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Israel, Greece to Build Radar on Crete Amid Rapprochement– Reports

Sputnik – March 19, 2019

The Long Horizon marine radar system will be built by Israel and Greece in eastern Crete, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports. The enhanced coverage of the radar will allow both countries to monitor the Eastern Mediterranean basin. The daily has not disclosed the cost of the project, saying only that it is “not insignificant,” especially taking into account Greece’s reduced military budget.

According to the outlet, Athens and Tel Aviv have been drifting together recently, boosting their military ties among other things. Greece has recently agreed with Israel to share know-how for its navy, which has begun to develop. According to the outlet, 40 Israeli probationers will be carried by a Greek transporter from Haifa to Crete, without any stops in Cyprus, by the end of the month. The Israelis will join the Greek forces during upcoming drills and then return to Haifa after a stop in Milos and Rhodes.

On the other hand, Athens has been open to the possibility of bolstering its arms gaps with the help of Israel, as Kathimerini noted. Among other things, Greece has rented seven drones from Israel for search and rescue operations.

Israel’s Haaretz reports that Cyprus also shares the Israeli interests in the region. The list of common interests includes a stance on the situation in Syria and Lebanon as well as uneasy relations with Turkey.

Apart from military and political cooperation, which is to be confirmed during an upcoming trilateral Greek-Israeli-Cypriot summit with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three countries are developing a major economic project — the undersea East Med pipeline, designed to deliver natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and Cyprus. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades are expected to sign the grand deal, agreed upon in 2018, within the month, as the Greek media earlier reported.

The 2,000-kilometre underwater pipeline is intended to have a capacity of 12 billion cubic metres of gas annually, delivering fuel from Israel’s Leviathan, named one of the largest young gas reserves in the world, and the Aphrodite offshore gas fields. Additionally, the venture was boosted in February when it was announced that large gas deposits had been discovered in Cyprus.

The line, which is almost twice as long as Russia’s Turk Stream pipeline, is estimated to cost $8 billion and is said to be the world’s deepest underwater gas pipeline. Egypt, the only Muslim nation besides Jordan that has a peace treaty with Israel, is also seeking to export its newly discovered gas reserves, and has expressed interest in joining the project.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton blasts Turkey for maintaining ‘very bad’ relations with Israel

Press TV – March 18, 2019

US National Security Adviser John Bolton has not ruled out that Turkey is a “foe” of the United States, blasting Ankara for maintaining a “very bad” relationship with Washington’s close ally Israel.

When asked by AM 970 radio host John Catsimatidis on Sunday whether Turkey was a “friend or foe” to the US, Bolton refused to give a straight answer and instead cited several major stumbling blocks in ties.

“Well you know they’re still a NATO ally; we’re trying to work with them, but they’ve got a very bad relationship with our close friends in Israel. That’s something we need to look out on,” Bolton said.

A war of words began between Turkey and Israel recently, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau said the occupied territories only belong to the Jewish people and not all citizens.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin strongly condemned Netanyahu’s “blatant racism and discrimination.”

In response, the Israeli premier called Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “dictator” who jails journalists and judges.

Erdogan, however, called Netanyahu a “thief” and a “tyrant who massacred seven-year-old Palestinian children.”

The war of words continued Friday when the Turkish president rebuked Netanyahu’s son for suggesting the city of Istanbul was under “Turkish occupation”.

“You occupied the whole of Palestine!” Erdogan fired back at Netanyahu’s son, saying it is actually the Tel Aviv regime which has occupied the entire Palestinian land.

Elsewhere in his Sunday comments Bolton said that disagreements “with respect to the conflict in Syria” were another issue affecting bilateral ties between the US and Turkey.

He said US President Donald Trump “would like to have a good relationship with Turkey; he’d like to see US trade with Turkey increase, but we need them to help us out in some of these other problems in Syria and elsewhere in the region.”

US support for YPG militants, whom Ankara views as terrorists and their group an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has angered Turkey.

The US has been arming and training Kurdish militants under the banner of helping them fight Daesh, but Syria and several other countries see ulterior motives behind the deployment.

President Trump’s decision last year to leave Syria has exposed the Kurdish group to possible Turkish attacks.

Fears of a Turkish assault have led the Kurds to strike an agreement with the Syrian government to leave Manbij in exchange for military support in case they come under attack from Turkey.

Turkey, a key US ally in the region, has repeatedly questioned Washington’s deployment of heavy weapons in Syria despite the defeat of Daesh in much of the Arab country.

Bolton slams Turkey over S-400 deal

In his talks to AM 970 radio, Bolton further blasted Turkey for refusing to abandon a deal to purchase S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia, a major obstacle to US-Turkish relations.

“We’re concerned about their purchase of the Russian air defense system called the S-400 – that’s a big problem,” Bolton said.

The United States has warned Turkey of “grave consequences” if Ankara goes ahead with the plan to purchase Russian S-400 missile systems.

Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 missile systems in December 2017.

Last April, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery which could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.

Washington has reportedly proposed to deliver one US-made Patriot missile battery by the end of 2019, on the condition that Ankara abandons the deal with Moscow.

The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.

Turkey is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkey’s border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Whose Interests Are Served by the US Occupation of East Syria: America’s or Israel’s?

By Mike Whitney • Unz Review • March 11, 2019

What is Israel’s stake in east Syria? Has Israel influenced Washington’s decision to maintain a long-term military presence in Syria? How does Israel benefit from the splintering of Syria into smaller statelets and from undermining the power of the central government in Damascus? Did Israel’s regional ambitions factor into Trump’s decision to shrug off Turkey’s national security concerns and create an independent Kurdish state on Syrian sovereign territory? What is the connection between the Kurdish independence movement and the state of Israel?

The Pentagon does everything in its power to conceal the number and location of US military bases in a war zone. That rule applies to east Syria as well, which means we cannot confirm with absolute certainty how many bases really exist. Even so, in 2017, a Turkish news agency, “Anadolu Agency published an infographic on Tuesday showing 10 locations in which US troops were stationed. Two airbases, eight military points in PKK/PYD-controlled areas.”

According to a report in Orient.Net : “The 8 military sites, according to the agency, host military personnel involved in coordinating the aerial and artillery bombardments of US forces, training Kurdish military personnel, planning special operations and participating in intensive combat operations.” (“AA’s map of US bases in Syria infuriates Pentagon”, orient.net )

The location of these bases is unimportant, what is important is that there has been no indication that Washington has any plan to close these bases down or to withdraw American troops. In fact, as the New York Times reported just weeks ago, the number of US troops has actually increased by roughly 1,000 since Trump made his withdrawal announcement in mid-December. We think that is especially significant in view of Trump’s surprising comments last week, that he now agrees “100%” with maintaining a military presence in Syria. His sudden reversal shows that the opponents of the “withdrawal plan” have prevailed and the US is not going to leave Syria after all. It’s also worth noting that Trump administration has made no effort to implement the “Manbij Roadmap” which requires the US to coordinate its withdrawal with the Turkish military in order to maintain security and avoid a vacuum that could be filled by hostile elements. Ankara and Washington agreed to this arrangement long ago in order to expel Kurdish militants (who Turkey identifies as “terrorists”) from the area along the border. It appears now that Trump will not honor that deal, mainly because Trump intends to be in Syria for the long-haul.

But, why? Why would Trump risk a confrontation with a critical NATO ally (Turkey) merely to hold a 20 mile-deep stretch of land that has no strategic value to the United States? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Now in earlier articles we have argued that influential think tanks, like the Brookings Institute, have played a critical role in shaping Washington’s Syria policy, and that indeed is true. Just take a look at this short excerpt from a piece by Brookings Michael E. O’Hanlon titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war”. Here’s an excerpt:

“… the only realistic path forward may be a plan that in effect deconstructs Syria…. the international community should work to create pockets with more viable security and governance within Syria over time… The idea would be to help moderate elements establish reliable safe zones within Syria once they were able…. Creation of these sanctuaries would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad or ISIL….

The interim goal might be a confederal Syria, with several highly autonomous zones… The confederation would likely require support from an international peacekeeping force… to help provide relief for populations within them, and to train and equip more recruits so that the zones could be stabilized and then gradually expanded.” (“Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war”, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings Institute)

Strategic planners and think-tank pundits have long sought to break up Syria, that’s old news. What’s new is the emergence of powerful neocons operating in the White House and State Department (John Bolton, Jared Kushner, Mike Pompeo) who, we suspect, are using their influence to shape policy in a way that is sympathetic to Israel’s regional ambitions. It’s worth noting, that Zionist plans to dismember surrounding Arab states to ensure Israeli superiority, date back more than 30 years. The so called Yinon plan was a fairly straightforward strategy to balkanize the Middle East’s geopolitical environment to enhance Israeli regional hegemony while “A Clean Break” was a more recent adaptation which emphasized “weakening, containing or even rolling back Syria” and “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” In any event, many right-wing Israelis seem to think that chopping up sovereign Arab states into smaller bite-sized pieces, governed by tribal leaders or Washington’s puppets, will unavoidably boost Tel Aviv’s power across the Middle East.

But how does the US military occupation of east Syria fit in with all this?

Well, the US occupation effectively creates an independent Kurdish state in the heart of the Arab world which helps to weaken Israel’s rivals. That’s why some have referred to emerging Kurdistan as a “second Israel”. Here’s how Seth Frantzman, a research associate at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs in Herzliya, explains it:

“Israel would welcome another state in the region that shares its concerns about the rising power of Iran, including the threat of Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq,” says Frantzman. “Reports have also indicated that oil from Kurdistan is purchased by Israel.” (“Why Israel supports an independent Iraqi Kurdistan”, CNN)

While its true that Kurdish oil may provide an added incentive for long-term occupation, the real goal is to block a “land corridor” from opening (that would connect Beirut, to Damascus, to Baghdad to Tehran) and to further undermine Iran’s growing influence in the region. Those are the real objectives. In fact, US military operations in Syria are actually part of a broader campaign directed at Iran, a campaign that undoubtedly has the full support of neocons Pompeo and Bolton.

Check out this lengthy quote from a piece by Rauf Baker at The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies which helps to put the whole Israel-Kurdistan issue into perspective:

“Since declaring “Rojava” in northern and northeastern Syria in 2013, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), both of which are linked to the PKK, have built a uniquely viable entity amid the surrounding bedlam. (Note: The PKK, is on the State Departments list of terrorist organizations and has been conducting a war on Turkey for more than 3 decades.)

The ancient proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” could be useful to Israel in this grim scenario. The Syrian regime continues to uphold its traditional anti-Israel stance, and is in any case largely dependent on Iran, Hezbollah, and the other Shiite militias, all of which want Israel destroyed….

The Syrian Kurdish parties opposing PYD are openly linked to Ankara, which is ruled by a president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is obsessed with power and whose ideology considers the entire State of Israel to be illegitimately occupied by Jews. Moreover, he has recently established a rapprochement with Tehran – a worrying development…

Iran is now closer than ever to securing a land corridor that will connect it to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. This corridor will expand its sphere of influence from the Strait of Hormuz in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, and will ensure that Israel is surrounded by land and sea

Should Israel strengthen its relationship with the Syrian Kurds, its gains would extend beyond strategic, political, and security benefits. Rojava’s natural resources, especially its oil, can contribute to Israel’s energy supply and be invested in projects such as an oil pipeline through Jordan to Israel. US troops are stationed at several military bases in Rojava, which could offer an alternative to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey...

It appears abundantly clear that the Kurds are the most qualified, if not the only, candidate in Syria on which Israel can count for support… Israel should act swiftly to support the emerging Kurdish region in Syria...

It is very much in Israel’s interest to have a reliable and trustworthy friend in the new Syria. If Jerusalem hopes, together with its ally in Washington, to prevent Tehran from establishing its long-sought land corridor, it will need to strengthen its influence in the Syrian Kurdish region to serve as a wall blocking Iran’s ambitions.” (“The Syrian Kurds: Israel’s Forgotten Ally”, Rauf Baker, BESA Center)

So, the question is: Whose interests are really served by the US occupation of east Syria: America’s or Israel’s?

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 4 Comments

If US sanctions Turkey, can India be far behind?

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 9, 2019

Turkish-American relations are at a crossroads. Unlike the past history of their troubled relationship which saw hiccups but the two NATO allies moved on eventually, this time around, they are barreling toward a clash.

From an Indian perspective, it is of interest that the clash is over the Turkish decision to buy the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia, which violates the US’ sanctions regime against Russia known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

In September last year, Washington invoked CAATSA for the first time and sanctioned China over its purchase of Russian military jets and surface-to-air missiles — 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles. Will it be Turkey’s turn now? And if Turkey gets sanctioned, can India be far behind?

The US had explicitly warned India against going ahead with the S-400 Triumf deal with Russia. But India went ahead, nonetheless, last October. (The deal is estimated to be worth at least $5.4 billion.) But while Delhi went about its decision tactfully, Ankara is openly defiant. The Turkish President Recep Erdogan stated on Wednesday in a TV interview,

“We signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-400, and will start co-production. It’s done. There can never be a turning back. This would not be ethical, it would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat. Later, we may perhaps go for the S-500s as well, after the S-400.”

The US probably never ever heard such spiteful words from a key NATO ally. Erdogan also warned that the U.S. should not try to “discipline” Turkey through trade measures. If it did, he emphasised, Turkey has its own measures prepared. One of the trade measures he alluded to is the US’ intention to exclude Turkey from the generalised system of preferences (GSP).

Interestingly, while notifying the US Congress last week regarding his intention to remove the GSP benefits to them in trade, President Trump bracketed India with Turkey. India downplayed Trump’s move, saying the GSP benefits are only marginally affecting India’s exports to the US. But Erdogan apparently plans to retaliate.

The Pentagon has sharply reacted to Erdogan’s remarks, warning Turkey of “grave consequence in terms of our military relationship.” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior US general for operations in Europe and NATO’s top officer, warned in congressional testimony on Tuesday that Turkey’s pursuit of the S-400 deal would jeopardise American plans to sell to Ankara the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for both policy and security reasons.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony. According to a Reuter report, he hinted at concerns that Turkey’s using both the S-400s and the F-35 could provide Russia with valuable information on how to defeat the tech-heavy jet slated to become a signature fighter for NATO countries and their partners.

However, Turkey is not backing down. The Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has disclosed that the S-400 missile system will reach Turkey in July and deployment will go ahead as planned in October. The space for diplomatic manoeuvring is shrinking and, clearly, the chances for imposition of US sanctions against Turkey under CAATSA are increasing.

Of course, if Washington imposes sanctions against its key NATO ally, it is going to be highly problematic to exempt India from similar punitive measures for committing the very same offence. Interestingly, like Erdogan, Modi is also getting a very bad press in the US lately. They are the kind of ultra-nationalists that the US regards as hindrances to its regional strategies.

The Turks harbour the suspicion that the failed coup in July 2016, which was masterminded by the Turkish Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen living in Pennsylvania in exile for the past two decades, had covert American support.

Last week, incidentally, US First Lady Melania Trump visited a pre-kindergarten class in Oklahoma, which Ankara believes is linked to supporters of Gulen. Turks believe that the White House was taunting Erdogan.

President Trump’s detractors in the US and in Europe used to berate him for empathising with “strong men” like Erdogan or Vladimir Putin. But as it turns out, the US finds such world leaders irksome in their zeal to uphold strategic autonomy in their foreign and security policies. The US media has been highly critical of Modi too in the recent months.

But US attempts to undermine these nationalist leaderships have run into headwinds since leaders like Erdogan and Putin happen to enjoy mass support in their respective countries. For sure, Washington will be keenly watching the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary election in India in April-May where Modi is seeking a renewed mandate.

As for India, what emerges at the end of the 5-year term of the Modi government is that under his watch India’s relations with the US have been pragmatic and based on limited common interests — shared notions of countering the rise of China and Islamism — and that too, without undermining India’s strategic autonomy. The US seems disappointed that Modi failed to fulfil their high expectations of him as a strategic partner. A sense of frustration is palpable among the US’ lobbyists in India as well.

At any rate, the Modi government continues to negotiate big weapons deals with Russia, disregarding the CAATSA. Last week, PM Modi inaugurated a massive Russian-Indian joint venture, which will reportedly produce about 7,50,000 AK-203 rifles, the most recent version of the famous AK-47 rifles for the use of the Indian armed forces as the standard assault rifle for decades to come. Again, on Friday, Delhi inked a defence deal worth over $3 billion with Moscow for the lease  of a nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia. It cannot be lost on Washington that the Modi government expedited these mega deals with Russia even as its term in office is ending, while US arms vendors have been kept waiting.

All in all, the S-400 which is one of the world’s most advanced AMB systems, is fast acquiring the reputation of a Russian “geopolitical missile” targeted at the US. If the US proceeds with sanctions against Turkey on account of the S-400 deal, it will have deleterious downstream impact on many geo-strategic templates.

The very cohesion of the NATO and the alliance’s overall effectiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East could be affected. Similarly, the US also eyes India as a potentially big customer for American weaponry and will be shooting at its own feet if it were to sanction India. Suffice to say, paradoxically, any US sanctions may only increase Turkey or India’s dependence on Russia for sourcing advanced weaponry, which of course would defeat the very purpose of the CAATSA.

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

By Alastair CROOKE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 25.02.2019

The Wall Street Journal has an article whose very title – Ambitions for an ‘Arab NATO’ Fade, Amid Discord – more or less, says it all. No surprise there at all. Even Antony Zinni, the retired Marine General who was to spearhead the project (but who has now resigned), said it was clear from early on that the idea of creating an “Arab NATO” was too ambitious. “There was no way that anybody was ready to jump into a NATO-type alliance,” he said. “One of the things I tried to do was kill that idea of a Gulf NATO or a Middle East NATO.” Instead, the planning has focused on ‘more realistic expectations’, the WSJ article concludes.

