"The latest political maneuvering in Turkey strikes me as a big deal. The Turks are actively dealing with the kinds of issues many foreign policy experts and pundits grapple with regularly: the intersection of religion and politics, but specifically Islam and democracy. Yesterday a Turkish court prevented Abdullah Gul, who has a "background in Islamic politics," from becoming president. Turkey has a parliamentary system, and Turks vote for parties that subsequently form governments in Parliament. Both the Prime minister and President positions are elected by the Parliament itself, rather than through direct elections. Currently, Turkey's Justice and Development Party (often referred to by its Turkish initials, AK, or AKP for "AK Party"), has a commanding parliamentary majority, holding 351 of 550 seats. Despite its electoral popularity, AK is criticized for being a party of religious conservatism in a nation whose political identity is wedded to the secularism of its modern founder, Kemal Attaturk.
Turkey's 2002 election was a shocker, with AKP winning by far the largest share of the vote, and the results produced Turkey's first single party government since 1987 and the country's first two-party parliament in 48 years. It's vital to note, however, that AKP won not because of its religious conservatism but because the secular coalition was viewed as corrupt, out of touch, and stale. AKP and it's leader, current Prime Minister Erdogan, ran on a platform of reform, economic development, and technocracy. More importantly, AKP has mostly delivered on those promises.
This has occurred repeatedly, and yet people still don't understand it: in developing areas, especially the Middle East, the establishment secular rulers are thrown out for domestic reasons -- usually economic and developmental -- and replaced by reformers who happen to be religious conservatives. These groups often build grassroot support, provide services that the government neglects, and quietly but effectively grow their networks from the bottom up. Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Ahmadinejad in Iran. Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. AKP in Turkey. Further, many of those crappy secular governments are/were being propped up by the U.S., to the detriment of the nations' people. Turkey, which is, admittedly, uniquely founded upon the principles of secularism, is now struggling with just how religious politicians can be, and the results will be very interesting.
And it would be easier to criticize or oppose or fear AKP if it wasn't fighting the stagnant status quo in a nation with such great potential."
* via John, the American Family Association has a list of Sexual Orientations, including 'masturbation'
"The Pentagon and White House continue to argue that they are not planning a war against Iran in spite of the continuing buildup of naval forces in the Persian Gulf, which will peak with the arrival of a third carrier group at the end of May. The naval aviation and missile resources available, which are not being used to support combat operations in neighboring Iraq, far exceed any reasonable level required to send Iran a warning or to reassure Gulf Arab allies. The carrier concentration has even weakened U.S. ability to respond militarily elsewhere, most particularly in the Western Pacific, where an unpredictable North Korea continues to pose a genuine threat. Multiple carrier groups in the Persian Gulf can only mean that another preemptive war, this time against Iran, is either about to take place or is being viewed as a serious option.
The impending intelligence failure on Iran is very similar to that which took place regarding Iraq, and for many of the same reasons. From a practical point of view, it is very difficult to spy on a country if you do not have an embassy in its capital and also have an embargo or sanctions in place that prohibit business relations. It is even more difficult when that country has a very small group of decision-makers that control all information carefully.
Politicians who are ignorant of the Middle East frequently confuse advocacy with intelligence and allow the former to become the basis for policy formulation, sometimes by default. Lacking good intelligence resources, much so-called information that is reaching policy-makers in Washington comes from émigré groups and lobbyists with an agenda – again very much like what happened in the lead-up to the Iraq war. These groups are all interested in emphasizing the threat from Iran, not in objective analysis that might exonerate the mullahs.
The leading Iranian émigré group is the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which pretends to have a network of independent sources within Iran but actually is largely dependent on information from Israeli intelligence. The "critical analysis" of events in Iran that reaches policy-makers in Washington frequently comes from it and other lobbying and advocacy groups such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), all of which share an "Iran agenda" that calls for regime change. AIPAC is known to be the source of a position paper on Iran that most congressmen rely on to shape their own views. Israel's advocates, including peripatetic politicians such as ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, make frequent visits to the United States, where they have good access to the media and potential supporters, to reinforce the case that Iran must be dealt with forcefully."
* kathleen readon offers herself up to any congresscritters who want to use her skills to talk the deciderator down off the cliff. Thank you Kathleen.