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Turkey’s deepening ties with China are worth paying attention to regardless of the academic reasoning used to justify them. But I thought Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s formulation was worth passing on. Referring to Francis Fukuyama’s famous “end of history” as a framework for understanding the end of the Cold War, Davutoglu instead referred to the Cold War and the colonial period that preceded it as historical anomalies, with Turkey’s foreign policy orientation now reflecting the ways in which history is undergoing a “normalization.” I’ve seen this same anomaly framework applied by French Gen. Vincent Desportes to Cold War approaches to […]

On Oct. 11, Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mir Kazemi announced a reassessment of the country’s oil reserves, increasing them by 9 percent to 150.31 billion barrels, from the previous official figure of 138 billion barrels. The announcement closely followed a similar move by Iraq, which had a week earlier raised its proven reserves by one-quarter — to 143 billion barrels — allowing Iraq to temporarily overtake Iran as the world’s third-largest oil-reserve holder. The back-to-back announcements do not signal the discovery of new oil in the Middle East, however. As Iranian and Iraqi subsoil resources have been extensively surveyed over […]

Efforts to save the newly revived peace process between Israelis and Palestinians have moved into a feverish phase with only days left before an Arab League summit that could declare the process dead. The negotiations, sponsored by the Obama administration, are on life support just weeks after their birth. Palestinian negotiators refused to continue talks with Israel unless the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to extend a moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, which expired on Sept. 26. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition strongly disliked the original 10-month freeze, and it would likely oppose another extension — […]

Last Friday, Wikileaks released a huge trove of documents on U.S. conduct of the war in Iraq. The release was conducted in collaboration with the New York Times, the Guardian, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, and Der Spiegel, and consisted mostly of U.S. military incident reports. Early reaction has concentrated much more on the substance of the material than on criticism of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. In part because of improvements in redaction policies, but also because negative revelations about the Iraq War are no longer as controversial as criticism of the ongoing Afghanistan conflict, attacks on Wikileaks have been more […]

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A number of rail link items have caught my attention recently, and I thought it worthwhile to pass them along. The first is this massive China-Turkey joint development of a Turkish high-speed rail project, with China financing the project to the tune of an estimated $30 billion. The second is this Burma project linking its deep-water port of Kyaukphyu to Kunming, the capital of China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. Then there’s this one, in Africa, linking South Sudan to Uganda. And finally, there’s this rundown of the current rail projects in Southeast Asia. We often talk about ties between two […]

U.S. and European efforts to stabilize Yemen and Somalia are boomeranging. Rather than weakening militants in both countries, Western counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies are fueling radicalism and turning wide swathes of the population against the West. With little real effort to economically and politically stabilize the two countries, U.S. military and security support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the embattled head of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, exacerbates local fault lines and strengthens deep-seated anti-Americanism. The backfiring of Western policies is compounded by a one-size-fits-all approach and a failure to address local grievances. To be […]

The news that Turkey and China had organized a joint military exercise at the huge Konya airbase in Turkey’s central Anatolian region last month came as a surprise to many. After all, just a year ago, when clashes between Uighur and Han Chinese broke out in China’s Xinjiang province in July 2009, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Chinese authorities of mishandling a situation that he compared to “genocide.” What explains such a dramatic improvement in relations between Turkey and China? And how should this military exercise be understood in the context of the current shifts taking place in […]

Are the Palestinians preparing their own version of the “Kosovo gambit” through a unilateral declaration of independence in the event that U.S.-sponsored peace talks falter? While the United States has insisted for years that the Kosovo case was sui generis — a unique situation that set no precedent for resolving frozen conflicts anywhere else in the world — the Palestinian leadership appears to be ignoring that memo. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, last week bluntly stated that it is time to “declare the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, […]

In June, Rolling Stone helped bring down Gen. Stanley McChrystal by publishing “The Runaway General,” a Michael Hastings article depicting McChrystal’s staff as contemptuous of civilian authority. Last month, Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” suggested that the uniformed military had boxed President Barack Obama into an escalation of the Afghanistan War. In tandem, the publications re-awakened concerns about the health of civil-military relations in the United States. Although the military has not directly challenged civilian authority, some observers worried that contempt in the ranks and the effort to control policy in Afghanistan could spell trouble for civilian supremacy. The Winter 2010 […]

On Oct. 20, Iraq will embark on the next phase of development of its hydrocarbon sector by auctioning rights to three natural gas fields to private investors. For Baghdad, the success of this bid round, the third in the last two years, will go some way toward determining its ability to address Iraqi citizens’ concerns over power shortages. For outsiders, including many in European capitals and Washington, the comprehensive development of the Iraqi gas sector offers hope that in the medium term, Iraqi gas could begin to compete directly with Russian gas in the European market. The fields on offer […]

TBILISI, Georgia — Turkey’s ongoing foreign-policy reorientation will not only reshape the contours of the surrounding region, but could also force the West and those hopeful of joining its orbit to consider how to position themselves in the resulting geopolitical landscape. Georgia, in particular, will be especially affected by Ankara’s emergence as a regional center of influence. In addition to proximity, Georgia shares longstanding historical ties and burgeoning trade with Turkey. Georgia’s precarious geopolitical relationship with Russia is also a significant factor driving Tbilisi’s calculations. Turkey’s rising tide has been a safe bet for Georgia so far, but future Turkish […]

While Western diplomats and sanctions-enforcers ply their trade to pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment, much of the Middle East is already preparing for war. Headlines might focus on United Nations resolutions initiated by Western powers, or on fiery speeches delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But just a few hundred miles from Tehran, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have launched a race to arm themselves with an urgency and intensity reminiscent of America’s defense build-up prior to its entry into World War II. The magnitude of the weapons purchases is nothing short of astounding and the […]

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn recently caused a stir in official Washington by publicly confirming that the Pentagon had suffered a massive computer breach in 2008. A foreign intelligence service successfully slipped an infected flash drive into a Central Command computer. The drive contained software that surreptitiously spread through both classified and unclassified government networks, establishing a “digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control.” According to Lynn, “it was a network administrator’s worst fear.” In addition to confirming the breach, Lynn previewed the Defense Department’s cyber strategy, expected to be finalized by the […]

The recent rocket attack on a convoy carrying British embassy staff in the Yemeni capital of San’a raises important questions about security and terrorism in that Gulf country. The United States is currently proposing to allocate $1.2 billion of military equipment and training over the next six years to combat al-Qaida in Yemen. In response, critics both within and beyond government circles are calling for a more holistic approach that focuses on long-term economic development and stability there and in the wider Middle East region. Presently lacking in this debate is the understanding that security and development are not mutually […]

The United States and Europe are pressuring oil-rich members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GGC) to forge closer ties with Yemen in a bid to link the fight against al-Qaida to tangible economic benefits for the Arab world’s poorest nation. U.S. officials say the Obama administration recently conveyed to GCC leaders Yemen’s reiteration of its 10-year-old request for GCC membership. The officials believe that U.S. and European endorsement of the request will prompt GCC leaders to respond more favorably when they meet in Abu Dhabi in December. The U.S. and Europe are exerting pressure against the backdrop of an increasing […]

An agreement reached between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr on Oct. 1 broke the logjam that had held up the formation of an Iraqi government since the March 7 parliamentary elections. Two Shiite Islamist parties boycotted the joint press conference Maliki and Sadr held to announce the deal, but both have emphasized that they remain part of the Shiite-dominated National Alliance (NA) of which Maliki is now formally the candidate for prime minister. Yet while the prospect of another Shiite-dominated government has raised concerns of renewed sectarian conflict, the arrival of senior Kurdish leaders for negotiations in […]

Relations between Iran and Egypt have been strained — if not outright hostile — since the Islamic revolution of 1979. In addition to ideological hostility entrenched by the Islamic revolution, Egypt is the traditional regional power and does not welcome Iranian interference in issues Cairo considers to be Arab concerns. The growth of Iranian proxies in Arab states has raised the stakes in a rivalry that began in 1979 as a war of words and propaganda, but has now become a reflection of the broader struggle for regional leadership. While both sides have made efforts to improve ties, recent developments […]

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