Weekend Roundup: A Pattern of Crises Connects Cologne and Istanbul


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

Even before the “Night of Shame” on New Year’s Eve in Cologne further fueled an already fervent anti-foreigner backlash, German leaders were desperately looking to Turkey to stem the flow of refugees headed to Europe from the war-torn Mideast. Now 10 German tourists have lost their lives at the foot of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. They are the victims of yet another suicide bombing by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the wake of Turkey’s decision last July to allow U.S. warplanes to fly from its soil to attack militant positions in Syria. Along the old route of the Orient Express, violence and disorder are weaving an interrelated and self-reinforcing pattern of crises that will be hard to unravel.

Writing from Istanbul, Kaya Genc recalls French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s observation on a visit there during another tumultuous period in 1850 that aptly fits events today both in Turkey and Europe: “Everything here is breaking up, as with us.” Also writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan argues that there is plenty of blame to go around for the linked crises of the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS, terrorism and refugees: “The U.S. and EU are also to blame, having assisted Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their destabilization of Syria,” he says. Ömer Taşpınar writes that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fight against the Kurds is inhibiting a serious assault on ISIS.

World Reporter Nick Robins-Early chronicles the political turmoil and violence that have wracked Turkey over recent months while Charlotte Alfred, another world reporter, details efforts by authorities to ban media coverage of terror bombings. WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports that the tourism industry is reeling after the attack near Istanbul’s most visited sites. She also follows the story of the struggle to get aid to 60,000 people starving and isolated in Syria. Amnesty International’s Diana Semaan echoes our own “Forgotten Fact” report in pointing out that the hunger crisis in Syria extends beyond the city of Madaya that made headlines in recent days. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hopes that “out of tragedy and chaos” in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon a new commitment will arise from the international community to get child refugees back into school.

Alex Gorlach writes from Berlin that “the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve have turned the rhetoric in Germany on its head. Conceit and complacency have given way to searching self-doubt, as if waking up with a nasty hangover on New Year’s Day.” From London, Bonny Brooks worries that “left-wing apologism” over refugees is “fueling right-wing populism.” “In our reluctance to face up to the painful — yet credible — reports of migrant involvement in these horrific Cologne attacks,” she writes, “we have unwittingly given succor to those who would deny haven to any refugees at all.” Ahmed Agdas, a young German politician from the Christian Democratic Union, writes, “we can get over Cologne.” “The truth is we need time,” he continues. “Time for an orderly process and for integration. Time for our state’s rule of law. Time for reflection and differentiation. Time for our civilized character.”

Writing from Tunis on the fifth anniversary of the toppling of former President Ben Ali, Amira Yahyaoui further deflates the hopes of the Arab Spring in the one place it seemed to have worked. “When dictatorships fall, the political vacuum that ensues is quickly filled by political activists from the anti-dictatorship opposition,” she says. “Unfortunately, what these figures have in legitimacy they lack in competency and experience. They are unable to take on the task of reforming the state. As a result, a counter-revolutionary discourse emerges almost organically: ‘it was better before.’” Soumaya Ghannoushi sees Tunisia today as “the only glimmer of light” in the “raging sea of civil strife, disorder and resurgent tyranny” in the Arab world due in large part to political compromises that have nonetheless given “a chance for the old guards to reposition themselves within the new system.” At the invitation of HuffPost Tunisia, several Tunisians share their memories of the Jasmine Revolution five years on.

Ali Al-Ahmed argues that the Saudi execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr earlier this month, which set off open confrontation with Iran, could mark the beginning of the end of the Saudi monarchy. Tony Badran says the Obama administration is engaging in a dangerous gamble by embracing Iran and dissolving its traditional relationship with Saudi Arabia as the pillar of U.S. Mideast policy. Asma Afsaruddin describes how she explained to a student how Islam is not monolithic. Antonia Blumberg lists 11 must-read books by Muslim authors from “The Essential Rumi” to Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita in Tehran.” Noting the recent anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack, philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy writes from Paris that the West is facing an “intellectual emergency” in its weak defense of the Enlightenment.

Writing from Jakarta in the aftermath of the ISIS-claimed attack there this week, Wimar Witoelar assesses the situation. “There is a base of support for ISIS in Indonesia,” he says, “But public declarations by a thousand or two people do not represent active support for ISIS. Islamic terrorism and professions of support for it in Indonesia remain curiosities. The conflict in Syria and its geopolitical implications has captured the imagination of the public because of empathy for the suffering of Middle East Muslims — which have a distinctly different cultural base from eclectic Indonesian Muslims.”

As the world enters 2016, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sums up the bleak global situation, with particular attention to the Mideast and the refugee crisis, by quoting William Butler Yeats: “‘The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’” Futurist Jeremy Rifkin scores the idea of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres as the organizing theme of the World Economic Forum convening in Davos next week. Rifkin sees this as premature since what he calls the “Third Industrial Revolution” is only just underway. “The evolution of digitalization has barely begun to run its course,” he writes, “and its new configuration in the form of the Internet of Things represents the next stage of its development.”

Daniel Robelo argues that the recent capture of ‘El Chapo,’ the Mexican drug lord, is a sensational distraction from the failed drug war being waged by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Vocativ tells the story of Twitter users who accused Mexican authorities of using the ‘El Chapo’ capture and Sean Penn interview to turn attention away from the serious social ills facing the country. In an interview, Steven Dudley, co-director of InSight Crime, a group that tracks organized crime in Latin America, talks about how Guzmán’s capture is likely to impact the Sinaloa cartel and Mexico’s drug war.

As U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address this week, Lawrence Jacobs writes that Obama is “the most consequential second-term president since the Second World War.” Ahead of the Taiwan elections this weekend, J. Michael Cole reports from Taipei that voters are as concerned with domestic issues such as air pollution as they are with relations with Beijing. WorldPost China Correspondent Matt Sheehan tells the story of 55-year-old Beijing resident, Zou Yi, who has taken a photo of the skyline from his window every day for the last three years and posted them all on social media as a way to document pollution. U.S. Representative Matt Salmon argues that America should no longer accept China’s denial of government-sponsored hack attacks. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden look at how China’s cooling economy is sending a chill through Africa.

In our Singularity series this week we consider the crisis in cosmology over how to experimentally confirm the existence of dark matter. Finally, looking at pop culture, Fusion this week names the three countries where Adele’s “25” did not top the charts.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


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