Category Archives: Turkey

HOW TO DESTROY YOUR INFLUENCE

BLOG 448
October 21, 2019

fake news

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

HOW TO DESTROY YOUR INFLUENCE

This past week America seriously demolished its leadership role in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump’s newly announced withdrawal of nearly all US troops from northern Syria has cemented Russia’s status as the predominant global military power actively engaged in the Middle East. This week, Russian troops arrived at military bases in northern Syria that the American army had hastily left just days earlier, in what can be regarded as both a literal and figurative handover of regional leadership and authority.

My opinion? No, this come straight out of The Times of Israel newspaper!

Many officials in Jerusalem are deeply worried about being abandoned by their superpower ally, as the American decision to gradually disengage from this part of the world which started under former US president Barack Obama when he drew a red line and then demonstrated that he didn’t mean what he said. The follow-up acts by Trump threaten to embolden Israel’s enemies: Iran and its allies and proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

What does Russia’s takeover really mean for Israel? Some analysts are deeply concerned, fretting about the possibility that Moscow could use surface-to-air missiles against Israeli jets attacking Iranian targets in Syria, which would effectively end Jerusalem’s campaign against Tehran’s establishment of a military foothold near Israel’s border.

Amos Yadlin, the head of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times of Israel he counts eight main reasons that motivated Russian President Vladimir Putin to get involved in the Middle East:

1.To Make Russia Great Again;

2. To again become an influential power, after the US kept it out of Egypt (1973), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011) and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process;

3. To reduce the influence of the United States;

4. To play Middle Eastern cards in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine;

5. To control ports and air bases, something the tsars dreamed of;

6. To try out weapons developed by Russia in the past decade;

7. To save Syria’s Bashar Assad — and show the world that Russians don’t throw
their allies under the bus.

8. To fight jihadists — in Syria and not in the Caucasus.

Sound scary? Ask the Kurds who were abandoned this week and without the American cover who have been slaughtered by the Turks. Today the media inside Israel is telling the story. Israelis are genuinely worried. Even stupid decisions can have serious consequences.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Israel, Syria, Turkey, United States History, Violence, War, World

A NEW STRUGGLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 373 November 27, 2017

If you follow the news, this item was probably on the back page (if at all unfortunately), but the story remains important for the future. The Kurds have been an item during the struggles in Iraq from the beginning. During the civil wars, Kurds have proven to be the best fighters. In contrast to the large array of groups supposedly fighting ISIS that ended up shooting each other, the Kurds stayed on target with women fighting alongside the men. The big news is the Kurds Regional Government conducted an independence referendum on September 25 in which the citizens overwhelmingly voted for independence.

Kurdish territory is adjacent to southern Turkey and in the northwestern sector of Iran as well as northern Syria. Their language is a sub-group from the Iranian language. The Kurds believe they descended from an ancient Iranian people dating back at least to 612 BCE when Nineveh was the capitol. Kurdish nationalism emerged after World War I with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

With Iran, Russia, and Syria (as well as the USA to some extent) caught up in a struggle in the region, Kurdish interests have become much more significant. Hezbollah also has a part in conflict, having recently said that Kurdish independence would be a victory for the USA and Israel. For decades, Israel supported Kurdish aspirations. Should Kurdish hopes be diminished or defeated, Iran would feel emboldened. The truth is that the Kurdish region plays a key role in stabilizing Iraq. On the other hand, Turkey does not want to see the Kurds become independent and break off politically and geographically from their country. Consequently, the powers in the Middle East are divided over what to do with Kurds attempting to rise above the vested interest and seek their own path.

Vacillations by the United States have greatly reduced American influence. President Obama virtually stepped out of the region opening the door for unparalleled Russian involvement. No one is sure what President Trump will do because Trump probably still has no idea what he will do. Washington certainly doesn’t want another crisis in the Middle East or in Iraq, but unless it acts quickly, Iranian meddling and arrogance will only escalate.

Keep your eyes on the Kurds. There’s much more to come. 

GOT A COPY? The new revised and expanded version of
When There is No Miracle
explores the meaning of pain and suffering. Each chapter offers helps!

Leave a comment

Filed under America, middle east, Turkey

UPDATING ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

BLOG 348 May 1, 2017

            Some years ago, I was researching my genealogical background and spent time in the Armenian Sector of the old city of Jerusalem where I became acquainted with a number of friends. April 24, (this past week) commemorated the day the Turks started rounding-up Armenian high ranking citizens living in Istanbul. The horror story grows from there.

This experience from the past is now on the big screen. THE PROMISE tells the story of the Ottoman Turks attempt to wipe out the Armenians, living in the easternmost part of present day Turkey. The movie is powerful, factual, and will touch your heart. The account is based on a true story.

I recommend the film because so few contemporaries understand what happened to 1.5 million Armenians who were systematically murdered by the collapsing Ottoman Turkish Empire as World War I began. The Turks claim they feared the Armenians would join the Russians and were traitors to Turkey. Though not true, the idea is still promoted in the Turkish school system. The Turkish government has denied their official role in murdering the Armenians and to this day refuse to admit what they did. Even two years ago, when Pope Frances called the killings genocide, the Turkish government screamed and said there was no such proof.

There is.

A Turkish historian at Clark University, Taner Akcam has recently found “the smoking gun.” Taner’s academic interest has been in genocide and how it was used in World War I. By rummaging through boxes of documents stored in the Armenian Library in Jerusalem, he found a 1915 telegram from an official in the Turkish city of Erzurum sent in a secret code asking for details on the killings of Armenians. The deciphered telegram helped convict an official. Akcam believes what he has found the path that will allow many other documents to be uncovered, further verifying the past. As Turkey prepared to size their country, in 1922, Armenian leadership shipped 24 boxes of court records to England to keep them from being confiscated. In turn, those documents were sent to the Armenian Library in Jerusalem where Akcam did research. History professor at the City College of New York and an expert on the Armenian genocide, Eric Weitz called Taner Akcam the “Sherlock Holmes of Armenian genocide.”

Many countries such as France, Germany, and Greece have acknowledged what Turkey did. Of course, the Turks scream each time their role in the killings is proclaimed. The United States has not officially recognized Turkey’s brutal acts. President Obama used the term genocide when he was a candidate, but not while in office. Dozens of congressional leaders signed a letter asking President Trump to publically recognize the systematic murders. They doubt if he will do so.

Akcam recognizes that the past is never pasted in the Middle East. Reports of diplomats, missionaries, and journalist who witnessed these events have long existed, but are ignored by Turkish officials. Will the government officials now change their minds? Akcam doesn’t expect that to happen, but he believes that human rights can only be established by acknowledging the path.

Let’s hope that just re-elected Turkish leader Erdogan will wake up. If not, the rest of the world is certainly coming out of the shadows and remembering the past for what it was.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, middle east, Muslims, Turkey

THE RESHUFFLING CONTINUES

BLOG 293 March 7, 2016

Last week we considered how the Middle East situation has gone through a radical reordering that has changed what came out of the geographic shape from the past. One of the countries not considered offers another interesting reflection of change: Turkey.

Most Westerners pay little attention to Turkey. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the conclusion of World War I, Turkey has not been particularly significant. However, Turkish President Recap Tanya Endogen has been hard at work lately to reverse that standing. In previous blogs, I have detailed some of his efforts to establish a Muslim axis running from Turkey through Syria down to Iran. Turkey became fast friends with President Bashar el-Assad. Erdogan had visions of setting himself up as the Grand Caliphate of that Muslim area . Sorry. The fact is that Erdogan’s efforts have all failed.

Why should a Westerner care about Turkey? Putting its past history aside, the gyrations of Turkey have created significant problems. In an unprecedented ploy and without warning, Turkey exposed Israeli Mossad agents while trying to build his Muslim Axis. In addition, during the spring of 2010, the Mavi Marmara affair was an attempt by Turkey to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. As a result nine Turks were killed. Erdogan was seriously discredited in Israel and lost footing in his Middle East pursuits as well.

Today, Erdogan sees Assad as Turkey’s worst enemy. With Russia entering the Syrian civil war, Russia is not only on the bad guy list but is now positioned to strike the underbelly of Turkey. Turkey is now confronted by what it sees as “Imperialist” Russia and shot down one of their airplanes . Sanctions followed. As the Russians change the balance of power in the war, Tehran is becoming on the winning side and Turkey on the losing. Erdogan’s aces have turned into deuces.

To make matters even more difficult, the United States appears to have abandoned their efforts and turned civil the war over to Russia while the USA backs the Kurds. Turkey particularly fears a resurgence of the Kurds on their border may result in a new state after the Syrian war. The Kurdish insurgency is another big headache for Erdogan.

In other words, Turkey is in a BIG mess. Who could profit from such a quagmire?

Surprisingly enough, the answer is Israel.

Erdogen’s anti-Israel assaults never brought the result for which he had hoped. A dry run there. Moscow had been Turkey’s supplier of gas but that source is no longer trustworthy. Israel can sell gas to Turkey. Interesting possibility.

As painful as it probably will be, Israel may be Turkey’s only open door.

Watch for a new hand to be dealt. Stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Arabs, middle east, Russia, Turkey

TURKEY – RUSSIA- AND THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 281 November 30, 2015

Last Tuesday Turkey shot down a Russian warplane after repeated warnings to stop violating Turkish airspace. Russia screamed, but NATO’s Secretary-General immediately said that the military organization stood firmly behind its ally Turkey and supported its territorial integrity. Turkey didn’t back off on the charge of Russia’s violation of their air space and no apologies were forthcoming.

A visibly angry Putin warned “significant consequences” would follow. Subsequently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Russia was suspending its visa-fee travel restrictions with Turkey which struck a blow at Turkey’s tourism industry. Around 3.3 million Russian’s visited Turkey last year. Russian tourists were warned not to travel to Turkey. However, the Russian response is measured and would not effect gas exports to Turkey. Russia would again be the big loser there.

What’s going on?

Putin has been trying to muscle his way into the Middle East for sometime, Syria has been an ally and he’s trying to protect Assad. When there were no apologies, Putin had to react and look tough to protect the image he is trying to project. Turkey stood up to him and that diminishes the appearance Putin is trying to promote.

The truth is that the Russian economy remains troubled and the reduction in the price of petroleum has pushed them further into a hole. Putin growls but his roar is actually weak.

And Turkey? What’s happening there?

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also likes to flex his muscles. Intolerant of dissent, his office is known for being heavy-handed. In previous blogs, I’ve described Muslim Erdogan’s desire to create a Sunni Axis running form Turkey through Syria down to Iran that would cut off Saudi Arabia and any other Shia countries. Currently, the president is also concerned that the Kurds might come out of the Syrian civil war with there own country that would border Turkey. In an attempt to elevate Turkey’s status with the Muslim world, Erdogan cut off Israel’s intelligence gathering capacities that ran through Turkey for decades. With a clap of the hands, he turned Turkey’s old ally Israel away.

So, what’s Erdogan up to? He is demonstrating that Russia doesn’t frighten him and he can dish out retaliation with the best of them. When Russia pushes him, Erdogan pushes back maybe even a little harder. The War rumbles on.

The squabble between Russia and Turkey is a side show. The problem with the Syrian civil war is that it has become like the Spanish civil war that preceded World War II. Syrian’s civil war is actually pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran with Russia on Iran’s side and American with the Saudi’s. No one will say this out loud but Russia’s recent involvement in the war is another side show with everyone claiming that ISIS is the problem. No question that ISIS is a big, big issue but the entrenched position of Syria’s current government only sustains ISIS on the battlefield.

The politicians keep jaw-boning and the bombs keep flying. Why won’t it stop? Because all the participants are more concerned for their self-interest and appearance than they are for the well-being of a beleaguered Syria filled with dying people, the war continues..

Leave a comment

Filed under middle east, Russia, Turkey

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE TURKEY?

BLOG 267 August 24, 2015

When you say “turkey,” Americans think of the Thanksgiving Holidays. In the Middle East, Turkey means a nation that was once the Ottoman Empire stretching back to 1299 when it all started. The Ottoman Empire reached across Southeast Europe, Western Asia, North Africa and held what today is called the Holy Land. The Turks were Muslims and are remembered for the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. (And that’s one reason we should pay attention to what they are doing.) The Ottoman Empire began to disintegrated with World War I and lost the Palestinian region to the British.

Periodically, I have written about the current President Recep Toyyip Erdogan and his ambitious attempts to restore the Ottoman Empire because the West needs to be aware of what his intentions are. Most recently, Erdogan granted the United States the right to use the Incirlik base in Turkey for air strikes against ISIS. The Allies were moved dramatically closer to hitting ISIS.

Erodogan didn’t make this shift because he’s a nice guy nor was the issue fighting ISIS. He would certainly be delighted to see Assad fall, but Erodogan does only what serves Erodogan’s purposes and saving Syria isn’t in the cards.

Erodogan’s grant of a Turkish base for the war is only a cover for his actual purpose The goal is to attack the Kurds.

The Kurds have proven to be valiant fighters and made some of the most important gains during  the civil war in Syria. Their success gained important attention in the West and new backing from the Allies. Kurdish victories united several areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. They are no longer a forgotten minority.

Kurdish success worries Erdogan.

If the Kurds continue their military success, they could gain control of a 500 mile stretch of the border with Turkey. What worries Erdogan is the possibility of the emergence of a Kurdish controlled country along his border.

At this time, American air power and the Kurds have driven ISIS back to the east and south. Erdogan apparently wants to use his air force with the Sunni Islamist rebels in Aleppo to destroy the ISIS stronghold between Jarabulus and Marea. The goal is to remove ISIS control of all territories along the border and replace them with groups favorable to Turkey before the Kurds take the area.1

Observers on the scene report that Erdogan probably has a much larger personal objective. He is working hard to gain a parliamentary majority so he can push the country toward a Muslim caliphate-dominated government. If he gains that edge, he will undoubtedly attempt to change the constitution and give his office more power.

Turkey has had a significant secular population that has so far rejected attempts to turn the state into a Muslim religion dominated country. Erdogan continues to press for a reversal of this situation.

Make no mistake about it. Erdogan does what suits Erdogan best – and nobody else.

Leave a comment

Filed under America, middle east, Turkey

THE LATEST FROM THE WAR FRONT

            Sad to start a new year’s blog on the Middle East by calling the area a battle scene. Unfortunately, much of the area is locked in conflict. Even since the revolutionary “Arab Spring” exploded, chaos has swept the entire region. Syria remains a primary target with thousands being killed. Many Syrians recently poured out of their Friday services in Mosques angrily denouncing an Al-Qaida linked group that they believe derailed the revolution. The in-fighting among the opponents of Bashar Assad has greatly helped his regime endure. It still remains unclear who will attend possible peace talks this year. Rebels are proclaiming they will not attend. Western nations may end up talking to each other and accomplishing nothing.

            Egypt appears to be on a more stable path. Still, deadly clashes continue to explode in the streets. Just two weeks ahead of the national referendum on an amended constitution, a confrontation between Islamist protestors and government forces left 17 dead with 62 injured in the violence. Police arrested 258 protesters and confiscated homemade bombs, firearms, and Molotov cocktails. The crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood continues with the organization becoming nearly non-existent.

In my New Year’s predictions, I suggested that General Abul-Fattah el-Sisi would be elected the next president of Egypt. This week’s inside report seems to confirm that direction. The majority of the Egyptian people have tired of conflict and are ready to return to the military style leadership they have known in the past. Tourism is virtually dead and that economically hurts many, many citizens.

The next hurdle for the Egyptian public is the approval of the new constitution. General Sisi has linked his political future to this referendum in an effort to insure a significant vote for the document. Sisi noted “we work in a democracy” which has been interpreted to indicate he wants to be swept into power by the plebiscite rather simply taking the office through his military control. He appears well on his way to doing so. All reports indicate Egyptian voters do not want the creation of an Islamist state in Egypt.

Last year I released an unusual blog indicating that Turkey and Iran have been working on some sort of an alliance while Turkey radically betrayed Israel and turned their back on the Jews. A story in this week’s International edition of the New York Times indicated that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan may not have the country in his hip pocket as he thought and could be heading for trouble. While the Turks have always put a clamp on freedom of the press, Erogan appears to be losing his grip. The media refuses to be intimidated and the internet is out of his control. Government pressure on journalists and the media is not stopping stories on a corruption scandal in his government. Media that once supported Erdogan have recently turned on him.

In a desperate attempt to avoid facing the scandal, Erdogan has accused the United States and Israel for his problems. When dictators start behaving in this fashion, it has usually been a certain sign that their regime is in trouble. Possibly the idea of a Turkey-Iran alliance could be a casualty in this conflict. Just another one of those interesting possible turn of events to watch in 2014.

Keep your eyes open and stay turned. More to come.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt, middle east, Syria, Turkey

THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE: EGYPT-TURKEY-SYRIA

            In a recent blog, I described the new unfolding situation as Turkey switches allegiances from Israel to Iran. While virtually not reported in America, the situation has serious implications as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan moves in the direction of Islamic nationalism. Turkey’s recent exposure of Mossad agents working in Iran amounted to the most egregious violations of trust in history. It is still not clear what has become of the Israeli agents. What is clear is that Erdogan is aiming at a resurrection of the Ottoman Empire.

            Simply lay a map of the Middle East on the table and look at what an alliance of Turkey, Syria, and Iran would mean. The implications are obvious. Saudi Arabia and Israel would be cut off and isolated. Sunni oriented Saudi Arabia would be the hostile focus of Shiite led Iran and the tensions would become frightening. Turkey is now moving in that direction.

Turkey’s Prime Minister had been a major supporter of Egypt’s President Morsi before his ouster and arrest. When the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood followed, Erdogan became one of the most vocal critics, signaling his fundamental ties to the Brotherhood and a Muslim state. His statements have now led to a complete shift in Egyptian foreign policy.

Egypt has just downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Turkey. In addition, the Egyptians expelled the Turkish ambassador because of the criticisms of the Erdogan administration. Moreover, the Egyptians have permanently withdrawn their ambassador from Turkey. Turkey in turn declared the ambassador to be “persons no grata” meaning “don’t come back.”

The Egyptian military that now controls the country has been in the process of reversing many of Morsi’s policies. The former Prime Minister is scheduled to go on trial on murder charges. The United States has now recognized who is in control and switched from its earlier critical statements about the take-over. As of late, Secretary of State John Kerry has been flattering Egypt’s interim leaders as well as denigrating the Muslim Brotherhood.  Kerry got the picture that Erdogan missed.

What’s this all about? Fundamentally, Turkey has been reaching for a Muslim alliance with governments like Libya, Syria, Iran and Egypt. These attempts took a step backward in Egypt. Moreover, the ongoing chaos in Libya has been another defeat as well as the Muslim Brotherhood being crushed. These reversals have forced Turkey to retreat to a focus on economic interests rather than political alliances. But don’t hold your breath. Turkey’s intentions have now been revealed. The so-called Arab Spring has apparently spurned another malfunction.

Hopefully, the United States State Department is paying attention. Western interests much recognize that Turkey can no longer be numbered among “the good guys.”

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Egypt, middle east, Muslims, Syria, Turkey

MIDDLE EAST ABLAZE!

            Many readers inquired about the welfare of our home in Oklahoma City after the recent devastating tornados. Thank you for your concern. Fortunately, we live in the north end of the city and were spared. Our son has a horse ranch in Norman and received only tree damage. The month of May has certainly been a war zone. We hope it is over.

            Speaking of war zones  — the entire Middle East is taking on that look. From Turkey to Iran, the situation is serious. Resembling a raging wild fire, the winds of war continue to sweep in devastation. My fear is that the escalation may well push chaos to a higher level. If the Syrian war continues to spread to Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, unpredictable circumstances could explode. Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates recently made an important observation by noting that the outcome of wars was always unpredicatable. Remember Iraq?Viet Nam? Korea? Each upheaval turned out differently than expected. The Syria situation rides in the same boat.

In the middle of May, Syrian President Bashar Assad called on Hezbollah to join the fight. Citing Israel as the ultimate enemy, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah welcomed the opportunity to formally join the Syrian civil war. Tension went up a notch. This past week, reports from Syrian indicated that Hezoballah and the Syrian government did indeed step up their attacks on the rebels in the town of Qusayr. In turn, rebel leaders claimed that the battle was actually about giving Nasrallah and Hezbollah  a claim to victory on the battlefield. Rebels said the loss of Hezbollah fighters created a need to justify their deaths.

Like a scene from Star Wars. the battles seems endless and the intrigue only grows with each passing day. There is currently no independent confirmation of what occurred in Al Qusayr but both sides claim to have prevailed. What is clear is that the city is being destroyed and turned into rubble with at least 22 people killed to date. At this point, the entry of Hezbollah has only increased the destruction. Obviously, Assad has received more support, but whether it will turn the tide in his favor remains to be seen.

Actually, the Syrian war is slidding toward a conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni groups with outsiders from both camps pouring into Syria to join the fight. The result is that the entire Middle East is being drawn into the conflict as these two groups continue their centuries old warfare. Saudi Arabi and Iran border each other but are on completely different sides of the religious conflict. When the battle cry becomes, “Protect Islam!,” the stage is set for a religious war – the worst kind recorded in history.

At this point, America’s involvement is basically the USA’s concern for its ally Israel. Of course, in the eyes of the Arab Moslem world, this is regarded as bad enough, but America is till standing on the side line. Clearly, three fourths of the American population do not want USA soldiers in another war.

Hard to figure out where all of this is going? Hard to figure out why the war escaletes? Perhaps, it might remind you of a similar time about a hundred years ago. War World I erupted after an assassination of an Archduke in Sarajevo  that most Americans had never heard of. In a short time, Americans were dying on the battlefield.

Seems   a little scary? It is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Iran, middle east, Turkey