• When your Editor’s Christian college mate gifted him with a small red book of the New Testament some 45 years ago, one verse that struck him then was Matthew 5:9 in which God says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
  • At that young age, your Editor’s grasp of Arabic was very basic in that he knew Islam to mean peace, and so the adherents of the religion (Muslims) would then be peacemakers.
  • Seen from this perspective, the Biblical verse above could have well been rendered as “Blessed are the Muslims, for they will be called sons of God.”
  • Fast forward to the Now – your Editor is very sad that it is the Muslims who, far from being the peacemakers, are at war among themselves.
  • Sadder still, the Semitic nations – Arabs and Israelis with their revealed religions – are at each other’s throats.
  • And the irony of it all is that it is the non-Semitic nations – China and Russia – that are playing the role of peacemakers.
  • On March 10, away from the glare and knowledge of the global mainstream media, representatives of Iran and Saudi Arabia who had been meeting secretly for five days in Beijing, announced a Chinese-sponsored agreement to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries. 
  • Your Editor had been to some Middle Eastern countries recently and the Arabic word “souk” (meaning market) is so ubiquitous there that this landmark event in China could be analogously said that the Middle East souk is now open for business in a way it’s never quite been before, and that the US isn’t the only customer. 
  • China’s brokering of the Iran-Saudi deal, and Russia’s brokering of the Syrian-Turkish rapprochement are emblematic of a regional realignment that no longer sees the US as the only party in their calculations. 
  • It may be tough for the US to accept and harder still for it to readjust. But it may have no choice. 
  • The US’ fixation on the Ukraine war to ensure regime change in Russia has blindsided it that it is ignoring its very own tenet of the Carter Doctrine formulated in 1980 which considered the Gulf region as the US’ exclusive sphere of influence.  
  • According to Ebrahim Hashem, visiting scholar at the Asia Global Institute of the University of Hong Kong, the Carter Doctrine has ended organically, which is a natural consequence of the fast-changing regional and world order. 
  • It is also the result of the regional players’ eagerness to bring in global powers that have enough political capital and leverage with ALL sides to function as effective guarantors of regional stability.
  • This makes the US unqualified for the above purpose because it does not have enough political capital and leverage with at least one regional player – Iran.
  • How can you become an impartial peacemaker when you have BIG problems with one of the feuding parties? Not to mention that peace making has never been a cornerstone of US foreign policy.
  • In fact, it is war mongering that has become the cornerstone of its foreign policy with colour revolution and regime change at its core.
  • This trend towards normalisation in the Middle East clearly demonstrates that the US-led regional order, which resulted in huge trust deficits, military confrontations and prolonged crises such as the Syrian war, has failed. 
  • From what your Editor knows through his research, China’s effort to broker peace between the two countries had been preceded by mediation efforts by Iraq and Oman in bringing Saudi Arabia and Iran to the table, with formal bilateral talks beginning in April 2021. 
  • Baghdad and Muscat hosted several rounds of discussions between intelligence chiefs, accompanied by individuals from the two countries’ foreign ministries and security services, over the next two years. 
  • The dialogue was fitful, in part because Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al- Kadhimi, who was one of the facilitators, had to make way for his elected successor in October 2022. 
  • Subsequent political turmoil dealt a further blow to Iraqi mediation efforts. But perhaps more significant was that Iran and Saudi Arabia were making little headway in the dialogue, intensifying frustrations all around. 
  • After the fifth round of discussions in April 2022, the two sides had no serious contact for months. 
  • It turned out the Iraq-facilitated talks prepared the ground for the eventual Chinese-sponsored deal because they helped show Iran that Riyadh needed clear commitments to move forward. 
  • According to Arab News, the Chinese involvement began when President Xi Jinping expressed an interest in China being the bridge to help resolve the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, during his visit to Riyadh last December – an initiative which was welcomed by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. 
  • The breakthrough took five days of intense negotiations in Beijing – which continued “night and day” covering three main pillars. The first pillar was a respect of sovereignty of regional countries. 
  • The second was restoration of diplomatic ties within the next two months, which gives both countries time to review and finalise details, and also work on the logistics of resending diplomats.
  • The third was the revival of previously agreed bilateral treaties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, including a 2001 security agreement, which was signed at the time by the late Saudi interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz and his counterpart at the time, Hassan Rohani. 
  • It was made clear to everyone that the restoration of diplomatic ties alone does not mean the end to all disputes yet. 