Apparently, “not all Middle Eastern nations working on the proposal, want to make Iran a central focus – a concern that has forced the US to frame the alliance as a broader coalition”, the WSJ recounts. No surprise there either: Gulf preoccupations have turned to a more direct anxiety – which is that Turkey intends to unloose (in association with Qatar) the Muslim Brotherhood – whose leadership is already gathering in Istanbul – against Turkey’s nemesis: Mohammad bin Zaid and the UAE (whom Turkish leadership believes, together with MbS, inspired the recent moves to surround the southern borders of Turkey with a cordon of hostile Kurdish statelets).

Even the Gulf leaders understand that if they want to ‘roll-back’ Turkish influence in the Levant, they cannot be explicitly anti-Iranian. It just not viable in the Levant.

So, Iran then is off the hook? Well, no. Absolutely not. MESA (Middle East Security Alliance) maybe the new bland vehicle for a seemingly gentler Arab NATO, but its covert sub-layer is, under Mr Bolton’s guidance, as fixated on Iran, as was ‘Arab NATO’ at the outset. How would it be otherwise (given Team Trump’s obsession with Iran)?

So, what do we see? Until just recently, Pakistan was ‘on the ropes’ economically. It seemed that it would have to resort to the IMF (yet again), and that it was clear that the proximate IMF experience – if approved – would be extremely painful (Secretary Pompeo, in mid-last year, was saying that the US probably would not support an IMF programme, as some of the IMF grant might be used to repay earlier Chinese loans to Pakistan). The US too had punished Pakistan by severely cutting US financial assistance to the Pakistani military for combatting terrorism. Pakistan, in short, was sliding inevitably towards debt default – with only the Chinese as a possible saviour.

And then, unexpectedly, up pops ‘goldilocks’ in the shape of a visiting MbS, promising a $20 billion investment plan as “first phase” of a profound programme to resuscitate the Pakistani economy. And that is on top of a $3 billion cash bailout, and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for supply of Saudi oil. Fairy godmothers don’t come much better than that. And this benevolence comes in the wake of the $6.2 billion, promised last month, by UAE, to address Pakistan’s balance of payments difficulties.

The US wants something badly – It wants Pakistan urgently to deliver a Taliban ‘peace agreement’ in Afghanistan with the US which allows for US troops to be permanently based there (something that the Taliban not only has consistently refused, but rather, has always put the withdrawal of foreign forces as its top priority).

But two telling events have occurred: The first was on 13 February when a suicide attacker drove an explosives-laden vehicle into a bus that was transporting IRGC troops in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran. Iran’s parliamentary Speaker has said that the attack that killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was “planned and carried out, from inside Pakistan”. Of course, such a provocative disruption into Iran’s most ethnically sensitive province may mean ‘nothing’, but perhaps the renewed inflow of Gulf money, fertilizing a new crop of Wahhabi madrasa in Pakistan’s Baluch province, may be connected – as IRCG Commander, General Sulemani’s stark warning to Pakistan suggests.

In any event, reports suggest that Pakistan, indeed, is placing now intense pressure on the Afghan Taliban leaders to accede to Washington’s demand for permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

The US, it seems, after earlier chastising Pakistan (for not doing enough to curb the Taliban) has done a major U-turn: Washington is now embracing Pakistan (with Saudi Arabia and UAE writing the cheques). And Washington looks to Pakistan rather, not so much to contain and disrupt the Taliban, but to co-opt it through a ‘peace accord’ into accepting to be another US military ‘hub’ to match America’s revamped military ‘hub’ in Erbil (the Kurdish part of Iraq, which borders the Kurdish provinces of Iran). As a former Indian Ambassador, MK Bhadrakumar explains:

“What the Saudis and Emiratis are expecting as follow-up in the near future is a certain “rebooting” of the traditional Afghan-Islamist ideology of the Taliban and its quintessentially nationalistic “Afghan-centric” outlook with a significant dosage of Wahhabi indoctrination … [so as to] make it possible [to] integrate the Taliban into the global jihadi network and co-habitate it with extremist organisations such as the variants of Islamic State or al-Qaeda … so that geopolitical projects can be undertaken in regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus or Iran from the Afghan soil, under a comprador Taliban leadership”.

General Votel, the head of Centcom told the US Senate Armed forces Committee on 11 February, “If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan fulfill that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan.” MESA is quietly proceeding, but under the table.

And what of that second, telling occurrence? It is that there are credible reports that ISIS fighters in the Deir a-Zoor area of Syria are being ‘facilitated’ to leave East Syria (reports suggest with significant qualities of gold and gemstones) in a move to Afghanistan.

Iran has long been vulnerable in its Sistan-Baluchistan province to ostensibly, secessionist factions (supported over the years by external states), but Iran is vulnerable, too, from neighbouring Afghanistan. Iran has relations with the Taliban, but it was Islamabad that firstly ‘invented’ (i.e. created) the Deobandi (an orientation of Wahhabism) Taliban, and which traditionally has exercised the primordial influence over this mainly Pashtoon grouping (whilst Iran’s influence rested more with the Tajiks of northern Afghanistan). Saudi Arabia of course, has had a decades long connection with the Pashtoon mujahidin of Afghanistan.

During the Afghan war of the 1980s and later, Afghanistan always was the path for Islamic fundamentalism to reach up into Central Asia. In other words, America’s anxiety to achieve a permanent presence in Afghanistan – plus the arrival of militants from Syria – may somehow link to suggest a second motive to US thinking: the potential to curb Russia and China’s evolution of a Central Asian trading sphere and supply corridor.

Putting this all together, what does this mean? Well, firstly, Mr Bolton was arguing for a US military ‘hub’ in Iraq – to put pressure on Iran – as early as 2003. Now, he has it. US Special Forces, (mostly) withdrawn from Syria, are deploying into this new Iraq military ‘hub’ in order, Trump said, to “watch Iran”. (Trump rather inadvertently ‘let the cat out of the bag’ with that comment).

The detail of the US ‘hub encirclement’ of Iran, however, rather gives the rest of Mr Bolton’s plan away: The ‘hubs’ are positioned precisely adjacent to Sunni, Kurdish, Baluch or other Iranian ethnic minorities (some with a history of insurgency). And why is it that US special forces are being assembled in the Iraqi hub? Well, these are the specialists of ‘train and assist’ programmes. These forces are attached to insurgent groups to ‘train and assist’ them to confront a sitting government. Eventually, such programmes end with safe-zone enclaves that protect American ‘companion forces’ (Bengahazi in Libya was one such example, al-Tanaf in Syria another).

The covert element to the MESA programme, targeting Iran, is ambitious, but it will be supplemented in the next months with new rounds of economic squeeze intended to sever Iran’s oil sales (as waivers expire), and with diplomatic action, aimed at disrupting Iran’s links in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Will it succeed? It may not. The Taliban pointedly cancelled their last scheduled meeting with Pakistani officials at which renewed pressure was expected to be exerted on them to come to an agreement with Washington; the Taliban have a proud history of repulsing foreign occupiers; Iraq has no wish to become ‘pig-in-the middle’ of a new US-Iran struggle; the Iraqi government may withdraw ‘the invitation’ for American forces to remain in Iraq; and Russia (which has its own peace process with the Taliban), would not want to be forced into choosing sides in any escalating conflict between the US, Israel and Iran. Russia and China do not want to see this region disrupted.

More particularly, India will be disconcerted by the sight of the MESA ‘tipping’ toward Pakistan as its preferred ally – the more so as India, likely will view (rightly or wrongly), the 14 February, vehicle-borne, suicide attack in Jammu-Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian police, as signaling the Pakistan military recovering sufficient confidence to pursue their historic territorial dispute with India over Jammu-Kashmir (perhaps the world’s most militarised zone, and the locus of three earlier wars between India and Pakistan). It would make sense now, for India to join with Iran, to avoid its isolation.

But these real political constraints notwithstanding, this patterning of events does suggest a US ‘mood for confrontation’ with Iran is crystalizing in Washington.

February 26, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Turkey won’t abandon the S-400 deal with Russia

By Ali Hussein Bakir | MEMO | February 20, 2019

Washington’s first deadline for Turkey to respond to its offer to buy the Patriot missile defence system passed last Friday with no progress made. Only one day after the deadline, US Vice President Mike Pence raised the issue once again with Ankara regarding Turkey’s recent deal to acquire the Russian S-400 missile defence system. In his speech at the Munich Security Conference last Saturday, Pence threatened Turkey, without mentioning it explicitly, when he said, “We’ve also made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO Allies purchase weapons from our adversaries. We cannot ensure the defence of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”

The Americans agreed recently to offer Turkey the Patriot missile deal, worth about $ 3.5 billion, but linked its agreement to do so on several conditions, including the need for Ankara to abandon the S-400 deal with Russia. The Turks initially welcomed the offer, but rejected the conditions tied to it. They also linked any possible agreement to the extent that it serves Turkey’s interests, especially regarding the timeframe offered for delivery of the system. The government in Ankara also stipulated the need for the deal to include the transfer of technology to Turkey as well as financial provisions to help pay for it.

According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the US responded positively to the possibility of delivering the system early, but it has not yet responded to the matters of joint production and financial arrangements. Since the official deadline for the response to the American offer will expire entirely at the end of March, this means that the debate on the topic will continue for another few weeks, at least. This will occur amid American threats to stop the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the possibility of imposing sanctions if it does not back down from the S-400 deal with Russia.

However, Turkey believes that removing it from the F-35 production programme will lead to higher costs for the Americans, and it will also hamper delivery times to many allies. More importantly, it will damage Washington’s already shrinking credibility. The Trump administration’s arrogant, exploitative behaviour only strengthens Turkey’s commitment to its deal with Russia, as it seems that pulling out is nearly impossible under the current circumstances.

There are three possible reasons why Ankara will not abandon the S-400 deal with Russia. First, the lack of trust in Washington’s sincerity, especially as the latter has not kept its promises on several occasions, most recently by threatening to cancel the delivery of the F-35s. Ankara believes that the US will be able to cancel the Patriot deal, threaten to do so or use it as a means to blackmail Turkey if and when it deems it necessary to do so. Furthermore, the lack of a financial incentive makes it very costly for Turkey to buy the Patriot system from the US, especially in the current economic climate. Unless Washington discusses this aspect of its deal, the Patriot offer will not be attractive from a purely financial point of view, neither on its own or when compared with Russia’s S-400 offer.

Finally, Washington has so far refused to transfer the technology to Turkey as part of the potential deal with Ankara. If this is not done, Turkey will not achieve its declared aims, and so it would be taking the Patriot system for purely political reasons in order to be balanced in the relationship between Russia and America. When all things are considered, therefore, it is almost certain that Ankara will stick to the S-400 deal with Russia.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Arab on 19 February 2019

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

You can’t have Syria safe zone without Assad’s consent, Russia tells Turkey

Press TV – February 14, 2019

Russia has reminded Turkey that it must obtain the consent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for its plan to create a safe zone in the northeastern part of the conflict-plagued Arab country.

“The question of the presence of a military contingent acting on the authority of a third country on the territory of a sovereign country and especially Syria must be decided directly by Damascus. That’s our base position,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

The remarks came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian and Turkish counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a tripartite summit in the Russian coastal city of Sochi to provide further coordination among the three countries towards a long-term settlement of the Syria crisis.

The three leaders are going to hold their fourth such meeting in the Astana format.

The Sochi summit comes before the 12th Astana talks in the Kazakh capital in mid-February. The first round of the Astana talks commenced a month after the three guarantors joined efforts and brought about an all-Syria ceasefire.

Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara have been mediating peace negotiations between representatives from the Damascus government and Syrian opposition groups in a series of rounds held in Astana and other places since January 2017.

Since 2012, Turkey has been calling for the establishment of a safe zone of 30-40 kilometers between the northern Syrian towns of Jarablus and al- Ra’i in a bid to drive out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). However, the safe zone is yet to be established.

Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump held a telephone conversation last month, during which the Turkish leader expressed Ankara’s determination to establish a safe zone in northern Syria.

Trump has suggested creation of a 30-kilometer safe zone along Turkey’s border with Syria, but has not specified who would create, enforce or pay for it, or where it would be located.

Ankara has been threatening for months to launch an offensive in northern Syria against US-backed YPG militants.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, the first dubbed “Euphrates Shield” in August 2016 and the second code-named “Olive Branch”in January 2018, against the YPG and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Syria Briefing from Peter Ford: US Withdrawal, Safe Zones, Sanctions, Idlib, ISIS & Israel

The following situational briefing update of January 24, 2019 has been provided by Peter Ford, Former British Ambassador to Syria:

US Withdrawal

Contrary to the expectations of many experts, President Trump has remained insistent on the withdrawal of approximately 2,000 US troops from North East Syria, although he has had to concede more time. The ‘conditioned’ withdrawal touted by his uber-hawkish National Security Adviser, John Bolton, appears to have shrunk just to ensuring that the Kurds in the YPG militia the US will be leaving behind are not slaughtered by the Turks. One of the other conditions, eradicating the final remnants of ISIS, appears to have been all but met by a final Coalition push, with ISIS down now to its last village, obviating the handing of the job to Turkey which was ludicrously proposed initially, while the other condition, ensuring that Iran does not benefit, appears to have been quietly forgotten.

‘Safe zone’

Quite how the Kurdish issue will be settled remains up in the air. Not for much longer, however, if we parse correctly the statements made by Putin and Erdogan after their meeting in Moscow on 23 January.

As is often the case when the great men speak, what they do not say is as important as what they do say. Erdogan did not say, as he had done previously, that Turkey was going to police the proposed ‘safe zone’, 20 miles deep, cleared of the YPG. Rather he said that Turkey and Russia were in agreement on the establishment of such a zone. And the next day his Foreign Minister said that Turkey was open to arrangements being made involving ‘the US, Russia or others’. Putin on his side made clear that these significant ‘others’ were the Syrian government, whom he encouraged to speak to the Kurds. The day before the Putin-Erdogan meeting a Kurdish delegation was in Moscow, following earlier discussions in Damascus.

The eventual outcome, a return of Syrian security forces to the North East, is, in the view of this analyst, nailed on. The only question is when and under which conditions. The Kurds, reckoning on the Turks’ lack of appetite for a contested incursion and US dithering, are attempting to squeeze the last concession out of Damascus in terms of incorporation of the YPG into the Syrian security forces and some measures of local self-government, as well as use of the Kurdish language. Damascus, however, appears to hold the whip hand, conscious that as time goes on Trump will look as powerless over withdrawal as he does over the Mexican Wall if he does not act ‘and will if necessary call the Kurds’ bluff.

ISIS

It does indeed seem curtains for ISIS in Syria, at least as a territory-controlling caliphate. ISIS drew attention to themselves however with a suicide bomb attack in Manbij which left four Americans dead, prompting predictable cries from the foreign policy establishment in the US and Europe that it was folly to be leaving a ‘vacuum’ in Syria while there was still life in the twitching ISIS body. That experts deemed reputed could peddle this superficial analysis and be believed in the media is testimony to the blinkered thinking which dominates in the West. There will be no vacuum – the Syrian government has a good track record in the areas it has liberated of crushing ISIS, better in fact than the Americans for whom, as for their Kurdish allies, there are no-go areas of Arab villages in the areas they nominally control. These experts would do well to reflect on why ISIS are choosing this decisive moment to attack US forces, something they have curiously jailed to do for several months.

The hidden factor here is the incipient next phase in ISIS’s existence. It has gone underground, especially in Deir EzZor province which straddles the Euphrates. This is the equivalent of Iraq’s restless Anbar province which it borders. ISIS will not relish the prospect of Syrian Mukhabarat (security police) descending on Arab villages which have hitherto been no go areas to wake up ‘sleepers’. Expect more attacks on US forces.

Idlib

Putin and Erdogan also discussed Idlib, although the way forward here is less clear. Even the Turks cannot deny that in what is, to all intents and purposes, a Turkish and Western protectorate, the extreme jihadist Al Qaida-linked Tahrir Ash Sham (HTS) has run amok and now controls virtually the entirety of the area. This is the opposite of what was supposed to happen under the terms of the Russo-Turkish Sochi agreement which brought the September crisis to an end. Under Sochi the Turks were supposed to bring HTS to heel. Putin seemed to hint that military preparations would now move ahead for the Syrian government with Russian support to advance on Idlib, with Turkish acquiescence. The seamlines are already hot.

Political negotiations

One thing is clear. The Idlib issue is not going to be resolved by any political negotiations between the warring parties. The Western powers who cling to the comforting fiction that there can only be a political end to the Syrian conflict have no answers where Idlib is concerned.

The new UN envoy for Syria, Gerd Pederson, appears to be feeling his way, slowly, as well he might. Currently the Geneva process is in baulk over US, French and British blocking of a slate of candidates for inclusion in the Constitutional Committee which is supposed to come up eventually with a new constitution which will pave the way for UN-supervised elections with the participation, as the Western powers and Turkey would have it, of millions of Assad-hating refugees.

This mirage might appear harmless. However it is constantly cited by the Western powers to justify their conduct of war on Syria by other means than the military methods which are now all but exhausted.

Sanctions

How have the EU and the US responded to the prospect of normalisation in Syria? With more sanctions of course.

The EU has slapped sanctions on Syrian businessmen participating in a flagship property development scheme in Damascus deemed tantamount to assisting the ‘regime’. This scheme is emblematic of the many private investment projects now popping up, many of them involving Arab investors. Obviously the EU could not tolerate such progress, it not being enough to hamstring economic recovery with the existing deeply harmful battery of sanctions. The stated reason is that the Syrian government is not facilitating political progress towards the above mentioned mirage of elections rigged to produce a government of Western stooges. If the masterminds of EU diplomacy sincerely believe that such sanctions will make Assad bow the knee after eight years of vicious conflict have failed to do so, then we must fear for their sanity.

The US House of Representatives, with White House support, has chimed in with a Syria sanctions bill aimed at punishing any person or business which participates in any government linked project. This could have extra-territorial effect, dampening the interest of outside investors in Syria recovery projects. Again this highlights the hypocrisy of Western legislators who profess humanitarian concern but who are careless of inflicting economic suffering on a population already on its uppers after eight years of conflict, fuelled by Western support for armed groups, as long as they can strike a virtue-signalling blow against the ‘regime’. This is what a diplomacy of vindictiveness looks like.

