WATCH: Turkish Football Fans Boo And Cry ‘Allahu Akbar’ During Silence For Paris Victims

Burak Kara/Getty

Burak Kara/Getty

Breitbart, by LIAM DEACON,  Nov. 18, 2015:

Turkish football fans booed and shouted “Allahu Akbar” during a minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris terror attacks, during which 132 people died at the hands of Islamist Jihadists.

The silence was held before a friendly game between the Turkish national team and Greece on Tuesday night in Istanbul. There are long standing historical tensions between the two rival nations, and it was the first time the two teams had met for eight years.

Fans in the 17,000 strong sell-out crowd began jeering and shouting as soon the collective gesture of respect and morning for the victims and refection on the horrors that befell France began.

As well as “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “god is great” — spectators also chanted, “the martyrs are immortal, the fatherland indivisible”, a popular slogan used by nationalists against the Kurdish, but also one which appears to imply sympathy for the dead ISIS terrorists and suicide bombers.

Speaking after the game, the Turkish manager Fatih Terim suggested that fans at the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium should have been more respectful.

“Our fans should have behaved during the national anthems and during the one minute silence,” he said, adding: “Greece is our neighbour. Today is world neighbours day, but our fans didn’t behave like neighbours in this match.”

The Turkish Football Federation had announced a string of additional security measures before the match following the attack on France’s Stade de France on Friday and last night’s cancellation of the Germany Netherlands game because of a bomb scare.

Britain’s left wing Newspaper the Independent attempted to argue that, “the boos were not to disrespect those who had died in the attacks – but more to do with the hypocrisy of the Western world.”

In October, European leaders led by Germany’s Chancellor Merkel promised that in return for Turkey absorbing more Syrian migrants for long-term settlement, the EU will fast-track “visa liberalisation” for Turks, granting Schengen-style free movement in the EU for all 75 million Turkish residents.

Terrorist Groups Praise Erdogan on Turkish Election Win

Turkey's Islamist President Erdogan (left) with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the Turkish parliament. (Photo: © Reuters)

Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan (left) with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the Turkish parliament. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, Nov. 2, 2015:

Leading terrorist organizations were among the first to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AK party after their surprising sweep in the November 1 election.

Hamas issued congratulations to the “Turkish people and their leadership on the success of the Turkish parliamentary elections,” according to the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas-affiliated website,

In a press statement, Hamas categorized the Turkish elections as a victory for democracy and a “reflection of the state of stability and civilization in the capital of the Islamic caliphate.”

Turkey is reported to be the top financial sponsor of Hamas since 2012, with Erdogan arranging for the transfer of between $250-300 million anually to the terrorist organization. Turkey is also said to have trained Hamas security forces in Gaza through non-governmental groups.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood also hailed Turkey’s Islamist party’s victory, offering its “sincere congratulations.” Ironically, amid much documentation of voter fraud, the Brotherhood stated, “The election results and the impressive turnout, which exceeded 87%, show how the state’s strengths can be bolstered with the people’s free will and free choice when they are not subject to despotic and repressive military rule.”

Erdogan’s Islamist government was openly dismayed at the popularly-supported military intervention that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. According to the Arab newspaper Al-Arabiya, Turkey has since “become the regional hub for the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization.”

The Islamic Front, an umbrella group funded by Saudi Arabia comprising Islamist jihadi rebels fighting Assad, also sent a letter of congratulations to Erdogan, stating, “The Turkish government and the Turkish people have played a major role in embracing the Syrians and supporting the revolution and have stood by them in the time of their trouble.

“Turkey withstood a lot of internal and external pressure to back off from this unique position but it continued to implement this moral policy. We hope to have good relations – like brothers – between the people of Syria and Turley in the future after Assad and his regime will fall.”

Eight groups signed the Islamic Front’s letter including the Salafist movement Ahrar ash-Sham al Islamiya, the Damascus-based Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam), Filaq al Rahman and Ansar al-Sham.

The well wishes came amid serious accusations of voter fraud which saw the AK party regain its majority in the parliament, taking the country back to single-party rule.

Yesterday’s elections followed a June vote that resulted in a hung parliament. In that election, the AK party, which had garnered only 41 percent of the vote, was not able to form a coalition in order to govern.

Meanwhile, according to the Emirates News Agency, Erdoğan issued words of support for Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis who claimed to have shot down a Russian passenger plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard.

“How can I condemn the Islamic State for shooting down a Russian plane as its passengers were returning from a happy vacation in a time when our co-religionists in Syria are bombed by Putin’s fighter jets?” Erogan is quoted as saying. “It is the natural outcome of Moscow’s actions in Syria and the support for Assad.”


Also see:

The New Cold War: The Russia-Shia Alliance VS the Islamic State

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

By Brian Fairchild, October 31, 2015

The New Cold War:

In late-September 2015 Russia and Iran launched a clandestine strategic military campaign to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  Russia’s bold move took the West by surprise and changed the balance of power in the Middle East in Russia’s favor.  It will go down in history as the milestone depicting Russia’s first aggressive military action outside of its own sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union, and, when viewed from a global strategic perspective, will be remembered as the first clear sign that a New Cold War had erupted between the US and Russia.

Russia’s Middle Eastern campaign is formed around the new “quadrilateral alliance”, which has divided the region into two sectarian blocs:  the Russian-led Shia Muslim alliance, which forms a powerful “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iraq, through Iran and Syria, to Lebanon, and the Sunni Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia with minimal backing by the United States.

Thus far, Russia’s campaign has been executed seamlessly. Upon entering Syria clandestinely, Russian forces immediately deployed sophisticated surface to air missile defense batteries as well as top-of the-line jet fighters to protect Russian and Syrian forces from the US coalition.  Once air defenses were in place, Moscow began a barrage of airstrikes targeting anti-Assad rebels in order to re-establish and consolidate Assad’s power.  The airstrikes were subsequently integrated with ground operations carried-out by Syrian military units, Iranian Quds forces, Shia militia from Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah fighters.  There are also credible news reports that Cuban Special Forces have joined the fray for the first time since Cuba’s proxy wars in Angola and central Africa in the 1970’s on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and its Effect on Iraq, Jordan, and the Kurds:


In tandem with its military campaign, Russia launched a diplomatic campaign that has been just as effective.  Iraq is the geographical base for US coalition operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but American influence in Iraq has steadily diminished over the past year.

In early October 2015, Iraq secretly established a new Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq intelligence center in the middle of Baghdad that surprised and angered American military commanders.  Worse, after Russia’s increasingly effective Syrian air campaign, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for Russia to begin unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.  The Pentagon became so alarmed by the possibility that Russia might get a strategic foothold in Iraq that on October 21, 2015, it dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to Baghdad to deliver an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership.  Dunford told the Iraqi Prime Minister and Defense Minister that Iraq had to choose between cooperating with Russia or the US.  Upon his departure from Baghdad, General Dunford told the media that he received assurances that Iraq would not seek Russian assistance, but just three days later, Iraq officially authorized Russian airstrikes in-country.


On that same day, another of America’s most dependable allies, the Kingdom of Jordan, announced its agreement to create a new Russian-Jordanian military coordination center to target the Islamic State and that this center would go well beyond just a formal information exchange.  According to Jordan’s Ambassador to Russia:

  • “This time, we are talking about a specific form of cooperation — a center for military coordination between two countries. Now we will cooperate on a higher level. It will not be just in a format of information exchange: we see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria”

The Kurds:

Moscow is attempting to undermine US relations with the Kurds.  Since the rise of the Islamic State, the US has sought to provide anti-Islamic State military support to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via the Iraqi central government, but the Iraqi government has no desire to see the KRG gain additional power in the north so this mission has been largely ineffective.  The US has had a measure of success providing limited support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but has balked at providing full support because any support whatsoever angers Turkey due to contacts between the YPG and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist organization, that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.  On October 29, 2015, Turkish president Erdogan demonstrated this anger when he vehemently criticized US support for the YPG and stated that Turkey would attack the YPG on the Iraqi side of the border if it attempts to create a separatist Kurdish administrative zone.  Because Turkey is a NATO ally, Turkish threats cause the US significant political and diplomatic problems, but they will not deter Putin from moving to organize and utilize Kurdish forces in pursuit of his goals; in early October, he went out of his way to show disdain for Turkey and NATO by allowing his Syrian-based jets to illegally invade Turkish airspace.

No Kurdish group is happy with the current situation of getting limited support from the United States to fight the Islamic State, but all of them have expressed interest in cooperating with Russia.  Significantly, Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, specifically urged cooperation between the Syrian Kurdish militia and the US-backed YPG.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and the Islamic State:

The Shia composition of the quadrilateral alliance is extremely significant because it plays directly into the Islamic State narrative.  The Islamic State and the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but in the heart of the Middle East, the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Russian support, dominate, and these countries surround the Islamic State’s new “caliphate” on three sides.  Understanding this strategic disadvantage, the Islamic State knows that it must muster as much international Sunni support as possible to survive, so it carries-out a relentless policy to polarize the international Sunni population against the Shia.

The chance to remove Bashar al-Assad, who represents the Shia Alawite sect, was the primary reason the Islamic State moved to Syria from Iraq, and removing al-Assad from power served as its initial rallying cry to the global Sunni community.  It was this rallying cry that created the dangerous “foreign fighter” phenomenon that subsequently brought more than 30,000 radical Sunni Muslims from around the world to the new caliphate.

The Islamic State repeatedly emphasizes in its official publications and statements its contention that Shia Muslims are not true Muslims and must be eradicated, and, in these communications, it refers to Shia Muslims as “Rafidah” (rejecters).  But of all the Shias in the world, the Islamic State has a particular hatred for the Shia Iranians, who are Persian rather than Arab, and who ruled Islam during the ancient Safavid (Persian) empire, which the Islamic State regards as religiously illegitimate.  It therefore refers to Iranians as the “Safavid Rafidah”.

Moreover, the Islamic State accuses the US and Russia of being modern day “crusaders” who have joined forces with the Iranians to destroy Sunni Islam, a contention made clear on March 12, 2015, when its spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani stated:

  • The Safavid Rāfidah (Shia Iranians) today have entered a new stage in their war against the Sunnis. They have begun to believe that it is within their power to take areas of the Sunnis and control them completely. They no longer want a single Muslim from the Sunnis living in the empire they desire…O Sunnis…if the Islamic State is broken…then there will be no Mecca for you thereafter nor Medina…Sunnis! The Crusader-Safavid (Christian-Iranian) alliance is clear today.  Here is Iran with its Great Satan America dividing the regions and roles amongst each other in the war against Islam and the Sunnis…We warned you before and continue to warn you that the war is a Crusader-Safavid was against Islam, and war against the Sunnis…”

The Shia Alliance and the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the leader of the world’s Sunni population and the custodian of Islam’s two most holy places:  the mosques of Mecca and Medina where the prophet Muhammad received Allah’s revelations.  Because Iran is the Kingdom’s religious and regional nemesis the Islamic State’s anti-Shia narrative resonates greatly among many Saudis who are increasingly alarmed at Iran’s growing military influence and power.  In a letter signed by 53 Saudi Islamic scholars in early October 2015, the clerics lashed out at Iran, Syria and Russia and echoed the main points made by the Islamic State:

  • “The holy warriors of Syria are defending the whole Islamic nation. Trust them and support them … because if they are defeated, God forbid, it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another”

Saudi King Salman was willing to allow this unofficial letter to be published because it permitted the Saudi government an indirect manner to issue a warning to Iran, but as the Russian-Iran alliance continued to make military gains throughout October, the Kingdom’s anxiety was such that it decided to allow its Foreign Minister to issue the following direct warning to Iran:

  • “We wish that Iran would change its policies and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen…We will make sure that we confront Iran’s actions and shall use all our political, economic and military powers to defend our territory and people…”


The New Cold War:

Just one month ago, the US was the only major military player in the Middle East, but that has all changed.  Russia’s aggressive and well-planned military campaign in Syria has tilted the balance of power in the region away from the US and toward Russia and its new Shia-dominated quadrilateral alliance.  As a result, the US plan to effect regime change in Syria is now impossible, but more importantly, US influence in Iraq is steadily diminishing, and thus, the number of options available to American military commanders to degrade the Islamic State are also diminishing.

Five days after Iraq rejected General Dunford’s ultimatum and authorized Russian airstrikes in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ignored this fact in his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee when he stated that the United States plans to increase the number of airstrikes in Iraq as well as direct action raids by US special operations forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, such an increase in US military actions require Iraqi permission, and for the second time in a week, Iraq rejected the United States.  On October 28, 2015, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s spokesman told the media that Iraq has no intention of allowing increased American participation because:

  • “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations…”

If Iraq enforces this restriction, and limits the US to only training and arming Iraqi forces while allowing Russia to conduct aggressive operations in-country, the situation could become untenable for the United States, further reducing America’s ability to degrade the Islamic State.

The Islamic State:

Once Russia consolidates Assad rule in Syria, Putin will undoubtedly use the new Russia-Shia alliance to move against the Islamic State.  Because the alliance dominates the geographical terrain on three sides of the “caliphate” and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in unified military air and ground operations, it is likely that Russian airpower and Shia ground forces will succeed in dismantling many Islamic State elements in Syria and Iraq.

Such success by the Russia-Shia alliance, especially if it forces the evacuation of the capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria, will further polarize and enrage radical Sunnis and likely increase the number of foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle East.  It will also likely result in more domestic lone jihad attacks in the US and Russia, a call the Islamic State has already made in its October 13, 2015 statement:

  • “…the Islamic State is stronger today than yesterday, while at the same time America is getting weaker and weaker…America today is not just weakened, it has become powerless, forced to ally with Russia and Iran…Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.”

If the Islamic State experiences set-backs and defeats in Syria and Iraq such defeats would likely motivate it to launch mass casualty attacks in the United States and Europe in order to prove to its followers that it remains relevant. Mass casualty attacks in tandem with increased lone jihad attacks would make an already bad domestic security situation, grave.

On October 23, 2015, FBI Director Comey revealed that the FBI is pursuing approximately 900 active cases against Islamic State extremists in the United States and that this number continues to expand.  Comey added that should the number of cases continue to increase, it won’t be long before the FBI lacks the adequate resources to “keep up”.   Europe, too, faces grave security challenges.  A few days after Comey’s revelations, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, stated that the terror threat in the United Kingdom from the Islamic State and al Qaeda is the highest he has “ever seen”.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

Turkish elections have potential to alter the balance of power in the Middle East


Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 28, 2015:

Turks head to the polls once again this upcoming Sunday to determine the composition of their parliament. At stake is the direction Turkey will take both internally and externally, with the main domestic concern being unemployment and the principal foreign policy issue being the Syrian civil war.

This election comes after Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to secure a majority for the first time in 14 years, and was unable form a coalition government after the original June 7 elections.

Turkey’s Parliament consists of 550 seats, a minimum of 276 of which are necessary for a party to form a government. In the June elections, AKP failed to secure a majority, with only 258. The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdish community, saw their representation increase to 80 MPs from the previous 40, when they fielded individual candidates, thanks in part to picking up anti-AKP protest votes. None of the AKP’s rivals would consent to a coalition government, hence the need for the upcoming elections.

The AKP’s drop in political support has stemmed largely from the authoritarian behavior of former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Under Erdoğan, the AKP has successfully transformed Turkey from a secular NATO ally to an increasingly Islamist government which is openly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, supports Hamas, and has been credibly accused of supporting al Qaeda in Syria and the Islamic State. The AKP has also demanded amending the Turkish constitution to enable additional powers for the President (currently Erdoğan, who was Prime Minister since the AKP achieved Parliamentary majority in 2002).

While the AKP continues to enjoy substantial support, its base has been eroded by corruption scandals and the Syrian war, which has proved disastrous for Turkish foreign policy. Erdoğan’s inaction during the Islamic State siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani, during which the Kurdish YPG militia prevailed even after Ankara ignored their requests for assistance, drove many religious Turkish Kurds to support the HDP.

After first courting them via peace talks with the PKK and religious rhetoric, his self-defeatist policy of focusing on Kurds as a threat to national security at the expense of the Islamic State and the other jihadist factions in Syria directly led to the AKP losing their parliamentary majority in June and to the PKK picking up their weapons after a two-year cease-fire and the collapse of peace talks.

This Sunday’s elections represent a bet by Erdoğan that the Turkish people will prefer a restoration of the old order and hand AKP a majority in parliament. John Hannah writes that “the terrorist threat from the PKK will re-emerge, putting at risk civil order, national security, and even Turkey’s territorial integrity. Indeed, Erdoğan has more or less explicitly said that all of these dangers would have been avoided if only the Turkish public had chosen more wisely in the elections.” Rising unemployment, depreciation of the lira, and widespread protests are held up by the President as evidence of what happens when the AKP does not have its majority.

If the AKP once again fails to clear the majority threshold, a prospect that seems very likely, expect Turkey to continue its factionalism along ideological lines: the Islamists, the secular Kemalists, the Kurds, and the Conservatives. The seculars are ideologically opposed to the AKP’s platform, while the Kurds feel betrayed and used for political points by Erdoğan.

The AKP’s only hope to form a coalition government may lie with the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which opposes peace talks with the PKK. Instead of calling for yet another election, Erdoğan may have to swallow his pride and enter into a coalition, which may at least temporarily check his neo-Ottoman revival project.

Also see:

Turkey Is on the Path to Rogue Dictatorship

by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
October 26, 2015

Should President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party not win a majority of seats in the Nov. 1 vote, the mainstream media hold that his power will diminish. The headline of a much-circulated Reutersanalysis sums up this view: “Erdoğan seen with little choice but to share power after Turkish vote.”Agence France-Presse predicts that winning less than half the seats “would again force [the AKP] to share power or call yet another election.” Almost identically, Middle East Online sees this situation forcing the AKP “to share power or organise yet another election.” And so on, almost invariably including the words “share power.”

The Supreme Election Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu) oversees voting in Turkey; will it be forced to rig the election on Nov. 1?

The Supreme Election Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu) oversees voting in Turkey; will it be forced to rig the election on Nov. 1?

But what if Erdoğan chooses not to share power? He then has two options. If the results are close, election fraud is a distinct possibility; reports suggest sophisticated software (think Volkswagen) to skew the results.

If the results are not close, Erdoğan can sideline the parliament, the prime minister, the other ministers, and the whole damn government. This sidelining option, which the press ignores as a possibility, follows directly from Erdoğan’s past actions. Since he left the prime ministry in August 2014 to become Turkey’s president, he has diminished his old office, depriving it of nearly all authority. He turned it over to a professorial foreign-policy theorist with no political base, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and controls him so tightly that Davutoğlu cannot even decide on his own aides(who also double as Erdoğan’s informants).

At the same time, Erdoğan built himself a 1,005-room presidential palace housing a staff of 2,700 which constitutes a bureaucracy that potentially can take over the other ministries of state, leaving a seemingly unchanged government in place that behinds the scenes follows orders from the palace.

Erdogan and Davutoglu

Erdoğan will surely sideline parliament as well; not by turning it into a grotesque North Korea-style rubber-stamp assembly but into an Egypt- or Iran-style body consumed with secondary matters (school examinations, new highways) while paying close heed to wishes of the Big Boss.

Then, to complete his takeover, he will deploy his many tools of influence to control the judiciary, the media, corporations, the academy, and the arts. He will also shut down private dissent, especially on social media, as suggested by the many lawsuits he and his cronies have initiated against ordinary citizens who dare criticize him.

At this point, the Hugo Chávez/Vladimir Putin of Turkey, the one who compared democracy to a trolley (“You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off”) will truly have arrived at his destination. As a reward, he may even declare himself the caliph of all Muslims.

Chavez abd Putin

Returning to the present: The number of AKP seats in parliament hardly matters because Erdoğan will do what it takes, legally or illegally, to become the new sultan. He will not have to “share power,” but will seize more power by hook (sidelining parliament) or crook (electoral fraud). Foreign capitals need to prepare for the unpleasant likelihood of a rogue dictatorship in Turkey.

Oct. 26, 2015 update: Kadri Gürsel explores various possibilities should the AKP not win a majority of the votes, including Erdoğan forcing a third round of voting. But he does not raise the sidelining of parliament as one of the president’s choices.

Also see:

Erdoğan Leads Turkey to the Precipice

by Daniel Pipes
October 17, 2015

[N.B.: The Australian‘s title is “Would-be dictator Erdogan leading Turkey to the precipice” and its version uses Australian spelling]

The Republic of Turkey is undergoing possibly its greatest crisis since the founding of the state nearly a century ago. Present trends suggest worse to come as a long-time Western ally evolves into a hostile dictatorship.

The crisis results primarily from the ambitions of one very capable and sinister individual, Turkey’s 61-year old president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A career politician who previously served four years as the mayor of Turkey’s megacity, Istanbul, and then eleven years as the country’s prime minister, he forwards two goals hitherto unknown in the republic: dictatorship and full application of the Shari’a, Islam’s law code.

During his first eight years of power, 2003-11, Erdoğan ruled with such finesse that one could only suspect these two aspirations; proof remained elusive. This author, for example, wrote an article in 2005 that weighed the contradictory evidence for and against Erdoğan being an Islamist. A combination of playing by the rules, caution in the Islamic arena, and economic success won Erdoğan’s party, Justice and Development (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), increasing percentages of the vote in parliamentary elections, going from 34 percent in 2002, to 46 percent in 2007, to 50 percent in 2011.

That 2011 election victory, his third in succession, gave Erdoğan the confidence finally to remove the armed forces from politics, where they had long served as Turkey’s ultimate power broker. Ironically, this change ended the increasing democratization of prior decades for his fully taking charge allowed Erdoğan to develop an oversized ego, to bare his fangs, flex his despotic muscles, and openly seek his twin objectives of tyranny and Shari’a.

Indeed, Erdoğan made his power felt in every domain after 2011. Banks provided loans to the businessmen who kicked back funds to the AKP. Hostile media found themselves subject to vast fines or physical assault. Ordinary citizens who criticized the leader found themselves facing lawsuits, fines, and jail. Politicians in competing parties faced dirty tricks. Like a latter-day sultan, Erdoğan openly flouted the law and intervened at will when and where he wished, inserting himself into legal proceedings, meddling in local decisions, and interfering with police investigations. For example, he responded to compelling raw evidence of his own and his family’s corruption by simply closing down the inquiry.


The Islamic order also took shape. School instruction became more Islamic even as Islamic schools proliferated, with the number of students in the latter jumping from 60,000 to 1,600,000, a 27-fold increase. Erdoğan instructed women to stay home and breed, demanding three children apiece from them. Burqas proliferated and hijabs became legal headgear in government buildings. Alcohol became harder to find and higher priced. More broadly, Erdoğan harked back to the piety of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), eroded the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Atatürk, and positioned himself as the anti-Atatürk.

Erdoğan also faced some serious problems after 2011. The China-like economic growth slowed down and debt spiraled upwards. A disastrously inept Syria policy contributed to the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of a hostile Kurdish autonomous area, and millions of unwelcome refugees flooding into Turkey. Foreign relations soured with nearly the entire neighborhood: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, and even (Turkish) northern Cyprus. Ties also went south with Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. Good relations were limited to Doha, Kuala Lumpur, and – until recently, as shown by the many indications of Turkish state support for the Islamic State – Raqqa.

Erdoğan has pugnaciously responded to this predicament by stating, “I do not mind isolation in the world” and even to suggest that other leaders were “jealous” of him. But he fools no one. The old AKP slogan of “Zero problems with neighbors” has dangerously turned into “Only problems with neighbors.”

If Erdoğan’s base loves his strongman qualities and stands by him, his aggressive actions and policy failures cost him support, as major blocs of voters rejected him, especially Kurds (an ethnic minority), Alevis (a religious community spun off from Islam), and seculars. The AKP’s vote dropped accordingly from 50 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in the June 2015 elections, a reduction that meant its losing a long-standing majority in parliament and the numbers to govern on its own.

The poor showing in June 2015 blocked Erdoğan from legitimately gaining his dream powers as executive president. But being the politician who stated long ago, when mayor of Istanbul, that democracy is like a trolley, “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off,” he predictably did not let something as petty as election results get in his way. Instead, he immediately began scheming to get around them.

He opted for a pair of tactics: First, he rejected power sharing with other parties and called another election for Nov. 1; in effect, he offered Turks another chance to vote as he wanted them to. Second, after years of negotiating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê‎, or PKK), Turkey’s leading Kurdish violent insurgent group, he renewed war on it. In doing so, he hoped to win over supporters of the anti-Kurd ethnic Turkish nationalist party, Nationalist Action (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, or MHP).

These tactics appear to be futile; polls show the AKP losing as many Kurds as it gains Turkish nationalists, and so likely to fare in November about the same as it did in June. But the tactics are highly consequential, tearing apart the body politic, creating tensions and prompting violence. The current round began in July with the bombing of peace marchers leaving 33 dead, followed by PKK retaliation against representatives of the state, a Kurdish town placed under siege, and twin bombings in the capital Ankara (widely considered ultimately attributable to Erdoğan) which killed 105 peaceful protestors. And yet two weeks remain before voting day …

Polls of Turkish voters since the June 7, 2015 elections.

In other words, Erdoğan’s obsession to win a parliamentary majority is doing fundamental damage to the country, damage that takes it to the precipice of civil war.

What makes the situation slightly absurd is that, whatever the results of the Nov. 1 election, Erdoğan will doggedly continue his campaign to become dictator. If he cannot do so legitimately, he will do so illegitimately. Repeating what I wrote just before the June election, “how many seats the AKP wins hardly matters. Erdoğan will barrel, bulldoze, and steamroll his way ahead, ignoring traditional and legal niceties with or without changes to the constitution. Sure, having fully legitimate powers would add a pretty bauble to his résumé, but he’s already the tyrant and Turkey’s course is set.”

Assuming the AKP does not win the votes necessary to make Erdoğan a legal strongman, how might he manage this illegally? The past year, since he became president, offers a hint: Erdoğan has bleached the once-powerful prime minister’s office of its authority. In all likelihood, he will extend this process to the rest of the Turkish government by setting up an alternative bureaucracy in his huge, new presidential palace, with operatives there controlling the ministries of state. An apparently unchanged formalistic structure will take orders from the palace autocrats.

Likewise, the parliament will remain untouched in appearance but voided of true decision making. Civil society will also find itself under palatial control as, exploiting his financial and legal levers, Erdoğan shuts down publicly dissenting voices in the judiciary, the media, the academy, and the arts. In all likelihood, private dissent will next be proscribed, leaving Padishah Recep I master of all he surveys.

What will he do with this authority? In part, he will exult in it, in the unbridled range of his ego and his writ. Beyond that, he will use this might to advance his Islamist agenda by harking back to the Ottoman imperial legacy, further undoing the Atatürk revolution, and imposing Sunni Islamic laws and customs. Just as autocracy came to Turkey in tranches, so will Shari’a be implemented piecemeal over time. The processes already underway – Islamic content in schools, women urged to stay home, alcohol disappearing – will continue and accelerate.

Assuming that Erdoğan’s mystery diseases stay under control, this Islamist idyll contains just one flaw: foreign relations, the most likely cause of its demise. Unlike a fellow dictator like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who had the good fortune to rule in the placid confines of South America, Erdoğan is surrounded by the world’s most crisis-ridden region. His domestic success increases the chances of an ego-driven blunder that diminishes or ends his rule. Tense relations with Iran and Russia over the fighting in Syria offer one temptation, as the seemingly purposeful Russian penetrations of Turkish airspace highlight; or with Israel over Jerusalem or Gaza; or with Cyprus over the newly discovered gas fields.

(With this prospect presumably in mind, Erdoğan’s son Bilal recently relocated to Bologna, Italy, supposedly to work on a Ph.D. thesis; a whistleblower plausibly claims Bilal from there will manage the family’s vast fortune.)

Refep ans son Bilal

When the Erdoğan era expires, the country will be much more divided than when it began in March 2003 between Turk and Kurd, Sunni and Alevi, pious and secular Sunnis, and rich and poor. It will contain millions of difficult to assimilate Syrian refugees and Kurdish areas declared independent of the state. It will be isolated internationally. It will contain a hollowed-out government structure. It will have lost the tradition of legal impartiality.

Erdoğan’s larger accomplishment will have been to reverse Atatürk’s Westernizing policies. Whereas Atatürk and several generations of leaders wanted Turkey to be in Europe, Erdoğan brought it thunderingly back to the Middle East and to the tyranny, corruption, female subjugation, and other hallmarks of a region in crisis. As Turks struggle over the years to undo this damage, they will have ample opportunity to ponder the many evils bequeathed them by Erdoğan.

Also see:

Yet Again: Turkey, Israel Terror Attacks Committed By ‘Known Wolves’

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Oct. 14, 2015:

Multiple individuals suspected in the terror attacks over the past week in Turkey and Israel appear to be additional examples of the phenomenon I have termed “known wolf” terrorism. The attacks were committed in part by people already known to law enforcement and national security authorities as being dangers.

Saturday’s horrific suicide bombing of a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara killed more than one hundred people and injured more. According to Reuters, the suspects are thought to be members of a previously identified terror network – the “Adiyaman cell”:

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday Islamic State was the prime suspect. Officials in Ankara said they were focusing on the so-called “Adiyaman cell” — a group of Turks, some of whom had traveled to Syria, and who were thought also to have been behind a suicide bombing in July in the town of Suruc near the Syrian border, which killed 34 people.

The cell is also believed to have been involved in the bombing of a pro-Kurdish opposition rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on the eve of Turkey’s last election in June.

Additional information indicates that one of the bombers in Saturday’s attack in Ankara — Yunus Emre Alogaz — was the brother of a bomber who struck in Suruc back in July and who had been identified by Turkish media as potentially planning an attack:

Miller tweet

Additionally, the suspect’s father had reported his son to police, but to no avail:

Blaser tweet

What makes this “known wolf” situation all the more tragic is that the Turkish government has established policies that only allow for action against suicide bombers once they have struck, and presumably are already dead:

tweets 22

Information regarding the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel also indicates that many of these so-called “lone wolf” Palestinian terrorists were also already known to Israeli authorities.

One terrorist who struck in Jerusalem yesterday by ramming his car into a bus stop and then attacking onlookers — killing one — had been interviewed by Israeli TV last year after two of his relatives had butchered five people in an attack on a synagogue. He praised their actions, Arutz Sheva reports:

The Bezeq telephone company responded to the car attack conducted in Jerusalem Tuesday by its employee Alaa Abu Jamal, claiming there were “no warning signs” of his lethal terrorist leanings — but an interview he gave just one year ago would seem to prove that wrong.

Well before he used his company car to murder Rabbi Yeshiyahu Krishevsky and wound another person — running into passersby with the car and then getting out with a butcher’s knife before being shot – Jamal appeared on Yedioth Aharonoth where he gave an interview about the Har Nof massacre last November.

Jamal was in fact the cousin of the two terrorists who conducted the brutal attack with hatchets, knives and guns in western Jerusalem, in which four Jews were murdered at prayer — with two of them reportedly beheaded — in addition to a Druze police officer who was also killed in a subsequent shoot out with the murderers.

Speaking to the news station in Arabic in an interview broadcast on Israeli TV, Jamal appeared in the black and white khefiyeh associated with arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, and spoke about the attack.

“This act was because of the pressure of the Israeli occupation government against the Palestinian people and Jerusalem in general, and the ongoing harm to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It’s a normal thing that can be expected from every man who has courage and a feeling of belonging to his people and to Islam. It’s a normal reaction to the treatment we receive.”

Asked if he thinks there will be more incidents, he said, “I don’t know, everyone is responsible for themselves. We were also surprised by the act.”

“But you’re happy?,” asked the interviewer, apparently noting Jamal’s wide smirk. The future terrorist immediately responded, “thank Allah, someone who dies as a martyr, that’s a great thing.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that more of the Palestinian terrorists who have struck this week, including Alaa Abu Jamal, were already known to the Shin Bet:

The deadly stabbing and shooting attack on board a Jerusalem bus was carried by two terrorists; The first was 23-year-old Baha Alian from Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem, who is affiliated with Fatah and has a history of extremist statements, according to the Shin Bet intelligence agency.

Alian was shot and killed in the attack.

A second terrorist involved in the bus attack, who has not been named, was described by the Shin Bet as a Hamas operative from Jabel Mukaber, who has served time in an Israeli prison in 2013 to 2014 due to Hamas-related activities. He is being questioned by security forces.

The deadly vehicular and axe attack on Malacei Yisrael Street in Jerusalem was carried out by Ala Abu Jamal, 33, a resident of Jabal Mukaber. He is the uncle of Adi and Asan Abu Jamal, who carried out the gun and axe attack on Jewish worshippers in the Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem in November 2014.

After last year’s attack, he made radical statements, and made online pledges of support for ISIS, the Shin Bet said.

Additionally, the suspect who got in a a gunfight with police last week in a Paris suburb had already been tagged by French authorities as a radicalization threat:

french t

The “known wolf” phenomenon is something that I have repeatedly documented here at PJ Media over the past year:

Oct. 24, 2014: ‘Lone Wolf’ or ‘Known Wolf’: The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure

Dec. 15, 2014: Sydney Hostage Taker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Jan. 7, 2015: Paris Terror Attack Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Feb. 3, 2015: French Police Terror Attacker Yesterday Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Feb. 15, 2015: Copenhagen Killer Was yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Feb. 26, 2015: Islamic State Beheader ‘Jihadi John’ Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Apr. 22, 2015: Botched Attack on Paris Churches Another Case of “Known Wolf” Terrorism

May 4, 2015: Texas Attack Is Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

June 26, 2015: France’s Beheading Terrorist Was Well-Known By Authorities

July 16, 2015: Report: Chattanooga Jihadist Was Yet Another ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorist, Anonymous Feds Dispute

Aug. 22, 2015: European Train Attacker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Yet the persistent media narrative, fed by many Western governments, is that the escalating wave of terrorism is from unknown individuals striking randomly.

Until Western authorities are willing to acknowledge their failures in identifying and acting on these threats, it is likely that this “known wolf” terrorism phenomenon will only continue to grow.


“Rise of Jihadist Attacks and the Fallacy of the ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist” – with Patrick Poole

Also see:

Obama and Putin Agreed To Screw Erdogan?

!cid_image006_jpg@01D103C7Moon of Alabama, Oct. 13, 2015: h/t @pulpark

It’s official! The New York Times finally admits that the “CIA rebels” in Syria who received tons of TOW anti-tank missiles are working under the field command of al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra:

Rebel commanders scoffed when asked about reports of the delivery of 500 TOWs from Saudi Arabia, saying it was an insignificant number compared with what is available. Saudi Arabia in 2013 ordered more than 13,000 of them. Given that American weapons contracts require disclosure of the “end user,” insurgents said they were being delivered with Washington’s approval.

But, be assured, because these “CIA rebels” feel bad about it, they are still “moderate” or somewhat “relative moderate”.

Advancing alongside the Islamist groups, and sometimes aiding them, have been several of the relatively secular groups, like the Free Syrian Army, which have gained new prominence and status because of their access to the TOWs.

It is a tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front. But Mr. Assad and his allies cite the arrangement as proof that there is little difference between insurgent groups, calling them all terrorists that are legitimate targets.

That these “relative secular” al-Qaeda auxiliaries are threatening suicide attacks against Russians only confirms their secularism. Judging from the reader comments to that NYT piece the U.S. people are pretty aghast about this now openly admitted cooperation. They, and a realist op-ed in the NYT, call for cooperation with Russia and the Syrian government.

There may already be more cooperation between Russia and the U.S. than we can see. At least that is what the Turkish President Erdogan perceives.

Yesterday the U.S. dropped 50 tons of small weapons and munition to Kurdish fighters in north east Syria. According the U.S. justification for this those Kurds along with some Arab Syrian tribals are supposed to attack the Islamic State in Raqqa. (Those Arab tribals are by the way just a bunch of worthless thieves. This according to the Voice of America(!).) But the Kurds do not seem to know about those Raqqa plans anyway. They have different aims:

U.S. officials hope the YPG will now turn its attention to Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the defacto capital of the Islamic State, which lies just 60 miles south of Tal Abyad, a border town the YPG seized from the Islamic State in June, with U.S. help.

But PYD spokesman Can said the Kurdish group’s first priority is to link the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, northwest of the Syrian city of Aleppo, with Kobani, the Kurdish enclave northeast of Aleppo. That would mean clearing the Islamic State from villages along 60 miles of the Turkey-Syria border, in particular the border town of Jarablus.“Our prime and most important goal is to liberate Jarablus and to connect Kobani with Afrin,” Can told McClatchy. Capturing Raqqa, a mostly Arab city, is “not really” a PYD objective, he said. “Not for now,” he said.

That is just as I suspected the Kurds to react. But why did the U.S. officials claim that these Kurds and the collection of thieves would attack Raqqa? Did they not coordinate with them or was that Raqqa story a ruse?

The Turks seem to assume such and they accuse the U.S. as well as Russia of coordinating with the Kurds to seal the border with Turkey: Turkey warns U.S., Russia against backing Kurdish militia in Syria

Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in north-western Syria, two senior officials said.”This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast.

The PYD has been getting closer with both the United States and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation,” one of the Turkish officials said.

Turkey suspects Russia, which launched air strikes in Syria two weeks ago, has also been lending support to the YPG and PYD.

“With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this,” the official said.

Is there now really coordination between Russia and the U.S. to seal the Syrian-Turkish border witch would cut off the Islamic State but also the al-Qaeda “CIA rebels” from their supplies? This would destroy all Turkish plans for Syria: a “safe zone” in Syria under Turkman control, a Sunni ruled pipeline corridor from Qatar to Europe, the Turkish-Ottoman annexation of Aleppo. Turkey would be pushed back into a secondary role.

Do Russia and the U.S. now really make common cause and decided to screw Erdogan? This would make sense if the destruction of the Islamic State and all other terrorists in Syria is the common aim. That would be a change in the Obama administration’s policy. Up to now it only helped the “salafist principality” to grow and never seriously attacked it.

And if there is such cooperation why does the U.S still deliver thousands of TOWs to al-Qaeda which only kill more Syrians and prolong the fighting?

Also see:

IS Targets Kurdish Civilians in Ankara Bombing-Turkey Drags its Feet into Action

The ISIS Study Group, Oct. 13, 2015:

This past weekend had a lot going on, didn’t it? Aside from Iran’s conviction of an American journalist, testing of new ballistic missile technology and death of a senior IRGC officer in Syria, we had a suicide attack in Ankara, Turkey targeting Kurdish civilians. Just a little while ago the Erdogan government finally broke down and admitted that it was the work of the Islamic State (IS) – although we strongly suspect they did it kicking and screaming. They really wanted to pin that rose on the PKK – but that didn’t make any logical sense as the PKK doesn’t operate like that. Especially when they get a bigger bang for their buck by targeting hapless Turkish conscripts – which they do extremely well.

Turkish PM blames Ankara bombing on Islamic State

At least 86 killed in twin bombings near train station in Turkey’s capital

At least 86 killed in Turkey’s deadliest attack

The aftermath of the attack Source: The ISIS Study Group

The aftermath of the attack
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Reporting indicates two suicide bombers detonated themselves on Saturday. The target? a peace rally held by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party or “HDP.” The demonstration’s participants had gathered to call for an end to the renewed conflict between the PKK and the Erdogan government and for the two sides to go after the real enemy – IS. Reporting on the casualties continue to fluctuate, but the numbers have consistently been between 86-90 people killed and another 186 wounded. This attack represents the worst attack Ankara has seen in a while.

First responders finally arrive to secure the scene Source: Defne Karadeniz (Getty Images)

First responders finally arrive to secure the scene
Source: Defne Karadeniz (Getty Images)

Of course the Kurdish community knew it was IS. They also knew that Erdogan will do the minimum amount of work required to demonstrate he’s “doing something” about a jihadist organization that he’s perfectly fine with operating inside his country – provided that they only target Kurds inside Turkey. Rallies were held in Istanbul as well as select locations in Germany and France slamming the Erdogan government for their slow reaction and failure to crackdown on IS as hard as they have the PKK. The protestors have a point, you know. In last year’s “The Real Turkish Agenda,” we discussed how in light of IS attacks against Kurdish refugees in Southern Turkey Erdogan decided to launch airstrikes against PKK positions – while the Kurdish group was actively fighting IS.

Turkey hit by protests over government response to suicide bombings

Pro-Kurdish ralliers slam Ankara twin blasts in Germany, France

The Real Turkish Agenda…

One of the many demonstrations that emerged in protest to the Erdogan government’s slow response to the Ankara attack Source: Sedat Suna (EPA)

One of the many demonstrations that emerged in protest to the Erdogan government’s slow response to the Ankara attack
Source: Sedat Suna (EPA)

Our 26 JUL 15 piece “The Curious Case of Turkey’s Military Action Against IS” covered a similar incident where IS executed a suicide bombing that killed 31 Kurdish activists trying to get humanitarian aid into Kobane. Erdogan’s response? He launched a “anti-IS campaign,” only the targets were predominately PKK and YPG personnel fighting IS in Northern Syria. That’s why the Kurdish community has so much anxiety right now. On one side they’re on the forefront of the battle of good vs. evil, civilization vs. anarchy. On the other side, they have an opportunistic Turkish head of state who desires to rid himself of his “Kurdish problem” and obtain supremacy of the Middle East region over Iran and Saudi Arabia. Erdogan’s refusing to lift a finger to help the besieged Peshmerga forces in the battle of Kobane was bad enough – but what he did last NOV and earlier this summer is something that makes the US government complicit in those actions whether President Obama likes it or not.

The Curious Case of Turkey’s Military Action Against IS

Situation in Kobane Bleak; Missed Opportunity for Coalition Forces

Source: Hachfeld (

Source: Hachfeld (

Erdogan is willing to “look the other way” as long as IS only targets the Kurds. That could change should IS decide to start targeting Westerners and Turkish citizens, but right now their arrangement with Erdogan appears to remain intact. Our loyal readers are fully aware of the arrangement made between Erdogan and the IS leadership where Turkey allows the easy passage of fighters and weapons into Syria with access to medical and Turkish financial institutions in exchange for limiting the violence inside Turkey to the Kurds (If this is your first time here, check out “The Emperor Has no Clothes – Erdogan Thinks he “Controls” IS”). Turkey apologists in the American IC will point to the “great things Erdogan did” to combat IS. Our counter to that is at what time were Erdogan’s security forces ever proactive in targeting IS cells operating inside the country? You see, the dirty little secret is the Turks will only go after IS when another country tells them about a specific threat or personality – otherwise they act like they don’t know what’s going on which is inaccurate. The Turkish security forces know a great deal what goes on in their country, especially when it comes to the PKK, IRGC-Qods Force and Hezbollah, yet we’re made to believe they’re “not aware” of the heavy IS presence in their own country. This is no different than the Pakistani government’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) relationship with the Haqqani Network. They claim to be “reliable allies” in the fight against IS, but all the evidence points to the contrary – just as it did for Pakistan during the OEF years. We don’t trust a thing Erdogan or his flunkies say regarding IS – and neither should the US government. Its time that the Obama administration reevaluate our relationship with Erdogan.

The Emperor Has no Clothes – Erdogan Thinks he “Controls” IS

Screen-Shot-2015-10-12-at-11.46.14-AMYeah we know trying to figure out how we could possibly trust Turkey is quite the head-scratcher; we’re just going to have to trust the likes of Marie Harf (a potential advisor for VP Biden should he run in the 2016 election) because she wears glasses and a “Masters Degree” – because, you know, this administration “knows more” than we do
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Other Related Articles:

Why Do We Still Consider Turkey an “Ally?”

Is Turkey a Reliable Partner In The Fight Against ISIS?

Turkey Evacuates the Tomb of Suleiman Shah

Reports are Credible that Turkey Swapped 180 Islamic State Prisoners for its 46 Diplomats

Biden Turkey Visit Highlights the Failure of US Foreign Policy

VP Biden Makes Apology to US Coalition Partners Turkey and UAE

Turks increasingly sympathetic to Islamic State – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Update on the Baghdad and Kobane Fronts

Kurdish Fighters Help Islamic State Group Militants in Battle for Key Syrian Town of Kobani

Also see:

Turkey is the Next Failed State in the Middle East

From left to right: A Marxist terrorist holds hostage Turkish prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz (who died in the ensuing shootout) in March 2015; crowds protesting the government's failure to stop ISIS terror attacks are tear-gassed in October 2015; the June 8-14, 2013 cover of the Economist.

From left to right: A Marxist terrorist holds hostage Turkish prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz (who died in the ensuing shootout) in March 2015; crowds protesting the government’s failure to stop ISIS terror attacks are tear-gassed in October 2015; the June 8-14, 2013 cover of the Economist.

ME Forum, by David P. Goldman
Asia Times Online
October 10, 2015

We do not know just who detonated the two bombs that killed 95 Kurdish and allied activists in Ankara Saturday, but the least likely conjecture is that President Erdogan’s government is guiltless in the matter. As Turkish member of parliament Lutfu Turkkan tweeted after the bombing, the attack “was either a failure by the intelligence service, or it was done by the intelligence service.”

Betrayed by both the United States and Russia, and faced with the emergence of a Kurdish state on its borders and the rise of Kurdish parties in the parliamentary opposition, Erdogan is cornered. At risk in the short-term is the ability of his AKP party to govern after the upcoming November elections. At risk in the medium term is the cohesion of the Turkish state itself.

In public, Western leaders have hailed Turkey as “a great Islamic democracy,” as President Obama characterized it in a 2010 interview. That was the view of the George W. Bush administration before Obama, which invited Erdogan to the White House before his selection as prime minister in 2003.

Erdogan’s ability to govern, and cohesion of the Turkish state itself, is at risk.

A minority of military and intelligence analysts, though, has warned that Turkey may not be viable within its present borders in the medium term. The trouble is that its Kurdish minority, now at 20% of the overall population, has twice as many children as ethnic Turks, so many that half of Turkey’s military-age population will speak Kurdish as a first language in fewer than twenty years.

An existential crisis for Turkey has been in the making for years, as I reported in my 2011 book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too). During the past week, a perfect storm has overtaken Turkish policy, and threatens to provoke deep political instability. Turkey may become the region’s next failed state.

Erdogan has suffered public humiliation by both Washington and Moscow.

There has to be a fall guy in the Middle East’s film noir, and that unenviable role has fallen to Turkey. Prior to the bombings, the worst terrorist incident in modern Turkish history, Erdogan suffered public humiliation by Washington as well as Moscow. As Laura Rozen reported October 9 in Al-Monitor, Washington announced a 180-degree turn in its Syrian intervention, abandoning the Sunni opposition in favor of Syrian Kurds.

The United States will supply arms, equipment and air support to Syrian Arab and Kurdish groups already fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS) on the ground in Syria, the White House and Pentagon announced Oct. 9.

The decision to refocus the beleaguered, $500 million Pentagon program from training and equipping a new force to fight IS in Syria to “equip and enable” rebel groups already fighting on the ground came after an interagency review of the train and equip program, US officials said.

“A key part of our strategy is to try to work with capable, indigenous forces on the ground … to provide them with equipment to make them more effective, in combination with our air strikes,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth told journalists on a call on the new strategy Oct. 9.

Until last Friday, America and Turkey both supported the Sunni opposition to the Assad government with a view to eliminating Assad and installing a Sunni regime. That policy has been in shambles for months, but it allowed the Turks leeway to provide covert support to ISIS, the one Sunni force that shows effectiveness in the field. Russian intervention exposed the fecklessness of America’s attempts to find a “moderate” Syrian opposition to back. As the veteran strategist Edward Luttwak wrote last week in Tablet magazine:

Putin must certainly be innocent of the accusation that his air force has bombed the U.S.-trained “pro-democracy” freedom fighters, because the trainers themselves have admitted that the first lot on which one-tenth of the budget has been spent, i.e., $50 million, are exactly five in number, the rest having deserted after receiving their big family-support signing bonus and first paycheck, or after they were first issued with weapons (which they sold), or after first entering Syria in groups, when they promptly joined the anti-American Jabhat an-Nuṣrah, whose Sunni Islam they understand, unlike talk of democracy.

The Russians forced Washington to find something credible on the ground to support, and Washington turned to the Kurds, the only effective fighting force not linked to ISIS or al-Qaeda. That was precisely the result Turkey had wanted to avoid; the Kurdish military zone in northern Syria links up with Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Iraq, and the two zones form the core of a prospective Kurdish state.

Russia humiliated Turkey, meanwhile, by challenging Turkish fighters inside Turkish airspace, leaving NATO to protest loudly. Nonetheless the US and Germany have deactivated Patriot missile batteries–the only weapon system that represents a threat to Russian fighters–despite urgent Turkish requests to leave them in place. Russian fighters over Syria prevent the Turks from providing air cover for ISIS and other Islamist groups in Syria, as I noted Oct. 6 in our Chatham House Rules blog. M.K. Bhadrakumar observed in Asia Times Oct. 9, “Turkey’s scope for maneuvering vis-à-vis Russia is actually very limited and it has no option but to reach an understanding with Russia over Syria.”

Less obvious but no less ominous is the deterioration of Sino-Turkish relations due to Ankara’s covert support for the East Turkestan Independence Movement, a terrorist organization active among the Uyghurs of Western China. Despite official assurances, Turkey continues to provide safe passage to Turkey to thousands of Chinese Uyghurs via Southeast Asia, some of whom are fighting with ISIS in Syria. Thailand claims that Uyghur militants carried out the Aug. 17 bombing at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine after Thailand sent 109 Chinese Uyghurs back to China.

Erdogan has suffered not merely a collapse of his foreign policy, but a public humiliation by countries that backed his regime in the interests of regional stability–and this just before November’s parliamentary elections. After the Kurdish-backed HDP party took 13% of the national vote in last June’s elections and removed Erdogan’s majority in parliament, Erdogan called new elections rather than accept a coalition government. Erdogan also revived military operations against Turkish Kurds in order to elicit support from Turkish nationalists, a transparent maneuver widely reported in the major media.

As the New York Times reported August 5,

Having already delayed the formation of a coalition government, analysts say, Mr. Erdogan is now buttressing his party’s chances of winning new elections by appealing to Turkish nationalists opposed to self-determination for the Kurdish minority. Parallel to the military operations against the Kurds has been an effort to undermine the political side of the Kurdish movement by associating it with the violence of the P.K.K., which has also seemed eager to return to fighting.

Instead of responding to Erdogan’s provocation, the Kurds have shelved military operations in order to concentrate on winning votes in the November elections. After the Saturday bomb attacks, Thomas Seibert noted in the Daily Beast:

Observers agreed that the Ankara blast was probably linked to a decision by the PKK rebels to suspend hostilities with Ankara. The PKK had hinted in recent days that it would declare a new ceasefire in order to boost the HDP’s election chances. The people behind the attack wanted to “prevent the ceasefire” from coming into effect, respected journalist Kadri Gursel tweeted. The PKK’s ceasefire announcement became public shortly after the attack, but the decision by the rebels had probably been taken before.

In short, Erdogan now contemplates American heavy weapons in the hands of Syrian Kurds; the end of Turkey’s ability to provide air support for Sunni rebels in Syria; a Russian campaign to roll up the Sunni opposition, including Turkey’s assets in the field; and a collapse of his parliamentary majority due to an expanding Kurdish vote at home.

Whether the AKP government itself ordered the Ankara bombing, or simply looked the other way while ISIS conducted the bombing, both Turkey and global opinion will assume that the ghastly events in Ankara on Saturday reflect the desperation of the Erdogan regime. Regimes that resort to this sort of atrocity do not last very long.

The best thing that Turkey could do under the circumstances would be to ask the United Nations to supervise a plebiscite to allow Kurdish-majority areas to secede if they so chose. The mountains of southeastern Turkey with the highest concentration of Kurds are a drain on the national budget and of no strategic importance. Neither Erdogan nor his nationalist opposition, though, will consider such action; that would undermine both Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism as well as the old secular nationalism. The pressures under the tectonic plates will only get worse. Saturday’s bombing may have demarcated the end of the Turkish state that arose out of the First World War.

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

Russia’s endgame in Syria: Follow the Money

3300795117Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 6, 2015:

As Vladimir Putin orders airstrikes against rebels of all stripes fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, there are important strategic economic goals behind Russia’s actions in Syria.  The short term goal is easy to discern: prevent Assad’s collapse as no alternative suitable to Russian interests exists, preserve Russia’s only naval base in the Middle East at Tartus, and promote Russia both at home and abroad as a world power that counterbalances American hegemony.

Much of the media has focused on Putin as a personal driver of Russian behavior.  While forays into Georgia and Ukraine have accomplished the tactical goals of preventing increased European Union presence in Russia’s sphere of influence, these have come at a high cost both politically and economically in the form of isolation and sanctions. Putin seems to have concluded that intervening in Syria in the name of fighting terrorism can only help repair Russia’s battered image.

It is important to at least try to understand Putin’s motivation without delving too much into psychoanalysis.  He is on record as lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”  In power since 2000, the former KGB officer is an ardent Russian nationalist, a promoter of a personality cult concerned with his country’s standing and perception in the world.  With his career spent in the service of the state, he is not one to take a background role in world affairs. Putin has effectively used Russia’s alliance with Iran as an effective tool to undermine the US, both regionally in the Gulf and globally with the nuclear deal.

The current buildup at Tartus and Latakia is nothing new: since Hafez al-Assad’s rise to power in 1970, the Former Soviet Union and then Russia was and is a stalwart ally, long attempting to position Syria as a counterbalance to American and Israeli military superiority in the Middle East.

Russia’s actions are also a message to the world: unlike the US, which abandoned long-time ally Hosni Mubarak during his time of need in Egypt, Russia is prepared to intervene, militarily if necessary, to preserve a friendly regime in danger.  Therefore, it pays for autocrats to court Moscow, especially if they possess valuable resources or are in prime strategic locations.

While Vladimir Putin ostensibly espouses the acceptable goal of a global alliance against IS, the strategic context is that he has entered into a sectarian alliance with Shia Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the proxy army Hezbollah (The P4+1) against the American-backed Sunni alliance of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the UAE, all of whom insist that Assad has no future in Syria.

Through its airstrikes, Russia continues to advance the prior Syrian strategy of focusing efforts against pro-Western rebels, with the recognition that, while dangerous, the Islamic State is the one party in the conflict the West will never support.

The Islamic State will take advantage of both the respite, and the propaganda value of being the recognized number one enemy of the infidel coalition, which it uses to rally supporters simply by pointing out that its enemies are gathering to destroy the renewed Caliphate.

The one strategic motivation for Russia that has been widely ignored is the economic one.  Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and also owner of the world’s largest natural gas field, proposed in 2009 to jointly construct a gas pipeline running through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and into Europe.  Assad, not wanting to provoke Moscow, refused to sign on.  Instead, he floated an alternative: an Iran-Iraq-Syria and possibly Lebanon pipeline, to then follow under the Mediterranean to Europe. The Qatar-Turkey pipeline would run through majority Sunni countries with the exception of Syria’s Alawite regime. Assad’s counter proposal follows the Shia crescent.

Russia, not wanting to lose its primary market in Europe, is adamantly opposed to a prospective Qatari project.  A military presence in Syria will guarantee that even if Assad is removed from power, the pipeline will not be built.  It will look on favorably to the Iranian proposal, provided Gazprom and other state-owned companies get their share of the pie.

Pipeline politics in the region have a long and varied history of Russian involvement.  TheBaku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was built only after Moscow’s demand for an alternative pipeline for Azeri oil to Russia was met.  During the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, US intelligence officials determined that an explosion on the pipeline near the Turkish-Georgian border was carried out via Russian government cyber warfare.  Days after the explosion, Russian fighter jets bombed positions in Georgia close to the pipeline. Although the BTC pipeline was built precisely to avoid Russian interference, the Kremlin has never let that stop them.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have also begun construction on a joint natural gas pipeline, theTANAP. This project’s stated goal is to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas, a prospect that cannot please Moscow.   Both the BTC and TANAP bypass Armenia, a Russian ally and wary of its neighbors in the Caucasus.

As the endpoint for the Qatari project, Turkey is adamant in calling for Assad to step down or be removed, which dovetails with the proposed Sunni pipeline.  By clearing the way through Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can receive a handsome return on their investment in backing jihadis fighting Assad.  On the other hand, Iran will not sit idly by and leave potential billions of dollars in the hands of its ideological and regional enemies.

Russian intervention in Syria is just beginning. There is every possibility that it will expand as more targets are found, perhaps those that are in the way of the proposed Iranian pipeline, directly threatening Damascus and by extension, the Russian monopoly of gas exports to Europe.  For the time being, Putin has the world’s attention.


EXCLUSIVE: Russian jets ‘intercept’ US predator drones over Syria, officials say

Also see:

Middle East Provocations and Predictions

by Daniel Pipes
Mackenzie Institute
September 9, 2015

The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.


Iran is Topic No. 1 these days, especially since the nuclear deal the six great powers reached with its rulers in Vienna on July 14. The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” seeks to bring Tehran in from the cold, ending decades of hostility and inducing Iran to become a more normal state. In itself, this is an entirely worthy endeavor.

The problem lies in the execution, which has been execrable, rewarding an aggressive government with legitimacy and additional funding, not requiring serious safeguards on its nuclear arms program, and permitting that program in about a decade. The annals of diplomacy have never witnessed a comparable capitulation by great powers to an isolated, weak state.

The Iranian leadership has an apocalyptic mindset and preoccupation with the end of days that does not apply to the North Koreans, Stalin, Mao, the Pakistanis or anyone else. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i et al. have reason to use these weapons for reasons outside of the normal military concerns – to bring on the end of the world. This makes it especially urgent to stop them.

Ali Khamene'i (r) is often placed along side Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian iconography.

Ali Khamene’i (r) is often placed along side Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian iconography.

Economic sanctions, however, amount to a sideshow, even a distraction. The Iranian government compares to the North Korean in its absolute devotion to building these weapons and its readiness to do whatever it takes, whether mass starvation or some other calamity, to achieve them. Therefore, no matter how severely applied, the sanctions only make life more difficult for the Iranian leadership without actually stopping the nuclear buildup.

The only way to stop the buildup is through the use of force. I hope the Israeli government – the only one left that might take action – will undertake this dangerous and thankless job. It can do so through aerial bombardment, special operations, or nuclear weapons, with option #2 both the most attractive and the most difficult.

If the Israelis do not stop the bomb, a nuclear device in the hands of the mullahs will have terrifying consequences for the Middle East and beyond, including North America, where a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack must be considered possible.

To the contrary, if the Iranians do not deploy their new weapons, it is just possible that the increased contact with the outside world and the disruption caused by inconsistent Western policies will work to undermine the regime.


The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) is the topic that consumes the most attention other than Iran. I agree with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, that Iran is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS. But ISIS is also a thousand times more interesting. Plus, the Obama administration finds it a useful bogeyman to justify working with Tehran.

Emerging out of almost nowhere, the group has taken Islamic nostalgia to an unimagined extreme. The Saudis, the ayatollahs, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Shabaab each imposed its version of a medieval order. But ISIS went further, replicating as best it can a seventh-century Islamic environment, down to such specifics as public beheading and enslavement.

This effort has provoked two opposite responses among Muslims. One is favorable, as manifested by Muslims coming from Tunisia and the West, attracted moth-like to an incandescently pure vision of Islam. The other, more important, response is negative. The great majority of Muslims, not to speak of non-Muslims, are alienated by the violent and flamboyant ISIS phenomenon. In the long term, ISIS will harm the Islamist movement (the one aspiring to apply Islamic law in its entirety) and even Islam itself, as Muslims in large numbers abominate ISIS.

One thing about ISIS will likely last, however: the notion of the caliphate. The last caliph who actually gave orders ruled in the 940s. That’s the 940s, not the 1940s, over a thousand years ago. The reappearance of an executive caliph after centuries of figurehead caliphs has prompted considerable excitement among Islamists. In Western terms, it’s like someone reviving the Roman Empire with a piece of territory in Europe; that would get everybody’s attention. I predict the caliphate will have a lasting and negative impact.

Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds

In certain circles, Syria and Iraq have come to be known as Suraqiya, joining their names together as the border has collapsed and they have each simultaneously been divided into three main regions: a Shiite-oriented central government, a Sunni Arab rebellion, and a Kurdish part that wants out.

This is a positive development; there’s nothing sacred about the British-French Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which created these two polities. Quite the contrary, that accord has proven an abject failure; conjure up the names of Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein to remember why. These miserable states exist for the benefit of their monstrous leaders who proceed to murder their own subjects. So, let them fracture into threes, improving matters for the locals and the outside world.

As Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis fight Iranian-backed Shi’i jihadis in Suraqiya, the West should stand back from the fighting. Neither side deserves support; this is not our fight. Indeed, these two evil forces at each others’ throats means they have less opportunity to aggress on the rest of the world. If we do wish to help, it should be directed first to the many victims of the civil war; if we want to be strategic, help the losing side (so neither side wins).

As for the massive flow of refugees from Syria: Western governments should not take in large numbers but instead pressure Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle Eastern states to offer sanctuary. Why should the Saudis be exempt from the refugee flow, especially when their country has many advantages over, say, Sweden: linguistic, cultural, and religious compatibility, as well as proximity and a similar climate.

The rapid emergence of a Kurdish polity in Iraq, followed by one in Syria, as well as a new assertiveness in Turkey and rumblings in Iran are a positive sign. Kurds have proven themselves to be responsible in a way that none of their neighbors have. I say this as someone who, 25 years ago, opposed Kurdish autonomy. Let us help the Kurds who are as close to an ally as we have in the Muslim Middle East. Not just separate Kurdish units should come into existence but also a unified Kurdistan made up from parts of all four countries. That this harms the territorial integrity of those states does not present a problem, as not one of them works well as presently constituted.

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Turkey: America’s Really Bad “Faustian Bargain”

Gatestone Institute, by Burak Bekdil, September 8, 2015:

  • Turkey cannot fight the Islamic State (IS) and the Kurds, who are the essential ground force of any coalition campaign against IS, at the same time forever.
  • “…America’s deal with Turkey will prove to be a Faustian bargain. Short-term operational convenience is not worth the long-term danger of destabilizing Turkey and demoralizing the Kurdish forces that have carried the bulk of the burden in fighting militants.” — Eric Edelman, former U.S. ambassador to Ankara and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.

Many people believed that the Turks and their Kurdish compatriots were close to a historic handshake when, in 2013, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish separatist movement, Abdullah Ocalan, declared a farewell to arms after a three-decade-long violent campaign that had left nearly 40,000 dead — Turks and Kurds. The Turkish government would grant broader political rights to its restive Kurds, who demand regional autonomy. In return, the Kurds would conduct politics peacefully instead of seeking their rights with rifles in their hands.

Slightly more than two years later, Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast is seeing the same bloodshed it saw before the 2013 truce. On July 20, a suicide bomber belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Islamic State, or IS) murdered more than 30 pro-Kurdish activists in a small Turkish town bordering Syria. Before that, another IS operative detonated a bomb at a Kurdish political rally in Diyarbakir, the capital of Turkey’s Kurds, killing four people and injuring over 200.

The scene of the suicide bombing in Suruc, Turkey. An ISIS suicide bomber murdered 32 people and wounded more than 100 others in a July 20 attack on Kurdish humanitarian activists. (Image source: VOA video screenshot)

The jihadist attacks on Kurds ignited a new spiral of violence from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the notorious armed wing of the Kurdish political movement. An autonomous PKK cell killed two Turkish police officers at their home during their sleep. In retaliation, Turkey has since been pounding PKK strongholds in northern Iraq.

Between June 1 and August 29 of this year, a total of 129 people (over 50 civilians) were killed in clashes, and 526 were injured. Those numbers must be higher by now, as every new day adds to the death toll of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. The number of casualties does not include the nearly 1,000 PKK militants the Turkish military claims it has killed in ongoing air strikes since late July. The combined Turkish-Kurdish death toll should now be close to 1,500.

This is a very Middle Eastern war; not so easy to read for the Western eye:

  • Turkey is fighting the Kurds at home and in Iraq; but it also has friendly economic ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, which has been trying to perform a balancing act between Turkey and their more radical brethren, the PKK.
  • Turkey recently joined the allied campaign against IS. So, Turkey is fighting IS and, at the same time, its regional nemesis, the Syrian Kurds.
  • The Kurds are fighting both Turkey and IS, Turkey’s declared enemy.
  • Turkey is a NATO ally and a partner of the U.S.-led war on IS, but is also fighting the Kurds.
  • The Kurds are the only “[proxy] U.S. boots on the ground in the fight against IS.”

Too complicated? Just Middle Eastern. And note that the “friend-and-foe” tableaux here are only a microcosm of the much more complex and broader affairs in this part of the world.

One thing, however, looks like a near certainty. Turkey cannot fight IS and Kurds, the essential ground force of any coalition campaign against IS, at the same time forever.

The Turkish campaign against the PKK sounds as if it is an air force bombing allied ground troops.

Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2005-2009), put it realistically in a recent article in the New York Times:

“…America’s deal with Turkey will prove to be a Faustian bargain. Short-term operational convenience is not worth the long-term danger of destabilizing Turkey and demoralizing the Kurdish forces that have carried the bulk of the burden in fighting militants.

“An ally racked by violence and insurgency simply can’t play the role that the United States needs a secular, democratic Turkey to play in the turbulent Middle East.

“Fortunately, America does have leverage. Turkish officials desperately crave the approval of their counterparts in Washington; the United States must not grant it.

“Instead, the Obama administration should restrict Turkey’s access to senior-level meetings, reduce intelligence cooperation and withhold American support for Turkey in international financial institutions in the likely event that Mr. Erdogan’s policies precipitate an economic crisis.

“Getting Turkish leaders to change course will be extremely difficult, but it is imperative to pressure them if Turkey is to avoid being sucked into the vortex created by a failed Syria policy and Mr. Erdogan’s dogged quest for absolute political power.”

Edelman is right. Turkish President Erdogan’s dogged quest for absolute political power is not just poisoning Turkey but also its allies and their fight against Islamist extremism.

Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Also see:

The Politicization of Intelligence

politicization-intelligenceThe Gorka Briefing, By Sebastian Gorka, Aug. 31, 2012:

Intelligence analysis that contradicts the “ISIS is Losing” narrative is ignored by the chain of command. I discuss the issue of politically-driven censorship on the John Batchelor radio show. 28 August 2015; 9 minutes. Audio HERE.


Spies: Obama’s Brass Pressured Us to Downplay ISIS Threat (Daily Beast)
U.S. intelligence analysts keep saying that the American-led campaign against ISIS isn’t going so well. Their bosses keep telling them to think again about those conclusions.

Senior military and intelligence officials have inappropriately pressured U.S. terrorism analysts to alter their assessments about the strength of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, three sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast.

Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to these sources, and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going.

Reports that have been deemed too pessimistic about the efficacy of the American-led campaign, or that have questioned whether a U.S.-trained Iraqi military can ultimately defeat ISIS, have been sent back down through the chain of command or haven’t been shared with senior policymakers, several analysts alleged.In other instances, authors of such reports said they understood that their conclusions should fall within a certain spectrum.

As a result, they self-censored their own views, they said, because they felt pressure to not reach conclusions far outside what those above them apparently believed.

“The phrase I use is the politicization of the intelligence community,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told The Daily Beast when describing what he sees as a concerted push in government over the past several months to find information that tells a preferred story about efforts to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups, including al Qaeda. “That’s here. And it’s dangerous,” Flynn said. . . (read the rest)


Is your government lying to you about the war against ISIS? by Lt Col Rick Francona

I thought we had put this issue to rest after the inflated body counts of Vietnam. Quite possibly the Obama Administration is playing a variation of that same alternate reality game. Virtually every assessment and announcement from either the White House or the Pentagon has told us that the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is going well and that the terrorist army of the self-proclaimed Islamic State is on the defensive.

As a military analyst for CNN, I follow the fighting in Iraq and Syria closely – I monitor a variety of media from all sides. That includes not only the American press, but official Syrian, Iraqi and yes, ISIS reporting, as well as a variety of social media sites that cover all aspects of the situation in the region.

As you can imagine, there are great discrepancies in the descriptions of the same events. At times, I have shaken my head at some of the pronouncements from the Pentagon press office and even from the U.S. Central Command, the combatant command conducting the military operations.

Normally the CENTCOM reports are factual accounts of sorties flown, weapons employed and damage assessments. On the other hand, Pentagon spokesmen tend to portray the Operation Inherent Resolve as stopping ISIS’s advances and forcing them into a defensive posture. There was certainly a disconnect in the reports of low sortie rates and just a few weapons actually being employed emanating from the theater versus the rosy portrayal coming out of the Pentagon.

I remember the reports of the “success” of the Iraqi Army in ejecting ISIS from the city of Tikrit, when most of the actual fighting was done by Iranian-trained and led Shi’a militias. As the Pentagon assured us that ISIS was now contained, the Islamists mounted a successful assault on the city of al-Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province, located on the Euphrates River just 65 miles from Baghdad – all the while under attack from the air. This hardly fits the definition of “on the defensive.”

Obviously there is a problem here – either the intelligence community can’t figure out what is going on with ISIS or someone is misleading the public. Having spent a career in the intelligence business – most of it in the Middle East – I am opting for the latter.

In any case, the Department of Defense inspector general (IG) has opened an investigation. Unfortunately, from the wording of the available reporting it appears that the focus is going to be on professional military officers at CENTCOM rather than the political appointees (that means dyed-in-the-wool Obama supporters) at the Pentagon. Guess who is going to be thrown under the bus….

It is obvious that someone is taking the intelligence reporting and putting the best face on it. Actually, that is too kind – someone is cooking the intelligence to make it fit into the narrative dictated by the White House and the political leadership at the Pentagon.

The anemic air campaign – just 20 strikes today – is having an effect, to be sure, but the Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that ISIS is about as strong and capable today as it was when the air campaign began over a year ago. Much of that is due to the easy access to Syria via Turkey for supplies and the thousands of volunteers wishing to join ISIS. Hopefully Turkey’s recent decision to participate in the U.S.-led coalition will staunch that flow.

I suspect that at each intermediate echelon between CENTCOM’s forward headquarters in Qatar and the Pentagon, the intelligence and operational assessments of the military campaign against ISIS change slightly for the better. Everyone wants to cast the operation in a favorable light – accentuate the positive, downplay the negative. When it gets to the politicos at the Pentagon, I suspect it is tailored to fit the narrative emanating from the White House press room.

I applaud the Defense Department’s decision to launch an IG investigation – it is easily warranted. The IG is supposed to be an independent investigative agency that deals in facts and lets the evidence guide the investigation. Pardon me if I am not filled with confidence – some colonel at CENTCOM will take the fall.

Is our government lying to us? I fear that it is.

Explosive accusations against Turkey are exposing a major problem for Obama

REUTERS/Jason Reed

REUTERS/Jason Reed

Business Insider, by NATASHA BERTRAND AND MICHAEL B KELLEY, Aug. 25, 2015:

US-trained rebels allege that Turkish intelligence tipped off Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front and orchestrated the kidnapping of US-trained rebels entering Syria, Mitchell Prothero of McClatchy reports.

Though experts immediately advised skepticism of the accusations, the situation typifies the contradictory priorities in the faltering partnership between the US and Turkey against ISIS in Syria.

“All of this speaks to a bigger issue of how Turkey is perceived to have been nurturing the Islamist side of the Syrian insurgency at the expense of Syrian nationalists,” Aaron Stein, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider.

The US began training a small group of Syrian rebels known as the New Syria Force, or NSF, in early May, on the condition that they focus solely on combating ISIS while refraining from going after forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his allies.

The program was intended to graduate as many as 2,000 moderate Syrian opposition forces, but only 54 have completed the program so far. In July, the Pentagon’s sent the first NSF graduates, known as Division 30, into Syria to fight ISIS.

The initiative failed spectacularly when the group was attacked by al-Nusra Front, the branch of Al Qaeda operating in Syria, immediately after it entered the country. The Division 30 Syria headquarters was subsequently bombed by Assad’s warplanes.

Map of Syria showing control by cities and areas held as of August 3 as well as a safe zone that the US and Turkey are trying to implement.

Map of Syria showing control by cities and areas held as of August 3 as well as a safe zone that the US and Turkey are trying to implement.

The US-backed rebels now claim that Turkish intelligence leaked information about the NSF’s arrival plans in Syria to al-Nusra. And a Turkish official told McClatchy that the leak would humiliate the Obama administration and push the US to go after both ISIS and Assad’s regime.

But some analysts quickly noted that a leak wasn’t necessary.

“The group itself had advertised its entry into Syria on social media, and it was well known that they were entering through Turkey,” Stein said.

Nevertheless, the accusations underscore Turkey’s alliances with rebel groups — specifically Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra — that the US opposes.

A member of al Qaeda's Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province, May 29, 2015.

A member of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province, May 29, 2015.

“Our research has long pointed to a closer Turkish relationship to Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra than to IS. In that sense, this is not surprising,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider by email.

Stein has previously written about how Turkey “eventually reached out directly to al-Nusra, believing that the rebel group would be useful in achieving its ultimate goal: the overthrow of Assad.”

“Turkey also believed that it could potentially moderate the group and that al-Nusra would be good to work with as a ‘Syrian group’ fighting against the regime for the future of all Syrians,” he added.

The country has even closer ties to Ahrar, which is one of Syria’s largest rebel groups and the one with the most Turkish citizens. And although Ahrar is linked to Nusra, its stated political project is focused on toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.

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FDD VP for Research Jonathan Schanzer discusses Turkey and the growing threat from ISIS. – The John Batchelor Show (Syndicated) – August 20, 2015