Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Middle East

Of mortar rounds and minor details

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I recently posted about the latest big news item: a mortar attack from Syria and Turkey’s backlash—a parliamentary mandate authorizing military action across the Syrian border.

The story was, of course, nonsense. Bashar al-Assad has no reason to send mortar rounds into Turkish villages. Thankfully, The Telegraph printed the more likely, and less news-friendly, explanation (here):

An online video purporting to be from Jabhat al-Nusra, a jihadist group accused of ties to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility.

So, more likely, it was just strategic provocation by jihadist rebels. A minor detail, by NATO’s standards.

More on the al-Nusra Front.


Written by M. James

October 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

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Turkey has “direct” responsibility for Syrian crisis

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Embattled Assad says he needs time to ‘win’ war of attrition
Today’s Zaman; August 29th, 2012

“What is taking place (in Syria) is neither a revolution, nor a spring. It is a conspiracy,” he said, alluding to the Arab Spring revolutions that have topped authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Assad paid tribute to his supporters at home, saying they stood steadfastly behind him, and also praised the armed forces.

But he criticized the leaders of onetime ally Turkey.

“The state of Turkey bears direct responsibility for the blood being shed in Syria.”

Written by M. James

August 30, 2012 at 3:20 am

The new trend in Turkish-Iranian relations

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As the Syrian crisis has progressed, I have found it instructive to recall, at intervals, the words of a particular regional expert from October 2011 (here):

In his first interview with a Western journalist since Syria’s seven-month uprising began, President Assad told The Sunday Telegraph that intervention against his regime could cause “another Afghanistan”. Western countries “are going to ratchet up the pressure, definitely,” he said. “But Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. The history is different. The politics is different.

“Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake … Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?

“Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region.”

One of the divisions is already becoming apparent as Turkey and Iran start fighting over influence in the new Syria (here):

A series of unusually sharp statements over the past several days from both Turkey and Iran have brought relations between the two neighbors — which have kept improving until recently even at the expense of angering Turkey’s NATO ally the United States — to what one may call a historic low.

Turkey hit back with a harsh statement at recent remarks from Iranian officials, including the country’s chief of General Staff who has said that “it will be its turn” if Turkey continues to “help advance the warmongering policies of the United States in Syria.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called comments by Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi “regrettable” and denied his country has meddled in Syrian affairs.

Read more.

Written by M. James

August 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

Tagged with , ,

Before and after: museums to mosques

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The İznik (formerly Nicea) Ayasofya Müzesi (formerly a church) has at last been converted into a mosque. I don’t think I should have to explain the symbolism of the secular state’s museum becoming a mosque—especially in light of the parallel controversy over İstanbul‘s Ayasofya (which is still a museum)—but I will take the time to mention that the conversion was tastefully done.

In fact, the space has been shared so effectively between the faithful and the tourist that the former church now fully serves a dual function of museum and mosque.

The remaining adornments of the former church—of which there are few to appreciate—are not only visible and accessible, but are separated from the carpeted prayer space. Even the altar is left alone.

It was as if when the question of turning the museum into a mosque came up, someone said: “Why not both?” What would be useful to know, of course, is how that compromise was made. Is this Kemalism, still kicking? Or is this “moderate Turkish Islam” at work?

Written by M. James

July 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

The “jet crisis”

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The big news in Turkey in the last few days has been the jet krizi. As far as the story goes, the only thing that everyone can agree on is that a Turkish F-4 Phantom was shot down somewhere close to Syria. Of course, the word on the street in Turkey is that it was the fault of “international Jewry,” the United States, or—as I heard from one ornery fellow—the French.

From what I saw of the initial reports on the incident (even in Turkish papers), there was little apparent distress, and a lot of the word “apology.” Here’s an early example from four days ago:

“At this moment the air force and navy are conducting search and rescue operations in the western Mediterranean and luckily our pilots are alive, we have just lost a plane,” [Erdoğan] told journalists while travelling back from Brazil

There was an apology from Syria, it seemed, and nobody doubted its sincerity. It could have been worse, they seemed to think. But this is from today’s Hürriyet (here):

The Turkish government said that all options against Syria were on the table, including the right to military retaliation, also vowing to keep its rights stemming from international law reserved.

“Turkey will protect itself within international law,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said following a Cabinet meeting, adding that Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet could not be left unpunished.

“Syria shot down our unarmed jet in a cold-blooded and hostile way in international airspace. International law is on our side. Turkey will not hesitate to take its steps to this end,” Arınç told reporters at a press conference.

More from the Hürriyet (here):

Syria has come to constitute a “clear and present danger” for Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, adding that all military elements approaching the Turkish border from Syria would be considered “a threat” from now on. 

The Turkish Armed Forces has changed its rules of engagement in the wake of the crisis, Erdoğan said. “The Turkish military will retaliate against border violations by Syria.”

And the icing on the cake—this is from from the New York Times today (in direct contradiction to several of the early reports—here):

The two crewmen are still missing.

Written by M. James

June 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Gülen declines invitation

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Gülen says prefers staying longer in US to avoid ‘harming positive things’
Today’s Zaman; Jun. 17th, 2012

Turkish and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said he prefers staying in the US longer to avoid damaging positive developments in Turkey in a first public response to Turkish prime minister’s invitation to Turkey.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

What’s in a street sign?

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Caution: Men dragging women across street.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 3:59 am