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''Iraq's impending fracture to produce political earthquake in Turkey''

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  • ''Iraq's impending fracture to produce political earthquake in Turkey''

    Analysis from Jephraim P. Gundzik:

    Unusual political stability in Turkey faces upheaval from Iraq's impending fracture along sectarian lines. The birth of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq will end Turkey's E.U. accession hopes. The collapse of the accession process will strongly undermine the legitimacy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.), making it increasingly vulnerable to political attacks from Turkey's secular establishment. These attacks could prompt the disintegration of the Erdogan government as soon as the end of 2006.

    Far from providing the long-awaited impetus for political and social stability, the results of Iraq's December 2005 parliamentary election were another step toward the division of the country along sectarian lines. Secular candidates supported by the Bush administration were trounced in the election, while the broad victory of the Iran-backed Shi'a political parties undermined Washington's influence in Iraq.

    Thus far, it has been impossible for either Ibrahim al-Jaafari or his successor as prime minister, Nouri Maliki, to form a government. At the heart of Iraq's political impasse is the country's new U.S.-drafted constitution, which incomprehensibly calls for the division of political powers along sectarian lines.

    The constitutionally-mandated division of political power in Iraq was meant to ensure that Shi'a, Kurds and Sunnis would participate equally in a government of "national unity." In practice, however, it has proved impossible for these disparate ethnic groups to reach a consensus for sharing cabinet positions.

    Bush administration officials blame the escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq on the inability of the country's political parties to form a government. More likely, it is the other way around. Iraq's descent into civil war, which began with the February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, has made it impossible for Shi'a and Sunni political parties to work together. Meanwhile, sectarian violence has raged out of control. At least 3,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian-related violence since February 2006.

    Although Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is expected to soon fill his cabinet positions, Iraq's escalating civil war will continue to obstruct governance making it impossible for the country's new government to function. This, combined with the planned withdrawal in 2006 by most of Washington's coalition partners from Iraq, will pressure the Bush administration to begin withdrawing U.S. troops. A U.S. troop drawdown may be accelerated by electoral politics as the U.S. mid-term elections approach. The withdrawal of U.S.-led forces will fuel Iraq's civil war, speeding the country's fracture along sectarian lines.

    Like Iraq's government, Washington played a strong role in the creation of the country's military, police and paramilitary organizations. As a result, these security organizations are also steeped in sectarianism, hence their role in enflaming Iraq's civil war. As foreign forces are withdrawn, Iraq's security organizations will devolve back into the Shi'a and Kurdish militias from which they were derived. These militias will be used to protect Shi'a and Kurdish territories, respectively. Compared to the Shi'a, the Kurdish militia, or peshmerga, is much better organized and more well-armed thanks to many years of U.S. support.

    More than 90 percent of the Iraqi National Army troops stationed in northern Iraq, or Iraqi Kurdistan, hail from the Kurdish peshmerga. Rather than allegiance to a central military authority, these troops are loyal to peshmerga leaders. The Kurds have also maintained their peshmerga militia in northern Iraq. Combining these troops gives the Kurds a formidable army with which to defend its territory. Inevitably, Iraqi Kurds, who just anointed their own prime minister and parliament creating the Kurdistan Regional Government, will likely declare their independence from Iraq.

    In the past six months, the Turkish military has amassed nearly 250,000 troops in southeastern Turkey and along the border between Turkey and Iraq. This buildup has two aims: thwarting Turkey's own Kurdish separatists operating in the region and protecting the interests of the Turcoman population in Iraqi Kurdistan. The birth of an independent Kurdistan could agitate Turkey's Kurdish population, which has suffered decades of repression at the hands of the Turkish military. It could also undermine the rights of the Turcoman living in Kurdistan.

    The militarization of southeastern Turkey in response to Iraq's fracturing and moves toward Kurdish independence has already prompted new repression designed to foil any separatist designs by Turkey's Kurds. This repression, combined with probable Turkish military action against the new Kurdistan, will probably end Turkey's hopes of eventual E.U. accession. Without E.U. accession as an anchor, the Erdogan government will quickly lose its legitimacy.

    In Turkey's November 2002 elections, the A.K.P. won a stunning 363 out of 550 parliamentary seats, allowing Prime Minister Erdogan to form the country's first single party government in over ten years. Turkey has a unique electoral system, which allows political parties to gain parliamentary representation only after surpassing a ten percent threshold in popular votes.

    Heavy political fragmentation combined with growing disdain for traditional political parties allowed the A.K.P. to control 66 percent of the seats in Turkey's parliament despite gaining only 34 percent of the popular vote. That a government with Islamist roots came to power with such a weak popular mandate initially raised serious legitimacy questions within Turkey's secular establishment, which includes the business community, the judiciary and the military.

    The Erdogan government strengthened its legitimacy by immediately and aggressively pursuing E.U. accession, an issue dear to Turkey's secularists. These Herculean efforts seemingly paid off in December 2004, when Brussels formally accepted Turkey's E.U. accession application. Accession negotiations subsequently commenced in October 2005. Nearly simultaneously, Kurdish nationalists, based in Iraq, began to launch increasingly bold attacks in Turkey, including military ambushes and civilian bombings.

    Turkey's military leaders have been almost powerless to pursue Kurdish nationalists of Turkish origin in Iraq due to Washington's restraining hand. The Bush administration does not want to undermine its Kurdish partners in Iraq by allowing Turkish military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is most likely because many in the Pentagon believe that Iraq's fracture along sectarian lines is unavoidable.

    With no leverage over Iraq's Shi'a or Sunnis, Washington's only hope for maintaining military basing rights in Iraq is by cementing its relations with the Kurds. In addition, Turkey's military leadership, headed by General Hilmi Ozkok, has taken a pragmatic approach toward developments in Iraq and the broader implications of these developments for Turkey's E.U. membership. Nonetheless, a red line undoubtedly still exists for the Turkish military in Iraq. This red line is Kurdish independence.

    In August 2006, General Ozkok will retire in favor of Turkish Ground Forces Commander General Yasar Buyukanit. General Buyukanit appears to have much more hawkish views toward the birth of an independent Kurdistan and Turkey's Kurds than General Ozkok. Buyukanit raised many eyebrows at home and abroad after stating that he would personally lead the Turkish military into northern Iraq should Iraqi Kurds establish an independent state.

    In order to launch a military action against Iraq's Kurds and to contain the threat of secessionist activity by Turkish Kurds, the Turkish military has already begun to militarize southeastern Turkey. With Europeans focusing heavily on Turkey's ability to improve its human rights record, military action against Kurds in Iraq, military action against an independent Kurdistan and renewed oppression of Turkey's own Kurds will bring Istanbul's E.U. accession process to a screeching halt.

    The collapse of Turkey's E.U. accession bid can be expected to raise significantly the political heat on the Erdogan government from Turkey's secular establishment. This heat will be amplified as the May 2007 presidential succession approaches. Turkey current president Ahmet Necdet Sezer has acted as a secular bulwark against the Erdogan government, using his power to veto A.K.P.-sponsored legislation and to reject many government appointments made by Erdogan.

    Since Turkey's president is appointed by the country's parliament, the political party controlling parliament will decide who replaces Sezer. Barring early elections, this party will be the A.K.P. Turkey's secular establishment is unlikely to accept an A.K.P.-appointed Islamist as the country's next president. The Turkish military may find it quite convenient to intervene politically to prevent this. Intervention could provoke the collapse of the Erdogan government by late 2006 or early 2007.

    >>>Source<<<

  • #2
    BRUSSELS has warned Turkey that it will suspend EU membership talks unless it stops backsliding on reforms needed to meet European standards.

    There is concern in European capitals that Turkey has been giving up on human rights and democracy reforms as growing nationalism and disillusion with Europe sweep the country. Advocates of Turkey’s membership are alarmed that the euphoria surrounding the historic start of entry talks in October has given way to a mood of mutual suspicion.....

    Turkey ordered to speed up reforms

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    • #3
      Kurds say Turkish shells land in Iraq, Turkey denies

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      • #4
        Turkey in shock, government under fire after attack on top court:

        Turkey was in shock on Thursday after a Muslim fundamentalist gunman's shooting spree that left one judge dead and four wounded at the country's top administrative court, while the Islamist-rooted government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under a barrage of criticism.

        More than 25,000 people followed a crowd of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and academics to gather at the mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey, in a symbolic gesture of protest against the unprecedented attack.

        Alpaslan Aslan, the 29-year-old Istanbul lawyer who sprayed bullets on a session of the Council of State's 2nd Chamber on Wednesday, told anti-terror police who questioned him that he had acted alone, the NTV news channel reported.

        However, it said that police had detained two other people connected to the young man, who is apparently well-known in Islamist-nationalist circles. The two arrested were the last people to speak to the gunman on his mobile phone before the attack.

        Aslan erupted into the chamber, shouting "Allahu Akbar [God is great]", according to media reports, and "We are the emissaries, the soldiers of Allah," according to the court's vice-president, Tansel Cölasan.

        She explained on Wednesday that Aslan said that he planned the attack to "punish" the court for having upheld in a ruling in February the ban on women wearing the Islamic headscarf in public institutions and educational establishments.

        The incident heightened tensions between religious and secular circles. Colasan blamed it on "those who broke the social contract" on wearing the headscarf.

        Observers interpreted this as a reference to the AKP transforming a matter of personal conviction - whether or not to wear a headscarf - into a fiery political issue by making it a key element of their campaign in the 2003 elections that brought them to power.

        The court's frequent pro-secular decisions had been publicly denounced by Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), an offshoot of a now-banned Islamist movement.

        Erdogan and his government came under fire in the media on Thursday for their lukewarm response to the shooting.

        As Ankara braced for the mass funeral on Thursday evening of 64-year-old Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin, who was killed by a shot to the head in the attack, Erdogan was conspicuous by his absence......

        More.....

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        • #5
          ISTANBUL, Turkey (May 24) - A hardline Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility for a major fire at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport on Wednesday, a pro-Kurdish news agency reported on its Web site.

          Government officials refused to comment on the claim, which could not be independently verified. Officials had earlier ruled out sabotage as a cause of the fire.

          But a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said an investigation to determine the cause of the fire was still underway.

          The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons Organization, a hardline group linked to the main Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, said it started the blaze, which destroyed much of the cargo terminal at the airport, according to the Netherlands-based Firat News Agency's Web site.

          Firat, which often receives information from Kurdish rebel leaders, said it received the claim by e-mail.

          The hardline group has claimed eight bombings in Istanbul this year and recently said tourism and economic targets were among the group's priorities. Previous bombings left two dead and 47 injured.

          The huge fire quickly engulfed the cargo section of Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport Wednesday, destroying most of the building and forcing about 2,000 workers to flee, authorities said......

          Kurdish militants take responsibility for airport blaze

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          • #6
            Opponents of Turkey's bid to join the EU will hold a rally on Saturday in Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, where EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet.

            The protest was announced on Thursday through a press statement by the organization Voice for Europe, whose main purpose is to oppose the enlargement of the EU to Turkey.

            The protest will coincide with the EU ministers’ summit in Klosterneuburg which runs through Sunday. Voice for Europe will ask the ministers to "carefully consider the opinion of most European citizens, who firmly oppose Turkey's admission", the press release said.

            Founded just a year ago, Voice for Europe is a cross-country pan-European federation of thirteen associations and 'civil society' groups inspired by the aim of "preserving and deepening the values of the free and democratic Europe." Its leaders argue that Ankara does not fulfill criteria and conditions requested by the EU for admission.

            Members of the organization favor the accession of other countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, while Turkey should be left out because it is not, and has never historically been, part of Europe, they say.

            The leaders of the organization also argue that Turkey is undergoing a slow but steady process of Islamisation of the public life and this would make it incompatible with the EU.

            The main initiative of Voice of Europe has so far been an online petition against the accession of Ankara to the EU, launched on 9 May.

            The press statement with which Voice of Europe announced its initiative in Klosterneuburg explained that the EU should limit its relations with Turkey "to a friendly cooperation based on mutual respect" in the economic and security fields.

            Protests over Turkey’s membership in the EU

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            • #7
              Turkey's troubled negotiations on joining the EU hit further difficulty yesterday as Austria tried to place the brakes on enlargement and a veteran European leader warned talks may have to be frozen. As EU leaders gathered for their mid-summer summit, the Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel underlined misgivings at the prospect of Turkish membership by tabling proposals that would stiffen entry conditions.

              Under the proposal the requirement to consider the EU's "absorption capacity" every time a new member is admitted would become a strict criterion.

              Chancellor Schuessel's proposal is unlikely to be accepted because at least 13 other countries at the summit do not want to put such an obvious block on Ankara. If it joined Turkey would account for around 20% of the EU's population.....

              Continue reading..... Turkey's EU hopes hit trouble again

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              • #8
                Turkey threatens to pull out of EU talks

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                • #9
                  Turkey was given a blunt warning today that its European Union membership talks could be suspended within months unless Ankara resolves a dispute with Greek Cyprus.

                  In a sign that Turkey's 40-year European dream is in danger of being derailed, the EU's incoming presidency told Ankara that it would trigger a crisis this autumn if it failed to open its ports and airports to Cyprus.

                  "There is always the possibility to stop the negotiations," the Finnish prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, said at a press conference in Helsinki to launch his country's six-month EU presidency. "I believe Turkey knows that."

                  Mr Vanhanen's intervention highlighted the growing impatience across the EU at Turkey's failure to live up to its commitment to extend its customs union to all 25 members of the union - including its arch-enemy. The EU is insisting that Turkey do this by the end of this year.

                  Ankara is digging in its heels and refusing to take such a symbolic step until the EU ends its trade embargo of the "Republic of Northern Cyprus" - recognised by no one but the Turks since their 1974 invasion. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, flatly rejected the EU demands earlier this month when he declared: "Don't expect anything ... not on the subject of the ports and airports."

                  The EU, which had hoped to admit a united Cyprus when the EU expanded in 2004, is keen to end the embargo but says Ankara must move first. The remarks by Mr Vanhanen will be seen as particularly significant because Finland is one of Turkey's few champions in the EU. Ankara was granted formal EU candidate status during Finland's last EU presidency in 1999.

                  But Mr Vanhanen underlined his frustration today when he endorsed the European commission's recent warning of a "train crash" in Turkey's membership negotiations. Asked whether he supported the view of Olli Rehn, Finland's European enlargement commissioner, who is in charge of the negotiations, Mr Vanhanen said: "I totally share his view. Olli Rehn was my assistant before he was nominated [for Brussels]."

                  Mr Rehn believes that Turkey's membership negotiations will come to a head in the autumn for two reasons. First, he will publish his annual progress report on Turkey's preparations for EU membership. This will criticise Ankara for slowing the pace of domestic reforms in areas such as human rights and freedom of speech.

                  Second, the EU will offer its "evaluation" of how Turkey is implementing the "Ankara protocol" to extend its customs union across the EU. Black marks are expected in both areas.

                  Mr Vanhanen, who admitted that "Turkey will become a difficult question" during Finland's EU presidency, balanced his remarks by saying that the EU must admit countries that fulfill the entry criteria. The prime minister recently helped to defeat an attempt by Austria, which relinquishes the EU presidency tonight, to put the brakes on Turkey's EU membership application by making an informal assessment of the EU's ability to "absorb" a new country into a formal criterion.

                  Mr Vanhanen made it clear that he would be upset if Turkey's talks reached a crisis during his stewardship of the EU. Asked whether he would feel a personal sense of failure, he said: "Of course, yes."

                  EU warning to Turkey over Cyprus

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                  • #10
                    Iraq's downward spiral toward partition

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                    • #11
                      BAGHDAD, Aug 12 (KUNA) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maleki has informed his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the government decided to shut down all offices and halt activities of the Kurdish sepratist movement, the Workers Party of Kurdistan (the PKK).

                      Al-Maleki also discussed with Erdogan means of boosting bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries, according to a statement released by the premiership bureau.

                      The statement said the prime minister informed his counterpart about the government decision to close the offices of the PKK and ban all forms of its activities.

                      The PKK, that advocates a separate Kurdish entity in southeastern Turkey, reportedly has bases in northern Iraq.

                      Iraq informs Turkey on banning PKK

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                      • #12
                        Turkish, Iranian armies build up forces along Iraq’s only quiet area

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                        • #13
                          ANKARA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Turkey on Tuesday condemned suggestions that dividing its eastern neighbour Iraq into three separate states could bring peace, saying such a move would instead plunge the whole region into chaos.

                          "God forbid, if Iraq breaks up, an unbelievably dark new period will begin," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said, using unusually strong language.

                          "In such an event, Iraq's neighbours will not have the same attitude as today, of course. The world should know this," he told parliament's budget committee, signalling that Turkey and other neighbours would not stay quietly on the sidelines.

                          Ankara, a NATO ally of the United States, is especially worried about the possible emergence of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq that could stoke separatism among its own large Kurdish population in southeast Turkey.

                          Iran and Syria also oppose the creation of a Kurdish state.

                          Some U.S. politicians including Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat who is expected to head the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations, have suggested creating three largely automous regions for Iraq's Shi'ites in the south, Sunni Arabs in the centre and Kurds in the north.

                          "This kind of simplistic approach would definitely drag the country into chaos and can never be an alternative," said Gul, evoking the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

                          Gul also urged Kurds, Arabs and Turkish-speaking Turkmen to forge a compromise over the fate of Kirkuk and its oil reserves in northern Iraq. Ankara fears the region's dominant Kurds aim to turn Kirkuk into the capital of a new state.

                          Turkey says Iraq must not be split up

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                          • #14
                            U.S. questions EU deadline on Turkey

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                            • #15
                              Once again, the generals are muttering angrily about how the government is undermining the secular state — and Turkey:

                              Turkey is a haunted land. too often in its history, the past has been prologue. It may be so again. Almost 10 years ago, the Turkish military ousted a popularly elected Islamist prime minister. The circumstances that produced that coup are re-emerging today. Once again, an Islamist is in power. Once again, the generals are muttering angrily about how his government is undermining the secular state — the foundation of modern Turkey. As I rate it, the chances of a military coup in Turkey occurring in 2007 are roughly 50-50.

                              I saw the last one coming, thanks to a conversation with a senior military officer not long before the events of February 1997. "I asked the Iranian generals after the 1979 revolution why they had done nothing to stop it. By the time they realized how far the Islamists had come, they replied, it was too late," he told me. "We will never let that happen in Turkey." Indeed, this very principle is enshrined in the bylaws of the Turkish General Staff, which declare that the military is "the sole protector" of Turkish secular democracy and of the "principles of Ataturk."

                              And so it is now. Though most Turks agree that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is more moderate than his ousted predecessor, Necmettin Erbakan, he is nonetheless an Islamist. The outgoing president Ahmet Necdet Sezer publicly warns that Erdogan's government is broadening its fundamentalist platform day by day, and challenging the basic principles of secularism as defined in the Turkish constitution. Pointedly, Sezer reminds the Turkish armed forces of their pledge to serve as its guardians.

                              The hawkish new chief of the General Staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, echoes that theme. In a speech at the opening of the academic year at the Turkish War Academy on Oct. 2, he asked: "Are there not people in Turkey saying that secularism should be redefined? Aren't those people occupying the highest seats of the state? Isn't the ideology of Ataturk under attack?" Buyukanit went on to declare that an affirmative answer to any of these questions would confirm that Turkey is threatened with "Islamist fundamentalism."

                              In recent weeks I have spoken with Turkey's most senior officers. All made clear that, while they would not want to see an interruption in democracy, the military may soon have to step in to protect secularism, without which there cannot be democracy in a majority Muslim country. These are no-nonsense people who mean what they say.

                              Why is this happening? Chiefly because of the European Union. Never mind Cyprus, or the new human-rights laws Turkey has willingly passed under European pressure. The real problem is the EU's core demand: more civilian control over the military. That, senior officers say, would inevitably produce an Islamic Turkey. As they see it, the nation simply cannot afford to follow the EU on issues that would theoretically ensure, but in reality endanger, its future as a secular democracy — that is, a country in which state and mosque are separated and in which freedom of (as well as freedom from) religion is guaranteed for all.

                              The Turkish military is especially wary of how the EU is coping with its own Islamic problem. European governments are reaching out to Islamists, ostensibly in order to transform them into allies against domestic terrorism. That may work in the short-run, Turkish critics say. But a similar strategy would be intolerable to a majority of Turks, who fear that once the gates open to "moderate" Islamists, more radical forces will enter and take over.

                              With Turkey and the EU so sharply diverging, the danger is that the Turkish military, supported as in 1997 by other secularist groups, will no longer feel bound by the need to keep Turkey on its European path. And this time, unlike the past, the United States is in no position to restrain them. That's partly because of Iraq, and Turkey's unhappiness with what it sees as Washington's kid-glove treatment of Kurdish terrorists operating out of northern Kurdistan, and partly because of its embrace of Erdogan, most literally when he met George W. Bush the same day that Buyukanit made his remarks in Turkey. The United States opposed the 1997 coup, and it will do so again. But as one senior Turkish official recently put it: "If there were a coup, what would the U.S. do — enact sanctions against Turkey?"

                              To be sure, the military may exert its influence without resorting to force. And if a coup were to happen, it would not necessarily translate to a nondemocratic Turkey. More likely, it would simply mean the end of Turkey's current "Islamist experiment" and a return to a more conservative government—stalwartly secular, yes, but a democracy nonetheless. Ironically, this Turkey might ultimately be seen to be a better member of Europe than today's.

                              The coming Coup d'Etat?

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