Category Archives: Turkey

Obama BFF’s Turkey Plans to Invade Syria, But to Stop the Kurds, Not ISIS

Boots on the Ground

The Turkish military is not enthusiastic and Washington may have its doubts, but President Erdogan appears determined to set up a buffer zone.

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning a military intervention into northern Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds from forming their own state there, despite concerns among his own generals and possible criticism from Washington and other NATO allies, according to reports in both pro- and anti-government media.

In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains by Kurdish fighters against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in recent weeks. “I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.” He accused Syrian Kurds of ethnic cleansing in Syrian areas under their control.

After the speech, several news outlets reported that the president and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had decided to send the Turkish army into Syria, a hugely significant move by NATO’s second-biggest fighting force after the U.S. military. Both the daily Yeni Safak, a mouthpiece of the government, and the newspaper Sozcu, which is among Erdogan’s fiercest critics, ran stories saying the Turkish Army had received orders to send soldiers over the border. Several other media had similar stories, all quoting unnamed sources in Ankara. There has been no official confirmation or denial by the government.

The government refused to comment on the reports. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “the necessary statement” would be issued after a regular meeting of the National Security Council, which comprises the president, the government and military leaders, this Tuesday.

The reports said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers deep and 100 kilometers long that is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare. This “Mare Line,” as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday.

There has been speculation about a Turkish military intervention ever since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. Ankara has asked the United Nations and its Western allies to give the green light to create a buffer zone and a no-fly area inside Syria to prevent chaos along the Turkish border and to help refugees on Syrian soil before they cross over into Turkey. But the Turkish request has fallen on deaf ears.

The latest reports fit Erdogan’s statement on Friday and the government position regarding recent gains by Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State. The Syrian Kurdish party PYD and its armed wing YPG, affiliates of the Turkish-Kurdish rebel group PKK, have secured a long band of territory in northern Syria from the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east to Kobani.

Ankara is concerned that the Kurds will now turn their attention to the area west of Kobani and toward Mare to link up with the Kurdish area of Afrin, thereby connecting all Kurdish areas in Syria along the border with Turkey. Erdogan expects that the Syrian Kurds, whose advance against ISIS has been helped by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, will go on to form their own state as Syria disintegrates after more than four years of war.

PYD leader Saleh Muslim denied that Syria’s Kurds intend to do this.

But Turkey’s leaders are not convinced that is true. The daily Hurriyet reported Erdogan and Davutoglu wanted to “kill two birds with one stone” with a military intervention along the Mare Line. One aim would be to drive ISIS away from the Turkish border, depriving the jihadists of their last foothold on the frontier and thereby cutting off supply lines. Such a move would tie in with the U.S. strategy to contain and weaken ISIS.

A second goal of the operation would be closer to Ankara’s own interests. The English-language Hurriyet Daily News quoted one source saying there was a need to  “prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border,” and also to create a zone on Syrian territory rather than in Turkey to take in new waves of refugees.

But the military is reluctant, the reports said. Generals told the government that Turkish troops could come up against ISIS, Kurds, and Syrian government troops and get drawn into the Syrian quagmire. Retaliation attacks by ISIS and Kurdish militants on Turkish territory are another concern.

Finally, the soldiers pointed to the international dimension. The military leadership told the government that the international community might get the impression that Turkey’s intervention was directed against Syria’s Kurds, the newspaper Haberturk reported.

Turkey’s NATO partners, some of whom have deployed troops operating Patriot missile defense units near the Syrian border to shield member country Turkey against possible attacks from Syria, are unlikely to be happy with a Turkish intervention.

Turkey’s pro-government press insisted there were no tensions between civilian and military leaders in Ankara. “If the government says ‘go,’ we will go in,” the pro-Erdogan daily Aksam wrote, attempting to sum up the military’s stance in a headline.

On Sunday, fighting broke out between ISIS troops and FSA units near the town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border crossing of Oncupinar. News reports said ISIS was trying to bring the Syrian side of the border crossing under its control. The area of the latest clashes lies within the “Mare Line” cited as the possible location of a Turkish incursion.

