Asia

Where The Fuck Is Turkey Going?

With a seemingly endless war going on in Syria, Arab states slowly coming apart, terrorist cells continuously operating and economic as well as military interests from countries like Russia and America, the Middle East has become a complicated and turbulent region.

While the role of the world’s greatest hegemonies inside the Middle East seems clear, there are regional powers whose presence is often underestimated or forgotten.

So, with a strained relationship with the Unites States and failed negotiations to form part of the European Union, what is Turkey’s international and regional role?

“Every decision Turkey makes, even the ones that affect the international sphere, are related to their domestic policies.” Agustín Berea a Middle East specialist said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Everything Tayyip Erdoğan does is for his public and his public is the Turkish people.”

In a developing country where the society is divided between those in favor of business and liberalism and those who are much more conservative and traditionalist, Tayyip Erdoğan came in as a reformist, progressist and with strong ties with the conservative sectors of the Turkish society.

In the beginning of Erdoğan’s mandate, talks about joining the European Union were strong.

 

READ MORE: Why Turkey Should Be Removed From NATO

However, such discourses have gradually faded over time.

Historical issues, such as the occupation of Cyprus, and the recent violation of human rights, as well as the authoritarian government, have been enough to declare that Turkey does not reach the standards to form part of the union.

Although the Republic of Turkey was founded with the objective of having a legitimacy based on secularity and laicism, the Turkish society remains strongly attached to its religious basis.

“Demographically, there’s a lot more people who identify themselves with the East than with the West. Geographically, the part of Turkey located in Europe and the Mediterranean, although highly populated, represents a minority,” Berea said.

Not only that, but the agenda of Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan does not tie with the agenda of other international actors such as Russia and the United States.

A market in Istanbul. Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“His main goal is to solve internal conflicts,” Berea said.

The inability to tie Turkish interests with those of other countries has resulted in strained relationships with the American president Donald Trump and the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Moreover, it has also resulted in the breaking of diplomatic relations with the Iranian president Hasán Rouhani.

While Erdoğan’s ability to project his influence at an international level is questionable, with one of the world’s largest and most powerful armies, Turkey’s regional power is undeniable.

“Turkey cannot reach just any part of the world. However, its mobility and ability to effectively achieve its goals within the Middle East are higher than the one of countries like Russia or even the United States,” Berea said.

These goals include neutralizing the threat of ISIS within Turkish borders, the liberation of the city of Raqqa, and toppling the Assad regime. However, this would require more time, planning, and manpower than the one Turkey currently has in Syria.

This year, as early as February, former prohibitions considered to be secularization measures, such as the banning of the of Islamic veil and religious demonstrations, have been lifted. This has led many to believe that Turkey is no longer the champion of secularism.

“Muslim sectors are much closer to the government and it would seem like Turkey’s regional allies are projects that align with the agenda of political Islam,” Berea said.

Turkey is not the only nation of the Middle East that seems to be going back to projects and governments based on the Muslim religion.

READ MORE: Kicking Turkey Out Of NATO Would Be A Massive Mistake

“Countries in the Middle East have experienced with secular governance models and it is the opinion of many that such projects have not worked so far,” Berea explained.

Iran, Syria and Egypt are some of the countries that have experienced with these secular governance models.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The idea of going back to a caliphate comes from these failed projects of democratic nations and the people in the Middle East want to go back to a moment in which society and political structures worked better.

Could we expect Tayyip Erdoğan’s government to fail or to be toppled by a revolution in Turkey?

“The only way that there could be a successful coup against Erdoğan is if he openly spoke about religious structures within the state. This is unthinkable for the Turkish army,” Berea said.

Although political leaders have known how to handle their differences and act with moderation, the future of the Middle East is now more uncertain than ever.

With so many international actors involved in a small region, the situation seems to be bound to escalate to major proportions.

“My fear about Trump is that he may not know how to handle himself in moments of tension,” Berea said.

While conflict is possible, it doesn’t seem likely yet.

NOW WATCH: This Is The Oldest Building In The Western Hemisphere. We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of It 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

 

Does the Philippines Have A Dictator Now?

The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has become an internationally known figure in a remarkably short amount of time.

Oh course, so has Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

While only being in office for 253 days (as of March 10, 2017) Duterte has become an alarmingly important figure in global politics due to his awful human rights record and a penchant for bucking the status quo.

Some, including Duterte himself, have even started calling him by a new name- dictator.

Duterte was recently quoted as saying, “I will be a dictator against all bad guys, evil, I will do it at the cost of my position or my life. I won’t stop. That’s a solemn commitment.”

The world should probably start listening to him.

Human Rights Watch, an American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, believes that Duterte may have committed crimes against humanity by, “inciting killings during his bloody antidrug campaign.”

Crimes against humanity aren’t something to scoff at, and it certainly isn’t something to take lightly.

Other high-profile political people who have been indicted for crimes against humanity include the now dead Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad, the current President of war-torn Syria.

Duterte meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

Some people might look at what Duterte is doing for his country as an act of patriotism.

His stated goal is to rid his country of drug lords, their dealers, and anyone who is addicted to drugs.

Of course he is not creating massive amounts of new treatment facilities or encouraging other public health fixes, instead he is literally telling people to murder those who abuse drugs.

So has he already crossed the line from democratically elected leader to dictator?

The answer is obviously yes.

No one would argue against the fact that drugs and the trafficking of drugs are a global issue that has had disastrous ramifications for so many communities, but Duterte’s policy of slaughtering his own people in the name of reform cannot be tolerated by the people of the Philippines or the international community.

In the short time span of Duterte’s presidency, thousands of people have been killed by police or vigilantes, and the killings will only continue if no one is willing to speak up and demand a stop to an unjust judicial system.

The reason that many developing countries look to the west for a guiding hand in the building of their countries is for our rule of law.

A belief that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of justice.

Photo Credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The people of the Philippines are not being given this fundamental human right, and they are suffering in silence.

The principle of human rights is universal, and it is the basis for all democracies.

What Duterte, a democratically elected official, has done is spit in the face of democracy.

He has turned around and made the Philippines his own personal killing field, and “his people” are the targets.

The saddest part about the current situation in the Philippines is that by Philippine law, the president has immunity from prosecution while in office.

What this means to the rest of the world is that it is now our solemn duty to hold Duterte and his cronies responsible for their systematic attack against the civilian population.

The International Criminal Court and the U.N. have an obligation to launch an expedient investigation into this matter and stop these policies from continuing.

How many more people must die from extrajudicial killings before the rest of the world opens their eyes and sees Rodrigo Duterte for what he truly is: a malicious dictator?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Japan Seems Ready To Do Anything In Order To Strengthen Ties With The US

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was bashed in the 2016 elections by both Democrats and Republicans.

It was portrayed in the campaign as another “bad” trade deal that would cost our country decent jobs and lower wages.

It was no surprise when President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP in his fourth day of office and suggested focusing on more bilateral trade agreements.

Whether or not Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to convince Trump in November to stay in the TPP during their first meeting, it is apparent he has changed his tune now.

Abe seemed optimistic about replacing the TPP with investments from Japan in America’s infrastructure, suggesting a railway that uses their high-speed technology and increased bilateral trade during a trip to the US.

Sounds too good to be true?

The Japanese government has already invested two million in a maglev line project that would connect Baltimore, Maryland to Washington and expects the forty-mile line to open in a decade at an estimated cost of ten billion, with them covering much of the cost.

Many young Americans may be unfamiliar with this meeting, but as our generation starts to shape the public opinion of the time, it is critical that attention is paid to East Asia, as well as other parts of the world.

A 2015 survey by Pew Research Center found that seventy-three percent of Americans had never heard of the Japanese Prime Minister, who has served since 2012.

