Turkey’s nefarious role in Syria

In shooting down a Russian jet operating over Syria, claiming it had encroached Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings, Turkey has upped the stakes in the Syrian conflict with the world now waiting for Russia’s response.

It also begs the wider question of Turkey’s role in the Syrian conflict. Here the evidence it has played a nefarious part in supporting ISIS and other groups fighting the Assad government is compelling.

In the aftermath of a recent spate of ISIS atrocities – first the downing of the Russian passenger plane, Kolavia Flight 7K9268, over the Sinai at the end of October, killing all 224 on board, followed by the killing of 43 civilians in Beirut in a suicide bomb attack, and most recently the slaughter of 130 people in Paris in multiple suicide bombings and shootings – we now know who is serious about confronting this medieval death cult and who is not.

More, we are starting to uncover those who speak the language of anti-terrorism while in practice working to facilitate and support it.

Turkey is a key culprit in this regard. A murky relationship has long existed between Ankara, ISIS, Nusra, and other jihadi groups operating in Syria. Indeed, on the most basic level, without their ability to pass back and forth across the Turkish border at will, those groups could not have operated as easily and effectively as they had been for the past few years.

However, according to a recent report by David L Phillips of Columbia University, Turkey’s support for extremist groups operating in Syria, including ISIS, has been even more extensive than previously thought. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Phillips reveals that the Turkish government, a member of NATO and key Western ally, has been involved in helping ISIS with recruitment, training, and has provided it with intelligence and safe havens and sanctuary. As far back as 2014 the US Treasury exposed Turkey as a major customer for stolen Syrian oil, supplied by the terrorist group.

Perhaps the most damning evidence contained in the report when it comes to Turkey’s role, is in relation to its actions and inaction when it came to the siege of the Kurdish town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border in September and October of 2014.

As Phillips reveals: “Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: ‘Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobane’s east? Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.’ In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey.”

The world will never forget how, during the siege of Kobane, as its Kurdish defenders mounted a heroic defense of the town against thousands of ISIS fighters, armed with tanks and artillery, Turkish tanks and troops sat just over the border and did nothing to intervene.

Likewise, no one will forget that earlier this year Turkey carried out airstrikes against those same Kurdish volunteers of the PKK/YPG within Syria, while depicting them as terrorists. Turkey’s oppression of its Kurdish minority going back many years is of course a matter of record.

President Erdogan and his government has undeniably played a primary role in the destabilisation of Syria, doing its utmost to foment regime change. In fact, along with the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies, before Russia’s intervention Turkey was hovering over Syria as a vulture hovers over a dying animal, waiting for it to perish before descending to feed on its carcass.

The fact that Turkey remains a close Western ally exposes the moral high ground from which Washington and its allies have lectured Russia over its role in Syria as nothing more than a dung-heap of hypocrisy.

If the West was serious about confronting terrorism, was serious about returning stability to a region it has helped to set on fire, it would reconsider its ties to both Turkey and the Saudis, which between them have been wading in the river of blood they have helped shed in Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s claim that the Russian military aircraft it shot down had encroached on its airspace and ignored multiple warnings should be treated with the credibility it deserves, especially when we recall that prior to Russia’s participation in the conflict, Turkey’s violation of Syrian airspace and the Syrian border was happening on a regular basis.

With Russia’s presence in Syria putting paid to Erdogan’s objective of regime change, we begin to discern Turkey’s efforts to enlist the support of NATO in putting pressure on Russia to desist. It also helps to explain why the West continues to refuse President Putin’s call for cooperation and unity in the effort to eradicate ISIS and other extremist groups massacring and slaughtering their way across the country, with the intention of turning it into a mass grave.

After the mass murder of Russian, Lebanese, and French civilians by ISIS, the grounds for refusing to enter such an alliance are as indefensible as Turkey’s role in the conflict and its most recent action in shooting down a Russian aircraft.

As the man said: ‘Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.’





