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The Kurds have Once Again been Abandoned by their “American Brothers”

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 28.12.2020

Yet again thrown by their “older American brothers” to the winds of fate, the Kurds in the Levant nowadays are not living through the best of times. On the border running between Syria and Iraq, a new armed conflict entailing human casualties is unfolding, one which demonstrates, among other things, a clear lack of unity among the Kurds, and that so-called Kurdistan is divided into parts ruled by various leaders, many of whom are competitors, and often almost irreconcilable enemies. Against this backdrop in the past few years, fierce battles between Kurdish formations have begun to occur more and more frequently, with the warring parties, while losing their fighters, the warring parties, concentrating their forces along the border in anticipation of new clashes.

The Syrian Kurds blame their Iraqi compatriots from the Peshmerga group for causing this conflict, including preparing for war in the Syrian Arab Republic. So, according to the position announced in ANF News by the Syrian Kurds, since October the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been organizing provocations in South Kurdistan. The KDP, controlled by the family of Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani, has been accused of both working closely with Turkey in various areas, including intelligence gathering, spreading propaganda, and logistics, and fueling domestic conflicts that could lead to civil war.

In October, Peshmerga proclaimed that an attack had been committed by Syrian Kurds on an oil pipeline, which resulted in oil exports from Kurdistan to Turkey being suspended.

On November 4, local media outlets reported that armed clashes broke out between Peshmerga forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants in the area of Duhok, which resulted in the death of one Iraqi Kurdish fighter and injuries for three others.

On December 15, General Mazloum Abdi, who is the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-Arab “Syrian Democratic Forces”, which was created by the United States, accused Iraqi Kurds of attacking and wounding three SDF members.

On December 16, the Iraqi Kurdistan regional authorities announced that Syrian armed groups from the YPG (which forms the backbone of the SDF) attacked bases and positions held by the Iraqi Peshmerga near the border. Syrian Kurdish leaders denied these accusations, calling them false, and leveled similar accusations toward Iraqi tribesmen themselves.

Local observers note that Iraqi Kurds are being transferred to the Syrian front with support provided by Turkish combat drones. It is worth noting that Ankara considers the YPG to be the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is labeled as a terrorist group in Turkey; this was used as the rationale for it to invade Rojava last October, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of Turkey’s largest Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, has been behind bars for the fourth year on charges of “supporting terrorism”. To mitigate the influence of this Kurdish movement, which is represented in the Turkish parliament, and to sow more discord in the Kurdish community, Turkey is preparing to organize a new Kurdish party with support from the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

Regarding the military potential possessed by Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq, it should be specified that both sides have virtually full-fledged armed forces that have been equipped with help from “foreign players”. Washington and Ankara are the ones helping the Iraqi Kurds. The Syrian Kurdish groups were financed, armed, and trained by the United States and its allies in the anti-terrorist coalition. At the same time, it is evident that both sides have been lent support by Washington, as well as used by it in the struggle for influence, power, and oil – both in Syria and Iraq. On top of that, the United States essentially put its seal of approval on the defeat of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – a party recognized by them as terrorists in the European Union – in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, where the main bases that the PKK has are located since their forces were defeated in Turkey.

In recent years, Trump has effectively lost interest in supporting the Kurds in the region, and even announced in October 2019 that American troops would be withdrawn from the area, and this time would not defend the Kurds. After that, Turkish aircraft started to attack the region and the positions that were held by the Kurds.

Donald Trump stated his position on the Kurds and the reason why the United States is abandoning them yet again on his Twitter page a year ago, noting in particular that the Kurds, an Iranian ethnic group, did not help the United States during WWII – including during the invasion of Normandy. It seems that the US president clearly drew on this kind of “extensive expertise” in WWII history from an article by Kurt Schlichter in the publication Townhall – which praises Trump’s policies – that stated: “The Kurds helped destroy DAESH (a terrorist group banned in the Russian Federation) … But let’s be honest: the Kurds did not come to help us in Normandy, Incheon, Khe Sanh, and Kandahar”. Well, what else can be expected for the Kurds from their “elder American brothers”?

The processes among the Kurds, which began in 2019 after another episode involving betrayal by the United States, were described in sufficient detail by The New York Times. Today, these processes have intensified, as have Turkey’s operations against the Kurds in Syria. One of the very hot spots in this regard was the city of Ain Issa in the northern part of the Raqqa Governorate, where Turkey has stepped up its shelling of Kurdish positions. For example, on the evening of December 17, the Turkish army and militants allied with it struck a powerful blow to the positions held by the predominantly Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” in the area of the city of Ain Issa, attacking two nearby villages, and this forced SDF groups to abandon these positions and regroup their forces to keep the enemy from advancing any further. On the night of December 22, pro-Turkish forces ratcheted up the intensity of their strikes on the city of Ain Issa and its environs, and the Turkish military itself switched to using heavy artillery to strike the northern part of the Raqqa Governorate.

Under these conditions, representatives of the Russian and Syria military held talks on December 22 with representatives of Kurdish autonomous organizations – with participation on the part of Turkish officers – to try to ease tensions, but the parties did not reach any agreement. Representatives from the Turkish military demanded the withdrawal of all militants from the SDF, promising to stop the attacks by pro-Turkish criminal groups on Ain Issa if this occurs, although Ankara had previously denied that the militants were acting on its instruction.

The situation remains filled with tension, despite the measures taken by Russia to help foster stabilization.

December 28, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Informal British-Turkish-Ukrainian alliance is emerging in the Black Sea

By Paul Antonopoulos | November 30, 2020

Trade agreements between the UK and Turkey are “very close,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a visit to Britain in July. London’s endeavour to secure post-Brexit trade agreements reflects on the status of its economic relations with Turkey. A UK-Turkey trade agreement is important for both countries, not only commercially, but also geopolitically as it can extend into the Ukraine against Russia, particularly in the Black Sea.

The trade agreement is crucial because the EU’s relationship with Turkey and the UK have deteriorated. Brussels and Ankara clash over the erosion of democratic controls and balances in Turkey, and also because of its increasingly dynamic foreign policy in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean against Greece and Cyprus. Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. has also intensified, especially since Ankara bought the Russian S-400 missile defense system despite opposition from Washington and NATO. With it appearing imminent that Joe Biden will become the next U.S. President, relations between Washington and Ankara are set to deteriorate further.

This makes the UK one of Turkey’s few remaining friends in the West, and for Ankara a trade deal would signal a close economic and political relationship with a major European power that still wields international influence. For its part, the UK was willing to cultivate a good relationship with Ankara in the context of a “Global Britain” that it wants to build after Brexit.

When it was still a member of the EU, the UK was one of the leading supporters of Turkey’s membership into the bloc. London has also taken a much more discreet stance than other European capitals in condemning President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the deteriorating domestic situation. When Turkey launched a military operation in Syria in 2019, the UK was initially reluctant to condemn Ankara unlike other NATO members, just like what happened when Turkey intervened in Libya.

It was always inevitable that a post-Brexit UK would have strengthened relations with Turkey, especially as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson often boasts that his paternal great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, was a former Ottoman Minister of the Interior.

Johnson describes the Gülen movement, once allied to Erdoğan but now considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, as a “cult.” He also supports Turkey’s post-coup purges that resulted in the detainment of over half a million Turkish citizens, not only from the military, but also from education, media, politics and many other sectors.

It appears that Johnson’s post-Brexit “Global Britain” has Turkey as a lynchpin for its renewed international engagement with the world, and this poses immense security risks for Russia, especially in the Black Sea.

Erdoğan was outraged when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suspended arms shipments to Turkey because of its involvement in Azerbaijan’s war against Armenia. This was a major blow to the TB2 Bayraktar drones that are highly valued by Erdoğan as he uses them in his military adventures in not only Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, but also in the Aegean in espionage acts against so-called NATO ally Greece. He has even set up a drone base in occupied northern Cyprus to oversee the Eastern Mediterranean.

The so-called “domestically produced” Bayraktar drones have been exposed for using parts from nine foreign companies, including a Canadian one. Although Erdoğan was outraged by Trudeau’s decision, he found a British company to replace Canadian parts. Britain’s decision to be involved in the Bayraktar drone program is all the more controversial considering five of the nine foreign companies involved have withdrawn their support because of Turkey’s role in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Although the growing unofficial alliance for now appears to be in the fields of economics and military technology, alarming reports are emerging that British troops will be stationed in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv Port on the Black Sea.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the BBC that if British troops “land there and stay, we will not mind either. From the first day of the Russian aggression, Britain has been close and provided practical support, and not only militarily.”

Post-Brexit Britain will not weaken its maximum pressure against Russia, and rather it appears to be increasing its campaign. Britain, as a non-Arctic country, is attempting to bully its way into Arctic geopolitics by undermining Russian dominance in the region. However, Britain’s campaign of maximum pressure creates instability on Russia’s vast frontiers, including in Ukraine and the Black Sea.

With this we can see an informal tripartite alliance emerge between the UK, Turkey and Ukraine.

Kiev has formed a venture with Ankara to produce 48 Turkish Bayraktar drones in Ukraine. This also comes as Ukraine’s Ukrspetsexport and Turkey’s Baykar Makina established the Black Sea Shield in 2019 to develop drones, engine technologies, and guided munitions. In fact, Turkey will allow Ukraine to sell Bayraktar drones it produces, which will now contain British parts after several foreign companies withdrew from the drone program. It is not known whether Bayraktar drones can currently be produced because of the mass withdrawal of foreign companies, but we can expect Ukrainian and British companies to eventually fill the voids left behind.

Both Turkey and Ukraine cannot challenge Russian dominance in the Black Sea alone, and it is in their hope that by closely aligning and cooperating that they can tip the balance in their favor, especially if Britain will have a military presence in Mykolaiv Port. Ukraine still does not recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea, Britain maintains sanctions against Moscow because of the reunification, and Turkey continually alleges that Russia mistreats the Crimean Tatars.

Erdoğan uses Turkish minorities, whether they be in Syria, Greece or Cyprus, to justify interventions and/or involvement in other countries internal affairs. Erdoğan is now using the Tatar minority to force himself into the Crimean issue while simultaneously helping Ukraine arm itself militarily. With Turkish diplomatic and technological support, alongside British diplomatic, technological and perhaps limited military support, Ukraine might be emboldened to engage in a campaign against  Crimea or disrupt Russian trade in the Black Sea.

It certainly appears that an informal tripartite alliance is emerging between the UK, Turkey and Ukraine, and it is aimed against Russia in the Black Sea to end the status quo and insert their own security structure in the region on their own terms.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst. 

November 30, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey has perfected a new, deadly way to wage war, using militarized ‘drone swarms’

By Scott Ritter | RT | November 29, 2020

From Syria to Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh, this new method of military offense has been brutally effective. We are witnessing a revolution in the history of warfare, one that is causing panic, particularly in Europe.

In an analysis written for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow, argues that the extensive (and successful) use of military drones by Azerbaijan in its recent conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh holds “distinct lessons for how well Europe can defend itself.”

Gressel warns that Europe would be doing itself a disservice if it simply dismissed the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting as “a minor war between poor countries.” In this, Gressel is correct – the military defeat inflicted on Armenia by Azerbaijan was not a fluke, but rather a manifestation of the perfection of the art of drone warfare by Baku’s major ally in the fighting, Turkey. Gressel’s conclusion – that “most of the [European Union’s] armies… would do as miserably as the Armenian Army” when faced by such a threat – is spot on.

What happened to the Armenian Army in its short but brutal 44-day war with Azerbaijan goes beyond simply losing a war. It was more about the way Armenia lost and, more specifically, how it lost. What happened over the skies of Nagorno-Karabakh – where Azerbaijan employed a host of Turkish- and Israeli-made drones not only to surveil and target Armenian positions, but shape and dominate the battlefield throughout – can be likened to a revolution in military affairs. One akin to the arrival of tanks, mechanised armoured vehicles, and aircraft in the early 20th century, that eventually led to the demise of horse-mounted cavalry.

It’s not that the Armenian soldiers were not brave, or well-trained and equipped – they were. It was that they were fighting a kind of war which had been overtaken by technology, where no matter how resolute and courageous they were in the face of the enemy, the outcome was preordained – their inevitable death, and the destruction of their equipment; some 2,425 Armenian soldiers lost their lives in the fighting, and 185 T-72 tanks, 90 armored fighting vehicles, 182 artillery pieces, 73 multiple rocket launchers, and 26 surface-to-air missile systems were destroyed.

A new kind of warfare

What happened to Armenia was not an isolated moment in military history, but rather the culmination of a new kind of warfare, centered on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones). Azerbaijan’s major ally in the war against Armenia – Turkey – has been perfecting the art of drone warfare for years, with extensive experience in full-scale modern conflict gained in recent fighting in Syria (February-March 2020) and Libya (May-June 2020.)

Over the course of the past decade, Turkey has taken advantage of arms embargoes imposed by America and others which restricted Ankara’s access to the kind of front-line drones used by the US around the world, to instead build from scratch an indigenous drone-manufacturing base. While Turkey has developed several drones in various configurations, two have stood out in particular – the Anka-S and Bayraktar.

While the popular term for the kind of drone-centric combat carried out by Turkey is “drone swarm,” the reality is that modern drone warfare, when conducted on a large scale, is a deliberate, highly coordinated process which integrates electronic warfare, reconnaissance and surveillance, and weapons delivery. Turkey’s drone war over Syria was managed from the Turkish Second Army Command Tactical Command Center, located some 400km away from the fighting in the city of Malatya in Turkey’s Hatay Province.

It was here that the Turkish drone operators sat, and where they oversaw the operation of an integrated electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) warfare capability designed to jam Syrian and Russia air-defense radars and collect signals of military value (such as cell phone conversations) which were used to target specific locations.

For every $1 in losses suffered by Turkey, Syria lost approximately $5

The major systems used by Turkey in this role are the KORAL jamming system and a specially configured Anka-S drone operating as an airborne intelligence collection platform. The Anka-S also operated as an airborne command and control system, relaying targeting intelligence to orbiting Bayraktar UAVs, which would then acquire the target visually before firing highly precise onboard air-to-surface rockets, destroying the target. When conducted in isolation, an integrated drone strike such as those carried out by Turkey can be deadly effective; when conducted simultaneously with four or more systems in action, each of which is capable of targeting multiple locations, the results are devastating and, from the perspective of those on the receiving end, might be likened to a deadly “swarm.”

The fighting in Syria illustrated another important factor regarding drone warfare – the disparity of costs between the drone and the military assets it can destroy. Turkish Bayraktar and Anka-S UAV’s cost approximately $2.5 million each. Over the course of fighting in Syria’s Idlib province, Turkey lost between six and eight UAVs, for a total replacement cost of around $20 million.

In the first night of fighting in Syria, Turkey claims (and Russia does not dispute) that it destroyed large numbers of heavy equipment belonging to the Syrian Army, including 23 tanks and 23 artillery pieces. Overall, Turkish drones are credited with killing 34 Syrian tanks and 36 artillery systems, along with a significant amount of other combat equipment. If one uses the average cost of a Russian-made tank at around $1.2 million, and an artillery system at around $500,000, the total damage done by Turkey’s drones amounts to some $57.3 million (and this number does not include the other considerable material losses suffered by the Syrian military, which in total could easily match or exceed that number.) From a cost perspective alone, for every $1 in losses suffered by Turkey, the Syrians lost approximately $5.

Turkey was able to take the lessons learned from the fighting in Idlib province and apply them to a different theater of war, in Libya, in May 2020. There, Turkey had sided with the beleaguered forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which was mounting what amounted to a last stand around the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The GNA was facing off against the forces of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), based out of Benghazi, which had launched a major offensive designed to capture the capital, eliminate the GNA, and take control of all of Libya.

How to capture half a country

The LNA was supported by the several foreign powers, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia (via Wagner Group, a private military contractor.) Turkey’s intervention placed a heavy emphasis on the integrated drone warfare it had perfected in Syria. In Libya, the results were even more lop-sided, with the Turkish-backed GNA able to drive the LNA forces back, capturing nearly half of Libya in the process.

Both the LNA and Turkish-backed GNA made extensive use of combat drones, but only Turkey brought with it an integrated approach to drone warfare. Observers have grown accustomed to the concept of individual US drones operating freely over places such as Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, delivering precision strikes against terrorist targets. However, as Iran demonstrated this past May, drones are vulnerable to modern air-defense systems, and US drone tactics would not work over contested airspace.

Likewise, the LNA, which made extensive use of Chinese-made combat drones flown by UAE pilots, enjoyed great success until Turkey intervened. Its electronic warfare and integrated air-defense capabilities then made LNA drone operations impossible to conduct, and the inability of the LNA to field an effective defense against the Turkish drone operations resulted in the tide of battle rapidly shifting on the ground. If anything, the cost differential between the Turkish-backed GNA and the LNA was greater than the $1-to-$5 advantage enjoyed by Turkey in Syria.

The big players – the US, Russia & China – are playing catch-up

By the time Turkey began cooperating with Azerbaijan against Armenia in September 2020, Turkish drone warfare had reached its zenith, and the outcome in Nagorno-Karabakh was all but assured. One of the main lessons drawn from the Turkish drone experiences in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh is that these conflicts were not fought against so-called “poor countries.”

Rather, the Turks were facing off against well-equipped and well-trained forces operating equipment which closely parallels that found in most small- and medium-sized European countries. Indeed, in all three conflicts, Turkey was facing off against some of the best anti-aircraft missile defenses produced by Russia. The reality is that most nations, if confronted by a Turkish “drone swarm,” would not fare well.

And the multiple deployment of drones is only going to expand. The US Army is currently working on what it calls the “Armed, Fully-Autonomous Drone Swarm,” or AFADS. When employed, AFADS will – autonomously, without human intervention – locate, identify, and attack targets using what is known as a “Cluster Unmanned Airborne System Smart Munition,” which will dispense a swarm of small drones that fan out over the battlefield to locate and destroy targets.

China has likewise tested a system that deploys up to 200 “suicide drones” designed to saturate a battlespace and destroy targets by flying into them. And this past September, the Russian military integrated “drone-swarm” capabilities for the first time in a large-scale military exercise.

The face of modern warfare has been forever altered, and those nations that are not prepared or equipped to fight in a battlefield where drone technology is fully incorporated in every aspect of the fight can expect outcomes similar to that of Armenia: severe losses of men and equipment, defeat, humiliation and the likely loss of their territory. This is the reality of modern warfare which, as Gustav Gressel notes, should make any nation not fully vested in drone technology “think – and worry.”

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

November 29, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Joe Biden and Terrorism

By Daniel Lazare | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 28, 2020

As Joe Biden unveils his hawkish cabinet picks, it’s hard not to get the sense that we’re all hurtling back in time to those glorious days of regime change when the United States believed it had a sacred right to topple any government that got in its way. It also seems like we’re returning to the days that when jihadi terrorism aimed at America and its allies was horrible, terrible, a crime against humanity, and so on, while terrorism aimed at people the US didn’t like was, well, distasteful and unpleasant but not something to bring up in polite company.

While no one wants to blow up innocent civilians, in other words, what really counts is which civilians and in whose behalf.

With that in mind, it’s worth revisiting a talk that then-Vice President Biden gave at Harvard’s Kennedy School in October 2014. If you enjoy listening to an empty-headed politician spouting endless clichés, you can access all ninety minutes of it here. But if you’re not a glutton for punishment, you can jump to the 53:35 mark and zero in on Sleepy Joe’s specific thoughts regarding America’s Mideast partners and their inordinate fondness for ISIS and Al Qaeda.

