The Khashoggi Tragedy

October 12, 2018

Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction/murder mystery must have been a nightmare for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) leadership. During the last ten years few foreign leaders have been spared from their personal attacks in times of discord. Yet, despite ups and downs, disagreements, disappointments in the effort to topple President Assad, Turkey’s leaders have not uttered a word reflecting their frustration with Riyadh’s policies. This was not because of Saudi Arabia’s money. This was because they are the “custodians of the two holy mosques”, Islam’s holiest shrines. As such, they were beyond reproach, sacrosanct. Continue reading

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Syria’s Uncertain Future

October 3, 2018

On September 27, 2018, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States, members of the “Small Group on Syria” issued a statement. After repeating for the umpteenth time that there is no military solution to the conflict they called on the UN and Staffan de Mistura to convene, as quickly as possible, a credible, inclusive constitutional committee that will begin drafting a new Syrian constitution and laying the groundwork for free and fair UN-supervised elections in a safe and neutral environment in which all eligible Syrians – including those in the diaspora – have a right to participate.  They urged Mr. Mistura to report back to the Security Council on his progress no later than October 31. The reference to “Syrians including those in the diaspora” covers primarily those in Syria’s neighbors, among them Turkey now home to 3.5 million Syrian refugees. Continue reading

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U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee Hearings

September 30, 2018

Couple of weeks in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum is a wonderful break for those who can’t help being preoccupied with Turkey’s polarized internal politics and continuing regional turbulence. Yes, there was the United Nations General Assembly, uninspiring as usual, the discussion regarding President Trump’s address to the world there, the Idlib conundrum, the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen and more. Sadly, however, all that has somehow become business as usual. But then came the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee hearings capturing an audience of millions not only in the U.S. but across the world (*). Continue reading

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The Idlib Challenge and the Sochi Summit

September 18, 2018

On September 17, 2018, Presidents Putin and Erdoğan met in Sochi. On top of their agenda was Idlib. This is what President Putin said at the joint press conference following the talks:

“We reviewed the situation in detail and decided to establish by October 15 a demilitarized area 15–20 km. deep along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops, with radical militants to be withdrawn from the area, including al-Nusra. Also, by October 10, based on the Turkish President’s proposal, to secure the withdrawal of heavy military equipment, tanks, multiple rocket launchers, cannon and mortars of all opposition groups. Turkish mobile patrol groups and Russian military police units will conduct the monitoring of the demilitarized zone. Also, to restore transit along the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama routes before the end of 2018, also at the suggestion of the Turkish side…” (*)

President Putin’s using the word “also” three times in his description of the deal gives the impression that what was agreed upon in Sochi essentially reflects Ankara’s approach to the problem. The International Crisis Group said in a statement today that it welcomes the announcement which would appear to prevent a new deadly round of conflict with tremendous human cost. It added that implementing the agreement will be difficult, and its collapse cannot be ruled out. Turkey seems as if it may have to shoulder the heavy burden of partially disarming rebels inside the zone and emptying it of jihadists, a step those militants seem inclined to resist (**).

On the surface, the world seems to be united in preventing a humanitarian disaster with an extremely high civilian death toll, destruction, human suffering and grief. Yet, one only has to look at the past eight years of the Syrian war, what is going on in Yemen and Libya to see that this is far from being the case. Continue reading

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Yemen’s Ordeal Continues

September 16, 2018

The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen is now in its fourth year. On April 24, 2015 Saudi Arabia announced that “Operation Decisive Storm” had achieved its objective and priority would now shift to rebuilding the country and political dialogue. This new phase was to be called “Renewal of Hope”.  More than three years later, the Yemenis find themselves in a state of despair. Continue reading

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The Idlib Challenge and the Tehran Summit

September 9, 2018

The much-awaited Tehran meeting between Iranian, Russian and Turkish Presidents, generally viewed as the “Idlib Summit”, has ended with a Joint Statement on Syria (*).

Paragraph 2 of the Statement emphasizes the three Presidents’ commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. Moreover, it rejects all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism and states their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries. Continue reading

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The Passing of Senator McCain

September 3, 2018

John McCain, a Vietnam War hero, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona in 1982 and elected to the Senate in 1986. As President Obama mentioned at his memorial service last Saturday, the Senator was a conservative Republican, but his more than three decades of work in the Senate was underscored by bipartisanship and political courage which often put him in conflict with his own party (*).

In 1955 John F. Kennedy, at the time a junior senator from Massachusetts, published his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Profiles in Courage” on eight of his historical colleagues for their acts of courage and integrity in the face of overwhelming opposition. Looking at the respect shown to Senator McCain across America’s political spectrum, one can assume that he too might have figured among them had the book been written today. Continue reading

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