Turkey's COVID-19 Situation Is "Out Of Control", Health Experts Warn

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Turkey's COVID-19 Situation Is "Out Of Control", Health Experts Warn

Via AhvalNews.com,

Health experts have warned that Turkey’s coronavirus situation is out of control and that deaths from the disease could soon be on a par with Italy or Spain, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Tuesday.

“The recent data on cases and death tolls shows that the s

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ituation is out of control in Turkey. If the necessary measures are not taken, Turkey will be like Italy or Spain, where the daily death toll is in the hundreds,” Emrah Altındiş, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, told BIRN.

Turkey only reported its first coronavirus patient on March 11, but cases and deaths have rapidly risen since then. The Turkish health minister confirmed on Tuesday seven more deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 343 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 1,872.

Turkey has halted incoming flights from dozens of countries and closed a wide range of non-essential businesses and venues, and announced a curfew on elderly and vulnerable citizens over the weekend, though it has refrained from enforcing a full lockdown.

However, some medical experts have said that the measures are insufficient.

Altındiş said that South Korea was successful in restraining the pandemic because it was testing 20,000 a day, and that China reduced transmission by shutting down the infected city of Wuhan – but he said that there had not been widespread testing or strict lockdowns of major cities in Turkey. 

“Either the government is hiding the real numbers [of cases], or silly things are happening in Turkey,” he said.

“The Turkish government is making propaganda to show that the process is being managed well. They know this situation will have very severe political and economic consequences.”

The Health Ministry has tested more than 24,000 people, but this number may quickly rise after the arrival of 50,000 quick diagnostic kits from China on Monday. A further 300,000 are expected to arrive on Thursday, the ministry said.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) urged the government on March 23 to be more transparent regarding the pandemic.

“The cities and towns where cases were confirmed should be announced publicly as well as death and infected people’s gender and age range,” TBB said.

One doctor who works in a university hospital told BIRN under condition of anonymity: “What I observe in my hospital and the general situation is that the real numbers are at least two to three times higher than the numbers that the government announced. The COVID-19 pandemic is now out of control.”

The same doctor said the Turkish Health Ministry seemed to be implementing a wait-and-see policy, but this meant it was late in implementing necessary steps.

“It seems that this week is the most critical since the incubation period for the new coronavirus is around 14 days,” he said. “Many people will flock to hospitals and we will be speaking of thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths on a daily basis. Turkey will be a second Italy or worse,” he told BIRN.

The government has introduced a a 100 billion lira ($15.4 billion) aid package to help Turkey's economy cope with the global coronavirus outbreak, but some economists and opposition politicians have criticised it as being insufficient.

“The government has asked people to stay at home but these people have to work and feed their families,” the doctor told BIRN.

“The government’s economic package has had no effect on ordinary people. If it does not support these people financially, we cannot talk about stopping this pandemic.”

Tyler Durden

Thu, 03/26/2020 - 02:00

Turkey's 'Truthophobia'

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Turkey's 'Truthophobia'

Authored by Burak Bekdil via The Gatestone Institute,

In 2014 the government of Turkey's strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan banned YouTube and Twitter, fearing that millions of young Turks could otherwise read "dangerous content" on social media. The Constitutional Court declared the bans unconstitutional. In 2017, the Turkish government banned Wikipedia. That ban was removed only recently, after two

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and a half years. It is not that Wikipedia is a reliable source of information. Banning it altogether is a rogue state behavior. It is not, however, only about Wikipedia: in Turkey, truth, regardless of its source, is feared and often banned.

The World Report 2020, released by the Human Rights Watch, drew a realistic yet gloomy picture of civil liberties in Turkey:

"Executive control and political influence over the judiciary in Turkey has led to courts systematically accepting bogus indictments, detaining and convicting without compelling evidence of criminal activity individuals and groups the Erdoğan government regards as political opponents. Among these are journalists, opposition politicians, and activists and human rights defenders...

"Authorities continue to block websites and order the removal of online content while thousands of people in Turkey face criminal investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for their social media posts. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of prosecutions and convictions on charges of 'insulting the president' since Erdoğan's first election as president in 2014...

"An estimated 119 journalists and media workers at time of writing are in pretrial detention or serving sentences for offenses such as "spreading terrorist propaganda" and 'membership of a terrorist organization.' Hundreds more are on trial though not in prison. Most media, including television, conforms to the Erdoğan presidency's political line."

Hence the nationwide lack of confidence in the judiciary as a constitutional institution, a sad reality that even Erdoğan's government had to admit. Vice President Fuat Oktay said that only 38% of Turks had confidence in judiciary. The problem of trust is probably much worse than portrayed by the vice president. A survey by the Turkish pollsters ORC revealed that only 11.7% of Turks fully trusted the judiciary.

The ways through which the Turkish state silences dissent are typical of the unfree world. According to the findings of the Monitoring and Advocating Media Freedom project, the Erdoğan government resorted to three most frequently used ways to target journalists in 2019:

"Vexatious charges: Journalists were repeatedly charged with 'insulting a public official' or 'insulting the president' under Articles 125 and 299 respectively of the Turkish penal code...

"Physical attacks: Physical attacks on journalists took place throughout 2019... The violence was largely attributed to political divisions, specifically between nationalists and conservatives...

"Internet restrictions: The government continued to obstruct freedom of expression online... On 1 August, a regulation mandating online content providers, including all online news outlets, to obtain a broadcasting license from the radio and television watchdog RTUK, was published..."

(According to the left-wing Birgün newspaper, 5,223 people -- including 128 children -- stood trial on the charge of "insulting the president" in 2018, with journalists often being singled out and the charge being especially damaging.)

Part of the problem is the Turks' notorious indifference to undemocratic practice -- not that they are unaware of the rights violations; it is just that Erdoğan controls most media.

A recent survey released jointly by the Amnesty International's Turkey chapter and Metropoll, a polling company, revealed the bitter truth about Turkish attitudes.

According to the survey 82.3% of Turks believe fundamental rights and liberties are violated in Turkey. In addition, only a third of them think that someone detained by the police is likely a criminal. Worse, only 37.7% of Turks think everyone is equal before the state.

A clear majority of Turks think that their rights are systematically violated and that they are not equal before law. Then half of them keep voting for Erdoğan (and his allies). These two facts point to a third, and unpleasant conclusion: Millions of Turks know that their country is not free and just, but they keep voting for the leader who is responsible for the gross democratic deficit Turkey has undergone over the past 18 years.

This is a bad message to Erdoğan: You will keep winning votes no matter how maliciously you crush dissent. We are with you and your undemocratic rule.

It was another bad year for Turkish democracy. A worse one may be in the offing.

Tyler Durden

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 02:00




Greece, Israel & Cyprus Sign Landmark EastMed Gas Pipeline Deal Despite Turkey's Wrath

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Greece, Israel & Cyprus Sign Landmark EastMed Gas Pipeline Deal Despite Turkey's Wrath

Long in the works, but coming at a geopolitically sensitive moment for the region given expanding Turkish maritime claims, the East Med gas pipeline deal was signed this week between the countries of Greece, Cyprus and Israel

The three signed the deal on Thursday to build a 1,900 km (1,180 mile) subsea pipeline to transport supplies from the

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rapidly advancing gas fields of the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. 

A massive undertaking to supply energy-hungry Europe, the East Med pipeline project was first proposed by Greek energy minister Yannis Maniatis in 2014, and has since been hailed as "the longest and deepest gas pipeline in the world". At an initial estimated cost of $6-7 billion, it will be financed by "private companies and institutional lenders," according to prior Israeli Energy Ministry statements. 

The energy ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus - Kostis Hatzidakis, Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis - attending the signing ceremony on Thursday. Image source: Reuters.

The underground, sub-sea pipeline is proposed to connect Israel, via Cyprus, to Greece and Italy, in a massive construction project estimated to take five or six years to complete, and which once online is expected initially pump 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

The energy ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus - Kostis Hatzidakis, Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis - attended a signing ceremony in Athens which finalized the project's moving forward, according to Reuters. 

Predictably, Turkey is actively opposing the project, given its own expanding oil and gas exploration claims which have now completely surrounded Cyprus (using the excuse of "rights" based on the contested so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) and have even cut into Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone as well. Per Reuters:

Although Turkey opposes the project, the countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

Last month a Turkish official said there was no need to build the EastMed pipeline because the trans-Anatolian pipeline already existed.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry complained this week that the East Med pipeline "ignored the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots" and thus would be doomed to failure. 

Via The Weekly Standard

“The most economical and secure route to utilize the natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and deliver them to consumption markets in Europe, including our country, is Turkey,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Thursday, just as the deal was being signed in Athens.

Turkey has lately angered countries like Egypt, Greece and Cyprus over its disputed maritime boundary agreement with Libya, which many see as a big and illegal maritime grab for drilling rights in the southern Mediterranean. 

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades shot back, however, saying “It (the agreement) ... supports a common aim for peace, security and stability in the particularly vulnerable region of the Eastern Mediterranean,” underscoring that it's actually good for the region's security in a historically restive area where neighboring countries rarely get along.

Map via the AFP

The transformation of the eastern Mediterranean into an "energy hotspot" could have huge global geopolitical implications, especially given that currently the EU relies on Russia for a third of its gas.

It's especially southeast Europe that's been entirely reliant on Russian gas, given its lack of infrastructure. Thus Europe has greeted the project as part of a broader push for "energy diversity" that such other projects as the Nord Stream 2 Russia-Germany pipeline is meant to satisfy as well.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 01/04/2020 - 09:55




Turkey's Parliament Authorizes Military To Deploy Troops In Libya

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Turkey's Parliament Authorizes Military To Deploy Troops In Libya

At a moment pro-Haftar Libyan forces have reportedly made advanced near Tripoli International Airport, Turkey's parliament has voted to approve Erdogan's next controversial foreign military adventure — sending troops to Libya to bolster the government under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj based in Tripoli. 

