ISIS Fighters Going Home

February 19, 2019

The war in Syria appears to be coming to an end. During the past eight years it was migration which led to internal political challenges for European governments and to divisions within the EU. Now it is ISIS wives and fighters returning home. The prospect has preoccupied Western security services and think tanks for long, but it was Shamima Begum who triggered the public discussion. Since the UK has no diplomatic or consular personnel in Syria security minister Ben Wallace said he would not put officials’ lives at risk to rescue UK citizens who went to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State, adding “actions have consequences”. Many in the UK are said to oppose the return of ISIS fighters. Others believe the UK cannot refuse the return of UK citizens. Continue reading

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Worlds Apart

February 15, 2019

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, the day of romance. Not on the international scene. The two important international meetings held on that very day reflected two worlds apart: the anti-Iran Warsaw meeting in effect “led and co-chaired by the US and Israel” and the Astana format meeting in Sochi. Neither gathering was able to reflect unity among its participants. German and French foreign ministers and EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini did not attend the former and differences remained in the latter.

President Trump did not go the Warsaw, but his representatives did their best to project his worldview. In his defiant 24-minute address to the “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” Vice President Pence mentioned him 20 times. Continue reading

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The War on Terror

February 12, 2019

Reaction to President Trump’s sudden announcement of troop pullout from Syria and the talks between Washington and the Taliban have reignited the debate on the war on terror.

On February 3, the New York Times editorial titled “End the War in Afghanistan” said:

“But as part of any withdrawal discussions, it should be made clear to the Taliban, the Afghan government and neighboring nations that if the country is allowed to again become a base for international terrorism, the United States will return to eradicate that threat…”

It then mentioned the possibility that the Taliban and regional players like Pakistan, Russia, Iran, India and China might work together on a cooperative solution to stabilize Afghanistan and deny terrorists a regional base. And, it concluded by saying that America needs to recognize that foreign war is not a vaccine against global terrorism. (emphasis added) (1) Continue reading

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Crisis in Venezuela and Turkey

February 7, 2019

BBC’s country profile on Venezuela starts with the following: “Venezuela is a country of striking natural beauty, ranging from the snow-capped Andean peaks in the west, through the Amazonian jungles in the south, to the beaches of the north… The country has some of the world’s largest proven oil deposits as well as huge quantities of coal, iron ore, bauxite and gold…”

Sadly today, a polarized Venezuela is in crisis. Millions have fled the country. Hyperinflation has made food and medicine inaccessible for many. Regime’s failures have offered external powers opportunities for meddling, intervention.

The crisis in Venezuela has split the world. It has split the UE. On one side are the US, some members of the EU including France, Germany and the United Kingdom and members of the Lima Group. On the other side, according to Foreign Policy’s “Maduro vs. Guaido: A Global Scorecard” are Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Nicaragua, Bolivia, South Africa, Suriname, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cambodia and North Korea. (*) Continue reading

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Venezuelan Crisis: A Divided World and Turkey

January 30, 2019

A polarized Venezuela is in deep political, economic and humanitarian crisis. Hopefully, crisis would not turn into conflict. On the one side there is President Nicolas Maduro, his supporters, the military and on the other side the opposition led by Juan Guaido, President of the National Assembly. And the world, already divided on multiple international challenges, is again split.

Washington has taken a very tough stand against President Maduro. But not everyone in the US seems to agree. For example, Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University Professor, wrote in a CNN article, “The US’ move to recognize Guaido is provocative. The problem is that the US has a track record of bullying Latin America and staging interventions in the region. These US interventions, both direct and indirect, have resulted in dozens of regime changes over the course of more than a century.” Continue reading

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Turkey’s Syria Labyrinth

January 25, 2019

After his remarks in Israel John Bolton’s visit to Turkey was doomed to failure. So, it was left to Senator Lindsey Graham to repair or at least control the damage. In Ankara, he publicly said everything possible to cajole Turkey’s political leadership into cooperation with Washington in Syria and beyond. He said that withdrawing and leaving the Kurdish fighters with weapons supplied by the United States would be insane. He mentioned YPG’s affiliation with the PKK. He referred to the special relationship between presidents Trump and Erdogan. The timing of his visit was well-chosen on the eve of US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford’s talks in the Turkish capital.

During his remarks to the press following his talks in Ankara Senator Graham spoke alternately of a safe zone and a buffer zone in Syria. At least this was how Turkish newspapers translated his remarks. But the two do not exactly overlap. Buffer zone is a neutral area separating conflicting forces. Safe zone is an area where people who are not involved in the fighting may find a degree of refuge during armed conflict. Safe zones have sometimes been accompanied also no-fly zones. Continue reading

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Middle East Stability Still Faraway

January 18, 2019

It has been a month since President Trump declared victory against ISIS in Syria and said US troops were returning home. It was only to be expected that the decision would lead to questions. Because, this was an abrupt announcement made on Twitter apparently without adequate consultation not only with allies but also within the Trump administration. Thus, the past month witnessed twists and turns between Ankara and Washington regarding northeastern Syria.

Moreover, as statements from Moscow show Russia is unlikely to support Turkish-American understandings/arrangements there. The situation in Idlib also remains high on the Turkish-Russian agenda.

On November 10, 2016 Donald Trump said, “If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it, 100 percent, and I can’t understand how anybody would be against it.” Continue reading

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