Next Cold War Roundup 7/29/16
Since there is still no definitive answer to the question of who was behind the Turkish coup attempt, we collect some of the theories and explanations from various camps and experts now that some time has passed and many have been offered. A Pentagon press conference seems to show a big rift about Obama’s proposal for military cooperation between the US and Russia. An investigative report reveals details on the weapons pipeline between central and eastern Europe and the Middle East. Aleppo is under seige and the Syrian forces have issued an ultimatum. Syrian rebels believe they will be abandoned by a post-coup attempt Turkey. Al Nusra is attempting to rebrand itself and claims to have split from al Qaeda.
US Military Plans “Enduring Presence” in Iraq After ISIS Defeated
_ “American commanders are planning for an enduring presence of forces to help the Iraqis. […] ‘After the defeat of ISIL in Iraq, the U.S. and our partners will need to retain a presence there that can help the Iraqis secure their borders and hunt the terrorist threats within them,’ General MacFarland said.”
Saudis Making an Offer to Russia
_ Saudi foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, announced in Politico EU interview that the Saudis have offered Russia a deal to abandon Syrian president Assad and embrace the Gulf Council which would give Russia access to their markets and investment funds that are better than China’s. “We are ready to give Russia a stake in the Middle East that will make Russia a force stronger than the Soviet Union,” Jubeir said, and claimed that Assad’s days are numbered so Russia should “make a deal while you can.”
Turkish Coup Attempt Aftermath
Alleged Involvement of Saudi Foreign Minister
_ The former emir of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, sympathizes with Erdogan and condemned Saudi foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, for “cooperating” with “the United States and another western country,” who he accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt, according to Al Masdar News.
Alleged Involvement of US/NATO General
_ A story has been developing about the alleged involvement and leadership of the failed Turkish coup by a recently retired US Army general and former NATO commander of the ISAF forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell. Campbell commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and United States Forces—Afghanistan until March, 2016 and he retired in May, 2016. He succeeded Gen Joseph Dunford (current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) in this role.
_ A pro-Erdogan news agency in Turkey, Yeni Safak, alleged in a July 25 story, that Campbell “was one of the top figures who organized and managed the soldiers behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey“. Campbell allegedly made at least two secret visits to “Erzurum military base and Adana İnicrlik Airbase” since May, 2016. Yeni Safak cites sources “close to ongoing legal process of pro-coup detainees.”
_ Next, citing “military sources,” Yeni Safak claims that Campbell “managed more than $2 billion money transactions via UBA Bank in Nigeria by using CIA links” to pay the coup participants in Turkey. Money was transferred from the Nigerian bank to an 80-person CIA team and then “hand-delivered” to Turkish officers. “Pro-Gulenist officers” at Incirlik air base investigated and collected information on members of the Turkish military and delivered money to those who were pro-coup or neutral via a courier, since March 2015. Opponents received no “financial support.”
_ The Turkish government cut electricity to Incirlik air base for a week after the coup, and closed air space around it for several days.
_ Retired general Campbell told the Wall Street Journal, in an article published specifically to refute the accusation, that the allegations are “absolutely ridiculous.”
_ The director of the Centre for Turkey Studies and Development in London said that Erdogan is using this as a pretext to pressure the US on extradition and that he “has been trying very hard to hunt down [anyone] linked, loyal or associated with Gulen at this moment in Turkey.”
Gen. Campbell Was Drinking With Geraldo Rivera on Day of Coup
_ As if things weren’t already approaching the realm of the surreal, FoxNews stepped in and said the general had an alibi. Gen. Campbell said he hadn’t traveled outside the US since March and he said: “In fact, on the day of the coup I think I was in New York City with Geraldo having a beer.” Rivera chimed in: “I absolutely vouch for General Campbell,” Rivera said. “The only thing we were overthrowing were a series of Stella Artois [beers].”
