Turkey has an appalling human rights record and recently arrested the editor and Ankara bureau chief of The Daily Cumhuriyet newspaper. According to the BBC, «During Mr Erdogan's time in office (prime minister 2003-14, president from 2014), 63 journalists have been sentenced to a total of 32 years in prison» – and that was only up to March this year.
According to the Human Rights Watch 2015 Report on Turkey, «the government’s erosion of media freedom continued». But according to the US-NATO military alliance, Turkey can do no wrong. The Secretary General of NATO, the US sock-puppet Jens Stoltenberg, who is always anxious to find reasons to justify expansion of the anti-Russia grouping, announced that «we stand in solidarity with Turkey» (November 24) and «we will work on further measures to assure Turkey’s security» (December 1).
Stoltenberg was not always so supportive of the anti-free-speech regime in Ankara, however, and in 2012, when prime minister of Norway, «questioned respect for free speech and media freedoms, joining mounting international misgivings over Ankara’s record».
How intriguing that he should have changed his media tune.
Amnesty International reports that in Turkey «Criminal prosecutions threatening freedom of expression continued to be brought against journalists and other dissenting voices», and back in 2006 Mr Stoltenberg agreed completely, declaring the virtues of «freedom of expression».
But in December 2015 Mr Stoltenberg has made no comment on the fact that Turkey, that loyal NATO ally, does not guarantee freedom of expression and persecutes those who publish views contrary to those of the Erdogan regime. The Cumhuriyet journalists were arrested because they reported (with supporting video evidence) that Turkey was supplying weapons to Islamic State terrorists, whereupon Erdogan announced that, in line with modern Turkish justice, «the person who published this story [will] pay a high price for this. I will not leave him be». When these journalists are convicted – which is almost certain – they will be sentenced to life in prison. And no Western political leader will utter a word of reproach.
One of the latest Turkish delights in the Western media is the report that «Turkey accused Russia of a ‘provocation’ after a serviceman on the deck of a Russian naval ship allegedly held a rocket launcher on his shoulder while the vessel passed through the Bosphorus Strait».
The Russian «threat» to Turkey
This grave insult to Turkey’s national pride, honour and security was greeted with horror by its foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who solemnly informed reporters that «The showing off of a missile by a soldier on a Russian warship, or other things such as anti-aircraft weapons, is pure provocation. If we perceive a threatening situation, we will give the necessary response».
The Turkish Navy’s missile boat Varna, armed to the teeth with non-provocative weapons
Exactly what sort of «threatening situation» could eventuate from the presence on deck of a single, man-portable rocket launcher is not explained.
However ludicrous the rocket launcher non-story might be, it is not a matter for hilarity, because Turkey is plunging down the slippery slope to domestic tyranny and swaggering external bellicosity, which is a deplorable development. The fact that Ankara’s antagonistic attitude is being supported by the US-NATO military alliance is worrying for countries that wish for peace and tranquillity in Europe – and doubly worrying for those citizens of Turkey who see their freedoms being eroded because the US-NATO grouping endorses all actions taken by Ankara’s president and government, no matter how confrontational, malicious and just plain crazy these might be.
On December 5 it was reported that «An American warship has entered the Black Sea and three more NATO ships have docked in Istanbul as tension rises on the Bosphorus straits, a source of contention between Russia and Turkey for centuries». But the only reason tension has risen in the Bosphorus is because the US-NATO military grouping has sent warships there in direct support of Turkey, to demonstrate that no matter how confrontational Turkey’s military actions might be, the US-NATO alliance stands firmly behind the unhinged President Erdogan.
Another example of Turkey’s off-the-planet behaviour is deployment of large numbers of troops and armoured vehicles, including main battle tanks, into Iraq without seeking permission from the Iraqi government. A statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office of December 5 was clear, in that «we have confirmation that Turkish forces, numbering about one armoured regiment with a number of tanks and artillery, entered Iraqi territory without a request or authorisation from Iraqi federal authorities… [we] call on Turkey to immediately withdraw from Iraqi territory».
A Turkish artillery convoy on the road to Iraq
There is no uncertainty about this gross violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty by Turkey: there can be no interpretation placed upon Turkish army deployment other than that of flaunted illegality. The matter is being treated in a very low key by the western media – but if any other country in the region had acted in such a fashion, then the US-NATO military alliance would have been swift to condemn it in the strongest terms, with statements of denunciation and censure appearing on the front pages of The New York Times, London’s Times and Telegraph, and other publications similarly notable for reliable reportage and objective comment.
Turkey is in the process of becoming a rogue state whose bizarre behaviour is encouraged by the US and its allies largely because one new-found focus of Ankara’s malevolence is Russia, the country that US-NATO is increasingly threatening in every fashion considered practical, from imposition of spiteful economic sanctions to growing military confrontation and further expansion of the alliance and its nuclear strike capabilities. There is little wonder that Turkey refuses to withdraw its newly-deployed troops from Iraq, because neither the Pentagon in Washington nor its branch office in Brussels is going to say a word to make it do otherwise. The official stance of the Pentagon, which seems to be running Washington in these Obama days, is that «we just encourage both sides to resolve their differences here».
The sovereign rights of Iraq, the country whose political structure (and very much else) was wrecked by the US-led «Coalition» that invaded in 2003, are as nothing compared with the seeming right of Turkey, a faithful NATO member, to behave illegally in terms of international law.
Article 2.4 of the Charter of the United Nations states that «All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations».
Iraq first stated that Turkish troops must «immediately withdraw from Iraqi territory» because they are there without authorisation by the Iraqi government – which could not be simpler in terms of international law and practice. But Turkey announced that it will not withdraw the extra troops and tanks it deployed, even after Iraq’s prime minister Haider al-Abadi said that «NATO must use its authority to urge Turkey to withdraw immediately from Iraqi territory».
The situation is clear, in that Turkey will continue to behave like a little puppy dog that thinks it can snap at people when it wants to, because it has a large daddy dog in the background that it thinks will help out if it lands in trouble. The puppy doesn’t really do much harm, because its jaws aren’t terribly strong and it hasn’t got much of a brain. But it’s a yappy little nuisance. And, sometime soon, it might get a spanking when it really needs it.