“Erdogan and the Military: One Authoritarianism for Another” by Serdar

A comment on the clash between Erdogan and the military by Serdar
(This is copied from the comment section on the last post: “Turkey at a Crossroad: Democracy or Military Rule?”)

One must be very careful, and the comments so far about what’s happening in Turkey are quite naive, while the balance of articles provided by Syria Comment are quite good.

An authoritarianism is being displaced by another one which is forming its own security structures and apparatus. The coverage in the international media has so far been quite one sided.

If Erdogan and party genuinely want to enable more democracy they have to:

1. Remove the immunity from prosecution armor around MPs, where it applies not only to freedom of speech related matters but also to plain corruption cases/inquiries. There are many such strong cases against their MPs including Gul and Erdogan themselves.

2. Enable reform of the judicial system, by improving the funding for the courts, part of the problem is that cases take forever to resolve.

3. Remove the 10% barrier to representation in Parliament as mentioned in one of the articles quoted above.

I think one should not get too carried away about Zionist conspiracies and the like. The Turkish people still overwhelmingly trust the army (77%) than the government (55%) or the political system. Of course the army should not have intervened in 1997 the so-called “soft coup” which removed Erbakan, but this enabled AK Party members to break off from the previous Islamist party of Erbakan and take a more centrist position. The army enabled AK government to an extent. The inner workings of the army are largely modern and meritocracy based, the officer class is very well trained and professional, and face it, it was an officer of the Ottoman army who founded the republic. The army has a great stake in protecting the republic.

In the final analysis, I don’t think AK party and the military will have a final confrontation, but they will come to an accommodation.

Who do you think is monitoring phone conversations, discussions in meetings (both in Ankara and in Brussels) among the top brass of the army and leaking it to the pro-AK Party press. This has taken place more than a few times over the past few months. My candidates are foreign intelligence services–but they are leaking them to the anti-Army faction.

Look, US is very nervous that Turkey will move away from the NATO camp, it is actually the more pro-Eurasian, more pro-Kemalist and anti-NATO officers that are being targeted in the recent goings on. Yes, these officers are also anti AK Party, but this is not a distinguishing feature, almost all officers are anti AK Party. If anything the US administration prefers this “moderate Islamic” Turkey to a more nationalistic secularist and anti-NATO Turkey.

I know this is going to raise eyebrows, but it is hard to understand what’s going on in Turkey on the basis of the analyses in the foreign press. The (essentially) only English language Turkish paper Today’s Zaman is extremely one-sided with a very strong Pro AK Party bias.

Thanks to Joshua for the wonderful forum Syria Comment.

Comments (21)


1. norman said:

I do not know if i missed something but who is ((serdar )),

The changes that you want for Turkey seems to have a way of being done ,legally and in Parliament , there are a lot of things that i want to be changed in the US but still think that the US has a good republic that protect minorities and take care of all ,

I think that Turkey is going from civil government that is afraid of the Army to a government who thinks that the Army should be led by the government not the other way around , Erdogan should be careful not to look arrogant and should find a way to coordinate withe army for the good of Turkey,
another note about the vote in the US foreign relation comity about calling what happened to the Armenian as genocide , turkey should run to reach an agreement with Armenia even if that include helping Armenia financially , good neighborly Armenia is for the benefit of Turkey and Syria,

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March 6th, 2010, 9:59 pm

 

2. almasri said:

“I do not know if i missed something but who is ((serdar )),”?

To answer your question, it is safe to say he or she is no body. He or she seems like a disgruntled Turkish anarchist who thinks Erdogan is out to prevent Turks from wearing the European Hat of the late hat-enchanted Kemal and force them to wear the tarboush.

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March 6th, 2010, 11:34 pm

 

3. almasri said:

Only free Arabs are invited to visit the site of 20 year old Egyptian blogger Ahmed Mustapha who is facing military court and possible 9 years in prison for the simple crime of being a young man of dignity and honor:

http://abdofares.blogspot.com/

We realize zionists do visit this blog and purport to be persons who support freedom and dignity. We, in free Egypt, do not believe their claims due to their belief in zionism, and they are not welcome at Mustapha’s blog as he was among the first Egyptians to raise the issue of the theft of Egyptian Gas by the zionists at less than half world prices.

