December, 2016 Geopolitics

 Truce in Syria Turkey


Murat Yetin
The truce in Syria toward the end of the fifth year of the civil war was announced simultaneously by the Russian and Turkish foreign ministries on Dec. 29.

Syria truce US left out


DEBKAfile Special Report
President Vladimir Putin has announced that the Syrian government and rebels have signed a truce deal and are ready to begin peace talks. The ceasefire begins Thursday, Dec. 289, at midnight local time. The deal excludes the Islamic State the ex-Nusra Front and all groups linked to them. He did not say which rebel groups were covered.

 Turkish army ISIS pushback


DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis 

Wednesday, Dec. 28, hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to deliver a major speech on his vision for the Middle East, Turkey and Russia announced a ceasefire plan going into effect the same night for the whole of Syria, and in all regions, where fighting between pro-government forces and opposition groups were taking place - excepting for terrorist organizations.
Moscow and Ankara assumed the role of guarantors of the process.

Kurdish state unlikely


Murat Yektin
A Hürriyet Daily News reader from Santa Barbara has written me a detailed and lengthy letter that actually echoes similar letters from other parts of the world. The U.S. military cooperation with Kurdish militants against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in the Syrian civil war has increased interest in the Kurdish question in the Middle East among American and European intellectuals. And the fact that the militants belong to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting with NATO member Turkey since 1984, confused the minds of Western intellectuals.

2016 GEOPOLITICAL REVIEW

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who liked 2016. Just about every safe assumption about the future was challenged. To top the year off, the United States even abstained from a veto on the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements, rewriting at the last moment the relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv. It has been a roller coaster, but what has it all meant?

Aleppo Liberated


Moon of Alabama (USA)
As planned by the Russian forces the liberation of east-Aleppo was completed before Christmas. There are no longer beheadings by Takfiris in East-Aleppo. Instead a Christmas mass could be held in the damaged Elias Cathedral in the Old City in east-Aleppo.

Assassination  Russian ambassador

by Daniel Pipes
Australian

The assassination on Dec. 19 in Ankara of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, raises some major geopolitical issues: Will this act of violence break relations between the two countries, isolate Turkey, or – counterintuitively – improve their ties? And does this murder affect the Middle East and the world beyond?

Turkey diplomatic network


By Nazli Yuzbasioglu and Sultan Cogalan

ANKARA

With 235 diplomatic missions worldwide, Turkey now has globe's largest diplomatic network after 5 permanent UNSC members. Turkey has the sixth-largest diplomatic network in the world, according to an international global diplomacy index.

Aleppo or cemetery?


Yusuf Kanli
A Syria crisis-famed bearded “strategy expert” on a TV program was explaining how it was “normal” to have 14 casualties in a war being waged in a city. The expert said fighting a war with drones or armored vehicles was important in undermining the capacity of the enemy but in order to achieve victory, it was necessary to have boots on ground. 

Iran’s Ascendancy

By Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 388

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Widespread moral revulsion at the horrors of the battle for Aleppo, and the aftershocks of the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey, should not blind us to the dark strategic implications of the recent turn of events in Syria. 

Turkey-Israel: pipeline

Selin Nasi
Energy cooperation has been a major force driving Turkish-Israeli reconciliation.

Israel’s Leviathan gas field, the country’s largest natural gas reservoir, was discovered in 2010 and is believed to hold 621 billion cubic meters of gas.

 U.S. Credibility


Ian Bremmer

The National Interest

THE GOOD news for the world’s only remaining superpower is that the greatest injuries tend to be self-inflicted. That is, as they say, also the bad news. This was true well before Donald Trump won the presidential election.

Albanian Parliament


The New Year will bring elections for Albania and its people, meanwhile Mr. Edi Rama and his confidants have allocated large sums of money and plan to feast a large number of staffers in the Prime Minister’s office at the expense of Albania’s taxpayers.

 Andrey Karlov


Murat Yektin
I knew Andrey Karlov in person. The Russian Ambassador to Ankara was from the old school, a Cold War warrior, who even served in North Korea. In the worst times of Turkish-Russian crisis over the Syria-plane downing affair, Karlov did not lose his calm.

Mavi Marmara case


Author Pinar Tremblay

On Dec. 2, the Mavi Marmara case brought against Israel for its assault on a Turkish ferryboat carrying humanitarian relief to Gaza met in court for the 21st time. The prosecutor asked for the dismissal of the case based on the agreement signed between Israel and Turkey in June. The victims’ families and activists at the court were furious, so the judge adjourned the session until Dec. 9.

Trump's Dilemma

 By George Friedman
The president-elect's ability to make changes depends on whether his support rises or falls.
Donald Trump’s presidency will have geopolitical consequences. Most of the world wants to know what he will do. But that depends on what he can do. 

Ambassador's assassination

 By YOSSI MELMAN 
Sources in Turkey were quick to blame supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish preacher who is in exile in the United States.

Trump New World Order


By Prof. Efraim Inbar 

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 387

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Though he might be a novice in foreign policy, Donald Trump could bring about dramatic changes in the global arena by aligning with Russia against China. In this scenario, Russia would have an opportunity to align with Western civilization, ending a millennium-long schism. Will Russia be ready to end its cozy relations with the radical regime in Iran to become a true US ally in the fight against militant Islam?

