Turkey’s power projection risks military clash in Mediterranean, former PM says

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Updated 04 September 2020

Turkey’s power projection risks military clash in Mediterranean, former PM says

  • Ahmet Davutoglu’s ‘zero problems with neighbors’ mantra was a hallmark of Erdogan’s early dealings with Europe and ME

ANKARA: Turkey risks military confrontation in the Eastern Mediterranean because it prizes power over diplomacy, a former prime minister who championed a less confrontational policy in the first decade of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule told Reuters.
Ahmet Davutoglu, whose “zero problems with neighbors” mantra was a hallmark of Erdogan’s early dealings with Europe and the Middle East, broke with the president’s ruling AK Party last year to set up the rival Gelecek (Future) Party.
He criticized what he described as a lurch toward authoritarianism under Turkey’s new executive presidency, and accused the government of mishandling a series of challenges including the economy, the coronavirus outbreak and the growing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Last month Turkey sent a survey vessel, escorted by frigates, to explore for oil and gas in waters claimed by Greece, a move Athens said was illegal. The two NATO allies are locked in a dispute over the extent of their continental shelves and maritime economic zones.
The European Union, backing EU members Greece and Cyprus, has imposed minor sanctions against Turkey, and a collision between Greek and Turkish warships shadowing the survey vessel last month highlighted the potential for military escalation.
Davutoglu said Ankara had genuine grievances over Greek claims to tens of thousands of square kilometers of sea extending up to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, but added that Erdogan’s approach carried high risks.
“Unfortunately our government is not doing a proper diplomatic performance,” he said in an interview, warning that if both Greece and Turkey prefer “power projections” over diplomacy, “at any time any crisis may erupt and escalate.”
Time to talk
Turkey should say clearly to the EU: “‘Let’s come around the table and share all views’,” Davutoglu said. It should also sit down with Greece to “discuss all matters (and) deescalate the tension.”
Erdogan’s government said it was on the verge of announcing a resumption of talks with Greece last month when Athens signed a deal setting out its maritime border with Egypt — an agreement which cut across waters claimed by Turkey.
Ankara cut off the process in protest, and a visit to Greece and Turkey by Germany’s foreign minister last week appeared to make no headway. EU leaders will discuss the standoff later this month and could take further action against Turkey.
Davutoglu, who served as Erdogan’s foreign minister from 2009 to 2014 and then as prime minister for two subsequent years, worked to strengthen Turkish ties and influence in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
But years of talks with Greece were suspended in 2016, and Davutoglu’s Middle East strategy was derailed in the turmoil of the Arab uprisings, when relations with Syria and Egypt collapsed over Ankara’s support for Muslim Brotherhood groups.
Davutoglu’s Future Party is one of two which has broken away from Erdogan’s AKP. Neither has registered above low single figures in recent polls, but by eroding the AKP’s support they have made Erdogan’s quest for a majority in elections due by 2023 more challenging.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.