Wednesday, February 25, 2015

25-Feb-15: Talking Turkey on terror

Erdogan and Obama: A relationship based on 'confidence' and
'bonds of trust'. {Image Source: Sunday's Zaman, an influential 
Turkish newspaper]
For some people, terrorism is perceived as a mortal threat against which the most serious of efforts and resources need to be arrayed in order to defeat its practitioners, destroy their capabilities and take them out of the game in every possible way.

For others, it's a justifiable means to an end, and in many cases not merely justified but demanded by a divine authority.

For a third group, it's both.

We have some thoughts to share about Turkey. To us it's clear Turkey currently belongs to that third group.

Turkey happens to be in the news today for several terror-related reasons. In no particular order, one concerns the revolving door that Turkey seems to have put at the service of jihad-bedazzled individuals en route to, and occasionally from, the killing fields of Syria:
Fears emerged on Friday that London students Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase had fled in a bid to become 'jihadi brides' for ISIS terrorists... Counter terrorism police have confirmed that the three schoolgirls who fled the UK to Turkey have crossed the border into Syria. Since then, a diplomatic row has broken out between British and Turkish authorities on the details of how the schoolgirls travelled to the country without more thorough checks being carried out... [Mirror UK last night]
You get a small sense of rising British irritation at the Turkish tolerance of pro-jihad affection from how the BBC focused on the same affair yesterday:
Turkey's Deputy PM Bulent Arinc said officials would have taken "necessary measures" had they known earlier... Mr Arinc said: "It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls... come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later. They haven't taken the necessary measures. The search is ongoing. It would be great if we can find them. But if we can't, it is not us who will be responsible, but the British." ...But Scotland Yard has said it began working with Turkish authorities a day after the girls went missing. The girls boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at Gatwick, and would have required a visa to enter the country... Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said there needed to be "much closer co-operation" with Turkey in tackling the problem of people travelling through the country to Syria and Iraq. [BBC, February 24, 2015]
On the other hand, Turkey's counter-terror persona is on display in this recent Agence France-Presse story:
The EU said Monday it will launch anti-terror projects with Muslim nations and boost intelligence sharing following the Paris attacks, as anger over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons fed fresh protests and violence. Foreign ministers meeting in the shadow of the Islamist attacks and a wave of arrests across Europe agreed on the need to work with Arab nations and Turkey in particular to counter the growing threat... ["EU to launch anti-terror drive with Muslim countries", January 19, 2015]
Then again, which threat exactly?
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said that Turkey and Pakistan will “continue their cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terror and Islamophobia” around the world... The Turkish prime minister emphasized that it was time for all humanity to work “shoulder to shoulder” against all kinds of racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic tendencies. [Hurriyet (Turkey), February 17, 2015]
It's a taste of the pretend game that involves stretching the notion of terrorism and the fight against it until it encompasses whatever threat happens to be top of that political figure's list of current concerns.

The pretense falls away, however, once Israel enters the picture. Here's part of an important (we think) story on the Ynet site today under the title "Forced from Damascus, Hamas establishing itself in Turkey" [Ynet | February 25, 2015] by Alex Fishman: an example of "talking Turkey". Some selected quotes:
  • Relations been Israel and Turkey have been on a slippery downward slope in recent years; of late, however, the situation has led to grave consequences beyond the realm of politics: Turkey has become a Hamas hotbed, and members of the organization's military wing are undergoing military training on Turkish soil, with the knowledge, support and assistance of the local authorities
  • The US administration has appealed in recent months to the Turkish government to prevent Hamas military activity in its territory, arguing that Turkey is a member of NATO and that Hamas is viewed by most NATO members as a terrorist organization. The appeals have gone unanswered
  • Hamas set up its so-called West Bank and Jerusalem Headquarters in Istanbul immediately following the organization's expulsion from Damascus in 2011. 
  • In 2013, Hamas underwent restructuring, and the organization expanded the activities of the Turkey-based headquarters, headed by Salah Al-Arouri, who was deported from Israel in the past. Among others, under him now in Turkey are 20 militants released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, including the likes of Zaher Jabarin and Jihad Yarmur, who were involved in the murder of soldier Nachshon Wachsman.
  • ...Since Jordan does not allow Hamas activists to undergo military training on its soil, the recruits are sent to the headquarters in Istanbul, where they receive security clearances and are sent for military training just outside the city – under the watchful eye of Turkish intelligence officials... From there, they go the West Bank to engage in terror activities and establish clandestine terror cells.
  • May and August of last year saw the arrest [by Israel - we wrote about it here: "27-Nov-14: Hamas terrorist ring is busted; Israel says the handlers operate from Turkey"] of 93 terror activists who were planning to carry out a series of attacks in the Palestinian Authority in an effort to destabilize and topple the government. Heading the terror network was Riad Nasser, a veteran Hamas operative who was working in conjunction with the headquarters in Istanbul...
  • [T]he Turkey-based command center has been behind several of the violent events that have occurred in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount in recent months.
  • The killers of the three Israeli teenagers prior to Operation Protective Edge were also deployed by the headquarters in Turkey. Furthermore, a significant portion of the arms in the hands of Hamas in the West Bank were purchased and sent there by the headquarters in Istanbul.
Turkey happens to be on the minds of a lot of people here. On ours too: here are some earlier posts
Australian visitors at the 2013 ANZAC Day commemoration in Turkey
amid a rising sense of impending terrorism [Image Source: Daily Mail UK]
Turkey's relationship with terror has already prompted people better connected than we are to ask whether its dangerous, threatening and frankly irresponsible stand doesn't warrant having it expelled from NATO - this commentator in 2014, for instance, and this one today.

We wrote in an earlier post ["18-Jul-14: Before holidaying in Turkey, some messages to bear in mind"] that 
"We happen to have warm feelings for the Turks and their gorgeous country. But it is impossible to ignore some of the very ugly events unfolding there.
One of our children finished his university studies there, and the experience including living in cosmopolitan and energetic Istanbul was overwhelmingly positive. But now we are hoping people, and in particular Australians, will take a careful view of where Turkey stands and what it does. 

This fast-approaching Anzac Day, April 25, will be the 100th anniversary of "probably Australia's most important national occasion". An even larger Australian presence than in previous years is going to tale part in the centennial commemoration in Turkey. And while it's always uplifting to see former rivals and enemies overcome differences and celebrate the humanity that they hold dear in common, it's a mistake (as we pointed out here: "14-Jan-15: A reminder that hateful conspiracy theories are not only found in dark corners") to think profound differences of outlook on core ideas can be papered over or wished out of existence. 

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