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Riots in Turkey No Arab Spring

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Turkey: Protestors clashed with police for a third day in Istanbul. One press service reported 1,000 people were injured and 1,000 were arrested in the past three days. Protests also took place in Ankara, Adana and Izmir. One Turkish news source claims protests have occurred in 67 of 81 provinces. More are threatened on Monday.

Comment: Government plans to demolish the last large green space and public park in Istanbul and replace it with a mosque were the catalyst for the protests, primarily by secular urban youth. Another factor was a new law restricting alcohol sales. The root of the unrest is the growing lack of empowerment for secular interests and people who are less devout Muslims.

The protests resemble a Turkish variant of the Arab spring uprisings, which started with secular young city dwellers protesting conditions. The youth in the big cities are often out of touch with the electorate at large in almost every Islamic Middle Eastern country. Their ideas about elected government are naïve, as they have been reported in media interviews.

Turkish youths and city dwellers who support the protests are railing against the actions of a legitimately elected president and parliament. Their complaints are that the government is too authoritarian, too Islamist and not representative of secular Turks.

For Turkey, the revolution began when Prime Minister Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was elected a decade ago. It started a slow moving Islamist revolution that gutted the political power of the Army and continues to move Turkey toward a system of laws based on Sharia. It was not the revolution the secularists expected.

The Erdogan government is representative of the majority of Turks, as evidenced by its repeated electoral majorities. Any concessions it makes will be temporary. The direction of Turkey's political development is set and popular, except among some in the cities.

Syria-Lebanon: Syrian rebels clashed with Hizballah militiamen in the Bekaa Valley of southern Lebanon over the weekend. Press services reported 15 Syrian rebels and 1 Hizballah fighter killed.

Comment: This is the first such clash in Lebanon. The identity of the Syrian rebel group is not known but the al Qaida affiliate, the al Nusrah Front, threatened last week to attack Hizballah if its fighters did not withdraw from the Syrian town of al Qusayr. Hizballah's men did not withdraw and fighting began as threatened.

The question for Lebanon is no longer whether it will be drawn into the Syrian fighting, but rather how deeply for how long.

End of NightWatch for ###

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