Monday, 25 January 2016

News from the Middle East - 01/24/2016

Erdogan Says 'Won't Tolerate' 2nd Russian Airbase in Kurdish Syria

Erdogan will oppose everything that makes Kurds more secure. Question is what can he do about it?
Jason Ditz

Originally appeared at
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today laid out his agenda for Saturday talks with Vice President Joe Biden, saying a Russian military build-up in northern Syria, which reported involves “up to 200” Russian troops, is threatening to Turkey and “won’t be tolerated.”
Erdogan expressed particular concern about reports of a team of Russian military engineers arriving in Qamishli, in Hasakeh Province, to investigate the possibility of expanding the runway and capacity of the airport to serve as a Russian air base in northeastern Syria.
The US has recently taken over a base in the same area of Hasakeh from the Kurdish YPG, and Russia seems keen to get a base there as well, as they’ve similarly backed the YPG against ISIS. Erdogan, however, insisted that “There is no difference between PYD, YPG, PKK, or ISIS.”If the meeting ends up focusing on Russia, the likelihood is that the US will back more NATO deployments into southern Turkey, and probably push for more troops along Russia’s borders in Eastern Europe too just so the Baltic states don’t feel left out.
In practice, Turkey’s government may insist it won’t “tolerate” Russia having a base in Kurdish northeast Syria, but can’t actually do anything about it.


Published at, translated by Mario Andrijasevic exclusively for SouthFront

United States is ready for military solution in Syria, said Joseph Biden. And right after that he added: “…If a political solution won´t be possible.” He even said: “We don´t even know if the political solution would be better”.
Biden said this while he was having a speech at a press conference with the Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul. A day before a ground operation in Iraq and Syria was also announced by the United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
Davutoglu stressed that Ankara´s goal is “cleaning” a border with Syria:
Turkey wants to cleanse the borders of IS soldiers and the US is giving us their support in this. Together we express concern that Russia´s air operations may interfere with this fight. Turkey does not want on its borders nor the Islamic state, nor the Kurdistan Workers Party or the Syrian government forces of Bashar Assad. ”
Davutoglu said that for him there is no difference between the Islamic state, or Jabhat al-Nusra or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Biden and Davutoglu also discussed how the two NATO allies could further support Sunni Arab rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States has sent dozens of special forces soldiers to help rebels fighting Islamic State in Syria although the troops are not intended for front line combat.
Biden strongly criticized the PKK which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.
Americans and Turks are with no doubt surprised by the success of the Russian air forces and the subsequent successes of the Syrian Arab army.
Turkish media reports that Russia uses a civilian airport in Syrian city Qamishli which is currently controlled by the Kurds. Hence the Carter´s and Davutoglu’s ground operation “Cleansing”.
Otherwise, Qamishli is located in the Syrian province of al-Hasaka, and the Turkish media claim that their airport has been visited by about 100 Russian officers and military experts who thoroughly checked all the airport (which was used by the Syrian 154-th air regiment of the Assad’s army).
Between Qamishli and neighboring Turkish city of Nusaybin is a large minefield. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes said that Moscow will probably keep a small military contingent at Qamishli, but said that they pose no threat to a country which is a member of NATO.
Since the Russian missile systems S-400 appeared in Syria – Turkish warplanes no longer fly over the air space of the country. Upon the explicit request of the Americans.

Syria opposition rules out talks before Russian air raids end

23 January, 2015

BEIRUT / ISTANBUL: The Saudi-backed Syrian opposition ruled out even indirect negotiations with Damascus before steps including a halt to Russian airstrikes, contradicting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that talks will begin next week.
With the 5-year-old Syrian war showing no signs of ending, it looks increasingly uncertain that peace talks will begin as planned on Jan. 25 in Geneva, partly because of a dispute over the composition of the opposition delegation.
Peace efforts face huge underlying challenges, among them disagreements over President Bashar Assad’s future and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Syrian government has said it is ready to take part in the Geneva talks on time. The office of U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said he was still aiming “at rolling out the talks” on Jan. 25, and would be “assessing progress over the weekend.”
Russia said the talks could be delayed until Jan. 27 or 28 because of the disagreement over who would represent the opposition.
George Sabra, a senior opposition official, said the obstacles to the talks were still there, reiterating demands for the lifting of blockades on populated areas and the release of detainees, measures set out in a Dec. 18 Security Council resolution that endorsed the peace process.
Sabra’s opposition council, the High Negotiations Committee, was formed in Saudi Arabia last month.
Russian warplanes continued to bomb many parts of western and northern Syria Friday, particularly Latakia province, where the government is pressing an offensive against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Pro-government forces captured a dam 10 kilometers from the town of Salma, seized last week in one of the most significant gains since Russia intervened. 
“They’ve tightened their stranglehold on [rebel] fighters in the Latakia countryside,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said.Later in the day they recaptured another five villages, all in hills overlooking insurgent positions, he said, describing it as a “strategic advance” toward the Turkish border.
Airstrikes also hit areas in the east near where government forces have been fighting against Daesh (ISIS), which controls most of the province. Raids believed to be either Russian or Syrian killed 30 civilians near Deir al-Zor city, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed alarm over reports of a buildup of Russian troops in northern Syria near the Turkish border, saying such movements would not be tolerated.
The Observatory had said that Russia had sent a number of engineers to the Syrian border town of Qamishli to strengthen the runway and increase the capacity of an airport there.
One of the biggest rebel factions in the HNC, the Army of Islam, said the opposition was facing “many pressures” to make concessions but credited Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar for helping it to “overcome these pressures.”
The lead negotiator picked by the HNC for the hoped-for negotiations is an Army of Islam member, another potential complication facing the talks because Russia says it is a terrorist group. HNC chair Riad Hijab is due to meet Kerry Saturday and “all the matters will be tabled clearly,” Sabra said.
The HNC has said it will not join any negotiations if a third party attends, rejecting Russia’s bid to expand the opposition delegation to include the Kurdish PYD and others. The Kurds control vast areas of northern Syria. The opposition accuses the Kurds of cooperating with Damascus, a charge they deny.
Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim told Reuters that the Syrian Kurds must be represented at peace talks or they will fail. He also accused the Army of Islam of fostering the “same mentality” as Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

You read it right: US wants Al-Qaeda's allies to govern Syria

Daniel McAdamsRon Paul Institute for Peace

A Saudi-backed opposition committee representing the rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government in Syria have agreed on a chief negotiator for peace talks scheduled to begin in Geneva next week. The rebels will be represented by Mohammed Alloush, political leader of Jaysh al-Islam. 

Mohammed Alloush's brother, Zahran, led Jaysh al-Islam until he was killed in an airstrike at the end of December. Under Zahran's rule, Jaysh al-Islam was a fiercely Islamist group that insisted strict Sharia law must govern Syria. He maintained close ties with the al-Nusra Front, otherwise known as al-Qaeda in Syria.

John Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, put together a detailed profile of the then-leader of Jaysh al-Islam. Should this group fulfill the US/Saudi/Turk/Israeli/Qatari wish of overthrowing Assad in Syria, there is little reason to believe the bloodshed would stop. In fact it may only really begin in earnest if they succeed in gaining power. Here is Landis on Zahran:
Zahran calls for cleansing Damascus of all Shiites and Nusayris. ("Nusayris" is the old term that referred to the Alawites prior to the adoption of "Alawite." It is considered a term of abuse by Alawites).
Additionally, Jaysh al-Islam were said to have taken part in the Adra massacre, which saw the slaughter of dozens of minorities including Shia, Christian, Kurdish, Ismaili, and Druze residents.

The recently-deceased leader of Jaysh al-Islam went so far as to praise Osama bin Laden on videotape.

The opposition committee of which Mohammed Alloush is chief negotiator has flatly rejected the presence of any rival group at the Geneva talks. If their demands are met, it will mean that the only group representing opposition to the secular Assad government will be allies of al-Qaeda who have repeatedly rejected democratic governance in favor of Islamist rule under Sharia law.

Representatives of more moderate groups opposing Assad, as well as Kurds and others, are not to be invited or the Saudi-bankrolled Jaysh al-Islam will walk, leaving the western regime-changers without the proxies in whom they have invested so much time and money. 

The collapse of Neo Ottoman’s dream in northern Syria

The collapse of Neo Ottoman’s dream in northern Syria
Since the outbreak of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, Turkey’s Erdogan has identified himself as the godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood-led movement in the southern neighboring country.
Whether the man has unexpectedly and treacherously turned against the Syrian president for religious and ideological considerations, or was it one of Assad’s deadly flaws in foreign policy is now an outdated matter.
In all cases, Erdogan’s schemes are none but the Neo Ottomans’, aiming at reviving the glories of the deceased Ottoman Empire just before it was disintegrated by Western powers during the WWI.
To do so, Turkey had to be directly and foully involved in southern Syria through arming, training and facilitating the access of thousands of foreign fighters into Syria’s territories. Turkey founded Jaysh al-Fateh (Army of Conquest), led by the Syrian al-Qaeda branch Jabhet al-Nusra, which took control of large swathes of Idlib province last summer.
Economic warfare was not less virulent. Aleppo, Syria’s economic capital and a pivotal Middle Eastern commercial and industrial hub has for long haunted Turkish industrialists and manufacturers. The 12000 year-old city was literally looted and ravaged by Turkish-run gangs. Some areas close to the Turkish borders are now using the Turkish Lira as the official currency.
The Syrian far northern coastal mountains, where the Turkmen-inhabited and ultra-Sunni villages are mostly located, have served as fertile grounds to carry on the schemes. The towns of Salma, Rabia and Kansabba have been the hotbed of anti-Assad insurgents for more than 3 years.
Turkey already occupies Hatay province (Liwaa Iskenderun) since 1939 during the French mandate.
This pro-Turkish front (Northern Latakia, Idlib and Northern Aleppo), was meant to block the Kurds from forming their own state along Syria-Turkey borders; a dream that has been for long seen as an unquestionable threat to Turkey’s national security.
It [the Front] was also supposed to be the platform on which an alleged Turkish-sponsored ‘buffer zone’ made possible.
Today, the rebels’ last real stronghold in northern Latakia fell to the Syrian Army (backed by Russian airstrikes), who is now inches closer to Jisr al-Shoghour, the city which has been captured by Jaysh al-Fateh on May 2015.
The decisive role played by Russian active jetfighters in assisting Syrian ground troops making such a remarkable progress cannot go unnoticed. For many, the matter has far gone beyond backing up an old ally to fighting its own war.
Perhaps the downing of Russian SU-24 last November by Turkish jetfighters has practically backfired in a way that Turkey can no longer protect its proxies, nor is it capable anymore of maintaining its fantasies.

Israeli PM: Saudi Arabia is “an ally”

Israeli PM: Saudi Arabia is “an ally”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that Riyadh now view Israel “as an ally rather than as an enemy.” He believes this is because of a “great shift taking place” on Arab reluctance to support the Palestinian issue.
The mutual fear of Iran and ISIS were also cited as reasons for being allies.
Saudi Arabia recognizes that Israel is an ally rather than an enemy because of the two principle threats that threaten them, Iran and Daesh (ISIS),” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos Friday.
By nurturing these relationships that are taking place now with the Arab world, that could actually help us resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we’re actually working towards that end,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and Israel are both staunch opponents of Iran.

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