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5 reasons Turkish-US relations have hit rock bottom

America has done everything possible to alienate its traditional Turkish ally. The most worrying part is that Washington seems unaware that it has done so.

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Today marks the one  year anniversary of a coup in Turkey which briefly threatened to topple the rule of Turkey’s strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the year that has past, Erdogan’s grip on power has strengthened, even though many of the underlying issues threatening Turkey’s stability remain. These include an increasingly rejuvenated Kurdish nationalist movement, the threat of Salafist terrorism inside Turkey, the threat of provocations from Gulenists and a resurgent secular Kemalist opposition.

There is still no international consensus on who is responsible for the failed coup of 15 July, 2016. Erdgoan continues to blame forces loyal to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gluen, but it is still not clear if this is the case. It could have easily been the disgruntled mid-level Turkish army personnel who executed the coup who also planned it.

What is clear is that while many expected the coup to weaken or even humble Erdogan, the opposite has happened. What has been weakened in the year subsequent o the coup attempt is Turkey’s traditionally strong relationship with the United States.

Here are some things to consider.

1. America Disregards Turkey Without Wooing Turkey’s Enemies 

One of the guiding features of contemporary US foreign policy has been a dangerous adherence to the maxim that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.

The United States is not for example filled with ardent Ukrainian nationalists, but instead, the US saw fomenting Ukrainian extremism as a way to make things difficult for Russia.

Likewise, the Albanian lobby in America is negligible, but America steadfastly supports Albanian radicalism in the Balkans as a way of weakening Serbia which is an historic Russian ally, even though the contemporary alliance is more spiritual and fraternal than it is military or financial.

For those thinking that America’s disagreements with Turkey have arisen out of a desire to become closer to Turkey’s traditional enemies, this is not the case, even when appearances might dictate otherwise.

America has not suddenly taken a pro-Greek, pro-Cypriot or pro-Armenian position at the expense of Turkey. The United States continues to support German economic measures from Berlin and Brussels against Athens and shows little real interest in bringing unity to Cyprus. There is also little movement on Armenian issues in Washington.

Unlike Greece, Cyprus and Armenia whose historical enmity towards Turkey has not ebbed, Russia in spite of her history of wars with Turkey cannot be considered an enemy of Turkey in 2017. Some would even call Russia and Turkey allies, although this is clearly a big step too far.

America’s alliance with Kurds in Syria and to an extent also in Iraq is not because of but in spite of Turkey. This is a key difference which must be explored in depth.

2. America’s Kurdish Crucible 

If one wanted to upset Turkey, alienate Turkey or prepare to engage with Turkey militarily, forming a military alliance with Kurdish forces on Turkey’s borders would be a good place to start.

This however is not America’s goal. In supporting Kurds in Syria, America has found away to at least publicly claim to oppose ISIS without joining the anti-terrorist coalition, aka the resistance led by Syria. This coalition includes Russia which America under Donald Trump seems happy to work with in certain limited capacities but it also includes the Syrian government, Iran and Hezbollah.

The official position of the US in respect of the government of Syria has hardly changed in any significant way, though at times appears more realistic than under Trump vis-a-vis Obama. By contrast, America’s position vis-a-vis Iran and Hezbollah has if anything become more extreme under Donald Trump.

This leaves America with few options in Syria apart from the jihadists whose cause is becoming increasingly untenable and the Kurds. This process of elimination led America to choose the Kurds and seeing as the Kurds are the most Israel friendly option in the region, this certainly helped America’s decision process (if one can be so charitable as to say that it was a process) as well.

The troubling aspect of the US-Kurdish alliance isn’t that it was created to antagonise Turkey, but instead that it was embarked upon without any consideration for how Ankara might feel.

Of course, when the US puts NATO troops on all sides of Russia’s borders, it is clear that Washington doesn’t care how Moscow might feel about this, but Turkey is a NATO member and a traditional modern US ally.

While the US is not fomenting a would-be ‘Kurdish Maidan’ in Turkey, the fact that they seem so unconcerned with a long time ally being incensed about America’s relationship with Krudish militants makes one wonder if the US is as arrogant in its actions towards supposed allies as it is towards apparent adversaries?

3. No Personal Respect 

When President Erdogan accused the Obama administration of having a hand in the failed coup through America’s sheltering of  Fethullah Gluen a wanted terrorist in Turkey, Obama and his associates were highly cavalier in their dismissal of the allegations.

One could argue that there may have been an absurd quality to the accusations (though there are even stronger arguments to the contrary), but this is the same Obama administration that invented Russiagate, perhaps the most absurd geo-political allegation in modern history. This theory therefore carries little weight.

Things have not improved under Donald Trump. Erdogan’s recent visit to Washington was marred by a general lack of respectful protocol from the US side and what was visibly a poor personal dialogue between the two Presidents.

READ MORE: Turkey seethes at Trump’s snub to Erdogan

This has not sat well with Ankara and the Trump administration has done virtually nothing to ameliorate the situation.

4. EU Rejection 

Those who felt that Turkey would ever join the EU were also being fanciful, but even those who were Turkosceptics in respect of Turkey joining the European bloc could never have imagined just how far Brussels-Ankara relations would plummet.

While the low-ebb in Turkey’s relations with Europe do not directly effect the United States, if Turkey was in both the EU and NATO, it would have only helped to draw Turkey closer to Washington which is effectively the strongest unofficial member of the EU and the only power in NATO that really calls the shots.

With Turkey being so visibly rejected by a pro-American bloc of nations on its western doorstep, Turkey is even more isolated from the American sphere of influence.

5. Russia 

When it comes to wars fought with Russia, not even Poland has fought more than Turkey, depending on how one counts the number of individual conflicts.

In spite of Lenin and Ataturk enjoying a good personal relationship, Turkey and the USSR’s relationship subsequently declined after the 1930s.

Therefore, the fact that Vladimir Putin is perhaps Erdogan’s closest personal acquaintance in respect of a foreign head of state is historically surprising.

Russia and Turkey still have matters of disagreement in Syria, but the fact that Russia and Turkey continue to increase their trade and their diplomatic cooperation in Syria through the Astana Group, is a fact which literally defies historical expectations.

Russia has shown Turkey respect which both America and the EU seem incapable of doing at this point in history. Furthermore, whereas some Russian leaders would have attacked Turkey militarily after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in 2015, President Putin’s patience on the matter has paid off.

READ MORE: PUTIN: Master statesman with Turkey and Japan – and now Trump

Erdogan subsequently apologised  for shooting down the plane and relations became not only patched up but intensified in rapid fashion.

With Turkey about to complete a deal for the purchase of Russia S-400 missile defence systems after America and European producers of similar systems were inflexible in respect of the price, it is clear that Turkey is becoming closer to Russia politically, commercially and diplomatically even as certain areas of geo-strategic differences certainly remain.

In this sense, Russia’s door to Turkey was opened by Vladimir Putin but it was the United States along with its European allies which pushed Turkey through the open door.

America has not yet cared to feel Turkish anger towards Washington but it may well soon find that when a NATO member increasingly sides with Russia’s approach to Middle Eastern affairs in areas ranging from Syria and Iraq to Qatar and Iran, America might begin to feel the results of its childish behaviour towards Turkey.

Turkey is now growing increasingly close not only to Russia but to Iran. As a result Turkey has grown further from Saudi Arabia, America’s closest Arab ally.

The map of alliances in the Middle East is changing and it is as much to do with American incompetence as it is to do with the rising influence of Russia and Iran in the Arab world.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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