Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

“Moderate” Erdogan Aiding ISIS?

Tayyip Erdo­gan

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: In FTR #805, we not­ed the appar­ent role of Sau­di Prince Ban­dar in the financ­ing of ISIS. It appears that Erdo­gan’s Turkey is also involved in financ­ing the group. This should not real­ly come as a great sur­prise, in that Erdo­gan is no “mod­er­ate” as the main­stream media has [mis]represented him.

 In FTR #‘s 737738739, we not­ed that Erdogan’s gov­ern­ment was a direct out­growth of the Bank Al-Taqwa com­plex and an exten­sion of the Islam­ic fas­cism of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. In addi­tion, Erdogan’s regime has strong links to euro-fas­cists and the Under­ground Reich. We have doc­u­mented this in numer­ous posts and broad­casts.

The Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment appears to be an Islam­ic, Under­ground Reich enti­ty, ulti­mately direct­ed at the core of the Earth Island.

A prin­ci­ple vehi­cle for the Turkish/Erdogan fund­ing of ISIS appears to be the IHH, which draws sup­port from Erdo­gan’s son and Ptech fun­der Yassin Al-Qadi.

Now that U.S. forces are engaged in com­bat oper­a­tions against Islam­ic State fight­ers in Iraq, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion must press ISIS on all fronts, tar­get­ing its financ­ing, logis­tics, and weapons providers. Turkey — Amer­i­ca’s ally and NATO mem­ber — is alleged­ly involved. Clar­i­fy­ing Turkey’s role would serve U.S.-Turkey rela­tions.

Dur­ing my vis­it recent to Turkey, mem­bers of Turkey’s par­lia­ment and promi­nent per­son­al­i­ties described con­nec­tions between Turkey, Turks and mil­i­tant Sun­ni orga­ni­za­tions, such as the Islam­ic State in Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS). They allege a promi­nent role for Turkey’s Foun­da­tion for Human Rights and Free­doms and Human­i­tar­i­an Relief (IHH), an Islam­ic char­i­ty with a his­to­ry of assist­ing extrem­ist groups. Bilal Erdo­gan, Pres­i­dent-elect Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan’s son, has ties to the IHH board, and alleged­ly uses his father’s polit­i­cal net­work to raise funds for the orga­ni­za­tion. Some sources say Bilal has served on the IHH board, but the IHH web site does not cur­rent­ly list him as a board mem­ber.

Pres­i­dent-elect Erdo­gan was out­raged by atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against Sun­ni Mus­lims in Syr­ia. He became the chief crit­ic of Syr­i­a’s Pres­i­dent Bashar al- Assad, host­ing oppo­si­tion groups and the Free Syr­i­an Army’s head­quar­ters in Gaziantep. The West­’s fail­ure to sup­port the Free Syr­i­an Army fur­ther incensed Erdo­gan. Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates pro­vid­ed funds, while Turkey coor­di­nat­ed the trav­el, pay­ments, and weapons sup­plies for ISIS, Al-Nus­ra, and the Islam­ic Front.

Accord­ing to a March 2010 report of the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Counter-Ter­ror­ism, IHH had an annu­al bud­get of $100 mil­lion with field oper­a­tions in 120 coun­tries. IHH works with Mus­lim Broth­er­hood affil­i­ates world­wide. The first known ship­ment of weapons to “Broth­ers” in Syr­ia occurred in Sep­tem­ber 2012. Free Syr­i­an Army com­man­ders learned that a boat loaded with weapons docked in Syr­ia. It was reg­is­tered to mem­bers of IHH.

Major con­trib­u­tors to Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan’s AK Par­ty are “encour­aged” to make con­tri­bu­tions, lest they fall from favor and lose gov­ern­ment con­tracts. IHH also receives mon­ey from inter­na­tion­al spon­sors. IHH is financed by Yasin Al-Qadi, a wealthy al Qae­da-linked Sau­di busi­ness­man with close ties to Erdo­gan. IHH is an affil­i­ate of the Sau­di-based “Union of Good.” Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, an advo­cate of sui­cide attacks in Israel, chairs the “Union of Good.” Abdul Majid al-Zin­dani, a rad­i­cal cler­ic and “Spe­cial­ly Des­ig­nat­ed Glob­al Ter­ror­ist” by the Unit­ed States in 2004, serves on its board. In 2010, the Ger­man branch of IHH was banned for links to jihadist activ­i­ty. The U.S. Depart­ment of State list­ed the Union of Good as a For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tion (FTO).

 

 

Discussion

50 comments for ““Moderate” Erdogan Aiding ISIS?”

  1. The New Nor­mal for spy­ing con­tin­ues to get weird:

    Aug 18, 9:10 AM EDT

    Turkey calls Ger­man ambas­sador over spy­ing claims

    By SUZAN FRASER
    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Mon­day sum­moned Ger­many’s ambas­sador and demand­ed an expla­na­tion after an “unac­cept­able, inex­cus­able” report that Ger­many’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency tar­get­ed NATO ally Turkey in addi­tion to eaves­drop­ping on U.S. offi­cials’ con­ver­sa­tions.

    Ger­man Ambas­sador Eber­hard Pohl was also told that, if the reports were true, Turkey expect­ed Ger­many to imme­di­ate­ly stop any espi­onage tar­get­ing Turkey, accord­ing to the For­eign Min­istry.

    Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel report­ed Sat­ur­day that the agency, known by its Ger­man acronym BND, had inad­ver­tent­ly lis­tened to calls made by U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry and pre­de­ces­sor Hillary Clin­ton. It also cit­ed a con­fi­den­tial 2009 BND doc­u­ment list­ing Turkey as a tar­get for intel­li­gence gath­er­ing, but did­n’t say what that spy­ing involved.

    If true, Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu said spy­ing by Ger­many would be “unac­cept­able, inex­cus­able and would most cer­tain­ly require an expla­na­tion.”

    He said he would speak with Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter-Stein­meier lat­er Mon­day. Ger­man For­eign Min­istry spokesman Mar­tin Schae­fer said Mon­day’s meet­ing with the ambas­sador took place in a “friend­ly atmos­phere.”

    The U.S. has not com­ment­ed.

    Ger­man offi­cials would not con­firm Der Spiegel’s report. Gov­ern­ment spokes­woman Chris­tiane Wirtz said only that the gov­ern­ment in July informed a par­lia­men­tary intel­li­gence com­mit­tee about some of the mat­ters in the report and would inform it about the rest soon. The pan­el is sworn to secre­cy.

    ...

    Some Ger­man law­mak­ers defend­ed the idea of spy­ing on Turkey. Chris­t­ian Flisek, of the gov­ern­ing Social Democ­rats, not­ed that it is “a geopo­lit­i­cal­ly impor­tant coun­try.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 19, 2014, 7:23 pm
  2. Here’s a reminder that the Libyan civ­il war is also a proxy war:

    The New York Times
    Arab Nations Strike in Libya, Sur­pris­ing U.S.

    By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ERIC SCHMITTAUG. 25, 2014

    CAIRO — Twice in the last sev­en days, Egypt and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates have secret­ly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied mili­tias bat­tling for con­trol of Tripoli, Libya, four senior Amer­i­can offi­cials said, in a major esca­la­tion of a region­al pow­er strug­gle set off by Arab Spring revolts.

    The Unit­ed States, the offi­cials said, was caught by sur­prise: Egypt and the Emi­rates, both close allies and mil­i­tary part­ners, act­ed with­out inform­ing Wash­ing­ton, leav­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion on the side­lines. Egypt­ian offi­cials explic­it­ly denied to Amer­i­can diplo­mats that their mil­i­tary played any role in the oper­a­tion, the offi­cials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained rela­tions between Wash­ing­ton and Cairo.

    The strikes in Tripoli are anoth­er sal­vo in a pow­er strug­gle defined by old-style Arab auto­crats bat­tling Islamist move­ments seek­ing to over­turn the old order. Since the mil­i­tary ouster of the Islamist pres­i­dent in Egypt last year, the new gov­ern­ment and its back­ers in Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates have launched a cam­paign across the region — in the news media, in pol­i­tics and diplo­ma­cy, and by arm­ing local prox­ies — to roll back what they see as an exis­ten­tial threat to their author­i­ty posed by Islamist groups like the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

    Arrayed against them and back­ing the Islamists are the rival states of Turkey and Qatar.

    Amer­i­can offi­cials said the Egyp­tians and the Emi­ratis had teamed up against an Islamist tar­get inside Libya at least once before. In recent months, the offi­cials said, teams of “spe­cial forces” oper­at­ing out of Egypt but pos­si­bly com­posed pri­mar­i­ly of Emi­ratis had also suc­cess­ful­ly destroyed an Islamist camp near the east­ern Libyan city of Der­na, an extrem­ist strong­hold.

    Sev­er­al offi­cials said in recent days that Unit­ed States diplo­mats were fum­ing about the airstrikes, believ­ing the inter­ven­tion could fur­ther inflame the Libyan con­flict as the Unit­ed Nations and West­ern pow­ers are seek­ing to bro­ker a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion. Offi­cials said the gov­ern­ment of Qatar has already pro­vid­ed weapons and sup­port to the Islamist-aligned forces inside Libya, so the new strikes rep­re­sent a shift from a bat­tle of prox­ies to direct involve­ment. It could also set off an arms race.

    “We don’t see this as con­struc­tive at all,” said one senior Amer­i­can offi­cial.

    The strikes have also, so far, proved coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Islamist-aligned mili­tias fight­ing for con­trol of Tripoli suc­cess­ful­ly seized its main air­port just hours after they were hit with the sec­ond round of strikes.

    “In every are­na — in Syr­ia, Iraq, Gaza, Libya, even what hap­pened in Egypt — this region­al polar­iza­tion, with Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, or U.A.E., on one side and Qatar and Turkey on the oth­er, has proved to be a gigan­tic imped­i­ment to inter­na­tion­al efforts to resolve any of these cri­sis,” said Michele Dunne, a senior asso­ciate at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace and a for­mer Mid­dle East spe­cial­ist at the State Depart­ment.

    Egypt’s role, the Amer­i­can offi­cials said, was to pro­vide bases for the launch of the strikes. The Egypt­ian pres­i­dent, Abdel-Fat­tah el-Sisi, and oth­er offi­cials have issued vig­or­ous-sound­ing but care­ful­ly word­ed pub­lic state­ments deny­ing any direct action by Egypt­ian forces in Libya.

    “There are no Egypt­ian air­craft or forces in Libya, and no Egypt­ian air­craft par­tic­i­pat­ed in mil­i­tary action inside Libya,” Mr. Sisi said on Sun­day, the state news agency report­ed.

    In pri­vate, the offi­cials said, the Egypt­ian denials had been more sweep­ing.

    The offi­cials said the U.A.E. — which boasts one of the most effec­tive air forces in the Arab world, thanks to Amer­i­can equip­ment and train­ing — pro­vid­ed the pilots, war­planes and aer­i­al refu­el­ing planes nec­es­sary for the fight­ers to bomb Tripoli out of bases in Egypt. It was unclear if the planes or muni­tions were Amer­i­can-made.

    The U.A.E. has not com­ment­ed direct­ly on the strikes but came close to deny­ing a role. On Mon­day, an Emi­rati state news­pa­per print­ed a state­ment from Anwar Gar­gash, min­is­ter of state for for­eign affairs, call­ing any claims about an Emi­rati role in the attacks “a diver­sion” from the Libyans’ desire for “sta­bil­i­ty” and rejec­tion of the Islamists. The alle­ga­tions, he said, came from a group that “want­ed to use the cloak of reli­gion to achieve its polit­i­cal objec­tives” and “the peo­ple dis­cov­ered its lies and fail­ures.”

    The U.A.E. was once con­sid­ered a side­kick to Sau­di Ara­bia, a region­al heavy­weight and the dom­i­nant pow­er among the Arab monar­chies of the Per­sian Gulf. The Sau­di rulers, who draw their own legit­i­ma­cy from a puri­tan­i­cal under­stand­ing of Islam, have long feared the threat of oth­er reli­gious polit­i­cal move­ments, espe­cial­ly the well-orga­nized and wide­spread Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

    But West­ern diplo­mats in the region say the U.A.E. is now far more assertive and aggres­sive than even the Saud­is about the need to erad­i­cate Islamist move­ments around the region, per­haps because the Emi­rati rulers per­ceive a greater domes­tic threat.

    The issue has caused a rare schism among the Arab monar­chies of the gulf because Qatar has tak­en the oppo­site tack. In con­trast to its neigh­bors, it has wel­comed Islamist expa­tri­ates to its cap­i­tal, Doha, and sup­port­ed their fac­tions around the region, includ­ing in Libya.

    Dur­ing the upris­ing against Col. Muam­mar el-Qaddafi in Libya three years ago, Qatar and the U.A.E. both played active roles, but each favored dif­fer­ent clients among the rebels. While Qatar backed cer­tain Islamists, the U.A.E. favored cer­tain trib­al or region­al mili­tias, includ­ing the mili­tias based in the West­ern moun­tain town of Zin­tan, said Fred­er­ic Wehrey, anoth­er asso­ciate at the Carnegie Insti­tute and a for­mer Unit­ed States mil­i­tary attaché in Libya.

    The “proxy com­pe­ti­tion” between the two gulf states in Libya, he said, goes back to 2011.

    Now it has extend­ed to back­ing dif­fer­ent sides in what threat­ens to become a civ­il war between rival coali­tions of Libyan cities, tribes and mili­tias. Although the ide­o­log­i­cal lines are blur­ry, the U.A.E. has backed its Zin­tani clients in what they describe as a bat­tle against Islamist extrem­ists. Qatar, its Islamist clients and loose­ly allied region­al or trib­al groups from the coastal city of Mis­ura­ta have squared off from the oth­er side; most insist that their fight has noth­ing to do with polit­i­cal Islam and seek to pre­vent an Egypt­ian-style “coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion.”

    The first strikes occurred before dawn a week ago, hit­ting posi­tions in Tripoli con­trolled by mili­tias on the side of the Islamists. The bombs blew up a small weapons depot, among oth­er tar­gets, and local author­i­ties said they killed six peo­ple.

    A sec­ond set of airstrikes took place south of Tripoli in the ear­ly hours on Sat­ur­day. The Islamist-allied mili­tias were posed to cap­ture the air­port from Zin­tani mili­tias allied with the U.A.E. who had con­trolled it since 2011, and the strikes may have been intend­ed to slow the advance.

    Strik­ing again before dawn, jets bombed rock­et launch­ers, mil­i­tary vehi­cles and a ware­house all con­trolled by Islamist-allied mili­tia. At least a dozen peo­ple were killed, local author­i­ties said. But with­in hours the Islamist-aligned forces had nonethe­less tak­en the air­port.

    Respon­si­bil­i­ty for the airstrikes was ini­tial­ly a mys­tery. In both cas­es, anti-Islamist forces based in east­ern Libya under a rene­gade for­mer gen­er­al, Khal­i­fa Heftir, sought to claim respon­si­bil­i­ty. But the strikes, at night and from a long dis­tance, were beyond the known capa­bil­i­ties of Gen­er­al Heftir’s forces.

    The Islamist-allied mili­tias, allied under the ban­ner Libya Dawn, were quick to sus­pect Egypt and the U.A.E. But they offered no evi­dence or details.

    ...

    You have to won­der just how con­vo­lut­ed the proxy-war log­ic gets in this sit­u­a­tion. You also have to won­der how much more com­mon secret bomb­ing runs are going to get where no one ini­tial­ly claims respon­si­bil­i­ty. Once stealth drone bombers with a glob­al range are part of the stan­dard arse­nal of vir­tu­al­ly every coun­try with an air force it’ll just be a mat­ter of time before secret bomb­ing runs become much more acces­si­ble to every nation and there­fore much eas­i­er to get away with because so many oth­er coun­tries (or pri­vate enti­ties) could be the pos­si­ble cul­prit. Yikes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 25, 2014, 7:12 pm
  3. This is via Google Trans­late...

    https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF‑8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.welt.de%2Fpolitik%2Fausland%2Farticle132446686%2FArbeitet-die-Tuerkei-heimlich-an-der-Atombombe.html&edit-text=

    Turkey secret­ly work­ing on the atom­ic bomb?

    The BND peek­ing from Ankara: The rea­son could be a Turk­ish nuclear weapons pro­gram, work­ing on the appar­ent­ly secret­ly. The trail of clues leads from fuel rods up to medi­um-range mis­siles.

    By Hans Rüh­le

    Where Europe bor­der­ing the Mid­dle East, there is a man who fol­lows pow­er­ful visions. The new Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan is to be as dynam­ic as a South­east Asian boom econ­o­my, while inspired by Islam­ic piety and wide­ly invin­ci­ble as once the Ottoman Empire. Not unlike his pre­de­ces­sor Sul­tan also spread this as much fear as gloss.

    As was recent­ly announced that the fed­er­al intel­li­gence ser­vice spy­ing on Turkey , there were sev­er­al pos­si­ble rea­sons for the same: through the coun­try on the Bosporus drag Islamist fight­ers in the crises in Iraq and Syr­ia. Drug traf­fick­ing, smug­gling, mil­i­tant Kurds can explore in Erdo­gan’s Turkey also. But there is an even bet­ter, though hard­ly known rea­son, which makes Turkey a legit­i­mate tar­get Ger­man intel­li­gence ser­vices. For some time, there are increas­ing signs that Erdo­gan wants to arm his coun­try nuclear mul­ti­ply.

    The dis­pute over the Iran­ian nuclear pro­gram and North Kore­a’s provo­ca­tions with nuclear weapons tests employ the mes­sages at reg­u­lar inter­vals. That obvi­ous­ly Turkey is work­ing on nuclear weapons, how­ev­er, is hard­ly dis­cussed pub­licly. The west­ern intel­li­gence scene, how­ev­er, is large­ly in agree­ment about it.

    Large-scale civil­ian nuclear pro­gram

    Mod­el for the strat­e­gy of the Turks is clear­ly Iran. Tehran seeks nuclear weapons by estab­lish­ing bomb mate­r­i­al secret­ly under the cov­er of a civil­ian nuclear pro­gram. And Turkey has launched a large-scale civil­ian nuclear pro­gram in recent years. The offi­cial rea­son for this: The domes­tic econ­o­my was grow­ing and need more pow­er.

    2011 instruct­ed the Russ­ian com­pa­ny Rosatom Ankara for 15 bil­lion euros to build a large reac­tor com­plex on the Mediter­ranean coast, about 300 kilo­me­ters east of the tourist cen­ter of Antalya. Two years lat­er, a sim­i­lar agree­ment with a Japan­ese-French con­sor­tium for the price of 17 bil­lion. Even more inter­est­ing than these fig­ures but the con­tracts — and espe­cial­ly what is not in it.

    When com­pa­nies build a light-water reac­tor, they usu­al­ly agree to the Gov­ern­ment, the project to oper­ate for 60 years, to pro­vide the nec­es­sary for the oper­a­tion of ura­ni­um avail­able and then take back the spent fuel. Exact­ly offered in the case of Turkey in both Rosatom and the Japan­ese-French con­sor­tium. So far noth­ing spe­cial so.

    Not fixed sup­ply of ura­ni­um con­tract

    Turkey but has waived in both cas­es it to fix the sup­ply of ura­ni­um and the with­draw­al of spent fuel con­tract. She insist­ed the con­trary, to reg­u­late this sep­a­rate­ly lat­er. Explains Ankara has not this unusu­al maneu­ver in the nego­ti­a­tions. But the inten­tion behind it is easy to see: The Turk­ish lead­er­ship wants to keep these parts of the nuclear pro­gram in their own hands — and they are cru­cial to any State that wants to devel­op nuclear weapons.

    First, there are the fuel rods: Not only Gor­leben in Low­er Sax­ony, but all over the world, the dis­pos­al of nuclear waste is dis­cussed as a prob­lem. Turkey on the oth­er hand do not want to give up their spent fuel obvi­ous­ly. The only log­i­cal expla­na­tion for this: you want to make prepa­ra­tions for the con­struc­tion of a plu­to­ni­um bomb.

    And this is a civil­ian nuclear pow­er plant so: After burn­ing off the bars con­tain only 90 per­cent of waste, but in addi­tion nine per­cent con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ura­ni­um and plu­to­ni­um con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed per­cent. A plant with the help of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al from the rods could be iso­lat­ed, can be built with­in half a year and is about the size of a nor­mal office com­plex. This has been shown in the Unit­ed States sys­tem stud­ies.

    The plu­to­ni­um bomb on base

    The fuel rods could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly be processed for reuse in a civil­ian reac­tor. But this is much more expen­sive than buy­ing new. If Turkey still wants to keep the spent fuel rods, then there’s just one rea­son­able expla­na­tion: She wants to gath­er mate­r­i­al for a bomb on plu­to­ni­um base.

    The gaps in the con­tracts even open yet anoth­er way to bomb, name­ly direct­ly with ura­ni­um. For Ankara took the same tech­nol­o­gy that is also used to make the ore as civil­ian reac­tor fuel avail­able: ura­ni­um enrich­ment.

    For the pow­er plant oper­a­tion, it must be enriched to 3.5 to five per cent, for nuclear weapons on at least 80 per­cent. The tech­ni­cal process is the same in prin­ci­ple. And so, a suit­able cov­er for those who want to take pow­er in truth pro­duce nuclear weapons. If Turkey dropped with the reac­tor for­eign com­pa­nies to a firm order for ura­ni­um, then it seems like­ly that they will make it for your­self.

    They want to under­stand the nuclear cycle

    It also affect­ed by the fact that Ankara intends to enrich ura­ni­um, yet rejects indig­nant­ly. In any case, the atti­tude of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment is con­tra­dic­to­ry. Despite the denials Turkey is vehe­ment­ly on their alleged rights under the Nuclear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, includ­ing ura­ni­um enrich­ment. The Turk­ish Ener­gy Min­is­ter Tan­er Yildiz found­ed the gaps in the con­tracts with the need to “try to under­stand” the nuclear cycle.

    Accord­ing to the Fed­er­al Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, who were known to a lim­it­ed Ger­man pub­lic by a rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion ser­vice, the Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan has already arranged in 2010, secret­ly pre­pare for the con­struc­tion of facil­i­ties for the enrich­ment. Accord­ing to oth­er intel­li­gence find­ings that Turkey already has a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of cen­trifuges. Where they come from, can be sup­posed, after all: Pak­istan.

    The Turks had a lead­ing role in the activ­i­ties of Abdul Qadeer Khan Pak­istani nuclear smug­gler who endowed 1987–2002 Iran, North Korea and Libya with thou­sands of cen­trifuge. The elec­tron­ics of all Pak­istani assets came from Turk­ish part­ners. Khan had even tem­porar­i­ly the inten­tion to relo­cate its entire ille­gal cen­trifuge pro­duc­tion in Turkey. 1998 offered the then Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif the Turks even a “nuclear part­ner­ship” in research.

    Nuclear Sci­en­tif­ic exchanges with Pak­istan

    Turkey had final­ly been helped in the con­struc­tion of Pak­istan’s nuclear weapons pro­gram in the 80s. At that time many com­po­nents, which could not be pro­cured open, deliv­ered via Turkey to Pak­istan were. There­fore it is not sur­pris­ing if intel­li­gence report that to date there is brisk nuclear sci­en­tif­ic exchange between the two coun­tries.

    But prob­a­bly it’s about more than this, AQ Khan has proven its cus­tomers not only sup­plied with the cen­trifuge, but also with com­plete blue­prints for the con­struc­tion of nuclear weapons. Such a set of high­ly sen­si­tive doc­u­ments could ensure the CIA in Libya in 2003, hid­den in the plas­tic bag from a mas­ter tai­lor from the Pak­istani cap­i­tal Islam­abad. Should Turkey along with Iran, North Korea and Libya have been anoth­er cus­tomer Khan, then they should have received sim­i­lar ben­e­fits: mate­r­i­al and know-how.

    Anoth­er impor­tant indi­ca­tion in the chain is the Turk­ish mis­sile pro­gram. Since the mid-80s devel­oped Turkey short-range mis­siles with a max­i­mum range of 150 kilo­me­ters. This was to obvi­ous­ly not be sat­is­fied. Pub­lic sen­sa­tion was caused main­ly prompt­ed Erdo­gan in Decem­ber 2011 to the defense indus­try of his coun­try, to devel­op long-range mis­siles. Two months lat­er, Turkey began appar­ent­ly with the devel­op­ment of a medi­um-range mis­sile. A type of mis­sile with a range of 1,500 kilo­me­ters, after all, already test­ed the Turks 2012 A medi­um-range mis­sile with 2,500 km range should be ready in 2015.

    Medi­um-range mis­siles as a fur­ther indi­ca­tion

    Although this sched­ule for all expe­ri­ences can not be com­plied with, there is the ques­tion of the mean­ing and pur­pose of such accel­er­at­ed mis­sile devel­op­ment. The answer is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple: medi­um-range mis­siles are suit­able due to their low accu­ra­cy and pay­load only for weapons of mass destruc­tion. A pro­gram for their prepa­ra­tion is a strong — a very strong — an indi­ca­tion of an ongo­ing nuclear weapons pro­gram.

    But what exact­ly does the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship of Turkey to the nuclear option? Not much. Again, you have to know to read hints and omis­sions. In August 2011, the Turk­ish ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States, Namik Tan, said: “We can not let that Iran has nuclear weapons.” Two years lat­er, the then Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Abdul­lah Gul clar­i­fied this posi­tion in an inter­view with the mag­a­zine “For­eign Affairs”: “Turkey will not allow a neigh­bor­ing coun­try has weapons, on which Turkey does not have.”

    Pur­sued nuclear weapons mas­sive­ly

    At this time, should have been clear and the Turk­ish lead­ers that Iran pro­motes its nuclear weapons mas­sive­ly. If Erdo­gan would fol­low, then it might bring a no great inter­nal prob­lems. In a sur­vey con­duct­ed in 2012, 54 per­cent of the 1500 Turk­ish respon­dents were in favor of devel­op­ing the event of a nuclear-armed Iran’s own nuclear weapons.

    Ger­man intel­li­gence and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple may dis­agree. If an ally rec­og­niz­able faces on the way to nuclear-armed region­al pow­er, then this is a unique process that must take the Ger­man pol­i­cy in the EU and to respond to them.

    Giv­en the already estab­lished nuclear pow­er, Israel and the nascent nuclear-armed Iran, the Turk­ish prime min­is­ter has no choice but to his coun­try to arm nuclear, if he wants to car­ry out his vision of a great pow­er Turkey. Because oth­er­wise, Turkey remains his under­stand­ing of sec­ondary impor­tance — and there­fore can not and will Erdo­gan def­i­nite­ly not sat­is­fied.

    The author Hans Rüh­le from 1982 to 1988 Head of the Pol­i­cy Plan­ning Staff in the Depart­ment of Defense.

    Posted by Vanfield | September 22, 2014, 12:06 pm
  4. http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2014/09/24/erdogans-flying-carpet-unravels/

    Erdogan’s Fly­ing Car­pet Unrav­els

    Post­ed By David P. Gold­man On Sep­tem­ber 24, 2014 @ 5:45 am In Uncat­e­go­rized | 1 Com­ment
    Erdogan’s Fly­ing Car­pet Unrav­els

    by David P. Gold­man
    Asia Times
    Sep­tem­ber 23, 2014

    Cross­post­ed from Asia Times Online:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01–230914.html

    Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan has a grow­ing list of ene­mies. “Among his tar­gets” at a recent address to a Turk­ish busi­ness group “were The New York Times, the Gezi events of 2013, cred­it rat­ing agen­cies, the Hizmet move­ment, the Koc fam­i­ly and high inter­est rates,” Zaman­re­port­ed Sep­tem­ber 18. Erdo­gan ear­li­er had threat­ened to expel rat­ing agen­cies Moody’s and Fitch from Turkey if they per­sist­ed in mak­ing neg­a­tive com­ments about Turkey’s cred­it.

    Turkey’s finan­cial posi­tion is one of the world’s great finan­cial mys­ter­ies, in fact, a unique­ly opaque puz­zle: the coun­try has by far the biggest for­eign financ­ing require­ment rel­a­tive to GDP among all the world’s large economies, yet the sources of its financ­ing are impos­si­ble to trace.

    Source: Bloomberg

    Source: Cen­tral Bank of Turkey

    I have ana­lyzed sov­er­eign debt risk for three decades – includ­ing stints as head of cred­it strat­e­gy at Cred­it Suisse and head of debt research at Bank of Amer­i­ca – and have nev­er seen any­thing quite like this.

    At around 8% of GDP, Turkey’s cur­rent account deficit is a stand­out among emerg­ing mar­kets. It is at the lev­el of Greece before its near-bank­rupt­cy in 2011. Where is the mon­ey com­ing from to cov­er it?

    A great deal of it is financed by short-term debt, main­ly through bor­row­ings by banks.

    Lit­tle of this appears on the Bank for Inter­na­tion­al Set­tle­ments tables of West­ern banks’ short-term lend­ing to oth­er banks, which means that the source of the bank loans lies else­where than in the devel­oped world. Gulf State banks are almost cer­tain­ly the lenders, by process of elim­i­na­tion.

    Recent­ly, as the above chart shows, the rate of growth of bank bor­row­ing has tapered off. What has replaced bank loans?

    Source: Cen­tral Bank of Turkey

    Accord­ing to Turkey’s cen­tral bank, the main source of new financ­ing can­not be iden­ti­fied: It appears on the books of the cen­tral bank as “errors and omis­sions”.

    Ana­lysts close to Turkey’s rul­ing par­ty claim that the uniden­ti­fied flows rep­re­sent a polit­i­cal endorse­ment from Turkey’s friends in the Gulf States. Quot­ed in Al-Mon­i­tor, polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Mustafa Sahin boast­ed: “The secret of how Turkey avoid­ed the 2008 glob­al eco­nom­ic cri­sis is in these mys­tery funds. The West sus­pects that Mid­dle East cap­i­tal is enter­ing Turkey with­out records, with­out being reg­is­tered. Qatar and oth­er Mus­lim coun­tries have mon­ey in Turkey. These unrecord­ed funds came to Turkey because of their con­fi­dence in Erdo­gan and the Mus­lim fea­tures of the AKP and the signs of Turkey restor­ing its his­toric mis­sions.”

    It seems clear from the data that short-term bank lend­ing and mys­tery inflows have been inter­change­able means of cov­er­ing Turkey’s deficit. When the growth of bank lend­ing slowed, errors and omis­sions rose dur­ing the past eight years, and vice ver­sa.

    This con­tin­u­ing trade-off sug­gests that bank lend­ing and mys­tery inflows have a com­mon ori­gin, pre­sum­ably in the Gulf States. But it seems unlike­ly that Qatar is the main source of funds for Turkey, sim­ply because its resources are too small to cov­er the gap. Qatar shares Turkey’s enthu­si­asm for polit­i­cal Islam in gen­er­al and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in par­tic­u­lar, but there are alter­na­tive expla­na­tions. Despite its his­tor­i­cal dis­like for its for­mer Ottoman over­lord and strong dis­agree­ment about the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Sau­di Ara­bia may want to influ­ence Turkey as a Sun­ni coun­ter­weight to Iran’s influ­ence in the region.

    If mys­tery attends Turkey’s past eco­nom­ic per­for­mance, the future is all the cloudi­er. Erdogan’s pow­er rests on his capac­i­ty to deliv­er jobs. The country’s eco­nom­ic per­for­mance has depend­ed in turn on extreme­ly rapid cred­it growth, as I showed in a 2012 analy­sis for The Mid­dle East Quar­ter­ly.

    Source: Cen­tral Bank of Turkey

    Source: Cen­tral Bank of Turkey

    Source: Cen­tral Bank of Turkey

    Accord­ing to Moody’s, 80% Turk­ish cor­po­rate loans are denom­i­nat­ed in for­eign cur­ren­cy, which bears far low­er inter­est rates than local-cur­ren­cy loans, but entails for­eign exchange risk: a deval­u­a­tion of Turkey’s cur­ren­cy would increase the debt-ser­vice costs of over-lev­ered Turk­ish bor­row­ers. Cred­it to Turkey’s pri­vate sec­tor is still grow­ing at more than 20% year-on-year, down from a peak of 45% in 2010, but remains extreme­ly fast.

    Despite the extreme­ly rapid rate of cred­it growth, Turkey’s econ­o­my has stalled. Turkey report­ed 2% annu­al­ized growth in real GDP dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter, but a detailed look at the econ­o­my shows a far direr pic­ture. Man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion are falling while infla­tion is surg­ing.

    New hous­ing per­mits, mean­while, are down by almost 40% year-on-year for sin­gle-fam­i­ly homes, and neg­a­tive for all cat­e­gories of con­struc­tion (mea­sured by square meter of planned new space).

    The biggest con­tri­bu­tion to report­ed GDP growth dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter came from the finance sec­tor. In short, the cen­tral bank is count­ing the banks’ con­tri­bu­tion to the lend­ing bub­ble as a con­tri­bu­tion to growth. That is absurd, con­sid­er­ing that most of the increase in lend­ing to the pri­vate sec­tor is to help debtors pay their inter­est on pre­vi­ous loans. A fair­er account­ing would show zero growth or even a decline in Turkey’s GDP.

    Erdogan’s pop­u­lar­i­ty among Turk­ish vot­ers is not hard to under­stand: He has lev­ered the Turk­ish econ­o­my to pro­vide jobs, espe­cial­ly in con­struc­tion, a tra­di­tion­al recourse of Third World pop­ulists who want to cre­ate jobs for semi-skilled work­ers.

    Source: Cen­tral Bank of Turkey

    Source: Bloomberg

    Dur­ing the run-up to the 2014 elec­tions, con­struc­tion employ­ment increased sharply even while employ­ment in oth­er branch­es of the econ­o­my declined.

    Judg­ing from the plunge in build­ing per­mits, though, this source of sup­port for Turkey’s econ­o­my dis­ap­peared dur­ing the first half of 2014.

    That leaves the mys­tery investors in Turkey hold­ing an enor­mous amount of risk in the Turk­ish cur­ren­cy. Turkey’s cur­ren­cy has fall­en by half against the US dol­lar, cheap­en­ing the cost of Turk­ish assets to for­eign investors. The Turk­ish lira near­ly col­lapsed in Jan­u­ary, but the country’s cen­tral bank stopped its decline by rais­ing inter­est rates. The lira has been slip­ping again, and the cen­tral bank has let rates rise to try to break the fall.

    Despite the largesse of the Gulf States, Turkey is locked into a vicious cycle of cur­ren­cy depre­ci­a­tion, high­er inter­est rates, and declin­ing eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty. Turk­ish vot­ers stood by Erdo­gan in last March’s nation­al elec­tions, believ­ing that he was the politi­cian most like­ly to deliv­er jobs and growth. But his abil­i­ty to do so is slip­ping. If the Turk­ish lira drops sharply, the cost of debt ser­vice to Turk­ish com­pa­nies will become pro­hib­i­tive, while the cost of imports and ensu­ing infla­tion will depress Turk­ish incomes. By some mea­sures Turkey already is in a reces­sion, and it is at risk of eco­nom­ic free-fall.

    That explains Erdogan’s propen­si­ty to shoot the mes­sen­gers: the rat­ing agen­cies, the cen­tral bank, and even the New York Times. For the past dozen years he has made him­self use­ful enough to his neigh­bors to stay in busi­ness. His mag­ic car­pet is unrav­el­ing, though, and his tri­umph in the March elec­tions may turn out to be illu­so­ry much soon­er than most ana­lysts expect.

    David P Gold­man is a Senior Fel­low at the Lon­don Cen­ter for Pol­i­cy Research and the Wax Fam­i­ly Fel­low at the Mid­dle East Forum.

    Posted by Vanfield | September 29, 2014, 3:00 pm
  5. There’s a grow­ing meme in the right-wing media that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion either com­plete­ly made up the “Kho­rasan Group” because it did­n’t want to admit that it was an al Qae­da affil­i­ate while Glenn Green­wald has been sug­gest­ing that the group may not real­ly exists at all. Giv­en the Bush admin­is­tra­tion’s “curve balls” in the lead up to war it’s not sur­pris­ing that these memes are catch­ing on but, as the fol­low­ing piece sug­gests, there are oth­er expla­na­tions for the sud­den emer­gence of the Kho­rasan Group’s pub­lic debut:

    warincontext.org
    Glenn Greenwald’s Kho­rasan con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry miss­es the point
    By Paul Wood­ward on Sep­tem­ber 29, 2014

    Wash­ing­ton is often — and jus­ti­fi­ably — crit­i­cized for view­ing the world through a U.S.-centric prism. But many of the U.S. government’s fiercest crit­ics are guilty of the same nar­row ori­en­ta­tion.

    A case in point is an analy­sis pro­vid­ed by Glenn Green­wald and Mur­taza Hus­sain in The Inter­cept yes­ter­day: “The Kho­rasan Group: Anato­my of a Fake Ter­ror Threat to Jus­ti­fy Bomb­ing Syr­ia.”

    Up until last week, hard­ly any­one, includ­ing sea­soned Syr­ia watch­ers and Syr­i­ans them­selves, had heard of an out­fit called the Kho­rasan Group and so sober warn­ings from high offi­cials in the U.S. gov­ern­ment that this group pos­es a greater threat to the U.S. than ISIS, were received by some observers with a mea­sure of skep­ti­cism.

    The Inter­cept analy­sis traces the recent evo­lu­tion of the Kho­rasan nar­ra­tive as pre­sent­ed by the servile Amer­i­can media and reach­es this con­clu­sion:

    What hap­pened here is all-too-famil­iar. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion need­ed pro­pa­gan­dis­tic and legal ratio­nale for bomb­ing yet anoth­er pre­dom­i­nant­ly Mus­lim coun­try. While emo­tions over the ISIS behead­ing videos were high, they were not enough to sus­tain a lengthy new war.

    So after spend­ing weeks pro­mot­ing ISIS as Worse Than Al Qae­da™, they unveiled a new, nev­er-before-heard-of group that was Worse Than ISIS™. Overnight, as the first bombs on Syr­ia fell, the end­less­ly help­ful U.S. media mind­less­ly cir­cu­lat­ed the script they were giv­en: this new group was com­posed of “hard­ened ter­ror­ists,” posed an “immi­nent” threat to the U.S. home­land, was in the “final stages” of plots to take down U.S. civil­ian air­craft, and could “launch more-coor­di­nat­ed and larg­er attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001.””

    As usu­al, anonymi­ty was grant­ed to U.S. offi­cials to make these claims. As usu­al, there was almost no evi­dence for any of this. Nonethe­less, Amer­i­can media out­lets – eager, as always, to jus­ti­fy Amer­i­can wars – spewed all of this with very lit­tle skep­ti­cism. Worse, they did it by pre­tend­ing that the U.S. Gov­ern­ment was try­ing not to talk about all of this – too secret! – but they, as intre­pid, dig­ging jour­nal­ists, man­aged to unearth it from their coura­geous “sources.” Once the dam­age was done, the evi­dence quick­ly emerged about what a sham this all was. But, as always with these government/media pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns, the truth emerged only when it’s impo­tent.

    The first prob­lem with this con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry — its claim that the Kho­rasan Group was invent­ed for domes­tic pro­pa­gan­da pur­pos­es — is that such an inven­tion would large­ly be redun­dant.

    Hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly pre­sent­ed ISIS as worse than al Qae­da, why mud­dy the nar­ra­tive by intro­duc­ing into the pic­ture a pre­vi­ous­ly unheard of group? If a pre­text for bomb­ing Syr­ia was being fab­ri­cat­ed, why not posit an “immi­nent” threat to the U.S. com­ing from ISIS itself?

    The actu­al sto­ry here is one that is some­what more com­plex than appeals to con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists like Glenn Green­wald and Alex Jones and it requires giv­ing as much atten­tion to what is hap­pen­ing in Syr­ia as to what is hap­pen­ing behind closed doors in the cap­i­tal of the Evil Empire.

    The inven­tion of the Kho­rasan Group — which is to say, the cre­ation of the name — seems to have been neces­si­tat­ed not by the desire to find a pre­text for bomb­ing anoth­er Mus­lim coun­try, but instead the desire to avoid head­lines which would iden­ti­fy the tar­get of a clus­ter of airstrikes by its real name: Jab­hat al-Nus­ra (JN).

    I dare say that the aver­age Amer­i­can is no more famil­iar with the name Jab­hat al-Nus­ra than they are with the Kho­rasan Group, so why con­struct a dis­tinc­tion between the two?

    This actu­al­ly has lit­tle to do with how expand­ing the airstrike tar­get­ing beyond ISIS would be per­ceived in the U.S. and every­thing to do with how it would be seen in Syr­ia.

    As was report in a 2013 report “Jihadist Ter­ror­ism: A Threat Assess­ment,” by the Bipar­ti­san Pol­i­cy Center’s Home­land Secu­ri­ty Project chaired by Lee Hamil­ton and Thomas Kean, Jab­hat al-Nus­ra is “wide­ly acknowl­edged as the most effec­tive fight­ing force in the war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”

    Unlike ISIS, JN has pur­sued a strat­e­gy designed to avoid alien­at­ing Syr­i­ans who oppose the Assad regime yet do not sup­port JN’s Islamist ide­ol­o­gy. The Syr­i­an fight­ers at its core, hav­ing learned from the mis­take of alien­at­ing the local pop­u­la­tion while they were fight­ing in Iraq as mem­bers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Al Qae­da in Iraq (the pre­cur­sor of ISIS), made some strate­gic adjust­ments for JN.

    As a Quil­liam Foun­da­tion report notes, JN opt­ed for:

    * pre­dom­i­nant­ly mil­i­tary rather than civic tar­gets, with no bomb­ing of shrines and care­ful use of sui­cide bombs to min­imise civil­ian casu­al­ties,
    * down­play­ing JN’s rhetoric con­cern­ing sec­tar­i­an­ism and kuf­far (labelling Alaw­ites, Shi­ites and Sufis as non-Mus­lims)
    * the deci­sion to use a dif­fer­ent name to avoid pre­con­cep­tions asso­ci­at­ed with Al Qae­da.

    If the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion chose for debat­able rea­sons to tar­get a unit inside JN and want­ed to explain itself to the Amer­i­can pub­lic, it didn’t need to con­coct a new name for this unit. It could sim­ply present the same asser­tions about plots to attack the home­land and say that they emanate from Syria’s al Qae­da affil­i­ate, Jab­hat al-Nus­ra.

    After all, Mohsin Al-Fadhli who in recent reports has been described as the leader of the Kho­rasan Group has also been referred to as the de fac­to leader of al Qae­da in Syr­ia.

    An Arab Times report in March this year said:

    Al-Fadhli lives in north of Syr­ia, where he is in con­trol of al-Qae­da. He entices and recruits jihadists from among the Euro­pean Mus­lim youths, or from those who embrace Islam. After choos­ing the youths, he trains them on how to exe­cute ter­ror oper­a­tions in the west­ern coun­tries, focus­ing most­ly on means of pub­lic trans­porta­tion such as trains and air­planes. His activ­i­ties were also focused on direct­ing the al-Qae­da ele­ments to exe­cute oper­a­tions against four main tar­gets, which are Assad’s mil­i­tary, the Free Syr­i­an Army, the ‘Islam­ic Front’ and ‘Da’esh’ [ISIS]. Sources revealed that Al-Fadhli sup­ports ‘Al-Nus­ra Front’ against ‘Da’esh’, espe­cial­ly after the Al-Nus­ra leader Abu Moham­mad Al-Joulani declared his loy­al­ty to al- Qae­da group in April last year.

    The deci­sion tak­en by [Al Qae­da leader] Al-Zawahri to sup­port ‘Al-Nus­ra Front’ to face ‘Da’esh’ was made after Al-Fadhli pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion about what is hap­pen­ing in Syr­ia. Sources stressed that such a deci­sion indi­cates the con­fi­dence al-Qae­da lead­er­ship has in Al-Fadhli. It also con­firms that Al-Fadhli is the de fac­to leader of al-Qae­da in Syr­ia, even though it has not been offi­cial­ly announced over fear of expos­ing him.

    If the leader of the so-called Kho­rasan Group had such a cen­tral posi­tion in JN, why should the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion see fit to try and edu­cate the Amer­i­can pub­lic about some fin­er details in the organization’s inter­nal struc­ture?

    It didn’t. The dis­tinc­tion between the Kho­rasan Group and Jab­hat al-Nus­ra appears to have been con­trived in a vain effort by Wash­ing­ton to fool Syr­i­ans rather than Amer­i­cans. The U.S. hoped it could chop off one of JN’s limbs with­out appear­ing to strike its body.

    The prob­lem with a frontal attack on Jab­hat al-Nus­ra is that this would inevitably be per­ceived in Syr­ia as an attack on part of the oppo­si­tion which has been on the front­line of the fight against ISIS and the regime — an attack that can thus only pro­vide addi­tion­al help to Bashar al-Assad.

    Pres­i­dent Oba­ma says that the fight against ISIS will require ground forces drawn from the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion, but by attack­ing JN the U.S. has swift­ly alien­at­ed itself from the very fight­ers — the so-called mod­er­ates — on whose sup­port the U.S. sup­pos­ed­ly depends.

    ...

    The ploy of invent­ing the Kho­rasan Group didn’t suc­ceed in deceiv­ing Syr­i­ans who knew that the men being killed in airstrikes in north-west Syr­ia all belonged to Jab­hat al-Nus­ra. Thus, by the end of last week instead of there being pop­u­lar ral­lies wel­com­ing a cam­paign to destroy the much-despised ISIS, ordi­nary Syr­i­ans were tak­ing to the streets to protest against the U.S. airstrikes.

    ...

    So was the US try­ing to use the “Kho­rasan” label to “qui­et­ly” bomb a branch of al Nus­ra? At this point we don’t have enough infor­ma­tion but al Nus­ra is a tar­get of US bombs (one of which almost hit a Free Syr­i­an Army camp that was adja­cent to an al Nus­ra camp). Whether or not this is a rough­ly accu­rate descrip­tion of the real­i­ty behind the “Kho­rasan Group” it’s a reminder that, rel­a­tive to ISIS, al Qae­da affil­i­ates like al Nus­ra might actu­al­ly seem kind of mod­er­ate to the Syr­i­ans liv­ing in the hell of civ­il war. Mak­ing al Qae­da seem OK is just one more aspect of the ISIS night­mare. And it’s an aspect of ISIS that might make a US cam­paign against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment a lot more like­ly if a mil­i­tary solu­tion is the only solu­tion:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    Al Qae­da Makes a Play for the U.S. Allies the War Against ISIS Depends On
    In Syr­ia, the al Qae­da branch is woo­ing America’s proxies—and some of those prox­ies just hate the new U.S. bomb­ing cam­paign.

    World News
    09.29.14

    Jacob Siegel

    Al Qaeda’s leader in Syr­ia reemerged online Sun­day with his first offi­cial state­ment in eight months. In the wake of ongo­ing U.S.-led airstrikes, his threats to attack West­ern civil­ians in retal­i­a­tion for Amer­i­can attacks in Syr­ia were omi­nous but pre­dictable. Aside from threat­en­ing the West, the mes­sage was clear­ly aimed at gain­ing sup­port from Syr­i­an rebel groups—the same groups U.S. offi­cials have court­ed as the future ground force to fight ISIS. Essen­tial­ly, Amer­i­ca is com­pet­ing with al Qae­da for the sup­port of those rebel groups. And so far the momen­tum is on Qaeda’s side.

    Mem­bers of the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion who had been eyed by U.S. offi­cials as mem­bers of a poten­tial proxy force have already con­demned the bom­bard­ment by Amer­i­ca and its allies. Sunday’s state­ment from Abu Moham­mad al-Jolani, the head of Syr­i­an al Qae­da affil­i­ate al-Nus­ra Front, addressed the rebel groups direct­ly say­ing that he was their true ally, not the U.S.

    In the frac­tured alle­giances and con­flicts cre­at­ed by Syria’s bru­tal civ­il war, many rebel groups opposed to both ISIS and the Assad regime con­sid­er al-Nus­ra some­thing of a mod­er­ate force—despite its loy­al­ty to al Qae­da. To these rebel fac­tions, al-Nusra’s jihadist ide­ol­o­gy is sec­ondary to its fight against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment. In his mes­sage Jolani appealed to the idea that al-Nus­ra is the opposition’s nat­ur­al leader, implor­ing rebel groups, “Don’t let the crimes of ISIS [and] its aggres­sion push you towards the West.”

    Has­san Has­san, an ana­lyst at the Del­ma insti­tute in Abu Dhabi whose Twit­ter feed pro­vid­ed a trans­la­tion of key points from Jolani’s speech, said it was “tap­ping into the grow­ing cyn­i­cism towards the airstrikes” among Syr­i­ans.

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has insist­ed that it will not deploy Amer­i­can troops to Syr­ia. But at the same time, top mil­i­tary and civil­ian offi­cials have insist­ed that defeat­ing ISIS requires a ground force that can cap­i­tal­ize on airstrikes and cap­ture ter­ri­to­ry. That’s left the mod­er­ate Syr­i­an rebels, those groups that have fought both the Assad regime and ISIS.

    There’s a prob­lem with these mod­er­ates, though. This fac­tion of the oppo­si­tion is itself frac­tured into dozens of splin­ter groups. Many gov­ern­ment offi­cials and out­side observers of the con­flict have ques­tioned how the U.S. can be sure which groups are tru­ly mod­er­ate and which groups might use U.S. arms in pur­suit of a more rad­i­cal agen­da.

    The alliance between Amer­i­ca and rebel forces has been strained by the U.S. refusal to direct­ly attack the Assad regime. In some ways, the U.S. and its cho­sen prox­ies are fight­ing dif­fer­ent wars, despite shar­ing a com­mon ene­my in ISIS. The rebels con­sid­er the Assad regime, which has slaugh­tered tens of thou­sands of Syr­i­ans over years of bru­tal attacks, their pri­ma­ry ene­my, while the U.S. has con­demned Assad but focused its attacks only on ISIS and al Qae­da.

    That ten­sion led to a sym­bol­ic break last week when Harakat Hazm, one of the few vet­ted rebel groups to receive Amer­i­can weapons and train­ing, called the U.S.-led airstrikes “an attack on nation­al sov­er­eign­ty” that would only strength­en the Assad regime.

    Jolani played the same notes in his state­ment, stress­ing the “the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Assad ben­e­fit­ing from the airstrikes,” accord­ing to Has­san. But the speech also empha­sized the dif­fer­ence between ISIS and al-Nus­ra. Though they were once aligned, al Qaeda’s lead­er­ship excom­mu­ni­cat­ed ISIS in Feb­ru­ary over the group’s attempt to con­trol the Syr­i­an jihad and its bru­tal­i­ty toward fel­low Mus­lims, which was judged to hurt pop­u­lar sup­port.

    This was also stressed in Jolani’s state­ment, which Has­san said “affirmed his posi­tion on ISIS,” which is still unpop­u­lar among most Syr­i­ans, and reit­er­at­ed his mes­sage that Jab­hat al-Nus­ra will not be like them.”

    ...

    Many U.S. offi­cials have already pub­licly expressed how skep­ti­cal they are of the approach in Syr­ia. “We sim­ply don’t know if some­where down the line it will turn our guns back against us,” Rep. Loret­ta Sanchez, a Demo­c­rat from Cal­i­for­nia, said dur­ing a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing this month, ques­tion­ing the loy­al­ties of rebel groups. Rep. Mar­lin Stutz­man, a Repub­li­can from Indi­ana, sim­i­lar­ly expressed “deep reser­va­tions about pro­vid­ing funds or arms to Syr­i­an rebels we know lit­tle about.” Even sup­port­ers of arm­ing the rebels, like Sen­a­tor John McCain, have ques­tioned whether enough are being trained soon enough to make a dif­fer­ence in Syria’s war. With some rebel groups con­demn­ing the U.S. airstrikes—and with al Qae­da mak­ing a pub­lic play for their loyalties—that skep­ti­cism is like­ly to grow.

    Inside the Syr­i­an civ­il war, al-Nus­ra can posi­tion itself as a nec­es­sary ally for groups squeezed between ISIS and the Assad regime. Of course, none of that cal­cu­lat­ed mod­er­a­tion has made it into the group’s rhetoric toward the West. To Amer­i­can and Euro­pean civil­ians, Jolani warns in his state­ment, “your lead­ers will not pay the price for the war alone, you will pay the high­er price.” Unless the airstrikes in Syr­ia stop and Amer­i­ca pulls out of the Mid­dle East, al Qae­da “will trans­fer the bat­tle to your very homes.” If the West will abide by his demands, Jolani offers this faint incen­tive: “I think jihadists won’t attack you.”

    It’s a mes­sage unlike­ly to deter either the Amer­i­can peo­ple or polit­i­cal lead­ers. But as al-Nus­ra attempts to co-opt rebel groups and make them seem like impos­si­ble allies, it’s con­tribut­ing to what may be a far more pro­found shift in U.S. pol­i­cy than any­thing boil­er­plate threats could accom­plish.

    Sun­day night, John Boehn­er, Repub­li­can speak­er of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said the U.S. may have “no choice” oth­er than send­ing Amer­i­can troops to Syr­ia. On ABC News, Boehn­er ques­tioned the President’s approach to defeat­ing ISIS. “I don’t believe the strat­e­gy he out­lines will accom­plish it. At the end of the day I think it’s going to take more than airstrikes to dri­ve them out—at some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground, that’s the point.”

    Let’s see...so if the US wants the gen­uine­ly mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion to fight ISIS and al Nus­ra there needs to be a simul­ta­ne­ous air cam­paigns on Assad’s forces, al Nus­ra, and ISIS by the US. And some­one’s ground troops are going to be required in addi­tion to the mod­er­ate Syr­i­an rebels. As John Boehn­er sug­gest­ed, the US may have “no choice” oth­er than send­ing US ground troops into Syr­ia if wants to get rid of ISIS...especially if major US polit­i­cal lead­ers sig­nal to all the oth­er coun­tries in the region that the US is per­fect­ly will­ing to send those ground troops in if no one else does. Hope­ful­ly Boehn­er’s pledge to use “boots on the ground” to “dri­ve them out” does­n’t pre­vent the required region­al coali­tion from coa­lesc­ing since it’s unclear why the region­al neigh­bors that have been financ­ing groups like al Nus­ra aren’t much bet­ter posi­tioned to deal with the real­i­ties on the ground in that region.

    It’s also unclear from Boehn­er’s “boots on the ground” com­mit­ment if he’s think­ing of US ground troops oper­at­ing deep inside Syr­ia to com­bat both al Nus­ra AND Assad’s forces in order to gain the trust of the mod­er­ate rebels or if the ground forces are sup­posed to just occu­py the ISIS-con­trolled areas indef­i­nite­ly while the civ­il war rages on and on. Even with US airstrikes against Assad it’s unlike­ly that the Syr­i­an mod­er­ates are going to be able to quick­ly top­ple that regime.

    So, giv­en the entire flus­ter­cluck of the sit­u­a­tion, you have to won­der if the US can con­vince Assad to stop attack­ing the mod­er­ates and focus exclu­sive­ly on ISIS and al Nus­ra while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly work­ing out a non-mil­i­tary solu­tion between Assad and the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion. Could a uni­lat­er­al cease-fire by the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment be arranged for all but explic­it ISIS/al Nus­ra tar­gets with the under­stand­ing that Assad is going to have to find a non-mil­i­tary set­tle­ment with the rebels? Per­haps there’s a ten­ta­tive rad­i­cal fed­er­al­ism plan that could be secured by inter­na­tion­al peace keep­ers in the rebel regions com­bined with and mas­sive for­eign aid for the entire coun­try? And per­haps a major glob­al com­mit­ment to mak­ing all of Syr­ia more ready for the cli­mate-change stress­es that helped cre­ate the civ­il war in the first place would be in order? Assad’s regime is going to have a per­ma­nent insur­gency and glob­al iso­la­tion on its hand if it’s unwill­ing to basi­cal­ly let the rebel regions run their own affairs after this kind of blood­shed and the Syr­i­an mod­er­ates are prob­a­bly going to have Islamist mil­i­tants run­ning their lives if they con­tin­ue down this path. Is a peace deal between Assad’s gov­ern­ment and the gen­uine mod­er­ates real­ly impos­si­ble at this point when all of the mil­i­tary options are point­ing towards night­mare sce­nar­ios?

    Syr­i­a’s neigh­bors like Turkey and the gulf states are clear­ly unin­ter­est­ed in see­ing any res­o­lu­tion that does­n’t result in the fall of Assad but since they’re unin­ter­est­ed in send­ing in ground troops while ISIS runs wild these gov­ern­ment don’t real­ly have any cred­i­bil­i­ty in this sit­u­a­tion. Should­n’t the rest of the world over­ride those region­al play­ers by mak­ing a major “Mar­shall Plan for Syr­ia” pro­pos­al that does­n’t first require the fall of the Assad regime? A “Mar­shall Plan” for Syr­ia was already being devised in 2012, but it was only a plan for after Assad fell. Pre­emp­tive Mar­shall Plans clear­ly aren’t used near­ly enough (most of the world could use a Mar­shall Plan) but inter­rup­tive Mar­shall Plans (an inter­na­tion­al offer of mas­sive aid to all sides to end a war) are pret­ty much nev­er offered. Per­haps the excep­tion­al flus­ter­cluck oth­er­wise known as “Syr­i­a’s civ­il war” can inspire the world to get bet­ter at pre­emp­tive and inter­rup­tive Mar­shall Plans.

    We’re going to learn how to do that all around the globe soon­er or lat­er so why not make Syr­i­ans an offer: lots and lots of mon­ey and resources in exchange for a peace that all the non-total­ly-crazy sides can find accept­able. The neo­cons would hate this. Turkey and the gulf states would hate it. But are the Assad regime and Syr­i­an mod­er­ates so com­mit­ted to destroy­ing each oth­er that they could­n’t work out a non-mil­i­tary path for­ward even with glob­al­ly backed Mar­shall Plan? That seems like an impor­tant ques­tion to answer before John Boehn­er makes any more pub­lic com­mit­ments to send US troops in to fight almost all of the sides in the Syr­i­an civ­il war.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 1, 2014, 6:10 pm
  6. http://www.thetower.org/1148-report-close-ties-between-turkeys-akp-and-irans-revolutionary-guards-exposed/

    Report: Close Ties Between Turkey’s AKP and Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Exposed

    by TheTower.org Staff | 10.02.14 5:54 pm

    Ben­jamin Weinthal of The Jerusalem Post report­ed yes­ter­day about rev­e­la­tions that an Iran­ian backed ter­ror­ists group has strong ties with Turkey’s rul­ing AKP par­ty. Cit­ing the work of counter-intel­li­gence expert John Schindler, Weinthal writes that the “dis­missal of an inves­ti­ga­tion into an Iran­ian-linked ter­ror­ist group” sug­gest­ed that “[t]he deci­sion to pull the plug on the inves­ti­ga­tion had to have come ‘from the high­est lev­el of gov­ern­ment.’” Though sec­u­lar oppo­nents of the gov­ern­ment opposed the deci­sion to drop the case, they were unable to gain any trac­tion.

    “Ali Fuat Yıl­maz­er, for­mer head of the Istan­bul police’s intel­li­gence unit, con­duct­ed an exten­sive inves­ti­ga­tion that revealed Tawhid-Salam had pen­e­trat­ed the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and the AKP at the high­est lev­els, and was a tool of the Pas­daran. For this, he was thrown in jail on trumped-up charges,” he said.

    Pas­daran is an infor­mal name for the Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps.

    Schindler con­tin­ued, “Tawhid-Salam, which also goes by the reveal­ing name ‘Jerusalem Army,’ has long been believed to be a front for Iran­ian intel­li­gence, par­tic­u­lar­ly its most feared com­po­nent, the elite Quds [“Jerusalem”] Force of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps, which han­dles covert action abroad.”

    Schindler recount­ed the ter­ror group’s record to Weinthal, not­ing that “Tawhid-Salam goes back to the mid-1990s and has been blamed for sev­er­al ter­ror­ist inci­dents, includ­ing the 2011 bomb­ing of the Israeli Con­sulate in Istan­bul, which wound­ed sev­er­al peo­ple, as well as a thwart­ed bomb­ing of the Israeli Embassy in Tbil­isi, Geor­gia, in ear­ly 2012… It also is believed to be behind the mur­ders of sev­er­al anti-Tehran activists in Turkey in the 1990s.”

    How­ev­er, the ties between Turkey and Tawhid-Salam go beyond the latter’s sup­port of ter­ror. “Tawhid-Salam oper­a­tives have been observed sur­veilling an impor­tant NATO radar base in Turkey, a sen­si­tive site that mon­i­tors pos­si­ble Iran­ian mis­sile launch­es,” accord­ing to Schindler.

    Last year, ties between Turkey’s intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and Iran came to atten­tion when it was report­ed that Turkey had betrayed ten Israeli spies to Tehran. A boast by Iran’s ambas­sador to Turkey con­firmed that the intel­li­gence rela­tion­ship between Tehran and Ankara was close and ongo­ing.

    Turkey’s ties to Iran aren’t lim­it­ed to mat­ters of intel­li­gence and ter­ror. In Where the Shadi­est Play­ers Find a Home, pub­lished in the Sep­tem­ber 2014 issue of The Tow­er Mag­a­zine, Jonathan Schanz­er recounts:

    Turkey also engaged in 2012 and 2013 in a sanc­tions-bust­ing scheme with Iran. Amidst glob­al finan­cial pres­sure to con­vince Iran’s lead­er­ship to dis­man­tle its illic­it nuclear pro­gram, Turkey’s state-owned Halk­bank was exe­cut­ing “gas-for-gold” trans­ac­tions with Iran, and help­ing Tehran cir­cum­vent sanc­tions. At the time, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Ali Baba­can unabashed­ly admit­ted, Turkey’s “gold exports [to Iran] end up like pay­ments for our nat­ur­al gas pur­chas­es.”
    The sale of gold was tech­ni­cal­ly legal because the gold was going to indi­vid­u­als, not the gov­ern­ment of Iran. And trade with indi­vid­u­als was not, at the time, in vio­la­tion of sanc­tions. But it was unde­ni­able that the Turks were vio­lat­ing the spir­it of the sanc­tions regime. … Accord­ing to a report by the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies and Roubi­ni Glob­al Eco­nom­ics, “Iran’s gold­en loop­hole” allowed Iran to receive over $13 bil­lion before gas-for-gold slowed to a trick­le.

    Posted by Vanfield | October 3, 2014, 1:22 pm
  7. Peace through strength! Export­ed strength:

    thelocal.de
    Berlin approves arms exports to Arab states

    Ger­many has approved new deliv­er­ies of weapons to sev­er­al Arab coun­tries, includ­ing Qatar which had been accused of back­ing jihadists, accord­ing to a news­pa­per report Thurs­day.

    Pub­lished: 03 Oct 2014 11:45 GMT+02:00
    Updat­ed: 03 Oct 2014 11:45 GMT+02:00

    The Sued­deutsche Zeitung report­ed on its web­site that weapons includ­ing tanks and machine guns are to be deliv­ered to coun­tries includ­ing the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Sau­di Ara­bia and Alge­ria.

    Jor­dan, Oman and Kuwait would also receive Ger­man weapon­ry.

    But crit­ics round­ed on the gov­ern­men­t’s deci­sion, with Jan Van Aken, a deputy from the far-left par­ty Die Linke, ques­tion­ing the deliv­ery to Qatar in par­tic­u­lar.

    Ger­many’s devel­op­ment aid min­is­ter Gerb Mueller had in August direct­ly accused Qatar of financ­ing the Islam­ic State group, although Berlin had said it regret­ted any offence caused in Doha over the com­ment.

    Qatar has repeat­ed­ly denied the charges, and has since joined the Unit­ed States in con­duct­ing air strikes against IS jihadists.

    The oppo­si­tion also took Vice Chan­cel­lor and Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel to task over the deci­sion, accus­ing him of bend­ing to the arms lob­by.

    As recent­ly as August, Gabriel had pushed for rules to be tight­ened on arms exports par­tic­u­lar­ly to coun­tries with poor human rights records, and had called for deliv­er­ies to Sau­di Ara­bia to end.

    ...

    Huh.

    In relat­ed news, Joe Biden is now “his­to­ry” to Erdo­gan:

    Biden Apol­o­gizes After Turk­ish PM Says VP Is ‘His­to­ry To Me’

    By JIM KUHNHENN Pub­lishe­dO­c­to­ber 4, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden has apol­o­gized to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) for say­ing the Turk­ish leader had con­ced­ed that his coun­try mis­tak­en­ly assist­ed for­eign fight­ers, includ­ing Islam­ic State extrem­ists, seek­ing to depose the Syr­i­an regime.

    The White House says Biden spoke to Erdo­gan on Sat­ur­day “to clar­i­fy com­ments” Biden made on Thurs­day at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty.

    The White House says Biden apol­o­gized “for any impli­ca­tion” that Turkey or oth­er allies had inten­tion­al­ly sup­plied or helped in the growth of the Islam­ic State group or oth­er extrem­ists groups in Syr­ia.

    Biden on Thurs­day said Erdo­gan had admit­ted that Turkey made mis­takes by help­ing vio­lent mil­i­tants in Syr­ia. An angry Erdo­gan denied say­ing that and coun­tered that Biden would become “his­to­ry to me” over the com­ments.

    So Turkey had noth­ing to do with rise of ISIS. Uh huh. Also note that it isn’t just Joe Biden that’s “his­to­ry” to Erdo­gan. Recent his­to­ry is appar­ent­ly also his­to­ry to Erdo­gan. That must feel nice.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 4, 2014, 3:48 pm
  8. Erdo­gan is warn­ing that the Kur­dish strong­hold of Kobani is about the fall. Kur­dish lead­ers plead­ing for inter­na­tion­al assis­tance agree with this assess­ment although, with airstrikes against ISIS increas­ing around Kobani it’s not clear if ISIS is real­ly going to be able to ful­ly cap­ture the city assum­ing more sup­plies and weapons can reach the city soon and espe­cial­ly giv­en Turkey’s mil­i­tary pres­ence and vast­ly supe­ri­or forces sit­ting right across the bor­der. But that assumes Turkey is going to be will­ing to take part in any mil­i­tary action to defend Kobani or even allow aid to flow into the city, which is a big assump­tion at this point since Erdo­gan also seems to have anoth­er mes­sage for the anti-ISIS forces, espe­cial­ly for the US: Turkey’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in anti-ISIS oper­a­tions is going to be lim­it­ed unless that anti-ISIS oper­a­tion is expand­ed into a more explic­it anti-ISIS and Assad oper­a­tion. It’s one of the rea­sons Turkey is cur­rent­ly block­ing the flow of aid and weapons to the Kurds in Kobani while warn­ing about its immi­nent fall:

    The New York Times
    Syr­ia Bor­der Town, Kobani, May Fall to ISIS, Turkey’s Leader Warns

    By KARAM SHOUMALI and ANNE BARNARDOCT. 7, 2014

    MURSITPINAR, Turkey — Kur­dish fight­ers in Syr­ia strug­gled to fight off Islam­ic State mil­i­tants in Kobani on Tues­day, as Turkey’s pres­i­dent, Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, warned that bor­der town was about to fall, despite new Unit­ed States-led airstrikes on the mil­i­tants.

    Say­ing that aer­i­al attacks alone may not be enough to stop the fight­ers’ advance, Mr. Erdo­gan called for more sup­port for insur­gents opposed to the group in Syr­ia. In doing so, he was reit­er­at­ing the key stick­ing point between Turkey and Wash­ing­ton: Pres­i­dent Oba­ma wants Turkey to take stronger action against the Islam­ic State, while Mr. Erdo­gan wants the Amer­i­can effort to focus more on oust­ing Syria’s pres­i­dent, Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has long sup­port­ed the armed oppo­si­tion to Mr. Assad.

    “There has to be coop­er­a­tion with those who are fight­ing on the ground,” Mr. Erdo­gan said, address­ing Syr­i­an refugees at a camp in Gaziantep, a bor­der province west of Kobani.

    But to the Syr­i­an and Turk­ish Kurds watch­ing in increas­ing des­per­a­tion from hill­tops here on Tues­day, the ground force that needs imme­di­ate help is the Kur­dish group fight­ing the Islam­ic State in the streets of Kobani, the People’s Pro­tec­tion Com­mit­tees. They believe that giv­en Turkey’s long his­to­ry of ten­sions with its Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion, Mr. Erdo­gan sees the group, known as the Y.P.G., as an ene­my and an even greater threat than the Islam­ic State.

    Such com­pli­ca­tions are part of the tan­gled mix of alliances and enmi­ties that have chal­lenged the Amer­i­can effort to bat­tle the Islam­ic State with­out wad­ing deep­er into the Syr­i­an con­flict.

    Not long after Mr. Erdo­gan spoke, an airstrike hit less than a mile to the south­west of Kobani, also known as Ain al-Arab, send­ing a black plume sky­ward. Res­i­dents said the tar­get appeared to be an Islam­ic State tank that had been shelling the city for two days. Two more strikes fol­lowed in the same area in less than an hour.

    Sev­er­al oth­er airstrikes hit Islam­ic State posi­tions overnight and Tues­day morn­ing on the south­ern and east­ern out­skirts of the town, said Bar­war Moham­mad Ali, a coor­di­na­tor with the Kur­dish Y.P.G. force, who was reached by tele­phone inside Kobani.

    “It is the first time that peo­ple have the impres­sion that the airstrikes are effec­tive,” Mr. Ali said, refer­ring to Kur­dish fight­ers on the front lines. “But they need more.”

    He said street fight­ing had con­tin­ued on Tues­day and that Y.P.G. fight­ers had killed numer­ous attack­ers and cap­tured 20, includ­ing 10 for­eign­ers.

    The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary con­firmed four new airstrikes on the Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL: one strike south of Kobani that destroyed three armed vehi­cles and dam­aged anoth­er; anoth­er strike to the south­east that hit anti­air­craft artillery, and two to the south­west that dam­aged a tank and “destroyed an ISIL unit.”

    But there was lit­tle joy among the crowds of Kur­dish men watch­ing the bat­tle unfold just across the bor­der fence, many of whom had only recent­ly fled the town or had rel­a­tives there.

    One spec­ta­tor, Mah­moud Nabo, 35, a Syr­i­an Kurd who left his home in Kobani after Y.P.G. fight­ers urged civil­ians to evac­u­ate on Mon­day, said airstrikes would have a lim­it­ed effect since Islam­ic state mil­i­tants move in small groups. They would work, he said, only if Kur­dish fight­ers were giv­en weapons and ammu­ni­tion.

    “Now I can see the shelling is get­ting clos­er to my neigh­bor­hood,” he said, point­ing to the west­ern side of the city. “We thought every­thing would stop after the first airstrike on ISIS, but now it is clos­er and more fre­quent.”

    Anoth­er spec­ta­tor, Avni Altindag, a Kurd from the near­by Turk­ish town of Suruc, said the Islam­ic State was stronger than a few air raids.

    He point­ed to the men watch­ing the smoke ris­ing over Kobani, who were chant­i­ng for the Y.P.G. and lis­ten­ing to war­planes cir­cling over­head. “They used to come with high expec­ta­tions of strikes against ISIS, but all are dis­ap­point­ed,” he said.

    Mr. Altindag blamed Turkey for the delay in stronger Amer­i­can-led strikes. “They don’t want to help what they say is their ene­my,” he said. “This is why it is in Turkey’s favor that Kobani falls to ISIS.”

    Kobani is cut off from the east, west and south by the well-armed Islam­ic State fight­ers. To the north, refugees and fight­ers face the bor­der fence with Turkey – a bar­ri­er to resup­ply­ing the Y.P.G. The Turk­ish author­i­ties have refused to allow the group to receive sup­plies and weapons unless it meets a set of demands that are vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble polit­i­cal­ly.

    Turkey wants the group to denounce Mr. Assad and open­ly join the Syr­i­an insur­gents fight­ing him, and to dis­man­tle its semi­au­tonomous zone inside Syr­ia. But the Y.P.G. and its affil­i­at­ed polit­i­cal par­ty, the P.Y.D., accept­ed con­trol of Kur­dish areas when Mr. Assad’s forces with­drew ear­li­er in the Syr­i­an war, and have focused more on self-rule and pro­tect­ing their ter­ri­to­ry than on fight­ing the gov­ern­ment.

    Turkey also wants the P.Y.D. to dis­tance itself from the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Par­ty, or P.K.K., which the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and the Unit­ed States con­sid­er a ter­ror­ist group.

    That impasse leaves Kobani iso­lat­ed. Some refugees are lit­er­al­ly pressed against the fence, unwill­ing to cross because they can­not take their live­stock, and some­times blocked by the Turk­ish author­i­ties when bor­der cross­ings are closed.

    Turk­ish sol­diers have stood by and watched the fight­ing from their armored vehi­cles, and have also stopped Syr­i­an and Turk­ish Kurds from cross­ing into Syr­ia to fight the Islam­ic State.

    Tear gas waft­ed near the bor­der on Tues­day, one of many instances in which Turk­ish secu­ri­ty forces have used it against crowds of demon­stra­tors, jour­nal­ists, and would-be fight­ers and refugees. Ten­sions were also high­er, with Kur­dish men pack­ing the streets of Suruc to show their dis­plea­sure with Turk­ish pol­i­cy.

    ...

    This seems like a pret­ty key part of the arti­cle:

    ...
    Kobani is cut off from the east, west and south by the well-armed Islam­ic State fight­ers. To the north, refugees and fight­ers face the bor­der fence with Turkey – a bar­ri­er to resup­ply­ing the Y.P.G. The Turk­ish author­i­ties have refused to allow the group to receive sup­plies and weapons unless it meets a set of demands that are vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble polit­i­cal­ly.

    Turkey wants the group to denounce Mr. Assad and open­ly join the Syr­i­an insur­gents fight­ing him, and to dis­man­tle its semi­au­tonomous zone inside Syr­ia. But the Y.P.G. and its affil­i­at­ed polit­i­cal par­ty, the P.Y.D., accept­ed con­trol of Kur­dish areas when Mr. Assad’s forces with­drew ear­li­er in the Syr­i­an war, and have focused more on self-rule and pro­tect­ing their ter­ri­to­ry than on fight­ing the gov­ern­ment.
    ...

    And note that it isn’t just sup­plies and weapons that Turkey isn’t allow­ing to flow into Kobani. It’s also block­ing Kurds:

    Los Ange­les Times
    Turkey to allow army to fight in Syr­ia and Iraq, but blocks Kurds

    By Nabih Bulos, Patrick J. McDon­nell

    Octo­ber 2, 2014, 6:59 PM

    Turk­ish law­mak­ers Thurs­day approved allow­ing ground troops into Syr­ia and Iraq, as riot police pre­vent­ed Kur­dish defend­ers from reach­ing the besieged Syr­i­an bor­der town of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani to its most­ly Kur­dish res­i­dents.

    “It’s clear. Daesh and the Turks are one hand,” said one dis­gust­ed Kur­dish man, using the Ara­bic acronym for the Islam­ic State mil­i­tant group, some­times called the Islam­ic State of Syr­ia and Iraq, or ISIS.

    Turkey’s ambiva­lence about the U.S.-led cam­paign against Islam­ic State has been on full dis­play, even as mil­i­tant forces across the bor­der in Syr­ia close in on Kobani, draw­ing atten­tion to the iso­lat­ed bor­der zone. More than 150,000 most­ly Syr­i­ans, most­ly Kurds, have escaped into Turkey, flee­ing the mil­i­tant onslaught.

    U.S. war­planes have been bomb­ing extrem­ists’ posi­tions near Kobani, includ­ing an overnight strike that destroyed a mil­i­tant check­point, the Pen­ta­gon said Thurs­day.

    But Turk­ish troops massed with tanks and armored vehi­cles have not stopped the mil­i­tant advance on Kobani, which has become a vivid sym­bol of resis­tance among Kurds. The inac­tion has aggra­vat­ed Turkey’s long-fraught rela­tions with its Kur­dish minor­i­ty.

    Turkey’s long­time neme­sis, the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Par­ty, known as the PKK, has sig­naled that peace talks between the group and the gov­ern­ment in Ankara could col­lapse if Kobani is allowed to fall.

    On Thurs­day, law­mak­ers respond­ing to the mil­i­tant threat on Turkey’s bor­ders over­whelm­ing­ly approved a motion to allow the Turk­ish army to engage in cross-bor­der oper­a­tions in Iraq and Syr­ia. The par­lia­ment also approved allow­ing for­eign pow­ers to launch attacks from Turkey, east­ern­most bas­tion of the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­ni­za­tion alliance.

    “The threat against Turkey has gained a new dimen­sion,” Defense Min­is­ter Ismet Yil­maz said before the par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, Turk­ish news reports said. “It’s our oblig­a­tion to take mea­sures against this threat and to pro­tect our cit­i­zens in the frame of inter­na­tion­al law.”

    There was no indi­ca­tion that Turkey was prepar­ing to dis­patch troops across its bor­ders. Asked whether any action was immi­nent, the defense min­is­ter told reporters, “Don’t expect any imme­di­ate steps.”

    Ankara has come under inter­na­tion­al crit­i­cism for its tepid par­tic­i­pa­tion in the U.S.-led coali­tion against Islam­ic State. Turk­ish offi­cials have reject­ed alle­ga­tions that it covert­ly aid­ed Islam­ic State and oth­er mil­i­tant groups in Syr­ia.

    “No ter­ror­ist whether in Turkey or else­where will receive any sym­pa­thy from us.” Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan told the par­lia­ment this week. “Their pres­ence is not accept­able.”

    But Erdo­gan has made it clear that his pri­or­i­ty is to help top­ple the gov­ern­ment of Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad. Ankara has long aid­ed anti-Assad rebels and has opened its more than 500-mile-long bor­der with Syr­ia to mil­i­tants fight­ing Assad’s gov­ern­ment.

    Turkey has one of the region’s largest and most pow­er­ful armies and a mod­ern air force equipped with U.S. fight­er jets. But Turk­ish offi­cials have been hes­i­tant to become direct­ly involved in the Syr­i­an conflict.k

    Turkey’s con­cern reflects the com­plex nature of the Syr­i­an con­flict, which con­sists of var­i­ous lay­ers of proxy bat­tles involv­ing region­al and world pow­ers.

    A major con­cern of Erdogan’s gov­ern­ment is that mil­i­tary action against Islam­ic mil­i­tants in Syr­ia could bol­ster two of its prin­ci­pal foes: Assad and the PKK, des­ig­nat­ed a ter­ror­ist group by Ankara and Wash­ing­ton. Kur­dish fight­ers affil­i­at­ed with the left­ist PKK are the major adver­saries of the Islam­ic mil­i­tants in Kobani and at oth­er con­test­ed zones in Syr­ia along the Turk­ish bor­der.

    Turk­ish offi­cials are also wor­ried about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of retal­ia­to­ry attacks should Turkey become direct­ly involved in the con­flict. Islam­ic State report­ed­ly has cells and sup­port­ers in var­i­ous Turk­ish cities.

    In for­mu­lat­ing a revamped Syr­ia pol­i­cy, Turk­ish author­i­ties are reviv­ing a diplo­mat­ic push for a “buffer zone” in Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry that could pro­vide a haven for civil­ians and Ankara-backed rebels. A no-fly zone bar­ring Syr­i­an war­planes would be part of the pro­pos­al. But whether Turkey is will­ing to com­mit troops to such a plan remains a ques­tion mark.

    At the bor­der Thurs­day, a sharp whis­tle sig­naled the advance of riot police into a crowd of Kurds protest­ing Turkey’s refusal to allow vol­un­teers to return to Kobani to fight the mil­i­tants.

    “We don’t know the rea­son why the Turks are doing this,” said a frus­trat­ed Moham­mad Fares, a lanky 22-year-old with wispy facial hair and a yel­low scarf on his head.

    Fares, like oth­er Syr­i­an Kur­dish men inter­viewed, said he had crossed into Turkey to take his fam­i­ly to safe­ty. That deed done, he was eager to return and defend the city.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 7, 2014, 1:20 pm
  9. Kevin Drum has a post about the sit­u­a­tion in Kobani that, if accu­rate, puts the calls for US ground troops into inter­vene in per­spec­tive:

    Moth­er Jones
    Here’s Why Kobani Prob­a­bly Isn’t Going to Be Saved

    —By Kevin Drum
    | Fri Oct. 10, 2014 12:48 AM EDT

    Writ­ing about Kobani and ISIS this morn­ing, I casu­al­ly men­tioned that “If you want quick results against ISIS, then speak up and tell us you want to send in 100,000 troops.” I got a bit of push­back on this from peo­ple sug­gest­ing that it would­n’t take any­where near that num­ber of troops to take out ISIS and save a small town.

    Actu­al­ly, I was low­balling. For starters, here’s a map show­ing Koban­i’s predica­ment:
    [see pic]

    Kobani is the tiny yel­low patch of Kur­dish ter­ri­to­ry at the top of the map. It’s deep inside Syr­ia, sur­round­ed almost entire­ly by ter­ri­to­ry con­trolled by ISIS. The only coun­try with the capa­bil­i­ty of get­ting in ground troops is Turkey, and they’re refus­ing to do any­thing. Why? Because Kobani is home to Kur­dish sep­a­ratists, and Turkey has no inten­tion of sav­ing their bacon.

    In a nut­shell, this is Amer­i­ca’s prob­lem: we have no trust­wor­thy allies in the region who tru­ly care about ISIS. The Turks care about keep­ing Kur­dish sep­a­ratists under con­trol and secur­ing their bor­der with Syr­ia. The Ara­bi­an Gulf coun­tries care about Bashar al-Assad and his Iran­ian patrons. The Iraqis care about main­tain­ing Shi­ite dom­i­nance over their Sun­ni minor­i­ty. They’re all will­ing to play along in the US war against ISIS, but it’s not real­ly a high pri­or­i­ty for any of them. As Fred Kaplan puts it, “ISIS gains much of its strength from the fact that the coun­tries arrayed against it—which, togeth­er, could win in short order—can’t get their act togeth­er; they have too many con­flict­ing inter­ests tear­ing them apart.” What’s more, those con­flict­ing inter­ests are deep and long­stand­ing. These coun­tries will humor us to vary­ing extents since they’d just as soon stay on our good side, but the bot­tom line is that help­ing Amer­i­ca fight its lat­est shiny-toy war just isn’t some­thing they real­ly care about. They have their own fish to fry.

    Giv­en all that, you should ask your­self this: What would it take to res­cue a small city that’s hun­dreds of miles behind ene­my lines with no allies to help you out? Answer: A hun­dred thou­sand troops would be a good start, but there’s no guar­an­tee that even that would be enough.

    So was it “tone deaf” for John Ker­ry and oth­ers to talk about how Kobani was­n’t strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant to us? Maybe so. The prob­lem is that the real-life adult answer would have acknowl­edged that (a) we don’t have the capa­bil­i­ty to save Kobani, and (b) our NATO ally Turkey has cho­sen not to save Kobani. Nei­ther of these is some­thing that the Amer­i­can pub­lic is real­ly pre­pared to digest.

    As Drum points out, giv­en the fact that the US would have to con­trol a vast amount of ter­ri­to­ry across Syr­ia just to reach Kobani, it’s hard to argue that such a mis­sion would­n’t require a very large num­ber of US troops because it’s not just Kobani that’s being occu­pied at that point. But let’s assume the US accepts Erdo­gan’s black­mail and com­mits to tak­ing down Assad in exchange for Turkey’s help. In that case, isn’t it going to take far more that 100,000 US troops to secure the rest of Syr­ia? And will it real­ly end there?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 11, 2014, 5:58 pm
  10. Turkey is say­ing ‘no’ to US claims of an agree­ment to allow for coali­tion uses of Turk­ish bases:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Turkey denies reach­ing accord with U.S. on use of air base against Islam­ic State

    By Liz Sly and Craig Whit­lock Octo­ber 13 at 5:34 PM

    SANLIURFA, TURKEY— Turkey denied Mon­day that it has reached any “new agree­ment” with the Unit­ed States to allow the use of Incir­lik Air Base in south­ern Turkey for attacks on the Islam­ic State mil­i­tant group, despite sug­ges­tions from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion that a deal had been reached.

    A state­ment issued by the office of Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu said talks are con­tin­u­ing between Ankara and Wash­ing­ton over whether to per­mit U.S. forces to use Incir­lik in the fight against the Islam­ic State, a rad­i­cal al-Qae­da off­shoot that has cap­tured parts of Syr­ia and Iraq. How­ev­er, “there is no new agree­ment on the Incir­lik issue,” the state­ment said.

    “There are requests and expec­ta­tions and the nego­ti­a­tions con­tin­ue,” it added.

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has been press­ing Turkey to allow war­planes to use Incir­lik, where the Unit­ed States bases air­craft under exist­ing NATO agree­ments, as part of an effort by a U.S.-led coali­tion to roll back Islam­ic State gains.

    U.S. offi­cials said Sun­day that Turkey had agreed to allow the coali­tion to use Turk­ish mil­i­tary bases for the fight against the Islam­ic State and to use Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry as part of a train­ing pro­gram for mod­er­ate Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion fight­ers.

    “That’s a new com­mit­ment and one that we very much wel­come,” Susan E. Rice, Pres­i­dent Obama’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They have said that their facil­i­ties inside of Turkey can be used by the coali­tion forces — Amer­i­can and oth­er­wise — to engage in activ­i­ties inside of Iraq and Syr­ia.”

    Rice did not spec­i­fy what kind of mil­i­tary activ­i­ties the Unit­ed States would be allowed to con­duct from Turk­ish bases to sup­port oper­a­tions in Syr­ia. A Defense Depart­ment plan­ning team is sched­uled to trav­el to Turkey this week to final­ize the plans, U.S. offi­cials said.

    In a reflec­tion of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the mat­ter, U.S. offi­cials on Mon­day were reluc­tant to fur­ther address or clar­i­fy the issue for fear of irri­tat­ing the Turks. “We are grate­ful for steps Turkey is tak­ing to sup­port the coali­tion, to include train­ing and the use of some facil­i­ties,” said a U.S. defense offi­cial who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

    Turkey has allowed the Unit­ed States for some time to use Incir­lik, locat­ed less than 100 miles from the Syr­i­an bor­der, to help with deliv­er­ies of human­i­tar­i­an aid to needy civil­ians inside Syr­ia. That has not changed, said a Turk­ish offi­cial who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty in order to dis­cuss sen­si­tive diplo­mat­ic issues.

    Turkey has also allowed the U.S. Air Force to con­duct drone sur­veil­lance mis­sions over north­ern Iraq from Incir­lik for years but has drawn the line at arm­ing the drones or per­mit­ting the Unit­ed States to use oth­er air­craft for airstrikes.

    Open­ing up the base for war­planes would make it much eas­i­er for the Unit­ed States to launch strikes against Islam­ic State fight­ers in Syr­ia, instead of hav­ing to rely on much more dis­tant air bases in the Per­sian Gulf. It also would rep­re­sent a pow­er­ful sig­nal of Turkey’s will­ing­ness to ful­ly engage in the inter­na­tion­al coali­tion formed by the Unit­ed States to fight the mil­i­tants.

    But Turkey has insist­ed it will not allow attacks from its soil unless the war is also extend­ed to include Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, whom Turk­ish lead­ers believe is respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the con­di­tions that have enabled the extrem­ists to flour­ish.

    “The Assad regime should be the tar­get for a real solu­tion in Syr­ia,” Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan said in an address at Istanbul’s Mar­mara Uni­ver­si­ty on Mon­day. He also reit­er­at­ed Turkey’s demands for the impo­si­tion of a no-fly zone and the cre­ation of a safe haven in north­ern Syr­ia, con­di­tions that Unit­ed States so far has not accept­ed.

    Turkey did not dis­pute a state­ment Sun­day by Defense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel that an agree­ment has been reached to train mod­er­ate Syr­i­an rebels in Turkey, a step that Turkey has long sought. But it was not imme­di­ate­ly clear who would train the rebels or pre­cise­ly where.

    ...

    So ‘no’ to the use of Turk­ish bases...until the US and the rest of the coali­tion says ‘yes’ to com­plete­ly tak­ing over and occu­py­ing Syr­ia. Although it’s unclear how long Syr­ia is going to remain “Syr­ia” since, in addi­tion to not being enthu­si­as­tic about Syr­i­a’s cur­rent gov­ern­ment, there’s some­thing else that Erdo­gan is deeply unsat­is­fied with: Syr­i­a’s exis­tence:

    Dai­ly Sabah
    ‘ASSAD REGIME SHOULD BE THE MAIN TARGET,’ PRESIDENT ERDOGAN SAYS

    Pub­lished : 13.10.2014 12:29:17
    Updat­ed : 13.10.2014 14:28:4

    ISTANBUL — Remov­ing the ter­ror­ist ISIS group from Syr­ia is not enough, remov­ing Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad regime should be the main tar­get, Turk­ish pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan said on Mon­day.

    In an address from Istan­bul’s Mar­mara Uni­ver­si­ty, Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan reit­er­at­ed the neces­si­ty of form­ing a no-fly zone and a safe zone in Syr­ia, along with con­tin­u­ing the U.S.-led inter­na­tion­al airstrikes on ISIS tar­gets in Syr­i­a’s north.

    ISIS is cur­rent­ly advanc­ing on the town of Ayn al-Arab, or Kobani in Kur­dish, result­ing in the escape of around 200,000 Syr­i­an Kurds into Turkey over the last three weeks. Armed groups of an off­shoot of Turkey’s out­lawed PKK, are con­tin­u­ing their fight against ISIS, out­match­ing in num­bers and tech­no­log­i­cal capac­i­ties.

    “Syr­ia has many Koba­n­is. What will hap­pen to Alep­po, Latakia, Turk­men and oth­er peo­ple after sav­ing Kobani? Assad regime should be the tar­get for a real solu­tion in Syr­ia,” Erdo­gan said, remind­ing that the regime is respon­si­ble for the killing of 250,000 peo­ple in Syr­ia.

    “A no-fly zone and a safe zone should be built. So we could be able to place the Syr­i­ans inside our coun­try at these safe havens,” he said.

    “Also the mod­er­ates should be trained and equipped either in Turkey or inside those safe zones in order to be able to con­duct their war against the regime.”

    He also crit­i­cized PKK’s claims that the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment was doing noth­ing to halt the advance of the ISIS in Kobani, which sparked last week’s protests, killing 34 peo­ple.

    ...

    Erdo­gan said “the artif­i­cal­ly-made” bor­ders in the Mid­dle East drawn by the impe­r­i­al pow­ers right after the end of World War I are the real cause of long-term pain and cri­sis in the region.

    Say­ing that “there should be no bor­ders between Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries in the minds and hearts of the peo­ple,” Erdo­gan not­ed that Turkey should do its own part in fight­ing with sec­tar­i­an­ism, eth­ni­cism and all oth­er divi­sions in the Mid­dle East.

    “Turkey is the only coun­try that could pro­vide peace in that region. Turkey is the hope of the Mid­dle East­ern peo­ple. Turkey can remove the bar­ri­ers between Mid­dle East­ern peo­ple not by chang­ing phys­i­cal bor­ders, but by instill­ing hope and trust,” he said.

    Yes, the real long-term solu­tion to ISIS isn’t just defeat­ing Assad. The real solu­tion is break­ing Syr­ia up into a bunch of new nations. Some­times “mis­sion creep” decides to sprint:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Declares Lawrence of Ara­bia a Big­ger Ene­my than ISIS
    In a stun­ning speech, Erdo­gan railed against West­ern “spies” and jour­nal­ists and seemed to endorse the ISIS plan to redraw the region’s bor­ders.
    Jamie Dettmer
    10.13.14

    GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan took on the icon­ic Lawrence of Ara­bia Mon­day in a furi­ous anti-West­ern dia­tribe. The Turk­ish pres­i­dent com­pared the out­side med­dling in the region now to the role the renowned British army offi­cer played dur­ing the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans dur­ing World War I. And West­ern diplo­mats here say the tirade bears a rather strik­ing resem­blance to some of the pro­pa­gan­da that has come out of the so-called Islam­ic State, wide­ly known by the acronym ISIS or ISIL.

    Last week, stung by West­ern crit­i­cism of Turkey’s con­spic­u­ous absence from the U.S.-led air com­bat against the ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion, and the refusal of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to res­cue the besieged town of Kobani, just across the Syr­i­an bor­der, Erdo­gan insist­ed he had no sym­pa­thy for the jihadists.

    But on one very impor­tant point of his­to­ry and geog­ra­phy it now appears there’s a seri­ous con­ver­gence of views between ISIS and Erdo­gan. In his speech Mon­day at a uni­ver­si­ty in Istan­bul, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent blast­ed the Sykes-Picot Agree­ment, a secret under­stand­ing (signed behind Lawrence’s back) that divid­ed up the Mid­dle East after World War I between British and French spheres of influ­ence. That deal opened the way for a British vow to estab­lish a Jew­ish home­land in Pales­tine and led to bor­ders drawn by the Euro­pean pow­ers that cre­at­ed mod­ern Syr­i­an and Iraq. His­to­ri­an David Fromkin summed up the mess that result­ed in the title of his book The Peace to End All Peace.

    “Each con­flict in this region has been designed a cen­tu­ry ago,” said Erdo­gan. “It is our duty to stop this.”

    In point of fact, T. E. Lawrence was opposed to the secret Anglo-French agree­ment, because it reneged on promis­es giv­en the Arabs by Lon­don in a bid to per­suade them to revolt against Ottoman Turk­ish rule. He tried might­i­ly to sab­o­tage the deal. But Erdo­gan is either unaware of that or sought to sim­pli­fy his­to­ry.

    ISIS, mean­while, has done some sim­pli­fy­ing of its own, and on sim­i­lar lines. Its mil­i­tants say explic­it­ly they are out to erase the bor­ders that Sykes-Picot estab­lished across most of the mod­ern Mid­dle East. In the sum­mer, after sweep­ing in from Syr­ia to seize Mosul, the sec­ond largest city in Iraq, they pro­duced a video called, yes, ”The End of Sykes Pico,”, in which they blew up a bor­der out­post and lev­eled part of the earth­en bar­ri­er on the Iraqi-Syr­i­an bor­der. They declared tri­umphant­ly they would bull­doze oth­er West­ern-imposed bor­ders as well.

    The Erdo­gan speech was suf­fused with an angry anti-West­ern narrative—he also tilt­ed at West­ern jour­nal­ists, accus­ing them of being spies—and will no doubt thrill some of Erdogan’s sup­port­ers. In south­ern Turkey, some local offi­cials in his Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) express sym­pa­thy for ISIS. But it will ring alarm bells in West­ern cap­i­tals at a time coali­tion offi­cials are redou­bling their efforts to try to per­suade a reluc­tant Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to play a for­ward-lean­ing part in the Amer­i­can-led war on the jihadists.

    Turkey is con­sid­ered cru­cial if Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s war aim to “degrade and defeat” ISIS is to be accom­plished. The coun­try has been the main logis­ti­cal base for the Islam­ic mil­i­tants, the main tran­sit coun­try for for­eign fight­ers to enter neigh­bor­ing Syr­ia and a key source of it’s rev­enue from the smug­gling of oil tapped in cap­tured oil fields. In his deter­mi­na­tion to top­ple Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad, Erdo­gan has been accused of at best turn­ing a blind eye to the rise of ISIS and at worst active­ly encour­ag­ing it.

    At the week­end U.S. offi­cials announced a break­through in their efforts to per­suade Turkey to become a front­line ally, say­ing the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment had agreed that a NATO air­base at Incir­lik could be used by the anti-ISIS coali­tion. But the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment was omi­nous­ly silent Mon­day on that score and just hours after Erdogan’s speech Turk­ish offi­cials denied they had agreed U.S. war­planes could use Incir­lik air base for attacks on Islam­ic mil­i­tants.

    Erdogan’s com­ments Mon­day give a glimpse into the Turk­ish leadership’s rea­sons for deny­ing the use of Incir­lik. And they augur bad­ly for the over­all effort, reveal­ing the deep lev­el of dis­trust the Turk­ish pres­i­dent har­bors for the West. Cer­tain­ly the speech sug­gests that Amer­i­can hopes of per­suad­ing Turkey to come ful­ly on board are mis­placed.

    About T.E. Lawrence—who is still viewed as a hero in the West and by many Arabs—the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent showed noth­ing but dis­dain, then used Lawrence as a vehi­cle to heap oppro­bri­um on oth­ers. Erdo­gan dis­missed the British offi­cer as “an Eng­lish spy dis­guised as an Arab.” And he told the uni­ver­si­ty audience—the speech was televised—that West­ern­ers are “mak­ing Sykes-Picot agree­ments hid­ing behind free­dom of press, a war of inde­pen­dence or jihad.”

    ...

    “This isn’t a speech one expects from an ally, espe­cial­ly when there are del­i­cate nego­ti­a­tions going on,” says an Istan­bul-based Euro­pean diplo­mat. “It reveals stark­ly what we are up against when it comes to Erdo­gan.” Anoth­er diplo­mat said: “The Turks are deter­mined to ensure that what­ev­er hap­pens in Syr­ia post-Assad, it is seen as their sphere of influ­ence and they have two aims: to keep Iran at bay and keep the West out.”

    So it appears that the num­ber of coun­tries to be invad­ed and indef­i­nite­ly occu­pied is yet to be decid­ed since the num­ber of new coun­tries in the post-Sykes Picot map is also yet to be decid­ed. And giv­en Erdo­gan’s talk about how Turkey should do its own part in fight­ing with sec­tar­i­an­ism, eth­ni­cism and all oth­er divi­sions in the Mid­dle East it should be inter­est­ing to see the post-eth­ni­cism map Erdo­gan has in mind. Very inter­est­ing indeed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 13, 2014, 2:27 pm
  11. Here’s one more indi­ca­tion that any sort of sig­nif­i­cant anti-ISIS coali­tion is going to have to dou­ble as an anti-Assad coali­tion if any of ISIS’s region­al neigh­bors are going to be play­ing a role on the ground:

    Gulf states ‘could expand anti-IS role to ground troops’
    AFP
    By Rene Sla­ma Octo­ber 10, 2014 8:37 PM

    Dubai (AFP) — Gulf monar­chies tak­ing part in US-led air strikes against the Islam­ic State jihadist group in Syr­ia could deploy spe­cial forces on the ground but only if cer­tain con­di­tions are met, ana­lysts say.

    Sun­ni-ruled Sau­di Ara­bia, Bahrain, Qatar and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates have joined air strikes on the IS, which has seized swathes of Syr­ia and neigh­bour­ing Iraq.

    But they want to assess their poten­tial gains and fear that Shi­ite-major­i­ty Iran may emerge the ulti­mate win­ner, the experts added.

    Any deci­sion by Gulf states to send in troops would depend on whether Turkey decides to use its own ground forces, accord­ing to Math­ieu Guidere, pro­fes­sor of Mid­dle East Stud­ies at Toulouse Uni­ver­si­ty.

    “A ground inter­ven­tion from Arab coun­tries depends on the Turk­ish deci­sion to engage or not ground troops. We are like­ly to see Arab boots on the ground if Turk­ish forces engage in the Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry,” he said.

    Turk­ish forces are gath­ered along the Syr­i­an bor­der across from the strate­gic town of Kobane, but Ankara has been reluc­tant to use them to tack­le advanc­ing IS mil­i­tants.

    Fred­er­ic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace said the Gulf role in strikes on Syr­ia to date was “some­where between pure­ly sym­bol­ic and ful­ly oper­a­tional”.

    If the Gulf states did step up their role, Wehrey said it would like­ly take the form of deploy­ing spe­cial forces.

    Such units would not be involved in actu­al com­bat but rather staff “oper­a­tions rooms, coor­di­nate weapons flows, col­lab­o­rate on intel­li­gence col­lec­tion, advise and equip the (Syr­i­an) oppo­si­tion,” he added.

    He point­ed out the Gulf mil­i­taries played a sim­i­lar role in shoring up Libyan rebels bat­tling to over­throw the coun­try’s long­time leader Moamer Kad­hafi in the 2011 upris­ing.

    - Iran the win­ner? -

    In the Emi­rati dai­ly Gulf News, a head­line said region­al states were “on the right side of the fight against extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy,” which “threat­ens their own sta­bil­i­ty”.

    But some com­men­ta­tors are ask­ing what the monar­chies stand to gain from the US, which could pull out abrupt­ly once its own goals have been achieved.

    Gulf states have thrown their weight behind rebel groups which have been bat­tling Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad since March 2011.

    “I think the end state for these par­tic­i­pat­ing Gulf coun­tries is a sort of quid pro quo where­by the US even­tu­al­ly expands the strikes to Assad’s forces,” said Wehrey.

    But oth­ers are more doubt­ful about what the coun­tries stand to gain.

    “Amer­i­ca is far from frank about its true inten­tions,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdul­la, polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Emi­rates.

    “There is the con­stant fear that every time the US touch­es the Mid­dle East, it makes things worse and instead of solv­ing region­al prob­lems, it invari­ably cre­ates big­ger ones,” he said.

    ...

    While the “we’ll only send in ground troops if Turkey sends them in too” response isn’t sur­pris­ing, it’s a lit­tle curi­ous that the descrip­tion of the role of the Gulf states’ ground troops might play would not be involve in actu­al com­bat but instead would staff “oper­a­tions rooms, coor­di­nate weapons flows, col­lab­o­rate on intel­li­gence col­lec­tion, advise and equip the (Syr­i­an) oppo­si­tion.” Has­n’t that already been hap­pen­ing? For quite a while now? What are the Gulf states going to do if the the US does­n’t agree to go to war against Assad?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 16, 2014, 8:05 pm
  12. With ISIS hit­ting Bagh­dad in a series a sui­cide bomb­ings, Mark Ames points us towards a list of the 31 sui­cide bombers in Iraq from Sep­tem­ber 03 — Octo­ber 18 that high­lights the fact that the vast major­i­ty of the peo­ple will­ing to blow them­selves up for ISIS in Iraq aren’t from Iraq. Or Syr­ia. The counts were:
    1 from Egypt
    1 from Ger­many
    1 from Indone­sia
    1 from Libya
    1 Kuwait
    1 from Tunisia
    1 from Ukzbek­istan
    1 mys­tery bomber
    2 from Turkey
    3 from Syr­ia
    5 from Iraq
    13 from Sau­di Ara­bia

    Now, accord­ing to the fol­low­ing inter­view, lead­er­ship in ISIS is direct­ly tied to bat­tle­field capa­bil­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to speak Ara­bic, so you have to won­der how sta­ble the pow­er shar­ing is going to be between the local Iraqi and Syr­i­an lead­er­ship and the for­eign mem­bers going for­ward:

    Syr­ia Deeply
    For Euro­pean Jiha­di Fight­ers, a Raise in Pro­file – but No Pro­mo­tion
    We look at the emerg­ing hier­ar­chy and roles played by West­ern fight­ers in Syr­ia and Iraq – and increas­ing ten­sions with Syr­i­an fight­ers.

    August 29th, 2014
    By Karen Leigh

    An August 19 video depict­ing the behead­ing of U.S. jour­nal­ist James Foley at the hands of an Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS) mil­i­tant with a British accent has raised ques­tions about the increas­ing pro­file of the group’s West­ern fight­ers.

    Since ISIS’s June offen­sive in Mosul – it now holds a ten­u­ous con­trol over Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city – the group has opened the porous bor­der between Syr­ia and Iraq and tak­en con­trol of the Syr­i­an regime’s air bases in Raqqa, giv­ing it effec­tive con­trol of the province it con­sid­ers its strong­hold.

    The momen­tum, says Peter Neu­mann, the direc­tor and founder of the Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for the Study of Rad­i­cal­iza­tion and a pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of War Stud­ies at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, has led to a 10 to 15 per­cent increase in for­eign fight­ers com­ing from Europe in the past two months – an addi­tion­al 200 to 300 men.

    But he says ten­sions are on the rise between the new West­ern recruits – many of whom lack bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence and Ara­bic-lan­guage skills – and ISIS’s Syr­i­an fight­ers, who say the group’s more bru­tal activ­i­ties have no basis in their coun­try’s his­to­ry or cul­ture.

    Here, Neu­mann dis­cuss­es the emerg­ing hier­ar­chy and roles played by West­ern fight­ers in Syr­ia and Iraq, and why events of the past two months have gal­va­nized so many young Euro­peans to make the jour­ney.

    Syr­ia Deeply: Is there ten­sion between Syr­i­ans and the increas­ing num­ber of for­eign fight­ers?

    Peter S. Neu­mann: We hear from a num­ber of Syr­i­ans that the for­eign fight­ers are not that pop­u­lar, and that a lot of Syr­i­ans do not like them very much. There are dif­fer­ences between Syr­i­an and for­eign fight­ers when it comes to social norms, how to prac­tice Islam, which pun­ish­ments to impose. I don’t think it’s an acci­dent that even with­in ISIS, a lot of the Syr­i­an fight­ers are not involved in cer­tain acts of vio­lence. There are prac­ti­cal­ly no Syr­i­an sui­cide bombers, and we haven’t seen them involved in the most grue­some acts, like behead­ings. Syr­i­ans feel uneasy about prac­tices they don’t believe have any basis in the cul­ture or his­to­ry of their coun­try.

    We have heard from Jab­hat al-Nus­ra and Ahrar al-Sham fight­ers who say ISIS’s for­eign fight­ers have to learn to accept Syr­i­an cul­ture and cus­toms, and while they did­n’t say they hate them, it was clear that they did. They said they can only stay [to fight in Syr­ia] if they accept the way that Islam is being prac­ticed in Syr­ia, imply­ing that the for­eign fight­ers prac­tice it dif­fer­ent­ly.

    Nus­ra has been quite clever – in con­trast to ISIS – in that wher­ev­er they are hold­ing ter­ri­to­ry, there are always Syr­i­ans who are the pub­lic face of the orga­ni­za­tion. So even though they have a num­ber of for­eign fight­ers, those fight­ers are not on the front line. And that makes Nus­ra look like a Syr­i­an orga­ni­za­tion. Mean­while, we have often heard ISIS referred to by Syr­i­ans as “the For­eign­ers,” because they are per­ceived to be so pre­dom­i­nant in the orga­ni­za­tion.

    Syr­ia Deeply: Are Euro­pean and British fight­ers’ roles becom­ing more vis­i­ble? Is there a hier­ar­chy with­in ISIS’s for­eign fight­er ranks, based on prove­nance?

    Neu­mann: Euro­peans are play­ing a more promi­nent role in the pro­pa­gan­da because that’s where their par­tic­u­lar tal­ents lie. They are play­ing a more promi­nent role in the Euro­pean-lan­guage pro­pa­gan­da. The Chechen fight­ers are extreme­ly influ­en­tial because they are good fight­ers, but that’s what they’re out doing – they’re not appear­ing in the videos.

    I haven’t seen any Euro­pean become very senior. There are Euro­peans who are in charge of man­ag­ing oth­er [new­er] Euro­peans, so in that sense there are lead­ers from Europe. But the prob­lem is that by and large they don’t speak Ara­bic or have fight­ing expe­ri­ence, and you can’t be in the upper lead­er­ship of a mil­i­tant Arab orga­ni­za­tion if you don’t have fight­ing expe­ri­ence and don’t speak the lan­guage of the coun­try that you’re in.

    So there are huge obsta­cles for for­eign fight­ers to be pro­mot­ed with­in ISIS. In terms of advance­ment with­in the orga­ni­za­tion, it’s not hap­pen­ing unless you speak the lan­guage. The Chechens are seen with­in ISIS as ide­al fight­ers – ulti­mate heroes – but the Euro­peans, not so much. On the oth­er hand, they might be the most com­mit­ted fight­ers, and as such they are giv­en more trust­ed tasks like guard­ing hostages.

    ...

    So it sounds like a num­ber of Syr­i­ans hate ISIS in part out of the sense that for­eign fight­ers dom­i­nate the orga­ni­za­tion. But in order to gain lead­er­ship in the orga­ni­za­tion these for­eign fight­ers have to be both effec­tive on the bat­tle­field and also speak Ara­bic. Giv­en the pre­dom­i­nance of Sau­di nation­als amongst the sui­cide bombers, you have to won­der about how strong that Sau­di influ­ence is on ISIS’s lead­er­ship and what impact this could have on the via­bil­i­ty of the ISIS “Caliphate” mod­el as a long-term social con­tract for pissed off Iraqi and Syr­i­an Sun­nis that most­ly were just sick of being locked out of pow­er by Bagh­dad and Dam­as­cus. What’s going to main­tain the long-term loy­al­ties of the pop­u­la­tion to a group like ISIS?

    The New York Times
    ISIS’ Harsh Brand of Islam Is Root­ed in Aus­tere Sau­di Creed

    By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKSEPT. 24, 2014

    BAGHDAD — Caliph Ibrahim, the leader of the Islam­ic State, appeared to come out of nowhere when he mat­ter-of-fact­ly pro­claimed him­self the ruler of all Mus­lims in the mid­dle of an oth­er­wise typ­i­cal Ramadan ser­mon. Mus­lim schol­ars from the most mod­er­ate to the most mil­i­tant all denounced him as a grandiose pre­tender, and the world gaped at his grow­ing fol­low­ing and its vicious killings.

    His ruth­less creed, though, has clear roots in the 18th-cen­tu­ry Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la. It was there that the Saud clan formed an alliance with the puri­tan­i­cal schol­ar Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wah­hab. And as they con­quered the war­ring tribes of the desert, his aus­tere inter­pre­ta­tion of Islam became the foun­da­tion of the Sau­di state.

    Much to Sau­di Arabia’s embar­rass­ment, the same thought has now been revived by the caliph, bet­ter known as Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di, as the foun­da­tion of the Islam­ic State.

    “It is a kind of untamed Wah­habism,” said Bernard Haykel, a schol­ar at Prince­ton. “Wah­habism is the clos­est reli­gious cog­nate.”

    The Saud­is and the rulers of oth­er Per­sian Gulf states — all monar­chies — are now unit­ed against the Islam­ic State, fear­ful that it might attack them from the out­side or win fol­low­ers with­in. Bahrain, Qatar, Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates have all par­tic­i­pat­ed with Wash­ing­ton in its attacks on the Islam­ic State’s strong­holds in Syr­ia.

    For their guid­ing prin­ci­ples, the lead­ers of the Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, are open and clear about their almost exclu­sive com­mit­ment to the Wah­habi move­ment of Sun­ni Islam. The group cir­cu­lates images of Wah­habi reli­gious text­books from Sau­di Ara­bia in the schools it con­trols. Videos from the group’s ter­ri­to­ry have shown Wah­habi texts plas­tered on the sides of an offi­cial mis­sion­ary van.

    This approach is at odds with the more main­stream Islamist and jihadist think­ing that forms the geneal­o­gy of Al Qae­da, and it has led to a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent view of vio­lence. Al Qae­da grew out of a rad­i­cal tra­di­tion that viewed Mus­lim states and soci­eties as hav­ing fall­en into sin­ful unbe­lief, and embraced vio­lence as a tool to redeem them. But the Wah­habi tra­di­tion embraced the killing of those deemed unbe­liev­ers as essen­tial to puri­fy­ing the com­mu­ni­ty of the faith­ful.

    “Vio­lence is part of their ide­ol­o­gy,” Pro­fes­sor Haykel said. “For Al Qae­da, vio­lence is a means to an ends; for ISIS, it is an end in itself.”

    The dis­tinc­tion is play­ing out in a bat­tle of fat­was. All of the most influ­en­tial jihadist the­o­rists are crit­i­ciz­ing the Islam­ic State as deviant, call­ing its self-pro­claimed caliphate null and void and, increas­ing­ly, slam­ming its lead­ers as blood­thirsty heretics for behead­ing jour­nal­ists and aid work­ers.

    The upstart polemi­cists of the Islam­ic State, how­ev­er, counter that its crit­ics and even the lead­ers of Al Qae­da are all bad Mus­lims who have gone soft on the West. Even the offi­cials and fight­ers of the Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tant group Hamas are deemed to be “unbe­liev­ers” who might deserve pun­ish­ment with behead­ing for agree­ing to a cease-fire with Israel, one Islam­ic State ide­o­logue recent­ly declared.

    ...

    The Islam­ic State’s sen­sa­tion­al pro­pa­gan­da and videos of behead­ings appear to do dou­ble duty. In addi­tion to threat­en­ing the West, its gory brava­do draws applause online and else­where from sym­pa­thiz­ers, which helps the group in the com­pe­ti­tion for new recruits.

    That is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to the Islam­ic State because it requires a steady flow of recruits to feed its con­stant bat­tles and heavy loss­es against mul­ti­ple ene­mies — the gov­ern­ments of Iraq and Syr­ia, Shi­ite and Kur­dish fight­ers, rival Sun­ni mil­i­tants and now the Unit­ed States Air Force.

    For Al Qae­da, mean­while, dis­putes with the Islam­ic State are an oppor­tu­ni­ty “to repo­si­tion them­selves as the more ratio­nal jihadists,” said Dav­eed Garten­stein-Ross, a researcher at the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies.

    The Islam­ic State’s founder, Mr. Bagh­da­di, graft­ed two ele­ments onto his Wah­habi foun­da­tions bor­rowed from the broad­er, 20th-cen­tu­ry Islamist move­ments that began with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and ulti­mate­ly pro­duced Al Qae­da. Where Wah­habi schol­ars preach obe­di­ence to earth­ly rulers, Mr. Bagh­da­di adopt­ed the call to polit­i­cal action against for­eign dom­i­na­tion of the Arab world that has ani­mat­ed the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Al Qae­da and oth­er 20th-cen­tu­ry Islamist move­ments.

    Mr. Bagh­da­di also bor­rowed the idea of a restored caliphate. Where Wah­habism first flour­ished along­side the Ottoman Caliphate, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood was found­ed short­ly after that caliphate’s dis­so­lu­tion, in 1924 — an event seen across the world as a mark­er of West­ern ascent and East­ern decline. The movement’s founders took up the call for a revived caliphate as a goal of its broad­er anti-West­ern project.

    These days, though, even Broth­er­hood mem­bers appear almost embar­rassed by the term’s anachro­nism, empha­siz­ing that they use caliphate as a kind of spir­i­tu­al idea irrel­e­vant to the mod­ern world of nation-states.

    “Even for Al Qae­da, the caliphate was some­thing that was going to hap­pen in the far dis­tant future, before the end times,” said William McCants, a researcher on mil­i­tant Islam at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion. The Islam­ic State “real­ly moved up the timetable,” he said — to June 2014, in fact.

    Adher­ing to Wah­habi lit­er­al­ism, the Islam­ic State dis­dains oth­er Islamists who rea­son by anal­o­gy to adapt to chang­ing con­text — includ­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood; its con­tro­ver­sial mid­cen­tu­ry thinker Sayed Qutb; and the con­tem­po­rary mil­i­tants his writ­ing lat­er inspired, like Ayman al-Zawahri of Al Qae­da. Islam­ic State ide­o­logues often deem any­one, even an Islamist, who sup­ports an elect­ed or sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment to be an unbe­liev­er and sub­ject to behead­ing.

    “This is ‘you join us, or you are against us and we fin­ish you,’ ” said Prof. Emad Shahin, who teach­es Islam and pol­i­tics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty. “It is not Al Qae­da, but far to its right.”

    Some experts note that Sau­di cler­ics lagged long after oth­er Mus­lim schol­ars in for­mal­ly denounc­ing the Islam­ic State, and at one point even the king pub­licly urged them to speak out more clear­ly. “There is a cer­tain mut­ed­ness in the Sau­di reli­gious estab­lish­ment, which indi­cates it is not a slam dunk to con­demn ISIS,” Pro­fes­sor Haykel said.
    l
    Final­ly, on Aug. 19, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the Sau­di grand mufti, declared that “the ideas of extrem­ism, rad­i­cal­ism and ter­ror­ism do not belong to Islam in any way, but are the first ene­my of Islam, and Mus­lims are their first vic­tims, as seen in the crimes of the so-called Islam­ic State and Al Qae­da.”

    Al Qaeda’s ide­o­logues have been more vehe­ment. All insist that the promised caliphate requires a broad con­sen­sus, on behalf of Mus­lim schol­ars if not all Mus­lims, and not mere­ly one man’s procla­ma­tion after a mil­i­tary vic­to­ry.

    “Will this caliphate be a sanc­tu­ary for all the oppressed and a refuge for every Mus­lim?” Abu Muham­mad al-Maq­disi, a senior jihadist schol­ar, recent­ly asked in a state­ment on the Inter­net. “Or will this cre­ation take a sword against all the Mus­lims who oppose it” and “nul­li­fy all the groups that do jihad in the name of God?”

    Anoth­er promi­nent Qae­da-linked jihadist schol­ar, Abu Qata­da al-Fal­is­ti­ni, echoed that: “They are mer­ci­less in deal­ing with oth­er jihadists. How would they deal with the poor, the weak and oth­er peo­ple?”

    Both schol­ars have recent­ly been released from prison in Jor­dan, per­haps because the gov­ern­ment wants to ampli­fy their crit­i­cism of the Islam­ic State.

    These parts were par­tic­u­lar­ly chill­ing:

    ...

    ““Vio­lence is part of their ide­ol­o­gy,” Pro­fes­sor Haykel said. “For Al Qae­da, vio­lence is a means to an ends; for ISIS, it is an end in itself.””

    ...

    “This is ‘you join us, or you are against us and we fin­ish you,’ ” said Prof. Emad Shahin, who teach­es Islam and pol­i­tics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty. “It is not Al Qae­da, but far to its right.”

    ...

    It’s like the worst parts of Wah­habism and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s world­view got pack­aged into a glob­al Clock­work Orange move­ment. A glob­al Clock­work Orange move­ment pract­ing Sau­di-style reli­gion, heav­i­ly influ­enced by for­eign fight­ers, and locat­ed on the war torn regions of Iraq and Syr­ia. That used to be al Qaeda’s job but it appar­ent­ly was­n’t crazy enough to get the job done. How sus­tain­able is the local sup­port for this kind of move­ment in the long-run? And if that local sup­port is lost will all those for­eign fight­ers just leave or does it become an ISIS occu­pa­tion at that point?

    The for­eign nature of the ISIS night­mare has been one of its strongest weapons so far giv­en the steady inflows of out­side mil­i­tants but it seems like one its great­est weak­ness­es too giv­en the obvi­ous ten­sions that will only grow as the for­eign fight­ers grow in num­ber. Dit­to with the Clock­work Orange vio­lence. And then there’s the slav­ery...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 19, 2014, 8:32 pm
  13. http://www.thetower.org/1220-new-power-grabs-by-erdogan-unleash-anger-and-fear-in-turkey/

    New Pow­er Grabs by Erdo­gan Unleash Anger and Fear in Turkey

    by TheTower.org Staff | 10.21.14 12:03 pm

    The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and the admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan have been sub­ject to harsh crit­i­cism in the past sev­er­al days from var­i­ous par­ties in the coun­try, which stem from the pas­sage of sev­er­al con­tro­ver­sial bills in the par­lia­ment and a tight­en­ing grip on the judi­cia­ry. Turk­ish com­men­ta­tors fear (Ara­bic link) that Erdo­gan will use the new pow­ers against minori­ties and oppo­si­tion fig­ures in Turkey.

    The rul­ing par­ty – The Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) – intro­duced a bill last week that per­mits the arrest and con­fis­ca­tion of prop­er­ty of any­one who oppos­es the Islam­ic par­ty that has con­trolled the coun­try since 2002. The new bill also allows wire­tap­ping of oppo­si­tion activists, and may facil­i­tate search­es con­duct­ed by secu­ri­ty forces in people’s homes.

    Mean­while, the gov­ern­ment also sub­mit­ted a bill that is sup­posed to pro­vide the secu­ri­ty forces addi­tion­al pow­ers in their mea­sures against pro­test­ers. This bill is a direct result of the recent Kur­dish protests against Erdogan’s for­eign pol­i­cy.

    In a quick response (Ara­bic link), Turk­ish oppo­si­tion fig­ures accused Erdo­gan of “reviv­ing the era of the coups”, dur­ing which strict laws were applied against civil­ians. Res­i­dents wor­ry (Ara­bic link) that Turkey will become a “police state” if the laws are actu­al­ly imple­ment­ed.

    In a third legal devel­op­ment, the Turk­ish Islam­ic gov­ern­ment led by Erdo­gan also increased its con­trol of the judi­cia­ry, which the recent elec­tions have seen pop­u­lat­ed with a major­i­ty of AKP sup­port­ers. Many Turk­ish fig­ures harsh­ly con­demned the move, argu­ing it rep­re­sents a lack of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers.

    Mean­while, mas­sive Kur­dish protests are tak­ing place in Turkey against Erdogan’s delay in send­ing aid to the Kurds fight­ing the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS) in the Syr­i­an city Kobani. In recent days, Turkey has been described in the Mid­dle East­ern media as a “tur­tle”, although it allowed some Kur­dish forces to cross its bor­der and help the Kurds in Kobani.

    Curbs on social media and harass­ment of jour­nal­ists this year have led to Turkey’s being des­ig­nat­ed “Not Free” by Free­dom House, which mon­i­tors press free­dom world­wide. Erdo­gan has also been strug­gling to keep a mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal plagu­ing his gov­ern­ment under wraps and hurt ties with NATO by seek­ing a mis­sile defense deal with Chi­na. Turkey’s deep­en­ing ties with Iran this year were man­i­fest in a deal that under­mined eco­nom­ic sanc­tions against Iran rais­ing ques­tions about its reli­a­bil­i­ty as an ally.

    In Where the Shadi­est Play­ers Find a Home, which was pub­lished in the Sep­tem­ber 2014 issue of The Tow­er Mag­a­zine, Jonathan Schanz­er took stock of Turkey’s mis­chief-mak­ing and con­clud­ed:

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it does not appear that Turkey will redress these prob­lems any time soon. With Erdoğan’s ascent to pres­i­den­cy, and with his for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, Ahmet Davu­toğlu, tak­ing over as prime min­is­ter, the archi­tects of Turkey’s dan­ger­ous for­eign poli­cies have con­sol­i­dat­ed pow­er. This means that Turkey is more than like­ly to con­tin­ue to drift from the West­ern orbit, and to resem­ble some of the more dan­ger­ous actors in the Mid­dle East.

    Posted by Vanfield | October 21, 2014, 11:08 am
  14. With Tunisia send­ing more fight­ers to ISIS than any oth­er nation, here’s an arti­cle about that high­lights some­thing obvi­ous about the sit­u­a­tion (that peo­ple will drift towards rad­i­cal­ism when they have no eco­nom­ic prospects) but also some­thing some­what sur­pris­ing: Almost no one the reporter talked to, whether sym­pa­thiz­ers or crit­ics of ISIS, believed the reports about ISIS’s behead­ings or mass killings:

    The New York Times
    New Free­doms in Tunisia Dri­ve Sup­port for ISIS

    By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKOCT. 21, 2014

    TUNIS — Near­ly four years after the Arab Spring revolt, Tunisia remains its lone suc­cess as chaos engulfs much of the region. But that is not its only dis­tinc­tion: Tunisia has sent more for­eign fight­ers than any oth­er coun­try to Iraq and Syr­ia to join the extrem­ist group that calls itself the Islam­ic State.

    And through­out the work­ing-class sub­urbs of the cap­i­tal, young men are eager to talk about why.

    “Don’t you see it as a source of pride?” chal­lenged Sufi­an Abbas, 31, a stu­dent sit­ting at a street cafe in the dense­ly packed Ettad­hamen dis­trict with a half-dozen like-mind­ed friends.

    Tunisians have approved a new Con­sti­tu­tion by a broad con­sen­sus, and a sec­ond free elec­tion is to take place this month. The coun­try has the advan­tage of one of the Arab world’s most edu­cat­ed and cos­mopoli­tan pop­u­la­tions, num­ber­ing just 11 mil­lion, and it has some of the most allur­ing Mediter­ranean beach­es.

    But instead of sap­ping the appeal of mil­i­tant extrem­ism, the new free­dom that came with the Arab Spring revolt has allowed mil­i­tants to preach and recruit more open­ly than ever before. At the same time, many young Tunisians say that the new free­doms and elec­tions have done lit­tle to improve their dai­ly lives, cre­ate jobs or rein in a bru­tal police force that many here still refer to as “the ruler,” or, among ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Islamists, “the tyrant.”

    Although Tunisia’s steps toward democ­ra­cy have enabled young peo­ple to express their dis­si­dent views, impa­tience and skep­ti­cism have evi­dent­ly led a dis­grun­tled minor­i­ty to embrace the Islam­ic State’s rad­i­cal­ly theo­crat­ic alter­na­tive. Tunisian offi­cials say that at least 2,400 Tunisians have trav­eled to Syr­ia and Iraq to join the group — oth­er stud­ies say as many as 3,000 — while thou­sands more have been blocked in the attempt.

    “The Islam­ic State is a true caliphate, a sys­tem that is fair and just, where you don’t have to fol­low somebody’s orders because he is rich or pow­er­ful,” said Ahmed, a young sup­port­er of the Islam­ic State who, like oth­ers inter­viewed, did not want to give his fam­i­ly name for fear of the police. “It is action, not the­o­ry, and it will top­ple the whole game.”

    While only a minor­i­ty of Tunisians have expressed sup­port for the mil­i­tants, it seemed that every­one under 30 knew some­one who had trav­eled to fight in Syr­ia or Iraq, or some­one who had died there. In inter­views at cafes in and around Ettad­hamen, dozens of young unem­ployed or work­ing-class men expressed sup­port for the extrem­ists or saw the appeal of join­ing their ranks — con­vinced that it could offer a high­er stan­dard of liv­ing, a chance to erase arbi­trary bor­ders that have divid­ed the Arab world for a cen­tu­ry, or per­haps even the ful­fill­ment of Quran­ic prophe­cies that Armaged­don will begin with a bat­tle in Syr­ia.

    “There are lots of signs that the end will be soon, accord­ing to the Quran,” said Aymen, 24, who was relax­ing with friends at anoth­er cafe.

    Bilal, an office work­er who was at anoth­er cafe, applaud­ed the Islam­ic State as the divine vehi­cle that would final­ly undo the Arab bor­ders drawn by Britain and France at the end of World War I. “The divi­sion of the coun­tries is Euro­pean,” said Bilal, 27. “We want to make the region a prop­er Islam­ic state, and Syr­ia is where it will start.”

    Mourad, 28, who said he held a master’s degree in tech­nol­o­gy but could find work only in con­struc­tion, called the Islam­ic State the only hope for “social jus­tice,” because he said it would absorb the oil-rich Per­sian Gulf monar­chies and redis­trib­ute their wealth. “It is the only way to give the peo­ple back their true rights, by giv­ing the nat­ur­al resources back to the peo­ple,” he said. “It is an oblig­a­tion for every Mus­lim.”

    Many insist­ed that friends who had joined the Islam­ic State had sent back reports over the Inter­net of their homes, salaries and even wives. “They live bet­ter than us!” said Walid, 24.

    Wis­sam, 22, said a friend who left four months ago had told him that he was “lead­ing a tru­ly nice, com­fort­able life” under the Islam­ic State.

    “I said: ‘Are there some pret­ty girls? Maybe I will go there and set­tle down,’ ” he recalled.

    ...

    Imen Tri­ki, a lawyer at a non­prof­it that has rep­re­sent­ed more than 70 return­ing Tunisians, described the think­ing of many young ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Islamists, known as Salafis: “If I am going to get arrest­ed and beat­en here any­way, I might as well go where I can have an impact.”

    Tunisian offi­cials say that as many as 400 Tunisians have returned from Syr­ia or Iraq and that many have been arrest­ed. Lawyers who rep­re­sent them say many tes­ti­fy that they were tricked into going.

    Ms. Tri­ki esti­mat­ed that as many as 60 per­cent of those who come back pro­fess dis­ap­point­ment at the strife between the Islam­ic State and its for­mer part­ner, the Nus­ra Front, the Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed Syr­i­an rebel group. “They nev­er thought there would a fight between Mus­lims,” she said. “They find that they have been deceived and sold like mer­ce­nar­ies.”

    Charfed­dine Has­ni, 30, an infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy work­er who said he backed the Islam­ic State, acknowl­edged that friends had returned dis­mayed. “They thought it would be like join­ing the side of the Prophet Muham­mad, but they found it was divid­ed into these small groups with a lot of trans­gres­sions they did not expect, like forc­ing peo­ple to fight,” he said, recall­ing one friend killed by his own fel­lows in the Nus­ra Front. “But they are not a real army, so they are hard to con­trol, and these are per­son­al mis­takes,” he added.

    Unem­ployed col­lege grad­u­ates — a large group in Tunisia, where edu­ca­tion is inex­pen­sive but jobs remain scarce — are prime can­di­dates for jihad, their friends and Tunisian ana­lysts say. But there are also accounts of afflu­ent M.B.A. stu­dents or peas­ants going as well. Almost all have now grav­i­tat­ed from oth­er fac­tions to join the Islam­ic State, accord­ing to their friends and the state­ments of Tunisian offi­cials.

    Some fam­i­lies approve. Chi­heb Eddine Chaouachi, 24, a med­ical stu­dent, said that both he and his fam­i­ly sup­port­ed the deci­sion of his broth­er Bilal, 29, a Salafi the­olo­gian, to move with his wife to the Islam­ic State’s de fac­to cap­i­tal of Raqqa, Syr­ia, even though the broth­ers’ per­son­al lifestyles dif­fered wide­ly.

    “Some­times I pray, and some­times I don’t,” Chi­heb Eddine said. “I am very social.” But, like many Tunisians whose prac­tices some­times seem to con­tra­dict their piety, he nonethe­less said he hoped that the Islam­ic State would “win.”

    “Maybe when the war is over, we will all be in an Islam­ic state, for all prac­tic­ing Mus­lims, under Shari­ah,” he said with a shrug, adding that he had asked his broth­er direct­ly about the Islam­ic State’s behead­ings and oth­er atroc­i­ties. “He said, ‘Don’t believe it,’ and I trust my broth­er.”

    Indeed, in dozens of con­ver­sa­tions with young Tunisians, almost no one, whether sym­pa­thiz­ers or crit­ics, believed the news reports of the Islam­ic State’s mass killings or behead­ings. “It is made up,” echoed Amar Msal­mi, 28, a taxi dri­ver. “All of this is man­u­fac­tured in the West.”

    All dis­missed the exist­ing Arab gov­ern­ments as cor­rupt and dic­ta­to­r­i­al, and all held a dim view of Ennah­da. Most strug­gled to name a cred­i­ble Mus­lim insti­tute or schol­ar uncor­rupt­ed by ser­vice to some earth­ly pow­er.

    ...

    You have to won­der what the morale is like for new ISIS recruits once they show up and find out that, as opposed to their fan­tasies, ISIS real­ly does engage in behead­ings, mass killings. And now slav­ery. You also have to won­der how much of this ISIS night­mare could have been avoid­ed if we had a glob­al econ­o­my that was actu­al­ly ded­i­cat­ed to pro­vid­ing every­one, includ­ing unem­ployed Tunisian col­lege grad­u­ates, the means for a decent life instead of thefan­ta­sy econ­o­my we actu­al­ly have.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 22, 2014, 8:13 am
  15. Gary Brech­er has a sug­ges­tion for how West­ern nations should deal with wannabe jihadis clam­or­ing to get to Syr­ia: let them go. In addi­tion to mak­ing great cov­ers for all the dou­ble-agents that have also infil­trat­ed ISIS, these wannabe jihadis are prob­a­bly just going to be asked to become sui­cide bombers since that’s the only real way they could become use­ful for ISIS. In oth­er words, if you want to join ISIS but are hop­ing for some on the job train­ing to get up to speed be pre­pared to accept your new job as a dis­pos­able human explo­sive:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    The War Nerd: How do you deal with wannabe jihadis? An upgrade to busi­ness class

    By Gary Brech­er
    On Octo­ber 24, 2014

    KUWAIT CITY—It’s been a busy week for Canada’s home-grown jihadis.

    Mon­day, Octo­ber 20: Mar­tin Rouleau, a French-Cana­di­an con­vert to Islam, ran down two Cana­di­an sol­diers with his Nis­san Alti­ma, then led the RCMP on a chase that end­ed when he rolled the Nis­san, came up out of the wreck wav­ing a kitchen knife, and got him­self shot to death “like he want­ed to.”

    Wednes­day, Octo­ber 22: Michael Zehaf-Babeau, also Que­be­cois and a recent con­vert, shot a sol­dier stand­ing guard at a war memo­r­i­al then ran into Par­lia­ment, fir­ing as he ran, until he was shot dead by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

    You can look for all kinds of pat­terns in these shoot­ings — to me, the Que­be­cois con­nec­tion seems par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing here — but the most obvi­ous, urgent con­nec­tion we need to see is that both these guys had tried their best to get out of Cana­da, and were refused the chance to go to fight in Syria/Iraq. Both had their pass­ports seized, and were “coun­selled” to dis­suade them from jihad. Instead, it sim­ply made them con­sid­er the local option.

    So, two sol­diers are now dead, Canada’s uncom­mon­ly flus­tered, and all because the RCMP didn’t do the obvi­ous, and let these guys go where they want­ed to go. If the RCMP had tak­en DNA sam­ples, front and side pho­tos, and seen them off at the air­port with a “Mazel tov!”, Cana­da would be a lot bet­ter off. It took both Rouleau and Zehaf-Babeau weeks, between being refused a pass­port and their final act, to work up the courage to kill at home. Most wannabe jihadis feel a cer­tain grudg­ing sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty for the coun­try where they grew up, which makes them more will­ing to kill for God far, far away from home than to kill peo­ple who look like the kids they grew up with.

    These two only killed at home when the Syr­i­an option was shut down for them.

    So what was the down­side of let­ting them go? The most like­ly out­come was that both would have been can­non fod­der, dead in their first month. The Mid­dle East, the non-tourist ver­sion, is a big shock to most West­ern­ers, and ama­teur sol­diers who don’t speak Ara­bic and are used to flush toi­lets will spend their first months just deal­ing with the gas­tro-intesti­nal adjust­ments. Dur­ing that time, these pam­pered ama­teurs make big fat tar­gets. And that’s all Mar­tin and Michael want­ed, “Istishad,” mar­tyr­dom. Though I doubt they knew the prop­er term; like many new jihadis, they were much more excit­ed about the killing and dying than actu­al­ly learn­ing the reli­gion. They would have found their deaths fast, vapor­ized in an air strike or hit by shrap­nel. The death rates for for­eign jihadis in Syr­ia are hor­rif­ic, and only the prac­ti­cal­ly unlim­it­ed pool of replace­ments keeps for­eign-dom­i­nat­ed mili­tias in oper­a­tion.

    New recruits, and those who have no use­ful mil­i­tary skills, are also the ones per­suad­ed to make the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice as sui­cide bombers.

    Some­thing many peo­ple don’t under­stand about this way of becom­ing a shahid (mar­tyr) is that it’s the least pres­ti­gious, far less hon­ored than death in com­bat. It’s the least use­ful recruits who get used as sui­cide bombers. That’s why Sau­di boys are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly rep­re­sent­ed among sui­cide bombers; they’re hard to train (as I can tes­ti­fy), not much good for more com­plex tasks. Almost half of sui­cide bombers to det­o­nate in Iraq in the last two months have been Sau­di.

    Once a recruit has been per­suad­ed to dri­ve a car full of TNT into an ene­my check­point, the counter-ter­ror offi­cer assigned to mon­i­tor him, back in a gov­ern­ment cubi­cle in Ottawa, can safe­ly cross one name off the list of poten­tial threats. Case very def­i­nite­ly closed.

    And even if they sur­vive, they’re marked for life; the sec­ond they try to return to their home coun­tries, they can be pulled out of the line at the air­port and detained for as long as nec­es­sary, on any charge you care to name. It’s not like charges are hard to find, since Islam­ic State actu­al­ly brags, in its house mag­a­zine, that it sold hun­dreds of Yazi­di women and girls into slav­ery.

    Last time I checked, slav­ery is ille­gal in Cana­da, and in fact every­where except Mau­ri­ta­nia, so con­spir­a­cy to com­mit kid­nap­ping and rape are the min­i­mum you could charge every IS recruit with.

    Or you could send them to Mau­ri­ta­nia, but that seems a lit­tle harsh com­pared to a life sen­tence in a Cana­di­an prison. Nobody deserves Mau­ri­ta­nia, not even sex slav­ery gang­sters.

    ...

    Even when they’re alive and fight­ing in Syr­ia, these guys are a huge asset to West­ern Intel­li­gence, because they make an effec­tive cam­ou­flage for the real dou­ble agents already in place there. You can safe­ly assume that a big frac­tion of the men fight­ing with Islam­ic State are dou­ble agents report­ing to one or more of the major West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies, covert­ly pho­tograph­ing and DNA-typ­ing their com­rades for future ref­er­ence.

    If there’s one thing most intel­li­gence agen­cies do in quan­ti­ty, if not qual­i­ty, it’s infil­tra­tion. Some­times the scale of infil­tra­tion of tar­get­ed groups is just ridicu­lous, espe­cial­ly when they’re Left­ist groups that drew J. Edgar Hoover’s rage. Case in point:

    “Fol­low­ing a lawsuit…it was revealed that an orga­ni­za­tion with 2,500 mem­bers had been infil­trat­ed by 1,600 inform­ers.”

    The pro­por­tion of dou­ble agents in Islam­ic State may not be that high (it’s a lot riski­er to pre­tend to be a jiha­di in a com­bat zone than a harm­less state­side social­ist) but there is no doubt that all jiha­di orga­ni­za­tions have been pen­e­trat­ed by the intel­li­gence agen­cies of coun­tries from Egypt to Rus­sia.

    Jiha­di groups are easy to pen­e­trate by their very nature. By def­i­n­i­tion, jihad is open to any­one with the True Faith. And the way you tell who has that faith is that they make the dec­la­ra­tion of faith, the sha­haa­da.

    ...

    So the answer to the prob­lem of West­ern con­vert jihadis is sim­ple: Let ’em go to Syr­ia. A few will wake up, and it’ll be a painful awak­en­ing in more ways than one. As Melville said, “What like a bul­let can unde­ceive?” More will die quick­ly. A few will arouse their com­rades’ sus­pi­cion and be executed—and the odds are those won’t even be the real dou­ble agents. The rest will pro­vide cov­er for those actu­al dou­ble agents.

    These guys are sur­plus, after all, sur­plus males in an era doing some fair­ly fran­tic tin­ker­ing with that whole con­cept. The best way to deal with them is let them take one for the team they’ve talked them­selves into join­ing. And their job for that team is to pro­vide cov­er. Basi­cal­ly, it’s the same assign­ment I used to get on every play: “Uh, the rest of you, go out and block.”

    In fact, Islam­ic State is such a per­fect organ for drain­ing the sur­plus reac­tionary-male rage from a cer­tain demo­graph­ic of the sec­u­lar West that you can’t help won­der­ing, some­times, if it’s a West­ern inven­tion. I doubt that; just because IS has turned out to be use­ful to West­ern secu­ri­ty ser­vices doesn’t mean they cre­at­ed it. But it has become extreme­ly use­ful, a sort of glob­al kid­ney, draw­ing in and fil­ter­ing out a pool of poten­tial­ly trou­ble­some young males. And all done far away, in the bow­els of Syr­ia. But only if places like Cana­da have enough cold-blood­ed sense to let this piece of luck keep doing its job. And that means only one thing: busi­ness class upgrades for every male under 25 with a record of jihadist rants and a one-way tick­et to Istan­bul.

    So now, in addi­tion to the glob­al phe­nom­e­na of human traf­fick­ers lur­ing peo­ple into a life of slav­ery by mak­ing job offers in for­eign lands as a trap, we now have a move­ment that lures peo­ple from for­eign lands to become poten­tial slave own­ers and turns them into sui­cide bombers. Imag­ine that. And these wel­com­ing slave own­ers sound­ed so nice.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 24, 2014, 5:42 pm
  16. Here’s a sto­ry that’s bad news for one of the sides fight­ing over Kobani, although it’s unclear which side this is bad news for: ISIS is claim­ing that, con­trary to all reports, it’s about to cap­ture Kobani. It’s a rather bold claim when you con­sid­er that:
    1. Iraqi Pesh­mer­ga are about to arrive at Kobani.
    and
    2. Much of ISIS’s strength comes from its for­eign sup­port and fight­ers that are drawn ti ISIS, in part, from its abil­i­ty to use the media to pro­mote an image of inevitable vic­to­ry.

    So, unless ISIS real­ly is about to take Kobani, it would appear that ISIS is engag­ing in an almost Rov­ian attempt to cre­ate its own real­i­ty using the media. Or per­haps it’s an almost Rov­ian attempt to deny real­i­ty. It’s sort of a mys­tery, for now at least. But should Kobani stay in the hands of the Kurds over the next few weeks or longer we may get a bet­ter idea of whether or not ISIS’s glob­al fan­boys pre­fer their fanati­cism to be entire­ly divorced from real­i­ty or if they pre­fer it to be at least ground­ed in the real­i­ty of ISIS’s suc­cess­es on the bat­tle­field or the lack there­of:

    McClatchy
    New Islam­ic State video chal­lenges West­ern ver­sion of bat­tle for Kobani

    By Jonathan S. Lan­day

    McClatchy Wash­ing­ton Bureau
    Octo­ber 27, 2014 Updat­ed 20 hours ago

    BAGHDAD — The Islam­ic State post­ed a video Mon­day in which a cap­tured British pho­to­jour­nal­ist, shown in an embat­tled Syr­i­an town on the bor­der with Turkey, denied that the fanat­i­cal group was retreat­ing before a Syr­i­an Kur­dish mili­tia backed by U.S. airstrikes and arms sup­plies.

    It wasn’t clear pre­cise­ly when the video fea­tur­ing John Cantlie was record­ed, although ref­er­ences that he made to West­ern news reports and oth­er events indi­cat­ed that it was pro­duced on or after Oct 20.

    The video was aimed at dis­cred­it­ing media reports that the Islam­ic State had been dri­ven from the town of Kobani after a weeks-long assault against a Syr­i­an Kur­dish mili­tia, known by the Kur­dish acronym YPG, aid­ed by U.S. air­drops of arms and ammu­ni­tion and U.S. airstrikes that at times have been intense.

    “Despite con­tin­u­al Amer­i­can air strikes which so far have cost near­ly half a bil­lion dol­lars in total, the mujahideen have pushed deep into the heart of the city,” said Cantlie, 43, using the Ara­bic word for holy war­riors. “The bat­tle for Kobani is com­ing to an end.”

    Cantlie acknowl­edged that the airstrikes had forced some Islam­ic State com­man­ders not to use tanks and oth­er heavy armor “as they’d have liked.” But he denied that they’d bro­ken off their push into the city. Instead, they’d adjust­ed their tac­tics and were now mov­ing house-to-house with light arms.

    “The mujahideen are just mop­ping up now, street to street and build­ing to build­ing. You can occa­sion­al­ly hear spo­radic gun­fire in the back­ground as a result of those oper­a­tions. But con­trary to what the West­ern media would have you believe, it is not an all-out bat­tle here now,” he said. “It is near­ly over, as you can hear.”

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion ini­tial­ly dis­missed Kobani as strate­gi­cal­ly unim­por­tant. But its deci­sion to aid the YPG _ despite its close ties with a sep­a­ratist Turk­ish Kur­dish group that is on the U.S. ter­ror­ism list _ has made pre­vent­ing an Islam­ic State takeover of the town sym­bol­i­cal­ly crit­i­cal to the U.S.-led air cam­paign against the al Qai­da spin­off.

    ...

    Cantlie ini­tial­ly appears in the 5:32-minute video on a rub­ble-strewn street and then on a roof-top over­look­ing the shat­tered remains of build­ings.

    He quot­ed West­ern media reports from Oct. 16 and 17 that the Islam­ic State was retreat­ing from Kobani, and not­ed that they were “quite a turn­around” from ear­li­er state­ments by U.S. offi­cials and “Kurd-hat­ing” Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan that the town was like­ly to fall to the mil­i­tants “in just a mat­ter of time.”

    Cantlie referred to an Oct. 19 U.S. air-drop of arms to the YPG, not­ing that two crates were cap­tured by the Islam­ic State, some­thing the Pen­ta­gon acknowl­edged on Oct. 21. He also cit­ed Turk­ish approval of a plan to have Kur­dish rein­force­ments from Iraq tran­sit Turkey to Kobani, some­thing Ankara agreed to on Oct. 20, but that has yet to take place.

    “Kobani is now being rein­forced by Iraqi Kurds who are com­ing in through Turkey while the mujahideen are being resup­plied by the hope­less Unit­ed State Air Force who para­chut­ed two crates of weapons and ammu­ni­tion straight into the out­stretched arms of the mujahideen,” he said.

    The video end­ed with Cantlie point­ing out that some 200,000 res­i­dents had fled the fight­ing to Turkey, where they set­tled in refugee camps.

    “You can see the refugee camps over my right shoul­der in Turkey where the inhab­i­tants now are,” he said. “But con­trary to media reports, the fight­ing in Kobani is near­ly over. Urban war­fare is about as nasty and tough as it gets and it’s some­thing of a spe­cial­ty of the mujahideen.”

    Cantlie wore a black shirt with a long-sleeved under­gar­ment and black trousers in the video, a sharp con­trast to the orange prison jump suit that he has worn in six pre­vi­ous videos that have been post­ed on the Inter­net over the past six weeks.

    In con­trast to those videos, shot with Cantlie sit­ting behind a desk in a dark room, the British hostage was record­ed in the open air and seemed remark­ably relaxed. He ges­tured over his right shoul­der with his thumb to indi­cate Turkey behind him, walked com­fort­ably in front of the cam­era in a com­mon tele­vi­sion report­ing tech­nique, and spoke from a vari­ety of cam­era angles. At one point, as he was mock­ing West­ern media reports, he looked left, then right before not­ing that “I can’t see any of their jour­nal­ists here in the city of Kobani.”

    ...

    There was no imme­di­ate reac­tion by Amer­i­can offi­cials to the video, and an offi­cial of the Kur­dish gov­ern­ment in Kobani could not be reached for com­ment. On Mon­day, Turk­ish news reports indi­cat­ed that the Islam­ic State had made anoth­er effort to cap­ture the bor­der cross­ing, and Kur­dish jour­nal­ists in Turkey last week told McClatchy that about 40 per­cent of the town is in Islam­ic State hands.

    Kur­dish rein­force­ments from Iraq have yet to arrive in the city, and when they do will not engage in com­bat, accord­ing to the most recent news accounts. On Mon­day, the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand said U.S. air­craft launched four airstrikes near Kobani, destroy­ing five vehi­cles and a build­ing Islam­ic State fight­ers had occu­pied.

    Here we go again?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 28, 2014, 2:52 pm
  17. One of the biggest loom­ing ques­tions about the fate of ISIS is what’s going to hap­pen to the flow of for­eign fight­ers if ISIS los­es the momen­tum in a high-pro­file man­ner that even the suck­ers can’t ignore. There are only so many bat­tle-hard­ened Chechens in the world and it’s very unclear if the kind of adven­ture-seek­ing West­ern recruits are still going to be inter­est­ed in the going on a safari in Syr­ia once they find out that they’re the (pos­si­bly explo­sive) big game to be hunt­ed. And ISIS itself sure­ly must be won­der­ing too what hap­pens if it los­es the momentum...especially since it’s clear­ly los­ing the momen­tum:

    Kurds gain ground but not con­trol in strug­gle for Syr­i­an bor­der town

    By Rasha Elass and Ham­di Istan­bul­lu

    BEIRUT/MURSITPINAR Turkey Wed Nov 12, 2014 2:21pm EST

    (Reuters) — Syr­i­an Kurds backed by fight­ers from north­ern Iraq have gained ground towards break­ing the siege of the Syr­i­an bor­der town of Kobani but are draw­ing heavy fire from Islam­ic State insur­gents and have yet to win back con­trol.

    Iraqi Kur­dish pesh­mer­ga, or “those who face death,” arrived with armored vehi­cles and artillery more than a week ago to try to repulse a more than month-old siege that has test­ed a U.S.-led coali­tion’s abil­i­ty to halt the Islamist insur­gents.

    Known in Ara­bic as Ayn al-Arab, the town is among a few areas in civ­il war-rid­den Syr­ia where the coali­tion can coor­di­nate air strikes against Islam­ic State with oper­a­tions by an effec­tive ground force.

    The Britain-based Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry for Human Rights said fierce overnight clash­es between Kur­dish and Islam­ic State forces along Koban­i’s south­ern front, com­bined with heavy artillery fire by pesh­mer­ga, yield new gains for the Kurds.

    The Obser­va­to­ry quot­ed sources around Kobani as say­ing the rad­i­cal Sun­ni Mus­lim insur­gents had been sur­prised by the resilience of the Kur­dish forces and that the bat­tle for the town had killed hun­dreds of Islam­ic State com­bat­ants.

    Kur­dish forces have retak­en some vil­lages around Kobani but a Reuters cor­re­spon­dent on the Turk­ish side of the bor­der said the front lines in the town itself appeared lit­tle changed, with the insur­gents still con­trol­ling its east­ern part.

    ...

    A video on YouTube dis­trib­uted by Islam­ic State sup­port­ers showed fight­ers pur­port­ed­ly in Syr­i­a’s north­ern province of Raqqa promis­ing to rein­force Kobani.

    “God’s ser­vants have pre­pared the explo­sives and bombs ... We are com­ing with the sword and the Koran ... We tell our broth­ers in (Kobani) that we’re com­ing to sup­port you,” one of the insur­gents said in the video.

    Yes, just last week ISIS pro­duce a video intend­ed to lift the morale of its com­rades cur­rent­ly bogged down in Kobani. Sure, that may have been uplift­ing to the ISIS fight­er cur­rent­ly get­ting their ass­es kicked by airstrikes and a vast­ly under-armed ground force, but how does that look to all those poten­tial recruits on the out­side? It’s not exact­ly the ISIS glam­or we’ve come to expect. ISIS even dra­mat­i­cal­ly announced last month that it was send­ing in the much-feared “Omar the Chechen” to Kobani to fin­ish the job and it does­n’t look like Kobani is falling any time soon. Except for the ISIS-held sec­tions:

    Kurds seize Islam­ic State arms, build­ings in besieged town: mon­i­tor

    BEIRUT Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:35am EST

    (Reuters) — Kur­dish fight­ers cap­tured six build­ings from Islam­ic State mil­i­tants besieg­ing the Syr­i­an town of Kobani on Tues­day and seized a large haul of their weapons and ammu­ni­tion, a group mon­i­tor­ing the war said.

    Islam­ic State has been try­ing to take con­trol of the town, also known as Ayn al-Arab, for more than two months in an assault that has dri­ven tens of thou­sands of Kur­dish civil­ians over the bor­der into Turkey and drawn strikes by U.S.-led forces.

    The hard­line Sun­ni Mus­lim move­ment, an off­shoot of al Qae­da, has declared an Islam­ic caliphate cov­er­ing large areas of land that it has cap­tured in oth­er parts of Syr­ia and neigh­bor­ing Iraq.

    The six build­ings seized by Kur­dish fight­ers from Islam­ic State were in a strate­gic loca­tion in the town’s north, close to Secu­ri­ty Square where the main munic­i­pal offices are based, said Rami Abdul­rah­man, who runs the Obser­va­to­ry, a group that tracks the con­flict using sources on the ground.

    The Kurds also took a large quan­ti­ty of rock­et-pro­pelled grenade launch­ers, guns and machine gun ammu­ni­tion.

    The clash­es killed around 13 Islam­ic State mil­i­tants, includ­ing two senior fight­ers who had been help­ing to lead the mil­i­tant group’s assault on the town, he said.

    Kur­dish forces appear to have made oth­er gains in recent days of fight­ing. Last week they blocked a road Islam­ic State was using to resup­ply its forces, the first major gain against the jihadists after weeks of vio­lence.

    “Dur­ing the last few days we have made big progress in the east and south­east,” said Idris Nas­san, an offi­cial in Kobani.

    But Islam­ic State still appeared to be hold­ing a sig­nif­i­cant grip on the town. Abdul­rah­man esti­mat­ed it con­trolled more than 50 per­cent of the city.

    ...

    With ISIS still in con­trol of half of Kobani it’s pos­si­ble that these are just tem­po­rary set­backs in a cam­paign for even­tu­al con­trol. But, again, momen­tum cer­tain­ly isn not on ISIS’s side at this point and that means the bat­tle over Kobani could be a long, drawn out defeat with many, many crap­py “we’re com­ing to help!” videos pro­duced in the inter­im. And giv­en that ISIS is basi­cal­ly oper­at­ing like a pyra­mid scheme, where a con­stant flow of more and more out­side funds and fight­ers is required to keep the scam going, you have to won­der if a long, slow defeat at Kobani could under­cut the entire move­ment. Can a group that prides itself on being the most intense­ly pious badass rapist slave­hold­ers in the world with­stand a defeat like that?

    Of course, any spec­u­la­tion about the down­fall of ISIS is real­ly only mean­ing­ful if we assume that the sur­round­ing coun­tries real­ly are inter­est­ed in defeat­ing ISIS (as opposed to using it as a proxy army for car­ry­ing out strate­gic region­al objec­tives like top­pling Assad or destroy­ing the PKK). It’s an alarm­ing­ly large ‘if’:

    i24 News
    Even under allied bomb­ing, IS has weapons to fight for two years

    UN report rec­om­mends seizure by Turkey of all oil tanker trucks leav­ing Islamist-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry
    Pub­lished Novem­ber 19th 2014 09:16am

    The UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil will debate mea­sures on Wednes­day designed to choke off fund­ing and weapons to the Islam­ic State orga­ni­za­tion and the al-Qai­da-linked al-Nus­ra Front in Syr­ia. These include the seizure, pos­si­bly in Turkey, of all oil tanker trucks leav­ing Islamist-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry in Iraq and Syr­ia in order to cut off mil­lions of dol­lars from crude sales now bankrolling the jihadists.

    Accord­ing to a new UN report that will form the basis for the dis­cus­sion, IS has suf­fi­cient weapons to keep fight­ing for six months to two years.

    The size and breadth of the Isis arse­nal pro­vides the group with durable mobil­i­ty, range and a lim­it­ed defense against low-fly­ing air­craft. Even if the US-led bomb­ing cam­paign con­tin­ues to destroy the group’s vehi­cles and heav­ier weapons, the UN report states, it “can­not mit­i­gate the effect of the sig­nif­i­cant vol­ume of light weapons” Isis pos­sess­es.

    “The group should have few prob­lems main­tain­ing state-of-the-art mate­ri­als seized from the Iraqi Gov­ern­ment, as most were unused. ISIL also appears com­fort­able with old­er Russ­ian heavy mil­i­tary equip­ment seized in the Syr­i­an Arab Repub­lic due to the avail­abil­i­ty of spare parts,” wrote the eight-mem­ber UN Al-Qae­da Mon­i­tor­ing Team. “Mean­while the main­te­nance of com­plex and sophis­ti­cat­ed weapons sys­tems may prove too much of a chal­lenge,” it added.

    The Isis arse­nal, accord­ing to the UN assess­ment, includes T‑55 and T‑72 tanks; US-man­u­fac­tured Humvees; machine guns; short-range anti-air­craft artillery, includ­ing shoul­der-mount­ed rock­ets cap­tured from Iraqi and Syr­i­an mil­i­tary stocks; and “exten­sive sup­plies of ammu­ni­tion”. One mem­ber state, not named in the report, con­tends that Isis main­tains a motor pool of 250 cap­tured vehi­cles.

    ...

    The pan­el is also propos­ing an embar­go on flights tak­ing off or land­ing in ter­ri­to­ry seized by the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS) group and its allies to pre­vent them from mov­ing assets and pos­si­bly weapons.

    ISIS earns an esti­mat­ed $850,000 to $1.65 mil­lion per day from oil sales through pri­vate mid­dle­men who oper­ate a fleet of trucks through smug­gling routes, the report said.

    While it did not spec­i­fy which smug­gling routes should be tar­get­ed, Turkey has been sin­gled out as a major tran­sit point for the oil deliv­er­ies, with trucks often return­ing to Iraq or Syr­ia with refined prod­ucts.

    “Sanc­tions mea­sures can­not pre­vent this trade entire­ly,” the report said, but it added that “dis­rupt­ing the tanker trucks avail­able to ISIL and its allied smug­gling net­works (is) a point of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty.”

    The team pro­posed that the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil ask all-mem­ber states bor­der­ing Islamist-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry to “prompt­ly seize all oil tanker-trucks and their loads that orig­i­nate or seek entry into” those areas.

    “While it did not spec­i­fy which smug­gling routes should be tar­get­ed, Turkey has been sin­gled out as a major tran­sit point for the oil deliv­er­ies, with trucks often return­ing to Iraq or Syr­ia with refined prod­ucts.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 19, 2014, 1:26 pm
  18. One of the biggest loom­ing ques­tions about the fate of ISIS is what’s going to hap­pen to the flow of for­eign fight­ers if ISIS los­es the momen­tum in a high-pro­file man­ner that even the suck­ers can’t ignore. There are only so many bat­tle-hard­ened Chechens in the world and it’s very unclear if the kind of adven­ture-seek­ing West­ern recruits are still going to be inter­est­ed in the going on a safari in Syr­ia once they find out that they’re the (pos­si­bly explo­sive) big game to be hunt­ed. And ISIS itself sure­ly must be won­der­ing too what hap­pens if it los­es the momentum...especially since it’s clear­ly los­ing the momen­tum:

    Kurds gain ground but not con­trol in strug­gle for Syr­i­an bor­der town

    By Rasha Elass and Ham­di Istan­bul­lu

    BEIRUT/MURSITPINAR Turkey Wed Nov 12, 2014 2:21pm EST

    (Reuters) — Syr­i­an Kurds backed by fight­ers from north­ern Iraq have gained ground towards break­ing the siege of the Syr­i­an bor­der town of Kobani but are draw­ing heavy fire from Islam­ic State insur­gents and have yet to win back con­trol.

    Iraqi Kur­dish pesh­mer­ga, or “those who face death,” arrived with armored vehi­cles and artillery more than a week ago to try to repulse a more than month-old siege that has test­ed a U.S.-led coali­tion’s abil­i­ty to halt the Islamist insur­gents.

    Known in Ara­bic as Ayn al-Arab, the town is among a few areas in civ­il war-rid­den Syr­ia where the coali­tion can coor­di­nate air strikes against Islam­ic State with oper­a­tions by an effec­tive ground force.

    The Britain-based Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry for Human Rights said fierce overnight clash­es between Kur­dish and Islam­ic State forces along Koban­i’s south­ern front, com­bined with heavy artillery fire by pesh­mer­ga, yield new gains for the Kurds.

    The Obser­va­to­ry quot­ed sources around Kobani as say­ing the rad­i­cal Sun­ni Mus­lim insur­gents had been sur­prised by the resilience of the Kur­dish forces and that the bat­tle for the town had killed hun­dreds of Islam­ic State com­bat­ants.

    Kur­dish forces have retak­en some vil­lages around Kobani but a Reuters cor­re­spon­dent on the Turk­ish side of the bor­der said the front lines in the town itself appeared lit­tle changed, with the insur­gents still con­trol­ling its east­ern part.

    ...

    A video on YouTube dis­trib­uted by Islam­ic State sup­port­ers showed fight­ers pur­port­ed­ly in Syr­i­a’s north­ern province of Raqqa promis­ing to rein­force Kobani.

    “God’s ser­vants have pre­pared the explo­sives and bombs ... We are com­ing with the sword and the Koran ... We tell our broth­ers in (Kobani) that we’re com­ing to sup­port you,” one of the insur­gents said in the video.

    Yes, just last week ISIS pro­duce a video intend­ed to lift the morale of its com­rades cur­rent­ly bogged down in Kobani. Sure, that may have been uplift­ing to the ISIS fight­er cur­rent­ly get­ting their ass­es kicked by airstrikes and a vast­ly under-armed ground force, but how does that look to all those poten­tial recruits on the out­side? It’s not exact­ly the ISIS glam­or we’ve come to expect. ISIS even dra­mat­i­cal­ly announced last month that it was send­ing in the much-feared “Omar the Chechen” to Kobani to fin­ish the job and it does­n’t look like Kobani is falling any time soon. Except for the ISIS-held sec­tions:

    Kurds seize Islam­ic State arms, build­ings in besieged town: mon­i­tor

    BEIRUT Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:35am EST

    (Reuters) — Kur­dish fight­ers cap­tured six build­ings from Islam­ic State mil­i­tants besieg­ing the Syr­i­an town of Kobani on Tues­day and seized a large haul of their weapons and ammu­ni­tion, a group mon­i­tor­ing the war said.

    Islam­ic State has been try­ing to take con­trol of the town, also known as Ayn al-Arab, for more than two months in an assault that has dri­ven tens of thou­sands of Kur­dish civil­ians over the bor­der into Turkey and drawn strikes by U.S.-led forces.

    The hard­line Sun­ni Mus­lim move­ment, an off­shoot of al Qae­da, has declared an Islam­ic caliphate cov­er­ing large areas of land that it has cap­tured in oth­er parts of Syr­ia and neigh­bor­ing Iraq.

    The six build­ings seized by Kur­dish fight­ers from Islam­ic State were in a strate­gic loca­tion in the town’s north, close to Secu­ri­ty Square where the main munic­i­pal offices are based, said Rami Abdul­rah­man, who runs the Obser­va­to­ry, a group that tracks the con­flict using sources on the ground.

    The Kurds also took a large quan­ti­ty of rock­et-pro­pelled grenade launch­ers, guns and machine gun ammu­ni­tion.

    The clash­es killed around 13 Islam­ic State mil­i­tants, includ­ing two senior fight­ers who had been help­ing to lead the mil­i­tant group’s assault on the town, he said.

    Kur­dish forces appear to have made oth­er gains in recent days of fight­ing. Last week they blocked a road Islam­ic State was using to resup­ply its forces, the first major gain against the jihadists after weeks of vio­lence.

    “Dur­ing the last few days we have made big progress in the east and south­east,” said Idris Nas­san, an offi­cial in Kobani.

    But Islam­ic State still appeared to be hold­ing a sig­nif­i­cant grip on the town. Abdul­rah­man esti­mat­ed it con­trolled more than 50 per­cent of the city.

    ...

    With ISIS still in con­trol of half of Kobani it’s pos­si­ble that these are just tem­po­rary set­backs in a cam­paign for even­tu­al con­trol. But, again, momen­tum cer­tain­ly isn not on ISIS’s side at this point and that means the bat­tle over Kobani could be a long, drawn out defeat with many, many crap­py “we’re com­ing to help!” videos pro­duced in the inter­im. And giv­en that ISIS is basi­cal­ly oper­at­ing like a pyra­mid scheme, where a con­stant flow of more and more out­side funds and fight­ers is required to keep the scam going, you have to won­der if a long, slow defeat at Kobani could under­cut the entire move­ment. Can a group that prides itself on being the most intense­ly pious badass rapist slave­hold­ers in the world with­stand a defeat like that?

    Of course, any spec­u­la­tion about the down­fall of ISIS is real­ly only mean­ing­ful if we assume that the sur­round­ing coun­tries real­ly are inter­est­ed in defeat­ing ISIS (as opposed to using it as a proxy army for car­ry­ing out strate­gic region­al objec­tives like top­pling Assad or destroy­ing the PKK). It’s an alarm­ing­ly large ‘if’:

    i24 News
    Even under allied bomb­ing, IS has weapons to fight for two years

    UN report rec­om­mends seizure by Turkey of all oil tanker trucks leav­ing Islamist-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry
    Pub­lished Novem­ber 19th 2014 09:16am

    The UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil will debate mea­sures on Wednes­day designed to choke off fund­ing and weapons to the Islam­ic State orga­ni­za­tion and the al-Qai­da-linked al-Nus­ra Front in Syr­ia. These include the seizure, pos­si­bly in Turkey, of all oil tanker trucks leav­ing Islamist-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry in Iraq and Syr­ia in order to cut off mil­lions of dol­lars from crude sales now bankrolling the jihadists.

    Accord­ing to a new UN report that will form the basis for the dis­cus­sion, IS has suf­fi­cient weapons to keep fight­ing for six months to two years.

    The size and breadth of the Isis arse­nal pro­vides the group with durable mobil­i­ty, range and a lim­it­ed defense against low-fly­ing air­craft. Even if the US-led bomb­ing cam­paign con­tin­ues to destroy the group’s vehi­cles and heav­ier weapons, the UN report states, it “can­not mit­i­gate the effect of the sig­nif­i­cant vol­ume of light weapons” Isis pos­sess­es.

    “The group should have few prob­lems main­tain­ing state-of-the-art mate­ri­als seized from the Iraqi Gov­ern­ment, as most were unused. ISIL also appears com­fort­able with old­er Russ­ian heavy mil­i­tary equip­ment seized in the Syr­i­an Arab Repub­lic due to the avail­abil­i­ty of spare parts,” wrote the eight-mem­ber UN Al-Qae­da Mon­i­tor­ing Team. “Mean­while the main­te­nance of com­plex and sophis­ti­cat­ed weapons sys­tems may prove too much of a chal­lenge,” it added.

    The Isis arse­nal, accord­ing to the UN assess­ment, includes T‑55 and T‑72 tanks; US-man­u­fac­tured Humvees; machine guns; short-range anti-air­craft artillery, includ­ing shoul­der-mount­ed rock­ets cap­tured from Iraqi and Syr­i­an mil­i­tary stocks; and “exten­sive sup­plies of ammu­ni­tion”. One mem­ber state, not named in the report, con­tends that Isis main­tains a motor pool of 250 cap­tured vehi­cles.

    ...

    The pan­el is also propos­ing an embar­go on flights tak­ing off or land­ing in ter­ri­to­ry seized by the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS) group and its allies to pre­vent them from mov­ing assets and pos­si­bly weapons.

    ISIS earns an esti­mat­ed $850,000 to $1.65 mil­lion per day from oil sales through pri­vate mid­dle­men who oper­ate a fleet of trucks through smug­gling routes, the report said.

    While it did not spec­i­fy which smug­gling routes should be tar­get­ed, Turkey has been sin­gled out as a major tran­sit point for the oil deliv­er­ies, with trucks often return­ing to Iraq or Syr­ia with refined prod­ucts.

    “Sanc­tions mea­sures can­not pre­vent this trade entire­ly,” the report said, but it added that “dis­rupt­ing the tanker trucks avail­able to ISIL and its allied smug­gling net­works (is) a point of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty.”

    The team pro­posed that the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil ask all-mem­ber states bor­der­ing Islamist-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry to “prompt­ly seize all oil tanker-trucks and their loads that orig­i­nate or seek entry into” those areas.

    “While it did not spec­i­fy which smug­gling routes should be tar­get­ed, Turkey has been sin­gled out as a major tran­sit point for the oil deliv­er­ies, with trucks often return­ing to Iraq or Syr­ia with refined prod­ucts.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 19, 2014, 1:27 pm
  19. With talk of a US/­Turkey-enforced no-fly­/buffer zone along Syr­i­a’s bor­der with Turkey once again pick­ing up (although the US is down­play­ing the reports), here’s an inter­est­ing new devel­op­ment: Rus­sia is ditch­ing the long-planned planned South Stream gas pipeline that would have bypassed Ukraine and sent gas direct­ly to Bul­gar­ia. Putin is plan­ning on court­ing Turkey with dis­count­ed gas and an offer to turn Turkey into a new gas hub instead. So the main pro­po­nent of col­laps­ing the Assad regime (Erdo­gan) and the main oppo­nent of such action (Putin) are now court­ing each oth­er with promis­es of cheap gas and big mar­kets:

    Putin drops South Stream gas pipeline to EU, courts Turkey
    Mon Dec 1, 2014 8:15pm EST

    By Darya Kor­sun­skaya

    ANKARA (Reuters) — Rus­sia on Mon­day scrapped the South Stream pipeline project to sup­ply gas to south­ern Europe with­out cross­ing Ukraine, cit­ing EU objec­tions, and instead named Turkey as its pre­ferred part­ner for an alter­na­tive pipeline, with a promise of hefty dis­counts.

    The EU, at log­ger­heads with Moscow over Ukraine, and keen to reduce its ener­gy depen­dence on Rus­sia, had object­ed to the $40 bil­lion South Stream pipeline, which was to enter the EU via Bul­gar­ia, on com­pe­ti­tion grounds.

    The pro­posed under­sea pipeline to Turkey, with an annu­al capac­i­ty of 63 bil­lion cubic metres (bcm), more than four times Turkey’s annu­al pur­chas­es from Rus­sia, would face no such prob­lems. Rus­sia offered to com­bine it with a gas hub at the EU’s south­east­ern edge, the Turk­ish-Greek bor­der, to sup­ply south­ern Europe.

    Alex­ei Miller, the chief exec­u­tive of Rus­si­a’s state-con­trolled gas exporter Gazprom, told reporters in Ankara, where he was on a one-day vis­it with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, that South Stream was “closed. This is it”.

    Putin accused the EU of deny­ing Bul­gar­ia, heav­i­ly depen­dent on Russ­ian gas, its sov­er­eign rights, and said that block­ing the project “is against Europe’s eco­nom­ic inter­ests and is caus­ing dam­age”.

    He announced that Rus­sia would grant Turkey a 6 per­cent dis­count on its gas imports from Rus­sia for next year, sup­ply­ing it with 3 bcm more than this year.

    Miller said Gazprom had signed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with Turkey’s Botas on the pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey.

    But the plan remains at an ear­ly stage. Russ­ian Ener­gy Min­is­ter Alexan­der Novak said that “ener­gy min­is­ters and com­pa­nies (on both sides) were ordered to look into these pro­pos­als in detail ... It is hard to assess the costs, finan­cial mech­a­nisms, terms of ful­fil­ment for now.”

    He also said Turkey was seek­ing a 15 per­cent dis­count for Russ­ian gas.

    AT ODDS WITH EU?

    Nev­er­the­less, EU-can­di­date Turkey’s deep­en­ing ener­gy ties with Rus­sia are like­ly to raise eye­brows in Europe and the Unit­ed States, com­ing as West­ern pow­ers have imposed eco­nom­ic sanc­tions on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, and as Europe tries to low­er its ener­gy depen­dence on Rus­sia, which sup­plies about 30 per­cent of its gas needs, half of that via Ukraine.

    “As our coop­er­a­tion devel­ops and deep­ens, I think we will be ready for fur­ther price reduc­tions,” Miller told reporters in Ankara. “As we devel­op our joint projects ... the lev­el of gas price for Turkey could reach the one Ger­many has today.”

    The South Stream pipeline had exposed cracks in EU strat­e­gy as Hun­gary, Aus­tria, Ser­bia and Bul­gar­ia among oth­ers saw it as a solu­tion to the risk of a repeat of sup­ply dis­rup­tions via Ukraine, while Brus­sels and Wash­ing­ton saw the project as entrench­ing Moscow’s ener­gy stran­gle­hold on Europe. Yet its appeal has waned as eco­nom­ic growth has stalled, and with Azeri Caspi­an gas due to land in Italy from 2020.

    Car­los Pas­cual, who until ear­li­er this year was the top ener­gy diplo­mat at the U.S. State Depart­ment, said there was no way that the can­cel­la­tion of the pipeline dam­ages Europe.

    “One could actu­al­ly argue that in the end this will save Euro­pean con­sumers mon­ey by elim­i­nat­ing an unnec­es­sary high cost pipeline that would not have added any addi­tion­al new sup­ply,” he said.

    ...

    Rus­sia is already Turkey’s main ener­gy sup­pli­er, and Turkey Rus­si­a’s sec­ond biggest trade part­ner after Ger­many. Those eco­nom­ic inter­ests have out­weighed deep dif­fer­ences over Ukraine and espe­cial­ly Syr­i­a’s near­ly four-year-old civ­il war.

    While Rus­sia backs Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan has become his most vocal crit­ic, lam­bast­ing the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, and Rus­sia in par­tic­u­lar, for stalling on an inter­na­tion­al response to the war.

    “Pres­i­dent (Putin) has a dif­fer­ent assess­ment to us,” Erdo­gan told their joint news con­fer­ence. “We agree a solu­tion is need­ed, but we dif­fer on the means.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 2, 2014, 6:50 pm
  20. Back in Sep­tem­ber, there were reports that ISIS mem­bers were pur­pose­ly giv­ing their cap­tures sex slaves cell­phones so they could con­tact that out­side world and share the details of their hor­ror sto­ries, which is about the what one expects from the group at this point. And now, of course, ISIS’s “Research and Fat­wa Depart­ment” just pub­lished a slav­ery man­u­al:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    ISIS Jihadis Get ‘Slav­ery for Dum­mies’
    They’ve enslaved thou­sands of Yazi­di women—and now the mil­i­tants must fol­low ‘rules’ laid out in an awful new list of dos and don’ts, from treat­ment of vir­gins to rea­sons for beat­ing.
    12.8.14

    Jamie Dettmer

    Whom can you enslave? What can you do with female slaves? Can you beat them and have sex with them? The mil­i­tants of the self-styled Islam­ic State, nev­er shy to parade their grue­some, atavis­tic inter­pre­ta­tion of the Quran and its place as they see it in the mod­ern world, have now answered those ques­tions.

    In a long list of the dos and don’ts gov­ern­ing the enslave­ment and treat­ment of women and girls cap­tured by jihadist war­riors, ISIS includes details of “per­mis­si­ble” sex­u­al prac­tices with female slaves. The new rules fol­low wide­spread reports this sum­mer of the jihadists enslav­ing women from the Yazi­di reli­gious minor­i­ty seized dur­ing the mil­i­tants’ light­en­ing offen­sive in north­ern Iraq.

    Issued on Decem­ber 3 by ISIS’s “Research and Fat­wa Depart­ment,” the rules are laid out in ques­tion-and-answer format—a kind of “Slav­ery for Dum­mies.” It is per­mis­si­ble to beat slaves, trade them and offer them as gifts, to take vir­gins imme­di­ate­ly and to have sex with a pre-pubes­cent girl, “if she is fit for inter­course,” what­ev­er that means.

    Accord­ing to Nazand Begikhani, an advis­er to the Kur­dis­tan region­al gov­ern­ment and researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bris­tol Gen­der and Vio­lence Research Cen­ter, ISIS has kid­napped more than 2,500 Yazi­di women. Yazi­di activists, mean­while, say they have com­piled a list of at least 4,600 miss­ing Yazi­di women, seized after they were sep­a­rat­ed from male rel­a­tives, who were shot.

    The women were bussed, accord­ing to first­hand accounts of women who have man­aged to flee, to the ISIS-con­trolled cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syr­ia, and cho­sen and trad­ed like cat­tle. Kur­dish author­i­ties in north­ern Iraq say they have freed about 100 Yazi­di women. In Octo­ber ISIS jus­ti­fied its enslave­ment of the women—and of any non-believ­ing females cap­tured in battle—in its Eng­lish-lan­guage dig­i­tal mag­a­zine Dabiq. Islam­ic the­ol­o­gy, ISIS pro­pa­gan­dists argued, gives the jihadists the right, much in the same way that the Bible’s Eph­esians 6:5 tells “slaves, obey your earth­ly mas­ters with fear and trem­bling.”

    ...

    Below—courtesy of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based the Mid­dle East Media Research Insti­tute, a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that mon­i­tors extremism—are some high­lights of the ISIS rules gov­ern­ing the enslave­ment of women and how slaves should be treat­ed.

    ...

    You have to won­der how many of ISIS’s inter­na­tion­al recruits are aware of both the reports of slave own­ing priv­i­leges and the reports about how ISIS is mak­ing their new inter­na­tion­al recruits clean toi­lets all day. Because those recruits clear­ly have some sort of very strange psy­cholo­gies going on in their heads and hold­ing pow­er over oth­ers as a slave mas­ter is prob­a­bly part of the appeal. Clean­ing toi­lets? Not so much.

    Even reports about ISIS using the new recruits as “front­line can­non fod­der” and sui­cide bombers prob­a­bly holds more appeal than clean­ing toi­lets day after day. Espe­cial­ly for the west­ern recruits that left every­thing and trav­eled halfway across the world. Who knows, maybe once you recruit some­one for their new glo­ri­ous life as a rapist slave mas­ter and then, upon arrival, they dis­cov­er that they’re going to clean toi­lets all day instead and nev­er own a slave, maybe they actu­al­ly want to become sui­cide bombers at that point (If so, it just might be the least trag­ic aspect of the entire “ISIS” expe­ri­ence).

    You also have to won­der how if ISIS is ever going to put out a “Sui­cide Bomb­ings for Dum­mies” man­u­al. It seems appro­pri­ate. And maybe even war­rant­ed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 9, 2014, 7:35 pm
  21. ISIS just opened a school of med­i­cine and it wants you to apply for one of those cov­et­ed edu­ca­tion slots. Or some­one. Any­one real­ly. Just be will­ing to blow your­self up at some point and you’re prob­a­bly good to go:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    ISIS’s Futile Quest to Go Legit
    With its lat­est pro­pa­gan­da videos and recruit­ment for a med­ical school, the group’s attempts to por­tray a func­tion­ing caliphate seem increas­ing­ly des­per­ate.
    Jamie Dettmer
    01.05.15

    Ever since Islam­ic mil­i­tants grabbed a swath of land across Syr­ia and Iraq this sum­mer, they have been pre­sent­ing their caliphate as a valid, func­tion­ing state. This week­end, the Orwellian depic­tion of legit­i­ma­cy became ever more sur­re­al and des­per­ate with the announce­ment of a new med­ical school in one city they con­trol and the release of a pro­pa­gan­da video fea­tur­ing a British hostage tour­ing anoth­er town, claim­ing “this is a nor­mal city going about its busi­ness.”

    In the Syr­i­an city of Raqqa—the main strong­hold of the self-styled Islam­ic State, for­mer­ly known as ISIS or ISIL—posters appeared over the week­end, accord­ing to local activists, which announced the open­ing of a school of med­i­cine and invit­ed appli­ca­tions from high-school grad­u­ates between the ages of 18 and 30.

    The med­ical school fol­lows recent claims of plans to mint ISIS cur­ren­cy and the open­ing of a bank in the Iraqi city of Mosul—another was opened in the Syr­i­an town of al-Bab sev­er­al weeks ago. But locals there say any mon­ey deposit­ed is thrown into an unlocked cup­board behind the tellers, hard­ly inspir­ing con­fi­dence.

    Coin­cid­ing with the med­ical school announce­ment, the eighth pro­pa­gan­da video fea­tur­ing British pho­to­jour­nal­ist John Cantlie, who has been held for more than two years by the mil­i­tants, was released at the week­end, this time hav­ing him tour Mosul in the role of a TV cor­re­spon­dent. Using the city that was cap­tured by ISIS in June as a back­drop, Cantlie dis­putes West­ern media reports that it is “in a state of near col­lapse” with a lack of food, water and work­ing pub­lic insti­tu­tions.

    “The media likes to paint a pic­ture of life in the Islam­ic State as depressed, peo­ple walk­ing around as sub­ju­gat­ed cit­i­zens in chains, beat­en down by strict, total­i­tar­i­an rule,” Cantlie says. But this pic­ture of a “city liv­ing in fear as West­ern media would have you believe” is inac­cu­rate, the cap­tive pho­to­jour­nal­ist claims in the chill­ing video that has him look­ing less gaunt than in the pre­vi­ous sev­en pro­pa­gan­da videos in which he appears in as a nar­ra­tor. Tour­ing a souk and a hos­pi­tal and rid­ing on the back of a police motor­cy­cle with a beam­ing jihadist, he declares, “Apart from some rather chilly but very sun­ny Decem­ber weath­er, life here in Mosul is busi­ness as usu­al” and enjoyed by “peo­ple from every walk of life.”

    The dou­ble­think video smacks of some­thing Win­ston Smith, the pro­tag­o­nist of George Orwell’s nov­el 1984, could be have pro­duced for the Min­istry of Truth in accor­dance with the slo­gans, “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

    Just hours after his claims, ISIS released pic­tures show­ing the bru­tal exe­cu­tions of eight peo­ple, four of them Iraqi police­men, in Iraq’s Sala­hed­din province. The men were accused of reneg­ing on pledges to stop work­ing for the Iraqi gov­ern­ment. They are frog-marched blind­fold­ed under a bridge, made to kneel and shot by pis­tol-armed masked gun­men in yet anoth­er high­ly chore­o­graphed exe­cu­tion scene that has been seen often in recent weeks .

    In the Cantlie video there’s no men­tion of com­mon­place exe­cu­tions or the mas­sacre by Islam­ic mil­i­tants of more than 2,000 Shi­ite pris­on­ers and sol­diers short­ly after Mosul, Iraq’s sec­ond largest city, was cap­tured. Nor is there men­tion of the ban­ish­ment of Chris­tians on pain of death or even of the hun­dreds of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazi­di reli­gious minor­i­ty being sold and abused as sex slaves— some­thing boast­ed in Tweets and videos by Islam­ic State fight­ers. Telling­ly, the eight-minute video has no inter­views with locals tes­ti­fy­ing to how good life is under the jihadists—all has to be tak­en on trust from the cap­tive nar­ra­tor.

    “Of all the Cantlie videos, this one is def­i­nite­ly the strangest,” tweet­ed Shi­raz Maher, a senior fel­low at the Insti­tute Cen­tre for the Study of Rad­i­cal­iza­tion at King’s Col­lege Lon­don. “The health­i­er appear­ance and civil­ian cloth­ing are very pecu­liar.”

    ...

    Well, at least the med school isn’t as crazy as most of ISIS’s deci­sions. For instance, Raqqa is well posi­tioned to become a glob­al cen­ter for head trans­plant research. Plus, it’s not like there isn’t an immense need for doc­tors in ISIS-held ter­ri­to­ry. Or mor­ti­cians:

    AFP
    Kurds seize most of Kobane from ISIS: mon­i­tor

    Mon­day, 5 Jan­u­ary 2015

    Kur­dish fight­ers have seized the secu­ri­ty and gov­ern­ment dis­trict of Syr­i­a’s Kobane from the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS) group and now con­trol 80 per­cent of the bor­der town, a mon­i­tor­ing group said Mon­day.

    “The Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) fight­ing the jihadists [ISIS] for near­ly four months have full con­trol of the secu­ri­ty dis­trict,” the Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry for Human Rights said.

    The Britain-based group said Kur­dish fight­ers had seized con­trol of the area after fierce clash­es since Sun­day night.

    The U.S.-led coali­tion on Sun­day also con­duct­ed eight bomb­ing runs near the north­ern town of Kobane, tar­get­ing ISIS troops that have waged a months-long bat­tle to seize the area near the Turk­ish bor­der.

    ISIS began its assault on Kobane in mid-Sep­tem­ber and came close to over­run­ning the town, which is also known as Ain al-Arab.

    But Kur­dish fight­ers, backed by inter­na­tion­al air strikes, have been able to grad­u­al­ly recap­ture ter­ri­to­ry in the small town, which is strate­gic because of its loca­tion on the bor­der.

    ...

    ISIS had bet­ter include a sub­stan­tial men­tal health com­po­nent in its new med­ical school’s cur­ricu­lum. It’s going to need it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 5, 2015, 8:38 pm
  22. It looks like Yemen is expe­ri­enc­ing a full blown case of ISISi­tis:

    US offi­cial: US was sur­prised by col­lapse of Yemen govt
    By KEN DILANIAN, AP Intel­li­gence Writer : Feb­ru­ary 12, 2015 : Updat­ed: Feb­ru­ary 12, 2015 6:48pm

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s senior coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial acknowl­edged Thurs­day that U.S. intel­li­gence was sur­prised by the col­lapse of the U.S.-backed gov­ern­ment in Yemen.

    Nick Ras­mussen, who directs the Nation­al Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, told the Sen­ate intel­li­gence com­mit­tee that Yemen’s Amer­i­can-fund­ed army failed to oppose advanc­ing Houthi rebels in the same way the U.S.-supported Iraqi mil­i­tary refused to fight Islam­ic State mil­i­tants last year.

    What hap­pened in Iraq with the onslaught of the Islam­ic State group “hap­pened in Yemen” on “a some­what small­er scale,” he said. “As the Houthi advances toward Sanaa took place ... they weren’t opposed in many places. ...The sit­u­a­tion dete­ri­o­rat­ed far more rapid­ly than we expect­ed.”

    ...

    In response to oth­er ques­tion­ing, Ras­mussen also not­ed that extrem­ists in Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt and Alge­ria had pledged alle­giance to the Islam­ic State group, sug­gest­ing a grow­ing influ­ence of that al-Qai­da rival.

    The Islam­ic State group is now the dom­i­nant extrem­ist group in the Libyan cities of Der­na and Beng­hazi, where a 2012 attack killed four Amer­i­cans includ­ing U.S. Ambas­sador Chris Stevens, he said.

    “We’ve seen in recent months ISIL has looked to expand its reach in a num­ber of places,” Ras­mussen said.

    He acknowl­edged that efforts against al-Qaida’s Yemen affil­i­ate, con­sid­ered one of the most dan­ger­ous to Amer­i­cans, had been sig­nif­i­cant­ly dimin­ished by the col­lapse of the gov­ern­ment and this week’s evac­u­a­tion of the U.S. Embassy.

    Keep in mind that chron­ic dehy­dra­tion and gen­er­al mal­nu­tri­tion exac­er­bate ISISi­tis sign­f­i­cant­ly, as well as a non-har­mo­nious home life. So, while the rate pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease this devel­op­ment may have tak­en observers by sur­prise, the fact that ISISi­tis flared up at all prob­a­bly should have been expect­ed. Espe­cial­ly after Dr. Sau­di cut off the med­i­cine:

    Haaretz
    Can Iran replace Sau­di Ara­bia as Yemen’s sug­ar dad­dy?
    Tehran may have declared that it will sup­port the Houthi rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment, but let’s see if it can pro­vide the hun­dreds of mil­lions that Riyadh did.
    By Zvi Bar’el | Feb. 8, 2015 | 4:44 PM

    The Houthi rebels in Yemen have dis­band­ed par­lia­ment and declared a pro­vi­sion­al gov­ern­ment, but they don’t yet con­trol the entire coun­try. Over the week­end, the Houthis talked about “rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mit­tees” that will appoint a five-mem­ber nation­al coun­cil — to replace the pres­i­dent, who has resigned. There will also be a new par­lia­ment, which will serve for two years.

    Dur­ing this peri­od a new con­sti­tu­tion will be writ­ten and elec­tions held. The new gov­ern­ment also hur­ried to reap­point Defense Min­is­ter Mah­moud al-Subei­hi in an attempt to show a will­ing­ness to coop­er­ate with peo­ple from the old regime.

    But the pro­ce­dures for gov­ern­ing are a sec­ondary prob­lem for a coun­try in which 40 per­cent of the peo­ple are Zay­di Shi’ites and the rest are Sun­nis. The south, where Al-Qai­da oper­ates, is Sun­ni, and the oth­er regions rely on trib­al loy­al­ties that have nor­mal­ly been stronger than those to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

    The sag­ging Yemeni army is also divid­ed between these loy­al­ties, so the Houthis were able to con­quer the north and cen­ter of the coun­try with lit­tle resis­tance. The main chal­lenge is to pre­vent anoth­er north-south split.

    The Houthi regime also has vast eco­nom­ic prob­lems. It’s not just that Yemen is the poor­est Arab nation, where over half the pop­u­la­tion lives in pover­ty. In Decem­ber, Sau­di Ara­bia announced that it was halt­ing vital eco­nom­ic aid esti­mat­ed at $450 mil­lion for ongo­ing needs and $900 mil­lion for petro­le­um prod­ucts.

    Iran may have declared that it will sup­port the Houthis, but there’s a dif­fer­ence between sup­port for the fight­ers and ongo­ing eco­nom­ic aid. This is even more the case when Iran is suf­fer­ing a finan­cial cri­sis due to the West’s eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, the steep drop in oil prices and the heavy aid it’s pro­vid­ing Syr­ia. The ques­tion is whether Iran can replace Sau­di Ara­bia as a con­duit of aid.

    The Houthis can’t depend on Yemen’s oil pro­duc­tion because the oil and nat­ur­al gas ports — as well as some of the oil fields — are in the south and con­trolled by Sun­ni tribes. These tribes shut down cer­tain oil facil­i­ties a week and a half ago to protest the Houthis’ efforts. Oth­er pos­si­ble chan­nels for aid are Rus­sia and Chi­na, which are mak­ing con­tacts with the Houthis.

    Sau­di Arabia’s boy­cott of the Houthi regime could turn out to be a dou­ble-edged sword because it leaves the new gov­ern­ment in the hands of Iran­ian good will. It also requires Sau­di Ara­bia to coop­er­ate with the Sun­ni tribes — most of which sup­port the reformist Islah par­ty, a branch of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Saud­is’ ene­my.

    ...

    “But the pro­ce­dures for gov­ern­ing are a sec­ondary prob­lem for a coun­try in which 40 per­cent of the peo­ple are Zay­di Shi’ites and the rest are Sun­nis. The south, where Al-Qai­da oper­ates, is Sun­ni, and the oth­er regions rely on trib­al loy­al­ties that have nor­mal­ly been stronger than those to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment.” That sure sounds like a vari­ant of ISISi­tis.

    So what’s the plan? Well, for Dr. Sau­di the plan is to iso­late the patient. Or, rather, to iso­late Dr. Sau­di from the patient:

    Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s new Yemen strat­e­gy: get behind a fence

    By Angus McDowall

    RIYADH Thu Jan 22, 2015 10:42am EST

    (Reuters) — Sau­di Ara­bia is increas­ing­ly tak­ing a secu­ri­ty-first approach to neigh­bor­ing Yemen, where Houthi rebels have all but seized pow­er, want­i­ng noth­ing bet­ter than to fin­ish a new bor­der fence and then slam shut the gates.

    Riyadh con­vened a meet­ing of Gulf coun­tries on Wednes­day to threat­en unspec­i­fied mea­sures to “pro­tect their inter­ests” in Yemen where the Shi’ite Mus­lim rebels, allies of its ene­my Iran, are hold­ing the pres­i­dent a vir­tu­al pris­on­er.

    But unlike in the past, the king­dom wields lit­tle influ­ence across its bor­der and has few estab­lished ties to Yemen’s new power­bro­kers. It has already sus­pend­ed aid pay­ments, its most potent lever­age in the coun­try.

    That will com­pel the Houthis, and by exten­sion Iran, to foot the sub­stan­tial bill for keep­ing Yemen afloat if they want to gov­ern the poor­est Arab coun­try with­out Riyad­h’s sup­port.

    Sau­di ana­lysts say the pri­or­i­ty is seal­ing the moun­tain­ous Yemeni bor­der — where Houthis killed around 200 Sau­di sol­diers in a brief war four years ago — with a fence mod­eled on its expen­sive fron­tier defens­es with Iraq.

    “The Sau­di strat­e­gy is no strat­e­gy for Yemen. I don’t see one except for secu­ri­ty: keep­ing the bor­der intact and guard­ing it well,” said Jamal Khashog­gi, who runs a Sau­di news chan­nel owned by a prince.

    The Houthi ascen­dan­cy means that both the Sun­ni Mus­lim king­dom’s most pop­u­lous neigh­bors, Yemen and Iraq, are now dom­i­nat­ed by its biggest region­al rival, Shi’ite Tehran.

    But Riyadh also wor­ries that the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Zay­di Shia com­po­nent of Houthi ide­ol­o­gy will raise sec­tar­i­an ten­sions. These could dri­ve Yemen’s major­i­ty Sun­nis toward the arms of al Qae­da, which car­ried out an insur­gency inside Sau­di Ara­bia in 2003-06 and wants to unseat the rul­ing Al Saud fam­i­ly.

    HOUTHI AID DILEMMA

    By cut­ting off aid, the Saud­is present a dilem­ma to both Iran and the Houthis.

    In Tehran — where politi­cians have boast­ed that anoth­er Arab cap­i­tal has fall­en to their influ­ence after Bagh­dad, Beirut and Dam­as­cus — Iran­ian lead­ers must decide whether to start mak­ing its own aid pay­ments to help keep Yemen’s econ­o­my afloat.

    Plung­ing crude oil prices and the effect of years of sanc­tions mean Iran has lit­tle extra cash to sub­si­dize a coun­try that has his­tor­i­cal­ly had a mar­gin­al place in the region-wide pow­er tus­sle between Riyadh and Tehran.

    But Ali Lar­i­jani, the speak­er of Iran’s par­lia­ment, sug­gest­ed on Thurs­day that aid might be forth­com­ing. “If the peo­ple of Yemen would need sup­port, we would of course sup­port them,” he told reporters on a vis­it to Turkey.

    ...

    The Houthis have their own rea­sons to dis­trust Riyadh. The group was found­ed part­ly to counter the spread of Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s hard­line Salafi form of Islam in Zay­di areas and the king­dom’s his­tor­i­cal patron­age net­works among Sun­ni lead­ers in the coun­try. For its part, Sau­di Ara­bia added the group to its list of banned “ter­ror­ist” orga­ni­za­tions in March.

    How­ev­er, Riyadh under­stands that Houthi ide­ol­o­gy and strat­e­gy remain rel­a­tive­ly flu­id and that its leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi might even­tu­al­ly be swayed by the prac­ti­cal advan­tages of Sau­di assis­tance to recon­sid­er his group’s stance.

    GREAT WALL OF YEMEN

    So far, though, the Houthis have shown lit­tle sign they are will­ing to bow to exter­nal pres­sure as their forces push into Sun­ni areas and cement their con­trol over the gov­ern­ment.

    A report in the Sau­di dai­ly al-Yaum on Thurs­day said Sau­di Ara­bia was work­ing “day and night” to fin­ish its bor­der fence, but the Inte­ri­or Min­istry says it will still take some years to com­plete.

    ...

    The bull­doz­ers of Sau­di Bin­laden Group, the huge Sau­di con­tract­ing com­pa­ny found­ed by a Yemeni immi­grant whose son cre­at­ed al Qae­da, are crawl­ing over this land­scape, build­ing a new road for fron­tier guards to help keep out mil­i­tants.

    “The old tech­nique of buy­ing off the bor­der tribes no longer works because Iran is pay­ing the Houthis. All we can do is make our defens­es stronger,” a Sau­di guard told Reuters on a recent vis­it to the fron­tier.

    Would­n’t it be great if there was a vac­cine against ISISi­tis?

    Oh yeah, there is. We just don’t want to use it for var­i­ous rea­sons.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 13, 2015, 4:28 pm
  23. http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5174/turkey-new-middle-east
    Bad News: Davu­to­glu Wants “New Mid­dle East”
    by Burak Bekdil Feb­ru­ary 10, 2015 at 4:00 am

    When, in a recent speech, Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu pledged to defend all faiths, “even Bud­dhism,” a Bud­dhist friend sent a mes­sage say­ing that: “I under­stand we were wrong to feel safe from the wrath of Turk­ish Islamists’ Sun­ni suprema­cy. Judg­ing from how they want­ed to crush every oth­er faith, includ­ing dif­fer­ent dis­ci­ples of Islam, while fak­ing to respect them I now wor­ry about the Bud­dhist faith.”

    Echo­ing the Bud­dhist friend’s fear and com­ment­ing on Davu­to­glu’s most recent remarks on the mak­ing of a new Mid­dle East, an EU ambas­sador told this author in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion: “I think we should be wor­ried again.”

    Fresh in the job but appar­ent­ly full of hope, then for­eign min­is­ter Davu­to­glu said in an Octo­ber 2009 speech in Sara­je­vo: “As in the 16th Cen­tu­ry, when the Ottoman Balka­ns were ris­ing, we will once again make the Balka­ns, the Cau­ca­sus and the Mid­dle East, togeth­er with Turkey, the cen­tre of world pol­i­tics in the future. That is the goal of Turk­ish for­eign pol­i­cy and we will achieve it.”

    At that time, Turkey’s best region­al ally was Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, now its worst region­al neme­sis. Rela­tions with Jerusalem were dete­ri­o­rat­ing but not yet frozen. Turkey was the ris­ing star in almost every Arab cap­i­tal. Ankara was con­fi­dent­ly spear­head­ing efforts to build what looked like the Euro­pean Union of the Mid­dle East — a free-trav­el, free-trade zone between Turkey, Syr­ia and Jor­dan, which would then expand to Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. Thus, the aca­d­e­m­ic-turned-for­eign min­is­ter would rebuild the Mid­dle East under Turk­ish lead­er­ship.

    In an April 2012 speech, Davu­to­glu was more spe­cif­ic about his region­al ambi­tions. “On the his­toric march of our holy nation, the AK Par­ty sig­nals the birth of a glob­al pow­er and the mis­sion for a new world order. This is the cen­te­nary of our exit from the Mid­dle East ... what­ev­er we lost between 1911 and 1923, what­ev­er lands we with­drew from, from 2011 to 2023 we shall once again meet our broth­ers in those lands. This is a bound­en his­toric mis­sion.”

    Near­ly five years after Davu­to­glu set out on a self-declared mis­sion to remake the Mid­dle East, Turkey is the only coun­try in the world that has no ambas­sadors in all of Jerusalem, Dam­as­cus and Cairo. The ambas­sador it appoint­ed for Libya has nev­er tak­en up the job, due to under­stand­able secu­ri­ty con­cerns. Its neigh­bour to the south is no longer Syr­ia but the Islam­ic State [IS], a coali­tion of jihadists it once sup­port­ed (and per­haps indi­rect­ly sup­ports even today), which has become a major secu­ri­ty threat to Turkey itself. Its cit­i­zens are a high-cur­ren­cy in Lebanon’s kid­nap­ping mar­ket. Since 2013, its mis­sions in Soma­lia, where it has heav­i­ly invest­ed in the past few years, have been attacked.

    The mul­ti­ple pol­i­cy fail­ures find an echo among the Turks. Accord­ing a sur­vey released on Jan­u­ary 20 by Kadir Has Uni­ver­si­ty in Istan­bul, “Social-Polit­i­cal Trends in Turkey, 2014,” Davu­to­glu’s for­eign pol­i­cy has an approval rate of 33.8%. On a more spe­cif­ic lev­el, the same sur­vey found that only 21.6% of Turks approve of Davu­to­glu’s Syr­ia pol­i­cy, and 21.5% approve of his Egypt pol­i­cy.

    Yet Davu­to­glu remains mirac­u­lous­ly opti­mistic.

    In the speech that “wor­ried” the EU ambas­sador, the Turk­ish prime min­is­ter said that Turkey was seek­ing a new Mid­dle East that will be a home for Turks, Kurds and Arabs togeth­er. Speak­ing in the pre­dom­i­nant­ly Kur­dish province of Diyarbakir in Turkey’s south­east, Davu­to­glu said: “We aim at a new Mid­dle East.”

    He fur­ther said: “Against the tyrants in Syr­ia [Assad] we want a new Mid­dle East that Turks, Kurds and Arabs build in every­where. Turk­ish, Kur­dish and Zaza braves will be togeth­er every­where again. Hope­ful­ly, this broth­er­hood will become eter­nal.” And, typ­i­cal­ly, he added that Turkey would con­tin­ue rep­re­sent­ing Islam, “with the cres­cent on its flag.”

    Once again, Davu­to­glu is mis­tak­en to think that Islam could be the bond to keep Mid­dle East­ern nations in peace. In Diyarbakir, he was hap­py to greet around 100,000 Kurds who protest­ed Char­lie Heb­do and cheered for the Kur­dish Hizbul­lah, a rad­i­cal Sun­ni Kur­dish orga­ni­za­tion.

    As a cour­tesy to Davu­to­glu “The Lovers of the Prophet Plat­form” had orga­nized a two-hour long protest at a cen­tral square in Diyarbakir. They bran­dished plac­ards and shout­ed slo­gans tar­get­ing the French mag­a­zine, includ­ing “I am Hizbul­lah in Kur­dis­tan,” “I am Hamas in Pales­tine,” “I am Mal­colm X in Amer­i­ca” and “I am Imam Shamil in Chech­nya.”

    Tens of thou­sands of Kur­dish sup­port­ers of the rad­i­cal Kur­dish Hizbul­lah ral­ly in Diyarbakir, on Jan­u­ary 24, 2015. (Image source: Showhaber video screen­shot)

    In a speech, Mol­la Osman Tey­fur, chair­man of the pro-Hizbul­lah Free Cause Par­ty, said: “As long as you are the ene­mies of Allah, we will be your ene­mies.” He vowed to “cut the tongue that talked against the prophet.”

    Davu­to­glu has been try­ing and repeat­ed­ly fail­ing to remake the Mid­dle East on the com­mon bond that is Islam. He does not learn from his past mis­takes. He does not acknowl­edge fail­ure. His repeat­ed promise of a new Mid­dle East is not a good omen for the region.

    Posted by Vanfield | February 14, 2015, 8:19 pm
  24. As of a cou­ple of weeks ago, this was the state of the debate over the inter­na­tion­al response to ISIS:

    The Hill
    Sanders blasts Sau­di Ara­bia for sug­gest­ing US troops against ISIS

    By Mar­tin Matishak — 03/06/15 02:58 PM EST

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) ripped Sau­di Ara­bia Fri­day after the nation’s top diplo­mat sug­gest­ed the U.S. would have to deploy ground troops to ulti­mate­ly defeat the Islam­ic State in Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS).

    “I find it remark­able that Sau­di Ara­bia, which bor­ders Iraq and is con­trolled by a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar fam­i­ly, is demand­ing that U.S. com­bat troops have ‘boots on the ground’ against ISIS. Where are the Sau­di troops?” Sanders, a poten­tial 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, said in a state­ment.

    “With the third largest mil­i­tary bud­get in the world and an army far larg­er than ISIS, the Sau­di gov­ern­ment must accept its full respon­si­bil­i­ty for sta­bil­i­ty in their own region of the world,” he added.

    The sharp words come the day after Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Sau­di for­eign min­is­ter, expressed con­cern that Iran’s mil­i­tary is increas­ing its sup­port to Baghdad’s forces in the fight against the ter­ror group, espe­cial­ly around the city of Tikrit.

    “Tikrit is a prime exam­ple of what we are wor­ried about,” the prince through an inter­preter said dur­ing a joint press con­fer­ence with Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry in Riyadh, the country’s cap­i­tal. “Iran is tak­ing over the coun­try.”

    The diplo­mat urged the U.S.-led inter­na­tion­al coali­tion to take the “nec­es­sary mil­i­tary means to fight this chal­lenge on the ground.”

    Sanders flat­ly reject­ed the notion that Amer­i­ca must lead the van­guard against ISIS.

    “Ulti­mate­ly, this is a pro­found strug­gle for the soul of Islam, and the anti-ISIS Mus­lim nations must lead that fight. While the Unit­ed States and oth­er west­ern nations should be sup­port­ive, the Mus­lim nations must lead,” he said.

    ...

    And while not a lot has change in the ISIS debate in the last cou­ple of weeks, the Sau­di gov­ern­ment did just float the idea of assem­bling a gulf coali­tion and a full-scale mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in the region. But it’s not going to be head­ing to Syr­ia:

    Bloomberg Busi­ness
    Saud­is Will Take ‘Nec­es­sary Mea­sures’ in Yemen If Talks Fail

    by Glen Carey by Mohammed Hatem
    10:53 AM CDT March 23, 2015

    (Bloomberg) — Sau­di Ara­bia and its Gulf part­ners will take “nec­es­sary mea­sures” to restore sta­bil­i­ty in Yemen if peace talks fail to resolve the grow­ing con­flict there, the Sau­di for­eign min­is­ter said.

    “We hope that this can be done peace­ful­ly but if it is not done peace­ful­ly, cer­tain­ly coun­tries of the region will take the nec­es­sary mea­sures to pro­tect the region from the aggres­sion,” Sau­di For­eign Min­is­ter Prince Saud al-Faisal said Mon­day dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Riyadh.

    His com­ments came after the inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi appealed for Gulf mil­i­tary sup­port in its fight against Shi­ite Houthi rebels. Hadi has asked the six-mem­ber Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil, led by Sau­di Ara­bia, to impose a no-fly zone and send troops to stop the Houthi advance, his For­eign Min­is­ter Riad Yassin told Sau­di news­pa­per Asharq al-Awsat.

    Fight­ing in Yemen between the Houthis and forces loy­al to Hadi is threat­en­ing to esca­late into a full-blown civ­il war, increas­ing the risk that neigh­bor­ing Sau­di Ara­bia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, will be drawn in. The ero­sion of gov­ern­ment author­i­ty has already allowed al-Qae­da to take root in Yemen and use it as a base for attacks.

    ‘Brink of Dis­as­ter’

    The Saud­is and their allies among the Sun­ni Mus­lim monar­chies of the Per­sian Gulf sup­port Hadi and say that Iran is behind the rise of the Houthis, who advanced from their base in north Yemen to cap­ture the cap­i­tal Sana’a last year.

    “This could get very messy,” said Paul Sul­li­van, a Mid­dle East spe­cial­ist at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty in Wash­ing­ton. “The Saud­is will do what they can to stop their south­west­ern flank from becom­ing a client state of their arch-ene­my Iran.”

    At the same time, he said, “Yemen is col­laps­ing and the Saud­is do not want to be pulled too much into this. This could quite eas­i­ly be their Viet­nam.”

    The Houthis, who have been tar­get­ed by a series of al-Qae­da attacks, accuse Hadi and his Gulf sup­port­ers of tac­it­ly encour­ag­ing the jihadists.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has agreed to host talks between all fac­tions in Yemen to “bring the coun­try back from the brink of dis­as­ter,” Prince Saud said. Unit­ed Nations-backed nego­ti­a­tions between the war­ring par­ties have bro­ken down, and the Houthis have ruled out attend­ing talks in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Tear Gas

    Yemen was split into north and south before its reuni­fi­ca­tion in 1990, and the cur­rent con­flict has raised the prospect of renewed par­ti­tion. In the past week fight­ing has flared up in the south, where Hadi is seek­ing to regroup after flee­ing the Houthi-held cap­i­tal last month.

    Skir­mish­es broke out in Taiz on Mon­day, after pro-Houthi secu­ri­ty forces fired tear gas and live rounds at thou­sands of peo­ple protest­ing their advance into the south­ern city in the past few days.

    The Houthis are col­lab­o­rat­ing with Ali Abdul­lah Saleh, the still-influ­en­tial ex-pres­i­dent who ced­ed pow­er to Hadi under a 2011 accord bro­kered by Sau­di Ara­bia.

    The Houthis declared an armed mobi­liza­tion for war on Sat­ur­day. In a tele­vised address the fol­low­ing day, their leader Abdul­ma­lik al-Houthi urged Yemen’s tribes to send fight­ers and mon­ey. He accused Hadi of col­lab­o­rat­ing with al-Qae­da and Islam­ic State, and being a “pup­pet” for for­eign forces.

    ...

    Keep in mind that, should the gulf states actu­al­ly do this and send in an occu­py­ing mil­i­tary force, there will still be plen­ty of poten­tial inter­ac­tions with ISIS in Yemen, although it’s unclear if they’ll be con­sid­ered friends or foes by the coali­tion. It’s a shock­ing­ly com­mon area of con­fu­sion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 23, 2015, 6:01 pm
  25. The Syr­i­an rebels appear to be mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant gains against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment with the help of some US sup­plied TOW anti-tank mis­siles and a lot of Islamist allies:

    U.S.-backed rebels team with Islamists to cap­ture strate­gic Syr­i­an city

    By Mousab Alhamadee and Roy Gut­man

    McClatchy For­eign Staff
    April 25, 2015

    ISTANBUL — Rebels, includ­ing mem­bers of U.S.-backed groups and al Qaida’s Nus­ra Front, cap­tured the strate­gic town of Jisr al Shughur in north­west Syr­ia on Sat­ur­day, the sec­ond major set­back for the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad in Idlib province in a month.

    The loss of Jisr al Shugur all but clos­es the government’s land sup­ply routes to two major bases in the west of Idlib, Mas­tu­ma and Ari­ha, both of which are sur­round­ed by rebel forces and can now be sup­plied only by air. Rebels cap­tured the provin­cial cap­i­tal, Idlib city, on March 28.

    The lat­est rebel vic­to­ry came sur­pris­ing­ly quick­ly, appar­ent­ly aid­ed by U.S.-supplied TOW anti-tank mis­siles. Islamist groups announced the bat­tle only Wednes­day. The gov­ern­ment troops fled to the neigh­bor­ing provinces of Latakia and Hama.

    Gen. Ahmad Rah­hal, who defect­ed from the Syr­i­an army and now works with the mod­er­ate rebels, called it a strate­gic vic­to­ry for the anti-Assad forces that would strength­en their abil­i­ty to move their own sup­plies between three provinces – Idlib, Hama and Latakia. But he told McClatchy the forces “still have a lot of work to do” and not­ed the gov­ern­ment still has hun­dreds of troops in the two bases under siege.

    The pre­cise role of the mod­er­ate rebels and Nus­ra in the bat­tle was in dis­pute, though accounts of the fight­ing made clear that U.S.-supplied rebel groups had coor­di­nat­ed to some degree with Nus­ra, which U.S. offi­cials declared a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion more than two years ago.

    Sup­port­ers of the mod­er­ate rebels sought, how­ev­er, to dis­cred­it claims from the Lon­don-based Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry for Human Rights, which mon­i­tors fight­ing in Syr­ia, that Nus­ra had led the fight­ing and that it and Islamist groups were respon­si­ble for the city’s cap­ture.

    Muham­mad al Faisal, a reporter with the oppo­si­tion Ori­ent TV net­work, who is now in Jisr al Shughur, told McClatchy that many mod­er­ate rebel groups had tak­en part in the assault on the city, some­thing the Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry report did not note.

    Gen. Ahmad Berri, the deputy chief of staff of the pro-West­ern Free Syr­i­an Army, said half the fight­ers in the attack were affil­i­at­ed with the FSA. He said mod­er­ate rebels destroyed nine gov­ern­ment tanks. He also acknowl­edged that Nus­ra had deployed one sui­cide bomber and one car bomb in the fight­ing.

    Videos post­ed on social media showed that U.S.-supplied TOW mis­siles played a crit­i­cal role, destroy­ing dozens of gov­ern­ment tanks and vehi­cles. The oppo­si­tion run Masar News Net­work report­ed that rebel forces cap­tured dozens of regime troops as well as three tanks and three oth­er armored vehi­cles.

    Berri said the main fac­tor behind the vic­to­ry was sur­prise. The gov­ern­ment forces were expect­ing the attack to tar­get the town of Ari­ha from the east. Instead, the rebels, includ­ing fight­ers from the Islamist Ahrar al Sham group, opened the fight from the west and cut the sup­ply routes quick­ly.

    Gov­ern­ment forces with­drew to the west and south to Jourin and oth­er towns in the moun­tains of Latakia.

    The offi­cial SANA news agency post­ed a brief item about the fight­ing, say­ing that the army “is con­duct­ing heavy bat­tles against the ter­ror­ist groups” in Jisr al Shughur and is “rein­forc­ing its defen­sive lines around the city,” word­ing that sug­gest­ed it had retreat­ed.

    Masar Press, an oppo­si­tion news ser­vice, report­ed that rebels killed two regime tanks in the vil­lage of Al Qahera and bombed the town of Az Zyara with Grad mis­siles. Both towns are south of Jisr Al Shughur, attacks that may indi­cate the direc­tion of future bat­tles.

    The coop­er­a­tion between U.S.-supplied rebels and Nus­ra in the bat­tle could prove con­tro­ver­sial. The U.S. in recent months has sev­ered rela­tion­ships with some mod­er­ate rebel groups that had sur­ren­dered weapons to Nus­ra.

    Video post­ed on social media Sat­ur­day showed fight­ers from two major groups that still receive U.S. sup­port, Divi­sion 13 and the Sukur al Ghab Brigades, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the fight­ing, includ­ing fir­ing TOWs.

    Among the mod­er­ate rebel groups deployed, Berri said, were the The Coastal Divi­sion, Divi­sion 101, Divi­sion 13 and Sukur Al Ghab Brigades.

    Activists sym­pa­thet­ic to the mod­er­ate rebels said Ahrar al Sham, an Islamist group that also has links to al Qai­da but has not been des­ig­nat­ed a ter­ror­ist group, played a more impor­tant role than Nus­ra. Anoth­er group that took part in the fight­ing was the Rah­man Brigade, which is affil­i­at­ed with the Islamist Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 27, 2015, 6:08 pm
  26. Al-Nus­ra just told the world that is has orders not to plot attacks against the West. And no, it’s not a sign that world peace just broke out. Quite the oppo­site:

    BBC
    Al-Qae­da ‘orders Syr­i­a’s Al-Nus­ra Front not to attack West’

    5/28/2015

    Al-Qaeda’s affil­i­ate in Syr­ia has been ordered by the jihadist net­work not to use the coun­try to launch attacks on the West, the group’s leader has said.

    In an inter­view with Al Jazeera, Abu Mohammed al-Julani said al-Nus­ra Front was focused on cap­tur­ing Dam­as­cus and top­pling Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad.

    He also promised to pro­tect Syr­i­an minori­ties that dis­avowed Mr Assad.

    A rebel alliance includ­ing al-Nus­ra has been mak­ing gains in north-west­ern Syr­ia, cap­tur­ing the city of Idlib.

    Rebel fight­ers are now advanc­ing on the Mediter­ranean coastal province of Latakia, a strong­hold of the pres­i­dent and his het­ero­dox Shia Mus­lim Alaw­ite sect.

    ‘One mis­sion’

    The hour-long inter­view with Julani broad­cast on Wednes­day night was his sec­ond with Qatar-based Al Jazeera since 2013, when al-Nus­ra Front split from what is now Islam­ic State (IS).

    ...

    Julani said al-Nus­ra had been instruct­ed by the over­all leader of al-Qae­da, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to avoid­ing launch­ing attacks abroad that might jeop­ar­dise its oper­a­tions in Syr­ia.

    “We are only here to accom­plish one mis­sion, to fight the regime and its agents on the ground, includ­ing Hezbol­lah and oth­ers,” he stressed, refer­ring to the Lebanese Shia Islamist move­ment that is fight­ing along­side gov­ern­ment forces.
    The inter­view also sug­gest­ed a grow­ing split between Nus­ra and ISIS. Mr. al Golani con­demned “those who go to the extreme” and denounce non-devout Mus­lims as apostates—a con­cept embraced by many al Qae­da fol­low­ers.
    “Al-Nus­ra Front does­n’t have any plans or direc­tives to tar­get the West. We received clear orders not to use Syr­ia as a launch­ing pad to attack the US or Europe in order to not sab­o­tage the true mis­sion against the regime. Maybe al-Qae­da does that, but not here in Syr­ia.”

    The al-Nus­ra leader also denied claims by the US that it had a secret cell called the “Kho­rasan Group” that was tasked with plot­ting attacks out­side Syr­ia.

    “There is noth­ing called Kho­rasan group. The Amer­i­cans came up with it to deceive the pub­lic. They claim that this secret group was set up to tar­get the Amer­i­cans but this is not right.”

    The US-led coali­tion against Islam­ic State, to which al-Nus­ra is vio­lent­ly opposed, has bombed sev­er­al bases that US offi­cials say were used by the Kho­rasan group.

    “Our options are open when it comes to tar­get­ing the Amer­i­cans if they will con­tin­ue their attacks against us in Syr­ia. Every­one has the right to defend them­selves,” Julani warned.

    A US intel­li­gence offi­cial told the New York Times that Julani’s claims were “self-serv­ing pro­pa­gan­da”.

    Julani also vowed that al-Nus­ra would not harm mem­bers of Syr­i­a’s Chris­t­ian and Druze minori­ties who did not fight against it, and that Alaw­ites would be safe if they “drop their weapons, dis­avow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam”.

    “The bat­tle does not end in Qar­da­ha, the Alaw­ite vil­lage and the birth­place of the Assad clan,” he explained. “Our war is not a mat­ter of revenge against the Alaw­ites despite the fact that in Islam, they are con­sid­ered to be heretics.”

    The ene­my of my ene­my is my friend, even when the for­mer ene­my used to be my main ene­my (that I’ve spent over a dozen years pur­su­ing across the world) and the lat­ter ene­my is the main ene­my of anoth­er ene­my that’s now my main ene­my and a splin­ter group of the for­mer ene­my.

    World peace here we come!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 28, 2015, 3:07 pm
  27. One of the most pow­er­ful Sun­ni politi­cian in Iraq just made quite a con­tro­ver­sial asser­tion regard­ing the recent fall of Rama­di to ISIS: Iraq’s troops were ordered to leave:

    CNN
    Rama­di fell to ISIS because troops were ordered to leave, Iraq’s speak­er says

    By Nick Paton Walsh

    Updat­ed 9:51 AM ET, Mon June 1, 2015

    Bagh­dad, Iraq (CNN)Iraqi troops left the strate­gi­cal­ly vital city of Rama­di — allow­ing it to fall to ISIS — because of a direct order from their mil­i­tary com­man­ders of which Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Aba­di was not aware, accord­ing to the pow­er­ful Sun­ni speak­er of Iraq’s par­lia­ment.

    In an exclu­sive inter­view with CNN, Sal­im al-Jabouri, arguably the most pow­er­ful Sun­ni politi­cian in the coun­try, said Rama­di was aban­doned last month because of “a clear deci­sion to give the order to pull out — and after that Rama­di fell.”

    Al-Jabouri added: “Even the Prime Min­is­ter — the gen­er­al com­man­der of the armed forces — was not aware of the orders to pull out. This led to big ques­tions for us. Who has a direct inter­est in the army pulling out and not con­fronting ISIS?”

    Asked who gave that order, he replied: “In com­mand was the Gold­en Divi­sion, and after they with­drew, a col­lapse occurred, and ISIS con­trolled Rama­di.” He said it was unclear where the order to with­draw orig­i­nat­ed — whether the Gold­en Divi­sion was ordered to pull out by a high­er com­mand, or did so on its own. A par­lia­men­tary inves­ti­ga­tion is under way to estab­lish these facts, he added.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkaylan/2015/05/28/did-iraqs-army-genuinely-collapse-in-ramadi-and-mosul-what-really-happened/
    “There are a num­ber of answers that we need to con­firm in a real­is­tic form,” he said. “We fear that there are oth­er hands involved in this that played a role in mil­i­tary deci­sions.”

    ...

    Al-Jabouri echoed asser­tions by U.S. offi­cials that the Iraqi forces in the city were far from out­num­bered by ISIS. “The num­ber of ISIS fight­ers who entered Rama­di at the time of the fall was not large,” he said, “and I think morale played a huge role and it had an influ­ence.”

    Sec­tar­i­an ten­sions are high over the fall of Rama­di, with some crit­ics of the often pro-Shia Bagh­dad gov­ern­ment sug­gest­ing it was reluc­tant to arm the Sun­ni tribes fight­ing ISIS there as it mis­trusts them, but also reluc­tant to send ade­quate rein­force­ments to fight for a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Sun­ni area.

    Al-Jabouri said locals in Anbar province — like the Sun­ni tribes fight­ing there — should be the ones to lib­er­ate the province, but that pre­vi­ous cam­paigns in oth­er towns against ISIS had left a bit­ter taste for some Sun­nis. “The expe­ri­ences in Sala­hed­din, in Tikrit and al-Dor some­times play a dis­cour­ag­ing role. There is con­cern that it would be repeat­ed in Anbar, espe­cial­ly after the lib­er­a­tion oper­a­tions in those areas. We have to be care­ful. We must not think only of the lib­er­a­tion of an area but also about what comes after lib­er­a­tion. How do we estab­lish sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty?”

    Many will take that as a ref­er­ence to the con­duct of Shia fight­ing groups, whose human rights records are often ques­tioned and whom some Sun­nis fear.

    In the 48 hours before the inter­view, al-Jabouri met the U.S. coor­di­na­tor for the coali­tion against ISIS, Gen. John Allen, and he is expect­ed to trav­el to Wash­ing­ton soon. He appealed for more aid from the U.S., and said that airstrikes could inten­si­fy along with — if the U.S. was will­ing — boots on the ground.

    Well that’s inter­est­ing...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 1, 2015, 10:55 am
  28. The AKP just sig­nif­i­cant­ly under­per­formed expec­ta­tions in Turkey’s elec­tions yes­ter­day, strik­ing a sig­nif­i­cant blow to Erodogan’s many grand ambi­tions, includ­ing a con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­er grab. And as the arti­cle below points out, that just might include his ambi­tions in redraw­ing the Mid­dle East and over­throw­ing Assad, some­thing that has­n’t been par­tic­u­lar­ly pop­u­lar in Turkey. So who knows what could to the Turkey-to-Syr­ia route for wannabe ISIS mem­bers now that the geopo­lit­i­cal incen­tives to keep­ing that route open-ish hav­ing sud­den­ly become a lot murki­er:

    The New York Times
    Erdogan’s Gov­ern­ing Par­ty in Turkey Los­es Par­lia­men­tary Major­i­ty

    By TIM ARANGO and CEYLAN YEGINSU
    JUNE 7, 2015

    ISTANBUL — Turk­ish vot­ers deliv­ered a rebuke on Sun­day to Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan as his par­ty lost its major­i­ty in Par­lia­ment in a his­toric elec­tion that thwart­ed his ambi­tion to rewrite Turkey’s Con­sti­tu­tion and fur­ther bol­ster his clout.

    The results rep­re­sent­ed a sig­nif­i­cant set­back for Mr. Erdo­gan, an Islamist who has steadi­ly increased his pow­er since being elect­ed last year as pres­i­dent, a part­ly but not sole­ly cer­e­mo­ni­al post. The prime min­is­ter for more than a decade before that, Mr. Erdo­gan has pushed for more con­trol of the judi­cia­ry and cracked down on any form of crit­i­cism, includ­ing pros­e­cut­ing those who insult him on social media, but his efforts appeared to have run aground on Sun­day.

    The vote was also a sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ry to the cadre of Kurds, lib­er­als and sec­u­lar Turks who found their voice of oppo­si­tion to Mr. Erdo­gan dur­ing sweep­ing antigov­ern­ment protests two years ago. For the first time, the Kur­dish slate crossed a 10 per­cent thresh­old required to enter Par­lia­ment.

    Mr. Erdogan’s Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty, or A.K.P., still won the most seats by far, but not a major­i­ty, accord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary results released Sun­day night. The out­come sug­gests con­tentious days of jock­ey­ing ahead as the par­ty moves to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. Already, ana­lysts were rais­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty Sun­day of new elec­tions if a gov­ern­ment can­not be formed swift­ly. Many Turks were hap­py to see Mr. Erdogan’s pow­ers cur­tailed, even though the prospect of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment evokes dark mem­o­ries of polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty and eco­nom­ic malaise dur­ing the 1990s.

    With 99 per­cent of the votes count­ed, the A.K.P. had won 41 per­cent of the vote, accord­ing to TRT, a state-run broad­cast­er, down from near­ly 50 per­cent dur­ing the last nation­al elec­tion in 2011. The per­cent­age gave it an esti­mat­ed 258 seats in Turkey’s Par­lia­ment, com­pared with the 327 seats it has now.

    “The out­come is an end to Erdogan’s pres­i­den­tial ambi­tions,” said Son­er Cagap­tay, an expert on Turkey and a fel­low at the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­i­cy.

    Almost imme­di­ate­ly, the results raised ques­tions about the polit­i­cal future of Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu, who moved to that posi­tion from that of for­eign min­is­ter last year and was seen as a loy­al sub­or­di­nate of Mr. Erdo­gan.

    Speak­ing Sun­day night from a bal­cony at the par­ty head­quar­ters in Ankara, Mr. Davu­to­glu struck notes of tri­umph and opti­mism, tout­ing his par­ty as the win­ner because it won the most seats, with­out men­tion­ing the loss of its major­i­ty.

    “The elec­tions once again showed that the A.K. Par­ty is the back­bone of Turkey,” he said.

    Mr. Erdo­gan, who as pres­i­dent was not on the bal­lot Sun­day, will prob­a­bly remain Turkey’s dom­i­nant polit­i­cal fig­ure even if his ambi­tions have been cur­tailed, giv­en his out­size per­son­al­i­ty and his still-deep well of sup­port among Turkey’s reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives, who form the back­bone of his con­stituen­cy. But even among those sup­port­ers, includ­ing ones in Kasim­pasa, the Istan­bul neigh­bor­hood where Mr. Erdo­gan spent part of his youth, there are signs that his pop­u­lar­i­ty is flag­ging.

    “A lot of peo­ple in Kasim­pasa have become dis­heart­ened by Erdogan’s aggres­sive approach in recent weeks,” said Aydin, 77, who gave only his first name because some of his fam­i­ly mem­bers are close to Mr. Erdo­gan. “I vot­ed for the A.K.P. because it has become habit, but I think Erdo­gan lost votes this week.”

    Turnout was 86 per­cent for the elec­tions, which were seen as a ref­er­en­dum on Mr. Erdogan’s tenure, espe­cial­ly his plan for a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem that would have giv­en him more pow­er. Polling had con­sis­tent­ly shown that the major­i­ty of Turks are opposed to the change.

    By law, Mr. Erdo­gan can call for new elec­tions after 45 days if a coali­tion is not formed, and the polit­i­cal uncer­tain­ty sent Turkey’s cur­ren­cy, the lira, to a record low against the dol­lar in after-hours trad­ing.

    The vote turned on the his­toric per­for­mance at the bal­lot box of Turkey’s Kur­dish minor­i­ty, which aligned with lib­er­als and sec­u­lar Turks opposed to Mr. Erdogan’s lead­er­ship to win almost 13 per­cent of the vote, pass­ing the legal thresh­old for earn­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Par­lia­ment.

    Sela­hat­tin Demir­tas, 42, a for­mer human rights lawyer who leads the large­ly Kur­dish People’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, told reporters Sun­day night: “As of this hour, the debate about the pres­i­den­cy, the debate about dic­ta­tor­ship, is over. Turkey nar­row­ly avert­ed a dis­as­ter.”

    The People’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, known as H.D.P., was able to broad­en its base by field­ing a slate of can­di­dates that includ­ed women, gays and oth­er minori­ties and appealed to vot­ers whose goal was to cur­tail Mr. Erdogan’s pow­ers.

    “I vot­ed for H.D.P. because it’s the only par­ty that can break up Erdogan’s bid for absolute pow­er,” said Selen Olcay, 47, a fit­ness instruc­tor who vot­ed in Istanbul’s Sariy­er Dis­trict. “In this elec­tion a lot of Turks aban­doned their ide­o­log­i­cal pref­er­ences and vot­ed strate­gi­cal­ly to derail Erdogan’s one-man rule.”

    The Kur­dish par­ty opt­ed to run a uni­fied slate, rather than field inde­pen­dent can­di­dates as it had in the past. But it was a big risk: either it would reach the 10 per­cent thresh­old and enter Par­lia­ment, or it would be shut out, and its seats would have gone to the A.K.P.

    In the city of Diyarbakir, in the Kur­dish heart­land in the south­east, cel­e­bra­tions broke out as peo­ple flood­ed the streets, danc­ing and set­ting off fire­works.

    In Istan­bul, Kurds saw the elec­tion as the cul­mi­na­tion of decades of strug­gle, some of it waged vio­lent­ly by the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Par­ty, or P.K.K., which has fought an insur­gency from a base in north­ern Iraq for more polit­i­cal rights. In recent years Mr. Erdogan’s gov­ern­ment had entered peace talks with the Kurds and vio­lence ebbed, and Sunday’s vote raised hopes for a final deal.

    ...

    The Repub­li­can People’s Par­ty, the main sec­u­lar oppo­si­tion par­ty, came in sec­ond with 25 per­cent of the vote, but it was the Kurds whose surge posi­tioned them as king­mak­ers in the next Par­lia­ment. It also high­light­ed the evo­lu­tion of the Kur­dish move­ment, from the bat­tle­fields of the south­east, where a bloody insur­gency raged for near­ly 30 years, to the halls of pow­er in Ankara, the cap­i­tal.

    Even as days of polit­i­cal bar­gain­ing lie ahead, the elec­tions capped a two-year peri­od of seis­mic shifts in Turk­ish pol­i­tics. Wide­spread antigov­ern­ment protests in 2013, set off by plans to raze an Istan­bul park and replace it with a mall, laid bare the grow­ing resent­ments among lib­er­al and sec­u­lar Turks toward the gov­ern­ing par­ty. Then, a cor­rup­tion scan­dal threat­ened to engulf Mr. Erdo­gan and his gov­ern­ment. Mr. Erdo­gan sur­vived by tar­get­ing the fol­low­ers of his erst­while ally, the Mus­lim cler­ic Fethul­lah Gulen, who over the years had tak­en posi­tions in the judi­cia­ry and the police and were accused of orches­trat­ing a graft inquiry.

    Turkey has felt strains in oth­er are­nas. It has tak­en in near­ly two mil­lion Syr­i­ans, who have been a bur­den on ser­vices and exac­er­bat­ed ten­sions in bor­der regions, espe­cial­ly as the econ­o­my has slowed. In the wake of the Arab Spring, Turkey pur­sued an Islamist agen­da in the region, sup­port­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt, whose pres­i­dent was deposed by the mil­i­tary. Its pol­i­cy in Syr­ia of push­ing for the ouster of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad has been unpop­u­lar in Turkey, and Mr. Assad, four years lat­er, is still in pow­er.

