Middle East

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 »

Rahaf al Qunun pledges to use her freedom to campaign for others after being granted asylum in Canada

In a week, Rahaf al Qunun has gone from being barricaded inside a Bangkok airport hotel room to being the most recognised refugee on the planet. Sophie McNeill ABC After landing in Toronto on Saturday, she has spent the last 48 hours trying to come to terms with the incredible events of the past week. The 18-year-old fled her Saudi family while visiting Kuwait, before flying to Bangkok on January 5. She had a valid visa to Australia, but was… ... Read More »

Turkey accused of plundering olive oil from Syria to sell in the EU

Α Swiss MP has accused the Turkish government of passing off olive oil plundered from Syria as Turkish in order to sell it in European Union countries, including Spain. James Badcock The Telegraph Bernhard Guhl of Switzerland’s Conservative Democratic Party has alerted the Swiss government to the possibility of olive oil seized as loot from the conflict in Syria entering the European Union single market falsely labelled as Turkish, with the… “In Turkish-occupied Afrin, the olive groves are being pillaged by ... Read More »

The Turkish president’s epic distortion of facts on Syria

On Jan. 7, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that is a masterpiece in historical revisionism better suited to Turkey’s state-controlled media. Brian Glyn Williams The Hill Erdogan relies upon most Americans’ lack of awareness of the situation on the ground in Syria and makes bold claims with outright falsehoods. For example, Erdogan begins by stating: “In 2016, Turkey became the first country to deploy ground combat troops to fight the so-called Islamic State ... 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 »

Starving Syria mum sets self, kids on fire after failing to find food

A starving Syrian mother in a refugee camp on the Jordanian border has set herself and her three children on fire after failing to find food for three days. AAP – SBS A Syrian mother has attempted to burn herself and her children to death at a refugee camp in eastern Syria after she failed to find food for her family for three straight days, a civil defence spokesman says. Sundus Fathallah, 28, set herself and her three starving children ... Read More »

Trump threatens to ‘devastate’ Turkish economy over Syrian Kurds

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria following a planned pullout of US troops. BBC In two tweets on Sunday, Mr Trump said that he did not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey either. US forces have fought alongside a Kurdish militia in northern Syria against the Islamic State (IS) group. Turkey, however, regards the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken angrily about American ... Read More »

Docs Show US To Massively Expand Footprint At Jordanian Air Base Amid Spats With Turkey, Iraq

Tens of millions of dollars will turn this base in Jordan into a new major regional hub for combat jets, drones, cargo planes, and more. Joseph Trevithick The Drive The U.S. military is moving ahead with plans to dramatically expand its presence at Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan to better accommodate a broad mix of fighter jets, ground attack aircraft, armed drones, cargo planes, and… The multi-million-dollar construction project comes as President Donald Trump’s administration moves to withdraw American ... 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 »

‘Real risk’ of refugees freezing to death in Syria after rains destroy shelters

As temperatures fall, aid workers warn of danger to at least 11,000 people across Idlib, with storms also battering camps in Lebanon Rebecca Ratcliffe The Guardian At least 11,000 child refugees and their families are facing a weekend of freezing temperatures with no shelter, after torrential rains across Syria’s Idlib province swept away tents and belongings. Aid workers warn there is a real risk people will simply freeze to death as temperatures have already dropped to -1C, amid a shortage of ... Read More »

US withdrawing gear from Syria, but not troops

The US military has begun moving non-essential gear out of Syria but is not withdrawing troops for now, defense officials said amid uncertainty over America’s planned exit from the war-battered nation. Washington – AFP Hurriyet President Donald Trump last month claimed ISIL had been defeated in Syria and said all US troops were “coming back now.” But in the weeks since he gave the order, and the Pentagon began to implement it, Trump himself and members of his administration have delivered mixed messages about when ... 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 »

How Big Is Turkey’s Stick? #TurkeyUS

The strained relationship between Turkey and the U.S. appears unlikely to improve any time soon. Semih Idiz Sigma Insight Turkey There is simply too much of a backlog of unresolved issues for the situation to change for the better. The visit to Ankara by the high level delegation, headed by President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, did little to ameliorate tensions between the two capitals. To the contrary, it seems to have aggravated the… The atmosphere was already ... Read More »

Rahaf and Hakeem: why has one refugee captured the world’s attention while another is left in jail?

When it comes to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun and Hakeem al-Araibi, the reasons are varied but likely include the age-old non-science of what makes news and what doesn’t Helen Davidson The Guardian Australia, Thailand and the Gulf states have been inextricably linked in two global news stories lately, when two young people faced being forcibly returned to the places and people they fled simply because they happened to step foot in Bangkok. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, an 18-year-old Saudi woman, was on ... Read More »

Don’t Blame Everything on Erdogan

The Turkish government doesn’t have a soft spot for the Islamic State, and Ankara stands to lose more than anyone if the terrorist group makes a comeback. Selim Sazak FP Washington’s Turkey experts were left working overtime during the holidays when a routine conversation between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended with the announcement that the… Trump’s maneuver had raised worries that a premature withdrawal risks reversing the gains that have been made against the Islamic State. Indeed, on ... Read More »