Monday, December 17, 2012

Morality disease in Turkish foreign policy

Personal political wrangling is running so high between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, with the latter bringing down the level so down that even news agencies had to censor the offensive remarks. The debate is all about morality and the shocking news is that the entire theatre is all redundant.

Unable to find an agenda item to slam the government, Turkey’s main opposition party, with strong links to the Turkish version of Alawites, has put Turkish main foreign policy maker Davutoğlu on the target in the hope of scoring domestic political gains. Davutoğlu is one of the few politicians in Turkey who holds a PhD degree and is regarded as a very intellectual man. His command of the Turkish language is perfect and I would say he is one of the best among politicians in speaking a good deal of Turkish. But according to Kılıçdaroğlu, brain of a bird is better than his.

Davutoğlu also deserves the blame. He has put too much emphasis on his government’s foreign policy being “moral” and “principled.” He always confronts arguments and criticisms levelled against his government that are accusing his foreign policy establishment of being hypocritical behaving differently for various situations. In an attempt to be consistent, Davutoğlu and co. were very good in twisting any situation to sound moral and ethical. For someone who claims (and, sadly, believes) that the country’s foreign policy is putting “human at the center of the foreign policy-making,” being hypocritical, inconsistent and supporting non-democratic regimes elsewhere is a suicide.

I have a small tip to both politicians: Quit petty talk. No foreign policy-maker needs to be moral in his/her conduct of the foreign policy. National interest must be at the center of the country’s behavior abroad and with other countries. A diplomat or a foreign minister cannot sacrifice nation’s interest just to be consistent and “principled.” Sometimes world events push politicians to be ruthless and force them ignore many abuses of human rights and dignity because this is what state interests require.

It is easy to be an activist advocating a certain agenda. But a good politician is the one ready to flip and flop as his/her country’s interests shift.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Anti-Islam sentiments in Egypt counterproductive to healthy transition

Fall and power-sharing struggle among a unified opposition that orchestrated a revolution is inevitable almost after all massive political transformations. What would be devastating for the future of a country is that the power struggle in the post-revolution period becomes violent and one party comes out victorious.

Emboldened by tandem electoral victories and enjoying a simple majority, Islamists in Egypt feel that they should be the one commanding the terms in writing the country’s permanent constitution. Egypt’s draft constitution, which will be put on referendum on Sunday, is far more democratic than the one it is replacing despite serious shortcomings. But Egyptians in Tahrir didn’t risk their life just to replace Mubarak-era constitution with the one that contains vague articles that are open to various interpretations.

Egypt’s draft constitution, which will most likely be approved in today’s referendum, does not include a clear set of rules on civilian oversight of the military. It is a move by Islamists not to irk the military in their delicate strides to complete the painful transition process.

For weeks, opponents of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi protested the draft constitution, the president’s now-defunct immunity decree and even what they call possible “Islamization” of the country in the future. Protests met with demonstrations by supporters of Morsi, a rare occurrence.

Damaging the entire anti-Morsi movement is their blatant anti-Islam sentiments. Members of their group often cite “former Islamists” or “pious Muslims” confronting Morsi as an indication that the movement is not an anti-Islamic group. When they accuse Morsi and his supporters of turning country into an Islamic state, they alienate those who would otherwise be protesting against the president if the movement was not about staging open attacks against Islam’s larger representation in public institutions and in laws.

For conservative Egyptians, the struggle against Morsi is not about more freedoms or rights but a fight of those who fear of being in a disadvantageous position once Morsi finalizes the “Islamist” transition period. The result would be the Islamist president, Islamist parliament, a military backing an Islamist establishment and slowly Islamization of the country. These fears were exactly the experiences of the Muslim Brotherhood under the iron fist of Mubarak for decades. When they have a chance, they want to use it.

Islamists will make horrible mistakes on the way of writing new rules of the country. But when accusations are made on grounds that they are marginalizing secular people and non-Muslims deliberately, then the Morsi camp will be getting bigger by the addition of all who think the criticisms are not against Morsi and his circle’s anti-democratic measures but against him being conservative president.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Does Russia matter in Syria anymore?

Desparate world powers, in an attempt to behead the Syrian regime, tried many ways they considered effective in nudging Syrian president Bashar al-Assad into quitting. All of them failed miserably.

Diplomatic overtures to end the bloodshed in Syria could be regarded as one of the most laborious, multi-lateral and the longest diplomatic talks to halt a civil war in the history. Initially, the European Union, particularly the U.S., held direct consultations with the Assad regime earlier last year, with U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich visiting Damascus to urge Assad to unclench his fist while responding to mass protests across the nation.  Then the duty fell on the shoulders of regional countries, mainly Turkey. While intense negotiations were under way, Ankara was angered by Assad’s what it said “blatant lies” and hence dumped the Syrian president. The Arab League took the flag but gave it up by February this year after failing to achieve any tangible progress. Then joined the United Nations, appointing its former chief Kofi Annan. That initiative, too, ended in failure.

In the course of the failing Syrian diplomacy, when the U.S., Arab nations and Turkey refused to hold dialogue with Assad, they then turned to states who threw weight behind the Assad regime and considered them effective actors with tremendous leverage in Syria. Neither of them had success in ending the 20-month violence in Syria. 

Today’s fashion is to pin hopes on Moscow. Many states, particularly Turkey, fixed their gaze on Russia, saying that, in the words of Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Russia holds the key to the Syrian crisis. Ankara reiterated its position on Russia’s role earlier this week, asserting that it is Russia, not Iran, what mattered most when it comes to Syria.

One reason why Turkey is too hopeful that Russia’s involvement could change things on the ground is because Russia veteod several UN Security Council resolutions it deemed biased against the Assad regime. It was partly because Russia felt fooled by the Security Council members when they endorsed a resolution last year that eventually swept Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi out of power.

I don’t want to think that Turkey naively believes that the UN Security Council will bomb Syria the next day after Russia changes its mind and votes for the Syria resolution. But there is no indication to think otherwise.

Another sign that Russia is not a hope at the end of the tunnel is the latest U.S.-Russia talks on Syria. The U.S. and Russia held talks this week to find a way to resolve the Syria crisis but Russia was too skeptic, with its foreign minister saying that there was only a slim chance that the leaders could come out with something that would wind down the escalating conflict in Syria.