    The dimin­ished pow­er of Mr. Erdogan’s par­ty is like­ly to rein in Turkey’s ambi­tions to shape events in the Mid­dle East, an activist for­eign pol­i­cy that has been con­tro­ver­sial among polit­i­cal oppo­nents and the pub­lic.

    “Turkey’s for­eign pol­i­cy will be less dri­ven by the A.K.P.’s ambi­tions, which is basi­cal­ly dri­ven by a for­eign pol­i­cy vision to make Turkey a region­al play­er at any cost,” Mr. Cagap­tay said, sug­gest­ing it had sup­port­ed var­i­ous Syr­i­an fac­tions oppos­ing the Assad gov­ern­ment and some­times turned a blind eye to fight­ers cross­ing into Syr­ia to join the Islam­ic State.

    He added: “The out­come of the elec­tion will take Turkey’s anti-Assad pol­i­cy down a notch. The gov­ern­ment will not be able to dri­ve its agen­da sin­gle-hand­ed­ly any­more.”

    Turkey, a mem­ber of NATO, has seen its rela­tions with its West­ern allies dete­ri­o­rate, main­ly over Syr­ia and the fight against the Islam­ic State, the mil­i­tant group that con­trols vast areas of Iraq and Syr­ia. An Amer­i­can-led coali­tion has been car­ry­ing out an air cam­paign against the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, for near­ly a year, but West­ern offi­cials com­plain that Turkey has not done enough, such as allow­ing its air bases to be used for bomb­ing runs. Crit­ics also part­ly blame Turkey for the rise of the Islam­ic State for its ear­ly sup­port of Islamist groups in Syr­ia.

    The elec­tion was defined by bit­ter par­ti­san­ship, with oppo­nents crit­i­ciz­ing Mr. Erdo­gan for his accu­mu­la­tion of pow­ers, his bash­ing of the news media and his lav­ish new offi­cial res­i­dence, which Mr. Erdo­gan jus­ti­fied by say­ing his pre­vi­ous res­i­dence was infest­ed with cock­roach­es. The cam­paign was also marred by vio­lence, includ­ing a bomb­ing last week at a Kur­dish polit­i­cal ral­ly that left two peo­ple dead.

    ...

    Whoops.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 8, 2015, 10:54 am
  29. Turkey has a bit of an ‘the ene­my of my ene­my is still my ene­my’ sit­u­a­tion devel­op­ing:
    Fol­low­ing the bomb­ing by ISIS of Suruc, a Turk­ish bor­der town that neigh­bors the Kur­dish Syr­i­an town of Kobani, Turkey has begun bomb­ing ISIS tar­gets in Syr­ia. Some­what more con­tro­ver­sial­ly, Turkey has also start­ed bomb­ing the Syr­i­an Kurds too. Bombs for every­one:

    Reuters

    UPDATE 3‑Turkey’s Erdo­gan: peace process with Kur­dish mil­i­tants impos­si­ble

    * Turk­ish jets began bomb­ing PKK camps last week

    * Oper­a­tion parts of wider “ter­ror­ist” crack­down

    * Kur­dish par­ty sees bid to elim­i­nate it

    * West­ern allies keen to avoid col­lapse of peace process (Adds AK Par­ty spokesman)

    By Tulay Karad­eniz

    Tue Jul 28, 2015 7:22pm IST

    ANKARA, July 28 (Reuters) — Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan said on Tues­day it was impos­si­ble to con­tin­ue a peace process with Kur­dish mil­i­tants and urged par­lia­ment to strip politi­cians with links to them of immu­ni­ty from pros­e­cu­tion.

    His com­ments come days after the Turk­ish air force bombed camps in north­ern Iraq belong­ing to the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Par­ty (PKK), fol­low­ing a series of attacks on police offi­cers and sol­diers in Turkey blamed on the Kur­dish mil­i­tant group.

    The PKK said the air strikes, launched vir­tu­al­ly in par­al­lel with strikes against Islam­ic State fight­ers in Syr­ia, ren­dered the peace process mean­ing­less but stopped short of for­mal­ly pulling out.

    “It is not pos­si­ble for us to con­tin­ue the peace process with those who threat­en our nation­al uni­ty and broth­er­hood,” Erdo­gan told a news con­fer­ence in Ankara before depart­ing on an offi­cial vis­it to Chi­na.

    West­ern allies have said they recog­nise Turkey’s right to self-defence but have urged the NATO mem­ber not to allow peace efforts with the PKK to col­lapse. While deem­ing the PKK a ter­ror­ist organ­i­sa­tion, Wash­ing­ton depends heav­i­ly on allied Syr­i­an Kur­dish fight­ers in bat­tling Islam­ic State in Syr­ia.

    An emer­gency NATO meet­ing in Brus­sels on Tues­day offered polit­i­cal sup­port for Turkey’s cam­paigns in Syr­ia and Iraq, and Erdo­gan sig­nalled Turkey may have a “duty” to become more involved.

    For NATO allies, the prospect of Turkey, which bor­ders Iran, Iraq and Syr­ia, fight­ing a domes­tic con­flict against Kur­dish as well as Islamist fight­ers is a deep con­cern. But for many in Turkey, Kur­dish rebel­lion remains the pri­ma­ry nation­al threat.

    Besir Ata­lay, spokesman for the rul­ing AK Par­ty, said it was too soon to declare the peace process over and said it could resume if “ter­ror­ist ele­ments” put down arms and left Turkey.

    “There is cur­rent­ly a stag­na­tion in the mech­a­nism but it would restart where it left off if these inten­tions emerge,” he told a press con­fer­ence in Ankara.

    POLITICAL GAMBLE

    Brav­ing nation­al­ist anger, Erdo­gan intro­duced ten­ta­tive reforms on Kur­dish rights and in 2012 launched nego­ti­a­tions to try to end a PKK insur­gency that has killed 40,000 peo­ple since 1984. A frag­ile cease­fire had been hold­ing since March 2013.

    How­ev­er, any cal­cu­la­tion Erdo­gan may have had that his polit­i­cal gam­ble would reap broad elec­toral sup­port from Kurds, some 20 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, demon­stra­bly failed.

    The pro-Kur­dish HDP par­ty won 13 per­cent of the vote in a June 7 poll, help­ing to deprive the AKP Erdo­gan found­ed of a major­i­ty in par­lia­ment for the first time since 2002.

    Many Kurds believe that by reviv­ing con­flict with the PKK, Erdo­gan seeks to under­mine sup­port for the HDP ahead of a pos­si­ble ear­ly elec­tion. That poll — so runs the argu­ment — could then pro­vide him with the major­i­ty he seeks to change the con­sti­tu­tion and increase his pow­ers.

    Turkey has shut down almost all Kur­dish polit­i­cal par­ties over the years. Erdo­gan, who wants the AKP to win back a major­i­ty and has recent­ly accused the HDP of links to the PKK, said he opposed par­ty clo­sures, but urged par­lia­ment to lift the immu­ni­ty of politi­cians with links to “ter­ror­ist groups”.

    “We have com­mit­ted no unfor­giv­able crimes. Our only crime was win­ning 13 per­cent of vote,” HDP chair­man Sela­hat­tin Demir­tas told par­ty mem­bers in par­lia­ment.

    “The only way for the AKP to be in gov­ern­ment on its own is if the HDP is liq­ui­dat­ed. Tomor­row the HDP’s 80 law­mak­ers will sub­mit a request for immu­ni­ty to be lift­ed,” he said, effec­tive­ly chal­leng­ing par­lia­ment to ful­fil Erdo­gan’s threat.

    SEEKING LEGITIMACY

    Cast­ing the oper­a­tions as a war on ter­ror­ist groups “with­out dis­tinc­tion”, Turkey opened its air bases to the U.S.-led coali­tion against Islam­ic State and launched air strikes against the jihadists in Syr­ia and the PKK in north­ern Iraq last week. It has since been ral­ly­ing inter­na­tion­al sup­port.

    “No steps back will be tak­en in our fight against ter­ror­ism. This is a process and it will con­tin­ue with the same deter­mi­na­tion,” Erdo­gan said, after phone calls overnight with French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, the king of Sau­di Ara­bia and the emir of Qatar.

    Pres­i­den­tial sources said all three lead­ers had expressed their sup­port.

    But West­ern allies are also con­cerned that Erdo­gan should not aban­don sev­er­al years of work on a peace process with the PKK, which has entailed giv­ing Kurds more cul­tur­al rights with the prospect, over time, of greater auton­o­my in the south­east­ern regions where they con­sti­tute a major­i­ty.

    “Dan­ger­ous rhetorics in Turkey against HDP, which won 6 mil­lion votes in last elec­tions. Time to face that real­i­ty,” the Euro­pean par­lia­men­t’s Turkey rap­por­teur Kati Piri wrote on Twit­ter.

    Some Kur­dish activists have accused Erdo­gan of delib­er­ate­ly refrain­ing from action in the past against Islam­ic State, see­ing them as a counter-weight to Kur­dish fight­ers. Such a pol­i­cy, they say, led direct­ly to last week’s sui­cide bomb­ing in south­east Turkey that killed 32 and has been blamed on the Islamist mil­i­tant group.

    Turk­ish offi­cials deny this and also reject the notion that the action against the PKK is moti­vat­ed by domes­tic pol­i­tics, point­ing to a series of mil­i­tant attacks on the secu­ri­ty forces in recent weeks.

    On Mon­day, a gen­darmerie major in the east­ern province of Mus died after being shot by sus­pect­ed PKK mil­i­tants, while in the near­by province of Van a mil­i­tary unit came under fire.

    ...

    “Some Kur­dish activists have accused Erdo­gan of delib­er­ate­ly refrain­ing from action in the past against Islam­ic State, see­ing them as a counter-weight to Kur­dish fight­ers. Such a pol­i­cy, they say, led direct­ly to last week’s sui­cide bomb­ing in south­east Turkey that killed 32 and has been blamed on the Islamist mil­i­tant group.” You don’t say...

    And in relat­ed news, in addi­tion to Turkey’s new par­al­lel bomb­ing cam­paigns, the US and Turkey appear to be on the verge of cre­at­ing a ISIS-free “buffer zone” along the Syrian/Turkish bor­der where refugees can flee from the con­flict areas and rebels can flee for more weapons and sup­plies that they’re plan­ning on direct at the Assad regime first. So while it be an ISIS-free buffer zone, it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly going to be an anti-ISIS buffer zone:

    Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times
    How Turkey Bor­der Zone Could Help Syr­i­an Rebels Obtain Weapons, Cash To Fight Assad
    By Erin Ban­co
    on July 28 2015 11:19 AM EDT

    Rebels in Syr­ia are count­ing their stock­piles of ammu­ni­tion, weapons and tanks in the north­ern city of Alep­po, the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest city and one of the largest bat­tle­grounds in the fight against the Islam­ic State group and Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad’s forces. As usu­al, the rebels are run­ning low this month on sup­plies need­ed to defeat their ene­mies. Even for some of the strongest and best-con­nect­ed units in north­ern Syr­ia, find­ing and obtain­ing sim­ple resources like bul­lets and Kalash­nikovs can take weeks.

    .That could all change in the com­ing days when the Unit­ed States and its NATO allies move for­ward with a pro­posed offen­sive to cre­ate a “safe zone” aimed at push­ing back Islam­ic State group mil­i­tants from the Syr­i­an-Turk­ish bor­der. For rebel groups, the promised cam­paign rep­re­sents an unprece­dent­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to obtain much need­ed-cash and weapons. But for the U.S. and Turkey, the coun­tries spear­head­ing the oper­a­tion, there is a risk that the weapons they sup­ply will end up in the hands of rebels who have a dif­fer­ent goal — fight­ing Assad first, not ISIS.

    Under the plan, Turk­ish troops and Syr­i­an rebel fight­ers are to clear a 60-mile strip of land along the bor­der to cre­ate a haven for Syr­i­an refugees, who have flood­ed Turkey’s bor­ders dur­ing the four-year civ­il war. The U.S. and Turkey will rely on rebels on the ground to secure the buffer zone. The rebels are sup­posed to get reg­u­lar ship­ments of ammu­ni­tion and heavy weapon­ry to ensure that the Sun­ni mil­i­tants known as ISIS stay out of the area.

    That process, though, could go awry quick­ly. The rebels receiv­ing the arms for secur­ing the buffer zone will under­go no for­mal train­ing and will not be bound to any offi­cial or bind­ing agree­ment with the U.S. and Turkey. Rebels in Alep­po say that while they are will­ing to join the buffer zone mon­i­tor­ing force, they ful­ly intend on using the weapons they receive from the U.S. and Turkey for their fight against Assad first and fore­most, before the fight against ISIS.

    “This is what we have been ask­ing for for years. This is what we want­ed,” a mem­ber of one of the largest rebel umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tions in the coun­try said on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. “We have been ask­ing for weapons for years, and we final­ly have a good chance of get­ting them.”

    Tak­ing out Assad is not an imme­di­ate con­cern for the U.S. It wants to defeat ISIS first. Turkey, on the oth­er hand, sup­ports the rebel groups that see Assad as the real ene­my.

    In recent years, Turkey has fund­ed groups like Ahrar al-Sham, a Sun­ni Mus­lim extrem­ist group with ties to al Qae­da, and has pushed for the oust­ing of Assad before ISIS. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has also tak­en part in the ship­ment of arms to rebels in Syr­ia, Reuters report­ed ear­li­er this year.

    In con­trast, the U.S. has reject­ed coop­er­a­tion with Ahrar al-Sham and oth­er extrem­ists, instead pre­fer­ring to work with so-called “mod­er­ate rebels.” The U.S. has also pro­mot­ed an ISIS-first strat­e­gy, which has angered some rebels who argue that Assad is the true ene­my and must be tak­en out of pow­er before the Islam­ic State can be top­pled.

    Rebel groups in Syr­ia, espe­cial­ly in the north, are split in their alle­giances to Turkey and the U.S., and find­ing a rebel force with a com­mon ide­ol­o­gy and strat­e­gy to car­ry out the mon­i­tor­ing of the buffer zone will be dif­fi­cult, rebels in Alep­po told Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times Mon­day. The weapons, they said, will end up falling into the hands of groups that have dif­fer­ent ide­olo­gies and ulti­mate goals.

    While many rebel lead­ers used to fall under one umbrel­la group, the Free Syr­i­an Army, they have recent­ly split and are now duk­ing it out for land and pow­er. There are the hard­line Islamist fight­ers with known bat­tle­field strength, but an extrem­ist Mus­lim ide­ol­o­gy. Then there’s the more mod­er­ate groups known for their pop­u­lar­i­ty among the peo­ple of Alep­po, who while still devout­ly Mus­lim, do not want the imple­men­ta­tion of Shari­ah law in the post-war era.

    In an effort to get the U.S. weapons for the buffer zone mis­sion, extrem­ist fight­ers who make up Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main Islamist rebel groups, say they have tried to pro­mote them­selves as a more mod­er­ate orga­ni­za­tion, one will­ing to work with oth­er groups toward a peace process. But in the end, they say, the weapons they receive will be used for one goal.

    “Ahrar al-Sham wants to see the end to Assad’s reign,” wrote Labib Al Nah­has, for­eign affairs direc­tor for Ahrar al-Sham, in the Tele­graph this week. “Assad and his cabal of mur­der­ous gen­er­als must go.”

    Al Nah­has also warned the U.S. against attempt­ing to bring West­ern val­ues to Syr­ia. “Polit­i­cal sys­tems and mod­els of gov­ern­ment can­not be import­ed into the Mid­dle East and expect­ed to flour­ish where his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ences, polit­i­cal cul­tures and social struc­tures are so rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent. There needs to be a major role for reli­gion and local cus­tom in any polit­i­cal arrange­ment that emerges,” he said.

    Oth­er rebel lead­ers, includ­ing some who were once trained and giv­en weapons under a CIA covert oper­a­tion against Assad in 2013, have called the safe zone oper­a­tion a “sham.” In the spring of 2013, the U.S. select­ed groups with­in the Free Syr­i­an Army for a pro­gram that allowed for the trans­fer of U.S.-made weapons to Turkey via oth­er coun­tries’ air­craft.

    One senior rebel leader in Idlib, a major rebel strong­hold in the south­west of Alep­po, insist­ed the West had failed them before and “will fail us again.” The Unit­ed States is “sit­ting on its heels” in seri­ous­ly attack­ing Assad because it does not want to engage in armed con­flict with the dic­ta­tor’s allies, Iran and Rus­sia, he added.

    Still, the appeal of help­ing the Unit­ed States and Turkey fight ISIS is clear to many rebel lead­ers, who expect the offen­sive to bring in loads of cash and weapons, resources they have need­ed des­per­ate­ly amid a four-year bat­tle to unseat Assad.

    ...

    “In recent years, Turkey has fund­ed groups like Ahrar al-Sham, a Sun­ni Mus­lim extrem­ist group with ties to al Qae­da, and has pushed for the oust­ing of Assad before ISIS.”
    So it sounds like the al Qae­da off­shoot which Turkey backs, Ahrar al-Sham, is pret­ty excit­ed about the ‘buffer zone/weapons for rebels’ idea, although the “mod­er­ate” rebels aren’t exact­ly brim­ming with con­fi­dence. And it’s not even clear how con­cerned ISIS should be about the plan since it sounds like those weapons are just going to be used against the Assad regime, one of ISIS’s pri­ma­ry ene­mies.

    Still, the odds of the gov­ern­ment-con­trolled regions of Syr­ia falling into the hands of the hard core vio­lent Islamists like Ahrar al-Sham have just become much, much high­er and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of two Islamist rad­i­cal regimes con­trol­ling Syr­ia rais­es a rather omi­nous ques­tion: If the West­ern half of Syr­ia becomes a new al Qaea­da-run regime, and the East­ern half remains under the con­trol of ISIS, would those sides real­ly fight each oth­er at that point? Real­ly?

    Would­n’t they just team up and kill off all the non-Sun­ni rad­i­cals first? It seems very pos­si­ble. And very pos­si­bly the plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 28, 2015, 2:05 pm
  30. Here’s an indi­ca­tion of a how hard it’s going to be to get Turkey to stop help­ing ISIS despite the fact that it’s increas­ing­ly obvi­ous to the world that Turkey is inten­tion­al­ly help­ing ISIS (includ­ing evi­dence of exact­ly that col­lu­sion obtained in a recent raid):
    The black mar­ket that’s sprout­ed up around the unof­fi­cial­ly sanc­tioned trade with ISIS, espe­cial­ly the oil mar­ket, and the flow porous bor­ders that turned Turkey into a key entry point for ISIS fight­ers has result­ed in a sub­stan­tial ISIS pres­ence in the Turkey. And that means it may not be so easy for Turkey to crack down on ISIS’s oper­a­tions in Turkey even if it want­ed to.

    In oth­er words, the vil­lagers are pissed about Dr. Frankestein’s mon­ster trash­ing the place and mur­der­ing peo­ple. Now Dr. Franken­stein needs to dis­ci­pline his mon­ster whether he wants to or not. And it’s not at all clear how the mon­ster will react:

    Busi­ness Insid­er
    Senior West­ern offi­cial: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now ‘unde­ni­able’

    Natasha Bertrand

    Jul. 28, 2015, 3:57 PM

    A US-led raid on the com­pound hous­ing the Islam­ic State’s “chief finan­cial offi­cer” pro­duced evi­dence that Turk­ish offi­cials direct­ly dealt with rank­ing ISIS mem­bers, Mar­tin Chulov of the Guardian report­ed recent­ly.

    The offi­cer killed in the raid, Islam­ic State offi­cial Abu Sayyaf, was respon­si­ble for direct­ing the ter­ror army’s oil and gas oper­a­tions in Syr­ia. The Islam­ic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) earns up to $10 mil­lion a month sell­ing oil on black mar­kets.

    Doc­u­ments and flash dri­ves seized dur­ing the Sayyaf raid report­ed­ly revealed links “so clear” and “unde­ni­able” between Turkey and ISIS “that they could end up hav­ing pro­found pol­i­cy impli­ca­tions for the rela­tion­ship between us and Ankara,” senior West­ern offi­cial famil­iar with the cap­tured intel­li­gence told the Guardian.

    NATO mem­ber Turkey has long been accused by experts, Kurds, and even Joe Biden of enabling ISIS by turn­ing a blind eye to the vast smug­gling net­works of weapons and fight­ers dur­ing the ongo­ing Syr­i­an war.

    The move by the rul­ing AKP par­ty was appar­ent­ly part of ongo­ing attempts to trig­ger the down­fall of Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad’s regime.

    Ankara offi­cial­ly end­ed its loose bor­der pol­i­cy last year, but not before its south­ern fron­tier became a tran­sit point for cheap oil, weapons, for­eign fight­ers, and pil­laged antiq­ui­ties.

    In Novem­ber, a for­mer ISIS mem­ber told Newsweek that the group was essen­tial­ly giv­en free rein by Turkey’s army.

    “ISIS com­man­ders told us to fear noth­ing at all because there was full coop­er­a­tion with the Turks,” the fight­er said. “ISIS saw the Turk­ish army as its ally espe­cial­ly when it came to attack­ing the Kurds in Syr­ia.”

    But as the alleged arrange­ments pro­gressed, Turkey allowed the group to estab­lish a major pres­ence with­in the coun­try — and cre­at­ed a huge prob­lem for itself.

    “The longer this has per­sist­ed, the more dif­fi­cult it has become for the Turks to crack down [on ISIS] because there is the risk of a counter strike, of blow­back,” Jonathan Schanz­er, a for­mer coun­tert­er­ror­ism ana­lyst for the US Trea­sury Depart­ment, explained to Busi­ness Insid­er in Novem­ber.

    “You have a lot of peo­ple now that are invest­ed in the busi­ness of extrem­ism in Turkey,” Schanz­er added. “If you start to chal­lenge that, it rais­es sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions of whether” the mil­i­tants, their bene­fac­tors, and oth­er war prof­i­teers would tol­er­ate the crack­down.”

    A West­ern diplo­mat, speak­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal in Feb­ru­ary, expressed a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment: “Turkey is trapped now — it cre­at­ed a mon­ster and doesn’t know how to deal with it.”

    Ankara had begun to address the prob­lem in earnest — arrest­ing 500 sus­pect­ed extrem­ists over the past six months as they crossed the bor­der and raid­ing the homes of oth­ers — when an ISIS-affil­i­at­ed sui­cide bomber killed 32 activists in Turkey’s south­east on July 20.

    ...

    “This isn’t an over­haul of their think­ing,” a West­ern offi­cial in Ankara told the Guardian. “It’s more a reac­tion to what they’ve been con­front­ed with by the Amer­i­cans and oth­ers. There is at least a recog­ni­tion now that ISIS isn’t lever­age against Assad. They have to be dealt with.”

    “This isn’t an over­haul of their thinking...It’s more a reac­tion to what they’ve been con­front­ed with by the Amer­i­cans and oth­ers. There is at least a recog­ni­tion now that ISIS isn’t lever­age against Assad. They have to be dealt with.”
    So Dr. Franken­stein is final­ly being forced to have a very unpleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion with his mon­ster about now mur­der­ing peo­ple. One won­ders how that’s going to go. Hope­ful­ly it will be more uplift­ing and edu­ca­tion­al than their pri­or pow wows.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 28, 2015, 6:02 pm
  31. And now we have an “the ene­my of my ene­my is still my ene­my but maybe we can be friends...for now...never mind” sit­u­a­tion devel­op­ing in Syr­i­an: Al Nus­ra Front, the al Qae­da affil­i­ate that’s gen­er­al­ly viewed on as the most mil­i­tar­i­ly capa­ble of the non-ISIS insur­gent groups, just waged a full assault on Divi­sion 30, the CIA-backed group of sec­u­lar-lean­ing rebels, a day after kid­nap­ping mem­bers of the group’s lead­er­ship. Al Nus­ra claims they did this to pre­vent the US from gain­ing a foothold in the area but also because, for al Nus­ra and most of the oth­er rebel groups, tak­ing out Assad’s regime is actu­al­ly the top pri­or­i­ty. And pret­ty much none of those oth­er groups came to help when Divi­sion 30 request­ed assis­tance dur­ing the attack.

    So, at this point, it’s look­ing like al Qae­da is basi­cal­ly lead­ing the Syr­i­an insur­gency, and lead­ing it away from attack­ing ISIS:

    The New York Times
    Rivals of ISIS Attack U.S.-Backed Syr­i­an Rebel Group

    By ANNE BARNARD and ERIC SCHMITTJULY 31, 2015

    BAGHDAD — A Syr­i­an insur­gent group at the heart of the Pentagon’s effort to fight the Islam­ic State came under intense attack on Fri­day from a dif­fer­ent hard-line Islamist fac­tion, a seri­ous blow to the Oba­ma administration’s plans to cre­ate a reli­able mil­i­tary force inside Syr­ia.

    The Amer­i­can-led coali­tion respond­ed with airstrikes to help the Amer­i­can-aligned unit, known as Divi­sion 30, in fight­ing off the assault, accord­ing to an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary spokesman and com­bat­ants on both sides. The strikes were the first known use of coali­tion air pow­er in direct bat­tle­field sup­port of fight­ers in Syr­ia who were trained by the Pen­ta­gon.

    The attack on Fri­day was mount­ed by the Nus­ra Front, which is affil­i­at­ed with Al Qae­da. It came a day after the Nus­ra Front cap­tured two lead­ers and at least six fight­ers of Divi­sion 30, which sup­plied the first trainees to grad­u­ate from the Pentagon’s anti-Islam­ic State train­ing pro­gram.

    In Wash­ing­ton, sev­er­al cur­rent and for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials acknowl­edged that the attack and the abduc­tions by the Nus­ra Front took Amer­i­can offi­cials by sur­prise and amount­ed to a sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence fail­ure.

    While Amer­i­can mil­i­tary train­ers had gone to great lengths to pro­tect the ini­tial group of trainees from attacks by Islam­ic State or Syr­i­an Army forces, they did not antic­i­pate an assault from the Nus­ra Front. In fact, offi­cials said on Fri­day, they expect­ed the Nus­ra Front to wel­come Divi­sion 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islam­ic State.

    “This wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen like this,” said one for­mer senior Amer­i­can offi­cial, who was work­ing close­ly on Syr­ia issues until recent­ly, and who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss con­fi­den­tial intel­li­gence assess­ments.

    The Nus­ra Front said in a state­ment on Fri­day that its aim was to elim­i­nate Divi­sion 30 before it could gain a deep­er foothold in Syr­ia. The Nus­ra Front did much the same last year when it smashed the main groups that had been trained and equipped in a dif­fer­ent Amer­i­can effort, one run covert­ly by the C.I.A.

    A spokesman for the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary, Col. Patrick S. Ryder, wrote in an email state­ment that “we are con­fi­dent that this attack will not deter Syr­i­ans from join­ing the pro­gram to fight for Syr­ia,” and added that the pro­gram “is mak­ing progress.”

    Divi­sion 30’s lead­ers expect­ed to play a role in an ambi­tious new joint push by the Unit­ed States and Turkey to help less rad­i­cal Syr­i­an insur­gent groups seize ter­ri­to­ry from the fun­da­men­tal­ist mil­i­tant fight­ers of the Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

    But the unit had no known plans to fight the Nus­ra Front, and the attacks on Thurs­day and Fri­day seemed to catch the unit off guard. Though the Nus­ra Front is allied with Al Qae­da, it is seen by many insur­gents in Syr­ia as prefer­able to the Islam­ic State, and it some­times coop­er­ates with oth­er less rad­i­cal groups against both the Islam­ic State and Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces.

    A senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cial acknowl­edged that the threat to the trainees and their Syr­i­an recruiters had been mis­judged, and said that offi­cials were try­ing to under­stand why the Nus­ra Front had turned on the trainees. The defense offi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss intel­li­gence reports, described what he called “sil­ver lin­ings” to the attack on Fri­day: that the trainees had fought effec­tive­ly in the bat­tle, and that coali­tion war­planes respond­ed quick­ly with airstrikes to sup­port them.

    Wit­ness­es described the attack as an all-out assault, with medi­um and heavy weapons, on a Divi­sion 30 encamp­ment west of the town of Azaz in Alep­po Province, near the bor­der with Turkey.

    In a state­ment on Fri­day, Divi­sion 30’s lead­ers called on all nation­al­ist Syr­i­an insur­gents to “stand firm and proac­tive­ly” against what they called an unpro­voked attack, and asked “the broth­ers in the Nus­ra Front” to “stop the blood­shed and pre­serve the uni­ty.”

    Yet wit­ness­es to the attack on Fri­day and insur­gent lead­ers said that most of the oth­er groups in the area failed to come to Divi­sion 30’s aid. By stay­ing out of the fight, they may have sig­naled that they have not accept­ed a cen­tral fea­ture of the Pentagon’s pro­gram: that it be direct­ed only at the Islam­ic State and not at the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, against whom the rebels orig­i­nal­ly took up arms.

    At a min­i­mum, it appears that oth­er insur­gent groups were not ready to direct­ly take on the Nus­ra Front, one of the strongest and best-financed forces on the ground in Syr­ia. Nei­ther did they join in the Nus­ra Front’s attack on Divi­sion 30, per­haps because of the coali­tion airstrikes. The Islam­ic State does not have a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in that area.

    Ahrar al-Sham, anoth­er pow­er­ful Islamist insur­gent group, stayed on the side­lines, accord­ing to a spokesman, Ahmad Kara Ali. Ahrar al-Sham has often aligned with the Nus­ra Front, but it has been at odds with the group in some places late­ly over pow­er and over how to gov­ern areas they have con­quered.

    One group that appar­ent­ly did side with Divi­sion 30 was Jaysh Al-Thuwar, a coali­tion based west of Azaz that includes sev­er­al Arab and Kur­dish fac­tions. The group said in a state­ment that it, too, had come under attack after Divi­sion 30 fight­ers had fall­en back to areas under its con­trol, and that it tried to assist Divi­sion 30 dur­ing the bat­tle.

    Divi­sion 30 said in a state­ment that five of its fight­ers were killed in the fire­fight on Fri­day, 18 were wound­ed and 20 were cap­tured by the Nus­ra Front. It was not clear whether the 20 cap­tives includ­ed the six fight­ers and two com­man­ders cap­tured a day ear­li­er.

    Divi­sion 30 was formed from a num­ber of small­er groups to stream­line the recruit­ment and train­ing of fight­ers by the Pen­ta­gon to fight the Islam­ic State. The pro­gram has pro­duced only a hand­ful of grad­u­ates so far, in part because of a screen­ing process to root out sus­pect­ed extrem­ists that Divi­sion 30’s lead­ers say is too strin­gent.

    Its first con­tin­gent of trained fight­ers — just 54 in all — recent­ly re-entered Syr­ia to join the rest of the divi­sion. An Amer­i­can offi­cial said that none of those 54 were among the eight cap­tured on Thurs­day by the Nus­ra Front.

    But the cap­tives did include Nadeem Has­san, a defec­tor from the Syr­i­an Army who helped orga­nize Divi­sion 30’s 1,200 fight­ers, and Farhan Jasem, a deputy who com­mand­ed the 54 trained fight­ers, accord­ing to a state­ment from Divi­sion 30.

    The Nus­ra Front’s state­ment offered its view of the Amer­i­can role in Syr­ia. Refer­ring to the C.I.A. pro­gram, the group said that when the Unit­ed States tried to “plant its hands inside Syr­ia,” the Nus­ra Front “cut those hands off,” and that Divi­sion 30 was mere­ly anoth­er proxy “aim­ing to advance the projects and inter­ests of Amer­i­ca.”

    Sun­ni Arabs have formed the back­bone of the revolt against Mr. Assad’s rule, which explod­ed into civ­il war after his secu­ri­ty forces cracked down on pro­test­ers. As the con­flict has dragged on, more groups have come to frame it the way the Nus­ra Front does, as a sec­tar­i­an strug­gle.

    The group’s state­ment said Sun­nis would not hand the sac­ri­fices of four years of war “on a plate of gold” to the Unit­ed States “for it to estab­lish its feet in the region over the graves of hun­dreds of thou­sands of the peo­ple of Syr­ia.”

    The war has killed at least 230,000 Syr­i­ans, wound­ed more than a mil­lion and dis­placed more than nine mil­lion, half the country’s pop­u­la­tion.

    “As the con­flict has dragged on, more groups have come to frame it the way the Nus­ra Front does, as a sec­tar­i­an strug­gle.”

    And note the appar­ent shock and sur­prise with­in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that groups that view the con­flict in Syr­ia a sec­tar­i­an bat­tle aren’t very keen on hav­ing the US attempt to shift the focus of that bat­tle away from a sec­tar­i­an ‘Sun­nis vs every­one else’ con­flict and towards an ‘every­one else vs ISIS’ con­flict even though those are two fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent con­flicts with VERY dif­fer­ent poten­tial out­comes. “In fact, offi­cials said on Fri­day, they expect­ed the Nus­ra Front to wel­come Divi­sion 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islam­ic State”:

    ...
    While Amer­i­can mil­i­tary train­ers had gone to great lengths to pro­tect the ini­tial group of trainees from attacks by Islam­ic State or Syr­i­an Army forces, they did not antic­i­pate an assault from the Nus­ra Front. In fact, offi­cials said on Fri­day, they expect­ed the Nus­ra Front to wel­come Divi­sion 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islam­ic State.

    “This wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen like this,” said one for­mer senior Amer­i­can offi­cial, who was work­ing close­ly on Syr­ia issues until recent­ly, and who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss con­fi­den­tial intel­li­gence assess­ments.

    The Nus­ra Front said in a state­ment on Fri­day that its aim was to elim­i­nate Divi­sion 30 before it could gain a deep­er foothold in Syr­ia. The Nus­ra Front did much the same last year when it smashed the main groups that had been trained and equipped in a dif­fer­ent Amer­i­can effort, one run covert­ly by the C.I.A.

    A spokesman for the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary, Col. Patrick S. Ryder, wrote in an email state­ment that “we are con­fi­dent that this attack will not deter Syr­i­ans from join­ing the pro­gram to fight for Syr­ia,” and added that the pro­gram “is mak­ing progress.”

    Divi­sion 30’s lead­ers expect­ed to play a role in an ambi­tious new joint push by the Unit­ed States and Turkey to help less rad­i­cal Syr­i­an insur­gent groups seize ter­ri­to­ry from the fun­da­men­tal­ist mil­i­tant fight­ers of the Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

    But the unit had no known plans to fight the Nus­ra Front, and the attacks on Thurs­day and Fri­day seemed to catch the unit off guard. Though the Nus­ra Front is allied with Al Qae­da, it is seen by many insur­gents in Syr­ia as prefer­able to the Islam­ic State, and it some­times coop­er­ates with oth­er less rad­i­cal groups against both the Islam­ic State and Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces.

    ...

    “This wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen like this.” Yep.

    And all of this is hap­pen­ing at a time when, as the War Nerd points out, it’s becom­ing increas­ing­ly obvi­ous that Turkey has absolute­ly no inter­est in weak­en­ing ISIS at all with its new anti-ISIS cam­paign and just wants to bomb the Kurds:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    The War Nerd: Don’t be fooled — Turkey is attack­ing the Kurds

    By Gary Brech­er

    July 29, 2015

    If you’re a trust­ing type, you might be cheer­ing for the Turk­ish Air Force, which accord­ing to the more gullible news ser­vices has final­ly decid­ed to strike Islam­ic State (IS) tar­gets in Syr­ia.

    Don’t believe it.

    It’s not IS the Turk­ish planes have been bomb­ing. Here’s a break­down of the actu­al tar­gets of the Turk­ish airstrikes:

    The attack on IS was a sin­gle sor­tie against lim­it­ed tar­gets and clos­er to the Turk­ish bor­der, while the one against the PKK was much dif­fer­ent. The air force dis­patched 75 F‑16s and F‑4E 2020s in three waves dur­ing July 24–26. Some 300 smart bombs were dropped in 185 sor­ties against approx­i­mate­ly 400 PKK tar­gets.

    The Turk­ish raids were almost insult­ing in their bait-and-switch: One lit­tle strike on Islam­ic State, or a nice vacant lot that might once have been vis­it­ed by IS . . . and then 300 sor­ties, with the best US air-to-ground ord­nance you can buy, killing God knows how many hun­dreds or thou­sands of Kur­dish social­ist fight­ers.

    Oh, and by the way, don’t expect most West­ern left­ists to shed any tears over those dead Social­ist fight­ers. You’d think West­ern left­ies would be hap­py that a rad­i­cal-fem­i­nist, non-sec­tar­i­an, aggres­sive­ly pro-LGBT, egalitarian/socialist mili­tia is tak­ing back ground from the most reac­tionary, sec­tar­i­an killers on earth. Nah. The most you can hope for is guard­ed silence. Kurds make them ner­vous for rea­sons I’d rather not think about.

    Nobody much likes the Kurds, espe­cial­ly Erdogan’s AK par­ty. In fact, the AKP hates the Kurds so much that this shared hob­by of Kurd-killing has been the begin­ning of a beau­ti­ful friend­ship between the Turk­ish mil­i­tary and IS. IS fight­ers have always been able to move eas­i­ly over the Turk­ish bor­der, and there are per­sis­tent reports that Erdogan’s daugh­ter her­self is play­ing their Flo­rence Nightin­gale, patch­ing up those rapists’ boo-boos in one of the qua­si-secret hos­pi­tals along the bor­der.

    The AKP’s posi­tion is sim­ple: They hate the Kurds, peri­od. Islam­ic State also hates the Kurds. So Erdo­gan has to force him­self to mouth even the slight­est objec­tion to IS, where­as the spit­tle real­ly flies when he starts rant­i­ng against the Kur­dish PKK/YPG.

    And what makes Erdo­gan mad­dest of all is that the young women and men of the YPG/J keep win­ning. That’s the real rea­son Turkey has launched every fight­er-bomber it’s got, after years of watch­ing indif­fer­ent­ly as IS spread over Syr­ia and Iraq: Because the Kurds were com­ing clos­er to Raqqa and Jarab­u­lus every day, and had to be stopped.

    The Kurds have been gain­ing ground in Turkey itself too, and that upsets the AKP more than any­thing the Kur­dish mili­tia is doing south of the bor­der. The Turkish/Kurdish par­ty HDP took a huge chance in the 2015 Turk­ish elec­tions, and won. The gam­ble was that the par­ty could draw some non-Kur­dish vot­ers sick of Erdogan’s qua­si-fas­cist antics to cross the 10% mar­gin it need­ed to get seats in par­lia­ment. The HDP’s best pre­vi­ous show­ing was 9.77%; if it stayed at that lev­el, it would end up with noth­ing based on the elec­tion rules, and put the AKP back in pow­er.

    But the HDP passed the 10% hur­dle, win­ning over many Turks and Ale­vi, get­ting more than 13% of the vote, win­ning 80 seats.

    Thanks most­ly to the suc­cess of the HDP, Erdogan’s AKP lost its major­i­ty for the first time in more than ten years. They were seri­ous­ly pissed off, and they’re not over-del­i­cate peo­ple. Erdogan’s demo­graph­ic is Turkey’s red­staters, inland reac­tionary hicks, like I said a long time ago.

    Peo­ple like that don’t mind a lit­tle blood. Red-staters like a good killer; Lt. “Rusty” Cal­ley was everybody’s friend in the Geor­gia hin­ter­lands.

    Actu­al­ly, it’s a good exer­cise, trans­fer­ring what’s hap­pen­ing in Turkey/Syria to the US. Imag­ine (and it takes some imag­in­ing, I admit) that a tru­ly noble, pro­gres­sive, social­ist move­ment took over North­ern Mex­i­co. It would be a god­send for the peo­ple there, but you think the US would stand for it? Nah. The F‑16s would be fly­ing day and night to wipe those do-good­ers out.

    And that’s what the Turk­ish AF is busy doing right now, while pre­tend­ing to attack IS. In real­i­ty, the Turk­ish mil­i­tary has stepped in to keep IS in pow­er from total col­lapse against the Kur­dish advance. It was the Kurds’ mil­i­tary vic­to­ries, com­bined with the HDP’s elec­toral suc­cess, that final­ly drove Erdogan’s AKP right over the edge.

    You may recall a lit­tle town called Kobane kicked up some dust last win­ter, when the Kur­dish kids of the YPG/J stopped the sup­pos­ed­ly unstop­pable IS forces dead, killing some­thing like 3000 of them in the ruins before the Caliph final­ly pulled his brain-dead war tourists from Dus­sel­dorf and Mar­seille back south.

    Welp, the Kurds pur­sued. They pushed out from Kobane, west, south, and east—every direc­tion except north, because that’s Turkey, where the very exis­tence of Kurds was denied until recent­ly.

    When Kobane failed to fall on sched­ule, the Kurds held three “can­tons” in north­ern Syr­ia, sep­a­rat­ed by hos­tile turf.

    But they kept push­ing, and there were signs that the jihadis of IS, always brag­ging about how eager they were to get their pre­cious deaths, weren’t in such a hur­ry to die any­more. In fact, they were start­ing to break.

    In mid-June 2015, YPG units push­ing east from Kobane and west from Hasakeh took Tal Abyad, unit­ing two out of the three can­tons of Syr­ia in one con­tin­u­ous strip of land along the Turk­ish bor­der.

    This was not sup­posed to hap­pen, in the smug lit­tle world inhab­it­ed by Mr. Erdo­gan and his Islamist bud­dies. The idea was to sic IS on the Kurds, then mop them up when they’d killed those crazy social­ist kids. Now those kids were in charge of a huge stretch of North­ern Syr­ia, wav­ing to their Kur­dish kin across the bor­der in Turkey, where hat­ing Kurds is a nation­al sport.

    After the YPG/J took Tal Abyad, Islam­ic State was in a hope­less posi­tion . . . unless the Turks inter­vened. No more wave-throughs across the bor­der, no more easy deliv­ery of muni­tions and med­i­cines to the boys in Raqqa. And the Kurds soon turned south, push­ing against Raqqa itself. They took Ayn Issa, the only major town between Kobane and Raqqa, a week after meet­ing up in Tal Abyad.

    Sud­den­ly IS was break­ing in every front where it faced the Kurds. Fail­ing on the bat­tle­field, they went back to what they do best—killing 32 young Kur­dish social­ists in a sui­cide bomb­ing in Suruc, just across the bor­der from Kobane. Turk­ish col­lu­sion was all over that mas­sacre, but that shit only works on peo­ple who haven’t been through the Hell which is Kur­dish his­to­ry. The YPG/J vowed revenge and marched on.

    ...

    So the Turk­ish Air Force is send­ing the best planes and muni­tions the US can send them to wipe out these pesky kids in YPG/J, while mak­ing nois­es about giv­ing their IS clients a good spank­ing. At the moment, the Turk­ish gen­er­als are claim­ing they’re only hit­ting PKK/YPG in north­ern Iraq, but there are already reports of Turk­ish strikes on Kur­dish tar­gets in Syr­ia.

    It’s inevitable that the Turk­ish mil­i­tary will focus on those tar­gets once it’s done its job of dis­tract­ing the gullible media with this pan­tomime strike on IS.

    YPJ/G is the most hero­ic group I’ve seen since I start­ed writ­ing about war. So it makes per­fect sense that every­body wants to wipe them out.

    As depress­ing as it is to see gov­ern­ments across the mid­dle east ‘secret­ly’ back ISIS in their war against ISIS as part of a proxy war on every­one but ISIS in the Syr­ia and North­ern Iraq, if there’s one major source of hope for the future at this point is the fact that, despite the fact that almost EVERYONE hates them and wants to wipe them off the plan­et, “a rad­i­cal-fem­i­nist, non-sec­tar­i­an, aggres­sive­ly pro-LGBT, egalitarian/socialist mili­tia is tak­ing back ground from the most reac­tionary, sec­tar­i­an killers on earth” . As far as trends that give one hope for the future goes, you could do a lot worse than that. Except for the fact that almost every­one hates a group that should be seen a mod­el for how we can all bet­ter live togeth­er. That’s pret­ty depress­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 1, 2015, 1:32 pm
  32. With reports of a grow­ing Rus­sia mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syr­ia, spec­u­la­tion is grow­ing that Rus­sia might be about to take its involve­ment in Syr­i­an civ­il-war to the next lev­el. Spec­u­la­tion but also con­cerns, includ­ing con­cerns from the Pen­ta­gon that that a grow­ing Rus­sia mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syr­ia might desta­bi­lize the situation...where desta­bi­liza­tion is pre­sum­ably brought about by Rus­si­a’s pre­ven­tion of the simul­ta­ne­ous col­lapse of both ISIS and the Assad regime. It’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion that you don’t real­ly want to desta­bi­lize, but can’t real­ly con­tin­ue either:

    AFP

    Huge Russ­ian mil­i­tary planes land in Syr­ia
    9/8/2015

    Wash­ing­ton (AFP) — At least three Russ­ian mil­i­tary trans­port planes have land­ed in Syr­ia in recent days, US offi­cials said Tues­day, as Wash­ing­ton wor­ries about the sort of assis­tance Moscow is pro­vid­ing to Dam­as­cus.

    The air­craft have land­ed at the air­port in Latakia on Syr­i­a’s Mediter­ranean coast over the past sev­er­al days, US offi­cials told AFP on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

    Two of the air­craft were giant Antonov-124 Con­dor planes and a third was a pas­sen­ger flight, one of the offi­cials said.

    The Rus­sians have installed mod­u­lar hous­ing units — enough for “hun­dreds” of peo­ple — at the air­port, as well as portable air traf­fic con­trol equip­ment, the offi­cial not­ed.

    “All of this seems to be sug­gest­ing that Rus­sia is plan­ning to do some sort of for­ward air-oper­at­ing hub out of this air­field,” the offi­cial said.

    Wash­ing­ton has expressed con­cern fol­low­ing reports sug­gest­ing Moscow may be boost­ing mil­i­tary sup­port to Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad and had sent a mil­i­tary advance team to the war-torn coun­try.

    “Our con­cern would be that any effort to bol­ster the Assad regime right now would poten­tial­ly be desta­bi­liz­ing,” Pen­ta­gon press sec­re­tary Peter Cook said Tues­day.

    ...

    US Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry called his Russ­ian coun­ter­part Sergei Lavrov over the week­end to warn of the dan­gers of stok­ing a con­flict which has already cost near­ly 250,000 lives.

    Rus­sia rejects the charge, insist­ing that any deliv­er­ies are in keep­ing with its tra­di­tion­al links to long-time ally Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad.

    Bul­gar­ia has refused per­mis­sion for Russ­ian air­craft to enter its air­space, and Greece said Tues­day that Wash­ing­ton had asked it to also deny Russ­ian over­flights.

    “Our con­cern would be that any effort to bol­ster the Assad regime right now would poten­tial­ly be desta­bi­liz­ing,” Pen­ta­gon press sec­re­tary Peter Cook said Tues­day.

    In oth­er news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 9, 2015, 1:55 pm
  33. Fol­low­ing a mis­sile attack that killed dozens of troops from the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia in Yemen last week, the coali­tion of Gulf states fight­ing in that coun­try are about to put a lot more boots on the ground:

    Bloomberg Busi­ness
    Gulf Nations Expand Yemen War After Worst Troop Loss

    by Nafeesa Syeed Mohammed Hatem Mohammed Sergie
    Sep­tem­ber 7, 2015 — 3:08 AM CDT
    Updat­ed on Sep­tem­ber 7, 2015 — 6:49 AM CDT

    Gulf Arab nations are expand­ing the ground war in Yemen, pour­ing more troops into the coun­try to defeat Houthi rebels they say are backed by region­al rival Iran.

    About 1,000 troops from Qatar entered Yemen on Sun­day from the Wadia post on the bor­der with Sau­di Ara­bia, the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera tele­vi­sion report­ed. The sol­diers, backed by armored vehi­cles and mis­sile launch­ers, were on their way to Yemen’s oil-rich cen­tral Marib province, it said. Qatar’s for­eign min­istry didn’t imme­di­ate­ly respond to calls seek­ing com­ment.

    The deploy­ment comes after 45 troops from the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and 10 Sau­di sol­diers were killed in Marib on Fri­day, the worst set­back to date for the Sau­di-led coali­tion since it began its offen­sive in March. Mount­ing loss­es will test the will of the Gulf states to extend their involve­ment after help­ing the inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi retake parts of south­ern Yemen.

    Expand­ing the ground war car­ries a “huge risk of heavy casu­al­ties” for the Gulf Arab monar­chies, said Ibrahim Frai­hat, senior for­eign pol­i­cy fel­low at the Brook­ings Doha Cen­ter. “Yemen has his­tor­i­cal­ly proved to be a very tough spot for for­eign armies to fight and win.”

    Bahrain, anoth­er mem­ber of the coali­tion, said five of its sol­diers were also killed on Fri­day defend­ing Sau­di Arabia’s south­ern bor­der. The broad­er ground offen­sive fol­lows five months of coali­tion airstrikes as it seeks to restore Hadi to pow­er. The Houthis seized the cap­i­tal, Sana’a, in Sep­tem­ber, and his gov­ern­ment fled to Sau­di Ara­bia ear­li­er this year.

    Cap­i­tal Advance

    ...

    West­ern diplo­mats and ana­lysts have expressed skep­ti­cism about the lev­el of Iran­ian involve­ment in Yemen’s con­flict, the pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for the Gulf states’ involve­ment. The Houthis, mean­while, say they’ve suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion from suc­ces­sive Yemeni gov­ern­ments.

    Gulf Arab troops may face a long deploy­ment, as it could take years to sta­bi­lize and recon­struct Yemen, accord­ing to Michael Stephens, head of the Roy­al Unit­ed Ser­vices Insti­tute for Secu­ri­ty and Defence Stud­ies in Qatar.

    “It’s very easy to go into a coun­try but very dif­fi­cult to get out,” Stephens said by phone, cit­ing the expe­ri­ence of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. “If you invade, get rid of the Houthis and then leave, that doesn’t solve any­thing.”

    Well that was omi­nous. Espe­cial­ly this part:

    ...
    West­ern diplo­mats and ana­lysts have expressed skep­ti­cism about the lev­el of Iran­ian involve­ment in Yemen’s con­flict, the pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for the Gulf states’ involve­ment. The Houthis, mean­while, say they’ve suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion from suc­ces­sive Yemeni gov­ern­ments.

    Gulf Arab troops may face a long deploy­ment, as it could take years to sta­bi­lize and recon­struct Yemen, accord­ing to Michael Stephens, head of the Roy­al Unit­ed Ser­vices Insti­tute for Secu­ri­ty and Defence Stud­ies in Qatar.
    ...

    But omi­nous or not, thou­sands of coali­tion troops may be Yemen for years to come, at least if the “Pot­tery Bar Rule” of regime change is abid­ed by. We’ll see if that hap­pens over the medi­um term, but at least in the short term it does­n’t look like there’s going to be a short­age of for­eign troops in Yemen:

    Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times
    Yemen Cri­sis: Egypt, Moroc­co To Send Ground Troops To Bat­tle Houthi Rebels With Sau­di Ara­bia

    By Alessan­dria Masi

    on Sep­tem­ber 09 2015 11:17 AM EDT

    BEIRUT — For the first time since Sau­di Ara­bia formed a 10-coun­try coali­tion in March to bat­tle the Yemeni Houthi rebels, Egypt and Qatar have expand­ed their involve­ment — pre­vi­ous­ly lim­it­ed to airstrikes — by send­ing hun­dreds of ground troops to Yemen this week. Nine coali­tion mem­bers are expect­ed to have forces fight­ing on the ground along­side Sau­di troops before the end of the week, accord­ing to Yemen local news.

    Egypt, which has one of the strongest armies in the Arab world, sent 800 troops armed with tanks and mil­i­tary trans­port vehi­cles into the war-torn coun­try Tues­day night. The day before, Qatar sent 1,000 troops into Yemen. Moroc­co, Sudan, Jor­dan and Kuwait are expect­ed to fol­low suit and join the thou­sands of troops already on the ground from Sau­di Ara­bia, Bahrain and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. Some reports claim that many of the coun­tries list­ed had already sent troops into Yemen as of Wednes­day.

    “We have sent these forces as part of Egyp­t’s promi­nent role in this alliance. ... The alliance fights for the sake of our broth­er­ly Arab states, and the death of any Egypt­ian sol­dier would be an hon­our and con­sid­ered mar­tyr­dom for the sake of inno­cent peo­ple,” a senior Egypt­ian mil­i­tary source told Reuters.

    ...

    “There is no geopo­lit­i­cal strat­e­gy or even a bat­tle plan that can sur­vive long on the ground in Yemen,” accord­ing to a report from the Soufan Group. “Suc­cess in one part of the rugged coun­try yields to loss­es in anoth­er.”

    Sau­di Ara­bia launched a coali­tion to bat­tle the Iran-backed Houthi rebel groups in March after the rebels seized the cap­i­tal Sanaa and forced U.S.- and Sau­di-backed Yemeni Pres­i­dent Abed Rab­bo Man­sour Hadi to resign. In addi­tion to the nine coun­tries involved in ground oper­a­tions, Soma­lia is also a mem­ber of the coali­tion. The U.S. is pro­vid­ing logis­ti­cal sup­port and intel­li­gence to Sau­di Ara­bia, but it is not mil­i­tar­i­ly engaged.

    Airstrikes and fight­ing have turned Yemen into a “human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis,” accord­ing to the Unit­ed Nations. More than 4,500 peo­ple have been killed in the con­flict. Near­ly 2,000 of them were civil­ians, 400 of which were chil­dren. That is an aver­age of eight chil­dren killed or injured every day, accord­ing to Unicef.

    “Nine coali­tion mem­bers are expect­ed to have forces fight­ing on the ground along­side Sau­di troops before the end of the week, accord­ing to Yemen local news.”
    Yes, a 10-nation ground force is con­verg­ing on Yemen right now. And it’s not at all look­ing like this is going to be a “cake­walk”, despite the fact that West­ern ana­lyst don’t even see Iran as pro­vid­ing much more than ver­bal sup­port for the Houthi rebels.

    So it’s look­ing like Yemen, a nation that was arguably the most screwed in the world before the out­break of civ­il war sim­ply due to its shrink­ing water sup­plies, is about to face years of for­eign occu­pa­tion that’s pre­sum­ably going to include some sort of insur­gency. Will the rest of the world care? Prob­a­bly, but prob­a­bly not as soon as it should:

    The Nation
    Yemen, the World’s Next Great Refugee Cri­sis
    As the civ­il war heats up amid inter­ven­tion by the Gulf monar­chies, thou­sands are flee­ing every day.

    By Juan Cole
    9/8/2015 4:42 pm

    Many of the thou­sands of refugees now cross­ing from Greece and Hun­gary on their way to more wel­com­ing coun­tries such as Ger­many are Syr­i­ans and Kurds, flee­ing the wars and polit­i­cal repres­sion in the Lev­ant. Anoth­er large refugee prob­lem may now loom, which is unlike­ly to leave Europe unaf­fect­ed. The war in Yemen, already high­ly destruc­tive, may be get­ting hot­ter as it reach­es an endgame, with the poten­tial for putting a large pro­por­tion of its 24 mil­lion people—a slight­ly larg­er pop­u­la­tion than pre-war Syria—on the road (or, more like­ly, the seas).

    On Fri­day, the Sau­di-led coali­tion tak­ing one side in Yemen’s civ­il war faced a poten­tial dis­as­ter for morale. A rock­et hit a weapons depot on a base where Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain troops were sta­tioned, killing 45 from the UAE and five from Bahrain, in addi­tion to pro­duc­ing an unstat­ed num­ber of casu­al­ties. It was the biggest troop loss for the coali­tion of Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil states since they launched the war in late March out of a fear of the Houthi brand of pop­u­lar pol­i­tics. With the excep­tion of Sau­di Ara­bia, the GCC coun­tries have small pop­u­la­tions and even small­er cit­i­zen pop­u­la­tions. The UAE has about 9 mil­lion peo­ple, but only a lit­tle over a mil­lion of them are thought to be Arab, UAE cit­i­zens. The troop deaths were thus tak­en very hard in the UAE (a pop­u­lar soc­cer play­er was among the dead); pro­por­tion­al­ly, this toll was like 13,500 Amer­i­can troops killed in one engage­ment.

    The base hit by the rock­et, in Maarib Province, was set up by the anti-Houthi coali­tion after the Houthis were large­ly expelled from it. It is intend­ed as a launch­ing pad for an even­tu­al inva­sion of the cap­i­tal, Sana, a Houthi, Zay­di Shi­ite pow­er base. After the depot was hit, the Saud­is and their allies launched a mas­sive cam­paign of bomb­ing raids on the cap­i­tal that con­tin­ued for days.

    The Houthis, main­ly a north­ern, Shi­ite trib­al force allied with deposed pres­i­dent Ali Abdul­lah Saleh and a rump of gov­ern­ment troops still loy­al to him, extend­ed their sway down to Sun­ni Aden from last April. They’d hoped to block the GCC from using it to offload arms and goods for the south­ern forces oppos­ing them. At the begin­ning of August, an undis­closed num­ber of troops from the UAE land­ed at Aden after a suc­cess­ful effort by south­ern forces loy­al to elect­ed Pres­i­dent Abdu Rab­bu Man­sour Hadi to oust the Houthi rebels from the Ara­bi­an Sea port. As long as the Houthis held it, it would have been dif­fi­cult for the six-nation GCC effort to make real head­way in Yemen.

    The dis­patch of ground troops, how­ev­er, changed the char­ac­ter of the war, since up until that time the Sau­di-led coali­tion had main­ly inter­vened from the air. More­over, ana­lysts have raised fears that Al Qae­da in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la is tak­ing advan­tage of the chaos to infil­trate the port; AQAP is the Qae­da affil­i­ate most deter­mined to inflict dam­age on the West. The Saud­is and their allies allege that the Houthis are backed by Iran and that their attempt­ed trib­al takeover of Yemen was plot­ted in Tehran, which is a vast exag­ger­a­tion, as Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has admit­ted. In real­i­ty, although Iran has giv­en the Houthis ver­bal sup­port, there is no rea­son to think they are a main­ly for­eign phe­nom­e­non, as opposed to being an indige­nous trib­al move­ment.

    ...

    By this August, with the out­break of civ­il war in Jan­u­ary and a major for­eign inter­ven­tion, the num­ber of inter­nal­ly dis­placed Yeme­nis alone is thought to have risen to about 1.5 mil­lion, about 6 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, pro­por­tion­al­ly equiv­a­lent to more than 19 mil­lion Americans—the entire­ty of Flori­da or New York. The num­ber is five times what it was just last Decem­ber.

    The war has affect­ed even those not forced to flee their homes. Yemen is dry or hilly and water-poor, so the coun­try had been import­ing nine-tenths of its food before the Houthi coup in Jan­u­ary. The ensu­ing fight­ing has inter­fered with such imports. Some 6 mil­lion Yeme­nis are severe­ly food inse­cure, which means that any fur­ther prob­lem, even a small one, could push them to the brink of star­va­tion. In total, some 60 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion faces some form of food inse­cu­ri­ty. Only half of Yeme­nis now have access to potable water. The country’s hos­pi­tals have closed in droves and the physi­cians and nurs­es have fled, so mil­lions have been left with­out med­ical care.

    By spring, already some 25,000 Yeme­nis had fled abroad, but in the course of the GCC air cam­paign and indis­crim­i­nate Houthi shelling this sum­mer, anoth­er 100,000 have left the coun­try. Thou­sands are leav­ing every week, tak­ing pas­sage in car­go ships across the Red Sea to Dji­bouti and Soma­lia in the Horn of Africa, and then some are mak­ing their way north to places like Egypt. The only lim­it­ing fac­tor so far has been the high cost of pas­sage, but human traf­fick­ers are like­ly to set up shop on the Yemen coast if they smell mon­ey. The chaos in Libya makes it a favored launch­ing place for Afro-Asian refugees attempt­ing to get to Europe, and a stream of Yeme­nis could make their way to the Mediter­ranean coast.

    If the Sau­di-led coali­tion does man­age to con­quer Sana by main force and then go after the Houthi lead­er­ship in their tra­di­tion­al area of Saa­da, it will be the Zay­di Shi­ites’ (a third of the pop­u­la­tion) turn to flee in the tens or hun­dreds of thou­sands. On top of declin­ing water aquifers, deser­ti­fi­ca­tion from cli­mate change, and the threat of ter­ror­ism, Yeme­nis face a hard year. Inter­na­tion­al pledges of aid have large­ly been emp­ty promis­es, and pro­posed cease-fires for human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have typ­i­cal­ly bro­ken down almost imme­di­ate­ly. Because Yemen is so much far­ther from Europe, its tragedy has received less press atten­tion than Syria’s, but its wars could be even more dis­rup­tive.

    And once again:

    Many of the thou­sands of refugees now cross­ing from Greece and Hun­gary on their way to more wel­com­ing coun­tries such as Ger­many are Syr­i­ans and Kurds, flee­ing the wars and polit­i­cal repres­sion in the Lev­ant. Anoth­er large refugee prob­lem may now loom, which is unlike­ly to leave Europe unaf­fect­ed. The war in Yemen, already high­ly destruc­tive, may be get­ting hot­ter as it reach­es an endgame, with the poten­tial for putting a large pro­por­tion of its 24 mil­lion people—a slight­ly larg­er pop­u­la­tion than pre-war Syria—on the road (or, more like­ly, the seas)

    ...

    By this August, with the out­break of civ­il war in Jan­u­ary and a major for­eign inter­ven­tion, the num­ber of inter­nal­ly dis­placed Yeme­nis alone is thought to have risen to about 1.5 mil­lion, about 6 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, pro­por­tion­al­ly equiv­a­lent to more than 19 mil­lion Americans—the entire­ty of Flori­da or New York. The num­ber is five times what it was just last Decem­ber.

    ...

    If the Sau­di-led coali­tion does man­age to con­quer Sana by main force and then go after the Houthi lead­er­ship in their tra­di­tion­al area of Saa­da, it will be the Zay­di Shi­ites’ (a third of the pop­u­la­tion) turn to flee in the tens or hun­dreds of thou­sands. On top of declin­ing water aquifers, deser­ti­fi­ca­tion from cli­mate change, and the threat of ter­ror­ism, Yeme­nis face a hard year. Inter­na­tion­al pledges of aid have large­ly been emp­ty promis­es, and pro­posed cease-fires for human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have typ­i­cal­ly bro­ken down almost imme­di­ate­ly. Because Yemen is so much far­ther from Europe, its tragedy has received less press atten­tion than Syria’s, but its wars could be even more dis­rup­tive.

    Mil­lions of Yeme­nis are already inter­nal­ly dis­placed and the coali­tion ground war is just get­ting start­ed. So with many scratch­ing their heads and ask­ing why it is that the Gulf states haven’t tak­en in more Syr­i­an refugees, the whole world had bet­ter hope it’s because they’re sav­ing that space for the next mega-refugee cri­sis. Or, rather, the whole world had bet­ter hope the lack of open arms for the region’s many refugees is because the Gulf states are plan­ning on sav­ing that space for the next mega-refugee-cri­sis-in-mak­ing and also plan­ning on even­tu­al­ly rec­og­niz­ing the legal con­cept of refugee­hood.

    And the world had bet­ter hope the rest of the rest of world fig­ures out new win-win ways of allow­ing for reg­u­lar influx­es of refugees from wher­ev­er too because the refugees of the future are com­ing soon­er or lat­er. Or more like­ly, soon and lat­er. Because the ongo­ing and emerg­ing refugees crises in the mid­dle east are just a mega-cri­sis. They’re a warm up.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 9, 2015, 6:26 pm
  34. Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive was appoint­ed to a UN Human Rights Coun­cil (UNHRC) five-mem­ber con­sul­ta­tive group, one from each of five regions of the world, that inter­view and short-list the experts that go on to exam­ine spe­cif­ic human rights vio­la­tions. Out­raged? Well, as the arti­cle below points out, the out­rage is cer­tain­ly under­stand­able, but it’s worth keep­ing in mind that, giv­en the way the UNHRC is bro­ken up in to regions and each region gen­er­al­ly rotates its lead­er­ship, it was sort of an inevitabil­i­ty that this would hap­pen once Sau­di Ara­bia was made a mem­ber of the 47 mem­ber UNHRC in the first place. So the out­rage you feel is appro­pri­ate, but also prob­a­bly belat­ed unless you were already pissed about this.

    Also keep in mind that any UNHRC rec­om­men­da­tions to spe­cif­ic states found to be vio­lat­ing human rights are pure­ly option:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    Why Is Sau­di Ara­bia Head­ing the UN Human Rights Coun­cil?
    The Human Rights Coun­cil is behold­en to out­mod­ed pro­to­cols that allow rotat­ing mem­ber-states to assume con­trol of issues they’re least qual­i­fied to address.

    Salil Tri­pathi
    09.22.15 10:05 PM ET

    In a nor­mal world, Sau­di Ara­bia would be arraigned for its appalling human rights record, not appoint­ed to head an inter­na­tion­al human rights mon­i­tor. And yet, it was revealed Mon­day that over the sum­mer Sau­di Ara­bia was appoint­ed to a pan­el at the UN Human Rights Coun­cil (UNHRC) that would inter­view and short-list experts, from among whom suc­cess­ful can­di­dates would then be nom­i­nat­ed to exam­ine spe­cif­ic human rights chal­lenges. These chal­lenges may include the human rights record of a par­tic­u­lar coun­try or a spe­cif­ic theme, and those themes can include vio­lence against women, the rights of migrants, reli­gious free­dom, or sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion.

    The hypocrisy behind this deci­sion need hard­ly be stat­ed. The Sau­di gov­ern­ment is unelect­ed and run by one large fam­i­ly, or clan. Not only does it have the death penal­ty on its statute, it exe­cutes pris­on­ers with par­tic­u­lar rel­ish, turn­ing their exe­cu­tions into a pub­lic spec­ta­cle. Tor­ture is rou­tine in its pris­ons and offend­ers of cer­tain crimes are flogged in pub­lic. The denial of the right to dri­ve is among the least of the abus­es women suf­fer in the coun­try. For­eign­ers who live in Sau­di Arabia—be they well-paid expa­tri­ates or con­struc­tion work­ers liv­ing in slav­ery-like conditions—have to be on the guard con­stant­ly so that they don’t fall foul of its laws that vio­late the norms of free and fair tri­als. Its vast wealth is used to acquire weapons at home and finance fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ments abroad which cause hav­oc in dis­tant soci­eties, trans­form­ing native forms of Islam into Wah­habism which bears lit­tle rela­tion to the uni­ver­sal dec­la­ra­tion of human rights.

    ...

    Giv­en Sau­di Arabia’s record, the rage is understandable—it would get to rec­om­mend experts who may not be experts, or whose under­stand­ing of human rights is at vari­ance with the vast major­i­ty of those who care for human rights.

    But the glob­al fury is direct­ed at the wrong tar­get. Agnes Calla­mard, direc­tor of Colum­bia University’s Glob­al Free­dom of Expres­sion and Infor­ma­tion ini­tia­tive (dis­clo­sure: I am part of its team of experts), told The Dai­ly Beast: “What has hap­pened is that Sau­di Ara­bia is now a mem­ber of the advi­so­ry com­mit­tee that pro­duces rec­om­men­da­tions to the pres­i­dent of the Human Rights Coun­cil who makes final deci­sions regard­ing the appoint­ing of man­date hold­ers. The com­po­si­tion of the advi­so­ry group is five rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all regions. It is a rota­tion with­in regions, so nobody appoints any­body. The real prob­lem is that Sau­di Ara­bia was appoint­ed to the Human Rights Coun­cil and its being a mem­ber of the advi­so­ry com­mit­tee is just a log­i­cal con­se­quence. And the UN is not respon­si­ble for the appoint­ment in any way.”

    What has giv­en rise to such ire is Sau­di Arabia’s appoint­ment to the UNHRC’s con­sul­ta­tive group. This group is made up of five mem­bers, one from each of the five region­al groups rec­og­nized by the Unit­ed Nations. This group inter­views and rec­om­mends can­di­dates for dozens of experts, called “spe­cial rap­por­teurs” or “inde­pen­dent experts” whose job it is to exam­ine spe­cif­ic human rights chal­lenges and make non-bind­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to the human rights coun­cil. The rec­om­men­da­tions are not bind­ing.

    These appoint­ments rep­re­sent impor­tant work; the man­dates help set the norms about how the world can enhance respect for, and pro­tec­tion and ful­fill­ment of human rights, and how that should be at the core of every action. But changes are grad­ual. A spe­cial rap­por­teur on vio­lence against women, for exam­ple, may pro­duce path-break­ing research and offer advice on how states can stop that, but states are under no legal oblig­a­tions to imple­ment those rec­om­men­da­tions. If a spe­cial rap­por­teur crit­i­cizes a par­tic­u­lar country’s con­duct against minori­ties, the coun­try can brazen it out—it can even deny the rap­por­teur the right to vis­it the coun­try to under­take inves­ti­ga­tions. As impor­tant the man­dates are, they are tooth­less. And that is because the mem­ber-states want it that way, just as it is the mem­ber-states which want Sau­di Ara­bia to be in the con­sul­ta­tive group and in the UNHRC.

    With­in the Coun­cil, Sau­di Ara­bia is part of the Asian group, and as per stan­dard UN prac­tice, the groups nom­i­nate their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, usu­al­ly by rota­tion and by con­sen­sus. Accord­ing to reports, the oth­er cur­rent mem­bers of the con­sul­ta­tive group are Alge­ria, Chile, Lithua­nia, and Greece. These coun­tries are drawn from 47 mem­bers of the UNHRC, who are elect­ed accord­ing to their regions, and the regions rep­re­sent Cold War-era think­ing and geopolitics—13 from Africa, 13 from Asia, six from East­ern Europe, eight from Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean, and sev­en from West­ern Europe and oth­er coun­tries.

    While the UN Gen­er­al Assem­bly is expect­ed to con­sid­er the can­di­date states’ con­tri­bu­tion towards pro­mot­ing and pro­tect­ing human rights as well as their com­mit­ments to uphold inter­na­tion­al human rights stan­dards, it is clear that realpoli­tik pre­vails. Cur­rent mem­bers include coun­tries with a poor human rights record, includ­ing Chi­na. It also includes the Unit­ed States, the Unit­ed King­dom, France, the Nether­lands, and Japan, but it is nobody’s case that these West­ern states have a per­fect record on human rights, nor have they nec­es­sar­i­ly rat­i­fied most human rights instru­ments, such as covenants and con­ven­tions that form the body of human rights laws.

    By all means the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty needs to take a long and hard look at how it elects mem­bers to the UNHRC. By all means that process needs seri­ous reform. Indeed, coun­tries with a poor human rights record should not be part of such a coun­cil. And, indeed, there should be clear cri­te­ria to deter­mine whose record is worse than oth­ers’, and coun­tries that are polit­i­cal­ly strong should not get a free pass, and coun­tries that are con­ve­nient to dis­like are not exclud­ed. Those are far big­ger issues, and far more sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns, than argu­ing whether Sau­di Ara­bia should be the tem­po­rary chair of an advi­so­ry pan­el, whose rec­om­men­da­tions would sim­ply be that—recommendations.

    “As impor­tant the man­dates are, they are tooth­less. And that is because the mem­ber-states want it that way, just as it is the mem­ber-states which want Sau­di Ara­bia to be in the con­sul­ta­tive group and in the UNHRC.”

    In oth­er news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 23, 2015, 10:24 am
  35. The US mod­er­ate rebel train­ing pro­gram just faced anoth­er set­back. It’s not quite as demor­al­iz­ing a set­back as the recent attack on the group by al Nus­ra, but pret­ty close:

    McClatchy
    In about-face, Pen­ta­gon says U.S.-trained Syr­i­ans gave trucks, weapons to al Qai­da

    Admis­sion comes just two days after U.S. offi­cials denied reports

    Sec­ond time Pen­ta­gon has seemed out of touch with what trainees were up to

    Train­ing pro­gram is bud­get­ed to spend $500 mil­lion

    BY JAMES ROSEN

    Sep­tem­ber 25, 2015

    WASHINGTON

    In anoth­er embar­rass­ing set­back for one of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cen­ter­piece strate­gies for defeat­ing the Islam­ic State, the Pen­ta­gon said Fri­day that the com­man­der of U.S.-trained Syr­i­ans appears to have turned over his pick­up trucks and weapons to al Qae­da mil­i­tants in exchange for pro­tec­tion with­in days of re-enter­ing his home­land.

    The Pen­ta­gon admis­sion rep­re­sent­ed an abrupt rever­sal of its posi­tion as recent­ly as Wednes­day, when Amer­i­can mil­i­tary offi­cials firm­ly denied social media reports that a U.S.-backed com­man­der had defect­ed to Nus­ra Front, Syria’s al Qai­da affil­i­ate, and pro­vid­ed trucks and weapons to the rad­i­cal Islam­ic group.

    “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we learned today that the New Syr­i­an Force unit now says it did in fact pro­vide six pick-up trucks and a por­tion of their ammu­ni­tion to a sus­pect­ed al-Nus­ra Front (rep­re­sen­ta­tive),” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman, said Fri­day evening.

    Two days ear­li­er, Davis had stat­ed: “The folks that are part of the New Syr­i­an Force are account­ed for, as are their weapons.”

    The new rev­e­la­tions angered Amer­i­can mil­i­tary lead­ers.

    “If accu­rate, the report of New Syr­i­an Force mem­bers pro­vid­ing equip­ment to al Nus­ra Front is very con­cern­ing and a vio­la­tion of Syr­ia train-and-equip pro­gram guide­lines,” said Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, chief spokesman for U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, which runs Amer­i­can mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the Mid­dle East.

    Peo­ple claim­ing to be Nus­ra mem­bers or sup­port­ers had post­ed online pho­tographs of what they said were U.S. weapons hand­ed over to them by the pro-Amer­i­can Syr­i­ans, but Davis had dis­missed the pic­tures, say­ing they were old images that had been “re-pur­posed.”

    On Fri­day, the Pen­ta­gon was forced to back­track.

    “We are using all means at our dis­pos­al to look into what exact­ly hap­pened and deter­mine the appro­pri­ate response,” Ryder said.

    The dis­tress­ing episode was the most recent in a series of per­plex­ing prob­lems for a pro­gram that Oba­ma had her­ald­ed as a key response to Islam­ic State ter­ri­to­r­i­al gains in Iraq and Syr­ia, and one for which Con­gress appro­pri­at­ed $500 mil­lion last Decem­ber.

    Fol­low­ing sev­er­al months of train­ing in Turkey by U.S. spe­cial forces, the first group of Syr­i­an fight­ers was dis­patched back into the coun­try in late July, only to be ambushed by Nus­ra com­bat­ants July 31, with some of them flee­ing and oth­ers being killed, wound­ed or cap­tured.

    Then, too, the Pen­ta­gon denied ini­tial reports of prob­lems but lat­er changed course..

    How­ev­er the Pen­ta­gon decides to respond to the new set­back, sen­a­tors from both par­ties already cas­ti­gat­ed the Syr­ia train-and-equip pro­gram, cast­ing doubt on its future via­bil­i­ty.

    Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, an Alaba­ma Repub­li­can, called the pro­gram “a fail­ure;” Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Mis­souri Demo­c­rat, labeled it “ a joke.”

    Oth­er law­mak­ers and ana­lysts have crit­i­cized vir­tu­al­ly every aspect of the train­ing pro­gram, from how Syr­i­an can­di­dates are vet­ted to how they are trained and whether the U.S.-led air cam­paign pro­vides suf­fi­cient pro­tec­tion once the Amer­i­can-trained troops are back in their home­land.

    Pen­ta­gon offi­cials in recent weeks have acknowl­edged past errors and said that the train-and-equip pro­gram is being re-eval­u­at­ed.

    “There were some mis­takes made, ini­tial­ly, with the first class,” Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Peter Cook said. “I think they’ve been doc­u­ment­ed pret­ty well”

    Regard­ing the sec­ond class of New Syr­i­an Force fight­ers who entered the coun­try Sat­ur­day and future U.S.-trained troops, Cook said that “we’re doing what we can to pro­vide sup­port for these forces as they go back into Syr­ia.”

    At a more recent Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing, on Tues­day, retired Gen. David Petraeus, who com­mend­ed Amer­i­can and allied forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said the train­ing pro­gram should be com­plete­ly over­hauled. He advo­cat­ed allow­ing the U.S.-backed Syr­i­ans to take on sol­diers loy­al to Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad and cre­at­ing “safe zones” in Syr­ia pro­tect­ed by Amer­i­can spe­cial forces, two ideas that the Pen­ta­gon and the White House have repeat­ed­ly reject­ed.

    The new con­tro­ver­sy with the train-and-equip pro­gram was sparked by a series of Face­book and Twit­ter posts on Tues­day.

    On a Face­book page claim­ing to belong to Maj. Anas Obaid, com­man­der of a Syr­i­an mil­i­tary unit called Divi­sion 30, Abu Zayd (his bat­tle­field name) said that he and some of his men had sev­ered ties with the U.S. pro­gram and were going to fight the Islam­ic State on their own.

    “In the name of God, the Com­pas­sion­ate, the Mer­ci­ful, we, the group­ing of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies of Atareb and its coun­try­side, announce that we are out­side Divi­sion 30 infantry and we are an inde­pen­dent fac­tion work­ing on the Syr­i­an lands in iso­la­tion from coor­di­na­tion with the inter­na­tion­al (U.S.-led) coali­tion.”

    In a sep­a­rate Face­book post pur­port­ing to belong to Divi­sion 30, uniden­ti­fied posters said they had lost con­tact with Abu Zayd, could not con­firm that he had defect­ed to Nus­ra and vowed to “sub­mit him to the mil­i­tary court on charges of high trea­son” if he is found to have joined the al Qai­da group.

    Yet still anoth­er source, claim­ing to be a Dutch mem­ber of Nus­ra, told The Dai­ly Beast, an online Amer­i­can news out­let, that Abu Zayd had been arrest­ed by Nus­ra and had offered to give the al Qai­da group his vehi­cles and weapons in exchange for his release and pro­tec­tion.

    “He spoke out against the U.S. and will fight against the Assad regime despite his deal with the U.S. (not to com­bat Assad forces),” the Dutch­man alleged­ly said.

    ...

    Con­sid­er­ing what just hap­pened, it will be inter­est­ing to see how David Petraeus’s recent sug­ges­tion to allow the US-backed fight­er to tar­get Assad’s forces too is receieved in pol­i­cy-mak­ing cir­cles:

    ...
    At a more recent Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing, on Tues­day, retired Gen. David Petraeus, who com­mend­ed Amer­i­can and allied forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said the train­ing pro­gram should be com­plete­ly over­hauled. He advo­cat­ed allow­ing the U.S.-backed Syr­i­ans to take on sol­diers loy­al to Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad and cre­at­ing “safe zones” in Syr­ia pro­tect­ed by Amer­i­can spe­cial forces, two ideas that the Pen­ta­gon and the White House have repeat­ed­ly reject­ed.
    ...

    Espe­cial­ly giv­en his oth­er recent sug­ges­tion: try to splin­ter al Nus­ra by peel­ing off its ‘mod­er­ate’ mem­bers to cre­ate a new alter­na­tive “no al Nus­ra, but still jiha­di” rebel force:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    Petraeus: Use Al Qae­da Fight­ers to Beat ISIS
    To take down the so-called Islam­ic State in Syr­ia, the influ­en­tial for­mer head of the CIA wants to co-opt jihadists from America’s arch foe.

    Shame Har­ris and Nan­cy A. Youssef
    08.31.15 9.00 PM ET

    Mem­bers of al Qaeda’s branch in Syr­ia have a sur­pris­ing advo­cate in the cor­ri­dors of Amer­i­can pow­er: retired Army gen­er­al and for­mer CIA Direc­tor David Petraeus.

    The for­mer com­man­der of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been qui­et­ly urg­ing U.S. offi­cials to con­sid­er using so-called mod­er­ate mem­bers of al Qaeda’s Nus­ra Front to fight ISIS in Syr­ia, four sources famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions, includ­ing one per­son who spoke to Petraeus direct­ly, told The Dai­ly Beast.

    The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s expe­ri­ence in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broad­er strat­e­gy to defeat an Islamist insur­gency the U.S. per­suad­ed Sun­ni mili­tias to stop fight­ing with al Qae­da and to work with the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary.

    The tac­tic worked, at least tem­porar­i­ly. But al Qae­da in Iraq was lat­er reborn as ISIS, and has become the sworn ene­my of its par­ent orga­ni­za­tion. Now, Petraeus is return­ing to his old play, advo­cat­ing a strat­e­gy of co-opt­ing rank-and-file mem­bers of al Nus­ra, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly share all of core al Qaeda’s Islamist phi­los­o­phy.

    How­ev­er, Petraeus’s play, if exe­cut­ed, could be enor­mous­ly con­tro­ver­sial. The Amer­i­can war on ter­ror began with an al Qae­da attack on 9/11, of course. The idea that the U.S. would, 14 years lat­er, work with ele­ments of al Qaeda’s Syr­i­an branch was an irony too tough to stom­ach for most U.S. offi­cials inter­viewed by The Dai­ly Beast. They found Petraeus’s notion polit­i­cal­ly tox­ic, near-impos­si­ble to exe­cute, and strate­gi­cal­ly risky.

    It would also face enor­mous legal and secu­ri­ty obsta­cles. In 2012, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion des­ig­nat­ed al Nus­ra a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. And last year, the pres­i­dent ordered airstrikes on al Nus­ra posi­tions hous­ing mem­bers of the Kho­rasan Group, an al Qae­da cadre that was try­ing to recruit jihadists with West­ern pass­ports to smug­gle bombs onto civil­ian air­lin­ers.

    Yet Petraeus and his plan can­not be writ­ten off. He still wields con­sid­er­able influ­ence with cur­rent offi­cials, U.S. law­mak­ers, and for­eign lead­ers. The fact that he feels com­fort­able recruit­ing defec­tors from an orga­ni­za­tion that has declared war on the Unit­ed States under­scores the ten­u­ous nature of the Oba­ma administration’s strat­e­gy to fight ISIS, which numer­ous observers have said is floun­der­ing in search of a viable ground force.

    Accord­ing to those famil­iar with Petraeus’s think­ing, he advo­cates try­ing to cleave off less extreme al Nus­ra fight­ers, who are bat­tling ISIS in Syr­ia, but who joined with al Nus­ra because of their shared goal of over­throw­ing Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al Assad.

    Petraeus was the CIA direc­tor in ear­ly 2011 when the Syr­i­an civ­il war erupt­ed. At the time, he along with then-Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton and Defense Sec­re­tary Leon Panet­ta report­ed­ly urged the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to work with mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion forces. The U.S. didn’t, and many of those groups have since steered toward jihadist groups like the Nus­ra Front, which are bet­ter equipped and have had more suc­cess on the bat­tle­field.

    How pre­cise­ly the U.S. would sep­a­rate mod­er­ate fight­ers from core mem­bers and lead­ers of al Nus­ra is unclear, and Petraeus has yet to ful­ly detail any rec­om­men­da­tions he might have.

    Petraeus declined a request to com­ment on his views from The Dai­ly Beast.

    “This is an acknowl­edg­ment that the U.S. stat­ed goal to degrade and destroy ISIS is not work­ing. If it were, we would not be talk­ing to these not quite for­eign ter­ror­ist groups,” Christo­pher Harmer, a senior naval ana­lyst with the Mid­dle East Secu­ri­ty Project at the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based Insti­tute for the Study of War, told The Dai­ly Beast. “Strate­gi­cal­ly, it is des­per­ate.”

    Pri­vate­ly, U.S. offi­cials told The Dai­ly Beast that any direct links with al Nus­ra are off the table. But work­ing with oth­er fac­tions, while dif­fi­cult, might not be impos­si­ble.

    Still, the very forces that Petraeus envi­sions enlist­ing, and who may have once been deemed poten­tial allies when they were fight­ing Assad, now may be too far gone. More­over, there is no sign, thus far, of a group on the ground capa­ble of coun­ter­ing ISIS, at least with­out U.S. assis­tance.

    “As prospects for Assad dim, oppo­si­tion groups not already aligned with the U.S. or our part­ners will face a choice,” one U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial told The Dai­ly Beast. “Groups that try to cater to both hard-lin­ers and the West could find them­selves with­out any friends, hav­ing dis­tanced them­selves from groups like al Qae­da but still viewed as extrem­ists by the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion and their sup­port­ers.”

    News of Petraeus’s pro­pos­al comes at a poten­tial­ly oppor­tune moment for the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion as it looks toward some res­o­lu­tion of the civ­il war in Syr­ia. On Fri­day, Ambas­sador Michael Rat­ney, the new­ly-mint­ed U.S. spe­cial envoy to Syr­ia, set out to meet with Russ­ian, Sau­di, and Unit­ed Nations offi­cials in search of a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment to the con­flict.

    Like Petraeus, Rat­ney is in search of part­ners. He’s “try­ing to come up with options for some sort of polit­i­cal process, a polit­i­cal process that we know is going to have to include oppo­si­tion groups and try to work through what that means and what that’s going to look like,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kir­by told reporters last week. Kir­by stopped short of say­ing just which oppo­si­tion groups should be part of the dis­cus­sion.

    The U.S. has insist­ed that any nego­ti­at­ed set­tle­ment must not include Assad, even as Rus­sia has hint­ed Assad must be a part of a deal. Assad him­self said in a tele­vi­sion inter­view last week that he will not work with U.S. allies in Turkey and Sau­di Ara­bia.

    On the ground, the two most pow­er­ful anti-Assad forces are ISIS and al Nus­ra, and the U.S. won’t nego­ti­ate with either.

    Petraeus’s strat­e­gy depends on a num­ber of key assump­tions, chiefly that U.S. intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary offi­cials would be able to dis­tin­guish who among al Nusra’s ranks is tru­ly mod­er­ate and doesn’t share the ter­ror­ist group’s goal of replac­ing Assad with an Islamist gov­ern­ment.

    The for­mer gen­er­al isn’t the only ex-offi­cial who wants to talk to jihadist-linked fight­ers who share some, if not all, of the Unit­ed States’ goals.

    Robert Ford, the for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Syr­ia, has called for dia­logue with Ahrar al Sham, a jihadist force he has called “prob­a­bly the most impor­tant group fight­ing the Syr­i­an regime now.”

    In a recent arti­cle for the Mid­dle East Insti­tute, Ford said that the cap­ture of the Syr­i­an provin­cial cap­i­tal of Idlib last March, which was attrib­uted by some to al Nus­ra, real­ly should be cred­it­ed to Ahrar, which had more fight­ers in the bat­tle.

    “Ahrar is a key force on the bat­tle­field, but West­ern media allots lit­tle space to describe it beyond say­ing it is hard-line or jiha­di,’” Ford wrote. That label, he acknowl­edged, stems from Ahrar call­ing for an Islam­ic state in Syr­ia, as well as its col­lab­o­ra­tion with al Nus­ra against Assad and ISIS. The group was also found­ed by a for­mer deputy to the cur­rent al Qae­da leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

    But, Ford insist­ed, “Ahrar is not a junior part­ner of Nus­ra; there are ide­o­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences between them.”

    Some U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials dis­put­ed that, and said Ahrar is cur­rent­ly on a charm offen­sive, try­ing to dis­tance itself from Islam­ic groups like al Nus­ra and thus win sup­port in Wash­ing­ton while it looks for­ward to grab­bing pow­er after Assad falls.

    “Some groups will look to pave their way to a seat at the post-Assad table by seek­ing pub­lic sup­port, such as Ahrar al Sham, while oth­ers will affirm their choice through their actions,” the U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial said.

    The extent to which the U.S. oppos­es work­ing with Ahrar, a group that swears it’s inde­pen­dent, points out just how dif­fi­cult it would be to recruit mem­bers of al Nus­ra, which is al Qaeda’s offi­cial affil­i­ate in Syr­ia.

    And yet that’s not out of the ques­tion. The more extreme ISIS becomes, the more oth­er hard-line groups seem to soft­en by com­par­i­son. ISIS, with its filmed exe­cu­tions, orga­nized kid­nap­pings, and enslave­ment of women and girls, has become so bar­bar­ic that it has been iso­lat­ed from oth­er fight­ing groups on the ground, said Harmer, the mil­i­tary ana­lyst.

    “Alliances of con­ve­nience that would have been impos­si­ble two years are now plau­si­ble, and in some ways inevitable, because we are not will­ing to put boots on the ground,” Harmer said.

    Al Nus­ra has played an arguably help­ful role to the U.S. already, albeit indi­rect­ly and behind the scenes. In 2014, offi­cials in Qatar reached out to their con­tacts with al Nus­ra to help free Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Peter Theo Cur­tis, mul­ti­ple sources, includ­ing for­mer U.S. offi­cials famil­iar with the nego­ti­a­tions, have told The Dai­ly Beast. Al Nus­ra ele­ments were oper­at­ing so close­ly with the Amer­i­can-backed Free Syr­i­an Army at that time that Amer­i­can war­planes almost hit the mod­er­ate rebels as it was tar­get­ing the jihadists.

    The U.S. has tried oth­er means to field a sus­tain­able ground force to con­front ISIS. So far, none of them have worked reli­ably. The most suc­cess­ful ground force so far has been the YPG, a Kur­dish ele­ment, which drove ISIS out of the north­ern Syr­i­an city of Kobani and oth­er near­by cities under the cov­er of U.S. airstrikes.

    But since the U.S. struck a deal to allow com­bat flights from Turkey, which oppos­es embold­en­ing Kur­dish forces, doubts have sur­faced over whether the U.S. would keep pro­vid­ing air sup­port for the YPG as its seeks to take Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry. So far, the YPG has not pushed for any more land, instead defend­ing what it already has.

    U.S. efforts to train local forces in Syr­ia have fal­tered, as well. The first batch of 54 fight­ers trained by Amer­i­can mil­i­tary forces dis­solved in August. Some fight­ers fled back to their homes in Syr­ia. Oth­ers were cap­tured by al Nus­ra. While the U.S. mil­i­tary has said it’s still train­ing fight­ers, pri­vate­ly offi­cials con­cede the group has fall­en far short of expec­ta­tions. At one point, the U.S. planned to train 15,000 fight­ers in three years.

    Petraeus spoke on the record about his plans in a state­ment to CNN on Tues­day, after The Dai­ly Beast pub­lished its report.

    “We should under no cir­cum­stances try to use or co-opt Nus­ra, an Al Qae­da affil­i­ate in Syr­ia, as an orga­ni­za­tion against ISIL,” Petraeus said. “But some indi­vid­ual fight­ers, and per­haps some ele­ments, with­in Nus­ra today have undoubt­ed­ly joined for oppor­tunis­tic rather than ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons: they saw Nus­ra as a strong horse, and they haven’t seen a cred­i­ble alter­na­tive, as the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion has yet to be ade­quate­ly resourced.”

    Petraeus said the U.S. should try “splin­ter­ing [Al Nusra’s] ranks by offer­ing a cred­i­ble alter­na­tive to those ‘rec­on­cil­able’ ele­ments of those orga­ni­za­tions.”

    ...

    And note the “we’re mod­er­ate, there’s noth­ing to be scared of” charm offen­sive going on:

    ...
    The for­mer gen­er­al isn’t the only ex-offi­cial who wants to talk to jihadist-linked fight­ers who share some, if not all, of the Unit­ed States’ goals.

    Robert Ford, the for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Syr­ia, has called for dia­logue with Ahrar al Sham, a jihadist force he has called “prob­a­bly the most impor­tant group fight­ing the Syr­i­an regime now.”

    In a recent arti­cle for the Mid­dle East Insti­tute, Ford said that the cap­ture of the Syr­i­an provin­cial cap­i­tal of Idlib last March, which was attrib­uted by some to al Nus­ra, real­ly should be cred­it­ed to Ahrar, which had more fight­ers in the bat­tle.

    “Ahrar is a key force on the bat­tle­field, but West­ern media allots lit­tle space to describe it beyond say­ing it is hard-line or jiha­di,’” Ford wrote. That label, he acknowl­edged, stems from Ahrar call­ing for an Islam­ic state in Syr­ia, as well as its col­lab­o­ra­tion with al Nus­ra against Assad and ISIS. The group was also found­ed by a for­mer deputy to the cur­rent al Qae­da leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

    But, Ford insist­ed, “Ahrar is not a junior part­ner of Nus­ra; there are ide­o­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences between them.”

    Some U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials dis­put­ed that, and said Ahrar is cur­rent­ly on a charm offen­sive, try­ing to dis­tance itself from Islam­ic groups like al Nus­ra and thus win sup­port in Wash­ing­ton while it looks for­ward to grab­bing pow­er after Assad falls.

    “Some groups will look to pave their way to a seat at the post-Assad table by seek­ing pub­lic sup­port, such as Ahrar al Sham, while oth­ers will affirm their choice through their actions,” the U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial said.

    ...

    But also note that this charm offen­sive is hap­pen­ing in the con­text of a push for a polit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict. A polit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion that the US insists must not include Assad or ISIS, but appears to be rather flex­i­ble regard­ing the oth­er par­tic­i­pants:

    ...
    News of Petraeus’s pro­pos­al comes at a poten­tial­ly oppor­tune moment for the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion as it looks toward some res­o­lu­tion of the civ­il war in Syr­ia. On Fri­day, Ambas­sador Michael Rat­ney, the new­ly-mint­ed U.S. spe­cial envoy to Syr­ia, set out to meet with Russ­ian, Sau­di, and Unit­ed Nations offi­cials in search of a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment to the con­flict.

    Like Petraeus, Rat­ney is in search of part­ners. He’s “try­ing to come up with options for some sort of polit­i­cal process, a polit­i­cal process that we know is going to have to include oppo­si­tion groups and try to work through what that means and what that’s going to look like,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kir­by told reporters last week. Kir­by stopped short of say­ing just which oppo­si­tion groups should be part of the dis­cus­sion.

    The U.S. has insist­ed that any nego­ti­at­ed set­tle­ment must not include Assad, even as Rus­sia has hint­ed Assad must be a part of a deal. Assad him­self said in a tele­vi­sion inter­view last week that he will not work with U.S. allies in Turkey and Sau­di Ara­bia.

    On the ground, the two most pow­er­ful anti-Assad forces are ISIS and al Nus­ra, and the U.S. won’t nego­ti­ate with either.
    ...

    And that leaves us with this:

    ....
    The extent to which the U.S. oppos­es work­ing with Ahrar, a group that swears it’s inde­pen­dent, points out just how dif­fi­cult it would be to recruit mem­bers of al Nus­ra, which is al Qaeda’s offi­cial affil­i­ate in Syr­ia.

    And yet that’s not out of the ques­tion. The more extreme ISIS becomes, the more oth­er hard-line groups seem to soft­en by com­par­i­son. ISIS, with its filmed exe­cu­tions, orga­nized kid­nap­pings, and enslave­ment of women and girls, has become so bar­bar­ic that it has been iso­lat­ed from oth­er fight­ing groups on the ground, said Harmer, the mil­i­tary ana­lyst.

    “Alliances of con­ve­nience that would have been impos­si­ble two years are now plau­si­ble, and in some ways inevitable, because we are not will­ing to put boots on the ground,” Harmer said.
    ...

    “Alliances of con­ve­nience that would have been impos­si­ble two years are now plau­si­ble, and in some ways inevitable, because we are not will­ing to put boots on the ground.”

    So it’s look­ing like we might be see­ing a “team up with al Nus­ra ‘mod­er­ates’ fight­ing Assad or it’s ‘boots on the ground’ ” meme emerg­ing from some pol­i­cy-mak­ing cir­cles while the ‘mod­er­ate’ part­ners of al Nus­ra jock­ey for “we’re to rad­i­cal zealots, trust us with power”-status in prepa­ra­tion for a post-Assad polit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion.

    Will this joint charm-offen­sive result in a real divide between the anti-ISIS Islamist groups and a gen­uine mod­er­a­tion of the al Nus­ra ‘mod­er­ates’? We’ll find out soon­er or lat­er. But one out­come is look­ing increas­ing­ly like­ly: There’s prob­a­bly going to be a lot more Sryian refugees soon.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 26, 2015, 1:21 pm
  36. Behold, six of the scari­est words in the Eng­lish lan­guage: “It’s a proxy war by hap­pen­stance”:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Did U.S. weapons sup­plied to Syr­i­an rebels draw Rus­sia into the con­flict?

    By Liz Sly
    Octo­ber 11 at 8:20 PM

    BEIRUT — Amer­i­can anti­tank mis­siles sup­plied to Syr­i­an rebels are play­ing an unex­pect­ed­ly promi­nent role in shap­ing the Syr­i­an bat­tle­field, giv­ing the con­flict the sem­blance of a proxy war between the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia, despite Pres­i­dent Obama’s express desire to avoid one.

    The U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW mis­siles were deliv­ered under a two-year-old covert pro­gram coor­di­nat­ed between the Unit­ed States and its allies to help vet­ted Free Syr­i­an Army groups in their fight against Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad. Now that Rus­sia has entered the war in sup­port of Assad, they are tak­ing on a greater sig­nif­i­cance than was orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed.

    So suc­cess­ful have they been in dri­ving rebel gains in north­west­ern Syr­ia that rebels call the mis­sile the “Assad Tamer,” a play on the word Assad, which means lion. And in recent days they have been used with great suc­cess to slow the Russ­ian-backed offen­sive aimed at recap­tur­ing ground from the rebels.

    Since Wednes­day, when Syr­i­an troops launched their first offen­sive backed by the might of Russia’s mil­i­tary, dozens of videos have been post­ed on YouTube show­ing rebels fir­ing the U.S.-made mis­siles at Russ­ian-made tanks and armored vehi­cles belong­ing to the Syr­i­an army. Appear­ing as twirling balls of light, they zigzag across the Syr­i­an coun­try­side until they find and blast their tar­get in a ball of flame.

    The rebels claim they took out 24 tanks and armored vehi­cles on the first day, and the toll has risen dai­ly since then.

    “It was a tank mas­sacre,” said Capt. Mustafa Moarati, whose Taja­mu al-Izza group says it destroyed sev­en tanks and armored vehi­cles Wednes­day.

    More mis­siles are on the way, he said. New sup­plies arrived after the Russ­ian deploy­ments began, he said, and the rebels’ allies have promised fur­ther deliv­er­ies soon, bring­ing echoes of the role played by U.S.-supplied Stinger anti­air­craft mis­siles in forc­ing the Sovi­et Union to with­draw from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

    The hits also plunged Wash­ing­ton into what amounts to a proxy war of sorts with Moscow, despite Obama’s insis­tence this month that “we’re not going to make Syr­ia into a proxy war between the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia.”

    “It’s a proxy war by hap­pen­stance,” said Jeff White of the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­i­cy, who count­ed at least 15 tanks and vehi­cles destroyed or dis­abled in one day. “The rebels hap­pen to have a lot of TOWs in their inven­to­ry. The regime hap­pened to attack them with Russ­ian sup­port. I don’t see it as a proxy war by deci­sion.”

    Whether it will become one is one of the key ques­tions con­fronting the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion in the wake of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s deci­sion to throw Russia’s sup­port behind Assad’s regime.

    The TOW mis­sile pro­gram over­seen by the CIA is entire­ly sep­a­rate from a failed pro­gram run by the Pen­ta­gon that was intend­ed to influ­ence the out­come of the oth­er war being waged in Syr­ia, the one in the north­east­ern part of the coun­try against the Islam­ic State.

    The CIA pro­gram got under­way before the Pen­ta­gon one, in ear­ly 2014, with the goal of prop­ping up the flag­ging rebel­lion against Assad’s rule by deliv­er­ing train­ing, small arms, ammu­ni­tion and the anti­tank mis­siles, which have proved instru­men­tal in erod­ing the government’s key advan­tage over the light­ly armed rebel force — its tanks and heavy armor.

    Sup­plied most­ly from stocks owned by Sau­di Ara­bia, deliv­ered across the Turk­ish bor­der and stamped with CIA approval, the mis­siles were intend­ed to ful­fill anoth­er of the Oba­ma administration’s goals in Syr­ia — Assad’s nego­ti­at­ed exit from pow­er. The plan, as described by admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, was to exert suf­fi­cient mil­i­tary pres­sure on Assad’s forces to per­suade him to com­pro­mise — but not so much that his gov­ern­ment would pre­cip­i­tous­ly col­lapse and leave a dan­ger­ous pow­er vac­u­um in Dam­as­cus.

    Instead, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary inter­vened to shore up the strug­gling Syr­i­an army — an out­come that was not intend­ed.

    “A pri­ma­ry dri­ving fac­tor in Russia’s cal­cu­lus was the real­iza­tion that the Assad regime was mil­i­tar­i­ly weak­en­ing and in dan­ger of los­ing ter­ri­to­ry in north­west­ern Syr­ia. The TOWs played an out­size role in that,” said Oubai Shah­ban­dar, a Dubai-based con­sul­tant who used to work with the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion.

    “I think even the Amer­i­cans were sur­prised at how suc­cess­ful they’ve been,” he added.

    It was no acci­dent, say U.S. offi­cials and mil­i­tary ana­lysts, that the first tar­gets of Russ­ian airstrikes in Syr­ia were the loca­tions where the rebels armed with TOW mis­siles have made the most sub­stan­tial gains and where they most direct­ly threat­en Assad’s hold over his family’s heart­land in the coastal province of Latakia.

    ...

    What the TOWs have done, White said, is “off­set the regime’s advan­tage in armor. The TOWs have cut away at that edge, and that’s what we’ve seen play­ing out. It’s like the Stingers in Afghanistan.”

    It is unclear whether the TOWs will be able to change the course of the war, as did the Stinger anti­air­craft mis­siles intro­duced in the 1980s by the CIA in Afghanistan, where they were used by the mujahideen to shoot down Russ­ian heli­copters and par­a­lyze the Sovi­et army.

    Now that the Rus­sians have intro­duced more inten­sive and heav­ier airstrikes and, for the first time, com­bat heli­copters have been seen in videos straf­ing vil­lages in the Hama area, the TOW mis­siles may only be able to slow, but not block, gov­ern­ment advances.

    The rebels have appealed for the deliv­ery of Stinger mis­siles or their equiv­a­lents to counter the new threat from the air, but U.S. offi­cials say that is unlike­ly. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has repeat­ed­ly vetoed past requests from the rebels, as well as their Turk­ish and Sau­di allies, for the deliv­ery of anti­air­craft mis­siles, out of con­cerns that they could fall into extrem­ist hands.

    But the TOW mis­sile pro­gram is already in progress, and all the indi­ca­tions are that it will con­tin­ue. Sau­di Ara­bia, the chief sup­pli­er, has pledged a “mil­i­tary” response to the Russ­ian incur­sion, and rebel com­man­ders say they have been assured more will arrive immi­nent­ly.

    Under the terms of the pro­gram, the mis­siles are deliv­ered in lim­it­ed quan­ti­ties, and the rebel groups must return the used can­is­ters to secure more, to avoid stock­pil­ing or resale.

    The sys­tem appears to have helped pre­vent the mis­siles from falling into extrem­ist hands. Robert Ford, who was serv­ing as U.S. envoy to Syr­ia when the pro­gram got under­way, said he was aware of only two TOWs obtained by the al-Qae­da affil­i­ate Jab­hat al-Nus­ra, while “dozens and dozens” have been fired by mod­er­ate groups.

    “Nus­ra made a big pub­lic dis­play of hav­ing these two mis­siles,” said Ford, who is now a fel­low at the Mid­dle East Insti­tute. Had they acquired more, he said, “they would be using them now.”

    The sup­plies of the mis­siles, man­u­fac­tured by Raytheon, are sourced main­ly from stocks owned by the Sau­di gov­ern­ment, which pur­chased 13,795 of them in 2013, for expect­ed deliv­ery this year, accord­ing to Defense Depart­ment doc­u­ments inform­ing Con­gress of the sale. Because end-user agree­ments require that the buy­er inform the Unit­ed States of their ulti­mate des­ti­na­tion, U.S. approval is implic­it, said Shah­ban­dar, a for­mer Pen­ta­gon advis­er.

    But no deci­sion is required from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion for the pro­gram to con­tin­ue, Shah­ban­dar said. “It doesn’t need an Amer­i­can green light. A yel­low light is enough,” he said. “It’s a covert effort and it’s tech­ni­cal­ly deni­able, but that’s what proxy wars are.”

    Yes, we’re look­ing at a sort of proxy war between the US and Rus­sia, but note that it’s the Saud­is that appear to be tak­ing the lead in actu­al­ly pur­chas­ing the mis­siles and deliv­er­ing them to the rebels. And there’s A LOT more mis­siles slat­ed for deliv­ery to the Saud­is this years which are, in turn, prob­a­bly end­ed up in the hands of Syr­i­an rebels:

    ...
    The TOW mis­sile pro­gram over­seen by the CIA is entire­ly sep­a­rate from a failed pro­gram run by the Pen­ta­gon that was intend­ed to influ­ence the out­come of the oth­er war being waged in Syr­ia, the one in the north­east­ern part of the coun­try against the Islam­ic State.

    The CIA pro­gram got under­way before the Pen­ta­gon one, in ear­ly 2014, with the goal of prop­ping up the flag­ging rebel­lion against Assad’s rule by deliv­er­ing train­ing, small arms, ammu­ni­tion and the anti­tank mis­siles, which have proved instru­men­tal in erod­ing the government’s key advan­tage over the light­ly armed rebel force — its tanks and heavy armor.

    Sup­plied most­ly from stocks owned by Sau­di Ara­bia, deliv­ered across the Turk­ish bor­der and stamped with CIA approval, the mis­siles were intend­ed to ful­fill anoth­er of the Oba­ma administration’s goals in Syr­ia — Assad’s nego­ti­at­ed exit from pow­er. The plan, as described by admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, was to exert suf­fi­cient mil­i­tary pres­sure on Assad’s forces to per­suade him to com­pro­mise — but not so much that his gov­ern­ment would pre­cip­i­tous­ly col­lapse and leave a dan­ger­ous pow­er vac­u­um in Dam­as­cus.

    ...

    The sup­plies of the mis­siles, man­u­fac­tured by Raytheon, are sourced main­ly from stocks owned by the Sau­di gov­ern­ment, which pur­chased 13,795 of them in 2013, for expect­ed deliv­ery this year, accord­ing to Defense Depart­ment doc­u­ments inform­ing Con­gress of the sale. Because end-user agree­ments require that the buy­er inform the Unit­ed States of their ulti­mate des­ti­na­tion, U.S. approval is implic­it, said Shah­ban­dar, a for­mer Pen­ta­gon advis­er.

    But no deci­sion is required from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion for the pro­gram to con­tin­ue, Shah­ban­dar said. “It doesn’t need an Amer­i­can green light. A yel­low light is enough,” he said. “It’s a covert effort and it’s tech­ni­cal­ly deni­able, but that’s what proxy wars are.”

    So ~14k TOW mis­siles are prob­a­bly on their way to Syr­i­a’s rev­els this year, assum­ing they haven’t already arrived. And giv­en their effec­tive­ness so far against Assad’s tanks and armor, it’s look­ing like this could be a “game chang­er” weapon for the rebels. Except, of course, for the fact that Rus­sia just changed the game dra­mat­i­cal­ly and is now direct­ly inter­ven­ing in the con­flict and appears intent in not allow­ing a col­lapse of the Assad regime and has now focused its attack on the very same rebel groups wield­ing these mis­siles. And this is all less than two years after the report­ed threat issued by Prince Ban­dar to Vladimir Putin to pull sup­port for Assad or face the wrath of Chechen ter­ror­ists.

    All in all, and omi­nous­ly, it’s look­ing like Syr­i­a’s civ­il war might be on the verge of see­ing some sig­nif­i­cant upgrades in terms of mil­i­tary fire­pow­er on mul­ti­ple sides of con­flict. Well, except ISIS. Hope­ful­ly ISIS isn’t about to see a sig­nif­i­cant upgrade in their mil­i­tary hard­ware from some out­side spon­sor­ing state. Hope­ful­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 12, 2015, 2:44 pm
  37. Turkey recent­ly sum­moned the US ambas­sador to rebuke him for the US’s mil­i­tary sup­port for the Kurds in Syr­ia. In par­tic­u­lar, the sup­port for the Kurds of Kobani, who have been one of the more mil­i­tar­i­ly suc­cess­ful forces against ISIS, is real­ly piss­ing off Erdo­gan’s gov­ern­ment:

    Bloomberg Busi­ness
    Turkey Rebukes U.S. Envoy Over Sup­port of Kur­dish Group in Syr­ia

    Iso­bel Finkel
    Sel­can Hacaoglu
    Octo­ber 14, 2015 — 7:58 AM CDT

    * Davu­to­glu says Turkey won’t accept aid to groups linked to PKK
    * Turkey is con­cerned about spillover from war in neigh­bor Syr­ia

    Turkey said it sum­moned the U.S. ambas­sador to issue a rebuke over America’s sup­port for Kurds fight­ing Islam­ic State in Syr­ia.

    The gov­ern­ment won’t tol­er­ate inter­na­tion­al sup­port for eth­nic Kur­dish mil­i­tants in Syr­ia, includ­ing the PYD, Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu said in a joint press con­fer­ence with his Bul­gar­i­an coun­ter­part in Istan­bul. Weapons giv­en to the groups, which have “organ­ic links” to auton­o­my-seek­ing Kur­dish PKK mil­i­tants in Turkey, can be used against secu­ri­ty forces at home, he said.

    “Allied coun­tries wouldn’t tol­er­ate arms ship­ments to groups affil­i­at­ed with al-Qae­da,” he said. “No one can guar­an­tee that weapons won’t fall into the hands of the PKK tomor­row, and that they won’t be used against Turkey.”

    Long-run­ning ten­sions between Turkey’s gov­ern­ment and the Kurds flared again after incon­clu­sive elec­tions in June gave the pro-Kur­dish HDP par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the first time, end­ing the 13-year major­i­ty enjoyed by the AK Par­ty found­ed by Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan. That inter­nal strife is now com­pli­cat­ing rela­tions with Turkey’s allies, in par­tic­u­lar the U.S., which relies on Syr­ia-based Kur­dish fight­ers on the ground to back up its airstrikes against Islam­ic State.

    While Turkey and the U.S., both mem­bers of NATO, con­sid­er the PKK to be a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, they dis­agree on the sta­tus of the PYD.

    Turkey fears the grow­ing strength of the group, and its armed unit YPG, will lead to an inde­pen­dent Kur­dish state on its bor­der. Erdo­gan said last month the U.S. should recon­sid­er its “wrong” stance on the group, call­ing it “unthink­able” that it would ignore Turkey’s views. Both the PYD and YPG are ter­ror­ist groups affil­i­at­ed with the PKK, he said.

    ...

    Yes, Turkey’s Prime Min­is­ter actu­al­ly said this, appar­ent­ly non-sar­cas­ti­cal­ly too!

    ...
    Allied coun­tries wouldn’t tol­er­ate arms ship­ments to groups affil­i­at­ed with al-Qae­da,” he said. “No one can guar­an­tee that weapons won’t fall into the hands of the PKK tomor­row, and that they won’t be used against Turkey.”
    ...

    LOL! Well, allied coun­tries may not “tol­er­ate” send­ing arms to groups affil­i­at­ed with al Qae­da, but that does­n’t appear to stop them from actu­al­ly doing it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 17, 2015, 9:41 am
  38. Just a heads up: Fol­low­ing ear­li­er warn­ings that Turkey “can­not endure” Russ­ian vio­la­tions of its air­space and NATO warn­ings to Rus­sia, Turkey’s prime min­is­ter just pub­licly declared that it won’t hes­i­tate to shoot down any Russ­ian or Syr­i­an jets fly­ing over turkey, which is a rather alarm­ing in a “hey, let’s not start WWIII here” way since Russ­ian jets are rou­tine­ly fly­ing com­bat mis­sions along that bor­der:

    Reuters
    Turkey would shoot down planes vio­lat­ing its air space — PM

    ISTANBUL

    Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:44pm IST

    Turkey would not hes­i­tate to shoot down planes vio­lat­ing its air space, Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu said on Sat­ur­day, a day after the NATO mem­ber shot down an uniden­ti­fied drone near its bor­der with Syr­ia.

    Syr­i­an, Russ­ian and U.S. coali­tion air­craft are fly­ing com­bat mis­sions near Turkey’s bor­ders as part of the Syr­i­an civ­il war. The drone inci­dent high­lights the dan­ger that Turkey, with the sec­ond largest army in NATO, could be drawn into a mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion.

    Turkey had already com­plained of Russ­ian war­planes vio­lat­ing its air apace along the bor­der with Syr­ia ear­li­er this month.

    “We downed a drone yes­ter­day. If it was a plane we’d do the same. Our rules of engage­ment are known. Who­ev­er vio­lates our bor­ders, we will give them the nec­es­sary answer,” Davu­to­glu told a ral­ly of his rul­ing AK Par­ty in the cen­tral city of Kay­seri.

    ...

    A U.S. offi­cial said on Fri­day Wash­ing­ton believed it was of Russ­ian ori­gin, but the Russ­ian defence min­istry said all of its planes in Syr­ia had safe­ly returned to base and that all its drones were oper­at­ing “as planned”.

    The Turk­ish mil­i­tary said it shot down the unmanned air­craft after it con­tin­ued on its course despite three warn­ings, in line with its rules of engage­ment. Broad­cast­er NTV said it had come 3 km (2 miles) into Turk­ish air space.

    The Russ­ian Defence Min­istry said on Fri­day it had estab­lished direct con­tact with the Turk­ish mil­i­tary to avoid inci­dents with flights near the bor­der, Inter­fax news agency report­ed.

    It’s start­ing to feel like déjà vu all over again.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 17, 2015, 1:41 pm
  39. Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Ben Car­son Tayyip Erodogan has a mes­sage to both the Syr­i­an Kurds and the US: Any attempts to set up an inde­pen­dent Kur­dish can­ton on the Turk­ish bor­der will result in a mil­i­tary response, whether they’re backed by the US as part of the anti-ISIS cam­paign or not:

    Reuters
    Erdo­gan says Turkey may hit U.S.-backed Syr­i­an Kurds to block advance

    ISTANBUL | By Ayla Jean Yack­ley
    Wed Oct 28, 2015 5:42pm EDT

    Turkey will “do what is nec­es­sary” to pre­vent U.S.-allied Syr­i­an Kur­dish rebels from declar­ing auton­o­my in the town of Tel Abyad near the Turk­ish bor­der, includ­ing con­duct­ing fur­ther mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan said on Wednes­day.

    NATO mem­ber Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coali­tion fight­ing Islam­ic State mil­i­tants in Syr­ia, but it sees advances by auton­o­my-seek­ing Kurds, led by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union Par­ty (PYD), as a threat to its own nation­al secu­ri­ty, fear­ing they could stoke sep­a­ratism among Turk­ish Kurds.