The topic was the US-Saudi effort to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and here’s what the veep had to say, run-on sentences and all:

“The Saudis, the emirates, etc. what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world. … So now what’s happening? All of a sudden everybody is awakened because this outfit called ISIL, which was Al Qaeda in Iraq when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space and territory in … eastern Syria, worked with Al Nusra, who we declared a terrorist group early on, and we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden, I don’t want to be too facetious, but they have seen the Lord. … Saudi Arabia has stopped funding, Saudi Arabia is allowing training on its soil… the Qataris have cut off their support for the most extreme elements of terrorist organizations, and the Turks, President Erdogan told me, he’s an old friend, he told me, you were right, we let too many people through. Now he’s trying to seal their border….”

Words like these are worth savoring because they undermine years of propaganda about American exceptionalism and the US as a force for good. Obama, for instance, claims to oppose sectarianism. Yet here was his second-in-command saying that US allies didn’t merely want to topple Assad, but that they wanted to topple him by fomenting “a proxy Sunni-Shia war.”

In other words, they wanted to mobilize thousands of bigoted Sunni head-choppers in order to topple the Alawite president of one of the most religiously diverse countries in the Middle East.

Obama also claims to oppose terrorism and, of course, vehemently objects to any suggestion that Al Qaeda is a western creation. Yet here was Biden stating in the very next sentence that Saudi Arabia & Co. had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into … Al Nusra and Al Qaeda” and that “we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.”

So they did supply Al Qaeda despite US protests, which, in any event, were strictly private. While Biden went on to say that the Saudis have seen the light thanks to the dramatic rise of the Al Qaeda offshoot known as ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), his wording was curious. Qatar, he said, had cut off support for “the most extreme elements,” while adding that Turkey, after admitting that it had let too many fighters traverse its border, was now trying to close the barn door after the horse had left.

But what does “most extreme” mean? That Qatar was still funding some Al Qaeda elements providing that they were not too outré? As for letting “too many people through,” was Biden suggesting that Turkey was right to let some Al Qaeda fighters cross, but that too many were spoiling the stew?

So it seems, and so numerous other reports attest. So not only did the Saudis fund Al Qaeda and ISIS to the hilt, they cut off aid to the latter only when they finally figured out, as Biden went on to say, “that ISIL’s target wasn’t Ramadi” in northern Iraq, but Mecca and Medina in their own kingdom. Killing thousands of people, raping and enslaving hundreds of Yazidi women, imposing a terrifying theocracy – such activities are permissible as long as they remain confined to Syria and Iraq. But once they threaten the House of Saud, well, that’s more than any civilized nation can bear.

The fresh-faced Harvard students who listened to such nonsense did not respond by booing, jeering, or tossing buckets of red paint. Amazingly, they instead responded with polite applause. Even more striking was the reaction when word got back to Washington. Instead of congratulating Biden for his forthrightness, Obama ordered him to go on what the New York Times described as “a Middle East apology tour” by phoning up Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Ankara, etc. and conveying his personal regrets – not for being incorrect, that is, but for being indiscreet. Vice presidents are supposed to know what they can and cannot say in a public place.

All of which calls to mind something known as the Bush Doctrine. In case no one can remember that far back, it goes like this:

“Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

So George W. Bush told a joint session of Congress just a few days after 9/11, and since no subsequent administration has expressly repudiated those words, presumably they’re still in effect. If so, then the next time reporters get an opportunity, they should ask the president-elect if he still supports the doctrine and whether he plans to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE if he does.

They might also ask Hillary Clinton whether she would recommend a cut-off since, right around the time Biden was holding forth at Harvard, she was confiding in an email that “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia … are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” It’s yet another example of top US officials saying one thing in public and the opposite when they think no one is listening.

Of course, the chances of severing ties with the Saudis are zero, while the chances of America’s fearless press corps posing such a question in the first place are nil as well. The Saudis may be terrorists, but they’re America’s terrorists, and that’s all that counts.

November 28, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Covert War on Syria

Tales of the American Empire • November 26, 2020

For the past decade, foreign powers have sought to destroy Syria. Most people are unaware since western corporate media pretend the violence is the result of a revolution or civil war. A direct invasion of Syria would pose difficult political problems. The preferred method in the modern world is to destroy a nation by agitating and arming minority groups while sending thousands of foreign mercenaries to join attacks and flooding the world with propaganda.

________________________________

Related Tale: “The Plot to Destroy Syria”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P512Q… Related Tale: “The Incident at Benghazi”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc4wr…

“US arms shipment to Syria rebels detailed”; HIS Jane’s 360; April 8, 2016; https://web.archive.org/web/201612050…

“AIPAC to go all-out on Syria”; Manu Raju; Politico; September 5, 2013; https://www.politico.com/story/2013/0…

Related Tale: “The 2011 Destruction Libya”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5Lh4…

“The Red Line and the Rat Line”; Seymour Hersh; London Review of Books; April 17, 2014; explains the false flag chemical attacks; https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v36/n…

“The White Helmets are a Propaganda Construct”; The Colbert Report; February 11, 2018; https://www.corbettreport.com/the-whi…

“Leaked docs expose massive Syria propaganda operation waged by Western govt contractors and media”; Ben Norton; The Grayzone; September 23, 2020; https://thegrayzone.com/2020/09/23/sy…

“A Short History of the War on Syria 2006-2014”; Moon of Alabama; September 14, 2013; https://www.moonofalabama.org/2013/09…

“Outgoing Syria Envoy Admits Hiding US Troop Numbers”; (thwarting President Trump’s withdrawal plan); Katie Bo Williams; Defense One; November 12, 2020; https://www.defenseone.com/threats/20…

Syria War Archives; Factual information from Globalresearch; https://www.globalresearch.ca/indepth…

November 27, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russiagate disciple Michael McFaul upset that Putin hasn’t congratulated Biden for presumed election win

RT | November 8, 2020

Former US envoy to Russia Michael McFaul is unhappy that Moscow hasn’t declared Joe Biden the election winner without official results, apparently tossing aside years of hysteria about Kremlin “meddling” in US internal affairs.

McFaul, who became one of the most outspoken proponents of the debunked theory that Moscow “colluded” with the Trump campaign in 2016, expressed his disappointment on Twitter that Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to offer his congratulations to the Democratic nominee, who declared himself president-elect on Saturday.

“Has Putin joined the chorus of world leaders in congratulating Biden yet? I haven’t see (sic) the statement. Do post if its (sic) out,” he wrote.

Over the past four years, McFaul has rarely passed up an opportunity to suggest that Moscow is somehow exerting shadowy influence over Washington. Now he is apparently disappointed that the Kremlin hasn’t chosen sides in a contested election. Several states are still counting votes, and recounts and lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign could make declaring a clear victor in the contest premature.

Biden claimed victory after media outlets projected that he would win Pennsylvania, overcoming Donald Trump’s previous considerable lead in the state. The Republican president has refused to concede.

