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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Turkey"

Pentagon IG: ISIS is coming back in Iraq, Syria after US withdrawal

Westlake Legal Group Trump-Mattis Pentagon IG: ISIS is coming back in Iraq, Syria after US withdrawal Turkey The Blog Syria James Mattis ISIS donald trump

Stop us if this sounds familiar. The US declares victory and goes home after a massive victory against an insurgency, only to see it metastasize in the vacuum left by our departure. That’s how we got ISIS in the first place after Barack Obama’s pullout from Iraq in 2011, and according to a new Pentagon report, that’s how we’re getting them again:

ISIS is “re-surging” in Syria less than five months after President Donald Trump declared the terror group’s caliphate there had been 100% defeated, according to a new Pentagon inspector general’s report on the fight against ISIS.

“Despite losing its territorial ‘caliphate,’ the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was re-surging in Syria,” the report, which was published on Tuesday, warned. …

The report, from the lead inspector general for Operation Inherent Resolve, the official name for the US-led operation fighting ISIS, covers the period April 1 to June 30, 2019.

“The reduction of US forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the ISIS resurgence,” Glenn Fine, the principal deputy inspector general, wrote in a message accompanying the report.

There’s not much to say other than we told you so. (Or even more accurately, James Mattis told Trump so.) Driving ISIS into the desert wasn’t going to be enough to fully defeat it; as long as its leadership caste remained relatively intact, its reconstitution in one malevolent form or another was practically guaranteed. The IG report observes what was easily predictable last autumn — a lack of personnel on the ground meant less intel, less influence, and a shorter reach against potential areas of expansion.

The smaller footprint is also enabling Turkey to threaten our allies against ISIS. The Syrian Kurds who did most of the heavy lifting have to deal with a potential attack from the Recep Tayyip Erdogan regime, which is distracting them from the fight against the re-surging rump of the ISIS caliphate. The US is attempting to negotiate a “safe zone” in Syria as a buffer between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, but that “safe zone” will likely get exploited by ISIS if and when it gets established:

Turkey’s defense minister says his country would like to establish a so-called “safe zone” in northeast Syria jointly with the United States but will act alone if necessary. …

He said the talks were progressing in a “positive” manner, adding that the American officials’ views were “moving closer” to Turkey’s.

Ankara wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile-deep zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria, and wants no Syrian Kurdish forces there. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

If US forces had remained in the region with the Syrian Kurds, Turkey would have thought better of making these kinds of threats — and the US could have secured a buffer zone between the YPG and Turkey. We would at least be in a much stronger bargaining position to keep Turkey away from the Kurds fighting ISIS. Instead, we have little leverage, especially since Trump has made it clear he has no interest in going back, and we’re basically attempting to create a safe zone for ISIS to attack Erdogan’s Kurdish enemies. And we wonder why we have such a tough time getting allies to work with us in this region.

It’s not for nothing that Lindsay Graham warned at the time that Trump was making an “Obama-like mistake” in withdrawing at that time. That’s precisely what it was, and we’re getting the Obama-like consequences of making the same mistake all over again. If we fight a war, we have to fight it to win — and winning means destroying the enemy and especially its leadership or forcing them into surrender, rather than running out on our allies.

The post Pentagon IG: ISIS is coming back in Iraq, Syria after US withdrawal appeared first on Hot Air.

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Dominic Walsh: What would No Deal mean for trade beyond the EU?

Dominic Walsh is a policy analyst for Open Europe.

At present, the UK and the EU are on course for a No Deal Brexit. Yesterday morning, EU negotiators said there was no basis for any “meaningful discussions” about a potential deal. Meanwhile, in Westminster, it is far from clear that Parliament will be able to stop No Deal, which remains the legal default on October 31.

There has rightly been a lot of focus on what No Deal would mean for the UK’s trade with the EU. However, No Deal also has significant implications for the UK’s trade with the rest of the world – bringing both threats (some trade deals the UK enjoys through the EU will be lost and haven’t been replaced), and potential opportunities (the UK will be able to exercise an independent trade policy from day one).

The UK will set its own tariffs on all imports

In the immediate event of a No Deal exit, the UK’s ability to unilaterally set its own tariff regime on imports is likely to be a more significant plank of UK trade policy than trade deals. The Government’s current approach, which removes tariffs on 87 per cent of goods imports to the UK, has advantages and disadvantages, but correctly errs towards the interests of the UK consumer, while protecting some sensitive producers such as in the farming sector. At present, this regime is only due to last for a year – with uncertainty over what comes next.

The Government has several options for the long-term and, as ever with Brexit, there are trade-offs to confront. Continuing with a liberal approach to tariffs could have benefits for consumers and would increase competition in the UK economy.

However, there is an argument that unilateral liberalisation undermines the UK’s leverage with potential trade partners (who may think there is little point in doing a deal if they are already getting zero-tariff access for free). Raising tariffs, on the other hand, could restore some of this leverage, but at the cost of increasing trade barriers and imposing a regressive tax on consumers. The Government will need to decide swiftly after No Deal which approach is the best way forward.

Preserving EU trade deals 

As an EU member, the UK benefits from around 40 trade deals the EU has negotiated with around 70 third countries. The importance of these deals to the UK economy varies considerably. While trade with these 70 countries makes up approximately 15 per cent of the UK’s total trade, two thirds of this is with just six countries – Canada, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Switzerland, and Norway. Many of the other countries covered by EU agreements make up less than 0.05 per cent of UK trade. When it comes to rolling over trade deals, quality beats quantity.

