Category Archives: Turkey

Turkish minister threatens to mobilize the army against protests

By Stefan Steinberg 
18 June 2013
In a further escalation of the state repression of ongoing protests, the Turkish government threatened on Monday to mobilize the army against demonstrators.
The Turkish police “will use all their powers” to end social unrest, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc declared in a televised interview. “If this is not enough we can even utilize the Turkish armed forces in cities,” he added.
Arinc’s threat was made as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators Monday morning from re-entering Taksim Square in central Istanbul.
In response to a huge riot police mobilization that drove demonstrators out of Taksim Square on Sunday, five trade unions announced on Sunday they would stage a one-day nationwide strike on Monday.
The Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK), which has some 240,000 members in 11 unions, the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DİSK), the Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB) and the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) announced the strike in a joint statement.
In the event, only an estimated 5,000 took part in the trade demonstration in Istanbul. Turkey’s unions are largely discredited, due to their numerous overtures to the ruling class. Representatives from both KESK and DISK were members of the Taksim Solidarity Committee, which met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan late last Thursday.
Following the meeting, leaders of the solidarity committee indicated that the government was prepared to back down and declared that Erdogan would accept a plebiscite to decide the fate of Gezi Park.
Instead of backing down, however, Erdogan went on the offensive. Just two days later, thousands of police were mobilized to forcibly clear Taksim Square and nearby Gezi Park following instructions from Erdogan. Mothers with children mingling with peaceful protesters were violently swept out of the square. Police detained 441 people in connection with clashes in Istanbul on Sunday, and 56 in the capital Ankara.
Since the protests began three weeks ago, five people have been killed and around 5,000 injured, with ten having lost an eye due to rubber bullets, according to the Turkish Medical Association. On Saturday, one pregnant woman taking part in the protests lost her child due to the police violence.
As police moved against demonstrators on Sunday Turkey’s minister for European affairs, Egemen Bagis, said any civilians entering Taksim Square would be treated as terrorists. Istanbul’s governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, warned that no one would be allowed to return to the park to protest.
The government also declared that it would treat Monday’s strike as illegal. Interior Minister Muammer Guler told reporters in Ankara. “I want to state that it will not be permitted.”
In a further act of intimidation, the Turkish health ministry has issued threats to prosecute any doctors who treated protesters hurt in the Gezi Park protests. Press photos show police arresting doctors working at the Ramada Hotel who had assisted victims of the police brutality.
In parliament Prime Minister Erdogan condemned peaceful protesters as “terrorists” working on behalf of “outsiders” who are seeking to wreck the Turkish economy. He compared protesters to the heads of military which have conducted a number of putsches against the Turkish government in the past. He also denounced and threatened to close down social networks such as Twitter, which he claims have been used to slander his government.
In the name of “the defense of democracy and human rights,” the US and its imperialist allies are currently preparing military action for regime change in Syria and Iran but turn a blind eye to Erdogan’s bloody repression of peaceful protests that could interfere with their war plans.
The Obama administration is backing the repression of the protests by the Turkish regime, which it views as a key ally in its war in Syria.
At the daily US State Department briefing yesterday, spokeswoman Jen Psaki explained: “The Secretary [of State John Kerry] spoke with [Turkish] Foreign Minister Davutoglu on Saturday. As you all know, they speak regularly. Often the thrust of their conversations is about Syria and their close cooperation, our close coordination on that issue. That was the same with this call as well.”
Asked if she was “disappointed with the reaction of the Turkish government” to the protests, Psaki declined to comment on the question, but added: “We remain a close ally of Turkey, of course.”
European officials, for their part, made mild, pro forma criticisms of the crackdown in Turkey. European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele expressed his concern about developments in Turkey, pleading for “de-escalation and dialogue.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made no reference to Erdogan, only declaring, “What’s happening in Turkey at the moment is not in line with our idea of the freedom to demonstrate or freedom of speech.”
Washington’s support for Erdogan’s crackdown exposes the ruthlessness and hypocrisy with which the United States government and its European allies pursue their imperialist interests in the Middle East. Washington has portrayed its proxy war in Syria as a humanitarian war to stop an armed crackdown against US-backed protesters in Syria. However, when it is a pro-US regime that is threatening to mobilize the army against protesters, there are no complaints from Washington.
Meanwhile, shocked at the extent of popular opposition to the Erdogan government, investors are pulling out of the Turkish lira. The currency has hit a three-year low.
The Turkish Central Bank has already announced that it plans to intervene directly in the currency markets to stabilize the lira and calm the markets.

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Turkey, Syria and the hypocrisy of US imperialism

14 June 2013
From the Bush administration’s launching of the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 through to the Obama administration’s backing of a war for regime change in Syria a decade later, Washington has continuously draped its predatory policies in the Middle East in the false banners of “human rights” and “democracy.”
Such claims have been thoroughly refuted, in the first instance, by the immense human suffering and oppression wrought by US militarism in the region. It is estimated that the US “liberation” of Iraq cost a million lives, turned millions more into refugees and lay waste to the country’s infrastructure and social institutions. In Syria, the promotion of a sectarian civil war by US imperialism and its allies has claimed more than 80,000 lives, while again producing millions of refugees and ravaging an entire society.
Equally revealing is the collection of allies upon which Washington depends to pursue its strategic and profit interests in the Arab world. They are overwhelmingly reactionary monarchies that ruthlessly suppress any opposition within their own country: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan. These US-allied champions of democracy employ beheadings, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and religious obscurantism and persecution to sustain their parasitic dynasties.
Now, the social upheavals in what is arguably Washington’s most important regional ally have torn to shreds the phony democratic pretenses and exposed the hypocrisy of US policy in the region.
The Obama administration has lent tacit support to the brutal repression unleashed by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against hundreds of thousands of young people, workers, professionals and other Turkish citizens who have taken to the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and scores of other cities across Turkey. The crackdown has left at least five people dead, sent some 5,000 people to the hospital and resulted in the arrests of thousands more.
The White House and the State Department maintained a discrete silence in the wake of the brutal assault on peaceful demonstrators in Taksim Square on June 11. As heavily armed riot police unleashed tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades against the protesters, injuring hundreds, no one in the Obama administration uttered a word about human rights or democracy.
A week earlier, the White House spokesman Jay Carney had issued a mealy-mouthed statement affirming Washington’s platonic commitment to “freedom of expression and assembly,” while warning protesters against “provoking violence.”
After making it clear that Obama would make no statement nor would he speak to Erdogan about the repression, the spokesman concluded: “Turkey is a very important ally. And look, all democracies have issues that they need to work through … I think that we continue to work with Turkey on a range of issues—as a NATO ally and as a key player in the region—and we look forward to doing that.”
In calling Turkey a “key player in the region,” Carney was obviously referring to its role as a safe haven and forward base for the Islamist militias that Washington has unleashed on Syria. Foreign fighters from as far away as Chechnya, the Balkans and Western Europe are funneled across the Turkish border; Turkey also hosts a CIA station that coordinates the flow of billions of dollars in money and arms provided by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fuel the slaughter across the border.
Washington thus hypocritically claims that its war for regime change in Syria is driven by its horror at Assad’s repression of armed Islamist opposition groups, but supports Erdogan’s repression of peaceful protests that could interfere with US war plans.
None of this gives pause to the collection of pseudo-left organizations—from the International Socialist Organization in the US to the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and the Left Party in Germany—who have lent their support to the imperialist war on Syria, proclaiming it a “revolution.”
The events in Turkey and Syria, however, are intimately connected. Erdogan’s participation in the US-led war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is immensely unpopular with the Turkish people. Polls indicate that between 70 and 80 percent of Turkish citizens oppose this intervention.
There is widespread concern that the war being promoted by Erdogan in Syria will engulf Turkey itself. Twin car bombs killed 50 people in the town of Reyhanli on the Turkish border last month, followed by the arrest in the same region of 12 members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, who initial reports said had a quantity of deadly sarin gas.
The Turkish government’s war policy is particularly unpopular among Turkey’s major religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Alevis. Erdogan’s backing for Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist fanatics in Syria is an extension of his domestic policy of imposing Islamist social policies in Turkey. His decision to name a new bridge over the Bosporus Strait after a 16th century Ottoman sultan who slaughtered tens of thousands of Alevis heightened these concerns.
In a more fundamental sense, the Turkish developments mirror those within the United States itself, with the turn towards militarism and intervention abroad feeding the growth of attacks on democratic rights and police state measures at home. In both countries, both foreign and domestic policies are pursued in the interest of ruling corporate and financial cliques at the expense of the broad masses of working people.
The moral charades performed by the Obama administration and its pseudo-left assets about “human rights” and “democracy” in Syria are, as the case of Turkey makes clear, completely hypocritical. They are designed to deceive the public about the criminal nature of Washington’s escalating campaign of military aggression to secure US hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia—a campaign that threatens to drag the people of Turkey, the entire region and beyond into a bloody conflagration.
The struggle for the democratic and social rights of working people in Syria, Turkey and throughout the planet can be conducted only on the basis of the independent political mobilization of the working class in struggle against imperialism and the capitalist profit system.
Bill Van Auken

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Turkish Situation Proves Slaves Will Be Brutally Punished or Killed if Disobedient

By Jason Liosatos
June 04, 2013 “Information Clearing House – As people are battered, brutalized, pepper sprayed and tear gassed in Turkey, it is becoming more and more obvious to the awakening masses that they are living under a tyrannical regime globally, who will do anything to keep its enslaved population under its control, its worker ants, and keep them enchained to their system of fear, debt and work. The brutality by police are obviously orders from government to control at any cost, and it would not take much for the government to take it to the next level, like Assad of Syria, and start killing the uprising people, who are desperate to become free of their slavery.
It is only when people demand more freedom and push against the bars of their prison, that the bars of the prison become more visible, and felt, in the form of brutal reprimands and punishment by their jailors, the governments, and their police force, who ‘forcibly’ control the prisoners. As people worldwide awaken and rise up against the brutal control of their suppressing governments, it becomes more and more obvious that the more people rise up for their freedom then the more the governments crack down and suppress them which proves we are living under tyranny, a regime of brutal slave masters who would stop at nothing to retain their complete control and domination over the population of each country.
It is a big shock for everyone to realize the truth that, just like Syria, if the Turkish or the US population rose up a bit more than they are and became even more determined, then the tear gas, pepper spray and brutality would certainly turn into bullets, that is the way it is and has always been over millenia, except now it seems a little more sophisticated and people have been convinced that they are living in a democracy, but it is almost the complete opposite. It is a bitter pill to swallow and a painful realization for people to accept they had been controlled, manipulated and convinced that they were free, when in truth they were slaves to their government masters.
Democracy denotes freedom, and the people of this planet under the ruling oligarchs have oppression and slavery not freedom. There is no doubt that we are witnessing the awakening of human beings from a sort of amnesia, a great re membering from a dis membering, and the more the people wake up and realize they are trapped, the more they struggle and try to be free, and the more they struggle and try to be free the more the strangling hands of the tyrannical governments tighten their grip, because this system operates on debt and control of the population, not freedom. The system relies on slavery, and the slaves are waking up, ironically it is the brutality of the slavery which is waking us up. –
Jason Liosatos.

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What is Happening in Istanbul?

By Tarihinde Yayımlandı
June 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – To my friends who live outside of Turkey:
I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.
Four days ago a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.
They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.
But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.
In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.
They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:
The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the panzers and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd. After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.
These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.
On top of all that, the government control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.
People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.
What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.
Yet they still march. Hundred of thousands join them. Couple of more thousand passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim.
No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.
Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3g networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.
People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul.
Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.
As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:
«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»
This blog is my answer to her.
By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:
Freedom of expression and speech,
Respect for human rights,
Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,
The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.
But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!
Please spread the word and share this blog.
Thank you!
For futher info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help


Taken from Occupy Gezi Facebook page. Also used by Reuters
This article was originally published at İnsanlik Hali

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Bombings rock Turkish-Syrian border

