Monday, May 31, 2010

Is it ‘as ugly as it gets’ yet?

   Friday, May 28, 2010
  It took about 10 days for New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman to call the Turkish-Brazilian mobilized nuclear enrichment deal and its attachment of three leaders' happy picture “as ugly as it gets,” and a move to, “weaken the global coalition to pressure Iran to open its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors.” Still, one wonders if things can get any uglier.
As Lula da Silva, the Brazilian leader, met with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Brazil on Thursday, Silva was reported telling to the press on behalf of both countries that: "We did everything [the West] wanted and everything we could, now they have to say clearly whether they want to build peace or if they want to build conflict – Turkey and Brazil are for peace."
Turkey believes that it has even a particular and more valid argument for taking a side. Iran is Turkey's one of the most valuable trade partners, and this partnership has an ever-promising future to continue in that direction. As a significant wealth source, a mutually beneficial partnership with Iran is a significant driving force along with the Turkey's regional power aspirations.
The ideology, religion and solidarity among the Easterners, against the Westerners, can only play a limited role in today's world. The human race has passed the time of being satisfied by exclusive prizes that are promised for the next world. Now the hot commodity is to provide life standards in which to include some resemblances of those prizes in advance – now!
Nowadays, like any democracy, the public opinion matters dramatically in Turkey. It does the most visibly so when it comes to ask for a freer environment for businesses to thrive, therefore to reach more foreign markets at faster pace to export. Today's politicians, including Turkish materialistic/pro-market/pro-Islamic/conservative ones, as result of daily taken opinion polls, feel the need on their neck continuously.
Turkey, a country which vows to lead the Muslim world once more, sent long-planned aid ships to Gaza and challenged the Israeli blockade this week. An apparent move to flex some muscles for the sought leadership role.
Including me, most disagree with the Israeli blockade regime, and with the way the Turkish administration currently pursues to defy it.
The moral argument of the Eastern world, (what was the argument?) was rebuked by one of its own, Carnegie Endowment’s Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour, in Friedman's same article. Sadjapour is quoted as saying: "Lula and Erdoğan’s visit to Iran came just days after Iran executed five political prisoners who were tortured into confessions. They warmly embraced Ahmadinejad as their brother, but didn’t mention a word about human rights. There seems to be a mistaken assumption that the Palestinians are the only people that seek justice in the Middle East, and if you just invoke their cause you can coddle the likes of Ahmadinejad.”
This harsh rebuke, which puts the Turkish leadership's policy on the Palestine issue, as a category of mere populism, like of Ahmedinejad's.
What is more, Turkey argues that there is no credible, corroborating evidence to convince that Iran enriches uranium for a nuclear bomb.
While it looks like the prevention stage against Iran to have nuclear bomb making capability seems to have passed, the West certainly tries to deter Iran to reach it now, just before entering a containment period. It will be worthwhile to see, what will today's Turkish leadership say, once Iran tests its first nuclear weapon within the foreseeable future and tilt the power needle in favor of the Persians after centuries of struggle with Turks.
The U.S. administration was very careful with the language it chose when assessing the latest Turkey-Brazil meeting on Thursday late afternoon. When I asked, one White House Senior Official explained to me why today's U.S. administration does not accept the nuclear deal which is similar to the one eight months ago itself sought to achieve. The official said: "We should be clear that the original IAEA proposal, which was made 8 months ago and to which Iran agreed to and walked away from, was always meant to be a confidence-building measure … not a solution. The reason we are moving forward on sanctions is that Iran has repeatedly failed to live up to its international obligations to its overall program."
An extraordinarily long e-mail chose the “coldest” words possible when addressing the issue, with no praise or open criticism for Turkey. The official also responded to those statements that came from the leaders of Turkey and Brazil on the same day later in e-mail, and why the U.S. administration disagrees "seriously" with the their initiative:
- "Today is not October 2009. Eight months have passed and in that time Iran has deliberately moved its nuclear program closer to weapons capability by enriching to 20 percent.
- Two weeks ago, the Iranian Foreign Minister ruled out suspending 20 percent enrichment even in the context of an agreement on the reactor fuel issue.
- And, let’s remember that there were three commitments that Iran made in Geneva, including to meet with the P5+1 on its nuclear program by the end of October 2009. Iran continues to resist that discussion, saying the case is closed.
- Iran is the subject of five U.N. Security Council resolutions, and has not moved to meet its obligations."