Under Liam Fox, the Department of International Trade made better progress in “rolling over” existing EU agreements than some have given it credit, though significant gaps remain. Of the six major partners above, it has secured continuity agreements with Switzerland, Norway, and South Korea.

However, Japan has refused to roll over its existing deal with the EU, as it thinks it can get better terms through a bespoke bilateral deal. The UK’s current trading arrangements with Turkey rely on the latter’s customs union with the EU, and therefore cannot be preserved in a No Deal context. And negotiations with Canada have stalled because the UK’s low No Deal tariffs give competitor countries without a trade deal the same levels of access as Canada (known as “preference erosion”).

In addition, the “rollovers” that the UK has secured do not all provide full trade continuity. For example, the deals with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland provide for tariff-free trade in goods, but do not cover services or regulatory alignment in product standards.

The consequences of failing to preserve EU trade deals in a No Deal will affect exporters more than importers, thanks to the UK’s relatively liberal No Deal tariff regime. For example, businesses exporting cheese to Canada face eye-watering tariffs of 245 per cent, whereas Canadian pearls and precious stones (73 per cent of UK imports from Canada) would continue to enter the UK tariff-free.

New avenues for global trade

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, it makes sense for the UK to diversify its trade beyond the EU. Brexiteers are right to point out that the EU’s portion of the UK’s trade has already been gradually declining for the last 20 years; the question is how best to harness this. A No Deal outcome would be likely to accelerate this trend, and open up the UK to non-EU trade much more quickly.

However, a sharp change will not be an easy or painless transition for sectors highly integrated into EU supply chains. Geography still matters to many traders – particularly those involved in perishable or time-sensitive goods, such as fresh food.

Both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are committed to pursuing new trade deals after Brexit. However, expectations of dozens of ‘quick wins’ in a No Deal scenario should be tempered. Some countries may adopt the “wait and see” strategy adopted by Canada and Japan – partly due to the ongoing lack of certainty over the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and partly because it is unclear that any deal negotiated by the UK would be ratified by this Parliament.

Just like the EU, potential trading partners have their own interests which will not always be aligned with those of the UK. The primary example is the US, which Truss has said she wants to deliver “as soon as possible.”

Yet there are a number of obstacles to a UK-US trade deal, which will take time to overcome – such as food standards (think chlorinated chicken), drug procurement, and digital services. There are also political obstacles to ratification on both sides. In the Commons, a deal with Trump’s US would be just as controversial as a deal with the EU, while the Democrat-controlled Congress cannot be relied upon either.

While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit, their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise. As Fox found on the job, there are many ways to promote UK trade interests other than trade deals, such as exploiting soft power assets and prioritising services trade (where the UK is a world leader).

The trade debate in the UK is still beset by simplistic soundbites. While this might be expected after 40 years of outsourcing trade policy to Brussels, the UK needs to grapple with the realities of global trade quickly in order to make a success of Brexit.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Dominic Walsh: What would No Deal mean for trade beyond the EU?

Dominic Walsh is a policy analyst for Open Europe.

At present, the UK and the EU are on course for a No Deal Brexit. Yesterday morning, EU negotiators said there was no basis for any “meaningful discussions” about a potential deal. Meanwhile, in Westminster, it is far from clear that Parliament will be able to stop No Deal, which remains the legal default on October 31.

There has rightly been a lot of focus on what No Deal would mean for the UK’s trade with the EU. However, No Deal also has significant implications for the UK’s trade with the rest of the world – bringing both threats (some trade deals the UK enjoys through the EU will be lost and haven’t been replaced), and potential opportunities (the UK will be able to exercise an independent trade policy from day one).

The UK will set its own tariffs on all imports

In the immediate event of a No Deal exit, the UK’s ability to unilaterally set its own tariff regime on imports is likely to be a more significant plank of UK trade policy than trade deals. The Government’s current approach, which removes tariffs on 87 per cent of goods imports to the UK, has advantages and disadvantages, but correctly errs towards the interests of the UK consumer, while protecting some sensitive producers such as in the farming sector. At present, this regime is only due to last for a year – with uncertainty over what comes next.

The Government has several options for the long-term and, as ever with Brexit, there are trade-offs to confront. Continuing with a liberal approach to tariffs could have benefits for consumers and would increase competition in the UK economy.

However, there is an argument that unilateral liberalisation undermines the UK’s leverage with potential trade partners (who may think there is little point in doing a deal if they are already getting zero-tariff access for free). Raising tariffs, on the other hand, could restore some of this leverage, but at the cost of increasing trade barriers and imposing a regressive tax on consumers. The Government will need to decide swiftly after No Deal which approach is the best way forward.

Preserving EU trade deals 

As an EU member, the UK benefits from around 40 trade deals the EU has negotiated with around 70 third countries. The importance of these deals to the UK economy varies considerably. While trade with these 70 countries makes up approximately 15 per cent of the UK’s total trade, two thirds of this is with just six countries – Canada, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Switzerland, and Norway. Many of the other countries covered by EU agreements make up less than 0.05 per cent of UK trade. When it comes to rolling over trade deals, quality beats quantity.

