corbettreport – July 27, 2016
TRANSCRIPT AND SOURCES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=19364
Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15th, the name of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen is on everyone’s lips. So who is Fethullah Gulen? Well, that depends who you ask…
The developments in Turkey are taking a dramatic turn. All Indications are that the Turkish government is in possession of definite information that the attempted military coup was orchestrated by the United States. (Anadolu )
The Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag made an open allegation in a television interview,
- The US knows that Fethullah Gülen (the cleric who lives in Pennsylvania) carried out this coup. Mr. Obama knows this just as well as he knows his own name. I am convinced that American intelligence knows it too.
Bozdag is known to be one of the closest and trusted political associates of President Recep Erdogan. The well-informed Turkish political commentator Semih Idiz wrote that “This belief (Bozdag’s allegation) goes all the way to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It implies that Washington knew what was coming and did nothing to warn Ankara. The pro-government Islamist media has even claimed that the U.S. tried to kill Erdoğan with this coup attempt.”
The government has taken into confidence Turkey’s two main opposition parties – the Kemalist party CHP (Republican Party) and the nationalist party MHP (Nationalist Movement Party). The ruling AKP (Justice & Development Party) and the CHP and MHP have set aside their political differences and have voiced support for Ankara’s demand to Washington for the extradition of the Islamist cleric Fetullah Gulen. No doubt, this grand reconciliation could have implications in the downstream for the fractured Turkish political landscape. (VOA)
The MHP leader Davlut Bahceli has spoken publicly about a possible deep-rooted US conspiracy to trigger civil war conditions in Turkey. Bahceli also hinted that the coup plot was likely masterminded from the Incirlik air base used by the US forces, under the supervision of the US commander in Afghanistan. Two Turkish generals serving in Afghanistan have been detained by the Turkish intelligence at Dubai airport.
Bahceli has tabled a motion in the parliament seeking clarification on “rumours” that the CIA was behind the coup plot. A falshpoint arises if the government makes the details available. The Turkish media reported that Ankara has warned the authorities in Pakistan regarding the elite schools run by Gulen’s organization in that country. (See the Deutsche Welle report Secular Pakistanis resist Turkey’s ‘authoritarian demands.)
The Obama administration is unlikely to extradite Gulen, given his key role in US intelligence operations in the Central Asian region, while Turkey has made this the litmus test of US’ goodwill and sincerity as ally. Significantly, the New York Times featured an article over the weekend authored by Gulen where he urged Washington not to extradite him. Gulen wrote,
- His (Erdogan’s) goal: To ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdogan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it.
Washington probably anticipates that a showdown with Ankara may become unavoidable in a very near future over the Gulen issue. The US State Department has advised dependents and families of US diplomatic personnel posted in Turkey to leave the country. Another travel advisory on Monday counselled US nationals to “reconsider travel to Turkey at this time”. (here)
It becomes extremely significant that amidst all this, President Erdogan will be traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, to meet President Vladimir Putin on August 9. This will be Erdogan’s first trip abroad after the coup and he is signalling that restoring friendly ties with Russia is his topmost priority. Of course, Erdogan will be keenly interested in close cooperation between the intelligence agencies of Turkey and Russia. The prominent Turkish columnist Murat Yetkin wrote today,
- The question lingers in the air about whether Russia, whose intelligence services have been accused by the Democratic Party in the U.S. of intercepting their electronic communications, would provide any material to Erdoğan linking Gülen to the coup plotters. It certainly seems there is a lot of exchange of information going on nowadays, as was revealed by Çavuşoğlu, who said that Turkey has warned a number of countries, including the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, about a possible coup plot by Gülenists who infiltrated the state apparatus there through their school network. Moscow has already closed Gülen’s school network in Russia, accusing it of cooperating with the CIA.
The meeting between Putin and Erdogan promises to be a defining moment in Russia’s relations with the West in the post-cold war era. If a major NATO country such as Turkey crosses the ‘red line’ by forging ties with Russia at the present juncture that will be in strategic defiance of the US’ containment strategy against Russia. It can turn out to be a far bigger setback to the US regional strategies than the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, because it weakens the entire western alliance system.
Europe, in particular, will be holding its breath over the fate of its moribund ‘one in, one out’ deal with Turkey over the refugee flow. Erdogan said on German TV on Tuesday that Europe is not a ‘sincere’ interlocutor. The issue is hugely controversial in Europe, given the lengthening shadows of terrorism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces growing public demand to quit. (BBC, AFP )
For 17 months, since the Minsk Agreements were signed in February 2015 to try to bring peace to the eastern Ukraine the Kiev regime, and its neo-Nazi and NATO allies, have been preparing for a new offensive against the east Ukraine republics. On July 22nd the Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stated in a letter to the UN Security Council that “a relapse of large-scale military operations in eastern Ukraine may bury the process of peace settlement there.” He then called on Kiev’s allies to pressure Kiev to back off its war preparations which include the continuous shelling of civilian areas by Ukraine heavy and medium artillery and constant probing attacks by Ukraine and foreign units over the past spring and summer months.
The commander of the Donetsk Republic forces stated in a communiqué on July 22 that the region along the contact line between the two sides was shelled 3,566 times in one week alone ending on the date of the communiqué and confirmed the information set out in Churkin’s letter and reports of the Organisation For Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that the Kiev regime had transferred more heavy artillery, mortars, tanks, multiple rocket launchers to the front.
The shelling has destroyed civilian housing, a water treatment plant and other infrastructure with the clear objective of forcing out the residents and to prepare the ground for a large scale offensive. Ambassador Churkin added that not only were regular Kiev forces massing in the east but they had also deployed the new-Nazi Azov and Donbas “volunteer” battalions, and that Kiev has begun a wide ranging seizure of land in the neutral zone and the towns located there.
Of course the blame for all these criminal actions by NATO and its marionettes in Kiev is placed on Russia as we have seen set out in both the Atlantic Council Report earlier this year and in the NATO Warsaw Communiqué on July 9th in which NATO put the ultimatum to Russia, “do what we say or you will see what we will do”. The day before Ambassador Churkin sent his letter to the Security Council, the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, in a speech at the Centre of Strategic and International Studies stated that the “sanctions”, that is, the economic war being carried out against Russia by the NATO countries, would only stop if Russia did what it was told.
The Germans have also made noises about being prepared to halt this economic warfare against Russia, about how much they regret it and how they desire only peace and harmony, but, again, only if Russia adheres to their demands.
The attacks on the Donbas republic civilian areas are of course war crimes and crimes against humanity to which the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court responds with her practiced silence despite the fact she has accepted two letters from the Kiev regime providing the ICC with jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes committed there. But, of course, neither Kiev, nor their NATO bosses that control the prosecutor of the ICC have any intention of laying war crimes charges against themselves.
The Russian fear of a renewed offensive against the Donbas republics is a real one since the Warsaw Communiqué issued by NATO on July 9th stated emphatically that NATO does not recognise the republics, that Ukraine needs to be reunited by force if necessary, and that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine. The increased military activity in eastern Ukraine is taking place at the same time that there is increased activity in the Baltic centred on the Russian base at Kaliningrad, a strategic objective for NATO in order to control the Baltic sea lanes and air space and the approaches to St. Petersburg. Crimea is an objective because of the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, the seizure of which was one of the primary objectives of the NATO coup that overthrew the government of President Yanukovich. It is the main objective in the on going NATO “Sea Breeze” naval exercise in the Black Sea.
The situation has become increasingly dangerous as the war against Russia is conducted without limits, that is, across all sectors of life from the military and economic to sports. The International Olympic Committee has now banned the core of the Russian Olympic track and field team from competing at the Games, plus any others who have faced doping allegations in the past, an act of collective punishment that is totally unjustified since it is based on the dubious statements of a wanted man in Russia, Grigory Rodchenkov, who is singing for his supper in the United States, and will sing any song they want him to. The whole scandal is motivated not by problems with doping, but by an attempt to further isolate Russia from the world and slander its leadership and people. The result is that the Olympic Games will be a farce both as a sports event and as a symbol of peace in the world and should be cancelled or boycotted.
On top of all this, compelling evidence is daily coming out that the attempted coup against the government of Turkey was instigated by the Americans and its partners in other NATO countries in order to stop President Erdogan from a rapprochement with Russia. The timing alone of the coup indicates that; for it took place just a few days after Erdogan apologised to President Putin regarding the shoot down of the Russian plane, and just after rumours circulated that he would kick the US out of their base at Incirlik and give it to Russia.
