‘Turkish police have detained a man they believe to be one of the main perpetrators of car bombings that killed more than 50 people near the Syrian border, officials have said.
Hatay governor Celalettin Lekesiz said police had detained a man, who local media named as Mehmet Genc, shortly before midnight on Thursday in Samandag district, near the Syrian border, and that he was being treated as a prime suspect.
Turkey has accused Syria of involvement in the two bombings last weekend in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province. Damascus has denied any role.’
Editors Note: The US was dismissive of any evidence until late April when Israel made the official announcement that it believed the Syrian government had used chemical weapons. Israel claimed that the Syrian had used them five times, whereas the US claimed two uses. Last week Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan claimed ‘at least 200′ uses stating that he had absolute proof. Obama has also stated that he had already seen the proof, but reiterated that ‘more specific information’ is needed. The UN however have said that only one incident of their use has taken place and that it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, who used them. This claim was dismissed out of hand by the US, with them stating that it was probably carried out by the Syrian military even though Syrian soldiers died as a result.
‘President Barack Obama has said the US has seen evidence of chemical weapons being used in Syria.
However, speaking after meeting Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he insisted it was important to get more specific details about alleged chemical attacks.
Earlier, residents of a north Syrian town told a BBC reporter how government forces had dropped poisonous gas canisters on them from helicopters.’
by Nick Tattersall and Matt Spetalnick
‘President Barack Obama said on Thursday he reserved the right to resort to both diplomatic and military options to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but insisted that U.S. action alone would not be enough to resolve the Syrian crisis.
Taking a cautious line at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Obama voiced hope that the United States and Russia would succeed in arranging an international peace conference on Syria, despite signs of growing obstacles.
Erdogan had been expected to push Obama, at least in private, for more assertive action on Syria during a visit to Washington this week, days after car bombs tore through a Turkish border town in the deadliest spillover of violence yet.
Obama – who has been reluctant to arm Syrian rebels or become enmeshed militarily in the conflict – made no mention of deeper engagement in Syria during an appearance at the White House, where the leaders sought to project a united front.’
by Thomas Seibert
‘A Turkish opposition MP yesterday accused the Syrian rebel group Jabhat Al Nusra of planting the twin car bombs that killed 46 people in a frontier town this weekend.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, said he held the Syrian government responsible for the attack in Reyhanli. But Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, who represents the Republican People’s Party (CHP), claimed that rebels with links to Al Qaeda had exploited lax security in Turkey’s Hatay province.
He said he believed that Al Nusra had planted the bombs in the frontier area in a bid to drag Turkey into Syria’s civil war because the rebels have realised that they need help to overthrow Bashar Al Assad’s regime.’
‘Syria on Sunday rejected Turkey’s allegations that it was behind two car bombs that killed 46 people in Turkey and wounded dozens more.
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi told a news conference that “Syria did not and will never do such an act because our values do not allow this. It is not anyone’s right to hurl unfounded accusations.” Zoubi’s comments were the first official Syrian response since Saturday’s bombings in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, near Syria.
The Syrian minister alleged that Turkey is responsible “for all that happened in Syria and what happened in Turkey yesterday,” but did not explain.
He also launched one of the harshest personal attacks on Turkey’s prime minister by an Syrian official so far, demanding that Recep Tayyip Erdogan ”step down as a killer and as a butcher.”‘
‘Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told US media he has evidence that Syria used chemical weapons against opposition forces.
He said that missile remains were discovered and Syrian patients showed signs of wounds from chemical weapons.’
‘Turkey’s prime minister has denounced Israeli airstrikes on Syria, saying the attacks help strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad’s hand.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday also criticized Iran for “turning a blind eye” to massacres in Syria and accused the international community of ignoring the bloodshed.’
by Sibel Edmonds
Boiling Frogs Post
‘With the approaching Finale for Syria’s Assad the Uber-Neocon architects of US foreign policy have been hard at work. Assuming (albeit knowingly) the certainty of the soon-to-come end for Assad’s government, the neocon architects are drafting and crafting their objectives for the Post-Assad regime in Syria. I know the mainstream and pseudo-alternative media use the term “Neocon” loosely and willy-nilly, but I can assure you this is not the case with my usage of “Uber-Neocons’ here. You will see that clearly after reading the following facts.’
by Dmitry Solovyov
‘NATO member Turkey signed up on Friday to became a “dialogue partner” of a security bloc dominated by China and Russia, and declared that its destiny is in Asia.