I asked Dr. William Boettcher in the Political Science Department at North Carolina State University why our relationship to Japan should matter to the incoming generation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with American Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo Credit: Jim Mattis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“Japan is the chief U.S. ally in East Asia (with South Korea a close second) and is a key contributor to stability in this very important region,” Boettcher told me. “Japan hosts significant deployments of American troops and is also our fourth-largest trading partner.”

While future relations seem unclear and the two countries have had a rocky history, for the past seventy-some years the relationship has been deeply rooted in mutual trust.

This trust has its beginnings in the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, signed in 1960.

The treaty has been strengthened over time with the US Japan Economic Harmonization Initiative in November of 2010 and the release of the revised U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines in 2015.

According to the State Department, the latter allowed for expanded forms of security-oriented cooperation, which brings us to the uniqueness of our relationship with Japan.

Due to Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, the county cannot enter into war and can only use their forces in matters of self-defense.

As Japan’s only treaty partner, we are committed to protecting it with the presence of our forces.

The 2016 Index of Military Strength stated that we currently maintain “38,000 military personnel and another 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees in Japan under the rubric of U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ).”

Japan offsets some of the cost by providing around two billion annually, but they have been pressured in recent years to provide more and increase their own military.

This was especially expressed by Trump during his campaign as he espoused that our allies must give a little more for relationships to continue.

Photo Credit: Metropolico.org/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Japan has loosened some of their restrictions on defense and arms sales in recent years, and they can do more.

The reason a strengthened relationship with the U.S. is so important: China and North Korea.

While President Obama practiced “strategic patience” with North Korea, the rogue regime practiced more missile tests and failed to return to any negotiations.

The long term goal of rejoining families and reinstituting democracy in the North will be a long way off if it is continued to be put on the back burner for issues in the Middle East (an important lesson for President Trump).

Read More: Why This Vietnamese Student Studying In The US Still Loves America Despite Trump’s Hate.

Both the United States and South Korea support the policy of reunification, but a policy of constructive engagement from the U.S. may prove to be more effective.

Japan’s formidable neighbor, China, has not been sanctioned for facilitating North Korean prohibited behavior and does not seem to share concern for the safety of our allies in East Asia.

To move toward the reunification of Korea, it stands to reason that our presence in East Asia should not be depleted, but enlarged.

How does this support President Trump’s claims that our allies need to do more?

Japan can do more and it appears that now that they have been pressured, Prime Minister Abe is rising to the occasion.

The first foreign leader to jump on a plane and meet with our new president, this is a man who is interested in not only dinner, but chocolate and roses too.

Japan has asserted its dominance in East Asia in recent years, meaning it has a dog in the fight.

In 2010 China challenged Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, and the Obama Administration responded by saying that the islands were protected under the security treaty between the United States and Japan.

Then the Japanese central government furthered tensions with China by purchasing three new islands in 2012.

While we must uphold our end of the security treaty, in the coming years Japan must strengthen the Japanese Coast Guard, increase defense expenditures so as to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces, reinforce the National Security Council, and alter its interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.

The Economist maintains that some of the money to improve American infrastructure can come from Japan’s $1.2 trillion public-pension fund, the world’s largest, so perhaps this can also support their own needs to improve and expand defense.

We can increase our militaristic and economic ties with Japan as long as they are willing to do the same.

While in the past public opposition to altering the Japanese constitution would have made it difficult, the increasing buildup of the Chinese military and Japan’s desire to work with the U.S. has changed the public’s outlook.

These short-term changes are now possible to work toward our common long-term goals of standing up to North Korea and China.

It looks like this alliance might make for a sweet relationship after all.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Metropolico.org/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Big Brother Time: China in Process of Creating “Social Credit” Scores

China is in the process of creating a nationwide database of “social credit” in order to not only rate the financial strength of their citizens, but also their trustworthiness.

Unlike the US or UK, China does not have a nationally recognized credit score system. However, also unlike the aforementioned countries, China’s new initiative will not only determine how good people are at paying bills. It will also be used to rate how obedient they are to the state.

Currently, this plan is in somewhat of a beta stage, as eight Chinese companies have set up sites to issue these credit scores.

Possibly the most high-profile of these is called Sesame Credit, a joint venture between Alibaba, Asia’s largest online retailer, and Baihe, China’s largest matchmaking service.

However, neither company will reveal how they determine or calculate the scores, nor will they directly speak to Western media out of fear of losing the lucrative government contract.

Conversely, they will admit that shopper’s purchases will be taken into account. As Li Yingyun, Sesame’s technology director, told the Chinese magazine Caixin:

“Someone who plays video games for 10 hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person, and someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.”

This is a very controversial point, as it leaves the door open to the government deciding who can do and buy certain things based on subjective, and possibly stereotyped, life decisions.

From a different angle, this type of credit system is being valued as little more than another authoritarian propaganda tool.

In the extensive government planning outline, the Chinese government states in Article 5, Section 1 that it will actively encourage competition between citizens to work for high scores by incentivizing trust-keeping and punishing trust-breaking.

Many Westerners are beginning to see this as China hiding an Orwellian “big brother” behind the façade of a game. For more on that angle, there is the relatively short, but oft-linked video from Extra Credits on the matter.

Watch: 

As of now, the system is opt-in. However, as part of China’s most recent Five-Year Plan, the “social credit” system, in one form or another, will be mandatory in 2020.

Cover Photo Credit: Danny Mekic’/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Dozens Of Boats Filled With Dead Bodies Keep Washing Up On The Japanese Shoreline

By Erika Hills

Something very strange is washing up on the shores of Japan. Dozens of old boats, filled with dead bodies keep finding their way to the coastline of the world’s third largest economy.

According to The Japan Times, it has become a yearly occurrence for wrecked ships to drift in the seas near Japan by the dozens.

Between 2013 and 2014, 145 boats were found by officials.

In total, 34 have been found this year, including boats that were discovered within the past two months. These ghost ships are thought to have originated in North Korea.

Most recently, on Nov. 20, officials discovered 10 bodies in three boats off the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture. Just a mere two days later, a fourth boat was found.

Carrying a nearly intact body with the head, six skulls, as well as other bones and remains, there it drifted an hour from the location of the other three boats, at Fukui Prefecture.

“There’s no doubt that the boats are North Korean,” John Nilsson-Wright, the head of the Asia program at the Chatham House policy institute told CNN.

Japanese Coast Guard officials said that for the past two months, 11 fishing boats with bodies on board have been found. They carry equipment, nets, and signs written in Korean, including one saying “Korean People’s Army,” the North Korean army, on it.

WATCH: Japanese TV report on a ship that washed ashore

Coast Guard spokesman, Yoshiaki Hiroto, said the small size and poor condition of the 10-to-12 meter long boats are not typical of South Korea or Japan.

Hiroto told the AP that evidence suggests the vessels are from the Korean Peninsula.

A tattered scrap of cloth on one of the boats also points to where they sailed from, as it looks like it could be the North Korean national flag, according to Japan broadcaster, NHK.

“There’s no doubt that the boats are North Korean,” John Nilsson-Wright, the head of the Asia program at the Chatham House policy institute told CNN.

Upon examining photos of the boats, Nilsson-Wright determined the lettering is Korean or Hangul.

Along with the tattered cloth and “Korean People’s Army,” sign, Nilsson-Wright said it is “very logical” to say the boats are from North Korea.

He believes one possibility is that people are trying to flee the regime, although he added that it is impossible to truly know with the limited information authorities have.

CNN reports that local Japanese media have been indicating that fishing boats under the command of the Korean People’s Army could have fallen victim to Kim Jong Un’s pressure for them to catch more fish.

Experts say that due to this, boats also may have drifted off course, ill-equipped to handle the harsh seas.

Cover Photo Credit: Mario Micklisch/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

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