  • Quoting a Saudi source with knowledge of the details of the Chinese led negotiations, Arab News said Beijing had a unique position in the negotiations and that this agreement fell within Chinese economic and geopolitical interests. 
  • The source also said that many observers underestimate the large dependency Iran has on China, which is one of the only two ‘friends’ Tehran has in the world (the other being Russia). 
  • Other details revealed that both Riyadh and Tehran have agreed to a bilateral commitment of nonaggression, including military, intelligence and cyber, nor will they assist others or allow their land to be used to wage such attacks. 
  • In addition, a trilateral high-level committee (which includes China) will meet periodically to follow up on the implementation of the agreement. The source also said discussions in Beijing didn’t include any talks involving oil or nuclear issues. 
  • Meanwhile an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on May 1 three Iranian diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia have resumed operations.
  • The three diplomatic missions are Iran’s embassy in Riyadh, a consulate general in Jeddah and a representative office to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah.
  • The same process is happening in Tehran in which the Saudis are gearing up for the re-opening of its embassy there.
  • The reopening of Iran-Saudi Arabia embassies shows bilateral political trust is potentially transforming the Middle East into a region of conciliation and collaboration. 
  • In the process of rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, China plays a crucial role in bringing the two sides together and facilitating the construction of bilateral political trust. 
  • Through this peace process, China shows its willingness in shaping a more peaceful and prosperous future for the Middle East based on mutual respect and equality. 
  • China’s non-interventionist approach has earned respect and trust among Middle East states, particularly when compared to Western hegemony and unilateralism. 
  • Its policies on the Middle East emphasise cooperation rather than confrontation and will continue to help smooth relations in the region. 
  • Although it is difficult to determine whether US influence in the Middle East is on the wane, improved relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia will likely have an impact on the region’s political landscape and potentially prompt a change in Washington’s position. 
  • In particular, the possibility exists that increased cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could lead to coordinated efforts to fix issues affecting the entire region without direct involvement from the US and other Western powers. 
  • The reopening of embassies between Iran and Saudi Arabia after years of distrust and competition is also a harbinger of greater autonomy and independence of Middle East countries over their own affairs. 
  • All these point to serious efforts to cut dependence on Western powers, signalling a new era of self-determination for nations in the region. 
  • It demonstrates willingness among Middle East states to prioritise mutual coexistence and avoid conflict, which would create opportunities for future prosperity across the entire region. 
  • By building strong relationships with one another, these countries will gain more leverage in global affairs and strengthen their voice at various international organisations. 
  • Of course all parties to the agreement realise the rapprochement is no mean feat as Iran and Saudi Arabia had cut off diplomatic ties since 2016.
  • Furthermore, the fault line between the two went back to many centuries ago when the issue of succession which is a political one on who was to succeed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the leader of the Muslims turned into an ideological one over the centuries.
  • This has divided the Muslims into the Sunnis (majority of the Muslims including Saudi Arabia) and the Shias (Iran).
  • But nevertheless the rapprochement is a welcome and good beginning for a new regional order in the Middle East that will see peaceful relations among all countries there. 
  • The spoiler will be the US, which looks like it has been marginalised there and may then sabotage the peace process because it has a lot of axe to grind with Iran.
  • According to the UN, over 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen, as well as estimates of more than 227,000 dead as a result of an ongoing famine and lack of healthcare facilities due to the war.
  • About 70% of deaths were children under age 5. In 2018, the UN warned that 13 million Yemeni civilians face starvation in what it says could become “the worst famine in the world in 100 years.”
  • The crisis has only begun to gain as much international media attention as the Syrian civil war in 2018.
  • The international community has condemned the Saudi Arabian-led bombing campaign, which has included widespread bombing of civilian areas inside the Houthi-controlled western part of Yemen.
  • But when did the Yemen crisis really begin? There are three possible dates, and these are all factual.
  • The first date: March 2015 (eight years ago) if you count from the time the coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia with US logistical and intelligence support, intervened in Yemen by launching a campaign of economic isolation and air strikes against the Ansar Allah movement also known as Houthis, who had taken over the Yemeni government since 2014.
