Turkey’s Syria Labyrinth (2)

August 19, 2019

In early August, American and Turkish military delegations met in Ankara to discuss plans to coordinate the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria. A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said they agreed on the rapid implementation of initial measures to address Turkey’s security concerns; to stand-up a joint operations center in Turkey as soon as possible in order to coordinate and manage the establishment of the safe zone together; and, that the safe zone shall become a peace corridor, and every effort shall be made so that displaced Syrians can return to their country. Continue reading

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History Will Judge Them Harshly

August 6, 2019

In a couple of years, the world could well be speaking of a decade of conflict in Syria in which regional and external powers were involved either directly or through proxies.

The Islamic State remains a threat. Thousands and thousands of jihadist fighters not only from those directly involved but also from distant countries traveled to Syria to take part in the fighting. Their return home has now become a security challenge. Specialist monitors at the UN have warned that a recent pause in international terrorist violence may soon end, with the possibility of a new wave of attacks before the end of the year. What this portends for the clash or dialogue of civilizations remains to be seen. Continue reading

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Quo Vadis Turkey (3)

Co-authored with Yusuf Buluc (*)

July 29, 2019

A year ago, if one were patient enough to draw up a list of the problems on the Turkish-American agenda this would have reflected a relationship not between NATO allies or family members as some seem to remember in times of distress but adversaries. It is the overall bilateral chemistry, Syria, PYD/YPG, FETO, Iran sanctions, Turkey’s purchase of S-400s, US threat not to deliver F-35 aircraft, obstacles to trade, not to mention the Brunson case.

Any progress after a whole year? None at all, except Pastor Brunson leaving Turkey on October 12, 2018 under dubious judicial procedures.

A development which has much more than symbolic value is the delivery of the S-400 air and missile defense system to Turkey. Consequently, and as threatened by the US, Turkey is going to be excluded from the F-35 program costing the Turkish economy dearly. Ankara and Washington still seem unable to find common ground in their respective operations in Syria. The current situation almost begs the question whether they are seriously searching for that. Continue reading

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Gulf Crisis Reaching the Mediterranean

July 22, 2019

On July 4, British Royal Marines seized near Gibraltar the supertanker Grace 1 suspected of carrying Iranian oil to Syria. This was the first such detention of a ship under the European sanctions targeting supplies to Syria. The tanker is registered in Panama and owned by a Singapore-based company.

Coming on the Independence Day, the detention more than delighted the hawks in the Trump administration as Simon Tisdall wrote in the Guardian. (*) Continue reading

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Turkey’s Foreign and Security Policy Quandary

July 16, 2019

On July 5, The Atlantic published an article by Thomas Wright, Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The title was “Trump Couldn’t Ignore the Contradictions of His Foreign Policy Any Longer”. (*)

The article provides interesting insight on the evolution of President Trump’s foreign policy. What attracted my attention more than anything else was the very first paragraph: Continue reading

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Dangers of Overreach

July 10, 2019

Seven years ago, Ankara was partnering with Western countries and some Gulf states for regime change in Syria. Leaders of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) were claiming that this was going to be accomplished within months if not weeks. Seven years later, those partners none of which shared a 910-kilometer border with Syria are no longer with us. Yes, the U.S. is still there but now we are on very different paths. Despite our failing economy, JDP leaders proudly announce that so far Turkey has spent 40 billion dollars for the four million Syrian refugees in Turkey. This is only the tip of the iceberg if one were to look at the political/economic/security losses we incurred as a result of our involvement in the conflict. Continue reading

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U.S. Policy Toward North Korea and Iran

July 3, 2019

On April 27, 2018 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un crossed the line that has divided the Korean Peninsula for the last 65 years, for a historic summit with President Moon Jae-in. The two leaders signed the three-page “Panmunjom Declaration,” which mentioned the ushering in of a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, alleviating military tension and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The declaration also confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a “nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” However, this was the last item coming after other measures to ensure the normalization of relations between the two Koreas.

The two leaders also had one-to-one chats. Continue reading

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