Etiket arşivi: Syria

An Ultimatum That Boomeranged

(Co-authored with Yusuf Buluç)[i]

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

Turkey’s Narrowing Horizons

February 27, 2020

In the fall of 1966, I took a series of exams to join the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Among other things, we were asked to comment on a widely used metaphor, “Turkey is a bridge between East and West”. I wrote that throughout history Anatolia has been a meeting point of cultures and Turkey’s future lies in creating a successful synthesis. In my later years in diplomatic service, I continuously objected to the use of this metaphor arguing that a bridge belongs to neither of its banks and Turkey had already made her choice. With the launching of EU accession negotiations in October 2005, I came to believe that we had finally crossed the Bosporus Bridge and were travelling irreversibly towards the West. This by no means meant a rupture with the East for obvious reasons including geography and history.  Moreover, our good relations with the region were an asset for the EU. Okumaya devam et

The Middle East: A Disheartening Beginning for the New Decade

January 5, 2020

The Iraq-Iran war started on September 22, 1980. It lasted eight years. In August 1991 Iraq invaded Kuwait. A massive US-led military campaign forced Iraq to withdraw in February 1991. It was followed by years of no-fly zones, sanctions and the food for oil program. In March 2003 US invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, only to mark the start of years of violent conflict with different groups competing for power. In June 2004 Czar Paul Bremmer III handed sovereignty to the interim government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Okumaya devam et

2017: Another Year of Turmoil

 

December 20, 2017

The following is from my summing-up of the year 2016 (*):

“The Ukraine conflict has led many analysts to frequently mention President Putin’s unpredictable tactics and actions if not policies. With Mr. Trump in the White House, world’s aggregate unpredictability will probably go up… Surely, one may understand a gradual shift of emphasis, setting of new priorities and a change in public discourse, but many already speculate on major changes to US foreign policy…”

What Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on relations with the US at the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum on December 5, 2017 is particularly revealing in this Okumaya devam et

Syria: “Cessation of Hostilities”

February 29, 2016

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

Middle East in the Grip of Polarization

February 18, 2016

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

Synopsis: Turkey’s Foreign Relations

February 16, 2016

This is an attempt to describe, as briefly as possible, state of Turkey’s foreign relations.

US-Turkey: Exasperation.
Russia-Turkey: For the optimist the word of choice could be “tension”, for the pessimist “enmity”.
China-Turkey: Apprehension.
NATO-Turkey: Mistrust.
EU-Turkey: One can pick any one of the following for a single word description: annoyance, frustration, grief, irritation, vexation. There is, however, a two-word alternative: “unworthy deals”. Okumaya devam et

US-Russia Relations: Compartmentalization of Issues

23 July 2015

I have tried for long to underline the need for US-Russia cooperation in finding peaceful solutions to problems which top the international agenda, in particular in the Middle East. Ever since the Ukraine conflict became a major obstacle to such cooperation, I have expressed the view that “compartmentalization” of issues could help. Now, there seems to be a glimmer of hope in this direction with the finalization of the Iran nuclear deal. Okumaya devam et

Combating ISIL

9 July 2015

On July 6, 2015 President Obama delivered remarks after meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon to discuss US strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State (ISIL). Here are key quotes from his remarks and a few comments:
… This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign. ISIL is opportunistic and it is nimble. In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, it’s dug in among innocent civilian populations. It will take time to root them out — and doing so must be the job of local forces on the ground, with training and air support from our coalition…”
Very true. ISIL must have done enough by now to make sure that any assault by the coalition would lead to civilian losses among Iraq’s Sunnis and galvanize them against Baghdad and its allies. Okumaya devam et

Time to Put Arab Boots on the Ground

7 June 2015

On 17 December 2010 a Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in an act of protest. This was followed in many Arab countries by widespread demonstrations calling for democracy, respect for human rights, a better life and more equitable sharing of national wealth. All that the world sees after nearly five years of Arab Spring is internal strife, war, displacement of people and suffering.

Underlying the current state of affairs are ideological differences, power struggles, tribal and regional conflicts of interest and above all sectarian divisions. But whatever the reason, Arab Spring’s constant feature is Arabs fighting Arabs in endless fratricide. This has created great opportunities for terrorist organizations such as Daesh, al Qaida and al Nusra to entrench themselves across the region and in the case of Daesh claim large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. In the face of such disaster Arab countries remain as divided as ever thereby rendering the concept of “the Arab nation”, once referred to with well-deserved pride and later aspired to with hope, a total myth. Okumaya devam et