  • Next date: Sep 2014 (nine years ago) if you count from the time the Houthis took over the rein of power in the capital Sana’a and deposed then president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
  • The third date: Nov 2011 (12 years ago) if you count from the time former strongman, president Ali Abdullah Saleh who had ruled North Yemen since July 1978, and a unified Yemen since May 1990 was removed from power.
  • President Saleh was brought down due to the Arab Spring movement engineered by the US neo-cons.
  • The Arab Spring was a series of pro-democracy and anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across much of theArab world in the early 2010s. 
  • It is important to note that there are always legitimate grievances of the people against their own government, which the Arab Spring is all about.
  • The problem here is that some academics say the term Arab Spring was “part of a US strategy of controlling the movement’s aims and goals” and directing it towards Western-style liberal democracy – hence we can already smell the neo-cons’ involvement in all the Arab Spring movement.
  • What’s more telling about the US involvement is that some activists that were the brain and the activism behind the Arab Spring movement were trained by the many US State Department affiliated non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the most notorious being the US-fundedNational Endowment for Democracy (NED).
  • These activists had taken part in programmes sponsored by the NED, where they were taught the nuts and bolts of organising long and sustainable protests that will sap the energy of the authorities so that a regime change to liberal western democracy will materialise.
  • But the US government claimed that they did not initiate the uprisings.
  • Hence, notwithstanding the rapprochement, ensuring a lasting peace in Yemen after so many years of conflict involving so many parties is easier said than done!
  • However, many analysts say the normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran brokered by China has provided welcome impetus towards peace in Yemen.
  • This is because they see the Yemen war as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and so when the two principals in the proxy war have decided to bury the hatchet, it makes it easier for the direct participants of the war to follow suit.
  • To envisage what’s next for Yemen after this rapprochement, we must first understand the events that led to the Yemen war, especially after strongman president Ali Abdullah Saleh was deposed via the Arab Spring.
  • Between June 4 and Sept 23, 2011, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi was the acting president of Yemen while Ali Abdullah Saleh was undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia due to injuries sustained following a violent attack on the presidential palace during the 2011 Arab Spring.
  • On Nov 23 of the same year, he became acting president again, after Saleh moved into a non-active role pending the presidential election “in return for immunity from prosecution”.
  • Hadi was “expected to form a national unity government and also call for early presidential elections within 90 days” while Saleh continued to serve as president in name only.
  • He was chosen as a president for a two-year transitional period on 21 Feb 2012 by Yemen’s political factions, in an election where he was the sole consensus candidate, although the election was boycotted by Houthis in the north and southern secessionist in the south of the country.
  • Hadi’s mandate was extended for another year in Jan 2014. According to pro-Houthi media outlet SABA, Hadi remained in power after the expiration of his mandate, and this could be the reason why the Houthis are bent on capturing power.
  • The Houthi takeover in Yemen, also known as the Sep 21 Revolution (by supporters), or 2014-15 coup d’état (by opponents), was a popular revolution against president Hadi that pushed the Yemeni government from power.
  • It had its origins on 18 August 2014, as the Houthis, angered over a government-implemented removal of fuel subsidies, called for mass protests, culminating on Sep 21 in the storming of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.
  • Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa immediately resigned accusing segments of the military and government of supporting the revolt and condemned Hadi.
  • It transpired that former president Saleh was a behind-the-scenes leader of the takeover led by Houthi forces. Tribesmen and government forces loyal to Saleh joined the Houthis in their march to power.
  • The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Saleh in 2014, accusing him of threatening peace and obstructing Yemen’s political process, subjecting him to a global travel ban and an asset freeze.
  • After gaining control over key government buildings in Sana’a, the Houthis and the Hadi government signed a UN-brokered deal on Sep 21 to form a “unity government”.
  • However, the unrest took a dramatic turn the following year when on Jan 20, Houthi fighters seized control of the presidential palace and Hadi’s residence in an effort to gain more influence over the government and the drafting of a new constitution.
  • The president was put under house arrest and on Jan 22, Hadi and his government resigned en masse rather than comply with the Houthis’ demands.
  • The Houthi movement officially took control of the Yemeni government on Feb 6, dissolving parliament and declaring its Revolutionary Committee to be the acting authority in Yemen, although they agreed to keep parliament in place two weeks later as part of a power-sharing agreement.
  • The Houthis, once the outliers, are now one of the most stable and organised social and political movements in Yemen.
  • The power vacuum created by Yemen’s uncertain transitional period has drawn more supporters to the Houthis.
  • Many of the formerly powerful parties, now disorganised with an unclear vision, have fallen out of favour with the public, making the Houthis, under their newly branded Ansar Allah name, all the more attractive.
  • Above all, the movement’s finesse in transforming to their advantage popular discontent over corruption and reduction of government subsidies brought about by the Arab Spring movement is remarkable.
  • The Houthis are thus seen as fighting for things that profoundly matter to all Yemenis: government accountability, the end to corruption, regular utilities, fair fuel prices, job opportunities for ordinary Yemenis and the end of Western influence.
  • In other words, the Arab Spring movement unleashed by the US neo-cons has turned on its head, with an Islamist movement gaining supremacy rather than western liberal democracy!
  • Meanwhile on March 25, Hadi managed to escape from house arrest to his hometown in Aden, where he made a televised speech rescinding his resignation, and denouncing the Houthi takeover of the country.
  • He arrived in Riyadh the next day, as a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia intervened in support of his government. He returned to Aden in Sep 2015, as Saudi-backed government forces recaptured the city.
  • Earlier on 27 March 2015, in response to perceived Houthi threats to Sunni factions in the region, Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike in Yemen. 
  • The military coalition included the US, which helped in planning of airstrikes, as well as logistical and intelligence support.
  • In late 2017, Hadi was reportedly residing in Riyadh under house arrest.
  • In 2022, Hadi transferred his powers to a newly formed Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) led by Rashad al-Alimi that would seek a political solution to Yemen’s civil war.
  • This came amid a broader push for peace with Saudi Arabia. Multiple sources in the Saudi and Yemeni governments alleged that he had been forced to cede power by the Saudis.
  • Despite the massive bombing campaign of the Saudi-led gulf coalition, with logistical and intelligence support from the US, and the coalition’s blockade of ports under Houthis’ control, the Yemen war dragged on until 2020 when the war became a stalemate.
  • We can see a parallel here in the Ukraine war in that despite the massive weaponries, logistical, planning and intelligence support that the US, Nato and the EU have given to Ukraine, the latter is still unable to free the Russian controlled region of the Donbas that are inhabited by Russian speaking people and Ukrainians of Russian descent.
  • But of course we cannot compare Yemen with Russia, as the latter was a former superpower, while Yemen isn’t even a regional power.
  • The Iranian support of the Houthis for the most part is overblown. In the first place, Houthis are from the Zaydi school of thought also known as Fiver Shias, whereas most Iranians are Twelver Shias.
  • Zaydis are the oldest branch of the Shia and are currently the second largest group after the Twelvers. They do not believe in theinfallibility of Imams and do not ascribe them with any supernatural qualities, but promote their leadership. 
  • In matters of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), the Zaydis have more in common with the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence than with the Twelvers.
  • They are known as Zaydis in reverence of Zayd ibn Ali’s failed uprising against the Umayyad Caliph, Hisham (ruling 724 – 743 AD), which set a precedent for revolution against corrupt rulers.
  • According to one of the founders of the Houthi movement,Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, Zaydis find it difficult to “sit in their houses” (corrupt rulers) and remain passive in an unjust world.
  • But of course being fellow Shiites, Iran supported the Houthis but this support in the main is very much limited to psychological support which includes training, small arms and some financial assistance.
  • In fact in April 2015, the US National Security Council spokesperson Barnadette Meehan remarked that “it remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen”.
  • Joost Hiltermann writing in Foreign Policy on 27 Feb 2017 noted that Iran does not control the Houthis’ decision-making as evidenced by Houthis’ flat rejection of Iran’s demand not to take over Sana’a in 2015.
  • Thomas Juneau, writing in the journal, International Affairs, states that even though Iran’s support for Houthis has increased since 2014, it remains far too limited to have a significant impact in the balance of power in Yemen.
  • The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft argues that Tehran’s influence over the movement has been “greatly exaggerated” by “the Saudis, their coalition partners”, and “their [lobbyists] in Washington.”
  • In April 2022, the warring parties in Yemen, perhaps exhausted with a protracted war have agreed to a two-month nationwide truce, starting with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
  • This UN-brokered deal between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi is the most significant first step towards ending a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions into hunger.
  • UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said both parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders.
  • They also agreed for fuel ships to enter into Hodeidah ports and commercial flights to operate in and out of Sana’a airport to predetermined destinations in the region.
  • This is what the Houthis called the humanitarian file, which also includes payment of civil servant salaries in areas under their control.
  • The truce was extended twice in June and August, based on the original terms and for only two months each.
  • Then, in late September, just before the third renewal was to run out on October 2, the UN proposed parameters for an expanded truce, which include a more concrete set of ceasefire arrangements and multiparty negotiations.
  • But the Houthis rejected it because they wanted the humanitarian file to be fully closed first before they could agree with an expanded truce.
  • Among others, they called for an end to restrictions on trade into Hodeida, fuel to keep flowing into Hodeida, and the addition of new destinations for flights leaving Sana’a airport.
  • Since the expiry of the truce, the Yemeni and regional parties to the conflict have observed what Crisis Group International described as a truce-without-a-truce, largely holding their fire while the Houthi pursued bilateral negotiations with Saudi Arabia.
  • There were actually three parties in the war. The first is the Houthis who holds the capital Sanaa and much of north Yemen, but losing control of the crucial oil and gas fields, refineries and power plants that are mostly located in the south.
  • The second is the Saudis who led a coalition of gulf countries in the bombing and economic isolation campaign against Yemen.
  • And finally the Saudi-backed Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), a motley collection of anti Houthi group such as the National Resistance Forces, led by Tareq Saleh, nephew of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which calls for independence in what was formerly South Yemen.
  • Of the three, the Houthi is the most stable, united and organised social and political movements in Yemen and very savvy in negotiation.
  • The Houthis know very well the changing realities on the ground after eight years of war and the changing psyche of the Saudi in term of its remorse for the deaths of so many Yemenis due to the bombing campaign, and deaths due to starvation that resulted from the coalition’s economic blockade of Yemen.
  • The Houthis also could see that the Saudi like themselves are very much in need of peace in order to singularly focus on its economic development especially in the tourism and energy sectors.
  • Hence during the negotiation they made it clear that the Yemen war is not a civil conflict but a campaign of aggression waged by Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the US and Israel.
  • They cogently argued that ending the war will first require a deal between Riyadh and themselves, followed by dialogue among the Yemenis.
  • And that is the reason why they refused to go for an extended truce with the UN because they have no quarrel with the UN and wanted to extract the maximum concession possible from the Saudis whose  participation in the Yemen war has caused Houthis to bear the most the brunt of the sufferings.
  • They are open to UN-sponsored talks with the PLC – but only after they have hammered out a settlement with Riyadh.
  • And the Saudis have understood this very well, and their only crucial demand from the Houthis is border security, including pledges to stop missile and drone attacks on the kingdom and to move heavy and long-range weapons away from the frontier.
  • Of course western analysts will say this is not a savvy negotiation but a bait-and-switch negotiation with a hint of being fraudulent by engaging with the UN and Saudi Arabia in mediation efforts (the bait) while continuously raising demands and using the threat of returning to war as leverage (the switch).
  • By doing so, these western analysts say, the Houthis lock their rivals, and perhaps more importantly, foreign powers and the UN, into negotiations, dangling the prospect of an end to the conflict or major concessions to prevent renewed fighting.
  • The emphasis by western analysts on the participation of foreign powers and the UN shows that they are not in tune with recent development where the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran that was brokered by China is an indication that Middle East countries wants greater autonomy and independence over their own affairs.
  • So there’s no need to bring in foreign powers outside the Middle East to interfere in the negotiation.
  • If ever there is a need for foreign powers to mediate, it must be foreign powers that have enough political capital and leverage with ALL relevant sides to the conflict to function as effective guarantors of regional stability
  • Obviously the US and the EU are unqualified in this matter judging from the way they handle the Ukraine war. Their participation will only prolong the Yemen war much in the same way the Ukraine war is prolonged by them.
  • As for the UN, not every situation requires UN intervention / mediation. The rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran happened without any UN participation.
  • Anyway, the Houthis had already said they are open to UN-sponsored talks with the PLC – but only after they have hammered out a settlement with Riyadh.
  • So the key to a lasting peace in Yemen now is just to let the negotiation between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia to proceed without any interference, while hoping for the best outcome possible for all parties to the conflict.
  • For Muslims all over the world, let’s also make a special prayer to Allah that this negotiation will result in lasting peace in Yemen, Aamiin.

Türkiye is a member of Nato, a transatlantic security alliance composed of thirty-one member countries, including the US. 

It was the first Nato country to provide Ukraine with the much-vaunted Bayraktar combat drones during the early stage of the Ukraine war, when other Nato partners were still hesitant about their military aid.

Türkiye also contributed equipment including Kirpi armoured troop carriers and body armour to Ukraine. Last October, the first of four Ada-class corvettes built for Ukraine was launched at an Istanbul shipyard.

As the country given the responsibility over the Black Sea entrance, Türkiye closed its straits to military vessels within days of the start of the war, preventing Moscow from reinforcing its fleet.

So the score then was 2-0 against Russia.

But before the Ukraine war, Türkiye has had very good relations with Russia, and continues to have excellent relations now despite the Ukraine war.

It also refuses to take part in the shock and awe sanctions against Russia introduced by the US and EU to put the Russian economy, in the words of EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, “in tatters” as a prelude to a regime change in Russia.

This is in line with Türkiye’s policy of only following UN Security Council-approved sanctions, and hence, it has continued to maintain economic ties with Russia as the West turned its back on Russia.

Much to the consternation of the US and its allies, the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also maintained regular contact with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.

Türkiye has argued that there is a need for a Nato country to remain neutral so that the communication lines between Russia and Nato remain open during the Ukraine war, just in case a negotiation to end the war is needed.

After all, all wars were always upended via negotiation. This made the score 2-2, very much neutral to Russia.

Since the start of the war on Feb 24 last year, Ankara has carefully balanced relations with both sides in the war.

This brinkmanship has put Türkiye and Erdogan in good stead. Trusted by both, it was to Türkiye that the warring countries sought for peace talks in March 2022, just about a month after the war commenced.

And so Istanbul became the venue for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine mediated by Türkiye.

These peace talks in Istanbul would have ended the war as Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky appeared ready for peace, but just as Moscow and Kyiv almost reached an agreement, former British prime minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv and sabotaged the peace deal.

Speaking to Newsweek in September, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov said the prospect of peace between Russia and Ukraine had so “obviously frightened the Americans and the British, so they actually forbade Ukraine to conduct further dialogue with Russia”.

This was a reference to revelations at that time by pro-government media in Kyiv that Boris Johnson had brought such a message to Zelensky in that sinister visit to Kyiv.

“It is objectively not possible to maintain normal communication with Washington” after the US declared “the strategic defeat of Russia” as its policy goal, Lavrov told Newsweek then.

Had the peace deal became a reality then, not only Russia and Ukraine but the world too would be indebted to Türkiye and Erdogan for eliminating the sufferings worldwide brought about by the war.

So Boris Johnson really did a disservice to the world by prolonging the war and he deserves a condemnation from all peace loving people in the world.

There is another important thing to the world that Erdogan did. Together with the UN, Türkiye brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative to reintroduce vital food and fertiliser exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world.

In the wake of the Ukraine war, mountains of grains built up in silos in Ukraine, with ships unable to secure safe passage to and from Ukrainian ports, and land routes unable to compensate.

This contributed to a jump in the price of staple foods around the world. Combined with increases in the cost of energy, developing countries were pushed to the brink of debt default and increasing numbers of people found themselves on the brink of famine.

On July 22, the UN, Türkiye, Russia and Ukraine agreed to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, at a signing ceremony in Istanbul.

The deal allowed exports from Ukraine of grain, other foodstuffs, and fertiliser, including ammonia, to resume through a safe maritime humanitarian corridor from three key Ukrainian ports: Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi, to the rest of the world.

To implement the deal, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) was established in Istanbul, comprising senior representatives from the three countries and the UN.

According to procedures issued by the JCC, vessels wishing to participate in the Initiative will undergo inspection off Istanbul to ensure they are empty of cargo, then sail through the maritime humanitarian corridor to Ukrainian ports to load.

The corridor is established by the JCC and monitored 24/7 to ensure the safe passage of vessels. Vessels on the return journey will also be inspected at the inspection area off Istanbul.

Shipments monitored by the Initiative began leaving from August 1. By the end of the month, over 100 ships, laden with more than one million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs, had left Ukraine.

By mid-September the JCC reported some three million tonnes had left Ukraine, signalling positive progress. It is hoped that, eventually, up to five million tonnes will be exported monthly.

According to UN figures, 51% of the cargo so far (as of mid-September) has been corn, 25% wheat, 11% sunflower products, 6% rapeseed, 5% barley, 1% soya beans, and 1% other foodstuffs.

There are strong signs that the Initiative is succeeding in one of its key aims – getting food prices down.

At a press briefing in September 2022, Rebeca Grynspan, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and Amir Abdulla, the UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative welcomed the fact prices have come down five months in a row and the Food Price Index has decreased nearly 14% from its peak in March of 2022.

Abdulla explained falling prices meant that those who had been hoarding grain, in the hope of selling at a greater profit, were now selling, which meant that there is now more food supply in the markets, leading to further price drops.

Grynspan, who is also coordinator of the UN global Task Team set up to help support countries deal with the triple economic shocks worsened by the effects of the war in Ukraine, pointed out that this is making a huge difference in a global cost of living crisis.

Globally, a record 345 million people in more than 80 countries are currently facing acute food insecurity, while up to 50 million people in 45 countries are at risk of being pushed into famine without humanitarian support.

In August, the UN World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley declared getting the Black Sea Ports open to be “the single most important thing we can do right now to help the world’s hungry”.

He warned that, whilst this would not, on its own, stop world hunger, bringing Ukrainian grain back on global markets would improve the chance of preventing the global food crisis from spiralling even further.

But Russia bemoaned the fact that the Initiative didn’t really help poorer countries, as the bulk of the deliveries (73%) went to the upper middle and high-income countries (See Figure below).

Russia had also criticised the deal because another part of the agreement in which Russian grains and fertilisers were to be accorded the same delivery as the Ukraine’s without any hindrance were not observed by the European countries.

On Oct 29, Russia suspended participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative due to the drone attack by Ukraine on the Russian Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula, and that it alleged British navy “specialists” had helped coordinate the “terrorist” attack.

Responding to the Russian suspension, Türkiye, which helped broker the agreement, remained committed to the deal.

“Even if Russia behaves hesitantly because it didn’t receive the same benefits, we will continue decisively our efforts to serve humanity,” Erdogan said.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu that Moscow should re-evaluate the suspension of its participation.

In a phone call between the two ministers, Akar told Shoigu it was extremely important for the grain deal to continue, and added it should be implemented separately from the conflict in Ukraine, Türkiye’s defence ministry said.

What is important however is that after four days of telephone diplomacy between Erdogan and Putin, as well as other officials on both sides, Moscow announced on November 2 it was rejoining the pact originally brokered by Türkiye and the UN.

“He [Putin] doesn’t agree to open this grain corridor through others. But with me, when I call … straight away he opened the grain corridor,” Erdogan said.

Just imagine had this been Biden or Blinken or Ursula von der Leyen or Joseph Borrell calling in Putin, the Russian leader would definitely have not picked up the phone.

It goes to show how the US and EU leaders have lost their diplomacy skills and were useless when it comes to diplomacy because of their war-mongering stance in their refusal to let peace negotiations to take place in order to end the Ukraine War.

It is very important for world leaders especially a superpower like the US to have a top-notch diplomacy skill so that the lines of communication would still be open with leaders of countries that have shown hostilities to them so that war or hostilities can be mediated or ended.

Erdogan’s skill in diplomacy is once again up in the air for everyone to see when in March, Moscow agreed to extend the Black Sea pact for only a further 60 days until May 18 instead of 120 days unless a list of demands regarding its own agricultural exports was met.

As May 18 approaches, the world was on its nerve to see whether Russia will extend the deal beyond May 18.

Again, it was Erdogan who stepped in with a phone diplomacy with Putin, and announced on May 17 the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal has been extended for two more months, one day before Russia could have quit the pact over obstacles to its grain and fertiliser exports.

“The Black Sea grain corridor deal has been extended by two months with the efforts of Turkey,” Erdogan said in his televised speech, also thanking the Russian and Ukrainian leaders and UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres for their help.

Erdogan’s comments, made in a speech to officials of his ruling AK Party, came after the last ship left a Ukrainian port under the deal.

In an interview with CNN on May 19, Erdogan said this “was possible because of our special relationship with President Putin.”

“The West is not leading a very balanced approach. You need a balanced approach towards a country such as Russia, which would have been a much more fortunate approach,” he said.

He also added that Türkiye is “not at a point where we would impose sanctions on Russia like the West have done. We are not bound by the West’s sanctions,” Erdogan told CNN. “We are a strong state and we have a positive relationship with Russia.”

“Russia and Turkey need each other in every field possible,” Erdogan said.

