The moment his plane landed in Moscow on February 15, Russian media broadcast the king while saying: “I am always very delighted and warmed by the opportunity to see my dear brother, President Putin, as a friend, a dear friend of his as well as a friend of Russia ’, with this statement King Abdullah II started his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The wording is very important at this time as the king expressed the Jordanian fears of a comprehensive regional war with non-conventional weapons which some countries have and would use at certain points and areas if war breaks out.

Some western diplomats frankly expressed their interest in the royal visit to Moscow, saying that the main reason is a Jordanian farsightedness of a comprehensive war in the region that would involve not only regional but rather international powers, adding salt to the Middle Easterners’ wounds. Putin knows that Jordan’s strength is through pre-emptive and tactical upkeep of working diplomatic ties with players across the region. Both Jordanian and Russian leaders know that their mutual interest lies in further cooperation at the highest levels.

The Syrian conflict

King Abdullah has succeeded to maintain affable, and somehow purposeful ties with many countries involved in the Syrian conflict. Amman is the only conduit of collaboration between Washington and Moscow in Syria. However, this has driven Jordan into many challenges starting from balancing out its policies with various regional and international players in the Syrian war.

The king, who was the first to warn against an Iranian or Shi’ite Crescent in the region from Tehran to Beirut in 2004, has tried to persuade the Russian president who has strong ties with Iranian leaders, to contain the escalation by the Jordanian, Syrian and Israeli borders to avoid any future war as this will drag every country in the region to war which can start any moment but no one would be able to put an end if it breaks out.

The king was not only conveying a Jordanian message to Russia to foil all attempts to escalate tension near Jordanian northern borders, but also a regional message that war is in the offing and that the ramifications would be destructive for all parties. Thus, the Jordanian monarch has tried to receive Russian support, as Russia is an effective player in the Syrian conflict.

King Abdullah is sure that Iran would not accept to leave Syria after all its military and financial aid with a perception among Iranian leaders that they were the ones who backed Bashar Al Assad. The drone incident and the downing of the F-16 last week reveals that only Russia can control all players on the ground including Iran.

When King Abdullah has realized what a further escalation means if Iran, Syria and Israel get into war, conducive to major explosion in Syria and turning it into a full-fledged war at the regional level, he listed this new development to his agenda as the visit was prepared few weeks ago.

‘Bang bang’

The Syrian “Big Bang” will turn the region into a state of anarchy. Any war in Syria means that the region will turn into states fighting against each other to delineate the borders, which will cause more bloodshed and mayhem that we do not know when and how it will end.

The historical heritage of Jordan over the holy sites in Jerusalem has made Amman very sensitive to any changes or transformations of the status of the holy city. 

– Shehab Al-Makahleh 

The Jordanian monarch tried to persuade president Putin that it is necessary to convince the Iranians to be involved into indirect negotiations with Israel in order to avoid any regional war that will incur heavy losses on all countries and would lead to instability of the Middle East for decades to come, fueling more fanaticism and terrorism in the region which will be crossing borders to other countries.

The king himself believes that Russia is the only party that can influence Iran because of the Russian military presence in Syria on the one hand and because the missiles used to protect Syrian airspace are Russian-made .Jordan needs Russian cooperation to buttress its own susceptibilities and predispositions.

The predicament of Jerusalem

The Jordanian monarch has sought through this visit to gain momentum and support from Putin who is an advocate for the Jordanian guardianship over the holy sites in East Jerusalem.

On the eve of his trip to Moscow, the king received U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. King Abdullah reiterated the strength of the US-Jordanian ties in spite of the Jordanian rejection of American President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Few days ago, Jordan has secured a five-year American aid pledge.

The historical heritage of Jordan over the holy sites in Jerusalem has made Amman very sensitive to any changes or transformations of the status of the holy city. This is the main reason for the rift with the USA since December 2017.

For Jordan, there was no alternative to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. It is regarded as the only solution for ending the conflict. In this regard, Jordan seeks not only American backing but also a Russian support.

To sum up, Jordan has been playing with its cards to bring about peace to the region through resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and putting an end to the Syrian war, as well as countering terrorism. This cannot be accomplished without a backing from Moscow and Washington as dominant powers in the region as both capitals are the ones that can shape the future of the Middle East. The visit of the king to Moscow has been successful and he has received very positive signals from the Russian leadership to sustain the stability of the kingdom and avoid any endeavors to drag the Middle East into regional war.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/02/18/Did-Jordan-king-visit-Moscow-to-avert-disaster-in-the-region-.html

Published in Tribune
Monday, 19 February 2018 21:33

Russia plays kingmaker in the Middle East

While US representatives are going to Middle Eastern countries to discuss American concerns, the region’s leaders are visiting Russia. In the space of about two weeks, Russia has hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke on the phone with Saudi King Salman.

Netanyahu failed to persuade Putin about anything regarding Iran’s presence in Syria, in the wake of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Syrian military facilities. Abbas arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for talks on Jerusalem and a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “From now on, we refuse to cooperate in any form with the US in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions,” Abbas told Putin.

The US has lost credibility as a mediator, having obviously taken sides in the conflict, and having threatened and blackmailed the Palestinians, which is unacceptable. Washington will not be happy with a stronger Russian role in settling the conflict, but Moscow will not retreat.

King Abdullah headed to Russia’s capital on Wednesday to boost bilateral ties, after meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It has been about a year since the monarch’s last visit to Russia, and it is his 19th to the country since 2001, making him the most frequent visitor of any head of state.

The king’s current visit is of great importance, because it comes at a time when the Middle East is beset by clashes, including between Syrian and Israeli forces near the Jordanian border, and after US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The king seeks Russian intelligence cooperation to confront terrorism and extremism, and Putin’s personal support on Jerusalem.

Full-scale Moscow-Amman cooperation, based on mutual trust and respect, may bring balance to regional affairs.

– Maria Dubovikova

In the past few days, after the confrontation between Israeli, Syrian and Iranian forces in southwest Syria increased the possibility of direct warfare, it has become clear that if Russia did not intervene to calm tensions, things would have escalated. This could have affected the borders of Jordan, Syria, Israel and Lebanon.

“I do feel that the international community has let down our people, who have paid and shouldered the burden of responsibility of 20 percent of our country of Syrian refugees, of other refugees that have come through,” the king told Russia’s TASS agency on the eve of his visit.

Jordanians’ economic concerns were the impetus behind his visit; he does not want any political or military escalation on the Jordanian-Israeli-Syrian border that may add to his people’s frustration. Any escalation could engulf the whole region in a new, possibly endless, war.

The king wants assurances from Putin on the agreed-upon de-escalation zones, mainly in southern Syria. So he will ask Putin for the removal of Iranian and Hezbollah forces from the Jordanian-Syrian border, and away from the disengagement line in the Golan Heights.

Of all the countries neighboring Syria, Jordan has been the most cautious since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011. Amman was deeply concerned about the threat of widespread instability and violence. Its response to developments in Syria was driven primarily by concerns about the potential security and political impact of the crisis on the kingdom, not to mention the fact that there are more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan.

King Abdullah discussed with Putin the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the aftermath of America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and its intention to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. The two-state solution, which the king believes in, is the best solution to the conflict. He wants Putin to work on such a solution, and to keep the issue of Jerusalem until final-status negotiations.

The beneficiaries of any delay in a political solution to the Palestinian issue are extremists on both sides.

Russia and Jordan fully agree on this matter. The king believes that resolving the Palestinian issue requires US-Russian coordination.

Full-scale Russian-Jordanian cooperation, based on mutual trust and respect, may bring balance to regional affairs. Russia’s politics have proven consistent and Jordan is becoming a particularly important regional player, with balanced policies.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1247946/columns

Published in Tribune

Russia's recent Syrian National Dialogue Congress elicited rather strong, mixed reactions. Admirers of Russian foreign policy hail the event as a triumph for Moscow, calling it another testament to the country’s ability to overcome notoriously difficult problems no one else can manage. But critics deem the Sochi conference a major setback, highlighting the limits of Russian influence in the Middle East.

Both sides are wrong.

It wasn't a triumph; rather, it was a resolution of the specific issues identified. It wasn't a defeat, but a demonstration of the boundaries of attempts to end Syria's seven-year civil war.

Let's recall that Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced the idea for the congress in October 2017 in an address at the annual Valdai Discussion Club conference. At that time, however, it wasn't entirely clear what he meant by the “scheduled event in Sochi."

The information that surfaced in the media or came from Kremlin experts in the following months did little to clarify the case. Different dates and locations were announced, a list of participants was made public only to disappear sometime later and the name of the event changed. Some said Putin needed the congress ahead of the 2018 presidential elections. Others believed Moscow intended to announce the end of the conflict and wrap up the peace settlement. Many feared the Sochi negotiation process would detract from the Geneva format.

Undoubtedly, the Kremlin took care to organize media coverage of the congress, held Jan. 29-30 in Sochi. However, it wasn't described as an important element of the presidential campaign. Actually, even Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's statement shortly before the congress highlighted Russia’s moderate expectations about the event. Moreover, the Sochi venue was never a substitute for the Geneva peace process. On the contrary, the commitment to the UN-backed negotiations and UN Security Council Resolution 2254 — a timeline and structural guide for the Syrian peace process — became a major part of the congress’ official discourse. It appears the organizers tried to reflect the wishes of Syrian society and international players to reach an agreement.

Those who are serious about successful peace-building urgently need to make the Geneva process work. One example of this urgency can be seen in the de-escalation zones established in peace talks held in Astana, Kazakhstan. The zones emerged as relatively effective instruments for reducing violence on the ground at first. However, they have failed to achieve the stated objective of revitalizing the Geneva talks. Their limits are becoming clear, and they appear to be gradually losing their effectiveness, as evidenced by the fierce fighting in eastern Ghouta, Idlib and Afrin. Disagreements between the guarantor countries — Iran, Turkey and Russia — and some revenge-seeking players who want their pound of flesh will make it even harder for the cease-fire program to hold. At the same time, the nascent institutions of self-government, independent from Damascus, may ultimately transform the de-escalation zones into Kurdish-style quasi-states.

The Geneva program's ineffectiveness so far seems linked to how the warring parties perceive the situation.

The Syrian government, which has emerged as a strong player on the ground, doesn't really find it necessary to reach common ground with the opposition. Time is on Damascus’ side.

At the same time, the opposition is going to be even less disposed to engage in dialogue with the regime. Opposition leaders, who are incapable of winning the war, are at a crossroads. Some may agree on a limited and uneasy compromise, which Damascus still needs, to improve their international standing. For others, however, this is a forbidden path. Thus, they will have to adopt an increasingly rigid stance and wait for the second stage of the conflict to come after they have opted out of the game for some time. The failure to overhaul the country’s political system keeps the conflict going. Finally, others again derive far more benefits from the peace process than from its potential end. Under such circumstances, they are interested in endless foot-dragging over the issue.

Thus, Syrian society and international mediators — first and foremost Russia — are the only parties really pushing toward ending the conflict quickly.

By convening the congress, Moscow naturally sought to reassert its status as an indispensable mediator whose creativity and flexibility could help in most difficult situations. In the meantime, the participation of Turkey and Iran ensured the organizers' impartiality and allowed for strengthening the uneasy tripartite alliance.

Some 1,500 Syrians who arrived Jan. 29 in Sochi represented the civil society of the Syrian ethnic, religious and tribal groups; various political forces; and external and internal opposition, including the armed opposition.

Some groups, however, were not present. Representatives of the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party failed to come because of Turkey’s implacable position. The regime wasn't represented; President Bashar al-Assad felt it would be inappropriate to attend, as he obviously considers his government to be legitimate.

A large part of the High Negotiations Committee refrained from attending the event. Two dozen of the group's 34 members voted against going, though several still went.

Shortly before the main session, some opposition representatives walked out; they reportedly had been promised that all regime flags and emblems would be removed from the venue ahead of time, but those symbols remained. After the delegation left, Turkey agreed to represent the group's interests.

The decisions not to participate seem ill-conceived, given that UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attended. His presence was expected to give international legitimacy to the event. Opposition members who turned down the invitation opened themselves up to accusations that they were unwilling to contribute to the peace settlement.

The absence of some prominent Syrian forces deprived the assembly of its desire to project inclusivity but didn't render the event irrelevant. The congress was not conceived as a political negotiation; it was merely a get-together of different forces of civil society whose consolidated position could give fresh impetus to the peace process. In addition, some participants told Al-Monitor that many of those who intended to come had been threatened or otherwise pressured into abandoning the idea.

The organizers believed the agenda would focus on a number of items: drafting a new constitution, setting the stage for general elections under UN supervision, addressing humanitarian problems and developing a long-term comprehensive reconstruction program for Syria. However, the discussion revolved predominantly around a constitution.

Even before the start, it was known that the congress was due to adopt two documents. The first was a final communique compiled on the basis of the Naumkin document, a number of proposed basic principles of an inter-Syrian settlement named for Vitaly Naumkin, the head of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and an Al-Monitor contributor. The second item was an appeal to the world community regarding the urgent need to resolve the humanitarian crisis and move toward conflict settlement and Syria’s restoration. In addition, plans were made public to create special working groups and a constitutional commission whose work would help boost the Geneva process.

The blueprints of the documents, as well as the proposals regarding the commission, had been drafted in advance. However, the composition and the underlying principle for the constitutional commission aroused fierce controversies among the participants. As a result, the compromise reached by midnight included a list of 150 candidates — 100 from the government and 50 from the opposition — for the constitutional commission, while de Mistura was empowered to adjust the proposed list at his sole discretion in the interests of the settlement.

The final agreement can't be called a breakthrough, but it is the most notable result of the settlement efforts over the last year. The problem, however, is that even though the agreement was more comprehensive and had more signatures in its support than previous efforts, it's completely unclear how it would be able to make the negotiations in Geneva work, given the continued conflict among the parties' true interests.

Article published in Al Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/syria-settlement-process-next-sochi-russia.html

Photo credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

Published in Tribune
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 18:23

Russia and Israel: trust despite disagreements

There is a high degree of trust in the Russian-Israeli relations, Valdai Club expert Irina Zvyagelskaya believes. “We have disagreements on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But we can maintain good relations despite these disagreements and understand each other’s concerns,” she said in an interview with valdaiclub.com.

On January 29, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu’s aide Zeev Elkin described the trip as “very important.” “As always, such visits are very effective and, as always, effectiveness is due to the fact that the content of the talks remains between the two leaders,” he said in an interview with the Israeli Russian-language Ninth Channel. In turn, Russian president’s aide Yuri Ushakov said that the two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional problems, including the Syrian settlement.

“The situation in Syria was discussed in several aspects indeed,” Irina Zvyagelskaya, chief researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with valdaiclub.com. “One aspect is our interaction, prevention of incidents. There is exchange of information between the military structures and this is of great importance for both sides. But the role of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria remains a much more painful issue for Israel. Israel maintains a very tough stance on this issue, fearing Iran’s strengthening near its borders.”

Because of the Hezbollah presence on the Lebanese-Israeli border, Israel has been saying for a long time that Iran is in his backyard, Zvyagelskaya stressed. Moreover, Israel and the Islamic movement have reached a level of mutual deterrence, which is unique in such an asymmetric conflict with military formations of Hezbollah not being a regular army.

According to Zvyagelskaya, “Israel’s top priority is its own security. It seeks to protect itself with methods it considers acceptable, and wants to have as few restrictions as possible in this regard,” she said.

“For our part, Russia cannot and should not become part of the complex system of regional relations,” Zvyagelskaya stressed. “We should resist attempts to make us part of the contradictions that exist there. Our position is that we are interested in stabilization in Syria and preservation of its statehood, that the country should not again turn into a hotbed of international terrorism.”

Another important aspect of the visit was, according to the expert, the fact that Netanyahu and Putin took part in events dedicated to the Holocaust Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. “Israel is categorically against rewriting the results of the World War II, and pays tribute to the Red Army and heroism of Soviet people during the war,” she said. “On this, we find a common language, especially because Red Army veterans who fought during the war still live in Israel.”

According to Zvyagelskaya, there is a high degree of trust in the two states’ relations. “We have disagreements on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But we can maintain good relations despite these disagreements and understand each other’s concerns,” she concluded.

Article published in Valdai Club: http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/russia-and-israel-trust-disagreements/

Photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS

Published in Tribune

ey has sought to exploit the Qatar dispute with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to grab a historic opportunity in the region. The dreams of a strong, regional Turkey necessitates great financial capabilities that cannot be achieved in light of the decline of the Turkish economy and its suffering from several crises, especially with its strained relations with the USA. Thus, Turkish President Erdogan found his relations with Qatar and Russia a decisive solution to Ankara’s financial problems.

Turkey has maintained its footprint in the region and has expanded its influence in 2011, principally with the historical opportunity of the so-called "Arab Spring" in the Middle East, which was exploited by many countries including Turkey and Iran. As for Turkey, the Arab Spring has enabled political Islam Movements (Muslim Brotherhood) to jump to power in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and Ankara has become the major supporter of these movements. On the other hand, Iran has benefitted from the demonstrations in the Arab World to have a say in the region and to expand its influence as well.

Turkey has intervened vigorously in many regional crises in order to achieve its objectives and interests in the beginning with full support from the United States of America with which it has strategic relations until both Washington and Ankara had taken a new approach after Turkey had chosen to form its foreign policy that serve its own interests, deviating away from the course that was drawn for the country for many years.

Turkey's involvement in the Middle East has increased due to its effective use of soft power, such as the public debate between Erdogan and the then Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos a few years ago, the flotilla incident, and Turkey's support for some Arab demonstrations, including those of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as well as Syria.

The Cold War has largely defined Turkey's strategic perspective vis-à-vis the Middle East in general and the Arab world in particular. Ankara's strategic perspective to limit the influence of the Soviet Union in the Middle East has been shaped. The Arab Nationalist trend was also a means of supporting the influence of the Soviet Union in the region. This view was formed according to the perspective of the Western Camp to ensure the flow of oil from the Middle East region in a safe way to world markets. At that stage, Turkey has adopted a Western Camp stand.

Two political tremors

Since the end of the 1980s, changes in Turkish politics have been clear as there have been international and regional transformation as well which had driven Ankara to change its foreign policy. This has affected Turkey's view of the Middle East after the end of the bipolar world in the aftermath of the Cold War. There were two political tremors that have affected the Middle East since 1980-1990s: The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf crisis.

Turkey was deeply affected by these tremors, and the Gulf War increased Turkey's interest in the Middle East. Everyone is aware of the importance of the region; mainly Iraq and Syria for Turkey. The Turkish government has started to consider how to develop a new vision that better serves its interests in the Middle East.

Turkey has abandoned its defense policy after 2011, years after the adoption of "zero problems" policy. The godfather of this policy is Ahmet Davutoglu, former Turkish prime minister. Turkey is no longer waiting for the problems of the region to come to its borders, but rather it is acting to defend itself as the Turkish foreign policy stipulates. Davutoglu said on October 19, 2016: "As of now we will not wait for problems, we will not wait for the terrorist organizations to attack us, but we will attack the areas where these organizations are hiding, and we will destroy their bases over their heads and we will uproots of all parties supporting them."

That is the policy adopted for their attack on Afrin and even beyond Afrin that would take them to Idlib and east to the Iraqi borders. Turkey saw the attack as the best way to defend itself and contribute to the formulation of new maps instead of being imposed on Ankara, especially after the attempted coup d'état in mid-July 2016. This has been the justification for the Turkish parliament to approve military operations outside Turkish borders, chiefly in Syria and Iraq for an additional year.

The Turkish moves in the context of the Turkish foreign defense policy, which Ankara has adopted recently to protect its national interests, are based on its belief that soft power is no longer effective to achieve its external ambitions, especially in light of the competition between regional and international powers. Therefore, Turkey has incepted to activate its military tools for several reasons as follows:

First, the desire to open up new markets for Turkish weapons. Turkish military industries rose in 2015 to reach $4.3 billion, of which $ 1.3 billion was exported. Second, the new military tool aims to strengthen its presence in the Arab region and Africa by controlling the international crossings to protect its economic interests and national security interests from any regional or international interventions or sanctions that would be imposed in the future on Turkey as a result of its foreign policies. Third, the other motive is the desire to participate in the international coalition against terrorism not only to counter the threat of terrorists near its borders, but to stop the expansion of Kurdish movements in Iraq and Syria for fear of independence.

Moreover, Turkey has the intention to besiege its enemies in their areas of influence and to cut off all logistic support for them that some regional and international powers are extending. Besides, Turkey is keeping abreast regional and international moves towards the region in order to limit its future negative repercussions on Turkish power, particularly in light of mounting Iranian and Russian dominance.

These Turkish accounts would put Ankara in the circle of friction with Russia and the US at a time the world is passing through a new type of Cold War and the Middle East is passing through its Cold War as well with many alliances and axes being formed. On the issue of the Kurds, Turkey has a spat with Washington regarding the future of the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. While Ankara is moving to prevent the Kurds from strengthening their power and influence, especially in the areas near Turkish borders, Washington regards them as a key ally in its strategy to counter extremism and terrorism; this justifies why the Americans provide the Kurds with weapons and help train them.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/02/03/Turkish-foreign-policy-From-defensive-to-offensive.html

Published in Tribune

It is hard to believe that Western powers could ever have expected the invitation extended by Moscow to concerned parties to attend the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Sochi has become the hottest topic for Syrians and regional powers, along with the Astana conference and the UN-led Geneva gathering, both of which are of equal importance in the view of Russia.

However, suspicion has marred most Russian attempts to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict. That is, in great part, due to the negative influence of Western media reports on Russia’s role in Syria and the wider Middle East, often accusing Moscow of attempts to destabilize the region.

Even now, the US State Department describes Sochi as “a one-time solution,” and it is close to impossible to predict the outcome of the talks.

More than 1,600 delegates will attend the Sochi congress, each calculating the risks and benefits of this ongoing, multiplayer geopolitical chess game.

That game, of course, includes Turkey’s current military operation in Syria's Afrin — which Turkey has named “Olive Branch.”

Russia, US and other regional players are concerned now with the post-Daesh and Al-Nusra era, and with the threat of global extremism expanding from Syria and Iraq. The Afrin operation prompts all parties to offer a clearer definition of the division of areas of influence and control in Syria in order to implement a realistic plan that goes beyond strategic and idealistic ambitions to determine the future of Syria.

“Operation Olive Branch” could not have been launched without the approval of Russia, which controls Afrin’s airspace. The operation shows how deep the rift between Turkey and its ally, America, has become, as Turkey has effectively engaged in a battle with US-backed Kurdish militias.

Through “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkey is sending a message to the Americans and Russians that it will not allow any threat along its borders. The military action is complicating an already tense and unpredictable situation. Regiments of the Free Syrian Army, who receive military aid from the US but are supportive of Turkey, are now reportedly threatening to combat US forces in Afrin. The more awkward that situation becomes, the more it benefits the Damascus regime and its allies.

Russia — or Vladimir Putin’s Russia as it effectively is now as one man holds the strings of the country’s military and political institutions — is not, as some Western media depict it, “playing both sides.” It is, like all the players in Syria, trying to see how best to serve its national interest, fearing that if the Americans support the Kurds in Syria and play on existing ethnic tensions there, Washington will then use the Kurds to oppose Russian interests in Syria.

Moscow is seizing every opportunity to strengthen its position and role in the Middle East.

– Maria Dubovikova

Russia’s alliance with the Syrian state and the Syrian army is strategic; Moscow will do its utmost to deny any country any influence on this relationship.

In politics, there are no ethics, no honesty and no sincerity; just interests. That is true of all countries in Syria.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, recently said that the US and Russia currently “perhaps” share “tactical symmetry for a convenient moment, but not a strategic alliance.”

What Ryan meant is that Washington and Russia have very different aims in Syria. America’s goal, simply, is to finish off Daesh and retain alliances with other militias in order to combat Iranian influence in Syria. He made that clear when he later added: “What matters most to us in Syria is defeating (Daesh) and preventing Iran from having a land bridge and Hezbollah a foothold.”

Tension between Ankara and Washington has escalated in the past few days: Turkey has threatened to extend “Operation Olive Branch” as far as Manbij, which is located north of Aleppo and lies between Afrin and the Kurdish autonomous region, home to a regiment of American soldiers advising the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF). US President Donald Trump’s call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did little to calm the situation.

Trump warned Erdogan of the “growing risk of conflict” between the two nations and reportedly promised to stop supporting the Kurds. Once given, the promise was almost immediately broken. Besides, it seems neither promise nor threat will dissuade Turkey from its course in Afrin.

This plays into Russia’s hands. Russia is seizing every opportunity to strengthen its position and role in the region. Russian tactics permit Moscow to stay above controversies in which Washington and even Turkey have become embroiled, enabling Russia to take the initiative in a number of activities in Syria.

The Afrin issue, then, could shape Syria’s future and the future of Turkish-American relations.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1234711

Published in Tribune

The Turkish military operation in Afrin in northwestern Syria has started, and future military operations are likely in Manbij and as far as the borders of Iraq as Turkey strives to expel the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers this organization to actually be the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), regardless of the name it is given by the Americans. 

Following the US announcement that it would form a border force of 30,000 fighters led by the Kurds — which was swiftly retracted — Turkey accused Washington of trying to protect the Kurdish people in order to divide Syria. Ankara viewed this number of fighters, which were to be led by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, as an existential threat to its security and stability and a step toward a future Kurdish state. 

Russia temporarily benefited from the US-Turkey conflict over the Kurds, as it had from the differences between Ankara and Moscow over the Syrian government, when Russia continued supporting the regime while Turkey backed the opposition. After the downing of the Russian jet fighter in 2015, Russia successfully used the Kurdish card against Erdogan to acquire more political concessions. 

There are two likely scenarios for the war in Afrin and the rest of the Syrian territory that the Turkish army is eyeing up: The first is a large-scale operation aimed at undermining the Kurdish control of Afrin. This would be similar to Operation Euphrates Shield in terms of preparation, assault and the participation of several departments of the Turkish army, as well as Free Syrian Army fighters.

The second is a limited operation aimed at taking certain areas from the hands of the PKK in order to keep its fighters away from the Turkish border. This requires isolating the Kurds, cutting their communication with the eastern cantons and preventing them from accessing the Mediterranean. 

International players are making their final moves on the country’s chessboard as Turkey aims to oust US-backed Kurdish fighters from northwestern region.

– Maria Dubovikova

There are many challenges facing the proposed Turkish plan. The first is the difference in Afrin’s terrain from the areas taken during Euphrates Shield, making this campaign more difficult and complicated. Moreover, Ankara is not satisfied with the long-term positions of Moscow and Washington. Ultimately this is a Turkish battle — or rather a battle for Turkey itself — but it will also affect the course of events in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that US “provocations” are a key factor that have complicated the situation in northwestern Syria and prompted Turkey to launch its military operation in Afrin. Russia labeled the US as irresponsible and said its actions would pose a threat to the peace process in Syria.

The Kurds blame Russia for betraying them, but they were trying to milk two cows at once as their relationship with the US threatened Russian interests and its project for the stabilization of Syria. US policies towards the Kurds are also a direct threat to Turkish national interests, with Kurdish separatism a cause of deep concern in Ankara. Additionally, Kurdish ambitions, fueled by the US, have become a threat to the integrity of Syria and the process of reconciliation. Thus Moscow found itself on the same side as Ankara. Before the Afrin operation, Russia and Syria both expressed their concerns, but now it is clear that the move was silently approved by Damascus and Moscow from the beginning. 

On Tuesday evening, Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with Erdogan to discuss the situation. The sides expressed a solidarity and common vision, vowing to continue working to resolve the crisis based on the principles of preservation of territorial integrity and respect for the sovereignty of Syria. 

The situation in Afrin is changing not only the regional framework, but also the global one. The move by Turkey — a NATO member with close ties to Western nations — against a group backed, equipped and financially supported by the US takes them a huge step away from their former allies. This demonstrates Ankara's independence and alters their former path towards integration with the West. The ongoing situation will bring Moscow and Ankara closer to each other, pushing them to forge a more solid alliance. The West is unlikely to be able to stop Turkey from realizing its plans in the region, as any confrontation would definitely not play into their hands.

Despite claims the assault on Afrin may harm Syria, Turkey insists its operation is limited and will not affect the integrity of its neighboring country. However, the numerous interventions from various regional and international players have complicated the political and military scene in Syria after a glimmer of hope had started to appear at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The international players are now making their final moves on the Syrian chessboard ahead of any peace talks aimed at discussing a political settlement, draft constitution and interim government.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1232356

Published in Tribune

The Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in Sochi on January 29-30, showed that the Syrian society is ready for reconciliation, says Valdai Club expert Academician Vitaly Naumkin,  research director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to him, the Congress, which has been recognized by the UN, reinforces the negotiation process in Geneva and gives it a new impetus.

For the first time the idea to hold the National Dialogue Congress of the Syrian people, where all ethnic and religious groups of the country, representatives of the government and the opposition would take part, was voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in October 2017. According to Vitaly Naumkin, this event, unprecedented in its scope, summed up the results of the successful military campaign that culminated by the defeat of terrorists in Syria and marked the launch of a national dialogue.

"There is a hope that this national dialogue will continue in Syria itself and those people, who came to Sochi and for the first time sat next to each other in the same hall, will continue to maintain contacts," he said in a telephone interview with www.valdaiclub.com on January 30. – “They demonstrated, and this is, perhaps, the main result, that the Syrian society is ready for reconciliation. And Russia did it! Properly Russia was able to gather in one hall people who are in an acute conflict among themselves ".

At the same time Naumkin stressed the importance of coordinated efforts of the three guarantor states of the Astana peace process. "It is very important that the triumvirate of Russia, Turkey and Iran, the guarantor countries, succeeded and ensured the successful holding of the Congress," he said.

According to Naumkin, the discussion was stormy, tense, but nevertheless there were no serious clashes, which allowed to achieve the set of goals and objectives. "There was a lot of controversy - especially on the decisions that Congress ultimately took after all," the expert said. - This is primarily the Final Document and the Address of the Congress to the world community. It is shorter than the Final Document and concerns the problems of Syria's reconstruction, the provision of humanitarian aid to Syria and so on. But the most important thing is, of course, the confirmation of all the obligations undertaken by the organizers to hold this fateful, unusual phenomenon in the history of Russia, in the history of our peacekeeping, our diplomatic and military activities."

One of the main results of the Congress, according to Vitaly Naumkin, is the creation of the Constitutional Committee. "The work on the next steps to launch the process of constitutional reform, as well as work on the final formation of the Constitutional Committee will continue through the United Nations," he stressed.

Of particular importance is the fact that the Congress gained legitimacy by the international community through the participation of Staffan De Mistura, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General. In his address to the Congress De Mistura thanked the Russian Federation for the invitation and noted the importance of the elections of the Constitutional Committee. He promised to inform about the next steps to be taken by the United Nations and its general secretary, Naumkin said. "Most importantly, the National Dialogue Congress in Sochi reinforces the negotiation process in Geneva, gives it a new impetus," the expert said. "There is a hope that, as the UN special envoy said, this process will be successful and that the Syrian society will move along the path of national reconciliation."

According to Naumkin, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress caused great resonance in the world. This is evidenced by the wide presence of the media and representatives of interested states. "Judging by what we hear right now, everyone marks the significance of the Congress and the fact that it really took place. Of course, there are ill-wishers who question the achieved progress, but their voice is not dominant.  Today, no one can deny that the Congress will contribute to the settlement of the Syrian crisis," the expert concluded.

Article published in Valdai Club: http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/syrian-national-dialogue-congress-as-unique-event/

Photo credit: Sputnik/Mikhail Voskresensky

Published in Tribune

Perhaps the most significant element of the socio-political life of the region during those years, at least to the outside observer, was violence.

The Syrian Civil War has claimed between 200,000 and 500,000 lives. As many as 70,000 people have lost their lives as a result of two civil wars in Libya. And the Yemeni Civil War counts several thousand among its victims, with the humanitarian catastrophe it is leaving in its wake has affected millions.

We have worked ourselves into a situation in which an enormous region, one that stretches “from the Ocean to the Gulf” and counts hundreds of millions of people among its inhabitants, lives in never-ending fear of violence.

Terrorism has become a part of everyday life in the “calmer” countries in the region, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey. While the number of victims of terrorist attacks in these countries is hardly comparable to the numbers of lives lost as a result of the armed conflicts mentioned above, the very threat of another attack means that people live in constant fear. And this provides the authorities with ample justification for introducing the most severe repressive measures.

We have worked ourselves into a situation in which an enormous region, one that stretches “from the Ocean to the Gulf” and counts hundreds of millions of people among its inhabitants, lives in never-ending fear of violence.

Equally damning is the fact that this is precisely how the region is beginning to be perceived by the outside world.

This perception is largely unfair.

 

Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia are not the only playgrounds for terrorists; so too are Barcelona, Nice, Paris, Berlin, Boston, St. Petersburg and many other ostensibly safe cities.

The majority of the political regimes in the Middle East are perfectly stable, and the reforms implemented in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Jordan following the events of 2011, have had a positive effect on the development of these countries, especially against the backdrop of the misfortune that has befallen the region as a whole.

Even the most problematic countries – Syria, and even Libya and Yemen – have not experienced a complete of statehood. What is more, modern mechanisms (elections, multi-party political systems, etc.) are becoming increasingly important for regulating political life in the powder keg that is Iraq, and also in Lebanon, which seems to transition endlessly from one crisis to the next.

Despite this, the feeling of all-encompassing violence remains. The problem here is not just the negative information environment, which paints a picture of the Middle East as a region of out-and-out chaos, but also the fundamental change that has taken place in the social and political mind-set of Arab societies. Perhaps for the first time in history, violence has become a problem for them.

To be sure, in modern western (and Russian) socio-political discourse, minimizing violence is a given and is barely even questioned. Nobel Prize winner Douglass North believed that reducing the level of violence is the main criterion for determining the development of social order.

Although this has not always been the case. Not by a long shot.

It is noteworthy that in European political philosophy, the problem of violence as such did not exist until the late 18th century. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke – none of these spared a thought for violence, per se, in their meditations on politics. They were more concerned with civil unrest, war, turmoil, rebellion, etc. In other words, the things that disrupt order. But not violence.

It was only with the writings of Immanuel Kant that the imperative of nonviolence started, rather tentatively, to take root in European social thought, at the same time that the diametrically opposite notion – the poetization of violence spearheaded by Hegel – began to spread.

 

While two world wars may not have been enough to put an end to such romanticism, they certainly took the sheen off for its most ardent followers. In terms of the philosophical analysis of political life, violence became almost a universal category in its own right, one that set the parameters of philosophical thinking for several generations of thinkers, starting at least with Michel Foucault. North’s theory emerged as a consequence of this process, and the requirement of nonviolence came to be seen as a natural in political science. Documents such as the Responsibility to Protect (for all its imperfections and divisiveness) were created as a projection of this this approach onto international relations.

However, this approach, generated by European experience and Western consciousness, cannot be considered universal. It has not fully taken root even in Russia, where technological breakthroughs and the victory in World War II are often cited as justifications of Stalin’s repressions.

Middle Eastern societies have never seen violence as an essential problem. We could name hundreds of works by 20th-century Arab thinkers on the problems of the nation, the state, democracy, justice, etc. But how many works are dedicated to the issue of violence? Not many.

The Iran–Iraq War took two or three times the number of lives that the Syrian Civil War has.

The growing significance of violence as a problematic issue is overlapping with another important social change that is taking place in the region, namely, the strengthening of civil society.

Nobody knows how many people suffered as a result of the repressive policies of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. The murder of 1270 prisoners at the Abu Salim prison in Libya in 1996 was just one episode. Nobody knows exactly how many such incidents actually took place.

The suppression of the Houthi insurgency in Yemen in 2004–2010 (i.e. before the Arab Spring) resulted in several tens of thousands of human casualties.

All this caused a barely audible murmur of discontent outside the region, but it was never a reason for the de-legitimization of regimes within the societies themselves.

Today, however, we are seeing the issue of violence becoming increasingly important in all the countries in the region. And this increases the demands on political regimes.

While there are political prisoners in many countries – in some cases tens of thousands – the authorities are being forced to spend ever greater efforts justifying the situation. Sometimes this is simply impossible.

From Violence to Consensus

 

The growing significance of violence as a problematic issue is overlapping with another important social change that is taking place in the region, namely, the strengthening of civil society.

In some countries, this is the result of reforms passed by the respective governments in response to the challenges that have appeared during the past decade. In others, it is the consequence of weakening statehood and the emerging need for socio-political self-organization of society.

The number of non-governmental organizations in Tunisia has more than doubled since 2011, and by almost 2.5 times in Morocco. The number of such organizations remains small in Jordan, but has increased by 1.5 times nevertheless, while there has only been a slight increase in Algeria, although the figure was rather high in that country to begin with. The newly established non-governmental organizations in these countries (which have managed to avoid mass violence) make it possible to involve more and people in civil. In this respect, it is not really important where they get their money – from the government (as in the case of Morocco), or from outside sources (Tunisia).

Civil society nevertheless makes itself known in states that are embroiled in armed conflicts. In Syria, the development of civil society is connected with organizations that work with refugees, as well as with numerous structures in Damascus-controlled territories and with local councils operating in the liberated territories.

In Libya, the need for self-organization among the people has forced them to form local authorities along both tribal and territorial principles.

A more active civil society, coupled with the problematic issue of violence, leads to the development of the principle of consent or compromise (taufiq), which assumes that political decisions are adopted not as the result of the victory of one side over another, but through a process in which the sides search for an agreement together.

The principle has been developed most successfully in Tunisia, where the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was able to bring an end to the civil confrontation of the government and the opposition.

The idea of Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Libya Ghassan Salamé to hold an inclusive National Congress and his putting forward of the Libyan municipalities as the basis for the restoration of the country is another indication of movement in the same direction.

The proposal once put forward by Turki bin Faisal Al Saud to arrange a Second Syrian National Congress was also based on a commitment to taufiq. The subsequent dynamics of the conflict prevented the idea from becoming a reality, however.

The roots of taufiq can be traced back to entirely different political traditions that existed in the region. The principle can be considered an element of democracy, one that involves the search for compromise between competing parties. However, it can just as well be seen as the embodiment of the foundations of Islamic political culture. The principle of consultation (shura); the primary role of experts in political decision-making; and the consensus of opinions (ijma) – all these principles have become part of Islamic political thought and point to the recognition of its “culture of compromise.” The origins of taufiqcan be found in the idea of a corporate state that was once very popular among Arab nationalists. They can also be found in the traditions of tribal self-government, if one so desires. This kind of universality makes the principle acceptable for all political powers operating in Arab societies.

At the same time, it is clear that in mature democracies, as well as in political systems based on Muslim law, regimes built by Arab nationalists and tribal societies, the culture of compromise has not always been followed.

Moreover, practice has shown us that it can only be successfully implemented when the sides in a political confrontation (armed or otherwise) have no reason to hope for a decisive victory, or if the risks of continuing the confrontation are seen as unacceptably high. This is why it was impossible to reach a compromise in Bahrain and Yemen, and why it has thus far been impossible to achieve a compromise in Syria.

Nevertheless, continued tensions, the development of conflicts in these countries and the weakening of the guardianship of the all-powerful political elites over society, coupled with the pervasive fear of violence, may very well act as an impetus for the formation of a political culture of consensus.

Article published in RIAC: http://russiancouncil.ru/en/analytics-and-comments/analytics/the-arab-world-between-violence-and-consensus/

Photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Published in Tribune

The Kurds after their setbacks in the aftermath of their independence referendum of 25th of September in 2017 in Iraq are facing another tragedy, but this time in Afrin in the western part of Kurdistan called Rojava. In reaction of a news that the United States intends to create a regular army or border guards strong of (30,000) soldiers in Syria, half of them from PYD forces to protect the border with Syria and Iraq from returning of Da’esh (ISIS) to Syria, led the Turkish troop movements.

On Sunday, January 21, the Turkish army’s land operations backed by pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army (estimated to be 25,000 soldiers declared by SFA) are participating in the operations and together control 4 Kurdish villages in Afrin and confirming that they have entered Afrin. The YPG stated that they have pushed back these forces in some districts and stopped their advancement into Afrin. Media sources are talking about Syrian government forces agreed YPG forces from “Sheikh Maqsoud” neighbourhood in Aleppo to pass through their controlled areas to Afrin. The Turkish Prime Minister announced that Turkey is aiming to create a “Security Zone” 30km depth in Afrin. Erdoğan declared that his goal is also to return back 3.5 million Syrian refugees to Syria through this operation.

All this is happening under a relative silence and acceptance of major players in Syria. Kurds believe that their friends have been “disloyal” to them, they gave a “green light” to Turkey and turned their back to Afrin and allowed the civilian population to be terrorized by Turkish bombardments. Despite non-stop bombardments of Afrin, still the Kurds are resisting. General Joseph Votel, the head of the Central Command of the US army declared that Afrin is not in the framework of their operations and is not of a great importance to them. Russia withdraw its forces from Afrin. There is a Turkish, Russian and Iranian understanding on these operations. Turkey has proven throughout the history its hostility to any Kurdish aspirations in Syria, in Turkey and elsewhere. Turkey does not want the emergence of a Kurdish federal entity on their border sympathetic or an extension to Turkish Kurds and Russia and Iran are concerned that an intensive arming of the Kurds are compatible with the new strategy of President Trump against the regime of Bashar Al Assad.

US Secretary Tillerson and Pentagon officials declared that they take into consideration the Turkish concerns and they do not support PKK. The Turkish- American relations are at its worst. There is a serious tension in relations between Turkey and several European countries such as Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Cyprus, Greece, UK, etc. The deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations and the antipathy between Erdoğan and Netanyahu also has additional implications on Turkey’s regional and international policies.

Diverse statements came out from Moscow; Russian Ministry of Defence considers Washington for being irresponsible in undermining the peace process in Syria in which Kurds are part of it and that US provoked Turkey by creating an army for the Kurds and armed them in violation to the unity and sovereignty of Syria which led to a violent reaction from Turkey and started its operations in Afrin. 

The Kurds do not see any justification for the Turkish aggression on Afrin and the Kurds of Syria. The (PYD) officials reiterated that they had not attacked Turkey, but in contrary Turkey since more than five years has been attacking the Kurds of Syria including the localities and orchards of Afrin. The Kurdish National Council of Syria (ENKS) a rival political formation to PYD regrouping several political parties and organisations of Syria, also strongly condemned the Turkish shelling of Afrin and other Kurdish areas and asks PYD for Kurdish unity, political reforms in Rojava, and calls the international community to act urgently to stop the Turkish aggression in Afrin and protect the civilian population, who will become the victims of such an aggression.

Observers believe that PYD has made ditches and tunnels and would use the Bosnian methods of city wars as PKK did it in Diyarbakir, Cizire, and Širnax in Kurdish cities of Turkey. On the other hand, Turkey seems to have chosen the Sri Lankan way of dealing with “Tamil Tigers”, to crash utterly its Kurdish opponents of PYD in Syria and PKK in Turkey, and refuses the Spanish-Basque, or Northern Ireland or Colombia-FARC peaceful approach to solve the Kurdish problem be it in Turkey or Syria. Kurds of Syria repeatedly reiterated its intention of good neighbourly relations with Turkey and that they have suffered from historical injustices in Syria and have no plans to carry out any hostile activities against Turkish territories, but Turkey considers them more as an offspring of PKK.

The Turkish attacks are widening in its scope in targeting both the Syrian Democratic forces and the civilians in Afrin, Kobani and beyond; meanwhile, the Turkish army is massing more of its troops with its tanks, artillery and another heavy armament on border areas of Afrin. the Turkish army has been shelling and bombing by artillery, mortars, and rockets a score of Kurdish villages and districts in Afrin and even some towns of Kobani as well as the triangle area between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq in Malikiya district in recent days. 

Afrin is inhabited by almost million people and it is a beautiful fertile and touristic Kurdish city, some 35-45km faraway from the Mediterranean sea, which gives it a special strategic position that makes Turkey nervous about Kurds to get one day a border with the Mediterranean sea providing the possibility of exporting Kurdish oil through the sea and might be used not only as a transport way for Syrian Kurdish oil but also Iraqi Kurdish oil and gas replacing the importance of Ceyhan pipelines. Syrians in general and the population in Afrin are fearful that their region’s demography will be changed and becomes another “Askandaruna” occupied by Turkey since 1930s.

Turks have sent (20,000) soldiers with heavy armament to the borders of Afrin from the north in addition to the Euphrates shield of (22,000) from the West composed mainly of pro-Turkish Syrian Free Army. 13 military formations among them Forces of Sultan Murad, Muhammad Al Fatih and the army of Al Nasr, etc...are ready to participate in the battle of Afrin. 

The attack on Afrin is to separate Afrin from Qamishlo/Hassakah and Kobani, but also to take over the oil fields, the fertile area of Eastern Euphrates and the Tabqa Dam of strategic importance. At least half of the oil fields of Syria are located in Kurdish areas and controlled by PYD administered cantons. On another hand, Turkey tries to separate the Kurds from border cities of Northern Kurdistan (South East of Turkey) which are situated along the border with Syria from Sirnax (Shirnakh) province to Shanli Urfa populated by a Kurdish majority and looks at Afrin and these border areas as a possible logistical way for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

The coalition forces and many others do not share the Turkish opinion that Kurds of Afrin or of Syria have been a national security threat to Turkey. US armed and trained the PYD and SDF. The Kurds are the most reliable and efficient allies on the ground for the US in Syria. Lately, US expressed even more openly political support for the participation of the Kurds in Geneva meetings. Turkey used its veto against the PYD participation and accepted the ENKS delegates in both Geneva and Astana meetings. ENKS has had relatively good and accepted relations with Turkey and the Syrian Coalition of the Syrian opposition, but not without problems.

Kurds have had historically good relations with Russia and stood with Russians in many of its wars with the Ottomans. No doubt that Kurds are the weakest militarily in the equation but their long-time longing for their freedom is unbeatable, and they are very resilient despite all historical injustices, denial policies and genocides. Over 40 million Kurds in this world also have right to have a place under the sun and a corridor to live in it in peace and harmony with their neighbours. Kurds can be an element of stability and prosperity in the Middle East. Unitary states have failed. One hundred years of Sykes Picot’s forcible nation statehoods failed. Today almost the entire region is in a turmoil wasting their natural and human resources in unnecessary proxy and exhaustion wars.

Article published in Valdai club: http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/un-security-council-should-stop-a-bloodbath/

Image credit: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Published in Tribune
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