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Is It Almost Time to List Turkey as a State Sponsor of Terror?



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According to Israeli intelligence, Hamas has moved its outside-Gaza headquarters from Damascus to Istanbul; it is headed by Saleh al-Arouri, whom Israel Hayom calls “an infamous arch-terrorist believed to be responsible for dozens of attacks against Israelis.”

Arouri recently plotted at least two very ambitious but foiled operations: an August effort to topple the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and this past week multiple operations against “Israeli destinations in the West Bank, . . . an attack on Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, and an attack on the light rail train in the capital.”

So far, the Israelis have limited their protests to suggesting that this is not the way a NATO ally should behave.

Official communiqués sent from Jerusalem to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s office in Brussels, via several channels, said it was inconceivable that a member of the intergovernmental military alliance would maintain ties with a terrorist organization. . . .

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned of Turkey’s close ties with Hamas during his last visit to the U.S., in a meeting with [then-]U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The claim of Hamas planning destruction from its Istanbul base needs to be investigated by the U.S. government and, if found accurate, the Republic of Turkey then placed on the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list. There, it will join the lovely company of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Tags: Turkey , Hamas , Terrorism , U.S. government

Awful News Out of Ankara



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week, breaking and sad news:

Awful News Out of Ankara

Back when I lived in Ankara, I went into this building plenty of times — I begin today in shock.

Turkish police say a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at an entrance to the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday, killing two people, according to the Associated Press.

A U.S. State Department official confirmed to CBS News that at least one guard had been killed at the embassy, but the victim’s nationality was not given. U.S. Embassies are usually guarded by a combination of local security personnel and American diplomatic security forces.

An AP journalist reported seeing a body in the street in front of an embassy side entrance. It was not clear whether the victims of the blast were U.S. nationals, but they were identified as embassy security guards by the French news agency AFP.

The bomb appeared to have exploded inside a security checkpoint at an entrance to the embassy.

CNN’s Turkish service said witnesses had seen the bomber approach the building and enter a gate to the fortified compound. It wasn’t clear whether the bomber entered the building before detonating their explosives.

I lived in Ankara from 2005 to 2007. People used to ask me if it was dangerous, and I answered it was probably the safest city in the region — the national, political, and military capital of a NATO ally, with cops and special national police and troops of every kind all around. There was a modest U.S. military presence as well, although most of it was working at the embassy, with Turkish troops at nearby bases, or working with moving non-combat supplies through Incirlik Air Base (pronounced In-jer-lick) to Iraq.

The only attempted terror attack that I recall in the city during my time there was a suicide bomber who tried to get into the Justice Ministry. But when you saw a terror attack in Turkey, chances are it was the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party), which was fighting for a separate Kurdish state. The PKK liked to put bombs in trash cans, etc., but they mostly targeted Istanbul and the coastal beach resorts, trying to scare away the tourists. The PKK certainly wasn’t pro-American, but Americans weren’t generally the targets of their wrath — the Turks and their government were.

There was an al-Qaeda presence in the country while I was there, and periodically folks who worked at the embassy would tell me they suspected the bad guys were “probing” their defenses and attempting to conduct surveillance, looking for weaknesses, etc. But Turks made up a very small portion of al-Qaeda’s ranks; at the time, out of the several hundred al-Qaeda sitting in Guantanamo Bay, six were Turkish citizens.

Of course, al-Qaeda hit the British consulate in Istanbul with a truck bomb back in 2003, along with the HSBC bank. In 2008, there was an attack with guns on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul; three gunmen were killed and three Turkish police were killed.

(It’s worth noting that Istanbul is the cultural and economic capital of the country while Ankara is the political capital, somewhat analogous to New York and Washington. I suspect maintaining security in the sprawling, crowded, narrow-streeted megalopolis of Istanbul is considerably tougher than in Ankara, a government town that was a relatively sleepy town until Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, made it the new capital.)

Every interaction I had with embassy security guards, Turkish police, and related folks during my time reassured me with their dedication and expertise. I’ve commented that I would completely trust Turkish airport security with the see-through-clothes x-ray scanners more than I would trust TSA; they consistently demonstrated a culture of absolute professionalism — at least to Western outsiders.

The sense I got back then was that the U.S. and Turkey were proving to be thoroughly effective partners in counter-terrorism efforts; two fairly big fish in Al-Qaeda were caught in Turkey during those years, Louai Sakra and Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.

