Friday 26 August 2016

The Turkish invasion of Syria - 08/25/2016

This is what the mainstream media (here, BBC) are saying.

Syrian rebels, backed by the Turkish military and US air cover, say they have taken the town of Jarablus from jihadists of so-called Islamic State.

The Turks are supposed to have "liberated" Jarablus from ISIS in just a few hours. Are the Turks suddenly more effective than, say the joint Russian/Syrianc campaign in Aleppo?

I suspect the following is closer to the truth

No Islamic State in Jarabulus — Instead, a NATO Occupation

25 August, 2016

Reports of Turkish forces alongside Western-backed militants crossing into northern Syria and entering the Syrian city of Jarabulus preceded what many expected to be intense clashes with the self-titled "Islamic State." However, there were one.

It is alleged that Islamic State militants either surrendered without a fight or fled, an outcome uncharacteristic of years of clashes involving the international designated terrorist organisation. Analysts and even the Turkish foreign minister himself have revealed in recent months that Islamic State militants have been based within Turkish territory for years, reinforcing their positions in Syria both with men and materiel with little to no resistance from the Turkish government.

A May 2016 Washington Times article titled, "
Turkey offers joint ops with U.S. forces in Syria, wants Kurds cut out," would reveal (our emphasis): 
Joint operations between Washington and Ankara in Manbji, a well-known waypoint for Islamic State fighters, weapons and equipment coming from Turkey bound for Raqqa, would effectively open “a second front” in the ongoing fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Syria’s borders, [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] said.
Analysts and strategists are likely to point out that if this was the case, according to Turkey's own foreign minister, then why wasn't the fighting capacity of the Islamic State not uprooted at its very source, Turkish territory? The fact that the Islamic State is apparently operating out of Turkey may explain why Turkish forces and accompanying militants were able to move so easily into Jarabulus without a fight.

Islamic State fighters likely didn't "flee" or "surrender," but were instead absorbed by the advancing force.

Now there exists in northern Syria a bastion protected by Turkish forces and by extension of NATO agreements, NATO's entire membership including the United States. 
As pointed out earlier, this is the fulfilment of longstanding US plans dating back to 2012 involving the establishment of "safe-havens" in northern Syria from which to prolong the fighting and strike deeper into Syrian territory.

However, when these plans were drafted in 2012, Russia and Iran were not so directly involved in the conflict. Turkey also has shifted, if even superficially, from its geopolitical stance four years ago.

Analysts are divided over whether Turkey's advancement into Syrian territory represents the fulfilment of US designs, or something else entirely, 
possibly even diametrically opposed to those plans. Reactions from Syria and its allies are still forthcoming, and until actions are taken (or not taken) against or with Turkey in regards to its cross-border foray, little can be said for certain

But what can be said for certain is that NATO troops are now occupying an enclave in northern Syria and occupied it with little to no resistance from Islamic State fighters who have bitterly contested every other square meter of Syrian territory they have invaded over the last several years.

The next moves will be critical, proving once and for all which side Turkey has finally come down on, and whether it is bringing Islamic State troops with it if and when it moves south and west deeper into Syrian territory.
The New Atlas is a media platform providing geopolitical analysis and op-eds. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

It seems like this has more to do with opening another front (with support from the US who has 'boots-on-the- ground in this part of Syria against the Syrian government and its backers

A Levant Front official said Euphrates Shield aims to seize Al-Bab.Syrian rebels hold a meeting prior to Wednesday

BEIRUT – An official in a rebel faction participating in the Turkish-supported cross-border incursion into Syria has revealed that the operation aims to seize Al-Bab, an ISIS-stronghold near both Syrian regime and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) frontlines.

Mohammad Abu Ibrahim—a military commander in the Levant Front—told a pro-opposition outlet that the next step of the Euphrates Operation following the capture of Jarablus and surrounding villages, which was achieved Wednesday evening, will be the “commencement of the battle to liberate the strategic town of Al-Bab,” which lies 60 kilometers southwest of Jarablus.

In mid-January, Syrian regime forces reached within 10 kilometers of the ISIS-held town, however the offensive grounded to a halt following a counterattack by the jihadist group. The SDF, for its part, advanced on Al-Bab, the largest remaining population center controlled by ISIS in the northeastern Aleppo countryside, during its offensive on Manbij earlier in August.

The rebel official also told Zaman al-Wasl that Turkey’s participation in the campaign was “limited” to logistical support, aerial cover, reconnaissance and “heavy weapons,” a reference to the battle tanks the Turkish army has been deploying across the border into Syrian territory.

Meanwhile, another opposition figure participating in the Euphrates Shield offensive spoke to Enab Baladi about the dramatic campaign and its next steps.
According to Mustafa Sejari, the head of the Mutassim Brigade’s political office, rebel fighters in Jarablus would initially focus on reinforcing defensive positions around the border town.

He explained that the Turkish-supported factions would then fight westward, but instead of naming Al-Bab as their ultimate goal, Sejari said the Euphrates Shield operation would aim to break ISIS lines around the northern Aleppo town of Mara.

