Quotas on Liberty: The Karabakh Case

Quotas on Liberty: The Karabakh Case

by Andranik Israyelyan

Karabakh people opted for liberty. The International community shall respect their choice.

When you are an International Relations expert, you have to adhere to some accepted formulas, beliefs and sometimes dogmas, to find your place in the expert community. Thinking out of the box is rarely welcome even in Western civilization, that boasts traditions of critical thinking. You can hardly meet someone in Western academia, challenging the conventional approach towards Abkhazia, because its independence is sustained with Russian help. Conversely, Kosovo is considered a rightfully independent state as it is recognized by the US and a majority of Western states. Nobody in fact even dwells on the historical foundations of Abkhazia, even if its statehood predates a majority of European nations.

Western academia and diplomatic circles developed certain labels for self-determination movements. Typically you can find a “breakaway region”, a “separatist government” or worse—a “disputed territory”. In the latter case, self -determined people and their statehood is diminished to a level of an empty terrain, disputed between two other peoples, who luckily enjoy a recognized statehood. For the post-soviet space, where military solutions are always on the table, these kind of unrecognized states are also labeled “frozen conflicts” to keep the West under caution of the possibility of resumption of hostilities. And of course, all these unrecognized entities are in a package considered to be a Russian-led occupation, and the popular image of Russia is for different reasons tarnished enough not to let experts, let alone the public think otherwise.

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, or Artsakh, is among those political entities, that are not lucky to be easily recognized, as it lies at the intersection of geopolitical centers and their clashing interests. Being within Armenia since ancient times as evidenced by Strabo and other authors, the Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabakh region was transferred by Joseph Stalin to Azerbaijan in 1921.

For a majority of progressive intellectuals and artists, who have no vested interest in geopolitics, Artsakh is not a disputed or conflict zone with unclear status. As Montserrat Caballe put it, inspired by millenia-old Armenian churches in Artsakh, it’s “a cradle of Christianity.” Yet, when it comes to power politics, things get complicated. In 1991 in the final days of the Soviet Empire the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomuous Region held a referendum, where an absolute majority of its people voted for independence. Azerbaijan declined to recognize the result of this self-determination act of Karabakh people and soon these two political entities found themselves at a bloody war. Initially being half-occupied and on the verge of extinction, Artsakh organized an unimaginable self-defence and secured its right to life and freedom. As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov put it, “For Azerbaijan the issue of Karabakh is a matter of ambition, for the Armenians of Karabakh it is a matter of life and death.”In 1994, Azebaijan, Karabakh, and Armenia, as a state, backing Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, concluded a ceasfire agreement with Russian mediation.  Minks Group of OSCE was tasked to mediate the conflicting sides.

In the post war period Azerbaijan was able to use petrodollars to recover from losses in war, rebuild its army, get international alliances and skillfully use them. Karabakh’s independence has been constantly manipulated by Azerbaijan in different platforms. Baku uses Islamic solidarity to get anti-Armenian resolutions in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whereas in the West Karabakh’s independence is presented as a Russian-led Armenian occupation. Generally, the problem is presented in the light of territorial integrity—as a territorial dispute.

Early April 2016 marked another watershed in the conflict between unrecognized the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan as Azerbaijani military forces launched an unprecedented offensive on different fronts of Karabakh, using tanks, artillery, drones and even helicopters. During a short-lived occupation of small portions of Karabakh, Azerbaijan forces commited war crimes, by killing 3 elderly and a 12 -year -old boy. Reactions by the international community were cautious, not to say hypocritical. Eying Azerbaijani hydrocarbons, many capitals tried to strike balance, calling “both sides” to end hostilities. Most of the authoritative think tanks and experts like International Crisis Group, Chatam House, Thomas de Waal point to Azerbaijan as the initiator of hostilities.

After four days of intense fighting, the hostilities were ceased by Russian mediation, leaving dozens of dead and wounded on both sides. Karabakh Defense Army had rebuffed attacks of Azerbaijani troops and recovered territory it lost. Thus, Karabakh Defense Army and its people successfully repulsed another Azerbaijani attempt to exterminate them.

As the international community tries to assess what happened and make some adjustments in its political approach, international politics enter a new stage of perception manipulations, —with Azerbaijan, claiming to “end occupation of its territories.” According to such demands, the Karabakh people shall cease their political existence on Karabakh, — in order to not violate the Soviet-sketched borders of Azerbaijan. If not, Baku shall make sure it bought enough armament from Russia, Israel, and Turkey to crush Karabakh’s statehood and people.

In its policies Azerbaijan has secured two close allies: —Israel and Turkey. Official Israel, excelling in its suppression of the Palestine people, is aiding and abetting Azerbaijan. Having converging interests with Azerbaijan in denying self-determination rights of peoples, Israel sells large quantities of weapons to the Baku regime. In recent clashes Azerbaijan largely used Israeli “suicide drones” —according to the Telegraph, for the first time in the world. Moreover, most racist elements in the State of Israel, including former FM Avigdor Liberman, encourage Azerbaijani actions. Liberman, famous for his proposals to drown prisoners in the Dead Sea, in an interview considered Azerbaijani actions “within the generally accepted norms.”

Turkey is another state, explicitly supporting Azerbaijan. President Erdogan congratulated his Azerbaijani colleague Ilham Aliyev on successful operations that resulted in the death of children and elderly. Make sure this is the same Erdogan, who expressed his firm belief that Muslims cannot commit genocide in 2008 and minced no words to call Armenian people “ugly” in an online interview in 2014, raising questions on his insanity.

Turkey once had a chance to solve its own Armenian problems, and it resulted in Armenians’ disappearance from part of their historical homeland. Turkey is a state, — responsible for the genocide of the Armenian people 100 years ago, as recognized by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, bulk of EU states and the European Parliament. Ankara’s calls on Azerbaijan to undertake military actions, sounds an ominous warning what to expect from Turkey. Thus Armenians a century after the Genocide are on the brink of another extermination and Turkey is instigating  and supporting this “to the end” –to use Erdogan’s wording.

Karabakh people, enjoy the highest levels of ethnic pride among the dozens of ethnicities that we have surveyed in post-Soviet states and the Balkans. Throughout their history they have resisted foreign forces-Roman armies, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols, the Soviet Red Army, and finally Azerbaijan. All foreign rules have been overthrown eventually, but for each empire they were “breakaways” not much different from the United States, that broke from the British Empire.

As for international law, the International Court of Justice ruled in Kosovo case that the unilateral declaration of independence does not violate international law. Moreover in 1992-1994 the Azerbaijani army, killing and deporting half of Karabakh people, carried out ethnic cleansing. There is no single Armenian left in Azerbaijan. By this, Azerbaijan lost any moral right to claim sovereignty over people it attempted to annihilate.

Karabakh people need no additional justification why they opted for liberty and restored statehood in their homeland. For them the Stalin-sketched borders and prison is over. No empire can put a quota on their liberty.

Andranik Israyelyan is an International Relations scholar. He holds a PhD degree in World History and defended his thesis on Turkish foreign policy under the AK Party (2002-12) at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Armenia.

The International Maritime Organization and Piracy in West Africa

The International Maritime Organization and Piracy in West Africa

by Effie Seiti

Definition and the Legal Framework

‘’In the actual globalized world, the security of the oceans is the paramount of the humanity’’[1]. Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships are one of the contemporary challenges of the maritime industry.  Both of them cause serious problems in ‘’smooth, secure unimpeded flow of maritime traffic through sea lanes, straits, ports and transit corridors’’.

Based on the article 102 of the UNCLOS 1982 and Resolution A.1025(26) (Annex, paragraph 2.2) on IMO’s Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ship respectively, piracy and armed robbery in general terms are illegal acts, committed for private ends. Additionally, according to the International Maritime Organization, piracy and armed robbery are a global problem which poses urgent cooperation in order to be eradicated.

The contribution of IMO in the efforts of ensuring safe navigation in affected areas is more than crucial. The International Maritime Organization in order to handle and mitigate these threats has developed regulations and guidance (as  Best Management Practices) through the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and with the contribution of Organization Facilitation Committee (OFC) and Legal Committee (LC).

The establishment of maritime security cannot be succeeded if there is not an effective cooperation with regional international actors. As the Secretary General of IMO mentioned in the European Coast Functions Forum 2014 which took place in Civitavecchia, Italy, 23 September 2014, “IMO stands ready to collaborate and give its support to all those who can play an active part In addressing this dreadful situation’’. The actors that were mentioned were UNODC, Interpol, the African Union, the European Union, and the European Commission, as well as bodies such as the Economic Commissions for Africa and for Europe.  

Affected Areas

Based on IMO’s annual report 2011 regarding the acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, twenty first century prone areas of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships are identified to be in 10 different regions of the world namely:

  • East Africa
  • Indian Ocean
  • West Africa
  • Arabian Sea
  • Malacca Strait
  • South China Sea
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • North Atlantic
  • regions that are classified “Others”

Regarding “others’’ in these regions the occurrence of the two crimes are at a very low rate or even rare. Moreover, incidents such as the hijacking of “M/V Arctic Sea’’ at the Baltic sea in 2009, can prove that even at one of the most secure maritime space in the world can be affected by maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships. 

Countering West Africa-based Piracy 

The exacerbation of this phenomenon occurs off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the wider Western Indian Ocean since 2005 to today. The two types of criminal activities which can be identified as piracy in West Africa are ‘hijack for cargo theft’ and ‘kidnap fro ransom’.

Few years ago the most dangerous spot for piracy attacks was off the coast of Somalia, but the incidents there have fallen dramatically. Nowadays, the most dangerous piracy spot in the world is the Gulf of Guinea. As mentioned in  the Economist’s article in the Gulf of Guinea 19% of piracy attacks worldwide have been recorded by the International Maritime Bureau.

Africa generally is one of the world’s top piracy spot as such IMO has focused on the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean after these developments. These efforts can be illustrated by a strategy that the organization is implementing, in order to establish the maritime security in these areas which are affect by the piracy attacks and armed robbery against ships and always complying with region’s maritime security agreements.

IMO in cooperation with shipping industries has taken several anti-piracy measures which have contributed effectively in the mitigation of this phenomenon. Moreover the organization provides assistance to national and regional actors so that they create their own measures for tackling the piracy and other phenomena which pose a threat for maritime security.

The ‘Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden’ (Djibouti Code of Conduct) and the case of the ‘Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa  in the Gulf of Guinea region of West Africa’ are significant examples of the cooperation between the countries around the western Indian Ocean in order with IMO’s contribution to manage and mitigate the piracy and armed robbery against ships in this region.

 Another important initiative is the IMO/MOWCA Sub-regional Coastguard Network. This initiative approved by the IMO/MOWCA Forum which was held in Senegal, in October 2006 and concerns the establishment of an integrated coastguard network and also supports the sub-regional cooperation and coordination in the provision of coastguard functions inclusive of maritime intelligence, surveillance, safety and security, protection of environment, and search and rescue.

Some Thoughts… 

It is clear that the international and regional actors are giving a battle in order to combat piracy attacks and armed robbery against ships. According to Judge and Professor Mr. Thomas Mensah, piracy takes place since the ancient times. Consequently, this phenomenon cannot be eliminated but what can be achieved is the efficient management of this threat or to minimize the impact of piracy and armed robbery against ships. Furthermore, another objective of these efforts made by the international, regional and local actors is to prevent illegal intervention in cases of any type may be. Individual assistance of international actors is not sufficient if there is no common will and national actors so limit the effect to a satisfactory level.

In addition, the strengthening of the cooperation between coastguards of Western Africa countries with the contribution of the international actors is crucial. The states of this region should cooperate and in the field of information sharing regarding shipping and attacks. Apart of the international and regional cooperation schemes for combating piracy and armed robbery against ships, as aforementioned, that the most important issue for each state is to take the lead in patrolling its own waters and limiting illegal activities. When a country is unable to deal with criminal networks, a significant example is Boko Haram militants, which are operating in its own territory, it is logical that it will not be able to cope with piracy attacks in its waters.

Local security forces should improve their equipment and their patrol vessels; in some cases for example the Master or CSO has contacted with local authorities but they were unwilling or unable to assist them due to the limited range of their vessels.

Another important thing regarding the ways piracy and armed robbery against ships can be tackled is the identification of the type of the threat. More specifically, stakeholders should realise how their vessels could be vulnerable in a potential piracy attack and to implement measures that could reduce the risk while still allowing shipping operations to continue.

All in all, as in any type of threat, the underlying cause of the problem should be identified. Each country individually should try to find what makes them vulnerable in such attacks and in cooperation with regional and international actors they should improve their vulnerable sectors. For instance, the political tolerance of the black market especially in Nigeria is a motivation for the pirates. Let’s not forget that the pirates are ‘the tip of iceberg that is a sophisticated organized crime network’.


[1] Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina,’’Maritime Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships: Exploring the Legal and the Operational Solutions. The case of Madagascar’’, The United Nations-Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme 2012-2013, Division for Oceans Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, The United Nations, New York 2013

Effie Seiti was born and raised in Rhodes, Greece. She received her bachelor’s degree in the field of International Relations and Organizations (University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece 2009-2013) and earned a Master’s Degree with merit in Political, Economic and International Relations in the Mediterranean (University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece 2013-2015). She has participated in many workshops and conferences (as speaker and as organizer). She has also participated in 3 summer seminars, in Crete (Erasmus Intensive Programme, Governance and Security in Europe & Mediterranean), Istanbul (Global Politics Summer School Turkey 2014) and Rhodes (Tulane Law Summer Abroad, Scholarship as Aegean Institute Alumnus for the participation in Tulane Law School Summer Programme about Maritime Law, Law of the Sea & Ocean Management 2015). The highlight of her academic activities is her participation in simulations of regional and international organizations (Model United Nations) as a delegate and as a member of the board in Greece, France, UK and Romania among others. She is now working in a multinational corporation in Warsaw, Poland while she seeks for a PhD programme.

US Signals Concern for Kashmir Dispute – What Does It Mean?

US Signals Concern for Kashmir Dispute – What Does It Mean?

by Haifa Peerzada

A very significant development took place over the Kashmir issue, which can prove to be a game changer for India as well as Jammu and Kashmir. This longstanding dispute has been for the first time been introduced as a part of institutionalized US-Pakistan strategic dialogue. Sartaj Aziz and John Kerry met on 29th February, 2016 and came out with a Joint statement emphasizing on the importance of taking steps towards resolving the outstanding disputes in South Asia, including Kashmir. Kashmir dispute which is considered to be a bi-lateral issue by the international community and the United States are now showing growing concern over the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. This eventful step by the US clearly shows its insecurity and fear over the impending instability in the South Asian region, underscored by the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. With Pakistan seeking to internationalise the issue, India’s aggressive stand to not engage with pro-freedom factions in Kashmir and Kashmir’s internal deterioration has given room to Pakistan for engaging with the US on Kashmir issue. India needs to take note of it and get proactive about resolving the dispute.

Continue reading

Military Efforts in the Mediterranean Basin

Military Efforts in the Mediterranean Basin

Image by German Navy photo by Photographer PO1OR-6 Alyssa Bier

Image by German Navy photo by Photographer PO1OR-6 Alyssa Bier

by Effie Seiti

The Progressive Globalization of the Mediterranean Security

The Mediterranean area, the so-called ‘crossroad of civilizations’, is considered to be a hot spot in the process of developing the international scene. Over the time, the events that took place in the Eastern Mediterranean region, affected either directly or indirectly the whole international arena. Regarding the term ‘gate of Middle East to Syria and Mediterranean area’, the region is thought to be a pole of attraction as well as field of constant competitiveness between major powers.   

Continue reading

Russians and the “Alawistan”

Russians and the “Alawistan”

By Ioannis-Sotirios Ioannou

Source: The Institute for the Study of War

Source: The Institute for the Study of War

With the situation in Syria entering into a new abyss regarding the ongoing diplomatic game, things are starting to become clearer in terms of Russia’s active support to the Assad regime. The Kremlin, especially after the announcement of the Obama-Putin meeting at the United Nations, added an important diplomatic dimension to the issue with the aim of negotiating Assad’s stay in power. Yet at the same time, a closer look at the map shows that Russia did not go “all in” with Syria but rather sought to re-establish a strong sphere of influence. Russia’s sphere of influence is a prerequisite for the survival of Assad and is now focused on securing the heart (or “center of gravity”) of Assad’s regime: Latakia – the home of Alawites.

Continue reading

Russia in Syria: Changing the Power Balances

Russia in Syria: Changing the Power Balances

By Zenonas Tziarras

Back in 2012 it was argued that Syria has become an arena for conflicting regional and international interests [1]. This reality is more salient today than any other time in the past. After reports that Turkey,[2] Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries of the region have mingled in Syria’s conflict through their support to militia groups, we saw the United States using Special Forces for raids into Syria. Not long after that we witnessed Russia moving military forces into Syria, particularly close to the city of Latakia, where a key air base is located, even as reports came out that China will send military advisers to Syria in order to help in the fight against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham). Most importantly, on September 30, Russia launched its first airstrikes against Jihadist groups in Syria.

Continue reading

Shifting the Balance against ISIS, or Why Turkey Changed its Mind

Shifting the Balance against ISIS, or Why Turkey Changed its Mind

By Zenonas Tziarras

Source: Reuters

When the international anti-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) coalition was formed back in September 2014, Turkey was thought to be a pivotal participant. However, the international initiative divided Turkey’s political scene which appeared reluctant to follow in the footsteps of its traditional ally, the United States (US). Even after October 2, 2014, when the Turkish parliament voted on a motion that would authorize the government to conduct operations in Syria and Iraq as well as provide Turkish soil and military bases for allied operations, Ankara kept resisting any kind of meaningful military engagement of ISIS. Not only that, but it seemed to be turning a blind eye on foreign fighters crossing into Syria through its borders.

Turkey’s controversial stance became more evident when on October 13, 2014, it denied reports that it had granted the US access to the Incirlik air base for military attacks against ISIS. In the midst of this indecisiveness and reports of Turkish support to ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria, Turkey has over the past months became a cause of concern for the international community and brought back memories from 2003, when Ankara denied the US access to Iraq through its soil. Today, after dramatic developments in the country and the region, Ankara took the long-awaited decision to allow the US to launch military strikes against ISIS from its soil and notably from the Incirlik air base which Americans have thus far been using only for humanitarian and logistical purposes. The question that remains is, why has Turkey resisted engaging ISIS earlier and what prompted it to change its mind?

Resisting Engagement

Perhaps the most important reason why Turkey avoided a direct confrontation with ISIS was the maintenance of its domestic security and stability. Its close proximity to Syria and Iraq as well as its geographically bridging position between continents made it a natural crossing and entry point into Syria and Iraq for ISIS recruits. At the same time, its predominantly Muslim population became an important recruitment tank and propaganda target group for ISIS. Within a short period of time from its appearance in the summer of 2014, ISIS managed to establish an organized and complex recruiting network in Istanbul and other cities.

Apart from recruits that were sent to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS, the result was the emergence of extremist clusters within Turkey itself that could conduct terrorist attacks at any time or retaliate had Turkey acquired a more active role in the anti-ISIS coalition. The same threat becomes increasingly salient because of the growing number of refugees – currently around two million people. Refugee camps can easily become safe havens for extremists that cross into Turkey as well as effective recruitment places.

Of course security concerns have not been the only causes behind Turkey’s delay. Virtually every domestic pressure group was against a military incursion into Syria, regardless of the political or military goal. Opposition political parties, business groups, and the public opinion, were all against a military escalation of the Syria and ISIS crisis; they did not want to see their country being engaged in a war. This was also one of the reasons why the Turkish incursion into Syria for the relocation of the Suleyman Shah tomb (a piece of Turkish sovereign land in Syria with historical importance) was so surgical and fast. Against this background, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could not put their political power at risk by getting more involved in the anti-ISIS coalition, especially with the 2015 national elections around the corner.

An equally important reason that could explain Turkey’s stance was of strategic nature. Ankara’s staunch refusal to engage ISIS coincided with the fierce fighting between ISIS and the Kurds, particularly over Syria’s Kurdish-majority town of Kobani, at the Turkish-Syrian border. Because the US was not willing to grant Ankara’s conditions for participating in the coalition (i.e. a no-fly zone over Syria, a buffer zone inside Syria and the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad), it seems that Turkey supported, via its non-involvement, an all-against-all war of attrition thereby working toward weakening the Assad regime, ISIS and the Kurds.

Change of Course

Since then, Turkey has been taking certain half-measures, such as training (moderate Islamic) opposition groups, in an effort to appease both its Western partners and domestic opposition parties that have been blaming the government for supporting ISIS. It was not until mid to late July 2015 that Turkey made a decisive move against ISIS. Not only did it allow the US to use the Incirlik air base (see map below), but it also conducted anti-ISIS airstrikes in Syria even as it raided locations of suspected ISIS, Kurdish and leftist militants. This change in policy had a number of drivers.

Incirlink Directions

The Incirlik air base will prove to be a major asset in the US air operations against ISIS as it is much closer to the targets than other bases used thus far. This allows fighter jets to spend more time on the actual operation instead on travelling to or from the target as well as quicker operational reaction based on new intelligence.

To begin with the Kurdish issue, Turkey’s unwillingness to help the Kurds of Kobani against ISIS had a backlash against the government domestically as Kurdish protests erupted throughout the country. As such, the Kurdish peace process, and by extension Kurdish electoral support to the AKP, was put in danger as it was clearly reflected in the June 7, 2015 national elections where the pro-Kurdish party HDP got 13% of the votes for the first time in Turkish history. Soon after that, Turkey’s policy took another hit when Kurds won the battle for Kobani thus strengthening their presence along the Turkish-Syrian border – what is called Syrian or Western Kurdistan. The Kurdish victory meant that from now on Turkey should take (Syrian) Kurds seriously into account, for they constitute a significant regional factor that could well threaten Turkey’s territorial integrity as well.

From this perspective, and since ISIS failed to stop the Kurds, a change in strategy was imperative if Turkey wanted to prevent the consolidation of the Syrian Kurdistan. Its greater involvement in Syria may well be followed by the establishment of a buffer zone on the Turkish-Syria border (as was its initial condition for taking action) which would work as a buffer for both ISIS and the Kurds. Though we cannot know for sure, something like that could be a part of a give-and-take between Turkey and the US. On another note, it should be mentioned that the Turkish government is more justified and legitimized to take action at this juncture since its actions were taken right after an ISIS suicide attack in Turkey that killed 32 and wounded 104 people and the first cross-border exchange of fire between the Turkish military and ISIS. In this regard, it is no longer only in theory that ISIS constitutes a domestic national security threat.

Within this framework, the Turkish government’s decision to take action after these events also creates a “rally ‘round the flag” effect by which the government and specifically the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gains popular support. To be sure, these developments are directly related with the domestic social, political and economic instability that emerged since early June due to the inability of the political parties to form a coalition government after the national elections. The country seems to be headed to snap elections where the AKP will need all the votes it can get to regain its parliamentary majority,

The next reason is related with the broader Middle East geopolitical environment, its balances of power and Turkey’s role within it. The recent deal between West’s P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program is a highly significant development that will have a great impact on the international politics of the Middle East. It essentially seals the return of Iran to international affairs, which also means the strengthening of Iran and the increase of resources that it will be able to dedicate to the pursuit of its geopolitical goals. A side-effect of Iran’s empowerment would be the increase of Assad’s resilience. Moreover, Tehran has already claimed a central, if downplayed, role in the fight against ISIS. At the same time, Iran’s rival but West’s ally, Saudi Arabia, is becoming more assertive while, for the time being, its recent attempt to militarily counter the coup by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen seems to be successful.

In this light, Turkey’s change of course is also a response to the shifting balances of power in the region and to fears that it will lose its role and importance as a western ally and a pivotal state in the Middle East.

Epilogue – A New Paradigm?

Most of the drivers behind Turkey’s policy point to a rather defensive stance. Yet, it should be remembered that Turkey has been looking for a way to overthrow Assad since late 2011. The current conjuncture feels like the perfect storm of events that could push Turkey toward that revisionist and thus offensive goal. At the same time, it creates the necessary conditions on the domestic and international level for this policy change to be tolerated, if not accepted. Perhaps most importantly, it allows Turkey to mend fences with the US even as it takes advantage of its role and operations to accomplish its own goals. Because of the nature of this complex dynamic a new Turkey-US and Turkey-Iran friction in the near future is very likely, especially if Turkey’s efforts to overthrow Assad bear fruits.

This article was published in collaboration with The Europe Levant Observatory, Diplomatic Academy – University of Nicosia.

You can follow Zenonas on Twitter @ZenonasTziarras

Can Syriza be a Beacon for Left Parties in Europe?

Can Syriza be a Beacon for Left Parties in Europe?

By Jason Iliou

Greece turned a major page in its political history electing the first radical left party in parliament after years of center and right-wing governments. Continue reading

The ICC Factor in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The ICC Factor in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Marianna Karakoulaki

Remaining true to his statements, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied and gained membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC) making Palestine the 123rd signatory of the Rome Treaty. The ICC bid came after a predefined bid for statehood at the UN Security Council in early December which was vetoed by the US. This move is seen as a more direct attempt to re-ignite the Palestinian issue which reached stalemate since the US-led peace talks collapsed in 2014. In return to the ICC bid, Israel withheld the transfer of Palestinian tax money to the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure.

Continue reading

Turkey’s Revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean (Part II)

Turkey’s Revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean (Part II)

By Zenonas Tziarras

Source: Today’s Zaman

Part I: Turkey in the Middle East: The Tacit Revisionist

In the previous article, it was argued that Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East “is obviously, yet tacitly, revisionist.” Specifically, examples such as the Syrian civil war were employed to highlight Turkey’s revisionist goals (i.e. regime change) and its efforts to rely on great powers (U.S. and NATO) in order to achieve them without getting too much involved. Continue reading