Posted by Joshua on Friday, November 6th, 2009
The Rise and Rise of Turkey
By PATRICK SEALE in New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor, November 4, 2009
It is generally accepted that America’s destruction of Iraq overturned the balance of power in the Gulf, opening the way for the Islamic Republic of Iran to emerge as a major regional power, able to challenge the dominance of Sunni Arab states and pose as a rival to both Israel and the United States.
Its influence has spread to Iraq itself — now under Shiite leadership — and beyond to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and even perhaps to Zaidi rebels in northern Yemen fighting the central government in Sana‘a, a development that has aroused understandable anxiety in Saudi Arabia.
However, the Iraq war has had another important consequence that is also attracting serious notice. America’s failure in Iraq — and its equal failure to tame Israel’s excesses — has encouraged Turkey to emerge from its pro-American straitjacket and assert itself as a powerful independent actor at the heart of a vast region that extends from the Middle East to the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The Turks like to say that whereas Iran and Israel are revisionist powers, arousing anxiety and even fear by their expansionism and their challenge to existing power structures, Turkey is a stabilizing power, intent on spreading peace and security far and wide.
Turkey is extending its influence by diplomacy rather than force. It is also forging economic ties with its neighbors, and has offered to mediate in several persistent regional conflicts. It has, however, not hesitated to use force to quell the guerrillas of the PKK, a rebel movement fighting for Kurdish independence.
But even here, Turkey is now using a softer approach. The rebels have been offered an amnesty and Turkey’s influential foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has this past week paid a visit — the first of its kind — to the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. There is even talk of Turkey opening a consulate in Erbil.
In recent years, Turkey’s diplomacy has scored many successes, winning great popularity in the Arab world and strengthening Turkey’s hand in its bid to join the European Union. Some people would go so far as to argue that there is no future for Turkey without the E.U., and no future for the E.U. without Turkey.
Turkey’s dynamic multi-directional foreign policy started to take shape when the Justice and Development party, or AKP, came to power in 2002 under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, now president of the Turkish Republic. These men are rightly considered to be conservative and moderately Islamic — their wives wear headscarves — but they are careful to stress that they have no ambition to create an Islamic state. Turkey’s population may be largely Muslim, but the state itself is secular, democratic, capitalist and close to both the West and the Arab and Muslim world. Indeed, Turkey sees itself as a bridge, vital to both.
Ahmet Davutoglu is credited with providing the theoretical framework for Turkey’s new foreign policy. He was Mr. Erdogan’s principal adviser before being promoted foreign minister.
Two visits in October illustrate Turkey’s activisim. Prime Minister Erdogan, accompanied by nine ministers and an Airbus full of businessmen, visited Baghdad, where he held a session with the Iraq government and signed no fewer than 48 memoranda in the fields of commerce, energy, water, security, the environment and so forth.
At much the same time, Foreign Minister Davutoglu was in Aleppo, where he signed agreements with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Muallim, of which perhaps the most important was the removal of visas, allowing for a free flow of people across their common border.
Turkey also broke new ground in October by signing two protocols with Armenia, providing for the restoration of diplomatic relations and the opening of the border between them. Not surprisingly, Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan has strongly objected to this development, since it is locked in conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated pocket of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenian forces.
Indeed, Turkey’s protocols with Armenia are unlikely to be fully implemented until Armenia withdraws from at least some of the districts surrounding Karabakh — but, at the very least, a historic start has been made toward Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.
From the Arab point of view, the most dramatic development has undoubtedly been the cooling of Turkey’s relations with Israel. The relationship has been damaged by the outrage felt by many Turks at Israel’s cruel oppression of the Palestinians, which reached its peak with the Gaza War.
Even before the assault on Gaza, Prime Minister Erdogan — a strong supporter of the Palestine cause — did not hesitate to describe some of Israel’s brutal actions as “state terrorism.” A total breach between the two countries is unlikely, but relations are unlikely to recover their earlier warmth so long as Israel’s hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, remain in power.
