Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Jordanian visit at NATO Headquarters

The relationships between NATO and the Middle Eastern countries are part of the old history of the organization and an episode still to be written from the history of the Cold War. Through decades, the Alliance developed from a military arm of Western democracy, to an organization ready to intervene where the democracy was in danger, regardless of the geographical localization. There is a lot to be discussed about how difficult is sometimes to take decisions and to move forward from the idea of democratic support to the bureaucratic limitations, but it is relatively clear that as long as there are minimal democratic standards accomplished, any Middle Eastern country is welcomed to join the efforts of the Alliance. It will be another question to ask how many countries from the region will qualify, but this is not the kind of post I am willing to write now. 

My focus is rather on a news I've read a couple of days ago, regarding the visit of the Jordanian MFA, Nasser Jude, at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels. No photo opportunities and declarations after, but most probably the main point on the agenda was the serious situation in Syria. The relations between NATO and Jordan are very diverse, and the bilateral visits are a regular encounter. As one of the last 'normal' countries with an open door to Damascus left in the area, Jordan can offer an accurate view on the latest evolutions in Syria, as well as a good feedback for who's who and the latest evolutions. Most probably, they have as well reliable connections in Moscow too. The ingredients of a perfect partnership. 

Save Mali

The problems of Islamist extremism are not new, but we, in the West, we ignore to understand it, as we include them in the very generous category of 'nothing new under the fighting sun of Africa'. However, as in the case of the insidous expansion of the terrorist network in many Western cities, the presence of Al Qaida's affiliates in Africa is a new danger against normality.

Especially in those countries lacking a proper democratic prospect, Al Qaida terrorism, in strong collaboration with the networks of drug traffickers and money laundering, can easily win the war. And the success will mean the increase of underdevelopment of the African continent.

The latest serious example in this direction is the case of Mali, where the terrorists are taking the advantage of permeating borders with Libya and relative poverty of the population. Those reunited in the Jihad in Western Africa, Ansar Dine or the Movement for Unity are trying to get more jihadist support and expand their territory. At the end of November, they got the control of a couple of towns and little villages, and increased their activities of kidnapping foreigners and threatening Western businesses. The requests for 'Touareg independence' are another name for the setting up of jihad-driven cities, where there is no respect for humanity, women and historic heritage. 

There are not too many chances of a military intervention in the near future, even though France - whose citizens are often kidnapped in Mali - is interested in finding a proper solution to the current crisis, that started in March. 

Quo vadis, South Africa?

For my Western mind, South Africa is a place where you can enjoy significantly more safety than in most of the African countries, with a relatively high economic level. I know quite successful people working and living there, despite some serious worries regarding some risks for the foreigners, especially at the outskirts of big towns. 

Most probably, I am too much influenced by the colorful presentations from the tourist booklets, otherwise how can I read the latest declarations of the current president Jacob Zuma, reelected in the second half of December as president of the African National Congress.

He is considering himself an inspirational leader and outlines often his pride of having many wives - whose expenses are paid by the state - and concubines; he warns his people that they should not follow the illusions of the Western cultures, even though he will not refuse the pleasure of a nice looking expensive suit; he called for a 'national cleansing ceremony, lead by archibishop emeritus Demond Tutu' - whose anti-semitic stances aren't a secret -, as a way to restore the 'South African moral compass' following the increase of the number of crisis and the miners conflicts. Last but not least, he warned his fellows South Africans, to give up this 'white' custom of walking their dog, and warned, during his first public speech after the reelection, in his Zulu area that: 'Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair, you will never be white'. Just to confirm that ridiculosity does not have any limit, officials of the government tried to bring some 'light' into the declarations regarding dog ownership.

Jokes put aside, there are some worrying signs into the South African politics, that continue to be divided and unclear, at the end of the apartheid regime. As in some unhappy Latin American cases, the full independence was not followed by a full ownership of real politics and the corruption and doubtful leadership hijacked the society. Racism and dangerous extremism are the recipes for short time political success and long time destruction of the basis of the societies. In those parts of the world, the leaders are talking often about 'decolonisation' but they fail to offer any alternative focused on the future instead of deepening the scars of the past. 

Most probably, a new and young leadership in South Africa, whose representaitves were preferably born after the 70s, would bring a dramatic change of perspective: less show more politics.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Geopolitics of Shale

The Geopolitics of Shale, an interesting Stratfor analysis, outlining the importance of considering the natural resources as part of any foreign affairs evaluations.

The best of Foreign Affairs

It is the time of evaluations and looking back at what 2012 meant in terms of foreign affairs. I will continue with a couple of reviews and my own evaluations, but for the moment, I will present the choice of Foreign Affairs, outlining the most challenging articles in the last 12 months. My choice is Why Iran should Get the Bomb, an article that was not probably enough discussed.

From the web collection, my favorite is Game of Thrones as Theory, for the potential of using online game theories for foreign affairs. 

As from the best collection of books on foreign affairs, on my priority list I introduced: Cuban Economic and Social Development, A single roll on the dice, on the US diplomacy in Iran, Worlds of Dissent dealing with the policies during the Cold war and Embers of War, about America far and beyond the Vietnam War. 

"...we would miss the typical British sense of humour"

There were a couple of information and declarations lately regarding the possibility of an EU withdrawal from the Union. Almost 40 years after the UK was received in the EU, the president of the European Council tries to explain why the British monarchy should continue being part of the Union.

Most probably, we will not see soon an EU without the UK, but on the other hand, the EU as such should be changed and this may be one of the biggest challenges of 2013 for Europe.

A bad year for journalism

2012 was not a good year for journalism and the supporters of the media freedom and netizens.

Looking in depth at the latest RsF report, it looks as the situation worsened in many respects in comparison with the previous years. According to the declarations of the organizations' officials, it looks as the worst year since 1995.

In comparison with the previous year, 88 journalists were killed, an increased of 33%. 879 were arrested (1044 the previous year), 38 kidnapped (compared with 71 one year before), 73 were forced to flee abroad (77 in 2011). The apparition of netizens meant also a high price in terms of victims: 47 of them were killed this year, especially in Syria and North of Africa.

The most dangerous countries to write are: Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, Mexico and Brazil. Using the power of work here could be often faced by the power of guns. The five biggest prisons for journalists are located in Turkey, China, Eritrea, Iran and Syria.

What's next? The journalists will continue to write while the oppressive governments will continue to do their oppressive jobs as long as there will be not enough international pressures to make them stop. This is the never ending story of human evolution, isn't it?

The latest news about the freedom of the media is the hard time of journalists in Italy, where the representatives of a newspaper in Northern Italy were threatened, an occasion for OSCE to urges investigations into threat.