Stop the War, Peter Tatchell, and the malign legacy of Western liberalism

You have to feel for the Stop the War Coalition. Back in June I attended one of their conferences in London, where during one of the plenary meetings a few people voiced criticism from the floor over the organisation’s refusal to come down squarely on the side of Assad in the Syrian conflict. I have long expressed sympathy with this position, based on the concrete reality that if Assad falls Syria’s state institutions will fall, its army will disintegrate, and the country will descend into an abyss of bestial violence that would make the status quo seem like child’s play by comparison.

However I also understand that Stop the War is a coalition of disparate views on the particulars of the various conflicts that have scarred and continue to scar our world, and that therefore its focus has by necessity to remain on building consensus on the fundamental issue of opposing British military intervention in those conflicts. Without exception this military intervention has only succeeded in feeding and breeding instability and human suffering, rather than ending it.

Now STW find themselves under attack from voices accusing it of failing to take a stand against Assad and the Syrian government. A recent STW public meeting on Syria, held in the House of Commons, was loudly interrupted from the floor by Syrians opposed to Assad, and by Peter Tatchell, in what Stop the War describes on its website as an “organised disruption”. Afterwards, Tatchell shared his account of the experience on social media, accusing STW of refusing to allow those Syrians the right to speak, a claim the organisers of the meeting deny, before going on to denounce the organisation in withering terms. The story was subsequently picked up by the BBC.

I have had my share of differences with the Stop the War Coalition over the years, but I have no hesitation in crediting them with maintaining a principled opposition to wars and conflicts unleashed in the name of a status quo of injustice and might is right. Its organisers and activists have given over a decade’s service to exposing the hypocrisy and subterfuge employed to defend the indefensible, and consequently I feel duty bound to defend them now.

Peter Tatchell on the other hand is a classic example of the Western liberal whose conception of the world is akin to that of a child let loose with crayons on a blank sheet of paper, allowing said crayons to go wherever they please with no thought of the mess being made or lack of coherence being wrought.

Worse, he and his co-thinkers continue their slavish attachment to the wondrous virtues of ‘humanitarian intervention’, despite the history of the catastrophic consequences of this very concept in practice. Afghanistan is a failed state. Iraq is a failed state. Libya is a failed state. How many failed states must litter the globe, particularly the Middle East, before the penny drops? The mindset involved in continuing down this path regardless of the result is indistinguishable from the one described by Samuel Beckett, when he wrote: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’

However in the case of Syria, as with Iraq and Libya before it, we are not talking about drawing pictures with crayons. We are instead talking about the fate of a nation and society that is engaged in an existential struggle for its very survival. Failure in such a scenario is not an option. It begs the question of whether people such as Peter Tatchell really care about Syria and the Syrian people, as they claim, or if on the contrary Syria is merely the latest in a catalogue of convenient excuses for promoting the cultural imperialism that resides deep in their hearts?

Moreover, do they stop for a moment to consider that millions of Syrians support Assad and the Syrian government? Are the views of those Syrians less worthy or legitimate than those of the Syrians opposed to Assad? Do they consider that those who do not share the view that Assad should be overthrown are not motivated by the belief that he is a benevolent leader, but rather that his government is all that currently stands between Syria’s survival as a secular state in which the rights of its minorities are protected, and it being turned into a mass grave by the modern incarnation of the Khmer Rouge?

The role of exiles, dissidents, and victims of abuse by governments across the Middle East in making the case for the West’s military interventions is nothing new. It follows a script written in the run up to previous wars, most recently Iraq and Libya, in which our bombs, missiles, and/or troops have been deployed and without exception sown disaster in the process.

But no matter, for the Western liberal one Arab country is as disposable as the next, with all that matters in their reductionist purview something they like to call ‘human rights’. In truth it is not human rights they champion but the right of the civilised, superior, and righteous West to go anywhere it pleases, bombing recalcitrant countries and lesser cultures into submission, or dictating to them how their countries and societies should be organised, blithely ignoring the particular and specific conditions out of which said countries and societies have developed and against which they are struggling to develop. No, for the Western liberal the world with all its complexity and challenges is reduced to a giant chessboard, upon which other nations are pieces to be moved around or removed as they see fit.

