Russia has been taught a painful lesson in Turkish style politics - December, 2015

The decision by Ankara to shoot down an unsuspecting Russian warplane and the murder of one of the surviving pilots by Turks in Syria has brought the world to the edge of a world war, and has once again revealed the inherent dangers of the war in Syria. Ankara's act has also left many observers around the world wondering why would Turkish leaders take such a risk at such a volatile time. In all honesty, I personally did not think something like this could happen. I thought it was only a matter of time before a Russian aircraft was shot down by militants in Syria, but I did not expect a NATO member state to deliberately shoot down an unsuspecting Russian aircraft in what essentially mounted to be a deadly ambush. I expected Aliyev to make a Saakashvilian error one day, but not Erdogan, not against Russia. What happened on November 24, 2015 was a very serious provocation - and an act of war - by a longstanding NATO member and as President Putin said, a stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists. This act will no doubt change the nature of military operations in the region and bring nations one step closer to a major international conflagration.

The Russian military had a lot of opportunities to shoot down Turkish aircraft throughout the theater of operations in Syria, but Moscow was playing by the rules that govern international relations. Moreover, Moscow had reached an understanding with NATO regarding the conduct of military operations. What's more, Moscow thought it had good relations with Ankara. It must therefore have never even occurred to the Russian military that something like this could happen. Regardless of the circumstances of what happened - the Russian aircraft may or may have not temporarily strayed into Turkish airspace - there was no justification in shooting it down. Ankara had no right to do what it did against a defenseless and unsuspecting aircraft that posed no threat to Turkey. In fact, speaking of airspace violations, Turkey violates Greek, Syrian and Iraqi airspace on a regular basis. Only a few weeks ago, Turkey also violated Armenian airspace. Turkey's neighbors have been civil and have restrained themselves because Turkey's neighbors adhere to intentional norms and none of them are interested in inciting a war with a NATO member. While Russians took measures to intimidated Turks during the early days of the Syrian campaign only to make sure Turks stayed out of their way, Russian officials never once considered shooting down a Turkish aircraft that came too close to Syria's borders. Russia has been executing its statecraft professionally and in full compliance with international norms. Apparently, that is not how they do things in Ankara and Baku.

What Turks just did to the Russian warplane and what Azeri Turks did to the Armenian helicopter almost exactly a year ago were premeditated criminal acts against aircraft that were unsuspecting, defenseless and posed no threats to them.

I understand why Azeris behave the way they behave towards Armenians. From Baku's perspective, Armenia is a small and poor nation with limited capabilities. Azeris feel they can risk provoking Armenians knowing that Armenians are not interested in a full scale war and Yerevan does not possess any form of leverage over Baku. But provoking a nation like Russia? I still cannot make much sense out of what Turks did. What were they thinking in Ankara? How does what they did serve Turkish interests? How is it good for Turks? For that matter, how is it good for Turkmens? Be that as it may, I believe there were other players and reasons behind Ankara's decision to carryout this act of war against Russia.

Russia has become a victim of its success

In my opinion, what happened over the skies of Syria was a serious provocation not only by Ankara but also by the very head of NATO. I refuse to believe that Ankara would have given the order to shoot at the Russian warplane had Ankara not been given the green light by Washington. In case it was revealed that Turks carried-out this act without US knowledge or involvement, Moscow and Washington would need to come together and negotiate the terms of Ankara's punishment. Basing my opinion on Washington's reaction to the incident, it does not look like that's about to happen. As I said, I strongly suspect Washington was somehow involved in this criminal act -
US State Department justifying Turkmen atrocity: https://www.facebook.com/RTvids/videos/vb.1038359576174295/1109834245693494/?type=2&theater
Pentagon backs Turkey’s version of events, blames ‘incursion’ of Russian jet: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/24/pentagon-backs-turkeys-version-accuses-russian-fig/
Krauthammer: Turkey Also Shot Down Any Chance of a U.S.-Russia Alliance: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/427618/krauthammers-take-turkey-also-shot-down-any-chance-us-russia-alliance-nr-staff
The arrogant empire has been playing a very dangerous game throughout the Middle East. The downing of the Russian warplane may actually be a sign of its growing desperation. It is widely recognized that Russia's historic military intervention in Syria has derailed both Western and Turkish plans. Washington and friends were noticeably furious when Moscow preempted their plan to invade Syria by militarily intervening in the country and ensuring the survival of the Iran-backed Assad government. In my opinion, the flagrant aggression against Russia's military - as well as the bombing of the Russian airliner over Egypt, the bombing of transmission towers in Ukraine that provided Russian Crimea with most of its electricity and the attack against Russian journalists in Syria - was ordered by Moscow’s enemies because things were going all too well for Russia. In other words, Western powers and their regional Turkic and Islamic allies were suffering serious setbacks as a result of Russian actions, something therefore had to be done.

Consider this: On the eve of the downing of the Russian warplane: Russian-European relations was thawing; Russian stocks were at their highest levels since 2008; there were serious talks taking place about settling the crisis in Syria and that talk was being initiated for the most part by Moscow. Moscow and Paris were discussing a joint military operations against ISIS; President Hollande of France was visiting Washington and was scheduled to visit Moscow; President Putin was visiting Jordan after he had just visited Iran; the Syrian army had been on a major offensive liberating territory in northern Syria; Russia's bombing campaign was decimating terrorist groups supported by Western powers, Turkey and Saudi Arabia; Russia’s military intervention in Syria had been registering serious progress across the board; President Putin had given a scathing speech at the G-20 summit in Turkey in which he publicly accused G-20 member states of supporting terrorism. Russia had the initiative and the momentum in recent months and was enjoying great success militarily in Syria. Needless to say, the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance and their regional allies did not like it one bit.

It now looks as if Russia's astounding performance on the international stage recently has begun to make its enemies resort to drastic measures. In a strong sense, Russia has become a victim of its success. By having Turks lash out, I believe they are tying to derail Russia's military campaign in Syria and destroy any hope Moscow had in winning European cooperation - 
Paul Craig Roberts: Turkey Has Destroyed Russia’s Hope Of Western Cooperation: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/11/24/turkey-has-destroyed-russias-delusion-of-western-cooperation-paul-craig-roberts/
Thomas Grove: Putin’s Strategy for Mideast Takes a Hit:  http://www.wsj.com/articles/putins-strategy-for-mideast-takes-a-hit-1448399478
With Moscow registering success-after-success recently, the sudden attack against Russian forces in Syria was a very dangerous gambit. Because they did not want to dirty their hands, they got their willing barbarians to do the dirty work for them. Armenians in particular need to realize that despite their differences at times, there continues to be (and will continue to be for the foreseeable future) a very strong convergence of interests between reptiles in Washington and barbarians in Ankara - 
Syrian Army Advances On Turkish Border After Ankara Warns Moscow To End Airstrikes Operation: http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-army-advances-turkish-border-after-ankara-warns-moscow-end-airstrikes-2195525
The Pentagon’s Military Doctrine: Russia and Vladimir Putin, America’s Greatest Threat: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-pentagons-military-doctrine-russia-and-vladimir-putin-americas-greatest-threat/5486304
Is Washington seeking a war between Russia and Turkey for some reason? Are Turks aggressive enough, foolish enough or desperate enough to go along with such a thing? Aggression, fear, desperation and overconfidence leads to stupid and/or dangerous acts. What Ankara did was both stupid and dangerous, and it may not have been its first blow against Russia. The downing of the warplane was actually the second major blow Russia has suffered at the hands of Western-backed Turks recently. Just a few days before the incident in Syria, Ukrainian Tatars blew up a power transmission line that was providing most of Crimea's electricity. Although not as stunning or spectacular as what happened in Syria, that sabotage in Ukraine was also a major provocation against Russia. I would not be surprised if the two acts where somehow coordinated by Ankara.

While we can somehow speculate why Western powers may want Turks and Russians to fight, it's not as easy to speculate why Turks themselves would be looking for a fight with Russia. I can't think of a rational reason why they would want it. Western pressure or not, Ankara had the final say in the matter. As we know, Ankara has on more than one occasion gone against Western wishes in the past. Moreover, Turkey had a lot of vested interests inside Russia itself. Therefore, how does what Ankara did serve Turkish interests? How is what they did good for Turks? How is this good for Ankara's neo-Ottoman aspirations? I just don't understand it because it makes no sense... unless I remind myself that these people are bloodthirsty animals and there doesn't have to be rationale behind what they do. Nevertheless, I still find it difficult to believe that Turks would risk destroying their relations with Moscow and risk a war with Russia.

If the protection of Turkmens (or any another terror group Ankara was backing in Syria) was the reason why they took this drastic step, does Ankara really think that the plight of Turkmens in Syria will now improve as a result of what they did? If Ankara's concern was the protection of ISIS controlled oil fields in Syria and their oil deliveries to Turkey, do they really think that oil will now freely flow into Turkey? How is what they did going to help Ankara's neo-Ottoman designs in Syria? Russia's military has actually intensified its airstrikes against Turkmen populated areas in Syria.  Russia's military has also intensified its airstrikes against ISIS controlled oil fields and tanker trucks delivering oil to Turkey. And Turkey's brave air force has been nowhere in sight. Turkish officials must have known all this was to happen. That is why I fail to see what Ankara was trying to accomplish by attacking the Russian military.

As said, on a strategic level as well as on a political level I cannot figure out what Ankara was trying to accomplish... unless I conclude that this was a senseless criminal act done out of anger and desperation - and of course Western encouragementOn a more tactical, operational level, however, I can see why Ankara may have thought it can get away with such an act. I would say five factors may have led Turkish officials into believing that they held a distinct advantage over Moscow -
  1. Turkey's longstanding NATO membership and the unconditional support it receives from the Anglo-American-Jewish political order is making Turks feel invincible.
  2. Turkey's NATO membership coupled with Russia's longstanding desire to develop good relations with Turkey may have convinced Ankara that Russia would never wage war against them.
  3. Because Russia's economy is facing major Western sanctions and Russia's economy has shrunk recently as a result, Ankara may have calculated that Russia is in no shape to economically retaliate against Turkey.
  4. Because Russia is now politically and militarily committed in Syria and Ukraine, Ankara may have calculated that Russia would not forcefully respond to the downing of one of its warplane.
  5. Turkey's control over the Bosporus Strait, which is strategically vital to Russia militarily and economically, may have convinced Turkish officials that they held a distinct advantage over Moscow.
These factors - coupled with Ankara's neo-Ottoman dreams of grandeur - may have led Turkish officials into believing that Moscow would not retaliate in a strong manner. These may yet prove to be gross miscalculations by Ankara. While bilateral trade between Russia and Turkey in recent years have been over thirty billion dollars annually, this figure is derived mostly from Turkish energy purchases from Russia. Additionally, millions Russians in recent years were traveling to sea resorts in Turkey, spending billions of dollars annually. If it really wants to, Moscow can hurt Ankara severely by placing sanctions on the energy and tourism sectors of the Turkish economy alone. Relatively speaking, Russia is not a very developed nation, the Russian people are used to hard times and they are patriotic. If push comes to shove, Moscow can tighten its belt and curtail all trade with Turkey if only to punish Ankara. In the big picture, Turkey needs Russia more than Russia needs Turkey. Which is why what Ankara did makes no rational sense. Moreover, the Turkish economy is not the only thing Russia can target in a retaliation. There are a number of military actions Moscow can also take. But such measures will take time to bring into play.

Russia will retaliate at a time, manner and place of its choosing

What happened on November 24 has the potential to sabotage improving relations between Russia and Europe and derail Russia's successful aerial bombing campaign in Syria. American, French and German political observers also recognize that what happened was a blow to achieving a Russian-led peace settlement. If Moscow is not careful now, it faces losing its momentum and initiative, which is exactly what its enemies want to see happen. Moscow must therefore be very careful when formulating a response to Ankara's provocation. Moscow therefore cannot allow itself to get distracted from its strategic goal in Syria by taking the Western/Turkic bait. Thus far, I am very impressed with the kind of restraint, professionalism and discipline Moscow has shown. 

If Moscow's enemies were hoping for an emotional outburst or an overreaction by Russia, then they erred for Moscow has not taken their bait. As difficult as it is to hold back one's fire during times like this, Moscow will hold its fire, at least for now because it cannot afford to get sucked into the trap set by its enemies. There is no doubt that Moscow will plot a retaliatory revenge but it will administer it at the time, place and manner of its choosing.

With that said, a serious retaliation by Moscow is in order and to be expected. Regardless of the circumstances of the downing of the warplane (it does not matter where the Russian aircraft was at the time it was attacked), Moscow simply cannot allow this flagrant act of  aggression by Turkey to go unanswered - that is if Russia wants to remain respected as a major political player in the region. This incident has made President Putin look weak for the first time since the sinking of the Kursk fifteen years ago. This is first time in fifteen years President Putin looks like he is not in full control. President Putin and Russia have a precious reputation to protect. President Putin cannot afford this appearance in front of his vicious enemies. If Russia's enemies smell blood, they will double their efforts against Russian interests everywhere. 

Let's recognize that Russia continues to have many vulnerabilities: Russia has nearly 13,000 miles of borderland to protect against 18 nations; although it is the world's largest country, Russia is only the tenth most populated nation on earth; there are nearly twenty million Muslims and Turkic peoples living inside Russia; Russia's enemies are far-and-wide and they are relentless in their effort to stunt Russia's growth and development; Russia military, although potent, is still relatively small and is still in the process of modernizing. Russia cannot afford the perception that it is weak. The most important thing Russia has today is its aura of strength and cunning. If this hype is shattered, by Turks of all people, Russia will suffer dire repercussions. Right now Russia looks weak and on the defensive. Russia must therefore react and react forcefully. Moscow cannot therefore allow Ankara's act to go unpunished. Banning Turkish strawberries is not enough. The punishment of Western-backed barbarians in Ankara has to come by way of economic, financial, political and military means. Moscow has to respond forcefully if it does not want to see similar incidents happening elsewhere.

Besides intensifying areal attacks in Syria against entities supported by Turkey, Russia's GRU or units of its special forces can provide Kurds - or any other willing group - with weapons to sink Turkish ships (military or otherwise), shoot down Turkish aircraft (military or otherwise), assassinate Turkish officials and blow up gas and oil pipelines that traverse Turkish territory. Moscow can also reinforce its military presence in Crimea, Armenia, Syria and the Black Sea; establish a no-fly zone over all of Syria and shoot down any Turkish warplane that come near Syrian airspace; start systematically flattening all Turkmen populated towns and villages in Syria; Moscow can also tear up the Kars agreement. There are many things Russia can do to teach Turks a bitter lesson without going to war. All Moscow needs is a little bit of imagination and some audacity.

Most importantly, Russian officials need to realize that playing the game by-the-book and sticking to intentional norms will henceforth be a serious liability for Moscow. Russians need to understand that they are fighting an enemy that is very desperate, ruthless and an enemy that plays dirty. Yes, President Putin is a master chess playerbut the problem is that his opponents are criminals and anything can be expected from them. This latest incident was another case of President Putin playing smart chess and getting sucker punched in the process. Enough. Russians would do well to finally understand that when dealing with reptiles and barbarians, playing by the book (i.e. with adherence to international norms) can be a serious hindrance. The Russian Bear needs to also start playing dirty and ruthlessly because its enemies are dirty and ruthless. Russian officials therefore need to break open the old Soviet book of dirty trick and start relearning some of the things they have forgotten. Ultimately, Moscow needs to do everything it can now to exploit this situation to its fullest tactical and strategic potential - or else the Russian martyrs will have died in vain, or else Russia will be perceived as a paper tiger.

Russian officials knew very well that sending troops into Syria was fraught with serious risks. Moscow must now understand that it is in a fight against barbarians from the east and demons from the west, and there is no turning back. Unfortunately, more Russian servicemen will die before this nightmare is over. When I called the murdered Russian servicemen martyrs, I meant it literally because this is indeed a fight against evil. 

Whether it wants to or not, whether it realizes it or not, the Russian nation is now in a historic fight. If Moscow backs down from this fight in Syria, the fight will eventually come to its doorstep in Russia. I am not calling for a declaration of war. We are not there yet. Let's not forget that politics is not a domestic dispute or a street fight. An emotional maximalistic or extremist approach to political matters is a flawed approach that will inevitably have disastrous consequences. As I said, an emotional outburst or a drastic response was most probably what Moscow enemies were seeking. Moscow can't allow itself to be played into their hands. Having been caught in a treacherous ambushed by a major trade partner and a member of NATO, Moscow will have to carefully prepare itself for a meaningful retaliation. And when it does retaliate, it will retaliate at a time, manner and place of its choosing.

Russian officials only have themselves to blame
 
Russians only have themselves to blame for the mess they got themselves into. This is what happens when you get too close to Turks. For for past two decades Russia had been trying to win hearts and minds in Turkey with the hope that Ankara can be enticed to break away from NATO and enter Moscow's orbit. While Russia looked at Turkey (and Azerbaijan) as a regional competitor and a potential opponent (which is why Moscow has traditionally looked at Armenia as a valuable strategic asset), it was also hoping to lure Ankara (and Baku) into a partnership. Consequently, Moscow dangled a lot of carrots in front of Turks (and Azeris). From a geopolitical and economic perspective, the effort made sense. But Russians were discounting one thing: They were dealing with Turks and Turks are notoriously backstabbing. Moscow overambitious and somewhat naive project to win Turks over has now quite literally been shot down in flames.

As I said, Russians only have themselves to blame. Russians were taught a painful lesson. Moscow should have known better than to trust Turks or Westerners. As I said earlier, Russia has become a victim of its success - as well as some cockiness.

I think the Russian military in Syria grew overconfident and thus dangerously complacent. The Russian warplane that was shot down was an old, Soviet era tactical bomber that was very vulnerable to enemy fighters. The Su-24 stands no chance against any of the fighters in NATO's arsenal. Only overconfidence, complacency and political naivete (not knowing Turks and Westerners well enough) can explain why Russians didn't provide their tactical bombers with aerial escorts or air-to-air missiles during their bombing runs, especially when they were operating so close to the Turkish border, especially after Turkey was demanding that Russians end their bombardments.

R
ussians thought that no Turk would dare shoot at them, especially after the Russia and NATO had reached a "deconflicting" agreement. Well, they did shoot. Now what? The Wolf caught the Bear off guard and took a shot. Now, in the eyes of the global public, the Russian Bear looks vulnerable a
ll of a sudden. This is bad news for the Bear because once the Bear's natural enemies sense that he is weak, they will intensify their effort to kill him. It's simply the law of nature. In my opinion, the predicament the Bear is in right now is of its own doing because the Bear should have known better than to lower his guard in front of his rabid enemies. Moscow should have known better than to trust Turks, especially after seeing Azeri Turks shoot down that Armenian helicopter during a training flight almost exactly one year ago. Armenians were also caught acting a bit cocky back then and Azeri Turks, remaining true to their Turkic nature, took advantage of the opportunity they were presented with.

Russians need to wake-up and understand that when you play by the book against an enemy like Anglo-American-Jews and their Turkic/Islamic allies, you can end up seriously hurt if not dead. Ultimately, Moscow's desire to normalize relations with Ankara has gotten it to where it is today. Moscow should have learned from the Armenian experience. The reason why Moscow didn't learn from the Armenian experience was because Moscow thought it didn't have to - because Russia was a major power and no one would dare do such a thing to Russia. Well, that's the definition of miscalculation, overconfidence and arrogance, in my opinion. Moscow better now figure out a way to undo the damage this incident has caused on Russia's reputation.

Russia has finally been retaught a painful lesson in Turkish-style politics! Russia has finally been retaught a painful lesson in barbarian style politics! I therefore hope that Moscow has learned its lesson well, a lesson that in my opinion Moscow should have known already. Just like a wild beast cannot be tamed, so can't the Turk. The Turk will therefore always remain a Turk.
 
