All analyses in chronological order - Afro-Middle East Centre

By Juan Cole

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week in Toronto that, in the wake of the G20 conference, Turkey will no longer routinely give Israeli military aircraft permission to fly in Turkish airspace. The announcement came as Turkey forbade an Israeli military air-plane (taking officers on a visit to the sites of Nazi death camps for Jews in Poland) to fly over its territory. The Turkish press denies that the destination of the plane influenced the decision. Future Israeli military overflight permission will be granted on an ad hoc basis.

From the Guardian: 'Israel's Ynet news website reported that other military flights had also been quietly cancelled. "Turkey is continuing to downgrade its relations with Israel," an unnamed official told Ynet. "This is a long-term process and not something that began just after the flotilla incident. We are very concerned." '

By Lamis Andoni

On the eve of the 26 June 2010, an important meeting between US President Barack Obama and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was held in Toronto where the two sides exchanged soft - but poignant - warnings. Philip Gordon, the US Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian affairs, challenged Turkey to prove that it remains "committed to NATO, Europe and the United States", while Erdogan questioned whether the US was "supporting Turkey adequately in its battle against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)". The statements were the strongest public indication of emerging mutual distrust between the two allies since the crisis over an Israeli attack on a Turkish ship, which was part of the recent Gaza-bound aid flotilla, and Turkey's vote against imposing further sanctions on Iran at the United Nations Security Council.

By Lamin Andoni

Barack Obama, the US president, is pushing for direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. A resumption of direct talks would be his first "peace-making achievement" in the Middle East since he took office more than a-year-and-half ago. But, barring a surprise halt to Israeli settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinians will not hold direct talks with Israel. And even if the US were to succeed in bringing the two sides together, there will be no breakthrough as long as Israel remains unwilling to end its 43-year occupation.

The current stalemate in the "peace process" cannot be solved by a freeze - partial or total - on Jewish settlement building, and reflects the flaw at the core of the process, which focuses on Israeli security and demographic requirements rather than on ending the 43-year old Israeli occupation.

 

By Fawaz A. Gerges

In an important and alarming report to the United Nations Security Council early July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that an increase in tensions between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new war with potentially devastating consequences for the entire region.

The UN chief cited dozens of instances when the two antagonists - Israel and Hizbullah - almost broke out into war, and accused them of violating the 2006 ceasefire resolution that ended the 34-day July war in 2006. While Hizbullah continued to maintain "a substantial military capacity", Ban said, Israel continued to violate the ceasefire by conducting daily flights over Lebanon, and refused to withdraw from the disputed border village of Ghajar.

By Fawaz A. Gerges 

Exactly a year ago, in June 2009, the then-recently installed American president, Barack Obama, made a landmark speech in Cairo symbolically to "reset" US relations with the Muslim world. He eloquently addressed critical challenges facing the US in the Muslim world and rhetorically offered a new paradigm, a new beginning, for managing relations between "America and Islam". The speech sent a clear message:

"I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

By Afro-Middle East Centre

On Tuesday, 1 June 2010, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a ferocious speech in Turkey's parliament, condemning Israel for its attack on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza, early on Monday 31 May 2010. Between 9 and 16 activists and aid workers - mostly Turkish - were killed in the raid in an act that has seen widespread international criticism for Israel's excessive use of force. South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) added its voice to a chorus of international condemnation for the acts leading to the deaths of civilians, issuing a demarche to the Israeli ambassador in South Africa.

Erdogan called Israel's raid on the ships carrying civilians and humanitarian aid "a bloody massacre which deserved every kind of curse". Speaking at a parliamentary group meeting of his Justice & Development (AK) Party, Erdogan said the "predawn attack in the Mediterranean Sea was one of the heaviest blows on the conscience of the humanity." The ship that bore the brunt of the Israeli attack, and on which the killings took place, was flying a Turkish flag and belonged to a Turkish relief organisation.

"Aid ships were intercepted by force and brutality. The ships loaded with mercy and affection were prevented from reaching their destination. Israeli armed forces illegally attacked the flotilla carrying 600 people from 32 countries and humanitarian aid to Gazan people, and killed innocent people," he said. Erdogan harshly condemned the "inhuman attack on ships carrying civilians including women, children and religious officials from different faiths" emphasising that the raid amounted to an "attack is on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace".

"The ships declared their cargo and their intention to the whole world before setting sail to Gaza. 60 journalists from Turkey and the other countries were also on board the ships to witness the campaign. It is evident that this attack on 600 people and 6 ships carrying aid to poor Palestinian people who were left destitute, is on the basic philosophy of the United Nations. The ships were loaded with humanitarian aid and they were strictly controlled under the international traffic rules. They were carrying volunteers. But they were subject to such an armed attack," he said.

"We refused Israel's offer to send the injured passengers. We have the will and power to take our own injured people. Two military ambulances left to bring back the injured passengers. Civilians planes of the Ministry of Health are about to arrive there," he said.

Erdogan emphasised the severity of the raid, within the context of global discontent towards Israel, saying, "Israel must inform the world public opinion correctly. It should not refrain from international cooperation. Israel should acknowledge the importance of the situation and correct its mistake."

"No one should test Turkey's patience," he added. "Turkey's hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable." Turkey has, for decades, been an ally of Israel, cooperating with the latter even on military matters.

Erdogan urged Israelis to question the actions of their government.

"It is damaging your country's image by conducting banditry and piracy," Erdogan said. "It is damaging the interests of Israel and your peace and safety. It is the Israeli people who must stop the Israeli government."

He said that "staging an armed attack on aid ships, killing innocent people and treating civilians as if they were terrorists are nothing but degradation of humanity and vile recklessness. This insolent, irresponsible, reckless and unfair attack by the Israeli government which trampled on every kind of human value must be punished by all means."

The prime minister also called on Israel immediately to end its blockade of Gaza.

Erdogan will meet Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug and ministers who are the members of the National Security Council (MGK) from Tuesday to Wednesday this week, to discuss the Israeli attack on the aid convoy, Anadolu news agency said.

Earlier on Tuesday Erdogan said, "I wish our final decisions will be good for everyone." Turkish media now questions what "final decisions" may be. Will Turkey and Israel sever ties over the flotilla raid?

The flotilla incident is undoubtedly the most serious rift in Turkish-Israeli relations since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, mostly because all states covet the safety of their nationals. For example, the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, in which US diplomatic staff were kidnapped in Tehran, led to the severing of US-Iran ties. The flotilla incident is no less serious because unarmed civilians have been killed by foreign military personnel in international waters. And Israel and Turkey already have strained relations. Earlier this year, a Turkish diplomat was humiliated in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart - the so-called 'sofagate' incident - leading to a diplomatic row between the two countries. Turkey is also likely to get much international support for its condemnation of Israel, as many countries are growing tired of the latter's continued provocative behaviour in the international arena. Israel is assumed to be behind the January assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh - an activity which involved the illegal use of multiple foreign passports. That incident led to the expulsion of Israeli diplomats from Australia and the UK. Additionally, US Vice-President Joe Biden's attempts to re-launch the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were snubbed by Israel earlier this year.

Ironically, then, it is the US that has come to Israel's aid, in the midst of the flotilla row. The US has refused to call for an independent (UN) investigation into the flotilla raid, saying that an internal Israeli investigation would suffice. Turkey will be unhappy if it cannot convince the US, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to appoint a UN investigation into the flotilla raid. Israel, on the other hand, will be relieved if it can avoid international legal scrutiny over the raid. Further undermining Turkey's ability to put pressure on Israel is a $185 million deal for the delivery of 10 Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) from Israel to Turkey, which the Turkish military says will still go ahead.

Whether or not ties are severed between Israel and Turkey, in the coming weeks the latter will try to lobby members of the UN Security Council to pressurise Israel, probably calling for an end to its blockade of Gaza, compliance with UN resolutions over its occupation of the West Bank and an independent investigation into the flotilla deaths. What is certain is that Israel will do its own lobbying to try and clear its name. Already Israel has delayed the release of many of the flotilla activists (thereby preventing many of them media access) in an attempt to manage its public relations campaign. Israel will present its case, show footage to prove that activists attacked its commandos, but all that will have little effect on the end result. The world will judge the flotilla incident as an excessive use of naval force with no clear justification.

By Bashir M. Nafi'

On Sunday, 19 May 2010, the Turkish city, Istanbul, hosted a Tripartite Summit which brought together Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Qatar's ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Before convening the summit, Mr. Erdogan held separate meetings with both Arab leaders. The holding of the summit came after a short period of planning and preparations of only a few weeks. According to some media sources, several regional issues - including Iran's nuclear ambitions and the situation in Iraq - were addressed at the summit. The brief final statement was articulated in what has come to be known as the "Istanbul Agreement", which expressed support for the Iraqi people's right to decide their political choices in their national election. The statement also expressed the support of both al-Asad and al-Thani for the Turkish stance regarding Iran's nuclear program.

By Mark Lynch

The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign policy and national security. The document explains what the administration has been doing and offers a roadmap to where it wants to go. The most interesting -- and strongest -- part of the NSS deals with the administration's new approach to al-Qaeda. The most problematic is the gap between its strong commitment to civil liberties and the rule of law and its practice thus far with regard to things like drone strikes.

By Ahmet Davutoglu

In May 2010, Turkey agreed to a groundbreaking 'uranium trade deal' with Iran. A closer examination of Turkey's foreign policy reveals how it is elevating its position among the society of states. In this article, Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, outlines the main methodological and opreational principles driving his government's foreign policy.

Davetoglu writes that there are three methodological and five operational principles driving Turkey's foreign policy.

Somalia's Divided Islamists

  • 25 May, 2010
  • Published in Somalia

By International Crisis Group

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) must engage dissidents among the country's insurgent groups in order to strengthen its authority and combat al-Qaeda inspired extremists.

'Somalia's Divided Islamists', the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, reviews the religious, ideological and clan rifts that have developed between the country's main Islamist factions since the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as leader of the TFG. It concludes that the government must reach out to elements of Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (the Mujahideen Youth Movement) that are disenchanted with the influence of foreign jihadis in the group and the al-Qaeda sympathies among its leadership. It also suggests that many in the Somali nationalist Hizb al-Islam (Islamic Party) could be more receptive to TFG overtures.

By Ebrahim I. Ebrahim 

Remarks by South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim I Ebrahim, at the opening of the international conference organised by AMEC on 'Locating Ethnic States in a Cosmopolitan World: The Case of Israel', Colosseum Hotel, Pretoria, South Africa, 12 April 2010.

By International Crisis Group

After almost two decades of unsuccessful U.S.-sponsored negotiations, Palestinians are re-evaluating their approach to peace.

Tipping Point? Palestinians and the Search for a New Strategy, the latest International Crisis Group background report, discusses why Palestinians, who are most in need of a resolution, balk at resuming negotiations; why, although President Obama appears willing to be engaged and confront Israel, Palestinians have denied him the chance to advance talks; and why, seventeen years after Oslo, the best that can be done is get the parties to talk indirectly. The answer is not that the PLO or its leadership have given up on talks and the two-state solution. They have invested too much for too long to shift course swiftly and radically. Rather, they seek to redress the power imbalance with Israel by pressing their case internationally, reinvigorating statebuilding, and encouraging a measure of popular resistance.

By International Crisis Group

Istanbul/Brussels: Turkey's sometimes controversial new Middle East activism is an asset to the EU and U.S., and attractive in the region, but only if Ankara pursues its long-standing integration with the West.

Turkey and the Middle East: Ambitions and Constraints, the latest International Crisis Group report, assesses the country's growing regional engagement within the broader frame of its foreign and trade policy. In the past several years, Ankara has launched multiple initiatives aimed at stabilising the Middle East by facilitating efforts to reduce conflicts and engaging in multilateral regional platforms.

By Basheer Moosa Nafi

In the recent Iraqi elections, the Al-Iraqiya alliance secured a victory over the list of the State of Law coalition by only two seats. This is not a significant difference, but it is a definite win in the shadow of fragmenting Iraqi politics, and a win which occurred despite the fact that Al-Iraqiya was the only list which did not have supporters inside the Electoral Commission. A number of questions arise as a consequence of the results of the second Iraqi election to have taken place since the invasion and the beginning of the occupation of that country. What do these results mean for the position of major Iraqi political powers? What are the scenarios for possible coalitions which are necessary for the formation of the next government? What future do these results predict for the state and for Iraq as a whole?

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

It is not an exaggeration that domestic Turkish politics has been experiencing an ongoing crisis since the 1960 military coup, which resulted in the overthrow of the long-standing Menderes government and condemned the head of state to the gallows. In the five decades since the coup d’état, Turkey has witnessed two direct military interventions and three indirect interventions; this is apart from countless covert interventions.

By Ramananda Sengupta

The savage attack on Kabul hotels housing Indian workers on 26th February 2010 - the fourth major attack on Indian interests in Afghanistan since July 2008 - is part of the proxy war between India and Pakistan fought on Afghan soil. Both South Asian nations see Afghanistan as a critical element of their strategic sphere of influence.

A day before the hotel attacks, though neither side admitted it officially, Afghanistan had brought the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan together in Delhi. The 25th February meeting was the first between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008.

The dispute over Palestine is a political one but it is conducted within a legal framework. From the outset – the notorious Partition Plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181(II) - international law has played an important role in the dispute. Today, the dispute is probably more characterized by legal argument than at any time before. It is, therefore, appropriate to consider the dispute in legal terms, as we shall be doing in this Conference.

Since the declaration of the state of Israel over sixty years ago Israel has consistently been in violation of international law. Over the years it has violated – and is still violating- some of the most fundamental norms of international law. It has been held to be in violation of international law by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, human rights treaty monitoring bodies and the International Court of Justice. In this respect it resembles apartheid South Africa which for over forty years violated international law by practicing racial discrimination, engaging in political repression, manufacturing nuclear weapons and carrying out military offensives against its neighbours. But there the similarity ends.

By International Crisis Group

As a rule, Iraq's post-Saddam elections have tended to magnify pre-existing negative trends. The parliamentary polls to be held on 7 March are no exception. The focus on electoral politics is good, no doubt, but the run-up has highlighted deep-seated problems that threaten the fragile recovery: recurring election-related violence; ethnic tensions over Kirkuk; the re-emergence of sectarianism; and blatant political manipulation of state institutions. The most egregious development was the decision to disqualify over 500 candidates, a dangerous, arbitrary step lacking due process, yet endorsed by the Shiite ruling parties. Under normal circumstances, that alone might have sufficed to discredit the elections. But these are not normal circumstances, and for the sake of Iraq's stability, the elections must go on. At a minimum, however, the international community should ramp up its electoral monitoring and define clear red lines that need to be respected if the results are to be considered legitimate. And it should press the next government to seriously tackle the issue – long-neglected yet never more critical – of national reconciliation.

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

There has been much talk in recent weeks about the possibility of another war between Israel and Hizballah and/or HAMAS (the Middle East's two most prominent resistance movements, both supported by Iran) in coming months. Perhaps most notably, President Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, told a Washington think tank audience last month that "when regimes are feeling pressure, as Iran is internally and will externally in the near future, it often lashes out through surrogates, including, in Iran's case, Hizballah in Lebanon and HAMAS in Gaza. As pressure on the regime in Tehran builds over its nuclear program, there is a heightened risk of further attacks against Israel".

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

The London Conference, held at the end of January 2010 in recognition of, and support for, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was the sixth international conference on Afghanistan to be held since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It was also a consolidation of the resolutions of the Istanbul Summit, held a few days earlier, which brought together the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey and called for dialogue with the Taliban or, rather, with "the moderates among them". The first significance of the London conference is that it revealed the failure of the military option, and gave legitimacy to the Taliban and to whoever has talks with them.

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

President Barack Obama's administration placed the stumbling Middle East "Peace Process" at the top of its list of priorities, with the intention of achieving a "two-state solution" for Palestine and Israel. To this end, Obama appointed veteran Congressman George Mitchell as his special envoy. Mitchell, and even Obama himself, have made strenuous efforts to achieve a breakthrough, albeit with the launch of new negotiations.

 

 

Summary

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank seems to have finally locked in the permanence of Israel's colonial project. Israel has crossed the threshold from the Middle East's only democracy to the only "apartheid regime" in the Western world. But outside intervention may offer the last hope for a reversal of the settlement enterprise and the achievement of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since the US is no longer the likely agent of that intervention, it is up to the Europeans and to the Palestinians themselves to fashion the path to selfdetermination in the occupied territories. Essential to the success of these efforts is setting aright the chronic imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. If left to their own devices – including, as some have proposed, to reconcile their conflicting historical "narratives" – the further usurpation of Palestinian lands, and the disappearance of the two state option, is all but ensured.

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani

U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication of the Pakistani government's long-held position that a solution to the Afghan problem should be sought through a combination of political and military means. The turmoil in Afghanistan has weighed heavily on Pakistan - more than on any other external actor related to the Afghan conflict. Thus Pakistan is genuinely keen to achieve a peaceful and stable neighbour. Its concern is to ensure that any plan for dialogue is carried to its logical conclusion, and that it does not collapse prematurely.

 

Al-Qa'ida Hot Spots

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

At the end of the phase known as the "Afghan Jihad", most Arabs and Muslims who participated in the Afghan war returned to their homelands. Some formed the nucleus for the dissemination, in their countries, of the ideas that they carried or developed during the "jihad" period. The al-Qaeda organisation, based on the principle of global jihad, is the most prominent embodiment of these "new" ideas; new when compared to the ways that other Islamic organisations have evolved.

Differences exist in the manner in which the various al-Qaeda "branches" emerged; they vary not only in the means and methods of work but even, in some cases, in their objectives. These differences depend on circumstances prevailing in the countries where each al-Qaeda member organises. Nevertheless, there has been a common understanding that the original birth home – Afghanistan – provides the fundamental guidance to the organisation.

This paper examines al-Qaeda in three critical locations, which recently rose to prominence, in the Islamic world. It discusses the movement and some of its members; the methodology and activities of the organisation; its local and periodic objectives; its ideologies and influence; and will chart future trends for the organisation. The three locations studied here are:Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia.

 

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