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Economic Warfare?

Economic Warfare?

It remains a mystery why, in the Turkish Islamist conspiracy theory, the entire (and evil) world has set aside tackling pressing global problems and instead started to plot against a country with barely $7,500 per capita income, a country that is not “free,” according to credible watchdogs and ranking at the bottom brackets of the Human Development Index.

  • Because Turkey is Muslim and its government is building big highways, bridges and airports. But so are and do rich Gulf states.
  • Because Turkey champions the Palestinian cause. But so do many stable countries in the world.
  • Just because Turkey is on the right side of history and the major world powers are evil. Then, are Russia and China secretly part of the plot too?

The U.S. dollar was trading at 3.40 against the lira when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first advised the Turks to convert their dollars and euros into liras. On Monday the dollar closed at seven liras.

But the Turks keep selling their dollars and euros. Press reports showed colourful pictures of patriotic Turks queuing up in front of foreign currency shops to sell their foreign currencies. After tens of thousands across the country joined the campaign to support the national currency the lira lost nearly 10% of its value – in one trading day. This journalist joined the campaign by selling $5 and 10 euros but was sorry to see all the effort failed.

Mr Erdoğan calls this an economic warfare against Turkey. He has pledged that Turkey would challenge this plot and fight back. How? Will Turkey launch an offensive against the dollar and bring the exchange rate down to one dollar = one lira? Will Turkey retaliate and double tariffs on U.S.-made steel and aluminium? Will it suspend the delivery of the Turkish TF-X fighter jet to the U.S. Air Force? Destabilise northern Iraq? Launch military offensive into Manbij in northern Syria?

They may have their dollars and we our God. But there are also facts and figures. In June Turkey’s consumer price inflation ran at an annual 15.4 percent. In May the country’s current account deficit was $57.6 billion, or 5.9 percent of its Gross Domestic Product, one of the highest in the world. Interest rate on 10-year government bonds was 18.55 percent, compared to, for instance, 9.22 percent for Argentinian bonds, 6.94 percent on Colombian and 3.97 percent on Greek. It is anyone’s guess what percentage of Turks should be aware of the gloomy macroeconomic picture. Apparently a clear majority believe the fall and fall of the lira is a plot. They are angry with President Donald Trump — and with America. This is an evangelic/Zionist conspiracy. No one doubts.

Funny, the Turks are proud today that their Russian friends are standing by them. Only two years ago it was Vladimir Putin and “infidel Russians” who plotted against and crippled the Turkish economy. Now it’s Trump and Americans. Who knows who will be plotting against Turkey in 2020.

But Turkey remains a country of odd credentials. It is probably the only country in the world with “cold war” relations with Syria, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE all at the same time. It is probably the only country that, in a span of two years, has been sanctioned by both Russia and America. Turkey, according to the official Turkish narrative, is the only country in the world with less than $10,000 per capita income but passionately envied by countries in the $30,000-$45,000 income bracket.

Never mind. It’s because we are great!

About The Author

Burak Bekdil

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based Turkish political columnist who wrote for Hurriyet Daily News [formerly Turkish Daily News] for 29 years. He has covered Turkey for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997. Previously, Bekdil worked as Ankara Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He contributes to annual national defense sector reviews for anti-corruption institutions like Transparency International and Global Integrity. Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Middle East Quarterly. He also contributes to Perspectives, a journal of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv. James Cuno, art historian and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust, describes Bekdil as "a frequent critic of Prime Minister [now president] Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In 2001, a Heavy Crimes Court in Ankara sentenced Bekdil to a suspended, 20-month prison sentence for his column in which he satirized corruption in the judiciary. Bekdil's comments, quotes and articles have been published in international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Commentator, New York Times, Kathimerini, National Review Online, Algemeiner, NPR, Washington Times, Die Presse, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Financial Times, Al-Monitor, Le Figaro, ABC, El Pais, Stern, Al-Arabiya, Helsingin Sanomat, Racjonalista, Defence Greece, Moyen-Orient, Courier International, ISN Security Watch and Coloquio (of Congreso Judio Latinoamerico) and the Jewish Chronicle (London). (Born: Ankara, 1966; Undergraduate: Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara; Post-graduate: Department of Economics, University of Surrey, United Kingdom)

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