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March 7th, 2010, 3:42 am

 

4. Shami said:

What Turkey’s democracy lacks is a modern Social Democrat party in order to compete with the AKP ,the CHP,the party founded by Ataturk, has never won democratic elections and is prisoner of a paternalistic and old fashioned ideology.
Nowadays the AKP enjoys the support of the most renowed leftist and turkish of armenian origin turkish intellectuals.

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March 7th, 2010, 2:37 pm

 

5. Hüseyin said:

I do not agree with Serdar on many points he raised. I’d rather live under the so-called “civilian authoritarianism” than a military one. Military should be confined to the baracks and the battle field. Enough with interference first from janissaries and then the-all-knowing army.

Furthermore, Today’s Zaman is one of the best English newspapers in Turkey. To me, siding with democracy against militarism is not a sign of partiality. Some people do not want democracy to flourish because they would lose the benefits they currently hold. Shame on them !

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March 7th, 2010, 3:24 pm

 

6. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Congratulations to all Iraqi people for the unbelievably successful elections.
The Iraqis deserve our admiration for their courage, resolution and for not succumbing to intimidation.

No wonder that this pro-Arab-dictatorship blog, ignores this historic event.
.

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March 7th, 2010, 5:57 pm

 

7. Akbar Palace said:

Iran Lied

President Khatami was among the first to lend his voice to the chorus of world leaders condemning the September eleven attacks : ‘on behalf of the Iranian government and the nation, I condemn the highjacking attempts and terrorist attacks on public centers in American cities which have killed a large number of innocent people.’ 7

Even the conservative media and authorities followed the people by condemning the terrorist acts. A hardliner magazine Siyasat-e-Ruz observed, ‘any act that victimises innocent people, whatever their race or nationality, for achieving the goal of greedy international politics, is severely condemned and is a terrorist and anti-human act.’8 More important, sixty thousand spectators observed a minute of silence during a soccer match in Iran’s Azadi stadium, and hundreds of young Iranians held a candlelit vigil in Tehran for the victims of September 11 attacks.9 Even the routine chants of ‘death to America’ that have become a staple part of Friday prayers in Iran ceased. To exhibit such a degree of unanimity over a foreign policy issue was simply unprecedented in the recent history of the Islamic Republic.

http://www.issi.org.pk/journal/2002_files/no_3/article/8a.htm

(Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday called the September 11 attacks on the United States a “big fabrication” that was used to justify the U.S. war on terrorism, the official IRNA news agency reported.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6251AO20100306

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March 7th, 2010, 6:41 pm

 

8. Ghat Albird said:

AMIR IN TEL AVIV said:

Congratulations to all Iraqi people for the unbelievably successful elections.

No wonder that this pro-Arab-dictatorship blog, ignores this historic event

First it was Mdeleine Allbright proclaiming that it was worth “killing 500,000 Iraqi children” just to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Ms Allbright was following the plan developed by Zionists at the request of Bibi Netanyahu for the US to invade Itaq in oder to protect israel’s role.

Following the invasion and destruction of a people and culture dating several centuries before the existance of Zionist Israel and the deaths of **”1,366,350″ as a result of the invasion by US military, and the creation of over a million refugees in Syria and Jordan.

Now some well fed, recepient of over $16 million dollars a day from every day of the year from US taxpayers, and protected with a multi-billion US financed military is berating “pro-arab/dictators”.

Its becoming to someone as AMIR IN TEL AVIV who if it were not for suckering the US would in all probility be a bouncer or as referred to by many be a bordello operator and still living in Moldovia.

**www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq/iraqdeaths.html

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March 7th, 2010, 7:56 pm

 

9. majedkhaldoun said:

Today the election day in Iraq, we see clearly that the people who never knew democracy, they were eager and want to vote ,inspite of security concerns.
Is it this not enough to convince us that the people want democracy,and that authoritarianism is rejected by the people.
We see results,no more than 30%.this put 99% results by dictators as silly and void.
It is time for dictators to go and be replaced by democratic systems.

