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Ed Webb

The Halkbank Case Should Be a Very Big Deal - Lawfare - 0 views

  • If the New York Times’s story about the Justice Department’s handling of the case of  Turkish bank—and President Trump’s interference in that case—had broken any other week, it would be a very big deal. A week before the election, the country inured to the president’s propensity to abuse law enforcement power, it has barely merited a yawn.  The case is worth your time.
  • Berman’s bizarre firing may have been related to a pressure campaign by Barr and the White House to frustrate a high-profile investigation by Berman’s office. The story of Trump and Barr’s efforts to hamstring the investigation into the Turkish bank, Halkbank, says a great deal about Trump’s abuses of law enforcement, his financial entanglements abroad and his susceptibility to foreign influence.
  • an alleged scheme on the part of the state-owned Turkish bank to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran
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  • The investigation was of great interest to Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has sought since 2016 to quash the probe. According to the Times, Erdogan may have come close to succeeding.
  • a meeting between Trump and Erdogan in 2018, during which Trump declared Halkbank to be innocent and told Erdogan he would, in Bolton’s words, “take care of things.” He then asked Bolton to reach out to then-Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker on the matter. Later in 2018, after Trump and Erdogan spoke again, the Times reports that the White House told the southern district that the attorney general, the treasury security and the secretary of state would all become more involved in the case. 
  • Mnuchin had already reached out to the Justice Department seeking to scale down the potential fine paid by Halkbank in any settlement, following direct outreach by Erdogan’s son-in-law
  • Whitaker ordered Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to shut down the Halkbank case—stating, confusingly, that an indictment of the bank could pose risks to U.S. forces in Syria. Department officials opted to simply ignore Whitaker’s request. But after Barr was confirmed as attorney general, he too put pressure on the southern district, pushing prosecutors to allow Halkbank to walk away with only a fine and a limited acknowledgment of wrongdoing—a proposal that Berman reportedly described as “completely wrong.”
  • The first and more nefarious possibility is that the president pressured the Department of Justice to go easy on Halkbank and Erdogan’s cronies in order to protect his own sizable financial interests in Turkey. The second possibility is less horrible, but it’s not exactly reassuring. Perhaps Trump was swayed by Erdogan’s influence to make policy decisions that cut against the prosecutorial interests of his own government
  • no plausible benign explanations for Trump’s conduct here
  • in December 2018, following a call with Erdogan, Trump suddenly reversed course and ordered the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops—a move so unexpected that it ultimately led Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior officials to resign in protest. After another intervention by Trump in October 2019, following another call with Erdogan, Turkey was left in control of a broad swathe of Syria’s northern border, including Kurdish areas important to SDF allies of the United States.
  • efforts have continued both through direct engagement between Turkish and American officials and through the hiring of individuals close to the president himself—including, inevitably, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani
  • Trump certainly appears to have come to value what he sees as a personal relationship with Erdogan, lauding Erdogan as “a hell of a leader” and bragging that he is “the only one [Erdogan] will listen to” among NATO allies
  • Trump even invited Erdogan to a meeting at the White House in November 2019, just weeks after slapping (and then removing) sanctions on Turkey for its offensive into northern Syria
  • Trump has a long record of puzzling policy interventions when it comes to Turkey
  • it was just before Trump’s December 2018 Syria withdrawal order that Whitaker suggested that failing to drop the investigation against Halkbank might result to threats to U.S. forces in Syria—an argument that might have channeled threats that Erdogan’s regime was publicly making at the time.
  • he made a cursory review of Erdogan’s memo offering a thin legal theory about US sanctions and impulsively sided with the authoritarian leader over the prosecutors of the southern district
  • The Trump administration has almost entirely declined to criticize Erdogan’s bad-and-worsening record on human rights, as he and his regime have engaged in politically motivated investigations and prosecutions at home and turned a blind eye to atrocities in those parts of Syria under its control
  • The Trump administration has also refused to impose statutorily-required sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of a prohibited Russian missile system, without explanation and despite congressional pressure to do so. 
  • What exactly Trump has gotten in exchange for these positions is far from clear
  • Erdogan’s consistent ability to come out on top in Trump’s policy deliberations is, to say the least, impressive. And here it’s impossible to ignore Trump’s financial interests in the country: according to the Times’s review of Trump’s tax documents, he received profits of at least $2.6 million from business operations in Turkey between 2015 and 2018. And earlier reporting by the Times on Trump’s taxes describes how the Turkish government and business community “have not hesitated to leverage various Trump enterprises to their advantage,” strategically booking Trump properties to host events in efforts to curry favor with the president. 
  • If the president was motivated, in whole or in part, by a desire to curry favor with Erdogan in order to benefit his personal finances, that would be a grave abuse of office and plainly impeachable conduct
  • Trump has already been impeached for abusing his office for private campaign benefit; abuse of office for personal financial enrichment would be even worse.
  • this is the type of complex policy decision where it is nearly impossible to establish conclusively improper motives
  • The Halkbank situation is exactly why presidents are expected to abide by ethics rules—including divesting from business interests—and why Trump’s refusal to adhere to the norms of good governance presented serious national security implications from the outset
  • Having taken no effort to avoid the conflict, Trump isn’t entitled to the benefit of the doubt. And notably, those privy to Trump’s actual decisionmaking with respect to Turkey aren’t extending that benefit.
  • brazen financial corruption
  • If he wasn’t seeking financial benefit, then Trump has somehow been persuaded by Erdogan to take actions that contravene his own stated policy goals. A president who is so easily outwitted and susceptible to improper influence is a frightening thing
  • Saudi Arabia and its allies have conducted their own charm offensive, engaging lobbyists and cultivating a notoriously close relationship between Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
  • it is concerning for a president to be so willing to dictate major aspects of U.S. foreign policy on the basis of his personal preferences, often without even checking them against the views of his advisors or coordinating them through the broader government bureaucracy
  • Turkish officials hired soon-to-be National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to lobby the incoming administration for the extradition of dissident Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Erdogan blames for the 2016 coup attempt against his regime
  • Berman refused to go along with Barr’s proposed settlement, which he considered to be unethical. Months later, Barr fired Berman—and then lied about the circumstances and reasons why
  • Once again, the president is intervening in an investigation and a prosecutorial decision in a fashion that appears self-interested, appears to cut against stated U.S. policy to the benefit of an authoritarian leader and his interests, and appears influenced by the president’s own business concerns.
Ed Webb

