Asymmetric War Extends to Syria and Saudi Arabia
As the corruption probe against the AKP gets deeper and wider, the content and implications of the investigation are becoming more and more international. After the first wave tackled the Iran-Halkbank-gold triangle, the second wave of the investigation last week focused on Syria and Saudi Arabia to the extent that the domestic aspect of the investigation has become almost a small part of the whole picture.
It was first the Iran angle which gave the ongoing probe its regional character. With the arrest of the CEO of the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank, the “gas-for gold” trade between Turkey and Iran has come to occupy the center of discussions. Now it seems that the investigation also has a Syria and Saudi Arabia angle. The allegedly al-Qaeda affiliated Saudi businessmen, Yasin al-Qadi, emerged as the main character in the second wave of the graft probe last week. Right after the 9/11 attacks, al-Qadi was designated by the U.S. to be a “specially designated global terrorist” and was placed under sanctions by the U.N. and the EU as a suspected associate of al-Qaeda. He is among 41 suspects who were issued arrest warrants last week. Yet the police refused to comply with the order. Allegedly al-Qadi has engaged in trade with many Turkish businessmen including Prime Minister’s close relatives and his funds and charities have been later used to support al-Qaeda affiliates and other radical Islamist groups operating in Syria like the Nusra Front.
The implications of the probe have also become international. As I wrote last week, first and foremost this probe will affect the Turkey-Iran energy trade very badly. From now on Turkey will most probably be exposed to the same conditions as other countries. And now trade with Northern Iraq has also been compromised. It was reported this week that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has backed down from using Halkbank as a mediator for oil exports to Turkey. KRG and Baghdad just agreed that the oil related financial transactions will be conducted not via Halkbank but via a fund created in the US and revenues will be deposited in the Development Fund created for Iraq in New York. This is really bad news since Turkey had been struggling hard to deposit the oil revenues at Halkbank. Ankara’s loss is estimated to be at least $11.5 billion.
Hence Turkey’s economic loss is snowballing. The corruption probe significantly undermines the image of economic competence that this government had so carefully built in its 11-years in office, a period in which nominal gross domestic product more than tripled. Now foreigners are dumping Turkish bonds at the fastest pace. The lira weakened to a record against the dollar and the stock market of Istanbul set for the lowest level since July 2012. This process is also damaging Turkey’s reputation to the extent that the recent cabinet reshuffle was declared to be a “war cabinet” by some foreign media outlets.
“Asymmetric warfare” is the war between two sides whose military power and strategies and tactics differ significantly. Such struggles often involve tactics of unconventional warfare and are characterized by extreme uncertainty. It is completely unknown how far this investigation can go. Yet it is certain that no symmetry will remain at all if this “asymmetric war” does not end soon.