Turkey’s announcement over the summer that it had signed a deal with Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) — of Hillary Clinton’s Uranium One stardom — to begin building three nuclear power plants in the near future is cause for concern. The $20 billion deal, which has been in the works since 2010, involves the construction in Mersin of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant — Turkey’s first-ever such plant — will be operational in 2023.
ROSATOM already has nuclear cooperation deals with Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others. Turkey is just the latest to benefit — possibly along with Iran and North Korea, both of which have been openly threatening to destroy America — from Moscow’s play for power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is also a source of desperately-needed revenue for Russia, hurt by sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.
End of August, Madrid: At the Turkish government’s request through Interpol, Spanish police arrested a famous Turkish writer, Dogan Akhanli, who was on vacation in Spain. A few days earlier, in Barcelona, Spanish authorities had arrested the Turkish writer, Hamza Yalcin, a reporter for the left-wing newspaper Odak. Meanwhile, in Turkey, another writer, Ahmet Altan was on trial. Turkish authorities prevented yet another Turkish novelist, Asli Erdogan, from flying to Europe to receive the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize in the German city of Osnabrück.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey has already made headlines for jailing dozens of journalists in a round-up that has transformed Turkey into “the world’s biggest prison for reporters”. Perhaps even more objectionable is Turkey’s persecution of novelists who do not even take part in the political debate. They are hated by Erdogan’s Islamist government simply for conveying Western ideas and fighting for freedom of speech. What is happening in Turkey is even more urgent than what is happening in Iran and Saudi Arabia, two other Islamic countries that persecute and jail writers: Turkey is, at least rhetorically, a democracy as well as the Islamic world’s purported bridge to Europe.
In theory, Turkey and the United States have been staunch allies since the predominately Muslim nation became a NATO member state in 1952. Also, in theory, the leaders of the two allies are on friendly terms. President Donald Trump gave “very high marks” to Turkey’s increasingly autocratic, Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Turkish leader’s recent visit to Washington when his security detail attacked peaceful protesters.
It is puzzling why Trump gave a passionately (and ideologically) pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist leader “very high marks.” But in reality, the Ankara-Washington axis could not be farther from diplomatic niceties such as “allies” or “very high marks.”
This is a select (and brief) recent anatomy of what some analysts call “hostage diplomacy” between the two “staunch NATO allies.”
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: About the same proportion of Turks view the US (72%) and ISIS (73%) as a threat to their country. That’s weird. Erdoğan’s generation of Islamists were anti-American largely because of the Arab-Israeli dispute – although they feared Soviet communism more than American imperialism. Future generations of Turkish Islamists will hate America even more because they will have gone through long years of anti-American indoctrination by a beloved leader and his powerful propaganda machine.
Turks often expose degrees of confusion when asked about their foreign policy preferences. A public opinion poll in the mid-2000s found that most Turks viewed the US as a threat to world security – but the same poll found that Turks expected the US, before every other ally, to come to Turkey’s help if needed.
Conspiracy theories have always been abundant in the Turkish psyche. Schoolchildren grow up hearing maxims like “A Turk’s only friend is another Turk” and “Our Ottoman ancestors had to fight seven worlds (the big powers).” According to this worldview, the world’s major powers construct intricate conspiracies as they tirelessly plot to stop Turkey’s rise.
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The harsh measures taken by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the failed coup attempt last year have led to a deepening crisis with a host of Western states, first and foremost with Germany. Since the coup attempt, relations between Ankara and Berlin have been at an unprecedented low. However, in light of their history of close relations, the volume of stable economic trade over the years, and Turkey’s ability to stabilize the waves of immigration to Europe, the countries may yet find a channel of communication in order to contain the crisis.
In the wake of the failed coup attempt against him last year, Turkish President Erdoğan has sought to consolidate his status and convey a message of unity under the banner of democracy against “Turkey’s enemies at home and abroad.” In practice, however, Turkey is experiencing profound internal upheaval. With the object of tightening the regime’s grip on power, the authorities are persecuting public figures and members of the media.
The coup attempt and its failure constitute a political turning point for Turkey. Erdoğan’s oppressive measures have contributed to the strengthening of Islamic and anti-Western circles inside Turkey and exacerbated Ankara’s friction with the West, which strongly opposes the regime’s trampling of individual rights. In addition, geopolitical fluctuations and Washington’s enduring weakness in the Middle East have prompted Ankara to warm its relations with countries such as Russia, Iran, and Qatar, a shift that can have a great impact on Turkey’s energy ambitions and economic needs.
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On Feb. 6, 1935, Turkish women were allowed to vote in national elections for the first time, and eighteen female candidates were elected to parliament – a decade or more before women even in Western countries such as France, Italy and Belgium. Eight decades later, Turkish women look like unwilling passengers on H.G. Wells’ Time Machine traveling back to their great-grandmothers’ Ottoman lives.
Turkey’s strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once proudly said that “Women should know their place,” and that “Gender equality is against human nature”. His deputy prime minister said that women not to laugh in public. It was not shocking to anyone when Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Policies found in 2016 that no fewer than 86% of Turkish women have suffered physical or psychological violence at the hands of their partners or family. According to the ministry’s findings, physical violence is the most common form of abuse: 70% of women reported they have been physically assaulted.
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When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington, D.C. this past May, he was greeted outside the home of the Turkish ambassador by a small group of protesters concerned about his crackdowns on civil rights and antagonism towards Turkey’s Kurdish population. Within minutes, his bodyguards sprang into action, accompanied by others in the Turkish posse, beating and kicking the protesters – who included women and senior citizens. A 61-year-old woman later told the Guardian she had feared for her life after guards punched her in the face, and when 60-year-old Turkish-American Reza Dersimi tried to assist her, he, too, was assaulted.
Local police quickly intervened, arresting several of the attackers, including Erdogan’s guards. Some of those who ran off were apprehended in the days that followed but many remain at large.
The arrests infuriated Turkey’s president. “They have incarcerated our citizens!” cried Erdogan, who has regularly thrown foreign journalists and human rights leaders into Turkish prisons. “How is that possible? What type of legislation is this, what type of law?”
Now the U.S. government has indicted 19 attackers for their violent abuse of the protesters, whom Turkish leaders accuse of having been members of the Kurdish terrorist group PKK. (There is no evidence to suggest any protester had terror ties.) Turkey’s Foreign Ministry described the indictments as “unjust and biased,” and claimed they included “names of people that have never been to the US.” The indictment against 15 Turkish security guards, two Turkish-Canadians, and two Turkish-Americans, contains 21 counts of assault and hate crimes, and describes the incident as a “conspiracy to assault protesters and law enforcement officials.”
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