The Turkish government has accused the US of being involved at least indirectly by supporting Turkish Islamist émigré elements led by the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, an arch enemy of President Erdogan, who resides in the US and appears, to Erdogan, to be linked to the coup. Stories have also appeared in the Turkish press of the arrest of the two pilots that shot down the Russian plane over Syria, who happen to be, according to the accusations, the same two pilots that attempted to shoot down Erdogan’s plane the night of the coup. It is stated, though not confirmed, in the Turkish press that these two men worked for the CIA.
On Monday July 25th, it was reported in the Turkish press that American General John Campbell, former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan was central to the planning of the coup and that it was financed with CIA money through meetings at the US base at Incirlik. If these accusations are correct then the attempted coup constitutes act of aggression by the United States and its allies against Turkey, an attack by NATO on a NATO member.
The British on the same day floated a story in the Daily Express that their special forces, the SAS, are ready to go into to Turkey to “rescue UK citizens” in the event of a second coup attempt and predicted civil war in Turkey of there is a second coup attempt. They stated,
“With fears rebels could be about to try to overthrow the government for a second time, which is likely to result in a Turkish civil war, troops have moved into neighbouring Cyprus and are preparing a rescue mission to save stranded Britons.
Defence chiefs have drawn up emergency plans and fully armed soldiers, together with members of the Special Forces Support Group, are ready to fly into areas popular with tourists and help families get home safely.
Hundreds of jets, helicopters and other aircraft will be drafted in to help the estimated 50,000 Brits flee the danger.”
This means that Britain as well as the US are prepared to help a second coup attempt against Erdogan and further confirms their involvement in the first coup attempt, as does the reported refusal of the Germans to allow Erdogan’s plane to enter German air space to seek refuge when it appeared he had been overthrown. That decision turned out to be a mistake as he quickly recovered his wits, returned to Turkey and broke the coup.
However this turns out, the principal target remains Russia. Erdogan’s rapprochement with Russia and falling out with NATO weakens NATO in its war against Russia and provides Russia with another card to play, even if it may be the Joker.
Meanwhile in the United States the war against Russia has become a dangerous internal political issue as the Clinton camp accuses Donald Trump of being a Russian agent and his campaign financed by Russian money, essentially accusing Trump of treason. Trump laughs all this off but the fact that these absurdities can even get the attention of the news media shows how desperate things are. New York Times columnist Andrew Rosenthal wrote a column on the 25th of July with the title “Is Donald Trump Putin’s Puppet” then proceeded to state that he was Putin’s pet poodle at the least.
But things get even more curious as the FBI states it is investigating whether emails “leaked” by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks organisation, were provided to him by Russia after Russia hacked into the email system of the Democratic National Convention. The Russians deny this absurd charge but so far I have not seen Julian Assange deny that they are his source and we must wonder what his true motivations are if the effect of his “leak” is to have Russia accused of hacking into US government and political party email systems thereby supporting the NATO propaganda against Russia.
It also begs the question as to why Assange would get involved in American party politics at all by publishing emails that would supposedly damage the Clinton campaign for the benefit of the Trump campaign. Is he working for Trump? Is he working for Clinton trying to make it look like Trump works for Russia, or, as is more likely, is he working for those who want to bring down both Trump and Russia? Andrew Rosenthal for the Times, quipped, “it’s eerie, at best, that Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks chose this moment to release the stolen emails…”
But it is not so “eerie” if the exercise is meant to smear Russia and a candidate for President who is willing to at least talk with the Russians. Perhaps his supporters can ask him and report back what his answer is because his actions raise serious questions as to his motivations, his intentions, and his connections. Someone is playing us. It’s about time we found out who.
Ankara has pledged to help the Gaza Strip to tackle its decade-long electricity crisis as part of a deal to normalize ties with Israel that were severed six years ago, but Palestinians told Sputnik that they doubt that Turkish authorities will deliver on the promise.
Mustapha Al-Agha who lives in Gaza said that locals have lost their hope in Turkey after Ankara decided not to pressure Israel to lift the blockade which has been in place since 2007. Turkey’s “help is limited to humanitarian aid,” he said. “All promises given to the Gaza Strip have turned out to be a ‘downer pill’ meant to receive support for the agreement between Turkey and Israel.”
Itaf Mukhanna, a mother of seven, maintained that lifting the blockade was a priority, urging Arab nations to do something about it.
“Situation here is unbearable. Youth unemployment has worsened. Electricity, water and gas have become an everyday dream that each local is trying to fulfil,” she said.
On June 28, Turkey and Israel announced that they would restore diplomatic ties. Ankara has agreed to provide humanitarian aid to and build a power plant in Gaza as part of this deal. Two weeks later a Turkish delegation visited the region to discuss ways to resolve the crisis with Israeli and Hamas officials.
The delegation is expected to prepare a report that will be directed to Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak, the cabinet and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government will then work on a roadmap to implement measures outlined in the report.
Last week Turkey delivered 11,000 tons of humanitarian aid meant for Gaza. The cargo was offloaded in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
The Gaza Strip’s electricity crisis is acute. The region has a single power plant that has operated at less than 50 percent capacity since 2006 when Israel bombed the facility.
Gaza needs at least 450 megawatts per day, but it receives no more than 185 megawatts in the summer and 200 megawatts during the winter, Tare Lubbad, communications director at a Gazan electric company, told Sputnik.
“The energy crisis in the Gaza Strip has become worse since one of [four] generators at the power plant has not been working due to the lack of fuel,” he said.
The plant needs at least 500 tons of fuel per day to operate at its current full capacity, but the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has imposed a tax on fuel purchased in Israel.
The failed coup in Turkey last week was a political and geopolitical earthquake as it has the potential to fundamentally alter the Middle East, NATO, and potentially the balance of power globally. But while the implications of the recent developments are clear, what actually took place on the night/morning of July 15 – July 16 is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. But why is that? Why are the connections for the most part not being made by Western pundits and journalists alike?
Here again we run into the controlled corporate media apparatus, one which is dominated by the very same interests that dominate the governments of the US and EU, and its incredible power to misinform. As the great Michael Parenti famously wrote, “[The media’s] job is not to inform but disinform, not to advance democratic discourse but to dilute and mute it. Their task is to give every appearance of being conscientiously concerned about events of the day, saying so much while meaning so little, offering so many calories with so few nutrients.”
Nowhere is Parenti’s contention more true than with the coup in Turkey. For while the media has certainly reported the allegations from President Erdogan and his government of the hidden hand of US-based billionaire Fetullah Gulen, almost none of the major media outlets have done the necessary investigation to uncover the real significance of Gulen and his movement. Specifically, and almost as if by magic, there is virtually no mention of Gulen’s longstanding ties to the CIA, his penetration of the various institutions of the Turkish state, nor is there any serious investigation into the financial networks and connections leading from Gulen to nearly every corner of the Islamic (and non-Islamic) world.
And while Gulen, along with many neocons in the US, have been propagating the narrative that President Erdogan and his forces themselves staged the coup in order to justify the ongoing crackdown on political rivals, secularists, and other anti-Erdogan forces, the media by and large has not connected the events in Turkey to their larger geopolitical significance, one which should shed some light on what may have happened. And, in a further dereliction of duty, the media has also mostly ignored the absolutely critical likelihood of the involvement of US-NATO intelligence.
History as a Guide
From Iran in 1953 to Chile in 1973 and countless other countries, the CIA and its intelligence agency cousins in NATO have been involved in myriad coups similar to the one that took place in Turkey last week. However, one would be remiss in not noting the striking similarities between the 2016 coup in Turkey and the one that took place on September 12, 1980.
Throughout the mid to late 1970s Turkey saw a major upsurge of terrorism and violence, much of which was attributed to fascist formations such as the Grey Wolves, along with other groups. However, what is now known is that much of the violence took the form of provocations which many experts allege were orchestrated by CIA-affiliated individuals and networks.
Perhaps the most significant of these was Paul Henze, a man who spent decades as an intelligence coordinator in Ethiopia, Turkey, and elsewhere throughout the Cold War. As Daniele Ganser noted in his book NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe, “A right wing extremist on trial later plausibly argued that the massacres and terrors of the 1970s had been a strategy to bring [coup leader General] Evren and the military right to power: ‘The massacres were a provocation by the [Turkish intelligence agency] MIT. With the provocations by the MIT and the CIA the ground was prepared for the September 12 coup.’” (p. 239)
But of course, these actions did not take place in a vacuum; there were intelligence operators in place who facilitated the events that took place. As renowned author and media critic Edward Herman and co-author Frank Brodhead wrote in their 1986 book The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection :
“Paul Henze began his long CIA career under Defense Department cover as a “foreign affairs adviser” in 1950. Two years later, he began a six-year hitch as a policy adviser to Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Munich, West Germany. By 1969, Henze was CIA chief of station in Ethiopia, and he served as station chief in Turkey from 1974 through 1977. When Zbigniew Brzezinski assembled his National Security Council team for President Jimmy Carter, Henze was hired as the CIA’s representative to the NSC office in the White House.”
Considering the intimate connection between Henze and Brzezinski, it is not hard to see that Henze was essentially involved in the same global operation as Brzezinski, namely the weaponization of terrorism for strategic gain against the Soviet Union. And while Brzezinski famously masterminded the creation of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Henze already had achieved similar results in Turkey, organizing right wing forces for the purposes of destabilization. In his book, Gansler cites counter-terrorism scholar and expert on GLADIO operations Selhattin Celik, who wrote in 1999 that:
“[When US President Jimmy Carter] heard about [the 1980 coup in Turkey] he called Paul Henze, former Chief of the CIA station in Turkey who had left Ankara shortly before the coup to become a security adviser to President Carter in Washington on the Turkey desk of the CIA… Carter told Henze what the latter already knew: ‘Your people have just made a coup!’ The President was right. Paul Henze, the day after the coup, had triumphantly declared to his CIA colleagues in Washington: ‘Our boys have done it!”
Celik bluntly referred to Henze as “the chief architect of the September 12, 1980 coup.” It’s not hard to see why. From having been on the ground in the early to mid-1970s, to then becoming a coordinator in Washington while being the point person on Turkey for the National Security Council under Brzezinski, Henze was clearly instrumental. As Gansler notes, according to Celik, “Brzezinski supported the position of Henze. During a discussion in the National Security Council of the situation in Iran where in 1979 Khomeiny [sic] had seized power Brzezinski expressed his view that ‘for Turkey as for Brazil a military government would be the best solution.’”
While none of this should come as a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with how US intelligence operated in the Cold War, perhaps the depth of the connections between US intelligence, its NATO cousins, and the Turkish military and deep state represent something of an epiphany. As Turkish politician and social activist Ertugrul Kurkcu wrote in Covert Action Quarterly in 1997:
The close ties between the Turkish, US military, and intelligence circles, along with US concerns over Turkey’s military cooperation, have been major obstacles in Turkey’s path to broader democracy. [Turkish politician and journalist Fikri] Saglar charges that US interest in Turkish affairs is not confined to official NATO relations and trade ties. He points to the notorious message by the CIA’s then-Turkey Station Chief Paul Henze in Ankara to his colleagues in Washington the day after the 1980 coup “Our boys have done it!” Henze crowed. Saglar concludes that foreign intelligence organizations including the CIA, have coopted collaborators from among the extreme-right and exploited them for their particular interests.
In effect, what the 1980 coup demonstrates more than anything is that the Turkish military, as well as the far right fascist terror gangs such as the Grey Wolves, are in various ways assets of the US, and under the thumb of US intelligence. To be sure, one could quibble about the degree to which they are entirely assets, proxies, or simply longtime collaborators, but this distinction is of minor importance. What matters is that the historical record clearly indicates collusion between the Turkish military and deep state and the CIA.
But this is all ancient history, right? Surely these networks and connections have eroded over time, and what happened in 1980 is of only secondary significance to the internal politics of Turkey and the ongoing struggles for power. Well, yes… but on second thought, maybe not.
Who’s Who on the Turkish Chessboard?
In trying to provide analysis of what just took place in Turkey, one must have some understanding of the political factions vying for power in Turkey. They can roughly be broken down into three camps, though there is often overlap between the groups.
The first faction is that of President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan and the AKP come from the “moderate Islamist” milieu of the Muslim Brotherhood, having spent years fighting against the militantly secular Turkish military and state order. As Dr. Essam al-Erian, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, explained in 2007, “the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic group that has a close relationship with all moderate Islamists, the most prominent of which is the Justice and Development Party.”
This point is of critical importance because it connects Erdogan and his political machine to a much broader international network active throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It further provides an explanation as to Erdogan’s seeming fanaticism over the war in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad whose father crushed the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in 1982, as well as his unwavering support for former Egyptian President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader deposed by current President Sisi.
The second faction is that of the Kemalists, with its power generally residing in the military and elements of the deep state. They see themselves as the custodians of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. The Kemalists are deeply connected to major capitalist interests in the country, and have a long history of collaboration with the US and NATO. As noted above, the Turkish military has long-standing ties to the CIA and NATO intelligence, and has long been understood as one of the most reliable US-NATO partners.
The third political faction of note is that of Turkish billionaire Fetullah Gulen whose global network of schools has made him into one of the single most powerful individuals in the region, though he runs his network from the comfort of his Pennsylvania estate. Not only has the Gulen network made significant inroads penetrating nearly every state institution in Turkey, it is also hugely influential in the US, both in terms of long-standing ties to US intelligence, and perhaps equally important, its massive lobbying and influence-peddling apparatus. Indeed, in 2010 six major Turkish-American federations with ties to the Gulen movement joined together to create the Assembly of Turkic American Federations (ATAF), a non-profit organization that has become one of the more prominent lobbying groups in Washington dealing with Turkish and Turkic peoples issues.
It is essential to remember that although it is known that last week’s coup was carried out by elements of the military, it is unclear exactly which faction they were representing, or if it was a combination of two. But here it is useful to examine the recent history of the Gulen network (known as Hizmet) and its penetration of state institutions in order to assess what potential role it may have played in the coup.
Connecting the Dots: Fetullah Gulen and CIA Fingerprints on Turkey Coup?
While it is easy to point the finger at the CIA and US-NATO intelligence for anything that happens anywhere in the world – the Empire’s reach is truly global – one must be cautious not to simply assert US culpability without properly drawing out the tangible connections. And in this case, that is doubly true. However, it is here that Gulen’s significance really comes into play, for it is his far-reaching network of contacts, surrogates, and proxies that have penetrated nearly every significant state institution.
Long before last week’s failed coup, analysts had been making the connection between Gulen, infiltration of the Turkish state, and the CIA. As political analyst Osman Softic wrote in 2014:
“Given that the Hizmet sympathizers skilfully [sic] infiltrated some of the most sensitive structures of the state such as the police, intelligence, judiciary and public prosecution, it is quite plausible that this movement may have served as a convenient mechanism for destabilization and even overthrow of the Erdoğan government, by much more powerful and sinister international actors… Gülen himself may have become a convenient pawn in their attempt to destabilize Turkey.”
The allegation that Gulen agents have penetrated all throughout the Turkish state is nothing new. In fact, such assertions have dogged Gulen and the Hizmet movement for at least the last two decades. But it is the connection to US intelligence and the elite circles of US foreign policy that truly completes the picture.
Enter Graham Fuller, former Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, whose links to Gulen’s movement run deep. Fuller has gone so far as to defend Gulen on Huffington Post in recent days in an article entitled The Gulen Movement Is Not a Cult — It’s One of the Most Encouraging Faces of Islam Today in which he admits – he had no choice as it is well documented – that he wrote a letter in support of Gulen’s green card application to the US in 2006. Although his rhetoric attempts to distort the nature of, and reason behind, his support for Gulen, Fuller does imply that Hizmet represents a social movement aligned with, and amenable to, US interests, one which could be used as a potent weapon in a critical NATO ally.
Fuller fails to note that he doesn’t simply have a passing connection with the Gulen movement, but that he has attended numerous Gulenist functions including large events, such as those organized by the Turquoise Council for Americans and Eurasians, a reputed Gulenist umbrella organization run by Kemal Oksuz (a.k.a. Kevin Oksuz), a prominent member of the Gulen network.
In addition to Fuller, infamous former CIA operative and US Ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz, also wrote a letter backing Gulen as he sought sanctuary in the US. Interestingly, Abramowitz was also the co-author, along with fellow neocons Eric Edelman and Blaise Misztal, of a fiery January 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post that all but demanded that the US topple Erdogan’s government. Yes, chin-scratchingly interesting.
So, let’s see if we got it all down. Gulen leads a multi-billion dollar business empire and charter/private school network with global reach. He is directly connected to two of the most notorious CIA operatives in the recent history of US-Turkish relations. He has a political lobbying network whose tentacles stretch from Washington to Central Asia. Oh, and by the way, according to former Turkish intelligence chief Osman Nuri Gundes, Gulen’s network of schools in the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan provided the cover for at least 130 CIA agents in the mid to late 90s.
