The quest to defeat Erdogan

For the past three years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken his nation on a seemingly endless political roller-coaster ride. Under the auspices of his government, the country has seen two parliamentary elections and a controversial referendum that vested wider powers in Turkey’s presidency. Meanwhile, the purges he commenced after a failed coup attempt in 2016 are still roiling the country.

The next big event comes June 24, when Turks will vote for their next president and parliament. For Erdogan and his opponents, the stakes are as high as ever. If he wins, Erdogan will assume the Turkish presidency’s expanded executive powers, granted by the bitterly fought referendum in 2017.

After a decade and a half in power, Erdogan has become the most consequential Turkish politician since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. But his critics fear the death of Turkey’s enfeebled democracy and the strengthening of an overt authoritarian. A growing body of analysts cast Turkey under Erdogan as a prime example of how democracies can backslide and how ostensibly liberal politics can give way to toxic majoritarianism.

Erdogan is a canny political operator, and he has preserved his rule by mobilizing a divisive yet effective brand of religious nationalism. He has trained his ire on a vast web of supposed enemies abroad, from obstreperous Western governments to a Kurdish separatist terrorist group to a geriatric cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. But although he once could campaign on a track record of economic prosperity and development, the Turkish economy is teetering dramatically.

Erdogan 3

“Years of irresponsible policies have overheated the Turkish economy. High inflation rates and current account deficits are going to prove sticky,” Atilla Yesilada, an analyst with ­Istanbul-based Global Source Partners, said to The Washington Post. “I think we are at the end of our rope.”

“Opposition leaders have also cited encouraging poll numbers that they say reflect voter fatigue with the president after a tumultuous few years in Turkey marked by growing tensions with some of the country’s NATO allies and intensifying social polarization at home,” wrote The Post’s Istanbul bureau chief, Kareem Fahim. “The results suggest a possible opposition victory — if not in the presidential race, then in the parliament, where they hope to roll back the majority held by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP.”

Erdogan’s challengers are stronger this year, thanks both to the political winds and the emergence of an opposition alliance that includes not only leftists, religious minorities and secularists but also right-wing nationalists and pious Muslims.

Erdogan’s main opponent in the presidential race is Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party, a centrist party once associated with decades of stifling secularism as well as the repression of ethnic minorities carried out by the Turkish state. Ince, a former schoolteacher, has worked assiduously to dispel this image and champion a more inclusive future.

Turkish presidential candidate Muharrem Ince spoke to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters from atop a bus at a rally in Kadikoy, near Istanbul, on June 8.

The challengers say that Erdogan is hobbling the country by sparring with the European Union and NATO, and making moves that tanked the Turkish currency. “The policies that Erdogan or his government are following do not help Turkey stand up on her own feet in almost all aspects and policies, whether economic or foreign policies,” Islamist presidential candidate Temel Karamollaoglu said to the Guardian. “His method of approach, the discourse, causes polarization in Turkey.”

But there are limits to the time-for-change argument. “The opposition’s main message is, enough is enough. You have been in power too long, you represent the past,” Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institute said to Fahim. “Maybe that would work if he was 80 years old. Erdogan is still a force to reckon with, despite his vulnerabilities. He has done well for the middle class.”

As in elections in 2015, all eyes are on the Kurdish vote. Kurds represent about 20 percent of the country’s population; Erdogan, who moved to liberalize restrictions on Kurdish cultural rights, once drew tremendous backing from religiously-minded Kurdish voters. But the resumption of conflict with Kurdish militant groups in Turkey, Syria and Iraq has weakened that support, as has his government’s persecution of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, a left-wing, pro-Kurdish party that Ankara accuses of collusion with outlawed Kurdish militants.

If the HDP can win more than 10 percent of the national vote required to gain seats in Turkey’s parliament — as it did in June 2015 — Erdogan’s AKP will struggle to win a majority. The HDP’s charismatic leader, Selahattin Demirtas, has been thrown in jail on terrorism-related charges he and his supporters flatly reject. He is running for president behind bars.

“The Kurds are a reality, and in every country in the Middle East, in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, they are on the front lines for the struggle of democracy,” Demirtas told me in an interview in 2016, before he was sent to prison. “There’s a fundamental ideological conflict between the Kurds and Erdogan, who has a Turkish Islamist ideology.”

Turkey elections 2018: everything you need to know

Erdoğan is running for president, of course, but who else is in the running for control?

What is happening in Turkey?

The country will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June. If no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round of the presidential elections, a second round will be held on 8 July between the top two candidates in the race.

Why are the elections being held now?

The elections were supposed to be in November 2019. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, called for early elections back in April. He said that Turkey needed to “overcome uncertainty” at a troubled time in the region, amid its ongoing military operations in Syria and Iraq.

Critics, however, say the race was brought forward because Turkey’s currency and economy are suffering and the president wanted to preempt the downward trend. He may also be hoping to capitalise on nationalist sentiment after military victory in Syria, where rebels backed by Turkey defeated Kurdish militias near the border in a region called Afrin.

Why are these elections important?

This is arguably the most important election in Turkey’s modern history. The new president will assume an office imbued with sweeping executive powers that voters narrowly approved in a constitutional referendum last year. These include the power to issue decrees with the force of law, appoint the cabinet and vice-presidents as well as senior judges. If he wins, Erdoğan will continue to shape Turkey and its society for years to come.

Who is running for president?

Erdoğan, of course. He remains the most popular political leader in Turkey. But he faces several important opponents who have done unexpectedly well so far in the campaign, and, as a result, a second-round contest is now the most likely outcome.

There is Muharrem İnce, a charismatic physics teacher who is the candidate of the main opposition group, the Republican People’s party (CHP), and Meral Akşener, nicknamed the ‘she-wolf’. She is the leader of the new nationalist Iyi (Good) party and is popular with both youth and working-class Turks.

Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of the Islamist Felicity party, is also running, and has emerged as a key critic of Erdoğan even though their parties share ideological roots. Selahattin Demirtaş, a charismatic politician once dubbed the ‘Kurdish Obama’ and who leads the leftist and Kurdish issue-oriented People’s Democratic party (HDP), is running for the presidency from his prison cell in the city of Edirne. He awaits trial on terrorism charges.

What’s happening in parliament?

There are two main coalitions running for parliament.

The first includes the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) of Erdoğan, which are in a coalition with the nationalists.

On the opposite side is an alliance that includes the secularists of the CHP, the breakaway nationalists of the Iyi party, and the Islamists of the Felicity party. They make strange bedfellows in a political system where secularists and Islamists have traditionally been bitter enemies, but such is the importance of these elections that former rivals have banded together to oust the president and his entourage. The HDP is running by itself.

The Turkish constitution requires that parties obtain at least 10% of the national vote to enter parliament, a law that favours larger parties. A new bill recently allowed the formation of election alliances like those described above, which will allow smaller parties like Felicity to win some seats in the legislature if their alliance as a whole crosses the 10% threshold.

If the opposition alliance performs as expected, and the HDP gets over 10% of the popular vote, the ruling AKP could lose its majority in parliament.

So who will win?

Erdoğan was hoping to catch his opponents by surprise when he called for a vote, but attendance at ruling party rallies has been lacklustre, and the Turkish leader does not appear to be at the top of his game. The economy has also caused headaches, with the Turkish lira falling in value against the dollar, concerns mounting over the long-term health of the economy, and fears over the Central Bank’s independence.

Still, Erdoğan is the most popular Turkish politician, and is likely to win the presidential race. Polls are notoriously unreliable in Turkey, but for now it looks like he will easily win the first round, but without an outright majority. A second-round race against Ince or Aksener still favours the president, but is increasingly looking too close to call. It will depend on whether the opposition can draw away conservative and nationalist voters, as well as Kurdish voters angry about Erdogan’s alliance with the nationalists.

Also, there is a very real possibility that Erdoğan will win the presidency but lose parliament to the opposition, which has promised to roll back the constitutional amendments passed last year.

But, under those same amendments, the president can dissolve parliament, and the legislature can call new presidential elections in response. According to some ruling party officials, that’s exactly what Erdoğan might do, which would give his party a chance at a do-over, but plunge Turkey into uncertainty.

Source> the Guardian

Economy and Elections in Turkey: The Invisible Hands

Hossam ElShazly

The Turkish economy is an impressive one; with 7.4% economic growth and the creation of one million jobs, Turkey was the fastest growing G-20 economy in 2017. This growth exceeded all expectations including the IMF ones and surpassed the Chinese figures, hitting a new record. The socioeconomic measures showed rapid improvement as the income of Turkish citizens has doubled more than once during recent years. President Erdogan has paid great attention to improving the military industry infrastructure; Ankara spends around $18 billion on the defence budget annually and half of its equipment is made domestically. Records show a 18% increase in defence exports in 2017, reaching $1.65 billion, and President Erdogan aims to produce defence exports worth $25 billion by 2023.

In an attempt to secure the country’s democratic transition and to avoid being trapped in the critical zone, Mr.Erdogan accepted moving the planned elections of 2019 forward by more than a year. However, the devil was wearing an election tag, and the economic situation deteriorated dramatically. The Turkish Lira hit its lowest point in eight years, recording 4.39 against the Dollar and resulting in a 13% loss. Speculations about the ability of the central bank and the government to manage the crisis have been discussed in regional and global media on a daily basis. The talk about the economic voting in the forthcoming elections on the 24 June occupies all the news headlines.

elections-turkey-turkish-early-election-ballot-box-flag-symbol-parliamentary-hand-puts-115594559

Looking Behind the Charts: 

The conventional wisdom will be that we are facing an economic tragedy moving at a rocket speed heading towards its target on the election day to hit Erdogan. Nevertheless, looking behind the charts, and digging deep in the story, several questions remain unanswered. Are we witnessing a natural economic disaster that follows the rule that success breeds active inertia and active inertia breeds failure? Or are we watching another planned orchestrated crisis designed to remove President Erdogan via reinventing the 2016 failing coup attempt in a new economic vehicle? 

To answer these questions, we should explore the Turkish case in the context of its geopolitical relations, its role in the region, economic rivals, the nature of ties and diplomatic relations with major players in the region.

The Invisible Hands: Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel

Economic collapse is not a product of a few weeks and not in the case of the strong Turkish economy. The ongoing tension with other regimes in the region, in addition to the forecasted conflict of interest, offers a better explanation of the foggy picture.

I argue that Turkey represents the only remaining form of the democratic transition state in the region. In Egypt, a similar orchestrated economic crisis involved a fuel shortage story and faked inflation among other tools, which were used to remove the first freely elected President in 2013 via a military coup led by field-marshal Abdelfattah AlSisi, the current Egyptian President. Not surprisingly, UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia (the same group in the Turkish case) were the main supporters of the Egyptian coup. Injected billions of dollars in the Egyptian economy, they attempted to support the Sisi regime after the successful coup. The two Gulf states saw the new-born democratic Egypt as a direct threat to their Monarchies. Israel considered the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a critical threat being unable to maintain control over the elected government.

In contrast, Erdogan had close ties with Morsi, stands firmly against the coup and hosts thousands of Egyptian opposition groups and members of the former government.

Erdgoan Morsi

On June 5, 2017, the same invisible hand decided to cut ties and blockaded Qatar based on acquisitions that Qatar was supporting the free press, Egyptian opposition, and Hamas. President Erdgoan has been a major supporter of Doha on this front and all acquisitions were rejected by the international community.

In the same context, the tension between Ankara and Israel goes back to the Davos incident in 2009, when Erdogan stormed out of a World Economic Forum debate following a clash with the Israeli president over Israel’s offensive against Gaza. Bilateral relations deteriorated when Israeli naval commandos intercepted the Turkish ship Marmara en route to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza. That incident led to the deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Recently, the picture turned black because Erdogan is the only leader in the region who clearly stood against the announcement of Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, expelled the Israeli ambassador from Ankara and calling Israel a terrorist state over the killing of civilians in Gaza.

Erdogan Davos

In recent years, the charismatic president has become a symbolic leader across the Arabic and Islamic world; he has even been called Sultan Erdogan among people in the Arabic and Islamic streets. Turkish cinema is significant in magnifying this leadership role and has brought the legacy of the Ottoman Empire to the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The leaders of the invisible hand’s group lack this Erdoganian-charismatic style and consider it a real threat to their crowns and regimes. Furthermore, Erdogan’s futuristic vision of Turkey in 2023 following the end of the Lausanne treaty, controlling the channel linking between the two seas Black and Marmara and beginning oil exploration and drilling, is another nightmare for the invisible hand’s group and some countries in the west.

Voting the Future on June 24: 

In the view of the above, there are no doubts that Erdogan’s vision and philosophy represent a significant threat to the invisible hand’s group in addition to some western countries on both the political and economic fronts. It is my argument that these countries will endeavour to reinvent a new economic coup on the way to the June 24 elections, as confirmed by the Turkish Prime Minister in his recent TV interview.

However, the answer to the futuristic question about where Turkey is heading remains in the hands of the Turkish people who will vote for their next president soon. The choice is whether to continue Erdogan’s remarkable economic and power journey heading toward 2023 or to fall into the trap of manipulated politics, political instability, regional and global influence, in the best-case scenario landing on a toxic economic zone similar to the one of Egypt.

قرار «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة»: معالجة ردود الأفعال، وتقييم العقوبات

كاثرين باور, پاتريك كلاوسون, و مايكل سينغ

في 11 أيار/مايو، خاطب پاتريك كلاوسون، كاثرين باور، ومايكل سينغ منتدى سياسي في معهد واشنطن. وباور هي زميلة “بلومنستين كاتس” في برنامج مكافحة الإرهاب في المعهد، ومستشارة سياسية بارزة سابقة لشؤون إيران في “مكتب تمويل الإرهاب والجرائم المالية” التابع لـ “وزارة المالية” الأمريكية. وكلاوسون هو زميل أقدم في زمالة “مورنينغستار” ومدير الأبحاث في المعهد، ومؤلف الدراسة التي صدرت مؤخراً باللغة الانكليزية بعنوان، “القضايا التكتيكية المحيطة بالانسحاب الأمريكي من الاتفاق النووي مع إيران“. وسينغ هو زميل أقدم في زمالة “لين- سويغ” والمدير الإداري في المعهد، وقد شغل منصب مدير أقدم لشؤون الشرق الأوسط في “مجلس الأمن القومي” الأمريكي في الفترة 2005 – 2008. وفيما يلي ملخص المقررة لملاحظاتهم”.

پاتريك كلاوسون

في إيران، كما في بلدان أخرى، غالباً ما تكون السياسة محلية. وعلى الرغم من عناوين الأخبار، لا يركّز الشعب الإيراني ولا النخب السياسية على «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة»، المعروفة بالاتفاق النووي، الذي قررت إدارة ترامب الانسحاب منه مؤخراً. وبالنسبة إلى النخب، تنطوي القضية الجوهرية على تحديد مَن سيخلف المرشد الأعلى الحالي، آية الله علي خامنئي، أو أي كيان سيقوم بذلك. وفي الواقع، عند وفاة خامنئي، سيصبح النظام عرضة للمعاناة. ويرجع ذلك جزئياً إلى أن خامنئي لم يسمح ببروز أي خليفة له.

وفي الواقع، سيكون «الحرس الثوري الإسلامي» الإيراني المستفيد المحتمل، مما قد يقود الجمهورية الإسلامية نحو توجه أكثر عسكرياً وعلمانياً، على غرار النماذج القديمة التي وضعتها سوريا البعثية، والعراق البعثي، ومصر الناصرية. وبذلك يمكنها أن تنتقل من نظام سياسي أيديولوجي إلى نظام عسكري فاسد يدّعي التمسّك بالتزاماته الثورية – ويقوم بممارسة الاعتداءات في الخارج لتبرير وجوده. ويشير المقال الافتتاحي الذي نُشر مؤخراً على نطاق واسع تحت عنوان “دفاعاً عن رئيس عسكري”، إلى التأييد الشعبي لهذا التغيير في نموذج القيادة، كما توحي الهتافات في ألعاب كرة القدم بقبول واسع لهذا المفهوم.

لقد أصبح «الحرس الثوري الإسلامي» حالياً كياناً قوياً من خلال ممارسة قوته من دون كلل – وتحديداً توسيع نفوذ طهران في الشرق الأوسط. فسواء في العراق أو سوريا أو لبنان أو اليمن، بإمكان إيران أن تشير إلى سياسة النشاط الإقليمي باعتبارها أعظم نجاح لها منذ الثورة عام 1979. ومن مزايا نموذج «الحرس الثوري»، تكلفته المنخفضة نسبياً، لا سيّما عند مقارنته بالنموذج الأمريكي في مساعدة الحلفاء. ففي العراق، يغطّي «الحرس الثوري» تكاليف وجوده من خلال الكسب غير المشروع وأنشطة أخرى تحقق له الكسب المادي.

وبناءً على ذلك، لن تؤدي العقوبات المفروضة على سوق النفط الإيراني إلى جعل طهران “تجثوا على ركبتيها” [تنحني طوعاً]. وعلى الرغم من أن العقوبات ستقلّص بالتأكيد الصادرات الإيرانية، إلا أنّ الارتفاع المحتمل في أسعار النفط سيكون له أثر تعويضي، وقد يترك الإيرادات على ما كانت عليه قبل العقوبات. ومع ذلك، فبصورة عامة، لا يزال الاقتصاد الإيراني ضعيفاً. ومع استمرار هبوط الريال (“التومان”) الإيراني، وتحمل الإيرانيين العاديين العبء الأكبر، تَحوّل الاهتمام الشعبي إلى مشاكل البلاد المالية ومصادرها. ومن جهته، سعى «الحرس الثوري» إلى تحويل أي تركيز عن الفساد والمحسوبية المستشريَيْن، وهي اتهامات ردّدها أفراد معتدلون مثل الرئيس حسن روحاني. إلا أن إشراف روحاني نفسه على الاقتصاد، منذ أن أصبح رئيساً عام 2013، كان فاشلاً ولم يتمكن من الوفاء بوعوده. فبدلاً من أن تسهّل «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة» تحقيق مكاسب مالية، أدّى الفساد المحلي والتخبّط البيروقراطي إلى إحباط آمال النمو المالي والاستثمار الأجنبي. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، أضعفت الأزمة المصرفية المحلية الحالية ثقة الإيرانيين في قدرة قادتهم على إصلاح الضرر الاقتصادي.

وإجمالاً، ازداد نفوذ «الحرس الثوري» منذ عام 2013، في حين أخذ يتراجع تأثير المعتدلين أمثال روحاني. كما أن تدهور الاقتصاد سيؤدي إلى تقويض آمال الناس في التغيير من خلال الإصلاح البطيء، مما يقلل بدوره من احتمالات عودة إيران إلى طاولة المفاوضات

كاثرين باور

على الرغم من أن «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة» لم تكن تذكرة ذهبية، إلا أنها منحت إيران فرصة للاندماج مجدداً في الاقتصاد العالمي. وعلى وجه التحديد، مكّنت إيران من الدخول مجدداً إلى سوق الطاقة وسمحت لها بالقيام بأعمال تجارية مع كيانات أجنبية ومؤسسات مالية تنخرط في “معاملات كبيرة” مع الكيانات الإيرانية المصنّفة – والعكس بالعكس. وفي الواقع، فمن منظور العقوبات، يشير الانسحاب الأمريكي من «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة» إلى العودة إلى النظام الذي كان قائماً قبل التوقيع على الاتفاق النووي، وهو: حظر اقتصادي على الجمهورية الإسلامية.

وستعود بعض العقوبات إلى حيز التنفيذ بعد تسعين يوماً، ولكن بعد 180 يوماً، ستُفعّل جميع حالات الحظر التي تم رفعها وفقاً لـ «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة»، ويشمل ذلك الحظر على الطاقة (النفط والغاز)، وقطاع الشحن البحري، و”البنك المركزي الإيراني”. وفي الوقت نفسه، سيتم مجدداً فرض عقوبات على نحو أربعمائة شخص وكيان إيراني. وفي حين تتمتع الإدارة الأمريكية بقدر وافر من حرية التصرف، إلا أنها تواجه حالياً معضلة حول كيفية تنفيذ أحكام هذه العقوبات الرئيسية، خاصة فيما يتعلق بتفسير ما يعتبر “صفقة هامة” وشروط “تخفيض الإعفاءات بشكل كبير”.

وفي نهاية المطاف، سيتعيّن اتخاذ قرار سياسي بشأن درجة الإنفاذ. وقد أعرب الرئيس ترامب أنه يريد ممارسة “أقصى قدر ممكن من الضغط” على النظام الإيراني، ولكن قد يكون من المنطقي تأخير التنفيذ أو إلغائه – أو ترخيص بعض الأنشطة. ومن شأن ذلك أن يبدي حسن النية السياسية مع نظرائه الأوروبيين ويتجنب الدمار الدبلوماسي، لا سيّما عندما لا يكون للتنفيذ القوي أثر ملحوظ على أهداف السياسات العامة.

وستتطلع الحكومات الأوروبية إلى التقليل من تداعيات الانسحاب الأمريكي من «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة»، سواء بالنسبة لشركاتها الخاصة أو للحفاظ على المنافع لإيران. ولكن ليس أمامها سوى خيارات واضحة قليلة للقيام بذلك. على سبيل المثال، كانت التوجيهات الصادرة عن “مكتب مراقبة الأصول الأجنبية” واضحة، وهي أنه لن يتم العمل بالعقود التي وقّعت قبل إعادة فرض العقوبات، لأن ممارسة الأعمال التجارية بعملة غير أمريكية سيبقى معرضاً للعقوبات الأمريكية. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن العقوبة التي تخاطر بها المؤسسات المالية هي ليست مجرد غرامة مالية، بل من المحتمل فقدان إمكانية الوصول إلى النظام المالي الأمريكي والدولار الأمريكي.

وبالتالي، يجب على الحكومة الأمريكية أن تسعى أولاً إلى توفير أقصى قدر من الوضوح في إعادة فرض هذه العقوبات. وفي حين قد يجادل البعض بأن ترك القوانين غامضة قد يجبر شركات معينة على “عدم المخاطرة” من خلال الانسحاب الكامل من السوق الإيرانية، إلّا أنّ هذا الاتجاه سيقوّض جهود الولايات المتحدة الرامية إلى جعل حلفائها يتفقون معها على هذا الأمر. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، يمكن أن يهدد ذلك قيام ردود فعل دولية تهدف إلى تجنّب التعامل كلياً مع النظام المالي الأمريكي، مما قد يجعل العقوبات الأمريكية أقل فاعلية عموماً على المدى البعيد. وعلى هذا النحو، يجب على وزارة المالية الأمريكية أن تؤكد أيضاً على أن هذه المحظورات لا تهدف إلى معاقبة القطاع الخاص، وأن التعاون ضروري لتحقيق أهداف السياسة الأمريكية.

وأخيراً، سيكون من المهم إدراج أساس سردي واضح للعقوبات الجديدة. وخير مثال على ذلك التصنيف الأخير لشبكة تبادل عملات قامت بشراء مبالغ نقدية كبيرة بالدولار الأمريكي بشكل مخادع لصالح «قوة القدس» التابعة لـ «فيلق الحرس الثوري الإسلامي» لتمويل وكلائها الإقليميين. وكان هذا النهج القائم على الأدلة، والمرجح أن يبقى كذلك، أفضل فرصة للعمل المنسّق المتعدد الجهات.

مايكل سينغ

أثرت ثلاثة عوامل أساسية على انسحاب الرئيس الأمريكي من «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة». ويتعلق العامل الأول بنقد جوهر الاتفاق نفسه، بدلاً من القلق بشأن امتثال إيران [لالتزاماتها بموجب اتفاقات الضمانات لمعاهدة عدم انتشار الأسلحة النووية]. وعلى وجه التحديد، شعر مسؤولون في الحكومة الأمريكية بالقلق لأن الاتفاق النووي لم يفعل الكثير لمنع السلوك العدائي الإيراني، مثل تطوير قدرات الأسلحة النووية، لفترة قصيرة جداً. وفي المقابل، رأوا أن التخفيف من العقوبات الذي مُنح [لإيران] من خلال «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة» هو أمر واسع جداً ويستمر وقتاً طويلاً. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، حدّ الاتفاق من خيارات السياسة الأمريكية المتاحة للتعامل مع سلوك إيران المتعلق بتطوير كل من الصواريخ البالستية ودعم القوى المعادية للمصالح الأمريكية في جميع أنحاء المنطقة.

ثانياً، شعرت الإدارة الأمريكية بالضعف الاقتصادي والسياسي الذي يسود النظام الإيراني في الوقت الراهن.

أمّا العامل الثالث فيتعلق بالإعلان عن استئناف المحادثات مع كوريا الشمالية، والذي حدث قبل أربعة أيام من حلول موعد تجديد فترة الإعفاءات. وتمهيداً للمفاوضات المحتملة مع جمهورية كوريا الديمقراطية الشعبية، كانت الإدارة الأمريكية تسعى إلى تكوين وجهة نظر مفادها أن الولايات المتحدة لن ترضى بأي اتفاق. وهنا، ربما كان يدور بخلد الإدارة الأمريكية الرغبة في تكرار النموذج الكوري الشمالي مع إيران، وهو ممارسة “أقصى قدر ممكن من الضغط” مقترناً بالرغبة في الدخول في مفاوضات واسعة النطاق.و في الواقع، يتنافس القرار بشأن إيران مع كوريا الشمالية، ومع التعريفات على الفولاذ والألمنيوم، والعديد من أولويات السياسة الخارجية الأخرى في واشنطن.

وفي الحملات السابقة لفرض عقوبات على إيران، كانت الإدارات الأمريكية قد اتبعت قدراً هائلاً من الدبلوماسية لضمان تنفيذ آليات الرقابة القائمة على أسواق رأس المال في إطار متعدد الأطراف والالتزام بها. ففي عام 2006، على سبيل المثال، تبنّت الولايات المتحدة سلسلة من قرارات مجلس الأمن الدولي التي وضعت الأساس الدبلوماسي للتنسيق مع الاتحاد الأوروبي إلى جانب روسيا والصين.

وستكون هذه المرة الأولى التي تسعى فيها واشنطن إلى فرض هذا النوع من العقوبات في ظل هذا الاختلاف الاستراتيجي الحاد مع حلفائها الدبلوماسيين. وسيركز الأوروبيون على وجه الخصوص على تهدئة طهران والإبقاء على الاتفاق معها، وبالتالي إعطاء إيران نفوذ للتفاوض على اتفاق أفضل مع الأطراف الموقعة المتبقية.

ومن الآن فصاعداً، يجب على الولايات المتحدة أن تحاول إصلاح بعض الخلافات بينها وبين حلفائها الأوروبيين من خلال استمرار المحادثات مع بريطانيا وفرنسا وألمانيا (“مجموعة الدول الأوروبية الثلاث”) على وجه التحديد والجهات الفاعلة الأخرى – حتى وإن نتج عن ذلك تقديم بعض التنازلات بشأن العقوبات. ينبغي على واشنطن أيضاً أن تحدد الانسحاب من «خطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة» في سياق استراتيجية ذات نطاق أوسع تجاه إيران. ومن شأن اتباع نهج شامل، إلى جانب الدعم المقدم من “مجموعة الدول الأوروبية الثلاث”، أن يسمح بنوع من التنسيق الذي تحتاجه واشنطن لممارسة أقصى درجات الضغط على الجمهورية الإسلامية.

أعدت هذا الموجز إيريكا نايجيلي.

Source: the Washington Institute

Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate

By Katrin Bennhold

A country taps its past as it leads the way on one of the most pressing issues facing modern democracies: how to regulate the world’s biggest social network.

BERLIN — Security is tight at this brick building on the western edge of Berlin. Inside, a sign warns: “Everybody without a badge is a potential spy!”

Spread over five floors, hundreds of men and women sit in rows of six scanning their computer screens. All have signed nondisclosure agreements. Four trauma specialists are at their disposal seven days a week.

They are the agents of Facebook. And they have the power to decide what is free speech and what is hate speech.

This is a deletion center, one of Facebook’s largest, with more than 1,200 content moderators. They are cleaning up content — from terrorist propaganda to Nazi symbols to child abuse — that violates the law or the company’s community standards.

Germany, home to a tough new online hate speech law, has become a laboratory for one of the most pressing issues for governments today: how and whether to regulate the world’s biggest social network.

Around the world, Facebook and other social networking platforms are facing a backlash over their failures to safeguard privacy, disinformation campaigns and the digital reach of hate groups.

In India, seven people were beaten to death after a false viral message on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp. In Myanmar, violence against the Rohingya minority was fueled, in part, by misinformation spread on Facebook. In the United States, Congress called Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to testify about the company’s inability to protect its users’ privacy.

As the world confronts these rising forces, Europe, and Germany in particular, have emerged as the de facto regulators of the industry, exerting influence beyond their own borders. Berlin’s digital crackdown on hate speech, which took effect on Jan. 1, is being closely watched by other countries. And German officials are playing a major role behind one of Europe’s most aggressive moves to rein in technology companies, strict data privacy rules that take effect across the European Union on May 25 and are prompting global changes.

00fbgermany-2-jumboGerd Billen, the secretary of state for Germany’s Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, says that data protection is a fundamental right.

“For them, data is the raw material that makes them money,” said Gerd Billen, secretary of state in Germany’s Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. “For us, data protection is a fundamental right that underpins our democratic institutions.”

Germany’s troubled history has placed it on the front line of a modern tug-of-war between democracies and digital platforms.

In the country of the Holocaust, the commitment against hate speech is as fierce as the commitment to free speech. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is only available in an annotated version. Swastikas are illegal. Inciting hatred is punishable by up to five years in jail.

But banned posts, pictures and videos have routinely lingered on Facebook and other social media platforms. Now companies that systematically fail to remove “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours face fines of up to 50 million euros.

The deletion center predates the legislation, but its efforts have taken on new urgency. Every day content moderators in Berlin, hired by a third-party firm and working exclusively on Facebook, pore over thousands of posts flagged by users as upsetting or potentially illegal and make a judgment: Ignore, delete or, in particularly tricky cases, “escalate” to a global team of Facebook lawyers with expertise in German regulation.

Some decisions to delete are easy. Posts about Holocaust denial and genocidal rants against particular groups like refugees are obvious ones for taking down.

Others are less so. On Dec. 31, the day before the new law took effect, a far-right lawmaker reacted to an Arabic New Year’s tweet from the Cologne police, accusing them of appeasing “barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping groups of men.”

The request to block a screenshot of the lawmaker’s post wound up in the queue of Nils, a 35-year-old agent in the Berlin deletion center. His judgment was to let it stand. A colleague thought it should come down. Ultimately, the post was sent to lawyers in Dublin, London, Silicon Valley and Hamburg. By the afternoon it had been deleted, prompting a storm of criticism about the new legislation, known here as the “Facebook Law.”

“A lot of stuff is clear-cut,” Nils said. Facebook, citing his safety, did not allow him to give his surname. “But then there is the borderline stuff.”

Complicated cases have raised concerns that the threat of the new rules’ steep fines and 24-hour window for making decisions encourage “over-blocking” by companies, a sort of defensive censorship of content that is not actually illegal.

The far-right Alternative of Germany, a noisy and prolific user of social media, has been quick to proclaim “the end of free speech.” Human rights organizations have warned that the legislation was inspiring authoritarian governments to copy it.

Other people argue that the law simply gives a private company too much authority to decide what constitutes illegal hate speech in a democracy, an argument that Facebook, which favored voluntary guidelines, made against the law.

“It is perfectly appropriate for the German government to set standards,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But we think it’s a bad idea for the German government to outsource the decision of what is lawful and what is not.”00fbgermany-3-superJumbo

Richard Allen, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe, leaving a meeting at Germany’s justice ministry in March.CreditSean Gallup/Getty Images

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe and the leader of the company’s lobbying effort against the German legislation, put it more simply: “We don’t want to be the arbiters of free speech.”

German officials counter that social media platforms are the arbiters anyway.

It all boils down to one question, said Mr. Billen, who helped draw up the new legislation: “Who is sovereign? Parliament or Facebook?”

Learning From (German) History

When Nils applied for a job at the deletion center, the first question the recruiter asked him was: “Do you know what you will see here?”

Nils has seen it all. Child torture. Mutilations. Suicides. Even murder: He once saw a video of a man cutting a heart out of a living human being.

And then there is hate.

“You see all the ugliness of the world here,” Nils said. “Everyone is against everyone else. Everyone is complaining about that other group. And everyone is saying the same horrible things.”

The issue is deeply personal for Nils. He has a 4-year-old daughter. “I’m also doing this for her,” he said.

The center here is run by Arvato, a German service provider owned by the conglomerate Bertelsmann. The agents have a broad purview, reviewing content from a half-dozen countries. Those with a focus on Germany must know Facebook’s community standards and, as of January, the basics of German hate speech and defamation law.

“Two agents looking at the same post should come up with the same decision,” says Karsten König, who manages Arvato’s partnership with Facebook.

The Berlin center opened with 200 employees in 2015, as Germany was opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants.

merlin_117793349_d26d81ce-8420-4fe5-88d6-47ad51fcf23d-superJumboAnas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin in September 2015.

Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, posed with Chancellor Angela Merkel and posted the image on Facebook. It instantly became a symbol of her decision to allowing in hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Soon it also became a symbol of the backlash.

The image showed up in false reports linking Mr. Modamani to terrorist attacks in Brussels and on a Christmas market in Berlin. He sought an injunction against Facebook to stop such posts from being shared but eventually lost.

The arrival of nearly 1.4 million migrants in Germany has tested the country’s resolve to keep a tight lid on hate speech. The law on illegal speech was long-established but enforcement in the digital realm was scattershot before the new legislation.

Posts calling refugees rapists, Neanderthals and scum survived for weeks, according to jugendschutz.net, a publicly funded internet safety organization. Many were never taken down. Researchers at jugendschutz.net reported a tripling in observed hate speech in the second half of 2015.

Mr. Billen, the secretary of state in charge of the new law, was alarmed. In September 2015, he convened executives from Facebook and other social media sites at the justice ministry, a building that was once the epicenter of state propaganda for the Communist East. A task force for fighting hate speech was created. A couple of months later, Facebook and other companies signed a joint declaration, promising to “examine flagged content and block or delete the majority of illegal posts within 24 hours.”

But the problem did not go away. Over the 15 months that followed, independent researchers, hired by the government, twice posed as ordinary users and flagged illegal hate speech. During the tests, they found that Facebook had deleted 46 percent and 39 percent.

“They knew that they were a platform for criminal behavior and for calls to commit criminal acts, but they presented themselves to us as a wolf in sheep skin,” said Mr. Billen, a poker-faced civil servant with stern black frames on his glasses.

By March 2017, the German government had lost patience and started drafting legislation. The Network Enforcement Law was born, setting out 21 types of content that are “manifestly illegal” and requiring social media platforms to act quickly.

Officials say early indications suggest the rules have served their purpose. Facebook’s performance on removing illegal hate speech in Germany rose to 100 percent over the past year, according to the latest spot check of the European Union.

Platforms must publish biannual reports on their efforts. The first is expected in July.

At Facebook’s Berlin offices, Mr. Allan acknowledged that under the earlier voluntary agreement, the company had not acted decisively enough at first.

“It was too little and it was too slow,” he said. But, he added, “that has changed.”

He cited another independent report for the European Commission from last summer that showed Facebook was by then removing 80 percent of hate speech posts in Germany.

The reason for the improvement was not German legislation, he said, but a voluntary code of conduct with the European Union. Facebook’s results have improved in all European countries, not just in Germany, Mr. Allan said.

“There was no need for legislation,” he said.

Mr. Billen disagrees.

“They could have prevented the law,” he said. YouTube scored 90 percent in last year’s monitoring exercise. If other platforms had done the same, there would be no law today, he said.

A Regulatory Dilemma

Germany’s hard-line approach to hate speech and data privacy once made it an outlier in Europe. The country’s stance is now more mainstream, an evolution seen in the justice commissioner in Brussels.

00fbgermany-7-superJumboVera Jourova, the European Union’s justice commissioner, deleted her Facebook account in 2015 because she could no longer stand the hate.

Vera Jourova, the justice commissioner, deleted her Facebook account in 2015 because she could not stand the hate anymore.

“It felt good,” she said about pressing the button. She added: “It felt like taking back control.”

But Ms. Jourova, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in what is now the Czech Republic, had long been skeptical about governments legislating any aspect of free speech, including hate speech. Her father lost his job after making a disparaging comment about the Soviet invasion in 1968, barring her from going to university until she married and took her husband’s name.

“I lived half my life in the atmosphere driven by Soviet propaganda,” she said. “The golden principle was: If you repeat a lie a hundred times it becomes the truth.”

When Germany started considering a law, she instead preferred a voluntary code of conduct. In 2016, platforms like Facebook promised European users easy reporting tools and committed to removing most illegal posts brought to their attention within 24 hours.

The approach worked well enough, Ms. Jourova said. It was also the quickest way to act because the 28 member states in the European Union differed so much about whether and how to legislate.

But the stance of many governments toward Facebook has hardened since it emerged that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of up to 87 million users. Representatives of the European Parliament have asked Mr. Zuckerberg to come to Brussels to “clarify issues related to the use of personal data” and he has agreed to come as soon as next week.

Ms. Jourova, whose job is to protect the data of over 500 million Europeans, has hardened her stance as well.

To be Continued….. Source: NYTimes

Top IDF Spokesperson Tells U.S. Jews: Israel Failed to Minimize Gaza Casualties, Hamas Won PR War by Knockout

By Uri Blau

Israeli military’s international spokesman says some Palestinians ‘that weren’t the target’ were hit, but fiercely defended the military’s response

A senior Israeli army spokesman admitted Tuesday that Israel failed to minimize the number of Palestinian casualties during the recent deadly protests on the Gaza border, and that some were hit by mistake. He added that Hamas won the PR war by a “knockout.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the international spokesman and head of social media for the Israel Defense Forces, made the comments during a Jewish community briefing organized by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

The officer fiercely defended the military’s response to the recent protests along the Gaza border, in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands more wounded, most of them by live fire.

skip – IDF spokesman responds to Gaza Strip border scenes

IDF spokesman responds to Gaza Strip border scenes – דלג

Many commentators have said Hamas won a PR victory following the worldwide media coverage given to the bloody scenes, especially following Monday’s juxtaposition of scenes on the Gaza border and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Conricus said Israel hasn’t been able to explain the situation on the border well enough to the international media.

“We haven’t been able to get that message out of how it is from our side, what we are defending – and the ‘winning picture’ overwhelmingly, by a knockout, unfortunately, have been the graphics from the Palestinian side. The amount of casualties has done us a tremendous disservice, unfortunately, and it has been very difficult to tell our story.”

Conricus acknowledged that the IDF had failed to minimize the number of casualties. However, he noted that “Hamas wanted the casualties. Hamas wanted people to die. Hamas wanted the pictures of the wounded and the overflowing hospitals … and they had no problems sending the human shields forward. That is the sad reality of what we have been facing,” he said.

While blaming Hamas for sending “rioters” to the border area and using civilians as human shields, Conricus also conceded that the army snipers didn’t always hit their intended targets.

Palestinian protesters carrying a wounded woman during a protest on the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, May 15, 2018.
Palestinian protesters carrying a wounded woman during a protest on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, May 15, 2018.Khalil Hamra/AP

On the border, he said, the army deploys “combat soldiers, devoted, [who] understand what they are defending,” and are not “trigger-happy, undisciplined.” The soldiers “take orders from their superior officers” and are “executing their missions with discipline, with professionalism and using their weapons proportionately and as they are intented according to the rules of engagement,” Conricus said.

“Now, have there been mistakes? Have there been bullets that missed their target and hit people that weren’t the target?” he continued. “Of course they have. But I can tell you that it is a chaotic environment on the border. There is tear gas. There is smoke from the tires. There is screaming. There is loudspeakers, there’s the sirens from the ambulances and, most importantly, there’s masses of rioters trying to tear down the fence, throwing rocks, throwing molotov cocktails, throwing grenades.”

Conricus said Israel could not afford to let the risk of letting the protesters break through the fence, for fear they might attack kibbutzim and communities that are mere hundreds of meters from the border.

“When the dilemma came to, on one hand, defending the Israeli border and Israeli communities immediately behind the border, or allowing the rioters through and having a lower amount of Palestinian casualties, there’s no dilemma,” Conricus said.

“There is no dilemma for soldiers and commanders in the IDF,” he added. “On the other hand, we have tried to be as accurate, as deliberate and as specific as possible, using only sniper rifles … with standard NATO ammunition … so we have done a lot to try and minimize casualties. Have we been successful at it? Unfortunately, no. ”

Conricus also said a number of IDF investigations into events on the Gaza border were opened in the past few weeks.

“We have a fact-finding mission … with full authority to investigate and question and to flag events that the commander of that team thinks are problematic. And they also have the authority to recommend criminal investigations against Israeli officers and soldiers,” he explained. “That mechanism has been in place for more than four weeks. It has investigated a few events,” he added.

skip – IDF international spokesman’s full briefing to Jewish Federations of North America

In response to this article, the IDF spokesperson’s unit sent a clarification paragraph saying:

“The things partially quoted were taken out of context , distort the broader context in which they were said and do not reflect the spirit of discourse nor the stance of the IDF. This was a conversation with leaders of Jewish organizations in the U.S., a part of the call to action conducted by IDF spokesperson with different elements around the world.”

Israel Said 32 Countries Confirmed They’d Attend U.S. Embassy Gala. Here’s Who Really Came

By Noa Landau

After an initial attendance list was published in Haaretz, several countries – including Serbia, Vietnam, Peru, El Salvador and the Ivory Coast – denied they had confirmed their attendance and said they weren’t planning to come.

Twenty-two foreign envoys attended the Foreign Ministry receptionon Sunday in honor of the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem the following day, according to the final list of participants submitted to Haaretz at its request. Before the event, the ministry had said 32 foreign representatives had confirmed they would attend, of the 86 who were invited.

Besides the four representatives from Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, which bucked the European Union’s stanceagainst the U.S. Embassy move, ambassadors or other representatives attended from the following countries: Guatemala, Paraguay, Honduras, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia , Myanmar, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania. The other EU nations boycotted the reception.

Also Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority announced it was recalling its ambassadors from Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic because their representatives attended the reception. On Tuesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recalled the Palestinian Authority representative in Washington.

1.6095517.702334890

The earlier list of the countries confirming attendance at the Foreign Ministry reception had included Albania, Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Serbia, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam. After the earlier list was published in Haaretz, several of these countries – Serbia, Vietnam, Peru, El Salvador and the Ivory Coast – denied they had confirmed their attendance and said they weren’t planning to come. Bulgaria was also first mentioned as a European planning to attend, but its local representatives denied this. Bosnia had not appeared in the previous list.

Particularly striking was the absence of representatives from Russia, India and Japan, whose leaders recently held widely publicized meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and had made speeches about upgrading relations with Israel. The Foreign Ministry believes the countries that had confirmed attendance but later denied it had been pressured not to participate.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Palestinian leadership would not stand for having Palestinian rights become bargaining chips with the U.S. administration or Israel.

“We have recalled for consultation the ambassadors in Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria, all of them European Union countries,” said Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Amal Jadou. “We are taking this step after the ambassadors of these countries in Tel Aviv attended the Israeli celebrations for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Jadou added, “We cherish our relations with all the countries of the European Union. These relationships are based on a commitment to international law, UN resolutions and human rights. We believe that attending this event contradicts those values. The transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem was not only a hostile step against the Palestinian people mourning the 70 years of the Nakba [when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence], but also a violation of international law.”

At the reception held at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said to the foreign envoys: “Do you know how to identify real leadership? It’s when people follow you, and people follow [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump. I call upon all countries to join the United States and transfer their embassies to Jerusalem, which is the right thing to do because it promotes peace.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said at the event, “Everyone gathered here understands that opening the embassy is a recognition of reality that should have already happened.”

The event was attended by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband and Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, along with a delegation of senators and congressmen.

The Israelis in attendance included government ministers, MKs (mostly from the coalition), Foreign Service officials, the Mossad chief, as well as associates of Netanyahu, including Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s former adviser Natan Eshel and even Sara Netanyahu’s personal stylist, Sandra Ringler.