Turkey Invades Syria, Kurds Pull Back, Biden Goes to Turkey
Next Cold War Roundup 8/26/16
Operation Euphrates Shield, a battle to take the town of Jarablus from ISIS included Turkish and American military, Turkish-backed Syrian opposition rebels, and the operation may have changed everything in the Syrian war. VP Joe Biden went to Turkey with copious praise and denials on the day the Jarablus battle began. Everybody and his brother is trying to figure out what all of this means.
John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov are meeting in Geneva. Kerry issued an order for the Houthis to surrender in Yemen and condemned Iran as a threat to the US.
China gave more details about their support for the Syrian military. Germany has a civil defense plan that calls for civilians to stockpile food, water and supplies.
A special investigative team appointed by the UN Security Council issued a report on chemical weapons attacks in Syria and on the third anniversary of the aborted regime change operation in Syria, the pressure from the War Party and the media has been dialed up again.
Jarablus, “Operation Euphrates Shield”
_ The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was one of the first to report on the Jarablus operation, the battle to take the border town of Jarablus away from ISIS, and also to stop the westward advance of the US-backed Kurdish forces. “Operation Euphrates Shield” was carried out by Syrian rebels, Turkish special forces, “and American special operations forces working with Turkish military officers on the Turkish side of the border.” [Emphasis added]
_ With this headline, “U.S. Joins Turkish Forces to Launch Push Against Islamic State in Syria,” the battle for Jarablus is framed as a joint US-Turkey operation, and that the Kurds were “were ignoring U.S. guidance and preparing to seize Jarabulus” and in addition to cutting off ISIS last supply route, the US had to “rein in U.S.-backed Kurdish militants.”
_ Louis Fishman, a CUNY professor and expert on the region said: “Lets not forget not only Joe Biden is in Turkey, but also Masoud Barzani. Seems Ankara, KRG [Iraqi Kurdistan] +US came to agreement to stop PYD [Kurdish YPG] at Euphrates.” Apparently there is a common conspiracy theory in Turkey that Greater Kurdistan is really part of a Greater Israel project.
_ For many months, Turkey’s president Erdogan has declared that the Euphrates is Turkey’s red line, and if the Kurds try to cross it and continue to advance to the west, connecting their currently disconnected territories along the Syrian border, Turkey will stop them. With the help of US special operations forces, the Kurds crossed that red line back in December in an operation to take Tishrin Dam from ISIS. Turkey could not stop them because the Russians were enforcing a de facto no-fly zone after Turkey shot down one of their fighter jets, they were beyond artillery range, and Turkey decided it wasn’t a good idea to invade. “Operation Euphrates Shield” sounds like a Turkish objective but it’s not clear if it is also an American objective to stop the Kurds from creating Rojava.
_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier reports that the battle for Jarablus was over quickly. ISIS fled. “Jarablus is ISIS free. Turkish flag is on top of Syriatel. Forces managed to occupy the city as ISIS fled before d attack.” Turkish tanks entered from three directions and there are Turkish forces in the streets. No Turkish casualties. Turkish media reported that Turkish artillery and aircraft had “wiped out more than 80 targets” in support of the rebels advancing on the town.
_ An analyst cited an “mounted an offensive towards Jarablus” by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as the trigger for Operation Euphrates Shield. SDF is mainly Kurdish YPG forces with some Arab fighters.
_ The original assault Jarablus on Wednesday included “about a dozen Leopard tanks, a contingent of Turkish special operations forces, and several hundred Syrian rebels — all backed up by American F-16 and A-10 fighter planes” and has an English language Twitter account, @EuphratesShield.
_ The operation continued on Thursday and Friday.
Syria’s Reaction to Jarablus
_ Syria’s foreign ministry condemned the violation of their sovereign territory and said that anyone fighting terrorism in Syria must coordinate with the Syrian government and Syrian army. Syria is not buying Turkey’s claim that they are fighting ISIS. “What is happening in Jarablos now isn’t fighting terrorism as Turkey claims; rather it is replacing one type of terrorism with another.” Syria called on the UN.
Russian Reaction to Jarablus
_ The Russian foreign ministry said they were deeply worried and called for intra-Syrian dialog, the use of UN resolution 2254 (Geneva communique) and international law.
_ Russia is the main reason why Turkey hasn’t attacked the Kurds across the Syrian border until now, with the exception of artillery strikes. Aron Lund from Carnegie: “It seems almost certain that the Jarabulous intervention was preceded by some sort of understanding between Turkey and one, or more likely several, other actors in the war.”
Kurdish Reaction to Jarablus
_ YPG Kurds initially said basically, ‘hell no, we won’t go,’ but that changed within hours. John Kerry told Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday that the Kurdish YPG had retreated eastward to the eastern side of the Euphrates, and the spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition also said the Kurds had withdrawn but had done so “to prepare for the eventual liberation” of Raqqa.