    Turk­ish jets recent­ly hit the Syr­i­an Kurds’ armed Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) tar­gets twice after they defied Ankara and crossed west of the Euphrates Riv­er.

    “This was a warn­ing. ‘Pull your­self togeth­er. If you try to do this else­where — Turkey does­n’t need per­mis­sion from any­one — we will do what is nec­es­sary,’ ” Erdo­gan said, sig­nal­ing he could defy Wash­ing­ton’s demand that Ankara avoid hit­ting Syr­i­an Kurds and focus its mil­i­tary might on Islam­ic State tar­gets.

    Erdo­gan, in remarks broad­cast live on the Kanal 24 tele­vi­sion sta­tion, also accused the PYD of car­ry­ing out “eth­nic cleans­ing” in the area and said West­ern sup­port for the Syr­i­an Kur­dish mili­tias amount­ed to aid­ing ter­ror­ism.

    Backed by U.S.-led air strikes, YPD fight­ers cap­tured Tel Abyad in June from Islam­ic State, and this month a local lead­er­ship coun­cil declared the town part of the sys­tem of autonomous self-gov­ern­ing “can­tons” run by the Kurds.

    “The PYD is com­mit­ting eth­nic cleans­ing here (of) Arabs and Turk­men,” Erdo­gan said. “If the Kurds with­draw and don’t form a can­ton, there’s no prob­lem. But if the mind­set con­tin­ues, then what is nec­es­sary will be done or we face seri­ous prob­lems.

    “We are deter­mined to (com­bat) any­thing that threat­ens us along the Syr­i­an bor­der, inside or out.”

    Turkey does not want to see an autonomous Kur­dish enti­ty resem­bling Iraqi Kur­dis­tan emerg­ing on its south­ern flank, said Erdo­gan, speak­ing days before a Turk­ish par­lia­men­tary elec­tion that has aggra­vat­ed polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty ten­sions.

    West­ern allies are now arm­ing the Kurds, he added.

    “They don’t even accept the PYD as a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. What kind of non­sense is this?” he said. “The West still has the men­tal­i­ty of ‘My ter­ror­ist is good, yours is bad.’ ”

    With­in Turkey, the armed forces have resumed their 30-year fight with mil­i­tants of the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Par­ty (PKK), which wants auton­o­my for the Turk­ish Kurds and also has close links with their eth­nic brethren across the bor­der in Syr­ia.

    ...

    The Unit­ed States and Europe, like Turkey, clas­si­fy the PKK as a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion but regard the Syr­i­an and Iraqi Kur­dish group­ings as valu­able allies in the fight against Islam­ic State and oth­er jihadis.

    “The West still has the men­tal­i­ty of ‘My ter­ror­ist is good, yours is bad.’ ”
    Wow. That was rather blunt way of putting things.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 29, 2015, 1:14 pm
  40. It appears that Turkey decid­ed to make good on its pre­vi­ous threats to shoot down any Russ­ian jets that vio­late Turkey’s air­space.

    Or, to put it all anoth­er way, it appears that the Dooms­day Clock is run­ning a lit­tle behind again:

    The Los Ange­les Times
    Putin calls down­ing of Russ­ian jet by Turkey’s mil­i­tary ‘a stab in the back’

    By Jere­mi­ah Bai­ly-Hoover
    Novem­ber 24, 2015, 8:15 AM | Report­ing from instan­bul, Turkey

    The Turk­ish mil­i­tary shot down a Russ­ian SU-24 war­plane near the Syr­i­an bor­der ear­ly on Tues­day after say­ing it had crossed into Turkey’s air space, an action Russia’s leader called a “stab in the back.”

    Accord­ing to a state­ment released by the Turk­ish Armed Forces Com­mand, an uniden­ti­fied jet was shot down by F‑16 fight­er jets after vio­lat­ing Turk­ish air­space in the south­ern province of Hatay. The plane was attacked in line with Turkey’s mil­i­tary rules of engage­ment, the state­ment said, after being warned 10 times in a five-minute peri­od in line that it had crossed into Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry.

    Turkey quick­ly called for a meet­ing with NATO allies to dis­cuss the down­ing of the jet.

    Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin quick­ly and emphat­i­cal­ly con­demned the attack. He said the SU-24 was downed by an air-to-air mis­sile from a Turk­ish F‑16 despite hav­ing nev­er strayed from Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry, reit­er­at­ing that “nei­ther our pilots nor our jet threat­ened the ter­ri­to­ry of Turkey.”

    “The loss today is a stab in the back, car­ried out by the accom­plices of ter­ror­ists,” he declared. “I can’t describe it in any oth­er way.”

    “Today’s trag­ic event will have sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences, includ­ing for Rus­sia-Turk­ish rela­tions,” he added. “Instead of imme­di­ate­ly get­ting in con­tact with us, as far as we know, the Turk­ish side imme­di­ate­ly turned to their part­ners from NATO to dis­cuss this inci­dent, as if we shot down their plane and not they ours.”

    Both Turkey and Rus­sia are involved in the multi­na­tion­al mil­i­tary cam­paign in Syr­ia but often with con­flict­ing goals. While say­ing it is bat­tling inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism, Rus­si­a’s inter­ven­tion two months ago is large­ly seen as an effort to prop up the gov­ern­ment of embat­tled Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad.

    Turkey’s aim is, at least in part, to pre­vent the strength­en­ing of Kur­dish forces, which are bat­tling Assad’s gov­ern­ment and also have made gains against Islam­ic State fight­ers. Turkey has been bat­tling a Kur­dish insur­gency for decades.

    Footage released by Turkey’s semi-offi­cial Anadolu new agency showed the jet crash­ing into a wood­ed moun­tain­ous area fol­lowed by a plume of smoke. Fur­ther footage from Anadolu showed the two pilots para­chut­ing to the ground after hav­ing eject­ed.

    Accord­ing to Turk­ish news agency DHA, a Turk­men rebel brigade oper­at­ing in that area shot to death the two pilots after they reached the ground. The report could not be imme­di­ate­ly ver­i­fied.

    The Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry for Human Rights that a Russ­ian heli­copter appar­ent­ly search­ing for the crew mem­bers in a near­by area was hit by an anti-tank mis­sile after being forced to make an emer­gency land­ing. A YouTube video uploaded in the after­noon by a rebel group known to be oper­at­ing in the same area shows an Amer­i­can sup­plied anti-tank TOW mis­sile strik­ing a heli­copter after it had land­ed.

    Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu defend­ed the actions of the Turk­ish mil­i­tary stat­ing it was their duty to defend Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry. “The world needs to know that it is our inter­na­tion­al right and our nation­al duty to take mea­sures against any­body who vio­lates our bor­ders on the land and in the air, in spite of our many warn­ings,” he said.

    The down­ing of the Russ­ian jet comes after over near­ly two months of esca­lat­ing ten­sion between Turkey and Rus­sia over the sov­er­eign­ty of Turk­ish air­space. One week after Rus­sia began it’s air cam­paign, Russ­ian air­planes twice vio­lat­ed Turk­ish air­space and harassed Turk­ish fight­er jets patrolling the Turk­ish-Syr­i­an bor­der with anti-air­craft radar.

    On Oct. 16, an uniden­ti­fied drone was shot down on the Turk­ish-Syr­i­an bor­der. Davu­to­glu stat­ed that the drone was of Russ­ian ori­gin but that Rus­sia had denied that they were oper­at­ing the drone.

    The Russ­ian bomb­ing cam­paign in Syr­ia fur­ther raised the ire of Turk­ish lead­ers sev­er­al days ago when Russ­ian bombs hit tar­gets in the north­west Syr­i­an province of Lat­takia. The area tar­get­ed by Russ­ian strikes is heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed by the Turk­men eth­nic group. Turkey has tra­di­tion­al­ly sup­port­ed and expressed sol­i­dar­i­ty with Syria’s Turk­men pop­u­la­tion, which is of Turk­ish descent.

    Davu­to­glu quick­ly con­demned the strikes say­ing they were strikes against civil­ians and “against our Turk­men sib­lings.”

    Accord­ing to the Turk­ish News­pa­per Hur­riyet, the attacks led to Turkey sum­mon­ing Russ­ian Ambas­sador Andrey Karlov and stat­ing that Turkey “has every right to retal­i­ate and take nec­es­sary mea­sures in the event its bor­der secu­ri­ty is threat­ened as a result of the Russ­ian military’s oper­a­tions tar­get­ing civil­ian Turk­men Syr­i­ans on the Turk­ish-Syr­i­an bor­der.”

    Speak­ing from Jor­dan after meet­ing Jor­dan­ian King Abdul­lah, Putin con­tin­ued to esca­late his rhetoric with Turkey, accus­ing it of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism.

    “We have long been record­ing the move­ment of a large amount of oil and petro­le­um prod­ucts to Turkey from ISIS-occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries,” he said, refer­ring to Islam­ic State by one of its acronyms. “This explains the sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing the ter­ror­ists are receiv­ing.”

    Russ­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov, who was due to pay an offi­cial vis­it to Turkey on Wednes­day to dis­cuss region­al secu­ri­ty and ener­gy issues, can­celled his trip. Lavrov also advised Russ­ian tourists not to vis­it Turkey, say­ing the threat of ter­ror­ism in Turkey was no less than in Egypt, where a Russ­ian pas­sen­ger jet was shot down Oct. 31, killing all 224 peo­ple on board.

    ...

    Now that the war of words between Rus­sia and Turkey over Turkey’s well-doc­u­ment­ed sup­port and financ­ing for ISIS and oth­er extrem­ist mil­i­tant groups oper­at­ing in Syr­ia has result­ed in downed planes and dead pilots, it will be inter­est­ing to see how that war of words evolves. Putting aside how this inci­dent might com­pli­cate any poten­tial anti-ISIS alliance between Rus­sia, France, and the US, you have to won­der what is going to hap­pen to Turkey’s stand­ing in the world and its var­i­ous alliances if Rus­si­a’s form of retal­i­a­tion is to sim­ply and end­less­ly point out that Turkey’s gov­ern­ment is one of the biggest sup­port­ers of ISIS in the world. Because when Putin says:

    ...
    “We have long been record­ing the move­ment of a large amount of oil and petro­le­um prod­ucts to Turkey from ISIS-occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries,” he said, refer­ring to Islam­ic State by one of its acronyms. “This explains the sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing the ter­ror­ists are receiv­ing.”
    ...

    He’s pre­sum­ably not bluff­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 24, 2015, 3:36 pm
  41. The war of words between Rus­sia and Turkey took anoth­er twist fol­low­ing the res­cue of one of the downed Russ­ian pilots who claims that he nev­er strayed into Turkey air­space and nev­er heard a warn­ing, let alone 10 warn­ings, from the Turkey pilot. And the Krem­lin is now char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as a ‘planned provo­ca­tion’:

    The Tele­graph
    Turkey shoot­ing down plane was ‘planned provo­ca­tion’ says Rus­sia, as res­cued pilot claims he had no warn­ing — lat­est
    Russ­ian and Syr­i­an spe­cial forces free sec­ond pilot of a Russ­ian war­plane shot down by Turkey, says defence min­is­ter

    By Isabelle Fras­er, and Raziye Akkoc

    8:29PM GMT 25 Nov 2015

    Lat­est
    What has hap­pened today so far?

    Rus­sia hit back at Turkey and its Nato allies today, announc­ing it was deploy­ing high-end anti-air­craft mis­siles to its mil­i­tary facil­i­ties in the coun­try, write Roland Oliphant in Moscow and Richard Spencer, Mid­dle East Edi­tor.

    There were also major air attacks, said to be by Russ­ian jets, across north­ern Syr­ia against rebel groups backed by Turkey in what appeared to a cal­cu­lat­ed show of strength.

    Rebels said among the tar­gets was an aid con­voy belong­ing to a Turk­ish aid group, IHH, with links to Turkey’s rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP). But IHH denied this on Twit­ter.

    ...

    West­ern pow­ers urged a de-esca­la­tion of ten­sions, but Vladimir Putin sug­gest­ed he was in no mood to take Tuesday’s shoot­ing down of a Russ­ian fight­er bomber by Turk­ish F‑16 jets light­ly.

    Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s for­eign min­is­ter, accused the Turks of a “planned provo­ca­tion” that would cause Moscow to “seri­ous­ly reassess” rela­tions with Ankara.

    “We have no inten­tion to go to war with Turkey,” Mr Lavrov said at a tele­vised brief­ing. “Yet we can’t but react to what has hap­pened.”

    The deci­sion by Mr Putin to deploy S‑400 mis­siles to the Russ­ian air base in Latakia is one of sev­er­al counter mea­sures announced by Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence min­is­ter.

    With a range of 250 miles, the S‑400s would eas­i­ly be able to destroy any hos­tile air­craft oper­at­ing in the bor­der areas of Turkey and Syr­ia where the Russ­ian SU-24 was shot down

    Its deploy­ment also sends a mes­sage to Nato. Mr Putin’s deci­sion to send a fleet of war-planes to the base has already turned what was pre­vi­ous­ly a minor Syr­i­an out­post to a front-line Russ­ian base on Nato’s south-east­ern edge.

    Just as the ease with which Turkey’s advanced Amer­i­can jets shot down their Russ­ian adver­sary is a warn­ing to Mr Putin not to over-reach him­self, the counter-deploy­ment of air defence mis­siles is intend­ed to deter any Nato move to imple­ment a no-fly zone over Syr­ia.

    Mr Shoigu also said all future bomb­ing mis­sions would be accom­pa­nied by fight­er escorts, and ordered the country’s most pow­er­ful mis­sile cruis­er, the Mosk­va, to patrol in-shore waters near the Turk­ish-Syr­i­an bor­der.

    “She will be ready to destroy any aer­i­al tar­get pos­ing a poten­tial dan­ger to our air­craft,” he said.

    The Krem­lin accused Ankara of con­spir­ing in advance to “ambush” the SU-24 jet as it car­ried out a bomb­ing mis­sion against rebel groups near the Turk­ish-Syr­i­an bor­der on Tues­day morn­ing.

    The pilot, Lt Col Oleg Peshkov, was shot dead by rebels as he para­chut­ed to earth. The nav­i­ga­tor, Capt Kon­stanin Murakhin, sur­vived, despite ini­tial reports that he too had been killed.

    He was res­cued from behind rebel lines by a Russ­ian-Syr­i­an mis­sion. Speak­ing pub­licly for the first time this evening (see video below), Capt Murakhin denied that his air­craft had entered Turk­ish air­space “even for a sin­gle sec­ond.”

    He also reject­ed the Turk­ish claim that its F‑16 had repeat­ed­ly warned the Russ­ian jet before open­ing fire.

    “There have been no warn­ings what­so­ev­er,” said Capt Murakhtin, who added that he want­ed to keep fly­ing mis­sions from the base “to pay them back for my com­man­der”.

    In response, the Turk­ish author­i­ties released what they said was a record­ing of the warn­ings being issued.

    ....

    We appear to have a ‘he said/she said’ sit­u­a­tion devel­op­ing over whether or not the Russ­ian bomber even entered Turk­ish air­space and whether the Turk­ish F‑16 issued any warn­ings at all as opposed to the 10 repeat­ed warn­ings that Turk­ish author­i­ties say were issued.

    So it’s worth noth­ing that the Turk­ish author­i­ties did release an audio record­ing of that warn­ing. The record­ing is only 15 sec­onds and only includes a sin­gle warn­ing about the Russ­ian bomber approach­ing Turk­ish air­space, so we’ll see if they release a longer audio record­ing of a more exten­sive warn­ing in the future. Although it’s unclear how much longer that record­ing could be since, accord­ing to Turk­ish author­i­ties, that Russ­ian bomber only entered Turk­ish air­space for 17 sec­onds:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Turkey Shoots Down Russ­ian Jet It Says Vio­lat­ed Its Air­space

    By jim heintz and suzan fras­er,
    MOSCOW — Nov 24, 2015, 5:41 PM ET

    Turkey shot down a Russ­ian war­plane on Tues­day that it said ignored repeat­ed warn­ings and crossed into its air­space from Syr­ia, killing at least one of the two pilots in a long-feared esca­la­tion in ten­sions between Rus­sia and NATO. Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin denounced what he called a “stab in the back” and warned of “sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences.”

    The shoot down — the first time in half a cen­tu­ry that a NATO mem­ber has downed a Russ­ian plane — prompt­ed an emer­gency meet­ing of the alliance. The inci­dent high­light­ed the chaot­ic com­plex­i­ty of Syr­i­a’s civ­il war, where mul­ti­ple groups with clash­ing alliances are fight­ing on the ground and the sky is crowd­ed with air­craft bomb­ing var­i­ous tar­gets.

    “As we have repeat­ed­ly made clear we stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with Turkey and sup­port the ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty of our NATO ally, Turkey,” NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Jens Stoltenberg told a news con­fer­ence after the meet­ing of the alliance’s deci­sion-mak­ing North Atlantic Coun­cil, called at Turkey’s request.

    ...

    Before Tues­day’s inci­dent, Rus­sia and the West appeared to be mov­ing toward an under­stand­ing of their com­mon strate­gic goal of erad­i­cat­ing IS, which gained momen­tum after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, as well as the Oct. 31 bomb­ing of a Russ­ian air­lin­er over Egyp­t’s Sinai desert. The Islam­ic State group claimed respon­si­bil­i­ty for both attacks.

    Turkey said its fight­er pilots act­ed after two Russ­ian Su-24 bombers ignored numer­ous warn­ings that they were near­ing and then enter­ing Turk­ish air­space. In a let­ter to the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon, Turkey said the Russ­ian war­planes vio­lat­ed its air­space “to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles ... for 17 sec­onds” just after 9:24 a.m.

    It said one of the planes then left Turk­ish air­space and the oth­er one was fired at by Turk­ish F‑16s “in accor­dance with the rules of engage­ment” and crashed on the Syr­i­an side of the bor­der.

    ...

    Turkey has com­plained repeat­ed­ly that Russ­ian planes sup­port­ing Assad are stray­ing across the bor­der. On Fri­day, Turkey sum­moned the Russ­ian ambas­sador demand­ing that Rus­sia stop oper­a­tions in the Turk­men region.

    Last month, Turk­ish jets shot down an uniden­ti­fied drone that it said had vio­lat­ed Turkey’s air­space.

    The coun­try changed its rules of engage­ment a few years ago after Syr­ia shot down a Turk­ish plane. Accord­ing to the new rules, Turkey said it would con­sid­er all “ele­ments” approach­ing from Syr­ia an ene­my threat and would act accord­ing­ly.

    Fol­low­ing ear­li­er accu­sa­tions of Russ­ian intru­sion into Turk­ish air­space, the U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand on Nov. 6 deployed six U.S. Air Force F‑15 fight­ers from their base in Britain to Incir­lik Air Base in Turkey to help the NATO-mem­ber coun­try secure its skies.

    “Turkey said its fight­er pilots act­ed after two Russ­ian Su-24 bombers ignored numer­ous warn­ings that they were near­ing and then enter­ing Turk­ish air­space. In a let­ter to the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon, Turkey said the Russ­ian war­planes vio­lat­ed its air­space “to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles ... for 17 sec­onds” just after 9:24 a.m.”
    Note that US radar con­firms that 17 sec­ond esti­mate.

    It’s also worth not­ing that Turkey is now claim­ing that it did not know the nation­al­i­ty of the jet at the time of the shoot­down which rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion as to whether or not know­ing it was a Russ­ian bomber would have made a dif­fer­ence in their deci­sion to shoot it down. Because, if so, that’s quite an admis­sion of some extreme­ly itchy trig­ger fin­gers and a mas­sive screw up. But if not, what’s the point of even bring­ing it up?

    So Rus­sia is assert­ing that the plane nev­er entered the air­space and nev­er got a warn­ing and that this was all a planned provo­ca­tion. And Turkey is charg­ing that many warn­ings were issued, they’ve warned Rus­sia before, and they did­n’t even know if it was a Russ­ian air­craft. Since it’s still pos­si­ble that enough data is even­tu­al­ly going to be released to con­fi­dent­ly deter­mine what hap­pened, it could be worse as far as ‘he said/she said’ sit­u­a­tions go. A lot worse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 25, 2015, 3:58 pm
  42. The ver­bal piss­ing match between Rus­sia and Turkey con­tin­ue as accu­sa­tions and counter-accu­sa­tions of sup­port for ter­ror­ism con­tin­ues. And, not sur­pris­ing­ly, it looks like Putin’s pub­lic charges of clan­des­tine Turk­ish sup­port for ISIS hit a nerve:

    CNN
    Turkey won’t apol­o­gize for down­ing Russ­ian war­plane, Erdo­gan says

    By Eliott C. McLaugh­lin, Don Melvin and Jethro Mullen, CNN

    Updat­ed 9:27 PM ET, Thu Novem­ber 26, 2015

    (CNN)Turkey will not apol­o­gize for down­ing a Russ­ian fight­er jet it says vio­lat­ed Turk­ish air­space near the Syr­i­an bor­der, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan said in an exclu­sive CNN inter­view Thurs­day in Ankara.

    “I think if there is a par­ty that needs to apol­o­gize, it is not us,” he said from the Turk­ish cap­i­tal. “Those who vio­lat­ed our air­space are the ones who need to apol­o­gize. Our pilots and our armed forces, they sim­ply ful­filled their duties, which con­sist­ed of respond­ing to ... vio­la­tions of the rules of engage­ment. I think this is the essence.”

    In a meet­ing with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers in Ankara, Erdo­gan said, “If the same vio­la­tion occurs today, Turkey has to react the same way.”

    ...

    Charges of ter­ror­ism

    Ten­sions in the Mid­dle East have esca­lat­ed since the down­ing of the Russ­ian war­plane, with Erdo­gan accus­ing Rus­sia of deceit and Moscow announc­ing it will deploy anti-air­craft mis­siles to Syr­ia. A post on the Russ­ian Defense Min­istry’s Face­book page showed an S‑400 mis­sile sys­tem being unloaded from a Russ­ian car­go plane.

    The post said the sys­tem will be installed at Syr­i­a’s Hmeymin air­base near Latakia, on Syr­i­a’s Mediter­ranean coast, as Russ­ian Defense Min­is­ter Sergey Shoygu promised Wednes­day on his min­istry’s Twit­ter feed.

    The mis­siles have a range of 250 kilo­me­ters (155 miles), accord­ing to Mis­sile Threat, which mon­i­tors bal­lis­tic mis­sile capa­bil­i­ties around the world. The Turk­ish bor­der is few­er than 45 kilo­me­ters (30 miles) away.

    The coun­tries’ mil­i­taries offi­cial­ly sus­pend­ed their chan­nels of coop­er­a­tion, Russ­ian Defense Min­istry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, a move they had announced Wednes­day.

    Rus­sia and Turkey have each accused the oth­er of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism. Speak­ing at an event in Moscow, pri­or to CNN’s inter­view with Erdo­gan, Putin said Turkey had not apol­o­gized or offered com­pen­sa­tion for the downed war­plane. He charged that Turkey was try­ing to bring its rela­tions with Rus­sia to a “dead end.”

    Erdo­gan dubbed a “huge mis­take” Putin’s claim that Turkey is an accom­plice to ter­ror­ism and that shoot­ing down Rus­si­a’s plane “rep­re­sents a stab in the back.”

    He also addressed a claim — repeat­ed Thurs­day after­noon by Russ­ian For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Maria Zakharo­va — that Turkey had oil and finan­cial ties to ISIS.

    “If Mr. Putin is say­ing that we are coop­er­at­ing with Daesh, that we are accom­plices, I think that would be a huge mis­take, because we are doing the exact oppo­site,” he told CNN, using anoth­er name for ISIS. “Yes­ter­day there was a dec­la­ra­tion which was very unac­cept­able. Some peo­ple claimed that we were buy­ing oil from Daesh — and the fact that peo­ple in posi­tions of author­i­ty in Rus­sia said this is very, very unac­cept­able.”

    He said Rus­sia has no room to talk because it is not tak­ing on the ter­ror­ist out­fit itself: “Rus­sia is not engaged in a fight against Daesh in Syr­ia. On the con­trary, they are actu­al­ly tar­get­ing mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion.”

    The asser­tion is sup­port­ed by CNN mil­i­tary ana­lyst Cedric Leighton, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who said, “None of the tar­gets that ... the Rus­sians were going after had any­thing to do with ISIS. Those were all those Turk­men groups.”

    Late Thurs­day, how­ev­er, Rus­sia insist­ed again it had tak­en out “all ter­ror­ists” in the area where the nav­i­ga­tor of the Russ­ian jet crash was res­cued, Konashenkov said. Rus­si­a’s air force con­duct­ed “mas­sive airstrikes” and the Syr­i­an army had pro­vid­ed artillery sup­port, giv­ing full con­trol of the moun­tain­ous area in north Latakia gov­er­norate to Syr­i­an troops, he said, claim­ing that Rus­sia now con­trols all ISIS sup­ply routes in north Syr­ia.

    ...

    “If Mr. Putin is say­ing that we are coop­er­at­ing with Daesh, that we are accom­plices, I think that would be a huge mis­take, because we are doing the exact opposite...Yesterday there was a dec­la­ra­tion which was very unac­cept­able. Some peo­ple claimed that we were buy­ing oil from Daesh — and the fact that peo­ple in posi­tions of author­i­ty in Rus­sia said this is very, very unac­cept­able.”
    Yep, Putin def­i­nite­ly pissed on a nerve. And part of what makes this par­tic­u­lar form of retal­i­a­tion by Rus­sia so inter­est­ing is that the nerve Putin hit is a high­ly exposed nerve that just about any­one can hit and the only thing that was pro­tect­ing that nerve in the past was a gen­er­al will­ing­ness to large­ly ignore it. But if Putin can goad Erdo­gan this eas­i­ly into say­ing things like like “we are doing the exact oppo­site [of sup­port­ing ISIS],” it’s going to be a lot hard­er for the rest of the world avoid piss­ing on that high­ly exposed nerve:

    Vision Times
    Russ­ian Jet Shot Down: Is Putin Right Regard­ing Turkey’s Sup­port for ISIS?

    James Burke

    11/27/2015

    The down­ing of a Russ­ian war­plane by the Turk­ish mil­i­tary on Tues­day has again put the spot­light on Ankara’s role in the Syr­i­an civ­il war, most notably their sup­posed sup­port for the rad­i­cal Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS.

    The Turks say two of their F‑16s shot down the Russ­ian Su-24 after it crossed into their air­space, a charge that Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin denies.

    The inci­dent threat­ens to esca­late the con­flict, putting the West­ern NATO alliance — which Turkey is a part of — in a pre­car­i­ous posi­tion. The down­ing of the Su-24 has also frac­tured any post-Paris attack hopes for bet­ter coor­di­na­tion between Rus­sia and NATO to destroy ISIS.

    While the Rus­sians have been pre­vi­ous­ly accused of vio­lat­ing Turk­ish air­space on mul­ti­ple occa­sions, Putin said that the down­ing of their jet was a stab in the back.

    Accord­ing to the BBC video below, Putin accused the Turks of being “accom­plices of ter­ror­ists,” that mean­ing ISIS.

    See Putin’s response to the down­ing of the Russ­ian jet:

    ...

    Rus­sia has also accused Turkey of buy­ing oil and gas from ISIS in Syr­ia, a charge backed up by a for­mer NATO com­man­der, retired Gen­er­al Wes­ley Clark.

    “All along there’s always been the idea that Turkey was sup­port­ing ISIS in some way,” Clark said, before adding that Ankara is also chan­nel­ing ISIS jihadis through Turkey.

    “Someone’s buy­ing that oil that ISIS is sell­ing; it’s going through some­where. It looks to me like it’s prob­a­bly going through Turkey,” said Clark in the CNN report fur­ther below.

    Recent­ly, Russ­ian air­craft bombed an ISIS oil refin­ery and tanker trucks some­where near the Turk­ish bor­der.

    “That means [ISIS is] serv­ing the inter­ests of Turkey and Sau­di Ara­bia, even as it pos­es a threat to them because nei­ther Turkey or Sau­di Ara­bia want an Iran-Iraq-Syr­ia-Lebanon bridge that iso­lates Turkey, and cuts Sau­di Ara­bia off,” Clark said.

    See Clark talk­ing with CNN below:

    ...

    Turkey, the Gulf States, and most of the West want the the Syrain regime of Pres­i­dent Bash­er al-Assad out of pow­er.

    But al-Assad has the sup­port of the Rus­sians, Shia Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbol­lah. Putin has been in the past accused of focus­ing on destroy­ing oth­er rebel groups who are fight­ing al-Assad’s forces, while ignor­ing ISIS.

    Sim­i­lar accu­sa­tions of avoid­ing fight­ing ISIS have been lev­eled at Turkey, who some say have been bomb­ing Kur­dish forces, and leav­ing ISIS jihadists rel­e­vant­ly unharmed.

    “Turkey has made only a token hand­ful of strikes against ISIS,” stat­ed Gwynne Dyer, an inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist, writ­ing for The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald.

    “Almost all [of Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip] Erdogan’s bombs have actu­al­ly fall­en on the Turk­ish Kurds of the PKK (who had been observ­ing a cease­fire with the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment for the past four years), and above all on the Syr­i­an Kurds,” stat­ed Dyer.

    Turkey denies the claims that it sup­ports ISIS, and say they instead back mod­er­ate rebels in Syr­ia, and Turk­men fight­ers bat­tling al-Assad’s regime.

    See Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan defend the down­ing of the Russ­ian war­plane in this The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald video:

    ...

    But accord­ing to a report in Newsweek, a for­mer ISIS mem­ber said that the Turk­ish mil­i­tary allows the jihadist group to trav­el freely through Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry so they can rein­force the jihadists fight­ing Kur­dish forces.

    “ISIS com­man­ders told us to fear noth­ing at all because there was full coop­er­a­tion with the Turks,” the for­mer ISIS mem­ber said, in ref­er­ence to bor­der cross­ings into Turkey, “and they reas­sured us that noth­ing will hap­pen, espe­cial­ly when that is how they reg­u­lar­ly trav­el from Raqqa and Alep­po to the Kur­dish areas fur­ther north­east of Syr­ia because it was impos­si­ble to trav­el through Syr­ia, as YPG [Nation­al Army of Syr­i­an Kur­dis­tan] con­trolled most parts of the Kur­dish region.”

    Dyer wrote that Ankara is deter­mined to see its inter­ests in Syr­ia ful­filled, that being there is no estab­lish­ment of an inde­pen­dent Kur­dish state, and that the regime of al-Assad is van­quished.

    “Erdo­gan is utter­ly deter­mined that Assad must go, and he doesn’t real­ly care if Assad’s suc­ces­sors are Islamist extrem­ists,” wrote Dyer.

    See this video report by The Young Turks about oth­er claims, recent­ly made, that Turkey helps ISIS:

    ...

    Does Erdo­gan real­ly want to get into a high-pro­file ver­bal piss­ing match with Putin over whether or his gov­ern­ment is covert­ly sup­port­ing ISIS? Because, if so, that’s a piss­ing match that could eas­i­ly begin to draw in all sort of sup­ple­men­tal pis­sers, includ­ing for­mer NATO com­man­der Wes­ley Clark, who have been doc­u­ment­ing or observ­ing the grow­ing vol­ume of evi­dence of that sup­port for years:

    ...

    Rus­sia has also accused Turkey of buy­ing oil and gas from ISIS in Syr­ia, a charge backed up by a for­mer NATO com­man­der, retired Gen­er­al Wes­ley Clark.

    “All along there’s always been the idea that Turkey was sup­port­ing ISIS in some way,” Clark said, before adding that Ankara is also chan­nel­ing ISIS jihadis through Turkey.

    “Someone’s buy­ing that oil that ISIS is sell­ing; it’s going through some­where. It looks to me like it’s prob­a­bly going through Turkey,” said Clark in the CNN report fur­ther below.

    Recent­ly, Russ­ian air­craft bombed an ISIS oil refin­ery and tanker trucks some­where near the Turk­ish bor­der.

    “That means [ISIS is] serv­ing the inter­ests of Turkey and Sau­di Ara­bia, even as it pos­es a threat to them because nei­ther Turkey or Sau­di Ara­bia want an Iran-Iraq-Syr­ia-Lebanon bridge that iso­lates Turkey, and cuts Sau­di Ara­bia off,” Clark said.

    See Clark talk­ing with CNN below:

    ...

    That looks like kind of piss­ing match that’s going to cre­ate quite a bit of back­slash and dirty laun­dry. And yes, the obvi­ous counter-dirty-laun­dry that the Assad regime is also buy­ing ISIS’s oil is also being aired. Great! Cut that off too. What a use­ful piss­ing match!

    So it will be very inter­est­ing to see who starts piss­ing on whom. Don’t forge that Erdo­gan has­n’t yet played the “hey, it’s not like we’re the only ones covert­ly sup­port­ing ISIS. Look at all the Gulf Monarchies!”-card yet, but he could. So let’s hope we see a lot more piss and vine­gar com­ing from the mouths of world lead­ers because it’s hard to think of a strat­e­gy for under­min­ing a wannabe upstart state fight­ing an expen­sive war with an army of for­eign mil­i­tant than bank­rupt­ing it.

    But even of this piss­ing match can some­how pres­sure ISIS’s var­i­ous state-spon­sors to stop spon­sor­ing the group and agree to the stran­gu­la­tion of ISIS’s econ­o­my, there’s still the ques­tion of what comes next for Syr­ia and that rais­es anoth­er very big ques­tion that’s allud­ed to in the above arti­cle. Because when we read:

    ...
    But accord­ing to a report in Newsweek, a for­mer ISIS mem­ber said that the Turk­ish mil­i­tary allows the jihadist group to trav­el freely through Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry so they can rein­force the jihadists fight­ing Kur­dish forces.

    “ISIS com­man­ders told us to fear noth­ing at all because there was full coop­er­a­tion with the Turks,” the for­mer ISIS mem­ber said, in ref­er­ence to bor­der cross­ings into Turkey, “and they reas­sured us that noth­ing will hap­pen, espe­cial­ly when that is how they reg­u­lar­ly trav­el from Raqqa and Alep­po to the Kur­dish areas fur­ther north­east of Syr­ia because it was impos­si­ble to trav­el through Syr­ia, as YPG [Nation­al Army of Syr­i­an Kur­dis­tan] con­trolled most parts of the Kur­dish region.”

    Dyer wrote that Ankara is deter­mined to see its inter­ests in Syr­ia ful­filled, that being there is no estab­lish­ment of an inde­pen­dent Kur­dish state, and that the regime of al-Assad is van­quished.

    “Erdo­gan is utter­ly deter­mined that Assad must go, and he doesn’t real­ly care if Assad’s suc­ces­sors are Islamist extrem­ists,” wrote Dyer.

    ...

    you have to ask whether or not Erdo­gan sim­ply “does­n’t real­ly care if Assad’s suc­ces­sors are Islamist extrem­ists” or if installing an Islamist extrem­ist gov­ern­ment is actu­al­ly key strate­gic goal. Because we can’t for­get that, despite his ‘mod­er­ate’ label, Erdo­gan is an Islamist extrem­ist just like the rest of the sup­pos­ed­ly ‘mod­er­ate’ Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. They’re just not as extreme as ISIS or al Qae­da. Whoop­ie!

    And since coun­tries like Turkey and Sau­di Ara­bia are the key forces behind the dri­ve to remove the Assad regime and replace it with a Sun­ni-dom­i­nat­ed gov­ern­ment, we real­ly need to ask the ques­tion of whether or not Turkey or Sau­di Ara­bia would tol­er­ate a sec­u­lar democ­ra­cy, or if it MUST be a Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-dom­i­nat­ed Islamist gov­ern­ment at best (and an ISIS/al Qae­da gov­ern­ment at worst). Will ISIS’s many state spon­sors even con­sid­er a new sec­u­lar, demo­c­ra­t­ic state that is explic­it­ly not Islamist at all but instead a new mod­el sec­u­lar democ­ra­cy for the Mid­dle East?

    For instance, let’s say a mir­a­cle hap­pened a deal was worked out between the Assad regime and the non-ISIS rebel groups that avoid­ed reprisals against Assad and his sup­port­ers, guar­an­teed major inter­na­tion­al assis­tance for the coun­try for the fore­see­able future and a new sec­u­lar demo­c­ra­t­ic con­sti­tu­tion gets ham­mered out that explic­it­ly bans ANY group turn­ing the coun­try into a sec­tar­i­an exper­i­ment (so we don’t see a repeat of what the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood tried to do to Egypt). Keep in mind that most of the “mod­er­ate” rebel groups are basi­cal­ly Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-ish in terms their goals (the Free Syr­i­an Army’s lead­er­ship was char­ac­ter­ized as “Islamist” back in 2012), so this would be a mir­a­cle if the vast major­i­ty of them could be brought to the table and agree to terms that guar­an­tee a sec­u­lar future, but let’s say that hap­pened. Would sup­port­ing such a deal even an option for Turkey and the Gulf monar­chies?

    Hope­ful­ly the evolv­ing piss­ing match will address such top­ics.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 27, 2015, 4:41 pm
  43. Posted by X-Man | November 28, 2015, 2:19 pm
  44. Wow, so dur­ing a Skype inter­view back in Octo­ber, Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s intel­li­gence, railed against Rus­sia try­ing to sup­press Syr­i­a’s Islamist rev­o­lu­tion and assert­ed that “ISIS is a real­i­ty and we have to accept that we can­not erad­i­cate a well-orga­nized and pop­u­lar estab­lish­ment such as the Islam­ic State; there­fore I urge my west­ern col­leagues to revise their mind­set about Islam­ic polit­i­cal cur­rents, put aside their cyn­i­cal men­tal­ité and thwart Vladimir Putin’s plans to crush Syr­i­an Islamist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.” He also sug­gest­ed that the way to deal with the flow of for­eign fight­ers flow­ing through Turkey to fight in Syr­ia is for ISIS to set up a con­sulate in Instan­bul. That does­n’t seem like the kind of stance Turkey’s chief of intel­li­gence would sud­den­ly admit in response to Rus­si­a’s deci­sion to get direct­ly involved in the con­flict so, as The War Nerd puts it, you have to give points for hon­esty:

    AWD News
    Turk­ish intel­li­gence chief: Putin’s inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia is against Islam and inter­na­tion­al law, ISIS is a real­i­ty and we are opti­mistic about the future

    Top News
    18 Octo­ber 2015

    Ankara— Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s Nation­al Intel­li­gence Orga­ni­za­tion, known by the MIT acronym, has drawn a lot of atten­tion and crit­i­cism for his con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about ISIS.

    Mr. Hakan Fidan, Turk­ish Pres­i­den­t’s staunchest ally, con­demned Russ­ian mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia, accus­ing Moscow of try­ing to ‘smoth­er’ Syr­i­a’s Islamist rev­o­lu­tion and seri­ous breach of Unit­ed Nations law.

    “ISIS is a real­i­ty and we have to accept that we can­not erad­i­cate a well-orga­nized and pop­u­lar estab­lish­ment such as the Islam­ic State; there­fore I urge my west­ern col­leagues to revise their mind­set about Islam­ic polit­i­cal cur­rents, put aside their cyn­i­cal men­tal­ité and thwart Vladimir Putin’s plans to crush Syr­i­an Islamist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies,” Anadolu News Agency quot­ed Mr. Fidan as say­ing on Sun­day.

    Fidan fur­ther added that in order to deal with the vast num­ber of for­eign Jihadists crav­ing to trav­el to Syr­ia, it is imper­a­tive that ISIS must set up a con­sulate or at least a polit­i­cal office in Istan­bul. He under­lined that it is Turkey’s firm belief to pro­vide med­ical care for all injured peo­ple flee­ing Russ­ian ruth­less airstrikes regard­less of their polit­i­cal or reli­gious affil­i­a­tion.

    Recent­ly as the fierce clash­es between Russ­ian army and ISIS ter­ror­ists rag­ing across the war-torn Syr­ia, count­less num­ber of ISIS injured fight­ers enter the Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry and are being admit­ted in the mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals name­ly those in Hatay Province. Over the last few days, the Syr­i­an army with the sup­port of Russ­ian air cov­er could fend off ISIS forces in strate­gic provinces of Homs and Hama.

    Emile Hokayem, a Wash­ing­ton-based Mid­dle East ana­lyst said that Turkey’s Erdo­gan and his oil-rich Arab allies have dual agen­das in the war on ter­ror and as a mat­ter of fact they are sup­ply­ing the Islamist mil­i­tants with weapons and mon­ey, thus Russ­ian inter­ven­tion is con­sid­ered a dev­as­tat­ing set­back for their efforts to over­throw Syr­i­an sec­u­lar Pres­i­dent Assad.

    Hokayem who was speak­ing via Skype from Wash­ing­ton, D.C. high­light­ed the dan­ger of Turk­ish-backed ter­ror­ist groups and added that what is hap­pen­ing in Syr­ia can­not be cat­e­go­rized as a gen­uine and pop­u­lar rev­o­lu­tion against dic­ta­tor­ship but rather it is a chaos orches­trat­ed by Erdo­gan who is dream­ing to revive this ances­tor’s infa­mous Ottoman Empire.

    “Emile Hokayem, a Wash­ing­ton-based Mid­dle East ana­lyst said that Turkey’s Erdo­gan and his oil-rich Arab allies have dual agen­das in the war on ter­ror and as a mat­ter of fact they are sup­ply­ing the Islamist mil­i­tants with weapons and mon­ey, thus Russ­ian inter­ven­tion is con­sid­ered a dev­as­tat­ing set­back for their efforts to over­throw Syr­i­an sec­u­lar Pres­i­dent Assad.”

    And in oth­er news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 29, 2015, 7:00 pm
  45. The war of words between Putin and Erdo­gan con­tin­ues to get more and more inter­est­ing: Putin is now assert­ing that Turkey shot down that Russ­ian jet out of a desire by Erdo­gan’s gov­ern­ment to pro­tect the “indus­tri­al scale” oil pro­duc­tion ISIS relies on to finance itself. And he has the evi­dence to prove it:

    Irish Times
    Rus­sia accus­es Turkey of down­ing its jet to pro­tect ille­gal ISIS oil pipeline

    Denis Dyomkin

    Pub­lished
    30/11/2015 | 19:11

    Rus­sia says it has proof that Islam­ic State is trans­fer­ring its oil on an “indus­tri­al scale” through Turkey.

    Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said on Mon­day that he had received “more infor­ma­tion” show­ing that Turkey’s down­ing of a Russ­ian plane was “dic­tat­ed by a desire to defend this oil pipeline”.

    “At the moment we have received addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion con­firm­ing that that oil from the deposits con­trolled by Islam­ic State mil­i­tants enters Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry on indus­tri­al scale,” he said while attend­ing a glob­al cli­mate con­fer­ence in Paris.

    “We have every rea­son to believe that the deci­sion to down our plane was guid­ed by a desire to ensure secu­ri­ty of this oil’s deliv­ery routes to ports where they are shipped in tankers.”

    Mr Putin added that the down­ing of its Su-24 by Turk­ish jets on Novem­ber 24 was a “huge mis­take”.

    “As a result of this crim­i­nal action two of our sol­diers died – a crew com­man­der and a marine, who was part of the res­cue team of the [Su-24] crew,” he said.

    The body of the pilot who died was flown back to Rus­sia from Turkey on Mon­day after the Turk­ish author­i­ties took pos­ses­sion of it from an unknown group.

    Mr Putin’s words come after it was revealed that Russ­ian jets in Syr­ia are now car­ry­ing air-to-air mis­siles “for self defence”.

    Rus­sia imposed a series of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions against Turkey last Thurs­day, which includ­ed ban­ning sev­er­al Turk­ish organ­i­sa­tions and the import of cer­tain goods, as well as can­celling the visa-free regime for Turk­ish cit­i­zens trav­el­ling to Rus­sia.

    Speak­ing on the side­lines of the sum­mit, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan said his coun­try would act “patient­ly, not emo­tion­al­ly” before impos­ing any counter-mea­sures.

    ...

    That’s quite an asser­tion. And giv­en the vol­ume of media reports over the last year or so from a wide vari­ety of sources around the globe doc­u­ment­ing Turkey’s sup­port for ISIS it’s also quite a rea­son­able asser­tion. You almost have to won­der if Putin’s new infor­ma­tion is com­ing from an intel­li­gence agency or an online news search.

    But keep in mind that Putin’s claim is specif­i­cal­ly that Turkey is facil­i­tat­ing an “indus­tri­al scale” oil trade with ISIS, and that opens up a bit of wig­gle room for Erdo­gan. Big enough, appar­ent­ly, for Erdo­gan to respond to Putin’s claims with a counter-taunt: If Putin can prove his claim, Erdo­gan will resign. But if the claim can’t be proven, Putin should resign:

    BBC
    Turkey chal­lenges Rus­sia over IS oil trade claim

    1 Decem­ber 2015

    Turkey has chal­lenged Rus­sia to prove its claim that Ankara shot down a Russ­ian plane in order to pro­tect its oil trade with Islam­ic State (IS).

    “If you allege some­thing you should prove it,” Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan said.

    He was respond­ing to the accu­sa­tion by Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who also said last week’s down­ing of the plane was a “huge mis­take”.

    The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has refused to apol­o­gise for the inci­dent.

    One Russ­ian pilot was killed and the oth­er res­cued after Rus­si­a’s Su-24 bomber was shot down by a Turk­ish F‑16 fight­er on the Syr­i­an bor­der on 24 Novem­ber.

    A Russ­ian marine was killed dur­ing the res­cue oper­a­tion in north-west­ern Syr­ia.

    Turkey says the jet entered its air­space — an accu­sa­tion Rus­sia denies.

    The US state depart­ment has said evi­dence from Turk­ish and US sources indi­cates the air­craft did vio­late Turk­ish air­space.

    Turkey has denied any ties to IS and is part of a US-led coali­tion car­ry­ing out air strikes against the mil­i­tant group.

    “You should put your doc­u­ments on the table if you have any. Let’s see the doc­u­ments,” Mr Erdo­gan said.

    “We are act­ing with patience. It is not pos­i­tive for the two coun­tries which have reached a posi­tion which could be regard­ed as a strate­gic part­ner­ship to make emo­tion­al state­ments.”

    Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan also vowed to step down if the alle­ga­tion that Turkey was buy­ing oil from IS proved true, sug­gest­ing that Pres­i­dent Putin should do the same if he was wrong.

    Rus­sia has been car­ry­ing out air strikes in Syr­ia, tar­get­ing rebels against Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, includ­ing IS.

    Turkey is a vehe­ment oppo­nent of Mr Assad and has been accused of turn­ing a blind eye to jihadist fight­ers cross­ing from its ter­ri­to­ry into Syr­ia.

    Until a few months ago, Turkey was reluc­tant to play an active role in the coali­tion against IS. How­ev­er, in August it allowed the US-led coali­tion to begin using its air­base at Incir­lik.

    ...

    “You should put your doc­u­ments on the table if you have any. Let’s see the doc­u­ments.”
    Grab your pop­corn because it is on! Yep, instead of coun­ter­ing Putin’s claims with a stan­dard mix of dis­missal and blus­ter, Erdo­gan is beg­ging Putin to make a detailed case to the world of Turkey’s sup­port of ISIS. And since an online news search pret­ty much pro­vides all of the sup­ple­men­tary evi­dence you need to estab­lish that, yes, Turkey’s gov­ern­ment has long been tol­er­at­ing, if not out­right facil­i­tat­ing, the vital flows of fight­ers, arms, and oil into and out of ISIS-held ter­ri­to­ry, it’s real­ly just up to Putin to make the case that the vol­ume of ISIS’s oil trade qual­i­fy as “indus­tri­al scale” and the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has known about it. And while “indus­tri­al scale” is inevitably going to be sub­jec­tive term giv­en the cir­cum­stances, it’s not like non-indus­tri­al scale oil sales aren’t still wild­ly scan­dalous giv­en the group doing the sell­ing.

    And keep in mind that Erdo­gan’s pledge to resign if Putin can prove Turk­ish com­plic­i­ty in ISIS’s oil trade is going to inevitable apply to any assis­tance to ISIS in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. At least the court of pub­lic opin­ion of Erdo­gan’s domes­tic oppo­nents. So let’s say proof of state back­ing of oil smug­gling does­n’t pan out and the gov­ern­ment suc­cess con­vinces the pub­lic that any oil sales were done with­out the state’s knowledge...well, how about arms smug­gling to ISIS? Might that result in calls for Erdo­gan’s res­ig­na­tion? If so, Erdo­gan might need to start work­ing on that res­ig­na­tion speech:

    Agence France-Presse

    Turk­ish jour­nal­ists charged over claim that secret ser­vices armed Syr­i­an rebels

    Two edi­tors from the oppo­si­tion Cumhuriyet news­pa­per face lengthy jail sen­tences for alleg­ing that Ankara’s intel­li­gence agency was sup­ply­ing weapons

    Thurs­day 26 Novem­ber 2015 23.54 EST

    A court in Istan­bul has charged two jour­nal­ists from the oppo­si­tion Cumhuriyet news­pa­per with spy­ing after they alleged Turkey’s secret ser­vices had sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syr­ia.

    Can Dun­dar, the edi­tor-in-chief, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, are accused of spy­ing and “divulging state secrets”, Turk­ish media report­ed. Both men were placed in pre-tri­al deten­tion.

    Accord­ing to Cumhuriyet, Turk­ish secu­ri­ty forces in Jan­u­ary 2014 inter­cept­ed a con­voy of trucks near the Syr­i­an bor­der and dis­cov­ered box­es of what the dai­ly described as weapons and ammu­ni­tion to be sent to rebels fight­ing against Syr­i­an pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad.

    It linked the seized trucks to the Turk­ish nation­al intel­li­gence organ­i­sa­tion (MIT).

    The rev­e­la­tions, pub­lished in May, caused a polit­i­cal storm in Turkey, and enraged pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan who vowed Dun­dar would pay a “heavy price”.

    He per­son­al­ly filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Dun­dar, 54, demand­ing he serve mul­ti­ple life sen­tences.

    Turkey has vehe­ment­ly denied aid­ing Islamist rebels in Syr­ia, such as the Islam­ic State group, although it wants to see Assad top­pled.

    “Don’t wor­ry, this rul­ing is noth­ing but a badge of hon­our to us,” Dun­dar told reporters and civ­il soci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the court before he was tak­en into cus­tody.

    Reporters With­out Bor­ders had ear­li­er on Thurs­day urged the judge hear­ing the case to dis­miss the charges against the pair, con­demn­ing the tri­al as “polit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion”.

    The Cumhuriyet dai­ly was award­ed the media watchdog’s 2015 Press Free­dom Prize just last week, with Dun­dar trav­el­ling to Stras­bourg to receive the award.

    ...

    Reporters With­out Bor­ders ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 in its 2015 press free­dom index last month, warn­ing of a “dan­ger­ous surge in cen­sor­ship”.

    Wow, those jour­nal­ists expos­ing state secrets sure touched a nerve:

    ...
    The rev­e­la­tions, pub­lished in May, caused a polit­i­cal storm in Turkey, and enraged pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan who vowed Dun­dar would pay a “heavy price”.

    He per­son­al­ly filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Dun­dar, 54, demand­ing he serve mul­ti­ple life sen­tences.
    ...

    So con­sid­er­ing Erdo­gan’s response to a pair of jour­nal­ists just doing their job and expos­ing some­thing that should have sur­prised no one, you have to won­der how enraged he’s going to be if Putin actu­al­ly responds to his “show me the evi­dence” chal­lenge with actu­al evi­dence of oil sales and arm ship­ments. Heck, maybe Putin even has some addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on that par­tic­u­lar arms ship­ment by the MIT that got the two jailed jour­nal­ists thrown in jail. It’s cer­tain­ly a pos­si­bil­i­ty, since Reuters appar­ent­ly saw evi­dence of it back in May:

    Reuters
    Exclu­sive: Turk­ish intel­li­gence helped ship arms to Syr­i­an Islamist rebel areas

    ADANA, Turkey | By Humeyra Pamuk and Nick Tat­ter­sall
    Thu May 21, 2015 2:43pm EDT

    Turkey’s state intel­li­gence agency helped deliv­er arms to parts of Syr­ia under Islamist rebel con­trol dur­ing late 2013 and ear­ly 2014, accord­ing to a pros­e­cu­tor and court tes­ti­mo­ny from gen­darmerie offi­cers seen by Reuters.

    The wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny con­tra­dicts Turkey’s denials that it sent arms to Syr­i­an rebels and, by exten­sion, con­tributed to the rise of Islam­ic State, now a major con­cern for the NATO mem­ber.

    Syr­ia and some of Turkey’s West­ern allies say Turkey, in its haste to see Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad top­pled, let fight­ers and arms over the bor­der, some of whom went on to join the Islam­ic State mil­i­tant group which has carved a self-declared caliphate out of parts of Syr­ia and Iraq.

    Ankara has denied arm­ing Syr­i­a’s rebels or assist­ing hard­line Islamists. Diplo­mats and Turk­ish offi­cials say it has in recent months imposed tighter con­trols on its bor­ders.

    Tes­ti­mo­ny from gen­darmerie offi­cers in court doc­u­ments reviewed by Reuters allege that rock­et parts, ammu­ni­tion and semi-fin­ished mor­tar shells were car­ried in trucks accom­pa­nied by state intel­li­gence agency (MIT) offi­cials more than a year ago to parts of Syr­ia under Islamist con­trol.

    Four trucks were searched in the south­ern province of Adana in raids by police and gen­darmerie, one in Novem­ber 2013 and the three oth­ers in Jan­u­ary 2014, on the orders of pros­e­cu­tors act­ing on tip-offs that they were car­ry­ing weapons, accord­ing to tes­ti­mo­ny from the pros­e­cu­tors, who now them­selves face tri­al.

    While the first truck was seized, the three oth­ers were allowed to con­tin­ue their jour­ney after MIT offi­cials accom­pa­ny­ing the car­go threat­ened police and phys­i­cal­ly resist­ed the search, accord­ing to the tes­ti­mo­ny and pros­e­cu­tor’s report.

    Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan has said the three trucks stopped on Jan. 19 belonged to MIT and were car­ry­ing aid.

    “Our inves­ti­ga­tion has shown that some state offi­cials have helped these peo­ple deliv­er the ship­ments,” pros­e­cu­tor Ozcan Sis­man, who ordered the search of the first truck on Nov. 7 2013 after a tip-off that it was car­ry­ing weapons ille­gal­ly, told Reuters in a inter­view on May 4 in Adana.

    Both Sis­man and Aziz Tak­ci, anoth­er Adana pros­e­cu­tor who ordered three trucks to be searched on Jan. 19 2014, have since been detained on the orders of state pros­e­cu­tors and face pro­vi­sion­al charges, pend­ing a full indict­ment, of car­ry­ing out an ille­gal search.

    The request for Sis­man­’s arrest, issued by the Supreme Board of Judges and Pros­e­cu­tors (HSYK) and also seen by Reuters, accus­es him of reveal­ing state secrets and tar­nish­ing the gov­ern­ment by por­tray­ing it as aid­ing ter­ror­ist groups.

    Sis­man and Tak­ci deny the charges.

    “It is not pos­si­ble to explain this process, which has become a total mas­sacre of the law,” Alp Deger Tan­river­di, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing both Tak­ci and Sis­man, told Reuters.

    “Some­thing that is a crime can­not pos­si­bly be a state secret.”

    More than 30 gen­darmerie offi­cers involved in the Jan. 1 attempt­ed search and the events of Jan. 19 also face charges such as mil­i­tary espi­onage and attempt­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to an April 2015 Istan­bul court doc­u­ment.

    An offi­cial in Erdo­gan’s office said Erdo­gan had made his posi­tion clear on the issue. Sev­er­al gov­ern­ment offi­cials con­tact­ed by Reuters declined to com­ment fur­ther. MIT offi­cials could not imme­di­ate­ly be reached.

    “I want to reit­er­ate our offi­cial line here, which has been stat­ed over and over again ever since this cri­sis start­ed by our prime min­is­ter, pres­i­dent and for­eign min­is­ter, that Turkey has nev­er sent weapons to any group in Syr­ia,” Erdo­gan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednes­day at an event in Wash­ing­ton.

    Erdo­gan has said pros­e­cu­tors had no author­i­ty to search MIT vehi­cles and were part of what he calls a “par­al­lel state” run by his polit­i­cal ene­mies and bent on dis­cred­it­ing the gov­ern­ment.

    “Who were those who tried to stop MIT trucks in Adana while we were try­ing to send human­i­tar­i­an aid to Turk­mens?,” Erdo­gan said in a tele­vi­sion inter­view last August.

    “Par­al­lel judi­cia­ry and par­al­lel secu­ri­ty ... The pros­e­cu­tor hops onto the truck and car­ries out a search. You can’t search an MIT truck, you have no author­i­ty.”

    ‘TARNISHING THE GOVERNMENT’

    One of the truck dri­vers, Murat Kislak­ci, was quot­ed as say­ing the car­go he car­ried on Jan. 19 was loaded from a for­eign plane at Ankara air­port and that he had car­ried sim­i­lar ship­ments before. Reuters was unable to con­tact Kislak­ci.

    Wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny seen by Reuters from a gen­darme involved in a Jan. 1, 2014 attempt to search anoth­er truck said MIT offi­cials had talked about weapons ship­ments to Syr­i­an rebels from depots on the bor­der. Reuters was unable to con­firm this.

    At the time of the search­es, the Syr­i­an side of the bor­der in Hatay province, which neigh­bors Adana, was con­trolled by hard­line Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham.

    The Salafist group includ­ed com­man­ders such as Abu Khaled al-Soury, also known as Abu Omair al-Shamy, who fought along­side al Qae­da founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its cur­rent chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Soury was killed in by a sui­cide attack in Syr­i­an city of Alep­po in Feb­ru­ary 2014.

    A court rul­ing call­ing for the arrest of three peo­ple in con­nec­tion with the truck stopped in Novem­ber 2013 said it was loaded with met­al pipes man­u­fac­tured in the Turk­ish city of Konya which were iden­ti­fied as semi-fin­ished parts of mor­tars.

    The doc­u­ment also cites truck dri­ver Lut­fi Karakaya as say­ing he had twice car­ried the same ship­ment and deliv­ered it to a field around 200 meters beyond a mil­i­tary out­post in Rey­han­li, a stone’s throw from Syr­ia.

    The court order for Karakaya’s arrest, seen by Reuters, cit­ed a police inves­ti­ga­tion which said that the weapons parts seized that day were des­tined for “a camp used by the al Qae­da ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion on the Syr­i­an bor­der”.

    ...

    “I want to reit­er­ate our offi­cial line here, which has been stat­ed over and over again ever since this cri­sis start­ed by our prime min­is­ter, pres­i­dent and for­eign min­is­ter, that Turkey has nev­er sent weapons to any group in Syr­ia,”
    That is indeed the offi­cial line. It’s so offi­cial that jour­nal­ists get jailed if they con­tra­dict it. Along with pros­e­cu­tors:

    ...
    Tes­ti­mo­ny from gen­darmerie offi­cers in court doc­u­ments reviewed by Reuters allege that rock­et parts, ammu­ni­tion and semi-fin­ished mor­tar shells were car­ried in trucks accom­pa­nied by state intel­li­gence agency (MIT) offi­cials more than a year ago to parts of Syr­ia under Islamist con­trol.

    Four trucks were searched in the south­ern province of Adana in raids by police and gen­darmerie, one in Novem­ber 2013 and the three oth­ers in Jan­u­ary 2014, on the orders of pros­e­cu­tors act­ing on tip-offs that they were car­ry­ing weapons, accord­ing to tes­ti­mo­ny from the pros­e­cu­tors, who now them­selves face tri­al.
    ...

    And like the jour­nal­ists those pros­e­cu­tors are fac­ing life in prison:

    Agence France-Presse
    Turkey court slaps secre­cy order on ‘arms to Syr­ia’ tri­al
    Four pros­e­cu­tors and a for­mer mil­i­tary com­man­der face life in prison for expos­ing alleged gov­ern­ment weapons ship­ment to rebels

    Octo­ber 1, 2015, 4:48 pm

    ANKARA, Turkey — Four for­mer senior Turk­ish pros­e­cu­tors and an ex-mil­i­tary com­man­der went on tri­al Thurs­day over the inter­cep­tion last year of an alleged con­sign­ment of arms bound for Syr­ia, with the court imme­di­ate­ly impos­ing a secre­cy order on the huge­ly con­tro­ver­sial case.

    The case goes to the heart of claims — repeat­ed on occa­sion by the West but denied by Turkey — that Ankara has worked far too close­ly with Islamist rebels in the hope of oust­ing Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad.

    The five, who were arrest­ed ear­li­er this year, are charged with seek­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment and reveal­ing state secu­ri­ty infor­ma­tion. They could face life in prison if found guilty.

    The tri­al opened at a crim­i­nal court with­in Turkey’s Supreme Court in Ankara under heavy secu­ri­ty, with the judge imme­di­ate­ly impos­ing the secre­cy order, the offi­cial Ana­to­lia news agency report­ed.

    The order means the tri­al will be held behind closed doors and its pro­ceed­ings with not be made pub­lic.

    The tri­al relates to the stop­ping and search­ing of trucks near the Syr­i­an bor­der in Jan­u­ary 2014 which were sus­pect­ed of smug­gling arms into Syr­ia.

    Local secu­ri­ty forces found the trucks were tak­ing not only a con­sign­ment of arms but also Turk­ish Nation­al Intel­li­gence Organ­i­sa­tion (MIT) per­son­nel.

    ...

    Also stand­ing tri­al is for­mer Turk­ish mil­i­tary gen­darmerie colonel Ozkan Cokay, who is believed to have imple­ment­ed the search order on the ground.

    Dozens of rank-and-file sol­diers and police have also been arrest­ed in the inves­ti­ga­tion but it is not imme­di­ate­ly clear when they will go on tri­al.

    The Turk­ish author­i­ties have sought to link the affair to US-based preach­er Fethul­lah Gulen who Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan accus­es of run­ning a par­al­lel state through sup­port­ers in the judi­cia­ry and police with the aim of usurp­ing him.

    But in May, Turk­ish oppo­si­tion dai­ly Cumhuriyet pub­lished footage of the alleged arms deliv­ery show­ing mor­tar shells, grenade launch­ers and tens of thou­sands of rounds of ammu­ni­tion.

    Erdo­gan threat­ened Cumhuriyet’s edi­tor in chief Can Dun­dar over the sto­ry, vow­ing he “will pay a heavy price.”

    “The five, who were arrest­ed ear­li­er this year, are charged with seek­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment and reveal­ing state secu­ri­ty infor­ma­tion. They could face life in prison if found guilty.”

    So pros­e­cu­tors and jour­nal­ists revealed arms ship­ments by Turk­ish intel­li­gence to mil­i­tant Islamist rad­i­cals, which may have includ­ed not just ISIS but oth­er al Qae­da-linked groups (imag­ine that), were tak­ing place ship­ments and they’re now charged with try­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment. That sure sounds like Erdo­gan’s bare­ly secret bro­mance with Syr­i­a’s Islamist mil­i­tants is viewed as one of the worst pos­si­ble things any­one could reveal and a threat to the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment.

    And in the midst of a high pro­file tri­al over Turkey’s alleged arm­ing of groups like ISIS, Erdo­gan shoots down a Russ­ian jet and then, when faced with charges that its secret­ly sell­ing ISIS’s oil, issues a pledge to resign if the charges of proven! Is he plan­ning on tak­ing Putin to court to shut him up or some­thing?! Pre­sum­ably not, but stranger things have hap­pened.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 1, 2015, 7:25 pm
  46. Ouch. The Russ­ian defense min­istry just took the alle­ga­tions of Turkey’s covert spon­sor­ship of ISIS to a new lev­el: The Deputy Defense Min­is­ter not­ed dur­ing a brief­ing in Moscow where min­istry offi­cials showed satel­lite images of ISIS-con­trolled tanker trucks cross­ing the Turk­ish bor­der that they had received infor­ma­tion about senior Turk­ish polit­i­cal lead­ers who are appar­ent­ly direct ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this illic­it trade. Specif­i­cal­ly, Erdo­gan and his fam­i­ly:

    Reuters
    Rus­sia says it has proof Turkey involved in Islam­ic State oil trade

    MOSCOW | By Maria Tsvetko­va and Lidia Kel­ly
    Wed Dec 2, 2015 1:33pm EST

    Rus­si­a’s defense min­istry said on Wednes­day it had proof that Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan and his fam­i­ly were ben­e­fit­ing from the ille­gal smug­gling of oil from Islam­ic State-held ter­ri­to­ry in Syr­ia and Iraq.

    Moscow and Ankara have been locked in a war of words since last week when a Turk­ish air force jet shot down a Russ­ian war­plane near the Syr­i­an-Turk­ish bor­der, the most seri­ous inci­dent between Rus­sia and a NATO state in half a cen­tu­ry.

    Erdo­gan respond­ed by say­ing no one had the right to “slan­der” Turkey by accus­ing it of buy­ing oil from Islam­ic State, and that he would stand down if such alle­ga­tions were proven to be true. But speak­ing dur­ing a vis­it to Qatar, he also said he did not want rela­tions with Moscow to wors­en fur­ther.

    At a brief­ing in Moscow, defense min­istry offi­cials dis­played satel­lite images which they said showed columns of tanker trucks load­ing with oil at instal­la­tions con­trolled by Islam­ic State in Syr­ia and Iraq, and then cross­ing the bor­der into neigh­bor­ing Turkey.

    The offi­cials did not spec­i­fy what direct evi­dence they had of the involve­ment of Erdo­gan and his fam­i­ly, an alle­ga­tion that the Turk­ish pres­i­dent has vehe­ment­ly denied.

    “Turkey is the main con­sumer of the oil stolen from its right­ful own­ers, Syr­ia and Iraq. Accord­ing to infor­ma­tion we’ve received, the senior polit­i­cal lead­er­ship of the coun­try — Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan and his fam­i­ly — are involved in this crim­i­nal busi­ness,” said Deputy Defence Min­is­ter Ana­toly Antonov.

    “Maybe I’m being too blunt, but one can only entrust con­trol over this thiev­ing busi­ness to one’s clos­est asso­ciates.”

    “In the West, no one has asked ques­tions about the fact that the Turk­ish pres­i­den­t’s son heads one of the biggest ener­gy com­pa­nies, or that his son-in-law has been appoint­ed ener­gy min­is­ter. What a mar­velous fam­i­ly busi­ness!”

    “The cyn­i­cism of the Turk­ish lead­er­ship knows no lim­its. Look what they’re doing. They went into some­one else’s coun­try, they are rob­bing it with­out com­punc­tion,” Antonov said.

    Erdo­gan last week denied that Turkey pro­cures oil from any­thing oth­er than legit­i­mate sources.

    He has said Ankara is tak­ing active steps to pre­vent fuel smug­gling, and he chal­lenged any­one who accused his gov­ern­ment of col­lab­o­rat­ing with Islam­ic State to prove their alle­ga­tions.

    On Tues­day, U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said Turkey had made progress in seal­ing its bor­der with Syr­ia, but Islam­ic State was still exploit­ing gaps to bring in for­eign fight­ers and sell oil.

    WEAPONS FLOW

    The Russ­ian defense min­istry also alleged that the same crim­i­nal net­works which were smug­gling oil into Turkey were also sup­ply­ing weapons, equip­ment and train­ing to Islam­ic State and oth­er Islamist groups.

    “Accord­ing to our reli­able intel­li­gence data, Turkey has been car­ry­ing out such oper­a­tions for a long peri­od and on a reg­u­lar basis. And most impor­tant­ly, it does not plan to stop them,” Sergei Rud­skoy, deputy head of the Russ­ian mil­i­tary’s Gen­er­al Staff, told reporters.

    The defense min­istry said its sur­veil­lance revealed that hun­dreds of tanker trucks were gath­er­ing in plain sight at Islam­ic State-con­trolled sites in Iraq and Syr­ia to load up with oil, and it ques­tioned why the U.S.-led coali­tion was not launch­ing more air strikes on them.

    “It’s hard not to notice them,” Rud­skoy said of the lines of trucks shown on satel­lite images.

    Offi­cials said that the Russ­ian air force’s bomb­ing cam­paign had made a sig­nif­i­cant dent in Islam­ic State’s abil­i­ty to pro­duce, refine and sell oil.

    ...

    The defense min­istry offi­cials said the infor­ma­tion they released on Wednes­day was only part of the evi­dence they have in their pos­ses­sion, and that they would be releas­ing fur­ther intel­li­gence in the next days and weeks.

    “The defense min­istry offi­cials said the infor­ma­tion they released on Wednes­day was only part of the evi­dence they have in their pos­ses­sion, and that they would be releas­ing fur­ther intel­li­gence in the next days and weeks.”
    Fun times ahead! Although it’s going to hard to out do some­thing like this:

    ...

    “Turkey is the main con­sumer of the oil stolen from its right­ful own­ers, Syr­ia and Iraq. Accord­ing to infor­ma­tion we’ve received, the senior polit­i­cal lead­er­ship of the coun­try — Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan and his fam­i­ly — are involved in this crim­i­nal busi­ness,” said Deputy Defence Min­is­ter Ana­toly Antonov.

    “Maybe I’m being too blunt, but one can only entrust con­trol over this thiev­ing busi­ness to one’s clos­est asso­ciates.”
    ...

    Yes, that was rather blunt. But too blunt? That’s an open ques­tion. But at least he did­n’t com­pare Erdo­gan to Gol­l­umn from the Lord of the Rings. That would­n’t have gone over well:

    The Guardian
    Turk­ish court asks ‘Gol­lum experts’ if Erdo­gan com­par­i­son is insult

    Tri­al of man who com­pared pres­i­dent to Lord of the Rings char­ac­ter report­ed­ly adjourned after judge says he hasn’t seen films

    Kareem Sha­heen in Beirut

    Wednes­day 2 Decem­ber 2015 06.53 EST

    The tri­al of a Turk­ish man accused of insult­ing the pres­i­dent, Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, by com­par­ing him to Gol­lum has been adjourned so that a group of experts can study JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings char­ac­ter, Turk­ish media has report­ed.

    Bil­gin Çiftçi was fired from his job at Turkey’s pub­lic health ser­vice in Octo­ber after shar­ing images com­par­ing Erdogan’s facial expres­sions to those of Gol­lum.

    Accord­ing to a report in the dai­ly news­pa­per Today’s Zaman, a court in Aydin has adjourned Çiftçi’s tri­al as the chief judge had not seen the Lord of the Rings films. The court-appoint­ed experts have report­ed­ly been asked to deter­mine whether the com­par­i­son is indeed an insult.

    ...

    Gol­lum is known for his grotesque appear­ance, his split per­son­al­i­ty, eat­ing raw fish and dis­lik­ing rab­bit stew and pota­toes, but also for assist­ing the hob­bits Fro­do and Sam in their quest to reach Mount Doom to destroy the Ring of Pow­er, there­by defeat­ing the evil Lord Sauron and ush­er­ing in an era of peace in the fic­tion­al world of Mid­dle Earth.

    Some social media users have accused Erdo­gan of being “pre­cious” – a favourite word of Gol­lum – over any mock­ery. Oth­ers point­ed out that a more apt com­par­i­son would be to com­pare Erdo­gan to Denethor or Saru­man, two trag­ic char­ac­ters in JRR Tolkein’s tril­o­gy who are under­mined by their own ambi­tions.

    “Some social media users have accused Erdo­gan of being “pre­cious” – a favourite word of Gol­lum – over any mock­ery. Oth­ers point­ed out that a more apt com­par­i­son would be to com­pare Erdo­gan to Denethor or Saru­man, two trag­ic char­ac­ters in JRR Tolkein’s tril­o­gy who are under­mined by their own ambi­tions.”
    Is Erdo­gan more like hyper-ambi­tious and pow­er­ful Denethor, Saru­man? Or more like Gol­lum? Well, as the evi­dence of Erdo­gan’s spon­sor­ship of ISIS grows it would seem that any of those three are prob­a­bly an appro­pri­ate com­par­i­son, although the par­al­lels with Gol­lum are indeed hard to ignore.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 2, 2015, 3:37 pm
  47. There are reports of leaked com­ments made by Jor­dan’s King Abdul­lah to US Con­gress mem­bers back in Jan­u­ary that are going to be par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial in the wake of Brus­sels attacks: Not only does Turkey have a pol­i­cy of pro­mot­ing ISIS in Syr­ia, but the flow of ISIS mem­bers into Europe is also part of Turkey’s pol­i­cy. So says the King. Yikes:

    The Inde­pen­dent
    Turkey is delib­er­ate­ly ‘unleash­ing’ Isis ter­ror­ists into Europe, says Jor­dan’s King Abdul­lah
    ‘The fact that ter­ror­ists are going to Europe is part of Turk­ish pol­i­cy’

    Matt Broom­field

    March 27, 2016, 12:27 Lon­don

    Turkey is export­ing Isis-linked ter­ror­ists to Europe, accord­ing to King Abdul­lah of Jor­dan.

    The monar­ch’s remarks came in a meet­ing with mem­bers of the US Con­gress, in which he said that Islamist mil­i­tants were being “man­u­fac­tured in Turkey” and “unleashed” into Europe.

    He also used the debrief­ing, held after a can­celled ren­dezvous with US Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, to remind the US politi­cians of Turkey’s alleged com­plic­i­ty in buy­ing Isis oil.

    “The fact that ter­ror­ists are going to Europe is part of Turk­ish pol­i­cy,” said King Abdul­lah. “Turkey keeps on get­ting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

    Argu­ing that the auto­crat­ic Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Erdo­gan believes in a “rad­i­cal Islam­ic solu­tion to the region”, King Abdul­lah said.

    “Turkey sought a reli­gious solu­tion to Syr­ia, while we are look­ing at mod­er­ate ele­ments in the south and Jor­dan pushed for a third option that would not allow a reli­gious option.”

    The meet­ing was held on 11 Jan­u­ary, but details of the King’s opin­ions have only just been leaked by Mid­dle East Eye.

    Although Turkey and Jor­dan are offi­cial­ly allies, the refugee cri­sis has height­ened ten­sions between the two nations. King Abdul­lah is under­stood to have been angered by the EU’s gen­er­ous offer of cash and diplo­mat­ic ties in return for Turkey lim­it­ing the onward flow of refugees into the con­ti­nent.

    At rough­ly 75 mil­lion, Turkey’s pop­u­la­tion is over ten times that of Jor­dan’s, mean­ing the Arab nation is host­ing a pro­por­tion­ate­ly greater num­ber of refugees.

    ...

    Though the pres­ence of Jor­dan­ian sol­diers could not be con­firmed, the nation has cer­tain­ly been involved in train­ing oppo­si­tion fight­ers, espi­onage, pro­vid­ing weapons and ammu­ni­tion and a lim­it­ed num­ber of air strikes.

    But if their role in the con­flict increas­es, they are like­ly to come into fur­ther fric­tion with oth­er key play­ers in the region, par­tic­u­lar­ly Turkey and Rus­sia. In his debrief­ing with the Amer­i­can politi­cians, the Jor­dan­ian monarch described a tense stand-off between Turk­ish, Israeli and Russ­ian war planes.

    “The fact that ter­ror­ists are going to Europe is part of Turk­ish policy...Turkey keeps on get­ting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 27, 2016, 6:22 pm
  48. Remem­ber Erdo­gan’s lawuit against the Turk­ish doc­tor who post­ed an image com­par­ing Erdo­gan to Gol­lum from the Lord of the Rings? Well, it’s pro­ceed­ing along. Along with a few thou­sand sim­i­lar cas­es:

    Bloomberg

    Erdo­gan Sees Evil in ‘Lord of the Rings’ Where Oth­ers See Good

    * Char­ac­ter analy­sis of Gol­lum pre­sent­ed to Turk­ish court
    * Thou­sands have been charged with insult­ing Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan

    Iso­bel Finkel

    April 14, 2016 — 11:20 PM CDT

    Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s lawyers are about to come face to face with “The Lord of the Rings.”

    Six months ago, fam­i­ly doc­tor Bil­gin Cift­ci lost his job for post­ing pho­tographs online that appeared to liken Erdo­gan to Gol­lum, one of the most infa­mous crea­tures from J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fan­ta­sy nov­el. The doc­tor was charged with insult­ing the pres­i­dent. Now, his free­dom hinges on a Turk­ish court’s read­ing of an exis­ten­tial ques­tion about good and evil: Was Gol­lum “bad?” Or was he sim­ply cor­rupt­ed by pow­er?

    The affair might seem like a quirky one-off, except it’s one of thou­sands of cas­es that Erdogan’s lawyers are pur­su­ing against alleged insults to the pres­i­dent, a crime pun­ish­able by more than five years in jail. Like many of them, this one con­cerns what a pri­vate indi­vid­ual can — and can­not — say on social media. And with the case draw­ing more and more pub­lic­i­ty, it’s becom­ing emblem­at­ic of a broad­er debate.

    “It’s only the absurd tip of a very large ice­berg. There are thou­sands of insult cas­es like this being opened up at the moment in Turkey, and often on very shaky ground,” said Aykan Erdemir, a senior fel­low at the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies in Wash­ing­ton and for­mer­ly an oppo­si­tion mem­ber of Turkey’s par­lia­ment. “This is not a triv­ial mat­ter.”

    Jail Time

    Ciftci’s case was opened after he re-post­ed an image con­sist­ing of three pairs of side-by-side pho­tos on Face­book. In two of them, Erdo­gan and the film char­ac­ter exhib­it sim­i­lar facial expres­sions; in the third, Erdo­gan eats a chick­en drum­stick and the oth­er chews on a live fish. The case is being tried in the city of Aydin and will con­vene next on May 12. Erdogan’s lawyers are ask­ing the court to pun­ish the defen­dant with up to two years in jail.

    “The Lord of the Rings” direc­tor Peter Jack­son and actor Eli­jah Wood are among those who’ve weighed in on the case. Jack­son said the pic­tures weren’t even of Gol­lum, but of his alter-ego, Sméagol. “That Bil­gin Cift­ci faces jail time for com­par­ing Erdo­gan to Gollum/Smeagol, regard­less of wether he’s good or bad, is hor­ri­fy­ing,” Wood said on Twit­ter on Dec. 3.

    Char­ac­ter Analy­sis

    Erdo­gan, 62, rules Turkey de fac­to from a 1,150-room palace he had built in Ankara, and is push­ing to change the nation’s polit­i­cal sys­tem to one gov­erned by the pres­i­dent from the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary mod­el. Nev­er known for tol­er­ance of crit­i­cism dur­ing 12 years as prime min­is­ter, he’s become increas­ing­ly liti­gious since becom­ing pres­i­dent in 2014, open­ing near­ly 2,000 insult cas­es against Turk­ish cit­i­zens, or more than three a day. This month he also asked Ger­man author­i­ties to press charges against a come­di­an who lam­pooned him.

    The ver­dict of the experts on Gol­lum is that he was good at core, yet became cor­rupt­ed after encoun­ter­ing the pow­er of a mag­i­cal ring, accord­ing to a 12-page char­ac­ter analy­sis sub­mit­ted to the court and reviewed by Bloomberg. “Good and evil can’t be so clear­ly dis­tin­guished in the film,” accord­ing to an aca­d­e­m­ic paper it cites. “Some of the sup­port­ing heroes suc­cumb to the desire to have the pow­er pass to them, and become bad char­ac­ters; that is, they change,” it said.

    Polit­i­cal Dom­i­nance

    Erdo­gan found­ed Turkey’s rul­ing AK Par­ty in 2001, the same year that the first part of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” tril­o­gy hit movie the­aters. He became prime min­is­ter soon after, rid­ing a wave of opti­mism based on his tenure as a may­or of Istan­bul and his plans to unite dis­cor­dant sec­tions of Turk­ish soci­ety.

    While he remains unbeat­able at the bal­lot box, in lat­er years Erdogan’s approval rat­ings have dipped, as he encoun­tered a slow­ing econ­o­my, aban­doned a peace process with Kur­dish mil­i­tants that his par­ty pio­neered, and began lash­ing out at inter­nal oppo­nents, accus­ing many of try­ing to over­throw him. Thou­sands of peo­ple have lost their jobs in purges in the last three years.

    The doctor’s defense in the Gol­lum case rests large­ly on seman­tics, as it keys in on the asser­tion of Erdogan’s lawyers that Gol­lum rep­re­sents a “bad” char­ac­ter. Pok­ing holes in the premise, the expert tes­ti­mo­ny echoes Jackson’s state­ment that the charges actu­al­ly hinge on a case of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.

    Gollum’s split per­son­al­i­ty alter­nates in the film between the crea­ture he’s become and the Hob­bit called Sméagol that he once was, before being entranced by the ring and tak­ing on a new name and per­son­al­i­ty. The shots post­ed by Cift­ci all show Sméagol, accord­ing to the court doc­u­ments, mean­ing the char­ac­ter to which Erdo­gan has been implic­it­ly com­pared isn’t the greedy, cor­rupt Gol­lum but one who’s “good, peace-lov­ing, loy­al and brings to mind pos­i­tive asso­ci­a­tions.”

    That argu­ment is miss­ing the point, says Yaman Akd­eniz, a law pro­fes­sor at Istanbul’s Bil­gi Uni­ver­si­ty and anti-cen­sor­ship activist, who’s writ­ing an expert opin­ion for the defense ahead of the next part of the tri­al.

    “Gol­lum or Sméagol, it real­ly doesn’t mat­ter because com­par­ing the for­mer prime min­is­ter or the pres­i­dent of Turkey to these well-known char­ac­ters is not an insult,” Akd­eniz said. “The com­par­i­son is well with­in the lim­its of accept­able crit­i­cism of polit­i­cal fig­ures.”

    “Erdo­gan, 62, rules Turkey de fac­to from a 1,150-room palace he had built in Ankara, and is push­ing to change the nation’s polit­i­cal sys­tem to one gov­erned by the pres­i­dent from the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary mod­el. Nev­er known for tol­er­ance of crit­i­cism dur­ing 12 years as prime min­is­ter, he’s become increas­ing­ly liti­gious since becom­ing pres­i­dent in 2014, open­ing near­ly 2,000 insult cas­es against Turk­ish cit­i­zens, or more than three a day. This month he also asked Ger­man author­i­ties to press charges against a come­di­an who lam­pooned him.
    More than three Turk­ish cit­i­zens are get­ting sued by Erdo­gan for insult­ing him every day. And the longer he’s been in pow­er, the more author­i­tar­i­an and con­trol­ling he gets. Is it pos­si­ble that Erdo­gan’s pro­found need for pow­er and con­trol actu­al­ly induced a deep psy­cho­log­i­cal schism that’s result­ed in a Gol­l­umn-style “Good”/“Bad” split per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der? Well, that would be fit­ting, although we don’t real­ly see “Good” Erdo­gan take over his body. So per­haps the Ring of Pow­er has com­plete­ly sub­sumed “Good” Erdo­gan, or maybe some­thing else is going on:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post UK

    Could the 10 Year Ill­ness Be Afflict­ing Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan?

    By Pro­fes­sor Ian Robert­son

    Author of The Win­ner Effect: The Neu­ro­science of Suc­cess and Fail­ure, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at Trin­i­ty Col­lege Dublin and Vis­it­ing Pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don

    Post­ed: 10/06/2013 22:45 BST Updat­ed: 09/08/2013 10:12 BST

    Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Recep Erdo­gan has held pow­er for 10 years, dur­ing which peri­od his coun­try has expe­ri­enced unprece­dent­ed eco­nom­ic growth and inter­na­tion­al pres­tige.

    Pow­er and suc­cess are two of the biggest brain-chang­ing drugs known to mankind, how­ev­er, and no human being’s brain can sur­vive unchanged such large infu­sions of these two drugs. Edro­gan’s response to this week’s demon­stra­tions in Turkey show that he may not be an excep­tion.

    Pow­er’s effects on the brain have many sim­i­lar­i­ties to those of drugs like cocaine: both sig­nif­i­cant­ly change brain func­tion by increas­ing the chem­i­cal mes­sen­ger dopamine’s activ­i­ty in the brain’s reward net­work. These changes also affect the cor­tex and alter think­ing, mak­ing peo­ple more con­fi­dent, bold­er — and even smarter.

    But these same changes also make peo­ple ego­cen­tric, less self-crit­i­cal, less anx­ious and less able to detect errors and dan­gers. All of these con­spire to make lead­ers impa­tient with the “messi­ness” of oppo­si­tion and con­tra­dic­to­ry opin­ions, which we can see clear­ly in Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan’s intran­si­gent and aggres­sive response to the demon­stra­tors, includ­ing his infa­mous claim that “there is an evil called twit­ter” and that “social media is the evil called upon soci­eties”.

    The neu­ro­log­i­cal effects of uncon­strained pow­er on the brain also inhib­it the very parts of the brain which are cru­cial for self-aware­ness and what Erdo­gan has to real­ize for the sake of Turkey’s future is actu­al­ly the hard­est thing for any human being to appre­ci­ate — that his own judg­ment is in dan­ger of being dis­tort­ed by 10 long years in pow­er.

    It is my judg­ment that no leader can sur­vive more than 10 years in pow­er with­out encoun­ter­ing mas­sive dis­tor­tion of judg­ment of the sort we are wit­ness­ing in Erdo­gan’s response to the cur­rent unrest. No-one — but no-one — is immune to these neu­ro­log­i­cal effects of pow­er and I do not think it is a coin­ci­dence that 10 years is the max­i­mum term in office for lead­ers of many coun­tries, includ­ing USA and even the Repub­lic of Chi­na.

    ...

    For­mer British For­eign Sec­re­tary Lord David Owen has pro­posed the exis­tence of a “Hubris Syn­drome” — an acquired per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der which aris­es in some lead­ers because of the effects of pow­er on their brains. Among oth­ers, he diag­nosed UK Prime Min­is­ters Tony Blair and Mar­garet Thatch­er as hav­ing suc­cumbed to this dis­or­der, both of whom ingest­ed the pow­er drug for that cru­cial 10 years.

    The symp­toms of Owen’s ‘Hubris Syn­drome’ include the fol­low­ing:
    • A nar­cis­sis­tic pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with one’s image (eg, about not being seen to back down and lose ‘strong man’ image).
    • A ten­den­cy for the leader to see the nation’s inter­ests and his own as iden­ti­cal, includ­ing a ten­den­cy to talk in the third per­son about him­self.
    • An exces­sive con­fi­dence in the lead­er’s own judg­ment and con­tempt for the advice or crit­i­cism of oth­ers, along with a sense of omnipo­tence.
    • A ten­den­cy to feel account­able to His­to­ry or God rather than to more mun­dane polit­i­cal or legal courts.
    • A ten­den­cy towards a loss of con­tact with real­i­ty and pro­gres­sive iso­la­tion.
    • “Hubris­tic incom­pe­tence”, where things go wrong because of over-con­fi­dence and impaired judg­ment

    Turkey is a vibrant nation, incred­i­bly impor­tant to Europe, the USA and the Mid­dle East and it is of para­mount impor­tance that its sta­bil­i­ty is not threat­ened by a brain dis­tort­ed by pow­er: there are enough coun­tries sur­round­ing Turkey which have been brought to their knees by pre­cise­ly this neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal afflic­tion in their lead­ers and the world does not need any more.

    “But these same changes also make peo­ple ego­cen­tric, less self-crit­i­cal, less anx­ious and less able to detect errors and dan­gers. All of these con­spire to make lead­ers impa­tient with the “messi­ness” of oppo­si­tion and con­tra­dic­to­ry opin­ions, which we can see clear­ly in Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan’s intran­si­gent and aggres­sive response to the demon­stra­tors, includ­ing his infa­mous claim that “there is an evil called twit­ter” and that “social media is the evil called upon soci­eties”.”

    Well that would cer­tain­ly help explain Erdo­gan going off the liti­gious deep end: he over­dosed on pow­er years ago and dam­aged his brain. Now it all makes sense. So let’s hope Erdo­gan gets the help he needs. Soon. Because as much as one might like to believe the Gol­lum law­suit should be absurd enough (and per­son­al­ly applic­a­ble enough) to make him real­ize he’s hit “rock bot­tom”, he just keeps dig­ging:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    A Ger­man come­di­an read a lewd poem about Turkey’s Erdo­gan. Now he could face jail time.

    By Adam Tay­lor April 7, 2016

    Activists have long crit­i­cized the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan for being thin-skinned in the face of crit­i­cism and for unfair­ly tar­get­ing jour­nal­ists. Now a tele­vi­sion host is fac­ing poten­tial jail time for read­ing a satir­i­cal poem about Erdo­gan that sug­gest­ed the Turk­ish leader engaged in bes­tial­i­ty, among oth­er things.

    This case has a twist, how­ev­er. The host is Ger­man. And the jail time he faces would be in Ger­many.

    Jan Boehmer­mann, a come­di­an and writer known for his acer­bic style, read the poem March 31 on his satir­i­cal talk show “Neo Mag­a­zin Royale,” which is broad­cast by Ger­man pub­lic broad­cast­er ZDF. Sit­ting in front of a Turk­ish flag and a small framed por­trait of Erdo­gan, Boehmer­mann recit­ed the poem, which sug­gest­ed the pres­i­dent had sex with goats and that he also loved to “repress minori­ties, kick Kurds and beat Chris­tians while watch­ing child porn,” Deutsche Welle reports.

    Addressed direct­ly to Erdo­gan, the poem also includ­ed sub­ti­tles for Turk­ish view­ers.

    Boehmer­man­n’s deci­sion to recite the poem had­n’t come out of the blue. Last month, Turkey had sum­moned Ger­many’s ambas­sador to com­plain about a song aired by a rival satire pro­gram on anoth­er Ger­man pub­lic broad­cast­er, NDR. That video, “Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdo­gan,” had shown pro­test­ers clash­ing with Turk­ish forces. “Equal rights for women: beat­en up equal­ly,” the song went.

    Before read­ing his poem, Boehmer­mann said that the pre­vi­ous video was defen­si­ble under Ger­many’s con­cept of free­dom of speech. Then, as he began to read, he sug­gest­ed that his own “abu­sive” poem would not be cov­ered by this con­cept.

    ...

    A spokesper­son for Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel released a state­ment Mon­day that con­demned the poem, explain­ing that “satire takes place with­in our country’s press and media free­dom, which — as you know — is not unlim­it­ed.”

    Turkey’s Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu wel­comed Merkel’s com­ments on Tues­day but said that any insult to Erdo­gan was an insult to all Turk­ish peo­ple’s hon­or. It would not go with­out a “response,” Davu­to­glu explained. Such com­ments like­ly rang alarm bells for any­one who fol­lows Turk­ish pol­i­tics: Turk­ish law bars insults to the pres­i­dent, and at least 1,845 cas­es have been opened under this law since Erdo­gan became pres­i­dent in 2014, accord­ing to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

    Turkey’s Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu wel­comed Merkel’s com­ments on Tues­day but said that any insult to Erdo­gan was an insult to all Turk­ish peo­ple’s hon­or. It would not go with­out a “response,” Davu­to­glu explained. Such com­ments like­ly rang alarm bells for any­one who fol­lows Turk­ish pol­i­tics: Turk­ish law bars insults to the pres­i­dent, and at least 1,845 cas­es have been opened under this law since Erdo­gan became pres­i­dent in 2014, accord­ing to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.”
    Ok, some­one needs to like Angela Merkel know that she’s not help­ing! We have a brain dam­aged indi­vid­ual suf­fer­ing from some sort of nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der and in the mid­dle of an extend­ed “hubris syn­drome” tantrum. The last thing you want to do is treat him like a king. It’s not in the best inter­est of any­one, includ­ing Erdo­gan. The guy is sick. He needs help, not feal­ty.

    Of course, since this is Merkel we’re talk­ing about here, doing the last thing you want to do is the first thing she does:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Merkel allows pros­e­cu­tion of Ger­man come­di­an who mocked Turk­ish pres­i­dent

    By Rick Noack April 15 at 9:30 AM

    Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel has cleared the way for the pros­e­cu­tion of Ger­man come­di­an Jan Böh­mer­mann, whose poem mock­ing Turkey’s pres­i­dent has become the cen­ter­piece of a clash between Ger­many’s free-speech tra­di­tions and the gov­ern­men­t’s efforts to safe­guard its impor­tant rela­tions with Turkey.

    In a news con­fer­ence Fri­day, Merkel empha­sized that it will now be up to Ger­man courts to decide whether Böh­mer­mann is guilty of insult­ing Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan. But crit­ics — includ­ing mem­bers of her own gov­ern­ment — have described it as a betray­al of val­ues pro­tect­ing open expres­sion.

    “In a coun­try under the rule of law, it is not up to the gov­ern­ment to decide,” Merkel said. “Pros­e­cu­tors and courts should weight per­son­al rights against the free­dom of press and art.”

    Although Böh­mer­mann could face sev­er­al years in jail if con­vict­ed, lawyers famil­iar with sim­i­lar cas­es expect that the come­di­an would have to pay a fine, if at all.

    The stakes are poten­tial­ly high­er for Merkel.

    Crit­i­cism of her reac­tion to the inci­dent had mount­ed ahead of the announce­ment. Oppo­nents have said the chan­cel­lor made a glar­ing mis­step ear­li­er by call­ing the poem “delib­er­ate­ly offend­ing” — a com­ment inter­pret­ed by some as sup­port for Erdo­gan, who has been accused of crack­ing down on press free­dom in Turkey.

    Not allow­ing the charges to pro­ceed could have jeop­ar­dized a refugee deal with Turkey, which was recent­ly nego­ti­at­ed. Turk­ish offi­cials had pub­licly pres­sured Merkel to allow the charges. Ear­li­er this week, Turkey’s deputy prime min­is­ter, Numan Kur­tul­mus, said that the poem was a slap against all Turks.

    “That is why the Repub­lic of Turkey demands that this imper­ti­nent man is imme­di­ate­ly pun­ished for insult­ing a pres­i­dent, with­in the scope of Ger­man law,” Kur­tul­mus said. He went on to call the poem a “seri­ous crime against human­i­ty” that had “crossed all lines of inde­cen­cy.”

    In her state­ment Fri­day, Merkel tried to appease crit­ics by announc­ing that she would seek to repeal the con­tro­ver­sial Ger­man law against insult­ing heads of state.

    Merkel was forced to decide on the mat­ter after the Turk­ish pres­i­dent had offi­cial­ly filed charges against Böh­mer­mann ear­li­er this week. The mock poem in ques­tion aired dur­ing a seg­ment of ZDF Tele­vi­sion’s Neo Mag­a­zin Royale show last week. Some of the lines includ­ed accu­sa­tions of bes­tial­i­ty and oth­er unsa­vory things.

    ...

    Ger­many’s Social Democ­rats, the chan­cel­lor’s coali­tion part­ners, want­ed to pre­vent a court tri­al. One of the par­ty’s lead­ing politi­cians, Thomas Opper­mann, said pros­e­cu­tion for satire “does not fit into a mod­ern democ­ra­cy.”

    Anoth­er dis­senter, For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier, called free expres­sion “among the most impor­tant val­ues pro­tect­ed by our con­sti­tu­tion.”

    Udo Vet­ter, a defense lawyer and blog­ger, com­ment­ed that Merkel’s deci­sion sends the wrong mes­sage. “It forces Ger­many’s legal author­i­ties to act on behalf of Mr. Erdo­gan,” Vet­ter argued. But an inter­nal report com­mis­sioned by the for­eign min­istry con­clud­ed that Böh­mer­mann was most like­ly guilty of a crim­i­nal offense, accord­ing to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel news­pa­per.

    ““That is why the Repub­lic of Turkey demands that this imper­ti­nent man is imme­di­ate­ly pun­ished for insult­ing a pres­i­dent, with­in the scope of Ger­man law,” Kur­tul­mus said. He went on to call the poem a “seri­ous crime against human­i­ty” that had “crossed all lines of inde­cen­cy.”
    Well, con­sid­er­ing we now have to scrub our minds of images of Erdo­gan engaged in bes­tial acts, yes, per­haps it could be clas­si­fied as a mini-crime against human­i­ty’s psy­che, because ewww. But a seri­ous crime against human­i­ty? WTF?! Is that going to be tak­en seri­ous­ly by Ger­many? Yep!

    ...
    Not allow­ing the charges to pro­ceed could have jeop­ar­dized a refugee deal with Turkey, which was recent­ly nego­ti­at­ed. Turk­ish offi­cials had pub­licly pres­sured Merkel to allow the charges. Ear­li­er this week, Turkey’s deputy prime min­is­ter, Numan Kur­tul­mus, said that the poem was a slap against all Turks.

    “That is why the Repub­lic of Turkey demands that this imper­ti­nent man is imme­di­ate­ly pun­ished for insult­ing a pres­i­dent, with­in the scope of Ger­man law,” Kur­tul­mus said. He went on to call the poem a “seri­ous crime against human­i­ty” that had “crossed all lines of inde­cen­cy.”
    ...

    Udo Vet­ter, a defense lawyer and blog­ger, com­ment­ed that Merkel’s deci­sion sends the wrong mes­sage. “It forces Ger­many’s legal author­i­ties to act on behalf of Mr. Erdo­gan,” Vet­ter argued. But an inter­nal report com­mis­sioned by the for­eign min­istry con­clud­ed that Böh­mer­mann was most like­ly guilty of a crim­i­nal offense, accord­ing to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel news­pa­per.

    Again, NOT HELPING! The guy already has a men­tal dis­or­der and this can only make things worse. It’s already pret­ty clear Erodogan’s pow­er trip isn’t going to end well. Let’s just hope he isn’t allowed to turn Turkey into Mount Doom before his jour­ney comes to an end.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 15, 2016, 3:55 pm
  49. @Pterrafractyl–

    In addi­tion to the obvi­ous attempt at sti­fling what would be viewed as free speech in any soci­ety (albeit dicey free speech to an extent), this gives the absolute lie to Merkel/Germany/EU’s self-right­eous pos­ing as defend­ers of free-speech/­civ­il liberties/privacy.

    Hell, what does she think she is? A repub­li­can?

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 16, 2016, 2:33 pm
  50. @Dave: Who does Merkel think she is? Prob­a­bly Erdo­gan. And it’s an iden­ti­ty cri­sis appar­ent­ly shared by the rest of the EU lead­er­ship:

    The Tele­graph

    EU refus­es to defend Ger­man com­ic who mocked Turk­ish pres­i­dent

    Matthew Hole­house, Brus­sels

    18 April 2016 • 4:17pm

    The EU’s lead­er­ship has refused to con­demn Germany’s deci­sion to pros­e­cute a come­di­an who ridiculed the Turk­ish pres­i­dent.

    Amid grow­ing crit­i­cism of Europe’s “dirty deal” with Turkey, Jean-Claude Juncker’s office said they would not com­ment on Ger­man legal pro­ceed­ings against Jan Böh­mer­mann.

    He faces five years in prison after the gov­ern­ment approved a pros­e­cu­tion under a lèse majesté law dat­ing back to 1871, which pro­hibits insult­ing a for­eign head of state.

    Mr Böh­mer­mann read a poem in which he described Racep Tayyip Erdo­gan as a “goat f——“ who watch­es child pornog­ra­phy, as part of a tele­vi­sion sketch designed to test the lim­its of Ger­man free speech laws.

    Mrs Merkel is accused of kow­tow­ing to the increas­ing­ly author­i­tar­i­an Turk­ish regime in order to hold togeth­er a deal in which Ankara has agreed to cur­tail migrant flows over the Aegean in exchange for €6 bil­lion in aid and fast-tracked visa free trav­el.

    Mr Juncker’s spokesman brushed off sug­ges­tions that Mr Böh­mer­mann was enti­tled to pro­tec­tion under the EU’s Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights, which enshrines free­dom of expres­sion “with­out inter­fer­ence by pub­lic author­i­ty and regard­less of fron­tiers.”

    “I know that you come from a polit­i­cal cul­ture that is par­tic­u­lar­ly attached to the notion of sub­sidiar­i­ty,” Mar­gari­tis Schi­nas told the Tele­graph. “You will under­stand when we say we do not think it is our role to inter­vene in nation­al pro­ceed­ing of nation­al penal law, which are bet­ter left at nation­al lev­el.”

    He added: “We are dis­cussing a spe­cif­ic case tak­en under nation­al law under a spe­cif­ic nation­al judi­cial con­text.”

    Mr Junck­er had pre­vi­ous­ly con­demned a call by Ankara to with­draw a satir­i­cal song about Erdo­gan from Ger­man air­waves. His office said it “moves Turkey fur­ther from the EU rather than clos­er to us,” and “doesn’t seem to be in line with uphold­ing the free­dom of the press and free­dom of expres­sion, which are val­ues the EU cher­ish­es a lot.”

    Mr Böh­mer­man­n’s skit, broad­cast late at night on the ZDF, was intend­ed to satirise that row. As he read the poem, anoth­er actor dressed as a lawyer told him it was not satir­i­cal and there­fore ille­gal.

    Mrs Merkel said it was up to the court to judge the case, but the move split the coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

    “It is our view that the pros­e­cu­tion should not have been autho­rised,” said Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier, the social demo­c­rat for­eign min­is­ter. “Free­dom of the press, free­dom of expres­sion and artis­tic free­dom are the high­est goods requir­ing pro­tec­tion in our con­sti­tu­tion.”

    The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has been crit­i­cal of reforms to Pol­ish and Hun­gar­i­an media law, which it said endan­gered free­dom of expres­sion. In Jan­u­ary the Com­mis­sion launched a major probe into whether Pol­ish reforms of press own­er­ship amount­ed to a breach of the rule of law.

    Sander Loones, a Flem­ish N‑VA MEP said: “The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is being incred­i­bly selec­tive on when it cares about free­dom of speech.

    “If it is to chal­lenge Hun­gary or Poland then it should chal­lenge even the mighty Mrs Merkel as well, oth­er­wise it right­ly leaves itself open to accu­sa­tions of hypocrisy.”

    It came as the Euro­pean Union’s bor­der agency declared that the Turk­ish deal was work­ing. Some 3,500 migrants attempt­ed to reach the Greek islands in 11 days since the new depor­ta­tion plan came into force on March 20, and arrivals have dwin­dled to under 100 per day in April.

    The fig­ure for March – 26,460 – is half that record­ed for Feb­ru­ary. At the height of the cri­sis last Octo­ber up to 5,000 peo­ple a day were mak­ing the short jour­ney by dinghy from Turkey.

    ...

    “Mr Junck­er had pre­vi­ous­ly con­demned a call by Ankara to with­draw a satir­i­cal song about Erdo­gan from Ger­man air­waves. His office said it “moves Turkey fur­ther from the EU rather than clos­er to us,” and “doesn’t seem to be in line with uphold­ing the free­dom of the press and free­dom of expres­sion, which are val­ues the EU cher­ish­es a lot.””
    Some­how those pre­vi­ous con­dem­na­tions just with­ered away. It’s not actu­al­ly sur­pris­ing giv­en Europe’s inabil­i­ty to come to grips with the refugee cri­sis. Erdo­gan’s offer to the stem the flow of refugees in exchange for finan­cial aid and visa-free EU move­ment for Turk­ish cit­i­zens is quite pos­si­bly the only solu­tion the EU is going to be able to unite behind. Or, rather, pretry much any offer Erdo­gan comes up with, as long as it involves block­ing refugees from reach­ing Europe, becomes an offer the EU can’t refuse.

    So if Erdo­gan wants to pros­e­cute comics it’s no joke. He’s got the pow­er and he wants his ring kissed. And the same is true for just about any oth­er demand Erdo­gan might make as long as the demand isn’t more cost­ly than the poten­tial con­se­quences of a break­down in the Schen­gen Area of free move­ment and that’s what the EU is look­ing it if it can’t find anoth­er solu­tion to the refugee cri­sis. And as the arti­cle below points out, if the Schen­gen Area col­laps­es that could get pret­ty expen­sive. Espe­cial­ly for Ger­many. Why? Because if there’s no free-move­ment of peo­ple, there’s no free-move­ment of truck­ers too. And that means the Ger­man “just-in-time” man­u­fac­tur­ing sup­ply-chain based heav­i­ly on East­ern Euro­pean sup­plies could grind to a halt too:

    Bloomberg

    The Truck­er’s Night­mare That Could Flat­ten Europe’s Econ­o­my
    Three decades of bor­der­less trav­el at risk with new checks — per­ma­nent curbs could cost 470 bil­lion euros over 10 years.

    John Fol­lain
    Car­olynn Look
    Matthew Camp­bell
    April 17, 2016 — 6:01 PM CDT
    Updat­ed on April 18, 2016 — 8:12 AM CDT

    Peer­ing through his rain-lashed wind­shield, Zoltan Unc­zorg alter­nates edg­i­ly between the brake and the gas ped­al of his 18-wheel­er. “It’s very tir­ing,” the stur­dy Hun­gar­i­an com­plains as he crawls along in a line of vehi­cles approach­ing the Aus­tria-Ger­many bor­der.

    After more than eight hours car­ry­ing fan parts, Unc­zorg has no more patience for delays. And this day was bet­ter than usu­al. He’s had to endure waits of about four hours at this check­point, set up last Sep­tem­ber to hunt for migrants on the A3 high­way near the Ger­man city of Pas­sau. It’s a route he plies dai­ly for elec­tric-motor mak­er EBM-Papst Group.

    “The worst was last sum­mer, when migrants were walk­ing on the high­way head­ing for Ger­many,” he says. “It was too dan­ger­ous to dri­ve quick­ly, you could hit them by acci­dent.”

    What infu­ri­ates Unc­zorg may her­ald a sea change for Europe’s econ­o­my, busi­ness and even soci­ety: the ero­sion of a decades-old sys­tem that has allowed bor­der­less trav­el across 26 coun­tries. Bring­ing back wide­spread con­trols would be a blow for the most vis­i­ble — or invis­i­ble — vic­to­ry in the 60-year quest for a unit­ed Europe, con­ceived in the rub­ble of World War II. Free move­ment in what is called the Schen­gen area, for the town in Lux­em­bourg where the treaty was signed, took over where bunkers and artillery stood on the Fran­co-Ger­man bor­der and guard tow­ers and barbed wire defined the Iron Cur­tain between east­ern and west­ern Europe.

    Now, Ger­many, Aus­tria, France and Swe­den, among oth­ers, have rein­tro­duced bor­der check­points in some places. They are pres­sured by Europe’s biggest refugee cri­sis since World War II — about 1 mil­lion migrants arrived in Greece and Italy in 2015 — ter­ror­ist attacks, and the growth of anti-immi­gra­tion move­ments. But the eco­nom­ic cost of dump­ing Schen­gen, at a time when growth across the con­ti­nent is still weak, would be mas­sive.

    A per­ma­nent return to bor­der con­trols could lop 470 bil­lion euros ($530 bil­lion) of gross domes­tic prod­uct growth from the Euro­pean econ­o­my over the next 10 years, based on a rel­a­tive­ly con­ser­v­a­tive assump­tion of costs, accord­ing to research pub­lished by Germany’s Ber­tels­mann Foun­da­tion. That’s like los­ing a com­pa­ny almost the size of BMW AG every year for a decade.

    The open bor­ders pow­er an econ­o­my of more than 400 mil­lion peo­ple, with 24 mil­lion busi­ness trips and 57 mil­lion cross-bor­der freight trans­fers hap­pen­ing every year, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment says. Firms in Germany’s indus­tri­al heart­land rely on elab­o­rate, just-in-time sup­ply chains that take advan­tage of low­er costs in Hun­gary and Poland. French super­mar­ket chains are sup­plied with fresh pro­duce that speeds north from Spain and Por­tu­gal. And trans-nation­al com­mutes have become com­mon­place since Euro­peans can eas­i­ly choose to, say, live in Bel­gium and work in France.

    For many Euro­peans, pass­port-free trav­el is part of being, sim­ply, Euro­pean. For the com­pa­ny hir­ing dri­ver Unc­zorg, the secu­ri­ty checks increase costs in terms of delays, stor­age and inven­to­ry.

    Per­ma­nent con­trols would destroy the busi­ness mod­el of Ger­man indus­try, says Rain­er Hunds­do­er­fer, chair­man of EBM-Papst.

    “You get the prod­ucts you need for assem­bly here in Ger­many just in time,” he said by phone. “That’s why the trucks go non­stop. They come here, they unload, they load, and off they go. The cost isn’t the only prime issue” in rein­stat­ing bor­der checks. “It’s that we couldn’t even do it.”

    Nor could any­one else, he adds: “Noth­ing in Ger­man indus­try, regard­less of whether it’s auto­mo­tives or appli­ances or ven­ti­la­tors, could exist with­out the extend­ed work­bench­es in east­ern Europe.” Based in Mulfin­gen in cen­tral Ger­many, Hundsdoerfer’s com­pa­ny has been mak­ing elec­tric motors and fans since it was found­ed in 1963, and has fac­to­ries in coun­tries includ­ing Hun­gary, Slo­va­kia and the Czech Repub­lic. The parts Unc­zorg was car­ry­ing orig­i­nat­ed in Tapol­ca and Cell­do­molk, Hun­gary, and trav­eled more than 800 kilo­me­ters (500 miles) before being offloaded in Mulfin­gen for fur­ther man­u­fac­tur­ing.

    Whether con­trols are here to stay depends on migrant flows. Ger­man Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere said ear­li­er this month that his coun­try may end pass­port mon­i­tor­ing on the Aus­tri­an bor­der by May 12 if the num­ber of refugees try­ing to cross remains low, fol­low­ing clos­er scruti­ny along the west­ern Balka­ns route.

    But Aus­tria is con­sid­er­ing new checks on the Bren­ner Pass, a key high­way link with north­ern Italy. Such a bar­ri­er would have seri­ous eco­nom­ic and sym­bol­ic con­se­quences for Europe, Ital­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Pao­lo Gen­tiloni said Mon­day, accord­ing to Ital­ian news wire Ansa. Thou­sands of migrants are expect­ed to cross the Mediter­ranean, espe­cial­ly from Libya, in com­ing months.

    The Euro­pean Union on March 18 reached a deal with Turkey in which some refugees will be sent back to there across the Aegean Sea — although Euro­pean Union Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk says he’s hear­ing con­cerns about the accord and the new bor­der con­trols.

    “The deal with Turkey and clos­ing the west­ern Balka­ns route raised doubts of an eth­i­cal nature and also legal as in the case of Turkey,” Tusk told the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Stras­bourg, France, on April 13.

    Tusk warned that the bloc would be “unable to pre­vent polit­i­cal cat­a­stro­phes” if it failed to stem irreg­u­lar migra­tion to Europe or restore author­i­ty over migra­tion pol­i­cy. “Here I mean the col­lapse of Schen­gen, loss of con­trol over our exter­nal bor­ders with all its impli­ca­tions for our secu­ri­ty, polit­i­cal chaos in the EU, a wide­spread feel­ing of inse­cu­ri­ty, and ulti­mate­ly the tri­umph of pop­ulism and extrem­ism.”

    The impact of refugee migra­tion is vis­i­ble at the Aus­tria-Ger­many check­point near Pas­sau. A hut squats in the mid­dle of the two-lane high­way and a line of trucks stretch­es back some six kilo­me­ters, exhaust fumes mix­ing with the stench of manure spread on near­by fields.

    Under a large white can­vas tent, four police offi­cers search a large gray van. Two are armed with machine guns in addi­tion to their ser­vice pis­tols, under orders issued fol­low­ing the ter­ror attacks on Brus­sels in March.

    “You have no idea how many ways I’ve seen the smug­glers hide peo­ple,” says Karsten Eber­hardt, a police com­mis­sion­er, as he sits at a pic­nic table. “If you carve out a hol­low space under the seat and put a board in front, you can hide a pret­ty large per­son.”

    The flow of migrants has dwin­dled since Jan­u­ary, when as many as 12,000 reached the check­point dai­ly. On the last week­end in March, police in the region found 70 migrants who were being smug­gled.

    Peter Sonnleit­ner, head of for­eign trade at the cham­ber of indus­try and com­merce for Low­er Bavaria, based in Pas­sau, says sev­er­al firms in the region have com­plained about delays but they have so far been “under­stand­ing” because trans­port com­pa­nies have absorbed most of the extra cost.

    Also threat­ened are the com­pa­nies whose goods or sup­plies are being shipped.

    Ger­man auto-parts man­u­fac­tur­er Con­ti­nen­tal AG, for instance, has 15 to 20 trucks run­ning across Europe on a typ­i­cal day. Their longest trips take about 1 1/2 to 2 days and cross mul­ti­ple bor­ders. If full cus­toms and immi­gra­tion checks were restored, lead­ing to aver­age waits of four hours at each fron­tier, that could mean anoth­er 160 hours of extra jour­ney time a day across 20 trucks, said sup­ply-chain head Juer­gen Braun­stet­ter: “Over a year, you can imag­ine the cost.”

    The eco­nom­ic costs of more con­trols might ulti­mate­ly be man­age­able, says Micha­la Mar­cussen, glob­al head of eco­nom­ics at Soci­ete Gen­erale SA in Paris. Polit­i­cal costs are anoth­er mat­ter.

    “We’ve just been through the euro cri­sis and rebuild­ing insti­tu­tions,” she said. “It’s bet­ter to fix Schen­gen as it shows the capac­i­ty to do things. If we were real­ly able to have well-coor­di­nat­ed bor­ders, that would give peo­ple con­fi­dence we could deal with shocks in the future.”

    ...

    “The open bor­ders pow­er an econ­o­my of more than 400 mil­lion peo­ple, with 24 mil­lion busi­ness trips and 57 mil­lion cross-bor­der freight trans­fers hap­pen­ing every year, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment says. Firms in Germany’s indus­tri­al heart­land rely on elab­o­rate, just-in-time sup­ply chains that take advan­tage of low­er costs in Hun­gary and Poland. French super­mar­ket chains are sup­plied with fresh pro­duce that speeds north from Spain and Por­tu­gal. And trans-nation­al com­mutes have become com­mon­place since Euro­peans can eas­i­ly choose to, say, live in Bel­gium and work in France.”
    Is the era of just-in-time EU sup­ply chains com­ing to an end if the refugee deal with Turkey breaks down? That would appear to be pos­si­ble since there are no oth­er big plans in the pipeline, but it’s a plan that depends quite heav­i­ly on Erodgan and his will­ing­ness to com­mit Turkey to tak­ing in mil­lions more refugees for basi­cal­ly the fore­see­able future and those num­bers could eas­i­ly swell as the Syr­ia civ­il-war con­tin­ues.

    So giv­en Erodogan’s out­sized lever­age over the EU econ­o­my at the moment and the rapid con­ces­sions to Erdo­gan’s wound­ed ego first by Berlin and then the EU, the EU satirists liv­ing in nations with “don’t insult for­eign lead­ers” laws should prob­a­bly start sav­ing for their legal defense funds. Or just avoid any­thing oth­er than extreme praise for Turkey’s dear leader. Because as we now know, nowhere is safe in Europe when Erdo­gan’s ears start burn­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2016, 1:23 pm

Post a comment