Obama BFF’s Turkey police uses tear gas, water cannons on Istanbul Gay Pride revelers #LoveWins

Turkish police have violently broken up a gay pride march, according to reports.

Footage made by witnesses shows officers in central Istanbul breaking up the annual gay pride parade.

In one video, made by Twitter user Funda Eryiğit, a lone man holding a rainbow flag  is seen standing defiantely before he is knocked off his feet by the spray.

It is currently unclear why police stopped the marchers gathering as the event is well established. REALLY???ED

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”tr” dir=”ltr”>Mis Sokak'a polis saldırısı <a href=”http://t.co/oPqcyCRRl9″>pic.twitter.com/oPqcyCRRl9</a></p>&mdash; Funda Eryiğit (@fundaeryigit) <a href=”https://twitter.com/fundaeryigit/status/615155416100700160″>June 28, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

But this year the parade coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which could cause upset amongst conservative Muslims.

According to Turkey’s Dogan news agency, police told crowds to disperse soon after gathering, telling them they were not allowed to march.

One witness, Gizem Paksoy, told PinkNews:  “I actually have no idea why they started attacking. No warning, nothing.

“They started to use water cannons. People spreaded around and they chased people in the streets.”

Although the country is officially secular under its constitution written in the 1920s, the Islamic ruling AK party is widely perceived as furthering the cause of political Islam in the country.

While homosexuality is legal in Turkey, discrimination is widespread and gay people have few protections.

With events spread over four days including marches, concerts and festivals, Istanbul pride weekend has been dubbed “the largest gay pride event in the Muslim world”.

Additional reporting by AP

Obama BFF Erdogan: Turkey will never allow Kurdish state in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a Kurdish state in Syria after major gains by Kurdish fighters.

In a strong-worded warning late on Friday, Erdogan accused the Kurds of ethnically cleaning other communities from land they have taken after pushing back Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces from the Turkish border.

“I say to the international community that whatever price must be paid, we will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria,” Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media as telling guests at a dinner to break the Ramadan fast.

He accused Kurdish forces of “changing the demographic structure” of several areas close to the Turkish border, which also have Arab and Turkmen populations.

Turkey has fought a 31-year insurgency in the south east of the country by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara claims is closely linked to the main Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Erdogan’s comments came a day after ISIS militants mounted a bloody surprise attack on the Kurdish-held border town of Kobane, killing at least 164.

Kurdish forces have since driven the jihadists out of the highly symbolic Syrian town, which the Kurds wrested back from ISIS in January, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Erdogan again denied persistent claims of Turkish collusion with the jihadists, saying, “It is a big lie to accuse Turkey of having link with a terrorist organization.”

Despite ongoing peace talks with the PKK, the creation of any Kurdish zone in the north of Syria deeply worries Turkey, particularly as it borders the already autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Turkey is one of the fiercest opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus and has taken in more than 1.8 million refugees since the war in Syria began.

But in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Saleh Muslim, the head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — the political wing of the YPG militia — denied they were trying to create an independent state. “We do not have such a project,” he said.

However, Turkish media speculated Saturday that Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had asked its military to intervene in Syria earlier in the week.

The press claimed that the military high command demanded a written order from the government, with a new one yet to formed after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority for the first time in 13 years in a parliamentary election on June 7.

Hurriyet also claimed that at least 12,000 Turkish troops were ready to enter Syria to create a “security zone” to protect the border from the threat posed by ISIS

Obama BFF Turkey Chooses ISIS Over the Kurds

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is furious that the Kurds in Syria are advancing against ISIS.Ponder the ramifications of that sentence.

Turkey is a member of NATO. On paper, at least, it’s one of America’s greatest allies. ISIS, meanwhile, is the world’s most deranged army of psychopaths. Even Al Qaeda disowns it. The Kurds, though, are America’s most reliable allies in the Middle East alongside the Israelis.

So our nominal ally thinks it’s a problem when one of our real allies makes gains against the most vicious terrorist army on the planet.

