Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia

Nicosia Cyprus
The sun sets on Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus (Shutterstock/Iv Nikolny)

Located between Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has historically been of strategic significance to powers on either side of the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of natural gas off its shores has raised the island’s geopolitical profile — and might help it overcome communal tensions.

Cypriot waters are estimated to contain between 140 and 220 billion cubic meters of gas with an approximate value of €38 billion.

Exploration should spur economic growth and could make it easier for internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkey to hash out a compromise for the future of the island. Read more “Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia”

Trump and the Turks

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

As Donald Trump returns from his first international tour as American president, one thing that stands out is, as usual, the difference between his and Barack Obama’s approach to diplomacy. Whereas Obama’s first Mideast destinations were Turkey and Iraq, Trump’s were Saudi Arabia and Israel, a country Obama did not even visit until his second term in office.

Trump’s trip also included stops in Brussels, Sicily and the Vatican in Rome. Along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, these represent four of the five most significant allies of the United States within the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region: Italy, Israel, the Saudis and the EU.

The fifth ally, which appears to have been snubbed, is Turkey. The Turks were not honored with a stop during Trump’s first trip to the region, as they were during Obama’s.

Turkey failing to make it onto Trump’s travel itinerary might seem to be of little significance, if it were not for the flurry of unpleasant events involving the Turks and Americans that have occured this same month. Read more “Trump and the Turks”

NATO Throws Austria Under the Bus to Appease Turks

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016 (NATO)

On the eve of a leaders summit in Brussels, NATO has found a way to salvage its partnership program with 41 nations in Europe and the Middle East which Turkey had threatened to suspend.

A last-minute compromise sees Austria withdrawing from NATO peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Turkey holding back from severing ties with other non-allied partner states.

The Turks were outraged when Austria called on the EU to end accession talks in the wake of last year’s failed military coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His government has since purged tens of thousands of soldiers and civil servants on the pretext of disloyalty. Erdoğan has given himself broad powers and imprisoned opposition leaders. Read more “NATO Throws Austria Under the Bus to Appease Turks”

Erdoğan Discovers Personality Doesn’t Trump Geopolitics

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Kiev, March 20, 2015
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Kiev, March 20, 2015 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine/Palinchak Mikhail)

Turkey still hopes the United States might reconsider their support for Kurdish rebels in Syria, but it doesn’t look like Donald Trump will change this policy from his predecessor, Barack Obama.

If anything, the new president has doubled down, approving the delivery of more arms to Kurds who do battle with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Read more “Erdoğan Discovers Personality Doesn’t Trump Geopolitics”

What the Hell Just Happened to Turkey?

Jens Stoltenberg Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016 (NATO)

And “to” seems the right word, because this was done to Turkey by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political machine. International electoral monitors cite fraud; so too does the powerful Republican People’s Party. That hardly matters, it seems. Turkish election officials will not allow a recount.

And so even if cheated, it is a victory for Erdoğan. It has been a long road for a critical Middle Eastern nation. The geopolitical trajectory of Turkey is now set. Read more “What the Hell Just Happened to Turkey?”

Erdoğan Asks Turks to Jump Off a Cliff with Him

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan observes a military ceremony, July 9, 2015
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan observes a military ceremony, July 9, 2015 (Turkish Presidency)

Turks will be asked on Sunday if they trust Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to run the country on his own or want to preserve at least a pretense of democracy.

Of course, that’s not how it’s put on the ballot paper. Nominally, Turks will be asked to approve or reject constitutional changes that would transform the country from a parliamentary into a presidential republic.

With the compliance of his party men in the cabinet and parliament, Erdoğan has already turned what what used to be a ceremonial post into a de facto executive presidency.

Should the referendum go his way, Erdoğan would also get the power to suspend parliament and appoint prosecutors and judges. Read more “Erdoğan Asks Turks to Jump Off a Cliff with Him”

Dutch, Turks in Row After Ministers Barred from Campaigning

Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey address a press conference in Ankara, November 6, 2012
Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey address a news conference in Ankara, November 6, 2012 (Rijksoverheid)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lashed out at his Dutch allies, calling them “Nazi remnants” and “fascists” after they refused to allow two of his ministers to campaign in the small country on the North Sea.

Erdoğan earlier called the Germans “fascists” as well when they canceled a demonstration in support of his plans to expand the Turkish presidency.

Dutch officials had asked Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, the Turkish ministers for foreign and family affairs, respectively, not to appear at a pro-Erdoğan rally in Rotterdam this weekend. (A city that was almost razed to the ground by the Nazis in 1940.)

When Çavuşoğlu threatened sanctions if the Dutch would not allow him to come, the government of Mark Rutte denied his plane landing rights.

Kaya then attempted to reach Rotterdam by car from Germany. She was declared a persona non grata and escorted out of the country. Read more “Dutch, Turks in Row After Ministers Barred from Campaigning”

The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015
Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015 (BZ/Aad Meijer)

It may not seem it, what with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers lashing out, Israeli soldiers shooting wounded Palestinians and the war in Yemen grinding on, but the Middle East’s broad new outlines are starting to show.

They appear in front of the Turkish tanks on their way to Raqqa; in the brightly-lit press conferences of the White House; in the ballot printing factories of Tehran and in the banks of Dubai.

They are both a return to history and step further into it. Nation states founded on the borders of great empires are reasserting themselves and the assault on neoliberal economics will give way to Islamist socialism. Read more “The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism”

Syria’s Endgame

It has taken at least 400,000 dead and over ten million internally and externally displaced Syrians, but we are finally coming to the end game of the Syrian Civil War.

Last week, Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan blithely announced in a news conference that Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, would be the final target of the Turkish invasion.

Today, Pentagon sources leaked that the United States might send large combat forces into Syria.

This comes on the heels of talks between Iran, Turkey and Russia aimed at ending the conflict.

At long last, a confluence of interest is emerging that is the beginning of the end of the Syrian Civil War. Read more “Syria’s Endgame”