On the night of July 15, elements of the Turkish military attempted a coup. It was a poorly organized effort that was defeated by a combination of people power, loyal units and serendipity. What made this failed effort remarkable was the putschists’ extreme brutality against civilians who resisted or happened to be in their way. Some 240 people were killed.
I was in Turkey at the time, leading a workshop on Buyukada, an island that is a 45-minute ferry ride from Istanbul. The workshop, which had been planned months earlier in conjunction with an Istanbul-based think tank, brought a small number of experts together to discuss Iran’s relations with its neighbors.… Seguir leyendo »
The Sinai Peninsula. Paris. Mali. San Bernardino.
We keep trying to find our way out of this recurring nightmare of terrorist attacks. The United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution to use “all necessary measures” to combat Islamic State. Security services remain on the highest alert worldwide. For New Year’s, Brussels canceled its festivities, Moscow shut down Red Square, and thousands of soldiers and police officers patrolled New York, Paris and London. But protecting every “soft target” in the world around the clock is impossible. We know more attacks will come.
Still, the scale of the problem is far larger than most of us are willing to acknowledge.… Seguir leyendo »
What a difference 12 hours can make. Just as the Syria peace negotiations in Vienna were moving ahead, news came that the Turkish air force had downed a Russian bomber that it claims had violated its airspace. Making things worse, a Russian marine was reportedly killed during an operation to rescue the two pilots that ejected from the plane.
The incident further complicates French President Francois Hollande’s mission to Washington and Moscow this week, a visit that was supposed to focus on the formation of a grand coalition against ISIS. Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already referred to the downing of the plane as a «stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists» and promised that there will be significant consequences.… Seguir leyendo »
The winds of change are unexpectedly blowing through the Levant.
In the aftermath of the Iran nuclear agreement, there was a broad expectation, both in the region and beyond, that sectarian tensions and conflict would intensify and deepen the proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the United States, even some strong supporters of the nuclear deal emphasized that Washington needed to respond aggressively to the inevitable push by Tehran to expand its regional influence at the expense of traditional U.S. allies.
What we are seeing on the ground, however, looks quite different. There is an increasing possibility for new geopolitical alignments throughout the region.… Seguir leyendo »
The state as we know it is vanishing in the Middle East. Strife in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, foreign intrusion from states within the region and outside it, and dreadful rule by self-serving elites have all contributed to the destruction of societies, infrastructure and systems of governance. Nonstate actors of all kinds, most of them armed, are emerging to run their own shows. Generations of mistrust underlie it all.
It is difficult to see how Humpty Dumpty will ever be put back together again. To be sure, many Middle Eastern states were mostly illegitimate to begin with. They may have been recognized internationally, but their governments exercised authority mostly through repression and sometimes through terror.… Seguir leyendo »
Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead with such a vote, it would be joining two other parts of the world embarked on similar paths: Scotland and Catalonia.
In Scotland, First Minister Alex Salmond has set the referendum on Scottish independence from Britain for Sept. 18. The Catalonian government, led by Artur Mas, has scheduled its referendum for Nov. 9. Although the British government in Westminster has not stood in the way of a referendum, Scottish opinion polls show a narrow lead for those who want to stay within the United Kingdom.… Seguir leyendo »
Iraq is on its way to dissolution, and the United States is doing nothing to stop it. And if you ask people in Iraq, it may even be abetting it.
With very few exceptions, an important event in Iraq went unnoticed in the U.S. media this month. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki sent a force that included helicopters to western Iraq to arrest Rafi Issawi, the former finance minister and a leading Sunni Arab opposition member. Issawi, who was protected by armed members of the Abu Risha clan, one of post-2003 Iraq’s most powerful Sunni tribes, escaped capture.
This action came on the heels of Maliki’s telephone conversation with Secretary of State John F.… Seguir leyendo »
Calls for a U.S. military intervention in Syria have dominated the conversation in conventional and social media. Two simple and effective arguments are being advanced. The first, and most compelling, is that the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe befalling the Syrian people mandates international action. The second is based on realpolitik: Supporting the just and winning cause of the Syrian rebels will put the United States in good standing with the regime that emerges from the conflict.
Both arguments are unfortunately wrong.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria is an undeniable reality. The murderous regime led by Bashar al-Assad has killed thousands of men, women and children.… Seguir leyendo »
The debate on what to do about Syria is intensifying by the day, yet a consensus seems as elusive as ever. The current argument is about whether to arm the rebels. The Obama administration and its allies are opposed despite increasing pressure from influential voices deeply dismayed at the daily carnage.
The problem is not with the merits of arming or helping the opposition in Syria but with the international community’s approach. Incremental policymaking in response to events on the ground will lead the world down an unwanted path.
The real question is not the here and now but where Syria is heading in the medium term.… Seguir leyendo »
Syrian President Bashar Assad is in deep trouble. His murderous use of deadly force against his own citizens, reportedly killing hundreds, has not quelled the growing defiance to his regime. Images from Syria tell gruesome stories of snipers and security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators. About 200 members of his Baath Party have resigned in protest.
Assad’s troubles, however, also spell trouble for neighboring Turkey. Its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had embraced Syria and its inexperienced leader. Turkey may be able to help itself and Syria, but it will need to work closely — and may even have begun to do so — with Washington.… Seguir leyendo »
Col. Moammar Kadafi and his family must be busily looking for a new abode, just like his neighbors Zine el Abidine ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak had to do recently. Where can the colonel go? Over the years he has cultivated, funded, entertained and lavished presents and prizes on many world leaders. Someone will surely spare him a place to pitch the tent he always travels with.
Kadafi may not be a terribly exacting person, but he does have some minimum requirements: a relatively cheap piece of land for his tent, access to water, electricity and free Wi-Fi. With the international community and his own people searching for his stashed funds, he cannot afford expensive locations.… Seguir leyendo »
For a while, it looked like the start of a great reconciliation. Armenia and Turkey have lived beneath the vast shadow of the mass murder of Armenians in eastern Turkey during World War I, and to this day they maintain no diplomatic ties. But in October, the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers met in Switzerland and signed two protocols to set up relations, open their common border — closed since 1993 — and begin addressing the painful disputes that divide them. Each nation’s governments must still ratify the agreements. The United States, with its large Armenian American community and strategic alliance with Turkey, threw its weight behind the deal.… Seguir leyendo »