Turkish Coalition of America Syrian Refugee Campaign

I’m passing this on because it’s such a worthy cause:

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Children working on art projects at one of ReVi’s schools in Izmir

Since the launch of TCA’s Syrian Refugee Campaign in June 2016, TCA has distributed humanitarian grants to several organizations working directly on the ground with Syrian refugees in Turkey. These organizations include Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi), Butun Cocuklar Bizim (All Children are Ours), and Sureli Destek (Periodic Support).

With the grant, ReVi has opened schools in the Kadifekale and Basmane distircts of Izmir, which teach over 120 children age 5 -12 years old. None of these children had previously attended school before beginning classes at ReVi. ReVi is also helping families work from home through knitting and bracelet making. They provide workshops to teach families how to make bracelets and provide materials like wool and beads at no cost. They then purchase the products from the families and sell the items through their online store http://revistore.org. Through this wonderful program, many families are able to make enough money to pay their rent.

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Children at a school supported by Bütün Çocuklar Bizim

Working together, Butun Cocuklar Bizim and Sureli Destek have distributed food, supplies, diapers, and school bags to Syrian families living in the Fatih, Okmeydani, and Kucukcekm
ece districts of Istanbul. Many of the families have young children and rely on income from daily odd jobs to get by. Often, children as young as 8 years old are forced to work 12-14 hours a day to support their families. When asked, many of these children have conveyed their desire to attend any kind of school. Butun Cocuklar Bizim and Sureli Destek are working make sure all children who can enroll in school are registered and begin classes in the coming weeks.

To donate to TCA’s Campaign to Raise $100,000 for Syrian Refugees in Turkey, please click here. TCA will match every dollar contributed up to $100,000 as part of this campaign. The Turkish Coalition of America is a Section 501(c)3 nonprofit and your donations may qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes.

Turkish Coalition of America

The world’s largest neo-Ottoman suspension bridge

Yesterday I took a trip to look at a bridge. Sometimes you need to get away from all the politics and violence in the world and just chill out. So I took a ferryboat ride on the Bosporus. The Bosporus is a narrow twisting stretch of water flowing though the middle of Istanbul, joining the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It’s 33 kilometres long, and the ferry ride, popular with tourists and day-tripping locals, takes ninety minutes from Eminönü in the old city to the fishing village of Anadolu Kavağı.

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Rumeli Castle in April

It’s a delightful trip, taking you past centuries-old seaside mansions, royal palaces and two early Ottoman castles. The best season is spring, when the coastal slopes are clothed in purple erguvan blossom, known in English as the Judas tree. Cooler weather is also better, because you have a trek ahead – but some times you can’t be picky.

There’s a twenty-minute walk from the ferry wharf up a steepish road to the ruined castle that once guarded the northern entrance to the Bosporus strait. If you want a glimpse of the Back Sea, this is the place to come. The view and the fresh air make the climb worthwhile, and as everywhere in Turkey, there are cafes and restaurants catering for your refreshment needs, be it a cold beer or a gourmet meal. And now you can see the full stretch of the third Bosporus bridge, the main motive for my visit.

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The third Bosporus bridge

It’s an impressive structure. Weather conditions out here are pretty extreme. Black Sea storms are legendary. Snow sweeps down from Russia in winter, and summers are pitilessly hot. Earthquakes too are an ever-present threat. The bridge was budgeted to cost $2.5 billion. Its towers rise to a height of 322 metres, and the span between them is 1,408 metres. Huge oil tankers and container vessels constantly ply up and down the Bosporus so the road crosses about 70 metres above the sea.

Like cafes and restaurants, however, political controversy is everywhere in Turkey. There was a time when pretty much every new construction was honoured with the name of the republic’s revered founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: bridges, airports, parks, culture centres, city squares, state forests, botanical gardens . . . Fair enough, I guess. There’s a strong case to support the belief that, had it not been for his vision, courage and determination, Turkey would not exist, at least in anything resembling its present form. Foreign visitors, however, rarely grasp this. To most of them it just looks like blind adulation coupled with a sad lack of imagination.