Earlier in the day, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama became the first world leader to offer his congratulations to the former vice president, expressing hope that Biden would help the world navigate a “climate emergency.”

By Saturday evening, governments from around the world issued statements recognizing Biden as the president-elect. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “looking forward” to working with Biden, while UK leader Boris Johnson said he was eager to begin cooperation with the Democrat’s new administration, a sentiment that was echoed by many European heads-of-state. All members of the Group of 7 (G7) economic organization have issued congratulatory messages to Biden.

Although it’s true that Putin has yet to recognize Biden’s projected win, he’s not alone. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said nothing on the subject, along with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In fact, some world leaders have even hinted that they don’t recognize Biden’s victory. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Wednesday declared Trump the victor, and then issued a follow-up statement insisting that the election should not be called until the courts rule on the matter. He wasn’t the only world leader to express unwillingness to recognize a winner in the contest. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Saturday that he wanted to wait for legal challenges to finish before assuming a clear victor.

Similarly, Polish President Andrzej Duda congratulated Biden for running a “successful presidential campaign,” adding that his nation was waiting to see who would be declared the official president-elect by the Electoral College.

November 8, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

Sorry, Google and World Bank, but Middle Eastern Crops Keep Thriving

By H. Sterling Burnett | ClimateRealism | November 4, 2020

Google News today is promoting articles (see the Google-promoted PhysOrg article here, for example) about a speculative World Bank “study” claiming climate change is threatening crop production in the Middle East. The World Bank study is full of speculation but short on facts. Real-world data show crop yields per acre and total crop production are consistently and dramatically rising in each of the Middle East countries examined by the World Bank study.

In its study, titled “Water in the Balance,” the World Bank says, “[w]hile information about water scarcity at present and in the future is available there is little knowledge of what this increasing scarcity means for Middle Eastern … food security. Agriculture will suffer because of climate change and water scarcity….”

In particular the World Bank asserts water scarcity caused by climate change will reduce farm production in Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. The available evidence strongly suggests that will not happen.

Had the study’s authors examined real-world data concerning crop production in the Middle Eastern countries, they would have found, even amidst substantial strife in the region, crop yields and overall production have increased dramatically. More food is being produced even as thousands of acres of agricultural lands have been abandoned during regional conflicts.

Data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization show during the period of modest warming since 1989:

It is clearly good news – and not a climate crisis – that Middle Eastern countries have increased crop production despite the fact that many of them have been embroiled in internal political strife, outright civil warfare, and external conflicts. That good news is ignored in the World Bank’s doom-and-gloom report.

Global warming lengthens growing seasons, reduces frost events, and makes more land suitable for crop production. Also, carbon dioxide is an aerial fertilizer for plant life. In addition, crops also use water more efficiently under conditions of higher carbon dioxide, losing less water to transpiration. The latter fact should have allayed the World Bank’s concern about climate change induced water shortages leading to crop failure.

The benefits of more atmospheric carbon dioxide and a modestly warming world have resulted in 17 percent more food being available per person today than there was 30 years ago, even as the number of people has grown by billions. Indeed, the last 20 years have seen the largest decline in hunger, malnutrition, and starvation in human history.

Sorry, World Bank, Google, and PhysOrg, but that does not equate to a climate crisis.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is managing editor of Environment & Climate News and a research fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute. Burnett worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis for 18 years, most recently as a senior fellow in charge of NCPA’s environmental policy program. He has held various positions in professional and public policy organizations, including serving as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Task Force in the Texas Comptroller’s e-Texas commission.

November 5, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reporter Serena Shim remembered six years after suspicious death near Turkey

Press TV | October 18, 2020

Six years after her suspicious death, Press TV reporter Serena Shim is remembered as one of the first journalists to have exposed the involvement of the US-led Western countries and their regional allies in igniting the foreign-sponsored terrorism in Syria, a daring act of investigative journalism for which she paid with her life.

The investigative reporter died in October 2014 while covering the ongoing siege by the Daesh Takfiri group of the Syrian-Kurdish border city of Kobani for Iran’s Press TV. She was the lone fatality following a suspicious car crash in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province.

She was reporting firsthand on the presence of Daesh and other al Qaeda-affiliated militant groups operating freely along the Turkey-Syria border. She revealed the weapons transfers and the trucks being driven into Syria by the terrorists themselves.

Shim had gathered evidence of militant training camps operating near the Turkey-Syria border.

She was, in her own words, one of the first, if not the first, on the ground to report on “Takfiri militants going in through the Turkish border”. These include not only Daesh but also terrorists from the so-called Free Syrian Army.

As Shim’s sister Fatmeh Shim stated in 2015, “She caught them bringing high-ranked Daesh members into Syria from Turkey into camps, which are supposed to be Syrian refugee camps.”

Shim said trucks belonging to some international aid agencies were being used to funnel terrorists’ arms into Syria, and stated this in her last interview, just one day before being killed.

On October 19, 2014, Shim, along with her camerawoman, was returning to their hotel after preparing a report near Kobani south of the Turkish border, where a heated battle was taking place between Daesh and the city’s defendants.

Early reports claimed that Shim died at the scene while later accounts suggested that she passed away due to heart failure after being transferred to hospital nearly 30 minutes later. Shim’s camerawoman, who had been transported to a different hospital, survived the incident.

Turkish authorities blamed Shim’s camerawoman, who had been driving the vehicle, for the crash. No further inquiry was reported to have been carried out by Ankara.

Many doubts, however, linger regarding the official testimony provided by the Turkish officials.

Today’s Zaman reported that prosecutors were seeking six years in prison for the operator of the concrete mixer instead, accusing the driver of causing “death through negligence.” The trial, allegedly set for March 2015, never occurred.

Six years following her unfortunate death, no further information has been released regarding the fatal accident.

Observers have pointed out that “car accidents” have been a “commonplace method” used by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) to get rid of people it doesn’t like.

Although all signs point to foul play, until now the US government has neither conducted nor demanded an inquiry into the events of the alleged car accident which Turkish officials say was the cause of Shim’s death.

Two weeks after the incident, the US State Department issued a brief statement regarding Shim, who was an American citizen of Lebanese origin, saying that it “does not conduct investigations into deaths overseas.”

The journalist’s tragic death came only two days after Shim had spoken out live on Press TV about being targeted by the MIT, who had accused her of being a “spy” while the journalist covered the latest developments in Turkey and Syria.

“I am a bit worried, because as you know and as the viewers know, Turkey has been labeled by Reporters Without Borders as the largest prison for journalists, so I am a bit frightened what they might use against me.”

Shim explained that she had been targeted for her investigative reports regarding Ankara’s direct support for terrorist groups, such as Daesh in Syria, whose evidence had been largely concealed at the time.

“We were some of the first people on the ground, if not the first people on the ground, to get that story of those Takfiri militants going in through the Turkish border — the Bab al-Hawa border — being sent in. I’ve got images of them in World Food Program trucks. It was very apparent that they were Takfiri militants by their beards and by the clothes that they wore. And they were going in there with NGO trucks,” she said.

The 29-year-old reporter had been described by her colleagues as an aspiring journalist with much potential. The young journalist had spent years working in various dangerous conflict zones such as Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Ukraine.

The Turkish government has been accused of supporting various terrorist groups seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the onset of the foreign-backed terrorism nine years ago.

Over the past four years, the Turkish military has staged at least two unauthorized incursions into northern Syria to push back against Kurdish militants, whom Ankara says seek to overthrow the Turkish government.

The aggression prompted the areas’ Kurdish population to ask the Syrian government for protection against the Turkish forces.

Ankara, which backs Syria’s anti-government militants, currently has hundreds of Turkish troops in the northwest of the Arab country.

In recent years, Western terrorists within the ranks of Daesh in Syria and Iraq have been seeking their countries’ help to secure their return to their motherlands as the Takfiri group continues to suffer heavy losses in the two Arab countries.

Some of the Daesh terrorists have contacted diplomatic missions in Turkey while others have secretly sought their governments’ help in leaving dwindling Daesh-held territory.

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | 8 Comments

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan’s Revenge for Syria

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 17, 2020

Turkey’s outsize role in fueling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is becoming more apparent. That’s why a peace deal will be hard to cut and indeed the conflict may blow up further into a protracted regional war. A war that could drag Russia into battling in the Caucasus on its southern periphery against NATO proxies.

In a phone call this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly backed Moscow’s efforts at mediating a ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Notwithstanding, Erdogan appeared to deliver an ultimatum to his Russian counterpart. He said that there must be a “permanent solution” to the decades-long territorial dispute.

Erdogan and his Azerbaijan ally have already made it clear that the only solution acceptable to them is for Armenian separatists to relinquish their claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey and Azerbaijan – bound by common Turkic culture – have long-called the Armenian-held enclave an illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory since a border war ended in 1994.

When hostilities flared again last month on September 27 initial reports suggested the clashes were of a haphazard nature with both sides trading blame for starting the violence. However, it has since become clear that the actions taken on the Azeri side seem to have been a planned aggression with Turkey’s full support.

Following a previous deadly clash on July 12-13 involving about a dozen casualties among Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, there then proceeded massive military exercises in Azerbaijan involving 11,000 Turkish troops beginning on July 29. For nearly two weeks into August, the maneuvers deployed artillery, warplanes and air-defense units in what was evidently a major drive by Ankara and Baku to coordinate the armies from both countries to fulfill joint operations. Furthermore, reports indicated that Turkish forces, including F-16 fighter jets, remained in Azerbaijan following the unprecedented military drills.

Alongside the drills, there was also a dramatic increase in military arms sales from Turkey to Azerbaijan. According to Turkish export figures, there was a six-fold increase in weapons deals compared with the previous year, with most of the supply being delivered in the third quarter of 2020 between July and September. The armaments included drones and rocket launchers which have featured with such devastating impact since hostilities erupted on September 27.

A third factor suggesting planned aggression was the reported transport of mercenary fighters from Syria and Libya by Turkey to fight on the Azerbaijani side. Thousands of such militants belonging to jihadist brigades under the control of Turkey had arrived in the Azeri capital Baku before hostilities broke out on September 27. The logistics involved in organizing such a large-scale deployment can only mean long-term planning.

Armenian sources also claim that Azeri authorities had begun impounding civilian vehicles weeks before the shooting war opened. They also claim that when the fire-fights erupted on September 27, Turkish media were present on the ground to give live coverage of events.

It seems indisputable therefore that Turkey and Azerbaijan had made a strategic decision to implement a “final solution” to the protracted dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

That’s what makes Russian efforts at mediating a cessation to hostilities all the more fraught. After marathon talks mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a ceasefire was introduced on October 10. However, within hours the truce unravelled with reports of resumed exchange of fire and shelling of cities on both sides. The main violations have been committed by the Azerbaijani side using advanced Turkish [as well as Israeli] weaponry. Armenian leaders have complained that the Azeri side does not seem interested in pursuing peace talks.

More perplexing is the widening of the conflict. Azerbaijan air strikes since the weekend ceasefire broke down have hit sites within Armenia, extending the conflict beyond the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has also claimed that Armenian missiles have hit cities within its territory. Armenia flatly denies carrying out such strikes, which begs the question: is a third party covertly staging provocations and fomenting escalation of conflict?

What is challenging for Russia is that it has a legal obligation to defend Armenia as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (1992). With Armenia coming under fire, the pressure will be on Moscow to intervene militarily.

This would see Russia being embroiled in another proxy war with NATO-member Turkey. But this is not in Syria. It is the Caucasus region on Russia’s southern border. There are concerns among senior Russian military figures that such a scenario is exactly what Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is aiming for. Turkey was outplayed by Russia in the proxy war in Syria. Erdogan and NATO’s plans for regime change in Damascus were dealt a bloody nose by Russia. It seems though that conflict in the Caucasus may now be Erdogan’s revenge.

Moscow may need to seriously revise its relations with Ankara, and let Erdogan know he is treading on red lines.

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Influx of foreign fighters to Nagorno-Karabakh could lead to region wide conflict

By Paul Antonopoulos | October 5, 2020

The war in Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is becoming increasingly internationalized as foreigners are arriving to fight on both sides of the conflict. Artsakh, despite being internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, has had a de facto independence since 1994 when Armenian forces won a decisive victory. On September 25, it was first revealed that Syrian militants were being transferred to Azerbaijan via Turkey. This was denied by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on the same day. It must be noted that the war in Artsakh began only two days after it was exposed Syrians were being transferred. Yet, despite photographs, videos, documents and testimonies made by Syrian militants themselves, the Azerbaijani government maintains the position that there are no foreign mercenaries fighting alongside the Azerbaijani army and that it is Armenian propaganda. All major international outlets have reported that these Syrians are not motivated by jihad, but rather money.

In given testimonies, a Syrian militant said “Jihadi, I swear by Allah don’t come, […] we have been deceived, everything is a lie. This is not a war, this is a meat grinder, people are dying, they cannot get the corpses.” Another Syrian militant said “Two days after the start of the war, everybody wants to return but they do not let us and […] they make us stay here.” This was in reference to Turkish military handlers lying to the transferred Syrian militants about the situation in Artsakh and forcing them to stay and fight.

