The Biden-Erdogan Summit

June 7, 2021 The Summit of Allied leaders will take place on 14 June 2021 at the NATO HQ in Brussels. Following a long-practiced tradition this will be the first NATO Summit after the new US President took office in the wake of four chaotic years with Mr. Trump. But there is no lack of other reasons. Among them are  dealing with a more demanding strategic environment marked by the return of global systemic rivalry, the need  for coherent Russia and China policies, how to continue adapting NATO for 2030 and beyond, especially by mirroring the recent military adaptation in the political dimension, strengthening the role of NATO as a unique and essential forum of Allied consultations, and tasking a work for an updated Strategic Concept to name just a few.

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Secretary Blinken’s Middle East Tour

May 31, 2021

On April 29, 2018, Mike Pompeo made his first visit to Israel as Secretary of State. This is how Prime Minister Netanyahu started off their joint press conference:

“Secretary Pompeo, it’s wonderful to welcome you.

“This is your first visit to Israel as Secretary of State. I think it’s significant that you chose, as did the President, to include Israel on this important itinerary. I think it’s symbolic of our friendship, which is deep and getting even deeper and stronger.

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The Gaza Cease-fire

May 24, 2021

With the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire taking hold last Friday, the 11-day Gaza conflict is hopefully over.

By and large, this latest episode also conformed to the pattern of Gaza confrontations. There were clashes at Jerusalem’s holy sites; Israel reacted with force to Hamas rockets; Gaza suffered devastation; divided Palestinian leadership called for an end to subjugation and occupation; UN Secretary General and some countries urged de-escalation; Arab governments expressed indignation; and a senior US diplomat traveled to the region to help achieve a cease-fire.

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Gaza Violence (2)

May 17, 2021

In my last post I tried to highlight the roller-coaster pattern of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

In his New York Times article of May 14, titled “Arab World Condemns Israeli Violence but Takes Little Action”, Eric Erlanger started off with the following:

“The Arab world is unified in condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and the way the Israeli police invaded Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Governments have spoken out, protests have taken place, social media is aflame.

“But by and large the condemnation is only words, not actions — at least so far.”

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Gaza Violence

May 13, 2021

Palestinians remain more than frustrated with the status quo and in the absence of any progress towards the two-state solution their discontent usually hits the surface in the form of some violence.  And whenever there is violence, Israel says that it will not tolerate incitement, terrorism and reacts with disproportional force; Palestinian leadership calls for an end to subjugation and occupation; UN Secretary General urges calm; Arab governments express indignation; they remember the Arab League; the Quartet issues a statement advising restraint; the EU expresses concern: finally, either the US Secretary of State or some other high official travels to the region to find a way out because such violence always puts Washington on the spot by virtue of its unique relationship with Israel. And a roller-coaster pattern of violence goes on.

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The Rules-based International Order

May 10, 2021

The “rules-based international order” is now a recurrent theme in policy statements by senior officials of the Biden administration.

Secretary Blinken, meeting with his Chinese counterparts in Anchorage on March 18, 2021, started the talks by saying that the rules-based international order is not an abstraction; that it helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts effectively, and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules; that the alternative to a rules-based order would be a far more violent and unstable world for everyone.

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How We Lost Our Way

May 3, 2021

During my years at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I sometimes asked the ambassadors in Ankara how they viewed their job in our capital since they usually stressed Turkey’s location as a unique observation post for the broad region. Many said, “never a dull moment”. I always responded that I was hoping for the day when the answer would be “boredom”, and we laughed. Because, while Turkey’s geostrategic location is an asset, it comes at a price. The end of the Cold War was a relief. But with the wars in Yugoslavia, the Caucasus and the first Gulf War, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in the middle of three major conflict areas. There was a refugee flow from Bosnia to Turkey. Our trade with Europe was disrupted. The Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline remained closed for years. Our trade with Iraq and the Gulf suffered. Energy projects in the Caucasus became more complicated. The 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the Arab spring created new challenges.

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West’s Turkey Dilemma

April 26, 2021

Turkey’s joining the Council of Europe and NATO in 1949 and 1952 respectively, and the launching of the EU accession process in 2005 had provided a progressive institutional framework for Turkey’s relations with the West. But our democracy started to falter as the Arab spring threw the region in turmoil. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP), lacking foresight, put all its eggs in the Muslim Brotherhood basket. It assumed a leadership role in the regime change project in Syria. Non-interference in Arab affairs ceased to be an axiom of Turkish foreign policy.

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The Taliban Are Back

April 19, 2021

An open-ended US/NATO military engagement in Afghanistan was never an option. The aim was achieving optimal conditions for withdrawal.

In a Washington Post op-ed on March 12, 2012 President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron mentioned shifting to a support role in Afghanistan.

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Turkey’s Stormy Spring

April 12, 2021

In a recent post I gave a summary of two weeks of disarray, confusion, and wobbling in Turkey. What the country has witnessed during the following two weeks gives me no other choice than to admit that my description was exaggeration. Actually, those two earlier weeks were a period of peace and calm by Turkish standards. Because a public appeal by retired admirals regarding the Canal Istanbul project, the Montreux Convention and respect for Ataturk’s secular legacy was presented by the government as a hint of a coup. The opposition was caught off guard and rode off in all directions. It was chaos. Yet, I could not help remembering the title of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s 1974 song, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”.

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