Turkey

Pop Politics

This past May, Azerbaijan attained a fundamental symbol of national progress: It won its first ever Eurovision Song Contest, the wildly popular annual televised event in which European nations compete to produce the catchiest (or kitschiest) pop tune. Its entry was a saccharine, synthesizer-heavy number called “Running Scared,” sung by Ell & Nikki, a photogenic duo clothed in billowy white garb who share a fondness for gazing earnestly into the camera. On the night of the victory, Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, erupted in celebration.

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On the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic “Festival of Sacrifice,” Burhan Ghalioun, the de facto leader of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the newly formed opposition group that aims to be internationally recognized as Syria’s government-in-exile, went on international television to deliver an address.

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It is not actually his region. Still, with the arrogance that is so characteristic of his behavior in matters he knows little about (which is a lot of matters), he entered the region as if in a triumphal march. But it wasn’t the power and sway of America that he was representing in Turkey and in Egypt. For the fact is that he has not much respect for these representations of the United States. In the mind of President Obama, in fact, these are what have wreaked havoc with our country’s standing in the world.

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Jerusalem—As the U.N. votes on Palestinian statehood, and former regional allies of the Jewish state like Turkey and Egypt turn openly hostile, much of the international community is blaming Israel for its own isolation. If only Israel had apologized to Turkey for killing nine of its nationals on last year’s Gaza flotilla, so the argument goes, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan would not be threatening now to send warships against the Israeli coast.

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The 9/11 attacks catalyzed a tremendous shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. Rather than prioritizing petrol, Washington targeted terrorist organizations, dethroned a dictator, and lobbied throughout the region for liberalization. Yet despite the billions of dollars spent policing Baghdad and protecting Benghazi, the unpopularity of the United States in the Arab world continues to be fueled by the belief that Islamist terrorists had nothing to do with 9/11, with many claiming the attacks were an American, Israeli, or joint American-Israeli conspiracy.

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Threading through the history of the United States is a long line of reviled newcomers. In the 1850s, Irish and German Catholics were vilified by the Know Nothing movement. In the 1890s, Italians were subjected to frequent lynchings. Jews of the 1930s were excoriated by Father Charles Coughlin, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Ku Klux Klan. In the years following September 11, America’s 2.6 million Muslims have often found themselves facing similar kinds of hostility.

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In a bustling park in the Turkish city of Antakya, Metin, a local merchant, is having a picnic with his family. His hazel eyes fixated on a large, turquoise pool by a grove of pines, he takes a sip from his raki and whispers as if he’s revealing a secret. “It breaks my heart to hear about it in the news,” he says, referring to the brutal government crackdown taking place across the border in Syria’s predominantly Sunni districts. “But, how can an Alawite be cruel like that?” Like the ruling Assad family in Damascus, Metin is an Alawite of Arab origin.

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Almost no one in America cares about foreign affairs, especially not for Barack Obama’s foreign affairs. For he has made of almost his entire conduct of peace and war an amateurish mess, crude, provincial, impetuous, peaceably high-minded but stupid—and full of peril to the world, to its democracies, to the United States itself.

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Michael Barbaro reports on the powerful influence Republican donors had in helping pass gay marriage in New York: In the 35th-floor conference room of a Manhattan high-rise, two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most trusted advisers held a secret meeting a few weeks ago with a group of super-rich Republican donors. Over tuna and turkey sandwiches, the advisers explained that New York’s Democratic governor was determined to legalize same-sex marriage and would deliver every possible Senate vote from his own party. Would the donors win over the deciding Senate Republicans?

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With the second anniversary of Iran’s Green Movement earlier this week, it’s worth keeping track of the cruel litany of bloodshed and oppression that the regime continues to carry out against its own people. Just in the last few days, when democracy advocates in Tehran tried to commemorate the remarkable street protests that followed the fraudulent elections of 2009, the regime once again responded with a massive show of force. Beginning the night before, regime thugs and police took over the streets where the demonstrations were planned to be held.

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