Analysis: Turkey At War With Kurds Again As A Result Of Obama’s Deal With Erdoğan

“The pathway to defeating Islamic State runs through Kurdistan and starts in America” was the title of an article published by The Jerusalem Post on July 29th. The authors, Robert Sklaroff and Sherkoh Abbas, the president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, described what the United States needs to do to help the Kurds defeat the Islamic State.

One of the things that must be done, they wrote, is the implementation of the bi-partisan amendment (SA-1549) to the Department of Defense funding bill proposed by Senators Boxer, Ernst, and Graham. That amendment would authorize providing direct U.S. aid to the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The article was published a couple of days after it became clear that President Obama had closed a deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan that will effectively spell the end of Kurdish-American cooperation in the war against the Islamic State.

As Western Journalism reported last week, under the deal, the U.S. Air Force could use the Turkish Incirlik Air Base for the air campaign against the Islamic State and, in return, the U.S. would help Turkey by creating an ISIS-free buffer zone along the Turkish border. We also reported that Turkey demanded oversight of the targets the U.S. Air Force would strike in Syria and Iraq. Strikes that would help the YPG seize more territory along the Turkish border would be vetoed, according to the Turkish outlet Today’s Zaman

Soon after the first reports about the deal were published, other details about the implementation of the agreement and the reason why Erdoğan decided to change his position on the war against ISIS began to emerge.

Let us first look at the implementation of the deal.

The day after Obama spoke on the telephone to Erdoğan and reportedly finalized the deal that had been negotiated intensively for months, the Turkish Air Force and Army began to bomb Kurdish YPG and PKK positions in Syria and Iraq. These attacks and the controlling of Kurdish airspace have only intensified in the last couple of days. Two hundred and sixty Kurds reportedly died, and 400 have been wounded as a result of the Turkish campaign after the deal with Obama was closed.

The Anadolu Agency press agency, which is run by the state, reported on Saturday that 26 Turkish F-16 jets attacked 65 PKK targets in northern Iraq after hitting more than 100 targets a day earlier.

At the same time, Turkey has started to work with Islamist groups in Syria who are supposed to drive the Islamic State out of the area along the Turkish border. Foreign Policy interviewed a commander of Thuwar al-Sham in Syria who said the Turks had organized a meeting with Sunni rebel leaders on July 27th to discuss a new effort to drive the Islamic State out of the remaining area on the Turkish border it controls.

The Turks also pushed for the establishment of a joint military operations room to coordinate an upcoming assault against Islamic State strongholds in the 60-mile stretch of land between the cities Jarabulus and Azaz in Syria. A day after the meeting on July 27th, a similar conference was held with the Turks, rebel commanders, and “members of the Military Operations Center, known as the MOM, which includes many of the foreign powers that are supporting the armed opposition, including the United States,” Foreign Policy reported.

The overall Turkish strategy is directed at the creation of a buffer zone free of ISIS, in which it will relocate the 1.5 million Sunni refugees now living in Turkey, and to control the zone via its ally in Syria – the Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) Islamist rebel coalition that includes al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

Kurds also report that the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition has limited or completely stopped its air support for the YPG and Peshmerga Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq. Jerusalem Post analyst Caroline Glick wrote that Kurds in the Syrian city of Jarablus reported the U.S. has stopped providing air support for the YPG militia. Instead, the YPG forces were bombed by Turkish F-16’s.

The desired result of the Turkish intervention is to prevent further Kurdish advances along the 800-kilometer long border in Syria and to prevent the Kurds from establishing an autonomous area or an independent Kurdish state.

Another motive for the Turkish intervention in Syria is the internal political situation in Turkey.

Erdoğan’s AKP won the election, but lost 8 percent of the votes to the Kurdish-dominated HDP party, which won more than 13 percent of the vote.

Since the election, AKP has tried to form a coalition with the help of nationalistic parties, but to no avail thus far, making a fresh election more likely by the day. The opposition in Turkey accused Erdoğan today of blocking coalition efforts.