For many, the U.S., under Obama's leadership, reset the buttons and took many steps that have been viewed as concessions to both Russia and China, in big part to secure their support for the boiling Iranian predicament. According to various channels in Washington, Turkey's spoiler role over the issue "annoyed" and made "furious" some administration officials.
Did the relations between Turkey and the U.S. reach the stage of “as ugly as it gets” or is there more ugliness to see. In spite of my own disappointment, I hedge for the latter.
Here are some potential screenplays that might be noted as setbacks for Turkey's regional leadership ambitions if they are to happen in coming days and weeks:
1. Netanyahu receives the warmest welcome from Obama's White House, which has invited Jewish Supreme Court justices and successful entrepreneurs, rabbinical scholars, Olympic athletes and others to show more love before the November elections.
2. Following or prior to number one happens, the U.S. administration backs up the Israeli side over the Turkish-Israeli flotilla crises. Netanyahu condemns the Turkish behavior over the flotilla crises, while Obama idly watches him or away.
3. The U.S. administration rejects the "nuclear enrichment deal," for the reasons cited above, along with other European allies and possibly with Russia and China.
4. Sanctions regime package sails through the United Nations Security Council and Turkey faces its hardest decision yet and loses in all options.
Turkey, for its spot on a map and a host of other specialties, will be always a valuable ally in the region for the U.S. and will become eventually a powerhouse. What matters the most, and makes a world of difference and losses: Turkey might miss yet another chance to stretch better for Western civilization for decisions that are being made today.
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Guest - VOLKAN
2010-05-31 01:06:04
 Turkey was very modern ,free muslim country. I think Turkey should stay away from Iran,Iraq,Suriye any excrimimst country. If they do Turkey will be in big very big trouble. I hope this President he relaize that ,if not he will bring Turkey big disaster. TURKEY MUST FALLOW ATATURK FOOT STEPS. 
Guest - Gloomy views are ahead
2010-05-30 09:28:34
 Iran-man: You write: "Western civilization" that you love so much has ALWAYS detested your country, your culture, your people's religion and above all ANYTHING TURKISH!" Gosh, you must have a very hard life at this time of globalization when different cultures and people meet and influence eachother. Sorry to disappoint you, but the wonderful days when people (very few) were driving Anadol cars and only ate Turkish food and enjoyed belly dancing, are gone. We are all part of the same world today, and it is enevitable that we see influences flying around the world. But if you dont like it, through out your American or Chinesee computer, buy only local stuff, watch old Turkish movies (but not on TV because it was not invented it Turkey), forget about cars (and aeroplanes but I guess you are not very interested going abroad neither) and stop living in your house based on foreign technology. Have fun man! 
Guest - Hallil
2010-05-30 09:19:19
 babadog. You wrote, in a clear tone of self pitty, "the EU.Its full of people who say they want us and do nothing" . I am sorry to inform you, but it is Turkey which is far behind the EU requirements in terms of economy, human rights, education, food security etc etc. And you are now sitting there like a spoiled kid complaining that EU is not helping? They have given us the chance, if we get things in order, to join. But what have you done, only complained and Turkey has virtually stopped all reforms to IMPROVE THE COUNTRY. What do you want EU to do? Come down here and build saferfactories, take over the police, while you can sit and watch them in the shade with a glas of raki? You (personally) are acting like a beggar who thinks he is a king. EU is not the one who should do the work, WE should work. That is the way to build this country, through hard work, not begging others for help. 
Guest - Victor
2010-05-30 03:44:04
 Babadog and Iran-man, you both have said a mouthful, and your views are exactly on the mark! Although been around the world, I am an American. Turks, Iranians, Arabs, well, in general all Muslims are considered to be the bottom-of-the-barrel material here!! There has been a lot of lip-service by the government officials when the occasion had called for it, but this has been the long-held view in USA. On the other hand, Israel cannot do wrong with Americans even when they butcher women and children! There always seems to be a viable reason for Israel to butcher Arabs, as they appear to want to extend their butchering toward Iran! Is Turkey next in their agenda for spreading the truth about Israel's mighty nuclear arsenal?!... And, EU; what a joke that is! What has Europe ever done for Turkey except to tear it apart, and split its territory among themselves? Turkey, you are Europe's ticket to ME and Asia; hold them to it, instead of appearing to beg them to accept you as one of them. 
Guest - Faruk Timuroglu
2010-05-30 00:19:44
 Thomas Friedman surely is not alone. Some of the same group of people of G. W. Bush era in U.S. trying hard to replay the same ugly scenario to force the Obama administration against Iran as they achieved to convince President Bush to invade Iraq. However, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair, and so on aren’t there. Furthermore, it is not as easy to fool Obama as Bush. Neither America nor the world can afford it again. Moreover, Obama cannot get into W’s shoos. U.S. can’t keep continue invading countries in the region to relax the pressure on Israel. The only way out, is a just solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel must have peace with its neighbors. 
Guest - sid
2010-05-29 23:14:50
 Mr Tanir fails to mention the fact that Israel is the only nation in the region with a nuclear capability. Has anyone heard the West criticize this fact ever? The power and influence of the Jewish lobby in the US administration prevents actually to ascertain the US of its real national interests in the middle east, which cannot be achieved in the long run against the feelings and aspirations of the majority of the population in that region. The heavy handed approach of the US towards Iran is counter-productive and only reinforces the position of Ahmedinejad and the likes. Turkey and Brazil have shown, diplomacy can and does work. 
Guest - babadog
2010-05-29 11:01:28
 The comments in this article are way wide of the mark.Choosing to be the USA's puppy dog in the region has served Turkiye poorly over the decades and prevented it seeing the realities.Turkiye has enormous resources material and human and have never needed the aid it was offered but was drugged into this relationship.Similarly just take a look at the situation inside the EU.Its full of people who say they want us and do nothing and people who hate us to be in the EU and do plenty to block our efforts.Its a running joke and we as a nation are being demeaned. We are sitting on the most important geo-strategic and the most important trade route in the world.We have shaped history in the entire region through the Ottoman Empire and we have a very strong bond with the entire 1.5 billion Islamic world.We are selling ourselves very very cheaply to the West whereas the entire Muslim World is yearning for us to lead them to modernity progress and greater prosperity.Lets go Turkiye lets go...... 
Guest - Iran-man
2010-05-29 08:44:16
 Dear İLHAN TANIR, In case you missed it, the "Western civilization" that you love so much has ALWAYS detested your country, your culture, your people's religion and above all ANYTHING TURKISH! How long do you think Turkey should "stretch" to be an Oriental doormat for the West? No position of power comes without having to make difficult decisions and occasionally facing the bullies. Turkey has never been treated the same as Israel as an ally, and it never will be. Some of you daydreaming Turks must start realizing this fact now because the writing has been on the wall for a long time and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change the fact that Turkey has never been an important "ally" of the US. A country to provide its soldiers as cannon fodder to protect the Western countries of NATO yes, but an ally, I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Will Turkey abstain from sanctions vote?

  Last Monday morning, first European capitals, then the American capital, woke up to a picture of the Turkish, Iranian and Brazilian leaders holding hands in the air. These smiling figures began to make waves throughout the world as the deal they brokered came as a big surprise to most.

Three different Turkish delegations were also in Washington, D.C., throughout the same week and boosted Turkey’s presence and visibility following the nuclear-enrichment deal. The delegations’ visit to Washington, the list of attendees and the organizing venue and programs kept changing over the last three weeks, but nobody expected the visit to coincide with – and then be overshadowed by – such a drastic turn of events on the Iranian track.
The initial news reports that appeared in the American mainstream media, in the very early hours of the first weekday, were quite positive. These reports were also apparently unsure in their tones as to what to make of this deal. Was it a breakthrough or another Persian “trick”?
The statements that came from Iranian officials later Monday helped shape the Western and also Eastern (Russian and Chinese) conventional wisdom quickly. Mr. Ali Ekber Salehi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, affirmed on the same day that Iran sees no relationship between the deal and its own enrichment work.
Five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus one, Germany, did not agree. Only a day after the deal, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the P5+1 had agreed on a draft resolution for a new U.N. sanctions package against Iran. The Chinese and Russians, the unwilling bloc, suddenly accepted the package after months of dragging their feet.
The deal that seemed to be a victory for many in Turkey was trashed as “clownish diplomacy” by some influential analysts in Washington. From the statements we have gathered from the circles of the U.S. government, and the leading editorials, which have been extremely ruthless toward the Turkish position, the Western policymakers viewed the nuclear deal as a Persian “trick” to ease the momentum that had been building at the U.N. Security Council.
But was the Turkish diplomatic work “clownish” or “victorious”?
The nature of the question tends to oversimplify what just happened. What happened was Turkey played its cards and reached the best deal that it could. Turkey convinced Iran to sit at a table, sign a black and white paper and demonstrate it could “do” it.
Turkey made a huge and loud statement last week that it does not want any more tension in the region.
Alas, the end production was just not good enough and the stakes for U.S. President Barack Obama were just too high for him to take the risk. Americans believe too much water has gone under the bridge since the last time the P5+1 tried to get a similar deal, some eight months ago. The U.S. spent months convincing China and Russia to back a sanctions package. The Obama administration also got scared that it could lose all that diplomatic work and collected momentum if it were to sit at a negotiation table, and then be snubbed by Iran at the end for some reason or another.
Another very convincing motive for the Obama administration to take a negative stand against building on a Turkish-mobilized diplomatic track with Iran is an extremely complicated matter that is linked to the upcoming November elections. Very briefly and simply, it is the Democratic Party’s expected big loses in the November elections, which got a preview during the Super Tuesday primaries night, when every candidate Obama campaigned for lost to anti-establishment and outsider candidates. With the Democratic Party nearing the loss of its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and at least a half a dozen Senators, it is trying to win every possible voting bloc.
One of the most significant when it comes to any elections is the Jewish bloc. Maybe that’s why Obama invites Jewish lawmakers and community leaders about every other week to the White House for various reasons and occasions.
Mr. Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, brought 15 rabbis from across America to the White House on May 13 and apologized and pleaded with them for another chance to “correct” the mistaken policy the U.S. administration had thus far pursued, according to the DebkaFile. Then Emanuel flew to Jerusalem and gave the same message, this time to Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, last weekend.
The Obama administration is both trying to secure Jewish support and make sure there will be no sudden military attack on Iran by the Israelis.
The sanctions package, as a part of duel track, will be applied to lessen the “motionless” posture criticisms of the Obama administration when it comes to dealing with Iran, and buy time for Obama, and prove that he can deliver, even it is a piece of paper.
And it does not help Turkey at all when it has the worst relationship with Israel, during a period in which it is also rolling up its sleeves to be a mediator on the Iranian nuclear issue. The “enrichment deal” was seen as a stalling tactic by the Jewish lobby in Washington and the right-wing administration in Jerusalem. When I talked to one of the leading actors of the Jewish lobby in Washington last week, the heavy language I heard on the latest Turkish role was jaw dropping.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration ahs avoided criticizing Turkey directly and selected its words very carefully.
So far, the difference in the U.S. and Turkish positions toward the latest deal has been managed diligently and Obama has let the process play itself out while heading to a voting day at the Security Council.
Turkey, as $10 billion trade partner and immediate neighbor of Iran, is likely to be one of the biggest losers economically following such sanctions.
By initiating and signing the nuclear-enrichment deal, Turkey tied itself by stating that it believes in Iran’s good intention and the fairness of the agreement. After such physical statement in Tehran, it would safe to say it is now almost impossible for Turkey to swing back just a couple of weeks in time to support new U.N. sanctions and risk derailing all the work it has done for almost a decade.
Every indication said this week in Washington that Turkey will abstain from voting in the potential Security Council row. Every official who was willing to talk about such a scenario also affirmed that Turkey will, most likely, not vote “for” the sanctions, as a way to manage the situation without creating too much damage to relations with West or East.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Gülen movement plays big in Washington

Friday, May 14, 2010
  It was one of the lavish lounges of the Willard Hotel in Washington where hundreds of Turkic people from all across America with plain name tags gathered to mark the creation of a new umbrella Turkic Assembly last Wednesday. Six Turkish-American federations, which have close proximity to Mr. Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric and the exiled leader of the Turkey-based religious Gülen Movement joined to form the Assembly of Turkic American Federations, or ATAF, a non-profit organization.
Half a dozen U.S. Senators and a few dozens of U.S. Representatives made a strong showing at the reception and the Gülen Movement hinted that its new assembly has some muscles to flex in Washington already.
One would think bringing that many U.S. Senators and Representatives should require loads of money for campaign donations. "No," said, Mahmut Yeter, president of one of the six federations that formed the ATAF, "this strong turnout owes its success to their members who worked voluntarily, often visited these lawmakers in their local offices and finally convinced them with their persistence that they have to be at the reception."
I had a chance to talk with some of the congressmen and senators who participated at the reception. I asked Ms. Gabrielle Giffords, representative from Arizona’s 8th. District, why she chose to come to a Turkic community gathering, considering that there is a very tiny Turkic community in her district. Gifford turned and pointed out a young Turkish man who was standing next to her. According to the congresswoman, that young Turkish man had visited Gifford's district office several times recently and finally persuaded her to show up for the reception "even though I do not like to go such events," Gifford said, before responding my question and telling me that she never heard of Fethullah Gülen.
The Gülen Movement accelerated its activities in U.S., especially since the leader of the Movement, Fethullah Gülen settled in Pennsylvania about a decade ago. During the mid ’90s, after almost three decades in the making, it was still operating very much under the radar in Turkey.
The unexpected and sudden decision to combine all of their 180 organizations under one umbrella assembly was a surprising move, at any rate, for those who follow the Gülen movement closely and are aware about its cautious strategies and steps.
Mr. Gülen first decided to go public with a wide ranging interview in early 1995, and in the following years the movement attracted ever-increasing attention. The postmodern-military coup of Feb. 28, 1997 pushed Gülen out of Turkey to find refuge in the U.S. Only more than a decade later, the Gülen Movement gathered enough manpower, recognition and credit to bring dozens of members of Congress to its half-official Washington debut night. The Turkish ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Namık Tan, came to the reception and stayed there almost the entire night, having conversations with the members of the U.S. Congress - alhough not everyone was as joyful about the new kid in town. The Assembly of Turkish-American Associations, or ATAA's, president, Günay Evinç, was pretty upset about the name of this new assembly because of its similar word selection with their own assembly. Evinç argued that this name similarity has created a big administrative disaster for their organization to explain the difference.
Evinç, who has had good relationships with the Gülen Movement's organizations so far, did not seem as thrilled with the idea of this alternative Turkish assembly. "ATAA," Evinç said while describing the difference, "promotes an inter-Turks dialogue, not interfaith." Evinç pleaded that he wanted "a dialogue and to stay on good terms with everyone, including this new organization.” However, this name confusion is such a huge issue, he said, adding that they would even consider finishing “the whole partnerships and dialogue with them.”
Another Gülen Movement member in Washington said when told about this complaint, "for 30 years, ATAA has been the leading voice to represent Turkish people in the U.S. Now rapidly increasing numbers of Gülen-tied assemblies are taking the market, and ATAA's and others' maneuvering room is shrinking."
Decision from Gülen
This decision of "combining all Gülen-related Turkic or Turkish associations and federations under one assembly,” was decided by Fethullah Gülen, another active member of the movement who came to the reception from a long distance said. "This decision was too big to let other leading members of the Gülen Movement to take on. Gülen took the initiative," said the well-connected member while listening to speakers at the reception.
It is the "Turkic American Federations," not Turkish, because this umbrella organization represents not only those Turks who are from Turkey, but those "citizens from Central Asia, Anatolia and the Balkans... as part of [America's] cultural mosaic" the website of the ATAF notes.
The Gülen Movement also sent an important signal to the political leadership in Ankara by fetching this many U.S. Congress members. The movement made a psychological statement in Washington that they should be also taken into consideration in terms of multi-leveled relations between Turkey and America by demonstrating that they have a few strings to play in Washington.
Mr. Gülen motivates his followers in the U.S. to contribute and visit their local representatives. Gülen, according to another active member of the movement at the reception, asks those who want to visit his compound in Pennsylvania "to donate to their local representatives first,” before they show up at his door.
"This is just a beginning," another participant told me during the night, while pointing out a group of senators and representatives along with the Turkish ambassador having a conversation.
The Gülen Movement last week made it official that its members are here in America to stay and expand at an even faster pace in coming years.
This looming scenario would have two possible upshots for Turkish-American relationships. One is: increasing the presence of the movement in Washington will help Turkey during some of the threatening developments for its interests, such as the Armenian genocide resolution discussions. The Gülen Movement proved with this year's “genocide” fights in Washington and other states that the movement will be another influential venue to advance Turkey's interests in Washington on many matters.
The second upshot is the strong possibility for the Gülen Movement to become a leading voice among the Turkish groups in Washington to reach the U.S. Congress and other Washington decision makers to narrate the contemporary domestic issues of Turkey and relate them to U.S. politicians. In that sense, members of the U.S. Congress, most of whom do not have much international affairs on their resume, might be just happy while swallowing concentrated education pills on Turkey through Gülen Movement recipe.
The Gülenists deserved a big round of applause with being able to pull off such an impressive gathering at the heart of Washington this week at the end of the day.
The Gülen Movement members are disciplined, loyal and they complete their assignments as they are told. The movement is able to mobilize its members to fulfill its leader's vision even in America.
It is a tough competitor for any other movement.
That is why we hear more often greetings to Pennsylvania these days from unexpected places.
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Guest - Amerikadan
2010-05-18 01:25:22
 With all due respect, Mr Tanir either misunderstood what was told him regarding the role of Mr Gulen in the organization of this event or some of the people who spoke with him during this event did not know much. My reasoning is simple. Mr Gulen is a person who does not order people to do things and I am sure that he would not ask anyone to do anything special to come and visit him in his place. So, the claim that he did order those who are inspired by him to start a Turkic-American organization in Washington sounds very much against his way. As for ordering people to donate to their local representatives, I do not think he even would talk about such subjects with people. While I find the article mostly positive, I think that a person who has the stature of Mr Tanir could have written more about its importance instead of some dilemmas. This was the most successful lobbying example in recent Turkish-American history and Mr Tanir as he hints this in his piece. 
Guest - janissary
2010-05-18 00:53:30
 exactly. the gulen folks started everything from scratch about 10 years ago. they didn't try to muscle out other groups from the existing structures; they built up their own structures. and they did a pretty good job at that. they are organized, disciplined, devoted, and they put their money where their mouth is. eniste, if you and your bunch are unhappy about this, roll up your sleeves and do a better job. oh wait, that's what you'd have us believe you've been doing for 40 years. well, the results are out there for everybody to see. sour grapes, mate, sour grapes... 
Guest - Pure Citizen
2010-05-17 05:56:36
 Any kind of orgnization capacity and power of synergy must be appreciated, much more in the name of Turkish Nation... This assembly, be sure that, will push a great power to support Turkey sometimes as a lobby sometimes as an NGO... And also this unity, a very big umbrella, collects all Turkish nations from Adriatic to Balkans, not only blood-inherited but also culture-inherited... Therefore, it is a great news that will make forget the miss of FB championship! By the way I congratulate Bursaspor!!! (as a disappointed FB fan) :((( 
2010-05-17 04:32:07
Guest - Frustrated "Eniste"
2010-05-15 23:00:06
 Having lived in the US with my Turkish wife, during the time of ASALA; I find myself very confused by your report. In those days, my friends the Turks were totally patriotic to their homeland, at the risk of their lives. They were mostly well educated, financially secure people; which probably differentiated them from the obvious, Tarikat type Gulen disciples you describe. I find it a sign of the total govt. disaster of AKP, that "our" Ambassador pays lip service to the prosperity of a fugitive, who desires the total destruction of the republic's democracy! I think the comment by the Rep. from Arizona, that she didn't even know who Imam Gulen was, shows the pathological lies, which underpin the movement! I also pity my countrymen for their stupidity; and condemn them for interference in the affairs, of another nation. Turkey is more subtle; but little better than Iran and Chile!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kurdish side of the story told in Washington

Friday, May 7, 2010
  While the United States as a whole has been dealing with environmental catastrophe, as thousands of gallons of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico every day, New York endured another attempted terror attack last week.
The suspect in this latest bombing attempt is another Muslim, who seems to be an ordinary middle-class man with no prior criminal history. The young Pakistani terrorist has, without a doubt, made life much harder for hundred of thousands of other immigrants who have a very distinct accent or the appearance of being Muslim or Pakistani/Afghani/Bangladeshi.
Immigrants in America have been already feeling the heat following legislation passed in the state of Arizona a couple of weeks ago. The new legislation gives security forces the necessary authority to ask for the identification of anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally. According to experts, this latest legislation opens the doors to racial profiling.
The leaders of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, arrived in Washington, D.C., for the opening of its Washington bureau, giving talks and holding meetings with U.S. State Department officials. The delegation included Mr. Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-president of the BDP; Mr. Ahmet Türk, a former deputy and past chairman of the now-closed Democratic Society Party or DTP; and Ms. Emine Ayna, the vice president of the BDP and a current member of the Turkish Parliament.
The delegation’s visit came in the midst of the debate on constitutional reforms in Turkey. The timing of the visit, in that perspective, sent a clear message both to Turkey and Washington that the BDP does not have much hope about these new constitutional reform discussions in Ankara.
The members of the delegation had a chance to explain their biggest complaints about Turkish state policies, what their demands are and how the situation is from their standpoint, directly to the American audience as well as others.
Mr. Türk said at the Carnegie Endowment, where he and Mr. Demirtaş participated in a panel, that they have three basic demands from the Turkish government: 1) A constitution in Turkey that recognizes all sorts of differences among people; 2) Recognition of cultural rights for all; and 3) More participation in local administrations, especially cities in which 80 or 90 percent of the population has an ethnic Kurdish background.
As Mehmet Ali Birand wrote in his last article, Turkey, whether one likes the administration or not, has made a good amount of progress lately on all of the three demands listed above. The Kurdish identity is being recognized more than ever, a state-run channel is broadcasting in Kurdish and local municipalities go mostly to the BDP’s candidates in general local elections. These changes are not perfect, nor complete, however they are steps in the right direction and need to be applauded in that sense.
At the reception for the opening of the BDP’s representative bureau in Washington, the members of the delegation criticized the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leadership loudly and I heard comparisons between the AKP leadership and the military rule in the 1980s.
I asked Mr. Demirtaş why his party did not at least participate in the parliamentary vote on Article 8, which aimed to make the closure of political parties more difficult. Both Türk and Demirtaş said the AKP had sought neither their consultation nor their support. On the contrary, Türk said, the AKP announced that it was not cooperating with the BDP on these changes and clearly avoided being associated with the party. Demirtaş said his party previously gave five symbolic votes to show its willingness to cooperate, but never received anything in return. I pressed him further, reminding him about Cengiz Candar’s and Hasan Cemal’s harsh columns slamming their absence for those votes. Mr. Demirtaş seemed puzzled, claiming that the writers should have known the reasons for their absence.
Mr. Demirtas had openly claimed a day before at the Carnegie Endowment that there is no organic or inorganic link between the BDP and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. But when asked why they cannot be a party that embraces all of Turkey, or, simply put, why the BDP cannot draw a line between it and the PKK, he said that even though the BDP doesn’t have any direct or indirect links with PKK, most of the constituency it is addressing, the about 2.5 million voters in Turkey’s east and Southeast, hold different views on the PKK than the BDP does. Therefore, he concluded, it is not realistic to expect the BDP to make a move to cut all ties and forget its voter base to seem nice to all of Turkey.
The BDP clearly is afraid such a move would cause the party to lose an important voter base without bringing in a new one.
From what I heard from Ms. Ayna at the reception, it was clear that the PKK question had been one of the important issues discussed at the delegation’s meeting the State Department officials on the same day last week. It is also my observation that Ayna and others had some difficulty addressing the PKK question satisfactorily to the American officials.
U.S. officials have been more sensitive while discussing terrorism-related issues since they themselves have been dealing with terrorism attacks in many parts of the world. In November 2007, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had an understanding with then-President George W. Bush on working against the PKK, Bush described the PKK as “an enemy of Turkey, a free Iraq and the United States,” and the U.S. and Turkey started a robust intelligence-sharing effort against this common enemy. Washington also has become closer to the AKP administration on the issues related to the Kurdish conundrum in Turkey since the AKP took some steps to start its much-discussed Kurdish opening.
That is one of the biggest reasons why the BDP had to open an office in Washington. The BDP senses that it is about time to take the Kurdish initiative back from the AKP. The BDP wants to remind the U.S. administration in Washington that it, not the AKP, is the real intermediary for addressing Turkey’s Kurdish population.
Overall, as Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at the Carnegie Endowment and the moderator of the panel where the members of the delegation spoke, said after the meetings, “messages given by the delegation were very moderate, in a very civilized manner and in a good environment” with reasonable questions and answers. If nothing else, this was a good week for better dialogue between the Turkish and Kurdish people.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Obama vision makes Turkey essential

   Friday, April 30, 2010
  U.S. President Barack Obama gathered yet another unprecedented summit in Washington, D.C., this past week, following the International Nuclear Security Summit held a couple of weeks ago. More than 300 delegates from 56 Muslim countries participated in the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.
Turkey sent several exciting delegates, most of whom I was able to have long conversations with on the sidelines of the summit.
Obama convened this summit, in which the participants were mostly small-business owners, innovators and businessmen, to further forge ties with Muslim countries. He made sure his intentions would be well understood by sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his treasury and education secretaries and many other high-level officials to the summit to give talks and mingle with the guests. Some other White House officials also made themselves ready for open-ended interviews to talk about the importance of the summit, which is a rare occurrence at any rate.
The biggest surprise of the summit for us was that Turkey was selected to organize the second summit in 2011.
Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in an e-mail message that as “President [Obama] outlined in his Cairo speech nearly a year ago, the United States is keen to deepen our engagement with Muslim communities around the world and also develop new partnerships based on mutual respect and mutual interests... entrepreneurship can unlock tremendous potential, promote education, foster innovation and create jobs. We deeply appreciate Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s leadership on this issue; it is yet another tangible example of the depth and breadth of the U.S.-Turkey strategic partnership.”
Another White House official told me last week during the summit that it was confirmed only one day before the event started that Turkey would host the second one. It is noteworthy that this confirmation came right after April 24, when Obama released his statement on the Armenian day of remembrance.
Though Muslim countries sent delegations to Washington, the gap between the two has not shrunk. There are a number of obstacles that keep stirring up anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries. For example, the never-ending attacks by Afghanistan-based U.S. forces, which have repeatedly caused the killing of innocent people, are one of the biggest factors injecting more strain. Raising tension with Iran also sends mixed signals to the Muslim world as the situation appears to be that the U.S. wants to take on another Muslim country, after Iraq and Afghanistan, whatever the reason. And finally, in addition to many other issues, the lack of progress on the Palestine-Israel peace process continues to weaken Obama’s standing in the Muslim world.
There are Middle East experts in Washington who have already announced the death of the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, a big source of anti-American sentiments in the region. One of those experts is Dr. Reza Aslan, the author of “Beyond Fundamentalism,” who visited the region very recently and gave a talk at the Rumi Forum last week. According to Aslan, the two-state solution is already dead and buried because neither party is ready and willing to reach that solution. The Palestinian leadership, Aslan argued, lost the trust of Palestinian people with its ineptitude and corruption.
The ideological settlers group has a bigger sway in the current Israeli government; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself considers Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state and does not shrink from building in any part of the city, which fuels Palestinians’ anger.
Therefore, even though inviting representatives from more than 50 Muslim countries to Washington seemed like a wonderful idea to show Obama is committed and has taken another step toward the Muslim world, it falls flat in comparison to the colossal issues just discussed.
Dozens of analyses and opinion pieces on the Iranian conundrum appear every day; for the approximately half-dozen experts I talked to this week, the confusion and speculation over the issue is visible.
Svante Cornell, the research director at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program, said Turkey has had a two-fold foreign-affairs policy outlook for some years now. While trying to warm its relationships with countries that are condemned by the West one way or another, such as Iran, Syria and Sudan, Turkey also strives to maintain good relations with the West.
Cornell calls this policy a “balancing game” and claims Turkey wants to walk this thin line without damaging its relations with either side.
The worst scenario for the Turkish balancing game, Cornell predicted, would be a military confrontation in the region. The second-worst scenario would be a clash over sanctions at the United Nations Security Council, which is expected this spring.
In recent weeks and days, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has also been intensely pushing for strong sanctions against Iran. Sarkozy made his first visit to China this past week since the relations between France and China went sour following a previous episode over Tibet. However, the president of China did not comment publicly on the sanctions issue after the meetings.
Cornell says it appears as if the Obama administration just wants to pass “a package” but does not care much what will be in it. That’s why the Obama administration is watering down the package and getting ready to live with a nuclear Iran.
Turkey has made clear its views on the sanctions package. In a speech a couple of weeks ago in Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reminded first about the past sanctions experience with Iraq, and how Turkey lost economically during this time. Davutoğlu seemed unwavering about another sanctions package this time. Turkey plainly lauds its disbelief on the utility of the sanctions by repeating a “sanctions don’t work” slogan.
Today’s Turkish administration, which has been promoting proactive and friendly policies in its region close to a decade now, views applying sanctions on Iran as being against its economic interests and friendlier Middle East policies.
On the other side, the Obama administration will likely not seek retribution against Turkey for such opposition at the U.N. Security Council, according to another Washington-based Iranian-American security analyst.
For President Obama, who has many hurdles to tackle before mending ties with the Muslim and Arab world, Turkey occupies a significant post; it is a country that cannot be overlooked or risk being lost, even if it ends up opposing sanctions.
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Guest - B. Baronian
2010-05-02 18:51:01
 it is actually wrong to call for and hold a Muslim country entrepreneur summit...Muslims throughout the world are not a handicapped species requiring special handling and care...they are just like everybody else and can and do handle themselves most cases...except where they are being mentally held hostage by their greedy power hungry leaders 
Guest - halil
2010-05-01 04:48:56
 this is an interesting take.. is Turkey really essential or it seems like it from Turkish point of view, this is the question.. however, the piece has some merits, obama seems to be desperate to get Turkey's backing in many issues of Meast..