Abdullah Gül and Ali Babacan were two bigwigs of the AK Party who set out with Tayyip Erdoğan. They were in the first cabinet that Erdoğan established in 2002, as Foreign Minister and Minister of Economy, respectively.
These two figures were at the helm in the days when AKP’s star shone brightly in the fields of foreign policy and economy. They have been pushed aside by Erdogan over the years.
Now the Turkish economy is in quite a poor state. Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak is at the head of the economy in the country. Foreign policy was handed over to a nationalist name.
People pin their hopes on Ali Babacan’s name as he is young and has a demonstrated success. Babacan personally informed Erdogan that he would establish a new political party. Although he announced a few months ago, he did not found his party yet.
Abdullah Gül appeared on the field amidst speculations suggesting that Babacan will found his party in March.
Gül is an experienced figure who has served as foreign minister, prime minister, and president. He had been away from the media for a very long time. With his lengthy interview, he returned to the political scene and announced that he would fully endorse Ali Babacan’s new party.
Erdogan has been acting covertly for a while to discourage Gul and Babacan. In fact, Erdogan sent the Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar to Gul by a military helicopter and tried to convince him to abstain from running for president in 2018.
However, the currently deteriorating economy offers great opportunities to Babacan.
Sources close to Ali Babacan stated that the founding petition of the new party would be given at the beginning of March at the latest, and some names resigning from the AKP will join the new party.
On the other side, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s party is advancing. Davutoğlu was one of Erdogan’s closest names in the past.
Erdogan is concerned about a split in his votes because of the new parties that his old friends will establish. How Erdogan is going to take a step forward is eagerly awaited.
There are also those who say Erdogan will get tougher and arrest Babacan and Davutoğlu. Some say that they will try to normalize and strengthen their relations with the Western world.
Represented by Erdogan in his country, the idea of “Islamism” is experiencing a significant crisis in Turkey, while being criticized in the whole world.
Perhaps this was the most striking remark that Erdogan’s ex-friend Abdullah Gul said in his interview on his return to the political scene: “Islamism is over in the world.”
Arms trafficking to Libya and Erdoğan family
Viktor Baranets: “The disclosure of the total number of Turkish soldiers killed in Libya may lead to a military coup in Turkey. The secret is in the arms trafficking.”
Is Erdoğan’s Arms Trade in Danger in Libya?
While the agenda of all people in Turkey and the world is the struggles with the coronavirus, the life continues from where it left off for Erdoğan in his 1150-room sheltered massive palace under the supervision of doctors. However, the recent developments in Libya and the Mediterranean seem to discomfort Erdoğan.
The first development began with the publication of the “Ghost Ships” news prepared by BBC reporter Benjamin Strick using open source information. On the day of the report, the ambassadors of the EU countries decided to start an operation named IRINA on March 31 to control the arms embargo imposed on Libya in line with the UN Security Council Decisions.
A news analysis with a headline, “Erdoğan’s Ambitions Cost the Lives of dozens of Turkish Soldiers in Libya,” was published on March 27 at the Russian Federal News Agency. According to the analysis, Turkish soldiers continue to die in Libyan territory, and Erdoğan is hiding casualties from the public due to possible domestic political consequences. Military advisor to the Pravda newspaper, retired Colonel Viktor Baranets, also mentioned that disclosure of the exact number of dead Turkish soldiers might lead to a military coup in Turkey.
Turkey’s military force in the region is around 2000 soldiers. Turkish soldiers use the Mitiga civil airport as a military base. As a result of the attacks carried out by General Hafter forces since the beginning of February, 16 Turkish soldiers and two civil engineers who controlled the UAVs died. According to local sources, more than 50 Syrian mercenaries and Turkish soldiers were killed in the clashes in Ain Zara Region on March 22. Sources close to General Hafter claim that, despite the calls made, the Erdoğan regime did not receive the bodies of the soldiers killed. Viktor Baranets stated that the claim might be true, as sending bodies to Turkey would cause outrage at the grassroots level and thinks it will trigger a military coup in Turkey.
While these developments were taking place, a French frigate was participating in the Operation NATO Marine Guard on March 28 and forced the route of the ship named PS PRAY, which departed from Istanbul Haydarpaşa Port, on the grounds that it carries weapons and air defense weapon systems to Libya. This news was published in the Russian, Bulgarian, and Greek press. So what do Turkish soldiers die for in Libya? What is on the other side of the coin?
Making no bones of the Libyan issue, the Erdogan regime earns serious money from the arms sale to the Libyan Government of National Accord, despite the arms embargo imposed in line with the UN Security Council Decisions. It is crystal clear that this money is not deposited to the Turkish Central Bank. As it is comprehended from the images published in the BBC, some of the vehicles and weapons are manufactured in the Sakarya Tank and Pallet Factory. This factory was recently sold to Qatar and Ethem Sancak partnership within the scope of privatization due to the pretext of “factory’s financial problems,” and one of the main reasons behind this sale is to have easier arms trade.
In order to shield arms trade and eliminate the public reactions for the possible military losses, the Erdoğan regime signed an agreement to restrict the Maritime Jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean with the Libyan Government of National Accord. After the news bombardment made about the agreement on protecting Turkey’s rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, the support of the Sarrac Government and the shipment of arms & troops were not seriously discussed in public, since this topic was considered as a “national issue.”
However, as a result of an attack on a merchant ship in the Port of Tripoli on February 18, journalists Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkloğlu, and Yeniçağ newspaper writer Murat Ağırel were arrested after the news published on the Odatv Website about the murder of military-origin National Intelligence Service (MIT) members, who were understood to be in the region to coordinate the arms trade. The arrest of journalists can be considered as a sign of how much the Erdoğan regime is in the mire in Libya. If the journalists were not bulldozed and intimidated, any journalist would comprehensively investigate this topic in the future, and perhaps the dirty face of the arms trade and the real number of deaths would be revealed. It is evident from now on that there will be no news about these topics without running the risk of going to jail. The common people in Turkey will continue to learn such news from foreign media.
Of course, seeing the published news on these issues in the Russian media should not be interpreted favorably. When such files or similar events came to the table or were highlighted in the press before, the Erdoğan regime made the concessions that mortgage the future of the country.
European countries have preferred to remain silent on what the Erdoğan regime has done so far on Libya and Syria in exchange for keeping the Syrian refugees in Turkey. But it seems that the EU has changed its attitude towards the agglomerating of refugees on the Greek border. The IRINA operation, which will be launched on March 31 to control the arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean, is a concrete indicator of this change. Moreover, forcing a cargo ship, which was is claimed to be loaded with weapons by a French frigate to change its course before the operation begins, can be considered as a sign of what will happen next.
“I said, ‘Sign a deal.’ Get it done. They really didn’t want to. All of a sudden, they start fighting. Fighting, fighting, fighting. And it was vicious, and other countries got involved. Now I say ‘Let’s sign a deal,’ they said, ‘Okay, let’s sign a deal,'” President Trump stated in an interview with a broadcaster in the USA, referring to the termination of Operation Peace Spring. As can be understood from this example, the only red line for Erdoğan is his own survival and the money he will earn from the arms and oil trade. Just as Erdoğan has made money by marketing ISIS oil before, he can sit on the table with PYD to continue the similar trade today.
We cannot fully understand the events unless the Libya issue is considered from this point of view. Erdogan “hurt” Europe by stacking refugees at the Greece border, but he also used the biggest trump card he had. Now it’s time for the European countries. Let’s see if they can prevent the flow of money from Libya to Erdoğan’s safe box. Either how will Erdoğan compromise to European leaders this time so as to continue his arms trade?
Turkish warships escort arms trafficking in Libya
While the Turkish Navy escorts civilian ships trafficking arms to Libya, the US Navy rescues a Turkish yacht burning in our inner sea, Marmara.
What kind of quagmire does the Erdogan Regime drag Turkish warships off of Libya?
While Turkey has a busy agenda with Idlib and coronavirus, local news sources in Libya shared information last week that Turkish warships shot down an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) belonging to General Haftar Forces. Previously, some news websites had published various videos and pictures showing that Turkish warships accompanied the commercial ships carrying weapons for the Government of National Accord forces.
According to the information in the local press, The Turkish Task Force consists of two frigates.
The Turkish warships escorted the ships, loaded with weapons from Turkey, to the port of Tripoli. A UAV of General Haftar forces, departed from Misrata Airport, was allegedly downed with the fired Standard-1 Guided Missile by one of the Turkish warships during one of these “military missions.” Carrying out duties in the Mediterranean for about two months, the Turkish warships returned last week to their bases by completing their missions.
As it can be deduced from the news, the Erdogan regime continues to drag the Turkish Armed Forces into a deadlock in Libya, just like it did in Syria. The warships which have been serving in the Mediterranean for about two months do not have a duty to accompany the merchant ships, which allegedly carry weapons, according to the resolution passed in the Assembly. Moreover, in accordance with the decisions taken by the UN Security Council, an arms embargo is being imposed on Libya.
Warships perform their activities at seas during peacetime according to international law and rules of engagement. It is forbidden to use force by warships against any element other than self-protection and legitimate self-defense. Although it does not pose a threat to ships and perforation of the arms embargo on Libya is categorical, downing a UAV to prevent video recording of accompanying activities means, to say the least, the violation of international law.
The Permanent Representative of the Arab Republic of Egypt, in the letter sent to the UN Security Council on March 10, 2020, accused Turkey of disregarding the arms embargo imposed on Libya and carrying the jihadist groups and pro-al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria to Libya. As a result of the meeting held in Munich in January, the decisions taken by the UN Security Council for ensuring a ceasefire and stability in Libya, registered by decision number 2510, made Turkey’s situation and operations even more fragile.
The EU has announced that it will launch a maritime operation to prevent illegal arms trade in Libya and to control the arms embargo implemented in line with the UN Security Council Decisions. The decision to terminate the activities of Turkish warships off the coast of Libya, as far as it is understood, was taken after the EU announced that it would carry out maritime operations.
Due to the rogue activities of the Erdogan regime, Turkey is perceived as an unreliable partner in the sea, as in every field, and an ally to keep an eye on. Italy has good bilateral relations with Russia and considers Turkey as a country that can be made about, in some measure, partial cooperation for Libya. Relations with France is tense due to the sharing of the Maritime Jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean and the serious opinion differences regarding Cyprus.
In an atmosphere of tension, France sent its aircraft carrier duty group to the Eastern Mediterranean.
As a result of the actual reflection of that statement on the field, The Greek elements and the French aircraft carrier conducted a military drill in the south of Crete. The French Defense Minister also previously stated that “We stand with Greece in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean issues against Turkey.”
Although having sufficient legal arguments in terms of international law on Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and Libya, due to the illegal activities of the Erdogan regime with unlawful practices, Turkey gets lonely each day and causes coalitions against itself. Turkish Armed Forces, which has a commendable position among NATO countries, continues to lose credibility due to the unlawful practices, purges, and politicization.
Turkish Navy is the most evident face of security architecture and foreign policy in the international arena. However, such news about the Navy disregarding the arms embargo or dawning a Libyan UAV, although they serve for the purposes of the Erdogan regime in the short term, they continue to produce evidence that in the long term Turkey will be put in trouble.
While our warships were busy with illegal activities in the Mediterranean Sea, the US’ USS ROSS destroyer extended its helping hand to a burning yacht in the Marmara Sea while passing from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea, rescuing the people on board, and handing them over to the Turkish Coast Guard. The US Embassy in Ankara announced the news on its official Twitter account. Search and rescue at sea is a humanitarian mission, and all ships at sea must assist anyone seeking assistance as far as possible.
However, the Marmara Sea is Turkey’s inland sea. The Navy, especially the Coast Guard, has to monitor the activities in the Marmara Sea closely. It is first of all the Coast Guard’s and then the Navy’s shame that a US destroyer helped a boat burning in our inland waters. There is only one lesson to be learned from this incident: Becoming an apparatus of the unlawful affairs of the Erdogan regime, the Turkish Armed Forces and Navy not only move away from their essential duties but also they lose their deterrence and lose their dignity. Unfortunately, Turkey’s most respected institutions are being pushed into the swamp at the expense of the security of the Erdogan regime.
Famous oligarch arrested, billion dollars shared between two figures
Azeri businessman Mubarism Mansimov Gurbanoğlu is one of the most well-known oligarch businessmen. It is possible to see him in the same photograph with various leaders, including Trump. Gurbanov changed his surname after becoming a Turkish citizen.
On the morning of March 16, 2020, he was arrested for being linked to the Gülen Community. It was surprising for everyone because Gurbanov had no link with the Gülen movement.
The Gülen movement is regarded as the most dangerous terrorist organization by the Erdoğan Regime. There is no country or regime other than Erdoğan that describes the Gulen Movement as a terrorist organization. In Turkey, being a member of the Gülen movement means to stay in prison for many years.
The assets of many businessmen were confiscated as part of the crackdown on Gulenists. The amount of seized assets has been over 10 billion euros.
According to the first information received, Gurbanov was also arrested for this reason. Gurbanov’s statement from his social media account during his detention also pointed out to this:
“Even the enemy would not make this dishonor you do… Look at yourself, your past and where your children are educated, rather than calling me FETÖ… As you know, I applied to the courts to defend my rights. Private and government companies will lose their legal battle. They see that this day is now close, they are becoming angrier and angrier. ”
The term “FETÖ” (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) is a phrase used by Erdoğan for the Gülen Movement.
Gurbanov is the owner of the most luxurious yacht port in Turkey’s Aegean coast. He also owns the only authorized company in oil imports from Azerbaijan.
Gurbanov’s yacht port has recently been transferred to a former politician named Mehmet Ağar. Ağar and his family became the owner of an international port without paying any money.
Mehmet Ağar has been one of Turkey’s most feared names since the 90s. He was the Ministry of the Interior and led the war against the Kurds in the 90s. Ağar was a policeman before.
Ağar allegedly killed a large number of Kurdish businessmen and received high amounts of money from some of them.
A blacklist of the Kurdish businessmen with close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was created, and those on the list started to be killed one by one.
The businessmen, whose names were on the list or not, were asked for money by blackmail. It was even claimed that İbrahim Tatlıses, the famous Kurdish singer, paid 10 million dollars to Mehmet Ağar to remove his name from the list. Ağar and Tatlıses denied this claim.
This method, which was used against the Kurds in the 90s, is now used against the Gülen movement.
The blackmail on businessmen whose name is on the blacklist is quite common. Numerous lawsuits have been filed about this topic. But the situation is different for higher businessmen.
For a long time, there was pressure on Gurbanov to give up his authority to import oil from Azerbaijan. SOCAR Energy, Azeri-Turkish partnership, wanted to get this authority, which brings billions of dollars to Gurbanov every year.
Gurbanov was trying to save the ultra-luxury yacht port from Mehmet Ağar, and also, he continued his judicial struggle against SOCAR.
At this stage, Gurbanov was arrested on charges of being a member of the Gülen movement. It means that the state can seize all of Gurbanov’s assets and rights.
There are close relations between SOCAR and the Erdoğan family. If the right to import oil passes to the state, it is no surprise to say that this right will be transferred to SOCAR.
Mehmet Ağar is still very strong in the police force. Erdoğan rules the judiciary. In the arrest of Gurbanov, the collaboration of Ağar and Erdoğan captures attention. It is the curiosity about how they will share the spoils.