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Hassan Rouhani reelected President

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has been re-elected in a landslide victory, endorsing his efforts to re-engage with the west and offer greater freedoms at home. With a huge turnout, polling stations stayed open until midnight in parts of the country, defying concerns that moderates disillusioned by the weak economy or slow pace of change would not vote. The president received close to 23 million votes, Interior Minister Abdul Reza Rahmani Fazli said on state television, in an election that had an unexpectedly high turnout of about 70%.

Iran’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani has decisively won the country’s presidential election, fending off a challenge by principlist rival, Ebrahim Raisi a conservative cleric. With all of votes in Friday’s poll counted, Rouhani was re-elected with 57 percent, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmanifazli said. “Of some 41.2 million total votes cast, Rouhani got 23.5 and won the election,” Rahmanifazli said in remarks carried live by state TV. Raisi, Rouhani’s closest rival, main challenger, former prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi received 38.5%, or 15.7 million votes, not enough to take the election to a second round. A big turnout on Friday led to the vote being extended by several hours to deal with long queues.

Rouhani, a moderate who agreed a deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear programme, pledged to “remain true” to his promises. The decisive victory gives him a strong mandate to seek reforms and revive Iran’s ailing economy, analysts say. In his first remarks after winning the poll, Rouhani said: “Great people of Iran, you’re the winners of the election.”

Giving full details, Iran’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, announced live on state television that Rouhani received 23,549,616 votes (57%), compared with his conservative rival Ebrahim Raisi, who won 15,786,449 votes (38.5%). More than 41.2 million people voted out of 56 million who were eligible to do so. The two other lesser known candidates, Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, got 478,215 and 215,450 votes respectively.

The incumbent saw off a strong challenge from Raisi, a fellow cleric with radically different politics who stirred up populist concerns about the sluggish economy, lambasted Rouhani for seeking foreign investment and appealed to religious conservatives. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, issued a statement addressed to the Iranian people in which he praised the “massive and epic” turnout.

Presidency

In Iran’s unique and uneasy hybrid of democracy and theocracy, the president has significant power to shape government, although he is is ultimately constrained by the supreme leader. Khamenei, a hardliner thought to have favored Raisi in the election and as a possible successor for his own job, generally steers clear of daily politics but controls powerful bodies from the judiciary to the Revolutionary Guards. Despite losing the overall race, Raisi appeared to have won enough votes to allow him to campaign for office again or justify his promotion in unelected bodies.

Rouhani’s campaign headquarters said there was no plan to hold a celebratory rally. Iranians are usually quick to celebrate such victories, mainly by honking car horns or dancing in streets or distributing sweets. The scale of voter turnout was the highest for many years. The governor of the northern province of Gilan was quoted as saying the turnout there was 80%. In Yazd, the home city of former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, there was 91% participation.

Fear of a Raisi presidency prompted many in Iran to vote. In Tehran, even political prisoners such as the prominent human rights lawyer Narges Mohammadi, cast their votes inside the notorious Evin prison. And the double Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi voted in Cannes while participating at the festival.

Significance

Rouhani’s victory will be welcomed by Iranian reformists as well as the country’s opposition green movement.

Opposition leaders under house arrest, Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi, had urged people to vote for Rouhani. The president changed his tone on the campaign trail in order to appeal to the opposition. “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein” was a ubiquitous slogan chanted by Rouhani fans in almost every place he campaigned in the three weeks before the vote.

The election was seen by many as a verdict on Rouhani’s policy of opening up Iran to the world and his efforts to rebuild its stagnant economy. Rouhani swept into office four years ago on a promise to reduce Iran’s international isolation.

Friday poll was the first since he negotiated a historic deal with world powers in 2015 to curb the country’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. In the campaign trail, Rouhani sought to frame the vote as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”, criticising the continued arrest of reformist leaders and activists. Raisi, for his part, accused Rouhani of mismanaging the economy and positioned himself as a defender of the poor and calling for a much tougher line with the West.

