Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers killed in attack along Iraqi border

Several Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers have been killed on the border to Iraq in the deadliest attack on Iranian forces in recent years. A porous border makes it easy for militants to go back and forth.

    
Iran's Revolutionary Guard march in formation

At least 10 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Basij forces were killed overnight in an attack on a military post along the Iraqi border, Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency said on Saturday.

It was the latest deadly clash in a region where armed Kurdish groups seeking an independent Kurdistan are active.

IRGC@_IRGC_

10 IRGC Forces Killed in Terrorist Attack on Border Post in Western Iran

“The attack by the evil rebels and terrorists against a revolutionary border post and the explosion of a munitions depot caused the martyrdom of 10 fighters,” the Guard’s ground forces division said in a statement.

The statement added that several attackers were also killed and vowed “merciless vengeance” on those that remained.

Hosein Khosheqbal, a provincial security official, told state television that 11 members of the Guard’s voluntary Basij forces were killed during the fighting, which occurred in the Marivan area, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) west of the capital, Tehran, and just 20 kilometers from the Iraqi border.

“The latest news is that the Basij and Guards forces are in hot pursuit of the attackers,” Khosheqbal said.

It was the largest number of Iranian soldiers killed in a single attack along the Iraqi border in recent years.

Read moreRevolutionary Guard declares ‘end of sedition’

Merciless vengeance

Several armed Kurdish groups operate in the area, including the Party of Free Life for Kurdistan (PJAK), which seeks autonomy for Iran’s Kurds. The group is also tied to Turkey’s militant Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which is active in the border region.

Watch video03:03

Iranian political scientist receives DW freedom prize

The Revolutionary Guard said it killed three militants near the Iraqi border earlier this month and nine militants further north last month.

Iran and Iraq have failed to coordinate security efforts along the border, resulting in a porous frontier that has also been used by “Islamic State” (IS) militants to enter Iran.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi announced earlier in the week that security forces had arrested four IS suspects in the southwest of the country. They were believed to be planning attacks.

Read moreIran test fires ballistic missile

IS militants carried out coordinated attacks in June 2017 on the Iranian parliament building in Tehran and the mausoleum of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini south of the capital. At least 18 people were killed in the attacks.

Read moreWhat is Iran’s Revolutonary Guard

bik/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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COURTESY: DW

Israel passes controversial Jewish nation-state bill

Among other things, the law states only Jews have the right to self-determination, it “encourages” Jewish settlement and downgrades the status of the Arabic language. Critics say it is racist and threatens democracy.

    

Watch video02:10

Israeli lawmakers pass contentious ‘nation-state’ bill

Israel’s parliament passed a controversial law early Thursday that declares only Jews have a right to national self-determination in Israel, drawing criticism from human rights organizations and Arabs who called it racist and said it amounted to apartheid.

The “nation-state” law, backed by the right-wing government, passed 62-55 with two abstentions in the 120-seat Knesset after months of political debate and after some parts were softened over concerns it would damage Israel’s international image.

Read more:  Opinion: Separating anti-Semitism from criticism of Israel 

The bill states that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people” and “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also downgrades Arabic from an official language alongside Hebrew to a “special” one, and declares Jerusalem the united capital of Israel.

The law also instructs the state to preserve the Jewish heritage within the diaspora, and contains passages about national holidays, the flag, the anthem and making the Hebrew calendar the official calendar.

The measure enters Israel’s Basic Law, which is similar to a constitution.

Israel has 1.9 million Arab citizens, or about 21 percent of the total population of 9 million. Another 5 percent of the population consists of non-Arab Christians or other ethnic groups.

‘The majority decides’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the law enshrined the principle of Jewish existence.

“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people that respects the individual rights of all its citizens. This is our state — the Jewish state,” he said.

Last week, Netanyahu vowed to ensure all civil rights were protected, but said “the majority also has rights and the majority decides.”

Watch video28:30

Who owns Jerusalem?

Arab lawmakers scream ‘apartheid’

On paper, Israeli Arabs – who are mainly Palestinians – have full rights unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories, but they often complain of discrimination in housing, employment, education and services.

After the vote, Arab lawmakers tore up what they called an “apartheid law, a racist law.”

