Aylık arşivler: Eylül 2015

Difficult Times for Saudi Arabia

September 28, 2015

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia passed away on January 23, 2015 and was immediately succeeded by his half-brother Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Later, in a major reshuffle, King Salman appointed his nephew Muhammed bir Nayef as Crown Prince and his son Muhammed bin Salman as Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister. The changes which were perceived as representing a more dynamic leadership were well-received in the West. Reference was made to Riyadh’s growing role as a regional power. In other words, the “first impression” was largely favorable. In the meantime the Saudi-led military campaign which had started on March, 26 against Yemen’s Houthis continued with even greater vigor. Okumaya devam et

Turkey’s Election Campaign and Europe’s Refugee Problem

September 25, 2015

In October 2012 President Assad said that Syria’s downfall would put the entire Middle East on fire. Now the heat from that fire, if not the flames, has reached Europe in the form of a refugee crisis. Conflict over proposed refugee quotas reflects varying degrees of attachment to the core values defining the EU. Some former Soviet bloc countries are finding it difficult to put into practice the principles they had aspired to for decades. In view of the numbers involved and the urgency of the situation this is understandable to a certain extent. After all it has only been two decades since their adhesion to the EU and absorbing the essence of such principles takes time. Okumaya devam et

UN General Assembly: An Opportunity to Overcome Divisions on Syria

20 September 21, 2015

I constantly stress the need for US-Russia cooperation in finding solutions to international conflicts, particularly those in the broad Middle East. I mention compartmentalization as a way out in the absence of a wide convergence of views. I concluded a spot in early June by saying that, “U.S. and Russia need to look at the feasibility of an Obama-Putin summit. The UN General Assembly meeting in September may provide a good opportunity.” (1) It appears that there is now some groundwork in this direction including the military-to-military US-Russia talks on Syria.

To find a reasonable way to end the Syrian conflict one may look at what has been said by people who could make a difference: Okumaya devam et

2015: A Lost Year for Turkey

17 September 2015

We are only three-and-a-half months from New Year’s Eve. The end of a year is usually a time for stocktaking, reflection and hope. Unfortunately, ending the year on an optimistic note would be next to impossible in Turkey since the past eight-and-a-half months have offered absolutely nothing to inspire hope.

On June 7, Turkey had parliamentary elections. At least the three preceding months were devoted to the depressing rhetoric of the election campaign. The election result was a disappointment for the Justice and Development Party (JDP) because the electorate denied them a fourth consecutive term with parliamentary majority. The logical solution would have been a coalition government. But in a country willfully and purposefully polarized, that was simply impossible. So we are going to have another round of elections on November 1.

If, and that is a very big if, Turkey can have a government to stay at least for some time following the November 1 election that would make a grand total of nine wasted months.

To make a long story short, if I were to write a book describing the year 2015 for Turkey, the following would be the titles of chapters: “ Authoritarianism”, “A Shelved Constitution”, “Polarization”, “Absence of Parliamentary Oversight”, “Separation of Powers Consigned to Oblivion”, “No Regard for the Environment”, “No Regard for Cultural Heritage”, “A Failed Foreign Policy, “Failure to Identify Friend/Foe”, “A Nose Diving Currency”, “Slashed Incomes”, “Mounting Foreign Debt”, “Terrorist Attacks” and “Potential for Instability”.

I may be the pessimist. The optimist could say, “We had a great year with two democratic elections within four months and on November 15-16 Turkey will host the tenth annual G20 summit in Antalya and that would be the jewel in the crown.”

I wish days, weeks and months would fly because I honestly can’t wait to be proven wrong on New Year’s Day …

Obligations of the Refugee

15 September 2015
The huge influx of refugees into Greece and from there into other EU countries has overshadowed all other international agenda items. Ukraine, Libya, Yemen and even battling the Islamic State are pushed into the background. All one hears is disagreement on proposed refugee quotas, reluctance of some to receive refugees as opposed to the generosity of a few. The legal terms “asylum seeker”, “refugee” and “migrant” are momentarily blurred. There is also discussion about home security, funds needed to accommodate large numbers of people which belong to another culture. Some suggest that they should stay home and fight for their own country rather than becoming a burden for others. Okumaya devam et

Time for Russia to Demonstrate Her Peacemaking Capacity

9 September 2015

Article 11 of the Minsk Agreement of February 12, 2015 reads as follows: “Carrying out constitutional reform in Ukraine with a new constitution entering into force by the end of 2015 providing for decentralization as a key element (including a reference to the specificities of certain areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, agreed with the representatives of these areas), as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions … until the end of 2015.”

The Ukrainian Parliament is currently debating constitutional changes with a view to recognizing more autonomy to these two separatist regions. The move is opposed by some, in particular the rightist parties. There has been violence and accusations of provocation. A policeman has lost his life. The coalition government is under strain. The autonomy measure requires approval by 300 members of the 450 seat Parliament. Okumaya devam et

High Time to End the Syria Conflict

September 7, 2015

The key to resolving Europe’s refugee problem does not lie in Brussels. It lies in ending the Syria conflict. But even then, conditions prevailing in the wider Middle East will continue to compel people to seek a better future on the shores of Europe if they are lucky to get there. The unbearable suffering inflicted by the Syrian conflict has only raised numbers dramatically creating an immediate challenge for Europe. And once again, Chancellor Merkel’s leadership is making a difference. Okumaya devam et