For 18 months, as ISIS advanced, the US did nothing to stop them

September 02 2022

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Photo Credit: The Cradle

By William Van Wagenen

In 2017, US and allied Kurdish forces bombarded the city of Raqqa, the bastion of ISIS in Syria and the de-facto capital of the terror group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

Concurrent to this, US forces conducted massive air strikes on the Iraqi city of Mosul, to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces against ISIS there too.

But the US-led campaigns in Mosul and Raqqa falsely suggest that the US and ISIS were implacable enemies. These battles created the perception that the US was committed to fighting Al-Qaeda and its various splinter groups, in a continuation of the so-called “War on Terror” begun by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11.

Supporting ISIS’ territorial advances

However, a closer look at events in both Iraq and Syria paints a very different picture: The US and its allies, both directly and indirectly, colluded with ISIS to attain specific geopolitical objectives. The terror group that captured the world’s attention in 2014 was in fact a vital and valuable tool for US policy planners.

Evidence of this is rife. In June 2014, when ISIS fighters swept across the Syrian border to first capture Mosul, the largest city of its caliphate, the US military monitored the ISIS convoys crossing from Syria using drones and satellite systems, but took no action to bomb them.

Earlier, in an October 2013 visit to the White House, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had warned Obama administration officials that, “The weapons provided to those killers in Syria have been smuggled to Iraq, and those wolves that came from different countries to Syria are now sneaking into Iraq.”

Maliki’s warnings were spot on. He took his case to Washington because it was clear – even then – that weapons the US and its allies were the pumping into Syria were being passed from so-called “moderate rebels” to Al Qaeda and other extremist militants.

Then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who worried about a possible ISIS advance even on Baghdad at the time, described fellow US officials advocating the policy of allowing ISIS to take Mosul as “completely out of their minds.”

Two months later, ISIS fighters coming from Syria in the west, and Mosul in the east, assaulted the Sinjar region of Iraq, home to the Yazidi religious minority. Within the course of a few days, ISIS fighters massacred thousands of Yazidi men and boys, while enslaving some 7,000 Yazidi women and children.

The US looks the other way

At the time, US President Barack Obama claimed he would act to avert a “potential act of genocide” against the Yazidis, but then turned a blind eye to the ensuing ethnic cleansing.

Although the US president approved limited air strikes to reverse ISIS’ advance on Erbil – the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq (where US oil companies and diplomats were based) – Obama simultaneously refused to bomb ISIS militants to prevent the massacre of Yazidis in the village of Kocho, despite desperate pleas from US-based Yazidi activists to do so.

In yet another example of blatant US military inaction, on 20 May, 2015, ISIS conquered the Syrian city of Tadmur at the site of ancient Palmyra, famous for its Roman ruins, thereby paving the way for the terrorist organization to push closer to Damascus.

Once again, US military planners had ample opportunity to bomb ISIS convoys advancing across the open desert from Raqqa on route to assault the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but chose to watch instead.

The following year, the LA Times reported that:

“As Islamic State [ISIS] closed in on Palmyra, the U.S.-led aerial coalition that has been pummeling Islamic State in Syria for the past 18 months took no action to prevent the extremists’ advance toward the historic town — which, until then, had remained in the hands of the sorely overstretched Syrian security forces. The U.S. approach in Palmyra contrasted dramatically with the very proactive U.S. bombardment of Kobani during 2014-15 on behalf of U.S.-allied Kurdish militias fending off a furious Islamic State offensive.”

How can these contradictions be explained? Why did US planners allow ISIS to grow and expand in Mosul, Sinjar, and Palmyra for 18 months between 2014 and 2015, only to conduct two brutal military campaigns, causing massive civilian suffering, to defeat the terror group in Raqqa and Mosul in 2017? In the fight against ISIS, whose side was the US really on?

Backing terrorists to regime-change Syria

The answer lies partly in US policy toward the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad. Washington initially wished to use ISIS as leverage to oust Assad from power, as part of a broader effort at regime change that had started long before. Once ISIS was no longer useful to this end, US planners turned against the group, as has been the norm whenever US assets pass their expiry date.

To accomplish this regime-change, the US and its allies partnered with Jihadi-Salafis, including from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, to launch a dirty war on the Syrian state in 2011, attacking Syrian police, soldiers and security forces under the cover of the anti-government protests that initially appeared to be part of broader region-wide Arab uprisings.

The early anti-government protests in Syria, including the first protests in Deraa in March 2011, were also orchestrated by US planners, with assistance from activists of both liberal and Islamist orientation, including from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Sarouri trend.

With the help of allied intelligence agencies in the region, the US pumped billions of dollars of weapons and aid to Salafist militant groups in Syria in subsequent years, hoping these militants could successfully topple the Assad government on the US and Israel’s behalf.

Achieving this goal relied in part on establishing what US intelligence analysts described as a “Salafist principality” in the majority Sunni regions of eastern Syria (Raqqa and Deir Ezzor) and western Iraq (Mosul). Destroying the Baathist Syrian state by dividing the country along ethnic, religious and tribal lines had been a goal of US neoconservative planners since at least the 1990’s.

After an intra-jihadi civil war, ISIS as an organization emerged as the most powerful faction in the broader US-backed Salafist insurgency, and in 2014 established the desired Salafist principality, or caliphate, with Raqqa and Mosul as its two main strongholds.

Funneling weapons to terrorists

Though US-backed Persian Gulf sheikhdoms supported ISIS directly, according to admissions from US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Washington’s support for the terror group, and its sister organization, the Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda’s Syrian subsidiary), was indirect.

US support for ISIS (and Nusra) came in the form of money and weapons channeled through what was formally known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Weapons were then passed on to, or captured by, ISIS and Nusra. US planners simply had to flood the country with weapons, then turn a blind eye to where the weapons would certainly end up.

Though allegedly composed of deserters from the Syrian army fighting to establish a secular, democratic state, in fact the FSA never existed as a real army, but instead functioned largely as brand adopted by many of the Salafist militant groups fighting on the ground. The most capable of the Salafist militants fighting under the FSA banner would then graduate to fight for the more respected Jihadi groups, whether ISIS or Nusra.

Prominent FSA groups whose fighters eventually defected to ISIS in significant numbers include the Farouq Brigades in Homs, Liwa al-Hajar al-Aswad in Yarmouk camp, the Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades, the Military Council, the Revolutionary Council, and Liwa al-Sa’qa in Deir al-Zour, and Saqour al-Sham in Idlib.

Fighters from these Salafist groups, and the western and Gulf weapons funneled to them through the FSA leadership, therefore formed the foundation upon which both ISIS and the Nusra Front were built, and which finally enabled ISIS to establish the Salafist principality in Iraq and Syria desired by US planners.

The FSA brand provided a secular facade to the Salafist and Al-Qaeda dominated insurgency, allowing US and allied countries to publicly justify providing military support to the insurgency, while feigning opposition to the Al-Qaeda groups.

Western media and think tank analysts claimed this military aid was going to help the “Syrian people” resist a dictator, even though the groups comprising the insurgency had little popular, support, generally fought alongside and in support of the Al-Qaeda groups, and broadly terrorized most Syrians with their sectarian ideology and hatred of religious minorities.

Assisting ISIS in Syria

After conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS crossed back into Syria to conquer Deir Ezzor province, with the help of local FSA brigades.

According to Samer al-Ani, an opposition media activist from Deir Al-Zour, several fighting groups affiliated to the US-backed Military Council quietly assisted ISIS in the assault on the province. Al-Ani warned that “money being sent through members of the [US-backed] National Coalition to rebels in Deir Ezzor risks going to ISIS,” and that “these groups pledged loyalty to ISIS four months ago, so this was not forced as a result of ISIS’s latest push, as happened elsewhere. Such collaboration was key to the takeover of Deir Ezzor in recent weeks, especially in areas where ISIS could not defeat the local forces so easily.”

Assistance from local FSA factions allowed ISIS to quickly capture a string of strategic towns and cities along the Euphrates River, including Al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border, followed by Al-Shuhayl (known as Nusra’s capital), Al-Mayadeen, and much of Deir Ezzor city itself. This allowed ISIS to expel Nusra from the province.

ISIS relied on FSA factions not only for manpower but also for weapons. Newsweek reports that according to a report by UK-based Conflict Armament Research, ISIS obtained much of their “arsenal as a result of former President Barack Obama’s support for rebels in Syria,” and that these weapons “included a powerful anti-tank missile launcher bought from a Bulgarian manufacturer by the U.S. Army and wielded by ISIS only weeks later.”

Al-Jazeera reported in July 2013 that according to the ISIS commander for Aleppo province at the time, Abu Atheer, “we are buying weapons from the FSA. we bought 200 anti-aircraft missiles and Koncourse anti-tank weapons. We have good relations with our brothers in the FSA.”

Konkurs missiles were provided to FSA groups via the CIA’s regional allies, while the US intelligence agency trained FSA fighters in the use of these weapons in Jordan and Turkey starting in November 2012. When asked about the CIA training, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you all the elements of that assistance,” and that “We have provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council.”

ISIS was able to acquire US and Gulf supplied weapons so quickly because, in many instances, FSA commanders had secretly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Such FSA commanders were therefore able to deliver weapons from the US-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC) to ISIS almost immediately upon receiving them.

Syrian oppositionist news website Deir Ezzor 24 notes for example that FSA commander Abu Seif Al-Shaiti of Ahfad Al-Rasoul attended a meeting in Turkey with western and Gulf intelligence officials where he pledged to fight ISIS in exchange for a large shipment of new weapons.

ISIS then put him on a wanted list as a result. Instead of fighting ISIS, Abu Seif simply pledged allegiance to the organization and delivered all the weapons to the ISIS leadership that he had received from his former western and Gulf sponsors.

US policy makers were aware of this phenomenon, but chose to look the other way, suggesting they were satisfied that their weapons were ending up with jihadists, be they Nusra or ISIS.

In 2015, The Cradle columnist Sharmine Narwani asked US Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Commander Kyle Raines about why Pentagon-vetted fighters’ weapons were showing up in Nusra’s hands. Raines responded: “We don’t ‘command and control’ these forces—we only ‘train and enable’ them. Who they say they’re allying with, that’s their business.”

A full year after Obama declared the US military would “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, the organization was at the height of its power, controlling some 50 percent of Syrian territory, including the strategically important Yarmouk refugee camp at the door step of Damascus.

Patrick Coburn of the Independent reported in September 2015 that “the majority of the 17 million Syrians still in the country live in government-controlled areas now threatened by ISIS. These people are terrified of ISIS occupying their cities, towns and villages because of its reputation for mass executions, ritual mutilation and rape against those not obedient to its extreme variant of Sunni Islam.”

Russian airpower obstructs US plans

In the fall of 2015, both ISIS (from its strongholds in Deir Al-Zour and Raqqa) and Nusra (in Idlib and Aleppo) were threatening to conquer Damascus and raise their respective black flags over virtually the entire country.

At this critical juncture, the Syrian government formally requested intervention from Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to help thwart ISIS’ significant advances by directing Russia’s Air Force to strike the terror group’s capabilities and manpower.

Despite accelerated CIA shipments of TOW missiles to the FSA and Nusra, it quickly became clear that the tide of the war would soon turn as a result of Russian airpower. The Russian bombing campaign targeted the Salafist insurgency broadly, including ISIS, enabling the Syrian army and allied Iranian-backed ground forces to make crucial gains.

Had Washington been serious about fighting ISIS, US warplanes would have unleashed a massive bombing campaign against ISIS in 2014 and 2015, as the danger of Damascus falling, and the possible massacre of large numbers of its inhabitants, both religious minorities and Sunnis who supported the government, was very real.

Instead, despite the terror felt by millions of Syrians, US planners showed their real intentions by viewing the brutal ISIS advance toward Damascus with approval. In a private meeting with members of the Syrian opposition, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that the US had welcomed the 2015 ISIS advance on Damascus, to use it as leverage to force Assad step down from power.

As Kerry explained, “that is why Russia came in. They didn’t want a Daesh [ISIS] government and they supported AssadAnd we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh [ISIS] was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him.”

US policy pivots

Shortly after the announcement of the September 2015 Russian intervention, US planners realized that any effort to topple the Syrian government via their jihadi proxies would now likely fail. The leverage that the ISIS threat gave US planners against the Syrian government would soon dissipate due to Russian bombs. Washington had few options left and quickly pivoted, abandoning their ISIS card.

The US bombing campaign which was previously limited to blocking any ISIS advance only in Kurdish areas, now intensified and transformed into a concerted effort to defeat ISIS militarily.

The US began to heavily invest in their budding partnership with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to give the US new boots on the ground in the conflict. Rebranded by the Pentagon as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), these US-backed Kurdish forces agreed to participate in Washington’s campaign to conquer as much territory (then under ISIS control) as possible, before Russian and Syrian forces were able to do so.

This arguably created a “race to Berlin” dynamic resembling the competition between Allied and Soviet forces to conquer Germany from the Nazis in the Second World War.

While initiating the campaign to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, the US still welcomed any progress the terror group might make against the Syrian government.

As an example, when Russian and Syrian forces were able to retake Palmyra and liberate it from ISIS in March 2016, the LA Times noted this of White House officials:

“[They have] difficulty publicly lauding advances against Islamic State by Assad and his allies, including the Russians and Iranians, after years of calling for Assad’s fall” and that the Russian success in combating ISIS created a “dilemma” for US planners, because “Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking ‘moderate’ rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.”

US dissatisfaction at the defeat of ISIS in Palmyra was also expressed by State Department spokesperson Mark Toner at a press briefing in March 2016, when Toner refused “to laud” the Syrian and Russian effort to liberate the city.

With ISIS in decline, the US decided instead to take over large swathes of northeastern Syria from the terror group, including the country’s major energy and grain producing regions, to provide Washington with new leverage against Damascus, which desperately needed these resources to successfully govern and rebuild the country once the war ended.

US control of these crucial areas would also exacerbate and help maintain the already existing and crushing US economic sanctions on Syria, in the hope of impoverishing Syrians to spur them to turn against the Assad government.

Conquest masked as liberation

US and Kurdish forces ultimately succeeded in capturing Raqqa from ISIS in October 2017 while effectively destroying the city and killing large numbers of civilians in one of the most vicious military assaults in recent memory.

The US military-funded think tank, the Rand Corporation, noted the “shocking level of destruction” caused by the US-SDF assault on Raqqa. As a result, in only four months of fighting, “Raqqa endured the most structural damage by density of any city in Syria,” while “60 to 80 percent of it was estimated to be uninhabitable.”

According to the Rand researchers, “the battle for Raqqa is a cautionary tale about civilian harm in 21st-century conflicts.” Much of the death and destruction resulted from the decision to encircle the city, which prevented the creation of civilian exit corridors, followed by airstrikes and artillery bombardment of heavily populated urban areas, effectively burying civilians in the basements of their destroyed homes.

When a ceasefire was finally reached, causing civilians to think they would be evacuated in bus convoys, US planners allowed the remaining ISIS militants to be evacuated instead, after any benefit to civilians by allowing the ISIS fighters to escape had largely already been lost.

The BBC reported on a “secret deal that let hundreds of IS [ISIS] fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city,” and which included some of ISIS’ “most notorious members.” Presumably, this would allow US planners to resurrect the ISIS card if needed in the future.

US and Kurdish forces then pushed to the eastern side of the Euphrates River, blocking the advance of the Syrian army, which had successfully defeated ISIS with Russian help in Deir Ezzor and reached as far as the western side of the river.

US and Kurdish forces continue to occupy Raqqa and northeast Syria at the time of this writing in 2022. The US military presence on Syria’s eastern borders also replaces ISIS’ role to impede Iraqi-Syrian relations, and importantly, to impede an Iranian land route all the way to the borders of occupied Palestine.

