Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Trump risks creating an unholy ‘axis of the sanctioned’ between Turkey, Iran, China and Russia

August 15, 2018

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Could the victims of Trump’s ‘trade war’ unite against him?

“Trade wars are easy to win,” Donald Trump reassured Americans when he launched stiff tariffs on Chinese exports. Then in rapid fire he re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, ramped them up on Russia and sent Turkey’s currency into a tailspin with tariffs on steel and aluminium exports.

So far first blood to the United States. Even China has found that its huge trade surplus makes it more vulnerable to US measures than the US economy is to counter-measures from Beijing. The sharp falls in the rouble, Iran’s rial and the Turkish lira are all testimony to America’s status as the world’s financial heavyweight.

Read the rest (Paywall):


Hezbollah chief claims terror group stronger than Israeli military, ready for war

August 15, 2018

In speech marking 12 years since Second Lebanon War, Hassan Nasrallah also says Iran sanctions won’t affect support for his organization

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen, during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen, during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said Tuesday that US sanctions against Iran and his Iran-backed group will not have major effects on them and will not lead to regime change in Tehran.

In a televised address marking the 12th anniversary of the end of the 34-day Second Lebanon War with Israel in 2006, Hassan Nasrallah also boasted that his forces were stronger than the Israeli army and prepared for a fresh war with Israel.

Nasrallah claimed that the Trump administration was “mistaken” in thinking sanctions would lead to riots in Iran that would topple the regime, or even force Iran to reduce support for activity abroad.

Last week the US began restoring sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in May. The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its support for international terrorism, its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile programs.

“Iran has been facing sanctions since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979,” Nasrallah said. “He (Trump) is strengthening the sanctions but they have been there since 1979 and Iran stayed and will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the victory of its revolution.”

The Hezbollah leader spoke to thousands of supporters gathered at a rally south of Beirut, where they watched his speech on giant screens as it was broadcast from a secret location.

Iran has been backing Hezbollah financially and militarily since the terror group was established after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Iranian protesters in central Tehran on June 25, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

A number of protests have broken out against the Iranian regime for the country’s precarious economic situation, with demonstrators calling for an end to military adventurism and financial support for terror groups abroad.

According to the US, Iran sends Hezbollah an estimated $700 million a year.

Speaking about the restoration of the sanctions by Washington, Nasrallah said: “I can tell you and I have accurate information they are building dreams, strategies and projects that Iran will head toward chaos and the regime will fall. This is illusion, this is imagination and has nothing to do with reality.”

He added that Hezbollah is not scared of a possible war with Israel.

“No one should threaten us with war and no one should scare us by war,” he said, adding: “We are not scared or worried about war and we are ready for it and we will be victorious.”

A picture taken on July 26, 2017 during a tour guided by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement shows members of the group manning an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pick-up truck in a mountainous area around the Lebanese town of Arsal along the border with Syria. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

“Hezbollah might not be the strongest army in the Middle East but it is certainly stronger than the Israeli army,” Nasrallah said, according to Lebanese news outlet Naharnet. “Because we have more faith in our cause and greater willingness to sacrifice.”

“The resistance in Lebanon — with its arms, personnel, expertise and capabilities — is stronger than ever,” Nasrallah said.

Most analysts believe Hezbollah has been significantly weakened by years of fighting in Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad. However, Israeli officials say the terror group still has a massive missile arsenal that can threaten much of the country, and that a war will be incredibly damaging to both sides of the Lebanese border.

Nasrallah said Israel would fail to force Hezbollah away from the Syrian Golan border, where Jerusalem fears it and other Iranian proxy groups will set up bases to use for attacks against the Jewish state, and has pushed for Russia to enforce a buffer zone.

“The Israeli enemy, which has been defeated in Syria, is insolently seeking to impose its conditions in Syria, but this will not happen,” he said.


Turkey Shifts Closer to Russia

August 15, 2018

Foreign ministers slam Western sanctions, as Erdogan plans boycott of U.S. electronic goods

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, discussed the Syrian crisis with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow in April.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, discussed the Syrian crisis with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow in April.PHOTO: SERGEI CHIRIKOV/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

ISTANBUL—President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey stepped up his attacks on the U.S. on Tuesday, calling for a boycott of Apple Inc.’s iPhones and other U.S. electronic goods, while his foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart in criticizing Western sanctions.

Turkey, a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, has been caught between the West and Russia. This week, officials in Ankara were leaning decidedly toward Moscow.

