The first draft was completed in March, 2016 and was updated a few days before publication, after the coup attempt in Turkey.
One of the most important side-effects of the turmoil in the Middle East has been the crisis in Turkey’s relations with its Western partners. However, the events taking place in the Middle East or the Syria war are not the root causes of this friction; merely a triggering factor. The real reasons lie in the multileveled transformation, a sort of “revolution”, that Turkey has been going through over the past years and particularly since the election of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP) to power in 2002. These domestic changes usher in a new era for Turkey’s political scene that has many similarities – as well as differences – with Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979. As a result, its national identity and ideological orientation shifts, something that undoubtedly impacts its foreign policy preferences, and as such will pose significant challenges to Western actors that try to work with Turkey and secure their interests in the region.
Much has been said and written about the foreign policy that will be followed by the newly-elected coalition government in Greece that consists of majority Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) and minority center-to-right wing ANEL (Independent Greeks). Much of the fear-mongering and gloom analysis stems from assumptions that Syriza and many of its members (such as new Foreign Minister Dr. Nikos Kotzias) are anti-European, leftist nationalists and pro-Russian. A short evaluation will show that although we might witness some foreign policy alterations due to the rise of Syriza, they will neither be to an “axis-shift” extent nor, for example, akin to the change that we’ve witnessed in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Continue reading →
Turkey has lately moved to the epicenter of world politics, and rightly so. The jury is still out on whether that is a good or a bad thing and that is because of its handlings with regard to the Islamic State (IS) crisis in Iraq and Syria. Indeed, Turkey’s indecisiveness and belated actions in the face of the potential fall of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane and the advancements of IS more generally, bring to mind the Turkish foreign policy of the past.
Through the delay to take action or the refusal to allow Western allies to use its military bases, Turkey demonstrated a well-known reluctance to engage regional security problems, a suspicion toward Western powers, and a pro-status quo tendency. These were the very features that characterized the foreign policy of Turkish Republic for the most part of its history; a doctrine very much influenced by the founder of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, and the military-bureaucratic establishment. Similarly, Turkey’s opportunism, namely, its wish to be on the right side of history without being willing to play its part, draws parallels between today and 1945 when Turkey joined the Allies of World War II only a couple of months before the end of the war and after its outcome had already been decided. Continue reading →
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 →
It 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 →
The Syrian civil war and now Ukraine. These are only two examples of crises over which the United States and Russia have bumped heads recently. Some might be tempted to call this a “new Cold War,” but it’s really not. Yes, the geopolitical competition and power struggle might be obvious and similar. And even the race for maximizing the spheres of influence. But the ideological context is different and therefore there is no clash of politico-economic systems, not to mention that calling the current international system “bipolar” is simplistic, to say the least. What we have now is a primarily intra-systemic, capitalist, geo-economic competition fueled and exacerbated by identity politics, history and national security considerations.
This reality calls for a reevaluation of the nature of the contemporary international system and the role of nation-states within it. Starting with the former, there is an on-going debate about whether we live in a unipolar, a multipolar, a non-polar, or a uni-multipolar international system. Each of these characterizations expresses how much power and influence the US has in relation to other great powers. In the 1990s, right after the end of the Cold War, the international system was indisputably unipolar, with the US being not only the dominant but also the only superpower with unmatched material and ideological capabilities. Things today might appear to be the same, but they are not. The change lays not so much in the capabilities of the US but in their relation to the capabilities of the rest of the world. Continue reading →
The dialogue surrounding the accession of Cyprus to programmes and security organisation seems endless. Yet much of the debate seems to be concentrated on whether Cyprus should apply for membership to NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” (PfP) programme However, the recent developments in the Middle East stress the parameters of security, and may give Cyprus pause before proceeding further.
Given that the “Partnership for Peace” is a programme of NATO, the questions that can be raised about the future that could follow Cyprus’ approval to a PfP are many. However, we should first remember NATO’s role in the international political chessboard, the wars it maintains and the fact that the U.S. is the main force behind this organization. The era we live in it is an era of dramatic fluidity, political and geopolitical upheaval. The US, although it is the greatest power, it is not the only global power. Its actions (and more generally of the West) in the Middle East and elsewhere cause asymmetric reactions that threaten not only the U.S. but the rest of the western world as well.