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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 22 November 2014 - 08:53 AM


Editorial, 16 November 2014

A few years of healthy economic stats and Recep Tayyip Erdogan hails
Turkey as a rising superpower, a hegemone, although the rug can be
pulled from underneath Ankara by Europe (economically) and the US
(diplomatically) if the president of Turkey and his sidekick Davutoglu
cross the line.

To bolster Turkey's status and make their ambitious credible,
Turkey's Dynamic Duo has, in recent years, promoted a lunacy called
neo-Ottomanism... Back to the Future for Turkey and the lands the
Ottomans misgoverned for more than 400 years. The Turkish Batman and
Robin said recently that Syria, Palestine, Egypt and other Ottoman
occupied lands are domestic affairs for Turkey. Since the twins
are marketing neo-Ottomanism and cajoling Muslims to peer at the
Ottoman Empire with rosy glasses, it's worthwhile to take a look at
that empire.

The late and unlamented Ottoman Empire's Sublime Porte was a Petri
dish of oppression, absolute one-man rule, racism, extreme cruelty,
venality, flagrant corruption, avarice, unimaginable perversion,
indolence, extravagance, self-indulgence, caprice, plunder, regicide,
fratricide, vanity, assassination...the sultans had such nicknames
as "Selim the Sot" (Drunk), "Ibrahim the Mad", "Mustafa the Mad",
"Abdulhamid the Damned"... Most of the sultans were mentally unstable
because of in-breeding and the atrocious conditions in which they
were raised. The Sick Man of Europe lasted for four-hundred years
only because Europe's attention was focused west to the Americas,
and in the last century of its life the empire was buttressed by
Britain and Germany.

Let's start with the most luminous figure of the Ottoman Empire: Sultan
Suleiman the Magnificent. Suleiman (1520-1566) executed his eldest son
Ibrahim and had his younger sons Bayazid and Mustafa strangled with
bow string. Suleiman's youngest son, Jehangir the Hunchback, died of
grief. Suleiman also had his three-year-old son killed by one of his
eunuchs. [Suleiman's predecessor Selim I (1512-1520) beheaded seven
grand viziers plus many senior officials and generals. On average,
a vizier's chances of survival were one in ten.]

Suleiman was succeeded by his son Selim II (1566-1574). The new sultan
was a degenerate nonentity who was absorbed in pleasure rather than in
governing. He died after he slipped and cracked his skull, following
a drinking binge.

Selim's son Murad III (1574-1595) had five of his five brothers
strangled because he was worried they might grab the throne. He was
the Ottoman Nero. A voluptuary, he had countless concubines. Every
night a new pair of slave girls had to warm his bed. By some estimates,
he sired more than 100 sons and an unaccounted number of daughters.

In 1595, when Mehmet III took the throne, he ordered his mute slaves
to kill his 19 brothers. For good measure, he also had his sisters
killed. None of the early sultans had any living relatives, other than
their own sons: the fratricidal tradition guaranteed that they had no
uncles, no cousins, and no nephews to challenge their authority. When
on the rare occasion they didn't kill their brothers and sisters,
the sultans imprisoned them for life. Thus Osman III spent 50 years
under house arrest called Kafess ("Cage") before rising to the throne.

Suleiman II was under house arrest for 39 years. His reign lasted
a mere 20 months. Murad IV ordered the death of his brother Ibrahim
while he himself lay dying in 1640. A psychotic, he had 20,000 people
killed...some with his own hands.

Reflecting the mayhem that was the Sublime Porte of the 36 sultans
who wore Osman's ornate sword, 17 were deposed.

When the sultans could nonchalantly kill scores of their siblings,
naturally they had no compunction about capriciously killing anyone
they wished. The citizens were chattel to be mistreated. Citizens who
were not Turks or Muslim--the Gavoor infidels--were naturally at the
bottom of the totem pole and their life wasn't worth a "kurush".

Ottoman history had three acts: A quick bloody rise; a brief period of
"glory"; long decline. The "glory" days were short-lived because they
were the result of pillage, massacre, and conquest. Once the sultans
ran out of countries to loot and raze or met stiff resistance from
potential preys, they didn't know what to do. They had no idea about
wealth creation through peaceful or legal means. When pillaging other
lands became militarily impossible, the sultans and their elite turned
on their own people to finance their lavish life style. Taxes kept
soaring as the empire began to loot its own people and the inhabitants
of the conquered lands. Of course, citizens who were not Turkish or
Muslim bore the brunt of Ottoman style of brutal misadministration.

Once their horizon closed and they could no longer pillage, the
Ottomans were hit by inflation and a scarcity of money. To save on
silver, the mint began producing coins which were 50% thinner than
previous coins of the realm.

But despite the drying up of the revenue stream, the sultans kept
enlarging their armies. Between 1650 and 1656 the number of salaried
officers jumped from 60,000 to 100,000. This squeezed Ottoman coffers
further resulting in harsher taxes. Hungry for easy money, Sultan
Mehmet IV (in 1683) sent his army to loot Vienna. The army got a
bloody nose. The head of the army (Kara Mustafa) was beheaded for
failing to bring back riches to the sultan. It was the last time the
Ottomans would dare take on a major Western European power.

The financial crunch had no impact on the sultans' lavish lifestyle.

Mehmet IV's harem housed 4,000 women--slaves bought for 4,000 to 5,000
thalers each. The women had to be provided for with expensive clothes
and jewelry, in addition to their basic upkeep and expenses. Sultans
had 40 men attending to them as they prepared to go to bed.

An intellectually bankrupt empire (its only technical innovation
the yataghan sword), Ottoman technology never advanced beyond the
water clock (invented by the Egyptians in 1600 B.C.). Its culture was
borrowed from Iran and that of conquered peoples...Arabs, Armenians and
Greeks. Even the title of the sultan was Iranian: "Padishah" means Lord
Shah in Iranian. The Iznik blue tiles the Ottomans boasted about were
of Iranian origin. Tile makers from Tabriz were brought by Mahmud the
Conqueror to establish the industry outside Constantinople. More than
400 "Ottoman" outstanding buildings, dotting the Middle East, are the
works of architect Sinan, the Armenian genius. The sole professional
portrait of a sultan (Mehmed II) was done by Venetian Gentile Bellini
because the art of portrait painting was unknown to people who had
conquered most of the Mediterranean litoral. The Ottomans borrowed
the Arabic alphabet, in addition to adopting countless Arabic,
Persian, and Armenian words. It wasn't until 1729 that a Turkish
printing press was introduced. Armenians had printed their first book
more than two centuries earlier (1512). An Armenian wrote the first
Turkish novel. Another Armenian wrote the first Turkish play. As well,
it was the Armenian Balian family which built the lavish palaces the
sultans couldn't afford but insisted on having in a misguided attempt
to enhance their image.

The madness of the sultans continued until the dying days of the
empire. Fearful for his life, satanic Sultan Abdul Hamid II forbade
the introduction of electric lights because he didn't know the
difference between dynamo and dynamite. Paranoid about being killed,
he forbade newspapers from using the word assassination. Thus,
according to Ottoman newspapers, US President McKinley died of
anthrax, President Carnot of France died of apoplexy, and Empress
Elizabeth of Austria died of pneumonia. The King and Queen of Serbia
died simultaneously of indigestion. Chemistry classes could not use
the symbol for water--H20--because the despot believed it stood for
"Hamid II is dead". This crazed monster killed some 300,000 Armenians
in the mid-1890s. And a few years before the demise of the empire,
the Ottomans killed another 1.5 million Armenians, in addition to
thousands of Greeks and Assyrians.

This is the glory Erdogan/Davutoglu wants to revive... from Bosnia
to Xinjiang.

This is the moronic empire the Dynamic Duo wants to bring back.

This is the corrupt, oppressive, racist, venal, unlamented... empire
the rulers of Turkey want to exhume.

Any day now the two Ottomaniacs might wake up from their sordid
dream and say it was all a misunderstanding: they only want to be
good neighbors...to Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Iraqis, Israelis,


#2 Yervant1


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Posted 22 November 2014 - 09:59 AM


20 November 2014 Last updated at 02:35

By Mark Lowen BBC News, Istanbul

President Erdogan (centre) has found himself to be increasingly
isolated on the world stage Continue reading the main story

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soar Profile: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

There is an old saying in Turkish: "The Turk has no friend but the
Turk." As this country drifts towards isolation under the leadership
of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the proverb is ringing uncomfortably true.

During his 11 years as prime minister, Turkey rose in prominence. It
began negotiations for European Union membership. It hugely increased
its diplomatic presence, particularly in Africa. Its biggest city,
Istanbul, now hosts one of the world's largest airport hubs with an
airline that flies to more countries than any other.

But in the past months, perhaps two years or so, something has soured.

The world's statesmen still stop by - the US Vice President, Joe Biden,
arriving this week - but Turkey today is distinctly lacking friends.

When the UN General Assembly voted last month for new non-permanent
members of the Security Council, Turkey confidently assumed it
would secure a seat. But, humiliatingly, it lost out to Spain and
New Zealand: A slap in the face for Mr Erdogan, elected president
in August.

Turkey has been transformed under Mr Erdogan's leadership from a
financial basket-case to the world's 17th largest economy Mr Erdogan
has made clear that he has little time for people who have taken to
the streets to protest against him

It began with the "Arab Spring". Turkey placed the wrong bets,
backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and banking on a swift
overthrow of President Assad. Now it has no ambassador in Cairo,
Mr Erdogan denouncing his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
as an "unelected tyrant".

And Turkey has been inexorably drawn into the nightmare in Syria,
lambasted for allowing foreign jihadists to cross its borders. Ties
with Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia have weakened.

And a former strategic partnership with Israel lies in tatters -
the ambassador to Tel Aviv has been withdrawn, Mr Erdogan comparing
the country's bombardment of Gaza to "genocide...reminiscent of
the Holocaust".

But now even relations with old allies like the US have sunk. As
Washington built a coalition to fight Islamic State, Turkey stayed
on the sidelines, refusing to let the US use its airbases here for
strikes unless it also targets President Assad and backs a no-fly
zone in Syria.

A few hours after Mr Erdogan warned President Obama last month not
to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria, the US airdropped weapons. There
could hardly have been a clearer sign of discord.

'Unparalleled success'

"There is the realisation in government of what ground has been lost,"
says Sinan Ulgen of the Edam think tank, "but Ankara justifies it by
alleging Turkey's isolation is because it's the only country courageous
enough to adopt the moral high-ground and a value-based foreign policy.

Mr Erdogan has described Egyptian leader Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as an
"unelected tyrant" The president has been equally critical of the
Israeli bombardment of Gaza earlier this year

"That argument is bought by Erdogan's constituents - and for him,
that's what matters."

That is, ultimately, what drives Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His unparalleled
success at the ballot box has given him the unshakeable conviction
that his policies are the right ones.

The mass street protests in June 2013 sparked by a construction
plan in Istanbul's Gezi Park didn't alter his path - while senior
figures around him called for dialogue, he labelled the demonstrators
"riff raff".

And he even bounced back from a devastating leak of private phone
calls a year ago that implicated him and close allies in corruption

'Weakened influence'

He responded by denouncing an "attempted coup", firing thousands of
judges and police and attempting to ban social media. He closed ranks,
relying on arch-loyalists.

Turkey has refused to let the US use its airbases here for strikes
against Islamic State militants in Syria unless it also targets
President Assad and backs a no-fly zone

"The Gezi protests, followed by his reaction to the corruption
claims, were when international opinion towards Erdogan turned,"
says Sinan Ulgen.

"Turkey's isolation is a problem for itself but also for the West. If
the West wants to achieve its security aims in the region, potentially
it has no better partner than Turkey.

"But with Turkey's influence weakened, the West is handicapped.

Erdogan believes democratic legitimacy is about the ballot box. Others
expect more from Turkish democracy - a free press, an independent
judiciary and the rule of law."

In recent weeks, criticism at home has mounted - from the construction
of a 1,000-room presidential palace costing over $615m (£392m)
in protected forest - defying over 30 legal challenges - to verbal
attacks on foreign journalists, to controversial statements about
Muslims, rather than Columbus, founding America.

They have added to the sense of a government adrift.

'Economic powerhouse'

And yet, among his faithful, he retains his support. The 52% who
elected him president care little about a Twitter ban or claims of
corruption, which they believe swirl around most politicians.

For them, the transformation of a financial basket-case to the
world's 17th largest economy in the past decade is what matters -
new hospitals, roads and schools.

His supporters, mainly religious conservatives, feel liberated by
their president's encouragement to wear headscarves in schools and
universities, previously banned by 80 years of secularist rule. And
they love his strongman image - the leader willing to stand up to
the West.

Mr Erdogan has made Turkey "a political and economic powerhouse",
according to his adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, which has "empowered the
middle class".

He started "a new process to settle the Kurdish issue, has taken
a number of historic steps to recognise the rights of religious
minorities and has fought against military tutelage" - a reference
to his widely-praised moves to blunt an army which overthrew four
governments since 1960.

But the early successes of his leadership have been forgotten with
his growing authoritarianism.

"In private, he's quite charming," a European official told me, "and
can listen to advice. But in public, it's all about winning the fight.

Compromise, checks and balances are signs of weakness. He'll naturally
go in combative - and then realise a different approach may be needed."

The presidential palace has proved to be a controversial project for
Mr Erdogan

The initial favour with the EU has faded with concerns about freedom
of expression. As Turkey's progress towards membership has stalled and
enlargement fatigue has set in, the EU's leverage here has weakened,
heightening the sense of isolation.

"The good feeling towards him has dissipated - there is more
cautiousness," admits the official. "But we want to keep the accession
process going - and we want a more substantial relationship. There
is an understanding of the importance of Turkey."

And that, internationally, is what gives Mr Erdogan the confidence
he needs: That Turkey is still a crucial player. It is the West's
stepping-stone to a volatile Middle East and is a rising economy that
no side can ignore.

"Erdogan's own ambition is to become the greatest Turk ever," says
the European official. "And even if our enthusiasm for him has been
tempered, he's still the guy you have to do business with."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is building what he calls a "New Turkey". Others
call it a polarised, unhappy Turkey - and one where friends at home
and abroad are fading fast.


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