OSCE also asked the Turkish authorities to take the necessary steps in order to curb the permanent threats against the journalists. In a country close to Turkey, not only geographically, in Azerbaidjan, two journalists and a blogger were released one day ago

Monday, December 17, 2012

On Maps and foreign affairs

When you try to explain in writing complicate international and national stories, words are never enough. Especially when you must explain the history of thousand of years. Thanks to the modern technologies, you can better organize your words in a visual and very suggestive way.

The maps are one of the most useful tool even though you can start more than one war if your map is not as accurate as it is expected by one or the other part involved in the conflict.

Visual graphics, and slides are also improtant for explaining in a couple of key words what it is an issue about. You can show the connections between historical periods, the reccurence of certain topics, the connection between different personalities and even different level of family closeness. 

The literary souls will complain that in the era of Internet, everything is oversimplified and is lacking the proper wording. The simple soul of a journalist will suggest that, at least when it comes to foreign affairs, you rather use the right word instead of too many words. Otherwise, you need histories of histories to find the right solution to neverending conflicts. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who's who in the Syrian opposition

Soon, there will be two years since Syria entered the gallery of killing fields in the Middle East. With at least 40,000 victims and the spectre of the chemical war, it was about time for the West to encourage further progress and to get ready for an eventual power take-off. 

A couple of days ago, before the forth meeting of the 'Friends of the Syrian People' (sounds very Cold War style, but I prefer to refrain my comments on that), that took place in Marrakesch, Morocco, under the high patronage of the King. This forum was an idea of the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy - who made a difference as well in the approach of the Libyan crisis. In 2012, the group met three times besides Morocco, in Tunis (February), Istanbul (April), Paris (July). Over 130 countries and NGOs are part of this informal body.

Weeks after the EU support, the US granted his recognition to the Syrian National Coalition, led by sheikh Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib. Geologist by profession, he has a Sunni background. He is the son of the sheikh Mohammed Abu al-Faraj al-Khatib, a preacher and Moaz himself used to be imam at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Even though he is considered 'moderate', his discourses do have anti-Western and anti-Semitic turns. Al-Khatib was imprisoned several times for his political options and started to operate underground from the time of Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current Syrian president. He fled to Cairo recently and most probably he has some good connections in Egypt that allowed him to spend some good time there and eventually to create some future political alliances - with the Brothers, why not. Sure thing is that at least once al-Khatib recommended if not pledged directly for a softer stance towards al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate involved in the fights around Aleppo. Due to such ambiguities, common to many 'revolutionary' movements in the area, the US and their allies refrained to offer openly a military support to any military group. They offered instead a lot of food support and sent organizations to document the human right abuses. On the other end of the world, the club of the former allies of Moscow are working hard to secure their presence in the area, with any possible means.

The fightings and the confusion are continuing in the region.

Hopes for Nigeria

I have very often the occasion to meet or talk with professionals from Nigeria and I am always impressed about the coherent opinions, the knowledge and the enthusiasm when it comes to the future of the country - both political, social and economic. More than in any other African country, the young generation is ready to make themselves a future in the country.

However, for the cautious European investors, there are thousands of reasons to be very careful, at least for the moment. There are a lot of changes underway nowadays and the overall climate improved significantly since 1999, but the safety risks continue to be high, for both locals and foreigners. The transportation within the country is complicated and dangerous as the costs for building roads are high and the temptation for corrupt officials is high (see various cases in Central and Eastern Europe for understanding how tempting is this honey trap for anyone in an official position). One may not receive nowadays as many Nigerian scam letters but the banking system is still fragile and the accusations of corruption went to another new and sophisticated level

The country is very rich in raw resources - gold and coal as well as oil -, that can be purchased at a very cheap price, but without infrastructure most exchanges are diminished. There are many Western companies aiming to build port facilities and to help the local flight operators to improve the technical training of those working in the airports across the counrty (Lufthansa among others) but their activities are quite limited for the same reasons listed above. One of the most successful domain by far is represented by the telecom industry, with an impressive potential in various other industries. The energy sector is a good opportunity for European companies to invest their money and transfer their knowledge, but the further plans depend at a great extent to the political stability and the transparent governance. 

As many other African countries, Nigeria has its own potential for hope and prosperity. Compared with the former transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the African countries do not have the chance of getting substantial support for reaching faster the average criteria of EU and NATO membership - not a guarantee for becoming accomplished democracies anyway. It may be a potential though for becoming the owners of their own reforms and fully aware of the importance of democratic processes. It may take longer but it is possible to have a dramatic separation from the past. Being the own author of your history is not easy at all.  

Water for Zanzibar

We, in the West, we forget very often how important the water is and how dangerous is to be out of enough water resources. Without enough water, you may expect wars, epidemics and social unrest. Africa is more exposed to such problems and somehow it is a long topic of deep meditation how it is possible to have so many 'natural' resources, as gold and oil and gas but lack completely the most important one, mainly the water.

Many of us may have heard about the beautiful Zanzibar, but we maybe miss the basic information that only 50% of Tanzania's population has access to affordable drinking water resources. The water suplies from Zanzibar, for instance, reaches only into urban areas. The water rich in impurities and the frequent breakdowns are the rule of the day. The water is brought from the mainland over long distances. There it is also the option of getting the proper supplies by water trucks, but one cannot afford such luxury without stable income. When it comes to the population living in the rural areas, the drinking water is accessed from problematic sources, mostly contaminated rivers. This explains the high rate of infant mortality, due to the widespread incidence of typhoid fevers and various diarrheal diseases. 

There were some small projects developed lately in the area, many if them desalination plants operating on solar and wind power implemented by various German companies. Some of them are already operating in India and Bangladesh and were supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 

The desalination plant can be easily be operated by the local community with the proper know-how transfer. It can produce around 100 liters of clean, potable water per hour. The average operating time per day is of 12 hours. A basic calculation leads to the conclusion that it will be possible to answer the daily needs in terms of water for around 500 persons. 

Most of the projects are based in Zanzibar given the market potential of this location for further business on the African market. The immediate interest for desalination projects was shown by public authorities, hotels and NGOs. On the medium and long term, various businesses and green tourism initiatives may be encouraged to expand their portfolio of activities here. It may represent equally an incentive for German companies to further expand their activities in Africa and to counter the Chinese influence with serious and viable products. There are enough state funds and partnership opportunities available and thus, all what the German companies need is the proper information and inspiration to draft their projects and find the right partners

Monday, December 10, 2012

Election Guru

As a person interested in following the latest events on the diplomatic front, I find difficult sometimes to get the updates about the schedule of incoming elections. This is also because I am not interested only in the big fish, like the US or Germany, whose fate is of high interest for anyone that dare to call him/herself an observer of politics.

For people like me and for anyone ready to bet for politicians, some enthusiastic young entrepreneurs created the Election Guru - 'a new prediction game for real news junkies'. It is a free iOS application that invites you to bet for the person that you think that most likely will be the next president or prime minister. You place your bet and if you were right, you won a point - this is all you got for the moment, but the app is less than one year old and thus, many surprises might be offered for the good minds soon. 

The Election Guru is for the moment available only as an iPhone application. They can be found on Facebook as well, where besides opinion polls, you can have several election news. A lot of information presented in a very entertaining way aiming to reach not only the big players and serious people for whom politics is part of the daily life, but to increase the interest among young people not always keen to have a clear political involvement.

Looking forward to the next technical improvements of the app!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Different realities and the international aid

I participated recently at an interesting discussion about some of the Western projects developed in far-away part of the world, many of them included in the category of 'sustainable development'. In the last decades, there are many important supporters of such developments, mainly from countries interested in creating their own local networks of access to rich natural resources. On the other hand, China is for a long time already there and even though it is not more efficient that, let's say, Germany, it moves faster and less bureaucratically.

However, going beyond the paradigm of 'who's the first to discover the oil field', many of the 'big' investors in Africa or Latin America are faced with the same problem. They may think too big compared with the local realities. For instance, one would be keen in providing access to mobile communications in Nigeria, but why one may need mobile phones when you don't have current water to wash your hands or drink. It may be helpful to use the cell phone to call an ambulance when some severe maladies are out of control, but 1. there are no ambulances around and 2. even if there are, the village is too far away and impossible to reach in the rainy season. 

Add to this an aspect that was not mentioned at this discussion, but which is permeating the experience of the Western investors in areas far away of the EU borders: corruption - that flourishes in many EU countries as well - but that is endemic in Africa, often with the benevolent help of the rich Westerners. 

Still, I don't think that the race is lost for ever, but I hope that within the next decade, the small and medium-sized entreprises with economic interests in those areas will claim for a significant change and will turn themselves into engines for a sustainable change. 

What about replacing 'sustainable development' with 'sustainable change'?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Women in power

I do not believe that in the last 12 month a 'revolution' took place in the Middle East. It is rather a change of guard within the same paradigm of unreformed mentalities. It is a lot to be done and at least the current generation is damned to deal with the big fight of countering toxic ways of thinking. In many situations, blame the old Cold War for most of the mess.

I do not agree with many of the ideas of the women interviewed here, as I am fully against using violent and ideologically imbued terms such as 'intifada' and 'occupation'. I know that if I will start a discussion with any of them on issues related to the current state of mind in the Middle East, our ways are different.

But I admire their bravery and courage and genuine lonely fight against a system. If they will be successful, the aggressive Islam will be out of picture and, on the medium and long term, we might expect a diminishing of the violence. These women will not agree with the Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, as many of their 'brothers' men' will easily do it. They know how to defend their right to education, equal pay and equal rights. And I suspect that they will not accept either to blow themselves in a bus because some maniac with balaclava told them to do so. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

America goes on...

International politics will always be my passion, but sometimes it is better to focus on other topics while politics will continue their 'business as usual' rhyme. But, even though I was able to avoid as much as possible to enter into the details of the US elections, trying to see instead how social media is used, today it is a good day to: 1. update my blog after a long absence  2. to share my thoughts about the issue.

I was not sure that Obama has all the cards to be a winner, but was not sure either that Romney could be a winner after all. For years, I got so disappointed with the Republican party and their choice of candidates that could convince more people to vote. I had so many concerns about Romney, his attitude and his background because I cared about what kind of candidate will oppose Obama. 

As usual, America is the country of all possibilities. It is hard to believe all the stories about irregularities in the world's biggest democracy. But it is even harder to understand how natural disasters as Katrina or the latest Sandy whipped out in only a couple of seconds entire areas. In some NY areas, people are still without gas and electricity. People are getting poorer and fighting more social problems than before, but they will rather like a 'middle class' hippie than someone with money. Who knows what a 'Occupy White House'-type of president will be elected in the next four years?

Because I do not live in the States, my concern is about the US foreign policy. I am curious - and very interested - who the new foreign secretary will be, hoping that the American diplomacy will - finally - got what it deserves. Maybe it did not matter too much for the average Ohio and Virginia voters, but when one of the diplomats of your country is killed something might be wrong in the kingdom. Maybe Hillary Clinton will be more than ever interested to be the next candidate, as the failure in Libya will be forgotten. But the diplomats will always remain the quiet army of a strong country.

Facts are facts and the reality shows that Pres. Obama will continue to stay at the White House for another four years. Changes are needed and surprises are expected. As it will be his last mandate, he will care less about the diplomacy games of the reelection and thus, no wonder if there will be more mistakes. Maybe the Middle East will suffer a bit more, and the president will pay back some bills from the first mandate. What is important is to take care of the US national interest and one of them is to do not forget the democratic values that country always believed in. When democracy suffers, it is also against the American interests. For now, it is more wishful thinking. Will continue to watch the reality. 

Good luck, America!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book review: The Arab Revolutions

I saw this German collective volume shortly after it was published and was tempted to buy it immediately, interested to read the ideas about the new situation in the Middle East from a German perspective. The Germans were always very interested in the area and they have a lot of well trained specialists that travel often in the area, for academic and economic purposes.

However, I did not expect too much to find so many data and only few evaluations, if any, of the current situation. The overall tone of the book - analysing the 'revolutions' (a term whose opportunity is not discussed at all) in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, UAE, Libya - is naively optimistic, as most cases are seen as a fight of 'good' vs. 'evil'. I did not identified any critical perspective of the situation and even less the seeds of the current Islamist debacle in almost the entire area.

For someone with a fresh mind, the book will offer a lot of details and historical information about the 'revolutionary' moment and thus, could be easily used as a basic source for documenting the situation in the Middle East. 

Jerusalem is not for trade

Without being too close to the way in which the Democratic Party sees the world, but curious about politics and especially the US electoral campaign, I was a bit surprised when I've heard about their intention to include in their electoral platform the reference to Jerusalem, as the capital city of the Jewish state.

I was not always online and not always careful about what's going on in Washington DC, but as far as I know, in the last four years, it was a President representing the Democratic Party who selected the head of the State Department. Some things are hard to understand sometimes, but the representatives of the Obama administrations had the occasion to travel quite often to Israel and to understand where the capital city is located. In addition, a representative of the the same State Department under Obama administration outlined that no way to do any change of strategy and no plans to change the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Jokes put aside, I don't think that the history of the city of Jerusalem should be a matter of playing games at the political gatherings. This is another example of bubbling politics but also of desperation from the part of Obama team, trying to get on their side many Israelis with American passport, some who made aliyah recently. However, any smart kid in the primary school in Jerusalem will know that this is not a political business and with or without the official recognition of the Democrats, Jerusalem will always be the capital city of the state of Israel. They better try to focus on economy and the social failures, they have a lot of things to do in this respect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Online updates for the US elections

US  elections are only a couple of months away and the boiling online environment is getting ready little by little.
We will publish in the coming days an in-depth analysis of the main challengers and the possible results, but till then, we found an interesting overview of the most important sources of information for the next time, via Storify
One of the merits of Pres. Obama was to introduce the 2.0 into the American politics and I am ready to learn more about the e-campaigns this time too. For the moment, there are alreaby digital handbooks being published, some in a very innovative way
What's next? What should we follow mostly, mainly when it comes to the next electoral fight in the US? Working hard to publish some interesting insights soon.

Foreign policy news on Tumblr?

I am familiar with Tumblr and even operate a blog on this platform, and I am aware of the constraints. In general, the most successful Tumblr blogs are covering colorful domains, as fashion, arts and spectacular teens productions.
However, with a lot of inspiration,Tumblr could be used as well for foreign policy news and blogging. An example is the new blog of the International Relations and Security Network - ISN ETH Zurich that launched recently a new online media tool. It is an elegant and appealing presence, pleasant to read and with a very interesting content.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Poland's challenges

Poland in between worlds, continents and geological challenges. A Stratfor analysis worth to read.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New story of UNFIL Mandate in Lebanon

In a couple of days, UNFIL Mandate in Lebanon is about to expire. In August 2010, the mandate was extended for another two years.

Due to the tensed situation in the region, it could be possible to expend another extension of the mandate. Some local politicians even requested the expansion of the mandate within the joint border with Syria. At the end of June, Turkey already decided to continue to allow its military in UNFIL for one more year.

The extension should be decided by the UN Security Council. 

After so many tensions and conflicts, Lebanon continues to be a stronghold of influences from Syria and Iran. More or less openly, the official representatives of this country are regularly involved in influence the daily local policies. Very often, the literary sources mention the Lebanon as the 'Paris of the Middle East' and maybe it used to be so - apparently, Paris is the fascination cities of so many continents and countries than the reference is sometimes too stereotypical to be at least 50% true - but how culture could flourish when it is no independence and secret services are careful to oppose any manifestation of independence. In comparison with Syria, the Lebanese intellectuals did not cope with the same pressures, but the regular presence of Hizbullah terrorist within their borders diminished clearly the cultural strength and attractivity of Lebanon. 

Maybe, one day.

Is Somalia ready for a new president?

At the beginning of the next week, Somalia will held presidential elections, over a year after the Islamic forces were kept away of the official game. 

The country still faces democratic problems, corruption and the need to counter the influence of Al Shabaab who continues to control large areas of the country in order to guarantee security and stability. 

Local analysists are optimistic and hope that at least little by little the situation will enter a certain path of normality. Some are even returning back in the country with big hopes and desire to contribute to the reconstruction process. In many areas of the country, the fights against Shabaab continues. 

The candidates promise to restore the rule of law and to contribute to the overall peaceful efforts. The neighbouring countries as Kenya are equally interested in a positive outcome due to the potential of regional conflict represented by the Islamist forces. 

Obviously, not only the president will be needed to end up the political turmoil, but the coordinated efforts of the Parliament, Government and international organizations involved in the area. 

The top agenda of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Mecca

For the next two days, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation - with status of permanent observer mission to the UN in New York - extraordinary summit will take place in Mecca, discussing the latest top issues for the member countries, among which:

- The decision to suspend Syria's membership from OIC following the serious situation affecting this country. As expected, Iran opposes.

- The issue of democratic transition in the region - including possibly the latest situation in Egypt.

- The idea of this extraordinary meeting was: "to examine the situation in many countries of the Islamic world, intensify efforts to confront this situation, address the sources of discord and division therein, reunite the Islamic ummah and promote Islamic solidarity". A nice objective, but the reality tells that the Islamic countries are divided not only by the classical Shi'a vs. Sunni division line, but also by the clear difference in terms of culture, democratic experience and political committment.

- Afghanistan-Pakistan discussions are scheduled on the sidelines.

- The conference will be attended also by the US Special Envoy Rashad Hussain.

Securitizing Migration

For those interested in the various aspects of migration - economic, social and security mostly - they could consider listening to this podcast, by the deputy director of the Geneva Center for Security Policy, via the International Relations and Security Network.

Women in Tunisia are fighting for their rights

Shortly after they won the right to protest following the January 2011 regime change, the women in Tunisia went back on the streets again, asking for their rights. 

Over 6,000 Tunisian women requested at the beginning of the week against the predicted restrictions against women's rights that might be introduced into the new Constitution, under the influence of the politicians close to Salafi Muslims. 

Let's hope that the proud women in Tunisia will be able to continue enjoying the right to ask for their rights and will not give up the obvious pressures that the Islamist forces are ready to exert against them.

Stratfor: 'The Israeli Crisis'

The Israeli Crisis is the name of the latest analysis of Stratfor. 

The evaluation of the threats faced by Israel is interesting, but this was always the situation from the beginning of the history of the state of Israel. What I consider it is stereotypical and repeated ad nauseam without understanding the real challenges is the following fragment of sentence: 'Israel's national security - particularly if its strategic environment deteriorates - rests on the US'. The international community should realize that the security and existence of the state of Israel is not a matter of special relationship between Washington and Jerusalem (the capital city of the state of Israel, fyi), but a consideration of life and death of democracy. It is not a gamble under the table in order to do not harm the new and old Arab friends from the Middle East, but it is a test of democracy and credibility of the European institutions. The advantage of the chaotic and inarticulated policies of Obama administration in the Middle East was that it left a lot of place for the Israeli diplomacy to state its interests which are not in contradiction with the overall interests of the democractic community.

The comparison between the state of Israel and the French Third Republic would deserve, maybe, a better explanation beyond stylistic rhetorics. Till then, let's hope that the democracies and the wise people from Bruxelles will realize that the state of Israel should exist and enjoy the autonomy of a free and autonomous state. Otherwise, we may rather speak about the 'democracy crisis'.

New clashes in Yemen

New clashed erupted this Tuesday in Sana'a months between various military groups pro and against the new rule in Yemen. As in the case of Algeria or Egypt, the representatives of the military are part of an elite that sometimes decides the fate of the country and the latest clashes were likely determined by the declared intentions of the new government to go further with reforming the Army.

A reform of the Army, in Yemen and elsewhere - Turkey, for instance -, cannot be done smoothly, as each group has its own interests and political games. Strategically speaking, Yemen is part of the main frontline against Al Qaeda and the counter-terrorism measures and preparations took at the local level continue to be an important part of Western interest in the area. 

As in the case of many other countries affected by the 'spring' it is difficult to make predictions about what the future will bring for Yemen: to the serious economic problems or the water crisis, there are several separatist worries and the structural need to cope with corruption and organized crime - looting state institution is part of the daily normality in Sana'a and elsewhere. 

Many people are poor and hopeless while the smart and young intellectuals prefer to apply for scholarships in the US. Safety is important but in order to achieve it you should be done more for setting up the new institutions. A new Iraq within Yemen? Hard to say it clearly now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Russia and Internet freedom

I spotted a couple of days ago in Der Spiegel an interesting analysis about why Internet is considered dangerous in Russia and how its effects are countred through various official policies.

The debacle in Greece, a new episode?

The economic and social situation in Greece seems to continue the dangerous turn, as the EU leaders - mainly Germany - are not satisfied with the turn over of the reforms. The most dangerous though in this context is the resurgence of the far right and the increased hate against foreigners. Following an ambiance already heated by the presence of the far-right into the Parliament, the home affairs officials decided a couple of days ago to detain around 6,000 persons, out of them 1,600 will be deported soon, because considered illegal immigrants. On Sunday, supporters of the far-right attacked a car with a Pakistani man accused of murder

We should not ask ourselves what could be next. Take your time and look in the history books.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

South Korea-Japan, the new episode of the old story

An interesting evaluation of the latest evolutions in the South Korea-Japan bilateral relations, by the International Security Network

Friday, August 10, 2012

Is Angola ready for the elections?

On August 31, Angola will organize parliamentary elections, for the first time since the end of the civil war. For 27 years after Angola became independent from Portugal, the country was revaged by a civil war that made over 300,000 victims. 

The current president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos is in power for 33 years and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) - which is expected to win again - is in power since 1975. During the Cold War, MPLA benefited from the support of Cuba and the Soviet Union. The main opposition is represented by the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) which includes former Army rebels and which is very active in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Cabinda is an important source of oil for the US and China. Angola is rich in other natural resources, as gold, uranium, diamonds and gas.

In 2001, a young movement was created following the model of the 'Arab spring', but the organizers are usually harassed by the police and the representatives of the security forces - and the so-called 'caenches', muscle men. A new Constitution was adopted in 2010, but the level of application depends at a great extent by the good will of the Santos regime. 

According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, there are a couple of problems that the authorities in Luanda should consider seriously in order to guarantee a free and fair choice. 

The main observations of HRW are:
- the need to limit the political and security forces involvement in harassing media and the political oppositions;
- the need to clarify the situation of organizers of anti-governmental protests that disappeared since March;
- the National Election Commission should guarantee the impartiality of the electoral process.

Even though the results of the elections are predictable, the content of change depends at a great extent of the change taking place till the next elections is hard to predict. 

Cleaning the traces of the Vietnam War

37 years after the end of the Vietnam War, the Agent Orange continue to produce effects in Vietnam. The issue is part of the bilateral dialogue between Hanoi and Washington and recently US announced that it will get involved in cleaning the contaminated areas.

Wars are a never ending story, in fact, and more important that who the winner is, is the way in which the post-war collaboration develops.

Foreign Policy lectures: Cicero

When you are in Germany, read what Germans read. And this sentence could be repeated for various countries that I am visiting all round the year. As long as I know the local language, it is important to get connected through the local political culture. And apparently, I cannot live too much without knowing what is going on in the cultural life. 

As for Germany, for a long time I used to read regularly FAZ and Der Spiegel. Most of the news I hear from radio or, when necessary, I have the Google alerts that offer a basis for further documentation. In the last months, I started to read also Cicero, the "Magazine for Political Culture".

It was created in 2004 as part of Ringier Group and with the aim to be the German variant of The New Yorker or the Atlantic Monthly. Together with the advertising and arts publication Monopol, it is part of the serious porfolio of Ringier. I do not have yet the explanation of the choice of the name Cicero for the publication.

It counted as contributors various local politicians or literary stars - as Wladimir Kaminer or Martin Walser - but also Madeleine Albright and Umberto Eco. Initially planned for 15 pages, it reached around  40 in the first issues, and over 100 nowadays. The design is friendly and you can find almost everything you need for a lazy monthly lecture. If you are a foreigner and you are curious about what is going on in the German political life, buy Cicero and your image will be less blurred. 

A big part of the publication is focused on various local issues, including, in the July issue, the Schlecker case, but during time it also addressed various controversial issues. In 2005, the publication was the subject of a state investigation after it published secret documents about the terrorist of Jordanian origin al-Zarqawi

Most German media - of Western origin - was created in the 1970s, but Cicero succeeded at a certain extent to win permanently new readers. Within the first 2 years, it suceeded to reach a 50,000 copies and nowadays it sells around 83,000. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

EU and Syria

I continue to keep my strong opinion that in the case of Syria, EU was completely out of sight. It could be because EU doesn't matter too much in the area, but also because it did not find any convincing and reliable way to support its opinions. When you do not have any influence and credibility in time of peace, do not expect to find one out of the box during the war. And, as many from the EU are well aware, Syria is in war for more than 12 months.

When it comes to the coercition measures, EU restricted the freedom of movement of top Syrian officials and forbade the exportation of luxury goods to Syria. Also, top EU ladies aired a video appeal to Assad's elegant wife to convince his husband to give up the slaughtering of his own people. 

Today, the European Council decided to impose the right to local authorities the right to inspect vessels and aircrafts bound for Syria, in search of weapons. The Brussels authorities expressed their concern regarding the situation of Syrian refugees, some of them recently returned back from Lebanon. 

Maybe once the war will be over, EU should reconsider its role and strategy regarding not only Syria, but the Middle East in general, and end up by focusing obsessively only on one issue managed disastrously partly for leftist bias, partly for complete lack of sensibility for the subject

Some knowledgeable words about the Muslim Brotherhood

When it comes to decision-making process in the field of foreign affairs, I strongly believe that the local knowledge is very important. As an experienced top diplomat, you need to know not only the local culture, but also the local psychology and the deep history of some political parties and movements.

