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December 14, 2010 |  35 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Niklas  Anzinger

Topic Turkey's Islamist Adventure

Niklas Anzinger: Turkey’s leading political party is shifting away from its Western orientation. This is a consequential step of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s agenda of de-secularizing Turkish democracy. Ankara’s reorientation remains an obstacle not only to Western influence in the Middle East but also a NATO missile defense shield.

In September 2010, the Turkish government lead by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a national plebiscite on constitutional amendments that was in fact designed to remove obstacles to its gaining further power. These amendments attack judicial independence by giving the government control over judicial appointments. The secular independent judiciary has been a stumbling block against the AK party's Islamist ambitions.

Additionally, several secularist opposition groups have been unlawfully persecuted and significant aspects of the media, civil service and private business integrated in the Islamist project. Erdogan also removed eminent figures in the state-controlled Ministry of Religion, which organizes the distribution of religious education, academic religious studies and supports Muslims in foreign countries. Secularists in Turkey strongly accuse Erdogan of planning for Islamization.

Erdogan has formerly described Israeli actions as being “state terrorist” and has defended Hamas, saying that it is not a terrorist organization. The Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israeli commandos raided and seized a Turkish owned vessel bound for Palestine, saw the end of ties with Israel as the closest military and diplomatic ally in the Middle East.

Several meetings with Iranian president Ahmadinejad highlighted a shifting trend in Turkish foreign relations - breaking with a long-term partner and consulting its worst enemy. Current wikileaks documents show that Israeli diplomats in Ankara consider Turkey's prime minister a religious "fundamentalist" committed to spreading hatred against Israel. A few weeks after the incident, Turkey voted against fresh sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council.

The new episode of “Valley of the Wolves”, set in Palestine, plays a significant role in promoting anti-Jewish and anti-American sentiment. It is shown on Turkey's state-owned TV. Yet, a broad secular opposition remains in areas of the media and the traditional Kemalist military.

The Turkish people who are not supporters of the AK party do not seem to care about Erdogan's anti-Israel rhetoric, but the Mavi Marmara incident has had a huge impact. Erdogan's efforts to Islamize the military started a long time ago and were quite successful. Still, the military is the strongest remaining secular force which can prevent Islamization efforts, but if Erdogan's ambitions to enforce a marine intervention in the Israeli conflict are successful, he can easily de-secularize the armed forces.

The current wikileaks documents indicate that Turkey may have been a shadow supporter of terrorist groups for a long time. London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported that some of the leaked documents show that Turkey allowed weapons to be smuggled to Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. US diplomats recognized “neo-Ottoman” and Islamist ambitions in Turkey's leadership.

Western Perspectives

Recent wikileaks documents indicate that there is a vital consensus against Iran gaining power over the region. King Abdullah of Saudi-Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to consider military measures to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, Oman and the Emirates are also cited as having supported this stance, although not publicly. Some analysts speak of a “Cold War situation” given the Iranian axis.

Current Turkish hostility has weakened Israel's NATO ties. As Turkey has a veto power in the alliance, it is very likely to boycott Israeli security issues regarding the new missile defense shield. Other NATO members have taken Turkey's orientation into account due to the sensitivity of the situation. The major threat which such a shield is supposed to defend against has not been explicitly named - Iran. Turkey is capable of defining the agenda of the defense shield.

Conclusions

Turkey's interests regarding the Iran-Syrian threat are inconsistent with the NATO defense plans. The shift in Turkish policy could result in a massive loss of influence in the Middle East regarding the Iranian threat and the Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Moreover, NATO security guarantees for Israel regarding missile defense could be worthless, as they are dependent on the Turkish agenda given Erdogan's animosity towards Israel.

The question remains, where do the Islamization efforts of Erdogan lead to?

The US administration has to get tough on Turkey urging American observation of the NATO missile shield and defining the NATO agenda concerning Iran and Syria. The Iranian nuclear threat and the Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement are top priority interests of the US administration. President Obama has to stop presenting Turkey as a model for a democratic Muslim state and take notice of the facts.

The Europeans are lagging behind the agenda concerning security interests in the Middle East. The leaked documents have to be a wake-up call for European leaders to engage in the region. Furthermore, the Western alliances have to confront Turkey with the potential loss of its shifting Western orientation.

Many people in Turkey are disillusioned by “broken promises” towards EU accession and, therefore, understand the AKP's argument that there is nothing to lose in the East as there is nothing to win in the West. The former and current US administration urged the EU to integrate Turkey.

The EU has to make clear that engagement with the terror-spreading Iranian axis not only closes the door for Turkey's accession, but will result in a serious conflict. In the short term, a Turkish intervention in the Middle East has to be prevented. In the long term, Turkey has to be engaged to reaffirm partnership with the West by being given the incentive of EU accession. Therefore, both the US and the EU have to choose a confrontational approach towards the Turkish government and leave the door open for EU accession at the same time.

Niklas Anzinger is a student of Philosophy and Economics at the University of Bayreuth.

 

Read related articles from atlantic-community.org members:

 

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Tags: | islamism | missile defense | wikileaks | NATO | Israel |
 
Comments
Paul-Robert  Lookman

December 14, 2010

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Mr Anzinger: with community.org’s editor-in-chief having allocated you to the two-member group of “hardliners” in the Iran debate - where we amply exchanged views - I feel I can confine myself to the following three points:

1. NATO does not guarantee Israel’s security, the US does. On the issue, Sigurd Neubauer posted an interesting Op-Ed on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sigurd-neubauer/why-israel-should-con... As a member of the Alliance, Israel would - apart of course from enjoying all benefits - have to embrace the obligations that come with membership, an key one of which is compliance with international law. Against this background, I am not sure Israel is keen to join as it has defied international law for decades.

2. Apart from the question if the EU is currently ready to welcome Turkey, I feel the more pressure “the West” puts upon Turkey to join, the less it will be tempted to do so. The thought that Turkey sees the lifting of any European reservations towards its entry as an incentive in my view is naïve, and so is the thought that it would feel enticed to join under the pressure of a “confrontational approach” from “both the US and the EU”. And, arguably, the EU will not heed to US pressure in this matter.

3. I agree with you that Europe should take a more active stand in Middle East security matters, albeit for different reasons. I, for one, feel that Europe must take its responsibility in the Israel-Palestine conflict that it has helped to create.

Finally, in drawing up its list of related articles from atlantic-community.org members, the editorial team seems to have overlooked the article “After the Referendum Turkey Headed Toward EU Membership” (http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/articles/view/After_the_Ref... ).
 
Darrell Calvin Brown

December 15, 2010

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I ask the question, after reading this well written article, is the country of Turkey presenting itself to the European Union in Sincerity for membership or as a Trojan Horse?
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 15, 2010

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"Trojan Horse" is a populist phrase. After all, Turkey is predictable and relies on Western support. In my opinion, the problem is the government that carries out a "velvet Islamization". That does not mean that they go against the West, Erdogans prime aim is to put Islamists into the rule. Soner Cagaptay says: "If Islamists rule, they corrupt even the most liberal of Muslim societies."

