Monday, February 06, 2012

6-Feb-12: Turkish delight

There was a time, not so long ago, when Israel's relations with Turkey were strikingly positive. The talk was all about regional and bilateral co-operation. Israeli tourism to Turkey was huge (not the other way round, though) and considerable numbers of students from each side (a member of our family among them) went off to study in the other country.

Today, not so much. Here's a Turkish report from January 20, 2012 on some of what lately brings pride to the Turkish breast.

Note that, although we reduced the length of the Hurriyet Daily News article below, we have not modified the original headline. Nor did we add or change a word of the text in the article.

Turkish missiles over Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Rome (and others)
The Ottoman siege of Vienna may have failed in 1683. But the Turks will soon be back at the gates (well, this time, the skies) of Europe. Much to the pride of millions of Turks, the state scientific research institute, TÜBITAK, recently reported that its scientists this year would finish an all-Turkish missile with a range of 1,500 km, and, in 2014, another with a range of 2,500 km (no typo here).
The head of TÜBITAK said the order for the missile program had come from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. I read daily Hürriyet quoting TÜBITAK’s president, Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, as saying that “this is a most realistic project.” And I watched an engineer from TÜBITAK’s missile project group, telling state television channel TRT that “the Turkish missiles were more advanced than the U.S. or German missiles.” I felt proud.
Yet I was curious and checked the world map. Put the country which claims to maintain zero problems with its neighbors and others at the epicenter of a circle with a diameter of 2,500 km, and here are some of the cities which may in the future see Turkish missiles over their skies: Athens, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Geneva, Algiers, Jeddah, Cairo, Copenhagen, Kiev, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Damascus, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Warsaw, Vienna, Zurich and Amman.
... The move is just another indication that Turkey does not see its future within the largely inter-operable NATO and European security structures... The big question here is why should Turkey, which boasts a modern air force with highly deterrent firepower, need ballistic or cruise missiles? With which countries within a diameter of 2,500 km does Turkey think it may, in the future, have to battle? Which targets within a range of 2,500 kilometers may it hope to hit which it cannot with a 1,000-km missile?
What justifies the earmarking of – possibly – hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money for the Turkish missiles? Are biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in Turkey’s various contingency plans for future warfare? What’s the point of NATO membership, then? Does Turkey intend to leave the alliance? More importantly, what are the political deliberations behind this ambitious plan?
...For the moment, New York, Beijing, Seoul, Brasilia, Ottawa and Tokyo look safe and immune to future Turkish anger. But give Mr. Erdoğan another 10 years in power and Turkey might have another one with a range of 15,000 km by then...
TIME Magazine said of Turkish prime minister in December 2011 that
"No leader better personifies the dramatic changes in the Middle East over the past year than [he does]... He was hailed as a role model by ascendant Islamists in post-dictatorship Tunisia and Egypt, where he urged the building of secular democracies... Erdogan is likely to become even more central to events in the coming year with the unfolding of the Arab rebellion, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and mounting international tension over Iran."
Source: NPR
A pity the current wave of interest in Erdogan's Turkey as an example for the countries of the badly misnamed Arab Spring does not offer a little more attention to the much darker side of the picture. NPR carried a report two weeks ago under the heading "For Turkish Journalists, Arrest Is A Real Danger". An excerpt:
In the wake of the Arab Spring, some Muslims in North Africa are looking across the Mediterranean to Turkey as a potential model of a state that can be modern, Islamic and democratic. But some analysts in the region say that model is flawed, and they are questioning Turkey's human-rights record and its dealings with the press. Critics say the government is using Turkey's slow-moving and sometimes opaque justice system to stifle dissent. Turkish media advocates are frustrated both with the government and international media groups who in their view understate the number of imprisoned journalists. Among them are Ahmet Sik and longtime investigative journalist Nedim Sener. Their arrests nearly a year ago provoked a large public outcry, but since then detentions of journalists have continued apace." 
Journalists in fear of being arrested? Turkish missiles that can reach every European city today? And beyond them tomorrow? Erdogan's way a model for the region?


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