By Thomas Gaist 
13 May 2013
On Saturday, two car bombs exploded in the Turkish city of Reyhanli, on the Syrian border, killing at least 46 people and injuring 155, while damaging 735 businesses and 120 apartments. No organization has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In the wake of the bombings, Turkish officials pushed Washington to escalate its ongoing intervention to remove the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened, “Those who target Turkey will be held to account sooner or later … Great states retaliate more powerfully, but when the time is right.”
Over the past week, Erdogan has demanded greater US-NATO efforts to topple Assad, cynically claiming that Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons use has already been crossed by Assad. This stands in direct contradiction to last week’s revelations by UN investigator Carla del Ponte, who said that UN interviews with survivors of a chemical weapons attack showed that the poison gas was used by the US-backed opposition. She said there was no evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government.
Though Al Qaeda-linked elements in the US-backed and Turkish-backed opposition forces have carried out hundreds of such terror bombings in neighboring Syria, the Turkish regime immediately placed the blame squarely on Assad. Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler asserted that the bombings were carried out by elements “closely linked with pro-regime groups in Syria.”
Speaking in Berlin, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared: “It is time for the international community to act together against this regime.”
Refuting the Turkish charges against the Syrian government, Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi said Syria “did not commit and would never commit such an act, because our values would not allow that.”
Zoubi also denounced Turkey’s decision to give arms and safe passage to terrorist opposition forces backed by the US, Europe, and the Persian Gulf states. Turkey has been a crucial support of the US proxy war in Syria, providing bases for staging and logistical support to the opposition’s offensives and terror bombings in nearby northern Syria.
“They [the Turkish regime] turned houses of civilian Turks, their farms, their property into a centre and passageway for terrorist groups from all over the world,” Zoubi said. “They facilitated and still are the passage of weapons and explosives and money and murderers to Syria.”
Zoubi said that Erdogan should “step down as a killer and a butcher.”
Western press outlets cited fears of clashes between Turkish residents and Syrian refugees around Reyhanli, as the sectarian civil war in Syria and the flood of Syrians fleeing the war fuel ethnic and sectarian tensions in Turkey. More than 300,000 Syrians have taken refuge across the Turkish border.
At least 4.25 million Syrians have been displaced by the war, and more than 80,000 killed. Cities have been pillaged, factories looted, and the economy is collapsing amid a raging civil war stoked by US imperialism. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, one of the key elements of the US-backed opposition, has carried out hundreds of terror bombings in Syria.
Protests erupted in Reyhanli against the Turkish government’s participation in the US-led war against Syria, with marchers chanting, “Erdogan murderer!”
“The prime minister brought this on to us,” said a business owner, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mehmet. “We have no peace anymore. The Syrians are coming in and out, and we don’t know if they are bringing in explosives, taking out arms.”
These protests underscore that the Turkish and US governments are moving to escalate the war in defiance of public opinion. Polls show 62 percent of Americans and 68 percent of Turks oppose the war in Syria.
As popular opposition to war mounts in the working class, the Erdogan regime is intervening aggressively to press for quicker action by Washington, where a debate is raging over how to pursue the Syrian war and broader US imperialist intervention in the Middle East. Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently warned that increased US intervention in Syria would be a “mistake,” in opposition to the chorus of voices within the ruling class calling for air strikes and “boots on the ground.”
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Senator John McCain blasted what he called the reluctance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to intervene in Syria, claiming that Israeli airstrikes have proven the weakness of Syria’s air defenses. McCain called for the imposition of a “no-fly zone” over Syria.
There are also reports that sections of the American military and intelligence bureaucracies are considering double-crossing Al Qaeda-affiliated forces in Syria, such as the Al Nusra Front, which have until now served as the US-backed opposition’s shock troops.
A leader of a US-backed opposition militia inside Turkey told the UAE’s The National that US officials were considering mounting drone strikes inside Syria to massacre Al Nusra forces. He cited the US officials as saying, “I’m not going to lie to you. We’d prefer you fight Al Nusra now, and then fight Assad’s army. You should kill these Nusra people. We’ll do it if you don’t.”
This debate is intensified by the manifest failure of the US-backed opposition militias, who have very limited popular support, to topple the Assad regime, despite all the assistance they have received from US imperialism and its allies. With forces of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah now intervening to support Assad, there is a risk that the US-backed opposition could suffer a catastrophic defeat. There are also reports that Assad could receive further military support from Iran and Russia.
After more than two years of civil war, fomented by the US and its allies, the crisis in Syria appears to be coming to a head. Amid a vast crisis threatening a devastating regional war, the American ruling class is threatening to respond with yet more military violence.
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Anne-Marie Slaughter—a Princeton professor who is a leading proponent of “humanitarian intervention” and Obama’s chief policy planner at the State Department from 2009 to 2011—wrote that “US credibility is on the line.” From the standpoint of such forces in the US foreign policy establishment, the failure to topple Assad, who has Russian and Chinese backing, would be an unacceptable blow to US efforts to establish its global geo-strategic dominance.
“It comes down to an existential struggle,” said Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha center think-tank. “Those who oppose Assad really have to show that they mean it now.”

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Explosions Kill 40 People In Turkey

Explosions Kill 40 People In Turkey

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Zionism Is Crime Against Humanity: Turkish Prime Minister

Speaking Wednesday in Vienna at a United Nations summit for tolerance, Erdogan said, “Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” Anatolia News Agency and other Turkish media reported.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group, called on Erdogan to apologize for his “shocking” statements and urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to condemn the speech publicly. UN Watch said Ban was on stage while Erdogan was speaking.
Posted March 01, 2013
Kerry to Bring Erdogan to Task for ‘Offensive’ Remark
By Arshad Mohammed and Jonathon Burch 
March 01, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “Reuters” – ANKARA – Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to take Turkey’s prime minister to task for describing Zionism as a crime against humanity, an attack on a key U.S. ally that has overshadowed their talks on the crisis in neighboring Syria.
Kerry, on his first trip to a Muslim nation since taking office, is meeting Turkish leaders for talks meant to focus on Syria’s civil war and bilateral interests from energy security to counter-terrorism.
But comment by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a U.N. meeting in Vienna this week, condemned by his Israeli counterpart, the White House and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has clouded his trip.
“This was particularly offensive, frankly, to call Zionism a crime against humanity … It does have a corrosive effect (on relations),” a senior U.S. official told reporters as Kerry flew to Ankara.
“I am sure the secretary will be very clear about how dismayed we were to hear it,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“To state the obvious, it complicates our ability to do all of the things that we want to do together when we have such a profound disagreement about such an important thing.”
Washington needs all the allies it can get as it navigates the political currents of the Middle East, and sees Turkey as the key player in supporting Syria’s opposition and planning for the era after President Bashar al-Assad.
But the collapse of Ankara’s ties with Israel have undermined U.S. hopes that Turkey could play a role as a broker in the broader region.
“The Turkey-Israel relationship is frozen,” the U.S. official said. “We want to see a normalization … not just for the sake of the two countries but for the sake of the region and, frankly, for the symbolism,” he said.
“Not that long ago (you) had these two countries demonstrating that a majority Muslim country could have very positive and strong relations with the Jewish state and that was a sign for the region (of what was) possible.”
Erdogan told the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations meeting in Vienna on Wednesday: “Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”
Erdogan’s caustic rhetoric on Israel has won applause from conservative supporters at home but raised increasing concern among Western allies.
“Erdogan’s comments about Israel have become progressively more worrying,” said Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress. “This type of rhetoric is pushing Turkey further away from the West and Europe and closer to Iran.”
Ties between Israel and mostly Muslim Turkey have been frosty since 2010, when Israeli marines killed nine Turks in fighting aboard a Palestinian aid ship that tried to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In recent weeks, there has been a run of reports in the Turkish and Israeli media about efforts to repair relations, including a senior diplomatic meeting last month in Rome and military equipment transfers.
The reports have not been confirmed by either government.
Turkey’s relations with the United States have always been prickly, driven more by a mutual need for intelligence than any deep cultural affinity. And Erdogan’s populist rhetoric, sometimes at apparent odds with U.S. interests, is aimed partly at a domestic audience wary of Washington’s influence.
But the two have strong common interests. Officials said Syria would top the agenda in Kerry’s meetings with Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, building on the discussions in Rome between 11 mostly European and Arab nations within the “Friends of Syria” group.
After the Rome meeting, Kerry said on Thursday the United States would for the first time give non-lethal aid to the rebels and more than double support to the civilian opposition, although Western powers stopped short of pledging arms.
“We need to continue the discussion which took place in Rome … in terms of the main goals there is no daylight between us and the Americans,” a senior Turkish official said.
“A broad agreement was reached on supporting the opposition. Now our sides need to sit down and really flesh out what we can do to support them in order to change the balance on the ground,” he said.
Turkey has been one of Assad’s fiercest critics, hosting a NATO Patriot missile defense system, including two U.S. batteries, to protect against a spillover of violence and leading calls for international intervention.
It has spent more than $600 million sheltering refugees from the conflict that began almost two years ago, housing some 180,000 in camps near the border and tens of thousands more who are staying with relatives or in private accommodation.
Washington has given $385 million in humanitarian aid for Syria but U.S. President Barack Obama has so far refused to give arms, arguing it is difficult to prevent them from falling into the hands of militants who could use them on Western targets.
Turkey, too, has been reluctant to provide weapons, fearing direct intervention could cause the conflict to spill across its borders.
(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Turkish FM Slams Assad for not Responding to Israeli Strike

Ahmet Davutoglu says his government will not stand by as Israel attacks a Muslim country
By Yoel Goldman
February 03, 2013 “Times Of Israel” – – Turkey’s foreign minister blasted embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday for not responding to an alleged Israeli strike on targets in Syria.
On his way to Munich, where he will meet with world leaders to discuss developments in Syria, Ahmet Davutoglu asked reporters, ”Why didn’t Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?”
Davutoglu suggested that the Syrian leader is conspiring with Israel: “Is there a secret agreement between Assad and Israel? The Assad regime only abuses. Why don’t you use the same power that you use against defenseless women against Israel, which you have seen as an enemy since its foundation,” he said, according to The Hurriyet news agency.
The foreign minister said that Turkey will not stand by as Israel attacks a Muslim country.
“Syria must do what a country under attack has to do,” Today’s Zaman quoted Davutoglu as saying, seemingly goading the Assad regime to retaliate.
Media outlets throughout the world have reported that the Israeli Air Force carried out several strikes against targets in Syria overnight Tuesday. Israel has made no official comment.
Among the reported targets was a convoy presumably carrying advanced weapons — including SA-17 missiles — to the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as a so-called research facility, where non-conventional weapons were reportedly stationed.
A report in TIME magazine on Friday claimed that Israeli jets also struck at a biological weapons research center.
The US government has given the “green light” for Israeli to conduct further similar strikes, according to the report.
Also on Friday, outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared to confirm that it was in fact Israel that had stuck targets in Syria. He suggested that Washington was fully behind Israeli efforts to prevent advanced weapons from landing in the hands of terrorists.
“We have expressed the concern that we have to do everything we can to make sure that sophisticated weapons like SA-17 missiles or, for that matter chemical biological weapons, do not fall into the hands of terrorists,” he told AFP.
© 2012 The Times of Israel, All rights reserved.

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Anxious Turks Suspect US Plot is Behind Syria’s Implosion

Locals in eastern Turkey, bearing the brunt of the fallout from Turkey’s involvement in Syria, believe Ankara is merely a pawn in US plans to foment conflict in the region.
By Emiko Jozuka, Contributor
October 22, 2012 “CSM” — In an empty coffee house in Antakya, local tradesman Ahmet Sari’s face crumples in anger as he speaks about Syria.
“What’s happening in Syria is all part of America‘s great project to reshape the borders of the Middle East. America and its allies don’t care about bringing democracy to the Syrian people. Look at what happened to Iraq!” he fumes. “The imperialist countries are only after oil and mineral resources.”
Nineteen months into Syria’s conflict, resentment of Ankara and anti-US sentiment simmer in Antakya, which lies just over the border with Syria. The province is grappling with an ailing trade and tourism sector and an influx of refugees and rebel fighters. Locals blame the Turkish government for dragging them into the conflict by backing the Syrian opposition and aligning Turkey with the opposition’s Western allies. 
The current administration’s “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy, which stood strong for several years, now rings hollow as Turkey’s diplomatic ties with Syria and its ally Iran sour due to Ankara’s support for the rebels. And many say that all of these problems can be traced back to the US, who they are convinced got involved with, and perhaps even fomented, the Syrian unrest to loosen up regional powers’ grip on oil, enlisting Turkey as a pawn in the process. It had little to do with support for democracy, they believe.
Stirring up the ‘beehive’
The beliefs stem in part from a bold Bush administration political proposal that has faded into obscurity in the West, but remains lodged in the minds of many here. Known as the Greater Middle East Initiative, it was formally introduced by then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2006 at a conference in Tel Aviv. Her references to “the birth pangs of a New Middle East” and the unveiling there of a new map of the region featuring a “Free Kurdistan” are still remembered with resentment. 
Even with a new administration in the White House that has sought to distance itself from the previous administration’s Middle East policies, many in the region are suspicious of US motives and don’t believe that the various uprisings began as indigenous, people-driven movements, independent of any US involvement. 
Refik Eryilmaz, a Turkish parliamentarian from Antakya with the opposition Republican People’s Party, says that Western superpowers are trying to incite a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites so that countries in the region fragment along ethno-religious lines, becoming weaker in the process.
Syria is predominantly Sunni, but President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, a Shiite offshoot, as is most of his government.
“The access to oil will be made easier when people in these regions are divided and fighting amongst themselves. Both the US and Israel want to weaken Iran and strengthen their own position in the Middle East. But to do this, first they must weaken Syria and replace the current government with someone who supports them instead of Iran,” says Mr. Eryilmaz.
This suspicion – that outside intervention is stirring up sectarian strife in Syria – is a view shared by many in Antakya, Turkey’s most ethno-religiously diverse province. 
Although Nihat Yenmis, president of the Alevi Cultural Foundation (AKAD) in Iskenderun, is convinced that sectarian violence will not seep into Turkey, he laments the plight of Syrian civilians, caught up in the cross-fire of a conflict that he interprets as planned and stoked by outside intervention.
“All ethno-religious groups have lived side by side in this region for centuries. But if someone hits a beehive from the outside, they will destroy the peace within the hive. All the bees inside the hive will fight with one another. That’s exactly what the US is doing in the Middle East,” says Mr. Yenmis
Gilbert Achcar, a professor of international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, says that the Greater Middle East Initiative has long since been abandoned, and all that remains is the deep skepticism of US motives that it spurred. Those in the Middle East tend to attribute more power to the US than it actually has, he says. 
“The US is overwhelmed by the situation in the Middle East and is not in control, let alone plotting something. The GMEI never took root. It just provided a grand name that fueled people’s imaginations, and conspiracy theories were invented,” he says. 
A penchant for conspiracies
The region’s penchant for Western conspiracy theories is long-standing, beginning with the then-secret 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that divided up the region between the British and the French, Mr. Achcar says. 
That history influenced the perception of the Bush administration’s Greater Middle East Partnership Initiative, later renamed the New Middle East Project, that was drawn up in 2004 in response to potential “threats of terrorism” in the wake of 9/11. The mission was to bolster democracy and socio-economic development in the Middle East and North Africa and build a bulwark against the expansion of radical terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda
But the initiative stalled in the face of heightened anti-American sentiment in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Prominent Arab figures were quick to criticize it as another US attempt to “reform” a region it did not fully understand. In an article published in pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat in 2004, the chief editor of the Arab Human Development Report, Nader Fergany, criticized the “arrogant” worldview of the the Bush administration which “causes it to behave as if it can decide the fate of states and peoples.” 
Tasked with alleviating Arab mistrust, the US selected Turkey as a key bridge between the US and the Middle East. The ruling Justice and Development Party‘s promotion of “conservative democracy” appealed to the West because of its reformist stance, and to Islamic countries in the Middle East due to its emphasis on a traditional Muslim identity. 
But today, Turkey’s role as a bridge between the West and the Arab world on the Syrian conflict has again raised suspicions. Its alliances with the US and autocratic countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who have also come out as strong backers of the Syrian opposition, have provoked accusations that Turkey is more intent on weakening secular Syria and reinstating a Sunni government than in democracy. 
While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed last year on a live broadcast that the US initiative never took root, some in the Middle East still refer back to Mr. Erdogan’s older statements of being GMEI’s co-chairman, and remain convinced that a US-inspired scheme – with Turkey taking the lead – is underway. 
“Perhaps the US is doing what’s right for its own country and implementing a foreign policy that will protect its dominance in the world, but we have to inquisition the countries that are acting as a US pawn. Many people in Turkey think that Turkey is merely serving US interests in the region to its own detriment,” says Eryilmaz. 
Back in Antakya’s coffee house, with no end in sight to the Syrian conflict, local trader Ahmet Sari shows how deeply this sentiment reaches. 
“So many people have died unnecessarily in Syria – children are dying,” he says, wearily. “We just want this war to stop and for there to be peace. We don’t hate the American people. We just want the US administration to stop trying to spread its expansionist policies.”