The present government has departed from this almost sacred tradition, adding fuel to the fire of critics convinced that the AK Party, in power since 2003, is steadily undoing the work of the republic’s secular founders and dragging the country inexorably back to a state of Islamic fundamentalism.

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The Anatolian Castle

The new bridge across the Bosporus has been named for Yavuz Selim, the ninth Sultan to rule the Ottoman Empire, and the first to claim the title of Caliph, leader and protector of the world’s Muslims. There is a precedent. Admittedly the first bridge, opened in 1973, followed tradition and was officially called the Atatürk Bridge – though I have never heard anyone use that name. The second crossing, completed in 1988 during the term of Westernising prime minister Turgut Özal, is known to everyone as Fatih Sultan Mehmet, FSM for brevity’s sake, after the Ottoman conqueror of Constantinople.

Commemorating Selim I, however, has aroused some anger, particularly among the country’s large Alevi community. Back then, in the early 16th century, there was growing rivalry between two expanding powers in the region, the Sunni Ottomans and the Shi’ite Safavid Persians. Depending on who’s telling the story, Qizilbash Alevis were either innocent victims, massacred en masse for their religious beliefs by an evil, vengeful sultan – or traitors to their legitimate ruler who were lending military support to a dangerous foreign power. I’m not getting into that argument. Whatever the truth of the matter, 500 years is a long time to hold a grudge. But that’s the way things often are in this part of the world. Finding peaceful solutions isn’t easy. Maybe the government could have chosen another sultan to immortalise – but Selim I is definitely one of the Ottoman greats.

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Çamlıca Mosque

Still, if you’re looking for evidence that Turkey’s current leaders are harking back to their Ottoman past, you can find it. Another new suspension bridge was opened a month or so ago – this one to carry vehicles across the Gulf of Izmit, a major obstacle for holiday-makers heading to the Aegean or Mediterranean resorts. It’s been named “Osman Gazi”, after the founder of the 600-year Ottoman dynasty. Then there’s the park recently completed on the coast of the Marmara Sea on the Asian side of Istanbul. The 130 hectare reserve, developed on land reclaimed from the sea, provides much-needed sports and recreation facilities in a city not rich in such amenities. I haven’t heard anyone actually use the name, but officially it’s “Orhan Gazi City Park”, Orhan being son of that Osman, and the Empire’s second sultan. As if that wasn’t enough, in the wake of the recent failed military coup attempt, the government has renamed the 1973 Atatürk Bridge, “15 July Martyrs’ Bridge”, to commemorate the civilians who lost their lives facing down the tanks and guns of the insurgent soldiers.

Well, it seems to me if you are determined to criticize someone, you can always find cause. The construction industry is booming in Istanbul, with major public and private projects springing up everywhere you look. One huge recent achievement was the building of a tunnel beneath the Bosporus carrying an underground Metro line. Its name? Marmaray, a combination of Marmara (the Sea) and the Turkish word for “rail”. The country’s largest mosque is currently rising on the upper slopes of Çamlıca Hill on the Asian shore, assuredly a symbol of creeping Islamification, though it seems to go by the unpretentious name of “The Çamlıca Mosque”. Another bridge carries a Metro line across the Golden Horn. Official title? The “Golden Horn Metro Bridge “(Haliç Metro Köprüsü). Work is progressing on a third airport for the city, to be known, to the best of my knowledge as the “New Istanbul Airport”. Not very creative, but “Atatürk” was already taken. Undoubtedly the most ambitious of all these mega-projects is “Kanal Istanbul” – a 50-kilometre artificial waterway linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, allowing those tankers and other huge commercial and military vessels to bypass Istanbul’s metropolitan area.

Of course there are voices raised in protest at all these projects, mostly on environmental grounds, since their names are fairly unobjectionable. No doubt there are environmental costs – but, to give merely one example, nothing compared to the cost of a major oil spill if one of those tankers came to grief in the Bosporus. As for names, the power of the people generally prevails. I suspect most Istanbulites will go on referring to the first Bosporus bridge as “The First Bridge”, whatever their President says.

