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Turkey Predicts Alliance With Egypt as Regional Anchors

By ANTHONY SHADID

Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press

Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, predicted an “axis of democracy” in his region.

The portrait was described by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey in an hourlong interview before he was to leave for the United Nations, where a contentious debate was expected this week over a Palestinian bid for recognition as a state. Viewed by many as the architect of a foreign policy that has made Turkey one of the most relevant players in the Muslim world, Mr. Davutoglu pointed to that issue and others to describe a region in the midst of a transformation. Turkey, he said, was “right at the center of everything.”

He declared that Israel was solely responsible for the near collapse in relations with Turkey, once an ally, and he accused Syria’s president of lying to him after Turkish officials offered the government there a “last chance” to salvage power by halting its brutal crackdown on dissent.

Strikingly, he predicted a partnership between Turkey and Egypt, two of the region’s militarily strongest and most populous and influential countries, which he said could create a new axis of power at a time when American influence in the Middle East seems to be diminishing.

“This is what we want,”
Mr. Davutoglu said.

“This will not be an axis against any other country — not Israel, not Iran, not any other country, but this will be an axis of democracy, real democracy,
” he added. “That will be an axis of democracy of the two biggest nations in our region, from the north to the south, from the Black Sea down to the Nile Valley in Sudan.”

His comments came after a tour last week by Turkish leaders — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mr. Davutoglu among them — of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the three Arab countries that have undergone revolutions this year. His criticism of old allies and embrace of new ones underscored the confidence of Turkey these days, as it tries to position itself on the winning side in a region unrecognizable from a year ago.

Unlike an anxious Israel, a skeptical Iran and a United States whose regional policy has been criticized as seeming muddled and even contradictory at times, Turkey has recovered from early missteps to offer itself as a model for democratic transition and economic growth at a time when the Middle East and northern Africa have been seized by radical change. The remarkably warm reception of Turkey in the Arab world — a region Turks once viewed with disdain — is a development almost as seismic as the Arab revolts and revolutions themselves.

Mr. Davutoglu credited a “psychological affinity” between Turkey and much of the Arab world, which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for four centuries from Istanbul.

The foreign minister, 52, remains more scholar than politician, though he has a diplomat’s knack for bridging divides. Cerebral and soft-spoken, he offered a speech this summer to Libyan rebels in Benghazi — in Arabic. Soon after the revolution in Tunisia, he hailed the people there as the “sons of Ibn Khaldoun,” one of the Arab world’s greatest philosophers, born in Tunis in the 14th century. “We’re not here to teach you,” he said. “You know what to do. Ibn Khaldoun’s grandsons deserve the best political system.”

That sense of cultural affinity has facilitated Turkey’s entry into the region, as has the successful model of Mr. Davutoglu’s Justice and Development Party, whose deeply pious leaders have won three consecutive elections, presided over a booming economy and inaugurated reform that has made Turkey a more liberal, modern and confident place. Mr. Erdogan’s defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel — relations between Turkey and Israel collapsed after Israeli troops killed nine people on board a Turkish flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010 — has bolstered his popularity.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan was afforded a rapturous welcome in Egypt, where thoroughfares were adorned with his billboard-size portraits. (“Lend us Erdogan for a month!” wrote a columnist in Al Wafd, an Egyptian newspaper.)

Mr. Davutolglu, who accompanied him there, said Egypt would become the focus of Turkish efforts, as an older American-backed order, buttressed by Israel, Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, prerevolutionary Egypt, begins to crumble. On the vote over a Palestinian state, the United States, in particular, finds itself almost completely isolated.

He also predicted that Turkey’s $1.5 billion investment in Egypt would grow to $5 billion within two years and that total trade would increase to $5 billion, from $3.5 billion now, by the end of 2012, then $10 billion by 2015. As if to underscore the importance Turkey saw in economic cooperation, 280 businessmen accompanied the Turkish delegation, and Mr. Davutoglu said they signed about $1 billion in contracts in a single day.

“For democracy, we need a strong economy,
” he said.

Other countries — Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel — would undoubtedly look upon an Egyptian-Turkish axis with alarm. Just a year ago, Egypt’s own president, Hosni Mubarak, viewed Turkey, and Mr. Erdogan in particular, with skepticism and suspicion. But in the view of Mr. Davutoglu, such an alliance was a force for stability.

“For the regional balance of power, we want to have a strong, very strong Egypt,” said Mr. Davutoglu, who has visited the Egyptian capital five times since Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in February. “Some people may think Egypt and Turkey are competing. No. This is our strategic decision. We want a strong Egypt now.”

The phrase “zero problems” is a famous dictum written by Mr. Davutoglu, who served as Mr. Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser before becoming foreign minister. By it, he meant that Turkey would strive to end conflicts with its neighbors. Successes have been few. Problems remain with Armenia, and Turkey was unable to resolve the conflict in Cyprus, still divided into Greek and Turkish zones. Turkey’s agreement to host a radar installation as part of a NATO missile defense system has rankled neighboring Iran.

Most spectacularly, its relations with Israel collapsed after the Israeli government refused a series of Turkish demands that followed the attack on the boat: an apology, compensation for the victims and a lifting of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“Nobody can blame Turkey or any other country in the region for its isolation,” he said of Israel. “It was Israel and the government’s decision to isolate themselves. And they will be isolated even more if they continue this policy of rejecting any proposal.”

Caught by surprise by the Arab revolts — as pretty much everyone was — Turkey staggered. At least $15 billion in investments were lost in the civil war in Libya, and Turkish diplomats initially opposed NATO’s intervention. For years, Turkey cultivated ties with Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, seeing Syria as its fulcrum for integrating the region’s economies. Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Assad counted themselves as friends.

Syria’s failure to — as Mr. Davutoglu put it — heed Turkey’s advice has wrecked relations, and Turkey is now hosting Syrian opposition conferences and groups.

Last month, in meetings that lasted more than six hours, Mr. Davutoglu said Mr. Assad agreed on a Turkish road map — announcing a specific date for parliamentary elections by year’s end, repealing a constitutional provision that enshrined power in the ruling Baath Party, drafting a constitution by the newly elected Parliament and then holding another election once the constitution decided between a presidential or a parliamentary system. Despite face-to-face assurances, Mr. Assad did not follow through.

“For us, that was the last chance,” Mr. Davutoglu said.

Asked if he felt betrayed, he replied, “Yes, of course.”

Mr. Davutoglu accused Mr. Assad of “not fulfilling promises and not telling the truth.”

“This is the illusion of autocratic regimes,”
he said. “They think that in a few days they will control the situation. Not today, but tomorrow, next week, next month. They don’t see. And this is a vicious circle.”

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Mutually Assured Destruction

Will the President and the Congress Send a Message to Turkey and Egypt That An Attack Upon Israel Will Be Viewed As An Attack Upon the U.S.?

By Ed Koch

Israel is now surrounded by Arab and other Muslim nations who believe this is the moment when they can finally destroy the Jewish state. They tried and failed to conquer Israel in five different wars since 1948. They are still trying.

Since the “Arab Spring” revolts in the Arab heartland of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria, opinion-makers in the Western world have sought to glamorize those revolutions by comparing them to those by which eastern European countries freed themselves from Communist regimes imposed on them by the Soviet Union.

So when the uprisings took place against the existing repressive Arab governments, the media labeled the various revolutions the “Arab Spring.” That title was intended to convey that finally, the Arabs, heretofore stuck in medieval times, had come out of those dark ages and were now to be applauded and welcomed to the western world.

Some observers, including myself, have voiced great concern about the blind support in the west, particularly in our government, for the Arab revolutionary movements everywhere. In my view, it was harmful to our own – the U.S. – national security needs to throw the President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak under the bus by demanding his removal as President Obama did. Yes, he was a despot, described as an authoritarian in a world of Muslim dictatorships, but he believed in keeping good relations with the U.S. and keeping the peace with Israel established back in 1978 by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at Camp David. Those who overthrew him have made clear that their intention is to end that peace. The forces that are dominant in Egypt today are the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. The goal of the military is to preserve their special niche as the principal governing power. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist factions are the strongest politically and most organized of all the civilian groups vying for power in the next presidential election.

As a result of the recent occupation and sacking of the Israeli embassy in Cairo while Egyptian police and army stood by, we know that the current interim Egyptian government has decided to cast aside peace with Israel and go with the Islamists. The Times of September 11th reported, “Egyptian military and security police officers largely stood by without interfering with the demolition. Instead, they clustered at the entrance to the embassy to keep protesters out. The security forces had pulled back from Tahrir Square and other areas before the start of the day to avoid clashes with the protesters, although the military had issued a stern warning on its Facebook page against property destruction.” The Israeli ambassador, his family and other Israeli officials were forced to flee the embassy in fear of their lives. Because of the entreaties of President Obama to the Egyptian government, they were saved from violence and permitted to board Israeli jets to go home to Israel.

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And what of the situation with Turkey? Once a friend of Israel, it now has an Islamist government led by its prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has issued a statement tantamount to a declaration of war. The Times reported on September 10th, “The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab network, that he would use his warships to prevent Israeli commandos from again boarding a Gaza-bound ship as they did last year, killing nine passengers, and from letting Israel exploit natural gas resources at sea.”

While the United Nations, not normally a defender of Israel, recently issued a report that Israel had a right to blockade Gaza so as to prevent weapons from being brought into the Gaza Strip, now governed by Hamas, Turkey has rejected the report, and expelled the Israeli ambassador. Hamas has declared that it is at war with Israel, and that if it is ever in a position to do so, it will expel every Jew living in Israel who came to Palestine after 1917, and will use violence to achieve its goals. It has intentionally killed innocent civilians, sending thousands of rockets into southern Israel or allowing other terrorist groups to do so.

In addition to Hamas on its southern border, Israel is now facing an increasingly hostile Egypt, with an army of nearly one million and a population of 81 million. To Israel’s north is not only hostile Lebanon and Syria, but now Turkey with an army of one million and a population of 73 million.

It is also disturbing that there is a rising tide of Jew-hatred in Great Britain and in France. In Great Britain, that hatred was recently demonstrated by those who called themselves artists, who disrupted a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta in London on September 1st. The police arrested no one who for a time prevented the audience of 5,000 from enjoying the evening. No speaker supporting Israel is permitted to speak at British universities. They are not invited or hooted down if invited.

France is working with the Palestinians to achieve their admission to the United Nations General Assembly. Israel’s only apparent defender on the European continent is Germany because of the continuous ongoing support of Israel by Chancellor Angela Merkel. I met and heard Chancellor Merkel in 2004 when I attended in Berlin the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on rising anti-Semitism, when I served as chairman of the U.S. delegation. I was impressed by the depths of her sincerity in denouncing anti-Semitism and recognizing the depravity of the German nation under Hitler in its efforts to exterminate world Jewry.

The Muslim nations are undoubtedly licking their chops at what they would do if they were ever to be successful in defeating Israel on the battlefield or at the U.N. which is prepared to serve as the site of today’s Munich. If Assad of Syria is willing to kill innocent men, women and children in the streets and cities in Syria, what do you think he would do if his soldiers patrolled Tel Aviv?

The Arab countries’ threats to destroy Israel, a nation with a total population of 7.7 million, including 1.2 million Muslims, is not receiving front page coverage or denunciations from NATO nation leaders. The revolutionaries making up the “Arab Spring” are lauded by the opinion-makers here in the U.S. and even more so in Europe.

This past Sunday, we commemorated in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania the deaths of more than 3,000 innocent civilians on 9/11, committed by Islamic terrorists whose supporters run into the millions and are now located in at least 62 countries. Our NATO allies never supported the U.S. to the extent they promised when we invaded Afghanistan to punish the Afghan government for providing a refuge for al-Qaeda, which perpetrated the 9/11 atrocities and many others. In my judgment, as harsh as it sounds, many of those NATO countries, including Britain and France, would deliver the Jewish nation into the hands of their putative murderers if it gave them “peace in our time,” just as Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. Are we willing here in the U.S. to continue to fight for our precious liberties and support countries like Israel having the same moral and cultural values?

We in America, led by President Obama and Congress, must make it absolutely clear to the Islamist terrorists that we will never surrender. We will hunt them down as we did their leader, Osama bin Laden, and kill them.

The U.S. is Israel’s only friend and ally. It is not foolish or premature to ask what will the U.S. do when and if the Muslim nations surrounding Israel, this time led by Egypt and Turkey, supported by others, assault the Jewish nation? Will the President and the Congress come to its aid? Shouldn’t Israel know now? Shouldn’t the Muslim nations know?

I urge the President and the Congress to do for Israel what President Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. President Kennedy said “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

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