Gen. Campbell Allegedly Leaked Information to NBC During Coup
_ Sibel Edmonds at NewsBud, while following news of the coup as it happened, suspected that leaked information about Erdogan leaving Turkey and seeking asylum in Germany was false leaked information to assist in the coup by attempting to weaken his support at home. When NewsBud investigated where the leak originated they found the first mention of it came from an NBC producer, Kyle Griffin, citing a “senior military US military source.” Edmonds is an FBI whistleblower and a Turkish-American and Iranian-American.
_ The false news of Erdogan leaving Turkey spread widely from the NBC source, as illustrated by the Daily Beast “Erdo-gone” article and this National Review article that said: “5:32 P.M.: Wow. President Erdogan is reportedly seeking asylum in Germany, per Kyle Griffin of MSNBC.”
_ NBC later deleted their story and Kyle Griffin deleted his tweet and Newsbud continued to investigate. Now Newsbud’s sources “have identified General Campbell as the likely NBC News” source. Newbud editor, Sibel Edmonds, has been in contact with NBC and has launched a campaign to pressure them for an official retraction and other information. The Turkish embassy in Washington has also demanded a retraction and apology.
Coup Attempt Was a “Set Up”
_ Ex-CIA officer and counterterrorism expert Phil Giraldi said the idea of the CIA working together with Fethullah Gulen to overthrow Erdogan is absurd. Giraldi specifically linked to a Newsbud story and said this is a “hypothesis that greatly exaggerates the capabilities and intentions of both the Agency and Gulen’s “Hizmet” Movement.” Giraldi spent many years working in Turkey and speaks the language. He cited Erdogan’s megalomaniac nature, enumerated his many deeds, and said that Erdogan had 10 good years and then “became convinced of his own political invulnerability and moved over to the dark side” and is now using the coup attempt to crush his opposition and reshape the country. Giraldi notes that a coup, with involvment of Kemalists, was in the works but: “Given the immediate and devastating government response to the coup, I feel confident in my belief that the uprising was basically a set-up.”
Alleged Involvement of Exiled Palestinian Official
_ Turkey says it is investigating if “Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled Palestinian official who lives in the United Arab Emirates but who also holds Serbian and Montenegrin passports” played a role in the coup attempt. A Turkish AKP party leader claimed that though there is no hard evidence but Dahlan has “close links” with Fethullah Guhlen and they are investigating his possible involvement.
Turkey Arrests Two NATO Generals Based in Afghanistan
_ “Two senior Turkish generals serving in the NATO force in Afghanistan were detained at Dubai airport on suspicion of links to the attempt to overthrow Erdogan, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.” They were arrested “with the cooperation of the United Arab Emirates.” A NATO spokesman said: “The Turkish contingent continues its mission.”
Erdogan on Turkish TV Says CIA Behind Coup, Russians Saved Him
_ John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen, on their weekly radio show, discussed Erdogan’s recent statements about the coup on Turkish TV:
Batchelor: “The DNC believes there’s an advantage to accusing Putin and Trump of working together. We don’t know where President Obama is but we do know that there are large, geopolitical maneuvers going on that are perhaps, part of the larger scale conflict. […] Steve, this is a chance for us to flag what’s going on in Turkey […] Erdogan, who says that he successfully avoided a putsch, a coup, by forces unknown, perhaps this fellow Gulen in Pennsylvania, perhaps enemies of the regime — he is headed to Moscow to confer with what had been his enemy. He’s also making accusations on the television in Turkey (I have this from a correspondent there) that the Turkish pilots who shot down the Russian aircraft last fall […] were working for the CIA. He says the CIA ran the coup against him, that the Russians intervened to save him, that the Russian forces who came and told him of the coup and allowed him to recover himself. These are allegations on Turkish TV.”
Erdogan is Turkey’s Trump or Brexit and Very Real
_ Radio War Nerd (Gary Brecher) and Mark Ames, in their (July 22 podcast, subscription) did a long discussion of the coup attempt and history. They explain how the Turkish cosmopolitan elite, the Bohemian Left and the West are the blood enemies of the lower middle class nationalist right who idolize the strong man, Erdogan. They find that Gulen and the Kemalists are more likely reformers trying to rein in Erdogan than the terrorists Erdogan labels them as and think that the most likely explanation is that Erdogan was planning a purge and the factions to be purged launched the coup in order to prevent it. Brecher compares the situation with Trump and Brexit, where the angry lower middle class support is real. Both Ames and Brecher see a parallel between this coup attempt and the 1991 coup attempt in Russia. They believe the big winners right out of the gate will be the militant factions in Erdogan’s party and military intelligence. The losers will be the Turkish air force and the Kemalists and in the long run, the Turkish people and Syria. Russia will benefit as Erdogan turns against the West and they believe there will be chaos and Russia is fine with chaos anywhere to their west. They think there may have been some help from allies in the CIA, but there is no way that the CIA launched it.
Erdogan Foreign Policy Pivot
_ Syrian rebels in Turkey are saying that Erdogan will abandon them, and it’s “game over” for the Syrian rebels.
_ Turkey’s military is weakened after the purges. Erdogan says he is restructuring the military to bring in “fresh blood.” The “Supreme Military Council (YAS), the highest body responsible for appointments in the armed forces, will meet under Erdogan’s supervision on July 28” and more personnel changes are expected. Several experts quoted in the Reuters article focus on how it has fractured and politicized the military, damaged its readiness and will take decades to rebuild. Erdogan had planned to make personnel changes even before the coup, and one theory is that this is what provoked it.
_ Turkish and Russian officials met this week to discuss some investment projects and the Turkish Stream pipeline deal to transport gas from Russia to Turkey and Europe is back in negotiations. The project was suspended after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet.
Pentagon Response to Obama’s Proposal to Russia
_ In a Pentagon press conference with Sec. Defense Ash Carter and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford on July 25 (transcript, video), Dunford was asked about the US-Russia military partnership and about al Nusra being intermingled with US-backed opposition forces in Syria.
- Dunford said right now the US and Russia are strictly doing limited deconfliction contact with Russia to “safety of flight and safety of our people on the ground.”
- Dunford said Sec. Kerry is negotiating “some other alternatives. But without seeing that specific framework within which other contacts may be made it’s hard for me to comment on whether or not it would be viable.”
- Dunford gave a cryptic answer on al Nusra. He said he’s “seen the same open source reporting that you have,” implying that he doesn’t have any intelligence on it and then he said “I think that makes it all the more important that we continue to conduct operations against ISIL in Syria to ensure that the opposition forces realize that there is a credible force that’s going to be there.”
- The reporter followed up asking for a specific answer on whether al Nusra “actually operating together or intermingled with the U.S.-backed forces.” Dunford said: “Not with U.S.-backed forces,” emphasizing the “U.S.” part of the sentence, in which he may have meant Pentagon/U.S. military backed forces. In that northwestern area of Syria, U.S. military-backed forces are the Kurds Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) and the CIA backs the “moderate” Syrian rebels, a quasi-covert operation though it’s an open secret. It sounded like Dunford was dodging that issue using Pentagonspeak, but in the process of doing it, may have provided a false answer from a layman’s standpoint.
- Dunford later clarifies: “Bob I want to clarify one thing. We’re supporting the Syrian-Arab Coalition and Syrian democratic forces and what we call moderate Syrian opposition forces. So to be clear, we don’t have any indication that the forces that we are providing support to in Syria are cooperating or intermingled with al-Nusra.” So in this answer he specifies two groups “we” are supporting but then adds the “we call moderate Syrian opposition forces” without specificity. He also changes the earlier direct answer to “we don’t have any indication.”
_ Carter added to the answer about the proposal and al Nusra:
“We’ll see whether it’s possible this is what Secretary Kerry’s exploring for the Russians to begin to do the right thing in Syria. They obviously have been backing the regime which has had the effect of prolonging the civil war. Whereas we had hoped that they would promote a political solution and transition to put an end to the civil war which is the beginning of all this violence in Syria. And then combat extremists rather than moderate opposition which has to be part of that transition.”
“So they’re a long way from doing that. But that’s what Secretary Kerry’s trying to promote. And getting the Russians to do the right thing. For now as the Chairman indicated, our work with them is focused on making sure that we don’t have […] I think, no I’m very enthusiastic about the idea of the Russians getting on side and doing the right thing. And I think that would be a good thing if they did. I think we’re a ways from getting that frame of mind in Russia. But that’s what Secretary Kerry is working towards.”
_ Maybe significant, maybe not, but in their answers, both Carter and Dunford made the proposal seem like it was owned by John Kerry, while the media clearly reported on it as an Obama proposal. This makes a confusing situation even more confusing since, by now, it is clear that Kerry is much more interventionist and hawkish on Syria than Obama.
_ In their radio show this week, John Batchelor and Prof. Stephen Cohen interpret the quote from Sec. Defense Carter as a clear rejection of the proposal by the Pentagon. Batchelor summarized it as: “The DoD doesn’t want the Syrian detente” and said:
Batchelor: “What kind of ‘no’ does Kerry not understand? That’s a complete door slamming in his face.”
Cohen: “That’s right. That is the literal language of the Dept. of Defense that I formulated somewhat differently — that the deal had changed when Putin was told ‘you can join our alliance’. In other words ‘you can follow our policy outlines while dropping your bombs and we’ll help you do it.'”
Batchelor: “Getting on side and doing the right thing.”
Cohen: “Putin can’t take that home […] It’s a non-starter, John. Somebody wants this [deal/proposal] dead…sabotaged.”
Siege of Aleppo
_ On Tuesday, “Syrian government forces on Tuesday called on opposition fighters in Aleppo to drop their weapons and surrender to authorities” as they “tightened the siege” on the eastern, rebel-held part of the city. A safe passage and place for civilians to shelter was announced by the General Army Command.
Contractors in Syria
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) July 27, 2016
Modern and Medieval Methods Employed to Defend and Hold Fallujah
_ The Iraqi military is digging a 7 mile trench around Fallujah in the open desert perimeter areas in the north and south, where there are no natural barriers. The “heavily patrolled main highway to Baghdad, which will be the sole entrance to Fallujah.” The trench is 40 feet wide and 5 feet deep and will help protect against car and vehicle bombs. Other security measures will include identification cards for residents and vehicles.
Anti-Nusra Protests in Syria; Nusra Split from al Qaeda
_ Over the weekend there were reports of protests against al Nusra (al Qaeda) in Bebilla & Beit Sahem, south of Damascus, according to Al Rai war correspondent, Elijah Magnier.
_ The split has been announced and Nusra leader “Abu Mohammed al-Julani, in his first recorded message, said its new name would be Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant].”
The 1.2 Billion Euro Pipeline of Weapons From Europe to Middle East
_ Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) did an investigative report: “Making a Killing: The 1.2 Billion Euros Arms Pipeline to Middle East.” The report is on weapons, equipment and ammunition from the Balkans, central and eastern Europe, which are “funnelled arms into brutal civil wars in Syria and Yemen” and Libya. They valued at €1.2 billion since 2012 and most have gone to Syria. The actual dollar value of this market is probably much higher due to lack of data from many of the countries for 2015 and 2016.
_ The weapons and ammunition originate from “Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.” They are shipped to “centres in Jordan and Turkey” who disperse them to Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Some of the weapons bypass the distribution centers.
_ “But while Balkan and European countries have shut down the refugee route, the billion-euro pipeline sending arms by plane and ship to the Middle East remains open – and very lucrative” even though it is “almost certainly illegal, according to arms and human rights experts.” Weapons factories are “working overtime” and the business is growing. This is a “systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations,” according to one expert.
_ Former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said that this arms trade is being coordinated by the CIA, Turkey and Gulf States.
_ Many of the shipments are made by air but some have been made by the “US military from Black Sea ports.” [Emphasis added]
_ This weapons pipeline began in the winter of 2012 with Yugoslav-era stockpile weapons purchased from Croatia by Saudi Arabia that ended up in Syria, via Jordan, with the CIA helping with the logistics.
Analysis and Opinion
_ James Carden, writing from Philadelphia: “The Fear of Hillary’s Foreign Policy.”