At the same time though, Armenians from across the diaspora, including those in Greece, the Netherlands and the U.S., have already left or a preparing to go and fight in Artsakh, meaning that citizens of Western countries will be embroiled in this conflict. This also comes as it was revealed that ethnic Greeks are volunteering to go and fight in Artsakh, with one source telling Greek City Times that the first batch of volunteers amount to 30 men, while a former non-commissioned officer claimed to Sputnik Hellas that the number is as high as 500. Whatever the truth may be, it is being widely reported in Greek media that tens if not hundreds of volunteers from Greece are going to Artsakh, motivated by religion and solidarity with Armenians, and without receiving a salary. It has also been revealed that the Greek minority in Armenia, mostly descendants of Greek Genocide survivors, are fighting alongside the Armenian army.

This sets a dangerous precedent as this war is becoming increasingly internationalized and threatens to embroil the entire region in conflict if it cannot be contained. The First Artsakh War (1988-1994) saw Greek and Russian volunteers fight alongside the Armenians. Chechens, Afghan Mujahedeen’s, Turkey’s Gladio Gray Wolves, Ukrainian Far Right militants fought on the side of Azerbaijan in the First War. Foreign fighters in Artsakh is not a new phenomenon. With Armenian-Greeks and ethnic Greeks fighting in Artsakh against Turkish-sponsored Syrian militants and the Azerbaijani military, Athens could potentially be dragged into the conflict unwillingly.

Hikmet Hajiyev, aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, told reporters on Friday that Greeks were fighting in Artsakh, describing the volunteers as “mercenaries.” The Greek government has not responded to the statement made by Hajiyev and most likely will not as relations between the two countries remain tense. While accepting the credentials on September 4 from Greece’s newly appointed ambassador to Baku, Nikolaos Piperigos, Aliyev directly told the diplomat:

“I can tell you, and it is no secret, that Turkey is not only our friend and partner, but also a brotherly country for us. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we support Turkey and will support it under any circumstances. We support them [Turkey] in all issues, including the issue in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

The comments by Aliyev are unprecedented when considering the usual formalities of a head of state accepting the credentials of a new ambassador. With these diplomatic tensions already existing between Athens and Baku weeks before Azerbaijan began its offensive against Artsakh, it is unlikely that Greece will try and prevent volunteers from going to Armenia. Some Greek sources claim that many of the volunteers are ex-special forces, meaning it is likely that the Greek military will be indirectly involved to some extent. This also comes as Greek and Cypriot Members of the European Parliament are leading efforts to try and impose sanctions on Azerbaijan for launching a war.

The internationalization of the Artsakh War because of the influx of foreign fighters, especially the Syrian militants, would be a major concern for both Iran and Russia who would be feeling uncomfortable having such radical forces on or close to their borders. The internationalization of the war has the potential to spark conflict across the Caucasus as militants from North Caucasia, particular Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, could travel to Azerbaijan to fight, and gain invaluable experience to take with them on their return to Russia. Although Russia and Iran have called for a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, they have not made strong efforts to try and end the war, which if not contained and ended soon, could potentially spill over into the North Caucasus or Iran’s northern provinces which is overwhelmingly ethnic Azeri.

The war could also potentially become a part of the wider Greek-Turkish rivalry that already exists in the East Mediterranean, Cyprus and Libya. Greece will not be directly militarily involved, but it is highly probable that there would be constant communication between the Greek military and the volunteers. This comes as Turkey is directly involved in the Artsakh War, not only by transferring Syrian fighters and arms to Azerbaijan, but also using its air force when we remember one of its F-16 fighter jets downed an Armenian Su-25 aircraft last Tuesday.

Without being contained and the front lines having an influx of foreign fighters, there is a real possibility that the internationalization of the conflict through these forces could set the entire region into conflict if a ceasefire agreement is not made quickly.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

October 5, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia – Part 2

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 3, 2020

Part-1 of the three-part essay is here.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin on October 2 that the European Union seeks a “constructive dialogue and a positive agenda” with Turkey. She had just returned to the German capital after a 2-day summit meeting of the EU countries in Brussels. Germany played a key role at the summit in steering the EU-Turkey relationship away from a confrontationist path to which it was drifting lately. (See my blog EU marks distance from Indo-Pacific strategy.)

Merkel said, “We had a very long, detailed discussion about our relations with Turkey. We came to the conclusion that we would like to enter into a constructive dialogue with Turkey, we want to have a positive agenda,” adding that the Brussels summit had opened a “window of opportunity” for closer cooperation with Ankara.

Merkel disclosed that talks for closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey in the coming months would focus on migration issues, trade, modernising the Customs Union, and liberalised visa regime. In effect, Merkel has made a huge case for Turkish President Recep Erdogan at a particularly sensitive juncture for the latter when there is growing criticism in Europe regarding his regional policies.

In particular, there has been a nasty incident recently involving the Turkish and French navies in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was a rare, if not unprecedented, incident involving two NATO powers in the 7-decade old history of the western alliance.

Again, the US recently strengthened its military bases in Greece and has repeatedly called for restraint on the part of Turkey over its maritime disputes with Greece and vowed to intervene both politically and militarily in the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and France support opposite sides in the Libyan civil war, while the US is aligned with militant Kurdish groups in Syria whom Turkey regards as terrorists. And as conflict erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey witnesses the US, France and Russia swiftly drawing close in a phalanx to push back at Erdogan’s robust backing for Azerbaijan, including pledges of military help.

To be sure, Merkel spoke with great deliberation. Before leaving for Brussels, Merkel had addressed the German Parliament where she referred to complaints against Turkey’s human rights records, but went on to praise Turkey’s “amazing and remarkable” performance in hosting refugees, highlighting that Turkey is hosting four million refugees.

Interestingly, Merkel compared Greece to Turkey in a poor light. “We have to weigh very carefully how to resolve the tensions and how to strengthen our co-operation on refugees and on the humane treatment of refugees,” she said and proceeded to condemn the manner in which Turkey’s archetypal enemy Greece is handling the migrant camp in Lesvos (Greece).

With biting sarcasm, Merkel noted, “in recent days we have seen horrible images regarding the treatment of refugees. And not from Turkey, I would like to emphasise, but from Lesvos (Greece), from an EU member state.”

Without doubt, Germany has stood up to be counted as Turkey’s friend at a time when the latter faces growing isolation within the NATO and from the EU.

Seminal events

The well-known American professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Stephen Walt once penned an essay titled Great Powers Are Defined by Their Wars where he pointed out that explaining a great power’s foreign policy is a perennial question for scholars of international politics. He argued that major wars have powerful and long-lasting effects on a nation’s subsequent foreign or military policy.

Prof. Walt explained that wars are seminal events from which a great power’s subsequent behaviour follows, independent of its relative power, regime type or its leadership. In his words, “Those who fight in these wars are often scarred by the experience, and the lessons drawn from victory or defeat will be etched deeply into the nation’s collective memory. The experience of past wars is central to most national identities… If you want to understand the foreign policy of a great power, therefore (and probably lesser powers as well), a good place to start is to look at the great wars it has fought.”

Isn’t it a poignant historical memory for Berlin that the Ottomans were Germany’s allies in two world wars when it was hopelessly isolated by the the western powers?

On the other hand, take Russia and Turkey. Russia fought a series of twelve wars with the Ottoman Empire between the 17th and 20th centuries — one of the longest series of military conflicts in European history — which ultimately ended disastrously for the latter and led to its decline and eventual disintegration.

Russia had often fought the Ottomans at different times, often in alliance with the other European powers. Importantly, these wars helped to showcase the ascendancy of Russia as a European power after the modernisation efforts of Peter the Great in the early 18th century. In the Turkish Muslim psyche, however, Russia has figured as a protagonist which had played an historical role in the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in Central Europe, the Balkans and Transcaucasia.

The Russian conquest of the Caucasus mainly occurred between 1800 and 1864. In that era the Russian Empire expanded to control the region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, the territory that is present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (and parts of today’s Iran and Turkey) as well as the North Caucasus region of modern Russia. Multiple wars were fought against the local rulers of the regions as well as the Ottoman Empire until the last regions were brought under Russian control by 1864 with the expulsion to Turkey of several hundred thousand Circassians.

Then followed the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) when Russia seized the the province of Kars and the port of Batumi on the Black Sea. In World War I, aligned with Germany, the Ottomans pushed against Russia as far east as Baku (capital of Azerbaijan) but then withdrew, lacking the strength to advance further, and subsequently in the post-war confusion, somehow contrived to regain Kars.

Suffice to say, in 1991 following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, when Transcaucasia became independent as the states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, a lot of blood-soaked history involving Russia and Turkey provided the backdrop. Incidentally, Erdogan’s family originally hailed from Rize Province in the eastern part of Turkey’s Black Sea region (where he grew up as a child), which was a site of battles between the Ottoman and Russian armies during the Caucasus Campaign of World War I and was occupied by Russian forces in 1916-1918, to be finally returned to the Ottomans under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. The Soviet Union returned Rize to Turkey in 1921.   

‘Past is never dead’

Amidst all this, an interesting feature of the flow of history has been that from the days of the Roman Empire, Transcaucasia was usually a borderland between Constantinople (Istanbul) and Persia. Areas would shift from one empire to the other, their rulers would have varying degrees of independence and were often vassals of one empire or the other, depending on the size and proximity of the suzerain’s army. By around 1750 the area was divided between the Turkish and Persian vassals. The western two thirds were inhabited by Georgians, an ancient Christian people, and the eastern third mostly by Azeris, Turkic Muslims. And Russia of course was pushing close to the Black Sea and the Caspian against the Ottoman and Persian empires.

Professor Walt in his essay cited a famous quote from the American novelist William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Indeed, for Russia, Turkey or Iran, the current developments in Transcaucasia form part of a vast collective event that shapes their perceptions of danger and definitions of heroism, sacrifice, and even their identity.

In fact, the current line-up in the developing situation around Turkey speaks for itself: Germany voices sympathy for Turkey and offers an enhanced partnership; France lambasts Turkey and seeks EU sanctions against Turkey; France alleges Ankara’s dispatch of Syrian fighters to Nagorno-Karabakh; Germany appreciates Turkey’s big hand in addressing the refugee crisis gripping Europe; France coordinates with Russia at the highest level of leadership to pressure Turkey over Nagorno-Karabakh; the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the US join Russia and France’s call for cessation of fighting in Transcaucasia; Iran maintains neutrality and suggests a joint effort with Turkey and Russia to resolve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Moscow has shed its initial ambivalence and is stepping into the arena on the side of Armenia, expressing “serious concern in connection with incoming information about the involvement in hostilities of gunmen from illegal armed units from the Middle East” — plainly put, censuring Turkey’s backing for Azerbaijan. And President Vladimir Putin underscores that he is voicing a common stance along with “the presidents of the countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group” (Russia, France and the United States). Simply put, Russia’s “competitive rivalry” with Turkey is surging.

Interestingly, Turkish President Recep Erdogan has openly drawn attention to the broader regional and geopolitical context in which the various unnamed powers are jockeying and covertly coordinating to encircle Turkey. Erdogan said on October 2, “If we connect the crises in the Caucasus, in Syria and in the Mediterranean, you will see that this is an attempt to surround Turkey.”

It doesn’t require much ingenuity to figure out the identity of the foreign powers he would have had in mind who are attempting to “surround” Turkey — France, the US and Greece (all NATO powers) and Russia, the scourge of the Ottoman Empire.

October 3, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘We were deceived’, says Syria mercenary fighting in Azerbaijan

MEMO | October 1, 2020

A Syrian fighting in Azerbaijan’s disputed Nagorno-Karabkh region has spoken to BBC Arabic and claims he, along with others, were deceived when being recruited by the Turkish-backed “Syrian National Army”, formerly known as the Free Syria Army.

The fighter using the nom de guerre “Abdullah” is among hundreds of Syrians aged 17 to 30 who arrived last week “with the knowledge of the Turkish army the SNA”. However he was under the impression that he was recruited for a job paying $2,000 a month.

“Last week, Saif Abu Bakr, the commander of the Hamza Division of the opposition Syrian National Army, suggested that we go to Azerbaijan to guard military points on the border with a monthly wage of up to $2,000,” said Abdullah.

“There was no war at the time, and we were transferred from Northern Syria to the village of Hor Kilis, and there we have stripped us from the opposition Syrian National Army of all our money, phones and clothes, so that our identity is not recognised.”

Days after arriving, the untrained Syrians were forced to fight on the front lines as the fighting broke out between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed region.

“They loaded us into troop carriers, we were wearing Azeri uniforms, and each of us was armed with a single Kalashnikov weapon. Most of the people here are poor civilians who wanted the money, not soldiers, stopped the car and we were surprised that we were in the line of fire. We did not even know where the enemy was.”

Abdullah and others later said they wanted to return to Syria, but were prevented and threatened with long prison terms if they refused to fight “We are almost exiled”, he said.

Both Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied the accusations that Syrian fighters have been sent to fight for Azerbaijan. However, according to the Guardianat least three Syrian opposition fighters have been killed in Nagorno-Karabkh.

On Monday, Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria. France today also weighed in on the accusations, the office of President Emmanuel Macron said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue and both “share concern about the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh”.

Turkish media outlets have claimed that Armenia is recruiting Kurdish PKK terrorists in their ranks, although critics argue it is using the reports to justify military intervention and that no evidence has been provided.

Turkey has previously sent Syrian fighters to Libya despite denials by the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment