Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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How Turkey Sees Its Syria Invasion

October 21, 2019  •  The Hill

A new phase of the Syrian civil war appears to have been averted — at least for now. On Oct. 17, following an urgent meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a temporary halt to military operations in northern Syria that had, up to that point, killed scores of civilians and displaced some 130,000 others. Yet the current ceasefire could end up being only a temporary pause to a broader Turkish push into Syrian territory. That's because, behind the scenes, powerful ideological forces are urging Turkey's government to press its advantage.

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Trump's Syria Decision... And Its Consequences

October 14, 2019  •  Al-Hurra Digital

The White House's October 6th announcement that it plans to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish invasion of the territory, has been greeted with widespread dismay both in the United States and abroad. Yet in truth, it should not have been altogether surprising. The groundwork, after all, was laid way back in December 2018, when President Trump declared that the United States was immediately withdrawing all troops from Syria, now that the Islamic State had been defeated. That decision was subsequently partially reversed as a result of internal pressure within the Administration from officials who argued about the need for a residual U.S. presence to, among other things, serve as a blocking force against Iranian infiltration. Now, however, the President is once again moving forward with his original plan. And although the decision has been roundly criticized by experts and lawmakers on both sides of the U.S. political aisle, it remains consistent with a number of the Trump administration's longstanding foreign policy priorities.

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Iraq Pushes Back Against Iranian Influence

October 8, 2019  •  Al-Hurra Digital

Suddenly, Iran's clerical regime doesn't seem quite so powerful. In recent weeks, Iran's increasingly aggressive regional behavior (including its involvement in the September 14th attack on Saudi oil facilities), and the tepid response to this activity from the United States and its allies, has conveyed the unmistakable impression that Tehran is on the march. But now, Iranian leaders are experiencing some unexpected problems closer to home, in neighboring Iraq. Over the past week, mass protests have spread throughout Iraq, with thousands of citizens taking to the streets in a widening – and increasingly bloody – grassroots revolt. The fury of the protestors is directed at a lot of things. It is a response to the notorious mismanagement and disfunction of the Iraqi government, which current Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has failed to tackle resolutely. It is likewise about the country's endemic corruption and graft, which watchdog groups like Transparency International have ranked as among the worst in the world. But the protests are about something else as well: Iran's pervasive political interference on the territory of its western neighbor.

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Erdogan's Chinese Gamble
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is betting big on China.

October 4, 2019  •  The Diplomat

For over a year now, Turkey has lurched toward full blown economic crisis, propelled by a major devaluation of the national currency and ballooning external debt. These economic troubles have come at a significant political cost for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP). In its August survey of Turkish public opinion, polling firm MetroPOLL found that Erdogan's once-robust approval rating had dropped to 44 percent – down nearly 10 points from a year earlier. And this summer, the Turkish electorate delivered Erdogan's government a very public rebuke when it voted resoundingly to confirm opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu as mayor of Istanbul in a re-run of the country's contested regional elections. The bloom, it seems, has well and truly come off Erdogan's rose. Turkey's wily autocrat, however, is far from finished. Erdogan is now seeking ways to reclaim the political high ground and outmaneuver his various domestic opponents. The latest weapon in this struggle is a new – and wildly ambitious – economic agenda designed to recapture the country's lost dynamism.

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What's Changed In Israel – And What Hasn't

September 25, 2019  •  Al-Hurra Digital

Last week, Israelis went to the polls for the second time this year. The election, which was watched closely in the U.S. and throughout the region, was at its core a referendum on the country's larger-than-life Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has become an incredibly polarizing figure since taking office in 2009. Netanyahu's political accomplishments are unquestionable. Over the past decade, he has worked diligently – and successfully – to strengthen Israel's economy, raise its standing as a world-class center for technology and innovation, and navigate safely through a succession of regional crises (from the "Arab Spring" to the Syrian civil war). These same achievements, however, have turned out to be something of a double-edged political sword for Netanyahu, allowing his opponents to argue that the country is now on firm enough footing to enable a changing of the guard. The electoral results largely reflected this thinking. Although Netanyahu's conservative Likud party had a strong showing, it was edged out by the center-left Blue & White Party of former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, which captured the largest number of seats in the country's 120-member parliament. Yet neither Blue & White nor Likud find themselves with enough partners among Israel's other political parties to successfully create a ruling coalition. As of this writing, Israel's political system appears to be deadlocked, with neither faction willing to give up their advantage and join a "national unity" government. Such an arrangement might still materialize, however. Or it might not, and the country could lurch toward yet another, deeply divisive, round of elections in the months ahead. Yet, whatever happens on the political front, the country's foreign policy outlook, and its security priorities, will stay largely the same.

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Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

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