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FTR #881 Turkey Shoot: Sleepwalking into World War III

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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

F-16 of the Turkish Air Force

Introduction: Analyzing the shootdown of a Russian Su-24 aircraft by a Turkish F-16, this program details disturbing information that the attack was not only a deliberate ambush, but that the air forces of that NATO country have been providing air cover for the al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked combatants fighting inside Syria. (“Air cover” refers to combat aircraft neutralizing enemy air threats to ground forces. This should not be confused with “air support,” which refers to combat aircraft acting in support of ground forces against their opponents–serving, in effect, as “airborne artillery.”)

Interviewed by Andrew Cockburn, Pierre Sprey (who helped develop the F-16) opined: ” . . . Look­ing at the detailed Russ­ian time­line of what happened—as well as the much less detailed Turk­ish radar maps—I’d say the evi­dence looks pretty strong that the Turks were set­ting up an ambush. They cer­tainly weren’t doing any­thing that would point to a rou­tine air patrol along the bor­der. . . .”

A very important article from Harper’s sets forth key points of analysis of the attack:

  • The area attacked by the Su-24s was a major crossing point for trucks, oil tankers in particular (this was an area where Turkmen militias supported by Turkey and sympathetic to the Nusra Front (AQI in Syria) and ISIS operate. Chechens are also active in this area. ” . . . It’s also a place where there’s quite a bit of truck traf­fic, a fair amount of it prob­a­bly oil tankers. It’s the only cross­ing for many, many miles around. This is a pretty sparsely pop­u­lated, well forested and hilly area occu­pied by Turkmen—Turkish speak­ing Syr­ian tribes­men who are sym­pa­thetic to al-Nusra and the Islamic State, who har­bor Chechen ter­ror­ists and who we know have been sup­ported by the Turks. . . .
  • Turkey has used this area to slip terrorists into Syria or to allow them to infiltrate.
  • The Su-24’s were assigned a target in this area. They launched a first attack, then followed a race track-like U-turn and launched a second attack. Shortly after this attack, one of the jets was shot down. ” . . . They then made a U-turn, so to speak, to fol­low a race­track pat­tern back toward where they had been loi­ter­ing to get ready for a sec­ond attack. They in fact exe­cuted the sec­ond attack about seven or eight min­utes later. One of the two Su-24s hit its tar­get right at about ten twenty-four and was almost imme­di­ately shot down as he was pulling off the target. . . .”
  • Two Turkish F-16s were launched well before the Su-24s were assigned their target. They arrived at a mountainous area 25 miles above the border and began to “loiter” at about the time that the Russian pilots were being assigned their targets. The F-16s loitered over that mountainous area for about an hour and fifteen minutes. ” . . . Inter­est­ingly, they arrived in that area to loi­ter just about the time that the Russ­ian pilots were being assigned their tar­gets, and the F-16s loi­tered over that moun­tain­ous area for about an hour and fif­teen minutes. . . .”
  • The Russian Su-24 on its way down.

    The F-16s were not loitering at high altitude (20-30 thousand feet–to conserve fuel, which is would be normal in a routine patrol. They were loitering quite low (7,500 to eight thousand feet) below the coverage of Syrian and Russian radars. This is a very inefficient altitude at which to loiter, because the planes consume huge amounts of fuel at that altitude. ” . . . Here’s the cru­cial thing. They were not loi­ter­ing up at high altitude—say twenty to thirty thou­sand feet—to con­serve fuel, which is where you would nor­mally be loi­ter­ing if you were sim­ply doing a rou­tine bor­der patrol. They were loi­ter­ing quite low, at about seven thou­sand five hun­dred to eight thou­sand feet, which, first of all, is below the cov­er­age of the Syr­ian and Russ­ian radars that were down around Latakia, and which is a very fuel-inefficient alti­tude to loi­ter. You suck up a lot of gas down at those low altitudes. . . .

  • This means they were refueled on the way to their mission by American-made tanker aircraft possessed by the Turkish air force! (They were two hundred and fifty miles away.) The planes would have needed to have their fuel “topped off” to operate at that altitude and for that period of time. ” . . . That tells you right away, if they hung out there for seventy-five min­utes, they must’ve been tanked on the way in to that mis­sion, because they were quite far from their home base—two hun­dred and fifty miles—so they must’ve topped up on fuel to have enough to even last for an hour and a quar­ter at this inef­fi­cient low alti­tude. The Turk­ish Air Force does have a num­ber of Amer­i­can tankers that they own, so they cer­tainly could’ve and almost beyond a shadow of a doubt did tank these F-16s before this whole engagement. . . .”
  • Just as the doomed Russian fighter finishes its “race-track” pattern, the F-16s break out of their “loiter” patterns and fly in a line south, probably under Turkish ground control, heading for an intercept point. (They were not “hunting” for the Su-24s in a curved path.) The intercept point is close to the target bombed by the Su-24s. ” . . . At that point, the two F-16s break out of their loi­ter pat­terns to fly in a straight line south, quite cer­tainly under Turk­ish ground con­trol because they clearly are not hunt­ing for the Su-24s and fol­low­ing a curved path, they’re head­ing straight for an inter­cept point that appar­ently ground con­trol has pro­vided them—a point that’s very close to the tar­get that the Su-24s have just bombed. That’s clearly the point they’re com­ing back to bomb again. . . .”
  • Tayyip Erdogan

    The F-16s arrive (precisely timed) to a missile-firing position. One of the F-16s locks onto the Su-24 and fires a missile, flying up to a perfect attack altitude, and then dives down to be below Syrian radar coverage. ” . . . The F-16s arrive quite nicely and pre­cisely timed to a missile-shooting posi­tion very near the bor­der and three to four miles from the sec­ond Su-24—who has just fin­ished bomb­ing his sec­ond target—at about ten twenty-four. One of the F-16s locks onto him, launches a missile—an infrared mis­sile accord­ing to the Russians—and imme­di­ately dives down to get back under the Syr­ian radar coverage. . . .”

  • The attacking plane makes a “hard driving right turn” to get below radar coverage and heads away from the attack area. The F-16s would have had to be refueled again on their way back to their base. ” . . . The F-16 makes a hard div­ing right turn and is back down under eight thou­sand feet in no time at all and head­ing north away from the scene of the engage­ment. In that turn he actu­ally is pen­e­trat­ing Syr­ian air­space before he heads north to go home to Diyarbakir, prob­a­bly at that point out of fuel and hook­ing up with a tanker again in order to make it home. . . .”
  • The Turks claim that the Russian plane was in their air space. It is not clear that that was the case, but IF that was the case, the incursion would have been over a finger of land for just a few seconds. The attack took place on the second attack run of the Su-24, not during the alleged border incursion! ” . . . Here’s the very inter­est­ing thing. This border-violating incur­sion was on the first run to the tar­get at around quar­ter after ten a.m. On the sec­ond run to the tar­get the Russ­ian planes were clearly fur­ther to the south. This is accord­ing to the plots and maps released in the Russ­ian brief­ing, which are very, very detailed with exact time marks every minute. The seventeen-second cross­ing of the bor­der alleged by the Turks hap­pened at about a quar­ter after ten, but the Turks waited. They didn’t come in and attack the air­plane that had crossed the bor­der at that point. They sim­ply sat and waited until the plane flew a long re-attack pat­tern and came back on a sec­ond run seven or eight min­utes later, and that’s when they attacked and shot him down. . . .”
  • In accordance with the protocols established between NATO and the Russians, the Russians had submitted detailed information about the pending mission well beforehand. This would have made the Turkish attack relatively easy to engineer.
  • The Turks claim to have broadcast ten warnings to the Russian fighter, however the F-16s never issued any warnings, as required by protocol, nor did they fly on a parallel course, within visual contact of the Russian plane.Russian planes have no UHF radio frequency reception. ” . . . The Turks do say they trans­mit­ted their warn­ings from a ground-control sta­tion. They also claim they trans­mit­ted those radio calls on both the civil­ian inter­na­tional emer­gency “guard” UHF-band fre­quency and on the mil­i­tary VHF-band fre­quency pre­vi­ously agreed to by NATO and the Rus­sians. The Amer­i­cans were quick to con­firm that their mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment picked up the Turk­ish ground-station radio warn­ing calls, but they’ve been care­ful not to say what fre­quency they heard. Now it so hap­pens that Su-24s have no radios onboard for receiv­ing UHF-frequency sig­nals, a fact which is well known to Amer­i­can, NATO, and Turk­ish intelligence. . . .” 
  • The Turkish ground station may well have broadcast the warnings on UHF, knowing that the Russians would not have received them. ” . . . . The ground-control sta­tion in Turkey prob­a­bly did issue warn­ings, but they may have been warn­ings that were intended not to be received. . . .”
  • The Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles installed at the Latakia base can fire two hundred miles into Turkey, threatening any aircraft that might launch a similar attack  in the future. This could lead to World War III. ” . . . . The Russians are installing it at their base just south of Latakia, within fifty miles of the border. So conceivably they could shoot two hundred miles into Turkey. They may or may not be able to prevent a hidden Turkish fighter from firing at another Russian attack in the border area, but they certainly have the possibility of catching him or his friends on the way home. This is a real sword poised over the heads of the Turks now that the Russians have the capability to shoot deep into Turkey and can do so any time they want. . . .”

