June 14, 2019
The last episode of the S400 missiles/F35 fighters controversy has taken Turkey-US relations to unprecedented lows. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart. For some, this was an “ultimatum”. Ankara’s earlier proposal to Washington was forming a “working group”. It now says the language of the letter is incompatible with the spirit of alliance between two NATO members. The huge gap between the “ultimatum” and the “working group proposal” is worrisome to say the least. In the meantime, Russia is making one announcement after the other saying the S400s will be delivered before the end of July. Only a week before the rerun of the Istanbul municipal election Turkish media keeps condemning the “ultimatum”. Anti-Americanism is on the rise. Continue reading
June 7, 2019
In the West, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Venezuela and Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan took a back seat during the week. It was President Trump who dominated the headlines. Attention initially focused on the jabs he took at the Mayor of London and the Duchess of Sussex.
In responding to a question on Brexit during his joint press conference with Prime Minister May on June 4, 2019 President Trump said:
“… This is a great, great country and it wants its own identity. It wants to have its own borders. It wants to run its own affairs. This is a very, very special place. And I think it deserves a special place. And I thought maybe for that reason — and for others — but that reason, it was going to happen.”
And, he reiterated his commitment to a “phenomenal trade deal” between the US and the UK. Continue reading
June 2, 2019
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held summit meetings in Mecca last week. All three were chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman. The choice of the holy city of Mecca for the meetings was probably aimed at reiterating Saudi Arabia’s now contested claim to the leadership of the Islamic world.
The final communiques of the GCC and the Arab League strongly targeted Iran and the Houthis. While they did not exactly overlap, the message was clear.
The GCC and the Arab League underlined the need for Iran to abide by the principles of Charter of the United Nations and the international law including non-interference in internal affairs and refraining from the threat or use of force. They called on Iran to stop supporting, financing and arming terrorist militias and organizations as well as feeding sectarian conflicts. Continue reading
May 31, 2019
A fundamental reality of foreign relations is that a country’s international standing is largely a reflection of its internal strength. And this invariably depends on respect for the rule of law, strong institutions and a broad national consensus on where the country should be heading.
And, geographic location largely impacts a country’s foreign policy.
This is a given which can constitute a challenge in itself. The contrast between Portugal’s and Turkey’s locations is a striking example. Portugal is a member of NATO and the EU and its only neighbor is Spain, another NATO and EU member. The Portugal–Spain border is 1,214 kilometers, the longest uninterrupted border within the European Union. Portugal is located at the western end of Europe where peace, prosperity and stability have reigned for decades. It is far away from conflict areas. Continue reading
May 22, 2019
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (JDP) principal theme in the recent municipal election campaign was “the fight for Turkey’s survival”. The party and its supporters in the media claimed that Turkey was under the siege of external powers which were determined to block Turkey’s path to becoming a global player through an array of conspiracies. Who those powers are, was never spelled out. Nonetheless, Turkish government’s disappointment with Western reaction to the Gülenist coup attempt of July 15, 2016, continuing frustration with the support extended to the PYD/YPG and the s400s/s35 conundrum offer some clues and these only point toward the US and the EU, in other words, Turkey’s traditional Western allies. Continue reading
May 16, 2019
During his first visit to Moscow on 6-8 July 2009 President Obama tried to “reset” relations. Unfortunately for the international community this failed to materialize. The Arab Spring led to a new set of confrontations. Snowden affair became an irritant and led to the cancellation by Washington of an Obama-Putin summit that was to take place during the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg on 5-6 September 2013. Yet a brief encounter of the two leaders there paved the way for the agreement on the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons only to be followed by the crisis in Ukraine. Continue reading
May 9, 2019
That Turkey has a strategic location is an axiom of our foreign policy. Although this is generally presented as an asset, it has always been a double-edged sword since we border on conflict areas, prominently among them the Middle East. In the past, we believed that non-involvement in regional problems particularly inter-Arab feuds, doing our best to control damage and to promote stability served our interests.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had severe consequences for Turkey’s security, trade and economic relations with the region. Later, the US invasion of Iraq, the Arab spring, the Syrian conflict and the rise of the Islamic state threw our immediate vicinity into turmoil. Continue reading