Why is the US-China confrontation heating up?
23 December 2018
About ten years ago, it was the Americans who started funding projects to revitalize the old Silk Road - the land route connecting China to Europe. I specifically remember how an American official told me not to waste my time with projects on Israel-Palestine, and to look more closely at Central Asia. People were doing things like sending test containers over silk road train tracks, just to see how much time it would take. Projections at the time made a striking case. Companies – many of them American – were going to reorient their supply chain logistics according to this plan.
China to operate the new port in Haifa
09 December 2018
It’s that time of the year again, when we look back and think about all that’s happened in the past eleven months. So here’s a question: what was the most significant strategic event of 2018? Let me tell you my favorite in the Middle East. In July 2018, the management of the first part of the new port in Haifa was transferred to the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG). Despite President Trump’s ferocious anti-China stance, Israel still decided to give SIPG a 25-year strategic perch in our region. I think this is very important. Let me tell you why.
It’s time to make the G20 work for the Rest
02 December 2018
The G20 Summit started in Buenos Aires, Argentina this week. The G7 represents the West (plus Japan), while the G20 could be thought of as G7 + 13, with the 13 being the representatives of “the Rest.” I remember the Turkish and Chinese Presidencies of the G20 in 2015 and 2016 very vividly. How hopeful we all were to make the G20 more inclusive! To turn it into a mechanism that would bring “the Rest” into the fold! Yet the only news item coming out of the G20 this year appears to be bilaterals, or the occasional drama, like who dares to have their picture taken with the radioactive Saudi crown prince. It is a pity, if you ask me.
Turkey is among top ten reformers in 2018
11 November 2018
The World Bank released its Doing Business 2019 report just about ten days ago. And guess what? Turkey is among the top ten reformers this year. That is good, but not enough if Turkey wants to fulfill its potential. Let me expand on that a bit.
How we all became “unknown Middle Easterners”
04 November 2018
Every flower has a season. Every idea has its time. That’s what I have been thinking about at the D-8 meeting in Antalya this week. The “Developing 8” was established by the late Prof. Erbakan in 1997, when he was prime minister of Turkey. This was right around the time when the G20 started as a meeting of finance ministers in response to the 1997 financial crisis. Erbakan was Turkey’s first Islamist prime minster, and he set up the D-8 as a forum for major Muslim counties. It was composed of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey which have 15 percent of the world population. Back then, the union was fairly representative of the Muslim world, but had little coherence aside from that. It didn’t really come together as a policy unit. Today, that has cha
Germany-Turkey: it’s about more than just migration
28 October 2018
The German Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmeier, accompanied by a large delegation, was in Ankara this week. The German-Turkish rapprochement that President Erdoğan’s Berlin visit last hit off last month, is still in full swing. Once more, I heard that slipshod comment: “it’s all about the migration issue. Merkel needs it badly!” someone was saying. That is not correct. Turkish-German cooperation goes beyond the migration issue.
Keeping up appearances
21 October 2018
Remember the British comedy series in the 1990s, Keeping Up Appearances? Hyacinth Bucket, poor soul, so much liked to pronounce her surname as “Bouquet” when answering the phone. She used to say thing like “Oh, It's my sister Violet calling! She's the one with the Mercedes, swimming pool, and room for a pony.” Keep pretending to be less miserable, and less poor than you really are, and maybe you will be. Right?
Can we expect a WTO 2.0?
07 October 2018
2015 was not a bad year for global governance. The Paris Climate Accord was signed, giving us hope for the future balance of the environment. The Iran nuclear deal, also inked that year, was a relief for our good old Middle East. It was also the year Turkey was leading the G20, and world leaders met on the beaches of Antalya. The optimism of 2015 is now totally replaced by something else. It seems like a long time ago when the world could seriously talk about big things like climate change and global economic governance in a constructive way. Should we be totally pessimistic? I don’t think so. I think even more than 2015, this is the kind of environment when big changes can take place. And trade is one area where that looks likely.
A German-Turkish Revolution
29 September 2018
Rapprochement is in the air. I think this newly developing partnership is inevitable. Why? It’s almost like that 1969 hit by Thunderclap Newman, the old British rock band: Call out the instigator
Clueless in Crisis
15 September 2018
It was around 2001. I was at the American University of Beirut, and the discussion was on Turkey’s efforts to stabilize its economy. The currency crisis at the time led Turkey to freely float the lira. Someone asked me how to determine the right time to float a currency. Timing a float? It still strikes me as a strange concept. You can’t plan a time to float your currency, it just happens. No one in their right mind could plan something that big and be responsible for the losses of so many people. But it does happen.