After analyzing the attack itself, the broadcast reviews information about the area targeted by the Russian jets.

Listeners are emphatically encouraged to use previous programs and descriptions to flesh out their understanding. We recommend: FTR #’s 737, 862, 863, 878, 879, 880.

Program Highlights Include:

  • Review of the fact that a Syrian jet was shot down while combatting an offensive by the Islamist forces backed by Turkey.
  • Review of the fact that the combatants for which Turkish aircraft have been providing air cover are: Turkmen associated with the Grey Wolves and the Pan-Turkist movement; al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front fighters and ISIS units.
  • The area targeted by the Russian jets also harbors Chechen fighters.
  • Review of the role of central role of Chechens in the ISIS order of battle.
  • Review of ISIS-linked Chechens operating in Ukraine under Pravy Sektor administrative command.
  • Review of UNA-UNSA Ukrainian fascists fighting in Chechnya.
  • Review of how the UNA-UNSO morphed into Pravy Sektor, selecting Yuriy Shukhevych to head its combatant wing. (Yuriy Shukhevych is the son of Roman Shukhevych, the head of the UPA that fought alongside Nazi Germany in World War II.
  • Review of the Pan-Turkist linked Crimean Tatars alliance with Pravy Sektor to blockade Crimean road traffic and sabotage the Crimean power supply.
  • Review of Grey Wolf/Pan-Turkist elements active in Asia, supporting the Uighurs against China.
  • Review of Grey Wolf activity in Syria.

F-16 of the Turkish Air Force

1a. Here’s an analy­sis of the jet shoot­down time­line in Harpers that’s based on the data pro­vided by Rus­sia and Turk­ish radar maps. It will be inter­est­ing to hear if the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment responds to the analy­sis because it comes to the con­clu­sion that the shoot­down was an ambush:

“Moun­tain Ambush” by Andrew Cockburn; Harper’s; 12/4/2015.

“Look­ing at the detailed Russ­ian time­line of what hap­pened,” says defense ana­lyst Pierre Sprey, “I’d say the evi­dence looks pretty strong that the Turks were set­ting up an ambush.”

By Andrew Cockburn

On Novem­ber 24, a Turk­ish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russ­ian Su-24 bomber near the bor­der of Turkey and Syria. In the imme­di­ate after­math, offi­cials from the two coun­tries offered con­tra­dic­tory ver­sions of what tran­spired: Russ­ian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin claimed that the plane was fly­ing over Syr­ian ter­ri­tory when it was downed; Turk­ish pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan coun­tered that it was inside Turkey’s bor­der and had been warned ten times to alter its course. Hours later, Pres­i­dent Obama threw his sup­port behind Erdo­gan. “Turkey,” he said, “has a right to defend its ter­ri­tory and its airspace.”

I asked Pierre Sprey, a long­time defense ana­lyst and mem­ber of the team that devel­oped the F-16, to exam­ine what we know about the down­ing and deter­mine what actu­ally occurred that morning.

The Rus­sians have claimed the Novem­ber 24 down­ing of their bomber was a delib­er­ate pre-planned ambush by the Turks. Is there any merit in that argument?

The Russian Su-24 on its way down.

Look­ing at the detailed Russ­ian time­line of what happened—as well as the much less detailed Turk­ish radar maps—I’d say the evi­dence looks pretty strong that the Turks were set­ting up an ambush. They cer­tainly weren’t doing any­thing that would point to a rou­tine air patrol along the bor­der. Their actions in no way rep­re­sented a rou­tine, all day long type of patrol.

How can we tell that?

Well, let’s set up the sit­u­a­tion and it’ll be a lit­tle eas­ier to under­stand. The Russ­ian pilots were assigned a tar­get very close to the Turk­ish bor­der, about ten miles in from the Mediter­ranean coast and about five miles south of an impor­tant bor­der cross­ing at a lit­tle place called Yay­ladagi. That’s a bor­der cross­ing that the Turks have used to slip jihadists into Syria, or to allow them to slip in. It’s also a place where there’s quite a bit of truck traf­fic, a fair amount of it prob­a­bly oil tankers. It’s the only cross­ing for many, many miles around. This is a pretty sparsely pop­u­lated, well forested and hilly area occu­pied by Turkmen—Turkish speak­ing Syr­ian tribes­men who are sym­pa­thetic to al-Nusra and the Islamic State, who har­bor Chechen ter­ror­ists and who we know have been sup­ported by the Turks.

The tar­get area the Rus­sians were inter­ested in was about five miles south, along the road lead­ing to this cross­ing. That was the tar­get area that they assigned to these two Su-24s on the day of the shoot-down. The crews were assigned the mis­sion at about nine-fifteen in the morn­ing, Moscow time. They took off about a half hour later, headed for an area about thirty miles inland from the Mediter­ranean coast—in other words well east of this tar­get area—to loi­ter until they got fur­ther instruc­tions on hit­ting a tar­get in the tar­get area. At this point they’re just cruis­ing and loi­ter­ing at eigh­teen thou­sand, nine­teen thou­sand feet, try­ing to con­serve gas while they’re wait­ing to be assigned a spe­cific target.

The flight to their hold­ing area was very short, because they were fly­ing out of a Russ­ian base south of Latakia. It was like a ten-minute flight. They were only about thirty miles away or so. After they reached their loi­ter area—at roughly a quar­ter to ten—they were well in view of Turk­ish radar cov­er­age because they were up high and not far from the bor­der, roughly six­teen miles south.

They got assigned their tar­get, which was the road south of this impor­tant bor­der cross­ing, and exe­cuted a first strike, each of them attack­ing sep­a­rate tar­gets at about a quar­ter after ten. They then made a U-turn, so to speak, to fol­low a race­track pat­tern back toward where they had been loi­ter­ing to get ready for a sec­ond attack. They in fact exe­cuted the sec­ond attack about seven or eight min­utes later. One of the two Su-24s hit its tar­get right at about ten twenty-four and was almost imme­di­ately shot down as he was pulling off the target.

What about the Turk­ish air force, what were they doing meanwhile?

The Turks had launched two F-16s quite a bit ear­lier than the time we’re talk­ing about, from Diyarbakir, a major base for the Turk­ish Air Force about two hun­dred and fifty miles away, to loi­ter just in from the Mediter­ranean over a moun­tain­ous area that was about twenty-five miles north of this bor­der cross­ing. Inter­est­ingly, they arrived in that area to loi­ter just about the time that the Russ­ian pilots were being assigned their tar­gets, and the F-16s loi­tered over that moun­tain­ous area for about an hour and fif­teen minutes.

Here’s the cru­cial thing. They were not loi­ter­ing up at high altitude—say twenty to thirty thou­sand feet—to con­serve fuel, which is where you would nor­mally be loi­ter­ing if you were sim­ply doing a rou­tine bor­der patrol. They were loi­ter­ing quite low, at about seven thou­sand five hun­dred to eight thou­sand feet, which, first of all, is below the cov­er­age of the Syr­ian and Russ­ian radars that were down around Latakia, and which is a very fuel-inefficient alti­tude to loi­ter. You suck up a lot of gas down at those low altitudes.

That tells you right away, if they hung out there for seventy-five min­utes, they must’ve been tanked on the way in to that mis­sion, because they were quite far from their home base—two hun­dred and fifty miles—so they must’ve topped up on fuel to have enough to even last for an hour and a quar­ter at this inef­fi­cient low alti­tude. The Turk­ish Air Force does have a num­ber of Amer­i­can tankers that they own, so they cer­tainly could’ve and almost beyond a shadow of a doubt did tank these F-16s before this whole engagement.

They’re hang­ing out at low alti­tude over this moun­tain­ous area north of the bor­der, and it’s now about a quar­ter after ten. The Russ­ian fight­ers, the Su-24s, are just fin­ish­ing their race­track pat­tern after their first strike and are about to re-attack from this hold­ing posi­tion well east of the tar­get. At that point, the two F-16s break out of their loi­ter pat­terns to fly in a straight line south, quite cer­tainly under Turk­ish ground con­trol because they clearly are not hunt­ing for the Su-24s and fol­low­ing a curved path, they’re head­ing straight for an inter­cept point that appar­ently ground con­trol has pro­vided them—a point that’s very close to the tar­get that the Su-24s have just bombed. That’s clearly the point they’re com­ing back to bomb again.

The F-16s arrive quite nicely and pre­cisely timed to a missile-shooting posi­tion very near the bor­der and three to four miles from the sec­ond Su-24—who has just fin­ished bomb­ing his sec­ond target—at about ten twenty-four. One of the F-16s locks onto him, launches a missile—an infrared mis­sile accord­ing to the Russians—and imme­di­ately dives down to get back under the Syr­ian radar coverage. The F-16 makes a hard div­ing right turn and is back down under eight thou­sand feet in no time at all and head­ing north away from the scene of the engage­ment. In that turn he actu­ally is pen­e­trat­ing Syr­ian air­space before he heads north to go home to Diyarbakir, prob­a­bly at that point out of fuel and hook­ing up with a tanker again in order to make it home.

