US Opinion and Commentary

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Putin’s Syrian Misadventure

Posted December 2nd, 2015 at 10:27 am (UTC-5)
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Putin’s “crafty” Syrian chess move has left him with a lot more dead Russians; newly at odds with Turkey and Iran; weakened in Ukraine; acting as the defense lawyer for Assad — a mass murderer of Sunni Muslims, the same Sunni Muslims as Putin has in Russia; and with no real advances against ISIS.

Putin Takes Ineffectual Aim at Turkey

Posted November 30th, 2015 at 4:40 pm (UTC-5)
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President Vladimir Putin is so angry with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that he won’t talk to him on the phone or meet with him at the United Nations climate talks in Paris. But Putin can’t do much to hurt Erdogan or his country; he can only make life a little more difficult for Russians.

Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet. What’s Next?

Posted November 24th, 2015 at 5:12 pm (UTC-5)
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Another twist to the multi-faceted war in Syria took place this morning along the Turkey-Syria border. A Russian warplane was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets after being repeatedly warned to exit Turkish airspace. Russian President Vladimir Putin described it as a “stab in the back” by a business partner, accusing Turkey of supporting the so-called Islamic State. President Obama says Turkey has a right to defend itself and its territory, but urged Ankara and Moscow to avoid any escalation. Obama starkly outlined the distinction between U.S. and Russian efforts against IS: “We’ve got a coalition of 65 countries … Russia right now has a coalition of two: Iran and Russia, supporting Assad.” Standing next to Obama at that moment was French President François Hollande. Their conversation will shape the conversation Hollande will have with Putin in Moscow later this week. And that conversation will impact the next moves on what has become a crowded battlefield.

Why ISIS Is Winning

Posted November 23rd, 2015 at 5:52 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. needs to assume a stronger role in coordinating the anti-ISIS coalition and step up its intervention in the region, both military and diplomatic. At present, ISIS is benefiting greatly from the strategic confusion among its opponents.

Why the West Should Worry About Turkey

Posted November 2nd, 2015 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Erdogan’s unwillingness to accept a legitimate, democratic election result, and his desire to politicize an office that is nominally non-partisan — the presidency — are just two of many signs that he is tightening his grip on power.

Turkey’s Erdogan: A Mixed Blessing?

Posted November 2nd, 2015 at 2:34 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey is often viewed by the West as an island of stability in a sea of turmoil. For the United States, there is no question that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a leader it needs badly to help stave off more tumult, and maybe even deliver a decisive blow against the Islamic State. On Sunday, Erdogan’s ruling party regained its majority in parliamentary elections, sparked by a hung parliament in June’s general elections. Not content to give up 13 years of AKP rule, critics say Erdogan stoked a nationalistic atmosphere that led his party to victory. And there is ample evidence that Erdogan has become ever more repressive of Turkey’s democratic institutions. As one blog put it: “Dealing with Erdogan is now, for his Western partners, much like holding a wolf by the ears: risky, but the alternative seems much worse.”

Partition Syria to Crush the Islamic State

Posted November 2nd, 2015 at 12:32 pm (UTC-5)
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… [R]epresentatives of all the Syrian factions should assemble under United Nations auspices to design the future Syrian state. Given the differences among these factions, this process could take years. In the interim, each faction should govern the territory it holds …

In Turkey Vote, a Window on Common Identity

Posted November 2nd, 2015 at 8:16 am (UTC-5)
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For all their divisiveness, elections are a window on a country’s ability to form a civic identity, one that rises above creed, tribe, race, or ethnicity…. Turkey is now the place to watch in this global trend toward binding a particular people along shared principles of governance.

Key US Allies Israel and Turkey Face Tough Challenges

Posted October 13th, 2015 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As the Middle East continues a downward spiral, two important U.S. allies that had seemed relatively stable – Israel and Turkey — are both confronting significant new violence.   In Israel, a spasm of Arab attacks — and Israeli retaliation — is prompting fears of a third intifada. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu […]

Syria: Russian Quagmire? American Quandary

Posted October 6th, 2015 at 4:33 pm (UTC-5)
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Three-dimensional military and diplomatic chess is being played out in the Middle East. Russian warplanes have forayed into Turkish, and by alliance, NATO airspace while flying sorties to support the beleaguered Syrian government. Turkey’s prime minister warns Russian jets could be shot down if they trespass again. Battle-tested Russian “volunteers” may soon put boots on the ground alongside Syrian forces, according to a top Russian official. Is Washington ceding influence in the Middle East to Moscow? Or, is Russia repeating its Afghan mistake? It will likely take years to get to checkmate.

Time is Running Out to Defeat ISIS

Posted August 21st, 2015 at 1:07 pm (UTC-5)
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While the United States can’t fight the ideological battle directly, by using military and diplomatic means it can buy the time necessary for regional leaders to marshal a response and launch a more effective ideological counterattack. If this doesn’t occur, it is possible that the ideological damage inflicted by ISIS could become permanent

ISIL Cannot be Defeated Without Concerted Turkish Involvement

Posted July 29th, 2015 at 11:02 am (UTC-5)
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Despite facing this extraordinary array of power, ISIL manages to hang on, and in some cases even expand. And no one can say with any confidence when or how it will be defeated. How can that possibly be?

Turkey Grants Access for US Warplanes as Syrian War Escalates

Posted July 28th, 2015 at 5:53 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin After four years of trying to avoid major entanglement in Syria’s multisided civil war, the Obama administration is being pulled deeper into the fight to stem the advances of the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). Turkey’s decision at long last to allow the U.S. to fly armed drones and […]

Suspicions Surround Turkey’s Escalation Against Islamic State

Posted July 28th, 2015 at 3:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A day after reaching a deal with the United States to step up its military campaign against ISIS, Turkey pounded Kurdish and Islamic State targets. The move immediately prompted skepticism about Ankara’s true intention in signing the pact, which allows the US to use its bases in Turkey against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. Critics of Prime Minister Erdogan say it’s all a ruse to conduct raids on Kurdish separatists, who observers agree are critical to ousting IS militants in the region. Obama pushed hard to get Turkish involvement, but it remains to be seen if the new cooperation will bear fruit over the long-term.

Why Turkey Voted Against Authoritarianism

Posted June 11th, 2015 at 9:18 am (UTC-5)
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In a turnout of more than 86 percent, voters denied President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the majority he wanted to rewrite the constitution and give himself more executive authority. The result affirmed the stabilizing power of democracy and the wisdom of an informed electorate.