"The ‘CEO’ of Hamas Who Found the Money to Attack Israel" by Rory Jones, Benoit Faucon, Ian Talley, and Abeer Ayyoub, The Wall Street Journal
Zaher Jabarin has built relationships with people close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Israeli security officials say helped Hamas procure weapons and funding. Under Jabarin, Hamas’s financial office is based in a dark-glass windowed building in Istanbul, where it holds stakes in companies, including shares in a real-estate firm listed on Turkey’s stock exchange, according to U.S. sanctions against Hamas officials and related companies.
Jabarin, working closely with other Hamas officials, developed a real-estate portfolio in the country, which made up the bulk of its $500 million worth of assets globally. The highest-profile asset was real-estate developer Trend GYO. Listed on the Turkish stock exchange, it was owned 75% by front men for Hamas, according to the U.S., which sanctioned the firm in May 2022. Months before the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Trend, officials asked Ankara to take action against the company, according to people familiar with the matter, with no effect.
The Turkish government granted one of Trend’s founders citizenship and a new name, according to U.S. officials. Hamas officials based in Turkey have opened Turkish bank accounts to move cash and transfer it to operatives in the West Bank, they said.
"The United States Needs to Play Hardball with Turkey" by Eric S. Edelman and Sinan Ciddi, Foreign Policy
Since 2003, the bilateral relationship has slowly been purposefully undermined to the point that Washington no longer has a reliable ally to work with. These days, the relationship is characterized by Turkey’s mercurial, hypocritical, and callous stance on a range of security issues.
Turkey’s stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict is emblematic of its duplicitous and hypocritical foreign-policy stance with its Western allies. While Ankara publicly vilifies Israel for its counterterrorism mission in Gaza, Turkish companies continue to trade with Israel. Many of the business owners who have sent more than 400 container ships to Israel since Oct. 7 publicly rebuke Israel while privately continuing to trade with their alleged foe.
Despite this sorry record and the almost total erosion of support for Turkey in the U.S. Congress, policy officials across multiple administrations of both parties have refrained from imposing any serious costs on Turkey.
In reality, continuing to operate this way will only lead to more rather than fewer crises in the bilateral relationship while Erdogan seeks to wring every possible advantage from events as they unfold, as his spoiler stance on NATO expansion revealed.
When the Turks held U.S. citizen and pastor Andrew Brunson on questionable charges of aiding terrorism, the Trump administration raised tariffs on Turkish goods and imposed sanctions on two Turkish officials. Brunson was back in U.S. hands in short order. All of this suggests that steps to penalize Turkey and impose costs can be effective if pursued on a clear and consistent basis.
"US giants Pimco, Vanguard invest in Turkey after its return to rate hikes" by Jonathan Spicer and Marc Jones, Reuters
U.S. investment giants Pimco and Vanguard have bought local Turkish assets in recent months, betting that the country will maintain high interest rates after years of erratic policymaking under President Tayyip Erdogan.
Interviews with top money managers at the companies show that two of the world's biggest investors, which together oversee nearly $10 trillion in assets, have grown constructive on Turkey since its newfound economic orthodoxy following Erdogan's re-election in May.
"We are constructive on Turkish assets, in particular local currency assets, due to the tightening in financial conditions to rein in spending and control inflation and the gradual easing of regulations that distort the asset prices," said Pramol Dhawan, managing director and head of emerging markets at Pimco, which oversees nearly $2 trillion in assets.
Vanguard, the world's second-largest money manager with nearly $7.5 trillion, bought Turkish local bonds without hedging late last year after Nick Eisinger, co-head of Emerging Markets Active Fixed Income, and a few other investors visited the country for meetings.
Though some investors are cautious, the foreign interest is primed to grow, drawn by potentially outsized bond returns. Amundi, Europe's largest asset manager, has also taken a more bullish position on Turkish assets, Reuters reported.
The risk, investors say, is that Erdogan loses patience with the long and painful return to orthodoxy - including an economic slowdown - as his ruling AK Party seeks to wrest back control of big cities in nationwide local elections on March 31.
"The real litmus test is what happens in the next few months" with the elections and the central bank's focus on tackling inflation, Vanguard's Eisinger said.
