Cooperation With Russia, Damascus is ‘Turkey’s Only Chance to Avoid War’



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February 4 – In a recent article for the Turkish newspaper Aydınlık, Ismail Hakki Pekin, former chief of the Turkish General Staff Intelligence Department, warned that Turkey is moving step by step to war. In an interview, Pekin commented on his assumption, saying that Ankara has found itself in a difficult situation, particularly due to foreign pressure.
“The United States and Egypt are trying to force Turkey to make certain concessions, including establishing a Kurdish autonomous region in northern Syria and talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside Turkey,” Pekin said.
According to him, if such a Kurdish entity is established Ankara would be “encircled from the south” and will have to fight a “war on two fronts,” against Daesh in Syria and against PKK inside the country.
Pekin underscored that in order to achieve its goal, Washington is providing military and logistical support to the PKK, including supplying heavy weapons, anti-tanks missiles and armored combat vehicles.
“For Ankara, the only chance to derail this plan is to establish dialogue with Damascus and boost cooperation with Russia, Iran and Iraq,” he said.
Pekin underscored that Turkey should take as soon as possible certain measures to repel the threat.
He also commented on the upcoming Turkish constitutional referendum on switching to a presidential system of governance.
The controversial bill seeks to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers in a move described as a power-grab by the opposition Republican People’s Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party.
According to Pekin, the referendum could lead to social clashes in Turkey since it would only deepen tensions in the society.
“I think that Turkey should preserve its parliamentarian system, and the referendum risks splitting the Turkish people. In the current situation, any results of the vote could lead to a social disaster,” he concluded.

Turkish Artillery, Tanks Support Kurds Taking Part in Mosul Operation

 Smoke billows from an area near the Iraqi town of Nawaran, some 10km north east of Mosul, as Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters march down a dirt road on October 20, 2016, during the ongoing operation to retake the city from the Islamic State (IS) group

   Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Turkish artillery and tanks are supporting the northern Iraqi Kurdish forces Peshmerga in the operation to liberate the Iraqi settlement of Bashiqa from the Daesh terrorist group.

   ANKARA . Turkish artillery and tanks are supporting the northern Iraqi Kurdish forces Peshmerga that participate in the military operation aimed at liberation the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIL or Daesh) terror group, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Sunday.

  “The Peshmerga forces during the operation aimed at liberation of the Iraqi settlement of Bashiqa from IS asked the Turkish military deployed at the base near Bashiqa for support,” Yildirim said, as quoted by the Turkish NTV outlet.

  He pointed out that Turkish air forces if necessary may assist in liberation of Mosul adding that the necessary agreement has already been reached.

   Yildirim also said that along with the Iraqi armed forces and the Peshmerga, militia trained at the Bashiqa base by Turkish military is also taking part in the operation.

   On October 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced the start of a military operation to retake Mosul from Daesh. According to local media, about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and 4,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are taking part in the operation, backed by airstrikes carried out by the US-led international coalition.

Daesh Launches Offensive on Kurds in Aleppo After Alleged Coalition Airstrike


 A Syrian Kurdish militia member of YPG patrols near a Turkish army tank as Turks work to build a new Ottoman tomb in the background in Esme village in Aleppo province, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015

   Daesh terrorists have launched an offensive on Kurds’ positions to the North of Aleppo following alleged airstrikes by US-led coalition aircraft, Kurdish militia told Sputnik.

   “Daesh terrorists started attacks on the positions of Kurdish fighters in Hassajek after US-led coalition airstrikes. The attacks were repelled, but fighting to the south of the village continues,” a source in the Kurdish militia said.

   According to the representative of the Kurdish militia in Hassajek, the Free Syrian Army units attack the village from the north.

     “Turkish artillery covered the Free Syrian Army’s offensive on Hassajek from the north. At least 30 artillery volleys were conducted on Hassajek and nearby suburbs,” the source told Sputnik.

   The Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said Tuesday it had received local reports of an airstrike on Hassajek that killed six people and wounded at least four. According to its bulletin, Russian or Syrian aircraft did not operate in the area at the time of the strike while air traffic control systems detected two F-16 fighter jets of the Air Force of the Kingdom of Belgium at the time of the strike.

   On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on the US-led counterterrorist coalition to condemn the deadly airstrike in Syria by one of its allies.

Washington’s Two Strategies in Syria Canceling Each Other Out


 US Troops Wearing YPG Kurdish Patches in Northern Syria


   The United States has pursued two strategies to resolve the Syrian crisis – one led by the CIA, the other devised by the Pentagon, but instead of reinforcing each other they are getting in each other’s way, with Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria serving as tangible evidence of this trend.

     Ankara launched its offensive, dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield, on August 24 to ostensibly push Daesh out of the border town of Jarablus and the surrounding areas. The Free Syrian Army backed by Turkish warplanes, tanks, artillery and special forces seized the town largely without any resistance from Daesh. The Turkish troops and the rebels then started fighting US-backed Kurdish militias in areas that have already been liberated from the terrorist group by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

   Both Turkey and the SDF, largely made up of fighters from People’s Protection Units (YPG), are key US allies in the region.

     “The origins of the conflict lie in the fact that the United States has two policies in Syria. Initially the US policy was designed to support the opposition to the Assad regime,” Jerusalem-based journalist Seth J. Frantzman wrote for the National Interest.

   As part of these efforts, the US was vetting rebel armed groups that could prop up the so-called moderate opposition. Both the CIA and the Pentagon were involved in this process.

   The Pentagon’s $500 program was meant to produce approximately 5,000 fighters. The initiative ended in a major embarrassment for the US Department of Defense (DoD) when General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only “four or five” US-trained rebels were fighting against Daesh.

     According to Frantzman, the rise of Daesh prompted Washington to shift its focus from trying to depose Assad to counterterrorism.

   By late 2015, “Defense Department, CIA and State Department policies began to diverge, and the Defense Department began to see the Kurdish YPG and its effective fight against [Daesh] as the best partner for the anti-[Daesh] coalition forces,” he said.

   Turkey was not happy with this plan. As Kurdish forces moved further west and closer to the Euphrates, Ankara became increasingly insistent that the river was a red line that the Kurds were not allowed to cross. High-ranking Turkish officials have repeatedly said that if the Kurds decide to move further west, the Turkish military would launch a ground operation to stop them.

This is exactly what happened.

   On August 12, the SDF took control of Manbij, a city located west of the Euphrates, in an operation that was conducted in close cooperation with the Pentagon. Three days later the Kurdish forces said that the Daesh-held town of al-Bab, situated further to the west, was their next target, adding that the Manbij offensive would continue until the militants are pushed out of surrounding areas.

   Two weeks later Ankara sent its Armed Forces to northern Syria.

   On August 24, several hours after Operation Euphrates Shield was launched, US Vice President Joe Biden sent a strong message to the Kurds, saying that they must move back east of the Euphrates. Two days later John Kerry downplayed US support for the Kurds saying that there “has been some limited engagement with a component of Kurd fighters on a limited basis.”

     Washington’s response to Turkey’s incursion undoubtedly upset many Kurdish fighters since they, not Ankara, were instrumental in the US-led anti-Daesh efforts in northern Syria.

   “There is ample evidence that the DoD has been in competition with the CIA to find viable partners and that the DoD has been more successful in its relationship with the Kurds and SDF, who are far more effective than the plethora of Syrian rebel groups.”

   Moreover, the clashes between the Turkish military and the YPG appear to be pointing to Ankara’s true goals in this region.

   “The risk the United States faces is alienating the Kurds and seeing the SDF salient in Manbij collapse. This will set back US plans to launch a strike on Raqqa and cut off the head of the [Daesh] snake,” Frantzman observed.

‘Good Terrorist, Bad Terrorist’: Shifting Syrian Alliances Reveal US’ Hand Read

With Turkey’s recent unsanctioned intervention in the Syrian town of Jarablus, Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear spoke with journalists Alaa Ebrahim and Kevork Almassian, about the shifting alliances of Syria’s bloody five-year civil war.
  “This move from the Turkish part was not possible before the failed coup on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Almassian tells Loud & Clear host Brian Becker.
     The coup attempt forced the Turkish government to reconsider its regional strategies. A new priority for the Erdogan Administration is preventing the creation of a separate state in northern Syria. But Ankara seems to still be acting at odds with the legitimate government of President Bashar al-Assad.
    “Erdogan today, by pushing his forces into Jarablus, backed by the so-called Free Syrian Army, which is also considered a terrorist organization by the Syrian government, tried to replace [Daesh] with different militants,” Almassian says.
    For Ebrahim, the retaking of Jarablus has less to do with the coup, and simply reflects plans made with the United States.
“We have to also bear in mind that the American administration blamed Turkey before, blamed Turkish President Erdogan, for failing to take action in Syria, for failing to commit to the Syrian cause…” he says.
           “The United States has always called for more regional involvement in the fight against the Syrian government and the government President Bashar al-Assad.”
     Alliances are also shifting between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces, who previously had an unspoken understanding that they shared a common enemy in Daesh. In the wake of a YPG attack on the Syrian Army, however, the government was forced to respond. “In my opinion, it was an American step to escalate the situation in the eastern part of Syria in order to reshuffle the realities on the ground there,” Almassian says. “It’s in the national security interests of the Syrians not to fight the YPG or any other groups at this moment, because the priority is ISIS, al-Nusra Front, and other terrorist organizations.”
         In the long-term, the YPG’s desire for an independent state could be a problem for the Syrian government. While Damascus and Ankara both have an interest in preventing this, Turkey’s unpredictable behavior could be a problem for Syria.
     “We have to bear in mind, the move that the Turks carried out today was not [done] in favor of the Syrian government,” Ebrahim says. “What the Turks are doing is invading Syrian territories, taking Jarablus down…
    “I don’t think the Syrian government is ecstatic to see Turkish forces inside Syrian territories, and I think the Turks will continue to support the rebels, I don’t think they will turn and change their positions. I think they’re still betting on toppling the government of Bashar al-Assad, they’re still betting on dividing Syria, they’re still betting on trying to create a situation where they can impose their control over the city of Aleppo.”
       While alliances continue to shift, one constant factor is the presence of the United States.
    “The Americans only try to focus on [Daesh] and saying that we are fighting terrorism, but on the other hand they support other groups that are also terrorist organizations, but because these people fight [Daesh] they are not terrorists,” Almassian says.
     “So it’s a ‘good terrorist, bad terrorist’ situation in Syria for the Americans.”

Washington ‘Galvanized’ Kurds to Attack Syrian Army in Hasakah

A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) carries his weapon as he stands past a tank in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasaka, Syria, August 22, 2016.


The US has pitted the Syrian Kurds against Damascus-led forces in the northeastern city of Hasakah in a bid not to lose regional influence should Turkey, Russia and Iran create an alliance to resolve the Syrian conflict, analyst and journalist Hüsnü Mahalli told Sputnik, adding that recent clashes are part of the West’s “geopolitical games.”

“Up until now Russia and Iran have helped to maintain cordial relations between the Syrian Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Damascus. The PYD made a mistake when it opted to cooperate with the US,” he said.

Kurdish militias, assisted by the US, have been trying to push radical groups, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front from northern Syria and secure the porous border with Turkey.  At the same time, the Kurds have established a de-facto autonomy in the areas under their control.Mahalli emphasized that any efforts on the part of the PYD and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to create an independent state will be a mistake that could not be undone.

“The Americans have repeatedly said that they have a Plan B for Syria. Perhaps, this is what they meant. I’m afraid that the US has decided to drag the Kurds into a large-scale bloodbath,” he added.

The standoff in Hasakah was sparked last week when the Kurdish forces tried to take the entire city under control, violating the ceasefire regime. The Kurds are reported to have captured large parts of government-held areas in Hasaka on Tuesday. The same day the YPG and Damascus-led forces agreed to halt fighting. The ceasefire came into force at 11:00 GMT.

The political analyst maintained that these events are part of a larger US plan for the region. “If the West is serious about its large-scale geopolitical games – and judging from what is happening in Hasakah, it is – then the situation is disturbing,” he said.

The clashes between the Kurdish militias and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) took place at a time when a major stakeholder, Turkey, made a U-turn in its foreign policy.Turkey recently improved relations with Russia and Iran. The two countries were swift in providing support to the Turkish authorities when a group of military officers tried to overthrow the government on July 15 despite the fact that they were on the opposing sides of the Syrian conflict. Ankara sponsored radical groups trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, while Moscow and Tehran have tried to prevent Islamist from destroying the Arab country.

Turkish authorities are currently intent on repairing relations with Damascus.The regional balance of power, according to Mahalli, will alter even further if the three nations decide to join their efforts to bring an end to the five years of violence in Syria. This will lead to what the analyst described as Washington’s “inevitable weakening.”

Mahalli further said that Turkey has found itself in the hot water. On the one hand, approximately 15-20 million Kurds live in Turkey. On the other hand, Ankara has become the target of Islamist terrorism even though the country supported radical groups fighting in Syria.

“The only right choice Turkey could make is to admit its mistakes and act decisively to overcome the deadlock. The Turkish leadership needs to act decisively. Should it wait for the outcome of the presidential election in the US, the implications could be hard to predict. My main concern is that Turkey will ultimately be shattered,” he noted.

Iraqi Army, Peshmerga Forces Prepare Huge Offensive Against Daesh in Mosul

Iraqi soldiers guard their base in Makhmour, after it was freed from control of Islamic State, south of Mosul, April 17, 2016


As the Iraqi army and its allied Peshmerga units prepare a major offensive on Mosul to flush out Daesh terrorists, Helgurd Hikmet, a representative of the Regional Government of Kurdistan, discussed the details of the upcoming operation with Sputnik.

An estimated 50,000 Iraqi soldiers, backed by 20,000 Peshmerga fighters, 10,000 Turkmens and members of Sunni tribes will take part in the offensive.“The Iraqi army and Sunni tribesmen will be spearheading the offensive, with Peshmerga and Turkmen forces bringing up the rear. Coalition air forces will provide air cover. The Peshmerga said they would not enter the center of Mosul arguing because it just won’t be right for Kurds to take control of an Arab city,” Helgurd Hikmet said.

He added that apart from airstrikes, the US-led coalition would also provide logistical support for the advancing forces.

During their recent meeting in Washington, the foreign ministers of the countries – members of the US-led coalition against Daesh – prioritized the need to liberate Mosul.

Helgurd Hikmet said that the army would need about a year to completely flush out Daesh forces defending the strategic northern city.

“The Peshmerga forces that now control the city’s western, northern and eastern suburbs will be advancing towards the city center. The Iraqi army now controls the southern and southeastern suburbs and the outskirts of the town of Makhmour,” Hikmet explained, adding that the Iraqi army had recently killed one of the leading Daesh field commanders, Omer ash-Shishani.

He also said that said that Americans didn’t like Baghdad’s idea of the Shiite militia taking part in the operation to liberate the predominantly Sunni-populated Mosul.

The Shiite fighters, who earlier took part in operations to liberate Fallujah and many other Iraqi cities, are accused of committing atrocities against the Sunni population, further igniting divisions, which could result in a serious interfaith conflict. Another reason why Washington wants the Shiites to stay away is their close links to Iran.

“On the other hand, the Americans welcome the participation of Turkish-trained Turkmen fighters. Turkey, for its part, is against the participation of Shengal self-defense forces of Yazidis and people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which are banned in Turkey,” Helgurd Hikmet noted.

“The Iraqi army, Peshmerga and other forces need to iron out their differences before the operation to liberate Mosul actually starts,” Hikmet emphasized.

In an interview with Sputnik, Aydin Maruf, the coordinator of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Erbil and a member of the Kurdish parliament in Iraq, said that an operation to drive Daesh militants out of Mosul’s suburbs had already begun.

“What we don’t know yet is when exactly the operation to liberate the city itself is going to start. Before this happens all the participating forces need to reach agreement. We, Turkmens, will certainly take part in that operation because there are more than half a million of our people living there and liberating them is a topmost priority for us,” Aydin Maruf said.