25-29 November 2003
The Incidents of 15 and 20 November
On 15 November 2003, suicide car bombers attacked two synagogues (the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues) in downtown Istanbul almost simultaneously. On 20 November 2003, two British targets were attacked. Two suicide bombers blew up trucks packed with explosives minutes apart in Istanbul outside the British Consulate and the headquarters of a London-based bank, HSBC. According to the latest information, 51 people were killed, including the four suicide bombers and 721 people were injured in these incidents. Most of the causalties were residents living nearby and the passers-by. Dozens of houses, shops and cars were destroyed or damaged as a result of the explosions.
The first group claiming responsibility for the attacks was a dubious reactionary Islamist organization called IBDA-C (Front of Islamic Great Orient Warriors), known for attacks against the symbols of Turkish Republic, as well as Jewish and Christian temples and associations, taverns, banks, play lounges and tobacco shops in the 1980s and 1990s. On 16 November, Al-Qaeda reportedly claimed responsibility for the deadly car bomb attacks on two Jewish synagogues. A London-based Arab newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, claimed receiving a statement from Al-Qaeda. In the statement, the group allegedly said that it had carried out the attack Saturday because it had learned that agents of Israeli intelligence were in the synagogues. The newspaper’s editor told Al-Jazeera that the claim was e-mailed by a group, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, that has been identified as part of Al-Qaeda. It is almost superfluous to add that, the existence of such an e-mail message proves nothing.
However; American, British and Israeli leaders and government figures, as well as some of their Turkish counterparts lost no time in condemning the attacks and blaming them on so-called Islamic terrorists in general and on Al-Qaeda in particular, without even waiting the results of the preliminary investigations.
Right after the bombings on 15 November, obediently reiterating the automatic responses of imperialist chiefs and media, Turkish Foreign Minister of the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) government, Abdullah Gul had told that the attacks bore all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda.
“It has emerged that there is a link with an organisation in Afghanistan in terms of belief and understanding…” he said on 18 November, “The emerging evidence demonstrates that the security services have been very successful in their work… A trail has been found and relationships have emerged.” The same day, Turkish Minister of Internal Affairs Abdulkadir Aksu blamed the attacks on Al-Qaeda as well, arguing that in the 15 November attacks “a couple of Turkish people have been used as subcontractors under the supervision of foreign groups connected with Al-Qaeda.” He also added that claims of responsibility by IBDA-C were not credible. He said there didn’t exist any Turkish organization in a position to carry out attacks of such a magnitude.
It should be pointed out, however, that, afraid of the backlash against their own power base, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other ministers were not so eager to blame the attacks on Al-Qaeda. They were very much aware of the fact that, political opponents of the AKP government –the military clique, the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) and the bourgeois strata they represent- were eager to exploit these attacks to associate the “moderate”, that is pro-imperialist Islamic government with so-called Islamic terror. But, they too tried to exploit these incidents to hide the terrorist features of Turkish ruling classes, to stress the so-called importance of the stability of Turkey for the “defense of the West”, to point out the hypocrisy and double standards of the their American and especially Western European overlords in dealing with the menace of “terrorism”, to criticize the EU and to force their way into EU membership and called for the establishment of “a joint international front against terror”etc. Naturally, they avoided mentioning or hinting the possibility of an imperialist and/ or Zionist provocation.
Immediately after the tragic events, imperialist media and their Turkish followers began a systematic propaganda campaign to put the blame on so-called Islamic terrorism, Al-Qaeda and their Turkish collaborators, to point out the alleged role of Syria and Iran behind the attacks and to exhort the Turkish state to unequivocally support US imperialists in their so-called war on terror (1). While imperialist media focussed its attention on promoting and justifying US-led imperialist aggression against Islamic peoples and Washington’s military adventures in the Middle East and Central Asia, the main body of Turkish bourgeois media sought to utilize the incidents to draw Turkey closer to US-Britain-Israel. For instance, Hurriyet, one of the biggest dailies commented in this fashion:
“Thus, this terrorist action might include a warning for Turkey not to act alongside the US. However, these attacks might cause an opposite effect, because they could move Turkey further into the same axis as the US and Israel. Turkey will consider itself in the same boat as the US, which sees terrorism as its chief threat.”
Most of Turkish bourgeois media also strived to erode the political support of the reactionary-Islamic government, by shouting from the rooftops about the looming dangers to the “secular Turkish state” and by pointing out the allegedly common roots of Islamic terrorism and that of the ruling AKP and thus to promote public support for the military clique. It is obvious that, these incidents have provided ammunition to the military clique and traditional big business in their covert and overt struggle against the AKP government and the bourgeois strata it represents. Republican People’s Party, the main bourgeois opposition party and an ally of the all-powerful military clique, has openly accused the governing AKP of tolerating Islamic terrorism and evading from taking a strong stand against it.
The Most Important Outcome of Istanbul Bombings
The most salient and noticeable outcome of Istanbul bombings has been frantic efforts of US, Britain and Israel to highlight the importance and urgency of the so-called war on terror, to embellish the tattered image of warmongering ruling classes of these countries, to bestow some legitimacy to their aggresive policies vis-a-vis Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian peoples and to their vicious plans to attack other targets, such as Syria and Iran and to draw Turkey closer to the axis of evil, comprising the US, Britain and Israel. That is the main reason behind the crocodile tears they have been shedding after the deaths of innocent people, their exaggerated and repeated expressions of solidarity with Turkish reactionaries and the terror hysteria they have unleashed since then. For about a week, imperialist leaders and media focussed all their attention on these events, blowed them out of all proportion and went to great lengths to present these attacks as only the first phase of a wave of terror which will engulf “all civilized world”.
Right after the 15 November bombings, President George Bush telephoned Turkish PM to offer condolences. Offering the assistance of the US, Bush said that the Turkish PM assured him of his determination to “fight the terrorists and bring the terrorists to justice.” On 16 November, Bush said that the attacks prove that terrorists do their work “without conscience or faith,” and reiterated that the US stands with Turkey in the global fight against them. The same day, US State Department as well strongly condemned the attacks. In addition, Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to convey his condolences.
On 21 November, US House of Representatives condemned the attacks against two synagogues, HSBC Bank and British Consulate General in Istanbul and unanimously approved a resolution on solidarity with Turkey against terrorism. The resolution offered condolences to families of the dead and stressed the determination of the US to be in solidarity with Turkey in the war on terror. And on 23 November, George Bush declared Turkey to be “a frontline state in the fight against terrorism.”
On 16 November, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon said that the deadly bombings of two synagogues in Istanbul showed that “terrorism knows no bounds.” On 20 November Ariel Sharon once more condemned the attacks: “It is not just Israel, this is a danger to the entire free world. There is no compromising with terror… This compels us to remember the need for the free world to fight the terror” he said. On 22 November, Ariel Sharon held a telephone conversation with PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two agreed to increase security cooperation between their countries in “the war on terror.” Extending condolences over the 20 November bombings, Sharon said that they had commiserated with Turkish people who lost their beloved ones in the attacks.
“As a person, who well knows what you will feel during today’s funerals, I want to stress that we have to wage a joint fight against terrorism on the international level. This is not a fight against Islam, but against fundamentalist terrorism,” he said.
British PM Tony Blair and several European leaders were among those, who condemned the attacks and expressed their solidarity with Turkey after both attacks. Speaking to Turkish PM by phone on 16 November, Tony Blair expressed his sorrow over the terrorist attacks launched in Istanbul on Saturday. “There must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it wherever and whenever we can and in defeating it utterly,” Blair said on 20 November, turning to the same topic.
On 20 November, right after the attacks on British targets, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters that the attacks had “all the hallmarks of international terrorism practised by Al-Qaeda and associated organisations.”
On 21 November, US President George Bush and British PM Tony Blair once again denounced the bombings in Istanbul, calling them the latest attacks in “the war on terrorism.” Speaking at a joint press conference, both leaders said the Istanbul attacks would not deter them from completing the job of transforming Iraq into “a free, democratic nation run by its people.” Both leaders vowed to crush global terrorists, stating that the attacks showed how important it is for coalition forces to continue their mission in Iraq. “These are al Qaeda killers killing Muslims,” added Bush. “They need to be stopped… The terrorists hope to intimidate. They hope to demoralize. They particularly want to intimidate free nations. They are not going to succeed. We are united in our determination to fight this evil wherever it is found.” For his part, Blair stated, “Once again we must affirm that in the face of this terrorism there must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it, wherever and whenever we can, and in defeating it utterly.”
These highly publicized denunciations and phone conversations were reinforced by several prompt diplomatic visits of Israeli and British statesmen to Turkey, who utilized the occasion to stress the importance of the “fight against terror” and their common front with Turkish reactionaries against “Islamic terrorism.” It was, Sylvan Shalom, Israeli Foreign Minister who first arrived in Turkey on 16 November. After visiting the chief rabbi in Istanbul, Shalom laid wreaths at the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues. Later Shalom met with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. “This attack has injured both Muslims and Jews,” Shalom said afterwards. “These attacks on innocent worshippers are the work of radicals and cowards.”
On 17 November, Shalom was followed by Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. Accompanied by former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, MP Rabbi Eliyahu Yishai and Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Pinhas Avivi, Rivlin visited the Beth Israel and Neve Shalom Synagogues. After surveying the damage in the area, Rivlin told reporters that as the attacks were acts of international terrorism, international cooperation was needed to fight this menace. Meanwhile Chief Rabbi Ishak (Yitzhak) Haleva blamed terrorism for the tragic deaths of 6 Jewish victims. Besides, Chief Rabbi went out of his way and blamed EU countries for the attacks. Appearing on Turkish television on 19 November, visiting Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that Israel and Turkey would cooperate in “the fight against terrorism.”
In an interview published on 24 November by the website EUpolitix.com, Israeli PM Sharon too, accused Europeans of being inherently anti-semitic and said their views on the Middle East were “unbalanced.”
“I would say, in my opinion, EU governments are not doing enough to tackle anti-semitism. What we are facing in Europe is an anti-semitism that has always existed and it really is not a new phenomenon,” said Sharon.
He added that European criticism of the Israeli state reflects this fundamental bias and endangers Jews.
In the wake of the 20 November bomb attacks against the British Consulate and London-based HSBC Bank in Istanbul, slaying at least 27 people, including Consul-General Roger Short, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw flew to Istanbul to survey the damage. Straw later told reporters that the bombings were attacks against civilization itself. “Far from this hurting Turkey’s application to join the EU, [these attacks] will increase the determination of all of us to see Turkey a full member,” he added.