Under Liam Fox, the Department of International Trade made better progress in “rolling over” existing EU agreements than some have given it credit, though significant gaps remain. Of the six major partners above, it has secured continuity agreements with Switzerland, Norway, and South Korea.

However, Japan has refused to roll over its existing deal with the EU, as it thinks it can get better terms through a bespoke bilateral deal. The UK’s current trading arrangements with Turkey rely on the latter’s customs union with the EU, and therefore cannot be preserved in a No Deal context. And negotiations with Canada have stalled because the UK’s low No Deal tariffs give competitor countries without a trade deal the same levels of access as Canada (known as “preference erosion”).

In addition, the “rollovers” that the UK has secured do not all provide full trade continuity. For example, the deals with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland provide for tariff-free trade in goods, but do not cover services or regulatory alignment in product standards.

The consequences of failing to preserve EU trade deals in a No Deal will affect exporters more than importers, thanks to the UK’s relatively liberal No Deal tariff regime. For example, businesses exporting cheese to Canada face eye-watering tariffs of 245 per cent, whereas Canadian pearls and precious stones (73 per cent of UK imports from Canada) would continue to enter the UK tariff-free.

New avenues for global trade

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, it makes sense for the UK to diversify its trade beyond the EU. Brexiteers are right to point out that the EU’s portion of the UK’s trade has already been gradually declining for the last 20 years; the question is how best to harness this. A No Deal outcome would be likely to accelerate this trend, and open up the UK to non-EU trade much more quickly.

However, a sharp change will not be an easy or painless transition for sectors highly integrated into EU supply chains. Geography still matters to many traders – particularly those involved in perishable or time-sensitive goods, such as fresh food.

Both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are committed to pursuing new trade deals after Brexit. However, expectations of dozens of ‘quick wins’ in a No Deal scenario should be tempered. Some countries may adopt the “wait and see” strategy adopted by Canada and Japan – partly due to the ongoing lack of certainty over the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and partly because it is unclear that any deal negotiated by the UK would be ratified by this Parliament.

Just like the EU, potential trading partners have their own interests which will not always be aligned with those of the UK. The primary example is the US, which Truss has said she wants to deliver “as soon as possible.”

Yet there are a number of obstacles to a UK-US trade deal, which will take time to overcome – such as food standards (think chlorinated chicken), drug procurement, and digital services. There are also political obstacles to ratification on both sides. In the Commons, a deal with Trump’s US would be just as controversial as a deal with the EU, while the Democrat-controlled Congress cannot be relied upon either.

While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit, their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise. As Fox found on the job, there are many ways to promote UK trade interests other than trade deals, such as exploiting soft power assets and prioritising services trade (where the UK is a world leader).

The trade debate in the UK is still beset by simplistic soundbites. While this might be expected after 40 years of outsourcing trade policy to Brussels, the UK needs to grapple with the realities of global trade quickly in order to make a success of Brexit.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump is finally applying some pressure on Turkey

Westlake Legal Group erdogan-weapons Trump is finally applying some pressure on Turkey Turkey The Blog Sanctions Russia Recep Tayyip Erdogan missiles F-35 Lightning arms sales

Last week we discussed Turkey’s decision to go ahead and take delivery of the S-400 missile system from Russia and the implications that held for the United States and NATO. At the time, I suggested that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan had revealed himself as no longer being an ally of ours and punitive measures were called for. One of the biggest items on the table was the pending sale of our F-35 fighters to Turkey, a transaction that needed to be canceled.

It appears that the President has been getting advice from like-minded people because as of now, the sale is off. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)

President Trump said the U.S. would withhold sales of advanced F-35 stealth jet fighters to Turkey after Ankara received a new air-defense system from Russia, putting new strains on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The decision to cancel the F-35 shipment was expected, but until Mr. Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, the administration had held off on responding to Turkey’s decision to accept delivery of the Russian S-400 system. Turkey’s action and the U.S. response inject tension and uncertainty into the 67-year security pact between Turkey and other NATO members.

The latest moves come amid differences between Ankara and Washington over Syria and a sharp disagreement over the role of Kurdish fighters, who U.S. officials say have played a major role in battling Islamic State militants but who Turkey sees as a terrorist force.

This is a complicated situation that the President is wading into. For their part, Turkey is saying they will seek international arbitration over the canceled sales, but it’s unlikely any such move could force our hand. At the same time, the future production of more F-35s is in question, at least in the short term, because a number of parts for the planes are manufactured in Turkey. The Trump administration is already working on alternate vendors if those parts suddenly become unavailable.

While complicated, this is a smart move. Most defense analysts seem to agree that the S-400 system’s radar would give the Russians (through their agency in Turkey) the ability to discover secrets about the F-35s, making it easier for them to counter the stealth planes in a potential military conflict. And given the chummy relationship between the Tyrant of Turkey and Vladimir Putin, that would probably have been happening almost immediately.

But the cancelation of this sale likely won’t be enough. There should be new sanctions imposed on Erdogan personally and Turkey in general. They’ve been playing both sides of the fence for too long now and their membership in NATO going forward should also be up for debate. Turkey derives tremendous economic and political advantages from being aligned with NATO and the west, but they’ve been abusing those privileges mightily.

It’s not too late for Erdogan to step back from the brink, but he may need a bit more of a push to get him to see the light. And if he chooses to abandon us entirely and throw his lot in with Russia and Iran, well… it’s not like we’d be losing a very good ally anyway.

