February, 2016 Geopolitics

European Peninsula

John Mauldin , CONTRIBUTOR
GUEST POST WRITTEN BY George Friedman

As an expert in intelligence and international geopolitics, George Friedman is firmly focused on what he knows best—the future.
Many people think of maps in terms of their basic purpose: showing a country’s geography and topography. But maps can speak to all dimensions—political, military, and economic.


A History of Antagonism
By Jeffrey Mankoff 

Relations between Turkey and Russia have been fraught ever since the Turkish air force downed a Russian bomber that briefly violated its air space in November. But the tensions between the two countries had been escalating for months before that, first over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and then over Syria. As a result, in the span of two years, the two countries have largely undone the entente they had built over the past 15.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, theguardian
Murderous suicide bombings. A deadly upsurge of ethno-sectarian violence spilling over from Syria. A country whose friendship with the US and EU is increasingly fragile, and is now at daggers drawn with a historic enemy, Russia.

Cultural Mosaic, courtesy of  Dinesh Cyanam

Jason Miklian and Devika Sharma for Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF)
India’s foreign policy history has always been complex, but what about its current approach to international relations? By looking at New Delhi’s foreign policy tilts in five specific areas, Jason Miklian and Devika Sharma confirm that its external engagement remains varied and often contradictory.


By Peter Lee
A single report that the PRC had deployed surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea created quite the media firestorm. What if I told you, as the Internet meme goes, it was just a case of Same Old Same Old?


Ankara (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit four west African countries next week, including Nigeria, his office said Saturday in a new sign of Ankara's desire to be a major influence in the region.


Analysis

With each passing day, it is becoming increasingly clear that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's term could come to an abrupt end. Both the opposition-controlled legislature and Maduro's own party are calling for him to resign to deflect public anger from the government. According to Stratfor sources, the opposition has already discussed with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) the possibility of forming a joint post-Maduro junta to govern the country. 

Guardian Editorial
The Syrian war has lasted so long and diplomacy has proved so ineffective that the hope that it could end or at least be brought under some kind of control is hard to sustain. Yet the cessation of hostilities agreed by nearly all of the warring parties seemed to be holding this weekend. Most observers give it a chance, not because of some sudden change of heart on anybody’s part – nearly all those concerned still hate each other – but because it is arguably in the interests of the key players to pursue their objectives in the future in a different way.

a3-ansar_al-shariah.jpg

by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, chair of the German political party Civil Rights Movement Solidarity

If Turkey reacts to the most recent terror attack in Ankara (in which 28 people died) with a ground invasion of northern Syria—formally to counterattack against the Kurds, but much more to “save” the rebel groups which Turkey supports, ranging from al-Nusra to ISIS—there is the immediate danger that it will bring on a military confrontation between the Turkish military units and the Syrian army supported by Russia.


Project Syndicate, Javier Solana
MADRID – Five years after the start of the so-called Arab Spring, the hope that initially characterized those revolutions has largely been dashed. In many cases, the revolutions have evolved into brutal and protracted internal conflicts, with no solution in sight. Amid all of this strife, the international community has paid little attention to countries like Algeria, where the revolutionary spirit was stifled while still incipient. But Algeria’s fate is back on the world’s radar – and not a moment too soon.

By Arash Reisinezhad
Rafsanjani’s aim is to control the critical succession process.
Fires are raging in the Middle East, from Syria and Turkey to Yemen and Iraq. Located at the heart of the region, Iran has been a true island of stability. But this stability could be threatened by the historic elections for the Assembly of Experts and parliament on February 26. While the battle over daily aspects of power between the reformists and the hard-liners in Iran has caught the attention of many Iran watchers, a more hidden, yet earth-shattering, process is shaping the trajectory of the domestic power struggle within the country.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

Had the news text not been dispatched by the always serious, always meticulous, semi-official state news agency, Anadolu Agency (AA), I would have suspected it of being a set of misquotations at best and a hoax at worst. But AA’s reporters are experienced enough to not misquote a cabinet minister so erroneously (and if they did misquote the minister, they should run a correction).

Geopolitics, Turkey

Ömer Taşpınar
The real problem for the next American administration will not only be Russian hegemony over Syria but Turkey's propensity to challenge this domination by trying to get NATO involved in a conflict with Moscow.


Stanley Weiss
Founding Chairman, Business Executives for National Security

It has always been a matter of historical curiosity that one of the American diplomats who was deeply involved in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was named Achilles. As the head of the State Department's Office of Western European Affairs after World War II and the eventual U.S. Vice Deputy of the North Atlantic Council, Theodore Achilles played a lead role in drafting the treaty that was designed to deter an expansionist Soviet Union from engaging in an armed attack on Western Europe.

aleppo2, cc Flickr Félim McMahon, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Geopolitical Monitor, Hassan Sohail
The war in Syria is so demonic and unyielding that half of its population had to leave the country within years; in fact, one of every five displaced people in the world today is a Syrian. The conflict has triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. According to the International Organization for Migrants (IOM), 1.2 million houses have been damaged in Syria, availability of water has decreased by 50 percent, and only 43 percent of hospitals are fully functional.

CYPRUS-ISRAEL-MILITARY

incyprus

Cyprus and Israel’s defence ministers will be unveiling a monument dedicated to Cyprus-Israel Friendship on Wednesday.
Israeli minister Moshe Ya’alon arrived on the island on Wednesday morning in what was a historic first official visit by an Israeli Minister of Defence to the island.
At the invitation of Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides, he was welcomed at the Headquarters of the Cyprus National Guard, where talks between the delegations of the two countries took place.

 

 


Author Mustafa al-Haj
DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian regime’s advancement in Daraa, Aleppo and rural Latakia, among other areas, confirms the Russian intervention in Syria has changed the balance of power in favor of the regime. As opposition forces have failed to deter the regime’s attacks in Daraa province, hopes are hanging on a cease-fire truce announced following a US-Russian agreement approved Feb. 23 by the Syrian regime. The truce, which is to be implemented starting Feb. 27, could be a prelude to ending the military conflict and launching a political solution that would solve the Syrians’ crisis, observers say.


Author Metin Gurcan
Developments in Syria have picked up speed rapidly in the past two weeks, and the situation is only becoming more complicated.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, supported by Russian warplanes, are trying to control critical supply routes between Turkey and Aleppo. Ankara has declared the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) a terrorist organization because of its organic ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and expansion of its Afrin canton in western Kurdistan northwest of Aleppo.

 

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

President Vladimir Putin this week mounted a rescue operation to unsnarl his blueprint for a solution of the Syrian crisis from the blockage placed in its path by none other than Bashar Assad. The Syrian ruler won’t hear of Moscow’s proposals for ending the war, or even the cessation of hostilities approved last week in Munich by the 17-member Syria Support Group.

By Liz Sly 
ISTANBUL — Turkey is confronting what amounts to a strategic nightmare as bombs explode in its cities, its enemies encroach on its borders and its allies seemingly snub its demands.As recently as four years ago, Turkey appeared poised to become one of the biggest winners of the Arab Spring, an ascendant power hailed by the West as a model and embraced by a region seeking new patrons and new forms of governance.


by Jonathan Spyer, The Jerusalem Post

Over the ruined landscape of northern Syria, a number of core factors that today define the strategic reality of the Middle East are colliding. Close observation of that blighted area therefore offers clues as to the current state of play more broadly in the region – who is on the way up, who on the way down, and what might this imply for Israel in the short to medium term.

<p>Now, get me out of this.</p> Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

BLOOMBERGVIEW, By Marc Champion

The European Union is a strange beast, a 28-sided push-me-pull-you that Britons never loved, but needed. They still do, perhaps more than ever. Yet it is very possible that Britain will vote to leave on June 23, in pursuit of a fantasy.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Having been left largely in the cold, Ankara is now trying to get back into the game in Syria in order to promote its security interests in the north of the country. It continues, however, to tread on thin ice.


By AT Editor
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the sides were closer to a ceasefire than ever before. But he indicated there were still issues to be resolved and he did not expect any immediate change on the ground.

Bülent Keneş

Just as deterrence against hostile forces is important for the protection and promotion of national interests in international relations, consistency and credibility are equally important in the international community.
Of course, deterrence does not consist solely of continually declaring red lines regarding national interests. And it can hardly be defined as standing by with folded arms when these red lines are blurred in a short time. Indeed, there is a huge gap between deterrence and bluffing.


By Salman Rafi
America does not want the emergence of China as a giant in the global hierarchy of states. While issues like the ‘militarization’ of South China Sea give it the opportunity to attack China and win praise from ASEAN members involved in islands row, US is also very much concerned over the rise of China as an economic power. 


GWYNNE DYER, The Japan Times
LONDON – “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent,” said John Maynard Keynes (or maybe it wasn’t him, but no matter). At any rate, that was the eternal verity the Saudi Arabians were counting on when they decided to let oil production rip — and the oil price collapse — in late 2014.

NURAY MERT, hurriyetdailynews

Turkey is in a de facto war-like situation, even if it is not de jure yet. The warmonger supporters of the government have already started to celebrate “the new war of independence” in the name of “revenge for the suppression of Turks as leaders of Muslims” and the end of the “cursed 20th century” to go “back to future glorious times.”

by Burak Bekdil, The Gatestone Institute
Originally published under the title "Russia's Trap: Luring Sunnis into War."

 

After Russia's increasingly bold military engagement in war-torn Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite bloc, the regional Sunni powers – Turkey and its ally, Saudi Arabia – have felt nervous and incapable of influencing the civil war in favor of the many Islamist groups fighting Assad's forces.

Abdullah Bozkurt

The government's failure to rally the nation in the face of the recent carnage in the Turkish capital that claimed the lives of 28 people in a deadly terror attack in the heart of the city shows how the security and stability of the country is in peril because of the growing mistrust of citizens towards the governance of the country, which was inevitable given the weakening of democratic institutions and the crackdown on fundamental rights in recent years.

Cold War lessons on the promise—and nuclear peril—of escalation
Robert Farley

A recent RAND wargame on a potential Russian offensive into the Baltics brought talk of a “new Cold War” into sharp focus. The game made clear that NATO would struggle to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltics if it relied on the conventional forces now available.

A supporter of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi holds a military boot on her head in a sign of support for military rule in 2014 [AFP]

 

Wael Haddara

One of the great lessons for the Egyptian military from Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign must have been that it cannot allow executive power to wander too far from its own control. The military coup against Mohamed Morsi was about more than just wresting power from an Islamist president. It was about regaining control of the country from civilian control. This was first threatened under Mubarak's dynastic succession scheme and then after the uprising of January 25, 2011.

 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev giving an interview on the sidelines of the 2016 Munich Securit Conference (Photo: EPA)

Ronen Bergman
Op-ed: The general atmosphere at the 2016 Munich Security Conference was one of despair, confusion and belligerence. The Russians bickered with NATO on every topic, with Russian PM declaring the situation has deteriorated 'to the level of a cold war'; meanwhile, no one talked about the Palestinians, and Iranian FM Zarif failed to draw the same crowds he did in the past.
On stage in Munich, in an almost formal manner, the renewal of the Cold War was announced.

Lale Kemal
Turkey has been facing a series of challenges at home and abroad amid a fresh terrorist attack on Feb. 17, this time, on military targets in Ankara, killing 28 people, including military personnel, and injuring 61.
A bomb-laden vehicle caused the deadly powerful explosion during the evening rush hour, hitting military vehicles at an intersection.

Bataclan, cc Flickr PROERIC SALARD, modified, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

John Rosenthal

Three months after the November 13 terror attacks in Paris that took 130 lives, the world’s media appears to be more convinced than ever that the root of the evil that struck the French capital on that day is to be located some 300 kilometers to the north in the Belgian capital of Brussels. The idea that the Paris attacks were a “Belgian” operation has indeed become so ubiquitous and ingrained that Belgian authorities have felt compelled to mount a campaign to defend the country’s reputation and the mother of one of the victims who died at Paris’s Bataclan theater has even threatened to file suit against Belgium.

By Finian Cunningham

"Information Clearing House" - "SCF" - Less than five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered military intervention in Syria, the five-year war has been completely transformed. Peace is far from certain as a tentative truce this week will attest. The conflict may even escalate. But what Russia’s intervention has certainly achieved is to squeeze out into the open the poisonous forces of regime change that have brought Syria to its dire condition.

Ian Black Middle East editor
A deadline to secure a cessation of hostilities in Syria has passed, further delaying the resumption of UN-brokered peace talks between the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

Omer Taspinar
In many ways, there is nothing new in what we are facing in Syria as far Turkey's strategic approach is concerned.
Turkey lost the initiative in Syria years ago because of two major mistakes. The first was to underestimate the longevity and entrenchment of the regime in Damascus. In other words, Syria was not like Tunisia, Libya or Egypt.

 

By Joseph S. Nye Jr
Moscow may try to link cooperation in the Syrian crisis to relief from sanctions.
For the last fifty-two years, leaders from around the world have gathered in Munich for an annual review of world security problems. This year’s discussion focused on the civil war in Syria. Not only is Syria a political and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, but the refugee flows from that war are causing a political crisis in Europe.

 

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has announced the deployment of the alliance’s standing naval force in the Aegean Sea to help tackle the refugee and migrant crisis. Apparently triggered by a joint Greek/Turkish/German request, the deployment is ostensibly meant to assist international efforts to stem illegal migration.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu finally put to rest speculation about a possible invasion of Syria by Turkey. It was his remarks which fueled this debate in the first place.

He said last week that if things were based on a result-oriented strategy, then Turkey could mount a land operation against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) together with Saudi Arabia.

By Nawaf Obaid
The military exercises ‘Northern Thunder’ are just the beginning.
Last week, the spokesman for the Saudi military, General Ahmed Asseri, announced that Saudi Arabia is “is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria” and that its decision to move into the war-torn country is “irreversible."


Project Syndicate, Rob Johnson
NEW YORK – China’s management of its exchange-rate peg continues to rattle global financial markets. Ongoing uncertainty about renminbi devaluation is fueling fears that deflationary forces will sweep through emerging markets and deliver a body blow to developed economies, where interest rates are at or near zero (and thus cannot be lowered to defend against imported deflation). Fiscal gridlock in both Europe and the United States is heightening the angst.

China, Geopolitics, Politics


Joshua Teitelbaum, senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), and professor of Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, briefed the Middle East Forum on a conference call on Feb. 4, 2016.

By John Wight

 "Information Clearing House" - "Counterpunch " - In Ankara and Riyadh a decent night’s sleep must be hard to come by nowadays, what with the prospects of the Sunni state they’d envisaged being established across a huge swathe of Syria slipping away in the face of an offensive by Syrian government forces that is sweeping all before it north of Aleppo, threatening to completely sever supply lines from Turkey to opposition forces in and around the city, and all but ensuring that its liberation is now a question of when not if.

A New Geopolitical Bloc is Born in the Eastern Mediterranean: Israel, Greece and Cyprus

By Ambassador Arye Mekel
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 329

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: From an Israeli perspective, the recent strengthening of alliance ties with Greece and Cyprus constitutes a win-win situation. A new geopolitical bloc is emerging that has military and political significance, and stands as a counterweight to Turkish ambitions. Stronger Israeli relations with Greece and Cyprus may also serve to encourage Turkey to show more flexibility in negotiations regarding normalization of ties between Ankara and Jerusalem.

Chris Stephen in Tunis
Five years ago he picked up a gun and joined Libya’s rebels to depose Muammar Gaddafi in a blaze of patriotic vigour. Half a decade later the Tripoli medical student will mark Wednesday’s anniversary of the Arab spring revolution treating militia fighters wounded in battles with Islamic State.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

Speaking at an investors forum in The Hague, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey was a safe haven for investors. If the prime minister was not joking or referring to another country that goes by the same name, his understanding of what is and what is not “safe” must be quite eccentric.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews

Turkey has raised the stakes in Syria by beginning to shell the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Defense Units (YPG) in an effort to deter the group from capturing more territory along the Turkish border. Although pro-government media is drumming up support for this action, one does not need much imagination to realize that average Turks are worried about where this is all leading to.

Michael Clarke, theguardian
The military campaign against Islamic State is being reduced to a vicious sideshow as the Syrian civil war enters a new make-or-break phase. Russian military involvement has been a game-changer – saving Bashar al-Assad’s forces from near collapse, blatantly attacking western-backed opposition forces, and supplying T-90 tanks to Assad’s army closing in on Aleppo. For the western allies, time is running out. The agenda is being shaped by Russia, Assad and Iran, which have formed a de facto alliance to maintain the old Syria and – despite the supposed ceasefire agreed by the big powers in Munich last Friday – are not dissuaded by the death and destruction involved.