World View: Syria Conflict Turning into a Proxy War

This morning's key headlines from

  • Report: Turkey and Israel might be headed for reconciliation
  • Turkey's Erdogan calls Zionism a 'crime', and retracts it
  • U.S. and Turkey's objectives in Syria appear to be diverging
  • Euro zone unemployment rises to record level
  • Personal income plummets, but spending rises anyway

Report: Turkey and Israel might be headed for reconciliation

Weapons found on the Mavi Marmara
Weapons found on the Mavi Marmara

Turkey and Israel have had almost no diplomatic relations for almost three years ever since an Israeli commando raid in May, 2010, killed nine Turkish men. The commando raid was on a "Freedom Flotilla" ship, the Mavi Marmara, that was attempting to break the Israeli sea blockade on Gaza. 

Israel has expressed "regret," but refused to apologize for its actions in the raid, infuriating Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But now, the Turkish weekly Radikal is reporting that Israel may have found a formula to apologize to Turkey for “operational errors” during the raid on the Mavi Marmara. 

An apology in the past has been blocked by Israel's former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, but Lieberman is now on hiatus, facing charges of corruption, opening a window in Israel's government for an apology. Despite the diplomatic tensions between Israel and Turkey, trade between the two countries has been rising. Arab News

Turkey's Erdogan calls Zionism a 'crime', and retracts it

A speech by Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday in Vienna contained the following sentence: 

As is the case for Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it is inevitable that Islamophobia be considered a crime against humanity.

American Secretary of State John Kerry called the remark "objectionable." Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Erdogan's words a "dark and mendacious statement, the likes of which we thought had passed from the world." 

However, Erdogan apparently retracted the comment. The official Anatolia news agency has sent out a correction, removing the reference to Zionism from Erdogan's remarks, an hour after reporting them. It said the correction was "made by the source" but gave no other explanation. 

However, Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that there was still good reason for relations with Israel to be poor. Davotoglu said that Turkey had always stood against anti-Semitism, and that Turkey had presented numerous opportunities to Israel to restore relations, but: 

If we must talk about hostile acts, then Israel's attitude and its brutal killing of nine of our civilian citizens in international waters may be called hostile...

If Israel wants to hear positive statements from Turkey, it needs to review its attitude. It needs to review its attitude toward us, and it needs to review its attitude toward the people in the region and especially the West Bank settlements issue.

Zaman (Istanbul) and Deutsche-Welle (Berlin)

U.S. and Turkey's objectives in Syria appear to be diverging

On Friday, Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, claimed that the U.S. and Turkey have exactly the same objectives for Syria. However, evidence is growing that American and Turkish objectives are diverging. 

In particular, Turkey is providing support to Islamists and even jihadists in Turkey, and would like to see a Sunni Islamist government replace the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. He is showing no sympathy at all for the Alawite, Christian, and Kurdish communities. Turkey is thus aligned with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are reportedly supplying weapons to opposition fighters. 

America and the West, however, want to support only non-Islamist opposition fighters and fear that any support given to jihadists will eventually be used against the West. Tensions are building throughout the Mideast over the situation in Syria, which is increasingly appearing to be a proxy war involving the West versus Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar versus Russia, Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah, and the al-Assad regime. 

Al-Monitor (Washington) and Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

Euro zone unemployment rises to record level

Eurozone unemployment rate, 2012-13 (AFP)
Eurozone unemployment rate, 2012-13 (AFP)

The euro zone jobless rate rose to 11.9% in January, a record level. Eurozone youth unemployment rose to 24.2%. 

Spain had the highest unemployment rate at 26.2%, with youth unemployment rate at 55.5%. The eurozone inflation rate fell to 1.8% in February, well below the European Central Bank's target rate. 

Gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 0.6% in the fourth quarter of last year, and is expected to decline again in the current quarter. 

Irish Times and AFP

Personal income plummets, but spending rises anyway

Personal income in January plummeted 3.6% in January, the biggest one-month decrease since 1993, partly due to a pullback from the December holiday surge, and also due to tax increases in January. However, the good news is that even though they had a smaller income, they spent more money -- 0.2% more than in December. 


KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Israel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Avigdor Lieberman, Mavi Marmara, Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ahmet Davutoglu, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Spain, euro zone 

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