22 April 2017

Is This the Beginning of the End for Erdogan?

The results of last week's referendum in Turkey were rather unexpected.

While some polls predicted the 51-49 split, most of them and almost all of the pundits thought that the gap would be much larger, something like 60-40.

This anticipation is understandable since the referendum took place under extraordinary and extraordinarily unfair circumstances. To begin with, emergency rules were (and still are) in effect.

Secondly, co-leaders and many of the MPs of the pro-Kurdish HDP were in jail, therefore unable to campaign.

Ironically, one of the opposition parties (MHP) campaigned for a Yes vote even though the party's base was overwhelmingly against the changes. The sole voice for No (CHP) was blocked from appearing on TV or other media outlets.

Moreover, clerics declared Yes a religious duty.

Erdogan, the supposedly neutral head of state, campaigned relentlessly and equated a No vote with terrorism and moral deficiency.

And most importantly, he maintained throughout that, unless he was given these new powers, the country would be lost as there were too many looming crises.

Make me the leader of all three branches of government and you will be saved, he intoned.

Well, now he has got those powers and he will have to face these crises.

Let me make a bold prediction, no one, especially not Erdogan can fix what is broken in Turkey. And with him at the helm, the task is nothing less than Herculean.

This is not because the problems in question are insurmountable. It is because Erdogan damaged all the state institution that can tackle them. The only thing left standing is him and his sycophantic advisers. And they are not up to the challenged. Not by a country mile.

This does not mean that he will leave anytime soon. Quite the contrary he will cling to power like never before. And he will double down on his victim-bully strategy. But sooner or later, serious economic crises and the institutions he destroyed will make crisis management impossible and will lead to his demise.

And maybe that of the country.

Dysfunctional Economy

Turkey's sovereign debt is cut to junk status by Moody's last Autumn, making borrowing prohibitively expensive and foreign direct investment a thing of the past.

Last year Turkish Lira lost over 20 percent of its value.  Indicating deeper structural issues, the Lira's loss of value was not accompanied with a rise of exports:
Turkey's trade deficit increased to USD 3.69 billion in February of 2017, compared to a USD 3.21 billion gap a year earlier. Exports fell 1.9 percent, dragged down by manufacturing while imports rose 1.6 percent, boosted by mining and quarrying.
Unemployment has reached 13 percent and if you add people who have given up looking for a job in the last four weeks that figure goes up to 19.6 percent. Youth unemployment hovers around 25 percent.

Inflation has risen to double-digit levels (11.29% in March 2017), the highest since 2008.

New investments have stalled since the comical coup attempt last July.

Tourism sector, which accounts for 13 percent of GDP, imploded after the Russian jet downing debacle and with Erdogan's recent name calling of Europeans, the number of incoming tourists is expected to decrease further.

Current account deficit is likely to reach a historic high this year:
In the first two months of 2017, the current account deficit widened to USD 5.29 billion from USD 4.17 billion in the same period of 2016. 
Against this dismal picture, you have Erdogan calling Turkey's biggest trading partner, the European Union, Nazis and fascists and threatening to re-introduce the death penalty to ensure the cancellation of Turkey's membership bid.

This is nothing short of economic suicide since the new constitutional system (along with the death penalty) might also lead to the expulsion of Turkey from the Customs Union (CU).

CU is not just about EU regulations governing production and trade, it also requires general compliance with EU rules and principles. Indeed, this one was one of the prerequisites of the 1995 Agreement: it was signed only after Turkey passed a series of reforms of the criminal justice system and scrapped undemocratic laws.

No one knows how a country can be ejected from CU or you might dispute whether the EU has the political will to do so; but with Erdogan upping the ante, European politicians might turn Turkey's expulsion into a winning electoral platform.

If that happens, I expect a colossal economic collapse.

What is perhaps worse than the looming economic catastrophe, after years of frontal assault by Erdogan, there are no properly functioning state institutions.

Crumbling Institutions

From the get go, Erdogan was so worried that the secular bureaucracy and army might block his Islamist Sultan aspirations that he appointed his ally Fethullah Gulen's highly educated Islamist cadres to the top echelons of state apparatus.

This was largely because Erdogan's followers, like himself, are mostly graduates of vocational religious schools (Imam Hatip schools) with little or no managerial skills. Or skills of any kind other than delivering Friday prayer sermons.

The process started out with the judiciary and the police as the first targets. At some point, many of the prominent prosecutors and judges belonged to Gulen's Islamist Calvinist movement, Hizmet (Service).

As part of the mission given to them by Erdogan, they launched the first purge of the military, the infamous Ergenekon and Sledgehammer prosecutions, indicating in the process that they would cynically manipulate the law whenever they could.

AKP base was happy and supportive, since they were on the winning side. The opposition was bewildered and in disarray as they have never seen the Turkish military so vulnerable. But most importantly, the erosion of trust in the judiciary was near universal.

Gulenists also took over key economic management posts and strategic positions in the bureaucracy. For instance, the main architect of AKP's economic miracle, Ali Babacan, was almost certainly a Gulen sympathizer.

Through Abdullah Gul's efforts, another likely Gulenist, one of the strongest state institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saw most of its senior diplomats gradually removed from key positions and its corporate memory disappear.

After Abdullah Gul, successive ministers continued to purge secular diplomats and to promote Gulenists. Since it takes time to move someone up in foreign service, for a while, important capitals remained in the hands of experienced diplomats but they were now getting their instructions from Gulenists in Ankara.

As a movement that emphasizes education, Gulen supporters also established a strong presence in many academic institutions.

In the second part of 2013 Erdogan and Gulenists became rivals and eventually enemies. Since Gulen supporters controlled the police and the judiciary, they assumed that they could easily topple Erdogan.

On 17 December they leaked several audio tapes in which Erdogan was giving orders to his son Bilal to get rid of tens of millions of euros stashed in his residences. They were also pre-dawn raids to the houses of AKP ministers which uncovered millions of dollars in shoeboxes and many very expensive luxury items.

Erdogan did the unexpected: he launched a massive attack on Gulenists and ordered their dismissal from state institutions. Instead of denying or acknowledging the massive corruption hinted at in those tapes, he declared himself the victim of a huge conspiracy. His followers ate it up and Gulen lost his bid to overthrow Erdogan.

From that point onwards, it was open field for all state institutions, In successive waves, the last of which began after the botched coup attempt, Erdogan removed many qualified personnel from state bureaucracies and academic institutions.

When you look at the whole process a clearer picture of the devastation emerges. The first purge replaced secular bureaucrats with Gulenists destroying institutional traditions and corporate memory. The second replaced Gulenists with highly unqualified and unskilled Erdogan supporters hampering the proper functioning of these institutions.

The Central Bank provides the best illustration.

When Erdogan came to power, there was already a Governor in place, so he appointed a Gulenist, Erdem Basci, as Deputy Governor (2003). In 2011, Basci became Governor. As he was a reasonably competent economist, he became a target for Erdogan after 2013 and in 2016, he was replaced with Murat Cetinkaya.

Cetinkaya holds a B.A in International Relations, has no macro-economic qualifications but he is the perfect candidate as he has some background in Islamic finance and he is a disciple of Erdoganomics which maintains that high interest rates are responsible for high inflation.

By all accounts, he is useless. And he has a critical role in steering the economy.

In any event, the worst affected institution by this systematic cleansing was the military. As I recently pointed out, the once formidable Turkish army is now incapable of accomplishing basic tasks after it lost half of its senior officers and a good chunk of its pilots and non-commissioned officers (NCO).

In short, thanks to Erdogan and his personal survival struggle, Turkey is facing a whole host of serious problems without being able to count on its highly damaged state institutions.

Besides its economic woes, Turkey has to deal with a long standing Kurdish insurgency, an increasingly risky Syrian involvement, a volatile region in which Sunni-Shia rivalry might engulf the country and countless geopolitical issues involving Russia, the US and EU.