Instead of pinning hopes on Russia, spending too much energy on proding Moscow to change its position that will only make it feel emboldened, Turkey should divert its attention to elsewhere if it wants to see Assad leave soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What if Iran goes nuclear?

Political wrangling between the U.S. and Iran over the latter’s suspected nuclear program has become less visible than a debate between those who believe a clear cut red line should be drawn before Iran and those who think Iran’s threat is hyper-inflated.

Henry Kissinger reinforced with his recent op-ed in the Washington Post calls on the U.S. government to take the Iran’s alleged rapid drive to acquire a nuclear bomb seriously as it will have profound consequences in the region that are detrimental to interests of the U.S. and its allies. He said the result of Iran going nuclear will cause an “essentially uncontrollable military nuclear proliferation” throughout a region.

He added that countries within the reach of Iran’s military but lacking a nuclear option would be driven to reorient their political alignment toward Tehran. Another setback, according to Kissinger, would be that the reformist tendencies in the Arab Spring would be submerged.

Stephen M. Walt is on the other side of the camp, favoring to cool down the rhetoric against Iran, which he thinks could be key in urging the Islamic Republic to abandon its suspected nuclear program.

He says nuclear proliferation in the region as a response to Iran’s possible development of a nuclear bomb is not what history teaches us would happen. He brings the example of Israel, South Africa (which gave up its small nuclear arsenal later) and North Korea, whose neighbors did little, if any, to go nuclear as a response.

He also dismissed Kissinger’s arguments that countries adjacent to Iran would surrender to Iran’s emboldened clout with nuclear weapons and will choose bandwagon. His example was from the Cold War, when Soviet’s nuclear threat only made NATO allies more cohesive.

Walt also believes that possessing nuclear weapons won’t prevent “reformist tendencies” to disappear as the Soviet Union's huge nuclear arsenal did little to crush massive, tandem uprisings in Eastern Europe, which eventually also brought down the Soviet Union itself.

Kissinger is right to suggest that Iran’s nuclear weapon would trigger mushrooming of nuclear weapons in the region. Realists wouldn’t be surprised to see other nations trying to re-establish their deterrence capability by developing weapons similar to what their adversaries have. The reason why Japan and South Korea didn’t attempt to build a nuclear bomb is because they are already under the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. North Korea’s building of the nuclear bomb was not an aggresive but a defensive step to protect itself from the U.S.

The case of India and Pakistan was also misleading. India’s nuclear bomb was perceived by every state in the region to be solely against Pakistan. But Iran’s case is different. Iran is not only trying to equalize its military power with Israel but also sees Turkey and Sunni Arab states as its adversaries. No state is assured of Iran’s incentives. Turks and Arabs won't consider Iran's nuclear bomb to be only aimed at Israel but to their countries as well.  

Kissinger made a wrong argument when he said some states, particularly Bahrain, could bandwagon if Iran goes nuclear. Possessing nuclear weapons does not mean that Tehran will make nuclear threats to make its neighbors bow to its pressure. Taiwan is one shining example.

Theoretically Walt is correct that regional states won’t bandwagon Iran. But his example suggesting that NATO’s European allies balanced against the Soviet Union instead of succumbing to the looming Soviet threat is misleading at best. States usually bandwagon to save their country from being occupied and destroyed or to save the regime it is being ruled by. None of them would be possible if European countries chose to stay in the Soviet camp. Few Soviet allies were ruled by non-communist leaders but they still were strictly socialist, militant authorities with anti-Western agenda such as Syria and Iraq.

For the last argument regarding the reforming tendencies of the Arab Spring, my pick would be Walt. International politics is being run by rational actors (although Walt indicated in his previous blog post that uncertainty among states remains a powerful factor defining the international politics) not by masses. Grassroot movements and uprisings would not shun from doing what they think is right just because another state in the block has a devastating weapon.

I believe the primary issue here is not inflating the threat or ignoring it but how Israel, Arab states and Turkey are free riding America. It is not difficult to predict that Arab states and Turkey would be number one adversary of Iran once the U.S. stops efforts to contain Tehran. At a time when the U.S. needs to shut down expensive adventures abroad, sharing costs with allies would be a smart way to go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Israel planned to give Gaza back to Egypt by recent bombing

As many suggested, Israel’s military operation in Gaza named “Pillar of Defense” was not about upcoming Israeli elections or Iran; it was simply Israel’s hobby and a part of its perennial goal to make Gaza a part of Egypt not Palestine.

In the course of the eight-day Gaza war, dozens of analyses appeared in mainstream newspapers and blogs, suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was garnering political capital to boost his electoral votes in upcoming elections in January. 

Arab and Turkish leaders were quick to accuse the Israeli leader of making electoral calculations at the expense of blood of Gazan children. In the words of Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Netanyahu was making “a bloody electoral investment.”

Differential analyses resurfaced in some media outlets, including the New York Times, citing US and Israeli officials as saying that the Gaza operation was a mini model of a possible Iran operation in the future and constituted war games to observe how the nation was prepared to long-range, much more dangerous Iranian rockets no doubt would start showering on Tel-Aviv in case of an armed confrontation.

The claim that Netanyahu was bidding for reelection with its Gaza operation is plain wrong. No leader would take the risk of starting a war with unknown consequences unless he knows that it is a matter of political survival and that he has nothing to lose not going down the path. Netanyahu and co. are well aware that the prime minister will easily win in the January poll.

In addition, Netanyahu is not ruling the country alone. The Gaza operation was planned and implemented by the coalition government. Coalition partners – Netanyahu’s rivals -- would not pave the way for the prime minister to get one step ahead of them in the election in two months.

There was also very little, if any, criticism from inside Israel, that would put pressure on the government to halt the Gaza operation. A recent survey published by the Haaretz revealed that striking 84 percent of Israelis were backing the Gaza operation. This is a clear evidence that few in Israel believe that Gaza operation was Netanyahu's electoral calculation.

Claims that Gaza operation was about a future attack on Iran’s nuclear sites also have many fallacies. Israel doesn’t need hundreds of rockets to be fired into its territory to see how its rocket interceptors are working. There is a thing called “military drill.”

Many analysts slammed Israel’s Gaza operation for being a futile attempt to stem rocket attacks from Gaza and argued that the military offensive doesn’t add to Israel’s security. They are right. But it was not Israel’s goal to launch a wide offensive to stop few harmless rockets. 

