Friday, 19 February 2016

News from Syria and Turkey - 02/18/2016

Turkey Blames Kurds, Assad For Terrorist Attack, Vows Swift Response

Zero Hedge,
18 February, 2016

Moments after a massive explosion rocked Ankara on Wednesday, we said the following: “Expect this to be pinned on either ISIS or the PKK. If it's the latter, Ankara will once again claim that the group is working in concert with the YPG andthat will be all the evidence Erdogan needs to march across the border.”

In short, we wondered whether the bombing - which apparently targeted military barracks - would be just the excuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan needed to launch an all-out ground invasion in Syria. Turkey has been shelling YPG positions for nearly a week in an effort to keep the group (which Ankara equates with the “terrorist” PKK) from cutting the Azaz corridor - the last lifeline between Turkey and the rebels fighting to oust Bashar al-Assad. It’s unlikely that cross-border fire will ultimately halt the YPG advance and so, Erdogan needs an excuse to send in the ground troops.

Sure enough, Ankara has blamed the YPG for the attack and is vowing to retaliate. “Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed a Syrian Kurdish militia fighter working with Kurdish militants inside Turkey for a suicide car bombing that killed 28 people in the capital Ankara, and he vowed retaliation in both Syria and Iraq,” Reuters reports, on Thursday. “Davutoglu said the attack was clear evidence that the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia that has been supported by the United States in the fight against Islamic State in northern Syria, was a terrorist organization and that Turkey, a NATO member, expected cooperation from its allies in combating the group.”

Right. It’s “clear evidence” of something alright, but “clear evidence” of what we’re not sure.

"The assailants have all been identified. It was Syrian national Salih Necar who was born in the northern Syrian city Amuda in 1992," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday. "YPG is a pawn of the Syrian regime and the regime is directly responsible for the Ankara attack. Turkey reserves the right to take any measure against the Syrian regime," he added.

Obviously, that's utter nonsense. Assad is fighting for his life. Both figuratively and literally. The idea that he spends his days plotting Ankara car bombs with the Kurds (who do not, by the way, wholeheartedly support the regime) is patently absurd.

For their part, the YPG says this is nonsense and also says Turkey’s self defense claim (used as an excuse to justify the shelling at Azaz) is equally absurd. “We are completely refuting that," Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the PYD, told Reuters. "I can assure you that not even one bullet is fired by YPG into Turkey [because YPG doesn’t] consider Turkey as an enemy.”

Needless to say, this "terror attack" is exceptionally suspicious. Turkey is one of the countries with the most to lose if the effort to usurp Assad fails. And as you're likely aware, the rebellion is on the ropes. Aleppo is surrounded by Russia and Hezbollah and it will fall in a matter of weeks. Once it's recaptured by Assad, the rebel cause is lost. The rebellion will be over. 

Sending supplies to the hodgepodge of Sunni rebels operating in and around the city is no longer sufficient and even if it were, the YPG is about to cut the last supply line. As we said last week, it's do or die time for Ankara and Riyadh. Either go to war on behalf of the rebels orconcede defeat to Moscow and Tehran. The question, we said, is how Ankara will ultimately be able to pitch an intervention at Aleppo as a fight against terror when the ISIS presence there is relatively minimal. 

Well, now we know. 

Turkey will use the Ankara bombing - which killed 28 people - to justify a ground incursion to punish the YPG which, you're reminded, are not only backed by Russia, but the US as well. "All necessary measures will be taken against [YPG and PKK] anywhere and under any circumstances. No attack against Turkey has been left unanswered," Davutoglu promised. "All those who intend to use terror pawns against Turkey must know that [playing] this game of terror will hit them like a boomerang," he added.

So there you have it: the excuse for Turkey to invade Syria and it's the same as it ever was. Ankara is just "fighting terror," like everyone else in the world. 