[...] China, Russia and four Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – formed the SCO in 2001 as a regional security bloc to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.
Since then, Central Asia’s former imperial master Russia has watched with unease China’s economic expansion in the resource-rich region, with Beijing investing billions of dollars in oil and gas and issuing large loans to local governments.
Turkey has displayed interest in closer ties with the SCO at a time when it is upset by the slow progress of accession talks with the European Union.’
by Can Sezer and Ece Toksabay
A world-renowned concert pianist was given a suspended jail sentence in Turkey on Monday for insulting religious values on Twitter, a case which has become a cause celebre for Turks alarmed about creeping Islamic conservatism.
Fazil Say, also a leading composer, went on trial in October for blasphemy – a crime that can carry an 18-month sentence – for a series of tweets including one citing a 1,000-year-old poem.
[...] His case has stirred up passions about the role religion should play in Turkish public life and highlighted how much has changed since Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, which has roots in Islamist politics, swept to power a decade ago.
A judiciary once renowned for defending the secular republic against Islamist influence – notably jailing Erdogan himself for reciting a religious poem – now finds itself in hock to religious conservatives, government opponents say.
by Richard Hall
[...] ”Let guns be silenced, let ideas speak,” Ocalan said in the letter, read out by Kurdish politician Pervin Buldan.
The historic announcement from the head of the Kurdish rebel group, who is revered among many of Turkey’s Kurds, called for an end to violence and declared a ceasefire in the decades-old conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state - a conflict that has left around 40,000 people dead.
There were cheers from the throngs in Diyarbakir, but two weeks later, in a small stone house across the border in northern Iraq, the PKK’s military leader, Murat Karayilan, suggested rumblings of discontent among the group’s fighters.
“The thinking of the leadership of the PKK is in line with Ocalan,” Karayilan told Al Jazeera. “But the PKK is a very large organisation. We cannot say that the middle ranks all feel the same way. We are having a problem convincing all of our comrades.”
Turkey is negotiating peace with its separatist Kurds because of the conflict in Syria and cannot be trusted to keep its promises, Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad said.
Assad, whose regime is battling against an uprising that is in its third year and has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives, added that he opposed the idea of Kurdish independence anywhere in the region, claiming that only a small minority of Kurds favored independence.
Assad said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government is engaged in historic peace negotiations for the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to end three decades of armed struggle, cannot be trusted to keep his promises.
Earlier this month, the inhabitants of a small village in the Golcuk district of the Turkish province of Kocaeli awoke to find something different.
The village’s main bridge over a local creek — all 22 tons of it — was gone.
According to the Turkish publication Today’s Zaman, the dumbfounded villagers, who used the bridge to reach their orchards, alerted police about the theft on March 11. Police suspected that thieves dismantled the 82-ft.-long span to sell it as scrap metal — probably for about $12,000, noted Gizmodo. Authorities are still investigating the matter.
As for the villagers, life is indeed a hassle without the bridge. One resident, Mustafa Karakas, told a Turkish news agency that they now have to take their socks off and wade across the creek in order to tend the plantations, according to Today’s Zaman.
This is not the first time that an entire bridge has vanished. In May 2012, a group of thieves used a crane to dismantle a 10-ton steel pedestrian bridge and about 218 yards of railway track in the Czech Republic, reported Agence France-Presse. The thieves duped police officers with a forged document saying they were working on a bicycle path. And in 2011 two thieves armed with a blowtorch stole a 70-year-old bridge in broad daylight about 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh; they reportedly made $5,100 off the 15.5 tons of steel, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Turkey exported almost $120 million worth of gold to Iran in February, data showed, suggesting the two countries’ trade of gold for natural gas has resumed despite tighter US sanctions, though at levels below last year’s peaks.
US officials have sought to prevent Turkish gold exports from providing a financial lifeline to Tehran, which has been largely frozen out of the global banking system by Western sanctions over its nuclear program.
