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



Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

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.

Mosul Liberation to Take Three More Months – Iraqi Kurdistan President



Image may contain: 3 people

   It will take another three months to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Daesh militants if the offensive continues progressing at the rate it is now, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani said.

     On October 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced the start of a military operation to retake Mosul from Daesh, a jihadist group outlawed in Russia and a number of other states.

“We see that they [Daesh] have hundreds of suicide bombers, they must have factories for production of explosives. This would create great danger during the assault. If everything goes well, I expect that it will be possible to liberate the city in three months at the latest,” Barzani told the Bild tabloid in an interview published late on Thursday.

 According to the official, the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters will not participate in the offensive in the city itself, as they are bound by an agreement with Baghdad and the international US-led coalition.

  “However, if they were to ask us and there were a new agreement, we would of course help, we are ready for this.”

   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 coalitio

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.

Peshmerga General Tells Sputnik His Men Are Only 11 Kilometers From Mosul


 Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016

   As the Iraqi army and its allies continue their assault against the Daesh stronghold of Mosul, one of the Kurdish Peshmerga commanders has revealed that his men are now only a few kilometers away from the city limits.

   Scores of Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) militants were eliminated by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the Iraqi province of Nineveh as part of the preparations for the assault on Mosul.Peshmerga General Juku Muhammed Kalahi told Sputnik about how his Kurdish troops had liberated several villages.

   “Our forces terminated scores of Daesh members during the liberation of the following villages: Al-Sheikh Khamis, Kazkan and Shaquli. Right now we’re one kilometer away from the town of Bartella,” the general said.

   According to Kalahi, Daesh manpower reserves were depleted during clashes in the province of Nineveh, where the Iraqi military and its allies scored victories in El-Kueir and Al-Khazer several hours ago.

   Earlier a source in the Iraqi security services told Sputnik that today, on October 17, the military and its allies dislodged Daesh forces from the vicinity of Bashiqa – a town located only 12 kilometers away from Mosul.

   Since the Middle Ages, Bartella had been inhabited by Arameans, an early group of Christians who used a language akin to that spoken by Christ; its population of 30,000 was roughly one third Catholic and two thirds Orthodox and boasted churches dating back to the 12th century. However, in August 2014, the city residents fled ahead of invading Daesh forces; its last 12 surviving residents faked conversion to Islam and were able to escape the following month, according to AINA News.

Kurdish Factor ‘Key to the Success of the Syrian Ceasefire’


 A Syrian flag on a truck with a machine gun of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the town of Mhin, Syria

   On Monday, the Russian-US sponsored ceasefire in Syria officially stepped into force. Asked to comment on the chances that the Lavrov-Kerry ceasefire plan has for turning into a comprehensive settlement, experts speaking to one of Russia’s leading independent online newspapers explained that ultimately, much will depend on the Kurdish wildcard.

   Over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that they had reached an agreement on a new plan aimed at quelling the violence in Syria, including a nationwide ceasefire which officially came into force at 16:00 GMT on Monday.

   United Nations Syria special envoy Staffan de Mistura praised Russian and US officials for their effort, emphasizing that it was a sign of determination Moscow and Washington both have to solving common problems, particularly the struggle against the Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) terrorist group.

   Meanwhile, even before the ceasefire stepped into force, some American and Russian experts rushed to suggest that the ceasefire has little hope of lasting. Last week, before the ceasefire deal was announced, the Washington Post published an article explaining that as Daesh’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ continues to collapse, the risk of a wider war breaking out between the multiple regional and global powers involved in the conflict grows

   The newspaper’s ideas on what could come next in Syria included several chilling scenarios, from Kurdish-Arab proxy wars involving Ankara, to Turkish-Kurdish, Turkish-Syrian, Syrian-US, or even a broader Sunni/Shiite war that might spread across the region.

   Pondering the chances of these dangerous scenarios becoming a reality and pulling Syria into endless war, independent online newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa turned to geopolitics experts Stanislav Tarasov and Alexei Fenenko and asked their view on the prospects of peace returning to the war-torn country.

   Tarasov, the director of the Middle East – Caucasus Research Center, said that he felt the scenarios listed by the Washington Post were all a real and dangerous possibility, and that the fragmented and multilayered nature of the conflict means that there are actually several dozen different conflicts that could flare up in the region, not just the ten listed by the US newspaper.

   At the same time, “how the situation develops depends on the implementation of the agreement made by Lavrov and Kerry as a result of 15 hours of talks, which concluded on Saturday night in Geneva,” the analyst added.

   Recalling that many details about the five-part agreement remain unknown, Tarasov explained that the deal includes small steps to a ceasefire, in 48 hour increments, along with a delineation of ‘moderate opposition’ forces from terrorists; the latter will require the creation of the Russian-American Joint Executive Center, “composed of the military and intelligence services of the two countries. The delineation is [also] meant to prevent the bombing of areas where there are civilians, and [eventually,] to lead to coordination between the Russian and US military forces operating in Syria.”

   Given the failure of previous efforts to reach peace in Syria, including the numerous Geneva talks involving the Syrian government, opposition, the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia, Tarasov suggested that the bilateral agreement between Moscow and Washington “makes sense only in one case: if Russia and the US are able to set apart spheres of influence, and to work together across the country.”

   Today, the analyst noted, together with Russia and the US, Turkey and Iran, “plus a scattering of radical and non-radical non-state actors,” are directly involved in the Syrian conflict.

   With Iran yet to make clear its reaction to the Russian-US agreement, Tarasov emphasized that Turkey, on the other hand, is the one to watch, when it comes to the ceasefire deal; “Ankara becoming more and more involved in the conflict, even though it is now clear that Operation Euphrates Shield was in some sense agreed to by Moscow and Washington. The question is how long the Turks go along with the US and Russia.”

     Turkish authorities, the expert noted, “are already trying to play an independent game, carrying out separate negotiations with Washington about storming Raqqa, while clashing with the Syrian Kurds, who are supported by the Americans. Against this background we can see the activation of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] factor. It’s no accident that there are terror attacks occurring in Turkey almost every day…All this only further works to tangle the knot of contradictions around Syria.”

   In any case, the Tarasov noted that another factor which complicates any predictions about how the situation will develop next is the US’s November elections. “Barack Obama has very little time left before he leaves office. And no matter who enters the White House in November – Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump – the new administration will need time to develop a new Syria policy and to form a new state apparatus. As practice shows, this restructuring usually takes seven or eight months,” i.e. into mid-2017.

   “And this means that the agreement between Lavrov and Kerry can either be blocked by the new administration, or substantially transformed in several areas.” © Sputnik/ Mikhail AlaeddinSyrian Army troops in the Ramouseh district of southern Aleppo.

   As far as the parties to the conflict go, each of them will ‘demand a place under the sun’ during peace negotiations. For now, Tarasov noted, almost all of them can at least formally agree on the need to preserve the Syria’s territorial integrity. In this situation, “some signs suggest that visions of a confederated Syria are being considered.”

   “The problem, however, is that Ankara is not satisfied by the idea of a confederation. Turkey fears the emergence of an autonomous [Kurdish] enclave in Syria, according to the model of the de-facto independent Kurdish enclave in Iraq. Turkey considers that the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds will strengthen separatist Turkish Kurdish sentiments, thereby destabilizing the country.” © Sputnik/ Mikhail VoskresenskiyAssad Not Allowed to Go After Terrorists Under Ceasefire – US State Dept.

   If this were to happen, the analyst noted, “some part of Turkey would turn into today’s Syria, figuratively speaking. And in this case there is simply no obvious way out of this situation.”

   In any case, “for now, we are witnessing this diplomatic waltz between Lavrov and Kerry. It’s true that they have experience of effective joint action – for example, when Russia and the US solved the problem of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. But whether the two countries’ foreign ministers will be able to repeat that success in the current situation remains an open question.”

   For his part, Alexei Fenenko, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Security Problems, explained that he too sees the Kurdish question as the key to the success or failure of the current ceasefire. There are three main possible scenarios as far as Turkey’s involvement is concerned, he said.

   “The first is a purely military attempt to suppress Syrian Kurdish autonomy; it doesn’t matter who does it – Assad or someone else. The problem with this, however, is that Damascus does not have the strength to defeat Kurdish forces. The Kurds have proven themselves excellent fighters in the fight against Daesh; plus they have American backing.”

   “The second scenario is to turn Syria into a confederation. But this decision would automatically mean war with Turkey. Ankara would never voluntarily allow an autonomous Rojava on their border without war.” And finally, the last option, according to Fenenko, “is to somehow come to an agreement with the Kurds in a way that does not irk Ankara.” That option, for obvious reasons, would be the most difficult to achieve. But anything else, including the creation of a state of Kurdistan involving Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, would mean war with Turkey.

Turkey Should Talk to Kurds Instead of Using Military Force in Syria


 Turkish soldiers hold their positions with their artillery pieces, bottom, on a hilltop in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, overlooking Kobani, Syria, background, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014


   The conflict between Kurds and Tukey should be resolved by peaceful means, not by the use of force, a member of the Syrian Democratic Forum opposition party told Sputnik.

   Turkey should resolve its conflict with the Kurds through dialogue instead of through force in the form of military campaigns in Syria, Samir Aita, a member of the Syrian Democratic Forum opposition party, told Sputnik.

   Ankara announced on Wednesday that Turkish forces, backed by US-led coalition aircraft, had begun a military operation to clear the Syrian border town of Jarabulus of militants from the Daesh terrorist group. Turkish forces have also turned on Syrian Kurdish groups. On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara will continue its operation until the threat posed by Kurdish militants active in the area is eliminated.

   “The Turkish government should concentrate on Daesh instead of using the Syrian conflict to solve its internal problems. The Turkish government should solve its issues with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] through negotiations,” Aita said.

     Turkey has been shelling Kurdish militias in northern Syria along the Turkish border for months. Ankara claims Syrian Kurds have links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish authorities.

     Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad fighting a number of opposition factions and extremist groups. Daesh, a terrorist organization outlawed in a number of countries, including Russia, seized swaths of the country in 2014. Kurdish forces have also fought against Daesh, as well as seeking greater autonomy for Syria’s Kurdish-dominated regions.