All these speculations helped Israel cover behind its primary goal, not secret to anyone anymore, which is to bury two-state solution and making realities on the ground even more incompatible for an independent Palestinian state. An important part of this plan is to tear Gaza and West Bank apart, make two peoples living there feel alienated and more importantly to make Gazans consider themselves a part of Egypt rather than Palestine.

Giving Gaza back to Egypt will help Israel get rid of nearly 2 million Palestinians, a huge favor for a bi-national Israeli state threatened by a growing number of Palestinians.

The plan seems to be working: The U.S. praised Egypt for its role in mediation. Israel okayed Egypt’s staunch backing of Gaza and agreed to see Egypt a guarantor of the Gaza truce.

“We don’t trust on Israel but we trust on our Egyptian brothers,” Hamas spokesman told a TV channel after the ceasefire was agreed. This was the sentence Israel wanted Hamas to say. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Erdoğan’s lira zone: Nationalism or economy?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has plunged Turkey’s agenda into another useless debate in which, no matter how much less sense the idea makes, his supporters threw weight behind it.

It came in Berlin, where Erdoğan said Turkey will not join the eurozone once it is the member of the European Union, in first such a public proclamation by a high-level Turkish official. He proposed Turkish “lira zone” to emphasize confidence of neighboring countries in Turkish economy and an implicit comparison between Turkish economy and the eurozone economies.

No doubt Erdoğan’s statement is a clear expression of his nationalistic views rather than a thought-provoking economic idea that could help find a solution to Turkey’s deepening crisis in closing gaps in current account deficit, growing cleavage of export-import imbalance and high energy costs that in turn makes virtually everything in the country more expensive and thus drives up already soaring inflation.

Erdoğan attacked the euro as the chief culprit of the economic crisis in the southern belt of the eurozone and overlooked the significance of “zone” that shares most of the eurozone’s woes. His proposal to create another zone is a clear evidence that he sees the euro as a currency being sick not the eurozone.

Euro remains one of the strongest and most stable currency in the world. Although it is not as much used in financial transactions across the globe as the U.S. dollar, many countries still view it reliable to hold large reserves of euro as foreign currency as a way of stabilizing their economy.

The primary problem at the heart of the eurozone crisis is that the area has one currency with many fiscal policies and countries that are in deep recession like Spain and Greece have hard times in digesting top-bottom austerity policies imposed by heavyweights like Germany and France upon them.

Erdoğan’s proposal to create a Turkish lira zone has little if any benefit to Turkey’s economic woes. Turkey could create strong Turkish lira only by abandoning protectionist measures that will also set away its current account deficit problem. It could hence create strong Turkish lira that might be used in neighboring countries as the third currency. It could export more Turkish lira from its economy to neighboring countries if need be but avoid imposing on countries to adopt Turkish lira as their national currency. That would be the mistake the EU made a decade ago.

Except Iraq and Azerbaijan, most countries in Turkey’s vicinity that could be likely candidates to adopt the Turkish lira import more than their export. It means they will constantly keep exporting their foreign currency reserves. This is another reason why Turkish lira would be in worse crisis once neighboring countries keep using it.

There is a reason why American dollars remain the king of currencies. It is because it is being used only in one country, which is democratic and has very vibrant, liberal economy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to bypass spending in FP: Make others do your job

Only days left to the key U.S. presidential race and one wonders if the U.S. foreign policy will make a significant shift in case either candidates get to the White House. This is hardly the choice the U.S. president will make in the middle of painful economic recovery.

The biggest challenge faces the U.S. abroad is not Iran driving to acquire a nuclear weapon or China that is building huge economy and military muscle. It is its own economy that is having hard time to find necessary money to fund its foreign policy establishment and military – key for conducting an effective foreign policy.

The reason why the U.S. economy is recovering so slowly is because the Obama administration, departing from tax cut policy for increased production the federal government had been pursuing since 1981, has started spending on budget deficit, coupled with expensive Health Care spending that is signed into law in 2010. The price tag of entitlements – public spending Washington can’t give up – will become much bigger burden for taxpayers as the U.S. enters into a new era where aged people will fast close the gap with younger, working generation thanks to the fact that 1946-1964 “baby boom” generation is turning to 65. One of them is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The U.S. will have to shrink its military spending, foreign aid and an array of foreign policy initiatives it is implementing thanks to these spending.

There is a very effective way for the U.S. to overcome this troubled trend in economy that will squeeze its foreign policy spending: Make others do what you had been doing all along.

Broadening close partnerships with allies, eliminating possible threats and avoiding expensive initiatives such as Iraq quagmire is going to make up the backbone of the U.S. foreign policy moves. Washington’s limited options vis-a-vis Arab countries demanding transformation of their nations have already showed to what extend the U.S. could reach in realizing its goals.

At least in the next four years, the U.S. will work more closely with allies and share costs with them in national security challenges. “Leading behind” policy in Libya, working closely with Turkey and Qatar in the Syria crisis and establishing a broad coalition of states to impose crippling sanctions on Iran are policies the Obama administration was successful in pursuing that saved it billions of dollars.

No matter who wins the White House in this November elections, the new president will have to work more with allies to share costs abroad. The new president will face growing budget deficit and more burden on taxpayers. Although Romney vows to increase military spending despite economic challenges, it is hard to believe that he will go that path along. Cutting military spending will hardly change the conduct of the U.S. military around the world because the waste in the U.S. army is rampant. In these circumstances, it is not hard to estimate that the U.S. will choose to work more with allies, avoid costly adventures abroad rather than playing solo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

States need U.S. partnership not leadership

U.S. presidential candidates, in their final debate on Monday that was focused on foreign policy, made it clear to their voters that they will be better presidents in leading America in key parts of the world without knowing what kind of negative consequences it might entail. 

One wonders how the next president is going to make it happen giving constraints of the U.S. power following two devastating wars in the Middle East and numerous falling initiatives. In the debate, Obama used the word “leadership” for 15 times while Romney said it eight times. It certainly brings votes to say America is going to lead the world to peace and prosperity but at the same time it creates discord in various parts of the world against the U.S. role.

