Also, do read İnanç Yıldız’s report on how Syrians see growing anti-refugee sentiments in the run up to Turkey’s 2023 elections. Daily news coverage of the topic does not reflect the space it occupies in daily life.
Turkey has yet to launch a new ground offensive in Syria, but all signs point to one if you take the rhetoric at face value. Turkish Pres. Erdoğan’s been threatening one since May, and he has the parliamentary mandate to send troops into both Syria and Iraq “suddenly one night,” as you might have heard.
As of Sunday, we’ve seen airstrikes across northern Syria and Iraq, with some tit-for-tat rocket and mortar fire on the Turkey-Syria border, all together killing at least two Turkish civilians and 18 civilians in northeast Syria at the time of writing.
The renewed fighting kicked off with a Defense Ministry tweet titled “Payback time,” in retaliation for the Nov. 13 İstanbul bombing, which Ankara blames on the Kurdish militants and which the PKK has denied.
SDF commander Mazlum Kobane linked the attacker to IS in this Al-Monitor interview, while three of five suspected organizers detained in Bulgaria are Moldovan, meaning the event remains both murky and a vault for power politics, best described by Gareth Jenkins here.
Despite the many unknown unknowns, the case for a ground offensive is building fast. Washington and Moscow have called on Ankara to show restraint while also recognizing Turkish security concerns, though the Pentagon press secretary took it a step further Wednesday, stating: “Recent air strikes in Syria directly threatened the safety of US personnel” and could disrupt the ongoing mission there to defeat IS.
Noting media reports indicate some Turkish troop deployments to border areas in Mardin and Kilis, the International Crisis Group’s Berkay Mandıracı told Turkey recap: “I don’t think Turkey will go in unilaterally, that is without some green or at least yellow light from Russia for areas west of the Euphrates, and from the US for areas east of the Euphrates.”
He added: “Yellow lighting may also mean removing soldiers from certain areas without giving explicit consent for an incursion, though the US yellow light is obviously much less likely.”
What those traffic signals might look like remains to be seen, though when it comes to deconfliction – or reducing the risk of friendly fire – between the US and Turkey, the process can be as simple as a quick message, according to Aaron Stein, chief content officer at Metamorphic Media.
“People have made deconfliction some super intense thing,” Stein told Turkey recap. “But at its core, it is an email: We are flying here today at X altitude at Y time and you have 45 minutes.”
“So, Ankara usually calls the military liaison in the embassy, like an hour before,” Stein continued. “For Olive Branch, they gave the US warning, but no one passed on the message.”
– Diego Cupolo
Not long ago, Turkey was at daggers drawn with more than a few Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Egypt, and Syria. Then things started to change last year and a wide-spanning normalization process is now underway. First, with the UAE, then with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
After a handshake with Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Qatar, Erdoğan announced the lastest normalization chapter following years of tension between the two nations. A Turkish source told MEE that Erdoğan was initially not very keen on shaking hands with Sisi, who he previously called a "murderer." But reportedly Qatar – which has a $15 billion swap deal with Turkey – pushed for it and has been working for months on this. Again, reportedly.
Among Ankara’s incentives, international relations Prof. İlhan Uzgel told Turkey recap, “Erdoğan does not want to enter the elections in conflict with his neighbors” and wants to boost the country’s reserves through these moves.
Uzgel added, Gulf nations prefer a truce between Erdoğan and Sisi, but “the reason for the slow process here is the failure to reach an agreement on Libya. Turkey made military, political and strategic investments in Libya. The Erdoğan administration cannot suddenly withdraw."
In an email note to clients, economist Timothy Ash said he believes Turkey's "huge" balance of payments needs are behind the handshake. According to Ash, Turkey did not get enough money from Riyadh, even though the Khashoggi case was handed over, and "the final concession from Erdoğan may have been the Sisi meeting and a public admission that the agenda for pushing political Islam is dead."
Saudi Arabia announced it was close to making a $5 billion deposit with Turkey Tuesday. And if you think the Sisi shake was surprising: Erdoğan also said he's open to meeting with Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad. Hürriyet columnist Abdülkadir Selvi wrote the pair would come together during a meeting hosted by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, and this might happen before elections.
Elsewhere in Russia-Ukraine news, Erdoğan decided to act in line with the phrase, "When life gives you grain deal, make the floor." The president said he agreed with Putin to produce flour in Turkey with Russian grain imports and send it free-of-charge to African countries.
Will this move ease the global food crisis? Read this Reuters explainer for more details.
The central bank cut its benchmark rate, as expected, by 150 bps cut to 9 percent despite that high inflation thing. It’s not your everyday monetary policy, as Finance Min. Nebati noted in an interview with DS this week, stating the end goal is permanent price stability that doesn’t lead to employment losses.
But in the job market, a brain drain crisis is already here, especially for the tech sector. According to a recent study, one of every two software developers is moving abroad for higher salaries.
Those opting to stay in Turkey might keep their jobs, but still risk losing their homes to foreign buyers or to temporary tenants as housing prices continue to soar nationwide, incentivizing landlords to give long-time tenants the boot. The average rent price for a 120 m2 flat rose to 10,229 liras this month, up from 3,473 liras in the same period last year.
In TÜİKlandia, however, consumer confidence has reached its highest level in over a year, according to figures released Tuesday. This comes as Turkey’s stock index ranked as the top performer in 2022, though CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu warned on Twitter that “inflated values” are threatening small investors. A couple days later Kılıçdaroğlu announced the party would reveal its "economics vision” on Dec. 3rd. (Finally.)
One bright spot for Turkish citizens is they won’t need to worry about natural gas prices, Energy and Natural Resources Min. Dönmez assured, noting that enough supplies have been secured for the winter.
All the leaves are down, and the screen is gray
And in the town of Tokat – which means “slap”, by the way – the mayor ordered municipal workers to stop sweeping leaves because they’re “enchanting.” If İmamoğlu did that, you might see #wheresmytaxmoney and #resign trending on Twitter.
Speaking of, the CHP created its own VPN to help citizens stay connected through state-imposed social media bans during emergency events (like the İstanbul bombing). The password is “iktidar” or “power”, as in put us in power and we’ll deliver the goods.
Turkish Reddit approves, with at least one user suggesting Kılıçdaroğlu set up a server during his eight mystery hours in DC. But what’s getting praise is the high connection speed, which is perfect to stream movies like Turkish Rambo, aka Korkusuz. Here’s the full version. You’re welcome.
Up for debate again: Politics and the headscarf in Turkey (MEI)
At least 80 hurt after magnitude-5.9 quake in northwest Türkiye (HDN)
Deepening poverty fuels ‘mass school dropout’ in Turkey (Al-Monitor)
After Jailing Their Leaders, Erdoğan Courts Kurdish Kingmakers (Bloomberg)
Turkey to clamp down harder on shops charging excessive prices, Erdoğan says (Reuters)
Court of Cassation overturns sentences in Büyükada case (Bianet)
Turkey summons Swedish envoy over images ‘insulting’ Erdoğan (AP)
Tensions simmer as Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance unsettles Iran (Al-Monitor)
“No One Asked Me Why I Left Afghanistan”: Pushbacks and Deportations of Afghans from Turkey
Raising questions about Turkey’s safe third country status, HRW delivers a comprehensive report – thoroughly denied by the nation’s president of Migration Management in Annex II – documenting pushbacks, deportations and other abuses of Afghan asylum seekers, whose numbers have spiked since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. (HRW)
Understanding Turkey’s Geostrategic Posture
Carnegie Europe’s Marc Pierini opines Turkey’s opposition alliance should publish a comprehensive electoral program on its foreign policy proposals, writing, “Whether the opposition coalition will be able to get their act together and stand united will be a litmus test for them and for Turkey’s democracy.” (Carnegie)
Alcohol consumption in modern Turkey: Kulturkampf and polarization
Evangelos Areteos and Christina Kapodistria argue alcohol consumption has long functioned as a politico-religious symbol in Turkey, referring to the Ottoman-era and the timely rhetoric about it, stating, “Within the ongoing Kulturkampf, drinking in modern Turkey became, and remains, a statement of cultural identity.” (ELIAMEP)
Will Turkey Ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO Accession?
Looking at Turkey’s vote on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, Soner Çağaptay and Michael Singh argue the Nordic countries are given little choice other than to understand and satisfy Ankara’s demands, writing Washington will likely steer clear of negotiations, as “the baggage of the US-Turkish relationship is unlikely to make them easier.” (WI)
Nov 24-27 İstanbul hosts international Halal expo and summit (background)
Nov 25 Central bank publishes its financial stability report
Nov 22 Vice News trial, involving Jake Hanrahan, Philip John Pendelbury, Mohamed İsmael Rasool and Abdurrahman Direkçi, resumes in Diyarbakır (background)
Nov 30 TurkStat publishes Q3 2022 quarterly GDP stats
Dec 1 Trial of Charlie Hebdo resumes in Ankara (background)
Diego Cupolo, co-founder + editor @diegocupolo
Verda Uyar, freelance journalist @verdauyar
Ingrid Woudwijk, freelance journalist @deingrid
Gonca Tokyol, freelance journalist @goncatokyol
Batuhan Üsküp, editorial intern @batuskup