Would he have been in Syr­ian air­space when they fired the missile?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. It’s hard to tell at this point. All this action is pretty close to the bor­der, and there’s no rea­son to believe either the Turks or the Rus­sians about dis­tances of half a mile or a mile north or south of the bor­der, but there’s no ques­tion that the Turk­ish F-16 pen­e­trated Syr­ian air­space in exe­cut­ing his div­ing turn to get out of the area. He was head­ing due south to attack the east-west track of the Su-24 that had just fin­ished bomb­ing the tar­get. That Su-24 augured in almost imme­di­ately, about a mile and a half south of the border.

The bone of con­tention here is not the tar­get area. The tar­get area is roughly four or five miles south of that famous bor­der cross­ing we were just talk­ing about. The bone of con­tention is a nar­row fin­ger of Turk­ish land about five miles long, stick­ing straight down into Syria, about a mile and a half at its widest at the north­ern end and taper­ing down to a half mile at the south­ern tip. That fin­ger is a good six miles east of the tar­get area. So when head­ing west on their way to attack their tar­gets, the Su-24s nec­es­sar­ily had to pass very close to the south­ern tip of the fin­ger. In other words, the whole con­tro­versy about whether this shoot-down was legit­i­mate or not is whether the Su-24s on the way to the tar­get hap­pened to cross that fin­ger for a few seconds.

Remem­ber again the setup. You’ve got a tar­get that’s like ten miles in from the Mediter­ranean to the east. Another six miles or so east of there is this fin­ger of land. It’s well east of the tar­get area. The loi­ter area that the Sukhois were com­ing from is another six­teen miles to the east of that. They’re fly­ing from their loi­ter area, which is well south of the bor­der. They’re fly­ing past the fin­ger, maybe they crossed it, maybe they were just below it, and head­ing for the target.

But if the Rus­sians were in Turk­ish air­space, as the Turks claim, wouldn’t it be rea­son­able for the Turks to inter­cept them?

There’s a lit­tle detail that’s very telling. The alleged border-crossing took place on the first bomb­ing run from the loi­ter area to the tar­get, and accord­ing to the Turks the Rus­sians were roughly half a mile north of the tip of the fin­ger and so they were in Turk­ish air­space for about sev­en­teen seconds—a tiny, short, brief time—on their way to hit­ting the first tar­get. The Rus­sians, of course, say they were south of the fin­ger by about a mile. God knows who’s right. I’m sure if we had access to the radar records we could tell very promptly who’s lying and who’s not, but nobody is going to give us access to the exact radar plot.

Here’s the very inter­est­ing thing. This border-violating incur­sion was on the first run to the tar­get at around quar­ter after ten a.m. On the sec­ond run to the tar­get the Russ­ian planes were clearly fur­ther to the south. This is accord­ing to the plots and maps released in the Russ­ian brief­ing, which are very, very detailed with exact time marks every minute. The seventeen-second cross­ing of the bor­der alleged by the Turks hap­pened at about a quar­ter after ten, but the Turks waited. They didn’t come in and attack the air­plane that had crossed the bor­der at that point. They sim­ply sat and waited until the plane flew a long re-attack pat­tern and came back on a sec­ond run seven or eight min­utes later, and that’s when they attacked and shot him down.

Between the fuel-guzzling low alti­tude of the hold­ing pat­tern of the F-16s, which mirac­u­lously coin­cided with the flight times of the Russ­ian air­planes, and the fact that they didn’t even chase the air­plane imme­di­ately upon its alleged bor­der incur­sion, all that smells very much like a pretty pre-planned oper­a­tion. The Turks allowed the Russ­ian plane to hit a tar­get and make a long seven or eight minute re-attack pass and then came in from their hid­den low alti­tude posi­tion. They came up a lit­tle higher to gain a good fir­ing alti­tude, came whistling south, hit the Su-24, dove under the radar cov­er­age at the same time that they entered Syr­ian air­space and headed north out of radar cov­er­age to head back to Diyarbakir.

Such an ambush wouldn’t have been hard to pull off, because the Rus­sians, in their detailed account of this, state very clearly that they had coor­di­nated with NATO, with the Amer­i­cans, announc­ing this attack well in advance, and had fol­lowed the pro­to­col of lis­ten­ing on the NATO-agreed fre­quency for any warn­ings or alerts from NATO or from the Turks. There was plenty of time for the Amer­i­cans to inform the Turks that this mis­sion was tak­ing place. They might’ve even been informed by the Rus­sians the day before it was going to take place. All the pre­req­ui­sites for a setup were there.

The Turks made a big deal about the ten warn­ings they said they issued to the Russ­ian planes. What do we make of that?

Again, that’s one of those things where it’s hard to tell and hard to know which side to believe. The Rus­sians in their brief­ing, in their detailed brief­ing, are very clear and very adamant that the F-16s them­selves, the attack­ing F-16s never trans­mit­ted any warn­ing. Nor are the Turks or the Amer­i­cans claim­ing that the F-16s warned the Russ­ian fight­ers. But of course the inter­na­tional pro­to­cols for defend­ing against incur­sions of your air­space require the attack­ing fight­ers them­selves to inform the target—visually or by radio—whether it’s an air­liner or a fighter or what­ever, that they are now vio­lat­ing air­space and need to turn away.

The Turks do say they trans­mit­ted their warn­ings from a ground-control sta­tion. They also claim they trans­mit­ted those radio calls on both the civil­ian inter­na­tional emer­gency “guard” UHF-band fre­quency and on the mil­i­tary VHF-band fre­quency pre­vi­ously agreed to by NATO and the Rus­sians. The Amer­i­cans were quick to con­firm that their mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment picked up the Turk­ish ground-station radio warn­ing calls, but they’ve been care­ful not to say what fre­quency they heard. Now it so hap­pens that Su-24s have no radios onboard for receiv­ing UHF-frequency sig­nals, a fact which is well known to Amer­i­can, NATO, and Turk­ish intelligence.

There’s a lot of outs to this that could be the fault of either sider. It’s quite likely true that the Turks radioed warn­ings, but those warn­ings may have been delib­er­ately trans­mit­ted only on the inter­na­tional civil­ian fre­quency so that the Su-24s would never hear them. Or it may be that the Su-24’s mil­i­tary fre­quency radios were on the fritz, which is easy to believe given the well-known unre­li­a­bil­ity of Russ­ian electronics.

I do believe that the F-16s never issued any warn­ings, because it would be aston­ish­ing if they did. Here they went to all the trou­ble of tank­ing up and fly­ing at a very low alti­tude, stretch­ing their fuel endurance just to stay out of radar cov­er­age of the Rus­sians and the Syr­i­ans, and then why would they sud­denly announce that they were there by warn­ing the fight­ers when they had so obvi­ously set up a sit­u­a­tion where they were hid­ing? The ground-control sta­tion in Turkey prob­a­bly did issue warn­ings, but they may have been warn­ings that were intended not to be received. . . .

Would the United States have had radar coverage from its Airborne Warning and Control System or from their facilities at Incirlik? Would they be able to watch what was going on?

It’s very likely that they had a good track on that area, probably just as good as the Turks had. The Turks of course have a fairly extensive border network of radars, and the Russians and the Syrians have well mapped those radars and know exactly where the coverage is, which is why the Russians can be so precise as to say that the Su-24s entered Turkish radar coverage at 9:52, because they know pretty exactly where that radar coverage is.

The Americans could very possibly have access to those radar results. I have no idea whether they had an AWACS in the air at the time, but if they did it would’ve been easy to cover that area, too. For sure the Americans had complete radio monitoring coverage of the area, certainly heard all the radio transmission involved.

Now the Russians say that they activated air defense missiles, the famous S-400 I guess, to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Does that indeed preclude the Turks interfering with the Russians carrying out strikes in that area?

The answer is no, but it’s a hell of a threat. The longest range version of the S-400 is good for two hundred and fifty miles. The Russians are installing it at their base just south of Latakia, within fifty miles of the border. So conceivably they could shoot two hundred miles into Turkey. They may or may not be able to prevent a hidden Turkish fighter from firing at another Russian attack in the border area, but they certainly have the possibility of catching him or his friends on the way home. This is a real sword poised over the heads of the Turks now that the Russians have the capability to shoot deep into Turkey and can do so any time they want.

1b. Next, we note that the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian Su-24 appears to have been an instance of the Turkish air force providing air cover for the Turkmen militia and elements of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, who are part of the so-called “moderates” enjoying the support of the West and its allies in the region, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.(“Air cover” refers to combat aircraft neutralizing enemy air threats to ground forces. This should not be confused with “air support,” which refers to combat aircraft acting in support of ground forces against their opponents–serving, in effect, as “airborne artillery.”)

“Facts Back Russia on Turkish Attack” by Gareth Porter; Consortium News; 11/30/2015.

. . . . The motive for the strike was directly related to the Turkish role in supporting the anti-Assad forces in the vicinity of the border. In fact, the Erdogan government made no effort to hide its aim in the days before the strike. In a meeting with the Russian ambassador on Nov. 20, the foreign minister accused the Russians of “intensive bombing” of “civilian Turkmen villages” and said there might be “serious consequences” unless the Russians ended their operations immediately.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was even more explicit, declaring that Turkish security forces “have been instructed to retaliate against any development that would threaten Turkey’s border security.” Davutoglu further said: “If there is an attack that would lead to an intense influx of refugees to Turkey, required measures would be taken both inside Syria and Turkey.”