In spite of all this, Western news media, and a vocal minority of Turks, insist that the AK Party government is steadily dismantling the democratic, secular republic, and establishing in its place a neo-Ottoman dictatorship based on Islamic shariah law. Part of the problem, as I have argued before, is that the Western version of history has never fully come to grips with realities in this part of the world. A good deal of the language English-speakers use when talking about modern Turkey has its roots in the ancient civilisations of classical Greece and Rome, and studiously ignores the fact that Turkish, in one form or another, has been the dominant language here for more than seven centuries.

For example, the city of Istanbul is divided by the “Bosporus” strait – that name coming down to us from an ancient Greek myth about one of Zeus’s lovers who was apparently turned into a cow. Similarly, the “Golden Horn”, the estuary that was a major harbour in Byzantine and Ottoman times, is a direct translation of the Greek word. Neither bears any resemblance in form or meaning to the names used by Turks. The much cherished belief that the Bosporus forms the boundary between Asia and Europe owes its origin to the Roman name for its easternmost province, which certainly did not include China, India, or even Iran. The word “Asia” probably derives from the Hittite word “Assuwa”, their name for what the Greeks called “Anatolia”, and the Turks, “Anadolu”. English-speakers insist on referring to the “European” and “Asian” sides of Istanbul – which serves to perpetuate our stereotype of Turks as Eastern, and “other”. Visitors to the city are often surprised to find that parts of the “Asian” shore seem more Western than the “European” side.

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The NOT-Genoese Yoros Castle at Anadolu Kavağı

As my ferry wound its way towards the Black Sea, it passed two castles on opposite shores. These were built by Ottoman sultans as they tightened their noose around the neck of the dying Byzantine Empire. The first, on the Anatolian (Asian) side, was the work of Sultan Bayezid I in preparation for his unsuccessful siege of Constantinople in 1395. The other, Rumeli Castle on the European side, severed the city’s lifeline to the north, and contributed to its final conquest by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453.

My objective, however, was that third fortress, known in Turkish as Yoros Castle, with its view of the bridge. In English it is generally referred to as the “Genoese Castle”, another example of our Western determination to ignore reality and reconstruct history as we would like it to have been. The Genoese, active traders in the eastern Mediterranean in those days, did indeed occupy the castle for some years in the early 15th century. It had been built, and controlled for centuries before that, however, by the “Byzantines” – a rather confusing Christian empire who spoke Greek, but considered themselves Roman and certainly not Byzantine. The castle was seized by the Ottomans in the 14th century, and apart from that brief Genoese spell, it has been in Turkish hands ever since.

It’s a beautiful spot, though badly in need of some tender loving care. It struck me yesterday that the Turkish military, who control most of the surrounding area, would be performing a useful public service if they despatched a platoon of soldiers for a couple of hours each week to do a little tidying and landscaping of the castle and its grounds. And the company that runs the ferry service might consider assigning one of their newer vessels to the route, in the interests of international goodwill. I’ll probably never drive over the Yavuz Selim Bridge, but I’m happy to have seen what all the fuss was about.

CIA’s clandestine meeting in Istanbul on coup night

And the US ambassador in Ankara was “deeply hurt” at suggestions of US involvement. 

CIA’s clandestine meeting in Istanbul on coup night As more evidence surfaces daily, it will be evident that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was playing a huge role behind the July 15 c…

Source: CIA’s clandestine meeting in Istanbul on coup night

Turkish contractors rank second in world for ninth straight year

In amongst all the bad news for Turkey, it’s encouraging to see some things are going well. Thanks to Mark for spotting the article and passing it on.

Turkey again took the second place after China in terms of the number of contracting companies building the largest volume of projects across the world outside their home countries for the ninth year in a row, according to the latest list of the world’s “top 250 contractors” by Engineering News Record (ENR) magazine, with 40 companies on the list.

n_103260_1Turkey came just after China, which topped the list with 65 companies. The United States followed Turkey with 39 companies on the list, which ranks the 250 largest world construction contractors, both publicly- and privately-held, based on general construction contracting export revenue generated from projects outside each firm’s respective home country.

Turkey’s Polimeks was the top Turkish company ranking 40th in the list, followed by Rönesans, which ranked 44th, and Enka, which ranked 79th. TAV, Ant Yapı Industry, Yapı Merkezi, NATA, Çalık, Tekfen and Yüksel followed the top three.

