Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Newsweek calls Turks ‘real winners’ of Iraq war
Monday, November 30, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Anatolia News Agency
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy has boosted the country’s influence in the region, Newsweek reports. AA photo
In an article titled “Triumph of the Turk,” Newsweek’s Owen Matthews and Christopher Dickey have written that Turkey was the real winner of the war of Iraq.
“The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 could be viewed as a last-ditch attempt by the world’s sole remaining superpower to impose order on the region. Instead, the net result was to create a power vacuum, leaving Iraq too weak to counterbalance its neighbors and threatening to destabilize the whole map,” the authors wrote in the Dec. 7 international edition of the magazine.
“Turkey did its best to stay out of that fight, refusing even to let U.S. forces cross Turkish soil for the 2003 invasion. Still, it’s the Turks – not the Iranians, as many observers claim – who are now emerging as the war’s real winners,” Matthews and Dickey wrote. “In economic terms, Turkey is running neck and neck with Iran as Iraq’s biggest trading partner, even as most U.S. businesses sit helplessly on the sidelines. And in terms of regional influence, Turkey has no rival.”
The writers commented that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was working to consolidate that strength as he asserted Turkey’s independence in a part of the world long dominated by America.
“Next week, he’s in Washington to meet with President Obama, but only a few weeks ago he stood shoulder to shoulder with his ‘good friend’ Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran and defended Iran’s nuclear program,” Matthews and Dickey wrote.
The writers claimed that Turkey’s longtime NATO partners are worried about Turkey’s stance about Iran, the souring of its ties with Israel and its support for Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir.
The weekly quoted Philip Gordon, Obama’s point man on Turkey at the State Department, as saying that there are “more points of disagreement than of agreement” between Washington and Ankara.
“What scares Washington most is the suspicion that Ankara’s new attitude may be driven less by the practical pursuit of Turkey’s national interest than by thinly concealed Islamist ideology,” the writers commented. “In Turkey, the cumulative anti-U.S. resentment peaked in 2003 when the Bush administration pressed Ankara to let U.S. forces invade Iraq through Turkish territory – a plan that was derailed only at the last moment by a parliamentary revolt. That was the low point of Turkey’s relationship with the United States. But it was also the start of Turkey’s rise to economic recovery and regional influence, and the beginning of a new kind of relationship with Washington.”
Added Matthews and Dickey: “Indeed, Turkey’s new standing in the region has a chance of transforming the country into something far more valuable to Washington than a subservient tool or proxy. The Turks say they’re seeking to become what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu calls a ‘partner to solve the region’s problems.’….
Beware the winds of December
Alastair Crooke, in AsiaTimes
“While America has been absorbed by the Afghan election imbroglio, a less-noticed event slid into place in the Middle East. It is less dramatic than President Hamid Karzai’s near removal; but this event tilts the strategic balance: Turkey finally shrugged off its United States straight-jacket; stared-past any beckoning European Union membership; and has fixed its eyes toward its former Ottoman Asian and Middle Eastern neighbors.
Turkey did not make this shift merely to snub the West; but it does reflect Turkey’s discomfort and frustration with US and EU policy – as well as resonate more closely with the Islamic renaissance that has been taking place within Turkey.
This “release” of Turkish policy towards a new direction – if successful – can be as significant as the destruction of Iraq and the implosion of Soviet power was, 20 years ago, in “releasing” Iran to emerge as one of the pre-eminent powers in the region.
In the past months, a spate of new agreements have been signed by Turkey with Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia, which suggest not just a nascent commonality of political vision with Iraq, Iran and Syria, but more importantly, it reflects a joint economic interest – the northern tier of Middle East states are in line to become the principal suppliers of natural gas to Europe – thus displacing Russia as the dominant purveyor of gas to central Europe. In short, the prospective Nabucco gas pipeline to central Europe may gradually eclipse the energy primacy of Saudi oil.
What is mainly symbolic in the prospective passing of the baton of energy “kingpin” – at least for Europe – from Saudi Arabia to the “northern tier”, however, is given substance, rather than symbolic form, in the simultaneous weakening of the “southern tier” – Saudi Arabia and Egypt – both of which have become partially incapacitated by their respective succession crises and domestic preoccupations.
The weakening of the “southern tier” comes at a sensitive time. The region sees the drift of power from erstwhile US allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia towards the northern tier, and, as is the way in the Middle East, is starting to readjust to the new power reality.
This can be most clearly seen in Lebanon today, in the growing procession of former US allies and critics of the Syrian government, making their pilgrimage to Damascus. The message is not lost on others in the region either.
The US administration sees these changes too. It additionally knows – as writers on the elsewhere have made clear – that any sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program ultimately will fail. They will fail not only because Russia and China will not play ball but precisely because the much touted “moderate alliance of pro-Western Arab states” is looking increasingly to be a paper tiger: the “moderates” are not seriously going to confront Iran and its allies…..
recent article by the veteran and well-connected Israeli columnist, Alex Fishman, in the Hebrew language newspaper, Yediot Ahronoth, perhaps offers some insights into how Israelis may be speculating about such issues when he warns about “the approaching December winds”. These winds, Fishman tells us, will bring more and new revelations – not about Iran’s nuclear ambitions – but about Syria’s nuclear projects: the departure of Mohamed ElBaradei from the chair at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he states, will open the door to new IAEA demands to inspect two suspected nuclear sites in Syria.
Fishman notes that, following the surfacing last month in Germany of stories that Israeli special forces had been on the ground covertly in Syria, no one should be surprised if more evidence and photographs of the nuclear reactor, destroyed by Israeli air attack in September 2007, come to dominate the headlines in the Western press this December.
The “star” turn in this prospective public relations campaign is to be evidence proving a direct Iranian nuclear connection and finance for Syria’s alleged nuclear project.
Fishman suggests that it suits “Israel’s internal as well as foreign PR efforts” for the time being to play along with talk of peace between Israel and Syria; but that both the December campaign against Syria’s alleged Iranian nuclear cooperation in the Western press, and the playing along with the Syrian peace track “are directly linked to negotiations” that the US is conducting with Iran. Fishman concludes that these could end in confrontation with Iran – “and also lead to a military strike”, in which case, “whomsoever is in the Iranian camp will also get a pounding” – a reference to Syria….
“India today proposed to invest $6.5 billion to develop gas fields in Iran and sought more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from that country. At the same time, India asked Iran to honour the 2005 LNG import deal and ensure secured supplies of gas through the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.
In the first high-level contact in two years, India told the visiting Iranian deputy oil minister and National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) managing director, Seifollah Jashnsaz, that it was keen to buy five million tonnes of LNG a year besides the ones signed in 2005, sources said.
India also asked Iran to give the ONGC Videsh-led group rights to develop the gas field it discovered in the offshore Farsi block. It sought 20-25% stake for the overseas investment arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) in the Phase-12 of the gigantic South Pars gas field in the Gulf….”
and, Russia vows quick completion of Bushehr atomic power plant Russia’s energy minister pledged yesterday a quick completion of Iran’s first nuclear power station, Iran’s state broadcaster Irib reported, weeks after Moscow announced the latest delay to the Bushehr plant. Russia said in mid-November that technical issues would prevent its engineers from starting up the reactor at Bushehr by the end of the year as previously planned. “Russia will complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant at the earliest (possible) time,” Irib quoted Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko as saying after talks with Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi in Tehran. “The quick completion of the Bushehr power plant is the most important issue for both the Iranian and Russian atomic energy organisations and technical steps in this regard are under way based upon the scheduled plans,” he said. Shmatko, who also held talks with other senior Iranian officials, said the Bushehr project had become “a symbol of co-operation between Iran and Russia and nobody dares to hurt it,” Irib added.
