Category Archives: Middle East and North Africa Region

Could the Israel-Turkey Gas Pipeline End Europe’s Dependence on Russia? [Inside Arabia]

Could the Israel-Turkey Gas Pipeline End Europe’s Dependence on Russia?

The prospect of Israel and Tukey normalizing relations paves the way for profitable cooperation in a wide array of fields, including energy. Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkey in March instantly renewed the discussions regarding the Turkey-Israel gas pipeline project amid a colossal security cataclysm in Europe stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Europe is facing unprecedented energy security challenges and desperately looking for alternative and reliable suppliers, the countries are looking to the Turkey-Israeli gas pipeline as Europe’s alternative to Russian energy supplies.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s earlier statement that “gas cooperation is one of the most important steps we [Turkey and Israel] can take together for bilateral ties” should not come as a surprise. Erdogan also said “he was ready to send top ministers to Israel to revive the pipeline idea that has hung in the air for years.” Continue reading

Iran is the Catalyst Behind the UAE-Turkey-Israel Geopolitical Axis [Inside Arabia]

Yavuz Ozden/dia images via Getty Images

Facing new security challenges in the Gulf region, the United Arab Emirates pushed for the normalization of ties with two other major regional powers – Israel and Turkey. The trilateral rapprochement could help the UAE reduce its national security risks stemming from Iran and its proxy forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on February 14, for the first time since 2013, when Erdogan was still Prime Minister. Erdogan and his delegation’s visit were greeted with a 21-gun salute and a massive aerial show in Abu Dhabi.

The visit attracted much international media attention, as it was Erdogan’s first state visit to the UAE as President. This was of significance considering the deterioration of UAE-Turkey relations in the aftermath of the 2016 Turkish coup attempt. Tensions between the two countries were also considerably heightened during and in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutionary protests, with the two countries adopting opposing foreign policies.

The rapprochement of the two countries came at an uneasy time given the escalating strains between Iran and Israel, the renewed hostilities between the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE-led coalition in Yemen, and the deepening economic crisis in Turkey. Continue reading

Assessing the Urban Terrorism Strategy of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey [The Defence Horizon Journal]

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters. Photo Credit: ANF

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters. Photo Credit: ANF

Abstract: Since its emergence in the 1980s, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been a significant source of concern to the state of Turkey. With the escalation of conflict between the Turkish state and the ethnic Kurdish community in the 1990s, the level of violence explicitly increased, and the civilian death toll rose to its highest point. Though the PKK could not ensure absolute authority in large, predominantly Kurdish provinces in the southeast, it gradually shifted to a new strategy —urban violence— to undermine the Turkish state’s authority in Kurdish regions. This article looks at the urban terrorism strategy of the PKK to explain why, despite its long-term insurgency experience and demonstrated support, it failed to sustain a successful urban violence strategy.

Bottom-line-up-front: The PKK’s urban terrorism strategy in Turkey is a good example of how does a violent militant organization destabilize the nature of regional order.

Problem statement: How did a Kurdish organisation become a notorious threat to the state of Turkey and regional security?

So what?: According to theories of violent resistance, violence is the only practical and productive tool of mass mobilization of ethnic insurgencies against political systems. In the case of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, many scholars argue that Turkey’s policy of ethnic nationalism has had a decisive role in shaping Kurdish ethnic nationalism throughout these years. Continue reading

What’s behind Turkey and Poland’s growing strategic alliance?

On 24 May, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda paid an official visit to Turkey to seal a new trade and defence agreement, with the aim of boosting bilateral relations between the two NATO member countries.

Polish-Turkish relations have been largely praised in Turkish media in recent years, with Warsaw considering Ankara a key ally, particularly in light of growing tensions between Turkey-Ukraine and Russia. During the visit, the countries’ defense ministers signed a $270 million deal for Poland to buy reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), making it the first NATO and EU member state to purchase Turkish drones. Continue reading

US-Iran escalation and its implications for the South Caucasus

Photo by Azerbaijani Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Photo by Azerbaijani Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Over the past several weeks geopolitical experts have been talking a lot about what the surprise U.S. drone attack on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Quds Force, on Jan. 3 means for the Middle East and relations between the major powers. What has received considerably less attention, however, is what Soleimani’s killing means for the South Caucasus, a region whose small size belies its strategic importance.

Located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the South Caucasus is a major energy supplier and an increasingly important arena for competition between regional powers, like Turkey and Iran, and great powers, like the U.S. and Russia.

Washington believed that taking out Soleimani would restore the leverage it had lost to Iran and Russia’s growing role in the region. Although U.S. sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy, sparking anti-government demonstrations, Russia, China, much of Europe, and even many American political leaders have railed against the Soleimani strike. Continue reading

Russia’s Growing Role in Yemen

The civil war in Yemen that erupted in 2014 rapidly became a proxy fight, with the Saudi-led military coalition squaring off against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who have seized control of much of the western part of the country, including many of the major population centers. As a result, Yemen’s civil war has generated long-term geopolitical turmoil that extends well beyond the Gulf, drawing regional and global powers into the conflict. Russia in particular is playing a growing role of late, and as the war drags on with no end in sight, it continues to expand its footprint in the country. As it has in Syria, Russia seems to be outmaneuvering the West in Yemen.

Moscow maintains close contact with all sides of the conflict and has offered its assistance in working toward a resolution, even as it pursues its own military, commercial, and maritime interests. Russia’s growing involvement in Yemen was partially prompted by the failure of the U.S, France, the U.K, and the Saudi-led coalition to resolve the conflict, and Moscow has assumed a greater role as a mediator between the Houthi separatists and the internationally recognized Hadi government. In January 2018, Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s foreign minister, went to Moscow to meet with Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. The Russian government has also previously hosted informal discussions with Yemeni political factions backed by both Saudi Arabia and Iran, including a Houthi delegation to Moscow in February 2015. Continue reading

Can Erdogan’s Former Key Allies Challenge Turkey’s Ruling AK Party?

After a decade in power, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opposition and former allies have begun to believe that he is vulnerable. Turkey’s worsening economic situation and losses in the most recent municipal elections in major metropolitan areas have fomented deep discontent among the ruling party’s elite and former key allies of Erdogan. Will he hold on? 

Former Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Ahmet Davutoglu gave a surprise three-hour interview on July 18 on the popular “BiDeBunuIzle” radio program broadcast by “Voice of Russia”—a subsidiary of the Russian media network Sputnik, the state-owned radio station which broadcasts in different languages. Shortly after the interview, however, journalists were told not to broadcast it, as the former PM’s answers had included harsh criticism of the ruling AK Party (Justice and Development Party) and President Erdogan. Though the interview was broadcast via journalist Yavuz Oghan’s personal YouTube account, the Russian outlet canceled the Turkish show. Continue reading

Shi’a Iran and Sunni Muslim Brotherhood: Unlikely Alliance No More

Supporters of President Morsi in Cairo in 2013. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood

Supporters of President Morsi in Cairo in 2013. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood

The US government’s announcement to designate the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) weeks after it labeled the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards an FTO is raising major geopolitical concerns and reinforcing the alliance between the two. It is also playing into the hands of the autocratic regimes of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

A decision by US President Trump to designate the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular and moderate Islamist organization, as a “terrorist organization” would result in sanctions being imposed on those who are linked with the group. While the Muslim Brotherhood itself does not meet the legal definition of a terrorist group, such a critical decision could have negative repercussions in several allied countries where the Brotherhood has huge support and political power. The Trump administration said on April 30 that the US government is working to designate Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement as a foreign “terrorist” organization. In an unusual move, the President apparently consulted with his national security team before making a final decision, according to the statement issued by the White House. Continue reading

Lavrov’s Gulf trip highlights Russia’s growing regional role

Photo by Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images

Photo by Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a four-day trip to the Gulf in early March, stopping in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a broader effort to boost Moscow’s ties with the region. Although the Gulf monarchies are traditionally considered some of the U.S’s closest allies, relations between Russia and the Gulf have improved in recent years and there is potential for further cooperation going forward.

Russia’s interests in the Gulf are multifaceted, but key areas include energy, military affairs (especially arms sales), and investment, as well as regional conflicts, most prominently Syria. During his official meetings, Foreign Minister Lavrov focused on economic cooperation, in particular Gulf investment in Russia, and negotiations over further coordination on Syria. Russian-Gulf commercial ties are especially relevant at the moment as Moscow is set to host several events next month, including the fifth ministerial session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, Arabia-EXPO 2019, and a meeting of the Russian-Arab Business Council. Part of Lavrov’s mission was to invite the Gulf countries to attend, and he no doubts made a major effort to persuade them to send high-level delegations. As yet, however, the Gulf monarchies have not shown a willingness to take part. Continue reading

Will the Syrian Kurds strike a deal with Moscow?

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency

President Donald Trump’s announcement at the end of 2018 that he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria came as a surprise to all parties involved, sparking particular concern among America’s Syrian Kurdish allies. The move followed President Trump’s declaration of victory over ISIS after a four-year military campaign fighting alongside Syrian Kurdish forces. This sudden and unexpected decision has been widely criticized not only by allies but also those inside the White House, with many analysts arguing that the U.S. withdrawal will expose the Syrian Kurds to an attack by Turkey.

The news caught the Pentagon and local Syrian allies off-guard and ultimately led to the resignation of several senior U.S. officials, including Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, and Brett McGurk, the president’s special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS. According to McGurk’s resignation letter, the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops would be dangerous and lead to a risk of resurgence among the remnants of ISIS in Syria. Continue reading