Turkey passed ev­ery test, now it is the West’s turn

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Opinion - Markar Esayan

Moody’s un­ex­pected and un­sched­uled down­grade of Turkey’s credit rat­ing de­spite many pos­i­tive eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal signs was at­trib­uted to the “dis­con­tent” to­ward Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch. Though the agency’s state­ment did not openly men­tion the op­er­a­tion, it was hinted un­der the head­ing of re­gional risks.

How­ever, the op­er­a­tion that be­gan on Jan. 20 was viewed pos­i­tively by mar­kets. The Turk­ish Armed Forces (TSK) are suc­cess­fully car­ry­ing out Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch along­side Free Syr­ian Army (FSA) troops to re­store or­der in the re­gion – al­ready al­low­ing thou­sands of dis­placed lo­cals to re­turn to their homes. As a mat­ter of fact, around 200,000 people have re­turned to their homes, the refugee bur­den on Turkey’s shoul­ders has de­creased, and more im­por­tantly, ter­ror­ist at­tacks by Daesh and the PKK/People's Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) have dra­mat­i­cally de­clined. The pres­ence of Daesh el­e­ments on Turkey’s border ended and they were driven fur­ther south. The PKK/YPG worked in ca­hoots with Daesh dur­ing the at­tacks against Turkey. Hence, which ter­ror­ist group held con­trol over the ter­ri­tory along the Turk­ish border lost its im­por­tance. Re­gard­less of what ter­ror­ist group con­trolled the border area, the border was used for evil pur­poses when Turkey was in ques­tion.

Con­se­quently, as mar­kets were well aware of that, both the TSK’s suc­cess and the re­duc­tion of ter­ror risk have cre­ated a pos­i­tive at­mos­phere. We can say the same about Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch. Since its border area with Turkey is moun­tain­ous ter­rain, Afrin served as their sec­ond Qandil Moun­tains (the PKK’s head­quar­ter in north­ern Iraq) for the PKK/YPG. The PKK/YPG cal­cu­lated that it could eas­ily in­fil­trate the Mediter­ranean re­gion via the Amanos moun­tain range, which is cov­ered with dense forests. And they had done this for years. A lot of at­tacks were car­ried out via this moun­tain line and many sol­diers, po­lice of­fi­cers and civil­ians were killed be­cause of it. The ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion con­tin­ued to keep a few groups in the re­gion. Th­ese ter­ror­ist groups have lost their land con­nec­tion to Afrin with the TSK and FSA bring­ing the whole border area around it un­der con­trol.

In brief, those who know a lit­tle bit about mar­ket ten­den­cies re­gard­ing con­flict risks and mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions would ac­cept that Turkey’s op­er­a­tion across the Syr­ian border (which clearly seems to be suc­cess­ful) has largely re­moved the risks to the coun­try’s econ­omy, pol­i­tics and peace and this will have pos­i­tive ef­fects on the mar­kets. Think of it this way: would in­vestors pre­fer a coun­try where a dozen bloody ter­ror­ist groups blow up bombs and carry out as­sas­si­na­tions ev­ery other day both along its bor­ders and in var­i­ous big cities, or would they pre­fer a coun­try that can main­tain its se­cu­rity by de­fend­ing it­self res­o­lutely? Surely the sec­ond one. Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan fre­quently crit­i­cizes credit rat­ing agen­cies for their po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ma­nip­u­la­tions re­gard­ing Turkey. Er­doğan had re­acted af­ter the pre­vi­ous rate down­grade as fol­lows:

“But I have to tell the truth, we have yet to save our­selves from some credit rat­ing agen­cies’ ide­o­log­i­cal ap­proaches. They main­tain their ide­o­log­i­cal ap­proaches. They are un­for­tu­nately tread­ing wa­ter with an ide­o­log­i­cal at­ti­tude, so much so that they say Turkey ‘lacks as­sur­ance and sta­bil­ity’ at this point. We have no other op­tion but to make them learn this job. Be­cause Turkey is not such a coun­try. Turkey is one of the out­stand­ing coun­tries in the world with its in­vest­ments and pro­duc­tion. Nei­ther the July 15 coup at­tempt nor the tur­moil in our re­gion nor the prob­lems within the world fi­nance sys­tem ef­fected Turkey’s econ­omy. Given the fact that the Turk­ish econ­omy tops the list of coun­tries that reg­is­tered the big­gest growth rates in 2017 de­spite all the trou­bles, 2018 shall be way dif­fer­ent. I call on all in­vestors: The Turk­ish econ­omy will con­tinue to grow and those who in­vest in Turkey will con­tinue to win.”

In­deed, dur­ing the process that be­gan with the Gezi protests in 2013, Turkey has un­der­gone tough tests that were not ex­pe­ri­enced by any other coun­try. The tough­est of them, of course, was the coup at­tempt by the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ) on July 15, 2016. How many other coun­tries could en­dure so firmly in the face of such at­tacks? But Turkey has. The heinous coup at­tempt, which started on a Fri­day night and ended the next morn­ing, claimed the lives of 250 cit­i­zens. The Par­lia­ment build­ing was at­tacked by F16s. Pres­i­dent Er­doğan barely es­caped as­sas­si­na­tion by FETÖ-linked sol­diers while on vacation. He im­me­di­ately ar­rived at Atatürk Air­port, which was oc­cu­pied by the putschists, and led the re­sis­tance against the coup.

The people of Turkey, with all the seg­ments of so­ci­ety, stood up against the coup and put up the great­est demo­cratic re­sis­tance in re­cent his­tory, sav­ing the coun­try from drift­ing into chaos and main­tain­ing the or­der. Hence, nor­mal­iza­tion be­gan as of that Satur­day and mar­kets opened as usual on Mon­day as if noth­ing had hap­pened. Let me re­state im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion here. Cit­i­zens con­verted nearly $20 bil­lion worth of for­eign cur­rency into Turk­ish lira in or­der to save the mar­kets from fluc­tu­a­tions and ma­nip­u­la­tions.

Turkey has thus over­come many dis­ad­van­ta­geous sit­u­a­tions un­der all th­ese dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, thanks to a firm mon­e­tary pol­icy, strong bank­ing sys­tem, and ef­fec­tive and timely mea­sures. Fur­ther­more, it has put credit rat­ing agen­cies to shame af­ter ac­quir­ing growth fig­ures far be­yond their ex­pec­ta­tions. Turkey topped the list in the world in 2017 in terms of growth rate. And above 7 per­cent growth is pro­jected for 2018. As for the tourism in­dus­try, the cri­sis with Rus­sia has been left be­hind. Turkey is ex­pected to achieve phe­nom­e­nal growth in tourism in 2018.

So, Moody’s rate down­grade de­ci­sion that came at a time when it should ac­tu­ally raise Turkey’s credit rat­ing is to­tally a po­lit­i­cal and ma­nip­u­la­tive move. It can­not be in­de­pen­dent of the po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions in the re­gion. That rate down­grade stems from the same ir­ra­tional­ity that led the U.S. to part­ner with the YPG, in­stead of its big­gest NATO ally Turkey.

It ap­pears that too much hope is laid upon the idea of di­vid­ing Syria and Iraq into three parts and cre­at­ing a ter­ror state ex­tend­ing to the Mediter­ranean shore and that there is con­fi­dence that the power at the table will be re­flected on the ground, too. Oth­er­wise, why should a big power like the U.S. sac­ri­fice Turkey, which would con­tinue to ex­ist? Such a folly can be em­barked on only when Turkey loses its cur­rent border in­tegrity and mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Per­haps we should eval­u­ate the bizarrely tough pe­riod begin­ning with the Gezi protests in 2013, the sup­port pro­vided to the PKK and FETÖ, and the in­ex­pli­ca­ble en­mity and iso­la­tion faced by Turkey in light of that re­gional de­sign plan.

There is that fa­mous quote by former the prime min­is­ter and pres­i­dent, Süleyman Demirel, who oc­cu­pies an im­por­tant place in the his­tory of Turk­ish pol­i­tics, “Yes­ter­day is yes­ter­day, to­day is to­day.”

Af­ter the TSK and the FSA seized con­trol of the town of Jin­deres a short while ago, it be­came clear that the city cen­ter of Afrin will be cleared of ter­ror­ists way ear­lier than ex­pected. But the suc­cess of this op­er­a­tion has dis­persed many per­cep­tions. The U.S. and other West­ern pow­ers will prob­a­bly have to de­vise a new strat­egy in the ab­sence of th­ese per­cep­tions. For yes­ter­day is yes­ter­day and to­day is to­day.

1. With FETÖ in­fil­tra­tors be­ing re­moved in the wake of the July 15 coup, the TSK has not faced a de­cline in its com­bat power, on the con­trary, it has be­come more ac­tive since treach­er­ous ac­tiv­i­ties within it have ended.

2. The myth that the YPG is the most ef­fec­tive force on the ground in Syria col­lapsed.

3. Turkey has fought the Daesh threat more ef­fec­tively and faster alone, with­out any as­sis­tance.

4. As the evac­u­a­tion in Raqqa in­di­cated, the PKK/YPG and Daesh mil­i­tants are in col­lu­sion.

5. Turkey is among the most re­li­able and ac­tive mem­bers of NATO. Though it was left alone for the sake of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist groups, it has not em­barked on an ad­ven­tur­ous pol­icy that can en­dan­ger the al­liance and main­tained its com­po­sure.

6. Turkey has never col­lab­o­rated with any ter­ror­ist group in­clud­ing Daesh; in­stead it has put up the most ef­fec­tive fight against them.

We can cite many other sim­i­lar points. That truth of th­ese eval­u­a­tions will soon be­come ev­i­dent even in the West­ern world, de­spite dis­in­for­ma­tion. Turkey has passed all the eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary tests suc­cess­fully.

Now it’s time for West­ern na­tions to win Turkey’s trust.

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