— The Erimtan Angle —

‘Tonight’s Rumble discusses Jeb’s call to end Medicare, Kerry’s defense of the Iran deal on Capitol Hill, and the mass shooting in Louisiana. Thom discusses normalizing relations with Cuba with the Institute for Policy Studies’ Netfa Freeman and former Smithsonian cultural director James Early (24 July 2015)’.

The Israeli military intelligence website Debka, based in Jerusalem, and providing commentary and analyses on terrorism, intelligence, national security, military and international relations, with a particular focus on the Middle East that is is available in both English and Hebrew. On a weekly basis, Debka provides a newsletter that for the most part manages to provide real interesting information and propaganda updates . . .

18 July 2015

Iran experts: Khamenei will back out of nuclear deal in a year

Some Iran experts in Washington are certain the nuclear deal signed in Vienna will be terminated by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a year’s time on the pretext of non-compliance by the US and the West. He said Friday that he was “not certain that the agreement would be ratified.”

Khamenei: Iran’s adversarial relations with US won’t change

 In his first response to the nuclear deal signed last Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader said: “Our policy regarding the arrogant US government will not change. We don’t have any negotiations or deal with the US on different issues in the world or the region. Their actions in the region are 180 degrees different from ours,” he said and praised the annual anti-Israel rally, on Al Quds Day, and its slogans of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” Khamenei also noted that Iran would not change its policy of “supporting regional allies inimical to Israel and the US …We will not give up our friends in the region – Yemen, the Syrian government and people, Iraq, and oppressed Bahraini people, and also the honest fighters of Lebanon and Palestine.

The third Jordanian-Palestinian to attack US military in six years

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis: Mohammed Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, who Thursday, July 16, murdered four US Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the third Muslim of Jordanian-Palestinian descent to perpetrate a massacre of American military or intelligence personnel in six years. DEBKAfile: These acts of terror were the price US agencies paid for relying on Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate to supply penetration agents for fighting Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other radical Islamist organizations. His predecessors with the same background and objectives were Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan who on Nov. 9, 2009 shot dead 13 American soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas, and Jordanian physician Humam Khalil al-Balawi who in 2009 blew up 9 CIA agents in Afghanistan in the name of Al Qaeda.

For a unity government Netanyahu offers Herzog hard-to-refuse deal: 7 posts in centrist cabinet

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made leader Yitzhak Herzog a magnanimous offer for joining a national emergency government, which DEBKAfile’s political sources are calling the “Deal of the Century.” It would toss out the traditional lines polarizing the “rightwing” and “leftwing” political camps and reshuffle them in a different order – that is if Herzog says yes. He is offered at least seven top portfolios, making Herzog Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The new centrist guidelines would leave room for talks with the Palestinians.

19 July 2015

Israel detains Hamas gang which murdered Malachi Rosenfeld

The Shin Bet, the IDF and police in a combined operations caught up with members of the Hamas gang which murdered Malachi Rosenfeld three weeks ago in a terrorist attack at the entrance to Shevut Rachel on the West Bank. The gang leader, who was released in the prisoner exchange of Shalit, fled to Jordan.

ISIS blows up 6 Hamas executive vehicles in Gaza 

Islamic State terrorists early Sunday attached explosive devices to the cars of three senior Palestinian Hamas and three pro-Iran Islamic Jihad executives in the Gaza City suburb of Sheikh Radwan. The attack by the ISIS Salafist Jihadist Branch in Gaza was in response to reports Saturday that the group had negotiated a ceasefire and collaboration accord with Hamas.

Saudis arrest 431 ISIS suspects in nationwide dragnet

The Interior Ministry in Riyadh reported the arrests of 431 people suspected of links to recent attacks in the kingdom, planning more attacks or spreading extremist ideology on social media. DEBKAfile: The authorities are battling the fast spreading support for ISIS among young Saudis, some of whom are calling to oust the House of Saudi and remove the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina from its control.

20 July 2015

US Defense Secy discusses “mutual security” with Ya’alon

Visiting US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday: “We held a discussion on steps to strength our missile security, on missiles, cyber and preserving Israel’s qualitative edge.” He spoke at a joint news conference with Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. The two ministers also discussed “joint contingency plans for various situations.’

Cutbacks in IDF non-combat personnel in next budget

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott Monday released his five-year plan for cutting back on military spending. It entails reducing regular forces by 2,500, slashing the reserve army by 100,000 men and women, as well as the artillery brigades and light infantry battalions. The education corps, chief chaplaincy, adviser to the C-of-S on women’s affairs, the army radio and the military censor will also be trimmed down. Eisenkott also proposes to reduce the age of field commanders. Future battalion commanders will be no more than 32 compared to 35-37 at present and Brigade Commanders no more than 40-42 instead of 45-46 at present.

Egypt’s terrorist containment loses traction after 9 men killed

After losing 9 soldiers dead and 59 wounded in heavy battles with the ISIS Sinai affiliate Sunday, DEBKAfile reports that Western military experts say the Egyptian strategy of containing the terrorist group has failed. The terrorists have got the Egyptian army and police pinned down in a shrinking area of northern Sinai between Rafah on the Gaza border and El Arish on the coast. They blame the support of local Bedouin with intelligence feeds, ferrying the terrorists to target and driving them to safety after attacks aboard 4×4 trucks. These trucks will soon be banned in all parts of northern Sinai.

Two major Syrian-Hizballah offensives stalled against ISIS

DEBKAfile: The major offensives Syrian-Hizballah forces launched last week to recover the central Syrian town of Palmyra from ISIS and break through to rebel-held Zabadani west of Damascus are stalled, amid heavy casualties.

German official urges Iran to “improve relations with Israel”

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel Sunday urged Iran to improve relations with Israel if it wants to form closer economic ties. Gabriel, who is also German economy ministry, is the first major western politician to visit Iran since a nuclear deal was agreed on July 14. He arrived in Tehran with a large group of German businessmen, including Siemens and Volkswagen executives.

Israel to Ashton: Iranian forces mustn’t be allowed to dump ISIS on Israeli Golan

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report: Israeli leaders’ main business with visiting US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter when they meet Monday, July 20, is their concern about Tehran’s possible endgame in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will ask Carter if the US has any control over the Iranian command centers, and is in a position to stop Tehran harnessing Hizballah and Syrian troops to help its Shiite militias push ISIS onto the Golan and the Jordanian borders, to remove the threat to Tehran’s allies in Damascus and Baghdad.

 21 July 2015

North Korea: No Iran-style nuclear deal with US for us

North Korea’s government said Tuesday that it had no interest in pursuing a nuclear agreement of its own with the US as long as Washington pursued what Pyongyang described as “provocative” policies. The North’s nuclear deterrent was “not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table.”

US pilot hailed as “The Man Who save Tel Aviv” is dead

Louis (Lou) Lenart, an American fighter pilot, hailed as “The Man who saved Tel Aviv” during the opening days of Israel’s War of Independence, has died, aged 94 in Raanana, Israel. High-ranking officers of the US Marine Corps and Israeli Air Force were to attend his funeral Wednesday. Born in Hungary, the son of Jewish farmers, the family moved to the US when he was ten and settled in Pennsylvania. At 17 he enlisted to the US Marine Corps and saw action the Battle for Okinawa and other Pacific missions. Discharged with the rank of captain, he learned that 14 of his Hungarian relatives had died in Auschwitz. In early 1948, Lenart joined the clandestine effort to smuggle surplus planes to the nascent state of Israel. On May 29, large Egyptian forces had advanced to within 16 miles of Tel Aviv when Lenart, as only of four Israeli fighter pilots, led the attack on the Egyptian columns. They retreated. That was how the US pilot became “The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv. After the war, Lenart participated in the airlift of Iraqi Jews to Israel, was a pilot for El Al Airlines and produced six feature films, including “Iron Eagle” and “Iron Eagle II.” He is survived by his wife Rachel, his daughter and grandson.

New Netanyahu tactics on nuclear deal, Iran Guards chief: It’s unacceptable

DEBKAfile Special Report: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has switched tactics for his struggle against the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. It was unanimously endorsed Monday, July 20, by the UN Security Council and European Union in the first step towards winding down sanctions. DEBKAfile: Instead of an all-out effort to block the deal’s passage through Congress, Netanyahu will propose to Congress new laws to specify the issues on which Iranian violations would make US administration penalties mandatory. In Tehran, the Guards chief has rejected the UN resolution as “unacceptable” for “crossing Iran’s red lines.”

22 July 2015

The EU targets Israeli banks in labeling goods made in settlements

The European Council for Foreign Relations Wednesday proposed including Israel banks in the boycott measure for labeling Israeli goods made in “settlements” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It would not cover bank loans and mortgages, qualifications earned in settlement institutions and the tax-exempt status of European charities that deal with Israeli settlements. Under European Commission guidelines from 2013, EU- and member-state-funded lending cannot be provided to Israeli businesses and individuals operating in the “occupied territories.” Israel has denounced Europe’s steps as discriminatory, wrongheaded and anti-Semitic.

First French Rafale fighter jets delivered to Egypt

Egypt has taken delivery of the first three of the 24 Rafale fighters jets bought from France in a 5.2 billion euro deal. They are armed with advanced ordnance including guided air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and come with a missile vessel to be launched at the ceremony marking the widening of the Suez Canal on Aug. 6.

Iran buys 100 Russian refueling aircraft for its air force to reach any point in the Mid East

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report: In defiance of its arms embargo, Iran has placed an order for 100 Russian IL78 MKI tanker aircraft for refueling its air force in mid-flight, DEBKAfile reports exclusively. The transaction runs contrary to the ten-year arms embargo embodied in the nuclear accord the six world powers have just signed with Iran. These tanker planes can simultaneously refuel 6-8 warplanes. Their acquisition brings Israel, 1.200km away – and the Middle East at large – within easy range of Iranian aerial bombardment. It puts Iran ahead of Israel in mid-air refueling resources. Secretary of State John Kerry can expect some really hard questions during his trip on exactly how the Vienna accord makes the region safer, when Iran’s first act after signing is to arm itself with a huge fleet of Russian in-flight fuel tankers to expand and strengthen its range and power for aerial aggression.

23 July 2015

SE Turkey sees rise in terror attacks, Police officer killed

A Turkish police officer was shot and killed and a second wounded on Thursday in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, a day after two police officers were killed in the first suicide bombing attack attributed to the Islamic State in Turkey occurred near the Syrian border. The dissident Turkish Kurdish PKK took responsibility for both attacks. It is accused by Ankara of links with ISIS.

Roadside bomb kills four Egyptian servicemen in Sinai

An Egyptian officer and three soldiers were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb Thursday near the Sinai-Gaza border town of Rafah. The attack came a few days after seven soldiers died in an attack by the Islamic State Sinai affiliate on a checkpoint.

Israel gives Jordan 16 Cobra helicopters to fight ISIS – with US approval

DEBKAfile Special Report: In the first publicized Israeli military hardware transaction with an Arab nation, Israel has handed Jordan 16 decommissioned Cobra combat helicopters free of charge in support of its large-scale aerial-commando operation in the Iraqi province of Anbar to carry out a security barrier against ISIS intrusion. Confirmed Thursday, July 23, by an unnamed US official, the transfer was also the first act of US-Jordanian-Israeli military cooperation in the struggle against ISIS to be publicly disclosed. The US first provided mechanical overhauls before they were incorporated in Jordan’s existing Cobra fleet. The transfer was announced while US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was touring the Middle East. He arrived in Amman Tuesday, July 21, after talks in Israel, and visited Baghdad unannounced Thursday, July 23 for an update on the war on ISIS.

