In Reversal, Turkey to Open Passage to Kobani for Kurdish Fighters

Turkish Kurds watch airstrikes Saturday on the Syrian town of Kobani from neighboring Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS

Turkish Kurds watch airstrikes Saturday on the Syrian town of Kobani from neighboring Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS

By JOE PARKINSON in Istanbul, SAM DAGHER in Dohuk, Iraq and RORY JONES in Beirut:

Turkey said Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross its territory to reinforce the embattled Syrian city of Kobani, reversing its long-standing opposition to such aid hours after U.S. airdrops of weapons and ammunition to the city’s Syrian Kurdish defenders.

Speaking in a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu didn’t offer details how Turkish authorities would enable the transfer Kurdish Peshmerga fighters across Turkey or whether Syrian Kurdish authorities would accept additional forces.

“We are aiding the transfer of Peshmerga forces to Kobani for support. Consultations on this matter are ongoing,” Mr. Cavusoglu said.

The announcement that Iraqi Kurdish fighters would be allowed by Ankara to transit through Turkish territory to Syria followed by hours the start of U.S. airdrops of weapons and supplies to Kobani’s defenders, despite public opposition from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan said Saturday he wouldn’t allow U.S. arms transfers to Kurdish fighters through Turkey and equated the Syrian Kurdish fighters with Islamic State.

Turkey’s government is wary of the Syrian Kurdish militia, which is loyal to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Ankara has fought in a low-intensity war for three decades.

In a telephone conversation Saturday, President Barack Obamainformed Mr. Erdogan about the airdrops to Kobani, which demonstrated that Turkish objections wouldn’t stop Washington providing weapons to the Syrian Kurds and protecting the credibility of campaign it is leading against Islamic State.

Three U.S. C-130 cargo planes dropped 27 bundles of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies in the northwest of the city, U.S. officials said.

The aid traveled first to Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, which controls the Peshmerga force and is headed by Massoud Barzani, Kurdish leaders said. From there, it was transported to Kobani.

Leaders of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, the Syrian Kurdish political group whose fighters are leading the battle against Islamic State in Kobani, praised the U.S. move.

“This is a turning point that will set the foundation for better ties in the future,” Aldar Khalil, senior leader in the Social Democratic Movement, an umbrella group for Syrian Kurdish parties that includes the PYD and is tied to the PKK.

“This is a huge deal,” Mr. Khalil said.

There were no signs early Monday that the fresh aid had affected fighting between Kurdish and Islamic State forces, Ferhad Shami, a freelance Kurdish journalist accompanying a Kurdish militia unit inside Kobani, said by telephone.

The militant group was using more sophisticated weaponry, such as tanks, field artillery and Humvees, than the Syrian Kurdish forces, Mr. Shami said.

Read more at WSJ

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Turkish President Declares Lawrence of Arabia a Bigger Enemy than ISIS

1413221153467.cachedBy Jamie Dettmer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at The Daily Beast

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Turkey agrees to let U.S. planes use its bases for attacks on Syria

Turkish armored vehicles patrol the border on Oct. 12 near the Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. (Aris Messinis / AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish armored vehicles patrol the border on Oct. 12 near the Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. (Aris Messinis / AFP/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Times, By W.J. Hennigan:

Turkey has agreed to allow U.S. warplanes to use its air bases for bombing missions in Syria, as well as provide rebels there with light arms and train them with infantry tactics for the ongoing battle against Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said Sunday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Sunday with Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz and thanked him for aiding in the fight against the Sunni extremists, who have seized vast swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

“Both leaders have stressed the need to continue taking a comprehensive strategic approach to the threat posed by ISIL and other extremist groups,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Hagel was en route to the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas in Arequipa, Peru, which brings together 34 defense ministers. The event Monday is the culmination of a six-day trip including talks with top leaders in Colombia, Chile and Peru.

The developments with the Turkish government come after John R. Allen, a retired Marine Corps general and the special envoy coordinating the U.S.-led international effort against Islamic State, arrived in Ankara, the Turkish capital, last week to persuade the government to take a more active role against the Islamic State.

The Pentagon does not have an effective partner on the ground in Syria and is not in close communication with any militia group. Officials hope to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels as a proxy force against Islamic State.

The U.S. military and its coalition of European and Arab allies have waged war against the extremist fighters through aerial bombardments. In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen limited effectiveness from the targeted airstrikes, particularly at the Syrian border town of Kobani.

The U.S. military has carried out an aerial assault for a week, yet Islamic State militants are still threatening to take control of the town.

Turkey’s willingness to host warplanes and train and equip Syrian fighters strengthens the alliance between the U.S. and Turkey. It also brings U.S. military jets closer to the fight in Syria, which shares a 500-mile border with Turkey.

One of the bases includes Incirlik in southern Turkey, which is within 100 miles of the Syrian border, according to U.S. defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private talks between the two governments.

Turkish officials have been asking the U.S. to provide a buffer zone along the border to stem the flow of refugees and stop the spillover of violence. The country also wants the U.S. to establish a “no-fly” zone, in which fighter jets would regularly patrol the border and shoot down any Syrian military aircraft that breach it.