The Turkish threat to retaliate – not against Russian penetration of its airspace but in response to very broadly defined circumstances on the border – came amid the latest in a series of battles between the Syrian government and religious fighters.

The area where the plane was shot down is populated by the Turkmen minority. They have been far less important than foreign fighters and other forces who have carried out a series of offensives in the area since mid-2013 aimed at threatening President Bashar al-Assad’s main Alawite redoubt on the coast in Latakia province.

Charles Lister, the British specialist who was visiting Latakia province frequently in 2013, noted in an August 2013 interview, “Latakia, right up to the very northern tip [i.e. in the Turkmen Mountain area], has been a stronghold for foreign fighter-based groups for almost a year now.” He also observed that, after Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) had emerged in the north, al-Nusra Front and its allies in the area had “reached out” to ISIL and that one of the groups fighting in Latakia had “become a front group” for ISIL.

In March 2014, the religious rebels launched a major offensive with heavy Turkish logistical support to capture the Armenian town of Kessab on the Mediterranean coast of Latakia very close to the Turkish border. An Istanbul newspaper, Bagcilar, quoted a member of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee as reporting testimony from villagers living near the border that thousands of fighters had streamed across five different border points in cars with Syrian plates to participate in the offensive.

During that offensive, moreover, a Syrian jet responding to the offensive against Kessab was shot down by the Turkish air force in a remarkable parallel to the downing of the Russian jet. Turkey claimed that the jet had violated its airspace but made no pretence about having given any prior warning. The purpose of trying to deter Syria from using its airpower in defense of the town was obvious.

Now the battle in Latakia province has shifted to the Bayirbucak area, where the Syrian air force and ground forces have been trying to cut the supply lines between villages controlled by Nusra Front and its allies and the Turkish border for several months. The key village in the Nusra Front area of control is Salma, which has been in jihadist hands ever since 2012. The intervention of the Russian Air Force in the battle has given a new advantage to the Syrian army.

The Turkish shoot-down was thus in essence an effort to dissuade the Russians from continuing their operations in the area against al-Nusra Front and its allies, using not one but two distinct pretexts: on one hand a very dubious charge of a Russian border penetration for NATO allies, and on the other, a charge of bombing Turkmen civilians for the Turkish domestic audience. . . .

Discussion

7 comments for “FTR #881 Turkey Shoot: Sleepwalking into World War III”

  1. Reuters: Russia’s payback against Turkey over shoot-down may turn deadly

    http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/12/15/why-russias-payback-to-turkey-could-be-lethal/

    Could this lead to a World War between a key NATO Member and Russia? The article states:
    “Putin could therefore strike a serious blow at Turkey’s geopolitical interests by ordering delivery of more advanced Russian weaponry to the Kurds, some of which would be aimed at Turkey. Syrian Kurds control two enclaves in northern Syria along the Turkish border, and wish to capture the final 60 miles needed to link these two territories together. Although Turkey repeatedly warns it will use force to prevent this scenario, Russian support and encouragement could motivate Syria’s Kurds to take the plunge. This would establish a 400-mile-long anti-Turkish cordon along Turkey’s southern border, which would be nothing short of a disaster in the minds of Turkish leaders.”

    “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov publiclywondered why Turkey bombs Syria’s Kurds against Washington’s wishes. Putin also suggested that Syria’s Kurds unite with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight Islamic State, an alliance that would upend the entire game in Syria.”

    “Putin’s vindictiveness towards the Turkmens is clear, as they killed one of the Russian pilots as he parachuted down, and then released a video showing them cheering and yelling “Allahu Akbar” as they found the body.”

    “Turkey is allowed to close the Straits in a war with Russia or if it considers itself to be “threatened with imminent danger of war.” This would bottle up Russian ships in the Black Sea, and significantly increase the difficulty for Moscow to resupply its forces in Syria. Turkey has already created “delays” for Russian cargo ships travelling through the Straits — a clear warning from Erdogan.”

    “Given that the Turks have fought and lost 17 wars against Russia since the 15th century, Ankara likely hopes this is the case.”

    Posted by Sojourner Truth | December 15, 2015, 5:23 pm
  2. Here’s another unpleasant situation to add to Iraq’s woes: Baghdad just issued the threat of military action if Turkey doesn’t remove its troops from Kurd-controlled territories in Northern Iraq. And Ankara’s response was basically, ‘we respect your sovereignty, but no, we aren’t leaving. And anyway, you don’t currently control this territory’. As far as tensions between neighbors go, the unwelcome presence of foreign troops along with taunts of ‘we’ll respect you’re sovereignty once you actually control this territory’ is quite a doozy:

    Reuters
    Iraqi PM says Turkey not respecting agreement to withdraw troops

    BAGHDAD/ANKARA | By Saif Hameed and Ece Toksabay

    Wed Dec 30, 2015 4:10pm EST

    Iraq’s prime minister accused Turkey on Wednesday of failing to respect an agreement to withdraw its troops from the country’s north and its foreign minister said if forced, Iraq could resort to military action to defend its sovereignty.

    The diplomatic dispute flared after Turkey deployed a force protection unit of around 150 troops earlier this month, citing heightened security risks near Bashiqa military base where its troops were training an Iraqi militia to fight Islamic State insurgents in nearby Mosul.

    Iraqi security forces have had only a limited presence in Nineveh province, where the camp is located, since collapsing in June 2014 in the face of a lightning advance by Islamic State.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told his Turkish counterpart in a call on Wednesday that a Turkish delegation had promised to withdraw its troops, according to a statement from his media office.

    “But the Turkish government has not respected the agreement and we request that the Turkish government announce immediately that it will withdraw from Iraqi territory”, he said.

    Ankara has acknowledged there was a “miscommunication” with Baghdad over the deployment. It later withdrew some troops to another base inside the nearby autonomous Kurdistan region and said it would continue to pull out of Nineveh province, where Bashiqa is located.

    But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said a total withdrawal is out of the question, and Abadi repeated to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday that Baghdad had not approved the deployment.

    Speaking on Wednesday night, Davutoglu said Ankara respected Iraqi sovereignty, but that Baghdad had no control over a third of its own territory. “If Baghdad wants to use force, they should use it against Daesh,” Davutoglu added, using an Arabic name for Islamic State.

    Abadi said there was no reason for Turkey to expose its trainers to danger by sending them “deep inside Iraqi borders”, and that Islamic State posed no danger to Turkey from inside Iraqi territory. Bashiqa is about 90 km (55 miles) from the Turkish border.

    Davutoglu also congratulated Abadi after Iraqi forces retook the center of the city of Ramadi this week, a victory that could help vindicate the Iraqi leader’s strategy for rebuilding the military after stunning defeats.

    MILITARY ACTION

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said earlier in the day that his government was committed to exhausting peaceful diplomatic avenues to avoid a crisis with Turkey, its northern neighbor, but insisted that all options remained open.

    “If we are forced to fight and defend our sovereignty and riches, we will be forced to fight,” he told reporters in Baghdad.

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call with Davutoglu earlier this month, welcomed the Turkish troops’ withdrawal and urged Ankara to continue trying to cooperate with Baghdad.

    After the diplomatic row began, the Bashiqa base came under fire from Islamic State when militants fired rockets in an attack on Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the area. The Turkish military said its soldiers returned fire and four had been lightly wounded in the incident.

    “If we are forced to fight and defend our sovereignty and riches, we will be forced to fight”

    Military conflict between Iraq and Turkey is now openly discussed. And while open conflict between the two is probably still a remote possibility at this point, keep in mind that the odds of Turkey shooting down a Russian jet was probably pretty low this time last year and yet here we are. Happy New Year.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 31, 2015, 12:45 pm
  3. Uh oh: Turkey accused Russia of violating its airspace again, threatening that “the unwanted consequences of such irresponsible behaviour will belong fully to the Russian Federation.” Russia responded that such accusations are hysteria “launched by the Turkish side that we define as ‘unsubstantiated propaganda’ looks pretty much like a premeditated provocation,” and then asserted that Russia’s military is in possession of video showing “a Turkish artillery battery shelling a Syrian frontier village”.

    So things could definitely be going better in Russian-Turkish relations. Of course, they could get worse too. For instance, according to an anonymous Russian secret service source, the FSB suspects that the Grey Wolves loyal to ISIS may have been behind the downing of another Russian jet: the Russia-operated Airbus A321 that was bombed on route from Sharm el-Sheikh. It’s unclear how substantive that claim is at this point, but if that really is something the FSB believes, those relations will presumably be getter much, much worse:

    International Business Times UK
    Russian plane crash: Isis-linked Turkish group Grey Wolves ‘may have downed’ Airbus A321

    By Brendan Cole
    February 1, 2016 16:43 GMT

    Turkish radical militants loyal to Isis (Daesh) may have been behind the crash of the Russian airliner brought down by a bomb over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, it has been reported. An anonymous Russian secret service source said that the FSB believes the radical Turkish Grey Wolves may have been behind what was the largest civil aviation disaster in Russian history.

    On 31 October 2015, the Russia-operated Airbus A321 rashed en route from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

    “The FSB believes that the Turkish radical nationalist organization Grey Wolves, linked to the Daesh terrorist group and working in many Arab countries, including Egypt, could have been linked to the explosion of the Russian airliner,” the source told the respected Kommersant newspaper..

    The Grey Wolves group first appeared in Turkey in the 1960s and are described as Turkish ultra nationalists.

    One of the leaders of the organization took responsibility for killing the ejected pilot of a Russian Su-24 military plane after the aircraft was downed by a Turkish fighter jet near the Syrian border on 24 November 2015.

    If the involvement of the Grey Wolves is confirmed, Russia will demand that Turkey pay compensation to the relatives of the victims of the crash, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Victor Ozerov, the chairman of the Federation Council’s defense and security committee. The Kremlin has declined to comment on the reports alleging the existence of a Turkish lead in the investigation.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday (1 February): “We are not the investigating authorities. It is necessary to address this issue to the investigating authorities.”

    “If the involvement of the Grey Wolves is confirmed, Russia will demand that Turkey pay compensation to the relatives of the victims of the crash, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Victor Ozerov, the chairman of the Federation Council’s defense and security committee. The Kremlin has declined to comment on the reports alleging the existence of a Turkish lead in the investigation.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 1, 2016, 1:29 pm
  4. Sabre rattling between Russia and the West is continuing to heat up, with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev lamenting the emergence of what he characterizes as a ‘new Cold War’:

    CNN
    Russian PM Medvedev equates relations with West to a ‘new Cold War’

    By Don Melvin, Nic Robertson and Ray Sanchez, CNN

    Updated 2:19 PM ET, Sat February 13, 2016

    (CNN)Bringing back the language of the 1950s and ’60s, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says the strained relationship between his country and the West could be described as “a new Cold War.”

    Speaking Saturday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Medvedev said he sometimes found himself wondering whether this was 2016 or 1962.

    “NATO’s policy with regard to Russia has remained unfriendly and opaque. One could go as far as to say that we have slid back to a new Cold War,” Medvedev said. “Almost on an everyday basis we are called one of the most terrible threats either to NATO as a whole or to Europe, or to the United States.”

    Tensions between the West and Russia have increased in recent years, in large part — at least in the view of the West — due to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.

    More recently, some in the West have questioned whether Russia’s intervention in Syria is helpful. Russia says it is attacking terrorists. But some observers contend that Moscow is intent primarily on propping of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is hanging onto power despite a five-year civil war.

    Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, told CNN that NATO does not agree with Medvedev’s assessment. At an earlier briefing at the Munich Security Conference, Breedlove said Russia is not just trying to change the rules but rewrite them.

    “We at NATO do not want to see a Cold War,” he said. “We do not talk about it. It’s not what we want to happen or anticipate to happen… We’re a defensive alliance who are arraying ourselves to face a challenge … [from] a nation that has once again decided it will use force to change internationally recognized borders and so we take those appropriate actions to be able to assure, defend and deter.”

    The back and forth came as Secretary of State John Kerry told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that Russia’s attacks in Syria have been largely “against legitimate opposition groups” and that must change.

    Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met briefly at the conference to discuss plans for a cessation of hostilities in Syria, the State Department said in a statement.

    They also discussed the establishment of a United Nations task force to coordinate humanitarian aid, according to a communique issued by the International Syria Support Group.

    Kerry and Lavrov agreed on the need for that aid to begin flowing as rapidly as possible, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

    Referring to the conflict in the Ukraine, Kerry said earlier that Russia’s choice in the matter was simple: Either fully implement the Minsk agreement or face economically damaging sanctions.

    “Russia can prove by its actions that it will respect Ukraine’s sovereignty just as it insists on respect for its own by the same token,” Kerry said, with Lavrov in the audience.

    The secretary of state announced that the U.S. will significantly upgrade its commitment to European security, with a planned “four-fold increase in our spending on the European Reassurance Initiative,” from just under $790 million to $3.4 billion.

    “This will allow us to maintain a division’s worth of equipment in Europe and an additional combat brigade in Central and Eastern Europe, making our support and NATO’s more visible and more tangible,” he said.

    World powers, including the United States and Russia, this week agreed to a ceasefire in Syria and to the delivery of immediate aid there.

    The Syrian civil war began in March 2011, and since then at least 250,000 people have died and 12 million have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

    In Syria, the Russian military has stepped up its presence by land, air and sea, and Russian officials have contended their weaponry is targeting ISIS extremists and their infrastructure.

    But some analysts have likened the Syrian conflict to an emerging proxy war between Russia and the United States, harkening back to the Cold War.

    U.S. officials have accused the Kremlin of using its military to support al-Assad, an ally, and targeting anti-regime rebels.

    The Cold War pitted East against West and pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. The struggle between communism and capitalism defined the second half of the 20th century. The tension began after World War II and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

    Well, it wasn’t all bad news: “World powers, including the United States and Russia, this week agreed to a ceasefire in Syria and to the delivery of immediate aid there.” Note that, as the article below points out, the peace talks had collapsed just a week before this latest ceasefire was announced. So if this ceasefire holds it’s going to be really good news. Especially for the tens of thousands of Syrians from Aleppo currently getting blocked from fleeing to Turkey:

    AFP
    UN urges Turkey to open borders, end bombing of Aleppo

    Latest update : 2016-02-10

    The United Nations urged Turkey to let in tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing a regime offensive around Aleppo on Tuesday, adding to calls for Russia to end air strikes ahead of fresh peace efforts.

    Up to 31,000 people have fled Aleppo and surrounding areas since last week, as government forces backed by Russian warplanes press an offensive that threatens to encircle the rebel-held eastern part of Syria’s second city.

    “The highest need and the best humanitarian response is for the bombing to stop,” UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said, when asked if Russia should halt its air campaign in Aleppo. “All bombings should stop.”

    UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman William Spindler urged Turkey to open its border to “all civilians from Syria who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection”.

    Huge crowds of Syrians, most of them women and children, have spent days waiting at the Oncupinar border crossing into Turkey, sleeping in the open or packed into tents.

    Ahmad al-Mohammad, a field worker with medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, said crowded conditions were causing health problems including diarrhea.

    “There are no longer enough places for families to sleep,” said told AFP. “Most of the families left with just the clothes they were in.”

    Turkey, which already hosts 2.5 million Syrians, is delivering supplies across the border but has said it will let the new arrivals in only “if necessary”.

    Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has said that a “worst case scenario” could see up to 600,000 refugees arrive at the border.

    “Our objective for now is to keep this wave of migrants on the other side of Turkey’s borders as much as is possible, and to provide them with the necessary services there,” Kurtulmus said.

    Focus on Munich talks

    The Aleppo offensive is piling on the pressure for a political solution ahead of a 17-nation contact group meeting Thursday in Munich aimed at getting peace talks back on track.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Russia’s aerial bombardment of Syrian opposition targets could derail efforts to revive the peace process, after discussions collapsed last week.

    “Russia’s activities in Aleppo and in the region right now are making it much more difficult to be able to come to the table and to be able to have a serious conversation,” Kerry said in Washington.

    “We have called on Russia — and we call on Russia again — to join in the effort to bring about an immediate ceasefire.”

    EU president Donald Tusk said the Russian air strikes were “making an already very bad situation even worse”.

    “As a direct consequence of the Russian military campaign, the murderous Assad regime is gaining ground, the moderate Syrian opposition is losing ground and thousands more refugees are fleeing towards Turkey and Europe.”

    NATO said it would take any request to help with the refugee crisis “very seriously”, after Ankara and Germany said they would seek the alliance’s help combating people smugglers.

    US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is also expected to discuss the situation in Aleppo during a trip to Europe this week designed to drum up support for the fight against Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

    “Huge crowds of Syrians, most of them women and children, have spent days waiting at the Oncupinar border crossing into Turkey, sleeping in the open or packed into tents.”
    Part of what makes stories about refugees unable to flee the country so disturbing is that it highlights why a political resolution is vital but any of the military “solutions” and yet the fact that these refugees are fleeing in such large numbers also highlights why the prospects of a political solution is looking so bleak. If the Syrian civil war has accomplished in building one thing, it’s an abundance of irreconcilable differences between the various warring parties, which makes some sort of military ‘solution’ seem inevitable and yet inevitable catastrophic. Whether its the Syrian military, Sunni rebels, or ISIS taking over the country, the military solution to Syria’s civil war would almost certainly involve similar mass flights by refugees but on a much, much larger scale. That and the ever-present risk that one of these ‘new Cold War’ proxy-wars heats up beyond a thre growing war of words:

    UPI
    State Dept. dismisses accusation from Russia that U.S. warplanes bombed Aleppo

    By Doug G. Ware | Updated Feb. 11, 2016 at 7:45 PM

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of State has dismissed claims by the Russian government that American warplanes bombed targets in northwest Syria on Wednesday — including possibly two hospitals.