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Turkey’s foreign minister demands war in the name of “human rights”

By Niall Green 
22 October 2012
The Turkish government has again called on the United States and the European powers to take direct military action against Syria.
Speaking to Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed that such an intervention was required to “stop the bloodshed” and resolve the refugee crisis in Syria.
“We [Turkey] are doing all we can to help these people, using all diplomatic capacity to stop this bloodshed,” Davutoglu told Guardian columnist and Assistant Editor Simon Tisdall. “But there should be a much more concerted effort by the international community. The best way we can see now is direct humanitarian intervention.”
This statement turns reality on its head, as Davutoglu and the Guardianeditors well know. It is Turkey and its NATO allies, together with the Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all operating under the aegis of the United States government,that are the principal sponsors of the 18-month old Syrian conflict.
Led by Washington, these powers have supplied hundreds of millions of dollars in money, arms and other materiel to the “rebel” militias fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Much of this military aid has gone directly to Sunni extremist groups, including those with links to Al Qaeda.
As the New York Times reported last week, top US intelligence officials in Washington have acknowledged that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists.”
These US-backed Islamist groups have turned the conflict in Syria into a sectarian civil war, in which Sunni-based “rebel” forces target members of the Alawite, Shiite, Druze and Christian minorities, as well as other civilians who have refused to join or support their “jihad.” Pro-regime forces have responded in kind, with reports of reprisal attacks in villages and neighborhoods used as bases by the opposition fighters.
Asked by Tisdall about the prominence of hard-line Islamist groups in the Syrian opposition, Davutoglu responded by calling for an even more rapid deployment of military force: “The presence of some groups on the ground should not be used as an excuse for not being active. Prolonging the crisis will create a much more critical environment concerning these groups. We must have a solution and act as soon as possible to avoid a power vacuum in Syria.”
Davutoglu called for direct military action within Syria’s borders. “All means can be discussed… There has to be humanitarian access, a humanitarian mission inside Syria, and the international community must be ready to protect it. This is the question, whether it is a buffer zone or humanitarian access—how these people are to be protected inside Syria. We are calling for an international humanitarian mission to go into Syria and be protected to stop the refugee flow.”
The establishment of “humanitarian corridors” or “no-fly zones” inside Syrian territory by Turkey and its allies would amount to a declaration of war against the Assad regime. It would require a massive air campaign to overcome Syria’s air defense systems, likely followed by an invasion by ground forces.
“The international community must make a decision. Humanitarian access must be guaranteed by any means that is acceptable,” the Turkish foreign minister said.
Referring to the more direct military role that Ankara expects its allies in Washington and Europe to play in the Syrian conflict, Davutoglu stated that he expected “the leading powers of the international community to be more firm, more decisive and clear in their policy regarding oppression in Syria.”
Davutoglu’s choice of the Guardian to make his bellicose demands is not accidental. The British newspaper gives voice to liberal and “left” bourgeois opinion, whose special function is to dress up imperialist violence in the language of “humanitarianism.”
Speaking to this constituency, Dovutoglu compared the fighting in Syria to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s, claiming that the “international community” should not “stay idle.”
The decade of inter-communal violence that accompanied the Western-backed break-up of Yugoslavia from 1991, including the Bosnian conflict and the 1999 US-led air war against Serbia, provided the occasion for a whole layer of pseudo-left politicians, academics and media commentators to move sharply to the right.
This layer, many of whom made names for themselves through their involvement in the anti-war or radical milieus, have gone on to forge lucrative careers and are now thoroughly integrated within the bourgeois establishment. Concerned with their stock portfolios, think tank positions, newspaper columns, etc., they have used the pretext of “human rights” to support imperialist interventions in Libya and now Syria aimed at installing more pliant regimes and strengthening the grip of US and Western corporations on the oil riches of the Middle East and North Africa.
Imperialism in the name of “human rights” finds is most enthusiastic pitchmen among fake-left groups such as the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, the International Socialist Organization in the US, and the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, all of which obscure the real interests and activities of the major powers in the Syrian conflict, while presenting the US-backed proxy war in Syria as a “revolution.”

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Turkey’s hijacking of Syrian plane raises specter of wider war

By Bill Van Auken 
13 October 2012
Turkey’s forcing down of a Syrian passenger jet en route from Moscow to Damascus has heightened tensions between the two countries and provoked a sharp protest from the Russian government.
The incident, which took place late Wednesday, underscores the danger of the US-backed drive to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria by means of a sectarian civil war spilling over to a far wider regional war.
The Syrian government condemned Turkey’s action as an act of “air piracy.” SANA, the state news agency, quoted Syrian Arab Airlines Director Ghaida Abdulatif, who charged Turkish authorities with violating international law by forcing down the Syrian Airbus A-320 plane. He added that the close approach of two Turkish F16 fighter planes had nearly caused a midair collision.
She also charged that Turkish security forces had assaulted members of the Syrian aircraft’s crew. This was confirmed by the plane’s flight engineer, Jasem Kaser, at a press conference in Damascus.
Kaser showed reporters his badly bruised arm and recounted that Turkish soldiers had pointed their guns at the crew members, handcuffed them, and forced them to lie on the tarmac after they demanded that the Turks produce a warrant to search the plane’s cargo. They were further manhandled as Turkish officials tried to force crew members to sign declarations that the plane had made an emergency landing.
Russia issued a formal protest over the incident, charging that the lives of the 35 passengers, 17 of whom were Russian, had been placed at risk. Moscow also protested that Russian embassy officials, who had gone to the airport with a doctor, were denied the right to speak to the passengers.
The passengers were detained onboard the plane for eight hours without any explanation. They were provided no food.
On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan justified Turkey’s action in forcing the Syrian plane to land in Ankara on the grounds that the aircraft was transporting “equipment and ammunition shipped to the Syrian Defense Ministry” from a Russian military supplier.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry responded that Erdogan was “lying… to justify his government’s hostile attitude towards Syria,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Friday that there were “no weapons” on the plane.
“We have no secrets,” said Lavrov. “There were, of course, no weapons on the plane and could not have been any. There was a cargo on the plane that a legal Russian supplier was sending in a legal way to a legal customer.”
Lavrov clarified that the 12 containers confiscated from the plane by Turkish authorities held radar components that served a “dual purpose,” meaning that they could have either a civilian or military use.
Such materials, Russian officials pointed out, require no special declarations as they pose no danger to passengers or crew members, and their transport to Syria on the passenger jet was in violation of no international laws.
While claiming to have intercepted arms and ammunition bound for Syria, the Turkish government has made no move to publicly display these materials, which it almost certainly would if they existed. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the daily Hürriyet Thursday, “We are not prepared to comment on the description of the cargo. We will discuss it after we finish examining it.”
Within hours of the plane being forced down in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto&;lu told the media, “We are determined not to allow arms supply via Turkish airspace to a regime that is resorting to cruelty against its own people. Trying to do so by using our airspace is unacceptable.”
Radar components are hardly arms that can be used against the Syrian people. They are, however, key to Syria’s self defense against a Turkish or US-NATO air war along the lines of the one waged against Libya last year. One thing that distinguishes the two countries is Syria’s Russian-supplied air defense system, which is one of the most sophisticated in the Middle East.
Turkey has already begun massing warplanes against Syria, sending 25 F16s to a base near the border. On Friday, it scrambled two F16 fighters in response to a Syrian military helicopter that flew over the Syrian border town of Azmarin, where there has been intense fighting between government forces and Western-backed “rebels.”
The Turkish action was aimed at pressuring Moscow to stop providing air defense material to Syria, according to a Russian analyst quoted by RIA Novosti. “This was obviously a demonstrative step. This is clearly an element of pressure on Russia,” said Vladimir Yevseyev, director of the Russian Center for Socio-Political Studies.
“Turkey has a strong prejudice that the crash of the Turkish airplane [a Turkish warplane shot down on June 22 after it had invaded Syrian airspace] was organized with the help of Russian weapons… Supplies of Russian weapons curb to a large extent the aggressiveness of certain circles in Turkey towards Syria. And this is a serious problem,” Yevseyev added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a planned visit to Turkey in the wake of the Syrian plane being forced down. He had been scheduled to go to Ankara on October 14 for talks with Erdogan centering on Syria and Russian-Turkish trade, which is expected to reach $35 billion this year. The Russian daily Vedomosti quoted unnamed Kremlin sources as saying that Putin feared visiting only one of the antagonists in the escalating Turkish-Syrian conflict could be “misinterpreted.”
RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed source in one of Russia’s security agencies as saying Moscow suspects that Turkey’s provocative action may have been instigated by Washington. Intelligence about the plane’s cargo, he said, would likely come from American interception and decryption of communications between Moscow and Damascus. “The Turkish special service simply does not have any other resources,” he said.
The Turkish provocation against the Syrian passenger plane unfolded under conditions in which the two countries are on the brink of war, with Turkey repeatedly firing artillery barrages into Syria in response to stray shells from the fighting between Syrian government forces and the “rebels” along the border. One such shell hit a residential home in the Turkish border town of Akçakale on October 3, killing five people and prompting Turkish military retaliation.
The shells from the Syrian side of the border may well have been fired by the so-called “rebels” with the intention of provoking Turkish intervention. If so, the shells themselves were probably supplied by the Turkish government, which, together with the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is arming, training and supporting the militias seeking to overthrow Assad.
Turkish officials Friday denied media reports that US and French Special Forces troops have been deployed in Turkey near the Syrian border to train and supply the “rebels.”
“American and French special forces have been at Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey for weeks, according to security sources,” the Times of London reported on Thursday. “Since early summer, the NATO base has been a nerve-centre for Western nations and regional allies. Agents for Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also at the site, working to channel weapons and cash to the rebels.”
The report comes just days after the New York Times revealed that the Pentagon has set up a base in Jordan, just 35 miles from the Syrian border, staffed by over 150 war “planners,” most of them Special Forces.
Like their Turkish counterparts, the Jordanian authorities denied that there was any truth to this report, only to have it confirmed by the Pentagon and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

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Turkey Beats War Drums as Kurds Mobilize at Syria Border

Video By RT

Mortar shells landing in Turkey may be coming from weapons that Ankara itself provided to Syrian rebels fighting Bashar al Assad, according to a Turkish newspaper.

This together with suggestions that Kurdish separatists are mobilizing inside Syria, threatens to leave Turkey in an awkward diplomatic position. RT’s Middle East correspondent Paula Slier has the latest.

Posted October 09, 2012


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Turkey shows double duplicity on Syria

Kaveh L Afrasiabi 
With the blessing of the US and its other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners, as well as its own national legislature if not the entire Turkish population, some of whom have been holding mass rallies in opposition to Ankara’s war policy vis-a-vis Syria, the Turkish government has resorted to a double hypocrisy. 
On the one hand, it has exploited the mortar attack on a Turkish border town, which may have well originated from the well-armed opposition groups trying to weaken Damascus by instigating Turkish-Syrian skirmishes, without even a pause to inquire whether the Syrian army had anything to do with that attack. Even The Wall Street Journal admitted: “While Turkey blamed Wednesday’s attack on the Syrian regime, it remained unclear whether it was a deliberate attack or an errant bombing. Most analysts in Turkey concluded that President [Bashar al-] Assad had little to gain from targeting Turkish civilians.” 
Instead of a measured, level-headed response, the government of Recip Erdogan has rushed lawmakers into giving him carte blanche for Turkish incursions inside Syria, most likely as part and parcel of a concerted effort to secure a “safe haven” for Syrian rebels along the border, where the (French-led) efforts to set up a Syrian provisional government would gain a foothold on Syrian territory. 
On the other hand, this “hard power” strategy has been combined, and partly camouflaged, by the “soft power” tactic of stepping back from the year-long calls for a wholesale regime change in Damascus, by pretending that Ankara is now lowering its expectations and would be happy to see the embattled Assad relinquish power and be replaced by his vice-president, Farouq al-Shara, described by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as “a man of reason and conscience” who “has not taken part in the massacres in Syria … the Syrian opposition is inclined to accept Shara” as the future leader of the Syrian administration. 
But this shows that Davutoglu himself is not a man of either reason or conscience, as he and his government are clearly sold on the “neo-Ottoman” dream of acting as kingmakers in neighboring countries, by giving lip service to the United Nations’ current efforts to stop the deadly violence in Syria, as well as the efforts of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, to establish dialogue between the warring parties in Syria through a “quartet” consisting of Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. 
But the Saudis, who failed to show up at the quartet’s last meeting in Cairo, have apparently decided to pull out because of their misgivings regarding the role of Iran, which they see as part of the problem rather than the solution, per reports in the Persian Gulf media. This is as if the Saudis are the blessed peacemakers and incapable of an earnest self-critique, given their prominent role in providing arms and finance to the Syrian opposition – which by all indications will not rest until the entire Ba’athist regime is overthrown. 
Still, irrespective of the self-evident goals and objectives of the Syrian opposition that belie Davutoglu’s claim that they would be content with a mere change of musical chairs in Damascus, Ankara continues with its dual-track approach that, as stated above, reeks of hypocrisy. In fact, despite appearances to the contrary, this shows no real change of Turkish policy toward Syria, only a temporary adjustment that underscores Ankara’s determination to support the armed opposition by opening a new front against Damascus, sowing division in the Syrian political hierarchy by giving the impression that it has given up on the goal of regime change in Syria, while in reality even that pretension at this juncture is yet another cloaking maneuver to bring about regime change in Damascus. 
The trouble with the present Turkish approach toward Syria is, however, twofold. First, the Turkish military salvos, entering a second week, run the risk of military escalation and may well serve as a unifying factor for Damascus, thus strengthening Assad instead of weakening him as patriotic Syrians rally behind the anti-Turkish cause. 
Second, there is a saying “sever the head and the body falls”. Given the nature of Syria’s political hierarchy and tradition of strong autocratic rulers, it is a safe bet that a “Yemen-style” scenario has little chance of success in Syria’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious, sect-driven system and, consequently, the Turkish proposal for Assad’s deputy is an invitation to a transition to system collapse, not system preservation. 
Davutoglu wants us to believe that this is not the case and that a post-Assad transition without much tampering with the present Ba’ath-led order is indeed feasible. But Davutoglu and other Turkish leaders are probably hiding their anticipation of a rather quick unraveling of the post-Assad scenario presented by them, by the combined pressures to (a) dismantle the dreaded security infrastructure, (b) put on trial the perpetrators of crimes against Syrian population, (c) write a new constitution by a new democratically elected parliament, one that would do away with the Ba’ath Party’s monopoly of power and dominance of Syrian political space, and (d) merge the armed groups with a new, and much sanitized, Syrian national army. 
This is, of course, assuming that the post-Assad scene will not be dominated by revenge killings, chaos, confessional retributions, sectarian divisions, the de facto breakup of national unity, uncontrolled irredentism, and so on. 
Indeed, the list of challenges inherent in the new Turkish proposal is a formidable one and raises serious question about its applicability and chance of success, unless of course the Turkish narrative is a mere put-on, that is, to mollify the image of Turkish aggressors violating Syrian sovereignty in the name of legitimate response to unprovoked attacks on their territory. 
Still, in light of the Syrian quagmire and the rising toll of civilian casualties and mass refugees – the latest reports indicate tens of thousands have fled to Egypt as well – Ankara must have realized that its old regime-change strategy is in trouble and new nuances must be introduced, on both the military and political fronts. Thus, via the suspicious mortar attack cited above, it has inserted itself more forcefully in the Syrian military equation while simultaneously appearing more dovish by making it look as if it can live with a Syrian Alawite-led Ba’athist regime without Assad. 
It has thus widened the gulf between its rhetoric and its intentions, at the same time triggering the unintended consequence of having to come to grips with the fact that the rebels are simply incapable of dislodging the regime in Damascus in the foreseeable future, at least not without foreign assistance. 
Bottom line: the chips have fallen on the military side, not the political side, of the equation, with Turkey the NATO member intent on extending NATO’s foothold inside Syria slowly but surely, irrespective of certain misgivings by some Western politicians, including in Washington, who are wary of jihadis in the Syrian civil war. 
The sad part of the unfolding tragedy in Syria consists of the fact that ambitious and self-aggrandizing politicians in Turkey are allowed to play a disproportionate role as architects of the Western approach toward Syria, even though Europe h has neither the finances nor the desire to be the Libyan-style stakeholder of a future Syria. 
A wake-up call to the European Union to put a rein on Turkey’s war chariot in Syria is therefore urgently called for, simply because Turkey’s new offensive against Syria is a recipe for disaster, for Syria, Turkey, and indeed the whole region. 
What needs to be done instead of such militaristic tactics covered with the language of compromise is a new peace offensive, real and genuine support for UN efforts and other related peace initiatives. The path chosen by Ankara will only lead to more and not less conflict, at least for the foreseeable future. 
Kaveh L Afrasiabi PhD is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press). For his Wikipedia entry, click here
. He is author of Reading in Iran Foreign Policy after September 11 (BookSurge Publishing, October 23, 2008) and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations (CreateSpace, November 12, 2011). 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Plucky Little Turkey Standing Up to Evil Syria? It’s Not as Simple as That

Turkey is funnelling weapons and armed men across the border into Syria

By Robert Fisk 
October 08, 2012 “The Independent” — How the government howled. With the help of a neighbouring state, “terrorists” were trying to destroy the government and its army, blowing up and murdering its supporters. “Terrorists” were crossing the international border, arms were being shipped over the frontier and given to rebels fighting the government, “non-lethal” aid was being sent to the opposition. I couldn’t help remembering this when I crossed that same border four days ago. Not from Turkey into Syria, but from the Irish Republic into Northern Ireland.
There, to the left of the Newry road on a plateau of rock and green grass, lay the broken wire-mesh anti-mortar screen which once guarded the fortress where British troops – so often attacked by the IRA from Dundalk in the Republic – guarded the border. When the British-supported government of Northern Ireland turned on its Catholics in 1969, thousands of Catholic refugees flooded across the border into the Republic. Sound familiar? When British paratroopers were ambushed at Warrenpoint, soldiers fired back across the border at a “terrorist”. He wasn’t a terrorist, but an innocent holidaymaker. The IRA gave press conferences in pleasant Dublin suburbs and, oh my, the British government howled.
Odd how these things get forgotten. Now it is plucky little Turkey, hosting the opposition to the Syrian regime, funnelling weapons and armed men across the border into Syria – encouraging the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad – which is the victim. The IRA’s’ “terrorism” against the occupying Brits has been transmogrified into the valiant Syrian resistance against a vile Alawite-led regime whose Baathist acolytes must be crushed in order to bring democracy to Damascus, etc, etc.
Now the usual caveat – which will be forgotten by those who wish to accuse the writer of being a member of the Syrian intelligence service: Bashar al-Assad is a despot, his regime is awful, its policemen torture on a scale that would stun the RUC thugs who beat up their Catholic prisoners in Castlereagh, and Syrian militias fill mass graves; there were no mass graves in Northern Ireland.
BUT. When it comes to international law, to moral compromise, to sheer hypocrisy, the Western powers take the biscuit. La Clinton raves on about Syrian depravity when Syrian shells slaughter a Turkish woman and her four children – which they did – but gives succour to the gunmen who torture and kill and suicide-bomb the regime’s supporters inside Syria. Clinton’s predecessors at the State Department took a quite different view about Northern Ireland. William Hague rabbits on about our “non-lethal” aid to Syrian rebels; but didn’t the Irish authorities give “non-lethal aid” (bandages, funds, intelligence information) to our political and military enemies in Northern Ireland?
Typically, Al-Jazeera – to which I sometimes contribute my two-pence worth of thought – was the first channel to cover the response of local Turks to the killing of the family in Akçakale: they blamed their own Turkish government for using the village as a jumping off point for rebels entering Syria – and thus turning their town into a target.
And another story that isn’t being told. Syrian shells exploding in Turkey are largely landing in the province of Hatay (Akçakale is further east), but what is not being reported is that until 1939, Hatay was part of Syria – and that Syria still claims this coastal province as Syrian territory. The real story – since it involves Europe and Hitler – should be told. For hundreds of years, this territory was Syrian. Alexandretta (now Iskenderun) was the finest port in Syria. But as the power of Nazi Germany grew in the 1930s, the French, who then held the League of Nations mandate for Syria, decided to hand the whole place over to the Turks – in the hope that Turkey would join the Allied side against Hitler.
A fraudulent referendum was held and the mass of Arabs in the province – tens of thousands of them Alawites, who form the backbone of Assad’s regime today – fled south, along with an almost equal number of Armenians who had survived the 1915 Turkish genocide. Today, the children and grandchildren of those Armenians tacitly support the Assad regime. Turkey, of course, chose to stay neutral until the very end of the Second World War. Visiting Turkish generals were thus hosted on the Eastern Front by the Nazi Wehrmacht and toured the West Wall before the D-Day invasion as guests of Marshal Erwin Rommel. They were treated with trust and respect, they reported back to Ankara.
Don’t expect to hear any of this today. Hatay is Turkish, Hitler is dead. The Newry fortress is long abandoned. The IRA – up to a point – won. Funny thing, history. Here today. Gone tomorrow.
© 2012 The Independent

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Mass protest against threatened Turkey-Syria war

By Chris Marsden 
6 October 2012
Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters gathered in Istanbul, Thursday evening, opposing military action against Syria. Marchers streamed through the capital’s commercial district, opposing Turkey’s alliance with the United States and pledging support for the Syrian people.
The demonstration took place after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government used its majority in parliament to grant Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan powers to send soldiers into “foreign countries”.
The clear intent is to wage a cross-border offensive to depose the regime of Bashir al-Assad without consulting the national assembly. The motion submitted allows the government to determine “the scope, extent and time” of any possible intervention.
The motion was passed after a stray shell from Syria killed five people in the Turkish border town of Akçakale Wednesday. Two days of mortar fire followed; Turkish fighter jets also carried out strikes on targets including a Syrian military camp, killing an unspecified number of soldiers.
The measure, denounced as a “war bill”, was opposed by the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). AKP spokesmen denied that war was being considered, but Erdogan called the mortar shells that hit Akçakale “at the threshold of armed attacks” and pledged “to act in a timely and quick manner against additional risks and threats facing our country.”
The parliamentary session was held in closed session, under AKP instructions. Demonstrators outside parliament in Ankara were attacked by police with teargas.
Internationally, Turkey engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity to secure support for its stand. It called repeatedly for the support of its NATO military allies against an external threat, citing Article 4 of the NATO treaty.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu personally called United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The response was bellicose.
A NATO statement declared, “The Syrian regime’s recent aggressive acts at Nato’s south-eastern border … are a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to security.” It demanded the immediate end of “aggressive acts against an ally”.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little denounced what he called “depraved behavior” by Syria and called for the removal of the government.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague joined Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in expressing outrage.
Russia blocked the more inflammatory positions demanded by the US and its allies at the UN. A first draft of a resolution condemned the shelling of Akçakale and the deaths of five civilians as “violations of international law” and as constituting “a serious threat to international peace and security,” calling on “the Syria government to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.”
Russia opposed the reference to violations of international law and a serious threat to international peace and security, urging an appeal to both parties for “restraint” and to “avoid military clashes”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov made clear to Interfax news agency that Russia was seeking to block “pretexts for carrying out a military scenario or to introduce initiatives such as humanitarian corridors or buffer zones.”
Most media sources accepted the AKP’s denials that it is contemplating war, but war is clearly what it wants.
The resolution moved in parliament was in fact dated September 20, showing that the AKP cynically used Akçakale as a pretext to promote pre-existing plans to obtain authorization for an invasion of Syria.
In addition, on Friday, the Turkish General Staff declared 15 mountainous areas, predominantly in the East and Southeast of Turkey “temporary security zones.” Public entry into the areas will be forbidden between October 7 and January 7 due to “extensive military operations” being carried out against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey has already said it will not respect Syria’s border in pursuing its military campaign against Kurdish separatists it has accused Assad of encouraging and sheltering.
Turkey has repeatedly urged the establishment of military corridors and no-fly zones in Syria. It also hosts the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Congress. It provides bases for various opposition groups to enter Syria and conduct military attacks, including covert forces from the CIA and Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and numerous Al Qaeda-type outfits.
The AKP is intent on advancing itself as the head of an alliance of Sunni powers on which the imperialist powers can rely to police essential oil and gas extraction and to suppress social and political opposition in the working class through repression and whipping up ethno-sectarian tensions.
But the AKP wants military action to proceed under a NATO umbrella and with active US participation. For both the AKP and the Obama administration, this is fraught with difficulties. Both would face major domestic opposition to the launch of another war in the Middle East. Both will face opposition, possibly including a military response, from Russia and China to an attempt to exclude them from the strategically-vital region.
The Turkish media reflected these concerns, with Ismail Kucukkaya, writing in centre-right Aksam urging, “Let us scream from the very beginning: No war!” Warning of “incalculable dangers”, he asked, “Are we right to make a war and do we have enough legitimate reasons? Does the nation want that? Will our economy bear this?”
Melih Asik in Milliyet warned: “We’ve reached a critical point. We’re not only up against Syria, but also Iran, Iraq, Russia and China which support Damascus. Behind us, there is nothing but the provocative attitudes and empty promises of the United States.” Referring to the AKP’s recent conviction of Turkish generals on charges of plotting a coup, he added: “What we have is an army whose generals are arrested… and a terror problem we are struggling to deal with.”
Such comments indicate the sense of impending disaster that is developing in sections of the Turkish ruling class. Nonetheless, the AKP and its NATO allies are continuing to pour fuel on the flames.
Warning Syria that testing Turkey’s preparedness for war would be a “fatal mistake,” Erdogan said yesterday: “We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either. This nation has come to where it is today having gone through intercontinental wars.”
The logic of the AKP’s participation in the US drive for regime change in Syria and to destroy Iran’s nuclear program leads to war with both those countries and ultimately with Russia and China—that is, towards war throughout the Middle East and the world. The parliament vote authorizing military action brings Turkey and the world one step closer to such a catastrophe.
Deutsche Welle wrote: “Ankara is preparing for conflict and at the same time stating it does not intend to declare war. The West has responded slowly to play down the clash’s importance… Turkey is not limiting its response to howitzer fire. The air force and navy were put on alert, according to press reports.”
“Few doubts remain about Turkey’s resolve to consider a full military reaction against Syria,” it concluded.
At the same time, Simon Tisdall busily lobbied for military intervention in theGuardian. Asking “How long can the world’s great powers sit on their hands?” he condemned “do-nothing hand-wringing.” He solidarised himself with the “pressure for more direct, multilateral intervention, most probably via NATO,” coming from the Arab states and US Republicans.
The head of the Israeli military intelligence, Maj Gen Aviv Kochavi, used the occasion to threaten action to protect the Golan Heights. “The erosion of the Syrian regime’s control and the growing penetration of global jihadist forces present a new threat, for which Military Intelligence and the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] are preparing,” he said.

