The Trump Administration and the Kurds — A Conversation with Sherkoh Abbas

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President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria talks chaos in Turkey and hopes for Kurdish statehood.

Front Page Magazine, by Joseph Puder, November 16, 2016:

Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in both Iraq and Syria have exhibited courage, determination, and a unique pro-American attitude in the Arabic speaking world.  In Syria, however, the Kurdish forces combating the Islamic State bravely and successfully are being attacked by the Turkish army as ordered by President ErdoganHuman rights activist Dilovan Mirkhan told ARA News (November 13, 2016) that “The Turkish army stationed on the borderline with Syria, bombed residential buildings in the Mosako town in Afrin, adding that the bombardment led to massive destruction in the area.” Mirkhan reported that “Dead bodies of eight civilian victims were collected subsequent to the attack, and many others remained stranded under the rubble.”

It should be unacceptable for the incoming Trump administration to allow Turkey’s dictatorial president Erdogan to attack the very forces (the Kurds) who are liberating portions of Syria from the IS. Moreover, it is also high time for the U.N. and the U.S. to recognize the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination.  The U.N. has held endless sessions in support of Palestinian rights and requests for statehood. The Kurds, numbering tens-of-millions, deserve much more from the international community.  There are 22 Arab states but no Kurdish state.  Given the critical role the Kurds are playing in liberating Iraq and Syria from the barbarism of the IS, the time has come to reward the Kurds with a state of their own.

Kurds have been oppressed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and gassed in Halabja. Hafez Assad, the dictator of Syria expelled hundreds of thousands of Kurds from the Al-Hasakeh region, with similar numbers becoming stateless.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has equally oppressed its largely Sunni-Muslim Kurds. It has denied political and cultural rights to its Kurdish citizens.  Turkey, where the Kurds count for almost 20% of the population, is currently bombing the Kurds at the Kurdish-majority region of southeastern Turkey, and in Syria.

This reporter asked Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S), to respond to the current situation in Syria.

Joseph Puder (JP): With Donald Trump becoming the new occupant of the White House, and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, what would you like the new administration to do in Syria?

Sherkoh Abbas (SA): I hope to see the Trump administration abandon the outdated policy of maintaining the unjust legacy of the colonial Sykes-Picot agreement. Similarly, Trump should reverse the previous U.S. administration’s investment in cozying up to ruthless Middle East regimes at the expense of its existing allies.  Instead, the new administration should support its natural allies such as the Kurds in the Middle East and the Amazigh people (Berbers) in North Africa.

Supporting an independent Kurdistan would help finish the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and reduce Iran’s influence in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.  Working with the Kurds would also sever the Shiite Crescent.  Moreover, open support for the Kurds would check Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ambitious Neo-Ottoman Empire.

The U.S. under the Trump presidency, should provide full and direct support to the Kurds on all levels, including the delivery of arms, unlike the Obama administration.  Arms to the Kurds should bypass Baghdad, and go directly to the Kurds.

During the primaries, Trump expressed support for the Kurds.  We will call on him to do just that.  The Kurds share the same values with the U.S. and they are eager to work with America.

JP: What do you expect from the Trump administration with regards to an independent Kurdish state in Syria?

SA: Syrian Kurds are currently fighting on behalf of humanity in their struggle with the Islamic State.  As quid-pro-quo, the Kurds would like U.S. help in creating a federal system in Syria to start with, and ultimately supporting outright Kurdish independence in Syria. Israel, Russia, and some European nations are promoting a federal state for the failed states of Iraq and Syria.

JP: Are the leaders of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) ready for an independent Kurdish state in Syria?

SA: The YPG needs to distance itself from the Assad regime as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and work with all the Kurds, including over 5,000 Syrian Peshmerga forces currently fighting to take Mosul.  It must become inclusive instead of a dictatorial regime.  The YPG does not enjoy the overwhelming support of the Syrian Kurds.  The majority of Syrian Kurds want democracy and independence.

The YPG is vacillating between its work with the U.S., Russia, and the Assad regime.  The YPG has to face the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and IS, as well as other terror groups. The Arab Gulf states, particularly Qatar, is supporting the FSA, which is ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Turkey, a NATO-member, is too close to the IS and al-Qaeda, and their agenda is to get rid of the Assad regime and the Kurds.

JP: What influence can you and the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) exert on the powers that be in your home town of al-Qamishli and Kurdish Syria?

SA: Most of the Syrian Kurds are loyal to Kurdish tribal and civic leaders, and have strong alliances with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The YPG opposes such relationships, and thus is not a consensus organization.  The Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) is aligned with tribal and civic leaders and the KRG in Iraq.  We could deliver the “Kurdish street,” and additional soldiers to finish IS.

This year KNA-S has assembled a wide-ranging delegation of Syrian Kurds, including YPG officials, to come to Washington for talks with U.S. administration officials.  Unfortunately, the State Department did not furnish visas to the delegates from Syria to enter the U.S.  Hopefully, the Trump administration will invite the KNA-S to re-assemble the same delegation for talks in Washington.

JP: Given Erdogan’s dictatorial behavior toward the opposition in Turkey, and especially toward the Kurds in Southeastern Turkey, what would you advise the incoming President Donald Trump to do with regards to Erdogan and Turkey?

SA: Turkey ruled by Erdogan is a lost case, and it is not a friend of the U.S.  Turkey’s intimate relationship with radical Islamic groups requires explanation.  Erdogan’s regime has its eyes focused on Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, ostensibly to prevent the formation of an independent and contiguous Kurdistan, comprised of Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan.

The Trump administration should prevent the Turkish army forces from entering Syrian territory under the guise of fighting IS.  The reality is that Turkey is only interested in fighting the Kurds, and preventing the creation of an independent Kurdish state, or an autonomous Kurdish region in northeastern Syria.

Behind the lines: Syria’s interlocking conflicts

SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES commanders announce an offensive to take the ISIS-held city of Raqqa last week.. (photo credit:RODI SAID / REUTERS)

SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES commanders announce an offensive to take the ISIS-held city of Raqqa last week.. (photo credit:RODI SAID / REUTERS)

Jerusalem Post, by Jonathan Spyer, November 11, 2016:

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces last Friday announced the commencement of an operation to conquer the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.  The operation was designated ‘Euphrates Wrath.’

Raqqa is the capital of the ‘Caliphate’ maintained by the Islamic State organization.  In tandem with the effort currently under way to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from IS, the loss of Raqqa would represent the final eclipse of the Islamic State as a quasi-sovereign entity.  At this point, it would revert back to the guerrilla/insurgent/terrorist force which it constituted prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

Conquering the city is likely to be a slow business.  However, the final outcome is not in doubt.  The Islamic State, whose main slogan in Arabic is ‘Baqiya watatamadad’ (remaining and expanding) has been in reality contracting since the high point of its advance in the autumn of 2014.  Its eventual demise, at least as a quasi-state entity, is assured.

But Syria is host not only to the war against IS, but to a series of other, interlocking conflicts.  And one of these additional conflicts pits the two main candidates for the leading role in the fight against IS in Raqqa against one another.

Observe: there is in Syria today no less than five identifiable conflicts taking place.

These are: Turkish-backed Sunni Arab rebel and Islamist organizations against the Assad dictatorship, western backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish YPG) against IS, Kurdish YPG against the Assad regime, the aforementioned Sunni rebels against IS and, lastly, the Sunni rebels against the SDF.

The problem for those seeking to cobble together a force to take Raqqa city and by so doing destroy the Islamic State, is that the two eligible forces to carry out this action are the mainly Kurdish SDF and the Turkish-backed, mainly Islamist Sunni rebels – but these forces are at war with one another.

After the SDF announced the commencement of the Raqqa campaign this week, Turkish President Recep Tayepp Erdogan expressed his opposition to the decision, repeating his assertion that the Kurdish YPG are merely ‘another terror organization…a side branch’ of the PKK.

Following the SDF’s announcement, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford met with Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar in Ankara. After the meeting, Dunford said that the US would work together with Turkey to develop a long term plan for ‘seizing, holding and governing’ the city.

Dunford stated that the US considered the largely non-Arab SDF ‘wasn’t the solution’ for ‘holding and governing’ largely Sunni Arab Raqqa.

A judicious reader will notice that Dunford’s statement doesn’t say that the SDF is unsuitable for the job of capturing the city, only for holding it afterwards.

The root of the deep differences between the SDF and the Turkish supported rebels are to be found not only in the soil of northern Syria. Rather, they are inextricably linked to the long insurgency fought by Turkey’s Kurds against a succession of governments in Ankara since 1984.

The fragmenting of Syria formed a historic opportunity for the Syrian Kurds, which they have seized.  The PYD, the Syrian Kurdish franchise of the PKK organization, established three self-governing cantons along the Syrian-Turkish border in 2012.  In 2015, against the background of the fight against IS, they managed to unite two of these  – Jazeera and Kobani.  On March 17, 2016, the ruling coalition in these areas announced the formation of the ‘Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava.’

The US has since October 2015 found the Kurdish YPG to be a formidable and useful ground partner to coalition air power against IS.  But the Kurds themselves, while welcoming the alliance with the US, have long sought another objective – namely to unite the three cantons, connecting Jazira/Kobani with Afrin in the far north west of the country.

From a Turkish point of view, the prospect of a PKK-linked party controlling the entirety of the 800 km border between Syria and Turkey is entirely unacceptable.  Since mid-2015, a Kurdish insurgency is once again under way against the Turkish government.  As part of the general post-coup crackdown, Erdogan this week arrested Turkey’s most prominent Kurdish politician, Salahattin Demirtas of the HDP.

Since 2012, the instruments Turkey chose to use to contain the Syrian Kurds were the mainly Islamist rebel movements of northern Syria, from the more moderate elements across to Jabhat al Nusra and possibly at one time also ISIS.

By mid-2016, supporting ISIS was no longer an option, and the rebels by themselves were too weak for purpose.  So in August, Turkey boldly launched a direct intervention into northern Syria.  ISIS were the ostensible target.  But the clear purpose was to bisect Syria’s north, rendering a sufficient area impassable that the danger of the Kurds linking up their cantons would disappear.

This process is not yet complete.  The Kurds are still west of the Euphrates, in the town of Manbij. And the crucial IS-held town of Al-Bab remains unconquered.  The Turks would like to help their rebel clients take the town and end any further possibility of Kurdish unification.  But here, in the usual labyrinthine way, other players enter the picture.  Al-Bab is close to Aleppo.  It is possible that the Russians have warned Erdogan that the town remains out of bounds.

But the point to bear in mind is that the process of coalition building against IS in Syria is complicated by the fact that two potential members of the coalition – the US-backed SDF and the Turkish army with their Sunni Arab allies, are currently engaged in a direct conflict with one another.

In this regard,  it is worth noting the yawning gap between the military achievements of the Syrian Kurds and their dearth of similar successes in the diplomatic and political fields.  While YPG commanders call in US airstrikes against IS, no country has recognized the Federation of Northern Syria, and it has received little media coverage.

Dunford’s hurried visit to Ankara reflects the diplomatic state of play.  Namely, that the agenda of a Turkish government, even one that openly supports Sunni jihadis, must be indulged. That of a Kurdish ally can be dismissed.  The Kurds may have little choice in the matter. But they should be careful not to find themselves quickly abandoned once Operation ‘Euphrates Wrath’ is done.

Also see:

BREAKING: NATO Member Turkey Descends into Autocracy as Kurdish Lawmakers Arrested, Internet Apps Blocked

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PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, November 4, 2016:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once identified by President Obama as one of his top five closest international leader friends, famously said: “Democracy is a like a train: you get off once you’ve reached your destination.”

Grave reports are emerging from NATO member Turkey tonight that Erdogan is getting the country off the democracy train. Kurdish lawmakers have been arrested and Internet social media applications are being blocked by the Turkish government, in an escalating crackdown that Erdogan has waged since a botched coup attempt this past July.

Reuters reports:

Turkey detained two co-leaders and nine other lawmakers of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) early on Friday over reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda.”The Turkish Interior Ministry said detention orders for 13 MPs were issued, but only 11 were detained as two lawmakers were abroad. Lawyers had earlier said 15 MPs were detained.

Turkish police raided the Ankara house of co-leader Selahattin Demirtas and the house of co-leader Figen Yuksekdag in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, the party’s lawyers told Reuters.

“HDP call international community to react against Erdogan Regime’s coup,” the party said on Twitter, referring to President Tayyip Erdogan.

Police also raided and searched the party’s head office in central Ankara. Television images showed party officials quarreling with police during the raid, and a Reuters witness said many police cars and armed vehicles had closed the entrances to the street of the HDP headquarters […]

HDP is the third largest party in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, with 59 seats. Parliamentarians in Turkey normally enjoy immunity from prosecution, but the pro-Kurdish party’s immunity was lifted earlier this year.

Arrests have been widespread since the July attempted coup, with the Erdogan regime imprisoning opponents, banning rallies, taking over media outlets, and sacking non-Islamist government employees by the thousands.

Just a few days ago, the State Department ordered families and dependents to leave the country.

Read more

Turkey’s Descent into Islamist Tyranny Deepens

(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Executions, purges, and the shuttering of opposition and Kurdish media mark Erdogan’s ongoing power grabs — as he tries to end NATO’s mission stemming refugee flows to Europe.

CounterJihad, October 31, 2016:

Turkey’s military forces have just seized the Hagia Sophia, appointing a full-time imam to lead Islamic prayers there after 80 years of it being held as a neutral place for both Christians and Muslims.  The move is symbolic, but shows clearly the designs of Turkey’s Islamist president.

The Turkish government under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the abortive coup of this summer to deepen its control over every aspect of Turkish life, but especially the media and education.  Over ten thousand public servants have been purged from the government in recent days, raising the total figure to over a hundred thousand — some 37,000 of whom have been arrested. Erdoğan has pressed the Turkish parliament to reinstate the death penalty so that he can begin disposing of those he has identified as his enemies.

“Our government will take this proposal [on capital punishment] to parliament. I am sure parliament will approve it, and when it comes back to me, I will ratify it…Soon, soon, don’t worry. It’s happening soon, God willing. The West says this, the West says that. Excuse me, but what counts is not what the West says. What counts is what my people say.”

According to CounterJihad’s sources, the detained who are subjected to trial must submit to having all of their conversations with their lawyers recorded whenever the prosecution requests it.  Such recordings are of course admissible as evidence against the client — or the lawyer, if he comes to be considered an enemy of the state from working too hard to defend people already classified as ‘enemies of the state.’

The detained include especially members of opposition media.  The leadership of the Cumhuriyet daily newspaper, which is nearly a century old, were arrested and their laptops seized by the police.  Their paper is not only critical of Erdoğan , but occasionally supportive of the Kurdish minority.  That appears to be grounds for arrest in Turkey now:  even two mayors were seized by order of a Turkish court on suspicion of being sympathetic to Kurdish militants.  In addition to the attacks on the Cumhuriyet daily, 15 Kurdish news outlets have been shuttered by order of the state.  A pro-Kurdish television station was raided by police and forced off the air.

In addition to the media, the state has moved to consolidate control over its system of higher education.  Some 1267 academics who signed a “Peace Petition” last January have been removed from their jobs according to CounterJihad’s sources, and several have been arrested and charged with “terroristic acts” for signing or forwarding that petition.  Our sources tell us that under the new laws, President Erdoğan must personally approve all new university presidents.

At the same time, the Turkish government is pressing NATO to end its naval mission aimed at containing migration flows across the Mediterranean sea.  Turkey claims that the mission is no longer needed, but the siege of Mosul is expected to produce at least a million new refugees in the coming months.  The Russian operations against Aleppo are likewise expected to produce new waves of migrants.

Turkey appears to be using its position within NATO to advance Russia’s interest here, which is to flood Europe with migrants in order to overburden European governments.  That will produce a Europe less able to resist Russian expansion into Eastern Europe.  Turkey and Russia recently signed a major energy deal, clearing the way for at least an economic alliance.  Erd also moved to abandon daylight savings time, a shift that places Turkey in the same time zone as Moscow.  Russia for its part appears to be negotiating a peace between Turkey and Iran on a partition of Iraq, one that would give Turkey greater control over its Kurdish problems.  If Russia succeeds in peeling Turkey off from NATO, it would invalidate the alliance as NATO requires unanimous decisions for all military decisions.

Also see:

Turkey’s New Territorial Claims Threaten NATO

turkey-islamic-2Will Russia help give a new birth to a resurgent Ottoman Empire? It’s a tricky bit of diplomacy, but their recent successes suggest they could do so — and thereby destroy the major international alliance controlling Russian aggression.

CounterJihad, October 13, 2016:

A significant claim is being pushed by the Turkish government, one that could redraw the lines of the old Ottoman Empire:

Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders.  He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire….

[A]ccording to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen[:]  “The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes,” Ulgen said.

Turkish forces are currently in Syria and Iraq. But the Turkish presence at the Bashiqa base, close to the Iraqi city of Mosul, has become the center of a deepening dispute with Baghdad. The base is ostensibly tor training Sunni militia to fight Islamic State.

On Tuesday, Erdogan dismissed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s calls to withdraw Turkish troops, telling him “he should know his place.”

Ulgen went on to point out that Turkey has historical claims not only to Mosul, currently contested in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).   Both Mosul and oil-rich Kirkuk were part of the original design of the modern-day Turkey.  The Turks’ traditionalists and nationalists view the treaty that gave them away as having been forced on them at the end of World War I.

If Russian diplomacy can broker a deal that allows Turkey to expand into Iraq and Syria, it could cement Turkey’s move into Russia’s sphere.  Until recently, that looked unlikely at best.  Last year, Turkmen fighters shot down a Russian jet over repeated incursions by the Russian air force.  At that time, relations between the two nations became quite tense.  Russia is backing Iran’s play in the region, apparently in the hope that a powerful Shi’a Iran will create a buffer zone between Russia and the Sunni jihadist forces that have acted to inflame Muslim minorities in Central Asia.  Likewise, the war in the Middle East draws attention away from Russia’s strategic moves in Eastern Europe, such as last week’s deployment of nuclear missileson the very borders of Poland and the Baltic States.

Turkey’s latest move appears likely to inflame Iraq’s government, and Russia’s ally Iran intends to control Iraq at the end of this conflict.  Surrendering territory, especially oil-rich territory, may be a difficult negotiation.  On the other hand, Kirkuk is also disputed with the Kurds, and whichever government formally holds it after the war is going to have to fight to keep it.  Iran may be willing to be persuaded to concede the fight to Turkey in return for a more firmly-controlled corridor between Tehran and the Levant.

That will require some subtle diplomacy to negotiate, but right now Russia is having significant success in its diplomatic moves.  In the wake of a new energy deal between Turkey and Russia, the Russian diplomatic corps seems to have a lot of momentum on its side.  Turkey was already looking away from NATO and Europe in the wake of its Islamist purge following an alleged attempted coup.  Should Russia be able to get a process of negotiation going between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on the issue of Turkish territorial expansion, Russia would assume the leadership role in the region.  Should it actually resolve the negotiations successfully, it could expect Turkey to become part of the Russian sphere of influence.  That would potentially derail NATO, as NATO’s decisions must be taken by a unanimous vote.  If Turkey becomes as strong a Russian ally as China, NATO could become as useless an organ for opposing Russian ambition as the United Nations Security Council (on which Russia has a veto).

American diplomacy is meanwhile spinning its wheels.  The United States broke off talks with Russia, and then called for war crimes investigations into Russia and Assad for their campaign in Syria.  American Secretary of State John F. Kerry also accused Russia of interfering with America’s elections.  However, it appears that Kerry now wants a new push for a cease-fire in Aleppo, which would require Syria and Russia to sign on.

American diplomatic weakness is partially a function of American military weakness in the region.  Russian diplomatic success is partially likewise a function of its deployment of air and naval-gunnery forces, as well as its so-far successful alliance with Iran.  Better American leadership might help, but for now, the situation is rapidly sliding away from America and towards the Russians.

Turkish President Erdogan Meets With Muslim Brotherhood In The US

By on October 4, 2016

A Turkish media source has reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently met in New York with a group of what were described as “representatives of the Muslim community in the US.” According to the report:

 

President Erdogan was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag, Minister of Family and Social Policies Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington, DC Serdar Kilic, Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Yasin Aktay, AK Party Istanbul Deputy Ravza Kavakci, Deputy Secretary General and Spokesperson of the Presidency Ibrahim Kalin.

Reported attending the meeting were 27 individuals of which 19 are known to be tied to US Muslim Brotherhood or Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood or which have significant associations with the Brotherhood:

The GMBDW reported in June that the Turkish state-run news agency had announced its “Anadolu World Report News Package” at the 2016 annual convention of two US Muslim Brotherhood organizations. As we noted at that time, the choice of venue for the announcement is unsurprising as we have frequently reported on the close ties of Erdogan and the Turkish government to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. This reporting largely began with a report by the GMBDW Editor, centered on the June 2010 Gaza flotilla but which also provided the following background on Erdogan:

The Turkish political establishment has had ties with the Global Muslim Brotherhood since at least the 1970s when Prime Minister Erdogan was reported to have been associated with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a fundamentalist Saudi religious organization that has been accused of promoting extremism and supporting terrorism all over the world. Erdogan has since maintained his ties to the Global Brotherhood as evidenced by his close relationships to Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as former Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Akef, Malaysian opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim, and Yassin Abdullah Qadi, a Saudi businessman blacklisted by the United Nations for funding terrorism and who had links with the US Muslim Brotherhood. A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman has also said that the Brotherhood has maintained ties with the “Islamic movement” in Turkey since the days of Necmettin Erbakan’s early political parties, and the European Muslim Brotherhood has fused with Erbakan’s movement in Europe known as Millî Görüs. German Muslim Brotherhood leader Ibrahim El-Zayat is married to a member of the Erbakan family, and El-Zayat’s business partner is the Secretary-General of Millî Görüs in Germany. El-Zayat, formerly the head of WAMY in Western Europe, also runs Millis Gorus’ extensive portfolio of mosque properties throughout Europe as well as serving as a leader in the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), the umbrella group representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.

(Note: based on confidential sources)

CAIR, Awad Continue Aggressively Shilling for Turkey

cair-meets-with-turkey-parliamentariansIPT NewsSeptember 9, 2016:

A delegation from Turkey’s parliament came to Washington this week to make the case for extraditing Fethullah Gülen, an opposition figure living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

The Turkish government allegesGülen was behind July’s failed coup attempt and President Tayyip Recep Erdoğan describes his extradition as a “priority.” Gülen denies any role in the coup and U.S. officials have said the Turkish evidence presented so far is not persuasive.

According to a Turkish press account, the delegation’s second meeting was with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its executive director, Nihad Awad.

CAIR is a tax-exempt charity which presents itself as an American Civil Liberties Union devoted to protecting American Muslims from discrimination in housing, employment and other civil rights.

The visit from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) delegation, however, shows CAIR’s significant emphasis on influencing American foreign policy. CAIR is not a registered lobbying organization and isn’t registered as a foreign agent. Federal lawrequires registration by people or groups “before performing any activities for the foreign principal.”

CAIR routinely inserts itself into political debates on behalf of foreign entities, including a full campaign aimed at criticizing Israel during the 2009 and 2014 Gaza wars while staying silent about Hamas. Its Detroit director told a rally that being “defenders of the Palestinian struggle” was part of CAIR’s mission.

Awad was interviewed by Turkey’s Andolu news agency after this week’s meeting, which he called important in expressing “the support of the Muslim community for democracy and the rule of law in Turkey,” an IPT translation of his remarks shows.

“We believe in the need for more Turkish visitors and delegations to come to the United States to talk about their experiences and explain their views,” Awad said, “because there is a view against them and a pathological fear of Turkey here. The Turkish government must be aware of the need to employ more efforts to explain what is happening (in) Turkey to American public opinion.”

There’s something pathological at play here, but it isn’t some imaginary fear of Turkey. This is CAIR, an Islamist group created as part of a Muslim Brotherhood network in America, officially rushing to the aid of Turkey’s Islamist and increasingly authoritariangovernment, a government that itself has been increasingly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

In his comments, Awad publicly acknowledges what he advised an official Turkish government delegation in private to get the desired political outcome.

We previously reported on the immediate support American-Islamists organized for Erdoğan’s AKP immediately after the failed coup. While Erdoğan’s dedicated followers inside CAIR may be comfortable with his crackdown on dissent, a recent New York Times editorial hints many U.S. policy leaders are not.

They believe “that Mr. Erdogan’s roundup of coup plotters looks like an attempt to silence any opposition, that Turkey has behaved outrageously in failing to stop conspiracy theories depicting the United States as a co-conspirator in the coup attempt, that Turkey has produced little evidence to warrant Mr. Gulen’s extradition and that Mr. Erdogan’s autocratic behavior is making him an unreliable ally.”

He has proven unreliable in the fight against ISIS, too. He failed to stop the flow of foreign fighters using Turkey as a way-station to join ISIS and places his fight against pro-Western Kurds above the global threat posed by ISIS.

Erdoğan’s post-coup attempt arrest record, along with a media crackdown and allegations of torture, speak for themselves, if that’s what Awad thinks is part of the “pathological fear of Turkey.”

What it has to do with CAIR’s charitable mission is much murkier.

State Dept. Confirms PJ Media Reporting on American Journalist Arrested in Turkey

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PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, AUGUST 31, 2016:

On August 8, I reported here at PJ Media on American journalist Lindsey Snell, who had reportedly escaped from Jabhat al-Nusra/Jabhat Fateh al-Sham custody in Syria only to be arrested when she arrived back in Turkey earlier this month. No other American media outlet reported on this story — until now.

Snell’s biography notes she has worked for MSNBC, VICE News, ABC News, the Discovery Channel, and Amnesty International, among others.

State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed her arrest during his daily briefing today, stating that she is being held on charges of “violating a military zone”:

QUESTION: Do you have any information about a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Turkey?MR KIRBY: Who was arrested in Turkey? Yes. I can confirm that U.S. citizen Lindsey Snell was detained in Turkey on the 7th of August, 2016. She is currently being held in a prison facility in Hatay Province. I believe that’s how you say it. Consular officers from the consulate in Adana visited Ms. Snell most recently on the 26th of this month and are providing all possible consular assistance. The embassy and the department are following this case closely. State Department officials have been in contact with Turkish Government officials regarding this case.

QUESTION: Can you spell her name?

MR KIRBY: Lindsey. L-i-n-d-s-e-y. Snell. S-n-e-l-l.

Did you have more?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is – was the arrest at all related to her profession as a journalist or in any case – any way associated with that?

MR KIRBY: What I – what we understand is that she has been charged with violating a military zone, but I can’t speak to her reasons for being in Syria, for traveling there. I can’t speak to that. What I can tell you is that we’ve been informed she was charged with violating a military zone.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that she entered a military zone that she wasn’t supposed to, or —

MR KIRBY: That would be my interpretation of that, Arshad. But that’s a better question for Turkish authorities since they’re the ones that issued the charges.

QUESTION: Did you say she was arrested in Syria and is held in Turkey? I’m sorry, I just didn’t hear the details exactly.

MR KIRBY: She was —

QUESTION: I thought you said she was —

MR KIRBY: She’s been – she was arrested – detained in Turkey —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: — and has been charged with violating a military zone.

QUESTION: I thought the word “Syria” came out of your mouth, and I just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t —

MR KIRBY: Yes. Yes, I did. As I understand it, she journeyed to Turkey from Syria, and I – what my answer was, I couldn’t speak for why she was in Syria in the first place. The question was was she doing the business of journalism, and I don’t know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

As I noted, PJ Media was the only U.S. media outlet to report on her detention by Turkish authorities.

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This strange situation comes at a low ebb in U.S. relations with its NATO ally. Undoubtedly Snell’s detention, along with that of a NASA employee also detained in Turkey earlier this month, will come up when President Obama meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the Group of 20 meetings in China this week.

PJ Media will continue to report on this situation as developments unfold.

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All-out Turkish-Kurd war. Barazani goes to Tehran

5DEBKAfile, Aug. 29, 2016:

An all-out Turkish-Kurdish war has boiled over in northern Syria since the Turkish army crossed the border last Wednesday, Aug. 24 for the avowed aim of fighting the Islamic State and pushing the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia back. Instead of falling back, the Kurds went on the offensive and are taking a hammering. This raging confrontation has stalled the US-led coalition offensive against ISIS and put on indefinite hold any US plans for campaigns to drive the jihadists out of their Syrian and Iraqi capitals of Raqqa and Mosul.
The Kurdish militia ground troops, who were backed by the US and assigned the star role in these campaigns, are now fully engaged in fighting Turkey. And, in another radical turnaround, Iraqi Kurdish leaders (of the Kurdish Regional Republic) have responded by welcoming Iran to their capital, in retaliation for the US decision to join forces with Turkey at the expense of Kurdish aspirations.
The KRG’s Peshmerga are moreover pitching in to fight with their Syrian brothers. Together, they plan to expel American presence and influence from both northern Syria and northern Iraq in response to what they perceive as a US sellout of the Kurds.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts trace the evolving steps of this escalating complication of the Syrian war and its wider impact:

  • Since cleansing Jarablus of ISIS, Turkey has thrown large, additional armored and air force into the battle against the 35.000-strong YPG Kurdish fighters. This is no longer just a sizeable military raid, as Ankara has claimed, but a full-fledged war operation. Turkish forces are continuing to advancing in three directions and by Sunday, Aug. 28 had struck 15-17km deep inside northern Syria across a 100km wide strip.
    Their targets are clearly defined: the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwest Syria and the Kurdish enclave of Qamishli and Hassaka in the east, in order to block the merger of Kurdish enclaves into a contiguous Syrian Kurdish state.
    Another goal was Al-Bab north of and within range of Aleppo for a role in a major theater of the Syrian conflict. To reach Al-Bab, the Turkish force would have to fight its way through Kurdish-controlled territory.
  • The Turks are also using a proxy to fight the Syrian Kurds. Thousands of Syrian Democratic Army (SDF) rebels, whom they trained and supplied to fight Syria’s Bashar Assad army and the Islamic State, have been diverted to targeting the Kurds under the command of Turkish officers, to which Turkish elite forces are attached.
  • A Turkish Engineering Corps combat unit is equipped for crossing the Euphrates River and heading east to push the Kurds further back. Contrary to reports, the Turkish have not yet crossed the river itself or pushed the Kurds back – only forded a small stream just east of Jarablus. The main Kurdish force is deployed to the south not the east of the former ISIS stronghold.
  • Neither have Turkish-backed Syrian forces captured Manbij, the town 35km south of Jarablus which the Kurds with US support captured from ISIS earlier this month. Contrary to claims by Ankara’s spokesmen, those forces are still only 10-15km on the road to Mabij.
  • Sunday, heavy fighting raged around a cluster of Kurdish villages, Beir Khoussa and Amarneh, where the Turks were forced repeatedly to retreat under Kurdish counter attacks. Some of the villages were razed to the ground by the Turkish air force and tanks. At least 35 villagers were reported killed.
  • In four days of fierce battles, the Kurds suffered 150 dead and the Turkish side, 60.
  • DEBKAfile military sources also report preparations Sunday to evacuate US Special Operations Forces and helicopter units from the Rmeilan air base near the Syrian-Kurdish town of Hassaka. If the fighting around the base intensifies, they will be relocated in northern Iraq.
  • Fighters of the Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga were seen removing their uniforms and donning Syrian YPG gear before crossing the border Sunday and heading west to join their Syrian brothers in the battle against Turkey.
  • The KRG President Masoud Barazani expects to travel to Tehran in the next few days with an SOS for Iranian help against the US and the Turks. On the table for a deal is permission from Irbil for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to win their first military bases in the Iraqi Kurdish republic, as well as transit for Iranian military forces to reach Syria through Kurdish territory..

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Also see:

Joe Biden Humiliated In Turkish “Appeasement” As Erdogan Bombs US Allies In Syria

erdogan biden_0Zero Hedge, by Tyler Durden, Aug 27, 2016:

The last time U.S. Vice President Joe Biden flew to Turkey, in January, he had a stern message for President Erdogan: his model of Islamic democracy was setting a bad example by intimidating media and threatening academics. However, his tone was markedly different when he arrived in Ankara on Wednesday, just weeks after a failed coup in Turkey that has strained relations between the two countries, and on the same day that Turkey launched a full-blown incursion into northern Syria “to halt ISIS.” With Turkey making very clear, and very open overtures toward Russia, Biden was in full blown diplomatic damage-limitation mode.

The dramatic shift in dplomatic posture by Biden comes as the U.S.-Turkish alliance has been dealt several blows in recent weeks, to the point where the US vice president’s arrival in Ankara shows just how concerned the US, which is counting on continued support from Turkey – NATO’s second-biggest military – has become.  American worries have been compounded by Erdogan restoring ties with Russia – the Turkish president’s first diplomatic meeting after the failed coup was with Putin in St. Petersburg, as a result of which Turkey has been discussing military cooperation with the Kremlin.

Meeting with Erdogan and Turkey’s prime minister in Ankara on Wednesday, Biden delivered a message of alliance and conciliation.   “Let me say it for one last time: The American people stand with you … Barack Obama was one of the first people you called. But I do apologize. I wish I could have been here earlier,” Biden said.

But he wasn’t.

And while Biden’s pathetic attempt at appeasement may have come and gone, reinforcing just how much the American people stand with a person whose pre-arranged purge of political opponents has resulted in over 100,000 Turkish citizens fired or arrested, Turkey’s diplomatic humiliation of the US continued, when far from attacking ISIS in Syria, the stated objective behind the invasion, Turkish forces and rebels supported by Erdogan continued their deadly attacks on Kurdish-backed forces in north Syria on Saturday. The same Kurdish-backed forces which are also backed by the US.

And it’s not as if Turkey is even hiding it: Turkey’s government, which is fighting a Kurdish insurgency at home, has said the Syrian campaign it opened this week is as much about targeting Islamic State as it is about preventing Kurdish forces filling the vacuum left when Islamists withdraw. Turkey wants to stop Kurdish forces gaining control of a continuous stretch of Syrian territory on its frontier, which Ankara fears could be used to support the Kurdish militant group PKK as it wages its three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil.

According to Reuters, Turkish security sources said two F-16 jets bombed a site controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia, which is part of the broader U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Kurds are fighting back,  and according to military sources, one Turkish soldier was killed and three others wounded when a tank was hit by a rocket that they said was fired from territory held by the Kurdish YPG. The sources said the army shelled the area in response.

At that point the chaos that is the Syrian conflict, with so many competing elements, many of whom supported by the US, was on full display.  Case in point: Syrian rebels opposed to Ankara’s incursion said Turkish forces had targeted forces allied to the YPG and no Kurdish forces were in the area. On the ground, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels fought forces aligned with the SDF near the frontier town of Jarablus. Forces opposed to Ankara said Turkish tanks were deployed, a charge denied by Turkey’s rebel allies.

As a result, the narrative is now split in two: one “confirming” the Turkish explanation, the other justifying the actions of the YPG, just in case the US decides to flip after all, and support its “lesser” allies:

the Jarablus Military Council, part of the SDF, had said earlier on Saturday that Turkish planes hit the village of al-Amarna south of Jarablus, causing civilian casualties. It called the action “a dangerous escalation”.

The Kurdish-led administration that controls parts of northern Syria said Turkish tanks advanced on al-Amarna and clashed with forces of the Jarablus Military Council. But the Kurdish administration said no Kurdish forces were involved.

However, the leader of one Turkey-backed rebel group gave a rival account. He told Reuters the rebels battled the Kurdish YPG around al-Amarna and denied any Turkish tanks took part.

Turkish security forces simply said Turkish-backed forces had extended their control to five villages beyond Jarablus.

In short, chaos and a full-blown media propaganda war; however, as Reuters notes, one thing is clear: any action against Kurdish forces in Syria puts Turkey further at odds with its NATO ally the United States,which backs the SDF and YPG, “seeing them as the most reliable and effective ally in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.”

However, just like Biden’s arrival in Ankara was a tacit admission that the US will fully ignore Erdogan’s unprecedented crackdown on human righs in post-coup Turkey as the president purges even the remotest political opponent, so the YPG, which has been “backed” by the US, is about to realize just how little such backing really means when the US has bigger fish to fry, in this case desperately trying to keep Turkey on its good side, and away from Putin’s circle of influence, all the while providing countless concessions to Turkey as the country continues to openly defy western norms and put away dissidents, while arresting members of the press, and education system, as Erdogan nationalizes private corporations alleged to have ties with the notorious “coup plotter” Fethulah Gullen.

In doing so, the Obama administration has once again revealed the true extent of its hypocricy, as it turns a blind eye toward the trampling of human rights in Turkey, while screaming bloody murder when something similar takes place in any other part of the world.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s humiliation of its “partner”, the US, will continue, and much to the amusement of Vladimir Putin, there is absolutely nothing Obama will do about it.

Also see:

Sea change: Turkey enters Syrian conflict – as an enemy of the U.S.’s closest partner

Turkish tanks assembled on the Syrian border in 2015. (Image: Screen grab of RT video, YouTube)

Turkish tanks assembled on the Syrian border in 2015. (Image: Screen grab of RT video, YouTube)

Liberty Unyielding, by J. E. Dyer, Aug. 24, 2016: (h/t/ Tundra Tabloids)

Turkey has done cross-border shelling for a long time now, and has used her air force to bomb Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria.  There was even evidence in November 2015 that Turkey had troops deployed just across the Syrian border in northeastern Latakia Province.

But for the first time, on Tuesday, 23 August, Turkey has ordered an entire town on the Turkish border with Syria to evacuate, in preparation for an overt cross-border military operation, complete with an armored invasion force.  The objective is to take the Syrian town of Jarablus from Islamic State.

That may sound superficially like it serves America’s goals.  (Indeed, the operation is reportedly being supported by NATO air power.  That could get messy, if it continues.)

But Turkey has actually been content to have ISIS in control of Jarablus for many months now.  The timing and context of this latest move are the key: Turkey’s real objective is to prevent theKurds from wresting Jarablus from ISIS.

And the Turkish entry into the Syrian conflict looks to be part of a joint effort – with Russia, Assad, and Iran – to neutralize the Kurds, as part of the campaign to take all of Syrian territory back from the factions now holding it.

The Kurds have been the major U.S. partner in fighting ISIS in both Syria and northern Iraq.  Until the Iran-sponsored Shia militias in Iraq ejected ISIS from Tikrit, Ramadi, and Fallujah – under the military direction of Iran’s Qods Force commander, Qassem Soleimani – the Kurds were by far the most effective ground force against ISIS.

But Erdogan has been uneasy with the Kurds’ success in consolidating territory.  Now Turkey wants to roll them up in this sensitive border area.

There are reasons why Iran is satisfied to be part of that effort, at least for now.  And for Russia, dealing with or protecting the Kurds is always a calculation, not a cause.  Don’t look for Russia to be solidly on one side of this thing; the Russians will maneuver simply to be at the center of it, so everyone has to come to them for solutions.

Remember, Moscow isn’t trying to get out of Syria, or leave Syria in good hands.  The whole point for Putin’s Russia is to stay there.

U.S. position eroded beyond recovery

The U.S has been the Kurds’ main patron for a long time now.  I very much fear Obama is about to abandon them – because he’d get so much bad press if any Americans got hurt, in the Syrian war realignment that now looks inevitable.

Obama has no intention of strengthening our forces’ posture against that realignment.

More importantly, he has absolutely no policy for what to do other than watch that realignment happen.  From a policy standpoint, he’s an inert quantity, a leadership void, tethered to a bunch of SOF, intel assets, and strike-fighters still wandering through the battle space burning gas and bullets.

It’s only with extraordinary pain that I say this, but it would be better for America – because of who’s in the Oval Office – if we did simply pull out.  Our forces on scene are in an increasingly impossible situation.  They should not be left there, exposed and unsupported.  Moreover, there’s nothing they can achieve there.  It’s not worth their lives to try to hang on to a situation that’s slipping away, for no positive good.  The next president will just have to deal with whatever reality has become, five months from now.

But pulling out – even quietly – and abandoning all pretense of having a policy or a plan would signal a definitive end to the last vestige of U.S leadership in the Middle East.  It would be a severe blow to the Kurds, who don’t deserve to be treated that way.  It would be a signal of faithlessness that our other long-time partners and allies could not ignore.

It’s difficult to preview comprehensively everything that might be unleashed; it could be very, very bad, or there could be random factors that keep it from getting too bad between now and next January.

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The Turkey-Russia-Iran Axis

fr

Dramatic developments alter the strategic balance in the Middle East.

Front Page Magazine, by Kenneth R. Timmerman, Aug. 22, 2016:

A techtonic shift has occurred in the balance of power in the Middle East since the failed Turkish coup of mid-July, and virtually no one in Washington is paying attention to it.

Turkey and Iran are simultaneously moving toward Russia, while Russia is expanding its global military and strategic reach, all to the detriment of the United States and our allies. This will have a major impact across the region, potentially leaving U.S. ally Israel isolated to face a massive hostile alliance armed with nuclear weapons.

Believers in Bible prophecy see this new alignment as a step closer to the alliance mentioned in Ezekiel 37-38, which Israel ultimately defeated on the plains of Megiddo.

Today’s Israel, however, is doing its best to soften the blow by patching up relations with Turkey and through cooperation with Russia.

Here are some of the moves and countermoves that have been taking place in recent weeks on a giant three-dimensional chessboard with multiple players and opponents.

Russia-Turkey: It now appears that Russian intelligence tipped off Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan just hours before the planned coup against his regime. When the coup plotters got wind of the Russian communications with Erdogan loyalists at the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), they moved up the coup from the dead of night to 9 PM, when the streets were packed.

For Erdogan, the Russian warning came just in the nick of time, allowing him to flee his hotel in Marmaris minutes before twenty-five special forces troops loyal to the coup-plotters roped down from the roof of his hotel to seize him.

With streets in Istanbul full of people, Erdogan’s text and video messages calling on supporters to oppose the coup had maximum impact.

After purging the military and government of suspected enemies, Erdogan’s first foreign trip was to Russia, where on August 8 he thanked Putin for his help. “The Moscow-Ankara friendship axis will be restored,” he proclaimed.

Two days later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blasted NATO for its “evasive fashion” of responding to Turkish requests for military technology transfers, and opened the door to joint military production with Russia.

Cavosoglu accused NATO of considering Turkey and Russia “to be second class countries,” and pointed out that Turkey was the only NATO country that was refusing to impose sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea and invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has also been in talks with Turkey to base Russian warplanes at the NATO air base in Incirlik, Turkey, where some 2400 U.S. personnel have been quarantined since the failed July 15 coup attempt as Turkey continues to demand that the U.S. extradite alleged coup-plotter Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

These talks have alarmed the Pentagon, which on Thursday reportedly ordered the emergency evacuation to Romania of the estimated 50-70 nuclear B-61 “dial-a-yield” gravity bombs stockpiled at the base.

If confirmed, the nuclear withdrawal from Turkey constitutes a major strategic setback for the United States, with Russia poised to replace the United States as Turkey’s main military partner after 60 years of NATO cooperation.

Russia-Iran: The warming of the Russia-Turkey relationship comes as Russia simultaneously is making advances in Iran.

The two countries have a long and often troubled history. The 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty, which ended long-standing tsarist concessions in Iran, also included a mutual defense pact. Triggered briefly during World War II, the Soviets seized the opportunity to foment a Communist coup in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1948 and only withdrew after President Truman threatened to use nuclear weapons.

Successive Iranian regimes remained suspicious of Soviet intentions for the rest of the Cold War.

In recent years, Iran and Russia have joined together to evade international sanctions, with Russian banks clearing payments for Iranian oil purchases and serving as a conduit for Iranian government purchases abroad.

Last week, the specter of the 1921 defense treaty suddenly came alive when the Russia and Iran announced they had signed a new military agreement to allow Russian jets to use the Nojeh airbase in western Iran for attacks on Syrian rebels.

This is the first time that the Islamic regime in Iran has allowed a foreign power to use Iranian territory as a base for offensive military operations against another country in the region, and the move lead to tensions in the Iranian parliament.

For Russia, the move dramatically reduced flight times for the Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers it had been flying against ISIS targets in Syria from Mozdok airbase in Ossetia, 2000 km away. Iran’s Nojeh air base, outside Hamadan, is less than 900 km from the war zone.

The shorter flight times also meant shorter warning for the Syrian rebels. Russian media reports have alleged that the United States has been providing “satellite surveillance data” to the Syrian rebels of the Russian bombing runs, allowing them to disperse “suspiciously too often” before the heavy bombers arrived on target from Mozdok.

The shorter distance cuts the flight time – and thus the warning time – by 60%, according to former Pentagon official Stephen D. Bryen. “The flight from Iran is between 30 to 45 minutes tops. If, therefore, the US is warning the rebels of impending Russian air strikes, the time to get the message to them and to actually be able to move their forces out of harms way, is far less and maybe too short for finding effective cover,” Bryen wrote in a recent blogpost.

Conclusion: Russia is on the verge of realizing a multi-generational dream of reaching the “warm waters” of the Persian Gulf through Iran.

Iran-Iraq: Adding to these dramatic developments was the announcement last week by a U.S. military spokesman, Colonel Chris Garver, that Iran now controls a military force of 100,000 armed fighters in neighboring Iraq. While the United States has allowed this Iranian expansion under the pretext Iran was helping in the fight against ISIS, clearly Iran can use this massive organized force to exercise its control over Iraq as well.

While none of these events was directly caused by the United States, clearly the lack of U.S. leadership emboldened our enemies, whose leaders have a much clearer strategic vision than ours of where they want the region to go.

Meanwhile, the Russian government continues to pursue the massive ten-year, $650 billion military modernization program that Putin announced in December 2010, despite reduced oil revenues. Those plans include eight new nuclear submarines, 600 new fighter jets, 1000 helicopters, as well as new tanks and other ground equipment.

Most of the new equipment is based on new designs incorporating advanced technologies, not existing weapons systems.

Just this week, U.S. intelligence officials reported ongoing construction of “dozens’ of underground nuclear command bunkers in Moscow and around the country apparently for use in the event of a nuclear wear. General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, called Russia’s evolving doctrine on the first use of nuclear weapons “alarming.”

All of this does not mean that the United States and Russia are headed toward a direct confrontation. The more likely consequence, given the sweeping Russian powerplay with Turkey and Iran, is that the United States will simply abandon the region to Putin’s Russia and his Turkish and Iranian allies.

The consequence of that abandon will undoubtedly motivate Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons as a counterweight to Iran.

Nero fiddled as Rome burned. Obama plays golf. Both leaders will leave ashes in their wake.

Also see:

Turkey vows to cleanse Islamic State from its border after wedding attack kills 54

AFP, Getty Images

AFP, Getty Images

Reuters, by Orhan Coskun and Daren ButlerAug. 22, 2016:

Turkey vowed on Monday to “completely cleanse” Islamic State militants from its border region, after a suspected suicide bomber with links to the group killed 54 people, including 22 children, at a Kurdish wedding.

Saturday’s attack in the southeastern city of Gaziantep is the deadliest in Turkey this year. It was carried out by a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, adding that initial evidence pointed to Islamic State.

A senior security official told Reuters the device used was the same type as those employed in the July 2015 suicide attack in the border town of Suruc and the October 2015 suicide bombing of a rally of pro-Kurdish activists in Ankara.

Both of those attacks were blamed on Islamic State. The group has targeted Kurdish gatherings in an apparent effort to further inflame ethnic tensions strained by a long Kurdish insurgency. The Ankara bombing was the deadliest of its kind in Turkey, killing more than 100 people.

“Daesh should be completely cleansed from our borders and we are ready to do what it takes for that,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, using an Arabic name for the group.

A senior rebel official said Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were preparing to launch an attack to seize the Syrian town of Jarablus from Islamic State on the border with Turkey, a move that would deny control to advancing Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkish authorities have said a destroyed suicide vest was found at the scene of the bombing.

A second security official told Reuters that they were investigating the possibility militants could have placed the explosives on the child without his or her knowledge and detonated them remotely, or that a mentally disabled child was duped into carrying the device, a tactic seen elsewhere in the region.

“It could be that someone was loaded with explosives without even being aware of it and it may have been detonated remotely,” the official said, adding a search was underway for suspected militants who may have played a reconnaissance role.

In the latest southeast violence, two Turkish security force members and five PKK militants were killed in clashes and attacks in three areas of eastern Turkey over the last 24 hours, officials said.

Some in Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish southeast, feel the government has not done enough to protect its citizens from Islamic State.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the wedding party was for one of its members. The groom was among those injured, but the bride was not hurt.

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Jeanine Pirro interviews Brooke Goldstein on the inhumanity of using child suicide bombers:

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Also see:

US nukes at Turkey base at risk of seizure: report

US Air Force tanker planes sit on the tarmac of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey (AFP Photo/Tarik Tinazay)

US Air Force tanker planes sit on the tarmac of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey (AFP Photo/Tarik Tinazay)

Yahoo News, by Thomas Watkins, Aug. 15, 2016:

Washington (AFP) – Dozens of US nuclear weapons stored at a Turkish air base near Syria are at risk of being captured by “terrorists or other hostile forces,” a Washington think tank claimed Monday.

Critics have long been alarmed by America’s estimated stockpile of about 50 nuclear bombs at Incirlik in southern Turkey, just 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the border with war-torn Syria.

The issue took on fresh urgency last month following the attempted coup in Turkey, in which the base’s Turkish commander was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the plot.

“Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question,” said Monday’s report from the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank working to promote peace.

Incirlik is a vital base for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, with the strategically located facility affording drones and warplanes fast access to IS targets.

But the Pentagon in March ordered families of US troops and civilian personnel stationed in southern Turkey to quit the region due to security fears.

“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey,” report co-author Laicie Heeley said.

“There are significant safeguards in place. … But safeguards are just that, they don’t eliminate risk. In the event of a coup, we can’t say for certain that we would have been able to maintain control,” she told AFP.

– ‘Avoided disaster so far’ –

While the Pentagon does not discuss where it stores nuclear assets, the bombs are believed to be kept at Incirlik as a deterrent to Russia and to demonstrate America’s commitment to NATO, the 28-member military alliance that includes Turkey.

The Incirlik nuke issue has been the subject of renewed debate in the United States since the coup attempt.

“While we’ve avoided disaster so far, we have ample evidence that the security of US nuclear weapons stored in Turkey can change literally overnight,” Steve Andreasen, director for defense policy and arms control on the White House National Security Council staff from 1993 to 2001, wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times last week.

Kori Schake, a fellow at the California-based Hoover Institution, noted in a written debate in the New York Times that “American nuclear forces cannot be used without codes, making the weapons impossible to set off without authorization.”

“The fact that nuclear weapons are stationed in Turkey does not make them vulnerable to capture and use, even if the country were to turn hostile to the United States,” she argued.

The Pentagon declined to comment on questions arising from the Stimson study.

“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The (Department of Defense) has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” it said in a statement.

The Incirlik concerns were highlighted as part of a broader paper into the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization program, through which the United States would spend hundreds of billions of dollars to update its atomic arsenal.

The authors argue that a particular type of bomb — the B61 gravity bomb — should be immediately removed from Europe, where 180 of the weapons are kept in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.

Turkey’s Hunt for Alleged Coup Participants Extends Overseas

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressing a rally of supporters in Ankara on Wednesday. PHOTO: KAYHAN OZER/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressing a rally of supporters in Ankara on Wednesday. PHOTO: KAYHAN OZER/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

WSJ, by DION NISSENBAUM andEMRE PEKER Aug. 11, 2016:

ISTANBUL—Turkey’s government is seeking several overseas military officers and diplomatic staff who fled their posts in the wake of the failed coup and could be seeking asylum, potentially raising new political headaches for Turkey and its Western allies.

Two Turkish military attachés posted in Greece and their families boarded a ferry bound for Italy last week, but their current whereabouts aren’t known, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

They disappeared just before a request from Turkey on Sunday to have Athens revoke their diplomatic passports, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In addition, a Turkish military officer stationed at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s allied command in Norfolk, Va., Rear Adm. Mustafa Zeki Ugurlu, has rebuffed a request to return home and requested asylum in the U.S., according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter and Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The U.S. official declined to comment further. NATO officials referred a request for comment to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cavusoglu said that two Turkish civil servants in Bangladesh fled to New York, and another in Kazan, Russia, went to Japan after the coup attempt. Turkish authorities are in contact with their foreign counterparts to secure their return, he said.

“We will return these traitors to Turkey,” he said.

The State Department referred questions about the reported asylum requests to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration agency, which refused to comment, citing privacy rules.

Japanese officials in Washington referred questions to Tokyo.

Greek officials declined to comment on the two military attachés who had been posted in Greece. A spokeswoman for Italy’s Interior Ministry said Turkey has informed it of their possible presence in Italy and that the ministry was checking.

How Turkey’s allies deal with the missing diplomats could have significant impact on already tense relations with Ankara. Washington and European Union capitals are trying to balance support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt, in which 271 people were killed, and concern about the crackdown that followed against perceived enemies of the state.

The Turkish government imposed a state of emergency last month and launched a sweeping campaign against those it accuses of links to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Turkish imam who Turkey says directed the coup.

More than 18,000 people, including top military officers, have been arrested and thousands of others detained. Thousands of teachers have been suspended, university deans have been forced to resign, dozens of journalists have been arrested, and businesses with alleged links to Mr. Gulen have been shut down.

Mr. Gulen, whose organization is designated a terror group in Turkey and who is on Turkey’s most-wanted list, has repeatedly denied playing any role in the failed military takeover.

Western officials have urged the government to be judicious in its response, expressing concern about respect for the rule of law. That has inflamed tensions with Mr. Erdogan, who has accused some allies of aligning themselves with the coup-plotters.

He is demanding that the U.S. extradite Mr. Gulen, but U.S. officials have told The Wall Street Journal that they haven’t seen sufficient evidence for that judicial process to succeed.

As part of its hunt for alleged Gulen supporters, the Turkish government has ordered the return of some officials serving abroad. Mr. Cavusoglu said that on the night of the coup attempt, some Turkish military attachés abroad had notified ambassadors that the armed forces had taken over.

Turkey has received some help from other countries. Saudi Arabia detained the Turkish attaché from Kuwait as he was trying to leave, and the United Arab Emirates sent back from Dubai two brigadier generals who had been based in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said.

As for the two military attachés in Greece, Mr. Cavusoglu said that Greek officials spotted the men and their families boarding an Italy-bound ferry after reviewing CCTV footage at Turkey’s request.

One of the Turkish attachés has family in the Netherlands and might be heading there, he said.

Turkey also has asked Greece to return eight Turkish military personnel who flew a Turkish helicopter to Greece as the coup crumbled.

The eight are awaiting Greek court decisions on their asylum requests.

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