March 28, 2012 § 5 Comments
This is a good example of where trying to make everybody happy is going to leave nobody happy. Erdoğan is in Iran today for meetings with Ahmadinejad and other Iranian government officials on the Iranian nuclear program and what to do about Syria. To begin with, the optics of this are just silly given that any knowledgeable Iran observer insists that the nuclear program and any real decisions pertaining to it are controlled by Khamenei and not by Ahmadinejad, so these meetings are likely a waste of Erdoğan’s time. More importantly, Erdoğan arrived in Tehran straight from South Korea, where he attended President Obama’s conference on nuclear security. It is possible that he is conveying a message from Obama to the Iranians, but if not it can’t be terribly reassuring to the U.S. that Erdoğan is running straight to Iran to brief them on whatever went on behind closed doors in Seoul. On the Syria issue, it also appears to be bad timing with the Friends of Syria conference beginning on Sunday in Istanbul in light of Iran’s support and bankrolling of Assad. I don’t think that anyone is under any illusions as to whether Iran is going to dump Assad over the side of the boat, and I guarantee you that Erdoğan and Ahmadinejad are not discussing the best way to set up a buffer zone, so why have these meetings now? I am all for diplomacy and think it will have a big place in resolving the Iran nuclear issue, but the timing of this feels very off to me. Why not wait until after the Friends of Syria conference, which might provide some more impetus to exert pressure on Iran? I understand that Turkey feels a vital need to maintain good relations with almost every state in the region, and it is part of what makes Turkey a valuable U.S. ally, but this is one time where trying to get everyone to like you is not going to yield any tangible benefits.
March 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This report is interesting, as it opens up a possibility that would have been entirely unlikely months ago. If Turkey actually goes through with establishing a buffer zone inside Syria, it will be welcomed by those who are advocating intervention as it will move Turkey away from rhetorical support of the Syrian opposition and refugee assistance to active military action against the Assad government. I would be a bit surprised if it happens though, as it will make it easier for PKK fighters to slip through the cracks since there will be a larger border area to cover, and recent Turkish airstrikes and cross-border raids into northern Iraq indicate that Turkey’s willingness to risk a larger PKK presence inside its borders is slim.
March 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
There is enough evidence in here of the epic cluelessness of Bashar and Asma al-Assad to keep you slack-jawed for the rest of the day, but of all the fantastic nuggets in this Guardian article about jewelry, candlesticks, and Blake Shelton songs on iTunes, the best has to be the fact that Asma tried to get out of paying VAT on items shipped to her in Syria and that she exhorted her London-based aide to act quickly in buying a vase from Harrod’s before the sale ended. And oh yeah, apparently Bashar is just like the rest of us in that he wastes his afternoons watching online clips from TV shows such as America’s Got Talent. At least thanks to the Pravda-style February 2011 Vogue profile of Asma, we know that the Assads do their web-surfing and online purchasing on a Mac, so at least their taste in computers is sound.