power, nobody even considers calling the army to intervene and we have never been closer to a solution for the Kurdish problem. But, apparently, at the back of Erdoğan’s mind there was always the fear that, one day, the old elites will try to strike back at him and his party because, deep down, they can’t stand being ruled by a so-called Black Turk that does not respect their views or lifestyles.
Listening to Erdoğan, I think it is obvious that he is convinced the people who went out on the streets to protest him are being manipulated by the same old forces he has been fighting his whole political life. In his perception of reality, they want to undermine and eventually destroy the new Turkey he has been building. As is every Turkish citizen, he is also prone to believe that his old foes in Turkey are being assisted by their traditional allies abroad and in the international media.
What we end up with is a mix of worn-out conspiracy theories and a political vision based on the fights of the past.
It is tragic to see the man who contributed considerably to Turkey’s journey towards a mature democracy is now stumbling somewhere halfway through because he is unable to understand that, as a result of his own policies, Turkey has changed. [Continue reading...]
Constanze Letsch writes: It is one of the most beautiful successes of the Gezi Park protests: cramped together inside an endangered inner city park, united in their anger at an authoritarian prime minister, protesters of all colours – leftists, nationalists, feminists, anarchists, religious groups, secularists, students, bankers – are engaging in dialogue.
Ahmet Metin, head of the Istanbul branch of the nationalist Association for Kemalist Thought, says he led “some wholesome discussions” with Kurdish protesters, LGBT activists and liberals, for the first time. “We don’t share the same political views, and we don’t agree on everything,” he admits. “But we’re all here to defend democratic rights. It’s a point of departure.”
Few romanticise this unexpected eruption of pluralist civil society. Every now and then, small verbal skirmishes break out: nationalists grumble at flags of the jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, hoisted in one corner of the park. Kurds are uneasy about protesters claiming to be soldiers of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Posters ask activists not to use sexist or racist language in their slogans. “Before you call anyone ‘a faggot’, remember that faggots have been on the frontline of this struggle all along,” one cardboard sign reminds passersby.
Hamdi, a 29-year-old architect who quit his job in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri to join the Gezi park protests, underlines that no political party has managed to force its label on to the movement. “We all know what we want from this and that’s enough to keep us together. We don’t need pre-packed ideologies.” [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: The Turkish authorities widened their crackdown on the antigovernment protest movement on Sunday, taking aim not just at the demonstrators themselves, but also at the medics who treat their injuries, the business owners who shelter them and the foreign news media flocking here to cover a growing political crisis threatening to paralyze the government of Prıme Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After an intense night of street clashes that represented the worst violence in nearly three weeks of protests, Mr. Erdogan rallied hundreds of thousands of his supporters on Sunday — many of them traveling on city buses and ferries that the government had mobilized for the event — at an outdoor arena on the shores of the Sea of Marmara. In some of his toughest language yet, he called his opponents terrorists and made clear that any hope of a compromise to end the crisis was gone.
“It is nothing more than the minority’s attempt to dominate the majority,” he said of the protesters. “We will not allow it.”
The escalating tensions have raised the risk of an extended period of civil unrest that could undermine Turkey’s image as a rising global power and a model of Islamic democracy, which Mr. Erdogan has cultivated over a decade in power. [Continue reading...]
Ali Yenidunya writes: It is now almost two weeks since mass demonstrations arose against his Government, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shows no sign of relenting in his decision to re-develop Istanbul’s Gezi Park, the catalyst for the protests, or to give way on wider demands, such as holding police accountable for violence that has killed three protesters and injured thousands.
Instead, on Tuesday, Erdogan justified police attacks to clear Istanbul’s Taksim Square and other protest sites: “What were we supposed to do? Kneel in front of these people and ask them remove the banners? How would those illegal rags be removed from public buildings?”
The Prime Minister stigmatised dissent, “Violent actions that took place in many cities of Turkey have camouflaged themselves behind the Gezi Park protests.”
This is dangerous language. It divides the country into two inimical camps, simplifies the crisis, and embedding it in a politics in which “democracy” is defined only through the “ballot box” and every opposing demand is labeled “illegitimate”. [Continue reading...]
Sophia Jones writes: The names of the dead are taped to Sycamore trees in Istanbul’s Gezi Park: Fatma Erboz, age 3. Ahmet Uyar, 45.
These trees — threatened by government redevelopment plans that have in turn inspired mass protests around Turkey — have been transformed into memorials for the more than 50 people who died in twin car bombings last month in Reyhanli, a Turkish town on the border of Syria.
On Tuesday morning, police attempted to drive protestors out of the park with water cannons and tear gas — perhaps signaling an end to the popular and mostly peaceful demonstrations that have spread across Turkey over the past two weeks. But the issues that have fueled the turmoil — from complaints over the Islamist government’s conservative social policies to demands for greater democracy — are not likely to dissipate so quickly. And that is particularly true of one issue that has inflamed many protesters’ anger at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The government’s stance on the war ravaging Syria, which has now claimed over 80,000 lives.
The war in Syria is polarizing Turkey. According to a recent study by MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center, based in Ankara, only 28 percent of the Turkish public supports the prime minister’s policies on Syria. Since the start of the conflict, the government has strongly condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. From early on, Erdogan has vocally supported the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the rebel group battling the regime, and has urged the United States to supply them with weapons and to establish a no-fly zone.
Turkey is crucial for the rebels. It offers refuge for their families as well as a safe zone where they can plan and launch attacks over the border. Turkish businesses supply the rebels with everything from medicine to uniforms to cigarettes. But many Turks have long worried that this would make them subject to retaliation by the Syrian government — a fear that, for many, was confirmed by the attacks in Reyhanli. The leader of Turkey’s main opposition has repeatedly confronted Erdogan over his pro-rebel policies, accusing the prime minister of supporting Syrian “terrorists.” [Continue reading...]
Can Oz writes: I am scared. With every speech that prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gives, I feel the hatred and disgust against me and young people of my generation increase. All we are after is a bit of freedom, a bit of space to live and a few trees. It reminds me of a line from Jimi Hendrix’s If 6 Was 9: “I’m the one that has to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.”
Today I was in Taksim Square again, a few hours after the police cleared the area with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets, and protesters hurled fireworks and fire bombs. Some say the protesters’ firebomb attack was staged, and while I don’t have certain proof that this was the case, it wouldn’t surprise me: over the past few days I have witnessed so many lies from the police and government that I don’t think I can ever trust them again. I have spent days with the protesters – withstanding another gas attack, cheering, singing chants and sharing food in the park – and I haven’t encountered any signs of weapons or violence on their behalf. These people made me feel like I’m living a dream.
The purpose of my visit to Taksim Square was to listen to the press conference the Taksim Solidarity movement had prepared; and I was confident that I could trust the chief of police and Istanbul mayor’s assurance that the park would not be attacked. Then, right before the press conference was about to start, gas rained down over our heads once again. It was a moment of crushing disappointment. Coughing, wiping tears out of my eyes, practically blind, I realised that our government would never understand the meaning of the passive resistance that Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi were famous for. That’s when I ran out of the park.
I am the owner of the biggest literary publishing house in the country. In the past few days I have received hate mail and death threats, just because I was publicly part of this passive resistance movement. [Continue reading...]