Turkey’s Kurdish Calculus

September 27, 2012

(Israpundit)Ankara re-embraces its old allies in Washington, at the expense of Tehran and Damascus.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has made a bloody comeback in Turkey. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, PKK-related violence has killed some 700 people since the summer of 2011. This deadly toll recalls the horrors of the 1990s, when thousands of civilians were killed in PKK terror attacks and a brutal war in eastern Turkey between the government and Kurdish militants.
The resurgence of PKK violence is no accident. It is directly related to Turkey’s defiant posture in support of the Syrian uprising and against the Assad regime and its patrons in Iran. The upside for the West is that Ankara is starting to re-embrace its old friends in Washington.

The breakdown in Turkish-Syrian ties began in the summer of 2011. Since then, Damascus has once again allowed the PKK to operate in Syria. Meanwhile, to punish Ankara for its Syria policy, Iran’s leaders have made peace with the Kurdish rebels they had been fighting, letting the PKK focus its energy against Turkey.
This was not Ankara’s plan. When the Syrian uprising began in spring 2011, Turkish leaders initially encouraged Bashar Assad’s regime to reform. In August 2011, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spent six hours in Damascus asking Assad to stop killing civilians.
The Syrian tyrant not only disregarded Turkey’s pleas; he also sent tanks into Hama hours after Mr. Davutoglu left the capital. Thereafter, Ankara broke from Assad and began calling for his ouster. Turkey began providing safe haven to Syrian opposition groups, and media reports have even indicated that Ankara has been arming the Syrian rebels.
Enlarge Image
European Pressphoto Agency
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Assad responded by letting the PKK operate in Syria after keeping a lid on the group for more than a decade. In 1998, Assad’s father had cracked down on the longtime presence of Kurdish militants in Syria, after Turkey threatened to invade if Syria continued to harbor the PKK. This spring, Assad allowed the PKK to move some 2,000 militants into Syria from their mountain enclave in northern Iraq. Assad, in effect, signaled to Ankara: “Help my enemy, and I will help yours.”
The Iranian regime has spoken in similar tones. In September 2011, immediately after Ankara started to confront the Assad regime, Tehran reconciled with the PKK’s Iranian franchise, the Party for Freedom and Life in Kurdistan. Tehran had been fighting its Kurdish rebels since 2003, as part of a strategy to take advantage of the rift between Turkey and the U.S. at the onset of the Iraq War. By helping Turkey defeat Kurdish militias, Iran had hoped to win Ankara’s favor at the expense of its own archenemy: Washington. But Iran flipped this posture last year, and by making peace Kurdish militants, it gave the PKK freedom to target Turkey.
The new stance on the PKK could not have worked so well against Turkey had the Syrian uprising not excited Kurds across the Middle East, including in Turkey. As Syrian rebels eroded the regime’s power in northern Syria this summer, Kurds started taking control of cities there, just across the border with Turkey.
Encouraged by this development, the PKK has tried to wrest control of Turkish towns, targeting especially vulnerable spots in the country’s rugged and isolated southernmost Hakkari province, which borders Iraq and Iran. Although the PKK has not yet secured any territory, the battle for Hakkari has caused hundreds of casualties over recent months.
Iran appears to be complicit in this new PKK assault, at least in part. Last month Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters that the government had “received information that [PKK] terrorists infiltrated from the Iranian side of the border” before launching a massive assault on the town of Semdinli in Hakkari. Tehran denies this.
Rejuvenated by its welcome in Syria and Iran, and also by Ankara’s stunted “Kurdish Opening”—an aborted effort in 2009 that had aimed to improve Kurds’ rights in Turkey—the PKK is now spreading tension beyond the Kurdish-majority areas of southeastern Turkey. On Aug. 20, the group killed nine people with a car bomb in Gaziantep, a prosperous and mixed Turkish-Kurdish city that had been spared from PKK violence. Once again, the Syrian-Iranian axis cast its shadow over the assault: Turkish officials alleged Syrian complicity in the Gaziantep attack, and when Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met with Turkey’s prime minister in Istanbul on Sept. 18, he was also reportedly admonished.
Ankara’s Middle East policy rests on one basic premise: that anyone who supports the PKK is Turkey’s enemy. It follows that Ankara has a problem with Damascus until Assad falls, and a long-term problem with Tehran even after Assad falls.
Accordingly, these shifting stones in the Middle East are also bringing Ankara closer to its longtime ally the U.S. Turkey has agreed to host NATO’s missile-defense system, which aims to protect members of the Western alliance from Iranian and other nuclear threats.
After weeks of attacks and riots against their embassies elsewhere in the Middle East, Americans may well be wondering if the Arab Spring has had any positive consequences at all for the U.S. The severing of Turkish-Iranian ties, at least, can count as one.
Mr. Cagaptay is a Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(image from Venitism – a pro Kurd blog)

fascinating. I was about to open my arms to the Kurds about two years ago when social media rumors were hinting that we should support them as atrocity victims. I’ve no doubt that they are indeed victims, but their recent allegiance to Iran and Syria isn’t exactly the type of response I’d of hoped for. The Kurds are an interesting third or fifth,,, or maybe sixth leg in mid-east politics. I’ve heard that they all aren’t Shia either. Some of the Kurds are also Sunni Islam… or maybe I was being lied to about that as well. It’s hard to know what to believe. Often times Westerners are told they are ignorant about mid-east political matters. That might be true… but usually because the sources we ask lie to us.


Elbit Systems announced Sunday that it stands to lose close to $65 million from yearly profits for 2011 due to the Defense Ministry’s decision in December to stop the delivery of sophisticated intelligence systems to the Turkish Air Force.

February 12, 2012

El means G-d or the name of a pagan God. So the company means God-Op?

(anneinpt.wordpress.com) Further fallout from Israel’s deteriorating relationship with Turkey has hit the Israeli defence firm Elbit.

Elbit Systems announced Sunday that it stands to lose close to $65 million from its yearly profits for 2011 due to the Defense Ministry’s decision in December to stop the delivery of sophisticated intelligence systems to the Turkish Air Force.
According to Elbit’s announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, it was still in talks with Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani about receiving compensation for the ministry’s decision to nix the deal just weeks before planned delivery.
In December, defense officials said that although Israel was working to improve ties with Ankara, the ministry “responsible for every product that receives an export license” and that it could not currently permit the delivery of the intelligence- gathering systems to Turkey.
“This has to do strictly with this system and should not impact the overall ties between the countries,” an official said.
The $140 million deal, signed in 2009, was for the sale of the advanced infrared Lorop camera and associated equipment. Developed by Elbit subsidiary El-Op, the camera is installed in a pod which can be carried on combat aircraft. The systems were supposed to be delivered to Turkey in the coming months.

….then Turkey torpedoes Israeli participation in NATO exercise, NATO reconsiders, Turkey bashes Israel

Turkey succeeded in thwarting the navy’s participation in Active Endeavor, it has, however, failed to prevent Israel from upgrading its ties with NATO. Defense officials said this week that the sides were on the verge of signing a new cooperation agreement that would lead to a significant upgrade in relations.

Israel is also considering a request by NATO to open an office at its headquarters in Brussels. Defense officials said that the offer was still open and that it was being “positively considered” by the government.
It also appears that Israel’s un-invitation is being reconsidered by NATO.

NATO said Friday it is considering an Israeli offer to contribute a warship to the alliance’s naval patrol in the Mediterranean, despite Turkey’s opposition.

Israel is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program with seven friendly nations bordering on that waterway. Romero said the alliance is prepared to enhance practical cooperation with all partner nations in the region, including Israel.
Some NATO governments have opposed past attempts to forge closer cooperation with Israel, saying that could hurt the alliance’s relations with other Muslim states, including Afghanistan, which remains NATO’s top operational priority.

Turkish ultimatum to Israel: Apologize or face ‘plan B’

September 1, 2011
Clinton and Davutoglu (Photo: Reuters) (YNET) Turkey’s foreign minister issued a menacing warning to Israel Thursday, saying the Jewish state must apologize for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound vessel by the time the UN report on the incident is published. The UN Palmer Report is expected to be released in the coming days, and likely as early as Friday.

Addressing ongoing delays in releasing the UN report on the lethal IDF raid, Ahmet said, “It is not remotely possible for us to agree to a six-month delay,” the Turkish Zaman news website reported.
“For us the deadline (for the formal apology from Israeli officials) is the day the UN report gets released, or we resort to Plan B,” Davutoglu said, but did not elaborate on what the alternate Turkish route would be. “We are not in a position to tell the UN to release or delay it,” the Turkish minister added, referring to the upcoming Palmer Report, “but we will do as necessary when the UN finally does release it.”
Ban Ki-moon announced that he was postponing the delivery of a UN panel’s report on Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists. He said the reason for the delay was to give the two governments more time to reach a “harmonious agreement” on its findings.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel will not apologize to Turkey over the 2010 flotilla incident, despite an earlier demand by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do so.

At the time, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said it would be impossible for Turkish-Israeli ties to improve without an apology. Minister Davutoglu also addressed the issue in an earlier news conference, saying that “if the Palmer Report does not contain an apology, both sides and the United States know what we will do.”

“Israel is facing a choice: deeper relations with Turkey or open a gap with the Turkish state that will not be overcome very easily,” he said.

‘Plan B’ scenarios

Turkish officials already referred to “Plan B” and possible sanctions against Israel in the past, yet did not detail the measures they may adopt. However, according to information accumulated in Jerusalem, the Turkish plan may include the following steps:

  • Downgrading Turkey’s diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv
  • Rejection of the appointment of a new Israeli ambassador to Turkey
  • An Erdogan visit to the Gaza Strip in September
  • Full Turkish support for the Palestinian UN statehood bid, coupled with an effort to form a lobby and attempts to isolate Israel at all frameworks
  • Granting legal assistance to the families of Turkish fatalities and the filing of lawsuits against Israel, including ones submitted to the International Criminal Court at The Hague
  • Terminating the defense cooperation with Israel, a move that would include the annulment of joint exercises and defense industry projects
  • Imposition of economic sanctions and the cutting back of investments in Israel. While Israeli businesspeople will be allowed to operate in Turkey, Ankara would refrain from taking steps to promote trade.
  • Turkish newspaper Hurriyet recently reported that Ankara may adopt another step: Suspending all political and economic ties between the states. The same threat was voiced last year by Turkey’s ambassador to the United States

Roubini warns Turkey that they are about to have an economic crises

April 29, 2011
Renowned economist Prof. Dr. Nouriel Roubini said that the Turkish Central Bank should be supported by economic policies. Roubini said that the current account deficit and high domestic demand posed a risk to the Turkish economy. via hudson-ny.org

Turkey will be on it’s hands and knees begging for stimulus money when their economy collapses. The unemployment is high and the loans can not be paid. The alarm bells are ringing now. Our terrorist enabling business men in the West are about to get a wake up call.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L)
meets with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi,
in Urmia. AA photo.

“The most significant existing relationship between Iran and the Turkish financial system is through the Bank Mellat branches in Turkey,” David Cohen, acting undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday. via hudson-ny.org

“Our prime minister has set a target of $30 billion in annual trade with Iran. That is why we are opening this border crossing,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Saturday. “We are announcing to the world that Turkey and Iran will be friends for eternity.” via hurriyetdailynews.com

Me wonders how much those biz contacts with Iran are worth when Turkey needs a loan.Hardly a model of Democracy for the region to follow.  If you want Democracy the world needs to learn from the good business people who have a healthy economy in Israel

Allegedly Carrying Nuclear Weapons, Iranian Plane Forced to Land in Turkey: Excerpts from the Turkish Press

