Jan 2, 2015
Ending a week long crack down on journalists in Turkey that netted more than 20 reporters, including the editor in chief of the country’s largest daily newspaper “The Zaman,” a court finally ordered the immediate release of the detained journalists.
Responding to the latest free speech crackdown in Turkey, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the freedom of the media includes the freedom of Turkish people to criticize the government and reiterated that “voicing opposition does not equal conspiracy or treason.”
However, the Turkish government was unable to arrest the man at the top of their list, Zaman journalist Kerim Balci. He avoided detention by the Erdogan regime because he was attending a conference in the U.S. The political columnist explained the latest attempt to stifle free speech in Turkey with San Diego 6 News contributor Kimberly Dvorak. (See above)
Meanwhile Turkey refuses to engage with ISIS
The stand off continues along the Turkish and Syrian border, on one side is the U.S. and its NATO allies and the other is Turkey’s President and wannabe Caliph Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As it turns out Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is nothing more than a pawn in a game of “Who wants to rule the Middle East.”
The hegemonic gamesmanship playing out in the war-ravaged region continues to leave a path of death and destruction. The current slaughter cameras are capturing the Islamic State’s (ISIS) house-to-house combat in Kobani (Ayn al Arab) a Kurdish enclave along the Syria/Turkey border. While the West watches, Turkey lines its border with tanks and the Syrian Kurds play their role and die. The U.S. airstrikes that commenced on August 8, have had a minimal effect on slowing the Islamic State, in fact, they’ve netted more territory in Syria as well as Iraq.
Watch Kimberly’s OANN TV segment here
The Kurds of Kobani are in dire straits and running out of ammunition because Turkey refuses to open its border to resupply the dwindling population. However, the Turkish President’s lack of action hasn’t gone unnoticed with NATO’s military hierarchy. President Erdoğan has been accused of using ISIS as a proxy force against the Kurds, by allowing ISIS to isolate the remote battle areas so they can consolidate their forces, and protect interior lines of communication and logistics, the UK Guardian says.
The military anger is palpable, leaving the media as benefactors of much needed inside information in a usually tight-lipped organization. NATO military sources have also leveled some serious allegations about Turkey’s loyalties. The Guardian also reports that Turkey has an agreement with ISIS. “They traded 180 ISIS men (who had been wounded by U.S. airstrikes but medically treated in Turkey) as well as ammunition and logistics resupply to the Islamic State in exchange for the 49 Turkish consular staff that were kidnapped over the summer.”
Behind the scenes diplomatic negotiators called out the Turkish Empire. “Turkey is deceiving NATO, the EU, the USA and the world by masquerading as a secular ally; Erdoğan is the Sunni Islamist autocratic answer to the Socialist autocratic Putin. Thus, Turkey has for a long time proven it is actually not an ally but an adversary of the West. There is no fear of the USA anywhere, leaving all global players free to pursue their interests in regional terms and realpolitik.”
And it’s not only NATO questioning Ankara, the Obama administration’s former special adviser for the (failed) Syrian transition, Frederic Hof told the Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. and Turkey are fundamentally not on the same page when it comes to the Islamic State’s threat in Syria.”
So why do the Obama administration and NATO allow Turkey to continue its mischief making? One reason lies in its strategic location and the second is its long history of opposing the Turkish Kurds move for autonomy. So, while the government may be playing games with the world, in front of the cameras, the Turkish Parliament passed a resolution agreeing to fight ISIS. But Turkey’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, qualified the opposition to ISIS by indicating it would authorize ground operations that would only rescue Kobani by deterring ISIS, not destroying ISIS.
The Turks acknowledge the militias fighting ISIS in Kobani are allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist movement on the U.S. State Department’s terror list (Article here). While the PKK made strides in Iraq during the battle at Mount Sinjar on behalf of the Yazidis, it has been an enemy of Ankara for 30 years has been accused of accepting support from Syria in the past.
Meanwhile Turkey did launch airstrikes of its own on the PKK terrorists. The country’s leading newspaper The Hurriyet Daily News reported, “Turkish fighter jets have bombarded positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) following militant attacks on military outposts in southeastern Turkey, in a first since the start of the peace process.”
In the mean time, most pundits are bellyaching that Syria’s President, al-Assad has generated an environment conducive for ISIS and al-Qaeda to flourish, but it appears Turkey’s proxy of ISIS rebels may be the real reason the terrorist group exploded onto the scene.
Many insiders think President Erdoğan may have overplayed his hand and a possible consequence could get Iran off the sidelines. This scenario would certainly boost the PKK. “The Erdoğan regime does not offer much hope in thwarting extremist ideologies from taking root in Turkey for a variety of reasons. For one, Erdoğan has helped nurture radical groups in Syria since 2011, when the Syrian conflict started,” Turkish publication Today’s Zaman wrote. “The fine line between the moderate opposition groups and radical ones was blurred by Erdoğan despite warnings from Washington. Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone was the first senior U.S. official (albeit a retired one) who blew the lid on the then-Erdoğan government’s support to radical groups in Syria. He revealed how growing differences on helping some opposition factions had driven a wedge between Turkey and the U.S.”
