Will there be a coup against Erdoğan in Turkey?

I still hear people in Turkey – local citizens and foreign friends – insisting that the failed 15 July attempted military coup in Turkey was actually staged by President Erdoğan in order to cement his hold on power. Well, I know there are also US citizens who believe that George W Bush was behind the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York City. Maybe he was, and I am certainly no fan of that man Dubya – but still I find it hard to believe he was so evil that he would authorise the murder of thousands of his own citizens in order to maintain his hold on the reins of power.

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and who’s backing Newsweek?

In that context, I am printing in full an article that appeared in Newsweek in March this year, predicting that Turkey’s President would be overthrown by a military coup, and that the US government would be happy to see it happen.

This guy Rubin is an interesting character. I’ve left in the links he made to other sources: “mad sultan”, “aspiring caliph” etc. Definitely weird! But also disturbing, in the light of what actually happened on July 15.

Turks—and the Turkish military—increasingly recognize that Erdoğan is taking Turkey to the precipice.

BY MICHAEL RUBIN ON 3/24/16 AT 11:21 AM

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

The situation in Turkey is bad and getting worse. It’s not just the deterioration in security amidst a wave of terrorism. Public debt might be stable, but private debt is out of control, the tourism sector is in free-fall and the decline in the currency has impacted every citizen’s buying power.

There is a broad sense, election results notwithstanding, that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is out of control. He is imprisoning opponents, seizing newspapers left and right and building palaces at the rate of a mad sultan or aspiring caliph. In recent weeks, he has once again threatened to dissolve the constitutional court.

Corruption is rife. His son Bilal reportedly fled Italy on a forged Saudi diplomatic passport as the Italian police closed in on him in an alleged money laundering scandal.

His outbursts are raising eyebrows both in Turkey and abroad. Even members of his ruling party whisper about his increasing paranoia which, according to some Turkish officials, has gotten so bad that he seeks to install anti-aircraft missiles at his palace to prevent airborne men-in-black from targeting him in a snatch-and-grab operation.

Turks—and the Turkish military—increasingly recognize that Erdoğan is taking Turkey to the precipice. By first bestowing legitimacy upon imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan with renewed negotiations and then precipitating renewed conflict, he has taken Turkey down a path in which there is no chance of victory and a high chance of de facto partition.

After all, if civil war renews as in the 1980s and early 1990s, Turkey’s Kurds will be hard-pressed to settle for anything less, all the more so given the precedent now established by their brethren in Iraq and Syria.

Erdoğan long ago sought to kneecap the Turkish military. For the first decade of his rule, both the U.S. government and European Union cheered him on. But that was before even Erdoğan’s most ardent foreign apologists recognized the depth of his descent into madness and autocracy.

So if the Turkish military moves to oust Erdoğan and place his inner circle behind bars, could they get away with it?

In the realm of analysis rather than advocacy, the answer is yes. At this point in election season, it is doubtful that the Obama administration would do more than castigate any coup leaders, especially if they immediately laid out a clear path to the restoration of democracy.

Nor would Erdoğan engender the type of sympathy that Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi did. When Morsi was ousted, his commitment to democracy was still subject to debate.

That debate is now moot when it comes to the Turkish strongman. Neither the Republican nor Democratic front-runners would put U.S. prestige on the line to seek a return to the status quo ante. They might offer lip service against a coup, but they would work with the new regime.

Coup leaders might moot European and American human rights and civil society criticism and that of journalists by immediately freeing all detained journalists and academics and by returning seized newspapers and television stations to their rightful owners.

Turkey’s NATO membership is no deterrent to action: Neither Turkey nor Greece lost their NATO membership after previous coups. Should a new leadership engage sincerely with Turkey’s Kurds, Kurds might come onboard.

Neither European nor American public opinion would likely be sympathetic to the execution of Erdoğan, his son and son-in-law, or key aides like Egemen Bağış and Cüneyd Zapsu, although they would accept a trial for corruption and long incarceration.

Erdoğan might hope friends would rally to his side, but most of his friends—both internationally and inside Turkey—are attracted to his power. Once out of his palace, he may find himself very much alone, a shriveled and confused figure like Saddam Hussein at his own trial.

I make no predictions, but given rising discord in Turkey as well as the likelihood that the Turkish military would suffer no significant consequence should it imitate Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s game plan in Egypt, no one should be surprised if Turkey’s rocky politics soon get rockier.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Pentagon official, his major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy.

