Turkish envoy attracts attention with veiled criticism of Iran in article for Israeli think tank 

Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan. (Anadolu)
Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan. (Anadolu)
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Updated 16 April 2022

Turkish envoy attracts attention with veiled criticism of Iran in article for Israeli think tank 

Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan. (Anadolu)
  • Hasan Murat Mercan noted that Turkey and Israel were under threat from similar regional malign actors, without mentioning Iran
  • Ambassador also underlined the need for cooperation against terrorism

ANKARA: An article by Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington for Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Strategic Studies journal Turkeyscope, has raised questions about the state of Turkey’s relations with Iran.

Apart from seeking cooperation between Turkey and Israel in fields of security and energy, Hasan Murat Mercan noted that the two states are under threat from similar regional malign actors, without mentioning Iran.

The article didn’t go unnoticed by the Iranian media. The London-based TV station Iran International commenting on the article: “Ankara’s envoy to Washington has called for Israeli-Turkish cooperation in countering regional threats, in a possible hint at Iran, amid improving bilateral ties.”

The ambassador also underlined the need for cooperation against terrorism.

“Turkish-Israeli interaction offers more than a conventional regional partnership in the face of malign actors and trends. Conventional partnerships are for a particular issue, be it against a threat or for an objective. Conventional partnerships have expiration dates. Turkey and Israel, on the other hand, share a common neighborhood, heritage, and not least, a common future,” he said in his article, which was entitled “Turkey and Israel: Optimism must prevail.”

The ambassador continued: “Dealing with malign actors and their activities throughout our region is a particular area for enhanced coordination. The Turkish-Israeli partnership would be effective to further curb destabilizing moves in the broader Middle East and North Africa.”

Israel and Turkey have always shared concerns over Iranian influence in Syria, with Iran’s proxies, including Hezbollah and Shiite militias, threatening Turkish interests.

Ambassador Mercan, a figure close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, called for re-designing Turkish-Israeli relations toward mutual trust.

“Turkish and Israeli geostrategic interests dictate a close and multi-layered partnership. “There is no room for complacency for both countries when it comes to: (i) managing regional dynamics that contain, inter alia, (a)symmetrical security threats and challenges, (ii) the need to further secure and diversify energy supply routes, and (iii) promoting inter-cultural synergy as a bulwark against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism and all sorts of hate crimes.”

It is not the first time that Mercan has underlined Turkey’s concerns about the Iranian threat to the region’s security.

In a speech to Haaretz in 2008 as president of the Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Mercan said a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to Turkey.

As part of bilateral moves to mend ties, Israeli President Isaac Herzog met Erdogan last month in Ankara. Erdogan recently said that Turkey and Israel can cooperate to carry Israeli natural gas to Europe.

“While there are fluctuations in Turkey-Iran relations, these countries know how to keep the relationship in certain contours,” Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, told Arab News.

“There is, however, Turkish frustration from the growing competition between the two in northern Iraq, as well as the continuing competition in Syria,” she added.

Several acts of espionage by Iranian agents against Israelis and Iranian dissidents on Turkish soil were recently revealed and thwarted by Turkish intelligence agencies.

Since last year, Turkish security forces increased their operations against the Iranian espionage network in the country.

After detaining Iranian spies over a plot to kidnap a former Iranian soldier last October, other spies were also arrested in February before they carried out a plan to kill Turkish-Israeli businessman Yair Galler.

On the energy front, Iran also halted gas flow to Turkey for 10 days in January.

Lindenstrauss said that cases such as the revelation of Iranian spies and the temporary halt of gas supply in the winter also increase tensions. 

“Also, one cannot overlook the fact that Turkey is getting closer to the Arab Gulf states — mostly out of economic necessity — which also makes it less tolerant of Iranian attempts to increase its regional influence,” she said.

Despite being part of the Syria-focused Astana peace talks with Iran and Russia, Ankara mostly shares a common perception with Gulf countries of Iran as a threat.

However, Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute, said that Turkey has always separated its relations with Iran from its rapprochement process with Israel.

