Category Archive 'Turkey'
03 Jun 2011
Church of the Holy Redeemer, built 1035 to house a fragment of the True Cross.
I had not ever hear of the abandoned city of Ani until seeing Boogie Man’s photoessay.
Ani, located in Eastern Turkey, was in the 10th Century the capital of an Armenian principality. In its prime, the city’s population was similar in size (100,000—200,000) to Constantinople, Baghdad, and Cairo. It became the seat of the Catholicoi, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in 992.
Ani was sacked by the Seljuk Turks in 1064, and by the Mongols in 1236. The city declined over subsequent centuries, ceasing to be a dynastic capitol around 1400, and losing the Armenian Catholicosate in 1441. Ani gradually dwindled to a small settlement within the walls of the former city, and was completely abandoned by the 18th century.
The site was excavated and documented by the Russian linguist and archaeologist Nicholas Marr 1892-93 and 1904-17.
Hat tip to Fred Lapides.
12 Oct 2010
The New York Times found plenty of signs of Chinese ambitions for increased regional dominance and hostility toward a United States perceived as China’s key obstacle as US and Chinese Defense ministers met yesterday and China conducted military exercises.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the two militaries suspended talks with each other last winter, calling for the two countries to prevent “mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.
His message seemed directed mainly at officers like Lt. Cmdr. Tony Cao of the Chinese Navy.
Days before Mr. Gates arrived in Asia, Commander Cao was aboard a frigate in the Yellow Sea, conducting China’s first war games with the Australian Navy, exercises to which, he noted pointedly, the Americans were not invited.
Nor are they likely to be, he told Australian journalists in slightly bent English, until “the United States stops selling the weapons to Taiwan and stopping spying us with the air or the surface.”
The Pentagon is worried that its increasingly tense relationship with the Chinese military owes itself in part to the rising leaders of Commander Cao’s generation, who, much more than the country’s military elders, view the United States as the enemy. Older Chinese officers remember a time, before the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 set relations back, when American and Chinese forces made common cause against the Soviet Union.
The younger officers have known only an anti-American ideology, which casts the United States as bent on thwarting China’s rise.
“All militaries need a straw man, a perceived enemy, for solidarity,” said Huang Jing, a scholar of China’s military and leadership at the National University of Singapore. “And as a young officer or soldier, you always take the strongest of straw men to maximize the effect. Chinese military men, from the soldiers and platoon captains all the way up to the army commanders, were always taught that America would be their enemy.”
The stakes have increased as China’s armed forces, once a fairly ragtag group, have become more capable and have taken on bigger tasks. The navy, the centerpiece of China’s military expansion, has added dozens of surface ships and submarines, and is widely reported to be building its first aircraft carrier. Last month’s Yellow Sea maneuvers with the Australian Navy are but the most recent in a series of Chinese military excursions to places as diverse as New Zealand, Britain and Spain.
China is also reported to be building an antiship ballistic missile base in southern China’s Guangdong Province, with missiles capable of reaching the Philippines and Vietnam. The base is regarded as an effort to enforce China’s territorial claims to vast areas of the South China Sea claimed by other nations, and to confront American aircraft carriers that now patrol the area unmolested.
Even improved Chinese forces do not have capacity or, analysts say, the intention, to fight a more able United States military. But their increasing range and ability, and the certainty that they will only become stronger, have prompted China to assert itself regionally and challenge American dominance in the Pacific.
Meanwhile, DebkaFile reports that Turkish military exercises formally conducted in cooperation with Nato (and including Israel) featured a new replacement.
The arrival of a new Middle East player startled Washington and Jerusalem: debkafile’s military sources disclose that when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan met Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus Monday, Oct. 11, they talked less about the Kurdish question and more about the role China is willing to play in the military-intelligence alliance binding Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Erdogan took the credit for China’s unfolding involvement in the alliance in the role of big-power backer. Two recent events illustrate Beijing’s intent:
1. From Sept. 20 to Oct. 6, the Turkish Air Force conducted its regular annual Anatolian Eagle exercise, this time without US and Israeli participation. Israel was not invited and America opted out. However, their place was taken by Chinese Sukhoi Su-27 and Mig-29 warplanes making their first appearance in Turkish skies.
Our military sources report that the Chinese warplanes began touching down at the big Konya air base in central Turkey in mid-September for their debut performance in the Middle East and Europe.
Konya has served NATO and the United States for decades as one of their most important air bases.
2. Our sources add that the Chinese planes refueled only once on their journey to Turkey in… Iran. When they touched down at the Gayem al-Mohammad air base in central Iran, their crews were made welcome by the Iranian air force commander Gen. Ahmad Migani. ...
The Gayem al-Mohammed facility, located near the town of Birjand in South Khorasan, is situated directly opposite the big American base of East Afghanistan near the Afghan-Iranian border town of Herat.
The Turkish prime minister painted the military alliance binding Tehran, Ankara and Damascus in rosy colors for Assad’s benefit as more central to the region and more powerful than Israel’s armed forces after overcoming the IDF’s military edge.
Our major trading partner China is backing a Turkish-Iranian-Syrian military-intelligence alliance against guess-whom.
01 Jun 2010
On Sunday morning, elite Israel commandos armed with paintball guns, and carrying pistols they were forbidden to use, roped down to the deck of a Turkish NGO ship, the largest vessel in a six ship flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The soldiers were attacked and beaten by the activists using metal clubs and knives.
So much for restraint.
Israeli naval vessels surrounded the Mavi Marmara and fighting broke out between soldiers and activists. 7 Israeli soldiers were wounded and 19 activists were killed.
New York Times
The NGO organizer of the “Freedom Flotilla,” İnsani Yardım Vakfı, aka IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief) is a Turkish Islamic charity founded in 1992 to supply aid to the Muslim Bosnians and is part of a group of Saudi-funded Islamic charities with a record of providing support for Hamas and al Qaeda.
Israeli Defense Force 1:01 video showing non-violent activists beating Israeli soldiers.
Al Jazeera 1:28 propaganda video reporting from “on board the ship which holds 600 activists, parliamentarians, women, children, and the elderly, all of whom are civilians.”
Andrew Sullivan provides the perfect example of the predictable leftwing Western response:
The violence by the activists is pretty abhorrent. These are not followers of Gandhi or MLK Jr. But the violence is not fatal to anyone and it is in response to a dawn commando raid by armed soldiers. They are engaging in self-defense. More to the point: they are civilians confronting one of the best militaries in the world. They killed no soldiers; their weapons were improvised; the death toll in the fight is now deemed to be up to 19 – all civilians.
It staggers me to read defenses of what the Israelis have done. They attacked a civilian flotilla in international waters breaking no law. When they met fierce if asymmetric resistance, they opened fire. And we are now being asked to regard the Israelis as the victims.
This is like a mini-Gaza all over again. The Israelis don’t seem to grasp that Western militaries don’t get to murder large numbers of civilians because they don’t like them, or because they could, on a far tinier scale, hurt Israelis. And you sure don’t have a right to kill them because they resist having their ship commandeered, in international waters. The Israelis seem to be making decisions as if they can get away with anything. It’s time the US reminded them in ways they cannot mistake that they cannot.
Startfor’s George Friedman observes that the Turkish IHH has effectively copied the Zionist “Exodus” scenario for a major PR victory at Israel’s expense.
It is difficult to imagine circumstances under which public opinion will see Israel as the victim. The general response in the Western public is likely to be that the Israelis probably should have allowed the ships to go to Gaza and offload rather than to precipitate bloodshed. Israel’s enemies will fan these flames by arguing that the Israelis prefer bloodshed to reasonable accommodation. And as Western public opinion shifts against Israel, Western political leaders will track with this shift.
The incident also wrecks Israeli relations with Turkey, historically an Israeli ally in the Muslim world with longstanding military cooperation with Israel. The Turkish government undoubtedly has wanted to move away from this relationship, but it faced resistance within the Turkish military and among secularists. The new Israeli action makes a break with Israel easy, and indeed almost necessary for Ankara.
With roughly the population of Houston, Texas, Israel is just not large enough to withstand extended isolation, meaning this event has profound geopolitical implications.
Public opinion matters where issues are not of fundamental interest to a nation. Israel is not a fundamental interest to other nations. The ability to generate public antipathy to Israel can therefore reshape Israeli relations with countries critical to Israel. For example, a redefinition of U.S.-Israeli relations will have much less effect on the United States than on Israel. The Obama administration, already irritated by the Israelis, might now see a shift in U.S. public opinion that will open the way to a new U.S.-Israeli relationship disadvantageous to Israel.
The Israelis will argue that this is all unfair, as they were provoked. Like the British, they seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard? As with a tank battle or an airstrike, this sort of warfare has nothing to do with fairness. It has to do with controlling public perception and using that public perception to shape foreign policy around the world. In this case, the issue will be whether the deaths were necessary. The Israeli argument of provocation will have limited traction.
05 Mar 2010
Newsweek reports on revolutionary new theories of the significance of a site in Kurdish Turkey that has been re-dated and re-evaluated. Previously dismissed as a medieval cemetery of little interest, the Göbekli Tepe monument stones are being re-interpreted into “an Ice-Age Rome” associated with a completely new theory of the development of human culture during the Neolithic period, which moves human spiritual aspiration (temple building) into the center of causality replacing material technology (agriculture). How very German! And how very strange. A completely unique site of spectacular interest 1500 years older than Çatalhöyük and astonishingly more sophisticated.
The Göbekli Tepe site is clearly very rapidly going to become a world-wide cultural icon and a continuing focus of interest and interpretation.
They call it potbelly hill, after the soft, round contour of this final lookout in southeastern Turkey. To the north are forested mountains. East of the hill lies the biblical plain of Harran, and to the south is the Syrian border, visible 20 miles away, pointing toward the ancient lands of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, the region that gave rise to human civilization. And under our feet, according to archeologist Klaus Schmidt, are the stones that mark the spot—the exact spot—where humans began that ascent.
Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn’t just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago—a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture—the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember—the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.
Though not as large as Stonehenge—the biggest circle is 30 yards across, the tallest pillars 17 feet high—the ruins are astonishing in number. Last year Schmidt found his third and fourth examples of the temples. Ground-penetrating radar indicates that another 15 to 20 such monumental ruins lie under the surface. Schmidt’s German-Turkish team has also uncovered some 50 of the huge pillars, including two found in his most recent dig season that are not just the biggest yet, but, according to carbon dating, are the oldest monumental artworks in the world.
The new discoveries are finally beginning to reshape the slow-moving consensus of archeology. Göbekli Tepe is “unbelievably big and amazing, at a ridiculously early date,” according to Ian Hodder, director of Stanford’s archeology program. Enthusing over the “huge great stones and fantastic, highly refined art” at Göbekli, Hodder—who has spent decades on rival Neolithic sites—says: “Many people think that it changes everything…It overturns the whole apple cart. All our theories were wrong.”
Schmidt’s thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.
This theory reverses a standard chronology of human origins, in which primitive man went through a “Neolithic revolution” 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. In the old model, shepherds and farmers appeared first, and then created pottery, villages, cities, specialized labor, kings, writing, art, and—somewhere on the way to the airplane—organized religion. As far back as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, thinkers have argued that the social compact of cities came first, and only then the “high” religions with their great temples, a paradigm still taught in American high schools.
Religion now appears so early in civilized life—earlier than civilized life, if Schmidt is correct—that some think it may be less a product of culture than a cause of it, less a revelation than a genetic inheritance. The archeologist Jacques Cauvin once posited that “the beginning of the gods was the beginning of agriculture,” and Göbekli may prove his case.
Smithsonian Magazine article.
Must see slideshow from the Smithsonian.
German Archaeological Institute site
From Darleen via Bird Dog.
19 Oct 2009
The combination of Turkish state-run television’s recently debuted prime-time drama, Ayrilik “Farewell,” depicting Israeli Defence Force soldiers as bloodthirsty war criminals murdering women and children with the announcement of a long-term Turkish strategic alliance with Syria, and the Erdogan government causing the cancellation of NATO military exercises may all be signs of a major and permanent rupture in relations between Turkey and the Western Alliance.
Israel’s relations with Turkey plunged to a new low yesterday after Turkish state television aired a fictional series showing troops murdering Palestinian children during last winter’s Gaza war.
Ties between the two strategic regional allies had already taken a serious blow this week when Turkey demanded that Israel be excluded from military exercises that it was staging with US and Nato allies. The US was forced to cancel the war games.
Caroline Glick thinks we have lost Turkey.
Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.
It isn’t that Ankara’s behavior changed fundamentally in recent days. There is nothing new in its massive hostility toward Israel and its effusive solicitousness toward the likes of Syria and Hamas. Since the Islamist AKP party first won control over the Turkish government in the 2002 elections, led by AKP chairman Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turks have incrementally and inexorably moved the formerly pro-Western Muslim democracy into the radical Islamist camp populated by the likes of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, al-Qaida and Hamas. ...
Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.