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Turkey’s interference in Syria, blow to Erdogan political future: Iran MP

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put its political future on a knife edge by propping up insurgent groups in Syria, an Iranian lawmaker says.
Ebrahim Aqa-Mohammadi, a member of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, on Saturday pointed to Tehran-Ankara amiable relations, adding, “I advise Mr. Erdogan and his friends not to engage in this issue; undoubtedly, in Turkey’s future elections, Erdogan’s party will be the victim of such matters.” 
He urged Turkey to respect friendly ties with Iran and Syria as its neighbors and not to endanger Iran’s interests by supporting “a bunch of thugs and murderers” in Syria. 
Damascus has accused several regional countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding and supplying weapons to armed gangs in the country.
On Tuesday, more than 100 Turkish troops armed with thermal rockets and sophisticated weaponry on briefly entered the town of Cerablos in Syria’s Kurdish region of Kobani. 
Aqa-Mohammadi pointed to the kidnapping of Iranian pilgrims in Syria by the insurgent groups, adding, “The abduction of Iranian pilgrims is an inhuman action which is carried out by the support of the US, EU and some of the regional countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.” 
On August 4, Syrian insurgents abducted 48 Iranian pilgrims who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the shrine of Hazrat Zeinab (AS). 
“All these measures are aimed at putting the Islamic Republic of Iran under pressure to make it stop its support for the legitimate government in Syria,” the Iranian legislator pointed out. 
Syria has been the scene of deadly unrest since mid-March, 2011 and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on August 1 that the country is engaged in a ”crucial and heroic” battle that will determine the destiny of the nation.

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On The Brink Of A Bitter Fire Turkish Threat of Invading Syria – Sheikh Imran Hosein

Video Interview By 
The  Sheikh  Imran N Hosein answers questions from YouTube Subscribers. The questions are listed below:
Posted July 13, 2012
Does the Sheikh Imran Hosein think the crisis in Syria has caused the foretold split between Gog and Magog – Anonymous
1. It seams more and more clear that the islamists such as the muslim brotherhood, and the NTC in libya, the rebels in Syria, ….The Islamists in Pakistan . All are working together with the zionists. It seams after every overthrow of these arab regimes the goverments are more open to western influence and to invite the capitalists into there country. – dinapoli123 
Is there an end of the world prophecy in islam regarding Damascus? – Syrian Girl
There have been increasing rumors and signs of a Zionist Attack this summer in the London Olympics and the Big Ben, what is your opinion on this matter? What Advice would you give to the people living in the UK? – Daring Deen
How do we survive the coming wars? Can Remote Villages in the countryside guarantee the safety of Muslims from the upcoming destruction of the Nuclear Clash between Gog & Magog? – Daring Deen
This is clear cut war for israel.. Nothing else… Syria is one army which can take care of israel.. Every American has to look into this angel..Who is benefitting.. Neither saudia . or syria nor america only one country israel…Either its luck for them or is well played them..
I would like to know if the Sheikh Imran Hosein thinks Turkey has been ‘secretly’ encouraging and supporting the anti-Assad terrorists from the beginning already. – Quoriana Green 
The Sheikh wants to build villages for only Muslims to live in and have their own system.
the globe and lived among different people. If somebody sees something bad taking place, he should not run and ignore it otherwise he will be part of the problem. – snowc3ed 
The Question for Sheikh Imran Hossein
2.Whats your view on the future Of the Kurdish Conflict between Iran,Turkey , Iraq and Syria? How will the Kurdish conflict shape the interests of zionists or will it be a blow for zionists? – Regards – Umer Bhatt – Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir )
my personal question would be: 
what kind of new rule for Tunisia is planned in the new arab world scenario of the times of a greater Israel coming?
and for Algeria? There are voices on tunisian news saying that Tunisia has become a platform for terrorists coming from everywhere since the borders to Libya and Algeria are not so safe. Thank you! – javagurk
Can you please ask the following question to Sheikh Imran Hosein?
Today Iran and Armenia (the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion) signed a security agreement. Does this signify what Sheikh Imran Hosein has been predicting [that] Islam and Eastern Christianity will join hands?
Iran-Armenia sign security agreement Moscow, July 11, IRNA — A security agreement between Iran and Armenia was signed in the presence of Iran Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar and Head of Armenian Police force Lieutenant-General Vladimir Gasparyan. Thanks, – Rush from USA
About Imran Nazar Hosein
He was born in the Caribbean island of Trinidad in 1942 from parents whose ancestors had migrated as indentured labourer from India. He is a graduate of the Aleemiyah Institute in Karachi and has studied at sevaral instutions of higher learning including the University of Karachi,the University of the West Indies, Al Azhar University and the Graduate Institute of International Relations in Switzerland

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Downed Turkish jet pretext for new provocations against Syria

US seeks casus belli

By Joseph Kishore 
26 June 2012
Led by the United States, the major powers have issued a series of bellicose statements and threats after Syria shot down a Turkish F4 Phantom jet that had entered its airspace. Backed by the Obama administration, the Turkish government has taken actions that mark a major step in the direction of all-out war.
Representatives of NATO countries will participate today in a meeting called under Article 4 of the alliance convention, which provides for discussion between members on joint action against a threat.
While the meeting is not being held under Article 5, which calls for military action of all NATO members, Turkey said on Monday it would press NATO to consider Article 5 at the meeting. It is also the first time Article 4 has been invoked since Turkey did so against Iraq in February 2003—one month before the US-led invasion.
After speaking with the US over the weekend, Turkey shifted from its initially more measured tone. “It was an act of war,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said Monday. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc added that Turkey will use “all rights granted under international law until the end. This also includes self-defense. This also includes retaliation many-fold.”
Behind the scenes, the United States is employing a well-tested modus operandi: engage in a series of provocative measures that amount to acts of war, then reply with extreme belligerence to any response, using it to justify even more provocative measures.
For months, the US has been engaged in stoking civil war in Syria, funneling arms with the help of several Gulf monarchies. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia announced, with the approval of the US, that it would begin paying the salaries of members of the opposition Free Syrian Army, effectively bankrolling (with payment in dollars or euros) anyone fighting against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has openly declared that it is US policy to help unify opposition forces into a more effective fighting body. This includes militia forces that have carried out massacres against Shiite and Alawite communities in Syria and terrorist attacks against Syrian government institutions. In a sign of the extent to which the conflict has turned into a civil war against a well-armed opposition, Syria announced that it had buried 112 members of the military over the weekend.
Syria is the latest target of a campaign to undermine or overthrow governments that the US deems, for one reason or another, to be a hindrance to its control of the Middle East and Central Asia. It has led wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and has rained drone missiles down on Pakistan and Yemen. At the same time, it is involved with Israel in a covert program of assassination and cyber warfare against Iran.
Under these conditions, the response of the US to the downing of the jet expressed the cynical hypocrisy and aggression that are the defining features of American foreign policy. Secretary of State Clinton called the act “brazen and unacceptable,” declaring, “It is yet another reflection of Syrian authorities’ callous disregard for international norms, human life and peace and security.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague declared that the shooting was “outrageous” and called for action in the UN. Other EU powers have responded more cautiously, but slapped additional sanctions on the Syrian regime.
In fact, the details of the incident are still highly murky and disputed, and there are many inconsistencies in Turkey’s statements about the mission and location of the fighter jet.
On Monday, the Syrian government repeated its assertion that the plane was in Syrian airspace at the time it was shot down. “The plane disappeared and then reappeared in Syrian airspace, flying at 100 meters altitude and about 1-2 kilometers [0.6-1.2 miles] from the Syrian coast,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi. “We had to react immediately, even if the plane was Syrian we would have shot it down.”
Countering claims that the plane was shot down 24 kilometers from the Syrian coast, Makissi added that the plane was downed using an anti-aircraft machine gun, which has a maximum range of only 1.2 kilometers. Makissi said that Syria would be able to confirm from the wreckage that only machine-gun fire was involved, not a longer-range missile.
In its initial response, Turkey appeared to acknowledge that the plane was in Syrian airspace at the time it was shot down, and that it plunged into the sea about 13 kilometers from the Syrian coast. According to international standards, Syrian territorial space extends 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometers) off the coast. Later, however, Turkey said the plane was actually 13 nautical miles off the coast (about 24 kilometers).
Turkey now claims that the jet only briefly incurred into Syrian airspace, and that it was hit 15 minutes later by a missile, as it was heading in a “different direction” from Syria. However, according to Turkey’s own account, the jet was near Syrian airspace when it was shot down, meaning that at the very least, it was traveling very close to the border for much of this 15 minutes, not headed in a “different direction.”
Moreover, initial reports from Turkish media reported that wreckage from the fighter jet had been located in Syrian waters, appearing to confirm Syria’s version of events. Indeed, Turkey continues to acknowledge that the plane crashed into Syrian waters. It is not clear how a plane that was hit 2 kilometers outside of Syrian airspace while traveling away from Syria could crash in Syrian waters.
The purpose of the jet’s mission is also unclear. Turkey has claimed that it was testing out Turkish radar. Several commentators have suggested that a far more likely explanation is that it was seeking to test Syrian air defense systems, including its radar systems recently acquired from Russia. Any outside military incursion into Syria would have to take out these systems. The air defense systems also hinder the arming of opposition forces and surveillance support.
“What all this tells us is that there are a lot of ’fishy’ tactics and strategies going on in the region, with numerous players behind many curtains,” Hayat Alvi, a lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at the US Naval War College, told Reuters. “The Syrian military has reason to be jumpy, given these circumstances.”
Syria upgraded its air defense systems after jets invaded the country in two separate incidents. First, in 2006, four Israeli jets flew over Assad’s summer palace, prior to Israel’s brutal war against Gaza. Then, in September 2007, Israel carried out an unprovoked bombing raid against an alleged nuclear energy site near the Turkish border.
Turkey is already working closely with the United States in its operations against the Assad government, including the arming and hosting of opposition forces. It has also moved significant military forces close to the Syrian border.
Any response to the downing of the jet will become the basis for more aggressive measures later. “I’m not of the opinion that Turkey will immediately respond militarily,” commented Beril Dedeoglu of Galatasaray University in Istanbul. “But if there is another action, then there will certainly be a military response, there is no doubt.”
One possible action from today’s NATO meeting will be to beef up Turkey’s air defense and surveillance aircraft with NATO supplied planes, which is what happened in 2003. The aircraft were deployed in February, and remained through early May, more than a month after the invasion of Iraq.
The deployment of NATO aircraft could easily become the basis for carrying out further provocations, aimed ultimately at justifying the bombardment of Syrian air defense.

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Syria puts double whammy on Turkey

By M K Bhadrakumar 
The shooting down of a Turkish fighter aircraft by Syria on Friday has become a classic case of coercive diplomacy. 
A Turkish F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft disappeared from radar screens shortly after taking off from the Erhach airbase in Malatya province in southeastern Turkey and entered Syrian airspace. According to Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), air-defense forces shot down the plane 1 kilometer off the coast from the Syrian port city of Latakia. A Turkish search-and-rescue aircraft rushed to the area of the crash but came under Syrian fire and had to pull out. 
The Russian naval base at Tartus is only 90 kilometers by road from Latakia. The incident took place on a day that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem was on a visit to Russia. 
It also happened within a week of Britain staging a high-profile publicity event to humiliate Russia by canceling the insurance of a ship when it was off the coast of Scotland en route to Syria from Russia’s Baltic port in Kaliningrad. British Foreign Secretary William Hague scrambled to take credit for that in the House of Commons. 
The shooting down of the Turkish jet also coincides with a hardening of the Russian position on Syria. Moscow refused to comment on the incident when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu telephoned his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Sunday seeking understanding. 
Itar-Tass quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying the two diplomats “discussed the situation around Syria, including within the context of the incident with a Turkish fighter jet”. Plainly put, Moscow was unwilling to treat Friday’s incident in total isolation. Nor was it prepared to censure Damascus. 
Unrealistic demand 

Indeed, the Russian stance has perceptibly hardened in the past week in response to a recent series of provocative rhetoric by the United States and London’s stage-managed event on June 18 to smear Moscow’s stance on Syria. 
On Thursday, Lavrov bluntly warned that Russia would not countenance a replay of the Libyan scenario in Syria: “A replication of the Libyan scenario in Syria won’t be admitted, and we [Russia] can guarantee this.” Lavrov was dismissive of Western demands for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling them “unrealistic”. He insisted that “at least 50 percent” of Syrian people supported Assad’s party in the recent parliamentary elections. 
Again, on Sunday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Interfax: “We have no doubt that the imposition of any kind of regime change in Damascus from outside, and the one-sided support of the opposition, is a straight path to plunge the country into an abyss of full civil war.” 
One major reason for this hardening of the Russian stance was Britain’s publicity stunt on June 18. Moscow hit back by deciding that the ship carrying Russian helicopters to Syria, which was turned back after its insurance was cut, will resume its journey under escort from the Russian port of Murmansk after changing its flag to the Russian Standard. 
The ship is apparently carrying up to 15 Mil Mi-25 helicopters that were repaired in Kaliningrad. The helicopters were originally bought by Assad’s late father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad at the end of the 1980s. What made Moscow furious was that both Hague and his US counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, tried to propagate stories that the ship carried fresh arms supplies to Syria. Lavrov said:
“We are not going to make any excuses, because we did not breach anything. We violated neither international law nor UN Security Council resolutions nor our national legislation on export control … We supply armaments under contracts, which imply purchase by Syria of primarily anti-aircraft means from us, which may be needed only in case of external aggression against the Syrian state. [Emphasis added.]Interestingly, Lavrov said this on Sunday after the shooting down of the Turkish jet. 
Momentary violation 

It is against the totality of this background that the Syrian action against the Turkish aircraft needs to be weighed. Damascus has a reputation for “poker diplomacy”. It may have conveyed a host of signals to Turkey (and its Western allies):
Syria’s air-defense system is effective and lethal;
There will be a price to pay if Turkey keeps escalating its interference in Syria;
Turkey’s military superiority has its limits;
The Syrian crisis can easily flare up into a regional crisis. 
Yet Syria’s official stance over Friday’s incident has been very restrained, almost apologetic. To be sure, Syria cooperated with Turkey to locate the wreckage of the aircraft. Damascus admitted with a straight face that it was a regrettable incident but an inadvertent act and said the two countries should put it behind them. Syria meant no harm and the incident happened only because Syrian forces were under orders to shoot down foreign military aircraft that violated national airspace. 
Turkey, of course, is fuming, knowing full well that Syria is a deep player. The Turkish government went into a huddle. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to make a statement in parliament Tuesday. President Abdullah Gul said, “It is not possible to cover over a thing like this; whatever is necessary will be done.” 
Foreign Minister Davutoglu, however, has rejected the Syrian version of the incident. He said: “Our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria … The plane did not show any sign of hostility toward Syria and was shot down about 15 minutes after having momentarily violated Syrian airspace.” He dismissed Syria’s plea that it did not know the plane was Turkish. 
Davutoglu claimed that Turkey had intercepted radio communications from the Syrian side suggesting that they knew it was a Turkish aircraft. “We have both radar info and Syria’s radio communications.” There was no warning from Syria before the attack, he said. “The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission.” 
Conceivably, Syria wanted Turkey to know that its decision to shoot down the jet was deliberate. An exacerbation of Turkish-Syrian tensions is in the cards. Turkey has since invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s charter, which says: “The Parties [member countries] will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.” A meeting of NATO ambassadors has been scheduled for Tuesday in Brussels. 
Turkey is calibrating a strong response to the Syrian act. But a challenging time lies ahead for Erdogan. First and foremost, his interventionist policy in Syria does not enjoy the support of Turkey’s opposition parties. 
An obscure fracas

Knowing Erdogan’s ability to whip up nationalistic sentiments, the opposition parties quickly concurred that Turkey must respond to incident. But they point out that Erdogan needlessly provoked Damascus and has destroyed Turkey’s friendly ties with Syria. 
The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdarglu, pointedly asked on Sunday after meeting with Erdogan: “Why have Turkey and Syria come to the brink of war?” The CHP’s deputy head Faruk Logoglu, who is a distinguished former diplomat (ex-head of the Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to the US), said:
“We are very critical of the way AKP [Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party] is handling the situation. There should be no outside intervention of any sort and any intervention must be mandated by a resolution of the UN Security Council. In the absence of such a resolution, any intervention would be unlawful.”In short, the Turkish opposition will be free to dissociate from any response that Erdogan decides on, especially if things go haywire downstream. 
Second, aside from an enthusiastic statement of support of Turkey and condemnation of Syria by British Foreign Secretary Hague, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have refrained from taking sides, although Davutoglu spoke to them personally. Everyone is counseling Ankara to show restraint, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. 
Third, Article 4 of the NATO treaty stops short of the explicit mention of possible armed responses cited in Article 5. The NATO countries would know that Turkish aircraft have been repeatedly violating Syrian airspace in the recent weeks and Damascus has now retaliated. 
The reaction by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was that he was “greatly worried” by the incident and would urge a “thorough investigation”; he then welcomed Turkey’s “cool-headed reaction”. 
But the point is, even within Turkey, there is skepticism about what really happened. The veteran Turkish editor Yousuf Kanli wrote:
“Did the plane violate Syrian airspace? … On the other hand, why was the Turkish reconnaissance plane flying so low, in an area close to a Russian base, and why did it keep on going in and out of Syrian airspace so many times in the 15-minute period before it was downed? Was it testing the air-defense capabilities of Syria (or the Russian base) before an intervention which might come later this year?”Not many NATO member countries would want to get involved in the obscure fracas. At best, Turkey can expect statements of solidarity, but equally, Damascus would also have estimated carefully that the probability of any concerted NATO action on the ground is low. 
Fourth, the painful reality is that Turkey’s most ardent allies in the present situation, who have encouraged Ankara on the path of intervention in Syria, are of absolutely no use today – Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are nowhere in a position to engage Syria militarily. Turkey, in short, is left all by itself to hit back at Syria. 
Fifth, any Turkish military steps against Syria would be a highly controversial move regionally. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari (who, interestingly, visited Moscow recently for consultations over Syria) voiced the widely held regional opinion when he warned of a “spillover the crisis into neighboring countries”, including Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey itself. 
Finally, the UN has announced the holding of an international conference on Syria next Saturday in Geneva. Besides, Clinton is due to visit Russia early this week and Syria is likely to figure in her talks with Lavrov. Ankara cannot afford to take precipitate steps on the eve of the conference. At any rate, Russia has warned against any foreign intervention in Syria – and that precludes any military move by Turkey. 
War by other means 

The Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday: “Syria was merely exercising its right and sovereign duty and defense. There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey, but political tension [exists] between the two countries. What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters.” 
The taunt is a bitter pill to swallow for a sultan. Ankara now claims it has radio intercepts to show that the order to shoot down the aircraft came from Damascus knowing fully well it had a Turkish flag while on a “a routine training flight and undertaking a national radar-system test in respect of national security over recent developments on the Mediterranean coast”. 
Erdogan has had time before Tuesday’s meeting to finesse somevaziyeti kurtaran bahane (which translates from Turkish as “face-saving excuse”) to maintain his dignity and prestige in front of the parliament and the nation. But then, this is a shame he brought down on himself, since all protagonists would know that the Turkish jet was undertaking a risky mission off the Russian naval base of Tartus. 
The influential Turkish commentator Murat Yetkin wrote on Monday, “It is clear that the incident will result in increased pressure on Syria and its supporters, mainly Russia. But what Bashar al-Assad cares for seems to be keeping his chair and the Russian naval base in Tartus strong, whatever the cost, also knowing that neither the Turkish government, nor the opposition and people, want war.” 
Yetkin was sure that “Turkey will do everything to make Syria pay for the attack”, but “payment doesn’t mean war, there are other options”. 
In reality, Damascus has put a double whammy on Turkey. It not only lost a Phantom and its two pilots but is now under compulsion to take the loss calmly, exercising self-restraint. 
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Syria and Turkey’s phantom war

Pepe Escobar 

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was the prime proponent of a foreign policy dubbed “zero problems with our neighbors” – derided by many in the West as “new-Ottomanism”. 
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meets this Tuesday in Brussels not only to craft its response to a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet shot being down by Syria’s anti-aircraft artillery but to seal what sort of “new Ottomanism” is emerging from what actually turned into a “big problem with one of our neighbors” policy. 
Davutoglu insists the F-4 was shot in international air space – although conceding it had briefly entered Syrian air space. Contradicting Syria’s official explanation, he said the jet was clearly marked as Turkish; was on a “training flight” to test Turkey’s “national radar system”; and most of all had “no covert mission related to Syria”. 
Previously, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi had stressed this was an “accident, not an attack”. According to Makdissi, “an unidentified object entered our air space and unfortunately as a result it was brought down. It was understood only later that it was a Turkish plane.” 
Davutoglu, in a Turkish media blitzkrieg, as reported by Today’s Zaman, reiterated this was a “solo flight”; the jet was “unarmed”; there was no warning before it was shot down; and as for Syria trying to connect the “not ill-intentioned violation” of its airspace to the shooting of the F-4, that was “irrelevant”. 
Violation of another country’s air space, trying to avoid its defenses by flying at low altitude, is as normal to Davutoglu as a sheesh kebab for lunch; “There were many violations of Syrian air space by other countries before. But Syria shot down our unarmed plane.” 
But then the foreign minister started deviating (or not) from the script. He stressed, “No matter how the downed Turkish jet saga unfolds, we will always stand by [the] Syrian people”. And this; “We will always stand by Syrian people until the advent of a democratic regime there.” Forget about the F-4 Phantom; the “Syrian people” may sleep soundly because the heart of the matter remains regime change. 
Everything else is irrelevant 
NATO will consider Turkey’s case under Article Four of its charter – which allows consultations whenever “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened”. We’re not – yet – at Article Five, which is all about armed response. But we could be, depending how NATO interprets Turkey’s assertion that the F-4 Phantom was “hit 13 miles off the Syrian coast, in international air space”. 
So according to Davutoglu’s story the F-4 was briefly deviated to Syrian airspace by some irresistible force (Thor?); soon realized its mistake; left in a hurry; but then was shot down. By the way, it was not a “solo flight”; witnesses told Turkish TV they saw two low-flying fighter jets speed by in the direction of Syrian waters, but only one return. 
As predictably as England being kicked out of Euro 2012, the usual European warmongering poodles of the William Hague kind have already stepped in, blaming Syria because Turkey violated Syrian airspace. Yet there’s no evidence – so far – that Ankara warned the Syrian government and military they would be conducting some sort of reconnaissance very close to a by now very explosive border. 
Whether the F-4 (or the pair of F-4s) was armed or not is, to quote Davutoglu, “irrelevant”; try telling the Pentagon, for instance, that an unknown, low-flying, fast-moving, unidentified object entering your air space is not a threat. If this was a military reconnaissance mission, as Davutoglu himself argues, the F-4 had to be armed. 
And imagine if this was a Syrian jet flying over Turkish or Israeli territory. 
Burn, Anatolia, burn 
Ankara will certainly ask Damascus for a formal apology and payment of reparations. Tehran – which until virtually yesterday, that is, before the Syrian uprising, was part of an Ankara-Damascus-Tehran axis – is calling for cool heads to prevail. 
As much as professional warmongers are encouraging a Gulf of Tonkin remix, that remains pure folly. Still, Asia Times Online has learned from a local source about “frantic” movement at NATO’s sprawling Incirlik base in Turkey for days. 
Everyone knows – but nobody talks about – NATO’s command and control center in Iskenderun, in Turkey’s Hatay province, near the Syrian border, set up months ago to organize, train and weaponize the motley crew known as the Free Syrian Army. Everyone knows Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the CIA are advising and weaponizing these Syrian NATOGCC “rebels” with essential Turkish help in the logistics/safe haven front. 
Everyone knows Washington will settle for nothing less than regime change in Syria – to the benefit of a pliable, sub-imperial puppet (certainly not an Islamist). Everyone knows every provocation advances the not so hidden agenda of an all-out NATOGCC attack on Syria without a UN Security Council resolution, bypassing both Russia and China. 
If “neo-Ottomanism” persists with its regime change obsession in Syria – to a large extent tied to the Turkish dream of finding a solution to the Kurdish “problem” – it had better start evaluating how Damascus could shower the Kurdish PKK with funds and logistics so they may unleash hell in Turkish Anatolia. 
No doubt this will get much uglier. But in Wag the Dog terms – and that’s what this is all about – no one knows for sure; is Turkey trying to wag the NATO dog into a war, or is it the other way around? 
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His latest book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 
He may be reached at (Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Turkey: The odd man in

By Peter Lee 

With a high-profile visit to China, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued his campaign to increase the geopolitical clout of his country. 
Turkey has great hopes of emerging (or re-emerging, if one recalls the heyday of the Ottoman Empire) as more than the geographic and economic linchpin of Eurasia. Erdogan hopes to leverage that central position by establishing Turkey as a regional power, a country that can set the agenda for events across the continents.
Judging from Erdogan’s trip to China, Turkey still has a way to go.
Hurriyet, Turkey’s leading English-language daily, confused Premier Wen Jiabao’s given name and surname and covered the visit as: Erdogan meets Jiabao on milestone China trip. [1] 
Geopolitics also saw no uniformity on a key issue – Syria. Turkey has turned its back on President Bashar al-Assad; the People’s Republic of China is actively engaged in the Syrian peace process. 
Nevertheless, at Beijing Airport on April 10, Erdogan told reporters that “China is not in the same position as it was before”, ie that it was shifting away from full support of Assad’s regime in Syria. 
One can speculate that he made his statement at the airport on his way out, so that he could shape the message without fear of any embarrassing contradiction from his hosts. 
Optimistic spin was duly provided to Turkey’s Sunday Zaman newspaper by a Turkish academic:
I think both [Russia and China] will re-evaluate their positions and take a stand very close to the Turkish one … Russia and China will not confront Turkey and the West by continuing to support the Assad regime. [2]Beijing did not respond to Erdogan’s comments, at least not directly. 
However, China’s Syria peace initiative is arguably its most important geopolitical move in the last decade. If China and Russia have any doubts about Assad’s staying power, they are unlikely to share them with Erdogan. 
On April 12, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted a special statement on the Syrian ceasefire:
In order to ease tensions and push forward the political settlement process, China has been engaging the Syrian Government and other parties in Syria in its own way … China has also stayed in contact with relevant parties such as regional countries, the Arab League and Russia on the political resolution of the Syrian issue. What China has done is effective. 
At the next stage, China will work with other parties concerned to continue to actively support Annan’s mediation for the political settlement of the Syrian issue, maintain communication and coordination with relevant parties in a bid to play a constructive role for the fair, peaceful and proper settlement of the Syrian issue at an early date. [3]More to the point, shortly after Erdogan’s departure, China gave a high-profile welcome to Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, and provided a full-throated endorsement of the Kofi Annan mission to broker peace. 
If there was a message for Turkey in all this, it was that China is directly engaged in the issue, and is not looking to Turkey for leadership. 
The fact is, Turkey is very far out on a limb on Syria and, at this point, can only be grateful that the international community has not sawn it off. 
Toward the end of 2011, Erdogan apparently saw Syria as another Libya. Turkey had dumped Muammar Gaddafi in Libya when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) lined up against him and Erdogan could claim the credit, such that it was, that the bombing was conducted under NATO instead of French and British auspices. 
As demonstrations against Assad and his regime persisted into the summer and autumn of 2011, it looked like Turkey might begin thinking about a new regime-democratic, perhaps with a strong Sunni component, and eager for Turkish tutelage and assistance across its southern border. 
Erdogan abandoned his policy of engagement with Assad and joined the chorus calling for his ouster. 
In Syria, however, no foreign intervention has materialized out of the expressions of Western and GCC outrage, Assad is still in Damascus, and Turkey, instead of basking in another deft “right side of history” Arab Spring maneuver, is now locked into an agenda of confrontation with a desperate and rather resourceful neighbor. 
Turkey has not cut its losses by exploring rapprochement with the Syrian government; instead it has emerged as the patron of the feckless (the Syrian National Council – SNC), the reckless (Free Syria Army – FSA), and the opportunistic (Friends of Syria). 
Erdogan seems to be intent upon digging a deeper hole for Turkey with his mouth, talking up the horrors of the Assad regime so that reconciliation will be politically impossible for him. 
Upon leaving China, he declared that he would invoke NATO’s obligations under Article 5 (to protect a member state) in response to a minor border skirmish that might actually have been provoked by some FSA fighters seeking a haven in a refugee camp in Turkey following an attack that they had mounted. 
Erdogan’s Syria stance has had other diplomatic repercussions. 
Iran, which had traditionally viewed Turkey as a supporter in its wrangling with the West over its nuclear program, called for a shift in venue for the “Iran Six” (also known as the P5+1 – the United States, China, the United Kingdom, France and Russia plus Germany) talks from Istanbul in response to Turkey’s pro-Western tilt over Syria, and Erdogan’s decision to go all-in supporting NATO missile defense. 
Erdogan peremptorily burned his bridges with Tehran by responding, “Because of the lack of honesty, Iran is continually losing its international prestige.” [4] 
This round did take place in Istanbul, but the next round will be in Baghdad. 
Erdogan has successfully placed Turkey on the outs with Syria, Russia and Iran. Since Turkey sources the majority of its energy needs from Russia and Iran, this is no small feat. 
If Turkey is seen to be advancing the Western freedom agenda, it can count on coolness from China as well. 
And that’s not good news for Erdogan, whose political strength relies on delivering economic growth, not diplomatic hassles. 
Erdogan’s highest priority on his April 2012 trip was business: to strengthen the economic ties between the People’s Republic of China and Turkey. Trade is booming, but with China enjoying a major surplus. Therefore, Erdogan brought 300 businesspeople in tow, issued calls for increased Chinese investment in Turkey, and talked expansively of a “New Silk Road”, a railway bridging 28 countries and connecting China and Turkey. 
At the same time, Erdogan was anxious to demonstrate Turkey’s stature (and his enhanced global profile) by visiting Xinjiang, home to 10 million Uighurs who share cultural and linguistic ties with Turkic peoples across Asia. 
The imperatives of Turkish politics and geopolitical self-regard have turned the issue of the Uighurs, and the ongoing political and cultural repression they suffer at the hands of the Chinese government, into another crisis point for Erdogan.
In 2009, on the occasion of the Han-Uighur riots in Xinjiang, Erdogan had infuriated Beijing by characterizing the government crackdown as “a kind of genocide”. [5] 
He also stated that he would issue a visa to Rebiya Kadeer – head of the World Uighur Congress and perpetual thorn in Beijing’s side. (Kadeer apparently did not apply for the visa, perhaps much to the relief of the Turkish government). 
On his visit to China – the first by a Turkish prime minister in 27 years – Erdogan was keen not to upset the apple cart. 
He scored the political coup of visiting Urumqi – actually, his first stop on entering China, before he continued onward to Beijing – but did not antagonize his hosts by posturing as the protector of Xinjiang’s Uighurs. 
As Emre Kizilkaya, foreign affairs editor of Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily, observed dyspeptically on his blog, Erdogan promised Beijing he was “not going [to Xinjiang] to itch the problem”. 
The most remarkable thing Erdogan did in Urumuqi was apparently allowing himself to be photographed in gaudy Uighur costume carving up a roasted lamb under the solicitous gaze of some local functionaries. 
Kizilkaya took Erdogan to task for using the China visit to harp on Syria, instead of succoring Turkey’s Uighur brethren:
OK, China was a world power, but why did you go to Xinjiang if you would remain silent about the inhumane repression against Uyghurs? [6]It is worth noting how powerfully Turkish nationalism – the legacy that Kamal Attaturk bequeathed to his country through intensive indoctrination in schools and media – shapes Turkish attitudes, and limits Turkey’s efforts to bestride the world stage. 
Kizilkaya fulminates about the oppression of Turkic people thousands of kilometers away in China, while his country struggles with an intractable Kurdish problem at home, exacerbated by the fact that the non-Turkic Kurds are viewed as fundamentally alien to the body politic. 
Add to that the fact that in 2009 Erdogan felt comfortable employing the incendiary term “genocide” to characterize the Chinese security operation in Xinjiang, even as his government fights a pitched public relations battle to deny its application to the Turkish nation in the deaths of over one million Christian Armenians through execution, massacre, and death marches in 1915. 
Overall, it paints the picture of a country whose international role, at least in non-Turkic sectors, is limited by a profound and institutionalized ethnic chauvinism. 
Turkey’s natural allies reside in the Turkic stans of Central Asia. In the Middle East, it stands alone. 
When Turkey becomes assertive, many of the other nations of the region respond with dislike and mistrust. 
Turkey is on the outs with almost every one of its neighbors, with the exceptions of Georgia and Bulgaria: Greece, Syria, Iran and Armenia all have long-standing or recent grudges with Ankara. Add the Shi’ite power Iraq to the list – Turkey recently decided to host the fugitive Sunni Vice President of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashemi. 
Kurdish distaste for the extensive, ongoing, and, in the Western press, virtually unreported, Turkish government crackdown against Kurd separatists, activists, and journalists go a long way in explaining why Syria’s put-upon Kurds have not joined the anti-Assad rebellion. 
Although Erdogan made an unscheduled trip to Saudi Arabia directly from Beijing – presumably to confirm the GCC’s continued resolve to push Assad to the wall – he is unlikely to find sincere friends among the Gulf autocracies. 
The sclerotic, oil-exporting, Arab, and theocratic/conservative Gulf states are unlikely to welcome upstart Turkey’s claim to regional leadership on the basis of democracy, free-market economics, a balance between secular and religious authority, and a professed faith in the validity of popular Arab Spring uprisings against out-of-touch autocrats. 
Turkish nationalism is matched in Europe by broad, barely disguised racism and hostility. One of the many reasons that Turkey’s application to the European Union has stalled has been a feeling, from Pope Benedict on down to the right-wing chauvinist parties that have sprung up like weeds across Europe, that Turkey is too “non-European” to integrate into the union. [7] 
As for the United States, Turkey has emerged as a key asset. 
It is the yearned-for moderate Islamic state (now that Egypt is teetering into populism and/or radicalism) that will serve as Israel’s regional interlocutor, and the obliging host that will undercut Russia’s monopoly in the supply of natural gas to Europe by allowing the Nabucco pipeline or some variant thereof to be built across its territory. 
Nevertheless, it is difficult to forget the contemptuous words of an unnamed US administration official in 2003, when Erdogan unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a $25 billion payment in return for allowing 40,000 US troops to deploy into Iraq from Turkey:
The Turks seem to think that we’ll keep the bazaar open all night. [8]The United States seems to be gleefully egging on Turkey in its Assad-bashing, since the sound and fury of Turkish indignation helps obscure the reality of a do-nothing Western policy on Syria. 
Erdogan, for his part, seems to be trapped in a frontline confrontation with Syria without genuine geopolitical backup, and doesn’t know how to extract Turkey from the situation without losing face-or starting a war that will leave the region in tatters. 
Instead of relieving tensions, Ankara is exacerbating them; and instead of acting as the even-handed middle-man in regional negotiations, Turkey is drifting into the role of Western poodle. 
The Economist, which detects imperial rumblings in Erdogan’s foreign policy, reported:
“It was this ability to talk to all sides that made Turkey an effective player,” says Nikolaos van Dam, a former Dutch ambassador to Turkey. But “now it has chosen sides.” [9]It is a remarkable and melancholy comment on Middle Eastern politics that Turkey has, over the past 12 months, forfeited its primary regional diplomatic asset – its status as the “honest broker” – and China, of all countries, because of its close economic ties to both Saudi Arabia and Iran, is stepping in to try to assume the role. 

1. Erdogan meets Jiabao on milestone China trip, Hurriyet, Apr 10, 2012. 
2. Change of heart in Moscow and Beijing will unlock Syrian crisis, Today’s Zaman, Apr 15, 2012. 
3. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Liu Weimin’s Remarks, Chinese foreign Ministry, Apr 12, 2012.
4. Turkey’s Role in Iran Nuclear Talks Could Diminish, VOA, Apr 16, 2012.
5. Turkey attacks China ‘genocide’, BBC, Jul 10, 2009. 
6. Erdogan’s China Trip Raise New Questions About Turkey’s Foreign Policy, The Istanbulian, Apr 9, 2012.
7. Pope Benedict and the Buddhism/Masturbation Controversy, China Matters, Sep 20, 2006.
8. Statement of Gene Rossides, American Hellenic Institute general counsel, AHI, Apr 23, 2003.
9. Growing less mild, The Economist, Apr 14, 2012. 

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 

Syria, Turkey and the camp cover-up

By Erin Banco and Sophia Jones 

It’s like a well-choreographed play that Turkish officials have spent countless hours rehearsing. First, they helped form “committees” inside every camp to speak on behalf of the refugees. Now, they carefully scrub down the facilities only before admitting visitors, deny access to most media outlets, and even handpick refugees to speak with the press and outside organizations. 

The story they’ve crafted is a simple narrative of suffering Syrian refugees, fleeing the bloody crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad, finding relief, commendable conditions and the chance for a new life. The trouble is, the situation often isn’t that clear-cut. The government of Turkey is “hiding something”, according to a prominent Turkish human-rights lawyer – a sentiment shared by many Syrian refugees inside the camps. 

While reporting from refugee camps on the Turkish-Syrian border, we spoke to several people who said that they were encountering “absolutely no problems”. Many other refugees, however, describe a vastly different reality – inadequate tents, unsanitary bathrooms, lack of food, preferential treatment of soldiers, and unnecessary detention practices. 

It is common, though, for refugees to be paid off by the Turkish government to refrain from denouncing its wrongdoings, according to several witnesses in the camps. The Turkish government is also denying most of those in the camps legal status as refugees, allying itself with Islamist factions and marginalizing liberal elements, locking away “problematic” Syrians in off-the-books prison facilities,and obstructing media access, while local religious and political enmities are interfering with the humanitarian response. 

All of these underreported issues have conspired to place already vulnerable people in an increasingly untenable situation. 

Orwa, whose last name is withheld for his personal safety, is a Syrian refugee in the Yayladagi refugee camp in southeastern Hatay province, the site of United Nations envoy Kofi Annan’s most recent visit to Turkey. It was widely reported that Annan visited the camp, but according to Orwa and other Syrians residing there, he did not actually walk through and talk to refugees. 

Instead, the former UN secretary general only entered the camp’s visitor center and just spoke with men and women who were reportedly selected by Turkish officials. Afterward, his press conference focused almost solely on the then-impending ceasefire across the border, not about the sufferings of those inside the camp – which he had neither the opportunity to witness or hear about. 