Now let’s add to that equation the fact that the RAND corporation, one of the most influential think tanks within US policy circles, suggested in a detailed 2004 report entitled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies that US policy should:
“Support the modernists first, enhancing their vision of Islam over that of the traditionalists by providing them with a broad platform to articulate and disseminate their views. They, not the traditionalists, should be cultivated and publicly presented as the face of contemporary Islam… Support the secularists on a case-by-case basis.”
It would seem that, more than a decade ago, and at a time when Gulen and Erdogan were still friendly, their organizations still allied, that US policy was to push Gulen and the moderate Islamist elements that he and Erdogan represented. It seems quite likely that the falling out between Erdogan and Gulen had less to do with personal issues and egos (though that undoubtedly played a part) than it did with policy and loyalty.
The Geopolitics and Strategy of the Failed Coup
Despite his commendable service to US imperialism in Syria, including hosting both terrorist and Syrian expatriate proxies of the US, Erdogan has clearly upset the apple cart with Washington. Perhaps his most egregious crime came just recently when he issued an apology for the November 2015 downing of a Russian jet. But, of course, it wasn’t the apology itself that set off official Washington, it was the reorientation of Turkish foreign policy away from the US, NATO, and Europe, and towards Russia, China, and the emerging non-western power bloc. This was his grave sin. And it wasn’t the first time, though undoubtedly Washington wanted to make sure it would be his last.
One must recall that Erdogan has a nasty habit of making deals with US adversaries, including the signing of the massive Turk Stream pipeline deal, the decision to purchase missile systems from China (which Erdogan later reneged on), the signing of a lucrative nuclear energy deal with Russia, and many others. In short, for Washington, Erdogan proved to be an unreliable ally at best, and a dangerous political manipulator at worst. So, as with so many leaders who came to be seen that way by the US political elites, he had to go. And Gulen’s network would come in handy.
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the events of the failed coup was the use of the NATO base at Incirlik. As the Los Angeles Times noted:
“Turkish officials said the organizers of the uprising were given crucial aid from officers at Incirlik Air Base, a facility that hosts most of the 2,500 U.S. military personnel stationed in Turkey and is a key base for the U.S.-led coalition’s ongoing air campaign to defeat the Islamic State militant group in neighboring Iraq and Syria… official media reported the arrest of the top Turkish military official at Incirlik, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van. Van was among 10 soldiers arrested at the base, part of an operation Turkish officials say provided air-to-air refueling for F-16 fighter jets… [which] were a crucial part of the coup attempt, used to intimidate government supporters in the streets.”
The implications of this information should not be understated. While it is entirely possible that the story was concocted by Erdogan’s people in order to carry out a purge of top military officials perhaps seen as disloyal to Erdogan or much too loyal to secular Kemalists, it is also plausible that the Turkish government’s narrative is correct.
Were that to be the case, then the obvious implication would be that Incirlik was a base of operations for the coup, the locus of Turkish military power behind the coup, and US intelligence and military behind them. Considering the centrality of Incirlik to NATO operations in the Middle East, it is not unreasonable to assume that aside from just military personnel, Incirlik is a node in the global CIA network. In fact, considering that the base is home to both US drones conducting operations in the Syria-Iraq theater, as well as a hub of the US “extraordinary rendition” program, it almost goes without saying that Incirlik houses significant CIA assets.
Seen from this perspective then, Incirlik was obviously pivotal to the failed coup plot, and has since become essential to Erdogan’s purging of his rivals from the ranks of the military. Moreover, it was long a bone of contention between Ankara and Washington, with Erdogan’s government wanting to assert more control over the base than Washington was prepared to allow. In many ways, Incirlik became the nexus of a tectonic shift in Turkish politics, and in the geopolitics of the region.
Ultimately, the failed 2016 coup in Turkey will have lasting ramifications that will impact the years and decades ahead. With Turkey now clearly breaking with the US-NATO-EU axis, it is rather predictable that it will seek to not only mend fences with both Russia and China, but to place itself into the non-western camp typified by BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China’s One Belt One Road strategy, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, etc.
The failure of the coup is clearly a failure for the US and its allies who see in Erdogan an adversary, not a partner. For his part, Erdogan has much criminal behavior to answer for. From his illegal fomenting of war in Syria, to the purges and arbitrary detentions ongoing in Turkey today, to the attacks on secular institutions and human rights, Erdogan has a rap sheet a mile long. But of course sharing a bed with criminal regimes has never been a problem for Washington.
No, the problem has been, and will continue to be, that Erdogan doesn’t play by the rules; rules set forth by the US. And with this US-backed coup, he will only get stronger. Surely, many sleepless nights lay ahead for the strategic planners in Washington.
The influential Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat, which belongs to Prince Faisal bin Salman (son of King Salman), Governor of Madinah, tore into Turkish President Recep Erdogan with a series of vicious attacks that brings to the fore the cracks in the politics of the Muslim Middle East following the failed coup in Turkey last Friday. On successive days, three Op-Eds have appeared, authored by two of the most authoritative establishment talkers in the Saudi media – Abdulrahman Al-Rashed (currently general manager of Al-Arabiya television and formerly editor-in-chief of the daily) and Eyad Abu Shakra (incumbent managing editor of the daily).
The first Op-Ed entitled Will Turkey Boycott the West? by Al-Rashed appeared on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey. Its message to Erdogan was two-fold: a) Do not annoy the West (read US); and, b) There will be dire consequences if Erdogan pressed for the extradition of the Islamist cleric Fetullah Gulen from the US.
Evidently, Erdogan ignored Al-Rashed’s advice and doomsday predictions and went ahead to allege a likely US role in the coup attempt and warn that Washington will be making a “big mistake” if Gulen is not extradited. On Thursday, Shakra and Al-Rashed in separate articles followed up with a scathing attack on Erdogan personally and his politics.
Shakra in his article titled About Erdogan and Turkey’s Coup Attempt condemned Erdogan for the crackdown on ‘Gulenists’ and all but cited Gulen as a torch bearer of political Islam as much as Erdogan claims himself to be. The article hinted that Gulen casts an appeal within the ruling party AKP. Shakra pointedly brought in former president and AKP’s co-founder Abdullah Gul and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu). He virtually advised a patch-up between Erdogan and Gulen.
Al-Rashed in a second article alleged that Erdogan is grandstanding on the ‘Arab Street’ and his fate cannot be any different from that of Abdel Gamal Nasser and Sadam Hussein. Worse still, he drew comparison with Imam Khomeini. His article They All Walked This Path also seems to suggest Saudi displeasure that Erdogan draws support from parts of the Arab world. Qatar — whose Emir is close to Erdogan?
What is it that is frightening the Saudi royal family? Prima facie, the disclosures by the famous Saudi whistleblower Mutjahid (who many suspect to be a dissenter within the House of Saud) to the effect that Gulen has strong links with Saudi Arabia and that the powerful deputy crown prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman was in the know of the Turkish coup seems to have some basis. There is indeed a tone of panic in the Saudi media attack on Erdogan.
According to Mutjahid, Mohammed bin Salman apparently suspects that the Turkish intelligence knows about the Saudi-UAE role in the attempted coup against Erdogan. (Curiously, according to reports, Turkish military attaché in Kuwait tried to flee to an unnamed western country from the Saudi airport of Dammam before being detained for involvement in the coup attempt.) The Saudi talkers have probably gone on the offensive as the best form of defence, fearing a retaliation by Erdogan.
More importantly, Saudis must be feeling frightened about the manner in which the coup attempt in Turkey was countered by Erdogan, who invoked ‘people’s power’. Shades of ‘Arab Spring’! This is the spectre that always haunted the Saudis – masses pouring out into the streets in their tens of thousands as the final arbiters of political power in a Muslim country. Worse still, this political tactic also leaps out of the manifesto of the Muslim Brotherhood, which poses an existential threat to the Saudi regime.
The point is, from the Saudi viewpoint, the most dangerous thing about Erdogan is not his ‘neo-Ottomanism’ but his close links with the Brothers for whose sake he even sacrificed Turkey’s state-to-state relations with the Egyptian regime of President Abdel Fattah- el-Sisi (who came to power through a Saudi-backed military coup).
Finally, the Saudis are big losers – next only to Israel – in the rapprochement between Turkey and Iran that is getting under way in regional politics. Erdogan told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone conversation on Tuesday that he is ready to work with Iran and Russia to restore regional peace. The Iranian official news agency quoted Erdogan as saying,
- Today, we are determined more than ever before to contribute to the solution of regional problems hand in hand with Iran and Russia and in cooperation with them.
Of course, such a realignment in the Muslim Middle East would profoundly impact the balance of forces in regional politics, virtually isolating Saudi Arabia.
