US sanctions on Turkey loom amid stalemate on S-400s

Ismail Demir, the head of the Turkish Defense Industry Directorate, it was not logical for any country to purchase missile defense systems only to put them aside. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2019

US sanctions on Turkey loom amid stalemate on S-400s

  • Ministers as well as high officials of the two countries are working on a solution to the dispute
  • Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 jets and has suspended Turkey’s involvement in the program

ANKARA: Following US President Donald Trump’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington on Nov. 13, each party was quick to claim success. But the threat of sanctions is still looming if Turkey fails to abandon its plans concerning the Russian S-400 air defense system.
Turkey began receiving its first batch of S-400s in July. In response to this move, the US has quickly banned sales of F-35s to Turkey and removed the country from the F-35 fifth-generation joint strike fighter program.
The US concern was that the system might be used by Russia to secretly acquire confidential details about the jet and is also incompatible with the NATO system.
The US secretary of state and Turkish minister of foreign affairs as well as national security advisers are working on a solution to the dispute.
However, last week White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien made it clear that the threat of sanctions still exists if no common ground is found.
Gonul Tol, founding director of Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies and adjunct professor at George Washington University, thinks there are not that many face-saving ways of walking out of the S-400 deal for Erdogan.
“One option that is being voiced is for Ankara to announce it has activated the system while in fact the system remains unactivated. Russian response to this option carries a risk for Ankara,” she told Arab News.

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The US concern is that the system might be used by Russia to secretly acquire confidential details about the jet and is also incompatible with the NATO system.

But Tol also believes that if Turkey fails to take steps to address Western concerns over the S-400, Congress might push the administration further to implement Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Turkey.
Last month, the US House of Representatives adopted a sanctions package to penalize Ankara over its Syria operation, and key members of the Senate, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, have pledged to “come and hit Turkey hard if they don’t get out of Syria and reset the table.”
Karol Wasilewski, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Polish Institute of International Affairs, believes that the solution to this conundrum might be Turkey and US agreeing to keep S-400 boxed in northern Cyprus — a compromise that would satisfy the US and save face for Erdogan since he could easily sell it to the electorate.
“But I think it is extremely unlikely,” he said. The statements of Erdogan, on his way back from Washington to Ankara, were telling, as he announced Turkey will not completely give up on S-400 to acquire US Patriots. Accordingly, Erdogan believes “the offers to buy just Patriots and completely put Russian S-400s aside is an interference to Turkey’s sovereignty rights.”
Considering it a “matter of national sovereignty,” Turkey justifies its decision to buy the Russian system just because the US had declined to provide Ankara with the alternative Patriot missile defense system.
According to Wasilewski, the US may compromise on price or the technology transfer, but most probably not to extent Ankara wants as it is abnormal to fully share such advanced technology even with the closest allies and Turkey is not its close ally for now.
“I think Turkish decision-makers, for some reason, are quite sure that Trump won’t sanction Turkey and that they need to wait for the new Congress,” said Wasilewski.


What shapes the Middle East’s migration patterns

Updated 20 February 2020

What shapes the Middle East’s migration patterns

  • An estimated 29 million people have migrated from Arab countries since 1990, according to UN data
  • Political crises and civil conflicts have blurred the lines between voluntary and forced migration

ABU DHABI: Less than two months since an unhappy year for the Arab region’s migrants and refugees came to an end, the omens of things to come are far from good.

According to the latest “Situation Report on Migration in the Arab Region,” prepared by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with various UN agencies, displacement and migration are two prominent trends at the beginning of 2020. Particularly — and unsurprisingly — in countries withongoing wars.

An overwhelming majority of Arab countries endorsed the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) at the UN General Assembly in December 2018, voting to adopt its principles in national legislatures.

Subsequently, the number of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea was found to have plunged in 2018 to almost a tenth of what it was in 2015.

However, the reality of the region’s migrant and refugee situa- tion belies the hopes raised by the adoption of the GCM.

In Libya, for example, there was a steep deterioration last year in the living conditions of migrants and refugees stranded in the unstable North African country.

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29m - An estimated 29 million people have migrated from Arab countries since 1990.

1/2 - Almost half of the people who migrated stayed within the Arab region.

9.1m - Refugees who have sought protection in the Arab region include 3.7 million under the mandate of the UN Refugee Agency and 5.4 million registered with UNRWA.

14.5% - The number of migrant workers in 18 Arab countries stood at 23.8 million in 2017, representing 14.5 percent of all migrant workers globally.

?The country’s protracted civil conflict has not only caused massive displacement within its borders, but also means it has become a dangerous place for economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa wishing to travel to Europe. World leaders have just pledged in Berlin not to interfere in Libya’s civil conflict and to uphold a UN arms embargo, but only time will tell if that promise will be honored.

In Syria, meanwhile, the human- itarian situation in Idlib — the last stronghold of opposition forces and a safe haven for millions of internally displaced persons (IDP) — remains shaky as Russian- backed regime forces press on, despite mounting civilian casualties.

In Yemen, a peace opportunity was missed in early 2019, and there has been no let-up since in the fighting between government forces and the Houthi militia, who control the capital Sanaa and the northern highlands. The country currently hosts between 2 million and 3.5 million IDPs and another 1.28 million returnees, in addition to 279,000 migrants and refugees — almost exclusively from Somalia and Ethiopia — for whom the country is a short-term way station, not a final destination.

Lebanon is in the grip of a wide- ranging crisis, too. People at the bottom of the economic ladder, including 1.5 million Syrian refugees and almost 500,000

Palestinian refugees, supple- ment their meager incomes with handouts from aid agencies. Even before the protests erupted in Lebanon in October last year, a UN vulnerability assessment report for refugees in the country, carried out in early 2019, made grim reading.

It said about 73 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon were living below the poverty line — up from 69 percent the year before, and considerably higher than the estimated 28 percent of Lebanese in the same situation.

Of course, migration and displacement have long shaped the Arab region, with countries simultaneously acting as points of origin, transit and destination.

However, in recent years, the distinction between voluntary and forced migration has become blurred as political crises and civil conflicts — viewed as the chief causes of human displace- ment — have proliferated. “The challenge today is to put in place policies that will ensure successful and true integration while benefiting both the countries of residence and origin,” Laura Petrache, a senior adviser at Migrant Integration Lab, told Arab News.

According to UN reports, the number of migrants and refugees originating from the Arab region reached 29 million in 2017. Almost half of them remained in the region. Overall, the number of migrants and refugees as a propor- tion of the total population of the Arab region has risen steadily over the past three decades.

In 2018, around 80 percent of the region’s refugees originated in the Levant, mostly on account of the Syrian conflict.

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Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Sudan are among the top 10 Arab destinations for migrants and IDPs owing to conflicts in the neighborhood. Apart from Lebanon, all of those countries have witnessed an increase in the number of refugees and migrants within their borders since 2015.

After Turkey, Jordan was the second-most-popular destination country for refugees and migrants from the region, with Lebanon, 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE also reporting significant numbers. Iraq was the only country that saw its national refugee and migrant population decrease.

What the latest reports confirm is that migration in the Arab world not only has multiple drivers — socio-economic pressures, political instability and environmental degradation — but also complex patterns and trends.

Take the Gulf and the Levant regions. They attract different kinds of migrants because their levels of stability, security and development are not comparable. While Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen are plagued by conflict, violence, corruption and divisions in both society and polity, GCC member countries are leading the way in groundbreaking ideas and investments, building cities of the future and attracting talent from across the world.

The migrant population in the GCC countries swelled from 8.2 million in 1990 to 28.1 million in 2017 — a substantial rise compared with figures for other parts of the Arab region.

Around 27 percent of global remittance outflows in 2017 reportedly came from the Arab region, estimated at $120.6 billion, and almost all of that (98.9 percent or $119.3 billion) came from GCC countries. According to the IOM’s report, the top remittance-sending countries were the UAE (at $44.3 billion) and Saudi Arabia (at $36.1 billion).

Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see meaningful, positive change for migrants happening any time soon in the Arab region, with the possible exception of the GCC.

“Migration policy making should move away from assimila- tionist frameworks,” Petrache, of the Migrant Integration Lab, told Arab News. “Instead, the policy emphasis should be on working with countries of origin to achieve sustainable integration — and re-integration in the case of return immigration.

“The policies should take into consideration the potential for win-win solutions using and developing the capability of the migrants to make a positive contri- bution to local host communities,” Petrache said.