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

Attempted Coup in Turkey – For Those Who Do Not Understand

You should read this. It’s not just me . . .

e14ab38e-4511-4a3a-9ac8-6a83a38175e8Adam McConnel in Serbestiyet:

“Hours after the Turkish government declared a state of emergency, the German Foreign Ministry took the astonishing step of criticizing the Turkish government for the action. Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s comments revealed how ignorant he is about Turkish affairs. Germany’s neighbor France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, and has just extended that state of emergency for another six months. The German Foreign Ministry has not said anything about that. Then two days later, in a case of grotesque and horrific irony, Germany itself had to declare a state of emergency when an assailant in Munich killed a number of civilians.

As someone who lived through the night of 15-16 July, there are two aspects of the situation that I find disturbing. The first is the event itself, which was truly terrifying. The second has been the attitude of journalists and other intellectual commentators both inside Turkey and abroad. As the coup attempt emerged and then failed, reporters and pundits struggled to say something coherent for their viewers and readers. The situation inside Turkey was better because the large majority of commentators had (and have) a better grip on the political realities of the situation, but abroad the outlook was grim. This and the following articles will address those journalists’ and commentators’ massive failure to perform their job properly.

A number of extremely worrying narratives emerged even while the violence was continuing early on Saturday, 16th July. In a general way, they were meant to insult or to negatively impact on the public perception of two main actors. The main target was Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan; the secondary, but inherently connected actor was the Turkish citizens themselves. For several years an international campaign has been waged to portray the Turkish leader in as bad a light as possible for Western media consumers. But because Erdoğan has achieved repeated and spectacular electoral successes over the past fifteen years, the insults aimed at Erdoğan have between the lines also been aimed at the Turkish people. If he is the supposed dictator, then they are the brainwashed, hideous rabble that voted him there.”

Read the whole article

Give Turkey a Break

I never aimed to write a political blog. For seven years I have been posting my thoughts here, and my motivation remains, as it always was, to present the Turkey that I see, to others whose vision may be clouded by negative publicity.

Americans oppose US intervention in Syria: Poll

Increasingly, however, I seem to have been forced into a situation where my writings have become more coloured by politics. Whose politics? My own.

On Friday 16 July Turkey experienced a night of severe trauma. Some sections of the country’s military attempted to take over the government by force of arms. Since then, foreign media and anti-government voices within the country have continued their vituperative campaign:

  • First, the attempted coup wasn’t real – it was a pantomime staged by President Erdoğan to cement his hold on power.
  • Second, if it was a real attempt to overthrow the government, it was a pathetically disorganised one clearly mounted by a minority of stupid generals.
  • Third, whoever organised it doesn’t matter. Mr Erdoğan is now using it as an excuse to unleash his fundamentalist Islamic supporters in a mayhem of retribution.
  • Fourth, Turkey’s President is now using the attempted coup as a pretext for rounding up all his opponents in a ‘witch hunt’ that will probably result in burnings at the stake.

All of these are still circulating in a myriad of combinations and permutations, but the latest one seems to be that now Mr Erdoğan is cosying up to Russia and Syria, in a clear demonstration that he is against the United States. To make matters worse he is denying America the use of the Incirlik base that they use to launch their peace-keeping, democracy-bringing attacks on nations in the region. Turkey is breaking the terms of the NATO treaty and either wants out, or should be kicked out, depending on how strongly you feel on the issue.

The problem with this latest argument is that Turkey’s ‘normalisation’ of relations with neighbours also seems to include Israel, US bosom-buddy, who can, in the eyes of the American government, do no wrong.

So what’s really going on? First up, many of the apparent contradictions in Turkey’s international relations cease to look like contradictions if you assume that the aim of the government is to modernise the country while remaining non-aligned; to have good working relations with its neighbours while looking after the interests of its own people first.

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Is this really how they see themselves?

Second, commentators and the liberal chattering classes in the West have difficulty grasping the concept that ‘Islamic-rooted’ parties in the Middle East and elsewhere are often populist, trying to pursue policies that they generally associate with non-religious, left wing, socialist political movements.

If you’re confused, let me try to straighten it out for you. The long-standing American position has been, and remains, that if you’re not with us, you’re against us. Non-alignment is not comprehensible and not acceptable. Populist governments in developing countries often espouse policies that serve their own national interest, bringing them into conflict with United States’ commercial interests. It follows that America will do its best to bring about regime change whereby a more sympathetic local will lead his/her country on the road to righteousness.

However, things are not as simple as they once were. Direct military intervention attracts unwelcome publicity, and carries no guarantee of success. The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and the Vietnam War are examples that spring to mind. The preferred technique in recent years has become economic carrot-and-stick coupled with undercover infiltration and encouragement of revolt from within.