What emerges on the sixth day of the failed coup attempt in Turkey is that three inflection points could be in play in the Turkish-American relations in the coming days and weeks. They are:
- The functioning of the Incirlik Air Base on the Syrian border;
- Extradition of Islamist cleric Fetullah Gulen from the US; and,
- The massive purge of ‘Gulenists’ that is under way in Turkey.
Each of them is going to be trickier to negotiate than the other two and, yet, all three are also inter-related.
The power supply for Incirlik has been suspended since Friday and a back-up generator is barely enabling the US facilities there to support flight operations and around 2700 stationed in that NATO base. It’s an untenable situation. The US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter telephoned his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik on Tuesday evening to stress the importance of operations at the Incirlik to the counter-ISIS campaign.
But on his part, Isik regretted his inability to attend the counter-ISIS defence ministerial that Carter was hosting in Washington on Wednesday. Turkey was represented only at ambassadorial level at Wednesday’s conference which was attended by the defence ministers of some 30 countries, NATO, and top Pentagon officials to discuss “the next plays in the campaign that will culminate in the collapse of ISIL’s control over Mosul and Raqqa”. (Pentagon)
The detention of the commander at Incirlik Gen. Bekir Ercan Van and his subordinates underscores the sensitivities involved here. Gen. Van resisted arrest and had apparently sought political asylum in the US before being led away by the Turkish security.
Interestingly, in an interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday, President Recep Erdogan said some of those who have been detained have started confessing and that there might have been foreign involvement. Erdogan warned that it would be a “big mistake” if the US decided not to extradite Gulen.
The official Turkish position will be that there is no linkage between continued access of US forces to Incirlik and Gulen’s extradition, but, clearly, that is not the state of play here. The Turks know that Incirlik provides the most efficient base for conducting the US operations in Syria.
However, Washington is not likely to extradite Gulen to Turkey, while Erdogan has staked his prestige on that issue. It seems as of now no wriggle room really exists here – unless some face-saving formula can be found such as the US revoking Gulen’s ‘green card’ and/or persuading him to leave for a third country.
The point is, Gulen has been a ‘strategic asset’ of the US intelligence for two or three decades and if Turkish security agencies interrogate him, that may cause even more damage to the Turkish-American relationship and even, perhaps, complicate the US’ relations with third countries where Gulen’s extensive network might have functioned or are still functioning as the CIA’s front organizations. (Sputnik )
Meanwhile, what role, if any, that Israel might have played in the coup attempt also remains a mystery. Israel is keeping pin-drop silence, but would certainly know that Gen. Akin Ozturk, former chief of air force, who has confessed his leadership role in the attempted coup, used to be the Turkish military attaché in Tel Aviv at one time. (Algemeiner )
By the way, these are the exact words Erdogan used in the interview on Wednesday with Al Jazeera:
- Other states could be behind this coup attempt. Gulenists have a ‘supreme intelligence,’ which could have plotted all this. The time will come for all these links to be revealed.
Erdogan explicitly hinted at the involvement of more than one country in the coup attempt.
Israel is mighty upset with Erdogan over his close ties with Hamas. Equally, Israel favors the creation of a Kurdistan state that could provide a base for its intelligence in a highly strategic region neighboring Iran. There is congruence on this issue between Israel and the US. The Turks have long suspected the US intentions in Iraq and Syria. (Read a fascinating interview with a retired Turkish admiral titled Goal Reached? Military Coup Attempt Disempowers Turkish Armed Forces.)
The plot really thickens if the opinion piece in the Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday is read keeping in view the recent establishment of a Saudi consulate in Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (The daily, incidentally, is owned by Prince Faisal, son of King Salman.) The article all but warns Erdogan that he may be overthrown if he pushes for Gulen’s extradition from the US, and that he risks the West’s wrath if he proceeds with the crackdown on ‘Gulenists’. (Asharq al-Sharq )
Now, on whose side are the Saudis playing in this great game? For a quick answer, read a stunning statement by a top Israeli national security expert, here, recently.
Make no mistake, the US and its European allies are certain to pile pressure on Erdogan to fall in line. The standoff can become a showdown as time passes — and even take an ugly turn. The stakes are very very high for the western alliance system and the US’ regional strategies. This is where Erdogan’s crackdown on ‘Gulenists’ will be grabbed by the West as an alibi to isolate him.
Simply put, the US cannot let go of Turkey. Sans Turkey, NATO gets badly weakened in the entire southern tier – Balkans, Black Sea, Caucasus, Caspian, Southern Russia and Central Asia, Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean – and the US’ containment strategy against Russia will be doomed.
Beyond that, from the limited perspective of the Syrian conflict also, whatever chance the US and its allies (Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc) still would have to put in motion a viable ‘Plan B’ to counter the Russian-Iranian axis would critically depend on Turkey remaining a partner and willing to pursue an interventionist role.
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | July 21, 2016
Events in Turkey just become stranger with each passing day.
We now have Middle Eastern and Persian sources, cited by Russian and German papers, that Russia’s security agencies overheard helicopter radio transmissions by the coup participants, and President Putin warned Erdogan about what was happening, likely saving his skin.
If true, this would help explain the apparent ineptness of the coup forces. My first hypothesis explaining this ineptness plus other peculiarities of the coup was that the plotters were unwittingly working in a dark operation run by Turkish security forces, intended to make them fail while flushing them out and giving Erdogan a free hand.
This possibility of Russian advance warning put together with Erdogan’s own belief that the coup originated in America should yield some serious geopolitical shifts in the region.
We could have an even stronger rapprochement between Turkey and Russia than was already underway, a rapprochement, by the way, which could well have helped tip the United States into giving a wink and a nod (and of course, as always, some cash) to Turkish rebel forces.
But that would not be the only reason for America’s supporting a coup. The truth is, from the American point of view, Erdogan’s erratic behavior – shooting down a Russian war plane, firing artillery into Syria at American Kurdish allies, blackmailing Europe over large numbers of refugees resident in Turkish camps, and still other matters – over the last few years has added uncertainty and potential instability to a strategically important region.
Even if the United States were not involved in the coup, although right now Turkey’s government appears to believe firmly that it was, Putin’s warning would add a powerful positive element to Russian-Turkish relations.
Just as America’s failure to warn Erdogan adds a new negative element to Turkish-American relations. After all, no one is better equipped for international communication interception than the NSA. If the United States were not involved, why didn’t it warn Erdogan? Either way, the outcome is negative for Turkish-American relations.
One of the strongest suggestions for American involvement is the fact that Turkish jets, for bombing and fuel supplies, took off from the İncirlik Airbase during the coup. This airbase is Turkish, but has many Americans resident, including some high-level ones since there is not only a sizable air force stationed there but an estimated fifty thermonuclear bombs. The Turkish commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, was in daily contact with the Americans and sought asylum in the United States before he was arrested by Turkey.
If it is true that Putin warned Erdogan, this would also be the second time Putin has blunted the success of a major American-inspired coup, as he very much did in Ukraine.
Seems as though poor old America, for all its grossly swollen and over-paid security services, just cannot run a good coup anymore.
Putin is disliked by Washington’s establishment precisely because he successfully blunted a huge and costly operation in Ukraine, so disliked that NATO has been pushed dangerously into something resembling the terrifying preparations for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in Eastern Europe, 1941.
And, of course, Putin also has thwarted the American effort to overthrow President Assad with paid and supplied proxy forces of mercenaries and religious maniacs. Interestingly, Erdogan has been a key player there. French intelligence has just estimated that even now about a hundred thugs cross the border from Turkey into Syria each week.
If Putin has now also stopped a Turkish adventure, the hissing in Washington will likely become much louder.
A new relationship between Turkey and Russia offers a lot of possibilities, none of them favorable from America’s point of view, the restart of the Turkish Stream natural gas project being just one.
And if Europe speaks up or acts too strongly against Erdogan’s counter-coup measures, there’s always the possibility of a new release of refugees from Turkish camps, something which could genuinely destabilize the EU after so many other recent woes. And smooth control of the EU has been one of America’s chief policy objectives for years.
Of course, we should remember that Churchill’s famous quote originally applied to Russia in the days of Stalin. It does not apply to contemporary Russia, and Putin’s deft moves have made some of America’s clumsy efforts at re-ordering the world rather make it resemble Stalin in international affairs.
Prensa Latina transmits below the full text of the exclusive interview with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad:
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, thanks for giving Prensa Latina this historic opportunity of conveying your point of views to the rest of the world about the reality in Syria, because as you know, there is a lot of misinformation out there about your country, about the foreign aggression that is taking place against this beautiful country.
Mr. President, how would you evaluate the current military situation of the external aggression against Syria, and what are the main challenges of Syrian forces on the ground to fight anti-government groups? If it is possible, we would like to know your opinion about the battles or combats in Aleppo, in Homs.
