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Turkey bidding for greater influence in Middle East

May 18, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Turkey and Brazil announced they have “brokered” a “deal” to bring some percentage of Iranian LEU (Low Enriched Uranium) to Turkey. The “deal” is a fraud-without knowing how much uranium Iran has, you cannot know how much it “lent” to Turkey and how much remains in its weapons program. And knowing that Iran has lied about every single stage of its nuclear program, we will assume it is lying about this stage as well.
 
So much for Iran.
 
But there is something compelling about a country that looks at its position, determines its interests, and changes course to achieve new objectives. Turkey has done that. 
 
Let us be clear: we don’t have to like the direction or the choices; we don’t have to support them; and we don’t think the United States should treat Turkey as if it hadn’t made those choices. That was one reason we wrote-and strongly believe-that the Congress of the United States is the wrong place to parse and judge someone else’s history. Our Armenian friends entirely misunderstood-we were neither denying nor denigrating their history. But Congress has to be about the present and, more important, about the future. Our ongoing irritation with our Congress and our Administration is that they find it easier to pronounce on a past for which they are not responsible than to deal with present circumstances. 
 
For the moment, it may be easier but it is shortsighted in the extreme.
 
After decades of resolutely secular, pro-Western economic and security policy, during which it was resolutely rejected by Europe, the Turkish government, specifically the AKP, surveyed the landscape in the absence of the Soviet Union and the apparent decline of the United States and decided to stop banging its head against a closed European door.  Turkey, in their view, didn’t have to be the stepchild of Europe; it has a strong military, a good economy in regional terms and historic interests.
 
Turkey certainly will not give up the benefits bestowed by NATO membership and is unlikely to do anything to hamper its economic ties to the West. It is unlikely to actually sever ties with Israel while there are still benefits to be had. It simply has added new portfolios, Muslim portfolios. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are all Turkic, all Muslim, all post-Soviet and all amenable to leadership from Ankara (although the coup in Kyrgyzstan was a setback).

New military relations with Syria and Russia, increased political relations with Iran, the hosting of Hamas leadership and increasingly strident rhetoric are signs of Turkey’s belief that it can do as it pleases, at least in the region. 
 
There are those who believe Turkey is aiming to re-establish the old Ottoman Empire and others who think the goal is restoration of the Caliphate. Maybe, or maybe it is just opportunistic push back. In any case, the result is likely to be inimical to American and Western interests.
 
We have two thoughts: Turkey’s future choices in the region will be much more important to the United States than any possible benefit of looking backwards at the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.   
 
Was that only one thought? Yes, it was one thought about Turkey. The second thought is about the United States. 
 
The Turks stopped begging Europe for entry and considered their options; the United States should do no less. The clock cannot be turned back to 1948 any more than to 1915. The Obama Administration should stop begging the Palestinians to let us force Israel to manufacture a small, kleptocratic, dictatorial, terrorist-sponsoring welfare regime wedged in between two of our regional allies. Stop trying to create “two states” where three governing bodies currently exist with no likely mergers. 
 
Stop blaming Israel for American difficulties in the region that have nothing to do with it. 
 
Face the issues of perceived American inability to deal with radical Islamic ideology and the wars it engenders and deal with them. Face the fact that radical Islamic ideology is, at its core, forward looking-not a slap at the past, but a belief in the Islamic future. Turkey and “the Stans” are in that mix. So are Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and, increasingly, the failed states of Africa. Russia and China are heavily involved, and not necessarily on our side.
 
As with the congressional fixation on the Ottomans to the exclusion of the Turkish future, it is easier for the Administration to keep pounding on Israel for its alleged intransigence than to accept that the “peace process” is over and serious American interests for the future lie elsewhere.  
 
It is equally shortsighted.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

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Why would U.S. want Afghan pilots trained in Lebanon or Syria?

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C — The U.S. Department of the Army put out a request for information on “Afghanistan National Army Air Corps English and Pilot Training.”

The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI) is conducting market research by seeking sources with innovative business solutions to (1) train and certify up to 67 Afghani student pilots to an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) English level 4 in the English language; and (2) provide basic rotary wing or fixed wing Commercial Pilot Training to the European Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) standards.

It is desired that the English language and basic pilot training take place within South West Asia. PEO STRI requests information on sources available to perform training in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, U.A.E, Uzbekistan, Yemen or other locations in Southwest Asia with the capability to provide requested training.

How is it possible that Syria, a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorism-supporting countries, is considered an acceptable place to train Afghan pilots? Or Lebanon, which has Hezbollah as a member of the governing cabinet in Beirut? Hezbollah is a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations, and until September 11, 2001, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. Didn’t Kyrgyzstan just have a coup inspired/financed by Russia? Wouldn’t training pro-Western Afghan pilots in Pakistan send those people from the frying pan into the fire? Isn’t Yemen home to some of the most virulently anti-American, anti-Western al Qaeda operatives and preachers, including Anwar al-Awlakiwho was talking to U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan before he killed 13 Americans at Ft. Hood?
 
Aside from the fact that some of the countries listed are not in South West Asia, as the request for information requires, not one is remotely democratic. OK, we’ll give Jordan a few points and some to Iraq, but that’s it. 
 
What would possess the United States Army to expose Afghani pilots, who are supposed to secure a functional and consensual state in Afghanistan, to countries where the governments are almost uniformly totalitarian, functionally repressive, less than hospitable to reform or dissent, and have women in positions of legal inferiority? Saudi Arabia is the financier of a particularly repressive, homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic form of Islam exported around the world.
 
We did not expect to see Israel on the list, although Israel certainly is capable of training pilots to the European Joint Aviation Authority standards, and a few months in Israel would impart some Western governmental, judicial and social norms, including religious and political tolerance.
 
But if not Israel, why not Britain or Italy or France or Spain or Portugal? Why not Denmark or Colombia or Mali or Uruguay? Why not India or Indonesia or Taiwan or Japan?
 
The list is clearly weighted toward the part of the world to which President Obama wishes to show American comity. Unfortunately, it is also a part of the world in which neither American policies nor American values are particularly welcome items on the agenda. The list and the thinking behind it are political mistakes that should be corrected. Certainly, they should be corrected before we give the Afghanis the idea that the norms of Syria and Lebanon are ones we want them to adopt.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

Fury over Goldstone report reflects Jewish community disillusionment with one-sided United Nations

November 24, 2009 1 comment

By Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO–The tensions around the Goldstone Report ( Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict) have died down for the moment.  But hard feelings still remain in the community regarding the report and the resulting resolution in Congress.  Congressman Filner clearly communicated his feelings and his thinking around the resolution.  He has “mishpachah” in Israel with whom he consulted.  His response to SDJW questions were fair and well thought out.   And may be factually based.  But politics is – especially geopolitical – are based on perception.

The Jewish community reaction to the Goldstone Report may not be so much about the actual information in the report, but the visceral feeling that the United Nations seems fixated on the Middle East, and in particular, the Arab-Israeli, or Palestinian-Israel conflict.

Back on October 2, 2006, as Kofi Annan’s term as the Secretary General of the United Nations was coming to a close, Human Rights Watch reflected on the tasks ahead for his successor.  While praising Annan’s dedication to human rights and the creation of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Human Rights Watch openly criticized the HRC. “The Human Rights Council has so far stumbled because of its relative fixation on Israel, while failing to take concrete steps to address other serious human rights situations as well. It has yet to show that it is willing to take firm, collective action against intransigent governments engaged in systemic rights violations.”  The article on its website goes on to say that “The incoming secretary-general must work to ensure that the Human Rights Council is both more credible and more effective than its predecessor.”

One of the giants in the world of Human Rights monitoring, Felice Gaer, severely criticized the Goldstone Report.  Her career in the human rights community has included membership on the Council on Foreign Relations, serving as chair of the steering committee for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as a member of the Carter Center’s International Human Rights Council since 1994.  As reported in the New Jersey Jewish News, Gaer called the report “a biased mandate by a biased group of people.”  The biased group of people is the HRC.

Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post noted after the HRC’s first year that “Genocide in Sudan, child slavery and religious persecution in China, mass repression in Zimbabwe and Burma, state-sponsored murder in Syria and Russia — and, for that matter, suicide bombings by Arab terrorist movements — will not receive systematic attention from the world body charged with monitoring human rights. That is reserved only for Israel, a democratic country that has been guilty of human rights violations but also has been under sustained assault from terrorists and governments openly committed to its extinction.”  In that first year, Israel and Israel alone was the only government criticized by name – and to the tune of 11 resolutions.

Freedom House, one of the preeminent “peace and democracy” institutions since 1941, in its 2009 Worst of the Worst report, which cites  the World’s Most Repressive Societies, lists Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

While Israel is imperfect, clearly, other nations and hot spots around the world deserve far greater attention from the HRC.  Only once a track record of tackling ongoing, regimented, government sponsored human rights violations in the areas around the world, will the Jewish community will feel that a Goldstone Report maybe even handed and fair and maybe justified.

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Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego