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Turkey’s Foreign Policy Pivot; US Simultaneously Plans For War And Rapprochement

Next Cold War Roundup 7/22/16

Russia and the US are working on a plan for military cooperation in Syria and on broader negotiations for the Middle East and Ukraine. The war party in the US and NATO continues to beat the drum and roll out plans for war and the undermining of the JCPOA Iran deal. The aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey continues, with purges and crackdowns and signs of a complete pivot in Erdogan’s foreign policy toward Moscow, Tehran and Damascus.

Coup Fighter Jets Didn’t Shoot Down Erdogan’s Plane, a Mystery

_ Two coup fighter jets had Erdogan’s plane in their sights, locked radar on it, but didn’t shoot it down. According to an anonymous “former military official with knowledge”:  “‘At least two F-16s harassed Erdogan’s plane while it was in the air and en route to Istanbul. They locked their radars on his plane and on two other F-16s protecting him,’ a former military officer with knowledge of the events told Reuters. […] ‘Why they didn’t fire is a mystery,’ he said.” A “senior Turkish official” and a “second senior official” “confirmed to Reuters that Erdogan’s business jet had been harassed” and had been “in trouble.”

_ Erdogan’s plane was visible from FlightRadar24 in real time as the coup attempt was in progress.  The Aviationist questions whether rebel fighter jets really had a lock on Erdogan’s plane (real callsign TC-ATA) and notes that he used “a callsign THY 8456 to disguise as a Turkish Airlines airplane,” which may have fooled the fighter jets and caused them to fear shooting down a civilian aircraft.

_ The Aviationist put together the known details of the air war that occurred in Turkish skies during the coup attempt. The aircraft involved were F-16 fighter jets, KC-135RS tankers, A400MS and C-160 turboprop cargo aircraft (full of weapons), AH-1 Cobra helicopter, S-70A Blackhawk helicopter, AS532 CSAR helicopters.

_ Miscellaneous details about the coup attempt by air:

  • The pilot who shot down the Russian SU-24 in November, 2015 was reportedly one of the pilots involved in the coup attempt.
  • “One or two Air Force AS532 CSAR helicopters raided a wedding ceremony of a high rank general in Istanbul which was attended by many generals. CSAR commandos kidnapped them.” This might explain why they started the coup in the daytime, a detail that puzzled many military experts.

EU and NATO Warning Turkey

_ At a European Council meeting, both the EU (via Federica Mogherini) and NATO (via John Kerry) warned Turkey that their membership could be jeopardized if they institute the death penalty (which would disqualify Turkey’s pending EU application) or if they don’t respect democracy.

_ “Virtually every diplomat attending the meeting issued a stern warning to Erdogan.” Johannes Hahn (Austria’s EU commissioner) said the crackdown “is exactly what we feared” and speculated that the arrests of thousands of judges “like something that had been prepared.”

_ Washington Post later changed their headline and issued a correction to tone down the warning Kerry had issued: “Correction: Kerry says NATO will scrutinize Turkey but did not warn that its NATO membership was in jeopardy.” The story link/URL shows that the original headline was: “Kerry warns Turkey NATO membership potentially at stake in crackdown.”

Gulen Extradition from US

_ On July 14, the day before the coup, Hurriyet reported that Ankara had prepared extradition papers to bring Gulen back to Turkey for prosecution.

_ On the day after the coup, July 16, Sec. State John Kerry said the US would consider an extradition of Gulen if he was involved in the coup, but no extradition request had been received.

_ On Monday, July 18, John Kerry said: “What we need is genuine evidence that withstands the standard of scrutiny that exists in many countries. Kerry said the extradition request had not been received yet.

_ On Tuesday, July 19, Turkey’s prime minister said they had sent ‘four dossiers’ to the United States with a formal extradition request. “We have sent four dossiers to the United States for the extradition of the terrorist chief […] We will present them with more evidence than they want.” He claims that Turkish officials “have no doubt on the source of this vicious coup and we know all the details over who guided it and how.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said they were reviewing the materials “to see if it qualifies as a formal request.” He said the Justice Dept. and the State Dept. make the decision.