Especially when in discussion is the Middle East, many Western countries wish more than understand the reality. Of course it is difficult to clearly refuse to be in touch with the elected representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but at least, they could better prepare their homeworks and be more reserved when it comes to patting them all smiles on the shoulder.

For those curious to find out more about the 'Brothers', whose networks covers all the Muslim countries in North Africa and the most of the Middle East, here is a short description and history of the gang, by a former ambassador of Israel in Jordan and Egypt, as part of Moshe Dayan Center dedicated series.

Another interesting information about the top leadership of the Brotherhood is provided in this analysis of the Council on Foreign Relations. When reading the couple of lines dedicated to the current president of Egypt, I could not resist but thinking about Ahmadinejad - a level 2 bureaucrat with good connections (in the latest case, the Revolutionary Guards). It seems that Dr. Khairat al Shater is someone that we will hear about soon more often in the next months. 

Roots of corruption: the episode Pfizer

One of the main incentives of corruption is when you know that you will always find people keen to pay you more in exchange of a basic service. The more bureaucratic and obscure the system, the more temptations for companies and individuals to accept the extra fees for quality.

The health system is one of the main targets of corrupt people: in many countries form all over the world, the medicine and normal medical service cannot be obtained for free, despite the fact that some of those going to the doctor are life-long tax payers. You need to bribe the nurses for a good meal and the pharmacist for the basic medicine. 

As in the case of the fight for resources in Africa, the fight for survival in many former communist countries implies the presence of many big international companies. By paying bribes - many included in the category of 'protocol' and 'local maintenance costs' - the big companies operating at the local level have the guarantee of a successful business. And, it is enough that one big player accepts the rules of the local games: later, it will be difficult to play otherwise.

The recent bribery case of Pfizer reminded me of all those unacceptable situations that are very often the norm overseas. The bribes were paid for gaining regulatory approval from authorities in, among others, Russia, China, Croatia, Bulgaria and Kazahstan. I wish more it is written about how those countries - many of them EU members - are rotten by the corruption that viciates completely the perspectives of life and politics for a long time from now. Media is corrupt by journalists accepting to write (only) in exchange of small attentions, the international companies are fuelling the underground economy by supporting local politicians, the MPs are ready to support only the cause of the big lobbysts that paid them accordingly. 

Maybe at least for a couple of generations, it is not too much to be done there? I expect that Pfizer is only the top of the iceberg of corruption in Eastern Europe.

Moldovan Journalist, arrested in Ukraine

While the negotiations on Transdniestr continue to be frozen, the relations between Moldova and Ukraine continue to register variations with more downs than ups. Even though at the first time it could be hard to understand the reason of the moves, very often the lecture should take into consideration an important contribution of the Russian strategies in the region. 

Transdniestr is one of the pieces of this game. When the Moldavian Parliament decided mid-July to ban the use of Communist symbols, the first victims were the communists from Tiraspol which are still using the hammer and sickle. The same Parliament decided the condemnation of the crimes commited under the Soviet regime, another arrow sent in the direction of Moscow.

The consequence: a couple of days ago, a journalist from Moldova, Semion Niculin, who worked for the Unified Control Commission in Kyiv, was arrested on suspicion of spionage. The information was confirmed by the Ministry of Interior and European Integration from Kishinev. Niculin was arrested in an apartment in Kyiv where, according to the rumors and news released by now, he was trying to obtain secret documents. At the first sight, Niculin - who risks from 8 to 15 years of prison if the accusations are proved true - might be a small fish. On the other hand, due to the fact that he was employed by the Unified Control Commission as press officer, might shed a bad light on the institution as such and on the entire negotiation process. 

Regardless of what will happen with Niculin, this is a short warning sent by Moscow to Moldova - EU and NATO candidate - via the loyal supporters from Ukraine. A new and more important episode of the dispute could occur at any time. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality

The latest analysis from Stratfor on: Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality.

Quo Vadis Pussy Riots?

Sometimes, I feel that people that are not too much in love with democracy are trying to do their best for convincing other people about their disregard for democracy. The more you criticize them, the more they would enjoy doing something bad against those who do not agree with their opinion.

Arts of any kinds are one of the domains that always gave serious headaches to people without too much interest or sympathy for human rights and plurality of opinions in general. Some might remember how much hate the communists had against rock bands and creative arts, and how happy they were to impose their 'standards' on visual representations - by qualifying as 'decadent' everything that failed to meet the simple and anti-artistic standards of the nomenklatura.

This interest towards 'purity' in arts concerns both the ideological and religious based regimes. The Middle East countries is a case apart that will address on another occasion. My inspiration for the above thoughts was represented by the case of the punk rock Russian Band Pussy Riot. Three girls of the band - Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevitch - are about to be condemned to 3 years of prison for protesting against President Vladimir Putin in a church. They are accused of hooliganism and religious hatred, despite the fact that nothing was vandalized in the church. However, the process in itself could be an inspiration for an absurd novel, in the old style of the good Russian literature. 

For many Western democracies, Vladimir Putin is considered a long-term reliable partner and many EU capital cities prefer stability and avoid spontaneous changes. True is that Russia is a huge country, with so many contradicting realities and interest groups ready to die for a slice of power that someone as Putin is seen as the only one that could control them. He did it in the last 12 years, but the question will be, what could happen after he will assume that his power should end? However, the witch hunt against a punk group and the possible new restrictions imposed to the freedom of speech and human rights in general, might worry the big powers. 

As China demonstrated successfully, you do not need to have democracy for outperforming economically and being considered an important player on the international stage. Russia is a difficult and complicated player, with a long history of problematic democratic developments - if any. The key to change is to have more people committed to democracy and understanding why you should accept that even Pussy Riots have their right to say something against you. 

AIDS as a foreign policy issue

AIDS is more than a strictly health problem, as it touches upon demographic issues and economic challenges that should affect policies and economy on long term. Very often, coping with AIDS issues is a matter of policies of foreign aid of rich countries and one of the main supporter of such policies is represented by the US.

The current top diplomat Hillary Clinton was involved successfully in AIDS related initiatives when she was the first Lady and it was obvious that such concerns will be continued as part of the mandate at the Foreign Office. However, due to the economic crisis and many other priorities introduced on the daily agenda, the support for the policies aimed to put an end to AIDS were wavering across time and various political interests. 