A blessing in disguise for Armenians

From an Armenian perspective, the downing of the Russian warplane was a blessing in disguise not only for Armenians but also for Russians. Finally, for their own good, Russians are seeing firsthand the unpredictable and barbaric nature of Turks, and it's about time. Although I am extremely upset at the lose of Russian lives, I must admit however that I am glad that Russian-Turkish relations have been dealt a severe blow, a blow it may not recover from for well into the foreseeable future.
 I had always maintained that despite their lucrative bilateral trade relations, Russians and Turks would clash sooner or later. It now seems that time may be sooner than I thought. Russians and Turks are beginning to kill each other in Syria. In my opinio0n, this was bound to happen because the Bear and the Wolf would never get along within the same ecosystem. 

Despite their good relations during the past twenty somewhat years, the region's two natural competitors were destined to clash. It was not a mathematical probability but an inevitability. There is a historic opportunity here for Armenians. With the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance standing firmly behind it, The Incredible Turk has once again provoked the Russian Bear and has managed to draw first blood. After nearly twenty years of good relations, suddenly, a very serious divide has been created between Moscow and Ankara. Will Armenians have the political maturity and foresight to exploit this historic opportunity?

Until now, the Kremlin looked at Turkey as a potential trade partner as well as a geopolitical competitor, which is essentially why Russia sought to increase its trade relations with Turkey but also made sure to base troops and military hardware in Armenia. Moscow therefore was very nuanced when it came to Turkish matters. On one hand Moscow was very aware of the risks Turkey posed geopolitically, on the other hand Moscow wanted good relations with Ankara because Turkey is a major regional power and a base of Western operations. Consequently, Moscow sought to lure Turkey away from NATO. Simply put: Moscow tolerated Turkey for the sake of geopolitical prudence. Now, that is all gone. The game has changed quite suddenly, quite drastically. Moscow's overambitious and somewhat naive project vis-à-vis Turkey has now been, quite literally, shot down in flames. Now, Russians will begin looking at Turkey as a despicable enemy and a serious threat. Russians have finally gotten a little taste of what Armenians and Greeks have gone through for the past one thousands years. Russians have been reminded that the Turks can never be trusted. Will Armenians have the political maturity or the political foresight to exploit this historic opportunity?

Turkey's actions were a blatant act of war and a major humiliation for Russia, and something Russians will not forget or forgive. This is a historic opportunity not only for Armenia but also for Artsakh.

Having now ruined their relations with Russia, it is only natural that Ankara will begin seeking closer ties with their brethren in Baku. It is also natural that Moscow will begin putting more pressure on Baku as a result. Aliyev, the other sultan-wannabe in Baku is now in very deep shit. First, Aliyev was forced to helplessly watch his oil revenues slowly dry up. Now, Aliyev will be put in a position where he may be forced to choose between a desperate big brother and an angry powerful neighbor. To add insult to injury, the Russo-Iranian alliance just shot down Saudi Arabian plans to cut oil production to increase energy prices. This means Russia and Iran have tightened their belts (i.e. have figured out ways to survive low energy prices) and are actually trying to keep oil prices low (at least for now) to do some damage to Gulf Arab states - and Azerbaijan may very well become collateral damage -
What happened last week and the political fallout thereafter falls fully inline with Armenian interests. It's as if the geopolitical gods are watching over Armenia. But it's now up to Armenians to exploit the situation at hand. Armenians must become a presence in the Kremlin. Russians must be made to understand that Ankara and Baku continue being governed by Asiatic squatters with a pan-Turkic agenda. Moscow must be made to understand that Ankara and Baku have always been and will continue being exploited by their Anglo-American-Jewish masters. The Kremlin must be made to understand that Ankara and Baku will always be a hotbed of Islamic extremism. President Putin must be made to understand that as long as these Asiatic squatters remain at the helm in Ankara and Baku, Russia's vulnerable underbelly will continue being threatened by Western powers, pan-Turkic nationalists and Islamic extremists. For Moscow now, the Turk is no longer just a geopolitical competitor or a potential trade partner - but a vile enemy. Will Armenians have the political maturity and foresight to exploit this historic opportunity?

Right now we Armenians have very fertile ground in the Kremlin to sow Armenian interests. Isn't this what Armenians were dreaming about? Now that we have this historic opportunity, will we exploit it or will we, as always, continue wasting our time pathetically begging Western war criminals to recognize a genocide that was perpetrated by none-other-than one of their most important allies?


It was inevitable for Russians and Turks to come to blows

After the collapse of the Soviet Union Moscow gradually embarked on an effort to establish good ties with Ankara. This project seemed to have been masterminded by a well respected Russian political scientist, Alexander Dugin. Dugin had envisioned the formation of an anti-American "Eurasian" alliance between Russians, Turks, Iranians and Arabs. In more recent years this ambitious agenda seemed to have morphed into a Russian agenda to bring Ankara into Moscow's orbit, which many observers suspected was Moscow's intent all along. Nevertheless, from a Russian perspective, warming of relations with Turkey made strategic sense, at least theoretically. Russia was trying to drive a wedge between NATO and NATO's second largest army, and from the looks of it, the effort seemed to be gradually succeeding. Annual bilateral trade between Russia and Turkey had grown to over $30 billion in recent years and it was hoped that it would grow to $100 billion in the near future, although there were inherent problems in the relationship. Russia was Turkey's largest energy provider and second largest trade partner. Moscow and Ankara were beginning to build the "Turk Stream" pipeline through which Russian natural gas would be delivered to Europe, although it was having inherent problems. Moscow had begun building Turkey's first nuclear power reactor, although it was having inherent problems. At times, Ankara signaled its willingness to entertain Moscow's ideas, but there continued to remain inherent problems between the two states. To summarizeMoscow thought - or hoped - that Turkey would be NATO's weak link and thus worked on trying to detach Ankara from the West through lucrative trade deals. Although Russian-Turkish ties were based on pragmatic geopolitical calculations and economic considerations, the relationship continued to be hampered by inherent problems.

Just like Damascus before it, Moscow had managed to establish what it had thought was a very good relationship with Ankara. Now, just like Damascus before it, Moscow has been stabbed in the back by Turks.

Russian-Turkish relations actually began souring when Moscow began to aggressively pursue its vital geostrategic interests: First in the south Caucasus, then in the Ukraine and more recently in Syria. Russia's geostrategic interests were constantly getting in the way of Turkey's geostrategic interests. For example: If Armenia's protection was strategically vital for Moscow, it was however a strategic problem for Ankara. If Crimea's annexation was strategically vital for Moscow, it was a strategic problem for Ankara. If Bashar Assad's Iran-backed Alawite government's preservation in Syria was strategically vital for Moscow, it was a strategic problem for Ankara...

In short: Moscow and Ankara simply could not be natural allies because they are destined to be natural competitors. Moscow and Ankara would not be able to maintain good relations for long periods, because their respective national interests are divergent and therefore had the inherent potential to clash. Because I have a good understanding of the nature of geopolitics and because I know Russians and Turks well, I never doubted, not even for one moment, that the two would eventually come to blows.

Despite their lucrative ties in recent years, the region's two main natural competitors were therefore destined to clash. The friendship between Moscow and Ankara was shallow and based on wishful thinking and false pretenses. The falling out Moscow has had with Ankara should have therefore been expected. After all, Russians and Turks are from two, vastly different civilizations. Ethnic Russians are mostly decedents of central European Vikings settlers that were Christianized about one thousand years ago and the Russian nation is the progeny of the Byzantine Empire. Muslim Turks, on the other hand, are the decedents of various Central Asian nomadic tribes that systematically invaded and settled in the Caucasus and the Armenian Highlands during the past one thousand years. Christian Slavs and Muslim Turkic peoples have clashed throughout history: It's essentially a natural rivalry within the human ecology, one that is similar to that of bears and wolves (pun intended) competing over the same feeding territory. Russians and Turks have come to blows over a dozen times only during the past two hundred years - with Russia winning every time. In the 1990s we again saw this rivalry between Russians and Turks come to the surface and play out in the Caucasus and in the Balkans. More recently, we saw it take place within Crimea and Syria. The relationship between Moscow and Ankara could never get too warm because Turks today have an instinctual fear of the Russian Bear and Russian have an instinctual disdain towards Turks.  

A Russian-Turkish clash was not a mathematical probability but a mathematical inevitability. The inevitable, however, has happened faster than any of us could possibly imagine. Now, it's a whole new game in the region and we Armenians, along with Kurds, Iranians and Alawites better be ready to play a constructive role.

I should remind the reader that I never feared closer Russian-Turkish relations because I always thought closer Russian-Turkish relations would mean more Russian leverage over Ankara. In a sense I was right, because Ankara seems to have lashed out at Moscow because it was seeing Russia having too much negative influence over on Turkish interests from the Crimea to Syria. In a sense I was wrong, because the influence Moscow had established over Ankara proved not enough in the end. But I never feared closer Russian-Turkish relations also because I knew Moscow would never betray its strategic position in Armenia for better ties with a regional Islamic power like Turkey. I'd like to remind the reader that even when Moscow had its very lucrative trade relations with Ankara during the past two decades, Moscow continued recognizing the Armenian Genocide; Russian officials continued appearing at the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan; Moscow did not allow Artsakh to be invaded by Azerbaijan; and Moscow never stopped paying less attention to Armenia's border security with Turkey. Moscow's approach to regional matters has been firmly based on its national security needs, and Armenia is an integral part of Russia's national security and it will remain so for well into the foreseeable future - especially now that Moscow has all but abandoned its wish to have close relations with Ankara. To understand what Armenia meant to Russia even before this spat between Moscow and Ankara, let us take a quick look again at what prominent Russians have had to say about Russian-Armenian relations -

In an article appearing in Russia Today, Mikhail Aleksandrov, a political analyst working for the Institute of CIS made the following comment about Moscow's military presence inside Armenia -
Armenia is our only classic military-political ally...Armenia will not survive without Russia, while, without Armenia, Russia will lose all its important positions in the Caucasus...Even though Armenia is a small country, it is our forepost in the South Caucasus. I would say that Armenia is more important to us than Israel is to the Americans.
In describing what Russia's reaction would be to a possible invasion of Armenia by Turkey or Azerbaijan, Alexander Khramchikhin, Director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis said -
Russian military bases deployed in Gyumri and Yerevan guarantee Armenia’s security in case of war not only against Azerbaijan but also Turkey. If we attack Turkey, it will be war against NATO. However, we will never attack Turkey, it is clear. And if Turkey attacks Armenia and we have to save Armenia, it will be Russia’s and Armenia’s war against Turkey. NATO will not get involved in that war if only we do not start razing Turkey to the ground with strategic arms.
 This by the former Russian ambassador to Armenia, Vladimir Stupishin -
In my view, the true settling of the Karabakh conflict suggests complete rejection by Azerbaijan of the primal Armenian lands. It is possible to resolve the problem of the refugees by providing them with opportunities in places where they live now. How come in almost every discussion on Karabakh the only refugees that are being consistently mentioned are the Azeri refugees? Why can’t the Armenians return to Baku, Gyandja, Sumgait, Artsvashen, Getashen, etc.?
This by a Russian-Muslim political analyst, Ilqar Mammadov -
"When Azerbaijani officials, including the president, predict that Armenia will collapse as a state, they are mistaken. Nobody will let Armenia collapse. Even if only 100,000 people lived in Armenia, Russia would protect it as it regards Armenia as its outpost"
And this by Senior researcher of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky -
Russia will never cede Armenia for improving its relations with Turkey. This is a matter of principle. There are things one can sacrifice, but there are things one cannot. The point is not so much that two million Armenians live in Russia and many of them are Russian citizens. For Armenia Russia’s steps must never be bad. The point is that even the Yeltsin Russia perfectly realized that it must not waive Armenia’s interests, not mentioning Putin, who clearly sees the national interests, at least, the clear ones. He is trying to extrapolate them for the future. I simply can’t imagine that Russia may yield Armenia – if Russia does this it will lose all of its positions in the Caucasus. Russia should understand one most important thing – there are partners and allied countries with whom one should keep up the sense of alliance and duty.
Even when Russia was on its knees and in no shape to fight anyone, when Ankara began mobilizing its military on the border with Armenia with the intention of intervening on behalf of Azerbaijan during spring of 1992 when the war in Artsakh had suddenly began going very badly for Baku, Moscow mustered enough strength to threaten Turkey with a world war. Yes, Russia threatened Turks with a world war over a little Armenia that was no longer under its control and at a time when it was in no shape to fight anyone. Russia was ready to risk everything for our little homeland in the south Caucasus even when Russia itself was in chaos and in danger of falling apart. The following is an excerpt from a 1996 analysis by Dmitri Trenin -
The purely military interest which Russia has had in the Caucasus appears to have receded in importance in comparison with the Imperial or Soviet periods. It is now essentially defensive in nature and precludes any large-scale strategic penetration, including the supply of military assistance, arms supplies, etc., to any third party. To prevent any potential Turkish opportunism at the time of the Soviet Union's disintegration, Marshal Shaposhnikov, then Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Armed Forces of the CIS, warned of a "Third World War" if Turkey were to interfere militarily in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. In March 1993, General Grachev, Russia's Defence Minister, made Russia's own military co-operation with Turkey conditional on Ankara's discontinuing its military assistance to Baku. 
If Russia was willing to go to war over Armenia in the 1990s, imagine what it would do today. Historically, regardless of the nature of their relationship with Turks, Russians have always looked at Armenia as a strategic fortress protecting Russia's vulnerable underbelly.  Even the Jewish-led Bolsheviks, yes those that had mutilated some parts of Armenia in hopes of luring Turkey into the Soviet Union, recognized the overall strategic importance of preserving an Armenia state in the region. In fact, we have an Armenia today primarily because of this recognition by Soviet leaders. Simply put: Armenia's strategic importance and value to Russia will remain unchanged for as long as Westerners, Turks and Islamists have designs for the Caucasus. There will be no alternative scenarios or alternative geostrategic formulas for the Kremlin for the foreseeable future. Armenia's territorial integrity - as well as that of Artsakh's - will therefore be of vital strategic importance to Moscow for as long as Yerevan and Stepanakert remain firmly allied to Russia. Now that this incident has happened, Armenia's strategic value for Moscow just got an immense boost. I therefore would like to thank the sultan-wannabe in Ankara for the great favor he has done to Armenia.

While warm relations between Moscow and Ankara should not have scared Armenians, I much prefer HOSTILE Russo-Turkish relations. From an Armenian perspective, any degree of Russian control over Turkey was welcome, any degree of Russian-Turkish hostility is even more welcome.

Let's recognize that whatever Russia is doing today it is doing from a clear position of strength. Unlike in 1914, the Russian state today does not have any major sociopolitical issues within its borders. During the early 20th century, Russia was ripe for a major sociopolitical upheaval and Marxism was a growing force. Nothing of the sort exists today. Other than some Pussy Riot sluts acting all hysterical periodically; other than some angry gay activists throwing temper tantrums now-and-then; other than a suicidal Islamist fanatic blowing him or herself up from time-to-time, there is no major sociopolitical movement brewing inside the country that can even remotely pose a real threat to the Russian state. Unlike in 1914, Russian society is not in despair. If Russia did not collapse in 1990s, it certainly ain't going to do so now or anytime in the foreseeable future despite any Western sanctions. Unlike in 1914, Russia today is a massive nuclear superpower who's military capabilities rival that of the West's. Unlike in 1914, Europe and much of Eurasia (including Turkey) are very dependent on Russian energy and trade for survival. More importantly, unlike in 1914, the Russian nation has learned the lessons of the 20th century all too well. With a land stretching virtually from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with natural resources virtually inexhaustible and with a massive nuclear armed military that is unbeatable on any battlefield, whatever serious campaign, military or otherwise, the Russian nation decides to embark upon today will prove successful.

Make no mistake about it, fear of the Russian Bear is as prevalent in Ankara now as it has ever been. Yes, I said fear because their criminal act was made out of anger, frustration, desperation and fear. Turks felt the need to lash out from behind their NATO shield because Russia was destroying Ankara's neo-Ottoman plans from the Crimean peninsula all the way down to Syria.  When the time is right, and if Moscow decides it can afford going to war with Turkey perhaps to establish a wider buffer zone around Russia's vulnerable underbelly and perhaps obtain direct access to warm water ports for their navy in Cilicia, there is nothing Turkey - or its friends - can do to stop the Bear.

After all is said and done, one thing remains crystal clear to me: If Western Armenia is to get liberated someday, it will only come by way of a Russian-Armenian force once again marching westward from the south Caucasus. The road to Western Armenia therefore starts in Eastern Armenia and the keys to Western Armenia are thus found in the Kremlin. We have been dreaming about the liberation of Western Armenia for decades. All of a sudden, it feels as if that dream can become a reality. Are we ready? Are we as a people ready to play a role if Russia does go to war against Turkey? The Russian army's lightning advance into the Armenian Highlands during the Caucasus Campaign of the First World War showed Armenians that the liberation of Western Armenia is a possibility, given that it is done under the right circumstances. The heroic campaign one hundred years ago encouraged us to prepare, at least mentally, for the next historic opportunity. That historic opportunity may have already come. What Ankara did on November 24 was an act of war and it may yet prove to be its death knell.

With Russian (and Iranian) power and influence gradually growing throughout Eurasia and the Middle East, Washingtonian reptiles and their Anatolian barbarians seem to be going for broke. As I have said in the past, Moscow plays chess, Washington plays poker. Western powers now are gambling it all and in doing so playing a very dangerous and a very ugly game.

They have now created volatile situations all along Russia's western and southern peripheryAfter Russia freed itself from Western control in 2000 and then lashed out at the Western in the summer of 2008, all this was bound to happen. Their anti-Russian effort goes back to their age-long geostrategic desire to stunt Russia's growth and development. They have similar sentiments towards China and Iran. I'd like to remind the reader again that for Western powers to maintain their unprecedented wealth and power, they have to remain at the top of the global food-chain. In other words, to survive, they have to preserve their position as the world's top predator. Western powers are therefore not ready to share any degree of power with Russia or China or Iran or anyone else for that matter. Consequently, we are now in uncharted territory once again. Once again, the West is recklessly setting fires because it knows the resulting inferno will not harm them. As long as the fires they set do not cause serious harm to them, they will continue setting fires.

The dire situation we are facing in the Middle East in particular was quite directly and quite recklessly created by the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance and their friends - for the sole purpose of global domination. But Russia and Iran have been ruining their plan every step of the way.

Speaking of Russian-Iranian relations: The amazing rescue operation for the surviving Russian pilot highlighted the flowering of Russian-Iranian alliance. If Russians put aside their western fetish (the desire to be part of the greater western world) and if Iranians put aside their Islamic nonsense, they may just come to the realization that they, Russians and Iranians, are in fact spiritual partners. I have said this before: Russia today is the manifestation of ancient Persia, just as the Western world today is the manifestation of ancient Rome. Besides which, there is also a significant amount of ancient Iranic blood flowing in Russian veins, especially throughout southern Russia. Nevertheless, I hope to see Russian-Iranian relations grow into a full blown strategic alliance with Armenia an inherent part of it. The recent cooperation between Moscow and Tehran in Syria is a little sampling of what Russia and Iran can achieve if they only put aside their petty differences and unite against their common enemy.

By taking a cheep shot at the Bear, barbarians in Ankara did us Armenians a great favor. The Russian Bear now see the Turk not merely as a regional competitor but as enemy and a danger to Russian interests. Armenians have been talking about liberating "Western Armenia" for decades. Well, now we have the operational template to build a long-term campaign upon. We dreamt about Western Armenia's liberation for decades. Now is the time we begin working on it. This is a historic opportunity for Armenia and for Artsakh. Russians must be made to understand that Ankara and Baku continue being governed by Asiatic squatters with a pan-Turkic agenda. Moscow must be made to understand that Ankara and Baku have always been and will continue being exploited by their Anglo-American-Jewish masters. Moscow must be made to understand that Ankara and Baku will always be a hotbed of Islamic extremism. Moscow must be made to understand that as long as these Asiatic squatters remain at the helm in Ankara and Baku, Russia's vulnerable underbelly will continue being threatened by Western powers, pan-Turkic nationalists and Islamic extremists.