“Turkey has had competitive relations with Iran in the region. They see each other as two large ‘former imperial’ but ‘currently hegemonic’ powers that have the right to shape regional developments,” he told Arab News.

“Throughout history, both countries avoided direct clashes despite coming very close to conflict in Syria with Turkish troops on one hand and Hezbollah and Iranian proxies on the other coming at close fire range.”

According to Cagaptay, the normalization of ties between Turkey and Israel will first include energy cooperation.

The US government has repeatedly suggested the establishment of alternative pipelines from Israel to Greece passing through Turkey amid sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine that threaten severe shortages across Europe.

“At this stage, Turkey and Israel have similar objectives in Syria. They both have right of passage agreements, which allow Israel to strike Hezbollah and Turkey to strike the Kurdistan Workers’ Party,” he said.

In the meantime, Turkish state-run media channel TRT World recently published an article about whether the Ukraine fallout may lead to Iran gaining the upper hand over Russia in Syria.

“Tehran is trying to take advantage of the Ukraine crisis and strengthen its own position in the Syrian arena. Soon after Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, Iran and the Syrian regime increased their strategic engagement by increasing military diplomacy,” the article said. “At the same time, pro-Iranian fighters are working on relocating to different parts of Syria.”


At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
Updated 07 February 2023

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny

AZAZ: Prisoners mutinied in a northwestern Syria prison Monday following a deadly earthquake, with at least 20 escaping the jail holding mostly Daesh group members, a source at the facility told AFP.
The military police prison in the town of Rajo near the Turkish border holds about 2,000 inmates, with about 1,300 of them suspected to be Daesh fighters, said the source.
The prison also holds fighters from Kurdish-led forces.
“After the earthquake struck, Rajo was affected and inmates started to mutiny and took control of parts of the prison,” said the official at Rajo jail, which is controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“About 20 prisoners fled... who are believed to be Daesh militants.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake — which was followed by dozens of aftershocks in the region — caused damage to the prison, with walls and doors cracking, the source added.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny.
At least 1,444 people died Monday across Syria after the devastating earthquake that had its epicenter in southwestern Turkiye, the government and rescuers said.
In rebel-held parts of the country’s northwest, at least 733 people were killed and more than 2,100 injured, according to the White Helmets rescue group.
The incident in Rajo comes on the heels of an Daesh attack in December on a security complex in their former de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, which aimed to free fellow terrorists from a prison there.
Six members of the Kurdish-led security forces that control the area were killed in the foiled assault.
The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.
Nearly half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in Turkiye.

 


Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
Updated 07 February 2023

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
  • Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime

PARIS: Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday.
Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for espionage, is one of seven French and more than two dozen foreign nationals who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.
Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, he had already gone on hunger strike once before, at the end of December 2021.
“It’s the only weapon he has,” his sister Blandine Briere said in a statement.
He stopped eating on January 28, she said.
Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime.
Briere, the lawyer said, is “mentally and physically exhausted” in the “gloomy” prison which he said was known for frequent “extra-judicial executions” of inmates.
Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, the second of four people executed over the protests, was held in Mashhad and hanged in public in the city on December 12.
The conditions of Briere’s incarceration were “exceptionally harsh,” and he was being denied his rights, Valent said.
Iran needed to be held accountable for the danger to Briere’s “physical and mental wellbeing,” the lawyer said.
Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, last month suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family who feared for his life.
Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant was arrested while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.
 

 


Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
Updated 07 February 2023

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
  • Participants in the two-day Global Game Jam were tasked with designing a video game based on a theme revealed during the opening ceremony

AMMAN: The Jordan Gaming Lab, a project developed by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, hosted a free, video game development event at several locations across the country. The two-day Global Game Jam took place over the weekend at the lab’s branches in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba.

The participants were tasked with creating a video game based on a theme that was revealed during the opening ceremony for the event. Sixteen games were produced and uploaded to the GGJ website.

The aim of the challenge was to provide participants with hands-on experience of working with advanced technologies, while taking advantage of help and advice from professional game designers from around the world.

The Jordan Gaming Lab was launched in 2011 to help boost the country’s video game industry and provide networking opportunities for those interested in being a part of it.

 


Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
Updated 07 February 2023

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
  • By the end of the 5-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will comprise hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • The plan is in line with the goal of the Roads and Transport Authority to ensure public transportation is emissions-free by 2050

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has endorsed a plan to make all taxis in the emirate environmentally friendly by 2027.

Under the five-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will complete the switch to fully hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. This is in line with the authority’s goal of ensuring that public transportation is emissions-free by 2050. The RTA has already replaced 72 percent of Dubai taxis with hybrid vehicles.

“The results of experiments on eco-friendly vehicles, which RTA started trialing in 2008, confirmed the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as decreasing noise levels,” the authority’s director-general, Mattar Al-Tayer, said.

“Hybrid vehicles also have a longer lifespan compared with regular vehicles and cost less in the long run. They are characterized by lower purchase prices, maintenance fees, fuel expenses, insurance premiums, and other associated costs that potentially could be as low as 50 percent of regular vehicles.”

The initial phase of the plan, in which 50 percent of Dubai’s taxi fleet was converted to eco-friendly vehicles, succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by up to 420,000 tons a year, the Emirates News Agency said.

 


Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty

Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty
Updated 06 February 2023

Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty

Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty
  • Regime ‘extinguishes opposition by denying massacres, spreading misinformation’
  • Authorities ‘have maintained an iron grip on power for decades … with absolute impunity’

LONDON: The Iranian regime is systematically covering up a series of massacres as it “shamefully” celebrates the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Republic, Amnesty International said on Monday.

A report by the organization details how key officials involved in the cover-up of prison massacres in 1988 did not face punishment for their role in disinformation campaigns, with Amnesty warning that Iran’s current regime “employs similar strategies to weaken international responses to crimes.”

The regime aims to “extinguish any form of political opposition” by “denying massacres, spreading misinformation and opposing international investigations” into “horror after horror,” added Amnesty, which has long campaigned for those involved in the cover-up of the massacres to be brought to justice.

In its report, it lists officials involved in the cover-up, singling out former representative to the UN Mohammad Jafar Mahallati for his role in undermining the international response to the massacres.

“In November 1988, he denied reports of mass executions at a meeting with the UN rapporteur and falsely claimed that ‘many killings had in fact occurred on the battlefield’,” Amnesty said.

Mahallati also used his influence within the UN to “water down” resolutions condemning the Iranian regime over the massacre, “pushing for a softer text that would merely welcome Tehran’s decision to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Commission,” Amnesty added.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:  “For decades, Iran’s government and its diplomatic representatives around the world have orchestrated denial and misinformation campaigns to mislead the international community and rob those affected and society at large of the right to truth.

“It is high time for Iranian diplomats to reveal the nature and source of instructions they received from the capital, and stop contributing to the shroud of secrecy surrounding the 1988 prison massacres, which has only entrenched impunity and compounded the suffering of survivors and relatives.”

Amnesty’s report drew parallels between the cover-up and the regime’s strategy toward the nationwide protests that broke out in September last year, with officials “resorting to similar tactics to discredit a new generation of protesters.”

Amnesty said: “Iranian officials in Geneva distributed lengthy briefings (in the wake of protester deaths), which blamed the killings of protesters on ‘hired terrorists,’ ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’ or questioned the death of some victims.”

Eltahawy said Iranian authorities “have maintained an iron grip on power for decades through the commission of horror after horror with absolute impunity.

“They continue to systematically conceal the fate and whereabouts of thousands of political dissidents they extrajudicially killed in the 1980s and dumped in unmarked graves.

“They hide or destroy mass gravesites, and harass and intimidate survivors and relatives seeking truth, justice and reparation.

“Such crimes are not relics of the past. The 44th anniversary arrives amid a horrific wave of bloodshed around the latest protests, as well as arbitrary executions and death sentences targeting protesters.

“This highlights the need for urgent global action from countries around the world to bring Iranian officials involved in crimes under international law to justice in fair trials.”