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Erdogan Expels Western Envoys; Sudan Military Stages Coup

Erdogan has declared 10 ambassadors—including those from the United States, France, and Germany—persona non grata. Is it just a diversion?

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a commemorative ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the failed coup at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, Turkey, on July 15. ADEM ALTAN/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan orders the expulsions of 10 Western ambassadors, a military coup occurs in Sudan, and the world this week.

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Erdogan Orders U.S., French, and German Ambassadors Out

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan orders the expulsions of 10 Western ambassadors, a military coup occurs in Sudan, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Erdogan Orders U.S., French, and German Ambassadors Out

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to open up a deep rift with the West over the weekend when he ordered the expulsion of ambassadors from 10 countries, including the United States, France, and Germany.

Although the ambassadors have yet to officially leave Turkey, Erdogan appears to be incensed over calls from the 10 countries to release Osman Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist jailed since 2017 for suspicion of involvement in financing the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the 2016 coup attempt.

Kavala has never been convicted of a crime, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called for his release since 2019, issuing a ruling that his detention is politically motivated and a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite being a member of the ECHR, Turkey has never acknowledged the court’s ruling.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP), has derided Erdogan’s announcement as a diversion tactic. The reason for these moves is not to protect national interests but to create artificial reasons for the ruining of the economy,” he wrote on Twitter.

Steven Cook, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist at Foreign Policy, told Morning Brief there are two good reasons to believe Erdogan means what he says: the first being Turkey’s economy has been deteriorating for months; it’s simply too late to employ distraction.

Secondly, and more important, is Erdogan sees any attempt at foreign interference in Kavala’s case as an attack on Turkey’s sovereignty—especially when it comes to such politically sensitive issues as Gezi Park and the 2016 coup attempt. “That is a big deal,” Cook said.

Even though Turkey was one of the handful of large economies to grow this year, expanding by almost 20 percent in the second quarter of 2021, that good news has been undermined by high inflation and a plummeting currency.

Inflation is currently running at roughly 20 percent this year while the Turkish lira hit historic lows last week, reaching a value of 9.47 against the dollar, a fall of 22 percent this year alone.

Turkey’s monetary policy has been criticized as illogical and too close to Erdogan’s unorthodox thinking. While central banks around the world are considering interest rate increases to curb inflation, Turkey has instead reduced its interest rate, slashing it by 2 percentage points last week.

While the economy struggles, public opinion appears to be turning against Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Recent polling shows only a third of voters would support the AKP in an election, down from 42 percent in the 2018 elections.

With fresh presidential and parliamentary elections not due until 2023, Turkey’s opposition is seeking to capitalize on the discontent. In what is becoming a common tactic for dislodging strongmen, Turkey will follow the Czech Republic and Hungary’s lead by presenting a single candidate for president among the six parties in the opposition alliance. The CHP’s Kilicdaroglu seems the most likely to lead that challenge, according to the latest polls.

The expulsion of ambassadors is unlikely to be the last inflammatory diplomatic move. Erdogan will have plenty of other opportunities to scapegoat the West, with an audience ready and willing to take it in. “Assailing the West, especially the United States, is a winning political strategy in Turkey,” Cook said.

The World This Week

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, EU energy ministers gather for an extraordinary meeting to discuss rising energy prices across the continent.

Japan’s Princess Mako marries Kei Komuro. They plan to live in the United States.

Saudi Arabia hosts the annual Future Investment Initiative conference, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.”

Canada’s new cabinet is sworn in following September’s election.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit begins in Brunei.

On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Iran hosts the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan for a summit on Afghanistan.

On Friday, Oct. 29, U.S. President Joe Biden meets Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The U.N. secretary-general discusses the annual U.N. Human Rights Council report.

On Saturday, Oct. 30, Italy hosts the annual G-20 summit in Rome.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Glasgow, Scotland, and runs until Nov. 12. Biden is set to attend in person while Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not.

Japan holds nationwide elections for its House of Representatives, with new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hoping to guide his Liberal Democratic Party to victory.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits Ireland.

What We’re Following Today 

Coup in Sudan. Sudan’s military appears to have launched a coup, detaining the civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and other senior officials during the night. A statement from the countrys information ministry said “joint military forces” detained the civilian leaders and held them in “an unidentified location.” The move comes in the wake of disagreements between the military members of the transitional sovereign council and their civilian counterparts, which has led to large rival protests.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, attempted to mediate between military and civilian leaders in recent days and on Monday said he was “deeply alarmed” by reports of a coup. “This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable,” he said, noting a military takeover could halt the flow of U.S. aid. The U.K. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Robert Fairweather, called the arrests “a betrayal of the revolution, the transition and the Sudanese people.”

Crowds of anti-military protesters have converged in the capital, Khartoum, while social media posts show many people marching on Khartoum’s Africa Street toward the center of the city.

Kerry in Riyadh. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today to attend the Middle East Green Initiative Summit. Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would commit to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2060, a longer time frame that Russia and China have also embraced. The kingdom’s pledge is complicated by its status as a major oil exporter, a fact that does not figure into national emissions calculations.

Terror in Kampala. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a restaurant bombing in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, on Sunday. The attack killed one person and injured three others. The Islamic State first acknowledged operating in Uganda in April 2019. The leader of Ugandas Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist rebel group, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2016.

Keep an Eye On

U.S.-Palestinian relations. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Idan Roll, cast doubt on U.S. plans to reopen a Palestinian-focused diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, saying in a television interview he had “good reason” to believe the initiative would not go ahead. Speaking alongside Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was moving ahead with the plan.

Ethiopia’s air war. A weeklong air campaign against Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces continued on Sunday, the Ethiopian government confirmed, with strikes against two targets in the west and north of the Tigray region. A government spokesperson said one strike targeted a training center for “illegal recruits of the TPLF” while the TPLF claimed the strike hit close to a hospital. “The government makes it sound as though all of the Tigray region is a training center,” TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters. 

Climate reporting. United Nations agencies launch two key climate change reports today, with less than a week before the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will publish its assessment of national-level carbon reduction targets while the World Meteorological Organization releases its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, measuring atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide over the past year.

Odds and Ends

The number of elephants born tuskless increases in areas with large amounts of ivory poaching, researchers in Mozambique have found, suggesting a much more rapid evolutionary adaptation to human behavior among the species than previously thought. The study, published in the journal Science, looked at natural selection among an elephant population in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique over a 15-year period following the country’s civil war, during which 90 percent of the country’s elephants were killed as ivory became a source of funding for both sides.

Researchers have already noticed a change in the elephants’ eating behavior, with the animals preferring a diet of grass over the bark they can no longer scratch off trees.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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