Turkey sold no gold to Iran in January, according to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK), as banks and dealers eyed the February 6 implementation of US sanctions that tightened control over precious metal sales.
The United States has given Turkey a six-month waiver exempting it from sanctions on trade with Iran, which is due to expire in July, but banks and dealers still have been cautious.
Turkey sold $117.9 million worth of gold to Iran last month, while exports to the United Arab Emirates, which has served in the past as a transit route to Tehran, rose to $402.3 million from $371 million in January, TUIK data showed.
by Jason Ditz
Though the deal still seems to be quite some way off, Israel has reportedly agreed in principle to pay tens of millions of dollars in compensation for the May 2010 attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which led to the killings of nine aid workers.
Israel and Turkey are discussing the formation of a committee of both nations’ officials to come up with final terms for the deal, with the money to go in a “humanitarian fund” managed by Turkey’s government.
Though Israel has been open to compensation for quite some time, the issue could become difficult since officials demand full immunity for Israeli commandos and the state for the killings, as well as not having to admit any wrongdoing.
Turkey seems willing to abandon any government-led charges against the Israelis for the killings, but has no legal avenue for ordering all other lawsuits related to them cancelled, and the families of victims are unlikely to all agree to drop such charges simply on Turkey’s say-so.
The Turkish army has prepared a “space road map” as part of a new project in which a Space Group Command will be established under the direction of the Turkish Air Force.
The road map is based on the concept of using the space for peaceful and defense aims. The road map’s targets are to establish a reconnaissance and surveillance unit which will receive visual intelligence without being affected by obstacles caused by geography or climate – enabling secure communication – provide an early-warning system which will predetermine ballistic missile threats and provide sufficient time to take defense measures against the threat and finally to provide electronic support for the analysis of the electronic war order of the operation area.
The road map also aims to develop the skills to put satellites into orbit.
All the operations will be conducted under the command of a new unit, the Space Group Command. The command will also operate the satellites that will be among the Turkish military’s inventory.
The military’s target is to make an air-space force structure as part of the Turkish Air Force in order to keep up with the latest developments in the defense sector. A new satellite command will also be established that will work under the Space Group Command whenever a satellite is put into orbit.
As such, a Reconnaissance Satellite Command will first be established. This command is already operating the GÖKTÜRK-2 satellite, which was put into orbit on Dec. 18, 2012.
This satellite will be fully operational by the end of the next month and will serve the Turkish Armed Forces.
by John Glaser
Anonymous American officials have told The Associated Press that there is an ongoing effort to train “secular Syrian fighters in Jordan” and aiding so-called “moderates” in the rebel forces trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The press has reported these clandestine activities for several months now, but the official reiteration signals the Obama administration’s intention to make the policy known, perhaps to placate voices in Washington urging more decisive action in Syria’s long, bloody civil war.
“The training has been taking place since late last year at an unspecified location, concentrating largely on Sunnis and tribal Bedouins who formerly served as members of the Syrian army,” according to The Associated Press. The trainees are not current members of the Free Syrian Army, officials said, because the US “fear[s] the growing role of extremist militia groups in the rebel ranks, including some linked to al-Qaida.”
The military training has coincided with a sharp increase in the CIA’s effort to coordinate the delivery of weapons to Syria’s rebels from countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and others. This, despite the Obama administration’s continuing claims to stop short of directly arming the rebels.
While Washington claims its efforts are meant to stem the rise of Islamic extremists in the rebel forces, some with links to al-Qaeda, their ability to properly vet rebels is extremely limited and has failed in the past, according to intelligence officials.
In October, The New York Times published an article confirming that, “Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists,” despite so-called vetting processes by the US.
Not only are the rebel groups receiving aid, but they face increasing allegations of war crimes and just last week appear to have used chemical weapons, an act President Obama has deemed a “red line” for the Assad regime.
Besides the poor capacity to direct arms to supposedly moderate elements of the rebel opposition, the meddling in Syria’s civil war is prolonging the conflict, pushing it towards stalemate by boosting the fighting confidence of the rebels, while Assad maintains his backing from other allies.
Turkey conquered the Balkans five centuries ago. Now Turkish power is making inroads through friendlier means.
Two Turkish-run universities have opened in Bosnia’s Ottoman-influenced capital in recent years, bringing an influx of Turkish students and culture to a predominantly Muslim country still reeling from a brutal ethnic war almost two decades ago.
Turkish investment has expanded across the Balkans, even in Croatia and Serbia, where mostly Christian residents think of the sultans from Constantinople as occupiers, not liberators. Turkey also has helped broker talks between formerly bitter enemies in the Balkans. This growing presence has given Turkey an expanding field of influence in Europe at a time when the country’s prospects of joining the European Union appear dubious.
“Turkish leaders are working at a new Ottoman empire, a gentle one,” said Amir Zukic, the bureau chief of the Turkish Anadolu news agency’s Sarajevo office, which has expanded in recent months. “Turkey, a former regional power, is trying to come back in a big way.”
Turkey’s presence in Bosnia was largely dormant during the more than 40 years that the Balkan country was part of communist Yugoslavia, which was not receptive to Turkish religious and historical influences. But during the mid-1990s, as Yugoslavia fell apart, Turkish aid started flowing to the Muslims who make up about half of Bosnia. Since then, Turkish funding has helped reconstruct Ottoman-era monuments that were targets of ethnically motivated destruction.
Now Turkey’s cultural influence is hard to miss. Turkish dignitaries are frequent visitors to Sarajevo. A grand new Turkish embassy is being built near “sniper alley,” a corridor where, during the three-year siege of the capital city in the war, Bosnian Muslims struggling to go about their daily business were frequently shot at by Serbian snipers stationed on nearby hills. Billboards advertise round-trip flights to Istanbul for the equivalent of $74. And this year, a baroque soap opera based on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent, a 16th-century ruler of the Ottoman Empire, has mesmerized couch potatoes amid Bosnia’s dreary winter.
The CIA reportedly has a hand in clandestine supply of arms to Syrian rebels by Gulf States. At least 3,500 tons of have been delivered – some ending up on the black market, with the Turkish government an active player, a media report says.
The flow of arms continues with the help of US agents as Washington criticizes Iran and Russia for delivering weapons to the Syrian regime, the New York Times says. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq on Sunday to close its airspace to Iranian flights just as the latest arms delivery from Qatar for Syrian rebels was landing in Turkey, according to the daily’s report.
The newspaper cites air traffic data, US and foreign officials and rebel commanders in its investigation.
The airlift reportedly began in early 2012 with a Qatari Emir Air Force C-130 transport aircraft flight. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have joined in in November, when it became a major operation. More than 160 military flights have landed in Turkey over the time. Esenboga Airport near Ankara was the prime destination, but others were also involved, the newspaper claims.
“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told the newspaper. He added that it appears as a “well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”
Indeed, CIA agents have a direct input on the deliveries, albeit mostly consultative, NYT says. The spy agency reportedly helps with procurement of weapons in Croatia and vets Syrian rebel groups, which would receive the weapons.
The involvement was supposedly motivated by the fact that the Arab states would supply arms to the Syrian militants anyway. The hopes CIA its can steer away the arms from Islamists’ hands and prevent weapons which can potentially be used by terrorist against civilian targets from being delivered, a former US official told the newspaper.
The operation was a limited success apparently, NYT says, citing two Islamist commanders.
Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday that Israel’s apology to Turkey over the 2010 Israel Navy raid on the Gaza flotilla was a “serious mistake.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, and apologized for the deaths of nine Turkish activists during the raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel. The two leaders agreed to normalize relations between the two countries.
Lieberman, who currently chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, stated in response: “An apology by the State of Israel on an Israel Defense Forces operation against a terror organization is a serious mistake.”
“The apology hurts the motivation of IDF soldiers, strengthens extremists in the area and hurts Israel’s struggle along the righteous path,” he said.
Lieberman added that it is Turkey’s current leadership that is solely responsible for the deterioration of relations between the two countries.
“Erdogan’s refusal to apologize for his explicitly anti-Zionist remarks alongside the Israeli apology hurts Israel’s dignity and status in the region and the world.”
by Jason Ditz
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan’s call for a ceasefire to begin today is being uniformly implemented by Kurdish fighters affiliated with the group, pausing nearly 30 years of fighting in Turkey and setting the stage for peace talks.
Ocalan called the ceasefire from prison yesterday, and urged fighters to disarm or leave Turkey for the time being, saying it is time for Turkey and the PKK to “rapidly solve” the long-standing disputes.
Turkish officials have mostly been mum on any specific reforms, but did say they “cautiously welcome” the ceasefire, and the military has been ordered to respect it so long as the PKK attacks have stopped.
In Turkish Kurdistan there is already optimism that the decades of violence is now over, and a hope that they will see positive action from the Erdogan government soon.
The big reform from the Turkish government would be the recognition of Kurdish people as an actual ethnicity, something they have long refused to do. Several in parliament have been pushing for such action for awhile, and it would go a long way toward showing some good will for the peace talks to come.
The Americans won the war, the Iranians won the peace and the Turks won the contracts.
Turkey, which blocked the deployment of U.S. troops through its territory during the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, is emerging 10 years on as one of the prime beneficiaries of the battle for the Iraqi market.
Although Turkey’s relations with Baghdad are increasingly bitter, its exports to Iraq have in the past decade soared by more than 25 percent a year, reaching $10.8 billion in 2012, making Iraq Ankara’s second-most valuable export market after Germany.
Ozgur Altug, an economist at BGC Partners in Istanbul, predicts that as Iraq grows richer because of its oil reserves, demand for Turkish goods will keep climbing — by more than $2 billion a year. Turkish contractors have also been doing rich business, working on about $3.5 billion of construction projects last year, according to businessmen and officials.
One company, Calik Energy, boasts that it is building the two biggest projects in the Iraqi power sector, two gas turbine plants in the Mosul and Karbala regions, earning more than $800 million from the Iraqi government in the process.
While Iran is seen as the most influential outside power in Iraq today, on Baghdad’s streets Turkey’s presence is more visible than that of any other country, with everything from malls to furniture stores to pavement bricks bearing a Turkish trademark.
But it is the Kurdish-governed north that accounts for the bulk of Turkey’s business, absorbing about 70 percent of Turkey’s exports to Iraq. In contrast, Ankara’s relationship with the rest of the country is becoming more poisonous, with political disputes leading Baghdad to hold back on giving new government contracts to Turkish groups.
As Ankara’s economic and diplomatic ties with the Kurdish government expand, about 1,000 Turkish businesses are working in the north, including some of Turkey’s best known banks, retailers and hotels.
by Tony Cartalucci
The primary reason, we are told, that the West must immediately begin wider operations to support the so-called Syrian rebels is to head off extremists – namely Al Qaeda, from overrunning Syria. This narrative has been sold for nearly a year now as it has become evidently clear that all major offensives in Syria against the Syrian people and their government have been led by Al Qaeda terrorist fronts, including most notoriously, Jabhat al-Nusra.
It turns out, however, according the London Telegraph, that the US and Britain have already been arming terrorists operating in Syria for some time, including a massive airlift of 3,000 tons of weapons, sent across Syria’s borders with Jordan and NATO-member Turkey. In the Telegraph’s article titled, “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’,” it is reported:
It claimed 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November
The story confirmed the origins of ex-Yugoslav weapons seen in growing numbers in rebel hands in online videos, as described last month by The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, but suggests far bigger quantities than previously suspected.
The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria’s neighbours. But the report added that as well as from Croatia, weapons came “from several other European countries including Britain”, without specifying if they were British-supplied or British-procured arms.
British military advisers however are known to be operating in countries bordering Syria alongside French and Americans, offering training to rebel leaders and former Syrian army officers. The Americans are also believed to be providing training on securing chemical weapons sites inside Syria.
With so much admitted involvement in the violence aimed at overthrowing Syria’s government by the West, it is inconceivable that Al Qaeda could be “overrunning moderate forces” in Syria, unless of course, no such moderate forces exist, and the West had planned from the beginning to use Al Qaeda as a mercenary force. And indeed, that is precisely what is happening. It has been established with documented evidence since at least 2007, and reaffirmed with this latest report.
Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, in his 2007 New Yorker report titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?“stated explicitly that:
“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
Is there any doubt that the US has executed this plot in earnest, arming and funding sectarian extremists “sympathetic to Al Qaeda” on both Syria’s northern and southern border? Where else, if not from the West and its regional allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, could extremists be getting their weapons, cash, and logistical support from?
And of course, Syria’s borders with Jordan and Turkey have been long-ago identified by the US Army’s own West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) as hotbeds of sectarian extremist/Al Qaeda activity – hotbeds that the West is purposefully funneling thousands of tons of weaponry through, while disingenuously claiming it is attempting to prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.
The CTC’s 2007 report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” identified Syria’s southeastern region near Dayr Al-Zawr on the Iraqi-Syrian border, the northwestern region of Idlib near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border, as having produced the majority of fighters found crossing over into Iraq throughout the duration of the Iraq War.
Image: (Left) West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center’s 2007 report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” indicated which areas in Syria Al Qaeda fighters filtering into Iraq came from during the US invasion/occupation. The overwhelming majority of them came from Dayr Al-Zawr in Syria’s southeast, Idlib in the north near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border. (Right) A map indicating the epicenters of violence in Syria indicate that the exact same hotbeds for Al Qaeda in 2007, now serve as the epicenters of so-called “pro-democracy fighters.”
These areas are now admittedly the epicenters of fighting, and more importantly, despite being historical hotbeds of Al Qaeda activity, precisely where the West is flooding with cash, weapons, and military “advisers.” Just like in Libya where the West literally handed an entire nation to sectarian extremists, we are watching a verbatim repeat in Syria – where we are told Al Qaeda terrorists are “pro-democracy” “freedom fighters” that deserve US cash, weapons, and support, when it couldn’t be any clearer they aren’t.
Not only has the US and UK lied to the world about their policy toward Syria and their current level of support for increasingly overt terrorists committing an array of atrocities – their latest act including the taking of over 20 UN peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights - but have revealed once again the manufactured facade that is the “War on Terror.”
The United States is slipping and sliding down that proverbial “slippery slope” in Syria toward something that looks increasingly like war.
Most worryingly, according to The New York Times, the CIA is training Syrian fighters in Jordan. Buried in its story today about Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that the United States will increase aid to the rebels, including medical supplies and those always tasty MREs (“Meals Ready to Eat”), was this previously unreported nugget:
A covert program to train rebel fighters, which State Department officials here were not prepared to discuss, has also been under way. According to an official in Washington, who asked not to be identified, the CIA since last year has been training groups of Syrian rebels in Jordan.
The official did not provide details about the training or what difference it may have made on the battlefield, but said the CIA had not given weapons or ammunition to the rebels. An agency spokesman declined to comment.
Now, let us not be shocked, shocked that the CIA is doing this; in fact, it’s very likely that this is the tip of a very large iceberg. Undoubtedly, the CIA, and the Pentagon, is coordinating a regional effort involving the Sunni bloc involving Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar to topple the Assad government in Damascus. That, folks, is called “regime change.” And we’ve seen it before.
The additional $60 million in US aid to Syria’s rebels is headed to the coffers of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) and to the Syrian Military Council (SMC), a newly created body that purports to represent the so-called Syrian Free Army. Interestingly enough, although Egypt has pretty much stayed out of the fray in Syria officially, the SOC and the SMC are based in Cairo, Egypt, whose Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni secret society, is backing the Muslim Brotherhood–led rebels in Syria. At a background briefing yesterday, a State Department official said this:
The United States will be sending technical advisors through our implementing partners to support the SOC’s staff at their Cairo headquarters in the execution of this assistance. This will ensure that the assistance continues to comply with U.S. rules and regulations on the use of foreign assistance, including vetting, oversight, and monitoring. To remind that this additional $60 million for the SOC is in addition to the more than $50 million in nonlethal support we have already provided to help Syrian activists organize opposition efforts across the country and to amplify their message to Syrians and to the world through communications and broadcasting equipment.
There’s a long analysis of the Syrian Free Army and the SMC published by the Institute for the Study of War, a neoconservative think tank in Washington. Here’s an excerpt:
The Supreme Military Council was created on the heels of a three day conference held in Antalya, Turkey, from December 5-7, 2012. During this conference, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of a new 30-member unified command structure called the Supreme Military Command (SMC). The SMC is led by Chief of Staff Major General Salim Idriss and includes 11 former officers and 19 civilian leaders.
The SMC differs from previous efforts to unify the military opposition because more groups and support networks are included. It could prove to be a more sustainable organization than its predecessors. The SMC includes all of Syria’s most important field commanders, and its authority is based on the power and influence of these rebel leaders including: Abdel Qadir Salah, head of the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo; Mustafa Abdel Karim, head of the Dara al-Thawra Brigade; Ahmed Issa, head of Suqour al-Sham Brigade in Idlib; Jamal Marouf, head of the Syrian Martyrs Brigade in Idlib; Osama al-Jinidi, head of the Farouq Battalions; and General Ziad al-Fahd, head of the Damascus Military Council.
The SMC was organized to incorporate the supply chains and networks that already existed inside Syria and eventually channel them through the centralized units of the SMC. In order to achieve this goal, the command is divided into five geographic fronts with six elected members each: the Eastern front, the Western/Middle front, the Northern front, the Southern front, and the Homs front.
That all sounds organized enough, but on the ground, inside Syria, the lines of authority and the lines of command are less than clear, and many of the anti-Assad fighters are radical and extreme Islamists and Al Qaeda types. Although the United States would like to “vet” the recipients of its aid, and although the people that the CIA is training in Jordan are probably from the more-moderate rather than less-moderate part of the anti-Assad spectrum, there’s just no telling what Syria after the fall of Assad might look like.
One person who’s worried about exactly that is Faleh al-Fayyah, the national security adviser of Iraq, who spoke yesterday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. In his talk, he was asked about recent comments from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who worried about Syria spinning out of control. Iraq, of course, ruled by a Shiite coalition, is petrified at the idea that a bunch of Sunni radicals and Muslim Brotherhood types might take over in Damascus, leading to civil war, partition and a spillover into Iraq. As Fayyah said:
I believe that the statement by his excellency, Prime Minister al-Maliki, yesterday was an analysis for the potential and possible repercussions that would happen given the developments in Syria. And if it’s a bad, negative end to the – to the issue in Syria, then you will see the partition of the country, you would see a civil – a civil war, you would see a potentially a – (inaudible) – and also you would see – and also if the extremist factions come into power in a new regime, in a new order in Syria, then this will export an array of problems to Iraq.
He went on:
We have also started to see that some of these problems started being shipped to Lebanon, exported to Lebanon, and the ripple effect is now being seen in Lebanon. The prime minister’s analysis is an accurate and correct one. And if the situation keeps going in that direction that it is taking today, we feel there might be a civil war, there might be a sectarian partition of the – of the country and also we feel that terrorist groups may try to get the upper hand in that environment. Therefore, we feel if the situation goes into that direction, the future of the Middle East will witness tension, will witness further problems, and in that effect, the analysis of his excellency the prime minister, Prime Minister Maliki, was accurate and correct.
So what are we looking at? The very regime that the United States installed in Baghdad, now closely aligned with Iran, is fearful that the regime we are now trying to install in Damascus might be a bitter enemy—which, naturally, will drive Baghdad into the waiting arms of Tehran.
Given the rhetoric in Washington, Barack Obama won’t be able to resist the drumbeat of war in Syria for long, Robert Dreyfuss predicts.
by Jason Ditz
The comments weren’t even supposed to be directed at Israel.
In a speech at the UN Alliance of Civilizations meeting, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the international community to speak out against Islamophobia, terming it a “crime against humanity” and likening it to “Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism.”
The mention is Zionism in passing was enough to spark a livid reaction from Israeli officials, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemning it as a “libelous” comment, and other Likud officials dubbing it “anti-semitic.”
Demands for apology were quick to follow, with Israeli officials and European Jewish leaders suggested the comments had something to do with the Armenian genocide, seemingly brought up only to get a rise out of Turkey.