Political commentator Mostafa Khoshcheshm said that in contrast to the 2013 election campaign, when Rouhani spoke about the removal of sanctions and the improvement of the economy, this time his message was different. “He resorted to other campaign slogans, like [calling for] social and political freedom, and he pushed the boundaries in order to gather public support, especially in large cities,” Khoshcheshm told Al Jazeera. “If he has secured this result, it’s because of the large cities and the middle class society living there – they have voted for him and made him a president and they expect him to do his promises.”

Trita Parsi, of the National Iranian American council, said the results showed Iranians had chosen “a path of gradual transformation through peaceful participation”. “President Rouhani’s convincing win is a sharp rebuke to Iran’s unelected institutions that were a significant brake on progress during his first term,” he said. “It is also a rebuke of Washington hawks who openly called for either a boycott of the vote, or for the hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi to win in order to hasten a confrontation.” He said it was now time for Rouhani to deliver on the promises that inspired people to vote him back in.

Hardliners

Iran’s hardliners had pulled all the stops and mobilized all their resources to bring out as many people as possible to grab the last centre of power in Iran that was not under their control, namely the executive branch. Sensing an effort by the hardliners, supporters of President Rouhani who back his promises to steer the country toward moderation came out in big numbers too. Turnout has been unprecedented. In Tehran, five million people turned out to vote – twice as many as in 2013.

This was a revenge of the people against the hardliners who intimidated them, jailed them, executed them, drove them to exile, pushed them out of their jobs, and discriminated against women.

Campaign

President Rouhani will now have a bigger mandate to push through his reforms, to put an end to extremism, to build bridges with the outside world, to put the economy back on track.

Iranians have said a resounding Yes to President Rouhani who, in recent years and particularly during the last several weeks of campaigning, promised to expand individual and political freedoms and make all those centres of power, like the Revolutionary Guard, accountable. He also promised a moderate vision and an outward-looking Iran and, at rallies, openly attacked the conservative-dominated judiciary and security services. Another challenge, experts say, will come from abroad, and the relations with the new US government. President Donald Trump opposes the nuclear deal which eased sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, but his White House renewed it earlier this week.

As polling day draws closer in Iran, the state of the economy has become the key battleground for the six candidates running for president.

With rampant unemployment, some are promising jobs and others cash hand-outs as they appeal for votes.

Given his record, winning this election ought to be easy for incumbent Hassan Rouhani – but his re-election is by no means a certainty.

Rouhani managed to strike an historic deal in 2015 with world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, resolving a long-standing crisis with the West.

International sanctions were lifted as a result, but average Iranians say they do not feel the economic benefits in their daily lives. “For the past two years, many have stayed away from the property market, first with the hope prices would fall post-sanctions and now for the fear of what happens in the elections,” says Ali Saeedi, a real estate agent. “Many of my colleagues left their jobs because the market is dead,” Saeedi, 33, says.

Iran’s housing sector shrank 13% in the year to March 2017, while the country’s overall economy grew by almost 6.6%, estimates International Monetary Fund.

That growth came mostly from increased oil exports following the lifting of sanctions. Iran’s highest record in the past four decades has been creating 600,000 jobs a year. Iran’s current unemployment rate stands at 12.7%, up 1.7% over the past year. That puts the number of those with absolutely no employment at 3.3 million.

But when it comes to young people, one in every three of those aged 15-24 is jobless. In that age group, every other woman is unemployed. For those without a job, Qalibaf is also offering a 2.5m rial ($66) monthly unemployment benefit, a first in the 38 years since since the Islamic Revolution. The price tag for this election promise alone is a staggering $2.6bn. Qalibaf does not say where he will find the money, nor how he will manage to double Iran’s job creation record.

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his two terms (2005-2013) started cash hand-outs when removing subsidies, offered low-interest loans for small businesses and launched massive projects of affordable housing for the poor.

But when Ahmadinejad left office the economy was shrinking by 7% a year and inflation reached 40%. He blamed international sanctions. Economists blamed Ahmadinejad’s populist policies and his mismanagement of the economy.

Challenge

The economy remains the number one challenge. Rouhani, 68, signed a nuclear deal between Iran, the US and other countries in 2015. International sanctions were lifted as a result, but average Iranians say they do not feel the economic benefits in their daily lives. While oil exports have rebounded and inflation is back at single-digits, unemployment remains high, especially among the young people.

Rouhani has brought inflation down from around 40 percent when he took over in 2013, but prices are still rising by over seven percent a year. Oil sales have rebounded since the nuclear deal took effect in January 2016, but growth in the rest of the economy has been limited, leaving unemployment at 12.5 percent overall – close to 30 percent for the young – and many more are under-employed or struggling to get by. “Rouhani now gets his second term, and will be able to continue the work that he started in his first four-year term trying to reform Iran,” Hull said. “And moving on, crucially, from the nuclear deal to try and bring much more economic progress to satisfy the people who have found themselves extremely disappointed with the very slow pace of change since that agreement was signed.”

President Rouhani has brought GDP growth back into the black, inflation into single-digits and trade deficit into a surplus. But expectations are high and Rouhani himself is to blame, having promised miracles once the sanctions were lifted.

Most members of Iran’s fledgling private sector say they will give Mr Rouhani another chance. “We want him to improve the business environment and free the economy from rent-seeking, corruption and monopoly,” says Hamid Hosseini, chief executive of Soroosh oil refinery in Iran.

Hosseini is a board member of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines and the founder of the country’s oil products export union.He says a large group of private sector executives have come together to support Rouhani. “His government has given the society hope with lifting sanctions, increasing growth and tourism, attracting foreign investment and should be confident in this race,” Hosseini says. But the choice for some young Iranians like Ali Saeedi is not crystal-clear.

Rouhani’s re-election is likely to safeguard the 2015 agreement, under which most international sanctions have been lifted in return for Iran curbing its nuclear program. Rouhani has vowed to work towards removing the remaining non-nuclear sanctions, but critics argue that will be hard with Donald Trump as US president – Trump has repeatedly described it as “one of the worst deals ever signed”, although his administration re-authorised waivers from sanctions this week.

Rouhani is also expected to face the same restrictions that prevented him from delivering substantial social change in his first term.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has veto power over all policies and ultimate control of the security forces, While Rouhani has been unable to secure the release of reformist leaders from house arrest.

Rouhani, during an “increasingly acrimonious election campaign, alienated a lot of Iran’s significant state institutions who may be in no mood to cooperate with him going forward”.

While the nuclear deal was at the forefront of the election, the campaign was dominated by the issues of poverty and unemployment.

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UAE-Israel relations risk being built on questionable assumptions

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A year of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel has proven to be mutually beneficial. The question is whether the assumptions underlying the UAE’s initiative that led three other Arab countries to also formalise their relations with the Jewish state will prove to be correct in the medium and long term.

UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid out the strategic assumptions underlying his establishment of diplomatic relations, as well as its timing, in a conversation with Joel C. Rosenberg, an American-Israeli evangelical author and activist, 18 months before the announcement.

Mr. Rosenberg’s recounting of that conversation in a just-published book, Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East, constitutes a rare first-hand public account of the Emirati leader’s thinking.

Mr. Rosenberg’s reporting on his conversation with Prince Mohammed is largely paraphrased by the author rather than backed up with quotes. The UAE’s interest in building good relations with American Evangelicals as part of its effort to garner soft power in the United States and project itself as an icon of religious tolerance, and Mr. Rosenberg’s willingness to serve that purpose, add credibility to the author’s disclosures.

Mr. Rosenberg’s reporting, wittingly or unwittingly, has laid bare the potential longer-term fragility of the relationship that is evident in Prince Mohammed’s timing for the UAE’s recognition of Israel as well as the assumptions on which the Emirates has argued that relations would contribute to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What emerges is that the UAE and Israel have a geopolitical interest in cooperating to contain Iran and militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen that are associated with the Islamic republic. They also reap economic benefit from the formalisation of a relationship that has long existed de facto.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, the implication is that public support for the relationship could prove to be fickle even though comment on social media in a country that tightly polices freedom of expression was dominated by supporters of the Emirati government.

Prominent Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla described the public backing as “a show of support for the government rather than a show of support for ‘normalization’ (with Israel) as such.” Mr. Abdulla was speaking in May as Israeli warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip in a conflict, sparked by protests in East Jerusalem, with Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the territory.

He noted that “no matter what your national priorities are at the moment or regional priorities are at the moment, when stuff like this happens, the Palestinian issue comes back and hits you.”

It was this sensitivity that persuaded Prince Mohammed that the door would close on establishing diplomatic relations with Israel without a solution to the Palestinian problem if then Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu were to go ahead with his plans to annex parts of the West Bank occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.

“The only way to stop Netanyahu from grabbing what the Emiratis saw as Palestinian land was to go full Godfather and make Bibi an offer he couldn’t refuse,” Mr. Rosenberg wrote referring to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname.

A proposal by the Trump administration that the UAE and other Arab states sign a non-aggression and non-belligerency pact with Israel without establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state gave Prince Mohammed the opening to push his plan.

“MbZ was open to the idea, but he now realized it would not be enough to pull Netanyahu away from his desire to annex large swaths of the West Bank. The only way to get what he wanted, MBZ recognized, was to give Netanyahu what he wanted most – full peace, full recognition, full normalization. But MbZ would have to move fast” to pre-empt the Israeli prime minister Mr. Rosenberg summarised, referring to Prince Mohammed by his initials.

Quoting then Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, rather than Prince Mohammed, Mr. Rosenberg regurgitates hopes publicly expressed by Emirati officials that the establishment of diplomatic relations would reinvigorate moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The establishment of diplomatic relations promised to be “a 360-degree success, one that goes beyond trade and investment,” Mr. Rosenberg quoted Mr. Gargash as saying.

Emirati economy minister Abdulla Bin Touq said the UAE hoped to boost trade with Israel to US$1 trillion over the next decade. Emirati officials were further banking on the fact that strong cultural and people-to-people ties – absent in Israel’s initial peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in the 1980s and 1990s – would put flesh on a skeleton of Arab-Israeli relations and ensure that Israel refrains from acts like annexation that would upset the apple cart.

Mr. Netanyahu’s successor, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has put those hopes to bed. He has unequivocally rejected the notion of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, refused to negotiate peace with the Palestinians during his term, and suggested that the improvement of social and economic conditions would satisfy Palestinian aspirations.

That could prove to be a risky bet given a shift to the right in Israeli public opinion, the growing influence of conservative religious segments of society, and the fact that some 600,000 Israelis who populate settlements built on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem make a two-state solution de facto impossible. That would leave a one-state solution as the only solution.

For that to work, Palestinians would have to buy into Mr. Bennett’s approach that is informed by the concept of “shrinking the conflict” that seeks to marginalise the Palestinian problem, put forward by Micah Goodman, an Israeli academic who chose to build a home in a West Bank settlement.

“Twenty per cent of Israelis are on the extremes, for either withdrawing from the territories or annexing them,” Mr. Goodman says. “The remaining 80 percent who don’t want to rule over the territories or relinquish them don’t have a way to talk about the conflict, so they just don’t think about it. Which is the tragedy of the Israeli center.”

Shrinking the conflict, rather than solving it, is what Mr. Goodman calls “replacing indifference with pragmatism.” He suggests that initiatives such as the creation of corridors between Palestinian enclaves on the West Bank and a border crossing to Jordan “up to the level that the Palestinians feel they are ruling themselves, without the capacity to threaten Israel” would tempt Palestinians to buy into his concept. Mr. Goodman’s plan would ensure, in his words, that Palestinians “don’t get anything like the right of return, a state or Jerusalem.”

Prince Mohammed appears, based on Mr. Rosenberg’s account of his conversations with the UAE leader and other Emirati officials, to have adopted the approach.  

“MbZ believed that by breaking the mould and making peace with Israel without giving the Palestinian leadership veto over his freedom of movement, he could open the door for other Arab countries to see the benefits and follow suit,” Mr. Rosenberg wrote.

Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco were quick to follow the UAE’s example. Some 300 Iraqi tribal and religious leaders, activists and former military officers called last week for diplomatic relations with Israel in a gathering in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil.

“Just as we demand that Iraq achieve federalism domestically, we demand that Iraq join the Abraham Accords internationally. We call for full diplomatic relations with Israel and a new policy of mutual development and prosperity,” said Wisam Al-Hardan, a spokesman for the group and onetime tribal militia leader that aligned with the United States to fight al-Qaeda in 2005.

Mr. Rosenberg noted that “as more Arab states normalized relations with Israel, MbZ and his team believed it could create the conditions under which the Palestinians could finally say yes to a comprehensive peace plan of their own with Israel.”

That may prove to be over-optimistic. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly this week, President Mahmoud Abbas warned that the Palestine Authority would withdraw its recognition of Israel and press charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court if Israel did not withdraw in the next year from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and lift the 14-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The assumption underlying Prince Mohammed’s hopes that Palestinians as well as Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon for that matter, would ultimately fall into line, creates a false equation between most Arab states and those bordering on Israel or under Israeli occupation.

Most Arab states like the UAE have existential issues with Israel that need to be resolved, which makes public opinion the potentially largest constraint on recognition of the Jewish state. There is no doubt that for Palestinians the issue is nothing but existential. The same is true for Jordan that has historic connections to the West Bank and whose population is more than half of Palestinian descent.

Similarly, Lebanon and Syria host large numbers of Palestinian refugees. Syria, moreover, has its own issues with Israel given the latter’s occupation of the Golan Heights since 1967.

Improving the social and economic conditions of the Palestinians are unlikely to satisfy their minimal needs or those of Israel’s immediate neighbours. Not to mention what the accelerated prospect of a de facto one-state solution to the Palestinian problem would mean for an Israel confronted with the choice of being a democratic state in which Palestinians could emerge as a majority or a Jewish state that sheds its democratic character and claim to be inclusive towards its citizens.

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Syria: 10 years of war has left at least 350,000 dead

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A decade of war in Syria has left more 350,200 people dead, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council on Friday, noting that this total was an “under-count of the actual number of killings”.

These are a result of a war that spiralled out of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Based on the “rigorous work” of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), she said that the tally, which includes civilians and combatants, is based on “strict methodology” requiring the deceased’s full name, the date of death, and location of the body.

People behind the numbers

In the first official update on the death toll since 2014, Ms. Bachelet informed the Council that more than one in 13 of those who died due to conflict, was a woman – 26,727 in all – and almost one in 13 was a child – a grim total of 27,126 young lives lost.

The Governorate of Aleppo saw the greatest number of documented killings, with 51,731 named individuals.

Other heavy death tolls were recorded in Rural Damascus, 47,483; Homs, 40,986; Idlib, 33,271; Hama, 31,993; and Tartus, 31,369.

Behind each recorded death was a human being, born free and equal, in dignity and rights”, reminded the High Commissioner.

“We must always make victims’ stories visible, both individually and collectively, because the injustice and horror of each of these deaths should compel us to action.”

More accountability needed

Her office, OHCHR, is processing information on alleged perpetrators, recording victims civilian or combatant status and the type of weapons used, Ms. Bachelet said.

To provide a more complete picture of the scale and impact of the conflict, the UN agency has also established statistical estimation techniques to account for missing data.  

The High Commissioner explained that documenting deaths complements efforts to account for missing people and that her office has been helping the families of the missing, to engage with international human rights mechanisms.

Given the vast number of those missing in Syria, Ms. Bachelet echoed her call for an independent mechanism, with a strong international mandate, to “clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people; identify human remains; and provide support to relatives”.

No end to the violence

Today, the daily lives of the Syrian people remain “scarred by unimaginable suffering”, the UN human rights chief said, adding that they have endured a decade of conflict, face deepening economic crisis and struggle with the impacts of COVID-19.

Extensive destruction of infrastructure has significantly affected the realization of essential economic and social rights, and there is still no end to the violence.

It is incumbent upon us all to listen to the voices of Syria’s survivors and victims, and to the stories of those who have now fallen silent for ever”, the High Commissioner concluded.

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Lessons Learned: US Seek to Salvage their Relations with the Syrian Kurds

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The hasty retreat of the US troops from Afghanistan has left a sizeable dent in the reputation of the White House among the American public, in the Middle East and the world in general. Washington was criticised heavily for the betrayal of the Afghan government, which paved the way for Taliban to storm to power.

It’s only natural that such events created a breeding ground for uncertainty among US allies in the region. Some of them started to reevaluate their relationship with the White House after the Afghan fiasco; others were having doubts about the US’ commitment beforehand. Current situation forces Washington to take firm actions to validate their status as a powerhouse in the region. There are indicators that US leadership has found a way to regain trust from its allies starting with Kurdish armed units in Syria.

The Kurds became a key ally to the US in their quest to defeat ISIS in Syria. Washington helped to create the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who consequently established control over oil-rich regions in the north-eastern Syria. However the rapid rise of Kurdish influence triggered discontent from other parties of the Syrian conflict: the Assad government and Turkey, who considers SDF an offshoot of the PKK, designated as a terror group by the Turkish authorities. Under this pretext Ankara conducted three full-scale military operations against the Kurds in spite of its membership in the US led coalition.

Turkey remains a major headache for the US in northern Syria as it obstructs the development of a Kurdish autonomy. US failure to act during the Turkish offensive on Al-Bab and then Afrin is still considered one of the most agonizing experiences in the recent history of American-Kurdish partnership. On the flip side, this relationship had its bright moments. US forces were persistent in their cooperation with the Kurds despite Donald Trump’s efforts to withdraw US military presence from Syria. Furthermore, former Pentagon’s chief James Mattis increased funding of SDF in 2019 to a record high of $300 million.

Although the US cut back its support for the Kurds after proclaiming victory over ISIS, it’s still sufficient for SDF to stay among the most combat-capable forces in Syria. US provide machinery, equipment and ammunition, but most importantly teach the Kurds the skills to profit from their resources. Besides training SDF rank soldiers, the American troops prepare their special forces HAT (Hêzên Antî Teror, Anti-Terror Forces) primarily tasked with establishing security on oil facilities as well as detection and elimination of terrorists. In terms of their equipment they practically hold their own even against US troops. During their operations HAT fighters use standardized weaponry, night goggles and other modern resources.

Regardless of all the US aid military capabilities of SDF have one critical vulnerability, namely the lack of air defense. This weakness is successfully exploited by Turkey who uses their drones to bomb Kurdish positions. For the last couple of months the number of air strikes has significantly increased, which brought SDF to find new methods of deflecting air attacks.

There are good grounds to believe that Washington accommodated their partner’s troubles. Thus a source from an US air-base in Middle-East who asked to keep his name and position anonymous told us that on the 18th of September three combat-capable trainer aircraft T-6 Texan have been deployed to Tell Beydar air-base in Hasakah province, Syria. According to the source American instructors have begun a crash course in air pilotage with the candidates picked form the SDF ranks long before the airplanes arrived to their destination. This is implicitly confirmed by the large shipment of US weaponry, machinery and ammunition to Tell Beydar delivered on the 17th of September that included missiles compatible with Texan aircraft.

The sole presence of airplanes, even trainer aircraft, prompts a change in the already existing power balance. T-6 Texan can be used not only for air cover but also as a counter tool to Turkish “Bayraktar” UAVs especially if US grant Kurds access to intel from the radars situated on US air bases. Ultimately, from Turkey’s standpoint it must look like an attempt from the US military to create PKK’s own air force.

This being said the US are better off using political means rather than military if the goal is to handicap Turkish interests in Syria. The groundwork for this has been laid thanks to a reshuffle in the White House under Biden administration. First came the resignation of former US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James F. Jeffrey infamous for his soft spot for Turkey, who has been openly promoting pro-Turkish views in the White House during his tenure. In addition to the loss of their man in Washington, Turkey has gained a powerful adversary represented by the new National Security Council coordinator for the Middle-East and North Africa Brett McGurk. McGurk is a polar opposite to Jeffrey and has sided with the Kurds on numerous occasions. He is well respected among the leaders of SDF because of his work as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to counter ISIS.

The only yet the most important question that is yet to be answered is the position of US president Joe Biden. So far Biden’s administration has been avoiding radical shifts regarding its Syria policy. Development of cooperation with the Kurds considering they have proven their reliability might come as a logical solution that will also allow the White House to show their teeth. Washington cannot endure another Afghanistan-like fiasco that will destroy their reputation figuratively and their allies literally. Even with all possible negative outcomes taken into account the enhancement of cooperation with the Kurds outweighs the drawbacks and remains the optimal route for the US.

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