March 19, 2018
U.K.’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, Moscow’s retaliation, Trump administration’s imposition of new sanctions on Russia, the Joint statement from the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom on the Salisbury attack and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s recent statements is bad news for the people of Syria. Because, these developments signal rising tensions between Russia and the West. Syria’s political transition, on the contrary, depends on their broad cooperation, at least their ability to compartmentalize their disagreements. Continue reading
March 13, 2018
In remarks before the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, 2017 President Trump said that the scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes. On top of his list were North Korea and Iran. He made no distinction between the two. He accused Pyongyang of a reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and called the Iran nuclear deal one of the worst and most one-sided transactions in U.S. history. He said, “the United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, it will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Continue reading
March 7, 2018
The world is in disarray. The Arab Spring threw the Middle East in chaos. Then came the Ukraine conflict and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As the Syrian conflict moved up on the international agenda the former receded. Despite on and off official statements on the unacceptability of Crimea’s annexation, everybody knows that there will be no going back. With a steadily rising China and a resurgent Russia “global realignment” has become a current topic. Now, moreover, there is talk about “Cold War II” and growing investment in military power. The rise of populism and authoritarianism has led to a pessimistic outlook regarding the future of democracy. The EU, a major global economic power, remains divided and ineffective as a foreign policy actor. Its public discourse on democracy and the rule of law has weakened. For a variety of reasons including migration, values are undergoing change. Continue reading
February 28, 2018
UNSC Resolution 2401 (2018) of February 24 demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay for a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria. It calls upon all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas and allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It also affirms that the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against terrorist organizations as designated by the Security Council.
In Ankara, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately welcomed the Resolution and said that uninterrupted access to humanitarian aid is a dictate of international law and Turkey, while continuing to extend humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, will remain resolute in fighting terrorist organizations that threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria. Continue reading
February 22, 2018
In Syria, Turkey is running in a narrowing alley.
On the one hand, Secretary Tillerson recently said, “…we’re not going to act alone any longer. We’re not going to be U.S. doing one thing and Turkey doing another. We are going to act together from this point forward…” That remains to be seen. On the other hand, Turkey is quasi-partners with Russia and Iran in the Astana process. It is struggling to walk a fine line between Washington and Moscow. Relations between these two capitals, however, remain tense and confrontational. Through its measured cooperation with Ankara in Syria, Moscow is also targeting the further weakening of Turkey’s relations with the West. Why shouldn’t it if the opportunity is generously offered? Moreover, the U.S. is engaged in a major effort to form an anti-Iran regional bloc to contain what it calls “Tehran’s malign activities”. Beyond saying that they are committed to Syria’s unity and territorial integrity, Washington on one side and Moscow and Tehran on the other hold conflicting views on Syria’s political transition. The former remains an adversary of President Assad while the latter are his principal supporters. Back in October 2015, at the time of Russia’s intervention in Syria President Obama had said, “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work.” Perhaps, the Trump administration wishes to prove him right. Continue reading
February 18, 2018
In view of increasing tensions between Ankara and Washington, engaging in comprehensive, substantial and authoritative talks at sufficiently high level, preferably in Ankara to be of consequence, had become the dictate of diplomacy (1). Last week, following other high-level talks, Secretary Tillerson visited Ankara and met with President Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu. Since there was nobody else in the room other than the three at the Presidential Palace last Thursday, there will be no proper record of this meeting and hopefully this will not lead to new misunderstandings. Continue reading
February 5, 2018
Washington designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Last week the Department of State also designated its leader Ismail Haniyeh as a terrorist. Some in the Arab world were no doubt delighted whereas Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu strongly criticized the decision because the government regards Ismail Haniyeh a freedom fighter. The truth is such disagreements between nations are not uncommon. It all depends on countries’ perception of national interest as well as ideology. Continue reading