Showing posts from 2016

There were times when the US and Russia were not totally paranoid

President Gorbachev's Last Phone Call
Calm and intelligent leadership may not always be appreciated (Obama, Gorbachev) but it is necessary to keep the world in check when erratic leaders take over in Russia or America (Yeltsin, Trump). On this Christmas Eve as an unabashed Christian, I pray for the soon-to-be President of the US and for the President of the Russian Republic. There is no room here to turn stupid rhetoric into ill-advised action.

Absolute must reading from the New York Times.

Civil Wars are hideous and all moral judgments about Syria are on shaky ground

Take U.S. history. In the American Civil War about 700,000 men in uniform and 50,000 civilians were killed on both sides. The destruction off Atlanta by Northern troops reminds one of the destruction of Aleppo without the slaughter of civilians. Assad has been brutal but the various opposition forces (among them ISIS) also committed crimes. It is difficult to make absolute moral judgments. As a footnote US population right before the Civil War was 31.5 million. Syrian population before the present conflict was 22 million - comparable figures.

A revered American president ordered the destruction of Southern cities. Thousands died. He had his reasons, but there was no United Nations to condemn his actions.
In the South the government was begging France and Britain to intervene on the Confederate side. It came to nothing except for some economic support and the construction of some naval assets. If a modern-day Turkey had intervened on the side of the South in this conflict or if France …

Will Greece be the new Auschwitz, but without the gas chambers? Auschwitz was built by design. The Greek refugee tragedy is being built through lack of European planning and inability to act.

IDOMENI, Greece — 

Taha al-Ahmad’s family is sleeping in mud. His youngest daughter, age 1, lies beneath wet blankets, coughing inside their soggy tent. It has rained for days. Portable toilets are overflowing. Men burn firewood to stay warm. A drone circles overhead. Television trucks beam images of misery to the world.

It is primeval, and surreal, this squalid, improvised border camp of 12,000 refugees, a padlocked waiting room for entering the rest of Europe. Mr. Ahmad, barely two weeks out ofSyria, does not understand why his family cannot cross theMacedonian border— roughly a football field away — and continue towardGermany. Hundreds of thousands of migrants passed through last year, but nowMacedoniais closed. Europe’s door is slamming shut.

Read this article if you have the courage.

Will Russia and Turkey go to war? Probably not.

The Russians have just surprised the world by announcing that they are pulling their forces out of the war in Syria because they had accomplished their mission. One wonders what Russians think that mission was. Granted, they have suppressed much of the military opposition to Assad on the ground, humiliated the Turks, and bolstered separatist forces in northern Syria, but Assad remains in a difficult position and the multi-faceted Syrian opposition still has control of much of the country.

As the peace talks resume between Assad, the opposition, and the external powers backing each side, it seems as if the Russians are saying, "Okay. We fixed it. Now divide control of your territory and stop destroying the country. Also, if you wondered, Ivan is back in the Middle East." 

In other words, this intervention may have been a Russian gambit to implement a settlement through the federalization of the country in three parts: Kurds, Assadists, and the Sunni opposition. The militias of …

Why Putin will probably bring a [bloody] end to the war in Syria

By Livingston T. Merchant, The Near East Window

The reason why Putin will probably bring an end to the war in Syria, and he is utterly ruthless and he plays to win. Putin does not play unless he is sure he can win. The United States under Obama cannot afford to play to win. Putin is wildly popular in Russia and has very little effective opposition. Obama is not seen as a strong leader at home and is hamstrung by an electorate aware of the disaster when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Now he has a Republican congress that hates him and blocks his every move. 

The United States can do nothing to end the fighting in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Its most important goal is to extricate itself from these three countries with minimal losses, and hopefully with its head held high. It is unlikely to achieve this goal in the short term. And it is unlikely than any successor to Obama will pull this rabbit out of the hat. It is possible that American leadership abroad will be noisy, but unlikely that …

Not a good time to be the President of Turkey

The Article from Al Monitor, for those who have the patience to wade through it, provides a fascinating introduction to the labyrinth of Turkish politics. It also implies that there are now three legs to the rebellion against the erratic behavior of the Islamist President of the Turkish republic. 

First the army balked at invading Syria, said it would not follow the President in without a UN Security Council resolution. 

Then the courts infuriated Erdogan for freeing two top journalists who had been jailed for covering a forbidden story about Turkey's supporting radical Syrian militias with weapons. 

Now within Erdogan's own party there is a brewing opposition led by two original co-founders of the party.


AuthorSukru KucuksahinPosted February 16, 2016TranslatorSibel Utku Bila

Erdogan's AKP critics grow bolder The main talk of the town in Ankara these days is the unrest brewing within Turkey’s unrivaled political powerhouse, the Justice …

Erdogan Is Finished and Very Soon

Picture from The American Free Press, 26 February 2016
Many of us who follow events in Turkey have been mesmerized by the ability of the former Prime Minister, now President of the republic, to gain more and more power over the past decade. But power is a fickle bitch. It can end suddenly and with humiliation.

I was trained as a social scientist and historian, and I have not lost the historian's tendency to make predictions based on his or her understanding of events in the past: "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." Of course, the accuracy rate of these predictions has been abysmal. But still, sometimes one comes along that you can take to your bookie. 

While we were being mesmerized, the cracks in Erdogan's clay feet have spread up his legs and are working away at his abdomen. The fall is inevitable.

Consider the following:

Erdogan has for years followed a policy of divide and conquer within the country. He successfully used it for a long time agains…