Turkey (GPA) – A leaked report by European Union intelligence allegedly shows that Erdogan planned purges of military officials before July and that it was this plan, not exiled cleric Fetullah Gülen that sparked the coup. The secret report was assembled…
This has been a big week in world events and we here at Geopolitics Alert have covered a few major stories. Here are your key takeaways for the week of December 25th:
Israel Reacts to the UNSC Settlement Decision.
After the United Nations Security Council bite last week calling for a halt to Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory, Israeli officials have been, in the words of some commentators, “throwing a tantrum.”
On Monday, Wikileaks released a batch of almost 58,000 emails sent and received by Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak.
The release, termed by Wikileaks as ‘Berat’s box’ includes thousands of emails detailing Albayrak’s dealings as the Turkish Minister of Energy. The emails encompass a span of sixteen years beginning April of 2000 until September of this year. Wikileaks was given the database of emails by a Turkish Marxist-Leninist ‘hacktivist’ group known as RedHack.
RedHack had initially announced that they had obtained the emails in September but their social media accounts and pages containing news of the hack were taken down. Originally the group threatened to release the emails if the Erdogan government wouldn’t release Alp Altınörs, a member of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and a journalist named Aslı Erdogan. Suspected members of RedHack have been threatened since September by the government and subjected to the ongoing post-coup torture.
Problems with Turkey, Eastern Europe, and Donald Trump could tear the rickety alliance apart at the seams.
If the number of eager applicants on a waiting list determines the strength of a club, then the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in fine fettle.
At its most recent gathering in July, NATO welcomed its 29th member — Montenegro — which means that the alliance now outnumbers the European Union. Nearby Macedonia has been waiting for 17 years to be let in the door only to have Greece block entrance every time because of a longstanding dispute over Macedonia’s name. Bosnia also wants in but must first overcome its internal divisions. Georgia’s membership, too, has been on hold, for fear of inciting Russia’s wrath, though that hasn’t prevented the country from hosting U.S.-NATO military exercises.
Over baklava and sweet tea, openDemocracy hears about Turkey’s post-coup crackdown and the dreams of an independent Kurdistan.
The Kurdish Community Centre in Harringay. (Image courtesy of the KCC)Harringay Green Lanes is home to London’s largest Kurdish community. The Victorian Grand Parade advertises this identity, with shops named after Gaziantep and Diyarbakir, the two largest cities in Turkish Kurdistan. The pavements were recently widened to accommodate the crowds that flock for food at one of the many enticing restaurants, or buy the legendary pastry gözleme, rolled by women sitting at a kiln in the front windows of the cafes, one of which is named after Taksim Square.
The Kurdish part of Green Lanes is a hive of political activity. Last June, after the moderate Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) gained over 50 seats in Turkey’s election, weakening the power of President Erdoğan with a hung parliament, the area was filled with celebratory chanting and car honking. (A re-run of the election in November resulted in gains for Erdoğan’s AKP and losses for the HDP). The party spoke strongly in favour of the Gezi Park protests of 2013, when Kurds in the area congregated around Finsbury Park and marched down Harringay with banners. Less mainstream organizations are also represented: in 2012, graffiti appeared on phone boxes and under the railway bridge in support of the youth wing of the MLKP (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party), a small underground Hoxhaist group, some of whose members have travelled to Rojava in Syrian Kurdistan to fight against the Islamic State.
Never have the US-Turkey relations been at such a low ebb as today due to the alleged US involvement in the (failed) coup attempt. Despite the fact that Turkey is a member of NATO—a legacy of cold war Western alliance against the former Soviet Union and a modern manifestation of military imperialism—Turkey’s leadership seems “determined” to stick to its guns against the “front” that has been opened against it at a time when most of the Middle East is in the grip of terror. Dissolution of an elected government in Turkey, however bad its policies were, would have sent serious political jolts across the entire Mid-Eastern political landscape and put Turkey on course to social and political fragmentation, the kind of which is currently prevailing in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Libya. Who would have benefited the most from it?
Turkey’s leadership tends to believe it would have been the US Hence, widespread anti-US populism in Turkey that may, at some point, lead to some concrete and significant changes in its foreign policy. So far, however, the anti-US populism that Erdogan is fanning seems to be aimed at putting some pressure on the US to refrain from making further attempts at dislodging Erdogan. By keeping the Turks politically charged (read: Several hundred flag-waving protesters staged a peaceful protest march near the Incirlik base on Thursday, chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “Damn the USA”, the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper reported. The protesters burned a US flag), Erdogan has developed a sort of insulation against the “Western conspiracy”, as also considerably strengthened his own political base.
The Syrian Army has surrounded the jihadist-held portions of the city of Aleppo. Offering fighters a chance to lay down their weapons and leave the city, the government is hoping to liberate the area and help put an end to Syria’s long war. However, analysts are warning against too much optimism. Encirclement, they note, does not mean victory.
