Coastal Breeze News » Beyond the Coast http://www.coastalbreezenews.com Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:09:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 We Don’t Need a Guide… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/09/we-dont-need-a-guide/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/09/we-dont-need-a-guide/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:41:02 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37938 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

There is a common expression in Turkish which roughly translates to “you don’t need a guide to tell you how to get there if you can see the destination.” This expression — which I heard many times as a young man growing up in Turkey — applies well to the situation in Ukraine today. Russia is preparing to invade and annex Ukraine as well as the neighboring country of Moldova. As I have done before, I would like to stress that I am writing this article on Sunday, March 30. The situation is fluid and many things may happen between now and next Friday when the Coastal Breeze is distributed, but as of today, one does not need a guide to tell one that Russia has every intention to invade and annex Ukraine and Moldova.

As it stands today, there are nearly 50,000 Russian troops amassed on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia. According to intelligence reports, these troops are concealing themselves and establishing supply routes. From a military perspective, this is a classic example of pre-invasion activities. In Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria where Russia already had 1,500 members of their 179th Motor Rifle Regiment, an additional 800 commandos have been brought in to supplement the force. I am sure this is not for conducting a joint military exercise either.

The estimates from international sources are that there are approximately a total of 100,000 Russian troops on the borders of Ukraine. President of Russia Vladimir Putin claims that this is not an invasion force. However, everything points to an invasion of Ukraine which may prove not to be as easy as invading Crimea. There are many factions and groups in Ukraine which may resist an invasion by Russian troops. A referendum similar to the one held in Crimea will not give Putin the results he desires. However, on the other hand, there is no Western resistance, willingness or combined forces in or around Ukraine to stop the Russians from moving forward.

Why is Russia on the move? There are many factors involved; however, for the sake of not giving a complicated or convoluted response, we may stick to the basics. As many of us have painfully come to realize, the foreign policy of the only world power today — the United States of America — is very weak, confusing and possibly non-existent. President Putin knows that other than finger pointing, scholarly advice and some rather weak economic sanctions imposed or to be imposed on Russia by the West, there really are not many clear options. Since the military option was taken off the table at the beginning of the conflict and since no one would like to risk or stomach a world war, we are in a helpless and frustrating position of our own making. Most of our European allies are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas for their energy needs. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO were shelved after the 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych. The now-ousted president also backed away from a trade agreement with the EU, which ignited the protests in Ukraine and brought the Russians into Crimea.

Jeff Sahadeo, an associate professor at Carleton University who studies relations in Eastern Europe and Asia, said losing influence in the former Soviet State would be a “real embarrassment” for Putin. “Putin’s end game is to make sure that Ukraine doesn’t become a part of NATO and that’s really the red line that he’s thought about and that’s why he sent these troops,” Sahadeo told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday.

One should never forget the fact that President Putin was a KGB agent in the old Soviet Union. As such, he understands military moves, the importance of intelligence services and the vital importance of energy strategies, as well as the clear consequences of a growing economy. He was personally devastated when the Soviet Union was disbanded and the old empire was reduced to Russian Federation. There is nothing he would not do to bring Russia back to her former glory as the “other” world power.

What may happen in the days or weeks will depend on the resolve the United States and her allies will show in Europe. Putin’s Ukraine adventure started when the Ukrainians wanted to join the European Union rather than joining Russia’s alternative Eurasian Union. Ukraine’s next door neighbor Moldova also wanted to be identified with the European Union. Putin did not like this one bit, and even imposed a ban on imports of Moldovan wine into Russia last year, only to see the Moldovan government sign an association deal with the European Union. The payback may be coming in the weeks to come, and it may be hellish!

Transnistria is a breakaway part of Moldova which has a majority Russian speaking population. In 2006, they voted to join Russia but were not invited. After the Russians annexed Crimea, they again asked the Russians if they could join. So far, Russia has not replied to this request, and the time may be just right for this to happen now. Another part of Moldova which consists of Russian speaking Turkic people called Gagauz also voted to join Russia if the Moldovan government signed an agreement to join the European Union. This agreement was signed, and it may now be a matter of time for the Russian tanks to appear.

All of the above signs indicate we do not need a guide to tell us what Russians will do next. We can clearly see that Putin will get the rest of Ukraine (at minimal cost), Moldova and Transnistria. Russians presently hold all the cards. We only have to be frustrated and wait and see.

 

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net


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Imagine…No Power…No Peace… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/23/imagineno-powerno-peace/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/23/imagineno-powerno-peace/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 01:34:27 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37547 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

It is Saturday night, March 15. A bright full moon graces Marco Island. It is the end of yet another beautiful day as I sit in front of my desktop computer writing this opinion piece, with windows in my room wide open to the scents and sounds of nature. It is very peaceful.

It is hard to imagine that somewhere in the horizon there, past the Gulf of Mexico, the mountains and the oceans, Ukrainians are waking up to a miserable day, when a large portion of their country (Crimea) will be separated and annexed into Russia by a ruthless dictator as a result of a sham referendum whose results are known even before the first ballot is cast.

It is hard to imagine that just a few hundred miles south of the Ukraine people are waking up all around Turkey after many days of street demonstrations, where many were injured, against Prime Minister Erdogan who is slowly but surely turning into a dictator.

It is hard to imagine that just a few miles south of Turkey in Syria people are fighting another dictator named Assad who has killed and used chemical weapons on thousands of his own people and continues unabated.

It is hard to imagine that due east and right next door to Syria an Iraqi government headed by President Al-Maliki — which is in power only because more than 3,000 of our young men and women made the ultimate sacrifice to make it happen — is willingly watching his country fall into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian Mullahs.

Nicolas Maduro

Nicolas Maduro

It is hard to imagine that only a few hundred miles due east in Iraq a bunch of Iranian Mullahs are busy working on producing a nuclear weapon to “erase Israel off the map of the world” after successfully fooling America and the West that their efforts are perfectly legitimate and for peaceful purposes only.

It is hard to imagine that due east of Iran in Afghanistan — where more of our sons and daughters blood was shed to get rid of a hoard of ruthless savages called the Taliban — President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign an agreement to protect the lives and guarantee the safety of 38,000 or so of our troops still in that God-forsaken country trying to maintain peace saving the very Karzai’s rear end.

It is hard to imagine that only a few hundred miles south of Key West in Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is attacking his own people to maintain a miserably failed Socialist regime brought on by his predecessor President Chavez who is finally smelling the sulfur he so proudly talked about during his various long and boring speeches at the United Nations.

And finally it is hard to imagine that after days and days of searching, using all the modern equipment and tools known and unknown to men, there is no trace of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard. Terrorism is suspected.

And we sit here totally helpless and powerless to do anything about any of these events. More than anything else, the feeling of helplessness bothers me the most. I ask myself over and over “what happened to the country that won a world war and freed the peoples of Europe from tyrants; invented the Ford assembly line; sent the first man to the moon; is the first to respond to all natural or man-made disasters around the world; possesses the mightiest armed forces; home of Microsoft and Apple?”

Al-Maliki

Al-Maliki

The world is falling apart only because the world lacks a strong America. How did we get to this point in our history? That is a very long discussion for another day; however once one examines the events I listed above, one may come to the same conclusion I came to a long time ago. Without a powerful America willing to show her power intelligently, willingly and sparingly, there will never be peace in the world.

Let us go back to the list above and imagine the following:

Imagine if a powerful and resolute America drew a line and told Assad of Syria that if he crosses this line and uses chemical weapons on his own people that the consequences would be a bunch of cruise missiles raining on him the next day, and when Assad did use the chemical weapons, cruise missiles actually rained down on him?

Imagine if after Assad understood that America was serious when she threatened to do something, and if a powerful and resolute America sent a stern message to Putin and informed him in no uncertain words that his actions will be met with the harshest of the reactions, would Russian soldiers be in the Crimea today?

Imagine if a powerful and resolute America told the Iranian Mullahs that continuing to work on obtaining nuclear weapons will result in America cutting off all financial resources of their regime and totally ruin their economy; and the Mullahs thumbed their collective noses at this threat, yet the next day all financial institutions around the world shut their doors to them and no one purchased their oil. Would they continue to build centrifuges and work on getting a nuclear weapon?

Imagine if a powerful and resolute America informed Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela that unless he stopped killing the demonstrators in the streets whose only wish is to determine their own fate that America will no longer purchase Venezuelan oil (presently we purchase 12 percent of our oil from Venezuela, around $76 million worth per day) which keeps his regime in power; and Maduro knows that this is no idle threat. Do you think he would continue to shoot demonstrating students and workers?

Stop imagining!

Walking on the moon. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Walking on the moon. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

There is no powerful and resolute America today. Neither our friends nor our enemies take us seriously anymore. We are not as powerful as we used to be in their eyes, and we have been reduced to being spectators to the world events. A powerful and resolute America is the only way to real world peace. We may never have to exercise our power; just the mere thought that we may actually exercise it would be a deterrent to the likes of Putin, Maduro, Al Maliki, Assad, Erdogan, Karzai and the Mullahs in Iran.

A powerful America certainly insures world peace; a weak America opens the door to conflicts. We have been here before and we have overcome. We shall overcome this time too.

We are Americans after all. We can, and we will do it!

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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Ukraine…. http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/10/ukraine/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/10/ukraine/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:52:20 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37067 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasu
tayasun@taray.com

Putin

Putin

Due to various obligations and travel, I was not going to send in an article to the next issue. However, after spending a sleepless night watching the ongoing events, I wanted to at least inform the readers as to what is going on in Ukraine, and what all this means for us in America.

As I write this article at 6 AM on Sunday, March 2, Russian troops are on the move into Ukraine.

On Friday, President Barack Obama promised “there will be costs” for Russia if the country moved on neighboring Ukraine — although no specifics were cited. In response, Senator John McCain of Arizona said, “It is now essential for the President to articulate exactly what those costs will be and to take steps urgently to impose them.

“Every moment that the United States and our allies fail to respond sends the signal to President (Vladimir) Putin that he can be even more ambitious and aggressive in his military intervention in the Ukraine.”

In the meantime, Russian President Putin declared, “I’m submitting a request for using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, pending the normalization of the sociopolitical situation in that country.” Furthermore, Russia’s upper house of parliament recommended that Moscow yank its ambassador from Washington over Obama’s Friday remarks.

One Russian politico accused President Obama of crossing a “red line” (pun intended) with his thinly veiled threats.

Europe. SUBMITTED photoS

Europe. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

During the past few weeks, Ukraine was rocked by pro-Russian protests in several cities, including Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa. In Kharkiv demonstrations left 97 people injured as the protesters forced Ukrainian government officials out of their headquarters — and raised the Russian flag above it.

In order to explain the situation in Ukraine, I posted a number of maps along with this article. The location of Ukraine is very important for Russia but much more important to Europe, the West and the USA! Ukraine is a finger pointed at the center of Western Europe, and could easily be the first step in Putin’s dream of re-establishing the Russian Empire by taking over the former Soviet Union territories lost after the end of the Cold War era. I urge the readers to look at these maps and orient themselves as to where Ukraine is and how important it is for the West not to lose this country back into Putin’s hands.

Here is a brief summary of the events which brought us to this moment:

Nov. 21, 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych’s government announces that it is abandoning an agreement that would strengthen ties with the European Union and instead seeks closer cooperation with Moscow. Protesters take to the streets.

Nov. 30, 2013: Police brutally attack a group of protesters, detaining 35. Images of protesters bloodied by police truncheons spread quickly and galvanize public support for the demonstrations.

Dec. 1, 2013: A protest attracts around 300,000 people, the largest in Kiev since the Orange Revolution in 2004. Activists seize Kiev City Hall.

Dec. 17, 2013: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Moscow will buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and allow for a sharp cut in the price Ukrainians pay for Russian natural gas. Putin and Yanukovych claim there are no conditions attached.

Jan. 22, 2014: Two protesters die after being hit with live ammunition and the third after a fall during a confrontation between police and demonstrators manning barricades — the first protest deaths.

Jan. 28, 2014: The prime minister resigns and parliament repeals the new harsh anti-protest laws that set off the violence of a week earlier. Both are concessions to the opposition aimed at defusing the crisis.

Jan. 31, 2014: Opposition activist, Dmytro Bulatov, missing since Jan. 22, resurfaces badly bruised and with part of his right ear cut off. He believes a pro-Russia group was behind his kidnapping and torture, raising fears among the opposition that extrajudicial squads are being deployed to intimidate protesters.

Feb. 16, 2014: Opposition activists end their occupation of Kiev City Hall in exchange for the release of all 234 jailed protesters, in what is seen as a sign of progress toward resolving the crisis peacefully.

Feb. 18 2014: Street clashes leave at least 26 people, including 10 police officers, dead and hundreds injured. The violence begins when protesters attack police lines and set fires outside parliament after it stalls on taking up a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers. Russia’s offer the day before to resume payments under the bailout deal also feeds opposition suspicions that Yanukovych has made a deal with Moscow to stand firm against the protesters. Riot police respond to the violence by trying to push protesters off Independence Square.

Feb. 20, 2014: Hours after a truce is announced, fierce clashes erupt between protesters and police with numerous casualties.

Feb. 21, 2014: President Yanukovych signs a compromise deal with opposition leaders, envisaging a new national unity government, constitutional changes to hand powers back to parliament and early elections to be held by December. The deal was brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland. Sporadic violence continues and in western Ukraine protesters occupying government buildings remain defiant, refusing to recognize the Kiev authorities.

Feb. 22, 2014: Protesters take control of presidential administration buildings without resistance and opposition leaders call for elections on May 25. President Yanukovych is nowhere to be seen and reports emerge that he has left for Kharkiv in the northeast. Parliament votes to remove him from power with elections set for May 25. Yanukovych appears on TV to insist he was lawfully-elected president and denounces a “coup d’état.” His arch-rival, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed for seven years in 2011, is freed and travels from Kharkiv to Kiev.

Feb. 23, 2014: Parliament names speaker Olexander Turchynov as interim president. Turchynov, a close associate of freed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, tells MPs they have until Tuesday to form a new unity government.

Feb. 24, 2014: Arrest warrant is issued for Yanukovych.

Feb. 25, 2014: Turchynov warns of dangers of separatism.

Feb. 26, 2014: Members of the proposed new government appear before demonstrators with Arseniy Yatsenyuk nominated as prime minister. Acting interior minister disbands elite Berkut police unit, blamed for deaths of protesters. Rival protests are held in Crimea.

Feb. 27, 2014: New coalition formed in parliament to unite opposition parties. In Crimean capital Simferopol, pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings. Yanukovych issues statement through Russian media saying he is still legitimate president.

Feb. 28, 2014: Unidentified gunmen in combat uniforms appear outside Crimea’s main airports, sparking fears of Russian military intervention. At his first news conference since fleeing Ukraine, Yanukovych, now in Russia, insists he remains president and says he opposes any military intervention or division of Ukraine. Prospects for fielding single pro-EU candidate at May 25 presidential election take a knock when contender Vitaliy Klitschko says he has been told by Tymoshenko that she means to stand too. Ukraine’s central bank limits daily foreign currency cash withdrawals.

March 1, 2014: Russia’s parliament approves a request by President Putin to use Russian forces across Ukraine. In response, Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov puts his army on full alert. Large pro-Russian rallies take place in several Ukrainian cities outside Crimea, including in Kharkiv, the country’s second-biggest city. Western countries express alarm over the Russian deployment. US President Obama holds a 90-minute telephone conversation with Putin, urging him to pull forces back to bases in Crimea. Putin says Moscow reserves the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

March 2, 2014: A convoy of hundreds of Russian troops heads towards the regional capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region — a day after Russia’s forces took over the strategic Black Sea peninsula without firing a shot.

Russian troops on the march.

Russian troops on the march.

And that brings us up-to-date.

My personal observations and predictions about the situation are very dim and dire.

1. Russia under Putin’s iron hand developed and increased production of their natural resources — namely natural gas and oil — and now holds many Eastern and Western European countries hostage to their oil and gas.

2. Using these resources, Putin was able to build up Russia’s economy and fill up the government’s coffers.

3. Putin has been building up Russia’s military power, adding new aircraft, warships and weapons.

4. Sevastopol, Crimea (check the map), is where Russia has a very important naval facility and warm water port. Putin immediately took control of Crimea to make sure this port is secured.

5. We must remember the ethnic composition of Ukraine in order to understand why it is important to Putin to make his move now. (See map.) The Western part of Ukraine is made up of Ukrainians and only the eastern part is made up of ethnic Russians.

Ukraine

Ukraine

About this point in the article, the readers will be wondering why what happens in Ukraine is important to us here in America.

Ask yourselves this question and you will connect the dots: “Would Putin engage in such an aggressive adventure if he worried about what America would respond with?” My answer is a bold “NO!” As the Russian adventure into Ukraine is in full force, our Secretary of Defense announced massive cuts to our defense budget and proposed to reduce the US military to pre-World War II levels!

A strong America means peace around the world. Our allies and enemies know by now that “lines” drawn by our leaders “not to be crossed without facing consequences” are nothing but totally meaningless, empty threats. Our adversaries are wringing their hands, slapping high-fives and smiling broadly as we unilaterally make these “knuckle-headed” moves to reduce our military might; cut payments and reduce benefits to those who sacrificed all for us; and diminish our powerful nation into just another country.

Can America do anything to change the course of events in Ukraine? The answer is a very sad “no.”

Wake up my fellow Americans before it is absolutely too late!

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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Hamid Karzai…Afghanistan…And Others http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/21/hamid-karzaiafghanistanand-others/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/21/hamid-karzaiafghanistanand-others/#comments Sat, 22 Feb 2014 01:49:21 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=36677 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

One of the most difficult aspects of writing an opinion piece on world affairs a week before publication date in order to meet deadlines set by the newspaper is the speed which things can change around the world. What seems to be the most important thing on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 15, may be old news by the morning of Sunday, Feb. 16. Therefore, it is very important to pick a topic which is universal, dynamic and may not change much in a week’s time. Our country’s continuous adventures around the world with the very best of intentions — to bring freedom, democracy, women’s rights and best of all a feeling of self-respect and dignity to the oppressed peoples of the world and inevitably running into corrupt leaders and massive corruption — is one those stories that may not change anytime in the near future. We can probably pick any number of examples on a daily basis; yet because of the events of last week, we will examine Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai.

General Sisi

General Sisi

We went into Afghanistan immediately following 9/11 with two main goals: to get rid of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and to stabilize the country enough to make sure they can elect their own government and achieve stability. As of today, it seems like neither one of these goals will have been achieved when the last American military personnel along with their Coalition partners leave Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Those of us who are interested in world affairs and their implications on our daily lives here in America were most interested in the events taking place in Afghanistan last week. At the center of all was the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, a complex, well-educated and strong-willed man who has to leave office after the presidential elections which will be held on April 5. The incumbent president will not be eligible to run due to term limits. The registration period for presidential nominations was open from September 16-Oct. 6, 2013. A total of 27 candidates were confirmed to be running for office. However, on Oct. 22, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission disqualified 16 of the candidates, leaving only 11 in the race. Opinion polls as of today show Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani as the front-runners.

Last week, after he unilaterally released 65 Taliban prisoners from jail before they were tried in court and were being held on charges of killing at least 32 Americans, Karzai drew the ire of many around the country and around the world. He was called “a despicable man,” a “crook,” a “common criminal” and was described as “mentally unstable” and “not fit for office.” Obviously, many of these were well-deserved descriptions of a man who was brought into power in Afghanistan by the U.S. and our Western Allies only a short 10 or so years ago and now seems to have turned on us in a publicly embarrassing way.

Hamid Karzai speaking

Hamid Karzai speaking

I thought it would be well worth the time to look into the life and works of this man, who is now considered by many to “have left this planet” and traveled to “another, unknown place!” President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was born on December 24, 1957, to a distinguished family in the small village of Karz, located on the edge of Kandahar City in southwest Afghanistan. He was educated in Afghanistan and at the Himachal Pradesh University in India, and is known to be well-versed in several languages, including his native Peshto, Persian, Hindi, French and English. He rose through the political ranks during the turbulent Soviet occupation. In 1980, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Karzai traveled to Pakistan to work as a fundraiser supporting the anti-Soviet Mujahedeen fighters’ insurgency. During this time, the Mujahedeen were secretly supplied by the United States, and Hamid Karzai was said to be a contractor for the CIA.

He emerged as a resistance leader under Taliban rule and worked to undermine the regime. He became president in 2004 after American-led forces had overthrown the Taliban in Afghanistan, and was reelected in what is considered to be a “fraudulent election” in 2009, when his only opponent withdrew from the run-off election.

He is an ethnic Pashtun of the Popalzai tribe and has six brothers and one sister. His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, served in the 1919 war for independence, and was deputy speaker of the Afghanistan Senate. Karzai’s father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was a popular tribal elder and political figure who served as deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament.

For those who are not familiar with “tribes” and “tribal life,” it is important to emphasize that most countries in the Middle East as well as in Africa are made up of various tribes which preserve their unity and traditions throughout history all the way up to the present day. Tribal leaders are revered and obeyed. Intermarriages between tribes are not allowed, and members of the tribes usually speak local dialects to preserve their identities. Afghanistan is made of many tribes, and the Pashtun Popalzai tribe to which Hamid Karzai belongs has an estimated population of 500,000 members.

As a consequence of the events of last week and the fact that Karzai still refuses to sign the “Security Agreement” with the United States, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Loya Jirga (grand assembly/grand council) of Afghanistan and supported by China, Russia, and the Central Asian countries, as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (all of whom either face or fear militant Islam) with only disapprovals coming from the usual suspects Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban, many in the USA and around the world asked themselves the question, “What is Karzai up to?” After all, the US Government funneled nearly $100 billion in aid to Afghanistan through Karzai, not to mention the billions of dollars spent on our military effort to stabilize the country. How much of this money actually ended up in the hands of the people to better their lives and bring their society up to par with the rest of the world? How much of it never left Karzai’s pocket and his secret bank accounts in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates? Only Karzai and his fellow crooks may have the answer to those questions.

Al Qaeda in Fallujah again

Al Qaeda in Fallujah again

As a politician who is not running for office in presidential elections in April, Karzai feels he has to find himself a leadership position after the Americans leave. He naturally worries that America will side with Pakistan to decide who rules Afghanistan after the withdrawal. He does not trust Pakistan and wants to make sure the Taliban do not overrun his country. He has been receiving mixed signals from Washington. He had an explosive private meeting last month with Susan Rice, a national security advisor, and most importantly, President Obama does not talk to him! All this worries Karzai, or at least, he seems like he is worried. Yes, we know he may be a “despicable crook,” but as someone once said, “He is our despicable crook.” And our “despicable crook” after releasing 65 Taliban fighters from jail during a speech at a conference in the capital city of Ankara, Turkey said, “Washington should respect Afghanistan’s judicial authority! Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release prisoners, it is of no concern to the U.S. and should be of no concern to the U.S.! I hope that the United States will stop harassing Afghanistan’s procedures and judicial authority.” That is what we get for “no-strings-attached-do-your-very-best-and-make-everything-better-U.S.-aid” to yet another “leader of a tribal country!”

