Washington DC N & P

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yesterday was my first day as a "guest scholar" at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I think it's going to be a nice seven months.

The Woodrow Wilson Center has awesome facilities. I've got good office space, and there are loads of interesting people here--there appear to be about 90 scholars researching at the WWC's various institutes (of which Kennan is the biggest, but not the only one). Every day there are talks, seminars, meetings, and other forms of scholarly extravaganza taking place. I get a research assistant, and even a Woodrow Wilson Center coffee mug with my name written on it.

All in all, it's a pretty sweet deal. I'm very grateful to have the chance to do this--I hope my output lives up to my research facilities.  

But enough about me, people. Here is a little N & P:


AKP cheerleader Today's Zaman sez arrest the protesters!

As you might remember from my Monday post, Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan was recently booed at a soccer game. Erdogan, who can always be depended on to overreact ridiculously to mockery of this sort, lashed out at the soccer club hosting the match, Galatasaray, and reminded them that the government had financed Galatasaray's new stadium. This reminder was accompanied by an apparent threat to take the stadium away from Galatasaray unless...it's unclear, but the president of Galatasaray has tried rolling into a fetal position and begging forgiveness, but this doesn't seem to be working.

Now Today's Zaman has come out to denounce the folks who booed Erdogan. Imagine! Booing a prime minister! What has the world come to? This hooliganism must be stopped!!!

Erdoğan accused the jeering hooligans of being irrationally prejudiced and uninformed and also of being ungrateful for the contributions made by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ), and the state in general, towards the construction of Aslantepe.
He further stated in unequivocal terms that the Galatasaray club did no contribute even a dime to the construction of the ultramodern stadium.
“Some keep saying that many contributed to the construction of the stadium [Türk Telekom Arena]. I am saying it very clearly: Galatasaray did not spend a dime for the building of this stadium. The stadium was constructed by TOKİ and assigned to Galatasaray for use,” Erdoğan said.
This makes the booing by the Galatasaray brats even harder to bear. Think about it: You are singled out among the 18 teams in topflight football and given an ultramodern stadium free of charge by the government of a prime minister who is a fan of your eternal archrival, Fenerbahçe. This prime minister abandons his tight schedule to attend your opening ceremony, on your invitation, and is subjected to boos and jeers by a bunch of nincompoops.
Galatasaray Chairman Adnan Polat had thought a simple apology would be enough. But that is far from being the case because the behavior of his fans was nothing but despicable. More has to be done to soothe the angry prime minister. Galatasaray has to identify the perpetrators and bring them to book as deterrence against any future wrongdoing.
It's a joke the way some foreign observers of Turkey think the so-called "secular elite" constitutes the only risk of political authoritarianism in Turkey. Not only have the AKP and its toadies, it seems, sought to silence the AKP's critics through the Ergenekon investigation, but Erdogan personally has sued journalists, cartoonists, and others who have criticized him, called him names, or simply made fun of him.

At first glance, parts of this article seem almost satirical, like a send-up of how a toady would sound.

Erdoğan is a man who “calls a spade a spade,” whether at home or abroad. And so, there is no way the prime minister could stand by, do nothing and allow evil to flourish. He therefore spoke his mind and no one has the right to blame him for doing so.
The ball is now in Galatasaray’s court.
Keep in mind--Galatasaray is being held responsible for the booing and obscene chants of Galatasaray fans, because....disrespect of public officials can't be allowed, apparently. 

Frankly, I don't understand why anyone would assume that rule in Turkey by an authoritarian political party or politician would necessarily be preferable to the military-bureaucratic coalition that has traditionally played such a large (and generally unhealthy) role in Turkish politics. But nevertheless, that seems to be the attitude among a number of people who comment professionally about developments in Turkey.

No matter what you think of his politics, I think it's hard to deny that Tayyip Erdogan possesses some real talents. But this sort of behavior seems really small, at best.

Here are a couple of pieces for the neo-Ottoman fear mongers to wring their hands over:

Saudis quit Lebanon talks, but Turkey still involved.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani have been leading efforts in the past few days to defuse the crisis, amid mounting fears of sectarian violence.
The two leaders on Tuesday met separately with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and parliament speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri. They also met Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who lives in hiding for fear of assassination

....and meanwhile, the Turkish government is also offering to play a bigger role in diplomacy relating to Iran.
Turkey recently found itself squeezed between France and Iran while looking for a way to solve the government crisis in Lebanon. It is set to again face a similar challenge in balancing the interests of its Western allies and its Eastern neighbor, as Istanbul is set to host talks on Tehran's nuclear program.
Although Turkey's official role is limited to hosting the talks between the six world powers – the so-called P5+1 (the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and Germany) – and Iran, the possibility of active Turkish involvement in facilitating the talks has not been excluded.
Here's another small piece on the Turkish-Iran talks. 
People sometimes ask me "Jim, what is your beef with the 'neo-Ottoman' moniker?" Well, I'll tell you: I just don't think it's a very useful term. It strikes me as an effort to exoticize and/or portray as suspicious/dangerous/etc. a set of practical policies that have nothing to do with the Ottoman Empire and everything to do with getting along with one's neighbors.

Indeed, I think that the term 'neo-Ottoman' tells us a lot more about the journalists and analysts who employ it than about Turkey itself. For whatever reason, some people can only see a country like Turkey exercising its own foreign policy (rather than acting as an extension of the EU or US) in terms of some kind of (implicitly aggressive) search for neo-imperial grandeur, rather than as a pragmatic approach to solving problems in the region outside a framework imposed upon them by foreign powers. I can understand why US government hacks would find this approach disturbing, but I get upset when journalists and others start parroting this terminology.

No matter what you might think of the Ottoman Empire, calling Turkey's policies "neo-Ottoman" constitutes an effort, I think, at de-legitimizing Ankara's current policies towards its neighbors by making them sound, well, imperial. It's not a neutral term, and by using it I feel that people are playing into the hands of interests that would prefer to not see good relations among states (like Turkey-Iran, or Turkey-Syria) in the region. 
Here is something that I wrote about this subject in an earlier post, if you're interested.
Russia & ex-USSR

Russia, BP sign big deal re oil & gas exploration in Russia's far north. 
Vladimir Putin used a Russian proverb to explain why he’s granting BP Plc access to 125,000 square kilometers (48,000 square miles) of Arctic water: the man who’s been beaten is worth two who haven’t.
The Russian prime minister is betting that BP has learned from the trauma of last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill and won’t repeat the same mistake. The Jan. 14 meeting with Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley in a ceremonial room at Putin’s country retreat sealed an agreement to swap BP shares for a holding in OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer.
The summit ended negotiations that started when Dudley’s ill-fated predecessor Tony Hayward visited Russia to seek support as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatened to destroy the London-based company. Talks gained pace after Dudley took the helm at the start of October, and over hundreds of meetings the agreement that puts BP at the centre of Russian oil exploration took shape, people involved in the deal said.
“This gives us an important leg in Russia’s oil growth for the next decades,” said David Peattie, BP’s head of Russia. “It’s one of the last remaining very prospective basins of planet, one that a company the size of BP is able to bring a lot to. We have a track record of opening basins.”
The exchange of a 5 percent stake in BP for a 9.5 percent holding in Russia’s biggest oil producer is the first of its kind between a state-owned company and an international oil producer. BP and Rosneft will search for oil in the Kara Sea off Russia’s north coast.
A cyber attack has apparently hit a Wikileaks-inspired website which deals with corruption in Russia.
Ruleaks.net posted exclusive pictures of a luxury building which it described as “Putin’s Palace”, and within a few hours was forced offline by a wave of cyber attacks.
According to site stats at one point there were 25,500 simultaneously open connections, forcing the server out of action and blocking access to the site.
Azerbaijan ratifies recent Turkish-Azeri military agreement, Turkish parliament to vote by end of January.
The Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Support, ratified by Azerbaijan’s parliament on December 21, pledges that both Turkey and Azerbaijan will support each other “using all possibilities” in the case of a military attack or “aggression” against either of the countries. Plans to upgrade hardware for joint military operations, cooperation in “military-technical” areas, joint military exercises and training sessions are also specified, but details are not provided.
The agreement would last for 10 years and would be renewed by default for another decade if neither side expresses a wish to end it. The Turkish parliament is expected to vote on ratifying the deal by the end of January, Trend news agency reported.
...meanwhile: Armenian president Sargsyan says that Nagorno-Karabakh will "never" be part of Azerbaijan.
Nagorny Karabakh has no future as part of Azerbaijan, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said.

"Azerbaijan's aggressive behavior supports our conviction that Nagorny Karabakh, under any circumstances, should never become part of Azerbaijan. Moreover, Azerbaijan does not have either legal, or political, or moral grounds for claiming Nagorny Karabakh," Sargsyan said during his current visit to Cyprus.
So much for the US-guided Turkish-Armenian-Azeri rapprochement, which is starting to look very dead in the water. 

A national commission in Kyrgyzstan has concluded that the Kyrgyz government was responsible for at least some of the violence that occurred last June between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.
A national commission in Kyrgyzstan investigating last summer's deadly ethnic violence said Wednesday said that the interim government in power at the time knew about the possible dangers of unrest but failed to act.
Commission chairman Abdygany Erkebayev said the officials that should be held responsible include those who were then interior minister, security services chief, defence minister and general prosecutor.
"The interim government was unable to prevent these events in a timely fashion, even though there were clear signals and indications," Erkebayev told The Associated Press.
Russia will soon launch a Muslim television channel in what it says is the hope it will foster tolerance.

Russian reports say the satellite channel will go on the air in February or March across Russia, home to some 20 million Muslims.
Here's another brief report on the story.
I'm not sure exactly what the Russian government hopes to accomplish with this, but people always seem to like more TV so good luck to them.
More links, commentary and photographs available poolside at the Borderlands Lounge

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