Posted by Joshua on Thursday, February 25th, 2010
Big things are going on in Turkey, where government has detained 49 top military officers and formally arrested 12. It accuses them of plotting a 2003 coup called “Sledgehammer,” which was to be proceeded by explosions at several mosques to create chaos and a pretext for overthrowing the Erdogan government and the AK Party.
The government has decided to force a showdown with the country’s military leadership. They have been antagonists for much of the last century. The military has been called everything from the “guardian of democracy” to the “enemy of democracy.” The army, which has long enjoyed full immunity from civilian law, has ousted four governments in the last 50 years without facing any challenges itself until the AK Party came to power eight years ago. Champions of the military fear that the success of the government will mean the end of secularism and Turkey’s slide toward Islamic government. Champions of the AK party and many liberals argue that democracy in Turkey is now mature, and the country no longer needs the military nursemaid to protect civil society from itself. Intervention into politics by the Army, they argue, undermines democracy and change.
Much of the Middle East, which is ruled by military rulers, is watching this confrontation with intense interest. Is Turkey undergoing its own brand of “velvet revolution,” which one could brand the “tulip revolution?” Is it paving the way toward a real democracy? Or is it tempting the dangers of chaos?
Addendum: A smart comment left by Vedat The Turk:
All this talk about a Erdogan’s political “revolution” in Turkey is a bit premature. Turkeys military is still held in high esteem by the general populace and any action the government takes will have to take this into consideration.
More importantly any action by the Erdogan government against the Armed Forces will have to be arbitrated by the Supreme Constitutional Court. This is the same court that forced erdogan out of office a few years back.
A better way to look at the modern Turkish body politic is to view it as a tripartite body with power evenly divided between the government, army and the judiciary. None of the parties can effectively govern without the assistance of at least one of the other branches. Right now the government is trying to force the court into action – whether it will enter the fray and on whose side they would rule is still yet to be determined. The most likely outcome will be that the court will find a way to maintain the status quo which the Turkish populace seems to favor.
I find it hard to believe that Damascus and Tehran have thrown their weight behind Iyad Allawi to unseat Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the March elections.” This is what UPI is saying that an unnamed source assures their reporter. Why would Iran back a secular government over an Islamic one?
Imad Mughniya is the subject of a long article in the Telegraph by Gordon Thomas, an author of a pot boiler and unreliable history of Mossad. In Mossad’s most wanted: A deadly vengeance, he claims to reveal the inside story of its most daring hit in great detail. Your guess is a good as mine if any of it are true.
Obama’s decision to appoint Ambassador Ford to the Damascus job which has been vacant since 2005 continues to incite heated criticism from supporters of Israel. See David Shenker, Tony Badran, or Matthew Brodsky.
Hillary Clinton was defensive about the State Department’s warming relationship with Syria and during a Senate budget debate. She tried to allay fears that she would not hold Syria’s feet to the fire for more concessions in its policies toward Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Iran.
US asks Syria to move away from Iran: Clinton
by Lachlan Carmichael Lachlan Carmichael
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Washington is urging Syria to move away from ally Iran as well as stop arming Hezbollah, cooperate in Iraq and resume peace talks with Israel, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.
In disclosing US demands for engagement with Syria, Clinton was blunter than ever about Washington’s bid to drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran, the target of a US drive for sanctions designed to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
Clinton’s remarks during a Senate budget debate come as Syria announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Damascus on Thursday for talks with Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
The chief US diplomat told a Senate committee that William Burns, the undersecretary for political affairs and third-ranking US diplomat, “had very intense, substantive talks in Damascus” when he visited there last week.
“And we’ve laid out for the Syrians the need for greater cooperation with respect to Iraq, the end to interference in Lebanon and the… provision of weapons to Hezbollah, a resumption of the Israeli-Syrian track…,” she said.
Clinton said Washington also is asking Syria to “generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States.”
The United States accuses Syria and Iran of supporting militant groups in the region, including the Lebanese political and guerrilla movement Hezbollah as well as the Palestinian radical group Hamas.
It also accuses Syria of turning a blind eye to militants crossing its border into Iraq.
Clinton also said she would study a senator’s proposal to consider ways to invite Syrian leader Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in a bid to break the stalemate in talks between the two nations.
“I certainly will look at anything that might break the stalemate. I’m not sure that would be acceptable or do-able to all the parties involved,” Clinton told the senator Arlen Specter.
She repeated that the goal is to restart the formerly Turkish-brokered talks that Syria suspended after Israel launched a brief war in the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
Obama last week announced that Robert Ford will be the first US ambassador to Damascus since Washington recalled its envoy after Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed in February 2005 in a bombing blamed on Syria.
The move is part of the Obama administration’s year-long campaign to engage a former US foe and energize its thwarted push for a broad Arab-Israeli peace, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians.
Analysts says engagement is more likely to produce modest benefits — like better intelligence cooperation and an improved climate for peace — than peel Syria away from a strategic ally like Iran or achieve a peace breakthrough.
“… Israel demands that Lebanon implement UN Resolution 1701. The weapons Iran and Syria transfer to Lebanon are offensive arms whose sole purpose is to harm Israeli civilians.” …. “Nuclear weapons in Iran will change the strategic balance in the region,” said Barak. “We must impose harsh sanctions, with a defined time frame, on Iran.”
Ban said he supported Israel’s position on preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and added that the UN would do everything in its ability to advance sanctions against Iran….”
Haaretz exclusive: Hamas founder’s son worked for Shin Bet for years
By Avi Issacharoff, 24/02/2010, Haaretz
The son of a leading Hamas figure, who famously converted to Christianity, served for over a decade as the Shin Bet security service’s most valuable source in the militant organization’s leadership, Haaretz has learned.
Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas founder and one of its leaders in the West Bank. The intelligence he supplied Israel led to the exposure of a number of terrorist cells, and to the prevention of dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts on Israeli figures.
The exclusive story will appear in this Friday’s Haaretz Magazine, and Yousef’s memoir, “Son of Hamas” (written with Ron Brackin) will be released next week in the United States. Yousef, 32, became a devout Christian 10 years ago and now lives in California after fleeing the West Bank in 2007 and going public with his conversion.
Maj. General Dani Haloutz, the ex-IDF chief of general staff and architect of the war against Lebanon, gave an interview to Barabara Opall-Rome in which he said, among other things:
“I didn’t then — And I don’t think now — that you need to conquer territory to stop rockets, because operations of this sort are likely to fail.
“The solution to rockets and missiles is to operate in a manner that imposes an unbearable cost to the other side for the enemy and civilians, by way of severely damaging national infrastructure and exacting a price beyond expectations.”
“In this neighborhood, after you’ve tried all other options, you need to act in ways the other side understands. Restraint cannot be part of the vocabulary because the other side views that as a weakness. What ey understand if force …(and) it’s our challenge and obligation to employ it not [in] a brutal way, but in a very careful, selective, but very intensive way that generates maximum effects in minimum time.
“If you’re dealing with terrorists and their leaders, you have to cut their heads through constant targeting operations. But if you’re dealing with governments, you need to severely damage the country. No rational leader wants to be held accountable for severe damage to his country. …And by severe damage, I mean all infrastructure, bridge by bridge, power station by power station, communications center, airport by airport.”
For Israel, defiance comes at the cost of legitimacy
By Henry Siegman
Financial Times, February 23 2010
The Middle East peace process and its quest for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that got under way nearly 20 years ago with the Oslo accords has undergone two fundamental transformations. It is now on the brink of a third.
The first was the crossing of a threshold by Israel’s settlement project in the West Bank; there is no longer any prospect of its removal by this or any future Israeli government, which was the precise goal of the settlements’ relentless expansion all along. The previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who declared that a peace accord requires Israel to withdraw “from most, if not all” of the occupied territories, “including East Jerusalem,” was unable even to remove any of the 20 hilltop outposts Israel had solemnly promised to dismantle.
A two-state solution could therefore come about only if Israel were compelled to withdraw to the pre-1967 border by an outside power whose wishes an Israeli government could not defy – the US. The assumption has always been that at the point where Israel’s colonial ambitions collide with critical US national interests, an American president would draw on the massive credit the US has accumulated with Israel to insist it dismantle its illegal settlements, which successive US administrations held to be the main obstacle to a peace accord.
The second transformation resulted from the shattering of that assumption when President Barack Obama – who took a more forceful stand against Israel’s settlements than any of his predecessors, and did so at a time when the damage this unending conflict was causing American interests could not have been more obvious – backed off ignominiously in the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of his demand. This left prospects for a two-state accord dead in the water.
The disappearance of the two-state solution is triggering a third transformation, which is turning Israel from a democracy into an apartheid state. The democracy Israel provides for its (mostly) Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. A democracy reserved for privileged citizens while all others are denied individual and national rights and kept behind checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls manned by Israel’s military, is not democracy.
At first, the collapse of the assumptions on which hopes for a fair and just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict rested triggered much despair. But that despair has begun to turn to anger, and options for resolving the conflict, previously dismissed by the international community as unrealistic, are being looked at anew. That anger is also spawning a new global challenge to Israel’s legitimacy.
Anti-Semitic opponents of Israel will undoubtedly celebrate this emerging challenge to Israel’s incipient apartheid regime……the government’s response has been to mount a campaign to discredit critics as anti-Semitic enemies of Israel, rather than abandoning the policies that are transforming it into an apartheid state.
Deputy FM: Israel will increase aid to S. America in return for support
02.24.10/ Israel News
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said “Israel intends to increase the aid it sends to South American and Latin American states, but in return it expects support from them in the UN.”
Speaking at a conference of the heads of Latin American Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Ayalon called on those present to “stop the Iranian advance into South American states.” (Roni Sofer)
After lying low for almost five years, Syria is now standing tall, as is evident in its expanding relationships in the region and elsewhere. Even the Obama administration is now doing its best to win over Syria’s capable President Bashar Al Assad, …
Syria plans to increase public investment in next five years: official
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency)
Syria plans to increase public investment in next five year: official. Syria’s deputy prime minister for economic affairs Abdullah al-Dardari said the country’s next five- year plan will see a significant increase in public expenditure, the official SANA news agency reported on Tuesday.
The senior economic official affirmed on Monday that Syria will increase public investment, particularly focusing on infrastructure constructions and energy security in its 11th Five- Year plan, compared with the 10th plan.
He made the remarks at the opening ceremony of a branch of the Syrian Investment Commission in Suweida governorate.
“We have signed several contracts worth of 5 billion U.S. dollars to produce 5000 MW of electric power by the end of 2013, increasing the generation of electric power in Syria during the next five years to 70 percent.” the news agency quoted Dardari as saying.
The Ministry of Electricity earlier announced its plans to build new plants and accessories, which includes upgrade power stations and connecting lines, in addition to work on reducing wastage in the electricity transfer networks.
The demand for electric power in Syria increased for more than 20 percent during past three months, while the consumption of electricity in 2009 to 43.7 billion KWH and will rise in 2015 to 61 billion as the ministry estimated.
According to the earlier official reports, Syria’s next Five- Year plan will be ready by next March, which is planned to achieve a growth rate of up to 8 percent and an unemployment rate of 4 percent in the next few years.
According to Dardari, the plan will also focus on health and education sectors to meet the growing needs of Syrian people.
He said it will also encourage local talent who are capable of managing projects to achieve partnership between government and investors and creating comfortable investment climate, which he believe will provide more job opportunities and increase incomes for the Syrian people.
Report: Mabhouh aide arrested in Syria
Roee Nahmias, 2.23.10, 21:53 / Israel News
Fatah-affiliated website says Damascus authorities detained Muhammad Nasser, who arrived in Dubai before Hamas man’s assassination, for possible involvement in plot. Police uncover identity of four other people involved in operation
Syrian authorities have arrested one of the associates of assassinated Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh for possible involvement in the plot, a Fatah-affiliated website reported Tuesday.
The man, Mahmoud Nasser, was said to have been aware of all of Mabhouh’s movements and flights. According to an Arab diplomatic source, the Dubai police asked the Syrians to turn over Hamas members for questioning, including Nasser.
The Easiest Fix to Obama’s Mideast Woes
by Reza Aslan in The Daily Beast!
For its part, Syria wants to be taken seriously by the United States as an important regional power. More urgently, it wants an end to U.S. sanctions, which have badly crippled the country’s economy. Bashar al-Assad has also stated his willingness to pursue peace talks with Israel, as long as any agreement includes the return of the Golan Heights, the highly contested strip of mostly farmland that Israel seized in the 1967 war. Although international law recognizes the land as belonging to Syria, Netanyahu has openly rejected any land for peace deal and indicated absolutely no willingness to give up the Golan Heights.
These issues may seem intractable but according to Edward P. Djerejian, the founding director of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, they are no more insoluble than the issues that divided Syria, Israel, and the United States two decades ago. Djerejian should know. He served as U.S. ambassador to Syria from 1988-1991, at a time in which the two countries had an extremely adversarial relationship. And yet Djerejian and his boss, Secretary of State James Baker, managed to engage the Syrian leadership in tough diplomatic negotiations that not only helped end the civil war in Lebanon but also led to the release of American hostages held in Beirut. Even more remarkable is the fact that Baker and Djerejian were able to get Syria to join the Desert Storm coalition against its fellow Baathist regime in Iraq. Djerejian, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, even convinced Damascus to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, which led to the Madrid peace conference.
“We got [Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak Shamir to come to Madrid. We got Menachem Begin to shake hands with Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn,” says Djerejian, who writes about his experiences in the recently released book Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East. “The art of diplomacy is to create a situation in which it is difficult for the participating parties to say no. That’s what we did in 1991. I believe that the Obama administration can do the same in 2010.”
Of course, neither of those historic events led to a lasting peace agreement between the parties involved, though they did form a strong foundation for future negotiations. In any case, Djerjian believes that the Obama administration is in a unique position to take advantage of the profound changes in the region in the wake of 9/11. He thinks that Ford’s ambassadorship could prepare the way for a high level visit to Damascus by the secretary of State. It could even lay the groundwork for presidential summit to be held outside of Syria, perhaps in Ankara, though that depends in large part on political will in Washington, Ramallah, and Jerusalem.
“The president is a very intelligent man,” Djerjian says. “He has a very strong secretary of State in Hillary Clinton. [Obama’s Middle East negotiator] George Mitchell is a topnotch negotiator who knows the issues. But they have to be in lock step. There can’t be a shadow of difference between the three for these negotiations to work.”
George Schultz once said that much of diplomacy is merely “weeding the garden.” The problem is that Syria’s garden has been untended for five years and is overgrown with weeds. Whether Ford can be an able gardener remains to be seen. But at least the Obama administration recognizes that the potential harvest to be reaped from diplomatic engagement with Syria is too valuable to be ignored any longer.