ISIS infiltrates Egyptian special forces, joins with Hamas to occupy N. Sinai, liquidate Sisi

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report: The Islamic State’s success in infiltrating elite military units and banding together with the Palestinian Hamas poses mounting danger to the life and rule of Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. DEBKAfile: A large group of Egyptian officers and men have defected to ISIS led by Hisham al-Ashmawy, who is seen as the hand behind the prosecutor general’s assassination and other attacks on regime officials. Tuesday, July 21, the Multinational Force and Observers in northern Sinai came under attack for the first time by a joint ISIS-Hamas force. The attack is ongoing. On July 17, the Islamic state of Sinai sank an Egyptian coast guard vessel with a sophisticated Kornet guided anti-tank missile – the first time ISIS is known to have sunk an adversary’s vessel at sea. On July 22, Hisham al-Ashmawy released an audio message calling on Egyptians to overthrow the Sisi regime.

24 July 2015

Jordan shuts only Iraqi border crossing “indefinitely”

In view of its war operations in Iraq, the Jordanian army Friday shut down the only border crossing between the kingdom and Iraq “indefinitely.” The Trebil terminal lies on the No.1 highway linking Amman and Baghdad. The surprise step left hundreds of trucks carrying merchandise between the two neighbors pilling up on both sides of the terminal. DEBKAfile: The Jordanian army cleared Trebil of civilian traffic to make way for reinforcements and supplies to reach the units battling ISIS in the Iraqi province of Anbar without delays.

US, Turkey impose partial no-fly zone over Syria

Turkish military sources reported Friday that the US and Turkish air forces had established a “partial no-fly zone” 40-50km deep inside Syria and 90km in length. It covers all of the Idlib province of northern Syria up to the Aleppo.

Jordan launches war on ISIS in Iraq, Turkish warplanes hit ISIS in Syria. US and Israel involved in both operations

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report: The Middle East woke up Friday, July 24, to two new fully-fledged wars launched by Jordan and Turkey for cutting down the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant whose forces advanced on their borders. The US and Israel are involved in both campaigns. Jordanian armored, commando and air forces are already operating deep inside Iraq, while Friday morning, for which Israel provided Cobra helicopters; Turkey conducted its first cross-border air strike against ISIS targets in Syria. Both governments also carried mass arrests of suspected Islamist terrorists.

‘The rags to riches story of Sophie Tucker, the iconic superstar who ruled the worlds of vaudeville, Broadway, radio, television, and Hollywood throughout the 20th century. Before Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bette Midler, Marilyn Monroe, and Mae West, Sophie Tucker was the first woman to infatuate her audiences with a bold, bawdy and brassy style unlike any other. Using all of ‘The Last of the Red Hot Mamas’ 400-plus recently rediscovered personal scrapbooks, authors Susan and Lloyd Ecker take you on their seven-year journey retracing Tucker’s sixty-year career in show business’.[1]

This documentary has the following Release Date: July 24, 2015, and it has already won the  Best Biography/Documentary Rockland International Jewish Film Festival 2015 . . . And, oh, you have no idea till you’ve seen it. In the Toronto Film Scene, William Brownridge writes that “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker looks at Sophie’s early years, when she was finally able to become a star . . . Known as the ‘Last of the Red Hot Mamas’, Sophie Tucker, and her smoky voice, worked through vaudeville, the first talking motion pictures, and eventually television. She inspired stars like Better Midler, and Judy Garland, and may be one of the most important names in jazz and blues, that you’ve never heard of. Born in an Orthodox Jewish family, Sophie wasn’t what you would expect for a star. She wasn’t exactly beautiful, but her voice, attitude, and humour, were enough to pack the house . . . Many careers were forced to come to an end with the advancement of new technology. Not every entertainer could transition from vaudeville to motion pictures, especially as sound was introduced, but Sophie Tucker managed to increase her fans through the years. Through archival footage, including many interviews with Tucker, fans are treated to her amazing voice, as well as an insight into Tucker’s impressive business savvy. In our world of social media, it’s unthinkable that a celebrity isn’t in the public eye at all times. Although it would be decades before a star could tweet their every movement, Tucker was constantly promoting herself. The stories of her selling books, advertising her own shows on the street, and making sure that she remained in contact with every person she met, is stunning. Her talent is immeasurable, but it’s her knack for marketing herself that truly stands out . . . A must see for anybody looking for the secret to getting ahead in life. The music is outstanding, but it’s the way that Tucker lived her life that is the most fascinating aspect. A shrewd business person, a caring individual, and a talent that continues to inspire”.[2]

[1] “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker Movie” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/OutrageousSophieTucker/info?tab=page_info.

[2] William Brownridge, “Review: The Outrageous Sophie Tucker” Toronto Film Scene. (03 May 2014). http://www.menemshafilms.com/reviews/sophie-tucker-review-toronto-film-scene.

Monday’s suicide blast in the Turkish border town of Suruç has shocked the nation and is now occupying the full media landscape of the country (20 July 2015). Once again, this violent episode has brought Ankara’s fraught relationship with the Kurds in Turkey and Syria to the fore. Yet, blame for the attack was immediately put at the doorstep of Caliph Ibrahim and the Islamic State right across the Turco-Syrian border.

The terror attack on the Amara Cultural Centre in the small Turkish town of Suruç (in the border province of Şanlıurfa), so far claiming the lives of 32 people (with five critically wounded), has rocked Turkey to its core. The attack was targeted at a meeting organized by the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), bringing together young people from all around the country planning to travel across the border in order to offer aid and support for the re-building of the recently liberated Kurdish town of Kobanê.[1]  According to the district governor of Suruç, Abdullah Çiftçi, a suicide bomber hit the gathering as a press conference was taking place, while simultaneously an attack occurred in the nearby Kurdish town across the Turco-Syrian border, killing ten individuals. A local witness called Garip Çelik, present at the time of the attack, told the press that “right at the time as pictures were about to be taken a huge explosion occurred. Bodies flew everywhere. We were trapped underneath dead bodies, that was how violent the blast was”. The SGDF was planning to send its delegation to the Kurdish enclave of Rojava as the culmination of its aid campaign for the now-near-destroyed Kobanê (19-24 July 2015). The three autonomous cantons of Kobani, Afrin, and Cizre, making up the district of Rojava, are under the control of the PYD (or the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) that is arguably attempting to put into practice precepts and ideas of “libertarian municipalism” developed by the libertarian socialist thinker Murray Bookchin (1921-2006). These lofty ideals undoubtedly strike a chord in the hearts and minds of the members of the SGDF.

False Flag Attack?

The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu went to the stricken town, visiting the local hospital where he spoke to survivors of the blast. Following his visit to Suruç, the wily PM traveled to Adiyaman’s hamlet of Kömür where one soldier died yesterday during a firefight between the army and PKK terrorists. Even though Davutoğlu was quick to blame the Islamic State (IS) for the Suruç blast, the Turkish government appears to continue its armed confrontation with the Kurdish PKK, affiliated with the Syrian PYD and arguably equally committed to Bookchin’s libertarian socialist ideas and ideals. On Monday, 20 July, the wily PM told the press that “[i]nitial findings point to a suicide bomb attack and Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS or the IS]”. Davutoğlu continued saying that “[t]his is a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber. The target of this attack is Turkey”, adding that he “want[s] to make a call to our nation. Maintain your common sense”. In this way, the PM surreptitiously whipped the flames of hatred and distrust by means of appealing for calm. While finishing off by saying that “[w]e have convened with security officials and planned the steps that we will be taking”, hinting at possible military action across the border. Turning solely to his domestic audience, with the ongoing coalition negotiations in mind, the PM Davutoğlu also called for  “the signing of joint declaration [by the] four parties [AKP, CHP, MHP, and HDP]”, an appeal rejected by the ultra-nationalist MHP and the Kurdish HDP.

As such, the over the past weeks the Turkish media have been abuzz with talk about a possible cross-border action to thwart Kurdish designs of full independence in Syria, a development that would have wider repercussions in Northern Iraq (the KRG or Kurdish Regional Government) and South-Eastern Turkey (referred to as Northern Kurdistan by many Kurds). And now, this apparent suicide attack in Suruç seems to have given the Turkish authorities and the Turkish Armed Forces. Turkey has long been angling for a true casus belli to enter the fray in neighbouring Syria.[2]   Comparable to the recent provocative suicide bomb was a May-2013 double bomb-attack on the Turkish town of Reyhanlı (known as “little Syria” locally), in the Turkish province of Hatay (an erstwhile Syrian enclave, still disputed by some). There have been voices that have described the Reyhanlı blasts as a false flag operation. At the time, the government was quick to put the blame on the Assad regime in Damascus, while critics of the AKP-led government instead pointed their fingers at the terror group Jabhat al-Nusra, the strongest opposition force at that stage of Syria’s not-so civil war. In 2012, the small Turkish border town of Akçakale was “shelled” from Syrian positions. which at the time also led to a fair amount of sabre-rattling, with words to the effect that the Assad regime was behind the unprovoked attack. And now, more than three years later, another unprovoked and very deadly attack has led the AKP-led government to condemn the IS, led by the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).

The AKP and the IS

It would stand to reason that the IS targets a Socialist movement willing to aid the enemy in an as-yet contested town, given that the ideas and ideals defended by the Kurds of Kobanê are all but anathema to the strict and severe quasi-Wahhabi ideology Abu Bakr appears to represent.[3]  On the other hand, the Turkish government’s close ties to certain Islamist opposition factions is well-known. In the past, Davutoğlu even negotiated a deal with the IS via the intermediaries of Ahrar al-Sham, in turn contacted by Turkish intelligence service, the MİT.[4]  At the same time, there are also many who actually accuse the AKP of entertaining certain relations with the Islamic State, arguing that their common enemy of Bashar al-Assad offers a good pretext for maintaining ties that could very well go beyond a mere tactical alliance and instead be based on ideological commonalities.[5]

The Kurdish HDP (or the Peoples’ Democratic Party )[6] quickly issued a statement following the Suruç suicide attack, imploring its supporters to “constitute a peace block opposed to ISIS [or the IS]. It is the [AKP-led] government that is responsible for any kind of security breach”. The HDP declaration next minces no words: “[t]oday we have witnessed once more what this army of rapists and barbarians that has lost its human dignity is capable of. This is an attempt to break the international solidarity that has sprung up around Kobanê, particularly targeting the anniversary of the Revolution of Rojava and those revolutionaries pertaining to Turkey who had been on the road to Kobanê to express their solidarity. This is a message to our peoples, to those brave persons who have encircled Kobanê in the spirit of revolutionary solidarity [saying] ‘Give up on this solidarity’. All the countries and regimes supplying ISIS [or the IS] and other armies of rapists with support are accessories to this barbarity. The leaders in Ankara who are stroking the head of ISIS [ or the IS, as we speak and who] have even flung threats at the HDP, who remain silent in the face of ISIS [or the IS], [and] who are even afraid to raise their voices, [they] are accomplices to this barbarity”.

In this way, the Kurdish HDP has directly accused the AKP-led government of allowing the massacre to take place, of being in some ways allied to the Caliph and the IS. Another indication of possible collusion or possibly neglectful consent was visible in Istanbul at the end of this year’s month of fasting (16 July 2015).  A figure calling himself Ebu Hanzala (or Halis Bayancuk, as he is known officially)[7]  convened a public prayer meeting (1436 Ramazan/Bayram Namazı) where he, albeit in a somewhat veiled fashion, called upon his fellow-Turkish believers to join the Jihad across the border amongst the ranks of Caliph Ibrahim and the IS. This figure has gained some notoriety over the years, having been arrested in 2008 and 2011, on account of being the “Al Qaeda Turkey” leader. In January 2014, in the framework of a police operation breaking up IS (or ISIS) sleeper cells in Turkey, his name popped up as the leading figure behind these sleeper cells. At that time, he is reported to have said that “[a]fter we conquer Syria, it will be Turkey’s turn. We will conquer Istanbul, God-willing”. Last year, he also released a video message on YouTube indicating that the AKP-led government was disingenuous in its condemnation of ISIS (now better known as IS).

Was the Suruç suicide bombing a false flag attack??  Will the Turkish Army now enter Syria to fight the IS and the Assad regime??  And how do Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu and President Tayyip Erdoğan really feel about Caliph Ibrahim and the Islamic State that has crept up on Turkey’s southern border??

[1] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/227895-kobani-turkey-kurds-war-isis/

[2] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/turkey-military-attack-kassab-696/

[3] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/257253-syria-iraq-is-politics/

[4] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/188796-turkey-isis-usa-conflict-syria/

[5] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/214507-turkey-syria-isis-opposition/

[6] [http://www.rt.com/op-edge/266344-turkish-elections-independent-kurdistan-erdogan/

[7] https://twitter.com/ebuhanzalahoca

Tuesday, 14 July’s diplomatic victory in Vienna is cause for celebration as it will allow Iran to re-enter the current Concert of Nations. But, even though, the purely peaceful nature of Iran’s ambitions have now become universally recognized and accepted, will this deal nevertheless lead to a dangerous situation in the medium- to long-term?

The nuclear stand-off between the West and the Islamic Republic of Iran has finally come to an end with the formalization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Tuesday, 14 July 2015. The intention to realize this potential goal was announced by the EU as long ago as January 2014: “On 24 November [2013] in Geneva, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, together with the Foreign Ministers of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), successfully concluded a meeting at which an agreement (known as the Joint Plan of Action) was reached with Iran on a first step towards a comprehensive and verifiable diplomatic solution to concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme”. In fact, this whole tortuous diplomatic debâcle has its roots in the previous century, given that the Israeli leadership has been exaggerating the dangers posed by Iran and its Ayatollahs since 1992. At that time, first George H. W. Bush and then Bill Clinton were in charge of the White House, the invasion of Iraq an as-yet unrealized pipedream, and the “reformist” Mohammad Khatami President of Iran. Back in mid-November 1997, the BBC reported that the “Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, has said that Iran could pose a bigger danger than Iraq. He said the situation could develop where Iran had nuclear weapons aimed at Britain and the United States”.[1]

Then, just like now, Benyamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi) did not mince his words, clearly disclosing to the world the extent of his paranoid delusions: “Iran, unseen, unperturbed and undisturbed is building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles, actually ICBM’s [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] . . . Stage One would reach our area, Stage Two it would reach Britain and Stage Three, believe it or not, they actually plan to reach the eastern seaboard of the United States, Manhattan”.[2]  And in years to come, the world led by the United States (under Israeli tutelage) would implement policies and impose sanctions aimed at dissuading the Islamic Republic from ever attempting to possess nuclear capability or even build a nuclear weapon. In reality, the Islamic Republic was merely acting in continuation of plans and programmes developed by none other than the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (ruled 16 September 1941 –11 February 1979). Pahlavi decided that oil-rich Iran needed a nuclear programme, a programme that would see Iran develop the technology to split the atom in order to boil some water and generate electricity. The American activist, blogger and author David Swanson reminds us that “Iran [only] has a nuclear energy program because the U.S. and European governments wanted Iran to have a nuclear energy program. The U.S. nuclear industry took out full-page ads in U.S. publications bragging about Iran’s support for such an enlightened and progressive energy source. The U.S. was pushing for major expansion of Iran’s nuclear program just before the Iranian revolution of 1979″.

The Islamic Revolution put a stop to all that, and rather than seeing Iran as a potential client for expensive nuclear technology, the United States proceeded to demonize and isolate the Islamic Republic. Still, “Tehran [has been nothing but] public about its quest to acquire peaceful nuclear energy to serve a population that has doubled since the 1979 revolution”, as expressed by Dr. Shahram Chubin, an affiliate of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (or GCSP). On a purely theoretical and even theological level, Iran is all but opposed to the mere idea of nuclear weapons. Swanson put is like this: “Iran is committed to not using or possessing [chemical, biological, and nuclear] weapons of mass destruction. The results of inspections bear that out. Iran’s willingness to put restrictions on its legal nuclear energy program — a willingness present both before and after sanctions — bears that out”. In the aftermath of the 2012 elections, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made the following statement: “The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous”. Still, even before the JCPOA was announced, everybody’s favourite scaremonger Bibi tweeted on 8 July that “Iran’s aggression is more dangerous than that of ISIS, and the true goal of this aggression in the end is to take over the world”, hinting at an imminent nuclear holocaust in case of an amicable agreement and a concordant easing of the sanctions’ regime. On a basic level, the West is suspicious of the Islamic Republic of Iran because it is a theocratic democracy — oftentimes portrayed in the mainstream media as a “fundamentalist regime” that poses a clear and present danger. The Iranian system as a theocratic democracy is such that the Supreme Leader has the ultimate power and the nation’s President “is more like a vice president . . . than a real executive”, in the words of the eminent Middle East specialist Professor Juan Cole. The Supreme Leader is the commander in chief of the armed forces and the one who ultimately decides on nuclear and other national policy.

The celebrated JCPOA was concluded to “ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful”, marking the start of a new era, a new era of understanding and cooperation between the West and Iran. The E3/EU+3 “anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons”. Furthermore, the “JCPOA will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy”. And already on Monday, 13 July 2015, the Iranian newspaper Jahan-e Sanat announced on its front page that 8 Iranian banks had re-joined the SWIFT transaction system, which facilitates worldwide bank transfers. In fact, preliminary talks over restoration of financial transactions with Iranian banks had been underway since last April.

Now the world has woken up to another day, a new day that sees the Islamic Republic of Iran becoming part of the international community again. This whole nuclear diplomatic debâcle has been nothing but a Manufactured Crisis, to quote the title of Gareth Porter’s recent book on the issue. As a result, it would seem that the nuclear issue was nothing but a diplomatic device skilfully employed to ostracize the Islamic Republic and turn the potentially powerful regional player into an effective pariah state. Nevertheless, in the end an agreement was reached and now, as stated by the document itself, “[s]uccessful implementation of this JCPOA will enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in line with its obligations therein, and the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any other non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT”. This means that in the not too faraway future, Iran will set up its own nuclear power plants, nuclear power plants which will produce electricity for local consumption, allowing the Islamic Republic to capitalize on the sale of its hydrocarbon assets, so coveted by the rest of the world. Iran won’t be the first regional player willing to capitalize on this alternative source of energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) indicates that at the outset of the 21st century about 13% of the world’s electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.

But what happens inside a nuclear power plant and is it really a safe and sound way to produce energy?  Even though the term “nuclear” conjures up all kinds of futuristic imagery and might give people the idea that “nuclear fission” is a power source in its own right, in truth the heat and energy generated by the splitting of atoms, or fission, is simply used to heat water and produce steam. As a result, a nuclear power plant is nothing but a thermal power station using nuclear energy as its heat source. In a nuclear reactor at the heart of a nuclear power plant, heat is generated by controlled nuclear fission which is then used to raise steam. This steam then runs through turbines powering electrical generators. This means that nuclear power plants are no different from other thermal power stations. The only real difference is that the heat source at the heart of the plant is nuclear fission, rather than coal or hydrocarbon assets. And hence, there are no emission of greenhouse gases involved.

But in spite if this clearly positive aspect, nuclear power plants pose other kinds of dangers. The World Nuclear Association might very well declare on its website that the “use of nuclear energy for electricity generation can be considered extremely safe. Every year several thousand people die in coal mines to provide this widely used fuel for electricity. There are also significant health and environmental effects arising from fossil fuel use”. In truth, nuclear power plants pose a great danger to the environment and human life. For starters, there are the health effects of radiation. As explained by Professor Bernard L. Cohen, this “radiation consists of subatomic particles traveling at or near the velocity of light—186,000 miles per second. They can penetrate deep inside the human body where they can damage biological cells and thereby initiate a cancer. If they strike sex cells, they can cause genetic diseases in progeny”. An even greater source of danger is posed by the radioactive waste from spent nuclear fuels. These waste products also emit radioactivity which diminishes over time, but the time frames in question range from 10,000 to millions of years.

According to the World Nuclear Association, a pro-nuclear international organization, at present about 45 countries are “actively considering embarking” upon nuclear power programmes. The organization’s website posted about a month ago that the “front runners after Iran are [the] UAE, Turkey, Vietnam, Belarus, Poland and possibly Jordan”. In fact, Iran’s north-eastern neighbour Turkey is close to initiating two nuclear power plants on the Anatolian peninsula — a first one near the southern city of Akkuyu in the Mediterranean province of Mersin, and a second one located near the north-western city of Sinop on the Black Sea. This first Turkish nuclear power plant will be located in the vicinity of the East Anatolian Fault and thus very likely to experience an earthquake at some stage. The second one will operate in the vicinity of the North Anatolian Fault –  a faultline has often been in the news because of earthquakes and minor tremors. It is a 1,500-kilometer-long east-west trending fault that runs across most of Turkey. Since 1939, a progression of deadly earthquakes has been marching westward across the fault – westward towards Istanbul. Turkey’s largest city was struck by a major earthquake in 1999 and has been waiting for the next big tremor to hit ever since.

It seems particularly ironic that the Sinop nuclear power plant is being built by a Japanese firm, as reported by the Turkish news agency Anadolu Ajansı (AA): “Turkey and Japan on Friday [, 24 December 2010] signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a nuclear power plant in a northern Turkish city”. In 2012, then still Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (currently, President of the Republic or the Prez) declared that “[w]hat happened at Fukushima upset all of us. But these things can happen. Life goes on. Successful steps are being taken now with the use of improved technology”. In spite of these optimistic and reassuring words, opposition against the construction of these nuclear power plants in Turkey remains vocal and active, particularly in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that led to a number of nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. And, it does bear repeating at this stage that the Iranian plateau is also a region prone to earthquakes and all kinds of types of tectonic activity. In this century alone more than ten major earthquakes have hit Iran so far. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that “[a]ctive faults have not been mapped and trenched in Iran to the degree that they have in more developed countries”, as related by the geologists Manuel Berberian and Robert S. Yeats  All in all, the fact that a number of projected nuclear power plants in the neighbours Turkey and Iran now seem to be in the works is anything but reassuring. And in this context, it seems worthwhile to take a few steps back and reconsider the disaster that occurred in Japan in March 2011. While it is true that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has all but left the current news cycles, this does not necessarily mean that all is well in Japan.

As recently as last month, AP’s Tokyo-based reported Mari Yamaguchi wrote an in-depth piece on Fukushima and her words are far from reassuring indeed, starting off that “the road ahead remains riddled with unknowns”. She next puts forward that “[e]xperts have yet to pinpoint the exact location of the melted fuel inside the three reactors and study it, and still need to develop robots capable of working safely in such highly radioactive conditions”, and as an afterthought adds, “[a]nd then there’s the question of what to do with the [nuclear] waste”. Yamaguchi goes on to list “[s]ome of the uncertainties and questions”, starting with the issue of the “fuel rods”, then mentioning the “melted fuel”, which she calls the “the hardest part of the decommissioning”, then moving on to the issue of the “contaminated water” that is seeping into the underground and possibly into the Pacific Ocean as well. And last by not least, Mari Yamaguchi refers to the matter of the “radioactive waste”. She elaborates on the issue by saying that “Japan currently has no plan for the waste that comes out of the plant”, adding that “[w]aste management is an extremely difficult task that requires developing technology to compact and reduce the toxicity of the waste, while finding a waste storage site is practically impossible considering public sentiment”. As such, the words written by AP’s Yamaguchi should manage to stir the public and awaken a greater awareness of the dangers inherent in the construction of nuclear power plants, particularly in regions which are earthquake-prone, such as Japan, Turkey, and Iran.

As a result, one could put forward that even Iran’s pursuit of a “nuclear programme” that is  “exclusively peaceful” in nature might very well prove dangerous and pose a dire threat to the region and beyond. But it seems that the Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to exercise its newly gained rights and will, together with Turkey (and the UAE) proceed to construct extremely dangerous technological marvels to boil water in the Middle East.

[1] http://rt.com/op-edge/turkey-iran-thaw-history-521.

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/31801.stm.

The 2013  Gezi Protests rudely awakened Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (or AKP) and the subsequent proliferation of the demonstrations throughout the nation and their international spread across numerous television set worldwide ensured that the proposed destruction of the small park was halted, constituting a first popular victory over the figure of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan . . . But now, the Gezi Park is under threat again and the victory is about to be turned into a defeat.

Even though Turkey is at present in the throes of coalition negotiations following the somewhat inconclusive recent elections,[1] the AKP still holds the majority of votes and appears certain to continue ruling the county in one way or another for the foreseeable future. The party founded by the current popularly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been running Turkey ever since its members gained a 34 percent share of the vote in the November 2002 elections. Their popularity grew and grew in the coming years and their seemingly adept handling of the economy ensured that certain sections of the population prospered enormously and that the country as a whole acquired a favourable reputation across the region and around the globe. Turkey’s economic boom was, however, primarily underwritten by a severe programme of privatization, revenue-maximizing privatization (as if any other form of privatization exists). And recently, Chatham House’s Turkey expert Fadi Hakura opined that the AKP boom has “pretty much come to an end. Turkey has now entered a prolonged period of economic stagnation”.

Still, the AKP’s grassroots supporters, who have been largely bypassed by the AKP-led economic boom, continue to express their deep trust in Tayyip Erdoğan and his cohorts, primarily the current PM Ahmed Davutoğlu and his cabinet. This trust is not necessarily based on the country’s economic performance under AKP tutelage, but rather on the perception that Erdoğan, Davutoğlu, and the whole AKP machinery is now finally ushering in a glorious return to the country’s roots — Islam as contained in the genealogical tree of Osman, meaning the Ottoman Empire and its position at the zenith of the Islamic world (1299-1922).[2]  In spite of the drastic reforms carried out in the first decades of the Republic’s existence — reforms supposedly aimed at Westernization, Secularization, and Progress — the wide bulk of Turkey’s population nevertheless remained deeply pious and beholden to the precepts of the Prophet, as promulgated by the Directorate of Religious Affairs (a government branch set up in the aftermath of the caliphate’s 1924 abolition and the concomitant dissolution of the office of the Sheikh-ul-Islam). These wide swathes of pious and compliant Turks now feel that the AKP is finally offering them a chance to live life as true Muslims. These Turkish citizens see the AKP as a force for good, turning back excessively permissive behaviours and attitudes (usually referred to as ‘secularist’ or laik in Turkey). And, the fact that the AKP-led governments have indeed sought to instill a greater sense of Islamic identity amongst the country’s population remains beyond doubt. At the same time, Erdoğan’s party has also recently managed to alter the educational system in such a way as to ensure that coming generations of Turks will be more pious after having finished their mandatory time on school benches.[3]

As a result, it should come as no surprise that it has been mostly plain sailing for Turkey’s AKP-led governments over the past years. Nevertheless, not all citizens of Turkey subscribe to this government-driven movement towards a greater visibility for Islam in public life. For example, public opinion surveys conducted on behalf of the European Commission and known as Eurobarometer seem to indicate that in 2013 about 4.5 million Turks self-identified as atheists (ranging from agnostics to a-religious). Two years later, Eurobarometer conducted research indicating that the numbers of Turks with no religious affiliation or self-identification has risen to 5.5 million. Ever since he emerged on Istanbul’s political scene in the early 1990s, Tayyip Erdoğan has been a divisive figure, attracting a large measure of adulation but also quite a bit of disgust from the public-at-large. Still, the first major shock for Erdoğan and his AKP only came more than two years ago. PEN International’s Alev Yaman recalls that “[b]ulldozers began work on the Gezi Park site at approximately 23:30 on 27 May 2013. A call to action was issued on Twitter at 23:47. A group of 20 environmentalists responded, travelling immediately to Gezi Park, halting the demolition work and taking the decision to initiate a sit-in until the bulldozers left the park”.

The demolition work at the Gezi Park site was part of the so-called Taksim Pedestrianization Project,[4] a gentrification exercise aimed at transforming the area between the districts of Harbiye and Tünel into a pedestrian-only zone, or more realistically speaking into a giant open-air shopping mall. The scheme began with the construction of a tunnel connecting Cumhuriyet Caddesi and Tarlabaşı Bulvarı, which is currenly in use. Eventually, there are supposed to be five tunnels, one for each approach to the Taksim Square, with the obvious exception of the pedestrianized İstiklal Caddesi – arguably the heart of the open-air shopping mall aimed at by the project. It seems more than just ironic that the “project is being criticized by architects, urbanists, and activists on grounds that it will block easy pedestrian access to the square once finished”. In addition the Gezi Park, which occupies the area north of the spot which till recently functioned as a bus station, was supposed to be replaced by a replica of the 19th-century Topçu Barracks, with a shopping mall at its heart. The original barracks were torn down by the İstanbul authorities in 1940. The initial protests to save the local trees and greenery soon spread nationwide and were met with fierce and excessive police resistance. These Gezi protests functioned as lightning rod attracting those opposed to the direction taken by Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP-led government. Alev Yaman explains that eight people died and “8,16312 [were] injured over the course of the protests reflect[ing] the fierce intensity of clashes between police and protesters as the demonstrations spread across Turkey: 5,300 individuals were arrested and 160 were kept in long-term detention,13 with many arbitrarily detained without charge for hours on end. By 30 September, 153 journalists had been attacked and 39 taken into police custody”. The Gezi protests shook the AKP and its grassroots supporters to the core.

Following the violent protests and the very public displays of dissatisfaction, the Taksim Pedestrianization “project was rejected by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Protection Board in January 2013 on the grounds that it was not in the public benefit”, as reported in the Turkish press. Following this general dismissal, Istanbul’s First Administrative Court annulled the project as a whole on 29 April 2014. Since then the whole Taksim area has been in a dismal state, having become a veritable cemented walkabout area, as if the powers-that-be were expecting other tidings. And now, in the summer of 2015, the news has finally arrived that the Council of State (known in Turkish as Danıştay) has overturned last year’s court decision with a plurality of votes. The news broke on Wednesday, 15 July, but it now turns out that the decision itself was taken on 31 March previously. The Chairwoman Habibe Ünal as well as the member Ünal Demirci were apparently the only ones to oppose the decision. The text of the decision also included a passage indicating that the 6th clause of the Council for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties’ Law Number 2863 “expressed in a fashion that leaves no room for interpretation” that historical barracks constitute immovable property also in need of protection. And, by means of this arguably quite spurious logic and semantic confusion, Turkey’s Council of State has now apparently opened the way for the construction of a replica of the Topçu Barracks on the site occupied by the green space that is Gezi Park.

As such, the Turkish authorities revel in the construction of replicas and other fake structures. For example, President Erdoğan had a “working office” constructed in the vicinity of a small residence originally built for the last reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic world between the 16th and 20th centuries . . . To be precise, Sultan Mehmet Vahdettin VI’s kiosk on the Bosphorus was torn down and rebuilt as a near-exact replica of the original, an engineering exercise commonly referred to as restoration in Turkey.[5]  In the same vein, Turkey’s Council of State seems to be insinuating that the construction of a new building resembling a no-longer extant barracks constitutes an act of protecting the nation’s cultural heritage.

I would argue that the Council of State’s recent decision regarding the Taksim Pedestrianization Project really constitutes a potentially dangerous form of misguided nostalgia for propaganda purposes. The decision appears to placate a longing for an Ottoman past that has become a paragon of Islamic virtue and power in the perception of large swathes of Turkey’s population. At the end of this year’s fasting period some days ago, the current Prime Minister, the wily Ahmet Davutoğlu was heard issuing equally pseudo-romantic and nostalgic language: “God willing, we will bring the order and justice of the Ottomans to today and into tomorrow”. In this context, rumours have now also started abounding again about the construction of a mosque in the Taksim area, as a kind of counterweight to the Orthodox Aya Triada Church. Talk of a Taksim Mosque goes back to the previous century when Tayyip Erdoğan was Mayor of Istanbul and Necmettin Erbakan’s Islamist Refah Partisi (RP, erroneously translated as Welfare Party) was part and parcel of Turkey’s political landscape. In the late 1990s, these rumours eventually dissipated, but now in the 21st century, President Erdoğan might very well be on the verge of leaving his permanent mark on the city of Istanbul and its unofficial heart, the wider Taksim and Beyoğlu areas . . . In fact, this government-led drive towards an Ottoman revival (as a shorthand for an Islamic Réveil) leads to a proliferation of architectural replicas, reproductions, copies, and other mass-produced items of oftentimes saccharine nostalgia and as a result, it seems that the AKP is now really attempting to build its own real estate Sultanate of Kitsch to accommodate its policy of spreading Islam at home (and abroad).

[1] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/266344-turkish-elections-independent-kurdistan-erdogan/

[2] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/208447-turkey-erdogan-religion-islam/

[3] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/221835-turkey-religion-secular-state/

[4] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/163620-turkey-future-gezi-anniversary/

[5] http://www.rt.com/op-edge/208447-turkey-erdogan-religion-islam/

‘Arşiv Odası’nda bu hafta, sonuçları bugün hâlâ Türkiye’yi etkilemeye devam eden 27 Mart 1994 Yerel Seçimleri’ni BBC Türkçe’nin radyo programlarından haber ve değerlendirmelerle hatırlıyoruz (4 Haziran 2015)’.

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