Obviously, as an American, his words were hard to swallow for me. On the other hand, I thought that we must stop and take a serious look at our own policies of getting involved, with the best of intentions, in the affairs of tribal countries where Democracy is a four-letter word and the sun rotates around a flat world! World history is flush with stories of failed attempts by various world powers who tried to bring these countries into Western-style democracies or Eastern-style socialist regimes! As we think about the events surrounding Afghanistan and Iraq, we should never forget the ultimate sacrifices made by the more than 1,760 brave American men and women in uniform who went to Afghanistan and over 4,000 men and women who did the same in Iraq, as well as the billions of our hard earned dollars in Afghanistan. Most Iraqi war veterans who gave it their all must be sitting in front of their TV sets and watching in total disgust at Al Qaeda flags flying over the very cities they once liberated at great cost!

At this point in time, I am sure the entire world knows that as soon as the last Coalition Force member (which includes around 10,000 Americans) leaves this most dangerous place on earth Afghanistan will fall into chaos. Taliban will be back in full force, maybe this time facing a different foreign force in the form of China, which invested millions of dollars of their money into copper mines, minerals and infrastructure in Afghanistan. Our “despicable crook” Hamid Karzai will be living happily ever after in his villa in Dubai with his family and enjoying all the dollars we so “willingly” and “foolishly” sent to him.

I continue to ask myself the question “when will we ever learn?” We did not learn after spending billions of dollars in Palestine only to make the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a multi-millionaire with our hard earned dollars invested in his secret Swiss banks and other places where we can’t get to! As you are reading this article, we are probably making many more millionaires of dictators around the world, hoping they will turn their countries around, help their peoples advance and love us in the interim. The formula for them is simple: Ask Uncle Sam to come in and spend money and human treasure; prop their corrupt regime up; and then cut and run before the job is completed because the folks at home are getting restless, complaining about a protracted war with no victory in sight!

But what about us? The ever-loving, ever-giving, good-natured, well-educated, well-fed and well-intentioned Americans? When will we learn to tell those who want us to assist them in turning their miserable countries into western-style democracies before we deploy the first military personnel or load the first pallet of dollars on board the next aircraft, “Yes, we will come and help you, but there will be a heavy price to pay at the end if you choose not to assist us, pocket millions of our dollars or treat us like a bunch oppressors because you have now established yourself as the next dictator! If you co-operate with us and turn your countries into civilized democracies, we will be your best friends; if you do not, we will be your worst enemies, and we will make damn sure that you will not live another day to enjoy the dollars you stole from us.”

Mr. Karzai in Kabul, can you hear me now? Mr. Maliki in Baghdad, can you hear me now? General Sisi in Cairo, can you hear me now?

 

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]

 


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On Biased Media & Biased Education http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/07/on-biased-media-biased-education/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/07/on-biased-media-biased-education/#comments Sat, 08 Feb 2014 02:19:07 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=36319 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

James Baldwin in Istanbul.

James Baldwin in Istanbul.

I spend most my Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings scanning through many foreign newspapers and magazines published either in Turkish or English in order to get a feeling of what the journalists beyond the coast think about the events in our country and interpret these events to their local populations. Some of the stories I am able to read in depth are interesting; others are totally mind-boggling and most just down-right brainwashing!

Obviously, world news, unless sensational and gory, never makes it into our local or national newspapers. As I was going through these stories, it became apparent to me that learning to write and speak English at an early age was the best gift given to me by my forward-looking family. Having been very fortunate to attend a British middle school and an American High School in Istanbul, Turkey, widened my world vision, as well as giving me the unique opportunity to read and learn about things above and beyond what local papers or magazines provided at the time. In the British middle school I attended, we read works by William Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson and Aldous Huxley. In the American high school, we were exposed to John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Henry David Thoreau and James Baldwin. It so happened that Mr. Baldwin actually lived in Istanbul 1961 to 1971 and lectured in our school as a visiting author. I was one of the very lucky students in my English class to attend a number of his lectures, and learned about another side of life in America which otherwise would have never been available to me. He wrote two novels during what is known as “Baldwin’s Turkish Decade”; “Another Country” (1962) and “The Fire Next Time” (1963).

I went back to Istanbul last September, and with my friends, attended the 150th birthday of my high school — Robert College of Istanbul established in 1863. Students attending Robert College of Istanbul have always been and continue to be exposed to European and American literature as well as literature from all over the world. They learn about different cultures on a daily basis as a part of their course requirements, and are able to get their news from various sources as a direct result of their ability to speak fluent English (and in some cases German and French).

Obviously, one must be cognizant of the fact that if not conducted in a neutral and purely academic atmosphere, this access could also cause the students to develop ideas about other countries or peoples in a biased manner. Other than the required reading of such world classics, students are continuously encouraged to read all available international print media. This is an occasion where I think media bias meets academic bias, and this can result in the “perfect storm” of totally biased opinions. Teachers who have political biases of one way or the other can and do influence young minds and bend them in their preferred direction. A teacher may tell the students in a journalism class to go online and get his or her news from a particular media outlet. If the students do not take it upon themselves to find alternative sources of news, the teacher’s political bias will receive a stamp of approval from the biased media contacted.

James Baldwin on Campus.

James Baldwin on Campus.

A young man in Turkey whom I met in Istanbul last summer spoke fluent English and told me that he gets all his news from one American daily newspaper published in a major city on a daily basis. His opinion and vision of America is totally based on the information he gathers from this newspaper. As a result, this young man considers most Americans as “bullies” and “an uncultured lot” as well as “killers of innocent peoples all over the world in order to achieve world hegemony.” Another young man I met who gets his news from another daily American newspaper was sure “global warming/climate change” was “settled science” (it absolutely is not!) and was totally convinced that the 9/11 attacks were self-inflicted.

On the other side of the equation, many of the local and national Turkish newspapers and television news stations which are close to the present Islamist government of Turkey add fuel to the fire by their continuous “anti-Israel, anti-American” propaganda and made another young man I met a “true hater of America and everything that has to do with Capitalism.” A young woman I met in Istanbul who was a friend of my cousin — a college graduate with a Master’s Degree in English and who teaches at a local college — carried the same exact opinions she developed while getting her “American news” from a right leaning news organization available to her, and was convinced the President of the United States could do no right! Another young lady exclusively got her news from the local affiliate of Al Jazeera TV and found nothing to be liked about America or American institutions. I am sure there were thousands if not millions of young men and women in Turkey who hated America because of the sourcing of their news and lectures of biased teachers and professors.

If you were asked “which Middle Eastern public has the largest percentage of people naming the United States as the country that poses the greatest threat to Turkey?”, what would your answer be? Certainly not Turkey, you would say — a NATO ally and a country that is generally touted as the type of secular, multi-party democracy the United States should foster in the Middle East, which has urged the EU to accept Turkey into membership. Unfortunately, the answer, according to the most recent Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, is Turkey.

Pew found that nearly two-thirds (67 percent) of Turkish respondents named the United States as the country that poses the greatest threat to Turkey in the future. Among the Middle Eastern publics asked the open-ended question by Pew, only in Turkey did a majority name the United States. This may not be enough to prove my point about “biased education and biased media,” but it certainly comes close.

Turkey is also the only Middle Eastern country where public opinion toward the United States has slipped furthest in recent years. Less than one in 10 Turks (10 percent) have a positive view of the United States, a drop of 21 points from the already low level in Pew’s 2002 survey. More than four out of five (83 percent) say their attitude is unfavorable, including 75 percent who feel very unfavorably.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

The situation may also be the same (in reverse) right here in America where people’s beliefs are solely developed as a direct result of their sources of news. The biased media in America is where the youth get their news as well as through text messages, Facebook and other such social media where “sources” and “facts” are not important at all. A blogger may post a completely fabricated and totally biased story either online or in any one of the social media outlets. It may be sensational. It may be totally fabricated, but it will go viral; and next thing you know, everyone who reads this garbage is a total believer.

I still think a good, solid unbiased education and press are the answers to most of our world’s problems. Unbiased education will open minds, manipulate young brains to search for deeper and deeper sources. Unbiased media will keep people informed and in touch with reality. Total availability of fact-based and unbiased education and media may be our answer to a peaceful and non-aggressive world.

Homer. SUBMITTED photoS

Homer. SUBMITTED photoS

Ask yourselves: when was the last time your son, daughter or grandchild brought home a book by Faulkner, Baldwin or Mark Twain? When was the last time any young person in your home or neighborhood carried on a conversation with you about Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” or Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or Charlotte Bronte’ classic “Jane Eyre?” I receive literally hundreds of emails a day from people I do not know telling me how the world is about to burn up due to “global warming.” Their sources? The internet and a sensational movie!!! When I tell people in social settings that “in 1964 as a young student in Istanbul, my class and I met with the American author James Baldwin and he discussed his books, race problems in America and his sexuality with us” things which no one else told us at the time, all I get is a blank stare! James who? Granted, not everyone is expected to read Baldwin’s books, but how about Twain, Dickens and others. I will not even bother asking anyone about real classics like Homer (the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”). I am afraid they will think I am talking about the other Homer — Simpson, that is!

Of course, existence of biased media and prevailing biased education or non-existence of any education or any media are not just American problems; they are world problems and in my opinion the source of most ills that affect us all. As people are dumbed down more and influenced more every day by social media, text messages, twitter accounts, unscrupulous teachers, authors, TV anchors, know-it-all drug infused pompous Hollywood personalities advocating their biased and fact-free “opinions,” there will always be hatred, wars and conflicts around the world.

Education, education, education.

I have recently been told by a professor in one of our local colleges that he conducted a poll amongst the students. The poll consisted of a single question. Are you in favor of ObamaCare or the Affordable Care Act? Believe it or not, ObamaCare won the day 70 percent to 30 percent. Needless to say, both ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act are one and the same thing. Unfortunately, most of these same students are also voters.

A future based on less-than-desirable, totally biased media exposure and a lack of proper education for the masses is not too bright for America in particular and the world in general.

Get involved!

 

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/24/35927/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/24/35927/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 20:49:49 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=35927 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

Benghazi dead

Benghazi dead

It has been more than a year since our consulate in Benghazi was attacked by Al-Qaeda associated terrorists (Ansar-Al Sharia/Partisans of Sharia Law) and our Ambassador was assassinated along with two former Navy Seals and a State Department employee. To date, no one has been arrested and all 15 Libyans who cooperated with the investigation and knew full details of the planned attack have been killed.

Last week, a disgraceful report was published by a Congressional Committee composed of Democrats and Republicans which looked like a high-school student’s term paper trying to please the teacher while skirting around the real issues. This proved my long-time belief that the elected officials in Washington are all members of the same team wearing different uniforms. I am no longer disappointed; I am filled with righteous indignation!

When our Government sent my daughter and son-in-law wearing United States Marine Corps uniforms into combat in Iraq back in 2003, they went there because they believed they were protecting us. The American people and I had a reasonable expectation that our government would protect them regardless of costs, ideology or personal agendas of the politicians of the day.

I no longer have the same reasonable expectation. I believe the people in Washington who send our sons and daughters to fight wars in foreign countries will abandon them when the heat is turned on — just to save their own butts. The top official in the State Department is the Secretary of State, who is responsible for protecting the lives of our embassy and consulate officials in foreign lands. The Secretary reports to his or her boss, and that happens to be the President.

The buck should have stopped there; however, in this case it did not! Four great Americans were killed in the service of their country, and all Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could utter (waving her arms in Hollywood-esque disgust and staged indignation) was “the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Let me tell you something Madam Secretary: It makes a hell a lot of difference to me as a citizen that four of my countrymen were killed by terrorist while serving our country under your orders and your full responsibility, and you did absolutely nothing to protect them except to try and cover up your mistakes in the aftermath because you were concerned about an impending election! That was probably the most selfish and unacceptable act by any American politician of any political persuasion in the history of this country. As long as I have anything to do with it, I promise it will never happen on YOUR watch again!

