Posts Tagged ‘EU-Turkey migrant deal’

When the current Syrian conflict first erupted in 2011 – and then enflamed in 2012 – a small minority of the American public probably wondered why President Obama was not intervening to help the Syrian people as he had done in Libya (they were likely completely unaware the president had already been interfering heavily in Syria since the conflict began). However, some pundits speculated that Obama would eventually intervene directly, and that this intervention would be the beginning of the end of the American empire as we know it.

What started out as a seemingly hollow prediction has become as true a statement as any. First, American involvement began with funding, arming, and training violent rebels to try to overthrow the Syrian government. Then came attempts to misrepresent so-called “intelligence” to justify military intervention against Assad in 2013. And finally, like a dream come true, Washington was then able to capitalize  on the growth of ISIS in Syria, a growth predicted by their own security establishment in 2012, which then became an excuse to start bombing Syrian territory in 2014. By interfering so forcibly in the affairs of Syria, the U.S. has forced a number of countries  — notably Iran, China and Russia — to step up and strike back at U.S. efforts to destabilize the region.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Iran has been heavily involved due to the fact Syria is an important ally to the Islamic republic, bound by a mutual defense agreementMuch to the anger of the U.S., just this week, Iran allowed Russia to strike Syrian territory from its Hamadan air base. Iran is supplying ground troops, advisement, and high level training to Syrian pro-Assad forces. They are also providing a credit line, and Iranian involvement is growing in tandem with the two nuclear powers also working in defense of the Syrian regime.

Russia has a history of being involved in Syria, but following its direct military intervention last year, they have shown they can set up their own no fly zone within the country at any moment (note that the Russian intervention is arguably legitimate given that they have received authority from the Assad regime to do so). Despite this, they have continued to extend a hand to Washington to achieve their stated goals of defeating ISIS together.

 China has sided with Russia and Syria for some time now, using its veto power at the U.N Security Council level to block resolutions on Syria – after Russia and China were completely duped by the Security Council resolution on Libya in 2011. China has warned the U.S. against attacking Syria and Iran, and now, they have officially stated they are looking to join the fight on the side of the Syrian government, further complicating the issue from Washington’s standpoint.

Unless the U.S. wants to confront these players directly, it has no choice but to accept that they have lost a war they directly and indirectly started through covert CIA operations that began in 2011 (and as some would argue, well before that). This isn’t a loss in the Iraq or Vietnam sense — which are arguably victories in the eyes of the elite class. Rather, the Syrian war is an operation that has left them with less influence in the region than when the Syrian crisis began (cue picture of John Kerry dining with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in 2009).

It will be back to the drawing board for Washington, whose only real move is to continue arming and funding fanatical jihadists or encourage Saudi Arabia and Turkey to deliver on their threat to send ground troops into Syria. This will only delay the inevitable, however, and eventually they will have to either admit they have completely lost influence in the Shia-Crescent region of the Middle East — which has, in turn, been snatched up by Russia and China — or directly confront these nuclear powers in an all-out war.

Or they can just wait until Hillary is elected president.

Please leave comments and ask questions concerning the articles/reports and lets have an informative conversation about these vital events.

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The Russo-Iranian decision to enhance the level of military cooperation between the two countries to combat terrorists in Syria and the deployment of Russia’s Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range strategic bombers at the Hamadan airfield caught the West off guard.

Moscow has once again caught Washington by surprise by increasing the level of strategic military cooperation with Iran in Syria.

On August 15, Russia’s Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range strategic bombers and Sukhoi Su-34 jets were deployed at the Hamadan airfield in Iran as part of Russia’s aerial campaign against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.

The next very day the Russian warplanes attacked terrorists’ positions near the cities of Serakab, Al-Ghab, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor.

“While American officials said they were not surprised by the Russia-Iran military collaboration, it appeared to catch them off guard, with no solid information on the Kremlin’s intentions,” The New York Times reported Tuesday.

“I think we’re still trying to assess exactly what they’re doing,” a State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told journalists as quoted by the media outlet.Western pundits drew attention to the fact that it is the first time since 1979, that Iran has allowed a foreign power to carry out military operations from its soil.

“Not since the revolution in 1979 has Iran allowed a foreign power to conduct military operations from its territory. The presence of the bombers is a visible demonstration of the alliance between Russia and Iran,” David Blair of the Telegraph stressed.

Indeed, in his Tuesday interview with state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Iran’s Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani underscored that “Iran and Russia enjoy strategic cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Syria, and share their facilities and capacities to this end.”

Head of the Center for Strategic Studies affiliated to the Expediency Council Ali Akbar Velayati echoed Shamkhani Wednesday, saying that “Iran and Russia enhanced level of cooperation in line with international campaign against terrorism,” according to IRNA.

David Blair points out that as aresult of the recent developments Moscow’s armed forces are now present in two Middle Eastern countries, while previously Russians “possessed nothing in the region aside from a small naval base in Syria.”

Tu-22 strategic bombers of Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces set to hit ISIS targets in Syria

According to the journalist, Washington’s decision “to stay out of Syria” and carry out limited airstrikes against Daesh “has created a vacuum” that Russia has filled.”As the West has retreated from the region, Russia has surged ahead — including into Iran, a country that was viscerally unwilling to allow foreign forces on its soil,” Blair highlights.

For its part, the Financial Times has voiced concerns that the deployment of Russian bombers in Iran has strengthened Moscow’s position in the Middle East, “increasing pressure on the US to co-ordinate its Syrian military campaign with Russia.”

A Russian Air Force long-range bomber TU-22M3 seen here bombing ISIS targets near the towns of es-Sohne, Arak and al-Taiba in the Syrian province of Homs
Russian Defence Ministry
A Russian Air Force long-range bomber TU-22M3 seen here bombing ISIS targets near the towns of es-Sohne, Arak and al-Taiba in the Syrian province of Homs

In his interview with RT political commentator John Wight emphasized that the Russo-Iranian partnership in Syria is “a model kind of military cooperation” the West lacks.

“This is a model of the kind of cooperation required to defeat this [terrorist] menace in Syria, and that is a kind of cooperation that is lacking in the West, when it comes to its efforts to fight this menace,” Wight stressed referring to the West’s unwillingness to team up with Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to combat Daesh.

The political commentator underscored that “there has been a seismic shift in recent weeks” in the balance of power in the region: not only has Iran allowed Russia to station its warplanes at the Hamadan airfield, but also Syria has granted Moscow the right to use its Hmeymim airfield on a permanent basis.Furthermore, in early July Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu hinted at the possibility that Ankara could permit Russia to use its Incirlik airfield, while in December 2015 the Greek Cypriot government came with a similar offer.

To amplify its discontent with Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East, Washington announced Tuesday that it was looking into whether Moscow’s move violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran, according to Reuters.

In response Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that Moscow is by no means violating the Security Council resolution.

“According to this resolution, supplies, sale and transfer of certain types of weapons, including combat aircraft, should be agreed with the UNSC. In the case we are discussing, there were no supply, sale or transfer of combat jets to Iran. These jets are used by the Russian Aerospace Forces to conduct an anti-terrorist operation in the Syrian Arab Republic at the request of the legitimate Syrian leadership,” Lavrov elaborated Wednesday.

Radio Sputnik discussed the recent meeting between Turkish and Russian leaders with Professor Mesut Hakki Casin, a retired military officer who has lectured in military schools on international relations and international law for the last 16 years.

According to the expert, the meeting between Russia and Turkey is a positive sign, showing that the countries are opening a new page in their relations.

“The two leaders’ meeting in St. Petersburg reflects the perfect timing for a quick response to changing world affairs,” the expert said.

According to Prof. Dr. Hakki Casin, the meeting was very important for Turkey especially in the wake of the recent coup attempt. During the meeting, Putin and Erdogan announced that both countries were ready to restore relations and enhance economic and political cooperation. Moreover, the two leaders discussed ways to resolve the ongoing Syrian crisis and eliminate terrorism.

“Putin and Erdogan, in my opinion, have shown distinguished leadership and determination in the ongoing Syria crisis,” the expert said. “I hope, and this is very critical, that Turkey and Russia decide on a joint military and diplomatic mechanism,” he stated, adding that solving the Syrian crisis will stop mass refugee inflows to Europe and Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine palace in St. Petersburg

The expert also argued that Turkey and Russia have similar interests not only in Syria, but also in also in the Black Sea and Caucasus, in particular with regard to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.Moreover, the reconciliation between the two countries shows that there is new alliance being formed which increases Turkey’s independency from the West, he said.

“Russia and Turkey have sent a strong messages to the United States and to the allies of the NATO”, the expert said.

In his first foreign trip after the failed coup attempt in his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the hopes of mending ties as Ankara is increasingly isolated from the West.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a public goal of reestablishing between the countries diplomatic and economic relations frayed in the wake of a Russian bomber aircraft shot down along the Turkish-Syrian border. At the time, Russia contended that its bomber was over Syrian airspace, while Turkey claimed the aircraft drifted some meters into Turkish airspace for all of 16 seconds.In the wake of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan, Turkey is now reconsidering that decision, as well as its friends and allies around the world. Erdogan has repeatedly accused the United States, alongside his leading Turkish ministers, of playing an active role in the failed overthrow attempt or sympathizing with coup plotters. The Turkish leader at one point referred to his former ally Fethullah Gulen, now the number one candidate for Erdogan’s ire, as only “a pawn.”

The United States, for its part, provided no warning to the Turkish regime, if it did indeed know prior to events that there was a threat of overthrow, and had been hesitant to provide an endorsement of the Erdogan regime, until it became clear that the government would survive the coup plot.

Turkey has similarly received a cold shoulder from European Union member states, who refuse to consider fast-tracking Ankara’s accession into the EU or providing visa-free travel to its citizens, citing what they view as the Erdogan regime’s human rights violations in the post-coup attempt purge that has led to the arrest of some 18,000 soldiers and judges and the firing of nearly 100,000 people for purportedly sympathizing with the coup from all sectors of civil service.

Scorned by those he once considered his closest foreign allies, facing growing hostility from neighboring states for supporting the US-led effort against Assad in Syria, and dealing with the difficult aftermath of conducting society after an attempted government overthrow, Erdogan now looks to Russian President Vladimir Putin as perhaps his last resort.

On Monday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with security analyst Mark Sleboda to discuss the implications of the thaw in relations between Turkey and Russia, as well as what can be expected from a meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

“Well, it would be false to say that it is without significance, but I think that the press in both Turkey and Russia, and to some extent the West, are blowing this out of proportion,” said Sleboda. “I think that the best that can be expected, not only out of this meeting, because this is only the beginning of a process, would be the restoration of ties between the two countries — something approximate to what it was before last November, when Turkey shot down a Russian plane along the Syrian-Turkish border, but not quite to that same level.”

Does Putin have the upper-hand as Erdogan has become scorned by the West?

“It has to be remembered that for a long time now, and particularly in the beginning years of Erdogan’s regime in Turkey, Ankara has had a policy of no problems with their neighbors, peace abroad and peace at home was their mantra,” said Sleboda. “However, as a result of Turkey siding with the US, Saudi Arabia, and the EU in the attempt to overthrow the Syrian government with this proxy war, they have managed to alienate everyone, all of their neighbors, their partners in NATO, the EU, and Russia, who was an important economic partner.”

From right: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine Palace

“Erdogan was already seeking to improve relations with Russia before the coup took place, as well as Israel and Egypt. But there can be no doubt that after the coup these plans were vastly accelerated.”

“I don’t think the West had a direct hand in orchestrating it, as Erdogan himself and members of his party have put out or insinuated, not very subtly, but I believe the West knew about it, and while it was going on they stood back and didn’t provide the assistance to a NATO member, as they have done in previous coups of Turkey,” said Sleboda. “They stood back to see what would happen before they very belatedly announced their support for Erdogan’s government.”

“Erdogan finds himself in a much tighter place now.”

Turkish politicians and activists based in the Adana province, home to the Incirlik air base, told Sputnik that they want Ankara to close the facility or at least ban the US and other NATO countries from using it because Washington has utilized it to carry out its destabilizing strategy in the Middle East.

Hayri Akgun, chairman of the Freedom and Solidarity Party’s (ÖDP) regional branch, maintained that Incirlik “is a major stumbling block on [Turkey’s] way to independence” since the United States has used it to carry out its plans in the region. “The main goal of creating the base was to redraw the entire [map of] the Middle East,” he added.

Hayri Akgun
© Sputnik/ Hikmet Durgun
Hayri Akgun

The ÖDP has been a staunch opponent of the base, built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1951, and has repeatedly held protest rallies, urging the authorities to close it.

“Dagger in the heart of the Middle East”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (File)
© AFP 2016/ STR / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE

Selver Kaplan, who heads the local office of the Patriotic Party (Vatan), is convinced that the US was behind the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Coup plans were devised at the Incirlik Air Base,” she said. “We received this information from the people working there.”On July 15, a group of midlevel military officers staged a coup, but failed to come to power. The Turkish commander of the air base was arrested in the purges that followed.

The politician did not demand that the military facility be closed, but she urged the Turkish leadership to prevent the US and other foreign nations from using it. “Incirlik must only be made available to the Turkish military,” he said.

Selver Kaplan
© Sputnik/ Hikmet Durgun
Selver Kaplan

Kaplan also accused the US of playing a destabilizing role in the region.

“If the air base remains open for the US and other countries, terrorist attacks will continue to take place. Assaults on our police and military officers, as well as the people will not stop. Incirlik is the hotbed of all terror acts. It is the command center of the game that is being played in the Middle East,” she said. “Incirlik is a dagger in the heart of the Middle East.”

Incirlik Air Base
© Sputnik/ Hikmet Durgun
Incirlik Air Base

“Blow to Turkey’s independence”

Sevil Araci, chairman of the Labor Party’s (EMEP) regional organization, called the Incirlik air base a “blow to independence of our country.”

“We have always said that there must be no similar bases in Turkish territory. We view these facilities as an external interference,” the politician noted. “There must be no foreign military installations in Turkey. All agreements on this issue must be made void. This is what we are fighting for.”

People gather at a pro-government rally in central Istanbul's Taksim square, Saturday, July 16, 2016.

The Labor Party has held numerous rallies against the base and plans to continue these activities in the future.Mustafa Gozutok, who chairs the local office of the Felicity Party (SP), echoed these sentiments, saying that it was “unacceptable to use the Incirlik air base against Turkey.”

“We are against this base and we want it to be closed. We are planning to hold rallies to demand that it is closed,” he said.

Incirlik “served as command and control center of the coup”

Ibrahim Kaya, a local merchant, said that Incirlik was at the heart of the botched coup.

“US military personnel and Turkish military command joined forces. The Incirlik air base served as the command and control center of the coup. Incirlik’s role in the coup was enormous. Planes and aerial tankers took off from Incirlik,” he said.Kaya further noted that no one expected the US military in the country to support those, who tried to overthrow Erdogan. “We were living here as brothers. Sadly, it turned out that we are not brothers,” he added.

The merchant mentioned that local trade has been affected by the failed coup attempt.

Halil Yildirim
© Sputnik/ Hikmet Durgun
Halil Yildirim

Halil Yildirim, a local street vendor, echoed these sentiments, saying that US troops, who are his main customers, are staying at the base due to security concerns. As long as things stay the same, businesses in the region have nothing to do.

He also said that locals don’t want the base to be closed because the 1,500 people employed there will be out of work.

According to the Turkish trade minister, July’s failed coup attempt in Ankara that sought to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cost the the country $100 million.

Customs and Commerce Minister Bulent Tufenkci was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as saying that the cost of the thwarted coup could rise, but that Turkey’s economy overall was secure.

Considering the destruction wreaked on the night of the coup, Tufencki said, “Warplanes, helicopters, weapons, bombs, buildings: 300 billion lira. Maybe I am underestimating a bit. It might go up even more.” The minister added that the economy should viewed from a medium-term perspective even if some investors are scared off in the short term.

“The putschists made Turkey seem like a third world country. (Investors) are not coming after the images revealed tanks were deployed on the streets, parliament was bombed.” Despite all this, Tufencki said that the country has its affairs under control.

“Had the coup taken place in another country, markets would not have opened earlier than in a week.” The coup occurred on July 15, a Friday, but Turkish financial markets were reopened that weekend.

“The interest rates didn’t rise extraordinarily. The stock exchange’s losses have been limited. There’s no need to revise growth or export figures. The nation has stood firm,” he explained.

In the wake of the coup, the government suspended annual leave of personnel, whom the government accusing of being in cahoots with Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric.

This move has negatively affected an already ailing tourism industry, suffering from travellers keeping their distance over fears of unrest and conflict with Russia. Tufencki said, “Because of a ban on annual leave, one million (tourism) reservations have been canceled.”

Turkey has seen a 40% drop in foreign visitors since June.

Next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has confirmed that there will be “no shortage of topics” for discussion. But according to Russian analysts, Moscow’s key interest will be to get Ankara to end its support for the terrorists in Syria.

On Tuesday, Peskov confirmed that Putin and Erdogan would meet in St. Petersburg on August 9. The presidential spokesperson added that he could not reveal what exactly would be on the agenda for the talks.

“As such, the agenda has not yet been discussed; there is an exchange of various proposals. This will be the first meeting for quite a long time, the first after the two leaders have managed to turn the page, so there will be no shortage of topics for discussion; we can say [that] with confidence,” Peskov said, speaking to reporters.

Russian and Turkish political experts expect that negotiations will span an array of topics, from politics and economics to regional security. However, according to experts speaking to the independent Russian news and analysis website Svobodnaya Pressa, Turkey’s support for terrorists in Syria is expected to be at the top of the agenda.

Russian Turkish relations, the online newspaper recalled, have seen a dramatic turnaround over the last half-year. “As recently as November 2015, when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24, the two countries were on the brink of war. This was followed by a long period of cooling relations and economic warfare, with Turkey carrying the main losses from the latter. Then Erdogan seemed to have delivered the apology required of him.””Then,” the paper noted, “just the other day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked the Russian president for his support of the Turkish authorities during the coup attempt earlier this month. The Kremlin did not confirm the Turkish diplomat’s statement. Nevertheless, Turkey is obviously set for a ‘pro-Russian U-turn.’ This is also evidenced by Turkish Economic Minister Nihat Zeybakchi’s statement that ‘political decisions have been made’ on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant projects, with the Russian and Turkish leaders’ meetings expected to give the projects their ‘final momentum’ toward being realized.”

Commenting on the very public talk of warming relations, Mikhail Alexandrov, a senior expert at the Center for Military-Political Studies at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, explained that “Erdogan’s behavior is only logical.”

“He is in a difficult situation. Western countries organized a coup attempt against him which, fortunately, ended up failing. Now Erdogan has factually become isolated. He needs to destroy the pro-Western fifth column in the country; hence the large-scale purges in the army and among the civil service. The West, naturally, will not tolerate this, and pressure on Erdogan is growing…The Turkish president understands that he must look for some other point of support. Turkey may be a strong regional power, but it will be very difficult for it to survive on its own in today’s world.”

“That,” the expert suggested, “is why Erdogan is looking for closer ties with Russia, to find common ground – to use this rapprochement as an instrument of pressure on the West, to avoid anti-Turkish sanctions by the EU, etc.”Asked whether Moscow can trust the Turkish government’s friendly gestures, Alexandrov emphasized that it is difficult judge at this moment whether Erdogan is sincere, or if he merely engaged in political maneuvering. According to the analyst, the key criteria for measuring his sincerity will come down to observing Turkey’s future actions, particularly whether it continues to support Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) and the other terrorist groups operating in Syria.

“As far as Daesh is concerned, Turkey will have to give up its support of the terrorist organization” if it is serious about cooperation with Moscow. “Russia has a serious score to settle with this terrorist group…The Turkish border must be closed to Daesh if Erdogan wants to be friends with Russia. Of course, it’s entirely possible that such an agreement is concluded only in oral form. Erdogan will probably reluctantly agree to such a step,” the expert suggested.

“The question,” according to Alexandrov, “is how Ankara would work to fulfill this agreement, given the fact that in practice, the implementation of such an agreement would almost certainly lead to a conflict with the United States…Only in practice will it be possible to check if Erdogan will dare to take such a step.”In exchange, the analyst noted, Russia could rescind its sanctions on Turkish agricultural projects, and agree to participate in some joint economic projects, including within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. “We could promise Turkey support for entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which would allow it to enter the Silk Road economic zone.”

Ultimately, the analyst suggested, “it’s important to understand that, on the one hand, [Erdogan’s shift] opens up tremendous opportunities; on the other, it must always be remember that Erdogan will try to maneuver between Russia and the West to the end. Turkey will never change its geopolitical priorities; instead, it will attempt to use the conflict between East and West to defend its relatively independent position.”

“If Erdogan does not carry through with the agreements signed with Putin [in St. Petersburg], nothing will prevent Moscow from not fulfilling its obligations. The Turkish leader must understand that it’s time to focus on internal affairs – to come to an agreement with the Kurds; otherwise Turkey faces the threat of collapse.”

For his part, Alexei Obraztsov, senior researcher at the Center for Asian and African Studies at the Higher School of Economics, offered a more pessimistic appraisal. “I would not expect any sensational decisions from this meeting,” he noted.”Perhaps some personal agreements will be reached about which we will learn in the future, if at all. In general, the visit was caused by the hasty but understandable desire by Turkey to restore relations with Russia. Apparently, in addition to diplomatic curtseys, the economy will be at the forefront of discussions. In connection with the worsening of relations with Russia, Turkey has faced huge economic losses, which have entailed serious social and political consequences.”

Asked if Russia could demand that Erdogan halt his support for the jihadists in Syria, Obraztsov said that he believes a direct request to this effect is unlikely. “It’s possible that some sort of ‘comparison of notes’ may take place – one of a kind which can be done only by the heads of state of two countries.”

In short, much is riding on the Putin-Erdogan meeting, and the corresponding ‘comparison of notes’ between the two leaders; hopefully, the meeting will play a role in resolving the Syrian crisis, which has not only left the country in ruins, but has helped to destabilize the Middle East and even Europe, which continues to suffer from the consequences of the refugee crisis and radical Islamist terrorism.