Obama’s Vacuum of Power Made Russian-Turkey Mess Possible

By on 11.24.15 | 1:40PM

It’s really going to hit the fan after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 fighter-interceptor jet for allegedly violating its airspace on Tuesday. Both the Russians and the Turks are madder than wet hens with Vladimir Putin calling it a “stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists” and other less-than diplomatic niceties, while Turkey rattles its sabers over the territorial integrity of its long border with Syria.

According to the Turks, the Russian aircraft repeatedly was warned by ground controllers that it was slopping over the border, but the warnings were ignored. As a result, two Turkish F-16s were sent up to take care of business.

Numerous reports have the two-man crew bailing out with their fate uncertain, although some say one crewman’s body was discovered by Syrian rebel forces operating in the area. ISIS does not control that portion of Syria.

Turkey Shoots Down Russian Fighter Jet Over Syrian Border

By on 11.24.15 | 11:34AM

This morning, news outlets are reporting that Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi fighter jet somewhere along the Turkey-Syria border.

According to Turkey, they warned the fighter jet it was "repeatedly' crossing into Turkish airspace and had been warned before it was attacked. Russia says the aircraft was well inside Syrian airspace and has promised "serious consequences."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was 1 km (0.62 mile) inside Syria and warned of "serious consequences" for what he termed a stab in the back administered by "the accomplices of terrorists".

"We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today," Putin said, as Russian and Turkish shares fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies.

Hamas Searches for a Better Bargain

By on 7.16.14 | 5:01PM

Shopping in the Middle East can be a surprise to Westerners. There's the greeting, the inquiry after one's family, leading questions from the buyer, perhaps a cup of Arabic coffee from the seller. The buyer suggests a price, and the vendor protests that to accept it would bring his children to the brink of starvation. The buyer strides ostentatiously from the establishment, only to be called back by a better deal.

The rejection by Hamas of Egypt's cease-fire deal after more than a week of missile exchange with Israel was merely good business for Middle Eastern bargaining, said Ghaith al Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine at an American Enterprise Institute discussion. 

The Egyptian deal did not meet any of Hamas's demands, namely: a re-release of the prisoners Israel first freed in 2011, funds from Qatar to pay employees' salaries, and a reopening the "secret" supply tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. That last one is especially relevant; some have speculated that the supply tunnels are what drove Hamas to enter a unity government with Fatah, which is what started the recent hostilities in the first place. 

The Kurds: Underdogs of the Middle East

By on 6.30.14 | 4:44PM

If after the World Cup anyone is looking for a new underdog worthy of support, I submit the Kurds as the most up-and-coming players of the geopolitical world.

The Kurds are the Middle East's classic underdog story: a swashbuckling ethnic group numbering 30 million and residing in pockets of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Left out of the twentieth-century nation-making due to a PR problem, the Kurds have been the favorite pin cushion of their respective governments. After decades of being used as pawns in geopolitical power plays, the Kurds have used the recent distraction of terrorists taking over Sunni Iraq to improve their real estate options.

The Kurdish Peshmerga army is the only fighting force that has successfully retaken Iraqi territory from the Sunni militant group ISIS. The Kurds have taken over much of northern Iraq, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. They plan to make the move permanent, said Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, at a news conference Friday: