March, 2016 Geopolitics


Author Mahmut Bozarslan
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Turkey has been debating the trench and barricade warfare the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has launched in towns in southeast Turkey. Many couldn’t understand why the organization chose that method of warfare. But there are widespread allegations in the southeast that the organization’s leadership was deceived by reports sent by the PKK rank and file that the people were ready to join a popular uprising.

By Nawaf Obaid
Obama abandoned the Arab world. Riyadh is picking up the slack.
Following a thorough explication of Obama’s foreign policy doctrine in a recent Jeffrey Goldberg article, it is now clearer than ever that America and Saudi Arabia are on a collision course over strategic decisions in the Middle East. This is because the “Obama Doctrine” is diametrically opposed to the emerging “Salman Doctrine,” which the Kingdom is developing in order to restore peace and a modicum of stability to the region.


Central Asia Caucasus Analyst, Najia Badykova
On February 29, 2016, the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council met in Baku for the second time and asserted that the diversification of EU energy sources remains a key component of the Union’s energy security policy. But the project faces serious hurdles. After many years of discussions with potential gas suppliers, Brussels has only been able to secure 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Azerbaijani gas per year for the corridor, a tiny fraction of EU members’ needs.


by Jonathan Spyer, The Jerusalem Report

The cold numbers are the first thing that hit you. Figures telling of a human catastrophe on a scale hard to compute. Suffering on a level to which any rational response seems inadequate – 470,000 people killed, according to the latest estimates; 11.5 percent of the population injured; 45 percent of a country of 22 million made homeless; 4 million refugees and 6.36 million internally displaced persons. Life expectancy is down from 70.5 years in 2010 to an estimated 55.4 years in 2015. Welcome to the Syrian civil war.


Author Fehim Taştekin
Many analysts are busy trying to understand the motivation that led to the unexpected declaration recently of a federal system by Syrian Kurds, who until then were promoting a cantonal model that would incorporate divergent ethnic and religious groups.

MSC_2014_Davutoglu_Mueller_MSC2014

SELIM KORU
In the first of a two-part series, a Turkish analyst describes his country’s strategic character, and how it is changing through its contact with the Syrian Civil War.

If you follow Iranian foreign policy wonks on Twitter you’ll have come across plenty of photos of Qasim Suleymani. The wiry silver-haired general is often surrounded by a cadre of Shia militants in Iraq, Hezbollah fighters in Syria or Iranian commandos back from special missions. He often has a knowing smile on his lips.

CCTV footage of the Belgium attacks suspects. Public Domain.

Geopolitical Monitor, Lincoln Clapper
This past week Europe experienced its second major terrorist attack within the last five months. The ISIS-claimed attack in Brussels signifies again just how real and how serious the militant group is about training, equipping, and tactically carrying out an assault in Europe.

 

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis
Vladimir Putin after all took the momentous decision for Russian carpet bombing to level the Islamic State forces holding Palmyra since last May, and so clear the way for Bashar Assad’s troops and allied forces to enter the heritage city Saturday and Sunday, March 26-27 and take control of several districts.

 A Palestinian man sits on a rock at Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho [REUTERS]

Geoffrey Aronson
US Vice-President Joe Biden was not revealing a secret when, during a recent speech to the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC, he observed that there is "no political will at this moment among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward with serious negotiations".


By M.K. Bhadrakumar
In an abrupt turnaround, Moscow has put out feelers to Turkey signalling interest in calming tensions in the bilateral relations and opening a new page. The Russian civil aviation authorities have lifted the ban on flights to Antalya on the Mediterranean, which is known as the Turkish Riviera and a popular destination for Russian tourists.


Author Mohammed A. Salih
ERBIL, Iraq — The recent declaration of a federal structure in northern Syria by the local Kurdish administration and its Arab and Assyrian allies is likely to put the Syrian Kurds further at odds with neighboring Turkey, as it will pose serious challenges to Ankara amid renewed conflict with its own Kurds..

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
It would be unthinkable if the storms of the ruling ideology that is a bizarre blend of neo-Ottomanism, Islamism and nationalism should not conquer academia as it conquered other walks of life; political, cultural and social.

 Aurel Braun
The new visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow is not a game-changer – it’s just a game that reveals President Barack Obama's real strategy to manage rather than resolve conflicts in an election year.

 


by Raheem Kassam
According to a 2006 survey, 20 percent of British Muslims sympathised with the 7/7 bombers who brought terror to the streets of London.
On the back of the Brussels terror attack it is worthwhile remembering that while a majority of Muslims in the West appear to have no truck with terrorism or extremism, there are a significant number who sympathise with terrorism and repeatedly attempt to justify attacks on the West.


Yossef Bodansky for Institut für Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatung (ISPSW)
This article was originally published by ISPSW in March 2016.

According to Yossef Bodansky, the mega-trends in the Middle East – namely, the rise of a “Fertile Crescent of Minorities,” the collapse of modern Arab states, and the ascent of tribe-and clan-based local entities in their stead – have reached the point of irreversibility. As a result, he believes Russia will be the big geopolitical winner in the region.


Project Syndicate, Yu Yongding
BEIJING – Since last November, economists and the media alike have been hailing supply-side structural reform as a groundbreaking solution to China’s economic woes. After all, the logic in China goes, demand-side policies, in the form of Keynesian stimulus measures, are useful only for resolving short-term and aggregate problems. Because China’s problems are long term and structural, the country should be focused on supply-side structural reform, even if it means accepting slower GDP growth. Is this the right approach?

China, Geopolitics, Politics

arge grafiti art in "the block", downtown tirana, albania.

 

By Alex Sakalis

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 15 March 2016.

Enver Hoxha: The Iron Fist of Albania tells the extraordinary story of how one man held an entire country hostage for 40 years – and got away with it. Between 1944 and 1985, the small Balkan nation of Albania was ruled by a strange, sociopathic and, frankly, completely mad dictator by the name of Enver Hoxha. While Stalinism effectively ended in Europe with the death of its namesake, or at least with the Khruschev reforms that followed, it continued unabated and unquestioned in Albania until 1990.

 

Andre Colling
This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 11 March 2016.

It seems clear that pro-government forces in Iraq are preparing to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The Islamic State (ISIS), a Sunni extremist group, captured Mosul following a series of assaults in June 2014, an offensive that ultimately resulted in an embarrassing collapse of the Iraqi Army in northern Iraq. Since then, the Iraqi government has made the recapture of Mosul a key domestic goal in its fight to reclaim its territory and reassert its control over a restive minority Sunni population.


Author Uri Savir
Israeli-American relations are at an all-time low. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to meet President Barack Obama, as suggested by the White House, prior to the AIPAC conference on March 20 is another unprecedented blow to the relationship.

Strategic Engineered Migration as Weapon of War

After reading the title, you may think it is describing the phenomenon that Europe has recently been facing: the hundreds of thousands of refugees, both victims of the hardships of civil wars and opportunists, who are invading the Balkans by land and by sea and then making their way further, trying to reach richer countries like Germany, France and Scandinavia by any means possible.

 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP)

Ben-Dror Yemini
Op-ed: The Turkish president's successful efforts to Islamize his country are responsible for the rise in terrorism, an obvious result; he has only himself to blame.
Up until the last decade, Turkey was the very model of a secular country, despite its absolute majority of Muslim citizens.


The United Arab Emirates' Secular Foreign Policy
By David B. Roberts

The Arab Gulf is characterized by regimes that blend church and state in their foreign policy. Saudi Arabia hosts Islam’s two holiest sites, and its ruling family’s power stems from a bargain its forefathers made with a fundamentalist Sunni religious sect. Iran is the world’s largest Shia state and has backed Shia groups throughout the region since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Both states have been irresponsible in their tactical and strategic use of Islam in order to further their own foreign policies and to boost domestic political support.


by Daniel Pipes, The Australian,
Originally published under the title "Erdoğan's Despotic Slide in Turkey is Bad News for Europe."

A rhetorical question by the time the Economist ran this cover in June 2013.
The Republic of Turkey, long a democratizing Muslim country solidly in the Western camp, now finds itself internally racked and at the center of two external crises, the civil war in next-door Syria and the illegal immigration that is
changing European politics. The prospects for Turkey and its neighbors are worrisome, if not ominous.

belgium-brussels-attacks

 By George Friedman
The recent attacks strike at the heart of two potential threats to IS.
Summary
The attacks in Belgium and Turkey must be considered together. They are attacks in the symbolic heartlands of two potential enemies of the Islamic State, Europe and Turkey. The attacks are meant to destabilize each country and recruit potential operatives from each country’s pool of possible jihadists.
There have been two attacks this week, both apparently by the Islamic State, first in Turkey on March 19 and then today in Belgium.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether Obama's renewed focus on the region has been enough to prevent a post-American order in Asia, writes Heydarian [Reuters]

Richard Javad Heydarian

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether Obama's renewed focus on the region has been enough to prevent a post-American order in Asia, writes Heydarian [Reuters]
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference," the 20th-century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once famously wrote. Arguably, this very much sums up the United States President Barack Obama's foreign policy doctrine and his valuation of American priorities in various regions.


Project Syndicate, Carmen Reinhart
CAMBRIDGE – As Chinese policymakers attempt to address what ails their country’s economy, they are pursuing two goals that will almost certainly turn out to be incompatible. Very seldom have central banks been able to maintain a fixed exchange rate over an extended period of time while providing liquidity to troubled banks and an ailing economy.

Molly Crabapple, theguardian
On Saturday Isis bombed Istiklal Caddesi, the central street of Istanbul’s Beyoglu neighbourhood. Many complain about its chain stores and gentrification, but for me, it will always be the grand boulevard all others aspire to. Istiklal made Broadway look like a neon bauble, and the Champs Élysée seem insipid.

By Maxim Trudolyubov
The troika gathered at a polished table surrounded by the insignia of the Russian state and made their pronouncements reluctantly, as if caught in the middle of an absorbing card game. All three looked baffled at themselves during the entire 10-minute news segment devoted to Moscow’s surprise move to withdraw the bulk of Russian forces from Syria.

Washington looks for 'existential threats' in all the wrong places.
Robert S. Leiken

America spent the last thirty years attacking illusory foes or defending purported friends in the Middle East, sacrificing blood and treasure, polarizing our polity and forfeiting influence. Our misadventures resemble a game of blindman’s buff, our record that of a perennial cellar-dwelling football team.
Consecutive American administrations turned the ball over several times without moving it downfield. We barge into Middle East conflicts like a drunken bar brawler. What induced this addiction?


OFRA BENGIO
The asymmetrical but rewarding relationship between two Middle East minority nations.
Over the past few years, Israeli politicians—from Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to President Shimon Peres to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman—have been publicly advocating the establishment of a Kurdish state. Most recent to weigh in is Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who called this past January for the formation of an independent Kurdistan and urged enhanced policy cooperation between Israel and the Kurds.


By M.K. Bhadrakumar
The parting of ways between Russia and Iran over the Syrian question has always been inevitable. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s talks with the Turkish leadership in Istanbul on Saturday may signify that Tehran has begun trimming sails for a new voyage on own steam.

A migrant shaves another at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni

Mark Mardell

Even as people struggle and drown on the river border between Greece and Macedonia the proposed solution to Europe's migration crisis is dissolving before our very eyes.
European Council President Donald Tusk's invitation letter to the two-day summit in Brussels this week admits gloomily "the catalogue of issues to be resolved before we can conclude an agreement is long".
Turkey is the key, and Turkey is the lock. The youthful, populous, problematic Muslim country is a practical conundrum and an existential threat to the EU's self-definition, seen by some as the classic shadow image, the threat of the other.

 

Olga Pylova
Debates: A number of Russian and foreign experts describe how the West currently views the situation in Ukraine two years after Crimea’s incorporation into Russia.On the eve of the second anniversary of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, several symbolic events took place, including a visit by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kiev and the decision by the EU to prolong sanctions on Russia. Both events hint at the changing tenor of the conversation over Ukraine.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump [Reuters]

 Hamid Dabashi
Despite the fact that the majority of US citizens dislike both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump after their respective victories in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois, the Democratic and Republican frontrunners are now poised to combat their way into the White House.

Fehim Işık on the news site Haberdar writes that political Islam, represented by AKP and Erdoğan has succeeded in bringing Kemalist nationalism, represented by Baykal (the former CHP leader) and the Turkic nationalism of MHP together on the shared ground of enmity against the Kurds.

 Europe's Faustian Pact with the Sultan

PEPE ESCOBAR 
Anyone who haggled about the price of a carpet in a Turkish bazaar knows these guys are more reptilian than Henry Kissinger. They always get what they want by letting you leave with the impression you got what you want for a price way higher than you were initially inclined to pay.

 

Are recent Russian maneuvers signs of increasing hostilities or just part of a long-term plan? It’s no secret that the relationship between Russia and Turkey is dismal, with the countries clashing over their respective roles in the Syrian civil war. Russia backs the Syrian regime. Turkey backs the regime’s opponents.

Natalie Nougayrède, theguardian
While European leaders believe they are edging towards a solution to the refugee crisis after securing a deal with Turkey, another power watches closely from afar: Russia.

After two days of negotiations, Turkey and the European Union reached a compromise agreement on a plan to reduce the flow of migrants from the Middle East to Europe. At a summit concluding March 18, the heads of government of the 28 EU members and their Turkish counterparts approved the plan, which should take effect March 20. While the deal could help reduce the number of migrants arriving in Europe, questions remain about the signatories' ability and commitment to fully enforce it.

Alan Schneider, Director, B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem
Over the last two months, B’nai B’rith International has been at the cusp of an important emerging diplomatic development in the turbulent area of the Eastern Mediterranean—the establishment of a regional geopolitical consensus among the only three stable democracies in the area: Israel, Greece and Cyprus.


Author Ufuk Sanli
The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), denounced as a terrorist group by Turkey, last month inaugurated its first representative office abroad — in Moscow. A Kurdish speaker at the ceremony hailed the event as “a historic moment for the Kurdish people” before lauding his hosts: “Russia is a big power and a prominent actor in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not only an actor, but also a scriptwriter.”


by Burak Bekdil, The Gatestone Institute
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (2nd from left) says his latest round of talks with Europe's leaders was bargaining "a la Kayseri," a Turkish city famous for its cunning merchants.
Turkey has been sliding into an ugly Islamist despotism. Yet its relations with the European Union (EU) it aspires to join have rarely been better. Some call it a mutually "transactional" improvement: "pragmatism."
Others, in less diplomatic language, call it Turkish blackmailing on the back of the refugee crisis.


Geopolitical Monitor, Alessandro Bruno
Five years after the start of the revolution that would lead to war against Gaddafi, Libya is in chaos. Libya remains divided between two governments, which are fighting for what remains of oil revenues. A given Libyan militia, one of hundreds that have mushroomed in the country since it was ‘liberated’ – no thanks to NATO forces – controls some oil-producing facilities.


Project Syndicate, Aryeh Neier
NEW YORK – Human rights reports make for depressing reading. Filled with accounts of cruelty, they can inspire despair for the human condition. But while I have read many such reports over the years, I cannot recall one as packed with horror as the one recently published by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.


Author Semih Idiz
Recent months have witnessed much talk, suggesting the long-awaited reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is around the corner. Uncharacteristically positive remarks about Israel from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and upbeat statements from Turkish government officials have also increased expectations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2015 [AP]

 

Marwan Bishara
Have you noticed how President Vladimir Putin does not prepare the political grounds or give any advance notice before he acts? Or how he seems not to give a damn about international public opinion?

Nikolay Pakhomov
When the Russian bombing campaign started in Syria last fall, one could assume that Moscow's actions would begin to reveal more about the country’s foreign policy. This assumption is proving to be correct now, after President Putin announced the withdrawal of Russia's main forces. Moscow’s actions in Syria over the last half year have clarified both the guidelines of Russian foreign policy and how they help in dealing with very complicated problems of the Middle East.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey and Russia have been locked in an angry dispute over Syria ever since the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. That move by Turkey backfired by pushing Moscow into supporting Syrian Kurdish fighters who Ankara considers to be terrorists.

If Europe had provided safe, legal, collectively coordinated routes for refugees, there would be no crisis, writes Shabi [Reuters]

Rachel Shabi

If Europe had provided safe, legal, collectively coordinated routes for refugees, there would be no crisis, writes Shabi [Reuters] Of course, it was a comment too good to resist. When a NATO commander accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "weaponising" migrants, it was picked up by media outlets everywhere. Because that is exactly the sort of thing the dastardly Russian president would do, in cahoots with the murderous Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, isn't it?


BY MARK J. VALENCIA
SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

KANEOHE, HAWAII – The South China Sea contretemps has taken a decided turn for the worse. The United States has upped the ante in its contest of wills with China by deploying an aircraft carrier strike group to the South China Sea. This came on the heels of a warning from U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter of “specific consequences” for China’s continued “aggressive” actions in the Sea.