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Entries in Recep Tayyip Erdogan (4)


The Latest from Iran (28 March): Dealing with Exaggerations

2150 GMT: The website of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri claims that 30 people were arrested at the funeral of his wife, MahSoltan Rabani (see 1730 GMT).

1815 GMT: Sanctions Division. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again rejected new sanctions on Iran. In an interview with Spiegel, ahead of a visit to Turkey by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdogan maintained, "We must first try to find a diplomatic solution. "What we need here is diplomacy, and then more diplomacy....Everything else threatens world peace."

NEW Iran’s Nukes: The Dangerous News of The New York Times
The Latest from Iran (27 March): Rumours

1745 GMT: Denial of a Rumour. Yesterday we reported the story racing around the Internet that the Revolutionary Guard was laundering money through Dubai and Bahrain, using Ali Jannati, the son of Guardian Council leader Ahmad Jannati, and putting the funds in a Swiss bank.

We would have left it at that, but Press TV now reports:

Iran has denied reports that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was involved in the money-laundering operation allegedly run by a Bahraini minister.

"We strongly deny all claims about an alleged involvement of the Guards in the operations," said Iranian Ambassador to Doha Hossein Amir Abdollahian....

The allegation came to light after Bahraini State Minister Mansour Bin Rajab was sacked for his supposed involvement in a money-laundering operation.

1730 GMT: A Restricted Funeral for Montazeri's Wife. MahSoltan Rabani, the wife of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, was laid to rest today under strict security measures in Qom. Rabani's son Saeed Montazeri said:
Security forces and forces in plain clothes created such a security atmosphere that we were basically unable to carry out the special prayers and mourning ceremony. Tens of government vehicles brought the body without allowing any access to it even by her family. They made a small stop at the [Masoumeh] shrine and quickly removed her form the premises....

They not only did not allow us to hold the ceremony, they did not even let us bury her in the location that we had in mind.

Saeed Montazeri's conclusion? "They are even scared of a corpse and its burial.”

1530 GMT: We have updated our analysis on Obama Administration policy and this morning's New York Times claim of a search for undisclosed Iranian nuclear sites.

0950 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Green Voice of Freedom claims that Tehran University medical student Shirin Gharachedaghi was abducted by plainclothes forces on Friday; her whereabouts are unknown.

Peyke Iran reports that Reza Khandan, a member of the Iranian Writers Association, remains in prison after more than six weeks, even though bail has been paid.

Parleman News writes that Dr. Ali Akbar Soroush of Mazandaran University, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been in prison since 13 March.

Rah-e-Sabz claims 181 human rights violations in Kurdistan over the last three months, leading tothe deaths of at least 25 people.

0945 GMT: We've published an analysis of what I see as poor, even dangerous, journalism from The New York Times on Iran's nuclear programme.

0930 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The reformist Parleman News publishes a barbed "historical" analysis on Hashemi Rafsanjani as a mediator between "right" and "left" positions. The analysis contends that the right stopped supporting Rafsanjani when the "left" had been sufficiently weakened, leaving Rafsanjani without a role. It adds that the former Preisdent should have established a party; if so, Iran would not necessarily be in its current predicament.

0720 GMT: An International Nowruz Exaggeration? Khabar Online claims that the First International Nowruz Celebrations (see 0620 GMT), scheduled for two days, only lasted one and never made it to Shiraz, which was supposed to co-host the ceremonies with Tehran.

0710 GMT: Arab Engagement. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has told the League's summit in Libya, "We have to open a dialogue with Iran. I know there is a worry among Arabs regarding Iran but this situation confirms the necessity of a dialogue with Iran."

0655 GMT: President v. Parliament. The Ahmadinejad fightback for his subsidy cuts and spending plans continues, with three members of Parliament --- Hamid Rassai, Hossein Sobhaninia, and Esmail Kowsari --- pressing in Iranian state media for approval of the President's full request for $40 billion from his subsidy reductions. The Majlis has only approved $20 billion, and Speaker Ali Larijani and allies have taken a strong line against any revision of the decision.

Another MP, Mohammad Kousari, has suggested that Parliament approve $30 billion.

0645 GMT: Repent! Mahdi Kalhor, President Ahmadinejad's media advisor, raises both eyebrows and a smile with his forthright declarations in Khabar Online.

Kalhor started with a move for conciliation, saying that if all who made mistakes during the post-election turmoil adopted modesty and accepted their faults, people would forgive them.

But the advisor then complained that Iran's state media do not suppport Ahmadinejad, claiming this was in contrast to the period of Mohammad Khatami, "Everything was represented as fair enough and it caused damage to Mr. Khatami more than the others."

According to Kalhor, there have been no Ahmadinejad mistakes and "when the rivals constantly accuse you of lying, you may not tolerate or control such a climate."

0620 GMT: We begin Sunday dealing with inflated "news" inside and outside Iran. Iranian state media is hammering away at the two days of the First International Nowruz Celebrations to show the regional legitimacy of the regime. First, there was President Ahmadinejad's declaration alongside compatriots from compatriots from Tajikistan , Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Then there was the Supreme Leader's statement: "This event and its continuity can serve as an appropriate ground for bringing governments and nations in the region closer together....[This can be a] cultural gift and conveyance from nations that mark Nowruz to other nations, particularly the West."

(I leave it to readers to decode the photograph of the Supreme Leader and the regional Presidents, with Ahmadinejad relegated to the back of the group. Surely just an error of positioning?)

Meanwhile in the US, another type of distracting exaggeration. After weeks of silence, the Iran Nuclear Beat of The New York Times (reporters David Sanger and William Broad) are back with two pieces of fear posing as news and analysis. The two, fed by dissenting voices in the International Atomic Energy Agency and by operatives in "Western intelligence agencies", declare, "Agencies Suspect Iran Is Planning New Atomic Sites".

The leap from their sketchy evidence to unsupported conclusion --- Iran is not just pursuing an expansion of uranium enrichment but The Bomb, bringing a climactic showdown --- is propped up by Sanger's "Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran".

Middle East Inside Line: Arab League/Turkey Criticism of Israel, Peres v. Netanyahu, Armenia Complication for Turkey-Israel?

Arab League, Turkey Criticise Israel: "We have to study the possibility that the [Israel-Palestine] peace process will be a complete failure," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said on Saturday in his opening speech to the Arab League summit in the Libyan town of Sirte.

At the same meeting, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan targeted Israel both on the issues of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. He said:
Jerusalem is of great importance for whole region and Islamic world. Israel's attacks on Jerusalem and sacred places cannot be accepted.

5,000 families in Gaza are living in tents. Humanity should raise its voice against this situation.

Israel, Iran, and “Existential Threat” (Halpern)
US-Israel: On the Verge of Historic Change?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians cannot continue unless Israel stops building in the settlements:

We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo.

Peres v. Netanyahu on Settlements?: Israeli President Shimon Peres reportedly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the violation of the status quo on building in East Jerusalem by allowing construction for Jews in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in the city. He added that the crisis with Washington could be resolved with no further building for Jews in predominantly Arab areas of the city as it has been followed by previous Israeli governments.

Armenia to Complicate Israel-Turkey Alliance?: Israeli news agency IzRus says that the leader of Israel's Meretz party, Haim Oron is again preparing to bring an Armenian "genocide" proposal to the Knesset. The proposal was rejected by the Parliament last year, but Meretz argues that this year's proposal is not to be considered within the context of the Turkish-Israeli strategic relationship.

Turkey-Armenia: The Freeze in Relations

Fulya Inci writes for EA:

The reconciliation process in Turkey-Armenia relations seems to be frozen after the resolutions of U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs and Swedish Parliament in early March calling the events of 1915 as “genocide”. The Turkish Government reacted loudly to the decisions, and the two neighbouring countries now blame each other for not taking concrete steps to political resolution.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee resolution on 4 March declaring “genocide”, supporting the Armenian case, stunned Turkish officials because they thought they had conducted an effective lobbying campaign. Committee members voting against the resolution indicated that they approved the finding of genocide but that the timing of the declaration was wrong. They mentioned that it would damage the Turkey-US alliance, especially in Afghanistan, and the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia.

However, the resolution passed by a 23- 22 vote, and Turkish ambassador Namık Tan was soon recalled by Ankara. Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized President Obama for his late intervention. Tan is still in Turkey, and his return subject to a "clear stance" of Obama demanded by Erdogan.

A similar resolution was approved by the Swedish parliament in a 131-130 vote on 11 March, alleging genocide of Assyrians and Pontic Greeks at the same time. Although Swedish senior officials said that they do not support the bill, diplomatic tensions have risen.

Now the Turkish-Armenian protocols signed in October are in limbo. Armenia has made the recognition of genocide a pre-condition for further development of relations while Turkey insists on a resolution of Azeri-Armenian conflict, including over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Turkish Parliament has not ratified the protocols. Erdogan's interview with BBC Turkish Service during his last visit to London, with remarks of “deporting 100.000 Armenians living illegally in case the normalization process does not work", has been condemned.

Confusion in Turkey: Ergenekon and the "Military Coup"

EA Correspondent Aysegul Er reports:

Since 20 October 2008, the Turkey Government has been occupied with Ergenekon, a neo-nationalist group accused of plotting against the State.

It all started with 27 hand bombs, TNT moulds, and detonators found in a house on 12 June 2007. Since then, evidence from  wiretappings, weapons taken from excavations, and purported assassination plans allegedly show  a “grand project” pursued by the “deep state”. According to an indictment which is now more than 2500 pages, arrested politicians, journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, and generals formed a “terrorist” organization to create chaos weakening the ruling Justice and Development Party and justifying a military coup.

Retired Gendarme Brigadier General Veli Kucuk, retired Gendarme General Sener Eruygur, retired General of the 1st Army Commandership located in the Western Turkey Hursit Tolon, former Chancellor of the University of Istanbul Kemal Alemdaroglu, Vice President of the Labor Party Dogu Perincek, columnist Ilhan Selcuk, Ankara Chamber of Commerce Sinan Aygun, retired Brigadier General and former Head of Gendarme Intelligence Centre Levent Ersoz and even former AKP MPs Turhan Comez and Emin Sirin are among the more than 150 people who have been accused of membership in a “terrorist” organization.

Last Friday, in the 137th hearing of the Ergenekon investigation, 20 prisoners including the leader of the Labor Party, Doğu Perinçek, and retired Gendarme Brigadier General Veli Küçük made their defenses against the claims. As in the other 136 hearings, no verdict was released.

Meanwhile, the “Cage Plan”, in which weapons found in Istanbul were to be used against minorities to isolate the government in the eyes of international community, emerged. Another plan called “Balyoz” (Sledge-Hammer), targeting serving generals, occupied the front pages of newspapers last month.

According to so-called “coup diaries,” retired Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces Admiral Ozden Ornek, retired Turkish Air Force General Ibrahim Firtina, retired Brigadier General Engin Alan, retired generals of the 1st Army Commandership Cetin Dogan and Ergin Saygun, and more than 20 generals and brigadier generals can be added to the list of plotters. In a step-by-step coup, Ergenekon would pursue “deep state” manipulations such as hitting Turkish jets over the Aegean Sea and bombing two mosques.

Doğan’s response to the accusations was that hundreds of pages of documents and CDs were ordinary scenarios to be used in training the army officers. On Friday all accused were released, except Çetin Doğan and Engin Alan. (Ironically, it was Engin Alan who directed the operation of bringing the head of terrorist/separatist Kurdish movement PKK, Abdullah Ocalan from Kenya to Ankara.)

More importantly, the Chief of Staff, Ilker Basbug responded harshly to the court's accusations, although he did not specifically mention the government. He called all claims concerning any plans related with hitting a war plane or bombing mosques as “unjustness.” He said: “How can you imagine an army bombing mosques who say ‘Allah Allah’ while going to a war?”

The case has now reached the eyes of the international press. On 1 March, Daniel Steinvorth from Der Spiegel asks: “Is Erdogan Strong Enough to Take on the Generals?” He emphasized the power struggle between the government and the army and asks whether Turkey is going through a new period in which we could find a “more democratic” Ankara if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can cope with the opposition of the army.

In Turkey, however, people are still confused. Some believe that this is the most significant case  since the foundation of the republic and are hopeful of that “more democratic” Turkey. Some, on the other hand, fear this case could lead to  chaos if not to an authoritarian government.