2-Jan-17 World View — Istanbul Turkey New Year’s terror attack compared to Paris and Orlando attacks

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Istanbul Turkey New Year’s terror attack compared to Paris and Orlando attacks
  • Terror attacks expose deep divisions in Turkey’s society

Istanbul Turkey New Year’s terror attack compared to Paris and Orlando attacks

Reina nightclub in Istanbul on Sunday morning, several hours after the attack (EPA)
Reina nightclub in Istanbul on Sunday morning, several hours after the attack (EPA)

The people of Turkey were once again traumatized by a new terror attack, this time on a well-known Reina night club in Istanbul, where crowds of 700 people, both Turks and foreigners, were celebrating the New Year. At around 1:15 am on January 1, a gunman opened fire on people in the packed nightclub, killing at 39 people and injuring 65 others. The gunman fled and is still at large.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it’s believed to be the work of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), because of the similarity to attacks in Paris and Orlando, where attackers killed civilians indiscriminately in entertainment venues.

In Paris on November 13, 2015, three suicide bombers detonated themselves at a football (soccer) game. Then terrorists targeted three cafes and restaurants with gunfire, and then attacked the Bataclan theatre, where three gunmen opened fire on a large crowd. In all, 130 people were killed. These attacks were planned and carried out by an ISIS terror cell in Brussels.

In Orlando on June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed by a gunman at a local gay nightclub. The assailant had sworn allegiance to ISIS, but no concrete links were found.

Turkey has suffered dozens of terrorist attacks in the past 18 months, killing hundreds of people. The perpetrators have been both ISIS and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), including the PKK offshoot Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK). There have been four previous terrorist attacks in just the five weeks:

  • November 24: Car bomb targeting a government building in Adana kills two people and injures 33.
  • December 10 – TAK terrorist car bombing in Istanbul killed 44 people, wounding 155.
  • December 17 – Suicide car bombing of a public bus in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, killing 14 soldiers and wounding 55 others.
  • December 19 — Assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, in Ankara by an officer in Turkey’s security forces.

The Turkish people have been traumatized not only by the endless stream of terrorist attacks, but also by the July 15 failed coup attempt. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Ankara) and AP

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Terror attacks expose deep divisions in Turkey’s society

Ever since the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been fired or jailed well over 100,000 people. Erdogan has particularly targeted journalists that write dissenting articles, but the targeted people also include members of parliament and other politicians, judges, police, and teachers.

Since many of the people targeted are from the political opposition or are dissenters from Erdogan’s policies, many people believe that Erdogan is using the coup attempt to eliminate his political enemies by force, including violence. This view is supported by the fact that Erdogan had already begun targeting the political opposition when he shut down the opposition newspaper Zaman several months before the coup attempt. These attacks have enormously polarized the Turkish people, with about half supporting Erdogan, and half despising him.

One analyst, Soner Cagaptay of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute says that Turkey’s population is sharply divided into two approximately equal groups:

  • About one-half of the country’s population comprise leftists, liberals, social democrats, Alevis (who are liberal Muslims), secularists and Kurds. Since taking office in 2003, Erdogan demonized, targeted, and brutally cracked down on these people, many of whom loathe him.
  • The other half is a loyal, right wing constituency, including Turkish nationalists, conservatives and Islamists. These people adore him.

Another analyst, Simon Waldman, notes that Erdogan’s reaction to the New Year’s attack was different from his reaction to other attacks in that, unlike other times, Erdogan did not refer to the people who were killed as “martyrs.” This word is almost always used by Erdogan with the death of a Turkish citizen in a terrorist attack or from military combat. But in this case, Erdogan said, “I offer my condolences to our citizens’, to our foreign guests’ and to our security officer’s families.”

Waldman speculates that the reason is that the attack was on a nightclub where alcohol was served, and the people were celebrating not only the New Year but also Christmas, as these two holidays are often conflated by Muslims. These are secular things that are strongly condemned by hardcore conservative Muslim clerics, and indeed it’s suspected that the terrorist attack was inspired by opposition to Christmas and New Year’s parties. Indeed, the attacker was wearing a Santa Claus hat.

In fact, Hurriyet columnist Murat Yetkin suggests that the “poisonous” atmosphere in Turkey is because by “rising nationalist and religious chauvinism”:

“Another question surrounds the political atmosphere in Turkey, which is getting more poisonous every day with rising nationalist and religious chauvinism. Religious Affairs Directorate head Mehmet Görmez was quick to make a statement after the attack, saying there was “no difference” between terror attacks targeting places of worship and attacks targeting entertainment sites, and they should be equally condemned. That statement followed cheering after the attack among certain social media users who believe that celebrating the New Year is un-Islamic and something to be despised.

Görmez’s statement was welcome. But just two days before, the Friday sermon prepared by Görmez’s Diyanet and read in more than 80,000 mosques across Turkey harshly criticized New Year celebrations as illegitimate and having no place in Islam or Turkey’s cultural traditions. Only a few days ago, members of an ultranationalist group made headlines by performing street theater in the Western province of Aydin by pointing a pistol at the forehead of another militant dressed in a Santa Claus costume. Unlike the cases frequently opened against critical media in Turkey, the police and the courts took no action against them for “praising crime” or “stirring hatred among the people.””

In fact, many commentators are pointing out that Turks are now fighting each other as much as they’re fighting ISIS and the PKK. CNN and Globe and Mail (Canada) and Hurriyet (Ankara)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Istanbul, Reina nightclub, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Paris, Bataclan, Orlando, Russia, Andrey Karlov, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, TAK, Soner Cagaptay, Simon Waldman, Murat Yetkin
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

1-Jan-17 World View — Taiwan’s president responds to military threats from China

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • In New Year’s address, Taiwan’s president responds to military threats from China
  • Did Taiwan’s president say that Taiwan is ‘an independent, sovereign country’?
  • Taiwan president’s planned US visit angers China even more

In New Year’s address, Taiwan’s president responds to military threats from China

Tsai Ing-wen at news conference on Saturday
Tsai Ing-wen at news conference on Saturday

In the aftermath of the 10-minute phone conversation with president-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, tensions between Taiwan and China have been substantially increasing.

Reports indicate that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has become increasingly alarmed by this phone conversation, since they feel that it threatens additional steps towards attempts by Taiwan to become an independent nation, not a province of China.

Since then, China’s military has been stepping up military drills near Taiwan, in a show of military force. China sent its aircraft carrier and a naval fleet into waters near Taiwan, and also sent military jets to circle the airspace near Taiwan. Taiwan’s defense minister has warned that enemy threats were growing daily.

In a New Year press conference on Saturday, president Tsai addressed a range of issue, including relations with China. She accused China of threatening Taiwan, and said that “we will not bow to pressure”:

“Since [we took office on] May 20, we have endeavored to maintain peaceful and stable relations across the Taiwan Strait in accordance with the people’s will and consensus in Taiwan. Driven by our respect for history and the spirit of seeking common ground while setting aside differences, we have continuously expressed goodwill towards the other side across the strait. We hope that the two sides can gradually reduce confrontations and differences through positive interactions.

But in the past few months, it has been the general feeling of the Taiwanese people that the rational and calm position that both sides have worked hard to maintain has seen certain changes. Step by step, Beijing is going back to the old path of dividing, coercing, and even threatening and intimidating Taiwan. We hope this does not reflect a policy choice by Beijing, but must say that such conduct has hurt the feelings of the Taiwanese people and destabilized cross-strait relations.

For the sake of safeguarding regional peace and prosperity, I want to once again reiterate that our commitments will not change, and our goodwill will not change. But we will not bow to pressure, and we will of course not revert to the old path of confrontation.

Whether cross-strait ties can take a turn for the better in the coming year will depend on our patience and resolve. But it will also depend on how Beijing sees the future of cross-strait relations, and whether it is willing to assume its share of the responsibility for building new models for cross-strait interactions. This is necessary to answer the collective hope for peace from the people on both sides of the strait, as well as the different parties in the region.”

Tsai added, “In 2017, our society is going to face some turbulence and face some uncertainties. It’s going to test our whole national security team, as well as the whole government’s ability to handle change. We need to face this matter calmly.”

Reports indicate that China is planning retaliatory measures against Taiwan, such as conducting war games near Taiwan or imposing trade sanctions.

It never ceases to amaze me that China gets away with illegally annexing huge regions in the South China Sea, in violation of international law by the international tribunal in the Hague, but then considers a ten-minute phone call an act of war. AFP and Office of Taiwan’s President and Reuters

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Did Taiwan’s president say that Taiwan is ‘an independent, sovereign country’?

The excerpt from Tsai’s press conference quoted above is the official translation of Tsai’s statement from a Taiwan government web site.

However, other news reports say that Tsai also said the following:

“The Republic of China is an independent, sovereign country.”

This is a highly inflammatory statement by the president of Taiwan, and so it’s not surprising if it was removed from the official text. (Republic of China is the full official name of Taiwan.)

In a press conference two weeks ago, President Obama said:

“China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.

Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they’re able to continue to function with some degree of autonomy, that they won’t charge forward and declare independence.”

Obama’s description of Taiwan as an “entity” has angered some Taiwanese activists, saying “Taiwan is an independent state, not an entity.”

Some activists claim that Taiwan is already a de facto independent state, because “Taiwan has already cut through the mire of its troubled history to become recognized by humanity, irrespective of official diplomatic relations.” In fact, these activists claim that calling Taiwan an “independent nation” does not contradict the One-China principle.

That may be the reason why President Tsai felt that it was OK to refer to Taiwan as “an independent, sovereign country.” Bloomberg and Reuters and Taipei Times and China Post (Taiwan)

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Taiwan president’s planned US visit angers China even more

Taiwan has confirmed that president Tsai Ing-wen will make a foreign visit to Central America, and will visit Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between January 7-15.

The part of the trip that’s further infuriating the Chinese is that Tsai will make “transit stops” in the US before and after the trip to Central America. She will make a stopover in Houston en route to Central America and San Francisco on her return trip to Taiwan.

There has been media speculation that Tsai will meet with representatives of Donald Trump during one of the stopovers, but Tsai’s office has refused to confirm or deny these speculations.

China has repeatedly demanded that Washington not permit Tsai to visit the US during her trip. However, a Tsai spokesman says, “These transit stops are undertaken out of consideration for the safety, comfort, convenience and dignity of the traveler. President Tsai’s transits will be private and unofficial.” China Post (Taiwan)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, China, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.