The past two weeks have been tough for the Republic of Turkey as they have been dealing with enemies from within. On July 9th, a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul has the authorities stumped as to who is responsible and why. And on Monday the 14th, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor filed a long-awaited indictment on the controversial Ergenekon case against 86 defendants charged with forming a terror group with the aim of a government coup.
Attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul
As noted above, on July 9th an attack against the US Consulate building in Istanbul was carried out. Three policeman were killed as well as three attackers, the real blog buzz, however, is focused on not only why the attack was carried out, but who was responsible, and how it was handled by the authorities.
First, comments on how the authorities handled the situation from Talk Turkey:
What gets me most about this provocation is the scenes of an unorganized and unrehearsed state of the actions of the Turkish security and police immediately following the attacks, as can be seen from the early footage. Get a grip people . . . the whole world is watching . . . Don't be so inept with your running around aimlessly, and help fill the information void through one voice.
You've possibly just prevented what could've been a worse attack, and lost three of your own in the process. Show your dignity by displaying some consistency in your professionalism, not only before and during such attacks, but immediately following as well . . .
Now for the question of the day: Were the terrorists going after the Turkish police, which I believe to be the case (with the U.S. as the secondary beneficiary), or was the attack aimed at the U.S.?
Internation Musings expressed a similar sentiment:
Some things sound weird to me; one of the attackers managed to escape, and what the heck this attack was about? Do I have to believe the Turkish ‘Chaos theorie’ now?
Carpetblogger questioned the “why” of the attack, citing that the location and the plan of operation they chose was unwise:
Seriously, who thought funding the attack was a good idea? Did not the line item for “hiring a random Consulatetaxici to take us and our guns to the U.S. Consulate” raise any red flags with the grant committee? How about a workplan that included “leaping out of a taxi at an armed guardpost and firing indiscriminately”? Even Nib Nedal could have come up with a better idea.
Let us pause to explain how utterly ridiculous the idea of attacking the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul is. The Consulate is about 20 kilometers up the Bosporus, stuck on the side of a hill in a typically overbuilt Turkish settlement called Istinye. Surrounded by multiple high walls and built from pale brickwork, the words “prison” and “high school” come immediately to mind. Even though we are not professional terrorists, we can tell that attacking the consulate from anywhere but the air would be very difficult.
Now we come to the difficult question of who the terrorists were, a question that is surrounded by controversy as no group has taken responsibility yet. From The White Path:
Wednesday's bloody shootout at the American Consulate in Istanbul is still not totally solved. No organization claimed the attack, which left three Turkish policemen dead and two injured. But the evidence collected by the Turkish security forces so far makes it reasonable to assume that there was an Islamist motive in the mind of the attackers. Actually three of them died right on the spot, and the fourth one turned out to be a paid driver. So there is no interrogation-based information. But the police found out that one of the dead terrorists had traveled to Iran and Afghanistan. The other's father was arrested in 1999 for links with the shadowy “Turkish Hizbollah,” a Kurdish Islamist terror group. The general impression in the Turkish media is that the attackers were at least ideologically linked with al Qaeda. So, this seems to be a case of “Islamist terror.”
In fact, a non-Turkish blog stated that they were convinced the attacks were carried out by Kurdish terrorist groups as well:
It's only fair to say, by the way, that at the time of typing this, no one is certain that this cowardly cretinous attack is definitely the work of the PKK. But we'll bet good money that that turns out to be the case.
In the effort of fairness, a Kurdish blogger, Rasti, has also written on this subject. Here are her thoughts as to the origins of the “Turkish Hizbollah”:
It's also widely recognized that the Ankara regime created Turkish Hezbollah.
As the Ankara regime tried to use Turkish Hezbollah to attempt to crush the PKK and then forgot about it until a shoot-out in Istanbul in 2000, so now it seems to have forgotten about its creation again until the shoot-out today. Could it be that the Ankara regime took a page out of the CIA's playbook, thinking it would be a very easy thing to control its creature, Turkish Hezbollah, even as the CIA thought it would be a very easy thing to control its own creature, Al-Q?
It's also widely recognized that other Islamist groups use Turkey, particularly Istanbul, as a staging ground, in cahoots with the Gray Wolves, and that these groups move freely across the borders. Other groups, such as Nizam-i Alem are involved with the Ergenekon gang.
It is very important to note, that the actions and identities of the attackers is still unknown, and there is alot of speculation that is floating around the blogosphere on this subject. In fact, in reference to the above comment by Rasti, there are groups operating in Turkey that further complicate this situation. One of those is the Ergenekon gang, the subject we move to next…
Further Plots Against the Country
A top Turkish prosecutor, Aykut Cengiz Engin, has brought charges against 86 people allegedly involved in a coup plot. Of the 86 people 48 are already in custody, so another 38 arrests, who's next?
“The indictment covers crimes such as forming an armed terror group… and attempting to overthrow the government by force,” Mr Engin said.
A comment on this blog post gave the following sentiment: “I hope that this is the end of the coups in Turkey. Maybe Hurriyet [A prominent Turkish newspaper] still wants to have a coup, but their ‘journalism’ will be under scrutiny as well.” Perhaps this quote will make more sense when you evaluate the press that is coming out of this news story. In a comment conversation on the blog Erkan's Field Guide the following was said of the news coverage:
Agree. I'm uncomfortable with Cagaptay's analysis of Turkish politics not only for the slant but also because of the role he has seemingly been assigned by the US media as preeminent explainer. I've read previous opeds of his in the WSJ but this is the first I've seen in Newsweek. What I find frustrating is that there are far better – and less slanted – analysts. Are they not getting published? And if so why not?
Posted by: PHK | July 14, 2008 08:39 PM
I don't know. My speculations: 1) it is all about network. Mr. Cagaptay is in US and probably has a better web of connections.
2) in the name of fairness. If Mr. Cagaptay occupies one pole in Turkish politics, Mr. Mustafa Akyol seems to occupy the opposite pole. The latter is published a lot.
but of course, whatever the reason, even in the name of fairness, the readers are offered a very distorted scene while a democratic struggle in Turkey continues…
Posted by: Erkan | July 15, 2008 12:47 PM
In any case, in both of the above situations it seems that the average Turkish blogger is taking a wait and see attitude before forming an opinion….or they could be trying to find something other than news on the television like me and others:
yesterday all tv channels were full of ergenekon talks. for those people who have no idea what this ergenekon is, perhaps it is better they keep it that way. after a two-day run away from the city rush without all those politics talks, ergenekon was the last thing i wanted to care about yesterday so i preferred to watch another episode of the famous and hilarious british series: coupling.