Underpinning Turkey’s diplomacy is its central role as an energy hub linking oil and gas producers in Russia and Central Asia with energy-hungry markets in Europe.
One way and another, a resurgent Turkey is rewriting the rules of the power game in the Middle East in a positive and non-confrontational manner. This is one of the few bright spots in a turbulent and highly inflammable Middle East.
TEHRAN, Nov. 2 (UPI) — The governments of Iran and Turkey announced a $2 billion joint venture to establish a crude oil refinery in northern Iran for possible exports to Europe. Also, the Turkish government announced plans recently to invest as much as $4 billion to develop the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf.
A NATO Without Turkey?
BY: DAVID SCHENKER | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
….Nearly a decade after Islamists took the reins of power in Ankara, the central question is no longer whether Turkey should be integrated into Europe’s economic and political structure, but rather whether Turkey should remain a part of the Western defense structure….. Ankara is increasingly pursuing illiberal policies at home, for instance by attacking independent media, while aligning itself with militant, anti-western Middle East regimes abroad. …. it would appear that the West is losing Turkey. Should this occur, it would constitute the most dramatic development in the region since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Ya’alon also spoke about Turkey, and said Israel was keeping track of its policies with concern. “Their tendency is to look eastward, to Iran and Syria. This necessitates an analysis of the situation on our part,” he said.”
“Did Egypt just “sell out Lebanon?” And if so, for what? by Kifa Nabki
” A senior Lebanese defense source said Friday that militants allied with Al-Qaida are working in collaboration with Israel against Hezbollah, A-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Friday. According to the official, the Lebanon-based Al-Fatah al-Islam fired a Katyusha rocket at northern Israel last month precisely so that the finger of responsibility could be pointed at Hezbollah. This is not the first claim from within Lebanon regarding collaboration. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman last month suggested that Israel had arranged for collaborators in his country to fire Katyusha rockets at the Galilee earlier this week, in a bid to keep tensions high in the area.
According to the Lebanese newspaper A-Sapir (yup…), Israel’s declarations that it would not cease its intelligence activities on Lebanese territories validate Suleiman’s accusations. A panel of inquiry established by the Lebanese Army found that the rockets, fired from Houla in southern Lebanon, were launched from the home of the village’s mayor. The mayor was not present in his home, according to the panel, and has no connection to the rocket.”
Israel seizes ship with alleged Hezbollah-bound arms
By Richard Boudreaux in LATimes
Israel’s navy intercepts a vessel off Cyprus that it says contained 300 tons of weapons being smuggled by Iran to Syria, bound for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Iran and Syria deny the charge.
The United States informed Israel of a ship carrying tons of weapons allegedly en route from Iran to Hezbollah, but vetoed Israel’s plans to attack, the A-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Friday.
The cargo did not include rocket launchers or advanced weaponry that would alter the balance of power with Israel. Nonetheless, the army said, the rockets that were seized are the equivalent of about 10 percent of Hezbollah’s existing stock, and could have been used for weeks of intensive shelling of northern Israel.
Saudi Jets Bomb Rebels in Yemen
BY: AHMED AL-HAJ | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saudi Arabia sent fighter jets and artillery bombardments across the border into northern Yemen on Thursday in a military incursion apparently aimed at helping its troubled southern neighbor control an escalating Shi’ite rebellion, Arab diplomats and the rebels said.
Exxon-Shell Consortium Signs Deal to Help Boost Output at Iraqi Oil Field
BY: ERNESTO LONDOÑO AND QAIS MIZHER | THE WASHINGTON POST
Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell signed a deal with the Iraqi Oil Ministry on Thursday to develop a major field, marking the first foray by a U.S.-led consortium into Iraq’s promising but uncertain oil industry.
China Mall, a store specializing in goods from China in Bab Tourna district, looks like other stores in Damascus, except for its Chinese slogan “Sheng Yi Xing Long” which means “good business.” However, this store, along with the increasing …
Syria launches its first electricity privatization tender
Daily Star, 3 November 2009, by Khaled Yacoub Oweis of Reuters
DAMASCUS: An Arab-Finnish consortium is well placed to win Syria’s first private power concession and help solve big electricity shortages, a senior executive in the group said on Monday. The Syrian state, which has been controlled by the ruling Baath Party since 1963, is seeking private sector investment after decades of Soviet style policies to overhaul the rundown infrastructure and boost electricity output that falls one third short of demand.
“Syria, out of necessity, not luxury, is moving to private-public partnerships because they don’t have sufficient money to finance infrastructure,” Mahmoud al-Khoshman, chief executive officer of Marafeq, a venture between Syria’s Cham Holding and the Kuwaiti conglomerate Al-Kharafi.
“To the consumer we will ensure one thing – reliability, There will be electricity when they need it,” said Khoshman, referring to the 240 megawatt project in Nassserieh, northeast of the Syrian capital.
Marafeq bid for the project several months ago as a consortium with Finnish engineering company Wartsila, whose role Khoshman said would include a turn key contract for the design, construction and commissioning of the 200 million euro plant.
Electricity Minister Ahmad al-Kayali said Marafeq and Terna Energy of Greece qualified as last stage bidders. The project is Syria’s first power privatization deal in decades, but officials avoid referring to it as so, with the government struggling to shed the legacy of a command economy that has transformed Syria, a once-open country, into an anomaly among more prosperous neighbors.
Under the 25-year build, own and operate deal, the Syrian government would provide fuel free of charge to run the power plant, buy and distribute the electricity. Syria at present produces around 7,000 megawatts of electricity, compared with a 10,000 megawatt demand. Power cuts for five hours a day in Damascus are common.
“What is stopping the Syrians primarily is the lack of knowledge about how to structure this project. The process has to go proper,” said Khoshman, adding international banks would not otherwise finance it.
Khoshman, a Jordanian, said Marafeq was seeking 100 million euros ($147.7 million) in loans for the power plant from Europe, including DEG, a division of Germany’s government controlled banking group KfW, and 45 million euros from six Syrian banks. Syrian businessmen founded Cham Holding, which has a $365 million capital, in 2006 as Syria relaxed restrictions on private investment.
The main player in the group is 40-year-old tycoon Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar Assad under specific US sanctions for suspected corruption. Makhlouf denies any wrong doing. The sanctions, which were first imposed in 2004, have also helped to undermine the ability of Western banks to deal with Syria.
Basam al-Qadi: Honor Killing in Syria
October 29, 2009
.. It was a sad and somber day, in which a Syrian court has decided that a man who killed his sister is a hero just for having committed murder in the name of honor (he was sentenced to only two and half years, which meant his immediate release because this is exactly the time he spent in custody awaiting trial. The subject has shown no remorse at any time). Hundreds of women are killed each year under this pretext, while the Syrian government keeps a silent accomplice to such barbarous crimes.
Thousands of women are killed in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and other countries where governments do not move to address one of the main reasons being: Protect life its citizens.
Tens of thousands of women are killed worldwide every year in so-called “honor crimes”, reflecting at least the deterioration of the human being and feeling. This happens before the eyes of the world without producing reactions beyond symbolic sentences.
It is time to end these vile crimes. We live in the XXI century and it is time to reject insignificant actions and convictions soft on murderers in the name of honor. It is time to implement deterrent punishments to those who commit, encourage or support such killings. Therefore, by October 29 as World Day of Solidarity with Victims of Crimes of Honor, a day to emphasize that such crimes will not go to the dark side of history if we join together to fight these murders without wavering. We call on the United Nations, human rights associations and women’s rights, all political forces and parties that uphold social justice, and all media of all kinds to establish that day in their diaries as a way of confronting the defenders of these crimes and thus establish it as an added tool against the killing of women in the name of honor. ”
US blocks ‘Syria torture’ lawsuit
Posted: 03 Nov 2009
US blocks ‘Syria torture’ lawsuit Al Jazeera, November 3, 2009 A US federal appeals court has ruled that a Canadian man cannot sue the US after he was held at a New York airport and then transferred to Syria, where he alleges he was tortured. Maher Arar, a Syrian-born software engineer, was detained by US authorities during a […]
MEMRI: In an op-ed titled “Silence That Chatterbox Ambassador!” in the pro-Syrian daily Al-Safir of November 2, 2009, the paper’s owner, Talal Salman, accused U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison of interfering in Lebanon’s affairs, inciting civil war in the country, and making provocative statements. Also in the article, Salman attacked March 14 Forces leaders, saying that they were taking orders and dictates directly from Sison and that she was forbidding them to include Hizbullah in the new government that has yet to be formed. Read article
Der Spiegel: How Israel Destroyed Syria’s Al Kibar Nuclear (For a backgrounder on who Erich Follath is read this interesting post: Time to Think: Erich Follath, “der Spiegel´s”secret chief and a very good friend of the Mossad.
“Through the cracks,” The Drought in Syria, which is causing mass migration and exploitation of those who have lost their livelihoods. By Sarah Birke in the The National.
Syria submits to Interpol arrest warrant against Siddiq…” [Translation thanks to mideastwier.com]
On November 5, the Saudi-owned London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily carried the following article by its correspondent in Damascus Souad Jrouss: “Syrian lawyer Hussam Eddin Habash expected the United Arab Emirates to surrender Mohammad Zuheir al-Siddiq to Damascus, the Syrian witness in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, after the Interpol office in Damascus received an arrest warrant from the proper Syrian military judicial authorities.
“Al-Habash who is head of the “Arab legal committee for the defense of Syria” was quoted by Asharq al-Awsat as saying: “After a complaint was filed before the Syrian courts against Siddiq for having committed a number of crimes, the martial judge special adviser Abdul Razzaq al-Homsi issued an arrest warrant against him. The warrant accused Siddiq of committing acts and taking positions which were not approved by the Syrian government, thus endangering the lives of Syrian citizens, of spreading lies and openly calling for an invasion against Syria and giving false testimony before the international investigation commission.” …
Syria warns UN credibility at stake
Nov 04, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX)
Syria said here Wednesday that with Israel’s continued refusal to comply with United Nations resolutions, as well as recommendations from the report by UN fact- finding missions on Gaza conflict, puts the “credibility of the UN at stake.”
One of many billboards in Syria featuring President Bashar al-Assad (photo by jilliancyork) Syrian bloggers frequently decry travel writing about their country – often it’s too stereotypical, sometimes downright false. And for a country considered …
IEE CN: Deploys iseemail(TM) Blackberry-Like Service with MTN Sy
iseemedia Inc., a leading provider of Blackberry-like services to the mass mobile phone market today announced that it has begun deployment of iseemail(TM) with Syria’s leading mobile network operator, MTN, with more than 3.5 million subscribers. The commercial launch is expected to be completed next month. “We are excited about the opportunity to introduce our Blackberry-like email service in Syria,” said Anthony DeCristofaro, President and CEO, iseemedia. “After extensive testing and promotion with select Nokia phones, we believe we have the optimum push email service in a market where consumers and business users alike are clamoring for mobile email. We expect to attract at least 100,000 regular subscribers in a short period of time.”….. iseemail(TM) eliminates the need for expensive data plans or high-end phones to receive emails and rich attachments on the go. The iseemail(TM) platform enables operators the opportunity to promote mobile email as a mass market solution as it provides full email functionality on nearly 100% of available devices……
Half of Greek Households Pay No Income Tax, Business Group Says
2009-11-04 By Maria Petrakis
Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) — More than half of Greek households declare incomes of less than 12,000 euros ($17,800) a year and pay no income tax, leaving 2 percent of families to pay about a third of the country’s personal-income tax. The 54 percent of families who fall under the tax-free threshold make an average of 6,000 euros a year, according to a study of 2007 tax declarations released today by the Federation
of Greek Industries. Of 5.5 million tax declarations filed, 3 million didn’t pay any tax. Tax evasion in Greece is estimated at 30 billion euros annually,…