Türkiye’s balancing act by not taking sides in the Ukraine war is an excellent example of how a country should behave in a multipolar world.

Way back on Sep 20 in an interview with the PBS news outlet, Erdogan said a settlement in the Ukrainian conflict would require Russia to return all “invaded” lands to Ukraine.

“If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important. This is what is expected. This is what is wanted,” he said.

Adding that “no invasion can be justified,” but acknowledging that at the same time, “prior to the breaking out of this conflict, many things had happened, a solution therefore won’t be found in “person to the one side entirely and defending the other,” Erdogan said.

“We are not going to defend a single leader. But, instead, we have to be looking for a conclusion that will satisfy all parties involved,” he stressed.

At the start of the war, Türkiye was the first to contribute arms and equipment to Ukraine, in line with its responsibility as a Nato member country, and also of the good bilateral relation it has had with Ukraine since before the war.

Also, it quickly closed the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to military vessels within days of the start of the war, not so much to prevent Moscow from reinforcing its fleet, but rather to prevent escalation in the Black Sea.

It refuses until today to participate in the sanctions against Russia because of its belief that the only legitimate sanctions Türkiye will observe are sanctions that are mandated by the UN Security Council, and not the US-mandated or EU-mandated ones.

Erdogan seems to understand that sanctions that are solely based on ruining a country’s economy so that colour revolution can take place which will pave the way for a regime change is an undemocratic and unjust sanctions that will not only cause the innocent citizens of the country concerned to suffer but will also boomerang on the countries that initiate and participate in that sanctions, and making their citizens suffer too.

In doing all these we can see that Erdogan is just doing what a leader should do – taking care of Türkiye’s interest so that the well being of each and every Turkish citizens are guaranteed.

And he doesn’t do all these at the expense of other countries. He even has humanity in mind when he initiated the Black Sea Grain Initiative with the UN, and playing a mediator role to end the Ukraine war.

While the US has been plotting for his downfall based on a video which resurfaced recently where US president Joe Biden has detailed out what looks like a “handbook” for a regime change in Turkey via the electoral process, as far back as late last year, Ankara was chosen as the venue for the heads of the American and Russian foreign intelligence services – the CIA’s Bill Burns and Sergey Nariskin of the SVR – to discuss “threats against international security, starting with the use of nuclear weapons”, Erdogan’s office has said then.

But instead of recognising the useful, neutral role that Türkiye has played all this while, the US and its western allies are hell-bent to see Erdogan go.

A few weeks before the May 14 election, the mainstream US and western media turned out in full force and had a field day in meddling in the election by running anti-Erdogan articles, which more or less looked like the first salvo in implementing Joe Biden’s “handbook” of a regime change in Türkiye through the election process.

In particular, the cover story of the London-based magazine, the Economist, with its front cover picture of pins that said “Save Democracy” and “Erdogan Must Go” was patently anti-Erdogan.

For weeks before the election, opinion polls of the West that were manipulated to show opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu winning the election were trumpeted throughout Türkiye and the world.

Views of US and western analysts that predicted the two powerful earthquakes which struck southern Türkiye in February, killing more than 50,000 people, would hurt Erdogan’s chances of re-election on May 14 gained prominence as the election date neared.

But in the aftermath of the election, figures showed that out of 11 provinces affected by the earthquakes, Erdogan and his AK Party were ahead in eight provinces in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, while Kilicdaroglu of the Nation Alliance and the leftist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader were well ahead only in two earthquake provinces.

Without this meddling from the US and western media, Erdogan would have easily won the election without the necessity of a runoff on May 28. It is indeed very strange that the US and its allies are hell-bent in plotting the downfall of even its own ally, Erdogan.

In fact, according to Alexander Mercouris of the Duran, an independent news channel, this meddling especially the Economist cover story and its pictures had the opposite effect of galvanising the Turkish population to come out in droves as shown by the more than good voters turnout to vote for Erdogan, which gave him a slight lead in winning the first round of the election on May 14.

Now most analysts including the US and western ones are predicting an easy victory for Erdogan in the runoff on May 28.

But can we really believe and underestimate the neo-cons in the Biden administration and their allies in Europe to just surrender without trying their best to unseat Erdogan?

Only time will tell.



Jamari Mohtar

Editor, Let’s Talk!

* Read our two op-eds published by Malaysian Insight and Business Today on May 27.