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Strategic Implications of Sedat Peker’s Youtube revelations

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Strategic Implications of Sedat Peker’s Youtube revelations

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The world’s most colorful political psychodrama is unfolding in Turkey, convulsing the country and its power heirarchy. A top Turkish underworld figure, Sedat Peker, has parted ways from the ruling Erdogan party and is posting long videos on Youtube alleging all manner of crimes by leading figures in government and their allies. Crimes from bribery to murder to rape to drug smuggling and much else like threatening opposition media, commandeering zillions from national banks and corrupting the judiciary so routinely that no rule of law can be said to exist. Deploying mafia to do its dirty work – this is what Turks call ‘the deep state’ – they invented the phrase – was a phenomenon that flourished in the 1990s and before, which Erdogan first came to power promising to eradicate.

It seemed for some years that he had. Having done so, it now seems he allowed another deep state to grow around him, one that serves his party elite and its cronies. Viewed by over 50 million people at last count, the videos have paralyzed governance and cracked the legitimacy of Erdogan’s regime. And thus far a disquieting amount of the information the mobster alleged appears to have a prima facie believability. Some of the early facts tally with reality, dates, travel tickets, known meetings and the like. Here is an article that specifies details of various accusations and outlines the Turkish state’s long history of collaborating with extra-legal forces

I do not intend, in this column, to itemize the accusations or debate their authenticity. Peker claims more videos are in the offing. The process is ongoing. But nobody has yet teased out the geo-strategic connotations. That is our brief.

Why should the rest of us care? Sedat Peker’s videos come at a time when the regime has lost popular support almost totally, even among its conservative base, which is why the allegations resonate so acutely. Erdogan’s recent populist maneuvers are not gaining purchase: such as his proxy victory with Turkish drones for Azerbaijan over Armenia in the recent Karabagh conflict, his opening of the massive Taksim Square mosque dominating over a secular entertainment neighborhood and the like. He should be riding high among pan-Turkists and Islamists. But the collapsing currency, the tottering economy, the oligarchic corruption, plus the Peker videos depicting a dark and scary kleptocracy have likely put paid to Erdogan (as many native commentators argue). He may resort to full-fledged Belarus-style autocracy. If so, the West will find it hard to collaborate with him politically. Whether he goes or stays, instability looms for a country so strategically positioned that the EU, the Balkans, Nato, the Russo-sphere, the Middle East and Central Asia all are affected by any potential meltdown. If you doubt it, consider that these are places where Erdogan has already interfered, such is Turkey’s reach. And if you were inclined to the view that it’s all a storm in a teacup within the country, you should think again.

Peker has refrained from assailing Erdogan directly thus far. He had promised to do so in last Sunday’s video but desisted, he claimed, so as to not weaken the Turkish President’s hand in his upcoming meeting with Biden on June 14. Contrariwise, some speculate that Peker is actually co-ordinating with the US. In this scenario, Biden will tell Turkey’s President Erdogan what more will leak out from Peker and what the US demands for silence. Such as, it’s time for you to go, and this is how you will do it. Or simply, get rid of the Russian missiles you purchased, leave Syria and Libya etc. If so, Erdogan will more likely come out fighting and tell the country that Peker and Biden are in cahoots therefore all patriotic Turks must circle the wagons. He pulled this kind of trick before and it worked – when voice recordings emerged in 2014 supposedly of Erdogan instructing his son to hide millions of illicit dollars around the house should the police raid. He claimed the tapes were fake, his popularity rose, and went on gather more power. His conservative base chose not to care. It may happen again.

Maybe. But his teflon cannot hold out much longer as the failing economy and other disasters continue to batter the populace, secular and religious alike. Istanbul’s Marmara Sea is dying and threatens to unleash contagions. Erdogan has exhausted the polemic that he embodies all resistance to anti-democratic anti-Islamic forces such as terrorists, Gulenists, coup-plotters, not to mention foreign powers. The country is scared and angry, sated with heroic sacrifice and patriotic grandstanding while Erdogan’s cronies amass fortunes. Furthermore, Sedat Peker has already been accused of colluding with foreign powers by the largely supine media, that is of unleashing his videos in collusion with the CIA, the Mossad et al but it hasn’t dented his credibility. After all, his patriotic credentials can hardly be doubted since he avowedly led ultra-nationalist underground mafias.

Back to the trans-national implications. Peker claims he has gone to ground in Dubai or somewhere in the Gulf. Wherever he runs, he is certainly at risk of being anonymously terminated. The argument goes that therefore he must be getting state protection somewhere. There’s a feeling that the Saudis may be backing him – their revenge for Erdogan’s role in revealing the murder of journalist Kashoggi in the Saudi consulate. Yet, the Turkish media has largely avoided mentioning Saudi, perhaps because of pre-Peker top-level rapprochement meetings between the two countries. Erdogan can certainly use Saudi infusions into the economy but only through his own conduits. As I have noted in past columns, to some degree he benefits from hard times so long as cronies and oligarchs deploy sufficient funds that they can employ loyalists in large enough numbers. A multifarious economy poses its own kind of threat to the regime. So, a narrow-throated economy with a large black money sector has its power benefits. In this context, oil deals with the Gulf have the impeccable quality of trading in a colorless stateless commodity that itself acts as currency like gold or Bitcoin. It’s not unknown among the Turkish elite. The reader will recall how the US prosecuted a Turkish state bank for laundering Iranian oil money

Which brings us to the topic of Ankara’s relations with Venezuela, a far-flung and rather anomalous country for Turkey to cultivate as assidiously as it does. As I explained in previous columns, the great appeal of Venezuela under Maduro for dubious state actors is its function as a pivot in the global dark economy. Erdogan went there in person to sign a bilateral gold deal. Venezuela is full of commodities that serve as currency substitutes – oil, gold, uranium and… narcotics.

Here is a news item from 2017 with the headline “US blacklists Venezuela Vice-president as drug trafficker”. Now comes Sedat Peker to allege that a former Turkish Prime Minister’s son went to Venezuela to set up a new cocaine-trafficking route to Turkey – a previous route via Colombia had been rumbled. Here is an article that explains the details. The former PM vehemently denied the allegations saying his son had travelled there to deliver humanitarian Covid supplies. Again, an odd country for prominent Turkish citizens to be so concerned about, you might argue.

We have also noted in past columns that the Ankara regime has gone to great lengths to create hedges against potential US sanctions. Recall that President Trump sanctioned Turkey twice, for purchasing Russian S400 missiles and for imprisoning an American evangelist. Both instances staggered the country’s economy. With the advent of more fine-tuned Magnitsky-like sanctions targeting oligarchs, it’s no surprise if individual members of the elite seek for ways to hedge against sanctions. Sedat Peker’s accusations aside, Turkey has swiftly developed a reputation for being a narcotics haven. The recent bust of a global drug network stretching from Australia to the US pivoted around the Turkish Kingpin Hakan Ayik, born in Sydney, who had fled to Turkey and was notoriously living a fancy life unmolested, posting facebook pictures of his grand lifestyle. He it was who unwittingly distributed the bugged celphones that allowed global law-enforcement to follow and arrest hundreds of perps around the world. It’s not uncommon now for opposition leaders and media to talk in terms of Turkey being a narco-state. As with other commerce, the country sits in a strategic position for distribution between continents.

By: Melik Kaylan

Source: Forbes

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