On 24 November, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visited Ankara to allegedly reiterate Berlin’s solidarity with Turkey, a candidate for EU membership.
“I support Turkey’s accession to the EU,” he said. But he added that Turkey must first fully implement the necessary political reforms. It should, however, be pointed out that his motives were somewhat different than those of others; though as reluctant as ever in opening the doors of EU membership wide open to Turkey, German imperialists were and are concerned about the prospect of further consolidation of the hold of US-British-Israeli hold over Ankara.
With the aid of their followers, the US, Israel and Britain once more tried to whip up a terror hysteria to intimidate their “own” workers and to promote their aggressive plans in the wake of Istanbul bombings. After, the incidents in Istanbul, there were a series of warnings about and/ or raids against suspected “terrorists” in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain etc. All of a sudden there appeared terror alarms in several countries and bourgeois media and intelligence agencies began to predict big actions in the coming weeks and months.
On 21 November, US government issued a public statement to warn of potential terrorist attacks as the end of Muslim religious holiday Ramadan approached. The statement, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, said recent terrorist bombings overseas have prompted concern for potential terrorist threats “to the US and abroad.”
We can now begin to discuss the real forces behind these attacks, their motives and the political significance and implications of Istanbul bombings.
Who Are the Forces Behind the Bombings?
While giving conflicting and doubtful accounts about the possible suspects and their alleged international ties, Turkish authorities displayed extraordinary speed and efficiency in discovering the identity of some of the suicide bombers, who carried out the 15 November bombings. On 17 November, PM Erdogan was able to state with the help of DNA tests that the chief suspects were Gokhan Elaltoontash and Massoud Chabuk, both of whom perished in the suicide attacks. On 18 November, Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Abdullah Gul prattled about the emergence of a link in the Istanbul suicide attacks with an organization in Afghanistan in terms of belief and understanding. The same day, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler held a press conference together with Jelalettin Jerrah, the Chief of Istanbul Security Directorate. “As a result of security forces’ works on evidences gathered from the scenes of the attacks, it was revealed that it was Chabuk who staged the bomb attack on Beth Israel synagogue. Meanwhile, DNA tests confirmed that Elaltoontash carried out the attack on Neve Shalom synagogue” Mr. Guler said.
“When the target and style of attacks and the connections of the assailants are taken into consideration,” he added, “the incidents at the synagogues show parallels with acts carried out by Al-Qaeda.”
Elaltoontash and Chabuk are said to be from Bingol province of Turkish Kurdistan and with connections to the ill-famed Turkish Hizbullah. And Bingol has been one of the major abodes of Turkish Hizbullah, an organization formed at the end of the 1970s to some extent with the overt and covert support of Turkish military and secret services. In the 1980s and 1990s, the latter coopted the Hizbullah and actively supported it in their “dirty war” against the PKK and Kurdish people. (2)
If these assertions of Turkish authorities are correct, it will not come amiss to see the hand of Turkish military and the secret services behind the synagogue bombings of 15 November and their aftermath on 20 November. The extraordinary performance and unprecedented speed Turkish authorities have displayed in discovering the culprits behind the synagogue bombings add to this suspicion. Turkish authorities have been distinguished for their inability to discover or rather their ability to conceal the culprits and criminals behind dozens of massacres and prominent killings, including those of well-known intellectuals, writers, businessmen, trade-union officials and Kurdish figures. In fact it is they, who have been systematically masterminding such evil acts, at least since the 1970s.
Turkish reactionaries had begun to dismantle the Hizbullah only after 1997, when the defeatist policy of the PKK had already given tactical advantage to Turkish armed forces in the guerilla war launched in 1984. After the capture of Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, the leader of the PKK/KADEK and the capitulation of that organization, the operations of Turkish “security” forces against the Hizbullah gained momentum. In January 2000, Hüseyin Velioglu, the leader of the organization was killed in an armed confrontation and the police rounded up several hundreds of Hizbullah cadres and sympathizers throughout Turkey. Turkish ruling classes could not tolerate the presence of a 20,000-strong semi-legal and heavily armed para-military organization of mainly Kurdish origin in their cities and towns. However, a great many members remained at large. It would not be difficult for Turkish intelligence services to tap this “resource”, that is to manipulate some of the remnants of the Hizbullah and orientate them to implement such attacks. Recent Turkish history abounds with similar examples of cooperation between Turkish military and the police on the one hand and “civilian” fascist and reactionary Islamic groups on the other in their fight against revolutionary, anti-fascist and Kurdish organizations.
The facts that these suicide bombers have not only been able to plan such an action involving several people allegedly without detection, but have also been able to provide a great amount of explosives and actually implement these attacks on very tightly protected Jewish synagogues should raise some eyebrows as well. The Neve Shalom synagoge had been the target of attacks twice before. On 6 September 1986, 22 Jewish worshippers were killed allegedly by Turkish Islamic terrorists, who themselves were killed during the tragic incident. A second attack which came on 1 March 1992, caused no casualties. Therefore, even if the involvement of certain individuals working with Turkish Hizbullah, IBDA-C or Al-Qaeda or one of its branches were proved in a definitive manner, this would not be enough to exonerate Turkish reactionaries and their American and Israeli allies and advisors. After all Turkish military and secret services have until recently manipulated such groups to mount attacks on PKK guerillas, other Kurdish figures, workers and progressive masses, left-wing and democratic writers and intellectuals as well as on Jewish, Armenian and Greek figures and institutions. BUT, given their relatively modest status in the US-led imperialist world order, Turkish reactionaries could never undertake actions, such as those of 15 and 20 November on their own initiative; to attack democratic and progressive forces inside Turkey is one thing and to attack Israeli and British targets is something altogether different.
