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Turkey’s dispute with Europe feeds Erdogan’s power thirst

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 10, 2017, in Moscow. Photo handout from the Kremlin

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
March 18, 2017

The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte this week saw off a serious populist challenge from bleach-blonde Islamaphobe Geert Wilders, but in so doing he has unwittingly given another demagogue the leg-up he needs to achieve supreme power.

The diplomatic face-off between the Netherlands and Turkey in the last days of the campaign undoubtedly had a significant effect on the outcome of the Dutch election. But it also was a gift to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is in the final weeks of a referendum campaign that, if successful, will give him almost dictatorial powers.

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of the Russia High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council. Photo handout, Turkish press office

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of the Russia High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council. Photo handout, Turkish press office

 

Until now, Turks have been sharply divided on whether or not to transfer almost all power from parliament to an executive presidency under Erdogan. And Erdogan himself had run out of new ideas about how to entice the two or three per cent of voters he needs to fulfil his lust for power.

Then came resistance to his campaign, first from Germany and then from the Netherlands. Both countries blocked Erdogan’s ministers and campaign organizers from holding rallies among the very large Turkish diasporas in both their countries. Erdogan reacted by going into rhetorical overdrive, accusing both Germany and the Netherlands of nursing Nazi sentiments.

There are about 400,000 Turks in the Netherlands, where the population is 17 million, and around 2 million Turks in Germany, whose population is 80 million.

In both countries the Turkish immigrants are sharply divided over the April 16 referendum. And both the German and Dutch governments had good reason to fear that campaign rallies on behalf of Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party could get out of hand.

In Germany, several cities banned planned rallies where members of Erdogan’s government would address the crowds. Some of the excuses sounded slender – lack of parking spaces in one case and fire safety concerns in another – and were easily derided by Erdogan. He accused the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel of “Nazi practices.”

The Dutch had even more reason than the Germans to be wary of allowing Erdogan’s backers to excite the sharp political divisions among Turks in the Netherlands. The Netherlands was in the final days of the parliamentary election held on Wednesday, March 15, and issues around the country’s Muslim immigrants were a central theme of the campaign. Wilders and his Freedom Party led in the polls for much of the campaign with a manifesto of ending Muslim immigration, banning the Koran, closing mosques and taking the Netherlands out of the European Union (EU).

Last Saturday the Dutch government revoked landing rights for a plane carrying Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who planned to speak at a rally. Then Dutch police blocked Family Minister, Beytul Kaya, from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam and forced her to drive back to Germany, from where she had come.

The Rotterdam incident spurred hundreds of Erdogan’s Turkish supporters to take to the streets, and the Dutch police deployed riot squads to restore order.

Erdogan’s government manufactured some fine outrage. The president’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, pushed out a tweet saying the Dutch action was “a dark day for democracy in Europe. Shame on the Dutch government for succumbing to anti-Islam racists and fascists.”

Erdogan chased this theme down the road on Friday in a speech to his supporters in the western Turkish city of Sakarya.

“My dear brothers, a battle has started between the cross and the half moon. There can be no other explanation,” he said in a crude reference to the symbols of Christianity and Islam that adorned the opposing flags in the Crusades of the Middle Ages.

He was even more explicit when he said a ruling on Tuesday by the European Court of Justice permitting companies to ban employees wearing religious symbols, including the headscarf worn by devout Muslim women, as the beginning of a European “crusade” against Islam.

Erdogan went on to threaten to jettison the year-old agreement with the EU to control the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe.

There are nearly three million refugees from the six-year Syrian civil war in camps in Turkey. In 2015, the Erdogan government turned a blind eye and may even have encouraged about one million of the refugees to leave the camps and make the short sea crossing into Greece, the closest EU member country. The torrent of people seeking sanctuary caused a humanitarian and social crisis across the EU, especially as the Syrians added to tens of thousands of people fleeing other parts of the Middle East, Central Asia and West Africa.

Under the terms of the March 2016 deal, Ankara agreed to stop asylum seekers from crossing by sea to the Greek islands in return for the equivalent of $5 billion to finance support for the Syrians in Turkey.

Syrian refugees who had reached the Greek islands were to be returned to Turkey, while qualified Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey were to be resettled in the EU.

Erdogan is now saying that Turkey will no longer readmit failed asylum-seekers from the EU, which raises the prospect of the whole deal unravelling. The Turkish leader is clearly prepared to open the tap on another flow of refugees into Europe if it suits his political purposes.

He is playing a risky game, with potentially disastrous effects on Turkey’s long-term relation not only with Europe, but also with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of which Ankara is a member.

For close to half a century Turkey has been flirting with joining Europe’s economic community. There has been mixed enthusiasm for the match on both sides.

European leaders have looked askance at the very intrusive role the Turkish military has played in politics until very recently. The military regarded itself as the trustee of the secular Turkish state founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923, and regularly launched coups – or threatened to do so – when politicians headed off in directions the generals didn’t like.

An over-crowded graveyard is pictured in the rebel held al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Erdogan, however, since he came to power first as Prime Minister in 2003 and then as President in 2014, has successfully turned Turkey towards becoming an Islamic state and has nullified the independent power of the military at the same time. An attempted coup by elements of the military last year played into Erdogan’s hands. Since then about 140,000 members of the military, the judiciary, academia and the media have either been imprisoned, detained, or fired from their jobs.

Erdogan’s Islamization policies have made European leaders even more suspicious about welcoming Turkey into the EU than before. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke for many when he said Turkish membership of the EU is “unthinkable.”

Even if the major European leaders were more amenable to Turkey in the EU it would be vetoed by member state Cyprus. The island has been partitioned since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied northern Cyprus to protect the majority Turkish population in that region against Greek annexation. The dispute remains unresolved and EU member Cyprus, the southern portion of the island with its ethnic Greek majority, will block Turkey joining the EU until there is a settlement.

But Erdogan’s spat with Germany and the Netherlands fits into a pattern of actions by the Turkish President over several years, turning his country away from Europe and the West. He is behaving as though his prime objective is to restore Turkey as a major mover and shaker in the Middle East, a position it lost with the end of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

That is most evident in the often duplicitous role Erdogan has played in the Syrian civil war. Early on, he allowed Turkey to be a highway for foreign fighters seeking to join the Islamic State terrorist, fundamentalist group occupying much of eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. And when Erdogan did agree to join his NATO allies in military action in Syria, he focussed on attacking Syrian Kurds, who he accuses of being allies and supporters of the independence movement among Turkish Kurds.

Even so, Turkey’s relations with its NATO allies appear to be functional at the moment. Ankara is working with Washington and Moscow in the early stages of talks to fashion a joint plan to bring peace to Syria.

What effects the outcome of the April 16 referendum will have are difficult to gauge. The prospect of Erdogan’s pleasure at a victory and achieving near despotic power is unsavoury. But even more so is the chaos his anger may unleash if he loses.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2017

Contact Jonathan Manthorpe, including for queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Fethullah Gülen: public intellectual or public enemy?

By Joshua D. Hendrick
August 13, 2016

On July 15 the Turkish Republic survived an attempted military coup d’état that killed nearly 300 people and cost more than an estimated US$100 billion.

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan

Immediately following the coup, Turkey’s government began a massive purge of state, military, business and civil society institutions in an attempt to remove alleged plotters from the ranks of social power. To date, approximately 75,000 people have been detained or forced to resign.

Human rights groups allege that arbitrary arrest and torture are becoming routine. Turkey’s leaders strongly refute such claims. They argue that security forces are doing what is necessary to protect the nation from a clearly defined enemy. The implications of the failed coup are deeply concerning for Turkey, the region and the world.

What unites the purged are alleged connections to Turkey’s most famous religious personality, Fethullah Gülen.

Presented by his followers as a learned scholar and orator, Gülen leads a transnational social and economic network that participants call Hizmet, from the Turkish word for “service,” and outsiders call the Gülen movement. The Turkish government insists Fethullah Gülen orchestrated the coup, and are demanding both domestic and international cooperation to bring him and his alleged co-conspirators to justice.

What do we know about this man and his movement?

The Gülen movement

Anchored in private education, the GM began in the late 1960s. That’s when Gülen established a following of mostly young men attracted to his emotional call for religious Turks to participate in secular education and the market economy.

Gülen discouraged participation in Turkey’s primary Islamic political movement. Instead, he encouraged a patient and calculated accumulation of economic and institutional influence. As a form of “market Islam,” members of the GM moved beyond education to succeed in news and entertainment media, information technologies, manufacturing, finance and other sectors. By the early 2000s, the GM operated schools and businesses in well over 100 countries.

I first met associates of the Gülen movement in 2005 in the United States. At the time, I was aware that Gülen lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, and I knew of several interfaith institutions that designated Gülen as their honorary president. I chose to do my dissertation research on the GM. I was intrigued by his brand of Islamic activist thinking, and by his followers’ focus on participation over confrontation, and on market competition over political insurrection.

In Turkey and most of the world, GM schools are private, for-profit institutions that required startup capital to be secured from within the GM community. Access to charter funding in the U.S., however, provided GM affiliates with an opportunity to secure public dollars for their education ventures. My research revealed that GM affiliates operated approximately 150 publicly funded, privately managed, charter schools throughout the United States – more GM institutions than anywhere outside Turkey.

As public schools, the GM’s school’s curriculum adhered to state-defined standards. Despite criticism that they were laboratories of “education jihad,” GM schools were widely lauded for offering a high-quality science- and math-based education.

Parallel to moving into U.S. education was a widespread effort to promote Fethullah Gülen as an antidote to global jihadism. Followers presented his teachings as exemplifying what non-Muslims term “liberal” or “moderate” Islam. To this end, loyalists organized conferences, lobbied political officials and sponsored thousands of trips to Turkey for American academics, activists, journalists, politicians and religious leaders. The GM was presented as a collective advocate for peace and democracy.

Time and again, GM activists denied any and all political aspirations. In interviews I conducted in the U.S., directors of these activities insisted that their aim was simply to cultivate dialogue with different social groups. When I pointed out that they were clearly targeting people of influence to support GM initiatives, I was told that I was not taking into account the religious sincerity of those involved.

I spent more than a year in Turkey conducting field research. From dozens of interviews, I learned that the GM network provided social mobility for thousands of Turks in a variety of sectors. A quality education, gainful employment, social rank and prestige, and world travel were all rewards of participation. I frequently asked why Gülen was a subject of distrust and conspiracy in Turkey. GM followers dismissed such suspicions as fear-mongering. They explained that so-called secularists in Turkey were fearful of pious Muslims. Organizational opaqueness, they argued, was necessary to protect themselves from secular state repression.

As I argued in my book, when and where an organization labeled itself as “inspired” by Fethullah Gülen, and when and where affiliation was denied, depended upon context. Despite such ambiguity, GM loyalists insisted their aims were solely focused on creating the conditions for peace and prosperity.

A high point in this effort was reached in 2008 when GM affiliates managed to manipulate the results of a popular online poll conducted by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines to name Gülen the world’s most influential public intellectual.

The new Turkey

The GM’s maturation coincided with the 2002 rise of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to single-party power. Gülen had long avoided participation in Turkish political Islam, but the AKP’s effort to rebrand Turkish Islamism in favor of market liberalization and global cooperation led the two social forces toward cooperation.

As partners, the GM and the AKP led a period of extensive political and economic reform in Turkey, and oversaw a massive, albeit fraudulent, legal effort to dismantle entrenched state and military elites. It was thus under the AKP’s authority that the GM accumulated influence in Turkey’s police forces, the judiciary, the military and in the Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs, Trade and elsewhere.

In 2011, the AKP returned to power for a third term. Shortly thereafter, the AKP and the GM each attempted to consolidate power, leading to a period of increasing enmity. A GM-linked prosecutor subpoenaed the AKP-appointed head of Turkey’s National Intelligence to account for alleged illegal government negotiations with Kurdish insurrectionists. This, together with a surveillance effort targeting the highest levels of government, was viewed by the AKP as overreach.

For its part, the AKP moved to close down GM-affiliated schools, media outlets and companies. In so doing, however, the AKP earned infamy for curbing press freedoms and for seizing private businesses. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s international reputation shifted from that of a reformer to an authoritarian trying to silence critics. Between 2012 and 2016, a behind-the-scenes struggle for power devolved from squabble to nonviolent warfare.

Peace island or civil war monger?

So what happens now? Should the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gülen? Should schools, businesses and interfaith organizations operated by GM affiliates in the U.S. be investigated to see if they played a part in an attempt to overthrow a foreign government? What about the thousands of recruited sympathizers in the U.S. and elsewhere who have previously supported, promoted or defended the GM and its leader? How will they respond to the accumulation of evidence pointing to the GM’s culpability on July 15?

Like me, most are likely waiting for a transparent investigation that can withstand legal scrutiny. Considering Gülen’s rights as a permanent resident in the U.S., Turkey must provide such evidence in accordance with international extradition law. This slow process will inevitably stir tensions between the two allies.

Turkish intellectuals claim the West is reluctant to accept Gülen’s true colors. Many are incensed. Skeptical U.S. opinion-makers, however, point to alleged human rights atrocities following the coup, and to Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies before the coup as cause for pause.

Regardless of this debate, Gülen has not been able to deny the mass of circumstantial evidence linking his affiliates to the coup plot. His argument, however, is that this should implicate neither himself, nor the GM as a whole.

Sincere or not, it must be underscored that the GM is organizationally defined both by obfuscation and hierarchy. That is, it is entirely plausible that if “Gülenists” in Turkey’s military played a leading role in the events of July 15, “Gülenists” in other sectors could have had no knowledge of it, or of any aspect of the GM’s alleged “dark side.” As the world observes the collapse of “the new Turkey,” confusion should be expected.

If it can be proven that the events of July 15 were orchestrated by GM, however, longtime critics will be vindicated and longtime sympathizers will be at an impasse. These actions killed hundreds and propelled Turkey into a state of chaos. They are completely antithetical to what the GM has collectively claimed to stand for – peace and democracy.

If Gülen helped orchestrate the coup, tens of thousands of affiliates and sympathizers, as well as those of us who have tried to more objectively study this man and his movement, will need to come to terms with one of the most fantastic frauds in modern history.

The ConversationCreative Commons

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Joshua D. Hendrick is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Studies at Loyola University Maryland

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Turkey’s Shock Waves Slam Middle East

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
July 30, 2016

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan

The fascist coup of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – for that is what it is – has thrown a large boulder into the boiling, muddy waters of the Middle East.

Turkey’s fellow Sunni Muslim neighbours are apprehensive that Erdogan’s massive purge of his opponents and grabbing of personal power will be accompanied by a reaffirmation of his support for radical Islam. This fear has already thrown off balance efforts by Saudi Arabia to build an Islamic Military Alliance among Sunni Muslim states to battle terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State, and to present a united front to the increasingly assertive Shia Muslim state of Iran.

Erdogan, meanwhile, appears to be oblivious of the wider implications of his actions following what he claims was an attempted coup on July 15 by army officers and others who follow exiled religious leader Fethullah Gulen. In the aftermath of whatever it was that really happened on Friday two weeks ago, Erdogan’s security forces have got about 15,000 people in detention, revoked the passports of nearly 50,000 people, and suspended more than 66,000 people from their jobs. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of 89 journalists.

