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Why did Obama really have to talk about Israel on Thursday?

May 23, 2011 | Comments Off

I’ve been musing about President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East and North Africa for the past week: I like it, I like it not. And I still don’t have a clue what to make of it after listening to him on Sunday as he addressed the influential pro-Israel lobby group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

No doubt that the president gives fantastic speeches. The one on Thursday had two parts. In the first half, Obama has so many good points about the change sweeping the Arab world. In fact, I liked what I heard so much that I now feel sorry that he actually gave the speech. Why? Friends and colleagues are convinced that he could not have ignored the Israeli-Palestinian issue — but I wish he had. That’s the problem. In these two speeches, President Obama missed an opportunity to make two distinct points, and that bringing Israel up on Thursday muddled his message.

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Turkey’s Influence in a Changing Middle East is Limited

Apr 6, 2011 | Comments Off

For the last few years Turkey has been trying to sell itself as the re-shaper of the Middle East. But now that the region is reshaping itself in dramatic and unexpected ways, the late, lame and confusing responses of Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan’s government show that Turkey’s renewed activism in its Muslim neighbourhood has not gone very far.

No one knows how the Arab Spring will end — but it’s clear that with this awakening, the Arab people have nullified all of the narratives that others have used to describe them. Their endless tolerance and surrender to victimhood at the hands of their authoritarian rulers finally ran out. Many feel so desperate that they no longer care whether they lose their lives by taking to the streets. Since February, thousands have indeed paid the ultimate price, but with a purpose: they want change.

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Iran is the Wild Card in the Arab awakening, but what about Turkey?

Mar 29, 2011 | Comments Off

Both Turkey and Iran play vital roles in bringing peace to their immediate neighborhoods — and ideally, they’d also have a relationship with the West. Yet the crisis in Syria has put each of them in a difficult position.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad may survive this threat, and the Syrian regime may quash the protests and kill many this week. But unlike their counterparts in Libya, Syrian anti-government protestors are alone in their fight. It’s nearly impossible to conceive that the Arab League would call upon the international community to intervene in Syria, which, according to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, is necessary to legitimize any military action.

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How does an “Arab Expat Peace Corps” Sound?

Mar 22, 2011 | Comments Off

The Middle East is transforming so quickly that no one knows what the outcome will look like. One thing, however is clear: we are in a race against time — rather a limited one — to prevent the region’s radicals from taking advantage of the changing environment and making things worse. While each country that has experienced upheaval is different, they all face one fundamental problem. They created a myth about holding higher moral values, but with respect to justice and rule of law they lacked real substance and wherewithal. Now, with the citizens of these Arab nations wanting to claim their freedom and experience economic prosperity, the opportunity arises for Arab expatriates to have a real impact on the future of the region. They can bring back to the Middle East the knowledge and talent that was lost when they either chose or were forced to leave for the West, and help build a new future for the region. They can create an Arab Expat Peace Corps, which would work closely with NGOs, think tanks, academy and governments all over the world.

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Turkey’s Unity Threatened: Polarization over Kurdish Policy

Mar 8, 2011 | Comments Off

While the Arab world is swept by a series of revolutions ending the long lasting status quo in the region, Kurdish separatists announced the end of a six-month cease-fire this week in their nearly 30-year fight against the Turkish state. The timing is undeniably meaningful. March kicks of election season in Turkey, and people will vote on the next government in three months. Kurds also celebrate Newruz this month. The March 21 festivities mark the arrival of spring, and the massive number of people likely to attend increases the odds of a clash between Kurds and Turkish security forces. Such an incident may give a picture that the fever in the region jumped to Turkey, too. And it’s needless to say that any type of fight is bound to play a role in the national election.

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