On March 10, 2023, the “Joint Trilateral Statement by the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran” was issued in Beijing. The Joint Statement started with a reference “to the noble initiative of President Xi Jinping and China’s support for developing good neighborly relations between the Kingdom and the Islamic Republic”. It then mentioned the gratitude of both parties to the Republic of Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman for hosting rounds of dialogue that took place between both sides during the years 2021-2022. The two sides also expressed their appreciation and gratitude to China for hosting and sponsoring the talks. Getting credit for peace-making in the Middle East is a noteworthy achievement.
Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair served as Prime Ministers for approximately 9, 12, and 10 years respectively. Are they on top of the list of longest-serving British leaders? No. Sir Robert Walpole, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the House of Commons, in other words, the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. He remained in power for almost 22 years but that was in the mid-18th century.
At the end of January Secretary of State Blinken visited Egypt where he met with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and President El-Sisi. His remarks there were full of praise for Egypt and the strategic partnership between the two countries. In remarks to the press with the Minister he also said:
“Making tangible and lasting improvements on human rights is essential to strengthening even more our bilateral relationship. It’s a priority for members of our Congress from both of our parties. And it’s fundamentally in the interest of the Egyptian people, which is why I know the President is pursuing these efforts.”
On January 3, 2023, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price, in response to a question regarding “the rapprochement between Turkey and the Syrian regime” said:
“Well, as I understand it, this was a trilateral engagement involving Syria, Turkey, and the Russian Federation as well. Our policy, which is all I can speak to, has not changed. We do not support countries upgrading their relations or expressing support to rehabilitate the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad… We’ve made very clear to all of our allies and partners that now is not the time to normalize relations…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.