The U.S. government has repeatedly said it isn’t considering either proposition.

”We don’t see it at this point as essential to the goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But we’ll continue to talk to the Turks and entertain any specific proposals that they may have.”

Military officials from U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command will arrive in Turkey this week to discuss other opportunities for collaboration.

TURKEY ACCUSED OF TRAINING ISIS SOLDIERS

isis_troopsWND, By Aaron Klein, Oct. 10, 2014:

TEL AVIV – The Kingdom of Jordan says it caught more than a dozen members of ISIS who disclosed during interrogations that they received training from NATO member Turkey.

A senior Jordanian security official who spoke on condition of anonymity told WND that 16 ISIS members were nabbed in recent days attempting to infiltrate Jordan from the Syrian border.

The official said the ISIS jihadists had planned to carry out attacks against the moderate Jordanian regime, sparking fears the ISIS insurgency will spread beyond Iraq and Syria to Jordan, a key U.S. and Israeli ally.

The official said the ISIS jihadists admitted upon interrogation to being trained in Turkey.

While such confessions, which could have been extracted under duress, cannot necessarily be relied upon, it is the latest allegation of Turkish support for ISIS.

WND reported Thursday that Turkey is providing direct intelligence and logistical support to the ISIS terrorist organization, according to a senior Egyptian security official.

The official told WND that Egypt has information Turkish intelligence is passing to ISIS satellite imagery and other data, with particular emphasis on exposing to ISIS jihadists the positions of Kurdish fighters and the storage locations of their weapons and munitions.

The official confirmed reports that Turkey released ISIS terrorists from jail in a sweeping deal with the jihadist organization that saw the release of 49 hostages from the Turkish embassy in Mosul who were being held by ISIS.

While some news media reports say Turkey may have released at least 180 ISIS terrorists in the deal, including two British jihadists, the Egyptian official said the number of ISIS terrorists released by Turkey was closer to 700.

Tensions between the Turkish government and its Kurdish population have been high as Kurds have sought autonomy for three decades and have faced mass ISIS attacks.

Kurdish forces have been leading a military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

On Tuesday, Kurdish protesters demanding help in the fight against ISIS clashed with police in Turkey, leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured, according to reports.

The Egyptian information about Turkey’s alleged role in providing support to ISIS bolsters accusations against Turkey and Arab allies made last week by Vice President Joseph Biden.

Biden last weekend apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “any implication” that Turkey or Arab allies had intentionally supplied weapons to ISIS or helped in the growth other Islamic jihadist groups in Syria, according to the White House.

One week ago, Biden told an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government that ISIS had been inadvertently strengthened by actions taken by Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Arab allies who were supporting the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Biden further implied Turkey, the UAE and other Arab countries were supplying weapons to al-Qaida and its offshoots in Syria, including the al-Nusra front.

“They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad,” Biden told students. “Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.

“We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them,” Biden said.

Regarding Turkey’s alleged role, Biden said, “President Erdogan told me, he’s an old friend, said, ‘You were right. We let too many people (including foreign fighters) through.’ Now they are trying to seal their border.”

Erdogan told reporters he vehemently denied making such a statement.

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TURKEY ‘PROVIDING DIRECT SUPPORT’ TO ISIS

kurdish-fighterWND, By Aaron Klein:

TEL AVIV – NATO member Turkey is providing direct intelligence and logistical support to the ISIS terrorist organization, according to a senior Egyptian security official speaking to WND.

The official said Egypt has information Turkish intelligence is passing to ISIS satellite imagery and other data, with particular emphasis on exposing to ISIS jihadists the positions of Kurdish fighters and the storage locations of their weapons and munitions.

The official confirmed reports that Turkey released ISIS terrorists from jail in a sweeping deal with the jihadist organization that saw the release of 49 hostages from the Turkish embassy in Mosul who were being held by ISIS.

While some news media reports say Turkey may have released at least 180 ISIS terrorists in the deal, including two British jihadists, the Egyptian official said the number of ISIS terrorists released by Turkey was closer to 700.

Tensions between the Turkish government and its Kurdish population have been high as Kurds have sought autonomy for three decades and have faced mass ISIS attacks.

Kurdish forces have been leading a military campaign targeting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

On Tuesday, Kurdish protesters demanding help in the fight against ISIS clashed with police in Turkey, leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured, according to reports.

The Egyptian information about Turkey’s alleged role in providing support to ISIS seems to bolster accusations against Turkey and Arab allies made last week by Vice President Joseph Biden.

It was reported Biden last weekend apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “any implication” that Turkey or Arab allies had intentionally supplied weapons to ISIS or helped in the growth other Islamic jihadist groups in Syria, according to the White House.

One week ago, Biden told an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government that ISIS had been inadvertently strengthened by actions taken by Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Arab allies who were supporting the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Biden further implied Turkey, the UAE and other Arab countries were supplying weapons to al-Qaida and its offshoots in Syria, including the al-Nusra front.

“They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad,” Biden told students. “Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.

“We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them,” Biden said.

