Analysis

Re-conquest of Constantinople

Vehbi Kara is just another Islamist columnist who would not surprise you. He writes for this columnist’s favourite Islamist daily, Yeni Şafak. Burak Bekdil Sigma Insight Turkey His column on January 11th did not offer readers a revolutionary view –nor was it expected to– but was useful in trying to decipher the “conquest fetish” among conservative Muslims. Mr Kara wrote: “Devout people (Muslims) view Hagia Sophia as a symbol of Islam’s domination in these lands … It (as it is ... Read More »

On Thin Ice: The Iran Nuclear Deal at Three

Remarkably, the Iran nuclear deal has survived the Trump administration’s withdrawal. ICG Now it must weather 2019, its year of greatest peril, as mounting U.S. pressure tests Iranian patience. With Europe’s help, Tehran must keep sticking to the agreement in anticipation of sunnier times ahead. What’s new? The Iran nuclear deal is entering its fourth year of implementation, with Iran remaining in full compliance with its obligations. Meanwhile, the Trump administration, which unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the deal in ... Read More »

Five Steps to Save Yemen’s Stockholm Agreement

The Stockholm Agreement, though imprecise, offers a real shot at building a peace process for war-ravaged Yemen. Peter Salisbury ICG But the accord is faltering amid mutual recriminations. The UN, and the wider international community, should act now to make sure the combatants follow through on their commitments. In December 2018, representatives of Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the rebel Huthi movement did something unexpected: they agreed on something. At UN-mediated talks in Sweden, the two parties announced what is ... Read More »

How one German city developed – and then lost – generations of math geniuses

There are two things that connect the names Gauss, Riemann, Hilbert and Noether. David Gunderman The National Interest One is their outstanding breadth of contributions to the field of mathematics. The other is that each was a professor at the same university in Göttingen, Germany. Although relatively unknown today, Göttingen, a small German university town, was for a time one of the most productive centers of mathematics in history. Göttingen’s rise to mathematical primacy occurred over generations, but its fall ... Read More »

Improving Prospects for a Peaceful Transition in Sudan

Popular protests are rumbling across Sudan, shaking President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year grip on power. ICG The authorities have cracked down hard and, as the demonstrations intensify, they may ratchet up the repression. External powers should urge restraint and offer Bashir a way to the exit. What’s new? Protests across Sudan flared up as the government cut a vital bread subsidy. Economic grievances are fuelling demands for political change, with protesters calling on President Omar al-Bashir, in power since 1989, to ... Read More »

Ethiopia: Abiy Ahmed brings new hope, but faces some familiar, old problems

Many countries in Africa have suffered because of the gerontocratic nature of their politics, an issue I have often lamented. Stephen Chan The Conversation Some “elders”, such as Robert Mugabe, lost touch with modern statecraft and the changing conditions of life – and have been toppled. Others, such as Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, are loathe to let go of power, and not only grow old but sick, too. Others still, like Gabon’s longstanding Bongo dynasty, are determined to be fixtures who ... Read More »

Between the Millet System and EU Values: The Sunni Muslim Turkish State and Non-Muslim Minorities

The relationship between the state and non-Muslim communities[1] has been a sensitive issue since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Dr. Özgür Kaymak MDC Although the principle of secularism has been stated in the constitution, wherein the state was ostensibly required to distance itself from all religious beliefs equally,  Islam had always played an important role in the formation of Turkish identity. The debates with regard to freedom of religion and conscience as well as the rights of ... Read More »

Turkey’s new presidential system and a changing west

Implications for Turkish foreign policy and Turkish-West relations Kemal Kirişci and Ilke Toygür Brookings Executive Summary In July 2018, having triumphed in the presidential elections the previous month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began to formally transform Turkey’s long-standing parliamentary system into a heavily centralized presidential one. The new system entrenched his one-man authoritarian rule at home and is having profound implications for the making and substance of Turkish foreign policy as well as Turkey’s relations with the West. This ... Read More »

Is Turkey Capable of Defeating ISIS in Syria?

The first responders in the case of a threat like ISIS should be those nations most affected. Doug Bandow The National Interest The Islamic State exploded in the Middle East, gaining control of large sections of Iraq and Syria. No nation was safe from its ambition to create an Islamic caliphate. But Turkey initially accommodated Daesh, even profiting from illicit oil sales. Eventually, the insurgents turned terrorist inside Turkey, forcing the Erdogan government to respond. However, Turkish forces still targeted ... Read More »

Populism’s problems can be fixed by getting the public better-informed. And that’s actually possible

Many commentators have been alarmed at the electoral wins of ultra conservative leaders around the world, as well as policy decisions such as Brexit made by a popular referendum. Ron Levy The Conversation They see these as signs of a rising populism. In its benign forms, populism can simply mean ordinary citizens’ desire to see their interests and preferences better reflected in policy making. It may also mean greater direct involvement in government by the people themselves. But in its ... Read More »

The strange normality of life in a breakaway state

A postal address is the marker that identifies our home’s place in the world. The last line designates our country, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. By Thomas de Waal, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace BBC But for a few million people worldwide, that last line of the address is a problem. The international postal service does not recognise a letter marked Abkhazia, Trans-Dniester, or Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Letters find their way after being re-routed via other countries. Open up ... Read More »

Xi Jinping will Give Donald Trump a Victory on Trade

Expect Trump to declare a “triumph” in a great trade deal that will feature China’s purchase of more than a trillion dollars of additional U.S. products. Graham Allison The National Interest With the conclusion of the first round of negotiations yesterday in Beijing, the way ahead for the United States and China to avoid a full-scale tariff war has become clear. With fifty days remaining before the March 1 end of the truce Trump and Xi announced to prevent U.S. ... Read More »

How Viktor Orban degraded Hungary’s weak democracy

The roots of democracy in Hungary are shallow. John Shattuck The Conversation That’s been especially clear in the last nine years, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban has created a repressive and increasingly authoritarian state, operating under a pretense of democracy. In recent weeks the political situation has become volatile. By early 2019 the Hungarian government was the target of a series of major demonstrations in Budapest and other Hungarian cities. A flash point was a new labor law allowing employers ... Read More »

The politics of fear: How fear goes tribal, allowing us to be manipulated

Fear is arguably as old as life. It is deeply ingrained in the living organisms that have survived extinction through billions of years of evolution. Arash Javanbakht The Conversation Its roots are deep in our core psychological and biological being, and it is one of our most intimate feelings. Danger and war are as old as human history, and so are politics and religion. Demagogues have always used fear for intimidation of the subordinates or enemies, and shepherding the tribe ... Read More »

European Parliament is failing on transparency

Voters have to be reassured MEPs are being held accountable. Heidi Hautala Politico When it comes to transparency, the European Parliament’s motto has become: Do as I say, not as I do. Members of the key European institution are fighting crucial reforms to ensure MEPs act by a shared set of public spending rules. As a relatively new member of the European Parliament Bureau — where decisions regarding the Parliament’s administration and budget are made — I have experienced first hand how ... Read More »

Erdogan’s $2 Billion Reason to Thank the Saudis

Turkey shrewdly took advantage of the spillover demand from Riyadh’s bond sale this week. Investors may well be underpricing the economic risks. Marcus Ashworth Bloomberg There are opportunistic financing deals, and then there’s Turkey. A $2 billion 10-year bond sale appeared out of nowhere for the country on Wednesday, with no roadshow and… But there was one big helping hand. Saudi Arabia had just launched $7.5 billion of new 10- and 30-year notes and had elected for tighter pricing rather ... Read More »