Western colonialism and imperialism has for centuries relied on the intellectual and ideological cover righteous and right-on liberals have provided it under the rubric of saving peoples from ‘tyrants’, whether the people concerned wish to be saved or not. In the process democracy and human rights are words chucked around like change in a millionaire’s pocket – and rendered just as meaningless. They champion the cause of justice and democracy within states, while in truth working to crush justice and democracy between states.

Just as a crayon in the hands of an unsupervised child spells havoc in the home, moralism in the breast of a liberal spells havoc in the world.






The return of the Syrian Army

syrianarmy-510x272Robert Fisk


While the world still rages on at Russia’s presumption in the Middle East – to intervene in Syria instead of letting the Americans decide which dictators should survive or die – we’ve all been forgetting the one institution in that Arab land which continues to function and protect the state which Moscow has decided to preserve: the Syrian army. While Russia has been propagandising its missiles, the Syrian military, undermanned and undergunned a few months ago, has suddenly moved on to the offensive. Earlier this year, we may remember, this same army was being written off, the Bashar al-Assad government said to be reaching its final days.

We employed our own army of clichés to make the case for regime change. The Syrian army was losing ground – at Jisr al-Shugour and at Palmyra – and so we predicted that the whole Assad state had reached a “tipping point”.

Then along came Vladimir Putin with his air and missile fleets and suddenly the whole place is transformed. While we huffed and puffed that the Russians were bombing the “moderate” rebels – moderates who had earlier ceased to exist according to America’s top generals – we’ve been paying no attention to the military offensive which the Syrians themselves are now staging against the Nusra Front fighters around Aleppo and in the valley of the Orontes.

Syrian commanders are now setting the coordinates for almost every Russian air strike. They were originally giving between 200 and 400 coordinates a night. Now the figure sometimes reaches 800. Not that the Russians are going after every map reference, of course. The Syrians have found that the Russians do not want to fire at targets in built-up areas; they intend to leave burning hospitals and dead wedding parties to the Americans in Afghanistan. This policy could always change, of course. No air force bombs countries without killing civilians. Nor without crossing other people’s frontiers.

But the Russians are now telling the Turks – and by logical extension, this information must go to the Americans – their flight coordinates. Even more remarkable, they have set up a hotline communications system between their base on the Syrian Mediterranean coast and the Israeli ministry of defence in Tel Aviv. More incredible still is that the Israelis – who have a habit of targeting Syrian and Iranian personnel near the Golan Heights – have suddenly disappeared from the skies. In other words, the Russians are involved in a big operation, not a one-month wonder that is going on in Syria. And it is likely to continue for quite a time.

The Syrians were originally anxious to move back into Palmyra, captured by Isis last May, but the Russians have demonstrated more interest in the Aleppo region, partly because they believe their coastal bases around Lattakia are vulnerable. The Nusra Front has fired several missiles towards Lattakia and Tartous and Moscow has no desire to have its air force targeted on the ground. But the Syrian army is now deploying its four major units – the 1st and 4th Divisions, Republican Guards and Special Forces – on the battle fronts and are moving closer to the Turkish border.

Russian air strikes around the Isis “capital” of Raqqa may or may not be hurting Isis, although the Syrians like to boast that they have plenty of intelligence coming to them from the city. Interesting, if true, because Isis personnel are specialists in torturing to death “agents of the regime” and it would be a brave man to pass on information to Damascus. Yet travellers’ tales can be true. There’s a regular civilian bus route from Raqqa to Damascus – buses have an odd habit of crossing front lines in most civil wars – and if passengers prefer not to talk to journalists, they will talk of what they have seen when they get home.

All this is only the beginning of Mr Putin’s adventure. He is proving to be quite a traveller to the Middle East – and has already made firm friends of another pillar of the region, that President-Field Marshal who scored more than 96 per cent at the polls and who currently rules Egypt. But the Egyptian army, fighting its little war in Sinai, no longer has strategic experience of a major war. Nor, despite their dalliance in the air over Yemen, Libya, Syria and other targets of opportunity, do the present military authorities in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan have much understanding of how a real war is fought. Libya’s own army is in bits. Iraq’s military has scarcely earned any medals against its Islamist enemies.

But there is one factor which should not be overlooked.

If it wins – and if it holds together and if its manpower, which is admittedly at a low level, can be maintained – then the Syrian military is going to come out of this current war as the most ruthless, battle-trained and battle-hardened Arab army in the entire region. Woe betide any of its neighbours who forget this.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.


Syria and the return of the pro regime change left

Remember the antiwar left’s position when it came to regime change in Iraq, which you will recall was ruled by a dictator who’d ruled the country with an iron fist for decades and who had proved ruthless in crushing any and all dissent to his leadership whenever and wherever it arose? Yet despite this, and even though Saddam had launched invasions against two of his neighbours, Iran and Kuwait, the left refused to budge an inch from a position of firm opposition to the war that was about to be a unleashed, understanding it as a cynical and transparent attempt to use the terrorist atrocity of 9/11 to reshape the Middle East and cement US hegemony throughout the region.

You remember that, don’t you?

You will also recall how we warned of the devastating and grievous consequences if the war went ahead; the fact it would result in a brutal and bloody civil conflict, lead to sectarian violence, the proliferation of terrorism, and societal collapse.

And we were right. And they were wrong. And they’ve been wrong ever since. And we’ve been right ever since.

By ‘they’ I’m not just referring to our own governments and their apologists and bag carriers btw. I am also referring to the pro regime left – the Eustonites, the Decents, the swivel eyed supporters of Western military intervention, believing it heralded a new Enlightenment, bringing civilisation and democracy to the benighted Arab masses. Think Hitchens, think Aaronovitch, think Cohen…their names will forever conjure up the word patsy.

Well sadly first the Libyan conflict and now the Syrian conflict has seen more names added to the aforementioned roll of dishonour. Richard Seymour, he of Lenin’s Tomb, has clearly gone all Guardianista native, joined by his American co thinker, Louis Proyect, who runs a discussion list, Marxmail, for embittered white leftists.

They want us to believe – employing the usual intellectual contortions in the process – that because, presumably unlike Saddam, Bashar al-Assad is ‘killing his own people’, and because, presumably unlike in Iraq, there is popular opposition to his regime, that the left should support regime change in Syria.

Finding a revolution in Syria today would be harder than finding Shergar. In fact, it would be impossible to find a revolution in Syria right now using the Hubble Space Telescope. Claims there is one have zero basis in reality – that’s zero, nada – yet regardless Seymour and Proyect et al. refuse to budge.

Just as the US and its allies used 9/11 as a pretext to go into Iraq, they have used the chaos and dislocation of the Arab Spring to topple more regimes. But while they may have succeeded when it comes to Libya, regime change in Syria has hit the buffers. The Syrian government and Syrian Arab Army have proved too strong to be overcome to easily. The army has not disintegrated, as it most certainly would have by now given the duration and intensity of the conflict if the government did not enjoy solid support among the Syrian people. In the latter stages of the conflict involving as it has levels of butchery and barbarism not seen since Cambodia in the 1970s, the stakes have been raised to involve not just the survival of Assad but of Syria itself, given the intent of ISIS and others to turn it into a mass grave.

Now, with Russia’s intervention, the West’s claims to be attacking ISIS have been exposed as a sham. In fact it has been reduced to the role of spectator as the Russians take over the international leadership role in the struggle against this modern equivalent of the Khmer Rouge. What we are witnessing in the process is a multipolar world is being born, which for the pro regime change left is of course a source of anguish and agony.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya…how many countries need to enter the abyss before the penny drops with these fakes? All we can say is that this democracy medicine they’ve been taking must be some strong shit if it leads to the kind of blurred vision with which they’ve been surveying events in Syria.

One can only hope they’re not driving.












The Syrian conflict and why Putin is playing chess while the West is playing checkers

It is always a treat to listen to a British prime minister issuing diktats to other countries about the fate of their governments, especially a government that for the past four and a half years has been manning the ramparts of civilisation against barbarism.

Perhaps like his view of working people and the poor in Britain, the problem with David Cameron when it comes to foreign policy is that his brain is stuck somewhere in the 19th century. If so he needs to get himself into the 21st century sooner rather than later, because the British Empire is no more and Syria’s government is a matter for the Syrian people to decide and not a British prime minister with delusions of colonial grandeur.

In relation to recent events in Syria, Russia’s decision to provide military support for Syria can only be considered controversial or wrong if you believe that any equivalence exists between ISIS and the Assad government.

The prolongation of the conflict in Syria and suffering of the Syrian people is a direct result of the mendacity and perfidy that informs the West’s stance towards the region. Indeed the lack of any moral clarity, leadership, and competence on the part of Western governments has been nothing short of criminal, with scant evidence of it changing anytime soon. Only in an upside down world could any equivalence be drawn between ISIS in Syria and the Assad government. Yet this is exactly the equivalence that the West continues to make, thus hampering efforts to destroy a movement that is intent on turning the clock back in Syria to the seventh century, embracing inhuman levels of butchery and barbarity in the process.

ISIS is the Khmer Rouge of our time, holding to a similar objective of turning an entire nation into a cultural, human, and physical desert. It revels in its cruelty and bestiality, enslaves and rapes women on a grand scale, and has been allowed to grow to the point where it now constitutes a direct threat to centuries of human progress. Thus we are talking about an organisation that has no programme that can be negotiated with, nothing to offer except carnage and chaos, making its complete and total destruction a non-negotiable condition of saving millions of people from a horrific fate.

In contradistinction to ISIS the Assad government is secular, believes in modernity, and upholds the rights of minorities, both Muslim and non-Muslim. More crucially, regardless of the huge campaign of demonisation that has been unleashed against it in the West, it retains the significant support of a large section of the Syrian people, who understand more than any Western diplomat, politician, or ideologue the nature of the struggle they have been engulfed in these past four and half years.

Yet just as when it came to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, along with Muammar Gaddafi and Libya, we are being bombarded with the inference that Syria consists of one man in the shape of its leader. This narrative is employed to condition and shape domestic public opinion when it comes to currying support for seeing said leader’s removal, even though the empirical evidence of Iraq and Libya’s descent into an abyss of sectarian violence, mayhem, and societal collapse is undeniable in this regard.

Assad’s crime is not that he is a dictator or that he is oppressing his own people, as his detractors would have us believe – else why on earth does the West count among its closest regional allies Saudi Arabia, arguably the most corrupt, venal, and barbaric regime in the world today? The problem with the Assad government in Syria is that it has long been marked for regime change as a pole of resistance to a US hegemonic agenda going back to the Bush administration. It is an agenda currently being driven most vigorously by US allies in the shape of Israel, the aforementioned Saudis, and Turkey in pursuit of their own interests, which are self evidently inimical to stability and any prospect of peace and regional security.

There is no and never has been a fully formed liberal democracy waiting in the wings to take over in Syria, just as there wasn’t in Iraq or Libya when it came to either Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi. But even so, like a blind man groping and lurching around a china shop, the West remains attached to a blinkered strategy that only succeeds in sowing mayhem with each step it takes in pursuit of it.

Russia’s rational and coherent alternative stands in marked contrast. President Putin has been calling for an international coalition to combat terrorism and extremism for some years now and been continually rebuffed. He has also been calling for a diplomatic and political solution to the conflict in Syria, but again those efforts have been continually thwarted by Western leaders whose obduracy is literally killing people, in addition to creating the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the Second World War.

Russia’s refusal to relinquish its support for Syria, despite coming under huge pressure to do so, and instead to increase that support demonstrates commendable principle and courage given the risks involved. It will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the ground, raising the morale of the Syrian Arab Army and the Syrian people, whose courage and tenacity has been extraordinary. Not only have they resisted an invasion of the country by thousands of foreign extremists and jihadists, they have done so in the teeth of massive external pressure from the West throughout.

The barbarians are at the gates and Russia alone is heeding the call to intervene in order to save not just the Syrian government or Syria, but civilisation itself.

Syrian Kurds need support

Morning Star Editorial

Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) battling to defend Kobane are effectively fighting on two fronts — against both Isis terrorist forces and Turkey’s corrupt government.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who presides over a big business administration with an Islamist tinge, has announced baldly that Kobane will fall.

He is urged by Washington to help defeat Isis but remains indifferent because his priority is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan makes clear that Turkish intervention will have clear guidelines — a Turkish buffer area on Syrian territory to corral refugees, a no-fly zone to ground Syrian warplanes and the explicit aim of replacing the Assad regime.

Millions of Kurds and their supporters are in the streets of Turkey and other countries demanding that Ankara ends its de facto collaboration with Isis.

The BBC informs us that the demonstrators demand Turkish army action to relieve Kobane.

Nothing like it. The last thing that the Kurds of Kobane or Kurdish regions of Turkey now subject to a state of emergency need or want is Turkish troops marching over them.

Kobane needs reinforcements and weapons supplies, but Ankara has closed the border to obstruct Turkey’s Kurds from assisting their cousins in Syria.

What a contrast to the Turkish government’s earlier stance of allowing thousands of jihadists, trained and financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, free entry into Syria to join the anti-Assad struggle.

US Vice-President Joe Biden hit the nail on the head last week when he told a Harvard University meeting that these states had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons against anyone who would fight Assad.”

All these supplies, together with the military assets surrendered by the corrupt and unmotivated Iraqi army, have ended up in the hands of Isis and the al-Qaida-affiliated Al-Nusra Front.

That’s why the siege of Kobane is fought between one side that has tanks, artillery and mortars and another with automatic rifles and grenades.

Washington’s much-touted anti-Isis military alliance has launched some air strikes around Kobane and may have eased the tightening stranglehold on the town, but it is window dressing that covers up a lack of clear thinking.

Nato-led imperialist forces, including Britain, have been up to their necks in boosting Isis and other obscurantist elements because of their hostility to Assad, Iran and their allies in Lebanon and Iraq.

If David Cameron had had his way, British bombers would have played the role of the Isis air force a year ago.

Barack Obama appears now to view Isis as a greater threat to the US than Assad, even though he forced Biden to apologise so as not to alienate his Turkish and Arab allies.

The US president understands what a propaganda boost it would be for Isis to capture Kobane in the face of US air strikes and what a humiliation it would be for Washington and its allied air armada.

Kobane will not be saved by token air strikes. Nor will they rid Syria and Iraq of Isis.

The Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi governments are key to resolving this issue, as is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is falsely labelled a terrorist organisation.

Nato member states, including the US, have to rethink previous self-defeating positions, drop their sanctions against the anti-Isis alliance and send arms to those in the front line of this epic struggle.

Patrick Cockburn nails it: Britain’s policy of intervention in Syria has just been sunk

The hopelessly deluded ultra left in Britain – those who supported something they described as the Syrian revolution – should hang their heads in shame today. What imbeciles. They pontificate on the fate of nations like gentlemen colonisers of old. To think that Britain was a mere hairsbreadth away from embarking on what would have been a disastrous military adventure in Syria, effectively acting as al-Qaeda’s airforce along with France and the United States. The disaster in Libya wasn’t enough to satisfy their lust for mayhem; they desired more of the same in Syria. Thankfully they only carry the political weight of a fly’s wing, otherwise they might be dangerous.

“Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism.”

Claude McKay

By Patrick Cockburn

The Independent
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