Tag Archives: authoritarianism

Trump’s Middle East Failure Was Made By Obama

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 November 2019

President Barack Obama meeting President-elect Donald Trump, 10 November 2016 [image source]

October 2019 may well remain in the popular memory as the inflection point marking the collapse of America’s — and by extension, the West’s — position in at least the northern Middle East. Having been thwarted twice before in efforts to leave Syria, in March and December 2018, President Donald Trump made one more try. For many, ‘Trump betrayed the Kurds’ will be the summary of the events that followed as Turkey made a swift move into the vacuum. The reality is a lot more complicated, and in truth the amount of blame that Trump can take for the events of the last month is rather limited. This catastrophe was baked into the policy of Barack Obama, and Trump’s main fault is to have followed the policy track laid down by his predecessor. Continue reading

The Shah, the Cold War, and the Islamists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 March 2019

Abbas Milani’s The Shah gives a portrait of Iran’s last monarch, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, and the impact that his downfall forty years ago continues to have in the Middle East, notably the emboldening of the Islamist movement. Continue reading

America’s Search for Stability in Syria is Hostage to the Turkey-PKK War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 November 2018

Joint patrols begin around Manbij (image source)

The United States has taken steps Syria in recent months that suggest a shift towards reconciliation with Turkey. Even if this is so, however, there is still such a deep divide over strategic outlook that these steps could be easily reversed, opening a new round of uncertainty in northern Syria as 2018 draws to a close. Continue reading

The Outlook for the America-Turkey Relationship is Bleak

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 August 2018

America’s imposition of sanctions on Turkey brings the relationship to its lowest ebb in more than forty years. Almost as soon as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came into office in 2002 there have been tensions in the relationship. These manageable differences escalated considerably during the time of President Barack Obama, primarily because of his Syria policy, and now threaten to boil over. The chances to soothe a vital strategic partnership appear to be slipping. Continue reading

Egypt: Between Dictatorship and Islamism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 4 July 2018

Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai (image source)

Five years on from the military coup d’etat in Egypt that brought to power Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the problems of the country—political, economic, demographic, security—remain as intractable as ever. Indeed, in many cases, the problems are worse than before. Among the problems that are noticeably worse now than in 2013 is security, specifically the Islamic State (Daesh) insurgency in the Sinai. Continue reading

Who is Trying to Destabilise Rojava?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 May 2018

Logo of Harakat al-Qiyam from its first video, 15 October 2017

A campaign is underway to destabilise the “Rojava” area of north-eastern Syria, ruled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a composite force wholly dominated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an internationally-designated terrorist organisation whose operatives use the banner of the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in Syria. The SDF/PKK captured a lot of Arab-majority areas as a side-effect of the American-led war against the Islamic State (IS), which deputised the SDF as its ground force in Syria. It was always clear that these inhabitants did not wish to be ruled by an authoritarian Kurdish nationalist party with Marxist inflections and a cult around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. There was, however, a chance that the goodwill of that comes with liberation could be converted, with the right adjustments, the SDF model could become a durable settlement. It appears the trendline is now running the other way, toward a disintegration of this structure. Continue reading

The “Syrian Kurds” and Religious Liberty

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 March 2018

Among the artefacts found in Efrin after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which uses the names Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, was pushed out by Turkey and its Arab dependencies in the OLIVE BRANCH operation, is the above document, which sheds some light on how the PKK treated religious institutions in the province. Continue reading