What happened in Benghazi is very clear to me, and I hope it is very clear to the rest of my fellow Americans. Let us go through the events one more time in case some have forgotten or some have taken Secretary Clinton at her word that it does not make a difference!

Ambassador Stevens

Ambassador Stevens

On March 28, 2012, Ambassador Cretz sent a cable to Secretary of State Clinton requesting additional security assets. On April 6, 2012, terrorists threw an IED over the consulate wall in Benghazi. Six days later, a cable was sent from the State Department to Cretz signed by Secretary Clinton refusing the request for security, instead suggesting a pared-down plan. In May 2012, terrorists attacked Red Cross and warned the Americans about an impending attack. On May 6, 2012, terrorists blew a large hole through the consulate gate. During the month of May 2012, the British Ambassador in Benghazi survived an assassination attempt, and Al Qaeda forces rallied in the streets. Ambassador Chris Stevens warned the State Department that extremist groups were openly operating in the streets of Benghazi and other places in Libya.

In July 2012, a State Department official “demanded” that no further requests for additional security be made from the Embassy in Libya! Later on, Ambassador Stevens requested at least 13 more security personnel citing the “unpredictable” situation in Libya. Regional Security Official Nordstrom warned the State Department that risk to U.S. officials in Libya was “HIGH.”

On August 2, 2012, Ambassador Stevens sent a cable to Secretary Clinton, requesting “protective detail bodyguard.” In response, the State Department “removed” the ambassador’s security team. Yes, this is not a misprint; the State Department removed the ambassador’s security team. This act alone after the receipt of the cable from the ambassador should be totally unacceptable, and makes one wonder what Secretary Clinton was thinking (or not thinking in this case). Ambassador Stevens’ security team departed Libya on the August 8. The regional security official sent an email to Secretary Clinton’s office warning of “dire security situation” in Benghazi on August 16.

On Sept. 6, 2012, President Obama closed his speech to the DNC with, “Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead!” On Sept. 10, Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri called for Libyans to avenge the death of his deputy, Abu Yahya al-Libi.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2012, Ambassador Stevens sent a cable to the State Department warning of deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. The last act of Ambassador Stevens was to meet with the visiting Turkish Ambassador. This event has not been publicized, investigated or highlighted as much as it should have been. The reason for the meeting was to make the final agreement on the shipment of arms collected from the streets and warehouses in Libya to Syria via Turkey. The arms were destined for the anti-Assad forces, but Al Qaeda wanted them to go to their fighters in Syria. Sending the arms against the will of Al Qaeda in Libya infuriated the terrorists, and may have actually been an additional spark for the attack on the consulate.

It may be important to repeat once again that the president’s and the State Department’s efforts to blame the attack on a silly anti-Islam video, which had not been even seen in Libya, was completely false and a total fabrication. It was done to protect those who grossly failed in their duty to protect our citizens abroad regardless of the reasons or situations. It was a classic case of a cover-up, which should make every single citizen of this country sick to their stomachs and never put irresponsible people in responsible positions ever again!

I will not repeat the gory events of the day on Sept. 11, 2012. A very significant day, the anniversary of the first attack on our country by terrorists when extra-ordinary measures should have been taken to protect ALL our citizens EVERYWHERE! And they were not!

An old Turkish expression states: “Fish start to stink from the head.” And stink from the head it did on Sept. 11, 2012. Yes, it has been more than a year since the event; yes, all kinds of usual promises to “find and punish the terrorists responsible” were made and not kept; yes, there will be other attacks as soon as we let our collective guards down; and yes, there will be irresponsible “journalists” of major newspapers who will write long and false reports going back to the “video” theory and try to rewrite history for political gains and ideological reasons.

All I am asking from my readers is to always check the facts. Never trust ideologically inspired politicians regardless of their party affiliations. Connect the dots, and always be on the side of the truth.

Think America first.

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]

 


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What the World Needs Now… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/12/what-the-world-needs-now/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/12/what-the-world-needs-now/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 02:33:26 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=35707 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

A10-CBN-1-10-14-2After a self-imposed exile of nearly three months from Coastal Breeze News, I am back. If you are as interested as I am in the affairs of the world in general and the Middle East in particular, you would also have been as angry as I was to the point where I could no longer write and put intelligent, logical and sensible sentences and thought on paper.

I am hoping 2014 will be a much better year for the world than 2013; although presently, I am not very optimistic.

Towards the end of last year, I was sick of hearing lies, empty promises and more lies and empty promises from our very own politicians who parade as “statesmen”, (a self-aggrandizing description of one if one ever existed). I was sick of watching all the so-called “world-leaders” whose only interest was to grab and stay in power at any cost. I was sick of reading articles written by re-writers of history in the so-called “American mainstream press”. I was so sick of it all that I simply refused to write what I really felt like writing about. Anything I tried to put on paper sounded harsh, ugly and angry, even though it was all very true and factual. So I took a few months off from writing for Coastal Breeze to sit back, calm down and reflect — mostly concentrating on my business, civic and social activities. However, I never stopped reading, researching and communicating with my contacts all around the world during this period. It is dangerous for someone with my passion for world affairs to just go fishing, watch soccer and basketball games on TV day-in-and-day-out and shut myself off from everything that is taking place all around the world. I am afraid I may implode and go to see the 72 virgins!!!

So here I am, back to my beloved Coastal Breeze, ready to give the readers an alternative opinion on world affairs, without seeking power, money or a higher position. Just my opinions based on facts and many years of closely and curiously following events that shape our world.

A quick recap of 2013 may help the reader connect the dots and come up with their own conclusions as to what 2014 will bring our way.

The year started off with the French Military’s intervention into Northern Mali in early January where al-Qaida affiliate Islamist group “Ansar Dine” (Translation: Helpers of the Religion) had taken over and started methodically to kill and chase non-Muslims from the area. This was followed by the deaths of 39 international workers in the hands of terrorists in a hostage crisis at a natural gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria.

In March, Central African Republic President Francois Bozize (who himself had seized power by force in 2003) fled to Cameroon via the Democratic Republic of the Congo after rebel forces captured the capital city of Bangui and eventually requested asylum in the country of Benin.

In April, two Chechen Islamist brothers carried on a terror attack during the Boston Marathon resulting in the deaths of three and causing severe injuries and maiming 264. This was an undeniable act of home-grown domestic terrorism right in our backyard and in plain view of millions.

In June, Edward Snowden, a mid-level worker at the NSA, fled the country with top-secrets which will inevitably help destroy America’s ability to gather intelligence around the world and help terror organization to reorganize their methods and most probably cost American lives here and abroad. Snowden is presently living in Russia, disclosing more and more secret information he possesses while searching for a USA-hating country to grant him asylum. He is no ordinary, garden variety “whistle-blower”, as some want to make him. He is a traitor, and should be dealt as such as soon as he is captured and brought back to America.

One of the most explosive events of 2013 was the removal of Muslim Brother Leader and elected President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi from office by the Egyptian Military after he started to turn Egypt into an Islamic Republic under a new constitution based on Sharia Law. A total lack of leadership in international affairs is exposed within our government when USA remains undecided or unable to make a decision whether to support the military or not. As a result, the situation in Egypt is still unsettled and may be a major concern in 2014.

In September, Al-Shabaab militants attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 62 and wounding 170 innocent civilians — men, women and young children. Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahedeen (HSM) (“Mujahedeen Youth Movement” or “Movement of Striving Youth”), more commonly known as al-Shabaab, meaning “The Youth”, “The Youngsters” or “The Boys”, is a jihadist group based in rural parts of southern Somalia. They are also a cell of the militant Islamist terror organization Al-Qaida (which was falsely reported to have been taken out of existence by the “leaders” in our government).

In late November of 2013, Iran agreed to “limit” their nuclear development program in exchange for “sanctions relief”, and immediately received around $7 billion which had been held under the sanctions. Let us not fool ourselves; the Mullahs in Iran have no interest whatsoever in making any deals with the USA or the West, and this was one of the most unfortunate moments of the year when our government de-facto abandoned our long time and only ally in the Middle East, Israel. As someone well known to all of us once said, “there will be hell to pay” for this misguided decision.

Based on the above mentioned events of the past year, 2014 is going to be a very interesting year in the area. From Libya to Egypt, from Israel to Iran, from Afghanistan to Pakistan, from India to Syria and Lebanon and Turkey, the area is ripe for explosive changes and unpredictable events.

I have looked into various countries and their problems in Africa, Middle East, Far East, Europe and South America. One common thread explains most of their problems; a lack of local and world leadership. The world is now clearly suffering from a lack of strong leaders everywhere. We are witnessing politicians who are interested in their own well-being, own wealth and power running most of the countries around the world. We do not see a JFK, Roosevelt, Truman, De Gaulle, Mandela or Reagan anywhere around the world. Starting from our own backyard, all we see are a bunch of short-sighted, self-serving morons and buffoons parading as world leaders, ruining economies, cultures and countries. As long as this trend continues, I see no solutions to any of the problems we are now and will be facing in the coming months and years.

In the coming issues, I am going to examine the prevailing situations in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in detail. In the meantime, I would like to urge the readers to take a few moments of their day to at least surf the internet and read about what Putin in Russia is up to; or what the leaders of Europe are doing; or the severe crisis enveloping the present government in Turkey and what it means for the future of the local area as well as our interests in the Middle East; or the situation with the nuclear ambitions of Iran and why the so called agreement we signed only helped the Mullahs in Iran gain time in their quest to get nuclear weapons; or what is happening in Israel or the problems the Palestinians are presently experiencing. All the above situations are one way or the other related to poor or non-existent local and world leadership.

If some of us choose to live our lives locally and never worry about what goes on in Mali, Philippines, Indonesia, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Egypt, Iran, Israel and elsewhere, that is okay with me. However, if some of us have no interest in why the Israelis are worried about Iranians having a nuclear weapon or whether Al-Qaida is dead or alive; or if some of us do not care that our Ambassador to Libya is assassinated and all the main responsible person would utter was: “what does that matter now?” I am not OK with that under any circumstance. I must warn those of us who think “what happens in Syria, Iran, Israel or Lebanon stay in Syria, Iran, Israel or Lebanon” that sooner or later they are going to find out that the terrible outcomes of these problems will be at our very own doorsteps. We may not be living in Israel and we may never understand the average Israeli’s worries and priorities; however that should not preclude us from at least investigating, finding out and developing our own opinions about the situations. We as Americans should never feel at ease just because none of our neighbors want to erase us off the face of the world map or blow themselves up in our shopping centers, churches or synagogues. Please remember that we are all in this together, and we are just as vulnerable at all times.

What the world needs now are real local and international leaders to lead their countries. We do not need a bunch of corrupt, double-talking politicians to be considered as “world leaders”. I am still hopeful that we will all soon wake up to this reality and support and help bring to positions of influence “true leaders” who care for the well-being of the citizens of their own countries as well as the citizens of the entire world community; and do away with the promise-everything, do-nothing, wriggle-out-of-trouble at any cost con-artists as leaders of anything.

More to come …

Have a great 2014!

 

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]

 


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Stormy Seas Ahead http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/09/04/stormy-seas-ahead/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/09/04/stormy-seas-ahead/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 15:32:46 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=33632 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
A10-CBN_9-6-13-3A very smart and successful businessman from Turkey who was my classmate at Robert College of Istanbul recently sent me the following paragraph:

“A short guide to the Middle East”

“Iran is backing Assad. Gulf States are against Assad!

Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi of Egypt.

But Gulf States are pro General Sisi!

Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood! Iran is pro Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood! Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the USA.

Gulf States are pro USA.

But Turkey is with Gulf States against Assad.

Yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi.

And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf States!

Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.”

I believe he picked this out from a Washington Post article by Max Fisher who is the Post’s foreign affairs blogger. And it is absolutely brilliant! For those who are totally confused as to what is happening in the Middle East in general and Syria and Egypt in particular; I am absolutely sure that this will add to their confusion. But such is life in the Middle East and it has been this way for centuries. Conflicts have never been fully resolved; alliances are never too clear and enemies and friends are interchangeable depending on who is giving whom what and when…

The situation in Syria presented a very difficult dilemma for the President of the United States. As Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet famously declared “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.” The President has had a difficult time deciphering the Middle East puzzle, having great difficulty deciding what to do based on his ideological beliefs versus the ugly reality on the ground. With our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with his well-documented views and comments about those two wars, Syria and Egypt are now hanging over his head like the “Sword of Damocles’(*)” as he vacillates between “act or not to act!” Oh! How history has a way of repeating itself!

The British Parliament just voted against the wishes of their Prime Minister and decided not to get involved in Syria. They declared that nothing should be done until the egg-headed, anti-American, anti-Democracy bureaucrats from all over the world at the United Nations move at turtle-speed and approve and support any collective action against the murderous regime of Bashar Assad, knowing well in advance that such a move would definitely be vetoed by Russia or China.

I also suspect that the British parliamentarians were pretty worried about how their ever growing anti-West, anti-British Muslim population would react should any British military action be taken against a Muslim country, regardless of the actions of a dictator who did not hesitate to use chemical weapons against his own population: men, women and children. In other words. our major ally chickened out!

The US President, after doing nothing for two years and after 100,000 or more senseless murders of Syrians, finally decided to lob a few cruise missiles which will probably end up taking down some military command and control centers which are now heavily filled with human shields made of women and children in order to present gruesome photos of “brutality and murder” committed by the Imperialist American regime!

I for one am against any action of this sort by our President because it serves no purpose other than producing more dead people and wasting American dollars on very expensive missiles, not mention the possible loss of more precious lives of our brave men and women in uniform. Yes, it will temporarily take our attention away from the daily grind of watching the national debt climb to historic highs, the usual comical debates on raising the debt ceiling, an economy that is not recovering and the tragic story of millions of jobless Americans who are no longer searching for that elusive American Dream. However, it will serve no military purpose, will not affect our national security or help a political solution in Syria.

Syria is very important strategically, economically and politically to Russia and their diminutive dictator Putin. It is their main client state in the area, and they enjoy all the amenities of a naval sea-port facility in the City of Tartus – the only Russian military port in the Mediterranean. Russia has supported the brutal socialist Baas Party regime of both father and son Assad for over 40 years. They are not easily going to give up their support for Assad and the Tartus naval base just because 100,000 people were killed by this regime and over 1,000 have just been targeted and murdered by chemical weapons just because America chooses to lob a few cruise missiles into Government buildings and military installations.

Syria is also very important to Iran for many more reasons. It is their short cut to the Mediterranean as well as their client state, Lebanon, and their main supply lines to the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Over the past few years, it is estimated that Iran spent more than two billion dollars supporting Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon and their actions against Israel.

The real victims. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

The real victims. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Maybe things are leading to a massive clash in the Middle East after all; the likes of which we have not experienced in our lifetimes. Maybe not! By the time this issue is published we may have witnessed a politically correct cruise missile attack into Syria. And again, maybe not!

After what happened to USS Cole, to our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the World Trade Centers in New York on September 11, 2001 and to our Ambassador and three brave men in Benghazi, I have lost all confidence in the abilities of the people we look to as our leaders, regardless of their party affiliation. They remind me of a bunch of inexperienced and clueless professors, lost in an environment away from their ivory towers. Ideologues who never held real jobs in real life, now pretend to be captain and sailors of this magnificent ship we call America, trying to navigate through very stormy seas. Good luck!

Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day!

 

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]

 

 

*The story goes that Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse, had a courtier named Damocles who was more or less a professional flatterer who laid around these opulent feasts saying nice things to Dionysius.

And once, he made a comment to the effect of, “Oh, how great it would be to be the king.” And Dionysius said, “Oh, really? Well, if you want to know what that’s like, you can come sit in my throne.” Of which Damocles did, and Dionysius made sure that he was well supplied with opulent food, great service, cute waiters, beautiful perfumes and scented candles.

Damocles was thinking to himself how very wonderful it all is when, suddenly, he noticed that Dionysius had also hung above the throne a gleaming sword, which was suspended by a single horsehair. He then begged Dionysius to be allowed to leave the throne and to go back to his subservient position as a courtier. He obviously got the point – which is that anybody who gets to enjoy immense power is also living under a constant threat.


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The Chong Chon Gang http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/07/30/the-chong-chon-gang/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/07/30/the-chong-chon-gang/#comments Tue, 30 Jul 2013 14:24:46 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=33033 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

CBN_A10-1The Chong Chon Gang is a 450 foot, non-descript aging tramp steamer carrying the Democratic Republic of North Korea flag. When it was stopped by Panamanian authorities on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal last week, it was quite obvious that the cargo manifest she was carrying was as phony as the word “Democratic” in the name of her country of origin. The “Gang” was officially carrying 10,000 tons of Cuban sugar packed in 200,000 white sacks from Cuba to North Korea. She was stopped by swift Panamanian patrol boats who were responding to an allegation of drugs on board this ship which was built in 1977 and was ill prepared to make the long ocean passage. The conditions within the ship were beyond horrible and despicable. The crew quarters were not air conditioned; they were moldy, filthy, smelled of urine and black tobacco and bug infested according to the reports. Her crew of 32 first resisted the take-over by the Panamanian authorities and according to local sources “put up a fight” not to let go of control. However, they were convinced that this was for local consumption back home where families of all seamen in the North Korean fleet are held hostage and could be subjected to torture and worse if the leadership determines they did not resist. The ship’s captain actually tried to kill himself by slashing his own throat during the take-over and said to have suffered a non-fatal heart attack. The Captain and the crew are now enjoying air-conditioned, clean rooms at the Panamanian base where they are being held.

200,000 sacks of sugar. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

200,000 sacks of sugar. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

This was not the first time the “Gang” was in trouble with international authorities. The Stockholm Peace Research Institute reported that she was stopped on suspicion of carrying drugs and ammunition. She was also stopped in Ukraine back in 2010 for unspecified reasons. The “Gang” was attacked by pirates in the Arabian Sea in 2009 and two of her sailors were injured according to the Lloyds List’s vessel report. That year, she had made an unscheduled stop at the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean coast which is home to the only Russian military naval base outside of Russia. “Gang’s” registered owner is North Korean State run Chongchongang Shipping Co. Ltd. Records indicate that during the last few years she made stops at Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Turkey, Iran and Jordanian port of Aqaba.

In short, this vessel has been going around the world for a long time and making stops at some of the world’s most intriguing hot spots. Her last voyage before being stopped in Panama, started on April 12, 2013 when she departed the Russian port of Vostochnyy. Her whereabouts immediately after departure are not clear. Her crew switched off the ship’s signaling apparatus which notifies the international Automatic Identification System (AIS) that allows global maritime authorities to know the locations of ocean-going vessels. It is widely reported that while it is mandatory for all large vessels to keep the signaling system on at all time; many do not for various reasons and are not prosecuted for lack of prosecutorial authority. “Gang” next appeared on the AIS tracking on May 31 in Balboa, Panama, 7,500 nautical miles away. On June 1, 2013 “Gang” made her passage through the Panama Canal with a stated destination of Havana. As soon as she passed through the Canal however, she disappeared from the tracking system once again. The vessel arrived at the Atlantic Coast entrance to the Panama Canal at the port of Manzanillo on July 11 with a stated destination of North Korea.

The ship was seized by the Panamanian authorities immediately upon arrival and her cargo hold was opened. Under 200,000 sacks of Cuban sugar 4 or 5 shipping containers (40) were discovered which were not on the ship’s official manifest. Upon unloading and opening these containers, Panamanian authorities were surprised to find two anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21 jets and 15 engines for MiG-21’s. There may be more containers in the other holds of the ship since only one was opened and examined at this writing. It is now indicated that sophisticated equipment is being shipped in from the USA which will allow the authorities to search the entire ship for weapons, drugs and other items not appearing on the official manifest.

Defense system parts.

Defense system parts.

In order to complete the story and examine what this means to us here in America, we must also add that another ship from N. Korea, 390 foot Oun Chong Nyon Ho, made a similar trip to Cuba from North Korea last year. International agencies have reported unidentified North Korean flights to Cuba traveling through central African air space earlier this year.

Cuban authorities did not deny the existence of the weapons on the “Gang” indicating these were being sent to N Korea for refurbishing and updating since they were of 1950’s vintage. However, they were not too clear as to why the cargo was not on the manifest and why it was hidden under 200,000 sacks of Cuban sugar with an estimated market value of $ 3.2 million dollars.

This probably is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. North Korea is desperately in need of currency to purchase goods to keep her populations fed; Cuban government is cash-strapped and may be paying for North Korean’s service in sugar. Despite all efforts by the United Nations, United States and some European allies weapons transfers between rogue regimes take place on a daily basis. Some analysts declared that the weapons found on the “Gang” were obsolete! Don’t believe a word of this. Weapons are weapons and they can always be upgraded to meet today’s needs and may be used in threatening neighbors as well as the rogue state’s own populations. Cuba is only 90 miles south of us and the infamous missile crisis (the most dangerous moment in human history) is only about 50 years old. We should see the “Gang” incident as a warning to all who care that North Korea could be supplying weapons to Cuba!

SA-2-missle defense.

SA-2-missle defense.

This is not a far-fetched idea since Russia is no longer interested in upgrading the aging weapons systems and armaments in Cuba coupled with the strained relations between China and North Korea. Despite all the wonderful messages being sent around the world by elite sympathizers of these two last official Communist regimes, they are both falling apart.

They are out of cash and can’t afford new weapons in the case of Cuba and enough food to feed their own population in the case of North Korea. Desperate nations do desperate things. The readers should keep their eyes and ears open to the events taking place in Panama to determine if the “Gang” incident was a “one-off” or “one of many.”

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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Revolution… Coup… What’s next? http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/07/13/revolution-coup-whats-next/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/07/13/revolution-coup-whats-next/#comments Sat, 13 Jul 2013 18:51:15 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=32744 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

Egyptian presidential handover aftermath.

Egyptian presidential handover aftermath.

After reading as many news articles as possible and watching most news channels for updates about the events in Egypt, I asked myself if anyone was surprised about the most recent events in Egypt. Readers may recall my article about Egypt during the Arab Spring; I was cautiously optimistic about democracy’s arrival in Egypt yet more than a little pessimistic about the identity of the revolutionaries. Having seen members of the Muslim Brotherhood amongst the demonstrators waving their Korans in the air was enough to give me that “fly in the soup” feeling.

I always had great reservations about the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Egyptian government. When free elections were finally held and the Brotherhood’s favorite Mohammed Morsi was elected President of Egypt, my worst fears were realized. The “democratically elected” President Mr. Morsi wasted no time in changing the constitution to one that favors Sharia Law; staffing every governmental office with members of the Brotherhood and replacing some high ranking officers of the Egyptian military with followers of the Brotherhood, I knew he was trying to turn Egypt into an Islamic Republic as fast as he possibly could. Seemingly backed by a confused and ideologically challenged US State Department, Mr. Morsi acted in haste, assuming he might have had more support than he actually had. He tried to accomplish what Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist himself accomplished in ten years; steering his country away from the West towards a Republic favoring Islamic law turning back years of secular rule by constitutional governments.

Interim President Mansour.

Interim President Mansour.

