Saturday, August 18, 2012

Turkey and Iran: an unraveling relationship

Turkey and Iran: an unraveling relationship

...  According to historian Gareth Jenkins, the increased cooperation between Iran and Turkey under the AKP, beyond pragmatic economic ties, “appears merely to have created another arena for competition.” Under the previous Turkish leadership, the suspicion with which the secular Turkish establishment -- particularly the once-influential Turkish military -- regarded Iran was an obstacle to sustained bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Yet the election of the AKP has replaced the secular/Islamist divide with a Sunni/Shia one. This has never been so evident as following the Arab Spring, when we have seen very clearly the major policy gap between the two countries in terms of the Middle East.

Balancing relations between the West and Iran has been difficult, and Turkey’s multi-vector foreign policy agenda will likely continue to needle Iran and cause tensions between the two nations. However, while Iran may do a lot of barking and threatening, Iran needs Turkey. We saw this during the recent visit of Iran’s foreign minister to Ankara, when he asked Turkey to help secure the release of some 48 Iranian pilgrims recently taken hostage by Syrian opposition rebels, with whom Turkey has links. Turkey has allowed Iran to keep its economy afloat, despite economic sanctions, and given Iran a platform, using its own political clout, from which to project itself. Without Turkey, Tehran is left with only Russia and China. It seems to me that, overall, the political capital that Turkey has spent on Iran has brought Turkey very little. Rather, Iran has used Turkey’s somewhat na├»ve approach to try and further its own regional role. This needs to change.


(Amanda Paul is a writer for Today’s Zaman, where this article was published on August 12, 2012)

IPS – OP-ED: What to Make of the Latest Iranian-Turkish Row | Inter Press Service

IPS – OP-ED: What to Make of the Latest Iranian-Turkish Row | Inter Press Service

...Given these dynamics, Iran’s verbal and diplomatic offensive, including the national security adviser Saeed jalili’s very public meeting with Assad in Damascus, can be understood as having several objectives in mind.

First, it is intended to make a public case that Assad’s fall is not imminent as portrayed by his opponents. The intended message is that Assad may be in trouble, but pushing him out of power requires more than the current militarised approach.

Second, Iran hopes to highlight the dangers of continued support for the removal of Assad through foreign-
backed armed insurgency without any political framework that takes into account the interests of Assad and his supporters. The policy has so far failed to remove the regime but even if it does succeed, it will underwrite the country’s disintegration with no one having control over the regional implications.

Third, Tehran is making the case that the resolution of the Syria problem will be not be possible without Iran’s involvement.

It is noteworthy that Tehran’s assessment of Ankara’s predicament is not that different from many assessments in the United States regarding the threat that the lengthening of the conflict poses for neighbouring countries. In the United States, however, the spectre of the conflict spinning out of control has mostly led to calls for increased support for the insurgency in order to remove Assad and end the conflict as soon as possible.

Unlike the United States, Iran does not have the resources to become directly involved in the expanding Syrian conflict. But it is trying to capitalise publicly on the costly but so far unsuccessful attempt to dislodge Assad. And for now, it is Turkish public opinion that is being conceived as a battleground.

Given the powerful allies that are prodding Turkey to remain committed to hastening the end of the Assad regime, Tehran’s play is a pretty weak one. But Erdogan’s Syria policy is also turning out to be a gamble that will only be redeemed if Syria does not disintegrate as a country....

Steel is Turkey's latest helping hand to Iran | Reuters

Steel is Turkey's latest helping hand to Iran | Reuters

...
Iran, with little production of its own, is one of the world's top importers of billet and rebar, used to reinforce concrete for construction.
Turkey has helped soothe Iran's heavy shortage of steel, handed a huge competitive advantage to its own makers versus producers in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere, while boosting prices in the region to buck a negative trend in the sector globally.
Prices for Turkish steel billet have risen by about $25 to $575 per tonne on a free-on-board basis in the last two to three weeks, traders said.
BANKS AND RE-EXPORTS
Banks in traditional steel suppliers such as Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Europe have withdrawn most financing facilities for deals with Iran, making it extremely difficult for producers and traders to do business with the Gulf country.
Yet traders said Turkey's banks, among them state-owned Halkbank, are accepting letters of credit from Iranian buyers.
"There is a facility in place which allows Turkish bank Halkbank, to receive funds from Iran, but only for material that is supplied from Turkey," said one UK-based steel trader.
"Consequently Turkey almost has a monopoly."
Halkbank general manager Suleyman Aslan, declined to comment on the issue.
The Turkish trader added that while Halkbank was accepting letters of credit from Iran, it was charging high fees to do so.
In addition to Turkish steel, Turkey's exports to Iran include the resale of steel billet bought from Russia and Ukraine.
This has been lucrative, especially for players in the Iskenderun region near the border with Iraq and Iran, which have been selling high volumes of billet at good prices to both of these countries, traders said.
"Turkey can buy cheap billet and sell it at higher prices to Iran because Turkish banks accepts Iranian letters of credit but that's not possible for Russia and Ukraine," said a Russian trader.
"That's why Turkey is making business right now alone. We have got a good price for Iran but we cannot sell directly; it's difficult. Russia's trade with Iran is not as good as you think, it's very complicated now."
Trade data from ISSB supports the traders' view, showing direct steel exports from Russia and Ukraine to Iran, which were at almost 60,000 tonnes a month last October, have fallen to zero more recently.
European steel sales to Iran were also near zero as even the few banks who had until recently helped with some financing have now tightened their policy, wary of retaliation that would negatively affect their business elsewhere.
"Forget about that! You can't finance through a European bank anymore," said the UK-based trader. (Editing by Jason Neely)

-bth: so Turkey is using its state owned bank to finance Iranian steel and concrete purchases with LOCs.  I suspect those LOCs are in effect offset by oil purchases from Iran to Turkey that are in arrears.

Rudaw in English.... Erbil-Terhan Relations Sour Over KRG Foreign Policy

Rudaw in English....The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World - Erbil-Terhan Relations Sour Over KRG Foreign Policy


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region-- “A perspective on Turkey’s manipulation of Barzani”; “Turkey exploits Barzani”; “Davutoglu’s visit to Kurdistan: the Turkish game on the Kurds’ table”; These are all headlines about the growing ties between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey from Iran’s state-affiliated Fars news agency.
It’s nothing new, but in recent weeks Iranian media outlets have intensified their attacks on Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani, especially after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu landed in Erbil.
Barzani’s stiff opposition to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki -- known as an ally of Iran -- and his support for Syrian Kurds in the battle between rebels and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in addition to his strong ties with Anakra, have all angered Iran. Barzani also refused to meet Maliki in Tehran with Iranians mediating between the two leaders, and played a key role in efforts to unseat the Iraqi prime minister.
Iran has tried to exert pressure on the Kurdish leader, who used to live in Iran as an exiled politician in the 1970s and 1980s. Recently, Iranian state television broadcast “confessions” by alleged members of a group trained by the Israeli intelligence service to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. Iranians have claimed that the detained individuals were trained in a neighboring region, hinting at either the Kurdistan Region or Azerbaijan.
A source who did not want to be identified told Rudaw that the editor-in-chief of Israel-Kurd magazine was kidnapped by Iran. Mawloud Afand went missing in early June following a trip to Sulaimani. There is no official account of his whereabouts, but many suspect he might have been abducted by Iranian agents. The source told Rudaw that Afand is currently in prison in Tehran and has been tortured to “make confessions” against Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)....

-bth: very interesting 3 way going on here Turkey/Iran/Kurds

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taliban chief says his fighters have infiltrated Afghan forces and are killing foreign troops - The Washington Post

Taliban chief says his fighters have infiltrated Afghan forces and are killing foreign troops - The Washington Post

 By Associated Press, Published: August 16

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban’s reclusive leader said Thursday that his fighters have infiltrated the Afghan police and army and were successfully killing a rising number of U.S.-led coalition forces.

Mullah Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed chief of the Afghan insurgency, emailed his eight-page message to news organizations ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Omar said Afghan security forces were assisting Taliban fighters who infiltrate their ranks, kill foreign troops and then carry their government-issued weapons back to insurgent camps.

They are able to (safely) enter bases, offices and intelligence centers of the enemy,” he said. “Then, they easily carry out decisive and coordinated attacks, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.”

Attacks where Afghan soldiers or policemen, or militants wearing Afghan uniforms kill their foreign partners is on the rise, but the coalition claims only 10 percent of the attacks can be linked to infiltrators.

... The Taliban leader also called on his fighters to protect the life and property of the Afghan people.
The U.N. says more than three-fourths of the 1,145 civilian deaths in the first six months of this year were blamed on insurgents.

“I urge you emphatically to be careful about the civilian losses and take this on yourselves as an explicit responsibility,” Omar told his followers....

-bth: Omar's proclamations seem professionally crafted. 

As silence greets returning war dead, Afghanistan is rarely spoken of on campaign trail - Nation - The Boston Globe

As silence greets returning war dead, Afghanistan is rarely spoken of on campaign trail - Nation - The Boston Globe



 The remains of Marine Lance Corporal Gregory T. Buckley arrived at Dover Air Force Base on Monday.
...“There is bipartisan complicity to ignore the war,” McGovern said.

Kelly, the Marine general who made the very personal trip to Dover two years ago to greet the body of his son, sees a fundamental disconnect between the electorate and those who serve.

“We [in the military] are only less than 1 percent of American society, and the other 99 percent doesn’t really know much about us,” said Kelly, who enlisted in Boston in 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War.

The sense of isolation was on display after the tarmac ceremony for Linnabary at the nearby American Legion post here, where a mix of veterans and active-duty troops sipped happy hour beers and watched the Olympics.

“The media doesn’t cover it so Americans don’t see the war,” said an enlisted airman who did not want to give his name. “It’s kind of odd because in every other case, bad news travels faster than good news.”


His friend, a recently retired master sergeant, diagnosed a terminal case of “war fatigue” in the country.
“It’s the elephant in the room, but people are desensitized to it,” said Brian Bellamy, 47.

But as the Air Force cargo jet ferrying Linnabary was heading toward the Atlantic coast last week, the war was all too real back in Helmand Province, where he died.

In a telephone interview from his headquarters in southern Afghanistan, Major General David Berger, commander of the First Marine Division, was asked whether the relative lack of attention back home is affecting his Marines. He paused.

“It’s a fair question,” he said. “They know why they’re here. Most volunteered after September 2001. We started this for the right reasons.”

Nevertheless, he added, “It’s in the back of your mind: Is the country behind us?”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Israeli demands from Obama - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews

Israeli demands from Obama - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews


Israel may rule out a unilateral attack in Iran should the US toughen its stance with regards to the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, a senior official in Jerusalem claimed. "The problem is that the Iranians are not identifying determination on the American side. This is why they have been accelerating the pace of their uranium enrichment over the past four months. They are also developing the weapon itself at a fast pace," the official said.

"The Iranian regime is certain that in any case 2012 will pass peacefully. They assume the US will not attack for fear of soaring oil prices and because of the presidential elections. They do not believe we will attack without a green light from Washington. Therefore, it is in the Americans' interest to convince the Iranians that the US may attack, not to convince us not to attack."

So what, according to the official, must the US do to prevent Israeli warplanes from taking off en route to Iran? First of all, Obama must repeat, publicly (at the UN General Assembly for instance), that the US will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and that Israel has a right to defend itself, independently. Jerusalem would view such a statement as a virtual commitment by the US to act, militarily if needed, and would likely cause Israel to reconsider the unilateral military option.

Israeli officials have noted that Obama has not made a clear statement to this effect since the AIPAC conference in March. They claim that his silence is giving the Iranians the impression that the US administration is not determined to stop the nuclear program.
Israel is also demanding that Washington inform Iran that if significant progress in the negotiations with the P5+1 group (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) is not made within the next two weeks, the talks will be suspended. The reason: As long as the negotiations persist, the Iranians will remain certain that they are immune to an attack or additional drastic economic measures and will continue to buy time in order to enrich uranium to a level of 20%. Israel has also suggested that the US present Iran with an ultimatum: Suspend the efforts to refine uranium to 20% during the negotiations, or we will quit the talks. We won’t negotiate while you advance towards nuclear "breakout" capability.  ...

Eisenhower on Integrity

"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible." -- Dwight David Eisenhower

Monday, August 13, 2012

Panetta: Pakistan military plans to open new front - Yahoo! News

Panetta: Pakistan military plans to open new front - Yahoo! News


WASHINGTON (AP) — Pakistan has told U.S. military officials that it plans to launch combat operations against Taliban militants soon in a tribal area near the Afghan border that also serves as a haven for leaders of the al-Qaida-affiliated Haqqani network, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

Speaking to The Associated Press in his Pentagon office, Panetta said Pakistan's military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, discussed the planned operation in recent conversations with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

Panetta said he did not know when the Pakistani operation would start, but he said he understands it will be in the "near future," and that the main target will be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network.

Panetta welcomed Kayani's initiative, even though the main target may not be the Haqqani leadership.

"They've talked about it for a long time. Frankly, I'd lost hope that they were going do anything about it. But it does appear that they in fact are going to take that step."...

-bth: this has become just theater. There is no element of surprise and no anvil on the Afghan side of the border with US forces to smash the Haqqani network against.  It is a farce.

Analysis: Are Israelis tough enough for a long war with Iran? | Reuters

Analysis: Are Israelis tough enough for a long war with Iran? | Reuters

... While surveys show a growing minority - now 32-35 percent - of Israelis favor taking Iran on alone, more are opposed. Around a quarter are undecided.

Some commentators ask whether a Jewish state shaped through decades of war has become more fearful of the consequences in the face of Iran, a formidable and distant foe capable, along with Islamist guerrilla allies in Lebanon and Gaza, of raining down thousands of missiles and rockets in retaliation.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak estimates 500 Israelis would die should a strike on Iran, which denies seeking to develop nuclear weaponry, turn into a regional exchange of fire.

Such casualties would be painful for a population of 7.8 million, but would not be on the same scale as Israel's 1 percent death toll from its 1948 independence war...

Less Money, More Bureaucracy: Military Robotics After Afghanistan

Less Money, More Bureaucracy: Military Robotics After Afghanistan

 LAS VEGAS: "We've been spoiled," the colonel said. Since 9/11, the military has had "giant pots of money" to throw at urgent problems without going through the full acquisition process. It's been a bonanza for contractors with innovative technology to offer. But as the war winds down, Lt. Col. Stuart Hatfield of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) warned, the war funding goes away -- and the bureaucracy comes back.The military will still invest in the now-archtypical unmanned missions like flying drones for surveillance and ground robots to clear bombs. It will also explore new areas like unmanned trucks for supply convoys and increase its focus on lighter, more deployable systems. But it will do so with fewer dollars and more rules.

"It's not more bureaucracy; it's the old bureaucracy, [back to] the way of doing business that we always did," Hatfield said at the Las Vegas conference of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). "When OCO [overseas contingency operations] funding goes away, if you're not a program of record, there's nothing to sustain it."...

-bth: very depressing situation for an emerging industry.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Iraq: Turkey And The Lost Province

Iraq: Turkey And The Lost Province

 August 11, 2012: Iraq is very angry at Turkey because the Turkish foreign minister visited the disputed (between the autonomous Kurds of northern Iraq) city of Kirkuk recently. The Kurds (22 percent Iraqis) want to gain control of Kirkuk and nearby oil fields and become more independent of Arab Iraq. The visit by the Turkish foreign minister to Kirkuk was not approved by the Arab controlled Iraqi government and the Iraqis see this as another example of Turkey supporting the partition of Iraq.
The northern Kurdish zone has been autonomous since the 1990s (when Kurdish militias kept Saddam's troops out with the help of U.S. and British warplanes). The Iraqis are also aware that, until 1918, northern Iraq (the Kurdish zone plus Kirkuk and Mosul) were part of Turkey. Not the Turkish Empire but the Turkish heartland. Turkey has always maintained that taking "Mosul province" away from Turkey (so the Turks would not have oil) was unfair and unjust. The Arab Iraqis see Turkish support of Iraqi Kurdish autonomy in the north as an attempt to get back, after a fashion, their lost Mosul province. The Iraqis fear that the Turks would support a Kurdish effort to oust Iraqis troops from Kirkuk or even Mosul. This would expand the Kurdish north, give it a lot more oil, which would be exported via Turkey. The Kurds could continue the fiction that they are part of Iraq and the Turks could believe that they have, sort of, gotten back their lost province....

Hillary Clinton puts forward U.S. priorities in tackling Syrian crisis - Xinhua | English.news.cn

Hillary Clinton puts forward U.S. priorities in tackling Syrian crisis - Xinhua | English.news.cn

...
Clinton said the United States and Turkey agreed that there are three priorities in the next step on the Syrian crisis.
First, she said, the United States and Turkey would continue to support the Syrian opposition groups to accelerate the regime transition.
"The U.S. would provide communication assistance, financial assistance to the oppositions," Clinton said.
Second, the United States and Turkey would cooperate to address the humanitarian crisis created by the ongoing violence in Syria.
Clinton announced an additional 5.5 million U.S. dollars humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, bringing the total U.S. aid to 82 million U.S. dollars since the crisis began 17 month ago.
Finally, Clinton expressed the United States' solidarity with Turkey in fighting Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK), "Syria should not become haven for PKK terrorism," Clinton added, "the U.S. stand firmly with Turkey against PKK."...

How Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard Came Up With Their Big Ideas - YouTube

How Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard Came Up With Their Big Ideas - YouTube

Hines Bridge dedication Monday » Local News » NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Hines Bridge dedication Monday » Local News » NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA


AMESBURY — The Hines family will join local and state officials Monday to officially dedicate the newly rebuilt 1st Lieutenant Derek S. Hines Memorial Bridge.
The ceremony is slated to begin at 3:15 p.m. on the north side of the bridge in Amesbury.
The bridge, which links Amesbury with Newburyport, will be closed at 2 p.m. Monday in preparation for the dedication and is expected to remain closed for at least a few hours.
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray leads the list of state officials who will be on hand to mark the occasion. Also expected to attend are Richard Davey, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; Coleman Nee, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services; state Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport; Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday and Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington.
As part of the ceremony, Murray will unveil a plaque in Hines’ memory. Hines’ parents, Steven and Susan Hines, as well as other family members are expected to witness the unveiling.
A native of Newburyport, the U.S. Army soldier was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005 while serving with the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
Closed since November 2010, the Hines Bridge opened on Monday following the completion of the $34 million replacement project. The new bridge consists of a four-span superstructure with two fixed approach spans and two pivoting middle spans. The new span is almost 4 feet wider than the one it replaced, for an overall width of 26 feet, 4 inches. Sidewalks were also widened to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The public is invited to attend Monday’s ceremony.

Chad Staples, Paralyzed Army Veteran Mocked By Best Western Hotel Clerk, Wants Policy Change (VIDEO)

Chad Staples, Paralyzed Army Veteran Mocked By Best Western Hotel Clerk, Wants Policy Change (VIDEO)