It isn’t that Ankara’s behavior changed fundamentally in recent days. There is nothing new in its massive hostility toward Israel and its effusive solicitousness toward the likes of Syria and Hamas. Since the Islamist AKP party first won control over the Turkish government in the 2002 elections, led by AKP chairman Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turks have incrementally and inexorably moved the formerly pro-Western Muslim democracy into the radical Islamist camp populated by the likes of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, al-Qaida and Hamas.
Spook86 would like to think all this simply represents a diplomatic feint aimed at covering up some impending activities involving Turkish airspace, but I suspect he is too optimistic.
A regular military exercise involving the U.S., Israel, Italy, Turkey (and other NATO elements) was suddenly cancelled last week, just days before it was scheduled to begin.
The U.S. suddenly scrapped plans for the Antolian Eagle drill after Ankara announced plans to pull-out of the exercise, citing participation by Israeli Air Force units. Turkish officials told their counterparts in Tel Aviv they could not abide IAF participation in the exercise, believing the Israeli jets would be the same ones that bombed Palestinian targets in Gaza earlier this year, during Operation Cast Lead.
According to the Jerusalem Post (and Israeli Radio), the final cancellation came after U.S. and other NATO members threatened to pull out if the IAF was not allowed to participate. ...
There is a chance that the new “rift” between Tel Aviv and Ankara in genuine, and rooted in Turkey’s reaction to the Israeli campaign in Gaza. But there is also the very real possibility that the exercise cancellation is a hint of things to come—an operation that may require access to Turkish airspace, without the “formal” approval of the general staff, or the civilian government.
07 Apr 2009
Stratfor’s George Friedman observes that Barack Obama’s European summit negotiations had little hope of accomplishing anything.
The spin emerging from the meetings, echoed in most of the media, sought to portray the meetings as a success and as reflecting a re-emergence of trans-Atlantic unity.
The reality, however, is that the meetings ended in apparent unity because the United States accepted European unwillingness to compromise on key issues. U.S. President Barack Obama wanted the week to appear successful, and therefore backed off on key issues; the Europeans did the same. ...
Two fundamental issues divided the United States and Germany. The first was whether Germany would match or come close to the U.S. stimulus package. The United States wanted Germany to stimulate its own domestic demand. Obama feared that if the United States put a stimulus plan into place, Germany would use increased demand in the U.S. market to expand its exports. The United States would wind up with massive deficits while the Germans took advantage of U.S. spending, thus letting Berlin enjoy the best of both worlds. Washington felt it had to stimulate its economy, and that this would inevitably benefit the rest of the world. But Washington wanted burden sharing. Berlin, quite rationally, did not. Even before the meetings, the United States dropped the demand — Germany was not going to cooperate.
The second issue was the financing of the bailout of the Central European banking system, heavily controlled by eurozone banks and part of the EU financial system. The Germans did not want an EU effort to bail out the banks. They wanted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out a substantial part of the EU financial system instead. The reason was simple: The IMF receives loans from the United States, as well as China and Japan, meaning the Europeans would be joined by others in underwriting the bailout. ... The United States therefore essentially has agreed to the German position. ...
The reason there was no bargaining was fairly simple: The Germans were not prepared to bargain. They came to the meetings with prepared positions, and the United States had no levers with which to move them. The only option was to withhold funding for the IMF, and that would have been a political disaster (not to mention economically rather unwise). The United States would have been seen as unwilling to participate in multilateral solutions rather than Germany being seen as trying to foist its economic problems on others. Obama has positioned himself as a multilateralist and can’t afford the political consequences of deviating from this perception.
But wooing Turkey is key to competing with Russia for European influence.
Turkey is the key to all of this. If Ankara collaborates with Russia, Georgia’s position is precarious and Azerbaijan’s route to Europe is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and also manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under U.S. auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.
From the American point of view, Europe is a lost cause since internally it cannot find a common position and its heavyweights are bound by their relationship with Russia. It cannot agree on economic policy, nor do its economic interests coincide with those of the United States, at least insofar as Germany is concerned. As far as Russia is concerned, Germany and Europe are locked in by their dependence on Russian natural gas. The U.S.-European relationship thus is torn apart not by personalities, but by fundamental economic and military realities. No amount of talking will solve that problem.
The key to sustaining the U.S.-German alliance is reducing Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas and putting Russia on the defensive rather than the offensive. The key to that now is Turkey, since it is one of the only routes energy from new sources can cross to get to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey — which has deep influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans — is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and a long-term solution to Germany’s energy problem can be found. On the other hand, if Turkey decides to take a defensive position and moves to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is locked into Russian-controlled energy for a generation.
Therefore, having sat through fruitless meetings with the Europeans, Obama chose not to cause a pointless confrontation with a Europe that is out of options. Instead, Obama completed his trip by going to Turkey to discuss what the treaty with Armenia means and to try to convince the Turks to play for high stakes by challenging Russia in the Caucasus, rather than playing Russia’s junior partner.
This is why Obama’s most important speech in Europe was his last one, following Turkey’s emergence as a major player in NATO’s political structure.
04 Jan 2009
Israeli Intelligence mouthpiece DEBKAfile succeeded in restoring service today after a period of outage.
DEBKAfile’s two sites in English and Hebrew came under a massive cyber attack on our servers at the moment Israeli ground forces crossed into the Gaza Strip Saturday night, Jan. 3. The attackers tried and failed to block and replace our content. We did our utmost to restore service as quickly as possible and return to full operation.
DEBKAfile wasn’t the first site hit.
Computerworld reports earlier activity aimed at Israeli business and web domains:
The conflict raging in Gaza between Israel and Palestine has spilled over to the Internet.
Since Saturday (12/27), thousands of Web pages have been defaced by hacking groups operating out of Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran, said Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The defacements have primarily affected small businesses and vanity Web pages hosted on Israel’s .il Internet domain space. One such site was that of Israel’s Galoz Electronics Ltd. On Wednesday, the hacked Web site read “RitualistaS GrouP Hacked your System! ! ! The world isn’t insurance! ! ! For a better world.”
Other attackers have placed more incendiary messages condemning the U.S. and Israel and adding graphic photographs of the violence. Warner said he has seen no evidence that any Israeli government site has been hit by these attacks, although they have been targeted.
16 Oct 2007
America doubtless owes Armenia a debt of gratitude for Cher, but it is otherwise difficult to understand why, at this particular time, when American relations with her Turkish ally are jeopardized by both Islamic fundamentalism and Kurdish nationalism, the House of Representatives finds it necessary to try to pass a resolution recognizing the Turkish massacre of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
Alec Mouhibian muses on all this, from an Armenian perspective, in the American Spectator:
I never thought the day would come. But here it is! Being an Armenian—like playing women’s basketball at Rutgers, losing money on Enron, and contracting AIDS in Africa before it—is now relevant and topical. Hell, yes. I feel so damn temporarily important, and I wouldn’t trade it for having sold steroids to sluggers or resisted arrest in Los Angeles or, for that matter, having rented storefront from Barney Frank. Bask, fellow Armenians! Bask. Ours is the world and all that’s in it—and, which is more, we’ll have a hairy son.
Lest you’ve been comatose or going to history class at Princeton, the source of the spotlight is Congress’s resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915 as “genocide.” Turkey still insists it was merely a transportation malfunction, in which 1.5 million Armenians mysteriously vanished as piles of human carcasses appeared in their place.
Observers may find the issue inherently dull at first sight. Be patient. You don’t want to miss the massive collateral amusement—whether it’s Islamic Turkey taking postmodern relativism to its logical conclusion, competitors in the victim business afraid of losing market-share, arch unilateralists waxing worrisome over the self-esteem of a pathetically dependent ally, or truth-trumpeting moralists suddenly blowing dry in the name of diplomacy. Progressives have a meta-political reason to like the Armenian issue: it always results in an equal distribution of hypocrisy.
Add a few drops of Bush blood and you get a media frenzy that far outdoes anything surrounding the issue in its cyclical past. Jon Stewart gave it two segments on the Daily Show.
25 Sep 2006
Depkafile, the not-always-reliable Mossad mouthpiece, claims that Turkey and Iran are preparing a joint invasion of Northern Iraq directed at some 5000 members of the militias of the PPK (Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan, Kurdistan Workers Party) and its Iranian-affiliate PJAK (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê “Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan”), based in the Quandil Mountains.
Depkafile states that Iranian and Turkish assault troops are already deployed 7-8 km deep inside Iraqi territory.
All this would be of particular interest to Israel because:
2004 Israeli military instructors and intelligence officer have been helping the Kurds build up their peshmerga army and anti-terrorist forces.
Iran and Turkey are convinced that Israel also maintains in north Iraqi Kurdistan observation and early warning posts to forewarn the Jewish state of a coming Iranian attack. If this is so, the two invaders will make a point of destroying such posts. Israel would then forfeit a key intelligence facility against the Islamic Republic.
One must always take Depkafile reports with a large grain of salt.