Turkish lawmakers approved the motion (325 to 184

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) at an emergency session on Thursday to grant a one-year mandate for troop deployment, despite the clearly ratcheting destabilization in the North African country which has been in essentially a state of anarchy since US-NATO regime change aimed at decades-long ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Illustrative file image via South Front. 

GNA prime minister Sarraj made the request of Erdogan's government last month, after the two leaders signed a maritime boundary and military cooperation deal that's been hotly contested by other regional countries like Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus.

Interestingly, among the key arguments that supporters of deeper Libya involvement advanced during Thursday's parliament vote is that national security would be weakened by continued fighting in Libya. “A Libya whose legal government is under threat can spread instability to Turkey,” ruling party legislator Ismet Yilmaz argued. “Those who shy away from taking steps on grounds that there is a risk will throw our children into a greater danger.”

Turkey's main opposition party, CHP, argued that it would unnecessarily embroil the country into a complicated conflict with no end in sight that would inevitably contribute to the further "shedding of Muslim blood." One option considered is to simply expand Turkish military training to GNA Libyan troops. 

It's as yet unclear just how many troops Erdogan has in mind, but likely it would be in the thousands to make a difference against advancing Haftar's army, who weeks ago declared the 'final' and 'decisive' offensive on Tripoli was on. 

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said to state-run media Turkey is prepared to send “the necessary number (of troops) whenever there is a need”; however, he also suggested there would be no need to the battlefield tide turns decisively in favor of the GNA. “If the other side adopts a different stance and says ‘OK, we are withdrawing, we are backing down,’ then why would we go?” Oktay said.

Turkish-backed FSA fighters from Syria have already been seen in Libya. Image via The National.

Already for years Ankara has poured military hardware into Tripoli hoping to assist the GNA in pushing pack the long advance across the country of Haftar's GNA. And there are widespread reports and some video evidence confirming Turkish-backed Syrian 'rebels' from FSA factions (TFSA) are on the ground fighting on behalf of Tripoli. 

Meanwhile, Gen. Haftar long ago issued an order to his forces to shoot down any unauthorized foreign aircraft, specifically targeting Turkish military aircraft and drones, which naturally raises the question: will Turkish escalation spiral out of control (akin to Syria) the moment Turkish units begin taking on casualties? 

As we observed last week, the whole bizarre Turkish intervention appears to be a "Syrian arms ratline in reverse" scenario, given that Erdogan's Turkey has for years overseen a Libya-to-Turkey-to-Syria arms "rat line" which saw both heavy weaponry and jihadists fighters transported for the purpose of toppling Assad. But now with Erdogan's eyes set on defeating the Benghazi-based Gen. Haftar, it appears this arms and jihadist rat line has conveniently been reversed.

Tyler Durden

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 12:11


War Conflict


Turkey's Gunboat Gambit In The Mediterranean

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Turkey's Gunboat Gambit In The Mediterranean

Authored by Burak Bekdil via The Gatestone Institute,

Turkey, since 2011, has been waging a pro-Sunni proxy war in Syria, in the hope of one day establishing in Damascus a pro-Turkey, Islamist regime. This ambition has failed, costing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey violent political turmoil on both sides of Turkey's 911-km border with Syria and billions of dollars sp

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ent on more than 4 million Syrian refugees scattered across the Turkish soil.

In Egypt, in 2011-2012, Erdoğan aggressively supported the failed Muslim Brotherhood government and deeply antagonized the incumbent -- then-general but now president -- Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Since Erdoğan's efforts in Syria and Egypt failed, his Sunni Islamist ambitions have found a new proxy-war theater: Libya.

On December 10, Erdoğan said he could deploy troops in Libya if the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli (which Turkey supports) requested it. Erdoğan's talks with GNA's head, Fayez al-Sarraj, who is fighting a war against the Libyan National Army (LNA) of General Khalifa Haftar, produced two ostensibly strategic agreements: a memorandum of understanding on providing the GNA with arms, military training and personnel; and a maritime agreement delineating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean waters.

Greece and Egypt protested immediately while the European Council unequivocally condemned the controversial accords. Meanwhile, the deals apparently escalated a proxy competition between Turkey's old (Greece) and new (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates) rivals.

With the al-Sarraj handshake, Erdoğan is apparently aiming to:

  • minimize Turkey's isolation in the Mediterranean, one which has gradually worsened since 2010, following one diplomatic crisis after another with Israel;

  • counter strategic cooperation between Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel, including joint diplomatic, energy and military initiatives;

  • cut into the emerging Cypriot-Greek-Egyptian-Israeli maritime bloc;

  • push back against Arab (Egyptian and UAE) pressure on al-Sarraj;

  • fill the European vacuum in Libya; and

  • emerge as a deal-breaker in the Mediterranean rather than a deal-maker.

All that ambition requires military hardware as well as diplomatic software. Since 2011, a year after the Mavi Marmara incident ruptured relations with Israel, Turkey has been investing billions of dollars in naval technologies, in an apparent effort to build up the hardware it would one day require.

In the eight years since then, Turkey has built four Ada-class corvettes; two Landing Ship Tank (LST) vessels; eight fast Landing Craft Tank (LCT) vessels; 16 military patrol ships; two deep-sea rescue ships; one submarine rescue ship; and four assault boats.

The jewel in the naval treasury box is a $1 billion Landing Platform Dock (LPD), now being built under license from Spain's Navantia shipyards, to be operational in 2021. The TCG Anadolu, Turkey's first amphibious assault ship, will carry a battalion-sized unit of 1,200 troops and personnel, eight utility helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles; it also will transport 150 vehicles, including battle tanks. It also may be able to deploy short takeoff and vertical landing STOVL F-35 fighter jets. Turkey will be the third operator in the world of this ship type, after Spain and Australia.

Erdoğan's naval ambitions, however, are not limited just to an emerging fleet of conventional vessels. In 2016, he said that the LPD program would hopefully be the first step toward producing a "most elite" aircraft carrier. He also said he "sees it as a major deficiency that we still do not have a nuclear vessel."

On December 22, Turkey's first Type 214 class submarine, the TCG Piri Reis, hit the seas with a ceremony attended by Erdoğan. "Today," he said, "we gathered here for the docking of Piri Reis. As of 2020, a submarine will go into service each year. By 2027, all six of our submarines will be at our seas for service."

Unsurprisingly the docking ceremony reminded Erdoğan of his Libyan gambit: "We will evaluate every opportunity in land, sea and air. If needed, we will increase military support in Libya."

Erdoğan seems to think that his best defense in the Mediterranean power game is an offense. On December 15, Turkish Naval Forces intercepted an Israeli research ship, the Bat Galim, in Cypriot waters and escorted it away, as tension over natural resource exploration continued to rise in the region.

On December 16, Turkey dispatched a surveillance and reconnaissance drone to the Turkish-controlled north of the divided island of Cyprus. A week before the drone deployment, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Ankara could use its military forces to halt gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own.

Libya is another risky proxy war theater for Turkey. Its deals with the al-Sarraj government over troop deployment and maritime borders will become null and void if the Libyan civil war, begun in 2014, ends with Gen. Haftar's victory. The chief of staff of the LNA, Farag Al-Mahdawi, announced that his forces would sink any Turkish ship approaching the Libyan coast. "I have an order; as soon as the Turkish research vessels arrive, I will have a solution. I will sink them myself," Al-Mahdawi warned, noting that the order was coming from Haftar. On December 21, Haftar's forces seized a Grenada-flagged ship with Turkish crew aboard, on the suspicion that it was carrying arms. The ship was later released.

The European Union is another factor why Erdoğan, once again, is probably betting on the wrong horse. Technically speaking, Turkey is a candidate for full EU membership, but it is an open secret that accession talks have not moved an inch during the past several years, and with no prospects of progress in sight. Making membership prospects even gloomier, EU foreign ministers in November agreed on economic sanctions for Ankara for violating Cyprus' maritime economic zone by drilling off the island.

The Mediterranean chess game leaves Turkey in alliance with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet and one of the warring factions in Libya, versus a strategic grouping of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt (and the UAE), Israel, and the other warring Libyan group.

One emerging power in Libya, however, is not a Western state actor. After controlling Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and establishing permanent military bases inside and off the coast of the country, Russia has the potential to step into the Libyan theater with a bigger proxy and direct force, to establish its second permanent Mediterranean military presence. As in Syria, where divergent interests did not stop Turkey from becoming a remote-controlled Russian player, Moscow can once again make use of the Turkish card to undermine Western interests in Libya.

Also as in Syria, Turkey's Islamist agenda will probably fail in Libya, but by the time Erdoğan understands that, it might be too late to get out of Moscow's orbit.

Tyler Durden

Tue, 12/31/2019 - 02:00




Massive Leak Confirms Turkey's "Gold-For-Gas" Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran

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Massive Leak Confirms Turkey's "Gold-For-Gas" Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran



We first started noticing major 'odd' exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012.  Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. 






“Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are s

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earching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.”


Turkey's Other Weapon Against The Kurds: Water

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Turkey's Other Weapon Against The Kurds: Water

Authored by Alexander Marvar via TheNation.com,

Since the early 2000s, a massive hydropower project in southeastern Turkey has been mired in controversy, moving forward in fits and starts. But as of this past July, construction is finally complete. As the dam and its reservoir become fully operational, the line between hydropower and state power will be washed away. This fa

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ll, the violence that followed a sudden, destabilizing withdrawal of US troops from nearby northern Syria captured the world’s attention as it cleared the path for Turkey’s military to dominate the Kurdish opposition.

Meanwhile, the water slowly rising behind the 442-foot-high, more-than-a-mile-wide wall of the Ilisu Dam across the Tigris River is a less overt sign of that same determination.

“This dam is a weapon against the lowlands,” said Ulrich Eichelmann, a German ecologist and conservationist and head of the Austrian NGO RiverWatch, over the phone from Vienna.