    The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed Thursday that the United States military was behind the attack in the war-torn city of Aleppo. Moscow said two U.S. Air Force A-10 attack aircraft hit nine targets in the city, which has seen increased violence in recent weeks.

    “Two A-10 attack aircraft of the U.S. Air Force entered Syrian airspace from … Turkey and, reaching Aleppo by the shortest path, made strikes against objects in the city,” Russian Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

    Russia also said the United States bombed the targets as part of a secret mission and that two hospitals were possibly among the targets.

    The State Department, though, was quick to dismiss the claims. Two American officials said U.S. military planes weren’t anywhere near Aleppo Wednesday.

    The accusation is the latest hit in deteriorating diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia, which have been at odds over Syria for years. Moscow has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad while Washington supports the opposition.

    Russia wants Assad to remain in power while the United States flatly rejects any ceasefire proposal that leaves his regime intact.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced later Thursday that an agreement had been reached toward implementing a ceasefire.

    “Russia wants Assad to remain in power while the United States flatly rejects any ceasefire proposal that leaves his regime intact.”
    That really doesn’t bode well for either a political or military solution. And since we’re talking about two nuclear super-powers engaged in a proxy-war, it’s hard to see any military solution that isn’t a nightmare.

    Now, regarding Russia’s claims that it was the US bombing Aleppo, it’s unclear what the US would be trying to achieve with secret A-10 missions against a rebel held city, so it’s probably not a genuine claim by the Russian defense ministry but more an attempt to counter the charges that Russia has been bombing civilian areas in Aleppo. But whatever the reality is of who is bombing whom, the whole situation is a dark reminder of what a grim clusterf#ck the situation has become. It’s now a daily threat that multiple foreign powers are potentially bombing different forces in the same region. Or bombing the the same forces. And as the article below points out, it’s a clusterf#ck that’s only getting more clusterf#cked as more regional powers begin implementing military solutions of their own:

    The Independent

    Turkey shells Kurdish fighters in Aleppo province as Bashar al-Assad’s forces continue to advance on rebels
    Artillery fire was reported from over the Turkish border at four locations on Saturday

    Lizzie Dearden
    Saturday 13 February 2016 21:55 BST

    Turkey has been shelling Kurdish fighters in Syria’s Aleppo province as regime forces backed by Russian air strikes continue to make gains against rebels.

    The Turkish military claimed that it was fired on by artillery from Azaz, which is close to the Turkish border.

    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a press conference: “Today retaliation was taken under the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area.”

    He also demanded that Kurdish forces left the area.

    The US has urged de-escalation between the two sides.

    “We have urged Syrian Kurdish and other forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement.

    “We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fires.”

    Shelling was reported at Menagh air base, a former Syrian Air Force facility that Kurds seized from Islamist rebels just days ago, and at three other positions between the airport and Turkish border.

    The air base has been a key target for several parties in the Syrian civil war since 2012, being besieged by rebels for almost a year until it was seized by a coalition including an early form of Isis and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra in August 2013.

    It remained in rebel hands until Thursday, when Kurdish PYD fighters capitalised on the diversion caused by Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Russian air strikes attacking rebel areas to the south to seize Menagh.

    Russian planes staged at least 30 raids against rebels, Reuters reported, although it was unclear whether the bombing was deliberately in support of the Kurds.

    Zekeriya Karsli, a rebel commander from the Levant Front alliance said at the time, said: “The fall of Menagh airport has made the situation on the ground pretty grim.”

    Other recent gains reported include the villages of Deir Jameal and al-Qamiya, which rebels evacuated as Syrian troops advanced from the south.

    “The Kurds have gained from the major offensive in Aleppo to widen their areas of control,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

    The US-led coalition has backed Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq because of their role fighting Isis, succeeding in pushing the terrorist group back in northern Syria.

    But Turkey, which is struggling to end a three-decade insurgency on its own territory by Kurdish militants, views them as terrorists and has been sporadically shelling groups fighting along its border.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the US for supporting groups including the PYD and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) last week.

    “Are you on our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organisation?” he asked, claiming the West was creating a “sea of blood”.

    Turkey has also said it will not permit Kurds to join peace talks in Geneva, which are scheduled to re-start later this month after falling apart in January.

    But John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said America does not recognise the PYD as terrorists and support would continue.

    “Kurdish fighters have been some of the most successful in going after Daesh (Isis) inside Syria,” he added.

    “We have provided a measure of support, mostly through the air, and that support will continue.”

    Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced that Saudi Arabia would be sending fighter jets and troops to Turkey ahead of co-ordinated operation in Syria.

    “At every coalition meeting we have always emphasised the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group,” he told a Turkish newspaper on Saturday.

    “If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation from the ground.”

    Meanwhile, Assad’s forces made new gains on Saturday, capturing the village of Tamoura near Aleppo and tightening the noose around rebel-held parts of Syria’s second city.

    State television and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the gains, while Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said government are now nearing the towns of Hayan and Anadan, which lie on the road to Aleppo city.

    Talks in the German city of Munich on Friday saw world powers agree a temporary “cessation of hostilities” to start within a week but there was little hope for a long-term truce after Assad vowed to retake the whole of Syria by force..

    Ok, let’s try to unpack all that: So the US-backed Kurdish PYD fighters seize control of an Syrian airbase from Syria rebels just days ago. Turkey shells the base, accusing the US of supporting terrorists, and also asserts that the Kurds won’t be allowed to participate in restarted peace talks. Erdogan is charging that the West was creating a “sea of blood,” publicly asking “Are you on our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organisation?”. At the same time, Turkey has announced that it may team up with Saudi Arabia to launch a joint ground force operation.

    Yeah, that’s looking like a bloody clusterf#ck. And as the following article points out, one of the absolute demands of the Saudis is that Assad must go, whether politically or by force. But one way or another he must go, which is not going to go over well with the Russians. Or Iranians. And another demand of the Saudis is that they will only join a ground coalition that the US leads. So the joint Turkey-Saudi ground force that is forming right now has an explicit goal of overthrowing the government Russia and Iran are desperate to protect.

    It’s all part of why, depending on how the situation unfolds, this is a clusterf#ck that could make a ‘new Cold War’ a relatively benign outcome. Not that a new Cold War wouldn’t be a complete disaster for humanity and a horrible and senseless waste of the future. It would indeed be a complete disaster. But it’s still better than a new non-proxy Hot War. It’s quite a clusterf#ck:

    CNN

    Saudi Arabia official: If all else fails, remove Syria’s Assad by force

    By Mick Krever

    Updated 6:15 AM ET, Sat February 13, 2016

    Munich, Germany (CNN) Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says if the Syrian political process fails, President Bashar al-Assad will have to be removed “by force.”

    “I believe Bashar al-Assad is weak and I believe Bashar al-Assad is finished,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview in Munich, Germany.

    Saudi Arabia is prepared to contribute ground troops to the fight in Syria, but only as part of a U.S.-led coalition, he said.

    “Bashar al-Assad will leave — have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.”

    “We will push as much as we can to ensure that the political process works. But if it doesn’t work, it will be because of the obstinance of the Syrian regime and that of its allies.”

    “And should that prove to be the case, then it becomes clear that there is no option to remove Bashar al-Assad except by force.”

    No time for celebrations

    The political process has been in doubt, especially of late. U.N.-brokered talks were put on ice almost as soon as they started this month.

    Russia steps in

    Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict last fall has bolstered Assad’s position and allowed him to launch a major offensive on the rebel-held city of Aleppo.

    Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir made clear that his country’s troops would not go it alone.

    “I can tell you that there is some serious discussion going on with regards to looking at a ground component in Syria, because there has to be a possibility of taking and holding ground, that one cannot do from the air.”

    “We are saying we will participate within the U.S.-led coalition, should this coalition decide to send ground troops into Syria, that we are prepared to send special forces with those troops.”

    When asked whether America was doing enough to help bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria, Jubeir said they are “playing a role” in the political process, in supporting the opposition, and helping Syria’s neighbors.

    Whether that is enough, he said “is for the Americans to decide.”

    “From my perspective no country, including Saudi Arabia, can play a big enough role.””

    ‘Neighbors have to live with each other’

    Were Saudi troops to deploy to Syria, they could come into direct contact with the military of Iran — Saudi Arabia’s longtime foe in the region, with whom tensions have been rising of late.

    “We have always said that we would like to have good relations with Iran,” Jubeir said.

    But Saudi Arabia, he said, has been on the “receiving end” of Iranian aggression.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed similar genial sentiments in an interview with Amanpour last month, but did not miss an opportunity to mention that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudi citizens.

    “We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players who can accommodate each other, who can complement each other in the region,” Zarif said.

    “Unfortunately,” Zarif said, “the Saudis have had the illusion that, backed by their Western ally, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region. And they were successful for some time.”

    Jubeir reacted to that with mock incredulity.

    “I find it comic that the foreign minister of the country that is single-handedly responsible for the mischief in the region for the past 35 years would say this,” he said.

    “It is Iran that has mobilized sectarian militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan to support this dictator, not Saudi Arabia,” Jubeir said, referring to Assad.

    Iran is our neighbor,” he said. “But neighbors have to live with each other based on the principle of good neighborliness, And the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others.”

