In the past few weeks, a conflict between Ankara and Baghdad over Turkey’s role in the liberation of Mosul has precipitated an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism. On two separate occasions, President Recep Tayyip 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.
Turkey won’t be annexing part of Iraq anytime soon, but 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. But if the past is any indication, the military interventions and confrontational rhetoric this nationalism inspires may worsen Turkey’s security and regional standing.
At first glance, the maps of Turkey appearing on Turkish TV recently resemble similar irredentist maps put out by proponents of greater Greece, greater Macedonia, greater Bulgaria, greater Armenia, greater Azerbaijan, and greater Syria. That is to say, 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.
But the specific history behind the borders they envision provides the first indication of what’s new and what isn’t about Erdogan’s brand of nationalism. These maps purport to show the borders laid out in Turkey’s National Pact, a document Erdogan recently suggested the prime minister of Iraq should read to understand his country’s interest in Mosul. Signed in 1920, after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, the National Pact identified those parts of the empire that the government was prepared to fight for. Specifically, it claimed those territories that were still held by the Ottoman army in October 1918 when Constantinople signed an armistice with the allied powers. On Turkey’s southern border, this line ran from north of Aleppo in what is now Syria to Kirkuk in what is now Iraq.
When the allies made it clear they planned to leave the empire with a lot less than it held in 1918, it led to renewed fighting in which troops under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk defeated European forces to establish Turkey as it exists today. For the better part of the past century, Turkey’s official history lauded Ataturk for essentially realizing the borders envisioned by the National Pact (minus Mosul, of course), as recognized with the Treaty of Lausanne. It was an exaggerated claim, given the parts of the pact that were left out, but also an eminently practical one, intended to prevent a new and precarious Turkish republic from losing what it had achieved in pursuit of unrealistic territorial ambitions. Indeed, 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.
Among other things, Erdogan’s reinterpretation of history shows the ironies behind the widespread talk in the United States of his supposed “neo-Ottomanism.” A decade ago, Erdogan’s enthusiasm for all things Ottoman appeared to be part of an effective strategy for improving relations with the Muslim Middle East, a policy that some U.S. critics saw as a challenge to their country’s role in the region. But refashioning the National Pact as a justification for irredentism rather than a rebuke of it has not been popular among Turkey’s neighbors. Criticism of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy is now as likely to come from the Arab world as anywhere else.
Erdogan’s use of the National Pact also demonstrates how successfully Turkey’s Islamists have reappropriated, rather than rejected, elements of the country’s secular nationalist historical narrative. 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.
Similarly, in Syria and Iraq, Erdogan is aiming to achieve a long-standing national goal, the defeat of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), by building on the traditional nationalist tools of Turkish foreign policy — namely, the leveraging of Turkish minorities in neighboring countries. 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.
Over the past century, the 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. (Greece, of course, has behaved similarly with regard to the Greek minority in Turkey. Not surprisingly, both populations have often suffered reciprocally as a result.) In the case of Cyprus, for example, Turkey’s 1974 invasion was as much about defending its strategic position as it was about protecting the island’s Turkish community. Following his statements about Lausanne, Erdogan further upset Greece by stating, “Turkey cannot disregard its kinsmen in Western Thrace, Cyprus, Crimea, and anywhere else.” Yet Athens might take comfort from the case of the Crimean Tatars, which reveals the extent to which geopolitics can lead Turkey to do just this: Although Ankara raised concerns over the status of the Crimean Tatars after Russia seized the peninsula, it seems to have subsequently concluded that improved relations with Moscow take precedence over ethnic affinities.
But Erdogan has also emphasized a new element to Turkey’s communitarian foreign-policy agenda: Sunni sectarianism. In speaking about Mosul, he recently declared that Turkey would not betray its “Turkmen brothers” or its “Sunni Arab brothers.” Like secular Turkish nationalism, this strain of Sunni sectarianism has an undeniable domestic appeal, and Erdogan has shown it can also be invoked selectively in keeping with Turkey’s foreign-policy needs. 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.
More broadly, Turkey’s current interventionism in Syria and Iraq fits within an established pattern. Not only do countries regularly find themselves sucked into civil wars on their doorstep, but 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. Then, after that war, Syria’s newfound independence prompted some in the Turkish media to cast a glance at Aleppo, and the transfer of the Dodecanese Islands from Italy to Greece also piqued some interest in acquiring them for Turkey. Similarly, Ankara paid little attention to Cyprus when it was firmly under British control, but when talk of the island’s independence began, Turkey started to show its concern. Subsequently, it was only when it appeared Greece might annex the island that Turkey invaded to prevent this change in the status quo. In this light, Turkey’s recent rhetoric is perhaps less surprising following several years in which events and commentators have repeatedly suggested that the entire political order of the modern Middle East is crumbling.
More specifically, though, Turkish policy in the Middle East is driven by an urgent concern stemming from its conflict with the PKK, which has been exacerbated by the group’s gains in northern Syria. The PKK has long shaped Turkey’s relations with its southeastern neighbors. Most notably, Turkey nearly invaded Syria in 1998 in an ultimately successful effort to force Damascus to stop sheltering the group’s leader. Similarly, Turkey has kept military forces in the area of Mosul for the better part of two decades, in order to conduct operations against the PKK. Ankara has always portrayed this intervention, with little controversy in Turkey, as a matter of national security and self-defense. Today, self-defense remains Turkey’s main justification for its activities in Iraq, with Erdogan repeatedly emphasizing that the presence of Turkish forces there “acts as insurance against terrorist attacks targeting Turkey.” As long as the PKK maintains an open presence in Iraq, this is also the most compelling justification, domestically and internationally, for military involvement beyond its borders.
Indeed, to all the specific ethnic, sectarian, and historical rationales he has offered for Turkey’s interest in Mosul, Erdogan has been quick to attach one additional argument: The United States and Russia continue to play an outsized role in the region despite lacking any of these connections to it. Erdogan noted that some countries were telling Turkey, which shares a 220-mile border with Iraq, to stay out. Yet, despite not having history in the region or connection to it, these same countries were “coming and going.” “Did Saddam [Hussein] tell the United States to come to Iraq 14 years ago?” he added.
Behind the history, in other words, Ankara is all too aware of the fact that the power to do so remains the only rationale for foreign intervention that matters. In this regard, the legitimacy of Turkey’s plans for Mosul remains to be seen.
'Turkey's biggest newspaper, Zaman, has published an edition carrying pro-government articles, two days after being taken over by authorities.
On Friday, a court ruled that Zaman, previously linked to an opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, should now be run by administrators.
Its last edition under old ownership on Saturday said Turkey's press had seen one of its "darkest days".
Meanwhile, a newspaper set up by former Zaman staff was launched on Sunday.
Police raided Zaman's Istanbul offices late on Friday hours after a court ruling placed it under state control, but managers were still able to get Saturday's edition to print.
No reason was given by the court for the decision.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the takeover was "legal, not political".....' _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
'The Syrian leadership has sent messages to Israel warning that any further strikes by the IDF on targets within Syria’s borders would be met with Scud rockets fired deep into the Jewish state, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar reported Saturday.
The Assad regime conveyed the message to Israel via Russian mediators, the report said.
According to the report, Syria warned that Israeli strikes on Syrian military targets would be met with the firing of Scud missiles capable of carrying half a ton of explosives at IDF bases, while an attack on civilian targets would see Syria launching a counter strike on the Haifa port and the petrochemical plants in the area.
The report warned that Syria has over 800 Scud missiles and that Syria would not issue any warnings before the missile strikes because Israel does not warn before it hits.
On Wednesday, Israeli jets were reported to have carried out airstrikes near the Syrian capital of Damascus, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue hitting weapons convoys and rebuffed claims Russia had ordered the strikes halted.
