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Turkey’s partnership with Iran is a point of no return for Turkish-US relations

The second largest army in NATO is now cooperating militarily with America and Israel’s supreme boogieman, Iran. Against this background, it is no wonder that Washington has so readily turned against its long time Eurasian ally.

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Many, including the German government, suspect that this week Donald Trump will announce his intention to withdraw the United States from the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. Even before Donald Trump called the JCPOA an ’embarrassment’ at the United Nations, his negative feelings about the deal were well known.

The perfect storm of hatred for Barack Obama, under whose watch the deal was agreed, apparent subservience to Trump’s “good friend” Benjamin Netanyahu and an irrational hatred of Iran that many US Republicans have held since the Reagan era, have conspired to make Trump the perfect mouthpiece for latent anti-Iranian sentiments within Washington and part of the so-called right-wing of the neo-con base.

Interestingly, the Pentagon is widely thought not to share the anti-Iranian views of the Washington neo-cons. This was affirmed when US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis recently told Congress that he does not feel Iran is in breach of the JCPOA.

Germany, France and UK issue joint statement to US: DON’T DUMP JCPOA – AKA IRAN DEAL

However, what the Pentagon does fear is when a NATO member develops good relations, including and especially in the defence and security sphere, with a NATO adversary. To this end, Turkey, which maintains the second largest standing army in NATO, is actively developing military and security cooperation initiatives with Iran and this is what irrationally frightens even some of the less overtly Hawkish anti-Iranian figures in Washington.

Turkey’s disagreements with the United States have their roots in events which took place prior to Turkey’s open embrace of Iran and even before Turkey’s full rapprochement with Russia. This event was of course the 2016 attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, led by mid-level military officers whom Turkey accused to acting under orders of the exiled, US based cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

It was Russia which tipped Erdogan off about the coup, something that is generally credited with saving Erdogan’s life and allowing him to regroup and rally his supporters against the insurgents. At the same time, the US only vaguely condemned the coup and refused to acknowledge responsibility for sheltering and apparently being friendly with Fethullah Gulen, even though this very serious charge was levelled at Washington multiple times, by Erdogan and his colleagues.

Since the beginning of 2017, the schism between Ankara and Washington has turned into a fully fledged row. It started with the US heavily arming PKK aligned Kurdish militants in Syria and has culminated in the US shutting down visa issuing services in Turkey, in a move virtually identical to what the US has done with Russia and a move similar to the Trump travel ban which covers well known US adversaries including Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela.

While the deterioration of US-Turkey relations cannot be viewed through the prism of a zero-sum game, one can point to a single moment which both at the time and especially in hindsight, functions as a proverbial ‘point of no return’ for Washington and Ankara.

In August of 2017, Iran’s military leader, General Mohammad Baqeri, met with his Turkish counterparts as well as President Erdogan  in Ankara. It was the first such meeting between Iranian military figures and their Turkish counterparts since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

At the time General Baqeri said,

“There have been no such visits between the two countries for a long time, but considering regional developments and security issues — border security and the fight against terrorism — there was a need for such a visit”.

Historic Turkey-Iran summit silenced by the media

From the point of view of the global control-freak establishment in Washington, the idea that a powerful NATO member would engage in any form of military and security cooperation with Iran is something of a sin. Furthermore, as Iran’s world-renowned engineers are known to take apart and aptly reverse engineer any piece of NATO hardware that accidentally slips into their hands, this is all the more reason for Washington to panic, according to their own dubious threshold for such things.

With President Erdogan cooperating with Iran, the US fears that Turkey may allow NATO military equipment as well as NATO’s strategic plans to slip into Iran’s hands.

While the US has panicked over this, Russia has taken the opposite approach. Russia has been busily selling traditional adversaries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the world-renowned S-400 air defence system. This dovetails with what geo-political expert calls Russia’s “nuclear diplomacy”, whereby Russia wins trust and even partnerships with countries of all geo-political alignments through the shared use of peaceful nuclear technology. Russia is increasingly doing the same with military technology.

Russia’s nuclear diplomacy has returned Moscow’s global strategic reach

While some Russian commentators remark that it is wrong for Russia to sell its hi-tech military weapons systems to countries that are still technically part of western alliances, this underestimates the very real geo-political attraction that Russia and her ‘eastern’ partners have for countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. While many doubt Turkey and especially Saudi’s pivot, similar things were once said of Pakistan’s warming relations with Russia. Now, few could deny that Pakistan, a new member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, hasn’t fully pivoted to the ‘geo-political east’.

Sceptical thinking in respect of the Turkish and Saudi pivot, also ignores the very real strategic win whereby, if (and it is a big ‘if’) Turkey and Saudi ‘revert to form’, Russia will have more knowledge about their defensive weapons systems than ever before. What better way to anticipate a potential enemy’s abilities than to know the exact weapons which are at their disposal and furthermore,  with a level of knowledge that literally is as complete as possible? In this sense, Russia’s best case scenario is that Turkey and Saudi’s geo-political pivot is genuine. Even in the worst case scenario of Turkey and Saudi becoming open military adversaries to Russia (an unlikely event in any case), Russia will have a knowledge of the military systems at their disposal, rather than have to rely on intelligence about such nations’ use of less familiar NATO hardware.

So while the US panics over Turkey sharing ‘NATO secrets’ with Iran, Russia has simply profited from the sale of its own technology to traditionally western backed countries. Russia is the clear strategic winner here. Russia is winning new geo-political friends, making money in the process and tearing down the wall of secrecy between Russia and countries that once relied heavily on US and European military hardware.

Beyond this new reality, the US has backed itself into a corner over the Turkey-Iran partnership. Since the US seems hellbent on degrading relations with Iran even further, Turkey is going to be an obvious victim of this unnecessary, but seemingly unstoppable process. If the US cannot live with an Ankara-Tehran partnership, Washington has little choice but to undermine the Turkish government.

In Turkey, the US has picked a fight with a country not afraid to fight back

In this sense, Erdogan has been correct when warning of Washington’s all too close relationship with Gulen and his terrorist group. While such connections were casually dismissed in 2016, now the US doesn’t even respond to such allegations. Instead, the US defends its consular workers who have been arrested for ties to Gulen’s terrorist organisation. All of the sudden, the claims of a US-Gulenist alliance seem all too realistic and even likely.

President Erdogan is 63 years of age, while Gulen is a fail looking 76 year old. The US may well be banking on a Gulenist insurgency (political, military or a combination of both) against Erdogan in the hope that the elderly Gulen may soon be out of the picture and replaced by a less experienced leader who can be more easily manipulated by outside forces. Erdogan by contrast, is comfortable in his position and has recently amended the Turkish constitution in such a way that could see Erdogan in power, ostensibly for life.

But if the US thinks meddling in Turkey is going to be easy, it is mistaken. Erdogan has been surprisingly successful in purging his deep state and military apparatus not only of secular Kemalist rivals, but also of Gulenists. Those who are accused of being Gulenists are usually dealt with in the harshest manner possible by the Turkish state.

Furthermore, while some in traditionalist Russian circles doubt the sincerity of Turkey’s newly warm relationship with Moscow and some even more old fashioned Russian thinkers doubt Russia’s partnership with Iran, the fact is that Washington believes both partnerships are very much real and will act accordingly. This will have the effect of forcing Turkey, Iran and Russia closer together, in spite of some whispers of scepticism from all sides.

Turkish President Erdogan meets with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to solidify partnership

Realities on the ground are pushing Russia, Turkey and Iran closer together, just as they are pushing Turkey ever further from the United States. This gives Russia, Iran and Turkey a clear upper hand against any would be US aggression or meddling against any of the aforementioned Eurasian powers. The only pity is that some in Russia, as well as in Iran and Turkey, do not seem to realise this new reality as much as the Pentagon, which has already accepted it as the new status quo.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Europe Has A New Problem: Macron’s “Populism” To Blow Out French Budget Deficit Far Beyond Italy’s

Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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