Soviet leaders made a historic mistake back in 1921: This may be Moscow's chance to begin correcting the mistake. Moscow must understand that sooner-or-later Asia Minor has to be returned to its former inhabitants because for as long as a "Turkish" state exists in the region, there will be no peace - not for Russians, not for Armenians, not for Greeks, not for Iranians, not for Kurds, not for Alawites. I hope to see this historic spat between Russia and Turkey become the foundation upon which we will see a new Battle of Sarikamish take place in the foreseeable future - of course without the first one's Bolshevik ending.
 

Arevordi
December, 2015


***

Russian Su-24 shotdown by Turkish air force surviving pilot murdered by Turkish tribesmen

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Turkey's shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer bomber along the Syrian border is dangerously exacerbating tensions not only in the Middle East but between Moscow and the West. A pair of Turkish-owned Lockheed Martin F-16C fighters shot down the Fencer with AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Television footage of the incident from the state-run Anadolu News Agency shows that the two Russian pilots ejected, but it does not show if they survived crash.

While Ankara says that the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer violated its airspace, the Russians say that it did not. Moscow says it has proof that the strike aircraft was on the Syrian side of the border. “The Turkish General Staff said the downed foreign jet was issued 10 warnings in five minutes and it was shot down by two F-16s,” reads a statement from the office of the Turkish prime minister’s directorate general of press and information. “The warplane went down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkey’s border within the framework of engagement rules.”

The Russian defense ministry confirmed that Turkish forces had downed the Su-24. “The Russian Su-24 aircraft was shot down on its way to the Hmeymim airbase in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic by a Turkish F-16 fighter, “ the Russian defense ministry statement reads. “Analysis of the objective monitoring data definitely showed that there had not been any violation of the Turkish air space.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin responded to the incident with fury. “Today’s loss is a result of a stab in the back delivered by terrorists’ accomplices. There is no other way I can qualify what happened today,” Putin said during a meeting with Jordanian king Abdullah II in Sochi. “Our aircraft was shot down over Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile launched from a Turkish F-16 plane. It fell on Syrian territory, four kilometers from the Turkish border. When it was attacked in the air, it was flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters, one kilometer away from the Turkish territory.”

However, Ankara has released an image depicting a radar track that showed that the Russian aircraft briefly entered Turkish airspace. But Russia too has released its own evidence that its jet was over Syrian airspace when it was downed—but the photo depicts a Su-34 rather than a Fencer.

Putin stated that the downing of the Russian aircraft would not go unpunished—but it is not clear how Moscow will respond. “We will of course carefully analyze what has happened and today’s tragic event will have significant consequences for Russian-Turkish relations,” Putin said. “In any case, our plane and our pilots were in no way a threat to the Turkish Republic in any way. This is obvious.”

One immediate fallout is that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has cancelled his visit Turkey which was set for tomorrow. Russian has also summoned the Turkish defense attache in Moscow for urgent consultations according to the Russian defense ministry. Meanwhile, Turkey has requested an emergency meeting with other NATO members to bring them up to speed on the incident. U.S. officials have denied any involvement with the incident—but confirmed to the BBC that the Turkey did attempt to warn the Russian aircraft prior to shooting it down. U.S. forces are “working to establish exactly where the plane was when it was shot down,” according to U.S. Central Command spokesman Col Steve Warren per a BBC report.

Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that one of the Russian pilots was found dead by Syrian rebels while the fate of the other remains unknown. Video evidence shows that both men came under fire from the rebel forces as they parachuted down—which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and is a war crime. A Russian helicopter that was sent to rescue the downed pilots was also attacked.

If a conflict comes to a head, then there is plenty of room for serious military action. Both Russia and Turkey are significant military powers. The Turkish air force has more than 650 modern combat aircraft including F-16C/Ds, upgraded F-4 Phantoms and 737-based AWACS platforms. That force would be more than sufficient to wipe out the small Russian expeditionary force at Latakia because Moscow has mostly deployed strike aircraft and minimal air defenses. Turkey also has a significant navy--sixteen frigates, eight corvettes and dozen diesel-electric submarines, Ankara could try to cut off the Russian Black Sea fleet from the Mediterranean. It could also try to invoke NATO’s Article 5 clause—but that might not apply in this situation.

Russia, of course, is a very significant power. Russia could launch tit-for-tat attacks against Turkey’s air bases or naval ports—some examples might include Turkish air bases at Konya or Diyarbakir which are near the Syrian border. Those bases could have hosted the F-16s which attacked the Russian jets. Russia wouldn’t have to worry too much about destroying Turkish air defenses—the country mostly relies on older Hawk and Rapier missile batteries and American Patriot missile systems that are deployed to the region.

Make no mistake: a Russian air strike would massively escalate the situation—especially if deployed U.S. forces get involved. A more effective Russian response might simply be to cut off Turkey’s energy supplies. Russia supplies some sixty percent of Turkey’s natural gas supplies. Either way, the pressure is on Russian president Vladimir Putin to demonstrate that his incursion into Syria will pay off for his country--and that he is not a weakling who will supinely acquiesce to Turkey’s bold strike. The longer the Syria conflict drags on, the higher the stakes are becoming for all parties to it.


Turkey Took Down Russian Su-24 Jet to Undermine Syrian Peace Process

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Turkey might have shot down a Russian aircraft to disrupt the Syrian reconciliation process because Turkish President Recep Erdogan wants hostilities to continue until extremist groups fill the power vacuum in Damascus, experts told Sputnik. On Tuesday, a Russian Su-24 came down in Syria, 2.5 miles away from the Turkish border after it was hit with an air-to-air missile launched from a Turkish F-16 jet. Russia has contributed to the Syrian reconciliation plan reached in Vienna on November 14 that calls for holding formal talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups to pave the way for presidential elections.

"The Vienna talks may have triggered this event [the downing of Su-24]," American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) Director Kani Xulam told Sputnik on Tuesday. "Reconciliation with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is not what President Erdogan wants to see in Syria."

Erdogan, Xulam noted, would rather see groups like Nusra Front come to power, which Turkey has invested in for years. "Ideally, it would really like if NATO delivered Syria to Turkey as a client state," he added. The downing of the Russian jet comes a day before French President Francois Hollande is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss coordinating efforts against the Islamic State in Syria in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Geopolitical analyst and StopImperialism.org editor Eric Draitser told Sputnik that Turkey shot down the Russian aircraft to undermine the Syrian peace process and to strike back at Russia for its air campaign against extremists. "Turkey is tremendously upset with Russia for destroying a lot of the terrorist infrastructure that Turkey has been diligently working to support since 2011," Draitser argued.

Turkey has been a major instigator of the civil war in Syria and benefactor for the Islamic State by purchasing illicit oil that funds the ISIL movement, Draitser explained. Turkey, Draitser claimed, has also provided sanctuary, medical facilities, transport and weapons to the Islamic State and its kin. "Turkey wants to see the Syrian state itself, if not destroyed, then at the very least remade as something far different from what it has been under secular Baathist rule," Draitser added. Russian activities have thwarted Turkey’s designs for control of Syria and Erdogan’s aspirations of regional hegemony, the geopolitical analyst suggested, another reason why the Turks may have shot down the plane.

"That Neo-Ottoman strategy has had the breaks put on it by Russia’s engagement in Syria," he said. Draitser also observed that the timing of the Russian jet takedown comes as France and other European countries seemed to be shifting away from the US position that Assad must step down. On Wednesday, Russian Envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko said that NATO member Turkey pressured the military bloc into siding with Ankara over its decision to down a Russian warplane over Syria on the grounds of allied solidarity.

Sultan Erdogan's War on...Russia

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Let's cut to the chase. The notion that Turkey's downing of a Russian Su-24 by a made in USA F-16 was carried out without either a green light or at least pre-arranged "support" from Washington invites suspension of disbelief.

Turkey is a mere vassal state, the eastern arm of NATO, which is the European arm of the Pentagon. The Pentagon already issued a denial — which, considering their spectacular record of strategic failures cannot be taken at face value. Plausibly, this might have been a power play by the neocon generals who run the Pentagon, allied with the neocon-infested Obama administration. The privileged scenario though is of a vassal Turkey led by Sultan Erdogan risking a suicide mission out of its own, current, desperation.

Here's Erdogan's warped reasoning in a nutshell. The Paris tragedy was a huge setback. France started discussing close military collaboration not within NATO, but with Russia. Washington's unstated aim was always to get NATO inside Syria. By having Turkey/NATO — clumsily, inside Syrian territory — attacking Russia, and provoking a harsh Russian response, Erdogan thought he could seduce NATO into Syria, under the pretext (Article 5) of defending Turkey.

As Bay-of-Pigs dangerous as this may be, it has nothing to do with WWIII — as apocalyptic purveyors are braying. It revolves around whether a state which supports/finances/weaponizes the Salafi-jihadi nebulae is allowed to destroy the Russian jets that are turning its profitable assets into ashes.

Married to the (Erdogan) Mob

President Putin nailed it; it was "a shot in the back". Because all evidence is pointing towards an ambush: the F-16s might have been actually waiting for the Su-24s. With Turkish TV cameras available for maximum global impact. Two Su-24s were getting ready to strike a bunch of "moderate rebels". Ankara says they were Turkmen — which the Turks finance and weaponize. But there is just a small bunch of Turkmen in northern Syria.

The Su-24s were actually after Chechens and Uzbeks — plus a few Uyghurs — smuggled in with fake Turkish passports (Chinese intel is also on it), all of these operating in tandem with a nasty bunch of Turkish Islamo-fascists. Most of these goons transit back and forth between the CIA-weaponized Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Jabhat al-Nusra. These were the goons who machine-gunned the Russian pilots as they parachuted down after the hit on the Su-24.

The Su-24s posed absolutely no threat to Turkey. Turkish UN Ambassador Halit Cevik's letter to the Security Council is a joke; two Russian jets "warned 10 times in five minutes" to change direction, both flying "more than a mile" into Turkey for an interminable 17 seconds. The whole thing has already been amply debunked. Not to mention that Turkish — and NATO — planes "violate" the Syrian border all the time.

Erdogan well knows how US neocons were livid with French President Francois Hollande after his "it's war" cry was followed by a drive to work together with Russia against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.  So the real target was not a Su-24, but the evolving possibility, after the Paris attacks, of a real coalition — the US, Britain and France on one side, the "4+1" (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) on the other side — finally converging their interests into a unified fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Where would that leave Ankara, which for years has invested heavily in the Salafi-jihadi nebulae, from Jabhat al-Nusra to Ahrar al-Sham and myriad other outfits, culminating with aiding and abetting and even funding ISIS/ISIL/Daesh? Turkey, for all practical purposes, has been a handy, sprawling Salafi-jihadi Infrastructure and Logistics Center; it offers everything from porous borders enabling countless jihadi return tickets from Syria to Europe, facilitated by corrupt police, to a convenient crossroads for all kinds of smuggling and a hefty money laundering ops. So Ankara, with a missile, thought it might completely change the narrative. 

Hardly. Just follow the money. Even in the US and Europe the Turkish game is becoming increasingly transparent. A research paper at Columbia University details at least a fraction of the multiple instances of collusion between Turkey and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.  Bilal Erdogan, the Sultan's son, is a major profiteer of illegal trading of stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil. Imagine his terror after Putin revealed to G-20 leaders in Antalya — Turkish territory! — how Russian intel has identified most of the mobster maze of connections pointing directly to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Imagine mobster/Turkish commodity dealer sentiment at the prospect of losing their cut with the impossibility of buying Syrian stolen oil to the tune of $50 million a month. After all the Russian Air Force had already destroyed oil farms, refineries and most of all over 1,000 tanker trucks — and counting; imagine the prospect of losing all the oil flow, the money flow, a Smugglers Inc. scattered in the desert with no place to go.

And we Also Do Extortion

NATO command may be stand-up comic material — just watch Dr. Strangelove's Greatest Hits, as in Gen. Philip Breedlove and his "Russian aggression" meme. But the generals are not foolish. NATO won't go to war with Russia over a mere vassal. And Russia won't provide NATO with a pretext for war. In the Big Power Politics arena, certainly now we do have the post-modern return of the historic tension between the Russian and Ottoman empires. But that will play over time, slowly. The Russian direct response will be cold, calculated, extensive, swift — and most of all unexpected. No response would imply a carte blanche for "moderate rebels" to be weaponized in Syria ad infinitum.

What's certain is that Russia will turbo-charge the bombing of all ISIS/ISIL/Daesh supply corridors from Turkey into northern Syria, as well as the stolen oil smuggling routes from northern Syria into Turkey. Russia can play with so many options to increase the pressure. For instance, S-300 and S-400 air defense systems covering the Turkish-Syrian border. That would be part of a Russian no-fly zone in Syria, approved by Damascus, for any jet daring to fly without explicit permission from the government. The Sultan wouldn't dare "violate" this airspace. 

Erdogan's desperate gambit reveals that the last thing Ankara wants is a Vienna-conducted peace process in Syria. "Assad must go" is non-negotiable — for an array of geopolitical reasons (neo-Ottomanism), political (the need for a Sunni-dominated, pliant, Syrian satrapy) and economic (the proposed Qatar gas pipeline traversing Syria all the way to Turkey.) And the whole thing is about to get hotter. Not only a Turkish mobster maze is aiding, abetting and profiting handsomely from doing business with ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and other exponents of Jihad Inc.; Ankara itself is in the extortion business. And the willing "victim" is — who else — Europe.

German chancellor Angela Merkel had to go to Ankara to kiss the Sultan's feet so she may be able to "save" her refugee policy. Erdogan came up with the proverbial offer you can't refuse. You want me to hold the refugees here? Just give me 3 billion euros. Unfreeze Turkey's accession dossier to the EU (guess who's the top nation against it: France). And let me have my "safe zone" in the Turkish-Syria border.

Incredible as it may seem, Europe gave in. The European Commission (EC) has just given Erdogan the 3 billion euros. He starts getting the cash on January 1, 2016. The official spin is these funds are part of the "efforts to solve the migrant crisis." European Commission First-Vice President Frans Timmermans glowingly framed the so-called Turkey Refugee Facility as "providing support to further improve the daily lives and socio-economic conditions of Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey." Don't expect the EC to monitor how the cash will vanish in the mobster maze — or will be used to further weaponize "moderate rebels".

Erdogan does not give a damn about refugees. What he wants is his "safe zone", not in Turkey, but 35 km deep in northern Syria, out of bounds for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), militias under Iranian command, Hezbollah forces and most of all the Russian Air Force. He wants his no-fly zone and he wants NATO to get it for him. Erdogan is on a mission from Allah — at least his version of Allah. The downing of the Su-24 is just the preamble. Get ready, because 2016 promises an even bigger bang.

Turkey Downs Russian Plane, Joins With Islamic State: U.S. Should Drop New Ottoman Empire As Ally

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. In a long-feared escalation of tensions between Russia and NATO as well as the Syrian conflict, Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian warplane that it claims had crossed into its airspace during a sortie against rebels in Syria. Turkey has vowed to support the Syrian Turkmen and Erdogan on Tuesday criticized Russian actions in the Turkmen regions, saying there were no Islamic State group fighters in the area. (AP Photo/Kayhan Ozer, Presidential Press Service, Pool )

Turkey’s rash decision to shoot down a Russian plane for allegedly violating its airspace isn’t likely to trigger World War III. But Ankara has demonstrated where it stands. With the Islamic State and against the West. The justification for Turkey’s membership in NATO and America’s defense guarantee for Ankara long ago passed. Turkey’s irresponsible action proves that it is no U.S. ally.

The Obama administration’s war against the Islamic State is turning into another interminable conflict that serves the interests of other nations far more than America. U.S. policy has been impossibly incoherent, attempting to do everything: oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, shove aside next door Iran, defeat vicious jihadist insurgents, promote ineffectual “moderate” forces, convince the Gulf States to act against the extremists they’ve been supporting, promote diplomacy without participation by Damascus and Tehran, and convince Turkey to serve U.S. rather than Islamic interests.

While Russia’s September entry into the war outraged Washington, Moscow showed clarity and realism. Russia simply sought to bolster Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad against insurgents dominated by radical Islamists. Ironically, this approach was far more likely than the administration’s confused policy to advance America’s core interest of defeating ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliates such as al-Nusra. The U.S. had little choice but to accommodate Moscow, despite nutty proposals from some Republican presidential candidates to shoot down Russian planes.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan played the fool when his military downed a Russian aircraft, involved in striking territory controlled by al-Nusra. The two governments’ accounts conflict, but no one believes the Putin government had the slightest hostile intent against Ankara. Downing the plane was gratuitously provocative and not necessary for Turkey’s defense. The objectives likely were to interfere with Moscow’s operations against Islamic radicals and/or discourage future Russian strikes against Ankara-backed Islamists. The action obviously was contrary to Washington’s interest, which would be caught in any escalation between Russia and Turkey. Yet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey.” It’s not enough to “discourage any escalation,” as President Barack Obama insisted. Washington should absorb the bitter lessons of Turkey’s perfidy and drop the alliance relationship.

Turkey is a growing threat to Western interests and values. Ankara never has been a true friend of the West. Turkey was a useful ally during the Cold War, though it always seemed readier to go to war with Greece than the Soviet Union. (In 1974 Ankara seized 37 percent of the island of Cyprus and war with Athens was narrowly averted.) In those years Turkey was only vaguely democratic. The regime punished anyone whose liberal sentimentalities conflicted with the hyper-nationalist “Kemalist” philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the founder of modern Turkey (later named Ataturk, or “Father of the Turks”). The public veneration of Ataturk mimicked the North Korean Kim dynasty’s personality cult.

President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, sweeping away a coalition of feckless, corrupt, and discredited parties. Initially then-Prime Minister Erdogan played the liberator. But once he pushed the military back in its barracks and won his third election he dropped the liberal gloss, sacrificing most of Turkey’s human rights advances. He gained control of the police and judiciary; conducted multiple mass conspiracy trials; and attacked independent journalists, opposition politicians, and business critics. He has pushed, unsuccessfully so far, to establish an authoritarian presidency along the lines, ironically, of that created by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

President Erdogan also is moving Turkey in a more Islamist direction. Although no one expects him to turn his nation into another Iran or Saudi Arabia, he is doing more than end strict Kemalist secularism. Worse, his government has enabled the Islamic State, allowing relatively free transit of personnel and materiel for the most dangerous and destabilizing force in the Middle East. Moreover, there is evidence of more direct assistance—providing equipment, passports, training, medical care, and perhaps more to Islamist radicals. While refusing to take military action against the self-proclaimed caliphate on its border, Ankara has attempted to manipulate the U.S. into ousting Syrian president Assad, whose military is the most important ground force containing ISIL. Despite recently agreeing to assist Washington against the Islamic State, the Erdogan government appears to have played the U.S., directing most of Turkey’s fire against America’s Kurdish allies. 

Shooting down the Russian aircraft was even more irresponsible. Whatever the circumstances of the alleged incursion, Ankara knew that no attack on Turkish forces was planned. President Putin stated the obvious when he declared: “our pilots, planes did not threaten Turkish territory in any way. It is quite clear.” Downing the plane was a direct attack on Moscow for supporting the Assad government against various insurgents, of whom the Turkish-supported radicals are the most important. Whether to punish Russia for opposing Ankara’s objectives or deter Moscow from taking further action, the attack raises tensions not only with Turkey but also NATO, including America, the alliance’s most important member. Striking nuclear-armed Russia for an alleged overflight lasting just a few seconds appears to be seeking war. The U.S. should shun Ankara for playing chicken with Moscow.