Erdoğan’s opponents in Turkey say he is dragging the country into conflict to seek revenge for the loss of the absolute majority in parliament. By reviving the old conflict with the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and by preventing PKK affiliate YPG in Syria from establishing an autonomous entity, Erdoğan seeks to undermine support for the pro-Kurdish HDP ahead of the new poll. When he stirs nationalistic anger against the Kurds, Erdoğan might regain the majority and change the constitution in order to increase his power.

U.S. administration officials called the Obama/Erdoğan deal a “game changer.”

That might be true, albeit perhaps not in the way they envisioned it.

The deal has already hampered the war effort against the Islamic State because now the Kurds have to defend themselves against another mighty foe in the north and seem to have lost the air support that was instrumental in their successful campaign against the Islamic State.

The fragile cease-fire between the Turkish government and the PKK has collapsed as a result of the deal, and the Turkish population once more goes through a period of fear and stress after the PKK’s renewal of its terror attacks on Turkish targets. Police in Istanbul issued warnings of imminent bomb attacks on crowded places and the German Foreign Ministry warned that the metro in Istanbul could be targeted as well.

“There could be increased attack activity by the PKK,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website. “Beyond that, there are indications of possible attacks on the underground rail network and bus stops in İstanbul,” the ministry added, according to Today’s Zaman.

Furthermore, the situation in Syria has become even more complicated as a result of the Turkish intervention, and the Sunni-Shia conflict could further escalate as a result of Erdoğan’s Ottoman aspirations.

In the meantime, no U.S. airplane has taken off from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, The Independent reported. Like with the Iran deal, there are apparently differing opinions over what was exactly agreed upon.

The Independent reports:

It is now becoming clear that two crucial parts of the accord were not agreed at the time of the historic announcement. The US Air Force was desperate to get the use of Incirlik, 60 miles from the Syrian border, in order to intensify its bombardment of Isis. American planes currently have to fly long distances from Bahrain, Jordan and an aircraft carrier in the Gulf. The failure of the US air campaign to prevent Isis fighters capturing Ramadi and Palmyra in May intensified the sense of urgency.

At the time of writing, US aircraft have not started using Incirlik and the reason is that Turkey does not want US aircraft using it to launch air strikes in support of the Syrian Kurds who have hitherto been America’s most effective military allies against Isis in Syria.

Al Jazeera also reported disagreements between Turkey and the United States about elements of the deal.

The two sides argue about two aspects of the deal. One is indeed the use of Incirlik for strikes against ISIS. Turkey says the decision to allow U.S. jets to use Incirlik doesn’t involve “helping a terrorist organization,” a clear reference to PKK affiliate YPG.

Another point of disagreement between the sides is over which opposition group will fill the vacuum once the area along the Turkish border is cleared of ISIS.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Secret Deal Between Turkey And U.S. Will Sell Out The Kurds

Analysis

Last week, Western Journalism reported that Islamic State had succeeded in drawing Turkey into the Syrian war after a suicide attack by a Turkish terrorist affiliated with ISIS killed 32 young Kurds in the border town of Suruc in Turkey.

Turkey responded to the attack by launching airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria. This happened a day after a telephone conversation between President Obama and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in which the latter agreed, for the first time, to allow the US-led coalition against ISIS to use a Turkish air force base for strikes against Islamic State.

Shortly after Turkey entered the battle against Islamic State, it became clear that the government in Ankara had another reason to interfere in Syria and Iraq. Turkish airplanes attacked Kurdish positions in northern Iraq, and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG reported on Monday that Turkey had shelled their positions in the border area.

Turkish media revealed at the same time details of a deal between the Obama administration and the AKP-dominated government in Ankara and reported a conflicting narrative of why Turkey intervened in Syria and Iraq.

A Syrian journalist reported that US administration officials contacted the Turkish government last month after the Turkish army amassed forces along the Syrian border. This happened after the Kurdish YPG militia conquered vast territories in northeast Syria and seized the strategic border town Tal Abyad in Syria.

Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu vehemently oppose the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous area or an independent Kurdish state along the Turkish border because they fear it will lead to increasing separatism among its own six million-strong Kurdish minority.

The Turks told Administration officials that they had drawn a red line from Aleppo to Kobani and that they would not allow more Kurdish advances along the border. The Americans were receptive to this message and saw an opportunity to finally enlist Turkey as a member of the anti-ISIS coalition. Negotiations started; and after a month, a deal was reportedly closed.

The US Air Force could use the Incirlik air force base in Turkey but had to allow Turkish oversight of the targets it would strike in Syria and Iraq from Incirlik. This means that strikes that would help the YPG seize more territory along the Turkish border would be vetoed, according to the Turkish outlet Today’s Zaman.

In return, the U.S. would cooperate with Turkey to establish a so-called ISIS free buffer zone in the north of Syria. Officially, the Turkish government says that it wants this buffer zone to keep ISIS away from its border and to relocate the one and a half million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The Syrian Kurds, however, think that Erdogan and Davutlogu want to drive a wedge between the three Kurdish cantons in Syria–and by doing so want to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous area in Syria, Reuters reported.

The U.S. administration denies that it is collaborating with Turkey to create a buffer zone based on the Turkish model, Bloomberg reported.

“We’re not out there staking out zones and doing some things that I know have been discussed in years past — no-fly zones, safe zones. What we’re trying to do is clear ISIL,” a senior administration official said. “I think it’s important not to confuse that with staking out these zones that you can identify with road signs and on big maps, and that’s just not what’s happening.”

“On Monday, a White House official told an audience in a closed-door meeting at the Middle East Institute in Washington the same thing about there being no safe zone inside Syria, according to two people who were inside the meeting. The Obama administration is sending a delegation back to Turkey next week to work on exactly what the new cooperation along the northern Syria border will look like, the official said,” according to Bloomberg.

The Turkish government, however, insists that a buffer zone will be created; so it’s hard to see how the U.S. Administration will prevent Turkey from doing so. Besides, the Obama official Bloomberg quoted said the U.S. is “trying to clear ISIL”; so in the end, the territory will be free of ISIS if everything goes well.

There is more.

Some Turkish media and the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party PKK say that Turkish intelligence and security forces might have been complicit in the Suruc suicide attack. They point to the fact that shortly before the blast, PKK activists were banned from entering the building where the attack took place while the terrorist got through security control.

This might sound far-fetched; but this past weekend, the British paper The Guardian delivered new evidence that the Turkish government has given support to Islamic State in an attempt to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

An anonymous Western official told The Guardian that when US Special Forces raided the compound of ISIS commandant Abu Sayyaf in Syria in May, they found proof of an oil trade between ISIS and Turkey worth tens of millions of dollars per year.

“There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there. They are being analyzed at the moment, but the links are so clear that they could end up having profound implications for the relationship between us and Ankara,” the Western official Told the Guardian.

As Western Journalism reported last week, the Turkish Intelligence Service MIT has been delivering weapons and ammunition to Islamic State as well.

The Turkish government has clearly used Islamic State to get rid of the Assad regime but has apparently come to the conclusion that direct intervention in Syria has become necessary because of Kurdish national aspirations and because of the overall situation in the country. It has become clear that Syria as we know it has ceased to exist, and Erdogan wants to be in the position to determine the future of the areas that border Turkey. So the Turkish government has clear goals and acts accordingly.

The same cannot be said of the U.S. administration, thinks military affairs analyst Jennifer Dyer.

She wrote that the U.S. military does not understand the new partnership with Turkey because there are no territorial or operational objectives–and there are no clear directives on the use of military power. She recalled how another U.S. operation to improve the situation in Syria without clear objectives became a huge failure. Dyer was referring to the training of a new local ground force that was supposed to turn the tide in the never-ending war. Nine months after the announcement of this plan, only sixty fighters have been recruited and trained. Basically, the U.S. is in this partnership for the convenience of Turkey, she concluded.

Some analysts say that there is another conclusion that can be drawn. By entering into a partnership with Turkey at a time when Kurdish forces were the only ones who succeeded in driving Islamic State out of territories in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration seems to be selling out the Kurds.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Breaking: Islamic State Succeeds In Drawing Turkey Into Escalating Syrian War

The situation in Syria is becoming more complicated and dangerous by the day.

On Monday, Islamic State launched a suicide attack in the Turkish border town Suruc, killing 32 people. A Turkish ISIS terrorist blew himself up amongst a group of young people who were waiting to cross the border to help the Kurds in rebuilding the city of Kobani that was seized from ISIS by the Kurdish militia YPG after a long battle earlier this year. It marked the first time ISIS staged a suicide attack in Turkey.

Today, tensions on the Syrian-Turkish border further escalated after a Turkish soldier was killed by fire from an area controlled by Islamic State. Suleyman Tapsiz, the governor for Turkey’s Kilis province, reported that an army border outpost was attacked by Islamic State.

Turkish tanks responded by shelling ISIS positions across the border, killing an ISIS terrorist, and the Turkish air force scrambled jets to the Syrian border.

The Turkish government decided on Tuesday to erect a concrete wall on the border with Syria and to reinforce wire fencing. Turkish media later reported that the measures taken by the government include the sending of zeppelins to monitor the border and an increase of border patrols.

Turkish media also reported that Ankara had finally given permission to the U.S. air force to use the large Incirlik air base in the campaign against Islamic State. The permission came after a telephone conversation between President Obama and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan had always refused to join the U.S. led coalition against Islamic State.

His opponents accuse him of tacit support for the Jihadist group. In May, Reuters reported that the Turkish Secret Service, MIT, accompanied arms transports to ISIS. The news agency based its report on testimonies from Turkish gendarmerie officers and state persecutors.

Pundits say that Erdogan will use Turkish intervention in Syria not to fight ISIS, but to prevent the YPG from establishing a Kurdish state along the Turkish border.

Meanwhile in northwestern Syria, Hezbollah and the National Defense Force (remnants of President Bashar Assad’s army, Iranian Al Quds units, and Shiite militias) launched an offensive to drive Islamist rebels of the ‘Army of Conquest’ out of the strategic city of Zabadani.

Zabadani lies 30 miles northwest of Damascus and is crucial to the consolidation of the regime’s control over the border with Lebanon.

The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that Assad’s air force dropped a large number of barrel bombs on Zabadani, “causing unprecedented levels of destruction and many deaths among the civilian population.”

Heavy fighting continued into the night in the area of Zabadani, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy aerial bombardments in and round the city. The group also reported casualties on both sides as well as widespread destruction.

Syrian state television reported the National Defense Force had destroyed a 77-yard-long tunnel used by the insurgents to transport weapons and equipment into Zabadani. The Army of Conquest retaliated by launching rockets and mortar grenades into the area of Idlib in northern Syria, Mistura reported.

The news about the offensive coincides with reports that Iran has increased its support to Assad after the signing of the nuclear deal with six world powers last week in Vienna. Last week, Iran granted Assad a $1 billion credit line, and more is expected once frozen Iranian assets are released if/when the agreement is implemented. Assad received an estimated $35 billion per year in order to survive, and analysts now say that the Vienna agreement will be his lifeline.

The Tower, citing the Financial Times, reported today that the “Iranians are paying Syrian Army deserters double to keep fighting for Assad.” A recruiter promised Syrian soldiers a monthly wage of $200, much more than the $60 they received from the Syrian government.

Iran-funded paramilitary organizations like the Maghaweer and the National Defense Force offer some “of the few economic opportunities left for many young men.” In addition to generous salaries, the militias offer pardons to young men for draft dodging.

The Daily Beast quoted a Syrian blogger last week who wrote that the economic windfall Iran is expected to receive from the recent nuclear agreement will likely mean “more bombs, more bullets, and more militias will be sent to Assad, and the easing of sanctions means more money will be used to prop up his economy and keep him in power.”

