While we in Israel have been caught up with the wave of terror and violence that has been sweeping Israel in recent months, the rest of the world has not been standing idly by.
Paris, Brussels and the rest of Europe:
After the Paris massacre, the hunt for the perpetrators and associated terrorists has continued, with Brussels being the focus of the search and under a lockdown for the past few days, and even London being caught up in it for a few hours.
With all that has been going on in our own backyard, it was easy to miss the Turkish snap elections held at the beginning of November. These elections were held because after last June’s elections, Erdogan’s AKP Party could not form a government. The election results were much more dismal than could have been hoped for, as Erdogan’s party regained his massive majority:
Turkey’s ruling party has reclaimed its majority in a stunning landslide victory, after tens of millions of people across the country turned out to cast their vote in today’s elections.
[…] It is a huge personal victory for the 61-year-old President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s divisive strongman who may now be able to secure enough support for his ambitions to expand his role into a powerful U.S.-style executive presidency.
[…] The party took more than 49 per cent of the vote, to secure 315 seats in the 550-member parliament with nearly all votes counted.
The Leftist pro-Kurdish HDP has also once again crossed the 10 per cent threshold it needed to secure seats in the new parliament.
Mr Erdogan called for a new election after Mr Davutoglu failed to form a coalition with any of the three opposition parties in parliament after the June vote.
Some believe, however, that Mr Erdogan never wanted a coalition government anyway and goaded Mr Davutoglu into trying to win back a majority in a new election.
The result will come as a shock to most analysts, who predicted that the AKP would once again fall short and be forced to form a coalition.
Most had predicted that the June elections had left Mr Erdogan weakened, with the main opposition and pro-Kurdish parties gaining ground against him.
The elections were preceded by two massive deadly bomb blasts in which over 100 people were killed, followed by much finger-pointing at “the usual suspects”, i.e. ISIS. Or maybe the Kurds. Or both. The Washington Post explains:
[…] the past few months have seen a worrying unraveling within Turkey, with the economy slumping, the decades-old conflict with Kurdish separatists flaring up, and suspected Islamist militants striking targets within the nation.[…] On Oct. 10, two bomb blasts ripped through a leftist peace rally in Ankara, the Turkish capital, killing 102 people. It was the worst terror attack in Turkey’s modern history. This week, the prosecutor’s office in Ankara pinned the blame on Islamic State militants, linking thee explosions to a deadly July bombing of a similar rally in the Turkish border town of Suruc.
Erdogan, meanwhile, declared that the Ankara bombing was possibly the work of a combined plot of jihadists, Syrian intelligence and the PKK, an outlawed Kurdish militant group that’s deemed a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States. It’s an outlandish theory that holds little water for most analysts, but it reflects Turkey’s own political divisions.
Russia and Ukraine:
A quick reminder that Russia invaded Crimea last year, preliminary to invading parts of eastern Ukraine. A civil war has been ongoing in the region ever since with several thousand casualties, and several Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in response. The UN even took time out from condemning Israel in order to hold a special meeting on Russia’s invasion.
Maybe out of a sense of vindictiveness, and probably also to create and keep a Mediterranean seaport for itself in Syria, Russia went to the aid of Bashar Assad in his brutal war against the rebels trying to depose him. Putin’s ostensible excuse was that he wanted to overcoem ISIS, which is the world’s favourite bogeyman at the moment.
However instead of bombing ISIS positions, Putin’s first targets were the Western-supported Syrian rebels. This transformed Russia into the world’s second bogeyman.
Similarly, with the new Turkish government in place, it seemed the stage was set for the Western powers to take on Bashar Assad and Iran in Syria. But Turkey, like Russia, was first of all looking out for its own self interest, and has been bombing Kurdish positions – those Kurds who are best placed to defeat ISIS, as well as bombing ISIS too.
Turkey vs. Russia
Yesterday Turkey inexplicably complicated matters by shooting down a Russian fighter jet over what it says is Turkish airspace, while Russia insists the plane stayed within Syrian airspace.
Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane near the Syrian border, Moscow confirmed Tuesday, although it denied that the jet had crossed the border into Turkey from Syria.
The Turkish army said that the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five minute period and was shot down by two Turkish F-16s. However Russia insisted that the plane was inside Syrian airspace.
A Russian helicopter was also seriously damaged by fire, but was able to conduct an emergency-landing in regime-held territory.
Reports said two pilots had ejected from the plane and Turkish television pictures showed two white parachutes descending to the ground.
The CNN-Turk channel said Syrian Turkmen forces fighting the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad captured one pilot.
Turkey’s Dogan news agency broadcasted footage of what it said was Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory in an apparent search for the lost pilots.
But a video sent to Reuters in the hour after the crash – apparently of Syrian origin – shows a group of Syrian rebels of unclear origin gathered around the body of one of the pilots, announcing his death and shouting “Allahu Akhbar.”
David Waywell on Tim Marshall’s blog, (Marshall was formerly foreign correspondent for Sky News), remarks that Turkey has done the impossible – it has given Russia the moral high ground and Putin will milk this for all he’s worth:
Turkey might be a member of NATO yet it’s Russia today claiming international legitimacy. They are sure to find people in and outside Western governments willing to agree with their assessment. Russia has cleverly positioned itself as a power fighting the threat of ISIS. Just days ago photographs emerged of bombs hanging from beneath Russian aircraft. On the bombs, written in Russian, was ‘For Paris’. It explains Putin’s calculated words today about Turkey’s actions being ‘a stab in the back’.
Turkey’s involvement in the Middle East is being quietly questioned with Western intelligence believing that there has been continued cooperation between the ISIS leadership and Turkish officials. In a choice between trusting Erdoğan or Putin, it’s not entirely sure that Western leaders wouldn’t choose Putin who rarely overplays his hand. NATO will do nothing to isolate Turkey (the alliance is older than current presidency) but it reminds us that there is more at stake than the future of Syria.
As if this was not enough, trouble has loomed once again in Tunisia, the “cradle” of the “Arab Spring” that turned into winter. An explosion hit a bus carrying Presidential guards, killing 12 people, and a state of emergency has been declared:
Tunisia’s president declared a 30-day state of emergency across the country and imposed an overnight curfew for the capital after an explosion Tuesday struck a bus carrying members of the presidential guard, killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 others.
The government described it as a terrorist attack. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a model for the region but has struggled against Islamic extremist violence. Radical gunmen staged two attacks earlier this year that killed 60 people, devastated the tourism industry and rattled this young democracy.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack against the presidential guard, an elite security force that protects only the president.
President Beji Caid Essebsi, who wasn’t in the bus at the time, declared the state of emergency and curfew on the Tunis region. He convened an emergency meeting of his security council for Wednesday morning.
Last week Islamist terrorists besieged the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, capital of Mali, eventually killing 27 people including an Israeli citizen:
An Israeli national was among 27 people killed Friday in a siege by Islamist terrorists at a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Saturday, according to the Israeli media.
He was named as Shmuel Benalal, who worked as an educator with the Koby Mandell Foundation charity and as a consultant to various governments around the world. He was working with the Mali government as an education consultant.
Benalal, 60, lived in Tzur Hadassah, and was married with three children.
What a terrible tragedy. May his memory be for a blessing. יהי זכרו ברוך.
The Foreign Ministry also confirmed that another Israeli was rescued from the hostage-takers by security forces, the Hebrew-language Walla website reported.
Islamist terrorists stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako on Friday morning, firing automatic weapons and seizing more than 100 guests and staff.
The siege ended after some nine hours when local and French special forces carried out a dramatic floor-by-floor rescue, according to local television and security sources. The assault was claimed by al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Murabitoun group, led by notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
But finally, some good news, albeit far away on the other side of the world. Argentina’s elections brought the Kirchner era to an end, bringing in the right-leaning opposition:
Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, marking an end to the left-leaning and often combative era of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who along with her late husband dominated the country’s political scene for 12 years and rewrote its social contract.
Ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli, Fernandez’s chosen successor, conceded late Sunday and said he had called Macri to congratulate him on a victory that promises to chart Argentina on a more free market, less state interventionist course.
“Today is a historic day,” said Macri, addressing thousands of cheering supporters as horns were heard blaring across Buenos Aires. “It’s the change of an era.”
With 75 percent of the vote counted, Macri had 53% support compared to 47% for Scioli.
The 56-year-old former chairman of Boca Juniors football club is expected to be Argentina’s most economically liberal president since the 1990s and has vowed to ease foreign trade and dollar restrictions.
Cheering, dancing crowds of Macri’s supporters celebrated at a conference center on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, waving multicolored balloons and white and sky-blue Argentine flags.
For Isrel and the Jews, Macri’s election can only be a good thing, since Christina Kirchner’s government protected Iran in the Amia bombing and is felt to have had a hand in the Jewish prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s mysterious death:
Earlier this year outgoing president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was cleared by prosecutors of helping to shield Iranian officials allegedly behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.
Javier De Luca, prosecutor before the Court of Appeals, said there wasn’t enough evidence in late prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s investigation to warrant a probe.
Nisman had alleged Iranian officials ordered the bombing via Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. He later concluded that a 2013 deal between Argentina and Iran for the suspects to be investigated by a joint commission was a conspiracy designed to ensure they would never be brought to justice.
In January he filed a report accusing Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other figures close to the government of protecting high-ranking Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in exchange for oil and trade benefits.
Four days later, on January 18, the prosecutor was found dead in his bathroom with a bullet through the head.
Since Nisman’s death, initially labeled a suicide, suspicion has fallen on Kirchner’s government of orchestrating his murder.
Maybe under the new government progress can be made both on the investigation and indictment of Iran for the Amia bombing and on solving the case of Nisman’s murder.