An American President Changes the Course of the Syrian Civil War

"The American betrayal of its Kurdish allies is causing a reset (and full reignition) of the Syrian Civil War. The Asad regime (backed now by Putin's Russia) seeks to absorb the Kurdish forces into an alliance backed by Russia. This new alliance will fight Turkey, which has invaded Syria and is aligned with extremist Sunni Muslim insurgents enemies of Assad. And ISIS is now resurgent. Trump congratulates himself at solving Syria's problems and sends troops into the Syrian oilfields in the hopes that he can exploit Syrian oil for America's gain. Well done, Donald. Well done. A great moment in American history. Follow related commentary in my blog, Focus on the Near East." 

For the past several months I have refrained from writing articles for this blog. The reason was twofold: I felt I was just preaching to the choir to no effect, and the situation depressed me beyond belief. I had thought there was a…
Who Governs Syria?

The following is an article by a Russian expert on Middle Eastern affairs. It is a serious article and is aimed at informing academics and policy makers in Russia as to the history and nature of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The picture is complex and involves the family and friends of the Syrian President, their rivalries, and their political and financial assets. One cannot help but be reminded of the internal workings of the great American Mafia families of a half-century ago. But this family is armed with an army and an air force.
Who Governs Syria?
By Kirill Semenov, Head of the Center for Islamic Studies of the Institute for Innovative Development
This article was published in the framework of the partnership between Expert Online and the Russian Council of International Affairs. (Translation by Livingston Merchant)
As a result of the military conflict in Syria, the complex structure of the inner circle of President Bashar al-Assad has undergone changes, but not t…
America is governed by a drunk monkey.

At the moment the US is governed by a president with no knowledge of foreign affairs and without any inclination to learn. He only reacts. He is like the proverbial drunk monkey in a cage with a scorpion. Sometimes he is happy and makes stupid mistakes. Sometimes he gets stung and gets angry and makes stupid mistakes.

The monkey is supported by the wealthy who benefit from his "reforms" - tax reform, deregulation, appointment of billionaires on his board. He is also supported by politicians, mostly Republican, who would sell their grandmothers rather than lose their positions and by some elements in Russia, Israel, Iran, China, the "alt-right" in Europe, etc.

American policy is swerving like a computer-controlled automobile that has a broken chip in its executive protocols.

He governs by "chaos", his friends say. He insults the short, fat dictator of North Korea - then calls him his best friend. He insults allies and clo…
Democracy in America may very well be replaced by something much, much worse.

Flying the flag up-side down is a distress signal used by the American military and others when there is overwhelming danger.  Polite demonstrations will not save it. Condescending news broad casts will not save it. Speeches by one or two clear-sighted men  or women in the US Congress will not cut it. ALMOST EVERY OTHER ADVANCED COUNTRY HAS EXPERIENCED A COLLAPSE OF DEMOCRACY IN  ITS HISTORY.


For generations Americans have been under the illusion that they live in the land most free, most immune from invasion, never in danger from internal collapse, at least after that nasty Civil War was over and the racism and bigotry - both Northern and Southern - got swept under the carpet. They were also under the dangerous…
From the Buddha to la Peste: a Dirge in Prose for Hungary
Livingston T. Merchant

High above the city generals of Attila's army of Huns surround him drenched in blood. They are the prequel to Isis, to Daesh. They slaughter, rape, enslave and pillage:this marks the "normal behavior" of humans in some societies in every period of time.
Near by Attila is a center that has displayed Avant Guard "modern art" for decades. Nothing goes out of fashion faster than avant garde.

Across the peaceful Danube on another height on lookout point high above the city overweight Sergeants from various armies climb to view their conquests. Ottoman, Hapsburg, German, NATO: they soon go home exhausted. A quizzical patron St. Stephen shares their view. In between the heights lies the sparkling Magyar capital. A capital with an extreme nationalist government. Underneath the city lie the corpses of Magyars and the invaders over the centuries. Above the corpses a few businesses promote Yoga to housew…
I Love Turkey
In this article written seven  years ago, the year before I moved from Turkey to the Netherlands, I outlined my understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of this great country. It was written before the bloody coup a year-and-a-half ago and the devastating purges of tens and tens of thousands of journalist, intellectuals, and political figures and government servants. It was also written before the President moved through constitutional changes to consolidate all power in his own hands. But none of this would have surprised me seven years ago. And I still love Turkey - from afar.

I Love Turkey: an Article Written Seven Years Ago
By Livingston T. Merchant, Ph.D.

I love Turkey, but not the way I love a cruise along the sparkling Mediterranean coast, not the way I blindly love a lover, not the way I love an evening eating and drinking with friends in a tavern. Rather, I love Turkey in the way I adore a slightly unhinged cousin who suffers from attacks of genius alternati…

The Implosion of the Kurdistan Dream Spells Disaster for Turkey

For decades the existence of the Regional Government of Kurdistan in northern Iraq has off and on been a useful tool and a source of annoyance for Turkey. It sometimes seemed to be a moderating force in a region racked by the attacks of the radical PKK. But always there was the underlying suspicion that the Kurds were up to something. Something usually meant listening to the siren call of an independent Kurdistan, which might attract the interest of millions of Kurds living in Turkey.

For decades Turkey has lived with this ambivalence. In the end the fear of Kurdish statehood has dominated Turkish policy. The military success of the PKK-aligned Kurdish fighters in northern Syria has led to something approaching panic in the Turkish government and military circles. It then led to a full-scale apoplectic fit when the Kurds of Iraq held a referendum about whether to found an independent Kurdistan. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of independence. But then there was a sigh of relief …