In March, 2013, Free Syrian Army troops and Islamist rebel forces, including al-Nusra captured Raqqa. Soon, however, members and flags of the Islamic State appeared. By early 2014, ISIL had taken complete control of the town. Since then Raqqa has remained ISIL’s stronghold in Syria, capital of the so-called caliphate.
Fallujah lies 57 kilometers (35 miles) west of Baghdad. ISIL captured Fallujah at the beginning of January 2014. Following are passages from Washington Post’s January 3, 2014 account of what had happened: “A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago… “… The upheaval also affirmed the soaring capabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that was formed a decade ago to confront U.S. troops and expanded into Syria last year while escalating its activities in Iraq. Roughly a third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar trying to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, nearly 100 of them in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah, the site of America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War…”
A few days later ISIL captured Ramadi. In June 2014 Mosul and Tikrit were seized. (Tikrit was retaken in March 2015 and Ramadi in January 2016.) Okumaya devam et →
International Syria Support Group (ISSG) met in Vienna on 17 May 2016. In keeping with the tradition, the Group issued a statement (*) and the Co-Chairs and UN Envoy Staffan di Mistura made remarks to the press (**). What made this last press conference particularly interesting were the explicit references to conflicts of interest within the Group, almost contradicting the words of unity and harmony used in the Statement. Indeed, it had always been more than obvious that the Group remained divided on the future of President Assad, the designation of terrorist organizations, and the support allegedly given to some of these by ISSG members. However, on earlier occasions these differences were not spelled out with such clarity. Okumaya devam et →
Turkey must have become world’s number one country for its failure to properly determine national priorities. We have witnessed a series of terrorist acts causing great loss of life. Widescale military operations are continuing against the PKK with rising casualty figures. We have three million unhappy Syrian refugees. The future of the “refugee/visa deal” in which the government has invested a huge amount of political capital looks uncertain. Thanks to our grand strategy to redesign the Middle East, ISIL and al-Nusra are now our neighbors. Turkish foreign policy has lost direction. Our economy is facing serious problems some of which are directly related to foreign policy mistakes. We are facing internal and external security challenges. A state of lawlessness is gripping the country. And, last but not least, we are dangerously polarized reflecting a deeper national identity problem. Okumaya devam et →
“Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”, worked out between Russia and the US and approved by the UNSC through Resolution 2268, entered into force on February 27, 2016. For two months, despite violations, it seemed to hold inspiring cautious optimism. However, two major challenges remained.
The first was the launching of not just talks but “meaningful talks” between the regime and the opposition. On March 21, Reuters reported that U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura described Syria’s political transition as “the mother of all issues” in response to regime’s representative Bashar Ja’afari who said that Assad’s future had “nothing to do” with the negotiations.
The second was how to deal with terrorist organizations not only as a short-term battlefield issue but also a long-term problem for Syria and beyond. Under the terms of the “Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”, Russia and the US were expected to delineate, with other members of the ISSG’s Ceasefire Task Force, the territory held by “Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra” and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council” which were excluded from the cessation of hostilities. It was obvious that in view of conflicting interests this would be easier said than done. Okumaya devam et →
It was a few months before the 2008 US Presidential election. I was talking to my American colleague at UNESCO. I said to her that since American presidents’ decisions have global implications, democratic countries should also have the opportunity vote in those elections within a reasonable quota to be shared among them. She responded, “an interesting idea…”. We both laughed. It was a joke but the premise was not entirely without logic.
Now that we are only months away from the end of President Obama’s second term in office, pundits have started to express opinions regarding his legacy. I feel that without voices from the Middle East the portrayal President Obama’s legacy would be incomplete. Okumaya devam et →