Mr. Morsi may have done himself a favor had he taken the time to study recent Turkish history and taken a few pointers from Mr. Tayyip Erdogan. Having been popularly and democratically elected in 2003, Mr. Erdogan has won two more elections since, always receiving ever increasing plurality of the popular vote. In total contrast to Mr. Morsi in Egypt, Mr. Erdogan did not act in haste to change things overnight. He took his time replacing a stagnant economy with a vibrant and growing one, making sure the middle class thrived while the working class started to see the light at the end of a long, dark corridor they had been traveling through for the past eighty or so years.

He achieved all this while at the same time slowly but surely destroying the power structure of the most revered Turkish Military which intervened numerous times between 1960 and 2000 to overthrow both extreme left and extreme right elected governments in Turkey to restore democracy and order. He eliminated the threat of a possible or pending military coup by jailing top commanders of the military under false and unproven allegations.

Using his charisma and ability to give fiery speeches which may be a product of his Imam School education, Mr. Erdogan has been able to hang on to power in Turkey. Most recently by using overwhelming police power against the demonstrators during the Gezi Park demonstrations in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey, Mr. Erdogan may have temporarily or permanently gained the upper hand in the struggle to hold his course.

Egyptian leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On the other hand, the Egyptian military pretty much stayed out of the Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring demonstrations, seemingly not taking sides and after Mr. Mubarak, the longtime strong-armed President of Egypt was removed, had retained most if not all of their power. The Egyptian Generals therefore positioned themselves as the saviors of the country when Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government faltered and anti-Morsi demonstrations filled Tahrir Square as well as the streets of all major cities in Egypt showing dissatisfaction with a government unable to deal with day to day realities of a sinking economy, joblessness and fast increasing poverty.

While removing a democratically elected government from office by military force is not universally liked or accepted in the West regardless of the situation or reason; it may not be viewed in the same light in the Middle East. People in general trust their military, seeing them above and beyond the political fray and as defenders of the constitution and country against all enemies and evil from within as well as from abroad. In the case of Egypt, the same crowds now cheering the ouster of Mr. Morsi may possibly be the same crowds which only a year ago chanted for the ouster of Mr. Hosni Mubarak and they back the actions of the military.

What changed in Egypt in only a year? Most importantly, Mr. Morsi was not ready to govern a country as large as Egypt based on his Islamic ideology only! Egyptian economy sunk to an all time low under the Morsi rule; tourism declined rapidly; from the camel herders and tourist guides who work around the pyramids to major businessmen in Alexandria and Cairo; people lost their jobs and wealth, and started to suffer in real time.

Muslim Brotherhood protesters.

Muslim Brotherhood protesters.

This is in contrast to the situation in Turkey where the economy flourished under the pro-Islamist rule of Mr. Erdogan who made sure the businesses performed and employment remained comparatively low. While the dissatisfaction with the ruling party in Turkey is based mostly on ideological grounds, the dissatisfaction with the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt seemed to be on strictly economical grounds. One out of every two voters in Egypt initially supported the MB candidates for election based on their dissatisfaction with the dictatorial rule of Hosni Mubarak and the momentary yet colossal fervor of the Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt which had been oppressed for almost 80 years by different Presidents and governments saw the Arab Spring as their most important opportunity to take over the country. They carefully hid their identities during the heady days of the Tahrir Square demonstrations and came into power after the first elections following the ouster of the Mubarak government.

At the time of the writing of this article, the military in Egypt seems to be in control. However, this can change at any moment as the Brotherhood slowly gets over the shock of losing power and hits the streets. There could be some bloody events in store for Egypt in the coming days and weeks. It was interesting (but not surprising to the author) to note that Turkish Government as well as some in the US political scene have already condemned the coup and threw their support behind Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood while most Arab countries in the Middle East applauded the actions of the Egyptian military…

What is in store in the days to come in Egypt?

For the immediate future of Egypt, the Army issued the following post-Morsi roadmap:

• Constitution to be suspended temporarily and interim president sworn in

• “Strong and competent” civilian technocratic government to be installed

• Supreme Court to pass a draft law on parliamentary election and prepare for parliamentary and presidential polls

• A “Charter of Honor” to be drawn up and followed by the media.

• Measures taken to empower young people and to establish a national reconciliation committee.

Obviously, this all sounds very good and hopeful. However, those who have been through this experience in 1960, 1971, 1980, 1993 and 1997 in Turkey know that all the best intentions and roadmaps of a Military coup can go wrong once the Generals in charge face realities of life outside their bases, are faced with uncertainties of a national economy and face difficulties of day to day running of the country.

A Morsi supporter.

A Morsi supporter.

For the immediate future of Egypt all we know now is that Mr. Adly Mansour was sworn in as President on Thursday after deposed president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, was ousted and placed under arrest by the military.

Mansour assumed the job under a transitional plan that appointed the head of the country’s High Constitutional Court as interim president. He became head of the court June 30 after the former chief judge retired. The judge will serve in the post of president until elections are held, a date undetermined so far.

The announcement that Mohamed El Baradei was to become Prime Minister of Egypt’s caretaker government came after the country’s new President arrived with his aides at the Heliopolis Palace in Cairo. Within a few hours, this news was denied adding to the fears that massive confusion may be the order of the day in Egypt.

I would like to see the events take their full course in Egypt without outside intervention. Let the Egyptians decide what is best for them and their country. But then, I may be too idealistic.

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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What is going on in Turkey… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/06/19/what-is-going-on-in-turkey/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/06/19/what-is-going-on-in-turkey/#comments Thu, 20 Jun 2013 01:57:49 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=32399 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun 
tayasun@taray.com

It is common knowledge among my readers and my friends that I was born and raised in Turkey and lived the first twenty years of my life in Istanbul. So it is natural that I have been getting many phone calls, emails and text messages asking me this very question. Being away from the day to day events that shape life in Turkey for many years, I have to rely on the news I get from relatives, friends and contacts in Turkey as well as watching daily news on various Turkish TV stations, reading all available Turkish newspapers and a multitude of phone calls I make to my contacts in Istanbul and elsewhere. It has been very hard for me to develop my own opinion of the recent events one way or the other since I do have a very biased point of view based on my upbringing and political views. I will try to be as objective as I possibly can be in my interpretation of events for this article, however I would like the readers to remember that I am writing under the heading of “opinion.”

People light flares as they stand on top of an overturned car. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

People light flares as they stand on top of an overturned car. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Turkey of 2013 is a whole lot different from Turkey of 1969 which I left behind. And Turkey of 1969 was different from the Turkey I was born and grew up in from 1949-1969. In order for us who live thousands of miles away in America to try to understand the events that took place in Turkey last week, and continue up until the penning of this article, one must get a basic understanding of the country’s historical and political background. Turkey (Turkiye as it is known to Turks) is a relatively new secular Republic built on the ashes of a failed Ottoman Empire (an empire expanding and spreading the religion of Islam, from the wild and barren deserts of the Middle East, through the high plateau of Anatolia to the shores of North Africa and all the way to the Christian bastions in the Balkans up to the gates of Vienna at its heyday) by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; probably the most single important leader and historical figure of the 20th century. Since the formation of the Republic, Turkey has seen democracy painstakingly take shape amongst a predominantly Muslim population, experiencing many ups and downs, including a number of military coups and continued internal political strife; an ever present Kurdish insurgency and living through various, democratically elected right and left wing administrations at different times. Rattled by economic adversities which shook the basic foundations of the Republic in the last 50 years; real inflation going past 150% at times through the 70’s and major part of the 80’s, the country remained true to her original constitution (with some changes made by public referenda along the way) as a secular Republic, with free elections and a parliamentary style government with an indirectly elected Prime Minister heading a cabinet of ministers.

Since the early days of the 21st century (2003 until now) an Islamist government has been in power with Mr. Tayyip Erdogan, who graduated from Imam Hatip Okulu (Islamic High School), and studied Economics and Commercial Sciences at Marmara University in Istanbul (second largest University in Turkey) as Prime Minister. The ruling party which he heads is called AKP (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or Justice and Development Party.)

Mr. Erdogan tapped into the support, votes and loyalties of a majority of Muslim Turks who for many years felt neglected, disenfranchised and shunned by the “elites” while at the same time working closely with owners of large business enterprises who benefited economically from the laissez faire economic environment he created. Businesses flourished, manufacturing sector adopted European standards and conquered foreign markets, economic growth at times reached over ten percent per year, and Turkish exports worldwide surpassed one hundred and forty billion dollars a year. All this happened while freedoms were taken away drip by drip, every bit of secularism which Ataturk installed attacked on a daily basis, and institutional checks and balances removed by the AKP government using various political maneuvers. Turkey turned into one huge prison with the world’s highest number of imprisoned journalists and political prisoners such as trade unionists, politicians, high ranking military officers, activists, students, lawyers, etc. On top of this the Prime Minister’s growing authoritarianism and his arrogance became stifling. Using all the powers he gained or usurped and largely depending on the support of the majorities who voted him into office three times, Mr. Erdogan started to act on his dream of turning Turkey into an Islamic Republic. His Secretary of State openly talked about exerting economic and political influence upon the countries “which at one time or another were ruled by the great Ottoman Empire!”

Mr. Erdogan adopted the familiar dictatorial approach of “a father-figure to the nation” since the election of 2011 and was deeply engaged in a frustrating micromanagement of everything; from lifestyles to cultural patterns to daily lives of the population. He was perceived as giving priority to “moral majority values” at the cost of others, disregarding the demands and wishes of the minorities and many diverse social groups within the Republic, causing disappointment, fear and alienation. After systematically destroying the command structure of the once trusted secular Military establishment by accusing high ranking officers and jailing over 600 commanders, he quickly and effectively expanded loyal police forces around the country and started using them into pushing the population into submission.

Finally, last week the pent-up frustrations of the youth along with proponents of democracy and personal freedoms, believers of a secular Democratic Republic came to a boiling point basically as a result of three issues which seemed to have touched a common nerve. I have identified the following three points as the main factors which started the political and civil unrest:

1. Mr. Erdogan’s proposal to name the third bridge across the Bosphorus straits “Yavuz Sultan Selim” bridge. While most may have thought “so what’s in a name?” the significance of naming the bridge after this particular Sultan of the Ottoman Empire did not escape the attention of the secularist Turks. This Sultan of Ottoman Empire brought the most important and highly significant title of Caliph (religious and political leader of the Islamic World, enforcer of the Sharia Law) to the Ottomans in 1517. Ottoman sultans took on the additional title of Caliph from 1517 to 1925 thus becoming de-facto leaders of the Islamic world. On March 3, 1924, the first President of the new Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal as a part of his reforms, constitutionally abolished the institution of the Caliphate. Its powers within Turkey were transferred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the parliament of the newly formed Turkish Republic and sent the last Caliph off to exile in Europe. The title has since been inactive. It has been widely believed and rumored amongst the Turks that Mr. Erdogan would want nothing more than to bring back this office and possibly declare himself the new Caliph!

2. Mr. Erdogan has been trying to pass a number of new laws fashioned after Sharia Law. One of these new laws was to place a ban on alcohol sales (based on Islamic principles.) This did not sit well with the general population. In addition, he had changed public school curricula numerous times in the last few years to suit Islamic teachings he and his followers believe in and lately in almost all his public speeches he has been asking families to have a minimum of three children. “More the better” has been his repeated favorite line.

3. Last but not the least, and maybe the most important factor which sent demonstrators into the streets was the Erdogan government’s announcement that they planned to “cut down some trees to make way for a shopping center” at Gezi Park, off the Central square of Istanbul called Taksim where a statute of Ataturk is the center piece. However, it was clear to everyone that the real reason for cutting the trees down was to clear the way for the revivalist construction of a building which used to occupy the site. The Park was the site of a military garrison building under one of the last Sultans of the Ottoman Empire when a limited Western style government was installed by a group of Westernized young men. In the evening of April 12, 1909 the loyalist soldiers who lived in this military building rioted against the reformist government and demonstrated in front of the House of Representatives building demanding that the government continue to operate under “Sharia Rule” and dismiss all the reforms it was trying to establish. (Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam. It deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics and economics as well as personal matters such as sexual intercourse, hygiene, diet, prayer and fasting.)

The demonstrators understood the symbolism behind this action and took to the streets. It is interesting to note that in a politically and otherwise polarized country, these demonstrators seem to be from different ideological, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds in Turkey. They are young, old, religious, secular, gay, straight, foreign, domestic, fringe, anarchist, and mainstream, women in headscarves and women in tank-tops, Shiites, Sunnis, Jews, and Christians.

In his response, Mr. Erdogan called the demonstrators as alcoholics, looters, marginals, sniffers, bandits and infidels. Unfortunately, to those of us who have seen this behavior before, these are all the signs of a delusional leader who refuses to accept the obvious; who is determined to hang on to power at all cost. He did not see and still refuses to believe that these demonstrations are spontaneously organized by small groups of people of diverse ideologies and beliefs who understand the direction Mr. Erdogan is trying to take the country and will not stand for it under any circumstances.

A protester runs to avoid tear gas.

A protester runs to avoid tear gas.

Throughout history Turkish people have proven time after time that they will not stand for tyranny, they are not submissive and they will fight to preserve the Republic and the ideology of freedom they inherited from a brave and foresighted leader named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

As we can see by now, this is a most complicated situation which is difficult to explain in 900 words or less. I have not even thrown in the problems Erdogan has with his actions regarding Syria; his picking fights with Israel; looming negotiations with twenty plus million Kurds. But I tried my best to give an overall, albeit biased picture of the situation in Turkey; a NATO ally, an important trade partner and host to some of the most important US Air bases in the world. As usual, I most sincerely hope that the readers do their own research and come to their own conclusions.

My conclusions are rather basic. When a government gets too big for its britches; when a government starts to oppress the people it is responsible for protecting against all enemies from within and foreign; when a government starts to micromanage the day-to-day lives of its citizens; when a government tries to impose its own beliefs and values upon the people who make up the population; when a government loses its own moral compass while at the same time trying to legislate morality; that government no longer represents its people and is destined to fail.

Let us all watch and see what happens. This may affect all of us…

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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The Frog and the Scorpion http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/06/04/the-frog-and-the-scorpion/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/06/04/the-frog-and-the-scorpion/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 13:58:58 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=32107 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

The story may be an old one; but it is effective and meaningful today as it ever was. And it goes like this: The scorpion approaches the frog that was resting on the banks of the river. “Please take me to the other side” he begs. “I will not” responds the frog, “you will probably sting me along the way and we will both sink and drown.” The scorpion pleads with the frog “I promise I will not sting you; please, please take me across.” The frog decides to give the scorpion the benefit of the doubt and allows it to jump on his back for the ride across the river. Halfway through the journey, the scorpion stings the frog; severely poisoned, dying and sinking to the bottom of the river the frog asks the scorpion “why, why did you sting me after you promised you would not?” The scorpion also sinking and drowning responds “I just can’t help myself, it is in my nature.”

My readers who followed my columns over the years and practice the fine art of “situational awareness” will figure out why I felt it was important to write the story of the frog and the scorpion at this point in time. On the other hand those who read my columns but still have their heads buried in the beautiful white sands of Marco Beach may not!

A few days ago, when I was asked if I was not “inspired” to turn in a column for the next issue of the Coastal Breeze, I had to resort to the infamous concept of “plausible deniability” in my response. My response was yes and no; it depends.

Truth be known, I am always inspired to write for the Coastal Breeze. I happen to think that this newspaper is by far the best on Marco Island and Collier County, bar none! Once in a while, I think I over-analyze events; look deeper into things than I should and somehow get myself into a state of mind my wife calls “in a funk!”

I think that is where I am now, in the land of funk. As I listen to the world news, read the local and national newspapers and talk to my friends around the Island, I get myself into the over-analyzing, deeper than necessary thinking mood and feel “depressed.” How else can one feel when one sees men with meat cleavers in their bloody hands talking about God and equality while their beheaded victim lies in a pool of his own blood in the middle of the street in London? How else can one be expected to feel when bands of youth burn and destroy hundreds of cars and attack one another in the streets of Stockholm? How else can one feel when people who came to this country claiming asylum from tyranny use bombs to kill fellow Americans in the streets of Boston? It is at moments like this, I want to remove myself from reality; get on my knees and thank the founding fathers, the authors of the Constitution who made sure we lived in a free country for as long as the Republic lasted. We as Americans cherish our rights and our Constitution which has stood the test of time many times over. We as Americans believe we can say what we want, when we want, wherever we want without fear of retribution or punishment. We as Americans sincerely believe that we may possess certain outlandish ideas which many may not agree with; yet we know we are protected by our constitutional rights to possess these ideas.

We as Americans believe that we live in a country of laws where every single individual is equal before the law regardless of the color of his skin, religious beliefs or political affiliations. We as Americans believe in the role of a free press and the value of receiving unbiased news delivered by unbiased reporters. We as Americans believe that it is absolutely the duty of our government to protect us around the world from evil-doers wherever we may be and whoever the evil-doers are!

In short, we as Americans feel safe and protected because our forefathers wrote a Constitution with unbelievable foresight, precision and intelligence. No other country around the world can claim to possess a better roadmap than the Constitution of the United States of America. And we naturally assume that those whom we elected to run the daily affairs of our country understand the meaning of the Constitution and think and believe like we do.

Then, I think of the scorpion and the frog… I take a quick look around me and notice we are in the middle of the river… And I get a sinking feeling…

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.
Tarik Ayasun?turk1949@comcast.net
[email_link]
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Situational awareness… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/05/07/situational-awareness/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/05/07/situational-awareness/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 13:51:52 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=31520 BEYOND THE COAST
Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

People, young and old, are packed on both sides of the road at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It is a public holiday in Boston and the perfect day for a marathon. Two young men carrying black backpacks walk amongst the crowd stop and drop off their deadly loads on the curb, in plain sight. They walk away and disappear into the back streets.
Colorado shooter James Holmes’ mugshot.

Colorado shooter James Holmes’ mugshot.

No one notices the black bags placed right in front of them. No one thinks twice about asking the person sitting or standing next to them if the bag belongs to them. No one is even slightly concerned. It is a beautiful day and a nondescript black bag on the sidewalk will not ruin their day. Or, will it?

Nidal Hasan is a Major in the U.S. Army stationed in Ft. Hood. He is also a psychiatrist who was born in what is known as Palestine and immigrated with his family to the USA. Major Hasan treats soldiers coming back from combat in Iraq with adjustment problems. He is a Muslim and is vocal about his religion. In his off-duty hours he wears a “dishdasha,” the long usually white robe traditionally worn by men in the Middle East, and walks around his neighborhood. His neighbors see him come and go but do not really pay much attention to this unusual garb worn by an officer of the US Army. He regularly goes shopping dressed this way.

James Holmes in court.

James Holmes in court.

He is about to be deployed to Iraq and he is visibly disturbed. He makes various remarks to his neighbors and fellow officers indicating his personal dilemma about going to war in a Muslim country. No one is concerned. No one reports him to the Army. None of his supervisors in the Army think anything of this behavior.  What harm can one Major in the Army; a psychiatrist by training, do to others around him? Obviously, a lot. As time will show…

It is Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado, a town designated as an “All-America City” in 2008 by the National Civic League. It is still pretty hot at 12:05 AM Mountain Time. “The Dark Night Rises” starts to play at the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center, where crowds have gathered. Some are dressed as characters from the highly anticipated Batman sequel. James Holmes is amongst them. He purchases his ticket and goes into the theater. His hair is dyed bright orange although in this crowd he does not stick out as odd. As soon as the movie starts, he gets up to leave the theater through an exit door in plain sight. He props the door open before leaving.

Many in the theater notice but no one gets up to close the exit door. He plans to return through this door. Somehow, it does not seem strange to them that a young man with bright orange hair has left the theater as the movie started and propped open the door – indicating he is going to return. No one reports this to the theater personnel. He does indeed return, carrying a .22 caliber Smith & Wesson equipped with a drum magazine which can hold up to 100 rounds; a Remington 12 gauge shotgun and a .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun.

The results are deadly.

Could any of these events have been prevented? Could the three victims in Boston be alive today? Could the 13 victims of Nidal Hasan be alive today, continuing to serve their country in their chosen profession? Could the 12 victims in Aurora be with their families and loved ones today? There is no way to tell.

However we, as a society used to freedoms not seen, heard or exercised anywhere else in the world, could be a bit more aware of what goes on around us. And this would save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

“Situational Awareness” is something anyone who has ever served in any branch of the military would know about. By understanding and making ourselves familiar with a minimum level of “situational awareness” and exercising it in our daily lives, without going overboard and falling into a state of paranoia, not only will we make ourselves safer in an environment that is constantly getting more dangerous, but we may make others around us safer as well.

Situational awareness simply means, “understanding what is going on around you.” The world may be a wonderful place but it can also be a dangerous place. Being aware of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations is not a skill; it is a “mindset.” Any one of us can exercise situational awareness if we are willing and have the discipline to do so.

In order to practice situational awareness, we must first of all believe that “threats exist.” The people who lined up at the finish line of the Boston Marathon; the victims and neighbors of Major Hasan at Ft. Hood and the moviegoers in Aurora basically did not believe that a threat existed. All three events (plus many, many more; too many to mention here) should prove to the skeptics that apathy, denial and complacency are deadly.

Even though I have adapted myself to the concept of situational awareness many years ago and practice it in my daily life; I have run into many situations where I found myself to be in a totally relaxed and comfortable state of mind; only to realize that I was in the midst of very dangerous and possibly deadly situation. I have been able to get out of these situations by using my situational awareness and by trusting my “gut” feelings or intuition. Over the years I have learned that even though my mind could not quantify or articulate certain signs of danger, my “gut” did. And by obeying my gut feelings I was able to either walk away from threatening situations or avoid walking into them.

Nidal Hasan murdered 13 at Mt. Hood.

Nidal Hasan murdered 13 at Mt. Hood.

The latest example of a lack of situational awareness at every level was the event that took place at the Boston Marathon. If we can stop time and go back and trace the events which culminated in the deaths of innocent bystanders, a police officer and the maiming of many more people; we will be infuriated to see how many mistakes were made because people, in general, lacked situational awareness  did not trust their gut feelings or intuition.

According to published reports and not so far denied; Russian secret service had warned the FBI almost a year ago about the Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Unfortunately, as a result of a number of bureaucratic mistakes, attention was not paid to this individual and he escaped scrutiny.

It is widely reported that sometime around 2008 or 2009 Tamerlan suddenly stopped boxing (his favorite sport), smoking and drinking. No one thought anything of this. He started talking about 9/11 and was convinced that the CIA planned and executed this event. No one gave this a second thought. He drove around in a Mercedes while not holding a job. It did not raise any eyebrows. His friends and neighbors never questioned it.

If we watch the surveillance videos made available through the internet and news networks, we will notice a large number of uniformed security officers walking through the crowds in Boston. They do not seem to be particularly interested in the events around them. Their presence there is more like a show of force and they seem to play into this role.

And finally, two bags are deliberately dropped off on the sidewalk where many people are lined up and no one questions the ownership of these bags.

For the past few years, I have been writing about terrorism, terrorists, radicals, Caucasus, Mali, Al-Qaida and asking everyone to connect the dots. I am not sure how successful I have been in my efforts to raise the consciousness of those who read my articles.

I believe that there is an imminent threat. I strongly believe that unless we raise our levels of “situational awareness” as a community, as a nation, more bombings, more massacres and more unpleasant experiences will be in our future.

No matter how safe we may feel living right here in Collier County; we should never let our guard down. We should always be aware of our surroundings.  We should not be afraid to report any and I mean ANY unusual activity to our local authorities. We must take precautions whenever and however we can. We just can’t take anything for granted in our daily lives. If we see a person or persons in our area and they look like they do not belong in the environment; we must report it.

Terrorists are specialized criminals and they do not act on momentary impulses. Their actions are planned months or years in advance and executed with precision. When we notice any unusual activity in our neighborhoods, we must report it. When we enter a room, shop, restaurant or a movie theater look around. Familiarize yourself with the surroundings. If you see anything unusual, do not dismiss it.

It is unfortunate and unpleasant that we need to make these adjustments but it is a matter of life and death.

 

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun turk1949@comcast.net


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Potpourri… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/04/09/potpourri/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/04/09/potpourri/#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 01:33:28 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=30806 North Korea

North Korea

It is getting increasingly difficult to focus on events taking place around the world. It seems like a new story pops up every day in a different part of our troubled globe. Today things are much different from the “good old days” when the world was neatly divided up by the two super powers: USA and the Soviet Union. Whenever trouble started anywhere around the world, one of the two super powers reacted depending on whose sphere of influence covered the country where trouble had started. Things were neatly patched up after harsh words were exchanged, threats were made and retracted and life went on as usual.

It is a new world now… Things have changed drastically and it is very hard to keep our focus and attention on one event or one country at a time. In light of the above statements, I wanted to update our readers on what is going on in key areas of the world where news is being made.

Kim Jong-un and North Korea

Leader for Life Kim-Jong-Un

Leader for Life Kim-Jong-Un

Towards the end of last week, North Korea’s pudgy little dictator, sensing problems within his own country, decided to threaten South Korea and America with a nuclear attack. While on the surface these threats were dismissed, down deep in Washington and at the Pentagon they were taken seriously. The Defense Department took precautions and sent stealth bombers to South Korea for the first time ever as well as shoring up our missile defenses in the Pacific. In response, Kim escalated the level of threats and declared that North Korea was now in a state of war with her neighbor South Korea and the USA. Where this may lead us and where this may end is anybody’s guess. If we were to judge the situation with the events of the past, financial and food aid will flow into North Korea from China and the West to pacify the angry dictator and his military cronies who actually pull his puppet strings.

We can simplify the North Korean formula as follows:

  1. Run out of food.
  2. Test weapons (nuclear or non-nuclear)
  3. Scare the West and her neighbors.
  4. Get money and food.
  5. Go back to step one.

The only difference today may be the fact that the young dictator for life may have backed himself into a corner by his belligerence and may be at a point of no return. He may have to do something to save face. We shall see.

Bashar al-Assad and Syria

Street scene in Syria

Street scene in Syria

Civil war continues to wreck this Arab nation with no end in sight. What started as an anti-government action against the tyranny of the Assad family attracted the terror cells of Al Qaida, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and others to the area. No one can guarantee who will be in charge of Syria after the regime falls.  This prospect elongates the eventual fall of the regime as Western countries (including the U.S.) correctly debate whom to help. A government in exile was formed in Turkey but the Texas educated leader of this group had to resign because they could not win the trust of the anti-government fighters. Weapons are flowing from Iran, North Korea, Russia and others into the hands of the various groups fighting against government troops. The world will be a more dangerous place should Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons fall into unpredictable hands. Syria possesses missiles with chemical-tipped warheads and artillery shells, and if Hezbollah or Al-Qaida gets control of any of these weapons, they will surely threaten the Israelis as well as others in the area.

Thousands have already been killed, millions displaced, causing refugee problems in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq and pressuring the governments of those countries. One can’t predict with certainty what Syria will look like after this civil war and who will be in charge. What happens in Syria at the end will more than likely affect the geo-political future of the area. Russians are supporting the regime in order to save and protect their massive port facilities in Tartus which serves as a base for their Mediterranean fleet.

Possible outcomes:

  1. A divided Syria under various leaders.
  2. Islamic government formed, loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  3. Assad’s minority Alawite dominated regime retreats to its heartland in coastal western Syria and continues on.
  4. Kurdish minority may make their bid for independence which may cause difficulties for the Turks in the north.

Ahmedinejad and Iran

Iran tests missles

Iran tests missles

Iran and the US have had a problematic relationship since the CIA helped install the regime of Shah Reza Pahlavi back in the 1960’s. During 1979 Iran took control of the American Embassy and held our diplomatic team hostage for over a year. President Carter’s inaction emboldened the Iranian mullahs and Iran ended up as an ultra-conservative, anti-American Islamic Republic with vast natural resources. Iran has been working diligently and tirelessly over the last few years to create a nuclear weapon and most recently tested a trigger device. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constantly reminds the world of the red line he drew during a speech to the United Nation in New York last year. A recent development which got my interest was Mr. Netanyahu’s unexpected and sudden offer of apology and offer of reparations for the families of the dead to the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for the killing of nine Turkish citizens when they attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza on board vessel “Mavi Marmara.” It is widely speculated in Turkey that Mr. Netanyahu did this under pressure from Mr. Obama who visited the area recently. Many in Turkey and the countries around the area saw this as a precursor to a drastic Israeli action to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Reliable sources have been speculating that Mr. Obama must have convinced Mr. Netanyahu that it was in the best interest of the Israelis to be at peace with the Turks since they may have to use Turkish air space to get to Iran.

A most recent and significant development is the presence of Iranian Naval ships in the Atlantic. Iran’s 24th fleet which includes helicopter carrier Khark and destroyer Sabalan docked at the Chinese port of Zhanjiang in March.

Iran will remain a problem for the West for as long as the regime of the mullahs continues to rule this country of 76 million people.

And in conclusion…

Chaos around the world continues. Dominoes fall; new dominoes are set up It is a worldwide chess match with diverse players. We continue to experience a lack of real world leadership. In the space allowed, we were able to look at three most active areas. There are many, many more areas where unrest, civil war and terrorist activity prevail. As usual, it is always left to the reader to “connect the dots.”

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun
turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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Third Bridge to the “Other Side” http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/03/09/third-bridge-to-the-other-side/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/03/09/third-bridge-to-the-other-side/#comments Sun, 10 Mar 2013 02:52:40 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=30075 Growing up in Istanbul in the 50’s and the 60’s the “other side” meant either the Asian side or the European side of the City depending on which side you lived on. The Bosphorus Straits, a waterway which divides the city into two distinct parts and carries the cold waters of the Black Sea in Northern Turkey towards the warmer Sea of Marmara and from there through the Dardanelle straits into the Aegean Sea and eventually into the Mediterranean. It is 20 miles long from end to end. Its width varies from 1640 feet up to 2 miles with an average depth of 197 feet. Strategically, it has been a very important waterway throughout the ages since it is the only warm water connection for the Russian Black Sea fleet.

I grew up on the European side of the City.  The Asian side was known to us who lived on the European side as the “other side.”  To us, the other side was almost like another country; a place where you had to go only if you “had to go” and a place we could see in the distance every day but had no idea what it was like to be there. I remember very clearly that some of our relatives lived in small neighborhoods on “the other side.” Our occasional Sunday family visits to these relatives’ homes were small adventures on their own.  There were no bridges or tunnels connecting the two sides of the Bosphorus and visiting aunts, cousins and various other relatives whose relationship to us were unknown to us as kids meant piling into our sky-blue 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air and drive down to the “ferry boat” landing and lining up behind hundreds of cars and trucks to wait for the car ferry to take us across to the “other side.” The car ferry was called “arabali vapur” which meant “boat with cars.” Some of these ships were converted troop carriers from WW II; some were locally built for the occasion. The locally built ships were two sided; you drove in forwards and drove out the same way. The converted ships only had one ramp. If you drove in forwards, you had to leave the ship in reverse.  My mother, not trusting this maneuver would take my sister and me by the hand and walk us out over the safety of the pedestrian plank as my father eased the car backwards onto shore. Then it was a long drive through cobblestone streets squeezed between old wooden houses that dated back to the glory days of the Ottoman Empire when they were occupied by members of the “palace” as their summer homes. Going back home after the visit was always the worst part of the adventure.  After a whole day of running around, visiting, eating and eating some more; we would start for home late in the evening and it would be dark by the time we got to the ferry station.  There would be lines of trucks carrying all kinds of farm products from Anatolia to Istanbul crowding the station. By the time we got on for the ride back home, my sister and I would be fast asleep.

This all changed in 1973 when the first “Bosphorus Bridge “ the fourth longest suspension bridge span at the time and the longest outside the USA was built, connecting Europe and Asia for vehicular traffic. The romance and adventure of crossing the Bosphorus on a car-ferry was gone forever along with a whole lot of other social activities which kept us busy during family weekends.

Then in 1988 the second Bosphorus Bridge was built and aptly named “Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge” named after 15th Century Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror who took Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453 and ended the Byzantine  Empire (a.k.a. Eastern Roman Empire). When it opened, it had the sixth longest suspension span in the world; today it is seventeenth.

Recently, the Turkish Government announced that a Third Bridge will be constructed soon. According to the Guardian “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, who once said that a third bridge “would mean the murder of the city”, has thrown his weight behind the 2.2 billion dollar project and the bridge is now predicted to open as early as 2015. But environmentalists, urban planners and many Istanbul residents are furious at the plan, arguing that it will create more traffic, increase the number of vehicles in Istanbul and spell an end to the few remaining green areas and urgently needed drinking water reservoirs that have so far resisted the urban sprawl. Then there’s the lack of thorough geological research in a major earthquake zone.”

My feelings about bridges above the Bosphorus are more romantic than all the real numbers and environmental consequences. I think back to a time when I would walk a few hundred yards from my house located on a hill which rose sharply above the Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul and come to an area locally referred to as “The Pines.”

This area was once the garden of an ancient summer house of one of the daughters of a Sultan, covered with very tall pine trees and remnants of what may have been a grand house. Two lion statutes stood at each end of a pool which was covered with all types of debris. From that point, I could see the Bosphorus clearly all the way to the Asian side where green hills rose up towards the sky and clouds. There were hardly any houses on those hills. The sight of  constant traffic of Russian and Romanian tankers carrying oil to all points around the world or returning from exotic destinations; small fishing boats bobbing up and down; fast moving military vessels and many other types and shapes of boats hurrying along would keep me occupied and fixated for hours at a time.

As a young child, I had always found it most romantic to look over the water to the “other side” and dream about riding a train towards Asia, passing through the great plains of Anatolia, see Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and go all the way to Mongolia and someday reach Shanghai and the Pacific Ocean.

When the first bridge was built and opened to traffic, I was no longer living in Istanbul and upon hearing the news I remember getting sad and melancholic. Then the second bridge was built and two sides were connected forever. In October this year, a tunnel will connect Asia and Europe and the “other side” will get connected by a railroad under the Bospohorus.

The city has grown to 15 million plus and with the coming of the Third Bridge which will also have a railroad; Asia and Europe will forever get closer. One can only hope, beyond the romanticism of the whole thing; that Europe and Asia actually get closer by all these bridges and tunnel; culturally, politically and geographically.

As I sit here on a cool and partially cloudy Sunday morning, feeling somehow sad and melancholic about the third bridge, I fondly remember my mini-adventures visiting distant relatives “on the other side” some fifty-five years ago and feel bad that there may no longer be young men and women sitting on the side of a hill in the “Pines” area and fantasizing about the unreachable and the unknown…

About The Author

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

Tarik Ayasun
turk1949@comcast.net

[email_link]
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