Archive for the 'Iran' Category

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

In his official visit to Italy Jan. 28-31, President Abdullah Gul met twice with Turkish columnists covering his trip. His remarks provided opportunities to observe how deep his longtime political differences with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is distancing himself from the political culture and foreign policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Author Kadri Gursel Posted February 3, 2014

Translator(s)Timur Goksel

From

As a columnist who took part in both meetings and asked questions of the president, my observation is this: Gul, who set up the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with Erdogan and who, until he became president, was the party’s second in command. He has plainly distanced himself from Erdogan’s wordview. It is not an exaggeration to say that the distance between them is becoming increasingly ideological.

We all know that the president, in contrast with the AKP government, defends Turkey’s EU perspectives, reforms, state of law and freedom of press. In the days following the dramatic intensification of the strife between the AKP and the Fetullah Gulen movement after the corruption investigations that directly targeted Erdogan’s family and close political associates, the divergence between the narratives of Gul and Erdogan was also reflected by their actions.

We have to remember the initiatives of the government to make legislative moves that would totally eliminate the independence of the judiciary were blocked, thanks to the firm stand of Gul, before the European Union stepped in.

As with many of the political developments in Turkey, it is also impossible to predict how the ideological divergence between Gul and Erdogan will affect the AKP. To make a reasonable guess, one has to wait for the outcome of the March 30 local elections. Only then we will be able to say what kind of role Gul is planning to fill in national politics and in the future of the AKP.

For the time being, let’s lay out how Gul has deviated from his old comrade Erdogan, especially in foreign policy.

The first issue is Syria. We can observe that the president of Turkey is more realistic and has a more rational approach as compared to that of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and that he doesn’t ignore politics the way they do.

In his Jan. 30 talk with journalists in Rome, Gul suggested working with Iran on the issue of Syria, saying,

“Iran’s launching of a dialogue with the international community and the Western world and better prospects for solving problems through politics will make the world a more comfortable place. The beginning of a new era with Tehran may also enable engaging Iran on the Syrian issue. We spoke with Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani on how essential it is to work together on the Syrian issue and develop alternatives. We tasked our foreign ministers to work on this. There is another opportunity that could arise from joint efforts. If Turkey can be in close and sincere cooperation with Iran on Syria, we can come up with proposals to the international community, and the Western world can take our proposals seriously.”

The prerequisite for Gul’s proposal is the development of a Syrian policy along rational and secular lines instead of the ideological basis favored by Erdogan and Davutoglu.

Gul’s words were made even more interesting by their timing, coming a day after Erdogan told the journalists in his plane returning from Tehran that “there was no agreement with Iran on Syria.”

For Ankara to work together with Tehran, which today is in the opposite camp over Syria, it first has to take a reality check and accept that the Syrian regime is not going away in the foreseeable future.

Gul has done this reality check and demonstrates that, unlike Erdogan and Davutoglu, he can empathize with the actors in the opposite camp. He said, “In an interview I gave to Foreign Affairs two years ago, I had said that there are no other countries committed to the opposition as much as Iran and Russia are for Syria. I was talking about the West and about Turkey. For Iran, Syria is an existential issue; for us, it is a humanitarian issue. For Russia, it is an issue of warm seas, of having a single base. On the other side, some talk about how [the United States] will be the one to end the war with its known policies. Today, Damascus has the stronger hand. How did they get to Geneva?”

In terms of Turkey’s threat analysis, Gul’s opinions are distinctly more realistic and up to date than those of Erdogan and Davutolgu, the architects of Ankara’s crumbled Syrian policy. Asked about the Turkish army’s retaliation for a Jan. 30 mortar round fired by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the president said, “We don’t have any reason to be optimistic about when Syria will achieve salvation. If a strong transition government had emerged from Geneva, we would have had some hope, but it wasn’t to be. The second point is the threats and dangers for Turkey of the existing situation. In that environment of uncertainty, many groups emerged. It is not only a war between the regime and the opposition but also within the opposition. There are no targets. If these [battles] are taking place along our 900-kilometer [559-mile] border, you can’t know where they will spread to. Such situations create and provoke extremism, radicalism. You will not know where they will end.

“This is why there is a big difference between our threat perception of four or five years ago, and our threat perception of today. At that time, the biggest threat for us was the struggle against [Kurdistan Workers Party] terror. Today, we see diverse, numerous groups. We have to be much more careful now. I want to say that our southern border is more difficult. If the Turkish armed forces today refrain from getting involved, who knows, tomorrow you may have to deal with a much more formidable force.”

