Tag Archives: Turkey

Gold dealer’s testimony puts Erdogan on shaky ground, by M. K. Bhadrakumar

Turkey is always interesting by virtue of its geography at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It is especially interesting now; it may be switching its allegiance from the US and NATO to Russia. A corruption scandal may reach all the way up to Turkish President Erdogan. From M.K. Bhadrakumar at atimes.com:

As on the soccer field in his youth, so in a tumultuous political career spanning four decades: Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently shown his mettle as a fighter who won’t be satisfied with anything short of total victory. But in the battle that is now unfolding around him, and which is besieging him, there isn’t going to be a winner.

What is at stake is survival – the chance to live another day, even if in some ignominy. That much is clear from the opening testimony in a federal courtroom in New York on Wednesday from the Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who allegedly helped Tehran sidestep US sanctions to export oil with the connivance of corrupt Turkish high officials and then to launder the income.

When the principal accused becomes the star witness in a US court, he has possibly struck a deal with the authorities. The remaining ambiguity is with regard to when it was that Zarrab struck the deal – was it when he landed in Miami 18 months ago, ostensibly to show his young son around Disneyland, or before he was spirited out of Turkey to America on the express understanding that he’d get clemency for providing hard evidence to nail Erdogan.

Zarrab explained before the court the elaborate scheme he orchestrated to free “a few billion euros” of Iran’s sanctioned oil using funds deposited in the Turkish state-owned Halkbank which were used to buy gold that was subsequently smuggled to Dubai and sold for cash. (The FBI also nabbed a senior functionary of Halkbank, Hakan Atilla, who is on trial.)

Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab is shown in a court room sketch as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York. Photo: Reuters / Jane Rosenberg

Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab is shown in a court room sketch as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York. Photo: Reuters / Jane Rosenberg

Zarrab named a confidant of Erdogan, the former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, as having taken bribes amounting to over US$60 million and also implicated Turkey’s Aktif Bank, which is part of a holding company headed at the time by Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak (the current energy minister). Zarrab is due to testify again. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

To continue reading: Gold dealer’s testimony puts Erdogan on shaky ground

 

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The End of the Syrian War Is the Beginning of a New Middle Eastern Order, by Federico Pieraccini

Russia is on the up escalator in the Middle East and the US is on the down escalator. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:

In the Middle East and beyond, we are witnessing a series of high-level political meetings between dozens of nations involved directly or indirectly in the Syrian situation. It is crucial to understand all this in order to understand the direction in which the region is going and what the new regional order is.

With the liberation of Abu Kamal on the Iraqi border, the last Syrian town controlled by ISIS, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have completed the task of eliminating the Caliphate and its control over Syrian cities. ISIS returns to its original dimensions of being a terrorist organization without control of any territory or a city-state proclaimed as its capital.

These are important days, with political conferences about the future of the region and Syria itself occurring from Sochi to Cairo and passing through Riyadh. In Sochi, Assad met with Putin to confirm the alliance as well as Moscow’s loyalty to the Syrian State, and to also focus on a political solution. The Russian and Syrian presidents agreed on the need to involve the largest possible number of opposition groups in the reform process. In this regard, the meeting between Rouhani, Erdogan and Putin was also aimed at creating the conditions for an inclusive solution for all those who have agreed to put down arms and engage in talks with the legitimate government in Damascus. Turkey is the country that holds together the ranks of the so-called legitimate opposition, and Erdogan’s moves have confirmed that his strategy in the region is based around pivoting towards Russia through a full-fledged cooperation with Moscow. It is an almost unprecedented diplomatic victory for Russia that in two years it has managed to turn a potential opponent into one of the main guarantors of the peace process in Syria.

Riyadh is in the meantime bringing together the not-so-moderate opposition groups that are very close to Islamic extremism, a sort of spin-off of Al Nusra (Al Qaeda) and Daesh, and attempting to apply on them a makeover in an effort to rebrand them. It is important to note that recent meetings between King Salman and Putin seem to have opened some sort of dialogue with a representative of Moscow present at the Riyadh conference.

To continue reading: The End of the Syrian War Is the Beginning of a New Middle Eastern Order

 

Trump Reportedly Tells Erdogan US Will Cease Arming Syrian Kurds, by Tyler Burden

Here’s the money Tweet, from President Trump: “Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!” From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Just after Putin hosted trilateral talks on Syria and the Middle East in Sochi involving Russia, Iran, and Turkey, President Trump spent part of his Friday after Thanksgiving on the phone with Turkey’s Erdogan. While the two discussed Syria and other regional issues, it appears they broached the delicate and contentious topic of US support to Syrian Kurdish fighters (namely, the Kurdish YPG, which forms the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces). The call came amidst a flurry of diplomatic activity over the Middle East driven by the Kremlin, and follows a lengthy Trump-Putin phone call on Tuesday.


Members of the Kurdish YPG, Mint Press

Though the details of the call are still unclear, Trump outlined what was to be generally discussed in a tweet, and said this morning, “Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!”

Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!

Though not verified by the US side, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Trump told Erdogan during Friday’s call that the US will cease supplying weapons to the Syrian Kurdish fighters, according to the AP. Turkey has long considered Syrian Kurdish militant groups to be terrorists, and Erdogan reportedly insisted at the Sochi summit that Syrian Kurds be excluded from all negotiations over the future of Syria on the grounds that they have links to the PKK. However, it is unlikely that a lasting political settlement for Syria can be negotiated and successfully held without Syrian Kurdish input.

To continue reading: Trump Reportedly Tells Erdogan US Will Cease Arming Syrian Kurds

Preparing For EU Collapse, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

The EU is once again demonstrating its incompetence, in the Catalonia-Spain stand off. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

If there is one thing the Spain vs Catalonia conflict reminds us of, it has got to be Turkey. And that is a much bigger problem for the EU than it realizes. First of all, Brussels can no longer insist that this is an internal, domestic, Spanish issue, since Catalan president Puidgemont is in…Brussels. So are 4 members of his government.

That moves decisions to be made about his situation from the Spanish legal system to its Belgian counterpart. And the two are not identical twins. Even if both countries are EU members. This may expose a very large European problem: the lack of equality among justice systems. Citizens of EU member countries are free to move and work across the Union, but they are subject to different laws and constitutions.

The way the Spanish government tries to go after Puidgemont is exactly the same as the way Turkish president Erdogan tries to get to his perceived archenemy, Fethullah Gülen, a longtime resident of Pennsylvania. But the US doesn’t want to extradite Gülen, not even now Turkey arrests US embassy personnel. The Americans have had enough of Erdogan.

Erdogan accuses Gülen of organizing a coup. Spanish PM Rajoy accuses the Catalan government of the same. But they are not the same kind of coup. The Turkish one saw violence and death. The Spanish one did not, at least not from the side of those who allegedly perpetrated the coup.

Brussels should have intervened in the Catalonia mess a long time ago, called a meeting, instead of claiming this had nothing to do with the EU, a claim as cowardly as it is cheap. You’re either a union or you’re not. And if you are, the well-being of all your citizens is your responsibility. You don’t get to cherry pick. You got to walk your talk.

Belgian news paper De Standaard today makes an interesting distinction. It says the Belgian judicial system is not asked to “extradite” Puidgemont to Spain (uitlevering), but to “surrender” him (overlevering). Legal gibberish.

To continue reading: Preparing For EU Collapse

 

In Shocking, Viral Interview, Qatar Confesses Secrets Behind Syrian War, by Tyler Durden

A top Qatari official disclosed that Qatar funded ISIS and a regime change effort in Syria…with the full knowledge and support of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

A television interview of a top Qatari official confessing the truth behind the origins of the war in Syria is going viral across Arabic social media during the same week a leaked top secret NSA document was published which confirms that the armed opposition in Syria was under the direct command of foreign governments from the early years of the conflict.

