If the year 2017 is going to be any different, we have to start with protecting human dignity – that one quality that binds us all together regardless of our faith, culture or nationality.
The current international system has been in a state of paralysis for some time now. The U.N. system does not work. Even though it needs urgent reforming, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council do not even want to discuss it. Some U.N. agencies do some good but it is always constrained by U.N. bureaucracy and thus falls short of meeting the needs on the ground. The U.S. and Europe, the two pillars of the transatlantic alliances, have failed to prevent the de facto collapse of the international order in the face of the Syrian war, the Iraqi chaos, the refugee crisis, the Ukraine conflict, global terrorism, cyber security, rising racism, Islamophobia and a host of other issues.
The Europe of today lacks leadership and vision. As an undeclared principle, European capitals do not take any significant strategic decision without the backing and leadership of Washington. Given the reserved and often inconsistent policies of the Obama administration over the last eight years, the state of global security has worsened to the detriment of all stakeholders. We will all see how the Trump administration handles this state of affairs and what impact it will have on establishing a global power equilibrium – a key element of stability that has been missing from the global scene.
The lack of vision and leadership is also evident in how the EU approaches Turkey’s membership process, the Shengen visa liberalization and the Turkey-EU migration deal. Turning a blind eye to the security threats that the PKK, Daesh and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) present to the country’s peace and stability, the EU is busy lecturing Turkey about democracy while it lets supporters of terrorism establish a major presence in the heart of Europe and treats refugees with disregard and coldness. In 2017 several European countries will go to elections in the middle of the rising tide of extreme right-wing, racist, anti-immigration and Islamophobic groups. How Europe’s political leadership handles these simmering problems will shape the future of many things in the old continent as well as its place in the world.
Turkey leaves 2016 with the terrible memories of the July 15 coup attempt by FETÖ and the increased terror attacks by Daesh and the PKK. Turkey’s western and NATO allies have largely failed to stand firmly with Turkey against these terrorist threats. They seem to forget that Turkey’s security is part of the western security architecture. When it comes global terrorism, there is no difference between Istanbul, Ankara, Baghdad or Islamabad and Paris, Nice or Brussels. And yet, Turkey has not seen full support from its European friends in its fight against PKK terrorism. PKK operatives roam freely in European cities, collecting money, recruiting members, spreading propaganda, enjoying airtime and even receiving invitations to national parliaments. While the PKK is designated as a terrorist organization in the EU, European countries do not treat it as such. They turn a blind eye to what Turkey has done for its Kurdish citizens over the last decade. Instead, they buy the PKK’s propaganda rubbish as the demands of the Kurdish people. This is like treating the KKK’s perverted ideology as the legitimate demands of the American people or neo-Nazi’s racism as a natural right of the German people.
Even in Operation Euphrates Shield, which Turkey conducts against Daesh targets in Syria, the U.S.-led coalition has failed to provide adequate support. Instead, the Obama administration continues the misguided policy of supporting and arming the PKK’s Syria branch the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Despite these challenges, Turkey was able to broker and facilitate the evacuation of 45,000 people from eastern Aleppo to Idlib where they are taken care of by Turkish and international institutions and NGOs. Perhaps the most important and promising news of the last days of 2016 was the Turkey-Russia brokered cease-fire that went into effect on Dec. 30 across Syria. This will prepare the ground for the Astana talks where the representatives of the Syrian regime and the opposition will meet to find a political solution to the six-year war in Syria. The Astana process is designed to complement rather than replace the U.N.-led Geneva talks.
As we look forward to 2017, major challenges remain unresolved. A global rearrangement of power equilibrium is key to lowering tensions from Ukraine and Syria to Asia and the Balkans. The defects of the current international order and the institutions that embody it must be repaired to prevent further chaos and instability. A year of global bleeding should be replaced by a year of collective healing, wisdom and solidarity. This is a must for anyone who believes in human dignity.