The U.S. consulate in Turkey had moved far from the city center and built like a fortress with extensive security, a development that Tom Friedman lamented back in 2003. The U.S. embassy in Ankara is located downtown, not far from several other embassies and just down the road from the Turkish national assembly (the legislature). I know there had been talk about moving the embassy outside the city center — partially out of security concerns, partially because the embassy itself was a very dated structure (we used to joke about it as a classic example of Early American Cinder Block Architecture). Diplomats had very mixed feelings about a potential move, feeling that their job of interacting with the Turkish government would be more difficult if they were working in some outer suburb.

Keep in mind, I haven’t followed Turkish news or politics nearly as closely since I returned in 2007, and my observations about life in Ankara may be outdated.

Steven Cook: “Most obvious suspects in Ankara embassy bombing are PKK, Syria, and some al Qaida wannabes. Could even be Turkish nationalists.”

UPDATE: A Turkish journalist, Mahir Zeynalov, says that Turkish police have identified the suicide bomber as a member of DHKP-C, a Marxist-Leninist party in Turkey.

Tags: Cory Booker , Terrorism , Turkey

Oh, Turkey, You Used to Be So Different From All the Others . . .



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Over in the Morning Jolt, I take a look a Turkey’s role in the killa flotilla and take a trip down memory lane:

There’s video, but the world doesn’t want to believe its lying eyes. Don’t bother me with the facts, I’ve got to max out the altimeter on my dudgeon.

Victor Davis Hanson can’t believe that of all the countries to be leading the howls of outrage against excessive force and insensitivity to other ethnic groups, the current cries are led by Turkey: “What explains this preexisting hatred, which ensures denunciation of Israel in the most rabid — or, to use the politically correct parlance, ‘disproportionate’ — terms? It is not about ‘occupied land,’ given the millions of square miles worldwide that are presently occupied, from Georgia to Cyprus to Tibet. It is not a divided capital — Nicosia is walled off. It is not an overreaction in the use of force per se — the Russians flattened Grozny and killed tens of thousands while the world snoozed. And it cannot be the scale of violence, given what we see hourly in Pakistan, Darfur, and the Congo. And, given the Armenian, Greek, and Kurdish histories (and reactions to them), the currently outraged Turkish government is surely not a credible referent on the topic of disproportionate violence . . . At this point, it doesn’t much matter — as this latest hysterical reaction reminds us, much of the world not only sides with Israel’s enemies but sides with them to such a degree as to suggest that, in any existential moment to come, the world either will be indifferent or will be on the side of Israeli’s enemies.”

I’m a little surprised by how resolutely Turkey is turning against Israel at this moment (although it’s been building for years). When I was living in Ankara, it wasn’t too hard to find a Turkish-language copy of Mein Kampf in mainstream bookstores; even more widespread were books of conspiracy theories of every stripe and variety. Many Turks believed that there was a secret Israeli plot to harm Turkey; they also believed in a secret American plot with the same goal, a secret European plot, a secret Iranian plot, a secret Arab plot, a secret Russian plot, a secret Chinese plot, a Vatican plot, and perhaps a secret plot by the penguins in Antarctica. From my experience, the first rule of Turkish political philosophy is that everyone is always out to get Turkey, and the fact that what most Americans know about Turkey could fit on a 3×5 index card is no impediment to this conclusion. We may be subconsciously conspiring against them.

(Rule number two of of Turkish political philosophy is that they’re not Arabs and in their minds, Turks are nothing like Arabs. They’re like Europeans; sophisticated, comparatively wealthy, advanced, educated, technologically innovative, honorable and nothing like those backwards despotic hellholes across the border. A lot of Turks look at Arab states as former branch offices of the Ottoman Empire; the sense is that they couldn’t be anything like the Arabs because they used to rule over the Arabs.)

But while I was there (2005 to 2007) it seemed like the suspicion pointed in every direction kept the nation in a state of equilibrium; sure, Prime Minister Erdogan and the foreign ministry crew seemed convinced that Syria’s Pervez Assad was a reformer (Ha!) and that they had great incentive to have a healthy, friendly relationship with Iran, but the staunchly secular, more pro-Western military leaders knew who was a real threat to the Turkish state and who wasn’t. Keep in mind, it was just in November 2007 that Turkey invited Shimon Peres to address the Turkish Parliament, the first time an Israeli president (or any significant Israeli figure, really) spoke before the legislature of a Muslim country. These days, at the risk of breaking rule number two, Turkish foreign policy isn’t all that distinctive from that of the Arab states.

Tags: Turkey

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