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Silver Lining: Could COVID-19 Response Serve as Linchpin for Resetting U.S.-Turkey Relations?

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Turkey’s delivery of medical supplies to the U.S. last week underscored the diplomatic opportunities of the COVID-19 era. The gesture was evidence that a reset in relations between these two NATO allies – who many believed had been breaking apart in recent years – is possible. It reminds us that both nations have the option of forging a path forward that focuses on shared interests rather than tensions. This gesture may prove to have been a first step, and if the process runs its course, both the US and Turkey could be better off — in terms of security, a merging of geopolitical influence, and economic opportunities, especially post-COVID.

The last several years have been marked by a string of missteps and misunderstandings in the American-Turkish relationship, most notably surrounding Turkey’s purchase of the S400 missile system from Russia in 2017. Many in the U.S. and Europe considered this evidence of Turkey’s realignment toward Russia, fraying its 67-year history as a NATO ally and longtime status as a trading partner with the US. The strain between the two countries accelerated rapidly after the purchase.

But earlier this year, the natural alignment between American and Turkish interests started to become evident, even amidst their disagreements. In January, the Munich Security Conference presented the opportunity for a resetting of the bilateral relations with the understanding that they face a common threat: China. The Chinese government’s support for the Assad regime in Syria is a direct threat to the strategic interests of both the U.S. and Turkey.

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Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-led assault on Idlib last February created a security and humanitarian crisis that raised global alarm and threatened U.S. interests in the Middle East. Turkey stepped in to stop this horrific crisis next to its border.

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In Libya, foreign-backed militias launched an offensive against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) last year, putting American energy interests at risk and creating potential ground for the re-emergence of terrorist organizations like ISIS, which the GNA defeated in 2016. But once again, Turkey supported U.S. interests by providing military backing to the GNA in direct opposition to Russia, which backed the opposing militias. Thanks to this, the GNA has regained control of key cities along the coast and consolidated its military advances pushing militias further to the East.

On trade, the alignment of interests is positioned to grow as the US seeks viable alternatives to Chinese manufacturing after COVID. China’s flaunting of World Trade Organization rules impacts both the US and Turkey in a direct way.

Turkey is a logical partner with a robust manufacturing sector and an already-in-place trade project with the U.S. For the last year, Presidents Trump and Erdogan have repeatedly indicated a public commitment to tripling the trade volume between the US and Turkey to $100 billion a year.

A Reuters story in March indicated that discussions between Washington and Ankara over the S400 issue were continuing, and in April Turkey decided to delay plans to bring the system online. These developments could well get the two over their last stumbling block for a relationship refresh. Last week’s donation of personal protective equipment and medical supplies may mark a new pattern of goodwill and cooperation.

To be sure, disagreements remain between the United States and Turkey. But today, more than any time in the last several years, it seems there is a chance to find a resolution for those disagreements. Perhaps there’s something to be said for both countries having bigger crises to manage at the same moment and acknowledging they benefit from collaboration over bickering. Turkey’s gesture of help, even as it deals with its own COVID outbreak, may go quite a way towards creating a path forward. These things tend to stick.

So, as the world looks to reset itself and assess what the new normal looks like post coronavirus, the U.S. and Turkey should think about what the new normal might be in their relationship, and in what capacity it will best serve them both.

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27 Men In Bradford, UK Arrested For Online Child Sexual Exploitation

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Police in Bradford, UK, a few days ago arrested 27 men, ranging in age from 16 to 57, on charges of sexually exploiting children online.

It was reported that police have been warning of the danger to children from predators online especially now during the coronavirus lockdown which keeps people indoors. Between late March and late April, Scotland Yard claimed that almost 100 children were targeted in London alone.

Some have pointed out that curiously, no information other than age appears to have been given out concerning the arrested men. Given the UK’s abysmal history with foreign rape gangs, overwhelmingly composed of Muslim men from Middle Eastern and Asian countries, this may mean this is just another instance in a depressingly steady pattern.

Bradford, described as “multicultural” by Breitbart, was the location of yet another case of child grooming gangs, according to a report from 2018. Of the suspects, 63% were of Pakistani background, and many others from other Asian and African countries, with only a minority being “white British.”

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Police also reportedly seized over 60 devices which were used both to exploit children online and store indecent pictures.

According to a detective chief inspector, “Targeted operations like these demonstrate that we take the online sexual exploitation of children in Bradford District seriously and that we will take action against offenders and safeguard those children they have attempted to exploit.”

Unfortunately, the UK’s record on the competency and will of its police in dealing with foreign rape gangs does not inspire confidence. Indeed, tragically, there have been multiple cases of cops themselves participating in the abuse of minors.

Despite the nature of the offences and the stated urgency of the issue, as well as the statements of police praising their own actions, for reasons not clear all of the men were released under investigation or bailed shortly after having been taken into custody, and are presumably roaming free once again as inquiries continue.

This, along with the lack of transparency surrounding the case, certainly does not inspire confidence that British children are being protected as they should be. Unfortunately, even the current Conservative government has proven itself feckless and unwilling to truly tackle or even honestly address this issue which is of such dire and tragic consequence to the most vulnerable of its own citizens.

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