Presidents Biden and Erdogan Meet in Rome


November 1, 2021

A month ago, I concluded a post with the following: “Presidents Biden and Erdogan may meet in Rome, but a genuine reset in Turkish-American relations remains mission impossible in the short term. The Biden-Erdogan meeting  would focus more on containing the rising cost of our differences than give-and-take. No matter what is said publicly, and one should not expect much, it will not end mutual frustration…”

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Turkey at a Dead End

October 26, 2021

On October 19, the European Commission published its “Turkey 2021 Report”. For a first impression I took look at the “Key findings of the 2021 Report on Turkey”. The word used to characterize our democracy, civil society issues, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, social policy, media, and EU-Turkey political dialogue on foreign and security policy was “backsliding”. In the report the word was used thirty-three times. Then I checked the report for the word “progress” and saw that it was used twenty-seven times. Unfortunately, however, it was mostly preceded by words like “no”, “some”, and “limited”.

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Turkish Foreign Policy Must Restore Its Republican Settings

October 19, 2021

Afghanistan developments could only divert Turkey’s attention from Syria for a while. With the meeting on September 29 between Presidents Putin and Erdogan, and the latter’s comments signaling another  operation against the PYD/YPG, we are back to Idlib.

Since the very beginning of the Syrian conflict there have been three major challenges before a political settlement:

•          Breaking the deadlock over President Assad’s future;

•          Persuading the external/regional backers of Damascus and the opposition to give their support not only in words but also in deeds to a Syrian-owned political transition; and,

•          Securing a broad-based agreement on who is a “terrorist” and who is a “moderate”.

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The World Needs a Broad Coalition Against Terrorism

October 12, 2021

On July 8, 2021, in remarks on the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan President Biden said:

“We went for two reasons: one, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, as I said at the time. The second reason was to eliminate al Qaeda’s capacity to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory. We accomplished both of those objectives — period.”

On August 16, in the middle of a chaotic withdrawal he said:

“Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

“We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.”

Finally on August 26, upon the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport he declared:

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay…”

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Turkey’s Vicious Circle of Foreign Policy

October 5, 2021

In late September,  President Erdogan traveled to New York and addressed the UN General Assembly. He also hoped to have a face-to-face meeting with President Biden. When such a meeting failed to materialize, President Erdogan vented his pent-up frustration with Washington.

On September 29, he met with President Putin in Russia’s Black Sea city of Sochi, their first for a year and a half.

Before the meeting, the two leaders delivered remarks to the media.[i]

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The Quad Meeting

September 29, 2021

On September 15, 2021, President Biden, Prime Ministers Morrison, and Johnson announced the creation of AUKUS.  On September 24, President Biden, Prime Ministers Morrison, Modi, and Suga convened in Washington in person as “the Quad” for the first time. Before the meeting President Biden and Prime Minister Modi delivered remarks to the media.[i] These remarks, choreographed  by the former,  almost matched the family warmth displayed during Trump-Netanyahu meetings at the White House. Thus, the concluding remarks of PM Modi were, “And I am quite — I’m absolutely convinced that under your leadership, whatever we do, it will be extremely relevant for the entire world. Once again, Mr. President, let me thank you profusely for this very warm welcome.”

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Another Setback for Transatlantic Relations

September 22, 2021

In a recent post I said,  “Moscow and Peking were no doubt delighted to see the US get bogged down in Afghanistan for two decades, just as Washington was delighted to watch USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan end up in failure.  But after two disastrous experiences, history should not be allowed to repeat itself. Washington should not start enjoying what might be the negative repercussions of the Taliban victory for its two strategic competitors…

“The terrorist threat has taken deep root in the Middle East with its long-drawn-out conflicts. To stop its spreading elsewhere, major powers have no other option than working together. Presidents  Biden and Xi Jinping agreeing that competition should not veer into conflict is a positive sign.” [i] Obviously, my assessment of the readout of their call was an overstatement.

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How Long the “Wait and See” to Judge the Taliban

September 20, 2021

The world is waiting to see whether the Taliban has changed or not, if so to what extent. Countries involved in Afghan affairs know that they would not witness  fundamental change but hope for a move towards minimum moderation. The question is for how long they would wait and see.

Last week, in remarks to the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan, UN Secretary General Guterres said:

“Even before the dramatic events of the last weeks, Afghans were experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.”

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The Global War on Terror: Two Decades On

September 13, 2021

A few days after 9/11 President George W. Bush, in impromptu remarks said, “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. His use of the word “crusade” raised concerns in Europe among those who saw this as walking into civilizational clash trap set by al-Qaeda. Thus, when he addressed a joint session of the Congress on September 20, 2001, the President struck a different tone. He said,

“We’ve seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers in English, Hebrew and Arabic…

“I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith…

“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

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The End of America’s Longest War

September 6, 2021

In an earlier post I said, “Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, the chaos and shock triggered by the evacuations overshadowed the rational of his decision to withdraw…” On August 31, in “Remarks on the End of the War in Afghanistan”, the President said that the Kabul evacuations were a major success. He urged the Americans to focus on the underlying logic of ending America’s longest war and turn the page.[i] According to a Pew Research Center poll published last week 54% of Americans agree that the withdrawal was the right choice;  69% think America had failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.[ii] And according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll Americans overwhelmingly support President Biden’s decision to end the war in Afghanistan, but by a 2-to-1 margin they disapprove his handling of the withdrawal. As the dust of the Kabul operation settles, the percentage of those agreeing with the withdrawal would go up.

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