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Turkey on the brink as Erdoğan struggles to win re-election in Sunday’s polls

Erdoğan’s re-election and grip on power undermined by growing economic crisis

Alexander Mercouris

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Sunday’s elections in Turkey are being widely seen around the world as an important test for Turkey’s longterm leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Unusually Presidential and parliamentary elections are happening in Turkey at the same time, with Erdoğan – currently Turkey’s President – looking to consolidate his position in the new office of executive President he has created for himself.

Erdoğan however also needs his AKP grouping to win a clear majority in the Turkish parliament if he is to continue to govern Turkey in the unchallengeable way to which he has become accustomed.

Turkey’s elections were in fact due to be held in November 2019.  However in April Erdoğan brought them forward because he sensed that Turkey’s economic position – upon which his popularity depends – was becoming weaker.

Crash of the lira

In the event the Turkish currency the lira has crashed since the elections were called, losing 20% of its value this year and some 40% of its value since the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The crash of the lira has in turn resulted in a sharp rise in Turkey’s inflation rate, which now stands at 12%, whilst Turkey’s Central Bank has been forced – against Erdoğan’s wishes – to raise its key rate to 18%.

Not surprisingly, as Turkey’s people reel from the bad economic news support for Erdoğan and his AKP group has tumbled, putting their prospects of success in the elections in jeopardy.

Erdoğan’s electoral prospects – still commands much support in Turkey

Most observers of the Turkish political scene still expect Erdoğan to be re-elected President.  There are suggestions that he might be forced into a second round run-off by his main rival Muharrem Ince, who is reported – at least in the Western media – to have run a successful campaign.

However predictions in the West that Erdoğan may be heading for defeat need to be treated with care.

As becomes immediately obvious from even a brief perusal, articles in the Western media which either call for or appear to expect Erdoğan’s electoral humiliation or even outright defeat are very much the product of the Western political establishment’s intense dislike for him (see for example this article by Simon Tisdall in The Guardian and this article by Alanna Petroff for CNN).  As such they are not reliable guides as to Erdoğan’s standing in Turkey.

Though Erdoğan is a deeply polarising figure in Turkey – as shown by the bare majority of 51.4% his proposal to convert Turkey’s Presidency into an executive Presidency won in the constitutional referendum last year – he retains strong support in Turkey’s conservative and deeply religious interior, where he retains a devoted following amongst Turkey’s conservative and religious rural voters.

In addition Erdoğan’s forceful and aggressive personality enables him to dominate his opponents, strengthening support for him, and making his opponents look weak and unconvincing by comparison.

Needless to say recent moves in the US to block the transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey will do Erdoğan’s reputation in Turkey no harm at all.

AKP prospects hinge on success or failure of Kurdish HDP

As for the possibility that Erdoğan’s AKP group might lose its absolute majority in parliament, to an extent that is perhaps not fully recognised in the West that depends on whether the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) – which strongly opposes Erdoğan – wins 10% or more of the vote.

If the HDP wins less than 10% of the vote it will not get seats in parliament under Turkey’s list-based allocation system.

If it does get 10% or more of the vote, then it will do so, in which case the AKP may struggle to win a majority.

Whilst the HDP does have a strong base of support in Turkey, the deterioration of the security situation in Turkey’s Kurdish areas may affect its ability to bring out its voters, whilst the HDP is also hampered by the fact that its leader Selahattin Demirtaş is actually in prison in far away Edirne in Turkish Thrace, forcing him to direct the HDP’s election campaign from there.

Mismanaging the economy to achieve electoral victory

Moreover the deterioration in the economy has manifested itself only relatively recently.  In the first quarter Turkey’s economy actually grew 7.6% year on year.

Though that was a direct product of prime pumping as Erdoğan artificially boosted the economy in the run up to the elections, the subsequent weakening of the economy caused by the crash in the lira may have come too late to dissipate fully the political effect of the previous period of rapid growth.

Erdoğan’s prime pumping of the economy in the run up to the elections does however illustrate an important fact about him and about the way he runs Turkey.

Grandiosity at home and abroad

This is that Erdoğan’s exercise of power is whimsical, with little regard for expert opinion, and is excessively focused on himself and on his own needs, with justification being provided by objectives which he sets which are often impossibly grandiose, and which are therefore neither achievable nor in Turkey’s long term interest.

Consider for example the bizarre speech Erdoğan delivered in October 2016, in which he appeared to claim for Turkey some sort of paramount position across the whole of the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia.

The result is that apart from Russia and to a certain extent Iran, Turkey under Erdoğan now finds itself in conflict with virtually all its neighbours.  Though Simon Tisdall in the Guardian writes about this from a rigidly pro-NATO and Atlanticist perspective, his description of the state of Turkey’s relations with its neighbours is by no means wholly wrong

The rift with Cairo endures. And Erdoğan has also fallen out with the Gulf monarchies over continuing links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ankara’s perceived military ambitions, and its de facto alliances with Iran and Qatar. Prince Salman, the Saudi crown prince, says Turkey is part of a “triangle of evil” that includes Iran and Islamic extremists…..

…..the current election campaign has seen escalating Turkish military operations inside northern Iraq, on the Kandil mountains border with Iran, where the outlawed Kurdish group the PKK is based. Neither Tehran nor Baghdad has given permission for these dangerous armed encroachments – but, in his hubris and arrogance, Erdoğan does not care…..

The pattern repeats around the region. Erdoğan has picked a fight with an old enemy, Greece, in recent weeks, sending aircraft to buzz Greek islands after Athens refused to hand over suspects in the 2016 coup. This confrontational behaviour has brought talk of war – a not wholly improbable outcome, given the escalating dispute over energy exploration rights off still-divided Cyprus.

Similarly, past attempts to improve relations with Israel have been abandoned in favour of resumed, politically expedient enmity, justified most recently by Erdoğan’s claim to care about dead Palestinians in Gaza.

Tisdall’s account is in fact both distorted and selective.  Erdoğan’s most egregious and extensive intervention – ignored by Tisdall because of Tisdall’s intense dislike of Syria’s President Assad – is in northern Syria, where Erdoğan has carved out by force a large Turkish controlled Jihadi protectorate in north west Syria.

As for what Tisdall calls Erdoğan’s “obsession” with the Kurds, no Turkish government would look on with equanimity at the US’s formation of a semi-autonomous Kurdish statelet in northern Syria led by the YPG, a Kurdish militia aligned with the PKK, a Kurdish militia engaging in an insurgency against the Turkish authorities in Turkey, which the Turkish authorities and their NATO allies consider a terrorist group.

Nonetheless the overall image conjured by Tisdall of a Turkey which under Erdoğan’s leadership has been throwing its weight around in pursuit of objectives which are both grandiose and nebulous – and which are therefore deeply alarming to Turkey’s neighbours – is not a wholly wrong one.

The most dangerous flashpoint currently is the eastern Mediterranean, an area where Erdoğan in his October 2016 speech laid claim to various Greek islands, and where his military has recently been involved in a succession of dangerous confrontations between the Greek military, with none of the big external powers (eg. the US, Russia and the EU) so far acting to restrain him.

Putin and Erdoğan: not fellow dictators but political opposites

Whenever the Western media brings up the subject of Erdoğan a comparison with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin is always made.

In reality, though the two men nowadays work closely together, the differences between them are far greater than the similarities, with Erdoğan approximating far more closely to the Western cartoon image of “Putin” than the real Vladimir Putin does.

I have described some of these differences in the past, but I will do so again because doing so is actually a good way of understanding the difficulties Erdoğan to those who must deal with him

Erdogan is someone who far more closely resembles the Western image of Putin than Putin himself does.

Where claims that Putin is corrupt and a billionaire are wholly unsubstantiated and almost certainly untrue, that Erdogan is a billionaire is an acknowledged fact, as is the involvement of some members of his family in shady business dealings.

Contrary to his Western image Putin’s manner and language is polite and restrained. Erdogan by contrast is often aggressive and confrontational.

Putin is highly calculating and always consults his chief advisers before making a decision.

Erdogan is impulsive and arbitrary, and is far more likely than Putin to make decisions on the hoof.

Unlike Putin, who puts up with everything, Erdogan is a notoriously prickly character who reacts badly to criticism.

He has jailed opposition activists and journalists and cracked down on the media in ways that Putin never has.

Not surprisingly, the result of this sharp difference in style is that the two men conduct political, economic and foreign policy completely differently.

In Russia Putin has been the great institution builder, carefully observing the constitution, strengthening the country’s legal system, and exercising power through greatly expanded and strengthened institutions such as the Security Council and the State Council.

In Turkey Erdoğan not only largely runs things all by himself, but he has changed the constitution to suit his own needs, treats the law as an instrument to enforce what he decides, and even meddles in the interest rate setting decisions of the Central Bank.

Where Putin’s runs a tight ship economically, keeping the budget in balance, building up reserves and savings, making sure Russia runs a trade surplus with the rest of the world, and leaving operational decisions to the experts in the Central Bank and the ministries, Erdoğan regularly goes for broke, running the Turkish economy with large deficits – both in the budget and in the country’s external trade – whilst making all the important decisions himself.

Unsurprisingly, where Putin seeks macroeconomic stability Erdoğan prioritises growth at all costs.

As I said in a recent article for RussiaFeed, in Putin’s case

……the result is a roughly balanced budget, which is now in surplus, large reserves, growing savings, a trade surplus, a balance of payments surplus, falling inflation, and increasing resiliency in the face of external shocks.

Whereas in Erdoğan’s case the result is a seriously unbalanced economy constantly susceptible to overheating and very vulnerable to external shocks, with very high and before long probably unsustainable debt levels, and with rising inflation and interest rates.

The contrast in foreign policy is even starker, with Putin now all but universally recognised as the supreme diplomat of the age, whereas Erdoğan as Tisdall says is at odds with almost everyone he regularly interacts with with the notable exception of Putin himself.

Prospects if Erdoğan wins

If, as is still overwhelmingly likely, Erdoğan is re-elected President on Sunday and manages to consolidate his position as Turkey’s leader, these disturbing trends will likely continue and will get worse.

The imbalances in Turkey’s economy will become more acute – with the threat of an actual crisis becoming ever more real – whilst political polarisation within Turkey will intensify, and political conflicts will grow, with Erdoğan’s personality becoming the issue around which those conflicts will increasingly crystallise.  Erdoğan himself meanwhile, from of a mix of both political and psychological reasons, will continue to pursue destabilising policies, both externally and internally, with the growing risk externally that they may end in a disastrous clash.

Relations with the West meanwhile will continue to deteriorate, with Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO – until recently hardly a realistic possibility – gradually becoming a real possibility, with Erdoğan, less out of genuine conviction and more because he will have left himself no choice, drifting increasingly closer to Russia and China.

All of this however will always be vulnerable to the sort of sudden dizzying reversals and “diplomatic revolutions” of which Erdoğan has shown himself repeatedly capable, and which makes him – for the Russians and for everyone else – such an unstable and unreliable partner.

Prospects if Erdoğan loses

In the event of the less likely alternative of Erdoğan either failing to win the Presidency or becoming so politically weakened because of a run-off or a defeat in the parliamentary elections that his political grip on Turkey is weakened, the prospect may even be worse.

Erdoğan’s political base would continue to be mobilised and angry, and would certainly resist any attempts by Turkey’s old secular establishment to reverse the changes he has made in his long years of power

The fall in 1960 of Adnan Menderes – Turkey’s right wing Islamist leader of the 1950s of whom Erdoğan is the political heir – provides a warning of what might happen.  It set in train a long period in Turkey of instability, economic crisis, political violence and coups, as Turkey’s secular establishment struggled to contain the anger of Menderes’s large popular base, which remained unreconciled to his fall.  By the late 1970s Turkey appeared to be on the brink of civil war, which only an exceptionally brutal military crackdown in 1980 after a military coup managed at the last moment to prevent.

Illustrating how tense conditions were in Turkey during this period – even during times of seeming calm – are the apparently well founded suspicions that Turgut Özal – a former supporter of Menderes who became successively Turkey’s Prime Minister and President in the 1980s and 1990s – was murdered whilst in office by poison administered to him by members of Turkey’s Deep State as part of what is sometimes referred to as Turkey’s covert coup of 1993 (a subsequent autopsy did indeed find exceptionally high levels of DDT in Özal’s body, suggesting that the rumours of his murder may be true).

It took the victory of Erdoğan’s AKP in Turkey’s 2002 parliamentary elections to bring this unhappy period in Turkey’s history to an end.

Uncertain times both for Turkey and its neighbours

Difficult and unstable a personality though Erdoğan undoubtedly is, his critics both inside and outside Turkey need to face up to the fact that given existing conditions in Turkey he may be the only person with the charisma and authority to hold Turkey politically together.  If so then his fall may be more dangerous to the future of democracy and stability in Turkey than his survival.

One way or the other, whether Erdoğan on Sunday wins or loses, the situation in Turkey is uncertain and the future unclear.

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lordbaldric
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lordbaldric

Is Turkey leaves or is kicked out of NATO, look for the US to fund and arm the Kurd militias to the max, while also cutting off support and spare parts for any western bought weapons systems.

Would be a nice FU for all the trouble Turkey has caused in Syria.

kemerd
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kemerd

Erdogan’s demise is real. He also appears to have started losing his mental faculties: his latest speeches contain absurd accusations and egregious lies that are so easy to verify. His rallies are much smaller than Ince’s despite all the local governors and majors bring hundreds of buses full of his supporters from the surrounding towns. Besides, the last year’s referendum results are a result of outright election fraud committed by election committee itself. So, the real result was most probably about 47 for erdogan vs 53 against. Unlike the last time the current two leaders of opposition Ince and Aksener… Read more »

kemerd
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kemerd

And, Menderes was not an Islamist at all: he was an opportunist right-wing millionaire. And, after his removal from power, the country had its most vibrant 15 years until mid-70s. From where do you get your info in Turkey? It is true that both of the opposition parties that are likely to succeed erdogan are pro-west. But, unlike Erdogan they have no illusions about Turkey’s actual power, or that they have any lust for spilling Turkish blood for the foreigners and would never allow themselves to become cannon fodders for the west. In fact, all opposition leaders declared that they… Read more »

Hamletquest
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Hamletquest

Erdogan has few friends if any at all. His rapprochement with Russia was purely born out of self preservation during the attempted coup which was most likely backed by the US through its NATO surrogates in Turkey. The Sultan of Swing is too unpredictable for Russia to consider him a true ally and certainly is a problem for NATO which is the only reason I imagine Putin entertains him. After the shoot down of the Russian aircraft on the Turkish Syrian boarder it was not an easy thing for Putin to drop the sanctions on Turkish products. But the aftermath… Read more »

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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