They were subsequently thrown out of the Knesset plenum hall, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli-Arab lawmaker with the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties and the third-largest faction in the Knesset, told reporters: “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.”

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, wrote on Twitter that the “tyranny” of the majority had squashed the rights of the minority.

“Separation, discrimination, supremacy and racism have now been enshrined into the Basic Law,” he wrote, calling on Jewish and Arab democrats to unite against nationalism and racism.

Ayman Odeh

@AyOdeh

ההפרדה, האפליה, העליונות והגזענות עוגנו היום בתוך ספר החוקים. חוק שכל כולו נועד להתריס, לפלג, לזלזל ולהמשיך את מופע ההסתה של הממשלה. עריצות הרוב שמנסה לדרוס את המיעוט. הכי קל לשסות, להסית ולרדוף, אבל זהו זמנם של הדמוקרטים שחיים כאן, ערבים ויהודים, להתאחד נגד הלאומנות והגזענות

Isaac Herzog, the head of the main opposition Zionist List political alliance, said in parliament that history will determine whether the law harms or benefits Israel.

“I really hope that we won’t find the fine balance between a Jewish and democratic state to be hurt,” he said.

Liberal Jewish groups, rights groups condemn law

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said the nation-state law features “key elements of apartheid.”

“By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people – wherever they live around the world – Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favoring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of its institutions,” Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen said in a statement following the vote.

Adalah@AdalahEnglish

Adalah: ‘s new Nation-State Law “features key elements of apartheid. It is not only immoral but also prohibited under international law. It constitutionally enshrines the identity of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people only.” FULL QUOTE: https://goo.gl/UyTYWV 

Condemnation from US, EU

Liberal-leaning US Jewish groups that have lobbied against the nation-state bill were quick to condemn it.

“This is a sad and unnecessary day for Israeli democracy,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “The damage that will be done by this new nation-State law to the legitimacy of the Zionist vision and to the values of the state of Israel as a democratic—and Jewish—nation is enormous.”

Daniel Sokatch, the head of the New Israel Fund, described the law as “tribalism at its worst” and a betrayal of Jewish and democratic values that creates first- and second-class citizens.

The European Union also expressed concern over the controversial legislation, including the possibility of it hindering the peace process.

“We are concerned, we have expressed these concerns and we will continue to engage with the Israeli authorities in this context,” said Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

When asked if the law would pose an obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Kocijancic said it “can certainly further complicate the path” towards a two-state solution.”

Daniel Sokatch@dsokatch

Passage of the Nation-State bill is tribalism at its worst. Beginning with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Jewish value of human dignity & the principle of the equality of all people have formed the democratic foundation of the state. This law has betrayed those values.

Language softened under pressure

The controversial bill underwent a number of last-minute changes to soften language following political disputes and objections, including from Israel’s president and attorney-general.

One section that was dropped would have instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no legal precedents.

Another section would have enshrined in law the establishment of communities of the “same faith and nationality,” potentially opening the way for segregated communities and discrimination against homosexuals.

President Reuven Rivlin blasted the openly discriminatory measure earlier this month, saying it “could harm Jews throughout the world and the State of Israel.”

Instead, the law that passed on Thursday says that the Israeli state views “the development of Jewish settlements as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.”

Settlements in the occupied West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law and a major impediment to a viable Palestinian state in the future.

COURTESY: DW

Iran announces plan to circumvent US oil sanctions

Tehran has vowed to ‘defeat’ attempts to curb its oil revenues by allowing private companies to export it. Iran also reminded Saudi Arabia that it was bound to an OPEC agreement to only boost exports collectively.

    
Offshore drilling facility in the Persian Gulf

Iran announced on Sunday that it would permit private companies to export crude oil as Tehran attempts to thwart US sanctions against the country’s oil industry. Iran also urged fellow OPEC nations, including rival Saudi Arabia, to stick toan agreement made last month to collectively boost output.

“We want to defeat America’s efforts…to stop Iran’s oil exports,” said First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri in a televised statement. “The Iranian government has a plan.”

After the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in May, it said it would reimpose economic sanctions against Tehran by November.

Watch video01:02

US calls on countries to stop importing Iranian oil

Trump: Riyadh promises to make up the difference

The announcement by Jahangiri came just a day after US President Donald Trump said that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase its oil exports to make up the difference lost to the sanctions.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & dysfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Jahangiri greeted Trump’s comments with derision, saying: “They’re begging the Saudis to raise their output so that if Iran’s quota decreases nothing will happen to the markets.”

At the same time, Iranian Oil Minister Bijhan Zanganeh reminded Riyadh that “any increase in the production by any member country beyond commitments stipulated in OPEC’s decisions … would constitute a breach of the agreement.”

Iran is among the nations with the highest oil serves, along with Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s leading exporter of oil.

es/ng (AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Warplanes bomb 3 hospitals in southern Syria as Assad’s army presses offensive

 1:02
Bombs fall on rebel enclave in southern Syria

A pro-opposition media outlet uploaded this footage of airstrikes on the opposition-held areas of Daraa, Syria, on June 27 by Syrian government forces. 

 Fighter jets bombed at least three medical facilities in southern Syria overnight, a war monitor and local doctors said Wednesday, as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad appeared to ramp up a battle plan that has forced rebel-held areas across the country into submission.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bombed hospitals were near the Jordanian border in the towns of Saida, Jeeza and Musayfra. Aid groups have raised alarm in recent days as the government’s intensifying offensive has caused about 45,000 people to flee deeper into rebel-held territory, although Jordan insists it will not open its border to them.

The Russian-backed offensive aims to recapture one of the final pockets of opposition-held territory in Syria. But its location along the Jordanian and Israeli borders has effectively turned it into a geopolitical tinderbox.

A cease-fire brokered by the United States, Jordan and Russia had largely kept the peace for more than a year as the Syrian army focused on clearing opposition groups from territory closer to the capital, Damascus. But now Washington is watching ­anxiously as the displaced people flood toward closed borders
and as pro-Assad forces deploy Iranian-backed militiamen alongside the Syrian army close to the Israeli frontier.

Across Syria, Israel has stepped up airstrikes against Iranian-linked positions in recent months, fearing its arch-foe’s growing reach. Russia is also wary and is trying to broker a last-
minute solution to avert a broader war between Iran and Israel.

Hospitals and medical personnel have routinely been targeted throughout Syria’s seven-year war, usually by government ­forces. The brutal tactic has often prevented residents from accessing treatment when bombs strike their neighborhoods.

In some cases, the tactic has also hastened victory for Assad’s forces, driving up death tolls and putting rebel forces under greater pressure from the civilian populations that live among them.

“Two of my nurses left when the bombing stopped last night. Their minds were collapsing,” said Abu Mohammed, a doctor from the town of Harak, about 25 miles northeast of Daraa. He said that their facility was badly damaged in an airstrike days earlier but that a handful of staff had stayed behind to dispense medicine to the wounded.

“People are so scared here. They know the regime will pick them off one by one,” he said.

 1:15
Deadly airstrikes destroy homes in southern Syria

Syrian government forces and their allies carried out strikes on opposition-held areas of Daraa, Syria, on June 25. 

On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross implored all sides to halt the fighting, repeating a call that has been routinely ignored by the warring parties through the protracted conflict.

“We urgently call on all sides fighting in Daraa, Sweida and Quneitra to show restraint and to do their utmost to spare civilians,” said Robert Mardini, the organization’s regional director for the Near and Middle East, referring to major population centers across southwestern Syria.

Video footage and photographs from the area showed residents packed into pickup trucks with blankets, food supplies and anything else they could carry. Aid workers said the locations to which the displaced are heading are already experiencing serious shortages of bread and fuel, with rent and food prices soaring.

Journalist Maher al-Hariri, who said his house was bombed Monday, described how he had been pulled from the rubble, only to find no options left for medical treatment.

“My family, my children are in great danger, and there is no way I can get them out,” he said.

Reached by phone, Abu Mohammed, the doctor in Harak, pleaded for help, his voice shot through with panic.

“Where can we go? Tell me. Where can we go?” he asked. “Everyone has abandoned us. We are all alone here, and no one will stop the violence.”

Zakaria Zakaria in Istanbul and Suzan Haidamous in Beirut contributed to this report.

King Dollar Tightens Noose on Iranian Economy

Foreign banks pull out of Iran, choking economic lifeline

Down to a TrickleU.S.-dollar-denominated loans and deposits to Iran from banks, amounts outstandingSource: Bank for International Settlements
.billion1996’97’98’992000’01’02’03’04’05’06’07’08’09’10’11’12’13’14’15’16’17’18036912$15

Foreign banks that kept Iran trading oil through previous sanctions are pulling out under pressure from the latest round of U.S. restrictions, hitting a lifeline for the Iranian economy.

Even banks with no direct U.S. exposure are refusing to deal with Tehran, fearing that they will be cut out of the dollar-based global financial system.

With no international banks to fund trade and handle payments, Iranian businesses will struggle to buy and sell with the outside world, even as China, the European Union and India say they want that to continue.

In May, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and vowed to reimpose economy-crippling sanctions on Tehran.

Several large foreign refiners have already said they are considering scaling back Iranian oil imports. Other companies are reluctant to invest, while those exporting goods to Iran are struggling to repatriate payments from the country. All say that is because banks won’t deal with Iran, and many of those lenders cite their need to access U.S. dollars for refusing such trade. Europe’s state-backed lenders and central banks are leery of their governments’ requests to help companies trade with Iran, people familiar with the matter say.

Almost all trade in oil, Iran’s main export, is in dollars. Banks’ reluctance to help may be taking a toll on Iran’s oil exports, analysts say. Exports have fallen to an average of 2.2 million barrels a day this month, compared with 2.7 million barrels a day in May, according to data from London-based consultancy Vortexa.

The dollar has been the global currency of choice for decades, and its dominance of finance has increased in recent years.

Dollar DominanceWhether or not the bulk of their imports come from the U.S., countries still need dollars to finance them.
Share of imports invoiced in dollarsShare of imports from the U.S.ColombiaArgentinaIndiaBrazilPakistanS. KoreaIndonesia0%102030405060708090100
Source: The International Price System, Gita Gopinath Harvard University and NBERNote: The trade-shares data are averages of the quarterly data from 1999–2014 and the invoicing data are computed as theaverage of the post-1999 years for which we have data.
ThailandCanadaUkraineIsraelJapanMaltaTurkey0%102030405060708090100

“The centrality of the dollar in global trade, even for the smallest banks and for correspondence relationships, is one of the major strategic weapons of the U.S.,” said Peter Harrell, who oversaw Iran sanctions under the Obama administration.

Last Friday, Indian Oil Corp. , the country’s largest refiner, said it was considering cutting Iran crude imports over a decision by government-run State Bank of India to stop dealing with Tehran. India is the second biggest buyer of Iranian oil and the country’s government has repeatedly said it would not implement Mr. Trump’s sanctions, which in November will bring back restrictions ended under former President Barack Obama.

European refiners, which buy around a third of Iran’s oil exports, are also dropping out. Italy’s Saras SpA is considering no longer buying Iranian oil because its banks don’t want to finance such trades, according to company officials. A Saras spokeswoman said it had made no final decision on Iran.

Big European banks had long stopped dealing with Tehran. Many have bad memories. France’s BNP Paribas , for instance, was fined a record $9 billion by the U.S. for violating Iran and Sudan sanctions in 2014.

Now, the host of small banks that continued dealing with the Islamic Republic are either restricting trades with Iran or stopping them altogether.

That includes Oberbank in Austria, Germany’s DZ Bank, Italy’s Banca Popolare di Sondrioand France-based Wormser, according to the banks and companies that deal with them.

Oberbank, DZ Bank and Wormser decided to stop Iran trades because they need to access dollars, according to people familiar with the matter.

Spokesmen at DZ Bank and Oberbank confirmed they are winding up transactions related to Iran. A spokeswoman for Wormser said it follows U.S. Treasury regulations on sanctions. Sondrio didn’t return a request for comment.

European officials have asked the region’s central banks and state-run lenders to step in where private lenders are reluctant to deal with companies working with Iran, according to people familiar with the matter. So far these institutions have mainly pushed back, the people say.

Among the reasons: Central banks need access to dollars.

“The most important challenge now is to find solutions on banking and finance, because legitimate trade and investment need banking partners and financing models that work,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a recent speech.

Back to the FutureSanctions have curbed Iran’s crude oil production and exports in the past.Million barrels a day, monthly averageSource: Joint Organizations Data InitiativeNote: Certain months (Aug., Dec. 2011; June ’12; Aug.-Oct. ’17) were unreported.
Deal reachedSanctions imposedFor domesticconsumptionFor export2010’11’12’13’14’15’16’17’180.00.51.01.52.02.53.03.54.04.5

Mostafa Pakzad, a Tehran-based broker, is currently trying to help an Iranian company pay $1 million to a U.S. agricultural exporter, but has been rebuffed by banks in Spain, France and Italy. Despite previous rounds of sanctions, that U.S. company had always been able to trade with Iran under exemptions for exports of food and medical goods. Mr. Pakzad declined to name the company.

The ubiquity of the dollar ensures a measure of U.S. jurisdiction over banks that have no dealings in America.

Global trade in U.S. dollars has been rising, according to Swift, the payment-services company. In 2017, the dollar accounted for 85% of global trade based on the value of letters of credit issued, up from 81% two years earlier.

The U.S. currency is involved in nearly nine out of every 10 transactions in the daily $5.1 trillion foreign-exchange market, 2016 data from the Bank for International Settlements showed.

With so many dollar transactions, many international banks need branches in the U.S., where they are able to settle these trades on behalf of their clients. That puts them in the remit of U.S. authorities. Even where a bank doesn’t have a U.S. branch, it likely has to deal with others that do, and these lenders are increasingly nervous about dealing with anyone else that has Iranian connections for fear of breaching U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. says it will pursue any company knowingly assisting another in breaching Iran sanctions even if it didn’t deal with Iran itself.

Under Mr. Obama, officials ensured Tehran retained some trade with the rest of the world, even lobbying banks and companies to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian goods.

“What has changed is the appetite of the U.S. administration to punish and vociferously go” after sanctioned entities, said Nigel Kushner, chief executive of London-based sanctions-focused law firm W Legal. Mr. Kushner said that a European client has stopped exporting grain to Iran after its bank stopped dealing with Tehran last month.

During a visit to Germany last week, Andrew Peek, the official in charge of Iran at the U.S. State Department, reminded those dealing with Iran about the risks they are facing.

“The goal is as little economic involvement as possible, the maximum economic pressure,” he told reporters on a conference call.

Almost all trade in oil, Iran’s main export, is in dollars. Above, an oil facility on an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf.
Almost all trade in oil, Iran’s main export, is in dollars. Above, an oil facility on an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf. PHOTO: STR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Write to Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com and Sarah McFarlane at sarah.mcfarlane@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

Erdogan Wins Another Term as Turkey’s President

Constitutional changes, which took effect with Sunday’s election, give leader expanded executive powers over legislation, judiciary

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won national elections Sunday.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won national elections Sunday. PHOTO: BULENT KILIC/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

ANKARA, Turkey—Voters extended President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 15-year hold on power and endorsed his increasingly authoritarian model of government in one of Washington’s most important but often defiant NATO allies.

With 98% of ballots counted, Mr. Erdogan had secured 52.5% of the vote, which would eliminate the need for a runoff, state-run news agency Anadolu reported. His nearest opponent, Muharrem Ince, a lawmaker from the secular Republican People’s Party, garnered 30.8%.

Mr. Erdogan’s party and alliance partner garnered 53.6% of the vote in legislative elections, allowing the president to also maintain control of Parliament, Anadolu reported.

“The nation has given me the duty as president,” the 64-year-old Mr. Erdogan said in a victory speech from Istanbul. In Ankara, drivers honked their horns and supporters waved Turkish flags along the main boulevards of the capital. He had campaigned on his motto that “a great Turkey needs a strong leader.”

An unusually united opposition, however, said numbers released by Anadolu were manipulated, suggesting further tension and uncertainty in the strategic linchpin between the West and the Middle East.

Muharrem Ince was a leading challenger in Sunday’s election to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Muharrem Ince was a leading challenger in Sunday’s election to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: TOLGA ADANALI/DEPO PHOTOS/ZUMA PRESS

Forces that are far apart on the political spectrum—the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the newly created nationalist Good Party and the pro-Islam Felicity Party—joined to oppose Mr. Erdogan.

Mr. Ince galvanized large crowds of supporters across the country. After Mr. Erdogan mocked him as “the poor guy” CHP lined up, his rival said he was indeed the son of a poor truck driver, adding: “It is better to be poor than to earn dirty money.” When Mr. Erdogan proposed building libraries with free tea and cakes, Mr. Ince said “If you want to eat free cakes, vote for Mr. Erdogan, if you want factory jobs, vote for me.”

Mr. Erdogan has been running the nation of 80 million under emergency rule he instituted after a failed coup in 2016.

Constitutional changes, approved by voters last year and which will now take effect, give him vastly expanded executive powers over legislation and the judiciary in his new, five-year term.

With a majority in Parliament, he will have unprecedented control over a state apparatus he has purged of tens of thousands of civil servants he suspects have had sympathy with coup plotters.

Legislative GripPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan will control parliament thanks to an alliance with the NationalistMovement Party.Projected share of parliamentary seats*Source: Turkey’s Anadolu news agency*98.8% of votes counted
Erdogan’s Justice and Development PartyNationalist Movement PartyPeoples’ Democratic PartyRepublican People’s PartyGood PartyShare0%255075100

The CHP, which had deployed tens of thousands of supporters and created special cellphone apps to collate results independently from the electoral board, said that under its count, Mr. Ince had qualified for a runoff against Mr. Erdogan.

Supporters of Mr. Erdogan “shouldn’t celebrate,” said Bulent Tezcan, the CHP’s vice chairman and spokesman. “We will work all night, until the results are right.”

Under the state of emergency, the opposition’s options are limited.

In a Twitter post, Mr. Ince said he planned to comment on the results at a press conference at noon on Monday.

Turkish television showed police installing roadblocks around the building of the election board in Ankara in anticipation of possible protests.

Officials at Mr. Erdogan’s Justice & Development Party, or AKP, said balloting had been fair.

“As the ruling party, we have ensured that not only our votes but all the votes were accounted for,” AKP spokesman Mahir Unal said. “It’s our duty.”

The election board didn’t release figures but said Mr. Erdogan had won “an absolute majority.” A complete vote count is expected to be released on Monday, with official results later in the week.

Mr. Erdogan’s first steps after the election will be closely watched by Western capitals: Turkey is helping Europe control a migrant influx, has repositioned itself as a power broker in the Syrian war and is at loggerheads with Washington, its ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The results will also weigh on the nation’s economy as the Turkish lira drops: During the campaign, the president said he would continue to rely on investment in large infrastructure projects and a steady flow of cheap consumer credit to fuel high economic growth.

Some analysts said the strategy has made Turkey overly dependent on inflow of foreign investments, and could falter if the country is seen as a big political risk.

The lira, which has lost about a quarter of its value against the dollar since the start of the year, has suffered from the president’s pledge to play a bigger role in defining monetary policy.

“Turkey is like a spoiled child that hasn’t been punished,” said Atilla Yesilada, country analyst with Global Source Partners, a management consultancy.

This month, some of the political tensions between the U.S. and Turkey had appeared to ease when they said they had reached a tentative agreement on how to resolve a long-festering issue over the role of Kurdish fighters in Syria, whom Washington sees as allies in the fight against Islamic State, and Ankara regards as terrorists.

But the bilateral relationship has soured over many flashpoints.

The U.S. is angry over Turkey’s decision to purchase an antimissile shield from Russia and Turkish authorities are stewing over the lack of action on their demand that the U.S. deport a cleric they say was behind the failed coup. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the accusation.

Turkish-U. S. relations will be tested as soon as July 18, the date of a planned hearing in the trial of an American pastor detained in Turkey on accusations he colluded with coup plotters and Kurdish terrorists. The pastor, Andrew Brunson, denies the accusations.

Members of the U.S. Congress have labeled the detention of the Presbyterian minister “hostage taking,” and threatened sanctions, including an embargo on deliveries of advanced F-35 jet fighters to Turkey, if he wasn’t released quickly. Turkish authorities say the charges, which Mr. Brunson denies, are serious.

Mr. Erdogan called the vote in late April despite the fact that elections weren’t due until the end of 2019, catching the country and rival contenders off guard.

For weeks, he campaigned with little apparent competition, unveiling planned construction projects, including a 25-mile canal parallel to the Bosporus and announcing a $6 billion package comprising a tax amnesty and special allowances for retirees.

Among supporters of the opposition, Mr. Ince’s energetic campaign fueled hopes in opposition ranks that an alternative to Mr. Erdogan was possible.

“I am surprised,” said Mehmet Asil Yilmaz, a 24-year-old university graduate who spent the evening at CHP headquarters in Ankara to follow the results. “I really thought Mr. Ince would at least qualify for a runoff and have a go at the presidency.”

When he cast his vote in Istanbul on Sunday, Mr. Erdogan was greeted with chants and applause.

“Stand upright, the nation is by your side,” a crowd of supporters chanted in unison as they gathered near the school, which was being used as a polling station.

Among them, Beytullah Altinogullari, a 30-year old construction worker, said he had voted for Mr. Erdogan because, although the economy wasn’t doing well, the president was entirely devoted to his task.

“He’s the captain of Turkey,” he said.

Write to David Gauthier-Villars at David.Gauthier-Villars@wsj.com and Yeliz Candemir at yeliz.candemir@wsj.com

courtesy: wsj

How hundreds of Yemenis fleeing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis ended up on a resort island in South Korea


Yemeni refugees line up to register for a jobs forum at the Jeju immigration office on June 19. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

 This is the end of the line for hundreds of Yemeni refugees fleeing war 5,000 miles away.

The setting is a new one in a world of migrants and asylum seekers on the move: a resort island off South Korea’s southern coast where tourists come to dive the reefs, golf and eat local seafood specialties.

But the wider story unfolding on Jeju Island is familiar. It is about desperate people looking for any loopholes or undiscovered pathways on the migrant trails crisscrossing the globe, seeking a place willing to take them in.

It is how Africans have shown up on the U.S.-Mexico border after an overland trek from Brazil, how Syrians came ashore on Greek beaches in 2015 and how Iranians are among those in holding camps on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. And how South Korea is now thrust into a refugee quandary that caught it by surprise.

 0:43
Yemeni refugees find their way to South Korea’s resort island of Jeju

Yemeni’s fleeing war began arriving on the island of Jeju, South Korea in early spring. Drawn by tourist-friendly visas, they now number in the hundreds. 

Jeju’s improbable turn began in early spring.

Word was out already of Jeju’s tourist-friendly visa policies, making it one of the few places that did not require advance visas for Yemenis. A few Yemenis reached Jeju in recent years to make claims for refugee status in South Korea.

What changed this year was a new direct flight to Jeju on a budget airline from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, which also grants Yemenis a visa on arrival. At first, a trickle of Yemenis arrived. Then many more — all willing to risk sometimes all their savings to flee more than four years of warfare and deepening humanitarian miseries.

The hope was that Jeju would be a springboard to reach Seoul and apply for refugee protections. But that proved wrong. South Korean officials quickly blocked Yemenis from leaving the island, and on June 1, Jeju dropped Yemen from the no-visa rules to join a handful of other countries including Syria, Iran and Nigeria.

The more than 500 Yemenis who made it to Jeju before the door closed — mostly men, but some families with children — are stranded. They can’t reach the mainland, and few have the money or inclination to return to Malaysia.

“We are not wanted anywhere,” said Ahmed Abdu, 23, who left Ibb in central Yemen in April on a more than $2,000 trip through Jordan and Qatar, then to Kuala Lumpur and on to Jeju. “America doesn’t want us. Europe doesn’t want us. Saudi Arabia doesn’t want us. When we heard about Jeju, we thought, ‘Maybe this is a place that can save us.’ ”


Ahmed Abdu stands outside the Jeju immigration office, which was holding a jobs forum. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

He paused to think about what he had just said. “We can’t leave. That is true,” he added. “But we are alive. We are not worrying about war. That is something very good.”

Abdu, like many Yemenis in rebel-held territory, was caught in the middle. His neighborhood was blasted by waves of Saudi-led airstrikes — using U.S.-made warplanes and weaponry — against rebel fighters, known as Houthis, controlling most of northern Yemen. Riyadh and its allies claim the Houthis receive direct support from Iran, something Tehran officials deny. Abdu did not want to talk about how many relatives and friends had been killed. “Many,” he said.

The tipping point came after Houthi forces tried to conscript young men in his area, he said. “I knew there was no way I could remain.”

Yemen continues to sink deeper into chaos. A push by Saudi-led forces to claim the port of Hodeida, a critical entry point for food, fuel, medicine and other supplies, has touched off another civilian exodus, and international aid groups warn that an all-out fight for the city could inflict another staggering blow.

At first, Abdu and the other Yemenis arriving in Jeju, which has a population of about 600,000, were left to fend for themselves. They piled into hostels, cheap hotels and campgrounds, getting an occasional meal from a restaurant or volunteers.

Slowly, some help has taken shape.

On Monday, more than 200 Yemenis received free health screenings conducted by the Korean Red Cross and lined up for jobs arranged by Jeju officials while their refugee status was being assessed, which could take months or longer. Some took tough work that Koreans do not want — on fishing boats or fish farms making the legal minimum wage of about $1,500 a month. The luckier ones found jobs in restaurant kitchens. A local migrant aid society — which normally deals with Filipinos and other Asians — started Korean language classes for Yemenis.


Yemenis line up for a free health screening by the Korean Red Cross. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

Yemenis attend an information session on life in South Korea at the Jeju immigration office. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

But the Yemenis in Jeju have opened a difficult conversation in a nation where only a small fraction of refugees have been approved to stay since the 1990s. Last year, South Korea completed reviews of 6,015 refugee claims, rejecting all but 91 of them, according to the Justice Ministry. Eleven of the Yemenis who passed through Jeju in earlier years were among those granted refugee status.

“About 500 people from Yemen may not seem like a lot for countries that have dealt with hundreds of thousands, even millions, of refugees and people fleeing war,” said Lee Il, a rights attorney with Seoul-based Advocates for Public Interest Law. “Here, it has forced people to think about the wider world of suffering and, in a rich country, how we fit in.”

On May 31, the Yemeni arrivals sparked perhaps the first anti-
immigrant march in Jeju, an island still identified by many South Koreans as the scene of bloody anti-communist purges by the U.S.-backed government in Seoul before the Korean War. The demonstrators complained that Jeju’s visa-free program has been “abused as a gateway for illegal entry” into South Korea.

In Seoul, an online petition calling for a pause in the acceptance of refugees drew more than 200,000 shows of support Monday on the presidential Blue House website — meaning the government must issue a response within 30 days. The answer will lack legal force but can indicate a direction for policy.

Kim Eui-keum, a spokesman for the presidential office, said Wednesday that police patrols on Jeju will be stepped up to “avoid unnecessary clashes or interference.”

Jeju’s governor, Won Hee-
ryong, said Monday that he believes authorities and private businesses should band together to help the Yemenis.

“Jeju can set an example for the first refugee crisis our country is facing,” he said at a meeting.

Still, resources are thin. There was only one immigration investigator on Jeju to hear refugee cases when the Yemenis began to arrive. Just two people on the island spoke Arabic. On Monday, one of them led the translation for a crash seminar on South Korean culture for about 100 Yemenis, all men.

“I thought I’d be in Jeju maybe two weeks and then head on to Seoul,” said Gamdan, a 36-year-old from Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, who arrived in Jeju last month. “It was a big surprise when I learned that I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Gamdan, who gave only his first name, serves as an Arabic-English translator for the increasing number of groups on Jeju who need it.

Sister Cristina Gal, part of a Roman Catholic aid service, handed a cellphone to Gamdan.

“Tell her that we found her a house to live in,” she said.

Gamdan told the Yemeni woman on the phone the good news — someone in Jeju had offered her a place to stay for at least a month.

In the next room, a South Korean volunteer quizzed Yunes Melhi Naji, a 27-year-old waiting for a free dental check for an aching molar. The volunteer, who knew almost nothing of Ramadan, wanted to know more about the Muslim month of dawn-to-dusk fasting that had just ended.

“But you must drink water during the day?” the woman asked in English.

“Nothing,” answered Naji.

“But no water ever?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “The Ramadan fast is no problem. What is a problem is being here without work and not knowing what will happen.”

Min Joo Kim contributed to this report.

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