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Erdogan: a mad sultan or a far-right South American style dictator?

In many ways, Turkey’s Erdogan is more like the far-right South American dictators of the 1970s and 1980s than he is like an old Ottoman Sultan or a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

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Neo-Ottoman foreign policies combined with a singular, egotistical attitude have earned Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the nickname ‘Sultan’ and even ‘Mad Sultan’.

In terms of his policies, he certainly is mad in respect of his overzealous ambition and he is very much like an Ottoman Sultan in the sense that he wants to reconquer former Ottoman territories, most notably in Syria and Iraq but also in the Balkans and the wider Hellenic world. His intransigence over Turkey’s continued illegal occupation of Cyprus also reinforces this reality. His open disdain for Ataturk’s secular reforms, is yet another reason that many refer to him ‘Sultan’.

But it terms of Erdogan’s political style, personal style and perhaps most interestingly, the way western countries have attempted to exploit him, Erdogan is reminiscent of a political trend far more recent than the last of the Ottoman Sultans, whose rule was terminated by Ataturk in 1922.

Erdogan is in many ways, a Turkish version of the far-right South American dictators of the latter half of the 20th century.

The military dictators who ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 and moreover the notorious dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile between 1974 and 1990 represented  strong man authoritarian rule where press freedoms were suppressed, opposition figures were  hounded, jailed or killed, left-wing politics was fiercely resisted and the economy was generally considered modern and stable compared to regional rivals, the latter was particularly true of Pinochet’s Chile which was considered a model of monetarist capitalism in a region that many worried would ‘fall’ to communism.

As with Turkey, both Chile and Argentina had experiences with real democratic elections prior to the dictatorships. The elections were at times flawed and the CIA didn’t often like the results (to put it mildly), but both countries had literate, educated populations who were fully capable of engaging in a normal democratic process. The same is true of Turkey prior to Erdogan. Turkish and South American journalists and intellectuals always had a lot to say about these processes.

Like his South American counterparts Erdogan is a strong man, he is deeply militant. Specifically, like Argentina’s ultimately failed attempt to reconquer the Malvinas Island under Leopoldo Galtieri (called the Falkland Islands by Britain) Turkey’s attempts to re-Ottomanise Iraq and Syria are in the midst of failing.

Of course there are differences. In trying to subdue Syria and Iraq and in occupying Northern Cyprus (something which began in 1974, long before Erdogan),  Erdogan’s Turkey is molesting the sovereignty of independent states. Galtieri by contrast was attempting to re-conquer some small islands under British neo-colonial rule that according to some is democratic because of the pro-British population of the islands, but according to others is a relic of a British Imperial past which by the 1980s was an international anomaly. Nevertheless, both represented a quest to achieve glory through military adventurism. One failed the other is failing at this very moment.

The similarities don’t end there. As with his South American counterparts, Erdogan promised economic reforms and political stability. It soon became clear that this was to be at the expense of genuine democracy and social pluralism.

In both cases, self-appointed ‘guardians of democracy’ in the US and much of western Europe looked the other way. Under Margaret Thatcher, Britain had a kind of love affair with Pinochet’s Chile where by his economic model and apparent stability was championed in Britain as a ‘success story’. Pinochet’s human rights abuses, appalling treatment of opposition politicians and total lack of real democracy was ignored in the most caviller manner imaginable. The United States also supported both the Chilean and Argentine dictatorial regimes without questioning anything. Britain and America still have virtually no harsh words for Erdogan.

Erdogan’s rise to power on a promise of economic reform, political stability and opposition to corruption was once praised throughout Europe and the US. They shamelessly bought the Erdogan narrative (as did many Turkish intellectuals who have grown to detest Erdogan).

The reality is that old style functional Turkish corruption has given way to an iron-fisted regime where easily bribed local officials plaguing Turkey, have been replaced by a state at war with its secular past, which stands on the verge of internal crises due to the flourishing of violent Islamist groups.

Turkey’s economy has stagnated since the successes of Erdogan’s early years and Turkey has gone from a real but imperfect democracy to a country where a single man, Erdogan can pass Presidential decrees at whim over a Parliament that has been rendered effectively useless by the recent Presidential Power’s Referendum which Erdogan says he won and his opposition say he rigged.

Britain and the US still look the other way as all of this goes on, just as they did in South America.

Likewise, while some are quick to say that Erdogan’s Islamist tendencies are the Islamic Brotherhood or worse,only with a Turkish rather than Arabic tongue, the reality is that Erdogan’s relationship to political Islam, isn’t greatly different than the dictators of South America and their relationship with political Catholicism.

Neither the South America far-right nor Erdogan were/are fully interested in created anything close to a full theocracy. Instead, both leaders seek to use religion as a literally ‘holier than thou’ justification for polices which are otherwise those of a brutish, far-right secular strong-man dictator. Erdogan is far more like Pinochet in this sense than he is like Egypt’s failed Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi who ruled the country from 2012-2013.

The South American dictators hid behind the cross and Erdogan hides behind Islam. It’s an easy way to escape scrutiny in many cases. In South America, they said that the cross helped to resist communism. In Turkey’s case, Erdogan’s Islamism is said to help Turkey resist succumbing to al-Qaeda style Salafism. The fact that Turkey is actively promoting Salafism in Syria is no more ironic than Chile approving of Britain’s war on Argentina in the name of ‘democracy’, as Argentina’s was a government as right-wing and dictatorial as Chile’s.

But so long as Erdgoan promises to ‘keep ISIS out of Europe’ all is well in the west, just as it was when the South America dictatorships promised to ‘keep communism out of the Americans’.

There is however a happy ending, in spite of their dictatorships, both Argentina and Chile transitioned back to democracy peacefully and on the whole successfully. Today, South American nations are ruled by either left-wing governments or centre-right governments. The age of far-right military dictatorship belongs to a 20th century that will likely not come back.

Turkey too has the opportunity to transition back to a post-Erdogan democratic, secular, moderate political reality so long as the damage he does is not too great. Much of this depends on how long he is in power and how he copes with his many internal crises, internal crises which to be fair have a more internationalised element than those facing South American dictatorships in the 1980s.

While Erdogan’s Kemalist opposition is in many ways making the same demands that leftist and democratic centrist opposition activists made in Chile and Argentina, Erdogan’s problem with Salafist terrorism and Kurdish separatism are unique issues to Turkey and to Turkey’s wider region.

How he handles these crises could determine how long or short he remains in power and also how quickly Turkey can return to normalcy after the dictator leaves office. Sultans fall with a cataclysmic bang, South America dictators tend to fall quietly, often to the click of champagne glasses, the kind that have often clicked in secular, Kemalist Turkey.

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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