The practitioners of this diplomacy have had some success with US and UK diplomats scouring Arab countries to pressure them into delaying normalisation of relations with Syria until the mirage has been reached. It appears that a consensus on Syria’s readmission to the Arab League as early as March is not likely to be found. Damascus will shrug this off. It is only delaying the inevitable. Arab countries who feel threatened by both Iran and fundamentalism can see that they are going to have to learn to live with Syria and that using contacts with Damascus to dilute Iran’s influence and share intelligence are very much in their interest.

Israel

Perennial party pooper Israel has attempted to spoil Assad’s successes by relaunching after a pause airborne attacks, ostensibly against Iranian targets. This is odd in that even US intelligence, cited by Trump, apparently more attentive to intelligence briefings than his detractors would have you believe, has reported that Iran has been withdrawing forces. The most recent blatant day time raid elicited a rare reprisal from Damascus, a missile which was shot down over the Syrian occupied Golan (not even Israel itself). Cue massive display of shock by the media, which had signally ignored the literally thousands of Israeli bombs dropped on Syria over the last two years. Naturally Syria and Russia’s attempt to secure some expression of concern from the Security Council failed, unprovoked aggression by Israel apparently not being inconsistent with the ‘rules based system’ constantly enjoined by the West on others.

Israel should however beware of hubris. Syria’s new Russian supplied SAM 300 air defence system is scheduled to become operational in March.

Author Peter Ford is the former British Ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) and Bahrain (1999-2002).

This briefing was originally published at the Global Network for Syria\

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey Slams US-Led Coalition Members for Supporting Militants in Syria’s Idlib

Sputnik – 31.01.2019

ANKARA – Certain members of the US-led coalition fighting against Daesh support militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group in the Syrian province of Idlib as they are aspiring to wreck the Russian-Turkish agreement on de-escalation zone, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.

“Certain partners from the coalition support HTS… First, for the termination of the Idlib memorandum. Second, there are countries that are making great efforts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee just because we are doing it”, Cavusoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper.

He specified that some Western countries from the coalition were provoking HTS militants to violate the provisions of the Idlib memorandum by paying them money for it.

“Russians have a joint operation offer. They say we should remove them [HTS militants] from there”, Cavusoglu added, noting that the countries of origin of foreign fighters from HTS were unwilling to take them back. “There are many people leaving the HTS after we came to the field”.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that HTS militants were actively building up their forces along the contact line between the armed opposition and the government in Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

Last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib along the contact line between armed opposition groups and Syrian government forces, while the Russian and Turkish defence ministers signed a memorandum on stabilising the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, the agreements have not been fully implemented yet, and over 10 different militant groups are currently operating in Idlib.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Partition: Bad in Ireland and Palestine, Good in Syria?

By Gavin O’Reilly | American Herald Tribune | January 29, 2019

Ask the question in left-wing circles of what affect partitioning a country along ethno-religious lines at the behest of an imperial power can have and the response will usually be straightforward.

In Ireland, following the 1921 surrender agreement between former revolutionaries and the British government, a six-county statelet was formed in the north-east of the country remaining under British rule and with an inbuilt Unionist majority; the pro-British element descended from English and Scottish colonizers, planted in the region by King James in the 17th century in a bid to displace the native Irish population which had provided so much resistance to British occupation.

The Nationalist population of this British-ruled part of Ireland, those descended from the indigenous Irish and who sought to live in an Ireland free of British rule, suffered systemic discrimination at the hands of this newly-formed British statelet, being denied the same access to housing, education, and employment that was afforded to their Unionist counterparts.

A neo-colonial pro-British state was also formed in the south of Ireland, where secret police and military units intern Irish Republicans through the use of non-jury courts to this day.

In Palestine, following the establishment of the Zionist State in 1948 in line with the UK-authored 1917 Balfour Declaration, more than half a million Palestinians found themselves refugees in their own country overnight; being forced from their homes in order to accommodate Jewish settlers from Europe.

The State of Israel, in a similar vein to the occupied North of Ireland, would also subject its indigenous Arab population to systemic discrimination and would go on to launch several imperialist wars against its Arab neighbors throughout its existence, with the most recent being covert Israeli involvement in the Syrian conflict.

This would all ultimately suggest that partition is a concept that should be universally opposed by anyone claiming to be anti-Imperialist. Right?

Wrong; when it comes to the issue of Syria, many ‘anti-Imperialists’ do a complete U-turn on the position and instead demand that the Arab Republic, along with Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, is divided up to form a US-Israeli backed Kurdish ethnostate.

In July 2012, when the Syrian conflict was its height, units of the Syrian Arab Army withdrew from the predominantly Kurdish Rojava region in the north of the country in order to provide assistance to military units fighting elsewhere in the Arab Republic; besieged at the time by Western-backed terrorists and yet to receive the key support which would later be provided by Iran and Russia.

The withdrawal of the SAA allowed local Kurdish militias to turn Rojava into a de facto autonomous region, with the most prominent of said groups being the People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the wider Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-government group.

However, whilst US-backed groups elsewhere in the country were supported by the White House with the intention of ousting the government of Bashar al-Assad, the primary reason for Washington’s support of the Kurds was to fulfill the 1982 Tel Aviv-authored Yinon plan.

This document, written by Oded Yinon, a senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, envisaged Israel maintaining hegemonic superiority in the region via the balkanization of neighboring Arab states hostile to Tel Aviv; in Syria, a country long known for its opposition to Zionism, this would entail the creation of a Kurdish state in the north of the country in a bid to undermine the authority of Damascus.

However, despite this US support for Rojava lining up perfectly with the Yinon plan, support for the creation of a Kurdish state within Syria remains widespread amongst Western leftists, with the feminist politics of the YPG endearing itself to Western Anarchists in particular; the lessons of Ireland and Palestine being lost it would ultimately seem.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putin’s firewall around Russia-Turkey partnership

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | January 27, 2019

The much-awaited meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his visiting Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan in Moscow last Wednesday focused on the the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The timeframe of the US drawdown or its scope and directions remain far from clear. Meanwhile, attention is riveted on creating a buffer zone in northern Syria, 32 kilometre wide on the Turkish border, which is under discussion between Washington and Ankara.

