Syria’s relations with Moscow have traditionally been close and steady. Russia operated a military base in Tartus for more than four decades. In the mid-1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher Warren Christopher, believing that this offered an opportunity to move Syria away from Russia, went to Damascus 24 times always to leave empty-handed. Okumaya devam et →
The Arab Spring threw the Middle East in chaos. Then came the Ukraine conflict and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As the Syrian conflict moved up on the international agenda the former receded. Despite on and off official statements regarding the illegitimacy of Crimea’s annexation, everybody knew that there would be no going back. With a rising China and a resurgent Russia “global realignment” became a current topic. There was even talk about “Cold War II” and more investment in military power. The rise of populism and authoritarianism led to a pessimistic outlook regarding the future of democracy. Okumaya devam et →
The agreement reached in May 2017 by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Astana called for the cessation of hostilities between rebel groups and regime forces in four “de-escalation” zones in the mainly opposition-held areas of Syria with Russia, Turkey and Iran acting as guarantors.
In broad terms, the deal covered four areas:
Zone 1: Idlib province,
Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province,
Zone 3: Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside,
It has been two tumultuous weeks starting with President Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, immediately followed by the launching of Operation Peace Spring, Vice President Pence’s visit to Ankara on October 17, President Erdoğan’s visit to Sochi five days later and the lifting of US sanctions against Turkey the next day.
The first visit resulted in a Turkish-US joint statement on northeast Syria and the second in a “memorandum of understanding” as President Putin called it. Okumaya devam et →
President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria seems to have surprised even shocked many, particularly in Washington. His brief announcement left many questions unanswered. Had he been a consistent leader steering his administration in close consultation with a steady team of senior officials, explaining the rational of his policies using conventional methods instead of tweets, maintaining close consultation/cooperation with allies, the reaction could have been different.
In response to criticism he tweeted: “Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years…”
He was not the only one. This is precisely why David E. Sanger’s New York Times article of December 19 carried the title, “A Strategy of Retreat in Syria, With Echoes of Obama”, whom Mr. Trump has constantly reviled. Okumaya devam et →
The much-awaited Tehran meeting between Iranian, Russian and Turkish Presidents, generally viewed as the “Idlib Summit”, has ended with a Joint Statement on Syria (*).
Paragraph 2 of the Statement emphasizes the three Presidents’ commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. Moreover, it rejects all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism and states their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries. Okumaya devam et →
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus met a group of journalists, professors and think tank representatives on August 15, 2016. He reportedly said: “Many of the things Turkey is facing today is the result of our Syria policy. This is also true for others but we could not formulate a viable policy. I wish a perspective of peace had been created in the beginning…” By “things” he must have meant the problems, challenges and the threats Turkey is currently confronted with.
In a country where “self-criticism” remains anathema, this was a most remarkable admission. Mr. Kurtulmus is not a member of the opposition. He is not a columnist. He is not a blogger. He is the Deputy Prime Minister of the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) Government which, through a string of election victories, has been in power since 2002. So, his words carry weight and must be of consequence. It is understandable that he refrained from going into specifics but the thrust of his statement was clear. Indeed, it all started with Syria and a reckless strategy to redesign the Middle East. 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 →
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the second largest inter-governmental organization after the UN with 57 Member States, held its 13th Summit Conference in Istanbul on April 14-15, 2016.
Since its establishment in 1969, the OIC has remained under Saudi patronage. Islam’s holiest shrines are there; the King carries the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”; the country’s oil wealth has given Riyadh, at least until now, considerable international leverage and ability to secure allegiances; and, the OIC Secretariat is located in Jeddah. Sponsoring the OIC has provided Riyadh with international clout but this has deprived the Organization of the opportunity to gain solid international status. Arab countries have been OIC’s strongest bloc. Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan are also a category of influential members because they are regional powers and closer to all the trouble. Others which can make a difference are either far away like Malaysia or Indonesia or have an understandably more limited interest in OIC’s agenda. Okumaya devam et →
Terrorist attacks continue to claim rising numbers of innocent lives. The word “gridlock” can hardly describe the political atmosphere. The country is polarized like it has never been. Foreign and security policies are in shambles. Tourism, a major source of income and an irreplaceable avenue for interaction with the outside world is on the rocks. Lawlessness is widespread. People are increasingly agitated. There is little respect for rules, even speed limits. A traffic accident can be described by the media as a “vehicle getting out of control” as if the vehicle has an independent mind of its own. Similarly, most of our problems are attributed to foreign hands, dark forces which are determined to stop Turkey’s rise as a regional and global power. Western political support during the early years of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) rule, the launching of accession talks with the EU in October 2005, President Obama’s remarkable visit to Ankara in April 2009, cozy relations with Russia until the downing of the Su-24 warplane and “strategic cooperation” with President Assad’s Syria are conveniently forgotten. In brief, there can never be any wrongdoing on our part. Okumaya devam et →