Kerry’s Latest Gaffe About Syrian Cease-Fire Shows He’s Absolutely Clueless About The Middle East

Russia and the United States agreed to a cessation of hostilities in Syria Monday, but it is far from clear if the fighting in the war-torn country will indeed stop this weekend.

Under the deal — which the parties hope will take effect on Saturday — a hotline will be established between Moscow and Washington to monitor the cease-fire that Secretary of State John Kerry now calls a “hudna.”

It’s unclear why Kerry suddenly uses Arabic words when he talks about the current chaos in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. He did the same with the war against ISIS. At the end of last year, Kerry started to use the Arabic acronym Daesh for Islamic State instead of ISIL as Obama calls the Jihadist group. But Kerry didn’t know how to pronounce it.

By now using the term hudna to describe the agreement involving the imminent cease-fire, Kerry shows he has no clue about the meaning of the word.

Hudna is Arabic for a temporary truce with the goal to rearm and replenish depleted ammunition stocks in preparation for the next round of fighting.

Israeli journalist David Bedein, writing for Frontpage Magazine in 2014, reported “the authoritative Islamic Encyclopedia (London, 1922) defines hudna as a ‘temporary treaty’ which can be approved or abrogated by Islamic religious leaders (emphasis added), depending on whether or not it serves the interests of Islam; a hudna cannot last for more than 10 years.”

This makes clear Kerry’s deal with Russian foreign minister Lavrov is no hudna, but an attempt to stop the war in Syria.

There are a few problems with the deal, however.

First, the deal excludes the war effort against Islamic State that controls a large part of Syria and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra that is in control of several parts of Syrian territory in the north, west and south of Syria.

It’s hard to see how a cease-fire can be maintained when the war against these two fanatical players in Syria continues. Islamic State already showed Sunday there will be no cessation of hostilities as long as it is in control of parts of Syria. The group carried out six suicide attacks that killed more than 190 Syrians and wounded hundreds of others while Kerry and Lavrov were finalizing the agreement.

Secondly, the deal says all UN-designated terrorist organizations will be excluded from the deal. Turkey regards the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist organization because of its ties with the Kurdish Workers Party PKK (a designated terrorist organization).

The Turks have stepped up their military campaign against the Syrian Kurds since the terrorist attack in Ankara last week. Turkey said the attack that killed 28 people was the work of a Syrian with ties to the YPG militia, but a forensic investigation unveiled Tuesday provides evidence the terrorist who carried out the suicide attack was born in Turkey.

Turkey doesn’t signal it will stop the shelling of YPG positions in Syria and has not announced it will cease its campaign against the YPG.

Third, Russia has always cast all rebel groups in Syria as terrorist organizations, including the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. Bashar al-Zoubi, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, has already called the provision about the terrorist groups a “fatal flaw” and said he was very pessimistic about the agreement.

The Assad government also has it doubts about the implementation of the cease-fire.

“The Syrian state for sure respects that (the ceasefire) which it agreed to, and will uphold it on principle. But I can’t speak on behalf of the armed groups which, pre-emptively, announced that they are not willing to agree to the ceasefire,”  Ali Haidar, Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation said yesterday.

Kerry now says that it may be too late. But if the fighting continues, Syria will fall apart.

“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria, if we wait much longer. So that’s what’s at issue here,” Kerry said Wednesday.

His remarks showed again how much he is out of touch with the new reality in the Middle East because Syria as we knew it ceased to exist a long time ago.

Middle East expert Jonathan Spyer is one of the insiders who wrote last year that Syria had fallen apart.

“As the civil war over the ruins of Syria grinds on into its fifth year, the fighting seems nowhere near an end. Indeed, there is no longer a single war taking place in the country. Rather, as Syria physically divides into separate entities, so the conflict, too, further subdivides, spawning new conflicts,” Spyer wrote last year.

Indeed, since Islamic State conquered large swaths of territory in Syria and the Assad regime suffered a string of losses leaving it in control of only 20 percent of the country, Syria consists of separate entities. The Kurds have established autonomous cantons in the north, Islamic State is in control of the center and east of the country and the Assad regime reigns in the west, north and south of Syria. The rest of the country is controlled by several rebel groups and coalitions and the Druze (Suweida).

The fact the Russian/Iranian pro-Assad coalition recently has won back territories has not significantly changed this situation. Syria has fallen apart; someone should tell this to Kerry.

With 28 Dead, Turkey Uses Terror Attack To Step Up Campaign Against Syrian Kurds- But Is Afraid Of Russia

Just hours after a car bomb killed 28 people in Ankara, Turkey — including some high-ranking Turkish military officials — Wednesday evening, Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan and prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced they had identified the perpetrator of the attack.

Davutoğlu said during a speech broadcast on live television that the attacker had been identified as Salih Neccar, a Syrian citizen born in 1992 in the northern Syria town of Amuda.

“In light of information we have obtained, it has been clearly identified that this attack has been carried out by the members of a terrorist organization inside Turkey together with a YPG member individual who has crossed from Syria,” Davutoğlu said.

The alleged bomber had entered Turkey in July, 2014. A security official later claimed Neccar had been in contact with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey and with the Syrian secret service Mukhabarat.

Erdogan announced 14 people had been arrested in connection to the attack and claimed both the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG were behind the assault.

“Even though those who head the PYD (the political party that runs the YPG) and PKK say this has no connection with them, based on the information obtained by our interior minister and our intelligence agencies, it is identified that this is done by them,” Erdoğan claimed.

Saleh Muslim, a leader of the Kurds in northern Syria, denied the YPG and PYD were behind the attack.

Muslim claimed Turkey was using the attack to justify an escalation of fighting in northern Syria. “We are completely refuting that. Davutoğlu is preparing for something else because they are shelling us as you know for the past week,” he told Reuters

“I can assure you, not even one bullet is fired by the YPG into Turkey. They don’t consider Turkey an enemy,” Muslim added.

Erdogan later called upon the EU and the Obama administration to acknowledge the YPG is a terrorist organization, similar to the PKK, which is designated as a terror group by both EU and U.S.

The speedy conclusions by both Turkish leaders who didn’t waste time accusing the YPG could indicate that Muslim is probably right.

Erdogan feels betrayed by the U.S. because the Obama administration didn’t buy his claims of the YPG being a terrorist group. Erdogan wants the Europeans and the U.S. to stop supporting the Syrian Kurds and believes the YPG is a just branch of the PKK.

The U.S. helped to form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that consists of the YPG and moderate Sunni militias. The YPG has proven to be the most effective fighting force in the battle against ISIS in Syria and now controls much of the border area with Turkey.

Erdogan earlier closed a deal with Obama about the establishment of a buffer zone in northern Syria that would be free of ISIS. But Erdogan planned to use the buffer zone to prevent further Kurdish advances along the border. The Turkish President fears that the YPG successes in Syria will inspire the PKK to declare autonomy in eastern Turkey.

When Obama dragged his feet on the issue, Erdogan started looking for other ways to realize the Kurds-free zone on the Turkish border between the Kurdish cantons Kobane and Afrin in northwestern Syria.

He first issued an ultimatum to Obama about the recognition of the YPG as a terrorist organization and a stop on military aid to the Kurds. When that didn’t help he ordered the Turkish army to shell YPG positions in Syria. This happened after the YPG advanced north of Aleppo and captured Al-Ziyara and Khuraybika — two villages in the Shirawa region of the Afrin Canton a couple of kilometers from the Turkish border.

This week the Turkish army intensified the shelling across the border in Syria after the Kurds captured the Tishrin Dam south of Jarablus in Syria, and crossed to the west of the Euphrates River. With this move, the Kurds crossed a red line for Erdogan.and Davutoğlu, who had said Turkey never would allow the Kurds to cross to the western bank of the Euphrates River.

But the Kurds weren’t stupid and decided not to provoke a Turkish invasion in northern Syria. Instead of advancing west of the Euphrates River they proceeded in the direction of Azaz east of Afrin where they seized the Menagh air base and nearby villages. On Feb. 13 the Turkish army started shelling Menagh and the captured villages, killing two civilians and wounding six others.

It didn’t prevent the Kurdish-dominated SDF from achieving a new success when it seized Tel Rifat close to the Turkish border. The Turks tried to prevent the Kurdish advances by letting approximately 500 Islamist Syrian rebels — who were transferred from Idlib Province in Syria — cross the Turkish border in the vicinity of Tel Rifat, and by sending in ammunition and weapons.

They stopped short, however, of sending in Turkish ground forces. It’s easy to explain why.

The Russians warned Erdogan and Davutoğlu not to interfere in northern Syria and threatened air strikes on Turkish troops that would enter Syria. The Turkish leaders apparently backed off and used Syrian rebels to try to stop the SDF advances.

Erdogan and Davutoğlu are again trying to enlist the West against the YPG by using the terrorist attack in Ankara. There is no evidence, however, of Salih Neccar’s alleged ties to the YPG and it could be the terrorist was affiliated with Islamic State that claimed responsibility for an earlier attack in Turkey that killed 95 people. PYD leader Saleh Muslim thinks Turkey fabricated the story about Neccar’s ties to the YPG and PYD in order to escalate the war against the Syrian Kurds.

“They are trying to escalate, for one week they have been shelling, it’s a type of escalation,” Muslim told DW in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Turkish air force again bombed PKK positions in Iraq, and the cross-border shelling on SDF positions in Syria continued today. The PKK reacted with an attack on a military convoy in southeast Turkey and killed six Turkish soldiers.

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: ‘Terror Attack’ Explosion In Major World Capital Causes 15+ Casualties

The capital of Turkey was shaken Wednesday when an explosion near the Turkish parliament during evening rush hour destroyed a vehicle containing military personnel. The blast, which ignited massive fires in downtown Ankara, killed at least five people and injured at least 10 more.

Television footage showed an intense fire around a burned out bus. The bus, carrying soldiers, was apparently hit as it waited at traffic lights, an official told Reuters.

“It is believed that a bomb-laden car caused the explosion,” said Ankara Gov. Mehmet Kiliclar.

Omer Celik, a spokesman for the nation’s ruling Justice and Development Party, described the blast as a “terror attack.”

“Terror has attacked treacherously in Ankara. We curse this attack,” Celik tweeted.

Fox News reported that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara implemented a procedure known as “duck and cover” following the blast, which occurred not far from the U.S. Embassy.

A witness told Reuters they could even smell the explosion from “blocks away.”

“I heard a huge explosion. There was smoke and a really strong smell even though we were blocks away,” the witness said.

Several cars reportedly caught on fire and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene.

The attack comes at a time of high tensions in Turkey. The government is fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and battling Syrian Kurdish fighters in addition to assisting American-led efforts to fight ISIS. In October, a suicide attack in Ankara killed 103 people at a pro-Kurdish rally.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack.

In the wake of the attack, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled an official visit to Brussels.

h/t: CNN

After Obama Fails To Stand Up To Russia, A SHOCKING New Development In Syria

Saudi Arabia has always been a country that shunned direct involvement in the Mideast wars. The Kingdom used Western armies (the First Gulf War, for example) and proxies to fight them and financed parties in conflicts to influence the outcome of wars, especially those involving Israel and countries where Sunni Muslims are threatened.

But since King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman took over at the beginning of 2015, things have started to change.

Saudi Arabia directly intervened in Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi militia threatened to overrun the country and was in the process of establishing an Iranian satellite state on its doorstep. The Saudi intervention didn’t bring the desired results, and as the war in Yemen drags on, it is becoming increasingly clear that Saudi Arabia has lost its face in the battle against the Houthis.

But that didn’t stop Salman, Bin Nayef and Bin Salman from confronting Iran in other arenas.

The regime in Riyadh recently confronted Iran directly when it executed the popular Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and decided to cut ties with the mullahs in Tehran after the ransacking of the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. Salman successfully pressured the other Gulf States to cut ties with Iran as well, but stopped short of declaring war on Iran.

At the end of 2015, Saudi Arabia formed an Islamic coalition that would combat ‘terror’ and especially Islamic State; but in reality, this coalition seemed to exist on paper only.

Now, however, the Saudis seem to have taken their involvement in the conflicts in the Middle East to a different level.

Last week, media reported that Saudi Arabia was contemplating sending ground troops to Syria, officially to help in the fight against Islamic State — but that was not the real reason for the intended intervention in Syria.

A couple of days later, a long convoy of more than 100 Humvees was spotted near the Al-Haditha border crossing with Jordan. The Oshkosh M-ATV Humvees reportedly crossed into Jordan and were heading for Syria, local citizen journalists reported.

On Sunday, media reported that Saudi Arabia has stationed a squadron of F-15 fighter planes at the Incirlik air force base in Turkey in preparation for a possible Turkish-Saudi intervention in Syria. The deployment of the Saudi warplanes at Incirlik was first denied by Turkey, but Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, spokesman of the Saudi Defense Ministry, confirmed Saturday the deployment of Saudi fighter jets to the Turkish base.

The Daily Caller even reported Saudi Arabia was amassing troops in Turkey, but that was denied by both Turkish and Saudi leaders and could not be independently confirmed by Western Journalism.

Officially, Turkey and Saudi Arabia say they will join the battle against ISIS; but Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that if the political process fails (read: the stalled talks in Geneva), Bashar al-Assad will be removed by force. Al-Jubeir emphasized that deployment of Saudi ground forces in Syria will be done in coordination with the U.S., but the facts on the ground contradict his statements.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Davutoglu confirmed the Saudi-Turkish preparations for a possible ground operation in Syria, but said that until now, only Saudi planes have been stationed in Turkey. He also said that Saudi military officials had made ‘exploratory visits’ to Turkey recently.

The news about the emerging grand Sunni coalition in the Syrian war comes after the United States accepted for the first time that Assad will stay in power by agreeing to a cessation of hostilities in Syria, instead of confronting Russia about its direct help to the Syrian dictator.

The Turks and the Saudis saw that the Russians and the Iranians are dictating events in Syria and are exerting their power and influence in the region while the United States is in retreat. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia feel betrayed by the Obama administration and noticed the West’s response to Russian and Iranian imperialism in the Middle East is only more blabbering about ceasefires and empty talk about the need for regime change in Syria.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are large Sunni states and don’t want the minority Shiites or Alawites to rule over Syria again. They saw how Hezbollah and the regime forces laid siege to Sunni towns and villages and began to starve the Sunni residents, and know that Sunnis will be slaughtered by the droves if Assad, Hezbollah, and the Iranians win the war.

So, they decided to act the moment it became clear that the Obama administration refused to stand up against the Russians.

Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and former advisor to then-ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal, told Lebanese media that the Saudis don’t bluff. “It is serious, it is the beginning of Saudi intervention in Syria to change the balance, to bring balance back,” Khashoggi said.

He added the Saudi intervention in Syria could be averted “if the Americans can get the Russians to stop bombing and go back to Geneva.”

But events in Syria are already spinning out of control.

Turkey is now operating in Syria and has succeeded in expelling Kurdish YPG forces from the border town of Azaz. A hospital in the town was hit by missiles that Turkey says were fired by Russian warplanes. Fourteen civilians died in the attack.

Elsewhere in Syria, warplanes destroyed a hospital of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Turkey claimed the Russians did it, but Russia denied the allegations. The Russians accused Ankara of bringing in fresh Jihadi groups that entered Syria illegally ‘to help Islamic State.’ In reality, however, Turkey brought in 350 Islamist rebels to stop the Syrian army from advancing in the direction of the strategic border town of Tal Rifat.

HNG, the Sunni umbrella organization of the Syrian opposition, endorsed the Turkish-Saudi intervention in Syria Monday.

“The Turkish intervention and the ground operation announced by Saudi Arabia are parts of the international coalition’s operation to fight terrorism and is not related to the opposition plan to oust (President Bashar) Assad. We do not wish to see foreign troops on our land,” a spokesman for the Sunni opposition told the Russian news outlet Sputnik

Obama’s Ally In The Mideast Just Turned Against Him In A Big Way

Analysis

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is known for his flareups and his oversized ego.

Years ago, the late Middle East expert Professor Barry Rubin revealed to me that every foreign diplomat who receives an audience in the residence of the Turkish leader gets instructions on how not to provoke an outburst of anger in the conversation with Erdogan. The diplomats were advised to refrain from criticism and to pay maximal respect to the president.

The Turkish president is also known for his autocratic behavior at home. He has jailed numerous journalists who dared to publish articles that were openly critical of the Erdogan regime, and has manipulated democratic elections so that his AKP party would regain an absolute majority in the Turkish parliament.

The current crisis in Russian-Turkish relations is related to Erdogan’s problematic behavior.

The Turkish president thought he could stand up against Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Russian intervention in Syria, but overplayed his hand when Turkish F-16 fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane that briefly crossed into Turkish airspace from Syria in what looked like a premeditated action. Putin hit back hard against Erdogan via economic boycott measures against Turkey, but stopped short of declaring war on the country in the aftermath of the incident.

Erdogan clearly understood that he was playing with fire and backed off. He made several comments that indicated that he wanted to douse the flames; but this week, the Turkish regime stepped up its anti-Russian rhetoric once again after the pro-Assad coalition assisted by Russian airplanes succeeded in cutting off a major supply route from the Turkish border to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Turkey used this route to supply Sunni rebel groups with arms and money, and there’s evidence that the Turkish secret service delivered aid to Islamic State via this route.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan’s confidant, accused Russia of randomly bombing civilian targets in Syria and said that Russia will have to pay a price for its behavior in Syria.

“The tyrants who turned Syria, my precious Aleppo and Bayirbucak into a lake of blood will one day definitely pay the price for what they have done. Nobody should forget how the Soviet forces, which were a mighty, super force during the Cold War and entered into Afghanistan, left Afghanistan in a servile situation. Those who have entered Syria today will also leave Syria in a servile way,” Davutoglu said on Tuesday.

Erdogan later accused the Russians of aiding the Kurdish YPG forces in northern Syria. He used friendly Turkish media to spread accusations that Russia was supplying weapons to the YPG militia in northern Syria.

The Turkish regime considers the YPG a terrorist organization because of its ties to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, which is a designated terrorist organization according to the U.S. and the EU. Erdogan fears that the recent YPG successes against Islamic State and other Sunni Islamist rebels in Syria will inspire the PKK to step up its battle for autonomy in eastern Turkey.

The regime in Ankara has repeatedly warned that it would not allow the YPG to seize more territory along the Turkish border; yet this is exactly what happened last week when YPG forces took control of Al-Ziyara and Khuraybika—two villages in the Shirawa region of the Afrin Canton a couple of kilometers from the Turkish border. The move could be the beginning of an attempt to connect the other two Kurdish autonomous areas along the Turkish border to Afrin in the north of Syria, Erdogan and Davutoglu fear.

The Turkish leaders thought they were on the winning side in their war against the Kurds after they succeeded in getting the PYD banned from participating in the Geneva talks on a solution for Syria, but now the tide seems to be turning.

So Erdogan turned to the U.S. and issued an ultimatum to the Obama administration: either the U.S. supports the Kurds or Turkey (which is a prominent NATO member).

To drive this message home, Erdogan summoned John Bass, the American ambassador in Turkey, and asked him: “Are you on our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organization?”

Erdogan told Turkish diplomats during a speech in Ankara this week that the U.S. policy toward the Kurds in Syria has caused a “sea of blood” and had created a domestic security issue in Turkey. He was referring to his war on the Turkish Kurds that he started for electoral reasons in the summer of 2015.

Erdogan then threatened to implement his own solution for Syria.

“On the Syrian problem, which has become a part of our own domestic security, the time has come to implement our proposals for a solution, which everyone finds to be rational and right,” Erdogan said.

This Turkish solution for Syria is limited to the creation of a “safe zone” or “no-fly zone” inside Syria. It is an idea to which the Obama administration paid lip service, but it does not want to implement this idea because of the risk of a direct confrontation with the Russian/Iranian pro-Assad coalition in Syria. For Erdogan, the so-called ‘safe zone’ means a zone without Kurds under direct control of Turkey.

Immediately after issuing the ultimatum, Turkey began to report about Kurdish ‘terrorist’ acts in their border area with Syria, and claimed that the PKK stepped up its terror campaign against Turkish soldiers.

Erdogan also used the plight of the Syrian refugees again to pressure the West into a ban on military aid to the YPG and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in Iraq. The Turkish president refuses to let thousands of new refugees from the Aleppo area into Turkey and has threatened to flood Europe with the 2.5 million Syrian refugees that already have fled to Turkey.

The ultimatum to the Obama administration and the blackmail with the Syrian refugees are meant to ensure that the West chooses Turkey over the Kurds. However, just like what happened with Putin in December 2015, Erdogan seems to be overplaying his hand and is painting himself into a corner.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration remains silent on Erdogan’s actions and seems embarrassed by his behavior.

After all, this is the guy that Obama saw as his key partner in the fight against Islamic State, and as his chief point man to solve other problems with Islamists in the Middle East. It is only four years ago that Obama named “Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and British Prime Minister David Cameron among leaders that he was able to forge ‘bonds of trust.’”