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How NATO-Member Turkey Reverted Back to Being an Islamic Dictatorship

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The gradual process of Turkey’s becoming an Islamic sharia-law country, again, is no longer so gradual. It has taken a sudden and sharp rightward turn, into Islamic-nationhood. Turkey’s Hagia Sophia, which had been “the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520,” has now been officially declared by the Turkish Government to be, instead, a mosque.

On July 10th, the BBC bannered “Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum into mosque” and reported that the biggest, oldest, and the most important, cathedral in all of Orthodox Christendom — and the world’s most important Byzantine building, which was constructed as the Saint Sophia Cathedral by the Byzantine Roman Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the year 537, and which stands on the site that had been consecrated in the year 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine (and which cathedral was relabelled the Hagia Sophia “museum” in 1935 by Turkey’s Constitutionally secularist Government) — has now become, officially, at last, designated, by the restored Islamic Government of Turkey, a Muslim house of worship, a mosque, a Muslim house of worship. 

This signals the end of Turkey’s being ruled by a secular Government, which it had been, ever since 1923. It is the end of Turkey’s secular Government and the restoration of the Islamic Mehmed the Conqueror’s 1453 order that it be a mosque. That ended the Byzantine Roman Catholic Empire, and started Islamic-ruled Turkey. It ended Constantinople and started Istanbul. Mehmet, however, allowed Christianity to continue, in the Islamic Ottoman Empire, but only as an accepted part of the Greek East (“Orthodox”), not as part of the Roman West (imperialistic), Christianity (which he had just then conquered with the fall of Constantinople on that same date, 29 May 1453). And now, even the Orthodox Christians are being marginalized in Turkey, because the Hagia Sophia had been “for almost 1,000 years the most important Orthodox cathedral.” 

This is an act with huge international implications. It is an important event in human history.

Turkey’s dictator, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, whose entire actual education was only in Islamic schools though he lies about it and claims to have received a degree from a non-Islamic university, is in the process of transforming Turkey back again into a specifically Islamic type of dictatorship, a Sharia-law-ruled state. The secularist Turkish Republic that was instituted in 1923 by the Enlightenment-inspired Kemal Attaturk has now decisively ended. The widespread speculations that Erdogan has been aiming to restore Turkey to being the imperial nation and ruler of a restored Islamic Ottoman Empire are now decisively confirmed by this brazen act of insult to Orthodox Christians, and even to Roman Christians, because — as Wikipedia notes — “Justinian has sometimes been known as the ‘Last Roman’ in mid-20th century historiography.” The Orthodox Church in America titles him as “Saint Justinian The Emperor”. However, Wikipedia also notes that Constantine XI Palaiologos, who was killed by Mehmet’s forces on that date, 29 May 1453, was actually the last Roman Emperor. That ended the Roman Empire.

In other words: the Turkish Government’s official change of Saint Sophia Cathedral, which Justinian had created in 537, into now and henceforth a mosque, is a taking ownership of, and a Turkish-Muslim declaration of supremacy over, a different religion’s main house of worship. It’s a historical dagger into the heart of Orthodox Christianity, as well as being an insult to Roman Christianity.

This is not merely an isolated act, either; it is, instead, something to which Erdogan has long been building. Erdogan’s grab of land from secularist-ruled (committedly anti-sectarian) Syria, and his recent sending of troops to help conquer the formerly secularist Libya, which land had been turned into a hellish civil war by a U.S.-and-allied invasion in 2011 and which chaos there continues to this day, all are consistent with an understanding of Erdogan in which his foremost objective is a restoration of the Ottoman Empire. And the U.S. Government has supported this objective of his (but only as Turkey being a branch of the U.S. empire), and tried to get the EU to accept it.

The question now — since the United States Government has been pushing against European resistance to accepting a military alliance with an Islamic dictatorship — is whether continuation of the NATO alliance will be ended because of the path that Erdogan and the United States Government have jointly been taking to re-impose a decidedly Sunni Islamic dictatorship upon Turkey (by means of which, Turkey will serve as a wedge against both Shiite controlled Iran, and an increasingly Orthodox-dominated Russia). However, there has been a split between Erdogan and the U.S. regime, because he does not intend his restored Ottoman empire to be a part of the U.S. or any other empire. Erdogan’s independent streak is what now threatens to break-up the Western Alliance — the U.S. empire (which is actually the Rhodesist UK-U.S. empire).

The United States Government has been preferring Erdogan’s former political partner but now enemy, Erdogan’s fellow Sunni Islamist Fethullah Gulen, who cooperates with the U.S. and is a CIA protégé (including rabidly against Shiite Iran and against Iran’s main ally Russia). Gulen is passionately endorsed by America’s aristocracy. The U.S. regime has been preferring Gulen to impose this transformation of Turkey into an Islamic U.S. satellite, because Gulen models his operation (and he has even described it in remarkable detail) upon U.S. and UK ‘intelligence’ practices (CIA & MI6), whereas Erdogan has insisted upon an independent Turkey with its own nationalistic ‘intelligence’ organization — a nationalistically transformed version of Turkey’s existing MIT or National Intelligence Organization — an ‘intelligence’ organization that’s cleansed of what the CIA praises as “Gulen is interested in slow and deep social change, including secular higher education; Erdogan as a party leader is first and foremost interested in preserving his party’s power, operating in a populist manner, trying to raise the general welfare.” (The CIA actually knows that this has nothing whatsoever to do with “trying to raise the general welfare” — the U.S. regime’s goal is to extend everywhere the U.S. empire, and Erdogan’s Turkish regime has that same goal for the Turkish empire, which doesn’t yet even exist, though it once did as the Ottoman Empire, and he wants to restore it.) Erdogan insists upon Turkey’s not being merely a vassal-state or colony within a foreign-led empire, but instead the leading nation of its own empire, starting perhaps with gobbling up Syria and Libya, but extending ultimately more globally. There is a soundly documented article titled “Why Are Gulenists Hostile Toward Iran?” and it provides much of the reason why the CIA supports Gulen (they do largely because Erdogan isn’t so obsessive against Iran — which country America’s aristocracy crave to conquer again, as they had done in 1953, and Erdogan doesn’t support that as passionately as they require).

The question now for Europe is whether it wants to be again a participant in various aristocracies’, and clergies’, imperialistic designs, or instead to declare itself finally non-aligned and to lead thereby a new global non-aligned movement, not militaristically, but instead by providing, to the entire world, an anti-imperialistic and truly democratic model, a re-start and replacement of today’s United Nations, and one that will reflect what had been Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s anti-imperialist intention, and not Harry S. Truman’s American-imperialist intention — a start from scratch that has FDR’s statements to guide it, and not Truman’s actions to guide it (such as has been the case). Perhaps even the U.S., NYC-based, U.N. would ultimately sign onto that new international global federation; but the only basis upon which nations in the old U.N. should be accepted into its successor would be if the old U.N. were gradually to dissolve itself as its individual nations would, each on its own, sign onto the new one. Ultimately, this option must be made available to all Governments, to choose to either continue in Truman’s U.N., or else join instead a new, and authentically FDR-based, authentically anti-imperialistic, replacement of it.

That is what this dictatorial Islamization of Turkey is really all about, and only Europe can make the decision — no other land can. However, such a decision will only fail if any such organization as a new U.N. is to be at all involved in the particular national issues that now are so clearly coming to the fore in the transformation of Turkey into a Sunni Islamist dictatorship. 

The “international community” should have no say in Turkey’s intranational (or “domestic”) affairs — regardless of whether Turkey is in or out of Europe. Sectarian and nationalistic concerns cannot rule in the formation of any authentically democratic new international order — an authentically non-imperialistic international order. All such concerns, domestic concerns, must be strictly the domain of the authority and power of each one of the individual constituent units, each individual national Government itself controlling its own internal affairs. FDR was adamant about that. He was insistent that the U.N. not get involved in individual nations’ internal affairs. The profoundly anti-FDR, “Responsibility to Protect” idea (which now has even acquired the status of being represented by an acronym “R2P” catch-phrase), has increasingly arisen recently to become a guiding principle of international relations, and must be soundly and uncompromisingly rejected in the formulation and formation of any replacement-organization — any authentically democratic international federation of nations. Otherwise, everything would be futile, and there will be a WW III. We are heading in exactly the opposite direction from that which FDR had intended — which was to prevent any Third World War.

This decision will be made by the individual nations of Europe. Only they collectively hold this power. They will be able to exercise it only if they will terminate their alliances outside of Europe, and proceed forward no longer bound by external alliances, but instead become a free and independent European federation of European states. Only they, collectively, will be able to make this decision, as Europeans, for the entire world, regarding what the world’s future will be. And only they will hold the ultimate responsibility — and it’s NOT the “responsibility to protect”. It is instead the responsibility to protect the future of the entire world. It’s the responsibility to protect a future for the world. And if Europe fails it, then the world will inevitably move forward to WW III, as it is doing. A new international order is needed, and only Europe can lead it, if  Europe will.

In order for Europe to do that, Europe must first define itself. Is Turkey part of Europe? Is Russia? What is Europe? If Europeans won’t be able to agree on that, then the world will continue to move forward towards WW III, because the world will then have no center, it will continue to have only contending empires — exactly what FDR had aimed to prevent.

Europe is the key. But will Europe’s leaders place the key in the lock, and open, finally, the door to a non-imperialistic world? The present, U.S.-empire-aligned, Europe, won’t do that. Turkey’s action on the Hagia Sophia, which is an insult to all Christians, and especially to Orthodox ones, might finally force the issue — and its solution.

Other than that, however, the official designation of the Hagia Sophia as being a mosque is entirely a domestic, Turkish, matter.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Post Trump Palestine

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Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi

The unconditional United States’ political, financial and military support to Israel enabled the latter to occupy the Palestinian territories. The former became involved in Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an arbiter to resolve the issue. But the foreign policy of US has always remained tilt to Israeli interests. From recognizing Israel as sovereign state in 1947 to accepting Jerusalem as capital of Israel has clearly unearthed the biased attitude of US for Israel.

Similarly, Trump also adopted the traditional stance of Washington on Palestine, i.e. outright support for Israel. Trump’s policy regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more aggressive but not in contradiction with his predecessors’. For instance, he brought into reality the law passed by US congress in 1995 that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, shifted US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed office of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington DC in Sept 2018 and closed US consulate in East Jerusalem the area under Palestinian control. His bigotry against Palestinians unveiled more distinctly when he announced defunding of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides food, education and healthcare to the refugees. Moreover during his regime in November 2018 the state department of US proclaimed that the construction of Israeli settlements in West Bank does not come under the ambit of violation of international humanitarian laws. Certainly, the belligerent policies in last four years of trump era paved the way for the colonization of Palestine by Israel and helped the latter to put unlawful restrictions on Palestinians making them deprived of all civil liberties and peace.

As per world report-2020by Human Rights Watch HRW, Palestinian citizens are restrained from all basic necessities of life such that, education, basic healthcare, clean water and electricity. The movement of people and goods to and from Gaza strip is also inhibited. According to World Health Organization WHO 34 percent of applications by Palestinians, for medical appointments outside Gaza strip, were not addressed by Israeli army. Moreover, HRW report states that the Israeli government destroyed 504 homes of Palestinians in West Bank during 2019 and facilitated 5995 housing settlements for Israelis. The country is trying at utmost to eradicate indigenous Palestinians from their home land. According to United Nations’ Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs UNOCHA, the demolitions of Palestinian homes displaced 642 people in 2019 and 472 in 2018.Moreover, the illicit attacks by Israeli side have killed hundreds of innocent citizens in the same years. According to UNOCHA on November 11, 2020, 71 innocent Palestinian citizens were killed by Israeli forces while 11,453 were lethally injured in a single day. Furthermore, UN secretary general exhorted that Israeli armed forces have infringed the children’s rights during the conflict as in 2018, 56 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli armed forces.

While, other international actors criticized the Israeli annexations of the region and declared it as violation of international humanitarian laws, US supported the Israeli escalations in West Bank. The former also stopped aid support through USAID for Gaza strip where eighty percent of population depends upon aid. Such partial attitude of US has put the country outside the international consensus on the issue. Apparently, US pretend its position as arbiter but her policies accredited the colonization of Palestine by Israel.

Thus, it seems futile to expect any big change in US policies regarding Israeli-Palestinian issue during forthcoming administrations. However, the president-elect Joe Bidden may alter some of the trump’s decisions such as reopening of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington, resuming funding of UNRWA and reopening of US consulate in East Jerusalem.  But his policies will not contradict the congress’ stance on the issue. As, he and his team have clearly mentioned prior to elections that they will not shift back the US embassy to Tel Aviv as it seems politically and practically insensible to them. Moreover, Blinken, the candidate for secretary of state in Joe’s upcoming regime, made it clear through his controversial statements, that the imminent president will inherit historic US position on Palestine-Israel dispute. Further, Chinese expansionism, Russian intervention in American and European affairs and Iran nuclear deal issue would remain the main concerns of foreign affairs of US during initial period of Joe Biden’s regime. He is likely to favor the status quo in Palestine and remain focused on other foreign interests. In addition to this the inclination of Arabian Gulf to develop relations with Israel will also hinder the adherence for Palestinians from the gulf countries. Subsequently, it will enable Israelis to continue seizing the Palestinian territories into Israel and leave indigenous Palestinians stateless in their own land.

Summing up, it is significant for Palestinians to continue their struggle for the homeland and seek support from other international actors to marginalize Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territories. As well as, the peace accord of 1993 signed in between both nations, to share the holy land, should also be revoked by both countries.  Both nations should try to resolve the issue on equitable grounds by negotiations so that either side could not be deprived of its interests.

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An Enemy Among Us

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The upcoming talks regarding the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, that are due to take place on January 25, should not disillusion us from the dangers of Turkey’s unilateral aggression on all fronts. Erdogan has made no real efforts to improve ties with the EU, except for the occasional vain promise of turning over a new leaf. Since October, he has urged the Muslim world to boycott French products, continued gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, blatantly ignored the arms embargo in Libya and has aided Azerbaijan in committing war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite the numerous warnings issued by the EU and the many failed attempts at resolving the crisis in the East Med diplomatically, the latest EU summit concluded with an anti-climactic promise to sanction certain Turkish officials regarding the East Med. This minimally symbolic promise could only be described as a mere slap on the wrist that will prove unsuccessful in deterring Turkey’s belligerent tendencies. Turkey’s increasingly hostile attitude, its callous use of the refugee crisis and its clear violation of international law in the East Med, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh represent a danger to European values, identity and security.

We are witnessing before our eyes a dictator in the making who dreams of a return of the Ottoman empire and seeks to destroy the democratic and secular legacy of Atatürk. He is a fervent supporter of political islam – particularly the muslim brotherhood – and he relentlessly accuses the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the crusades’ against Islam. In fact, since 2014, Erdogan and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) have continuously facilitated cross-border movement into Syria and shipped illegal arms to a number of radical jihadist groups. The Turkish government also uses SADAT Defense, an islamist paramilitary group loyal to Erdogan, to aid groups that can be considered as terrorist organizations such as Sultan Murad Division and Ahrar al-Sham in Northern Syria and use their jihadi fighters to send to Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and, most recently, Kashmir in order to bolster Turkey’s foreign policy.

Erdogan uses a mixture of islamism and nationalism to expand Turkey’s influence around the world and to consolidate power within. The two most influential factions in Turkey are the radical islamists and secular neo-nationalists, who despise each other but share a deep disdain for the west. Courtesy of neo-nationalist and former Maoist terrorist leader Dogu Perinçek, the NATO member has also enjoyed warmer ties with Russia and China over the past 5 years. As a result of these shifts in alliances and growing anti-western sentiments, Turkey is becoming increasingly at odds with the West. 

Furthermore, the growing discontent at home pushes him to adopt more aggressive tactics, divisive policies and his behavior mirrors that of a panicked authoritarian leader. Erdogan is desperately looking for a conflict to distract the Turkish population from the fall of the lira, the spread and mishandling of COVID-19, and the overall declining economy that predates the pandemic. Turkey’s future will most likely be determined by the upcoming general election that is set to take place within the next three years. If Erdogan wins the next election, it will solidify his power and bring him one step closer in turning Turkey into a dictatorship. During his stay in power, he has already conducted a series of purges to weaken and silence dissidents. Turkey now has the most imprisoned journalists in the world. 

Yet, the loss of Istanbul and Ankara in the last municipal election of 2019 demonstrate his declining popularity, and offer a glimmer of hope for the opposition. Political figures like the new mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, or the new mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, represent a brighter future for Turkey. Erdogan currently finds himself in a position of weakness, which represents a rare window of opportunity for the EU to strike. Unfortunately, the EU remains deeply divided on how to handle a situation that continues to deteriorate. It seems that some member states, particularly Germany, are holding on to the naive belief that Erdogan can still be reasoned with. 

Our reluctance to impose the slightest sanctions against Turkey demonstrates our division and weakness, which emboldens the neo-sultan. A strong and united response from the European Union is the only way to curb Erdogan’s expansionist agenda. This should include renegotiating the migrant pact, imposing targeted sanctions against SADAT Defense and its leader Adnan Tanrıverdi, imposing an arms embargo, suspending the EU-Turkey customs union and finally suspending Turkey’s membership in NATO. 

Ultimately, Erdogan’s bellicose foreign policy and his contentious nationalist-islamist rhetoric makes it impossible to consider Erdogan’s Turkey as our ally. As the EU reaches out yet another olive branch, Erdogan has his eye on the wars to come. 

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Is Erdogan’s Obsession with Demirtas a Personal Vendetta or a Calculated Strategy?

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Grand Chamber ruled that the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş must be immediately released. The Court ruled that his years-long detention “had pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swiftly reacted to the ECHR’s ruling and characterized the decision as hypocritical’ and accused the Court of defending a ‘terrorist.’

To many, Erdogan’s reaction to the Court’s ruling should not be a surprise,but his resentment and anger toward Demirtaş are quite shocking. So, why does Erdogan pursue a vendetta against him? Or is it a calculated political strategy? How could Demirtaş’s release affect the political landscape in Turkey? What could be the implications of releasing or not releasing him be on the US-Turkey relations during the Biden era?

Yes, the ECHR’s ruling is a significant and expected development. What is more significant is that Erdogan’s quick reaction shows his deeply rooted frustration with Demirtaş, which dates back to the pre-June 2015 elections. In March 2015,Demirtaş made a short but a spectacular speech at the Turkish Parliament when he said, “we will not make you the President.” He also said, “We are not a movement of bargaining, a party of bargaining. There has never been a dirty deal between us and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and there will never be…” His reference to ‘dirty deal’ was believed to be an offer from the AKP to HDP in exchange for support during the general election. In the June 2015 election, HDP managed to secure the electoral threshold with 13% vote for the first time in the pro-Kurdish parties’ history. Additionally, they secured 80 seats in parliament which made them the second biggest opposition party in Turkey. This was an unprecedented victory for the pro-Kurdish party and a breakthrough in Turkish political history. It is fair to say that, based on the author’s experience, Demirtaş’s rising charisma has become a liability, not only for Erdogan but also for Ocalan, PKK’s once unquestionable leader.  

Erdoğan’s hateful outburst towards the call for Demirtaş’s release is more about Erdoğan’s political self-interest and concerns than his personal vendetta. Demirtaş’s release could likely have far bigger implications on the political calculations in Turkey. They would primarily impact on the future of the People’s Alliance, the coalition between the Justice and Development Party (AK) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), where AKP focuses its efforts to maintain control over the Kurdish issue. For the AKP, having an alliance with the MHP has been beneficial so far but not without major tradeoffs. These includethe MHP’s stance against the Kurdish issue and its eroding voter support nationwide.

AKP’s strategy to maintain power partly relies on its ability to create factions within the existing political parties. The pro-Kurdish parties are no exception. Strategies include consolidating Kurdish votes around AKP or dividing them to create enough division as to not let the HDP run as one single dominant Kurdish party in the next elections.

Demirtaş’s release could pose risks for AKP’s three-fold strategy: Dominate, divide and maintain the status quo. First, by arresting MPs, local politicians, mayors, and activists, AKP aimed to paralyze and dominate the Kurdish voter base. So, preventing Demirtaş’s release could serve to kill the electoral enthusiasm at the party’s voting base and prevent unity among the Kurdish constituency. Demirtaş’s potential release could give rise to his popularity, not only among the Kurdish voters but also the left-wing secularists. Such a scenario could force the AKP towards more pro-Kurdish narratives and policies that could eventually weaken the AKP-MHP coalition.

Second, dividing and deepening fractions; and creating splinter parties would mean that the HDP could not consolidate the Kurdish constituency. Although having a smaller base, an Islamist Kurdish Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par)has supported Erdogan during the 2018 Presidential election. They are a group with alleged ties with the Kurdish Hezbollah, which has committed the atrocities in Turkey in the 1990s and early 2000s.Recently, the leader of Hüda-Par expressed his disappointment with ECHR’s ruling after he paid a visit to Erdogan in the Presidential Palace. Another example is establishing the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), allegedly politically in line with Barzani’s tradition, to divide HDP votes.

Third, by cutting new deals with Öcalan again, they aim to appeal to his supporters to maintain the status quo. Just like during the local elections in 2019, AKP might take another step to re-instrumentalize Öcalan despite his failed emissary role in the last Istanbul local re-run. Öcalan called for HDP’s neutrality, which meant not supporting the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. Öcalan’s message was contradicting with HDP’s former co-chair Selahattin Demirtas’s call for support for Imamoglu. Though AKP’s strategy of revitalizing Öcalan may not produce the desired outcome for AKP, it could buy some time by diverting public attention from the victimhood of Demirtaş and HDP.

While releasing Demirtas could pose challenges for the AKP and its leader Erdogan domestically, not releasing him could prove costly. As a pragmatic leader as anyone could be, to survive politically Erdogan has made several U-turns domestically and internationally. Facing an economic crisis and continuing decline in approval ratings Erdogan could, unwillingly, comply with the Court’s ruling. This could help him have a fresh start with President-elect Biden,  who called Erdogan an autocrat.

Regardless of whether he would be released or not, as a political leader, Demirtaş will dominate domestic politics in Turkey and continue to be a critical actor in the region vis-à-vis the Kurdish issue.

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