The post Trump is finally applying some pressure on Turkey appeared first on Hot Air.

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Turkey Gets Shipment of Russian Missile System, Defying U.S.

ISTANBUL — Defying strenuous American objections and the threat of sanctions, Turkey began receiving the first shipment of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system on Friday, a step certain to test the country’s uneasy place in the NATO alliance.

The system, called the S-400, includes advanced radar to detect aircraft and other targets, and the United States has been unyielding in its opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of the equipment, which is deeply troubling to Washington on several levels.

It puts Russian technology inside the territory of a key NATO ally — one from which strikes into Syria have been staged. The Russian engineers who will be required to set up the system, American officials fear, will have an opportunity to learn much about the American-made fighter jets that are also part of Turkey’s arsenal.

That is one reason the Trump administration has already moved to block the delivery of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, one of the United States’ most advanced aircraft, to Turkey, and has suspended the training of its pilots, who were learning how to fly it. (Whether NATO, in turn, might glean some Russian secrets from Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 is unclear.)

But the problem runs far deeper. A breach with Turkey over the S-400 casts into question the future of the Incirlik air base, a critical post for American forces in the region. And while American officials never discuss it in public, the base is also the storage site for scores of American tactical nuclear weapons, a leftover of the Cold War.

To the minds of Pentagon strategists, the S-400 deal is part of President Vladimir V. Putin’s plan to divide NATO. American officials are clearly uneasy when asked about the future of the alliance, or even how Turkey could remain an active member of NATO while using Russian-made air defenses.

“The political ramifications of this are very serious, because the delivery will confirm to many the idea that Turkey is drifting off into a non-Western alternative,” said Ian Lesser, director of the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. “This will create a lot of anxiety and bad feelings inside NATO — it will clearly further poison sentiment for Turkey inside the alliance.”

Strategically positioned at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and sharing a border on the Black Sea with Russia, Turkey has long been both a vital peg in NATO and one of its more prickly members.

With one foot in the conflicts of the Middle East and a toehold in Europe, its interests have not always easily aligned with an alliance originally forged as a Western European defense against the Soviets. Instead, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has increasingly played both sides in the East-West struggle.

NATO has stationed the American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system on Turkish soil since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, but Mr. Erdogan has insisted his country needs its own long-range system.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157184076_cc3469e7-1701-4afe-b680-f79d86ce9759-articleLarge Turkey Gets Shipment of Russian Missile System, Defying U.S. United States Defense and Military Forces United States Turkey Russia North Atlantic Treaty Organization Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, center left, with President Trump at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Japan last month. The delivery of the S-400 is likely to worsen strained Turkish-American relations.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Turkey tried for years to buy its own Patriot system, but talks with Washington never produced a deal — a result that President Trump, at the Group of 20 meeting last month, said was the fault of the Obama administration.

“It’s a mess,” Mr. Trump said. “And honestly, it’s not really Erdogan’s fault.”

Even as he announced the arrival of three planes bearing the first parts of the Russian system, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey still hoped to buy its American counterpart. “We are looking for Patriot procurement and our institutions are working intensively in that regard,” he said in remarks shown on the state-owned TRT channel.

Turkey does need to fill a gap in its defenses, but in purchasing the S-400, “the political-military outcomes could turn into a weakness for Turkey’s security,” said Ahmet Han, professor of international relations at Altinbas University in Istanbul. “The delivery has already caused a creeping vulnerability because it has damaged Turkey’s relations with NATO.”

The presence of the Russian system — which includes truck-mounted radars, command posts and missiles and launchers — would introduce an extra consideration into every NATO operation, he said, and that added strain “is the exact thing that Russia is after.”

Turkey’s turn to Russia for its own system is a success for Mr. Putin, who has sought to draw Turkey closer since a dramatic falling-out over the Syrian war, in which the Kremlin has backed the Assad government, while Turkey has supported a rebel faction.

Turkey shot down a Russian jet on its southern border with Syria in 2015, and the following year, a Turkish policeman who shouted “don’t forget Syria” fatally shot and killed the Russian ambassador at an art gallery in Ankara.

The two countries still back opposing sides in Syria, but have avoided further direct clashes and have come to collaborate closely through peace talks led by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The S-400 delivery comes just ahead of celebrations on Monday in Turkey to mark the third anniversary of a failed coup attempt against Mr. Erdogan. That upheaval marked a turn in relations with Russia, said Diba Nigar, the Turkey director for the International Crisis Group, a research institute based in Brussels.

Many Turks, she said, believe “that NATO allies didn’t stand up for Turkey, that the West turned a blind eye during the coup but that Moscow was more supportive.”

The sale also promises to add to Russia’s growing reach in the greater Middle East.Moscow’s decisive intervention in the conflict in Syria has cemented Russia’s dominance there, and the Libyan strongman Khalifa Hifter is another beneficiary of its support.

Russia has won friends in Tehran by supporting Iran in its standoff with the Trump administration while also pursuing business, military and diplomatic ties with the American-aligned Arab monarchies. And since the military takeover in Egypt in 2013, Russia has also begun selling jets, helicopters and missiles to Cairo, another key American ally.

