The POMED Wire

HFAC Hearing Notes – Turkey: Political Trends in 2016

On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats met for a hearing titled “Turkey: Political Trends 2016.” Witnesses included Mr. Narte Schenkkan, Project Director of “Nations in Transit” at Freedom House; Dr. Gonul Tul, Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute; and Mr. Ali Cinar, President of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations.

To watch a webcast of the hearing, click here.

Nate Schenkkan opened his testimony by describing how “the situation for democracy and for freedom of expression in Turkey has grown even more dire” due to the ongoing conflict between PM Erdogan’s government and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party).” He pressed the urgent need for action as “the conflict is taking a devastating toll on Turkey’s civilians” and “destroying a decade of progress on relations with the Kurdish minority inside Turkey.” He recommended bringing about a cease-fire and peace process between the Turkish government and Kurdish movement to not only bring stability and political/humanitarian reform within Turkey, but to help end the crises in Syria and Iraq. Additionally, Schenkkan described the EU’s deal with Turkey (a “reinvigorated” accession process for Turkey into the EU …

Syrian Peace Talks Suspended as Regime Advances toward Aleppo


Photo Credit: Reuters

After a delayed start this week, the “Geneva III Peace Talks” have already been suspended. According to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, the talks were halted due to a lack of progress and are slated to resume February 25. The suspension was announced as the regime reportedly made significant advances toward Aleppo, severing rebel supply routes with the help of Russian airstrikes.

The talks were scheduled to begin last weekend between the Syrian Government and a coalition of opposition forces, the Higher Negotiation Committee. However multiple setbacks, including a bombing near Damascus that killed 45 people, the regime’s military seizure of additional land, and the HNC’s refusal to partake in the talks because of a disagreement with Russia, have delayed peace talks. The UN, United States, Russia, and neighboring regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey also have a role in the talks.

Among the obstacles to the talks thus far has been the question of who would represent the opposition. The HNC–described by Aron Lund of the Carnegie Endowment as “stacked with anti-Islamist, doveish, and borderline regime-friendly factions”–is a group of 34 members from the National Coalition, its rival National Coordination Body, …

GNA Rejected by HoR, US Considers Military Action in Libya

Libyan prime minister-designate under a proposed National Unity government Fayez Seraj attends a joint news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Tunis, TunisiaPhoto Credit: Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

While there has been an effort among the United States and its allies to find ways of “shoring up Libya’s new government of national accord,” the UN-brokered coalition government was rejected earlier this week by Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR). Of 104 members attending the session in Tobruk, 89 voted against the administration established last week. Some lawmakers condemned Fayyez Sarraj’s government – which included 32 separate ministries – as “too large.” Some, like Omar al-Aswad, argued for a “crisis government” consisting of a maximum of 10 members. Aswad told Reuters, “The country is burning and and citizens are desperate. Some think that we should build a modern civilian state based on justice and equality. In contrast, others think in terms of private interests, based on regionalism.” Other critics claim that a cabinet any smaller than Sarraj’s proposed government would “complicate the demands of the country’s multiple political groups and militias.”

US and EU authorities have supported a unity government as essential to ending Libya’s civil war and combating the Islamic State. The EU is considering sanctions against Libyan figures who are undermining efforts to form the GNA  “amid growing concerns ISIS militants could …

Crackdowns Against Freedom of Expression Continue in Turkey

Photo Credit: Reuters

Crackdowns against public dissenters continued this week when Turkish officials launched a criminal investigation against 1,128 academics who signed a petition calling for the Turkish government to halt its military campaign against the PKK in order to reduce violence against civilians in the southeastern region of Turkey. Twenty-seven scholars were briefly detained after being accused of insulting the state and spreading “terrorism propaganda.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the academics of “treason” and of attempting the undermine Turkey’s national security. “The campaign against academics this week certainly targets a new group and has very serious consequences for academic freedom in Turkey, as well as free speech,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch. John R. Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, criticized the arrests, saying they would have a “chilling effect on legitimate political discourse.”

Amnesty International has also criticized the government’s onslaught against Kurdish towns in the region for putting civilians in danger, as well as the 24-hour government-mandated curfews and restrictions on movement that have been in place for months. Amnesty stated that the violence “is putting the lives of up to 200,000 people at risk and amounts to collective punishment,” while cuts to …

Libya Announces Government of National Accord Lineup

Photo Credit: Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse

On January 19, the Cabinet led by Prime Minister-designate Fayez Sarraj announced the lineup for the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) consisting of 32 different ministers. The United Nations has led negotiations for months in hopes of forming a unity government in hopes of ending the civil war that has left over 5,000 dead and jumpstarting the economy. “Western powers say the international arms embargo will be lifted once Libya’s factions commit to joining together to battle [the Islamic State].” According to Guma El-Gamaty, a London-based member of Libya Dialogue, “99 percent of ordinary Libyans want this agreement to succeed, to end the misery.” A coalition government  is also seen as necessary in battling the Islamic State, which has increased its attacks on Libya’s oil infrastructure and civilians in recent weeks.

U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby supports the GNA and described it as a “welcome” and “significant step forward on the path towards Libya’s peace and stability.” The Cabinet, headed by Sarraj, now has 10 days to win the endorsement of the House of Representatives based in Tobruk. Abu Bakr Beira, a prominent Libyan lawyer, insisted the House of Representatives seated …

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