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Turkey’s stance on Qatar

It is clear that Turkey supports Qatar, but it is less apparent what Erdogan plans to do about it?

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Of all of the non-Arab countries which publicly proclaimed neutrality over the current Qatar crisis, Turkey’s stated neutrality is the most difficult to swallow. Even Iran whose alleged steps towards semi-normalisation (and even that’s a stretch) with Qatar is a stated proximate cause of the Saudi led dispute, has taken a more neutral position, criticising the act rather than the states who enacted the total shutting off of Qatar from its neighbours and much of the wider Arab world.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu gave a somewhat bold statement on the issue in comparison to the more nuanced ones coming from Russia, Iran and the United States. He said that the “unity and togetherness” of the Gulf is as important to Turkey as its own unity, a unity which one could be forgiven for saying is more fragile than that of the Gulf has generally been.

He then stated,

“Turkey, as a responsible actor in its region and as term president of the Organization of Islamic Conference, is ready to do its best for resolving this disagreement between friendly and brotherly countries as soon as possible”.

In this sense Turkey has volunteered, albeit subtly to act as a mediator in the dispute, though at this point it is doubtful that two Arab kingdoms would want to take Turkey up on such an offer. If the dispute is prolonged however, this could perhaps change.

One could even imagine the US ‘outsourcing’ such a responsibility to Turkey in spite of Donald Trump’s frosty relationship with Turkish President Erdogan. Russia and Iran have wisely stayed well above the fray in every respect of this particular issue as of course has China.

But Turkey’s preference for Qatar over Saudi Arabia is clear. It’s preference for Qatar over Egypt is likewise clear, but for subtly different reasons.

In both Libya and Syria Turkey and Qatar are backing many of the same jihadist terrorist factions. Indeed,Qatar’s modest investments into Turkey’s economy have expanded into funding some of the jihadist groups in Syria which are under the putative wing of Erdogan.

Qatar’s backing of the Muslim Brotherhood has been stressed as one of Saudi’s justifications for breaking off all connections with its small neighbour. However, Saudi’s disdain for the Brotherhood is less ideological than it is systematic and strategic.

Saudi sees the Brotherhood as better organised and older competition for influence in the theocratic political spectrum of the Sunni Arab world. Saudi as the Qatar row demonstrates, does not like any competition, in many ways Saudi hates competition more than it  hates polar opposite political systems such as that of Iran. Of course the Saudis would deny this for the obvious reasons of wanting to save face. By contrast, Qatar has embraced the Brotherhood for the same reasons that Saudi shuns it. Qatar is happy to fund a group whose organisational and doctrinal structure needs no additional support from Qatar–they merely need Qatari money.

Turkey’s relationship with the Brotherhood at this point is the opposite of pragmatic. Erdogan’s political beliefs and instincts are very much in line with that of the Muslim Brotherhood. When Egypt was briefly ruled by the once again outlawed group, Turkish-Egyptian relations improved. Now that secular rule has been restored to Egypt, President Sisi will not forgive Erdogan any time soon, nor will he forgive the Qatari’s whose relationship with the Brotherhood reached a zenith during the rule of  Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi.

However much the pro-Qatari factions in Turkey want to see Egypt as an ‘ally’ of Saudi Arabia, the reality is that Egypt is rightly angry at Qatar and Turkey for their support of the hated Brotherhood regime, whereas Saudi dollars are plentiful and don’t come with this particular baggage of Qatari dollars, let alone the baggage of President Ergodan’s ideology or ego.

This didn’t stop the Turkish mainstream media paper Hurriyet from speaking of a ‘Saudi-Egyptian Axis’.

An opinion piece in the generally reasonable Al-Monitor  speaks of Erdogan fearing that he could be the next Morsi or even more strangely the next Qatar.

First of all, Turkey is not part of the Arab sphere of influence much though Erdgoan often wants to be. In many ways Turkey is far more distant to Sunni Arab countries than Iran is with Shi’a movements, parties and countries in the Arab world.

Erdogan’s position is indeed far more precarious than his followers would care to admit but none of these reasons have to do with the Gulf. They have to do with Erdogan’s disastrous interventions in Syria and Iraq, the Kurdish issue that Erdogan’s involvement in Syria and Iraq has inflamed both domestically and internationally and this is all compounded by Turkey’s own experiences with Salafist blow-back from Turkey’s neighbours as well as disgruntled secular Kemalists who are hating Erdogan more by the day in spite of their increased marginalisation at the hands of Erdogan. This has only made them more angry in many cases.

Erdogan’s followers see the same forces that are ‘undermining’ Qatar as the kinds of  forces loyal to exiled Turkish Islamist Fethullah Gülen who Erdogan still blames for the attempted coup in 2016. It’s a strange comparison but it is indeed playing on the minds of some in Erdgoan’s party.

The only similarities between these two disputes are academic. Saudi and Qatar have similar political systems and broadly a similar geo-political position. Much the same can be said about Erdogan’s relationship with Fethullah Gülen, a former ally turned supreme enemy. Saudi and Qatar are drawn into hatred because of their similarities rather than their differences and the same scenario rightly applies to Erdogan and Gülen.

But beyond this, Turkey has nothing directly to fear from the Qatar political conflicts…for now.

If Turkey gets more deeply involved and knowing Erdogan, if Turkey does, Ankara’s pro-Qatari stance will show and Erdogan will alienate Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others perhaps permanently.

This is very much in Erdogan’s hands. If he truly remains neutral, his rule in Turkey will remain as safe is it otherwise would be and he could even quietly step up business with an isolated Qatar that could use Turkey as a still open door to the region and the wider world. If he instead cooks his own goose by stepping into the situation with bravado he could get totally isolated from the remaining parts of the Arab world that aren’t all ready sick and tired of him.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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