We’ve been arguing amongst ourselves here in America about which is worse, the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis or ISIS. I can make a case either way. Iran is the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, but ISIS is more barbaric than any of Iran’s proxies. ISIS is more likely to kill Americans in America, but it may not be possible to defeat them until after the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis is defanged because a substantial percentage of the Middle East’s Sunni Arabs see it as the only thing standing between them and Iranian overlordship.

There’s no obvious answer. We can have a healthy, reasonable, civil debate about how to proceed.

In Turkey, however, the conversation is different. The question over there is whether ISIS or the Kurds are the lesser of evils.

Twenty five percent of Turkey’s population is Kurdish, and Erdogan—like most of his ethnic Turkish countrymen—are terrified that Turkey may lose a huge swath of its territory if Syrian Kurdistan liberates itself alongside Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkish Kurdistan could very well be the next domino.

They are not crazy to fear this.

But they’re reacting by treating as ISIS the lesser of evils. If ISIS can keep the Kurds down, Turkey’s territorial integrity is more secure.

“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all,” a former ISIS communications technician told Newsweek, “because there was full cooperation with the Turks and they reassured us that nothing will happen…ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria. The Kurds were the common enemy for both ISIS and Turkey.”

President Barack Obama recently complained that Turkey could be doing “more” to stop the influx of “militants” into Syria. Turkey certainly could! Turkey has a long border with Syria, but it’s sealed. I’ve driven alongside it. In some areas, there are minefields everywhere.

Turkey has a world-class army—the second-largest in NATO—and could obliterate ISIS from the face of the earth if it wanted. If Syria’s Kurds can make headway into ISIS-held territory with just a ragtag militia, Turkey could liberate the Syrian population from Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, and ISIS simultaneously.

We should not expect Turkey to do this, but Erdogan won’t even shore up that border.

“You should understand something,” a Turkish smuggler said to Jamie Dettmer at the Daily Beast. “It isn’t hard to cross into the caliphate [ISIS-held territory], but go further west or east into Kurdish territory, then it gets much harder to evade the Turkish military and cross the border. Even the birds can’t come from there; and our birds can’t go there.”

Turkey is not Iraq. It is 1,000 years ahead of Iraq. It a serious and capable nation, the opposite of incompetent. It’s not an accident or a coincidence that ISIS can replenish its ranks over the Turkish border while the Kurds can’t. If Erdogan can stop Kurds from the crossing that border, he can stop ISIS from crossing that border. Refusing to do so is a choice.

He is not a state sponsor of terrorism. He is not championing ISIS, nor is he on side with them ideologically. He is not their patron or armorer. But he is letting one of our worst enemies grow stronger while stomping on one of our greatest allies.

We seem to be reaching the end of a road.

NATO was formed as an anti-Russian bulwark during the Cold War, and ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union many have wondered if the alliance has outlived its usefulness. That question has been put to bed to an extent with Russian malfeasance in Georgia and Ukraine, but it’s becoming clearer by the year that Turkey’s membership in NATO is a vestige of an era that expired a long time ago.

Diplomats and heads of state are often to last to notice tectonic geopolitical shifts. They’ve spent years, even decades, forming relationships with their foreign counterparts. Institutions are cumbersome, bureaucratic, slow. They cruise on inertia. They have invested so much for so long. But we are where we are.

When the White House, Congress, the State Department, and our genuine allies in Europe are finally willing to face this—and they will be—Turkey should expect to be treated accordingly.

by Michael J. Totten

Turkey: Obama Bestie Erdoğan: Liberate Jerusalem from the Jews

Erdoğan_and_Obama

Eldad Beck// Just one week before upcoming parliamentary elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and officials in his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) found a unique way to try and secure a victory at the polls by calling for the “liberation” of Jerusalem.

“Conquest is Mecca, conquest is Saladin, it’s to hoist the Islamic flag over Jerusalem again; conquest is the heritage of Mehmed II and conquest means forcing Turkey back on its feet,” said Erdoğan in a speech on Saturday in Istanbul before millions who appeared to celebrate 562 years since the Turks captured Constantinople from European Christians.

