Turkey-US Relations and Iran Sanctions

April 25, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani had called the JCPOA a “golden page” in his country’s history, opening a new chapter in Iran’s engagement with the world. It was hoped that the deal would end decades of hostile relations between Tehran and Washington.

With President Trump that “golden page” has unfortunately turned into a fond memory.  With the IAEA regularly reporting that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the JCPOA, the P4+Germany and the international community, with the exception of Israel and US’ Gulf allies, still support the deal. Washington’s reneging on its commitments under the JCPOA will no doubt lead to questions regarding the consistency of US foreign policy. But equally if not more important will be dealing with Mr. Trump’s threat that “anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States”, despite the fact that these new sanctions are not endorsed by the UN. Continue reading

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Arab Spring Aftershocks

April 12, 2019

In February, tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets demanding an end to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s two decades-long rule. On April 3, he had to resign. To put it more accurately, he was removed from power. Whether he was actually in power or had become just a figurehead can be disputed. Mr. Bouteflika is no ordinary politician. He first distinguished himself during Algeria’s War of Liberation. In 1963 he became foreign minister at the age of 26, a post he held until 1979. With him at the helm of Algeria diplomacy, the country became one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1974 he was elected President of the twenty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly. Continue reading

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Counting and Recounting …

April 7, 2019

On March 31 Turkey had municipal elections. The result was a yellow card for the government. However, the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) immediately asked for recounts in Ankara and İstanbul where, according to initial figures, they lost the mayoralties after more than two decades. Is asking for recounts within the law? Yes, it is. But then government started saying that elected mayors who don’t command the majority in municipal councils, İstanbul being a case in point, would have a hard time governing. Thus, what should be a technical process has now turned into a political controversy whereby the government challenges more than the ballot box and that is pushing it too far. Turkey desperately needs to put this episode behind and turn to its heavily-loaded agenda. Continue reading

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Turkey’s Municipal Elections: A Yellow Card for the Government

Co-authored with Yusuf Buluc (*)

April 1, 2019

The significance of an election in a democratically governed country is determined by the context and the framework in which it is held, as well the political backdrop. If these parameters were to be applied to the municipal elections held yesterday in Turkey, in effect to determine choices for local administrations, the exercise takes on deeper and critical political character. Given where we are in our journey of modern and republican statehood close to a century, this election, as confirmed by the intensity with which the political parties have conducted their respective campaigns, brought us to a juncture with a sign boldly printed as “last exit for democracy”. Continue reading

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Discord over the Golan Heights

March 26, 2019

Yesterday was a day of jubilation at the Trump White House, perhaps more than the Inauguration Day. Perhaps, it will be remembered as the beginning of Mr. Trump’s campaign for the 2020 presidential election. Because, the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Mr. Trump or any of his aides were involved in Russian government’s 2016 election interference. The conclusion of the probe is likely to lead to many foreign and security policy questions, first and foremost, the future of US relations with Russia.

And, who could possibly be the lucky foreign leader to be there on the spot to share Mr. Trump’s joy other than Prime Minister Netanyahu who cut his Washington visit short because a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, reportedly by mistake, injured seven civilians in north-east of Tel Aviv on Monday morning. The image of a leader returning home immediately to take the helm might help his election campaign, who knows. Continue reading

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The Christchurch Tragedy

March 21, 2019

The Christchurch massacre was a horrendous crime. It was a ghastly, dastardly act of terrorism. The innocent people who lost their lives there ranged in age from 3 to 71. The enormity of the crime shocked the people of New Zealand and Muslims around the world. It shocked the world. It was a tragedy and its handling a huge challenge for the government of New Zealand. Continue reading

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Turkey’s “More Than Municipal” Election

March 18, 2019

At the end of March Turkey will hold municipal elections. However, the ongoing campaign is not about our failed city planning, repairing broken sidewalks and potholed streets.

For the JDP this is an exercise to further consolidate its power. It is running its campaign on a nationalistic platform claiming that the election is about Turkey’s survival. The JDP has won every single election since 2002 and the prospect of losing the popular vote and/or the mayorships of major cities has now become its worst nightmare. President Erdoğan is crisscrossing the country from one end to the other leading his Party’s campaign. This is a novelty of our new “presidential system” approved in the April 2017 constitutional referendum with a very slim margin (51.41 % – 48.59%). In that referendum the JDP lost in all major cities. The Party, as before, relies heavily on religious themes. Its rhetoric is at times threatening and almost always polarizing. Continue reading

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