Aylık arşivler: Eylül 2016

President Obama’s Message to the Middle East at the UNGA


September 28, 2016

On September 20, 2016 President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for the last time (*). His remarks had depth like all his other major foreign policy speeches. Some analysts read it in the light of the conversation regarding his legacy; others, according to their field of interest, focused on certain highlights. Indeed, he said that Russia is attempting to recover glory through force; that in the South China Sea peaceful resolutions of disputes offered by law will mean far greater stability than the militarization of a few rocks and reefs; that Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land. Okumaya devam et

Syria: Scant Hope for a Breakthrough

September 26, 2016

On February 22, 2016, the US and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. Six months later, in the absence of any progress, they decided to revive it. At a joint press conference in Geneva both Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov underlined that the agreement they were announcing would only hold if the regime, the opposition and others met their obligations. Mr. Kerry said that the Russians have an ability to encourage Assad, and the US has an ability together with other countries to encourage the opposition. Yet, twelve days later he told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the agreement was “shredded by independent actors, by spoilers who don’t want a ceasefire”. The immediate reasons for the failure were a mistaken attack by coalition aircraft on Syrian government forces killing more than sixty soldiers and the controversy regarding the attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy. In reality these are only the symptoms of multiple conflicts of interest facing Russia and the US in forging a united front in Syria. Okumaya devam et

Turkey’s Syria Policy: A Course Correction?

September 15, 2016
Turkey’s foray into the Syrian conflict has been, beyond a shadow of doubt, our worst foreign policy blunder since the founding of the Republic in 1923. The political, security, economic and trade costs are too obvious, unlikely to disappear soon and need no elaboration except to say that the erosion of the trust others placed in us was perhaps our biggest loss.

For a long time, our allies asked us to seal off a 98 kilometer stretch of our border with Syria (*). In response Ankara said that it regards ISIL as a terrorist organization, that it is fighting it but it is impossible to seal off the border. Thus, a porous border combined with Ankara’s Assad obsession gave the impression that Turkey, with an “ends justify the means” approach, had been tolerant of ISIL and al-Nusra, if not supportive. Now, with Turkish armed forces in Syria, the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) almost claims to lead the fight against ISIL. It is ardently calling for lasting peace in Syria. We no longer call Syria “our backyard” but say “Syria belongs to the Syrians”. What are the underlying reasons for this change of attitude? And, does it represent a genuine course correction? Okumaya devam et

Syria: Reviving the “Cessation”

September 12, 2016

Ever since the rise of ISIL and Syria’s proxy wars compelled Moscow and Washington to engage in greater cooperation they have had three hurdles to tackle:
• Breaking the deadlock over Assad’s future.
• Persuading the 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.
• Securing a broad-based agreement on who is a “terrorist” and who is a “moderate”.
During the past year, Syrian President’s future, at least during the initial phases of such transition, seems to have become less of an issue. Even his archenemy Turkey’s position has shifted. The other two still top the agenda, but in reverse order. Okumaya devam et

“Model Partnership”

August 7, 2016


As between people, there are numerous ways to characterize relations between states: bitterness, dislike, resentment, friction, animosity, enmity, hostility, cordiality, good-neighborliness, friendship, association, alliance. It goes without saying that in today’s complicated world of diverse interests, global and regional competition and particularly proxy wars, any inter-state relationship may at times reflect unconventional, even surprising combinations of these general characterizations. Okumaya devam et