Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

International

10/21/2016

Turkish Armed Forces destroy terrorists’ positions in Syria

Intl1

Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 21

Turkey’s Armed Forces have destroyed 40 positions of the “Islamic State” (IS, aka ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) terrorist group and six positions of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria as part of the Shield of the Euphrates operation, said a message posted on the website of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces.

As a result of bomb attacks, IS militants were forced to retreat from their positions, losing opportunities for tactical maneuver in the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab.

Three militants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were killed during operations Oct. 20, according to the message.

On Aug. 24 morning, the Turkish Air Force, with the support of the coalition aircraft, launched an operation to liberate the city of Jarabulus from the IS militants in northern Syria, near Aleppo.

The operation was dubbed the Shield of the Euphrates.

Syria has been suffering from an armed conflict since March 2011, which, according to the UN, has so far claimed over 500,000 lives.

Militants from various armed groups are confronting the Syrian government troops. The IS, YPG and PYD are the most active terrorist groups in Syria.


Turkey Bombs US Kurdish Allies in Northern Syria

Intl2

ANKARA — 

Turkey claimed Thursday to have killed dozens Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters in airstrikes. The YPG is backed by the United States, but viewed as a terrorist group by Ankara. The news of the attacks comes ahead of a planned visit to Ankara by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The Turkish military says its air force launched 26 strikes on 18 targets, killing as many as 200 Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters. If confirmed, it would be the deadliest attack on the YPG by Turkish forces, although the militia claims only 10 of its fighters were killed.

The United States sees the YPG as a key ally in the war against Islamic State terrorism.

Ankara accuses the Syrian Kurds of being a terrorist organization linked to the Turkish Kurd PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state.

Turkish political columnist Semih Idiz of the Al Monitor website says the airstrikes carry a powerful message.

“I think it is a message, which indicates Turkey will do what it will do regardless of what others feel, and that may include America. They (Washington) will not be too happy about seeing one of their prime allies on the ground being bombed in this way by Turkey. So it will create waves, I personally think, and perhaps that is what is meant to do,” Idiz said.

Defense Secretary Carter is due in Ankara for talks Friday. He is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Syria and the ongoing offensive to recapture Mosul from Islamic State.

Erdogan on offensive

On Wednesday, Erdogan underlined a new, more robust foreign policy. He said from now on, Turkey will not wait for problems to come knocking, will not wait "until the blade is against our bone and skin, will not wait for terrorist organizations to attack."

Erdogan warned Turkish forces that entered Syria in August to target Islamic State will increasingly target the YPG. Turkey accuses the YPG of seeking to create an independent state, which it fears would stir secessionist demands from its own restive Kurdish minority.

Thursday’s airstrikes are believed to be an attempt to stop YPG advances to capture the Islamic State-held town of al-Bab, which Turkish forces are also targeting.

During his Ankara visit, Carter is expected to seek to avoid a full-scale confrontation between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces.

But columnist Idiz says Erdogan’s likely priority is to secure U.S. support to overcome Baghdad's objections to Turkish forces...



07/19/2016

Turkey sacks 15,000 education workers in purge after failed coup

Intl1

More than 1,500 university deans asked to resign and 257 PM’s office staff dismissed, with 35,000 public servants now affected

Turkey has escalated its purge of government officials in the aftermath of the failed coup, with about 35,000 public servants affected by the end of the day despite a government spokesman insisting that the crackdown was being carried out in accordance with the rule of law.

Military coup was well planned and very nearly succeeded, say Turkish officials

In the latest developments on Tuesday, the government fired more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry, sacked 257 officials at the prime minister’s office and 492 clerics at the directorate for religious affairs. Additionally, more than 1,500 university deans were asked to resign.

It followed the firing of nearly 8,800 policemen, and the arrests of 6,000 soldiers, 2,700 judges and prosecutors, dozens of governors, and more than 100 generals – or just under one-third of the general corps. Some 20 news websites critical of the government have also been blocked.

The Turkish government says it is carrying out a legitimate security operation to safeguard the country in the aftermath of a failed coup that came close to toppling the elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The government claims those arrested or fired had links to Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Islamic cleric whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup, which left more than 300 dead at the weekend. On Tuesday it announced it was preparing a dossier to send to the US in expectation of Gülen’s extradition.

But the scale of the arrests and firings led to fears that Erdoğan is using the situation to settle scores with anyone perceived to pose any kind of threat to the government, whether or not they were involved in the coup.

Two of the world’s leading human rights organisations joined a chorus of international leaders in calling on Turkey to abide by the rule of law as it dealt with the coup’s perpetrators.

“The sheer number of arrests and suspensions since Friday is alarming and we are monitoring the situation very closely,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “The coup attempt unleashed appalling violence and those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice, but cracking down on dissent and threatening to bring back the death penalty are not justice.”

Human Rights Watch said: “While the government has the complete right to hold to...


For those who love him, Turkey’s Erdogan is the “Tall Man”

Intl2

...Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the powerhouse who drove economic success, gave Islam a greater role and boosted regional standing

ISTANBUL — For those who love him, a mix of the religiously conservative and the rising middle class, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the powerhouse who drove economic success, gave Islam a greater role and boosted regional standing. Now, Uzun Adam, or “Tall man” as he’s nicknamed in Turkish, is also the hero who stared down tanks and fighter jets.

He could not have done it without them.

The rush of thousands heeding Erdogan’s call to the streets against Friday night’s failed coup showed the religious-nationalist bulwark that shores up his rule. In their eyes, he is a man of the people who shaped the identity of modern Turkey, putting it on a par with Europe and establishing its place as a leader among Muslim nations where they feel it belongs.

“He is a hero the entire Islamic world,” said Semiha Pacal, a 50-year-old whose shop is across the street from the building where Erdogan lived for nearly 20 years in central Istanbul’s Kaptanpasa neighborhood. She notes with pride how Turkey’s most powerful politician has always kept in touch with his old neighbors.

Erdogan has made her proud to be Muslim, she said. “He has legalized headscarves. Before that it was banned in universities. Muslim people were relieved,” she said. “Even our cemeteries are cleaner, there are flowers blossoming there. He restored all the historical sites and mosques, made them visible.”

Erdogan sought to help his country by joining the European Union, even though, she adds, “they will not take us in since we are Muslim” — echoing the government line that membership talks have stalled because of rising Islamophobia in Europe. To prove her point, she pointed to a Quranic verse hanging on her shop wall, reading, “And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion.”

Erdogan rose through politics touting himself as the representative of Turkey’s conservative Muslim heartland, pushing against the secularism enforced by the military. Tussling with the military-backed establishment along the way, he became mayor of Istanbul in the late 1990s, rose to prime minister in 2003 and has dominated politics ever since.

Throughout, he broke secular taboos, most symbolically by allowing women wearing the headscarf into the public sphere. At the same time, he pushed a market economy agenda that helped fuel an economic boom, lifting...



06/03/2016

Turkey's reaction to Germany genocide vote tempered by politics, trade

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Turkish demonstrators stage a protest against approval of a resolution by Germany's parliament that declares the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a ''genocide'' in front of the German Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, June 3, 2016

Turkish outrage over Germany's decision to label the 1915 massacre of Armenians as an act of genocide was swift, but like the symbolic Bundestag vote itself, Ankara's reaction is likely to be more for show than anything else.

German lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador and summon a senior German diplomat to the foreign ministry. Newspapers across the political spectrum were united in their anger, with both the pro-government Star and the opposition Sozcu depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel as Adolf Hitler.

The Armenian massacre is a touchy subject for Ankara, which is sensitive to outside criticism. Turkey rejects the view that the killings of Christian Armenians during World War One amounted to a genocide.

Ruling party officials said Ankara's response would be kept in check by economic reality. Germany is Turkey's top export market, accounting for $13.4 billion in exports last year.

It is also home to more than 3 million Turks. Those ties - as well as talks with the EU to end the migrant crisis and give Turks visa-free travel to Europe - are unlikely to be permanently damaged.

"Our reaction to Germany will be limited to a political reaction," a senior AK Party official told Reuters. "We do not think it will reach the level of economic sanctions... We don't want to say 'We will punish Germany' and then go and punish our citizens who live there."

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim took a similar stance.

"Nobody should expect German-Turkish relations to be completely spoiled, but no one should expect us to be unresponsive," he told reporters before departing for an official visit to Azerbaijan.

The nature and scale of the killings remain highly contentious. Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915, but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that this constituted an act of genocide, a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments.

President Tayyip Erdogan has previously described the killings as "inhumane" and has expressed condolences.

'TOTAL RUPTURE'

"Turkey and Germany have close relations in everything, including the economy and politics," said commentator Cengiz Aktar. "The most sensitive issue is the visa and migrants deal, but I don't see this resolution having an impact on it."

Never one to shirk from voicing outrage,...


Merkel portrayed as HITLER! Turkey’s relations with Germany EXPLODE over genocide claim

Intl2

TENSIONS between Germany and Turkey have erupted despite the delicate EU migrant deal after a ruling in Berlin’s parliament led to a Turkish newspaper dressing Merkel up as HITLER.

It comes after Germany’s Bundestag approved a motion describing the 1915 killings of Armenians as a "genocide" prompting a fierce reaction from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his countrymen.

The decision was made over the mass killings of Armenians 101-years-ago in which the country says up to 1.5 million of their people died at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War One.

Turkey has always rejected the claim, suggesting it was a fight on both sides during which 300,000 were killed.

The motion to call it genocide, put forward by Merkel, was passed on Thursday with support from all the parties in the German parliament.

It has left the Turks furious.

This morning’s headlines in the country featured vulgar editorials - with one state supporting paper labelling German Chancellor Merkel as Hitler.

In a show of defiance against Germany the newspaper used photo editing software too dress Merkel up in a Nazi uniform with a Fuhrer-style moustache and a swastika flag on the front page.

Anti-AKP and strictly Kemalist newspaper Sözcü carried the headline ‘Schämen Sie sich’ meaning ‘shame on you’ in German. 

But the editorial went even further.

[Flags were flown outside German parliament] Getty Images

The vote was widely celebrated by Armenians and Germans while Turkey reacted with fury

It stated: “This means the end of the community of fate that started after WWI. […] Our soldiers have given up their lives for Germany in vain.”

Other Government-friendly newspapers were also up in arms.

The newspaper 'Sabah' -that reflects the positions of the islamic-conservative party AKP- ran the headline: “Our brother in arms has stabbed us in the back.”

A former AKP-critical newspaper Hürriyet also carried the ‘shame on you’ headline while an article stated: “The Bundestag has accepted the resolution to the Armenian genocide, that will create a deep rift into the century old relationship to Turkey.”

It also called it a ‘genocide of friendship’.

Another newspaper labelled Germans ‘Hitler’s grandchildren’ stating “Germany that has committed genocide during WWII by massacring six million Jews, and that has paved the way of our children to become martyrs by providing the PKK with weapons, has ratified the so-called Armenian genocide… WE ARE ANGRY.”

The Turkish minister of justice Bekir Bozdag...



05/05/2016

Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu Stepping Down Amid Rift With President Erdogan

Intl1

The two leaders had been locked in a bitter feud.

ANKARA/ISTANBUL, May 5 (Reuters) - Ahmet Davutoglu announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as leader of Turkey’s ruling AK Party and therefore as prime minister, bowing to President Tayyip Erdogan’s drive to create a powerful executive presidency.

In a speech defending his record but also vowing loyalty to Erdogan, Davutoglu said he had kept his party and the government intact during a tumultuous period and pledged that “strong” AKP government would continue.

After a leadership meeting of the party founded and dominated by Erdogan, Davutoglu told reporters that, under the current circumstances, he would not run again for leader at an extraordinary party congress on May 22.

“I am telling our members, up until today I was leading you. From now on, I am among you,” he said.

Davutoglu’s departure plunges the NATO member into political uncertainty just as Europe needs its help in curbing a migration crisis and Washington needs support in fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

There could now be a third parliamentary election in less than 18 months.

Davutoglu’s departure follows weeks of tensions with Erdogan. His successor is likely to be significantly more willing to back Erdogan’s aim of changing the constitution to create a presidential system, a move that opponents say will bring growing authoritarianism.

“Palace Coup!” said the headline in the secularist opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper.

“From now on, Turkey’s sole agenda is the presidential system and an early election,” said Mehmet Ali Kulat, head of the pollster Mak Danismanlik, which is seen as close to Erdogan. He forecast an election in October or November.

Erdogan sees rule by the head of state as a guarantee against the fractious coalition politics that hampered the government in the 1990s. His opponents say he is merely furthering his own ambition.

CENTRAL CONTROL

“These are critical developments in my mind in Turkey - likely setting the long-term direction of the country, both in terms of democracy, but (also) economic and social policy and geopolitical orientation,” said Timothy Ash, strategist at Nomura and a veteran Turkey watcher.

“Turkey changes as a result to an Asiatic model of development, with strong central control from the presidency, and most key decisions taken by the president and a small group of likely unelected advisers.”

With growth slowing and inflation well...


Brutal Erdogan Forces Out Turkish Prime Minister in 'Palace Coup'

Intl2

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was sacked after securing a face-to-face meeting with President Obama. Erdogan may replace him with his son-in-law.

ISTANBUL — In a swift and brutal exercise that some are calling a “palace coup”,Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sacked his prime minister to further cement his own power at the helm of the only Muslim NATO country.

Turkey’s next head of government could be Erdogan’s son in-law.

Following a meeting between Erdogan and Ahmet Davutoglu late Wednesday, news reports said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would hold an extraordinary party congress later this month and that Davutoglu, who has been party leader for nearly two years, would not run for the post of chairman. The AKP has always combined the posts of party chairman and prime minister.

Some reports suggested Erdogan got rid of Davutoglu after the prime minister secured a face-to-face meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington during a visit scheduled for this month. The trip has now been canceled.

“Davutoglu on his way out,” the headline of the Sozcu newspaper blared on Thursday. The crisis spooked markets, with share prices sliding and the Turkish Lira weakening considerably against the dollar.

Davutoglu’s ouster underlines that Erdogan, who has made headlines with his criticism of the West and his clampdown on dissent, no longer faces any real competition in shaping Turkey’s course. “As of today, Turkey has de facto changed to a presidential system,” columnist Murat Yetkin wrote in the Hurriyet daily on Thursday. “As long as Erdogan is president, it will not be important who the prime minister is.”

Even though he quit as AKP leader and prime minister to ascent to the nominally non-partisan presidency in 2014, Erdogan, 62, has remained the most influential man for the party and the government, despite handing both offices to Davutoglu. A 57-year-old former professor and foreign minister without a strong group of followers of his own, Davutoglu worked under Erdogan knowing that the “Tall Man”, a nickname for 6-ft Erdogan, was calling the shots.

But efforts by Davutoglu to strengthen his own role led to tensions between the two men that came to a head in recent weeks. Davutoglu called Erdogan a “legendary leader” but said he himself was the “new leader” of the party.

Davutoglu was also known for his lack of enthusiasm about Erdogan’s master plan to create a U.S. style presidential system by changing Turkey’s...



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