Here, it should be pointed out that, no respectable and objective observer of Turkish affairs has taken the IBDA-C option seriously. Though with a mentality and history of attacks on non-Muslim and Jewish targets, probably at the behest of Turkish and Israeli intelligence, that shadowy organization is now a spent force and almost all of its leadership and cadres are behind bars. This, of course, does not theoretically preclude the participation of some people with IBDA-C connections in such attacks.
The same holds true for the Al-Qaeda option, though for somewhat different reasons. Apart from the legitimate question whether at present a centrally directed organization called Al-Qaeda exists or not, one should consider the fact that, until these fateful events there was almost no talk of Al-Qaeda activities in Turkey. As Mustafa Alani from London’s Royal United Services Institute told Reuters: “There is no history of Al-Qaeda operating in Turkey. It’s very hard to say Al-Qaeda is involved in this attack. I think the activities of Al-Qaeda now are concentrated on two states—Saudi Arabia and Iraq.”
What is more, it defies logic to expect an already embattled Al-Qaeda attacking targets in Turkey and thus alienate Turkish masses who overwhelmingly symphatize with Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian peoples and oppose US intervention in the Muslim world. Although fanatical and reactionary people, the leaders of Al-Qaeda or those of its offshoots cannot be that stupid; they cannot be expected to mar their own image and still further isolate themselves by performing such attacks under circumstances where they are being hunted and targeted by the sole superpower, the super terrorist US, its allies and lackeys and demonized by its powerful media empire. What is more, -leaving aside the dubious April 2003 attack on a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia- Al-Qaeda is not known to have attacked religious targets before and its attention seems to be focussed on Western and quisling military, political and economic targets.
Not only the targets, but the timing as well of the 15 November attacks is striking. These attacks have been carried out in Ramadan, the holy month of Muslims and the day of Sabbath, the holy day of Jews. An imperialist or reactionary intelligence organization aiming to tarnish the image of Muslim peoples and Muslim resistance groups and to bolster that of its masters could hardly have made a better choice. Therefore, the 15 and 20 November attacks bear all the hallmarks of an imperialist-Zionist psychological war operation designed to influence Turkish and world public opinion.One can never neglect the possibility of Western imperialist or Israeli intelligence agencies penetrating some branches of this terrorist group and manipulate them for their own purposes. Indeed, there have been several instances, pointing strongly in this direction. (3) After all, Al-Qaeda had cooperated in the past with the CIA and Pakistani and Saudi intelligence organizations and its ideological-political stand leaves it wide open to infiltration and manipulation.
Here, I have to underline an important theme: To ignore the political content and fallout of armed attacks and focus entirely on their modus operandi has been the standard approach of bourgeois and imperialist media and so-called terrorism experts in their crusade to discredit all resistance and especially armed resistance to imperialism. At the moment, this sort of intentionally superficial approach helps these apologists of imperialist state terror, to lump all sorts of different armed actions together and to present them all as actions planned and executed by an all-powerful and evil organization called Al-Qaeda, whose tentacles supposedly are everywhere. This is their way of spreading confusion and disinformation, intimidating the masses and promoting the legitimization of the so-called “war on terror”, which in reality is nothing but a code name of their war against workers and peoples of the world.
The Turkish Context
These incidents cannot be understood only or mainly in the context of class struggles and/ or internal contradictions in Turkey. Yes, the ongoing tension between political Islam and the reactionary AKP government representing the interests of the rising big and middle Islamic bourgeoisie on the one hand and military clique representing the traditional big bourgeoisie on the other, has reached a new and higher stage since the general elections of 3 November 2002, which gave the AKP a parliamentary majority. (The working class and the masses of of oppressed Kurdish nation lack any genuine leadership; therefore their opposition and discontent do not play any significant role at this particular moment.)
These tensions have been further aggravated due to the US-led “war on terror” and the growing contradictions between the US and the EU and are inextricably intertwined with these factors. In addition, one might cite the bankruptcy of the traditional policy of Turkish ruling classes vis-a-vis Iraq, which envisaged total opposition to any form of Kurdish independence and/ or autonomy in this country, where now the rough outlines of a Kurdish state under the patronage of the US and Israel have already emerged, a sharp reduction in Ankara’s capability to project its influence over Iraq and the growing power of US imperialists and Israeli Zionists in the region in general and in Iraq in particular. And one might also cite the growing difficulties Turkish reactionaries are facing in maintaining their occupation of Northern Cyprus, conflicting and vacillating attitudes of various factions of Turkish ruling classes vis-a-vis approaching accession discussions to the EU, the ongoing Kurdish problem, which remains unsolved notwithstanding the temporary defeat of the Kurdish national liberation movement due to the capitulation of its leadership, the piecemeal and hesitant implementation of so-called democratic reforms demanded by the EU, which have led to a partial restriction of the influence of the all-powerful military clique etc. Under these circumstances, the military clique closely allied to the US and Israel is very much inclined to strengthen its position to the detriment of the reactionary AKP government by taking advantage of the crisis in the Middle East; it may start to assume power under a regime of state of emergency or even contemplate overthrowing the government, especially if a wider war involving Syria, Israel, Iran and Turkey breaks out.
Still, it will not be correct to attribute the 15 and 20 November bombings to the frictions between various factions of Turkish ruling classes and the intrigues of the Turkish General Staff. (Here, I will not dwell on the tensions in the ranks of the armed forces, especially between the pro-US high command and the middle and lower echelons, who are to some extent opposed to the adventurist policies imposed by US imperialists, which are alienating Turkey from its neighbors and the intra-class frictions of the big bourgeoisie between its pro-US and pro-EU factions. These tensions and frictions complicate the picture still further.) The interests of the military clique and traditional big bourgeoisie do overlap to a great extent with that of the interests of the more aggressive sections of US finance capital and that of the right wing of the Zionist bourgeoisie; however, the enthusiasm of the Turkish ruling classes to ally themselves unequivocally with the US-led axis of evil are mitigated by various factors, such as,
a) overwhelming, though mostly not very active opposition of workers and toilers to a US and Israeli oriented policy, b) the growing influence of the US and Israel in the region,
c) the emergence of a strategic rapprochement between these powers and bourgeois-feudal Kurdish parties (of Massoud Barzani and Jelal Talabani) and a sense of growing danger of the revival of “Kurdish separatism” inside Turkey,
d) concerns over further stresses such a policy puts and will put upon relations with the EU and the Mideastern neighbors and
e) direct and indirect economic and financial costs of an adventurist policy.
In addition to their modest status in the US-led imperialist world order, these factors too relegate Turkey to a subordinate position in this bloodthirsty and criminal alliance with American neo-fascists and right wing of the Zionist bourgeoisie. So, Turkish reactionaries, who play a very secondary role in the US-Israeli-British drive in an extended war on the workers and peoples of the greater Middle East, must have played a very secondary role in the last Istanbul bombings as well.
The International Context
To understand the real reasons behind Istanbul bombings, we must look not mainly at Turkey itself, but at the current position of the US and Israel in the Middle East and the direction of their policies. What does a survey of the recent tendencies and relevant facts show?
1. US drive to “pacify” Iraq and afterwards to attack other countries in the region has been foiled mainly by the heroic resistance of Iraqi people and fighters. American aggressors have been compelled to drop talk of redesigning the whole map of the Middle East and introducing “democracy” in the 22 countries of the region. On the contrary, the neo-fascist US-Britain-Israel axis is being dealt heavier and more powerful blows by the resistance of Iraqi, Palestinian and Afghan peoples.
2. Especially the American occupation troops in Iraq and Israeli occupation troops in Palestine are experiencing an increasing level of demoralization. This is being manifested in growing discontent, criticism and mass actions of veterans and soldiers’ families as well as rising number of desertions, suicides etc. This mood is also reflected in the growing alienation of American and Israeli people from their governments. It is also interesting to note that, a recent report published by Sunday Telegraph highlighted alarm over emigration levels in Israel. It underlined the fact that growing number of the country’s Jewish citizens seek to escape the Palestinian uprising and deepening recession. According to the report, “demographers have warned that at the present rate, Jews will become a minority in Israel and the occupied territories within 20 years.”
3. The most aggressive sections of the ruling classes in the US, Britain and Israel, that is the war parties led by the Bush clique and the so-called neo-conservatives, the Blair government and Likud government led by Ariel Sharon are losing ground in line with the resistance and liberation struggles of peoples of the Middle East. Bush’s approval ratings have taken a plunge in the last couple of months as a result of the growing sense that the US military is sinking into a quagmire in Iraq. Sharon’s approval ratings have dropped to only around 30 percent due to the serious economic recession in Israel and the bankruptcy of his aggressive policies, which have failed to intimidate the heroic Palestinian people.
4. Despite unprecedented levels of media manipulation and uninterrupted attempts at psychological propaganda all over the world, not only in Muslim countries, but throughout the world, public opinion is more and more turning against neo-fascist and militarist cliques in power in the US, Britain and Israel and in favor of the fighting peoples of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan etc. A poll conducted in October by Eurobarometer has shown that European people consider Israel the biggest threat to world peace. The poll, which sparked outrage from Israel, showed that 59 percent of Europeans see Israel as the foremost threat to world peace.
5. One important outcome of all these developments is the growing divide in the ranks of the ruling classes in these most aggressive countries, which manifest themselves in the form of “alternative policies” or “peace plans”, such as the Geneva Accord. A case in point is the growing silent revolt in the British Labor Party both over the issue of the war on Iraq, but also over internal issues. In Washington, there is a growing, though inevitably hypocritical resentment in the ranks of the ruling classes over the hijacking of US foreign policy by the neo-fascist clique. The situation is even more critical in Israel. In October Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon, the army chief of staff, told reporters the government’s policy of repressing Palestinians was reducing Israel’s security, not enhancing it. In November, at a well publicized round table discussion, four former directors of Israel’s Shin Bet General Security Service (Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon and Ami Ayalon) as well sharply criticized Sharon’s aggressive policies. All these people of the establishment dubbed the current policy of stick as counter-productive and advocated a policy of stick and carrot.
However, instead of adopting more cautious and “liberal” that is more deceptive policies, neo-fascist and warmongering cliques in power in the US, Israel and Britain are trying to exploit the present state of affairs to implement even more aggressive policies and widen the current open war to include other countries. It is obvious that, it will be the expansionist and fanatical Zionist bourgeoisie who stands to gain most, at least in the short run, as a result of the creation of a chaotic situation, widening of the war in the Middle East, which will lead to more bloodletting, tears and destruction. This is true for US imperialists, or at least for the neo-fascist wing of American finance capital as well. In fact the two parties have been working for some time feverishly to prepare the political and psychological infrastructure of just such an attack on Syria and Iran, despite the fact that the ruling elites in Damascus and Teheran have recently been following a policy of appeasement vis-a-vis the US. (4)
At first sight, it seems illogical and pointless for the war criminals sitting in Washington and Telaviv to expect to break the the will and resistance of workers and peoples through widening the war, considering the fact that, strategically they are patently unsuccessful in the battlefields of Iraq and Palestine and Afghanistan. To extend the war to Syria and Iran, will only get them into more trouble. However, to attribute rational thinking to imperialists and reactionaries may be misleading. After all, the failure of American might in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s, had not prevented US imperialists from extending the war to Laos and Cambodia. At present, both the US and Israel are inclined to accuse Syria and Iran for their failure to “pacify” Palestine and Iraq. They accuse these so-called rogue states of providing support and haven to “terrorists”, of hiding Iraq’s missing weapons of mass destruction, of developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, of allowing “terrorists” to carry out cross-border attacks against Israeli and US forces, having expansionist designs etc.
If there will be a war on Syria and Iraq, our axis of evil will definitely need the services of despicable Turkish reactionaries, who have never brought themselves to accept having lost their former possessions in Iraq and never ceased dreaming to restore in some form of their “glorious” Ottoman past. They have manifested their willingness to take part in imperialist military adventures times and again, but such a participation on their part was predicated on the US forces taking an open stand against PKK/ KADEK guerillas in the region. As will be remembered, on 7 October Turkish parliament had authorized the government to send Turkish armed forces to Iraq in support of American aggressors. Afterwards, however, US imperialists began to show some disinclination for the deployment of Turkish troops and seem to have shelved the plan. This was probably due to the very strong reactions from Kurdish groups, who –over the objections of Turkey- have virtually established an independent state, Arab groups taking part in the puppet Governing Council, the reservations of Israeli Zionists who seem to have certain designs in Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) and the risk of galvanizing the resistance of especially Iraqi Shiite people against US occupation. After all, Ottoman predecessors of Turkish ruling classes had ruled the Middle East, including present-day Iraq for hundreds of years with an iron hand. However, most, if not all of these considerations might and will be put aside, if a new war against Syria and/ or Iran is launched by Washington and Telaviv.
The abovementioned facts plainly demonstrate the fact that the neo-fascist and warmongering alliance of the US and Israel supported by British imperialists is once again fanning the flames of war in the Middle East and beyond and is in active preparation to strike at Syria and Iran. The support provided by Turkish reactionaries in this dangerous game to the axis of evil comprising the US, Israel and Britain in general and the Istanbul bombings in particular, can be understood only in this international context. Therefore, it is entirely comprehensible to see US imperialists to express their delight and satisfaction at Turkish reactionaries drawing nearer to the Washington-Telaviv-London axis and get ready to join them in their dirty game.
In an interview with the Turkish NTV Channel on 22 November, US Deputy Secretary of State Armitage replied a question whether or not Turkish-American relations could be affected negatively by recent bombings, saying, “No. On the contrary, Turkey and the US have come closer to each other following the horrifying tragedy in Istanbul. There is an almost blood tie between our countries. What happened in the US on September 11, 2001, occurred in Turkey twice in a week. All these developments have brought us closer.” He is right. Istanbul bombings, very likely a CIA-MOSSAD operation, have brought Turkey closer to the US-Britain-Israel axis. At least for now.
(1) Already in its 18 November issue, quoting Turkish authorities, Israeli daily Haaretz had implicated Syria and Al-Qaeda for the 15 November bombings and said:
“Turkish investigators are reportedly close to uncovering the full story behind the terror bombings of two Istanbul synagogues on Saturday morning in which 25 people were killed and over 300 wounded.
“Their probe has thus far revealed that the World Islamic Jihad was behind the attack. The bombings were apparently carried out in cooperation with Al-Qaeda and other terror organizations.
“It became clear on Tuesday that the terror cell that carried out the attack was primarily made up of members of one family. The two suicide bombers were cousins and the brother of one of the bombers headed the planning and execution of the attack. The brother fled to Syria immediately following the Saturday morning attack.
“Turkish government figures on Tuesday accused Syrians not connected with the ruling regime of assisting the Istanbul terrorists in carrying out their double attack.”
Subsequently, the person who allegedly ordered the attack on the Beth Israel synagogue was very conveniently caught when trying to cross to Iran! According to a news report issued on 29 November by official Anadolu Agency, Istanbul Security Directorate implicated Iran for 15 November bombings. It said:
“Istanbul Security Directorate announced on Saturday that one person who ordered the bomb attack on Beth Israel Synagogue in Shishli, Istanbul on November 15, was caught.
“Istanbul Deputy Director General Halil Yilmaz said that as a result of investigations, it was found out that one person having connection with the terrorist attacks would go abroad by using fake identity card and passport.
”He was caught when he tried to go abroad from Agri’s Gurbulak border gate on November 25, 2003. The arrested person collected information about Beth Israel Synagogue before the bomb attack, he went to the scene with other assailants on November 15 and ordered the bomb attack.”
(2) The origins of Turkish Hizbullah can be traced back to the end of the 1970s. To become really effective however, this group had to wait until the beginning of the 1990s, when the Kurdish national liberation movement led by the PKK had built up a considerable mass base in Turkish Kurdistan and was successfully fighting against the Turkish army. Besides utilizing brute and unrestrained force in its campaign to stamp out the just struggle of Kurdish people, the allegedly secular Turkish army did also employ different means to this end during the the 1980s. Among these was the promotion of a reactionary ideology called ‘Turkish-Islamic Synthesis’, which they almost elevated to the status of official ideology of the Turkish state.
According to official sources Hizbullah was founded in Diyarbakır, the biggest city in Kurdistan in 1987 by Hüseyin Velioglu. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s PKK was at the height of its strength and influence. Its guerilla army was growing and holding its ground successfully against the vicious attacks of the Turkish army. At the time a series of mostly spontaneous mass demonstrations were being held in a string of towns and even cities in Turkish Kurdistan. Among other things, Turkish authorities responded to this growth in the political mobilization of Kurdish people, with the active encouragement and orientation given to Hizbullah. Some Turkish military intelligence officers, including Major A. Jem Ersever from JITEM (Gendarmerie Intelligence) were directly involved in the process. This gang became active first in Batman and later in other towns in Kurdistan under the direct and often undisguised protection of the Turkish military. Hizbullah murderers were being recruited from among the politically most backward sections of the people of the region and PKK defectors; they were being organized in and around mosques, given military training and armed by the Turkish Gendarmerie and Special Teams. This was an open secret known by everyone in Kurdistan and of course much better known by the Turkish state.
The Hizbullah systematically abducted, imprisoned, tortured and killed thousands of PKK sympathizers and Kurdish progressive people, including hundreds of religious personnel and pious people who had not openly supported the state in its fight against Kurdish rebels. Its aim was simply to terrorize the whole population, in coordination with Turkish ‘security’ forces. Even human rights activists and well-known progressive Kurds could not escape the wrath of Hizbullah.
Turkish authorities have implicitly and reluctantly admitted the connection between the state and Hizbullah on several occasions. A 71 page report prepared by General Directorate of Security in 1992 by an intelligence officer called Halil Tug and prefaced by the then General Director Yilmaz Ergun, said:
“… PKK organization, representative of a mentality that aims massacring Muslims, cooperating with Armenians, serving communism and striving to split the Umma (=the religious community) is perceived by the Hizbullah as an enemy to be fought against and even destroyed.” Again in 1992, Teoman Koman, former MIT (=National Intelligence Organization) chief and top commander of Turkish Gendarmerie said:
“Which Hizbullah? There is a Hizbullah in Iran. And there are pious citizens defending themselves from the attacks of PKK.”
Nafiz Kayali, the former Governor of Diyarbakir too had admitted the connection between the Turkish army and Hizbullah in an interview given to a Turkish newspaper.
“At first, the birth of the Hizbullah proved to be a counterbalance factor” he told, “Therefore it was tolerated to a certain extent. PKK was marginalized. The Hizbullah maintains its organizational activity. If proper measures are not taken, it may pose a danger in the future.”
(3) The November 8 bombing in the Saudi capital of Riyadh is a case in point.
Here, a compound housing Lebanese and other Muslim contract workers and their families were targeted. A police vehicle loaded with explosives was driven into the compound and detonated next to a housing block. At least 18 people were killed and more than 122 injured, including several babies, children, women and elderly people.
Right after the attack, both the US and Saudi Arabian authorities blamed the terrorist attack on Al-Qaeda and in a manner reminiscent of the immediate aftermath of Istanbul bombings, a Saudi newspaper reported receiving an e-mail attributing the bombing to this organization. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrived in Saudi Arabia the day after the attack for previously scheduled talks on counter-terrorism group and stated:
“It is quite clear to me that Al-Qaeda wants to take down the royal family and the government of Saudi Arabia.”
George Bush made a phone call to Crown Prince Abdullah and told him that the US “stands with Saudi Arabia in the war on terror.” The US also offered aid to Saudi “security” forces in capturing those responsible for the incident. And Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd vowed to crush his Islamist opponents with an “iron fist.”
Just like Istanbul bombings, this sort of attack too, was alien to Al-Qaeda’s mode of operation. Al-Qaeda was not known to target Muslim workers or ordinary Saudi citizens before. Again, whatever their position, all Al-Qaeda leaders should be expected to know that such attacks would only serve to the weakening of the organization and its isolation, under circumstances where it is already under heavy American pressure.
Therefore, we can safely say that this attack was the work of an intelligence organization, probably that of the CIA and/ or MOSSAD, using the signature of Al-Qaeda and maybe manipulating some fanatical and not very intelligent people for their own bloodthirsty purposes.
Israeli intelligence resorts to provocative actions to swing public opinion in its favor and against the enemies of the Zionist state in general and Palestinian people in particular. Here is a striking example. In late November, Israeli daily Haaretz’s Danny Rubinstein reported about the provocative activities of Israeli intelligence agencies.
