Wider Middle East

Turkey’s unique form of democracy has reached a defining moment

A quiet protest by a handful of environmentalists has exploded into a nationwide outcry by the half of Turkey’s electorate that did not vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). These protestors transcend class and party lines, and even include many AKP supporters. They are united by their rejection of what they see as Prime Minister Erdogan’s intrusion into their private lives through restrictions on alcohol sales and public kissing. In addition, many protestors have deeper suspicions that the prime minister is waging ideological warfare by attempting to impose Islamist social norms on Turkey’s secular society.

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NATO and the Afghan Transition

In the eyes of many observers, a NATO failure to consolidate peace in Afghanistan would call into question the organization’s perceived status as the world’s most effective military alliance precisely at a time when NATO leaders are eager to demonstrate its potential contributions to global security with an Asian-focused Washington. But the Alliance faces many challenges in Afghanistan, ranging from the insurgents’ resilience in key sectors of the country to the loss of support for its presence among many members of the Afghan public, highlighted by the massive protests and insider attacks by Afghans following the burning of Korans by U.S. prison guards, several mass killings of civilians by NATO actions in Afghanistan, and various public opinion polls. NATO’s relations with Pakistan remain strained over cross-border incidents and Islamabad’s continuing terrorist ties. Above all, the Afghan government and its military and police forces still experience major difficulties in providing security, good governance, economic development, and the rule of law. Despite extensive foreign training programs and other NATO support, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) still have at best modest capacity to defeat the Taliban insurgents without the continued and extensive assistance of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). NATO needs more reliable and effective Afghan partners to achieve a successful transition to a sovereign, safe and secure Afghanistan able to survive without continued NATO support.

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Thinking about the unthinkable in Syria

Syrian conflict is moving slowly but steadily toward the inevitable – the end of Bashir al-Assad’s regime. External support to rebel forces is growing. They receive more aid and better training than before, and have taken the first larger city from the regime. Moreover, France and the UK are pushing to lift an arms embargo on rebels; CIA is rumoured to consider drone strikes in support of rebels, and NATO countries are conducting a contingency planning on Syria. At the same time, Syrian Army continues to suffer from exhaustion and defections.

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Mission Accomplished (No, Really.)

As France’s intervention in Mali thus far has demonstrated, it is possible even in this post-Afghanistan era for a Western military campaign against armed Islamist groups to be successful—provided that its objectives do not exceed its capabilities.

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Red lines crossed in Syria?

On the last day of January, Syrian news agencies announced that Israel had carried out air strikes within Syria against a convoy that was allegedly transporting weapons to Hezbollah and against the Jamraya research centre in Damascus province. The former was reportedly loaded with ‘game-changing’ sophisticated weapons (such as SA-17 air defence missiles), whereas the latter was allegedly conducting research associated with chemical and biological warfare. It appears that Israel informed the US administration in advance about its intention to strike targets in Syria. Moreover, high-ranking Israeli officials visited both Moscow and Washington prior to the attack.

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Libya Tragedy

It has become increasingly evident since Tuesday, the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, that the barbaric murder of four U.S. diplomats during an assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi , Libya, was not spontaneous. The terrorists who attacked the consulate with automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades were prepared with highly lethal capabilities that a mob protesting an obscure independent video would not have amassed spontaneously. Rather than losing control of their outrage at the video, the murderers of one of America’s most capable ambassadors and three of his diplomatic colleagues used the protest as a distraction to facilitate their deadly plan.

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