Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2016-07-29T04:27:25Z WordPress contributors <![CDATA[Muslim-American Parents of KIA Vet to Trump: Here’s the Constitution]]> 2016-07-29T04:22:39Z 2016-07-29T04:24:07Z ABC 15 Arizona | (Video News Report) | – –

“FULL: Khizr Khan son was 1 of 14 American Muslims who died serving – Democratic National Convention

Khizr Khan’s son, Humayun S. M. Khan was a University of Virginia graduate and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving the United States in the ten years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

Khizr Khan son was 1 of 14 American Muslims who died serving – Democratic National Convention

contributors <![CDATA[When Dems ditched Workers for Professionals, they opened Door for Trump]]> 2016-07-29T02:36:05Z 2016-07-29T04:20:23Z  

Adam Barnett/ Thomas Frank | ( OpenDemocracy ) | – –

The Democrats ditched the working class in favour of a professional elite leaving Trump  a master of ‘resentment politics’  to hoover up their votes. An interview with Listen Liberal! author Thomas Frank.

Now that the Republican Party has chosen a coiffured gargoyle as its nominee for president, the panicked eyes of the world turn to the Democrats, who have just selected Hillary Clinton at their national convention in Philadelphia. Author and historian Thomas Frank has seen his fair share of party conventions, having covered US politics for over 25 years. I spoke to him recently about his new book Listen, Liberal and the state of the union ahead of November’s election.

“The Democrats are not a Left party,” he tells me. “In fact there really isn’t one in the US.” Frank’s book is no broadside against liberals by a weary defector, but a Left critique of the Democratic Party. He charts its mutation over recent decades from being a workers party into the party of the ‘professional class’ – the experts, bankers, academics and tech-masters, who imagine themselves the natural winners of the great American lottery.

Frank names Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as typical specimens – and since we spoke, the president has expressed an interest in working with “Silicon Valley and venture capital” after leaving office…

How is this reflected in the country’s two-party system? “They represent two different hierarchies of power,” Frank explains. “One, the Republicans, who represent business and the hierarchy of money – the Koch brothers and the 1% – and the Democrats, who represent the hierarchy of status, the professional class. One is the Wall Street Journal, the other is the New York Times.”

Does this mean there’s little to choose between the two parties? “They tend to have similar views on economic matters, but they come from different places. And they’re very different on the cultural issues – the abortion issue for example, the guns, for god’s sake. Some of these things are enormously important.”

He adds: “I would also say the Democrats are of course marginally better on things like the welfare state. But then again, as soon as I say that, as soon as those words passed my lips, Bill Clinton and welfare reform – a Republican could probably have never got that done, because the Democrats would have fought him to the death to stop something like that. But with Clinton doing it, it suddenly becomes okay.”

Frank’s book demolishes Bill Clinton’s presidency, the legacy of which is key to understanding the anger of this year’s campaign, from Donald Trump to Black Lives Matter, to Bernie Sanders supporters booing at the Democrats convention. Clinton’s dismantling of welfare, draconian criminal justice laws, job-exporting trade deals, and deregulation of Wall Street, have resurfaced as major issues in this year’s campaign – and not just because his wife is running for president.

“People look back on those years with such fondness now,” Frank says. “The things that he actually got done were awful things. I thought it was really important to go back and correct the record.”

Is Frank apprehensive about the prospect of Bill Clinton being back in the White House? “Well, unlike nearly everybody I know, I think I like Hillary more than I like Bill. I think she’ll be better than he was. But yes, of course I’m apprehensive about it.

People like me are going to be voting for Hillary because Donald Trump is so frightening

“This is the sort of quintessentially American situation that we’re in here, where it’s a two party system, and given that, you have to constantly choose someone who’s not optimal for the situation, in order to avoid something that’s really dreadful. People like me are going to be voting for Hillary because Donald Trump is so frightening.”

Trump seems to have walked out of the pages of Frank’s earlier books, Pity the Billionaire and What’s the Matter with Kansas? – a silver-spoon demagogue railing against the ‘rigged system’ he has profited from and the ‘elite’ of which he is a member. His ability to hoover up votes from the Democrats’ natural constituency is partly explained in those books – Trump has mastered the resentment politics of the ‘culture wars’ – but as Listen, Liberal makes clear, the door was left open to him by the Democrats themselves.

This is even reflected in the way liberals have responded to the book. “There’s deep suspicion of working class people among the kind of liberals I’m describing,” he says. “They don’t like working class people. They just don’t like them.” Surely that’s a bit harsh? “That’s the sense that I get from these people. That’s not the kind of party they want to be in.”

“Trump has brought everything to a head,” he adds, “the fact that he’s got these working-class supporters. There’s a lot of contempt for these people. The Trump supporters are generally thought to be figures of idiocy.”

Given this, I asked Frank about the subject of those earlier books, the conservative ‘backlash’ critique of liberalism, which portrayed liberals as snobbish, well-educated, rich, and uncaring about working-class people. Was there more truth in that critique than he might have previously allowed?

“Conservatives have been saying this about Democrats for years,” he said, “but it’s never rigorous, they don’t really follow through, they don’t do their research. And their intention is always to show that liberals are in fact socialists, and that’s just completely wrong.

“So yes, there’s some validity to the conservative critique, but it’s so scattershot and wild, and it really misses the sociological reality of who these people are.”

Things are getting worse and worse for working people, and have been for quite a while in this country

One thing conservatives paper over – or did pre-Tea Party-and-successor-Donald Trump – is how economic forces, rather than a ‘liberal elite’, are kicking people in the rump every day.

“Things are getting worse and worse for working people, and have been for quite a while in this country,” says Frank. “We call it inequality, but it’s a much bigger problem than that implies. It’s the middle class coming apart, it’s working class people being unable to afford a middle class standard of living any longer.”

“A big part of the American population is in a state of decline,” he adds. “And they know it.

“People know that the standard of living they had in 2007 is never coming back, and they are upset about it – they’re very angry. But the impulse among liberals is to deny it. To say, look, everything is fine, the sky is blue, it’s a wonderful world out there. On paper, America is doing great. So turn that frown upside down.”

Frank is merciless about the ‘Let them eat cake’ brigade, and takes a scalpel to the self-serving idea of America as a meritocracy. “What you discover when you write about the professional class is that it is profoundly unaware of itself as a class,” he says. “They act like a class, and they do all these things that social classes do, but they don’t think of themselves as a class. They think of themselves as ‘the best’. We are who we are because we’re the smartest.”

A punk rocker at heart, (he wrote this book listening to Joy Division and Iggy Pop), Frank delights in blasting those living high on the hog – an instinct that gives him, as a Kansan who went on to get a History PhD at the University of Chicago, an edge over his liberal fraternity.  

“I feel much more at home mocking professional class liberals than writing about people in Kansas,” he says. “I’m describing highly educated and prosperous people, people with every advantage, and people who are very familiar with ideas, and who nevertheless go through this pantomime with themselves. I had no trouble switching on the inner HL Mencken when I went to Martha’s Vineyard. I was completely at home mocking those people.”

As the gala of self-congratulation among Democrats continues, and will likely continue up to November and beyond, it’s worth recalling that their conceit – they who, having ditched working people, now use the threat of a President Trump to discipline those same people into voting ‘correctly’– is not just about place and position, but about moral superiority too.

“One of the rewards of being a liberal is you think you’re very virtuous,” Frank says. “Once you start digging though, this is a movement that is profoundly self-interested. They love to look in that mirror and think about how fine and noble they are. My objective is to put a crack in that mirror.”

Via OpenDemocracy


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Truthdig: “Robert Scheer and Thomas Frank Discuss DNC”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Top Five Ways to tell if a Terrorist is still al-Qaeda despite name Change]]> 2016-07-29T04:27:25Z 2016-07-29T04:19:14Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The leftist Beirut newspaper al-Safir comments scathingly on the name-change of the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front led by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, to the Syria Conquest Front.

Here are some reasons that the name change isn’t going to work:

1. Al-Julani got permission from 9/11 mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of old al-Qaeda, to sever public ties with him because, you know, being in a command line to al-Qaeda was a PR problem for the Syrian guerrilla opposition to the Syrian regime. But if you have to get permission from al-Qaeda to change your name, then guess what? You’re still al-Qaeda.

2. In the announcement of the name change, as al-Safir points out, there was no explicit renunciation of the ties between al-Julani and al-Qaeda or of the pledge of fealty al-Julani gave al-Zawahiri. (Or I might add, any apology for having hooked up with al-Qaeda, ). He just said that a new organization has been formed that has no relations with any foreign quarter.

3. The new name is Front for the Conquest of Greater Syria. Conquest has a bad ring to it. I don’t think Syria needs to be conquered by these seedy-looking guys (and the name implies he wants Lebanon and Jordan and Israel/Palestine, too). The Huns conquered Rome. The Mongols conquered Iran. Tojo conquered the Philippines. Maybe if they had been a liberation front or a member of one it might have a less unsavory ring. As it is, it is still obvious that they want to impose their hyper-fundamentalist ideology at the point of a gun on Syrian women, Alawis, Kurds, Druze, secular Sunnis, etc. etc.

4. Al-Safir says that the attempted image change comes way too late. The Nusra Front was asked by former CIA head David Petraeus to ditch al-Qaeda and join the coalition against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), but it didn’t. As a result, it lost most international support and contributed to a loss of support for its allies. Now, the strategic and tactical situation in Syria has completely changed, since Russia began bombing last fall. Al-Qaeda and its allies have lost enormous ground in the meantime, and now even East Aleppo has been surrounded.

5. Nobody will believe you if you look like this:

Mohammad_al-Julani h/t Wikipedia.

You might be thinking the switch from a black to a white turban would do the trick. But you forgot this one:

Osama_bin_Laden_portrait h/t Wikipedia

contributors <![CDATA[Turkey Is Shutting Down over 130 Media Outlets; Can Democracy Survive?]]> 2016-07-29T01:23:55Z 2016-07-29T04:15:36Z TeleSur | – –

Erdogan’s political purge following the failed coup keeps on going, with the net ever widening.

Turkey is shutting down over 100 media outlets and is purging over 1,000 military personnel, it was announced Wednesday as President Tayyip Erdogan’s government continues to tighten its grip on power after a failed military coup on July 15.

In all, 131 media outlets have been shut down including television stations, newspapers and magazines. Earlier this week, the government began detaining journalists, with around 90 reporters ordered to be detained.

Nearly 50 journalists from the opposition Zaman newspaper have been issued detention orders. Zaman was shut down in March for its alleged links to the Gulenist movement, which the Erdogan administration is blaming for the attempted coup.

The military has so far dishonorably discharged 1,684 of its personnel for their alleged role in the failed coup, a government official said, according to CNN Turk. Of those discharged, 149 were either generals or admirals. Al Jazeera Turk reported that Erdogan also aims to shut down all of Turkey’s military schools.

Erdogan last week ordered the shutdown of thousands of institutions, including schools, universities and trade unions. A presidential decree ordered a state of emergency following the failed coup.

Under the state of emergency, people can be detained for up to one month without charge, which has raised concerns among human rights groups. Many are saying that Erdogan is going too far in his quest to purge the country of anti-government elements.

“The wholesale and arbitrary nature of the attacks on the Turkish media in the past week seems to reflect a desire to exact revenge and bring them into line. It is time the authorities put a stop to this,” said Reporters Without Borders.

The Turkish Interior Minister Efkana Ala has said that more than 15,000 people have been detained since the failed coup, with 8,113 people formally arrested and awaiting trial. The attempted coup left at least 265 dead and around 2,000 injured.

Via TeleSur


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Turkey closes 130 media outlets, sacks scores of generals as post-coup purge deepens”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Is the French Press Right to stop Printing Pictures, Names of Terrorists?]]> 2016-07-28T04:37:21Z 2016-07-28T04:37:21Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Le Monde is reporting that a number of French newspapers and television channels have decided to cease printing the pictures, and sometimes even the names, of those who commit terrorist acts. Le Monde itself is adopting the same policy.

France and Belgium have seen a number of nihilist attacks in the past year and a half, which has pushed the government to institute and extend a state of emergency that seriously infringes on basic human rights. (I call these attacks nihilist rather than terrorist because they hit soft targets without an obvious immediate political goal, and are often carried out by petty criminals or the unbalanced, who nevertheless claim a relationship to Daesh (ISIL, ISIS).

The editors at these news outlets have become convinced that Daesh is successfully “heroizing” the attackers, and that Western news coverage is shared back in Syria and Iraq as well as among Europe’s Muslim community as a way of glorifying the perpetrators. Denying them that glory then becomes a form of counter-terrorism.

Not everyone agrees with this tack.

France Télévisions has rejected the idea of suppressing the identities and photos of the nihilists. Michael Field, director of the channel’s public relations department, condemned the new policies at other press organs as a form of posturing and insisted that anonymizing the attacks would backfire. “Anonymous attacks, without names or faces? Nothing could better activate roving conspiracy theories or promote social anxiety, which already suspects the media of not saying everything or of wanting to silence the truth.”

Wassim Nasr, who has covered militant Muslims for France24, agreed that hiding the photos and the identities of the perpetrators would open the door to more conspiracy theories. He also thinks they do it for the organization, not for the personal glory, so it doesn’t matter much if they make the newspapers or not.

Hervé Béroud, of BFM-TV, says he has heard this critique but thinks there are other reasons to implement the policy. “I don’t think that declining to publish photos of jihadis will prevent them from acting. That would be too simple. Our choice is directed at our viewership.”

Personally, I’m all for the new policy. I’d also put the reports on page 17 and stop making them automatic headlines.

47 people were shot in Chicago last weekend without generating headlines elsewhere in the country.

We are privileging certain kinds of violence and magnifying it through the press and social media. If the terrorism were political, aimed at accomplishing a specific political task, it might warrant being closing monitored by everyone this way. But someone who is unbalanced who shoots into a mall crowd– that’s virtually random. It is a tragedy but it doesn’t mean anything. Why put that on the front page?

But my advice to the press is to go further. Devote Thursdays, e.g., to having some feel-good stories about Muslim contributions to society. Daesh is trying to destroy the grey zone, to drive Western Muslims into its own arms by arranging for white people of Christian heritage to be beastly to them. Hence my mantra: Daesh attacks because they want us to be afraid and to hate. The only effective counter-strategy is to refuse to be afraid and instead to show love to some Muslims.

The press can usefully avoid showing the negative images or obsessing about these acts of nihilism. Or it could do something

Related video:

France24: ” France church attack: priest killed by IS terrorists “devoted his entire life to church”

contributors <![CDATA[New Normal: A victim is displaced by Climate Change Disaster every Second]]> 2016-07-28T02:47:58Z 2016-07-28T04:26:11Z Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster
By Baher Kamal | (Inter Press Service) | – –

ROME, Jul 27 2016 (IPS) – Climate change and related extreme weather events have devastated the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of most vulnerable people worldwide– by far exceeding the total of all the unfortunate and unjustifiable victims of all terrorist attacks combined. However, the unstoppable climate crisis receives just a tiny fraction of mainstream media attention. See these dramatic facts.

“Every second, one person is displaced by disaster,” the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports. “In 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. “Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”

As climate change continues, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.

“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. That’s one person forced to flee every second.”

“Climate change is our generation’s greatest challenge,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which counts with over 5,000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries.

The climate refugees and migrants add to the on-going humanitarian emergency. “Not since World War II have more people needed our help,” warned the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, who held the post of UN undersecretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief (2003-2006).

Egeland –who was one of the most active, outspoken participants in the World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul May 23-24)– also stressed that the humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians.

“I hope that world leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children,” he said to IPS during the World Humanitarian Summit.

For its part, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

On this, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that coastal populations are at particular risk as a global rise in temperature of between 1.1 and 3.1 degrees C would increase the mean sea level by 0.36 to 0.73 meters by 2100, adversely impacting low-lying areas with submergence, flooding, erosion, and saltwater intrusion.

An estimated 83,100 people remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance in Wau, South Sudan. Credit: OIM

An estimated 83,100 people remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance in Wau, South Sudan. Credit: OIM

In a recent interview with IPS Nairobi correspondent Manipadma Jena, the director general of the International Organisation for Migration, William Lacy Swing, said that coastal migration is starting already but it is very hard to be exact as there is no good data to be able to forecast accurately.

“We do not know. But it is clearly going to figure heavily in the future. And it’s going to happen both in the low-lying islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean, and in those countries where people build houses very close to the shore and have floods every year as in Bangladesh.”

“It is quite clear that we will have more and more conflicts over shortages of food and water that are going to be exacerbated by climate change,” Lacy Swing warned.

Political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today, he said to IPS in the interview.

Lacy Swing confirmed the fact that climate victims now add to record 60 million people who are fleeing war and persecution.

“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue. We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.”

On 25 July, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution approving an agreement to make the International Organisation for Migration part of the UN system.

Founded in the wake of the World War II to resettle refugees from Europe, OIM celebrates its 65th anniversary in December of this year.

AFAO and UNHCR prepared a handbook that will help mitigate the impact of displaced people on forest resources. The handbook aims to help displaced people access fuel for cooking food while reducing environmental damage and conflicts with local communities. Credit: FAO/UNHCR

FAO and UNHCR prepared a handbook that will help mitigate the impact of displaced people on forest resources. The handbook aims to help displaced people access fuel for cooking food while reducing environmental damage and conflicts with local communities. Credit: FAO/UNHCR

“Migration is at the heart of the new global political landscape and its social and economic dynamics. At a time of growing levels of migration within and across borders, a closer legal and working relationship between the United Nations and IOM is needed more than ever,” said the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement welcoming the Assembly’s decision.

IOM, which assisted an estimated 20 million migrants in 2015, is an intergovernmental organisation with more than 9,500 staff and 450 offices worldwide

“We are living in a time of much tragedy and uncertainty. This agreement shows Member States’ commitment to more humane and orderly migration that benefits all, where we celebrate the human beings behind the numbers,” IOM Director General William Lacy said.

Through the agreement, the UN recognises IOM as an “indispensable actor in the field of human mobility.” IOM added that this includes protection of migrants and displaced people in migration-affected communities, as well as in areas of refugee resettlement and voluntary returns, and incorporates migration in country development plans.

The agreement paves the way for the agreement to be signed by Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and Swing at the UN Summit for refugees and migrants on 19 September, which will bring together UN member states to address large movements of refugees and migrants for more humane and coordinated approach.

Via Inter Press Service


Related video added by Juan Cole:

UNHRC: “How Climate Change Impacts Human Displacement”

contributors <![CDATA[B’Tselem: Israel demolished more Palestinian homes in past 6 months than in all of 2015]]> 2016-07-28T02:34:40Z 2016-07-28T04:25:44Z By Ma’an News Agency | – –

A Palestinian family stands amid the remains of their home after it was demolished by Israeli forces in Masafer Jenbah in an undated photo. (AFP/Hazem Bader, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities have demolished more Palestinian homes in the West Bank in the first six months of 2016 as they did in all of 2015, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem revealed in a report released on Wednesday, in a worrying confirmation of Israel’s ongoing crackdown on Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank.

The report, which was also presented by the Arab Joint List during a Knesset conference on Israel’s home demolition policy the same day, said that 168 homes were destroyed during the first half of 2016 for lacking hard to obtain Israeli-issued building permits, leaving 740 Palestinians homeless.

B’Tselem’s report did not include punitive demolitions enacted on the home of suspected Palestinian attackers and their families.

The B’Tselem tally marked a higher count than the total number of houses destroyed by Israeli each year in the past decade, with the exception of 2013, when 175 homes were demolished.

The 2016 statistics marked a drastic increase from 2015, when 125 homes were demolished, leaving 496 Palestinians without a home.

B’Tselem further estimated that Israel had demolished some 1,113 Palestinian homes in the West Bank alone from 2006 to June 2016, primarily targeting Palestinian communities east of Jerusalem, in the South Hebron Hills and in the Jordan Valley — where a large number of illegal Israeli settlements are located.

The group added that during that decade, at least 769 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 340 minors, saw their homes demolished more than once.

During the Knesset conference on the report, Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List which brings together political factions representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, said the demolitions showed that in spite of calls by Israeli right-wing groups to annex all of the West Bank, “actually and practically, we know that Israel prefers to perpetuate its control in a gray area… while paying lip service to the international community.”

Beyond homes, B’Tselem highlighted the fact that Israeli authorities also demolished structures Palestinians depended on for their livelihoods, such as livestock pens, sheds, and bathroom facilities, and confiscated solar panels and water tanks.

“In doing so, the Civil Administration not only leaves these residents homeless but also severely lacking basic services and the ability to earn a living,” the report read.

Joint List MK Dov Khenin denounced the demolitions during the Knesset conference as a deliberate move by the Israeli government to annex parts of Area C — the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.

“Demolishing houses, water tanks and solar panels does not happen by coincidence or by mistake,” he told the Knesset. “It is an organized policy that aims to change the current political condition, force Palestinians to leave the area and annex parts of Area C to prevent the two-state solution. Therefore, it is no longer a human rights case but a first-degree political case.”

Natalie Grove, a representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also present at the Knesset, said that “Israel does not fulfill the minimum of its basic commitments as an occupying power.”

“Israel is creating humanitarian crises, and when the international community intervenes to solve these crises, Israel increases obstacles in front of these interventions,” Grove added. “This policy has led to the worsening of the humanitarian crisis and created the danger of population transfer which leads to a confrontation between Israel and the international community and raises fears that Israel is not serious regarding the two-state solution.”

The publication of the report came two days after some 30 Palestinian families lost their homes during demolition raids of unprecedentedly large scale in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiya and Ras al-Amoud, and in the village of Qalandiya in the West Bank district of Jerusalem.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel only granted 33 building permits out of 2,020 applications submitted by Palestinians between 2010 and 2014.

The dismal number of permits granted by Israeli authorities has forced many Palestinians to build without permission, at the risk of seeing their homes demolished.

B’Tselem said Israel’s pretexts in demolishing so many Palestinian homes constituted “a spurious claim given the absence of any real possibility for Palestinians to build legally in the area.”

“The Israeli authorities impose an impossible daily reality on Palestinian communities in Area C,” B’Tselem concluded in its report. “Israel acts to establish facts on the ground and to create a reality that it will be difficult to change in any future agreement.”



related video:

CCTV from last month: ” Israeli army razes 2 Palestinian homes”

contributors <![CDATA[Can Turkey’s Economy come back from Coup and Massive Purge?]]> 2016-07-28T03:13:53Z 2016-07-28T04:18:45Z By Nader Habibi | (The Conversation) | – –

The failed July 15 coup in Turkey has prompted a tsunami of responses by the government that is likely to have a lasting impact on all aspects of politics and society, including the economy.

The initial arrest of military personnel who were involved or suspected of participating in the coup did not come as a shock. The next phase did, however, as massive waves of arrests and suspensions in the judiciary and government bureaucracy followed, as well as a declaration of emergency presidential powers. As of July 23, nearly 45,000 government employees have been suspended and close to 10,000 people have been detained. According to Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikly, thousands more are likely to be purged in the coming weeks.

While most analysts have focused on the political and security consequences of the attempted takeover and the Erdogan government’s reaction, it is equally important to examine their impact on Turkey’s troubled economy. And that will depend most on how widespread the purge will be and whether any economic policies will change significantly.

In order to assess the economic impact and identify the key risks, first we must consider the backdrop: How did the coup transpire, what led to it, who is being purged and what was the state of the economy?

A coup and response

It is now clear that the coup was planned and carried out by only a small group of military officers. Officers not involved played a key role in its failure, as did Erdogan’s ability to get Turkish citizens into the streets.

Thus, within hours of its start, the coup was over, as citizens and police overpowered those who participated in it, and the government regained full control over the military. Media reported casualties at 300, with several thousand injured.

Immediately, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (known as AKP) claimed that the coup was orchestrated by supporters of Islamist intellectual Fethullah Gulen, a U.S. resident who has denied any involvement. Besides jailing the officers and soldiers involved in the coup, the government began the mass arrest of military personnel perceived as loyal to Gulen. Erdogan then initiated a purge of Gulenists in ministries and shut down more than 1,600 private educational institutions due to such affiliations. More than 27,000 of their employees have also lost their work permits.

AKP and Gulen: from friends to foes

Since the coup itself failed, its harm to the economy was limited to increased political risks for investors. It is the large-scale purge of Gulenists – once allies of the president – that will have a deeper and longer-lasting effect.

When AKP won the 2002 election and formed a government for the first time, the party leadership had close relations with the Gulen movement.

Up until 2013, the AKP actively supported the social activities of the Gulen Institute and welcomed its adherents into all ranks of the government.

So who is this mysterious man who supposedly orchestrated the coup?

Gulen can best be described as an advocate of tolerant and democratic Islam and moral capitalism.

Gulen believes that Muslims have a duty to engage in business, work hard and acquire wealth so that they can serve their society by offering charity and helping others. These views have attracted millions of civil servants, intellectuals and religious businessmen to the Gulen movement in Turkey in the past two decades.

Until the feud between Erdogan and Gulen began in 2013, large numbers of Gulenists were employed in military and civil servant positions. They had no reason to hide their affiliation with the Gulen movement. In the past three years, the tensions between AKP government and Gulenists escalated. As a result the government was gradually and sporadically removing Gulen supporters from both military and civilian positions even before the coup.

Indeed some analysts believe that coup supporters were motivated by a growing fear that they were going to be arrested or expelled from the military within days under such accusations.

Before the coup, a deteriorating economy

Until 2014, Erdogan and his party had steered the Turkish economy impressively for more than a decade. Even during the global financial crisis, Turkey was one of the few G-20 countries that did not plunge into a severe recession.

But since then, economic growth has slowed. This is thanks, in part, to a sharp decline in tourist arrivals because of fears of terrorism. It is also due to disruption in trade with Russia, one of Turkey’s key partners until tensions over Syria emerged. The collapse of peace talks with Kurdish separatists that led to renewed fighting in some provinces, further disrupted economic activity.

The economy was just beginning to recover this year after slowing to 2.9 percent in 2014, with growth pegged at a better-than-expected 4.8 percent in the first quarter. Concern about economic hardship was a major motivation behind Erdogan’s move to ease tensions with Russia, Egypt and Israel in June. He has even hinted at backing down from his demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go as a precondition for peace.

While the quick suppression of the coup meant economic policy hasn’t shifted, the attempted takeover and the harsh response have hurt investor confidence.

Fitch and Standard & Poor’s – two of the leading credit-rating agencies – downgraded their views of the Turkish economy, while Moody’s has left its rating unchanged so far. The Turkish lira plunged as much as six percent in the days after the coup but has since recovered.

Key risks for the economy

Nevertheless, investors remain cautious and have adopted a wait-and-see attitude to get a better idea of how far the political purges will go and how they will affect the business community.

Here are a few of the key risks they’ll be following closely to see how Erdogan’s response will affect the economy’s long-term outlook.

First, a widespread purge that reaches into the hundreds of thousands might cause a political backlash and social instability. The remarkable support of opposition parties for the AKP government after the coup might come to an end, while the forced resignation of a large number of university presidents and deans could lead to student unrest.

Second, the removal of thousands of civil servants and their eventual replacement with new employees could affect the quality of government services, which are crucial for a well-functioning economy. Normal operations in some ministries might be affected during this purge and replacement period.

Third, there are signs that the government is going after private businesses affiliated with Gulen, which could adversely affect the economy if it spreads. Some experts estimate the followers of Gulen in Turkey at three to five million, many of whom are active in the private sector. The first arrest of a businessman with alleged links to the Gulen movement took place in Gaziantep on July 20.

It also appears that some companies are proactively firing staff who might have had any affiliation with the movement. Even before the coup, the government was selectively targeting some of these private businesspeople.

It remains to be seen how far the anti-Gulen purge of the private sector will go. A Gulen-affiliated financial institution, Bank Asya, which was seized by AKP government in May, was officially shut down a few days after the failed coup.

Fourth, the economy will also be harmed by any tensions that emerge with the U.S. or the European Union. With the U.S., the main source of potential tension is over Turkey’s demand for extradition of Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region. Turkey has submitted the evidence against Gulen, and a diplomatic team is likely to visit soon to press for his extradition. Meanwhile, the EU is growing concerned over Turkey’s post-coup violation of human rights.

Fifth, while the AKP government so far has remained committed to respecting the lifestyle and cultural values of secular citizens, after the failed coup it might come under increasing pressure (from its conservative base) to impose restrictions on secular lifestyle or favor pious AKP supporters in allocation of public sector jobs and business opportunities. If the government succumbs to such demands, it risks alienating a very valuable class of secular professionals and industrialists who have many options for migration. This could accelerate a brain drain that has been observed in recent years.

Sound economic policy is not enough

The AKP owes its electoral success in the past decade to its ability to improve Turkey’s economy, particularly in the Asian region. Erdogan’s cabinet is very concerned about the adverse impact of the coup and its aftermath on Turkish economy. It is expected to give top priority to economic issues in coming months.

This priority has already been demonstrated by the quick and effective measures in the first three days after the coup, which prevented a financial collapse and calmed the capital markets without imposing any capital controls.

The government is preparing a major economic reform package to further improve the business environment. Also, after two years of diplomatic tensions with former economic partners (such as Russia and Egypt), Turkey is returning to a business-oriented foreign policy.

These are positive steps that will benefit Turkish economy in the long run although the terrorism risks to tourism and investor confidence that existed before the coup are likely to continue in the new environment as well. However, the government must also be very mindful of how its cultural, political and security decisions in response to the coup will affect the economy.

The Conversation

Nader Habibi, Professor of the Economics of the Middle East at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole

Aljazeera English: “Turkey’s economy after the coup – Counting the Cost”