Following the July 2012 International AIDS Conference, CFR Senior Global Health Fellow Laurie Garrett explained in an interview the main failures and chances of success of the US global policies in this domain

Thus, even though the eradication of AIDS is still a very far away objective, the need for funding is very serious. We may think that it is very problematic to find the sources of funding for African countries, we should keep in mind that in the US the efforts to identify HIV infected population are also problematic. Another aspect of fighting AIDS is that is presents as well a dimension of fighting for women's rights and thus, you have clearly an engaging dimension of foreign policy. An important milestone of the fight against AIDS could be considered the coming 2015 Millenium Development Goal when many of the objectives should be revisited in a dramatic way. 

NATO News: New Supreme Allied Commander Transformation

From September 2012, the new Supreme Allied Commander Transformation is the Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros. He will replace Air Force General Stéphane Abrial. 

Paloméros is the 49th Chief of Staff of the French Air Force, position he took from Abrial. He participated at two international operations during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Operation Crécelle, aimed to restore democracy and Deny Flight, aimed to the enforcement of a UN no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Allied Commander Transformation are the only NATO Command in North America and the only permanent headquarters outside Europe. Situated in Norfolk, Virginia, its role is to lead the tranformation of NATO's military structure, aiming among other at enhancing the training and promoting new concepts for increasing the inter-operability between the member countries. 

Belarus is affraid of teddy bears

Since the start of the Cold War, many where the tools used by free countries to put an end to communist dictatorships: leaflets distributed from the air, financial and moral support for the democratic opposition, creation of special radio stations - as Radio Free Europe - dedicated to break the walls. Unfortunatelly, the success was to be seen only one generation after and following the innocent killing of many people who sincerely believed in democracy.

Nowadays, in the 21st century, there are still many countries still fighting to go out of the communist night. I have no idea why it takes for so long to accept that change should be done - and why Moscow still insist to support people like Lukashenko or the Kims from Phenian. 

On July 4, a Swedish airplane coming from Lithuania blown in Belarus teddy bears with pro-democratic messages. Sweden is for a long time openly involved in supporting democracy and the anti-dictatorship forces in Minsk. However, the teddy bears created a big row in Minsk and following, the diplomatic credentials of the Swedish Ambassador Stefan Eriksson were not extended. In other simple words, he was expelles. According to the official Belarusian television, this was in fact a routine procedure as the local authorities are not happy with the ways in which the ambassador supported the bilateral relations and it seems that the fact that IKEA did not enter yet the Belarusian market counted in shortening Eriksson  mandate. The EU issued a declaration condemning the expulsion and announcing new possible political retaliations against the regime. EU has special relations with Belarus, part of the neighborhood policies, but the main focus is represented by the support for democratic institutions and media freedom. 

Lukashenko was not able to attend the Olympics due to a EU travel ban he is subject to, but he was able to visit recenlty his friend Chavez, from Venezuela. He is considered the last dictator in EU as he continues to behave as in the time of the Soviet Union - including by using the rouble. 

On September 23, new elections are expected in Belarus but the opposition fears already the possibility of a fraud. The European history is still on the making.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Women and Girls Lead Film Collection - ITVS

This is a first story and a short video about 6 Palestinian women that want to do something for their future. Six widows created a short commercial company and sell pickles, in a community that wants to keep them under control. It could be a nice message for the future. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Who are the German Pirates

My first encounter direct with the German Pirates Party was in 2011, when they were part of a huge demonstration in Potsdamer Platz, 10 years after 9/11 when some of the participants distributed various leaflets with toxic conspiracy theories about the events. 
Long before this moment, when I've hear about 'Pirates', it was in the middle of the international crisis of the real pirates from Somalia and was almost sure that it should be a party supporting the right of those people to be the Robin Hoods of the 21st century.
However, I was almost close of this idea: as I found out from Martin Haesler book about the German Pirates Party, when they are not fighting for the freedom of the net, they are against the capitalism as we all know it. A powerful force of the new hippies that won places in local parliaments and in the European Parliament. In Germany, they are also against the political parties that supported the Balkan Wars. Freedom of the Internet is cool and ACTA is not the smartest thing in the world, but as far as I remember from the political science classes, the aim of a party is to be in power and thus, I wonder what a pirate can say about the fiscal policies and foreign relations. 
The book is explaining the history of the German Pirates, their success and say something about some of the members situated in the hip area of Friedrichshain and are very much connected with the famous hacker group Chaos Computer Club. All the parties are part of the global network of Pirate Parties International - long time ago, only the communists were honoured to be party of the International, but nowadays, the Liberals are proud members too. 
The author tries to be neutral and to simply expose the main recent historical facts, the results at the last elections and some short interviews with 'famous' pirates, as well as some programs presented at the end of the book.
For someone fluent in German and curious about the Pirates, it is an useful lecture. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Crisis guide: Iran

Many people nowadays are trying to talk about Iran, some are doing it professionally, some in a biased way.

The Crisis guide: Iran, by the Council on Foreign Relations is trying to present as many points of view as possible, in a very interactive way. In less than 9 minutes, you can say and show a lot about one of the hottest point on the planet and at least from this point of view, it is a very interesting approach. 

You have an overview of the current situation, various historical timelines, details about the Iranian regime, the regional situation, the nuclear program as well as useful resources for those interested to find out more. The interviews and points of view of experts in the region and political leaders, are intercalated with images from Iran. 

An interesting idea that makes foreign policy and diplomacy readable to an extended audience.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Should Iran get the bomb?

I always like to read new and mind blowing perspectives on foreign affairs. In addition, I am a dedicated reader of Foreign Affairs for an early age and thus, was more than impatient to read why Kenneth N. Waltz considered that Iran should get the bomb (the nuclear bomb). 

The arguments are simple and the essay is short in comparison with what you can really expect in Foreign Affairs - I am wrong to notice that the famous the author the shorter the essay, it is as the fame will exempt you from expanding your arguments based on your well known credentials? In his opinion, Iran should have the bomb because it will create more responsibilities for the authorities in Tehran and will establish a certain nuclear balance in the region with long term effects on the regional stability. It is like a 'wow' effect, isn't it? How did we not realize it and how there are still people that do not realise the simplicity of the solution. 

But, wait a minute, are we talking about France or Germany, or any other countries with a clear - at least for the next 5 years - democratic perspectives and clear engagement to respect the international rules of behavior? We are talking about a country where, even though some worries about the degree of mental inadequacy could be overrated, continues to be unpredictable and unreliable in its engagement on behalf of the international community. What about a world free of nuclear power? It does not make too much sense for very practical reasons but maybe I will write more about this on a different occasion. 

In an interview for The Diplomat, he explained further his intentions and the perspective on the nuclear balance, but it does not make too much sense from the cultural and historical point of view, as he apparently ignores some basic facts about the reasons why some countries would need to have the bomb and the degree of responsibility in handling it. 

