President Trump’s “Royal” Pardons

January 4, 2021

On December 24, President Trump issued pardons to more than 90 people.  The Washington Post said 60 have gone to petitioners who have a personal tie to Mr. Trump or who helped his political aims, according to a tabulation by the Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith. One recipient of a pardon was a family member, Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, was guilty of 16 counts of tax evasion. Many slammed the pardons as antithetical to the rule of law. Others called for an overhaul of the pardon power, saying Trump has so corrupted it that it should be amended or even stripped from the Constitution. Had this been all, the damage they did to America’s global image aside, the pardons would have been an essentially domestic issue. Unfortunately, there was more.

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More Than a Lost Year

December 22, 2020

The main foreign policy topics of the past decade have been China’s ascendancy, relations between the West and a resurgent Russia, the rise of authoritarianism, democracy’s decline, the failure of multilateralism and climate change. With the Trump White House, most of the questions raised in recent years focused on Washington. People started asking “what went wrong?” to use the title of Bernard Lewis’s remarkable book on the clash between Islam and modernity in the Middle East. Pundits in the West, including the US, started talking about Washington’s external military interventions and their political/diplomatic/economic cost, racism, gridlock. Some of the questions raised went beyond the Trump years. With major foreign and security policy challenges and 251,000 new coronavirus cases recorded last Friday, Mr. Biden will not be moving to a dream house on January 20.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The Road Ahead (2)

December 14, 2020

With the signing, by President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan, of the Russian-brokered statement on a complete ceasefire and the termination of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh the conflict has entered a new phase.

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Towards a Defining Moment

December 7, 2020

Last week’s virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers witnessed an unprecedented exchange between Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu. It made headlines in Turkey but more concerning are the questions currently raised both in Turkey and the West regarding the compatibility of Turkey’s foreign and security policy with NATO commitments, hence its place in the Alliance.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The Road Ahead

November 30, 2020

The last round of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan started on July 12, 2020.  During the war between 1988-1994, Armenian forces had occupied not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan before a Russian-brokered ceasefire was declared. Thereafter peace talks were mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States. Since all three co-chairs are long-time supporters of Armenia, the Group only served to preserve the status quo. i.e. continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the seven Azerbaijani districts.

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Failure in Afghanistan

November 23, 2020

On February 29, 2020, “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” was signed in Doha. Throughout the text, one party is referred to as “the United States” and the other party as “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban”. Because Washington “only recognizes” the Kabul government.

On Saturday, a State Department statement said, “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met today with Taliban Political Deputy and Head of the Political Office Mullah Beradar and members of the Taliban negotiating team in Doha, Qatar.” 

So, for the sake of brevity and clarity I would also refer to them as the US and the Taliban.

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Turkey’s Relations with the West

November 17, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden will assume office on January 20, 2021. Exactly twelve years ago he assumed office as Vice President. Three months later, on April 6, 2009 President Obama visited Ankara on his first trip abroad as US President. His address to the Turkish Parliament was full of praise for Turkey’s “strong, vibrant, secular democracy”. In May 2013, Prime Minister Erdogan visited Washington. Remarks made by the two leaders at their joint press conference reflected a strong relationship. Twelve years on, the US-Turkey relationship is at its lowest point in decades.

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The Biden Victory and Turkey

November 9, 2020

Mr. Joe Biden is now the President-elect of the United States. Critics are united in underlining the enormity of the challenges he faces.

Below are excerpts from Mr. Biden’s article titled “Why America Must Lead Again”, published in the March/April 2020 issue of Foreign Affairs[i]:

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The Disease of Polarization

November 3, 2020

Four years ago, in a post titled “Middle East in the Grip of Polarization” I said:

“The Middle East, in the grip of polarization, is going through a most violent period… Throughout the region the mentality continues to be “winner-take-all. This is what we witness in Syria where coming to the table to stop the bloodshed is seen as a concession whereas it should be clear to all the parties, at least by now, that there is not going to be a military solution to the conflict. Differences are of course diverse and extreme. They extend from religion, ethnicity, world outlook and politics to culture. Furthermore, they are increasingly characterized by an element of hate. Worst of all, Syrians seem to have lost sense of direction. The silent or silenced majority may regret what they have been going through but those who appear to be in charge see no further than the tip of the gun barrel… Some Syrians may think it is too late; that they would not be allowed to change course even if they wanted to. Others may still be determined to fight to the bitter end. And sadly, the latter may prove to be right because there is little hope of a happy end to this tragedy. Such is the disease of polarization. If it does not kill you, it leaves you maimed…”

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Tensions Between France and Turkey

October 29, 2020

On 7 January 2015, two brothers, French citizens born in Paris to Algerian immigrants, forced their way into the offices Charlie Hebdo where they killed 12 people and injured 11 others. Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility. The attack was called the 9/11 of France. Four days later the Unity Rally, a remarkable display of national and international solidarity was held in Paris.

On October 16, 2020 Samuel Paty, a French middle-school teacher, was beheaded a suburb of Paris. The perpetrator of this atrocious crime was an 18-year-old Russian immigrant of Chechen origin, born in Moscow. A tide of outrage swept through France.

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