Turkey's Erdogan bears responsibility in flotilla fiasco
Saturday, June 5, 2010; A12
WESTERN GOVERNMENTS have been right to be concerned about Israel's poor judgment and botched execution in the raid against the Free Gaza flotilla. But they ought to be at least as worried about the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which since Monday has shown a sympathy toward Islamic militants and a penchant for grotesque demagoguery toward Israel that ought to be unacceptable for a member of NATO.
On the opposite page today, Turkey's ambassador to the United States makes the argument that Israel had no cause to clash with the "European lawmakers, journalists, business leaders and an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor" who were aboard the flotilla. But there was no fighting with those people, or with five of the six boats in the fleet. All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic "charity" that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).
The relationship between Mr. Erdogan's government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident. The foundation is a member of the "Union of Good," a coalition that was formed to provide material support to Hamas and that was named as a terrorist entity by the United States in 2008. In discussions before the flotilla departed, Turkish officials turned down offers from both Israel and Egypt to deliver the "humanitarian" supplies on the boats to Gaza and insisted Ankara could not control what it described as a nongovernmental organization.
Yet the IHH has certainly done its best to promote Mr. Erdogan. "All the peoples of the Islamic world would want a leader like Recep Tayyip Erdogan," IHH chief Bulent Yildirim proclaimed at a Hamas rally in Gaza last year. And Mr. Erdogan seems to share that notion: In the days since an incident that the IHH admits it provoked, the Turkish prime minister has done his best to compete with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah's Hasan Nasrallah in attacking the Jewish state.
"The heart of humanity has taken one of her heaviest wounds in history," Mr. Erdogan claimed this week. He has had next to nothing to say about the slaughter of Iranians protesting last year's fraudulent elections, but he called Israel's actions "state terrorism" and a "bloody massacre" and described Israel itself as an "adolescent, rootless state." His foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said in Washington on Tuesday that "this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey" -- an obscene comparison to events in which more than 2,900 genuinely innocent people were killed.
Mr. Erdogan's crude attempt to exploit the incident comes only a couple of weeks after he joined Brazil's president in linking arms with Mr. Ahmadinejad, whom he is assisting in an effort to block new U.N. sanctions. What's remarkable about his turn toward extremism is that it comes after more than a year of assiduous courting by the Obama administration, which, among other things, has overlooked his antidemocratic behavior at home, helped him combat the Kurdish PKK and catered to Turkish sensitivities about the Armenian genocide. Israel is suffering the consequences of its misjudgments and disregard of U.S. interests. Will Mr. Erdogan's behavior be without cost? _________________ Родион Романович Раскольников
Pour revenir Ã la notion de "gains ou pertes", lÃ encore les Turcs sortent gagnants puisqu'IsraÃ«l Ã son tour va envoyer une flotille vers Chypre pour crier Ã la face du monde : Les Turcs arrÃªtez d'occuper Chypre du Nord.
Et comme on peut compter sur nos "frÃ¨res musulmans", les pays arabes vont Ã leur tour envoyer un flotille commerciale pour briser l'embargo du Chypre Nord.
Ankara- 2002 yÄ±lÄ±ndan beri genel ve yerel seÃ§imlerde AKP’ye destek veren Fethullah GÃ¼len’in, kaset olayÄ±nda CHP Genel BaÅkanÄ± Deniz Baykal’a mesaj gÃ¶ndererek “bizimle ilgisi yok” mesajÄ± vermesi, Gazze olayÄ±nda da BaÅbakan Tayyip ErdoÄan ile ters dÃ¼Åmesi “GÃ¼len cemaati ile AKP kopuyor mu” sorusunu gÃ¼ndeme getirdi. Parti kulislerinde, Ã¶zellikle Ergenekon soruÅturmasÄ± sÃ¼recinde “Acaba gÃ¼ndemi GÃ¼len mi belirliyor biz onun arkasÄ±na mÄ± takÄ±lÄ±yoruz” kaygÄ±larÄ± dile getirilmiÅti.
Fethullah GÃ¼len, son dÃ¶nemde verdiÄi mesajlar siyaset kulislerinde yeni tartÄ±ÅmalarÄ± da beraberinde getirdi. GÃ¼len, kurulduÄundan beri genel ve yerel seÃ§imlerde AKP’ye destek verdi.
GÃ¼len’in, CHP lideri Deniz Baykal ile ilgili kaset iddialarÄ±nÄ±n ardÄ±ndan Baykal’a “bizimle ilgisi yok” diyerek mesaj gÃ¶ndermesi ve Ã¼zgÃ¼n olduÄunu belirtmesi, AKP iÃ§inde Åok etkisi yarattÄ±.
Parti kulislerinde, “Baykal’Ä±n partinin baÅÄ±ndan gÃ¶nderilerek acaba hÃ¼kÃ¼meti devirme senaryosunun bir adÄ±mÄ± mÄ± gerÃ§ekleÅtiriliyor” sorularÄ±, aÃ§Ä±ktan olmasa bile iÃ§ten iÃ§e dillendirildi.
Partide ikinci Åok yaÅandÄ±
BaÅbakan ErdoÄan’Ä±n Gazze konusunda Ä°srail’e yÃ¶nelik Ã§ok sert aÃ§Ä±klamalarda bulunduÄu gÃ¼nlerde GÃ¼len’in, ErdoÄan ile ters dÃ¼Åen aÃ§Ä±klamalar yapmasÄ± parti iÃ§inde ikinci bir Åok yarattÄ±. Bu durum, “GÃ¼len AKP’den desteÄini Ã§ekiyor mu? Cemaat ile AKP kopuyor mu” sorularÄ±nÄ± gÃ¼ndeme getirdi. Parti kulislerinde, GÃ¼len’in aÃ§Ä±klamalarÄ± tedirginlik yarattÄ±. Kulislerde, GÃ¼len’in ABD, Ä°srail ve TÃ¼rkiye’nin iliÅkilerinin iyi olmasÄ± yÃ¶nÃ¼nde bir bakÄ±Å aÃ§Ä±sÄ±nÄ±n olduÄu, son geliÅmelerin cemaat ile AKP arasÄ±nda derin olmasa bile bir Ã§atlaÄÄ±n oluÅtuÄu biÃ§iminde yorumlanÄ±yor.
Ãzellikle Ergenekon soruÅturmasÄ± sÃ¼recinde GÃ¼len ile ilgili kaygÄ±lar dile getirilmiÅti. BazÄ± partililer, “Acaba gÃ¼ndemi GÃ¼len mi belirliyor, biz onun arkasÄ±na mÄ± takÄ±lÄ±yoruz?” diyerek endiÅelerini parti iÃ§inde dillendirmiÅti.
Dans le quotidien "The washington post", Mary Beth Sheridan s'interroge: la Turquie laÃ¯que tourne-t-elle le dos Ã l'Occident ? et exprime les mÃªme craintes, en faisant toutefois la part des choses:
Turkey's foreign policy moves raise concern in West and at home
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Monday, June 7, 2010; A01
ISTANBUL -- The women wore veils. The men donned green Hamas headbands with swirling Arabic script. They gathered by the thousands in a sunny, working-class plaza in Istanbul, bellowing: "Damn Israel!"
The Saturday demonstration seemed incongruous with the image Turkey has long had in the West as a secular friend of Israel and the United States.
But in recent days, public anger has flared over Israel's bloody seizure of a Turkish-flagged aid ship headed to the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli blockade. The incident occurred as Turkey has been strengthening ties with Muslim governments in the region -- becoming more vocally pro-Palestinian and trying to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran.
That has prompted worried speculation at home and abroad: Is Turkey turning away from the West?
Turkey's Islamic-oriented government says no. And some analysts say the question is too simplistic. With a growing economy and self-assured leaders, this NATO member is emerging as a regional power with a more independent foreign policy, they say.
"They want to be the big kid on the block," said Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "They have essentially a very inflated sense of their own importance."
'Zero problems' policy
Turkey's leaders have dubbed their foreign policy "zero problems with neighbors." The country has dramatically improved relations with such one-time rivals as Syria, which used to harbor Turkish Kurdish guerrillas, and Iran, once feared for its potential to export Islamist radicalism.
The new policy is based, in part, on expanding business ties. Turkey's former state-dominated economy has grown rapidly, with the emergence of dynamic export centers -- termed the Anatolian Tigers. Turkey's trade with its neighbors grew more than 20 times from 1991 to 2008.
The nation's ambitious leaders have sought to use their growing regional heft to play a bigger role globally. Turkey mediated between Israel and Syria, before Israel's brief war in Gaza during the 2008-09 winter ended talks. More recently, Turkish and Brazilian diplomats sought to send some of Iran's low-enriched uranium abroad for processing, in a deal aimed at averting new U.N. sanctions pursued by Washington.
Barcin Yinanc, associate editor of Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review, said it was inevitable that Turkey would play a greater international role, given its geopolitical position and new stature as one of the 20 leading industrialized countries.
But previous secular governments, which launched the economic liberalization, moved more cautiously on foreign policy, Yinanc said.
"The difference with this government is they have an ideological color," she said.
That seems evident on the Palestinian issue. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become an increasingly outspoken critic of Israel. He lambasted Israeli President Shimon Peres during a conference in Switzerland on Jan. 29, 2009, winning applause at home and in the Middle East.
