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US-Turkish partnership: “strategic” does not mean “reliable”

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The continuing tension in the Middle East has yet again become a discussion point during the so-called top-level week of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York. What made the situation worse this year was Washington’s decision to strengthen its military presence in the region, which it adopted a few days before the summit. According to US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the measure was taken at the request of Saudi Arabia, which had been attacked by drones: “The President (Donald Trump) approved the deployment of US forces, which will be defensive and will focus primarily on air and missile defense”. According to the head of the Pentagon, this “will send a clear signal that the US is supporting its partners in the region.”

In turn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford,  promised to begin to supply military equipment to regional allies – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – at an early date.

According to Independent, on the night of September 17th, a couple of days after the drone attack, Saudi planes took part in an air raid on the alleged positions of the Iranian forces in Syria. An “informed source” told newspaper reporters that “Saudi fighters were spotted in the operation along with other fighters.” It is easy to guess the origin of “other” aircraft. Commenting on these events, Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian culturologist and philosopher, remarks: “One should pay attention to the “wordless” partnership between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which serves as yet another proof of the existence of a new “axis of evil” in the Middle East, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the UAE”.

Significantly, neither he nor other analysts mention Turkey, which is considered Washington’s strategic ally in the Middle East. And for a good reason – Ankara’s relations with all these countries are strained.

In the run-up to the UN General Assembly, “on the sidelines” of which a bilateral meeting of the American and Turkish presidents was to be held,  Ankara assured its Western partners that its foreign policy paradigm remains intact.

In his lengthy interview on CNN Türk, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu emphasized: “We are not going to leave Europe … We are set in the direction of the EU”. Speaking about partnership with Russia, the minister noted: “Russia is a reality, not just part of the way towards Asia. Having good relations, economic ties with the East does not mean giving up on Europe … Our rapprochement with Russia does not give anyone the right to doubt our desire to join the EU or question our membership in NATO … We are members of NATO, we support a preventive and dialogue-based policy of the Alliance in relation to Russia. But we are part of  this region, and we must pursue a balanced policy with our neighbors.” Doesn’t it look like an attempt to make excuses before the Western vis-à-vis for the “tilt” towards Moscow?

Cavusoglu was echoed by presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, who said in an article written for Bloomberg that allegations that Turkey is moving away from the West and pursuing policies that run counter to NATO’s interests, are ungrounded.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the eve of his trip to New York, made it clear that Ankara was ready to look into the possibility of acquiring the American Patriot air defense systems on acceptable conditions. The United States could not but agree: according to the Haber Turk Channel, Washington is drafting a new proposal on the supply of Patriot air defense systems and F-35 fighters to Turkey.

The Americans are in a rush. The Syrian campaign has drawn the attention of countries of the region to Russian weapons. Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have demonstrated interest in S-400 systems. The trend towards diversification of sources of arms supplies is visible. In this regard, observer of the Turkish Sabah newspaper Berjan Tutar reports: “The world has seen that trillions of dollars worth air defense systems which were sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States and Europeans since the 70s, have proved powerless comparied to drones, whose price is 10 thousand dollars.” The analyst recalls that in January 2018 similar Russian systems shot down all 13 drones that attacked Russian bases in Tartus and Khmeimim.

On the second day of the General Assembly, foreign ministers of countries of the Astana Troika discussed the situation in Syria, first of all, in Idlib, and in the north-east of the country.

Just on the eve of the negotiations, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, citing one of Erdogan’s aides, announced Turkey’s readiness to launch a military operation in Idlib against the jihadists who de facto control the province. According to the publication, the decisive measures are due to the fact that the extremists, by the very fact of their existence,  provoke Syrian troops and their allies into advancing on Idlib. Ankara disapproves of such a development. However, a scenario like this could be part of the “extra measures” that were worked out by the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran at their last meeting in Ankara. If reports about a Turkish operation are true, of course.

As for the northeast of Syria, on August 7th  Turkey and the United States agreed to set up the so-called “Joint Operation Center” in Syria, which was followed by American troops arriving in Turkey to work in this center. A joint patrol service was created the purpose of which was “to identify terrorist strongholds and track the presence of terrorists and heavy weapons.” Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar even signaled the intention to join forces with the United States to establish permanent (Sic!) military bases in northeastern Syria for patrolling this region. He warned, though, that Turkey would do this on its own if the US continued to delay negotiations.