“It was planned and is now being built in a way they can hold back the whole Tigris for a long time. If you see water as a weapon, dams are the new cannons. Iraq has the oil, Turkey has the water, and sometimes, it’s much better to have the water.

Map of Turkey with the Ilisu Dam. (Numerus Klausus, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, two of the three longest rivers in the Middle East after the Nile, both originate in Turkey. The Euphrates flows across Turkey, south through the heart of Syria, and into Iraq. Now, both of these storied, sacred, ancient rivers are drying up, and the  (once) Fertile Crescent is giving way to arid, cracked ground.

To some extent, the culprit is climate change. More immediately, the fate and exploitation of these rivers lies with Turkey’s hydropower development and the 41-component project of which the Ilisu Dam is just one part: Dams on the Euphrates have reduced water flow into Syria by an estimated 40 percent in the past 40 years and into Iraq by nearly twice that. With the damming of the Tigris, the last lifeline to this region will also be in Turkey’s grip.

Downriver, the effects will be water shortage. The Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq may turn to desert. This region, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was drained during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980 and again by Saddam Hussein in a tactical maneuver to expose his enemies. After Hussein’s ouster, the dikes he had built were torn down in celebration, and the parts of the marshland ecosystem began to return to its previous, verdant state. With the Ilisu’s restricted water flow will come not only ecological repercussions but also a tactical advantage for enemies of the region’s inhabitants.

Upriver, the problem will be not too little water but an inundation. As with the creation of any major reservoir, bird and fish habitats will be wiped out and the regional climate will be altered. Ecosystems, residential areas, and archaeological sites will be submerged.

For the past few years, though, one loss has loomed particularly large: the 12,000-year-old settlement of Hasankeyf, a Kurdish heritage site with untold archaeological value, soon to be inundated by Ilisu’s artificial lake.

In the context of Turkey’s history of imperialism against the Kurds, the impact of this dam-building spree extends well beyond Kurdish Turkey to the entirety of Syria and Iraq. From there, the geopolitical repercussions ripple outward. More than progress, Ilisu is a play for power and domination.

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire broke into pieces. One became independently ruled Turkey; others were divided among Western superpowers, who made a provision to the Kurds—indigenous peoples of the stretch of Mesopotamia that stretches across parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Armenia—for an independent Kurdistan.

But when the boundaries of modern-day Turkey were drawn shortly thereafter in 1923, that provision was left out. The Kurds, now the minority in every country they inhabit, have been fighting for their homeland ever since. Violent friction between Kurdish separatist groups and Turkey over this question is ongoing.

As early as the 1930s, the new Turkish nation under founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk began to explore how its rivers and the Euphrates in particular could be harnessed for power generation. A proposal for the eventual Southern Anatolia Project—Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP—was floated as early as the 1960s. Today, GAP consists of 22 dams—including Ilisu and, on the Euphrates, Atatürk—and the hydroelectric infrastructure to support them.

Turkey put the first of GAP’s dams on the Euphrates into use in 1974, gaining new control over the water supply to Kurdish, Syrian, and Iraqi neighbors downriver. That same year, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK, the militant separatist organization that tends to frame most discussion about contemporary Kurdish-Turkish relations) was founded.

In step with the Keban Dam, Syria opened its own dam on the Euphrates, the Tehba, for which planning had been underway in partnership with the Soviet Union since the late 1950s. The combined effect of Turkey’s and Syria’s two dams on the Euphrates sent Iraq into a devastating drought, bringing Iraq and Syria to the brink of war.

After successfully pitting its neighbors against each other, Turkey entered into an interim water protocol accord with Iraq in 1984 and one with Syria in 1987, early in the PKK’s full-scale insurgency. In the Syrian agreement, Turkey guaranteed a set minimum annual flow from the Euphrates basin into Syria. Further down the page, Syria vowed to end PKK activities on Syrian soil: a vivid quid pro quo.

In the early 1990s, the Turkish government completed the Atatürk Dam—the fourth-largest dam in the world—causing the forced resettlement of upwards of 50,000 people in a predominantly Kurdish region. It demolished the ancient city of Samosata, an ancient Hellenistic and then Roman capital and birthplace of ancient Greek poet Lucian, as well as Nevalı Çori, a Neolithic settlement where, in the little time they had, archaeologists discovered some of the world’s oldest known temples and monuments. In filling the Atatürk reservoir, Turkey cut off the majority of the Euphrates’s flow into Syria and Iraq for weeks, crippling agriculture. In virtually the same moment, then-President Turgut Özal asked Syria and Iraq to help combat the PKK.

In the decades that followed, Kurdish-Turkish relations continued to deteriorate; democracy under President Erdoğan continued to backslide; and Turkey’s grip on its neighbors’ fate through control of water only tightened, bringing drought to once-fertile Syrian and Iraqi farmlands, drying up entire villages, and forcing people to relocation to cities.

In 2009, Turkey responded to an election victory for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) with hundreds of arrests and detainments of DTP members. That same year, Syria was in the midst of a five-year drought and desperate for Turkey to relinquish more water resources.

Syria was of no great use in tempering opposition from the PKK, and—possibly in response—Turkey refused to come to Syria’s aid in the water crisis. The mounting unrest that followed ultimately created the political and social volatility that led to Syria’s 2010 Arab Spring. In 2018, The New York Times reported that the Euphrates, surrounded by parched land and depopulated villages, serves as a barrier between American-backed Kurdish-led militias and Turkish-backed rebels. It was this area that fell into chaos with Trump’s October withdrawal of American troops.

An ancient cemetery in Hasankeyf as pictured in 2008. Today, the graves are being excavated one at a time and moved to plots in a new cemetery at New Hasankeyf. (Alexandra Marvar)

The Turkish government has stood by the Ilisu project as a means of development and progress in Southern Anatolia. The Turks argue that since the $2 billion dam will generate a projected 2 percent of the national energy budget—enough electricity to power well over a million homes—the displacement of 80,000 people over 125 square miles doesn’t seem significant enough to alter a plan that has been decades in the works. It also claims the project will aid a transition to carbon-neutral power (if one disregards the carbon footprint of constructing a mile-long wall of rock and steel over the course of decades), is rife with new opportunities from irrigation to tourism, and that regulation of water flow into drought-plagued Syria and Iraq could bring the benefit of year-round consistency.

But experts aren’t buying it. Ercan Ayboga is an environmental engineer and a spokesperson for Keep Hasankeyf Alive, a Kurdish-led NGO advocating for the preservation of Hasankeyf and other at-risk sites in the future Ilisu basin. Of course, the project will generate some electricity, he said over the phone from his home in Germany. At its core, though, he sees the dam as a tool to facilitate the assimilation of Kurdish people into Turkish society, forcing them into cities where their communities and culture will be more diffuse.

“Today, [Ilisu] is a tool to use against the Kurdish guerilla,” he says. “Tomorrow it could be used against something different—against any form of opposition.”

The loss of a priceless world heritage site at Hasankeyf was the argument on which the project might have been halted in its tracks. Continuously inhabited for more than 10 millennia by the Byzantines, Romans, Mongols, Ottomans, and, for centuries, the Kurds, these civilizations artifacts and architecture all layered upon each other—ancient cave dwellings, amphitheaters, aqueducts, mosques, minarets—Hasankeyf could easily have fulfilled the necessary five of 10 criteria to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some experts say, in fact, it meets nine of the 10. But the organization couldn’t intervene to stop the flood because, it said, Turkey never applied for the inclusion of the ancient city of Hasankeyf on the World Heritage List.

If Hasankeyf could not offer leverage to stop the Turkish government, the UNESCO-protected Mesopotamian Marshes, which experts say will wither and desertify as a result of Ilisu, may have offered another chance. But Iraq, beholden to Turkey by hydropolitics, was unwilling to advocate for the marshlands (and the Marsh Arabs to whom they are home)—it could mean retribution in the form of water deprivation via any of the number of existing dams on the Turkish-Iraqi border. And more dams on this border are already in the works.

Through the relocation and subsequent cultural assimilation resulting from this development, water policy has helped the Turkish government exercise direct control over the Kurds in Turkey, and by controlling water flow to Iraq and Syria, indirect control over a much larger part of the Kurdish nation.

According to data from 2016, 11 GAP dams are currently operational, and at least three are under construction. PKK separatists desperate to keep control of the water out of Turkey’s hands have bombed the construction sites of some of the new dams, prolonging the building phase, but development moves forward.

In Hasankeyf, a barricade blocks the entry of outsiders, and Ayboga reported that the process of relocating its residents—slated for completion earlier this month—has been slow, unclear, and disorganized, leaving hundreds with nowhere to go as the water approaches.

NGOs like Keep Hasankeyf Alive vow to continue their work to stop Ilisu. But now that halting construction through petition, plea, or compromise is no longer an option, the objective has shifted to somehow emptying the reservoir. Even if Hasankeyf as it was can’t be saved, for the Kurds to give up the fight against this move of Turkish imperialism—against Kurdish heritage, culture, community, agency, autonomy, and health—would be to admit a bludgeoning defeat. “This is not a project we can accept,” Ayboga said.

Meanwhile, Turkey continues to broaden its reach in the name of progress. The more control over water it has, the more power it has over its enemies.

Tyler Durden

Tue, 11/12/2019 - 02:00




Lira Tumbles After US Charges Turkey's Halkbank For Participating In Iran "Sanctions Evasion Scheme"

zerohedge News lira tumbles after charges turkeys halkbank participating iran sanctions evasion scheme All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
Lira Tumbles After US Charges Turkey's Halkbank For Participating In Iran "Sanctions Evasion Scheme"

One day after the US announced a menu of sanctions and tariffs on Turkey, the Turkish lira rallied as the US response to Erdogan's invasion of northern Syria was less dramatic than some expected. All that changed moments ago, when the Lira tumbled nearly 300 pips in seconds after the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York announced it charged T

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urkey's Halkbank, one of the country's largest banks, for its participation in a "mltibillion-dollar Iranian sanctions evasion scheme."