Erdogan Plans to Tighten His Grip on Turkey's Economy - Bloomberg - 0 views

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he intends to tighten his grip on the economy and take more responsibility for monetary policy if he wins an election next month.
  • Erdogan told Bloomberg TV in London on Monday that after the vote transforms Turkey into a full presidential system, he expects the central bank will have to heed his calls for lower interest rates. The central bank’s key rate is now 13.5 percent, compared with 10.9 percent consumer-price inflation.
  • The lira slid to its weakest level ever against the dollar after his remarks were published
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  • Erdogan last month called snap elections for June 24, when a victory would consolidate his one-man rule of a country he’s governed since 2003. Since defeating a coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan has used emergency rule to increase his control over the region’s largest economy
  • A referendum last year weakened the role of parliament and gave the president sweeping authority in the most radical constitutional overhaul since the republic was founded 95 years ago.
  • Turkey’s relations with its NATO allies fray and its diplomatic focus shifts toward Russia and Iran. The country faces the unprecedented risk of sanctions from the U.S., a risk that Erdogan downplayed
  • “If we’re allies with the U.S., we need solidarity, not sanctions.”
  • The rapidity of the changes to Turkey’s economic and foreign policies has shaken investor confidence, which is critical because Turkey’s current-account deficit demands steady inflows from abroad
  • Erdogan has routinely criticized the central bank for setting interest rates that he says have helped stoke rising prices, an argument that contradicts conventional economic theory
Ed Webb

Turkey's New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism
  • Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul, near which Turkey has a small military base. And, alongside news of Turkish jets bombing Kurdish forces in Syria and engaging in mock dogfights with Greek planes over the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s pro-government media have shown a newfound interest in a series of imprecise, even crudely drawn, maps of Turkey with new and improved borders
  • this combination of irredentist cartography and rhetoric nonetheless offers some insight into Turkey’s current foreign and domestic policies and Ankara’s self-image. The maps, in particular, reveal the continued relevance of Turkish nationalism, a long-standing element of the country’s statecraft, now reinvigorated with some revised history and an added dose of religion
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  • they aren’t maps of the Ottoman Empire, which was substantially larger, or the entire Muslim world or the Turkic world. They are maps of Turkey, just a little bigger
  • while countries like Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary brought disaster on themselves by trying to forcibly rewrite their postwar borders, Turkey — under Ataturk and his successor — wisely resisted this urge
  • Erdogan, by contrast, has given voice to an alternative narrative in which Ataturk’s willingness in the Treaty of Lausanne to abandon territories such as Mosul and the now-Greek islands in the Aegean was not an act of eminent pragmatism but rather a betrayal. The suggestion, against all evidence, is that better statesmen, or perhaps a more patriotic one, could have gotten more.
  • Erdogan’s new sectarianism is evident in Mosul, where Turkey has warned of the risks to Sunnis should Shiite militias take control of the city. But the policy’s influence is clearest in Syria, where Turkey has been supporting Sunni rebels aiming to topple the Assad regime (including those now struggling to hold the city of Aleppo). In both Iraq and Syria, however, Turkey’s sectarianism has not been allowed to trump pragmatism. Ankara has been keen to maintain a mutually beneficial economic relationship with Iran despite backing opposite sides in Syria and in the past year has also expressed its willingness to make peace with Assad if circumstances require it.
  • Criticism of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy is now as likely to come from the Arab world as anywhere else
  • The Sultan Murad Brigade, comprising predominantly ethnic Turkmens, has been one of Ankara’s military assets inside Syria against both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the PKK. Meanwhile, the Turkmen population living around Mosul and its surrounding area has been a concern and an asset for Ankara in Iraq. Turkish special forces have worked with the Iraqi Turkmen Front since at least 2003 in order to expand Turkish influence and counter the PKK in northern Iraq.
  • Turkish minorities in northern Greece and Cyprus have played a similar role. That is, their well-being has been a subject of genuine concern for Turkish nationalists but also a potential point of leverage with Athens to be used as needed
  • Erdogan has also emphasized a new element to Turkey’s communitarian foreign-policy agenda: Sunni sectarianism
  • Government rhetoric has been quick to invoke the heroism of Turkey’s war of independence in describing the popular resistance to the country’s July 15 coup attempt. And alongside the Ottomans, Erdogan routinely references the Seljuks, a Turkic group that preceded the Ottomans in the Middle East by several centuries, and even found a place for more obscure pre-Islamic Turkic peoples like the Gokturks, Avars, and Karakhanids that first gained fame in Ataturk’s 1930s propaganda
  • the points at which Turkey has proved susceptible to irredentism in the past have all come at moments of change and uncertainty similar to what the Middle East is experiencing today. In 1939, Ankara annexed the province of Hatay, then under French control, by taking advantage of the crisis in Europe on the eve of World War II
  • Ankara is all too aware of the fact that the power to do so remains the only rationale for foreign intervention that matters
Ed Webb

Erdogan, Sultan of Jerusalem? - 0 views

  • No one who has visited Jerusalem over the past few years will be surprised by the preponderance of red Turkish flags with their crescent and star, fluttering over the city’s eastern Palestinian neighborhoods. These flags are just one visible manifestation of a major effort by the Turkish government to establish a presence in the Israeli capital. Investigative reports in the press, conducted over the last few years, have revealed the scope of Turkish activity in Jerusalem, which includes the renovation of homes, restoration of mosques and efforts to expose the residents of East Jerusalem to Turkish culture, including cooking workshops and Turkish-language classes. These efforts also include increasing involvement in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as described by Ben Caspit in July 2018.
  • Turks have renovated Mamluk buildings, which they then pass off as Ottoman. “Apart from the city walls, built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, there aren’t many Ottoman sites in Jerusalem. In contrast, the Mamluks invested quite a bit on construction in Jerusalem, and that’s good enough for Erdogan,” he told Al-Monitor. “It demonstrates his desire to flood Jerusalem with ties to the Ottoman Empire.”
  • Israel intends to revoke the head of TIKA’s diplomatic status in Jerusalem, effectively making his presence in Israel illegal. “The era of the Ottoman Empire is over. Turkey has no reason to be in Jerusalem,” said the Foreign Ministry in an especially bellicose statement. “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s declarations that Jerusalem belongs to all Muslims are absolutely baseless and ridiculous. Israel maintains sovereignty in Jerusalem, while ensuring freedom of worship for all religions. We will not allow anyone to interrupt this sovereignty.”
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  • “People wandering around East Jerusalem might think that they are visiting a Turkish city. There are voluminous amounts of flags, stickers and signage, and the Turkish presence is very obvious. This includes charitable activity. In winter, they distribute heaters, warm clothing and food stamps. Last Ramadan, they handed out $100 to all businesses in the Old City. They are involved in the educational system, they renovate buildings and they organize heavily subsidized and even free trips [from Turkey to Al-Aqsa Mosque]. As someone on the ground here, I am constantly surprised by the scope of this activity."
  • a neo-Ottoman policy that Erdogan has been promoting over the past few years. Its goal is to bolster Turkish control in Jerusalem
  • “As far as he is concerned, the fact that the Ottomans once ruled here means that he is no stranger to Jerusalem. He is also challenging Israeli sovereignty in the city. Turkish activity in Jerusalem is his way of engaging in the soft conquest of al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
  • Israel has decided to put an end to this Turkish involvement in Jerusalem affairs
  • Israeli experts estimate that another person particularly concerned about the situation is King Abdullah of Jordan, who has a special status in Jerusalem as “Protector of the Holy Sites.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement refers to these Jordanian concerns. “In accordance with the peace treaty with Jordan, the Jordanians have a special status at the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. As such, we will not allow Erdogan to interfere with this special status, as they are doing now,” reads the statement.
  • the growing presence of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs in the Temple Mount compound. They come with lots of money, and their efforts are already bearing fruit. Erdogan’s popularity among the Palestinians is skyrocketing, and the main person to suffer for that is Jordan’s King Abdullah. He cannot compete with the funds that the Turks are pouring in, while his rhetoric on behalf of the Palestinians pales in comparison to Erdogan’s stinging attacks.”
  • “Erdogan’s ultimate goal is Erdogan himself. He wants to become 'Sultan of all Muslims.' Unlike Iran, for example, which has no access to Jerusalem, Turkey does have access to the city. Israel allows him to operate on the ground and emblazon Jerusalem prominently on his personal banner. This positions him as the greatest Muslim leader in the world.”
  • “He wants to return to rule over all those lands that were once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. We are witnessing Turkish activity of this kind not only in the Middle East but in the Balkans and Caucasus too
  • Mordechai Goldman has served for the past few years as the diplomatic and military analyst of the ultra-Orthodox daily Hamevaser. He attended ultra-Orthodox rabbinical colleges and studied psychology at the Israeli Open University. He also participated in the national civil service program. Goldman lectures to ultra-Orthodox audiences on the diplomatic process and on the Israel Defense Forces and consults with companies in regard to the ultra-Orthodox sector.
Ed Webb

Turkey's defense industry sees rise of 'the president's men' - 0 views

  • The authoritarian normalization that continues to mark relations between Turkey’s political and military echelons since the 2016 failed coup is now affecting the policymaking process in the country's defense industry. The industry is the new favorite of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the bruising financial crisis heavily hit his former favorite sector, construction.
  • Four major reasons are behind Erdogan's piqued interest in the defense industry: First, Erdogan's popular support drastically increased after Turkey’s Oct. 9 incursion into Syria, known as Operation Peace Spring. Second, the defense industry is a good tool for producing success stories to divert public attention at a time of economic crisis. Third, success in the defense realm offers political gains in foreign policy. And finally, it creates profitable export opportunities to several countries including Qatar, Pakistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and some African nations.
  • In December 2017, Erdogan issued a decree placing TSKGV under his auspices. Since then, however, Erdogan hasn’t quite managed to establish full control over the institution, which mainly remains under the influence of the retired generals.
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  • The third sector — the new rising stars of the defense industry — are led by the president's men. They and their companies are tied to Erdogan: Baykar Makina, owned by the family of Erdogan’s son-in-law, Selcuk Bayraktar; BMC, owned by the Ozturk family and Ethem Sancak, a member of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Executive Council; and the Tumosan unit of Albayrak Group.
  • BMC is the leading producer of buses, trucks, rail systems, Kirpi armored vehicles and Amazon mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles. The ambitious joint venture aspires to become Turkey’s monopoly over diesel engine production for land vehicles and jet engines. Sancak holds 25% of the venture's shares, the Ozturks hold 25.1%, and the remaining 49.9% is owned by the Qatar Armed Forces Industry Committee.
  • In 2018, BMC became Turkey's first private defense industry company to reach the Defense News “Top 100 List,” ranking No. 85, with $554.18 million in defense revenues.
  • In early 2019, Erdogan offered generous incentives to BMC, such as the opportunity to lease Turkey’s largest tank maintenance factory to produce the indigenous Altay main battle tank under a 25-year contract for only $50 million. This transfer of a tank factory in Sakarya province to BMC is still highly controversial in Turkey, with the main opposition party criticizing it at nationwide rallies because of transparency and accountability issues. Also, factory workers organized several protests against the decision.
  • a big cooperative deal in the defense industry helps strengthen Qatar’s ties with Turkey, guarantees Turkey's continued military-political shield against the Saudi-led bloc and blockade, and helps Doha diversify its defense sources.
  • BMC wants to penetrate jet engine production as well. After securing Erdogan's political backing, BMC’s TRMotor went to a joint venture with TAI to develop the jet engine for Turkey’s indigenous TFX aircraft project with the help of the UK’s Rolls-Royce. In March, however, Rolls-Royce​ announced it was withdrawing from TRMotor because of an irreconcilable difference over intellectual property caused by Qatar’s involvement with BMC.
  • BMC is trying to establish a monopoly in military diesel and jet engines, and also seeks to monopolize the raw material production field of boron mining it recently entered. 
  • Joint ventures are having a rough time. TSKGV, now under the jurisdiction of the presidential palace, is struggling to evade Erdogan’s attempts to take full charge. Meanwhile, Erdogan's favorites are rising quickly to the top.
Ed Webb

Did Erdogan approve Azerbaijan escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh? - 0 views

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan views the world with both grievance and a sense of opportunity. In a major speech Oct. 1, he assailed the failures of the post-World War II international system, declaring, “There is no chance left for this distorted order, in which the entire globe is encumbered by a handful of greedy people, to continue to exist the way it currently does.”
  • He described Turkey as a country that “cannot use the same methods as the states that have no roots no traditions, and no morals, and which derive their power from colonialism and greed."
  • Erdogan’s approach speaks to Turkey’s Islamic and Ottoman past, including in his newly assertive role on the Palestinian issue, as Fehim Tastekin and Adnan Abu Amer report. “We had to leave [Jerusalem] in tears during the First World War,” Erdogan said this week. “It is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us.” 
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  • In Syria, Erdogan faces a quagmire mostly of his own making, and he shows no inclination to pull back. He got Turkey involved early, backing elements committed to deposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during protests nearly a decade ago.
  • Turkey’s troops and proxies still occupy parts of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, and will stay there, according to Erdogan, “until the last terrorist is destroyed.” Terrorist, by his lights, means not only the Islamic State, or Daesh, as he refers to it, but Syrian Kurdish forces that have been aligned with the United States, and which Turkey views as linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara and Washington.
  • campaign against the PKK includes attacks on the group inside Iraq as well
  • Libya, where Turkey has shifted jihadis it backed during the fight in Syria to Libya to fight on behalf of the Government of National Accord
  • Amberin Zaman writes that Azerbaijan’s military action, which set off the recent escalation, “was not sparked by accident but was preplanned by Azerbaijan and its regional ally Turkey.”
  • Turkey's all-in support for Azerbaijan, including providing arms and training, can allow Erdogan “to claim credit for winning back Azerbaijani territory, however little, [which] would be an enormous boost to his droopy poll numbers in the midst of a looming economic crisis."
  • Despite denials by Ankara and Baku, there are reports of Syrian jihadis joining the fray, sent there by Turkey
  • if Moscow comes to believe that Ankara has ulterior motives such as expanding its Turko-Islamist influence to the south Caucasus as part of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions, it won't stand idle
  • as Turkish-Israeli relations go from bad to worse, both Ankara and Jerusalem are backing Azerbaijan in the conflict. Armenia recalled its ambassador to Israel because of Israel’s selling arms to Azerbaijan, as we report here.
Ed Webb

Turkey: How Mehmet Simsek convinced Erdogan to drop his low interest rate policy | Midd... - 0 views

  • Erdogan’s obsession with low interest rates and an economic policy that depends on credit growth, wage increases, tax forgiveness and free gas partly handed him another term during last month’s elections, despite runaway inflation. Yet it remains problematic. The government used backdoor methods to stabilise the lira ahead of the polls, and burned through all the central bank’s reserves.
  • Since 2021, Erdogan has also propped up his economic programme through a series of currency swap or deposit deals with regional neighbours such as Qatar, the UAE, Russia and Azerbaijan.
  • inflation is still near 40 percent as of May and the trade deficit hit $57.8bn in the first five months of 2023, jumping nearly 30 percent year on year
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  • the central bank’s reserves, which include domestic borrowing from local banks, now stand at minus $5bn, a historic low as of 2 June. Experts are fearful of a balance of payments crisis if Ankara continues to follow the same route.
  • “There was an avalanche of phone calls from current and former ministers, MPs and everyone you could think of to Simsek to accept Erdogan’s offer and come in as the economy minister,” one source familiar with Simsek’s negotiations with the president told Middle East Eye. “They were telling him that he has to save the Turkish economy.” The source said in the end Simsek had to accept the offer: you can only say no to Erdogan so many times.
  • There are concerns among international investors and local economists that Erdogan could fire Simsek in the near future if an aggressive interest rate hike slows growth and costs jobs ahead of next year’s municipal elections. Erdogan is determined to recapture Istanbul, Ankara and Antalya from the opposition.
  • Erdogan is known for appointing rivals into key positions to use them as checks on each other.
  • People close to Simsek also told MEE that soon after taking office, the new finance minister told his circle that the economic situation was worse than he had imagined.
Ed Webb

With each Erdogan visit, Ankara grows more indebted to Moscow - 0 views

  • In the bumpy Turkish-Russian relationship in Syria, crisis situations have produced a pattern of face-to-face meetings between the two countries’ presidents, with Ankara typically ending up as a giver and Moscow as a taker.
  • By getting a NATO-country president on top of a Russian warplane, Putin certainly sought to send a message to the Western security bloc. He said Turkey was interested in purchasing Russian warplanes such as the Su-57, while Erdogan responded he would leave defense procurement officials to brainstorm the matter.
  • 2½ years since the launch of the Astana track between Russia, Turkey and Iran, Ankara and Moscow remain at odds in their definitions of “terrorist” groups in northwest Syria
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  • Erdogan’s visit was prompted by the situation in Idlib, but the venue Putin chose — an aerospace exhibition — set the stage for Moscow to open its favorite topic, namely opportunities for further defense cooperation and fresh arms sales to Turkey in the wake of the S-400 missile deal. 
  • Tensions in the rebel-held province shot up Aug. 19 after a Syrian fighter jet struck a pickup of the Faylaq al-Sham group escorting a Turkish military convoy, which, according to Ankara, was taking reinforcements to the Turkish observation post at Morek in the southernmost corner of Idlib. The situation grew into a crisis between Ankara and Moscow as Syrian forces encircled the Morek base, where about 200 Turkish soldiers are stationed, while marching into the key town of Khan Sheikhoun. 
  • Unlike Western leaders, Putin has proved a master in speaking not only to the minds but also the hearts of both Turkish decision-makers and the Turkish people. He grasps the “emotional reality” prevailing in Ankara, where how one feels could be more consequential than what one thinks nowadays. In a move flattering nationalist sentiments, Putin offered Erdogan the opportunity to send a Turkish astronaut to space on the centenary of the Turkish republic in 2023, drawing on the recent creation of a space agency in Turkey, which has been actively advertised for domestic political consumption
  • A Turkish astronaut in space ahead of the 2023 presidential polls would make for a great election gift for Erdogan
  • each Putin-Erdogan summit has seen Ankara give concessions, be they economic, diplomatic or security- and defense-related
Ed Webb

Turkey launches Operation Spring Shield against Syrian forces - 0 views

  • Ankara said today that it had launched Operation Spring Shield against the Syrian Arab Army on a day that saw Turkey down two Russian-made Syrian air force jets, and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 5 over the unfolding Idlib crisis.
  • Turkey said it had destroyed several air defense systems, more than 100 tanks and killed 2,212 members of the Syrian forces, including three top generals in drone strikes since Feb 27
  • The dramatic escalation pitting NATO member Turkey against the far weaker Syrian Arab army followed Feb. 27 airstrikes that killed at least 36 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, sending shock waves throughout Turkey.
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  • Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said at least 21 “Iranian-backed terrorists” were also “neutralized” in Idlib, in a reference to Afghan, Pakistani and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias that have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Idlib
  • As war raged on in Idlib, a humanitarian drama was unfolding at Turkey’s border with Greece. On Thursday, Turkey announced that its borders were open for millions of Syrian and other refugees in Turkey to leave. It justified the move on the grounds that it could no longer cope with the burden, with up to a million civilians fleeing regime violence in Idlib remaining massed along Syria's border with Turkey. Thousands of migrants have gathered near Greece's Kastanies border crossing, some getting there by taking free rides on buses organized by the Turkish government. Turkey’s state-owned Arabic-language broadcasting channel, TRT Arabi, provided maps for migrants showing various routes to reach the border.
  • Erdogan lashed out at the EU for failing to fulfill a 2016 deal under which Turkey undertook to care for nearly 4 million mostly Syrian refugees in exchange for 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in financial support
  • the effect of this new blackmail is a complete disaster. One because the Turkish leadership is officially misleading migrants, telling them that ‘borders are open.’ Two because this is now an additional state-organized humanitarian disaster. There is total bewilderment in Europe at what the Turkish leadership can do when finding itself in a total, self-inflicted dead end
  • “The term that best characterizes Turkey’s current foreign and security policy is kakistrocracy, that is, government by the least qualified,” he told Al-Monitor. “The only silver lining in the Idlib crisis is that now [the Turkish government] can blame Turkey’s looming economic crisis on exogenous factors, allowing Erdogan to deny that his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who is in charge of the economy, is to blame for his incompetence and mismanagement.”
  • “Aleppo is ours and so is Hatay,” declared Ibrahim Karagul, a fellow Erdoganist scribe on his Twitter feed. He was responding to an article by Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency, which opened to debate Turkey’s 1939 acquisition of Hatay — also known as Alexandretta — in a disputed referendum following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire by the allied powers. The article is believed to have spurred today’s detention of the editor-in-chief of the Turkish version of Sputnik. Mahir Boztepe was released following a phone call between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
  • the consensus among military experts is that Feb. 27 airstrikes were likely carried out by Russian jets. “Russia flies at night, the regime can’t. The Turks were bombed at night,” said Aaron Stein, director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Middle East Program. Both sides have chosen to blame the regime for the attack, presumably to avert a direct confrontation that neither side wants.
  • Did Putin underestimate Erdogan when the pugnacious Turkish leader set a Feb. 29 deadline for Syrian forces to move out of Idlib? Is he merely letting Erdogan save face? Or does Ankara have more agency in its relations with Moscow than it is credited for? It’s probably a bit of everything, said Kevork Oskanian, an honorary research fellow at Birmingham University who is writing a book titled “Russian Empire.” He told Al-Monitor, "Russia’s reluctance to intervene in the regime’s favor does appear to be designed to allow Erdogan to save face while also softening Assad up for compromise.”
Ed Webb

EXCLUSIVE: Trump sent second letter to Erdogan threatening sanctions over S-400s | Midd... - 1 views

  • US President Donald Trump last week warned Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a letter that he would soon have to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems if Ankara did not accept his proposed terms
  • Trump also said that Turkey could be re-admitted into a partner programme for the US's next-generation F-35 fighter jet if it agreed not to activate the S-400 systems and committed to not purchasing Russian weapons systems in the future
  • the two NATO allies at odds over a range of issues including Ankara's incursion into northern Syria
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  • Trump's last correspondence with Erdogan, sent last month and threatening him with heavy sanctions over Turkey's operation in northern Syria, caused uproar at the time because of its informal style which was perceived as undiplomatic and "childish".
  • The White House, under pressure from the Congress, seems to have lost patience and really wants to put an end to the S-400 debacle, by either sanctioning Turkey, or using the threat of sanctions to force it to accept its terms,
  • Trump has publicly said multiple times that Turkey should purchase US-made Patriot missile systems to defend its territories. Erdogan told journalists last week that he was still interested in the Patriots.
  • administration is mandated to sanction countries that conduct transactions with the Russian military industry, according to a law ratified by the US Congress in 2017, called CAATSA, or Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
  • The Pentagon suspended Turkey from F-35 programme in July, saying that the S-400s could be used to spy on the crucial technology of the jet.
  • Erdogan, replying by letter, told Trump that Turkey would not discuss the S-400 issue with pre-conditions. He reiterated his demand to form a joint committee to resolve the problem and continued to defend the argument that S-400s and F-35 could be compatible within Turkey's defence structure.
Ed Webb

Does Erdogan think Sisi is bluffing in Libya? - 0 views

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in July described conditions in Libya as "gloomy," adding that "time is not on our side." He expressed concern about foreign interference in the war, the 400,000 Libyans displaced by the conflict, and the spike in COVID-19 cases.
  • The World Bank had designated Libya at risk of endemic poverty as a fragile state experiencing high intensity conflict, and that was before the pandemic.
  • Egypt backs Khalifa Hifter, a military strongman whose forces have been rapidly losing ground to the Libyan Government of National Accord thanks to Turkey’s military intervention on the government side.
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  • Libya has become one of the Middle East’s regional fault lines, with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey and Qatar on the other
  • Russia and France also back Hifter, and Erdogan has been at odds with NATO ally French President Emmanuel Macron over differences over Libya
  • The United Nations recognizes the Government of National Accord, so Erdogan believes he has international legitimacy on his side.
  • If this all seems very 1914, even worse are the random acts that can escalate things.
  • On July 20, Sisi said a parliamentary resolution that day approving combat missions outside the country’s border had provided Egypt’s intervention in Libya “international legitimacy” if it decides to deploy
  • Sisi declared any move by the government to take Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and gateway to the fields, as a red line for Egypt. Sisi also has called for further arming of Libyan tribes in the region to hold off the Turkish-backed government offensive
  • Erdogan is loath to grant a seat at the table to Hifter, and may not take Sisi’s warning about the use of force seriously, Metin Gurcan writes.  “Sisi may be eager for an intervention, hoping to boost his popularity in the Arab world and sustain the UAE’s financial backing, but Ankara doubts the Egyptian military shares his eagerness,” writes Gurcan. “According to Turkish assessments, Egypt’s military would be reluctant to engage in a cross-border campaign with ambiguous military goals and risk losses that might damage its credibility and fuel internal rifts.”
  • The Turkish assessment is that Algeria and Tunisia would see Egyptian intervention as an unwanted escalation, as Simon Speakman Cordall explains, and that the United States and Russia, both close allies of Egypt, would advise against it.
  • “All those who have faith in Erdogan's Libyan policy, which is now contained by Russia, can count on the inconsistency of Turkey's president. There is nothing permanent for Erdogan. Hence, although a war with Egypt that could have erupted due to his miscalculation is averted for the time being, one can never know what the near future might bring.”
  • Erdogan’s personal relationships with both Putin and Trump have “strengthened Ankara’s hand” and “averted serious crises, which could even have escalated into direct military confrontations between Turkish and US/Russian forces, most notably in Syria” adding, “Ankara has also not held back from using its ties with Moscow and Washington against these powers, depending on the occasion.”
  • The Libyan conflict is, regrettably, on a path of "Syrianization," as Fehim Tastekin called it, the result of the jihadis shipped there by Turkey to fight on behalf of the Libyan government against Hifter.
  • as in Syria, Putin is working all angles, not only with Erdogan and Sisi, but also with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (known as MBZ) and others
Ed Webb

'Shame on you!': Erdogan faces voter fury in quake zone - Al-Monitor: Independent, trus... - 0 views

  • The earthquake that killed more than 21,000 people across Turkey and Syria came at one of the most politically sensitive moments of Erdogan's two-decade rule.The Turkish leader has proposed holding a crunch election on May 14 that could keep his Islamic-rooted government in power until 2028.
  • Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency across 10 quake-hit provinces. The region is still digging out its dead and many are living on the streets or in their cars.Campaigning here seems out of the question.But there is also a political dimension that is deeply personal for Erdogan.The earthquake struck just as he was gaining momentum and starting to lift his approval numbers from a low suffered during a dire economic crisis that exploded last year.
  • "No government, no state, no police, no soldiers. Shame on you! You left us on our own."
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  • Erdogan admitted "shortcomings" in the government's handling of the disaster on Wednesday.
  • Erdogan has received a largely warm reception from locals in carefully choreographed visits broadcast on national television.
  • "People who didn't die from the earthquake were left to die in the cold," he said. "Isn't it a sin, people who have been left to die like this?"
Ed Webb

Domestic politics, Idlib sway timing of Turkey's Syrian operation - 0 views

  • Urgent necessities of a domestic nature have determined the timing of Operation Peace Spring that Turkey launched Oct. 9 along the Syrian border east of the Euphrates against the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been building a self-rule in the region thanks to US protection and military support.
  • the operation came in the wake of the local elections earlier this year in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered major losses. The economic crisis bruising Turkey proved a major factor in the party’s debacles in big cities in the March 31 polls and the June 23 rerun of the mayoral vote in Istanbul, giving impetus to rupture trends within the AKP.
  • Ankara is greatly concerned over the prospect of a new refugee influx from Idlib that would further entangle Turkey’s Syrian refugee problem. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned in September that Turkey cannot tolerate another refugee wave atop the 3.6 million Syrians it is already hosting
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  • the Syrian refugee problem has proved increasingly costly for the AKP in terms of domestic politics
  • Across Turkey and in big cities in particular, most of the Syrian refugees live in close proximity to AKP voters, either in the same neighborhoods or adjoining ones. Under the impact of the economic crisis, tensions between locals and refugees have grown, contributing to a gradual disenchantment with the government among AKP voters
  • While announcing the launch of Operation Peace Spring, Erdogan said the campaign would “lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.” The political motive underlying this pledge rests on the fact that the Syrian refugee problem is becoming unbearable for the government.
  • Syrians who could be forced to flee Idlib in the near future could perhaps be placed in tent cities in this “security belt” without being let into Turkey at all and instead transferred via Afrin and al-Bab, which are already under Turkish control.
  • Ali Babacan, the AKP’s former economy czar who has already quit the party, is expected to create a new party and join the opposition ranks by the end of the year. Ahmet Davutoglu — the former premier and foreign minister who, together with Erdogan, designed and implemented the failed policies that spawned the grave “Syria crisis” that Turkey is experiencing today, both domestically and in its foreign policy — is gearing up to get ahead of Babacan and announce his own party in November. These political dynamics have already triggered a spate of resignations from the AKP, and the formal establishment of the new parties could further accelerate the unraveling
  • The intensive employment of a nationalist narrative, in which the operation is depicted as a struggle of “national survival” against terrorism and quitting the AKP is equated to treason, would not be a surprise. 
  • already omens that this state-of-emergency climate, nurtured through the operation, will be used to further suppress the opposition, free speech and media freedoms. 
  • the web editor of the left-leaning BirGun daily, Hakan Demir, and the editor of the Diken news portal, Fatih Gokhan Diler, were detained on the grounds that their coverage of the operation amounted to “inciting hatred and enmity” among the people. The two journalists were released on probation later in the day.
  • prosecutors launched an investigation into the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli, on charges that their critical comments about the operation constituted “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “openly insulting” the government. 
  • Erdogan already lacks any political ground to try to win over the Kurds, but Kurdish voters are likely to develop resentment against the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as well over its support for the military campaign. This, of course, could be one of the side objectives the government seeks from the operation, given that the backing of HDP voters was instrumental in CHP victories in big cities such as Ankara, Istanbul and Adana in the local polls after the HDP opted to sit out those races.
  • Trump's threats to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if Ankara goes “off-limits” in the operation offers Erdogan the chance to blame the economy’s domestic woes on external reasons and portray the ongoing fragility of the Turkish lira as an American conspiracy.
Ed Webb

Turkey's Erdogan pivots to Africa for trade - 0 views

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan enters this weekend's G20 summit in Rome fresh off an African tour aimed at cementing lucrative partnerships during another spell of tensions with the West.From mining to health, energy to infrastructure, Turkish businesses are popping up across the resource-rich continent and signing deals hailed as a "win-win".
  • This pivot away from traditional European markets has already seen Turkey's trade with Africa balloon from $5.4 billion when Erdogan came to power in 2003 to $25.4 billion last year.
  • Erdogan once described Turkey as an "Afro-Eurasian" nation and has visited the most African countries -- 30 out of 54 -- of any non-African head of state.
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  • The number of Turkish embassies in Africa has grown from 12 to 43 since 2002 while the national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, flies to over 60 African destinations.
  • the young, fast-growing continent's huge need for infrastructure, from electricity to bridges, drinking water to waste disposal, where Turkish companies excel
  • Algeria, meanwhile, is one of Turkey's main suppliers of liquefied petroleum gas, offering Ankara a chance to "reduce our dependence on Russia and Iran"
  • For African officials, Turkish companies offer jobs and reasonably priced goods the quality of which often compares favourably to those from China -- one of the continent's most aggressive investors.
  • The bid to expand African trade comes with the Turkish lira steadily sinking to new lows, which makes exports even more competitive.
  • "There is a long-term plan, it's not a short-term plan," Bayram said, pointing to investments in healthcare, education, training, and the role of women.
Ed Webb

Turkey Turns Away from Europe, Toward the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - - 0 views

  • Erdogan threw the diplomatic equivalent of a cream pie during a late-night television interview last Friday. Understandably, he was expressing frustration at stalled negotiations over Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Incomprehensibly, he suggested that Turkey join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization instead.
  • Turkish columnists are now debating whether Erdogan is serious about wanting to play in a different league or bluffing in an attempt to force Brussels into serious negotiations. Or he is kicking up a cloud of dust to distract the public from weightier issues like Kurdish rights or lower economic growth? He has been known to propose out of the blue policies that appeal to his conservative base — banning abortion, restoring capital punishment — but that he has little intention of seeing into law.
  • only one third of Turks believe Turkey should persist in its quest for E.U. membership
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  • When the EDAM pollsters asked foreign policy experts the same question they’d put to ordinary Turks, almost 87 percent answered that Turkey’s future lay with Europe
  • If Erdogan really is trying to concentrate the mind of the E.U. bureaucrats in Brussels, joining an organization branded by the International Federation for Human Rights as a “vehicle for human rights violations” would send the wrong signal about the sort of society Turkey aspires to be. In 2009, Russia convinced the S.C.O. to adopt a motion that declared the dissemination of information “harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states” and a “security threat.” Are these the common values to which Erdogan was referring?
Ed Webb

Fiery Erdogan Slams Assad, Iran - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 1 views

  • He questioned whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was really a Muslim, which will likely provoke Alawites inside Turkey and abroad
  • Erdogan denied interfering in Syria’s internal affairs. He launched an attack on Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, describing him as part of an anti-Turkey campaign. He said that “just like there is the Baath Party in Syria, there is the Republican People's Party in Turkey.”
    Dangerous rhetoric, aligning not only the Kurds but the Alevis with identified enemies of Turkey. Electoral politics and foreign policy entwined with potentially awful results. Erdogan needs to step back from this kind of argument.
Ed Webb

Erdogan vows to 'destroy all terror nests' in Syria - 0 views

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “destroy all terror nests” in Syria today, as he kept up his verbal attacks against the United States over its continuing support for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
  • followed a night of shelling by Turkish forces and their Free Syrian Army allies targeting Afrin, the Kurdish-majority enclave on the Turkish border that is under YPG control
  • Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Afrin and Manbij, an Arab-majority town that lies further east and is also under YPG control. But so far its actions have been limited to sporadic artillery strikes initiated from the Turkish side of the border and from within the Euphrates Shield zone run by Turkey and its rebel allies.
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  • Russian forces patrol the skies over the region and are present on the ground. Similarly, targeting Manbij could trigger a confrontation with hundreds of US special forces deployed in the YPG-controlled areas, which extend from Manbij all the way to Iraq
  • “The feeling, increasingly even within traditionally cautious Turkish Foreign Ministry circles, is that Turkey’s prestige is on the line. And that an operation is feasible.” Russia may well consent to a limited and clearly defined Turkish foray
  • Erdogan took direct aim at the United States. “Lower your flags over the terrorist [YPG] bases so that we are not forced to hand them over to you ourselves, so that we are not forced to bury those who stand by the terrorists in the ground,” he warned. “The Turkish Armed Forces will settle the Afrin and Manbij affairs in the shortest possible time. The offensive can begin any second.”
  • Turkey has so far swallowed the US partnership with the YPG — albeit kicking and screaming — on the assumption that it would end once IS was vanquished and that the United States would not embark on any form of nation-building that would cement the Kurds’ territorial and political gains. But recent statements from top US officials suggest the United States is reviewing its options
Ed Webb

British archaeology falls prey to Turkey's nationalist drive - 0 views

  • Turkish authorities have seized possession of the country’s oldest and richest archaeobotanical and modern seed collections from the British Institute at Ankara, one of the most highly regarded foreign research institutes in Turkey, particularly in the field of archaeology. The move has sounded alarm bells among the foreign research community and is seen as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wider xenophobia-tinged campaign to inject Islamic nationalism into all aspects of Turkish life.
  • “staff from the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, the General Directorate for Museums and Heritage from the Ministry of Culture and the Turkish Presidency took away 108 boxes of archaeobotanical specimens and 4 cupboards comprising the modern seed reference collections” to depots in a pair of government-run museums in Ankara. The institute’s request for extra time “to minimize the risk of damage or loss to the material was refused.”
  • Coming on the heels of the controversial conversions of the Hagia Sophia and Chora Museum into full service mosques this summer, the seizure has left the research community in a state of shock, sources familiar with the affair said.
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  • The formal justification for the raid was based on a decree issued on Sept. 3, 2019. It authorizes the government to assume control of local plants and seeds and to regulate their production and sales.
  • Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdogan, a passionate advocate of herbal and organic food products, introduced the so-called “Ata Tohum” or “Ancestral Seed” project that envisages “agriculture as the key to our national sovereignty.” The scheme is aimed at collecting and storing genetically unmodified seeds from local farmers and to reproduce and plant them so as to grow “fully indigenous” aliments.
  • “Seeds” he intoned, “are the foundation of our national security.”
  • The professor railed against assorted Westerners who had plundered Anatolia’s botanical wealth and carried it back home.
  • Ata Tohum is thought to be the brainchild of Ibrahim Adnan Saracoglu, an Austrian-trained biochemist.  He is among Erdogan’s ever expanding legion of advisers. The 71-year old has written academic tracts about how broccoli consumption can prevent prostatitis. He was with the first lady at the Sept. 5 Ata Tohum event.
  • a “classic nationalist move to dig deeper and deeper into the past for justification of the [nationalist] policies that you are currently putting in place.”
  • parallels with the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, who “connected Turkish civilization back to the Phrygians and the Hittites” as part of his nation-building project.
  • “You have these genetic ties to the land through these seeds as proof that our civilization belongs here and has been here since time immemorial. To want to have these [seeds] in the first place is part of the nationalist framework.”
  • The ultimate fate of the British Institute’s seeds remains a mystery. It’s just as unclear what practical purpose they will serve.
  • “the archaeology seeds are essentially charcoal, dead and inert.” As for the modern reference collection “we are talking about stuff that was collected 25 to 50 years ago and is not going to be able to germinate.”
  • “But in order to get genomic information you only need one or two grains, not the whole collection. What [Turkish authorities] have done is they’ve removed this research resource from the wider Turkish and international community of researchers. It was a nice, small research facility, open to anyone who wanted to use it. Now it’s all gone,”
Ed Webb

Iran protests to Turkey over 'meddling' poem recited by Erdogan | Recep Tayyip Erdogan ... - 0 views

  • Iran’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Turkey’s ambassador over what it said was “meddlesome” remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Azerbaijan on Thursday. Erdogan was in the Azeri capital Baku to review a military parade marking Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that ended last month.
  • recited an Azeri-Iranian poem about the division of Azerbaijan’s territory between Russia and Iran in the 19th century. Tehran appeared concerned his remarks could fan separatism among Iran’s Azeri minority.
  • According to Iran’s ISNA news agency, the poem recited is “one of the separatist symbols of pan-Turkism”.
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  • The envoy was told that “the era of territorial claims and warmongering and expansionist empires has passed”, according to an official statement.
  • A Russian-brokered ceasefire locked in Azeri gains and saw Moscow deploy peacekeepers to the region. Under a separate deal, Russia and Turkey will also jointly monitor the ceasefire.
Ed Webb

A New Path For Syria's Kurds - War on the Rocks - 0 views

  • in a dramatic reversal in its foreign policy, Ankara is now looking to normalize relations with Damascus
  • Ankara has long supported the opposition and anti-regime forces in Syria and controls a huge chunk of Syrian territory in the north. For the United States and European powers, Turkish-Syrian normalization would represent a dramatic shift, fundamentally altering the strategic calculus in Syria and directly threatening the position of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds — given that both Ankara and Damascus want to see their territorial control and autonomous governing curtailed or brought under the auspices of a centralized Syrian government. 
  • The right approach is not arming Kurds or offering them the false promise of U.S. military backing to counter a Syrian-Turkish front but supporting them politically to secure a modus vivendi with the governments in Ankara and Damascus. To survive, Kurds need to reach an agreement with both. This will necessitate supporting the Kurds in their political dialogue with Damascus and pushing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — the U.S.- and Turkish-designated terrorist group — to declare a ceasefire inside Turkey ahead of the June 2023 elections, easing the pressure on Syrian Kurds. This could open up the possibility of a political softening on the Turkish-Kurdish front, remove a major irritant in the U.S.-Turkish relationship, and preserve some Western influence inside Syria. 
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  • the Turkish president has formed an alliance with ultra-nationalists to secure his power — and the continuation of the war against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and its Syrian offshoot, the Syrian Democratic Forces, has served as a lubricant in this partnership
  • Erdogan is no doubt calculating that an agreement with Damascus would secure a greenlight from Russia to launch a new incursion or coordinated action with Damascus against the Kurds ahead of the June 2023 elections, helping rally Turkish voters around the flag
  • a rapprochement with Syria helps Turkey manage its relationship with Moscow at a time when Erdogan needs Russia’s consent for action in Syria and money to help prop up the country’s collapsing economy. Turkey and Russia have a complicated relationship which simultaneously involves competition and cooperation, often at the expense of Western influence in Syria, Libya, and the Caucasus
  • the fragile peace in the northeast, where an estimated 900 U.S. troops are stationed alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Syria has also become an arena of great power projection for Russia and a site of proxy warfare within the broader great power rivalry with the United States. Putin might eventually choose to greenlight a limited Turkish incursion or coordinate a joint Turkish-Syrian pincer movement against the Kurds, knowing that this could keep Ankara happy ahead of the elections and would create a crisis inside NATO. He also knows that Turkish-Syrian normalization would put immense pressure on the residual U.S. position in Syria.
  • With the Assad regime, the Kurds should be aiming for an agreement that guarantees more autonomy than Damascus is currently willing to give but recognize they will have to accept less than what they want
  • Russia and the regime lack the resources to rebuild Syria and restore legitimacy to its government
  • There is already speculation that the ruling Justice and Development Party is looking for ways to secure conservative Kurdish electoral support or to peel Kurds away from the opposition block
  • A precipitous withdrawal would create a public humiliation like Afghanistan and a free-for-all which would likely leave the Kurds devastated and the region raked by new instability — which, in turn, could well be exploited by ISIL in a manner that eventually pulls the United States back to Syria for a counter-terrorism campaign
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