The Three Must-Get-Peers
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A long awaited meeting between Pres. Erdoğan and Putin took place Tuesday in Tehran, as part of a trilateral summit hosted by Iranian Pres. Ebrahim Raisi. On the agenda of the symbolically important meeting: the war in Ukraine, grain, Syria and bilateral relations.
After talking up a planned military operation in northern Syria, Erdoğan didn’t appear to get the green light from Iran and Russia, both backers of the Assad regime. Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei warned the Turkish president, saying a new military operation would be “to the detriment of Syria, Turkey and the region.” Putin addressed the issue in more general terms, saying “the area to the east of the Euphrates should return under the control of the legitimate government of Syria.”
Hamidreza Azizi, a CATS Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told us a “somewhat surprising” point was the summit’s “overemphasis on the Eastern Euphrates” and the need for the US to leave that area, where they back the Kurdish-led SDF forces. This is not a new position for Russia and Iran, but Erdoğan has tended to focus on the areas of Tel-Rifaat and Manbij lately. On the plane back to Ankara, he told reporters: “America has to leave east of the Euphrates now. This is an outcome that came out of the Astana process.”
Noting two Shia settlements and Iranian-backed militias are near Tel-Rifaat, Azizi said, “Iran and Russia have been somehow trying to push Turkey further eastwards, to conduct this operation in the Eastern Euphrates.” And while the Pentagon recently warned Turkey against new operations, Erdoğan seems undeterred, with FM Çavuşoğlu doubling down Thursday morning, saying: “We can't keep our hands tied.”
According to Azizi, the lack of a clear green light doesn’t mean an operation is off the table: “Erdoğan has already invested a lot of political capital on propagating the necessity of this new operation. It seems very difficult for Turkey to withdraw from that plan altogether, so there is still a possibility of a new Turkish operation in Syria, maybe in a different geography, maybe more limited and also probably in some kind of coordination with Iran and Russia.”
Meanwhile, in Ukrainian grain news, after some optimism following a four-way July 13 meeting in İstanbul, the leaders claimed discussions were making progress in Tehran, but a final deal has yet to be reached. If anyone knows what to expect next, it’s MİT Chief Hakan Fidan and his spying eyes.
– Ingrid Woudwijk
Resort to violence
At least nine people were killed, and dozens injured, after airstrikes Wednesday hit a tourist resort in Duhok, a northern province of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region where Turkey has conducted a series of military operations against Kurdish militants.
Both the Iraqi PM and president placed blame for the attack on Turkey, denouncing it as a breach of Iraqi sovereignty. In a statement Wednesday, the Turkish MFA said it “assessed” the attack to be organized by an unnamed terrorist organization, adding Iraqi officials should not “make statements under the influence of the rhetoric and propaganda of the treacherous terrorist organization.”
Speaking earlier today, Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu rejected accusations that Turkey carried out the attack, saying, "The whole world knows that Turkey has never carried out an attack on civilians.” As the blame game continues, Turkey-Iraq ties could come under increasing strain after Baghdad recalled its charge d'affaires from Ankara and summoned Turkey’s envoy to Iraq. Not to mention the possibility of more street protests.
Earlier this week Pres. Erdoğan reiterated his willingness to hit the pause button on NATO expansion should Sweden and Finland not meet Ankara’s conditions.
Since the three nations signed an agreement last month, Erdoğan has been pointing fingers, particularly at Sweden, claiming the Nordic nation is not living up to its promises. As analyst Galip Dalay puts it, Ankara aims to “press NATO members to provide support in its fight against PKK” and to keep the alliance committed to its southern flank, aka Turkey, which is likely to impact Ankara–NATO relations for a long time.
Everyone prefers rules their own way, right? The US House of Reps last Thursday approved an amendment to restrict F-16 jet sales to Turkey unless the nation guarantees it will not use the jets for unauthorized flights over Greece, among other conditions. The bill, which has yet to reach the senate, is perceived by Ankara as a “game by some US lawmakers.”
Standing in arms way
In domestic politics, Selahattin Demirtaş said, "If possible, I would like the PKK to silence the arms against Turkey completely," in an interview published Monday. He added the two main issues delaying the peace process were “the government's insistence on military operations rather than dialogue and the İmrali isolation,” referring to the imprisonment of PKK head Abdullah Öcalan.
Responding to journalist Murat Sabuncu's questions from jail, the former HDP co-chair reiterated his party had no ties with the PKK and that in upcoming elections the HDP would “support the joint candidate as far as possible … But if it won't work, we will enter the race with our candidate."
Another politician who spoke to Sabuncu last week was Ahmet Davutoğlu. The head of the Future Party said he was open to Demirtaş' invitation to discuss possible presidential candidates and said that any party shouldn't be excluded from the process.
The former PM also expressed hope that with the right candidate, the opposition could defeat Erdoğan in the first election round. Though he was not as optimistic about the lead up to elections, saying: "I am worried that some events may occur this winter due to economic conditions … All politicians should meet at a reasonable point. Elections must be held peacefully."
Glowin’ in the wind
As many of us enjoyed the holidays, a frightening fire broke out last Wednesday in Datça – the peninsula separating Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean waters. The blaze prompted mass evacuations and took about 24 hours to extinguish.
Forestry Min. Vahit Kirişci said strong winds intensified the fire and made efforts more difficult. Noting the unfavorable weather conditions, CHP's Muğla MP Burak Erbay was critical of the government's preparatory work. "Unfortunately, we did not take lessons from last year," Erbay told Turkey recap. "When the fire first broke out, there wasn't an effective and quick intervention, and we lost hectares of forest area."
And yet these are our better days, according to Doğanay Tolunay, a professor at İstanbul University's Forestry Faculty. Tolunay warned on Twitter Wednesday that Turkey has not yet entered the heat wave period currently baking most of Europe. He added fire risks would increase with the rising temperatures in the days ahead.
While the Central Bank kept its main interest rate stable at 14 percent today, the government revoked interest on the debt of education loans following pressure from students and politicians.
In other economic news, Fitch downgraded Turkey’s debt rating on inflation concerns and the economy in general. Faced with rising prices, fruit has apparently become a luxury good for many, let alone renting a flat in Kadikoy, where average rent is now a staggering 19,438 TL – more than three times the average monthly minimum wage. Still a bargain compared with the historic Podesta Palace, which is on sale for $7 million.
For further reading, see MEI’s article, “As Turkey’s economic woes worsen, a new currency crisis is approaching.”
The one that got astray
And we can’t go without highlighting the escape of Karakız, a goat that avoided sacrificial slaughter by swimming into the sea … and who has now joined Ferdinand, a cow that did the same thing in 2018.
The İstanbul sky gods did not approve.
Landmark Judgment Against Turkey for Ignoring European Ruling (HRW)
Turkish Court Says Erdoğan Had Right To Annul Women's Treaty (AFP)
Turkey tightens rules on pilots leaving to work for foreign airlines (Reuters)
Iraq-Turkey arbitration ruling nears, with Kurdistan’s oil independence in the balance (IOR)
Jewish cemetery in İstanbul vandalized (Bianet)
Turkish scientists work on enduring wheat for sustainable crops (DS)
What was Turkey’s failed coup about – and what’s happened since? (AJ)
Russians Drive Record in Turkey Home Sales to Foreigners: Chart (Bloomberg)
“The Drone Problem”: How the U.S. Has Struggled to Curb Turkey, a Key Exporter of Armed Drones
Journalist Umar Farooq lifts the hood on TB2 drones to examine their foreign parts and the laws governing their sales to Turkey, detailing how exports present a “diplomatic quandary” for the US as TB2s are aiding allies like Ukraine while they also change “modern warfare, giving warring factions a way to kill quickly, cheaply and remotely.” (ProPublica)
How Istanbul Became the Global Capital of the Hair Transplant
In this hair-raising long read, Alex Hawkins describes his personal experience with İstanbul’s famed hair transplant industry, offering insights into the emotions, considerations and the “rushed, but efficient” pace of the procedure, which he notes “isn’t painful, but the aftermath is hell.” (GQ)
Turkey’s Far Right Has Already Won
Profiling Victory Party head Ümit Özdağ, journalist Idil Karsit notes how his hardline, anti-refugee stance is forcing rival politicians to engage with the delicate topic, writing: “If they choose to keep up with Özdağ, they risk dragging the mainstream parties deeper toward his narrative, letting a new party with zero seats in parliament dictate policy.” (FP)
Türkiye, Armenia Take Tentative Steps toward Normalisation
Reporting from the Armenian-Turkish land border that may soon partially open, Crisis Group’s Olesya Vartanyan gauges the social, economic and political impacts of ongoing normalization talks, quoting an Armenian representative who said: “No matter where the current contacts lead us, in the end a border with trucks is better than a border with trenches.” (ICG)
The Weeks Ahead – together with Argonotlar
23 July Artist Luz Blanco’s solo show "Floating Images" ends at Sanatorium in Beyoğlu, İstanbul
28 July Central Bank releases inflation report
29 July Trial resumes for journalist Hayri Demir (background)
3 Aug TurkStat publishes inflation data for July 2022
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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