March 18, 2011
ISNA: Rooholla Vahdati

Fearing further trouble in the volatile region, Turkey has warned Saudi Arabia and Iran, at odds over the Saudi intervention in Bahrain, to act with restraint and avoid actions that would undermine peace and stability.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned his Saudi and Iranian counterparts against creating problems in the Middle East, calling on both sides to act with restraint following their spat over Bahrain, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned.
In phone conversations with the two countries’ foreign ministers, Davutoğlu said peace and stability are a dire need for the turbulent region and should not be undermined.
Davutoğlu spoke twice on the phone with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, first in Ankara before departing for Russia and then in Moscow late Tuesday, diplomatic sources told the Daily News. The Turkish foreign minister also held a telephone conversation with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who expressed willingness to visit Turkey soon.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may also hold bilateral talks with Saudi Arabian officials on the sidelines of the Jeddah Economic Forum from Saturday to Tuesday.
Iran has criticized Saudi Arabia’s decision to send more than 1,000 troops to Bahrain at the request of the country’s Sunni rulers. The United Arab Emirates has sent 500 policemen to Bahrain and Qatar has said it would also send police.
“The presence of foreign troops and meddling in Bahrain’s internal affairs will only further complicate the issue,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies. Iran, which sits across the Gulf from Bahrain, has summoned the Saudi Arabian ambassador to discuss the situation.
A Bahraini foreign ministry official called Iran’s remarks “blatant interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs,” the state news agency BNA said, adding that Bahrain had recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations.
Bahrain has been gripped by its worst unrest since the 1990s after protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
The latest crisis between the country’s Shiite majority and its dominant Sunni minority has also, with the arrival of Saudi troops, revealed the regional hostilities between Sunni Arab countries and non-Arab Shiite Iran.
More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shiites, many of whom complain of discrimination by the ruling Sunni royal family.
Diplomatic sources said Davutoğlu also spoke on the phone with his counterparts from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya.
The European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, Ria-Oomen Ruijten, sent a letter to Prime Minister Erdogan, who had said Ruijten’s report was unbalanced.
Ruijten said: “The report indicates three clauses well appreciated, 19 developments received gladly, 5 clauses received sadly and 3 developments received deeply sad. This is not a math calculation, but it shows that our goal is not to criticize but to advise and remember certain issues.”
Turkey will press on with its plans to build its first nuclear power plant, despite being situated in an earthquake fault line and despite Japan’s nuclear accident, the country’s prime minister said.
“We are now counting the months, even weeks, before we start our project with Russia for the nuclear plant at Akkuyu,” on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said late Tuesday during a visit to Moscow
Erdogan told a forum of Russian and Turkish business leaders that “everything is ready” for construction to begin on the plant. “We are going to commit to a nuclear program an investment of $20 billion,” the Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.
Before leaving Ankara for the visit, the prime minister said the government would not go back on its decision to build three nuclear plants within the next five years, despite the crisis in Japan.
“There is no investment without risk,” Erdogan said.
Ankara and Moscow signed a deal in May last year to build the first nuclear reactor, sparking protests from environmentalists who warned of the dangers of locating it in a region known for seismic activity.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey had demanded that extra security measures be taken in building the plant, given its location.
Turkey suffered a massive earthquake in 1998 that killed 140 people in Adana, its fifth largest city, close to Mersin, the province where the nuclear power plant is to be built.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that economic, political, military and cultural relations had been further improving between Turkey and Russia.
Prime Minister Erdogan attended the Turkey-Russia Business Forum as part of his official visit to Moscow. He recalled that they decided to establish a high-level cooperation council during Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev’s visit to Turkey in May 2010, adding, “today, we are in Moscow to attend the second meeting of the council. Economic, political, military and cultural relations have been further improving between our countries. The council has added a new dimension to our multi-dimensional relations with Russia.”
“Turkey-Russia Joint Economic Committee held its 11th meeting in Kazan on March 2 and 4, 2011. During the meeting, many important decisions were made about energy, agriculture, trade and transportation. We agreed to develop our cooperation in automotive industry, chemistry, shipbuilding, the health industry and the aviation industry. Another decision made at the meeting was to establish a working group to develop cooperation in banking and finance,” he said.
Referring to economic and commercial relations, Prime Minister Erdogan said: “Our trade volume exceeded $26 billion in 2010. We want to increase our trade volume to $100 billion in the next five years. Turkish construction firms have already undertaken nearly 1,200 projects in Russia worth of $32 billion.”
“Despite the global financial crisis, Turkey hosted three million Russian tourists in 2008, 2.7 million in 2009 and 3.1 million in 2010. I believe the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey will increase in 2011. We invite Russian people to benefit from Turkey’s tourism opportunities,” he said.
“Energy is the most important dimension of our economic and commercial relations. In the next twenty years, energy investments worth of $100 billion will be made in Turkey. I think that such an environment will create new cooperation opportunities between our countries. As you know, we are about to begin construction of a nuclear power plant in cooperation with Russia. It will cost about $20 billion. We also attach great importance to establish a large Turkish logistic center in southern Russia,” he added.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that a cargo plane from Iran had been required to land in Southeast Turkey.
“The security checks are continuing at Diyarbakır airport,” a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. The official declined to elaborate further and only said the checks would target both the plane’s documents and its cargo. The plane belongs to YAS, an Iranian transportation company.
An Iranian Embassy official in Ankara told the Daily News that the plane landed in Diyarbakır for refueling.
“The plane is now about to take off. There is no problem at all,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Doğan news agency (DHA), reported that Turkish fighter jets forced the plane to land Tuesday night at Diyarbakır airport so it could be searched for an alleged cargo of weapons being shipped from Iran to Syria.
The Turkish ministry official said it is a routine procedure for some foreign cargo planes to request permission to fly over Turkey and sometimes be required to make unscheduled landings to be searched.
“This Iranian cargo plane received permission but, even in this situation, we can ask some planes to make an unscheduled landing for technical reasons,” the official said. “We have done this with other planes in the past.”
The Anatolia news agency said the plane was heading from Tehran to Aleppo.
DHA said the plane was asked to make an unscheduled landing based on tip-offs that it was carrying nuclear weapons. The ministry did not provide any information about the plane’s cargo.
The visa procedure between Turkey and Russia officially ended during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Moscow. Turks who go to Russia after April 17 will not need a visa for entry and will be able to stay in that country for up to 30 days.
Erdogan underlined the importance of lifting visa procedures, and said he was expecting a significant rise in the number of Russian tourists this year.
Four million votes are needed to cross the 10 percent electoral threshold in Turkey. The Peace & Democracy Party (BDP) can get enough votes if it joins the upcoming general elections as a party.

Shahab 3 missile test launch (photo: ISNA – Rooholla Vahdati)

Turkey’s Religious Leader Gülen and his Opposition to the Flotilla

June 23, 2010

Gülen said that if Turkey wanted to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Turkish government should have coordinated this with the Israeli authorities, because “one must not go against authority.”
What does this mean? Although both Gülen and the current Turkish Islamist government agree on many Islamic subjects, they disagree on very basic issues:
President Gül, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, and to some extent Prime Minister Erdoğan, have views very similar to those of the Arab-Oriented Muslim Brotherhood; so it is therefore not surprising that many Arabs, as a result of the Flotilla crisis, are now looking toward Turkey as their leader. Strange as this may seem, they see Prime Minister Erdoğan’s Flotilla Incident as standing up for the Arabs as no other Arab leader has done. (For more Arab reactions to the Flotilla Crisis, See, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4383.htm).
Gülen, on the other hand, is Turkish and Turkic-Oriented. Gülen has huge amounts of funds at his disposal; he finances schools throughout the Turkic lands of Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as Europe and the U.S.. These schools teach a “Turkish/Turkic-oriented Islam,” which has little concern for the Arab world. It is therefore obvious why so many ultra-nationalist Turks — some of whom want a union of all Turks from Northwestern China to the Adriatic Sea — support Gülen. These Turks have little interest in the Arabs; they see the Flotilla crisis as actually hurting the interests of the Turks.

There are many forces in play in Turkey that could undermine the Arabist government as of late.

The Reaction of the Turkish Military

Early last week, there was an attack on a Turkish naval installation in the port of Iskenderun on Turkey’s southern coast. Erdoğan blamed this attack on the PKK (a Kurdish terrorist organization), and insinuated that Israel was behind this attack. The military launched an investigation of the attack, and issued a statement on Friday, June 20, that there had been no foreign involvement whatever in that incident.
What happened here, and what does this tell us about the flotilla crisis and internal Turkish politics?
Until this announcement, the Turkish military had been notably silent about the flotilla incident. The reason for the silence was that they knew the government was looking for a scapegoat to blame for the negative fallout from the flotilla crisis — and that the military would be the obvious group to blame.
The public, however, interpreted the military’s silence as disapproval of the government’s having created the crisis.
By issuing the statement that there had been no foreign involvement, the military showed it felt confident that the Turkish public was holding Erdoğan, Davutoğlu, and their cronies responsible for the flotilla blunder: The military was indirectly accusing the government of lying to the people about the facts.
The military reaction is just one more indication that the Turkish public feels that its governmental leaders are heading Turkey down a dangerous path. Further, given Turkish culture, it is also highly unlikely that the military would have issued such a statement if it thought that the government had the support of the people.