The concept is different to Iranian theocracy which sees its power forces and charisma in challenging and humiliating the West. Turkey is dependent on the West. Nevertheless the Erdogan administration contains radical Islamists who openly reject a secular state and applauded anti-Semite "Valley of the wolves". But still Turkey is a democracy, a democracy which is likely to get overthrown. if the secular forces are too weak - and I presented some indications that AKP has the lead.

So, what shall we do? I have no clear long-term answers, but in the short-term we have to push against political measures that result from Ankara´s reorientation in order to keep our interests. That will also give arguments to secular critics. These measures to encounter are in the first place: the NATO defense shield and Middle East orientation towards Iran and Syria against Israel. The only long-term agenda, I can offer, is incentices to full compliance with the West.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 15, 2010

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But indeed "shifting away from its Western orientation" is a very strong claim. It needs the premises that the West is interested in promoting democracy, integration of democracies and security interests in the Middle East to counter Iran, Syria and terrorist activities. Literally this claim is easy to falsify, but it is not meant in terms of economic cooperation and so forth - but these could also suffer in the long term, if this reorientation remains uphold.
 
Basia A Bubel

December 16, 2010

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I'm not sure I understand how the US and the EU can put pressure on Turkey. If anything, the EU should be trying to convince its citizens that Turkey's entry into the Union is a good thing. How would a confrontational approach with the government produce any positive results? I'm not really understanding how this would achieve anything positive for either of the parties. I'm not an expert on Turkey but I do believe the people will maintain the secular state and ultimately it is up to them to shape their own country.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 16, 2010

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Simple answer: Turkey´s interests in the Middle East are (or should be) contradictous to US/EU interests. We can´t go that way with Ankara engaging Tehran.

And if the shift towards Islamism remains uphold, we will lose more with Turkey than without Turkey. Turkey has to become a stable democracy at the table with the Western powers - but the current developments lead in the opposite direction. Hopefully the people in Turkey maintain the secular state, but the Islamists have the trumpcards at the moment. One of them is the Western powers ignorance towards this shift.
 
Basia A Bubel

December 16, 2010

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I still believe that the people in Turkey will maintain a secular state. One way that I can see this not happening is if there is foreign interference that displaces the leadership and creates a leadership vacuum. Call me naive or whatever but i have faith that the Turkish people will lean in the right direction away from extremism. Being "tough" with Turkey I think will end up pushing them away from the West- in fact i think it will give more fuel to extremist parties to gather support for their cause.
 
Marco  Funk

December 17, 2010

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In my opinion, Erdogan and the AKP are far from seeking to turn Turkey into the next Iran. The AKP was democratically elected and is a reflection of the rennaissance of Islam in that country that has been going on since the 1980s. A majority of the population is religious and wants to see a government that is less harsh about things like wearing a head scarf in universities. While it is certainly interested in more than simple advocacy for its constituents, and has been attempting to increase its power wherever possible, the AKP is not in and of itself a fundamentalist, revolutionary force seeking to create an Islamic Republic - despite the rhetoric of some of its members. Every party has its hard-liners; they cannot be taken as the voice of the entire party.

In terms of foreign policy, Erdogan is following a very calculated, in my opinion perfectly logical approach. Faced with an impasse on EU accession, but leading an increasingly powerful country in economic terms, he is looking elsewhere for political influence. It makes plenty of strategic sense to smooth relations with Middle East neighbors which were seen as security threats for a long time. The cost of this rapprochement is Israel; it is impossible to earn the trust of countries like Syria and Iran while remaining close friends with Israel. With more wealth to protect than ever before, Turkey wants stability, and if that can't be achieved through EU accession, it might be achieved through good relations with immediate neighbors.

The West, in my opinion, should refrain from putting serious pressure on Turkey, as this would only hurt their cause. Turkish EU membership is not popular enough among the European public and certain powerful EU member states to push through any time soon. Without a carrot, there can be no stick. Besides, Turkey is enjoying its new role as the Switzerland of the Middle East and will probably not be as ready to sever its new ties with Iran and Syria as quickly as it might have in the past. What the West can and should do, however, is work with Turkey on areas of strategic interest like energy security and military cooperation while encouraging (and trying to influence) its role as a link between East and West.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 17, 2010

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As I see it: There is an enormous Islamist revival going on in Turkey today, strongly encouraged and pushed by the Turkish leadership. We have to understand the clashes in the history of the Muslim world. Of course, Turkey won´t become "the next Iran", as the majority in Turkey is Sunni and the government is a promoter of Sunni Islam (see repression against Alevis). Turkey sees the rulership over the Muslim world, there are clashes with Iran in winning the hearts of the Arab Muslims. Iran called for the Arab population to follow their lead, because they were the most credible player for the destruction of Israel. That is why much people in the Arab world support Iran (these efforts go back to Ayatollah Khomenei) while the Arab regimes hate Iran.

Why not take the extreme anti-Western rhetoric of the Turkish government serios? Are they little children who don´t know what they are saying? Do they just wan´t to release the burden of their minds while they are forced to act different? No, same as Iran the Turkish leadership are strategic thinkers, but they think in a non-secular direction. Why play down all the indications that I gave, as if this was only about the veil-question?

You have to understand the calculus of the clashes in the Muslim world, not a calculus of Western strategic thinking in terms of economic growth and security issues.

The rule of Islamists faltered every slight appearances of democracy and secularism in the Muslim world. I agree with Mrs. Bubel that an intervention would not be a wise way to go, but I saw no indication at all that anyone suggested that way. Disagreement in foreign relations is not an intervention, but a completely normal thing. We have to encounter Turkish activities regarding Iran and insist on a Western agenda for NATO missile defense. The current activities of the Turkish government are contradictous to Western interests in the Middle East - at least if engagement against terrorism and support for Israel is concerned as Western interests (which sometimes seems not to be the case in European diplomacy).

Here is some explanation about these clashes: http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=1&DBID=1&LNGID...
 
Marco  Funk

December 18, 2010

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I fully understand that Turkey won't become Shiite overnight; my comment referred to the creation of an Islamic Republic, as opposed to a secular one. As for your next sentence, "Turkey sees the rulership over the Muslim world, there are clashes with Iran in winning the hearts of the Arab Muslims," I disagree this is happening. Turkey is pursuing a very different agenda to the one you are presenting. It is not trying to spread an ideology in some secret competition with Iran - if it were, both countries probably wouldn't be improving their bilateral relations as they are.

As for the rest of your statements, I feel as if they are more a reflection of what you want to believe about Turkey rather than the reality of the situation. You mention "extreme anti-Western rhetoric of the Turkish government". Where is this rhetoric? Would a country that is trying to enter the EU really engage in such rhetoric? As I said before, individual hard-liners are not the voice of an entire government.

Finally, I'd like to draw attention to your source. I have trouble acknowledging it as an objective institution. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has close ties to the Israeli government, and at a time when relations with Turkey are difficult, the potential for bias is great in my opinion. The unfounded conspiracy theories like the one in the paragraph below, taken from the article you linked, give me the impression that this is not serious research but rather fear-mongering speculation.

"It appears that the Saudis and the present Turkish government are both interested in reestablishing the Caliphate - certainly culturally and probably eventually politically - most likely in the capital of the last great Sunni empire in modern times: Istanbul. The Turkish government is very receptive to that idea. If they reach their common goal, an Islamist Turkey would be a bulwark against both the Shiites and against Westernization."
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 18, 2010

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Mr. Funk, let´s make this short, because I could only repeat myself. It is just what I read in the international press that indicates this shift and it perfectly corresponds to this assessment.

Maybe it is the other way round that you see, what you want to see. That is the reason why we are discussing. I mentioned that I want to see a stable secular democracy in Turkey, but I see tendencies in the other direction.

http://www.newsweek.com/2008/11/14/the-most-anti-american-nation.html#

Here´s an article about anti-Americanism, I further mentioned "Valley of the wolves" which is stately financed and shown in state-owned TV. There were furthermore the Davos statements and much anti-democratic and anti-secular statements. "Extreme anti-Western" is highlighted too much, I see, but you can´t deny AKP´s Islamist ambitions. Western experience is that democracy just works with democrats.

It is not easy to judge this, because they are contradictions in Erdogan´s views of democracy, I see.

Therefore, there is enough reason to argue in which direction these ambitions might lead. So why do you counter what you call a "conspiracy theory" with another conspiracy theory that this article might be driven by Israeli interests? In general, academic institutes in Western countries are autonomous - in fact, there wouldn´t be a reason to promote hostility towards Turkey, because Turkey used to be one of the most important partners for Israel. After all, you can argue that this whole thing is marginal, but you can´t deny that there are these Islamist ambitions.

Turkey since 2002 is not the same Turkey as before.

I can only offer to read more of Soner Cagaptay´s works, because I said everything I know and I´m a bit irritated that some don´t see at least a problem in a potential Turkish shift: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC10.php?CID=3

After all, I can´t clearly judge in which direction Turkish democracy will drive. But I mentioned the points of NATO defense and Middle East policy which might be indications for this shift. At least they should be contradictous to Western interests - that is the most important thing and the main point of my argument. Even without buying the explanation (AKP Islamization) one could buy this point.
 
Marco  Funk

December 18, 2010

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I can tell that we won't reach an agreement here, however just to clarify some last points:

I certainly do think that Turkey is moving in a direction that is less than ideal for NATO and the EU, my argument is simply that Turkey is acting rationally and is not as threatening as you seem to believe.

As far as anti-Americanism goes, most countries in Europe had a very negative view of the United States during the Bush administration, but does this mean that Europeans were anti-democratic? Democracy and America are two different things - related, but different. That said, I do understand that some of the rhetoric coming out of Turkey is by no means exemplary and will need to be moderated if Turkey is serious about joining the EU.

Lastly, I would like to simply point out that I do not share your opinion that academic institutes in western countries are generally independent. Many get their funding from individuals or organizations that have a very clear political agenda. In my opinion, it is naive to think that an academic institute's connections have no influence on its policy views.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 18, 2010

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I did neither say Turkey is acting irrational, nor threatening, nor anti-Americanism and anti-democratic sentiments are the same thing.

I simply ask what the consequences of a religious orientation of politics would follow - and we should by sceptic that this is a good thing in the modern age. Rationality is coherence within a system of goals and restrictions. The question is not Turkey´s rationality, but her goals in the long term.

Before winning the elections, Erdogan and most of the AKP establishment made strongly anti-democratic statements. I think it would be naive to assume that they have abandoned this views because they did not explicitly express it in their leadership period. They need democratic legitimacy in order to create an Islam-dominated political environment.
 
Paul-Robert  Lookman

December 18, 2010

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“…the suggestion that this new policy is part of an attempt by Turkey to establish a ‘Neo-Ottoman’ alliance in the Middle East and Asia Minor can be disproven with a careful examination of the facts as they stand.”
source: http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/articles/view/Why_Turkey_Is...

“Although Erdogan is religious, there is no evidence of anti-democratic intentions on his part. On the contrary, most initiatives of the Prime Minister, such as consultations with Kurdish separatists, were far better than the oppressive policies of his more secular predecessors.”
source: http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/articles/view/After_the_Ref...

“The reality, though, is not that Ankara is allying itself with the Islamic world. Instead, it is remaking itself as the center of the politics and economics of its own region. In other words, it’s a mistake to see Turkey as being “with” the EU and U.S., or “with” the Muslim world or Russia. All are parts of a new, strongly Turkey-centered policy that rests on its geography and economic position.”
source: http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/Global_Must_Read_Article/Tu...

“Amid growing fears of Turkey moving away from the West, atlantic-community.org presents the findings from its special analysis week on Turkey. Members agree that Turkey’s foreign policy should not be misinterpreted as a shift East and call upon the US and the EU to start embracing Turkey’s growing influence.”
source: http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/Open_Think_Tank_Article/Sei...
 
Anamaria  Tamas

December 23, 2010

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The possibility of a less secular Turkey is theoretically frightening, since it would defy its revolutionary founding principles, and might threaten the development of democracy, which is based on a separation of government from religion.

Nevertheless, I do not wholly agree with your argument. I think we forget how Christian our forms of government really are, despite their classification as secular and separate from religion. I cite here the example of the neoconservative influence during the last Bush administration, which marketed the Iraq war as the moral obligation of the United States to spread democracy in the Middle East. Of course, not all Western countries encourage such a strong presence of Christian rhetoric in politics; nevertheless, I believe there is a underlying Christian orientation in Western politics, because, after all, our societies and legal systems have been founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Christianity is not an esoteric religion pertaining to an exclusive group of believers; it is an intrinsic part of our culture, traditions,legal systems, social identity and definition of moral standards.

Under the same token, Islam fulfills the same role in Turkey and other Muslim countries, and I consider the government of Tayyip Erdogan to be a natural and democratic expression of its society and culture. The current Turkish administration has achieved an unprecedented degree of economic development, which has earned its legitimacy from the Turkish people. This is an admirable achievement and the West should see the presence of Islam in politics as an inevitable part of the interaction of culture, democracy and politics. We should abandon the subjective attitude that Christianity is more democratic, peaceful or more progressive than Islam, or that Western development is somehow due to the superiority or enlightenment of our religion, or the perceived lack thereof. Without economic development and the eradication of poverty, any type of government and its society, whether it is secular, Muslim or Christian, could engage in militaristic and destabilizing activities. Therefore, by ensuring economic progress, the Turkish administration is promoting development, modernity and moderation, and its "Islamic adventure" is simply the inevitable expression of its culture and society.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 23, 2010

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Mrs. Tamas,

after all there is a huge difference between a secular state and religiously influenced leadership. Both can coexist and do in fact. My argument was that not only do the Turkish leaders have Islamist point of views, but they are also trying to de-secularize the state. The problem is not Islam, it is Islamism which has strong political ambitions. Western states with Christian majorities are in fact secular and yet there have been no efforts to abandon secular statehood in modern times.

With all due respect, I strongly object the argument that non-secular statehood could be "an inevitable part of the interaction of culture, democracy and politics". Non-secular statehood is horror and nobody should live under religious law.
 
Unregistered User

December 29, 2010

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Time and again one can only stand in bewilderment about what passes on this website as political understanding of the Middle East. Not only is Mr. Anzinger’s analysis wrong it is also flawed by a total lack of understanding of regional dynamics.

-yes, Erdogan is a populist. He mainly caters to a domestic market but of course his strong rhetorics vis a vis Israel have improved his standing in the Arab world as well. However strong words are one thing – and they should not be underestaimated – but actions are annother. What major political change has Erdogan really initiated that would lead to an Islamisation of Turkish politics other than symbolic battles around the headscarf and the family law? What should worry is more is Erdogans attempt to become President and turn Turkey into a presidential system. But there is a difference in his attempts to grab yet more power and an islamisation.

The idea that the Kemalists are an elite that should be preserved springs from the usual flawed conservative mindset that „the enemy of my enemy is my friend“. The idea that the Middle East can be divided into the radicals we should curb and the moderates we should bolster is a worldview that is both simplicistic and dangerous. Only because the Kemlaists elites hate Erdogan and his rebuilding of the republic that wrangles the political and economic power from their geriontocratic hands does not mean that the Kemalists are good for Turkey. It is because of the Kemalists’ unwillingness to bring their country to modernity that the myriads of problems with democracy and human rights still exist in Turkey. Say about the AKP what you want but these religious conservatives have done more for Turkish democracy in the last years than the Kemalists since the dead of Ismet Innonü. Kemalists have not been guarantors of democracy but guarantors of a politically and economic backwardness. Not everything is better under the AKP. Some things are much more conservative, old elites have just been replaced by new ones with few benefits trickling through to the majority of the population. But whoever has visited Turkey regularyl in the last ten years cannot but notice the huge positive developments that have taken place. We see under the AKP today a Turkey that is much more diverse, ecomomical stable , plural and less driven by nationalistic sentiment than ten years ago. There is much left to do and the huge uncontested power of the AKP might not serve Turkey well in the long run, but lets not align with the corrupt elites of old days.

Mr. Anziger displays a strange understanding of the dynamics of politics. Even if Erdogan would not use populist rethoric that would not mean that the opinion on the Turkish or Arab streets vis a vis Israel would change. He wonders why Turkish secular elites are not much concerned with the anti-Israel rhetoric. The answer is pretty simple as anti-Israeli sentiments exist only partly because of propaganda and exploitations from local leaders but it mainly due to Israel’s spoiler politics in the region. Lets not forget: Erdogan might be a demagogic populist, bad enough, but Liebermann is a demagogic populist –with a much more extremist agenda – with a high willingnes to transform his ideas into political action. Netanyahu, Yishai and Barak might lack the populist part but they are still pursuing policies that destabilize the region as a whole and have plunged thousands of people into misery.

Turkey first and foremost is pursuing a political agenda that aims to enhance ist own role in the region and beyond. Turkey wants to secure markets for ist growing exports both in the region, but also in Subsahara Africa and the Black Sea region. We might not like this, but it is a legitimate agenda. Is Turkey’s unwillingness to anger Iran with an outspoken anti-Iran sentence in the NATO strategy really that important and is it really that bad? Iran is a regional security risk, yes, but it is also a regional reality. It is highly unlikely that the west will be able to curb Iran’s regional ambitions (and this probably includes the bomb). Given this reality having a strong Turkey in the region that has backchannels with Teheran could serve the EU and the US in the long run. (and btw. there are plemty of sentences in this new NATO strategy that should concern us much more)
The assumption that Turkey's tole could minimize NATO's role in the Middle East Peace Process is strange. Until now NATO has not played any role in this process and is unlikely to do so in the near future.

But the strangest of Mr. Anziger’s points is the unreflected assumption that the EU and or the US (that he terms „the western alliance“, assuming already that the EU is that happy with the American brinkmanship politics in the region that have so far delivered nothing but hollow promises) interest are congruent with those of Israel. That is plain wrong. In the last years Israel has developed into one of the biggest spoiler powers in the region endangering stability and progress. Not only is Israel unwilling to fullfill ist obligations under ther Israeli-Palestinian Roadmap, it has also blocked any progress in the Syrian file and through this indirectly aided further fragmentation in Lebanon. With the Palestinians catching up with their contractual obligations and the Arab Peace Plan on the table since 2002 the EU and the US do not only not have the same interests as Israel anymore they have interests that are diametricall opposed to the current course of Israeli politics. So Tukey moving away from Israel is not a major drama for he EU at least not as long as Israel pursues a course of zero compromise. Mr. Anzinger's statement that" In the short term, a Turkish intervention in the Middle East has to be prevented." shows a serious distortion of reality: a- not only is neither the EU nor the US in a moral or political position to dictate Turkey's foreign policy and b- is Turkey already engaged in the Middle East since centuries.


 
Unregistered User

December 29, 2010

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ah and btw. citing the Washington Institute as a reliable source is just hillarious given the fact that it is a baby of Martin Indyk and AIPAC. You do not need to believe in conspiracy theories to understand that AIPAC people are really the last ones to ask in these matters. Only citing Mark Regev would provide a more credible source.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

December 30, 2010

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Mr. Brakel, there are much organizations connected to AIPAC that do autonomous research and from my perspective, AIPAC does also serious research. It is indeed conspirational thinking that the reasearch of the Washington Institute (which is not the only plattform of the author´s publications) is not to be taken serious because of this connection. It is really not neccessary for you to do that, you made some serious objections to my argument and you don´t have to discredit my sources.

The case of Turkey is broadly discussed, you find find both a lot of material to argue for your point of view and for mine. So discrediting my sources is not very decent and doesn´t give you a strong argument, because the points I brought up are indeed real and people argue how to judge these developments. I myself made a strong claim, but I used cautions formulations and made remarks to clarify my points in the comments.

Regarding "Israeli spoiler politics", I have shown a lot of concerns that anti-Israeli and anti-Western propaganda is explicitly carried out by the government. From your remarks, I conclude, that you bought this claim. But you say it´s Israel´s fault that the Turkish goverment hates them. Is it also Israel´s fault that Hamas and Hezbollah want to annihilate them and the Iranian regimes carries out a nuclear armament program to get the military capacity to do this?

I strongly object your assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement which is important for your argument. Everyone knows, even the Obama administration that the latest peace settlement was in no way impeded by the Israelis. And you would come to the same conclusion, if you would read the news from the region, from regional observers and experts. The people who want to blame this on Israel have very, very few arguments this time, though they know time passes and people forget the details and belief their argument if they repeat it everytime and in every situation. This was the same in the Oslo peace settlement and in every other historical event which took place in Israel. If you want to claim that this time Israel was to blame for the faltering of the peace settlement, then you should wait a few months, because at this stage everyone who read the news could easily falsify your claim.

Regarding my assession of the "Western alliance", I clarified my point that I didn´t mean it in a descriptive way, but as their interests ought to be. This is indeed a weakness in my argument, but I can´t argue for a different Western strategy in the Middle East in this paper, so I think this assumption was justified.

You make some points about the Kemalists which don´t affect me, because I never defended them. I defend secularism, human rights and democracy and I see a tendency in Turkey that the current administration is not going the right direction. My argument was that this affects Western interests in the region. If you didn´t draw the right conclusions out of the leaked documents regarding the Iranian threat, you will never. It became pretty clear that the Turkish government seeks compliance with Iran and in Western interest should only be a regional Turkey countering Iranian ambitions, which is not the case.

In the end, please don´t make judgements of "strange understanding" because I made serious reasearch for my points and there are many scholars and academics which share my points of view. It is not very decent that all these have "strange views" but maybe arguments that a weak so you can counter them. Discrediting my argument "flawed by a total lack of understanding of regional dynamics" is very rude, you would have to discredit experts which do reasearch about the region for decades, which my analysis is based on. No argument that there are other experts who tell the opposite, but that is why we argue, isn´t it?

So please, give your arguments without these bypasses, it is not fair, not accurate and not justified.
 
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January 3, 2011

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Mr. Anzinger,
thank you for your reply.
You are right, a discussion such as this one should be based first and foremost on arguments. However discussing the credibility of a source is a basic requirement in every academic discipline. If one knows about the political connections of a source one must at least mention these when citing the source and should question in how far the source might be objective or not. AIPAC is a political lobby organisation. It is reasonable to believe that institutions connected to such an organization are agenda driven. I would also not cite the Friedrich Ebert Foundation as the most objective source when talking about the SPD. That does not mean that the FES is not a credible organisation as such, but one has to take into consideration that it might not be the most objective one concerning this specific topic.

Nevertheless you call on me to base my arguments on research. I have worked in and on the region for more than 12 years now and maintain contacts with the most relevant analysts and political actors in Germany and in the region (I have to admit that my contacts in the US are limited though). I read Turkish, Arabic and Israeli media on a daily basis. I think it is for these reasons that I can assume that I have some understanding of what is going on. May I ask how many years you have spent in the Middle East so far?
However you are right stating that even experts differ in their assesments of regional developments. That is why I discussed you major points with factual arguments above. The main ones were:
a) yes, there is a certain danger with the AKP amassing so much power.
b) the AKP has not done enough to advance democracy and human rights in TUR to an acceptable level
c) but it has done more than any of the prior TUR governments for democracy and HR
d) while some worrying aspects exist in Erdogan's hunger for power there are no indications that he is pushing an Islamistic agenda.
e) as in regard to ISR: TUR moving away from ISR is not necessary damaging EU interests in the region as this development is mainly driven by ISR politics and as the EU's interests are not the same ones as Israel's.

You would need to refute these arguments, if you want to make your case.

You state that I said "it´s Israel´s fault that the Turkish goverment hates them"
This is incorrect. I said that even without Erdogan's populist rhetoric sentiment on the Arab and Turkish street would still be mainly negative vis a vis Israel. And that the reasons behind that is not only propaganda but the way in which the ISR government is behaving.
(Btw. we have seen in the last week TUR government assuring ISR that it wants to renew its bilateral relations on a friendly basis. This move was rejected by ISR FM Liebermann.)


Your argument "Everyone knows, even the Obama administration that the latest peace settlement was in no way impeded by the Israelis" is not based in reality. Even today Haaretz reported that the US administration has expressed its anger over MoD Barak and the role the ISR government has taken so far. I am not sure to whom you have spoken lately in the US or EU administrations but the opinions I hear are pretty clear who is to blame for the breakdown. This breakdown was caused by the ISR refusal to stop the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is a contractual obligation for ISR that derives both from the IV. Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention as also from the signature that ISR put under the Roadmap for Peace both in 2002 and in 2007.
 
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January 3, 2011

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Addendum: I would also like to ask you to explain why you think that Turkey moving away from Israel is endangering EU interests?

 
Niklas  Anzinger

January 3, 2011

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Thank you for giving your arguments in a calmer tone.

I don´t think it is relevant for our arguments that we talk about our political background. Indeed I also read news fromm the region on a daily basis and my assessments are mainly based on experts from the US and Israel, and I am in contact with some of them.

Let me make a claim about your points a), b) and c). My argument was that the latest initiative regarding the judiciary ammendments, the military and the media (e.g. state-promoted anti-Western propaganda) are indeed indications that maybe we have to look at the Turkish government from another perspective. I am convinced that AKP did some good things reagarding democracy and human rights, but their ideology and their latest initiatives may suggest that these measures are under an Islamization flag as they offer a relative new model of Islamic democracy. From my perspective this is not possible. Your method to interpret these measures are to play them down - in this respect, please give an adequate interpretation regarding Erdogan´s Davos scandal, Davutoglu´s statements about Islamization of Europe and other eminent figure´s anti-Western statements and state-promoted anti-Western propaganda (plus judiciary ammendments, military and media). We both know that Turkey according to polls is the most anti-American country in the world (close to Pakistan). Your claim d) is not serious from my perspective, a lot of analysts in Turkey, for instance Hurriyet journalists have pointed out criticism of Erdgan´s Islamist agenda. But please decide to stand claim d), then I will point out some indications to falsify this statement or offer an adequate interpretation. Regarding point e) I admitted my weakness in this argument already, please note in my comment above.

What does "even Haaretz" mean? The press landscape in Israel is perhaps the most pluralist in the world, you can read opinions in every directions in Haaretz - even pro-Hamas opinions.

Liebermann rejected to officially apologize for the flotilla incident, this makes a huge difference. In respect of my assessment of the flotilla incident this is completely justified. The "refusal to stop the building of settlements" is a lie - I may doubt your word that you read news from the region if you make that claim. Please take notice of analysis of the recent peace talks (I may help you with this: http://www.dailyalert.org/) and if you come to a different conclusion we should stop at this point, because I think this forum is not made for sharing sources, so we should not begin with it.

Mr. Brakel, I think you have serious concerns about my argument, but playing down the aspects I mentioned or claim these do not happen is not the right way. With your knowledge and your experience I´m sure you can do better. Do you think I invented these events, why would I do so? I can guarantee you that what I like to see is a democratic, secular Turkey in the EU at the table with the Western powers. Though, you correctly mentioned some aspects that could lead to a different conclusion than mine, you miss to give an interpretation that take the other aspects into account. In that sense, I think, my argument is at least coherent.

Finally, I am very disappointed that you have such a bad assessment of the Israeli role in the peace talks. I read the news from the region on a daily basis and I find it very sad that most people do not get an impression of what´s going on there based on the true events. Israeli politicians constantly offered peace talks, Netanyahu agreed to a settlement moratorium for 3 months (US demand) after a 10 month-moratorium the last year. Israel closed hundreds of Checkpoints and made investments in the West Bank that lead to an impressive economic growth regardless of the financial crisis.

I´m sure we would reach a dead end in this discussion, if you insist on your claim, that Israel-hatred of the Turkish officials (I cited wikileaks cables) is just a reaction against Israel´s behavior. I think with that assessment, which is from my perspective not based on the true events, you would ultimately have an interpretation for your claims, as I concerned: it is all Israel´s fault. With that conclusion, your arguments would be coherent, but we would reach a dead end in our discussion, as I see it.
 
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January 4, 2011

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You are mistaken, I am not playing down the events you just mentioned. I just think your interpretation of them is flawed. All events you mentioned did occur. I did not deny that. There is just no evidence that they are driven by an Islamist agenda. And you did not offer any proof to the contrary yet. I have explained Erdogan's behaviour with populist politics geared towards winning political support for securing a policy that aims to stabilize the AKP rule and enhance economic links in the region and beyond. These efforts are bolstered by legendary Turkish nationalistic pride. If indeed you would be right then we would see major efforts in Turkish legislation to introduce Islamic laws (because thats the reading point, if a state is Islamistic or not). Which laws have been Islamized so far?

Pls. also check my grammar: I did not write "even Haaretz" (which is indeed a very good and pluralistic newspaper), but "even today". This seems to be a misunderstanding from your side.

Your claim that my statement "The "refusal to stop the building of settlements" is a lie" seems really strange to me. You cite again from the Jerusalem Institute or at least the service they compile with major US ISR lobby organizations. This is really not a credible source. I am also not citing think tanks here that are affiliated with Palestinian organizations. I think the assesment of the int. community on these events can be clearly seen from the statements UNSG Ban and EUHR Ashton made last month.
As for ISR "investments" (the word is misleading because there are no economic investments from ISR side into PAL economy) like lifting checkpoints:PM Netanyahu has made it clear time and again what the GoI wants to reach: an economic stable area controlled by the PA that might have some autonomy. This is smth completely different than what the international community wants i.e. an independent PAL state in the borders of 1967. PAL economy is growing not because of ISR actions but despite them. The growth we have witnessed in recent months is a) the one that the PAL economy would have made, if no ISR restrictions were active in the first place and b) as the World Bank pointed out will not be sustainable, if the occupation continues.
You are right that ISR is constantly offering to talk about peace. Yet talking about peace is not making peace. We have witnessed now at least two decades of peace talking without peace making. The reason why Israel is willing to talk is that it is in control of the situation and that talking allows it to divert the pressure of the international community. During the 2nd Intifada ISR justified its refusal to talk to the PLO with the argument that you cannot talk peace and at the same time at least support actions that undermine this peace i.e. Palestinian terroristic activity. It is now only the same logic that the PLO is applying when asking Israel to stand to its obligations in regard to settlements.
We all know that the 10 months moratorium had no effects on the ground. 603 housing units alone were built during these ten months and thousands more did start into construction on the very day the moratorium ended. As public buildings and the major hotspot of settlement activity East Jerusalem were exempt from the moratorium, it was almost meaningless. Also the administration made sure to grant all possible building permits for settlers before the moratorium kicked in. These alone accounted for a 300% rise in granting of building permits in the last quarter of 2009 according to the ISR Bureau of Statistics. Stopping the building of settlements is not a bargaining chip that the GoI is free to give or not. It is a direct ISR obligation both under international law and under the Roadmap. We are not even talking about peace negotiations here and final status agreements like the division of Jerusalem or the like. We are talking about the ISR refusal to fulfill even the bare minimum. Pls. tell me which part of the Roadmap the GoI has fulfilled so far?

With your claim that I said "t is all Israel´s fault" you are again distorting what I wrote. I did neither write about individuals in the Turkish administration nor about putting all the blame on Israel. In fact, I have not spoken about the administration at all but only about politicians and "the street". You are charging me with bias when in fact you seem to consult mainly agenda driven sources and seem to have no or limited access to decission makers in politics and administration whose oppinions you claim to know.

I asked before how many years you have spent in the region so far (and by region I do not mean Tel Aviv only). This was not meant to discredit you or to claim that you might only work on countries you have been to, but to ask, if you ever had the chance to see what is evolving on the ground from a first hand perspective that would allow you to question and assess the validity of information. There is a difference, if you have spoken with evicted families driven out in the middle of the night onto the street by Israeli security forces from their homes so that settlers can move in. There is a difference, if settlers have cocked their guns at your head with the IDF watching idle. There is a difference, if the IDF has imprisoned your friends for months without accusation or due process. There is a difference, if you see people sitting in their demolished houses in Gaza, just because they lived too close to the border fence. And of course there is also a difference, if you have seen how Hamas imprisons their political enemies or how children in southern Israel run for bomb shelters. But seeing these things happen is necessary to understand the systems, this can rarely been done from a desk.

 
Niklas  Anzinger

January 4, 2011

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Mr. Brakel, thanks for your remarks, now I understand your argument better.

Again, let this background not play a role in our discussion - it is not fair and I would strongly object your argument that you have to hear the stories all by the people himself. During my research I met so many different people, who have been there for decaded and still have contradicting opinions. You can have a good insight, if you read the news about the region and good reporters - one wouldn´t have needed the wikileaks-cables if one did so. And you can live in the region for 30 years and still have flawed views. Indeed what you say, is nothing new to me, I heard all the arguments before. Again, I think it is way of discrediting my argument in an inaccurate way that you insist that I have had to spend some years in the Middle East in order to be qualified for this discussion. So, I ask you again, please leave this out - it is not a fair argument. It is an "ad personam"-argument and should be abandoned in serious debates.

You stated the only indicator for Islamist ambitions as establishing Islamic laws. This is not the case. My argument was two-sided - the inwards measures of the Turkish government and the foreign agenda.

The main point of the first part was the following:

"Additionally, several secularist opposition groups have been unlawfully persecuted and significant aspects of the media, civil service and private business integrated in the Islamist project. Erdogan also removed eminent figures in the state-controlled Ministry of Religion, which organizes the distribution of religious education, academic religious studies and supports Muslims in foreign countries."

The argument is that the Turkish government are indeed Islamists and replaced state positions and military positions with Islamists. The effect on the state itself is not foreseeable, I never claimed that. But isn´t it a rather obvious claim that Islamists lead the country and try to gain more power? Do I really have to draw a picture of Islamist thinking of the Turkish leadership? I didn´t want to claim more in the first place, the second part is more important for my argument.

If we assume that the leaderhip of Turkey has an Islamist orientation, what effects would this have on foreign policy? I mentioned rapproachment with Iran and Syria, I mentioned Erdogan´s pro-Hamas attitude, I meant defending the genocidal Sudanese regime and I cited some cables about suppliance of terrorist groups and hatred of the Turkish leadership towards Israel. It is no secret that Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah are an Islamist axis that seeks for the destruction of Israel. Along with the political landscpae the wikileaks-cables drew (which was indeed nothing new to me, but it just gives me a stronger argument), this is a clear political statement. The flotilla incident and the following political crisis between Turkey and Israel indicated this foreign policy shift.

After all, my definition of an "Islamist agenda" would be a political orientation to define the interpretation of Islam - therefore one has to understand the struggles in different Islam interpretations. Iran´s Shiite Islamist interpretation is a theocracy under the rule of the Supreme Leader as god´s chosen representative. The interpretation of Islamist terror groups is the jihad as a terrorist tactic presented as a fight against the infidels. All these offer an interpretation of unifying the Muslim world and being the forefront of their struggle. Unfortunately, the Jewish state became an essential part of general Islamist agenda. Every of these movements has to offer a solution to "free the Palestinian people" and get rid of the Zionist invaders. We are talking about a deeply religious struggle that influences the policy of most of the Middle East states. They all have to deal with Islamists in one way or another.

So, my claim was that the Turkish government are Islamists. This is because they took steps to rapproach with the enemys of Israel and confronted Israel diplomatically. I called this an "adventure" because Turkey is a democracy and these steps are not easy to justify. The justification steps is anti-Western and anti-Israeli propganda, as I mentioned.

This is my interpretation of this situation, which of course can change very quickly. Another reason why I called this agenda "adventurous".

My expertise is most of all the history and ideology of anti-Semitism. In my understanding you need to understand the historical premises of this ideology in order to understand the current Middle East conflicts. In found it to be a very European version of understanding the conflict that it is the behavior of Israel which is the main cause of all these conflicts. And I found it to be a wrong claim and I would have hundreds of objections reagarding your version of the current situation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. After all, we would have to discuss even these premises to come to an conclusion. If you do not understand Islamism as a political movement and hostility towards Israel as an ideological bypass the way I do, we won´t come to the same assessment.

I hope my remarks can help to understand my argument more adequate. I do not insist on having the last word, but I suggest that we discuss this per e-Mail, as there seems to be little interest in our discussion for the community. We could also share sources that way.

I apologize for not directly answering your questions, I thought it was more important to understand the theory of my explanation. You asked for things that are incommensurable with my approach.

 
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January 4, 2011

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I want to clarify again that I did no state nor do I believe that you need to live in a country before you are allowed to make statements about its politics. Nor will you automaticly become an expert just because you live in a country. What I explained was that I believe that it makes a difference, if you have seen things from afar or had close personal experiences. I think that this esp. applies to the PAL/ISR conflict where all sides make a heavy use of propaganda. Of course I cannot prove this by any statistic, but I had enough politicians and officials whose daily job it is to monitor foreign affairs who for the first time came to see the situation on the ground and stood in shock because it turned out that they failed to rightly understand it before (some of them being close to or breaking into tears afterwards). So this was not meant to discredit your arguments but just to encourage you to go and make your own experiences.

On your arguments:
There is a major difference between moves that the AKP government has been taking against former power and economic elites and moves to Islamize the country. The academic question on the ground of this might be how you define Islamism, because there is no agreed definition on this. In my defintion Islamism defines all policies that work towards introducing or fusing Shari'a law into/with the legal system i.e. introducing a deity as the ultimate point of reference that is then extrasystemical. Your definiton is very broad and has the inherit danger to become blurred along the lines. As we can assume that every person who holds both political and religious worldviews fuses these aspects - even unconsciously - together and would therefore automatically have a politcal understanding of religion and a religious understanding of politics every Muslim would be an Islamist. If you concentrate you defintion on organizations only you exclude those Islamists who are non-organized.
The problem with the moves the AKP has taken is that a restructuring of every power structure means taking power away from old elites. As the old elites in TUR identified with the Kemalist ideas (incl. laicism, not secularism as you wrote. TUR has never been a secular state!) it is hard to tell, if these moves are meant to disempower laicism or just to shift the power to new elites. As we have not seen any major moves to really change legislation in a religious way I would argue that we are just witnessing the latter.
Assuming that the AKP's foreign policy agenda is Islamistic, what does that mean? Reapprochment with Syria? This is something we see happening since a few years already. We can argue that it is not helpful, but in how far is this an indicator for Islamization? SYR is military dictatorship led by an Allawi, not an Islamist regime.
I would also strongly dispute the idea of an "axis", as all of the actors named by you are highly independent and e.g. the agenda of Hamas is quite different from the one of Hizb'llah and not as simplistic as "the destruction of Israel", not to mention Sudan (even though not part of your claimed axis) which maintains its strongest ties not with Islamic countries but with China, India and Kenya.
Your division of the world? the region? into enemies and non-enemies(friends?) of Israel is simplistic. At best it is irrelevant to EU and US interests. As I have explained above political interests of the US, the EU and Israel are not congruent. Both the EU member states and the US entertain excellent relations with a number of countries that harbour no sympathy for Israel and this might be bad for Israel but it is often helpfull for the US and/or the EU. And btw. not every democracy that confronts Israel diplomatically is a threat or up for an "Islamist adventure". As you like to point to the Wikileaks' cables you probably know that even Germany, a country both democratic and rather non-Islamist, from time to time confronts Israel diplomatically. And rightly so.

As for anti-semitism, you are right, one has to understand it and esp. how it developed in the Middle East in the last decades. However different than you, I do not think that the major driving force for Islamism, politics in the region or the Middle East conflict is anti-semitism. I also do not think that there is smth like "a European understanding" of a conflict, this actually sounds quite racist to me (and probably to Edward Said as well). You have various times claimed that I would be blaiming Israel to be "the main cause of all these conflicts". That is inaccurate. I rather ask from you that you to stop interpreting everything in a manichaeic world view and take a look at the pure facts.
Even if we assume that the Palestinians would be driven by an immutable hate for everything Jewish, we would have to conclude that the PA has fulfilled most of its step one Roadmap conditions, while Israel has not only not fulfilled any of its obligations but is violating them on a daily basis. So they might be anti-semites but they are making the necessary steps for peace. International relations is about treaties and their fulfillment. We should not forget about ideologies but we should also take notice of political actions because they ultimativly decide, if there will be peace or not.

Last but not least, there are flights available with Air Berlin and Germanwings for a less than 100 Euros back and forth to Tel Aviv. If you decide to fly to the region, I would be more than happy to bring you in contact with Israelis and Palestinians alike who can show and discuss with you the different aspects of the conflict. I would be more than happy to discuss your experiences with you afterwards.

Also I would highly recommend the following article to you that appeared in Foreign Affairs a few weeks back and tackles the problem of the mentioned manichaeic view: http://www.ihavenet.com/World-Middle-East-Beyond-Moderates-and-Mili...
 
Niklas  Anzinger

January 4, 2011

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I shall give you the last word, so I will not make an argument this time. Let us continue our discussion via Mail.

But just a few words:

- I did not tackle the issues you mention regarding EU and Israel

Though you correctly mention that my suggestions regarding your assessment of the ISR/PAL issue are inaccurate, you shouldn´t do the same thing.

- my assessment of the Roadmap is indeed the other way round. I think the Israelis fulfilled their obligations and the Palestinians didn´t. Additionally I have strong criticism about the political framework of this Roadmap.

But I will not make an argument here.

- again, I think the discussion about visiting the region is in the wrong place here. I have some political background, know some people, been to several places - but that is irrelevant for my argument; any discussion about this would lead to unnecessary self-justification

Please, let´s end the discussion here. Our readers can e-Mail us, if they have questions related to the topic and we can continue our discussion by also telling about our different political backgrounds or experiences.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

January 4, 2011

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Pardon, I meant:

- I did not tackle the issues you mention regarding EU and the US
 
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January 5, 2011

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>I think the Israelis fulfilled their obligations and the Palestinians didn´t.

it is nice that you think that, but this is not a question of individual assesment.
Anyway I am open to receive your aswer by email to see which obligations of the RMfP ISr has fulfilled.
 
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January 18, 2011

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Please browse this article from the 'The Hindu' editorial dated 01/18:

"
Turkey's policy turn

The expansion of Turkish economic activity in Iraq is only one element of Ankara's shrewd regional strategy. This could well provide a stabilising influence notwithstanding problematic historical and political legacies, which include the repression of Turkey's Kurdish community as well as an earlier cosy relationship with Israel. Trade between Turkey and Iraq doubled from $3 billion in 2008 to $6 billion in 2010. Around 700 Turkish companies now operate in northern Iraq and newspaper reports suggest that Turkey plans to extend such involvement much further south, with high-profile attractions such as luxury apartments and oil exploration to supplement existing oil interests in the north. Iraqi Kurdistan is an early beneficiary of this intensified activity, and the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani even visited Turkey in June 2010. That would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. What is more, a Kurdish-language TV channel has been launched in Turkey for the 20 per cent Kurdish minority. Ankara has even started searches for the bodies of sympathisers of the Kurdish separatist PKK party who were killed by Turkish forces over a period of two decades or more. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan deserves much credit for taking these healing steps despite reservations held within the influential military set-up.

In embarking on a new policy path, Turkey is not just seeking to ensure that Iraq's political space will no longer be monopolised by Iran. It may actually cooperate with Iran in the process. By making serious contact with the Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, Ankara also expects to send a clear message to Israel. Turkish-Israeli relations soured quickly over Israel's brutal Operation Cast Lead in December 2008. Ankara withdrew its ambassador from Israel when eight Turkish citizens aboard the Gaza peace flotilla were killed by Israeli troops in 2010. There is an equally strong message for the United States and the European Union. The U.S. State Department, which calls Turkey NATO's “vital eastern anchor,” is disappointed that in the U.N. Security Council Turkey voted against a fresh package of sanctions against Iran. The western powers are partly responsible for Turkey's new approach. In 2002, Mr. Erdogan was deeply offended when German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and France's President Jacques Chirac told him that Turkey would have to wait longer than expected for negotiations to begin over entry into the EU. If Turkey's Iraq strategy has caused concern in the western world, the rest of the world, and specifically non-aligned India, should welcome a forward-looking and peace-building involvement in the region.
"

Calahas
 
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January 18, 2011

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I would think that Turkey has taken the role of the Middle-East Stabilizer over from USA in some places - Northern Iraq for sure. This indicates their future policy of looking South to increase their economic, political and military influence in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon etc. Given their increasing economic growth rates, they may play the big-power partner to Syria and Iran to solve local Middle-East issues of any nature in the future. This has been the traditional Ottaman role till 1918. And they seem to be returning to it and actually will be welcomed more and more into it in the coming years and decades. An initiative from Turkey may in fact provide the foundation for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement rather than one from the P5+1.

Calahas

 
Niklas  Anzinger

January 19, 2011

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Mr. Calahas,

I view the article above as useful and important for my argument.

But I guess, we have different assessments regarding the regional issues - I may strongly assume that the Turkish government is hostile towards Israel and will therefore not play a constructive role in a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement; so won´t Syria and Iran. Turkey shifted away from the stabilizers (though this term is far too optimistic, it is rather a demarcation) to the destabilizers.

Note: Turkey will stand by Hamas

http://www.qassam.ps/news-4028-Erdogan_Turkey_will_stand_by_Hamas.html
 
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March 6, 2011

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1.Nikolas Anzinger is mixing America`s interests with those of Israel`s. What is it to America whether a country in the Middle East has democracy or not? If this is a matter of so much importance then why not to bother with the regime in Saudi Arabia, which is already ruled by Islamic rule?
2.The so-caleed `stable, secular state` in Turkey that you desperately support is the regime nothing short of the Turkish version of Husnu Mubarek regime which was ended in Egypt and is about to finish in Turkey by the hands of the peoples in both countries.
3.The fact that Turkey is getting rid of judiciary and military tutalage may seem to be fearing for some who are happy with and benefit from it.This is a true fact that Turkey wants to have a civilian authority over military and accordingly wants to take its own decision in the region and doesn`t want to continue to be the puppet state like many others in the region.So, please those who are happy with and benefit from a puppet Turkey be brave and frank to say that Turkey is becoming more independent but do not mislead people and blame that they are getting islamicized. This is a pure lie and if it really bothers you then why do you not bother with Saudi Arabia. So, the problem is not to do with Islam but the question is whether puppet or not.
 
Basia A Bubel

March 29, 2011

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@ Chris,

The interests of the United States and those of Israel are similar in many ways. They are very close allies and the United States is a strong supporter of Israel. So, in that sense, I do not think that Niklas is mixing interests. The U.S. of course will not bother with the regime in Saudi Arabia because of a historical friendship that has been established. Also, as of right now, Saudi Arabia is politically stable and therefore, not a concern for the U.S at the moment.

As for your concerns with the points about Turkey- what Niklas is saying is that a Turkey ruled by political Islam is dangerous. And he is not trying to say that the problem is with Islam. The concern lies with Turkey becoming an Islamist State rather than continuing its secular form and the possible risks associated with that. Once again, this is not about attacking Islam as a religion but it is rather a criticism of political Islam.
 
Niklas  Anzinger

April 4, 2011

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@ Chris

1. Democracies best cooperate with democracies for various reasons. Therefore, democracies have the interest to support and encourage compliance with other democracies. Simple as that.

2. Where did I defend a "stable, secular Turkey"? I am very familiar with the misconceptions of Turkish democracy in the time before AKP came into power. I just object that their style of rulership and transformation of state and society is beneficial for Western interests. I have clarified that various times.

If you don´t believe there should be "Western interests" because you associate this with puppet-playing, then you won´t buy my argument.
 
Brooke Rachel  Feldman

April 6, 2011

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AKP definitely has plans to become more like Iran. The prime minister has even been quoted saying this! His opposition is half the population who still lie with the progressive beliefs of Ataturk and the military. Anyone who visits Turkey will clearly see they will never be joining the UN. In a country that does not even have copyright laws, Turkey is so fundamentally different from the rest of Europe that I don't see the government every strongly pursuing to join the EU. In around 2001, Turkey turned its entire economy and human rights laws independently which has so far succeeded. With the falling economy of the EU, Turkey has not real gain to join the EU--except to increase trade and travel with the rest of Europe. I don't think this is a priority as the Middle East can provide these needs for Turkey. That being said, now that many countries in the ME are in political upheaval, it will be interesting to see what Turkey's opinion is.
 

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