Archive for March 14, 2017


March 11, 2017

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Turkey and the Netherlands sharply escalated a dispute between the two NATO allies on Saturday as the Dutch blocked a campaign visit by the Turkish foreign minister, prompting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call them “fascists.”

The Netherlands withdrew the landing permission for Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu because of objections to his intention to rally in Rotterdam for a Turkish referendum on constitutional reforms to expand presidential powers, which the Dutch see as a step backward from democracy.

“They do not know politics or international diplomacy,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul. “These Nazi remnants, they are fascists,” he added, as the crowd booed. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called it “a crazy remark, of course. But I understand they are angry but this is of course way out of line.”

Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul: “You can stop our foreign minister’s plane all you want, let’s see how your (diplomatic) planes will come to Turkey from now on.” Cavusoglu also referred to possible sanctions, and Rutte said consultations under such threats were impossible, forcing him to bar the visit.

The government said it withdrew the permission because of “risks to public order and security,” causing Cavusoglu to say: “so is the foreign minister of the Turkish republic a terrorist?” He added that “we will give them the response they deserve.”

Cavusoglu, who was speaking at Istanbul’s airport, didn’t say where his next European destination was. French authorities say he’s scheduled to travel to the northern city of Metz on Sunday. Turkish officials have been campaigning in various European cities before the April 16 referendum.

Around 100 people marched in Istanbul to protest the Dutch decision, with demonstrators placing a black wreath in front of the Dutch Consulate amid a heavy police presence. At dusk in Rotterdam, about 100 pro-Turkish demonstrators had gathered outside the Turkish Consulate with flags in a peaceful protest following the acrimonious words between both governments.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the Family and Social Policies Minister decided to go to Rotterdam via road from Germany, but police closed off the road in front of the Turkish consul-general’s residency. Dutch authorities couldn’t immediately confirm the information.

The diplomatic row comes at a time when relations between Turkey and the European Union, of which the Netherlands is a member, have been steadily worsening, especially in the wake of Erdogan’s actions since last year’s failed coup. More than 41,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 civil servants fired from their jobs.

Cavusoglu said that “unfortunately Europe and several countries in Europe, the Netherlands being in the first place, they are reminiscent of the Europe of World War II. The same racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, we see all the crimes against humanity in today’s politics.”

The dispute also comes just days before the Netherlands goes to the polls in a March 15 election for the lower house of Parliament. The campaign has been dominated by issues of identity, with anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders set to make strong gains.

After Wilders accused the government of a weak response to Turkish plans to send ministers to the Netherlands to campaign, he insisted it was his pressure which made the difference. “Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here!!,” he said in a Twitter message, referring to his Party for Freedom. He later added “I am tell all Turks in the Netherlands that agree with Erdogan: GO to Turkey and NEVER come back!!.”

Earlier Saturday, Cavusoglu said “Wilders is racist, fascist, Nazi, like a Nazi.” Citing comments that Wilders wanted action against Muslims, Cavusoglu said: “What are you going to do? Are you going to kill them, burn them or what?”

The Dutch government said it does not object to meetings in the Netherlands to give information about the Turkish referendum, “but these meetings should not add to tensions in our society and everybody who wants to organize a meeting must adhere to instructions from authorities so that public order and security can be guaranteed.”

It said the Turkish government “does not want to respect the rules in this matter.”

Zeynep Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul.

March 9, 2017

Israeli politicians and security officials are concerned by growing instability Jordan; Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said.

The paper reported yesterday: “This pessimistic outlook came in the wake of a report presented by Israel’s Ambassador in Amman Einat Schlein during a meeting with the Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot several months ago.”

Eizenkot held a closed door meeting with foreign diplomats in Tel Aviv in which he was disturbed by the ambassador’s assessment, the paper explained, adding that Israel should be ready to support King Abdullah II should things get out.

Eizenkot is reported to have explained that Tel Aviv’s keenness to support Jordan’s stability stems from the security relationship and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.

The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying: “Israeli officials have been urging both the Obama and Trump administrations to support Jordan economically and militarily, which has absorbed more than a million Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.”

In 1994, Jordan and Israel signed the Wadi Araba peace treaty to become the second Arab country after Egypt to normalize relations with Tel Aviv.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170309-israel-concerned-by-growing-instability-in-jordan/.

Moscow (Sputnik)

Mar 03, 2017

Turkey is close to starting its own version of NASA, as a draft bill for legislation to create a Turkish Space Agency is finalized and readied for review by the Turkish parliament. Turkey is coming closer to finalizing its long-envisioned dream to establish its own space agency, to determine the country’s space policies and help develop a national space industry. A bill draft to define basic principles has been sent to the Turkish parliament. The bill is expected to pass without debate.

According to Defense News, the bill defines the mission of a Turkish Space Agency as “reducing dependence on foreign technology, coordinating work for space platforms, launching facilities and systems, and helping develop, integrate, launch, monitor and operate aerospace systems.”

The agency will unite efforts of various Turkish ministries, with ministers of science, industry and technology; as well as those of development; defense; transport; maritime, and communications, all included in the executive board, chaired by the Turkish prime minister.

The agency will reportedly combine the experience of similar institutions in the United States (NASA), Japan, Germany and France.

According to Anadolu news agency, the idea of creating a Turkish Space Agency came onto the agenda for the first time in 2014 after Turkey’s transport minister said that the government was preparing legislation to present to the Council of Ministers. Later, it was included in a government action plan in December 2015.

Reports suggest that Turkey is seeking to alleviate its dependence on foreign nations in spacecraft construction. Its latest satellite Gokturk-1, was proudly announced as “20 percent Turkish,” thanks to the $112 million Space Systems Integration and Test Center, an assembly facility that reportedly allows simultaneous construction and testing of more than one satellite of up to five tons. The country plans to build its first completely indigenous spacecraft by 2019.

Turkey also seeks to build its own satellite launch facility. Two possible locations for the launchpad are Datca, on Turkey’s southwestern coast, and the partially-recognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. According to Defense News, players in the Turkish satellite programs are Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm; Tubitak Uzay, the state scientific research space department; Turkish Aerospace Industries, and CTech, a software company.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Turkey_Moves_Closer_to_Launching_Own_Space_Agency_999.html.

March 8, 2017

A joint study by two European non-governmental organisations that have strong links to EU parliamentarians and other senior European and international figures has accused Iran of meddling in the affairs of 14 Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and playing a “destructive role” in the region.

The study by the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), led by former Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, and the International Committee in Search for Justice (ISJ), both Brussels-based NGOs, paints a dire picture of Iranian interventionism in the region, and accuses Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of being directly involved.

“[Iranian] meddling in the affairs of other regional countries is institutionalized and the IRGC top brass has been directly involved,” the report said, directly implicating the Iranian military and state apparatus in destabilization operations around the Middle East.

The report, released earlier this week, criticized the IRGC for undertaking a “hidden occupation” of four countries, namely Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

“In all four, the IRGC has a direct, considerable military presence,” the report detailed, adding that the troop presence in Syria alone in the summer of 2016 was “close to 70,000 Iranian regime proxy forces”. This included not only Iranians, but also sectarian Shia jihadists recruited, trained, funded and controlled by the IRGC, hailing from Iraq, Afghanistan and further afield.

The report exposed the locations of 14 IRGC training camps within Iran where its recruits are divided up according to their nation of origin and the tasks they are allotted, whether front line combat or international terrorist activities.

The European study said: “Every month, hundreds of forces from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon – countries where the [Iranian] regime is involved in frontline combat – receive military training and are subsequently dispatched to wage terrorism and war.”

According to the researchers who compiled this report, one of the worst affected countries due to Iranian meddling and interventionism is Iraq. Even Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi, who was recently appointed to the post in January 2017 used to be the head of the Iraq desk at the IRGC.

‘Designate IRGC as terrorists’

Iran has been increasingly emboldened to act since former US President Barack Obama authorized the much touted nuclear deal with the Tehran regime, the NGOs argued. The deal, brokered by the so-called P5+1, was designed to limit Iranian nuclear ambitions that likely sought to acquire atomic weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.

Since sanctions have been largely lifted at the beginning of 2016, Iran has enjoyed increased financial and economic clout, which it has subsequently invested in its efforts to destabilize and influence more than a dozen countries in the Middle East.

The main countries assessed in the report include: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Palestine. The latter is seen by experts on the region to be a public relations campaign conducted by Tehran to increase its Islamic credentials by appearing to support the Palestinians against Israel, while helping regimes around the region crush Palestinian refugee communities.

A prominent example of Iranian support for the brutal crackdowns against Palestinians was in Iraq after the illegal 2003 US-led invasion, where Palestinian refugees were perceived by Iran and their proxy Shia jihadists as being pro-Saddam Hussein. Iranian assistance for killing Palestinians also occurred in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, during the ongoing war against dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

Among its recommendations in its conclusion, the report argued that the IRGC should be designated as a terrorist organisation in the US, Europe and Middle East, with its operations curtailed and the organisation expelled from the entire Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria.

The NGOs also recommended “sanctioning all financial sources and companies affiliated with the IRGC” as well as “initiating international efforts to disband paramilitary groups and terrorist networks affiliated with the [IRGC’s] Quds Force.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170308-study-iran-plays-destructive-role-in-iraq-syria-and-12-other-nations/.