Angry at Turkey, energy-rich Azerbaijan may spurn West
Saturday, November 28, 2009
BAKU – Agence France-Presse
On a windswept hilltop looking down at the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Turkish flags flutter over a monument that testifies to decades of close ties between the two nations. Surrounding an obelisk bearing the Turkish crescent and star, stone blocks carry the names of dozens of Turkish soldiers who died while fighting for Azerbaijan’s independence before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union in 1922.
For Turks and Azerbaijanis, who share close ethnic and linguistic roots, the monument is a symbol of what officials in both countries frequently describe as “brotherly” relations.
So it came as a shock when Azerbaijan – angry over Ankara’s efforts at reconciliation with Azerbaijan’s archrival Armenia – removed the Turkish flags flying over the monument in October. After some soothing words from Ankara, the flags soon returned. But anger at Turkey is running deep in Azerbaijan, and tensions are threatening not only a partnership that has been crucial for both countries, but also Western interests in an area of great strategic importance.
Diplomats and analysts say resentment in Azerbaijan is aimed not only at NATO member Turkey for pursuing ties with Armenia, but also at the United States and Europe for pushing Ankara towards a deal.
That could see Azerbaijan turn away from nearly two decades of looking to the West, threatening vital energy supplies to Europe and sowing further instability in the volatile South Caucasus region between Russia and Iran.
“It’s not only Azerbaijan whose interests are put at risk by this ‘abruptive,’ not carefully prepared… rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia,” Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov told AFP in an interview.
The interests of Europe and the United States also stand to suffer, he said, while warning that “reactions from Azerbaijan will be even more harsh” if Turkey ratifies a deal to establish diplomatic ties and open its border with Armenia.
At the center of the dispute is the mountainous southwestern Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where ethnic Armenian separatists, backed by Yerevan, seized control from Baku during a war in the early 1990s that left 30,000 dead.
Negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region have been stalled for years and tensions remain high, with frequent fighting and deadly shootings along a fragile cease-fire line.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan over the Karabakh conflict, and Baku insists the border should not re-open until the region’s status is settled. The United States and Europe had pushed for Ankara to reach a deal with Armenia earlier, making it appear that Baku’s interests have been set aside, said Vladimir Socor, a regional expert with the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation.
“Azerbaijan is justifiably irritated with Western policy on this issue,” he said. “Azerbaijan correctly feels that its own security concerns and the Karabakh issue are simply not being taken into account to a sufficient degree, if at all, by the United States and by the major European powers.”
Socor said that by ignoring Azerbaijan’s interests, Western powers are jeopardizing years of effort to gain influence in the strategic Caucasus region and to tap the vast energy reserves of the Caspian Sea.
Since gaining its independence with the Soviet collapse in 1991, Azerbaijan has been at the heart of Western efforts to transport oil and gas from the Caspian to Europe, decreasing Western reliance on Russian supplies.
Baku is the starting point for two major pipelines carrying oil and gas from the Caspian, through Georgia and Turkey, to hungry European consumers. Efforts are underway to expand the network into Central Asia, and Azerbaijan is also considered a key potential supplier for the European Union’s flagship Nabucco gas pipeline.
But in the wake of the Armenia-Turkey deal, Azerbaijan has threatened to seek alternative export routes and in recent months has signed new supply deals with both Russia and Iran.
Azimov, the deputy foreign minister, said the West needs to realize that pushing for a deal between Turkey and Armenia without taking Baku’s interests into account will have consequences. “The question that needs to be asked is: Are we important? And if we are, then issues have to be solved in a way providing for all interests,” he said.
Among the Azerbaijani public, emotions are running high and analysts say the government will be under pressure to make sure Baku’s demands are not ignored.
Near to the hilltop memorial to slain Turkish soldiers, pensioner Ismael Mammedov expressed the frustration – and confusion – that many Azerbaijanis are feeling over Ankara’s move. “I don’t understand this, Turkey and Azerbaijan are supposed to be like brothers,” said Mammedov, 69, whose 22-year-old son was killed during the Karabakh war. “How can they abandon us?”
OTTAWA — An opposition lawmaker unveiled Thursday proposed legislation that would allow victims of torture to sue the perpetrators, including foreign states and officials, in Canadian courts.
“Our present legislation criminalizes torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — the most heinous acts known to humankind,” said opposition Liberal MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler.
“But Canadian law does not allow a civil remedy for the victims of such horrific acts.
“This legislation will: address the evil of such international crimes; target the impunity of those states and officials that perpetrate these crimes; remove the state immunity that operates to shield the perpetrators of such crimes; and finally allow Canadian victims to secure justice.”
Canada’s right-wing government and three opposition parties have yet to state positions on the proposed law, but individual members of all four parties have vowed to support it.
Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen, claimed he was tortured in Syria after US authorities arrested him in New York in 2002.
Israeli agents operating at international airports
Saturday 28th November, 2009
Israeli spies have been found to be posing as airport security guards at international terminals, subjecting unsuspecting travellers to illegal interrogations and strip searches.
A television network covering southern Africa recently aired a report, after an extensive undercover investigation, that revealed an elaborate Israeli secret service operation is being carried out at Johannesburg International Airport.
The report claims black and Muslim travellers are being subjected to illegal interrogations and strip searches by Israeli intelligence service, the Shin Bet, who are purportedly employed as security guards by Israeli airline El Al, but pose as officials of airport security.
The racial profiling is so extensive one former agent says he has conducted 40,000 of the interrogations. An Israeli human rights organization says similar operations are being carried out at most major airports around the world.
The South African government has been investigating the claims made by Carte Blanche, southern Africa’s leading television investigative news program which is beamed to 45 countries and has won more than one hundred awards. A team of Israeli diplomats has been flown to Johannesburg after South African authorities issued an ultimatum demanding that Israel resolve the issues surrounding the security guards by the end of this month, or the guards would all be deported.
At least one El Al official, has already been deported as a result of the investigations which are continuing. Curiously that official was in fact revealed to be an employee of the Israeli embassy, despite performing duties for El Al security. He was also found to have had a diplomatic passport…..
One person targeted for special treatment was Virginia Tilley, the chief researcher at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council which recently released a report accusing Israel of apartheid in the Palestinian territories. “The decision was she be checked in the harshest way because of her connections,” Garb told the Carte Blanche news program. He said Ms Tilley’s luggage was taken from her and documents in her possession were photo-copied and forwarded on to the Shin Bet in Israel. …
Hezbollah cuts Islamist rhetoric in new manifesto
Mon Nov 30, 2009, Reuters
“Lebanon’s Hezbollah group announced a new political strategy on Monday that tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States.
The new manifesto drops reference to an Islamic republic in Lebanon, which has a substantial Christian population, confirming changes to Hezbollah thinking about the need to respect Lebanon’s diversity.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who read the new “political document” at a news conference, said it was time the group introduced pragmatic changes without dropping its commitment to an Islamist ideology tied to the clerical establishment in Iran. “People evolve. The whole world changed over the past 24 years. Lebanon changed. The world order changed,” he said via a video link.
Stressing a history of struggle against Israel, the 32-page document said Hezbollah had to remain alert and wary of Israel: “Israel represents a constant threat and an impending danger to Lebanon.” Nasrallah, reading from the document, said U.S. “arrogance” prevented Hezbollah and other Arabs and Muslims from forging a friendship with the United States, Israel’s chief ally. “The American administration’s unlimited support to Israel … places the American administration in the position of the enemy of our nation and our peoples,” he said.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah needed to keep its arms, despite opposition from Western-backed political groups in Lebanon. “The (resistance) is a permanent national necessity that should last as long as the Israeli threat, and in the absence of a strong, stable state in Lebanon,” he said, quoting the document…..
Attacks by Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, were instrumental in Israel’s decision to withdraw from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation….
Nasrallah said Hezbollah has become a global model of how to fight occupation. “Our problem with them (the Israelis) is not that they are Jews, but that they are occupiers who are raping our land and holy places,” Nasrallah said.