Erdogan's picture was hoisted in the streets of Gaza after he accused Israel of carrying out a "bloody massacre" in seizing the Turkish ship. Nine activists on board, mostly Turkish, were killed when Israeli commandos opened fire. The Israeli government said its commandos fired after being attacked by the passengers.
Erdogan and his allies "have this affinity to Palestine," Yinanc said. "And basically their concrete constituency is a religious constituency, which is usually anti-Israeli."
Erdogan's Justice and Development Party has religious roots, but it also draws conservative entrepreneurs and liberals with its free-market policies and drive to pass democratic reforms in order to win entry into the European Union.
Turkey's relations with Israel have deteriorated dramatically, with Turkish leaders threatening to cut ties to a minimum.
A recent report on Turkey's zero-problems policy noted that it contained inherent contradictions, given the pervasive conflicts in the region.
"Ankara will not be able to improve relations with some players without hampering its ties to others," said the report, by a group of Turkish and foreign academics working with the Washington-based Transatlantic Academy. But it said that if the net effect in the region was positive, the policy would be "an asset to the EU and United States."
Historically, Israel and Turkey were close, sharing military aid and a suspicion of Arab countries. But with Turkey improving ties with its neighbors, it no longer needs Israel's support, analysts said.
There is more going on, however, than just the Turkish government's realignment in its neighborhood. Its citizens are more connected to the world, including Muslim causes abroad. The government has become more sensitive to public opinion. And voters feel more empowered, particularly religious ones.
Since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded Turkey on the remains of the Ottoman Empire, the country has had an official policy of "laiklik" (secularism). The powerful, pro-Western military launched coups against leaders seen as straying from Ataturk's legacy. The army's power, however, has declined.
The country "was secular but in a forced way," said Barkey, the Carnegie scholar. "The majority of the population was far more conservative, far more pious than the authorities."
Sumeyye Cakir, a 25-year-old housewife wearing a pink, flowered head scarf, said that years ago she would have been afraid to attend a demonstration like the one in the Caglayan neighborhood on Saturday, organized by a small religious party.
"But now our government is more democratic," she said, standing at the edge of the crowd waving Palestinian flags. Loudspeakers blared a song with the refrain "Intifada, intifada."
Hifa Gulru Caglar, a 21-year-old Turk studying in Romania, drove 12 hours to take part in the protest. A visitor asked what contributed to the pro-Palestinian fervor, which wasn't as evident in the past.
"Twenty years ago, there was no Internet," Caglar said. "We had no access" to information from Gaza.
For all its newfound independence in foreign policy, Turkey is still strongly tied to the West. The European Union is still its biggest market. And Turkish troops have played an important role in NATO operations in Afghanistan.
"We are a country that wants to maintain its ties both with the West and East," Erdogan said in October. "There is no such thing as breaking from one side and shifting to another one."
(L'imam turc reclus critique la flottille de Gaza)
By JOE LAURIA
SAYLORSBURG, Pa.—Imam Fethullah GÃ¼len, a controversial and reclusive U.S. resident who is considered Turkey's most influential religious leader, criticized a Turkish-led flotilla for trying to deliver aid without Israel's consent.
Speaking in his first interview with a U.S. news organization, Mr. GÃ¼len spoke of watching news coverage of Monday's deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and Turkish aid group members as its flotilla approached Israel's sea blockade of Gaza. "What I saw was not pretty," he said. "It was ugly."
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Julie Platner for the Wall Street Journal
Imam Fethullah GÃ¼len at his estate in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.
Mr. GÃ¼len said organizers' failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid "is a sign of defying authority, and will not lead to fruitful matters."
Mr. GÃ¼len's views and influence within Turkey are under growing scrutiny now, as factions within the country battle to remold a democracy that is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. The struggle, as many observers characterize it, pits the country's old-guard secularist and military establishment against Islamist-leaning government workers and ruling politicians who say they seek a more democratic and religiously tolerant Turkey. Mr. GÃ¼len inspires a swath of the latter camp, though the extent of his reach remains hotly disputed.
His words of restraint come as many in Turkey gave flotilla members a hero's welcome after two days of detention in Israel. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development Party condemned Israel's moves as "bullying" and a "historic mistake."
Mr. GÃ¼len said he had only recently heard of IHH, the Istanbul-based Islamic charity active in more than 100 countries that was a lead flotilla organizer. "It is not easy to say if they are politicized or not," he said. He said that when a charity organization linked with his movement wanted to help Gazans, he insisted they get Israel's permission. He added that assigning blame in the matter is best left to the United Nations.
Mr. GÃ¼len has long cut a baffling figure, as critics and adherents have sparred over the nature of his influence in Turkey and the extent of his reach. Leading a visitor on Wednesday past his front corridor—adorned with a map of Turkey, a verse from the Quran and a photograph of a Turkish F-16 jet over the Bosphorus—he portrayed himself an apolitical teacher. "I do not consider myself someone who has followers," he said.
Born in eastern Turkey in 1941, Mr. GÃ¼len became a state-licensed imam at 17, after three years of formal education and studies with Sufi masters. In a Turkey largely under the sway of a military-secularist establishment, he built a national organization of Islamic study and boarding halls, gaining support of many wealthy Muslims but at times running afoul of the law.
While in the U.S. in 1999 for medical treatment, he was charged in Turkey with attempting to create an Islamic state— anathema under Turkey's secularist constitution. He stayed in Pennsylvania, where he now lives on a 25-acre estate in the Pocono Mountains. Over the years, he said, he has left the estate twice.
Mr. GÃ¼len preaches nonviolence, dialogue between Western and Muslim worlds, and an educational tradition that combines study of science and Islam. His newspaper columns, weekly Internet sermons and other messages have been collected into more than 60 books. His adherents number, by various estimates, three million to eight million.
Followers have established hundreds of schools in more than 100 countries and run an ------ company and an Islamic bank, Asya, that its 2008 annual report said had $5.2 billion in assets. They own Turkey's largest daily newspaper, Zaman; the magazine Aktion; a wire service; publishing companies; a radio station and the television network STV, according to Helen Rose Ebaugh, a University of Houston sociologist and author of "The GÃ¼len Movement." She says followers donate up to one-third of their income to independent GÃ¼len-linked foundations.
Ms. Ebaugh said Mr. GÃ¼len doesn't sit on the boards of Asha bank nor any foundation or editorial boards of GÃ¼len-sympathetic magazines, newspapers or television stations. In the interview, the imam said he had no financial interest in any holdings.
Mr. GÃ¼len's detractors see him as a cult-like leader whose empire aims to train an Islamic elite who will one day rebuild the Turkish state. Soner Cagaptay, a GÃ¼len critic who is a Turkey analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the Turkish police force may be largely influenced by the imam through GÃ¼len sympathizers in key positions—effectively creating a counterbalance to Turkey's powerful military, a secularist bastion.
"I am not a leader of a faction or someone who would cause some state officials to follow me despite their official duties," Mr. GÃ¼len said in the interview.
The U.S. has "immense ambivalence" about Mr. GÃ¼len, said Graham Fuller, an ex-Central Intelligence Agency officer who is a resident consultant at the Rand Corp. in British Columbia.
"On the one hand they do perceive him as very moderate and doing many positive things," Mr. Fuller said. But Washington has long thrown its lot behind the secularist followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, he says, viewing them "as the only narrative to what Turkish politics is all about."
The U.S. State Department declined to comment about Mr. GÃ¼len for this article.
In 2007, U.S. Homeland Security moved to deny Mr. GÃ¼len permanent-resident status in the U.S., rejecting his claim of exceptional ability as an educator. "The record contains overwhelming evidence that plaintiff is primarily the leader of a large and influential religious and political movement with immense commercial holdings," the government wrote.
Mr. GÃ¼len won on appeal after getting 29 letters of support, including one from Mr. Fuller.
The imam disputed Homeland Security's characterization. He goes only so far as to provide guidance to those who ask, he said.
The 2002 election of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, opened a new era for Mr. GÃ¼len and those he inspires, given their common foe in the military-secularist establishment.
The AKP says it has no political ties to Mr. GÃ¼len. The imam says critics have linked him, falsely, to Turkey's current and previous leaders. "I do not have and have never had any relationship with a movement that has political aspirations," he said. "I am just a Turkish citizen."
Last month, Mr. GÃ¼len's followers founded the Assembly of Turkic American Federations in Washington, a lobbying and umbrella organization for some 180 local non-profit foundations around the U.S. involved in education and culture.
An English-language Turkish newspaper reported that Mr. GÃ¼len has told his followers they couldn't visit him on his Poconos estate if they didn't first donate to their local congressman. Mr. Gulen denies making the remark.
Mr. GÃ¼len said that for Muslims, benefiting their community is both an Islamic and humanitarian duty, and that he would be happy if those who respect him support their lawmakers in the name of democracy and humanitarianism.
"I hear that some people in the United States consider Turkey as sitting at the epicenter of radicalism," Mr. GÃ¼len said. The new federation's lobbying would aim "to reflect through sincere, pro-dialog and open-minded people the true nature of Turkey's realities." _________________ Родион Романович Раскольников
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