The agreement to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel was formally submitted Wednesday (Aug. 17) to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara for review and a final vote of approval, or not, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Tourism has taken a serious hit as a result of the coup and the ongoing purges, with numerous countries issuing advisories to its citizens against traveling to Istanbul, further damaging an already compromised economy. For this and other reasons, it is becoming more urgent than ever for Turkey to complete its agreement with Israel and improve its ties with Russia — which it is working on — as well as with others in the region.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a televised interview a week ago (Aug. 11) that the deal would be completed and signed before September, finalized by the Turkish Parliament “as soon as possible.”
Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News quoted Cavusoglu as saying during a joint news conference following a meeting with Palestinian Authority Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ankara that Turkey is ‘eager to contribute to the Palestinian issue and the Middle East process.’ Cavusoglu added that Turkey had always ‘advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and would continue to contribute to permanent peace in the region.
“Now we have started a normalization process with Israel,” he said, according to Hurriyet. “According to our latest agreement, the two countries will mutually appoint ambassadors. After this step we will continue to support the Palestinian issue and the Middle East peace process.”
Upon ratification of the agreement by the Turkish Parliament, the two nations will exchange ambassadors to fully restore diplomatic ties. Turkey reportedly plans to build a hospital in Gaza and ratchet up efforts to build an industrial zone project in Jenin.
The deal to restore ties between the two countries was signed on June 28 after numerous repeated attempts to heal the wounds of a breach after a 2010 illegal flotilla that included a Turkish ship attempted to break the marine blockade on Gaza. Israeli commandos boarded the ship to redirect the vessel to Ashdod port, and a clash with armed “activists” ensued, leaving 10 Turks dead and numerous IDF commandos wounded.
Israeli and Turkish delegates spent the better part of 2015 and 2016 working on an agreement to renew the ties between their two nations.
At the end, Israel agreed to pay Turkey $20 million (17.8 million euros) within 25 days, in compensation to the families of those who died in the 2010 clash.
The legal case in Turkish court, targeting the Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara flotilla vessel, will also be dropped, according to Anadolu news agency. In addition, individual Israeli nations will not be held criminally or financially liable for the incident.
A confidential German Interior Ministry report accusing the Turkish government of supporting terrorism across the Middle East was leaked to the German broadcaster ARD Tuesday. According to the document, the Erdogan regime supports Hamas, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and several Islamist rebel groups in Syria. The document was originally provided by the Bundestag to the leftwing party Die Linke.
ARD cited the document as saying that “the many expressions of solidarity and support actions by the ruling AKP and President Erdogan for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and groups of armed Islamist opposition in Syria emphasize their ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Founded in 1928 and inspired by the fascistic ideology of the time, the Muslim Brotherhood has been the largest, best-organized, and most disciplined Suni opposition force in Egypt and in other countries — to the point where, for a brief moment in 2011-12, it captured the Egyptian presidency. In 2006, Hamas, an offshoot of the MB, captured the Gaza Strip where it remains the sole sovereign.
The leaked German report says Ankara has deepened its ties with the MB, Hamas and the Syrian groups and is serving as their “platform for action” in the region.
“As a result of the step-by-step Islamization of its foreign and domestic policy since 2011, Turkey has become the central platform for action by Islamist groups in the Middle East,” ARD cited from the document.
MP Sevim Dagdalen of the Linke party told ARD “the German government cannot publicly designate the godfather of terrorism Erdogan as a partner, while internally warning about Turkey as a hub for terrorism.”
The German government has so far declined comment on the leaked document. But earlier Germany’s European affairs minister Michael Roth said Germany plans to continue raising its concerns about President Erdogan’s Detention of tens of thousands of people as part of his crackdown on suspected coup supporters.
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey might abandon its promise to retain on its soil the millions of migrants and refugees pushing to get to Europe if the EU not grant Turkish travelers visa-free entry. This despite the €3 billion Turkey has received in grants to care for this population.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.
“Whether the U.S. could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question,” the center maintained in its report.
According to co-author Lacie Heeley, “it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
“There are significant safeguards in place… But safeguards are just that, they don’t eliminate risk,” she told the AFP news agency. “In the event of a coup, we can’t say for certain that we would have been able to maintain control.”
In response, the Pentagon said in a statement, “We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. “The [Department of Defense] has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so.”
Thousands of members of the judiciary, police and military have been arrested in an ongoing purge taking place in the wake of a failed coup attempt in Turkey last month.
Authorities ordered the closing of 45 newspapers, 23 radio stations, 16 television channels and three news agencies this month. Arrest warrants were issued for 47 former employees and executives of Zaman, a media group accused of links to Fethullah Gulen, an elderly Turkish Islamic cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States.
Readers who believe the fabrication that residents of Gaza are poverty-stricken Arabs living in muddy shacks with nothing to eat should find this article comforting.
Hamas has released its latest online campaign video to bring new tourists to Gaza.
The hashtag in Arabic reads: #ShukranHamas — #ThankYouHamas.
The ceaseless barrage by Hamas of rocket and mortar fire aimed at Israel and the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion prompted a military response from the Israel Defense Forces in July and August 2014. But since then, Gaza has been a very busy place.
Countries from around the world have poured money into the region to help rehabilitate the infrastructure. Israeli forces silenced the rocket fire emanating from the residential buildings, hospitals and schools, aimed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. The two terror organizations deliberately embedded their military operations among civilians in order to use them as human shields. They maximized the destruction of their own cities and the deaths of their own citizens in order to exploit the media coverage for future fundraising.
It worked, of course.
After the war, Israel was excoriated for taking out the rocket launchers and other weaponry in order to neutralize the threat to its own civilian population.
And money poured in to Gaza from all quarters, as did construction supplies. Israel was forced to allow dual use materials into the region. That doesn’t include the daily in-and-out movement of people and the humanitarian aid shipments, foodstuffs, dry goods, and fuel that still flow through the border crossings, along with repeated attempts to smuggle weapons, explosives and military parts among the goods as well.
As the infrastructure and residential buildings were rebuilt, so too was the subterranean military structure of the ruling terrorist authority, which has been caught repeatedly siphoning off money and supplies intended for civilian use. This month, bona fide employees of the United Nations have been caught working for Hamas. But it hasn’t stopped the process; in fact, the United Nations has done absolutely nothing about it. Probably, it can’t and likely it wouldn’t anyway. During the last war more than a few UNRWA schools were used as storage facilities for missiles. Nothing concrete was done about that either, other than a public slap on the wrist, probably for having been stupid enough to get caught on camera. Israel, naturally, was condemned in a formal inquiry after the war.
But should anyone believe the fiction that residents of Gaza are still suffering due to restrictions by Israel, please don’t hesitate to retain the link to this article on your desktop, and review it periodically. Or at least, retain the link to the YouTube video so thoughtfully provided by Hamas. That, at least, should reassure such readers that nothing could be further from the truth.
Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg between the two former feuding foes Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan “drew considerable attention,” government-run news agency TASS reported, noting that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement is coming while Russia has been expanding its relations with Iran and Ankara and Tehran have also been bridging the gaps between them, born by almost four decades of a volatile Islamic Republic on Turkey’s border. In fact, right after the failed coup last month, Erdogan announced, “We are determined to cooperate with Iran and Russia to address regional problems side by side and to step up our efforts considerably to restore peace and stability to the region.”
Should Israel be concerned? Apparently, the Russian news organ is eager to spread a message of calm regarding the new developments in the northern part of the region. And so an unsigned article this week polled experts who were skeptical regarding a developing strategic triangle of those three powers. According to the TASS experts, the most that will come out of the current statements are tactical political interaction and an upturn in economic cooperation. But even if it were true, and Russia, Turkey and Iran were to forge a strategic alliance, TASS continues its calming message, it would be for the best, because “these three countries can play a positive role, for instance, in overcoming the Syrian crisis.”
