Taking Stock in Turkey
…For the last 10 months, this nation has been so peaceful. This whole thing caught me by surprise. Yea, I have seen my fellow students march against Mr. Erdoğan’s goose stepping goons on campus before, but it was different. Before, it was just young idealists, searching for the perfect society in the mess between 200 year old books and liberal campus life. They would laugh about it, you would see kids coming back with grins on their faces, yea their skin was burning, but they got to scare Mr. Erdoğan once. I just wrote it off as “being young” and went along with my business.
But tonight was different. They say that 90 percent of all communication in nonverbal, so when I see the faces of the mass of youth here, walking or limping from the white/orange haze of pepper gas (and who knows what else), or when you talk to them, and instead of hearing their words you listen to their inflections and tone you get a sense of why this moment is different… >continue<
Aljazeera video report »
Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has issued a long-awaited cease-fire declaration that would be a major step towards ending a 30-year conflict…
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ocalan both appear to have staked their political futures on the renewed push to end the 29-year armed campaign for self-rule that has killed about 40,000 people, mostly Kurds.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Diyarbakir, said Erdogan has made no secret that he was eyeing the presidency.
"He will need to amend the constitution and would like to increase the powers of the president. He can not do that without the support of the Kurdish party, the BDP," she added.
Erdogan said he was putting his faith in the peace process “even if it costs me my political career”, in the face of accusations that Ankara was making concessions to Ocalan — routinely labelled a “terrorist chief” and “baby-killer” by Turks.
Ocalan — known as “Apo” — has said he wants peace for the greater good of his people.
"Consider Apo dead if this process fails. I am simply out," the burly 64-year-old was quoted as saying in a rare prison meeting with Kurdish lawmakers last month. >continue<
Ascending to an executive presidency would cement Erdogan’s position as Turkey’s most significant leader since Ataturk, but it will require astute political maneuvering to win support from either Kurdish or nationalist opposition deputies.
"Erdogan’s charisma is both an advantage and a liability. It’s an advantage because he possesses powers of persuasion; it’s a liability because of his over-confidence, his aversion to criticism," said Ihsan Yilmaz, professor of political science at Fatih University in Istanbul. >continue<
Turkey is undergoing a constitutional redraft with a critical deadline in April. A major revision aims at replacing the parliamentary system with an executive presidency. Current PM Tayyip Erdogan, barred from repeating the as prime minister under the current system, eyes the new post. Turkey, under Erdogon and his foreign minister Davutoglu, has become a major player in the region - both economically and diplomatically, significantly impacting affairs vis a vis Syria, Iran, Iraq and the unfolding Arab Spring.
Joost Hiltermann | ICG »
Although Ankara has long supported Iraq’s territorial unity as a barrier against Iranian influence and as a check against secessionist impulses among its own Kurdish population, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently begun to shift strategies. Since 2008, it has forged a close economic bond with the KRG by opening its border and encouraging Turkish investments in the Kurdish region, and its relations with Baghdad have deteriorated… >continue<
Joshua Landis | Syria Comment »
General Manaf Tlass, One of Syria’s top Sunni Military Figures from the Inner-circle of Bashar al-Assad, has Defected…
The word is that Manaf had been told to solve the Harasta and Duma problems (the growing uprising on the outskirts of Damascus). He did a good job by negotiating with the opposition leaders in both suburbs, agreeing that both government forces and opposition would pull back. The Alawi leadership said “no, that is not how we are going to do this.” They pushed him aside and came down like a ton of bricks on the opposition in both neighborhoods, in an effort to assert state authority and crush the uprising through military means.
Manaf supported a policy of negotiation, flexibility and compromise. He was overruled by the military leadership and has since looked for a way out.
If he has indeed fled the country, the regime will be thrown back on its heels. Manaf is perhaps the most senior Sunni in the regime because he was a close friend of Bashar, he came from the Tlass family which had been at the Assads’ side from the earliest days of Hafiz’s assumption of power, and because he was situated at the heart of the military. When foreign statesmen or Syrians thought of a Sunni who could possibly take power, Manaf had to be at the top of the list… >continue<
Landis’ report - and that Manaf has fled to Turkey - is as yet unconfirmed