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Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category

Can we trust Turkey?

Posted by Charles II on January 26, 2016

Der Spiegel

Can Turkey Be Trusted?

This puts Western intelligence services in a difficult position: Can the Turks be trusted?

Still, European diplomats in Turkey take information provided by MIT about potential IS terrorists seriously. For example, MIT has provided concrete information about possible terrorist attackers who are making their way to Europe or are already there. One diplomat, an expert on security issues, notes that Turkey maintains a “network of informants in Syria and Iraq that should not be underestimated.” Few other intelligence agencies have such good sources in the region. The source says the Turkish government has in fact “perceptibly increased” its efforts to combat IS during the last six months. Still, the source adds, doubts persist when it comes to Ankara’s political agenda.

“There’s always a residual risk about whether Ankara is truly interested in fighting IS, or if it actually has secret sympathies — either because it wants to use it as a means to weaken Assad or because, they feel closer to their fellow believers for religious reasons (as predominantly Sunni Muslims),” the source says.

Other experts draw a less flattering comparison to Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service. With ISI, too, they say, you never know which side it is actually on — whether it is combatting or supporting the Taliban or doing both at the same time.

European diplomats also find it problematic that MIT was given additional responsibilities in 2014 such that it can now be used as a “domestic policy instrument.” The secret service now has much greater access to data from companies, banks and their customers. “It is making life difficult for all people who are unpopular with the government,” the diplomat says. He says this has also resulted in further incursions into press freedoms. Journalists who report on the intelligence agency’s activities can now be subject to prosecution and stiff prison sentences because it can be claimed that they threaten security.

Posted in Turkey, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Can we trust Turkey?

In which Turkey loses its mind

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2015

Kareem Shaheen et al., The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin has called Turkey “accomplices of terrorists” and warned of “serious consequences” after a Turkish F-16 jet shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday morning, the first time a Nato country and Moscow have exchanged direct fire over the crisis in Syria.

Ankara and the Kremlin gave conflicting accounts of the incident, which appears to have occurred in an area near the Turkish-Syrian border straddling Iskenderun and Latakia.

The Turkish military said it scrambled two F-16 fighter jets after a plane entered Turkish airspace in the province of Hatay at 9.20am on Tuesday, warning it to leave 10 times in five minutes before shooting it down.

Russia’s defence ministry, in a series of tweets, confirmed that a Russian Su-24 had been shot down, but insisted the plane had never left Syrian airspace and claimed that fire from the ground was responsible.

Richard Engel of MSNBC said on Rachel that Turkey’s story did not make a lot of sense. He did clarify that the Turks are backing up anti-Assad Turkmen fighters. The US said that the aircraft were in “Turkish airspace for a matter of seconds.” What Turkey did may (or may not) have been technically legal, but it’s the kind of thing that only nations that are at the brink of war do to one another. The US has trespassed into Russian and Chinese airspace and there have been very few instances where they took such extreme measures against us.

When Vladimir Putin used the phrase, “accomplices of terrorists,” he posed the question that should be on the minds of US policy makers: is Turkey our ally, or is it so focused on dumpling Assad that it’s willing to put ISIS in power.

Additional links:

Turkey has spent years allowing jihadist groups to flourish – so beware its real reasons for shooting down a Russian plane

Turkey Provokes Russia with Shoot-down

Posted in Turkey, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Was Turkey behind Syria sarin attack?

Posted by Charles II on April 8, 2014

This story is a few days old, but it’s possibly one of the more important foreign policy stories of the year. Seymour Hersh has published an article in the London Review of Books that suggests that the poison gas attack in Syria that killed so many people may have been instigated by Turkey using a Salafist Al Qaeda affliliate, al-Nusra. Here’s the Democracy Now interview:

AMY GOODMAN: In your piece, you mention the leaked video of a discussion between the Turkish prime minister, Erdogan, and senior officials of a false flag operation that would justify Turkish military intervention in Syria. … Sy Hersh, could you explain what the Erdogan administration’s support for the rebels, the Turkish support for the rebels, has consisted of and where the U.S. now stands on this?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, … al-Nusra [Salafist terrorist] groups have been inside Turkey buying equipment. There’s also reports that they’ve also received some training from the Turkish intelligence services, which is very—is headed by a man named Fidan, who is very known. There’s reports, wonderful report in The Wall Street Journal recently about Fidan’s closeness not only to Erdogan, the prime minister and the leader of Turkey, but also to the most radical units. And so is Erdogan. They’re all supportin… the more fundamental groups inside Syria. And so, we know they supply training. We know also there’s a—there’s, I guess you could call it, another rat line. There’s a flow—if you’re going to send the chemicals that, when mixed together, meddled together, make sarin, they flow—that flow comes from inside Turkey. A sort of a paramilitary unit known as the gendarmy—Gendarmerie and the MIT [Milli Istihbarat Teskilati] both are responsible for funneling these things into radical groups. There’s actually a flow of trucks that brings the stuff in. And so, Turkish involvement is intense.

Why is this important news? Turkey is a NATO ally. Turkey has nuclear reactors; though it does not have such weapons, it wouldn’t be too hard to divert some material. It would be a real problem if Al Qaeda developed a foothold inside Turkey.

More here.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Syria, Turkey | 4 Comments »

Another Obama foreign policy blunder

Posted by Charles II on August 15, 2010

Daniel Dombey of The Financial Times reports that the Obama Administration is threatening Turkey over its stance on Iran and Israel.

The less controversial part of this is that Turkey wants to buy advanced weaponry such as drones to use against the Kurds, who cross the Turkish-Iraqi border for raids against Turkey. The Administration has warned that it will be more difficult to move such a request through Congress. Fair enough.

But the Administration is also trying to muscle the Prime Minister into silencing his criticism of Israel for its grossly illegal actions against the Mavi Marmara in enforcing the illegal Gaza blockade and for refusing to endorse Washington’s demand that the UN further sanction Iran. These are matters on which a genuinely independent sovereign state like Turkey has a right to disagree. If the United States pushes too hard, it’s likely to push Turkey into the independent bloc of which Brazil has so far been the only member.

It should also be noted that what the Kurds are doing is, under international law, terrorism (even if historically they may be justified in regarding themselves as an occupied nation). If the US can’t control the border–and it can’t–then Turkey may be justified in treating incursions as an act of war and responding by occupying Kurdistan. That won’t happen as long as US troops are stationed there, but the day is coming when they will be gone.

It’s impossible to see what the Obama Administration hopes to accomplish besides alienating an ally and destabilizing Iraq.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran, israel, Turkey | 1 Comment »

No comment

Posted by Charles II on July 7, 2010

Following up on Phoenix Woman‘s post about Turkish-Israeli relations, this from Jim Lobe of IPS:

WASHINGTON, Jul 6, 2010 (IPS) – Insisting that the bond between their two nations was “unbreakable”, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emerged all smiles from their long-awaited White House meeting here Tuesday.

Speaking before reporters, the two men, whose last encounter here in March appeared to confirm a crisis in bilateral ties, lavished compliments on each other.

“[T]he fact of the matter is, is that I’ve trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected president,” declared Obama before the two leaders were joined by their top aides for a working lunch.

I wonder how these photos will play in Turkey.

There is one encouraging note from the article:

One analyst said Obama’s remarks appeared designed in part to establish linkage between progress on the Palestinian- Israeli front and further pressure on Iran.

“Obama was saying he’s now delivered on tough sanctions on Iran, and he’s pressing Netanyahu on what he’s going to do in return,” said Steve Clemons, head of the American Strategy programme at the New America Foundation. “He’s is trying to be a calculating deal-maker and push the reset button with Netanyahu. If Netanyahu doesn’t respond, things could get much worse.”

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, israel, Turkey | 2 Comments »

Ooooopsie!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 7, 2010

Ever since the IDF massacre of the passengers of the Mavi Marmara six weeks ago, Turkey has said they were going to cut off relations with Israel unless one of two things happened: The Israelis either apologized outright or agreed to a genuine impartial international investigation.

Well, the Israelis did neither, and guess what, kiddies — the Turks weren’t bluffing:

That the Israelis have been on again off again sponsors of the Kurdish separatist movement(s) is so well known as to be barely worthy of comment. That Turkey is officially starting to take notice is very noteworthy. This article, ‘Israel may have ordered Kurdish terror attack’ from the Israeli news site Ynet gives a brief outline of the meltdown taking place between Israel and the Turks. The article in Zaman to which the Ynet report refers can be found here, Suspicion growing about possible link between PKK and Israel. The article details the growing consensus amongst Turkish analysts and politicians that Israel is sponsoring terrorist acts by Kuridsh separatists…

If there is a quicker way to turn the average Turkish citizen against Israel, this would be it.

Meanwhile, there’s already a blanket ban on Israeli military flights through Turkish airspace; that ban is likely to be extended to civilian aircraft. This will cause the Israeli airline El Al quite a lot of inconvenience and extra expense.

And that ain’t all — the Turks just cancelled a big water project, several years in the making, that would have diverted 1.75 billion cubic feet of water per year to Israel, an amount representing three percent of Israel’s total water usage.

Oh, and that’s before diplomatic relations are officially severed, as is soon likely to happen.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Posted in israel, Turkey | 3 Comments »

South of the Border

Posted by Charles II on June 22, 2010

There are very few means for Americans to get a glimpse into the reality occurring in Latin America. Oliver Stone has produced a film called “South of the Border” that gives some insight not only into that reality, but into how the American media have completely misled our understanding of what’s going on. Now, what is going on in Latin America is too complex for a guy like Stone to capture. By necessity, given the time constraints of the medium, he sketches in black and white. There’s a lot of gray.

At any rate, here is an excerpt of a longer interview of him and co-worker Tariq Ali on his new movie:

AMY GOODMAN: That was Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Oliver Stone, talk about how the US media portrays Chávez.

OLIVER STONE: Well, all you have to do is go to YouTube, and you’ll see. I mean, we put in the movie, it’s hysterical and outrageous. And by the way, mainstream—Washington Post, New York Times—it’s awful. I mean, it’s almost as if the New York Times guy—Simon Romero is his name—he sits there for years, and he’s a sniper. He doesn’t say one positive thing. It’s like every week or two he has to file his story, make it negative. It seems like that’s a directive. And he goes out—I mean, you read this stuff. All of it—and he never goes to the other side. He never gets the other side of the story. And he gets very complex little incidents, and he builds it up into this madhouse. It seems like it’s Chile again, like Allende. It’s like the economy is crashing. And the contrary is true. I mean, it’s a very rich country. It’s a regional power. It’s got, apparently, $500 billion—5,000 billion barrels of oil in reserve. It’s a major player for the rest of our time on earth, as long as we go with oil. You know, they’re not going to go away. So, Brazil and Venezuela.

And that raises a whole interesting thing about what recently happened in Iran, you know, when Lula from Brazil went over there with Turkey, Erdogan. That was a very interesting moment for me and for Tariq, because I grew up in the ’50s, so did he, and we remember the neutral bloc, remember the—remember Nehru and Nasser and Sukarno and fellow in Cambodia.

TARIQ ALI: Sihanouk

OLIVER STONE: Sihanouk. I mean, there was a bloc of people who used to say, “Hey, this is what we want. This is not what the United States wants.” And they were a mediator, a third rail between the Soviets and us. That’s gone in the world, and people don’t seem to realize it who are growing up. So when Lula did that, I couldn’t believe the outrage by people like Tom Friedman attacking him. And it was disgusting, I thought, really disgusting, because he never presented the point of view of Brazil and Turkey, which are major countries, huge powers, regional powers.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the New York Times, of course, before that trip, was blasting the possibility of Lula being able to negotiate any kind of arrangement and basically saying he was naive, he was out of his league. And Tariq, your response? The impact of that deal that was brokered by Turkey and—

TARIQ ALI: Look, I mean, everyone was surprised in the West, that how dare these countries have the nerve to go over our heads and negotiate an independent deal with Iran. But this is what the world once used to be like. No one accepted US hegemony unquestioningly, as many of the Security Council members do. The other point is that Brazil was very courageous to do this, Lula particularly, because Brazil has been trying to get a Security—permanent Security Council seat for a long time, and they’ve now jeopardized that process. They will never be allowed it. So they did it for good principled reasons, showing the world Iran is prepared to do a deal; it’s you who don’t want to do it, because you’re permanently under pressure from Israel.

This is what we’re seeing emerge from US weakness: a new, non-aligned bloc.

Posted in Brazil, Iran, Latin America, Turkey, world news | 4 Comments »

Further decline in US leadership

Posted by Charles II on May 17, 2010

Once again, the US is left in the dust by Brazil.

Ladane Nasseri and Henry Meyer, Bloomberg:

Iran agreed to hand to Turkey about half of its enriched uranium in exchange for fuel to run a medical reactor, possibly thwarting U.S. efforts to step up international sanctions over the Iranian atomic program. …

The agreement, brokered by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, comes as the U.S. has been rallying support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against the Persian Gulf state.

Sanger and Slackman at the NYT get around to saying this, well below the fold:

Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, described the agreement as a “confidence-building measure,” and said he was disappointed in the Obama administration’s reaction. “I would have expected a more encouraging statement,” he said.

“We don’t believe in sanctions, and I don’t believe anybody can challenge us, and certainly not the United States,” Mr. Tan said. “They don’t work.”

Rightly or wrongly, the US has been categorized as a nation that deals with conflict through extreme violence. The world wants another model. Brazil and Turkey, for their own reasons (perhaps both hope to develop nuclear industries of their own), are entering a vacuum created by a lack of American leadership.

Posted in Brazil, Iran, nukes, Obama Administration, Turkey, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Orient ex-Press

Posted by Charles II on June 24, 2009

Ben Holland and Kayat Kayakiran, Bloomberg

Turkish press mogul [who publishes Hurriyet] Aydin Dogan has counted many of the country’s movers and shakers as intimates — among them 55-year-old incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who used to address Dogan, now 73, as ‘agabey,’ a term of respect that Turks use for older men.

Respect seemed nowhere apparent in February, however, as the prime minister paced a stage under heavy snow during an election rally for local candidates of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in the central Turkish town of Yozgat. “Mr. Dogan, come to your senses,” Erdogan shouted. “This prime minister is different. You’re used to prime ministers who bow and scrape before you.” He also whipped up the crowd with a fiery admonition: “Don’t buy newspapers that print lies.”

The row between a prime minister who has won the biggest share of the popular vote of any candidate since 1965 and a press baron who as chairman of Dogan Yayin Holding AS controls more than half of the country’s newspaper market isn’t a mere parochial falling out among powerful men. The fracas has spooked foreign investors at a time when the country, a U.S. ally and member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, can ill afford it.

The short version: Dogan says that Erdogan has engaged in reprisals against him because Hurriyet published a story that might lead one to believe that Erdogan accepted money siphoned off from a charity. Erdogan says that Dogan is engaged in reprisals against him because he refused to give Dogan preferential treatment. Definitely a p–sing match of epic proportions for which the Middle East is justly famous, with consequences that could extend into Europe, where the EU is already asking whether Erdogan is using governmental power to muscle Turkey’s free press. Not to mention the chance of starting another financial panic. Erdogan’s constituents aren’t heeding his appeals for them to boycott Hurriyet, but he has cost Dogan a billion dollars, so the next step is probably a stand down, temporary or not.

Posted in media, Turkey, world news | Comments Off on The Orient ex-Press

Our allies, the Turks and the Kurds

Posted by Charles II on December 28, 2008

Anyone who commits the land power of the United States to the Middle East ought to have his head examined –Douglas MacArthur, generously paraphrased

Hurriyet Daily News:

As Turkey’s first full-time Kurdish TV Channel, TRT-6, is about to be launched, bans remain on the use of letters in the Kurdish alphabet such as w, q, and x, which are absent in the Turkish language.

The head of the Kurdish Writers’ Association, İrfan Babaoğlu, dismissed the channel initiative as tragicomic and said the dilemma Turkey faces now is the use of the Kurdish language, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review yesterday.

“People cannot name their children, streets, or parks in Kurdish. Just today (Sunday) in Diyarbakır, 12 parks were opened; all their original names were in Kurdish. They were then given to the municipality and the names were changed by the district governor,” Babaoğlu said. “Most of them did not even have w, q, or x in the name. …

Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan requested minute keepers of Parliament to refer to the Kurdish not as “an unknown language” that has been the practice since 1991, but as “a non-Turkish language.”

These are our friends.

Posted in Iraq war, Turkey | 3 Comments »

 
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