Turkey Joins France in Recognizing Syrian Rebel Coalition

Ahh, politics does make strange bedfellows.  Not so long ago Turkey fiercely disputed France for its assertion that, in fact, Ottoman troops in Turkey during WW I, committed deliberate extermination of the “alien” Armenians.  Diplomatic relations were barely breathing.

Now, France and Turkey are among the first countries to recognize the newly formed “National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.”  France is the first, and so far only, non Muslim country to do so.  The others are: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

In announcing its support Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, cited some of the raw facts of the on-going civil war in Syria

…more than 39,000 people had been killed, 2.5 million people had been displaced within Syria, and hundreds of thousands of refugees had fled to neighboring countries, including Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

In Turkey alone, he said, 120,000 Syrians are residing in camps, and nearly 70,000 others are living elsewhere in the country.

NY Times: Sednem Arsu

for more on Turkey by Sednem Arsu go here.


For absolutely chilling news about Assad’s chemical weapon stockpile, Nor Korean missile techs in Syria, Hezbollah training camps near chemical stores and anti-Assad contingency planning see  Sanger and Schmitt in the times.

Turkey’s Syrian Woes Double

As Assad’s Alawite regime in predominantly Sunni Syria continues its war against its citizens, neighboring Turkey is getting pushed and squeezed in every way conceivable.

  • Something like 100,000 refugees have fled across the border into Turkey, into 11 refugee camps,  creating almost insuperable problems of shelter, food, water and security.  Food riots against Turkish police have taken place.
  • The mostly Sunni refugees have been settled in a predominantly Alawite area of Turkey, leading to resentments and suspicions, added to the above.
  • Turkey after  initially saying it would handle the refugees without international help, now needs it badly.
  • The United States has twice turned down please by Turkey to begin setting up a no-fly zone over XXXX
  • Turkey’s ruling party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has publicly called for the replacement of Assad in Syria.  Assad, therefore , is thought to be arming Kurdish rebels in south east Turkey.  Attacks against the Turkish army have increased and fears are growing that Syrian missels could fall into PKK hands.
  • Public support for Erdogan in Turkey, re-elected in a landslide several years ago, is falling over his handling of  ‘the Syrian problem.’

Syrian Camp in Turkey

Karin Bruillard at Washington Post

And what would Mr Romney do if he gets his dream job?  With no one to criticize he’d have to do something — which is probably, as one analyst  points out, exactly that which he has criticized.

What would ‘President Romney’ do about Syria?

The same thing President Obama has been doing. Contrary to his condemnations of Obama’s foreign policy, handling of the Syria crisis, and stance toward Bashar al-Assad, Romney would effectively have the same policy on Syria as Obama

AND, Top Senators Can’t Explain Romney’s Syria Policy

e.g. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who admitted last week that he didn’t know what Romney’s Afghanistan policy was, couldn’t name any specifics of Romney’s Syria policy Tuesday and instead launched into a monologue about America’s role in the world.

Guns Again in Turkey

The Kurdistan Tribune reports, sources unknown, that the PKK attacked a Turkish security outpost in the south eastern corner of Turkey.

The PKK had vowed to attack more Turkish military posts in revenge for the recent new wave of  arrests and harassment of Kurdish activists across the north of Kurdistan.

Followed, naturally enough, by  a bombing raid on Kurdish areas by the Turkish military.

The NY Times reports that Turkish ground troops went in hot-pursuit over the border into Iraq:

NTV, a private television network, said 600 Turkish ground troops chasing the attackers pushed 2.5 miles into northern Iraq, where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant separatist group known as the P.K.K., is based. The group has long battled the Turkish government for autonomy in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Local media also reported Turkish air deployments and artillery fire in the mountainous border area.

The militant strike, which started in the early hours of Wednesday, mainly in Hakkari Province, lasted for about four hours. It came a day after a blast in Bitlis, another southeastern province, that killed five policemen and three civilians.

Hurriyet Daily, from Istanbul, reports on the attack and counterattacks, with statements coming from the main political parties.

Turkey Expells Syrian Diplomats

“Turkey expelled Syria’s charge d’affaires and other diplomats on Wednesday, joining an international campaign to isolate President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after a weekend massacre of more than a hundred people in a Syrian village.

“Ankara, one of the most outspoken critics of the Syrian regime, also signaled new, unspecified sanctions to be added to existing ones. “The sanctions we put into effect earlier may take on a different form. We are working on them. We will make them public once they are decided upon,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters in Ankara. Erdoğan said the decision to expel the Syrian diplomats was a response to the massacre of 110 people, including dozens of children, in Houla. “We could not remain silent in the face of this,” he said. “Remaining silent in the face of oppression, tolerating oppression, amounts to oppression itself.”

Today’s Zaman

Turkey’s Prime Minister: Abortions are Like Bombing Civilians

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey not only announced his opposition to abortions within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, which has been the law since 1983, he did it using incendiary language and added to it the utter confusion of opposition to cesarean births and the paranoia of ultra nationalism.

“I am a prime minister who opposes Caesarean births, and I know all this is being done on purpose. … “I know these are steps taken to prevent this country’s population from growing further. I see abortion as murder, and I call upon those circles and members of the media who oppose my comments: You live and breathe Uludere. I say every abortion is an Uludere.”

