March, 2016 International Relations


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.

Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
Six months after it began, a deadly wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis that has been referred to as the “knife intifada” shows no sign of ending, despite a drop in incidents from a high point last autumn.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews
It would come as no surprise to anyone if we were to conjecture that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not one of Washington’s favorite world leaders at present.

Agence France-Presse
Turkey and the US have agreed that a political settlement may be possible this year in Cyprus, the Mediterranean island divided for four decades.

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.

the guardian
Indonesia has refused Chinese demands that it release eight fishermen arrested for illegal fishing, and accused China on Wednesday of sharply raising tensions in the region by helping take back the crew’s seized boat.

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.

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.

As the departure of Russian forces from Syria announced March 14 continues, evidence of construction at Russia's main air base in the country demonstrates Moscow’s intention to maintain a military presence there. Imagery dated March 17 acquired by Stratfor of the Bassel al Assad air base in Latakia province and the naval base at Tartus highlights the ongoing Russian drawdown of its forces in Syria that Moscow contends will be largely completed by March 20.

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.

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.

By Stanley R. Sloan
The next president will have to redesign the U.S. relationship with Europe.
The NATO summit scheduled for July in Warsaw, Poland, will close out the Obama administration’s management of cooperation with America’s transatlantic allies. The president who comes to office in January 2017 will be called on to ensure that this relationship remains a vital support for American interests as well as a touchstone for Western values.


When you think you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s tempting to make up your own grand strategy.

It is a criticism I have heard from more than one person who has worked with President Obama: that he regards himself as the smartest person in the room—any room. Jeffrey Goldberg’s fascinating article reveals that this is a considerable understatement. The president seems to think he is the smartest person in the world, perhaps ever.

Jonathan Steele, theguardian
Vladimir Putin’s dramatic decision to cut his military intervention in Syria has flatfooted everyone from the White House to Bashar al-Assad, and yielded predictably cynical reaction. “It’s a pretty brilliant tactical move,” says the independent military analyst Alexander Golts. Putin has “reaped a positive return” from his intervention, according to the former US assistant secretary of state PJ Crowley. But there is a more nuanced view.

SEMİH İDİZ, hurriyetdailynews

There is a celebratory mood in government circles about the agreement in principle arrived at between Turkey and the EU on the refugee crisis. This is premature though, since EU members still have to ratify the agreement on March 18.

Project Syndicate, Shlomo Ben-Ami
TEL AVIV – Israel’s persistent occupation of Palestinian lands is irreparably damaging its international standing – or so the conventional wisdom goes. In fact, Israel currently enjoys a degree of global influence unprecedented in its history, as a slew of new international challenges give its foreign policy, long held hostage by the single issue of Palestine, significantly more room for maneuver.


By Robert O. Keohane
This interview was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 26 February 2016.

Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening today in the field of international relations?

Guy Verhofstadt, theguardian

Our increasingly divided and desperate European leaders are failing to deliver an effective collective response to the escalating refugee crisis. Instead of devising a strategy to protect those fleeing the barbarity of Assad, Islamic State (Isis) and the Russian air force, EU leaders are obsessed with devising a system to “stem the flow” – in other words to push desperate refugees back into the Aegean sea.

Author Ben Caspit
A fascinating and volatile drama has been unfolding in recent weeks around the intrigue that begins in Jerusalem and winds through Moscow, Damascus, Beirut, Ankara, Tehran and Canberra. Israel, Russia, Turkey, Australia and Iran are the key players, while Syria and Lebanon have supporting roles. To the players in the field, the game is reminiscent of a regional chessboard with a lot more than two contestants.


Central Asia Caucasus Analyst, Boris Ajeganov
Uncertainty on the future of Georgia’s energy security has been growing since late 2015, when Georgia’s minister of energy and deputy PM Kakha Kaladze met with Alexey Miller, CEO of Russia’s Gazprom twice in the span of a month. Discussions on Gazprom’s potential return to the Georgian market quickly raised eyebrows in Baku and caused popular protests in Tbilisi.

Patrick Kingsley and Jennifer Rankin, theguardian
What does the deal involve?
It sounds simple enough: one Syrian refugee on the Greek islands will be returned to Turkey and, in exchange, a Syrian asylum seeker in Turkey will be found a home in Europe.

Simon Tisdall, theguardian
Europe’s Faustian pact with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to curtail migration into the EU may carry a devilishly high price tag. Turkey’s authoritarian president has proved an unreliable and problematic partner since the Syrian crisis erupted five years ago. But the EU’s urgent need for his help currently outweighs its deep misgivings. As Faust discovered, the reckoning comes later.

Rachida Dati, theguardian
At a time when the challenges for Europe are multiplying daily, never has politics been so disconnected from reality. Europe tries to lock itself down and EU member countries are at loggerheads over migrants. The reintroduction of borders, announced by many countries, is doomed to fail for lack of resources. Worse, it tramples on the very principle of solidarity. Europe is on the verge of collapse, yet we can’t even see what’s happening.

Author Metin Gurcan
Amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent West African tour, from Feb. 28 to March 4 and including visits to Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Guinea, news reports surfaced of Turkey establishing a military presence on the strategic Horn of Africa, in Somalia. This development will make Turkey the fifth foreign country to have a military presence in Africa, joining Britain, France, Japan and the United States.

MURAT YETKİN, hurriyetdailynews
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is placing much importance on his visit to Iran on March 4-6. The trip is Turkey’s first official visit to Iran since the lifting of international sanctions following the nuclear deal, and it also follows the recent election in Turkey’s neighbor, won by reformists. The trip comes amid the fragile “ceasing of hostilities” in Syria and marks an opportunity for Ankara and Tehran to normalize relations, which have been strained in recent years.

Simon Tisdall, theguardian
It may be a coincidence that apocalyptic American warnings that Mosul’s giant dam could imminently collapse, potentially killing 1 million Iraqis, come at the very moment when US and Iraqi forces are preparing an all-out assault on the city, the main stronghold of Islamic State (Isis) terrorists in the country.

By Nicholas Pugh
This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 20 February 2016.

According to Max Weber, realism ‘recognizes the subjugation of morality’ to the ‘demands of [a] human nature’ in which the ‘insatiable lust for power’ is paramount (Weber in Smith 1982:1). This claim has led many—especially among liberal theorists—to label it as an amoral and bellicose doctrine (Molloy 2009:107).

BARÇIN YİNANÇ, hurriyetdailynews

“You have fought a war with the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK for 30 years but you have not won,” said a foreign leader recently, talking to a Turkish interlocutor.

“The PKK has fought Turkey for 30 years. It hasn’t won either. Perhaps it too should be told,” was the reply.

By Salman Rafi
While Saudi Arabia and Turkey seek Assad’s exit from Syria, Ankara wants him to be replaced by Muslim Brotherhood’s Syria branch which will be totally unacceptable to Riyadh. The two also differ on the question of Kurds. Turkey wants to ‘Ottomanize’ Kurds while Saudi Arabia looks for ‘Arabizing’ them to use them against Ankara when it comes to the question of ‘leadership’ after the war

Şahin Alpay

Once again there is tension in relations between Ankara and Washington.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hollers: “Decide America! Are you with us or with the terrorist Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD] and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units [YPG]?...” The two capitals' accounts of the recent phone call between Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama differ substantially.