President Assad: Of course, there was a lot of support to the terrorists from around the world. We have more than one hundred nationalities participating in the aggression against Syria with the support of certain countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar with their money and Turkey with the logistical support, and of course with the endorsement and supervision of the Western countries, mainly the United States, France, and the UK, and some other allies.
But since the Russians decided to intervene in supporting legally the Syrian Army in fighting the terrorists in Syria, mainly al-Nusra and ISIS and some other affiliated groups, the scales have been tipped against those terrorists, and the Syrian Army has made many advancements in different areas in Syria.
And we are still moving forward, and the Syrian Army is determined to destroy and to defeat those terrorists. You mentioned Homs and Aleppo.
Of course, the situation in Homs, since the terrorists left Homs more than a year ago, the situation has been much, much better, more stable.
You have some suburbs of the city which were infiltrated by terrorists. Now there is a process of reconciliation in those areas in which either the terrorists give up their armaments and go back to their normal life with amnesty from the government, or they can leave Homs to any other place within Syria, like what happened more than a year ago in the center of the city.
For Aleppo it is a different situation, because the Turks and their allies like the Saudis and Qataris lost most of their cards on the battlefields in Syria, so the last card for them, especially for Erdogan, is Aleppo.
That is why he worked hard with the Saudis to send as much as they can of the terrorists – the estimation is more than five thousand terrorists – to Aleppo.
PRENSA LATINA: Through the Turkish borders?
President Assad: Yes, from Turkey to Aleppo, during the last two months, in order to recapture the city of Aleppo, and that didn’t work.
Actually, our army has been making advancement in Aleppo and the suburbs of Aleppo in order to encircle the terrorists, then, let’s say, either to negotiate their going back to their normal life as part of reconciliation, or for the terrorists to leave the city of Aleppo, or to be defeated. There’s no other solution.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, which are the priorities of the Syrian Army in the confrontation with the terrorist groups? What is the role that the popular defence groups are playing in the theatre of operations?
President Assad: The priority of the Syrian Army, first of all, is to fight ISIS, al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Cham and Jaish al-Islam. These four organizations are directly linked to Al Qaeda through the ideology; they have the same ideology, they are Islamic extremist groups who want to kill anyone who doesn’t look or doesn’t feel or behave like them.
But regarding what you called the popular militia groups, actually, at the beginning of the war, the terrorists started an unconventional war against our army, and our army is a traditional army, like any other in the world, so the support of those popular defence groups was very important in order to defeat the terrorists in an unconventional way.
That was very helpful to the Syrian Army, because those fighters, those national fighters, they fight in their regions, in their cities, in their villages, so they know the area very well, they know the region very well, I mean the pathways, the terrain, let’s say, very well.
So, they can be very huge assets for the Syrian Army. That is their role.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, how does the resistance of the Syrian people take place in the economic front to foreign aggression, I mean the economy, and please, what is your opinion on which sectors of the Syrian economy have remained functioning despite the war, economic blockade, looting, and so forth?
President Assad: Actually, the war on Syria is a full-blown war; it is not only supporting terrorists. They support the terrorists, and at the same time they launched a political war against Syria on the international level, and the third front was the economic front, in which they dictate to their terrorists, to their surrogate mercenaries, to start destroying the infrastructure in Syria that helped the economy and the daily needs of the Syrian citizens.
At the same time, they started an embargo directly on the borders of Syria through the terrorists and abroad through the banking systems around the world. In spite of that, the Syrian people were determined to live as much normal life as they can.
That prompted many Syrian businessmen or the owners of, let’s say, the industry, which is mainly medium and small industry, to move from the conflict areas and unstable areas toward more stable areas, on a smaller scale of business, in order to survive and to keep the economy running and to keep the needs of the Syrian people available.
So, in that regard, most of the sectors are still working. For example, the pharmaceutical sector is still working in more than 60 percent of its capacity, which is very important, helpful, and very supportive to our economy in such circumstances.
And I think now we are doing our best in order to re-expand the base of the economy in spite of the situation, especially after the Syrian Army made many advancements in different areas.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, let’s talk a little bit about the international environment, please, give me your opinion about the role of the United Nations in the Syrian conflict, the attempts of Washington and its allies to impose their will on the Security Council and in the Geneva peace talks.
President Assad: Talking about the role of the United Nations or Security Council could be illusive, because actually the United Nations is now an American arm, where they can use it the way they want, they can impose their double standards on it instead of the Charter.
They can use it like any other institution within the American administration. Without some Russian and Chinese stances in certain issues, it would be a full American institution.
So, the Russian and Chinese role has made some balance within these institutions, mainly regarding the Syrian issue during the last five years. But if you want to talk about their role through their mediators or their envoys, like recently de Mistura, and before that Kofi Annan, and in between Brahimi, and so on. Let’s say that those mediators are not independent; they reflect either the pressure from the Western countries, or sometimes the dialogue between the main powers, mainly Russia and the United States.
So, they’re not independent, so you cannot talk about the role of the United Nations; it is a reflection of that balance. That is why so far, there is no United Nations role in the Syrian conflict; there is only Russian and American dialogue, and we know that the Russians are working hard and seriously and genuinely in order to defeat the terrorists, while the Americans always play games in order to use the terrorists, not to defeat them.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, how do you see at the present time the coexistence among Syrian ethnic and religious groups against this foreign intervention? How do they contribute or not in this regard?
President Assad: The most important thing about this harmony between the different spectrums of the Syrian fabric, is that it is genuine, because that has been built up through the history, through centuries, so for such a conflict, it cannot destroy that social fabric.
That is why if you go around and visit different areas under the control of the government, you will see all the colors of the Syrian society living with each other.
And I would say, I would add to this, that during the conflict, this harmony has become much better and stronger, and this is not rhetoric; actually, this is reality, for different reasons, because this conflict is a lesson.
This diversity that you have, it is either to be a richness to your country, or a problem. There’s no something in the middle. So, the people learned that we need to work more on this harmony, because the first rhetoric used by the terrorists and by their allies in the region and in the West regarding the Syrian conflict at the very beginning was sectarian rhetoric.
They wanted people to divide in order to have conflict with each other, to stoke the fire within Syria, and it didn’t work. And the Syrians learned that lesson, that we had harmony; we had had harmony before the conflict, in the normal times, but we have to work more in order to make it much stronger.
So, I can say without any exaggeration that the situation regarding this part is good. In spite of that, I would say the areas under the control of the terrorists – and as you know those terrorists are mainly extremist groups affiliated to Al Qaeda – in which they worked very hard in order to indoctrinate the young generation with their dark ideology, and they succeeded in some areas, this dark ideology with the killing and beheading and all these horrible practices.
With the time, it is going to be more difficult to deal with this new generation of young people who have been indoctrinated with Al Qaeda and Wahabi doctrine and ideology. So this is the only danger that we are going to face regarding our society, harmony, and coexistence that you just mentioned.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, I would like to go again to the international arena. What is in your opinion the role of the U.S.-led international coalition in relation to the groups that operate in northern Syria, in particular regarding the Kurds group. I mean the bombing of the American airplanes and the coalition in the northern part of the country. What to do you think about that?
President Assad: You know, traditionally, the American administrations, when they had relations with any group or community in any country, it is not for the sake of the country, it is not for the interest of the people; it is for the agenda of the United States.
So, that is what we have to ask ourselves: why would the Americans support any group in Syria? Not for Syria. They must their agenda, and the American agenda has always been divisive in any country. They don’t work to unite the people; they work to make division between the different kinds of people.
Sometimes they choose a sectarian group, sometimes they choose an ethnical group in order to support them against other ethnicities or to push them in a way that takes them far from the rest of the society.
This is their agenda. So, it is very clear that this American support is not related to ISIS, it is not related to al-Nusra, it is not related to fighting terrorism, because since the beginning of the American intervention, ISIS was expanding, not shrinking. It has only started to shrink when the Russian support to the Syrian Army took place last September.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, what is your opinion about the recent coup d’état in Turkey, and its impact on the current situation in that country, and on the international level, and on the Syrian conflict also?
President Assad: Such a coup d’état, we have to look at it as a reflection of instability and disturbances within Turkey, mainly on the social level. It could be political, it could be whatever, but at the end, the society is the main issue when you have instability.
Regardless of who is going to govern Turkey, who is going to be the president, who is going to be the leader of Turkey; this is an internal issue. We don’t interfere, we don’t make the mistake to say that Erdogan should go or should stay. This is a Turkish issue, and the Turkish people have to decide.
