One could be led to believe that it all started in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran. Rouhani, along with his moderate and reformist agenda, bore much optimism among Western countries that Iran might shift direction towards a more pragmatic and less anti-Western foreign policy. But this was not what put Iran to the epicenter of the Middle East and international politics.
Iran’s increasing influence and rising role in the broader region has been prompted by three main developments: a) the Iraq war of 2003; b) the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq by 2011; c) and the failure of Western policies in the case of Syria’s civil war in conjunction with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (henceforth, ISIS). Rouhani and the new round of negations about Iran’s nuclear program are only “the cherry on the pie.” Continue reading →
On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (i.e. Greater Syria) – henceforth, ISIS – surprised the world by advancing into several territories of central and northern Iraq. Most notably, ISIS has taken over Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul, and the also important cities of Fallujah and Tikrit (the birthplace of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein). ISIS has also tried to gain control of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk (which is now under the control of Iraqi Kurdish forces). Furthermore, it is said that the vitally important oil refinery in Baiji has been almost completely taken over by ISIS in an offensive against the Iraqi army.
Most importantly, ISIS has declared itself to be an Islamist “Caliphate” (i.e. Islamic state) and has unilaterallydeclared statehood in Syrian and Iraqi territories under its control. The group has recently renamed itself as the “Islamic State” and declared the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, as the new caliph of the Islamic State and the leader of Muslims everywhere.
ISIS’offensive has left the Iraqi state in a dire situation, ridden by sectarian and ethnic conflict. The conflict has created a large number of refugees, and has threatened Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. The following addresses the roots and ideological features of the conflict, in addition to the geopolitical implications of the Iraqi crisis for regional relations and U.S. foreign policy. Emphasis is placed upon analyzing the most important developments and their implications rather than on facts, as the situation on the ground is highly fluid. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
While the revolution in Libya has for many turned into a civil war between the rebels and the pro-Gaddafi forces, the situation in Bahrain is also deteriorating. The intensification of the demonstrations and the possibility of this turning into a violent conflict could have serious implications for the Middle East and the US in the near future.
Even though the revolution in Bahrain has similar socio-economic characteristics as other revolutions in the region, it also has an ethnic-religious component. The uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya led the Shiias to escalate their already protracted struggle against the discriminatory policies of the ruling Sunni minority. Furthermore, the Sunni government has strong relations with America’s ally, Saudi Arabia whereas the Shiias have strong bonds with Iran, which has been accused of fuelling the demonstrations in Bahrain.