ISIS’s invasion and occupation of key swathes of territory across northern Syria and Iraq served to delineate the borders of areas Washington seeks to control. The US then championed its Kurdish allies to “liberate” those territories.

“This is conquest masquerading as liberation,” writes Assyrian writer Max Joseph.

The US military presence also allows Washington to directly control Syria’s strategically important agriculture, oil, and electricity producing regions previously under ISIS control. In this way, the Syrian government is still denied crucial access to the resources needed to rebuild the country and feed its population in the face of crippling US-imposed economic sanctions.

And the US plunders those resources liberally, in broad daylight. In August, the Syrian oil ministry reported that the US and its Kurdish foot soldiers “steal up to 66,000 barrels every single day from the fields occupied in the eastern region,” accounting for 83 percent of the country’s daily production.

Pressure from Washington against the Syrian government has therefore been maintained, with the Kurdish-led SDF now fulfilling ISIS’ previous role in implementing US foreign policy in West Asia.

المعاقل الكردية تحت النار: «قسد» تُناور… في انتظار واشنطن

 الخميس 18 آب 2022

تحاول «قسد» التشويش على أيّ محاولات تقارب بين الجانبَين السوري والتركي (أ ف ب)

سوريا أيهم مرعي

الحسكة | يكاد لا يمرّ يوم واحد على مدن الشريط الحدودي السوري مع تركيا وبلداته، من دون أن تتعرّض لقصف مدفعي أو صاروخي أو مسيّر تركي، أو من فصائل «الجيش الوطني» التابع لأنقرة، في محاولة لاستنزاف «قسد»، وإجبارها على سحب قوّاتها بعمق 30 كلم عن الحدود. وتعمّد الجيش التركي، أخيراً، استهداف القوات الكردية في معاقلها في كلّ من عامودا والدرباسية والقامشلي في الحسكة، وعين العرب في ريف حلب، لإثبات جدّية مطالبه في إخلاء كامل الشريط الحدودي، وليس فقط تل رفعت ومنبج، اللتين يُعتقد أنهما ستكون هدفاً أوّل لأيّ عملية عسكرية جديدة. وتريد تركيا، من وراء هذا التصعيد أيضاً، التأكيد أن وجود مناطق مشتركة بين «قسد» والجيش السوري أمر مرفوض، لأنه سيبقي الخطر على حدودها، وهو ما أشار إليه صراحة وزير الخارجية، مولود تشاويش أوغلو، في تصريحات سابقة، بالقول إن «الاحتماء بعلَم النظام أو ارتداء لباسه، لن يضلّل تركيا في استهداف الإرهابيين». وتَركّز القصف الأخير على مدن لم تطلْها المعارك منذ بداية الحرب على سوريا، كعامودا والدرباسية والقحطانية والقامشلي في الحسكة، بالإضافة إلى عين العرب. واستهدفت الطائرات والمدفعية التركية، أوّل من أمس، مركز مدينة عين العرب، وعشر قرى وبلدات في أريافها، بالإضافة إلى قرية سنجق سعدون في ريف عامودا شمال الحسكة، ما أدّى إلى مقتل خمسة من عناصر «قسد»، ومدنيَين اثنَين وإصابة آخرين.

وجاء هذا التطوّر بعد وقت قصير من تصريحات لتشاويش أوغلو، تحدّث فيها عن لقاء سريع جمعه مع نظيره السوري، فيصل المقداد، مشدّداً على «ضرورة إيجاد آلية للمصالحة بين النظام والمعارضة وتوحيد الجهود ضدّ الإرهابيين»، في إشارة إلى «قسد». كما أتى بعد تداول وسائل إعلام تركية معلومات عن عزم رئيس «حزب الوطن» التركي، الحليف لإردوغان من خارج الحكومة، دوغو بيرينتشيك، ورجل الأعمال إيتهام سانجاك، وآخرين، زيارة سوريا خلال الأيام المقبلة، حيث سيلتقون الرئيس بشار الأسد وشخصيات رفيعة المستوى. وأمام ذلك، ربّما رأت «قسد» أنه من الضروري التشويش على أيّ محاولات تقارب بين الجانبَين السوري والتركي، وتقويض الجهود الروسية – الإيرانية في هذا السياق، من خلال اللجوء إلى استهداف مخفر حدودي تركي من داخل قرية تل جارغلي في ريف عين العرب الغربي، بعدّة قذائف صاروخية، ما أدّى إلى مقتل جندي تركي وإصابة 4 آخرين، وفق إعلان والي أورفة. وسارعت «قسد» إلى نَفي ضلوعها في العملية، على رغم تأكيد مصادر أهلية وميدانية أن القصف تمّ من منصّة صواريخ نصبتها «قسد» لوقت قصير في قرية تل جارغلي المقابلة للمخفر المستهدَف، قبل أن يغادر عناصرها المكان. وفي المقابل، اعتبرت أنقرة أن الاستهداف فرصة لتوجيه ضربة لـ«قسد»، وإيصال رسائل إلى الجيش السوري، وفي الوقت نفسه استرضاء الفصائل المسلّحة الموالية لها، وامتصاص الغضب الذي اشتعل ضدّها في مدن الشمال، بعد تصريحات تشاويش أوغلو.

ترشح معلومات عن عزم شخصيات سياسية تركية غير حكومية زيارة سوريا خلال الأيام المقبلة


ومع تزايد حدّة التصعيد الميداني التركي، أكّد القائد العام لـ«قسد»، مظلوم عبدي، في تصريح إلى قناة «الحرة»، أن «هناك إجماعاً على رفض العملية العسكرية التركية شمال سوريا (…) ونحن على تواصل مستمرّ مع الولايات المتحدة الأميركية والتحالف الدولي بشأن التهديدات التركية»، مضيفاً أن الموقف «أقوى من العامَين 2018 و2019، وهو موقف إيجابي». وتابع أن «كامل المؤسّسات الأميركية أبدت معارضتها للعملية العسكرية التركية (…) وقيل لنا إنه في الاجتماع الأخير بين الرئيس جو بايدن والرئيس التركي الذي عقد في مدريد، هناك أيضاً أبدت أميركا موقفاً واضحاً من العملية»، مستدركاً بأن هذا «ليس على مستوى تطلّعاتهم، لأن التهديدات مستمرّة». ويشي كلام عبدي بأن «قسد»، وعلى رغم كلّ الحديث عن التقارب مع موسكو ودمشق، لا تزال تعوّل على المدَد الأميركي، مع أن واشنطن أبلغتها رسمياً أن غالبية المناطق المهدَّدة بالاجتياح التركي، تقع ضمن مناطق النفوذ الروسية. كما لم يُسجّل الأميركيون أيّ موقف تجاه سقوط قذيفة في محيط قاعدة لـ«التحالف الدولي» منذ عدّة أيام في محيط بلدة القحطانية في ريف الحسكة الشمالي، في ظلّ شكوك متزايدة بتزويد واشنطن، أنقرة، بإحداثيات عن تحركات «قسد» ومواقعها في المنطقة. وفي خضمّ ذلك، توحي المعطيات الميدانية بأن التصعيد التركي سيتواصل إلى حين قبول «قسد» بإخلاء مواقعها على الشريط الحدودي، وبعمق 30 كلم. وبهذا، تضيق خيارات «الإدارة الذاتية» في ظلّ غياب أيّ تحرّك لصالحها من الأميركيين، وإصرار الروس على مقترحهم بتسليمها الشريط الحدودي وجنوبه بعمق 30 كلم إلى الجيش السوري، أو مواجهة الهجوم التركي وحيدة.

من ملف : أنقرة – دمشق: بداية تطبيع صعب

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Peace with Syria: The final piece in Turkey’s foreign policy puzzle

August 15 2022

Ankara has managed to reset relations with several neighbors, yet normalization with Damascus has remained the most elusive, until recently. Why now? And what will it take?

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Hasan Ünal

The 5 August meeting in Sochi between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin has given rise to speculation in the west over Turkish-Russian rapprochement – and its possible negative impact on western efforts to curtail the imminent multipolar order.

Western NATO states have reason to be concerned about Ankara’s recent moves, given the momentum created on 19 July during Astana talks in Tehran – between Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Erdogan, and Putin – geared to resolve the Syrian crisis.

United against the States

What was striking about the meeting in the Iranian capital was its defiant tone, slamming US-led unipolarity (the so-called rules-based order), and accusing Washington of looting Syria’s resources and sponsoring terrorism, all while demanding that the US exits the region immediately.

Washington has long sought to undermine the Astana Process, launched in January 2017 by Russia, Iran and Turkey to demilitarize the Syrian conflict and establish ceasefires. To that end, it manipulated Turkey’s ill-defined Syria policy, expecting that Ankara and Moscow would collide head-on over “opposition-controlled” Idlib or elsewhere, thereby hindering possible rapprochement between the two Eurasian states.

However, it seems as if the Erdogan-Putin meeting has instead advanced beyond their earlier encounter on 29 September 2021, also held in Sochi, where it was then leaked that the two leaders had somewhat agreed on a broad geopolitical vision.

The two leaders focused on a wide range of areas of close cooperation – particularly on trade and economy – but also on prospective fields of mutual benefit such as defense industry ventures, as well as on regional issues like Syria, Crimea, and Cyprus.

Turkey’s shift on Syria

Although few details have been released following that closed-door meeting, it is interesting to note the discernable change in Ankara’s stance on Syria since then.

There is now serious talk of normalization with Damascus and a renewal of the Syrian-Turkish 1998 Adana Agreement, which will entail a joint effort to defeat US-sponsored Kurdish separatists in Syria, especially in the areas to the east of the Euphrates where the latter are striving to install a US-backed statelet.

As things stand, there is no reason why Erdogan and Putin could not iron out a deal to end the Syrian conflict, especially since Ankara – in an 18-month flurry of diplomatic outreach to regional foes – has largely given up on its Muslim Brotherhood-oriented foreign policy by mending ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even Israel.

Today, Erdogan’s personal obstinacy over Syria remains the main hurdle obstructing an overall peace with Turkey’s war-stricken southern neighbor.

Why make peace?

The Turkish president certainly has a lot to gain from a well-orchestrated rapprochement with the Syrian government. For starters, Ankara and Damascus could agree on a protocol to repatriate millions of Turkish-based Syrian refugees back to their places of origin, and renew the Adana Agreement to create a common front against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates.

Conceivably, Erdogan could even ask Damascus to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – a very dear issue for Ankara – in return for Turkey’s full support for the re-establishment of Syrian sovereignty over all its territories, including those areas currently under Turkish occupation.

With strong Russian guidance, is not entirely inconceivable that the two states could return to a comfortable neighborly states quo, with trade, investment, and reconstruction activities leading the way.

It would be a far cry from the 1998 to 2011 Syrian-Turkish ‘golden era,’ when Ankara studiously worked to bolster friendly relations with Damascus, to such an extent that joint-cabinet meetings were occasionally held between the administrations of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Erdogan, where the latter would refer to the former as “my brother.”

Today, the emerging multipolar order makes diplomatic and economic re-engagement all the more conducive, because as NATO’s Madrid Summit demonstrated, the west needs Turkey more than ever, and Ankara’s moves to normalize relations with Damascus is less likely to incur a significant cost than before the Ukraine crisis erupted.

Indeed, even before events in Europe unfolded, Turkey undertook several military operations against the PKK/ Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, much to Washington’s dismay and outrage.

Ankara could proceed with these operations with less censure today, but it has not. Turkey appears to have realized – possibly under Russian advisement – that without normalization with Damascus, Turkish military moves on Kurdish separatists would yield significantly fewer results.

Problems closer to home

Moreover, Erdogan’s administration has been beset by the contentious domestic issue of the millions of Syrian refugees who remain inside Turkey. The days when the president and his close associates were preaching Islamic solidarity in defense of hosting Syrian refugees have long past.

The mood across Turkey has changed dramatically amid rising inflation, a collapse of the lira, and the general public’s disenchantment with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). For the first time since Erdogan’s ascension to power in 2003, the masses sense that his once-unbeatable, Islamist-leaning populist party may be defeated in upcoming presidential polls slated for May-June next year.

True or not, there are public rumblings that the AKP – to escape an election loss – plans to bestow millions of Syrian refugees with Turkish citizenship, allowing them to vote in the pivotal polls.

The disoriented outlook of Turkey’s main opposition party has always played to Erdogan’s advantage in previous elections. The feeble-looking Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who took the helm of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) after a sex scandal involving its previous leader, has never managed to rally the public around him.

Importantly, Kılıçdaroğlu has typically trailed behind Erdogan in opinion polls because of his pro-American, pro-EU approach to almost everything – at a time when anti-US sentiment in the country polls at a startling 85 to 95 percent of the population.

Repatriating refugees

Furthermore, Kılıçdaroğlu and his party do not make any clear-cut pronouncements about a peace with Syria. If anything, the CHP was as critical of Assad as Erdogan’s AKP, and its spokespeople barely weighed in on the divisive Syrian refugee issue, even though economically-challenged Turkey currently hosts more refugees than any other country.

The entry of a new figure – Ümit Özdağ, a professor of Political Science and International Relations, who recently formed the Party of Victory (Zafer Partisi) – onto the Turkish national political scene, has introduced a radical change in the discourse about Syrian refugees and their repatriation.

Almost overnight, Özdağ has gained widespread support from voters across the political spectrum. His unexpected surge in the polls has clearly contributed to a reassessment by the government and ruling party on the Syrian issue.

Ankara needs Damascus

Today, almost all voices from the CHP to the AKP are floating arguments for some sort of repatriation, but as even the Turkish public understands, this cannot be done without normalization with Damascus.

Hence, Erdogan’s test-balloon musings to Turkish journalists on his flight back from Sochi, hinting that Putin had repeatedly recommended that Ankara coordinate with Damascus on any military operation in Syria to rout out the PKK/SDF.

Despite the positive national outlook on normalizing with Syria, Erdogan won’t have a smooth path ahead. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s untimely remark a few days ago that Ankara should try to bring the Syrian opposition (a clear reference to the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army) and the Assad government together with a view to striking a deal, didn’t go down well at all with those oppositionists.

It almost led to an uprising in Syrian areas under Turkish control – particularly in Azaz, where militants burned down Turkish flags and vowed to fight to the bitter end against the “Assad regime” and even Turkey.

Same old foreign policy

The statement the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued following these events underlined the long hard slog to a Syrian peace settlement, and revealed the depth of the Erdogan government’s involvement with these militants.

As it has predictably done since 2011, the FM statement conveniently shifted blame back onto the Syrian government for foot-dragging toward overall peace and reconciliation.

But Ankara desperately needs to drop its tired old refrain: demanding that Damascus agrees to a new constitution, pushing for federalization of the state, and insisting on new Syrians elections, under a care-taker government, composed of opposition politicians, and preferably without Assad at its helm.

Having failed to oust Assad militarily, Turkey once imagined it could unseat him through this convoluted political and electoral formula. Erdogan’s logic was that the millions of Syrians under Ankara’s influence – both in Turkey, as well as in Turkish-controlled Syrian territories – in addition Syrian Kurds in areas under the PKK/PYD, especially to the east of the Euphrates, would vote Assad out.

Trading the ‘rebels’ for the Kurds

This ‘fantasy’ contrasts sharply with realities on the Syrian ground, and also totally undermines Turkey’s own national interests.

Years of these haphazard AKP policies, premised on the unrealistic scenario of a sudden collapse of Assad’s government, all while stealthily transforming the country into a jihadist paradise – in the name of democracy – has instead become Ankara’s biggest foreign policy quagmire, and has emboldened its separatist Kurdish foes as never before.

Furthermore, Erdogan’s disastrous Syria policy has isolated Turkey for almost a decade in the region, even among Sunni states, and threatened to set off a conflagration with Russia, a major source of energy and tourism for the Turkish economy.

