Can the People of the World Stop Turkey?

Can the People of the World Stop Turkey?

I’m sure we are all alarmed the way Turkey is waging modern warfare on our allies, the Kurds in Northern Syria, who fought and captured ISIS warriors, for us!  Turkey is going to create a 30 kilometer (18.6 mile) security strip along Syria’s Northern border, apparently by bombing the civilian population, killing and injuring people and destroying their homes, shops, and jobs.  They are already refugees on the roads, with nowhere to go.  We want to examine here whether the countries of the world can exert enough pressure on Turkey to get them to stop what could turn out to be a partial genocide on the Kurds.  It certainly is ethnic cleansing from the Kurds’ own territory.  10,000 Kurds died in fighting ISIS.  The Kurds were also holding 10,000 ISIS devotees, who will likely be unleashed when the Kurds are attacked.

The other thing Trump said was heartless.  He said that we spent enough money on the Kurds, who had given 10,000 lives to perhaps save us 10,000 lives, and probably on the cheap, since the Kurds aren’t that well equipped.   That leads me to ask, did Trump sell them out for billions of dollars of Turkish defense contracts, like he did with the Saudis and Khashoggi?

Turkey has 3.6 million Syrian refugees that they plan to move into this border strip.  Are they just going to take the Kurds’ houses, possessions, and businesses?  So far, more than 60,000 people have been displaced.

Did Trump’s weaknesses encourage Turkey to launch this attack now?  I remember when Clinton’s impeachment started, that our ambassador to Iran did not give Sadam Hussein a strong message not to attack its Southern neighbor Kuwait, and Clinton appeared weakened, so Sadam occupied it in days.  Trump has been talking since the start of the year that he wanted to pull out of the Middle East, even without truces and treaties.  And now he appears weakened by impeachment.  Trump decided to withdraw, seemingly against military and State advice.

The US was selling Turkey our most advanced fighters, F-35s, but delayed selling them in April.  On the other hand, we are competing with Russia to arm Turkey.  We can still apply military equipment leverage on Turkey.

The population of Turkey is 82 million.  We copy things from Wikipedia.  70 to 80 % of those identify as Turks, and Kurds are 12% to 25% of the population.  Their price parity GDP is $2.27 trillion, with per capita $27,400.

Since 1984, in the southeast, Kurds have wanted their own republic of Kurdistan, or an autonomous region.  Turkey has more than 3.6 million refugees from Syria.

Turkey has been a NATO ally for 65 years.  Turkey was supposed to buy 100 F-35s.  So far, they have only 4, but they are still in the US.  The US dropped them from the program when they dealt to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system.  The F-35s are stealth, and the US doesn’t want them examined by Russian systems.  

It’s tough to figure out what is going on in Turkey, since they persecute their journalists.  They say that they want the buffer zone, so that they can put their Syrian refugees there.  Sounds like they are copying Trump in not letting refugees into the US.  Human rights says that a half million people have been displaced in southeast Turkey by curfews.  That is a rather incomplete statement.  The Freedom Rankings have Turkey at 107th among countries, with scores out of 10 of 6.09 for Personal Freedom, 6.84 for Economic Freedom, and 6.47 for Human Freedom.  The Democracy Index has Turkey as 110th among nations.  They get an overall score of only 4.37, with 4.50 for Electoral Process, 5.00 for Government, 5.00 for Political Participation, 5.00 for Political Culture, and only 2.35 for Civil Liberties.  Oh, and we learned about Trump’s Twin Towers in Istanbul this week.  He doesn’t own them, but only supplies his name.

Since Trump withdrew our few troops there, how are we going to monitor anything?  From somewhere, today Trump pulled out that the Kurds did not help us with the Normandy landing.  How were they to get from the Middle East to the shores of northwest France?  I calculated that for a person to be 18 and fight at Normandy in 1944, they had to be born in 1926 or earlier.  That means that they are now 93 years or older.  So Trump thinks it is okay to punish almost all Kurds who are younger because the handful of old timers didn’t emigrate to America and enlist?  By 1926 we were excluding refugees again anyway, as I recall.  On top of that, in World War II, Turkey was neutral, and many Kurds were in Turkey.  It’s odd that Trump is siding with Turkey, when they weren’t in Normandy, either.

As far as boycotting Turkey financially, tourists there in 2018 were back to almost 40 million.  I alway feel uncomfortable visiting countries in which I don’t feel that I have freedoms, and in which I know there is not freedom or democracy for their people.  That is a much more direct boycott to understand than to try to find products from Turkey.

The US only has 5.5% of Turkey’s exports, despite what Trump implies.  About half go to the EU, and it is really up to them to figure out what a useful response is.  Turkey has $180 billion in Exports, and $234 billion in imports.  While the GDP is $2.27 trillion it is PPP.  Using it, the $180 billion in exports is 10.3% of the economy, so a boycott would be very impactful.  Even putting a Trump sized tariff on them would be impactful.  Germany is the biggest importer, at 9.6%, with the UK at 6.1%, the UAE at 5.9%, Iraq at 5.6%, the US at 5.5%, Italy at 5.4%, France at 4.2%, and Spain at 4%.  So far, we have only accounted for 40.8% of importers in this list.

California imports $718 million from Turkey, with 40.8% in Agriculture, 19.8% in Computers and Electronics, 11.8% in Transportation, 5.2% in Machinery, and 22.4% in Others.  The total is only 0.4% of Turkish exports.

Not only are California’s imports irrelevant, but Trump is already desperately backtracking from his threat to tame the Turkish actions.

Turkish tourism peaked in 2014 at 42 million, when it was the sixth most popular destination in the world (Wikipedia).  It then fell to 25 million in 2016.  That is a drop to 60% of the peak.  There were large terrorist attacks in 2016 at Ankara and Istanbul, which may have had impacts, as well as a failed coup, but tourism was already coming back in 2017.  At full tourism, I estimate that their yearly tourist income at about $32 billion.  As a fraction of the $180 billion in exports, it is 18%.

The 2018 leading sources of tourists to Turkey were Russia at 6.0 million, Germany 4.5 million, Bulgaria 2.4, UK 2.3, Georgia 2.1, Iran 2.0, Ukraine 1.4, Iraq 1.2, and Netherlands 1.0.  The total was 39.5 million.  The US wasn’t listed in the top 10, so again, we are not influential here, at less than 2% of tourists.

The State Department warning not only is from terrorist attacks, but says that “tens of thousands of individuals, including US citizens, have been detained for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence, and grounds that appear to be politically motivated”.  US citizens have also been been prevented from departing Turkey.

Still, it is hard to sit back and watch yet another forced mass migration.  This time, the release or escape of ISIS fighters may also pose a problem again.  It seems the best bet is for Europeans to stop traveling to Turkey, and maybe boycott some goods.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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