Etiket arşivi: Middle East

Water Disputes Reaching the Cloud

September 5, 2022

Clouds have always fascinated people. White clouds turning dark remind people of the coming rain or storm, sometimes inspiring hope, at other times fear. Cloud colors at sunrise or sunset captivate them. Regardless of one’s vantage point, be it on the ground or high up from a plane window, clouds are nature’s constantly changing work of art, untouchable by man. Without clouds, the sky is an empty canvas.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.” He was referring to a constantly changing world. Perhaps, this is even more true for clouds because as we bitterly see now, water can stop flowing in rivers, but clouds never stop moving and they decide whether rivers would resume flowing, if at all.

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“Retreat” or “Normalization of Relations”?

August 25, 2022

In the military context, the word “retreat” means “the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy or from an advanced position”. In a broader context, it is defined as “an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable”. [i] For obvious reasons, the word is anathema to politicians. They prefer expressions like “revision” or “updating” of policy. But in Türkiye, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) avoids even using such expressions as they might be conceived as an admission of error. It prefers to refer to its foreign policy reversals as “normalization of relations”. How we ended up having an abnormal state of relations with others is not an issue.

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President Biden’s Middle East Trip

July 18, 2022

President Biden’s trip to the Middle East took place against the background of Arab-Israeli disenchantment with the Obama White House, the Netanyahu-Trump relationship, the uncertain future of the Iran nuclear deal, the far-reaching consequences of the war in Ukraine, the strategic competition with China and Russia, and his plummeting approval rates at home.  

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Ukraine Crisis: A Reminder from the Middle East

February 7, 2022

The Russia-West standoff over Ukraine continues. The US and its European allies are warning of a serious risk of a Russian offensive against Ukraine. Moscow is claiming that the US is trying to pull Russia into an armed conflict over Ukraine that Russia does not want. The US is sending troops to Germany, Poland, and Romania. The West is waiting for the Russian response to its written proposals which Moscow says focus only on secondary issues. Lines of argument and underlying rationale are getting increasingly blurred and confusing.

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The Year 2021 in Retrospect

December 22, 2021

The top foreign and security policy item of 2021 was the strategic competition between major powers. Its subtitles were “China’s ascendancy”, “Russia’s resurgence” the “waning of American power”. The rise of authoritarianism, democracy’s decline, the failure of multilateralism, and climate change remained subjects of philosophical debate. Needless to say, Covid-19 is still the common enemy but the world failed to close ranks against it.

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Turkey’s Middle East Policy Coming Full Circle

December 6, 2021

The so-called “Friends of Syria Group”, now history, held its first meeting in Tunis on February 24, 2012.  On April 1, 2012, it met for the second time in Istanbul.

Later that month in 2012, Turkey’s Foreign Minister delivered a major foreign policy speech in the parliament. Emphasizing the genuine desire for change underlying the Arab spring, he declared that attempts to explain the current developments with plans imposed from abroad and external conspiracies were primarily an insult to the honorable peoples of the region.

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Migration Tragedies to Continue

November 29, 2021

Last week, twenty-seven migrants lost their lives trying to cross from France to Britain in an inflatable boat. Coming soon after the standoff at the Belarus-Poland border, the tragedy briefly caught the world’s attention. Britain and France started sparring over the incident and appeared to disagree on measures to be taken to prevent its recurrence. Phrases like, “lack of officers on the ground”, “securing areas”, “unseaworthy boats”, “joint patrols”, “traffickers” appeared frequently in the reporting of the incident and exchanges between the two capitals. Then, the top issue became Prime Minister Johnson making his letter to President Macron public before it reached its destination. This is understandable to a certain extent in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but only to a certain extent.

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Spy Games Between Israel and Turkey

November  22, 2021

In late October Turkish news outlets reported that fifteen individuals suspected of spying for Israel were arrested as part of a security operation. Reportedly, the suspects were spying on senior Hamas officials based in Turkey who were given Turkish citizenship, as well as some foreign students. The network allegedly relied on Palestinian and Syrian nationals living in Turkey. The allegation, not entirely far-fetched, was largely ignored by Israel.

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The Middle East Dimension of the Standoff at the Belarus-Poland Border

November 15, 2021

The standoff over migrants on NATO’s and the European Union’s eastern flank is turning into a wider political conflict. For Belarus’s EU  neighbors this is a deliberate retaliation for EU sanctions. Ukraine is reinforcing border guards to prevent any attempts by migrants to enter the country since it shares a 1084-kilometer border with Belarus. According to the Kremlin readout of a call between President Putin and Chancellor Merkel, the former supports the restoration of contacts between the EU and Belarus with a view to resolving the problem. It appears that parties most directly involved in the conflict also have domestic policy considerations in mind. Most of the initial reporting on the crisis referred to “a standoff at the EU-Belarus border”,  but this is the NATO-Belarus border as well. And Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia are now considering asking NATO to hold emergency talks under Article 4 of the treaty which says that “the Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”

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The World Needs a Broad Coalition Against Terrorism

October 12, 2021

On July 8, 2021, in remarks on the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan President Biden said:

“We went for two reasons: one, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, as I said at the time. The second reason was to eliminate al Qaeda’s capacity to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory. We accomplished both of those objectives — period.”

On August 16, in the middle of a chaotic withdrawal he said:

“Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

“We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.”

Finally on August 26, upon the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport he declared:

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay…”

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