In fairness, the Turkish leader appears to be making some sound political maneuvers of late, and reaching out to Damascus is the most important of these for the region’s stability. Whether Erdogan will crown his new grand foreign policy moves with a Syrian peace by normalizing relations with Damascus remains to be seen.

If he doesn’t take this bold step, particularly in advance of Turkey’s presidential elections, Erdogan runs the risk of joining the long list of politicians determined to oust Assad, who have themselves left or been ousted from office under the weight of the so-called “Assad Curse.”

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Author

قمّة طهران تثمر في إدلب: تحضيرات تركيّة لفتْح «M4»

الجمعة 22 تموز 2022

تعمّد أردوغان خلال قمّة طهران ذكر إدلب والتشديد على ضرورة الإبقاء على الهدوء فيها (أ ف ب)

سوريا 

علاء حلبي 

لم تكد ساعات تمضي على انتهاء قمّة طهران، التي احتلّ الملفّ السوري حيّزاً رئيساً منها، حتى بدأت تركيا سلسلة خطوات على الأرض تمهيداً لفتح طريق حلب – اللاذقية، ضمن مقايضة أوّلية تشمل تسليماً جزئياً لمنبج وتل رفعت للجيش السوري. وعلى رغم تواضع الإجراءات المتّصلة بتلك المقايضة إلى الآن، إلّا أن من شأنها، إذا ما آلت إلى نهايتها، ولم تفلح الولايات المتحدة في عرقلتها، أن تُحقّق انفراجة جزئية في الملفّ الإدلبي الشائك، وأن تؤدّي إلى إعادة تشغيل أحد أبرز الطرق الاستراتيجية (M4) في سوريا

دمشق | تُعتبر إدلب، أكبر المعاقل التي تتجمّع فيها الفصائل المتشدّدة في سوريا في ظلّ سيطرة «هيئة تحرير الشام» (جبهة النصرة) عليها، أحد أكثر الملفّات إشكالية بين كلّ من تركيا من جهة، وإيران وروسيا من جهة أخرى. وقد حاولت أنقرة، على مدار الأعوام الأربعة الماضية، المماطلة في معالجة هذا الملفّ، وتثبيت أمر واقع لصالحها، بالتوازي مع عمليات تبييض لصفحة «جبهة النصرة» تستهدف إعادة تصديرها على أنها فصيل معتدل، ضمن معادلة تشابكت فيها مجموعة من العوامل. وتفرض اتفاقات سوتشي الموقَّعة بين روسيا وتركيا عام 2018، ومتمّمتها عامَي 2019 و2020، على أنقرة، فتح طريق حلب – اللاذقية (M4)، وعزل الفصائل الإرهابية، مقابل إبعاد «خطر الأكراد» في الشمال والشمال الشرقي من سوريا مسافة 30 كلم عن الحدود التركية، وهو ما تعهّدت روسيا بتنفيذه. غير أن التسويف التركي في تنفيذ تلك الالتزامات، التي ظلّت محدّدة بجدول زمني واضح بعد كلّ لقاء بين الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين ونظيره التركي رجب طيب إردوغان، دفع الروس إلى الردّ بالمثل والمماطلة في حلّ قضية الأكراد، على الرغم من تنشيط دوريات المراقبة المشتركة.

وتعمّد الرئيس التركي، في كلمته التي ألقاها خلال قمّة طهران وفاقت بطولها كلمتَي الرئيس الروسي ونظيره الإيراني، ذكر إدلب في أكثر من موقع. كما تعمّد التشديد على ضرورة الإبقاء على الهدوء فيها، مشيراً إلى أن بلاده «تتفهّم مخاوف جميع الأطراف حول الوضع هناك، لكنها تبذل جهوداً كبيرة في المنطقة وتقدّم الدعم للنازحين على الحدود من دون دعم من دول أخرى». وسبق لإردوغان أن جادل، خلال لقاءات سوتشي السابقة، بالمسائل نفسها، وعلى رأسها وجود أكثر من 1500مخيّم تضمّ مئات آلاف النازحين في ريف إدلب وقرب الحدود مع تركيا، الأمر الذي يمثّل، وفق الرئيس التركي، تهديدات بموجات لجوء جديدة إلى بلاده لا يرغب فيها، في الوقت الذي يحاول فيه أصلاً التخلّص من اللاجئين الموجودين لديه عبر بناء تجمّعات سكنية لهم قرب الشريط الحدودي، من أجل إعادة توطينهم.

ترى موسكو في فتح طريق حلب – اللاذقية خطوة مقبولة ضمن الظروف الحالية


وبالتوازي مع عقد قمّة طهران، وفي اليوم التالي لها، زار وفد أمني وعسكري تركي مناطق عدّة في إدلب، حيث أجرى سلسلة من اللقاءات، بعضها مع ممثّلين عن سكّان قرى على خطّ التماس في جبل الزاوية، حيث يمرّ طريق حلب – اللاذقية. وبحسب مصادر تحدّثت إلى «الأخبار»، فإن الوفد طلب من الأهالي الاستعداد للعودة إلى قراهم، وسط وعود بمنْع تدهور الأوضاع الأمنية والعسكرية خلال الفترة المقبلة، بالإضافة إلى أخرى بتحسُّن اقتصادي كبير، حيث سيتمّ فتح طريق «M4»، ومجموعة من المعابر الاقتصادية التي تربط بين إدلب بشكل عام ومناطق سيطرة الحكومة، مع ضمانات باستمرار وصول المساعدات إلى تلك القرى بدلاً من المخيمات. ونقلت المصادر أن الوفد أكّد أكثر من مرّة أن «ملفّ إدلب لن ينزلق إلى العسكرة»، وأنه «بات مرتبطاً بالحلّ السياسي»، لافتةً إلى أن الوفد أجرى لقاءات مغلقة مع «هيئة تحرير الشام»، تسرّب عنها وجود أوامر تركية واضحة لـ«الهيئة» بضبْط محيط الطريق، ومنْع أيّ محاولات من فصائل منفلتة لعرقلة الاتفاق، ومتابعة العمل على إزالة مظاهر التشدّد. وكان أبو محمد الجولاني، زعيم «النصرة»، بدأ، قبل مدّة، بهذه المهام بالفعل، عبر زيارات لقرى تسْكنها أقلّيات، آخرها زيارة لقرية تقطنها عائلات مسيحية لتطمين الأهالي وإزالة مخاوفهم من «الهيئة»، وذلك بالتوازي مع إدخال تعزيزات عسكرية تركية إلى نقاط تمركز القوات التركية في جبل الزاوية. غير أن الجهود التركية لا يبدو أنها تمكّنت حتى الآن من ضبط الأمن، حيث سُجّلت خلال الساعات الماضية عدّة خروقات لوقف إطلاق النار من طرف الفصائل المسلّحة، بالإضافة إلى محاولة شنّ هجمات بطائرتَين انتحاريتَين على قاعدة حميميم الروسية في جبلة.

ويبدو، حتى الآن، أن ثمّة قبولاً، على مضض، من قِبَل موسكو، التي ترى في فتح طريق حلب – اللاذقية، والمتأخّر نحو أربع سنوات عما اتُّفق عليه، خطوة مقبولة ضمن الظروف الحالية، في وقت ينصبّ فيه اهتمام الدول الثلاث (إيران وروسيا وتركيا) على زيادة الضغوط لإخراج القوات الأميركية من الشمال الشرقي من سوريا، وهي الأرضيّة المشتركة التي بنت عليها إيران قمّتها، وحاولت ترسيخها كونها قد تساهم في فتح الأبواب المغلقة بين دمشق وأنقرة. وبشكل عام، يمكن القول إن الرئيس التركي نجح، إلى حدّ ما، في تجميد ملفّ إدلب، وتجاوُز المعادلة الروسية التي تربط بين منبج وتل رفعت من جهة، وإدلب من جهة ثانية، عبر خطوات صغيرة في الأخيرة مقابل تسليم الأُوليَين للجيش السوري. ومن شأن ذلك أن يؤدّي، في حال تمّت الخطوات المتّفق عليها، ولم تنجح المساعي الأميركية القائمة في عرقلتها عبر الضغط على «قسد» ومنعها من تسليم المدينتَين، إلى تحقيق انفراجة جزئية في الملفّ الإدلبي الشائك، بالإضافة إلى فتح أحد أبرز الطرق الاستراتيجية (M4)، والذي يمتدّ من أقصى الشرق السوري مروراً بحلب وصولاً إلى الساحل السوري، علماً أن الخطّة الروسية، التي أبلغها قائد القوات الروسية في سوريا، ألكسندر تشايكو، لممثّلي «قسد»، خلال لقاء في القامشلي قبل يومين، تقضي بأن تنسحب قواتها من الشريط الحدودي إلى ما بعد الطريق، على أن يتسلّم الجيش السوري المنطقة بما فيها «M4».

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The power troika trumps Biden in West Asia

The presidents of Russia, Iran, and Turkey convened to discuss critical issues pertaining to West Asia, with the illegal US occupation of Syria a key talking point

July 20 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Oil and gas, wheat and grains, missiles and drones – the hottest topics in global geopolitics today – were all on the agenda in Tehran this week.

By Pepe Escobar

The Tehran summit uniting Iran-Russia-Turkey was a fascinating affair in more ways than one. Ostensibly about the Astana peace process in Syria, launched in 2017, the summit joint statement duly noted that Iran, Russia and (recently rebranded) Turkiye will continue, “cooperating to eliminate terrorists” in Syria and “won’t accept new facts in Syria in the name of defeating terrorism.”

That’s a wholesale rejection of the “war on terror” exceptionalist unipolarity that once ruled West Asia.

Standing up to the global sheriff

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his own speech, was even more explicit. He stressed “specific steps to promote the intra-Syrian inclusive political dialogue” and most of called a spade a spade: “The western states led by the US are strongly encouraging separatist sentiment in some areas of the country and plundering its natural resources with a view to ultimately pulling the Syrian state apart.”

So there will be “extra steps in our trilateral format” aimed at “stabilizing the situation in those areas” and crucially, “returning control to the legitimate government of Syria.” For better or for worse, the days of imperial plunder will be over.

The bilateral meetings on the summit’s sidelines – Putin/Raisi and Putin/Erdogan – were even more intriguing. Context is key here: the Tehran gathering took place after Putin’s visit to Turkmenistan in late June for the 6th Caspian summit, where all the littoral nations, Iran included, were present, and after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s travels in Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, where he met all his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counterparts.

Moscow’s moment

So we see Russian diplomacy carefully weaving its geopolitical tapestry from West Asia to Central Asia – with everybody and his neighbor eager to talk and to listen to Moscow. As it stands, the Russia-Turkey entente cordiale tends to lean towards conflict management, and is strong on trade relations. Iran-Russia is a completely different ball game: much more of a strategic partnership.

So it’s hardly a coincidence that the National Oil Company of Iran (NIOC), timed to the Tehran summit, announced the signing of a $40 billion strategic cooperation agreement with Russia’s Gazprom. That’s the largest foreign investment in the history of Iran’s energy industry – badly needed since the early 2000s. Seven deals worth $4 billion apply to the development of oil fields; others focus on the construction of new export gas pipelines and LNG projects.

Kremlin advisor Yury Ushakov deliciously leaked that Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in their private meeting, “discussed conceptual issues.” Translation: he means grand strategy, as in the evolving, complex process of Eurasia integration, in which the three key nodes are Russia, Iran and China, now intensifying their interconnection. The Russia-Iran strategic partnership largely mirrors the key points of the China-Iran strategic partnership.

Iran says ‘no’ to NATO

Khamenei, on NATO, did tell it like it is: “If the road is open for NATO, then the organization sees no borders. If it had not been stopped in Ukraine, then after a while the alliance would have started a war under the pretext of Crimea.”

There were no leaks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) impasse between the US and Iran – but it’s clear, based on the recent negotiations in Vienna, that Moscow will not interfere with Tehran’s nuclear decisions. Not only are Tehran-Moscow-Beijing fully aware of who’s preventing the JCPOA from getting back on track, they also see how this counter-productive stalling process prevents the collective west from badly needed access to Iranian oil.

Then there’s the weapons front. Iran is one of the world’s leaders in drone production: Pelican, Arash, Homa, Chamrosh, Jubin, Ababil, Bavar, recon drones, attack drones, even kamikaze drones, cheap and effective, mostly deployed from naval platforms in West Asia.

Tehran’s official position is not to supply weapons to nations at war – which would in principle invalidate dodgy US “intel” on their supply to Russia in Ukraine. Yet that could always happen under the radar, considering that Tehran is very much interested in buying Russian aerial defense systems and state of the art fighter jets. After the end of the UN Security Council-enforced embargo, Russia can sell whatever conventional weapons to Iran it sees fit.

Russian military analysts are fascinated by the conclusions Iranians reached when it was established they would stand no chance against a NATO armada; essentially they bet on pro-level guerrilla war (a lesson learned from Afghanistan). In Syria, Iraq and Yemen they deployed trainers to guide villagers in their fight against Salafi-jihadis; produced tens of thousands of large-caliber sniper rifles, ATGMs, and thermals; and of course perfected their drone assembly lines (with excellent cameras to surveil US positions).

Not to mention that simultaneously the Iranians were building quite capable long-range missiles. No wonder Russian military analysts estimate there’s much to learn tactically from the Iranians – and not only on the drone front.

The Putin-Sultan ballet

Now to the Putin-Erdogan get together – always an attention-grabbing geopolitical ballet, especially considering the Sultan has not yet decided to hop on the Eurasia integration high-speed train.

Putin diplomatically “expressed gratitude” for the discussions on food and grain issues, while reiterating that “not all issues on the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports are resolved, but progress is made.”

Putin was referring to Turkiye’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who earlier this week assured that setting up an operations center in Istanbul, establishing joint controls at the port exit and arrival points, and carefully monitoring the navigational safety on the transfer routes are issues that may be solved in the next few days.

Apparently Putin-Erdogan also discussed Nagorno-Karabakh (no details).

What a few leaks certainly did not reveal is that on Syria, for all practical purposes, the situation is blocked. That favors Russia – whose main priority as it stands is Donbass. Wily Erdogan knows it – and that’s why he may have tried to extract some “concessions” on “the Kurdish question” and Nagorno-Karabakh. Whatever Putin, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev may really think about Erdogan, they certainly evaluate how priceless is to cultivate such an erratic partner capable of driving the collective west totally bonkers.

Istanbul this summer has been turned into a sort of Third Rome, at least for expelled-from-Europe Russian tourists: they are everywhere. Yet the most crucial geoeconomic development these past few months is that the western-provoked collapse of trade/supply lines along the borders between Russia and the EU – from the Baltic to the Black Sea – finally highlighted the wisdom and economic sense of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INTSC): a major Russia-Iran-India geopolitical and geoeconomic integration success.

When Moscow talks to Kiev, it talks via Istanbul. NATO, as the Global South well knows, does not do diplomacy. So any possibility of dialogue between Russians and a few educated westerners takes place in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the UAE. West Asia as well as the Caucasus, incidentally, did not subscribe to the western sanctions hysteria against Russia.

Say farewell to the ‘teleprompter guy’

Now compare all of the above with the recent visit to the region by the so-called “leader of the free world,” who merrily alternates between shaking hands with invisible people to reading – literally – whatever is scrolling on a teleprompter. We’re talking of US President Joe Biden, of course.

Fact: Biden threatened Iran with military strikes and as a mere supplicant, begged the Saudis to pump more oil to offset the “turbulence” in the global energy markets caused by the collective west’s sanction hysteria. Context: the glaring absence of any vision or anything even resembling a draft of foreign policy plan for West Asia.

So oil prices duly jumped upward after Biden’s trip: Brent crude rose more than four percent to $105 a barrel, bringing prices back to above $100 after a lull of several months.