    “Iran is our neighbor…But neighbors have to live with each other based on the principle of good neighborliness, And the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others.”
    Yes, the Saudi foreign minister actually said that non-ironically as the government declares that it will remove Assad one way or another:


    Saudi Arabia is prepared to contribute ground troops to the fight in Syria, but only as part of a U.S.-led coalition, he said.

    “Bashar al-Assad will leave — have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.”

    “We will push as much as we can to ensure that the political process works. But if it doesn’t work, it will be because of the obstinance of the Syrian regime and that of its allies.”

    “And should that prove to be the case, then it becomes clear that there is no option to remove Bashar al-Assad except by force.”

    But Saudi government hypocrisy also beside the point, especially in the midst of a through-the-looking-glass multi-actor proxy war where even allied powers’ proxy forces are in opposition to each other.

    So if the recently renewed peace talks collapse, which seems likely since the US is demanding Assad goes and Russia demands that he stays, we may soon see a US-led Turkish-Saudi ground invasion, which could also include the UAE, Jordan, and Bahrain. And while it will be explicitly and anti-ISIS coalition, overthrowing Assad is also going to be an absolute mandate and Turkey will probably attack the Kurds, who the US backs. And Iran might join in the fun if it perceives the Saudis are gaining too much power.

    Despite the fact that ISIS’s terrorist capabilities are nothing to take lightly, that was never the biggest threat ISIS created for the global community. The biggest threat ISIS created was by being so awful that it would provide a very good excuse for the regional powers which are dead set on seeing the Assad government fall create an invasion force and invade Syria. Why? Because a ground invasion by the Sunni powers that would inevitably attack Assad after they rout ISIS was obviously going to create the kind of situation where we could see ground war involving most of the Middle East’s military powers with the US and Russia providing air support for opposing sides. So it’s looking like ISIS is on track to accomplish its goal of creating an apocalyptic scenario, although it’s only going to do this by getting wiped out by an Arab army with even bigger goals in mind. Mission accomplished.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 13, 2016, 5:37 pm
  5. The Turkish government is pinning the blame for the recent bombing in Ankara on the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which denies the allegation. And considering that the Turkish government claims it identified a suicide bomber from an identity card he was wearing, the YPG’s denials would appear pretty reasonable. And as the article below makes clear, whether or not the YPG was behind the bombing, the chorus of voices calling for the US to break its ties to ties YPG and get behind a Turkish/Saudi ground invasion that would presumably involve conquering both the Assad government and the Syrian Kurdish groups (and maybe ISIS and the various al-Qaeda affiliates once they are no longer useful) and prompting a major showdown with Russia is only getting louder:

    The New York Times
    Turkey Blames Kurdish Militia for Ankara Attack, Challenging U.S.

    By TIM ARANGO and CEYLAN YEGINSU

    FEB. 18, 2016

    BAGHDAD — In blaming a Syrian Kurdish militia supported by the United States for a deadly car bombing in Ankara, Turkey added new urgency on Thursday to a question its president recently posed to the Obama administration: Are you on the side of a NATO ally — Turkey — or its enemies?

    The militia, which adamantly denies any role in the bombing, is the administration’s most important ground force inside Syria in the fight against the militants of the Islamic State. But it is also fast becoming an enemy of Turkey, which views the militia as a national security threat because of its links to another Kurdish militant group that is battling for autonomy within Turkey.

    More broadly, the situation crystallizes what critics say has long been the problem with United States policy in the Middle East. Though the region is undergoing historic and violent change, with multiple insurgencies, failed states, various proxy wars that have sucked in world powers and the possible breakdown of the entire post-World War I regional order, the United States has focused on only one small part of that: defeating the militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

    The United States, which quickly condemned the Ankara attack, reiterated support for its Turkish ally on Thursday. But the American response also reflected its narrowly defined purpose in the Syrian conflict. Obama administration officials said it was premature to attribute responsibility for the Ankara attack, and said they had warned the Syrian Kurdish militia forces against taking any action that would undercut Turkey’s relationship with the United States.

    “We are cognizant of, and sensitive to, Turkish views on our cooperation with the Syrian Kurds,” said a senior American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal deliberations. But he added, “Our rule of thumb is that this is needed in the campaign against ISIL.”

    ….

    Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., a former American ambassador to Turkey now at the Atlantic Council, said the focus on the Islamic State, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq and has carried out attacks in Paris and inspired a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., distracts from what he called the broader struggle.

    “How do we in the West and those in the region collaborate to mitigate the violent, catastrophic breakdown of the post-Ottoman regional order?” he said. “How do we regenerate stability and the rule of law based on legitimate, well-governed states? This is what truly requires a strategy, and it will be the work of a generation.”

    Turkish officials said this week that they favored a ground intervention to end the carnage of the multifront war in Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been making gains recently, backed by Russian airstrikes and Iranian support on the ground. But the Turks indicated that they would not intervene on the ground without the support of the United States, which is seen as highly unlikely.

    Even so, for several days Turkey has been shelling the American-backed Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or Y.P.G., and has vowed to keep up its attack as long as the Kurds continue trying to carve out an autonomous enclave in Syria along the Turkish border.

    Adding to Turkish anger, not to mention the complexity of the battlefield in Syria, the Syrian Kurds have also drawn support from two Turkish enemies: Russia and, to some extent, Mr. Assad. The United States opposes Russia’s intervention in Syria and has said that Mr. Assad’s ouster is necessary for peace in Syria, although it has done little to achieve it.

    In a televised speech on Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said the various Kurdish groups were all connected in one way or another and, in Turkey’s way of thinking, all terrorist organizations, and that Washington was wrong to try to distinguish among them. Mr. Erdogan said he would continue to make this case with Turkey’s allies and at the United Nations.

    Nevertheless, analysts said they did not expect any major shift in American policy on Syria, despite growing Turkish pressure, because the Kurds have had success recently in fighting the Islamic State.

    “The U.S. has a very specific goal in mind with its current actions in Syria — to degrade and defeat ISIS,” said Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “It’s not to topple Assad, and it’s not to roll back Russian aggression.”

    The bombing in Ankara, the capital, which struck a military convoy Wednesday evening and killed 28 people, was carried out by a Syrian named Salih Necar, according to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Mr. Davutoglu said the assailant had links to the Y.P.G., which has received ammunition, supplies and air support from the United States and, more recently, the aid of American Special Forces soldiers.

    Turkey considers the Y.P.G. — the military wing of the Democratic Union Party in Syria — to be a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., a militant group that has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades. A fragile peace process in that conflict broke down last year.

    Officials of the Y.P.G. swiftly denied any involvement in the Ankara bombing after Turkey accused the group on Thursday, and some analysts questioned the plausibility of the accusation, since mounting such an attack would jeopardize the group’s American support.

    “These allegations are unfounded — lies with no truth to them,” Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the group said via WhatsApp from Qamishli, Syria. He said the Turkish government had everything to gain by blaming the Kurds for the bombing, giving it an excuse to keep shelling the Y.P.G. and putting pressure on Washington to reduce its support for the group.

    “We are not enemies of Turkey, and our goal is to fight Daesh inside the Syrian borders,” he added, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “We have no interest in being enemies with Turkey.”

    Some analysts doubted the Turkish claim that the Y.P.G was responsible.

    “Sponsoring or being involved with car bombings in Turkish cities would break its alliance structure with the U.S. and Russia,” said Michael Stephens, research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security. “Neither of which the P.Y.D.-Y.P.G. wants. In short, the Y.P.G. have nothing to gain and everything to lose by being involved in this.”

    United States support for the group dates back almost 18 months to the battle for Kobani, a Syrian town near the Turkish border that came under assault by the Islamic State. Washington maintains that the group is distinct from the P.K.K., which the United States considers a terrorist group, though the Turks and many analysts say they are essentially one organization.

    “Is the U.S. going to risk confronting Russia in Syria in order to help Turkey beat the Kurds, on whom the U.S. relies to beat ISIS?” said Halil M. Karaveli, senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, a research organization. “Looking at the facts as they are today, there is no way Turkey will get what it wants.”

    “Is the U.S. going to risk confronting Russia in Syria in order to help Turkey beat the Kurds, on whom the U.S. relies to beat ISIS?”
    That’s one way to frame it, although it’s pretty clear that some analysts prefer to frame it a different way:


    More broadly, the situation crystallizes what critics say has long been the problem with United States policy in the Middle East. Though the region is undergoing historic and violent change, with multiple insurgencies, failed states, various proxy wars that have sucked in world powers and the possible breakdown of the entire post-World War I regional order, the United States has focused on only one small part of that: defeating the militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.


    Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., a former American ambassador to Turkey now at the Atlantic Council, said the focus on the Islamic State, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq and has carried out attacks in Paris and inspired a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., distracts from what he called the broader struggle.

    “How do we in the West and those in the region collaborate to mitigate the violent, catastrophic breakdown of the post-Ottoman regional order?” he said. “How do we regenerate stability and the rule of law based on legitimate, well-governed states? This is what truly requires a strategy, and it will be the work of a generation.”

