Sunday, June 30, 2013

Is Turkey As Democratic As Washington Thinks?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

 It all started with an environmental protest against a government’s decision to replace a rare park with a shopping mall in the center of Istanbul.

The police response was harsh. 

Tear gas and water canons were used abundantly. Dozens of people were injured. Hundreds were jailed. 

Soon it became clear that the protest was no longer just about the destruction of trees. For nearly three weeks, Turks poured onto the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other cities to call for an end of what they viewed as the creeping authoritarianism of Prime Minister Recceyp Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan is the leader of the Justice and Development Party, also known AKP, a political party with roots in the “so-called” ideology of moderate Islamism. He came to power more than a decade ago.

Initially, he was praised in the west for leading attempts to further democratize Turkey. In 2010, for instance, he changed the constitution bringing the country under more civilian control. 

He lifted a near century-old ban on women headscarves in public institutions. 

But since the constitutional amendment, Turks have increasingly been worried about Mr. Erdogan’s hidden intentions as he has sought to build more mosques and limit the sale of alcohol. 

Under Mr. Erdogan’s tenure, Turkey has become the biggest prison for journalists, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

Last week, the police widened their violent crackdown clearing Gezi Park from the protesters, who had posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s authority in more than a decade. For now, the demonstrations seem to have largely been tapered off. But the disillusioned, discontented and worried Turks are still there.  

Turkey was established as a secular nation state in 1923, shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. 

Turkey has always been an exceptional country in the region and is a non-Arab nation that is Muslim and the center of the Ottoman Empire, which was a world power for centuries. 

It is also one of the few that never experienced western colonialism, thanks to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who defeated forces sent by the allies in World War I.

While most Arab countries depend on oil for their state-run economy and use the natural resources as tools to insulate themselves from the people, Turkey boasts a free market in which a vibrant economy is thriving without having abundant oil reserves to rely on. 

It derives some 23 percent of its gross domestic product from tax, and the rest from trade, industry, service sectors and agriculture – a comparatively large percentage.

With some 79 million people, Turkey is a country with a mosaic of ethnic and religious groups located in a distinctive location between Europe and Asia. 
Its geostrategic position is home to one of the major US military bases. 

Since 2003, it has become the main route for Iraq’s oil and has the potential to aid the flow of gas to Europe.

But Turkey has big problems with its own Kurdish population. 

That is partly a result of Mr. Ataturk’s authoritarian vision to create an exclusive state based on “Turkishness”.  This constitutional definition of Turkey failed to contain millions of non-Turkish minorities.

For their ethnic rights, Kurds have fought bloody conflicts with the Turkish state. The most prominent one has been led by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was established in 1984. The PKK-Turkey conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

So is Mr. Erdogan a rising autocrat? Does his nostalgia for an Ottoman past mean he’s turning the modern country into a theocracy like Iran?  What future is awaiting Turkey in an increasingly tumultuous region?

Joining this episode of Inside America

Edmund Ghareeb, an American University Professor of Middle East Politics. Dr. Ghareeb has extensive knowledge and experience in Turkey. He has particularly written on the Kurds, a large ethnic minority living in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. He is the American University's Center for Global Peace's first Mustafa Barzani Scholar of Global Kurdish Studies.  

Michael Lane is the Founder and President of the American Institute for Foreign Policy, a private entity dispensing strategic analysis, advice and forecasts on international events.  Lane founded the organization in 2004 building on a foundation gained working more than three decades in military policy and planning, as well as national and international political activity. Mr. Lane has appeared on major international television networks including BBC, CNN, ABC and Al-Jazeera. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What Is Mormonism?

By Namo Abdulla  - for Rudaw
New York City - In this documentary film, Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla finds out where the religion of Mormonism currently stands in U.S. society. 

Mormonism emerged nearly 200 years ago and recent numbers predict it has 14 million followers around the world. 

In addition to showing the historical evolutions the religion has undergone, the documentary explains major differences and similarities between Mormonism and other religions--namely Christianity and Islam. 

The very emergence of the “religion’s messenger contradicts fundamental Islamic belief,” says Abdulla. Islam considers Prophet Mohammed the last messenger sent for humanity.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Inside America: Should Iran get a Nuclear Bomb?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

American and Israeli officials have warned that all options, including a military strike, are on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Likewise, most western commentators seem to agree that a nuclear-armed Iran is the worst possible outcome for the current standoff between the Islamic Republic and the United States.

Tough economic sanctions, assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists, and sometimes supporting opposition groups who seek regime change from within, have so far been among America’s preferences to dissuade Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Why is the United States so worried about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran? If Tehran’s ayatollahs gained nuclear weapons, will they seek the destruction of U.S. allies in the Middle East?

 In a predominantly Sunni Middle East, would the presence of nuclear arsenal in the Shi’a-dominated Iran cause more stability or instability?

Joining this episode of Inside America are two distinguished U.S. professors with extensive experience and knowledge on Iran and its nuclear program: The first one is Hillary Mann Leverett, a professor of International Relations at the American University here in Washington, D.C. She is co-author of “Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” In the George W. Bush Administration, Dr. Leverett served as Director for Iran, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council.

The second guest is Raymond Tanter, a Georgetown University professor of Terrorism and Proliferation. Dr. Tanter has served on the senior staff of the National Security Council and as personal representative of the Secretary of Defense to arms control talks in Europe in the Reagan-Bush administration.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Inside America: Is America in decline?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C - After the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the United States emerged as the world’s number one superpower. Or so many thought.

American author, Francis Fukayama, wrote his most famous book, The End of History and the Last Man.

Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy, or the kind of political system that America has, may constitute the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government.”

But if the U.S. had enjoyed a decade of unchallenged supremacy in 1990s,  it would not bid farewell to the second year of the 21st century before coming under the worst attack in its modern history.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, America waged a war against a broadly defined enemy-- terror.

Iraq and Afghanistan would soon fit that category.

Over the past decade, America has spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in foreign wars,but the loss was not just in life and money.

As war turned much of Iraq and Afghanistan into havoc, America also started to see it’s global popularity diminish.

Then in 2009, the "Great Recession" hit America, making the first decade of the 21st century even worse for what continues to be the world’s largest economy. Domestically, Americans started to feel severe impacts. In 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama assumed the White House as the first black president, the unemployment rate reached 10 percent, the highest in decades.

Currently, jobless Americans make up 7.5 percent of the population and since economic growth has slowed to a trickle, leaving many in the dark about America's ability to achieve full-economic recovery. All this comes at a time when its allies in Europe are suffering bigger crises.

America welcomed the second decade of the 21st century and in 2010 President Obama officially ended a long and costly war in Iraq.

But some Americans still criticize Obama’s Iraq policy.

Jay Garner, who was appointed in 2003 as Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq, following the 2003 invasion, tells Rudaw that the U.S. has “lost” the Iraq War.

“The Iranians have far more influence in the Arab Iraq than we do,” he said.

Just one year later, good news came to Americans after Obama announced the success of a strategic strike on a safe house for Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Americans took to the streets cheering as the news went global and the death of the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks was official, bringing closure to a shaky period in American history.

But in 2011, the unexpected happened. Average Arabs took to the streets to topple dictators who had been longtime allies of the United States.

Amid the world’s economic and political upheavals, China is the one country that has not only gone unscathed, but also has increasingly risen as a global superpower to challenge US supremacy.

China owns more than one trillion dollar of US debt.

Does the rise of others mean the decline of America? Has the 21st century already marked the beginning of the end of what many call US hegemony in the world?