 Assad’s next battle

Ron Ben-Yishai

Analysis: After three and a half years of fighting, the Syrian president scores a huge victory in Aleppo along with his partners in Iran and Syria, dealing a heavy blow to the rebels, Syria’s citizens, and Israel too. Meanwhile, the rebels are already preparing for the next major battle in Idlib.

Gulen network


Irene Christodoulaki

Many people around the world heard the name Fethullah Gülen and the word Hizmet probably for the first time on 15 July 2016, when a fraction from the Turkish military tried to topple the elected government in Turkey.

Peace with Israel


by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute

Erdogan has long openly encouraged mass anti-Israel protests in Turkey, like this one in Istanbul, 2014.... Turkey is normalizing its relations with Israel -- in theory, at least. Ankara and Jerusalem agreed to appoint ambassadors to each other's country after an absence of more than six years. Two prominent career diplomats, Kemal Okem and Eitan Na'eh, will struggle to improve ties in Tel Aviv and Ankara, respectively. 

Erdoğan’s regime


President Erdoğan will stop at nothing to enforce his vision for a country that’s already changed dramatically.
By MELIK KAYLAN 

I have watched the authoritarian crackdown in Turkey unfold incrementally from near and far. I arrived back in the country a week after the attempted coup. Soon after, collective round-ups began and the mood changed sharply. Friends stopped answering their cellphones. They deleted me from their ID lists. They couldn’t risk leaving evidence of contact with me, a journalist from outside often critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime.

U.S.-Turkish relationship

Beyond the Myth of Partnership ,

Bipartisan Policy Center
Amid continued threats to U.S. national security and interests emanating from the Middle East, the promise of partnership and cooperation with Turkey will remain—as it has for the past two administrations—an alluring option for American policymakers. It is incredibly unlikely, however, that the U.S.-Turkish relationship can yield any strategic benefit at this point. 

New Turkey policy needed


By Robert Ellis
The report by a Washington think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), “Beyond the Myth of Partnership: Rethinking U.S. Policy Toward Turkey,” confirms that both the U.S. and Europe share a common disillusion about developments in Turkey.

 Largest Holder of U.S. Treasuries

by Sarah McGregor
Biggest holder of American govt debt held $1.13 Tln in Oct.
China holdings fell to a six-year low of $1.12 trillion

 

A monthly Treasury Department report showed China held $1.12 trillion in U.S. government bonds, notes and bills in October, down $41.3 billion from the prior month and the lowest investment since July 2010. The portfolio of Japan decreased for third month, falling by $4.5 billion to $1.13 trillion, according to the data. Collectively, the two nations account for about 37 percent of America’s foreign debt holdings.

Turkey  Middle Eastern markets


Author Mustafa Sonmez
TranslatorSibel Utku Bila

 

The turbulence in the Turkish economy, marked by a dramatic depreciation of the Turkish lira, is forcing Ankara to consider emergency measures. While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a campaign against the threat of dollarization, the government last week unveiled a package of measures to appease and buoy up economic actors.

 Turkey's Erdogan


By Fadi Hakura

(CNN)President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dream of transforming Turkey into a powerful executive presidency is one step closer to reality.

Last Saturday, the ruling Justice and Development Party introduced a 21-article constitutional amendment to vastly strengthen the powers of the head of state.

Battle for Mosul


Daniel L. Davis
Since the battle to retake Mosul began in mid-October, Iraqi and coalition spokesmen have touted the significant number of villages retaken around the periphery of Mosul by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and the fact that they reportedly recaptured Mosul’s al-Salam hospital, barely a mile from the Tigris. Yet an examination of the battlefield reveals that from the perspective of ISIS, it could be argued that the fight is going better than expected. Such a belief is not without substance.

Turkey space agency


Author Metin Gurcan, TranslatorTimur Göksel

Turkey's efforts in the satellite space race have experienced turbulence over the years, but they got a boost with the recent launch of its Gokturk-1 satellite, which will meet the country’s civilian and military intelligence needs around the world.

Turkish economy shrinks

ANKARA/ISTANBUL

Turkey’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by a bigger than expected 1.8 percent in the third quarter of 2016 on weak consumer spending and exports, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) showed on Dec. 12, marking the first year-on-year decline in quarterly economic growth since 2009.

Russia  Friend or Foe

There is no basis for any claims about a “stolen” presidential election.
Nikolas K. Gvosdev

There is no basis for any claims about a “stolen” presidential election. Nobody stole anything. No Russian operatives altered ballots or tampered with election machines, which is why the Obama administration itself has declared that state-by-state election results “reflect the will of the people.”

 ISIS impetus


DEBKAfile Special Report 

Judging from the rash of reports claiming US-Iraqi military progress in the Mosul offensive against ISIS and the extra American special operations forces personnel posted to Syria for an impending US-Kurdish operation to capture the ISIS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the Islamic State ought to be cowering under siege, finally defeated - or at least on the run.