S-400 surface-to-air missile systems at a military base near Kaliningrad, Russia, in March.CreditVitaly Nevar/Reuters

Mr. Erdogan has pursued the Russian missile system despite American warnings and the damage that sanctions could do to his country’s already suffering economy, including a renewed slide in the Turkish lira. His party suffered a set of stinging defeats in local elections this year, largely because of the economic recession, his worst political setback in many years.

Speaking last month, Mr. Erdogan warned the United States not to risk a larger fissure in ties with Turkey over the missile system, and he said he was confident that he could reach an understanding with Mr. Trump to avoid sanctions.

“They should think deeply, because losing a country like Turkey will not be easy,” Mr. Erdogan said of the United States. “If we are friends, if we are strategic partners, then we should handle this issue between each other.”

A NATO spokesman said on Friday, “we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey’s decision to acquire the S-400 system,” in part because it is considered technically incompatible with the weapons systems used by NATO countries.

“Interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions,” said the spokesman who, in keeping with the organization’s protocol, declined to be quoted by name. “We welcome that Turkey is working with several Allies on developing long-range air and missile defense systems.”

The Turkish and Russian defense ministries both reported that the first parts of the system arrived at the Murted airfield in Ankara on Friday. Turkish news media reported that a team of Russian specialists had also arrived to assemble the system.

Russian officials used the occasion to boast of the S-400’s effectiveness, and to tweak the United States.

Turkey “came under unprecedented pressure and nevertheless prioritized national security,” Franz Klintsevich, a Russian senator, told the Interfax news agency. He claimed that Patriot missiles are made to be incapable of locking onto “a target carrying the U.S. flag,” adding, “everyone knows that.”

“Russian S-400 systems guarantee preservation of their sovereignty,” he said of Turkey. “No wonder the Americans are irate.”

Turkey would be liable for sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which mandates United States sanctions against anyone making a significant deal with the Russian defense industry. American officials have said that Turkey would incur sanctions as soon as it received the weapon system on its soil.

The law calls on Mr. Trump to select five sanctions from a list of 12 to impose against Turkey. There is no waiver or suspension that could apply to Turkey, but there is no time schedule laid down for enforcement.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Can we finally admit Turkey is no longer our ally?

Westlake Legal Group ErdoganRouhaniPutin715 Can we finally admit Turkey is no longer our ally? Vladimir Putin Turkey The Blog Russia Recep Tayyip Erdogan missiles

Ever since the Tyrant of Turkey took complete control of his nation, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been having his cake and eating it too. He retains all of the benefits of being a NATO member, favorable trade deals, access to western technology and military hardware, and a key place on the global stage. But at the same time, he pals around with the leaders of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, takes hostages from multiple countries (including America), imprisons journalists and makes a mockery of his formerly democratic government. And now he’s thumbed his nose at the west yet again, taking delivery of an order of Russian S-400 surface to air missiles in defiance of NATO requirements. (NY Times)

The first shipment of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system arrived in Turkey on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced, a process that is expected to incur United States sanctions and will test the NATO alliance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been insistent in his determination to purchase the S-400 system, Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft weaponry, despite warnings from the United States. Washington has cautioned that the deal will lead to economic penalties against Turkey, a fellow NATO member, and cancellation of Turkey’s purchase of American F-35 fighter jets.

The United States has been unyielding in its opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400.

The S-400 is not compatible with the rest of the military systems used by NATO. In the event of an outbreak of military conflict, Turkey would not be able to fully coordinate with the rest of her supposed allies. None of this seems to be of any concern to Erdogan, who has been repeatedly warned not to go through with this purchase.

So what can we do about it? Well, it’s too late to stop the sale since they already took delivery. But we can and should immediately cancel their anticipated purchase of our F-35 fighters. In reality, we shouldn’t have been lining up to sell them those jets in the first place. That’s some our top of the line technology, and Turkey is just going to wind up exposing our classified technology to the Russians anyway.

In addition to canceling any such sales, we should be imposing new sanctions on both Turkey and Erdogan personally, just as we’ve done with other tyrannical regimes. And if we can build consensus with the rest of our actual allies, Turkey should be put on notice that their future membership in NATO is not assured.

My major concern here is whether or not President Trump will be of a mind to take this situation seriously. One of my complaints about this administration has been the way that Donald Trump has cozied up to Erdogan from day one, even when he was holding Pastor Andrew Brunson hostage for years on end. I understand that Turkey retains a key position in that part of the world, particularly given their proximity to Syria and Iraq, but our patience can’t be unlimited. Erdogan is a tyrant and a thug who clearly values his relationships with Russia and Iran more than the ties he supposedly has with the west. And it’s time he was held accountable.

The post Can we finally admit Turkey is no longer our ally? appeared first on Hot Air.

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In Firing Central Bank Chief, Turkey’s Leader Trades Credibility for Growth

Westlake Legal Group 06turkeybank-facebookJumbo In Firing Central Bank Chief, Turkey’s Leader Trades Credibility for Growth US Dollar (Currency) Turkey Politics and Government Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Economic Conditions and Trends Currency Banking and Financial Institutions Appointments and Executive Changes

LONDON — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, abruptly fired the central bank chief on Saturday, dealing a new blow to the institution’s credibility while threatening to intensify the nation’s wrenching economic crisis.

The move, made in the early hours of the day by presidential decree, was the latest evidence of Mr. Erdogan’s unequivocal dedication to economic expansion at any cost.

He has long expressed irritation over Turkey’s elevated interest rates — currently at 24 percent — which make money harder to borrow, constraining the breakneck development that has been his hallmark.

Most economists assert that interest rates ought to be higher still, given the perilous state of the Turkish economy and the weakness of its currency, the lira.

During the course of his 16-year tenure, Mr. Erdogan has pressured banks to lend aggressively in support of his signature infrastructure projects, including a grandiose new Istanbul airport and a kingdom’s worth of high-rise towers. In recent years, international investors have grown spooked by the resulting debts, pulling their money out of the country and sending the lira plummeting.

Over the last two years, the lira has surrendered some 40 percent of its value against the dollar, sending prices of imported goods soaring. Ordinary people are paying more for food and fuel. Businesses are stuck with higher costs for raw materials.

In the face of that crisis, the central bank has lifted interest rates to increase the returns for investors who keep their money inside Turkey, halting the plunge in the currency.

That has infuriated Mr. Erdogan. Assailing economic orthodoxy, he has claimed that high interest rates actually cause inflation, which is like blaming obesity on cutting too much sugar from the diet.

By firing Murat Cetinkaya — who has headed the central bank since April 2016 — and replacing him with his deputy, Murat Uysal, the president has effectively proclaimed that development will go on, with interest rates probably headed down.

In blaming his central bank for sabotaging his designs, Mr. Erdogan finds himself in powerful company. President Trump has intensified his attacks on his own central bank governor, Jerome H. Powell, asserting that high interest rates have made America less great than it could be.

India’s prime minister has attacked the independence of the central bank, prompting resignations, while undermining international faith in the veracity of official statistics.

For Turkish companies now confronting vast debts, lower interest rates should, in theory, shrink their debt burden, or at least make it cheaper to borrow more and defer any reckoning. Yet in reality, a great deal of Turkish debt is in dollars. Lower interest rates are likely to push down the value of the lira, which has the effect of magnifying dollar debts for companies that earn revenues in lira.

Mr. Erdogan has a penchant for decisive action, and these days are especially challenging for him. The economy fell into recession last year, resuming modest growth this year on the strength of spending unleashed by Mr. Erdogan ahead of national elections.

His stature was significantly weakened last month as his ruling party was thumped in a mayoral election in Istanbul. That result reflected voter anger over his imperious ways — especially his violent crackdown on dissent — as well as the growing perception that Turkey’s economy has drifted into danger.

That left Mr. Erdogan staring at two unpalatable options. He could accept higher interest rates to choke off inflation along with its attendant slowdown in growth, or stay true to form and keep the credit flowing. That would spur more economic expansion, but at the expense of Turkey’s credibility in the international marketplace, and further straining faith in the currency.

Most analysts assumed they knew how the story would go.

“I struggle to see how all of the sudden Turkish economic policymaking is going to turn more orthodox and transparent,” Nafez Zouk, chief emerging markets economist at Oxford Economics in London, said last month. “You just keep kicking the can down the road. We will see rate cuts this year.”

How much farther does this road go? That question is increasingly under discussion in Turkey’s power centers.

In Istanbul, Mr. Erdogan’s cronies in the construction business have been nourished by the president’s resolute devotion to growth. But in the rest of the business world, a sense of fatigue and dismay is increasingly palpable. Many accuse Mr. Erdogan of taking a sound economy — a nation of 80 million people, its population relatively young and skilled, its middle class growing — and turning it into a land avoided by global investors.

“There’s no more institutions,” said Can Akcay, managing partner of Les Partenaires Ottomans, a real estate development company in Istanbul. “They have been totally nullified by the president. Nobody’s going to invest here unless the system is reformed. But there’s no way to reform unless we get rid of this guy.”

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Son of Hamas founder: It’s a “racist terror organization,” you know

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Even more remarkable than what Suheib Yousef said is where he said it. The son of Hamas founder Hassan Yousef appeared in an interview with an Israeli television broadcaster to tell the truth about his father’s creation. Not only is Hamas a “racist terror organization,” Yousef told journalist Ohad Hemo, its leaders live high on the proverbial hog on monies intended for those they oppress,

In fact, they make that money by turning poor Palestinians into cannon fodder for Iran:

“Hamas leaders [in Turkey] live in fancy hotels and luxury towers, their kids learn at private schools, and they are very well paid by Hamas. They get between four and five thousand dollars a month, they have guards, swimming pools, country clubs,” said Suheib, who worked for Hamas’s political branch in Turkey.

“When I lived in Turkey, I was shocked by the behavior of the Hamas members. They ate in the best restaurants, in places where one course cost $200,” he said. “A family in Gaza lives on $100 per month.”

In hiding in an unnamed Asian country, Suheib also said Hamas was working for a “foreign agenda,” selling information about Israel to the Iranians in exchange for financial assistance. He said the group’s operation in Turkey was run under the guise of a civil society organization but was gathering intelligence on Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, as well as leaders from other Arab countries.

He also said the group actively recruited young Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out attacks against Israel, not to liberate Palestinian land or for resistance, but to spread the crisis from Gaza to the West Bank.

The Washington Post’s coverage omits one key detail from Yousef’s description of “spreading the crisis.”  Yousef told Hemo that Hamas recruits children for terror attacks against you know who:

He said the setup in Turkey was also used to conscript people, including children, in the West Bank to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.

“The point of the attacks in the West Bank is to kill civilians, not for the aim of resistance, nor Jerusalem; not for liberating Palestinian land, and not even because they hate Jews,” he told the TV channel. “They send out these innocents because they want to export the crisis [from Gaza] to the West Bank.”

Yousef has a suggestion for Hamas’ leadership on that score:

“I want them to send their own children to carry out attacks if they have to. Why doesn’t [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh go to the fence to throw stones?” he asked, referring to weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border organized by Hamas.

“How does Hamas benefit from these attacks? Nothing,” he said. “It is a racist terror organization that is dangerous for the Palestinian people.”

Yousef is the second son of Hassan Yousef to turn on Hamas. His older brother Mosab defected over a decade ago, working for Israel at first before coming to the West and converting to Christianity. Known as “the Green Prince,” Mosab wrote his memoirs, Son of Hamas, and has actively campaigned against his father’s organization. Suheib sounds distant from his brother, emphasizing that he himself never worked for Israel and never intends to do so, but that he wants to work against Hamas and its corruption.

For the US, the most intriguing part of Yousef’s declaration might be the spy ring operating under the auspices of our supposed ally, Turkey:

Now, he reveals how the organization’s political bureau operates, which actually serves as a spy center for Iran.

“Hamas operates security and military institutions on Turkish soil under the guise of civil society,” Yusuf explained. “They have security centers, and from there they use sophisticated listening equipment to listen to people and leaders in Ramallah, using sophisticated equipment and software on the computers, and some people are experts on this.

“They use state-of-the-art equipment to promote a foreign agenda and that’s what I want to expose,” said a former Hamas official. “The movement uses this information not for the benefit of the Palestinian people – it sends the intelligence information to Iran in exchange for financial support, even money being transferred through Turkish banks under the guise of civil society centers.”

That revelation comes at a particularly bad time for Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He’s trying to eat his cake and have it too with purchases of both the F-35 and Russian anti-aircraft systems, plus maintain his status within NATO. If Erdogan is allowing Iran to penetrate Turkey, it’s not going to be just to target Israel. This puts the US at risk as well as its European allies.

So what will happen to the man who made all this public? Yousef seems more fatalistic than his older brother. “If Hamas wants to turn me into a shahid, then I will be a martyr,” he told Hemo. “I prefer to be the victim and not the one who hurts [others].” Hamas will want to accomplish that before Yousef can pass along the details of these intelligence operations, if he has not already done so. The US should work to put Yousef under our protection quickly — even if it won’t necessarily bring the two brothers any closer.

Yousef speaks for himself in this video, which is entirely in Hebrew and Arabic. It’s worth it for a look at the man who dared to tell the truth about Hamas, even while many prefer to live in denial.

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Erdogan loses round two in Istanbul

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Back in March, citizens in Turkey went to the polls for their latest series of national elections. The presidency wasn’t up for grabs, but they were electing regional legislators, mayors and other local positions. In a shocking turn of events, the part of the Tyrant of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, narrowly lost the election for mayor in Istanbul, one of the largest population centers. Erdogan was clearly unhappy about this turn of events so he did what any freedom and democracy loving ruler would do. He had the mayor thrown out of office and ordered another election be held.

Yesterday, the Turks returned to the polls in Istanbul as ordered and held the do-over vote. Surprise, surprise. In what the BBC is describing as a “disastrous loss,” Erdogan’s chosen candidate was defeated again by an even wider margin. Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.

As the scale of Ekrem Imamoglu’s victory became clear, his supporters thronged his election headquarters. Lining the street outside was a row of cameras. Among them: Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT, heavily under the thumb of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A woman approached, waving her Turkish flag bearing the face of Mr Imamoglu at the TRT cameraman. “Now are you going to film us?”, she cried, “we’re here, now show we are!”

It encapsulated the feeling of an opposition that has been stifled for years, all the organs of the Turkish state controlled by Turkey’s powerful, polarising leader. Finally, the other side of this country feels as though the hand that has covered its mouth has been unclasped.

This has to be a stinging blow for Erdogan. He was born and raised in Istanbul and served as the mayor himself back in the 90s. His AKP Party has controlled the region for decades and his hand-picked candidate to be Mayor was expected to do the same.

If you read the BBC analysis, you’ll see that members of the opposition party are already talking about the beginning of the end of Erdogan’s rule. If his party can lose Istanbul, the thinking goes, his support will probably be on the decline around other parts of the country. The next national elections aren’t scheduled until 2023, but the opposition may be able to force a new vote sooner than that.

But can Turkey actually get rid of their Tyrant by simply voting him out? Erdogan has managed to rewrite the country’s constitution, vesting nearly all power in his office. The military answers directly to him and any perceived opponents in their ranks have been weeded out since the coup attempt a couple of years back. He controls all of the remaining media in the country, a fact that allows him to heavily sway public opinion.

And if even with all of that going for him, it looks like he might still lose, he would likely move to postpone the elections further. Even worse, if he calls the election and loses, he could simply refuse to step down and declare martial law. The people of Turkey have lived to see interesting times. Let’s hope they survive the process.

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For Erdogan, the Bill for Turkey’s Debt-Fueled Growth Comes Due

The shocking rebuke of Turkey’s governing party in Sunday’s mayoral election in Istanbul resonated as more than a yearning for new leadership in the nation’s largest city. It signaled mounting despair over the economic disaster that has befallen the nation under the strongman rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Through the course of a 16-year run as Turkey’s supreme leader, Mr. Erdogan has time and again delivered on his promises of potent economic growth. Yet not unlike an athlete who puts up record-shattering numbers through performance-enhancing drugs, he has produced expansion by resorting aggressively to debt. He has unleashed credit to his cronies in the real estate and construction industries, who have filled the horizons with monumental infrastructure projects.

The bill has come due. Over the last two years, financiers have taken note of the staggering debt burdens confronting Turkey’s major companies and grown fearful of the increasingly dubious prospects for full repayment. Investors have yanked their money out of the country, sending the value of Turkey’s currency, the lira, plunging by more than 40 percent against the American dollar.

The result is inflation running at an annual rate of about 19 percent, besieging ordinary people and companies alike. Farmers are stuck paying sharply higher prices for imported fertilizer and fuel for their tractors. Families are paying more for vegetables and eggs. Factories are paying extra for imported components like electronics and parts. The official unemployment rate exceeds 14 percent.

Of gravest concern, the companies that enabled Mr. Erdogan’s construction bonanza have watched their balance sheets deteriorate with the fall in the lira. Much of their debt is priced in dollars, meaning their burden expands as the Turkish currency loses value. Most of their revenues are in lira, a potentially lethal mismatch that threatens insolvency.

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Mr. Erdogan championed the building of a large mosque in Taksim Square in Istanbul.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Turkey was staring at some $328 billion worth of medium and long-term debt in foreign currencies, most of that in dollars, as of the end of 2018, according to official data. Private companies were responsible for about two-thirds. Private companies owed another $138 billion in foreign currency debt payable in the next year.

Given that Turkey’s overall economic production was about $766 billion last year, these debts are enormous. They have given Turkey claim on an unwanted distinction: Only Argentina looks to be at greater risk of descending into a full-blown crisis.

More than economic factors explain the deepening dismay over Mr. Erdogan’s tenure. Having cultivated power by diminishing the role of the military in national life, enabling Muslims to practice their faith free of a state-enforced mode of secularism, he has in recent years attacked democratic institutions by crushing dissent, seizing the property of his enemies and muzzling the press.

In opting to entrust the main opposition party, the People’s Republican Party, with control of Istanbul — the city where Mr. Erdogan’s political career began a quarter-century ago — voters appeared to be expressing general unhappiness with this means of governance.

But the common denominator in Turkish life, the factor that cuts across traditional political divides, is the uncomfortably decisive force of economic decline.

Mr. Erdogan has borrowed aggressively to pay for infrastructure projects, like the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus Strait.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

“Inflation is so high, and real wages are falling, and people are thinking they have to save their money instead of spending,” said Nafez Zouk, lead emerging markets economist at Oxford Economics in London. “They have lost faith in their currency and their spending power.”

Turkey is endowed with formidable economic strengths — a relatively young population of about 80 million, a growing middle class, a location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and glorious scenery underpinning a major tourism industry.

But Turkey has long been dependent on imported goods and cash borrowed in foreign currency, making the drop in the lira especially painful.

The economy descended into recession over the last half of 2018. Modest growth resumed during the first three months of 2019, as the economy expanded by 1.3 percent compared to the previous quarter. But most economists viewed that as a temporary phenomenon, the result of public spending that Mr. Erdogan delivered to boost fortunes ahead of local elections in late March.

The fundamental situation appears grim, with no clear path toward better days.

The central bank has maintained short-term interest rates at 24 percent to prevent more money from heading for the exits. High interest rates entice investors with enhanced rewards for accepting the risk of keeping their cash in Turkey.

An entrance to the Eurasia Tunnel, a road tunnel beneath the Bosporus that opened in 2016. The bill for Mr. Erdogan’s debt-driven growth has come due.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

But high rates also make borrowing more expensive for Turkish businesses and consumers, depressing sales of cars, discouraging new ventures and constraining economic activity in general.

Mr. Erdogan has famously railed against high interest rates as the supposed cause of inflation, which is something like blaming sobriety for the smashed furniture left in the wake of the last boozy bender, and has called for them to fall to get growth back on track. His installation of his son-in-law as paramount economic overseer last year damaged what meager confidence remained in the independence of Turkey’s central bank.

Mr. Erdogan could use his powers to engineer a reduction in interest rates, sending another surge of credit through the economy and — at least for a time — making businesses feel better about their prospects. He could add to the festivities with government spending, taking advantage of Turkey’s still officially low levels of public debt.

But that would invite another drop in the lira while further denting faith in Turkey’s economic stewardship. The result would be more inflation, exacerbating the pressures on consumers and businesses.

Or Mr. Erdogan can accept what he has long rejected as intolerable — much lower growth rates than the 6 and 7 percent a year to which he has become accustomed, perhaps muddling through as the corporate sector finds its way to solvency.

The verdict in Istanbul’s mayoral election suggests that the people of Turkey’s largest city are not crazy about their choices, and not reassured by the man in charge of the country.

International markets appeared pleased by the likelihood of a weakened Erdogan, with the lira climbing modestly as trading began on Monday. Those in control of money have apparently lost trust in the Turkish president and relish the prospect that another party is seizing some of the economic levers.

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