We will not stop until we connect Jarablus to Marea,” he vowed.

Turkish media outlets on Wednesday reported Euphrates Shield aims to secure a strip of territory along the Syrian border stretching from Marea to the east bank of the Euphrates River, but did not specifically name Al-Bab as being one of the targets of the operation.

Top officials in Ankara, for their part, have been more vague in their public declarations of the specific military goals of the campaign, saying only that it aims to “secure” the border, not only from ISIS, but also the expansion of Kurdish forces west of the Euphrates.

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material


Dan Wright
25 August, 2016

Drone footage of the battle for the Aleppo artillery college, taken by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Source:
Drone footage of the battle for the Aleppo artillery college, taken by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Source:
Though many scoffed when the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra, rebranded itself Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, that cosmetic change was apparently enough to convince the US government to start sending them arms.
In the recent push by rebels in the city of Aleppo, Al-Nusra /Al-Sham took a leading role and was reportedly among the rebels groups who received US weapons. Those weapons will first be used to kill Syrian government troops and after that, well, who knows?

Many, if not most, of the rebel groups fighting the Syrian government are jihadist and few have any serious objection to Al-Nusra participating in their operations, especially given that Al-Nusra has proven to be one of the most effective groups on the battlefield. If Al-Sham and fellow Sunni jihadists prevail over Syrian government forces, a genocide will likely commence against religious minorities in Syria, starting with the Alawites and moving on to other Shiites.

From the Atlantic Council:
Fateh al-Sham’s support extends beyond the immediate political and military opposition. Roshd Virtual University in Istanbul, Turkey offered 100 scholarships to the children of the fighters who participated in Aleppo’s battle. The opposition’s desperation to change the balance of power in Syria has made themembrace Fateh al-Sham and turn a blind eye to the fact that it was until recently the Nusra Front, an internationally designated terrorist group with ties to al-Qaeda.
According the Syria analyst Charles Lister, there is a significant subsection of the Syrian opposition that does not oppose Fateh al-Sham’s participation in Aleppo related military operations. Moreover, Lister said that 
opposition forces fighting in Aleppo received for the first time American weapons that are normally designated for forces fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). The opposition’s takeaway is that the United States does not object to preserving the balance on the ground with the Syrian regime, even if doing so indirectly bolsters Fateh al-Sham.
While it would be a mistake to say this is the first time the US gave assistance to Al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syriait is a pretty stunning digression from earlier claims from US officials that assisting Al Qaeda and ISIS was completely off limits. Now the US is arming them in one of the most crucial battlefields of the Syrian Civil War.

Then again, Al-Nusra /Al-Sham claims it no longer is within the Al Qaeda network (though they also appear to still hold much of the same beliefs). I guess a rebrand is all it takes for the US to take a group from sworn enemy to ally worthy of receiving anti-tank weapons.

What could go wrong?

Here we see those Turkish Special Forces which valiantly crossed the Turkey-Syria border to liberate Jarabulus from evil Daesh goons actively engaged in serious combat.

---Pepe Escobar

Knowing Erdogan? I'm sure it's just a funny coincidence....

The Turkish army has shelled a Kurdish militia group near the Syrian border town of Jarabulus, Turkish media reported Thursday. © PHOTO: HIKMET DURGUN Turkey's Operation 'Not Limited to Jarablus' in Attempt to Secure Border Areas ANKARA (Sputnik) —

The Turkish military opened artillery fire on Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters to the south of the town, wiping out the group, Turkish channel NTV said, citing military sources.

Ankara announced on Wednesday that Turkish forces, backed by US-led coalition aircraft, had begun a military operation dubbed Euphrates Shield to clear the Syrian border town of Jarabulus of militants from the Islamic State jihadist group, outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that the operation in Jarabulus was aimed at stopping the threats posed both by Daesh and Kurdish militants in Syria, which Ankara considers to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) branded a terrorists organization in Turkey.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said that Turkey expects Syrian Kurds to leave the western bank of the Euphrates within the next week.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the military campaign on the border with Syria is meant to free the town of Jarablus from Daesh, but Ankara's true goal involves retaining control over a 100-kilometer-long corridor that will help Turkey to assist radical groups in the war-torn Arab country, analyst Stanislav Ivanov told Izvestiya.

"The Turks are saying that they are ostensibly bombing Daesh targets to keep this corridor. In reality they are conducting airstrikes against Syrian Kurds," he said. "This campaign is primarily aimed at retaining control over this stretch of border to provide assistance to anti-Assad groups, particularly in Aleppo."

The corridor that Ivanov mentioned stretches from Jarablus in the east to the Syrian city of Azaz in the west, located 32 kilometers (20 miles) north-northwest of Aleppo. The international community has long urged Turkish leadership to seal the area that radical groups, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front have used to resupply and rearm, but Ankara is apparently not interested.

"Turkey cannot allow this stretch of border to be sealed. Should this happen, the balance of power in Aleppo could shift in favor of Damascus-led forces and the Kurds, not the pro-Turkish groups. If the Kurds take this corridor under control, they will link their enclaves and create an autonomy" in northern Syria, the analyst explained.

Read this article HERE

We Will Not Retreat to East of Euphrates: YPG Spokesman Redur Xelil

People's Protection Units (YPG) spokesperson Redur Xelil has said the Kurdish force will not retreat from the west of the Euphrates to the east.

Speaking to journalist Mutlu Civiroglu, Xelil said his words had been misconstrued and that they wouldn't withdraw at anyone's request.

"We are in our own country and not withdrawing on the request of Turkey or someone else," Xelil told Civiroglu.

Reuters had said that Xelil had told them they would withdraw if the SDF instructed them to.

Turkish officials have threatened YPG with military action if the Kurdish force, which took part in the liberation of Manbij on the west of the Euphrates under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), did not retreat back across the river.

A top US official and Vice President Joe Biden also said they had told YPG forces to retreat to the east of the Euphrates or they would cease support for the group.

Turkish troops and FSA militants began a cross-border incursion into Jarablus today and have taken control of the ghost city within 12 hours. Reports suggest there were no clashes between them and Islamic State militants, who have withdrawn to Al-Bab. Some commentators have called attention to the fact that IS had allegedly conducted artillery attacks on Turkish soil in the past two days but there was no IS presence in Jarablus when Turkish-FSA forces arrived.

Did Turkish President 

Erdogan Just Use A False 

Flag To Justify Invading 


25 August, 2016

On Sunday Turkey experienced its deadliest terrorist attack this year. A suspected child suicide bomber struck a wedding celebration in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, killing at least 54 people and injuring dozens more.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately blamed ISIS for the attack. This reaction is especially peculiar given the fact his policies have directly contributed to the growth of ISIS in more ways than one. His government is reportedly providing ISIS fighters with passage through Turkey, weapons, and medical assistance, to name a few examples.

Most interesting, however, is that ISIS has not claimed responsibility for the attack, and as the Guardian notes, ISIS has not historically claimed responsibility for attacks within Turkish territory. This is despite ISIS’ habit of readily praising and accepting responsibility for almost every Western attack — even a mass killing as absurd as the Orlando shooting, which realistically had nothing to do with ISIS.

So let’s do a little bit more digging.

According to one Turkish Member of Parliament, Mahmut Togrul, the targets of Sunday’s attack in Turkey were predominantly supporters of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). It is true that ISIS has been battling the Kurds for some time now. However, the Kurds — specifically the HDP — have another powerful enemy.

As the Telegraph reported in 2015, the biggest threat to Turkey’s president obtaining unilateral control of the country during the 2015 elections was the HDP. In an article entitled “How Erdogan Enabled ISIS To Attack The Turks,” The Huffington Post reported in June of this year that the HDP won enough votes in June of 2015 was enough to “derail Erdogan’s plan to create a powerful presidential system that would benefit the Turkish leader and his family.” The HDP did so well that their success would deny Erdogan’s political party a majority for the first time in more than a decade.

The threat the Kurdish movement poses to Erdogan’s control of Turkey is further demonstrated by his policy of heavily bombing Kurdish territory in Syria, despite the fact that Washington regards the Kurds as the most effective fighting force against ISIS. As noted by the Huffington Post, Erdogan would regularly link the HDP to the fighting force known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), regarded by some as terrorists.

Erdogan then blamed the subsequent terrorist attacks that occurred late last year and earlier this year on the Kurds, despite the fact that they in turn denied responsibility.

Sound familiar?

Even at the time of this article’s publishing, ISIS’ responsibility for the wedding attack has still not been confirmed. This is illustrated by CNN’s reliance on Turkey-based journalist Andrew Finkel. As CNN reported:

He said there were a number of reasons the Sunni terror group – if it is responsible for the attack – could have been motivated to strike Kurdish targets.”

To date, the only person convinced of ISIS involvement is Erdogan himself. When corporate media has to quote an official to infer someone’s responsibility for an attack, it often means there is no actual evidence for that person or groups’ involvement. If there was evidence, the headline would presumably run with that evidence — not the official’s statement. A good example of this was when the mainstream media ran stories stating John Kerry was certain of the Assad regime in Syria using chemical weapons. Yet no proof was actually offered, and if anything, the intelligence was fabricated.

If the Turkish authorities have proof that ISIS committed the attack, considering the group is obsessed with claiming all manner of attacks against their enemies, surely Erdogan could present it.

If not, what is really at play here?

What we do know is that the targets of the attack were supporters of a political party that threaten Erdogan’s dreams of totalitarianism. We also know ISIS has not claimed responsibility for the attack, nor has Erdogan provided any evidence they were responsible, except to reiterate their alleged responsibility over and over.

Don’t be surprised, therefore, if this attack is used as a further excuse to expand military operations against ISIS or some other group that Erdogan considers terrorists - or as a further move to target the Kurdish movement in Turkey and Syria. 

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