"Is Gaza Really a Matter of Cross and Crescent for Turkey?" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy
President Erdogan has finally sharpened his criticism against Israel. In a speech delivered in parliament to his fellow party members this week, Erdogan portrayed the events in Gaza as a matter of cross and crescent. It seems that his fierce rhetoric is mostly about boosting his popularity before the upcoming local elections. Therefore, it remains unlikely that Ankara will take severe measures to hurt Israel.
Erdogan's shift in tone was not entirely unexpected. In other words, this shift of tone is more aligned with the growing anti-Israeli sentiment in Turkey with the war than how Erdogan perceives the assault on Gaza.
The local elections in Turkey will take place in March 2024. The AKP has already launched political campaign to win back the most important metropolitans of Turkey that it lost in 2019, namely Istanbul and Ankara. Controlling these metropolitans will also be crucial in the next presidential elections. If using strong language against Israel helps Erdogan secure more votes, he will not hesitate to do so.
Furthermore, despite Erdogan’s fierce rhetoric, Turkey has refrained from taking action that would undermine the Israeli government, with the notable exception of Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is also a calculated move. The Turkish government, not unlike its many Western counterparts, anticipates that Netanyahu's political career will not survive this war. Hence, Erdogan believes that a targeted criticism against Netanyahu will not lead to political repercussions but will enhance his image as a champion of the Palestinian cause.
Lastly, if the Turkish government were genuinely intent on hampering Israeli war efforts, it could disrupt the shipment of Azerbaijani oil to Israel. But, the oil business, which allegedly involves several high-level AKP officials, is too profitable to be turned down. Thus, it is safe to assume that the AKP government will never object to shipping oil through Turkish territory to Israel, whether it originates from North Iraq or Azerbaijan.
Erdogan is well aware that translating his views on Israel into action would come at a significant cost, considering the unequivocal support for Israel in the West. Therefore, Turkey is unlikely to exert significant pressure on the Israeli government beyond harsh verbal statements.
"Turkey’s ‘Aid’ Organization Is a Front for Supporting Terrorism" by Sinan Ciddi, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Turkey’s premier aid organization, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms (IHH), with strong links to the government, actively supports terrorist causes and should be designated as a Foreign (FTO) Terrorist Organization by the United States.
Since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to come in 2003, the organization has become intertwined with his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). Many members of the IHH’s governing body are also AKP officials.
Israel is rightfully suspicious, and for good reasons. Jerusalem designated IHH as a terrorist entity in 2008, mainly owing to its membership of the ‘Union of Good’—a Muslim Brotherhood coalition of Muslim charities, known to raise funds for Hamas and sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury.
During the Iraq war, IHH was identified as having representatives on the ground in Fallujah (2004), which at the time was controlled by al-Qaeda forces. In 2001, French magistrate Bruguiere testified in U.S. District Court, pointing out that IHH played “[a]n important role” in the al-Qaeda millennium bomb plot targeting Los Angeles International Airport.”
Special consideration should be given to IHH’s links to the Islamic State (ISIS). According to testimonies given by former ISIS members in 2014, IHH attempted to ship weapons to ISIS from Turkey to Syria, which IHH officials denied. The incident raised eyebrows in Western capitals, and came to be known as the “MIT truck” incident, implicating Turkey’s state intelligence service and IHH with providing material support to ISIS. Such activities increased pressure on the Obama administration to designate IHH as a foreign terrorist organization, but the initiative never materialized due to hesitation on part of the U.S. government.
"What awaits Turkey's economy as its foreign exchange woes ease?” by Mustafa Sonmez, Al-Monitor
A combination of factors helped Turkey ease its foreign-currency woes during the summer, but the problem could resurge in the coming months as Ankara balks at unpopular measures ahead of local elections in spring.
Turkey is headed for local elections in March, in which Erdogan is eager to regain the local administrations in a number of big cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, which the opposition won in 2019.
