Category Archives: Middle East Politics

Full of Gas, Full of Problems: The Eastern Mediterranean’s Hydrocarbon Showdown

Source: nationalinterest.org

In October of last year, Russia, Israel and Cyprus conducted a joint naval exercise in waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. Though scheduled well in advance, the timing of the drill could not have been more opportune for Cyprus; the Barbaros, a Turkish seismic vessel dispatched by Ankara in order to survey the sea floor for hydrocarbons, had just entered the bitterly contested Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the two countries.

The affair triggered a flurry of diplomatic action. Israel called on Turkey to respect Cyprus’ right to explore for natural gas within its maritime boundaries, and Cyprus insisted that the vessel immediately withdraw. Not surprisingly, President Erdogan rebuffed these demands, and avowed that the Barbaroswould remain at sea until a distribution deal was reached for the riches beneath. Continue reading

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The Geopolitical Impact of ISIS: Actors, Factors, and Balances of Power in the Middle East

Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

Source: The Guardian

The ISIS Threat

Generally speaking, the emergence of ISIS has posed a significant security threat to regional and international states alike; a threat which challenges the stability and territorial integrity of regional states as well as Western regional interests. As known from International Relations and particularly Realism literature, (mutual) security threats are one of the most important factors in the formation of different kinds of alliances. As such, it is without surprise that we see unlike partnerships to emerge, such as the ones mentioned below. Continue reading

Countering ISIS: A Special Kind of Insurgency

Iraq-ISIS-606x283It is commonplace these days to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām (i.e. Greater Syria) – henceforth, ISIS – as the greatest threat to regional, international, and for some countries, even national security. As a product of mergers between smaller Islamist groups (e.g. an al-Qaeda affiliated Iraqi group) in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion, this rapidly evolving organization has been empowered in the context of the Syrian civil war, and has surprised the world when it swept into northern and central Iraq early June 2014. It has changed its name into Islamic State (IS) and declared the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate – a state run according to Sharia law – in Syrian and Iraqi territories.

One of the biggest questions that needs to be answered is, how do we counter ISIS? Almost three months after ISIS advanced into Iraq, US President Barak Obama stated, “We don’t have a strategy.” This was quite a surprising statement coming from the White House given the high level of threat that ISIS poses; but it is, nonetheless, true. However, it was later decided for Obama to announce his plan against ISIS in an address to the nation on September 10th. Among other things, Obama is expected to introduce ways of enhancing international cooperation against ISIS and try to display a more coherent and decisive stance than the one presented thus far. Continue reading

Turkey is Facing a Highly Uncertain Future

Source: Reuters

The Turkish presidential elections of August 10, 2014, bear great significance for the country’s future as well as for its domestic and foreign policies. This will be the first time that the Turkish people will directly elect the president of the Republic; something which, in conjunction with the constitutional reform process, signifies Turkey’s gradual shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system.

The main candidates are three. The current Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of Justice and Development Party (AKP); Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who is supported by the two main opposition parties (Republican People’s Party and Nationalist Action Party), as well as by three smaller parties (Democratic Left Party, Independent Turkey Party, and Democratic Party). The third and with less chances candidate is Selahattin Demirtas, the co-president of the main pro-Kurdish party of Turkey, People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Continue reading

Ιράκ, Κούρδοι και Τουρκο-Ισραηλινές Σχέσεις

Barzani and Erdogan. Source: Reuters

Ούτε λίγο ούτε πολύ, ο Μασούντ Μπαρζανί, ο πρόεδρος της Περιφερειακής Κυβέρνησης Κουρδιστάν (KRG) ή άλλως Ιρακινό Κουρδιστάν, είπε στις 23 Ιουνίου 2014 σε συνέντευξή του με το CNN ότι ήρθε ο καιρός οι Κούρδοι του Ιράκ να διεκδικήσουν την ανεξαρτησία τους. Την πλήρη ανεξαρτητοποίηση του Ιρακινού Κουρδιστάν την είχαμε προβλέψει προ πολλού, όπως και τη δημιουργία του de facto Συριακού Κουρδιστάν, το παιχνίδι όμως της περιοχής εκτείνεται πολύ μακρύτερα από το Ευρύτερο Κουρδιστάν και έχει προεκτάσεις για τις ισορροπίες ισχύος της περιοχής. Continue reading

Comments on the Crisis in Iraq

ISIS Fighters in Syria (Source: Reuters)

Below you can find selected comments (of mine) from an interview I provided a few days ago to a news agency in Turkey. The report was prepared, and published (as far as I know), but now it is nowhere to be found. My best guess is that it was removed (or denied publication) due to censoring – other reasons are not excluded as I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. The report included comments from Dr. Glen Rangwala as well. Admittedly, the quotes by myself and Dr. Rangwala did not suggest anything radical or absurd, but it seems that (possibly) someone did either not like our comments or looked us up and – for some reason – did not like our profile or other works. You can find the report as it was prepared for the agency in Turkish at the end of the article.

Note: I do not know Dr. Randgwala and he is in no way involved in the writing and publication of this post. Continue reading

The Turkish-Israeli Reconciliation Process

Source: Reuters

In February, 2014, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during an interview with Al Jazeera, repeated Turkey’s three preconditions for normalization of relations with Israel: i) the Israeli apology, ii) Israel had to pay for reparations, and iii) the Gaza embargo has to be lifted. Elaborating on the latter he said that “all kinds of aid to go unhindered from Turkey to Palestine.”

Erdoğan, acknowledged the steps that had been taken by Israel through its apology and the negotiations for the reparations payment. However, he did emphasize that the issue of the Gaza embargo is still pending and that normalization of relations without this component will not work. Continue reading