The Middle East Channel

Turkey’s Central Bank Hikes Rates Stemming Lira Drop

At an emergency midnight meeting, Turkey's central bank surprised investors with a huge interest rate hike causing the biggest jump for the lira since 2008. The move was prompted by the lira's 9 percent drop against the U.S. dollar and recent flight from emerging markets. The Turkish currency increased up to 4 percent to 2.1626 per U.S. dollar from Monday's historic low of 2.39. On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed expectations of an imminent interest rate rise, saying the economy would continue to grow despite attempts by enemies seeking to "sabotage" the economy in order to weaken the government. Erdogan is caught in a corruption scandal involving several ministers and the chief executive officer of a state-owned bank. Neil Shearing, chief emerging-markets economist at Capital Economics in London, said the central bank has "put the emphasis squarely on preserving market stability and tackling inflation, and at the same time it's faced down the government." However, the impacts of the rate increase faded fast Wednesday as investors were concerned that the move did not do much for emerging markets as a whole, and that they remained vulnerable.

Syria

Syrian peace talks have continued after being cut short Tuesday over a U.S. decision to resume aid to the opposition. The Syrian government blasted the United States for supporting the rebels, with Omran al-Zoubi, Syria's information minister, saying the move contradicts the United States' role as a sponsor of the peace conference. Zoubi said, "Do they want to destroy Geneva?" U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi decided to cancel afternoon discussions, but said, "Nobody is walking out, nobody is running away." As conditions in Syria continue to deteriorate, Britain has made a deal with the United Nations to take in up to 500 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. According to British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg priority would be given to victims of sexual violence or torture, as well as elderly and disabled people. Meanwhile, according to U.S. officials, Islamist groups in Syria, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front, have seized control of most of Syria's oil and gas resources, and are using profits to fund the conflict against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other rebel factions.

Headlines  

  • Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Sadiq Abdulkarim has reportedly survived an assassination attempt outside the Interior Ministry in the capital of Tripoli Wednesday.
  • U.N. inspectors are visiting a uranium mine in southern Iran in part of an interim agreement aimed at curbing the country's disputed nuclear program.
  • An Israeli court has sentenced a man belonging to an anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect to four and a half years in prison for offering to spy for Iran.
  • Tunisia's Parliament has approved a new technocratic caretaker cabinet.
  • The U.N. Security Council president said it would begin drafting a resolution to help stop people trying to obstruct Yemen's transition, a move that may include sanctions against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he could accept an Israeli military presence in the West Bank for a transition period of up to 3 years. 

Arguments and Analysis

'Egypt's Descent in Media Freedoms: How Far Can it Go?' (Miriam Berger, Atlantic Council - MENA Source)

"Indeed, after the revolution, many Egyptian journalists were empowered to break old boundaries and demand their rights to freedom in the newsroom. Alongside the horizontal rise in new outlets and media spaces, however, journalists have struggled to change the shape of ownership and business models on top. Now, as support for Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's presidency intensifies, opponents are imprisoned, new heads of state media are in place, and more Mubarak-era men are acquitted of charges, the old order of media business seems to be regaining more and more power.

Politicized media configurations have long come at the expense of independent and sustainable coverage that empowers local journalism and responsible governance. Egyptian media has never been structured as profit-generating enterprises determined by free or fair competition. Rather, media outlets rely largely on political and business write-offs from the state and wealthy financiers. This propaganda-skewed model leaves consumer numbers and demands second tier to the proclivities of the ruling men on top, stifles a culture of innovation and transparency, and crowds out alternative voices and outlets."   

'Netanyahu's maneuvers, feints and deceptions' (Haaretz)

"It came as no surprise that Economy Minister Naftali Bennett so harshly attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the latter's remark that settlers should be allowed to remain in their homes under Palestinian rule. Bennett, who is also the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, is the emissary of the settlers in the government and as such he must protect those who sent him, who see any agreement to be signed with the Palestinians as a 'irrationality of values.'

What is more worrisome is the statement released by the prime minister's bureau that Bennett is 'impeding the prime minister's effort to show that the real obstacle to peace is the Palestinian Authority.' There is no other way to understand this statement than as Netanyahu's official admission that his actions and statements are an ongoing attempt to sabotage negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Netanyahu was not angry about the fact that Bennett's hysterical statements harmed the negotiations to which the Israeli government is committed, but that Bennett is thwarting a tactical move whose purpose is to present the Palestinians as 'obstacles to peace.' In fact, the prime minister is complaining about the fact that officials at home are not allowing him to carry out maneuvers, feints and deceptions of the international community with the goal of sinking any future agreement."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images

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