The Gandhi of Turkey


President Trump in Poland Before Heading to the G20: US President Donald Trump in is Poland today for the Three Seas Initiative Summit, a meeting of heads of state from central Europe, the Balkans, and Baltic states. In a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump once again told NATO that it was “past time” for all alliance members to “get going” on their financial obligations. At a meeting in Brussels in May, NATO members were alarmed when Trump did not officially endorse the principle of collective defense enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO treaty. While Trump did not mention Article 5 in Warsaw, he did say that the United States was working with Poland to address Russia’s “destabilizing behavior.”

Turks Are Marching 280 Miles to Protest Erdogan’s Government: Since June 15, thousands of Turks have been participating in a “Justice March” that stretches some 280 miles from the Turkish capital of Ankara to Istanbul. The march was organized by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party and described as “the Gandhi of Turkey” by one march participant. Despite the lofty comparison, Kilicdaroglu as the instigator of such a powerful protest came as a surprise to many. A civil servant for 30 years, Kilicdaroglu’s “calm manner and less-than-colorful personality” has been a constant complaint for those who oppose Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and think a more aggressive approach is necessary.

Kilicdaroglu announced the protest march after a member of his party was sentenced to 25 years in jail for giving an opposition journalist video that reportedly shows Turkey sending weapons into Syria. But the march has become about much more than this one arrest. Kurds, leftists, nationalists, conservative Muslims, and all Turkish citizens who have grievances with the Erdogan government are participating. Kilicdaroglu says he is marching for jailed journalists, fired academics, and all those purged in the aftermath of last year’s attempted coup. The 69-year-old also noted that he would not describe himself as “athletic”: “If you told me four months ago that I would walk 450 kilometers to Istanbul, I would have thought you had gone mad. But we are the end of the line. Turkey has stopped being a democratic country. It has become beholden to one man…This we cannot accept.”


The Military-Industrial Complex’s Equally Evil Stepsibling?: “PMSC” may not be an acronym familiar to most people, but it stands for the practice of hiring private military and security companies to perform services traditionally performed by governments. Last December, the Kremlin struck a PMSC deal with Bashar al-Assad’s government (just now being reported by Russian news sources) to incentivize companies affiliated with Russian security contractors to seize and secure territories held by ISIS in Syria. These deals differ from the common practice of large companies outsourcing security in Middle East hot spots–under PMSC agreements, the wells and mines are not just to be guarded, but must first be captured.

So far two Russian companies, Evro Polis and Stroytransgaz, have obtained contracts under the new policy. According to reports by news site, Evro Polis (a corporation formed in July 2016 and part of a network of companies owned by a close associate of Vladimir Putin), will receive a 25 percent share of oil and natural gas produced on territory it retakes from ISIS. In addition, the Russian energy company Stroytransgaz won rights to mine phosphate in central Syria under the condition it would first secure the mining site. In this case however, Russian, Iranian, and Syrian soldiers, rather than private contractors, conducted operations in May that expelled ISIS militants from the mine’s location. Anticipating the commercial payoff, a Russian ship carrying mining equipment arrived at the Syrian port city of Tartus before the military operation even began.


Venezuela–Sticks and Stones to Break the Opposition’s Bones:. On Wednesday morning, supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stormed the National Assembly in Caracas and attacked opposition leaders with pipes, sticks, and stones. Wednesday was Venezuela’s Independence Day, marking the 206th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. National Assembly President Julio Borges said at least five lawmakers and seven legislative staff were injured, their blood covering the walls and floors. Journalists inside the building also reported being assaulted and robbed. More than 350 politicians, journalists, and guests were trapped in a siege that lasted all day. Despite the attack, lawmakers pressed on with a scheduled session to discuss “an unofficial plebiscite” that would take place on July 16–a national vote that would gauge the level of confidence in Maduro and seek public input on his rewriting of Venezuela’s constitution.


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