The Coalition of Radical Left (Syriza) was the big winner of the Greek national elections of January 25, 2015, as expected. With 36.34% of the votes, Syriza and its leader (now Prime Minister) Alexis Tsipras won 149 seats, two seats shy of absolute majority. New Democracy, of now former Prime Minster Antonis Samaras, came second with 27.86% and 76 seats. Syriza chose to form a coalition government with Panos Kammenos’ populist and far-right (though often-referred to as center-right) Independent Greeks (ANEL), that won 13 seats with 4.8% of the votes. Not only that, but Tsipras appointed Kammenos as the new Minister of Defense. Although leftist Nikos Kotzias, Syriza’s new Foreign Minister, is more cool-headed and pragmatist, if assertive, than Kammenos, the Ministry of Defense plays an important role in security issues and Kammenos might adopt a harder line that could challenge Greece’s overall foreign policy with particular respect to relations with Turkey and Israel. Overall, these developments may signal a new approach in Greek foreign policy on issues ranging from the EU, to Russia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Continue reading →
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 →
In the previous article, it was argued that Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East “is obviously, yet tacitly, revisionist.” Specifically, examples such as the Syrian civil war were employed to highlight Turkey’s revisionist goals (i.e. regime change) and its efforts to rely on great powers (U.S. and NATO) in order to achieve them without getting too much involved.
Another region where one could observe a revisionist Turkish foreign policy behavior is the Eastern Mediterranean. There, Turkey is part of long-standing disputes which concern issues such as the delimitation of maritime borders, air-control spaces, and Muslim or Turkish minorities in Greece and Cyprus. More recently, Turkey has also had problems with Israel and Egypt. 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 →
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 →