Similarly, Orwa told us the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition umbrella group based in Turkey, visited Yayladagi this week and met with the camp committee that is made up of almost entirely of Muslim Brotherhood members selected by the Turkish government. While the Brotherhood isn’t a major force in Syria, what it has is money – lots of it. And it’s using that clout to build stronger ties with the Turkish government and to develop more support from needy refugees. 

Orwa and his friends from inside the camp were officially excluded from the conversation. Their “liberal ideas” prohibited them from participating, he said. Frustrated and determined to have input, Orwa showed up at the meeting without permission but no one listened to him. Instead, the Islamist-dominated SNC and Muslim Brotherhood are controlling the conversation about how the camps are run, while liberal Syrian voices – already stifled at home – are being similarly silenced in the camps. 

According to several sources inside the Yayladagi camp, the visit by the SNC was a rare one. Their last trip to the camp was close to 20 days before and that was only used for “propaganda”. Orwa said SNC members didn’t even inquire about the needs of the Syrians there. Refugees in the camp told us that they thought Turkish officials wanted to paint a rosy picture of well-appointed refugee camps. But many, especially those living in Turkish-run tent cities on the border, are unhappy with the living conditions. 

The SNC recently told the refugee committee in Yayladagi that they are short on funds and only had about US$5 million to distribute – most of it earmarked for efforts in Syria. But they told refugees they would give them each a one-time payment of around 20 Turkish lira, the equivalent to about $11, to buy groceries and whatever supplies they may need for the camp. 

Many consider the response totally inadequate. “The SNC does not check up on the refugees to see how they are or what they need,” Orwa said. “No one talks to us, no one cares about us. We at least want people to come in and see what the camp is like.” This is a complaint we have heard before: refugees want to tell their stories, but they have no one to tell. 

Access denied 

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, there has been limited access for human-rights groups and journalists trying to enter the camps on the border. And after Syrian refugees were targeted during a cross-border attack in Kilis recently, there has been an even greater urgency to keep journalists out of the camps. 

Turkish officials as well as doctors working in hospitals near the refugee camps said the government wants to control the information given to the press because the Kilis attack was disastrous for their image. Refugees caught in the crossfire told us that Turkish soldiers who were supposed to be protecting them did little to help. 

One of the injured Syrians in the Kilis hospital, Ahmed Bitar, told us the Turkish officers did not defend refugees but instead hid for their own safety. As news of the attack on Kilis spread to other camps, refugees in Yayladagi marched to the border in protest. They said if the Turkish government was not going to protect them, they might as well go back to Syria. 

Several Free Syrian Army soldiers and officers likened the situation in the camps to that in Syria. The only way, they said, to get in and out of the camp if you are not a refugee, and if you do not have special permission, is to sneak in illegally. We heard all manner of stories on the lengths some have gone to – from aid workers scaling the 10-foot-tall walls, to human-rights activists slipping through holes in the fence, to women journalists wearingniqabs and pretending to be refugees. Increasingly, such extreme measures are the only available options to those seeking access to refugees. 

Just one day after the incident in Kilis, we called Suphi Atan, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s camp coordinator, to verify our authorization to enter the Reyhanli camp, which we had received just one day earlier. He told us that there was simply “no more permission” for the camps. A dial tone followed. When we tried a more direct approach, we were similarly rebuffed. An officer who was guarding the main gate of the Yayladagi camp told us, “Your job is not inside the camp, it is outside of it,” and barred us from entering. 

Doctors inside a Hatay province hospital agreed to speak with us as long as identifying information about them and their facility’s name were not used because the Turkish government has forbid them to speak to press. “You have a right to get information,” one physician said, “Just not from the hospitals. Only from the government.” 

Halfway through our interview with the head of the medical center, a man walked in and sat down next to us, his security badge peeking out of his jacket. His presence immediately changed the tone of the interview, causing the hospital administrator to begin extolling the virtues of the Turkish government’s treatment of refugees. 

As the number of wounded Syrians taken from the border to hospitals in Turkey has surged in the past two months, information about them has dwindled. One Syrian man in the hospital had just arrived hours before our visit. As he lay on the hospital bed in the emergency ward, he violently shook from loss of blood, his teeth chattering as family members who carried him to the border looked on.

A friend who made the trip with him explained how the patient was shot by Syrian Armed Forces in Idlib that morning. He wanted us to take a picture of his friend, now clinging to life with a gaping hole in his leg, to show the severity of the situation inside Syria. Our translator was forced to explain that, by order of the Turkish government, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the hospital. 


In August 2011, The Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) published a report outlining several human-rights violations occurring in the camps in Hatay province, including the denial of access by outside monitors. In their report the group stated, “The Coordination for Refugee Rights (CRR), a group of seven Turkish and international human-rights organizations have had no access and said it was impossible to verify reports and information they received.” 

The governor of Hatay province, who grants permission to the camps for human-rights groups, said the government was trying to protect the refugees from “potential danger”. But without outside observers, refugees in the camps said they worry that he conditions will continue to deteriorate. 

Food supplies are already insufficient, potable water is only delivered periodically, and there are only two bathrooms in each camp, one for men and one for women. Of the six operational camps in Hatay, three of them are set up in old tobacco warehouses, while the others are simply rows of white tents set up in barren fields. 

Syrians fleeing their shelled-out homes are finding relative safety in Turkey, but not as refugees. The Turkish government classifies all people who flee from non-European countries as “guests” of the Turkish state. Under this classification, Syrian refugees receive basic protections, but their status is open to revocation. Guest status fails to confer even the minimum guarantees that the 1994 Turkish Asylum Regulations would provide, meaning that Syrians do not have the ability to register as asylum seekers, and do not receive identification cards or residence permits. 

Turkey ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees with a provision that allows them the option only to apply refugee status only to people who have fled Europe. Turkey claims it has no international obligation under the Geneva Convention to provide refugee status to Syrians, and therefore, has no obligation to grant them permanent residency in Turkey, only in another country. 

But according to the August 2011 Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network report, providing full protection to the Syrians seeking asylum in Turkey is “not only a humanitarian imperative but a legal obligation under international refugee law and international human rights law”. 

Refugees fleeing the violence in Syria mainly enter Turkey through official border crossings and register with the Turkish authorities before being sent into a camp. Once they enter the camps, Syrians effectively have no access to UN refugee assistance since they are rarely allowed to travel far from the camp perimeter. This gives them no real possibility of travelling to UN refugee agency offices in the cities of Ankara or Van to file for asylum status. 

One exception to this rule has been for FSA members living in the soldiers’ camp in Reyhanli. Not only have FSA members received permission to leave their camp, but the Turkish government has reportedly provided large sums of money for non-essential surgeries they would not have been able to afford in Syria, according to doctors we spoke with. 

Some Syrian activists, as well as other dissident soldiers in Hatay’s capital, Antakya, believe payments for these surgeries are being used as a form of bribery. One defector we spoke with, a former officer in Assad’s army, said he thought the Turkish government was paying off people to silence them for fear they would return back to Syria and spread politically damaging information, including the full story of the treatment of refugees in the camps. 

From refugees to prisoners 

Typically, the Turkish government arrests refugees entering Turkey without proper documentation and sends them to one of the country’s seven detention centers, previously known as “guesthouses”. Since the civil war in Syria began, the government has been making exceptions for thousands of undocumented Syrians, but not all of them. The conditions in these facilities is also alarming. 

Omar Najjari was arrested by Turkish authorities and jailed in Antakya’s foreign guesthouse under suspicion of smuggling arms across the border into Syria. What he told us about the prison’s conditions match the findings of the Global Detention Project, a Swiss organization that investigates countries responses to global migration. 

According to the group, Turkey’s foreign detention centers are notorious for overcrowding, poor nourishment, limited access to safe drinking water and inadequate medical services for inmates. Najjari, for instance, said he was confined in an overcrowded room without sufficient bedding for the inmates. 

The detention centers aren’t the only places Syrians are being imprisoned. After being held in Antakya, Turkish officials transferred Najjari to a small detention camp set away from the others – a place to detain “problematic” refugees, which included women and children. Informal and unregistered, Najjari said the camp conditions were abysmal including, for example, providing only six bottles of clean drinking water for 60 people over two weeks. 

With friends like these … 

Political and religious factionalism among Turkish human-rights groups in Antakya has also stifled efforts to adequately aid refugees in the nearby camps. Hatay province was, prior to 1939, part of Syria and is home to a large Alawite population, many of whom support the Assad regime. The majority of the refugees in the camps, however, are anti-Assad Sunnis, creating extreme tension in the region. 

A conversation with Mithat Can – one of the most prominent human-rights activists in Antakya and a man with the power to affect aid flowing into the camps – drove home just how much old enmities are affecting the way supposed advocates are dealing with needy refugees. 

Can, an Alawite, bluntly told us: “There is no war in Syria. The conflict in Syria,” he said, “is not between the government and the people.” According to him, there is an international imperialist plot by “Western gods” to remake the Middle East. He also claimed that the Syrian army was not targeting citizens at all, stating that the turmoil in the country stemmed from the fact that the Syrian government would not allow foreign intervention alter the political and economic landscape of the region. 

Can, whose formal job is to help refugees file for asylum with the UN but whose opinion holds sway over local donors on whose aid refugees depend, told us that he believed that the news coming out of Syria was baseless Israeli and American propaganda and that the Syrian people were “actually okay”. 

In his words, “so-called refugees” who claim to be fleeing violence in Syria are actually relocating to Turkish refugee camps to make a profit selling their goods in Turkish bazaars or markets. Can said that the only people in the camps that were complaining were the radical Islamists, and that their reported problems were actually self-inflicted. He also told us that refugees were refusing to see Alawite doctors and threw stones at drivers who came to pick them up – something we neither witnessed nor heard in credible reports. 

Additionally, Can also claimed torture was not being carried out by the Assad regime and claims by refugee women of brutal sexual assaults were untrue. He told us, for instance, he could “just tell” that a woman who claimed to have been raped by Assad forces was lying. 

With the Turkish government already restricting press access to the camps and controlling information about deteriorating conditions, suffering Syrian refugees are almost solely dependent on local human-rights advocates. But if one of the most influential humanitarian activists in the region doesn’t believe there is really a civil war raging in Syria, contends that needy refugees are greedy illegal immigrants, and is not serious about advocating for Syrians, then who will? 

Erin Banco is a freelance journalist based out of Cairo. Sophia Jones is a recent Overseas Press Club fellow and a Cairo-based freelance journalist. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 

Turkey threatens Syria


Turkey threatens Syria. 47080.jpeg
Syrian forces respect ceasefire, Turkey threatens NATO
Prensa Latina
Syrian forces have put into effect the agreed upon cease-fire, according to the plan of the Special Envoy of the UN, Kofi Annan. However, Turkey has threatened to use its participation in the NATO alliance to launch a war against Syria. Although tinged with anti-Syria suspicions, Western and Arab media recognize that there were no incidents after the 06:00 local time (04:00 GMT), according to reporta from suspected militants in the provinces of Homs, Hama and Idleb. In Damascus, the day dawned sunny, but cool and calm.
The Syrian Ministry of Defense announced yesterday that their forces would put a hold on today’s military operations, but said troops would remain on alert to respond to any attack or action on the part of armed terrorist groups, which the UN was well informed of by Annan.
Annan, who now reports to the Security Council on the development of his proposal, did stipulate the need for all parties to comply with the ceasefire in order to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need, and before it can begin to provide dialogue.
Before leaving Tehran last night, where he met with the authorities of that country, Annan stated that “the political process should be led by the Syrians and should respect the aspirations of the Syrian people.”
The major emphasis “is that governments in the region cooperate with Syria in order to solve the crisis” and warned that, “Syria’s geopolitical position is such that any miscalculation can have unimaginable consequences.”
With respect to information that some governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States are financing, arming and equipping the Syrian opposition, the UN envoy said that “any militarization will be disastrous.”
“If all parties respect the ceasefire, then we can see improvement in conditions on the ground,” said the former UN Secretary General.
However, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fueled the confrontation by threatening to invoke Article V of the NATO Charter for this military alliance to launch its military power against the neighboring country in case of any alleged raid by Syrian troops on the border, reported the Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman.
Turkish observers of the meeting for this publication indicated that if there were an attack on the demarcation line between Turkey and Syria, members of NATO could take action to assist their ally, if attacked.
Erdogan’s threat takes place after an alleged border incident reported in the Turkish province of Hatay, and that Damascus did not say anything.
Although in today’s edition, Today’s Zaman changed the version of events. On Tuesday, it recognized, like other media, the inaccuracy of theTurkish version, that the incident stemmed from an armed group attacking a checkpoint on Turkish territory at the border with Syria and killed several soldiers, who found it necessary to answer the fire.
In thr exchange, several of the attackers were wounded and four others also have been identified at this time as two Turks and two Syrian refugees, according to the description of the facts by the Turkish press on Tuesday.
In its now changed version, Today’s Zaman on Thursday indicates that Syrian troops killed four persons when they fired at armed “refugee” attackers fleeing their country for Turkey.
“NATO has a responsibility to protect the borders of Turkey,” said Erdogan and threatened that Turkey can officially ask for action from this military alliance, with the application of Article V of their Charter, which states an attack on one or some of its members will be considered an aggression against all.
Analysts in Damascus warned that this could be the last resort to be used, that is to say the preparation and assembly of a border provocation by opponents of Syria due to the impossibility of using the UN Security Council and armed groups to reach their objectives. They now find themselves obliged to comply with the Annan plan
Translated from the Portuguese version by:
Lisa Karpova
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