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Heat on Erdogan for Attacks on Kurds and Support of Extremists

Next Cold War Roundup 1/13/16

_ Turkey’s president Erdogan is under massive pressure.  In the week leading up to yesterday’s Istanbul suicide bombing,  a wave of media reports on Erdogan’s brutality against Kurds, lack of allies and destabilization he was causing was in motion. A Google News search reveals a surge (without any apparent specific triggering event) in damaging reports about Mr. Erdogan’s offensive on Kurds in southeastern Turkey and overall trouble he is causing in the region, plus his increasing isolation because of it. The suicide bombing by an alleged ISIS combatant (when Turkey is widely accused of supporting ISIS) who came from Saudi Arabia (his ally in supporting extremists) with most of the victims being German tourists (critical industry and a country with already strained EU relations due to refugees and migrants) just adds to Erdogan’s big problems with the world.  Someone, or a lot of someones, is turning up the heat.

Suicide Bombing in Turkey

_ At least 10 people dead after a suicide bombing in a tourist area Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul . Within hours, Pres. Erdogan said the bomber was of Syrian origin. Several hours after the attack, BBC reporter Seref Isler said Reuters was told by senior officials there was a high likelihood that ISIS was behind the attack. By afternoon, Turkey’s PM Davutoğlu “informed Merkel that most of the victims are German” and deputy PM Numan Kurtulmuş said the “suicide bomber was identified as a Syrian born in 1988.” A few hours later Turkish PM said the bomber was an “ISIL militant” ” Saudi-born Nabil Fadli” who entered through Syria, and all victims are foreigners.

_ Hurriyet and BBC reported that there was a media blackout around the suicide bombing.

Massive Pressure on Erdogan Regarding Kurds

_ Washington Post published a highly critical editorial “Mr. Erdogan’s Offensive” about the “full-scale military campaign against ethnic Kurdish militants that has killed thousands, displaced hundreds of thousands and left parts of several large towns in ruins.” They clarify that they are referring to Turkish Kurds in SE Turkey conclude that Erdogan must be “pushed” toward negotiations with Turkish Kurds and a settlement that grants them “more political rights”.

_ This extensive piece in the Wall Street Journal is highly sympathetic to Turkish Kurds who are quoted saying the state (Erdogan) is “carrying out terrorist acts against civilians” to “quash Kurdish appeals for self-rule in a country where they represent about 20% of the population.”

_ “Weekend media reports said prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a closed-door meeting of his ruling AK party that security operations and curfews in the region would end within a week, but he said on Sunday there was no such timescale.” Maybe this was the triggering event?  It seems like every major English language news organization is cracking down on Erdogan and reporting on his war against the Kurds with many mentions of numbers of civilians killed.  There’s no doubt this is a powerful campaign.

_ Ex-State Dept and CIA Graham Fuller analyzes the past year and makes predictions for the coming year for Erdogan, noting he has grabbed more power in Turkey for now, as he cracked down and created “an atmosphere of insecurity in the country, and stepped up confrontation” with Kurds and with a “policy of fear-mongering led to an increase in terrorist acts and stirred increased domestic anxiety that strengthened his party at the November polls.” But this power grab was at the expense of his legacy and relations with almost every country except Saudi Arabia, Qatar and perhaps Israel. The pressure is on Mr. Erdogan from many directions.


A New Kurdistan Carved From Syria and Iraq Plus a Turkish Kurdistan Semi-Autonomous Region?

_ WaPo editorial also admits that Kurds in Iraq and Syria are “fighting the Islamic State and carving out their own autonomous areas” and that Erdogan’s settlement with Turkish Kurds must be “an essential component of what must eventually be a broader solution for Kurdish aspirations in the region.” So it sounds like they are signalling that Turkey is being pressured to agree to Iraqi and Syrian Kurds having their own autonomous region on Turkey’s border and for southeastern Turkey to remain part of Turkey but become a semi-autonomous region for Turkish Kurds.

_ In a series of tweets, British-Kurdish blogger in Erbil lays out the talking points we can see across a whole swath of mainstream media articles this week. A sampling:

_ Numerous signs that Iraqi part of Kurdistan maybe break off soon (including news of massive trenches dug around perimeter, US agreement to send heavy weapons, various countries committing to more “training”).  Now they’re focusing on female fighters in the news, always a sign of a propaganda campaign.


Salma – Latakia, Syria

_ Reports coming out that R4+1 coalition has retaken Salma. A BFD, if true.

“Syrian Arab Army’s 103rd Brigade of the Republican Guard – in close coordination with the National Defense Forces (NDF), the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade), the Russian Air Force, and Muqawama Souri (Syrian Resistance) – liberated the strategic town of Salma after a short battle this morning with the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).”

_ Looks like it’s true. Soldier with Syrian flags claiming Salma. Video dated 1/12/16:

_ Military experts have been predicting a major campaign in Idlib for some time now.

“It seems likely that the main further advance in the area will be from Salma and Al-Rabiya NE up the M4 to Jisr al-Shugur and thence to Idlib City.  At the same time there is a road that run SE from Salma that leads down into the plains of Idlib Province.

The pincer movement and Kesselschlacht in Idlib takes shape.”

Iran – U.S. Naval Incident

_ Two small US Navy “riverine” boats strayed into Iranian waters near the sensitive Iranian military base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf due to broken GPS. Boats and 10 sailors were detained overnight. The commander of the US Fifth Fleet said “There are no indications that the Sailors were harmed during their brief detention” and issued this summary:

“The Sailors departed Farsi Island at 8:43 a.m. (GMT), aboard the two Riverine Command Boats (RCB) that they had been operating when they lost contact with the U.S. Navy. The Sailors were later transferred ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other Sailors took charge of the RCBs and continued transiting toward Bahrain, the boats’ original destination.”

_  Since it happened some hours before the State of the Union address, it caused a media spectacle, especially among those who still hope the nearly implemented US-Iran deal will collapse. The situation was resolved last night.

A Defense spokeswoman identified the American vessels as riverine command boats. These 49-foot-long vessels feature an aircraft-like cockpit and a reinforced hull that can drive onto a rocky beach to offload troops. They’re a cross between a boat and a Stryker armored combat vehicle, according to a 2007 Navy Times profile of the boats.

_ Iran’s Republican Guard investigated and concluded the “trespassing was not hostile or for spying purposes.” “Gen. Ali Fadavi, Navy chief of Iran’s elite powerful Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying […] ‘Investigation shows that the entry of American sailors into Iran’s territorial waters was due to mechanical problems in their navigation system.'”

_ AFP’s Tehran deputy bureau chief reports that Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said Iran expects nuclear deal implementation by “‘Saturday or Sunday'”.

Obama’s State of the Union Address

_ The foreign policy and war bits were in the middle of the speech, with domestic issues up front and a mix of things at the end.  He starts out with big talk. (Transcript of the president’s 2016 State of the Union address.)

The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period.  It’s not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us. [Emphasis added]

_ Notable quote: “In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states.”

_ Obama describes the Middle East as “going through a transformation that will play out for a generation” and says it is rooted in old conflicts with no mention of our role. He notes the “Chinese economy in transition” and takes a shot at Russia: “Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria – states they see slipping away from their orbit.”

_ This might be a response to Putin’s statements about a changed world order: “the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality. It’s up to us to help remake that system.”

_ Obama says ISIL presents a threat to civilians and must be stopped but “they do not threaten our national existence.” When citing how we are fighting ISIL, Obama chooses to focus on the thing that the Russian leadership has shined the light on since their September intervention: “cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters” but also adds “stamp out their vicious ideology”. Earlier in the speech he talked about the internet being used to poison minds. [Emphasis added]

_ Obama tells Congress to create a new authorization for the use of force (AUMF). Then he makes clear he doesn’t need no stinkin’ AUMF anyway and if anyone doubts that America will go after terrorists they should “ask Osama bin Laden“.  He said “we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.

_ Another reference to world order when he mentions Ukraine: “When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon. ”

Putin Interview With BILD

_ Putin did a much publicized interview with German newspaper “Bild” (Transcript Part 1, Part 2).  Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor discussed it in their weekly radio interview Tuesday night.


More on Syria

_ The never ending battle: War Party vs. Realists for US foreign policy.

_ “Gulf countries played a role in the Syrian uprising: ’India’s former ambassador to Syria on how the country has changed since 2009“.

_ In real time (Nov., 2011, as reported by Peter Lee of China Matters: “The Syrian Revolution Hijacked

_ Aid delivered to Madaya, plus more information on images and video being used fraudulently by news organizations. This video contains interviews with English captions with Syrian civilians talking about how Ahrar al-Sham, the jihadi group that controls Madaya, seized humanitarian aid and sell it for exorbitant prices. One woman (at 2:14 mark) says she is in Madaya and the date is January 10, 2016. This video shows an RT correspondent, Murad Gazdiev, on the ground in Madaya on Monday as humanitarian aid arrives. He also mentions an interview with civilians where he was told the rebels who control the city had seized and sold the previous aid.




_ “Air strike in Iraq’s Mosul targets ‘millions’ in IS cash: US official

Information War

_ In October, CIA director Brennan’s personal AOL email account was hacked and now his boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s personal email account was hacked  supposedly by the same people , including a teenager named “Cracka”.

_ I can just imagine the kinds of things this Google Translate war will spark.  People find ways to fight, well compete anyway, everywhere.

Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

Joanne is a blogger with focus on issues of war and peace, a mom, engineer, software developer and amateur photographer.