For those unfamiliar, the YPG have been the most effective on-the-ground force when it comes to fighting Islamic State. They've managed to secure nearly the entire border with the Turks and are seeking to unite their territory east of the Euphrates with the towns they control west of the river, and that means capturing key border cities. For Turkey, that's an unacceptable outcome, as it would effectively mean establishing a Kurdish proto-state on the border, a move that would likely embolden Turkish Kurds who are already seeking greater autonomy. 

So invading Syria serves two purposes for Ankara: 1) it checks the Kurdish advance, and 2) it shores up the rebels fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. 
But while the Turks are known for being exceptionally capable on the battlefield, it isn't clear they know what they're getting into here. Hezbollah practically invented urban warfare and their fighters view martyrdom as an honor and a privilege (and not in the perverse way that ISIS conceptualizes death). Additionally, Hassan Nasrallah's forces are backed by what is perhaps the most capable air force on the planet. 

We close with a rather inauspicious quote from Davutoglu: "I repeat my warning to Russia - which lately gives air support for YPG to advance into Azaz and conducts heavy shelling on Syrian people - not to use the terrorist organization against innocent Syrian people and Turkey."

Those who live in glass houses Mr. Davutoglu, should most assured-ly not throw stones.


Turkish military
Accroding to media reports, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has accused some “forces” linked to the Kurdish YPG militia of the terrorist attack in Ankara.
In light of information we have obtained, it has been clearly identified that this attack was carried out by the members of a terrorist organization inside Turkey, together with a YPG member individual who had crossed from Syria,” Reuters cites Ahmet Davutoglu’s live speech.

Davutoglu added the attack showed the Kurdish YPG is a terrorist organization and that Turkey expects cooperation from “its allies” against the group.
The Turkish official also added that Ankara is against involvement of the YPG into a possible diplomatic settlement of the Syrian war.
Just like Al-Qaeda or Daesh [Arabic pejorative for IS] do not have seats at the table, the YPG, which is a terrorist organization, cannot have one,” he reportedly noted.

Turkey promised to continue to shell the YPG in Syria. The Syrian Kurds are denying all allegations. They argue ISIS is behind the attack.
 According to Turkish officials, nine people have been detained following the attack.

Turkey launches air strikes on Kurdish positions after Ankara bombing

At least 28 people were killed in the car bomb attack and 61 injured.

18 February, 2016

Turkey has launched overnight air strikes on Kurdish rebel camps in northern Iraq after a car bomb in Ankara killed at least 28 people.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's Prime Minister, has announced a member of the Kurdish YPG militia group based in Syria were responsible for the rush hour attack.

He named the bomber as Salih Necar, a Syrian national and member of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Mr Davutoglu said he Necar had operated in Turkey with logistical support from the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey, BBC reports.

He said: "A direct link between the attack and the YPG has been established."

While Turkey considers the YPG a terrorsit organisation, the United States currently backs the group in its fight againt Isis.

These latest Turkish air strikes are believed to have killed some senior PKK fighters.

In a statement a few hours after the blast, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "Turkey will not shy away from using its right to self-defence at any time, any place or any occasion.

"Our determination to retaliate to these attacks, in Turkey and abroad, which aim at our unity, togetherness and future, is increasing with such actions."

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack which took place near the parliament and military headquarters.

The co-leader of the PKK umbrella group, Cemil Bayik, said he did not know who was responsible but the attack could be a response to "massacres in Kurdistan", referring to the Kurdish region covering parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

According to the Firat news agency, Bayik said:"We don't know who did this. But it could be an act of retaliation for the massacres in Kurdistan."

اتهام الكرد بتفجير انقرة هو لإشغال الرأي العام التركي بهذا والتستر على فشل سياسات اردوغان الداخلية و الخارجية و لتبرر لعمل ما لدخول روجآفا.
The PYD, a Syrian-based Kurdish group previously shelled by Turkish artillery, has denied responsibility for the the Ankara attack on Twitter

Their tweet accuses President Erdogan of blaming Kurds for the bombing as a way of distracting 

Turkey blames Syrian Kurds for Ankara blast, they deny responsibility, point to ISIS

18 February, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has accused forces linked with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia of the terrorist attack in Ankara on Wednesday. Ankara promised to continue to shell the YPG, with the Syrian Kurds denying all allegations and saying Islamic State is behind the attack.

In a live television speech, Prime Minister Davutoglu said Turkey has identified the perpetrator of the Ankara bombing attack as Salih Necer, born in northern Syria's Amuda province in 1992. He added the suspect has links to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Davutoglu added the alleged attacker received assistance from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed by Ankara.

READ MORE: Moment of deadly Ankara blast caught on CCTV (VIDEO)

Davutoglu said the attack showed the Syrian Kurdish YPG is a terrorist organization and that Turkey expects cooperation from its allies against the group.

"In light of information we have obtained, it has been clearly identified that this attack was carried out by the members of a terrorist organization inside Turkey, together with a YPG member individual who had crossed from Syria," Davutoglu said, according to Reuters.

Of the 28 people who lost their lives, 27 are members of the Turkish Armed Forces and one is a civilian,” the PM said, referring to Wednesday attack. 
He added that nine people have been detained following the attack in Ankara.

Kurdish self-defense forces did not organize the attack in Ankara, Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) chief Salih Muslim Muhammad told RIA Novosti.

This is absolutely not true. Kurds have nothing to do with what happened in Ankara. What happened there is related to Turkey's fight with Islamic State [IS formerly ISIS/ISIL], whose members live in Turkey.”

He also denied claims that the armed YPG wing was firing into Turkey.
"I can assure you that not even one bullet is fired by the YPG into Turkey," Salih Muslim told Reuters.
"They don't consider Turkey as an enemy."

Turkey has pledged to continue to shell positions of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated on Thursday.

Davutoglu claimed Ankara had evidence revealing where the militants came from and how they organized themselves, and that this information would be soon shared with other countries.

He also warned other nations against throwing their weight behind “an enemy of Turkey,” saying that this would risk those countries’ status as allies.

"Just like Al-Qaeda or Daesh [Arabic pejorative for IS] do not have seats at the table, the YPG, which is a terrorist organization, cannot have one,” he reportedly noted.

He also mentioned that senior members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been killed overnight in Turkish airstrikes on their camps in northern Iraq.

Let’s not forget that whenever something like that happens inside Turkey, the first place that they are going to point the finger is going to be the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party],” Daniel Wagner, CEO of Country Risk Solutions told RT, adding that IS is “the likelier root of the cause.”

If you look at some of the previous attacks, how successful they’ve been, the number of casualties that they’ve had in the recent months, it certainly seems to have a hallmark of Islamic State,” Wagner noted.

On Tuesday, at a closed-door meeting, called to discuss recent Turkish shelling of Kurdish YPG militia targets in Syria's north, the UN Security Council urged Ankara to comply with international law in Syria. The UN Security Council received a letter from the Syrian government in which Damascus condemned Turkey’s attacks in the north of the country.

Turkish artillery units have been shelling targets in Syria for four days in a row starting February 13, with Ankara highlighting its commitment to stopping the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) from claiming more territory in the north of the country. They have been pounding Syrian Kurdish forces in an apparent attempt to stop them from taking over the city of Azaz, 30km north-northwest of Aleppo.
Turkish military
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, both government and opposition-held towns over the border from Turkey have fallen under Ankara’s shelling.

The attacks have been condemned by the international community, with the UN calling on war parties to end hostilities. The US State Department has called on all sides to avoid escalation of tensions on the Syria-Turkey border.

We have urged the YPG to avoid moves that will heighten tensions with Turkey. But at the same time we have also urged Turkey to cease any artillery… its artillery fire across the border,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Tuesday.

Turkey “sees itself at war with the Kurds internally and now externally in Syria. It is unfortunate because the Kurds are the most effective fighters against ISIS and are de facto allies of the US and Russia,”Professor of Political History at the University of Michigan Ronald G. Suny told RT earlier this week.

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