It’s all about the refugees
27 October 2019
It was Tip O’Neill, a former speaker of the US House of Representatives, who said that “all politics is local.” Joe Biden, then Vice President of US, clarified the phrase for me in Istanbul, when he said “all politics is personal”. That is a solid reference point to understand the dynamics behind the limited Turkish counter terrorism operation into North Eastern Syria. It’s all about the refugees, if you ask me.
Turkey is waiting for the other shoe to drop
22 October 2019
I like how Urban Dictionary explained this idiom: “A guest who checked into an inn one night was warned to be quiet because the guest in the room next to his was a light sleeper. As he undressed for bed, he drop one shoe which, sure enough, awakened the other guest. He managed to get the other shoe off in silence, and got into bed. An hour later, he heard a pounding on the wall and a shout: ‘When are you going to drop the other shoe?’”
Brexit is a bigger problem for the Turkish economy than Syria
13 October 2019
I was recently asked how badly Turkey’s military operation in Syria could affect the already troubled economy. Could this move, my inquisitor wanted to know, be the last nail in the economy’s coffin? My answer was no. I think that the highly probable no-deal Brexit at the end of October could have a more negative impact than the limited operation in northern Syria. Why? Let me explain.
An Orwellian new Commission for Europe?
17 September 2019
Ursula von der Leyen, the President-elect of the European Commission, announced the names of her commissioners this week. I was first struck by the name of the new job dealing with migration. It’s actually called the “Vice-Presidency for Protecting our European Way of Life.” I like how it specifies with “our European Way of Life,” rather than say, “the European Way of Life.” The Orwellian theme continues with the new commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement: Lazslo Tocsanyi, a dutiful follower of Hungary’s Victor Orban. I hope I’m wrong, but from the looks of it, it appears that the new Commission will be accepting identity politics as its core.
From Emrullah Efendi to Boris Johnson
01 September 2019
The Brexit process started like a tragedy and with Boris Johnson as the British Prime Minister, it has turned into a comedy. I have to confess that it is getting funnier everday to watch the things happening in Great Britain. At the same time, the job of explaining to my foreign friends what is happening in Turkey is getting easier and easier.
Watching “New India” from Turkey
25 August 2019
On August 5, India revoked Article 370 of its constitution, effectively ending the special status of Kashmir, a territory that borders on Pakistan and China. To guard against an insurgency backlash, the government flooded Kashmir – already one of the most militarized places in the world - with even more military forces, put a curfew in place, and cut off its communication with the outside world. By lining up the Hindu domination of India’s sole Muslim-majority region, it has also put in danger India’s secular character, which has been the keystone of maintaining harmony among the country’s diverse people.
An FTA would be a good idea, Mr. Graham
04 August 2019
It was in the papers this week: for the first time in history, the number of $100 bills have exceeded the number of $1 bills, and apparently, 70 percent of those $100 bills are outside the US. Why? Because people want to safeguard their hard-earned savings in climates of extreme macro policy uncertainty. Turkey is one such example, where after a brief hiatus of stability, Mr. Benjamin Franklin’s likeness is back in fashion. Why?
How to make Syrians more invisible in Turkey
21 July 2019
There are around 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and nearly half of them are children. That number plateaued this past year, but we in Turkey’s big cities didn’t really feel them. In the last few months, it’s as if the visibility of Syrians has increased. This shows up in public opinion surveys too, where people list Syrian refugees as one of the country’s top five issues. Why? I see three reasons.
What Europe should know about North Cyprus
14 July 2019
Last week, Turkey saw its first current account surplus in 16 years. That would be cause for celebration if it wasn’t due to the Lira’s rapid depreciation, and the deep recession we’re in. The era of constructive ambiguity in economic policymaking has abruptly ended with the sacking of the governor of the Central Bank. Markets are now clear about the kind of institutions they are dealing with in Ankara. This of course, will not help the recession, no matter how rapid the impending rate cut is going to be. So success stories are hard to come by these days.
The lessons from Turkey’s election season
30 June 2019
Turkish politics will be on a much-appreciated break this week, as President Erdoğan makes his way to Osaka for the G20 summit. The Istanbul rerun is over. After Japan, President Erdoğan will be hosted by President Xi in Beijing, and all together, he will be away from Ankara for about 10 days. Turkey’s Parliament is also in summer recess. So this is a time when Turkey’s political class can get some distance from their routines, and maybe even deign to think ahead a little bit.