No state can accept leadership of another state unless it is under grave threat of destruction and any attempt to create leadership over others has always had backlash. There is no such thing called “American leadership that will bring peace and prosperity” as Romney kept repeating in the debate. States, as usual, will always keep fighting and the U.S. must pick a smart strategy to turn the tide into its favor. This could include pitting emerging powers against each other to make sure that no nation is dominating others in a region they are located. Another strategy is to make brief intervention to change the course of events rather than trying to run a country. The U.S. is good at changing the course of history but it is bad at running other nations. 

When you boast of a military spending that is more than military spending of next ten countries combined, then you should be ready to see other countries worried about your military might and intentions.  The U.S. is the most powerful nation on Earth and it can defeat any state it wants in any part of the world. When this kind of tremendous power shows signs of leadership role in any regional challenges it faces, it will be met with resistance rather than welcome. States will only welcome the alliance and partnership of the U.S. as long as they know that the U.S. has no expansionist ambitions. 

When you talk about leadership in the East Asia, this is definitely not good news for both China and its adversaries. The U.S. must continue to leave nations surrounding China weak to the extent of being only defend themselves to make sure that Japan and other states don’t dominate the region as it was the situation before the World War II. The U.S. should stay vigilant against Chinese expansion as well as maintain the current balance of power in the Pacific region with delicate partnerships rather than speaking about being a leader in the region. 

The same goes with the Middle East too. Neither Turkey nor Egypt want U.S. leadership but both powerful countries wouldn’t want to see their ambitions being realized without the U.S. giving a helping hand to them.

All in all, the U.S. will continue to increase its presence in the Middle East and East Asia no matter who will be elected to the White House. But the U.S. should aim to prevent any state to dominate regions that are very significant to U.S. interests, including its own domination. Taking a leadership role in the Middle East and the East Asia won’t help Washington to promote its interests and instead will turn friendly nations balancing against the world’s superpower.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why no one cares about Syria safe zone

For most part of the uprising, the entire world has stared at Turkey’s mouth to see if Ankara spells out a possible buffer zone inside Syria that would be a safe haven for the armed opposition. Today, Turkey demands it but no one cares.

I’m not particularly surprised to see such a situation develop because states rarely act when the issue in question is humanitarian. Insistently clamoring for a “liberated territory” in Syria was largely driven by a success in Libya where eastern city of Benghazi, the heart of the Libyan revolution, played a key role in organization of the armed revolution that ousted late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi a year ago. Absence of such a territory in Syria made it hard for the armed opposition to receive arms from outside and also establish an effective transitional government that would facilitate the diplomatic overtures abroad and coordinate armed groups inside the war-torn country.

Turkey, finally, demanded before the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to establish a safe zone inside Syria as it was inundated with growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing from the violence in Syria. Security Council, Secretary’s office and even the U.S. were reluctant to go down the path of calling for safe zones along with Turkey. “I was wrong with my expectations,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the Security Council in a disappointment.

But why are the major powers too reluctant to establish a buffer zone when there is growing legitimacy in this end and historic opportunity to aid the rebels? The answer is simple: Possible buffer zone in Syria is humanitarian and not about the revolution anymore.

The U.S. claims that the crisis has a humanitarian dimension but it is largely a political crisis because the deaths and violence are caused by the Syrian regime. European nations and the U.S. pledged little financial aid for the fleeing refugees. Washington also seems very unwilling to nod to the Turkish-French initative to establish a buffer zone inside Syria – the last thing Obama administration wants to deal with months before key presidential elections.

Journalists, activists and some states claim that the Syrian opposition control large swathes of areas on the Turkish border, creating a de facto buffer zone, which also leaves outside help in this regard largely unnecessary. Any military intervention by NATO or by the coalition of the willing to establish the buffer zone inside Syria will do little to aid the rebels in advancing their cause and instead will create additional strains with Russia, China and prompt unexpected retaliation by the Syrian government. A realist would not be surprised to see such a situation where states don’t act if the matter is solely humanitarian.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How not to solve Syrian crisis

Almost a month ago, Egypt's ambitious president offered a regional meeting among Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia to end the 18-month violence in Syria and reiterated his initiative earlier this week.

Iran welcomed the suggestion while Turkey said works are underway to elaborate Egypt's proposal on holding the regional meeting. If Saudi Arabia nods to such a meeting, it will be the only high-level Syria meeting that includes Iran, which is the staunch supporter of the Syrian regime, whose ruthless crackdown on the armed opposition has caused the death of more than 20,000 since the uprising started in March last year.

Former American diplomat and an academic Vali Nasr said in his recent The New York Times op-ed that Iran's inclusion in Syria talks is important as it has great leverage in Syria. His view was dismissed by many who contended that Iran is the chief architect of violence in the war-torn country and that Tehran is a part of the problem rather than a solution.

While David Kirkpatrick of the NYT has suggested that Morsi's recent initiative shows that Egypt will be picking a new, independent trajectory without the U.S., Today's Zaman's Bülent Keneş likened Morsi's foreign policy steps to Turkey's what he said "adventuresome" foreign policy it pursued earlier in the past decade. Speaking as if unaware of regional realities and of too much antagonism between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Morsi told Reuters in a recent interview that the balance is key in international relations and that he wants to achieve this goal by reaching out to every actor in the region.

It is obvious that the crisis in Syria is now what many call a "regional crisis," becoming the battleground of influence between Turkey/Saudi Arabia/Qatar and Iran/Russia. If a regional solution to the crisis is possible, it will only be achieved if all actors involved in the peace talks have a genuine desire to end the bloodshed as a first goal rather than advancing their influence inside Syria.

One would expect that a realist would favor fighting to oust the Syrian regime that would deal a huge blow to Iran. But a realist does not only do everything that is in the interest of a state but also calculates all costs and benefits. Getting Syria out of Iran's orbit isn't worth to a bloody and very costly war. In addition, there are better ways of doing it.

Ending the bloodshed in Syria, it seems, is not what Iran wants and hence it will be a likely outcome that the quartet talks will collapse. Both Turkey and Iran, fierce rivals in Syria, claimed that a side they back is closer to "victory." This thinking will also make it almost impossible for actors to make compelling compromises.

With these realities on the ground, Morsi's initiative for the regional meeting on Syria is naive at best. In stable Syria, Turkey would be the winner as it was very successful in getting Damascus out of Iran's orbit before the uprising started last year. Wary of this situation, Iran could hardly consent to a scenario of stability in Syria at the expense of the Syrian regime.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Turkey's incompetence in Syria

How can a country claim to be the Muslim world's moral police and "central state" if a rogue regime's warplanes are killing men, women and children only 3-4 miles away from its border? How can a country reiterate for too many times that it cannot remain indifferent to unceasing violence in its neighbor and yet do nothing when it can?

When critics blast Turkish foreign policy establishment for remaining impotent to unfolding crisis in neighboring Syria, Turkish diplomats are almost always on the defensive: It is Syrian president who did this.

Syrian regime was more friendly to Turkey than any of its neighbors, including Iran for several years. It did little, if any, to outrage Turkish people and its government in the course of the uprising in the country that has now left more than 20,000 dead. Syria regime is brutal, ruthless and it is using indiscriminate force against opposition fighters as well as civilians. But it was careful in not angering Turkey in early months of the uprising.

Turkey had a tremendous leverage both in Damascus and among rebels - an ability neither Iran, Russia or the U.S. had. But it did little to listen Assad's grievances and kept reiterating that Syrian army must stop the crackdown. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with Assad for 6 hours on Aug. 9 last year, urging the president to stop the military operations in Hama and Homs. Davutoğlu was right. But he failed to estimate that his deal with Assad would fall apart if the armed opposition staged a single attack, prompting Assad's reprisal.

Instead of maintaining diplomatic track in the hope of nudging Assad into a right direction, Turkey believed that joining in an international coalition determined to isolate Syria would work. It didn't. It miscalculated Assad's power and hoped (and still hopes) that he will leave very soon. He did not.

Let's imagine that Turkish government acknowledged its mistakes but wants to move forward to salvage the situation. For a better outcome than the current situation, Turkey should not only focus on toppling Assad but also prepare for what comes next. Syria is a divided country and transition from dictatorship to democracy seems to be bloody. As it is evident that it is impossible that Turkey could tolerate any transitional regime that Assad is a part of, Turkey must speed up efforts to oust the Syrian president and while doing so, it must send a message that its policies in Syria is not sectarian.

Frequent messages by both Turkish foreign minister and other Turkish officials that Turkey's foreign policy in the region is not sectarian is a clear example that people living in the neighborhood perceive Turkey's policies to be based along sectarian lines. Turkey claims it is supporting only good people and it turns out that the good people, according to Turkey, are most of the times Sunnis.

There are many things Turkey could do to protect civilians while trying to get rid of its ex-friend. One of them is to prevent the increasingly bloody war being waged by the Syria air force in areas close to the Turkish border. In Azaz, only several miles from the Turkish border, Syrian warplanes are ruthlessly bombing rebel-held areas in a bid to root out rebels. Dozens are killed in the air strikes.

According to initial reports, 86 Syrians wounded in the air strikes were brought to southern Turkish province of Kilis and 13 died either on their way to the hospital or at the hospital on Wednesday. This is not only embarrassing situation for Turkey, which claims to be a regional heavyweight, but it is also morally reprehensible.

Syria shot down Turkish warplane in international airspace, 5 miles off the Syria's air space. This is a strong evidence that Syrian military deployment beyond Aleppo up to the Turkish border is a clear threat to Turkey.

Turkey must immediately demand Syria to withdraw all its heavy weapons from areas close to Turkish border and issue a warning that its air force must land warplanes flying close to the Turkish border and bombing civilian areas. If Syria does not comply with Turkey's ultimatum and continue bombing residential areas on the Turkish border, Turkish jets must shoot down some of the Syrian warplanes without hesitation.

Don't worry Turkey, I made a little search and found that dozens of planes were shot down by another state without receiving any retaliation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Calling 'bad boy' to do good deed

Different foreign policy wonks have been tossing back and forth the question of whether to ask Iran to use its tremendous leverage in Syria to find a political solution to the 16-month crisis there that has now left more than 20,000 Syrians dead.

Vali Nasr, former assistant to late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, has an op-ed in the New York Times, where he claims that the Western and Arab strategy to focus on toppling Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad takes that country down the slippery slope. In his view, Iran is the most significant actor in this game, which major powers ignore. Given the fact that any indulgence granted to demands of Iran has reapead a horrible harvest in the past few years, it is legitimate to ask why Tehran could possibly play a constructive role in the Syrian crisis. The article is fascinating because hardly anything claimed in the piece is theoretically wrong.

Iran is an unreliable and unpredictable country -- it takes extra caution and patience to work with this country. History shows that it would be a mistake to bet on Iran's words and pledges. Working with Iran in difficult cases such as Syria is a sure path to a room full of trouble. For years, the Western countries have worked tooth and nail to move Syria out of Iran's orbit and accused the Islamic republic of aligning with Syria in a bid to extend its influence to the eastern Mediterranean. How could now Western nations ask Iran to play a constructive role in Syria when it believes that Iran should have no business in the country? In addition, Iran blatantly backed Assad and gave no sign that it would agree to a Sunni-dominated government once the Syrian president steps down.

In Nasr's article, few of these concerns are mentioned or addressed adequately. Nasr claims that with or without Assad as its leader, Syria now has all the makings of a grim and drawn-out civil war. He argues that the United States and its allies must enlist the cooperation of Assad’s allies — Russia and, especially, Iran  — to find a power-sharing arrangement for a post-Assad Syria that all sides can support, however difficult that may be to achieve. In his view, involving Iran in any resolution to the conflict could throw Tehran a lifeline, but repercussions of prolonged conflict in Syria would have devastating consequences for both Syria and its vicinity. He then goes on in length to explain how powerful Assad's "killing machine" is and how it carries the risk of becoming another Lebanon. Nasr contends that the West has already bungled its attempt to topple Assad and he says the Western strategy of supporting opposition to oust the Syrian president is a wrong goal.

To find a way out of this impasse, Nasr offers a transition plan that includes most importantly Iran and Turkey, which he says has a military muscle to influence the conflict. According to Nasr, Iran will join in the bargain because it is not sure what will follow Assad if he exits.

Syria is a battleground between Sunni majority, backed by US allies such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and Alawite minority, supported by Hezbollah and Iran rather than a fight for democracy. Why would Turkey or Iran agree to such a transition plan when each side believes that it is winning the war? Iran seems unwavering in its support and its foreign minister said this week that such a plan is nothing but "an illusion." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan already said twice last week that rebels in Syria are putting final touches to the revolution.

Theoretically, Nasr is correct. Underlying this strategy is the view that a country, especially one which could use its political weight to shift troubling trend in another country, will most likely agree to a midway formula with which everyone would win.
But realities on the ground make it impossible to work with Iran for a peaceful solution in Syria due to regional bickering and too much antagonism between the U.S. and Iran. Besides, it is hard to imagine that Syrian rebels will agree to any role Iran would play in Syria's transitional government.

Nasr's article would make more sense if he wrote this last summer and replaced words "Iran" with "Turkey," which had enormous influence on both Syrian opposition and the Assad regime but abandoned it for reasons still can't make me sleep well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Russian warships in eastern Med no longer threat

Russia is amassing unprecedented naval force into eastern Mediterranean but there is little indication that its possible naval supremacy in the region will remain long as Turkish and U.S. warships are seeking for counterbalance.

Russia’s navy chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov told reporters on Thursday that there are ten Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean dispatched solely for war games and that their presence in the area is not related to the Syrian crisis.

Russia earlier said it will not allow Libya-style military intervention in Syria, which largely was carried by the extensive help of warships and aircraft carriers of NATO-member states in the Mediterranean.

Fleet of the Russian battleships off Syrian coast is one of the largest in the past few decades and definitely poses a danger to the security of Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim member. But there is little concern for a major power face-off in the region as American warships are expected to arrive in the eastern Mediterranean months earlier than previously expected amid escalating tensions in the region.

Currently, USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier is docked off the Turkey’s Mediterranean city of Antalya. Turkish, French and British warships also separately conducted military drills in the area. There is little evidence that Russian naval forces in eastern Mediterranean will be Turkey's headache due to growing American and Turkish naval power in the region. But the fragile situation there, no doubt, makes it almost impossible for Western powers, including NATO, to conduct a possible successful military operation against Syria in the near future.

I wrote about this and other developments in the eastern Mediterranean here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Assad wants to leave but rebels make it harder

A news report that Assad is ready to step down in an orderly way received mixed reactions on Friday, most of which mocked the Syrian president for demanding a civilized transition after ordering his army to kill too many civilians in the course of the uprising.

News agencies quoted on Friday Russia’s Paris ambassador as saying in an interview that Assad is ready to step down in an orderly way but most Syrian activists were quick to reject the ambassador’s possible scenario they thought could be Russia’s plan.

In fact, it was agreed at a conclave of foreign ministers in Geneva late last month that a transitional government must be formed in Syria by a mutual consent. Assad implicitly endorsed the plan as he slowly be starting sense his own defeat and it is out of the question that he considers himself staying in the transitional government. Syrian opposition categorically rejects any plan that makes Assad a part of the transitional government and his stay is impossible if mutual consent were given.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday that Geneva plan in fact agreed a transitional government that doesn’t grant a position for Assad. He said even Russians seem positive to a transitional government without Assad.

In a nutshell, it is not news that Assad wants to leave and a transitional government is a good way for Assad to step down in an “orderly way.”

But surge in attacks by opposition fighters and the infamous Damascus bombing this week that killed four senior security figures within Assad’s inner circle could have considerably changed the scale. Fearing that the opposition won’t stick to its promise, Assad has indeed declared an all-out war against rebels and sees his family’s survival in purging the entire armed opposition.

At this stage, a possible ceasefire could peacefully make Assad leave the power but increasingly growing assaults on regime officials, police and security checkpoints make it almost impossible for Assad to consider a transitional plan that will safely put him out of the power.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Egypt’s Morsi is not good news for Turkey

Very few understand how Turkey is rather a foe for Egypt than this man protesting outside the residence where Davutoglu and Morsi holding talks.

Turkey was excited to see a conservative president with beard in Cairo who shares similar views on domestic politics with Turkey’s previously progressive and reform-minded ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). But Ankara's fervor won’t last long.

In a sign of this excitement, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Cairo following his talks with Egypt's new leader Mohammad Morsi earlier this week that Egypt needs to be strong in the region and that strong Egypt means Turkey will be strong. "Strong Egypt means stability in the region,” Turkish foreign minister added.

There is little, if any, evidence to believe what Davutoglu says is reasonable. Points Turkish foreign minister stressed in his remarks are unprecedented in history and not possible in a normal setting of international politics. Two increasingly strong states in the same region are usually a primary cause of instability. Two powerful states hardly coexist unless there is a significantly strong state outside the region that is threat to both of these countries.

If history is any guide, peaceful relations between Egypt and Turkey are very unlikely in the long term. A short glance over history will prove this point further. European powers would most likely not fight each other in two devastating world wars if there was a powerful threat from Asia. European powers could establish a relatively stable union only after Communist threat from the East put the fate of entire continent on danger.

In another notable development, Turkey moved to militarily intervene in Cyprus in 1974, fighting a bloody war with Greeks there after a Greek-inspired coup. The U.S. then put tremendous pressure on Turkey to rule out the intervention and urged Greece to remain restraint. Greece’s response was minimal because both states faced a bigger threat in the north in the heydays of the communism: The Soviet Union.

The same scenario can describe the alliance among wealthy Gulf Arabs too. Saddam’s Iraq was a significant threat to the region and today Iran seems interested in instigating instability in the oil and gas rich region. Gulf Arabs will likely remain in union in a foreseeable future unless Iran chooses to cease its confrontational policy with the Arabs.

History is also awash with Turkish-Egyptian confrontation despite the fact that Cairo was under Ottoman rule. Egypt has always been a difficult country for Turkey to deal with during the Ottoman rule. It was the most disobeying vassal state compared to other regions for Istanbul. During 1831-1841, Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali challenged and fought against Ottomans to an extent that European powers had to intervene in 1840 with London Convention to prevent a new empire dominating the region vital for Europe’s trade with the South Asia. The incident is known as Oriental Crisis of 1840. Muhammad Ali virtually established a new empire encompassing Egypt, Sudan and Syria up to today’s southern Turkish city of Adana. Only after a solid military action in the eastern Mediterranean by Western empires Muhammad Ali’s new empire was put on hold from moving ahead. 

Today, Turkey and Egypt don’t face an important outside power that could threaten security and survival of both states. Instead of cooperation, the two countries have a lot of reasons to fight about. They share increasingly unstable and militarized eastern Mediterranean. New oil and gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean is also a good reason to seek dominance in the region.

Leadership in the wider Muslim world is another reason why Turkey and Egypt will most likely be foe more than a friend. Unlike its new leader, Egypt’s ousted leader Hosni Mubarak was decrepit and pro-Western. Morsi is only slightly different from leaders Libya, Tunisia and Morocco elected in the past year and we are yet to see a conservative leader in Syria largely representing views of the Muslim Brotherhood. It will be much easier and more effective for an Arab leader to appeal to the Muslim world rather than a Turkish-speaking leader.

In a nutshell, a stronger Egypt means more headaches for Turkey.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Should we care about Egypt's ruler?

As students of international relations, should we really care about Egypt's new president? Not that much. Because hardly a change in domestic politics of a country shifts its foreign policy orientation. If we are to observe a slight change in foreign policy of Egypt, it is not because it has a new president but because powerful waves of dynamic changes in international politics had pushed Egypt to elect a new president that will be competent in dealing with challenges of the current period. This argument is made not to downplay the power of people that shook Egypt last year but to emphasize what made them to flock into streets.

1979 revolution in Iran is an oft-cited example by those who claim that changes in domestic politics directly affect foreign policy. Then pro-Western Iran made a U-turn in 1979 in foreign policy after Islamists grabbed power in Tehran. But a short glance over events in the region reveals that in fact Iran’s stark departure from its previous position in the region is not because it had an Islamist leader. While Iran was Israel’s and U.S. ally, Egypt and Syria had cool relations with the U.S. and were at war with Israel. It made sense for Iran to side with Israel and the U.S. as long as Arabs were in the other camp. But when Egypt abandoned Syria and changed its orientation with Camp David Accords in 1978, Iran also switched its side and stood by Syria. This change was facilitated by the advent of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.

Assassination of Anwar Sadat after the Egyptian president’s disengagement with Israel is also a good example of how international politics directly affects domestic politics. But assassination of Sadat was not a smart move because his successor had made life hell for the Muslim Brotherhood for 30 years.

Leaders add personal flavor to foreign policy only in cases when they have a luxury to do so. Egypt will be unable to translate its already weak economy into military buildup and the army will continue to have a powerful say in the country’s foreign policy. For the U.S., stability in Egypt is important because Suez Canal is a strategic point where over 2 million barrels of mostly Gulf oil are transported to Western markets every day. This is almost equal to Saudi's Arabia's daily oil output. For this reason, the U.S. will stand by any Egyptian president as long as the president does not seek adventures in the Suez.

More than 17,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal every year, of which 25 percent is oil and gas. When Egypt recovers from the revolution and becomes stronger than it needs, we can then talk about how domestic politics affects its foreign policy decisions. Too much power always carries the risk of abuse. As long as Egypt is weak, new president will have little discretion to drive his country's foreign policy to a direction he wants.


Power struggle in Egypt

Putting foreign policy aside, it is also fun to see an Egyptian president with beard. Egyptians deserve plaudits for their brave struggle in the past year to elevate their country from a league of authoritarian nations to a place it deserves.

Egypt is a troubled country with very powerful military playing as a subject in politics. It will be no easy task to sideline the army despite president-elect Mohamed Morsi’s defiance in Tahrir on Friday. It is odd to observe that Turkey is both an inspiration for masses longing for democracy and for generals trying to establish their tutelage in the political system. Turkey is a NATO member country and has commitments to limit the role of military in politics as part of its membership talks with the European Union. It has a coup-era constitution that was drafted by junta after 1980 military coup and despite 10-year tenure of partly progressive ruling AK Party, the constitution seems firmly in place.

In 2003, shortly after the conservative AK Party came to power, Turkish military issued a strongly-worded statement that was considered as a blunt interference into democracy. Even in 2007, shortly before AK Party’s second term, military issued a statement on its web-site Turks call a “post-modern coup.” Democratization has taken a quite long time to take hold in Turkey.

But what makes me upbeat about Egypt is how fast developments take place there. What happened in Egypt in the past year would take 20 Turkey-years in Ankara. No doubt it will be extremely painful to watch power struggle between civilian politicians and the military but it makes me optimistic to anticipate that it will take not as long as it took Turkey to consolidate its democracy today. It took 66 years for Turkey to partly consolidate its democracy by limiting very powerful military establishment. I’m sure it will be faster in Egypt.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Turkey's new Syria policy means de facto buffer zone

This video shows a long convoy of Turkish military vehicles being transported to Turkish-Syrian border via Mardin. 
As if waiting for that moment, some activists had hard time in hiding their joy when Syria shot down Turkish warplane, believing that this now makes a good case for taking some tangible steps in averting 16-month long crisis in Turkey's southern neighbor.
I have bad news for warmongers: I know no single case of plane shootdown since the WWII that sparked a full-fledged armed conflict. Turkey has no major interest in attacking Syria, including a security one.
Turkey has long worked tooth and nail to make its Syria policy relevant and emphasis has been repeatedly put on Syria being Turkey's neighboring country. But this alone does not make this country more important than other countries which are not Turkey's neighbors.
Now there is an ample opportunity for Turkey to portray Syria as a country ruled by a regime that is too much frustrated and desparately attacking neighboring countries with no reason.
I'm an anti-interventionist yet I'm a staunch supporter of heightened security in Turkish-Syrian border. It was Turkey's mistake to let Turkish-Syrian border loose and fragile to an attack from Syria. When Syria was deploying tanks and armored vehicles in Aleppo, only dozens of miles away from Turkey, Ankara should have demanded an explanation from Damascus and requested it to withdraw the troops.
Syria shot down Turkish fighter jet on Friday and Erdoğan ordered the army to stay alert and changed the rules of engagement of the military on Tuesday. The Turkish army is now ordered to shoot anything they deem threatening from the Syrian side.
This means Syrian troops and tanks won't be able to conduct hot pursuit of rebels, conduct military operations near the Turkish border and pound bombs on rebel camps by choppers or warplanes.
This, in turn, will increase defections and make the Turkish border safe haven for the rebels.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Is Syria that stupid to shoot down Turkey's plane?

Early on Saturday, a statement released after a security summit headed by Turkey's prime minister said Syria shot down Turkey's fighter jet, without elaborating how and why.

Many had speculated that although Syria acted ruthless, Turkey also deserves blame in this incident.

Early on Sunday, however, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made it clear that Syrian side knew it was a Turkish plane, the jet was hit in international air space without any warning, the act was hostile and Turkey will not remain silent. Turkey has not yet unveiled its retaliatory steps and the most you can say is that there are scattered signs that things are getting worse more slowly.

Syria's downing of Turkish warplane is not unmatched in history. There have been many similar incidents like this before. But few exemplify irrationality of these kind of attacks better than Friday's incident, which also probably killed two Turkish pilots.

Then the question comes, why did Syria shoot down Turkey's jet?

Syrian regime critics would jump to a conclusion that the attack is a manifestation of Assad's growing frustration and spillover of the domestic crisis into neighbors. This argument rests heavily on the view that Assad is a ruthless killer and he would not hesitate shooting down planes of neighboring countries.

They claim that this incident appears to be rather a remarkable example of how Assad has become a threat to the stability not only within his country but also to countries in Syria's vicinity. One could make a broader argument that it is not surprising to see Assad attacking every perceived threat after all these atrocities his army has been committing.

One of the misconceptions that muddle the debate over the shooting incident is that rulers like Assad have spinned out of control to a degree that would attack neighboring countries.

But those critics miss two fundamental truths about the situation on the ground.

In two cases states make similar, irrational military provacations like this one that is obviously not in the aggressive state's national interest.

First, states are deliberately behaving in an irrational way to signal to adversaries that it is hell-bent and ruthless in retaliation. This strategy conveys messages as if the state does not have a capacity to understand warnings and red lines.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's earlier remarks that Israel should cease to exist is an evident example of how states sometimes behave as an irrational actor to avoid military attacks.

North Korea's recent military provacations such as sinking a South Korean ship or shelling its island two years ago is a case in point. This kind of tactics are reliable with nuclear-armed states such as North Korea. Why to mess up with nuclear-armed North Korea whose leader is describing itself suicidal and irrational? The same goes with Tehran, whose leader is speaking about destroying Israel and possessing dozens of long-range missiles that could significantly damage Israeli cities. These leaders are definitely not irrational but it is benefiting to be seen this way.

This strategy seems unapplicable in Syria because it has relatively weak and increasingly divided military power, is running out of cash and exhausted by a year and half long operations against rebels across the country. It has little if any capability to do harm to countries considering intervening militarily to end the 15-month long crisis there.

Another case when states behave irrational in foreign policy is when domestic actors push decision-making process to a direction that is not in their national interests. This could be because of divided governance like in Iran or supporting overseas brethren no matter how damaging that policy could be.

Stephen M. Walt and John Mearsheimer's 2007 book on the Israeli lobby is a good read how domestic actors could derail country's foreign policy agenda.

It’s worth bearing in mind that there have been numerous claims that military commanders in Syria have often been acting beyond the administration’s control. In the shadow of potential war and violence, those surrounding Assad are not necessarily making a single, consultative decision based on country's national interests. Given the varying constraints on the power of Assad and the administration across the state bureaucracies, it is not surprising that senior army commanders and bureaucrats are pushing for policies that are not really made by the president and his close circles loyal to him. Recent leaked e-mails of Assad family depict how weak institutions the Syrian regime has.

The crisis in Syria has steered this process reasonably well and generated enormous conflict within the regime.

Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman was overly apologetic and friendly in his Monday briefing, saying that Turks and Syrians are brothers and that Syria is not hostile to its northern neighbor. Why would a state shoot down a foreign jet in international air space and send messages of friendship afterwards?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Why is Turkey surprisingly calm in crashed warplane saga

While journalists are impatient banging their head against the wall trying to find a reasonable answer to Friday’s Turkish jet crash incident eight miles off the coast of Latakia, suffice it to say that Turkey was caught off guard by the issue and the incident was definitely not a pre-planned trap to drag Syria into a war.

Shooting a Turkish fighter jet by Syrian security forces would be a potential stinging blow to Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s increasingly fragile regime, which is already very careful in not provoking Western countries, including its impatient northern neighbor Turkey, into aggression.

But the way Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke and kept his temper threw the world public into some apparent confusion. This is certainly not Erdoğan we know, who walked off a stage in Davos protesting Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2009 and boycotted an EU meeting in Brussels in 2004.

Initially, Erdoğan reportedly told a group of journalists in the plane that the Syria side offered a “serious apology” and acknowledged their mistake. He then rebuffed these statements during a press briefing in Ankara, noting that he is not aware of any apology.

Turkey’s reaction to Syria’s hostilities against Syrian rebels close to the Turkish border, unsurprisingly, has been one of knee-jerk condemnation and turning Assad into a punching bag. It was after pro-Assad demonstrators burned Turkish flag in front of Turkish diplomatic missions, Erdoğan unveiled a set of sanctions against Syrian regime back in 2011. Erdoğan’s cold-tempered and calm reaction to the situation stands in contrast to the relative vocal voice Turkey raised in any action of Assad Ankara considered hostile.

Erdoğan’s calmness illustrated a prevailing sense of suspicion and confusion reigned in Ankara, where officials are trying to understand which side is to blame for the incident. Both Turkey and Syria are now groping for ways to salvage their national pride in the most effective way.

Among other things, one of the reasons of Turkey’s calmness could be Turkey’s possible mistake in the entire situation. “What was Turkey’s warplane doing in Syria’s airspace,” a Turkish journalist asked furious Erdoğan in the press conference, without getting a reply.

U.S., who used every opportunity to bash the Syrian regime, also remained silent on the issue. US State Department spokeswoman said they discussed the issue with their Turkish allies but said “let Turks speak out.”

Is it possible for a state not to know for a long time who shot its plane and if its plane violated its neighbor’s airspace or not? And is it possible that U.S. remains silent when its chief ally’s warplane is shot down by a regime, which the U.S. wants to see dead?

At least good news is that Turkey and Syria won’t turn this unfortunate incident into a wider battle.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Many thanks to Foreign Policy magazine for putting me in a list of 100 Twitter users who usually tweet about foreign policy and international politics. FP makes this list every year and yours truly is honored to be in this year’s list along with other journalists, pundits, politicians who are really an authority in their field. Here is the full list of FP Twitterati and you can start following them one by one to make sense of the blizzard of information on foreign policy every day.