Tag: Turkey

Turkish media before the coup attempt

Last Wednesday, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup hosted a research briefing on media use in Turkey, from one of the last surveys conducted in Turkey before the state of emergency instated after the failed coup in July 2016. Chris Stewart, Partner at Gallup, introduced the speakers and noted the dynamism of the media market in Turkey with recent shifts that impact journalism in a huge way. The event featured Benjamin Ryan, Consulting Specialist at Gallup, who shared findings from the World Poll conducted in April 2016 through computer assisted telephone interviews, and William Bell, Director of Research at Voice of America, who presented the findings from BBG’s research in 2016.

Ryan said that Turkey’s survey results on confidence in political institutions resemble those of the US more closely than those of Turkey’s regional neighbors. Confidence in the military is consistently high, and approval of police forces is higher than before. Because this survey predates the attempted coup this summer, it will be interesting to see how that event will impact public opinion in the future. Attitudes on Turkey’s economic outlook showed steady improvement since 2006, particularly among young Turks. Ryan remarked that the steady confidence in political institutions is in line with Erdoğan’s own approval and might indicate his centrality as a leader. Not all of the findings were positive, as trust in the judicial system is notably lower than other institutions, about on par with US ratings.

Despite Freedom House reports indicating a decline in freedom of the press, 38% of those surveyed expressed confidence in media freedom; opinion varied along education, region, and age. Well-educated Turks, as well as those in peripheral regions–particularly the South East–tend to be more critical. Ryan remarked that countries with low press suppression have a positive correlation with public opinion of the media, yet those who had high ratings of suppression, such as Turkey, had no correlation.

Bell explained that on the surface Turkey is among the most diverse media markets, with a large number of media outlets and no clear dominant news source. People have access to foreign media sources and take advantage of them. However, recent political events engendered internet censorship and an overall reduction in media freedom. Many people express dissatisfaction with Turkish news sources. Internet is the most used platform for young people in Turkey, but Bell pointed out that younger population did not deem staying current with the news as important as their older countrymen.

Bell went on to explicate the process BBG uses to assess perceptions of the US abroad, where survey participants rate the importance of several attributes for an ideal state, then assess the United States using the same metric. The characteristics tested, created in collaboration with the US State Department, include quality of education, protection of human rights, peaceful relations among ethnic groups, business opportunities, disaster aid and relief, functioning democracy, and internal crime prevention. The US scored high in education and business opportunities. Over all, Bell showed that Turkey sees the US as better than other Arab countries, and the results show that young Turks are more likely to consider the US in a positive light.

Tags :

Shortest route to Balkans peace

Filip Raunic of Croatia’s Telegram asked some questions about Bosnia and Herzgovina. I replied: 
Q: Republika Srpska celebrated its National Day, despite the fact that Constitution Court marked it as unconstitutional. The President of Republika Srpska said a few days ago that Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) should disintegrate. How do you see his actions and his role in BiH?

A: It has been clear for a long time that Dodik opposes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is the core of the Dayton agreements. Respecting court decisions, even if you disagree with them, is vital to rule of law and democratic governance, not only in BiH but also here in the US.

Q: If Republika Srpska really decides to call a referendum on independence, do you see the possibility of the reaction from Federation and potentially a new military clash?

A: I don’t think you can expect those who support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes most people who live in the country as well as the international community, not to react in some fashion to a referendum on independence. But such referenda often are not fulfilled, since sovereignty requires recognition by other sovereign states. I would expect an RS that declares independence to end up in limbo, with minimal recognition, no serious foreign support, and little ability to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of its people for security and prosperity.

Q: Do you see some similarity in  the situation and behavior of the political elites in Bosnia in the 90’s and today?

A: Yes, I do. But the circumstances are different. Serbia is no longer willing to risk its own prosperity for irredentist political aims, many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are far better off than they were at the end of the war, Europe’s and NATO’s doors are in principle open to BiH, and its population expects more transparent and accountable governance. The nationalist fervor is far less murderous, but no less dangerous.

