Ankara – While all options are said to be still on the table, Barack Obama is clearly backing away from any deeper involvement in Syria now that it is clear that nothing but direct intervention is going to bring down the government in Damascus. In the past few months alone the armed groups have lost thousands of men. Although the conflict will grind on for some time yet, the Syrian military is steadily closing down the insurgency.
The sponsors of this adventure are in complete disarray. Like the Syrian National Council before it, the Syrian National Coalition has imploded. Muadh al Khatib is now a voice from the margins. Ghassan Hittu is the only person in the world who is the prime minister of a committee. These people are a completely lost cause.
In the real world and not the world of delusions there is horror at the video showing a ‘rebel’ commander cutting the heart out of the body of a dead soldier and biting into it. Perhaps it was the lungs or the liver. The media seems to be uncertain but somehow getting the organ right seems to be important. Far from denying this gory act, its perpetrator owned up to it before boasting of how he had sawed the bodies of captured shabiha into pieces.
Cannibalism appears to be a first but otherwise there is not much that the psychopaths inside the armed groups have not done in Syria. Or are people who can do such things not to be called psychopaths? They are the best people, after all, to fight such a vicious conflict. The self-styled Free Syrian Army says it will hunt down the man who cut out the soldier’s heart. Good. It can also hunt down the throat-cutters and the ‘rebels’ who have cut people’s heads off. It can hunt down the men who killed public servants before flinging their bodies from the top of the post office building in Al Bab. It can hunt down their comrades in arms who deliberately target civilians with car bombs. It can hunt down the murderers of the imam and 50 worshipers in the Damascus mosque and it can hunt down all the rapists and kidnappers, including the Chechens who abducted the two bishops still being held in Aleppo while the Christian leaders of western governments look the other way. In its hunting for all the individuals who have tainted its glorious reputation, the FSA won’t have to look far because many come from its own ranks. There is no shortage of evidence. The media is awash with gory mobile phone and video footage of the handiwork of these men because they take pride in their bravery and want the world to see. These are the people Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming and funding to take over Syria.
This is the reality behind the false narrative spun by the media for the past two years. It has regurgitated every lie and exaggeration of ‘activists’ and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to which the Syrian ‘regime’ was about to fall any minute and every atrocity was actually the work of the Syrian military. With the exception of a few reports filed recently by Robert Fisk, virtually no one in the media mainstream has reported the fighting from the perspective of the Syrian government and army. Reporters were moved across borders by the armed groups and reported only their version of events. This is like relying on reporters embedded with the US army for an accurate account of what was happening in Iraq. And, again like Iraq, the same propaganda is being repeated about chemical weapons.
Finally, reality has had to take hold. It is not the ‘regime’ or the army which is on the point of collapse but the insurgency. Only direct armed intervention is going to save it and against the successes of the Syrian army and solid Russian support for the Syrian government this is extremely unlikely. Obama is being pushed to ‘do more’ but is showing no inclination to be sucked any deeper into this mess. The others will do nothing without the US taking the lead. Germany is against involvement and Austria has said that supplying arms to the ‘rebels’, which Britain has wanted to do, when the EU embargo ends on May 31 would be a violation of international law.
This week the spotlight has been on Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his trip to Washington to discuss Syria with Barack Obama. Turkey’s role in the unfolding of the Syrian conflict has been central. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya supplied the money and arms but it was Turkey whose territory was opened up to the mobilization of armed men crossing the border to bring down the ‘regime.’ Erdogan has not stepped back an inch from the position he took against Bashar al Assad more than two years ago. The only clear case of a chemical weapons attack has been the chlorine-based compound packed into a warhead and fired at a Syrian army checkpoint at Khan al Assal, killing a number of soldiers and civilians. Erdogan, however, is maintaining that it is the Syrian army that has used chemical weapons and by doing so has crossed Obama’s ‘red line. ’ Asked shortly before he left for Washington whether he would support a no-fly zone he replied: ‘Right from the beginning we would say yes.’
Last week cars packed with more than one ton of C4 and TNT were exploded in the Hatay province border town of Reyhanli. At least 51 people were killed. The destruction was massive. The municipality building and dozens of shops were obliterated. In the aftermath, cars with Syrian number plates were smashed and Syrian refugees attacked by enraged local people. As they milled around the destruction they cursed Erdogan. The atrocity followed a pattern that is familiar to Syrians: one bomb going off and then others exploding after people had gathered around the site of the first one, maximizing the death toll.
Notwithstanding the accusations of the Turkish government that this was the work of a terrorist group collaborating with the Syrian mukhabarat (intelligence), only the armed groups or one of the governments backing them would have a clear reason for setting up this outrage. The Syrian army is rolling up the insurgency, the ‘traitors’ council’ based in Doha has imploded and the Americans and Russians are sitting down to talk. The attack was very clearly designed to pull Turkey directly into the conflict across the border.
The attack on Reyhanli came a week after Israel launched a series of savage air attacks on Syria. This was not a one-off missile strike. Two attacks in three days, lasting for hours and with massive ordinance being dropped around Damascus, suggest that the aim was to provoke a Syrian response, opening the door to a general war in which Iran could be attacked. Israel claimed that the target was a shipment of missiles bound for Hizbullah but while a research station and a military food production plant were hit there was no evidence of any missiles being destroyed. The attacks appear to have been a strategic and political failure. In the aftermath Putin gave Netanyahu a dressing down and punished him either by supplying or threatening to supply Syria with advanced S300 anti-aircraft missiles. It is a measure of Israel’s arrogance that it insisted that it would launch further attacks if necessary and would destroy the Syrian government if it dared to retaliate.
Obama is now under pressure at home to ‘do more’. In Washington the same people who called for war on Iraq are now calling for widening the conflict in Syria. Senator Bob Menendez, a strong supporter of Israel, like virtually all congressmen and women, has introduced a bill calling on the administration to supply the ‘rebels’ with arms (as if it were not already doing that covertly or through support for arms being supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar). Former New York Times editor Bill Keller supported the war on Iraq and also wants the US to arm the ‘rebels’ and ‘defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes’ in Syria. He is not talking about the civilians who have been slaughtered by the armed groups, of course.
The Washington Post has been forced to admit that the Syrian army is winning this conflict but is still nonplussed at the unfavorable turns of events. ‘What if the US doesn’t intervene in Syria?’ it asks, before providing the answers. Syria will fracture along sectarian lines, with Jabhat al Nusra taking over the north and ‘remnants of the regime’ taking strips of the west. Sectarian warfare will spread to Iraq – as if it has not already as a consequence of US intervention – and Lebanon. Chemical weapons would be up for grabs, ‘probably forcing further interventions by Israel in order to prevent their acquisition by Hizbullah or Al Qaida’. If the US does not intervene to prevent all of this Turkey and Saudi Arabia ‘could conclude that the United States is no longer a reliable ally.’
There are other more likely answers to ‘what will happen’. This is that the Syrian army will eventually drive the surviving ‘rebels’ out of the country and Bashar will come out of this more popular than ever because he saw off the greatest challenge to the Syrian state in its history. Elections will be held in 2014 and he will be elected president with 75 per cent of the vote. This at least is what the CIA is predicting.
Erdogan came to Washington also wanting Obama to ‘do more’, but clearly the US president does not want to do much if anything more. The Turkish media reported that Obama said Assad ‘must’ go but this was not what he said. He chose his words carefully. In his press conference with Erdogan he did not say that said Assad ‘must’ go but that he ‘needs’ to go and ‘needs’ to transfer power to a transitional body. The difference is all-important. Personally, Obama will not want to end his presidency stuck in an unwinnable and unpopular war, one, furthermore, that could quickly shift from regional to global crisis. A recent Pew poll shows that the American people have had enough of wars in the Middle East and the talks between Kerry and Lavrov indicate that this time, having allowed the Geneva agreement of July, 2012, to fall flat, the US is serious about reaching a negotiated end to this crisis even if others aren’t. If there is any danger of the US position being derailed, it will mostly likely arise within the ranks of its friends and allies.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
I can claim to have had a small hand in instigating the legal complaint to the International Criminal Court by the Comoros Islands against the murders by Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmara. The Washington Post writes:
In a filing, lawyers from the Istanbul-based law firm Elmadag argued that the events that took place on the Mavi Marmari should be considered as having occurred on the territory of Comoros.
As though this were in any sense a matter of dispute. That crimes committed on any ship outside of territorial waters are under the jurisdiction of the flag state of the ship, is both customary international law of ancient standing and a fundamental provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Ships shall sail under the flag of one State only and, save in exceptional cases expressly provided for in international treaties or in this Convention, shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high seas.
The Comoros Islands are a tiny state off the East coast of the continent. They are part of the disgraceful system where small or failed states lease out their shipping registers – often corruptly – to western companies who run them, enabling major shipping owners to evade safety, conditions, qualifications and pay regulations of more serious states. Liberia has been the most notorious example. The Comoros government therefore deserves huge congratulation for taking its flag state responsibility so seriously, and so bravely, in taking on Israel.
It is a responsibility Turkey deliberately shed just before the Mavi Marmara was attacked.
There is, in this regard, as I reported from my meetings with organisers and bereaved families of the Mavi Marmara in Izmir two years ago, something extremely disturbing about the case of the Mavi Marmara:
Shortly before sailing, the registration was switched from Turkey to the Comoros Islands. This exempted Turkey from the responsibility of jurisdiction. It also made discussion at NATO much easier for the US; if the Israelis had attacked in international waters a ship flying the flag of a NATO state, that would have been a much more difficult thing for the alliance to ignore.
It turns out that the change was made at the insistence of the Turkish Ministry of Transport. They carried out a number of inspections of the Mavi Marmara prior to the Gaza trip and made repeated demands for changes: mattresses and cushions had to have more modern, fire resistant foam. Internal walls had to be upgraded for fire resistance. Whatever changes were then made, the Ministry found new faults. In the end, the Ministry had said that the Mavi Marmara would be impounded unless it changed its registration, as it could not meet the safety requirements for a Turkish flagged ship.
The strange thing is that the Mavi Marmara had been Turkish flagged for years, and had been running tourist cruises out of Istanbul. None of the faults the Ministry found resulted from any changes, yet none had apparently been a problem on past inspections. The family told me that, before the Mavi Marmara sailed, they had been in no doubt the Turkish government had been deliberately obstructive and had forced the change of flag.
Part of the Turkish state was insistent on giving the Mavi Marmara no protection. You have to ask the question, did these people know in advance the Mavi Marmara was to be attacked? The fatal shootings on board were mostly not random - they were targeted shots to the head of selected people. If Israel had planned this, how long in advance, where did they get their intelligence on who was aboard? If they had assistance from within the Turkish state, of course the Turkish state would want to ensure they did not have legal responsibility over the killings.
Let me be plain. I am not accusing the current government of Turkey. But they inherited a bureaucracy and political establishment riddled, especially at the most senior levels, with ultra-nationalists and relatives and connections of the Turkish military. The Turkish Foreign Office in particular is notoriously ultra and completely penetrated and corrupted by Israel. The Turkish government has had a most difficult job in changing the direction of the country without provoking violent nationalist reaction. That has been a process; and the result is that those apparently in power did not in reality get control of all the levers of power at once.
We are a long way yet from knowing the full truth about the Mavi Marmara: and Israel is not the only place to look.
The Middle East is treading water these days. Two years of rhetoric about ousting dictators, revolution, freedom, honor, dignity, and democracy – without result – has people on edge, their disillusionment now demanding an outlet.
There are no outlets though. Sensing the fast-growing disenchantment with undelivered promises, even the “bright new leaders” are tightening the reins and demanding compliance.
These new heads of state simply can’t deliver the goods for one main reason: they are just as caught up in global and regional power contests as were their predecessors. Nothing has changed with these uprisings – nothing.
Except now the stakes are higher than before. A recession-bound West, the fast-rising BRICS and their respective regional allies are locked in a competition to consolidate power and influence in this important region before it finds its bearings.
The relatively new influencers on the Arab scene like Qatar and Turkey have recognized this as a unique opportunity to slip into region-wide leadership roles. For the entrenched old hands – Washington, Riyadh, Paris, London – a race is on to prevent the region from shrugging off their decades-long dominance and embracing the anti-imperialism of the Resistance Axis.
The result has been an onslaught of interventions. Every tool in the arsenal has come out to play. Money, espionage, propaganda, weapons, assassination and that old colonial trick: divide-and-rule.
The main game is still the old battle of the blocs, Iran versus the United States, with everyone else filing in line behind their team. There have been a few surprises thrown into the mix: the newcomers like Turkey and Qatar have moved over to the US side; the BRICS, however, have lent their considerable clout to team Iran. Iraq has moved behind the latter formation and Hamas still doesn’t know where to stand so it straddles the two.
This is not a game for the faint-hearted, and it permeates every major social, economic, and political decision in the region today. Want a new electrical plant outside Cairo, Beirut, or Kirkuk? Good luck choosing a national supplier who doesn’t offend. IMF loan? Allowing over-flights or passage for ships? Inking a trade deal? Formulating a new constitution? Scheduling a football match?
Mideast states are now paralyzed and polarized over such things, and governance has come to a standstill. But in this paralysis lies a dangerous volatility: a backlash in the brewing, a pressure cooker about to blow.
The Backlash Against Neo-Islamists
After decades of oppression and marginalization by pro-West, secular dictatorships, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and similar Islamist parties have catapulted to power and prominence in several states. Quite counter-intuitively, however, these Islamist governments appear to have lined up behind the US bloc, eager to please, or at least placate, the very powers that colluded in their oppression.
It is an unnatural marriage, and the longer this union endures, the more estranged Islamist parties will become from their domestic constituencies – in much the same way as their autocratic predecessors.
There is volatility in this balancing act between the two blocs, as groups like Hamas have come to discover. But for the new Islamist powerhouses in “post-revolution” states, yet another volatile contest is being played out to their detriment, this time on an entirely regional level: Qatar versus Saudi Arabia – or Sunni versus Sunni.
For years the Ikhwanists have been backed by the Qatari arrivistes, who are a thorn in the side of the other, larger Wahhabi state in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, for their own part, are throwing dollars and clout behind Salafists in all the countries where they intend to counter the influence of the Ikhwan and similar parties.
But Qatar and Saudi Arabia are now aggressively exporting their very personal competition to other Arab states – Libya, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Palestine – creating what I believe will evolve into a ferocious backlash among local populations, even as they reap the rewards of direct financial investment from these two Gulf states.
This competition has drawn in others like the UAE, Jordan, and Kuwait, appalled at the Qatari push to Ikhwanize the region. And it has turned the Arab League positively cannibalistic, devouring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states like Libya, Syria, and Palestine that it once pledged to protect.
Qatar finds support from AKP-led Turkey in this fight, but the two are a cause for concern in the United States, which secretly suspects that Ikhwanists are harder to control than Saudi-backed Salafists. Much of this fear is because that lynchpin of all US foreign policy calculations, the state of Israel, borders Ikhwan-heavy Egypt, Gaza, and Jordan – none of which have yet sufficiently proven their loyalty to the idea of Israel’s regional hegemony.
But the biggest victim of the Saudi-Qatari competition to influence the direction of political Sunnism is likely to be political Islam itself.
The rise of political Islam – once an inevitable byproduct of democratization – arrived too hard, too fast; too aggressively championed, organized, and weaponized by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Now, not only have the mentors lost credibility and support, but so have many of their political protégés in Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and Palestine.
Volatility? We haven’t even started.
What yesterday’s global powerbrokers seek from the incoming class of political Islamists is the maintenance of the status quo, including, among other things, embracing Israel and rejecting Iran. But an open pledge of allegiance to Israel is impossible for the Ikhwan and similar parties – their very legitimacy comes in part from denouncing the legitimacy of the Zionist experiment in Palestine.
Nothing tested their limits as dangerously as last November’s eight days of rocket-volley between Gaza and Israel. Each passing day drove home the fact that, despite their standard rhetoric to domestic and regional constituencies, Islamist heads of state in Turkey, Egypt, and Qatar were rendered paralyzed – and mute – as the Israeli army pounded Gaza.
Instead, it was firepower, training and strategic planning by Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria that propped up defiant Palestinians through those dark hours. The unexpected arsenal of rockets that countered Israeli aggression came from Hamas’ Qassam Brigades, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and other smaller resistance groups, who became the heroes of that conflict.
Not one missile, bullet, or slogan came from the three new Qatari, Turkish, and Egyptian “Sunni kings” vying for power on the coattails of the Arab uprisings.
Had the battle gone on for another week or two, the entire Middle East might have been reconfigured in its aftermath. Never have the Israelis so quickly signed a ceasefire agreement.
The global battle of the blocs and the inter-regional Sunni power struggle crossed paths in that Gaza battle. In it, the US bloc and political Islam exposed their vulnerabilities. Both groups are currently upholding – against a tidal wave of popular sentiment – systems, values, and institutions that were supposed to be swept away by honor-and-dignity revolts. Any incident that highlights this fact can serve as a springboard for a backlash against the interests of the West and its Islamist allies in the region.
The Backlash Against Sectarianism
Shia versus Sunni. Christianity versus Islam. Vilifying the “other” is common in conflict, especially when there exists some historic animosity or tension between sects, nationalities, and communities.
But since the onset of the Arab uprisings there has been a concerted effort to escalate the Shia-Sunni divide and link it wholesale to an Iranian-Arab one.
With the loss of its dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, Washington wasted no time in formulating a divide-and-rule strategy to preserve its regional interests. The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) for the Middle East jump-started the task by initiating a secret exercise to divide Arabs and Iranians in March 2011.
Gulf-backed media channels dove headfirst into exaggerating the threat from Iran, while hardline clerics issued increasingly belligerent fatwas against the Shia. Against this backdrop, Shia civilians began to be targeted with violence throughout the region – with very little outcry or objection from the international community, so successfully have they been conflated with a “threatening” Iran and Hezbollah.
But as Christians began to be targeted, assaulted, and killed in Egypt and Syria, the issue of sectarianism exploded beyond the old, more common storylines, and has made avoidance of this subject impossible.
Dragging the sordid issue of sectarianism – which is invariably accompanied by extremism – into the light has had an interesting effect on regional discourse: most Arabs don’t want to be part of it in much the same way they rejected al-Qaeda a decade ago.
A recent Pew Research Center poll of Muslims worldwide reveals, among other things, that 85 percent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa view religious freedom for people of other faiths to be “a good thing.” A majority of Muslims are “somewhat or very concerned” about Islamic religious extremism, while a minority of Muslims view Shia-Sunni tensions to be a problem at all. The poll indicates that religious strife remains a major cause for concern among Muslims in many MENA states, and that perceived hostilities between Muslims and Christians are on the high side in Egypt, but low in Lebanon, another country that has experienced these hostilities.
But even as sectarian tensions flare in various countries, the headlines do not tell the whole story. Many Arabs are rejecting these divisions, some of which is attributable to the shocking new level of violence now associated with sectarianism:
From Egypt to Kuwait, Bahrain to Syria, young Arabs are hearing – many for the first time – about women being raped because of their sect; about the cutting of heads, the hacking of limbs, the burning of bodies. This is not yesterday’s segregation of sects; this is the stuff of horror movies and genocidal sprees.
The backlash here has already begun. As violent sectarianism rises, so too does the realization that there is another discourse on the rise besides Shia versus Sunni or Muslim versus Christian.
Simply put, there is a new paradigm forming in the region that didn’t exist when it was just Iraq suffering the consequences of violent sectarian carnage: Today, throughout the Middle East, “sectarian” Shia, Sunni, Muslims, and Christians are increasingly facing down “anti-sectarian” Shia, Sunni, Muslims, and Christians. The re-framing of this issue is crucial in undermining sectarian strife. It offers millions an alternative communal identity to the one that always forces them to “defend sect first.”
Interestingly, one communal identity they are tending to embrace is a national identity, i.e., “I am Bahraini, not Shia or Sunni.”
In Bahrain, despite efforts to paint a two-year popular uprising as an “Iranian project” pitting the majority Shia population against a minority Sunni government, Bahrainis hoist their national flag at every opportunity to defy the negative sectarian characterizations of their “national” democratization project.
In Lebanon, where sectarianism is boiling in reaction to events in neighboring Syria, each incident has so far been thwarted by inter-sect efforts on a national level, and a growing desire among the population to empower the “national” army.
In Syria, widespread revulsion against what has to be the most violent manifestation of sectarianism in the region has morphed into a new language to define the conflict there: Instead of being pro or anti-government/opposition, many Syrians are now underlining their allegiance to Syria first. Despite the international media’s partiality toward framing the Syrian conflict as a sectarian one, many pro-government and pro-opposition figures tend to reject this characterization outright. This is certainly notable among pro-government Syrians, many of whom have undergone a hasty conversion from political apathy to intense nationalism in a short time, and who reject being defined as “pro-Assad.”
“It is too limiting,” says one staunchly secular Syrian about that definition. “This is about my country and keeping it whole – it is not about a person or a government,” says another, an observant Sunni who backs her national army’s efforts to weed out mostly Islamist rebels.
The irony is that the very “sectarianism” encouraged by competing Islamists and their allies in pursuit of political objectives in the region may have spawned the backlash to hasten their demise. Nationalism has long been the enemy of political Islam in the Middle East, and nationalism can once more bury it.
Throughout the Arab world, minority sects and non-sectarian groups are being thrust together to protect against the more zealous elements of political Islam, giving form to important civil coalitions that will form the backbone of new grassroots opposition movements in these countries – previously a position held almost exclusively by Islamists.
The backlashes are here, now. They will target all the interventionists clinging on to the status quo, and those keeping progress at bay. They may grow incrementally and tentatively – or they may explode onto a national or regional stage one fine day. “More of the same” will only hasten their arrival.
And it’s okay. These “backlashes” will be the revolutions you thought we already had.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.
Bush Era’s Good-Ol’ Familiar Faces Resurface again on Operation Syria
With the approaching Finale for Syria’s Assad the Uber-Neocon architects of US foreign policy have been hard at work. Assuming (albeit knowingly) the certainty of the soon-to-come end for Assad’s government, the neocon architects are drafting and crafting their objectives for the Post-Assad regime in Syria. I know the mainstream and pseudo-alternative media use the term “Neocon” loosely and willy-nilly, but I can assure you this is not the case with my usage of “Uber-Neocons’ here. You will see that clearly after reading the following facts.
Yesterday I found this ‘interesting’ article in the Turkish newspaper Zaman [All Emphasis Mine]:
A group of US foreign policy analysts called on President Barack Obama and his government to work towards drawing a common road map with Turkey that will help ensure the formation of a democratic, impartial government in a post-conflict Syrian.
The US think-tank Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) recently formed its Turkey Task Force, co-chaired by former US Ambassadors to Turkey Mort Abramowitz and Eric Edelman. The task force released on Thursday its first report, which points to a critical need for Turkey and the US to cooperate to ensure the formation of a “stable and decent post-Assad Syria.”
The report also analyzes the differences between Turkish and the US interests in a post-Assad Syria, explaining why it is imperative that the US immediately engage with Turkey in establishing joint principles and plans after a possible ouster of the Assad regime.
Do you notice how many times the term “Post-Assad” is used? Also, pay attention to the analysts named in the article and note that we are looking at architects rather than analysts.
Immediately after reading the above article I went to Bipartisan Public Center’s website, and found that the Zaman article had missed the highly-important third name of the architects aka analysts who have already moved to phase 2, Post-Assad regime building, obviously due to their confidence of the soon-to-come fall of the current regime [All Emphasis Mine]:
Ridding Syria of President Bashar al-Assad has been the goal of the United States for almost two years. Should this objective be achieved, however, an enormous challenge will still remain: stabilizing and rebuilding Syria in a way that advances U.S. strategic goals and values. However, this will require the cooperation of Turkey—a U.S. ally with keen interests in Syria. Ankara’s interests, however, do not perfectly match Washington’s, posing the challenge for policymakers of finding the right tools to align more closely the two countries’ visions of Syria’s future.
Join BPC as it announces the creation of its Turkey Task Force, co-chaired by former Ambassadors to Turkey Morton Abramowitz and Eric Edelman, and releases a paper on the opportunities and obstacles to U.S.-Turkish cooperation towards a post-Assad Syria.
And then, at the bottom, BPC lists the task force principals which includes a third name:
Panel discussion and report release featuring
Co-chair, BPC Turkey Task Force
Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Ambassador Eric S. Edelman
Co-chair, BPC Turkey Task Force
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Senior Professional Staff Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
That’s right. We get an additional name: Alan Makovsky.
Now, let us quickly check out the importance of these three personalities and what they have in common:
Those of you who have been following the Uber-Neocon circle and its Uber-Players should immediately recognize Morton Abramowitz. [All Emphasis Mine]:
Morton Abramowitz, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, establishes a number of blue-ribbon commissions, headed by a select group of foreign policy elite, to create a new post-Cold War foreign policy framework for the US. Some of the group’s members are Madeleine Albright, Henry Cisneros, John Deutch, Richard Holbrooke, Alice Rivlin, David Gergen, Admiral William Crowe, Leon Fuerth, as well as Richard Perle and James Schlesinger, the two token conservatives who quickly resign. The commission will issue a number of policy papers recommending the increased use of military force to intervene in the domestic conflicts of other countries.
After six years as the Carnegie Endowment’s president, Morton Abramowitz moves on to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Morton Abramowitz writes a column in the Wall Street Journal calling for a drastic change in US policy toward Kosovo. Abramowitz is highly influential with the US foreign policy elite (see 1991-1997). He argues that the US should support full independence for Kosovo and outlines options the US should consider including bombing Serbia, removing Milosevic, arming and training the KLA, and turning Kosovo into a NATO protectorate through the use of ground forces.
I guess you all would agree with me on Abramowitz’ status as one of the crusty Uber-Neocon architects of our dirty foreign policies and even dirtier foreign operations.
Edelman has close ties to Vice President Cheney and several other administration hardliners. He served under Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, in the first Bush administration. At that time, Cheney set up a “shop” to “think about American foreign policy after the Cold War, at the grand strategic level.” The project also included Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby. [New Yorker, 4/1/02]
From 2001-2003, Edelman served as a national security adviser to Cheney. In 2003, he was named as U.S. ambassador to Turkey, attempting to convince Turkey to cooperate with the Bush administration’s plans to invade Iraq. Turkish columnist Ibrahim Karagul noted, “Edelman is probably the least-liked and trusted American ambassador in Turkish history.”
A good thing this was written by staunch Democrats pre the Obama Administration. Considering Edelman’s current roles under the Obama administration we won’t be hearing much from that same group- the beauty of partisanship in the dumb-ification of Americans. Okay, let’s read more from commentaries and articles written by partisans way-back-when it was okay to expose and criticize Neocons:
But now I discover it was Eric Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. That makes a whole lot more sense–and really dictates the proper response. You see, Edelman is kind of a poor man’s Dougie Feith. A total shill–and Cheney asset–though apparently with less flair for propaganda. He’s the bright guy who first suggested leaking Plame’s identity to rebut Joe Wilson. And, as it turns out, he realized after he suggested to Libby that the information in question may have been classified.
After a June 2003 article about Iraq and the uranium issues that caused concern to Edelman and Libby, Edelman asked Libby whether information about how the Wilson trip came about could be shared with the press to rebut allegations that the Vice president sent Wilson. Edelman testified that Libby responded by indicating that there would be “complications” at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly. Ambassador Edelman indicated that he understood that he and Libby could not further discuss the matter because they were speaking on an open telephone line and Edelman understood that this might involve classified information.
I guess the above facts on Eric Edelman suffice in establishing him as one of the second-generation Uber-Neocons. Are you with me, so far? Good.
Now, let’s move to the down-played third name: Alan Makovsky. Since WINEP (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) shows up as one of the common denominators among the long-term Uber-Neocons, we’ll start with Makovsky’s role there:
The Turkish Research Program is one of the centers of the institute. The program was founded in 1995. Under the leadership of founding director Alan Makovsky and interim director Helena Kane Finn, the center introduced the Washington policymaking community to Turkey’s leading political, diplomatic, military, and academic figures.
More general background information on Alan Makovsky:
Alan O. Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is a specialist on Middle Eastern and Turkish affairs. He joined The Washington Institute in May 1994 after eleven years in the U.S. Department of State, where he had served in a variety of capacities, most notably as Special Advisor to Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross in 1993 and in 1992 as State Department liaison officer and political advisor to Operation Provide Comfort.
And here are a few words on his long-term role in the Turkish-Israeli lobby from an article in NYT:
Probably the most important development in Turkish foreign policy in the last year has been the rapid improvement of its ties with Israel, and this newly strengthened relationship was a topic of much discussion among Turks and Americans at the conference. Alan Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Middle East Politics called the speed with which Turkey and Israel have drawn together ”truly breathtaking” and described it as ”probably the most dramatic strategic development in the Middle East since the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty ended the prospect of a multi-front Arab assault on Israel.”
Makovsky as an ever-present figure in the infamous Turkish-Israeli Lobby ATC:
Speaking at the ATC meetings, Makovsky argued that the most serious problem between Turkey and the United States may stem from the Greek Cypriots’ possible membership in the EU. Indicating that Greece would tell the EU that if the Greek Cypriots are not admitted into the club, Athens would veto enlargement, Makovsky said Washington would have to make a choice: either support the Greek Cypriots’ membership at the expense of Turkey’s anger or oppose the membership. He stressed that the United Sates should not support the Greek Cypriots’ EU membership bid. He also said that he thought the new administration would endorse the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project.
I have to reluctantly include an excerpt from a site and an author I truly dislike. The only reason I am including this is to show you the gang Alan Makovsky is an integral part of, so forgive me for the source:
The new Israeli-Turkish partnership is a great fit internationally as well. Foiled by human rights groups in Europe, and the Greek and Armenian lobbies in the United States, Turkey needs a reliable source of high-technology military equipment. The Israelis, always the odd man out in their region, are now not so much alone. As for the Turks, always relative strangers in Washington, they now have a well-connected ally, of whom they expect a great deal… And Ankara relies not just on Israelis; to make its case, it also counts on American Jews such as Morton Abramowitz, Douglas Feith, Alan Makovsky, Richard Perle, and Harold Rhode, and on institutions such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
Now, let me point out another major commonality between Eric Edelman and Alan Makovsky. Last week I wrote an article on the CIA’s Graham Fuller and his role in US BlackOps in Central Asia & the Caucasus, his intimate connections to the Boston Terror Attack, and very importantly, his presence in my State Secrets Privilege Gallery since 2008. It is time to revisit my SSP Gallery again: Click Here
Alan Makovsky and Eric Edelman have both been present together with Graham Fuller in that gallery since 2008.
When we check further we’ll see that Graham Fuller and Morton Abramowitz have also been intimately connected, including their partnership in books and policy paper projects.
There are not many political and intelligence related subjects where I publically engage in and declare ‘absolutism.’ However, there is one point in these areas that has achieved an ‘absolute’ status for me, and that is: There are no coincidences when it comes to the CIA and our foreign policy black deeds. Whether it is CIA’s Graham Fuller’s intimate connections to the Boston Terror Attack, or, Syria-Russia, or the same-old Uber-Neocon architects’ foot-prints and work in the background, a declaration of ‘simple coincidences’ is nothing short of denial.
I have been writing, analyzing and talking about the connections between the Boston Terror, CIA, Graham Fuller, Syria, Russia, and Caucasus-Central Asia. You can read my previous analyses at Boiling Frogs Post, and I encourage you to listen to my recent interview, and watch this video. The operatives and Uber-Neocon architects are now busy preparing the second phase for Syria.
Istanbul – At a press conference attended by nearly a hundred Turkish and foreign reporters, Murat Karayilan, acting leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), announced his group’s plan for reconciliation with the Turkish government.
Karayilan said the PKK fighters inside Turkey, who number about 2,000, would begin withdrawing on May 9. Karayilan then called on the government of PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fulfill its part in finding a political solution to the Kurdish question.
Karayilan warned his group would pull out from the peace deal if PKK fighters were harassed or attacked by the Turkish army and police during their withdrawal, which is expected to take place gradually over two months.
Two main conditions for reconciliation with Turkey, Karayilan said, were the release of all the group’s prisoners, including PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and constitutional amendments to officially recognize the Kurdish identity.
Sources quoted PKK leaders as saying that the group, in agreement with the Turkish authorities, established special committees to coordinate the withdrawal agreement with the Turkish side. The Turkish government, for its part, has instructed its military and police not to engage any PKK militants and to cease all military operations in the country’s southeast and along the border with northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, there were reports in the press that large numbers of Kurdish youths have been making their way to PKK camps in northern Iraq’s Kandil mountains to train for the next phase of political work inside Turkey.
These developments were enough to stir up Turkish public opinion as the government came under sharp attacks from the opposition parties, particularly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
MHP leaders accused Erdogan and his government of betraying Turkey. They claimed that the Turkish PM was conspiring with Washington against what they termed the unity of the nation, the Turkish state, and the secular system.
They also claimed that the PKK was seeking self-rule in southeast Turkey, a first step toward establishing an autonomous entity on par with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
In the meantime, the opposition leaders argued, the Kurds in Syria will never accept a return to its pre-crisis conditions, regardless of the conflict’s outcome. If the Syrian regime falls, then the new government will have to accept a Washington-imposed federal system.
This helps explain the election of Ghassan Hitto, an ethnic Kurd, as head of the Syrian interim government, and before him, Abdul-Basset Sida as head of the opposition Syrian National Council.
If the regime survives, it would have to strike a deal with the Kurds, who would demand self-rule in northeast Syria. Syrian Kurds represent 40 percent of the northeast’s population, whereas in northern Iraq, they represent around 95 percent.
In southeast Turkey, the demographics are not much different than Syria, with Kurds accounting for about 60 percent of the population.
These demographic calculations have prompted capitals that have a stake in the Kurdish question to speak of a scenario that Öcalan proposed years ago, before he was kidnapped by US intelligence in Nairobi and handed over to Ankara in February 1998.
Öcalan’s idea centered on a democratic confederation among four autonomous Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, given that an independent Kurdish state was unlikely to see the light for many seasons, as Öcalan said at the time. Proceeding from this vision, the PKK has been active among the Kurdish populations of Syria and Iran.
The White House, along with the European Union, has officially blessed Turkish reconciliation with the PKK. To many observers, this is reminiscent of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which designated Western spheres of influence in the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
These observers purport that the West, after settling scores in Syria, will be seeking to redraw the regional map.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, saying he lacks neutrality.
The statement said Damascus would stop cooperating with Brahimi unless he severs his ties with the Arab League. “Brahimi’s report (on April 19) to the United Nations Security Council was marked by (a tone of) interference in Syria’s internal affairs and a lack of the neutrality required by his mission as international mediator,” the statement said.
Brahimi said at a closed-door session of the Security Council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have the right to run for president in the upcoming election scheduled for next year.
“Syria has cooperated and will cooperate with Brahimi only as UN envoy, because the Arab League is complicit in the conspiracy against Syria,” the statement read.
“If Brahimi wants his mission to succeed, we expect him to start working to stop the violence and terrorism along with the parties concerned, and to expose the roles played by France, Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which finance and arm Al-Nusra Front’s terrorists,” it added.
A recent report says the visit by Israeli National Security Council Head Yaakov Amidror to Turkey is aimed at securing an airbase in Iran’s neighbor to pave the way for a military attack against the Islamic Republic.
In an article, the Sunday Times said that during his visit on Sunday, Amidror is expected to solicit Turkey’s agreement with regard to the deployment of Israeli fighter jets in Akinci airbase, northwest of Ankara, in exchange for advanced military equipments and technology, the Times of Israel reported.
“Until the recent crisis, Turkey was our biggest aircraft carrier. Using the Turkish airbases could make the difference between success and failure once a showdown with Iran gets underway,” Sunday Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying.
Ankara agreed to restore relations with Tel Aviv on March 22 after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a 2010 Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound international flotilla.
Israel also agreed to pay compensation to the families of those who were killed by Israeli commandos. The apology was brokered by US President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Israel.
The Israeli source added that the regime’s military has been “lobbying hard for the politicians to find a form of apology, in order to restore the Israeli-Turkish alliance against Syria and Iran.”
The trip comes as the Israeli military chief recently repeated its war threats against Iran, saying the regime can invade Iran on its own.
“We have our plans and forecasts… If the time comes we’ll decide” on whether to take military action against Iran, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said on April 16.
Netanyahu has also recently said that the US-engineered sanctions against Iran over its nuclear energy program might not be enough.
The US, Israel and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with the Israeli regime repeatedly threatening to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities based on the unsubstantiated allegation.
Iran argues that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has every right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Iran has further promised a crushing response to any act of aggression against it.
Unlike Iran, Israel, which is widely believed to possess between 200 to 400 nuclear warheads, is a non-signatory to the NPT and continues to defy international calls to join the treaty.
As part of their escalatory steps against Turkish interests in Lebanon, families of the Lebanese abductees in Syria protested Thursday near the Turkish airlines in Beirut.
The abductees’ kin cut the road near the Turkish airlines in downtown Beirut, and assured they will take further steps to close Turkish centers and stop the work of Turkish airlines.
Spokesman of the abductees’ families, Adham Zgheib, stated that “we have exhausted all peaceful efforts, and each day we will take more actions,” and indicated that “we will reach our voice with our blood. This has become close, and the country brought us to this point.”
Zgheib further said that “Parliament members are required to give priority to the abductees’ case,” adding: “We will vote with our shoes in the coming elections to these PMs who have not recognized us.”
Addressing PM Nabih Berri, Zgheib said “we have met with you before and proposed our case, and you should take action,” considering that “the Lebanese state is pushing us to kidnap Turkish citizens, and as we said before, this is not what we want.”
Turkey has deported at least 600 Syrians staying at a refugee camp near the border after clashes with Turkish military police in a protest over living conditions, a Turkish official said on Thursday.
“These people were involved in yesterday’s violence, they were seen by the security cameras in the camp,” an official in the camp told Reuters by telephone. “Between 600 and 700 have been deported. The security forces are still looking at the footage, and if they see more they will deport them.”
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency says a riot has broken out at a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan after some of the refugees were told they could not return home.
Ali Bibi, a UNHCR liaison officer in Jordan, says it’s unclear how many refugees were involved in Thursday’s melee at the Zaatari camp. The riot broke out after some Syrians in the camp tried to board buses to go back to their country.
He says Jordanian authorities refused to let the buses head to the border because of ongoing clashes between the rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces in southern Syria, just across the border from Jordan.
Bibi says there were no immediate reports of injuries.
He says Jordanian authorities promised to organize the refugees’ return home at another time.
Over 70,000 people have been killed during Syria’s two year old uprising.
(Reuters, AP, Al-Akhbar)
Partitioning Syria at the Doha Summit (Excerpt)
The US-European-Gulf axis has succeeded in dragging the world into a new round of violence and anarchy, all in the name of taking Syria away from Bashar al-Assad.
Those behind this phase no longer care about their public face; they have revealed the true state of the Syrian opposition groups they sponsor. They have brought them totally under their control. So Moaz al-Khatib can protest and resign, Free Syrian Army fighters and officers can object, and opposition figures can complain as much as they like in the press or on TV. What matters is that in conjunction with this decision, the following must be done:
– Sponsorship of opposition forces from Turkey to be escalated. This seeks to impose new military and intelligence chiefs on the armed groups, providing them with new kinds of weapons, and bringing them more firmly under the control of the foreign capitals concerned. A central military objective has been defined: to fully occupy Aleppo as a prelude to proclaiming the new Syrian state in the north.
– The world presented with a fait accompli in the form of an “interim government.” This reflects the total submission of the Islamist opposition, be it Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi, to Gulf leadership, and the collusion of military commanders on the ground. The idea is for this body to be able to request foreign assistance in various forms.
– The Syrian government’s allies, whether in Iraq, Iran or Lebanon, are to be threatened by means of additional funding for civil conflicts that are liable to preoccupy them.
The conspiracy against Syria being hatched at the Doha summit is a massive gamble, as well as a historic crime. The Gulf sheikhs, in conjunction with Western and Arab capital, are launching a step-by-step process of partitioning Syria. – Full article
What will a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation mean for Syria? As Israel concedes wrongdoing on the Mavi Marmara, does this signal further alignment on Syria aims? Throw PKK head Abdullah Öcalan’s recent announcement to halt armed activities against Turkey in the mix and the ramifications for Syria are tremendous.
Last week was full of dramatic events, which will continue to impact the situation in Syria and the region. Two days following the election of Ghassan Hitto, a Kurd with a US passport, to head the “interim Syrian government,” the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan announced the cessation of armed activities against Turkey. His move is further indication of the strategic and tactical link between the events.
It seems that PKK fighters, whom Öcalan asked to leave Turkey under formal guarantees from Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be heading to Syria to support the Kurdish militias.
Erdogan was quick to reconcile and ally himself with Öcalan to achieve more of his regional aims. These actions prompted confusion on behalf of Turkish nationalists who could not find a logical reason for the reconciliation between Erdogan and Öcalan.
Erdogan and his foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu wanted to leave behind all these complex calculations by strengthening their alliance with the US. This meant a reconciliation with Tel Aviv, according to the conditions set during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest visit to Ankara.
This could be the reason behind last week’s backtracking by Erdogan on his former statements on Zionism, announcing that he had not meant what he said and that he is neither against Judaism nor Zionism, but opposed to the policies of Israel concerning the rights of Palestinians.
This new position was enough for US President Barack Obama to convince Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to call Erdogan and apologize for the Israeli army’s actions against the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010. But Netanyahu only gave verbal promises about lifting the siege on Gaza, which was the third fundamental condition set by Turkey for reconciliation with Israel.
However, these indicators are not the only reason for Israel’s apology to Turkey. Ankara does not hide its dire need for the support of the Jewish Lobby in the US, which had threatened to sabotage Erdogan’s visit to Washington at the end of this month unless he reconciles with Tel Aviv.
It is expected that the reconciliation will be reinforced with a surprise visit to Ankara by Netanyahu very soon and before Erdogan’s visit to the US.
It has now become clear that, in the next few days, the Syrian regime will be facing more political and military pressures on the Arab, regional, and international levels, as a result of the Turkish-Israeli-US alliance and its Qatari and Saudi extensions. Erdogan will attempt to include Syrian Kurds in the mix, based on his deal with Öcalan, whose terms of agreement are still unknown.
Turkish media, meanwhile, are discussing some dramatic scenarios, including an agreement between Ankara and Washington to redraw the map of the region, like the British-French 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. This will give the Kurds a regionally independent entity through a federation of Kurdish regions in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. It might even be under the protection of the Islamic Ottoman Erdogan, as mentioned by Öcalan in his statements commemorating Nowruz, when he spoke about the Ottoman Islamic brotherhood.
Residents and medics transport a Syrian soldier, wounded in Aleppo chemical attack, to hospital on March 19, 2013.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi has described militants’ use of chemical weapons as the “first act” by the so-called opposition interim government.
The Syrian minister also said that Turkey and Qatar, which support militants fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, bore “legal, moral and political responsibility” for the chemical attack in the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday.
At least 25 people were killed and 86 others were injured after militants fired rocks containing “poisonous gases” into Aleppo’s Khan al-Assal village. Women and children are reported to be among the victims.
According to a Reuters photographer in Aleppo, victims of attack were suffering breathing problems.
“I saw mostly women and children. They (witnesses) said that people were suffocating in the streets and the air smelt strongly of chlorine,” he said adding that “people were dying in the streets and in their houses.”
Foreign-backed militants, who had threatened to use chemical weapons against the army government forces and Assad supporters a few months ago, have denied using chemical weapons and have accused government forces of being behind the attack.
The attack comes hours after Syria’s opposition National Coalition elected Ghassan Hitto, a former US-based IT executive, as prime minister for what it called an interim government.