_ During a July 20  presser with John Kerry and five foreign ministers (video), Canadian Foreign Minister Dion said the Canadian government has also received (presumably extradition) requests for Gulen movement members in Canada: “About the Gulen movement, the same that what John said: We have received request before the coup and after from the Government of Turkey about this movement that is existing in Canada, and we have asked for evidence because otherwise the Canadian justice system cannot address an issue on the basis of allegations.”

_ Somalia wants all Gulen organizations ousted from the country. “Government of Somalia has ordered NGOs allied to rebel US based cleric Fetulah Gulen to leave country within 7 days.”

_ Erdogan said any country who supports the exiled cleric Gulen is at war with Turkey. He has said similar things in the past about the Kurds.

Gulen Network in US and Abroad

_ Washington Post published an article on Fethullah Gulen and the “Gulen Charter,” a set of publicly funded charter schools in the US. “The publicly funded charter schools — unofficially known as the Gulen charter — are believed to be operated by people, usually Turks, in or associated with the Gulen movement.” Teachers unions accuse the set of charter schools of abusing H1B visas and giving contracts mainly to “Turkish-run businesses” and that the schools “have opened or operate with the aid of Gulen-inspired “dialogue” groups.” One witness in a case against a charter school claimed that teachers are required “to turn over 40 percent of their salaries to a secret fund used by the movement.”

_ In numerous articles and western media organizations, Gulen is described as a “US-based moderate Islamic cleric” and the Gulen movement (aka Hizmet) described as a group that “presses for a moderate version of Sunni Islam that emphasises interfaith dialogue” but investigative journalist and FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who has spoken about Gulen for at least a decade in her interviews, and in a deposition, said that Gulen is an extremist and a CIA asset whose network runs madrasas and mujahideen in central Asia, and worse.

_ A former Turkish intelligence chief, Osman Nuri Gundes, wrote a memoir, which corroborates some of Edmonds’ claims about Gulen. “In his memoir Gundes claims that Fethullah Gulen’s worldwide Islamic movement based in Pennsylvania has been providing cover for the CIA since the mid-1990s, and that in the 90s, the movement “sheltered 130 CIA agents” at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone.”

Incirlik Base Reopened on Sunday, Power Was Still Cut, Turkish Commander Detained

_ On Sunday, July 17, Turkey allowed US air force to resume anti-ISIS operations but the power to Incirlik air base was still cut off.  US operations are using internal power sources.  The Turkish base commander at Incirlik, General Bekir Ercan Van, “has been detained by Turkish authorities accused of complicity in the attempted coup […] along with over a dozen lower ranking officers at the base, AFP reported.

_ John Kerry, on CNN, played down the problems by saying the anti-ISIS operations out of Incirlik would not be interrupted, and the US military “experienced some minor difficulties, apparently because ‘there may have been some refueling that took place with the Turkish Air Force with planes that were flying in the coup itself.‘” On July 20, Kerry said there is evidence that the planes that bombed the Turkish parliament were refueled by tankers from Incirlik, but “not ours but from Turkish planes at Incirlik.” Given that American air force and crew are based at Incirlik, it seems certain they knew immediately whose tankers were used.

_ As of Wednesday, the power was still cut and Sec. Kerry has been told by Turkish officials that power to Incirlik will be restored in “next day or so.”

_ Power was restored on Friday, one week after the coup attempt.

Post-Coup Attempt Crackdown and Purges in Turkey

_ Turkey’s president Erdogan has sacked and/or arrested tens of thousands from the military, the judiciary, schools and universities and other Turkish institutions in the crackdown that followed the failed coup attempt.

_ A three month state of emergency was declared. and with that, Turkey will “temporarily suspend the implementation of its obligations emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).”

_ There have been several comparisons tothe Janissaries coup attempt against Mahmud II in 1826.

_ There are thermonuclear weapons on bases in Turkey. The bases are owned by Turkey. Retired Col. Pat Lang and others believe those nukes should be removed, immediately.

Coup Warning Came From Russia?

_ An Iranian news organization, Fars News, reported that the “Russian army intercepted Turkish military communications that indicated a coup was being organized” and they passed it on to Turkish Military Intelligence (MIT) “just hours before” the tanks appeared on the streets.

Turkey’s Pre-Coup Announcements About Syria

_ After reports that Turkey’s president Erdogan was going to normalize relations with Syria, there are new reports that Turkey’s position on Syria won’t change unless Assad leaves. Moon of Alabama says it was a misinterpretation from the start, not a flip flop.

Proposed Plan for US-Russia Cooperation in Syria, Al Nusra an Imminent Threat to US National Security

_ As John Kerry was traveling to Moscow, Josh Rogin at the Washington Post leaked a document about a US proposal for closely coordinated action by the US and Russia in Syria. Al Rai’s war correspondent, Elijah Magnier, claims that there is “no real rapprochement between US and Russia. Just […] partial deals.”

_ In early July, Al Monitor published some quotes from anonymous Syrian opposition rebels saying that the US has intelligence about a threat to US national security by al Nusra and has to act quickly:

Syrian opposition member: “The US has info that Nusra is trying to do something against US national interests … somewhere in the world, and they are taking it very seriously […] And accordingly, they offered to Russia to work with them on that issue, to weaken and defeat Nusra, with the condition that Russia and the regime should respect the cessation and allow food and material to come into Syria. […] This time they [United States] are very strict with their conditions, because it is not just about Syria — it is about the US’ own national security […]

_ Stephen Cohen and John Batchelor said that Pres. Obama has no public support, especially in Congress, for detente and apparent rapprocement with Russia. Cohen recalls that Ronald Reagan was also isolated when he began detente with Russia’s Gorbachev.

Joint US-Russian Operations in Syria and Broader Plan for Middle East, Ukraine

_ John Kerry in Moscow on July 15: “Now, as Sergey related to you, we had a very, very full agenda. We discussed almost every other issue of concern, from bilateral relationship to Ukraine, implementation of Minsk; Yemen, Middle East peace, as Sergey described; Libya, and so forth.” This statement gives the appearance of Washington and Moscow working on a much broader plan than just Syria.

Trump Delegates Toned Down Ukraine Language in Party Platform

_ Republican party hawks added strong language to the party platform document to arm Ukraine. with “lethal defensive weapons”. Republican nominee Donald Trump’s operatives reportedly had that item struck from the party platform and substituted language about providing “appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine.” This is consistent with Trump’s stated opposition to a new Cold War with Russia. Two Huffington Post foreign affairs reporters (Yale grad from Pakistan, Akbar Shadi Ahmed, and Ryan Grim, former Politico, current MSNBC contributor) wrote a flaming article with a histrionic image of Trump and Putin kissing, which claims that Putin is driving Republican party foreign policy via Trump. They employ extreme language and  make claims about a retired US general being paid by Moscow, Trump ties to Russia, and claims that Syria’s president Assad is responsible for ISIS and the refugee crisis. The articl includes many other questionable claims that have been used to beat the drum for war. The article reads like many other over-the-top NATO and/or CIA war hawk propaganda pieces that have been plentiful in US media in recent years.

US-Backed “Zinki” Syrian Rebel Group Beheaded Young  Palestinian Boy

_ “US mulls ‘pause’ in support of Syrian rebels following beheading of Palestinian boy.” On Tuesday, there were reports on social media of a US-backed Syrian rebel group, al Zenki (Nour al-Din al-Zinki), capturing a young Palestinian boy, accusing him of fighting for Assad, and then beheading him. Two videos “that surfaced online Tuesday, showing five fighters from the Nour al-Din al-Zinki movement first taunting and then cutting off the boy’s head. […] After the killing, he raises the boy’s head up to a cheering crowd.” Al-Zinki leaders said it was an “individual error” and does not the “general state” of the movement. Al-Zinki was affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and received money and weapons from the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The US will act with or without Russia.” US State Dept. spokesman said the administration will “look at any affiliation or cooperation with this group.”

_ The boy lived in a Palestinian refugee camp with his family, and wasn’t a fighter. “Liwa al-Quds issued a statement on Facebook saying that its investigation had found he was a 12-year-old Palestinian named Abdullah Issa, who lived in Mashhad with his family. […] It also said he had apparently been receiving medical treatment before being seized, noting that one photograph showed an intravenous drip in his arm.” The Zinki rebel group has been called out for violations like abductions and torture in the past by Amnesty International. On July 5: “Armed groups operating in Aleppo, Idleb and surrounding areas in the north of Syria have carried out a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings.”

_ CNN’s headline on the subject: “Rebels in Syria behead boy in ‘mistake‘”. CNN took the Zinki group spokesman’s official line and skewed the information that most people will read — the headline.

Manbij Airstrike Civilian Casualties

_ There are multiple reports on Tuesday about dozens of civilian casualties by US airstrikes in Manbij. A Telesur editor, Charles Davis, reported: “CENTCOM tells me they ‘are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties in the area’ [of US-led airstrikes in Syria]. ‘If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, we will then determine the next appropriate step.’ […] ‘We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage.'” Davis said he was contacted by an activist in Manbij who told him more than 90 civilians were killed by the airstrikes and sent him photos of children being buried in a mass grave.

_ On Wednesday, the Telegraph reported on the airstrikes, but the number of deaths in the headline is lower than what is being reported from local sources: “US air strike in Syria kills nearly 60 civilians ‘mistaken for Isil fighters‘” The article mentions another strike: “In a separate incident on Sunday, the Observatory reported that coalition airstrikes killed six civilians in Manbij, ‘including a woman with four of her children and an old man.’” The last paragraph cites “rebels and many residents” and claims that “Russia’s bombing campaign has been even more indiscriminate.”

Leon Panetta, Clinton Campaign Advisor, and Boris Johnson, New UK Foreign Secretary Want to Remove Assad

_ Leon Panetta wants to put more US troops, special operations forces, on the ground in Syria, and use more air strikes to take out Assad, and “prpessure Russia to get out of Syria.” His plan sounds similar to the Flournoy/CNAS plan, though he didn’t offer many details.

_ Boris Johnson, the newly appointed British foreign secretary is the latest hawk to declare that Assad must be overthrown.  This is a major flip flop for Johnson who had “argued Assad could help defeat the Islamic State (Isis).” Boris’ Telegraph op-ed in December: “Let’s deal with the Devil: we should work with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.” Boris’ Telegraph op-ed in March: “Bravo for Assad – he is a vile tyrant but he has saved Palmyra from Isil.” Boris now: “the suffering of the Syrian people will not end while Assad remains in power.” He met with John Kerry on Tuesday and will be in Washington on Thursday.

Israel Fired Patriot Missiles at a Drone Over the Golan

_ The IDF reported that Israel fired Patriot missiles at a drone over the Golan and failed to intercept it, after which the drone returned to Syria.  Shrapnel from the Patriot missiles injured a girl in a Golan kibbutz and started a brush fire.

Undoing the Iran Deal

_ Politico Magazine tells the story of hardliners at the “hawkish policy shop” Foundation for Defense of Democracies, led by Mark Dubowitz, and “a constellation of pressure groups, analysts, lobbyists and lawmakers” are fighting to overturn the Iran deal. “A year after Obama’s crowning diplomatic achievement, the fight against it is very much alive. And it might be succeeding.”

“As they clinked glasses and discussed the next phase of their fight, Dubowitz’s eye landed on a souvenir collected by a colleague on a 1979 trip to Tehran: a commemorative plate bearing the face of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was a spine-stiffening reminder, Dubowitz recalled this week, of ‘how long Iran has been a sworn enemy of the United States.’”

Omar the Chechen

_ Omar the Chechen is dead again. This time, ISIS confirmed it.

CIA Says ISIS is Very Serious Threat to Saudi Arabia

_ “CIA director John Brennan said on Wednesday recent attacks in Saudi Arabia bore the hallmarks of Islamic State, and that the militant group was a very serious threat to the kingdom.”

Batchelor & Cohen Weekly Radio Shows on Cold War

_ Tuesday 7/12/16 podcast, Tuesday 7/19/16 podcast

_ Batchelor: New troop deployments on Russia’s frontier and says the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment will be deployed in Poland, likely in the Suwalki Gap,  In a previous podcast, Batchelor said the Suwalki Gap is a likely place for the next war to begin, and it’s also the site of a very recent NATO military exercise, practicing the invasion of Kaliningrad.

_ Batchelor: It doesn’t appear that the “peace party had any purchase” at the NATO Warsaw summit.

_ Cohen: In “all of its communiques it blamed each and every conflict […] between East and West, between Washington and Moscow, from the Baltics, to Ukraine, to Syria,  solely on Putin, and, in a way (and this is not my interpretation but I don’t disagree with it) the documents were kind of a declaration of war against Russia. So it’s a very, very important event.” [Emphasis added]

_ Cohen: Ukrainian president Poroshenko was featured prominently at the NATO Warsaw Summit and Ukraine is not even a member of NATO. Cohen said it looked like Poroshenko “was there as the leader of what is becoming our most important colony on the Russian frontier.”

_ Cohen: “There are semi-reliable […] reports that the leadership in Kiev are getting ready for another major military assault on the rebel-held Donbass. Now connect the dots. If that is so, and they do it, Russia will react […] Would that be the pretext for NATO to strike at Russia?

_ Cohen: Overall the NATO Warsaw Summit communique “is an extremely warfare document based on a lot of misrepresentations about conflicts around the world. […] It was an extreme event and I have to say on behalf of the Russians, who usually twist themselves into angry pretzels, they are being very calm.” Cohen says not all of them are calm but Putin and Lavrov are “bemused” and taking a “what the hell are you people talking about” stance “but they are preparing for war in Russia.” Batchelor: We will be coming to a place where we’ve never been before (except in Berlin) “gun barrel to gun barrel in a very small space in Europe.” Cohen: “It’s a dire situation but it passes without any opposition in America but opposition to it is being raised at the very highest levels in Europe.”

_ Cohen and Batchelor: There have been reports that Pres. Obama intends to change his own nuclear policy before he leaves office, to take our nukes off high alert status, the “no first use” policy.

_ Cohen reports that nightly Russian television is dominated by news of NATO operations that are considered to be a declaration of war against Russia.

_ Cohen believes that the coup attempt in Turkey and Erdogan’s reaction indicates that he will no longer oppose this cooperation deal between the US and Russia because he will be less likely to continue support for NATO policy of arming Syrian rebels and more likely to support Russia. Cohen also said Pres Obama and Pres. Putin have agreed to open up a joint US-Russian operations room in Jordan where they will conduct operations together, dividing up targets, etc.

Hillary’s VP Short List Includes Uber Hawk Admiral

_ Though most pundits believe Hillary Clinton will choose Tim Kaine as her vice president, James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral, is on her short list. Stavridis was the supreme allied commander of NATO from 2009-2013 and head of the US Southern Command from 2006-2009.  Stavridis qualifies as a member of the War Party and Andrew Cockburn describes him as such: “a former Rumsfeld lickspittle who helped destroy Libya and thinks it would be a fine idea to hook up with Al Qaeda in Syria.”

Analysis and Opinion

_ Patrick Coburn: “A Hillary Clinton presidency could end up letting Isis and al-Qaeda off the hook

“Hillary Clinton’s expected choice as Defence Secretary, Michèle Flournoy, has just co-authored a report by the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington that recommends that the destruction of Isis should no longer be the overriding objective of the US in Syria, but that equal priority should be given to taking military action against President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Army.”

“[…] Once Hillary Clinton is in the White House, the ‘Playbook’ that Obama so despises will be very much back in business. A frightening preview of what is to come can be found in the CNAS report, which comes across as a caricature of Washington wishful thinking that is woefully detached from real conditions on the ground. […] The study is reminiscent of the battle plan of a First World War general, full of certainties about how enemies and allies will respond to an attack when in reality their response is unknown.” [Emphasis added]

_ Andrew Cockburn: “Admiral Fabuloso: Hillary, Syria and the Destructive Career of James G. Stavridis

_ Moon of Alabama (MoA): “The foreign policy of the last years has brought nothing but huge problems for Turkey. The botched coup gives Erdogan the chance to completely change direction.” MoA believes this change in Turkey’s foreign policy toward Moscow, Tehran and Damascus will be result in attemps by the U.S., NATO, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to undermine it, but the current backlash toward Erdogan will not change his plans.

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Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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