In recent weeks, Turkey and Russia have been the targets of U.S. sanctions while their currencies, the lira and the ruble, have dropped against the dollar. Mr. Erdogan’s boycott is part of a wider campaign Turkey has launched to retaliate against the U.S. measures.

The lira, already hit by investor concerns over Turkey’s financial stability, has hit a series of record lows since Aug. 1, when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey for not freeing a U.S. pastor facing terrorism charges.

On Tuesday, the lira rose slightly against the dollar, to 6.37, but remains vastly lower against the U.S. currency this year.

New tariffs the U.S. introduced on some Turkish imports on Monday have raised concerns of a full-blown trade war.

Attending a conference with Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, in Ankara on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey lashed out against Western sanctions.

“This era when we are being bullied must end,” Mr. Cavusoglu said.

Mr. Lavrov echoed those sentiments: “They are using methods of sanctions, threats, blackmail and diktat.”

Promising tighter cooperation with Turkey, Mr. Lavrov said Russia may shun the dollar in bilateral trade in the future, as it has done with countries such as China and Iran.

A Relationship in Crisis: Turkey Drifts Away From the U.S. and Towards Russia

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism and pursuit of a nationalist agenda has put his country at odds with its U.S and NATO allies. Meanwhile, he’s found a friend in Vladimir Putin. Photo: Getty Images

Closer ties to Russia could help Mr. Erdogan make his nation less-reliant on Washington and change the face of post-World War II Europe, on which its military force has been guarding NATO’s southeastern flank.

“We are looking for new allies,” Mr. Erdogan told supporters on Sunday.

There are limits, however, to how much help Moscow can provide for Turkey’s economy. On Tuesday, Mr. Lavrov provided no concrete pledges of assistance.

The budding trade and military partnership between Russia and Turkey is a remarkable turn of events. Two years ago, tensions rose after Turkey downed a Russian jet fighter and Russia’s ambassador was shot and killed by an off-duty Turkish police officer.

Recently, however, Moscow has signed contracts to supply its southern neighbor with more natural gas, a nuclear power plant and an advanced antimissile shield.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 26.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 26. PHOTO: VLADIMIR ASTAPKOVICH/KREMLIN/SPUTNIK/REUTERS

In contrast, relations between Turkey and the U.S. have soured.

Mr. Erdogan has accused Washington of waging an economic war against Turkey. Over the weekend, he lamented the lack of action on his demand that the U.S. deport a cleric he has said was behind a failed coup in 2016. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, has denied the accusation.

Manifestations of anti-U.S. sentiment have multiplied on social networks, where some people posted videos of themselves burning dollar bills and breaking U.S. electronic devices.

Hit hard by the drop in the lira, Ruhi Tas said he had tailored his own boycott.

Angry to see a $12,000 debt he contracted in dollars was ballooning in liras, the 43-year-old barber said he had decided to stop offering the “Amerikan” at his salon in the Black Sea town of Unye.

Although the male cut—short on the side and longer on the top—is very popular among youth in the region, the boycott has spread to other hairdressers, he said.

“I will resume doing the Amerikan when the dollar goes down,” he said, adding he had support from clients. “Tell the U.S. not to mess with Turkey.”

Despite using inflammatory language against the U.S., Mr. Erdogan has avoided direct attacks on President Trump, Turkish officials said, signaling that a compromise on the issue of the pastor, Andrew Brunson, was still possible. On Tuesday, the pastor’s lawyer said he had filed a new motion to Turkish courts, asking his client be released from house arrest and given back his passport.

Some analysts, meanwhile, said they expect Mr. Erdogan to forge closer ties with the European Union, which relies on Turkey’s help to contain migrant flows, and remain committed to NATO.

The U.S.-Turkey spat “is a bilateral issue and will remain so,” said Unal Cevikoz, a retired ambassador who served in Russia. “Mr. Erdogan will not dare leave NATO.”

In Turkey and the U.S., the business community warned about possible catastrophic consequences and urged the two sides to avoid stoking tensions.

“Actions that heighten these tensions risk spreading today’s financial challenges to other emerging markets, to European banks, and, ultimately, to the U.S. economy,” said Myron Brilliant, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting of the foreign ministers in Ankara concerned the war in Syria.

In the spring, Russia, one of the main sponsors of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, permitted Turkey to occupy a town in northwestern Syria to repel Kurdish militants whom the U.S. considers allies but Ankara regards as a terrorist threat.

In Ankara on Tuesday, Mr. Cavusoglu urged Mr. Lavrov to help contain the regime’s rush to retake the town of Idlib, around which Ankara has positioned military observers.

“It would be a massacre to bomb the whole of Idlib just because there are some terrorists inside,” he said.

Write to David Gauthier-Villars at

Appeared in the August 15, 2018, print edition as ‘Turkey Shifts Closer to Russia.’

Iraq’s Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

August 15, 2018

Failure by Iraq to comply fully with tough new US economic sanctions against Iran would be insane, analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi risked incurring US wrath after contradicting himself in the space of a few hours over whether his country would comply.

An intended visit to Tehran was canceled and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned. (REUTERS)

Amid diplomatic maneuvers, as he negotiates for a second term in office after divisive and contested elections, Abadi offended both Tehran and Washington with conflicting statements on the US sanctions, which were reimposed last week.

First, the prime minister said that while Iraq disapproved of the new sanctions, it would reluctantly comply. “We don’t support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them,” he said.

“Our economic situation is also difficult and we sympathize with Iran. But. at the same time, I will not make grand slogans that destroy my people and my country just to make certain people happy.”

His position provoked anger in Iran. An intended visit to Tehran on Tuesday to discuss the issue was canceled, and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned.

There was also criticism inside Iraq, especially from groups close to Tehran, such as the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr paramilitary movements.

Within hours, however, Abadi had reversed his position. “I did not say we abide by the sanctions, I said we abide by not using dollars in transactions. We have no other choice,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad.

Asked if Baghdad would stop imports of commodities, appliances and equipment by government companies from Iran, he said the matter was still being reviewed. “We honestly have not made any decision regarding this issue until now,” he said.

Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News: “Iraq can’t afford to be cut off from the dollar-based global financial system, so it makes sense to avoid sanctioned Iranian financial entities. Iraq should also protect its dollar reserves.

“These are the only sane options for a country that desperately needs international investment.”

Iraq is the second-largest purchaser of Iranian non-oil exports, and bought about $6 billion worth of goods in 2017. It also buys Iranian-generated electricity to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, the British renewable energy investor Quercus became the latest major company to pull out of Iran as a result of the new sanctions.

It halted construction of $570 million solar power plant in Iran, which would have been the sixth-largest in the world.

Arab News

Khamenei blames Rouhani for economic crisis in Iran

August 14, 2018

Iran’s supreme leader on Monday accused President Hassan Rouhani’s government of mismanagement, after a string of angry public protests over the dire state of the economy.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statement was an apparent attempt to deflect public anger over the plunging worth of the rial — the currency has lost about half of its value since April — and wider economic woes due to tough new US sanctions on Tehran.

“More than the sanctions, economic mismanagement is putting pressure on ordinary Iranians … I do not call it betrayal but a huge mistake in management,” Khamenei said.

The leader’s speech adds to the growing pressure on Iran’s beleaguered government. Aside from the economic concerns, footage of protests indicates a more fundamental dissatisfaction with the regime, with chants of slogans such as “death to the dictator” and demands for an end to Iran’s costly regional interventions in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen while Iranians suffer economic pain.

The blame against Rouhani comes at a time when US sanctions have once again hit. (AFP/File)

The Iranian leader also ruled out any talks with the US, following last week’s reimposition of sanctions after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp rises in the prices of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption.

The rial has lost about half of its value since April in anticipation of the renewed US sanctions, driven mainly by heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.

Meanwhile, Iran on Monday unveiled a next generation short-range ballistic missile. State broadcaster IRIB said the new Fateh Mobin missile had “successfully passed its tests” and could strike targets on land and sea. Previous versions of the missile had a range of about 200 to 300 kilometers.

Theodore Karasik, a security analyst and senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, said Iran was developing a “robust” defense industry despite the country’s “severe” economic problems.

“The missile is launched from a mobile launcher that provides for denial and deception tactics to hide such launchers from overhead surveillance … much like the Houthi militias are doing in Yemen,” he said.

Arab News

UN report: Up to 30,000 Islamic State members in Syria, Iraq

August 14, 2018

Al-Qaeda’s leaders in Iran are working with Ayman al-Zawahri and ‘have grown more prominent’; Islamic State transforming from ‘proto-state’ to covert terrorist network

FILE - In this June 16, 2014. file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this June 16, 2014. file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group’s flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq (AP Photo, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Islamic State extremist group has up to 30,000 members roughly equally distributed between Syria and Iraq and its global network poses a rising threat — as does al-Qaeda, which is much stronger in places, a United Nations report says.

The report by UN experts circulated Monday said that despite the defeat of IS in Iraq and most of Syria, it is likely that a reduced “covert version” of the militant group’s “core” will survive in both countries, with significant affiliated supporters in Afghanistan, Libya, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

The experts said al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience,” with its affiliates and allies much stronger than IS in some spots, including Somalia, Yemen, South Asia and Africa’s Sahel region.

Al-Qaeda’s leaders in Iran “have grown more prominent” and have been working with the extremist group’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, “projecting his authority more effectively than he could previously” including on events in Syria, the experts said.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a still image from a web posting by the terrorist organization’s media arm, as-Sahab, July 27, 2011 (photo credit: AP)

The report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against IS and al-Qaeda said the estimate of the current total IS membership in Iraq and Syria came from governments it did not identify. The estimate of between 20,000 and 30,000 members includes “a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters,” it said.

While many IS fighters, planners and commanders have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, the experts said many still remain in the two countries — some engaged militarily “and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas.”

IS fighters swept into Iraq in the summer of 2014, taking control of nearly a third of the country. At the height of the group’s power its self-proclaimed caliphate stretched from the edges of Aleppo in Syria to just north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

In this file photo released on Sunday, April 22, 2018 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, smoke rises after Syrian government airstrikes and shelling hit in Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood held by Islamic State militants, southern Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP)

With its physical caliphate largely destroyed, the Islamic State movement is transforming from a “proto-state” to a covert “terrorist” network, “a process that is most advanced in Iraq” because it still controls pockets in Syria, the report said.

The experts said the discipline imposed by IS remains intact and IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “remains in authority” despite reports that he was injured.

“It is just more delegated than before, by necessity, to the wider network outside the conflict zone,” the experts said.

The flow of foreign fighters to IS in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, they said, but “the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”

A member of Iraqi government forces inspects a burnt vehicle with a flag of the Islamic State (IS) on its top after they retook an area from jihadists on April 2, 2016 in the village of Al-Mamoura, near Hit, a Euphrates Valley town located about 145 kilometers west of Baghdad in the western province of Anbar. (Moadh al-Dulaimi/AFP)

While the rate of terrorist attacks has fallen in Europe, the experts said some governments “assess that the underlying drivers of terrorism are all present and perhaps more acute than ever before.” This suggests that any reduction in attacks is likely to be temporary until IS recovers and reorganizes and al-Qaeda “increases its international terrorist activity or other organizations emerge in the terrorist arena,” they said.

The experts looked at the threats posed by IS and al-Qaeda by region:

—ARABIAN PENINSULA: Al-Qaeda’s leaders recognize Yemen “as a venue for guerrilla-style attacks and a hub for regional operations.” Yemen’s lack of a strong central government “has provided a fertile environment for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” Its strength inside Yemen is estimated at between 6,000 and 7,000, compared with only 250 to 500 IS members in the conflict-wracked country.

—NORTH AFRICA: Despite the loss to IS of the Libyan city of Sirte and continued airstrikes, the extremist group “still has the capacity to launch significant attacks within Libya and across the border, reverting to asymmetric tactics and improvised explosive devises.” Estimates of IS members vary between 3,000 and 4,000, dispersed across Libya. Up to 1,000 fighters in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula have pledged allegiance to IS leader al-Baghdadi. Al-Qaeda is also continuing a resurgence in Libya.

This image taken from video shows a foreign hostage who was among seven seized in Niger in 2010 by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Seated on the left is Abou Zeid (photo credit: AP/SITE)

This image taken from video shows a foreign hostage who was among seven seized in Niger in 2010 by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Seated on the left is Abou Zeid (photo credit: AP/SITE)

—WEST AFRICA: An al-Qaeda-affiliated coalition has increased attacks on French, US, UN and other international interests in the Sahel. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has urged attacks on French private companies. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara is active mostly at the Mali-Niger border and has less of a footprint. “Member states assess that terrorists are taking advantage of territorial control and ethnic conflicts to radicalize populations.”

—EAST AFRICA: The al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia, an al-Qaeda affiliate, “remains the dominant terrorist group” in that country, with improvised explosive devices “its weapon of choice.” Despite sustained military action against al-Shabab, “the group has enhanced its capabilities as it retains its influence and appeal.” Member states said IS in Somalia “is fragile and operationally weak,” but “it still presents a threat” because the country remains a focus for possible future operations.

Police forensics officers works next to an underground train at a platform at Parsons Green underground station in west London on September 15, 2017, following an explosion, later claimed by Islamic State, which injured 29 people. (AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

—EUROPE: During the first six months of 2018, “the threat in Europe remained high” but “the tempo of attacks and disrupted plots was lower than during the same period in 2017.” Much activity involved individuals with no prior security records or deemed low risk. IS used the media to urge sympathizers in Europe to conduct attacks in their home countries. Member states expressed concern that returnees could disseminate knowledge and skills related to making drones, explosive devices and car bombs.

—CENTRAL AND SOUTH ASIA: According to an unidentified U.N. member state, IS poses an immediate threat in the region but al-Qaeda is the “intellectually stronger group” and poses a longer-term threat. Some leaders of the al-Qaeda “core,” including al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza, are reported to be in Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas. IS continues to relocate some key operatives to Afghanistan. One unidentified government reported newly arrived IS fighters from Algeria, France, Russia, Tunisia and central Asian states.

—SOUTHEAST ASIA: Despite last year’s heavy losses in the Philippines, IS affiliates in the country “are cash rich and growing in membership.” Intermediaries facilitated financial transfers from the IS “core” to Philippines affiliates and arranged bomb-making and firearms training for recruits from Indonesia at camps in the Philippines. Attacks in Indonesia by an IS-linked network using families as suicide bombers could become “a troubling precedent.”

NATO Should End Turkey’s Membership — Turkey is more aligned with Russia, China, Iran now

August 14, 2018

Ankara, helped by China and Russia, is vandalizing Western interests.

President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, July 11.
President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, July 11. PHOTO: TATYANA ZENKOVICH/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

U.S.-Turkish relations are mired in the worst crisis of their history. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding that President Trump turn over Mr. Erdogan’s sworn enemy, Fethullah Gülen. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, seeks the release of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned on the pretext that he had been involved in Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt. The U.S. government has levied economic sanctions on two senior Turkish officials, akin to those imposed on Russian oligarchs after the seizure of Crimea. Turkey responded by freezing the plainly nonexistent Turkish assets of two Trump cabinet members.

As tempers flare and accusations proliferate, it’s worth underscoring what is taking place: an unprecedented standoff between the presidents of two North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries.

The two leaders—recognizing one’s America First and the other’s New Turkey as opposing faces of the same populism—may soon come off their testosterone high and stage-manage a spectacular reconciliation. Mr. Trump has shown himself capable of this with Kim Jong Un. Meanwhile, Mr. Erdogan, sensitive to his country’s currency woes and dependence on foreign investment, will be looking for a way to halt the escalation without losing face. The conflict nonetheless points to a deeper rift that is too serious to ignore.

As Western democracies worked to stop the spread of Islamist extremism in the Middle East, Turkey and its intelligence services engaged in a double game. Witness the government’s delivery of arms to groups affiliated with al Qaeda and later Islamic State in January 2014—several months before the latter’s pivotal siege of Kobani.

Or consider the all-out offensive by Turkish planes and artillery against a Kurdish enclave in northeastern Syria earlier this year. Afrin, like the Manbij zone near Aleppo, was under Western protection. Yet the U.S. condoned the attack on its staunchest and most courageous allies in the region, even announcing the pullback of its own troops shortly after.

Between these two outrages, as if to highlight more clearly his neo-Ottoman ambitions, Mr. Erdogan posed with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and—in Ankara this April—with both! The trio met at a summit called to find a “solution” to the violence in Syria that they have fomented, spitting in the face of every friend of democracy and international law.

Mr. Erdogan’s relations with Mr. Putin are not limited to photo-ops. The sultan-in-the-making, who already had signed an agreement with the Kremlin to build massive nuclear power plants in Turkey, turned again to Moscow late last year for S-400 antiaircraft missiles that could pose compatibility problems with NATO weapons systems. Mr. Erdogan is going forward with the provocation even after the U.S. suggested it could jeopardize the Pentagon’s promised delivery of F-35 jet fighters.

At the 10th annual summit of the Brics nations, held in Johannesburg in late July, Mr. Erdogan was received as a guest of honor. There he very conspicuously raised the prospect of a strategic rapprochement with Xi Jinping’s China—and, once again, Mr. Putin’s Russia.

Mr. Erdogan’s ambition of resurrecting the ancient Turkic empire has snuffed out the secular, modern ideals of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Leaders of other illiberal states across Eurasia help him along, dreaming variously of reviving the caliphate; restoring the China of the Han, Ming, and Qing dynasties; re-creating a czarist empire; and bringing back the reign of the Achaemenid and Persian kings.

The U.S.-Turkish crisis is about much more than the egos of two phony tough guys. We must ask, calmly but unflinchingly, about the wisdom of our relations with an admittedly great country possessed of a great civilization that is no longer a friend or ally. Should the West continue to share military secrets on which our collective security depends with a capital that is forming strategic partnerships with the powers most hostile to us?

Mr. Trump said on July 11 that Mr. Erdogan “does things the right way.” The rest of us cannot say the same of a leader who increasingly opposes the West on virtually all of the issues on which liberal civilization depends.

Not long ago Europeans were debating, prematurely, whether to admit Turkey to the European Union. Now the time has come for the West collectively to demand not simply the release of a hostage, but the expulsion of Turkey from NATO.

Mr. Lévy is author of “The Empire and the Five Kings,” forthcoming from Henry Holt. This op-ed was translated from French by Steven B. Kennedy.

Saudi defenses intercept Houthi missile fired toward Najran

August 13, 2018
Houthi militants continuously fire missiles towards areas in Saudi Arabia. (File photo: AFP)

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s aerial defense systems intercepted a Houthi missile fired toward Najran, accourding to a statement issued by the Arab Coalition.

China Cannot Sustain Money “Give Away”

August 13, 2018

“China [has spent] billions [and] billions of dollars overseas. [Yet] national wealth, including the $3 trillion [of] foreign reserves, has [been] accumulated [by the] sweat of generations during the [past] 40 years.

Investment drops by around 12% in the first half of the year as Beijing grapples with US trade war, a cooling economy and domestic problems

 AUGUST 13, 2018 7:13 PM (UTC+8)

China has launched a massive program of 'New Silk Roads' on land, sea and in the air. Photo: iStock

China has launched a massive program of ‘New Silk Roads’ on land, sea and in the air. Photo: iStock

Italian Bonds Slump as Shock Waves From Turkish Turmoil Spread

August 13, 2018

Italy’s bonds led losses among euro-area sovereign debt markets as the Turkish currency turmoil fueled fears of a contagion effect across riskier assets.


Yields on two-year securities climbed to the highest levels in more than a week as stocks worldwide declined following a tumble of more than 28 percent in Turkey’s lira this month. The Italian 10-year spread over German bunds hit the highest since May. Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio was reported as saying in an interview Monday that his country won’t be subject to an attack by speculators.

“It’s just a flight to safety move, with peripherals and in particular short-term BTPs hit relatively hard,” said Martin van Vliet, senior interest-rate strategist at ING Groep NV. “Di Maio’s comment on speculative attacks is also not taken positively, as this sort of echoes the economic warfare rhetoric from the Turkey leadership.”

Italian bonds also dropped amid investors concerns about the new government’s spending plans ahead of next month’s budget.

Two-year yields climbed as much as 18 basis points to 1.34 percent, while those on their 10-year debt rose eight basis points to 3.07 percent. The spread over German 10-year yields increased eight basis points to 276 basis points, the highest level since May.


 Turkey and Russia are bracing for financial chaos this week.

Increased tariffs on Turkey’s steel and aluminum exports to the U.S. have accelerated the lira’s tumble, setting in motion economic confusion that could spill over into other countries in the region. At the center of the dispute between the two NATO allies is a detained American pastor, but it doesn’t help that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, above, and President Trump are both strong-headed leaders.

Russia’s currency, the ruble, also took a beating after the Trump administration sanctioned the country for the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Italy’s Five Star Movement faces its first national test.

The party campaigned to block a proposed pipeline that would transport gas from the Caspian Sea to southern Italy. That won over southern Italians like Alfredo Fasiello, above, who have long been wary of the pipeline’s environmental risks.

But now that Five Star is in power, it is wavering on that promise as pressure mounts to wean the country off Russian oil and gas by finding alternative sources.

To complicate matters further, Russia and four other countries that border the Caspian Sea — Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan — have agreed to divide the oil and gas-rich seabed among them. The agreement, which comes after three decades of Russian opposition, could have consequences for the construction of the trans-Caspian pipeline to Europe.

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