On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Moscow and Damascus has launched a massive humanitarian operation in Aleppo, establishing exit routes for civilians and any militants wishing to leave the jihadist-held portions of the city. Three routes were designated for civilians, along with a fourth for militants with weapons and equipment.
Orders to Purge Civil Servants, Judges; Close Groups Down
The first emergency decree under Turkey’s state of emergency is arbitrary, discriminatory, and unjustified as a response to the violent coup attempt or other public order concerns.
The July 23, 2016 decree orders the closure of thousands of private educational institutions, hospitals, and clinics, and associations allegedly linked to a movement inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a cleric the government blames for a violent coup attempt on July 15-16. The decree allows the permanent discharge of judges, prosecutors, and civil servants without any investigation or possibility of legal challenge. The decree also extends police powers to detain some suspects for up to 30 days without being taken before a judge and seriously curtails detainees’ right to private communications with lawyers.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t mind sharing pictures from his daughter’s wedding or from his various visits and meetings with international leaders.
But he does seem to mind when his emails as well as thousands of other internal emails sent and received within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) make it into public eye.
Shortly after Wikileaks released 294,548 such emails into the public, the site was blocked countrywide.
Turkish authorities have arrested more than 13,000 people believed to be tied to the coup attempt and have gutted the country’s civil services sector suspending over 60,000 educators, judges and police.
“‘Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come?’ – that’s what the people say,” said Erdogan. “The people now have the idea, after so many terrorist incidents, that these terrorists should be killed, that’s where they are, they don’t see any other outcome to it.”
In the wake of the coup, the Erdogan government immediately withdrew from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which bans executions, raising the likelihood of mass executions.
While it isn’t over, the indications are the coup against Erdogan has failed. The stated goals of those behind the coup were to return to a secular government and reinstate the rule of law.
The President of the United States encouraged people to “support the democratically elected government of Turkey”. He said this while his administration is in the midst of a multi-year effort to overthrow the government of President Assad in Syria. The US, historically, doesn’t care about democracy or elections. The US wants Erdogan in power because he has more or less been an obedient lackey. While there are moments of discord, Turkey is still a faithful dog at the end of one of the many leashes held by the US. This allows Erdogan to behave in a manner that would not be tolerated from a non-puppet state.
On May 6 a court in Istanbul, acting on the orders of Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, sentenced the editor of the Cumhuriyet newspaper to five years and ten months in prison for publishing a report about illegal provision of weapons to Islamist terrorists in Syria by Turkey’s secret service. His bureau chief got five years.
Two weeks later Istanbul was host to the World Humanitarian Summit, which was held «to stand up for our common humanity and take action to prevent and reduce human suffering». Attendance included 65 heads of state. It was the usual total waste of time (Oxfam called it «an expensive talking shop» and those who refused to be there included President Putin and the global medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières), but the point is that a humanitarian conference should never have been held in Turkey, which is being transformed into a dictatorship by a president who is well-described by Professor Alan Sked of the London School of Economics as «a volatile, unstable, highly authoritarian personality».
Recently, President Erdogan’s inner circles have intensified attacks on Isbank, the biggest private Turkish bank, and the pressure has only been increasing. Established in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Isbank has been heavily criticized by pro-government mass media since 2012. Yigit Bulut, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan was the last to bash the bank last January. Bulut openly stated that the government should be managing the bank’s operations.
Isbank often falls victim of heated political debates because of its structure. According to Ataturk’s will, the Republican People’s Party (the main opposition party) is supposed to hold 28% of the bank’s shares. In his speech Bulut contested this provision, denying the Republican People’s Party’s right to be the bank’s major shareholder. He also said that the bank should be promptly expropriated and turned into a state-controlled institution.
Bulut’s remarks shook the markets causing Isbank’s shares to lose about 5% of their value the following day. The managers of Isbank were also shocked. Though there were calls to expropriate the bank in the past, it was the first explicit statement on the topic produced by a high-ranking official closely affiliated with the President. A week later, President Erdogan received a letter signed by Ersin Ozince, Chairman of the bank’s Board of Directors, and Adnan Bali, the bank’s General Manager. According to the information released by a Middle Eastern news agency Аl-Monitor, the letter contained the bank’s background and listed concerns over Bulut’s statements.
Inching closer to a military invasion of Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch “operations” to “clean the other side of the border.”
Throughout 2016 there have been growing signs of Ankara’s intention to deploy ground forces in Syria. In February, the Russian government reported “a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.”
At the time, Ankara rejected these claims, even as it launched military actions against Kurds in southeastern Turkey and sent troops into northern Iraq, over the objections of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
On Thursday, President Erdogan gave further indication that his government is actively considering the deployment of troops into Syria.