Erdogan has reacted angrily to disquiet expressed by the United States and European government that his purge of the civil service, military, judiciary and educational establishment is out of all proportion to the coup threat, if, indeed, there was one.

“Instead of thanking this nation that quashed the coup in the name of democracy, on the contrary, you are taking sides with the coup plotters,” Erdogan said on Friday. He is especially upset that Washington will not immediately hand over Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in the U.S. since 1999.

In his speech Erdogan went further and suggested Washington might have been behind the failed plot in alliance with Gulen, who was the Turkish leader’s political ally until they fell out. Erdogan became suspicious of the popularity of Gulen’s vision of Islam among the military, judges and judicial officials, and in the education system where the cleric’s organisation operated many schools and colleges. Gulen has denied any involvement in whatever happened on July 15.

This is a major breech between Turkey and its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to which the Ankara government contributes the second largest military after Washington. And Erdogan’s actions in the last two weeks also put even further out of reach than they already are Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union. Those negotiations are already stalled on most fronts, and if Erdogan reintroduces capital punishment, as has been widely hinted, his EU membership application will be torn up.

The most immediate effects, however, are on the three-cornered civil war in Syria, the occupation by the Islamic State of large areas of western Iraq and eastern Syria, and even the war in Yemen.

There was a strong indication on Monday this week of the dislocation among Arab Middle Eastern leaders. The 22 leaders of the member states of the Arab League were due to meet in Mauritania for their annual summit with the hammering out of a joint approach to the Syrian civil war high on the agenda.

It didn’t happen. Only eight Arab heads of state showed up, and those were all from irrelevant nations such as Somalia, Sudan, the Comoros, and Djibouti. The big boys, such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt, stayed away.

Following on from the upheaval in Turkey, this is a set-back to what had begun to look like positive moves among Sunni Muslims to build an alliance against violent radical Islam. In December last year Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defence, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, announced the formation of a 34-nation Islamic Military Alliance, which included Turkey and other Muslim countries as far away as Malaysia and Pakistan. The idea is to share intelligence on radical terrorist groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaida and its affiliates, and to train, equip and provide forces to fight together against these groups.

Significantly, the alliance does not include Iran, the leader of Shia Islam with strong links to the Shia majority in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia minority populations in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and most other Muslim countries.

The creation of this alliance was welcomed by the U.S., and it appeared to herald the healing of breeches between Turkey and Saudi Arabia in particular. Erdogan went to Riyadh and signed a far-reaching strategic co-operation agreement with the Saudi government. Then, in February this year, Saudi troops were sent to Turkey for joint exercises that for a while looked as though they might be a prelude to a ground invasion of northern Syria.

All this looked like a welcome repair in relations between Riyadh and Ankara, which had plummeted after the Arab Spring at the beginning of 2011. Riyadh accused Ankara of supporting the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which took power in Egypt before being removed by the military, and which is a major underground opposition movement in Saudi Arabia.

The rift widened when rebels in Syria rose up to try to oust the Shia President Bashar Assad, who is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. Riyadh, and many in Washington and the capitals of Europe, believed Erdogan was doing little to assist the moderate opposition to Assad, but was allowing arms, money and recruits easy transit to the Islamic State group and other ultra-radical Syrian rebels like the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front.

As well as doing much in recent months to shut off these channels, and stem the flow of war refugees to Europe, Erdogan has also restored relations with Israel. Previous co-operation with Israel ended in May, 2010, when Israeli special forces boarded a ship trying to break the blockade of the Palestinian Gaza enclave and killed nine Turkish activists.

Erdogan is also back on speaking terms with Russia after months of tense relations following the Turkish shooting down of a Russia warplane supporting the Assad regime’s forces.

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of the Russia High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council. Photo handout, Turkish press office

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of the Russia High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council. Photo handout, Turkish press office

But Erdogan’s purge since July 15, and much uncertainty about the future shape and direction of the Turkish government, overshadows all these advances.

The dislocation in the camp of Sunni Muslim nations comes as Iran, the champion of Shia Islam, is displaying growing self-confidence after last year’s deal with the United Nations, the U.S. and Washington’s allies ended the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear development programme.

When all the underbrush of Middle East politics is cut away, the rivalry for influence between Tehran and Riyadh is the core fault line in the region. With sanctions lifting, much-needed investment beginning to flow in, and Tehran now able to expand its diplomatic reach and grip, Iran is flexing its muscles in the contest with Riyadh.

That has been most visible in Iran’s support for the majority Shia government in Iraq, and the military aid for Assad in Syria. Senior members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are advising Assad’s forces. Major military elements of Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy in Lebanon, are also fighting with the Syrian government army.

More recently, Iran has begun stepping up its support for Shia rebels who have control of large parts of Yemen, where Saudi forces are attempting to support the government. In reaction to all this, there have been attacks on the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia. One of the reactions from Iran has been incursions by its military vessels into Persian Gulf waters claimed by Saudi Arabia and Gulf States. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have complained to the UN about these “repeated transgressions and assaults.”

The actions by Iran’s military, especially the elite IRGC, are propelled in part by domestic politics. Since “reformist” president Hassan Rouhani – “reformist” is a relative term in Iran – was elected in 2013 he has been in a slow-motion tussle for influence with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is not only the arbiter of religious life, but controls the military, the IRGC in particular.

The influence of the Guards Corp within the military establishment is set to rise with the appointment this week of a new chairman of the Armed Forces General Staff – the chief military advisor to the Supreme Leader – with close links to the IRGC. Major General Mohamad Hossein Bagheri’s background is in military intelligence, and that has implications for the ways Iran is likely to continue asserting its influence in the Middle East.

Bagheri is a strong advocate of fighting hidden, intelligence-driven wars. He is likely to push cyberware, the utility of which Iran is well aware after thousands of its uranium enrichment centrifuges were destroyed by the Stuxnet computer virus created by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Bagheri will probably also emphasise the use of clandestine operations of one sort or another against regional enemies and dissidents abroad. For example, he was behind an operation in 1995 when IRGC units went into northern Iraq to attack and destroy a base of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Bagheri has little history of contact or working with the civilian government, so he can be expected to take uncompromising stances against the Rouhani administration on matters such as military budgets and social reforms.

With Washington primed to take a harder stance against Iran after November’s U.S. election no matter whether it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump who wins, the Middle East is set to continue to provide the world with more drama and intrigue than anyone needs.

 

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Reporting

Turkish coup crumbles, crowds answer call to streets, by Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay

An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble on Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him and dozens of rebel soldiers abandoned their tanks in the main city of Istanbul.

How the mafia is causing cancer, by Ian Birrell  Magazine

When doctors in rural Italy began to see a surge in cancer cases, they were baffled. Then they made the link with industrial waste being dumped by local crime syndicates.

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (R), greets Britain's new Prime Minister, Theresa May, as she arrives at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (R), greets Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, as she arrives at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

THERESA MAY: Britain’s new prime minister, by Victoria Honeyman  Report

Some newspapers obsessed over Theresa May’s quirky shoe choices, but she also hit headlines with her admission in 2002 that the Conservatives were often seen as the “nasty party”.

UK won’t trigger EU divorce until country-wide agreement, by Russell Cheyne  Report

Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would not trigger formal divorce talks with the European Union until a “UK approach” had been agreed, bidding to appease Scots who strongly oppose Brexit.

Oxford dictionary update shows beauty of English, by Annabelle Lukin  Report

By adding the “World Englishes” to the entries on British and American English, the OED has opened a pandora’s box.  Changes to the OED remind us that a language is open and dynamic.

If carbon pricing is so great, why isn’t it working? by Peter Fairley   Analysis

Carbon pricing has yet to deliver on its potential. To date most carbon prices remain low — “virtually valueless.”  That has led even some economists to question whether carbon pricing’s theoretical elegance may be outweighed by practical and political hurdles.

Commentary:

Beijing’s imperial ambitions run aground on legal reefs, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that China’s claim over the South China Sea is invalid and unlawful. China must now recognise that what is on the line is Beijing’s trustworthiness as an international partner, in everything from trade deals to the working of the UN Security Council.

Why the NRA makes America so very dangerous, by Tom Regan   Column

Recent events in the U.S. – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – show how the National Rifle Association’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affect the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.

Recommended elsewhere:

The Great Republican Crackup is an excellent analysis of American discontent, by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis.  Excerpt:

The disruption that the nomination of Trump represents for the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan has been cast as a freakish anomaly, the equivalent of the earthquakes that hit the other side of Ohio in recent years. But just as those earthquakes had a likely explanation — gas and oil fracking in the Utica Shale — so can the crackup of the Republican Party and rise of Trump be traced back to what the geologists call the local site conditions. … read the story on ProPublica

We’ve seen another week of blood shed by innocents, of countries roiled by war, of loud simpletons jumping to instant conclusions — including some politicians in positions of extreme power. Facts matter; here’s where to find some of them this week:

  • Follow France24 for news of the Nice truck massacre by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, whose first victim, reported the BBC, was a devout Muslim woman and whose own father described him as mentally ill and not religious.
  • Follow Al Jazeera and Reuters for news of the coup in Turkey.

Findings:

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1346294

FBI sketch of the man dubbed DB Cooper, via Wikipedia.

The man known as America’s air pirate, DB Cooper, is a man of myth, hunted for 45 years by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation after he hijacked a Boeing 727, was paid a ransom, then vanished via parachute somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. In an announcement on Tuesday the FBI officially conceded defeat in perhaps its most storied case. “The FBI exhaustively reviewed all credible leads, coordinated between multiple field offices to conduct searches, collected all available evidence, and interviewed all identified witnesses,” the statement said. ” Unfortunately, none of the well-meaning tips or applications of new investigative technology have yielded the necessary proof.” The hijacker  inspired stories in books, TV series and at least one movie. Shops in Washington and Oregon sell Cooper tourist souvenirs; the town of Ariel, in Washington, holds a “Cooper Day” each fall, notes Wikipedia. Was Cooper his real name? Did he survive the drop? Is he living somewhere in ripe old age? He remains a man of mystery.