Iran is a good example. In 1952, a democratically elected prime minister sidelined the Western puppet Shah and attempted to nationalise the country’s oil industry. Encouraged by Britain, the United States government used its CIA to overthrow the Mossadegh government and reinstall the Shah. Economic carrots supported the Shah’s government and a small socio-military elite for twenty-seven years – until they were overthrown by a populist uprising. Led by who? America’s beloved Ayatollah Khomeini. But who had empowered him? The downtrodden people of Iran who saw radical Islam as the only force capable of uniting them and ridding the country of foreign intervention and Western puppet rulers – ie the anti-American Khomeini monster was created by America itself!

What about Egypt? The Arab Spring of 2011 saw a populist uprising overthrow the US puppet Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled in Egypt for 29 years, maintaining friendly relations with Israel while building the world’s tenth largest military with US support, and kept the majority of his people in poverty while surrounding himself with a supportive socio-economic elite minority. Same game. Egypt’s first democratic election quite naturally, in a 99% Muslim country, tossed up an ‘Islamic-rooted’ president. Suddenly the Egyptian economy turned to pea soup (surprise, surprise!) and Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by a ‘populist’ uprising that everyone but America recognises was a military-sponsored coup.

On to Turkey. Since the beginning of the republic in 1923, Turkish governments have looked Westward for inspiration. Through the Cold War the country was on the front line between NATO and Soviet USSR. The United States had military bases with nuclear weapons sited within Turkey’s borders. In spite of that, the Western alliance has played the country for its fool. The carrot of EU membership is constantly held out, as incentive and threat – and always withdrawn. Turkey has been condemned internationally for its quite justifiable action in Cyprus, and held accountable for the sins of the Ottoman Empire, while being given little or no credit for its exemplary achievement in creating a fusion of secular Islam, modernisation and democratic republicanism.

Not so long ago Turkey’s government was mocked for pursuing a foreign policy aimed at ‘zero problems with neighbours’. It went bad for a while, but they haven’t given up, and I admire them for that. What’s the alternative? Historically the Ottoman Empire fought many wars with Russia and Persia (Iran). The mutual benefits of sound diplomatic relations and commercial trade seem like better options. The Muslim people of this country have had good relations with their Jewish neighbours for centuries. Why should they allow a small spat to poison that permanently? Turkey’s AKP government had a working relationship with Assad in Syria before the civil war broke out – since when millions of refugees have streamed across the border, creating an economic and social tragedy. Probably many of those people would prefer to go home, if that were possible. Certainly Europe doesn’t want them. If a local solution can be found, maybe that’s the best thing, who knows? Turkey allows the United States a military presence at Incirlik, but they reserve the right to say how and when the base will be used – or not used, as they did in 2003 when George Dubya invaded Iraq. I understand there were a few Americans who didn’t fully support Bush’s action there.

So is the Turkish government against America? I don’t think so. They would like to be friends, in my opinion, but they do not want to be mindless puppets of a foreign power whose only interest seems to be maintaining the non-negotiable way of life of a small minority of its own people. Who was behind Friday night’s attempted coup in Turkey? I don’t know, but I have my suspicions.

Military Takeover Fails in Turkey

Turkey experienced four occasions in the 20th century when military officers overthrew the legally constituted government – five if you count the time Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (as he later became known) founded the modern Republic of Turkey, in the process consigning the Ottoman Empire to the pages of history.

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PM Menderes – ousted and hanged in 1960

The Republic came into existence in 1923, and from then until 1950, was a one-party state governed without troubling ordinary citizens to cast a vote. As soon as those citizens got the chance they opted for a new party, the Democrats, led by Adnan Menderes. In 1960 that party was overthrown by a faction within the military. Menderes and two of his ministers were hanged after a hasty ‘trial’. Dilek’s father, a career staff officer with the rank of colonel, was forced into early retirement, along, we can assume, with others who had been reluctant to support the revolt.

Two more military coups followed in 1971 and 1980, the latter resulting in several years of military rule characterised by severe oppression, arrests, torture, disappearances and forced exile of ‘dissidents’. Turkey’s current constitution was written by the leaders of the 1980 coup, and one of its key features was measures aimed at ensuring that parties representing the political Left and the Kurdish people would not be able to gain representation in parliament.

When I first came to Turkey in 1995 there was clearly an atmosphere of restraint, if not fear. The word ‘Kurdish’ could not be uttered in polite conversation, and use of the language was proscribed. Platoons of soldiers with automatic weapons jogged along public streets, and people I knew would say they were ‘protecting’ the country’s democratic and secular constitution. The country was suffering from horrendous hyperinflation and governed by weak coalition governments formed by an ever-changing square-dance of corrupt, self-seeking political parties, none of which was capable of achieving more than 20% of the popular vote. In 1997 there was a ‘post-modern’ coup when the military commanders politely advised the Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to step aside or face the consequences – which he wisely did. Erbakan was leader of Turkey’s equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and had gained the top job as the result of a questionable deal with centre-right, Kemalist, economics professor and the country’s first woman prime minister, Tansu Çiller.

It was a strange, surrealistic time, and Turkey was something of a pariah on the international stage. I have written elsewhere about what has happened in the intervening nineteen years – but critics of the present government should certainly familiarise themselves with the country’s recent history before racing to exercise their tongues or typing fingers. There is no doubt in my mind that, had the AK Party government of Mr Erdoğan not succeeded in pre-emptively subordinating Turkey’s armed forces to the rule of law, they would long since have been ousted and imprisoned, or worse.

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What happens when a tank runs over a car

Friday night’s attempted takeover by a section of the military failed for a number of reasons. First, as one commentator has observed, it was an old-school coup in the social media age. Television came late to Turkey, and for years, radio and TV broadcasting was a state-monopoly. In days gone by generals took over the TRT building and announced a fait accompli to people who had no other source of information. This time state TV channels were reading a prepared statement from the coup-leaders while viewers were watching a different story unfold on outlets run by the private sector. The government was using social media to call people out on to the streets and oppose the attempted takeover. There was no news blackout as in the past. Holidaying in Bodrum far from events in Istanbul and Ankara, with our TV sitting rarely used in a corner, the first we heard of the uprising was when Dilek’s daughter called from America to learn if we were ok.

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Not pepper spray this time – live ammunition!

Another reason for the failure is that Turkey, whatever you may hear to the contrary, is well on the road to becoming a mature democracy. There are still some who believe that ‘democracy’ needs to be imposed by military force when the ignorant masses prove incapable of making the ‘right’ choice, but they are an ever-shrinking minority. The AK Party government has given a voice to large sections of Turkey’s population who were formerly repressed, oppressed or suppressed. There is now a large middle class, and increasing numbers of people who feel a debt of loyalty and allegiance to the government for their improved standard of living. Hundreds of thousands of these people were prepared to brave the tanks and automatic rifles of soldiers on Friday night to oppose the coup. You may have seen horrific pictures of a soldier beheaded by a ‘lynch mob’. It is not altogether surprising that civilians who went out to face trained, well-armed troops with only iron bars and knives, seeing friends and neighbours shot by their fellow-countrymen, might seek vengeance when the tide turned in their favour. Civil wars are notorious for vicious cruelty. However, it is undoubtedly true that police and security forces, after accepting the surrender of rebel soldiers and forcing them to lay down their arms, worked hard to control the righteous anger of citizens, and prevent hotheads from laying hands on the discarded weapons. More heads could have rolled otherwise – and certainly would have if the coup had succeeded.

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Turkish policeman protects surrendering soldier from angry mob

Several theories have emerged about the background to the uprising. A small group of cynics, or anti-government loudmouths, are insisting or implying that the action was orchestrated and stage-managed by Mr Erdoğan and the government to cement their hold on power. There are several reasons why I do not accept this. First, the AK Party government has been gaining increased support anyway as a result of its ongoing struggle against terrorist activities. Second, I don’t believe that Mr Erdoğan and his people would be so cynical and power-crazy as to precipitate a possible bloodbath on their streets. Third, those coup-leaders have been humiliated, and vilified by their own people, and now face the wrath of the law. Some voices are calling for reinstatement of the death penalty. Is it likely that educated, intelligent, high-ranking officers would put their lives at risk to advance the ambition of politicians?

A more persuasive theory is that the government knew there were still elements within the military who opposed them to the extent that they were considering seditious action. It is difficult to deal with such a threat, however, before potential rebels have actually committed themselves to open rebellion. Therefore, the argument goes, officers loyal to the government encouraged their rebellious colleagues in the belief that a coup would have wide support, in order to flush them out. Again, however, it is obvious that even a small-scale coup attempt by true believers carries the likelihood of much bloodshed, and the possibility that it will be successful – too much of a risk, in my estimation.

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Some righteous anger of course. In this case, only a belt.

So why would they do it? Well, there is no doubt that some people in Turkey, and beyond its shores, hate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with a passion beyond reason. These people are deaf to any argument suggesting that the AK Party government has actually made Turkey a better place to live for the majority of its citizens, and improved its credibility and standing on the world stage. Most of these people talk only to like-minded others, accept wholeheartedly the most absurd and patently false propaganda, and have persuaded themselves, in the absence of effective political opposition, that the only way forward is for the military to step in and restore . . . whatever it is they want restored, as it has so often in the past. One can only think that there was a coterie of high-ranking officers who believed the rhetoric and saw themselves as saviours of the secular republic, in the tradition of Atatürk himself.

Sadly for them, and the soldiers who followed their orders, there will now be a stiff price to pay. No government can accept armed rebellion by its own people, and such treason carries a mandatory death penalty in the USA. New Zealand abolished hanging for high treason in 1989 – but as far as I know my country has never had a military coup, unless you count the overthrow of indigenous Maori sovereignty by white settlers in the 19th century. Turkey, following EU demands, did away with capital punishment completely, so it is probable that lengthy jail sentences await those convicted of participation in Friday’s revolt. If they do, it will not be a ‘purge’ as one international headline asserted. It will be due process of law punishing citizens who knowingly and deliberately committed the most serious crime in any country’s statute books.

Interestingly, international news sites that were headlining reports of a military coup in Turkey have now relegated its failure to their back pages – replaced by news of Pokemon-induced chaos in New York City and events of similar global significance. Not in disappointment, I hope, though I suspect there are some out there who would be happy to see Turkey revert to military rule so they could go back to belittling the country as a primitive backwater whose citizens are incapable of governing themselves. What is it about English toffs with the surname ‘Blair’ I wonder? Someone of that name writing for the Daily Telegraph has penned an article entitled: You thought Erdoğan was bad before? The worst is yet to come’. Well, that probably sums it up, in fact. If you were one of those blinkered souls determined to condemn Turkey and its government despite all evidence to the contrary, of course you will continue to do so. The more open-minded will use the eyes and the brains that God gave them.

What’s Turkey’s problem?

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Turkey hasn’t used the Arabic alphabet for 90 years! Beware of Photoshop!

Some people don’t like Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That’s ok, I guess. Outside of North Korea, there aren’t too many countries where the president gets a 100% approval rating. Even in the USA, the latest poll conducted by NBS News and the Wall St Journal showed Barack Obama with 51% support – and that’s not counting the people who don’t bother registering because of America’s electoral sham. Nevertheless, NBS and WSJ seem to think that’s pretty damn good. It’s the best he’s had for years.

But still, they’re only polling US registered voters. I haven’t seen any indication that anyone over there is asking whether the rest of the world want Hillary or Donald to take over the big job in November – or neither of the above. They don‘t care, do they? So why should Turkey care what Western media say about their president? Or perhaps more to the point, why do Western media think it’s any of their business?

England’s PM David Cameron went on record the other day saying that Turkey could expect to join the European Union somewhere around the year 3000. Apparently he was trying to reassure UK voters, prior to the British referendum on EU membership, that Europe is not about to be overrun by another horde of marauding horsemen from Central Asia. But, to be fair, that’s probably a more honest appraisal of Turkey’s chances than you’ll hear elsewhere.

Successive governments of Western Europe have kept Turkey dangling on a string for more than sixty years. They were quite happy to have Turkey play a buffer role against Soviet Russia during the Cold War, using its convenient location for siting several nuclear missile bases. They accepted Turkey as an associate member in 1963, and magnanimously permitted its government to apply for full membership in 1987. Well, that’s nearly thirty years now, and the odds against seem to be lengthening rather than shrinking.

Why? A recent article in Time Magazine provided some of the answers. ‘It’s time for Turkey and Europe to face reality’ said the headline, but the only argument of any substance was the Cyprus issue. Even that is debatable at best. The United Nations and Britain were supposed to protect the island’s independence, but failed to do so when Greece’s military junta attempted a takeover in 1974, forcing Turkey, as the third guarantor, to step in. UN attempts to find a solution have repeatedly foundered on Greek intransigence. Another dubious argument is geographical. Only 3 percent of Turkey’s territory is, strictly speaking, in Europe’ says the writer – yet the gnomes of Brussels would dearly love to have Ukraine in their club, never mind that two-thirds of that country lies east of Istanbul. Isn’t it time modern Europe let go of the ancient Greek and Roman definition of Asia starting at the Bosporus? So where does it start in Russia, which stretches 7,000 km east from Poland, beyond China, Korea and Japan?

We get nearer to the truth of the matter when the Time correspondent points out that, in 2014, 69% of Germans and 83% of French were opposed to Turkey joining the EU. Again we may ask why? And in a previous post, ‘Why do they hate Turkey?’ I addressed this question. In short, I believe there is a deeply ingrained fear and hatred of an abstract concept of ‘Turks’ going back a thousand years, fed and nourished regularly by political and religious leaders, and in modern times, by the mass media. Criticism of Mr Erdoğan is merely the latest manifestation of this – it really wouldn’t matter who led the country.

