ISTANBUL BLOG: Erdogan, Trudeau and the killer drones

ISTANBUL BLOG: Erdogan, Trudeau and the killer drones
Erdogan (l) wants Trudeau back on the same page, Nagorno-Karabakh be damned.
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade October 20, 2020

The spirit of alliance has been breached by Canada’s suspension of drone technology exports to Turkey due to concerns that the products could be playing a role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.

Erdogan informed Trudeau of his indignation during a phone call that took place as he was having dinner with Ukrainian president and ally Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky at one point joined the call to have a friendly chat with Trudeau, according to the Turkish presidency.

The technology in question features in Erdogan’s ever expanding fleet of “native and national” killer drones. Zelensky, ever on edge about developments in the Crimea and Donbass standoffs with Russia, has expressed an interest in acquiring some of the drones for his own purposes.

Okay, let's be clear. Erdogan and his servants may not be the sharpest tools in the box, but they are undeniably practical.

Turkey’s killer drones are assembled by Baykar, a company owned by Ozdemir Bayraktar, the father of Erdogan’s younger son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar. Erdogan’s “native and national” defence industry assemblers are in reality highly dependent on defence technology licences awarded by foreign arms producers and key military hardware components from various countries, often the US.

Erdogan’s older son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, is Turkey’s finance minister. He goes about collecting taxes from Turkish minimum wage earners, while Erdogan buys the drones from his younger son-in-law with the revenues. Erdogan frequently reiterates that Turkey is not a tribal state.

Erdogan’s younger son Bilal (left), a civilian, and Selcuk Bayraktar (right), another civilian, seen in a killer drones control room during Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin in January 2018. Bayraktar shared the photo on his Twitter account. Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, another civilian, releases videos while he is directly coordinating killer drone operations in Syria. The Turkish state claims that the hierarchical system of its armed forces was developed by the Xiongnu empire 2,000 years ago.

The younger son-in-law and his father definitely come across as that much more smarter than the Albayrak family. Selcuk Bayraktar appears to have his own army of trolls, while Albayrak’s trolls sometimes stall in their work.

Try challenging the idea that Selcuk Bayraktar is Turkey’s Einstein or that he is anything other than the biggest servant of the holy Turkish state and you’ll get a social media lynching.

Selcuk Bayraktar’s father attended the court hearings during the Ergenekon trials, which were launched in 2008 by Erdogan’s then-ally-now-enemy Fethullah Gulen against low-ranking Turkish army officers. Ergenekon was a suspected secularist clandestine organisation. The laicist regime of military tutelage was to be destroyed. That supported certain partners in assembling guns. Handy that.

According to government loyalist media and also Ergenekon media in Turkey, the Bayraktars are a “native and national” family.

It came to pass that the Gulenists were rooted out—with elderly preacher Gulen setting himself up in exile in Pennsylvania—and an Erdogan–Ergenekon coalition now governs Turkey. Even if the government were to fall, the Bayraktar family would not lose their lofty position. But the destiny of the Albayraks will depend on that of Erdogan.

Each time that Turkey is accused of a slaughter, you see that its killer drones have taken to the sky. Whether it be in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish-populated region, Libya, Syria, Iraq or Nagorno-Karabakh, the drones are a big, even decisive, part of the picture.

Turkey is indeed the only country that uses killer drones to kill its own citizens on its own soil.

The main TV news bulletins air footage of the menacing drones going about their business killing “terrorists”. Turkey has never had much of a humanitarian society given the dominant and militarist Turkish state. However, the state was at least a little bashful when it was a clear part of the Western alliance. Right now, under the Erdogan regime, there is a sense of barbarism in the air.

It’s not only Canada that provides key equipment for killer drones assembled in Turkey. The UK has been the source of essential, even breakthrough, drone technology. Perhaps Erdogan could devise a plan to bypass Canadian laws by having parts delivered via London. The most Brexity wing of the UK’s Tory party is showing little regard for moral equations as they strive to deliver on their promises of post-Brexit prosperity. Why not bag a few more profits with another Erdogan deal? The UK defence secretary was in town only the other week.

Laws and sanctions prohibiting the sale of weapons to certain autocrats engaged in multiple conflicts are in the end typically only public relations activities. Guns are produced to kill people, and other living organisms too. There are Third World rats who have no hope of making a case that they are involved in any kind of “just war”. Yet the arms are made, and the arms almost always, directly or indirectly, flow.

In April, Trudeau personally agreed to sell the drone technology in question to Erdogan during a phone call, unnamed sources told Radio Canada International in September.

On September 22, Canadian arms control group Project Ploughshares said in a report that Canadian-produced sensors and laser targeting technology was being used by Turkish military drones deployed by Ankara across several conflict zones in the Middle East and Libya.

Later on, the NGO said video of air strikes released by Azerbaijan indicated that the drones it was using in its conflict with the Armenians were equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that L3Harris had received permission earlier this year to ship seven imaging and targeting systems to Baykar.

On October 2, Trudeau said that Canada was probing allegations that Azerbaijani forces involved in fighting with Armenia were using Canadian drone technology that was initially exported to Turkey.

“It is extremely important that the terms of Canada’s expectations of non-violation of human rights [are] always respected,” Trudeau told reporters when asked about the matter.

He did not elaborate on, and neither was he quizzed on, how killer drones could be used without violating human rights.

Canada’s Export and Import Permits Act forbids the sale of weapons that could be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights laws. That means Canadian products could be used for unserious violations of human rights, one supposes, as it is not possible to use weapons without violating human rights.

“Serious” is not, meanwhile, a clear legal definition and it seems it means that “not against humans who have lobbying power in Canada”.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on October 5 that Canada had taken a decision to suspend exports of the drone technology to Turkey while it investigated whether it had been being used by forces of Ankara’s close ally Azerbaijan in the first week of fierce clashes over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

If some Canadian NGOs could also urge Erdogan’s ally in Ottawa to stop the destruction being wrought by Canadian gold miners in Turkey, Zeus would appreciate it.

Alamos would grow very upset if it was accused of destroying Mount Ida in an exploitation of a Third World country. Islamic State never lost any sleep over wrecking ancient sites in Syria.

Alamos has a barefaced CEO, one John McCluskey. The chap claimed in August last year that the protests against his company’s project destroying Zeus’ home were based on politically-motivated “misinformation”.

“It is a very cynical thing to say, but I believe that this whole attack is essentially just an environmental cloak that is being put over what is really a deep political agenda,” he said.

McCluskey should try doing politics in Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) if he has the face to claim that the protestors trying to save Zeus’ home have some “deep” “political” “agenda”.

“In six and a half years, the whole focus of this area will be to replant. And in a decade, maybe a bit more than that, it will look like a forest again,” McCluskey stated, improving his chances of that position in the AKP.

Destroy forests that are thousands of years old and then, hey presto, replant! McCluskey might be better off building a residential project and shopping mall for the Greek Gods rather than magically raising a forest in a decade.

In October 2019, Alamos announced that it had suspended the Mount Ida project.

See below to decide who has been spreading “misinformation”. Some sinister protestors with a deep political agenda (perhaps funded by Russia or China?) or members of the AKP, a political gang that spends no time reading up on international law.

In August 2019, the Izmir Bar Association wrote a letter to Trudeau, a sweetish Barbie-type figure, to urge his government to stop Alamos’ destruction. Trudeau’s office replied, saying the association’s letter had been redirected to then Canadian Trade Minister James Gordon Carr.

Humanity will keep wrecking its chances of surviving much longer until it wakes up to the reality that all statesmen are partners in ‘the business’, and that there is little difference between a “dictator” and a “babyface”. Aristotle’s archaic approach to foreign politics, namely suggesting that a democratic society cannot rely on democratic and humanitarian values while dealing with barbarians abroad, does not function on the current byzantine planet.

It’s not just Mount Ida, but Anatolia as a whole, that is subject to full-blown destruction as things stand. Germany will need to strike the type of immigrant deal that it has with Erdogan with Greece and Bulgaria sooner or later. Folk will be on the move. They’ll have no choice.

Leaving the environmental crimes of the AKP to Zeus and returning to its war crimes, the Turkish foreign ministry on October 6 said in response to the Canadian ban on drone parts: "There is no explanation for blocking defence equipment exports to a Nato ally while... Canada does not see any harm in exporting arms to countries that have military involvement in the crisis in Yemen."

Actually, that is quite easy to explain. The Yemenis have no lobbying power in Ottawa.

Azerbaijan bought $123mn in defence and aviation equipment, including drones, rocket launchers, ammunition and other weapons, from Turkey in the first nine months of 2020, six times more than in the same period of 2019.

In September, Defense News reported that Ankara is targeting sales of guns and armed drones assembled in Turkey to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

In June, Azerbaijan’s defence minister, Zakir Hasanov, said that Baku was planning to purchase armed drones from Turkey. And haven’t they just. As Nagorno-Karabakh's displaced tens of thousands know to their cost.