According to the statement released just after 4pm ET, Halkbank, Turkey's 7th largest bank, was charged in a six-count Indictment with fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s participation in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.  The case is assigned to United States District Judge Richard M. Berman.

In other words, yesterday's initial sanctions levied on Turkey were just the beginning. Sure enough, moments after the announcement, Senator Lindsay Graham said he will introduce a bill on Thursday sanctioning Turkey for its Syria incursion.

Meanwhile, at roughly the same time, Erdogan made it clear he was seeking to arb his foreign policy options, with Anadolu reporting that Erdogan just held a phone call with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

In immediate response to these latest developments, the Turkish lira tumbled to session lows just below 5.92.

Below we excerpt from the full press release charging Halkbank:

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:  “The facts that emerged at the full, fair, and public trial of Halkbank’s deputy general manager, which culminated in a jury’s January 2018 guilty verdict against him, illustrated senior Halkbank management’s participation in this brazen scheme to circumvent our nation’s Iran sanctions regime.  As alleged in today’s indictment, Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials.  The bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme.  Halkbank will now have to answer for its conduct in an American court.” 

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said:  “Halkbank, a Turkish state-owned bank, allegedly conspired to undermine the United States Iran sanctions regime by illegally giving Iran access to billions of dollars’ worth of funds, all while deceiving U.S. regulators about the scheme.  This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen, and no business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “As we allege today, Halkbank, a Turkish financial institution whose majority shareholder is the government of Turkey, willfully engaged in deceptive activities designed to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.  Halkbank illegally facilitated the illicit transfer of billions of dollars to benefit Iran, and for far too long the bank and its leaders willfully deceived the United States to shield their actions from scrutiny.  That deception ends today.  The FBI will aggressively pursue those who intentionally violate U.S. sanctions laws and attempt to undercut our national security.”  

According to the allegations in the Indictment, returned today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

From approximately 2012, up to and including approximately 2016, TÜRKİYE HALK BANKASI A.S. (“Halkbank”) was a foreign financial institution organized under the laws of and headquartered in Turkey.  The majority of Halkbank’s shares are owned by the Government of Turkey.  Halkbank and its officers, agents, and co-conspirators directly and indirectly used money service businesses and front companies in Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere to violate and to evade and avoid prohibitions against Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system, restrictions on the use of proceeds of Iranian oil and gas sales, and restrictions on the supply of gold to the Government of Iran and to Iranian entities and persons.  Halkbank knowingly facilitated the scheme, participated in the design of fraudulent transactions intended to deceive U.S. regulators and foreign banks, and lied to U.S. regulators about Halkbank’s involvement.

High-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey participated in and protected this scheme.  Some officials received bribes worth tens of millions of dollars paid from the proceeds of the scheme so that they would promote the scheme, protect the participants, and help to shield the scheme from the scrutiny of U.S. regulators.

The proceeds of Iran’s sale of oil and gas to Turkey’s national oil company and gas company, among others, were deposited at Halkbank, in accounts in the names of the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company (“NIOC”), and the National Iranian Gas Company.  During the relevant time period, Halkbank was the sole repository of proceeds from the sale of Iranian oil by NIOC to Turkey.  Because of U.S. sanctions against Iran and the anti-money laundering policies of U.S. banks, it was difficult for Iran to access these funds in order to transfer them back to Iran or to use them for international financial transfers for the benefit of Iranian government agencies and banks.  As of in or about 2012, billions of dollars’ worth of funds had accumulated in NIOC and the Central Bank of Iran’s accounts at Halkbank.

Halkbank participated in several types of illicit transactions for the benefit of Iran that, if discovered, would have exposed the bank to sanctions under U.S. law, including (i) allowing the proceeds of sales of Iranian oil and gas deposited at Halkbank to be used to buy gold for the benefit of the Government of Iran; (ii) allowing the proceeds of sales of Iranian oil and gas deposited at Halkbank to be used to buy gold that was not exported to Iran, in violation of the so-called “bilateral trade” rule; and (iii) facilitating transactions fraudulently designed to appear to be purchases of food and medicine by Iranian customers, in order to appear to fall within the so-called “humanitarian exception” to certain sanctions against the Government of Iran, when in fact no purchases of food or medicine actually occurred.  Through these methods, Halkbank illicitly transferred approximately $20 billion worth of otherwise restricted Iranian funds.

Senior Halkbank officers, acting within the scope of their employment and for the benefit of Halkbank, concealed the true nature of these transactions from officials with the U.S. Department of the Treasury so that Halkbank could supply billions of dollars’ worth of services to the Government of Iran without risking being sanctioned by the United States and losing its ability to hold correspondent accounts with U.S. financial institutions.