The US special representative on Syria James Jeffrey is expected in Ankara in coming days to carry forward the discussions. From present indications, US may control the airspace over the proposed zone and maintain some sort of presence on the ground as well while Ankara has been maintaining that it has the capability to enforce the zone.

Russia, on the other hand, has consistently voiced its opinion favoring Syrian government control over the regions vacated by the US. Indeed, Syrian leadership also has reiterated its determination to regain control over the entire country.

Thus, the meeting in Moscow on Wednesday took place in a supercharged atmosphere amidst speculation that the Russia-Turkey partnership might get rocky. The US never liked the Astana process on Syria between Russia, Turkey and Iran and the American intentions in baiting Turkey with the buffer zone proposal are highly suspect. (Significantly, Erdogan has hit out hard against the coup attempt by Washington to overthrow the Venezuelan government.)

If good diplomacy is about showing tact in handling awkward situations while brilliant diplomacy lies in creating a pathway through a minefield, Putin was probably at his best in navigating the Russian-Turkish partnership out of the reach of US tentacles. Putin’s remarks after the talks with Erdogan once again underscored that in the Russian estimation, any foreign presence on Syrian soil will lack “international legal grounds” if it is not on the basis of an invitation from Damascus or emanating out of a decision of the UN Security Council. But having said that, Putin qualified that “constructive cooperation” nonetheless becomes necessary even with such partners whose presence in Syria may lack legitimacy. Importantly, Putin added that Russia respects Turkey’s security interests. Then he went on to spring a big surprise:

“And the third. The 1998 treaty between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Republic of Turkey is still valid, and it deals specifically with the fight against terrorism. I think this is the legal framework that covers many issues relating to ensuring Turkey’s security on its southern borders. Today we have been discussing this issue thoroughly and intensively enough.”

This needs some explaining. Putin was referring to the Adana Accord of October 1998 between Turkey and Syria regarding cooperation in combating terrorism, which became moribund through the 7-year Syrian conflict. Putin said the agreement “is still valid”, which of course was tantamount to saying that Damascus thought so, too.

In effect, Putin has suggested that the Adana Accord can still serve as the legal and political framework for securing the Turkish-Syrian border to combat terrorism. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov amplified Putin’s remark further in media comments on Saturday. While on a visit to Rabat, Lavrov said, “The Adana agreement of 1998 was concluded between Turkey and Syria, its essence is to eliminate Turkey’s concerns about its security. [Syria] entered into this agreement, assuming certain obligations, and we proceed from the assumption that this agreement remains in force. As I understand, so do the state parties to the agreement.”

That is to say, Putin’s proposal offers an alternative to a Turkish occupation of Syrian territory – or involving a joint operation with the US to create a safe zone inside Syria and to enforce it militarily. The Adana Accord states that Syria is committed to eliminate any activity on its territory that would jeopardize Turkey’s security, including “the supply of weapons, logistic material, financial support to and propaganda activities” of Kurdish groups affiliated to the PKK. (The Syrian and Turkish foreign ministers signed an updated treaty in 2010.)

However, there is a caveat here. In order for the Adana Accord to come alive and fully satisfy Turkey’s security needs on the border region with Syria (which used to be the case till 2011 when Turkey became the staging ground for the US-led project to overthrow the Syrian government), Ankara must resuscitate its contacts with Damascus. Simply put, Putin is nudging Erdogan to restore ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After all, under the Adana Accord, Syria is committed to protect Turkey’s security, but that obligation is also “on the basis of the principle of reciprocity.”

Interestingly, on Saturday, Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a foreign ministry official as saying, “Syria confirms that it is in compliance with the Adana Interstate Agreement on Combating Terrorism in all its forms and all agreements related to it, but the Turkish regime has been violating the agreement since 2011 up to now by sponsoring and supporting terrorism, training militants and making it easier for them to go to SAR, or through the occupation of Syrian territories with terrorist groups it controls or directly with the help of the Turkish Armed Forces.” Furthermore, SANA reported the Syrian Foreign Ministry as calling on Turkey to “activate” the Adana Accord, leaving the boundary as it used to be before the beginning of the war in 2011.

Clearly, an inflection point has come. Erdogan has a big decision to make. Putin’s goal is to encourage Erdogan to work with Assad, while also taking care to preserve the verve of the Russian-Turkish cooperation and accelerate the Syrian peace process in Geneva.

On the ground, this translates as the Astana partners – Russia, Turkey and Iran (which also, incidentally, had endorsed the Adana Accord in 2003) – coordinating on establishing another de-escalation zone in northern Syria following the US withdrawal. It appears Putin has made an offer Erdogan cannot easily refuse and which may even be his own preferred option.

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Civilians storm & burn Turkish military base in northern Iraq

RT | January 26, 2019

A mob of angry civilians has attacked a Turkish military camp near the Iraqi city of Dohuk, burning equipment and vehicles. The incident comes in response to the deaths of civilians during Turkish airstrikes, local media reports.

The incident occurred in northern Iraq on Saturday, when a large mob of civilians attacked a Turkish military encampment located in the predominantly-Kurdish region of Dohuk.

Footage from the scene which surfaced online shows civilians at the military encampment with Turkish military vehicles and tents burning in the background. At least one person died and 10 were reportedly wounded during the incident. It remains unclear if the Turkish Army sustained any casualties – servicemen are nowhere to be seen in the footage.

According to local media, the attack on the encampment came in protest to Turkish airstrikes and shelling, which have repeatedly hit the vicinity of Dohuk. Earlier on Saturday, at least two civilians were reportedly killed in an airstrike and the incident at the base might have been prompted by the attack.

The incident was acknowledged by the Turkish Defense Ministry, which blamed it on activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers to be a terrorist group. The Turkish military, however, did not confirm that it was the encampment in Dohuk that was attacked.

“An attack has occurred on one of [the] bases located in northern Iraq as a result of provocation by the PKK terrorist organization. There was partial damage to vehicles and equipment during the attack,” the ministry tweeted, adding that it has been “taking necessary measures” regarding the incident.

January 26, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments