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The name of the US system is not the “presidential system”

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11 years after the United States declared independence from the British Kingdom, 55 people representing 12 colonies gathered in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. Their aim was to make a constitution that would shape the new state, which had been in the form of a loose confederation for 11 years. These 55 men did not have a republic administration that could set an example in the world of those days. They learned by painfully experiencing the arbitrariness and tyranny of a system in which the governors of the colony were the ‘governor of their majesty’, the judges’ the ‘judge of their majesty’, and the law was the ‘command of his majesty’. However, the experience of “democracy” in the colonies within 11 years after the declaration of independence did not turn out very bright. In many places of the colonies, only decisions based on majority vote had arbitrary and overbearing pressure on the minority, as much as the governors of their majesty. They were looking for a system that would not allow arbitrariness and abuse of power, but also guarantee equality, freedom and rights for each individual. For this reason, it is understood from their correspondence and discussions in those days that they have studied all the management experiences in history since Ancient Greece. French lawyer Montesquieu was also one of the names that he was most impressed with. The theory of separation of powers expressed by Montesquieu in the Spirit of Laws published in 1748 was one of the most important guides in shaping the new American state.

James Madison, one of the architects of the US Constitution, wrote in the Federalist article No. 51 published in 1788: Regardless of whether he came with reign or election, giving the same hand is the definition of tyranny. ”

After the Constitutional Assembly, which lasted 3 months and 23 days until September 17, 1787, the world’s shortest constitution with 7 articles (including 27 additional articles to be added in the following years) emerged. The first three articles of the Constitution guarantee the separation of powers. They preferred to put the chairman, the executive, not the executive, the legislative power, in the center of the state. The first article held the Congress, the second the presidency and the third the judiciary.

During the approval of the Constitution at state congresses throughout 1788, some criticized that the first three articles of the Constitution did not bring a pure separation of powers. For example, the president had the power to veto a law passed by the Congress. This was the exercise of legislative power by the president. The Senate also had the power to reject the president’s appointments to federal institutions. This was executive power. These people were right in their criticism. As a matter of fact, James Madison, one of the most important actors in the creation of the new Constitution, would write that “a pure separation of powers is practically not possible and this is not the intention of Montesquieu.”

But what would prevent the state’s legislative, judicial and executive powers from gathering in the same hand, and thus the disappearance of the republic, if it was impossible for them to be completely separated?

The essence of the American constitutional state system emerged in this search for a solution: ‘Check and Balance’, namely ‘Balance and Supervision’. In fact, although there are some primitive practices in the British monarchy, Madison is also referred to as the “Madisonian Model” because it was the idea pioneer of applying it to a republic for the first time. In the balance and supervision system, the powers that make the law, enforce it and interpret the law will be independent from each other, but they will also have the power to control each other when they exceed their authority.

After the Constitution was adopted, despite these mechanisms, the feeling that state power continued to pose a potential threat to the rights and freedoms of citizens. Madison and Thomas Jefferson also joined this concern. Madison expressed concern that an oppressive majority could easily violate minority rights, and submitted an additional 10 amendments to the Constitution, called the ‘Bill of Rights’ in 1789. The constitutional amendment was approved in 1791. First Amendment, which restricts the freedom of expression and assembly of the congress or prohibits making laws against / against any religion, included the three powers of the state as well as the public in the system of ‘balance and supervision’. In other words, media, non-governmental organizations or ordinary citizens also gained the right to control, criticize, disclose and campaign against all kinds of activities of the state.

The retouch that Montesquieu is the real separation of “separation of powers” will come from the US Supreme Court on February 24, 1803.

In the case of William Marbury, who was appointed as a judge but whose appointment was not processed due to a lack of procedure; the case-law of the Supreme Court regarding the role of the judiciary rather than the content of the case was the beginning of the age of “separation of powers”.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, in the decision of the case called ‘Marbury v Madison, there should be a man to protect the constitution; both against the executive and the legislature, and that it was the judiciary. That is, the courts were judged to have the power to cancel the laws, presidential decrees and practices they found unconstitutional.

President of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, wrote on the grounds: “The constitution is either a superior law that cannot be easily changed like ordinary laws, or it is the same level of savings as ordinary laws that the legislative power can change at any time. If the first of these options is true, the legislative body’s unconstitutional savings cannot qualify as a law. The second point is that written constitutions are like a meaningless attempt by nations to limit a force that is inherently impossible to limit. ”

Marbury v 1803 of the Supreme Court. The main purpose of this judicial control, which he reinforced with the case law in the Madison case, was to prevent the establishment of a dictatorship in the country by the executive or legislative power, or the denial of the constitutional order by law, and to guarantee the survival of the constitutional order of the republic.

