The people of Turkey held their breath on the eve of the deadline set in the ultimatum President Erdoğan served on the Syrian regime promising severe military punishment if its forces were not to withdraw to lines drawn in the so-called “Sochi agreement” between Russia and Turkey. Evidently, there was no way that the regime, still recognized by the UN as the legitimate government of Syria, could heed this warning as it would amount to yielding its hard-won sovereign territory to Turkey’s control. More so, such withdrawal would have been hailed by some jihadist armed groups, listed by the UN as terrorist organizations, which have taken most of the civilian inhabitants of the Idlib province as hostage in their quest to winning a rump of Syria to be dismembered. The regime, its air force largely under Russian command and control, reacted to the Turkish ultimatum not by resorting to terse and rejectionist rhetoric but unleashing a bombing campaign resulting in massive loss of life not recorded outside Turkish territory since the Korean war. Okumaya devam et →
On September 17, 2018, Presidents Putin and Erdoğan met in Sochi. On top of their agenda was Idlib. This is what President Putin said at the joint press conference following the talks:
“We reviewed the situation in detail and decided to establish by October 15 a demilitarized area 15–20 km. deep along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops, with radical militants to be withdrawn from the area, including al-Nusra. Also, by October 10, based on the Turkish President’s proposal, to secure the withdrawal of heavy military equipment, tanks, multiple rocket launchers, cannon and mortars of all opposition groups. Turkish mobile patrol groups and Russian military police units will conduct the monitoring of the demilitarized zone. Also, to restore transit along the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama routes before the end of 2018, also at the suggestion of the Turkish side…” (*)
President Putin’s using the word “also” three times in his description of the deal gives the impression that what was agreed upon in Sochi essentially reflects Ankara’s approach to the problem. The International Crisis Group said in a statement today that it welcomes the announcement which would appear to prevent a new deadly round of conflict with tremendous human cost. It added that implementing the agreement will be difficult, and its collapse cannot be ruled out. Turkey seems as if it may have to shoulder the heavy burden of partially disarming rebels inside the zone and emptying it of jihadists, a step those militants seem inclined to resist (**).
On the surface, the world seems to be united in preventing a humanitarian disaster with an extremely high civilian death toll, destruction, human suffering and grief. Yet, one only has to look at the past eight years of the Syrian war, what is going on in Yemen and Libya to see that this is far from being the case. Okumaya devam et →
Roughly a year ago I wrote that President Obama’s decision to refrain from military action in Syria, despite a previously declared “redline”, would best be judged by history. However, the controversy around his decision seems to continue. For example, Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post, with reference to what he had heard from dozens of foreign ministers and senior officials of US allies wrote, “… Japanese, South Koreans, Singaporeans and even Indians confided that they were convinced that Obama’s failure to use force against the regime of Bashar al-Assad was directly responsible for China’s subsequent burst of aggression in territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Poles, Lithuanians and French drew a line between the back down and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As for the Sunni Arabs, Turks and Israelis, it is an article of faith that Obama’s decision accelerated the catastrophe that Syria, and much of the rest of the Middle East, has become. They have an obvious point: Hundreds of thousands are dead, the European Union is in danger of crumbling under an onslaught of refugees, and the Islamic State and Assad remain unvanquished. Who would not call this a bad outcome?” (*)
To me it is just as obvious that countries mentioned in Mr. Diehl’s article look at the Syrian conflict primarily from their own perspective with little regard, if any, for the plight of the Syrian people. Okumaya devam et →
Arab Spring turmoil has continued to dominate world’s agenda with the war in Syria, ISIL terrorism and the refugee problem as top items. The confrontation over Ukraine has somewhat receded confirming predictions of a frozen conflict. The only good news in 2015 were the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The rising cost of its involvement in Syria aside, this puts Tehran on top of the very short list of winners in 2015. Okumaya devam et →
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris President Hollande declared that France was at war. President Obama called the attacks “an attack on the civilized world”. In a telegram to his French counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the attacks were “the latest testimonial to the barbaric essence of terrorism which throws down a challenge to human civilization”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “This attack on liberty targets not only Paris, it targets all of us and it has hit all of us, and that is why we will also all respond together.”
Despite such expressions of solidarity, the question “how to conduct this war?” remains because this is not just about just fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. It is also about finding ways and means to discredit its ideology; diminishing its appeal; narrowing its base; creating platforms if not alliances between the West, Russia and Moslem countries. This is a huge task, now further complicated by problems of homeland security and the Syrian refugees. Okumaya devam et →
I constantly stress the need for US-Russia cooperation in finding solutions to international conflicts, particularly those in the broad Middle East. I mention compartmentalization as a way out in the absence of a wide convergence of views. I concluded a spot in early June by saying that, “U.S. and Russia need to look at the feasibility of an Obama-Putin summit. The UN General Assembly meeting in September may provide a good opportunity.” (1) It appears that there is now some groundwork in this direction including the military-to-military US-Russia talks on Syria.
To find a reasonable way to end the Syrian conflict one may look at what has been said by people who could make a difference:Okumaya devam et →
Article 11 of the Minsk Agreement of February 12, 2015 reads as follows: “Carrying out constitutional reform in Ukraine with a new constitution entering into force by the end of 2015 providing for decentralization as a key element (including a reference to the specificities of certain areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, agreed with the representatives of these areas), as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions … until the end of 2015.”
The Ukrainian Parliament is currently debating constitutional changes with a view to recognizing more autonomy to these two separatist regions. The move is opposed by some, in particular the rightist parties. There has been violence and accusations of provocation. A policeman has lost his life. The coalition government is under strain. The autonomy measure requires approval by 300 members of the 450 seat Parliament. Okumaya devam et →