Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

15
Oct

ankara

Saturday’s bombing of a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, shows the horrific extent to which Turkey’s politics and Syria’s war are merging. The rally had been organized by leftist activists to call for peace between the Turkish government and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which for years has been agitating for greater independence for Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said that the Islamic State is the top suspect.

If the Islamic State is indeed responsible, they will have targeted the rally in order to exacerbate the already violent conflict between the Kurds and the state. The bombing could easily have just that effect, coming at a time when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s authoritarian leader, has been critically weakened by protests and corruption accusations, and is turning to nationalism to maintain his grip on power.

The Islamic State has already used this strategy of playing on division in the region to great success — exploiting existing fault lines to generate conflicts that empower radicals and disenfranchise moderates. Attacking minorities who are already distrusted by the majority draws the minority further into conflict, and can spark a majoritarian crackdown. This dynamic has been playing out in Iraq, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, and now it has come to Turkey: the bombers are exploiting and deepening the division between Turks and Kurds in the same way that terrorists have exploited Sunni-Shia divisions in other parts of the Middle East.

The immediate roots of this moment lie in September 2014, when Islamic State forces laid siege to the Kurdish town of Kobani, just across the Turkish border in Syria. As the Islamic State pounded the city, it became an international symbol of dogged Kurdish resistance. Meanwhile, Turkey’s tanks and artillery lay silent just across the border, even as hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the area and Turkish citizens gathered on the hills to watch the carnage.

The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — which is largely Kurdish but has increasingly been seeking support from disaffected Turks — accused the Turkish government of allowing the Islamic State to crush Kobani in order to eliminate the Kurdish militias fighting there. Under grassroots pressure to respond to the government’s refusal to intervene, Kurdish politicians called for demonstrations, and more than 30 people died in riots across Turkey’s southeast. Read more…

Published on Oct. 12 by Nate Shttp://foreignpolicy.com

14
Oct

FOR four years, American policy toward Syria has been built on a wish and a prayer: a wish that President Bashar al-Assad would leave and a prayer that the “moderate” Syrian opposition would be more than it is. Now Russia has stepped up its game, and the response from the American government and many commentators seems to be to wish harder and pray more, while condemning Russia for intruding where it supposedly doesn’t belong.

As much as many Americans and Europeans may abhor what President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did in Crimea and Ukraine, Moscow’s intervention in Syria may offer the first glimmer of hope for ending the quagmire there. Mr. Putin is right that only stable governance and security will allow Syrian refugees to return home.

Rather than pursue decisive victory, America must seek to end this war with a less dramatic, less satisfying settlement.

The United States should have two goals in Syria. First, bring order to those parts of the country that the Islamic State does not control. Second, strive to build a coalition of forces that can contain the Islamic State and eventually replace it. Russia’s “intrusion” could offer a chance to achieve both.

This means setting aside American prejudices and heated political rhetoric. Russia isn’t an intruder in Syria; it has been involved there for decades, just as America has been involved throughout the Middle East for more than 60 years. Mr. Assad is Russia’s protégé, and Syria is an operations base for the Russian military. The United States has its own, significantly larger set of friends and operating facilities in the region.

At present, both powers have an interest in regional stability. Violent jihadist movements pose more of a threat to Russia than to America; many Russians have already died at the hands of terrorists, and thousands of Russian-based jihadists have flocked to the Islamic State with the intent to return home eventually. Read more…

Published in nytimes.com on 13 October, 2015

Gordon Adams is a professor emeritus of international relations at American University. Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard.

9
Oct

AFTER more than five years of negotiations, representatives from 12 countries in Asia and the Americas finally struck a deal today on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious and contentious free-trade pact. It is the biggest and deepest multilateral trade deal in years, encompassing countries that account for 40% of the world’s economy. But it might prove even more important than that if it succeeds in its ambition to “define the rules of the road” for trade in Asia, as Michael Froman, America’s lead negotiator, put it.

Mr Froman’s office estimates that TPP will see more than 18,000 tariffs on American products reduced to zero. But tariffs, which have already been greatly reduced among TPP’s members, are not the most touted bit of the treaty. More important are the minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property, workers and the environment. All parties will be compelled to follow the International Labour Organisation’s basic principles on workers’ rights, for example. By the same token, countries that do not live up to the deal’s environmental rules can be pursued through the same dispute-settlement mechanism that will be used to adjudicate commercial grievances. There are even rules barring countries from favouring state-owned enterprises—a big step for the likes of Malaysia and Vietnam. Read more…

Published in The Economist on 5 Oct. http://www.economist.com

6
Oct

A child selling charcoal in Kabezi, Burundi (photo from 24 June 2015)

The World Bank has said that for the first time less than 10% of the world’s population will be living in extreme poverty by the end of 2015.

The bank said it was using a new income figure of $1.90 per day to define extreme poverty, up from $1.25.

It forecasts the proportion of the world’s population in this category to fall from 12.8% in 2012 to 9.6%.

However, it said the “growing concentration of global poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is of great concern”.

Although the share of people in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to fall from 42.6% in 2012 to 35.2% by the end of 2015, this will still represent around half of the world’s poor.

“We are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.

The bank says the downward trend was due to strong growth rates in developing countries and investments in education, health, and social safety nets.

But Mr Kim warned that continuing the progress would be “extraordinarily hard, especially in a period of slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment, and the growing impact of climate change”.

And the bank warned that poverty is “becoming deeper and more entrenched in countries that are either conflict ridden or overly dependent on commodity exports”.

 

Published in bbc.com on Oct. 5th, 2015; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-34440567

5
Oct

 

Could We Have Stopped This Tragedy?

Unlike neoconservatives, who never admit error no matter how often they are wrong, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about whether my diagnoses of key world events have been off the mark. (For examples of this sort of “self-criticism,” see here, here, and here.) I’ll stand by the vast majority of what I’ve written in my scholarly work and my FP commentary, but I find it useful — indeed, necessary — to occasionally ponder whether I got something wrong and, if so, to try to figure out why.

Case in point: the increasingly awful situation in Syria. Ever since the initial protests broke out, I’ve believed this conflict was not of vital strategic interest to the United States and that overt U.S. intervention was likely to cause more harm than good. What has emerged since then is a relentless and gut-wrenching tragedy, but I’ve uncomfortably concluded that my original judgment was correct. And yet I continue to wonder.

To be sure, the Obama administration has not handled Syria well at all.

President Barack Obama erred when he jumped the gun in 2011 and insisted “Assad must go,” locking the United States into a maximalist position and foreclosing potential diplomatic solutions that might have saved thousands of lives. Second, Obama’s 2012 off-the-cuff remark about chemical weapons and “red lines” was a self-inflicted wound that didn’t help the situation and gave opponents a sound bite to use against him. The president wisely backed away from that position, however, and (with Russian help) eventually devised an arrangement that got rid of Assad’s chemical arsenal. This was no small achievement in itself, but the whole episode did not exactly inspire confidence. The administration eventually agreed to start a training program for anti-Assad forces, but did so with neither enthusiasm nor competence. Read more…

 

Published in foreignpolicy.com by Stephen Walt on Sept. 21, 2015

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