Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ankara catches up with the day, it is time for tomorrow

Turkey’s initial falling out with the West, and NATO on policy toward Libyan awakening, recently was replaced by a more coherent tune.
The Turkish road-map, which was put forward by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan at the beginning of May for Libya, on Thursday morning, was openly embraced by Dr. Mahmoud Gibril Elwarfally, interim prime minister of the Libyan Transitional National Council, or TNC, in Washington, DC.
Jibril, during his talk at Brookings, a think tank, said the Turkish road map could be taken as an “overall framework” for peace negotiations. Jibril, answering my questions following his talk at the Brookings, also added that for any plan, the United Nations will have to be the main actor, and facilitator, and any negotiations that will take place have to be based on U.N. Security Council 1973 resolution.
Turkey’s change of heart about Gadhafi to tell him to "leave," in addition to closing the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli apparently reflected positively on the TNC. About a month ago when I asked Ali Aujali, TNC’s Washington envoy, about Turkey's policy toward Libya, he had a lot of harsh and undiplomatic words for Erdoğan. This time though, the top official of the TNC, Jibril, avoided even criticizing Turkey’s unwillingness to freeze the Gadhafi regime’s assets, and said only, “we ask all countries to obey 1973’s articles. Turkey is no exception.”
Jibril’s public support for the Turkish peace plan was equally significant signal to Turkey and the international community that the TNC recognizes Turkey’s special role in the region and its deep involvement with their country economically, which the new government following the Gadhafi regime will have to deal with head on.
American educated Jibril’s talk in Washington aimed primarily to paint a broader picture for those who want to know more about TNC, and what kind of a future they have in mind for Libya once the Gadhafi regime falls. Jibril seized the moment, and diagnosed what is occurring in Middle East and Libya today as a natural result of globalization.
What youth wants in different countries in Middle East, including Libya, is the same as what other youths around the world want, said Jibril, which is to reach basic human dignity comprised full individual rights and freedom. There needs to be a new approach in the international relations, Gibril said, in which power of the communication is recognized as new rule of the game and policy adaptations ought to be made accordingly.
After giving this broader picture, Jibril asked the U.S. administration to release Libya’s frozen assets, "We are facing a very acute financial problem because of the frozen assets," Jibril said. "So I would like to call on the United States administration to help us."
While Turkey is now about on the same page with NATO on Libya, on Syria though, since no country has been able to decide what position to take, Ankara doesn’t feel any heat about another falling out with the West yet. Washington, for weeks, keeps stating that “the window" for Assad to take on radical reforms to meet with Syrians' demands "is narrowing,” but not closed.
Timing of Erdoğan’s recent interview with Charlie Rose is also interesting and displays Ankara's courage to meet with the international media, since Ankara has been able to close the ranks with the West on the Arab Spring.
Ankara should also take this temporarily catching up phase to make some value-free assessments for ongoing Arab Awakening.
More than a month ago, when I had a chance to interview Ms. Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim communities around the world, at the U.S. State Department, she talked about her engagement activities with the youth in Muslim countries in detail. She explained her office's engagement policy with them to listen and understand the booming Arab youth. That is why, Pandith concluded then, Secretary Clinton was able to make a speech last fall in Doha and warned Middle Eastern governments to heed their young generations’ demands, before all started.
Ankara’s earlier anti-colonial and occidental rhetoric over Libya, slightly revealed that some part of the decision making staff in Ankara might be still under the influence of events that occurred about 100 years ago, during World War I, when the British, through mainly Herbert Kitchener, Minister of War and former commander of Britain’s imperial armies, promised and through his officers in Cairo, provoked Arabs to rebel against the dying Ottoman Empire, to only seize much of Ottomans’ Arab-speaking territory afterwards. It is over 100 years and Arab youth know as much as their western peers what they want now.
Ankara made some mistakes with the ongoing Arab Awakening, but so far, by no means, it lost it yet.
Ankara’s latest policy change on Libya, show signs that Ankara can catch up with today even it has to make some U-turns.
Now it is time for Ankara to catch up with the future. It is to become a leading voice and pressure point for real change in Syria, not merely a follower.

Entering the second phase of the Arab Spring

Almost a decade later, Osama bin Laden, a man who wreaked havoc between civilizations is gone for good.
President Obama paid visit to New York City’s Ground Zero on Thursday, and met with relatives of the 9/11 victims. It was sober, a combination of commemoration and a low-key celebration event, which will hopefully come to be known as end of the 9/11 era.
 “The Arab Spring continue to create a lot of dilemmas for both the United States and Turkey,” said David F. Gordon, former director of policy planning under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, between 2007-2009, and currently Eurasia Group's head of research and director of global macro analysis, during our long phone interview in which we talked about the Arab Spring and bin Laden 's death extensively. Director of policy planning is known as the head of State Department’s internal think tank, and has a huge influence steering the overall policy of the U.S. administration in a strategic fashion.
  The Arab Spring has entered into the second phase
“During the first phase,” Mr. Gordon argued ‘‘the outlook was quiet optimistic following the fall of two backward looking dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. Countries like Morocco, Jordan and Qatar showed strong commitment for significant reforms, political mobilization even social mobilization appeared to be blooming. Now we are in a period to see if these countries can reap the fruits of these changes and what kind of regimes will emerge... it is still very uncertain.
“In this second phase, the challenges to the regimes in various states became much more conflicted. Out of three, Yemen, Libya and Syria, it appears only Yemen’s transition can effectively happen, though still uncertain. Libya is in stalemate, rebels in Syria seem not to have the ability to bring down the Assad regime. In Gulf countries, in Bahrain, Gulf Cooperation Council doesn’t allow Al Khalifa regime to fall, applying means to minimize the effect of revolts. Though Syria is the most uncertain place, it is the place where the outcome potentially would be the greatest. You might also neighbors drawn into the Syrian conflict, for instance Iran vs. Saudi Arabia.’’
I asked Gordon to assess U.S. policy so far towards the Arab Awakening. “The U.S. utilized a political and military pressure quiet well in Egypt and Tunisia for the peaceful transition. The U.S. dilemma is, on the one side it has to take in favor of democracy, but also has to remain ally with other non-democratic regimes in theGulf region especially. Now there seems to be tough challenges with the Syrian case as well. Syria now applies naked power to its own people. Though, I think Washington is precarious about what might come next if the Assad regime falls. We knew what it would be like post-Mubarak, given well respected individuals and institutions there, whom got together in post-Mubarak time, but Syria?’’
Gordon thinks it is extremely unlikely for the U.S. to get involved with any military intervention in Syria. “In Libya, the U.S. waited for the international consensus and there was even the Arab League urging for an action. In Syria, at most, there could be a humanitarian intervention and the U.S. can participate in such operations, there would be greater calls for financial sanctions, travel restrictions etc.’’
  What, if any, lessons learned from bin Laden’s death and Arab Spring
"If bin Laden had been killed in 2002, ‘03 or 04, there would have been substantial demonstrations across the world. In 2011, there is almost nothing. Bin Laden’s type of very extreme Islamism has been rejected. During the Arab Spring, perception (emphasized by Gordon) of Turkey is being discussed as a role model with its Islamic identity, thriving economy and open democracy. The lesson is here is that the extreme is loosing in internal struggles within the Arab Spring,” said Gordon.
“Another big picture problem between U.S. and the Islamic world relations since 9/11 is how to gather traction over the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Then two state frameworks was officially accepted during the last administration for the first time, but the Obama administration is facing the same challenge as the Bush administration did [finding the venue]. This conflict is a very central problem. The U.S. actually has much less leverage over Israel then the Islamic world would like to believe. There is big political constrain in Washington on the administration etc. Though this is something we need to keep working on."
Turkey’s Arab Awakening Policy
"Turkey is a rising power in the Middle East and it is really important for U.S. to cooperate with Turkey on many issues. Turkey just needs to learn how to deal with all these different policy matters at the same time. Arab Spring, just like the U.S., created many dilemmas for Turkey as well."
"Unfortunate reality is that it is increasingly the belief that Turkey’s potential accession to the European Union is not going to happen. Turkey is a crossroad country, economically dynamic, has strong trade ties with EU countries and U.S., and would have been much happier if the EU were to be more favorable towards Turkish accession. It is not our ability to make it happen."
  Arab Spring Quo Vadis?
 "I think that Arab Spring has net positive effects. I think in Egypt and Tunisia, where they are going is a more democratic and open political system over time. Morocco is also heading that direction. I think the Arab Spring has substantial impact on many states. Though there will not be any kind of unified transition across the region all at the same time. It will be much slower in the Gulf countries for instance," explained Gordon.
  Speaking with Michele Flournoy  
 I was invited to participate an off the record meeting that Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy conducted on Thursday morning with about two dozens of prominent national security experts. Flournoy was in Pakistan on Monday for periodic U.S.-Pakistan security consultations when she learned of bin Laden’s death and conveyed U.S.' tough messages to the Pakistani counterparts first hand.
From the conversation it appeared that U.S. doesn’t have any immediate, sharp policy change in Afghanistan or Pakistan following the killing. After closed meeting, Flournoy happened to share the first on-the-record comments from the Defense Department after bin Laden’s death with a few press participants after the event.
Flourney said they expect to see more “concrete” and “undeniable” cooperation from Pakistan and added that they do not have “definitive” evidence that Pakistanis knew Laden was indeed hiding there.
 While answering my insistent questions about releasing the photos of Laden, Flourney said “there is no one credible doubting bin Laden’s death.” When I disputed her account and argued that the problem is seriously being discussed in Muslim countries, including Turkey, Flournoy said, “in time [death] will become undeniably apparent. Al-Qaeda also will make changes in its leadership structure to reflect that truth. The same people, who doubt whether he is dead today, will probably look at any photo and doubt its authenticity.”
 There is indeed overwhelming evidence that bin Laden is dead. However, the U.S. administration has obligation to release photos for the public to know and see. Not that it would be any more convincing for conspiracy theorists, but still, let's face it, the U.S. also has its own credibility problems, following especially the on-going revelations of the Cablegate saga and many other events of the last decade.

1 Comment   


Guest - Abdullah Mutlu
2011-05-07 10:31:34
  Demolish is easier than establish. There are dictators in the Arab Countries. Some of them overthrowed. Will a democratic administration is able to establish? For this civil society should be strong, free (non-governmental), democratic. Yet we can not be hopeful well.

Can the Arab awakening be a positive black swan for Turkey?

The fire of the Arab awakening is now catching up with the Syrian youth. The streets of Arab countries, following a long period of oppression, are continuing to vent their anger until they attain freedom or the cold kiss of death.
All the while, schools of realism or idealism; conspiracy theorists or balance of power advocates are getting tired of being unable to diagnose exactly what is taking place in the greater Middle East.
It is indeed a transition process that the region is going through, and like any other monumental transition period, it is impossible for others to predict what the end product will be.
I think the “Black Swan” analogy could be a good way to describe the current upheavals. Black Swan, a metaphor that encompasses the concept of the rare occurrence of an event, nevertheless shapes the history by its immense magnitude. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who is the author of a book called “the Black Swan, the Impact of the Highly Improbable,” in 2007, such extreme outliers can also have positive and negative effects and one can take various precautions to increase its odds to effect positive impacts in the end.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, particularly in terms of its policy toward the Libyan uprising, appeared to be focusing on short-term gains and holding onto its valuable political and economic interests that were mostly created after long years of pro-active diplomacy. In other words, Turkey adapted a “head in the sand" approach as the most-recent status-quo power in the region, constantly remaining focused on its own lucrative investments due to its own powerful business lobby, and did not have a whole lot of reasons to be excited over a regime change.
Now it appears that Syria is also becoming the next significant case for Ankara. The Bashar al-Assad regime, day by day, proves to be incapable of reform; targeting its own people with bullets to kill, it is losing its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people and international community, rapidly.
Turkey, who has received a lot of criticism from the Arab pundits, regional experts and of course the Libyan opposition for its Libya policy, has a lot to prove in the Syrian case by putting every meaningful pressure on al-Assad.
The U.S. acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, concluded a visit this week to press Ankara to do more to isolate Iranian and Moammar Gadhafi; soon the discussions will restart, however, about the best way to isolate the al-Assad regime.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s proactive foreign policies were widely seen as a success in preceding years, i.e. in the old Arab world. Those policies were based mainly on Realpolitik while maximizing the usage of its soft power elements (economic and cultural) to increase Turkey's influence.
The problem now is that Turkey, having made significant progress to improve its ties with various leaders (most if not all dictators) in the Middle East in recent years, feels the heat again to make another immense transition to this time correspond with the Arab street. In reality, Erdoğan proved that he could do that skillfully during the Gaza War against Israel.
There is no question in anybody’s mind that Ankara has been courting a regional leadership role, and one of the tasks it zeroes to undertake advocacy of the Muslim world into the West. Alas, that advocacy job description has just changed fundamentally since the upheavals began. Now any leader candidate must demonstrate to the Arab youth, not Arab leaders, that it is in very much in the sync with their universal demands.
Turkey's main opposition party, Republican People Party, or CHP, has not been very instrumental when it comes to nudging the AKP to be more courageous supporting “seeming” underdogs in the Middle East. It is true that the general elections in Turkey will not be won over foreign policy arguments, but the CHP, which would like to present itself as a viable alternative, still has to reveal what future it imagines while we are before the mother of all revolutions in the region.
It is also time for Ankara to stop being delusional to think either Gadhafi or al-Assad can survive at the end of this transition. Instead, it is time for Ankara to create its own “positive black swan,” and align itself with those who want change, not cling to the status-quo.
When the future looks back on today to see which countries were there to support the big fight for freedom, the citizens of Turkey deserve to be recorded on the right side of the history.
Merve Kavakçı’s harsh remarks toward Erdoğan
Merve Kavakçı İslam, a Turkish politician who was elected as a Virtue Party deputy for Istanbul in 1999, was consequently prevented from taking her parliamentary oath because of her hijab, joined a discussion at the Seta-DC this week. Kavakçı offered her comments over Dilek Cindoğlu’s study, titled “headscarf ban and discrimination” in Turkey, which was sponsored by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, or TESEV.
According to the study, the ban is still very much alive and discriminating against headscarved women in the Turkish labor force, preventing them from getting hired or promoted often. The study also shows that those companies that work with various governmental and military bodies are particularly unwilling to hire women with headscarves.
Apart from the discussion, Kavakçı was also asked about her opinion over the AKP's candidate list. Kavakçı stated clearly that she was neither satisfied with the list nor the performance of the AKP as a whole in regard to advancing the cause of headscarved women.
Kavakçı also argued that the AKP was “getting something in return” while ignoring the demands of 69 percent of total women population who have headscarves.
What is it exactly that the AKP is getting in return, I pressed Kavakçı. She stated that “there is a new, novel, developing practicing Muslim bourgeoisie and some argue that it is [preferable] to let economically well-established practicing Muslim enterprises [succeed] at the expense of [of the headscarf issue].”
Kavakçı, even though was very clear and sharp while criticizing Erdoğan’s performance over the issue, made vague statements to imply that some well-established conservative and pious companies are being allowed to vie with the largest conglomerates in Turkey in return for forgetting the issues of headscarved women.
Why did Erdoğan really not put forward headscarved women on the candidate list? Is Kavakçı right?

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Guest - Me
2011-05-01 19:22:20
  It should be very clear by now what the AKP thinks about women. They are not equal. They should be home having three children. If they are not equal to men then they should have no vote in Parliament. There only hope would be to support their husbands who serve in Parliament. Women are fit for all the nominal tasks, but not fit to govern. I am not for headscarfed women in Parliament, but not because I feel that women are not of equal value in government. The headscard is just a piece of cloth, but the backward beliefs for which it represents makes a women wearing a headscarf unfit to vote. She will not be able to serve in the same way as a man. She will not be able to meet with a male colleague to discuss issues etc., and if she can break that tenet of Islam then she can easily remove her headscarf while in the walls of Parliament. Simple  

2011-05-01 08:29:22
  Dear All yesterday i was spoken with my friends regarding fredom in arab state as general and in syria lebia egypt &tunis in particular . we need biring the turkish exampel of the founder Mr Mustafa Kamal who biring the civalization to us as turkish nation . AKP done great rolle in many sector of life activty mainly economic this the important issue not just democracy , democracy need plan sterategy vision and good leaders to survive ,our turkish democracy system needs also improving to accept each others .simply democracy for all fredom for human . no need for black points in our democrartic . im really happy thats my country became in its origin location as leader on the ground not on dream only . Regards  

Guest - harman
2011-04-30 16:41:30
  The image on the street is quite different. The combination of a SUV and a headscarf driver is becoming more common.  

Guest - TimTurk
2011-04-30 02:01:01
  If my circle of friends are drug dealers, pimps, murderers etc - what does this say about me? So what does it say about Turkey when some of its closest friends are brutal tyrannical leaders? It is being reported in the news that Gaddafi (the same person who gave PM Erdogan a 'humanitarian award') is handing out Viagra in order to 'encourage' his troops to rape/terrorize the people. Party of me hopes, because the story is so outrageous that it is a complete farce, another part of me is sickened that it could be real. This brutal Libyan regime is who Turkey considers a friend? FM Davudoglu and PM Erdogan are pushing a 'zero problem' foreign policy in a region of the world that is in essence one huge problem. Imagine a person cleaning up by simply sweeping the dirt underneath the rug. Sure in the short term things look good, but eventually that dirt is going to have to be dealt with - and this is a lesson the AK Party is now being forced to learn. Zero Problem = Utter Fail

Shifting factors for April 24 in Washington

April 24 is the date Armenians around the world commemorate the “Armenian genocide,” this year coincides with the Eastern Sunday, a Resurrection day in Christian faith.
Contrary to previous years, not many people, including Armenian-Americans, expect President Obama to use the word “genocide” in his Commemoration Day Statement this year. Primarily, there seems to be simply no compelling reason for Obama to change his mind and language following last 2 years. The Obama administration cited not to disturb the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, which started 2 years ago on April 23, by jointly issuing a road map, as chief the reason for opposing any “genocide recognition” passage at the United States Congress and choosing to omit the same word from presidential statements.
Armenians in Los Angeles reflected their disappointment in Obama this week with some protests, when Obama launched his first major fundraiser in Southern California for the “Obama Victory Fund 2012.” During private conversations, some of Armenian-Americans diaspora leaders did not hide their anger with the Obama administration and some others publicly push Armenians to take on this matter with the Obama re-election campaign head-on in coming months during campaign stops.
It is certainly unclear whether calls for protests will make any dent on the Obama 2012 campaign, though a couple of other transformations also shifted the balance in Washington in favor of Turkish cause further and dimmed significantly much of the hopes of Armenian-Americans who want to see such Congressional passages or Presidential statements with accordance to their beliefs during Obama terms.
New Republican majority in the House of Representatives is one of these new shifts, a political alliance known with its traditional distance to the Armenian arguments over the issue. The Republicans still tend to view matters regarding Turkey from more of a national security perspective, regardless of their personal beliefs in the 1915 events. For instance, strong supporters of the Armenian cause in the last Congressional sessions, Nancy Pelosi, as the speaker of the House and Howard Berman as the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, have been replaced by Republican leaders John Boehner and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both known by their pro-Turkish stances in most issues.
 Latest revolts across the broader Middle East equally played an important role in terms of polishing Turkey’s strategic importance in Washington. Economically and politically stable Turkey transformed its image by pro-active foreign policies in recent years, and became an ever-sought actor since the upheavals began. Whether Turkey has been using this historic opportunity fully and diligently to advance its regional leadership status is certainly another topic that should continue to be discussed. Though, level of relationship between the leaderships in Washington and Ankara unquestionably received an extra boost during the latest Arab Spring episode.
That is why it would be one of the last and extremely imaginative expectations from the US president, who day in and out deals with multidimensional political and economic metamorphoses occurring around the world along with monumental economic challenges in home, to infuriate Turkish leadership at this time. The US administration has been treating Turkey with extremely cautious and nuanced polices in other current affairs as well, such as in the face of policy differences on Libya or Iran.
In addition to all of that, this year, while no genocide recognition bill has introduced to the House floor so far (can happen anytime), two pro-Turkey resolutions introduced, one by co-chairs of the Turkey caucus on April 12, and second resolution praising Turkey's parliamentary democracy ahead of April 23, by mainly lobbying efforts of the Turkish Embassy.
Some of the Armenian-American community leaders and members confirmed that there is indeed a discussion started within their community this year to shift the genocide strategy dramatically to spend their energy pursuing the legal grounds rather than the political ones, which don't seem to be promising in coming legislative years. According to one Armenian-American leader, the reason for changing the ground is because “the genocide battle is already won by Armenians. It was won when President Reagan issued a statement recognizing it in 1981, when two other House resolutions in 1975 and 1984 passed and scores of other countries also recognized it. Therefore, these discussions are only arriving late, instead of taken place much earlier.” The World Court, or IJC, European Court of Human Rights and US federal courts were some of the options cited to me in one conversation as legal venues.
While Turkish arguments gain momentum in Washington, the genocide battle across the globe continues to cause much time and energy of the Turkish diplomacy. Just to give the latest two examples, this week Switzerland decided to erect an “Armenian genocide monument” in Geneva’s city center and Iran decided to show “Armin Wegner, the Armenian Genocide Photographer” documentary by Armenian film director Tigran Khzmalyan, for the first time. Of course the Turkish diplomats have spent time and energy to find creative ways to stop both actions.
Turkey’s pro-active diplomacy certainly helped Turkish arguments in Washington along with other political changes cited above. Though, Turkey has to show its real pro-active policy in the Caucasus region by revitalizing the normalization process if it wants to make a dramatic break for the better for both countries. While there is no reason for us to believe Ankara will move on the normalization process before the general elections of June 12th, the frozen political environment between Turkey and Armenia might get complicated even further if Erdoğan’s order to tear down the symbolic monument to Turkish-Armenian friendship in Kars is being undertaken, which ironically also corresponds to around April 24.
As I stated in an interview with the from Azeri media recently, the failed normalization process is a failure more for Turkey than for Armenia. Turkey obviously does not need better relations with Armenia for an economic sense. Turkey and Armenia, via Georgia, traded a quarter of a billion dollars in 2010, a small amount when comparing Turkey’s trade with only Northern Iraq, which amounted to $10 billion.
Nonetheless, Turkey needs to step forward to normalize relations with Armenia more of a moral obligation. With close to 75 million strong people and ten times the size of Armenia in terms of its accumulated wealth or economy, as if a big brother who made a much bigger fortune than his little brother since they fought and parted ways during the last century, Turkey has moral obligations to take the lead of healing relations with Armenia. Armenia, for its account, also needs Turkey's help to move towards a freer and wealthier future where it will be less dependent on Russia.
Otherwise, Turkey, whether it is winning the Washington political and diplomatic war or not, will always be met with a lot of suspicion and constant criticism in especially Western capitals, and therefore is seen as the more responsible party by the international community for the problematic relations with Armenia. Without reaching an understanding with Armenia, Turkey will never present itself as a truly peaceful state that is able to come to terms with its own history.
And as Turkey’s Caucasus policy perspective, even though multi-billion dollar energy projects, like Nabucco, can be realized without Armenia, in much the same way as Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan was in the past, and relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia have let Turkey become an influential player in the region already, without normalizing relations with Armenia, it will be very difficult to call it a success in whatever Turkey is trying to do in the region.

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Guest - Paul
2011-04-24 09:14:03
  " With close to 75 million strong people and ten times the size of Armenia in terms of its accumulated wealth or economy, as if a big brother who made a much bigger fortune than his little brother since they fought and parted ways during the last century, Turkey has moral obligations to take the lead of healing relations with Armenia." You bet Turkey has moral obligations, the first of which is to stop this ridiculous charade and finally admit that the Genocide happened. From there, the "big brother" can make financial amends to the poor "little brother", from whom he gained his wealth.  

Guest - Jack Kalpakian
2011-04-24 03:22:41
  No recognition means no reconciliation; continued blockades mean no reconciliation; continued suppression of our foundations mean no reconciliation. Just as your country imposed non-negotiable pre-conditions, get ready for ours. The pressure will continue and will not stop, either legally or politically. Your diplomats will continue to fight quixotic battles against global Armenian communities and your allies will begin to realize that any interaction with you is now litigation-bringing.  

Guest - Gavur
2011-04-23 22:04:20
  ""With close to 75 million strong people and ten times the size of Armenia in terms of its accumulated wealth or economy, as if a big brother who made a much bigger fortune than his little brother since they fought and parted ways during the last century,"" Full props to Mr. Tanir. That is one I haven't heard before...fought and parted Just wow.  

Guest - H.KEMAL
2011-04-23 00:29:52
  If these misguided people put as much effort into their mother country Armenia, as they do with the alleged "genocide". We would see a modern country, instead of a third world backwater. Who is dependent on mother Russia to guarantee it's security . Quite pathetic when you think about it, but i am willing to bet my last dollar, that the Armenians will use the coinciding dates to milk it for all it's worth .

Which image of Turkey needs protection?

The U.S.-Islamic World Forum convened in Washington this week for the first time since its inception in 2004 to attract attention from the American public and make it more convenient for U.S. policymakers to attend and exchange views with the impressive number of participants joining from Muslim countries.
İbrahim Kalın, the top adviser to the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was also in town to attend the conference, though he also met with U.S. governmental officials, Congressional leaders and some Washington think tanks to talk about current foreign and domestic issues of Turkey.
It is a well-known fact that Turkey’s image in Washington has been damaged by the latest abusive actions in the media. Previously, it was the extreme tax fine on the Doğan Media Group that was highlighted as the principal proof while referring to the governmental pressure on the outspoken press. To be fair, the link between the tax authorities and the administration was far too obvious for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, officials to deny.
In recent months though, that was replaced with the growing numbers of arrests of journalists tied to the Ergenekon coup-plot trial, which has been going on for about four years now. And this time, AKP officials claim that they cannot do anything, since Turkey has a full, independent judiciary.
On the one hand, Turkey is conducting the seemingly “unfair” practice of holding hundreds of suspects in long periods of detentions without conviction at the same time that the prosecution is unable to prove those actions as absolutely necessary for the fairness of the trials; on the other, the Turkish press is under heavy pressure from the government in so many ways. And for some, raising these critical issues in Western capitals runs against Turkey’s interests and also damages its image and unity.
It is equally very difficult to see any merit in the arguments that suggest that no department in the U.S. government can and should assess and condemn abuses happening around the world, as the U.S. “has its own share of sins, as well.” Are we supposed to cheer for more bad behavior? If the Turkish administration really cares about abuses in Guantanamo or Abu Ghaib, then it should take a lead in creating an international commission to scrutinize U.S. standards. It is simple.
Nonetheless, it might be useful to focus on a bigger question here, rather than the superficial and discredited arguments of the last century.
Turkey’s distorted secularism for decades indeed clamped down on the demands of the religious and ethnic minorities; cries for international attention in those decades were well deserved, and I think they received a lot of heed, though maybe it was still not enough.
While we agree on the idea that Turkish secularism often treated various minorities very unjustly in the last century, it proved to be difficult to get any sort of hint from Kalın about what he thinks about secularism’s role in the Turkish model going forward.
Kalın, during a conversation with a half-dozen journalists, conceded that freedom of the press is a universal value and that his administration should not be resentful toward criticism from abroad, but it is an approach that greatly differs from Erdoğan, who, on the very same day, was exchanging serious barbs with U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone. Ricciardone, with his frankness and clarity on the issue, has proven that the misgivings about his nominations in the past were unfounded.
Nevertheless, Kalın strongly believes that all reputable human right reports around the globe “treat Turkey unfairly,” who also disagreed with the claims suggesting any deterioration about the standards of democracy and freedoms in Turkey. (Therefore, the argument goes; Turkey’s lead in the world in jailing 54 journalists, almost double the numbers of China and Iran, does not mean anything.)
Kalın recognized that the terms of arrests are growing too much in the high-profile coup allegation trials, much like Erdoğan’s position on the matter. He also stated that his administration’s clear wish was to see the trials ending as quickly as possible.
Right after it, however, Kalın evoked a comparison again that draws parallels between the Ergenekon case and the Gladio trials in Italy. According to Kalın, “the Gladio trials took 9-10 years; there were about six thousand arrests and thousands of pages of indictments.” The parallel sounded somewhat worrying, signaling that the current trials might go on for quite a long time.
We had a chance to talk over Turkey’s Libya policy as well with Kalın who said he doesn’t understand why the Libyan opposition is angry with Turkey, or why they are protesting, “since Turkey has not caused the current killings” or “problems.”
A day before, I asked Ambassador Ali Aujali, the representative of the Libyan Transitional Council in Washington, what he thinks about Turkey’s Libya policy. Aujali had plenty of angry arguments toward Turkey and then concluded his remarks by saying “Turkey is guilty until it proves otherwise;” earlier, he had said, “Erdoğan needs to stand by Libyan people just as he did with Egyptian people.”
The Libyan opposition is also angry with Ankara especially for Ankara’s striking inaction in terms of freezing the assets of members of the Moammar Gadhafi regime in accordance with the UNSC 1973 resolution. Kalın said it was just some “technical difficulties” that prevented Turkey from observing it. According to one Washington source who deals with the region closely, Turkey, by letting the Gadhafi regime operate freely, “gave a lifeline to the Gadhafi regime to satisfy its needs.”
According to a source who is close to the State Department, David Cohen, a new appointee who recently replaced Stuart Levy as undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, will be traveling to Ankara on April 20, primarily to hold talks on Iran sanctions, but also to freeze problem will be well on the agenda if Turkey does not move to fulfill its international obligation by then.
It must be noted that Kalın, who has a background as a religious scholar, appeared at ease during his panel performances at the conference, and he also seemed to be well versed on the administration’s policies in a wide variety of foreign affair issues. However, the arguments he used to rebuke criticism about Turkey’s worsening freedom record melted quickly when faced with the international reports.
It is also great to see the conservative and pro-Islamic portion of Turkey finally feeling comfortable enough to start taking on a mission to protect its image in world capitals. However, we all need to realize Turkey’s image can only be improved when we all push the Turkish state to elevate its freedom rankings instead of protecting it while it is sinking.

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Guest - Me
2011-04-16 17:19:42
  It is oh so common in Turkey for the AKP to stike back when criticized, instead of taking it constructively and moving on. This is especially aparent when Turkey is so in the wrong and has not a leg to stand on. In order for Turkey to move forward to a more democratic society, they must first face their own shortcomings and address the issues. I don't see that happening any time soon. It is so much easier for the PM to get a red face and "teach" France" that they have less religious freedom than Turkey. This is hilarious on the world stage.  

Guest - Roger
2011-04-16 01:51:07
  Excuse makers may appear at ease but calling black as white and up as down won't convince anybody of anything.