Turkey 2018

Written by  //  June 26, 2018  //  Europe & EU, Middle East & Arab World  //  No comments

25-26 June
What the world’s nationalists can learn from Turkey and Erdogan
(WaPost) Erdogan hailed the result, which saw close to 90 percent of Turkey’s 55 million voters go to the polls, as “a lesson to the entire world on democracy.” Muharrem Ince, Erdogan’s nearest challenger, lamented the “unjust” nature of the election, yet conceded defeat. A galvanized opposition had shown significant unity and momentum ahead of the vote, but was still unable to loosen Erdogan’s majoritarian grip.
Erdogan wins sweeping new powers after Turkish election victory
(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan won sweeping new executive powers on Monday after his victory in elections that also saw his Islamist-rooted AK Party and its nationalist allies secure a majority in parliament.
Erdogan’s main rival, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), conceded defeat but branded the elections unjust and said the presidential system that now takes effect was “very dangerous” because it would lead to one-man rule.
A European rights watchdog also said the opposition had faced “unequal conditions”, adding that restrictions on media freedom to cover the elections were accentuated by a continuing state of emergency imposed in Turkey after a failed 2016 coup.
Now, Erdogan Faces Turkey’s Troubled Economy. And He’s Part of the Trouble.
(NYT) With his victory in Sunday’s elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken his place among the world’s emerging class of strongman rulers, nailing down the sweeping powers he has insisted he needs to address Turkey’s numerous challenges, at home and abroad.
Now, all he needs to do is deliver.
“He won on a knife-edge,” said Ugur Gurses, a former banker who writes for the daily newspaper Hurriyet. “But now he has in his lap all the problems.”
Mr. Erdogan is contending with an array of economic troubles, an increasingly disgruntled populace and deteriorating relations with Turkey’s Western allies. Among the many problems Mr. Erdogan faces is one fundamental roadblock: His foreign policy is fighting with his economic needs.
His increasingly authoritarian, nationalist and anti-Western bent is alienating foreign investors, which is hurting the Turkish lira. As the currency plunges, domestic capital flees. And he is newly reliant on a nationalist party that enabled him to maintain his majority in Parliament but promises to reinforce all those tendencies, as well as his hard line against the Kurdish minority.

22 June
(The Economist) On Sunday Turks will head to the polls to elect parliament and president. No one has ever made money by betting against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, who has won 12 elections and referendums. But he faces a disciplined and increasingly galvanised opposition. Most likely are wins for Mr Erdogan in the presidential contest and for the opposition in the parliamentary vote. Such an outcome would probably provoke political gridlock

25 April
Erdogan’s Motley Opponents Have United to Take Him Down
Turkey’s strongman might not be strong enough to survive the early elections he wanted.
(Foreign Policy) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the dominant figure of Turkish political life for the last 15 years, stunned his country last week by moving up crucial presidential and parliamentary elections from November 2019 to June 24. Erdogan hopes to complete his transformation of the government from a parliamentary to a presidential system, and he succeeded at catching the opposition off guard.
But Erdogan’s opponents have quickly rallied, showing fresh energy and unanticipated strategic thinking. Erdogan now faces the very real possibility of being democratically unseated. … Erdogan’s opponents have responded by forming an unlikely alliance against him centered on two potential candidates: Meral Aksener, the charismatic leader of the newly formed Iyi Party, and former President Abdullah Gul. It remains unclear which presidential candidate the combined opposition will rally around.

18 March
Erdogan’s Unrequited Arab Love
by Burak Bekdil
There is more than enough evidence that Erdogan should take into consideration if he intends to enjoy his fake love affairs with his Arab neighbors. But his ambitions to make Turkey leader of the ummah seem to have blinded him. Unfortunately, there is little evidence he will adopt reason instead of regional bullying.
(Gatestone Institute) Erdogan’s Islamist militarism, in a nation that lost an empire a century ago, still finds millions of followers. …  Turkey is running a military show in Arab Syria: targeting Muslim Kurds who it claims are terrorists. Erdogan has vowed that after Syria, the military campaign will target northern Iraq. In the meantime, Erdogan’s “Arab friends” are showing signs of hostility, one after the other. Amid growing tensions between Turkey and Egypt, Egyptian authorities are revising street names in Cairo in view of calls to change historical Ottoman-era street names. …  In recent weeks, public and social media initiatives in Egypt began calling on consumers to stop buying Turkish products. At the beginning of March, the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned MBC, the largest private media network in the Middle East, decided to ban popular Arabic-dubbed Turkish television series’ from all channels. …  Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, created a new “axis of evil” identifying his country’s top three enemies: Iran, Turkey and Islamic militant groups including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which Erdogan embraces.

28 February
Why Turkey Wants to Invade the Greek Islands
By Uzay Bulut
(Gatestone Institute) There is one issue on which Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are in complete agreement: The conviction that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered. So strong is this determination that the leaders of both parties have openly threatened to invade the Aegean.
To realize his ultimate goal of leaving behind a legacy that surpasses that of all other Turkish leaders, Erdoğan has set certain objectives for the year 2023, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, and 2071, the 1,000th anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, during which Muslim Turkic jihadists from Central Asia defeated Christian Greek Byzantine forces in the Armenian highland of the Byzantine Empire.

26 February
(NYT) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is facing a backlash for bringing a weeping, saluting 6-year-old girl on stage and telling her of the honors if she were to be killed fighting Kurdish militias in Syria.
“Her Turkish flag is in her pocket,” Mr. Erdogan proclaimed after calling Amine onstage. “If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it,” he said. “She is ready for everything, aren’t you?”
Mr. Erdogan recently made an alliance with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party to bolster his chances for coming elections and has used the military campaign to improve his stance with nationalists.
He makes public speeches every day and sometimes several times a day, peppering his speeches with nationalist and anti-Western jibes as well as poetry and religious sayings, conjuring glories of Turkish history. He vows to protect Turkey’s borders and to fight terrorism, and rallies popular support for the war, listing the number of enemies killed and commending the nation’s martyrs.

25 January
Allies or Terrorists: Who Are the Kurdish Fighters in Syria?
(NYT) The Kurdish fighters who are battling the Islamic State jihadists in Syria are regarded by the United States as its most reliable partners there. But to Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, these Kurds are terrorists.
The Kurdish group, known as the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., is now facing an escalating battle with Turkish forces in northwestern Syria, complicating American policy.
The group has deep ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the P.K.K. Both Turkey and the United States consider the P.K.K. to be a terrorist organization for its violent separatist movement inside Turkey.

24 January
Turkey wants to crush US allies in Syria. That shouldn’t surprise anybody.
(Brookings) On Jan. 20, Turkey launched what it calls Operation Olive Branch, a military campaign against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, in northwestern Syria. The operation is part of Ankara’s long-standing effort to prevent the YPG, which has benefited from American backing in its fight against the Islamic State since the fall of 2014, from developing an autonomous region in Syria along the entirety of the countries’ shared border. Turkish objections stem from the YPG’s links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union and has waged an ongoing battle against Turkey that has resulted in tens of thousands of people dead.
According to Turkey’s Office of Public Diplomacy, the objectives of the intervention include ensuring Turkey’s border security, countering U.S. support for a terrorist organization, blocking the YPG from reaching the eastern Mediterranean and cutting off Turkey’s geographical contact with the Arab world, and ensuring that the Turkish-supported Syrian opposition controls a 3,861-square-mile area.
Although State Department officials claim the U.S. relationship with the YPG is “temporary, transactional, and tactical,” it has never been clear if the Defense Department shares this view. The Pentagon has played an outsized role in managing counter-Islamic State policy, particularly in the current administration with a leadership dominated by generals.
Turkey’s military actions should not have surprised anyone. Despite his fiery rhetoric, Erdoğan has largely gritted his teeth as American-backed YPG forces cleared the Islamic State from significant swaths of Syria. However, he has consistently proved his readiness to take military action in defense of a clear red line: any moves by the YPG to connect three cantons in northern Syria along the Turkish border into a unified Kurdish region. There is concern such territory could be used as a staging ground for attacks on southern Turkey, as well as encourage similar moves toward autonomy by Turkey’s Kurdish population.

Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria
(NYT) In a speech on Wednesday, Mr. Erdogan said there was no difference between the Islamic State and Kurdish militias, and questioned “the humanity of those who accuse Turkey of being an invader and support an organization that has the blood of tens of thousands of innocent children, women, elderly people and innocents on its hands.”
The shift in tone at the White House grew out of what officials described on Wednesday as frustration over months of failed efforts to mollify Mr. Erdogan, including changes in military strategy and reassurances about Kurdish intentions on the battlefield. And it marked the end of a year of wooing of Mr. Erdogan, whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised despite the Turkish leader’s authoritarian crackdown at home.

23 January
David Ignatius: The U.S. alliance with Turkey just lunged toward the breaking point
(WaPost) Syria’s plight actually got a bit worse this week, as Turkey invaded the border region known as Afrin. Turkey says it’s protecting itself against the Syrian Kurdish organization known as the PKK, which dominates Afrin and which Turkey regards as a terrorist group. The problem is that related Syrian Kurdish forces (under a different name) have been the United States’ most important ally in defeating the Islamic State.
The flashpoint is a town in northern Syria called Manbij, occupied by the Syrian Kurds and their U.S. military advisers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened last week to attack Manbij. A senior Trump administration official told me bluntly Tuesday: “Threats to our forces are not something we can accept.” That’s what the unraveling U.S. relationship with “NATO partner” Turkey has come to: military brinkmanship.
What’s happening now in Syria is that history is resuming, after the bloody distraction of the Islamic State. Long-standing grievances that were postponed while a U.S.-led coalition defeated the caliphate have returned with a vengeance. Turkey, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Russia and the United States are all pursuing their self-interests. The space separating these forces has collapsed — putting U.S. troops perilously close to collision with Russia, Turkey and Iran.

2017

12 October
David Ignatius: The man at the crux of the U.S.-Turkey dispute is about to go on trial
At the center of the increasingly bitter dispute between the United States and Turkey is a demand by an irate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that American prosecutors free a Turkish-Iranian gold dealer who is about to go on trial on money-laundering and fraud charges.
The confrontation sharpened Thursday, as Erdogan protested in Ankara that the businessman, Reza Zarrab, was being squeezed as a “false witness” about corruption. Turkey alarmed Washington by arresting a U.S. consular official last week, in what some U.S. officials feared was an attempt to gain leverage for Zarrab’s release before the scheduled Nov. 27 start of his trial in New York. Turkish and American officials plan to meet next week for talks to ease tensions.
What dirt could Zarrab dish in court? A possible preview comes in a May 2016 court filing by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Citing a December 2013 Turkish prosecutor’s report, Bharara’s memo said the Turkish evidence “describes a massive bribery scheme executed by Zarrab and others, paying cabinet-level governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars to facilitate Zarrab’s network’s transactions for the benefit of Iran” to evade U.S. sanctions against that country.

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