Email from Turkey and mixed news on the terror front

In which I get an email from an old friend in Turkey, discuss the al Qa’ida arrests this weekend and review warnings of increased terror recruitment that seems to be up even before a war goes down.

Immediately after yesterday’s vote that rejected U.S. requests to use Turkey as a staging area for a northern front, I emailed my old friend Aykut about the developments there. His email follows:

Dear Chris,
This is also a very big surprise for us. Personally, I am proud of being a citizen of a country which shows her dignity like this. Our deputies show that the Turkish parliament is not an approval office and Turkey is not a country for sale…
Shortly the story is this: In fact, AKP [Justice and Development Party] government had decided to bring the decision to the parliament last Thursday, but suddenly on the last minute they changed their mind and decided to bring it today [Saturday]. Some analysts claim that the AKP leadership did not want to take all of the responsibility and wants to share it with the National Security Committee which was going to meet on Friday. You know The National Security Committee is a constitutional institution in which the President and the generals are represented as well as the the members of the civil government. (Suitability of such institution in democracies is another subject of debate). But the National Security Committee did not even mention about this decision in their conclusion report. So they wanted the AKP government to take the all the political responsibility by themselves. In fact you know AKP holds the 2/3 of the parliament. We knew that Erdogan had some difficulties of persuading some of his own deputies. There are demonstrations all around Turkey. More than 50.000 people gathered in Ankara today, but still nobody was thinking about such a result. Now, the prime minister with some other ministers are in the meeting. It seems that they are going to bring the decision to the parliament next Tuesday one more time. But we know that there are ministers in the government in fact they are against this decision, so you see, last week we were sure that this decision would definitely be passed, but now nobody knows what will happen. Tomorrow [Sunday] AKP will declare what are they going to do… It will be a very interesting week….
When something interesting happens in here, I will write…. Stay well….

Well, as we now know, the AKP has shelved any plans on introducing a new proposal on Tuesday as Aykut thought yesterday.
“The proposal has been delayed to an open-ended time. There is no proposal for the foreseeable future,” said Eyup Fatsa, deputy head of AKP. Turkey, however, wants to mend fences with the United States, and may introduce a new plan in parliament if the United Nations Security Council approves the U.S. and U.K. proposal submitted Monday last week. A vote on that proposal won’t be coming for another two weeks in all likelihood, however, so even if Turkey does introduce a new troop deployment proposal, it will likely be too little too late.
Which could be the Turks’ plan all along! If Turkey had the political cover of a UNSC resolution but no time to make the troop approval logistically feasible, the Turks could always say, “Look, we approved your troops. Too bad things didn’t work out time-wise. Maybe next time.”
In other happenings, it’s very, very good news that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., was captured in Pakistan. Also, intelligence officials said he was “carrying the names and phone numbers of members of al-Qaeda sleeper cells in North America.” The most disturbing detail about his life, however, was that he apparently learned “flawless” English at Chowan College, a Baptist university in North Carolina. Also, and perhaps most personal for me as a journalist, he apparently ordered the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and may have been the man who slit his throat.
There are conflicting reports of where he is or who has custody of the suspect. An unnamed Pakistani government minister said he had been handed over to U.S. custody shortly after his arrest, along with two other al Qa’ida suspects, in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi on Saturday. But Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat denied this.
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is in the custody of Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies and until we have satisfied ourselves, after the interrogation process, of the nature of his activities in Pakistan, there is no question of handing him over to anyone.”
He is also, according to Hayat, still in Pakistan.
But there are disturbing aspects to his arrest. The same Reuters story said another unnamed source, this time for the U.S. government, expected Mohammed to be “interrogated” — read, “tortured” — in an undisclosed foreign country. I understand the necessity of it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it or approve of it.
And a P.S. to everyone who says making war on Iraq will make the world safer from terrorism should know that al Qa’ida recruitment is up all over Europe, and the war hasn’t even started yet.

The aftermath of Sept. 11 and the prospect of war in Iraq have increased the numbers of angry anti-American young men who have been pushed into the embrace of Islamic extremism, according to counter-terrorism officials. Extremists are muscling into European mosques, creating new places of worship and winning converts. … A war in Iraq could turn many moderate Muslims into extremists and drive many extremists over the line between malicious intent and action, experts say.
“The strategy of the terrorists is to create a clash of civilizations,” [Jean-Louis] Bruguiere, [France’s top anti-terrorist judge] said. “And they will use the war to incite violence against the West. A war will have a direct impact on the level of recruitment.”

This is one of my main criticisms against a war with Iraq. There are much better ways of dealing with terrorism, as the arrest of Mohammed shows, than embarking on military adventures with only the most pollyanna-ish of consequences envisioned.

Turkey says no to U.S. deployment — Is this the start of real democracy in Turkey?

In the span of a few minutes this morning, the Turkish parliament approved the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops, 255 warplanes and 65 helicopters in a squeaker vote (264 to 250 with 19 abstentions) only to have the vote nullified a few moments later by speaker of parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc because a majority of legislators present had not voted in favor. He then shut down the parliament until Tuesday.
Is this the beginning of something momentous for Turkey? The start of a mature democracy?

In the span of a few minutes this morning, the Turkish parliament approved the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops, 255 warplanes and 65 helicopters in a squeaker vote (264 to 250 with 19 abstentions) only to have the vote nullified a few moments later by speaker of parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc because a majority of legislators present had not voted in favor. He then shut down the parliament until Tuesday.
This will throw some sand in the gears of the U.S. war machine, to say the least, as Turkey apparently refuses to stay bought. The $15 billion in loans and grants — and the right to run roughshod over Iraq’s Kurds — isn’t enough.
Believe it or not, this is cause for hope, and not for any reasons having to do with stopping the war, which is a train that left the station some time ago. No, this is cause for hope the world is witnessing the growing pains of a mature Turkish democracy.
About 94 percent of the Turkish public is opposed to a war on Iraq, since the country suffered so in the first one. Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged party legislators to side with the United States and approve the deployment, since Turkey needs assistance from the IMF and the World Bank, two institutions dominated by the United States. The generals in Ankara also backed the vote, seeing that Turkey is a major purchaser of American military hardware and the U.S. was the country’s most reliable ally in the war with PKK separatists from 1984-1998. Plus, the Americans were going to let the Turks have Iraqi Kurdistan.
But the unruly Turkish parliament — and especially AKP deputies — defied their party leader and listened to the Turkish public, dissing the United States on its No. 1 foreign policy issue. The dangers of this to Turkish parliamentarians are great and those who voted against the resolution are brave men and women.
Why? Turkish democracy has always existed under the spectre of military coups. If the civilian government got too unruly, the military would step in and take control to protect the secular nature of the republic and its interests, as it did in 1960, 1980 and 1997. To their credit, the generals never wanted to rule Turkey for its own sake; they genuinely believed they were upholding the ideals of Kemal Mustafa Atatürk and quickly turned power back over to a more pliable civilian government. However, this paternal attitude has stunted Turkish democracy and retarded its pace in reaching Atatürk’s goal of a Western, secular democracy with a seat at Europe’s table as an equal.
And now, we are faced with another crisis. If the generals don’t step in and push the AKP out of power as they did with the Welfare Party, another Islamist political group, in 1997, the world could be seeing the people of Turkey enjoying true democracy for the the first time in the history of their young republic. Turkey would enjoy a government without the threat of a parental military stepping in and “fixing” things. The country would finally be able to let its own very capable citizenry make decisions through the ballot box — and it would be forced to live with their decisions. That’s the definition of true democracy, and the citizens of Turkey have wanted it — and deserved it — for far too long.
Make no mistake. If this vote sticks and the military stays out of it, it will not be easy for Turkey. They are heavily dependent on the IMF and World Bank for economic assistance and the United States will no doubt retaliate for Turkey’s “treacherous” actions, a.k.a., listening to the will of the people. (The United States has already threatened to retaliate against Germany and France.) The economic damage from a war in Iraq will be high, possibly higher than the $100 billion Turkey says it has suffered since 1991. But I suspect that if Turkey defied the United States on this issue, it might find itself more welcome in Europe’s bosom when France and Germany look a little more kindly on the Turks…

Announcing Back to Iraq Forums

A few days ago, I solicited opinions as to whether Back to Iraq would benefit from discussion forums. Well, the people have spoken and so I’m proud to announce the addition of caged death arenas so you can argue out whether the U.S. should go to war or not to your hearts’ content.
At the moment, there is no registration, but please keep it civil and avoid ad hominem attacks on other people otherwise I will have to introduce registration. I do not want to do this.
If you would like to see more forums added, please email me or leave a post in the “Requests” forum under the “Forum News” category. Have fun everyone.