Regarding Turkey’s alleged role, Biden said, “President Erdogan told me, he’s an old friend, said, ‘You were right. We let too many people (including foreign fighters) through.’ Now they are trying to seal their border.”

Erdogan told reporters he vehemently denied making such a statement.

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Kobanî

kurdfemalefighters-190x150CSP, by Kyle Shideler:

The world watches, breathless, the human drama playing out in the  town of Kobani, as the jihadis of the Islamic State continue to tighten, anaconda-like, around the Kurdish redoubt. But the response from this administration to losing what may be the only reliable set of allies in the morass that is Iraq and Syria, is more Alfred P. Newman than Winston S. Churchill.  As CNN reports:

U.S. airstrikes “are not going to save” the key Syrian city of Kobani from being overtaken by ISIS, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. “I think we all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality,” he told reporters in a daily briefing Wednesday. “We are doing everything we can to halt” ISIS’ progress against the town, but airstrikes alone cannot stop the Islamist militants, Kirby added. “We’ve been very honest about the limits of air power here. The ground forces that matter the most are indigenous ground forces, and we don’t have a willing, capable, effective partner on the ground inside Syria right now — it’s just a fact,” he said. The greater U.S. strategy, Kirby said, is to degrade ISIS’ ability to sustain itself.

Several senior U.S. administration officials said Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. They downplayed the importance of it, saying the city is not a major U.S. concern.

In other words, we can’t do more than we are currently doing because we lack an effective partner on the ground, which is our excuse for allowing ISIS to exterminate the only reasonable partner on the ground.

As CSP Fellow Robert Zubrin noted last week, this is a strategy of nearly unimaginable cynicism:

If we are to win the war against the Islamic State, we need ground forces, and the Obama administration has rejected the idea of sending in any of our own. The Kurds, who have demonstrated both their bravery and their willingness to be friends with America, are right there, and already engaged in the fight. If supplied with adequate arms and backed by serious U.S. tactical air support, they could roll up ISIS as rapidly as the similarly reinforced Northern Alliance did the Taliban in the fall of 2001. Done right, this war could be won in months, instead of waged inconclusively for years.

The administration, however, has rejected this alternative, and has instead opted for a Saudi-Qatari plan to allow the Syrian Kurds to be exterminated while training a new Sunni Arab army in Saudi Arabia. Given the Saudi role in the new army’s tutelage and officer selection, the Islamist nature of this force is a foregone conclusion.

Meanwhile our “allies” in Turkey have massed troops on their side of the border, not to relieve the siege, but to prevent a flood of Kurdish refugees seeking to escape the inevitable massacre that will follow ISIS victory. Turkish crackdowns on Kurdish protestors urging more action to save their brethren resulted in violence killing  almost two dozen. In the German city of Hamburg, Kurds and Salafi Muslims, some armed with iron bars, clubs and knives clashed, with fifteen injured. Kurdish protestors rallied in Belgium and Holland as well.

What is occurring in Kobani, will not remain in Kobani. The forces at work have global ambitions, and the message sent by our failure will resonate with would be allies and Pro-American forces across the globe.  Referring to the protests, Bloomberg’s editors noted yesterday that, “Turkey will pay for abandoning the Kurds.”

No, we will all pay.

Why Turkey and the Administration have Doomed The Kurds in Kobani

ISIS Flag atop hill overlooking Kobani, Syria Source: AFP

ISIS Flag atop hill overlooking Kobani, Syria Source: AFP

By Jerry Gordon:

This was a tough day in Kobani, Syria for the 2 to 3,000 Kurdish YPG fighters desperately trying to stave off with light arms the onslaught of ISIS forces equipped with US and Russian tanks and artillery pouring fire into the shrinking city center.   According to a Bloomberg October 4, 2014 report, those fighters in Kobani   “feel furious and deserted by the US” according to Faysal Sariyildiz, a pro-Kurdish legislator.  The siege is now past 14 days, and many believe the end of the Kurdish town bestride the Turkish border may be at hand. The desperation of the brave YPG fighters was reflected in a female commander who undertook the first suicide attack on an ISIS outpost in the eastern area of Kobani, detonating a grenade, killing her and a number of Salafist jihadis.  Flags of ISIS emblazoned with the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith now do the hilltops overlooking the embattled town.

But no coalition ‘partner’, neither the Turks ringing  the border with  tanks, while  tending to the huddled mass of more than 180,000 Kurdish refugees, nor the US-led coalition of allegedly 40 countries are coming to the relief of these valiant Kurdish YPG fighters.  The possible imminent fall of Kobani  underscores the failure of the Obama strategy of relying solely on an air campaign  that so far has been a failure to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.   A Wall Street Journal  analysis indicated that  ISIS has proven to be resilient in the face of the coalition air assaults, held onto territory and potentially may expand it further with the imminent fall of Kobani.  A Pentagon briefing today estimated the cost of the air campaign to date at over $1.1 billion.

It was a tough day for Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson fending off questions from reporters during the Daily Press Briefing  about why no US relief or resources aren’t coming to the aid of the embattled Kurds in Kobani.   Moreover, there were nagging questions as to why Vice President Biden had to apologize to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis for telling the truth. The truth about their complicit behavior that allowed ISIS to metastasize into the terrorist Army of the self-declared Caliphate of the Islamic State.

The fiasco of the Obama strategy of military assistance was underscored in a New York Times report on the sources of ammunition obtained from ISIS caches and analyzed by a private group Conflict Armament Research that revealed sources were US, Russian and Chinese.  A spokesperson for CRA commented, “The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition.”

Last Sunday, the Lisa Benson Show interviewed US Army Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ernie Audino, Dr. Jala Abbas and Washington, DC-based Kurdish Human Rights.org leader about the lack of Administration support for besieged Kobani.   Their concerns about the looming humanitarian disaster in Kobani were also reflected in a letter circulating among Kurdish Americans presenting pleas for help to both the Administration and Congress. It noted:

Kobani has been surrounded for almost two weeks; the latest reports indicate that the city is under heavy bombardment and parts of the city may have fallen

If democratic nations fail to provide immediate military support to Kurdish fighters, Kobani will suffer the same tragic fate as Shingal referring to the massacres of Christian and other minorities in Iraq this summer.

Perhaps  the most insightful analysis of this looming disaster in Kobani came from  former Reagan era OMB Director and veteran Wall Street banker,  David Stockman , in his Contra Corner blog commentary, The Siege Of Kobani: Obama’s Syrian Fiasco In Motion .  Stockman is as disturbed as many Americans about why the valiant Kurds in Kobani are being abandoned to their doomed fate.  He clearly is in command of Kurdish history in the modern era and the failure at the Treaty of Versailles following WWI to the present to recognize a non-Arab ethnic state of more than 30 million Kurds drawn from enclaves in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.  Stockman is unforgiving about the current duplicity of the Islamist regime of President Erdogan of Turkey, the Saudis and the baleful failure of the Administration to exert leadership in the face of the provocative barbarism of ISIS and even its acolytes here in the US.  Stockman presents the real-politick behind the doomed plight of the PYG fighters trapped in Kobani.

Stockman addresses these central questions:

Self-evidently the lightly armed Kurdish militias desperately holding out in Kobani are fighting the right enemy—-that is, the Islamic State. So why has Obama’s grand coalition not been able to relieve the siege?  Why haven’t American bombers and cruise missiles, for instance, been able to destroy the American tanks and artillery which a terrifying band of butchers has brought to bear on several hundred thousand innocent Syrian Kurds who have made this enclave their home for more than a century? Why has not NATO ally Turkey, with a 600,000 man military, 3,500 tanks and 1,000 modern aircraft and helicopters, done anything meaningful to help the imperiled Kurds?

Read more at New English Review

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Turkey’s Knee-Deep Involvement With Islamist Terrorists

Islamic State fighters at a training camp

Islamic State fighters at a training camp

BY RYAN MAURO:

The Turkish parliament is considering authorizing military action against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. will welcome such a development, but it must not forget Turkey’s previous support of Al Qaeda in Syria, deal-making with the Islamic State (ISIS), hosting of Hamas terrorists and embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Turkish group closely linked to Turkish President Recep Erdogan even signed up human shields for Hamas. Intelligence leaks reveal that top Turkish officials are secretly collaborating with Iran-linked terrorists, a development in line with Turkey’s drift towards Iran in spite of their historic rivalry and backing of opposite sides in Syria.

Erdogan’s time as leader of Turkey has resulted in sharply increased anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and overall hostility to the West. A Pew poll of 11 Muslim countries found that Turkey is the only one where support for suicide bombing is increasing, more than doubling from 7% in 2011 to 16% now.

Nor should the U.S. forget the Turkish government’s increasingly autocratic governance, anti-Western incitement and crackdown on social media. Turkey is also rated as the number one jailer of journalists, even beating out China and North Korea for the title.

This anti-Western activity has only increased in recent months.

Turkey and Qatar, another supposed “ally” supporting the Islamist cause and financing Islamic terrorists, agreed to form a “supreme strategic cooperation council.” Turkey is expected to provide support for Qatari military and security forces. Qatar hosts over 200 members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey confirmed that Turkey has supported Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria and Ahrar al-Sham, another Al-Qaeda linked group in Syria and ignored U.S. protests about this support. The free flow of personnel and weapons from Turkey to Syrian jihadists contributed to the rise of the Islamic State.

Read more at Clarion Project

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The Defense of Kobani

Published on Sep 27, 2014 by Carrie Allison

 

Gloria Center, By Johathon Spyer, Sep. 27, 2014:

Jerusalem Post, 27/9

This week witnessed the second determined attempt by Islamic State forces to destroy the Kurdish enclave around Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city in northern Syria. Kobani is one of three autonomous enclaves maintained by the Kurds in Syria.

As of now, it appears that after initial lightning advances, the progress of the jihadis has been halted; they have not moved forward in the last 24 hours. The arrival of Kurdish forces from across the Turkish border is the key element in freezing the advance.

Yet Islamic State has captured around 60 Kurdish villages in this latest assault, and its advanced positions remain perilously close – around 14.5 km. – from Kobani city. Around 100,000 people have fled Kobani for Turkey, from the enclave’s total population of around 400,0000.

Islamic State employed tanks, artillery and Humvees in its assault, according to Kurdish sources. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have no comparable ordnance. However, their fighters were assisted by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas who crossed in from Turkey, and appear to have played a vital role in halting the advance.

Whether the current situation will hold is not yet clear. But the commencement of US and allied bombing on Islamic State in Syria probably means the jihadi forces will have more pressing issues to attend to for the moment.

The assault on Kobani indicates that Islamic State is turning its attention back to Syria. The Kurdish enclave has long been a thorn in the side of the jihadis; the Kurdish-controlled area interrupts the jihadis’ territorial contiguity, separating Tel Abyad from Jarabulus and making a large detour necessary from Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa city to the important border town of Jarabulus.

For this reason, the jihadis have long sought to conquer the area. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the much feared Chechen Islamic State military commander, is reputed to have made the conquest of Kobani a personal mission. With the weapons systems captured in Mosul now fully integrated, and with further progress in Iraq impeded by the presence of US air power, it appears Islamic State is now making its most serious effort to achieve this goal.

The Kobani enclave has long been an isolated, beleaguered space. This reporter visited there this past May; at the time, Islamic State was trying to block the supply of electricity and water into the city. Skirmishes along the borders were a daily occurrence.

Particularly notable also were the very strict border arrangements kept in place by the Turkish authorities to the north – in stark contrast to the much more lax regime maintained facing the areas of Arab population further west.

As of now, a determined Kurdish mobilization appears to have stemmed the jihadi advance. Unless the picture radically changes again, Kobani looks set to remain a thorn in the side of Islamic State.

Perwer Mohammed, 28, an activist close to the YPG in Kobani, sounded worried but hopeful when speaking from the city on Monday: “They are now on the outskirts of Girê Sipî [Tel Abyad].

But they will have to pass through our flesh to get to Kobani, and they are no longer advancing from the east.”

A variety of forces contributed to the mobilization; 1,500 PKK fighters arrived in Kobani city to reinforce the YPG there, according to Kurdish sources.

In addition, forces loyal to both the Kurdistan Regional Government of Massoud Barzani and to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are set to arrive in Kobani.

The PUK forces, according to the organization’s website, are currently on the Iraq-Syria border, waiting to deploy.

The YPG itself, meanwhile, is trying to push forces through from Ras al-Ain to Tel Abyad on the eastern edge of the enclave. A concerted Kurdish military effort is under way.

Suspicions remain regarding possible collusion between Turkish authorities and Islamic State. The Kurds have long maintained that at least in its initial phase, Islamic State was the beneficiary of Turkish support. Evidence has emerged of Turkish forces permitting Islamic State fighters to cross back and forth across the border during early clashes with the YPG.

The subsequent picture remains shrouded in ambiguity, as Turkey officially denies any relationship with Islamic State. But the release of 49 Turkish hostages by the terror movement this week under unclear circumstances has once more cast a spotlight on the possible complex connection between the two.

If the situation in Kobani holds, this will offer proof of the limitations of Islamic State forces. In Iraq, their advance has been stopped by the coordination of US air power with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In Kobani, as of now at least, the jihadis appear to have been stalled by determined resistance on the ground alone. Yet the last chapter remains to be written.

Should Kobani fall, large-scale massacres of the type which befell the Yazidi communities in the Mount Sinjar area in August would inevitably follow; this is likely to result in a massive new refugee problem. Moreover, an Islamic State victory would consolidate the borders of the jihadi entity considerably.

The clash between Islamic State and the Kurdish autonomous areas also has broader ramifications than merely tactical military significance – it shows the extent to which “Iraq” and “Syria” have become little more than names.

In Kobani, two successor entities to these states are clashing. The Kurds have organized three autonomous cantons stretching east to west from the Syria-Iraq border to close to the Mediterranean coast. The Sunni jihadis, for their part, have organized their own “state,” going southeast to northwest.

Kobani is the point at which these two projects collide. Hence, the outcome of the current fight will indicate the relative strength of these two very different projects.

Yet the clash itself offers a broader lesson regarding the shape of things to come, in the ethnic/sectarian war now raging across what was once Iraq and Syria.

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The Turks to ISIS: “Let’s Make a Deal”

Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters

Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters

Ankara is dealing “diplomatically” with the so-called Islamic State, and may be helping it attack Kurds in Syria, even as Washington tries to “degrade and destroy it.”
By Thomas Seibert:
ISTANBUL, Turkey – As tens of thousands of refugees flee the latest ISIS advances, Kurdish politicians in Turkey are accusing Ankara of helping the so-calledIslamic State in its latest blitzkrieg through neighboring Syria.The accusations echo concerns both inside and outside Turkey that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tolerated extremist groups in Syria in the hope that their fighters would speed up the downfall of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time in a region of confused alliances where it’s increasingly obvious the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend, Ankara has undermined American efforts to build an anti-ISIS coalition.

The fresh allegations against Erdogan came on the same day that he revealed “diplomatic and political bargaining” ISIS had freed 46 Turkish and three Iraqi hostages that had been in the hands of the extremists since June. ISIS itself said Turkey had promised not to take part in an US-led coalition that is preparing military strikes against the militants in Syria.

Takva Haber, a Turkish website that often reflects ISIS thinking, said the order to release the Turkish hostages had come directly from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “A phase of negotiations, held basically between two states” had led to the outcome, the website said.

Recognition of ISIS or ISIL as a “state” at any level or in any form is precisely what al-Baghdadi is looking for and U.S. President Barack Obama vehemently opposes.

“ISIL is certainly not a state,” Obama said earlier this month.  “It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates.  ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”

Takva Haber begs to differ. Through the hostage negotiations, Turkey had indirectly recognized the ISIS “caliphate,” it said, and suggested that the hostage release was a quid pro quo for Turkey’s refusal to aid the anti-ISIS alliance. “The state of the Turkish republic has taken a stance against a new occupation [of Syria and Iraq] by rejecting participation in the U.S. occupation coalition.”

Erdogan has insisted that no monetary ransom was paid, but he confirmed on Sunday that Turkey’s intelligence service did negotiate with ISIS. Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Erdogan said there were critics accusing Turkey of bargaining with ISIS. “If they are referring to financial bargaining, this is out of the question,” he said. “But if they are referring to a diplomatic bargaining, of course we are talking about a political, diplomatic bargaining. This is a diplomatic victory.”

“Diplomacy” is not normally a word associated with terrorist hostage negotiations.

Read more at Daily Beast

Also see:

US Muslim Charity Linked to Turkish Hamas Affiliate IHH

Hamas' Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh (2nd L) and Bulent Yildirim (L), head of Turkey's Islamic and pro-Hmas rights group, The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief wave the flag of the terrorist organization Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). (Photo: © Reuters)

Hamas’ Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh (2nd L) and Bulent Yildirim (L), head of Turkey’s Islamic and pro-Hmas rights group, The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief wave the flag of the terrorist organization Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). (Photo: © Reuters)

Many organizations are swayed by their legitimate humanitarian work, but Islamists use social services for ideological and terrorist purposes.

By Ryan Mauro:

Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), the U.S. branch of the charity group Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), is linked to a Hamas affiliate in Turkey named the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).

The Money Jihad blog discovered that three IRW offices have a working relationship with IHH. The U.S. branch based in Virginia is also likely directly linked to IHH. The blog points out how IRUSA’s website says it delivers aid to Syria “through Islamic Relief partner offices in Turkey.”

In July, the Clarion Project reported on how IHH was signing up human shields for Hamas during its recent fighting with Israel. IHH exalts Hamas as “the resistance,” talks about uniting the Muslim world into a caliphate and envisions a day when “Muslims may show up in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem one day unannounced and we will erect the flag of Islam everywhere.”

IHH is very close to the Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdogan, a top backer of Hamas. Last month, IHH signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the government of Qatar, a staunch sponsor of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel, Germany and the Netherlands have branded IHH as a terrorist entity. The U.S. has not formally done so, but a bipartisan group of 87 members of Congress including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have requested its designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department.

The State Department considered it but did not take action, even though a leaked State Department memo from 2009 shows that the U.S. government knows IHH is “providing material assistance to Hamas.” In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted a Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition of charities for financing Hamas that includes IHH.

IHH’s “humanitarian” work in Syria could be a front for supporting terrorists. The former U.S. ambassador to Turkey recently confirmed that the Erdogan government was assisting Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. As Clarion wrote about, Turkish police that investigated IHH’s suspected links to Al-Qaeda in Syria were retaliated against by the Erdogan government.

The involvement with IHH is just another addition to IRW/IRUSA’s history of Islamist extremism and suspected ties to terrorism.

The Clarion Project has extensively researched IRUSA’s ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and its involvement with the U.S. government, including having its CEO chosen as an advisor to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Read more at Clarion Project

Islamist foreign fighters returning home and the threat to Europe

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Tom_Large (1)By

Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking Member Keating and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the threat posed by Islamist foreign fighters returning home to Europe. We have been asked to answer the question, “How are European countries addressing the threat, and how can the US assist in those efforts to thwart future terrorist attacks?” I offer my thoughts in more detail below.

But I begin by recalling the 9/11 Commission’s warning with respect to failed states. “In the twentieth century,” the Commission’s final report reads, “strategists focused on the world’s great industrial heartlands.” In the twenty-first century, however, “the focus is in the opposite direction, toward remote regions and failing states.” A few sentences later, the Commission continues:

If, for example, Iraq becomes a failed state, it will go to the top of the list of places that are breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home. Similarly, if we are paying insufficient attention to Afghanistan, the rule of the Taliban or warlords or narcotraffickers may reemerge and its countryside could once again offer refuge to al Qaeda, or its successor.

Those words were written more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, they still ring true today, not just for the US, but also for Europe. Except, we no longer have to worry about just Iraq becoming a failed state. We now have to contend with a failed state in Syria as well. And Syria is not “remote.” It is much easier for foreign fighters to travel to Syria today than it was for new jihadists to get to Afghanistan in the 1980s. This is one reason that there are likely more foreign fighters in Syria than there were in Afghanistan at the height of the jihad against the Soviets. Estimates vary, but the total number of foreign recruits in Syria easily tops 10,000. A CIA source recently told CNN “that more than 15,000 foreign fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to Syria.” They “come from more than 80 countries.”

This, of course, is an unprecedented security challenge and one that counterterrorism and intelligence officials will be dealing with for some time to come. It requires exceptional international cooperation to track the threats to Europe and elsewhere emerging out of Iraq and Syria. My thoughts below are focused on what I consider to be some of the key aspects of dealing with this threat.

At the moment, most people are understandably focused on the Islamic State (often called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, or ISIS). There is certainly a strong possibility that some foreign fighters will return from fighting in the Islamic State’s ranks to commit an act of terror at home, either on their own accord or under the direction of senior terrorists.

However, I also want to focus our attention today one of the other significant threat streams coming out of Syria. Al-Qaeda’s official branch in the country, Jabhat al-Nusrah, has experienced al-Qaeda veterans in its ranks. I think they pose more of a near-term threat when it comes to launching catastrophic attacks in the West than do their Islamic State counterparts. And even though al-Nusrah and the Islamic State have been at odds, we should not rule out the possibility that parts of each organization could come together against their common enemies in the West. Indeed, two of al-Qaeda’s leading branches are currently encouraging the jihadists in Syria to broker a truce, such that they focus their efforts against the US and its allies. There is also a large incentive for terrorists in both organizations to separately lash out at the West, portraying any such attacks as an act of retaliation for the American-led bombings.

Read more at Long War Journal

Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda

cid_image004_jpg01cf1b3cBy Patrick Poole:

Last week here at PJ Media, I reported on the ongoing relations between the U.S.-backed “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army and ISIS. I also noted that, at this time last year, the received wisdom of the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment was that the Syrian rebels were largely moderate.

Now, a report in this past Sunday’s L.A. Times from the frontlines in Syria finds that another “vetted moderate” rebel group, Harakat Hazm – which has received anti-tank missiles from the U.S. — has been working with al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra: a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. (HT: Tim Furnish and Tom Joscelyn.)

As Al-Akhbar reported back in May, in addition to having U.S. backing, Harakat Hazm is also backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, and Qatar.

As the L.A. Times reporter rides with two U.S.-backed and armed Harakat Hazm fighters, the topic of conversation turns to Jabhat al-Nusra:

Harakat Hazm, for example, has struggled with being regarded as a U.S. pawn and labeled as secular in the midst of an opposition movement that has grown increasingly Islamist.

“Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusra Front was going to battle us,” Zeidan said, referring to an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Then he smiled and added, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”

But the L.A. Times reporter then immediately adds:

In July, eight West-backed rebel brigades — all recipients of military aid — released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Al Nusra Front.

But at the same time Harakat Hazm was supposedly releasing a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Nusra, it signed a statement of alliance with Nusra to prevent the Assad regime from advancing into Aleppo. The alliance statement was published on Twitter:

What the statement and the Aleppo alliance demonstrate is something that I and others have been contending all along: the so-called Syrian rebels given the State Department’s “vetted moderate” imprimatur have been playing a double-game. And the Obama administration, the foreign policy establishment and the establishment media have all gladly played along with our “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel allies.

Read more at PJ Media

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Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form by Andy Borowitz at The New Yorker

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—After announcing, on Thursday, that it would seek $500 million to help “train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition,” the White House today posted the following Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form:

Welcome to the United States’ Moderate Syrian Rebel Vetting Process. To see if you qualify for $500 million in American weapons, please choose an answer to the following questions:

As a Syrian rebel, I think the word or phrase that best describes me is:

A) Moderate
B) Very moderate
C) Crazy moderate
D) Other

I became a Syrian rebel because I believe in:

A) Truth
B) Justice
C) The American Way
D) Creating an Islamic caliphate

If I were given a highly lethal automatic weapon by the United States, I would:
A) Only kill exactly the people that the United States wanted me to kill
B) Try to kill the right people, with the caveat that I have never used an automatic weapon before
C) Kill people only after submitting them to a rigorous vetting process
D) Immediately let the weapon fall into the wrong hands

I have previously received weapons from:
A) Al Qaeda
B) The Taliban
C) North Korea
D) I did not receive weapons from any of them because after they vetted me I was deemed way too moderate

I consider ISIS:
A) An existential threat to Iraq
B) An existential threat to Syria
C) An existential threat to Iraq and Syria
D) The people who will pick up my American weapon after I drop it and run away

Complete the following sentence. “American weapons are…”
A) Always a good thing to randomly add to any international hot spot
B) Exactly what this raging civil war has been missing for the past three years
C) Best when used moderately
D) Super easy to resell online

Thank you for completing the Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form. We will process your application in the next one to two business days. Please indicate a current mailing address where you would like your weapons to be sent. If there is no one to sign for them we will leave them outside the front door.

(H/T Andrew Bostom)

Israel and the Obama-Qatari Axis

US-Turkeyby Joseph Puder:

When considering the geo-political map of the current Middle East, not everything is negative or alarming, at least from an Israeli point of view. Although the Middle East is more splintered today than ever before, Israel’s political and diplomatic isolation in the region has faded. The Middle East is now composed of three main blocs and Israel is a partner with one major bloc, which also happens to be its immediate neighbors, or the inner circle of moderate-Sunni and hitherto pro-American Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates.  However, what is counter-intuitive is the Obama administration’s choice of partners in the region. It is not the moderate Sunni-Muslim states and Israel that Washington sought out as mediators for a Hamas-Israel cease-fire, but the Muslim Brotherhood bloc of Turkey and Qatar.

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and one of the founding fathers of the Jewish State recognized early on that the State of Israel had no chance to develop friendly relations with its neighboring Arab states. Pan-Arab leaders such as Egypt’s president Gamal Abdul Nasser fanned the flames of hatred and revenge against the Jewish state, as did fellow Arab dictators in Syria and elsewhere. As a result, Israel’s leadership sought to develop friendly relations with its outer-circle non-Arab states such as Iran, Ethiopia, and Turkey.

The rise of the Islamic Republic in Iran under Khomeini following the Iranian revolution in 1979, and the departure of the Israel-friendly Shah of Iran ended Israeli-Iranian relations. Iran became the arms supplier of Israel’s Palestinian enemies and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and with its nuclear ambition, it constitutes an existential threat to the Jewish State.

Turkey was the only Muslim state to have a steady and rather friendly relationship with the Jewish state. Until the electoral triumph of the AK Party (Justice and Development Party) in 2002, Israel’s trade and military cooperation with Turkey was significant to both countries. The AK Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan changed all of that. His hostility to Israel intensified with each successive electoral victory. Following his second parliamentary victory in 2007, he began tangling with Israel. In late May 2010, Erdogan gave the green light to a Gaza flotilla headed by the Mavi Marmara. It was a deliberate provocation by Erdogan to break through the Israeli blocade. The subsequent AK victory in the 2011 parliamentary elections increased Erdogan’s arrogance and simultaneously his anti-Israel and anti-Semitic outbursts. His latest 2014 presidential victory and his unmitigated support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood severed the special relations Israel has had with Turkey.

Turkey is, in fact, part of the radical Sunni, pro-Muslim Brotherhood bloc, that includes Qatar and Hamas.

The radical Shia bloc led by Iran, which includes Shiite Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, comprise the third bloc.

The puzzling question is why Washington chose to align itself with the Sunni radical Muslim Brotherhood bloc (Qatar and Turkey), and not with the more moderate bloc led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Both the Egyptian regime under President Abdel Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Saudi royals are upset with the Obama administration. Cairo resents Washington’s support for the deposed Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammad Morsi. Washington withheld arms delivery to Egypt because it considered Morsi’s removal illegitimate, albeit, over 30 million Egyptians demanded Morsi’s removal because of his gross mismanagement of the economy, his authoritarian style, his promotion of sectorial Brotherhood ideals and the erosion of civil liberties.

Read more at Front Page

Turkey Hosting at Least 12 Hamas Operatives

Protesters burn an Israeli flag during a protest rally outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Turkey / AP

Protesters burn an Israeli flag during a protest rally outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Turkey / AP

By Adam Kredo:

At least 12 Hamas operatives, including a senior leader and others convicted of murder, have enjoyed safe haven in Turkey, a country that regional experts say is quickly becoming “a very hospitable environment” for Hamas terrorists to plan operations.

Turkey’s ties to Hamas have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after it came to light that a senior Hamas leader accused of planning the kidnapping of three Israeli teens is being sheltered in the country with the government’s knowledge.

In addition to top Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri, Turkey has provided shelter to at least 11 other Hamas militants, two of whom have murdered Israelis and are known to the Turkish authorities, according to data published by the Palestinian National Information Center.

While Turkey’s support for Hamas has attracted concern in prominent foreign policy circles, the State Department has not expressed concern about the developments and is going forward with weapons shipments to Ankara.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, warned that Turkey and Hamas are only growing closer.

“It appears that there are at least two convicted murderers running around Turkey right now with the full acknowledgment of the government in Ankara. But because their victims were Israelis, there does not appear to be a lot of concern about a possible threat to public safety,” said Schanzer, who recently exposed the full list of Hamas operatives believed to be residing in Turkey.

“It is entirely unclear how many Hamas figures are based in Turkey right now, but it is clear that the country has become a very hospitable environment for leaders such as Saleh Arouri, but also some of the rank-and-file,” warned Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Israel released into Turkey 10 Hamas militants as part of its 2011 deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Others were released to Syria and Qatar, Hamas’ chief financier.

Since that time, Hamas members have enjoyed unfettered access to Turkey, where members such as Al-Arouri have hatched terror plots to overthrow the Palestinian government in the West Bank and replace it with Hamas terrorists.

Read more at Washington Free Beacon