It isn’t clear who is panicking more at the moment—Jerusalem or Washington—over the possibility that Turkey, a NATO member, would switch sides and coalesce with Russia and Iran. Clearly, the US has a whole lot more to lose from such an emerging outcome. US Middle East policy traditionally relied on the “three-legged stool” comprised of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. As long as those three major local powers were in the Western camp, Soviet manipulations elsewhere could be mitigated. When Iran was lost under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the US attempted for the longest time to substitute Iraq for the missing stool leg, but the Iraqi regime never provided the stability the US enjoyed with the Shah. This is why the US is so determined to keep Turkey in the Western camp, because without a Western-allied Turkey, the US presence in the region would be severely downgraded.
Hence the need for the TASS calming story. It interviewed senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, who reassured the Western readers “there will be no trilateral union, of course. It should be ruled out for many reasons. At best one can expect some tactical alliance. This is so because Iran, Turkey and Russia have certain problems in their relations with the West and with the United States.” That’s code for Turkey would be punished severely, economically and otherwise, if it ever jumped ship.
Sazhin continued, “If one takes a look at the economic interests they share, it should be remembered that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan … are countries that produce and export hydrocarbons. They have a great deal to discuss in view of the current strained situation on the world market. As for Turkey, its role in delivering hydrocarbons to the West may be significant. But I don’t think that this triangle will be of strategic importance.”
Sazhin sees no fundamentally new geopolitical aspects in sight. “It’s about getting back to where we had been all the time. Arabs constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East. Non-Arab countries are few – Israel, Turkey and Iran. They had very close relations up to [the emergence of] the Islamic revolution in Iran.”
“In Iran, with its 80-million population, Turks and Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically very close to Turkey, constitute an estimated 18 to 25 million,” Sazhin said. “Bilateral relations existed not only at the Tehran-Ankara level. There were very strong people-to-people bonds. Plus the long-standing economic ties. But in politics post-revolution Iran and NATO member Turkey have drifted apart, of course.”
Research fellow Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Arab and Islamic Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute told TASS, “I don’t believe in the emergence of new political triangles. I don’t think some strategic changes will follow overnight to bring about changes to the configuration of alliances. A number of steps we’ve seen our friends and partners and those we are not on very friendly terms with us take are tactical. They stem from the current situation.”
Zvyagelskaya believes that to a large extent this is true of Turkey. “It is to be remembered that Erdogan’s wish to have closer relations is a result of certain internal political events, on the one hand, and soaring tensions in his country’s relations with the United States and the European Union, on the other. These steps by Erdogan are purely pragmatic and we should treat them accordingly. As far as I understand, nobody has any illusions on that score.”
A U.S. journalist has been detained, allegedly for trying to enter Turkey illegally from Syria, according to a report posted on the Hurriyet Daily News website.
The report by the official Anadolu News Agency quoted southern Hatay province governor Ercan Topaca on August 7, and said journalist Snell Lindsteyler was arrested in the Altinozu district, near the Syrian border.
“A U.S. journalist was captured while she was trying to cross the border illegally; she was taken to court and remanded. The trial phase is ongoing. For now, we do not know if she is a spy or not,” Topaca said.
Although Topaca said the journalist has a residence permit to live in Turkey, he claimed she was taken into custody because she had crossed into Syria illegally from Turkey and then tried to re-enter the country, also illegally. He also claimed that U.S. helicopters were seen flying over the border, allegedly to pick up the journalist before she was detained.
Dozens of journalists have been detained since last month’s failed coup; others have had their passports seized, effectively holding them hostage in Turkey.
National Turkish Police officials reportedly told a member of the Turkish Parliament last week that the passports of a number of journalists were cancelled as a “preventive measure” following the attempted coup.
The issue came up when the passport of a Turkish-Armenian journalist was seized upon his arrival in Turkey on August 6, as was the passport of Armenian journalist Hayko Bagdat, when he arrived in Turkey the same evening.
On Augusst 8, “security concerns” also led to unexplained closures at the entrances and exits at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, according to a brief report on Turkey’s Daily Sabah news website.
No further details were provided, and the report has since disappeared from the site.