Uludere refers to an attack by the Turkish air force on Kurdish smugglers moving from Iraq into Turkey. Although it happened under his government, and Erdogan first defended the attacks, saying the US did not aid them with drone photos but his military had decided on their own, he has since claimed that apologies had been made to the victims. it would seem an enormous increase in admission of guilt to link the raids to his view of abortion as callous and unjustified murder.

[More on the raids and the confused government response.]

Women’s groups have mobilized and protested his remarks and promise to change the long-standing law. Some have been camping outside his office.

Protesters camped outside the Prime Minister's office in Istanbul

Turkey and Iraq — Cold War Coming

From DW

“Ankara’s refusal to extradite Sunni politician al-Hashemi to Iraq has heightened tensions between Turkey and Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government. The crisis adds to concerns over a Sunni-Shi’ite “Cold War.”

Turkey’s relations with its neighbor Iraq – already tense – were further strained last week when Ankara refused to extradite fugitive Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi.

Al-Hashemi, a Sunni, fled his country early last month after the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government accused him of supporting terrorists and running death squads. Now he faces prosecution in Baghdad at a trial that has been delayed several times, but is due to begin on May 15. ”  read all

News from Turkey

Still digesting a three week trip to Turkey I’ve been attentive to news from and about the people and the country.  The New York Times offers an opinion piece about moderate Islam from Mustafa Akyol, a writer I’ve run across in Turkey’s Hurriet Daily, and has impressive credentials beyond that.

His piece, Can Islamists be Liberals, starts with the evidence that democracy is taking hold even among those who have long condemned it, especially in Egypt.  He then takes up Fareed Zakaria’s warning in his book “The Future of Freedom,” about ‘illiberal democracies, ” and moves on to looking at Turkey’s recent seeming advances but rise in the fears of co-optation by the governing moderate Islamists.  Particularly good for those who have recently formed attachments to Turkey, and wish for its growth into tolerance and wide-spread personal freedom.


Sunday night, CBS’ Sixty Minutes had a revealing piece on a Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the Poconos, and has a wide following across the Muslim world.  His preaching seems across the board, conciliatory and non-inflammatory.  He himself has met with major leaders of other religious traditions.  However, the source of his wealth, the web of schools he sponsors — even as they succeed with the toughest students– has raised questions.

In all the reading I’d done before going to Turkey, I’d never run across his name, or any comments on this influence on Turkish politics.  He’s on my study list, now.


Marine Problems In Turkey

The celebrated Sea of Marmara, part of the Turkish Straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean is in an ocean of trouble, according to the latest report from the Turkish Marine Environment Protection Association.  Fed by the Black Sea, which itself is on life-support, the Sea of Marmara, as measured by the catastrophic plunge in  the  fish species  —   down from 127 in the 1970s to four or five today — is barely breathing.

Nearly 90 percent of the pollution in the seas is caused by domestic and industrial waste. Rivers such as the Danube, Dnieper and Dniester are the main polluters of the Black Sea, with the Danube in the lead, most experts agree. “Nearly 60 percent of the water of the Black Sea comes from the Danube, around 20 percent from rivers such as the Dnieper and Dniester, while around 15 percent originates from rivers in Turkey,” Professor Cem Gazioğlu from İstanbul University’s Institute of Marine Sciences and Management has told Sunday’s Zaman, drawing attention to the dominant share European rivers have in the pollution of both the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

Today’s Zaman

Western Economies Need Serious Reform: Turkey

It is a wonderful turn of the tables when the lecturer becomes the lecturee — in this case the United States and well developed Europe, who for decades have been demonstrating the uses of carrots and sticks to make other countries model themselves  into smaller images of presumed success.  Something funny happened in 2008 when the paragons of well-being and economic scientism blew up, wounding the well-off and leaving a ringing in the ears all over the world.

Turkey now, has some words of wisdom for the old masters of the universe: mind your own business, and if you need an example, we’ll show you ours.

Growing like gangbusters, Turkey says Western economies need ‘serious reforms’

Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Ali Babacan, a former foreign minister and Turkey’s point-man for economic policy … speaking at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University …  said neither the US nor the eurozone countries have yet to deal with the underlying causes of the global economic slowdown: a weak financial sector, weak corporate balance sheets, risky public financial positions.

Babacan contrasted the Western economic turmoil, with Turkey’s booming economy which he said grew at 9.2 percent growth rate in 2010, and 8.5 percent in 2011.

May Day in Istanbul

Just back from 3 weeks in Turkey (and 1 without internet connection) and my eyes sweep the news for what is going on there. Dang! This would have been interesting to participate in. Taksim Square, when we were there, was the end of a touristy street-car run up Istiklal St, and filled with week-end strollers.

Tens of thousands of union members and leftist political activists gathered Saturday for the first legally-sanctioned May Day celebration in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square in 30 years.

Participants included relatives of at least 34 people killed when clashes erupted in Taksim between leftists and police on May Day in 1977. May Day rallies have been banned in Taksim Square since army generals swept into power in a military coup in 1980.

And from Huriyett Daily News, in Turkey, this.