The problem solver and crisis manager in all of this, is a graduate of Imam Hatip high school with a fake university diploma and an army of advisers who are mostly temperament fluffers, to use Graydon Carter's apt expression.

How likely is that they will prevail?

And how likely is that they will take the country down with them?

Time will tell. But I am not optimistic.

26 March 2017

Intelligence Agencies Are Gunning for Trump

Have you noticed how damaging stuff about Trump's connection to Russia comes out slowly but regularly?

It is a constant drip, drip, drip motion.

It is as if someone is trying to build a critical mass after which even the most ardent Trump supporters will be convinced of his guilt.

I have an idea who that someone might be. After the golden showers dossier, I suggested that The Donald should make nice with the intelligence agencies as they had his number.

He didn't. And he continued his feud with them.

To paraphrase him, bad idea. Very bad.

The latest drop is former CIA Director James Woolsey claiming that Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with Turkish officials to discuss the kidnap and rendering of the reclusive cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Now this is bigly.

And it comes on the heels of fresh allegations that Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was paid large sums by, Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin oligarch to influence US policy:
Under his $10 million annual contract, Manafort pursued policies to “greatly benefit” Putin’s government, according to the AP report.
Moreover, Manafort did not file the proper forms to disclose this arrangement, which makes it a crime.

In fact, this is not the first incident that links ex-campaign manager to Russia. He had to resign from the campaign because New York times reported that secret payments were made to him for his undeclared work to support Ukraine's ousted pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovych.

Manafort's reluctance to file lobbying forms seems contagious among Trumpistas.

His former National Security Adviser also forgot to disclose his half a million dollar contract with the Turkish government, which ended three days before he was sworn in.

Also common is the staffers' selective memory when it comes to contacts with Russian officials.

Michael Flynn had to resign because he couldn't remember talking to the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Attorney General and all-around garden gnome Jeff Sessions was also victim of failed memory.

His contacts with Kislyak completely slipped his mind and forced him to commit perjury during his confirmation hearing.

Upping the ante was FBI Director James Comey's tight-lipped testimony to Congress.

After that, informed observers predicted that bad days were ahead for President Trump:
What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed. 
In case you've forgotten, Comey was the guy who threw the election to Trump.

The pattern is so clear that Foreign Policy recently ran an article entitled "Trump knows the Feds are closing in on him".

To me the clearest sign that the intelligence agencies are gunning for Trump is the unexpected Woolsey interview which I mentioned at the outset.
In a video interview, Mr Woolsey told the Wall Street Journal he was present at a discussion about removal methods beyond the legal extradition process. 
The meeting took place last September at a New York Hotel. 
Those present included Mr Flynn, then an adviser on national security to the Trump election campaign, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, according to the WSJ (paywall). 
Remember that this is coming from an ex-CIA Director who endorsed Trump last September and defended his cavalier attitude about national security briefings.

Why would he come out now and claim that he personally witnessed Trump campaign people planning criminal activities, like kidnapping and rendering an ageing cleric in cahoots with a foreign power?
[H]e told the WSJ: "There was serious discussion of finding some way to move Mr Gulen out of the US to Turkey. 
"You might call it brainstorming. But it was brainstorming about a very serious matter that would pretty clearly be a violation of law."
How do you like them apples?

Right after this, Foreign Policy ran an uncharacteristically short piece in which they put forth a theory.
Reading the headlines over the last couple of days, it seems to me that part of what is going on isn’t that the Trump camp communicated directly with WikiLeaks (though some may have), but rather than at some point last year, Russia’s Federal Security Service representatives had a bunch of e-mails and other stuff that they didn’t know what to do with, and someone in the Trump camp advised them to take it, directly or indirectly, to WikiLeaks.
Now, this is intriguing because this has never been discussed as a possibility before. If I were to venture a guess I'd say that some little bird whispered to Thomas E. Ricks, the author of the piece, that this is indeed what happened.

Notice how this new theory absolves Russian intelligence and incriminates Trump campaign?

On that basis, Ricks also made a very pointed prediction:
I think this Russia story is never going to go away. And because the Trumpistas are in extreme denial, it will continue to drip out. I would not be surprised by criminal charges down the road — perjury at first, perhaps tax fraud later.
If you ask me, the Orange Man is toast.

20 March 2017

What Will Happen in Turkey After the Referendum

My friends ask me about the upcoming referendum and its results as they wonder about the potential consequences of a Yes or a No vote.

I usually respond that the results do not matter much as Erdogan's playbook will be the same either way. They are almost always puzzled by my answer.

You see, Erdogan is a cunning and clever politician, which is why he survived at the top for 15 years and weathered coup threats, social upheavals, electoral setbacks and even a small civil war.

Such a man would not roll the dice and accept the verdict of a referendum. But unlike others who would make a Plan B under similar circumstances, Erdogan developed a long term Plan A which works either way.

Let me explain.

Take Over By Taking Out Rivals

Erdogan's goal has always been to abolish the current parliamentary system and establish a presidential system with no separation of powers.

A sultanate with a fig leaf of electoral legitimacy.

How do you achieve that?

Well, by neutralizing and eliminating any group, force, party or institution that has the potential to block such plans.

The first target was the media. Starting from 2008 he systematically placed major media outlets under state receivership to be sold to his cronies. Or he would simply confiscate them (placing them under trusteeships) and appoint one of his henchmen CEO.

Those he cannot grab, like the Dogan group or Cumhuriyet have been constantly threatened.

As a result:
According to Serdar Sement, an analyst with S Informatics Consultancy, a research company that issues annual reports on the state of Turkish media, 70% of the print media is now a government mouthpiece. “Erdogan’s control of the media has expanded steadily since 2008,” Sement told Al-Monitor.
According to Sement, 85% of Turkey’s news channels are currently under government control, again an all-time high.
When it comes to news agencies, Turkey has five national ones, the biggest of which — the Anatolia news agency — is a public institution run directly by the government. Among the private ones, the Ihlas news agency is pro-government, while Cihan was placed in trusteeship along with Zaman. Thus, government control in this sector has reached 60%.
As for the few remaining independent media outlets, they are too afraid to be critical of government: as of January 2017, 170 journalist and media workers are being detained on terrorism charges and another 21 were convicted. That places Turkey ahead of China as the biggest jailer of journalists.

Erdogan also made sure there was no effective opposition.

The two opposition parties, CHP and ultra nationalistic MHP have been so accommodating at critical juncture that many observer wonder whether they are being blackmailed. Since the former leader of CHP was caught on tape in flagrante delicto this would not be unprecedented.

The only party that challenged Erdogan's authority was the pro-Kurdish HDP.  Its co-leader Selahattin Demirtas was charismatic and outspoken. He was unimpressed with the Bully-Victim playbook. He could not be blackmailed as he was not corrupt . And he claimed to speak for the country's 20 million Kurds.

In fact, Erdogan's hatred for Demirtas stems from his promise: "we will not let you become the President."

He was dangerous and he proved it in June 2016 elections. Erdogan suffered his first ever electoral setback after Demirtas got HDP into parliament with 80 MPs.

So Erdogan proposed a constitutional amendments to lift legislative immunity and had it passed with the active support of MHP and CHP. Now both co-leaders of HDP and half of their MPs are in jail on bogus charges.

The next target was the army.

If the constitutional changes that are the subject of the current referendum were tabled last year this time and the country was facing so many economic and political problems, the army might have intervened.

So the army had to be neutralized. As I recently wrote, you organize a comical coup and, presto, you have licence to get rid of tens of thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers (COs and NCOs).

More importantly, by prosecuting privates, enlisted soldiers and NCOs who were simply obeying orders, Erdogan ensured that subordinates would no longer obey orders they find suspicious. The fact that this affect chain of command and esprit de corps negatively is not his concern.

Finally, Erdogan made sure that large companies would remain silent by changing government tender laws. He is now the sole authority who decides who gets what project and for how much. Any company he suspects of not liking him is excluded from government contracts and audited.

Others might see their assets seized without due process and sold to Erdogan cronies.
Some $10bn in assets was seized from businessmen accused of being loyal to Mr Gulen. For more than a decade, those same businessmen prospered when Mr Gulen and Mr Erdogan allied themselves against the secular elites, winning contracts from the government.

Now, with Mr Gulen and his followers declared terrorists, their businesses belong to the state, to be auctioned to bidders eager to proclaim their loyalty to Mr Erdogan. Galip Ozturk, owner of a bus company with a market capitalisation of about $100m, aims to bid for the assets of Koza Ipek, a conglomerate whose listed units once had a market cap of nearly $6bn. His biggest qualification: his desire to please Mr Erdogan and to do his will, he bragged to local media.
In short, there is no party or institution left to challenge him.

Despite all of this and his recent desperate attempt to create outside enemies, there is a chance that the referendum might fail.

What Will He Do After the Referendum?

What Erdogan will do regardless of the referendum results is to call fresh elections in the Fall.

Why would he do that, you might ask.

Well, to have a supermajority in parliament.

You see, he knows that MHP base is so disillusioned with their leader that they will sit this one out and MHP will not be able to get the 10 percent it needs to get into parliament.

HDP with its leaders in jail and Kurdish population in the southeast completely cowed after a ruthless and murderous military campaign will also fail to get over that threshold.

Turkey's peculiar proportional representation system dictates that the votes of these parties will benefit AKP disproportionately. And the resulting legislative body will be composed of AKP and CHP with a roughly 70-30 distribution.

If the referendum brings back a No result, that AKP supermajority will give him any constitutional amendment he likes without another referendum.

If the referendum brings back a Yes result, this is his chance to become the sole ruler with the legitimacy of a docile legislative body behind him. He might never get such a shot.

Either way, Plan A is for him to become the Dear Leader.

14 March 2017

Is There A Backlash Against Women Political Leaders?

I am curious to find out if this is an actual trend.

In the UN there was a campaign to get a woman elected secretary general for the first time in the organization's seven decade history.

There were several highly qualified and competent women.

The member states selected a man instead.

In the US, everyone expected a woman to finally occupy the position of the President of the United States.

The female candidate was very qualified and vetted. Politifacts ranked her as the second most honest politician in the US.

Her male rival was a racist, misogynist walking conflict of interest who was ranked as the least honest politician in the US.

And the voters chose him.

In Brazil, President Dilma Roussef was impeached unceremoniously for dubious crimes. She was accused of using a special maneuver to make the budget deficit look smaller.

That is it.

As she protested at the time all her male predecessors did the same thing and no one batted an eye.

Her successor is accused of getting millions of dollars but somehow no one cares.

In South Korea, another woman president was impeached. Again for dubious crimes.

Park Geun-hye was accused of being influenced by her best friend Choi Soon-sil.

It is alleged that Ms Choi approached some companies and used her friendship with Ms Park to persuade them to donate money to some charities.

Show me a male leader who did not do worse.

How about Steve Bannon and The Donald's strange relationship.

Choi might be an unpleasant character but what she did is routine in the US: look at people like Michael Flynn who get paid huge sums for influencing the president.

Notice also that Ms. Park is not accused of anything, just to have a friend who was into influence peddling. But that was enough to get rid of her. Because the subtext was that as a woman she was not strong enough and allowed herself to be manipulated.

There is also the former president of Argentina Cristina Fernandez Kirchner was indicted almost as soon as she left office.

Now Merkel seems vulnerable.

I wonder if it is the Zeitgeist.

Curiouser and curiouser, cried Alice.

12 March 2017

Turkey's Referendum and Why Erdogan Is Tilting At "Nazi" Windmills

Turkey's once bombastic and currently embattled president is in a fight for his political life.

As you might have heard, he wants to change the constitution in a way to ensure that he will be the Dear Leader and his past and future actions will never be questioned.

The list of proposed changes is too long but in a nutshell the new constitution abolishes the separation of powers and puts the president in charge of the legislative and judiciary branches, allows him to appoint everybody, including judges or rectors and deans and makes him unaccountable for anything he does.

In case you think I am being unfair this is how Venice Commission of the Council of Europe summarized it.
The Commission notes that by removing necessary checks and balances, the amendments would not follow the model of a democratic presidential system based on the separation of powers, and instead would risk degeneration into an authoritarian presidential system. 
Conclusions of the opinion include the following:

• letting the new President exercise executive power alone, with unsupervised authority to appoint and dismiss ministers, and to appoint and dismiss all high officials on the basis of criteria determined by him or her alone;
• allowing the President to be a member and even the leader of his or her political party, that would give him or her undue influence over the legislature;
• giving the President the power to dissolve parliament on any grounds whatsoever, which is fundamentally alien to democratic presidential systems
• further weakening the already inadequate system of judicial oversight of the executive.
• further weakening the independence of the judiciary.
To put it another way, what Erdogan is proposing is Viktor Orban and Jaroslaw Kaczynski's wet dream.

Erdogan first pushed the proposal through parliament in a short period of time (and in the process bulldozed minor technicalities like secret ballot). He also got opposition parties CHP and MHP to agree to lift legislative immunity for MPs so that he could incarcerate pro-Kurdish HDP's charismatic leader Selahattin Demirtas, eliminating the only politician who could oppose him effectively.

Since then he has been campaigning very hard to get AKP and MHP voters to his side.

The Yes platform is debated everywhere but the No position is not allowed to be presented. Rallies are cancelled, TV stations are warned about allowing proponents to make their point and Erdogan has been calling the No side every name imaginable including terrorist, traitors and coup plotters.

After all this hard work, he realized that according to many opinion polls a substantial portion of MHP and AKP supporters are planning to vote No.

Now we all know from recent failures like Brexit that polls could get it wrong. But Erdogan and his lieutenants must have solid data to show that this might not be the case this time. Otherwise, he would not become more strident everyday and he would not order a publication ban on poll resuts.

So he is now doing what he does best to get his voters back.

Bully - Victim Playbook

You see, Erdogan's past popularity is based on a simple strategy, something he learned from the GOP. I call it the bully-victim playbook.

This is what you do.

You aggressively confront your adversaries. In the process, you call them outrageous names and accuse them of horrible yet fictitious crimes.

Your expectation is that they would be so shocked and scandalized by your lies and name calling that they would respond aggressively.

When they do, you pretend to be horrified by their uncivil tone, their harsh response and you lament how they victimized you and your people.

And to complete the circle, you tell your supporters that the terrible response they gave to your initial accusations showed how right you were in the first place.

Done properly, it is foolproof as it is a tautological and circular playbook. You just need to be shameless in your accusations and be able to lie with impunity, the rest is almost automatic.

Incidentally, this is a blueprint elevated to an art form by the GOP. Attack, lie, accuse and when your opponent opens their mouth express outrage while clutching your pearls and reaching for smelling salts.

And Erdogan is probably the best implementer of this playbook in the world. (so much so that an English journalist is convinced that Trump is now imitating Erdogan).

That is probably because Erdogan expanded considerably the GOP playbook. For instance, he has changed his position on many issues without ever acknowledging the aboutface. He has refused, even after 15 years in power, to admit that some decisions might be erroneous. He has always maintained that all of Turkey's problems were caused by its internal and external enemies and they would all be solved by him controlling more levers of government.

If you think this sounds like Donald Trump, a man who once claimed that the US labor statistics were the biggest hoax in history, now showing them as his own achievement, you get what Erdogan has done for the Nixonland playbook and why this British journalist might be right in her characterization.

Erdogan was so good at this that he convinced his pious base that he was the only thing between those terrifyingly powerful secular forces and their impitoyable army which are deadset to overthrow him in order to make them give up their religious beliefs and practices.

He even succeeded is presenting the pitifully weak CHP, the main opposition party, as a very powerful and scary adversary.

So far so good.

New Enemies for the Perpetual Victim

But now, for the first time in Erdogan's political life this victimized finger pointing is not working.

This is primarily because since the ridiculous coup attempt he became so powerful that even his followers do not believe that he could be victimized by any institution or group in the country.

He bombed Kurds into submission killing 2000 of them and turning their cities into "empty moonscapes", according to UN.

He singlehandedly destroyed the mighty Turkish army in two successive purges, leaving it a shadow of its former self.

He got rid of hundreds of thousands of civil servants, police officers, judges, teachers, professors. He confiscated hundreds of large companies and threw their owners to jail. He closed many media outlets, schools and universities.

And all of this was done with a stroke of pen with absolutely no judicial recourse.

In short, he is just too powerful to play the victim card even for his usually uneducated and gullible followers.

This was fine while polls showed him ahead. But with No passing ahead he had to do something.

Hence the decision to start a fight with EU countries. With them the pearl clutching at home would work.

Erdogan is fully aware that European governments are worried about their populist movements and if he provoked them they would not be able to take it lying down, even if this was their preference. They are more or less obliged to respond aggressively.

Erdogan targeted two EU countries with conservative governments under attack from their right and facing imminent elections.

He first had a German journalist (of Turkish descent) who had been working in Turkey charged with terrorism and placed in custody. This earned him, as to be expected, loud condemnations from German media and political parties.

He then announced that he would travel to Germany and Holland, which have sizeable Turkish minorities, to campaign for a Yes vote.

He knew that both the Dutch PM Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel could not afford to have the image of Islamist crowds in Holland or Germany chanting for a foreign leader splashed on TV screens.

This would be the kind of thing that would push more people to vote for the peculiarly coiffed  Geert Wilders, aka the Dutch Donald Trump or Frauke Petry the leader of AfD.

Consequently, both governments arranged for local municipalities to withdraw previously given rally permits on the basis of security concerns.

Erdogan's response was this:
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany on Sunday of "fascist actions" reminiscent of Nazi times in a growing row over the cancellation of political rallies aimed at drumming up support for him among 1.5 million Turkish citizens in Germany.
Now, obviously Erdogan's goal was not to convince Merkel to re-issue rally permission. He knew that his name calling would make the German government and all others much more intransigent and get them to respond in kind.

When Germany's sharp rebuke came it became big news in Turkey with blanket coverage about those infidels dissing Turkey and its Islamist government. Any observer would tell you that this is a very acceptable narrative among Turks in general and AKP and MHP voters in particular.

He then asked his minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu to address a rally in Rotterdam. Understandably, the Rutte government facing general elections this Wednesday (15 March) asked him to postpone his rally until after elections.

Cavusoglu simply refused, again with the goal to get Rutte to react aggressively.

On that note, Rotterdam's Muslim mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb cancelled the rally permit on security grounds.

Yes a Dutch of Moroccan descent by the name of Ahmed Aboutaleb banned an Islamist rally in his city.

Erdogan reacted to this decision by calling Dutch people "Nazi remnants."

Then Cavusoglu announced that he would travel to the Netherlands anyway and if the government were to stop him he said "Turkey would retaliate with harsh economic and political sanctions."

And he hopped on a plane to go to Rotterdam.

The Dutch government responded by revoking Cavusoglu's landing rights and returning his plane.

While this was taking place in the air, Erdogan had his Minister of Family Fatma Betul Kaya Sayan try to enter Holland by car.

Border authorities wanted to get her to turn her around, she refused and proceeded to go to the rally arena. She was then detained and deported to Germany.

As you can guess, Erdogan and his entire cabinet are now howling bloody murder 24/7 and these incidents are given wall-to-wall coverage in the Turkish media, all with the same bully-victim meme.

Besides nationalism, the latter incident is being portrayed as a disrespectful and rough treatment of a defenseless woman to stroke the patriarchal macho sentiment prevalent in Turkey.

Germany and Holland are now called fascist, racist Nazi governments and Erdogan is threatening them with serious sanctions.

If you ask my opinion, this wholly fabricated row will give Erdogan what he was looking for: a surge in Yes votes.

And this was why he is tilting at "Nazi" windmills.

11 March 2017

Trump Adviser Was A Foreign Agent for Turkey

I don't know if you remember the brouhaha during the election campaign about foreign governments making donations to the Clinton foundation. 

On an almost daily basis The Orange Man and his surrogates claimed that the deals were shady and Clinton was corrupt and crooked and needed to be thrown to jail.

In fact, retired general and future National Security Adviser was a fierce advocate of "locking her up"  stance and he went much further than the other Trumpkins.
“Lock her up! Yes, that’s right, lock her up!” Flynn shouted, his visage amplified to colossus dimensions by the huge video screen behind the podium at the Republican National Convention, where he was calling for the imprisonment of his former colleague, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Before millions of television viewers, Flynn led the chants of a raucous crowd during his speech endorsing Donald Trump. “Lock her up! Lock her up! Damn right! Exactly right!” Flynn encouraged the chanting crowd. “There is nothing wrong with that!”
It turns out, while encouraging the lynching of Hillary Clinton for allegedly peddling influence for money, General Flynn himself was doing exactly that.

And he was doing it for the Turkish president.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in February after lying about his contacts with the Russian government, has formally registered with the Justice Department as a “foreign agent” and admitted that he had lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government as recently as November 2016.
He was paid $530,000 between 9 September and 15 November 2016.

Why would anyone pay half a million dollars for two months of lobbying? Tellingly, the contract ended just three days before he was appointed National Security Adviser.

In that capacity, Flynn penned an op-ed in the Hill, in which he defended all the suppressive and authoritarian measures introduced by Erdogan.

He also sided with Erdogan about the role Fethulllah Gulen allegedly played in organizing the botched coup on 15 July 2016:
In the op-ed, Flynn pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that G├╝len and his movement were “a dangerous sleeper terror network” and criticized the Obama administration for being “hoodwinked by this masked source of terror and instability nestled comfortably in our own backyard in Pennsylvania.”

“From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden,” Flynn wrote.
That's how Michael "Lock her up" Flynn earned his money.

Moreover, as the contract was offered by a Dutch firm owned by a Turkish citizen with close ties to Erdogan, he lied about it initially and denied that it had anything to do with Turkey.

But recently his counsel had to file new documents with the Justice Department in which he gridgingly acknowledges that the work done “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey”

It is much more explicit than that.

According to Politico, the focus of the contract was Fethullah Gulen and Flynn' task was to convince the public opinion and the next POTUS that Erdogan's claims were to be taken at face value.

To recap, Hillary Clinton was corrupt because she considered (and eventually rejected) a diplomatic passport request for a person who accompanied President Clinton to North Korea to liberate an American journalist.

And she should be locked up for this.

Retired General Michael Flynn, who supported the above motion, was paid half a million dollars for a two-months work to defend an autocratic leader who is destroying his country and representing that point of view before the new POTUS.

You can see how clear-cut this is.

Lock her up.



08 March 2017

Trump Gets 38 Trademarks in China: IOKIYAR

Donald Trump's brand is his name.


He cannot sign it over to his sons or to someone else. The man makes money by slapping his name on things. All the rest is bluster.

On his stated business, like real estate development or casinos where people walk in and hand you their money, he is not very good.

In fact, do you know how many times, Donald Trump, the savvy businessman, filed for bankruptcies?

He did it six times.

And he lied about it when "crooked Hillary" brought it up.

So now he applied for 38 trademarks in China while campaigning for the presidency.

According to the Government of Canada, in China, the recently streamlined process of approving trademark applications takes "approximately 18 months."

Today The Donald's trademark applications were approved.

It didn't even take six months.

Now, it is clear that China knows what it is doing.

And more power to them.

Now watch how Trump will soften his aggressive rhetoric towards China in the coming weeks.

Also watch how conservative pundits will argue that there is absolutely no conflict of interest here.


And, also too, "lock her up."