Middle East

Turkey’s other Hagia Sophia – in Trabzon

Once a church – and a hospital and a museum – it is now a mosque and also one of Turkey’s best-preserved buildings of the late Byzantine era. Admission is free and there is much here for visitors of all faiths Caroline Eden The Guardian It may be far smaller and much less famous than its namesake in Istanbul, but what Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia lacks in architectural splendour it makes up for in tranquillity and beauty. Right by the sea, ... Read More »

Kurdish Fears of New Iranian-Backed Genocide ‘Must Be Taken Seriously,’ Expert Urges

Kurdish warnings that they face a potential genocide at the hands of the Iranian-backed forces that have swept through Iraqi Kurdistan over the last ten days “need to be taken seriously,” a leading expert on Kurdish affairs said on… Ben Cohen  Algemeiner “There is a great fear among the Kurds that they could face another genocide at the hands of the Iraqi government and the Shia militia forces backed by Iran,” Julie Lenarz — the executive director of the Human ... Read More »

There is a bright spot amid the world’s problems and we should mark it

It’s easy to get a bit depressed by the state of the world’s problems, so we should take a moment to mark the triumphs. Peter Hartcher  One of the world’s most malicious and vicious groups, Daesh, which wants to be called Islamic State, has just been crushed. The Sydney Morning Herald  It’s been crushed in the Middle East and, simultaneously, crushed in South East Asia. To its credit, Australia is one of only three countries that joined the effort in ... Read More »

Expansion of Gaza fishing zone ‘pointless PR stunt’

For the 4,000 registered fishermen in the besieged Gaza Strip, a proposed Israeli plan to let them temporarily fish farther out from shore is “far from enough”. Farah Najjar Al Jazeera Fishermen told Al Jazeera that Israel’s move to slightly expand the fishing zone limit from six to nine nautical miles, implemented this week, will have little effect in reality. “It makes no difference whatsoever to us,” Nizar Ayash, head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union, told Al Jazeera. “It’s economically pointless, and this is ... Read More »

US, France slam detention of leading Turkish activist Osman Kavala

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has said the arrest of the prominent activist and businessman Osman Kavala was an example of a “very alarming trend” of the detention of civil society leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and… Hurriyet “We have expressed to the Turkish government our concerns on many occasions about this trend … It remains a major concern of ours,” Nauert told reporters in Washington on… The French Foreign Ministry also stated on Oct. 19 that it ... Read More »

Here’s How to Pull Turkey Back From the Brink

Erdogan gets more authoritarian, and closer to Russia and Iran, every day. But kicking him out of NATO would make things worse. James Stavridis Bloomberg Since its founding nearly a century ago, Turkey’s foreign policy goal has been summed up in a simple phrase: “No problems with our neighbors.” But the situation today is different: “all our neighbors have problems.” And the Turks have plenty of their own. There is no understating how important it is that the U.S. and ... Read More »

Why Doesn’t the U.S. Support Kurdish Independence?

The Kurds are one of Washington’s closest and most reliable allies in the Middle East   After World War I, the Kurds came tantalizingly close to getting an independent state. Krishnadev Calamur The Atlantic Nearly a century later, they are no closer to an independent homeland. There are many reasons for this: regional instability; suppression of the Kurds, most dramatically in Turkey and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; vehement opposition to a Kurdish state; infighting among Kurds; and, despite some prominent Western ... Read More »

Money laundering trial could further chill already tense US-Turkish relations

U.S. and Turkish relations are already severely strained, and an upcoming trial in New York involving a businessman with links to Ankara’s political elite could see the situation worsen. Jeff Daniels CNBC The trial is likely to result in “a lot of dirty laundry getting aired,” according to an insider close to the case. “It is going to be very embarrassing to the Turks.” “There’s bad blood on both sides,” said Bulent Aliriza, founding director of the Turkey Project at ... Read More »

PA dismisses Israeli threat of talks freeze if Hamas in government

Abbas spokesman says reconciliation deal with terror group will help establish Palestinian state; Hamas says it rejects ‘Israeli intervention’ By Alexander Fulbright and Dov Lieber The Times of Israel The Palestinian Authority brushed off Israel’s decision to suspend peace talks over the reconciliation accord reached between PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and the Hamas terror group, saying it would have “no bearing” on the implementation of the unity deal. “What was agreed in Cairo, under the auspices of Egypt, ... Read More »

The Syrian Kurds: Israel’s Forgotten Ally

In Syria, where chaos reigns and there are no moderates among the Sunni Arab opposition, the “enemy of my enemy” principle may apply – particularly in view of Assad’s increasing dominance, the growing Iranian influence on Israel’s borders, and Turkey’s close ties with Hamas and recent rapprochement with… Rauf Baker  BESA It is therefore in Israel’s interest to act quickly to support the nascent Kurdish political region in Syria. Relations between the Syrian Kurds and Israel have changed dramatically over ... Read More »

Theresa May should give Netanyahu a piece of her mind – Thatcher would have

A hundred years after the Balfour declaration that established a pathway to a Jewish state, the prime minister should acknowledge its role in Palestinian suffering Donald Macintyre  The Guardian He has not yet confirmed that he is coming. But having warmly described Theresa May’s invitation to visit Britain to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour declaration as “speaking volumes” about the UK-Israel relationship, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is unlikely to pass up the opportunity. The anniversary of Arthur Balfour’s letter ... Read More »

Hamas, Fatah sign deal on Palestinian reconciliation

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement yesterday on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo, with president Mahmud Abbas calling it a “final” accord. Hurriyet Under the agreement, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority is to resume full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Dec. 1, according to a statement from Egypt’s intelligence agency, which oversaw the talks. Abbas welcomed the deal in comments to Agence France-Presse and said he considered it a ... Read More »

Discord in Yemen’s North Could Be a Chance for Peace

Since August, a public rift has surfaced between the two main partners on the northern front of Yemen’s war – the forces loyal to the Huthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh. ICG Rather than fostering its rivals’ discord, key powerbroker Saudi Arabia should seize this rare chance to resolve the two-and-a-half year war by championing a new regional initiative. 1. Overview A public rift between Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC) and the Huthis (aka Ansar Allah) may change ... Read More »

Christians and Yazidis see a bleak future in a proposed independent Kurdish state

BASHIQA, Iraq — Shortly after the Islamic State was pushed out of his home town last year, Ivan Abdulla bought a new house in the traditionally Yazidi enclave. It was an investment in the place where generations of his family were raised, he said. Tamer El-Ghobashy  The Washington Post But the father of three already regrets his decision.The hilltop town of mostly Yazidis and Christians — two of Iraq’s most vulnerable minorities — has become the focus of a tug of war ... Read More »

Let’s All Agree Not To Visit Turkey

To many Americans, a trip to Turkey has long seemed like a dream excursion A NATO ally that sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey has offered an approachable window into exotic history and culture. And the flights are generally affordable, too. Gregg Roman The Daily Caller But Turkey has changed in the past few years. The State Department hasn’t issued a travel warning yet, but if Americans think they’ll be safe there, they’re wrong. One year ago ... Read More »

An Eye for an Eye: Iran Promises to Partition Saudi Arabia If Iraq Is Partitioned

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iran is now openly threatening to dismember Saudi Arabia for its support for Kurdish independence and secession from Iraq. Prof. Hillel Frisch BESA This ratcheting up of tensions has implications not only for those two countries but for the region and the world at large Israel would do well to remember that the Middle East is growing ever more volatile, and the US should sharpen its resolve to contain… The Iranian-Saudi struggle over primacy in the Middle East ... Read More »