Erdoğan at an Istanbul rally during Presidential elections in 2014. (Photo: EPA)
Erdoğan at an Istanbul rally during Presidential elections in 2014. (Photo: EPA)

 

Erdoğan drew a straight historical line between the capture of Jerusalem from the crusaders by Saladin and the capture of Constantinople to the elections in Turkey due to take place next week. Although state employees were required to send a delegation to the celebration, under the threat of punishment, local media reported that many partakers left during the President’s speech.

Attempts by Erdoğan and his allies to find political support by linking Jerusalem and Islam have formed a clear and solid trend in Turkey. Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu dedicated a new airport in the south of the country, naming it after Saladin. According to Davutoğlu, “It’s a name that says to the Kurds, to Turkey, and to the Arabs, yes, this is our leader.

“It’s a symbol that unites us,” he continued. “All those who claim that Jerusalem is the Jew’s holy city should be ashamed. We chose the name Saladin in order to send a message with the help of Allah that Jerusalem will always belong to the Kurds, to Turkey, to Arabs, to Muslims.”

According to the results of public opinion polls, Erdoğan’s AK Party is likely to lose the absolute majority it’s enjoyed for the past 12 years in the House of Commons in elections on June 7.

While Erdoğan made his inflammatory comments, the Islamist organization IHH held a march in Istanbul calling for the “liberation of Jerusalem” to mark the fifth anniversary of the Marmara flotilla that was boarded by Israeli commandos when it tried to reach Gaza with unidentified cargo. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the raid.

Muslims Demand Turkey Convert Hagia Sophia Church Into Mosque

 A large rally in Istanbul demanded the government change the historic Hagia Sophia church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a mosque. The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) led the rally through the Sultanahmet district.

Many people carried signs that said, “Hagia Sophia needs to be reopened as a mosque” and “Let our lives be sacrificed for Islam.”

The idea to change the church into a mosque begun to gain momentum in April after Pope Francis recognized the slaying of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. Liam Deacon at Breitbart London chronicled the history of Hagia Sophia. The Ottoman Empire did convert the church into a mosque in 1453. After the empire fell, the new Turkish government transformed it into a secular museum.

“Frankly, I believe that the Pope’s remarks will only accelerate the process for Hagia Sophia to be reopened for [Muslim] worship,” Professor Hizli, a senior government cleric, said in a written statement on April 15th.

He decried the Pope’s comments as a “modern reflection of the crusader wars launched in these lands for centuries,” and suggested that Turkey’s role as a “standard bearer” for the Muslim world provoked criticism from non-Muslims.

The latest blow was using the church to celebrate Islam during Easter holy week.

“The historic Istanbul cathedral and museum, Hagia Sophia, witnessed its first Quran recitation under its roof after 85 years Saturday,” reported the Anatolian News Agency of Turkey. “The Religious Affairs Directorate launched the exhibition ‘Love of Prophet,’ as part of commemorations of the birth of Islamic Prophet Muhammad.”

The Christian population of Turkey is evaporating rapidly. The nation, a NATO member since 1952, experienced a reduction in its Christian population from 20 percent 100 years ago to only 0.2 percent today.

Istanbul, once known as Constantinople, was founded by Roman Emperor Constantine in 324. He made it the capital of Rome before it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. They made it their capital until the empire collapsed after World War I. Modern-day Turkey officially renamed it Istanbul in 1923.

Turkey changed the name, and current officials have clearly indicated a desire to return to the Islamist state established under the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Council of Ministers, for example, formed the Istanbul Conquest Society to help organize a yearly event to celebrate the conquest of Constantinople.

As columnist Constantine Tzanos asks, “Why would anyone want to celebrate the conquest which not only by itself was a great human catastrophe, but it was also the precursor to many such catastrophes up to the very recent past?”

The Ottomans terrorized the Balkans, killing anyone who did not convert to Islam. Historian H. Gandev believes “that 2608 Bulgarian villages disappeared,” while the “rural population decreased by a total of 112,144 households (or approximately 560,000 people).” The post-Ottoman Turkish government repeated their predecessor’s history with the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides in Asia Minor, which led to the deaths of over three million people.