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 Turkish government’s recent record in foreign policy is hardly a success story. It is therefore noteworthy that, so far, Ankara has handled the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with a singular deftness. Whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can see this through is now the key question. Continue reading
Today in Istanbul, four governments—Turkey, Russia, Germany, and France—are meeting for a summit over Syria, attempting to consolidate the Sochi Agreement signed by Russia and Turkey over Idlib, and re-invigorate the international political process. There is little reason to think that these talks can succeed on either front. Continue reading
For about two months, it has seemed that an offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Iran, and Russia into Idlib was imminent, with disastrous humanitarian and strategic consequences. On Monday, an agreement was reached between Turkey and Russia that put a halt to this prospect, at least for now. There is good reason to think the pro-Assad forces are delaying, rather than cancelling, their plans to reconquer Idlib, but the extra time gives space to Turkey to alter the terms politically. Continue reading
The leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), released a nearly 55-minute audio statement today, his first statement for eleven months, which in turn came eleven months after the prior speech. This is al-Badri’s thirteenth speech since he became leader of the IS movement in May 2010 and the eighth since IS declared the restoration of the caliphate in June 2014. The title of today’s speech, “Give Glad Tidings to the Patient”, is drawn from a verse of the Qur’an that promises “glad [or good] tidings” in Paradise to those who remain steadfast on the path of faith in life, which is very much the theme al-Badri sticks to. Continue reading
Turkey killed a senior operative of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the internationally-recognised terrorist organisation and narcotics trafficking entity that has been at war with the Turkish state since 1984, in Iraq last week. Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes against PKK targets in Syria and Iraq in April 2017 and for the last several months Ankara has been widening its campaign against the PKK outside Turkey’s borders, particularly in Iraq, where the PKK is not protected by the United States, as it is in eastern Syria. Having feinted in June toward an attack on the historic PKK headquarters in the Qandil Mountains—a somewhat symbolic target at this stage, with the bulk of the PKK’s leadership and resources in Syria—it appears the Turks have opted for a more targeted approach.
This operation underscores the continuance of U.S.-Turkey relations, and the mutual benefits of the relationship, even in its current damaged state, where both sides have a laundry list of legitimate grievances with the other. If a formula for normalisation can be found, the potential to contain and weaken some of the worst, most destabilising elements in the region, saliently the PKK and the Iranian regime, is within reach. Continue reading