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March 7th, 2010, 8:51 pm

 

10. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

You’re right Majed. People want democracy.

Look at this opinion poll, conducted annually by ABC and BBC in Iraq.
Notice particularly question No. 15.
To those who claim that Iraqis miss Saddam.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/13_03_09_iraqpollfeb2009.pdf
.

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March 7th, 2010, 10:02 pm

 

11. Observer53 said:

So the elections are on in Iraq. Allow me to make the following observations on this subject.

The next prime minister is more than likely going to be boxed into asking for a speedy withdrawal of all US forces from the country.
Maliki will need the Shiite religious parties who have indicated that they want full independence and a removal of all US forces in the region.

Maliki will not be able to garner the Kurdish vote for they want Kirkuk and if he allies himself with them he will lose Arab baking in forming a government. This is the reason why the US media is not celebrating and many a pundit is predicting a long and hard period in forming a new government.

THis may prove to be wishful thinking lest the new regime asks for a speedy or immediate withdrawal.

I looked at the coalition of parties and it is a nice alphabet soup that does not bode well for unity and is more than likely going to lead to further fragmentation.

Sadr welcomed Saudi money and support as long as it allows for US forces to withdraw. Hakim is moving to espouse the Khomeini language of political and not only spiritual Shia Islam and is distancing himself from the US.

Like Jumblat in Lebanon, the bell weather is Chalabi and he has allied himself fully with Iran, THis means that the next regime in Iraq will be run with significant influence from Tehran.

On a different front, the ISI of Pakistan is actually making sure that any settlement in Afghanistan does not happen without it.
By delivering Bardar they effectively scuttled any effort of reconciliation with the Taliban. They also left the US effort of coordinating the talks with the Taliban ineffective. They are showing that they hold all the assets. The arrest of the American AlQaida guy without any input to and from the US is another stroke of genius showing that the ISI has also the terror network as an asset to bargain with and to continue to ask for US assistance. They are sucking the US dry by being the go to power in the region. Score one for Pak and none for India in this.

In the tour to Latin America, Clinton is trying to prevent Venezuala from joining Mercosur and to insert itself as a partner with the South, well the Brazilian were polite but firm on the subject.

Meanwhile, the ducks are not in a row to put any intelligent sanctions on Iran. Sanctions without a blockade which can be very dangerous is indeed a huge gamble.

Iran also scored big by capturing the head of Jind Allah a Saudi/US creation, dealing them both a nice blow.

Meanwhile, the assassination in Dubai is putting the collaborators with Israel on the spot including Qatar, and Jordan. Abbas cannot even meet with other Arab leaders and had to have another fig leaf in re starting indirect talks.

THis suits Bibi very well, he loves to drag the issue forever while he builds facts on the ground. Gideon Levy in Haaretz said it clearly: no one in Israel wants peace. THey actually benefit from no war and no peace situation.

In the US there is talk of gutting Medicare and Social Security as they are unrealistic mandates, but no one is talking about gutting the Pentagon. Truly, how low this so called democracy has fallen considering the lofty ideals of the founding fathers.

Cheers on this note, the real world of shark eat shark or the wolf pack is moving on.

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March 8th, 2010, 2:08 am

 

12. almasri said:

It looks like there are quite few Syrians who are unhappy with Bashar and the Asads in general. I do not know why but I suspect it is because of sectarian reasons.
Ok here is a deal to those disgruntled Syrians. Would you trade Hosni and his family who are the same affiliation as most Syrians and give us the Asads? Take Hosni and Jamal Mubarak and give us Bashar.
Otherwise, stop talking like israelis.

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March 8th, 2010, 2:42 am

 

13. norman said:

Shifting allegiances in Middle east opportunities for US President Obama
Much as he would like to disentangle himself from his Middle East inheritance, President Barack Obama is having a rough time doing so.

The obvious legacy is an unwanted war in Iraq and a bankrupt Israeli-Arab peace process. But equally constraining is a popular way of conceiving of the region — divided, schematically, between militants beholden to Iran and moderates sympathetic to the United States. While there is some truth to this construct, it assumes a relatively static landscape and clear fault lines in a region that is highly fluid and home to growing fragmentation. By disregarding subtle shifts that have occurred and awaiting tectonic transformations that won’t, this mind-set risks missing realistic opportunities to help reshape the Middle East.
Changes over the past few years have blurred the region’s purported lines. Qatar brokered the inter-Lebanese accord in May 2008, while Turkey started to mediate Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Neither country “belongs” to one axis or the other; both have earned reputations for talking to all sides. While Saudi Arabia had long echoed US skepticism and overall objectives regarding Syria, engagement between the two has resumed. Riyadh and Damascus reached common ground in implicitly rebuking any Iranian role in Yemen, much to Tehran’s irritation, and in quietly opposing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who enjoys US support. The Saudis also renewed contact with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas after a period of estrangement.

From Syria, too, come interesting signals. Uncomfortable with what had turned into a monogamous affair with Iran, Damascus began courting Qatar, France and, most prominently, Turkey. Deep strategic ties notwithstanding, Damascus and Tehran are waging a discreet proxy war in Iraq, backing different allies and combating different foes. Damascus broke a historic taboo in dispatching an ambassador to Beirut. In Lebanon itself, segments of the two political camps — until recently split in ways that mirrored the militants-vs.-moderates divide — are signaling a desire to reshape the political landscape.

Measured against the region’s sluggish standards, these modest adjustments are remarkable. Meanwhile, members of the “moderate axis” (mainly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan) have little in common — no collective willingness to engage with Israel, common system of government or shared approach to religious extremism. Egypt, their traditional standard-bearer, finds its status being eroded by challenges including a failing Sudanese state on its border, a strong Islamist opposition, popular discomfort at its policy toward Gaza, a discredited peace process and a looming presidential succession. Most crucially, the US has failed to project a credible vision, without which it cannot rally allies nor form a coherent camp.

Today, the relevant competition in the Middle East is not between a pro-Iranian and a pro-American axis but between two homegrown visions. One, backed by Iran, emphasizes resistance to Israel and the West, speaks to the region’s thirst for dignity and prioritizes military cooperation. The other, symbolized by Turkey, highlights diplomacy, stresses engagement with all parties and values economic integration. Both outlooks are championed by non-Arab emerging regional powers and resonate with an Arab street as incensed by Israel as it is weary of its own leaders.

Their appeal is all the stronger for lack of a genuine US-led alternative. Oscillating uncomfortably between those visions, the region is organizing itself less in accordance with US policy than in the absence of one.

If Washington is taking note, it is not apparent. Its stance remains based on a worldview in which such developments acquire neither meaning nor value. If the goal is to defeat radicals to strengthen purported moderates, how do we assess Saudi Arabia’s resumed dialogue with Hamas or improved ties with Syria? If the measure of success is whether Syria undertakes an unambiguous strategic realignment, what to make of a regime that simultaneously intensifies arms shipments to Hezbullah, normalizes diplomatic relations with Lebanon, ostentatiously proclaims its alliance with Tehran, and opposes Iranian objectives in Yemen and Iraq? In a region imagined as segregated between two mutually exclusive camps, Turkey’s multifaceted diplomacy is at best mystifying and at worst raises suspicions of disloyalty.

The longer the US remains encumbered by rigid mental habits, the longer it denies itself the means to influence events. Already, Washington has accepted bystander status regarding moves by Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Worse, it can do little to prevent more ominous and increasingly likely developments — a confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, between Israel and Hezbullah in Lebanon, or between Israel and the Palestinians over Jerusalem — all of which carry serious risks of spillover. President Obama is seldom better — and never more himself — than when he escapes the deceptive comfort of inherited certainties. His administration must start by discarding a reading of the region in which “moderates” fight “militants,” and “moderates” prevail. That vision has no local credibility or local resonance. It has no chance.

——————————————————————————–
* Robert Malley is Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group. Peter Harling, who is based in Damascus, is the group’s project director for Iraq, Syria and
Lebanon ,

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March 8th, 2010, 2:46 am

 

14. Shai said:

Thanks Norman, great article by Malley.

It really is shocking, just how effective Bush’s “You’re Either With Us, or Against Us” campaign has been. It has reached deep into the hearts of most Americans and, apparently, also into those of the current Administration.

The reason why most of us were so impressed by Obama is, precisely as Malley said, because of his ability to look at and tackle problems from fresh new angles. The famous “Change” he so mesmerizingly repeated before us, seems not to have been applied to our Middle East. So far, more than 1/4 of his term is gone (it isn’t coming back, either), and with regards to the ME, he’s walking straight down his predecessor’s path.

Obama, time to make a change!

To get man to the moon, some 41 years ago, two things had to happen:

1) Those in charge had to make use of Partial Differential Equations and Complex Variables (not just Linear Algebra).

2) An American President had to set a deadline.

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March 8th, 2010, 5:49 am

 

15. Shai said:

To all those “patriots” out there, who are willing to blindly ignore the risks of stubbornness and inflexibility, and so easily gamble with the lives of others and their own, it would be wise of them to consider just how devastating the next war is likely to be…

More and more estimates are starting to come out in Israel about how experts see the next war (experts = heads of the army, air force, etc.) Following the failure of Lebanon 2006, few in the Defense Establishment want to again be caught underestimating our rivals.

In this recent analysis by the Israeli Air Force, tens of thousands of missiles could rain down on Israeli population centers, as well as military bases.

“Intelligence officials said that Hezbollah and the Syrians are procuring tens of thousands of missiles and rockets, some with a range that could allow them to strike central Israel, and that they are now much more precise. It is believed that if war breaks out in the north, the Syrian army and Hezbollah, and perhaps Hamas and Iran as well, will try to hit civilian population centers in Israel as well as certain military targets – such as deployment areas and especially air force bases… The IAF’s operational research branch shows that in a war lasting a few weeks, each air force base in the north and center could potentially be struck by a few dozen missiles.”

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154832.html

One can only assume what Israel’s response might be. It will no longer be a war about pride and reason, but rather of retribution, and severe punishment.

A taunting tiger cannot control the “game” forever. At some point, even his mice can go out and get a gun. And then use it.

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March 8th, 2010, 7:48 am

 

16. norman said:

xxxx

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March 8th, 2010, 8:56 am

 

17. norman said:

Shai,

Israeli bases , yes civilian centers only if Israel attack Arab Civilian centers , don’t you think that is fair,

Israel has the choice to decide what kind of war it wants for it’s people.

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March 8th, 2010, 9:00 am

 

18. Shai said:

Norman,

It may not be the Syrians that attack Israeli population centers, it may be Hezbollah, Hamas, and perhaps Iran. At some point, it won’t matter anymore, because everyone will start looking “the same”. Especially since Hezbollah rockets will have come from Iran via Syria.

I hate these Doomsday scenarios, but to ignore how quickly things can deteriorate, and how devastating the next war could be, would be far more irresponsible and dangerous, than engaging in hypothetical scenario-drawing.

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March 8th, 2010, 9:20 am

 

19. norman said:

Shai,
and that is why we should move a head and make peace before things get out of hand , Syria and the Syrians are ready , Are you,?.

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March 8th, 2010, 12:54 pm

 

20. norman said:

Mideastern war fears are never hollow
By Shlomo Ben-Ami
Commentary by
Monday, March 08, 2010

Listen to the Article – Powered by

Across the Middle East, a fatalistic conventional wisdom is taking hold, namely that war is unavoidable. Some see war as a way of resolving an increasingly deadlocked situation, as shaking up a dysfunctional regional order whose main actors are not only at loggerheads, but are also incapable of resolving the legitimacy deficits of their respective regimes.

A volley of incendiary remarks exchanged recently between Israel on the one side and both Syria and Hizbullah on the other has fueled anxieties about the possibility of war on Israel’s northern border. The level of sensitivity is such that the latest tension was initiated by the Syrians, who misinterpreted as a threat Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s call to start peace negotiations precisely in order to prevent “an all-out regional war.”

Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, for the first time explicitly warned the Israelis that a new round of conflict would no longer be confined to an Israeli-Lebanese showdown, but would involve the entire regional “axis of confrontation” – Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas. This would also be the case if Israel unleashed its air force against Iran’s nuclear installations. Moreover, Nasrallah made it clear that Israel’s “Dahyia Doctrine” of total devastation of Lebanon in case of war would be answered in kind.

The prospect of a Middle East conflagration has prompted an airlift of senior American officials to Israel to warn of the devastating consequences that an Israeli attack on Iran might have. Indeed, the Obama administration’s main challenge these days is not peacemaking, but regional conflict management and preemption. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, have already gone through Israel, with Vice President Joe Biden and a high-level delegation of the State Department and the National Security Council due in Jerusalem this week.

But preventing war will not be easy, because US President Barack Obama’s mystique has worn off in the Arab world. The expectation that he would allow the Arabs, particularly the Syrians and the Palestinians, to recover their land without resorting to arms has proven to be unrealistic, by the president’s own admission. Nor has he been able to rein in Iran’s relentless drive for regional hegemony, or convince it to abandon its quest for nuclear arms.

Israel will most likely listen to US advice and consider a preemptive attack on Iran only after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, and after whatever sanctions are agreed upon fail to cut short Iran’s march toward possessing the bomb. No matter how unjustified Israel’s traditional military behavior seems in the eyes of its enemies and critics, it has always aspired to base its military actions on grounds that can be justified.

This would seem to be particularly true when it comes to an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. Israel would not like to be seen as the spoiler of a diplomatic solution to a dispute that in any case cannot be resolved by military means alone.

Wars in the Middle East, it should be recalled, have started even when the parties did not really want them. The 1967 war is one example. Today’s anxieties, too, are fed by perceptions and fears, by real and imagined concerns. The Iranian challenge to Israel’s strategic hegemony is presented as a Holocaust-style existential threat, and Israel’s other enemies – Hizbullah, which believes that it can bring about “the end of the Zionist entity,” and Syria, which publicly boasts of its ballistic missiles’ capacity to destroy Israel’s main urban centers – are similarly viewed as irrational actors.

A covert war between Israel and Iran has been going on for some time now. The assassinations – allegedly by Israel – of Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah’s military chief and Iran’s closest ally in the organization, two years ago, and more recently of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas liaison officer with the Al-Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, suggest that an unplanned chain of events could trigger a real war.

The Lebanese front may ignite if Hizbullah seeks to avenge Mughniyeh’s assassination, or simply as a result of a knee-jerk reaction to a provocation, as in July 2006. If Iran and Syria then decide to back Hizbullah, a direct Israeli-Iranian showdown could follow. What Israel planned as a preemptive attack on Iran might then be presented as an act of self-defense.

General James Jones, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, recently put forward a different, albeit equally ominous, prediction. Iran’s response to the mounting international pressure, he said, might be to launch an attack on Israel through its proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas. Such attacks might trigger a wider regional conflagration.

War threats in the Middle East should never be dismissed as hollow. Prophecies of war, moreover, have too frequently proven themselves to be self-fulfilling. But the United States’ extraordinary efforts to rein in Israel might not be enough to avert a regional calamity. The days of Pax Americana in the region are over, which means that avoiding a regional explosion will require mobilizing the major international actors that favor diplomatic solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to Iran’s quest to become a legitimate partner in a new regional system.

Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister who now serves as vice president of the Toledo International Centre for Peace. He is the author of “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.” THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate © (www.project-syndicate.org).

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March 8th, 2010, 2:37 pm

 

21. why-discuss said:

Turkey’s Domestic Controversy Unfolds Amidst Increasing Ties with Iran

http://www.payvand.com/news/10/mar/1070.html

By Shayan Ghajar, insideIRAN.org

Events the past few weeks in Turkey indicate that a sea change is occurring in the nation’s domestic politics. Prime Minister Erdogan’s maneuvering against the traditionally untouchable military marks a new phase in Turkey’s history. This shift in Turkey’s domestic politics follows a more gradual but no less relevant shift in its foreign policy, and likely indicates even greater changes to come. Mutual trade, investment, and tourism are growing between Turkey and Iran, and the two nations are increasingly in accord on three of the regions biggest security issues, namely the Middle East peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, and Kurdish separatism.

Simultaneously, American policy has been increasingly out of step with Turkey’s vision for its future. The recent American congressional vote to declare the Armenian deportations and relocations a genocide will certainly have damaged Turkish-American relations for the foreseeable future, and will be yet another factor in Turkey seeking alternative allies in the region.

Diplomatic contact between Iran and Turkey has increased in frequency and intensity in recent months, starting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Iran in October 2009. Concurrently with Erdogan’s visit, Iran announced that Turkey was investing $4 billion into Iran’s South Pars gas field, which holds one of the largest gas reserves in the world. Shortly after Erdogan’s visit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that there are “no limitations to increasing ties” with Turkey. Since then, a plethora of meetings at all levels of government have occurred between the two nations, marking a significant increase in bilateral agreements on political and economic issues.
Many of these meetings have focused on economic cooperation and strengthening the financial interdependence of the two nations, especially in recent weeks with the inaugural meeting of the Developing 8 (D-8) economic consortium in Tehran. The D-8 consists of eight developing nations with largely Muslim populations-Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Turkey-and is intended to foster greater economic ties and facilitate development of vital industries, especially in the energy and manufacturing sectors. The next meeting, in 2011, will be held in Turkey.

On March 3, Iran and Turkey signed a “memorandum of understanding” during the D-8 meetings in Tehran. The memorandum of understanding pledges cooperation in numerous manufacturing fields, specifically “auto-manufacturing and supply of spare-parts, construction industry, agricultural machinery and equipment industries and wood and paper industries,” Fars News reports.

The strain in Turkish-Israeli relations since the Gaza offensive that ended in January has only deepened with Erdogan stating in February that any Israeli strikes against Iran’s nuclear program would be a “disaster of unpredictable consequences.” The Iranian media have been delighted with Erdogan’s stance on Israel, and his quotes condemning the situation in Gaza frequently appear in the state news agencies.

Turkey has largely sided with Iran on the nuclear issue against its American ally as well. Turkish officials have repeatedly made statements supporting Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program, the latest coming from the Turkish Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Ali Shahin. The Wall Street Journal reported on March 4 that Washington is finding it increasingly difficult to make any headway urging Turkey to support sanctions against Iran, receiving the same rejoinder from Erdogan that Israel’s nuclear weapons should be investigated as much as Iran’s every time the subject is broached.

Iran and Turkey also share security concerns regarding the large presence of Kurds in the border areas between the two nations and Iraq. Both nations have been engaged in military campaigns for decades against Kurdish separatists. Sahar Zubairy of Foreign Policy Blogs alleges that Iran and Turkey have collaborated in their military efforts against these Kurdish groups.

A final consideration for the ties between both nations, and perhaps one of the most significant, is the instability of the ruling parties’ positions domestically. Erdogan has pitted all his political assets against the military, Turkey’s most powerful traditional establishment. The ultra-conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan wrote an article (Farsi language) describing protests in Istanbul against the alleged military coup plot in heroic terms, and all of Iran’s state-run news agencies have almost daily carried articles in the past few weeks praising more arrests of conspirators against Erdogan.

Similarly, the Turkish news service Taraf-the same agency to which documents were leaked incriminating the Turkish military in the alleged coup plot weeks ago-carried an article (Turkish language) stating the Iranian people had demonstrated their support for the Islamic Republic on February 11, Revolution Day in Iran, contrary to Western-backed dissident groups.

This mutual moral support against domestic opposition groups demonstrates that the insecurity of both regimes in the face of home-grown dissent has increased their need for regional allies more than ever before. And at a time when America and Turkey drift farther apart, Iran seems a more appealing regional ally than ever.

About: InsideIRAN.org is a bi-weekly journal of analysis and research written primarily by scholars and activists living inside Iran and those who have recently left the country. Our purpose is to provide in-depth information about the internal political dynamic that is unavailable in the mainstream media. Through research and commentary, we will continue to document the political and theological crisis.
http://www.insideiran.org

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March 9th, 2010, 11:05 am

 

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