_ Turkey shelled the YPG north of Manbij and the “YPG have reported on the possible use of chemical weapons in the shelling.” Turkey claims that the Kurds are still in the area and had advanced westward.
_ Kurdish media is reporting that ISIS has executed five Kurdish captives in Raqqa. The Kurds have made it clear that the do not want to advance on Raqqa but want to advance to the west to secure the rest of the border region. The Jarablus attack, halting the Kurds, and this report from Raqqa, might change their minds about the Raqqa operation, which the US military has made clear, is their goal.
Kerry and Lavrov
_ Senior White House officials from the National Security Council joined in the talks which are a continuation of the Washington-Moscow cooperation agreement that Kerry began during a visit to Moscow in July.
Turkish Invasion of Syria Has Been Planned for Two Years
_ This Turkish invasion of Syria has been planned for two years, according to an anonymous Turkish official. According to Antiwar.com, “There is some speculation that the Turkish military was split on the issue, with the coup-plotters largely opposing the plan.”
Turkish Military Operations in Syria Will Continue Indefinitely
_ On Friday Aug. 26, after a Kurdish PKK truck bombing on police headquarters in Sirnak province, Turkey’s prime minister Yildirim said Turkish military operations in the border region will continue until security is fully guaranteed and until “Daesh (Islamic State) and other terrorist elements are taken out.” Yildirim said Turkey is defending the “territorial integrity” of both Turkey and Syria, and that the Kurds want “to form a state in these countries” but they will “never succeed.”
_ Col. Ahmad Osman, a Syrian opposition commander told Reuters they will now advance to the west, to Marea. Turkish media reports that “Sultan Murat Brigade, a member of the Turkish-backed coalition of moderate groups” are the ones who worked with Turkey and the US to take Jarablus. In a video they “are seen marching and chanting Allahu Ackbar.” [Emphasis added]
_ Turkish media citing military sources (via Iran’s FARS news) said the operation might last 15 days, to “fully liberate Jarablus from ISIL and make a progress toward […] Raqqa.” [Emphasis added]
_ Ismail Hakki Pekin (former Turkish intelligence official), told Russian media that Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield after “reaching an agreement with the United States, Russia, Iran, and Syria.” “Will the United States agree to break the southern corridor? That is a separate issue. But we must remember that after Manjib, there is al-Bab.”
_ Al Jazeera reports that the Free Syrian Army is in full control of Jarablus and plans to move forward to al-Bab.
Jarablus Was a Joint US-Turkey Operation
_ VP Joe Biden and the Pentagon have reported that Operation Euphrates Shield in Jarablus was a joint Turkish-US military operation.
_ Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the anti-ISIS coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve, conducted “air strikes in support of the effort” on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25.
Biden’s Comments in Turkey
Biden’s Comments on Jarablus
_ VP Joe Biden was in Ankara as the battle in Jarablus was taking place. Biden did two press conferences in Turkey on Aug. 24, one with Turkish prime minister Yildirim and one with Turkish president Erdogan.
Biden’s Comments on Kurdish PKK
_ Biden had harsh words for the PKK and the wedding attack in Gaziantep and said America had been a victim of terrorist attacks too, including 9/11:
“it’s barbaric. It’s inhumane. And this is not the first such heinous attack to take place on your soil, either at the hands of ISIL or the PKK. The PKK has spread destruction in southeast Turkey on at least three occasions, doing major damage, ruining lives and property […] whether it’s ISIL or Daesh or the PKK,[…] They will not, they cannot, they must not succeed.”
_ With respect to the Kurds, Biden said: “No corridor, period. No separate entity on the Turkish border. A united Syria. […] with regard to Manbij […] We have made it absolutely clear to [the YPG] that they must move back across the river. They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances get American support if they do not keep that commitment, period.” [Emphasis added]
Biden’s Comments on US-Turkey Partnership
_ Biden emphasized the US-Turkey partnership against ISIS:
“because we will stand together to defend our nations against those who seek to undermine our democracies of our great elective governments. We continue to fight together against ISIL in Syria and Iraq.”
_ Biden also cited US-Turkey partnership backing Syrian rebels:
“And our work together to train and equip Syrian opposition forces is increasing the effectiveness of local forces fighting ISIL on the ground.”
_ But Biden spent most of his time copiously praising Turkey and stressing the importance of its historical, military and business relationship with the US and “strong family ties and values.”
_ Prime Minister Yildirim acknowledged the deep roots of the relationship but focused on Fethullah Gulen’s extradition and Turkey’s “greatest expectation would be that we don’t lose any time in conducting these legal processes.” Yildirim said the purpose of Biden’s visit was to show solidarity with Turkey and that America is on Turkey’s side.
Biden’s Comments on Gulen Members & Extradition
_ Biden told Turkey that no US president can unilaterally extradite someone and if they did it would be an impeachable offense. He denied any knowledge or complicity in the coup attempt and repeatedly expressed support for Turkey: “The United States stands with its ally Turkey […] Our support is absolute and it is unwavering.” Biden’s motorcade was protested as he traveled to meet the prime minister.
_ During the Erdogan press conference, with respect to the Gulen extradition, Biden said: “We have more lawyers working on this case than any other extradition in recent history.[…] I know of no other case where as much time is being spent to make sure we find enough data to meet a court standing.”
_ Biden recalled that Gulen was refused asylum by the Bush administration and a federal court overruled the president.
_ Erdogan said that under the bilateral extradition treaty, the FETO members in the US “should be taken into pretrial detention, they should be arrested, and throughout the trial they need to remain in custody.”
_ Biden expressed admiration for the Turkish people how they put down the coup attempt, “for the way you took to the streets and demanded you take back your democracy.”
_ On the subject of US participation in the coup, Biden:
“The United States of America, the people of the United States of America abhor what happened, and under no circumstances would support anything remotely approaching the cowardly act of the treasonous members of your military who engaged in this behavior. We did not have prior knowledge. We did not support.[…] You have no greater friend than the United States of America.”
_ Biden went into great detail expressing grief about the coup attempt and praising the way Erdogan found a way to speak to the people, and their courage in taking to the streets, during a second press conference with Turkish president Erdogan, where he brought up the death of his own son.
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Pivot
_ “Shifting Sands In The Mideast: Russia And Turkey.” Andrew Korybko, of Katehon think tank says two of the strongest pillars of US hegemony have been weakened: Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey, as a result, is pulling back while the Saudis are lashing out recklessly. The weakening of Turkey has resulted in a reduction of pressure in the Turkey-Russia relationship and will also calm down the Balkans.
_ Western media generally skips reporting on civilian casualties caused by the Syrian rebels but an NPR report on Aug. 23 did cover it after much pushback when the photo of Omran, the todder on the rebel-held side went viral and reports and photos of children injured on the government-held side of Aleppo were not reported. Since July 31 “30 children were killed in regime and Russian airstrikes, like the one Omran Daqneesh survived. And 49 children were killed by indiscriminate rebel shelling.” NPR also reports that “Aleppo’s government side is home to the vast majority of the population, more than a million and a half people, including many displaced from the rebel side.”
Chemical Weapons in Syria
_ The “Joint Investigative Mechanism of the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” (JIM) conducted an investigation for the UN Security Council on 9 cases of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. They identified the culprit in 3 cases and left 6 inconclusive. The UN Security Council will meet on Aug. 30 and debate action, which could range from a statement, to sanctions, to a referral to the ICC in the Hague. Their conclusion was that the Syrian government used chlorine gas 2 times in Idlib in 2014, 2015, and ISIS used mustard gas in Aleppo in 2015.
_ Aug. 25 Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova: “The report [UN report on chemical weapons in Syria] will be studied in detail. The conclusions drawn by the experts will be analysed as well. These conclusions of the report will be discussed in the Security Council on August 30. However, I want to stress that the fact that Islamic State possess chemical weapons has not become a revelation for us. The chemical weapons have not only been used in Iraq but in Syria as well.”
_ Russian Sputnik News: Shemshadi Hassan, an Iranian Radio and Television correspondent, witnessed the 2013 Ghouta Gas Attack, recounts the events before, during and after the gas attack, saying the “terrorists” and their sponsors were responsible for the attacks.
_ Daily Beast quotes an anonymous intelligence official: ““We weren’t getting enough political oomph when the chlorine attacks first came to light. So we figured the best option was to work through the slow UN process, get the Russians to a place where they’re cornered diplomatically.”
Chinese Intervention in Syria
_ China’s Ministry of Defense said China has provided medical equipment, and will provide “medical, nursing and other professional training” in Syria. “China has always played a proactive role in looking for a political resolution for the Syrian issue.”
Arms Race in Asia
_ Peter Lee (Chinahand) on RAND’s new report about how war with China “won’t escalate beyond a limited conventional war” and we’ll win. “Nuclear Blackmail and America’s Fantasy War With China.”
_ An interview on the Scott Horton Show with Peter Lee on the same topic, and on the broader topics, including the very real arms race on smaller, “tactical” or “non-strategic” nuclear weapons. The US as a tactical nuke that can be delivered by stealth fighter. The Chinese responded recently unofficially through the South China Morning Post, acknowledging that China is also developing tactical nukes.
_ Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson has talked about his experience war gaming a war with China, and he said it ended the same way every time wiht nuclear war because the US can’t win a land war in China and China can’t win a naval war. Back in February, Wilkerson on The Real News: “All War Games Between China and the US Lead to Nuclear Attacks.”
German Plan Advises Citizens to Stockpile Food and Water
_ The German interior ministry has proposed a new civil defense plan that requires citizens to stockpile a 10 day supply of food , 5 day supply of water, energy, money, and medicine “to prepare for a catastrophe or an armed attack.” Details from a 69-page report were published last weekend by German media. This is the first time since the end of the Cold War that Germany has encouraged civilians to be prepared for catastrophe. The plan will be debated by parliament.
US Operations in Yemen, Kerry Tells Houthis to Surrender
_ On Aug. 25, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the US has modified support operations in Yemen but was vague on the reasons why. “So the United States still provides some military support for the campaign. But it has been modified somewhat, in part, reflecting the conditions on the ground.” Cook said the US provides “technical advice” and “some logistical support” and “some of that continues.”
_ When asked about US troops on the ground in Yemen, he said we have had a “small group of individuals” there as part of a counterterrorism effort, but would not say whether they are still there. “And I’m not going to characterize right now our presence in Yemen, but we have had a small group, as you know, a fusion cell, in the past.”
_ US Sec. State John Kerry in Saudi Arabia announced a “peace initiative” where peace talks would be restarted and a “unity government” formed. Houthis can only participate if they surrender — stop shelling across the Saudi border and give up all their weapons. In other words, Kerry repeated the same Saudi demands that resulted in failed talks before.
_ Kerry’s plan offers the Houthis participation in a new government. Kerry said he was deeply troubled by Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia.
_ Today, Houthi rockets struck a power station in Najran, Saudi Arabia and the Saudi air raids on Yemen.
War and Elections
_ A Turkish college professor in Istanbul, Adil Oksuz, created an American LLC company in Lodi, New Jersey, and used that company to donate to the Ready for Hillary PAC in 2014. Oksuz is the subject of a “massive manhunt” in Turkey where he has been named as the ‘”imam of the Air Force” and a leader of the plot in Turkey.” There were other high dollar donations to the PAC on the same day from Lodi, NJ, and connections to donors who have given $500K – 1 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, with connections to the Gulen movement.
Analysis and Opinion
_ Patrick Cockburn: “Turkey’s Foray Into Syria Is a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game.”
_ Medea Benjamin: “US Weapons Sales Are Drenched in Yemeni Blood.”
_ Daniel McAdams: “Turkey/US Invade Syria — Hillary Gets a ‘No-Fly’ Zone”
_ Weekly (8/23) radio podcast with John Batchelor and Stephen F. Cohen on new Cold War: Ukraine’s president Poroshenko was not invited to the G20 in early September. Russian president Putin reneged on a sidelines meeting of the near dead Minsk accord parties but recently changed his mind and said he would have an informal meeting with German and French leaders, Merkel and Hollande. Poroshenko, one of the parties to the accords, won’t be there. The IMF refuses to send scheduled loan money to Ukraine because of the unreformed corruption. US VP Joe Biden told Poroshenko to ramp down the tensions with Russia. Things are not looking good for the current leadership in Kiev.
_ “Washington’s Sunni Myth and the Middle East Undone” is a 2-part series (Part 1, Part 2) written by a “Westerner with extensive on-the-ground experience in Iraq and Syria” and “proposes a dramatic rethinking of the region.” The articles are written under a pen name because the War on the Rocks editor believes the author “can reasonably and seriously fear for his professional employment and safety publishing under his real name,” because to disagree with the “Borg” or the “Blob” (nicknames for the foreign policy establishment / Washington group think) is apparently a dangerous thing to do in the so called “free world” today. The author argues against regime change in Syria, “explains how the understanding of sectarian identity in the Middle East is fatally flawed,” and “reveals new information on these civil wars.” The author is “a security consultant to the humanitarian community in the Levant and Iraq.”
_ British historian and foreign policy expert really spills the beans on the deception of the public about the war in Syria and UK and western policies in the Middle East: “We Know About The Lies Over Iraq But What About Syria?”
_ Sean Gabb. A historian, writer, and director of The Libertarian Alliance, compares NATO to the Holy Alliance, created in 1815, by “the conservative powers of Europe (Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, Prussia, Royalist France)” for the purpose of protecting and extending the lives of these “conservative monarchies” during the time of the French Revolution. Gabb says that right now feels less like a 1914 moment and more like an 1848 because, in his travels, he sees an “almost universal rejection and distrust of the ruling class.
_ John Pilger: “Provoking nuclear war by media.”