Turkey faces US sanctions over missile defense deal

The crisis over Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 air defense system from Russia may come to a head with the threat of US sanctions, according to sources in Ankara. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 December 2019

Turkey faces US sanctions over missile defense deal

  • Crisis over Ankara’s arms deal with Russia may come to a head

ANKARA: The crisis over Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 air defense system from Russia may come to a head with the threat of US sanctions, according to sources in Ankara.

Despite the close relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump, the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions package promoted by the US Senate is expected to bring political and financial repercussions for Turkey.

The increasing congressional anger is mainly related to the country’s insistence on purchasing Russian-made weapons and its growing military incursions into Syria targeting Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, longtime partners of the US against Daesh.

Images provided to the media showing Turkey allegedly testing the radar of the missile defense system it bought from Russia accompanied with US-made F-16 fighter jets has been the final straw for the US Senate, which is pressing for immediate sanctions, five months after delivery of the Russian system.

Ali Cinar, a US-based foreign policy expert, expects US sanctions within the coming weeks and said that these will further damage the bilateral relationship.

“The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled for next week deliberations on legislation that would penalize Turkey’s S-400 purchase,” he told Arab News.

Last week, US Senators Republican Lindsey Graham and Democratic Chris Van Hollen wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Turkey.

“It is time you applied the law. Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout US laws without consequence,” they wrote in the letter.

The committee will elaborate on the bill just a week after the meeting between Trump and Erdogan under the auspices of the NATO leaders’ summit in London. The general feeling in the US is that after several meetings between the US and Turkish leaders, with seemingly no breakthrough on the S-400, Ankara appears not to be changing course.

According to Cinar, if Turkey continues on its path to activate the S-400 system, the US is right to impose sanctions and expel Turkey from the F35 program under CAATSA.

“I think the sanctions would be lighter at the beginning but sending a strong message to Turkey is key for the Senate so sanctions on some officials would be one of the options,” he said.

FASTFACT

Despite the close relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump, the sanctions package promoted by the US Senate is expected to bring political and financial repercussions for Turkey.

But Cinar also underlined that the US president has the power to waive the sanctions for 180 days, after which he must submit another waiver for another 180 days, and that the president can do this consecutively.

“The president also has the right to waive one or more sanctions, for instance impose one package of sanctions and waive the rest,” he said.

The law provides the president, who signed it in August 2017, with the opportunity to select from a list of 12 possible sanctions to punish countries taking possession of Russian military hardware. Among these options, preventing access to loans from financial institutions and denying US visas to government officials are considered as hard ones.

CAATSA became US law in July 2017, and sanctions have so far been imposed on Iran, Russia and North Korea. Being a manufacturing and financial partner of the program, Turkey is already disengaged from Lockheed Martin’s colossal F-35 fighter jets program for buying the Russian system, and the last Turkish manufacturer is expected to be removed from the multinational program by March. Ankara has expressed its intention to buy the Kremlin’s Su-35 fighter jets in retaliation.

Beyond harming its ties with Washington, possible sanctions are likely to oblige Turkey to search for alternative markets and supplies for defense equipment.

For Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, it was clear that CAATSA sanctions would be imposed on Turkey as a consequence of it making a major weapons acquisition from Russia.

“President Trump tried to defer this decision for as long as possible and it appears that the US Congress is getting impatient and may take matters into its own hands in case Trump does not impose the sanctions soon,” he told Arab News.

Unluhisarcikli added: “While Trump is expected to impose the sanctions before 2020, he will likely formulate a package that will have a minimum impact on the Turkish economy. As the risk-averse foreign investors have already left the Turkish market, citizens are already dollarized, there is shortage of liquidity and the current accounts deficit has decreased as a consequence of stagnation, the impact of the sanctions on the financial markets can be lower than generally anticipated.”

For Unluhisarcikli, the impact on the Turkish economy will be felt in the medium and long term as it will become even less attractive for real investment.

“The sanctions will unavoidably point to a new low in US-Turkey relations and lead to a new wave of anti-Americanism. It will be surprising if President Erdogan does not choose to surf this wave and create a rally around the flag-or-president sentiment,” he said.

This process will have an indirect affect on the fate of millions of refugees currently living in Turkey.

As the Turkish economy deteriorates, Unluhisarcikli predicted, the job market will contract, including for refugees, and some of these refugees may start looking elsewhere to rebuild their lives.


Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

A Yemeni tries to catch locusts on the rooftop of his house as they swarm several parts of the country bringing in devastations and destruction of major seasonal crops. (AFP)
Updated 21 min 23 sec ago

Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

  • Billions of locusts invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring seasonal crops

AL-MUKALLA: Locust swarms have swept over farms in central, southern and eastern parts of Yemen, ravaging crops and stoking fears of food insecurity.

Residents and farmers in the provinces of Marib, Hadramout, Mahra and Abyan said that billions of locusts had invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring important seasonal crops such as dates and causing heavy losses.
“This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters,” Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, an agricultural official from Hadramout’s Sah district, told Arab News on Sunday.
Images and videos posted on social media showed layers of creeping locusts laying waste to lemon farms in Marb, dates and alfalfa farms in Hadramout and flying swarms plunging cities into darkness. “The locusts have eaten all kinds of green trees, including the sesban tree. The losses are huge,” Abu Baker added.
Heavy rains and flash floods have hit several Yemeni provinces over the last couple of months, creating fruitful conditions for locusts to reproduce. Farmers complained that locusts had wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains.
Abu Baker said that he visited several affected farms in Hadramout, where farmers told him that if the government would not compensate them for the damage that it should at least get ready for a second potential locust wave that might occur in 10 days.
“The current swarms laid eggs that are expected to hatch in 10 days. We are bracing for the second wave of the locusts.”  
Last year, the UN said that the war in Yemen had disrupted vital monitoring and control efforts and several waves of locusts to hit neighboring countries had originated from Yemen.

This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters.

Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, a Yemeni agricultural official

Yemeni government officials, responsible for battling the spread of locusts, have complained that fighting and a lack of funding have obstructed vital operations for combating the insects.
Ashor Al-Zubairi, the director of the Locust Control Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hadramout’s Seiyun city, said that the ministry was carrying out a combat operation funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Hadramout and Mahra, but complained that the operation might fall short of its target due to a lack of funding and equipment.
“The spraying campaign will end in a week which is not enough to cover the entire plagued areas,” Al-Zubairi told Arab News. “We suggested increasing the number of spraying equipment or extending the campaign.”
He said that a large number of villagers had lost their source of income after the locusts ate crops and sheep food, predicting that the outbreak would likely last for at least two weeks if urgent control operations were not intensified and fighting continued. “Combating teams could not cross into some areas in Marib due to fighting.”
The widespread locust invasion comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) on July 10 sent an appeal for urgent funds for its programs in Yemen, warning that people would face starvation otherwise.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns, the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.