Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Turkey

A slow, violent transition

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In a moment of journalistic unity, the Hürriyet and Today’s Zaman—two newspapers that tend not to agree—agree on one thing: The Annan plan between the government and the opposition in Syria is a failure. But what’s interesting is not the mutual conclusion that the two papers arrive at (the plan was a failure before it began), but the means by which they get there.

The Hürriyet tells us: Blasts ravage Annan plan, over 55 killed (here).

Today’s Zaman tells us: Damascus suicide bombers kill 55, cease-fire in tatters (here).

To both sources, it seems completely natural to say that the ceasefire between al-Assad and the opposition has failed because someone (we don’t know who) has detonated a bomb in Damascus.

From the Hürriyet:

There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts, but an al-Qaeda-inspired group has claimed responsibility for several past explosions.

From Today’s Zaman:

Shooting could be heard in the background of the Syrian television footage, filmed soon after the blasts. It showed a man pointing to the wreckage. “Is this freedom? This is the work of the Saudis,” he said, referring to the Gulf state that has advocated arming the opposition seeking to oust Assad.

Am I missing something? Was the Annan plan brokered between al-Assad and the Saudis? Or was it al-Assad and al-Qaeda? Why are Turkish journalists so eager to dismiss the Annan plan for bogus reasons?

I have not posted about the IED-nightmare that Syria has become in the past two weeks simply because it has not been a notable event. As the Zaman suggests, Saudi funds are the likely source of these new developments, perhaps with the aid of Iraqi expertise (here). But whatever the cause of these bombings, rest assured that—as we have seen—Turkish jingoism on Syria is not dead. A brokered peace is no more a possibility than a fair fight. The only question is how long it will be until Syria has changed hands. For the sake of the Syrian people, we can only hope that it happens soon.

But at this rate, things aren’t looking too good.

Written by M. James

May 12, 2012 at 12:55 am

PM Davutoğlu?

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Don’t bother reading the article, but the following excerpt is an interesting look at how current the idea of Davutoğlu as prime minister really is—or was (as the article oddly suggests). As an outsider looking in, I haven’t seen a lot of PM-potential in Davutoğlu (which is not an insult), but perhaps I’ve been wrong.

People who are close to Davutoğlu, and his students from the Science and Art Foundation, a foundation established by Davutoğlu and his friends back in the 1980s to support students pursuing graduate studies and conducting research around the world, are tirelessly working to prepare for the post-Erdoğan period and believe Davutoğlu is the number one candidate for the post of prime minister.

The fact that Mr. Davutoğlu is a successful academic, politician and thinker indeed makes him the most likely candidate for the post.

Written by M. James

May 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm

L.A.: Little Armenia

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Little Armenia

“‘Shame on Turkey! 1915 never again!’ Said the mass amassed about me. All I needed was some dish soap, but instead I got engulfed in a genocide protest march.”

It’s the 96th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, which has apparently not been forgotten.

A source living in Los Angeles’s Little Armenia kindly forwarded the adjacent picture after escaping a march through the neighborhood. This is just another example of Armenian tenacity on the issue of the genocide, nearly a century on.

Not too long ago, we saw a similar example in France’s parliament. It seems that any place with a sizeable Armenian immigrant population, including parts of the United States, can be confronted with these tentacles of Turkish politics.

I think it is safe to say that the reason for Armenians’ tenacity is Turkey’s obstinacy. Turkey has, traditionally, been unwilling to accept the genocide as a historical fact. Until they do, the French—and the Angelinos—will have to get used to dodging protest marches.

Written by M. James

April 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Fighting Iran with Kurds

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What follows is a must-read analysis of Turkey’s new Kurdish problem by M. K. Bhadrakumar. With a few crucial twists and turns, it all boils down to the U.S.-Iran conflict—with Turkey as a beneficiary. Read the whole article (here):

U.S., Turkey, and Iraqi Kurds join hands
M. K. Bhadrakumar; Asia Times Online; Apr. 23, 2012

The tensions between Turkey and Iraq have been steadily building up, and of late they have sharply escalated. The “crisis in Iraq” referred to in the Turkish statement is Maliki’s ongoing political battle with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, which has taken a sectarian Shi’ite-Sunni dimension. In sum, Turkey has waded into Iraq’s sectarian politics and is positioning itself on the side of the Sunnis and the Kurds.

Conceivably, Washington and Ankara are acting in tandem and there is close coordination of the US and Turkish policies toward Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. For both, the ultimate objective is to weaken Iran’s regional influence. The Obama administration hopes that Turkey’s efforts against the PKK are successful and is providing intelligence support for the military operations.