All of this falderal over a single comment reflects the ongoing tension in what was once Israel’s strongest regional alliance, which has remained in ruins since the 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara, with Israel’s government still split years later on whether or not to apologize for killing Turkish aid workers on board the aid ship.
Turkey has embarked on a campaign to retrieve children of Turkish immigrant families living in Europe who are fostered by foreigners, and instead place them in homes where their cultural identity can be preserved.
The step comes after a court in the Netherlands refused last week to return nine-year-old Yunus — who had been taken into care by a Dutch lesbian couple — to his biological Turkish family, reportedly citing the mother’s inability to speak Dutch.
Turkey fears that children placed in Christian homes will forget their Muslim roots, and also disapproves of placements with gay couples.
Syrian rebels and a Kurdish militia that have fought each other for months in a town near the Turkish border have signed a ceasefire, averting the prospect of an Arab-Kurd conflict.
Syria’s Kurds have exploited the civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to oust him by asserting control in parts of the northeast, which have been spared the worst of the violence.
But the relative calm was shattered last November when mainly Sunni Muslim Arab rebels overran the ethnically mixed Syrian town of Ras al-Ain and Assad’s airforce bombed it in the days that followed.
Until a deal was struck earlier this week, Kurdish fighters known as Popular Protection Units (YPG) had been battling to drive out insurgents from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), opening another front in Syria’s near two year civil war.
Previous efforts to broker a truce repeatedly fell through.
by Elad Benari
A Turkish politician has accused Israel and Turkey of collaborating with one another to allow Israel to carry out an alleged attack on Syrian territory last week.
A report Monday in the official SyrianSANA news agency quoted the Vice Chairman of the Turkish Labor Party, Bulent Esinoglu, as having said that the government of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cooperated with Israel in its attack in Damascus last Wednesday.
The Syrian news agency quoted an article published on the Turkish Ulusal Bakiswebsite, in which Esinoglu pointed out that a visit by U.S. and German senators with Turkish President Abdullah Gul before the alleged Israeli attack indicates that the Turkish Government was aware of the attack in advance.
The senators, noted Esinoglu, headed to Israel after their visit in Turkey, also an indication that the attack was planned by both countries, according to him.
Esinoglu blamed Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of turning a blind eye to what happened and working to mislead the public opinion, SANA reported.
Statements from Turkish officials have indicated the opposite, however. On Saturday, Davutoglu attacked the Syrian government for failing to respond to the Israeli airstrike, claiming that the Syrian stance raises suspicions that there is a secret deal between the two countries.
by Jason Ditz
Few things seem to get Israeli officials planning as quickly as a US imprimatur to launch an attack. Having been given the green light not just for Wednesday’s attacks but for other, future attacks Israel is now said to be planning a dramatic escalation.
The new Israeli plan, under consideration by its leadership, calls not only for additional strikes inside Syria but a full-scale ground invasion across the Purple Line, seizing a 10 mile “buffer zone” on the other side of the line in which to install large numbers of Israeli troops and tanks.
Israel’s previous strikes targeted a military research facility as well as a military convoy parked at a base. The convoy reportedly had anti-aircraft missiles on board, which Israel feared would make its regular attacks on Lebanon much less convenient should they fall into Hezbollah’s hands.
The new strikes would center around a putative Iranian listening post, which Iran is apparently using to keep an eye on Israel, which has regularly threatened to attack them.
The “buffer zone” plan is likely to be far more controversial and potentially explosive, since Israel already has a de facto 10 mile buffer zone it seized in 1967, the Golan Heights. In the past half a century Israel has filled this zone with 20,000 settlers, and the new zone would inevitably look like another land grab.
An Israeli invasion might provoke action from Turkey as well, which condemned Israel’s last strikes and has talked about setting up its own “buffer zone” in the far north, hoping to house Syrian refugees inside of that region instead of inside Turkey itself.
US comments on Israel’s attack amounted to unequivocal endorsement of the strikes and any future strikes, but didn’t specify just how far they’re comfortable with Israel going. Since this plan is under consideration at all, it seems safe to say that the Obama Administration is comfortable with leaving the scope of the war up to Israel, which given its current government’s bellicosity will inevitably mean as broad a scope as possible.