Connect to share and comment

WikiLeaks makes waves, but no tsunami

Turkey reaffirms commitment to the West. Is Istanbul the new Ankara? Turkey finally lets go of the IMF’s hand. V.S. Naipaul insults to Islam. And a California court reversal gives Armenian right to sue for insurance claims.

Top News: Despite the hype, there were few bombshells in the WikiLeak cables regarding Turkey on the international front.Yes, we now know that Israeli officials believe Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “hates” their country; and that (gasp!) chemistry between the United States and Turkey is off. But, as Hurriyet Daily News analyst Semih Idiz put it: “What these leaked cables have done ... is confirm what has been talked about or speculated about on the basis of factual information or ‘educated guessing’ among diplomats and diplomatic observers in Ankara for some time.”

On the domestic front, however, cables charging the Turkish prime minister with corruption and having secret bank accounts in Switzerland have had major ramifications. With general elections coming up, Erdogan and the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been working to shift attention away from their own misdeeds, stirring up an anti-American backlash to the leaks and spreading rumors that the cables are part of an Israeli plot to weaken Turkey.

It took a forest fire, it seems, to thaw relations between Turkey and Israel. After Ankara sent two firefighting aircrafts to Carmel to help fight the deadly blaze, which claimed at least 42 lives and forced the evacuation of 17,000 Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Turkish counterpart and thanked him for his help (a call assumed to be the first conversation between the two leaders since Netanyahu took office in March 2009). Now officials from both countries are working on an agreement to improve relations, although several issues have stymied talks, most crucially whether Israel will apologize for the killings of nine Turks during the flotilla raid by Israeli naval commandos last May.

Ankara used the NATO summit in Lisbon last month as achance to reaffirm Turkey's commitment to the concept of collective securityand to fend off those who were looking for another piece of evidence to prove the alleged Turkish drift eastward. The Turkish press, meanwhile, have dubbed the summit a “failure” for while Ankara succeeded in convincing NATO not to name any country (i.e. Iran) as the reason behind the new missile defense shield program, they chose to either drop or push to the future all other demands they had discussed in the weeks leading up to Lisbon.

The next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — will convene in Istanbul early next year, although Turkey will not participate in the negotiations. It is yet to be seen how the "Turkish approach" (less confrontation, more engagement) with Iran might play into how these new talks unfold.

Money: The central bank has become the next battleground to shape the nation's future between old-guard secularists and the country's Islamic-leaning government after a bid by the ruling party to move the country's top public financial institutions from the capital, Ankara, to Istanbul. Ostensibly, the move is part of a strategy to promote the commercial hub as an international financial center but political opponents see relocating the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey asa first step in a bid by the government to move the entire capital from Ankara.

A decade ago Turkey was forever calling on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out its economy (Ankara has run up some 18 IMF programs, almost a record). But in less than 10 years the country’s financial image has done a 180-degree turn and Turkey has finally been able to dump their old friends at the IMF. Last week IMF-director Mark White Lewis admitted that Turkey is now able to finance its current account deficit and, while they still need to attract more fixed investment, they are on their way to real stability.

Elsewhere: What’s the deal with Turks and winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature? First they boycott and insult their own Orhan Pamuk, who has also been charged with insulting “Turkishness.” And now V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidad-born 2001 winner of the prize, was forced to cancel a speech he was planning to make in Turkey because of a scandal over alleged insults he made against Islam. Watch out Toni Morrison.

A California federal appeals court on Friday reversed a previous decision and has now agreed to allow heirs of victims of the Armenian genocide to sue for unpaid insurance benefits. In the past the court had forbidden such lawsuits, arguing that the law contradicted the U.S. policy not to label the massacres of 1915 and 1923 a genocide. After persistent written arguments to reverse the case, however, California-Armenians can finally collect on the great tragedy of their past.