“Early last week,” he wrote, “Rashi Abu Sba, head of the preventive security apparatus in Gaza, the equivalent of the Shin Bet, accused the Israeli security service of tricking young Palestinians into conducting missions in the name of Al-Qaeda. Last Tuesday, a young man named Ibrahim was presented to reporters in Gaza. Ibrahim hid his face behind a mask, and told what happened to him.
“He said that a year ago he sent in a personal, with his photo and phone number, to East Jerusalem’s Posta, a cultural-entertainment weekly with a personals section. Three months later, the Gazan received a phone call from an older man, who introduced himself as a merchant named Ahmed, who told Ibrahim that his photo reminded him of his son. They spoke on the phone a number of times, with Ahmed asking Ibrahim about the situation – and if he was a devout Muslim.
“During one of the conversations, Ahmed told Ibrahim that he wanted to help Gazans in economic distress and began sending money – cash in dollars and Jordanian dinars – through the Nablus branch of the Cairo-Amman bank. Ibrahim told Ahmed that he had never been arrested nor involved in any political organization. Then, in one of the conversations, Ahmed said he was working for Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization, and Ibrahim was meant to be one of its organizers in northern Gaza since the group already had an infrastructure in the south. Ahmed gave Ibrahim a list of people, mostly Hamas activists, and was told to collect information about them and follow them so they could also be drafted for the Al-Qaeda cause.
“The two never met, but at a certain point during their telephone contact, Ibrahim became suspicious. He contacted a preventive security officer in Gaza and told him the whole story. The officer looked into the matter and told Ibrahim that Ahmed was an Israeli Shin Bet agent, and Ibrahim should immediately cut off any contacts with him.
“Palestinian sources said last week that the case was not unusual, and they reported it, as well as similar cases, during a security meeting with top-level US security officials.”
(4) Some people might consider such assessments as far-fetched and alarmist. Facts and the behavior of decisive political actors shall corroborate the analysis presented here. So, let’s take a look at some recent developments.
On 5 October Israel carried out an air strike on Syrian territory, hitting what it said was a training camp used by Islamic Jihad. Almost all countries denounced the strike, declaring it a violation of international law. President Bush, however, supported it, as an act of defense against terrorism. Besides, he drew a parallel between the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel’s attack on Syria.
On 9 October, the EU said that Israel must respect international law in its response to Palestinian violence and stop building the separation wall on West Bank territory beyond its 1967 Green Line border.
In his report to the European Parliament, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said there was a real danger the Israeli-Palestinian crisis could degenerate into a regional conflict after last weekend’s Israeli air strike on Syria.
On 14 October, Richard Perle, a close adviser to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, made a revealing speech at a Jerusalem conference.
“President Bush transformed the American approach to terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001, when he said he will not distinguish between terrorists and the states who harbor them,” Perle said.
“I was happy to see that Israel has now taken a similar step in responding to acts of terror that originate in Lebanese territory by going to the rulers of Lebanon in Damascus.”
Perle said it would not be difficult to commit forces to Syria despite heavy US troop commitments to Iraq and the Korean peninsula, along with a continued presence in areas such as the Balkans and Liberia.
“Syria is militarily very weak,” he said.
On 15 October, US House of Representatives passed the Syria Accountability Act the with only 4 votes against.
The same day three members of a low level US embassy delegation were killed in a bomb attack in Gaza. The Bush clique and the Zionist sources was quick to blame Arafat for not cracking down hard enough on groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. All Palestinian groups denied responsibility. This was very probably one of the dirty tricks of Israeli intelligence to slander Palestinian resistance and influence Western and world public opinion in favor of Israel.
On 21 October, a neo-conservative strategist who has long called for the US and Israel to work together to “roll back” the Ba’ath-led government in Syria has been quietly appointed as a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
On 7 November, former CIA director James Woolsey, who still advises the American government, is sitting on the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board as well as on advisory boards of the CIA and the Navy, called for a tougher and more aggressive US policy toward Syria.
“We turned Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait around pretty quickly, but we sit here like bumps on a wall for a long time acquiescing [in regard to] the Syrian occupation of Lebanon,” he said. “The next time we meet with them, nobody should go calling on them. We should show up on an aircraft carrier of the Syrian coast and summon Bashar al-Assad to the aircraft carrier…. This is the Middle East.”
On 10 November, US Senate passed the Syria Accountability Act by a vote of 89–4. The Act calls on Syria to stop supporting terrorism, remove its troops from Lebanon, and cease its development of weapons of mass destruction and the methods with which to deliver them.
On 15 November, after meeting various US leaders, Israeli “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz held a press conference.
Mofaz said: “Concentrated efforts are needed to delay, to stop or to prevent the Iranian nuclear program.” Mofaz’s warning has been reinforced by Meir Dagan, the head of Israel’s secret services, MOSSAD, who claimed that the spectre of nuclear weaponry in Iran represented the greatest threat Israel had faced since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.
On 20 November, the US began the deployment of 20,000 troops along the Syrian border after Syria allegedly failed to stop militants from crossing into Iraq.
As late as October, US officials said hundreds of Islamic insurgents were crossing into Iraq from Syria. They said Syrian authorities had failed to respond to US appeals to stop the flow of insurgents.
On 23 November, Israel told Washington that, it was prepared to act alone and launch a strike similar to its attack on Iraq in 1981 when its air force bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad.