Since it first emerged as an economic powerhouse in the 1990s and early 2000s, China has consistently adhered to the principle of neutrality and non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs. As it gained economic clout and a growing market share throughout the Middle East, Beijing preserved its reputation as a neutral market, conducting trade with all nations and remaining aloof from regional politics. Given this background, the announcement in March of a China-mediated diplomatic normalization between Saudi Arabia and Iran—the Gulf’s two primary geopolitical foes—after years of the rivalry came as a shock both to Middle Eastern and Western experts. The Saudi-Iran détente could contribute to the de-escalation of deadly tensions, particularly in the Gulf region. Riyadh and Tehran are engaged in prolonged and bloody proxy wars in the Middle East—most notably in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has led a military coalition against the country’s northern Houthi rebels for eight years without success. Continue reading
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launched in early 2022, has fundamentally changed the international security architecture that had existed for many years, but it has also caused global political and economic cataclysms. Although Russian forces made significant gains thanks to heavy artillery fire, including missile strikes on cities all over Ukraine in the first weeks of combat, Ukrainian defenders quickly rebuffed attempts by consolidating its military power, exercising diplomatic connections, and launching counterattacks at Russian positions.
The failures of continuous artillery and missile strikes in the following months prompted Russia to make some changes in its military tactics. As a result, Russia was forced to seek help from its traditional allies, China and Iran, through unofficial channels. Although China has refrained from overtly providing military support to Russia in order not to further complicate relations with Western countries, particularly with the United States, Iran began supplying locally produced long-range attack (suicide) drones to Russia. The effective use of Iranian-made Shahed and Mohajer drones by the Russian army to conduct attacks against Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure in the first days has revived interest in the Iranian drone industry internationally and has brought to light the real threat of Iran’s long-standing national drone program to security across the Middle East region. Continue reading
The ongoing mass protests in Iran, which have steadily grown more violent over the past two months, risk escalating regional tensions with neighboring states. Although all major Iranian cities have experienced clashes between demonstrators and security forces, the level of violence demonstrated by the Iranian security forces in Baluchestan, Khuzestan, and Kurdistan provinces appeared to be more significant than in other cities without large ethnic minority groups. The Iranian regime’s harsh stance toward Baluchis, Kurds, Arabs, and Azerbaijanis comes as part of a broader conflict between the Iranian government and ethnic minorities seeking better treatment or greater autonomy; Tehran has attempted to subdue its restive Kurdistan region in particular, both through direct military action and by attacking the neighboring Kurdistan region of Iraq. Continue reading
For both Uzbekistan and Turkey, progress in developing a strategic relationship with elements of trade, investment, and defence cooperation comes at an opportune time. Amid the ongoing momentous geopolitical developments, Tashkent needs to diversify its political outreach to maintain a multivector foreign policy in order to avoid falling under the sway of a particular regional actor. Ankara, meanwhile, wants relationships that revitalize its pan-Turkic agenda across Eurasia.
On March 29, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Uzbekistan at the invitation of his counterpart President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The strategic partnership was top of the agenda. Although relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan remained stalled during the rule of late Uzbek leader Islam Karimov until 2016, his successor Mirziyoyev has very much brought Turkey into the picture under the multivector approach. For Turkey, the development of ties with Uzbekistan somewhat uneasily took some steps forward just as Ankara was attempting to moderate peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Continue reading
The war in Ukraine has exacerbated Europe’s energy crisis, leaving the European Union desperately seeking alternative sources of supply to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Among the states in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia the EU has turned to in efforts to diversify its energy supplies, Algeria has been identified as a promising source of additional supplies of natural gas. But diplomatic obstacles and production limitations, as well as Algiers’ commercial links to Moscow, mean that expectations management are in order when it comes to Algeria being a cure for Europe’s energy woes.
Among the other countries that have been identified as potential alternative suppliers, including Qatar and Libya, most would not able to replace Russian natural gas exports to Europe anytime soon due to technical obstacles. Germany is in talks with Qatar for additional liquefied natural gas, or LNG, exports, but those discussions have reportedly hit a snag. Azerbaijan has also agreed to increase deliveries through available pipelines linking its fields to European markets, but there are limits to the amount of extra production it can divert. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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