But what is more important than the coup d’état itself, we have to look at the procedures and the steps that are being taken by Erdogan and his coterie recently during the last few days, when they started attacking the judges; they removed more than 2,700 judges from their positions, more than 1,500 professors in the universities, more than 15,000 employees in the education sector. What do the universities and the judges and that civil society have to do with the coup d’état?
So, that reflects the bad intentions of Erdogan and his misconduct and his real intentions toward what happened, because the investigation hasn’t been finalized yet. How did they take the decision to remove all those?
So, he used the coup d’état in order to implement his own extremist agenda, Muslim Brotherhood agenda, within Turkey, and that is dangerous for Turkey and for the neighboring countries, including Syria.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, how do you evaluate the Syrian government’s relations with the opposition inside Syria? What is the difference between these opposition organizations and those based outside Syria?
President Assad: We have good relations with the opposition within Syria based on the national principles. Of course, they have their own political agenda and they have their own beliefs, and we have our own agenda and our beliefs, and the way we can make the dialogue either directly or through the ballot boxes; it could be a different way of dialogue, which is the situation in every country.
But we cannot compare them with the other oppositions outside Syria, because the word “opposition” means to resort to peaceful means, not to support terrorists, and not to be formed outside your country, and to have grassroots, to have real grassroots made of Syrian people.
You cannot have your grassroots be the foreign ministry in the UK, Franceor the intelligence in Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the United States. This is not opposition, this is called, in that case, you are called a traitor.
So, they call them oppositions, we call them traitors. The real opposition is the one that works for the Syrian people and is based in Syria and its agenda derived its vision from the Syrian people and the Syrian interests.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, how do you evaluate the insistence of the U.S. and its allies that you leave power in addition to the campaign to distort the image of your government?
President Assad: Regarding their wish for me to leave power, they have been talking about this for the last five years, and we never responded even with a statement.
We never cared about them. Actually, this is a Syrian issue; only the Syrian people can say who should come and go, who should stay in his position, who should leave, and the West knows our position very well regarding this.
So, we don’t care and don’t have to waste our time with their rhetoric. I am here because of the support of the Syrian people. Without that, I wouldn’t be here. That is very simple.
About how they defame, or try to demonize certain presidents, this is the American way, at least since the second World War, since they substituted British colonization in this region, and maybe in the world, the American administrations and the American politicians haven’t said a single honest word regarding anything.
They always lie. And as time goes by, they are becoming more inveterate liars, so this is part of their politics. So, to demonize me is like how they tried to demonize President Vladimir Putin during the last two years and they did the same with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro during the last five decades.
This is their way. So, we have to know that this is the American way. We don’t have to worry about it. The most important thing is to have good reputation among your own people. That is what we have to worry about.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, what is your opinion on Syria’s relation with Latin America, particularly the historical links with Cuba?
President Assad: In spite of the long distance between Syria and Latin America, we are always surprised how much the people in Latin America, not only the politicians, know about this region. I think this has many reasons, but one of them is the historical similarities and commonalities between our region, between Syria and Latin America.
Latin America was under direct occupation for long time ago but after that it was under the occupation of the American companies, and the American coup d’états and the American intervention.
So, they know what is the meaning of being independent or not to be independent. They understand that the war in Syria is about independence.
But the most important thing is the role of Cuba. Cuba was the spearhead of the independence movement within Latin America and Fidel Castro was the iconic figure in that regard.
So, on the political level and the knowledge level, there is a strong harmony between Syria and Latin America, especially Cuba. But I do not think we work enough to improve the other part of the relation; to be on the same level mainly on the educational and the economic level.
That was my ambition before the crisis and that is why I visited Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentine and Brazil, in order toinvigorate this relation. Then, we had this conflict started and it was a big obstacle to do anything in that regard, but I think that we have not to restrain the relation on the historical and the political levels. That is not enough. You have so many other sectors, people should know more about each other. The long distance could be an obstacle, but it shouldn’t because we have strong relations with the rest of the world, east and west.
So, it is not an obstacle in these days. So, I think if we overcome this crisis and this war, we should work harder in order to invigorate the different sectors of this relation with Latin America and especially with Cuba.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, would you tell me your opinion about the electoral process in the United States mainly for the president? Now, there are two candidates; the Republican one is Mr. Donald Trump and the Democrat one is Mrs. Hillary Clinton, what is your opinion about this process, about the result of this process and how it could impact the conflict here, in the war in Syria?
President Assad: We resumed our relation with the United States in 1974. Now, it has been 42 years since then and we witnessed many American presidents in different situations and the lesson that we have learned is that no one should bet on any American president, that is the most important thing. So, it is not about the name.
They have institutions, they have their own agenda and every president should come to implement that agenda in his own way, but at the end he has to implement that agenda.
All of them have militaristic agendas, and the only difference is the way. One of them sends his army like Bush and the other one sends mercenaries and proxies like Obama, but all of them have to implement this agenda.
So, I do not believe that the president is allowed completely to fulfill his own political convictions in the United States, he has to obey the institutions and the lobbies, and the lobbies have not changed and the institutions’ agenda has not change.
So, no president in the near future will come to make a serious and dramatic change regarding the politics of the United States.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, one final question: what message would you send using this interview with Prensa Latina to the governments and people of Latin America, the Caribbean, and also why not the American people, about the importance of supporting Syria against terrorism?
President Assad: Latin America is a very good and important example to the world about how the people and their governments regain their independence.
They are the backyard of the United States as the United States sees, but this backyard was used by the United States to play its own games, to implement its own agenda and the people in Latin America sacrificed a lot in order to regain their independence and everybody knows that.
After regaining their independence, those countries moved from being developing countries, or sometimes under-developed countries, to be developed countries. So, independence is a very important thing and it is very dear for every Latin American citizen.
We think they have to keep this independence because the United States will not stop trying to topple every independent government, every government that reflects the vast majority of the people in every country in Latin America.
And again, Cuba knows this, knows what I am talking about more than any other one in the world; you suffered more than anyone from the American attempts and you succeeded in withstanding all these attempts during the last sixty years or more just because the government reflected the Cuban people.
So, holding strongly to this independence, I think, is the crucial thing, the most important thing for the future of Latin America. Regarding Syria, we can say that Syria is paying the price of its independence because we never worked against the United States; we never worked against France or the UK. We always try to have good relations with the West.
But their problem is that they do not accept any independent country and I think this is same for Cuba. You never tried to do any harm to the American people but they do not accept you as an independent country.
The same is true for other countries in Latin America and that’s why you always have coup d’états mainly between the sixties and the seventies.
So, I think preserving the independence of a certain country is not only an isolated case; if I want to be independent, I have to support the independence in the rest of the world. So, the independence anywhere in the world, including Latin America, will support my independence. If I am alone, I will be weak.
Supporting Syria will be mainly in the international arena. There are many international organizations, mainly the United Nation, in spite of its impotence, but at the end, their support could play a vital role in supporting Syria and, of course, the Security Council; it depends on who is going to be the temporary member in the Security Council, and any other organization supporting Syria will be very important.
PRENSA LATINA: Mr. President, we know you are a very busy person, that is why I appreciate very much your time that you have dedicated to Prensa Latina interview in this moment. I hope this would not be the last interview that we have with you.
President Assad: You are welcome anytime.
A 5-hour meeting between a visiting foreign minister and Russian President Vladimir Putin is not only rare but difficult to recall. Putin makes rare exceptions to receive foreign ministers. And he always receives them after their talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. By all these yardsticks, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Putin last Thursday in the Kremlin was extraordinary.
He drove into the Kremlin straight after touching down in Moscow Thursday evening and had talks with Putin lasting till 1 am in the wee hours of Friday morning. Putin’s rare appearance for a joint press briefing with a foreign minister (Kerry), Puitn’s ‘body language’ and, of course, the subsequent joint press conference by Kerry and Lavrov — they distinctly sought to convey the impression that the US and Russia were on to a big joint venture apropos the Syrian conflict. (here and here)
None of the three statesmen – neither Putin and Lavrov nor Kerry – was even remotely affected by the negative energy radiated by the high-profile summit meeting of the NATO, which had taken place in Warsaw hardly four days ago whose leitmotif was the strong determination of the western alliance to defend and deter Russia’s perceived aggressive tendencies in Eurasia.
Kerry is going to meet a select group of European allies later today in London to brief them on “the concrete steps that the U.S. and Russia are planning to take”. He disclosed that he had a phone conversation with Lavrov on Tuesday, and,
- We both [with Lavrov] believe that we have understanding of the direction we are going in and what needs to be achieved. Our teams will meet shortly in order to continue to do that, in order to bolster the cessation of hostilities, in order to increase our capacity to fight against Al Qaeda, an Nusra, as well as fight back against ISIL.
It all sounds too good to be true. But then, Kerry is a seasoned diplomat with 30 years as a senator behind him during which he also headed the senate foreign relations committee and now as America’s top diplomat for over 3 years. Why is the US all of a sudden giving such hype to a peace project with Russia, an aggressive regional power, to kickstart a political process Syria?
The US has always sought a “selective engagement” of Russia on issues of concern to Washington while pursuing the containment strategy on another track. Lavrov may have gently rubbed this in when Kerry phoned him on Thursday to discuss the “concrete steps” on Syria as follow-up to his talks in the Kremlin last week. Curiously, the Russian Foreign Ministry readout makes a wry reference to Lavrov also, inter alia, availing of the opportunity to gently remind Kerry how the Obama administration is also simultaneously moving heaven and earth to humiliate Russia on another front by keeping it out of the Rio Olympics. These seasoned diplomats must be having the hide of rhinoceros — the readout says, “Mr. Kerry agreed that sports should not be politicized”. (here)
Won’t Moscow be aware that Kerry might even be dissimulating a concord with Russia over Syria? Won’t Moscow know that the Obama administration is on its last leg and time has run out? The point is, there is a powerful lobby in Washington, including the Pentagon and apparently within the State Department itself, which opposes any form of US-Russia cooperation in Syria that does not lead to the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad in a near term. (Read a briefing by the Brookings Institution, on the hawkish opinion in Washington.)
Indeed, the US is engaging Russia assiduously against the backdrop of the dramatic events in Turkey. The ground has shifted in the geopolitics of the region. Interestingly, Kerry made the hurried unscheduled trip to Moscow last week within 4 days of the NATO summit even as the failed coup attempt was getting under way in Turkey. Actually, Kerry was about to meet with Putin in the Kremlin — or had been conversing with him already –even as the coup began in Turkey. Something doesn’t quite gel here, isn’t it? Suffice it to say, much depends on how far back Kerry (Obama administration) actually had known about the coup that was in the making in Turkey. (Read a breath-taking, blow-by-blow account of the ‘Turkish coup’ by senior editor Murat Yetkin in today’s Hurriyet.)
Of course, the failed coup in Turkey becomes a defining moment for the Syrian conflict. The Turkish military and state intelligence – and the political leadership – are all passing through such turbulence that Ankara simply lacks the presence of mind or the sheer capacity to continue to pursue an interventionist policy in Syria in a foreseeable future. Meanwhile, great uncertainties have crept into Turkey’s relations with the US and Europe. Moscow cannot but be aware that Turkey desperately needs to hold the Russian hand — and that indeed adds to Russia’s politico-military options in Syria. The thinking is reflected in a commentary by a top Kremlin pundit Fyodor Lukyanov in Moscow Times.
Clearly, the US policies on Syria are floundering. The Syrian forces have laid siege to Aleppo and the US-backed rebels are trapped inside the city, while Turkey may have begun disengaging from reaching aid to them. Washington has no option but to engage Moscow to work out some sort of face-saving compromise formula.
But what does Russia get in return? Participation in Rio Olympics? It shouldn’t be surprising if the International Olympics Committee has a last-minute change of heart and says ‘Da‘ to the Russian team, finally. If that happens, it will be in the best traditions of Russian-American trade-offs, and Kerry worked hard on it.
The recent violent events in Turkey, Armenia and Kazakhstan could have been provoked by special services “from across the ocean,” a Russian MP working on the committee in charge of Eurasian integration has commented.
“In my opinion these are all links in one chain. The events in Turkey, Armenia and in Aktobe, Kazakhstan, are all connected and were all provoked from abroad. I think that special services from across the ocean are dealing with these issues, destabilizing the situation in these countries,” the deputy chair of the State Duma Committee for Eurasian Integration and Commonwealth of Independent States, Kazbek Taisayev, told Life news portal.
The MP said that Western nations were not interested in a calm situation near Russian borders and took steps to prevent such developments.
“As soon as we start a normal dialogue with our neighbors, something immediately happens in these countries,” he said.
“We need to unite our efforts, I think that we have enough political will to render mutual help to poor nations,” Taisayev stated.
The comment came shortly after a group of radical nationalists stormed and captured a police station in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, killing one policeman and taking several more hostage. The attackers demanded the release of Armenian opposition figure Jirayr Sefilyan, who was detained last month after authorities reportedly uncovered a plot to seize several buildings and telecommunication facilities in Yerevan.
The standoff continues and on Wednesday night Armenian police used tear gas to dissolve a rally of Sefiyan’s supporters in central Yerevan.
In early June, a group of radicals raided two gun shops, hijacked a bus and attacked a military base in the city of Aktobe, Kazakhstan, killing at least five people and wounding 10 more. Police fought off the terrorists, killing four of them and arresting seven more.
This week two people allegedly connected with radical Islamist groups opened fire at a police station in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, killing seven people and injuring nine more. President Nursultan Nazarbaev has called the attack an act of terrorism.
On July 15, an attempted military coup took place in Turkey. A large group of military officers attempted to seize power, displacing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, their plans were thwarted by police and thousands of ordinary people who took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. According to Turkish authorities 246 government supporters and at least 24 coup plotters were killed during the conflict. Thousands of Turkish military and law enforcement personnel were arrested and fired in the large-scale purge that followed these events.
On Wednesday, Erdogan announced the introduction of a state of emergency in Turkey for three months.
Erdogan and the government have said that the attempted coup was masterminded by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who is currently living in the United States. Ankara also demanded Gulen’s extradition.
The successful mission by a Hezbollah drone entering Israeli air space in the Golan Heights and taking photographs is a significant development at various levels. At its most obvious, Hezbollah has mocked Israel’s vaunted air superiority. Three Israeli missiles, including one fired by an F-16, couldn’t bring down the drone which returned safely to Syria. For Israel, it amounts to a humiliating show of contempt by the Hezbollah. (Sputnik )
Second, Russian radar would have certainly picked up the drone, but did nothing about it. It is straight out of Sherlock Holmes – the dog didn’t bark. The bottom line is, neither will Russia rush to protect the Hezbollah nor move a little finger to deter it.
Third, of course, the drone is a technology demonstrator, underscoring Hezbollah’s growing capability to hit back at Israel if attacked. This particular drone probably didn’t carry weapons, but the next one always could.
To be sure, Israel can only wonder how Hezbollah has gained access to such sophisticated technology. From Russia? Or, Iran? Or, is it Hezbollah technology?
Then, there is the ‘big picture’. Israel has been reminded that Golan Heights is still a frontline. Israel’s best hope is that Syria will remain weak and fragmented with no central authority in Damascus to challenge its future annexation of the occupied territories in Golan Heights. Hezbollah may have signalled that that remains a pipedream. In fact, the Syrian government forces are incrementally gaining the upper hand on the ground. The blockade of Aleppo turns the tide of war. In a telling sign of the tide turning, there are reports that Turkey has sent ‘feelers’ to the Syrian government. (Guardian )
Now, the developments in Turkey can only mean that Ankara may roll back its intervention in Syria. Turkey’s focus is on preempting a Kurdistan taking shape on its borders with tacit US support (which Israel too welcomes) and on this platform Syria, Iran and Iraq are Ankara’s ‘natural allies’.
On the other hand, without Turkey, neither Saudi Arabia nor Qatar or the other Sheikhdoms in the Gulf would have the spunk to advance the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria. Simply put, Israel is being reduced to a mute witness to dramatic changes and realignments in its very neighbourhood with no role or capacity to influence them politically or militarily. Arguably, Israel and Saudi Arabia are the biggest ‘losers’ in the failed coup in Turkey. Both will be desperately hoping that the US will come up with some bright idea to retrieve the Syrian situation at the 2-day anti-ISIS coalition conference taking place in Washington on July 20-21. But then, the Turkish-US standoff over the extradition of Fetullah Gulen has introduced new uncertainty regarding the US’ capacity to influence the course of events in Syria.
All in all, the drone provocation by Hezbollah calls attention to the big shift in the balance of forces in the Middle East as a result of the Syrian conflict. For the first time, Israel has to contend with superior military power in its neighborhood. Indeed, but for the Russian presence, Israeli jets would have been raining destruction on Syria by now in retaliation. Fortunately, Israel faces no ‘blowback’ as such from the ISIS or the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front — unlike Turkey or Saudi Arabia — for its intervention in the Syrian conflict. (Read an Iranian commentary Turkey Coup: Who Else Is Going the Way Of Iraq and Syria?)