 And according to a well-known Syria analyst and economic adviser with close contacts in the Syrian government, the explosive interview constitutes a high level “public admission to collusion and coordination between four countries to destabilize an independent state, [including] possible support for Nusra/al-Qaeda.” Importantly, “this admission will help build case for what Damascus sees as an attack on its security & sovereignty. It will form basis for compensation claims.”

A 2013 London press conference: Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. A 2014 Hillary Clinton email confirmed Qatar as a state-sponsor of ISIS during that same time period. 

As the war in Syria continues slowly winding down, it seems new source material comes out on an almost a weekly basis in the form of testimonials of top officials involved in destabilizing Syria, and even occasional leaked emails and documentswhich further detail covert regime change operations against the Assad government. Though much of this content serves to confirm what has already long been known by those who have never accepted the simplistic propaganda which has dominated mainstream media, details continue to fall in place, providing future historians with a clearer picture of the true nature of the war.

This process of clarity has been aided – as predicted – by the continued infighting among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) former allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with each side accusing the other of funding Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists (ironically, both true). Increasingly, the world watches as more dirty laundry is aired and the GCC implodes after years of nearly all the gulf monarchies funding jihadist movements in places like Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

To continue reading: In Shocking, Viral Interview, Qatar Confesses Secrets Behind Syrian War

Making History: China and Russia are Transforming Enemies into Friends, by Federico Pieraccini

This is the third and last of an excellent series on the Chinese-Russian alliance transforming Eurasia. There are links to the previous two articles in the first paragraph. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:

In the previous articles, the military and economic means by which the United States initially aimed for global hegemony were addressed, detailing how the US became the (declining) superpower it is today. In both analyses I highlighted how the threat of US military power is no longer credible, and how sanctions and the strong-arming behavior of corporate giants and international bodies (IMF, World Bank, BIS, etc) have ceased their effectiveness. This has made the United States increasingly irrelevant, leaving in the process a vacuum to be filled by emerging powers like China and Russia, which effectively ushers in a new world order based on multipolarity. In this third and final part of the series, I will dive into the specific events that show how the military, economic and diplomatic combination of Iran, Russia and China have forged, by known as well as less-known means, an alternative world order to the unipolar American one.

Russia, China and Iran have in recent years drawn enormous benefit from the declining military and economic power of the United States, further propelled by a general mistrust of Washington’s diplomatic and political abilities, both with Obama and now with Trump. The two previous articles showed that Moscow, Beijing and Tehran, even as they addressed different situations, shared similar interests and came to coordinate their military, economic and diplomatic strategy.

The success of the Euro-Asian triptych is based on the essential principle of transforming enemies into neutral players, neutral players into allies, and further improving relations with allied nations. In order for this project to be realized, economic, military and diplomatic efforts are variously employed, depending on the country and the general regional context. The flexibility shown by Moscow and Beijing in negotiations has delivered historic deals, not only in the energy sector but also in the military sphere and also in education and poverty reduction, as seen in Africa.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Syria are three countries that, when analysed individually, reveal this precise strategy of Russia, China and Iran. Particular attention is focused on the Middle East for several reasons. It is the region where America’s declining military power, unable to achieve its geopolitical objectives in Syria, meets with the progressive loss of Washington’s economic influence, highlighted by the increasingly precarious position of the petrodollar that is about to be challenged by petroyuan deals between Saudi Arabia and China.

To continue reading: Making History: China and Russia are Transforming Enemies into Friends

 

Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century? by Cyril Widdershoven

Russia is skillfully playing its cards and amassing influence in the Middle East and Northern Africa. From Cyril Widdershoven at oilprice.com:

Putin

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world—as displayed during the Obama Administration—are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally. 

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia. This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih. Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran. Analysts wonder where the current visit of King Salman will really lead to, but all signs are on green for a straightforward Arab-Saudi support for a bigger Russian role in the region, and more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas markets.

To continue reading: Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century?