Some observers suggest that Ankara and Washington have already reached a compromise on this issue. For example, Cenghiz Tomar, acting President of the Akhmet Yasevi International Turkish-Kazakh University, predicts: “A successful operation in eastern Syria will allow Turkey to guarantee the protection of nearly the whole of its border with Syria. The cantons of the PKK terrorists will be blocked, which will remove the threat to Turkey’s national security”. The article in question was published on the website of the Antalian agency broadcasting the opinion of Ankara. Thus, the “blocking”of  the Kurdish cantons may mean Turkey’s recognition of their right to exist (of course, under the aegis of the “senior” partner – the United States). They just have to be “cut off” from the territory of Turkey by the buffer zone. But we will not go into speculation.

Washington says that the US military presence in Syria is dictated, along with the need to combat the remaining members of the ISIS, which is banned in the Russian Federation, by the need to contain the mainly Kurdish self-defense units from attacking the Turkish military and from raiding the neighbouring territory. But few in Turkey believe it. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu complains that the United States is “slowing down” the implementation of a security zone agreement for northeastern Syria. The Minister made it clear that the American side’s approach to the agreement remains “unsatisfactory,” while the steps Washington has been taking are “perfunctory.”

Mehmet Ali Güller, a high-profile columnist for the Cumhuriyet newspaper, says openly that the main goal of the United States is to “create a dwarf Kurdish state” east of the Euphrates, which will become part of the “American corridor” from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea (as opposed to the hypothetical “Shiite corridor ”, which is allegedly being built by Iran – A.I.).

Erdogan would not be Erdogan if he believed everything they say and do in the White House. Particularly with Donald Trump, who “hires” and “fires” the allies, who brandishes promises and then cancels them without a twinge of remorse. Like none of his predecessors, Trump has changed an unprecedented number of advisers and ministers. “We have completed preparations (of a possible invasion – AI) along our border. We do not want a confrontation with the United States, but we cannot  but notice the support they provide to terrorist organizations, – the Turkish leader recently admitted, “ -I told Trump that they sent thousands of trucks with weapons. “We couldn’t buy these weapons for money, but you donate them to terrorist groups for free.”

Erdogan’s speech in the UN, in which he pointed out the need to restructure the system of international relations on the basis of justice, became a reflection on what could be described as the inconsistent policy of the “strategic partner” – Donald Trump, who, incidentally, declined the invitation to meet with his Turkish counterpart in the New York restaurant Cipriani.

From our partner International Affairs

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Americas

Prospects for U.S.-China Relations in the Biden Era

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The U.S. presidential election which will be held on November 3 is drawing ever closer. As the Trump administration performs poorly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the death toll in the U.S. exceeded 210,000, the election trend appears to be very unfavorable for Donald Trump.

According to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Joe Biden led Trump by 14 percentage points in the national elections. It is worth noting that retired American generals, who have traditionally been extremely low-key in politics, publicly supported Biden this year, something that is quite rare. On September 24, 489 retired generals and admirals, former national security officials and diplomats signed a joint letter in support of Biden. Among them are Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans, showing that they have crossed the affiliation, and jointly support Biden to replace Trump. Although the opinion polls do not represent the final election, with the election only being one month away, the widening of the opinion gap is enough to predict the direction of the election.

For the whole world, especially for China, it is necessary to prepare for the advent of a possible Biden era of the United States. During Trump’s tenure, U.S.-China relations have taken a turn for the worse, and China has been listed as the foremost “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States.

There is a general view in China that after the Democratic Party comes to power, U.S.-China relations may worsen. The reason is that the Democratic Party places more emphasis on values such as human rights and ideology and is accustomed to using values such as human rights, democracy, and freedom in foreign policies against China. However, as far as U.S.-China relations are concerned, it is too vague to use the simple dichotomic “good” or “bad” to summarize the relationship of the two countries.

However, it is certain that after Biden takes office, his policies will be different from Trump’s. An important difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden will follow a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement his own policies, and he will also seek cooperation with China in certain bottom-line principled arrangements. It should be stressed that it is crucial for China and the United States to reach some principled arrangements in their relations.

