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Archive for the ‘Kurdistan’ Category

Fighting the Caliph: U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the Kurds

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On 9 May 2017, while holding a joint press confererence with the Danish Minister of Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen in Copenhagen, General Mattis told reporters the following in response to a query regarding the decision to arm Syria’s Kurds: “Yes, they — we had very open discussion with the Turks. It’s a NATO ally, and NATO allies stick together. That’s not to say, we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward. We work that out through extensive dialogue. We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks, and it was a very, very useful discussion today. We’re getting — as you know — into the position where we will have Raqqa surrounded. The idea is, ladies and gentlemen, that the foreign fighters not be allowed to escape and return to constitute a threat against free and innocent people elsewhere, whether it be in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, and certainly Europe. By taking, for example, Manbij away from the enemy, that was the spoke of the hub and spoke of their terrorist effort against Europe, and that’s how they conducted the attacks against Brussels and Paris. So our intent is to work with the Turks, with — alongside one another to take Raqqa down and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it, but we’re all committed to it and that’s what came out of today’s discussion”.i

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The U.S. Secretary of Defense clearly sidestepped the thorny issue of Turkey’s opposition to the Pentagon’s decision by means of simply ignoring the question and talking about the U.S.-Turkish relationship as if everything were hunky dory. Still, as reported by Reuters: “U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday [, 9 May 2017]”.ii Ankara regards the YPG as but the Syrian incarnation of the PKK, Turkey’s homegrown Kurdish terror group. In this connection, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White made the following declaration: “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally . . . We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey”.iii

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Bülent Alirıza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, on the other hand, made the following observations: “There have been bad episodes in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, but this one is serious because it gets to the heart of Turkish security priorities . . . You’ve now got a question mark over the U.S.-Turkish security relationship that is pretty serious”.iv Now, all eyes are on Tayyip Erdoğan’s upcoming visit to Washington, D.C.

Trump on Tayyip

i “Joint Press Conference with Secretary Mattis and Minister Frederiksen in Copenhagen, Denmark” U.S. Department of Defense (09 Mauy 2017). https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1177882/joint-press-conference-with-secretary-mattis-and-minister-frederiksen-in-copenh/.

ii Phil Stewart, “U.S. to arm Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, despite Turkey’s ire” Reuters (10 May 2017). http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-usa-kurds-idUSKBN18525V.

iii Phil Stewart, “U.S. to arm Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, despite Turkey’s ire”.

iv Phil Stewart, “U.S. to arm Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, despite Turkey’s ire”.

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The Fight for Mosul

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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s glossy magazine Foreign Policy‘s Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley write that “[o]ne week into the fight for Mosul, and the battle has expanded across Iraq, but has yet to start inside the city itself. Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga are within just a few miles of the city, pushing from the south, east, and north as an estimated 1,500 ISIS fighters are making a fighting retreat back into their fortified strongholds within Mosul. To slow the coalition’s advance, they’re lighting oil pits, sending columns of thick black smoke into the sky, and laying hundreds of buried bombs along the roadways. Just a few miles away, as many as 5,000 well supplied and deeply dug in ISIS fighters, surrounded by unwilling civilian human shields, await . . . American military officials have said they expect ISIS to lash out in other areas of Iraq to try and shift Baghdad’s attention from Mosul, and the assaults on Kirkuk on Friday, and Rutba in far western Iraq on Sunday — both hundreds of miles from Mosul — have pulled some troops into the fight to secure those cities. The fighting in both places continued through Sunday, with several suicide bombers hitting Kirkuk throughout the day. In Rutba, reports indicate that ISIS has taken control of half of the town . . . But the biggest surprise came Saturday, when Islamic State fighters lit a sulphur plant on fire, sending plumes of toxic smoke into the skies around Mosul. A defense official speaking on condition of anonymity told SitRep that U.S. troops at Camp Swift and Qayyarah West Airfield near Mosul “are in an area far enough away that there is minimal threat to any lasting health effects,” but all troops have gas masks, and they have the option of using them. About 1,000 Iraqi civilians have been sickened by the fumes already . . . The Pentagon is sending dozens of new intelligence analysts to Iraq to help sift through what leaders think will be an intelligence windfall when the city eventually falls. But hundreds of ISIS fighters have been fleeing the city though an open western corridor to Syria, one tribal chief near the border tells CNN. Big win for the Kurds, may anger Baghdad. The clouds of black smoke don’t appear to be slowing things down much. On Sunday, the Kurds look to have captured the ISIS-held town of Bashiqa, only five miles from Mosul, which would open up a critical lane into the city. But the victory might come at a long-term cost. The Kurds were supported by Turkish artillery, fired from a base near the town that houses hundreds of Turkish troops, along with dozens of tanks and artillery pieces. Baghdad says they’re there without the consent of the Iraqi government, and wants them out. Ankara refuses . . . U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Turkey, Baghdad, and the Kurdish city of Erbil over the weekend to huddle with U.S. military commanders and local officials leading the fight. The visit produced some real tension, as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi soundly rejected a preliminary agreement Carter appeared to have reached with Turkish officials that would open the door for Turkey to become more involved in the Mosul operation. While there were some vague threats of war last week over the base, Abadi toned things down Saturday, saying it’s “important for us to have good relations with Turkey…I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul.” But the Shiite militias that Baghdad is preparing to send west of Mosul aren’t looking to decrease tensions with Turkey. Just the opposite, the New York Times tells us . . . Spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, Col John L. Dorrian, Tweeted Sunday that the U.S. led coalition dropped over 1,400 munitions on ISIS positions around Mosul between Oct. 17 and 22, a record number of strikes over any other 5-day period since the bombing campaign kicked off in August, 2014 . . . The fight for Mosul has just started, but the ISIS capital of Raqqa ha[n]gs over the entire campaign. ‘We want to see an isolation operation begin around Raqa as soon as possible’, Ash Carter said Sunday. ‘We are working with our partners there (in Syria) to do that. There will be some simultaneity to these two operations'”.[1]

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[1] Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley, “Situation Report” Foreign Policy. (24 Oct 2016). http://link.foreignpolicy.com/view/53676c82f6e3a597524615234q8uf.1fvt/6de5645f.

Erdoganistan

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‘Turkey has a long history of conflict with the Kurdish people whose historic homeland is spread over what is now Turkey, Syria and Iran. For many year, Kurds from the country’s South-East have campaigned for autonomy within the Turkish state. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been fighting for independence and because it’s considered a terrorist group, is outlawed in Turkey. Until recently, a ceasefire had been in effect between the government and the PKK; that has now ended. Since then the conflict has escalated and hundreds have been killed. The local Kurdish population claims that Erdogan’s government is conducting an operation against their people. Civilians continue to die and the Turkish police enjoy unchecked authority. They insist that the widespread murder of Kurds is systematically covered up at state level. Erdogan’s government is also accused of collaborating with ISIS. The Kurds in neighbouring Syria have also formed their own resistance, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units who are fighting against ISIS. Several accusations are levelled at the Turkish Government, supported by testimonies from Syrian Kurds, captured ISIS militants and Turkish journalists. They allege that Erdogan’s government buys illegal oil from ISIS, allows the militants safe passage across Turkish borders and even provides them with ammunition. Kurds also claim that with its “one nation, one country” policy, Erdogan’s government hopes to use ISIS as a tool to rid itself of the longstanding Kurdish thorn in its side. Local journalists who have reported on government hostilities towards the Kurds are routinely persecuted and at least one major independent Turkish newspaper has been taken over by the government. Reporters who cover ‘pro-Kurdish’ stories are frequently accused of association with the PKK and by extension, terrorism; many have been arrested and even killed. RT Doc hears first-hand accounts from some of the few remaining independent journalists about their investigations and why they persevere despite the danger. Published on Jun 2, 2016’.

 

Erdoganistan

Wily on TV: Talk to Al Jazeera with Ahmed Davutoğlu

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On 23 February 2016, Turkey’s wily PM Ahmed Davutoğlu spoke to the international broadcaster Al Jazeera: ‘Ahmet Davutoglu discusses the recent attacks in Turkey, the downed Russian military jet, and the refugee situation. Is there a possibility Turkey will lose its patience and order some sort of military intervention in Syria against Kurdish and government forces? And if so, is a military conflict with Russia imminent? (Published on Feb 24, 2016)’.

Therefore, one should lose track of the fact that the above conversation with the Qatari broadcaster took place well ahead of the ceasefire that came into effect in Syria at midnight on February 27. And here are some of his choice words once more: “We know how and when we will respond. Definitely, those who made this attack against our people, will pay the price, but how and when – we will decide – and when it happens, everybody will see that Turkey can respond [to] any challenges, any attack, against it”.[1] Furthermore, the PM assured that that Ankara “will be doing everything for Syrian brothers and sisters – without asking any assistance from anywhere – for refugees as well as for the heroic people in Syria . . . all Syrians, those, who are raising their voice against this aggression by the regime, by terrorists like YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units], Daesh [Islamic State, IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL] and foreign forces, who are invading Syria today, like Russia and Iran”.[2] Next he targeted Russia for bombing “all anti-regime forces, all groups – all Sunnis, Kurds, Turkoman, Arab, not important for them, and all those, who are against the regime. They continue to push this people to Turkey. And the international community is silent and surely does not want to help them” before issuing the outrageous claim that Putin is aiming “to create a refugee crisis in Turkey and the EU” and then adding this gem: “Turkey has the hearts of Syrian people. The Syrian people are with us. And nobody can defeat a people”.[3]

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[1] “Davutoglu on ISIL, Syrian refugees, and Ankara bombing” Al Jazeera (23 Feb 2016). http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2016/02/turkish-pm-attack-pay-price-160223073208847.html.

[2] “Turkey to keep supporting armed groups fighting Assad regime in Syria – PM Davutoglu” RT News (29 Feb 2015). https://www.rt.com/news/333904-davutoglu-turkey-invasion-syria-russia/?utm_source=browser&utm_medium=aplication_chrome&utm_campaign=chrome.

[3] “Turkey to keep supporting armed groups fighting Assad regime in Syria – PM Davutoglu”.

CrossTalk: Truce in Syria?

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‘Is it for real this time? Moscow and Washington have announced a date for the cessation of hostilities of Syria’s 5-year civil war. This does not include the Syrian coalition’s campaign against terrorist groups operating in the country. Putin has delivered, can Obama? CrossTalking with Philip Giraldi, Gareth Porter, and Sami Nader. Published on Feb 24, 2016’.

 

Syria Truce

The Ankara Blast: 17 February 2016

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“A large explosion near Ankara’s Eskişehir Yolu detonated on the February 17. The explosion, reportedly caused by a car bomb, was carried out close to military headquarters, the parliament and various government ministries, including the Ministry of Interior. Hürriyet Daily News reported that the target of the attack was shuttle buses transporting military personnel, which has been confirmed by Ankara’s governor Mehmet Kılıçlar. The government is treating this as an act of terrorism but still looking into the cause. So far at least 28 people have been reported dead, with 68 injured; including military personnel. The number is believed to be much higher however as a large fire is obstructing rescue operations, added to by smaller fires caused by burning car engines and gasoline in the area”.[1]

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“The explosion was heard across Ankara. There is a large plume of smoke still visible above Ankara, showing the devastation caused by the blast. Roads in the area have now been blocked off for security purposes. Prime Minister Davutoğlu has cancelled his forthcoming trip to Brussels while this situation unfolds, and is to attend immediate security meetings. A broadcast ban has already been put in place on reporting non-official news of the bombing; however various news outlets have continued their coverage”.[2]

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“The timing of the explosion, during rush hour, has added to fears of growing casualties from the blast. The Health Ministry has sent 20 ambulances to the scene according to CNN Türk and is calling for blood donations. No one has claimed responsibility so far, but this is the fourth in a series of attacks on Turkish soil over the past few months, most of which have been linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The ISIL bombing in Ankara last year killed over 100 people, in the worst terrorist attack in Turkish history”.[3]

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“Internet censorship monitoring service TurkeyBlocks has confirmed that Turkish ISPs including TTNet have censored Twitter and Facebook by means of bandwidth throttling. The new blocks came around an hour after a major explosion in Turkey capital Ankara. Data indicates that the social media sites may still be accessible from smaller Internet Service Providers in the country – blocking orders are known to take some time to become fully active. The blocks took effect only minutes after the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) announced an immediate blanket media ban on reporting relating to the Ankara bombing incident, suggesting that a rapid response system may now be in place to automatically block social media services upon request. Despite the internet blocks, Facebook went ahead and debuted its “safety check” feature in the hours following the attack, allowing those in Ankara to let friends and family know if they are safe or have been hospitalised”.[4]

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[1] Indepedent Turkey, “Deadly Blast Rips through Ankara: Death Toll Rising”, Independent Turkey, 17 February 2016, London: Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey). Original link: http://researchturkey.org/?p=10792.

[2] Indepedent Turkey, “Deadly Blast Rips through Ankara: Death Toll Rising”.

[3] Indepedent Turkey, “Deadly Blast Rips through Ankara: Death Toll Rising”.

[4] “Twitter and Facebook Restricted in Turkey following Ankara bombing” D8News (17 Feb 2016). https://d8news.com/twitter-facebook-restricted-turkey-following-ankara-bombings-683.

Joe Biden ziyareti – Barış Doster, Mehmet Ali Güller ve Gürkan Hacır ile Şimdiki Zaman

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 30.01.2016 – Gürkan Hacır ile Şimdiki Zaman – Konuklar: Doç. Dr. Barış Doster / Araştırmacı – Yazar Mehmet Ali Güller / Araştırmacı – Yazar.

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