November 20, 2018
Arab spring and the Syrian conflict have led some observers to look at Middle East developments through the prism of regional “rivalry” or “competition”. Countries generally mentioned are Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Israel is also prominently involved in regional affairs but the current emphasis seems to be on confrontations between Muslim countries which can’t even manage get around a table to address regional problems. Thus, all three are said to be in a “fierce struggle” for regional supremacy and the latter two for the leadership of the Sunni world. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has provided the discussion with additional material.
There can be different paths to regional supremacy. To embark on such a path a country needs power. And, power has economic, military and political components. Continue reading
November 14, 2018
What brought some sixty world leaders to France last week-end was the centenary of the end of the First World War. They were invited to take part not only in commemorative ceremonies but also to attend the Paris Peace Forum.
Its website says that “The Paris Peace Forum is neither a summit nor a conference. It is a new annual event based on a simple idea: international cooperation is key to tackling global challenges and ensuring durable peace. To support collective action, it gathers all actors of global governance under one roof…”
Indeed, the whole Paris get-together proved neither a summit nor conference. It was a solo performance by President Macron. Throughout the commemorative events the spotlight was constantly on him. President Trump who enjoys being the center of attention appeared frustrated while others just watched. Chancellor Merkel and UN Secretary General Guterres made some remarks at the opening of the Paris Peace Forum and that was it. It seems that as Mrs. Merkel approaches the end of her remarkable political career, Mr. Macron has set his eyes on succession for Europe’s de facto leadership. Europe, however, is in disarray and as President Trump’s barrage of tweets on Mr. Macron’s call for a European army and his low approval ratings show so is the transatlantic relationship. Continue reading
November 11, 2018
November 10, 2018 marked the 80th anniversary of Ataturk’s passing.
Today marks the centenary of the Armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiègne, France, ending the First World War.
Eleven days before that, the Armistice of Mudros signed on October 30, 1918 had brought about the cessation of hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied powers. The Armistice meant total surrender. Anatolia was in ruins.
And, on August 10, 1920 the Treaty of Sèvres was signed carving up the Ottoman Empire. In the decades leading to the First World War Ottoman Empire’s demise had become a foregone conclusion.
In brief, Ataturk lived only twenty years after the Central powers admitted defeat at Compiègne and eighteen years after the Ottoman Empire became history at Sèvres. Continue reading
November 8, 2018
On November 2, 2018 Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin held an on-the-record briefing on Iran sanctions. The former said that these were part of the campaign aimed at depriving Tehran of the revenues that it uses to spread death and destruction around the world. The latter called Iran world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. And a few days later, in responding to a question regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Mr. Pompeo said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been an important partner for the U.S. in attempting to change the behavior of Iran. Continue reading
October 29, 2018
At the end of September 2018, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States came together in New York and issued a statement. After repeating for the umpteenth time that there is no military solution to the conflict, they called on the UN and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to convene, as quickly as possible, a credible, inclusive constitutional committee that will begin drafting a new Syrian constitution. They also urged him to report back to the Security Council no later than October 31.
While Mr. de Mistura has said he is not going to lay down the charge until the last hour of the last day of his mandate, this gives him just another month since his resignation will take effect at the end of November.
On 27 October, Presidents Erdoğan, Putin, Macron and Chancellor Merkel met in İstanbul for the Quadrilateral Summit on Syria. Interestingly, the four leaders came together in this format for the first time and concluded their meeting with a joint statement expressing a commitment to working together. Whether such meetings would continue either at heads of State or ministerial level remains to be seen. Continue reading
October 26, 2018
The website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs states the following on bilateral political relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia:
“Turkey has deep-rooted historical and cultural ties with Saudi Arabia and enjoys excellent relations in all fields based on friendship, fraternity, mutual respect and common interests. Being two important countries of our region and the Islamic world, Turkey and Saudi Arabia closely cooperate towards preserving regional peace and stability. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia share the political will to further deepen their relations in all fields…”
The reality is different.
U.S. State Department fact sheet on Saudi Arabia also mentions a long-standing bilateral relationship highlighting common interests. It says:
“… Saudi Arabia’s unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world’s largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location all play a role in the long-standing bilateral relationship between the Kingdom and the United States… Saudi Arabia plays an important leadership role in working toward a peaceful and prosperous future for the region and is a strong partner in security and counterterrorism efforts, providing military, diplomatic, and financial cooperation…”
Again, the reality is different as the increasing souring of relations showed towards the end of President Obama’s second term as a result of Riyadh’s failure to convince the Obama administration that it was effectively combating extremism and the war in Yemen. President Trump’s Washington is now struggling to determine how it should handle the current crisis so that its “not so steady to start with” relationship with the Kingdom is kept on track. Continue reading
October 17, 2018
Two weeks after Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, the Turkish-Saudi “working group” finally searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the scene of the alleged crime.
On Monday, President Trump had a telephone conversation with King Salman and decided to send Secretary Pompeo to Riyadh. After the call, Mr. Trump said it was possible that “rogue killers” were behind the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. A Saudi official told Reuters that the King had ordered the Public Prosecutor to open an internal investigation.
Since all the facts regarding the alleged crime are unlikely to be established with speed, one may look at what has been said by key players and try to draw some conclusions. Continue reading