Thus, he is believed to be averse to cooling the economy until the end of March. And Simsek and the central bank leadership appear unwilling to clash with the president, despite their appetite for a firm disinflation program. They have failed to implement the measures required to curb demand, though they frequently talk about them. Chief among those measures are the curbing of pay rises and sharply hiking interest rates.
The government is expected to announce fresh hikes to public-sector salaries and the minimum wage in December, and Simsek and his team will apparently yield to Erdogan’s decisions in the lead-up to the local polls.
After the March local elections, however, Ankara will be free of major domestic political concerns and is expected to enact a stern disinflation program that would cool the economy and slow imports to make progress in fighting inflation. Simsek himself has frequently said that economic improvements will become more pronounced in the second half of 2024.
"NYC mayor deflects key questions on FBI probe, but he insists the law was followed" by Jennifer Peltz, AP
New York Mayor Eric Adams declared that “we follow the law” but deflected key questions Tuesday about an FBI investigation into his 2021 campaign, while his lawyer said there were no signs that the inquiry was targeting the mayor.
After the FBI seized his phones and iPad last week, the first-term Democrat reiterated Tuesday that he was cooperating with what he called a “review” and said he wouldn’t speculate on its outcome.
The New York Times reported that a search warrant indicated authorities have been examining whether the Adams campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal campaign contributions from foreign sources, funneled through straw donors.
Investigators have also looked into whether Adams took steps in 2021 to help the Turkish government get city approval to open a Manhattan skyscraper, despite concerns about the building’s fire prevention systems, according to the newspaper.
Weeks before the high-rise was due to open — with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cutting the ribbon — the country’s consul general in New York asked Adams to inquire about the status of the building’s occupancy permit. The document was on hold because the Fire Department had concerns about the fire-protection plan for the tower.
Adams acknowledged Tuesday that he contacted then-Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro “to find out what was happening.”
But Adams said he didn’t order the commissioner to do anything, nor talk to any other fire officials about the building.
According to The New York Times, a fire protection consultant working on the Turkevi Center reported numerous deficiencies involving smoke detectors, elevators, doors and other components used to prevent fires.
LEADERS ON THE MOVE
MHP leader calls for top court's closure or restructuring amidst judicial crisis
On November 14, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, a key ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for the closure or restructuring of Turkey's Constitutional Court. This call comes in response to the court's decision to release Can Atalay, an opposition lawmaker from the Workers Party of Turkey (TIP), leading to a judicial crisis.
Bahçeli, addressing a party meeting, criticized the Constitutional Court for its "controversial" decisions, asserting that the court should either be shut down or undergo restructuring.
He also criticized Chief Justice Zuhtu Arslan, accusing him of exceeding his authority long ago and being an extension of an opposition bloc.
HEDEP signals for alliances in upcoming local elections
On November 14, Tuncer Bakirhan, co-chair of Turkey's opposition Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), said they are open to forming alliances with other parties for the upcoming local elections.
Speaking at the parliamentary group meeting, Bakirhan stated, “We will openly and transparently make these alliances, and the Turkish public will be informed about our discussions and agreements.” He also emphasized that HEDEP's mayoral candidates would be selected "with the widest participation of the public."
Good Party witnesses second resignation after Hatipoglu
On November 16, Adnan Beker, an Ankara deputy from the nationalist opposition Good Party, resigned from the party following MP Nebi Hatipoglu's resignation on November 2. Hatipoglu later joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In his statement on social media platform X, Beker did not specify the reasons for his resignation but emphasized that it had become impossible for him to contribute to the public under the Good Party.
Erdogan announces his support for simple majority in Presidential elections
On November 18, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his belief that Turkey should adopt a simple majority benchmark for presidential elections. Erdogan reiterated his support for the switch from the current absolute majority requirement.
He emphasized that electing presidents in a single round with a simple majority would be more "efficient" and "easy." Erdogan claimed that the existing absolute majority, which demands over 50% of the votes for election, has led political parties down "bad routes."
Turkish economy records account surplus in September
Turkey's current account shows signs of improvement, recording a surplus in September. According to data from the Turkish Central Bank, the surplus amounted to $1.9 billion, surpassing the median forecast of $1.4 billion. On a related note, Turkey also revised its deficit for August to $357 million, a significant improvement from the previous $5.5 billion recorded in July.
This positive development is seen as a potential outcome of Turkey's shift towards economic orthodoxy. There is also an expectation that the country's bonds may rise again next year.
Turkey sees a 14.3% drop in house sales in 10 months
Official data published on November 16 revealed a 14.3 percent year-on-year decline in house sales from January to October. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), 93,761 residential properties changed hands in the last month, down from 102,656 in the previous month. The data also showed an 8.7 percent decrease in October compared to the same month of the previous year.
Additionally, house sales financed by mortgages experienced a significant 58.0 percent drop in October compared to the same period of the previous year, totaling 5,577.
Credit card debts soar by 119% in 2023
In the first ten months of 2023, credit card debts in Turkey surged by 119 percent and reached 991 billion Turkish liras ($34.7B), marking a substantial increase from December 2022, which stood at approximately 452 billion liras.
The rise in credit card expenditures has been notable in recent years, with low-income earners relying on credit cards to cope with the impact of price increases, particularly in food. Despite an increase in credit card interest rates under the new economic administration, credit card expenditures have not decreased.
Turkey, Greece agree on confidence-building measures in recent talks
On November 13, Turkey and Greece provisionally agreed to implement confidence-building measures following recent talks on November 13, attended by high-ranking military officials, diplomats, and officials.
After talks, the Defense Ministry's statement did not specify the nature of the new measures. However, some previously agreed measures include reducing military exercises, joint drills, and training programs to prevent military escalation between the two countries. The NATO allies plan to implement these measures or reactivate them throughout 2024.
The agreement also involves establishing a direct line between Ankara and Athens to facilitate communication and implement the measures effectively.
Turkish Parliament delays vote on Sweden's NATO accession
On November 16, the Turkish parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee postponed the vote on Sweden's NATO accession after hours of debate. The committee will revisit the issue in its next meeting, with no specific date set.
Many speculate that this delay indicates Turkey's expectation of progress in its bid to purchase new F-16 jets from the United States. While the Biden administration approved the proposal, formal notification to Congress is pending due to opposition within Congress.
No contact to int. companies for resuming oil flows in Iraq's Kurdistan
APIKUR, representing international companies in Iraq's Kurdistan region, has not been contacted by Iraqi or Kurdish officials regarding a deal to restart oil flows through the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. Last Sunday, Iraqi oil minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani expressed the potential for an agreement within three days, including foreign oil companies.
APIKUR announced on November 17 that its members were not invited to the meeting and received no official communication about its outcomes. Although discussions are seen as a positive step, no final deal was reached at the meeting, according to a source familiar with the matter.
"Turkish and German leaders air deep differences on the Israel-Hamas war" by Geir Moulson, AP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday aired deep differences over the war between Israel and Hamas as the Turkish leader made a brief and tensely anticipated visit to Berlin.
Erdogan was invited to visit Germany months ago after his reelection, but recent weeks have been marked by discomfort in Berlin over his increasingly strident stance against Israel.
Germany is a staunch ally of Israel and has opposed calls for a cease-fire, while pushing for aid to civilians in Gaza, advocating “humanitarian pauses” and seeking to keep open channels of communication with other countries in the region to prevent the conflict spreading.
Erdogan this week called Israel a “terrorist state” intent on destroying Gaza with all of its residents. He described Hamas militants as “resistance fighters” trying to protect their lands and people. Scholz has described Erdogan’s accusations against Israel as “absurd.”
While Scholz again advocated repeated “pauses” in the fighting, Erdogan said: “If we can establish a humanitarian cease-fire together with Germany, we will have the opportunity to save the region from this ring of fire.”
Erdogan suggested that Germany was unable to criticize Israel because of the Holocaust.
“I speak freely because we do not owe Israel anything. If we were indebted, we could not talk so freely,” he said. “Those who are indebted cannot talk freely. We did not go through the Holocaust, and we are not in such a situation.”