Yearly Archives: 2019

How the Syrian war resulted in Erdogan’s Istanbul defeat


As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP reel from their first loss in Istanbul in 25 years, pressure and criticism have been mounting on multiple fronts, including from two founding AKP members, former president Abdullah Gul and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

It is clear that the Republican People’s Party (CHP), along with Turkey’s Kurds and Christian community, used the Syrian war as a tool to defeat Erdogan in the polls.

The start of Erdogan’s troubles can indeed be traced to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war. Turkey was once seen as the model of a modern Muslim democracy.

Familial ties

Erdogan made Turkey’s integration into the Arab world a priority, and the pivot of this new outreach was his relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with whom he forged close familial ties, calling him his brother.

As Assad – with the help of Russia and Iran – reasserts himself in the Arab world, Erdogan’s rivals – including Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain – are all reaching out to Damascus to push Turkey out of Arab affairs.

And while the Syrian regime had previously reversed course and played a pivotal role in supporting Ankara’s fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), that alliance is now in tatters, with Turkey caught between US, Russian and Kurdish diplomacy.

Read more on MiddleEast Eye

The Taliban circus: the new geopolitics of Afghan reconciliation

With the US continuing talks with the Taliban and failing to include the legitimate Afghan government, and other countries also battling to court the group, the reconciliation process is beginning to look like a game of economic geopolitics.

As Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Envoy to Afghanistan, landed for another round of talks on the Afghanistan reconciliation process a few days ago, Uzbekistan became the latest country to throw its hat in the ring to host the Taliban peace talks.

Khalilzad’s visit comes after the latest and most contentious round of tensions between Kabul and Washington DC, following the very public falling out between Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and the American leadership due to his remarks to Fox TV last month.

Read more on TRTWorld

Kissinger’s Prophecy Fulfilled In Syria


Syria has managed to bring both the Turks and Kurds to its door by skillfully outplaying the two enemies to make itself indispensable to both. Syrian government forces claim they have entered Manbij, and the Kurdish group People’s Protection Units — fresh from a U.S. betrayal — are reaching out to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Simultaneously, the Turkish government is making its biggest concession yet in announcing that it would consider working with Assad should he win a democratic election. One is reminded of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s maxim: “The Arabs can’t make war without Egypt; and they can’t make peace without Syria.”

It was a backhanded tribute to Syria’s consistent hard line against Israel and the United States. Its critical geographical position and what David Lesch called ‘’Syria’s consistently punching above its weight’’ made it the key lynchpin for stability in the Middle East. Without any love lost between the Turks, Kurds, and Damascus, it is a testament to the staying power and resilience of the Baathist state that it is the one that has outlasted all its enemies one by one and, furthermore, is seen as the solution to preventing further chaos.

Read More on Warontherocks

Erdogan will boost ties with Asia after election triumph


Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan secured outright victory in elections last weekend to the newly constituted executive presidency that will concentrate more authority in his hands.

More powerful than any other leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, Erdogan is in a position to reach out far beyond his country’s borders, including to East Asia.

After over 15 years as prime minister and president, he has made Turkey into a diplomatic and economic power in the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and in parts of Africa. Turkish military bases have been established in Qatar and Djibouti.

Read More on Nikkei

A Confident Pakistan Army Recalibrates the Country’s Regional Policies


Pakistan’s military is playing a significant role in assisting the country’s prime minister in the conduct of foreign and security policies, and usually with the objective of scaling down confrontations.

Pakistan and India have just stepped back from the brink of an all-out war; Prime Minister Imran Khan has passed his first big foreign policy test after six months in office. Behind the scenes, however, he was helped by Pakistan’s military, who had set the scene for the country’s regional diplomacy, and the efforts go back almost two years, as indicated by Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s speech at RUSI in 2017.

Bajwa made overtures to India well before Imran Khan’s election, and set about fixing what was seen as a ‘black hole’ in Pakistan’s foreign diplomacy, given the absence of a foreign minister for four years in the previous government. Prior to Khan coming into power in August 2018, Bajwa had also set things right with key allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). And, most significantly, Bajwa moved quickly to reassure China of Islamabad’s unwavering commitment to the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) relationship after a less than certain start by the Khan government’s commitment to Beijing. This includes the potentially contentious involvement of Saudi Arabia given tensions with Iran on the border as well as remarks by Khan’s ministers about renegotiating certain CPEC projects.