Syrian opposition news outlets reported that the airstrikes took place in the Mount Qasioun region near Damascus. The Israeli raids targeted Syrian army posts in the area, the reports said, in the fourth round of airstrikes attributed to Israel in Syria in less than a week.....' _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
Baseless allegations against 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director and chair, should have been rejected in their entirety, said Amnesty International after an Istanbul court accepted the indictment today.
This is politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing the work of some of Turkey’s most prominent human rights defenders”
“This indictment fails to provide a shred of incriminating evidence to substantiate the trumped up terrorism charges it contains. In accepting this indictment the Istanbul Court has missed a golden opportunity to bring this grotesque miscarriage of justice to a halt,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
“This is politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing the work of some of Turkey’s most prominent human rights defenders. It beggars belief that anyone who has read the fantastical allegations laid out in the indictment could see it in any other way.”
In accepting this indictment the Istanbul Court has missed a golden opportunity to bring this grotesque miscarriage of justice to a halt”
The 11 defendants are set to have their first hearing on 25 October in Istanbul. Taner Kiliç is set appear before an Izmir court under a separate indictment on 26 October 2017.
Amnesty International will be sending observers to both trials and will publish a critique of the case against them next week.
Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested on 5 July whilst Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. Under the indictment accepted today, they are accused of membership of a variety of ‘armed terrorist organizations’. These charges carry jail terms of up to 15 years.
Turkey's president claims the CIA and Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, are planning a rescue mission of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
Turkey's president Recep Erdogan reportedly told A-Haber TV, a channel owned by Erdogan's son-in-law, that members of the CIA and Mossad are staying in houses and apartments near Mr. Brunson's home.
Brunson, a 50-year-old native of Black Mountain, North Carolina, was arrested in December 2016 by Turkish authorities who claimed that he was a spy and had connections to a terrorist group – a charge Mr. Brunson has vehemently denied.
He was recently moved to house arrest after spending nearly two years in a Turkish jail. A-Haber TV's website claims Turkish authorities have identified the western agents and are keeping a close watch on their activities. Mr. Brunson has to wear an electronic monitoring device 24 hours a day.
Star Gazetesi 🇹🇷
BRUNSON SOKAĞI AJAN KAYNIYOR
ABD casusu Brunson’ın İzmir’deki evinin bulunduğu sokakta CIA ve MOSSAD’a bağlı istihbarat elemanlarının hareketliliği tespit edildi, Türk emniyeti bölgede atılan her adımı anlık takibe aldı.
https://buff.ly/2M8AJne #GününManşeti @NuhAlbayrak
12:20 PM - Aug 7, 2018
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Brunson led an evangelical church in İzmir for over 20 years without incident. All that changed in 2016, when he, along with tens of thousands of Turks, were rounded up by authorities during an alleged coup attempt. Mr. Brunson was accused of obtaining state secrets with the intention of overthrowing Turkey's government. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
Pastor Brunson's case has severely soured relations between the two countries. A delegation of Turkish officials is expected in Washington this week to discuss how to resolve the political impasse. The pending visit comes after the White House slapped sanctions on President Erdogan's justice minister and interior minister, accusing them of playing a role in Brunson's arrest.
During meetings in Singapore, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, despite the sharp deterioration in relations, Turkey remains a key partner in the region.
"Turkey is a NATO partner with whom the United States has every intention of continuing to work cooperatively," Pompeo told reporters, adding that he hoped Mr. Brunson would be allowed to come home soon.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 17304 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
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A US trade war with Turkey over a little known pastor? Don't believe a word of it
Erdogan’s real crimes are buying the Russian S-400 missile system for Turkey, refusing to accept US support for America’s Kurdish YPG allies and allowing Islamist fighters to pour over Turkey’s border into Syria along with a load of weapons, mortars and missiles
by Robert Fisk
It needs a stroke of genius to soften the heart for poor old Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Those of us who have always believed that Erdogan is a bit off his rocker must still be appalled that a US president infinitely more cracked than the Turkish variety is trying to impoverish Nato’s second largest military ally. True, Erdogan locked up 50,000 Turks – including an American pastor, of whom more later – after the attempted coup against him two years ago, but hasn’t Egypt’s president/field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi broken this record by banging up 60,000 supposed Islamists in his own country’s prisons? And what about Haider al-Abadi’s mass hangings in Iraq? Or that nasty little post-death crucifixion in Saudi Arabia this week, not to mention that horrid war in Yemen where kids seem to get killed all the time? Or the Israeli habit of shooting down scores of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza? Or that chump in North Korea who appeals to Trump’s sense of humour?
Turkey’s crisis is the first in a while that we can’t blame Trump for
If Erdogan’s family name means “brave falcon” in English, the Sultan of Istanbul has certainly had his wings clipped. Or so we are supposed to believe. Trump, who doesn’t give a toss how many innocents are incarcerated or destroyed in the world, is suddenly trying to neuter Turkey – and all because Pastor Andrew Brunson remains under house arrest in there for allegedly supporting the coup plot allegedly organised by Erdogan’s former colleague, the allegedly mesmeric imam Mohamed Fethullah Gulen, currently residing in Trump’s own country.
I don’t believe a word of it. Trump made little fuss about Brunson’s captivity for many months. It took him almost a year and a half to get into a tantrum about the good Christian family man and missionary in Izmir whose chief characteristics appear to be nothing but wholesome: barbecues, picnics, swimming, movies and board games in the evenings, to quote his sister Beth, “the typical American family though living so far away.” American Evangelical Christians were outraged at the arrest of this Godly man – Christianity was on trial, of course – and their favourite president finally tweeted that “this innocent man of faith should be released immediately”.
And so it came to pass that Trump’s wrath was visited upon by the Muslim president who locked up a man who was only doing God’s work in the comfortable coastal city of Izmir. Double US tariffs on steel and aluminium helped to crash the Turkish lira, which has lost 45 per cent of its value this year, although Erdogan might also be blamed for his refusal to raise interest rates against inflation. But let’s be sane. Is all this because of a Presbyterian pastor?
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No. For here’s the real list of Erdogan’s crimes. He is buying the Russian S-400 missile system for Turkey. He refuses to accept US support for America’s Kurdish YPG allies. He allowed Islamist fighters to pour over Turkey’s border into Syria along with a lot of weapons, mortars and missiles – to which Washington had no objections at the time since the US was trying to knock Erdogan’s former friend Bashar al-Assad off his perch. Then, after shooting down a Russian aircraft along the Syrian border in November 2015 – for which he was immediately boycotted by Moscow – Erdogan cuddled up to Putin. It was thus the Russians and the Iranians who first warned Erdogan of the impending “Gulen coup” against him in July 2016. They had been listening in to the Turkish military’s internal radio traffic – and tipped off the Sultan of Istanbul.
And now Erdogan is helping Iran to dodge US sanctions which were imposed after Trump flagrantly tore up the 2015 nuclear agreement, and – in a decision demonstrating the cowardly response of the EU’s own oil conglomerates to Trump’s insanity – has announced that he will continue to import Iranian oil. Thus will Washington’s further threat of increased oil sanctions against Iran be blunted. Sunni Saudi Arabia, one of Trump’s closest allies – where religious freedom for the likes of Pastor Brunson has never existed – is already furious with Erdogan. Not long ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denounced Turkey as part of a “triangle of evil” – the other bits of the “triangle” being Shiite Iran and militant Islamists.
So you can see how things are lining up in the Middle East right now. Erdogan has made good friends out of Putin and Iran’s supreme leader and, as an opponent of Saudi Arabia, is naturally on the best of terms with Qatar, whose Emir – in a miraculous moment which even Pastor Brunson might envy – has just promised an investment of $15bn to Turkey. Saudi Arabia’s siege of Qatar is beginning to look as miserable as its war against the Shiites of Yemen. Turkish troops are stationed in Qatar to “protect” the little emirate against its larger and threatening neighbour – and we all know who that is. And, since Syrian and Qatari relations are steadily being reheated – albeit on the minutest scale – I wonder who will benefit the most.
Erdogan says Turkey to boycott US electronic goods as row escalates
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Bashar al-Assad, perhaps? Russian troops are now patrolling the Syrian-Israeli lines below the occupied Golan Heights. The Russians have promised Israel that the comparatively few Iranian forces in Syria will be kept at least 50 miles from this sector. Russia’s ally Syria needs to crush the final Islamist stronghold in Idlib with Russia’s help and push the province’s most intransigent fighters back into Turkey. Qatar has the cash to rebuild Syria and thus extend its influence across the landmass of the Levant to the Mediterranean. If Qatar is going to pour even more billions into Turkey, then we may see some kind of strategic alliance between Doha and Ankara. And a rediscovery of the family friendship between Erdogan and Assad?
Turkey’s economy has been in increasingly difficult straits for months, especially since the failed July 2016 coup attempt. The latest move by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to fire his central bank head and replace him with a more amenable loyalist has already resulted in the largest one-time interest rate cut in the bank’s history. Will this be enough to revive growth in the troubled economy in time for the next national elections in 18 months? What seems to be Erdogan’s overall economic strategy as he tries to balance Washington, Beijing, Moscow and even Brussels? And does it have a chance to revive economic growth?
On July 25, Turkey’s new central bank governor, Murat Uysal, cut the bank’s main interest rate by an eye-popping 4.25%, from 24% to 19.75%. It took place three weeks after Erdogan sacked the previous governor for refusing to cut the economy-killing high rates, even after the lira had long passed out of the 2018 crisis. It was the first rate cut in three years and followed the firing of a central bank head who followed the economic orthodoxy that high interest rates are needed to kill inflation, another fraudulent modern economic myth made popular in the 1970’s by Fed chief Paul Volcker.
At 24%, Turkey had the highest interest rate of any major economy. Notably, the lira barely reacted to the big cut, leading Erdogan to demand that Uysal continue with further cuts. In doing so the Turkish president demonstrated his lack of reverence for one of the most powerful mandates of world finance, namely that politicians have no right to interfere in the sacred business of the “gods of money” controlling the world central banks.
Ever since the Basle Bank for International Settlements was created in 1930 by Bank of England Governor Montagu Norman, with help from the US bankers, nominally to deal with German World War I reparations payments under the Young Plan, but as it soon became clear, to serve as a politically independent world central bank monetary cartel, central bank independence has become dogma. The BIS helped create the devastating myth that central bankers independent of any elected political influence, guided by their superior wisdom, would manage economies far better than central banks that were subject to political pressure, or, god forbid that were actually state or public banks.
As has been demonstrated by many economic historians and detailed in my book, The Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century, every major financial boom and subsequent crash since creation of the US Federal Reserve in 2013 in a Wall Street bankers’ coup, has been created by central bank interventions, usually using interest rates. The bogus “business cycle” theory is little more than an elaborate smoke screen to conceal the role of the Fed or the ECB in the EU in controlling the economy in the interests of what US Congressman Charles Lindbergh and other Wall Street critics in the 1920’s called the Money Trust.
Will it work?
What Erdogan has done by firing Murat Cetinkaya as governor and putting a political crony in his place has set off alarm bells among western central bankers. Erdogan followed the rate cut news by declaring, “This was what needed to be done. Even this cut is not enough…”
The lira even rose after the rate cut, emboldening Erdogan. The question is whether the Turkish economy and Erdogan will succeed in reviving the troubled Turkish economy in time to improve his electoral chances in coming months before next national elections following the political defeat in the key municipal elections in both Ankara and Istanbul.
The high rates were imposed by the former central bank governor to halt a free-fall of the Lira in 2018 that Erdogan blamed on foreign interference. In effect Erdogan was right to the extent that the US Fed had begun a major series of its own rate increases “to normal,” whatever that means, and Quantitative Tightening that was sending shock waves around the world. However, the Fed actions were clearly not specifically aimed at Turkey.
For the previous ten years Erdogan and the Turkish economy had taken advantage of almost a decade of historically low global interest rates following the 2008 financial crash.
During the economic boom, cheap credit flowed into construction of hotels, apartments, bridges, railways and other projects creating a huge economic boom, but mostly on money borrowed from abroad in dollars or Japanese Yen or Euros. By 2018 Turkish corporations held some $200 billion in foreign loans. When the Fed began its reversal, foreign lenders to high-profit markets like Turkey began to exit, fearing the worst, leading to a Lira collapse.
From January 2018 to the present the lira lost a staggering 37% against the dollar as Turkish and foreign investors fled the falling lira, making it nearly impossible to repay the foreign loans from earnings. Companies went bankrupt, unemployment rose to 15% officially, and inflation near 25% by October, 2018 as the price of imports soared. With an economic boom financed with foreign loans for projects that earned in lira, the economy went into free-fall during 2018, a major reason for Erdogan’s poor election results this year.
Clearly reacting to the economic collapse and the negative impact of 24% central bank rates, Erdogan went so far as to oppose central bank dogma and propose that interest rates outside his political control were “the mother and father of all evil,” telling Bloomberg in a May 14 2018 interview that, “the central bank can’t take this independence and set aside the signals given by the president.”
Now Erdogan clearly feels able to act on that by getting a political crony to head the central bank. However with such a high level of foreign currency corporate debt, it is clear that 19.75% interest rates or even zero or negative rates as in the EU will not be enough to create a new prosperity in Turkey.
The Erdogan Pivot
Interesting enough, in 2018 Erdogan began to suggest, according to close business allies, that the 2008 Lehman Bros global financial collapse had led him to lose faith in western capitalism.
All of this takes place amid a turbulent geopolitical backdrop. Turkey’s ongoing attempts to create its own “buffer zone” against the Syrian Kurds on his borders, his growing ties to Teheran, Moscow and Beijing, and the growing tensions with NATO partners over Turkish drilling ships offshore Cyprus are leading some commentators to predict that Erdogan plans to take Turkey out of NATO and to join with China and Russia and other Eurasian states in an alliance around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization where Turkey is presently a “dialogue partner.”
Erdogan’s refusal to back down to Washington pressure on purchase of Russian advanced S-400 anti-missile defense systems, said to be the world’s most advanced, has heightened such speculation of an Erdogan geopolitical “pivot east.”
Moreover, on July 2, following the Japan G20 meeting, Erdogan was in Beijing as official guest of China President Xi Jinping. There Erdogan dropped earlier sharp criticism of what have been described as “re-education camps” where a reported 1 million ethnic Uyghur Muslims are interned. Turkey historically considers the Turkic Uyghurs to be related, and refer to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Province as East Turkestan.
This time Erdogan pragmatically dropped critique of Beijing’s Muslim policies and focused on what he considered more crucial—money: credits and loans from China and Chinese companies for infrastructure projects in Turkey as part of the China Belt and Road Initiative. While in Beijing the Turkish president stated to the press that it was, “uncontested that all ethnic groups living in Chinese Xinjiang live happily in the conditions of development and prosperity of China.” Just four months earlier Erdogan’s Foreign Ministry had declared the situation of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, “a great embarrassment for humanity.” Quite a shift.
In 2018 Turkish-Chinese bilateral trade was $23 billion, according to the Turkish Statistics Office, making China Turkey’s third largest trading partner. Most of that, some $18 billion is China export to Turkey. Erdogan is clearly eager to change that more to Turkey’s favor. There was no grand announcement after the Xi-Erdogan talks of new Chinese investments in Turkey.
Will the growing tensions of Erdogan with Washington, and now increasingly with Germany and other EU states, lead to a break with NATO? At this point it is highly unlikely. The EU, especially Germany, UK and Italy are far the largest importers of Turkish products.
China is not in a position with its rapidly slowing economy and declining trade surpluses to cushion the economic blow of a Turkey pivot out of NATO and the West to the East and the SCO. The financial panic resulting would plunge Turkey into deep depression so long as Turkey abides by the rules, still, of Anglo-American central banking and financial markets. Ironically, Erdogan has made tiny gestures towards a non-western model, but to date with little effect beyond the 4.25% interest rate cut from his hand-picked new central bank chief. He is not ready to risk all in an economic and political alliance with the SCO or with Iran. The result is that rather than an Erdogan “geopolitical pivot” to the east, we see an Erdogan “pirouette” to east, the west, even north and south, trying a delicate balancing act to gain most from all. The risk is he could end up displeasing all.
By Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok
10 February 2020, 06:30 GMT Updated on 11 February 2020, 11:39 GMT
Erdogan and Putin may step in to avoid further escalation
Russian warplanes are aiding Syrian advance on rebel zone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put NATO’s second-largest army on a collision course with Russian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to try to prevent the fall of Idlib province, Syria’s last rebel stronghold.
The Turkish military ordered hundreds of tanks and armored cars dispatched to Idlib and struck about 170 targets in Syria in retaliation for attacks by Syrian forces that killed at least 12 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province this month. Russia demanded a halt to attacks on Russian forces and their allies in the northwestern province, who’ve been conducting a months-long advance on the opposition bastion.
Retaking Idlib would give Assad a major strategic victory, but it could give Turkey less of a say in postwar Syria, where it’s been backing rebels since the conflict began in 2011. The fighting there is straining the uneasy contract between Turkey and Russia in Syria, where the two regional powers have carved out areas of control.
An agreement by Turkey, Russia and Iran three years ago choked off a planned offensive on Idlib and allowed for the stationing of Turkish troops there. But Syria and its foreign backers have come close to Idlib’s center as they take control of strategic highways, and are now poised to vanquish an opposition force made up of onetime al-Qaeda affiliates and Turkey-backed rebels.
Key Erdogan Ally Says Turkish Ties With Russia Must Be Reviewed
Raising the volatility, a key Erdogan ally said the Turkish president needs to review ties with Russia after the deaths of the Turkish soldiers by Moscow-backed Syrian troops.
“For Erdogan, Idlib is existential,” Charles Lister, director of the Extremism and Counterterrorism Program at the Middle East Institute, said on Twitter. “As Turkey-Russia talks appear to have stalled or broken down, it’s hard not to imagine some form of Turkey pushback.”
Turkey’s increasing military foray into Idlib is adding to the nation’s geopolitical risks, increasing pressure on markets.
EU says situation created by Turkey along Bloc’s external borders not acceptable
EU statement strongly rejects Turkey's use of migratory pressure for political purposes.
Elena Becatoros, Associated Press Updated 7:49 am CST, Friday, February 28, 2020
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Hundreds of refugees and migrants in Turkey have begun heading for the country’s land and sea borders with Greece, buoyed by Turkish officials’ statements indicating they will not be hindered from crossing the frontier to head into Europe.
The move comes a day after a deadly Syrian airstrike that killed more than 30 Turkish troops in Idlib, Syria, where Turkey has been engaged since 2016.
WHO ARE THE REFUGEES OR MIGRANTS IN TURKEY?
Turkey currently hosts about 3.6 million Syrian refugees. In 2016, it agreed with the European Union to step up efforts to halt the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees who headed from its shores into Greece in 2015, in return for funds to support the refugees.
Apart from the Syrian refugees registered in Turkey, the country has also been a staging ground and transit point for many people from the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia hoping to head to Europe. Its coastline’s proximity to Greek islands, and the country’s land border with EU member Greece, have made it one of the preferred routes into the EU for those fleeing war and poverty at home.
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