Pope Francis’ Visit to Iraq

March 8, 2021

The four-day long trip was an of courage. Yet, in a video message he sent to the people of Iraq before the visit, the Pope displayed modesty and said, “I come as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim to implore forgiveness and reconciliation from the Lord after years of war and terrorism”. With the visit, recent rocket attacks on US and coalition military sites in Iraq and the retaliatory US airstrike against buildings used by Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria temporarily moved to the background.  

In view of security worries and concerns over the spread of coronavirus the visit was also an act of daring for Baghdad.

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Recalibrating America’s Relationships

March 1, 2021

On February 19, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. At 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference he defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He said, “I know — I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined — determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.” (emphasis added)

He expressed his strong belief that democracy will and must prevail.

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What is to Be Done?

February 22, 2021

Since Turkish foreign policy has remained at a dead-end for a decade, the question “what is to be done?” defines the essence of our monotonous debate. Since we are a people with a short memory, how we got here is of no relevance. Some suggest that the remedy is “going back to factory settings” which is unlikely because this would require more than cosmetics. It would call for a recommitment to the founding principals of the Republic, prominently among them secularism, the antidote to the sectarian strife which has ever plagued the Middle East. The so-called Organization of Islamic Cooperation is a nonentity because secularism is anathema to it. This is also why our foreign policy prioritizing ideology over national and regional interest has ended up at a dead-end.

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Waiting for the Call

February 15, 2021

Despite his heavy domestic agenda President Biden has been calling foreign leaders.

Last Thursday, in a Jerusalem Post article titled, “What signals is Biden sending about his Middle East policy?”, Herb Keinon took a look at why the 46th President of the United States still has not called PM Netanyahu.[i]

As I read the article I thought, “that makes the two of us.”

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Sleepwalking Towards a Change of Axis

February 10, 2021

In December 2009, the communique[i] issued at the end of the Damascus meeting of the “Turkish-Syrian High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council” referred to a “strategic partnership”, at the time a fashionable label for Turkey’s close external relationships. It mentioned common threats and challenges confronting the two countries.

A year later, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, in remarks to the press with his Syrian counterpart in Latakia, underlined that the exemplary relations between Syria and Turkey was serving as a model for regional partnerships and that the two countries were aiming at total economic integration with neighbors.

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The Last Exit

February 4, 2021

The EU summit held in Brussels on December 17, 2004 decided that accession negotiations with Turkey would start on October 3, 2005. The process was accordingly launched at the Luxembourg Intergovernmental Conference.

This was two years after the Justice and Development Party’s (JDP) coming to power when democratic reform appeared to be high on the agenda. In early April 2009 President Obama visited Turkey. He addressed the Turkish Parliament and referred to Turkey’s strong, vibrant, secular democracy as Ataturk’s greatest legacy. At the time Turkey’s hard and soft power was appreciated. Its contribution to regional stability was valued.

A decade later we still have the JDP in power but another Turkey. “Democratic reform” has been replaced by authoritarian rule proving our constitutional/institutional weaknesses. In 2017, with only 51.41% of the vote, Turks approved the so-called “presidential system”. Since then, our polarization has deepened because people have seen only its failures.

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Iran Nuclear Deal: A Tough Path Ahead

Co-authored with Yusuf Buluc (*)

February 1, 2021

From the very beginning of his presidency Mr. Trump’s principal foreign policy target was the Iran nuclear deal, described by many as his predecessor’s “signature achievement”.

Thus, the US announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018. A month later, on June 12, 2018 Mr. Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Following the summit, he held a press conference and said, “My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time, under very strong, strong circumstance. We’re prepared to start a new history and we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.”

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The Lesson from Biden Inauguration

January 25, 2021

I started my last post saying President Biden would now start addressing America’s polarization, Covid-19, and a wrecked foreign policy and he has a far heavier agenda than many of his predecessors. In an earlier post I had also said, “… a worse disease, polarization is spreading in countries far away from the Middle East and tightening its grip. And since it does not kill in a matter of days or weeks there is no big rush to find cures. Some even see it as a blessing to perpetuate power. Nonetheless worries are on the rise. A case in point is the US.”

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A Turning Point in Washington

January 20, 2021

With inauguration safely behind, President Biden would now start addressing America’s polarization, Covid-19, and a wrecked foreign policy. He has a far heavier agenda than many of his predecessors.

Among his major tasks in the international arena would be restoring confidence in the Washington’s foreign policy steadiness and charting a reasonable course in relations with China and Russia. Washington’s traditional Western allies, disillusioned with the Trump presidency, would give Mr. Biden more than a warm welcome while anxiously watching domestic developments in the US. Because according to a CNN poll, 47% of Republicans still say the party should continue to treat Trump as the leader of the party. And remains to be seen whether going ahead with a second impeachment, though more than justified, was a politically wise decision.

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The Path to Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh

January 13, 2021

On Monday, Presidents Putin, Aliyev, and Prime Minister Pashinyan held a second trilateral meeting in Moscow, exactly two months after the first one on November 9, 2020.

They signed another Statement which focuses on the “unblocking of all economic and transport communications in the region”. To achieve that, a trilateral working group co-chaired by deputy prime ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia and Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation is established.

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