Archive for the ‘Turkey vs Kurds’ category

After years of empty U.S. promises, Trump arms Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria

May 31, 2017

After years of empty U.S. promises, Trump arms Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria, Hot Air, Andrew Malcolm, May 31, 2017

Now, Kurdish and Arab troops in Syria, working with U.S. Special Forces, will have their own armored cars, heavy machine guns, bulldozers, antitank weapons and mortars because as one Pentagon spokesman put it, the Kurds are the “only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

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About time.

Finally, after years of dangerous dawdling the United States has actually begun arming Kurdish soldiers fighting ISIS in Syria.

Weapons supplies had been stockpiled nearby in anticipation of President Trump’s go-ahead, which came Monday. The armament distributions, which the commander-in-chief approved despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, will enable the tough Kurdish fighters to participate more aggressively in the imminent assault on the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa.

The Obama administration talked of arming the Kurds, who also led the anti-ISIS fighting in northern Iraq, but wilted in the face of resistance from the Baghdad central government and Turkey. More than $200 million in armaments were earmarked for the Kurds and left behind in the Iraqi capital when Obama withdrew all U.S. troops in 2011. But somehow they never reached the Kurds, who were often left fighting ISIS forces that had better U.S. equipment captured from fleeing Iraqi troops.

Now, Kurdish and Arab troops in Syria, working with U.S. Special Forces, will have their own armored cars, heavy machine guns, bulldozers, antitank weapons and mortars because as one Pentagon spokesman put it, the Kurds are the “only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

The arming decision comes as Secy. of Defense James Mattis has ordered changes in strategy against ISIS. Mattis describes the change as moving from an “attrition strategy,” which allowed ISIS fighters to escape current battles, to an “annihilation strategy,” which involves encirclement and total destruction. Mattis has also given battlefield commanders increased leeway in decision-making, which under Obama often involved seeking time-consuming approval all the way back to the White House.

Unhappy Turkish officials were informed of Trump’s decision Monday. They regard the Kurdistan Workers Party, P.K.K., as separatist terrorists within Turkey’s borders. Indeed, the U.S. and European allies also list the PKK as a terrorist outfit. However, the U.S. recognizes the separate People’s Protection Units of the Y.P.G. as an ally with the most experienced fighters. Bottom line: The more fighting the valiant Kurds do, the less potential involvement of U.S. forces.

Turkey made its position clear last month by bombing Kurdish units fighting in Syria with the U.S., dashing hopes that President Recep Erdogan would modify his position since he’s consolidated power.

To mollify Turkish concerns, Pentagon officials said the new arms will be doled out only according to the needs of the upcoming assignments. And they said every weapon would be accounted for afterward.

Uh-huh, right.

Turkey’s Tightrope Dance

May 26, 2017

Turkey’s Tightrope Dance, Frontpage MagazineRobert Ellis, May 26, 2017

Turkey’s economy is in the doldrums and foreign investors, not surprisingly, are heading for the door. Growth is stagnant, there is double-digit inflation and unemployment is rising, particularly among young people. There is desperate need for foreign capital to reduce the growing current account deficit, which is why Turkey has been badly hit by the drop in the number of foreign, particularly European visitors. Erdoğan’s vitriolic attack on various European countries, for example, accusing Germany of “Nazi methods” and calling the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists,” hasn’t helped either. 

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Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was recently in Washington in search of “a new era” in Turkish-U.S. relations, was also out with the begging bowl. At a meeting with 40 prominent U.S. investors, Erdoğan urged them to increase investments in Turkey and shared recent developments regarding Turkey’s investment environment and economic agenda. What he did not share was the increasingly repressive environment that Erdoğan himself has created in search of absolute power.

But the true nature of Erdoğan’s regime did not go unnoticed when his bodyguards attacked a group of demonstrators, which seems to be a constant feature of the president’s foreign trips. Senator John McCain even suggested that the U.S. should “throw their ambassador the hell out.” Once safely home, Erdoğan reassured the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSIAD) that the state of emergency, where he has ruled by decree since the failed coup last July, was no hurdle for business.

According to Erdoğan, Turkey is preparing for “a new leap in democracy,” but there are no signs that this is true. On the contrary, Turkey has plans to build 174 new prisons to accommodate the thousands who have been purged since last July. At the beginning of April Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that 113,260 had been detained and 47,155 had been arrested, including over 10,000 police officers, 7,631 from the military and 2,575 judges and prosecutors. These numbers have since increased, not to forget the 231 journalists who have been arrested. In addition, over 140,000 have been dismissed from public employment, so that they and their families are now ‘non-persons’ in the new Turkey.

Turkey’s economy is in the doldrums and foreign investors, not surprisingly, are heading for the door. Growth is stagnant, there is double-digit inflation and unemployment is rising, particularly among young people. There is desperate need for foreign capital to reduce the growing current account deficit, which is why Turkey has been badly hit by the drop in the number of foreign, particularly European visitors. Erdoğan’s vitriolic attack on various European countries, for example, accusing Germany of “Nazi methods” and calling the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists,” hasn’t helped either.

Turkey’s economy minister, Nihat Zeybekci, has launched a campaign involving 17 global companies to restore investor confidence in Turkey. Potential investors are invited to “Come to Turkey and discover your own story,” but given the political situation, a number of multinationals, for example, Switzerland’s Nestlé and the Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis, are having second thoughts.

Three years ago, the president of TÜSIAD, Muharrem Yılmaz, warned: “A country where the rule of law is ignored, where the independence of regulatory institutions is tainted, where companies are pressured through tax penalties and other punishments, where rules on tenders are changed regularly, is not a fit country for foreign capital.” Erdoğan denounced Yılmaz as a traitor and he was forced to resign.

President Erdoğan will brook no opposition nor tolerate any criticism and now his control of the legislature and the judiciary has been reinforced by the constitutional amendments narrowly approved in April’s referendum. Since the failed coup 879 companies, including large conglomerates, have been seized  by the Turkish government and the assets of dozens of businessmen have been confiscated.

The security of any registered foreign investment should be guaranteed by the rule of law and according to the U.S.-Turkey Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), “Investments shall at all times be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy full protection and security in a manner consistent with international law.”

However, as Işıl Karakaş, a Turkish judge who is also the vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights, has pointed out, Turkish judges are ignorant of international law. Instead, they wear “ideological glasses” and believe that protecting the state is their fundamental job.

In which case, a foreign investor who is a victim of fraud or other malfeasance stands little chance in a Turkish court. The only recourse is arbitration by the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID] and legal fees which can amount to several million dollars.

Anti-American sentiment is prevalent in Turkey, as Erdoğan has claimed the abortive coup was not planned in Turkey but orchestrated abroad. He even accused CENTCOM’s commander General Joseph Votel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of siding with the plotters and told them: “Know your place.”

President Trump’s approval of the Pentagon’s plan to supply weapons to the Kurdish militia in northern Syria has not improved U.S.-Turkey relations, and Trump’s invitation to President Erdoğan was intended to paper over the cracks. It hardly had that effect, and now Trump is beleaguered by the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. Back home, Erdoğan is confronted by an increasingly divided and unstable Turkey.

There is a Turkish proverb: iki cambaz bir ipte oynamaz (two acrobats can’t dance on the same tightrope). What remains to be seen is whether one or both will fall off.

Trump authorizes heavy weapons for Kurds fighting Raqqa

May 9, 2017

Trump authorizes heavy weapons for Kurds fighting Raqqa, DEBKAfile, May 9, 2017

US President Donald Trump has approved supplying weapons to Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria, the Pentagon says. The Kurdish YPG leading the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would be equipped to help drive ISIS from its stronghold, Raqqa, a spokeswoman said. The US was “keenly aware” of Turkey’s concerns about such a move, she added. The SDF, which comprises Kurdish and Arab militias, is already being supported by elite US forces and air strikes from a US-led coalition. The group is currently battling for control of the city of Tabqa, an ISIS command centre just 50km (30 miles) from Raqqa. The equipment would include ammunition, small arms, machine guns, heavy machine guns, construction equipment such as bulldozers and armored vehicles. The Pentagon ource added that the US would “seek to recover” the equipment afterwards.

 

US Marines in Syria to defend Kurds against Turkey

April 30, 2017

US Marines in Syria to defend Kurds against Turkey, DEBKAfile, April 30, 2017

Pentagon spokesman Army Capt. Jeff Davis said – President Donald Trump made a fateful choice:  In the face of Turkish President Tayyip Edrogan’s threats of all-out war on the Kurds, he decided to commit US military forces to keeping the Kurdish militia safe under the US military wing and fully focused on the main objective of defeating ISIS.

The potential of a rare military run-in between two members of NATO may now be in store for the US president. And pretty soon, there may be fireworks when he sits down opposite Erdogan at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25.

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The US has sent a group of US Marines armed with eight-wheeled Stryker armored carriers to northern Syria as a buffer between Syrian Kurds and Turkish forces, after Turkish air strikes killed 20 members of the US-backed Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia, injured 18 and destroyed the local Kurdish command headquarters. Clashes broke out between Turkish and Kurdish forces after the air strikes.

The convoy of US armored vehicles took up positions at the village of Darbasiyah in the northeastern Hasakah province, a few hundred meters from the Turkey border.

It was the second time American armored troops had stepped in to separate Turkish and the Kurdish YPG militia that leads the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), to which the Americans assign a major role in the offensive to capture Raqqa from ISIS. On March 17, US Marines advanced towards the northern Syrian town of Manbij when the Turkish army was on the point of fighting the Kurdish militia for control of the town.

However, on April 24, the Turkish air force went into action against the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) base near Sinjar on Mount Karachok in Iraq, wiping out ammunition dumps and weapons store – but also against a YPG command center in northeastern Syria, claiming they were both hubs of a conjoined terrorist entity.

By its twin operation, Ankara emphasized that Turkey was very much present in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas and informed Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that Turkey’s view of its national security interests in those arenas took precedence over helping to promote the two powers’ objectives.

The Pentagon responded Friday, April 28, that the US wants the SDF to focus on liberating the ISIS-held town of Tabqa and the ISIS capital of Raqqa “and not be drawn into conflicts elsewhere.”

The movements of Turkish jets in Syrian air space are routinely reported and coordinated in advance with Russian and American air force command centers in Syria. The YPG commanders therefore took note that neither the Russians nor the Americans chose to warn Turkey off its plans to hammer the US-aligned Kurdish militia. They feared this would happen when they threw in their lot with the American forces. But the US command in Syria promised them protection under an American ground and aerial umbrella.

After the Turkish attack, the Trump administration, seeing the Kurdish militia had one foot out of the door of the alliance versus ISIS, was forced to choose between losing the operation’s spearhead or spreading the American umbrella to avert more Turkish attacks.

By sending another contingent of marines over to Syria – “We have US forces that are there throughout the entire northern Syria that operate with our Syrian Democratic Force partners,” Pentagon spokesman Army Capt. Jeff Davis said – President Donald Trump made a fateful choice:  In the face of Turkish President Tayyip Edrogan’s threats of all-out war on the Kurds, he decided to commit US military forces to keeping the Kurdish militia safe under the US military wing and fully focused on the main objective of defeating ISIS.

The potential of a rare military run-in between two members of NATO may now be in store for the US president. And pretty soon, there may be fireworks when he sits down opposite Erdogan at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25.