It is a known fact Erdogan is defining the corruption investigations as an international conspiracy to remove him from power. His government allies and supportive media back this discourse.

On the evening of Jan. 28, Gul was asked a question about the conspiracy theory. A journalist from the pro-government media asked, “Don’t you think that in recent days, the Western media is drawing a portrait of an unstable Turkey?” He gave this interesting reply: “You complain. You gripe and demand that they should treat our affairs positively. Because of its nature, the press is generally expected to be critical. … You have to look at this as an objective media analysis. … There may well be those abroad who intentionally want to paint a negative portrait of Turkey, but it is not correct to group them together with ‘They want to show us in negative light; they are campaigning against us.’ Let’s not forget that these are newspapers that used to print headlines about the ‘reformist government in Turkey.’ They used to lavishly praise our successes. That is why we have to be objective. At times, you come across articles that stand out as excessively negative and biased. Some, however, write critically when they observe the debates in Turkey. You should not put them all in same basket as enemies of Turkey. That would be a mistake. We will then see everyone as our enemy, which, of course, is not the case.”

There are four main points to Gul’s response:

Gul is not giving credit to the conspiracy allegations of Erdogan and his coterie.
He is accepting that the press has to be critical, and supporting the freedom of the press.
His suggestion that a press that only sees the positive sides of the government will cease to be “the press,” a strong admonishment of the pro-AKP media.
Gul reminds us that newspapers currently critical of Turkey once wrote favorably of it. This is an implicit criticism by Gul of the negative direction the AKP government has been taking in recent years.

The president referred to recent unfavorable changes in Turkey when responding to a question about preparations for an international campaign on the centennial of the Armenian genocide. He said, “2014 and 2015 will be crucial years. Turkey will confront many tough questions on international platforms. Three or four years ago, as a shining country with many friends, we were thinking that we could overcome these tough questions. To be honest, with the global situation, our problems that require attention and our domestic issues will make these international questions more difficult to handle. Our government is making some preparations. … We have to find ways to remind others of the importance of being friends with Turkey.”

These remarks by Gul contain criticism of how Turkey has become isolated and suffered soft-power losses globally and regionally because of the policies pursued by the Erdogan-Davutoglu team since 2010.

We have to emphasize that Gul’s observations and attitude have strong and favorable reflection in the AKP base and within the party structure, and that he is not alone.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/gul-proposed-iran-joint-effort-syria.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129##ixzz2sOXJXQe1

Erdogan discusses Syria policy in visit to Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — In public, it was all about economies, treaties and bilateral relations. Behind closed doors, however, the visit to Iran by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was all about Syria, Syria and Syria.

Author Ali Hashem Posted January 30, 2014

Summary
Behind closed doors, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked with Iranian leaders about common ground on Syria and a more effective dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.

“There are still differences, that’s obvious, but they’re not as crucial as they were before,” a source in Tehran commented to Al-Monitor in discussing Erdogan’s visit. “Almost two years ago, Erdogan came to Iran and insisted on meeting [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to tell him that Iran’s bet on Assad would not yield any benefit. Back then, the leader told the Turkish guest, review your policies, your strategies, and come back. [Bashar al-] Assad won’t fall.”

Erdogan is back, and he is still in favor of toppling Assad, but according to the source, he is almost convinced that this is only a wish.

“There are alternatives that have been discussed during the past months, and in this visit, they were finalized. Turkey has its own people in the opposition, and they’ve been isolated by the current backed by Saudi Arabia,” the source explained. “The need for change in Syria can be met by bringing together both the regime and the opposition. [These] talks can be more efficient than the ones taking place in Montreux. Even if it took place at the same location, the idea is giving the talks a strong push, with both regional powers playing a positive role in convincing their allies to come to terms.”

Both Turkey and Iran have decided that they need to maintain good strategic relations, as both feel the heat of terrorism and regional differences vis-a-vis other powers. The Iranian supreme leader’s words were as clear as day. He was reported as saying that Iranian-Turkish relations are the best in centuries, and both countries have to seize the opportunity to solidify their relations. Erdogan, for his part, offered that when he visits Iran, it feels like a second home. He added that they have to work together to the extent that ministers of both governments feel as if they are working in the same government.

Khamenei is known to be extremely selective in his choice of words. He is, after all, the supreme leader, the head of the regime, the man who makes decisions on strategic matters. In speaking about Syria, he is saying what his allies in Damascus might be too intimidated to say to the Turks, although, according to Al-Monitor’s source, “it’s not the case” since they are aware of all the details and understand the need to have Turkey as an ally and a strategic partner.

The meetings are expected to continue between Ankara and Tehran to assess the situation on the ground. According to the source, coordination on the Syrian crisis is at the highest levels. “The countries are to unify their efforts. They see themselves in the same boat, and they have the same rivals. The region needs three main pillars to stand again. Turkey and Iran are two [of them]. An Arab partner is needed, and this is what they are working on. Iraq could play this role, but so can other countries in the region.”

Three weeks before Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, Al-Monitor learned that a high-ranking delegation from Iran had visited Ankara, carrying information about the situation in Syria. The delegation met high-ranking Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and there was agreement on exchanging information and coordinating closely on the situation in Syria. The meeting also included some non-Iranian and non-Turkish figures. The exchange apparently continues.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/erdogan-iran-syria-shift.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=c9c95b63ee-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-c9c95b63ee-93145129#ixzz2s1Bu3o9l

“Leave those kids alone” (or they’ll overthrow you sooner rather than later)

Ideas become a material force when taken up by masses of people. So, too, can music play a part in inspiring large numbers in the fight for democracy against tyranny. This is true everywhere, no exceptions. Including Iran.

The Pink Floyd classic, “Another brick in the wall” was first released in the UK in 1979, the same year as the Iranian Revolution. It became an anthem for those of us who don’t like constantly being told what to do by our supposed betters, be they teachers, politicians, priests, the ‘Moral Majority’, food fascists or Nature Worshippers.

Befitting a rebellious song, a version released in South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle was quickly banned there. In 1990, the song was the leitmotif for the bringing down of the Berlin Wall.

And now, thanks to Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, a band called ‘Blurred Vision’, fronted by two Iranian brothers living in exile in Canada, have released a version of the song as part of Iran’s struggle for freedom. Waters gave them the rights to cover the song.

The title is the same except for the bit in parenthesis, which now says “Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone”! It’s on youtube and has proven very popular.

No doubt there will be those who see the song as a pernicious device in the Great Satan’s ‘plan to conquer Iran’. To those Iranians on the ground fighting repression, it will be encouraging and very uplifting, a source of hope. As it is for me, in solidarity with them.

Rock on!

Solidarity with the people of Iran

iran students protests in teheran dec 7 2008

Iran students protests in teheran dec 7 2008

I’ve just received the following message from “Where is My Vote? Melbourne”

——————–
Subject: HUMAN CHAIN Against Brutality and Execution in IRAN

In the eight months which have passed since the rigged presidential elections, we have witnessed elements within the Iranian regime reacting with brazen brutality against people who seek to have a voice in the country’s government. Many have been killed and hundreds imprisoned and tortured. Protestors have recently been executed or received the death penalty in recent trials

We cannot just stand by mutely, so people around the world are gathering to bear witness. Iranians around the world will stand together on February 12 in solidarity with their brothers and sisters inside Iran to show them that they have not stopped caring.

We in Melbourne on Friday 12/02/10 from 7-8 pm, will form a human chain over Princess Bridge along St. Kilda Rd to take part in this global action against injustice, and to condemn recent executions and unfair trails. We will  hold a 200m-long green scroll with our slogans written on it.

We want you to be there to echo our voice.

I think those of us who are in Melbourne should go along.

Using Twitter for politics, not posturing in @goforthmag

I’ve just had an article published at a new Irish political website, forth. The publisher, Jason Walsh, is a contributor to Spiked and has branched out on his own. The politics are broadly similar to Spiked, including the anti-nanny-statism and the belief that we live in an age where politicians offer not politics, but bland managerialism.

My article is about how Twitter and other social media could have been used more effectively by Westerners supporting the Iranian protesters in July this year. I emailed a comment replying to another article, “Politics for Twats“, which had very little good to say about Western use of Twitter, saying it was mostly just posturing.

I agreed that that is what had happened, but it didn’t have to be that way. Despite missing out on a big opportunity to show solidarity with the Iranian protesters in the streets, that failure wasn’t caused because people were on Twitter, but because people weren’t using it correctly:

Despite [the Western supporters’] failings there was one very heartening sign among people using Twitter: an enormous amount of Westerners instinctively supported the protesters. Of course, good feelings and undirected sympathy aren’t enough, but without that support agitators have nothing to work with. Twitterers who supported the Iranians protesting against their regime may not have done enough to support them but that is not the fault of social media. Instead, it’s the fault of poor understanding and preparation and lack of willingness to take action.

I suggest you have a look around forth, its focus on Irish politics is interesting as that rarely gets reported in Australia, despite our huge Irish-descended population. They accept comments by email at the moment, and they hope to have a proper commenting system in place soon, which is good – I think one of Spiked’s biggest disappointments is not having comments.