 Turkey Syria


Turkey presses for reset with Russia

Amberin Zaman

Reports that “Turkey’s outsize ambitions in Syria lie in shreds as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad press on to assert control over the rebel strongholds that remain in Aleppo.”SummaryTurkey’s Syria policies "lie in shreds"; Syrian Kurds coordinate with government forces in Aleppo; would Russia support federalism in Syria?

Israel’s National Security


By: Avigdor Liberman
The dramatic turmoil that has seized the Middle East in recent years holds a number of important lessons for the international community, as policy options are considered regarding the ongoing regional crises. These lessons are particularly salient for Israel and for those concerned with ensuring its national security.

Turkey Untergang

 MIDDLE EAST MELTDOWN
ERIC BROWN

Western policymakers need to get comfortable with the fact that the Turkish Republic as we have known it is no more. The Turkish Republic—as we’ve known it for about the past half century since its transformation from an initial authoritarian phase (1923–50) into a creaky but democratizing multiparty polity—has fallen. For any practical purpose it is no more, and Western policymakers need to shake themselves from their mental torpor and wishful thinking to take the full measure of what this means.

Russia commandos


DEBKAfile Exclusive Report 

Moscow started to deploy Chechen special operations forces units to Syria this week, DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal. The troops come from elite units of the Chechen military with extensive field experience in urban warfare. Some of the units fought in eastern Ukraine in the past two years and, before that. in Chechnya for suppressing radical Islamic terror organizations linked to Al Qaeda and the Salafi movement.

Pacific power


Hunter Marston

Washington has failed to demonstrate that it has the stomach to remain a resident power in Asia.
Recognizing the geostrategic significance of Asia for the twenty-first century, President Obama told an Australian Parliament in 2011, “The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay.” 

Kurds Syria


Author Fehim Taştekin TranslatorTimur Göksel

Among all the complex alliances and shifting loyalties in Syria, the Kurds seem caught in the middle. Common sentiment is that the Kurds are now at a critical threshold of relations with the Damascus regime, and the outcome could be cooperation or, just as easily, combat.

Italy’s ‘No’ Vote

 
A shakeup of the political establishment is just getting started.
Two important votes occurred in European countries over the weekend. In Austria, a far-right presidential candidate lost by a margin of 7.2 percent (53.6 percent to 46.4 percent). That is hardly a landslide, but it still was a defeat for nationalists in Vienna, who had hoped to take the presidency.

Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman Geopolitics

 
The geopolitical and geostrategic interests and balance in Turkey, due to its current Islamist Government lead by the authoritarian President Erdogan, have changed the country in last 15 years to an unrecognizable degree.

Michael Flynn

 By CAROLINE B. GLICK 
With Mattis and Flynn at his side, Trump intends to bring down the Iranian regime as a first step toward securing an unconditional victory in the war against radical Islam.

 Mosul offensive


DEBKAfile Exclusive Report 

The failue of the US-backed Iraqi army offensive to liberate Mosul - nine weeks after it began - could no longer be denied when a delegation of ISIS chiefs arrived there Sunday, Dec. 4, traveling unhindered from Raqqa, Syria.

Main Course: Turkey


by Tyler Durden
While investors are focused on Italy, Bloomberg's Mark Cudmore warns that another Mediterranean country is poised to grab their attention very soon. A currency crisis in Turkey is rapidly deteriorating, setting the stage for dramatic and unscheduled central bank action.

 Saudi-Egyptian Tensions


By Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 384

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A dangerous rift has developed in Saudi-Egyptian relations on two fronts. The Saudis, for whom the Iranian-backed Houthi uprising in Yemen has become an existential issue, are aggrieved that Egypt is not pulling its full weight in that campaign.

Russia, China, Iran Erdogan

Turkey is seeking to conduct trade with Russia, China and Iran in national currencies, announced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a shopping mall in Istanbul, Erdoğan said that he had proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to conduct trade between the two countries with local currencies, hurriyetdailynews.com reported.

 Dead end in Aleppo


Cengiz Candar writes, “The fate of Aleppo has the potential to seal the fate of [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's regime in Turkey. Too many of Erdogan's eggs are placed in the basket of northern Syrian geopolitics, and most of them are likely to crack.”

Erdogan iBlunders and Bluster

 Melik Kaylan
Turkey's President Erdogan has put himself in a geostrategic corner with almost no options. Having publicly railed against the US for allegedly supporting the failed coup at least tacitly, he has roused popular feeling against Turkey's NATO alliance. 

Trump Putin

By William Blum

 "Information Clearing House" - That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant. That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant. That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

By Jacob L. Shapiro
OPEC countries have an agreement on production, but will they abide by it?
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) says its members have approved a plan to cut oil production by about 1.2 million barrels per day, or roughly 1.5 percent of current global crude production.


Turkey split from the West


Author Metin Gurcan
People nowadays seriously wonder if Turkey is about to split from the West. Is Turkey’s opening up to the East, which became more noticeable after the July 15 coup attempt, a passing reaction to the lack of interest shown by the United States and Europe, or is it Ankara’s more independent and nonaligned policy choice? Will the honeymoon between Ankara and Moscow in recent weeks become a long-term alliance?