American presidential hopeful Donald Trump selected Mike Pence as his VP hopeful. ProPublica compiled some of the best reporting for a profile of the Indiana governor.  Still in America: the climate denial apparatus that has long obstructed American politics needs investigating for fraud, argues U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the Columbia Journalism Review. In a piece about the hyperbolic reaction to his call for such an investigation, he points out, “fraud is not protected speech under the (U.S. constitutional) First Amendment.”

“Face it, Facebook. You’re in the news business,” writes media guru Margaret Sullivan.  Two-thirds of Facebook’s 1.6 billion users get their news there. At  stake, argues Sullivan — former public editor of the New York Times, now the Washington Post media columnist — are no less than civil liberties and free speech.

The close British vote to leave the European Union is already reshaping global security.  Germany Sees Brexit Opening for EU Defense Union With France, write Patrick Donahue and Arne Delfs, of Bloomberg. They report on the German defence minister’s plans for an overhaul, and her suggestion that the U.K. ‘paralyzed’ a joint EU security and defense stance.

Still on Brexit, we all know Churchill’s quip about democracy being the least bad form of government (it’s the tag line on F&O’s Publica section). In the wake of the Brexit debacle, scholar Geoffrey Pullum looked up the person Churchill quoted and, in  In Lingua Franca, the blog of the journal Chronicle of Higher Learning, presented his finding of Robert Briffault (1874–1948), a British surgeon, social anthropologist, and novelist.  Briffault’s exact words — considering the dire decline of political discourse internationally — are worth repeating here:

Democracy is the worst form of government. It is the most inefficient, the most clumsy, the most unpractical. … It reduces wisdom to impotence and secures the triumph of folly, ignorance, clap-trap, and demagogy. … Yet democracy is the only form of social order that is admissible, because it is the only one consistent with justice.  

Of note, the Chronicle also publishes Arts and Letters Daily. Take a look if (and I would be surprised) it’s not already on your must-read menu.

Last but not least: for a pick-me-up read this, from the Oatmeal comic site. Trust me, just do.

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

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Turkish coup crumbles, crowds answer call to streets

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan

By Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay
July 16, 2016

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar attend a funeral ceremony for Army officer Seckin Cil in Ankara, Turkey, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar attend a funeral ceremony for Army officer Seckin Cil in Ankara, Turkey, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) – An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble on Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him and dozens of rebel soldiers abandoned their tanks in the main city of Istanbul.

At least 60 people were killed in violence that erupted on Friday after a faction of the armed forces attempted to seize power, officials said.

A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important U.S. allies while war rages on its border. A failed coup attempt could still destabilise a pivotal country.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV among a crowd of supporters outside Ataturk Airport.

The uprising was an “act of treason”, and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military, he said.

Addressing a crowd of thousands of flag-waving supporters at the airport later, Erdogan said the government remained at the helm, although disturbances continued in Ankara.

However, in an emailed statement from the Turkish military General Staff’s media office address, the pro-coup faction said it was determinedly still fighting.

Before you continue: please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We are on an honour system and survive only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story.  Contribute below, or find more details here. Thanks for your interest and support.

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Calling itself the Peace at Home Movement, the faction also called on people to stay indoors for their own safety.

Rebel soldiers who had taken control of military aircraft were still firing from the air and fighter jets had been scrambled to intercept them, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, underscoring the ongoing uncertainty.

Gunfire and explosions had rocked both Istanbul and Ankara in a chaotic night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power.

Around 50 soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul after dawn on Saturday, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air. Reuters witnesses saw government supporters attack the pro-coup soldiers who had surrendered.

Earlier, around 30 pro-coup soldiers had surrendered their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul’s central Taksim square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan take a sefie with an armored vehicle in front of Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/IHLAS News Agency

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan take a sefie with an armored vehicle in front of Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/IHLAS News Agency

LAWMAKERS IN HIDING

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait that links Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Authorities had shut the strait to tanker traffic, shipping agent GAC said.

By the early hours of Saturday, lawmakers were still hiding in shelters inside the parliament building in Ankara, which was being fired on by tanks. Smoke rose up from nearby, Reuters witnesses said. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and that people had been wounded.

A senior Turkish official said later on Saturday attacks on the parliament had “largely stopped”.

A Turkish military commander also said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters there.

Momentum turned against the coup plotters as the night wore on. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

“We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we’re not going to leave this country to degenerates,” shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Ataturk airport.

Erdogan and other officials blamed the attempted coup on followers of Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States who once supported Erdogan but became a nemesis.

The pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values said it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he phoned the Turkish foreign minister and emphasised “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions”.

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, which seized swaths of neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

European Council President Donald Tusk called for a swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order, saying tensions there could not be resolved by guns.

“Turkey is a key partner for the European Union. The EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the institutions of the country and the rule of law,” Tusk said at regional summit in Mongolia.

A civilian beats a soldier after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

A civilian beats a soldier after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

SOCIAL MEDIA CUT OFF

Airports were shut and access to internet social media sites was cut off in the first hours of the coup attempt. Flag carrier Turkish Airways resumed flights on Saturday, Erdogan said.

Malaysia Airports, the operator of Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, Istanbul’s second airport, said it would continue to process flights in and out of Turkey.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the pro-coup faction that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. Turkey would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

TRT went off the air shortly afterwards. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of Saturday.

Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire in Ankara. Anadolu news agency said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency.

The coup had appeared strong early on Friday evening. A senior EU source monitoring the situation said: “It looks like a relatively well-orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels … They control several strategic points in Istanbul.”

One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.

“This is clearly not some tinpot little coup. The Turkish ambassador was clearly shocked and is taking it very seriously,” the diplomat told Reuters as the dinner party broke up. “However it looks in the morning, this will have massive implications for Turkey. This has not come out of nowhere.”

Turkey is one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria’s capital Damascus after the army claimed to have toppled Erdogan. People took to the streets to celebrate there and in other government-held cities.

Turkey has been at war with Kurdish separatists and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport that killed more than 40 people.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. However, opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Ayla Jean Yackley, Nick Tattersall, David Dolan, Akin Aytekin, Tulay Karadeniz, Can Sezer, Gulsen Solaker, Ece Toksabay, Murad Sezer, Ercan Gurses, Nevzat Devranoglu, Dasha Afanasieva, Birsen Altayli and Orhan Coskun; Additional reporting by Sue-Lin Wong, Ben Blanchard and Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Peter Graff and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Catherine Evans, Mary Milliken and Paul Tait)

 ~~~

Timeline

(Reuters) – Below is a timeline of breaking events in Turkey on Friday. All times in GMT, based on the times Reuters reported the events. Reuters does not vouch for events reported by other media.

2352 – Turkish PM says situation under control, blames Gulen movement, declares no-fly zone over Ankara. A U.S.-based organisation close to Gulen earlier denied involvement.

2339 – Bomb hits parliament in Ankara, state-run Anadolu Agency says. Reuters witness hears blast in Istanbul.

2320 – Kerry says emphasised “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions” in phone call with Turkish foreign minister.

2313 – Group close to U.S.-based cleric Gulen says accusations it was involved in coup attempt are “highly irresponsible”. Condemns military intervention in Turkish politics, says concerned about safety of citizens.

2305 – President Obama says he and Secretary of State Kerry agree that all parties in Turkey should support elected government. Urges restraint, avoidance of bloodshed – White House statement.

2304 – State-run Anadolu Agency says 17 police killed at Ankara special forces HQ; no independent confirmation

2259 – Turkish fighter jet shoots down military helicopter used by coup-plotters over Ankara, broadcaster NTV says.

2251 – Commander of special forces says a group has engaged in treason, they will not succeed. Says military does not condone coup.

2247 – PM says gangs and illegal formations are behind coup attempt, and calls it a terrorist act. He says government remains in charge. Urges people to take to the streets.

2237 – Commander of Turkey’s First Army, part of land forces responsible for Istanbul and other western areas, said those attempting a coup were a small faction and “nothing to worry about”.

2226 – Two loud explosions heard in centre of Turkish capital

2208 – Tanks surround Turkish parliament building, open fire. Gunfire heard at Istanbul airport.

2203 – Turkish justice minister says members of a movement loyal to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in the army are behind the attempted coup.

2151 – A military helicopter opens fire over the Turkish capital Ankara, witnesses report an explosion in the capital.

2135 – Turkish state broadcaster TRT goes off air, but later starts broadcasting from London.

2126 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urges people to take to the streets to protest against what he describes as a coup attempt by a minority faction within the military. Speaking to a CNN Turk reporter via a cellphone video link he says it will meet a “necessary response”. He says he is returning to the capital Ankara.

2122 – Turkish PM says on Twitter everything will be done to put down coup attempt, even if it means fatalities. Says sieges are under way at some important buildings, without specifying, but urges people to remain calm.

2118 – Presidential source says president and government are still in power.

2105 – Turkish state broadcaster says reading statement on the orders of the military – that new constitution will be prepared, accuses government of eroding democratic and secular rule of law, that the country is being run by a “peace council”, that martial law imposed, curfew imposed across the country.

2102 – Head of Istanbul branch of Turkey’s ruling AK Party says soldiers enter party building, told to go.

2058 – Soldiers are inside buildings of Turkish state broadcaster TRT in Ankara, TRT correspondent tells Reuters.

2057 – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media restricted in Turkey, say internet monitoring groups.

2049 – Turkish presidential source says statement made on behalf of armed forces was not authorised by military command.

2047 – Turkish chief of military staff among hostages taken at military headquarters in Ankara, says state-run Anadolu agency.

2038 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is safe, reports CNN Turk.

2025 – Turkish military says has taken power to protect democratic order. In a statement sent by email and reported on Turkish TV channels, the military says all of Turkey’s existing foreign relations will be maintained.

2002 – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says attempted coup under way, calls for calm. He says a group within Turkey’s military has attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to “do what is necessary”.

1950 – Gunshots are heard in Ankara, military jets and helicopters seen flying overhead. Helicopters seen overhead in Istanbul.

1929 – Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge are both closed. Dogan News Agency footage shows cars and buses being diverted.

(Compiled by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Alison Williams)

~~~

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Week in Review

Gavin's Mexican windmills

Windmills near Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo by Gavin Kennedy © Copyright 2013

 New work on Facts and Opinions, and random observations from the week past:

In Think, Commentary, Natural Security columnist Chris Wood writes of ecosystems as life-support systems in We’re All In This Together, a perspective that challenges the outdated biological understanding that underpins Western individualism. “That splendid, solitary, neurotically cultivated and over-examined individual of pop cultural celebrity, of too many moody novels, of philosophy, and more recently of Darwinian economic ideology, turns out to be just another of those enterprises’ many fantasies,” writes Wood. “In reality, we are not individuals, we are collectives.”

 Also in Commentary,  International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe focuses this week on disturbing developments in two ancient realms that have repercussions for the rest of the world. Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has, with his very political survival at risk, reversed his previous positions on both the contentious role of the military in Turkey, and his dealings with Islamists directed by a leader living in the United States, and who now appear bent on vengeance. Of China, Manthorpe writes ominously, “The hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War is hardly upon us and the air is already thick with speculation it might happen again.”

A new report in Dispatches, Money, shines a light on the intersection of big business and the reality of institutionalized care for our elders in most Western countries. The story of one American assisted-living facility in Oregon touched by violence and neglect is sad, but not particularly unique, writes ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson. “Page through the regulatory records and court files of any state and one will come across such horror stories. The history of the facility itself reflects a larger reality of the assisted living business. Hundreds of such facilities — some exemplary, some deeply troubled — change hands each year, many of them scooped up by the large chains that have come to dominate this swiftly expanding industry.”

Elsewhere, findings of one opinion poll, by Gallup, suggest that a bright New Year dawned in most of the world with people feeling more optimistic – and holding some rather strong opinions on other things as well. The poll suggests:

  • Despite a year of economic difficulty, almost 50% of people surveyed are more positive about 2014 than they were for 2013;
  • The United States, Canada and Australia are the countries where most people would like to live if they could;
  • The United States is considered to be the greatest threat to peace in the world, followed by Pakistan and China;
  • More than a third of those surveyed believe the world would be a better place if there were more female politicians.

F&O reserves our opinion about the issues targeted by Gallup — but we do have one prediction: Energy in all of its myriad and complicated forms, with all of its many repercussions, will be the issue that dominates world affairs in the New Year. We pledge to give it the attention it deserves, starting with the theme of a new slide show by F&O photographers, now up on our home page.

Thanks for being with us as F&O sees in our very first New Year  – at least according to the Gregorian calendar – and to one and all, we wish a Happy 2014.

– Deborah Jones   

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Analysis: Turkey’s military, Islamists, and prime minister

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the contentious roles of the military and Islamists in the desperate quest by Turkey’s prime minister to cling to political power. Excerpt:

Manthorpe B&WTurkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has spent a decade trying to curb the political power of the country’s military, but now there are early indications he wants the support of the generals as he confronts the more serious threat of vengeance by his former Islamist allies.

Erdogan is turning to the military for support as he fights for his political life against the supporters of popular Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Since coming to power in Turkey in 2002, Erdogan has aided Gulenists to grab key positions in the police and judiciary. This was all part of his policy of Islamisation of Turkey, whose 1924 constitution defines the country as a secular republic, with the military having tacit authority to block any efforts to create a religious state.

It will be astonishing if Erdogan can survive this crisis, however. His ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, is being torn apart as the Gulenists in the judiciary and police launch corruption investigations and prosecutions of party members and their families.

In the last decade Erdogan has overseen vigorous advances in the Turkish economy and the re-emergence of Ankara as a major influence in the politics of the Middle East, rivaling the authority of Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Log in to read the column, Turkey’s Erdogan seeks military support after falling out with Islamists*

(F&O premium works, including commentary, are available for a $1 site day pass, or with monthly or annual subscriptions. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.)

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Analysis: Political survival of Turkey’s PM at stake

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the mess that Turkey’s Prime Minister made for himself, and which now threatens his political survival. Excerpt:

ManthorpeTurkey’s bullish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is locked in a struggle for political survival with a United States-based Muslim cleric, whose followers he helped infiltrate the country’s police, courts, the military, and even his own Justice and Development Party.

Erdogan lost another round today in his increasingly frantic contest with the self-exiled conservative cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers in police special investigations units, on December 17, detained 52 people on corruption allegations, including the sons of three cabinet ministers.

In response, Erdogan sacked five Gulenist police commissioners and moved to start removing the cleric’s followers from the judiciary.

At the same time, Erdogan tried to head off the gathering taint of corruption around his administration by firing 10 ministers touched by the investigations or whose loyalty he doubted.

The Prime Minister’s attempts to grab control of the situation are, however, coming up hard against the Gulenists Erdogan helped infiltrate Turkey’s establishment. Erdogan encouraged this infiltration …  

Log in to read the column, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan fights for political survival.* (F&O premium works, including our commentary, are available for a $1 site day pass, or with monthly or annual subscriptions. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.)

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