Following this week negotiations, Iran looks as a quiet dove interested in the scientific development. But when it comes to the legal obligarions, the situation is apparently a completely different one. You have a region with a high degree of instability and only one democracy - which is not Iran, by the way. Syria presents already a danger for the region due to the significant stockpile of chemical weapons. In addition, we often forget that Iran is a country with frequent earthquakes and as long as it is no reliable control on their nuclear facilities, you risk a bigger tragedy than in the case of Fukushima. 

In conclusion, even if I enjoyed reading Waltz' piece of opinion, I dare to say that it does not say too much about the reality and even if it would have been an advertorial it blindly ignores almost every chunk of naked reality.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The passionate life of international workers

There are a couple of things that would recommend Love at the speed of e-mail for a review for a blog dedicated exclusively to foreign affairs and international policy. The author, Lisa McKay belongs to the category of the experts in the field of humanitarian work. Even though as a person passionate about foreign policy you love rather to debate about global crisis and big theories, you might know that sooner or later you should think about people that make those theories happen. Beyond their dedication for changing the world and making it a better place, they are looking for a sense of home and a life of their own. 

With the help of this book, you will better understand the life and professional challenges of the humanitarian work, by following Lisa's travels from all the world, from the Balkans to South-Eastern Asia and Africa. It is both a travel book, a memoir and a delicate love story that you would love to carry with you for the summer. 

Another good reasons that determined me to post my book review on this blog is that a portion of the profits will be going to support two charities in Laos - where Lisa is currently living: Pencils of Promise and Luang Prabang Boat Library

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy from the author.

The Syrian-Turkish relations

It is a cheap idea to support how united the countries from the Middle Eastern area are. In fact, with the exception of their hate against Israel – as a tool to excuse their disregard for basic rights for their citizens - and the support for the extremist Palestinian factions, there is no interest in going and acting together.
As Syria is in the news – but not in the minds of the decision makers – daily, the old and deepening conflict between Syria and Turkey I decided that I should start looking more carefully to the history of the bilateral relations between Damascus and Ankara.

Overall diplomatic framework

Syria has an embassy in Ankara and two consulate general in Istanbul and Gaziantep. Turkey has besides the embassy in Damascus one consulate general in Aleppo.

Both Turkey and Syria are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and of the Union for the Mediterranean.

The relation between Damascus and Ankara were molded at a great extent by the so-called ‘independence’ attitude of the new authorities in Ankara – to be read more tempted to follow the usual religious oriented patterns. Within the various Islamic fora, Turkey was often accused of being a Trojan horse, due also to the previous good relationships with the state of Israel, and its prestigious position in NATO. Many Muslim countries clapped their hands when the Turkish Parliament refused in 2003 to cooperate militarily with the US for the invasion in Iraq.

In 2004, Assad was the first ever president that ever went to Ankara in a state visit. In 2008, Turkey started to play the role of mediator between Damascus and Jerusalem on the issue of the Golan Heights, but it gave up its neutral role after qualifying the 2008-2009 operation in Gaza as ‘crimes against humanity’ committed by the Israeli Defense Army. On 26 April 2009, Syria and Turkey organized three-day joint military exercise developed in the border areas.

The casus belli

There are a couple of points that marked regularly the relations between the two countries:

-       -  The 1939 conflict regarding the annexation of the Hatay Province to Turkey. Hatay Province won in 1938 independence from the French Mandate of Syria and as the Republic of Hatay decided to join Turkey through a referendum that was never recognized by Damascus. Even though the province appears on many maps in Syria as still being part of this country, following the historical visit to Ankara, Assad declared that Damascus has no more interests in winning back the province. According to various media reports, it is said that many Syrian nationals bought in the last years properties in this Turkish region.

-        - The water dispute within the Southeastern Anatolia Project refers to the decision ot Turkey to build several dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers

-       - Syria’s open support for the Kurds. Repeatedly, it was alleged that Kurdish separatists were trained in Syria by one of the most sought Nazi war criminals, Alois Brunner who apparently was received open arms here  Eastern Syria – or what the Kurds call Western Kurdistan – is home for more than 2 million Kurds who should be considered in any discussions regarding the future of the region. However, in October 1998, the Syrian authorities decided to expel the Kurd leader Abdullah Öcalan to Turkey where he was put in prison, following unprecedented tensions when the Turkish tanks were deployed at the border. In the coming months, the issue of the Kurdish minority will continue to be at stake, as Turkey clearly outlined that it will not accept the creation of a Kurdish entity within Syria.

-        The recent evolutions

The immediate effect on the current uprising on the bilateral relations was the high number of refugees – around 300,000 that flew to Turkey at the beginning of the conflict. The same Erdogan that hold hands with Assad declared to the Anatolian Agency that “Syria is not acting in a human manner. This is savagery”. Part of the change of perspective was the serious incident that took place a couple of months ago after on 22 June 2012, Syria shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom military jet near the Turkish-Syrian border, due to what the Syrian military alleged it was a violation of the Syrian airspace by Turkey. In the last years, Assad decided to grant Syrian citizenship to some Kurds another example that, in fact, in many Middle Eastern countries, governments are not acting for the sake of an idea, but rather against a particular other.

Despite the recent political turmoil in Ankara, Turkey continues to be an important NATO member and a candidate country to the EU. Even though the Cold War is over, some of the disagreements could be included on the old bill that Russia will never ask to be paid from the US in the Middle East. After officially losing the control in Central and Eastern Europe, Moscow could be as desperate as to negotiate some influence in the Middle East and thus cannot accept by itself to loose Syria (too).

Turkey is interested in a stable Middle East and, eventually, in a regime with whom to continue its quiet expansion of its interests

Have your Say!

Did you want to send your impressions and wishes to the UN Youth Initiative? Now, you have the occasion to be yourself and tell your inputs! As an organization or as an individual concerned about issues such as employment, education, political inclusion and citizenship, you can express your thoughts in French, Arabic, English, Russian, Chinese and Spanish, the UN official languages

Each one of us can try to change something, regardless of the final results!

The United Nations is developing a System-Wide Action Plan on Youth. This Action Plan will affect the way the whole UN system will work with and for youth in the coming years. The Action Plan will focus on the five priority areas identified by the Secretary General:

- Employment
- Entrepreneurship
- Education, including education on sexual and reproductive health
- Citizenship and protection of rights
- Political inclusion
Before developing this Action Plan, the United Nations is reaching out to youth, youth-led organizations and others for their inputs. Please take a moment to fill out the questionnaire.

Tell us what you think.We are listening.

The questionnaire is available in all UN six official languages: