On April 14th the ‘National Conference’, a much-vaunted event in Libya’s political calendar and arguably over three years in the making, was due to begin. The brain child of the UN’s latest special-representative to the troubled country, Dr. Ghassan Salamé, it was designed to break the political stagnation entrenching since the last UN initiative the ‘Libyan Political Agreement’ (LPA) had been signed in 2015. The LPA birthed a transitional system of governance that was dead-on-delivery with rival institutions unwilling to cooperate.
While Turkey is on its way to consolidating the shift to a presidential system of government, the country is facing a number of domestic and foreign policy challenges. Domestically, the economic crisis is a major threat to stability. As Turkey headed for important local elections on March 31, the economy has officially entered its first recession in a decade after years of sustained growth.
On December 16th 2016, there was an unusual – even by the post-coup attempt standards – police presence near the Cagdas art centre in Ankara. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on. On that evening, Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, was shot by an off-duty Turkish police officer at a vernissage right there at the Cagdas centre. Even if there had been street protests over Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict in Ankara during the previous days, nobody could have ever anticipated such a tragic accident would occur.
Defining the nature of Turkish-US relations has become a challenge in itself. Although institutionalised and historical, these relations are suffering from an accumulated series of crises, an outdated framework, and diverging threat perceptions. A glimpse into the files on both countries’ agendas in recent years clearly confirms the nature of their relations.
Alliances and rivalries in the Middle East have become liquid. The proliferation of regional conflicts and a more acute sense of regime vulnerability across the region explain why realignments are more frequent and countries are able to ally on one particular front and be at odds on another one. In the past, alliances shifted but were far more consistent. Making sense of Turkey realignments is paramount to understand both the geopolitical shifts in the MENA region and tensions in transatlantic relations.
On 7 August 2011, the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the Syrian issue to be a ‘domestic affair’ for Turkey and that his country could not stay idle in the face of the political crisis in Syria. Almost eight years later, the Syrian crisis has indeed become an issue of Turkish domestic politics, albeit not in the way President Erdogan envisaged. At the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Turkey was seeking to project its power throughout the Middle East, seeing its immediate neighbourhood as Ankara’s hinterland.
For decades, excellent academic research about Arab countries, especially Yemen, entailed ethnographic investigation via participant observation, first-hand interviews, and reading local archives. International scholars in anthropology, political science, and other fields needed to spend months or even years “in the field” in order to gather first-hand evidence, and, indeed, to obtain research grants.
Despite the geographic distance separating them, what happens in Yemen is of strong interest to Europe. And so it should be, if only for moral reasons. The human tragedy unfolding in this small nation of 28 million, bounded by the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia and Oman, should shake the conscience of humankind. While precise figures are elusive, tens of thousands of people have been killed in fighting, and tens of thousands, especially young children, have died from hunger and disease.
The regional implications behind the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-led war against the Houthis in Yemen extend beyond the Gulf and have carried over into the Horn of Africa as well. In fact, while the military intervention in Yemen has resulted in a more concrete security partnership between the Gulf monarchies and their emerging Horn of Africa allies, this has also evolved into a burgeoning collaboration beyond narrow security interests.
Various observers of Yemeni political dynamics have rightly highlighted that what we generally call the Yemen civil war is, in reality, three separate yet overlapping conflicts. The first one is the multi-sided civil war, namely the conflict opposing the internationally recognised government of President Abu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, supported by the Saudi-led coalition and a plethora of various local militias and UAE’s proxies, against the Houthi movement.