Sunday, March 27, 2011

Turkey: Less Democracy But An Alternative

Barry Rubin

For several years I've been telling you that under its current Islamist regime, Turkey has become less and less of a democratic state. Hundreds of peaceful dissidents have been arrested, thrown in prison, and accused of seeking to overthrow the government violently when there is no real evidence. The regime has moved into an alliance with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah. It has bought up much of the media and intimidated much of the rest.

Yet the idea that somehow this regime is a model of democracy in a Muslim-majority state--something for others to emulate, for goodness sakes!--has remained dominant in the West.

Still, one abuse has followed another, with the nature of this anti-democratic would-be dictatorship becoming increasingly apparent. Following on the arrests of journalists and closing of a publication merely because it asserted that it was about to publish proof that the arrests have been made on trumped-up charges, even the U.S. government finally protested, albeit very mildly. But now the regime has trumped even that human rights' violation.

An investigative journalist named Ahmet Shek has been working on a book about Fatitullah Gulen. But Gulen, a controversial Islamist who has huge amounts of money, his own media empire, has bought off some American Middle East experts, runs lots of schools, practically owns the Turkish police, and engages in a variety of stealth Islamist activities, is apparently not to be criticized or investigated.

So not only was Shek arrested--as an alleged terrorist!--and all the copies of his manuscript seized by the police, but the authorities then went on to raid his publisher's office and two of his friends' places. They deleted the versions on all of their computers. Then, realizing that an expert can restore deleted files, the police returned and took the hard disks with them.

One wonders how much repression is going to have to happen in Turkey before foreign media acknowledge and Western governments admit that the regime is oriented toward dictatorship and Islamism, making it an enemy of Western interests and certainly only a negative role model for the Arab world!

The leader of Turkey's opposition says that the current, Islamist regime's supposed policy of getting along with everyone--though really it means aligning with radical Islamist forces in the Middle East--has actually led to bad relations with a lot of countries.

And he also discusses relations with Israel:

Question: "Does the deterioration of relations with Israel...serve Turkey’s interests?"

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu: "The answer is no. In the first place, the deterioration of our relations with Israel has caused significant losses....Trade and tourism went down....But the greater loss is of a strategic nature and affects the entire region....[The fact that Turkey is] no longer enjoying the trust of Israel puts it out of the Middle East equation, further weakening the prospects of peace and stability in this key region [and]...could unexpectedly lead to situations that might hurt Turkey’s vital national interests."

And here's another brilliant article by Soner Cagaptay which gave me a new perspective on Turkish issues. Briefly, he points out that the current, Islamist regime in Turkey has dropped all the good things from Kemalism (secularism, gender equality, good relations with the West) and simply adapted all the problemmatic aspects (hardline stand on the Armenian and Kurdish issues; unbending nationalism, etc.)

Finally, the current Turkish regime--which likes Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi--is refusing to support NATO involvement in the Libyan crisis. Instead, it wants to mediate. Whose side is this regime on? Not that of NATO or the West. But it is on the side of Iran, Syria, Libya, Hamas, and Hizballah.

Why Moderate Arabs Are Horrified at Obama Administration Policy

Posted: 26 Mar 2011 11:55 AM PDT
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By Barry Rubin

I've seen a lot in media expressing the views of the Gulf Arab states and officials' statements--not all of them public, and not to mention similar expressions from Turkish and Iranian oppositionists--expressing horror and shock at Obama Administration Middle East policy. Remember, al-Jazira is NOT typical, as it is run by Islamists and follows the pro-Iran line of its owner, the Qatari government.

In this article in al-Sharq al-Awsat (translated by MEMRI), a Saudi-controlled but also relatively liberal newspaper, Tariq al-Homayed, the chief editor, expresses the combination of shock and horror at the Obama Administration. The conflict was hot over Egypt and even hotter over Bahrain, where the Saudis want the current regime to survive and U.S. officials have criticized Saudi intervention.

Indeed, he complains, the statements coming from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
sound "more like what we'd expect to hear from the Iranian foreign minister." The "contradictory statements coming out of Washington have become more than merely perplexing; they are also suspicious."

Why suspicious? Because it isn't clear whether the U.S. government is more concerned about stopping revolutionary Islamism or undermining those who oppose it, more interested in containing Iran or letting Tehran's influence spread, supporting moderate Arab countries or overthrowing their regimes.

The editor accuses U.S. policy of ignoring Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and Iranian statements claiming Bahrain. (Reminds me of how Iraq used to claim Kuwait and that was ignored until 1990, when Iraq invaded and annexed that country.)

How, he asks, can U.S. policymakers complain when the Gulf Cooperation Council states intervene in Bahrain--according to previous agreements--and then demanding that these countries support intervention in Libya?

Israel could now say to Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and several other Arab governments (plus the Iranian and Turkish oppositions): Welcome to our world.

The fears of relatively moderate Arabs (and Turks and Iranians) that they are getting thrown under bus are not merely imaginery at all. For example, the New York Times had an article March 17 with the following headline:

"Interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran Collide, With the U.S. in the Middle."

Now, of course, one understands what this means in linguistic terms. Yet the headline is amazingly revealing. Yes, the Saudis, not the United States, are now carrying on the main battle against the spread of Iranian influence and revolutionary Islamism. Of course, they cannot sustain this burden long without U.S. support.

Which raises the question: What's the United States doing in the "middle" between Iran and Saudi Arabia! It should be backing the Saudis against Iran. Indeed, it should be leading the anti-Islamist coalition!

To be fair, the Obama Administration is putting early-warning stations into Saudi Arabia for the day when Iran has nuclear-tipped missiles. The Reagan Doctrine (is that still in force?) commits the United States to protect Saudi Arabia from an overt Iranian military attack.

Yet the headline is true. The current U.S. government is essentially neutral between the two sides. Sort of like a headline from 1941 reading, "Interests of Nazi Germany and Britain Collide, With the U.S. in the Middle."

Saudi Arabia isn't exactly like Britain under Winston Churchill but it is now on the front-line against the greatest threat of our time. U.S. policy already mishandled Iran in the 1970s and, more recently, the Obama Administration has watched Lebanon fall, Turkey's government change sides, and Egypt jump ship.

Already a headline would be accurate that read: "Interests of Palestinians and Israel Collide, With the U.S. in the Middle."

Or how about: "Interests of Venezuela and Moderate Latin American States Collide, With the U.S. in the Middle."

Or: "Interests of Russia and Central Europe Collide, With the U.S. in the Middle."

Yes, with this administration being in the "middle" is the best-case analysis. At worst, it's on the wrong side altogether.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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