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.
The Presidents of Iran, Russia, and Türkiye met in the Astana format on July 19, 2022. President Erdogan went to Tehran to secure the understanding of his partners for a military operation against the PKK/YPG in Syria that has been on his agenda for some time. The Joint Statement issued at the end of the Tehran summit addressed Ankara’s terrorism concerns in principle, but in so far as action was concerned it fell short of his expectations.[i]
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.
Afghanistan developments could only divert Turkey’s attention from Syria for a while. With the meeting on September 29 between Presidents Putin and Erdogan, and the latter’s comments signaling another operation against the PYD/YPG, we are back to Idlib.
Since the very beginning of the Syrian conflict there have been three major challenges before a political settlement:
• Breaking the deadlock over President Assad’s future;
• Persuading the external/regional backers of Damascus and the opposition to give their support not only in words but also in deeds to a Syrian-owned political transition; and,
• Securing a broad-based agreement on who is a “terrorist” and who is a “moderate”.
In late September, President Erdogan traveled to New York and addressed the UN General Assembly. He also hoped to have a face-to-face meeting with President Biden. When such a meeting failed to materialize, President Erdogan vented his pent-up frustration with Washington.
On September 29, he met with President Putin in Russia’s Black Sea city of Sochi, their first for a year and a half.
Before the meeting, the two leaders delivered remarks to the media.[i]
On February 19, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. At 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference he defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He expressed his strong belief that democracy will and must prevail.
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 →
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 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 →
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 →