Assad suffered a series of setbacks recently that seemed to indicate the end of his regime was near. The main reason for the string of defeats his army suffered is a shortage of manpower. The Arab news site Albawaba revealed today that Arab media were circulating an allegedly leaked document from the Assad regime that gives evidence to the claim that the Syrian army suffers from mass defection.

“Six hundred eighty six army soldiers are wanted from the western village of Qardaha, Assad’s hometown, after they defected. The list of troops includes key leadership of government forces and, allegedly, men from the Assad family itself. The list of the troops also includes 319 core commanders in charge of infantries, tanks and missile launches,” Albawaba reported.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

ISIS Releases New Horrific Execution Video Despite Ban By Its Leader

Image for representational purposes only.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly issued a ban on the release of videos with footage and pictures of beheadings.

Several Arab media, citing an Islamic State media source, reported on Friday that Baghdadi banned the videos because it could hurt the feelings of  Muslims and children “who may find these scenes grotesque,” the ISIS source was quoted as saying.

The news about the ban came after ISIS published two new horrific videos with footage of beheadings. In one of the videos, a young boy is seen using a big knife to decapitate the head of a Syrian officer. The boy then calmly takes the head and places it on the body of the officer.

Baghdadi issued the order a couple of weeks ago in a letter to ISIS offices in Iraq and Syria. He called upon ISIS members not to include scenes of the actual execution in the videos, but to limit the footage to the preparation of the murders.

The Kurdish news site ARA News reported that not all ISIS members accepted the decision. The site says that the scenes are meant to intimidate the Western enemies of Islamic State and not Muslims.

ARA News quoted the Syrian politician and lawyer Ferid Hisso, who said “that the radical group doesn’t really care about their victims or the public, and that banning the broadcasting of such videos ‘won’t eliminate the IS-led horrors that have been seen by people around the world over the past couple of years.’”

“Instead of banning the release of such videos, Baghdadi should have rather banned the crimes behind the scenes. But he has already justified the barbarism of his followers, and his decision makes no sense,” Hisso told ARA News.

In related news, the Islamic State branch Wilayat Sinai released dramatic footage of the attack on an Egyptian navy vessel near the coast of Gaza last Thursday. The video shows the launch of a Kornet anti-tank missile that hits the vessel amidships.

The Egyptian army had said that the ship caught fire after a confrontation between the Egyptian army and Wilayat Sinai terrorists. The army claimed there were no casualties, but Islamic State in Sinai reported that all sailors on the ship were killed in the attack. The footage released by Wilayat Sinai seems to support the ISIS version of the event.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

You Won’t Believe How This Jewish Man Saved From Nazis Is Returning The Favor Today

According to recent reports, a wealthy British nonagenarian has taken on the daunting task of rescuing as many Syrian Christians from ISIS terrorists as possible. The Catholic Herald explained that George Weidenfeld is dedicating this stage of his life to saving Christians because, if it were not for Christians willing to do the same for him, he would have potentially died under the Nazi regime in control of Vienna.

In 1938, Christians helping children escape to England rescued Weidenfeld, a debt he now hopes to repay.

“The primary objective,” he said of his program, “is to bring the Christians to safe havens. ISIS is unprecedented in its primary savagery compared with the more sophisticated Nazis.”

The world has never seen “such scum as these people,” he said of the Islamic terror organization.

Though Christians are not the only Syrians being persecuted by ISIS militants, Weidenfeld noted that they are his focus because of his unique personal background.

“I had a debt to repay,” he explained. “It applies to so many young people who were on the [rescue route] Kindertransports ….”

The 95-year-old concluded that “we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians.”

U.S. rescue efforts have not collaborated with Weidenfeld’s Operation Save Havens because he is not helping the Muslim sects facing hardships in Syria. The millionaire explained that he is merely pursuing the course to which he feels drawn.

“I can’t save the world,” he acknowledged, “but there is a very specific possibility on the Christian side. Let others do what they like for the Muslims.”

Thus far, 150 individuals have been flown from Syria to Poland via private jets chartered by Weidenfeld’s charity.

Should this mission be denounced because it is focused solely on Christians? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth