Notes on Turkey, the Kurds, Incirlik, and ISIS

 

11705352_1005341582823689_7540684201876452080_nI’ve refrained from writing much about this past week’s news for a number of reasons. The first is that I’ve been deeply depressed about it, which doesn’t make for sober analysis. The second is that there are many elements of this story I don’t yet understand. I’ve been hesitant to make a categorical judgment about many of the rumors I’ve been hearing from Turkey, since I’m not there to evaluate any of them myself. The third is that there are so many aspects of this I do understand that I’m tempted to write too much, drowning everyone here in detail that’s essential — yet failing to convey the essence. The fourth, as one (good) journalist in Turkey put it on Twitter, is “[redacted’s] just too complicated. Moving too quick.”

I’m also aware how difficult it is to write about this in a way that makes sense. I remember studying the Spanish Civil War as an undergraduate and feeling so overwhelmed by the number of acronyms that I decided my exam strategy would be to play the odds, skip the Spanish Civil War, and instead master every other topic that might come up on the Modern European History finals. To this day, I could tell you all about Béla Kun, but my knowledge of the Spanish Civil War remains limited to what I learned from reading Homage to Catalonia.

So I’m not going to try to write a definitive update. I’ll just direct you to three articles, open the floor to discussion, and try to answer questions, although I may not know the answers. I’ve extracted key quotes from the articles, but if you read them in full, they’ll make more sense — not least because all these beastly acronyms refer to things that are, in fact, very different.

The first is by Patrick Cockburn, in the Independent. Cockburn is, to say the least, a controversial journalist. My rule with him is that whatever he writes is worth reading, but requires confirmation by at least two independent sources before it should be considered accurate. I include this because he’s correct to point out the potentially huge strategic consequences of US policy here. Also, in this case, everything he’s written is correct. (I haven’t confirmed his quotes, of course, but those aren’t the essential points.)

The US denies giving the go-ahead for Turkish attacks on the PKK in return for American use of Turkish air bases, or of any link with Turkish action against Isis fighters and volunteers, who were previously able to move fairly freely across Turkey’s 550-mile border with Syria.

But whatever America was hoping for, initial signs are that the Turkish government may be more interested in moving against the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq than it is in attacking Isis. Ankara has previously said that it considers both the PKK and Isis to be “terrorists.” [my note — the US and Europe also consider the PKK to be terrorists. Having walked over their handiwork more than once, I can confirm that this is the correct designation.]

Meanwhile, Turkish police have stepped up suppression of all types of dissent – using water cannon against everybody from activists to members of the heterodox Shia Alevi sect, who number several million and claim they are discriminated against [my note — they claim it because it’s true]. …

The result is that the US may find it has helped to destabilise Turkey by involving it in the war in both Iraq and Syria, yet without coming much closer to defeating Isis in either country. If so, America will have committed its biggest mistake in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq in 2003, believing it could overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with a pro-American government.

The next is by Erik Meyersson. I almost wrote, “my friend Erik Meyersson,” but in truth we’ve never met. I’ve just been following his writing about Turkey and exchanging messages with him on Twitter for so long that I feel as if I know him. He’s a perceptive analyst of Turkish domestic politics, and this piece — Bombing the PKK: It’s the (domestic) politics, stupid! — struck me as dead on target, as his writing usually is:

The “peace talks,” “solution process,” “Imrali process,” or whatever you want to call the talks between members of the PKK and those of the Turkish government, was always an asymmetric engagement and, at best, a long shot … When the peace talks started in the late 2000s, PKK had its back against the wall, squeezed between Turkey, Iran, the KRG in Iraq, Assad in Syria, and a Europe that then still saw Turkey as promising and ripe for EU talks …

… With the Syrian civil war, Assad’s pulling back from Kurdish areas, and the rise of the Syrian Kurds, the PKK’s outside option improved markedly. With its success in Syria, PKK was no longer in such a bad state, with military successes in Sincar, and even greater political successes in its cooperation with US forces in beating back ISIS. Undoubtedly the terms demanded by the PKK likely swung into red territory for the AKP. To make things worse, the electoral success of the Kurdish party HDP made things even more complicated as the AKP would now have to negotiate with two organizations, each looking to claim specific concessions and each wanting to be seen as the main spokesperson for Turkey’s Kurds. But most damaging, the surge in “political Kurdishness” caused direct political harm to AKP in the last election, as HDP climbed above the ten percent threshold needed for parliamentary representation, scuttling an AKP supermajority in parliament and its plans for an executive-presidential constitution. As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, a large share of this surge came from Kurds previously voting for the AKP.

Bombing PKK camps in Iraq is unlikely to destroy the organization, or to weaken it to levels it can’t recuperate from. Turkey has witnessed multiple rounds of mass incarceration of Kurdish activists (recently in the KCK trials), and bombed Qandil mountains as recently as in 2011. The Turkish government probably knows it can’t defeat PKK military, so then why is it resorting to violence then?

The likely target here is instead the HDP. By striking hard at the PKK, the Turkish government is pressuring the HDP to pick a side. Either it denounces PKK to end violence, risking political blowback among its Kurdish base, or it adopts a more pro-Kurdish rhetoric, risking the ire of the Turkish public as well as the judiciary, which has a long history of banning Kurdish parties and politicians. The strain could furthermore risk breaking the HDP party, with its more pro-PKK members leaving to pursue its goals elsewhere.

As coalition talks to form a new government are stalling, Turkey may soon see another round of elections. If the current conflict results in HDP polling below the ten percent threshold, this could leave the field open for an AKP supermajority, an Erdogan presidency, and a new era of political AKP dominance in Turkish politics.

I add the third link with some hesitation, because it doesn’t begin to do justice to the complexity of Kurdish politics. But it’s a useful corrective to a tendency to romanticize an alliance with “the Kurds,” who are in fact anything but a single political entity. Let’s be realistic about Kurdistan; it’s a deeply unpleasant autocracy, writes Alastair Sloane:

Now, let’s be clear, the Peshmerga are certainly brave and they are certainly holding back ISIS, but their rulers, the Barzani clan, are dictators and gangsters. Masud Barzani isn’t meant to be president; there is a strict two term limit on the post, which he’s just ignored. When a Kurdish poet wrote a satirical piece recently poking fun at the Barzani family, he was arrested and executed. If Kurdish businessmen don’t pay the right bribes to the Barzanis, they too face arrest. Numerous journalists writing critically about the clan have simply disappeared.

“You son of a dog, if you publish that magazine tomorrow, I’ll entomb your head in your dog father’s grave,” one newspaper editor was told. Eighteen months later, he was shot dead outside his home. When Arab Spring-inspired street marches hit Kurdistan in 2011, there were over three hundred and fifty attacks on journalists by the Barzanis’ thugs. There have been hundreds more since then.

The Barzanis also appear to be overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing, both directly in Iraqi Kurdistan and via their affiliated fighters in Syria. They deny these charges, but diplomats and several aid workers attest to seeing Sunni Arabs driven from their homes in their thousands, their former dwellings burned to the ground. Many of the displaced Sunnis have lived there for decades, having been encouraged to move there by Saddam Hussein.

Looting, arson and forcible removal hardly seems a recipe for ongoing stability, and with the West simply standing by, often the only place for the Sunni Arabs to go is into ISIS-controlled territory.

I could clarify, update, and analyze all of this for pages and pages, but suspect it would be more confusing than helpful. The key point is that we’ve made a momentous decision — but it doesn’t seem to be one we’re much debating. And given our absurdly hesitant stance toward ISIS thus far, I want to know how we plan to use this access to Incirlik: Do we in fact plan to use it to wipe ISIS off the face of the map? If not, is it worth this price?

I’ll summarize with a comment sent to me by e-mail by a very reliable Western journalist in Turkey who doesn’t wish to be identified:

This morning was terrible. [Every time I tried to finish my article], I discovered that some even more absurd and terrible event has happened. … I was one of the first people to think that boots on the ground were needed for ISIS. But breaking an entire country, starting a war, wrecking a democracy, killing people and sending others to prison — all for what is ostensibly a desire to defeat IS but in reality a pursuit of domestic political goals both in Turkey and the USA?”

Photo credit: AFP/Ozan Kose. It was taken a few days ago in the Gazi neighborhood of Istanbul. Not Syria. Here’s some background on the neighborhood.

Published in Foreign Policy, General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 94 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    anonymous: Suppose you’re Vladimir Putin.  Many of your territorial ambitions in Europe come up against NATO, which has been extended to the East, in some cases to the border of Russia.  Anything which weakens NATO is to your advantage.  You have, in Syria, a kind of client state and in the Kurdish PKK an authoritarian, nominally communist movement,

    One they created, I might add. The PKK was very much a Soviet creation. I’m sure they’ve got enough institutional memory to remember that.

    which might be receptive to dealing even with a post-communist Russia.

    Receptive? Eager, I’d say.

    By equipping these forces and encouraging them to stage raids across the Turkish border, Turkey might be provoked into invoking Article 5, requiring a military response by other NATO members.  Now, how likely is a NATO military response, or whatever response does occur, to be effective?

    When this happened a few years ago (I wrote a long article about the incident — you can just skim it), we provided Turkey with Patriot batteries, and left it at that, suggesting that we’re at least a bit cautious about getting sucked into these things. It was a reasonable response: It suggested that yes, NATO has Turkey’s back, but no, it wasn’t going to get behind any adventures.

    While maintaining plausible deniability, Russia will have dealt another blow against the credibility of NATO and the willingness of NATO members in Eastern Europe to rely upon its guarantees.  At the same time, Russia can reach out to Turkey, offering assistance with its border problems, thus moving Turkey closer to the Russian sphere of influence (without requiring Turkey to formally leave NATO).

    While at times Erdogan has flirted with this idea — e.g. his suggestion, once, that Turkey was eager to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — I think the one thing the Turks can be counted upon is to have a deep-down, primal fear of Russia. If you think (older) Americans naturally view Russia as a threat, imagine how Turks feel, given that history. This is why Turkey’s entrance to NATO antedated West Germany’s — and considering what Germans had recently experienced of the Russians, this should give you a clue about just how deeply Turks fear Russian influence. So I don’t think Turkey will be moving into the Russian sphere of influence any time soon. The Russians gave it their very best shot during the Cold War (if you look at that diagram of the history of the hard Left in Turkey that I provided above, you’ll have a sense of it), and had no luck. So eager were Turks to be in NATO that they despatched peasant soldiers to the Korean War (and God only knows what they did to them to convince them this would be more attractive than staying home). The soldiers they sent there had probably been hitherto unaware that the world is a sphere, no less that Korea existed.

    In fact, our experience with Turkey is probably  one reason why we were so tempted to fight communism with Islam. (I don’t know this, I haven’t looked at the archives, so I’m just guessing.) It seemed to really work in Turkey, right? It seems to me plausible, at least, that we didn’t grasp how deeply different Turkish Islam was from the Saudi/Taliban strain. 

    Then, with NATO’s credibility seriously damaged, in the lame duck period between the U.S. election in 2016 and the inauguration of the new president, Russia makes its move in the Baltics, with one hand on the natural gas valve ready to cut off Western Europe if they react to the provocation.

    I assume this could happen even without this extra strain, but I don’t think Turkey’s in any danger of being peeled off by the Russians. At this point they’re in no danger of being peeled off by China, either, seeing as they’ve provoked a major diplomatic dust-up over the Uighurs. (Turkish nationalists ended up attacking a group of Asian tourists — Thais, as it happens, but as the head of the MHP, the nationalist party said, “easy to get them confused, they all have slanty eyes.”) That’s something that could change, though: While I think this is just about bargaining over the price (with us), there’s no deep-rooted animosity to China in Turkey the way there is to Russia.

    As I said above: We have a lot of levers of influence over Turkey. They have nowhere else to turn. I don’t know why we don’t use them.

    • #61
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    anonymous:If I could like #61 three times I would. And thanks to the Ricochet “like” bug, still outstanding more than 18 months after it was reported, I did!

    This should, obviously, be in Turkish: That’s the language people in Turkey understand.

    Note that John R. Bass, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey since October 20th, 2014, speaks Italian and French in addition to his mother tongue: no mention of Turkish. His predecessor, Francis J Ricciardone Jr., did speak fluent Turkish.

    Yes, his Turkish is excellent. More than good enough to understand when he was told by some AKP hack that he should stop “pissing on a mosque wall” (a vulgar Turkish idiom meaning “don’t stir up trouble”) after he said, very mildly, that he was “confused” by the mass arrests and show trials of the Turkish military. This should have been cause for the Turkish Ambassador to the US to be hauled in and raked over the coals — it should have been a major incident, you do not talk to the US Ambassador like that — but instead, it caused Ricciardone to fall silent. And to this day, most Turks believe we orchestrated those trials. In fact, I’m not sure they’re wrong: It is impossible that we didn’t know they were show trials, and I cannot otherwise understand why we went along with such an outrage. We may very well have been taking advice and counsel from the Gülenists, who have deeply penetrated the US.

    These ambassadors both appear to be Foreign Service officers, not political appointments.

    Is it too much to ask that a U.S. ambassador to a NATO ally be able to speak and read its language?

    Not only is it not too much to ask, it is an absolute disgrace and humiliation that we send out ambassadors who are so unqualified that they don’t even have the first requisite skill — being able to speak to people in these countries! — no less any of the others required by that job. We look like absolute clowns.

    Sure, the people he interacts with all speak English or French,

    Um, no. The other diplomats might, but the Ambassador is there to speak to the whole country. How can he call a journalist, speak to members of opposition political groups (no, they don’t all speak English or French), or even speak to people on the street who might give him a sense of what people who aren’t in the government are really thinking?

    but shouldn’t he or she be able to read the local newspapers and listen to the radio and television to get a sense what the people in the country are bring told?

    Yes. And while there are translators and assistants to help him, there’s just no substitute for the knowledge of a culture that comes with learning the language. None.

    • #62
  3. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    My Good & True Ms Berlinski,

    Look, the US Embassy wasn’t even there for me when I was threatened by the Turkish state. I couldn’t even get them to answer my phone calls. What possible hope does the promise of America offer to someone who isn’t a US citizen?

    We are not depressed. We are in pain. Listening to the travesty that is this Administration is agony. I watched this from Kerry in absolute awe at his complete lack of responsibility to America or for that matter the Human Race itself. Apparently, the inspection of an Iranian site that tests the detonators for Nuclear Weapons is just a detail!? That a side deal was made between the IAEA and Iran on this isn’t the business of the USA or the other signing nations of the agreement!!?? That even a copy of the text is not in our possession even in a confidential session with Congress!!!???

    KERRY MONIZ: WE HAVEN’T READ THE SIDE DEALS WITH IRAN, NOT SURE IF ANY OTHER US OFFICIAL HAS

    Kerry is insane and Tom Cotton has the patience of a saint (or zaddik). I apologize for not concentrating more on your discourse on Turkey. This has made me sick. When I was 10 years old the Cuban missile crisis was upon us. I remember the relevant scenario so well. The flight time for a Soviet ICBM was about 45 minutes. Our radar in northern Canada (the DEW line) would pick up their launch and give warning after about 25 minutes. That meant you had 20 minutes to prepare for a 50 megaton warhead falling 2 to 5 miles from where you were. Of course, the blast radius was on the order of 10 miles so there was little in doubt.

    I’d visit my father’s lab every so often. They’d put an old lab coat on me and I’d wash the glassware for the graduate students. One in particular had a great sense of humor. The black humor of the day was “What would you do with the 20 minutes?”. Gerry wasn’t interested in the most common answer of having sex. He said he’d go to a delicatessen and eat himself to death. I found this incredibly funny at the time.

    Old jokes are the best. Too bad some never get old.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #63
  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Gawron: I apologize for not concentrating more on your discourse on Turkey

    There’s no need to apologize; indeed, it’s me who should apologize for not figuring out a way to do my job properly, namely, by making this somehow easier to follow. I’m in truth working out my own thoughts here, and the process of sausage-making, etc.

    But if you want to establish that there is a pattern of incompetence, with some characteristic hallmarks, including lack of strategy, apparent lack of detailed regional knowledge, an inability competently to negotiate in our interests, an indifference to the values we profess to uphold — some of the points I’ve raised here surely support that.

    The problem goes deeper than this Administration, although I’ll be the first to say that I’ve never seen anything like this Administration’s elephantine blundering, in all my years of watching US foreign policy. The problem goes back to the end of the Cold War, and the US should be demanding a complete overhaul of our foreign policy institutions.

    By the way, a Member Feed post about your memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis would be fascinating. This is something everyone too young to remember should hear about, firsthand, from those who lived through it.

    • #64
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I’d make every U.S. ambassador read your item #3 above, Claire. A non-stop presence on Twitter and maybe some short videos hosted on a U.S. server and reflected everywhere (filter that, Recep) could really mess up their party line.

    • #65
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    jetstream: Claire, your writing is superb.

    I forgot to say “Thank you.” I apologize for my manners. This reflects my own sense of inadequacy . The truth is, I don’t think my writing about this is superb; if it were, it wouldn’t be confusing.

    I appreciate Ricochet’s giving me a forum to work out how best to explain this to people who aren’t immersed in it. With your help, maybe I can get this up to “good enough to satisfy my own standards,” which it isn’t, yet.

    Please keep telling me which parts of this are clear and which aren’t: It’s very helpful to me. As I wrote in another piece (to which I linked above), many newspapers used to have a policy of rotating out their foreign correspondents every three years, because after that, they came to know the country too well — they could no longer instinctively relate to what their audience would or wouldn’t know. I passed that point with Turkey long ago, and so need a lot of feedback about what is and isn’t known to a general audience.

    (And the depressing thing is that Ricochet is a very well-informed audience to begin with: Now consider trying to write about this for an audience that really couldn’t begin to place Turkey on a map. Something like this really makes me appreciate the genius of certain writers who are able to take very difficult subjects and make them accessible to non-specialist audiences without patronizing them or simplifying to the point of untruth: Manfred is right to praise Mike Totten for his ability to do this.)

    • #66
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Percival:I’d make every U.S. ambassador read your item #3 above, Claire. A non-stop presence on Twitter and maybe some short videos hosted on a U.S. server and reflected everywhere (filter that, Recep) could really mess up their party line.

    I’ve whaled on the US Embassy in Turkey on Twitter about this so much that I wonder if I may even have had an effect: Lately they’ve had many more Tweets in Turkish, at least.

    • #67
  8. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Tweets in Turkish!!!

    ….hmmmm…Claire v the State Department…not really a fair fight.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #68
  9. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    David Knights: Help me out here Claire.

    I wish I could. A few problems for me in saying confidently, “Here’s what we should do.”

    This is not entirely surprising but still very difficult to read, to understand abstractly how horribly our foreign policy has gone wrong is one thing but reading the details is very… painful.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this Ms. Berlinski. I do not know who else may appreciate your efforts but I certainly do.

    • #69
  10. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Is this meaningful?

    From Hurriyet:

    ….a recent survey by the Metropoll Research Center shows.

    At least 40 percent of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP), 61.2 percent of the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP), 41.8 percent of the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) and 75.4 percent of the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) voters think ISIL is the biggest threat on the Syrian border, according to a recent survey conducted by the Metropoll Research Center…

    Some 34.9 percent of the AKP’s, 49.4 percent of the CHP’s, 32.4 percent of the MHP’s and 81.4 percent of the HDP’s voters think that northern Syria should be in hands of the Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK). It also showed at least 20 percent of the AKP’s voters think Syria’s north should be in hands of ISIL.

    Zaman on the same survey:

    Questioned as to whether Turkey should enter into a war with Syria to depose its leader, Assad, almost 60 percent of AK Party supporters said they were opposed to the idea.

    Nearly 89 percent of CHP, 71.5 percent of MHP and almost 79 percent of HDP supporters were against Turkey invading Turkey in a bid to depose Assad.

    • #70
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:Is this meaningful?

    From Hurriyet:

    ….a recent survey by the Metropoll Research Center shows.

    At least 40 percent of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP), 61.2 percent of the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP), 41.8 percent of the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) and 75.4 percent of the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) voters think ISIL is the biggest threat on the Syrian border, according to a recent survey conducted by the Metropoll Research Center…

    Some 34.9 percent of the AKP’s, 49.4 percent of the CHP’s, 32.4 percent of the MHP’s and 81.4 percent of the HDP’s voters think that northern Syria should be in hands of the Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK). It also showed at least 20 percent of the AKP’s voters think Syria’s north should be in hands of ISIL.

    Zaman on the same survey:

    Questioned as to whether Turkey should enter into a war with Syria to depose its leader, Assad, almost 60 percent of AK Party supporters said they were opposed to the idea.

    Nearly 89 percent of CHP, 71.5 percent of MHP and almost 79 percent of HDP supporters were against Turkey invading Turkey in a bid to depose Assad.

    Funny you should ask — and a good question. No, it’s not meaningful. I can’t figure who owns or runs this polling firm; and their website suggests that they’re something less than transparent. No names, no references, and no account of their methodology, save to say that they don’t call cellphones, which is a huge problem. 

    There’s a long tradition in Turkey of creating “research groups” to manufacture poll results (and of established ones just doing shoddy polling) and of partisan newspapers publishing them to suggest that “everyone thinks X.” 

    Hürriyet just fired Kadri Gursel, their best journalist by far, because he Tweeted something that offended Erdogan. They’re basically CHP-leaning, but owned by Doğan media, who early in the game learned that Erdogan would destroy them if they went too far. I wrote this piece about the situation a while back, key paragraph here:

    When the AKP took power, four large private groups owned almost all the country’s media-a concentration of power already far too dense for political health. The largest was the Dogan group, which controlled some 70 per cent of the nation’s print and broadcast outlets. The group enjoyed warm relations with the AKP until 2007. Then its outlets began reporting details of the Deniz Feneri scandal, the biggest charity corruption case in German history. Billions of dollars raised by this Islamist charity, Dogan newspapers announced, had found their way into AKP coffers. Soon thereafter, the Turkish Ministry of Finance began investigating the group, then levied upon it the largest tax fine ever assessed on a Turkish company. The company is appealing, but if the appeal fails, it will be annihilated. 

    They can usually get away with publishing a passive-aggressive poll, which could be what they’re doing here.

    Zaman can’t be trusted on anything — they’re a Gülenist mouthpiece. If Zaman is publishing it, it needs to be subjected to a sort of Kremlinogy analysis: It’s a clue about what the Gülenists want — which in this case, I would guess, is to persuade American policy-makers to put their weight into protecting the HDP from being shut down. (And I happen to agree with them fully about this, but even a stopped clock, etc.)

    So your next question, I assume, is how do I get reliable polling information in Turkey? And the answer is, “by paying for it.” There are some reliable polling firms — I trust KONDA, for example — but this one has all the hallmarks of something someone recently invented.

    I’ve actually been trying to track down reliable polling information, because I’d sure like to know what people are really thinking.

    But this would not be something I’d cite.

    • #71
  12. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Here’s a news item (yes, I know, Debka) suggesting that if Erdogan is looking for a bloody shirt to wave, he’s getting it.

    Three Turkish soldiers killed in PKK ambush in Anatolia 
    DEBKAfile July 30, 2015, 12:56 PM (IDT)

    One Turkish officer and two privates were killed Thursday in the southeastern Anatolian town of Şırnak in a road ambush set by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Drones, choppers and special forces have been sent to the region to “eliminate” the terrorists. PKK attacks have intensified in the last ten days since the Turkish army launched strikes against its targets in northern Iraq and Syria.

    • #72
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ontheleftcoast:Here’s a news item (yes, I know, Debka) suggesting that if Erdogan is looking for a bloody shirt to wave, he’s getting it.

    One Turkish officer and two privates were killed Thursday in the southeastern Anatolian town of Şırnak in a road ambush set by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Drones, choppers and special forces have been sent to the region to “eliminate” the terrorists. PKK attacks have intensified in the last ten days since the Turkish army launched strikes against its targets in northern Iraq and Syria.

    Yes, this is being widely reported. And there are a lot of so-far unconfirmed reports of much, much worse.

    • #73
  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Meanwhile, word on the street is that the 60 ‘moderate’ Syrian troops we trained and sent into Syria have all been kidnapped by Nusra. 

    Unconfirmed, as yet.

    • #74
  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Meanwhile, word on the street is that

    Unconfirmed, as yet.

    Seems confirmed.

    • #75
  16. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    James,

    I too am sick and in pain about what has happened with this Iran deal, along with the complete lack of any foreign policy expertise on the part of both Hillary and Kerry. We are way beyond embarrassed here in the states – embarrassment peaked when John Kerry’s answer was to send James Taylor to France after the newspaper attack to sing “You’ve got a friend”……..sigh…..

    I was also in grade school during the Cuban missile crisis. All I remember were weekly drills where we had to review the “duck and cover”, where we got under our desks and covered our heads, like that would save us. Then there was the drill where we were to go single file and stand in the hallways of the school in complete silence. Kids did what they were told back then so it always went smoothly. Now thanks to the incredible naivete of our current administration, we may have to dig those instructions out of the archives for current generation.

    PS I don’t recall the MSM reporting that those “60” moderate troops we trained were indeed kidnapped – unreal.

    • #76
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Seems confirmed.

    From the article:

    Washington and Ankara this week announced their intention to provide air cover for Syrian rebels and jointly sweep Islamic State fighters from a strip of land along the border, with U.S. warplanes using bases in Turkey for strikes.

    But the United States and Turkey have not yet agreed which Syrian rebels they will support in the effort.

    What does this mean?  Are there any viable groups that are mutually acceptable left?

    • #77
  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar: What does this mean?  Are there any viable groups that are mutually acceptable left?

    I don’t know, but this is a complete — it’s unbelievable. We train these guys and they’re promptly kidnapped by al Qaeda. And the whole world has heard about it already.

    • #78
  19. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Front Seat Cat:James,

    I too am sick and in pain about what has happened with this Iran deal, along with the complete lack of any foreign policy expertise on the part of both Hillary and Kerry. We are way beyond embarrassed here in the states – embarrassment peaked when John Kerry’s answer was to send James Taylor to France after the newspaper attack to sing “You’ve got a friend”……..sigh…..

    Michael Doran’s latest, Who Bamboozled Whom makes the point that promoting Iranian hegemony, not containing Iran’s nuclear program, was the goal from the get go.

    If the Iranian nuclear program has been a knife held at America’s neck, the deal has, temporarily, moved the knife away by at most a few centimeters. To achieve this paltry, equivocal, and evanescent benefit, the deal has permanently ceded diplomatic leverage to Iran and nullified vigorous containment as a serious option. Anyone who claims otherwise has certainly been bamboozled—but not by the Iranians.

    • #79
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Zafar: What does this mean? Are there any viable groups that are mutually acceptable left?

    I don’t know, but this is a complete — it’s unbelievable. We train these guys and they’re promptly kidnapped by al Qaeda. And the whole world has heard about it already.

    Kidnapped by Jabhat al Nusra – whom the West is sort of quietly helping out in their fight with Assad in the South of the country – or at least was until that group lost it and carried out a massacre in Jabal Druze.  Which adds insult to injury while at the same time feeling disturbingly familiar.

    But what’s immediately worrying is that while they sort out whom they want to support (no Kurds, no al Qaida/al Nusra, none of the kidnapped guys….) that part of the border remains porous for the movement of ISIL supporters and fighters (and bombs) in and out of Turkey.  How come Turkey isn’t concerned about that?

    Or is it possible that Erdogan has some sort of plan that if it gets really bad then the army will have no choice but to go along with going in and securing a chunk of territory in Syria?

    I confess I can’t perceive the strategy here – perhaps the heat of battle means that we make it up on the fly?  But even for Turkey, I can’t see how a YPG controlled border or an Assad controlled border wouldn’t be better than this.

    • #80
  21. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Meanwhile, word on the street is that

    Unconfirmed, as yet.

    Seems confirmed.

    Are we absolutely sure it was kidnapping and not defection?

    • #81
  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar: But what’s immediately worrying is that while they sort out whom they want to support (no Kurds, no al Qaida/al Nusra, none of the kidnapped guys….) that part of the border remains porous for the movement of ISIL supporters and fighters (and bombs) in and out of Turkey.  How come Turkey isn’t concerned about that?

    Oh, they’ve got a plan.

    Balloons and a moat.

    This is happening faster than I can type.

    • #82
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ontheleftcoast: Are we absolutely sure it was kidnapping and not defection?

    We’re not sure of anything. It’s a war.

    But this doesn’t sound like a defection.

    • #83
  24. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Front Seat Cat:James,

    I too am sick and in pain about what has happened with this Iran deal, along with the complete lack of any foreign policy expertise on the part of both Hillary and Kerry. We are way beyond embarrassed here in the states – embarrassment peaked when John Kerry’s answer was to send James Taylor to France after the newspaper attack to sing “You’ve got a friend”……..sigh…..

    I was also in grade school during the Cuban missile crisis. All I remember were weekly drills where we had to review the “duck and cover”, where we got under our desks and covered our heads, like that would save us. Then there was the drill where we were to go single file and stand in the hallways of the school in complete silence. Kids did what they were told back then so it always went smoothly. Now thanks to the incredible naivete of our current administration, we may have to dig those instructions out of the archives for current generation.

    PS I don’t recall the MSM reporting that those “60″ moderate troops we trained were indeed kidnapped – unreal.

    FSC,

    This is very important. The little cartoon is from 1951. The Soviets have no way to deliver a warhead to the North American Continent. Twelve years later they have built huge rockets. One has put sputnik in orbit. The rest have 50 megaton hydrogen bombs on them. That’s where the 45 minutes over the north pole flight time comes from. They had about 1,000 of these at the time. Pittsburgh, as every other American City of any size or importance, was targeted. There was no defense.

    The Iranians are not restricted from developing ballistic missiles. At first these will only have a short range of a few hundred miles. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey will feel it. Next will come the medium range missiles. With 1,500 miles Europe will feel it. Finally, they will develop ICBMs. Then America can be targeted. We have Star Wars. Of course, no system is perfect. The Israeli system was very effective but they were dealing with very small missiles with very small conventional warheads. If but a single nuclear tipped ICBM were to get through it is hard to describe what would occur. Claire’s Earthquake would be a walk in the park.

    Of course, this is assuming that a Jihadist mentality wouldn’t consider using a terrorist attack approach and sneak a bomb in anyway.

    Here’s another nice little film on the subject.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #84
  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Gawron:

    Jim, I don’t want to pester, but I very seriously think a post on the Member Feed about your memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis would be an important one. I’m too young to remember it, but this is stuff that has to be handed down to the next generation. I heard about it from my parents, just as I guess this generation is hearing about September 11 from us. There are plenty of people on Ricochet old enough to remember it, and reading about their memories of what it was like to go through that would be very enlightening to anyone on Ricochet who hasn’t heard about it from his or her parents.

    From what my father told me, it was simply terrifying. I can’t imitate my father’s ability to tell the story, but hearing from a number of members, in their own voices, what that was like would be, I really think, very valuable.

    I’m sorry to implicitly suggest that you’re now old enough to be  an “oral history” project, but so am I, and it’s important that these memories be passed on.

    • #85
  26. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar: Or is it possible that Erdogan has some sort of plan that if it gets really bad then the army will have no choice but to go along with going in and securing a chunk of territory in Syria?

    I don’t sense that he has a plan. All of my gut says that he’s deranged with rage about losing his majority, and will resort to anything to push HDP below the threshold. I don’t deep in my heart think he gives a damn about ISIS. I think it’s about power, the corruption allegations, and getting international support to do what he needs to do to crush his enemies and get his enhanced Presidency.

    Look — we do not even know for sure it was ISIS that bombed Suruç. They haven’t claimed credit for it. There are a lot of extra-parliamentary actors in this game who may have had their own reasons for it. When Reyhanli was bombed, it was immediately attributed to Assad. We still have no idea who really did it. Same with Ulüdere: never properly investigated. There are so many unsolved murders in Turkey.

    But this time the AKP immediately jumped on the anti-ISIS bandwagon –when no concrete evidence has been reported; they just caught some guy from Adıyaman who supposedly joined ISIS according to an anonymous security official. Also worth pointing out: Yesterday the National Assembly voted against holding a parliamentary investigation into the attack. Since when do parliaments in normal democracies vote against investigating a massive terrorist attack that takes their country — ostensibly — into a war? 

    His strategy seems to me  pure blackmail: The message to Kurds is  “If you do not vote for me, then you shall have no peace and live in hell.”

    Before the election, RTE said, “You give me 400 MPs and let this matter be resolved peacefully.”

    And this from Burhan Kuzu, head of Turkey’s parliamentary constitutional commission and a senior member of the AKP:image

    The HDP is a huge obstacle to Erdogan’s presidential plans. They’re also a huge obstacle to the PKK: If they succeed, they make the PKK irrelevant. The PKK, seems to be in this sick death-dance with the AKP: Either they are directly involved via killings of the police and military personnel, or silent when someone else is doing it under the guise of the PKK. Lots of signs now that the PKK may be fractioning and that there may be no one who can control them.

    It is all about the palace. Any strategic talk that comes out of the government’s mouths, in my guess, is about getting the support (most likely partial) of the US and NATO, which helps blur the issue internationally. 

     In this enlightening interview, it now appears that the AKP and the PKK may have had a rather happy partnership, with which Demirtas and the HDP – which he joined in April 2014; and after which his speeches stayed away from the usual PKK rhetoric – apparently interfered.

    The HDP has become a tool to topple the AKP government, but the process would exist if the AKP existed, Akdoğan said, calling on the voters of the opposition party to ask the HDP to give account for such a stance. “They are always lying on behalf of Öcalan,” he said. “They say Öcalan is against the presidential system, Öcalan is against the AKP. These are totally lies,” he said.“Were there any coalition talks when they were meeting with Öcalan?” he asked. “If Öcalan ever catches them, he would chase them with a stick.” He also accused the party of delaying the announcement of statements by  after talks on İmralı Island, where he is being kept. 

    So he’s basically saying, “We can deliver Öcalan, only he’s authorized to bring peace, and Öcalan wouldn’t approve of Demitas going against Erdogan. (Of course, the reason the party is “delaying” the announcements from him is that they won’t let them see him, whereas they could convey his announcements any time they want to.)

    • #86
  27. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    James Gawron:

    Jim, I don’t want to pester, but I very seriously think a post on the Member Feed about your memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis would be an important one. I’m too young to remember it, but this is stuff that has to be handed down to the next generation. I heard about it from my parents, just as I guess this generation is hearing about September 11 from us. There are plenty of people on Ricochet old enough to remember it, and reading about their memories of what it was like to go through that would be very enlightening to anyone on Ricochet who hasn’t heard about it from his or her parents.

    From what my father told me, it was simply terrifying. I can’t imitate my father’s ability to tell the story, but hearing from a number of members, in their own voices, what that was like would be, I really think, very valuable.

    I’m sorry to implicitly suggest that you’re now old enough to be an “oral history” project, but so am I, and it’s important that these memories be passed on.

    Claire,

    First, reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

    Second, as to your suggestion, why yes of course Claire. Certainly Claire a capital idea. Good I’d love to do it. My Claire how lovely you look today and yes I think I shall do a piece on the Member feed just as you suggested.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #87
  28. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Would a glossary/guide help? I’m happy to write one up if you think it would.

    Yes, please. Program here, getcher program here, ya can’t tell the players without a program.

    On a serious note, what do you think of Caroline Glick’s latest? She seems to consider “the Kurds” to be America’s allies.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that according to US intelligence agencies, Assad not surrendered his chemical arsenal.

    Rather, he hid much of his chemical weaponry from the UN inspectors. He had even managed to retain the capacity to make chemical weapons – like chlorine-based bombs – after agreeing to part with his chemical arsenal.

    Assad was able to cheat, because just as the administration’s nuclear deal with the Iranians gives Iran control over which nuclear sites will be open to UN inspectors, and which will be off limits, so the chemical deal gave Assad control over what the inspectors would and would not be allowed to see. So, they saw only what he showed them.

    Obama has gone full circle in concluding his deal with Erdogan. Since entering office, Obama has sought to cut deals with both the Sunni jihadists of the Muslim Brotherhood ilk and the Shi’ite jihadists of the Iranian ilk.

    […]

    His deal last week with Erdogan accomplishes the former goal, to the benefit of ISIS, and on the backs of America’s Kurdish allies

    • #88
  29. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    SCORECARDI ran across this “Scorecard” that was put together by the BBC. It’s basic but seems to sum it up. Is it missing anything Claire?

    • #89
  30. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ontheleftcoast:Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Would a glossary/guide help? I’m happy to write one up if you think it would.

    Yes, please. Program here, getcher program here, ya can’t tell the players without a program.

    On a serious note, what do you think of Caroline Glick’s latest? She seems to consider “the Kurds” to be America’s allies.

    I largely agree with her. There are some points of fact that I haven’t confirmed: I don’t know that there have in fact been Turkish airstrikes on ISIS at all.

    And she’s playing a dangerous game by suggesting the PKK should come off the terrorist list. The way you get on that list is by committing terrorism. I don’t actually believe that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” I’ve seen PKK terrorism; a terrorist attack in Istanbul looks just like one in Israel does. The list has consequences: If we put groups on the list or take them off because they’re useful to us, what happens when we decide, “Hey, these Hezbollah folks can be useful?” And you know, that’s fully imaginable. It is not in Israel’s interest to make that list a meaningless thing.

    I think — very seriously — that we should consider creating a legal category called “terrorists with whom we must cooperate for strategic purposes.” I’m not joking about that. I haven’t worked out the idea fully, but we can’t just decide a group is not a terrorist group because they’re working for us. If you splatter civilians’ guts everywhere with suicide bombers, you’re a terrorist, even if you’re also useful to us.

    • #90
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.