The heart of the matter is that if OPEC or OPEC+ (which includes Russia) ever decide to increase their oil supplies, they will do it based on their internal deliberations, and not under exceptionalist pressure.

As for the imperial threat of military strikes on Iran, it qualifies as pure dementia. The whole Persian Gulf – not to mention the whole of West Asia – knows that were US/Israel to attack Iran, fierce retaliation would simply evaporate with the region’s energy production, with apocalyptic consequences including the collapse of trillions of dollars in derivatives.

Biden then had the gall to say, “We have made progress in strengthening our relations with the Gulf states. We will not leave a vacuum for Russia and China to fill in the Middle East”.

Well, in real life it is the “indispensable nation” that has self-morphed into a vacuum. Only bought-and-paid for Arab vassals – most of them monarchs – believe in the building of an “Arab NATO” (copyright Jordan’s King Abdullah) to take on Iran. Russia and China are already all over the place in West Asia and beyond.

De-Dollarization, not just Eurasian integration

It’s not only the new logistical corridor from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Astrakhan and then, via the Caspian, to Enzeli in Iran and on to Mumbai that is shaking things up. It’s about increasing bilateral trade that bypasses the US dollar. It’s about BRICS+, which Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are dying to be part of. It’s about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which formally accepts Iran as a full member this coming September (and soon Belarus as well). It’s about BRICS+, the SCO, China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) interconnected in their path towards a Greater Eurasia Partnership.

West Asia may still harbor a small collection of imperial vassals with zero sovereignty who depend on the west’s financial and military ‘assistance,’ but that’s the past. The future is now – with Top Three BRICS (Russia, India, China) slowly but surely coordinating their overlapping strategies across West Asia, with Iran involved in all of them.

And then there’s the Big Global Picture: whatever the circumvolutions and silly schemes of the US-concocted “oil price cap” variety, the fact is that Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela – the top powerful energy-producing nations – are absolutely in sync: on Russia, on the collective west, and on the needs of a real multipolar world.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

قمة بوتين – رئيسي – أردوغان: الأسد المنتصر

July 18, 2022 

 ناصر قنديل


غالباً ما كانت الدولة السورية تتعرّض لضغوط مواطنيها في الشمال مطالبة بعمل عسكريّ يُنهي الاحتلال الأميركي والاحتلال التركي ومشروع الكانتون الكردي الذي تقيمه قوات قسد، وكان كثيرون يذهبون للتحذير من خطورة أن تكون صورة تقاسم جغرافيا الشمال السوري نهائيّة، وتعني تحوّل وحدة التراب السوري إلى شيء من الماضي، بينما كان كثيرون يرمون سهام الاتهام على حلفاء سورية، روسيا وإيران، بسبب علاقاتهما الجيدة مع تركيا ما يتيح اتهامهما بالتردد في دعم أية عملية عسكرية سورية نحو المناطق الخاضعة لسيطرة الجماعات الإرهابيّة المدعومة من تركيا. وبالمثل لعلاقاتهما الجيّدة بقوات قسد التركية، واعتبار هذه العلاقة سبباً لتردد مماثل؛ بينما كان كل من القيادتين التركية والكردية يتقاسمان عدم الوفاء بالتعهدات، وتطبيق التفاهمات، ويواظبان على الخداع، فكلما اشتدت الضغوط العسكرية يبديان الاستعداد السياسي الإيجابي، ثم لا يلبثان يعودان إلى لغة المماطلة وأسلوب الخداع والتنصل من الالتزامات.

خلال الأيام القليلة الماضية، وبينما الأجواء السائدة محكومة بالإعلان التركيّ عن اكتمال الاستعدادات لعمليّة عسكريّة كبيرة شمال سورية، مرّة تحت ذريعة ضرب الجماعات الكردية التركية المناوئة، ومرة تحت عنوان ضمان منطقة آمنة لعودة النازحين المقيمين في تركيا، دخل الجيش السوري بلدة منبج الواقعة تحت سيطرة الميليشيات التابعة لقسد، والمرشّحة لتكون أول أهداف العملية العسكرية التركية، وبلغ عدد البلدات والمدن والقرى التي انتشر فيها الجيش السوري، بما فيها تل رفعت، أكثر من عشرين، وتجري الاستعدادات المتسارعة لتوسيع حجم الانتشار ليشمل المزيد، بينما تتجه المزيد من الحشود العسكريّة للجيش السوري شمالاً مزوّدة بالأسلحة الثقيلة.

يجري ذلك عشية انعقاد القمة الثلاثية الروسية الإيرانية التركية في طهران، التي تستضيف القمة التي ستجمع الرؤساء فلاديمير بوتين والسيد إبراهيم رئيسي ورجب أردوغان، وقد سبقتها تحضيرات ومشاورات ورسائل متبادلة ومبادرات، منذ إعلان الرئيس التركيّ محاولاً الاستفادة من حرب أوكرانيا، عن نيّته بتوسيع نفوذه داخل الأراضي السورية، وكان أول المواقف هو القرار الذي اتخذته الدولة السورية بالتصدّي العسكري لهذه العملية التركية، بمعزل عن كيفية تفاعل الميليشيات الكردية من جهة، وحدود قدرة الحلفاء على اتخاذ مواقف داعمة من جهة أخرى. وقد أبلغت سورية القيادتين الروسية والإيرانية بموقفها، كما أبلغت قيادة قسد أن قوات الجيش السوري ذاهبة الى الحدود لمنع التوغل التركي، وسنتصدّى لكل من يقف في طريقها.

تبلور الموقف الروسيّ الإيرانيّ المشترك الذي تبلغته سورية بالوقوف معها في قرارها، وتمّت صياغة موقف سياسيّ استراتيجيّ مشترك عنوانه، مسار أستانة سيسقط مع انطلاق العملية العسكرية التركية، وتبلغت القيادة التركية بذلك، وبدأت مبادرة روسية وأخرى إيرانية لبلورة مسار سياسي سوري تركي، يضع الاعتبارات السيادية السورية أولاً، حيث الالتزام التركي بالانسحاب العسكري من الأراضي السورية، واعتبار اتفاق أضنة أساساً لتنظيم الوضع عبر الحدود، كما تبلغت قيادة الميليشيا الكردية موقف كل من روسيا وإيران، بأن انتشار الجيش السوريّ وحده يمثل ضمانة تجنيب مناطق سيطرة هذه الميليشيات وسكانها مخاطر الحرب، وبدأت المساومة التركية التقليدية على جوائز ترضية، سواء في تولي ملف تجارة الحبوب الأوكرانيّة، أو الاتفاقيات التجارية التركية الإيرانية والروسية في مجال الطاقة وأسعار الغاز الذي يشكل أعلى فاتورة تركيّة بالعملات الصعبة، واحتمالات تسديدها بالعملة المحلية.

قمة طهران نقطة تحوّل في مسار الوضع شمال سورية، حيث الصبر الاستراتيجي، والتربّص عند المنعطفات، والمصداقية في التحالفات، عناصر منحت سورية فرصة أن تكون المنتصر الذي يخرج رابحاً في جغرافيا يتقاسمها الاحتلال التركي والاحتلال الأميركي، لتعود وحدة سورية وسيادتها في المقدّمة مجدداً.

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CHRIS HEDGES: NATO — THE MOST DANGEROUS MILITARY ALLIANCE ON THE PLANET

JULY 12TH, 2022

By Chris Hedges

Source

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the arms industry that depends on it for billions in profits, has become the most aggressive and dangerous military alliance on the planet. Created in 1949 to thwart Soviet expansion into Eastern and Central Europe, it has evolved into a global war machine in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

NATO expanded its footprint, violating promises to Moscow, once the Cold War ended, to incorporate 14 countries in Eastern and Central Europe into the alliance. It will soon add Finland and Sweden. It bombed Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. It launched wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, resulting in close to a million deaths and some 38 million people driven from their homes. It is building a military footprint in Africa and Asia. It invited Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, the so-called “Asia Pacific Four,” to its recent summit in Madrid at the end of June. It has expanded its reach into the Southern Hemisphere, signing a military training partnership agreement with Colombia, in December 2021. It has backed Turkey, with NATO’s second largest military, which has illegally invaded and occupied parts of Syria as well as Iraq. Turkish-backed militias are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Syrian Kurds and other inhabitants of north and east Syria. The Turkish military has been accused of war crimes – including multiple airstrikes against a refugee camp andchemical weapons use – in northern Iraq. In exchange for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s permission for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, the two Nordic countries have agreed to expand their domestic terror laws making it easier to crack down on Kurdish and other activists, lift their restrictions on selling arms to Turkey and deny support to the Kurdish-led movement for democratic autonomy in Syria.

It is quite a record for a military alliance that with the collapse of the Soviet Union was rendered obsolete and should have been dismantled. NATO and the militarists had no intention of embracing the “peace dividend,” fostering a world based on diplomacy, a respect of spheres of influence and mutual cooperation. It was determined to stay in business. Its business is war. That meant expanding its war machine far beyond the border of Europe and engaging in ceaseless antagonism toward China and Russia.

NATO sees the future, as detailed in its “NATO 2030: Unified for a New Era,” as a battle for hegemony with rival states, especially China, and calls for the preparation of prolonged global conflict.

“China has an increasingly global strategic agenda, supported by its economic and military heft,” the NATO 2030 initiative warned. “It has proven its willingness to use force against its neighbors, as well as economic coercion and intimidatory diplomacy well beyond the Indo-Pacific region. Over the coming decade, China will likely also challenge NATO’s ability to build collective resilience, safeguard critical infrastructure, address new and emerging technologies such as 5G and protect sensitive sectors of the economy including supply chains. Longer term, China is increasingly likely to project military power globally, including potentially in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

The alliance has spurned the Cold War strategy that made sure Washington was closer to Moscow and Beijing than Moscow and Beijing were to each other. U.S. and NATO antagonism have turned Russia and China into close allies. Russia, rich in natural resources, including energy, minerals and grains, and China, a manufacturing and technological behemoth, are a potent combination. NATO no longer distinguishes between the two, announcing in its most recent mission statement that the “deepening strategic partnership” between Russian and China has resulted in “mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order that run counter to our values and interests.”

On July 6, Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, and Ken McCallum, director general of Britain’s MI5, held a joint news conference in London to announce that China was the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security.” They accused China, like Russia, of interfering in U.S. and U.K. elections. Wray warned the business leaders they addressed that the Chinese government was “set on stealing your technology, whatever it is that makes your industry tick, and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market.”

This inflammatory rhetoric presages an ominous future.

One cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The political and social turmoil in the U.S., coupled with its diminishing economic power, has led it to embrace NATO and its war machine as the antidote to its decline.

Washington and its European allies are terrified of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) meant to connect an economic bloc of roughly 70 nations outside U.S. control. The initiative includes the construction of rail lines, roads and gas pipelines that will be integrated with Russia. Beijing is expected to commit $1.3 trillion to the BRI by 2027. China, which is on track to become the world’s largest economy within a decade, has organized the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest trade pact of 15 East Asian and Pacific nations representing 30 percent of global trade. It already accounts for 28.7 percent of the Global Manufacturing Output, nearly double the 16.8 percent of the U.S.

China’s rate of growth last year was an impressive  8.1 percent, although slowing to around 5 percent this year.  By contrast, the U.S.’s growth rate in 2021 was 5.7 percent — its highest since 1984 — but is predicted to fall below 1 percent this year, by the New York Federal Reserve.

If China, Russia, Iran, India and other nations free themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network financial institutions use to send and receive information such as money transfer instructions, it will trigger a dramatic decline in the value of the dollar and a financial collapse in the U.S. The huge military expenditures, which have driven the U.S. debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the U.S.’s entire GDP, will become untenable. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military in 2021, $ 801 billion which amounted to 38 percent of total world expenditure on the military, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined. The loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will force the U.S. to slash spending, shutter many of its 800 military bases overseas and cope with the inevitable social and political upheavals triggered by economic collapse. It is darkly ironic that NATO has accelerated this possibility.

Russia, in the eyes of NATO and U.S. strategists, is the appetizer. Its military, NATO hopes, will get bogged down and degraded in Ukraine. Sanctions and diplomatic isolation, the plan goes, will thrust Vladimir Putin from power. A client regime that will do U.S. bidding will be installed in Moscow.

NATO has provided more than $8 billion in military aid to Ukraine, while the US has committed nearly $54 billion in military and humanitarian assistance to the country.

China, however, is the main course. Unable to compete economically, the U.S. and NATO have turned to the blunt instrument of war to cripple their global competitor.

The provocation of China replicates the NATO baiting of Russia.

NATO expansion and the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv led Russia to first occupy Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, with its large ethnic Russian population, and then to invade all of Ukraine to thwart the country’s efforts to join NATO.

The same dance of death is being played with China over Taiwan, which China considers part of Chinese territory, and with NATO expansion in the Asia Pacific. China flies warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone and the U.S. sends naval shipsthrough the Taiwan Strait which connects the South and East China seas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May called China the most serious long-term challenge to the international order, citing its claims to Taiwan and efforts to dominate the South China Sea. Taiwan’s president, in a Zelensky-like publicity stunt, recently posed with an anti-tank rocket launcher in a government handout photo.

The conflict in Ukraine has been a bonanza for the arms industry, which, given the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, needed a new conflict. Lockheed Martin’s stock prices are up 12 percent. Northrop Grumman is up 20 percent. The war is being used by NATO to increase its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe. The U.S. is building a permanent military base in Poland. The 40,000-strong NATO reaction force is being expanded to 300,000 troops. Billions of dollars in weapons are pouring into the region.

The conflict with Russia, however, is already backfiring. The ruble has soared to a seven-year high against the dollar. Europe is barreling towards a recession because of rising oil and gas prices and the fear that Russia could terminate supplies completely. The loss of Russian wheat, fertilizer, gas and oil, due to Western sanctions, is creating havoc in world markets and a humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East. Soaring food and energy prices, along with shortages and crippling inflation, bring with them not only deprivation and hunger, but social upheaval and political instability. The climate emergency, the real existential threat, is being ignored to appease the gods of war.

The war makers are frighteningly cavalier about the threat of nuclear war. Putin warned NATO countries that they “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if they intervened directly in Ukraine and ordered Russian nuclear forces to be put on heightened alert status. The proximity to Russia of U.S. nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey mean that any nuclear conflict would obliterate much of Europe. Russia and the United States control about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads, with around 4,000 warheads each in their military stockpiles, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

President Joe Biden warned that the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be “completely unacceptable” and “entail severe consequences,” without spelling out what those consequences would be. This is what U.S. strategists refer to as “deliberate ambiguity.”

The U.S. military, following its fiascos in the Middle East, has shifted its focus from fighting terrorism and asymmetrical warfare to confronting China and Russia. President Barack Obama’s national-security team in 2016 carried out a war game in which Russia invaded a NATO country in the Baltics and used a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon against NATO forces. Obama officials were split about how to respond.

“The National Security Council’s so-called Principals Committee—including Cabinet officers and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—decided that the United States had no choice but to retaliate with nuclear weapons,” Eric Schlosser writes in The Atlantic. “Any other type of response, the committee argued, would show a lack of resolve, damage American credibility, and weaken the NATO alliance. Choosing a suitable nuclear target proved difficult, however. Hitting Russia’s invading force would kill innocent civilians in a NATO country. Striking targets inside Russia might escalate the conflict to an all-out nuclear war. In the end, the NSC Principals Committee recommended a nuclear attack on Belarus—a nation that had played no role whatsoever in the invasion of the NATO ally but had the misfortune of being a Russian ally.”

The Biden administration has formed a Tiger Team of national security officials to run war games on what to do if Russia uses a nuclear weapon, according to The New York Times. The threat of nuclear war is minimized with discussions of “tactical nuclear weapons,” as if less powerful nuclear explosions are somehow more acceptable and won’t lead to the use of bigger bombs.

At no time, including the Cuban missile crisis, have we stood closer to the precipice of nuclear war.

“A simulation devised by experts at Princeton University starts with Moscow firing a nuclear warning shot; NATO responds with a small strike, and the ensuing war yieldsmore than 90 million casualties in its first few hours,” The New York Times reported.

The longer the war in Ukraine continues — and the U.S. and NATO seem determined to funnel billions of dollars of weapons into the conflict for months if not years — the more the unthinkable becomes thinkable. Flirting with Armageddon to profit the arms industry and carry out the futile quest to reclaim U.S. global hegemony is at best extremely reckless and at worst genocidal.

Biden Regime Continues to Steal Food from Syria

 MIRI WOOD

Biden regime has stolen more Syrian wheat. On 18 June, American illegals in the Levantine Republic moved forty trucks filled with the country’s grain, moving them into Iraq via criminal use of the al Walid Crossing in the al Yarubiyah region of Hasakah governate.

Indigenous locals told the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) that Biden forces engaged in their latest round of massive theft of Syrian grains with the assistance of the armed insurrectionist SDF separatist Kurds (ironically or arrogantly supported by the same US politicians who screech the loudest over ”domestic terror” fears in their own country). The SDF terrorists function as cannon fodder committed to ethnic cleansing and assisting NATO oligarchs in creating a new Sykes-Picot occupation, and sometimes are permitted to pretend that they are guarding American military invaders, occupiers, and food and oil thieves.

Armed SDF preventing flour delivery to commercial bakeries.
Illegal Biden forces continue to support armed insurrectionist SDF.

The latest theft of essential food grains belonging to Syria comes two days after the Biden troops stole another forty tankers of Syrian oil — a criminal habit launched by war criminal Republican Trump, and accelerated by war criminal Democratic POTUS.

In exchange for the stolen Syrian food grains, Biden forces dumped a “convoy loaded with damaged military vehicles into Iraqi territory through the illegal Al-Waleed crossing [into Syria]. According to the sources, the column includes 36 vehicles, including 8 tankers loaded with damaged military armored vehicles, 9 refrigerators, 4 tankers loaded with generators, 7 carriers and 8 armored vehicles.”

Syria News reminds our readers that on 15 June, UN humanitarians issued a public letter via ReliefWeb to the Security Council, calling for UNSCR 2585 (2021) to be renewed on 10 July, and also calling for the further increase of cross-border corridors which will further breach Syria’s sovereignty.

UNSC Resolution 2585 Supply Lines to Al Qaeda in Idlib from NATO Turkey
UN ‘humanitarians’ want to breach Syria’s sovereignty but are not concerned with Biden’s looting of oil & food grains.

The humanitarian Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect aptly described the original SC Resolution 2165 (2014) as cross-border entries “without the consent of the Syrian government.”

Syria News again reminds our readers that not one of the NATO-affiliated UN humanitarians has ever uttered a condemnation of the massive Trump and Biden thefts of Syrian oil and wheat.

We do not anticipate a condemnation of Biden’s most recent war crime against the Syrian Arab Republic.

— Miri Wood

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كرد سوريا.. في خدمة من؟

الأربعاء 15 حزيران 2022

حسني محلي

السؤال الأهم هو: لماذا تتخذ القيادات الكردية هذه المواقف المتناقضة؟ ولماذا لا تستخلص الدروس من كل أخطائها؟

بعد التهديدات التركية بالتوغل في الأراضي السورية شرق الفرات وغربه، بذريعة طرد مسلحي وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية من الشريط الحدودي مع تركيا، عاد الحديث من جديد عن حوارات كردية مع دمشق بهدف التصدي للجيش التركي في هجومه المحتمل.

قرار وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية لا يتخذ في القامشلي بل في جبال قنديل.

 ومع أن المعلومات ما زالت ضئيلة لجهة نتائج هذه الحوارات، إلا أن الجميع يعرف أن قرار هذه الوحدات لا يتخذ في القامشلي، بل في جبال قنديل، حيث قيادات حزب العمال الكردستاني التركي، الذي بات يسيطر على الحركة الكردية السورية بعد إقصائه الأحزاب والمنظمات والمجموعات الكردية الوطنية وغير الوطنية، بما فيها تلك الموالية لمسعود البرزاني؛ حليف الرئيس التركي رجب طيب إردوغان. 

ومع المعلومات التي تتحدّث عن تأجيل العمل العسكري التركي بعد زيارة وزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف لأنقرة واعتراضه عليها، تراجعت في الوقت نفسه حدة التصريحات الكردية التي كانت تتحدّث عن ضرورة العمل العسكري المشترك مع الجيش السوري، وهو ما يعكس تناقضات القيادات الكردية بشقّيها: السوري أولاً، والتركي ثانياً. والشق الثاني هو الأهم بغياب إرادة الطرف الأول في اتخاذ القرارات التي تخدم الشارع الكردي السوري أولاً، والدولة السورية تالياً بتوجهاتها الجديدة إلى الحل الشامل لما يسمى القضية الكردية، فقيادات قنديل التي غادرتها بسبب القصف التركي المتوالي ترى في مسلحي وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية، وأغلبيتهم الساحقة من السوريين، ورقة مهمة تساوم بها كل الأطراف الإقليمية والدولية بعد انتكاسات الحزب المسلحة في تركيا.

وقد نجح الجيش وقوات الأمن التركيان المدعومان بآلاف المليشيات الكردية الموالية لها في إنزال ضربات مؤثرة في مسلحي حزب العمال الكردستاني، بعد أن استخدم الجيش طائراته المسيرة بكثرة، في جنوب شرقي البلاد وشمالي العراق، وعلى طول الحدود التركية مع العراق وإيران وسوريا. 

قيادات قنديل وبغياب زعيمها عبد الله أوجلان المسجون منذ شباط/فبراير عام 1999، يبدو أنها قد نسيت أو تناست أن من اختطف أوجلان من العاصمة الكينية نيروبي وسلّمه إلى تركيا، هو الاستخبارات الأميركية بالتنسيق مع الموساد الإسرائيلي.

 كما أنها نسيت أو تناست كيف ارتعشت خوفاً، عندما قال الرئيس الأميركي السابق دونالد ترامب في  29آذار/مارس من عام  2018″إن القوات الأميركية ستغادر سوريا قريباً جداً، وتترك الأطراف الأخرى تهتم بالأمر”، وقصد بذلك الحرب على داعش ثمّ التهديدات التركية باجتياح المنطقة. وهي نسيت كذلك أو تناست أن ترامب هو الذي أشعل الضوء الأخضر للرئيس إردوغان، الذي أمر الجيش التركي بالتوغّل، شرق الفرات، في التاسع من تشرين الأول/أكتوبر عام 2019، (وهو نفس اليوم الذي غادر فيه أوجلان سوريا قبل 19 عاماً بعد أن بقي فيها 15 عاماً)، لتسيطر على الشريط الحدودي، بين تل أبيض ورأس العين (نحو 100 كلم) وتطرد المسلحين الكرد من المنطقة. 

ونسيت كذلك أو تناست أن الجيش التركي كاد يسيطر على الشريط الحدودي السوري مع تركيا سيطرة كاملة، شرق الفرات، لولا تدخّل موسكو وإرسال القوات الروسية إلى المنطقة، وتسيير دوريات مشتركة مع الجيش التركي في المنطقة. 

وهي أيضاً نسيت أو تناست أنها السبب في اجتياح الجيش التركي في كانون الثاني/يناير عام 2018 منطقة عفرين والسيطرة عليها تماماً، بعد أن رفضت التنسيق والعمل المشترك مع الجيش السوري لمنع الجيش التركي من القيام بمثل هذا الاجتياح. 

ولم تستخلص كذلك الدروس اللازمة من حواراتها مع الرئيس إردوغان بهدف حل المشكلة الكردية في تركيا وسوريا معاً، إذ أخفقت كل هذه الحوارات، ليس في حل المشكلة الكردية وحسب، بل في تخلية سبيل زعيم الحزب، عبد الله أوجلان، وهو في سجن انفرادي في جزيرة إيمرالي القريبة من إسطنبول. 

ولم يكتف إردوغان بذلك، بل أمر بوضع الزعيمين المشتركين لحزب الشعوب الديمقراطي (الجناح السياسي لحزب العمال الكردستاني) صلاح الدين دميرطاش، وفيكان يوكساكداغ، وعدد آخر من قيادات الحزب، ورؤساء البلديات والآلاف من أنصار وأتباع وكوادر الحزب في السجون على الرغم من سيطرة هذا الحزب على الشارع الكردي.

وتبيّن استطلاعات الرأي أنه قد يحصل على 12٪ من مجموع أصوات الناخبين في تركيا، وعددهم نحو 60 مليوناً. 

وعودة إلى مواقف قيادات قنديل، يبدو أيضاً أنها قد نسيت أو تناست كيف نسّقت مع أنقرة للعمل المشترك، ما بين عامي 2013 و2015، حيث زار زعيم حزب الاتحاد الديمقراطي الكردستاني السوري صالح مسلم تركيا مرات عدة، والتقى القيادات التركية التي طلبت إليه التمرّد على دمشق، فرفض ليكون ذلك الموقف الإيجابي الوحيد له ولرفاقه، ولكن بعد أن جاءت القوات الأميركية إلى شرق الفرات لتساعدهم في حربهم على داعش، وهو ما استغلته القيادات المذكورة لتدخله في حساباتها الخاصة، التي اعتقدت أنها ستساعدها في إقامة كيان كردي مستقل شرق الفرات.

وأياً كانت التسمية خصوصاً بعدما سارع عدد من العواصم الغربية ولا سيما باريس، وبرلين، ولندن، بل وحتى “تل أبيب” لدعمها وفق حساباتها الخاصة، ومنها تشجيع قيادات “قسد” الكردية على تكريد المنطقة، وتطهيرها عرقياً بسكوت وتواطؤ من القيادات العربية في “قسد”. ومن دون أن تستذكر القيادات المذكورة مواقف واشنطن والعواصم الغربية، التي اعترضت على استفتاء مسعود البرزاني على استقلال كردستان العراقي في أيلول/سبتمبر عام 2017، وهو ما اعترض عليه إردوغان “الحليف الإستراتيجي للبرزاني”.

ويبقى السؤال الأهم وربما الوحيد: لماذا اتخذت وتتخذ القيادات الكردية كل هذه المواقف المتناقضة؟ ولماذا لا تستخلص الدروس اللازمة من كل أخطائها، ومن تاريخ الحركة الكردية في تركيا وسوريا والعراق بل ومن إيران كذلك؟

يتذكر الجميع كيف كان الكرد وما زالوا ورقة تلوّح بها الأطراف الخارجية في تآمرها على دول المنطقة التي دعمت كرد الدول الأخرى، فيما حاربت كردها داخل حدودها. كما استعدى الكرد بعضهم بعضاً في هذه الدول الأربع، ودخلوا في صراعات مسلحة ودموية فيما بينهم، تارة من أجل المصالح والسلطة، وتارة أخرى خدمةً لأطراف خارجية، كما هي الحال في تحالف مسعود البرزاني مع أنقرة، تارة ضد الراحل جلال الطالباني، وتارة أخرى ضد حزب العمال الكردستاني التركي وزعيمه عبد الله أوجلان. ومن دون أن يخطر في بال البرزاني وأمثاله، أن العواصم الإقليمية والغربية لم تفكر، ولن تفكر في حقوق الكرد، بل استخدمتهم وتستخدمهم وستستخدمهم إلى الأبد لتحقيق أهدافها الخبيثة، التي تستهدف دول المنطقة وشعوبها برمتها، وفي مقدمهم الكرد، ومعهم العرب، والفرس، والأتراك، وغيرهم. 

وهذا ما تحقّق للعواصم الغربية والإقليمية بفضل الدور الذي أداه ويؤديه الكرد في العراق، والآن في سوريا التي لولا تآمر القيادات الكردية (الماركسية سابقاً) في شرقها مع المحتل الأميركي والأوروبي، لما وصلت الأمور إلى ما وصلت إليه في المنطقة وسوريا خصوصاً، ولولاها لما تذرعت تركيا بهم لتتوغل في الشمال السوري وتسيطر على 9٪ من مجمل الأرض السورية. 

كذلك فإن الواقع المفروض شرق الفرات بدعم أميركي، هو مبرّر كافٍ لأنقرة لتبقى في المناطق التي تسيطر عليها قواتها بالتنسيق والتعاون مع عشرات الآلاف من مسلحي ما يسمّى “الجيش الوطني” المعارض و”النصرة” وحليفاتها الإرهابية. 

وتتحدث المعلومات هنا باستمرار عن حسابات تركية للاستفادة منهم حين اللزوم ضد الكرد، سواء في داخل تركيا أو في الشّمال السوري، وقد يكون ذلك ما قصده ترامب عندما قال في آذار/مارس عام 2018 “سنغادر سوريا ونترك الأطراف الأخرى تهتم بالأمر فيما بينها”. وفي اتصاله الهاتفي بإردوغان في 24 من كانون الأول/ديسمبر عام 2018 قال: “لقد أنهينا مهمتنا وسوف ننسحب من هناك وسوريا كلها لك”!

ويبقى الرهان في جميع الحالات على التطورات المحتملة ليس في سوريا فقط وتوتّراتها مع تركيا، بل على الخريطة السياسية التي يراهن البعض عليها كنتيجة لزيارة الرئيس بايدن للسعودية في 15 من الشهر المقبل، ولقائه زعماء الخليج، ومصر، والأردن، والعراق، وهو ما سينعكس مباشرة على مجمل معطيات المنطقة، وأهمها: الملف النووي الإيراني، والوضع في سوريا وانعكاسات ذلك على كل الحسابات بصورة مباشرة أو غير مباشرة. فعسى ألا يكون الكرد مادتها الحارقة، التي ستحرقهم، وتحرق كل الذين عاشوا ويعيشون معهم منذ مئات السنين بكل أيامهم الحلوة والمرة. وعسى أن يستخلص حكام دول المنطقة بدورهم، وخصوصاً في سوريا والعراق وإيران الدروس الكافية من كل ما عاشته، وتعيشه دولهم والمنطقة عموماً، ويسدوا الطريق على الأعداء الذين يعرفهم الجميع، وخصوصاً الكرد ومنذ أكثر من مئة سنة على الأقل!

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي صاحبها حصراً

Quod licet NATO member, non licet Russia

June 06, 2022

Source

By Batko Milacic

While the whole world was distracted by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and wondered whether China would follow Moscow’s example and try to “reintegrate” Taiwan, Ankara, a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, violated Syria’s sovereignty again. Turkish President Erdogan has repeatedly ignored the independent status of the neighboring country, and is now poised to occupy part of Syria’s northern provinces, supposedly in a bid to establish a “Security Zone.” However, despite Ankara’s undisguised pressure on its NATO allies, chances are high that it will get away with it.

How do Turkey’s actions in Syria differ from what Russia is doing in Ukraine? Well, actually in nothing. Moreover, de jure, Russia’s operation in Ukraine is more justified. Moscow recognized the rebellious republics of Donbass, negotiated with Zelensky, demanding fairly justified concessions from him and only after seeing all its demands ignored by Kiev, finally sent in troops. Erdogan’s decision to launch a new “peacekeeping” operation in Syria largely came as a surprise, even though Turkey has certainly had problems with Kurdish separatists for many years now. The Turkish operation is to create a security zone, that is, to seize Syrian land 30 kilometers deep into the country’s territory. In fact, Ankara wants to achieve a decisive victory over the Kurdish rebels, regardless of the fact that they enjoy the direct support from the United States. At the same time, Erdogan made his agreement to Sweden’s and Finland’s acceptance to NATO conditional on their recognition of the Kurdish liberation movements as terrorist organizations. After Stockholm and Helsinki flatly refused to, Erdogan decided to demonstrate his determination to the world, knowing full well that, unlike Moscow, he would go unpunished.

As a result, Turkey, unfazed by a weak and useless condemnation from the UN, went on to destroy Kurdish militia units in a foreign country. As for Damascus, it officially recognizes the Kurdish autonomy and does not consider the Kurdish forces as a terrorist organization. The Kurds are neither diehard fanatics, not terrorists. In fact, deprived of statehood for 100 years, they want one thing – their own country. And this demand is by no means unfair, especially in view of the people’s UN-declared right to self-determination. By the way, it is exactly for this right and against the actual genocide of the ethnic Russians that the Russian army is fighting in Ukraine. And still, Moscow has been slapped with a pile of hard-hitting sanctions, while Kiev receives huge shipments of free weapons to fight Russian aggression! Meanwhile, the assistance that the Kurds are getting from the United States has recently been shrinking, making them virtually incapable of resisting the Turkish army. At the same time, the Turks, de facto, consider all Kurds as terrorists and are all set to simply “cleanse” the security zone from their presence.

Will any measures be taken against Turkey? Naturally not. It will retain its NATO membership, feeling free to kill thousands of people on the territory of a neighboring country and block the Swedes’ and Finns’ desire to join the alliance until they bend under its demands. At the same time, with Russia, a loyal ally of Syria, having its hands full with the military operation in Ukraine, Ankara’s appetites may go through the roof. Neither should we forget about northern Iraq, where Kurds also live and there is no one to stop Erdogan. So, exactly what else Turkey is going to do under the guise of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict remains anyone’s guess.

IGNORING THE MIDDLE EAST AT ONE’S PERIL: TURKEY PLAYS GAMES IN NATO

15.05.2022

Written by James M. Dorsey

Amid speculation about a reduced US military commitment to security in the Middle East, Turkey has spotlighted the region’s ability to act as a disruptive force if its interests are neglected.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off alarm bells this week, declaring that he was not “positive” about possible Finnish and Swedish applications for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO membership is contingent on a unanimous vote in favour by the organisation’s 30 members. Turkey has NATO’s second-largest standing army.

The vast majority of NATO members appear to endorse Finnish and Swedish membership. NATO members hope to approve the applications at a summit next month.

A potential Turkish veto would complicate efforts to maintain trans-Atlantic unity in the face of the Russian invasion.

Mr. Erdogan’s pressure tactics mirror the maneuvers of his fellow strongman, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. Mr. Orban threatens European Union unity by resisting a bloc-wide boycott of Russian energy.

Earlier, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia rejected US requests to raise oil production in an effort to lower prices and help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

The two Gulf states appear to have since sought to quietly backtrack on their refusal. In late April, France’s TotalEnergies chartered a tanker to load Abu Dhabi crude in early May for Europe, the first such shipment in two years.

Saudi Arabia has quietly used its regional pricing mechanisms to redirect from Asia to Europe Arab “medium,” the Saudi crude that is the closest substitute for the main Russian export blend, Urals, for which European refineries are configured.

Mr. Erdogan linked his NATO objection to alleged Finnish and Swedish support for the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the EU.

The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey in support of Kurds’ national, ethnic, and cultural rights. Kurds account for up to 20 per cent of the country’s 84 million population.

Turkey has recently pounded PKK positions in northern Iraq in a military operation named Operation Claw Lock.

Turkey is at odds with the United States over American support for Syrian Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey asserts that America’s Syrian Kurdish allies are aligned with the PKK.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey opposes a US decision this week to exempt from sanctions against Syria regions controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“This is a selective and discriminatory move,” Mr. Cavusoglu said, noting that the exemption did not include Kurdish areas of Syria controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies.

Referring to the NATO membership applications, Mr. Erdogan charged that “Scandinavian countries are like some kind of guest house for terrorist organisations. They’re even in parliament.”

Mr. Erdogan’s objections relate primarily to Sweden, with Finland risking becoming collateral damage.

Sweden is home to a significant Kurdish community and hosts Europe’s top Kurdish soccer team that empathises with the PKK and Turkish Kurdish aspirations. In addition, six Swedish members of parliament are ethnic Kurds.

Turkey scholar Howard Eissenstat suggested that Turkey’s NATO objection may be a turning point. “Much of Turkey’s strategic flexibility has come from the fact that its priorities are seen as peripheral issues for its most important Western allies. Finnish and Swedish entry into NATO, in the current context, absolutely not peripheral,” Mr. Eissenstat tweeted.

The Turkish objection demonstrates the Middle East’s potential to derail US and European policy in other parts of the world.

Middle Eastern states walk a fine line when using their potential to disrupt to achieve political goals of their own. The cautious backtracking on Ukraine-related oil supplies demonstrates the limits and/or risks of Middle Eastern brinkmanship.

So does the fact that Ukraine has moved NATO’s center of gravity to northern Europe and away from its southern flank, which Turkey anchors.

Moreover, Turkey risks endangering significant improvements in its long-strained relations with the United States.

Turkish mediation in the Ukraine crisis and military support for Ukraine prompted US President Joe Biden to move ahead with plans to upgrade Turkey’s fleet of F-16 fighter planes and discuss selling it newer, advanced F-16 models even though Turkey has neither condemned Russia nor imposed sanctions.

Some analysts suggest Turkey may use its objection to regain access to the United States’ F-35 fighter jet program. The US cancelled in 2019 a sale of the jet to Turkey after the NATO member acquired Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defence system.

Mr. Erdogan has “done this kind of tactic before. He will use it as leverage to get a good deal for Turkey,” said retired US Navy Admiral James Foggo, dean of the Center for Maritime Strategy.

A top aide to Mr. Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, appeared to confirm Mr. Foggo’s analysis. “We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Mr. Kalin said, referring to the Turkish leader’s NATO remarks. “Of course, we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts.”

Spelling out Turkish demands, Mr. Kalin went on to say that “what needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to…exist in those countries.”

Mr. Erdogan’s brinkmanship may have its limits, but it illustrates that one ignores the Middle East at one’s peril.

However, engaging Middle Eastern autocrats does not necessarily mean ignoring their rampant violations of human rights and repression of freedoms.

For the United States and Europe, the trick will be developing a policy that balances accommodating autocrats’, at times, disruptive demands, often aimed at ensuring regime survival, with the need to remain loyal to democratic values amid a struggle over whose values will underwrite a 21st-century world order.

However, that would require a degree of creative policymaking and diplomacy that seems to be a rare commodity.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar, a Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and Adjunct Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and the author of the syndicated column and blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

A podcast version is available on Soundcloud, Itunes, SpotifySpreaker, and Podbean.

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Interpreting Turkey’s Opposition To Finland & Sweden’s Planned NATO Membership

14 MAY 2022

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

The more that President Erdogan exposes the manipulative means through which countries like those two NATO aspirants support terrorism against the Turkish people, the more that their international reputations will be damaged, which will in turn harm their influence seeing as how Finland and Sweden’s are disproportionately derived from their soft power.

Turkish President Erdogan said on Friday that his country isn’t supportive of Finland and Sweden’s planned NATO membership because of their governments’ backing of the terrorist-designated PKK. This Kurdish separatist group is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks across the decades, but its Syrian wing, the YPG, is regarded by the US-led West as a key ally against ISIS. Ankara and Washington’s polar opposite stances towards that branch are the reason why they began falling out in the middle of the last decade. This issue has once again come to the fore in light of two recent events.

The first is of course Finland and Sweden’s planned NATO membership, while the second is the US’ decision to waive its anti-Syrian sanctions in the YPG-controlled northeast of the Arab Republic. President Erdogan also expressed his opposition to that move on the same day that he condemned those two countries’ support of Kurdish terrorists. These developments created the opportunity for the Turkish leader to once again raise awareness of his country’s stance towards that group and its regional branches in the hopes of pressuring the US-led West to distance themselves from it.

The challenge that he’s forced to confront, however, is that his mutual defense ally considers terrorist-designated Kurdish separatists to be more important regional partners than his own country. The reason for this is that its Syrian branch serves as the US’ proxies for continuing its military occupation of the agriculturally and energy-rich northeastern region as well as its means for manipulating its stalled constitutional reform process. From the perspective of the US’ grand strategic interests, these objectives are considered to take precedence over retaining ties with its decades-long Turkish ally.

Although it’ll never be openly admitted, America might also be preparing to employ these same Kurdish groups as anti-Turkish proxies in the scenario that those countries drift further apart and Washington considers it advantageous to utilize them as a means for punishing its wayward ally. It’s this possibility that concerns Turkish strategists the most since it could prove to be extremely destabilizing for their geostrategically positioned civilization-state. That’s why President Erdogan uses every relevant opportunity to pressure the US-led West to cut off its Kurdish proxies.

It’s extremely unlikely that this well-intended campaign against America will ever succeed though, but it at the very least raises maximum global awareness about its unprincipled policy of literally endangering the security of its decades-long mutual defense ally all for the purpose of advancing its interests vis a vis Syria at Turkey’s expense. Furthermore, it should go without saying that the US’ European partners like Finland and Sweden are unlikely to change their governments’ policy of wholeheartedly supporting terrorist-designated Kurdish separatists because Washington exercises hegemonic influence over them.

Even so, Turkey can still hit those two countries where it hurts the most by continuing to talk about their scandalous support of the PKK. That’s because a disproportionate share of their influence is derived from their soft power, particularly the impression that they’re supposedly neutral, principled, and peaceful states that are shining examples in all respects for the entire international community. The dark reality, however, is that their backing of the PKK exposes them as American stooges. Moreover, it also suggests that their so-called “humanitarian policies” are actually anti-humanitarian to the core.

Finland and Sweden essentially consider the Kurds to be a so-called “oppressed minority” in West Asia, including in Turkey. Their unipolar liberal-globalist worldview is such that they believe that those people deserve the US-led West’s full support as a result, to which end they aim to disguise their tacit endorsement of those separatist-terrorist Kurdish groups like the PKK on a so-called “humanitarian basis”. Its Syrian wing’s rebranding as anti-ISIS fighters who saved their people from their terrorist rivals’ planned genocide of them endeared the PKK in the hearts and minds of many Westerners.

This in turn facilitated the US-led West’s efforts to continue supporting them in all respects on a false humanitarian pretext. The more that President Erdogan talks about this and exposes the manipulative means through which countries like those two NATO aspirants support terrorism against the Turkish people, the more that their international reputations will be damaged, which will in turn harm their influence seeing as how Finland and Sweden’s are disproportionately derived from their soft power. In other words, this is an asymmetrical response to the threat that they pose to his country’s security.

That said, it remains unclear whether Turkey will formally block their NATO membership, which could provoke an intensification of the US-led West’s years-long Hybrid War against it that he might not be prepared for fully defending against at this time. If he ultimately supports their applications, then it can be considered that he did so knowing that the alternative could have been an exacerbation of the threats that his formal allies are nowadays posing to Turkey’s national security. In any case, it’s clear that Turkey’s troubled ties with the US-led West won’t improve anytime soon no matter what happens.

Turkey Opposes Sweden and Finland Joining NATO

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° 

Turkey has opposed the alliance intentions of the Scandinavian nations, claiming they are like ‘a guesthouse for terrorists’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared on Friday that Ankara opposes the possibility of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO because he believes the two Scandinavian nations harbor ‘terrorists’.

By ‘terrorists’, the Turkish leader meant militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist movement operating in southeastern Turkey, and members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front (DHKP/C), an outlawed Turkish communist party.

The statement came after Helsinki and Stockholm demonstrated their intention to join the US-led military alliance.

“We are currently following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland [joining NATO], but we are not favorable towards it. At this point, it is not possible for us to have a positive approach,” the Turkish president told journalists.

“Scandinavian countries are unfortunately almost like guesthouses for terrorist organizations. PKK and DHKP/C are nested in Sweden and the Netherlands. And I’m going even further, in their parliaments,” he added.

In April, concerned with Russia’s military action in Ukraine, Sweden and Finland started to consider dropping their neutral status and joining NATO. Top Finnish officials have already supported the initiative. Sweden is set to decide on its accession to the military bloc on May 15.

Earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the US-led organization would be eager to include both nations and would make the accession process move quickly.

Moscow has repeatedly stated that it regards the expansion of NATO as a threat to its national security. The Kremlin has also warned Sweden and Finland that they would compromise their security, rather than improve it, by joining the alliance.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

RT

Why has Turkey Closed its Skies for Russian Aircraft Bound for Syria?

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360°

Valery Kulikov
On April 23, during a tour of Latin America, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that his country was closing its airspace to Russian military and civilian flights bound for Syria. But he added that this decision did not mean that Turkey was joining in the anti-Russian sanctions – it was simply that the agreement on an air corridor concluded between Moscow and Ankara was only valid for three months. That term is expiring at the end of April, and Turkey does not plan to renew it, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently informed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The two nations have agreed that Russia will not use Turkish airspace to transport its troops to Syria, Mr. Çavuşoğlu added.

Clearly, Ankara’s decision is related to a number of situations that have taken a more serious turn in recent months.

One of these is Turkey’s new military operation against the Kurds – not just the Kurdish armed groups in Iraq, but also those in Syria. Clearly Ankara does not wish Moscow to get in the way of its plays in some way.

It should be noted that this operation, Ankara’s third special operation against the Kurds, is clearly not being conducted at Washington’s behest, as it is, in part, directed against Kurdish formations loyal to the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Evidently, in an attempt to rein in Turkey’s military zeal, Washington has pressurized it into taking certain anti-Russian steps, and as a result Turkey has closed its airspace to Russian military and civilian aircraft.

The US itself is also concerned to limit Russia’s military operations in Syria, intending as it does to step up its aggressive operations there and, it seems, to open a “second front” in the confrontation with Russia. To this end, on April 23 the US sent a “convoy of 35 vehicles with trucks with munitions and technical supplies” as well as tankers for transporting oil from areas of Syria under Kurdish control. On April 25 another US military convoy arrived at the Kharab al-Jir aerodrome in the al-Malikiya area district of Al-Hasakah Governorate. According to a source from the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reporter it consisted of 36 vehicles loaded with boxes, cement panels and generators, supported by four US military armored vehicles.

In a bid to reinforce its position in its conflict with the Syrian state, Washington appears to have encouraged its ally Israel to launch military attacks on Syrian territory. In the morning of April 27 sites in the suburbs of Damascus were hit by Israeli rockets – the third such attack in less than a month.

Washington is also clearly concerned that Moscow may redeploy Russian forces and Syrian volunteers from its Khmeimim and Tartus bases to its special operation in Ukraine.

In short, it is clear that Turkey’s decision to close its airspace to Russia is entirely consistent with both its own and Washington’s interests.

In recent months Turkey, has been walking a tightrope in an attempt to avoid damaging its own interests by antagonizing either Washington or Moscow. It has made a point of showing Moscow that it is complying with the Montreux Convention, and doing all it can to prevent the clashes between NATO and Russian forces in the Black Sea. On April 26 it even initiated a new round of talks with Moscow on the purchase of a second Russian-made S-400 air defense system. The talks were led by Ismail Demir, head of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries, who declared that “Ankara has no wish to discontinue its cooperation with Russia on arms supply issues because of the situation in Ukraine.”

It should also be noted that Ankara has urged all concerned to resolve the crisis in the Azovstal steel plant, and in particular to evacuate “the civilians and military personnel who are trapped there.” These initiatives are clearly not just spontaneous gestures or motivated by humanitarian considerations. After all, Turkey is continuing, along with other NATO members, to supply the Kiev regime with arms and other military equipment. These include Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have already been used in strikes on Russian territory.

Ankara’s concern is understandable, as it is now known that the fighters trapped in the Azovstal steelworks by Russian, PRD/PRL soldiers include hundreds of mercenaries from Turkey and Europe and high-ranking instructors from NATO countries, who are managing Kiev’s military operation in the Donbass. It would therefore clearly not be in the interests of the “collective West” for them to fall into Russia’s hands or for their presence to be made known to and judged by the international community, thus confirming what is already clear from the documentary evidence received by Moscow – namely the provocative role played by Washington and Brussels in inflaming the war in Ukraine. That is why in the last few days the West has allowed Ankara a much greater role in regulating the current situation.

As for Turkey’s closing of its airspace to Russian aircraft bound for Syria, that decision will certainly have an impact on the development of relations between Moscow and Ankara. Russia’s could potentially retaliate in any number of ways. It could, for example, restrict fruit and vegetable imports from Turkey, or limit the number of Russian tourists visiting the country. After all, 18% of Turkey’s national budget comes from Russian tourists, and given its current economic woes it can ill afford to lose this source of income. Or Moscow could take measures against the Turkish Stream project, promoted by Ankara in a bid to replace Ukraine as the leading gas hub in the region. Russia has many other sources of leverage over Turkey, including in Central Asia, and Ankara is well aware of this fact and has in recent years managed a fine balancing act to avoid losing Russia’s support.

It should also be remembered that Russia would have no problem finding alternative flight routes to Syria. Moscow could transport all the necessary supplies, including military equipment, via the Caspian Sea and Iran, which is happy to allow Russian military and civilian aircraft to use its airspace 24 hours a day for purposes related to the two countries’ joint military operations in Syria.

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Ballistic Missiles Target Israeli Bases, US Consulate in Iraq’s Erbil

 March 13, 2022

Scores of ballistic missiles have targeted military bases belonging to Israeli Mossad spy agency in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region as well as the US consulate in that region, killing a number of Mossad officers.

At first, Iraqi media, citing Kurdish officials, reported that several missiles had landed in Erbil early Sunday, but there were no confirmed casualties so far from the incident.

Citing security sources, Iraq’s Sabreen News reported two Mossad training centers were targeted by ballistic missiles in the early hours of Sunday.

Al-Mayadeen reported that Mossad’s base, located on the Masif-Saladin in Erbil, was “fully razed to the ground and a number of Israeli mercenaries were killed or injured” in the raid.

Reports, quoting Kurdistan region’s intelligence sources, said as many as 12 ballistic missiles were used in Erbil attack.

“Twelve ballistic missiles were launched from outside Iraq to target Erbil, the state news agency quoted the Directorate General of Counter Terrorism in the Kurdistan region as saying.

Some reports indicated that the alarm sirens have also been activated in the US embassy inside the highly secured Green Zone of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

A US State Department spokesperson called it an “outrageous attack” but said no Americans were hurt and there was no damage to US government facilities in Erbil.

Source: National News Agency (translated and edited by Al-Manar English Website)

BALLISTIC MISSILES HIT US TARGETS IN ERBIL, IRAN SAID TO BE RESPONSIBLE (VIDEOS)

 13.03.2022

Early on March 13, a number of heavy missiles struck the outskirts of Erbil city, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

Some Iraqi news sources said that the target of the missile strike was the US Consulate. Others, however, speculated that the target was a US military installation in Erbil International Airport, the US Harir Air Base or the Zerin residential complex which is frequented by American troops.

Videos from the scene of the strike show direct impacts and a large explosions with several columns of smoke rising from the target.

Iranian activists shared footage claiming to show the launch of a number of Fateh-110 tactical short-range ballistic missiles from a base in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah just a few minutes before the explosions were heard in Erbil. The footage is yet to be verified.

Iran fired ballistic missiles at the Kurdistan Region before. However, the target was Iranian Kurdish anti-government guerrilla groups.

The new missile strike may have been a response by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the March 7 Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian capital, Damascus. The attack claimed the lives of two officers of the guards, colonels Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saidnejad.

On October 20, pro-Iranian forces attacked the US al-Tanf garrison in southeastern Syrian in response to the October 13 Israeli airstrikes that targeted the outskirts of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. A number of Iranian-backed fighters were killed or wounded in the airstrikes.

The missile strike on Erbil could trigger a response from the US. This would further complicate the international talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

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Israeli espionage network foiled by Iranian intelligence

Iranian intelligence announced the busting of a spy network on the same day as the IRGC launched retaliatory strikes on a Mossad base in Erbil, Iraq

March 13 2022

ByNews Desk

Iran has foiled a cyber espionage network linked to the Israeli Mossad in the northwestern province of Iranian Azerbaijan, Iranian intelligence announced on 13 March.

This announcement comes on the same day that the IRGC launched more than 10 ballistic missiles at a Mossad base in Erbil, Iraq in retaliation for the murder of two IRGC officers in Syria by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) a few days prior.

The Israeli espionage network was attempting to carry out acts of sabotage in Iran, according to the Director General of Intelligence for the West Azerbaijan region.

Iranian officials have warned about Israeli-linked spy activity in the Azerbaijan region, but that the situation is closely monitored and fully under control.

Border Guard Commander Ahmed Ali Goudarzi has stated that despite the situation in the northwest being safe, Iran has warned its neighbors about Israeli spy rings and the presence of takfiri militant groups on the borders of the northwest.

Iran has also warned the state of Azerbaijan about their relationship with Israel, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stressing that such a relationship between Baku and Tel Aviv offers no benefit to Azerbaijan and that Iran will not tolerate Israeli presence on its borders.

The dismantling of an Israeli spy network and the retaliatory strike against a Mossad base in Erbil demonstrates Iran’s seriousness towards the presence of Israeli activity within its own borders and in neighboring countries.

Al Mayadeen reported that the Iranian missile strike on the Mossad base in Erbil led to the deaths of four Israeli officers and the injury of seven, with four of those in critical condition.

Israeli forces were on high alert for several days after Iran vowed revenge for the death of two IRGC officers in Syria, unsure of where or when the retaliation would take place.

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IRGC Confirms Missile Attack on Zionist Center, Warns of Devastating Response to Evil Acts

March, 13, 2022

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Sunday that it had launched a missile attack on a strategic center of Zionists, warning the Israeli regime that the repetition of evil conducts will draw Iran’s harsh and devastating response.

In a statement on Sunday, the IRGC Public Relations department said that following the fake Zionist regime’s recent crimes and the previous announcements that the hated regime’s crimes and evil conducts would not go unanswered, the IRGC hit the “Zionists’ strategic center of plot and evil acts” with powerful missiles with pinpoint accuracy last night.

“Once again, we warn the criminal Zionist regime that the repetition of any evil act will draw harsh, decisive and devastating responses,” the IRGC added.

The statement assured the Iranian nation that the country’s security and calm are the red lines for the Iranian Armed Forces and nobody would be allowed to threaten or violate them.

In the early hours of Sunday, a missile attack targeted a military base housing US forces in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, as well as the US consulate in that region.

At first, Iraqi media, citing Kurdish officials, reported that several missiles had landed in Erbil early Sunday, but there were no confirmed casualties from the incident.

Later reports, quoting Kurdistan region’s intelligence sources, said as many as 12 ballistic missiles were used in Erbil attack.

ما الاستراتيجيّة الأميركيّة الجديدة ضدّ سورية…؟

الجمعة 11 شباط 2022

 العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط _

عجزت أميركا التي قادت الحرب الكونية على سورية، عن تحقيق أهداف هذه الحرب التي اندلعت نارها منذ 11 عاماً وحشد لها خلال تلك المدة اكثر من 360 ألف مسلح وإرهابي من 83 دولة، وسخرت لأجلها المئات من المنصات العالمية المتنوّعة بين المكتوب والمرئي والمسموع واعتمدت فيها أساليب وأنواع الحروب من الجيل الثالث الى الخامس، ورغم كلّ ذلك فشلت تلك الحرب التي تحلّ الذكرى الحادية عشرة لإطلاقها بعد شهر من الآن. حرب فشلت في تحقيق أهدافها وتمكنت سورية بقواتها الذاتية أولاً ثم بمساعدة من الحلفاء في محور المقاومة ثم الأصدقاء الروس، تمكنت من صدّ العدوان واستعادت السيطرة الكاملة على معظم الأرض السورية (75٪ من مجمل المساحة السورية) وأن تتواجد بمستويات مختلفة في القسم الذي يمارس الاحتلال الأميركي او الاحتلال التركي السيطرة عليه، او في المنطقة التي أفسد الإرهاب أمنها او زوّرت النزعة الانفصالية الكردية هويتها.

ومع هذا النجاح المميّز وضعت الدولة السورية استراتيجية وطنية من أجل استكمال النجاح واستعادة او العودة الى الحياة الطبيعية بالمقدار الذي تتيحه الظروف المتشكلة. واقامت تلك الاستراتيجية على قوائم أربع سياسية وعسكرية ومجتمعية ـ مدنية واقتصادية.

ففي السياسة قامت الحكومة السورية بإجراء الانتخابات في مواعيدها رغم كلّ العراقيل التي وضعت أمامها، كما راعت انتظام الحياة القانونية في البلاد وانتظام الحضور الفاعل في المنظمات الدولية واتجهت لاستغلال أيّة فرصة تلوح لاستعادة العلاقات مع الدول العربية بخاصة المجاورة منها كلبنان والأردن والعراق، سعي جاء معطوفاً على مسعى جزائري لتهيئة البيئة المناسبة لعودة سورية لإشغال مقعدها في الجامعة العربية بدءاً من اجتماع القمة المرتقب انعقاده في الأشهر الثلاثة المقبلة.

وفي الشأن الأمني والعسكري حرصت الدولة السورية على الاستمرار في مدّ الجيش والقوات المسلحة الأخرى بكلّ أسباب القوة المادية والمعنوية من أجل استمرار النجاح في أداء المهام الوطنية واتجهت الى إجراء عملية تحشيد عسكري فاعل في محيط المناطق الخارجة عن سيطرة الدولة؛ عملية ترمي الى العمل على خطين خط المشاغلة العسكرية لتعهّد الميدان تحضيراً ليوم التحرير بالقوة ان فشلت مساعي التحرير الأخرى ودعماً للمقاومة الشعبية بوجهيها المدني والمسلح، والتي تشكلت في المناطق المحتلة.

أما على الصعيد المدني ـ المجتمعي والملاحقات القضائية فقد عملت سورية بقواعد العدالة الانتقالية والمتضمنة العفو والمصالحة وأطلقت ما أسمي «التسويات» لأوضاع الفارّين من الخدمة العسكرية او من وجه العدالة خاصة ممن لم تلوّث أيديهم بسفك الدم السوري. وقد نجح مسار التسوية هذا في استعادة أجزاء من الشعب خاصة الشباب منهم الى حضن الدولة فتوقفت الملاحقات بشأنهم ووفر ذلك للدولة أكثر من منفعة ومصلحة وحرم أعداء سورية من مصدر مهم لتحشيد المقاتلين ضدّ دولتهم.

ويبقى الشأن الاقتصادي الذي شكل الخاصرة الرخوة في الوضع السوري بسبب الحرب الاقتصادية الظالمة والإرهاب الاقتصادي الوحشي الذي تمارسه أميركا ومَن معها ضدّ سورية، وتحاول سورية استعمال المتاح من الإمكانات وما يتوفر لها من مساعدات من الحلفاء والأصدقاء تحاول وضع الخطط الاقتصادية التي تتكيّف مع الواقع الصعب القائم تكيفا يخفف أولاً من سلبياتها ثم يخرجها منه بعد حين.

في مقابل الاستراتيجية الوطنية التي أطلقتها سورية لاستعادة الحياة الطبيعية في البلاد بعد انكسار وهزيمة من شنّ الحرب الكونية عليها. في مقابل ذلك يبدو أنّ أميركا التي تكابر وترفض الإقرار بالهزيمة رغم انّ إعلامها يصرّح بذلك، يبدو أنها وضعت استراتيجية عدوانية مضادة بدأت ملامحها تتبيّن في الميدان وهي استراتيجية عدوان متجدّد، وصحيح أنها لا تتمادى لتصل بأهدافها الى حجم أهداف الحرب الكونية الأساس التي رمت الى إسقاط الدولة السورية كلياً وتفكيكها ثم إعادة تركيبها بما يناسب المشروع الصهيوأميركي في المنطقة، استراتيجية ترمي الى منع سورية من استثمار انتصارها والحؤول دون عودتها للحياة الطبيعية.

وعليه يبدو أنّ أميركا اعتمدت في سورية استراتيجية عدوان يمكن تعريفها بانها «استراتيجية استمرار العدوان وتعهد الإرهاب لمنع العودة للحياة الطبيعية» وهي تنفذ على الوجه التالي:

ـ على الصعيد السياسي ترمي الى الحدّ من تفعيل علاقات سورية بالخارج دولاً ومنظمات، ولذلك نجد كيف انّ أميركا عبر قطر تعارض عودة سورية الى مقعدها في الجامعة العربية وتراوغ لتعرقل العلاقات السورية مع دول الجوار. والمثل الأخير هنا عرقلة مسعى لبنان للاستفادة من الغاز المصري والكهرباء الأردنية رغم كلّ الوعود الأميركية التي أطلقت منذ عدة أشهر.

ـ أما على الصعيد الاقتصادي فهي تستمرّ بالتشدّد في الحرب الاقتصادية تحت عنوان «قانون قيصر» وتتوخى مزيداً من الضغط على الشعب السوري حتى لا يثق بحكومته او يعود للميدان احتجاجاً على النقص في الخدمات. فالحرب الاقتصادية هي ركن أساس من أركان العدوان الأميركي المستمر على سورية.

ـ اما التسويات المدنية القضائية فإنّ أميركا تنظر اليها بعين الخشية والرفض لأنها ترسي دعائم السلام المدني بين الشعب والدولة وتستعيد من غرّر بهم او أخطأوا بحق وطنهم تستعيدهم الى الوطن ليساهموا في إعماره من جهة، ويفقدوا أعداءه منجماً ومصدر تحشيد وتجنيد لذلك تعمل أميركا بشتى الطرق لعرقلة مسار التسويات تحت شعار «الحرب لم تنته بعد». وهو كلام يجافي الواقع.

ـ على الصعيد الأمني والعسكري، اتجهت أميركا الى تفعيل تنظيم داعش الإرهابي وأعادت انتشار عناصره بعد ان أطلقت العدد الكثير منهم من سجن الصناعة في الحسكة، ونقلت المئات من إرهابيّيه بطائراتها ونشرتهم في ميادين إرهاب محدّدة من قبلها في العراق وسورية ثم قامت بمسرحية قتل القرشي زعيم داعش في عملية عسكرية لم يطلع على تفاصيلها أحد من غير الأميركيين مما جعل الكثيرين من العقلاء يشككون بحدوث القتل ويتجهون للقول بانّ أميركا أرادت ان تسجل انتصاراً وتظهر عزماً على قتال داعش فنظمت هذه المسرحية الوهمية وهي تشتهر بالتلفيق وإخراج المسرحيات الوهمية.

إنّ الموضوع الأمني هو الآن الى جانب الإرهاب الاقتصادي هو الركن الأساس في استراتيجية العدوان الأميركي، وهو موضوع بدأت أميركا بالعمل عليه وتنفيذه منذ ثلاثة اشهر تقريباً وبات في مراحل متقدمة ويهدف الى زعزعة الأمن والاستقرار في المناطق المطهّرة وإشغال القوى العسكرية والأمنية السورية لمنعها من استكمال عمليات التطهير والتحرير لما تبقى من أرض سورية، وتعطيل الحياة وعجلة الإنتاج في المناطق التي تحكم الدولة سيطرتها عليها خاصة في المدن الكبرى، ولذلك جاء التحذير الروسي من هذا الأمر تحذيراً صدر عن المخابرات الروسية التي اعتمدت هذا الأسلوب في الإعلان لتبلغ أميركا بأنّ خططها الإرهابية العدوانية هي تحت مراقبة العين الأمنية الدفاعية السورية والحليفة.

أمام هذا المشهد يطرح السؤال ماذا تتوخى أميركا من خططها الإجرامية تلك؟ وهي تعرف انّ هجومها الأساسي الذي كان قد حشدت له كمّاً أكبر من المشاركين وسخرت له الأموال الأكثر ونفذته قواعد أوسع من الإرهابيين ورغم ذلك لم ينجح في إسقاط سورية، فما الذي تبتغيه الآن من استئناف العدوان المتجدد؟

لا نظنّ انّ أميركا تريد في نهجها الجديد «إعادة إحياء ما تسمّيه الثورة السورية» وهي أعجز من ذلك ولا يمكن ان تتصوّر أنها بهذه الاستراتيجية وفي ظلّ المشهد الدولي المتغيّر لغير صالحها فضلاً عن المناعة السورية الأساسية والمكتسبة قادرة على تعويض ما فاتها في الحرب الكونية الفاشلة، يبقى أن نظنّ او نعتقد بأنّ أميركا تريد من فعلها العدواني المتجدّد بالصيغة المتقدّم ذكرها تبتغي ان تبعد عن نفسها أولاً كأس الهزيمة في سورية لأنها لا تحتمل ذلك الآن بعد الخروج المهين من أفغانستان، ثم تريد أن تشغل سورية وحلفاءها بورقة ضغط عليهم لإعطائها شيئاً ما في المشهد السوري، فأميركا تريد أن تمتلك أوراق ضغط للتنازل السوري ولا نعتقد أنها تطمح بتحويلها الى عناصر تغيير وانتصار استراتيجي ضدّ سورية وحلفائها الذين يعملون مطمئنين لإنجازاتهم ولمستقبلهم الواعد خلال الأشهر الآتية… أشهر لن تحمل لأميركا ما يسرّها في الميدان او السياسة.

أستاذ جامعيّ ـ باحث استراتيجيّ

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Asaib al-Haq leader strongly condemns Turkish air raids on Iraq, Syria

The Turkish army has recently targeted several Kurdish sites in Syria and Iraq, a move Iraqi resistance leader Qais al-Khazali says is a ‘breach of Iraqi sovereignty’

February 02 2022

ByNews Desk

File photo showing a Turkish military helicopter over a mountain in Yemisli, Hakkari province near the border with Iraq. (Photo credit: AFP/Mustafa Ozer)

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Iraqi resistance group Asaib al-Haq has strongly condemned Turkish raids on northern Iraq and Syria on in a Tweet 1 February.

In his post, he slammed Ankara’s “violation” of Iraq’s territorial “sovereignty” saying that Turkey “targets civilians under its pretext” of fighting Kurdish forces.

Al-Khazali also warned that “the time will come when the resistance of Iraq” will teach Turkey “harsh lessons.”

Al-Khazali’s statements came just hours before Turkey launched operation “Winter Eagle,” aimed at striking Kurdish targets in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.

On 2 February the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced that, at an unspecified time overnight, its warplanes had struck alleged “terror dens” in Derik, northern Syria, and Sinjar, and Karacak, located in northern Iraq.

In a statement published via Twitter, the Turkish defense ministry added that the sites “were used as bases by terrorists in northern Iraq and Syria.”

Al-Mayadeen cited Iraqi security sources as saying that Turkish warplanes flew over Makhmour, east of Mosul, where explosions were soon heard north of Sinjar in the Bara region.

The Turkish statement also added that its air raids targeted the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, both organizations considered terrorist groups by Ankara.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Counterterrorism Agency in Iraq announced that, late on 1 February, Turkish warplanes “bombed a site in which there were fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Mount Karacho, and bombed two other sites of these militants in the Suhaila borders in Syrian territory (Muldreza), and two other sites in Mount Shingal, and Baray Hasanur in Syria.”

The statement added that the bombings by Turkey produced several casualties and material damage.

Al-Khazali had said on 30 August 2020 that “as long as the occupation exists […] the resistance’s weapons are legitimate” vowing that the Iraqi resistance alone will expel forces of occupation.

Ankara currently maintains 38 illegal bases in northern Iraq, aimed at creating a 40-kilometer wide security belt in northern Iraq.

Why does Turkey have 38 illegal bases in northern Iraq?

January 28 2022

The illegal Turkish military presence in Iraq is a blatant violation of that country’s territorial integrity. While Ankara claims it is a national security priority, it actually uses this military cover to influence and manage Iraqi and regional affairs

By Erman Çete

Almost 100 years after the Treaty of Ankara (1926), Iraq-Turkey relations remain fraught. Despite various disputes over water rights, territorial violations, unlawful oil trades, and alliances, the overriding reason for tensions remains the problem of Kurdistan.

Today, media headlines across Turkey continue to reflect the nation’s antagonism with the armed groups of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) inside Iraq, a neighboring state in which the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launch military operations with impunity.

But despite the repeated protests of the Iraqi government over these violations of its sovereignty, Turkish presence and operations in northern Iraq continue unabated.

In May last year, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited the Turkish military base Biliç Hill Base in northern Iraq to supervise Turkish troops deployed for an ongoing operation against the PKK.

Furious about the visit, Baghdad summoned the Turkish diplomatic envoy in Baghdad to express displeasure at Akar’s presence inside Iraq without providing prior notice.

Official numbers concerning the presence of TSK in northern Iraq are unclear. According to an Anadolu Agency article back in 2017, TSK had a battalion in the Bamarni Airport, near Duhok, as well as commando units in Kani Masi and Begova in northern Iraq.

In accordance with Ankara’s goal of unilaterally creating a 40km-deep security belt in northern Iraq, TSK has established new bases in the Iraqi regions of Hakurk and Metina.

One source claims that the number of Turkish troops in Iraq has risen to over 10,000, but a news outlet aligned with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says there are only 2,000 troops, with approximately 500 of them mechanized units in Bamarni, and 400 of them from Bolu Commando Brigade in Kani Masi.

It also claims that there are 130 Special Forces as liaison officers in Erbil, Zaho, Dohuk, Batufa, Sulaymaniyah, and Amadiya. In the town of Simele, Turkish intelligence units are reinforced with new recruits, while military tanks, recently updated by Israel, are deployed in Bashiqa base.

In a rare move, Turkey’s Directorate of Communications published a map in 2020 which showed the positions of Turkish troops in northern Iraq. The map has since been removed.

According to the map, from Zakho to Hakurk in the west–east axis and from Avashin to Erbil in the north–south axis, Turkey has 38 military posts or bases in northern Iraq.

Source: Turkey’s Directorate of Communications, 2020

Bargaining chips in northern Iraq and wars on terror

It is quite significant that pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) news outlets portray Iraqi resistance against the US presence – many of them pro-Iran – as an indirect threat to Turkey.

Moreover, it appears that the US has given Turkish military operations a green light inside Iraqi territory, but attempted to create a schism between the PKK and its Syrian militia affiliate, the People’s Defence Units (YPG), with which Washington has common cause – to Turkey’s detriment.

Ankara, which enjoys cordial diplomatic and robust economic relations with Iran, can be just as opportunistic. According to the US’s former Syria special representative James Jeffrey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had personally told him twice that he too “considers Iran a threat.”

Such expressions reflect a constant principle within Turkish foreign policy: If you have problems with the west, turn to the east to create bargaining chips.

In this regard, Turkish hard power instruments in Iraq and Syria work against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), developing elements of pressure against Damascus and Tehran, and creating new opportunities to negotiate with Washington.

A new era for Turkey

During the 1980s, Turkey stepped into a new era marked by two intertwined developments.

The first development occurred when the Stabilization Decisions of 24 January 1980 changed the country’s existing economic model. The external debt of Turkey during the 1970s had triggered a ‘balance of payment’ crisis. The Turkish bourgeoisie desperately needed both foreign exchange and to transform import-substitution industrialization into an export-oriented economic policy.

Second, the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War created a sense of opportunity for Turkey. Neo-Ottomanism entered the Turkish political scene when the newly established Central Asian and Caucasian republics were seen as ‘Turkic hinterland’ for the post-Soviet order.

Today, among left-wing circles inside Turkey, it is still widely believed that the 12 September 1980 coup d’état was initiated to apply these economic policies.

As a result, the Turkish state re-evaluated its foreign policy in two broad ways: via the economic prism – diversifying export destinations to bolster and transform the economy; and via identity politics, transforming Turkey from a ‘secular’ state and society into a country in which Turkish and Islamic identities were promoted forcefully by the putschist government of the 1980s.

Turgut Ozal, the first post-coup prime minister, and later the eighth President of the Republic of Turkey, implemented these policies to ‘re-orient’ the new Turkey.

Mixed occasionally with both pan-Turkist and pan-Islamist ideologies, neo-Ottomanism became increasingly attractive for Turkey in furthering its economic and political visions.

It is no surprise then, that Erdogan views Ozal as his role model for Turkey. Both figures bind export–growth economic policies with proactive foreign policy adventures.

Along with other neighbors of Turkey, northern Iraq was now being viewed as strategically significant in this new political context. Iraq was the bridge through which Turkey could reach the Persian Gulf. Turkish state and foreign policy were thus restructured along this line in the early 1990s.

The First Gulf War, according to Ozal, was an opportunity for Turkey’s new foreign policy realignments. The president went on to join the US-led anti-Saddam Hussein coalition and began publicly championing the theme of a ‘Greater Turkey’ as the protector of Turkomen and Kurds in northern Iraq.

Although the Turkish army and foreign ministry resisted Ozal’s efforts, Ankara allowed the Poised Hammer force – an aviation unit consisting of American, Australian, British, Dutch and French troops – to deploy in Silopi, Şırnak and operate on Turkish soil.

In the meantime, Turkey continued its armed operations against the “terrorist threat of the PKK,” alongside efforts to legitimize its presence in northern Iraq, which are assessed by the Iraqi government as illegal.

There were two large operations in northern Iraq in the 1990s. In 1995, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched Operation Steel, during which over 35,000 Turkish troops crossed the border.

The second operation, in 1997, was Operation Hammer, and it had two goals: to destroy PKK camps and to strengthen the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the Kurdish civil war.

The anti-PUK strategy overlapped with the PUK’s so-called ‘pro-Iranian’ stance. This was another reason for Turkey to support the KDP against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and occasionally against the PUK, and it has been the repertoire of the Turkish state ever since.

Alongside irredentist claims over Iraq, Turkey began to exploit the post-Soviet world around it, exporting cheap and relatively high-tech Turkish goods to new destinations assessed as crucial areas.

The tide turned in 2008. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), with its neo-Ottoman figures like former Prime Minster Ahmet Davutoglu, reversed the Turkish course in Iraq. Ankara started to handpick Sunnis to take under its wings, and to develop solid relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Energy cooperation, particularly oil and natural gas investments, were primary motivations for both these governments. In 2004, Turkey’s exports to Iraq were less than two billion dollars, but by 2013, it had risen over 10 billion dollars, and the destination was the KRG, in particular.

Turkish construction companies earned lucrative contacts in the KRG. Erbil Airport was built by Cengiz İnsaat, which is owned by one of Erdogan’s closest allies, Mehmet Cengiz.

In 2014, despite the protests of Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) started to sell its oil through Turkish ports.

The new Turkey makes a retreat

After 2016, however, Turkish policy towards northern Iraq underwent a re-assessment.

One of the reasons was due to domestic political shifts. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) acquired strong support in the June 2015 general elections, and AKP lost its majority for the first time in 13 years, bringing an abrupt end to the AKP’s so-called ‘Kurdish opening.’

There were strong clashes between pro-Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in southern parts of Turkey, which paved the way for a return to the old counter-insurgency TSK tactics in regard to the Kurdish question.

Then, on 15 July 2016, a failed coup d’état triggered a further restructuring of the Turkish state.

Another reason for the change in Turkish policy towards Iraq was that foreign policy failures and disappointments had taken their toll on Ankara.

The Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief regional ascendence were snuffed out in Egypt and Tunisia, sending shockwaves throughout the Turkish government, and ending the rise of the Turkish model of a modern Muslim state throughout West Asia.

The Syrian government, with its allies Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, held its ground and the US-backed regime change operation in Syria fell apart.

The so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ group splintered into Qatar-Turkey vs. Saudi Arabia-UAE, and started to fight each other.

The outward flows of Syrian refugees heightened tensions within Turkish society, and fueled both anti-AKP and anti-refugee sentiment.

Importantly, the YPG occupation of northern Syria, and its partnership with the US ‘anti-ISIS’ coalition supported by the PKK, created a ‘national threat’ for the Turkish government.

Turkey then set about modifying its policy on Syria. The result was a retreat from the aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the more humble goal of “eliminating the terror corridor alongside [Turkey’s] southern border.”

The paranoia of ‘Iranian influence’

As a result of its hard power policies over the years, Turkey has been denied access via Syria and Iraq to the lucrative markets of the Persian Gulf’s Arab states. These policies include Turkey’s too-cozy relationship with Iraq’s KRG, as well as its economic and sometimes military competition with Iran in Iraq.

Soaring inflation in Turkey also decreased the competitiveness of Turkish goods in regional markets, and the Iraqi government’s protective policies have slowed down Iraq–Turkey trade volume. At the same time, Iranian trade with Iraq began to increase.

Strategic calculations have also played their part. Turkey’s eagerness to wipe out Kurdish militias from northern Iraq’s Sinjar region has caused tensions with both Baghdad and Tehran.

When TSK launched a military operation against the PKK in Gara, northern Iraq, in February 2021, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, or Hashd al-Shabi) deployed forces in the Sinjar area against Turkish troops.

Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have also been training anti-PKK Iraqi politician Osama al-Nujaifi’s Hashd al-Watani forces in a Turkish base in Bashiqa, near Mosul. In Sinjar, a tacit alliance between the PMU and PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) confronted the TSK-backed Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

For Turkey, this confrontation represents an unholy alliance between Iran and the PKK. When Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, criticized Turkish operations in northern Iraq, then Turkish envoy Fatih Yıldız hit back, saying Masjedi should be “the last person to lecture Turkey.”

Ambitious goals, ambiguous future

Today, officially and firstly, TSK claims that its troops and bases are in northern Iraq for ‘fighting against terrorism’ and maintaining national security.

Secondly, as in the case of Bashiqa, Turkey lays claim to Iraqi Sunnis and legitimizes its assets by exploiting the sectarian fragmentation of Iraqi politics.

Thirdly, as long as the US remains in Iraq and maintains its ‘countering Iran’ policy in West Asia, Turkey will present its policy towards the KRG as a counterbalancing act against the so-called ‘Iranian influence.’

It appears that the KRG, and Sinjar in particular, will be the current focal point for the quarrel between Iran and Turkey. As a distant aim, in the event of the fragmentation of Iraq, Turkey would likely explore the annexation of northern Iraq, where it believes it has historic claims.

With respect to the Iraqi government, options against Turkey’s breaches of sovereignty and territorial integrity are limited. Ankara will remain as a big trading partner for Baghdad, with a staggering trade deficit to the detriment of the latter.

Turkey’s deep reach inside the KRG and warm relations with the ruling Barzani family will allow it to use northern Iraq as a bargaining chip with Baghdad in the post-US era – both unilaterally, and for the benefit of its NATO alliance.

Lastly, the recent thaw between Turkey, some Gulf states, and Israel may force Baghdad to accept the Turkish fait accompli in northern Iraq.

In short, Turkish troops in northern Iraq are useful for three things: Influencing the Kurdish question and directly tackling its PKK problem; boosting Turkish regional ambitions; and establishing a bargaining chip with its western allies.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

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