Over the past few years, Erdoğan’s has strengthened his position by eliminating competition including scattering experienced veteran police chiefs who had successfully traced al-Qaeda terror groups for years. In an effort to cover-up his own misdeeds, President Erdoğan reassigned or demoted judges and prosecutors in charge of these investigations. “The absence of determination to directly confront and curtail ISIL activity among the Turkish leadership, be it in recruitment efforts or fundraising drives, has left many in law enforcement agencies and the judiciary with an ambivalence if not unwillingness to sign on to the battle against the network of this terrorist group,” one Turkish paper reported.
Even Turkish ex-pats in America are concerned with events unfolding in their native Turkey. They concede Turkey will have to suffer economically before the people will rise against Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) party. One example that could speed up that process is Turkey’s lucrative tourism industry. According to last years’ tourism year-end report, travelers ponied up the most money, making tourism the number one industry. Any disruption could cost Ankara upwards of $89 billion as well as 2.1 million jobs.
Standing in the way of progress is Erdoğan. “The chief political Islamist seems to have been doing a lot in terms of promoting a new generation of hostile and confrontational youth with his relentless and pervasive changes in education, social and foreign policies. The president enlists the help of his allies in the government in trying to caress, nurture and strengthen the political Islamist base, which has not been welcomed by most Turks,” Abdullah Bozkurt reported.
Another fear sparking concern comes from veteran warzone journalists who warn there are few witnesses for the current Islamic War and the jihadists have created a harsh environment, including beheading journalists like American James Foley (Article here).
UN & WMD allegations
Last year the Obama administration negotiated a deal with the Assad government to relinquish all chemical weapons in order to avert U.S. bombs reigning down on Damascus. They took the deal and under UN supervision handed over all their chemical weapons. Nevertheless, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. accused Assad of unleashing chemical weapons in the besieged town of Kobani. Bashar Jaafari, Syrian United Nations ambassador told the UN committee that the Turks and Saudis need to scrutinize their involvement in the Syrian civil war before directing “null and baseless accusations [against] the Syrian government.”
As for America, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress, “We believe there is evidence of [President Bashar] Assad’s use of chlorine, which when you use it – despite it not being on the list – it is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.” That testimony also accuses the Assad regime of having broken the treaty by deploying chlorine gas in a number of Syrian villages in Hama.
Responding to the accusations, Jaafari told the UN, Damascus “condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction, and considers it an abhorrent crime and an impermissible, reprehensible and unethical act,” RIA and RT reports.
The alleged use of chemical weapons and terrorists operating in Syria threatening the U.S. are the outliers for America’s involvement in the latest Middle East war. However, Western allies are largely steering clear and respecting Syria’s sovereignty by not flying combat missions even though ISIS poses a deadly threat to Kobani’s Kurds. Further a letter from U.S. Representative to the UN, Samantha Powers, unconvincingly window-dresses factors granting U.S. authority to bomb Syria without consent of the government. The U.S., as part of its tightrope mid-east diplomacy has not approached Assad even though President Assad says he would cooperate from fear of upsetting coalition members Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Diplomatic efforts an ongoing process
The U.S. State Department (DoS) is busy trying to put a positive spin on otherwise bad news in the early days of the coalition to degrade ISIS. “The airstrikes are hitting the targets they are intended to hit,” Marie Harf DoS said at a press conference. “They take out ISIL positions. They take out ISIL (ISIS) tanks. They take out ISIL weapons. That’s obviously helping.” (Article here)
Part of the White House approach includes training and arming “moderate” militias to the tune of $500 million. “Even rebels who have received U.S. support now have withdrawn their backing for the U.S.-led air campaign, which they had initially welcomed, including Harakat Hazm, a group with the first deliveries of U.S.-made antitank weapons this year. It issued a statement calling the American effort ‘a sign of failure whose devastation will spread to the whole region,’” according to the Washington Post.
With the public relations campaign in shambles the U.S. sent Marine General John Allen (ret) (who engineered the Anbar Awakening) and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk (civilian advisor for the new war effort), to push the Turks involvement in the conflict. Their efforts paid off slightly as Erdoğan’s agreed to let U.S. Special forces train 2,000 Syrian Free Army members on their soil (probably at the secret annexes used to move illicit weapons from Benghazi, Libya). The caveat with this deal is Turkey’s intelligence community will pick which “moderate” Islamists will be trained. (Article here)
Further muddling the mission is another misstep from National Security Advisor and purveyor of Benghazi YouTube fame, Susan Rice, who hit the Sunday talk show circuit again and announced the U.S. and Turkey had reached a deal to allow warplanes to launch airstrikes into Syria from U.S. Air Force Base, Incirlik, Turkey. However, by Monday morning the Associated Press was reporting there was NO deal and the premature announcement will only complicate matters moving forward. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu issued a statement saying the two countries are continuing discussions, but emphasized a decision has not been reached. The Prime Minister put is bluntly, “there is no new agreement on the Incirlik issue.”
The envoy also met with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg in Ankara. DoS’ Harf explained the meetings centered on the five lines of effort to degrade and defeat ISIS.
“We discussed areas where we think Turkey can contribute more, especially along the military line of effort. And coming out of the last two days of meetings with General Allen and Deputy Envoy McGurk, we understand that Turkey has agreed to support train and equip efforts for the moderate Syrian opposition. We are looking forward to a DOD planning team traveling to Ankara next week to continue planning through military channels. Also I want to note that, as Jen (Psaki, DoS’ main spokesperson) previewed yesterday, humanitarian support was an important theme throughout their conversations in Ankara. Both sides committed to continued humanitarian partnership in support of the more than one million Syrian and Iraqi civilians sheltering in Turkey,” she said.
“I think this really shows the breadth of our coalition, and I would remind people that since UNGA, which is the last time we sort of took stock of where we were, the Belgians have signed up and taken their first bombing runs; the Netherlands has taken airstrikes; the Australians took their first airstrikes; the Canadians have now signed up to do so as well. (All striking Iraq only) So just since we were all in New York – during which, I will remind people, five Arab partners joined us to take strikes in Syria – we have gotten specific kinetic military commitments from a number of countries and they’ve begun taking action.”
More NATO concerns
According to members of NATO there is no mission statement, no end state and no plan. “The Coalition is fragmented, reduced to acting tactically and too often reactively, as the U.S. is only bombing… (They are) hitting targets of opportunity and revenue generators, but this is a tactic not a reflection of a cogent strategic approach.”
Meanwhile, Baghdad remains firmly led by DAWA, of Tehran, and appear to be fending off the ISIS terrorists, but for how long remains unknown. The purpose of DAWA is to consolidate the Shia populations and shield the capital of Baghdad as guiding objectives. For the most part this information has not been reported by U.S. news agencies, however Ali Laijani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament confirmed to CNN that they indeed are protecting Baghdad. “The Kurds are fighting for their own survival at this point, but have repeatedly acted in good faith to enjoin Baghdad as a unified Iraqi answer to the ISIS invasion, only to be betrayed by al Maliki and stood up by al Abadi,” a NATO military source explained.
It’s fairly obvious new Iraqi Prime Minister al Abadi hasn’t done much to get aid to the Kurds in the north. “He refuses to pay the KRG its budget allocation, refuses to nationalize the Peshmerga, and does not pay salaries to government employees who are now refugees or internally displaced persons unless they are Shi’ite,” a NATO advisor explained.
“Western civilization’s victory against ISIS will take something more and different to boots on the ground, it will require American and European influence on the ground, which translates to leadership at the political and militarily strategic levels — on the ground in Iraq and then Syria,” he says. “Anything less than a strong, real leadership on the scene will be seen correctly as a weakness to be manipulated and exploited. Yet, if powerful Western leadership were to establish a Coalition headquarters, say, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, with all the attention and resources that (it) would entail, this would lend the gravitas necessary to coalesce Iraqi internal sectarian leadership into unified, national action to repel ISIS and reform the internal Iraqi federal to regional relationship. It could open the way to brokering Syrian governmental and secular democratic rebel factions to then expel all opponents of liberty in Syria, beginning with ISIS and Jabat al Nusra. But for now, we await the fate of the Kurds in Kobani who face genocide unless the West can answer the call to lead for freedom’s sake.”
Other American military leaders say that scenario is nothing more than a pipe dream.
This week the Pentagon is hosting a 20-nation group discussion in an effort to come up with a more cohesive plan to defeat brutal terrorist organization ISIS. So far the Islamic State has decimated the enemy spirits and continues to rack up more strategically important cities in Iraq and Syria. General Martin Dempsey, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has all but admitted the latest town to fall will be Kobani, Syria.
Foreign policy experts contend victory is more than geography; it’s psychological and driving new recruits to fight on behalf of ISIS. Further feathering ISIS’ caps is the ramshackle group’s ability to control Iraq’s Anbar Province and continue their plan to encircle Baghdad. No doubt the militants are eying Abu-Ghraib prison in Western Baghdad, a victory there would certainly add battle-hardened thugs to their ranks, but moreover it would provide a moral boost for ISIS miscreants as well as establish a moral loss for the West.
One final note, many world diplomats are questioning Turkey’s NATO status. Turkey is the gateway to the Middle East and shares a long border with Syria, but despite substantial support from the West, Turkey’s leaders have stonewalled the coalition. Only after significant arm-twisting by the U.S. President’s Envoy did Turkey relent and agree to “ramp-up” its response to ISIS.
So why does NATO allow Turkey to continue its dubious behavior? Article 5 of the NATO charter implicitly states the charter nation cannot constrain approved NATO activities. Yet, while NATO shrugs its shoulders and allows Turkey to retain NATO membership, that is something the European Union has recognized and repeatedly points to in an effort to exclude Turkey into their club.
© Copyright 2014 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.