February, 2016 Politics

Project Syndicate, Michael Spence and Fred Hu
MILAN – Uncertainty about China’s economic prospects is roiling global markets – not least because so many questions are so difficult to answer. In fact, China’s trajectory has become almost impossible to anticipate, owing to the confusing – if not conflicting – signals being sent by policymakers.
In the real economy, the export-driven tradable sector is contracting, owing to weak foreign demand.

China, Economy, Politics

BY RAMZY BAROUD, The Japan Times


European Peninsula

John Mauldin , CONTRIBUTOR

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.

MURAT YETKİN, hurriyetdailynews

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan reacted harshly against the release of two journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, on Feb. 28.

Politics, Turkey

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.

 Syrian fighters carry their weapons in a village on the outskirts of al-Shadadi town in Syria [REUTERS]

US-Russian ceasefire agreement is built upon the unstable foundation of the collective opposition to ISIL.
Geoffrey Aronson is a specialist in Middle East affairs.

It cannot be doubted that Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to go "all in" last September initiated an endgame that years of US half measures in Syria failed to accomplish.

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.


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. 

Gareth Smyth for Tehran Bureau
The primary divide is now between supporters and opponents of the nuclear agreement
Last July’s agreement with world powers brought a realignment in Iranian politics. The central divide in the election was between supporters and opponents of the deal.

Middle East, Politics


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.

Author Adnan Abu Zeed


BAGHDAD — The Baath regime led by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein collapsed in September 2003 in the wake of the US invasion. Iraq has been uneasy ever since and has yet to recover. Every now and then, voices are heard measuring the current security chaos against the relative stability of Saddam’s rule (1979-2003).

Middle East, Politics

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.

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry fondly hoped that the nuclear agreement signed with Iran would bring to the surface a new type of leader - more liberal and less liable to restart the nuclear program - in the twin elections taking place in the Islamic Republic Friday, Feb. 26.

Middle East, Politics

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.


Author Ben Caspit
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot is an experienced officer with a long list of achievements under his belt. Nevertheless, on Feb. 17, he found himself caught in a political crossfire. It happened soon after he gave a talk to a group of high school students in the town of Bat Yam. When asked about the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) procedures for opening fire on assailants, given the wave of terrorism that has been overwhelming Israel for the past few months, Eizenkot said, “Every IDF force out on a mission receives beforehand rules of engagement.

Israel, Politics

Without confronting the past and learning the lesson, the 'China Dream' - the country's drive towards national rejuvenation - will, sadly, remain a dream, writes Zhang [Getty Images]

Lijia Zhang

Spotting my grandfather's stiffened body hanging from the wooden beam in the hall was my earliest memory. I was four then and the year was 1968, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Grandfather, a small-time grain-dealer in his 50s, took his own life because he was terrified that his politically problematic background - he wasn't from a poor farmer or worker's family - would land him with the fate he had often witnessed: humiliation and torture at public gatherings.

China, Culture, Politics

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 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.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
Learning by suffering could have been a useful way to fight the asymmetrical security threats against Turkish cities, towns and military/police personnel. Worse, Turkey is not even learning by suffering. Suffering seems to be merely collateral damage.

Politics, Turkey

Agence France-Presse in Geneva
All sides in the Libyan conflict are probably guilty of war crimes, including torturing, raping and executing prisoners, the UN has said, urging the world to do more to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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 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.

By Paul Craig Roberts

"Information Clearing House" - This morning I was stuck in front of a Fox “News” broadcast for a short period and then with a NPR news program. It was enough to convince me that Nazi propaganda during Hitler’s Third Reich was very mild compared to the constant stream of dangerous lies that are pumped out constantly by the American media.

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


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.

Saeed Kamali Dehghan
On Friday Iranians will vote in two elections, the first to be held since a landmark nuclear agreement was signed last year under which international sanctions were lifted.

Middle East, Politics

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. 

By Finian Cunningham

 "Information Clearing House" - "RT" - A massive apparent terror attack in Turkey’s capital comes at a crucial time just when the Erdogan government is trying to woo Washington’s support for its military intervention in Syria.

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.”

Amir Faress for Tehran Bureau
Concentration of power in the hands of one person is a terrible thing, but nothing will be achieved by fantastical arguments designed to prove there are mechanisms within Iran’s constitution to remedy the issue.

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.

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.

MURAT YETKİN, hurriyetdailynews

A bomb blast rocked central Ankara at rush hour on the evening of Feb. 17, killing 28 and wounding 61. Government sources stated that a suicide bomber pulled the trigger on 30 kilos of explosives next to two buses stopped at a red traffic light carrying military and civilian personnel back home from military offices.


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.

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.

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.

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.


By Manolis Kostidis
Cengiz Çandar – Political analyst-expert in Middle East- Radikal
Turkey’s policy on Syria is not aimed at opposing the Islamic State. It is determined only by the fear of the relations of the Kurds of PYD with the US.


By Oren Kessler
Piety—not just power—remains a driving force in the region.
A meme is gaining traction within American government and media, and it goes like this: The conflicts of the Middle East aren’t about religion. Jihadist violence? Garden-variety criminality, the president says. Young people flocking to ISIS? “Thrill-seekers,” posits the secretary of state, who are desperate for “jobs,” per a State Department spokeswoman. Iran’s belligerence? A reaction to ostracization, a former embassy hostage insists. Sunni-Shiite bloodletting? Jockeying for power, the pundits conclude.


Clinton just can’t quit him. Even as she is trying to outflank Bernie on his left, Hillary Clinton can’t help but stutter the name of Henry Kissinger. Last night in the New Hampshire debate, Clinton thought to close her argument that she is the true progressive with this: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”