Posted by Albert Gersh - December 26, 2013
- Turkey leaders blame Jews, foreign conspiracies as political warfare rocks country
- Washington Post: Egypt designation of Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group "a stunning blow"
- "20 Threats Iranian Leaders Made Against Israel" list generates commentary on Iranian diplomatic, nuclear hypocrisy
- New forensic report confirms Arafat died of natural causes, after media feeding frenzy heightened anti-Israel conspiracy theories
What we’re watching today:
- Open political warfare between two powerful Turkish Islamist camps is shaking the country's political institutions and will likely erode Ankara's international posture, as the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) scrambles to uproot followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who are in turn scattered throughout the country's state and non-state institutions. Over 500 Turkish police and security officers have been purged, and many have been replaced by AKP-sympathetic figures. Officials linked to Gulen have for their part widened a corruption probe that had already ensnared top AKP figures, and investigations have been initiated against the sons of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's, Burak and Bilal. Turkey expert Michael Koplow outlined today how the resulting dynamic - with the newly appointed police officials refusing to carry out the orders of prosecutors, many of them Gulenists - is harming Turkish institutions "in ways that will take years to overcome." The upshot according to Koplow is that "Turkish democracy is as hollow as it has been since the military was openly running things." It is unclear whether Erdogan will be able to politically survive the crisis. The Council on Foreign Relations quoted former Turkish minister Erdogan Bayraktar declaring that "to soothe the nation, I believe that the prime minister should resign," and the Christian Science Monitor today assessed that Erdogan's allies are deserting him. Erdogan's spiraling domestic position has seen the Islamist prime minister revert to what Koplow describes as "full-blown populism mode," with potential impacts for Turkey's foreign standing. Erdogan and his AKP allies have during previous crises sought to link domestic unrest to foreign conspiracies. Their scapegoating has at times been explicitly anti-Semitic, at other times has targeted the United States, and occasionally has implied that Jews are driving anti-Turkish American policies. Earlier this week Truman National Security Project fellow Joshua Walker noted that the AKP has already blamed Jews, gays, and others for the chaos around the corruption probe, and in recent days Erdogan ally and then-EU Minister Egemen Bagis reportedly declared that "the people won't give up on Erdogan because Zionism is past its expiration date." AKP figures have also already also blasted the US in the context of the corruption probe.
- Egypt's army-backed interim government yesterday designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, a day after a massive bomb destroyed an Egyptian police station and killed at least 15 people. Another bomb this morning exploded in a busy Cairo intersection this morning, wounding five, with the attack being described by Century Foundation senior fellow Michael Hanna as a "worrying signal that Egypt's militants [are] no longer content" with launching terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula but were expanding their operations throughout the rest of Egypt. The Washington Post characterized the designation as "a stunning blow" to the Brotherhood. Until recently the Islamist organization was described by many Western analysts and diplomats as being not only on the ascendancy, but as a group that the US and its allies would have to learn to "deal with" at least partly on its own terms. Describing a mid-2011 decision by the Obama administration to resume contact with the Brotherhood, Politico described the US position as assessing that 'the Brotherhood's rise in political prominence... [made] the American contact necessary.'
- The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs took to Buzzfeed on Tuesday to outline what the article's headline described as "20 Threats Iranian Leaders Made Against Israel in 2013," with the subsequent story conveying an array of statements documenting that "Iranian leaders are consistent in their anti-Israel rhetoric, clear about their hostile intentions, and certain of their apocalyptic beliefs." Topping the list were remarks from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who threatened to "raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground," and President Hassan Rouhani, who declared that the Iranian government must prepare for "the day the occupying Zionist regime is no longer in the region." Statements from commander of the Basij Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, who said that Iran will fight "until the annihilation of Israel," and Gen. Mohammad Hejazi Deputy Chief of Staff, who said that "if Israel acts foolishly, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be annihilated," respectively took the fifth and fourth slots. The article concluded with animated video from Iranian state television envisioning missile strikes on Israeli civilians and soldiers. Orde Kittrie – a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a tenured professor of law at Arizona State - commented that the documented statements were in tension with "the spirit of Geneva." The phrase is a gesture toward declarations made by Iranian leaders, and backed by some U.S. analysts, complaining that while Congressional legislation imposing sanctions on Iran six months from now does not technically violate the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) announced in Geneva, such legislation should be put off anyway because it violates the "spirit" of the agreement. Skeptics have suggested that it seems churlish for Iran to stake out such a position. Not only do the Islamic republic's top leaders celebrate actual and threatened conventional warfighting - the Iranian Revolutionary Guard this week tweeted that "the easiest way to send infidels to hell is through 'barrel of death'," a reference to shrapnel-packed Syrian barrel bombs that have killed and maimed thousands - but Iranian scientists have continued to enrich uranium and advance their plutonium program while final details of the JPA are being worked out.
- Another forensic investigation regarding the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat - this time conducted by a Russian lab with access to the deceased terrorist's remains - has concluded that he died of natural causes and not, as some conspiracy theorists have suggested, of polonium poisoning. Vladimir Uiba, the head of Russia's Federal Medical and Biological Agency, was quoted evaluating that Arafat's 2004 death was "natural and not caused by radiation." The findings are in line with those published by a French lab, but in tension with how a third investigation - this one Swiss - was reported by domestic and international media outlets. There are mathematically exactly zero plausible scenarios under which a deadly dose of polonium administered to Arafat in 2004 could have been detected by recent tests, but nonetheless the explicitly inconclusive Swiss results were credulously reported as evidence that Arafat may have been poisoned by the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, the BBC, the Telegraph, Salon, and others. The reports provided fodder for conspiracy theories blaming Israel for Arafat's death, and the Guardian declared that "suspicion points strongly" at the Jewish state for poisoning Arafat.
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