“It is a great honor for us to mark the ENR list, which is the leading reference point in our sector, with 40 companies, 35 of which are TMB members, and to rank in second place in the world after China for nine years in a row,” said TMB President Mithat Yenigün.

“Despite a number of negative developments in our largest markets and all uncertainties in the global conjuncture, our companies also achieved increasing their share of global revenue,” he added. Read the article

Liberty, Equality and Democracy – Lessons from the experts

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Yeh, I know we’re great – I mean great-ER!

I visited the Donald Trump official website today. I know you’ll hate me for it, but I couldn’t help it. I promise you I didn’t donate to his campaign or buy a T-shirt. I simply wanted to see what the guy’s planning to do – and now I know. “Together,” he says, “we are bringing back the American Dream. The time is now. Together, we WILL Make America Great Again!”

To be scrupulously fair, I checked out Mrs Clinton’s site too. The only thing I could find vaguely resembling a slogan was “Join the official campaign—and help stop Donald Trump!” Now whether that’s because Mme Hillary is so out of touch with reality that she still believes in the American dream and the greatness of America, or whether she thinks getting back there is a lost cause, I can’t say – but it got me thinking. What exactly was it that made America great?

Normally I find Google very helpful. I go to it in times of trouble, as the Beatles and others once went to Mother Mary. This time I just ended up confused. It seems books have been written on the subject, but I wanted a quick answer. You know, something like: George Washington; Abe Lincoln; mom and apple-pie; or black slaves from Africa. Well, I can tell you, it’s not that simple. Was it The Constitution? Free-market capitalism? Was it because God was on their side? Did Harry Truman and Arthur Vandenberg have something to do with it? Was it all about conquest and greed?

Personally I liked the sound of “The Constitution” – until I learned that even Ben Franklin, according to Wikipedia, had doubts about it at the time. There have been 27 amendments to the original document, including No 2, which allows certified maniacs to carry assault rifles and massacre school children in their classrooms; and No.6, officially protecting “the right to a fair and speedy public trial by jury, including the rights to be notified of the accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel” – which would seem to preclude institutions like Guantanamo, and summary assassination by drone strike. The 18th Amendment of 1917 actually prohibited the manufacturing and sale of alcohol within the United States, until it was repealed in 1933. On the other hand, some seemingly worthwhile suggestions have been rejected, for example a proposal to limit, regulate and prohibit child labour, which has been languishing on the books since 1924.

quotes+freedom+(17)OK, smart-alec, I hear you say. What’s your idea? And I’m going to tell you. Out in the sea at the entrance to New York Harbour, a colossal statue stands on an island. Standing 93 metres from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, the copper and iron figure is of a woman, the Roman goddess Libertas, The torch represents liberty bringing enlightenment to a benighted world, and the document under the goddess’s arm bears the date of the American Declaration of Independence. The statue was a gift to the United States from the government of France – from one shining beacon of liberty and equality to another, so to speak. Closely associated with the Statue of Liberty are the words from a sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

Now I also don’t know, so I can’t say to what extent the respective governments of those two exemplary republics actually believed what they were saying when the symbolic lady was dedicated on 28 October, 1886. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ve all seen Leonardo de Caprio in  “Titanic”. It is certainly true that shiploads of poor immigrants from the Old World flocked to America in the 19th and early 20th centuries seeking a better life for themselves and their children. No doubt some of them found it, and their stories gave credence to the myth of the American Dream. After the abolition of slavery, their cheap labour may also have given a boost to the American industrial machine.

But something’s changed, hasn’t it! The Big DT is right! The question is, however, is he the one to fix it? I’m not sure how his rants about restricting immigration relate to those words about sharing America’s fresh air (and wealth of resources) with the poor huddled masses of less fortunate countries. Still, at least he’s talking about immigration, even if he’s against it. Hillary’s preferred solution seems to be, bomb those poor tired sods before they can even get on a plane and head in our direction.

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Neece – not nice!

As for France, that self-righteous paragon of liberty, equality and brotherhood, you may have seen the news report from Nice where four armed police wearing body armour rousted up a burkini-clad Muslim woman napping on the sand and forced her to remove her clothing. That’s FOUR ARMED police! And the woman wasn’t even in the sea – just lying on the beach minding her own business. Seems it is not only illegal to wear a burkini in the sea in France, it is actually compulsory for women to wear almost nothing while sunbathing!

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Where are your bikinis, girls?

Then an Italian imam with a sense of humour posted a photo on his Facebook page of seven Catholic nuns wearing grey and white habits frolicking in the sea. According to reports, he got two thousand Likes in a short space of time before the champions of social media freedom of expression shut down his account.

So who is the new champion of liberty and the so-called “American” Dream? My vote goes to Turkey. There are now close to three million refugees from war-torn Syria in Turkey. Some voices have been raised in protest, but on the whole the government and people of Turkey have lived up to their reputation for hospitality by allowing these tired, poor, mostly blameless, displaced masses to escape from the horrors in their native land.

One family’s story was recounted in our local newspaper yesterday: A young Syrian, Zaher Battah, graduated from the medical faculty of Aleppo University in 2006 and went on to specialise in heart and vein surgery at the University of Damascus. He married his wife in 2011 and they had a son, Enver. Then civil war broke out. Fearing for his family’s safety, Dr Battah escaped with them to Lebanon in 2014. Sadly, their little son was diagnosed as autistic. Thinking that the child would get better treatment there, the couple moved to Turkey. However, because of local regulations Zaher has been unable to work as a doctor. Formerly earning $5,000 a month in his own country, he is now struggling to pay for little Enver’s treatment, working as a tailor in Izmir for 800 TL (less than $300).

By doing their best to portray these refugees as Islamic terrorists, wealthy nations in the West are trying to justify their own selfish, heartless refusal to address the enormous human tragedy unfolding in the Middle East. Some of us are actually of the opinion that the root cause of that tragedy is the acquisitive greed of those Western nations. But leave that aside. According to Wikipedia, Germany, with 600,000 Syrian refugees is the most hospitable European country, although Sweden, with 110,000, does better on a per capita basis. France has 12,000, the UK 11,000, and the USA 7,123. When it comes to donations to international organisations working with displaced persons, Turkey again tops the list with $8 billion. The United States, God bless them, are second with $4.6 billion. The UK government has given $1.5 billion, Germany 1.3 billion – and France? $150 million. These figures, incidentally, do not include government spending on domestic hosting and development, where, of course, Turkey, with its three million asylum-seekers, again comes out on top.

Desperate not to have more of these poor desperate souls at their own doorsteps, European Union member states negotiated a deal with Turkey earlier this year. A recent article in The Economist acknowledged that “In exchange for visa-free travel for some of its citizens, €6 billion ($7 billion) in refugee aid and revived talks on possible future accession to the EU, Turkey was to take back migrants who had made their way to Greece and try to secure its borders.” It’s not that easy, of course. Turkey has over 4,000 km of coastline on the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and Greece, thanks to past meddling by Western Powers, owns dozens of islands within a stone’s throw of the Turkish mainland.

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It’s your history, people! What happens when you renege on an agreement?

Turkish authorities did their best. After agreement was reached, the flow of migrants to those Greek Islands, and hence, into the Euro Zone, slowed to a trickle. Unfortunately, like the mayor and corporation of Hamelin Town after the Pied Piper got rid of their rats, the EU began to show their true colours. Turkey and their evil president, Tayyip Erdoğan, were using those poor refugees to blackmail Europe for their own selfish ends. “A thousand guilders? Come, take fifty!” “Did we promise visa-free entry to Europe? Fast-track the process for membership of the EU? Oh no!”

As far as I am aware, there hasn’t been any money forthcoming either. Only accusations that Turkish border guards have begun shooting Syrians trying to cross into Turkey. Well, I don’t know about that – but I do know that there was another news item this week reporting an attack on a boatload of refugees by a Greek coastguard vessel. The inflatable boat with thirteen Afghans on board was heading for the island of Kalymnos, about 20 km from Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula and apparently failed to stop when ordered to do so by the Greek coastguards, who then opened fire. Three people were wounded, two of them Turkish.

yunan-sahil-guvenligi-kacak-teknesine-ates-acti-140067What do you make of that? It may be that those Turkish guys were breaking international law, and taking a fee from the Afghans for ferrying them to the Greek island. Maybe they did disobey an order to stop, and try to escape apprehension – but does that justify machine-gunning them in cold blood? Western governments are quick to insist on the rights of their own citizens, even when they have flagrantly broken the law in another state, drug smuggling, or whatever. That old anti-Turkey propaganda movie “Midnight Express” comes to mind.

I hesitate to accuse the Greek government of ordering its coastguards to fire on unarmed refugees; or to suggest that the gnomes of Brussels have instructed Greece to do whatever is necessary to stem the tide. But I do wonder.

Joe Biden’s Turkey tightrope

The vice-president has the difficult task of reassuring Ankara that Washington is committed to its NATO ally.

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JB: Sorry I’m late. Wish I could have come sooner🙂 RTE: What’s six weeks between friends?

Septuagenarian US vice-president is currently in Turkey, smiling for the cameras and his home audience, and talking down to Turkey’s leaders while delivering veiled threats about “friendship”. This article on politico.com has some interesting insights into the relationship:

ISTANBUL — Smoke rose over the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Jarabulus Wednesday morning as Turkish tanks rolled across the border in a major operation that could pit two U.S. allies against each other.

The campaign began just hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara to discuss the fallout of last month’s failed coup. But while Turkey was moving against the Islamic State with Washington’s support, its operation was aimed not only the jihadists, but also the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Speaking in Ankara, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the attack on Jarabulus — the last stretch of northern border territory held by the jihadists — had begun at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, targeting “terror groups which constantly threaten our country.”

After a suicide bombing killed 54 guests at a Kurdish wedding on Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu vowed to “cleanse” the country’s border region of ISIL, which had previously used Turkey’s porous frontier as a gateway to its self-declared caliphate.

Erdoğan added that the operation would also target Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose three-decade war against the Turkish state has killed some 40,000 people.

The trouble for Turkey is that while the U.S. and the rest of NATO have listed the PKK as a terror group, they see the YPG as their most effective ally in the fight against ISIL. Earlier this month, with American support, the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) — a coalition dominated by the Kurds — retook the strategic city of Manbij in northeastern Syria.

But while Manbij’s liberation was greeted with enthusiasm in the West, it caused consternation in Ankara. It meant that the Kurds had moved West, across the Euphrates river, which Ankara had once declared a “red line.” It also meant that they were free to move north towards Jarabulus, a town just south of the Turkish border.

Had the Kurds been able to capture Jarabulus and surrounding areas, they would have connected the two Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, creating a de facto autonomous state along Turkey’s border. This would have fulfilled a longstanding dream of the Kurds but it would have been anathema to Ankara, which fears that an autonomous Kurdish entity in Syria would pour oil on the flames of its own Kurdish conflict.

Turkey is determined for Syria to retain its territorial integrity and will take matters into its own hands if required to protect that territorial unity,” Erdoğan warned on Wednesday.

Turkey is killing two birds with one stone,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. “The military objective of this operation is ISIS, but the political objective is the Kurds.”

After bombarding Jarabulus for two days, Turkish tanks and special forces entered Syria alongside several hundred Syrian rebel fighters. By early Wednesday afternoon, the joint operation had succeeded in retaking two villages and the Syrian rebels reached the center of the town under Turkish and U.S. air cover.

Syrian Kurdish leaders responded with anger. Salih Muslim, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), wrote on Twitter that Turkey was now in the “Syrian quagmire” and would be defeated like the Islamic State. Redur Xelil, a spokesperson for the YPG militia, denounced Turkey’s intervention as an act of “blatant aggression.”

As tensions rise between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, Ankara’s foray into Syria may be yet another headache for Biden, who has the difficult task of reassuring Ankara that the U.S. is committed to its NATO ally amid surging anti-American sentiment following the July 15 coup attempt.

Turkey blames the coup on Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gülen and has demanded his extradition — a request that has so far been met with reluctance from U.S. authorities. Erdoğan has also long criticized the West’s support for Syria’s Kurds, describing it as the equivalent of holding “live grenades with the pins pulled.”

In Ankara on Wednesday, Biden launched a charm offensive, praising the bravery of the Turkish people during the coup attempt, lauding their efforts against the Islamic State and declaring that the country had “no better friend” than the United States. He also warned the Syrian Kurds that they would lose U.S. support if they did not retreat to the Euphrates’ eastern bank.

His speech was well received. But with two of their allies on a collision course, the U.S. will have to watch Turkey’s next steps closely.

Read the whole article

The U.S. and NATO Need Turkey

The following opinion piece appeared in Time online today:

‘To cast Turkey loose now would forfeit our influence in the region and end a decades-long alliance’

Halil I. Danismaz

The bloody coup attempt that left more than 200 people dead and nearly upended Turkey’s democratic institutions has shaken the country to its core.

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Standing tall for democracy in Turkey

I saw that dark moment—arguably the darkest in the country’s sad history of military dictatorships—unfold first-hand. I was on a plane to Istanbul when the coup plotters shut down the airport, then landed in the middle of the attack and stayed there for several weeks to witness the chaotic aftermath. There was a feeling of a nation under siege, being attacked from all sides.

Turkey has been battered by terrorism. Its most urgent need now is to defend itself and its democracy.

But the West’s response threatens to complicate how the U.S. and its NATO allies work with a country on the front lines of the global fight against ISIS. To cast Turkey loose now would forfeit our influence in the region and end a decades-long alliance. It could also drive Turkey into the arms of Russia—the wolf scratching at its door, which would like nothing more than to distance Turkey from the West.

This week’s visit by Vice President Joe Biden, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since the violent coup attempt last month, is a chance to repair the fractured relationship.

The U.S. has much at stake: Our allies and interests in Europe are under assault as never before. Syria and Iraq have ceased to exist as functioning states. ISIS is on the march from Libya to Afghanistan. And Iranian and Russian influence is steadily expanding.

Turkey stands as a bulwark against these rising threats. Located just 60 miles from the Syrian border, the Incirlirlik air base in southern Turkey—the crucial staging ground for American-led strikes against ISIS—allows our best A-10s, F-15s and drones to take the fight to ISIS in Syria and Iraq that were previously out of our reach.

It is also the anchor of NATO’s southeastern flank and home to its second-largest army. Western officials should heed NATO’s own words: “Turkey takes full part in the Alliance’s consensus-based decisions as we confront the biggest security challenges in a generation. Turkey’s NATO membership is not in question…NATO counts on the continued contributions of Turkey and Turkey can count on the solidarity and support of NATO.”

U.S. President Obama shakes hands with Turkey's PM Erdogan in Seoul

Love them or hate them, you have to accept the people’s choice – and that cuts both ways.

The change must begin by taming the rhetoric on both sides. The chaos I saw in Ankara has fomented a rising tide of anti-Americanism egged on by some Turkish officials and party-controlled press. Asserting that the U.S. played a role in the coup must stop immediately.

At the same time, U.S. officials and commentators should acknowledge that Turkey’s most urgent need now is to defend the very fabric of its civil society. Like him or not, President Erdogan is the legitimately and democratically-elected choice of the Turkish people, a claim bolstered by the recent support he has seen from the main secular opposition parties. He has earned the right to speak on their behalf and that right should be respected.

A formal mechanism will help us reach a mutually acceptable solution to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) problem. FETO is a danger to the stability in the region that the U.S. and NATO seek. A similar threat to democracy that created the kind of carnage would produce an outcry of outrage if it happened any other NATO member state. There have been united calls for the extradition of FETO’s leader, Fethullah Gulen, who is currently residing in the U.S. This is a reasonable request based on the widespread belief in Turkey—both the people and the main opposition parties—that FETO played a central role in the execution of the failed coup.

America’s most powerful and consequential regional ally is threatened as never before, with potentially dire consequences for our shared interests. U.S. policymakers must recommit to the bilateral relationship, not cut and run. Read the whole article