From an economic point of view, should Biden become the next President, the United States will likely ease its trade policy, which will alleviate China’s trade pressure. It can be expected that the Biden administration may quell the U.S.-China tariff war and adjust punitive tariff policies that lead to “lose-lose” policies. If Biden takes office, he might be more concerned about politics and U.S.-China balance. In terms of trade, although he would continue to stick to the general direction of the past, this would not be the main direction of his governance. Therefore, the U.S.-China trade war could see certain respite and may even stop. In that scenario, China as the largest trading partner of the United States, could hope for the pressures in the trade with the U.S. being reduced.

China must also realize that even if Biden takes power, some key areas of U.S.-China relations will not change, such as the strategic positioning of China as the “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States. This is not something that is decided by the U.S. President but by the strategic judgment of the U.S. decision-making class on the direction of its relations with China. This strategic positioning destined that the future U.S.-China relations will be based on the pattern dominated by geopolitical confrontation. Biden sees that by expanding global influence, promoting its political model, and investing in future technologies, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S, and that is the challenge that the United States faces.

On the whole, if and when Biden takes office, the U.S. government’s domestic and diplomatic practices will be different from those of the Trump administration, although the strategic positioning of China will not change, and neither will it change the U.S.’ general direction of long-term suppression of China’s rise. However, in terms of specific practices, the Biden administration will have its own approaches, and will seek a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement its policies. He may also seek to reach some bottom-line principled arrangements with China. Under the basic framework, the future U.S.-China relations will undergo changes in many aspects. Instead of the crude “an eye for an eye” rivalry, we will see the return to the traditional systemic competition based on values, alliance interests, and rules. Facing the inevitable changes in U.S.-China relations, the world needs to adapt to the new situation.

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Third world needs ideological shift

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As nations across the world have been pooling their efforts to contain the COVID-19 spread, the looming economic crisis has caught the attention of global intelligentsia. In the light of health emergency, The policy makers of Asia, Africa and Latin America have been struggling to steer the economic vehicle back to normalcy. Although, the reason for the economic slump could be attributed to the pandemic, it is also important to cast light on the economics of these tricontinental nations. Been as colonies for more than two centuries, these players had adopted the style of economics which is a mix of market economics and socialism. The imperial powers of the then Europe had colonised these nations and had subjugated them with their military and political maneuvers. Under the banner of White man’s burden, the Imperial masters had subverted the political, economical, social and cultural spheres of the colonies and had transformed these self-reliant societies into the ones which depend on Europe for finished products. The onslaught on the economical systems of colonies was done through one way trade. Though, the western powers brought the modern values to the third world during colonial era, they were twisted to their advantage. The European industrial machines were depended on the blood, sweat and tears of the people of colonies. It is clear that the reason for the backwardness of these players is the force behind the imperial powers which had eventually pushed them towards these regions in search of raw materials and markets i.e., Capitalism. Needless to say, the competition for resources and disaccord over the distribution of wealth of colonies led to twin world wars. Capitalism, as an economic idea, cannot survive in an environment of a limited market and resources. It needs borderless access, restless labour and timeless profit. While the European imperial powers had expanded their influence over Asia and Africa, the US had exerted its influence over Latin America. Earlier, at the dawn of modern-day Europe, The capitalist liberal order had challenged the old feudal system and the authority of church. Subsequently, the sovereign power was shifted to monarchial king. With the rise of ideas like democracy and liberty, complemented by the rapid takeoff of industrialization, the conditions were set for the creation of new class i.e., capitalist class. On the one hand, Liberalism, a polical facet of capitalism, restricts the role of state(political) in economical matters but on the other hand it provides enough room for the elite class and those who have access to power corridors to persuade the authority(state) to design the policies to their advantage. Inequality is an inescapable feature of liberal economics.

The powerful nations cannot colonise these nations as once done. The Watchwords like interconnectedness, interdependency and free trade are being used to continue their domination on these players. As soon as the third world nations were freed from the shackles of colonialism, they were forced to integrate their economies into the global economical chain. Characterized by the imbalance, the globalization has been used as a weapon by the Western powers to conquer the markets of developing nations.

The Carrot and stick policy of the US is an integral part of its strategy to dominate global economical domain. The sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and Latin America could be attributed to the US lust for resources. In the name of democracy, the US has been meddling in the internal affairs of nations across the developing world. Countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Iraq and Syria have challenged the US,a global policeman. Back in the day,soon after assuming the power, the Left leadership in Latin American countries had adopted socialist schemes and had nationalised the wealth creating assets, which were previously in the hands of the US capitalists. Irked by the actions of these nations, the US had devised a series of stratagems to destabilize the regimes and to install its puppets through the imposition of cruel sanctions and by dubbing them as terrorist nations on the pretext of exporting violent communist revolution. With the exception of the regimes of Fidel castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the US is largely successful in its agenda of destabilizing anti-American governments in the region. The US has a long history of mobilising anti-left forces in Latin America, the region which US sees as its backyard, in an attempt to oust socialist leaders. At present, by hook or by crook, the trump administration has been trying to depose Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, a socialist.

In addition,The US has been colonising the minds of the third world citizens psychologically with its cultural hegemony and anti-left indoctrination. It is important to understand that the reason for the neo-fascism, which is unfurling across the developing and developed world alike, is rooted in capitalism.The third world citizenry is disgruntled and the ultra-nationalist right wing forces in these countries have been channeling the distress amongst the working class to solidify their position. Growing inequalities, Falling living standards, Joblessness and Insecurity are exposing the incompetence of capitalism and have been pushing a large chunk of workforce in the developing countries into a state of despair.Adding to their woes, the Covid-19 has hit them hard.

The US, with the help of IMF and the world bank, had coerced the developing countries to shun welfare economics.The term “Development” is highly contested  in the economic domain.Capitalists argue that the true development of an individual and the society depends upon economic progress and the free market is a panacea for all problems.Given the monopolistic tendencies in the economical systems across the developing world, the free market is a myth, especially in a societies where a few of business families, who have cronies in policy making circles, dominates the economical and social scene.The time has come for the governments of these nations to address these issues and ensure that the wealth would be distributed in a more equitable manner.

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The Election Circus and an Event in the Cosmos

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The election in the US is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  A  Tuesday was chosen to allow people enough time to drive to the election site after Sunday, reserved for religious services and rest.  Those were the horse and buggy days and it took a while. The people clearly had greater ardor for democracy then considering we get a less than 50 percent turnout now when voting sites are usually less than a five-minute drive. 

Most states are either heavily Republican or Democrat so the results there are a foregone conclusion.  The winners get the electors assigned to the state on a basis of population.  The electors then vote for the nominees receiving the most votes in the state when the electoral college meets. 

There are about a dozen battleground or swing states; among them Pennsylvania and Florida are prized for their high electoral votes — hence the repeated visits by the candidates.  Trump won both in 2016.  Will he this time? 

Meanwhile two New York papers are busy running negative stories on candidates they oppose.  The New York Times offers tidbits against Trump.  The latest this week is that Trump has a Chinese bank account.  The fact is not new since the information was filed with his tax returns — one has to report foreign bank accounts over $10,000 — but the news is intended as an example of Trump’s hypocrisy for he has been speaking out against doing business in China.  The accounts in the name of Trump International Hotels have been moribund since 2015. 

The New York Post, much less distinguished than the Times, is after Hunter Biden and through him his father, candidate Joe Biden.  Last week the Post unearthed a dubious email purporting to show then Vice President Biden possibly meeting with Hunter’s potential business partner.  This week there is a photograph of the Bidens, father and son, flanked by a Kazakh oligarch on one side and a former president of Kazakhstan on the other.  The latest on the email issue has a certain Tony Bobulinski, one of the recipients, confirming the Post email adding that Hunter sought Dad’s advice on deals.  There is also a proposed equity split referring to ’20’ for ‘H’ and ’10 held by H for the big guy.’  

New York State may be a secure prize for Democrats but news stories these days are picked up on the internet and spread nationally and internationally.  Surely the two newspapers have something really big up their sleeves for the week before the election.  

Charges and counter-charges in the final presidential debate.  Biden repeatedly blamed Trump for deaths from the Covid 19 epidemic.  On almost everything Biden promised, Trump’s rejoinder was why he had not done it in the 47 years he was in public office including 8 years as vice president.  This included mimicking Biden’s previously successful tactic of talking directly to the public.  The same interests fund both major parties and they generally  get what they want except that Trump mostly funded his campaign himself. 

From all the ridiculousness to the sublime.  Images of M87 are the first of any black hole swallowing whatever is within range.  We are told of the discovery of a black hole in the center of our own Milky Way, presumably the eventual destination of everything in our galaxy.  From this perspective the Trump-Biden debate, although quite important for our immediate future, seems to diminish to nothing in significance.  

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