    Yep, ISIS is a distraction from “the violent, catastrophic breakdown of the post-Ottoman regional order,” and the way to deal with this breakdown is apparently a ground invasion that takes out not just Assad, but the Syrian Kurdish militias too. And maybe ISIS at some point, but ISIS is just a small part of what’s going on in the Middle East. At least according to the folks that see a major military confrontation pitting the Turks, Saudis, and US against Russia and Iran as the best path towards forging a lasting peace.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 19, 2016, 3:49 pm
  6. With the cause of crashed EgyptAir fight 804 from Paris to Cairo still under investigation, public concerns over the dangers of terrorist attacks on airlines is going to be heightened right now. And while flight 804 was probably destroyed by a bomb if indeed it was a terrorist attack, concerns about surface-to-air missiles falling into the wrong hands are inevitably going to be increased. So it’s worth noting that CIA has been working on a ‘Plan B’ for Syria’s civil war if the cease-fire doesn’t hold, and one of the key features the Saudis and Turks would like to see in any ‘Plan B’ revolves around giving the Syrian rebels anti-aircraft weapons including shoulder-fired missiles:

    The Wall Street Journal

    U.S. Readies ‘Plan B’ to Arm Syria Rebels
    Moderate groups could get antiaircraft weapons if cease-fire collapses, officials say

    By Adam Entous
    April 12, 2016 9:03 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON—The Central Intelligence Agency and its regional partners have drawn up plans to supply more-powerful weapons to moderate rebels in Syria fighting the Russia-backed regime in the event the country’s six-week-old truce collapses, according to U.S. and other officials.

    The preparations for a so-called Plan B center on providing vetted rebel units with weapons systems that would help them in directing attacks against Syrian regime aircraft and artillery positions, the officials said.

    The Wall Street Journal first reported in February that President Barack Obama’s top military and intelligence advisers were pressing the White House to come up with a Plan B to counter Russia in Syria. Since then, fresh details have emerged on the nature of the new weaponry that could be deployed under the covert program.

    The preparations were discussed at a secret meeting of spy chiefs in the Middle East just before the cease-fire took effect on Feb. 27 and in follow-on exchanges between intelligence services.

    In those meetings, officials briefed on the deliberations said, coalition members received provisional assurances from the CIA that they would be given approval to expand support to Syria’s moderate opposition. Coalition members have agreed on the outlines of Plan B, but the White House must still approve the list of specific Plan B weapons systems before they can be introduced to the battlefield.
    Officials said the CIA has made clear to its allies that the new systems, once agreed upon, would be given to the rebels only if the truce and the concurrent political track toward a lasting peace—Plan A—fall apart and full-scale fighting resumes.

    “The agreement is to up the ante, if needed,” a senior U.S. official said of the CIA’s message to the coalition supporting antiregime rebels, adding that the administration’s main focus now was to find ways to make the cessation of hostilities and political negotiations stick.

    A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on the deliberations.

    The discussions of Plan B come as representatives from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition prepare to resume U.N.-brokered negotiations in Geneva this week.

    Development of the weapons list is part of a broader behind-the-scenes effort by the Obama administration to deter its adversaries in the Syrian conflict while preventing the U.S.’s coalition partners who are supporting the moderate opposition from taking matters into their own hands.

    The private message conveyed by U.S. officials to their Russian counterparts, who have backed the Assad regime with air power since last year, has been that the moderate opposition isn’t going away and that a return to full-scale fighting could end up putting more Russian pilots in danger, according to U.S. officials.

    To coalition partners including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the CIA has twinned assurances that the U.S. will allow the anti-Assad coalition to supply more weapons with warnings that they would be mistaken to go behind Washington’s back to provide weapons systems that Mr. Obama has decided so far not to introduce to the battlefield.

    The agency’s principal concern focuses on man-portable air-defense systems, known as Manpads. The CIA believes that rebels have obtained a small number of Manpads through illicit channels. Fearing these systems could fall into terrorists’ hands for use against civilian aircraft, the spy agency’s goal now is to prevent more of them from slipping uncontrollably into the war zone, according to U.S. and intelligence officials in the region.

    Coalition partners have proposed ways to mitigate the risk. They have suggested tinkering with the Manpads to limit how long their batteries would last or installing geographical sensors on the systems that would prevent them from being fired outside designated areas of Syria. But Washington has remained cool to the idea.

    U.S. and Middle Eastern officials declined to specify the precise systems that could be introduced on the battlefield due to the sensitivity of the program and because disclosing details could help regime forces and their allies, Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group, prepare countermeasures.

    Violations of the truce have increased in recent weeks, raising fears that it could fall apart at any moment and spurring intelligence agencies to ready the Plan B package. Obama administration officials acknowledge that the cessation of hostilities has become increasingly shaky. But these officials say they don’t think it is on the verge of collapse.

    In private meetings with their Russian counterparts, Mr. Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan have warned the alternative to the truce could be a dangerous escalation on the battlefield, U.S. officials said.

    “If the cease-fire collapses, if the negotiations don’t go anywhere, and we’re back to full throttle civil war, all bets will be off,” a senior Obama administration official said of the message to Moscow. “The outside patrons will double and triple down, throwing everything they can into Syria, including much more lethal weaponry.”

    In contrast to Mr. Putin’s aggressive intervention with air power last year on behalf of Mr. Assad, Mr. Obama has been cautious about expanding U.S. support to the moderate opposition, much to the chagrin of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and some other U.S. partners in the region.

    The CIA’s covert program has grown gradually since it was launched in 2013 with limited supplies of small arms and ammunition. In 2014, the CIA introduced advanced antitank TOW missiles on the battlefield, helping the rebels gain ground on the regime, until Russia’s intervention last year drove the fighters back.

    More recently, the CIA has allowed some rebel groups to receive Soviet-era BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launcher systems, though the quantities have been relatively small, according to officials in the region.

    Deciding which weapons systems to introduce on the battlefield, and to whom, has always been a difficult balancing act for the Obama administration.

    Saudi Arabia and Turkey have increased pressure on Washington to up the ante in support of the moderate opposition in part by calling for the introduction of weapons systems that they know are a red line for Mr. Obama, such as Manpads.

    To get U.S. allies to back off their demands, U.S. officials have proposed alternative systems that Washington believes would pose less of a proliferation danger. That is how the U.S. has responded to calls by Turkey and Saudi Arabia for the introduction of a limited number of Manpads in Syria during the Plan B discussions.

    Officials say the CIA and its regional partners are looking at different types of antiaircraft weapons, including Soviet-era systems that would be less mobile. But alternative systems, such as anti-aircraft batteries which come mounted on vehicles, may be easier targets for Syrian and Russian aircraft, according to officials involved in the deliberations.

    “Saudi Arabia and Turkey have increased pressure on Washington to up the ante in support of the moderate opposition in part by calling for the introduction of weapons systems that they know are a red line for Mr. Obama, such as Manpads.”
    As we can see, ‘Plan B’ might not be very plane-friendly since it revolves around weapons for shooting down planes. Also note that when you read:


    “If the cease-fire collapses, if the negotiations don’t go anywhere, and we’re back to full throttle civil war, all bets will be off,” a senior Obama administration official said of the message to Moscow. “The outside patrons will double and triple down, throwing everything they can into Syria, including much more lethal weaponry.”

    the cease-fire is basically already collapsed. So ‘Plan B’ could become the new ‘Plan A’ sooner than you might suspect. Especially since the Saudis have been talking about such a ‘Plan B’ for years, and one day before the crash of EgyptAir flight 805 Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister declared that it might be time for a ‘Plan B’ in Syria:

    Reuters

    Saudi Arabia says time may be coming for “Plan B” on Syria

    Tue May 17, 2016 2:22pm EDT

    Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not abide with efforts to establish a truce across Syria country, alternatives would need to be looked at.

    “We believe we should have moved to a ‘Plan B’ a long time ago,” Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after a meeting of foreign governments in Vienna.

    “The choice about moving to an alternative plan, the choice about intensifying the military support (to the opposition) is entirely with the Bashar regime. If they do not respond to the treaties of the international community…then we will have to see what else can be done.”

    “We believe we should have moved to a ‘Plan B’ a long time ago,” Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after a meeting of foreign governments in Vienna.
    Yep, the ‘Plan B’ has been the preferred ‘Plan A’ for a while now. And it’s looking like that could happen. It’s more than a little ominous, especially given some of the other features of the Saudis’ and Turks’ current ‘Plan A’.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 19, 2016, 1:22 pm
  7. And as is always the case, the WSJ cannot bring itself to name EVEN ONE of the “moderate, anti-Assad” groups. Not one. Is it because, in the age of Google search, it is just too easy for folks to research these groups and find that, surprise, surprise, they really aren’t that moderate at all? To be fair, this is not just the WSJ, it is the entire Western media. Did we call the Serb partisans “moderate, Alled Forces-aligned groups?” Was the ARVN in Vietnam called a “moderate, anti-Viet Cong military”? So why can’t we NAME these damn groups? It’s total Orwell, all the time…

    I actually did see a BBC article a few months ago that I will see if I can find, which quite clearly named some of the groups, including at least one alligned with Al Qaeda. And, no, it was not al-Nusra, it was one that we supported without qualifications.

    Posted by Tiffany Sunderson | May 23, 2016, 12:54 pm

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