December, 2016 Politics

 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.

 Iran  Aleppo


Author: Ali Hashem, Al Monitor

 

On Dec. 22, the same day the Syrian government announced that Aleppo was under its control, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari was in Damascus to meet President Bashar al-Assad. Ansari was in fact in the Syrian capital to congratulate his country’s prime regional ally for retaking Syria’s largest city and one of the main strongholds of the armed opposition. 

 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?

AK Parti Erdogan


Murat Yektin
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım had another meeting on Dec. 26 with Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), with whom he is cooperating on the constitutional draft that proposes axing the parliamentarian system in Turkey and ushering in an executive presidency, as targeted by President Tayyip Erdoğan.

Politics, Turkey
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. 

Turkey caliphate

Author Pinar Tremblay

On Dec. 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unexpectedly declared national mobilization. Addressing muhktars (elected village and neighborhood headmen), Erdogan said, “Henceforth, neither terrorists nor their supporters will have a minute of peace.” He encouraged security forces not to hesitate to use their powers, while reiterating that Turkey cannot stay on the defensive but from now on will go on the offensive against terror organizations. 

 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.

New Arab Spring


by Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun

This month is the sixth anniversary of the "Arab Spring," when Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire to protest police harassment.

Russian ambassador to Ankara


Burak Bekdil
Who killed Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara? Officially, the assassin is a young anti-riot police officer. According to the government narrative, he must be a pawn of the Gülenist terrorists who wanted to sabotage Turkey’s relations with Russia – just like the fighter jet pilots who shot down a Russian Su-24 on Nov. 24, 2015. This narrative is highly problematic. In reality, the Russian ambassador was the victim of an ugly sectarian war in this part of the world.

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.

 Erdogan's money troubles

Author Amberin Zaman

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for citizens to convert their dollars to prop up the sagging Turkish lira continues to elicit colorful responses. Barbers promised free haircuts to customers who could prove that they had exchanged their dollars, and stonecutters offered free tombstones. Today, a crooner from the heavily Kurdish province of Hakkari answered the call and dumped his dollars, with a video to prove it.

Economy, Politics, Turkey
‘Fake News’

 Writer :Chris Hedges
"Information Clearing House" - "Truth Dig" - The media landscape in America is dominated by “fake news.” It has been for decades. This fake news does not emanate from the Kremlin. It is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry that is skillfully designed and managed by public relations agencies, publicists and communications departments on behalf of individuals, government and corporations to manipulate public opinion. 

 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?

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. 

Aliens and UFOs


Burak Bekdıl
On Nov. 24, 2015, two Turkish F-16 fighter jets won the title of shooting down, from NATO’s side, the first ever Soviet-Russian military warplane since the end of World War II, saying it violated Turkish airspace along the country’s border with Syria.

Culture, Politics, Turkey
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.

Turkish "martyr"

Burak Bekdil
If you typed the Turkish word for martyr (şehit) into Google on the day after the twin bombings in Istanbul, you would have gotten more than 4.5 million results. Until a few decades ago, “martyr” in official and public Turkish lexicon meant a soldier who died while defending their homeland from occupying powers. 

 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.

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.”

 Left policies rejected


With their policies rejected by voters, the purpose of the Left isn’t to govern. It is to render their societies ungovernable. The push among the American Left to discredit the results of last month’s presidential election entered a new phase last Friday with the White House’s announcement that outgoing US President Barack Obama has ordered US intelligence agencies to review evidence of Russian hacking in last month’s elections on behalf of President-elect Donald Trump.

 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?

Turkey leadership


Mehmet Y.Yilmaz
According to those who are ruling our country, we are experiencing an international attack. It is said that they have trained their “economy weapons” on us and are firing. First, they hit exports and tourism. Now, through foreign currency speculation, they are trying to destroy our economy. “The negative atmosphere fostered by certain groups” has caused an artificial hike in foreign exchange rates.

Politics, Turkey
Greece’s Debt Problem

 By Allison Fedirka
Athens and Brussels once again find themselves at an impasse.
Before the Italian banking crisis and referendum, before Brexit, there was Greece. Greece’s debt crisis was really the first public crack in the European Union's armor and one that has yet to be repaired. Readers who want to understand why anti-EU sentiment and nationalism have developed in many of these countries don't have to go to migration or other controversial topics.

Economy, Europe, Greece, Politics
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.

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.

Currency speculators

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed Turkey’s struggling economy is under attack from foreign exchange speculators, while also praising citizens who have converted their foreign currencies into liras.

Economy, Politics, Turkey
Turkish economy


Serkan Dermitas
Even his foes admit the talent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a politician in reaching out to the people and molding public opinion on even controversial issues, an ability that secured him an indisputable leadership since late 2002.

Economy, Politics, Turkey
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.

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.

Mustafa Kemal


By Toni Alaranta  The Turkey Analyst

The debate on political Islam under the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) needs to fully acknowledge the crucial importance of nationalism as the enduring element of any relevant form of mass politics in Turkey. 

Culture, Politics, Turkey
 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.