Q: Former English diplomat Timothy Less wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs in which he suggest disintegration of Bosnia – Republika Srpska would unite with Serbia and parts of Hercegovina with Croatia. What do you think about this idea?

A: It is just as bad an idea as it was in the 1990s. It would result in the formation of a non-viable rump Islamic Republic in central Bosnia and Herzegovina heavily dependent on Islamist funding from Iran, Saudi Arabia or somewhere else. Why would Croatia or Serbia want such a neighbor on their borders?

Q: You mediated between Croats and Muslims in the 90s and brokered the first agreement of the Dayton peace talks. How do you now look on these days and Dayton agreement. Was Dayton a good framework for Bosnia, and is it still good?

A: It was good enough to end the war, but not good enough to make real peace. It now needs updating, but how and what to do is now up to the citizens of BiH, not the internationals.

Q: Do you think that BiH should enter EU as quickly as possible?

A: I think BiH should qualify to enter the EU as quickly as possible.

Q: If Brussels will hesitate with BiH membership, is there a possibility and danger that Russia and Turkey will gain more influence in Bosnia and would it mean instability for the country?

A: Yes. Russia is already interfering in BiH in ways that are destabilizing. Moscow’s aim seems to be pernicious: to create as much trouble as possible at the least cost.

I don’t see Turkey’s influence in the same light, but it certainly increases the weight of Islamist politics and makes it harder to reach mutual accommodations among Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks.

Q: Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović recently said that Bosnia is becoming more radicalized in terms of more rigid interpretation of the values of Islam. Do you see Islamic radicalization? Is there a possibility of it if the situation in Bosnia remains tense?

A: I might not see things quite the same way President Grabar Kitarović sees them, but there is certainly a possibility of radicalization if Bosnia and Herzegovina is unable to succeed in satisfying its population’s aspirations. Tension produces polarization and exclusion, which are ingredients that will radicalize at least a few people.

Q: What could we expect from Trump administration for Bosnia and this region?

A: I don’t know what to expect. The new administration has said precious little about the Balkans and nothing to my knowledge about Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are not high on the priority list these days in Washington. The only clear statement I’ve seen is from Secretary of Defense Mattis, who supports the formation of the Kosovo Security Force.

Q: If you would advise Mr. Trump on Bosnia, what would you tell him to do?

A: I’d say a lot has changed for the better in the Balkans since the early 1990s. The United States should commit itself wholeheartedly to finishing the process by helping all the remaining countries to qualify for EU, and if they want it, NATO membership. I’d say that is the shortest and least troublesome route to lasting peace and stability.

Tags : , , , , ,

Peace picks February 6-12

1. Missing OPEC? The Unwelcome Return Of Boom-Bust Oil Prices | Monday Feb 6 | 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm | Johns Hopkins SAIS – Rome Building | Register Here

Bob McNally will discuss his new book, Crude Volatility – The History and Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices. World oil prices have fallen drastically over the last two years, spurred partly by the rise of tight oil production in the US, and by OPEC’s failure to cut production.

Recently, in an effort to raise oil prices, OPEC is attempting to regroup and has agreed to lower its production. Will it succeed? This is one of the questions to be discussed at this energy forum which will also review the history of oil prices. Kevin Book, Managing Director at Clearview Energy Partners will serve as the commentator.

2. Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy | Tuesday February 7, 2017 | 10-11:30 AM | Atlantic Council | Register Here

Please join the Atlantic Council for a discussion on the technical and political challenges ahead for rebuilding Syria with country and development experts on February 7, 2017.

3. Media Consumption in Turkey | Wednesday, February 8, 2107 | 9-10 AM | Gallup World Headquarters | Register Here
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup invite you to attend a research briefing on media use in Turkey.

Despite the crackdown on opposition media over the past few years, most adults in Turkey (71.8%) say they are at least somewhat satisfied with the information provided by the country’s media. However, far fewer are very satisfied with media coverage in the country.

The widespread adoption of broadband connections and smartphones in Turkey has made the internet a major source of news for many residents. About two-thirds of adults (65.0%) currently say they go online for news at least weekly in Turkey, up from half (49.7%) in 2013. Among Kurdish speakers in Turkey, the rise has been even sharper, from 49.8% in 2013 to 70.8% in the current study. In conjunction with the growing use of online news, weekly audiences for TV and radio news have tapered slightly.

The speakers will share data on media trends in the country, and review attitudinal data from the Gallup World Poll. Speakers include Chris Stewart, Partner, Gallup, Ben Ryan, Research Consultant, Gallup, and William Bell, Research Director, Voice of America.

4. From Aleppo to Washington: Crisis in Syria | Thursday February 9, 2017 | 6-8 PM | AMIDEAST | Register Here

Join the Penn State School of International Affairs and AMIDEAST on Thursday, February 9, for a panel discussion on the conflict in Syria and what it means for the Syrian people, American foreign policy in the Trump administration, and the international community at large. “From Aleppo to Washington: Crisis in Syria,” features a panel of distinguished foreign policy experts and practitioners, all of whom are connected with the School of International Affairs

The speakers include Vice Admiral (Ret.) James W. Houck, retired judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy, Theodore Kattouf, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Flynt Leverett, professor of international affairs at Penn State, former Middle East analyst at the CIA, Rachel Sayre, senior disaster specialist for Iraq and Syria at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Scott Sigmund Gartner (moderator), director of the Penn State School of International Affairs.

5. NAFTA 2.0? | Thursday February 9, 2017 | 9-10:30 AM | Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center | Register Here

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, was signed by U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Mexican President Carlos Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1992. By 1993, the agreement was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries, and by December 8, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the agreement into law. NAFTA entered into force on January 1, 1994.    By 2014, the agreement reached it’s 20th year anniversary, acknowledged by the “Three Amigos Summit” in February of that same year. After the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign season, NAFTA once again was brought to the forefront of the political and economic discussions.   Please join WITA as we look at the future of trade in North American, and what  revisiting the 22-year old agreement might look like.

6. The Transatlantic Policy Symposium (TAPS) | Thursday February 9, 2017 | 10 AM- 8:30 PM | Georgetown University’s Copley Formal Lounge | Register Here

Georgetown University is hosting the Transatlantic Policy Symposium (TAPS) this Thursday February 9, 2017. The transatlantic relationship has flourished in the post-war era, becoming a cornerstone of both American and European foreign policy. In light of contemporary challenges, including issues of global security, humanitarian assistance and the re-emergence of populism in both Europe and the United States, it is imperative to evaluate the current state of the transatlantic relationship as well as speculate on its future.

Join the expert and graduate student panelists as they discuss and explore these issues in relation to the future of the transatlantic relationship.

Tags : ,

Still damaging

President Trump’s Executive Order affects a minor portion of international travelers, and is a first step towards reestablishing control over America’s borders and national security.

This in essence is the administration’s defense of the President’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from the US. It completely misses the point.

First: the US already has control over its borders. Vetting of refugees is intense. Vetting of people who get visas and green cards is as well. I suppose there are ways of tightening things up, but it could have been done without presidential executive orders and worldwide publicity inimical to US interests. I know of no evidence that immigrants or refugees pose a serious national security threat.

Just as important: the executive order’s main impact is on people with no intention of traveling to the US, first and foremost the world’s rapidly growing population of 1.6 or more billion Muslims, including 3.3 million who already reside in the US. They will view the order as unjustified and prejudicial, causing at least some to be disillusioned, alienated, hostile, and even radicalized. It will help ISIS and Al Qaeda recruit and inspire retaliation. If I understand correctly, Iran and Iraq have already responded by blocking the entry of Americans.

The ban is in fact part of a long history of barring immigration: by Chinese, Jews, anarchists, Communists, Iranians, and HIV positive people. In almost all these cases, the bans have proven useless, regrettable, unconstitutional, or immoral.

The current ban is likely all of the above. Immigrants from the countries in question (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) have conducted no terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11, though Somalis born in the US have been accused of plotting them. The odds of the ban blocking someone plotting such an attack are essentially zero. They might be higher if people coming from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other allied countries (not to mention Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tunisia) were barred, but Trump won’t block them for fear of the reaction.

The administration already appears to be regretting that the ban blocked Iraqis who had supported the US military. The President’s indication that Christians will be given priority in the future is clearly unconstitutional, but of course any court decision on that question might be years in the future. Singling out Christians will, as Michael Hanna suggested this morning in a tweet, put them at heightened risk throughout the Middle East, where some Muslims will regard the favoritism as aligning Christians politically and militarily with the US. “Do no harm” is the moral imperative most of us like to see applied in international relations. Or at least do more good than harm. The administration ignores that dictum at its peril.

The courts last night blocked application of the ban to people who have already arrived at US airports. But it remains in effect for 90 days for those who have not yet reached US shores. Airlines are blocking people with passports from the countries in question from boarding, even if they have valid visas or green cards.

In other words: the demonstrations last night at airports were great, but Trump continues to cause real harm to American interests and ideals throughout the Muslim world. Our European allies recognize this and are protesting, sometimes loudly. But it is up to Americans to get Trump to reverse his foolish and counter-productive decisions.

PS: Fareed Zakaria says it well:

Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trump’s choices on Turkey and Syria

The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) hosted three panels last Thursday on Turkey and the Middle East under the Trump Administration. The panels discussed the future of US/Turkish relations as well as Turkish involvement in the Syria conflicts.

The first panel, “Syria and Iraq’s impact on US/Turkey Relations,” was moderated by Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu of the SETA Foundation and featured Hasan Basri Yalcin, director of the Strategy Program at the SETA Foundation, Sasha Gosh-Siminoff, President and Co-Founder of People Demand Change, and Luke Coffey, Director of the Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

Yalcin said the bilateral relationship between the US and Turkey under the Obama administration  proved disappointing for both parties, leaving Turkey no choice but to align with Russia. He remained optimistic for the Trump administration and identified three policies tracks it might pursue: 1) interventionist, 2) non-interventionist policy, or 3)  simply a continuation of the Obama policy. The best policy for more balanced US/Turkish relations would be an interventionist approach. Increased support would swing Turkey back to the US and away from Russia and Iran.

Gosh-Siminoff noted that US and Turkish interests align in their desire for stabilization in Syria, but the war on ISIS complicates US involvement. The Trump administration faces a multifaceted challenge: they must balance the needs of traditional allies with the needs of the Syrian people and the terrorist threat.

Coffey sees a need for a greater understanding of the ground troops America supports and arms in the Syrian conflict. He expressed doubt that Americans would support Kurdish fighters if they knew more about their Marxist ideology and ties to the PKK terrorist group; he criticized legislative laziness in differentiating among Kurdish groups. Coffey stated that there are not enough moderates on the ground in Syria to enact change, a statement Gosh-Siminoff contested, arguing that greater support for civil society is essential to deterring extremist ideology and the threat of terrorism long-term. He claimed that Syria’s history as pluralist and moderate society means the country will likely return to that path, if we can provide the environment for this to happen.

The second panel, “The Trump Administration and Middle East Policy,” was moderated by Kadir Ustun, Executive Director at the SETA Foundation, and featured Kilic Kanat, Research Director at the SETA Foundation, Nicholas Heras, Fellow at the Center for New American Security, and Hassan Hassan, Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

Kanat identified external influences, such as the upcoming European elections, that will impact Trump’s policy in the Middle East. The new administration will likely be focused primarily on Iran, and it will be difficult to balance regional policies with the nuclear deal. The US will need to reassure traditional allies and assuage growing dissatisfaction with the US in Turkish public opinion.

Heras said National Security Adviser Flynn wants to follow a Balkans model in Syria, dividing it into zones with the cooperation of local forces, then focusing on securing borders and improving governance to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity. The challenge for the Trump team will be convincing other Arab states to contribute to the effort while they are busy in Yemen. Hassan echoed the idea of dividing Syria into zones, but warned that if we  focus attention on one area, ISIS will pop up in another. The administration needs a plan, not for an occupation but rather to help communities upgrade themselves.

The final panel, “Turkey’s Fight Against ISIS,” shifted the focus to Turkey’s role in regional politics. The panel was moderated by Kanat and featured Ufuk Ulutas, author of the recently released State of Savagery, Murat Yesiltas, Director of the Security Policy Program at the SETA Foundation, and Bassam Barabandi, a political adviser at the Syrian High Negotiation Committee.

Ulutas sees ISIS as a proto-state: it maintains a sophisticated and professional army and intelligence network while providing public services. Its emphasis on ex-communicating rivals and establishing a caliphate make it different from other Salafi jihadists like al-Qaeda. ISIS has diverted the attention of the international community towards themselves, exacerbating chaos in the region and giving it an opportunity to fill the vacuum. Yesiltas followed this with an overview of Turkish efforts to defeat ISIS, including ways ISIS has targeted Turkey in retaliation and poses threats to Turkey’s borders and stability. Barabandi added that if the US and the Turks do not depend on local forces they will be unable to defeat ISIS. They need Sunni Arabs for a real solution. The more they recruit and empower the Arabs, the better and more lasting the solution will be.

Tags : , ,

Next US steps in Syria

Knowledgeable people gathered last Thursday under Chatham House rules to discuss shifting US objectives in Syria and how the new administration might pursue its ends. The explicit intent of American involvement in the conflict, most thought, should be population protection, because the greatest threat to US interests and security stems from violence against civilians and the resulting population displacement. The most likely outcome for post-conflict Syria is a fragmented and weakened state. The issue would then become how the United States could influence and stabilize the various regions.
The current Russian ceasefire is likely to prove little more than a strategic reset; a true end to the violence will not be realized. There are various strategies the United States might undertake to stop the bloodshed, including reducing the regime’s capacity for aerial bombardment and incentivizing a cessation of violence.  It should be made clear that these moves aim to exact a cost on those who thwart US funded humanitarian efforts or directly harm civilians, rather than to engender regime change.

The United States needs to work with partners outside of the regime to establish a lasting ceasefire and dismantle terrorist control. It is particularly important to secure the borders of Syria, an effort in which both Turkish and Kurdish fighters need to be involved. The hostility between them derails peace efforts. One commentator called for senior US leaders to demand a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds as a necessary benchmark before any meaningful objectives or lines are drawn. Some participants demonstrated concern for the potential success of this strategy given a growing desire within the Pentagon to leave areas in the east under Assad’s control, and America’s general reluctance to get involved.

The conversation made it clear that the security of post-conflict Syria as a federal system of statelets depends on the “de-marbleization” of opposition groups. Separation of the groups would lead to their turning against Al-Qaeda and subsequently the stabilization of the country. International support today is not sufficient to achieve this. In addition the moderates must be linked to civil society to lead and maintain the separation. Though one speaker was averse to the moderate label, remarking that “moderates never win,” he described a need for a genuine Syrian nationalist movement. There is a lot of  local discontent with extremist control. It is urgent to consolidate and support this resentment before it is supplanted with anti-Western rhetoric. The US government must determine which areas to support, and whether or not it is willing to trade off regions of control.

The United States is not alone. Turkey has actively worked to demarbleize opposition groups, and the upcoming peace talks in Astana are an example of its efforts. The Turkish government has reached out to local civil society and non-militant groups to attend these talks in addition to opposition political leaders, though no one expressed confidence in the potential of success of these efforts.

Turkey’s intentions are questionable. The growing power of Erdogan and his willingness to make territorial concessions to the Assad regime are worrisome to US interests and values. Successful implementation of US strategy in Syria requires long term commitment as well as clear limits on the expenditure of US blood and treasure. While the US must wholeheartedly commit to the effort, it cannot do so alone, nor can it dictate the outcome.

Tags : , , , , , ,