Written by M. James

April 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Turkey: Syrian refugee limbo

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An uncommon glimpse into the politics of the refugee camps on the Turkey-Syria border:

Syria, Turkey, and the camp cover-up
Erin Banco & Sophia Jones; Asia Times Online; Apr. 19, 2012

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.

Read more.

Written by M. James

April 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Projected TAGP volume suggests a future TCGP

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Anatolian gas pipeline may expand fourfold
Robert M. Cutler; Asia Times Online; Apr. 18, 2012

MONTREAL – The president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Rovnag Abdullaev, has announced that the US$8 billion-plus Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline may be expanded four-fold from its initially planned volume of 8-16 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) to as much as 60 bcm/y.

SOCAR will build the pipeline (known by the acronym TAGP and also TANAP from its initials in Turkish) from the Georgian-Turkish border to the Turkish-Bulgarian border, with the participation of the Turkish firms BOTAS and TPAO. The initially estimated cost for its construction was $5 billion, but this has already risen informally to $6-8 billion, and the final cost will be known only after the conclusion of the actual construction contracts.

Abdullaev’s statement represents new formal support for the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) project to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan under the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and onwards to Europe. The European Union has been participating in talks towards this end jointly with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, and has stated its readiness to purchase 30 bcm/y from Turkmenistan.

That is the volume usually cited as necessary to make the TCGP commercially viable. For its part, Turkmenistan has stated its readiness to sell up to 40 bcm/y. According to Abdullaev, however, it is only “after the EU and Turkmenistan agree” that Azerbaijan can “think of which territory can be allocated for transit”.

Read more.

Written by M. James

April 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

The new Kurdish problem

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Regarding Turkey and the [d]evolution of Syria, I recently posted:

[The Turks] have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.


The problem, of course, is that the Kurds are being excluded, or excluding themselves, from the SNC—effectively excluding themselves from the future of Syria. The suggestion is that they have something else in mind. All things being equal, this should worry the Turks, who have been dealing with the “Kurdish problem” since the beginning of the Republic.

This new problem has not escaped the columnists at Today’s Zaman. Here, to begin, is a brief history:

The Kurds were unable to develop a major political movement until the late 1950s. There was no major problem between Arabs and Kurds then either. Yet, with the emergence of the Baathists as a dominant force in 1956, tension broke out between Arabs and Kurds and has continued to today. Arab nationalism had a negative effect on the relations between the Kurds and the political regime, driving the Kurds away from the military. Kurdish lands were redistributed under land reform policies, beginning with the Agricultural Relations Law, Kurdish geographical names were changed and various Arab clans were deployed from other parts of the country to the Kurdish regions to create an Arab zone.

When Hafez al-Assad of Syria started to support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Syria’s Kurdish issue became somewhat connected to Turkey’s. Siding with Iran during the war between Iran and Iraq, Syria did not refrain from cooperating with Iraqi Kurds against Saddam Hussein. Thus, by supporting the PKK and establishing relations with Iraqi Kurds, Syria managed to divert the political potential of Syrian Kurds to these areas.

And here is an outline of the new problem:

This much is clear: As in Iraq, the Syrian crisis is potentially giving birth to a Kurdish autonomous region. That will be historically critical for all other states. It is time to realize that the Arab Spring has a strong inner Kurdish Spring effect. The Kurdish question is before regional states like Turkey, Iraq and Syria. If the Kurds gain the ability to have two regional governments, the traditional strategy of “solution within the nation-state” may fall forever. There is another major development: Despite their differences on other issues, Turkey, Syria and Iran were united on the Kurdish issue. Such a coalition no longer exists. Forty years ago, Iraq was part of this nation-state coalition against the Kurds. Iraq was dismissed in the 1990s. Syria can be similarly dismissed.

A second Kurdish autonomous region will bring Kurdish politics to a final phase: nation building. One need not be a genius to see that such a development may cause border changes some time in the future. Then the final questions will be these: Shall we have several autonomous Kurdish regions? Shall we have them be part of a regional state like Turkey or Iraq? Or, shall we have an independent Kurdish state to unite all these autonomous Kurdish regions?

Then again, is an autonomous Kurdish state really a problem for Turkey? It depends on a number of factors, of course, but a new, accountable Kurdish state could be exactly what Turkey needs in order to put an end to Kurdish separatism.

Written by M. James

April 10, 2012 at 12:45 am