"Strategic alliance in the Black Sea: Unpacking the Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania Naval Task Force", by Fatih Yurtsever, Turkish Minute
Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev has announced that an agreement with Turkey and Romania on mine clearance in the Black Sea will be signed in Istanbul next week, according to the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA). Meanwhile, Turkey has declined to allow two mine-hunting ships donated by the UK to Ukraine to pass through the straits, invoking Article 19 of the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits.
Turkey, as a NATO member commanding the most formidable naval force in the region, must astutely navigate the changing dynamics. While maintaining open diplomatic channels with Russia, Turkey must also dissuade any further Russian escalations that could destabilize the region’s security equilibrium, such as the potential occupation of Odessa. By doing so, Turkey could mitigate the necessity for an increased NATO naval presence in the Black Sea to support Ukraine.
Deploying the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG-2) for mine clearance could escalate tensions between Russia and NATO, potentially drawing Turkey into a confrontation with Russia. Establishing a Mine Countermeasure Task Force led by Turkey, with the participation of Bulgaria and Romania, could effectively neutralize the mine threat without necessitating the presence of SNMCMG-2. This approach could satisfy the security concerns of all parties involved.
CHP unveils plan of action after second dismissal of Constitutional Court ruling on Atalay's imprisonment
The leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Ozgur Ozel, announced on January 4 their plan of action following the second dismissal by the Court of Cassation of the Constitutional Court's ruling on the rights violations in the imprisonment of Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) MP Can Atalay.
Ozel said they would apply to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) for the removal of five Court of Cassation judges who refused to comply with the Constitutional Court's ruling. Additionally, he invited citizens to a rally on January 14 at Tandogan Square in Ankara to defend democracy, the constitution, labor, and the country.
CHP also urged parliament to convene in an extraordinary session to address Atalay’s case. In a petition to Parliament Speaker Numan Kurtulmus, CHP requested an extraordinary meeting scheduled for January 9 at 3 p.m. local time to discuss Atalay’s ongoing situation.
On January 3, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation rejected the Constitutional Court's decision from December 21. The court said the Constitutional Court's second ruling on rights violations had no legal validity. Additionally, it claimed that the Constitutional Court acted as the highest appeals authority, with rulings that seemed patronizing and fueled by a sense of being unsupervised.
Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu announces bid for second term
Istanbul's Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a prominent figure in Turkey's major opposition party, officially announced his candidacy on January 5 for a second term in the local elections scheduled for March 31.
In a speech following the announcement by his Republican People's Party, Imamoglu attributed the economic challenges faced by the city, with retail inflation nearing 75%, to the national government's "irrational" policies. He also criticized the previous AK Party administration, stating that his administration achieved twice the results at half the cost by stopping squandering.
Imamoglu faces a more challenging task this time due to the withdrawal of support from the right-wing opposition IYI Party, which had backed him in 2019 but now plans to field a separate candidate.
Erdogan announces former minister as party's Istanbul mayor candidate
On January 7, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan named former environment and urbanization minister Murat Kurum as the ruling AK Party's candidate for the upcoming mayoral election in Istanbul in March. Kurum will compete against the incumbent Ekrem Imamoglu from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
Erdogan expressed confidence in Kurum, stating they will work together to bring Istanbul out of the interregnum of the last five years.
The announcement ceremony also introduced candidates for more than two dozen municipalities across the country. President Erdogan is expected to reveal candidates for other key positions, including Ankara, next week.
Study reveals dominance of Presidential Decrees in Turkey's legislation
A study conducted by Turan Taskin Ozer, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), revealed that in 2023, Turkey's primary method of legislation was through presidential decrees. The report highlighted that the number of bills enacted via presidential decrees was approximately six times higher than those passed through parliamentary motions.
According to Ozer, the Turkish Parliament enacted 37 proposals with 295 articles in 2023. In contrast, the President issued 41 presidential decrees containing 227 articles and 577 presidential by-laws with 1,499 articles during the same period.
Ozer pointed out that since the shift to the presidential system in 2017, the legislative powers of the Turkish Parliament have been increasingly undermined. He mentioned that the ruling People’s Alliance has transformed the Parliament into a mere rubber stamp, diminishing its deliberative role due to their numerical majority.
Additionally, it highlighted that 3,377 out of 7,706 parliamentary questions submitted went unanswered, and the responses were often delayed.
46 ruling party lawmakers never speak in Parliament in 2023 after May elections
According to the daily Evrensel, 58 Turkish Parliament members remained silent in the general assembly and committees during the seven months following the 2023 General Elections. Among the 600 parliamentarians, these lawmakers only spoke during the oath of office, except Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) deputy Can Atalay, who remains imprisoned despite a Constitutional Court ruling in his favor.
Of the 58 lawmakers who haven't spoken, 46 belong to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Notably, six are former ministers specifically nominated as deputies from metropolitan cities by President Erdogan, including Former Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati, and Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu.
Former Justice Minister and DEVA Party Deputy Sadullah Ergin also maintained his silence in the Parliament. Notable members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), such as Ilhan Kesici and Erdogan Toprak, did not speak either.
Lawmaker Nebi Hatipoglu, who switched from the Good Party to the AKP, addressed the General Assembly only once.
Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chairs Mithat Sancar and Pervin Buldan, now members of the HDP’s successor Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party, also refrained from speaking in the General Assembly or committees.
Kurdish leader Demirtas declines to attend father's funeral to protest his imprisonment
Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and two-time presidential candidate declined to attend his father’s funeral on December 31 to protest his ongoing imprisonment since 2016.
His father, Tahir Demirtas, passed away in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province. In a symbolic act, Demirtas, through his lawyers, announced his decision not to request attendance at the funeral as a form of protest.
Turkey's annual inflation hits nearly 65% in December, reaching a new high for 2023
In December, Turkey's annual inflation rate neared 65 percent, marking a new high for 2023. The official annual inflation rate in December announced on January 3, rose to 64.77 percent from 61.98 percent in November. However, the month-on-month pace of increases was the smallest in the past six months, standing at 2.93 percent.
Central Bank reserves drop for the first time in 13 weeks
The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) reported a decline in gross reserves for the first time in 13 weeks. According to CBRT data, the bank reserves decreased from $145.45 billion to $141.06 billion, reflecting a drop of $4.39 billion in the week ending on December 29, 2023.
The decrease in total reserves was primarily driven by a $4.73 billion decline in foreign exchange reserves, dropping from $97.56 billion to $92.83 billion during the same week.
Additionally, CBRT's net reserves, excluding swaps, experienced a decrease of $1.1 billion, reaching minus $37.5 billion.
Turkish exports to Israel surge by 34.8%
Despite Ankara's political stance on the Gaza conflict, Turkish exports to Israel increased by 34.8 percent last month, as per official figures.
President Erdogan announced a total export value of $255.81 billion for the country in the past year, marking a 0.6 percent rise from the previous year.
The notable surge in exports includes a 34.8 percent increase in trade with Israel from November to December 2023, reaching $430.6 million. Columnist Ibrahim Kahveci highlighted this significant uptick, noting that December's exports to Israel surpassed $408.3 million, the pre-October 7 attack level.
Survey reveals 60% of Turks disapprove of non-compliance with Constitutional Court decisions
The "Turkey's Pulse" survey, conducted by Metropoll on 1,800 people across 28 provinces in Turkey from November 15 to 19, revealed that an overwhelming majority of Turkish people, 60 percent, disapprove of non-compliance with decisions of the Constitutional Court (AYM).
When asked if it is right to refuse to comply with Constitutional Court rulings, 60 percent responded negatively, while only 22.6 percent answered affirmatively. The survey indicated that supporters of various political parties, including the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), predominantly believe that it is not right to reject Constitutional Court rulings. Among AKP supporters, 50.8 percent disagreed, and among MHP supporters, 45.6 percent disagreed with non-compliance.
Report reveals 315 women killed by men in Turkey in 2023
In 2023, at least 315 women were killed by men in Turkey, and incidents of femicide increased during the election period, according to a report by the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (KCDP).
The KCDP's 2023 report highlighted a total of 563 cases, including 315 murders and 248 suspicious deaths. Fidan Ataselim, Secretary-General of KCDP, highlighted the observation that femicides increased in May 2023, correlating with policies of politicians in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) against women’s rights.
The report also emphasized that perpetrators are often husbands, ex-husbands, partners, fathers, or brothers, and guns were identified as the most common means of femicide. Ataselim suggested changing gun laws as a crucial step to address this issue.
Bekir Sahin, Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, proposed the reinstatement of the death penalty for femicides. Sahin argued that the most severe punishment for femicide, which currently is aggravated life imprisonment, should be replaced with the death penalty.
Report: US military uses Turkey's Incirlik Airbase to deliver military aid to Israel
According to a special report by the Declassified UK news website, a US military aircraft delivered military aid to Israel for the Gaza conflict using Turkey's İncirlik Airbase, which contradicts Turkish President Erdogan's anti-Israel rhetoric.
The report claims that Turkey did not prevent the use of Incirlik Airbase by the US military, which reportedly facilitated the dispatch of a US C-130J Hercules military transport aircraft to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. RAF Akrotiri serves as a staging ground for moving arms to Israel.
The C-130 traveled from Incirlik to RAF Akrotiri on November 5, the day after arriving at Incirlik from Aviano Air Base in Italy, known for storing munitions for F-16s, the fighter jets used by Israel in Gaza.
Turkey blocks passage of British-donated minehunter ships to Ukraine
On January 2, Turkey announced its decision not to permit two minehunter ships donated to Ukraine by Britain to pass through its waters en route to the Black Sea. The presidency's communications directorate stated that Turkey informed its allies about this decision, citing the ongoing war in Ukraine as the reason.
The government's decision is based on the assertion that allowing such transit would violate the Montreux Convention, which regulates wartime passage through the straits.
Last month, Britain announced the transfer of two Royal Navy minehunter ships to the Ukrainian Navy to enhance Ukraine's maritime capabilities in its conflict with Russia.
Iran's President Raisi cancels Turkey visit following deadly attacks in Kerman
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi canceled his scheduled visit to Turkey following the devastating attacks in the southeastern city of Kerman on January 3 at a ceremony to commemorate commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone in 2020. The attacks resulted in at least 100 fatalities and numerous injuries.
Turkish President Erdogan's office and the Iranian state news agency IRNA confirmed the decision to cancel the visit on January 4.
Turkey's communications directorate said Erdogan had a phone call with Raisi, during which Erdogan condemned the attack, expressed condolences, and called Iran to collaborate in the "fight against terrorism."
UK and Turkey explore closer ties as trade ministers meet in Istanbul
During a visit to Istanbul on January 5, the United Kingdom's trade minister, Kemi Badenoch, met with her Turkish counterpart, Omer Bolat, to strengthen ties between the two nations. The meeting precedes anticipated negotiations for a new free trade deal later this year.
Bolat shared on the social media platform X that they discussed enhancing communication among businesses, increasing joint investments, and deepening trade.
On her part, Badenoch expressed her excitement about being in Turkey ahead of talks to modernize the existing trade deal for the 21st century, emphasizing the significant opportunities Turkey presents for UK businesses.
Turkey arrests 15, deports 8 suspected of links to Mossad
On January 5, a Turkish court arrested 15 individuals and ordered the deportation of eight others, suspecting their connection to Israel's Mossad intelligence service, state broadcaster TRT reported. The suspects are accused of targeting Palestinians residing in Turkey.
On January 2, Turkish authorities detained a total of 34 people and issued a warning to Israel, emphasizing "serious consequences" if they attempted to pursue members of the militant group Hamas living outside Palestinian territories, including in Turkey.
US Secretary of State discusses Israel-Gaza conflict with Turkish President and Foreign Minister
Washington's top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discussed the Israel-Gaza war with Turkish President Erdogan on January 6. While Turkish officials downplayed the visit, a photo released by state media showed Blinken shaking hands with Erdogan at one of the Turkish leader's residences in Istanbul.
The Turkish foreign ministry released a brief statement noting that Blinken and his counterpart, Hakan Fidan, discussed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Sweden's NATO accession process, and various bilateral and regional issues.
Following his meetings in Ankara, Blinken traveled to Crete, where he met Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to address Greek concerns regarding the sale of US fighter jets to Turkey.