What is Turkey’s President Erdogan up to in Armenia?

The recent flare-up of fighting in the south Caucasus is nasty.  After the break up of the Soviet Union, Armenians and Azerbaijanis fought an unpleasant war over the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with casualties of around 100,000 and one million displaced.

Armenia prevailed then. Now Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, is having another go. And this is not just your regular military-supplies-and-observers assistance.  It looks like unemployed jihadists from the Syrian wars have been bought in as mercenaries.

Of course there is more history to this than can be dealt with in 700 words (try The History of Armenia by Simon Payaslian if interested). Turkey’s tensions with Armenia and its support for Turkic neighbour Azerbaijan are longstanding; ditto for difficulties in its relationship with Russia, to whom Armenia is most likely to turn in extremis.

But even as a ceasefire is being patched together, it still leaves open the prior question of ‘why this and why now’?

Continue reading “What is Turkey’s President Erdogan up to in Armenia?”

Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?

This blog asked whether Donald Trump might have made a serious error – perhaps even a fatal one – when he acquiesced in Turkey’s attack on America’s Syrian-Kurdish allies. He managed to irritate key supporters in the US Senate and early polling suggested a drop in support for his Middle East policies among Republican voters.

Failure to stand up for allies, dislike of Turkish self-assertion, fears of an ISIS resurgence and a sense that the US was being railroaded, all seem to have played some part in this reaction.

But for an explanation of why this might work out splendidly for the US (and Donald Trump), look no further than the piece by Israeli political analyst Zev Chafets on Bloomberg. Continue reading “Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?”

Yep, that’s what Peters said – now let’s see if Erdogan goes Googling (and can put things in context)

Green  MP  Golriz  Ghahraman  spoke movingly  in Parliament  during the debate  on the motion of condolence  to families of mosque victims, recalling  how as a  nine-year-old  she and her family  were  welcomed in Auckland as they  “escaped  oppression at the risk of  torture”.  

We had lived through a war, and I will never forget being that nine-year-old girl on the escalator at Auckland Airport with my frightened parents.  We weren’t turned back. We were welcomed here. So I want to thank every single New Zealander—hundreds of thousands of people—who came out over the last three days, who stood on the right side of history for our values of inclusion and love”.

Then  she   issued a  challenge  to her  fellow  MPs.  She contended that politicians bear some responsibility for the shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques on Friday.

“There sit among us those who have for years fanned the flames of division, who have blamed migrants for the housing crisis.  None of us are directly responsible for what happened on Friday – we’re all horrified – but we’re all on notice now, we have to change the way we do politics.  Our most vulnerable communities are hurt, we’re scared – white supremacists want us dead.

Ghahraman asserted that although the man accused of the shootings was not born in NZ, the ideology that led to the Christchurch mosque shootings exists in pockets of NZ Continue reading “Yep, that’s what Peters said – now let’s see if Erdogan goes Googling (and can put things in context)”

Autocracy, croneyism and debt heighten the risk of taking a Turkish bath

LONDON CORRESPONDENT:  In 2008, the newly-elected Obama administration thought the relationship with Russia was bad because the Bush people had been hopeless.

Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, offered Russia a reset.  In return she got email hacking – a hard reminder that relationships derive from interests more than personalities.

There is a similar risk of muddled thinking in the current spat between the US and Turkey, which saw the US imposing sanctions last week and the Turkish currency falling 20% (partially recovered since then).  While it certainly reflects President Donald Trump’s combative diplomatic style, the dispute also reflects more fundamental issues than an imprisoned American cleric and the US mid-term elections.

Continue reading “Autocracy, croneyism and debt heighten the risk of taking a Turkish bath”