Since this jurisprudence, both the federal district court and the Supreme Court have been able to revoke a law made by the Congress on the grounds that it is against the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton would write that the judicial control, which he described as the “legislative powers’ barrier against abuse”, was “the most shaping of the character of the American state system”.

The American system is of course not a perfect system. It also produced many problems. However, this system is the most important reason why the USA has not had a dictatorship experience for 227 years, has not witnessed a democracy cut, and is known as the ‘country of freedoms’. In political history, it continues to be the most effective mechanism for preventing abuse of state power.

In the USA, the term “presidential system” is a statement used for executive power in the context of the relationship between legislature and executive powers. It is not a concept that describes the American state system. In fact, this false perception occurred in the 20th century with the development of mass media. For example, Abraham Lincoln, who was considered the most important president of the USA by historians, was a name he did not know throughout the world, even in Europe. The first world-renowned president was Woodrow Wilson, president of World War I. The fact that the US presidential elections became the center of attention started in 1960 with the election of John F. Kennedy. The importance attributed to the president in the American public has increased in the last century. The position of the presidents, especially in foreign policy, strengthened relatively during the Cold War. However, the President is still not the power at the center of the system. It’s not the only power. The name of the American state system is not the “presidential system” but the “balance and control system”.

A state equipped with control mechanisms

The system of balance and control produces constant tension and strife among the three powers of the state. But this is exactly what constitutionalists want. Madison would record, “the passion of every man breaks another man from exceeding his authority.” This conflict, which mostly produces results for the benefit of America, is found all over the American system at the local or federal scale.

The President of the USA has the power to veto the law made by the Congress, but Congress has the power to pass the veto by two-thirds of the votes and enact the same bill.

From the ministers, ambassadors, the CIA and FBI presidents to the heads of federal institutions such as NASA and the Central Bank, the president chooses the candidate for all the important authorities of the executive, but only if the Senate approves.

Candidates for the vacant membership of the Supreme Court and judges to the federal courts elect the president, but they can start their duty only if the absolute majority of the Senate approves. Federal judges and members of the Supreme Court can never be dismissed and amended against their personal rights unless they retire voluntarily after they have taken office. This prevents a single government from completely filling the judiciary with its own staff within the mandate. Nevertheless, Congress can dismiss judges whose heavy penalty criminal crime is fixed from their duties.

The president and ministers sign international treaties on behalf of the US state, but the approval of two-thirds of the Senate is required for these treaties to take effect. The judiciary can also revoke the administrative decisions of the head of state or international treaties by finding it unconstitutional.

The Congress has the power to dismiss the President of the USA, the rulers of the federal institutions. During the dismissal, the House of Representatives acts as the admissions authority of the indictment and the Senate as a court. In these sessions, the President of the Senate is chaired by the Senate. The Assembly has exercised the power to initiate the process of dismissal about the president twice so far.

Through its committees and subcommittees, federal institutions have the authority to examine, investigate and, if necessary, refer to all decisions, policies and procedures. One of the ex-presidents, Woodrow Wilson, would state that the Congress has this legislative power over administrative functioning.

Congress can annul the Supreme Court case-law by amending the Constitution. But the constitutional amendment can only take place with the two-thirds vote of both wings of the Congress and the approval of three-quarters of the 50 state congresses. In other words, it is impossible for a party to change the Constitution alone, no matter how strong it is.

As a PhD student, he studies in political science and public administration , actively serves as an court expert and is the president of the board of Genç Düşünce Enstitüsü.

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Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success

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This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the United Arab Emirates highlights the successes and pitfalls of a high-stakes Emirati effort to influence US policy.

The indictment of businessman Thomas  J. Barrack, who maintained close ties to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed while serving as an influential advisor in 2016 to then-presidential candidate Trump and chair of Mr. Trump’s inauguration committee once he won the 2016 election, puts at risk the UAE’s relationship with the Biden administration.

It also threatens to reduce the UAE’s return on a massive investment in lobbying and public relations that made it a darling in Washington during the last four years.

A 2019 study concluded that Emirati clients hired 20 US lobbying firms to do their bidding at a cost of US$20 million, including US$600,000 in election campaign contributions — one of the largest, if not the largest expenditure by a single state on Washington lobbying and influence peddling.

The indictment further raises the question of why the Biden administration was willing to allow legal proceedings to put at risk its relationship with one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, one that last year opened the door to recognition of Israel by Arab and Muslim-majority states.

The UAE lobbying effort sought to position the Emirates, and at its behest, Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed’s counterpart, Mohammed bin Salman, at the heart of US policy, ensure that Emirati and Saudi interests were protected, and shield the two autocrats from criticism of various of their policies and abuse of human rights.

Interestingly, UAE lobbying in the United States, in contrast to France and Austria, failed to persuade the Trump administration to embrace one of the Emirates’ core policy objectives: a US crackdown on political Islam with a focus on the Muslim Brotherhood. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed views political Islam and the Brotherhood that embraces the principle of elections as an existential threat to the survival of his regime.

In one instance cited in the indictment, Mr. Barrack’s two co-defendants, a UAE national resident in the United States, Rashid Al-Malik, and Matthew Grimes, a Barrack employee, discussed days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration the possibility of persuading the new administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a designated foreign terrorist organization. “This will be a huge win. If we can list them. And they deserved to be,” Mr. Al-Malik texted Mr. Grimes on 23 January 2017.

The unsuccessful push for designating the Brotherhood came three months after Mr. Barrack identified the two Prince Mohammeds in an op-ed in Fortune magazine as members of a new generation of “brilliant young leaders.” The billionaire argued that “American foreign policy must persuade these bold visionaries to lean West rather than East… By supporting their anti-terrorism platforms abroad, America enhances its anti-terrorism policies at home.”

Mr. Barrack further sought to persuade America’s new policymakers, in line with Emirati thinking, that the threat posed by political Islam emanated not only from Iran’s clerical regime and its asymmetric defence and security policies but also from the Brotherhood and Tukey’s Islamist government. He echoed Emirati promotion of Saudi Arabia after the rise of Mohammed bin Salman as the most effective bulwark against political Islam.

“It is impossible for the US to move against any hostile Islamic group anywhere in the world without Saudi support…. The confused notion that Saudi Arabia is synonymous with radical Islam is falsely based on the Western notion that ‘one size fits all,’ Mr. Barrack asserted.

The Trump administration’s refusal to exempt the Brotherhood from its embrace of Emirati policy was the likely result of differences within both the US government and the Muslim world. Analysts suggest that some in the administration feared that designating the Brotherhood would empower the more rabidly Islamophobic elements in Mr. Trump’s support base.

Administration officials also recognized that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt constituted a minority, albeit a powerful minority, in the Muslim world that was on the warpath against the Brotherhood.

Elsewhere, Brotherhood affiliates were part of the political structure by either participating in government or constituting part of the legal opposition in countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Indonesia.

The affiliates have at times supported US policies or worked closely with US allies like in the case of Yemen’s Al Islah that is aligned with Saudi-backed forces.

In contrast to UAE efforts to ensure that the Brotherhood is crushed at the risk of fueling Islamophobia, Nahdlatul Ulama, one of, if not the world’s largest Muslim organization which shares the Emirates’ rejection of political Islam and the Brotherhood, has opted to fight the Brotherhood’s local Indonesian affiliate politically within a democratic framework rather than by resorting to coercive tactics.

Nahdlatul Ulama prides itself on having significantly diminished the prospects of Indonesia’s Brotherhood affiliate, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), since the 2009 presidential election. The group at the time successfully drove a wedge between then-President Susilo Yudhoyono, and the PKS, his coalition partner since the 2004 election that brought him to power. In doing so, it persuaded Mr. Yudhoyono to reject a PKS candidate as vice president in the second term of his presidency.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s manoeuvring included the publication of a book asserting that the PKS had not shed its links to militancy. The party has since failed to win even half of its peak 38 seats in parliament garnered in the 2004 election.

“Publication of ‘The Illusion of an Islamic State: The Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements to Indonesia’ had a considerable impact on domestic policy. It primarily contributed to neutralizing one candidate’s bid for vice president in the 2009 national election campaign, who had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said militancy expert Magnus Ranstorp.

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Biden Revises US Sanctions Policy

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his political goals and, at the same time, reducing political and economic costs. The coordination of restrictive measures with allies is also seen as an important task. Biden is cautiously but consistently abandoning the sanctions paradigm that emerged during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The US sanctions policy under Trump was characterised by several elements. First, Washington applied them quite harshly. In all key areas (China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), the United States used economic and financial restrictions without hesitation, and sometimes in unprecedented volumes. Of course, the Trump administration acted rationally and rigidity was not an end in itself. In a number of episodes, the American authorities acted prudently (for example, regarding sanctions on Russian sovereign debt in 2019). The Trump-led executives stifled excess Congressional enthusiasm for “draconian sanctions” against Russia and even some initiatives against China. However, the harshness of other measures sometimes shocked allies and opponents alike. These include the 6 April 2014 sanctions against a group of Russian businessmen and their assets, or bans on some Chinese telecommunications services in the United States, or sanctions blocking the International Criminal Court.

Second, Trump clearly ignored the views of US allies. The unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 forced European businesses to leave Iran, resulting in losses. Even some of the nation’s closest allies were annoyed. Another irritant was the tenacity with which Trump (with Congressional backing) threw a wrench in the wheels of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Despite the complicated relations between Moscow and the European Union, the latter defended the right to independently determine what was in its interests and what was not.

Third, concerns about sanctions have emerged among American business as well. Fears have grown in financial circles that the excessive use of sanctions will provoke the unnecessary politicisation of the global financial system. In the short term, a radical decline in the global role of the dollar is hardly possible. But political risks are forcing many governments to seriously consider it. Both rivals (Moscow and Beijing) and allies (Brussels) have begun to implement corresponding plans. Trade sanctions against China have affected a number of US companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sectors.

Finally, on some issues, the Trump administration has been inconsistent or simply made mistakes. For example, Trump enthusiastically criticised China for human rights violations, supporting relevant legislative initiatives. But at the same time, it almost closed its eyes to the events in Belarus in 2020. Congress was also extremely unhappy with the delay in the reaction on the “Navalny case” in Russia. As for mistakes, the past administration missed the moment for humanitarian exemptions for sanctions regimes in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. Even cosmetic indulgences could have won points for US “soft power”. Instead, the US Treasury has published a list of pre-existing exceptions.

The preconditions for a revision of the sanctions policy arose even before Joe Biden came to power. First of all, a lot of analytical work was done by American think tanks—nongovernmental research centers. They provided a completely sober and unbiased analysis of bothха! achievements and mistakes. In addition, the US Government Accountability Office has done serious work; in 2019 it prepared two reports for Congress on the institutions of the American sanctions policy. However, Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election significantly accelerated the revision of the sanctions instruments. Both the ideological preferences of the Democrats (for example, the emphasis on human rights) and the political experience of Biden himself played a role.

The new guidelines for the US sanctions policy can be summarised as follows. First, the development of targeted sanctions and a more serious analysis of their economic costs for American business, as well as business from allied and partner countries. Second, closer coordination with allies. Here, Biden has already sent a number of encouraging signals by introducing temporary sanctions exemptions on Nord Stream 2. Although a number of Russian organisations and ships were included in the US sanctions lists, Nord Stream 2 itself and its leadership were not affected. Third, we are talking about closer attention to the subject of human rights. Biden has already reacted with sanctions both to the “Navalny case” and to the situation in Belarus. Human rights will be an irritant in relations with China. Fourth, the administration is working towards overturning Trump’s most controversial decisions. The 2020 decrees on Chinese telecoms were cancelled, the decree on sanctions against the International Criminal Court was cancelled, the decree on Chinese military-industrial companies was modified; negotiations are also underway with Iran.

The US Treasury, one of the key US sanctions agencies, will also undergo personnel updates. Elisabeth Rosenberg, a prominent sanctions expert who previously worked at the Center for a New American Security, may take the post of Assistant Treasury Secretary. She will oversee the subject of sanctions. Thus, the principle of “revolving doors”, which is familiar to Americans, is being implemented, when the civil service is replenished with personnel from the expert community and business, and then “returns” them back.

At the same time, the revision of the sanctions policy by the new administration cannot be called a revolution. The institutional arrangement will remain unchanged. It is a combination of the functions of various departments—the Treasury, the Department of Trade, the Department of Justice, the State Department, etc. The experience of their interagency coordination has accumulated over the years. The system worked flawlessly both under Trump and under his predecessors. Rather, it will be about changing the political directives.

For Russia, the revision is unlikely to bring radical changes. A withdrawal from the carpet bombing of Russian business, such as the incident on 6 April 2018 hint that good news can be considered a possibility. However, the legal mechanisms of sanctions against Russia will continue to operate. The emphasis on human rights will lead to an increase in sanctions against government structures. Against this background, regular political crises are possible in relations between the two countries.

From our partner RIAC

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Sea Breeze 2021: U.S. is worryingly heading closer to conflict with Russia in the Black Sea

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On July 10th, the 2021 iteration of the joint military exercise, Sea Breeze, concluded in the Black Sea. This exercise, which began on June 28th was co-hosted by the Ukrainian Navy and the United States Navy’s Sixth Fleet. According to the U.S. Navy, the annual Exercise Sea Breeze consists of joint naval, land, and air trainings and operations centered around building increased shared capabilities in the Black Sea.

This year’s Sea Breeze included participation from 32 countries, including NATO members and other countries that border the Black Sea, making it the largest Sea Breeze exercise since its inception in 1997. All other countries bordering the Black Sea were included in participating in the joint drills, except Russia.

Russia’s exclusion from these exercises is not unsurprising, due to its current tensions with Ukraine and its historical relationship with NATO. However, it signals to Moscow and the rest of the world that the NATO views Russia as an opponent in a future conflict. At the opening ceremony of Sea Breeze 2021 in Odessa, it was made clear that the intention of the exercise was to prepare for future conflict in the region when the Defense Minister of Ukraine, reported that the drills “contain a powerful message – support of stability and peace in our region.”

These exercises and provocations do anything but bring peace and stability to the region. In fact, they draw the United States and NATO dangerously close to the brink of conflict with Russia.

Even though Sea Breeze 2021 has only recently concluded, it has already had a marked impact on tensions between NATO countries and Moscow. U.S. Navy Commander Daniel Marzluff recently explained that the Sea Breeze drills in the Black Sea are essential deterrents to Russian assertions in region. However, these drills have consisted of increasingly provocative maneuvers that ultimately provoke conflict in the region.

These drills have done anything but act as a deterrent for conflict in the Black Sea. In response to the Sea Breeze drills, Russia conducted its own drills in the Black Sea, including the simulation of firing advanced missile systems against enemy aircraft. As the Black Sea is of utmost importance to Russia’s trade and military stature, it follows that Russia would signal its displacement if it perceives its claims are being threatened.   

Sea Breeze followed another rise in tensions in the Black Sea, when just a week prior to the beginning of the exercise, a clash occurred between Russia and Britain. In response to the British destroyer ship, the HMS Defender, patrolling inside Crimean territorial waters, Russia claimed it fired warning shots and ordered two bombers to drop bombs in the path of the ship. When asked about the HMS Defender, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the ship’s actions as a “provocation” that was a “blatant violation” of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Putin also went on to claim that Moscow believes U.S. reconnaissance aircraft were a part of the operation as well. Despite this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded with a denial of any wrongdoing.

Russia’s actions to provocations by the United States-led Sea Breeze and interaction with the HMS Defender in the Black Sea signal its resolve to retaliate if it feels as its sovereignty and its territorial claim on Crimea is being impeded on. Despite Russia signaling its commitment to defending its territorial claims in the Black Sea, the United States still willingly took actions during Sea Breeze that would bring the United States closer to a clash with Russia.  

Provoking conflict in the Black Sea does not align with the national security interests of the United States. In fact, it only puts the United States in the position to be involved in a costly clash that only would harm its diplomatic relationships.  

As Russia has signaled its commitment to its resolve and scope of its military response in a possible conflict, any potential conflict in the Black Sea would be costly for the United States. Over the past few years, Russia has increased the size and capabilities of its fleet in the Black Sea. Two of these improvements would especially pose a challenging threat to the U.S. and NATO – Russia’s drastically improved anti-access/area-denial capabilities and its new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. This would mean any conflict in the Black Sea would not be a quick and decisive victory for U.S. and NATO forces, and would instead likely become costly and extensive.  

A conflict with Russia in the Black Sea would not only be costly for the U.S. and its allies in the region, but could irreparably damage its fragile, but strategically valuable relationship with Russia. If the United States continues to escalate tensions in the Black Sea, it risks closing the limited window for bilateral cooperation with Russia that was opened through increased willingness to collaborate on areas of common interests, as evidenced by the recent summit that took place in Geneva. After a period of the highest levels of tension between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War, this progress made towards improving bilateral relations must not be taken for granted. Even if the U.S. and NATO’s maneuvers in the Black Sea do not ultimately materialize into a full-scale conflict with Russia, they will most likely damage not just recent diplomatic momentum, but future opportunities for a relationship between the two powers.

In such a critical time for the relationship between the United States and Russia, it is counterproductive for the United States to take actions that it can predict will drive Russia even further away. Entering into a conflict with Russia in the Black Sea would not only engage the U.S. in a costly conflict but would damage its security and diplomatic interests.  

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