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Istanbul Mayor Poses Existential Threat to Erdogan
Spiegel online, June 28, 2019No matter where Ekrem Imamoglu goes these days, his fans await him: Women with headscarves who want to touch him, teenagers asking for a selfie. That’s the case in Istanbul, where Imamoglu was elected mayor last Sunday by an overwhelming margin, but it’s also true of conservative strongholds like the city of Trabzon on the Black Sea.Videos recorded in Trabzon shortly before Imamoglu’s election as mayor of Istanbul, show people celebrating him like a savior. They swing flags with this portrait, yelling: “President Ekrem!” His election song blasts from the speakers: “Her sey cok güzel olacak!” All will be good. The Imamoglu hype has swept across all of Turkey.Up until a few months ago, Imamoglu, 49 years old, was the largely unknown mayor of Beylikdüzü, a drab district on the edge of Istanbul. But now that he has beaten President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate twice at the ballot box, he has emerged as the great hope of proponents of democracy in Turkey.It all began on March 31, when he came in almost 14,000 votes ahead of the AKP candidate, Binali Yildirim, in the Istanbul mayoral election. Erdogan had the result annulled. When the vote was carried out a second time, Imamoglu increased his lead to more than 800,000 votes. Few politicians in Istanbul have ever achieved a better result.For Imamoglu, it’s more than local politics that are at stake now. Istanbul is the social, economic and cultural center of the country. “The person who governs Istanbul governs Turkey,” Erdogan once said. Now, many Turks see Imamoglu as their next president. From this point on, Erdogan will be fighting for his political survival.To have a chance of landing the country’s highest office, he will first have to prove himself in Istanbul’s City Hall. There are few jobs in Turkey that are tougher. At least 15 million people live in greater Istanbul. Tens of thousands more move to the connurbation each year, and the city’s administration is chronically overwhelmed. The city recently experienced conflicts between residents and migrants from Syria, and Turkey is mired in an economic crisis. Inflation is at 19 percent, and every fourth Turk under 25 is unemployed. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Istanbul’s Mayoral Election Puzzle
The Washington Times, June 25, 2019The Middle East rightly has a reputation for inscrutability, with seemingly illogical actions part of its routine business. The Saudi crown prince kidnapped Lebanon’s visiting prime minister, forced him to resign, only to watch him return to his position on return home. The Palestinian Authority angrily refused to attend a conference in Bahrain where it could gain up to $27 billion. And then there’s the Istanbul mayoral election re-run that took place Sunday.The original election took place in March when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s candidate lost by a microscopic 0.16 percent. Discontented with this outcome, Mr. Erdogan did what a dictator naturally does and ordered it nullified on the basis of a minor technicality, with a redo to follow. One would imagine he also told his minions to get it right the second time and ensure that his candidate won by a substantial margin. Instead, his candidate lost by a whopping 9.22 percent, almost 60 times’ larger margin than his loss the first time.This drama prompts two questions.First, why did Mr. Erdogan allow it to happen? He has ruled as a near-absolute dictator for about six years, so it would have been consistent for him to demand a big win. He controls the military, the police, the parliament, the judiciary, the banks, the media, and the educational system. He does whatever he wants. For example:He rigs elections and, of course, undid the earlier Istanbul election. He builds palaces and airports wherever he likes at whatever cost he wishes. He orders the central bank to charge whatever interest rates please him. He ran a “controlled coup.” At will, he drills for gas in a neighbor’s exclusive economic zone or violates its air space. He colludes with ISIS. He has thugs intimidate opponents. He fires, jails or tortures anyone who crosses him in Turkey, including foreigners. He abducts Turks from distant countries. He creates and deploys his own, private army.Given such power, why did he allow a free election in Istanbul and not tamper with the results? Dictators do not normally let their enemies win the country’s most important city, and all the less so after Mr. Erdogan called the fight for Istanbul a matter of “national survival” and predicted, “If we stumble in Istanbul we lose our footing in Turkey.”The Istanbul election oddity fits into a larger context of what I have dubbed the “Erdogan enigma.” Time and again, the Turkish president takes illogical or self-defeating steps: He gratuitously made a powerful enemy by declaring political war in 2013 on Fethullah Gulen, his longtime Islamist comrade-in-arms. He forfeited visa-free travel for Turks to the European Union, a very important goal, preferring to stick to a meaningless legalism. He made a huge effort, paying a high political price, to win a referendum in 2017 changing the constitution that he had for years ignored. He sunk the Turkish currency in 2018 because he bizarrely believes that high-interest rates lead to high inflation and concludes from this that “[high] interest rates are the mother and father of all evil.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
_Putin’s Turkish Gambit
BESA, June 9, 2019The Ottoman and Tsarist militaries fought several wars during their imperial histories, all of them ending in Russian victory – a pattern that created a persistent Russophobia among the modern-day rulers of Turkey.A mutual antipathy is baked into both cultures. In Russian, the word “Turkey” is used to denote an uninvited guest, and the word “Turk” is used to mean “ignorant.” The Turkish right wing, which comprises about 65-70% of the population, uses the phrase “Moskof gavuru” to mean “Russian.” The phrase translates to “an infidel from Moscow.”In the summer of 2015, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan started to show public signs of frustration over Russia’s protection of his nemesis, Syrian president Bashar Assad. Vladimir Putin responded by setting in motion a clever and effective game of political chess. Here, in chronological order, are the events that made up Putin’s “Turkish Gambit:”Late summer and into the fourth quarter of 2015: Russian military jets not only intensified their patrolling but deliberately violated Turkish airspace, provoking Ankara to retaliate militarily. Had Erdoğan declined to respond, he would have been embarrassed before a divided nation as it was heading into parliamentary elections for a second time in five months. In the June round, Erdoğan’s party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002. In the face of Russian aggression, the always assertive and self-confident PM, Ahmet Davutoğlu, changed the military rules of engagement to permit the shooting down of any foreign aircraft violating Turkish airspace. In so doing, Davutoğlu thought he had cleared northern Syria of a hostile military presence and opened a path for Ankara-backed jihadists to march toward Damascus and defeat Assad. This was not his first major miscalculation.
2. November 2015: Putin deployed the ancient Russian military tactic of testing how far he could go, provided Russia’s loss would be minimal. He sent an Su-24 to fly a controversial route along the Turkish-Syrian border. As he expected, Turkey shot it down, becoming the first NATO country to do such a thing after WWII. Even before the cheers had faded away, Erdoğan and Davutoglu realized they were in trouble, and a price of some kind was going to have to be paid. Initial diplomatic efforts to mend ties failed. In a move designed to humiliate Ankara even further, Putin sent the more advanced Su-34 to the Turkish border for further airspace violations. Davutoğlu, who had pledged to shoot down more Russian planes if they came that way again, did nothing … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Second ‘Son Of Hamas’ Leaves Terror Group, Exposing Corruption, Turkish Spy Ring
Times of Israel, July 4, 2019
It isn’t every day that a Hamas member turns his back on the terror organization, flies to Southeast Asia and decides to expose the corruption and inner workings of its operations in Turkey in an interview with an Israeli TV journalist.
It’s even more incredible when he’s the son of one of Hamas’s founding members. And it’s almost unthinkable when he’s the second of that founder’s sons to escape the clutches of the Islamist group and go public with his story. According to an interview broadcast Wednesday on Israel’s Channel 12, that’s exactly what happened.
Suheib Yousef — son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, and brother of Mosab Yousef, who became known as the “Green Prince” for his efforts to help the Shin Bet thwart terror attacks — secretly left his post in Turkey and flew to an unnamed country in Asia. He then got in touch with the Palestinian affairs correspondent for Israel’s Channel 12, Ohad Hemo, to tell his story.
Meeting at first in a mosque, Yousef, 38, described how he worked for Hamas’s “political branch” in Turkey, which was, in reality, an intelligence-gathering operation. He was working for Hamas until a month ago, the TV channel said.
“Hamas operates security and military operations on Turkish soil under the cover of civil society,” said Yousef. “They have security centers from which they operate advanced listening equipment, to listen to people and (Palestinian) leaders in Ramallah.”
“They have advanced equipment and computer programs to do it,” he said. When asked if the group also listened to Israeli phone conversations, he said yes, but did not want to give further details. Yousef said it also targeted other Arab countries.
But he charged that Hamas was not working in the interests of the Palestinian people. “They were working for a foreign agenda. This isn’t for the Palestinian cause. Instead, they sell the information to Iran in return for financial assistance,” he said, noting that the money came through Turkish banks.
Yousef said this was just one of the areas where he became disillusioned with the Gaza-based Hamas, saying its activities were only aimed at spreading its power to the West Bank.
Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, took control of Gaza in 2007, ousting the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup. He said the setup in Turkey was also used to conscript people, including children, in the West Bank to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.
“The point of the attacks in the West Bank is to kill civilians, not for the aim of resistance, nor Jerusalem; not for liberating Palestinian land, and not even because they hate Jews,” he told the TV channel. “They send out these innocents because they want to export the crisis [from Gaza] to the West Bank.” … [to read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]