Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Erdogan faces more heat

Noisy protests have shown the Teflon Turk that his political record is not so squeaky clean, says Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in for an unpleasant surprise during his visit this week to Ankara’s Middle East Technical Institute (Orta Dogu Teknyk Üniversitesi — ODTÜ). He was there to preside over the ceremonies surrounding the launching of the Chinese space ship that would set Turkey’s second espionage satellite — Göktürk-2 — into orbit around the earth. It should have been a joyful occasion that would win him praise to which he is accustomed, having little tolerance for criticism.
Instead, he was greeted by angry shouts from student protesters who simultaneously condemned university officials for agreeing to the visit in the first place. True, the prime minister’s office had advance knowledge that Erdogan would not receive the warmest welcome by ODTÜ students, the majority of whom are inclined to the political left. In fact it was for this reason that he was surrounded by around 4,000 security officers. However, he had never anticipated such a massive outcry. Although he put on a good show of composure, he later insisted that officials of this university, which was established in 1956, should resign because they had permitted a “handful” of students to distort the honourable image of the rest of the student body.
But anger hailed not only from the left, but also from the Islamist factions which subscribe to the same ideological frame-of-reference as Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). From this segment of Turkey’s political spectrum came a fusillade of criticism against what was described as the “dirty dealings” that led to the government’s decision to lift its veto against NATO cooperation with Israel in exchange for the deployment of Patriot missile batteries in Turkish territory. By lifting its veto, Ankara has effectively agreed that Israel can take part in NATO activities as of the beginning of the new year. Such activities could include workshops, seminars, conferences and training courses.
The ultraconservative Milli Gazete led the attack, accusing the ruling AKP of indulging in double standards by engaging in secret contacts with the Likud government while the AKP prime minister sustains a harsh verbal offensive against the policies of the Israeli occupying power. The newspaper went on to claim that the prime minister’s rhetoric was a facade, since it was his government that had paved the way for the Zionist junta’s long sought-after membership in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Turkey had vetoed cooperation with Israel in NATO following the Israeli attack against the Mavi Marmara which had led a flotilla that was delivering humanitarian relief to Gaza in May 2010. Although Ankara’s recent decision to lift that veto is limited to cooperation in non-military activities, it leaves little doubt that the deployment of Patriot missiles on Turkish territory is not only to deter possible missile attacks from Syria but also to protect Israel from possible aerial assaults from Syria and, especially, Iran.
Also, in spite of the nine Turkish lives that were lost on the Mavi Marmara, the AKP government is in the process of concluding a trade partnership agreement with Tel Aviv. According to figures from the Israeli chamber of commerce in Istanbul, Turkish imports from Israel have risen from $1.31 billion in 2010 to $1.85 billion.
The recovering harmony between Ankara and Tel Aviv is undoubted pleasing to Washington. Moreover, the reward appears forthcoming. Turkey’s shopping list of 17 air-to-air Sidewinder missiles, worth a mere $140 million, has been submitted to Congress which looks likely to approve the deal along with the logistic and training support that comes with the package.
Some quarters of Turkey’s Islamist camp were more scathing yet in their criticism of the Erdogan government. They accused the AKP of exploiting the Mavi Marmara incident in order to cast itself as the chief defender of the Palestinian cause with the purpose of winning popularity among Arab public opinion. But how will Ankara’s popularity ratings in the Arab world fare now that it has lifted its NATO veto and voted in favour of the Zionist regime’s membership in the OECD? Will the Palestinian and Arab street continue to regard Erdogan as an “Islamic commander”?
Certainly, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s defence of the decision to lift the veto seemed feeble if not naïve. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Turkish and Israeli soldiers would still not be meeting face to face in NATO activities. He explained that the veto was not fully lifted but merely “lightened” as the consequence of constant pressure from NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He further stressed that Ankara has not altered its stance with regard to Israel which is that Tel Aviv must offer an official apology for the deaths it caused during its assault on the Mavi Marmara, pay compensation to the families of the victims and lift its blockade on Gaza. He went on to add a new justification for the “easing” of the veto. It would help develop NATO’s relations with Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan, he said.
Criticism from the nationalist right would not have come as a surprise to Erdogan. Leading pundits from this segment of the political spectrum charged that the AKP government had acted in ways that even the most secular of secularist government would never have done. The journalist Mehmet Ali Güller cautioned that the Turkish people are aware of the collusion between Erdogan and Israel in the conspiracy against Syria. He said that the Israeli call to Turkey to cooperate in the “Syrian crisis” is proof that Israel and the Turkish government are on the same side with respect to Syria.
In an article that appeared in the Aydynlyk Gazete and on the Ulusal Bakyß website, Güller wrote that this call, which was issued in a statement by Pinhas Avivi, former Israeli ambassador to Turkey and currently the political director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, confirms that Israel and the AKP government in Turkey are in official agreement against Syria. The missile shield system that was installed in Kürecik, in the southern Anatolian province of Malatya, and the hostile policies towards Iran and Syria indicate that the AKP government is a political partner of Israel in the Middle East, he said, adding that the US has used and continues to use the AKP government as its tool to implement its plans [in the region] not through coercion but rather in exchange for remaining in power in Turkey in accordance with bilateral agreements between the two sides. He further stressed that the AKP government is currently serving as Washington’s instrument of aggression against Syria.
Hassan Kanbolat, director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), argues that there is “a game within a game” in Syria. He claims that events in Syria have been engineered in a way to weaken all regional forces and parties and that the AKP government’s policies toward Syria are essentially an attempt to eliminate it as one of the threats to Israeli security.
But Erdogan has never been a man without resources, even when barraged from left and right on the home front. In the latest twist to this tale, he disclosed that an eavesdropping device had been discovered in his office in his home. Although he pointed the finger at “remnants” of the “deep state” which he had been unrooting through various campaigns and trials, the bug afforded him the opportunity to point another finger of accusation against Mossad, since Israel is uncomfortable with the idea of a strong and influential Turkey in the region and the world.

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