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Cheap Mediterranean Natural Gas Could Spell the End for the NATO Alliance

Turkey NATO Natural Gas Feature photo

Cheap Mediterranean Natural Gas Could Spell the End for the NATO Alliance

It’s a strange and unprecedented spectacle when countries like Israel, Greece, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and others lay claims over the Mediterranean, while NATO scrambles to stave off an outright war, among its own members.

An appropriate European Union response to tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean

An appropriate European Union response to tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean

If the European Union can mediate effectively to resolve current Greek-Turkish tensions over energy in the Eastern Mediterranean, it could also provide an opportunity to tackle more deep-rooted problems.

The European Union is seeking to mediate in a naval confrontation on its doorstep, in the Eastern Mediterranean, which involves NATO partners Greece and Turkey, as well as EU member Cyprus. EU foreign ministers are discussing the issue and, without de-escalation, sanctions against Turkey could be implemented. But so far, the two most powerful EU nations have adopted a ‘good cop, bad cop’ approach that conveys different and confusing messages – and has not prevented escalation. Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the added authority of holding the EU’s six-month revolving presidency, has launched a German initiative to prevent escalation, reduce tensions and overcome longstanding conflicts. But French President Emmanuel Macron, while not eschewing mediation, has opted for a show of force, sending French naval vessels into disputed waters to counter the presence of Turkish warships.

Deep-rooted dispute

The dispute is ostensibly over ownership of offshore gas deposits and the delimitation of 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Turkey has sent exploration vessels and warships into waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus and begun drilling for gas. Despite its 1,600 kilometre Mediterranean coastline, Turkey is the only Eastern Mediterranean state without internationally recognised rights to offshore resources in the area because nearby Greek islands and Cyprus have secured the right to generate EEZs under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Turkey is one of fifteen UN members that is not a party to UNCLOS, and Ankara insists that Turkey’s continental shelf gives it ownership rights that take priority over the UNCLOS-backed claims of Cyprus and Greece.

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Turkey’s 2nd Financial & Currency Crisis in 2 Years Blossoms. Heavily Invested European Banks Look for Exit. But Not the Most Exposed Bank

Turkey’s 2nd Financial & Currency Crisis in 2 Years Blossoms. Heavily Invested European Banks Look for Exit. But Not the Most Exposed Bank

Big Gamble that was hot for years has gone sour after Turkish lira’s plunge and surge of defaults on bank debts denominated in foreign currency.

As the Turkish lira logged fresh record lows against both the dollar and the euro on Friday, and is now down 19% this year against the dollar, attention is turning once again to the potential risks facing lenders. They include a handful of very big Eurozone banks that are heavily exposed to Turkey’s economy via large amounts in loans — much of it in euros — through banks they acquired in Turkey. And the strains are beginning to replay those of the last currency/financial crisis in 2018.

When the Money Runs Out…

Subordinate bonds of Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS, which is majority owned by Spanish lender BBVA, together with two other local banks — Turkiye Is Bankasi AS and Akbank TAS — are trading at distressed levels (yields of over 10 percentage points above U.S. Treasuries), even though the banks are still profitable and said to be highly capitalized. This is an indication of the amount of confidence investors have in the ability of these companies to repay their obligations.

Three weeks ago, when the lira was trading within a tight band against the dollar — the result of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) pegging the lira to the dollar by burning through billions of dollars of already depleted foreign-exchange reserves and dollars borrowed from Turkish banks — no corporate bonds in Turkey were trading at these levels. Now that the CBRT has stopped propping up the lira, which has since fallen 7% against the dollar, the average risk premium demanded by investors to hold dollar-denominated notes of Turkish businesses has soared.

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US believes Russia was behind killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers in Syria

US believes Russia was behind killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers in Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 P.M.) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that he believed that the Russian military was behind the killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers during an attack in Idlib earlier this month.

According to statement from Pompeo, he said he believes Russia was likely behind the killing of the Turkish soldiers, which was later blamed on the Syrian Armed Forces.

This attack later resulted in a large-scale retaliatory assault that was carried out by the Turkish military against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Idlib, Aleppo, and Latakia governorates.

Furthermore, Pompeo vowed to provide aid to Turkey after the killing of its soldiers.

“We are looking to provide aid to Turkey after the killing of dozens of its soldiers in Syria,” he added after the announcement of new sanctions against the Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub.

Dozens Of Turkish Soldiers Killed In Russian Airstrike; Erdogan Holds Emergency Meeting

Dozens Of Turkish Soldiers Killed In Russian Airstrike; Erdogan Holds Emergency Meeting

Within hours of a meeting between Turkish and Russian diplomats in Ankara ending which saw the Turkish delegation urge its counterparts to immediately establish a cease-fire in Idlib, there are new reports of that dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed by a new wave of Russian airstrikes.

Reporters on the ground in Syria say that between 32 and 37 Turkish soldiers were killed. Turkish state sources have confirmed at least 22 dead with scores wounded.


TFSA says 32 confirmed so far https://twitter.com/dannymakkisyria/status/1233115402743504897


Journalist Lindsey Snell has cited Turkish Free Syrian Army (TFSA) sources which confirm 32 Turkish national troop deaths so far in the strike.

Amid the breaking reports The Washington Post’s Liz Sly says Turkish President Erdogan has called an emergency security meeting of his military leaders over the alleged Russian attack. 

Despite widespread initial reports that it was a Russian airstrike, Turkish state media has thus far used the interesting wording of “Assad regime forces” conducting the strike and not Russia.


Reports coming in of a large number of Turkish casualties in a Russian or Syrian government air strike in Idlib. Erdogan is hosting an emergency security meeting. Turkey has dug itself into quite a hole in Syria. How does it get itself out.


This after heavy clashes today in Idlib towns have been ongoing related to the Syrian Army’s major offensive in the south of the province. 

Regional reporter Emma Beals writes

Initial reports say a large number of Turkish soldiers killed today in Idlib. Lots of activity now at Reyhanli hospital in Turkey. Erdogan chairing an emergency meeting right now, with CHP party chairing their own tonight as well.

“If all confirmed, could signal major escalation,” she added of the breaking story.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tent Cities, Troop Surge & Tanks Pouring In: Reasons Why The ‘Final War’ For Idlib Has Begun

Tent Cities, Troop Surge & Tanks Pouring In: Reasons Why The ‘Final War’ For Idlib Has Begun

In the next weeks and months, Idlib is set to be front and center once again in world headlines. Not only have the Turkish and Syrian armies engaged in direct clashes since the weekend  with dozens of casualties on each side  ready for what increasingly looks like the final showdown over Idlib, but superpowers Russia and the US have again lined up on either side. Here are some indicators that dramatic escalation is on the immediate horizon. 

An impressive, perhaps unprecedented build-up of seemingly endless columns of Turkish armored vehicles and tanks were seen amassing on the border this week:

1) Turkey announced Thursday more soldiers are being deployed to Idlib after already previously amassing troops at the border. 

According to Turkey’s Daily Sabah

The Turkish military has dispatched more soldiers and stationed multiple rocket launchers on the Syrian border as it continues to reinforce units and equipment at Turkey’s observation posts in northwestern Idlib province.

The rocket launchers were deployed in Hatay province, while commando squads headed to their units in armored vehicles.

2) Turkish tanks, armored columns, and elite commandos are pouring in as state powers are on a collision course:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put NATO’s second-largest army on a collision course with Russian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to try to prevent the fall of Idlib province, Syria’s last rebel stronghold.

The Turkish military ordered hundreds of tanks and armored cars dispatched to Idlib and struck about 170 targets in Syria in retaliation for attacks by Syrian forces that killed at least 12 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province this month. Russia demanded a halt to attacks on Russian forces and their allies in the northwestern province, who’ve been conducting a months-long advance on the opposition bastion. — Bloomberg

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Gas Wars in the Mediterranean

Gas Wars in the Mediterranean 

The unexpected alliance between Turkey and Libya is a geopolitical earthquake that changes the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean and across the Middle East. Turkey’s audacious move has enraged its rivals in the region and cleared the way for a dramatic escalation in the 9 year-long Libyan civil war. It has also forced leaders in Europe and Washington to decide how they will counter Turkey’s plan to defend the U.N-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and to extend its maritime borders from Europe to Africa basically creating “a water corridor through the eastern Mediterranean linking the coasts of Turkey and Libya.” Leaders in Ankara believe that the agreement “is a major coup in energy geopolitics” that helps defend Turkey’s “sovereign rights against the gatekeepers of the regional status quo.” But Turkey’s rivals strongly disagree. They see the deal as a naked power grab that undermines their ability to transport natural gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe without crossing Turkish waters. In any event, the Turkey-Libya agreement has set the stage for a broader conflict that will unavoidably involve Egypt, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Russia and the United States. All parties appear to have abandoned diplomatic channels altogether and are, instead, preparing for war.

On November 27, Turkey and Libya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that commits Turkey to providing military assistance to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). The MoU also redraws Turkey’s maritime boundaries in a way that dramatically impacts the transport of gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe. Israel is particularly worried that this new deal will undermine its plans for a 1,900-kilometer EastMed pipeline connecting the Leviathan gas field, off the coast of Israel, to the EU. YNET News summarized Israel’s concerns in an ominously titled article: “Turkey’s maneuver could block Israel’s access to the sea”. Here’s an excerpt:

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Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: Israel, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: Israel, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

Photograph Source: Jay Phagan – CC BY 2.0

Massive natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel and Palestine are slated to make Tel Aviv a regional energy hub. Whether Israel will be able to translate positive indicators of the largely untapped gas reserves into actual economic and strategic wealth is yet to be seen.

What is certain, however, is that the Middle East is already in the throes of a major geostrategic war, which has the potential of becoming an actual military confrontation.

Unsurprisingly, Israel is at the heart of this growing conflict.

“Last week, we started to stream gas to Egypt. We turned Israel into an energy superpower,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, bragged during a cabinet meeting on January 19.

Netanyahu’s self-congratulating remarks came on the heels of some exciting financial news for the embattled Prime Minister, as both Jordan and Egypt are now Tel Aviv’s clients, receiving billions of cubic meters of Israeli gas.

For Netanyahu, pumping Israeli gas to two neighboring Arab countries constitutes more than just economic and political advantages – it is a huge personal boost. The Israeli leader is trying to convince the public to vote for him in yet another general election in March, while pleading to Israel’s political elite to give him immunity so that he can stay out of prison for various corruption charges.

For years, Israel has been exploiting the discovery of massive deposits of natural gas from the Leviathan and Tamar fields – located nearly 125 km and 80 km west of Haifa respectively – to reconstruct regional alliances and to redefine its geopolitical centrality to Europe.

The Israeli strategy, however, has already created potentials for conflict in an already unstable region, expanding the power play to include Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, and Libya, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia.

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The United States, Turkey and the SDF: The Internal War Between Syria’s Enemies

The United States, Turkey and the SDF: The Internal War Between Syria’s Enemies 

The truth is that in addition to Turkey, the US, the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have armed, financed and trained about 250 thousand jihadis from all around the world since 2010 for the purposes of attacking Syria, precipitating a disaster in the region, with repercussions felt in Europe, and committing crimes against humanity.

The Syrian Arab Army, with the assistance of its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies, has managed to overcome the depredations of al-Qaeda and ISIS, confining them to the Idlib region, creating in the process some problems for the countries that armed and supported these monsters.

One of these problems lies with two of NATO’s most important countries, and the respective factions that they support in Syria.

Ankara considers the PKK-affiliated YPG to be a terrorist organization, using the jihadis of al-Nusra Front, Daesh, al-Qaeda and the FSA to attack areas under the control of Damascus in order to exterminate the Kurds.

Before the alt-media started to talk about the use of terrorists against Syria, the complaints emanating from Damascus about what was going on were dismissed as propaganda. Now the mainstream media is all of a sudden beside itself with concern for the wellbeing of the Kurds. When Syrian civilians were under similar assault, the likes of CNN and other international media created a smokescreen to prevent people from understanding what was happening in Syria. Such deliberate obfuscation has caused thousands of deaths that are no less heinous than those committed by Daesh.

Behind the obfuscating fog is the fact that the United States helped create Daesh in Iraq and used them in 2012 as a weapon against Damascus, in full coordination with Erdogan. Dozens of jihadist groups were armed and equipped to support US plans to destroy Syria.

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Turkey: Alarming Crackdown on Journalists, Desperate Appeal to UN

Turkey: Alarming Crackdown on Journalists, Desperate Appeal to UN

  • The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was held on September 13. Sadly, no one at the meeting addressed the persecution of journalists in Turkey — not José Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group, nor Béla Szombati, who represented the European Union, nor any other participant.
  • Amnesty International recently tagged Turkey the “world’s largest prison for journalists.”
  • The United Nations Human Rights Council, if it wishes to change its image from that of a laughing stock, should put at the top of its agenda calling Ankara to task. Meanwhile, however, Erdoğan’s violations of freedom of speech need to be exposed daily and loudly condemned — not only by members of the UN and the media, but by any and all allies of Turkey — and freedom of expression — in the West.

International human-rights and press-freedom organizations recently appealed to the United Nations to take action against the ongoing abuse of journalists by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In a letter to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on September 3, eighteen organizations — led by the group ARTICLE 19, which promotes freedom of expression — called on “all Member and Observer States committed to media freedom, democracy and the rule of law” to “speak out and address the Turkish government’s repressive campaign against freedom of expression” in the forum of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during the UNHRC’s 42nd regular session.

The letter reads, in part:

“The right to hold and express dissenting opinions and to access information has been systematically undermined by the Turkish government in an intensive crackdown on journalists and independent media, academics, civil society, oppositional voices and the judiciary. Since 2016, the human rights situation in Turkey has steeply declined, facilitated by the misuse of sweeping emergency powers and the concentration of executive power.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iranian Tanker Showdown Heads To Turkey

Iranian Tanker Showdown Heads To Turkey

The Iranian tanker which had been detained for the past five weeks in Gilbraltar has suddenly switched its ship data to show it is headed to a Turkish port, instead of arriving at waters off southern Greece, as previously planned. 

Reuters has cited real-time ship tracking website MarineTraffic to show the change in the Adrian Darya’s (formerly called Grace 1) destination. This after the US State Department threatened that should Greece provide any aid or facilities to the vessel carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil, it would be tantamount to “material support to terrorism”. 

The Unites States says the tanker is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and thus deems any state’s interaction with it support of a formally designated terrorist group. There’s still an active US seizure warrant for the vessel. 

The Adrian Darya (formerly called Grace 1) supertanker’s destination is now southern Turkey. File image.

While the vessel never planned to actually enter a Greek port, listed as the port of Kalamata — especially given the overladen supertanker sits too low in the water — it’s been widely reported that a ship-to-ship transfer of the oil was to occur off its southern coast. 

A US Statement Department statement issued Monday had warned Greece’s help could be considered “providing material support to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization” — this according to a State Department official who spoke to Reuters.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Turkey-Syria War On The Horizon: Airstrikes Target Invading Turkish Army Convoy

Turkey-Syria War On The Horizon: Airstrikes Target Invading Turkish Army Convoy

Turkey and Syria could be headed for war as their armies increasingly clash on front lines in southern Idlib, also amid a heavy aerial bombardment by Syrian and Russian jets of al-Qaeda held Khan Sheikhoun.

On Monday a Turkish convoy came under attack by Syrian airstrikes while traversing a highway headed toward Khan Sheikhoun. Damascus has accused Turkey of seeking to aid terrorists in the besieged town, which had been site of prior chemical attack claims issued by anti-Assad fighters, and fired “warning shots” on the approaching armored convoy, killing and injuring some among the pro-Turkish force.

Turkish convoy in southern Idlib on Monday, via the AFP

The convoy is said to be laden with ammunition resupplies for local “rebels” battling the Syrian Army in southern Idlib province. Ankara’s position has been to claim massive Syrian-Russian airstrikes are a violation of prior agreements between Russia, Turkey, and Syria. 

At least one fighter from a Turkish-backed faction was reported killed in the airstrikes on the convoy, which halted its movement south, along with many injured. Some reports said there were multiple among the dead.

Turkey’s defense ministry “strongly” condemned the incident, with statements out of Damascus saying Turkey is seeking to resupply terrorist groups on Syrian soil. 

Replying to @BabakTaghvaee

Another video showing the military convoy of #Turkish occupiers being bombed by Su-22M4s of #Syria Arab Air Force near #MaarTahroma, #Idlib outskirt. Multiple Turkish soldiers are reported to be killed & some of their BMC Kirpi MRAPs and M-60 tanks are damaged or destroyed.

Embedded video

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Is a New US Mideast War Inevitable?

Is a New US Mideast War Inevitable?

Is a New US Mideast War Inevitable?

In this new century, leaders of both parties have plunged our country into at least five wars in the Middle and Near East… None of these wars has produced a victory or success for us. But taken together, they did produce a multitrillion-dollar strategic and human rights disaster.

In October 1950, as U.S. forces were reeling from hordes of Chinese troops who had intervened massively in the Korean War, a 5,000-man Turkish brigade arrived to halt an onslaught by six Chinese divisions.

Said supreme commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “The Turks are the hero of heroes. There is no impossibility for the Turkish Brigade.”

President Harry Truman awarded the brigade a Presidential Unit Citation.

In 1951, Turkey ended a neutrality dating to the end of World War I and joined NATO. In the seven decades since, there has been no graver crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations than the one that erupted this week.

Turkey has just received the first components of a Russian S-400 air and missile defense system, despite U.S. warnings this would require the cancellation of Turkey’s purchase of 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” said the White House.

The sale has been canceled. The Turkish pilots and instructors training in the U.S. are being sent home. Contracts with Turkish companies producing parts for the F-35 are being terminated. Under U.S. law, the administration is also required to impose sanctions on Turkey for buying Russian weaponry.

Wednesday, the Pentagon warned Turkey against military action in an area of Syria where U.S. troops are deployed. The Turks appear to be massing for an incursion against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces Ankara regards as terrorist allies of the Kurdish PKK inside Turkey.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Turkey’s Erdogan Vows To “Significantly” Cut Rates As Trump Set To Roll Out Sanctions Over S-400 Purchase

Turkey’s Erdogan Vows To “Significantly” Cut Rates As Trump Set To Roll Out Sanctions Over S-400 Purchase

Lately not a week passes without some dismal news involving Turkey hitting the tape, and yet the lira continues to levitate, blissfully ignorant of the storm clouds headed for Ankara, levitating on hopes the Fed will cut rates and sprinkle golden showers on emerging markets. However, in light of the two latest developments, the Mrs Watanabe sellers of USDTRY may finally pay attention.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who last weekend fired the head of the central bank for not cutting rates fast enough, and who has now become the de facto head of the CBRT – promised “significantly lower interest rates by the end of the year“, Bloomberg reported.

“We aim to reduce inflation to one digit by the end of this year,” Erdogan told journalists in Istanbul, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. “As we achieve this, we will achieve our year-end interest rate target as well.” Of course, should interest rates drop to one digit, the USDTRY will promptly collapse to two, as the rate differential between the lira and the dollar collapses, removing the main incentive to go long the lira at a time when the Turkish economy remains in crisis.

Having founded the economic school of Erdoganomics, according to which inflation can be achieved only by lowering rates, the Turkish president and his US counterpart have quickly become kindered spirits when it comes to monetary policy. And just as Trump heaps pressure and insults on Fed Chair Powell, Erdogan has frequently accused the central bank of keeping borrowing costs too high. Last month, he complained that while the Fed was moving toward a rate cut, Turkey’s policy rate of 24% “is unacceptable.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Turkey & the Real Risk of a Debt Crisis

Turkey & the Real Risk of a Debt Crisis 

The Treasury and Finance Ministry of Turkey announced that the country’s net external debt stock totaled $286.2 billion going into the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018. The country’s net external debt stock to its gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was 34.4% at the end of the third quarter of 2018. However, Turkey’s gross external debt stock amounted to $448.4 billion at the end of the 3rd quarter, bringing the debt/GDP ratio to 53.8% according to the official figures.

Interestingly, because of the fear of the Turkish lira, Turkish corporations have been often compelled to borrow in dollars. Therefore, the private sector’s share in the country’s gross external debt stock was 68.2% ($305.9 billion), while some $215.9 billion of this amount consisted of long-term debts with a maturity of more than one year. The Turkish public sector’s share of this debt was 30.6% in the country’s total foreign debt, which is about $21.4 billion in short-term (under one year) with $115.7 billion in the long-term (over one year). The banking sector’s (lenders and the central bank) external debt stock was $176.99 billion at the end of the 3rd quarter.

When we break this down further, 58.5% of the total gross external debt is denominated in U.S. dollars with only 32.3% denominated in euros. The amount denominated in Turkish lira among the external debt stock was a trifling 5.9%. This illustrates the crisis that will emerge with a change in the currency values.

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