The purpose and effect of the scheme in which Halkbank participated was to create a pool of Iranian oil funds in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates held in the names of front companies, which concealed the funds’ Iranian nexus.  From there, the funds were used to make international payments on behalf of the Government of Iran and Iranian banks, including transfers in U.S. dollars that passed through the U.S. financial system in violation of U.S. sanctions laws.

*                *                *

Halkbank is charged with (1) conspiracy to defraud the United States, (2) conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), (3) bank fraud, (4) conspiracy to commit bank fraud, (5) money laundering, and (6) conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The Office has previously charged nine individual defendants, including bank employees, the former Turkish Minister of the Economy, and other participants in the scheme.   See S4 15 Cr. 867 (RMB).  On October 26, 2017, Reza Zarrab pled guilty to the seven counts with which he was charged.  On January 3, 2018, a jury convicted former Halkbank deputy general manager Memet Hakkan Atilla of five of the six counts with which he was charged, following a five-week jury trial.   The remaining individual defendants are fugitives. 

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and its New York Field Office, Counterintelligence Division, and the Department of Justice, National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit and Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Lockard, Sidhardha Kamaraju, David W. Denton Jr., Jonathan Rebold, and Kiersten Fletcher are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Tyler Durden

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 16:57


Law Crime


Turkey's Erdogan Vows To "Significantly" Cut Rates As Trump Set To Roll Out Sanctions Over S-400 Purchase

zerohedge News turkeys erdogan vows significantly rates trump roll sanctions over s-400 purchase All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share

Lately not a week passes without some dismal news involving Turkey hitting the tape, and yet the lira continues to levitate, blissfully ignorant of the storm clouds headed for Ankara, levitating on hopes the Fed will cut rates and sprinkle golden showers on emerging markets. However, in light of the two latest developments, the Mrs Watanabe sellers of USDTRY may finally pay attention.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who last weekend fired the head of the central bank for not cutting rates fast enough, and who has now become the de facto head of

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the CBRT - promised "significantly lower interest rates by the end of the year", Bloomberg reported.

“We aim to reduce inflation to one digit by the end of this year,” Erdogan told journalists in Istanbul, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. “As we achieve this, we will achieve our year-end interest rate target as well." Of course, should interest rates drop to one digit, the USDTRY will promptly collapse to two, as the rate differential between the lira and the dollar collapses, removing the main incentive to go long the lira at a time when the Turkish economy remains in crisis.

Having founded the economic school of Erdoganomics, according to which inflation can be achieved only by lowering rates, the Turkish president and his US counterpart have quickly become kindered spirits when it comes to monetary policy. And just as Trump heaps pressure and insults on Fed Chair Powell, Erdogan has frequently accused the central bank of keeping borrowing costs too high. Last month, he complained that while the Fed was moving toward a rate cut, Turkey’s policy rate of 24% “is unacceptable.”

Then, the last trace of any pretense that Turkey under Erdogan will forever be a banana republic came on July 6, when Erdogan unexpectedly dismissed the former central bank head, Murat Cetinkaya and made it clear that he expects his replacement as central bank governor to follow the government’s line on monetary policy. Cetinkaya had held rates steady for more than nine months.

Meanwhile, even as Trump and Erdo may be BFFs when it comes to firing head of central banks, the US president and his advisors have reportedly settled on a sanctions package to punish Turkey for receiving parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system and plans to announce it in the coming days, Bloomberg wrote in a separate report.

News of the imminent sanctions was somewhat unexpectedly considering that when Trump and Erdogan met at the G-20 summit in Japan in June, the U.S. president suggested possible leniency on sanctions. He sought to blame the Obama administration for Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian equipment, saying the impasse is “not really Erdogan’s fault.”

According to Bloomberg, the administration "chose one of three sets of actions devised to inflict varying degrees of pain under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the people said, without identifying which set had been chosen. The plan needs Trump’s approval."

Russian Il-76, carrying the first batch of equipment of S-400 missile defense system, arrives at Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey on July 12, 2019.

Trump is said to unveil the sanctions late next week, and - in an unexpected act of courtesy to Ankara - intends to wait until after Monday’s anniversary of a 2016 coup attempt against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to avoid fueling further speculation that the U.S. was responsible for the uprising. And while we don't know the details of the prepared sanctions, we know the following:

The plan was developed after days of discussions between officials at the State and Defense departments and the National Security Council. It awaits a sign-off by Trump and his top advisers, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

While not nearly as bad as that with other non-Saudi middle-eastern nations, the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey has deteriorated over the course of the civil war in Syria, where U.S. backing for Kurdish militants frustrated Turkey, which considers the group an extension of the separatists it’s fighting at home. Erdogan has also criticized the US for not extraditing Gulen, whom he accuses of masterminding the fake attempted "coup" the served as the launchpad for Erdogan's transformation to an "executive president" last year, read quasi dictator.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday that Washington’s position that Turkey can’t have both the F-35 and the Russian missile system “has not changed.” Esper spoke with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in the afternoon, and the Turkish government said in a statement that a U.S. delegation would visit next week to keep discussing the issue.

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