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Who’s kidding who?

Istanbul has just finished playing host to the first World Humanitarian Summit under the auspices of the United Nations. Apart from Germany’s Angela Merkel, however, leaders of western First World countries were conspicuous by their absence. The number of refugees from the Syrian civil war now in Turkey is estimated at 2.7 million. Politicians and news media in the West persist in criticising Turkey while adding fuel to a humanitarian disaster that has been raging for more than five years. A spokesperson from MSF (Doctors Without Borders) said it was ‘unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week’. Oxfam’s chief executive spoke of a need totackle the repeated failure of governments to resolve conflicts and end the culture of impunity in which civilians are killed without consequence’.

So who are the real guilty ones? Associated Press reported on 29 April that a US AC-130 gunship, ‘bristling with side-firing cannons and guns’, fired on a charity-run hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz for 30 minutes before it was realized that the attack was a mistake and the real target was an Afghan intelligence agency building half a kilometre away. 42 innocent civilians were killed and an unknown number injured in the attack. The U.S. government has made “gesture of sympathy” payments of $3,000 to each injured person and $6,000 to each family of the killed.

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Remains of Kunduz MSF hospital after US ‘mistake’.

Well, at least the US is kind of at war with Afghanistan. Their government seems to reserve the right to take out people they consider enemies wherever they are. 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama confirmed last week that an American drone strike had killed an Afghan Taliban leader IN PAKISTAN as part of a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability’. The deceased gentleman, Muhammad Mansour was apparently considered a threat to American forces in Afghanistan – where the latter have been working for peace for fifteen years. In another positive move towards global peace, Obama was reported on 23 May as announcing an end to the US arms embargo on Vietnam. Vietnam apparently, is emerging as ‘a key strategic partner for the United States’ despite being a police state whose president was formerly head of the Ministry of Public Security, a para-military outfit set up with the assistance of China and Soviet Russia. You can check out a recent report on the state of democracy in Vietnam here.

The justification for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, you will recall, was the demolition of the Twin Towers World Trade Centre back in 2001. It seems certain, however, that the US government has been steadfastly refusing to release documents confirming the role played by Saudi Arabia in the New York attacks. Meanwhile, another recent Time article informed us that Americans want a military general in the White House. God bless them!

Armed Staff at School

ISD = Independent School District. So who’s got problems?

Still if that fails, there’s always Donald Trump. The likely Republican presidential candidate was quoted the other day as suggesting that some teachers in the United States should be armed with guns inside their classrooms. Even if you are one of those who think the big DT is crazy, the fact that he can say it and be reported in reputable news media suggests that it wouldn’t go amiss if some of the billions currently spent on military hardware were redirected to the homeland education system.

That’s not very likely, however. Worldwatch Institute reports that the 5% of the world’s population who live in America consume a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources; and together with Western Europe, 12% account for 60% of the world’s consumer spending. An article in The Guardian reported that the wealthiest 0.01% of US citizens own as much of the nation’s wealth as the bottom 90%. That figure may be marginally less in Western Europe, but nevertheless, it’s pretty evident that such inequality can only ultimately be sustained at the point of a gun.

Turkey’s problem could well be your problem too!

Black Propaganda Against Turkey

I have some sympathy for Vladimir Putin. He inherited a Russia on the bones of its bum. They’d lost the Cold War, were suffering from runaway inflation, and the USA was crowing about being the last remaining superpower. Putin, with his manly pecs and his uncompromising attitude to the West was the iron tonic his people needed to give them back a modicum of self-respect. I could totally see his point in Ukraine. Not that I support the Russian position, but access to the warm waters of the Black Sea and the Aegean has been the driving force of Russian foreign policy for 300 years, and there’s no way they are going to let the gnomes of Brussels create a Euro-zone barrier in that region.

Putin pecs

Reputation built on machismo

I couldn’t suppress a chuckle when the Russian president thumbed his nose at the Obama administration by giving sanctuary to Wikileaks hero Edward Snowden. I can understand his chagrin at the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft on active service by a Turkish F16. Turkey? The last time they beat us was 1710, and the last time we fought a war with them in 1878, we were outside the gates of Istanbul when the British intervened to save them. Putin’s charisma is heavily based on machismo – which has been somewhat tarnished by having that plane shot down, and Putin isn’t happy.

I have been blizzarded recently with links to blogs purporting to prove conclusively that Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan and his family are making ‘gadzillions’ of dollars out of an illicit oil trade with ISIS/Daesh, thereby funding that organization and allowing it to continue its dastardly fight against the free world. Well, I don’t have the time or inclination to read all those chatterers. If I had a dollar for every lie disseminated about Turkey’s AK Party since they became the government in 2003 I might not be as rich as Carlos Slim, or even Mr Erdoğan, but I’d have a good wallet-full for a night on the town.

Twitter 3

Enlightened twitterers bringing tolerance and democracy to a troubled world

One article I did read recently purported to ‘trace how some more authoritarian countries and groups have used the freedom of social media to control their populations’. The four ‘baddies’ were China, Russia, ISIS, and, top of the list, Turkey. The bright spot, according to Time correspondent Ian Bremner, is India, whose ‘Modi government loves social media—and the Indian public loves them for it.’ Proof of this, allegedly, is that India has 143 million social media users. Well, I’m sorry to tell Mr Bremner that that represents a mere one in every nine Indians, compared to the impoverished 23% of the population who subsist on less than $1.25 a day.

Twitter 2

There are far worse, but I couldn’t bring myself to show you

So I question the wisdom that suggests the number of Facebook and Twitter users accurately reflect the level of democracy in a country. Social media and ‘flash mobs’ were credited with bringing democracy to despot-ruled countries in the Middle East and North Africa during the so-called Arab Spring. Five years on, what’s changed? Egypt’s brief flirtation with democracy was quickly stamped out by the military. Libya since the demise of Muammar Gaddafi has descended into chaos, if I can believe the Libyan students I have in my university classes.

I see very little on Facebook indicating that middle-aged White Turk matrons have much awareness of realities in their own country, let alone the world outside. In spite of that, they are delighted to repeat accusations that the Turkish government is financially and militarily supporting ISIS/Daesh – led by its president Tayyip Erdoğan and his sons and daughters raking in their ‘gadzillions’ from immoral black market activities.

The blogosphere is buzzing with accusations that Turkey is funding ISIS/Daesh by buying oil from . . . whoever is selling it. One item I was advised to read spoke of ‘ISIS oil: the alleged Erdoğan family and UK business connections’. A key sentence said To help understand the report below, first click here to see maps of the oil routes from ISIS to outside world.’ Well, I clicked on the link, but surprisingly (or not surprisingly) none of the maps showed any oil routes passing through any part of Turkey. So if that was a key basis for the Turkey connection, it seems to be based on a falsehood. The two ‘experts’ cited as sources, Dr Nafeez Ahmed and William Engdahl, journalists both, have, it seems, aroused some controversy in the past over the accuracy and credibility of their ‘research’ and claims.

ISIS oil

Journeys of a barrel of Daesh oil – did NOT pass through Turkey

Another of those blogs I checked out informed me, ‘This how ISIS smuggles oil into Turkey’. Barrels of black gold are apparently pumped into underground pipes running under the Turkey-Syrian border, which are then emptied by Turks on the other side. Realistically, I can’t see vast quantities of oil being moved by that method.

Undoubtedly there is smuggling across Turkey’s eastern frontier. There is a 1,700 km border adjoining Iraq, Iran and Syria, much of it passing through extremely inhospitable and mountainous country where the rule of law has a tenuous hold at best. Critics insist on calling it a ‘porous’ border, with the implication that the Turkish government is somehow at fault. A major incentive for smuggling into Turkey is the high tax imposed on cigarettes, alcohol and petrol*. The Turkish government has long believed that income from this illicit trade goes towards funding its own local terrorist organization, the Kurdish separatist PKK. As recently as 2011, Turkey’s military attracted some unwelcome publicity after their air force strafed a donkey-mounted convoy of ‘cigarette smugglers’ near Uludere in South East Turkey, killing 35 villagers. It’s all very well to talk about ‘porous’ borders, but when you try to discourage the leaks, you get slagged off for that too. Let’s ask the US government how easy it is to control their 3,000 km border with Mexico.

Sinking boat

Greek coastguards allegedly sinking refugee boat

Who can know if fighters are crossing from Turkey to help on the other side? And if so, who are they helping? Kurds, ISIS, or the Anti-Assad opposition? And how many have crossed? Who’s counting? What we do know is that more than two million refugees have fled to Turkey from the chaos and violence in Syria, seriously challenging Turkey’s resources of money and goodwill – and Western countries have been studiously ignoring pleas for help for more than four years. Now they seem to be blaming Turkey for its ‘porous’ 8,300 km sea coast, which should somehow be closed to stop asylum-seekers reaching Europe.

A Reuters article written by a lady with a distinctly Russian name (Maria Tsvetkova) trumpets: ‘Russia says it has proof Turkey involved in Islamic State oil trade.’ 350 words of the 400-word article are devoted to what various Russian spokespersons have to say, and, right at the end, if you get that far, you can read:

“‘The United States said it rejected the premise that the Turkish government was in league with the militants to smuggle oil. “We frankly see no evidence, none, to support such an accusation,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.”

A Time article published yesterday also says Turkey is not buying ISIS/Daesh oil:

‘Analysts speaking to TIME say it’s very unlikely Ankara has anything to do with ISIS oil — and Putin’s allegation about the incident carries no weight. “To go as far to say that Turkey would shoot down a plane to protect its oil supply is unfounded,” says Valerie Marcel, an associate fellow in energy, environment and resources at London-based think tank Chatham House.

Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Relations in the London School of Economics and Political Science, agrees that the claims amount to a conspiracy theory. “I think it would be very misleading to say there is an unholy alliance with Turkey and the Islamic State,” he says.’

President Erdoğan says that, in fact, it is Russians who are involved in assisting the ISIS/Daesh oil trade, and names two Russian passport holders who have been targeted with sanctions by the US Treasury. Despite all the anti-Turkey hysteria circulating on the Internet, leaders of the Western allies seem to have a more positive attitude. Well, one might dispute whether that is actually a good thing, but as far as Turkey is concerned, it’s a welcome change. US administrations have long wanted their Muslim NATO ally to join with them in their Middle East activities, and they are delighted that Turkey is not only participating with military support, but is allowing them to launch raids from Turkey’s Incirlik base. It even seems that the EU is softening its position on membership for Turkey. That may also be a mixed blessing these days, especially since Montenegro has apparently received a firm invitation – but it does represent a change of heart after more than 50 years of European cold-shouldering.

Erdoğan Peres

Turkey’s Erdoğan upsets Israel’s Peres, Davos, 2009

Nevertheless, the black propaganda against Turkey continues to pour out from the digital sewers of the World Wide Web. One of the more outlandish accusations I came across this week was a suggestion that Turkey could be about to invade Bulgaria. No evidence offered, of course. Pure unfounded speculation – but that’s what’s out there, so be careful what you believe, or reblog.

Russia, I suppose, is merely the most recent entrant into the game of demonizing Turkey. Ever since President Erdoğan called out President Shimon Peres for his country’s inhuman aggression against Palestinians at the 2009 Davos Conference, the Zionist propaganda machine has been churning out lies and misinformation aimed at discrediting Turkey’s government.

The Huffington Post published a piece the other day by a Dr Joseph Olmert, a barely coherent rave attacking the ‘failed policy’ of zero problems with neighbours and the ‘neo-Ottomanism’ foreign policy; Turkey’s complicity with ISIS actions; the ‘intolerable’ support to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt; dredging up Turkey’s relations with Cyprus, alleged invasions of Greece’s ‘airspace’, and ‘provocative’ attempts to bring aid to Israel-blockaded Gaza.

Well, there are two sides to every story, and there can’t be much doubt about which side Dr Olmert is on – ‘A native of Israel, he was formerly a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv, Hebrew, and Bar-Ilan Universities in his home country [and] served in senior positions in the Israeli government, such as the Director of Communications under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Policy Advisor to Defense Minister Moshe Arens.’ 

sephardic-migration

Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain found refuge in the Ottoman Empire

Isn’t it interesting how a crisis can bring together strange bedfellows? Armchair liberals who were only recently condemning Putin’s Russia for its aggression in the Ukraine are now seemingly eager to believe the Russian president’s outrageous accusations against the government of Turkey. Jewish people, whose ancestors were persecuted for a hundred years in Russian pogroms, are now apparently ready to side with Vladimir Putin against a people with a proud 500-year history of welcoming them and defending them against European oppression.

Back in June 2012, A Turkish F4 reconnaissance aircraft was shot down near the Turkish Syrian border. The Syrian military alleged that the Turkish plane had violated Syrian airspace, but there is no record of a warning being given. There were suggestions at the time that the F4 had been shot down by a laser-guided or heat-seeking missile from a Russian warship. The Turkish government swallowed their pride and took no retributive action. In July 2014 a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane was shot down over Ukraine by a Russian-made missile.

In the case of the Russian Su24, it was a military aircraft engaged on a bombing mission. The US State Department has confirmed Turkey’s claim that they gave multiple warnings to the pilot, but received no response. The area is a war zone; there are Turkish towns close to the border that have been hit by shells and missiles from the conflict. In this case, Turkey’s military was exercising its right to protect its own airspace, and President Putin has no grounds for anger.

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  • The people of Denmark get around a similar problem by shopping across the border in Germany. Turks have no such luxury.