Fifty-one State Department officials have signed a “dissent channel memo” calling for a “more militarily assertive U.S. role in Syria”.
The availability of a “dissent channel” constitutes solid proof of respect for different opinions and their free expression in a government agency and is only to be envied. Secretary Kerry’s having a meeting with representatives of the group is also remarkable. In a department dealing with foreign affairs this all the more important because it ensures that policy decisions are adopted having taken full account of the collective wisdom of its members. Needless to say, once committed, foreign policy mistakes can be extremely costly and difficult to correct; a case in point being Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. 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 →
“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 →
In early February scientists announced that they had finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space and time that Einstein predicted a century ago. They are only to be congratulated. Their achievement must have caused consternation among those who failed to foresee the ripple effect of the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year.
Middle East’s widened sectarian war, the chaos it has created, ISIL’s growing outreach, the recent string of terrorist attacks which have shaken Turkey and Europe and the refugee issue can all be traced to the beginning of the Syrian conflict. Regardless of his many shortcomings and failures one must credit President Assad for his self-fulfilling prophecy. In October 2012 he said that Syria’s downfall would put the entire Middle East on fire. Now it is not just the region that is on fire. The flames have reached Africa and Europe.
On February 22, the United States and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. As a first reaction, even the most optimistic observers remained cautious. Pessimists were easier to find. Indeed, on the one hand this is a positive development, at least an effort to bring some but not yet enough specificity to the hitherto broadly expressed concept of a ceasefire. And, most importantly, this is the first time since the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons that Russia and the US have a detailed agreement regarding the Syrian conflict. On the other hand, the complexity of the situation on the ground with nearly a hundred fighting groups, shifting alliances, lack of monitors are huge challenges. Some analysts believe that some groups would use this lull as an opportunity to regroup, rearm and get reorganized. One could say, therefore, that the Joint statement marks the beginning of what may prove to be a frustrating “ceasefire process” with many violations, ups and downs and with more than one devil in the details. Okumaya devam et →
The Middle East, in the grip of polarization, is going through a most violent period. Syria is being torn apart. Iraq is far from peace and stability. Egypt remains unsettled. Tunisia continues to face a multitude of challenges. According to some Libya is already a failed state. Yemen is being devastated. Dislocation, starvation and disease are widespread. Misery reigns everywhere. Behind their facade of stability and affluence Gulf States are nervous. ISIL’s appetite for crime and destruction seems insatiable. Its outreach is continuing to expand. As for Turkey, these are very stressful times to say the least. Okumaya devam et →
Palestinians remain deeply dissatisfied with the status quo and in the absence of any progress towards the two-state solution their discontent hits the surface usually in the form of some violence. And whenever there is violence, Israel says that she will not tolerate incitement, terrorism; Palestinian leadership calls for an end to subjugation and occupation; UN Secretary General urges calm; the Quartet issues a statement advising restraint; finally, the US Secretary of State rushes to the region to find a way to put the episode behind because such violence always puts Washington on the spot by virtue of her special relationship with Israel. By and large, the current picture fits the pattern with two differences. Okumaya devam et →