Thursday, June 20, 2002

Kemal Derviş

Kemal Derviş, the former World Bank VP who is now Turkey's Special Economy Minister For Making Sure Turkey Doesn't Blow Its Reform Program, has been on the TV a lot the past few days. He says says the country's banking reforms are on track, so the IMF is going to hand over the next chunk of cash due from previously agreed loans, $1.1 billion this time around.

The banking watchdog agency BDDK recently published an audit saying most of the country's banks meet the agency's requirements for capitalization. However a bigshot at S&P's banking division says they're still undercapitalized. I'm not really well versed in the details of the system and reform efforts, but it seems like the IMF cash is going to be used to "recapitalize" the banks. Since the banks' problems have a lot to do with huge amounts of bad loans given out to bigshot scumbags, I worry that this is just bailing out bad banks so they can continue ruining the economy. But I dunno, Derviş seems to be fairly well on top of things.

Two major banks, Pamukbank and Yapi Kredi, appear to be merging. But the Turkish News article I linked above says Pamukbank is being taken over by the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA). I'm not sure what's going on here, or whether BRSA has anything to do with the BDDK.

I do like what Derviş says about elections. The headlines have been giving the impression that he's hot to have new elections, perhaps because he wants to toss his hat in the ring. I've repeated that assessment myself, but here's what he says:

I have never said that early elections are needed. I simply said that early elections would not be a national disaster for Turkey. If we could implement the economic program and not deviate from the program, and if the economic administration, officials, autonomous agencies and the Central Bank are in charge and fulfill their duties, then changes on the political scene would be trouble-free.

We live in a democracy and are currently governed by a coalition. It is possible that there would be changes in Turkey like in any other democracy. We have to rid ourselves from the conviction that early elections would destroy everything. If the economic program is implemented, and the economic agencies do their job honestly and transparently, then political developments would not have any impact on the economy.

It sounds like Derviş' main interest is the reform program. It might be that becoming PM would be his best bet to ensure everyone stays on board the program, but it's not likely. If he did, he would end up spending all his time fighting off the politicians and media - he's not a professional pol and he doesn't have the skills or support structure (e.g. a political party, corrupt buddies, etc.) he would need to maintain his position. So he's better off where he is.

Of course, Derviş' special ministerial position depends on Prime Minister Ecevit's support. The PM wants the reforms to happen, and he knows Derviş has the know-how, the connections, and the determination to make it happen. But the other politicians all know the same thing, so if Ecevit goes Derviş is a lamb for the slaughter. To conservatives he is the agent of the IMF, EU, and other foreign forces which try to tell Turkey how to run the country.

So although Derviş is right that Turkey needs to learn to allow democratic elections to happen without changing the direction of the country, the reality is that politicians seeking election will happily wreck Turkey's chances of economic recovery, and Derviş himself will quickly be sacrificed to the hordes by the populists.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

al-Qaeda's post-Afghanistan strategy

Unqualified Offerings turns us on to an article about what al-Qaeda's strategy appears to be now, according to captured members. This bit from UO caught my attention:

3. Small-scale attacks against American and Jewish targets in "countries where the population is muslim but the government is secular.

I can't find the (unclosed) quote UO, but that sounds like Turkey. Things have been fairly quiet here - there was a vague warning a few weeks ago, just before all those warnings in the US, and a bombing was apparently foiled last fall/winter. Generally speaking, the Turks don't seem as fundamentalist as Muslims in some other countries. Sure, they support Palestine over Israel, but it doesn't seem to be a "to the barricades" kind of support, it strikes me as closer to the way most Americans seem to have the reverse view. It's strong enough to have a few demonstrations, but not enough to risk lives over. The Turkish government, especially the military, is of course tight with the Israelis, but most people seem to just shrug it off.

I don't see a lot of sympathy for al-Qaeda or enthusiasm for Taliban-style regressiveness. No doubt many people contribute to relief funds which funnel money to unsavory causes, and some probably do think violent struggle is swell. I'm sure there are al-Qaeda-trained people knocking around the country, and it stands to reason they'll at least try something or another.

Osama and his pals hate Turkey and would love to see its secular government pulled down, but, inshallah, I just don't see the people here going for it.

Sharon's Cycle of Peace

Since 1967, occupation and settlement of Palestinian land by Israel has proven to be the most effective deterrant to terrorism, so Ariel Sharon has decided to pull out all stops to decrease the Palestinian desire for conflict by increasing the occupation. His long stated support of Israeli expansion is not a factor, of course - otherwise the PLO house organ New York Times would have mentioned it - this is purely because Sharon is grieved by the deaths of Israeli civilians. Sharon believes that increasing the occupation of Palestinian land will cause terrorist attacks to stop, and so save many lives.

"Israel will respond to acts of terror by capturing P.A. territory," the statement read. "These areas will be held by Israel as long as terror continues. Additional acts of terror will lead to the taking of additional areas."

Presumably this cycle of peace will continue until Israel occupies all of Palestine. If that doesn't teach the buggers a lesson, then settlements will have to be stepped up.

Sharon took office as Prime Minister determined to show that violent response to terrorism was the best way to curtail it. The results speak for themselves. This new policy is sure to persuade the Palestinians that the Israeli government is sincere in wanting to return their land and allow them to have an independent state, if only they'll stop the terrorism. No doubt the Palestinians will react accordingly.

If instead the Israelis end up forced to occupy and settle all of Palestine, I'm sure Sharon will be deeply disappointed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002


I dig Rafe Colburn's blog - plenty of balanced opion on current events, interspersed with comments on open source programming and other geekery.

Salon Premium has a story today on the allegations of a massacre uncovered by Irish documentarian Jamie Doran. He claims to have evidence that up to 5,000 of the prisoners taken after the surrender of the Taliban at Kunduz were killed in one way or another and dumped in mass graves somewhere in the deserts of Afghanistan. Whether the allegations turn out to be accurate or not, it's pretty clear that some sort of inquiry needs to be made into what happened to those prisoners. Personally, I have no idea what transpired, but I doubt that any of the people who would dismiss the allegations out of hand (or accept them uncritically) do either. [rc3]


Turkey made it into the quarter finals along with the US. I hear tickets for today's match against Japan were going for as much as $1,500!

If the US and Turkey both win their next two matches, they'll go head to head in the Big Match on the 30th! That'll be a big one around the Istanblog household, I can tell you!

Link Tony!

Tony Pierce has been threatening to bring the coolest blog in the world to an end unless he gets 100 links. I'm glad he's discovered that Istanblog links him, so I'm now Tony-linking blog #24. Some might say this smacks of Oral Roberts' claim that Allah was shaking him down for $8 million, but I don't care. Don't go, Tony!

Memories of Turkey

A reader emails:
Best memory of Istanbul: In the hostel section of the Hotel Gungor (which housed the infamous Pudding Shop) in January 1974, there was a huge sign, that I had to examine closer because guys were smoking hash right in front of it, which said, "If You Are Caught With One Smoke of Hash You Get Seven Years".

I'd heard about the Pudding Shop from friends of my father who'd been here in the early 70's. It was a popular gathering spot for people wanting to go east on the "Hippy Trail". Sadly, Istanbul is about as far east as most backpackers make it overland these days, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan not being quite as groovy for tourists as they once were.

Nowadays the Pudding Shop is an unremarkable lunch spot with laminated menus showing pictures of the food, and German tourists who seem totally unaware of the history of the place. I was expecting Hard Rock Cafe style t-shirts or other cheezy souveniers to take back to my pop, but the owners aren't fully exploiting their brand. Too bad.

Thanks for the emails

Thanks to those folks who've dropped me emails and linked the blog. And also thanks to Howard Owens who added me to his link list on Global News Watch, a site I'll have to add to my daily habit.

Look what happens when I neglect my blog ...

I get a coveted link from Instapundit!

ISTANBLOG is, well, what it sounds like: a blog from Turkey . (By an American living there). I don't pay enough attention to Turkey because. . . well, because I'm a guy who does this as a hobby, and there are only so many hours available for blogging and reading. So I'm glad somebody else is.

The famously prolific blogger admits he doesn't have time to cover everything he'd like to - damn, he made more posts yesterday than I've made in the entire month or so I've had this blog!

Thanks Glenn, and welcome Instapunditfans.