Turkey demonstrates that NATO is a bad deal for America. Military alliances should be based on circumstances and defense guarantees should serve U.S. interests. Any conceivable existential threat against Turkey ended along with the Cold War. Ankara and Russia had no conflicting issues likely to lead to war. Turkey’s large military far outclassed those of its neighbors, especially after the U.S. invaded Iraq and Syria collapsed into civil war.

At the same time, the shared interests between Turkey and the West dissipated. The Erdogan government has moved Turkey in a much more independent and even hostile direction. Doing so is Ankara’s prerogative, but eliminates any lingering justification for the West to guarantee Turkey’s security. The alliance should not be responsible for defending Ankara as the latter attempts to overthrow the Assad government and, even worse, commits a gratuitous act of war designed only to provoke Moscow.

Indeed, Turkey is merely the latest example of alliance members seeking to drag the U.S. into conflicts of no interest to America. Britain and France largely orchestrated the Libya war, in which Washington helped deconstruct yet another Muslim country without purpose. NATO members in Eastern Europe, most notably the Baltics, want American garrisons even though they were not viewed as vital U.S. security interest even during the height of the Cold War. Georgia and Ukraine are more distant and aren’t members of the alliance but they, too, want America to confront a nuclear-armed power on its border over interests at most peripheral for Washington. Turkey is more powerful than its neighbors and Europe is more powerful than Russia. The U.S. should disentangle itself from the defense of its free-riding “allies.”

Moscow is a better and more reliable partner than Turkey for America in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin is a nasty character. Under him Russia is acting like a traditional great power, focused on protecting security and winning respect, without the slightest concern for liberal Western values. He has created an ugly autocracy at home, suppressing the civil liberties and political freedoms Americans and Europeans value. But President Erdogan differs little from President Putin. The former profits from his position, jails journalists, seizes media companies, abuses presidential power, and triggers conflict for political gain. It should surprise no one that Ankara’s chances of entering the European Union are nil. Indeed, after having squeezed all of the political benefit from formally seeking membership, President Erdogan probably doesn’t want to join.
 

Where Presidents Putin and Erdogan dramatically diverge is their policies toward radical Islamists. As noted earlier, Ankara has consistently promoted the murderous jihadists of most concern to America. Turkey once was committed to maintaining a stable and moderate political environment in the region. Now the Erdogan government is aiding ISIL and al-Nusra, targeting Kurdish and Syrian government forces, and shooting down Russian aircraft bombing Islamic extremists.

In contrast, in the Middle East U.S. and Russian interests broadly coincide. Exactly why the U.S. feels duty-bound to oust Assad—whom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once described as a “reformer”—isn’t clear. Both Iraq and Libya dramatically demonstrated that it’s not enough to get rid of the bad guy. You need a good guy as successor. Washington has none in Syria. The Obama administration merely pretends that if Assad fled, or ended up hanging from a lamppost, that Syria’s George Washington would magically emerge, unify the insurgents, protect the minorities, and get everyone to hold hands while singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows around a fire.

In fact, American policy in the Mideast has failed catastrophically: persistent intervention has triggered sectarian war in Iraq, turned religious minorities into refugees, spawned the Islamic State, empowered Iran, turned Libya into another failed state filled with conflict and terrorists, discouraged a negotiated settlement in Syria, backed the least effective Syrian insurgents, inadvertently armed the most dangerous combatants, and conducted a largely ineffectual campaign against ISIL without apparent end. Yet the Obama administration is committed to doing more of the same in the forlorn hope of achieving a different result.

Nor does President Putin’s policy elsewhere challenge fundamental allied security interests. It’s not fun being a onetime Soviet republic on his border. Just ask Georgia and Ukraine. However, contrary to claims of an imminent Russian blitzkrieg, in 15 years this supposed Hitler-lite has “gained,” if one can call it that, Abkhazia, Crimea, Donbass, and South Ossetia. That’s a pitiful empire. Indeed, there is no evidence that Moscow has the slightest interest in conquering non-Russian areas. His bullying of his neighbors rightly offends the West’s principles of justice, but is no cause for military conflict.

Cooperating with Russia against the Islamic State and other dangerous radicals doesn’t require befriending President Putin or creating a formal alliance. Rather, such a policy would be simply transactional, with the two governments working together where and when doing so serves both nations’ interests. That’s more than occurs with Turkey today. It is difficult for the U.S. to articulate a single genuine shared interest with Ankara.

The Turkish shoot down of the Russian jet moves the Mideast conflict into a dangerous new phase. With some justification President Putin called the action “a stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices.” The chief lesson for Washington should be to abandon outdated alliances and stop covering for “the terrorists’ accomplices,” most importantly Turkey. Russia may not be an ally, but at least it is friendlier and less dangerous than Ankara today.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2015/11/25/turkey-downs-russian-plane-joins-with-islamic-state-u-s-should-drop-new-ottoman-empire-as-ally/

Erdogan Blackmails NATO Allies

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You know the country has really gone to the dogs when Washington’s main allies in its war on Syria are the two biggest terrorist incubators on the planet. I’m talking about Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both of which are run by fanatical Islamic zealots devoted to spreading violent jihad to the four corners of the earth. Not that the US doesn’t have blood on its hands too. It does, but that’s beside the point. The point is that if you’re trying to sell your fake war on terror to the public, then you might want to think twice about lining up with Grand Sultan Erdogan and King Chop-Chop of Riyadh. The optics alone should have sent the White House PR team running for cover. I mean, couldn’t they have hired squeaky-clean Iceland to join the fray just to persuade the public that the ongoing proxy war wasn’t a complete sham. Which it is.

It all goes to show that no one in the administration really gives a rip about appearances anymore. Obama is going to do what he wants to do, and if you don’t like it: Tough! Isn’t that the message? Of course it is. But just look how that apathy transfers itself into other areas of governing like, let’s say, strategic planning. Take Syria for example, where the think tank pundits were given the task of coming up with a plan to topple a secular regime without: 1–triggering a violent insurgency.  2–igniting massive antiwar demonstrations around the world and, 3—producing hundreds or thousands of US casualties. In other words, our esteemed leaders didn’t want another Iraq which is understandable.

Anyway, that was the basic assignment. So the think tankers came up with this brilliant plan to enlist Sunni militants that the CIA would fund, arm, train and deploy into Syria to shoot the place up, raise holy hell, and then topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.  That was the plan, at least. Four and half years later, the place is a worse mess than Iraq.  Half the population is either dead or internally displaced, the civilian infrastructure is a shambles, and nothing has been achieved. Nothing.  Assad is safely tucked away in Damascus, the jihadi proxies are on the run, and everyone hates the US more than ever. Great plan, eh? Where’s the downside?

The downside is that now Washington finds itself backed against the wall with precious  few options that don’t involve a direct confrontation with Moscow. Of course, all of this could have been avoided had the White House been more eager to negotiate a settlement to the conflict months earlier in Vienna. But, instead, the bullheaded Obama team decided to stick with its dreary “Assad must go” mantra which put the kibosh on any long-term agreement or ceasefire proposal. So now, the Russian-led coalition has made significant gains on the ground, retaking numerous key cities, highways and airbases in the west and south while sending US-backed terrorists fleeing eastward towards Raqqa.  These developments have forced Washington into a fallback position that will likely entail air-support for Turkish ground forces who will be deployed to Northern Syria to take and hold area sufficient for a “safe zone”, which is an innocuous sounding moniker the media invokes to conceal the fact that Turkey plans to annex sovereign Syrian territory which, by the way, is an act of war.

Now fast-forward to last week: Some readers may have noticed disturbing headlines like this in the Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Urges Turkey to Seal Border” Or this Reuters piece that popped up on Monday:  “NATO allies act to strengthen Turkey’s air defenses

Why, you may ask, does Obama want Turkey to close the border now when the horse has already left the barn? What I mean is that the White House has known for over 3 years that the bulk of the jihadis were transiting Turkey on their way  to Syria, just like they knew that ISIS’s oil was being transported across Turkey. They knew it all because they have their damn spy satellites and  AWACs circling overhead. In fact, they could probably tell you how many bumblebees crossed the border at any given time, so they sure as heck saw the throngs of bearded roughnecks moving southward in droves.  So why is it so urgent to close the border now, after all, the damage is already done, right?

Could it have something to do with the fact that Putin’s legions are moving north to seal the border? Could there be an alternate objective, for example, could the US and Turkey be setting the stage for an incursion into Syria that would secure the land needed for the glorious safe zone? That’s what most of the analysts seem to think, at least the ones that haven’t been coopted by the mainstream media. But why is NATO suddenly getting involved? What’s that all about? After all, Putin was reluctant to even commit his airforce to the Syrian conflict. It’s not like he’s planning to invade Turkey or something, right?

Of course he’s not thinking of invading Turkey. That would pit Russia against NATO in a planet-incinerating fight-to-the-death. That might please some of the crackpots in Washington, but just about everyone else would rather avoid the mushroom cloud scenario. So, what’s really going on? For that, we turn to Moon of Alabama that provides this excellent summary in a recent post titled:  “The Real “Terrorist Sympathizers” Want To Wage War On Syria … And Russia”. Here’s an excerpt:

 “Who initiated this sudden rush within major NATO governments to get parliamentary blank checks for waging a long war on Syria? Not only in the UK but also in France and Germany? The German government turned on a dime from “no military intervention in Syria ever” to “lets wage a war of terror on Syria” without any backing from the UN or international law. .. Who initiated this? A simple, medium size terror attack in Paris by some Belgians and French can not be the sole reason for this stampede. Did Obama call and demand support for his plans? What are these? I smell that a trap is being laid, likely via a treacherous Turkey, to somehow threaten Russia with, or involve it in, a wider war. This would include military attacks in east-Ukraine or Crimea as well as in Syria. Obama demanded European backing in case the issue gets out of hand. No other reason I have found explains the current panic. The terrorists the “west” supports in Syria are in trouble. The real terrorist sympathizers need to rush to their help. It is a start of all-out war on Syria and its Russian protectors.” (“Terrorist Sympathizers” Want To Wage War On Syria … And Russia“, Moon of Alabama)
Is that what’s going on? Has Turkish President Erdogan figured out how to hoodwink the NATO allies into a confrontation with Russia that will help him achieve his goal of toppling  Assad and stealing Syrian territory? It’s hard to say, but clearly something has changed,  after all, neither France, nor Germany nor the UK were nearly as gung-ho just a few weeks ago. Now they’re all hyped-up and ready for WW3. Why is that? Ahh, Grasshopper, that is the mystery, a mystery that was unraveled in an op-ed that appeared in the Tuesday edition of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News. Here’s the excerpt:

“The increase in military cooperation within NATO countries against ISIL and the piling up of NATO forces near Turkey’s border with Syria take place in parallel with the recent deal between Ankara and the Brussels over Syrian refugees and the re-activation of Turkey’s EU accession bid.” ….(“Western forces pile up on Turkey-Syria border“, Hurriyet)
Okay, so Erdogan worked out a deal with the other NATO countries. Why is that such a big deal? Well, check out this blurb from the Today’s Zaman:  “Erdogan’s advisor, Burhan Kuzu, summed it up even more succinctly saying: “The EU finally got Turkey’s message and opened its purse strings. What did we say? ‘We’ll open our borders and unleash all the Syrian refugees on you,’” Kuzu stated in his controversial tweet… ” (“EU bows to Turkey’s threat on refugees says Erdoğan advisor“, Today’s Zaman) Blackmail? Is that what we’re talking about, blackmail? It sure sounds like it.

Let’s summarize: Erdogan intentionally releases tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into Europe to put pressure on EU politicians who quickly lose the support of their people and face the meteoric rise of right wing parties. And then, the next thing you know, Merkel, Hollande and every other EU leader is looking to cut a deal with Erdogan to keep the refugees in Turkey. Isn’t that how it all went down? Except we’re missing one important factoid here, because according to the first op-ed “The increase in military cooperation within NATO… and the piling up of NATO forces near Turkey’s border”…took  place in parallel with the deal between Ankara and the Brussels.”

Get it? So there was a quid pro quo that no one wants to talk about.  In other words, Germany, France and the UK agreed to support Erdogan’s loony plan to conduct military operations in Syria, risking a serious dust-up with Russia, in order to save their own miserable political careers. Boy, if that doesn’t take the cake, than I don’t know what does.

Source: http://www.eurasiareview.com/03122015-erdogan-blackmails-nato-allies-oped/

Turkey is now a huge liability for NATO and America


When Turkey entered the NATO defense alliance in 1952, it was a major coup for Europe and for America. Turkey had control of the strategically important Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles. The NATO alliance could therefore exercise a preemptively tight grip on the Soviet Union's only direct access to Western warm-water ports. Furthermore, Turkey was a secular doorway into the resource-rich Middle East. But it's now 2015. The Soviet Union has been dead and gone for a quarter of a century. The Middle East is an absolute mess. And 63 years after joining the alliance, Turkey has turned into one of NATO's and America's biggest liabilities in the region. Indeed, there seems to be no hope of re-balancing this alliance to make it a positive one for the West.

The presumption of shared values between Turkey and the West is disappearing. Ataturk's secular state in Turkey is long gone, and Recep Erdogan is slowly putting together a more Islamic state in its place. Press freedoms are being destroyed, clear evidence that Turkey is no longer part of the free world. Consequently, the terms of the debate between Turkey and Russia have changed since the Cold War, or really, reverted to their more traditional form. Turkey and Russia see each other not just as once-great powers that are often at odds, but as religious-political rivals dating back to the years of Islamic expansion against Christendom. Leaders of both countries use their religious history, perhaps cynically, to justify to their respective publics their foreign policy in the Middle East. NATO was an alliance of the Free World versus Communism. But now, the more resonant axis of conflict between Russia and Turkey is the Ottoman Empire versus Orthodoxy.

Turkey's interests no longer align neatly with the West's. Erdogan's own son is accused of collaborating with ISIS to transport ISIS's oil through Turkey. Turkey has been reckless with Europe's security, by allowing jihadists to travel through it both coming from Europe and returning from the battlefields of Syria. Turkey's major strategic goals in the Syrian civil war do not align with our own, since their first-order concerns are to prevent the Kurds from gaining strength to attack the Turkish state, and to protect Turkmen living in Syria. Removing Bashar al-Assad from power is a lesser goal for them. Defeating ISIS hardly rates at all.

Another huge problem: The NATO alliance creates a moral hazard through its security guarantee to Turkey. Although Turkey has not yet invoked Article 5 — which obliges every member to act in concert in defense of another member — our needy, unstable, and burgeoning dictatorship of an ally acts in increasingly provocative ways, like shooting down a Russian jet, precisely because no one on the Russian or NATO side really wants to put Article 5 to the test. Turkey is now the state in NATO most likely to reveal Article 5 as a bluff, thereby putting the security of nations like Estonia or even Poland into doubt, or precipitating a conflict between Moscow and the West that would be needless, yet difficult to step away from without either side losing face.

Even without Turkey, Russia and the United States already have a highly complicated and difficult relationship when it comes to Syria. Washington and Moscow each claim to have a common foe in ISIS. But each country has made the protection of their different allies their top priority. Russia works primarily to protect Assad. The U.S. looks out for its so-called "moderate rebels." Each nation keeps getting pushed to confront ISIS, but they are simultaneously supporting rivals in anticipation of an internationally brokered ceasefire and peace. Turkey has done nothing but create complications for both sides, in an already confusing situation.

At the same time, Turkey is taking advantage of our European partner promising to slow the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe only if Europe coughs up a tremendous amount of cash. The Turks also want to be able to grant their millions of citizens EU visas. Essentially, Turkey's proposition is that they'll stop the flow of Syrians, if only Europe opens the door wide to Turks. Like so many other states in the region, Turkey's alliance with the United States is now high-risk and low-upside. Sixty-three years is a pretty damn good run in the history of diplomacy. But now is the time to ease our way to an amicable divorce.

Source: http://theweek.com/articles/591808/turkey-now-huge-liability-nato--america

Dump New Ottomans from NATO: Shoot Down of Russian Plane Shows Turkey to be Dangerous Ally

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Turkey's rash decision to shoot down a Russian plane for violating its airspace hasn't triggered World War III. But Ankara demonstrated where it stands. With the Islamic State and against the West. The justification for Turkey's membership in NATO and America's defense guarantee for Ankara long ago passed. Turkey's irresponsible action proves that it is no U.S. ally. The Obama administration's war against the Islamic State is turning into another interminable conflict that serves the interests of other nations far more than America. U.S. policy has been impossibly incoherent, attempting to do everything: oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, shove aside next door Iran, defeat vicious jihadist insurgents, promote ineffectual "moderate" forces, convince the Gulf States to act against the extremists they've been supporting, promote diplomacy without participation by Damascus and Tehran, and convince Turkey to serve U.S. rather than Islamic interests.

While Russia's September entry into the war outraged Washington, Moscow showed clarity and realism. Russia simply sought to bolster Syria's President Bashar al-Assad against insurgents dominated by radical Islamists. Ironically, this approach was far more likely than the administration's confused policy to advance America's core interest of defeating ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliates such as al-Nusra. The U.S. had little choice but to accommodate Moscow, despite nutty proposals from some Republican presidential candidates to shoot down Russian planes.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan played the fool when last month his military downed a Russian aircraft, involved in striking territory controlled by al-Nusra. No one believes the Putin government had the slightest hostile intent against Ankara. Downing the plane was gratuitously provocative and not necessary for Turkey's defense. The objectives likely were to interfere with Moscow's operations against Islamic radicals and/or discourage future Russian strikes against Ankara-backed Islamists. The action obviously was contrary to Washington's interest, which would be caught in any escalation between Russia and Turkey. Yet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that "we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey." Oddly, the alliance previously protested when Syria downed an errant Turkish warplane over the former's territory.

Washington should absorb the bitter lessons of Turkey's perfidy and drop the alliance relationship. Turkey is a growing threat to Western interests and values. Ankara never has been a true friend of the West. Turkey was a useful ally during the Cold War, though it always seemed readier to go to war with Greece than the Soviet Union. (In 1974 Ankara seized 37 percent of the Republic of Cyprus and war with Athens was narrowly averted.) In those years Turkey was only vaguely democratic. The regime punished anyone whose liberal sentimentalities conflicted with the hyper-nationalist "Kemalist" philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the founder of modern Turkey (later named Ataturk, or "Father of the Turks"). The public veneration of Ataturk mimicked the North Korean Kim dynasty's personality cult.

President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, sweeping away a coalition of feckless, corrupt, and discredited parties. Initially Erdogan, who began as prime minister, played the liberator. But once he pushed the military back in its barracks and won his third election he dropped the liberal gloss, sacrificing most of Turkey's human rights advances. He gained control of the police and judiciary; conducted multiple mass conspiracy trials; and attacked independent journalists, opposition politicians, and business critics. He has pushed, unsuccessfully so far, to establish an authoritarian presidency along the lines, ironically, of that created by Russia's Vladimir Putin.

President Erdogan also is moving Turkey in a more Islamist direction. Although no one expects him to turn his nation into another Iran or Saudi Arabia, he has done more than end strict Kemalist secularism. Worse, his government has enabled the Islamic State, allowing relatively free transit of personnel and materiel for the most dangerous and destabilizing force in the Middle East. Moreover, there is evidence of more direct assistance--providing equipment, passports, training, medical care, and perhaps more to Islamist radicals. While refusing to take military action against the self-proclaimed caliphate on its border, Ankara has attempted to manipulate the U.S. into ousting Syrian president Assad, who controls the important ground forces containing ISIL. Despite recently agreeing to assist Washington against the Islamic State, the Erdogan government appears to have played the U.S., directing most of Turkey's fire against America's Kurdish allies.

Shooting down the Russian aircraft was even more irresponsible. Whatever the circumstances of the alleged incursion, Ankara knew that no attack on Turkish forces was planned. President Putin stated the obvious when he declared: "our pilots, planes did not threaten Turkish territory in any way. It is quite clear." Downing the plane was a direct attack on Moscow for supporting the Assad government against various insurgents, of whom the Turkish-supported radicals are the most important. Whether to punish Russia for opposing Ankara's objectives or deter Moscow from taking further action, the attack raises tensions not only with Turkey but also NATO, including America, the alliance's most important member. Striking nuclear-armed Russia for an alleged overflight lasting just a few seconds appears to be seeking war. The U.S. should shun Ankara for playing chicken with Moscow.

Turkey demonstrates that NATO is a bad deal for America. Military alliances should be based on circumstances and defense guarantees should serve U.S. interests. Any conceivable existential threat against Turkey ended along with the Cold War. Ankara and Russia had no conflicting issues likely to lead to war. Turkey's large military far outclassed those of its neighbors, especially after the U.S. invaded Iraq and Syria collapsed into civil war. At the same time, the shared interests between Turkey and the West dissipated. The Erdogan government has moved Turkey in a much more independent and even hostile direction. Doing so is Ankara's prerogative, but eliminates any lingering justification for the West to guarantee Turkey's security. The alliance should not be responsible for defending Ankara as the latter attempts to overthrow the Assad government and, even worse, commits a gratuitous act of war seemingly designed only to provoke Moscow.

Indeed, Turkey is merely the latest example of alliance members seeking to drag the U.S. into conflicts of no interest to America. Britain and France largely orchestrated the Libya war, in which Washington helped deconstruct yet another Muslim country without purpose. NATO members in Eastern Europe, most notably the Baltics, want American garrisons even though they were not viewed as vital U.S. security interest even during the height of the Cold War. Georgia and Ukraine are more distant and aren't members of the alliance but they, too, lobby America to confront a nuclear-armed power on its border over interests at most peripheral for Washington. Turkey is more powerful than its neighbors and Europe is more powerful than Russia. The U.S. should disentangle itself from the defense of its free-riding "allies."

Moscow is a better and more reliable partner than Turkey for America in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin is a nasty character. Under him Russia is acting like a traditional great power, focused on protecting security and winning respect, without the slightest concern for liberal Western values. He has created an ugly autocracy at home, suppressing the civil liberties and political freedoms Americans and Europeans value. But President Erdogan differs little from President Putin. The former profits from power, jails journalists, seizes media companies, abuses presidential power, and triggers conflict for political gain. It should surprise no one that Ankara's chances of entering the European Union are nil. Indeed, after having squeezed all of the political benefit from formally seeking membership, President Erdogan probably doesn't want to join.

Where Presidents Putin and Erdogan dramatically diverge is their policies toward radical Islamists. As noted earlier, Ankara has consistently aided the murderous jihadists of most concern to America. Turkey once was committed to maintaining a stable and moderate political environment in the region. Now the Erdogan government is aiding ISIL and al-Nusra, targeting Kurdish and Syrian government forces, and shooting down Russian aircraft bombing Islamic extremists.

In contrast, in the Middle East U.S. and Russian interests broadly coincide. Exactly why the U.S. feels duty-bound to oust Assad--whom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once described as a "reformer"--isn't clear. Both Iraq and Libya dramatically demonstrated that it's not enough to get rid of the bad guy. You need a good guy as successor. Washington has none in Syria. The Obama administration merely pretends that if Assad fled or ended up hanging from a lamppost that Syria's George Washington would magically emerge, unify the insurgents, protect the minorities, and get everyone to hold hands while singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows around a fire.

In fact, despite the obliviousness of most Republican presidential wannabes, such as Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, American policy in the Mideast has failed catastrophically: persistent intervention has triggered sectarian war in Iraq, turned religious minorities into refugees, spawned the Islamic State, empowered Iran, turned Libya into another failed state filled with conflict and terrorists, discouraged a negotiated settlement in Syria, backed the least effective Syrian insurgents, inadvertently armed the most dangerous insurgents, and conducted a largely ineffectual campaign against ISIL without apparent end. Yet the Obama administration is committed to doing more of the same in the forlorn hope of achieving a different result. The majority of GOP candidates believe there's no problem that another war or two wouldn't solve.

Nor does President Putin's policy elsewhere challenge fundamental allied security interests. It's not fun being a onetime Soviet republic on his border. Just ask Georgia and Ukraine. However, contrary to claims of an imminent Russian blitzkrieg, in 15 years this supposed Hitler-lite has "gained," if one can call it that, Abkhazia, Crimea, Donbass, and South Ossetia. That's a pitiful empire. Indeed, there is no evidence that Moscow has the slightest interest in conquering non-Russian areas. His bullying of his neighbors rightly offends the principles of justice, but is no cause for military conflict with the West.

Cooperating with Russia against the Islamic State and other dangerous radicals doesn't require befriending President Putin or creating a formal alliance. Rather, such a policy would be simply transactional, with the two governments working together where and when doing so serves both nations' interests. That's more than occurs with Turkey today. It is difficult for the U.S. to articulate a single genuine shared interest with Ankara. The Turkish shoot down of the Russian jet moves the Mideast conflict into a dangerous new phase. With some justification President Putin called the action "a stab in the back by the terrorists' accomplices." The chief lesson for Washington should be to abandon outdated alliances and stop covering for "the terrorists' accomplices," most importantly Turkey. Russia may not be an ally, but at least it is friendlier and less dangerous than Ankara today.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/doug-bandow/dump-new-ottomans-from-na_b_8836998.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

Kremlin says Putin 'fully mobilized' to tackle threat from Turkey

Anti-aircraft missile system S-400 during combat duty to ensure the safety of the Russian air group in Syria

President Vladimir Putin is fully mobilized to tackle what the Kremlin regards as an unprecedented threat from Turkey following the shooting down of one of its warplanes by a Turkish F-16, the Russian leader's spokesman said on Saturday. In comments which underscore how angry the Kremlin still is over the incident, Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, called the behavior of the Turkish air force "absolute madness" and said Ankara's subsequent handling of the crisis had reminded him of the "theater of the absurd."

"Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind," Peskov told Russia's "News on Saturday" TV program, calling Turkish evidence purporting to show the Russian SU-24 jet had violated Turkish air space "cartoons". Peskov said the crisis had prompted Putin, whose ministers are preparing retaliatory economic measures against Turkey, to "mobilize" in the way an army does in tense times. "The president is mobilized, fully mobilized, mobilized to the extent that circumstances demand," said Peskov. "The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat."

Peskov said Putin was aware of a Turkish request for him to meet President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Paris climate change conference next week but gave no indication of whether such a meeting would take place. Erdogan on Saturday said the Paris summit could be a chance to repair Ankara's relations with Russia. Peskov denied Turkish press reports which said Moscow and Ankara had struck a deal for their warplanes to stop flying along the Syrian-Turkish border, saying military ties between the two countries had been severed and a hot line meant to avoid misunderstandings among their pilots dismantled.

Peskov, according to the TASS news agency, also spoke of how Erdogan's son had a "certain interest" in the oil industry. Putin has said oil from Syrian territory controlled by Islamic State militants is finding its way to Turkey. Erdogan has spoken of slander and asked anyone making such accusations to back up their words with evidence. Peskov said he "noted" that Turkey's newly-appointed energy minister, Berat Albayrak, was Erdogan's son-in-law. Peskov said there could be up to 200,000 Turkish citizens on Russian soil. "What's important is that everyone who is able to use their influence to guarantee at least some predictability in the pattern of Turkey's behavior," said Peskov. "Russian planes should never be shot down."


Russia-Turkey Ties Are Headed Into a Deep Freeze

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Historical foes enjoyed uniquely warm relations over past two decades

Russia and Turkey, historical foes that fought a dozen wars with each other over the centuries, enjoyed uniquely warm relations in the past two decades. Even if this week’s downing of a Russian jet by the Turkish air force won’t lead to another military clash, it is already clear that these ties now are heading into a deep freeze. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both authoritarian leaders who long stoked nationalist feelings as a way of garnering popular support, until now had managed to separate the burgeoning bilateral relationship from their foreign-policy differences. Trade boomed despite disagreements over Syria, Cyprus and Ukraine—with Turkey declining to join U.S. and Europe in imposing sanctions on Moscow. Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 jet Tuesday along the Syrian border, which ended with one pilot dead, has made this compartmentalization impossible. Emotions are running high on both sides, and Russia has already moved to retaliate.

“The kind of relationship that Russia and Turkey had built after the end of the Cold War is gone for the foreseeable future. That golden age is over, and the relationship has returned to hostility, suspicion and rivalry,” said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “What’s very important is that this relationship is spoiled at the very top. Ties between the ‘czar’ in Moscow and the ‘sultan’ in Turkey had a critical importance. Now these ties are destroyed, and Erdogan and Putin no longer view each other as partners.”

Russia’s food safety authority, long used by the Kremlin to pursue foreign-policy goals, wasted no time in curbing the import of Turkish fruit and vegetables, while Russia’s foreign ministry advised the country’s tourists to avoid Turkish resorts. Touching on another sensitive issue, the Russian parliament plans to debate a motion that would criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide. Turkey is second only to Germany as the buyer of Russian natural gas, accounting for nearly one-fifth of Russia’s gas exports outside the former Soviet Union. Russia is also building Turkey’s first nuclear power station, a project estimated at more than $20 billion that is largely financed by Moscow. So far, energy ties between the two countries haven't been affected. But Mr. Putin indicated Thursday that things between the countries could get much worse.

“Until now we haven't heard clear apologies from the highest Turkish leadership, no proposals to compensate for the damage, and no promise to punish the criminals responsible for the crime they have committed,” Mr. Putin said. “There is an impression that the Turkish leadership is deliberately pushing our relationship into a dead end.”

Almost immediately, Mr. Erdogan retorted that an apology is due to Turkey, not to Russia. Russia ordered tougher checks on Turkish food imports, taking aim at the country’s economy two days after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on its border with Syria. Russia has continued its airstrikes in Syria. For an authoritarian leader such as Mr. Erdogan—just as for Mr. Putin—it is critically important not to lose face and not to appear weak. In addition, the spreading nationalist fervor could help Mr. Erdogan gain the support in parliament for his plan to revamp the constitution and establish an executive presidency.

“Erdogan is not the kind of person that apologizes in these circumstances easily,” said Yasar Yakis, one of the founders of Mr. Erdogan’s party and a former Turkish foreign minister. “Also, even if Turkey apologizes, Russia will not repeal the measures it has already taken, and will not forget this situation.”

In addition to economic reprisals, another military confrontation between Turkey and Russia may loom. Russia has already made sure its planes won’t be shot down as easily by ordering that ground-attack aircraft should be accompanied by jet fighters equipped for air-to-air combat. It is also deploying to Syria the S-400 ground-to-air missile system that has the capacity to down aircraft over much of Syria and a significant part of southern Turkey. Mr. Erdogan, meanwhile, promised Thursday that Turkish jets would “respond the same way” if Russia violates the country’s airspace. With Russian jets continuing bombing missions in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish border, the potential for another tragedy in the air remains high, said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the EDAM think tank in Istanbul and a former Turkish diplomat.

“If Russia wants to test Turkey’s resolve in protecting its rules of engagement, we may see more incidents involving Russian and Turkish planes, which will surely escalate this crisis,” Mr. Ulgen said. “But if there is going to be an escalation, it is going to be by Russia.”

With a migrant crisis engulfing Europe, civil war in Syria and a proliferation of terror groups in the region, Turkey finds itself as a geopolitical hotspot. WSJ's Niki Blasina explains the key flashpoints, including Russia, the U.S. and the European Union. Both Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan are aware of the risks that this conflict may degenerate into a global clash between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Turkey is a member.

“Turkey and Russia will want to refrain from a direct military confrontation. If they plan to do something, they have enough proxy means and ways in Syria,” said retired Turkish special-forces Maj. Metin Gurcan, a security analyst and commentator.

One response, which Turkey fears, would be for Russia to follow the tactic it has already pursued in Ukraine and to provide a local proxy group, such as the Kurds, with missiles that could be used to down Turkish aircraft, he added. The leftist PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party renewed its war on the Turkish state after a cease-fire collapsed in July, and its affiliate YPG is a major force across the border in Syria. Focused on combating Islamic State, YPG—unlike other Syrian rebel groups—has by and large avoided confronting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Kurdish cause has historically been viewed with sympathy in Russia. “Russia will be supporting more and more strongly the Kurds and the Kurdish demands,” predicted Andranik Migranyan, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations who advised the Russian leadership. 

“And if the Kurds of Syria and the Kurds of Iraq are supported with weapons, these weapons would also find their way to the Kurds of Turkey.”

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-turkey-ties-are-headed-into-a-deep-freeze-1448561773

Range of New and Ancient Frustrations Reach Boiling Point as Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet

A protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Moscow on November 25, 2015

Turkey and Russia promised on Wednesday not to go to war over the downing of a Russian military jet, leaving Turkey’s still-nervous NATO allies and just about everyone else wondering why the country decided to risk such a serious confrontation. The reply from the Turkish government so far has been consistent: Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Though minor airspace violations are fairly common and usually tolerated, Turkey had repeatedly called in Russia’s ambassador to complain about aircraft intrusions and about bombing raids in Syria near the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday evening — and a Pentagon spokesman later confirmed — that before a Turkish F-16 shot down the Russian Su-24 jet, Turkish forces had warned the Russian plane 10 times in five minutes to steer away.

“I personally was expecting something like this, because in the past months there have been so many incidents like that,” Ismail Demir, Turkey’s undersecretary of national defense, said in an interview. “Our engagement rules were very clear, and any sovereign nation has a right to defend its airspace.” The Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said as much on Wednesday while dismissing Russia’s explanation that it was fighting a common enemy, the Islamic State. “No one,” he said, “can legitimize attacks on Turkmens in Syria using the pretext of fighting the Islamic State.”
The bombing was creating political problems for Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Cagaptay said. “In the days leading up to the incident, many newspapers, especially the pro-government publications, were running headlines highlighting the suffering of the Turkmens, who are closely related to Anatolian Turks,” he said. “I think the government felt that, in terms of domestic politics, it had to do something to ease some of this pressure that had resulted from the Russian bombardment against Turkmens in northern Syria.”

Russia’s bombing of Turkmen villages was to be the principal issue Turkey raised with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in talks that had been set for Wednesday but were canceled after the shooting down of the plane. Mr. Erdogan’s emphasis on helping the Turkmens has another important political dimension in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan’s political party emphasized Turkish ethnic identity and Sunni Muslim faith in the campaign leading up to critical elections on Nov. 1, as it competed with one rival party heavily composed of Turkey’s Kurdish minority and another committed to preserving Turkey’s status as a secular society and state.

Mr. Erdogan managed an important victory in that election, preserving his chances of winning legislative approval to change the Constitution and turn the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential one. Complicating matters further, Turkey and Syria have a longstanding border dispute in exactly the area where the Russian plane, a Sukhoi Su-24, was shot down, and Russia has sometimes voiced support for Syria’s claim. It is a narrow strip of territory, the Hatay Province of Turkey, that runs south along the Mediterranean Sea, deep into Syria. The province is a melting pot of ethnic Turks and Arabs. It is also a religious mélange, with many Muslims but also a large Christian population, as Hatay includes the biblical city of Antioch. And the province has an acrimonious history.

The League of Nations granted Hatay Province to France after World War I as part of France’s legal mandate over Syria. Ethnic Turks led the province’s secession from Syria and declaration of an independent republic in 1938, and that republic then joined Turkey the next year — much as Texas seceded from Mexico a century earlier, became a republic and soon joined the United States.

Syria has periodically questioned the loss of Hatay over the years. “If you look at Syrian maps, that province, that chunk of territory, is shown as belonging to Syria,” said Altay Atli, an international relations specialist at Bogazici University. When Hatay seceded from the French mandate of Syria, Hatay’s borders did not encompass all of the ethnic Turks in the area; many Turkmens remained just across the border in what is now northernmost Syria. For decades, it was difficult for families divided on either side of the border by the secession of Hatay to even visit one another. Tensions finally began to ease during the years immediately before the Arab Spring, but they have resumed in the last several years as Turkey has led calls for the removal of Mr. Assad.

The fact that Russia has over the years expressed sympathy for Syria’s claim to Hatay makes the province even more delicate for Turkey, and Tuesday’s incident with the Russian jet even more important, said James F. Jeffrey, a former American ambassador to Turkey who is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He questioned whether the Russian jet had strayed into Hatay Province’s airspace accidentally or whether Russia might have been deliberately allowing incursions by its jets during military activities in Syria because of Hatay’s tangled history.

Turkey was tired of Russia’s intimidating Turkey,” he said. The Russian and Ottoman Empires battled for centuries for control over the area from the Balkans to the Black Sea, and vestiges of that bloody rivalry keep arising. One of those is reflected in Turkey’s deep concern about Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, said Murat Yesiltas, the director of security studies at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a large research group in Ankara with close government links.

Turkey now faces across the Black Sea a much wider arc of territory occupied by Russian forces. Many in Turkey are further upset by Russia’s treatment of the Crimean Tatars, who speak a Turkic language and have opposed the Russian annexation. Most of the Crimean Tatars’ leaders have been forced into exile by Russia, and this week Tatars have been blocking repair crews from restringing crucial power lines to Crimea that were mysteriously blown up over the weekend, producing a nearly total blackout on the peninsula.

“Turkey wants to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Mr. Yesiltas said. Turkey has already provided economic assistance to Ukraine, but it has been reluctant to confront Moscow more publicly because Russia is one of Turkey’s biggest export markets and supplies three-fifths of Turkey’s natural gas. With President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia saying things about the jet’s downing like, “We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today” and warning of “serious consequences,” the biggest question perhaps is what comes next.

Russia on Wednesday announced plans to deploy its most modern air-defense system, the S-400 mobile antiaircraft missile, to its air base outside Latakia. But while most experts — and Mr. Erdogan himself, in remarks on Wednesday — play down concerns of a wider confrontation, many worry that the biggest losers from Tuesday’s incident could be the Turkmens. While the jet’s two crew members were able to eject from the plane, Russia said that one of them was killed — possibly by fire from the ground as he floated to earth — as was a marine sent in a helicopter that was shot down by local ground forces while trying to rescue the pilots; the Kremlin said the second crew member had been rescued by Russian special forces. Several experts warned that Mr. Putin may step up his country’s attacks on the Turkmens in retaliation. “They’re the real target,” Mr. Jeffrey said. “He can just plaster them.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/26/world/europe/turkey-russia-fighter-jet.html?ref=world&_r=0

Fars News: Russian Pilot Rescued by Joint Effort Between Russia and Iran

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On Tuesday, a Russian Su-24 bomber jet crashed in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the plane was downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 jet over Syrian territory, falling 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Turkish border. The crew of the plane ejected and one pilot was killed by fire from the ground, according to the Russian General Staff. The co-pilot Captain Konstantin Murahtin survived. But the story of how he survived in a land surrounded by various types of terrorist groups for tens of kilometers was unknown until today. Emad Abshenas, a reporter for Russia's state-run Sputnik news agency, wrote a piece in the Persian-language website of the Russian agency quoting the entire story from a senior Syrian officer.

"I contacted one of the Syrian officers who is my old friend and is stationed in Lattakia and asked him to tell me the story, and here is what he said," Abshenas mentioned.

After the downing of the Russian fighter jet, the Russian helicopters took off immediately to save the pilot but they faced the heavy fire power of FSA (or the so-called moderate opposition, the Free Syrian Army, supported by the West) and the Turkey-back Turkmens who targeted the helicopter with missiles and advanced weapons that they have gained recently. During the operations one Russian aid worker was killed. Credible information was obtained that a number of special Turkish units had been sent to the scene to take the Russian pilot captive to blackmail Russia later. While the Russians were planning for another operations to free the pilot immediately, General Soleimani contacted them and proposed them that a special task force unit be formed of Hezbollah's special forces and Syrian commandos who have been trained by Iran and are fully familiar with the geographical situation of the region to be tasked with the ground operations and Russia provide them with air cover and satellite intelligence.

Soleimani promised them to return the Russian pilot safe and sound; a promise that was kept in the end, according to the Syrian officer. After tracing the place of the Russian pilot using his GPS, it was revealed that the pilot was being kept in a place 6km behind the frontline of the clashes between the Syrian army and the opposition. Six fighters of Hezbollah's special operation unit and 18 Syrian commandos approached the frontline to carry out the operations and the Russian air force and helicopters concurrently created hellfire in the region and destroyed the terrorists' headquarters in a way that most of the enemy forces deployed in the region fled the scene and the ground was paved for the special unit's advance.

The Syrian officer added that every move of the special units was monitored and covered precisely by the Russian satellites in a way that the slightest moves made 100 meters away from the area of operation was reported to them and every moment of the operation was reported to a very high-raking official in the Kremlin (that he thinks was president Putin) and it was clear that he was monitoring the entire operations through satellites from Moscow. According to the officer who called for anonymity, the operation later turned into a hunt of the terrorists in the operation zone by the Russian air force from the sky and by Brigadier General Soleimani's operations units on the ground.

The Syrian officer believed that the Russians also launched strong electronic warfare immediately to blind all enemies' satellites and communication equipment in areas several kilometers away from the operational zone and when the enemies came to realize something was underway, the operations had ended. The electronic warfare was launched since the Russians were concerned that the western satellites would leak the operation to the terrorists. Finally, the special unit saved the pilot after infiltrating 6km behind the enemy lines, killing the terrorists operating in there and destroying their hi-tech equipment. The interesting point is that all the 24 members of the special units along with the pilot returned to their base without even one injury after fulfilling the dangerous mission.

According to the senior Syrian officer, one of the reasons for the success of these operations was the difference between Turkey and the terrorists over the fate of the Russian pilot as the Turks wanted him alive to use him for political blackmailing against the Russia. While the terrorists stationed in the region intended to burn him alive like what did to the Jordanian pilot to fill the hearts of other Russian pilots with fright. And this rift paved the ground for rescue operations some golden hours. Since the opposition never imagined that such a rapid planning and action by the rescue squads would be possible, given the complicated nature of such operations. The Syrian officer said that General Soleimani insisted to supervise the details of the operations at the head of his forces and stayed in the operations room until he came to rest assured of their success. Abshenas then comes out of the report with a number of interesting points, saying:

1.    General Soleimani is fully healthy and is actively commanding operations in the frontline of the war against terrorists and responds rumors about himself with action and not by words and slogans.

2.    There is no extremist and moderate oppositions in Syria; all of them are terrorists appearing in the public in different clothes and under different masks.

3.    The Group 4+1 cannot trust other countries in any field and they should rely on themselves to eliminate the terrorists in the region based on their own specified plans. 

4.    Iran and Russia's operational coordination in Syria is highly integrated and can break all enemies' fronts.

5.    Most of the FSA's Syrian members had withdrawn from the region after they came under Russia's airstrikes and the commandos fought non-Syrian forces who were using classic military tactics and not guerilla warfare and therefore, they could well be Turkish militaries or army forces of other countries. The commandos, of course, had no other choice but to kill them given the importance of rapid action in the operations and they didn’t had enough time to hold them captive.

6.    The terrorists present in the region possessed very modern and advanced military equipment for ground-to-ground and ground-to-air warfare which are not even supplied to a large number of countries which are Washington's NATO allies.

7.    According to informed sources who had traced the wireless contacts between the opposition forces, the Arabic, Turkish, Russian and French are respectively the most frequently used languages by the terrorists, revealing that the countries which are mostly posed to the danger of the return of these terrorists and shows that Russia is forced to continue fight until the complete annihilation of the terrorists in Syria to safeguard its own national security.


‘Turkish jets gave us no warning before shooting’ – rescued pilot of downed Russian Su-24
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The navigator of the Russian Su-24 shot down by a Turkish fighter jet on Tuesday insists that his plane did not cross into Turkey’s airspace, and says he was given no visual or radio warning before being fired at. As well as denying Ankara’s assertions that the plane was in Turkey’s airspace, Murakhtin, who says he knows the mission area "like the back of my hand," also refuted Turkish officials’ claims that the pilots were warned repeatedly. “In actual fact, there were no warnings at all. Neither through the radio, nor visually, so we did not at any point adjust our course. You need to understand the difference in speed between a tactical bomber like a Su-24, and that of the F16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have sat on our wing,” said Murakhtin, who is currently recuperating at Russia’s airbase in Latakia, northern Syria. “As it was, the missile hit the back of our plane out of nowhere. We didn’t even have time to make an evasive maneuver.”

As the plane was hit and went down in Syria, the two pilots ejected. Captain Sergey Rumyantsev was killed, with a rebel Turkmen brigade claiming they shot him to death while he was still parachuting. Murakhtin was extracted in a 12-hour joint operation by Russian and Syrian special forces, in which a Russian marine died.

The 39-year-old airman, who won the Top Navigator award at Russia’s biggest military flying competition last year, says he will ask to return to front-line service as soon as he is declared fit. “I must ‘pay back’ the debt for my captain,” said Murakhtin. The incident has led to Russia accusing NATO member Turkey of a “planned provocation,” as military co-operation has been suspended between the two states. Both sides, however, have vowed to avoid further escalation, with a meeting planned between foreign ministers. Turkey has been supporting anti-government forces in Syria since a rebellion broke out against Bashar Assad in 2011. Russia has staunchly backed Assad, and has been conducting an airstrike campaign at his request since September. Both Russia and Turkey have condemned Islamic State, but have also accused each other of enabling its progress, with Vladimir Putin calling the downing of the Russian jet “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism.”

No man left behind: Dramatic details emerge of downed Su-24 pilot rescue 

Gripping new details of the rescue of the downed Russian Su-24 pilot have been revealed. The details are straight out of the movie “Black Hawk Down,” and reveal how Russian Marines saved the pilot in a breath-taking frontline op involving a fierce shootout with militants. Cpt Konstantin Murakhtin, who escaped death after his jet was attacked by a Turkish Air Force F-16, parachuted into the middle of territory held by hostile Syrian rebel fighters, making any effort to save him incredibly dangerous. His fellow pilot Lt Col Oleg Pershin was reportedly killed by Turkmen militants in the air even before landing. Murakhtin was fortunate enough to land safely, but his position was directly in the line of crossfire from the Syrian Army and terrorists. He activated a life beacon and could do nothing but wait for help.The Marine rescue team sent to save the pilot left Russia’s Khmeimim airbase minutes after the Su-24 bomber was shot down by the Turks in Syrian airspace, just one kilometer from the Turkish border.

“We moved out just 15 minutes after we got information that the Turks had downed our aircraft. The area was between Durin and Turkmen heights, where fierce shootouts have been taking place. We scrambled three [Mi-8] helicopters which headed for the probable crash site,” a source close to the rescue operation told RIA Novosti.

When approaching the site the incoming helicopters came under heavy fire from terrorists. Two Russian choppers had to return to base, while one crash-landed under mortar shelling with crew and 12 Marines on board. One Marine, Aleksandr Pozynich, was killed in action as he left the chopper to find cover from mortar shelling from a nearby hilltop. An on-the-spot video shot by reporters from ANNA-News who were in the area shows the Mi-8s and the dramatic moments the Russian Marines came under fire and escaped the landing site. Their chopper blew up after being hit by an anti-tank rocket launched from the ground.

Syrian military who were nearby rushed to help the Russian Marine, covering the group from three sides. The Syrians came “right on time,” says the source, and managed to extract the Russian troops from under fire. Murakhtin, who won the Top Navigator award at Russia’s biggest military flying competition last year, said he will ask to return to duty as soon as he is declared fit by doctors. “I must pay back the debt for my commander,” he said.

Source: https://www.rt.com/news/323431-saved-pilot-turkish-su24/

Turkey is a Pawn on the Chessboard for US-NATO War against Russia

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“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Turkey’s provocation towards Russia is not surprising at all. Washington’s Fingerprints are at the Scene of the Crime. Let’s consider the facts. Syrian government forces along with Russia have turned the tide against ISIS. It is a known fact that the U.S., France, the U.K., Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar had been arming, funding, training or provided safe havens for ISIS at some point in time. Turkey was implicated in a 2012 Reuters report stating that “Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border.” The report also said:

News of the clandestine Middle East-run “nerve centre” working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers – who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – have avoided military involvement so far in Syria.  “It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,” said a Doha-based source. “It’s the Turk’s” who are controlling the situation in Syria under Washington’s direction in an attempt to remove Assad.  Now Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter jet because it claims that it violated its airspace. One important fact to consider is that Turkey created a “buffer zone” five miles inside Syria since 2012, a McClatchydc.com report said:
Turkey has maintained a buffer zone five miles inside Syria since June 2012, when a Syrian air defense missile shot down a Turkish fighter plane that had strayed into Syrian airspace. Under revised rules of engagement put in effect then, the Turkish air force would evaluate any target coming within five miles of the Turkish border as an enemy and act accordingly
Creating a buffer zone five miles inside Syria will of course will lead to confrontations between Russian and Turkish fighter jets along the border.  Ankara can know claim its airspace (five miles from the actual Turkish border) has been violated.  An article titled ‘Russia “Violated” Turkish Airspace Because Turkey “Moved” Its Border’ details Turkey’s border policies produced by the Free Syrian Press and published by Global Research.

Turkey Warned Russia about Violating it’s newly “Created Airspace”

Threats made by Turkey against Russia became the norm on the main-stream media circuits preparing for the eventuality.  On October 6th, a report by Reuters confirmed Turkish President Erdogan’s warning to Russia if it violated it airspace:

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia on Tuesday that it would lose a lot if it destroyed its friendship with Ankara and said Turkey would not remain patient in the face of violations of its air space by Russian warplanes. “An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO,” Erdogan told a joint news conference in Brussels with the Belgian prime minister.  “Our positive relationship with Russia is known. But if Russia loses a friend like Turkey, with whom it has been cooperating on many issues, it will lose a lot, and it should know that,” he said
A report by Foreign Policy titled ‘Turkey Slams Russia for Syria Attacks, Warns Could Sever Energy Ties’ on October 8th regarding Erdogan’s warnings that concern energy cooperation since Russia intervened on the side of the Syrian government against anti-Assad forces:

“We can’t accept the current situation,” Erdogan told Turkish reporters on his way to Japan. Russia is using military force to back the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and is targeting anti-Assad rebels whom Turkey has backed. And Russian jets have violated the airspace of Turkey, a NATO member. Such antics, Erdogan said, could drive Turkey to find other energy suppliers. “If necessary, Turkey can get its natural gas from many different places,” he said
Russia has been targeting ISIS militants with Syrian government forces on the ground. Washington’s failure to remove Assad by backing ISIS (moderate rebels) would be quick and decisive but it was not. ISIS has grown. Washington is now pushing Ankara into a conflict with Russia to disrupt Russia’s success. Since the SU-24 was shot down, Ankara can now say conveniently “I told you so.”

Turkey and its Past Genocidal History

Turkey is a U.S. vassal state and a former empire (Ottoman and the Byzantine Empires) and the 3rd largest buyer of U.S. weapons behind Saudi Arabia and India (a U.S. made F-16 was used to shoot down a Russian ‘Sukhoi SU-24) in 2014 according Bloomberg news. The shooting down of Russian aircraft because it allegedly crossed into Turkish borders for 17 seconds while Turkey has entered Greek airspace more than 8,693 times since 2008 although Turkey is a member state of NATO. A 2014 chart produced by the University of Thessaly from data obtained from the Greek military proves the number of violations below:

 Turkey is no stranger to aggression.  Under the Ottoman Empire the ‘Armenian genocide of 1915’ took place killing more than 1.5 million Armenians and other minority groups including Assyrians and the Ottoman-Greeks. Turkey has committed numerous human rights abuses of various minorities.  There has been conflicts for more than two centuries between the Turkish government and various Kurdish groups (a minority group) who want an independent Kurdistan or an autonomous state within Turkey that will allow political and civil rights for the Kurdish people. One of the main groups is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party known as the PKK has been at odds with Turkey due to cultural discrimination and large scale massacres since the establishment of Turkey in 1923.

Greece and Turkey have fought multiple wars and had disputes over Cyprus territory since the 1950’s which escalated in 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus after the Cypriot coup d’état led by the US-backed Greek Junta and the Cypriot National Guard that resulted in acquiring 40% of the land and expelled more than 180,000 Greek Cypriots despite objections from the UN security council. A ceasefire line was established in August 1974 which became the United Nations Buffer Zone referred to today as the Green Line. What was the reason behind Turkey’s invasion? To restore the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus that was dismantled by the coup plotters and for the protection of Turkish-Cypriot minority on the island, which was less than 18% of the population. But in reality, as illegal the coup was, it was used as a pretext to justify their invasion. In other words, the Turkish government has its own dirty hands in international affairs for a very long time.

What Happens Next?

Turkey has supported ISIS on behalf of Washington’s strategic goal to oust Assad and has been profiting from Syria’s stolen oil. Turkey follows the dictates of Washington. Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 to provoke Russia into a war with NATO who is under Washington’s control. It is certain that Turkey got its green light from the Obama administration. Putin said “Turkey stabbed Russia in the back.” Of course, what did Putin expect from a US vassal state? Good relations in terms of trade and tourism do not matter. Besides the European Union followed Washington’s lead to sanction Russian businesses which has angered Europeans who actually do business with Russia. The consequences of Washington’s policies have backfired for the European Union, now businesses have been in decline since then.

It seems like the Turkish political elites can trace their DNA to the old days of the Ottoman Empire. Maybe they want to reestablish a mini-empire right next to Israel’s mini-empire supported by Washington. It will become a grave mistake for Turkey if a conflict against Russia with NATO’s backing were to take place, which I doubt at this point in time. Russia is a world power that has one very important factor on its side and that is fighting numerous terrorist organizations that was created by the West and its criminal allies. Ankara is clearly on the wrong side of history and should reconsider its foreign policy that could drag its nation into World War III orchestrated by Washington.


Erdogan's 'Silent Backers': Who Egged Turkish Leader to Attack Su-24?

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Was the downing of the Russian Su-24 Erdogan's "oil revenge" for Turkey's losses from the destruction of oil smugglers' truck fleet bombed by the Russian Air Force in Syria? Or maybe it is just the tip of a very big iceberg, F. William Engdahl asks. American-German researcher, historian and strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl notes that back in August 2015, he wrote about the Harvard-educated 35-year-old son of Turkish President Erdogan, Bilal Erdogan, who was involved "up to his eyeballs" in illicit oil smuggling from Syria and Iraq.

"That illegal oil finances the major activities of ISIS [ISIL] in Iraq and Syria, a point of which Russia's Putin gently reminded US President Obama and others at the recent Antalya, Turkey G-20 meeting. Fourteen months of alleged US bombings of ISIS targets never once went after the oil chain from Mosul and other ISIS occupied sites through Turkey onto tankers owned by Bilal Erdogan's tanker companies," Engdahl narrates in his recent article for New Eastern Outlook.

Citing vice-president of the Turkish Republican Peoples' Party Gursel Tekin, the researcher points to the fact that Bilal Erdogan's maritime companies own "special wharfs in Beirut and Ceyhan ports" transferring ISIL's stolen oil in Japanese oil tankers. Bilal's BMZ Ltd maritime company is doing oil trade for ISIL, he notes, adding that the illicit oil smuggling has become Erdogan's family business with close relatives holding shares in the company. Furthermore, in order to boost the business the Erdogans took illicit loans from Turkish banks, Engdahl continues, quoting Tekin. In this light Erdogan's motivation for downing the Russian Su-24 is crystal clear, given the fact the Russian Air Force had repeatedly bombed oil smugglers' truck fleet into ash. But did the Turkish leader act as a "lone assassin"?

"The fact that the tyrannical Erdogan and his Air Force and intelligence services were directly implicated in the shoot-down of the Russian SU-34 is not in dispute. The more relevant question, however, is whether Erdogan and his government acted as a 'lone assassin' so to speak. Here several murky questions present themselves," Engdahl underscores.

The truth of the matter is that a number of countries, surrounding Syria, have been more or less involved in illegal oil smuggling. Engdahl calls attention to reports saying that Israel's IDF was spotted messing with ISIL in the Golan Heights region. Engdahl also refers to Israeli media outlets narrating that since June 2014, Israel imported about 75 percent of its oil needs from Iraq. It still remains unclear whether the oil was transported from the Kurdish area of Iraq. Still, some independent sources claim that Iraqi oil is being smuggled by ISIL to Turkey and then redistributed to Israel via Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Engdahl cites Chris Dalby, an analyst with Oilprice.com, who characterized ISIL as "a largely independent financial machine" due to its numerous oil fields in Iraq and Syria. Still, whatever profits Erdogan is purportedly receiving from oil smuggling it is highly unlikely that the Turkish President would sacrifice Russo-Turkish relations for some fishy business.

​"My masculine intuition tells me that Recep Erdogan would never risk such a dangerous bold and illegal action against Russia on whom Turkey depends for 50% of her natural gas imports and a huge part of her tourism dollar earnings merely because the family ISIS oil business was being bombed away by Russian jets," the researcher underscores.

Engdahl expresses his confidence that there were "clearly serious silent backers" encouraging Erdogan to launch an attack on the Russian Su-24 plane. Indeed, despite Ankara's hardly convincing explanation of the treacherous attack, almost all NATO leaders have sided with Turkey, justifying its "act of self-defense." Interestingly enough, US warmongering neocons have repeatedly called for "shooting down" Russian planes.

​"What role did the emotionally unstable US Defense Secretary and neo-conservative Russophobe Ash Carter have, if any, in the downing of the Su-24 and later the Russian rescue helicopter? What role did Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 'Fighting Joe' Dunford play, if any? What role did the British secret services play, if any? What role did the Israeli IDF and Mossad play, if any, in the Turkish deed?" Engdahl asks. Yet, the incident has left more questions than answers. However, "what is hidden will be revealed," as a proverb says.

Source http://sputniknews.com/politics/20151128/1030925194/erdogan-silent-backers-encourage-attack-su24-oil-nato.html#ixzz3svpYiK00


Is Turkey Waging War on Russia in Crimea, the Caucasus, and Central Asia?

Troops parade with Turkish flag on August 30, 2013 in Ankara during celebrations for the 91st anniversary of Victory Day, with ceremonies held at Ataturk's Mausoleum known as Anitkabir in Ankara, Turkey

What is taking place today is a battle for global dominance, waged by major Western geopolitical players, and what is at stake here is the future of our planet, an anonymous US analyst who goes by the name 'The Saker' told Sputnik; as for Daesh, it is simply a weapon, he adds. During the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21), Russian President Putin revealed that Moscow has evidence confirming that the Russian Su-24 bomber was shot down by Turkey in order to protect oil deliveries from Daesh (ISIL/ISIS), adding that oil from Daesh-occupied fields has been transferred to Turkey on an industrial scale. But is it possible that Turkey is selling the stolen oil without Washington's knowledge? Are the Turkish officials who are responsible for oil smuggling acting alone or are they backed by some influential oil market players?

"US intelligence agencies suffer from many weaknesses, but being unable to track money movements is not one of them," The Saker, an anonymous top level American military analyst, told Sputnik in an exclusive interview.

"Furthermore, both the USA and Israel have an extensive network for agents in Turkey.  I thus consider it extremely unlikely that anybody in Turkey would be able to move around large sums of money without the US being fully aware of that.  Also, consider that Daesh is a top-priority target for US intelligence agencies and that their immense data collection capabilities are also focused on the Daesh side of the equation," he emphasized. "Finally," The Saker added, "the illegal sale of oil is a minor element in a much more important battle between the USA and the Russia-Iran-Syria alliance and, thus, the US would never allow it to interfere with its bigger objectives." The analyst underscored that corruption has long been an integral part of the US "imperial" system.

"Corruption being one key feature of the US Empire, it is normal for the US deep state to allow its local puppets to engage in profitable war profiteering, but only as long as this does not interfere with the global US strategy," he stressed.

Experts call attention to the fact that the shooting down of the Su-24 could have been Turkish President Erdogan's "act of revenge," given the fact that his family has reportedly been involved in Daesh's oil smuggling business. In his recent interview with Radio Sputnik, Middle East analyst Stanislav Tarasov noted that "Erdogan's family is directly involved in the incident," and suggested that "we could soon learn that President Erdogan himself is directly linked to ISIL." But was the downing of the Su-24 bomber by the Turkish F-16 fighter a "lone wolf" operation or a preplanned action coordinated by NATO and Washington? If so, what goal does NATO/Washington have in mind?

"The downing of the SU-24 was definitely a major and carefully planned ambush operation which involved a large number of Turkish F-16 [being] constantly held on airborne alert positions.  The notion that the Americans did not know about this all along is ridiculous," The Saker elaborated.

"Make no mistake, this was an act of war by the USA and NATO, but executed in such a manner as to provide the real culprits some degree of plausible deniability.  The hope was to have Russia over-react and trigger a direct confrontation which could be them blamed on Russia.  You have to keep in mind that the Russian force in Syria is a very small one and that it is vulnerable.  Even with 60+ combat aircraft and S-400s, the Russian force is much smaller than the Turkish air force, which has well over 200 F-16s.  The USA is now using this vulnerability to provoke Russia," the analyst told Sputnik.

The Saker noted that the Turks themselves had violated the Syrian and, especially, Greek airspace hundreds of times "and not just once for 17 seconds." In the wake of the incident, Ankara suggested that the alleged intrusion of the Russian Su-24 into Turkish airspace had lasted a mere 17 seconds. "The very fact that they actually used this "17 seconds" excuse it by itself is a clear provocation, designed to humiliate Russian and trigger an over-reaction.  Thank God Putin and the Kremlin did not take this bait," The Saker underscored.

Interestingly enough, the incident in Syrian airspace had been preceded by an act of sabotage in Ukraine: on November 20, unidentified saboteurs blew up the main power lines in Ukraine leading into Crimea; Crimean Tatar activists blocked access to fallen lines. Given the close ties between Ankara and Crimean Tatars (Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is reportedly of Crimean Tatar descent himself), the question arises, whether the two action were connected in any way? "I have no information showing any links, but what is clear is that Turkey is waging its own mini-war of influence against Russia, not only in Crimea, but also in the Caucasus and Central Asia," The Saker told Sputnik, commenting on the issue. 

"The Turkish 'deep state' appears to be ruled by a revanchist imperial ideology every bit as lunatic and dangerous as the Wahhabi ideology of Daesh & Co.  Erdogan apparently wants to re-establish some kind of Grand Ottoman Empire v2 and for him Russia is the biggest obstacle. This is why Turkey is so precious for the USA — it is run by delusional maniacs every bit as dangerous as the Nazis in Kiev or the Wahhabi freaks of Daesh. This is what Russia is confronted by today — a war by the Anglo-Zionist Empire waged by means of various hate-filled regional powers which are used by the USA to destabilize Russia and her allies," the analyst underscored.

Remarkably, in 2001, then-modest academic Dr. Ahmet Davutoglu published a book entitled "Strategic Depth." In his book, Davutoglu suggested that Turkey possesses a unique "strategic depth" due to its historical and geographical position. The would-be Turkish prime minister argued that Turkey should simultaneously exercise its influence in the Middle East, the Balkan region, the Caucasus, and Central Asia as well in the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea zones. According to Davutoglu, Turkey should re-establish its role as a global player, not just a regional power. In some sense, Davotoglu viewed the collapse of the Soviet Union as a historic chance for Turkey to expand its influence in the Caucasus region and Central Asia. And here enters Daesh…

Given the fact that ISIL has been created and fuelled by a number of states and private donors, which geopolitical players are resisting Russia's attempts to eradicate terrorism in the region and preserve the sovereignty of Syria? Is Russia confronting a bunch of terrorists fed by Saudi and Qatari sheikhs or some well-organized multi-national organizations?

"As for Daesh, it is simply one 'weapon' used by the [US] Empire to destroy its opponents.  There is no such thing as 'terrorism' by itself, it is always a weapon used by one (or several) state actors," The Saker explained. "The sheikhs you mention are just pawns in the hands of the 'deep state' which runs the US Anglo-Zionist 'Empire' and they themselves only have a local influence.  Thus, the Saudis or the Qatari are major players in Syria, but already at the Middle-Eastern level they are far less powerful than, say, the Turks or the Israelis.  And while they can act as 'private donors' and sponsors of this or that faction of Daesh/al-Qaeda, they can only do that as long as the Americans tolerate that.  One could say that the local sheikhs are influential or even powerful puppets, but they still remain fundamentally puppets," the US military analyst told Sputnik. However, he claims, this is only the tip of the iceberg; the situation in general is far more serious.

"What is taking place today is a world war between, on one hand, the so-called 'West' (the US Empire) and what I call the 'Resistance' i.e., Russia, China, the BRICS, the SCO countries, Latin America, etc.  What is at stake here is the future of our planet: it will either be ruled by a single world Hegemon or it will be organized as a multi-polar world.  The events in the Middle East are just one 'front' in this worldwide war,  and the war in Syria just one "battle" in the Middle Eastern 'front'," The Saker concluded.

Source: http://sputniknews.com/politics/20151201/1031060730/turkey-war-russia-crimea-caucasus-central-asia-daesh.html


Crimean Tatars Test Russian Power

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimea head Sergei Aksyonov, far right, at the launching of the first stage of a power bridge linking Russia to Crimea on Wednesday.

When the lights went out last week in the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea, one group of local residents celebrated: The region’s Crimean Tatar minority. Over three days in late November, four transmission towers in the Ukrainian region of Kherson were blown up, leaving much of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, in the dark. Since then, Crimean Tatar activists have blocked repair workers from fixing all but one of the damaged towers, demanding that Russia first release nine political prisoners and expand democratic freedoms in Crimea.

Much of the peninsula remains without electricity, despite Russia’s delivery of 300 power generators last week. A state of emergency declared by local authorities is still in place. Public transport was halted and schools have been closed for more than a week. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has accused Kiev of “silent consent” to the power outage, visited the peninsula Wednesday. He announced that an undersea cable from mainland Russia would start delivering one-fourth of Crimea’s energy needs beginning Thursday, though he warned “there might be some glitches” before the cable is completed Dec. 20.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry, which says it has opened a criminal investigation into the explosions, has yet to publicly identify suspects. Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of the Muslim minority group, said he has received countless calls from Crimea urging him to keep the lights off. “They say, ‘Finally Ukraine has started doing something—finally we can walk around with our heads held high,’ ” said Mr. Dzhemilev, who was barred by Russia from returning soon after the annexation.

The Crimean Tatars, a group of about 260,000, have been the most vocal in opposing Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula. At its root is a historical grievance: The Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported from their native land by Stalin in 1944. They began returning in the 1980s to Crimea and since then have been among the staunchest supporters of Ukrainian independence, preferring Crimea to be ruled by Kiev, not Moscow. The escalating feud between Russia and Turkey adds a new dimension to the energy blockade: The Tatars are ethnic Turks, potentially placing them in the middle of a larger geopolitical contest. Already, Russia’s state-dominated media have implied that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has designs on Crimea. Crimean Tatars say they are wary of Moscow retaliating against Kiev over the blockade, as they see it as their only true ally in bringing their homeland back from under Russian rule.

“For us, of course, the loss of Crimea is our greatest pain,” said Mr. Dzhemilev, who is a lawmaker in the Ukrainian president’s party. “But we understand very well that liberating Crimea will never be possible if we help weaken Ukraine.”

During Moscow’s takeover in 2014, the Crimean Tatars held protests but had to watch helplessly as Russian troops occupied the peninsula and a majority of residents voted in favor of annexation. Since then, local authorities have cracked down on protests and exiled Crimean Tatar leaders, including Mr. Dzhemilev, a former Soviet political prisoner. Local prosecutors have brought court cases against members of the community. Ukraine has provided little practical support to pro-Ukrainian activists or Crimean Tatars left in the peninsula. Despite its public condemnations of the annexation, Kiev continues to supply Crimea with 80% of its electricity, 85% of its water, and much of trade. In September, that frustrations bubbled over: Crimean Tatar activists began blocking commercial trucks from entering the disputed territory from Ukraine.

So far, Russia’s leadership has given no indication that it will bend to the demands of activists, who have called for the release of nine political prisoners held in Crimea and by Russian authorities, an independent investigation into the deaths and abductions of Crimean Tatars and an expansion of democratic freedoms in the region. Crimean authorities say they are conducting investigations of all the abductions, and Moscow has repeatedly said it will treat all ethnic groups on the peninsula equally. Ukraine has little room for maneuver: While officials in Kiev are wary of setting off a full-scale trade or energy war with Russia, they are reluctant to crack down on the activists, whose agenda is widely popular in Ukraine.

When Ukrainian officers did attempt to break up the protesters and gain access to one of the damaged towers on Nov. 21, they were forced to retreat. Protesters wrestled the armed officers to the ground, injured two policemen and accused the officers’ leader—who gained fame as a hero in Ukraine’s war-torn east—of helping the occupiers. A flag of the Crimean Tatars is wrapped around a damaged transmission tower near the village of Chaplynka in the Ukrainian region of Kherson on Nov. 22 Since then the police have made no moves on the activists, and several days later Ukraine conceded to one of their demands by officially banning all trade with the Crimean peninsula.

“There has been no systemic approach [by the government]—it’s very eclectic,” says Vladimir Fesenko, head of the Ukrainian think tank Penta. “This protest...has in actual fact created problems for the leadership of the country, which is now searching for a compromise solution.”

So far it is unclear whether the Ukrainian government will officially endorse the electricity blockade, and how Russia would respond if it did. Some of the levers Moscow has traditionally used to pressure Ukraine have lost their weight: When Russia’s state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom declared last week that it would shut off gas to Ukraine, Kiev has said it could make it through winter using reverse flows from Europe, a stance backed up by European officials.

Despite regular shelling in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian troops for more than a year despite a tenuous cease-fire, Moscow may be unwilling to escalate its support in eastern Ukraine amid the government’s hopes that its military intervention in Syria’s war would bring a rapprochement with the West. Ukraine’s economy remains intertwined with Russia’s. Officials have voiced particular fears over Russia’s threat to block coal deliveries: 57% of Ukraine’s 150 coal mines are under the control of separatists, and only 35 functioning mines are located outside the war zone.

“I am planning for the fact that there will be no more deliveries from Ukraine,” Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov said in comments to TASS news agency. “If they come to their senses and realize they are committing unjust acts against the residents of Crimea, thank God. If they don’t, we will survive without them.”

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/crimean-tatars-test-russian-power-1449106688

‘More Powerful Players’ Behind Turkey’s Aggressive Policy Toward Russia

A woman holds a placard reading Bring Turkey to account as she and others gather outside the Turkish embassy in Moscow on November 24, 2015

The Defense Ministries of Russia and Turkey have cut all cooperation channels. Military analyst Sergei Grinyaev believes the sharp rise in tensions between Russia and Turkey could be beneficial to a third party which is coordinating Ankara’s actions. In addition, the representative of the Russian Navy was called back from Turkey. He was sent to Turkey to coordinate activities of the Black Sea Fleet and the Turkish Naval forces, spokesperson for the Defense Ministry Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

"This concerns all ties, not just the so-called hotline that was launched in order to avoid possible air incidents during the destruction of terrorist infrastructure in Syria," he added.

Relations between Russian and Turkey deteriorated after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber over Syria on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to work out a set of economic measures in response to the act of aggression by Turkey. Cooperation between the two countries via military channels is very important, Sergei Grinyaev, head of the Center for Strategic Prognosis, told Sputnik Radio. Nevertheless, the suspension of military cooperation with Turkey will not seriously hit Russia, he added.

"This is a serious loss. Such military contacts are always important, especially in unstable regions. The Turkish Air Force is to blame for the incident with the Russian bomber. The Turkish government bears the responsibility. Russia now considers this type of cooperation pointless. But as for our military operation in Syria, it will not be affected," the analyst said. According to him, the restoration of military contacts depends first of all on Ankara’s policy. "Russian-Turkish bilateral ties reached the phase where it was impossible to continue any contacts. Their restoration would depend on whether Ankara would be ready to ease the tensions," Grinyaev said.

Turkey claimed that before the Su-24 was downed attempts were made to communicate with the crew and warned the pilot of the airspace violation. The navigator of the Su-24 who survived the attack said Turkey sent no warning and the aircraft did not violate Turkish airspace. Later, Turkish and other foreign media published an audio tape of an alleged conversation between the crew of the Turkish F-16 and the pilots of the Russian plane. In turn, the Turkish Defense Ministry said they had no such tapes. The analyst said the audio tape was part of a stove-piping campaign by a third side that wants to escalate the situation.

"Turkey is probably not acting on its own. Erdogan’s statement that Turkey will continue its firm policy means Ankara is unlikely to take steps to de-escalate the conflict. Turkey seems to follow a scenario, and there are more powerful players behind it. They pursue their own geopolitical goals in the region," the analyst said. According to Grinyaev, it would serve Turkey’s interests to revise its aggressive stance toward Russia. "Turkey’s position is extremely unconstructive. It is an act of aggression. And now Turkey should take measures to de-escalate the situation," he concluded.

Source: http://sputniknews.com/politics/20151127/1030882517/turkish-policy-russia.html#ixzz3svqeATqh

Su-24 Downing: Ankara, Washington Acting in Unison in Wake of Attack

U.S President Barack Obama and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Ankara knows perfectly well that the Russian Su-24 bomber did not violate Turkish airspace and by no means posed any threat to the country, geopolitical analyst and former World Bank economist Peter Koenig, pointing to the fact that Washington has demonstrated its solidarity with Turkey. Since the very beginning of the Russian military operation in Syria, Russia's mission was absolutely clear to the international community: Moscow joined in response to the official request from Damascus to fight against terrorism as well as to protect the sovereignty of the Syrian nation.

"Russia's mission was clear to all the 19 nations which attended the G20 meeting some 10 days ago in Antalya, Turkey, when the entire group unanimously decided to cooperate in fighting the Islamic State (IS — or Daesh, according to its Arabic acronym)," geopolitical analyst and former World Bank economist Peter Koenig emphasizes in his recent piece for Global Research.

However, Ankara is now spreading barefaced lies about an alleged violation of Turkish airspace by the Russian Su-24 bomber and insisting that the treacherous strike against the Russian jet was an act of self-defense. "If today there will be another violation of our airspace, we are capable of the same kind of response," Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday. Remarkably, Washington has demonstrated solidarity with Ankara: Turkey "has a right to defend its territory and its airspace," US President Barack Obama said in the wake of the incident in the Syrian airspace.

"It might well be that Turkey got marching orders from Washington to know no mercy for Russia and Russian fighter planes. Never mind that past Turkish-Russian relations have been good," Koenig notes. ​The analyst reminded that Turkey had been expressing its willingness to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, led by China and Russia, along with Central Asian former Soviet Republics, India and Pakistan. However, after weighing the pros and cons, Ankara has apparently decided that the EU and "Madame Merkel," in particular, would "offer more." Turkey's stab in Russia's back could have been a thought-out preplanned action.

"Washington needs a large-scale war. Its masters, the military industry, Wall Street, Big Oil — and not to forget AIPAC, the all-powerful Israeli lobby — ask for it… If Russia were to retaliate within Turkey's borders, it could be construed as an aggression against a NATO country which under the rules of the Trans-Atlantic alliance is a free pass for NATO to wage war against the aggressor," the analyst elaborates.

According to Koenig, if Russia fell in this trap, it would become the beginning of the third world war in the Middle East. In the event of such a war the whole MENA region (Middle-East and North Africa) would be turned to ashes, prompting the new wave of refugees flooding Europe. As a result, the analyst continues, Europe would be reduced "to a wasteland of serfs." "Waiting in the wings are already the TTIP and other atrocities instigated by the Zionist led elite that directs the Washington war-machine," he remarks. 
"
For example, the western dollar-based monetary assault on Europe — a forced cash-free society, banks imposing negative interest on peoples' savings and planned bail-ins for failing banks — would leave the European populace powerless — ready to be stripped of any economic and financial assets — worse than what the troika did and continues doing to Greece," the analyst explains.

Koenig envisages that Washington's subservient media sources would continue to portray Russia as an "aggressor" and a party responsible for the flood of asylum seekers in Europe, "right before winter, when it is most difficult to absorb them with safe and humanitarian shelter due to lacking infrastructure." The Western political establishment cannot forgive Russia its successful anti-ISIL military campaign in Syria. Indeed Russia's military involvement in Syria has put the spotlight on many inconvenient and disturbing truths regarding US-led anti-ISIL coalition actions in the region. Washington neocons are at pains to implement their Plan for a New American Century, in other words, "Full Spectrum Dominance," and they have no scruples about "playing dirty" in order to provoke Russia. "But Vladimir Putin, the brilliant geopolitical chess player, won't fall for it," Koenig stresses.

Why Russia will overpower Turkey

In tiff with Erdogan over shot-down bomber, Putin will choose honor above all

Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan are throwing punches like a pair of equally rated gladiators, but the commercial war that the one has sparked and the other is waging can be won only by one: Russia. On the face of it, Moscow’s response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber last week is economically mad. For a sanctioned economy to sanction an important trade partner that does not sanction it is as advisable as running naked in the snow is for a pneumonia patient. The international sanctions that followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, originally imposed by the U.S. and the European Union and then joined by Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Norway, have been debilitating. 

Assad: Russian Impact on ISIS Stronger Than U.S.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that the Russian participation in the fight against ISIS has had a greater impact than that of the U.S.-led coalition. The ban on extending long-term credit to state-owned banks crushed the ruble USDRUB, +1.0805%   from 35 to 66.2 to the dollar, forcing the central bank to spend $90 billion last year, nearly a quarter of its overall reserves, in an effort to stem the currency’s collapse and the ensuing capital flight. A few months later oil prices plunged, soon halving what Putin designed as his country’s main source of income and causing a recession that this new crisis can only make worse.

Moreover, the EU now also bans business with Russia’s arms industry, thus damaging Putin’s main industrial source of income, twice: First, with existing clients like Poland, which has a fleet of MiG-29s that needs spare parts, and then with potential new clients, like Iran and assorted African governments that Russia’s arms industry is eager to impress. That is why the downing of the Su-24 is intolerable for Putin not only politically but also commercially. With the whole world watching a Russian-made warplane dropping from the sky in a fireball after being hit by a Western-made jet, Russia smells a marketing disaster.

The Su-24 is actually a heavy bomber not designed for a dogfight with the agile F-16 that downed it. Yet the people deciding about arms deals are often politicians whose familiarity with arms is limited, and for whom images like last week’s footage can be striking. The damage to the prestige of Russian arms underscores the Kremlin’s broader reading of its situation with Turkey, which is that Erdogan has challenged Putin’s imperial quest. Putin’s conclusion from this is simple: Turkey must pay. That Turkey’s prospective payment entails hefty Russian costs is fine, provided that Turkey pays more, which it indeed will.

Honor is priceless

The Russian vow to punish the Turkish economy has yet to be fully detailed, but at stake is a $30 billion trade relationship that, while also important to Russia, is existential for Turkey. Russia needs the roughly $4 billion worth of fruits and vegetables it has been buying in Turkey since the sanctions, but it will find such produce in other warm countries, just like it will find alternative clients for the $1.5 billion in grains that it sold Turkey last year. Turkey’s tourist resorts are certainly not crucial for Moscow, even though 3.3 million Russians vacationed there last year. To the Turks, however, the Russian tourists are crucial because they comprise a full one tenth of annual tourist arrivals.

Russia’s economic disruptions are doubly harmful because Turkey, unlike Russia, is socially restive, due to the Kurdish problem and the Syrian civil war. Farmers whose harvests will lose the Russian market, and employees of the hotels and restaurants that will soon lose their Russian clientele, will join those Turks who already grapple with more than a million Syrian refugees’ pressure on the Turkish labor market. Meanwhile, Russia will assist and incite Turkey’s rebellious Kurds while also loudly backing the Cypriots in their conflict with Turkey, not to mention the Armenians, who have historically been the latter’s proxy and the former’s foe.

Things can get altogether nasty if Russia stops its gas supplies, which dominate the two countries’ trade.
Yes, $20 billion is a lot of money even for Russia, but it’s not the kind of sum it can’t afford to lose. Turkey, on the other hand, if deprived of Russia’s gas, will nearly come to a standstill. Not only does Russia supply more than half of Turkey’s fuel, Erdogan is at loggerheads with the main alternative suppliers: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states, since he supported the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; Iran, since he demanded its proxy Bashar Assad’s removal; and Israel, since the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.

Russia’s sanctions for now exclude gas supplies, and also the four nuclear reactors it agreed to build in Turkey for $20 billion and the TurkStream pipeline project that is meant to lead Russian gas to Turkey across the Black Sea. Still, judging by his past conduct Putin will not hesitate to close the spigot, the way he did repeatedly to Ukraine since 2005. Moreover, when Europe responded to his Crimean adventure with sanctions, Putin not only failed to back down, he fired sanctions of his own, banning some $12 billion worth of annual food imports from the countries sanctioning Russia.

In other words, when faced with a choice between national honor and financial loss, Putin chooses honor.
Turkey has therefore all the reason in the world to fear that Russia’s economic pressure has hardly begun, and will not abate until someone in Ankara does what neither Putin nor Erdogan has ever done: surrender.


Russia Hits Back at Turkey by Changing Syria 'Game'

Moscow's retaliation after Turkey downed its military jet could tie Ankara's hands in Syria

Russia is striking back after a "stab in the back by an accomplice to terrorists" by changing the "game" in Syria. Moscow's retaliation is not just about severing economic and diplomatic ties. It is pursuing a policy that could tie Turkey's hands in Syria. Ankara never received international backing for a safe zone across its border, but Russia has now ruled that out. The deployment of S-400 anti-air missiles means Russia has effectively imposed a no-fly zone over Syria. And now, Moscow seems to be moving closer to a group that has been the US-led coalition's main ground force in Syria - a group which Turkey, itself a member of that coalition, calls "terrorists". The Syrian Kurdish forces (YPG) is a US-backed Kurdish group that has pushed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) back from areas along the border with Turkey. In an attempt to change the solely "Kurdish face" of anti-ISIL ground troops, it aligned with some Arab brigades to form "the Syria Democratic Forces" (SDF). No doubt a further strengthened YPG will anger Turkey, which has long feared that Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria would stir up similar sentiments among its own Kurdish population. The SDF are now engaged in a fierce battle with Turkey-backed opposition factions in what is considered to be an important corner of Syria - the northern countryside of Aleppo. To be more specific: the area west of the Euphrates River, which Turkey calls a red line. The SDF captured some opposition-controlled towns close to the Turkish border of Kilis - known in Syria as Bab al-Salameh, an important lifeline for rebel groups. Russian air strikes have been targeting the area for days now.

US guarantees

Control there would allow the YPG to link predominantly Kurdish villages in the north, like Afrin, to areas under its administration from the town of Kobane to the Iraqi border. To do this, the YPG must first take control of Jarablous, an ISIL-controlled town along Turkey's border. There was talk of a US-backed Syrian Kurd offensive in Jarablous in the summer. That never happened, as Turkey threatened a cross-border operation. Ankara apparently got the guarantees it wanted from the US. The Kurds won't advance in the Aleppo region, and in return the coalition would be given access to Turkey's Incirlik air base from where it can launch raids against ISIL. Days before the Russian plane was shot down, the US said it would start an operation with Turkey to finish securing the northern Syrian border area to cut off the remaining ISIL lifeline. Since then, there has been no talk about this military operation.

Bigger picture

The rules may now have changed. The YPG has still not pushed west of the Euphrates, but along with its allies, and with the help of Russian strikes, the SDF are threatening Turkey-backed opposition groups in another key border crossing, Kilis, west of Jarablous. Losing control of the northern countryside of Aleppo would be a setback for the opposition. Turkey, too, would lose influence. But Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be eyeing an even bigger victory. He called on the Assad government and the political wing of the YPG to unite. This has still not happened - at least not officially. But Syrian Kurdish officials have said they are ready to work with anyone fighting ISIL, and anyone who works for a united, secular and democratic Syria. Such an alliance would change the battlefield and the balance of power on the ground.


Russia deploys missile cruiser off Syria coast, ordered to destroy any target posing danger

 Flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet guided missile cruiser Moskva
Moscow plans to suspend military cooperation with Ankara after the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkish air forces, Russian General Staff representatives said on Tuesday. Further measures to beef up Russian air base security in Syria will also be taken.

Three steps as announced by top brass:
  1. Each and every strike groups’ operation is to be carried out under the guise of fighter jets
  2. Air defense to be boosted with the deployment of Moskva guided missile cruiser off Latakia coast with an aim to destroy any target that may pose danger
  3. Military contacts with Turkey to be suspended
Sergey Rudskoy, a top official with the Russian General Staff, condemned the attack on the Russian bomber in Syrian airspace by a Turkish fighter jet as “a severe violation of international law”. He stressed that the Su-24 was downed over the Syrian territory. The crash site was four kilometers away from the Turkish border, he said. Rudskoy said the Russian warplane did not violate Turkish airspace. Additionally, according to the Hmeymim airfield radar, it was the Turkish fighter jet that actually entered Syrian airspace as it attacked the Russian bomber. The Turkish fighter jet made no attempts to contact Russian pilots before attacking the bomber, Rudskoy added. “We assume the strike was carried out with a close range missile with an infra-red seeker,” Rudskoy said. “The Turkish jet made no attempts to communicate or establish visual contact with our crew that our equipment would have registered. The Su-24 was hit by a missile over Syria’s territory.”

Russia now plans to implement new measures aimed at strengthening the security of the country’s air base in Syria and in particular to bolster air defense. Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva, equipped with the ‘Fort’ air defense system, similar to the S-300, will be deployed off Latakia province's coast. "We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed,” lieutenant general Sergey Rudskoy said during the briefing. The Moskva (‘Moscow’) missile cruise is a flagship vessel of the Russian Black Sea fleet and is one of the fleet’s two biggest ships. The cruiser was stationed in Sevastopol but left in summer 2015 after being deployed to the Mediterranean Sea where it joined Russia’s standing naval force in the Mediterranean. Since September 30, the Moskva cruiser acts as a covering force for the Russian air forces in Syria while deployed in the eastern Mediterranean. “All military contacts with Turkey will be suspended,” Rudskoy added.

Turkey claims that it downed the Russian bomber in Turkish airspace after the plane was given 10 warnings in the space of five minutes as it approached the country’s territory. "Nobody should doubt that we made our best efforts to avoid this latest incident. But everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders," Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. "The data we have is very clear. There were two planes approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close," another senior Turkish official told Reuters. "Our findings show clearly that Turkish air space was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly."US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande urged Russia and Turkey away from further escalation during a meeting in Washington, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg voiced the alliance’s support for Turkey. A US military spokesman also said that the incident involves only Turkey and Russia and does not affect the US-led campaign in Syria, which will continue “as planned”.

Source: https://www.rt.com/news/323329-russia-suspend-military-turkey/


Russia May Use Electronic Jamming Systems to Protect Its Pilots in Syria

The Krasukha mobile, ground-based electronic warfare system.

Russia will have to resort to electronic warfare in Syria to protect its pilots and prevent incidents similar to the downing of Russia’s Su-24 jet on Tuesday, according to Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky; they will include both ground-based systems and equipment installed on special aircraft.

“Regarding the possible impact of this incident on the further developments of the operation in Syria, I think that from now on, our pilots will be more attentive and if the Turks continue behaving in such a manner, Russia will have to resort to electronic jamming and other warfare equipment, including special aircraft with special equipment on board, in order to protect our pilots from being stricken with missiles,” said the lieutenant-general.

Buzhinsky also added that the so-called means of objective control, including flight radar and other equipment, will allow Russia to verify exactly where and how the bomber was downed, excluding any possible discrepancies on the issue. Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Su-24M Fencer bomber was downed by an air-to-air missile in Syria near the Turkish border by the Turkish Air Force while carrying out precision strikes against terrorists in northern Syria. The Su-24 bomber jet was in Syrian airspace at the altitude 6,000 meters, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The pilots were reportedly able to parachute out of the jet before it crashed.



Russian Response: World Class S-400 Surface-to-Air Missile System Deployed in Syria

Preparing to fire an S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile at the Ashuluk proving grounds during an Aerospace Defence Forces tactical drill

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has announced that the Russian Air Force base in Latakia will now be supported with S-400 SAM systems after the unprecedented act of aggression exhibited by Turkey yesterday. Shoigu also announced the following enhancements to the Russian mission in Syria that are sure to generate anger from Turkey and NATO:
  1. All Russian bombers will now be escorted by Russian fighter jets that will be able to repel any further air-to-air attacks.
  2. Guided Russian missile cruisers have been deployed off the coast of Latakia to provide long range anti-air support.
  3. All military-to-military contact with Turkey has been suspended.
The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced hypersonic SAM system and is truly world class. It has a range of 400km and is capable of destroying, tactical aircraft, strategic aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. The system will be defending squadrons of Su-27SM and Su-30 fighter jets, along with Su-34 and Su-24 tactical bombers at the Russian base in Latakia, Syria. The deployment of the system signals that Russia is not only taking yesterday’s aggressions very seriously, but that it will absolutely be responding to any further provocations. Russia believes the attack was a preplanned provocation, and the surviving pilot has said his aircraft was never once warned by Turkey before it was attacked ‘out of nowhere’ before it could take evasive action.

Source: http://21stcenturywire.com/2015/11/25/russian-response-world-class-s-400-surface-to-air-missile-system-deployed-in-syria/

US 'concerns' over Russian missile system


Russia's decision to deploy its most hi-tech air defense system to its base in Syria is raising "significant concerns" for the US military, a US official said Wednesday. Moscow says it is sending S-400 anti-aircraft missiles to Latakia in northwestern Syria, in a move that comes after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in the increasingly crowded air space along the border on Tuesday. The S-400 missiles have a range of about 400 kilometers (250 miles) -- meaning they could reach deep into Turkey or pose a potential threat to US-led coalition planes -- adding yet another dangerous element to an already volatile mix of competing military interests in Syria.

"It's a capable weapons system that poses a significant threat to anyone," a US official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP. "There are significant concerns related to air operations in Syria."

The United States has since August 2014 led a coalition that has flown more than 8,000 bombing runs against Islamic State group targets in Syria and Iraq. Russia, too, is dropping bombs in Syria, but these are mainly in different parts of the country from where US and coalition planes are flying. The West says Russia is propping up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and not focusing on IS jihadists. Though Russia and the US-led coalition have agreed on a set of guidelines aimed at ensuring pilots stay out of each other's way, the prospect of batteries of Russian anti-aircraft missiles arriving in Syria is nonetheless raising eyebrows in the Pentagon. But another US official, also speaking anonymously, said the S-400s "shouldn't" affect coalition flights.

"We are not going to interfere with (the Russians') operations and they are not going to interfere with ours. There's no reason for us to be targeting each other," the official said.

He also noted that Russia in the past week has delivered more than 30 T-90 and T-72 tanks to Latakia. It was not clear if these were for use by the Russian military or will be provided to forces loyal to Assad. Russia resumed its bombing campaign Wednesday and continued to operate close to the Turkish border. In northern Syria's Aleppo province, apparent Russian strikes hit the town of Azaz and the border area around the Bab al-Salama crossing, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. The monitor and local Syrian activist Maamun al-Khatieb reported three people killed in the strikes, which also set fire to several trucks parked in a lot not far from the crossing. "Three people have been killed and six injured, most of them are truck drivers," Khatieb told AFP. He said the trucks were carrying aid and goods for sale, and were parked in a lot where vehicles gather after crossing the border, around three kilometres away.

A US official said he was "aware of reports that a convoy of humanitarian relief vehicles was hit by an air strike today in the vicinity of Azaz." The official noted that no coalition planes had been near the area for the last 24 hours. "We are continuing to monitor the situation to determine all of the facts behind the incident," he said.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/us-concerns-over-russian-missile-system-us-official-195402351.html


New Russian Air Defenses in Syria Keep U.S. Grounded

<p>Assad's little helpers.</p>
 Photographer: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

There is a new crisis for the international effort to destroy the Islamic State, created by the Kremlin. The U.S. has stopped flying manned air-support missions for rebels in a key part of northern Syria due to Russia’s expansion of air defense systems there, and the Barack Obama administration is scrambling to figure out what to do about it. Russia’s military operations inside Syria have been expanding in recent weeks, and the latest Russian deployments, made without any advance notice to the U.S., have disrupted the U.S.-led coalition's efforts to support Syrian rebel forces fighting against the Islamic State near the Turkey-Syria border, just west of the Euphrates River, several Obama administration and U.S. defense officials told us. This crucial part of the battlefield, known inside the military as Box 4, is where a number of groups have been fighting the Islamic State for control, until recently with overhead support from U.S. fighter jets.

But earlier this month, Moscow deployed an SA-17 advanced air defense system near the area and began “painting” U.S. planes, targeting them with radar in what U.S. officials said was a direct and dangerous provocation. The Pentagon halted all manned flights, although U.S. drones are still flying in the area. Russia then began bombing the rebels the U.S. had been supporting. (U.S. manned airstrikes continue elsewhere in Syria.) Inside the top levels of the administration, officials are debating what to do next. The issue is serious enough that Secretary of State John Kerry raised it with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met on Tuesday, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General John Dunford has discussed it with his Russian counterpart as well, a spokesman for U.S. Air Force Central Command told us.

"The increasing number of Russian-supplied advanced air defense systems in Syria, including SA-17s, is another example that Russia and the regime seek to complicate the global counter-Daesh coalition’s air campaign,” said Major Tim Smith, using another term for the Islamic State. The increasing number of Russian air defense systems further complicate an already difficult situation over the skies in Syria, and do nothing to advance the fight against the Islamic State, which has no air force, Smith said. He added that Russia could instead be using its influence with the regime to press President Bashar al-Assad to cease attacking civilians. “Unhelpful actions by Russia and the Syrian regime will not stop coalition counter-Daesh operations in Syria, nor will such actions push the coalition away from specific regions in Syria where Daesh is operating,” said Smith.

In Washington, top officials are debating how to respond to Russia's expanded air defenses, said another administration official who was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations. The administration could decide to resume flights in support of the rebels fight Islamic State, but that could risk a deadly incident with the Russian military. For now, the U.S. seems to be acquiescing to Russia’s effort to keep American manned planes out of the sky there and "agree to their rules of the game," the administration official said.

With U.S. planes out of the way, Russia has stepped up its own airstrikes along the Turkey-Syria border, and the Obama administration has accused it of targeting the rebel groups the U.S. was supporting, not the Islamic State. The Russian strikes are also targeting commercial vehicles passing from Turkey into Syria, the administration official told us. The Washington Post reported that the Russian strikes have resulted in a halt of humanitarian aid from Turkey as well. These heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia on the ground run counter to the public outreach Kerry has been pursuing as part of his effort to kick-start a peace process between the Syrian regime and the opposition. In remarks at the Kremlin Tuesday, Kerry said he was “grateful for President Putin” and looked forward to cooperating with Russia on the fight against the Islamic State. Kerry will meet with Russian leaders again Friday in New York.

Kerry also said the U.S. is not pursuing “regime change” in Syria, comments that were seen by many as another step away from the long-held U.S. call for Assad to step down. The latest U.S.-Russia talks didn’t focus on Assad’s status, Kerry said, adding that he was working to establish a political process that would allow Syrians to choose their own leadership. While the diplomacy drags on, the Russian military continues to place Assad in a stronger position and constrain the coalitions' operations, said Matthew McInnis, a former Iran analyst for U.S. Central Command and now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  “The Russians are trying to create zones where they would have to give permission for U.S. flights,” he said. “The Russians are increasingly defining the military landscape by their actions.”

McInnis said he has heard other Western diplomats express concern about how much the U.S. may give in to the Russian and Syrian position to get a cease-fire. "There is definitely some nervousness about how far the administration is willing to go to accommodate the Russian position on Assad," he said. Robert Ford, Obama’s former ambassador to Syria, said the Russians may have another motive in expanding their military operations in northern Syria: to put pressure on Turkey. Russian-Turkish relations have turned ugly since Turkey shot down a Russian plane near its border last month. Turkey is keenly interested in the Box 4 region in Syria because it supports the Sunni Arab groups fighting there, working covertly with the U.S. “The Russians are doing this to squeeze the Turks," said Ford. "It’s going to cause problems for the CIA program."

The actual number of U.S. flights that were supporting Syrian groups in this area was not large. Officials told us that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had been resisting a more comprehensive air campaign in the area for two reasons: Some of the groups fighting there are not vetted and include Islamic brigades, including the al-Nusrah Front. Also, Carter prefers a strategy of supporting Syrian Kurds with weapons and having them take over the border territory. But the Syrian Arabs and the Turks don’t want Kurdish troops to control Box 4, said Ford, because then the Kurds would then have a proto-state reaching all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the Iran-Iraq border. 

The success of any U.S.-led effort to bring Assad to the negotiating table will depend on squeezing the Syrian regime. Yet at this crucial moment, the U.S. is not only decreasing pressure, but acquiescing to Russian pressure. This benefits not only Assad and Russia, but also the Islamic State.


Source: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-17/new-russian-air-defenses-in-syria-keep-u-s-grounded?cmpid=yhoo.headline


Russian airstrikes reportedly target Turkish aid convoy in Syria

 Azaz

Turkey's state-run news agency and activists on the ground say Russian airstrikes hit an aid convoy travelling near the Syrian border town of Azaz in the Aleppo province. The Anadolu agency reported that seven people were killed and 10 wounded in strikes that it said hit a Turkish convoy taking supplies to refugees in the town on Wednesday. It is unclear who carried out the attacks, though some on the ground asserted that Russia was behind the strike. The Turkish-based IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation has a team working in the area and also made claims that the strikes came from Russian planes.They tweeted photos of the aftermath and rescue efforts that show emergency responders struggling to extinguish the flames. Footage posted by Syrian activists based in Azaz shows images of a convoy of trucks engulfed in flames.

Syrian regime forces have also been carrying out strikes in the area in recent weeks. The strike on the aid convoy comes one day after Turkish forces downed a Russian jet that allegedly crossed into Turkey while conducting strikes in Syria. Turkey shot down the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 military plan and rebels on the ground shot and killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to the ground, intensifying tensions in the region. Russia said the plane had stayed above Syria while Turkey said it had encroached upon Turkish airspace, and that it warned the Russian plane "10 times in five minutes" about the airspace violation before two Turkish F-16s shot it down.

Russian warplanes have been conducting airstrikes in the region for days, The Turkmen Mountain region near Azaz was the target of Syrian government offensive recently, under the cover of Russian air strikes. Turkmen civilians in the area have also reportedly been targeted by Russian air strikes in the region in recent days. One week ago, Prime Minister Davutoglu condemned the attacks in the area, after the foreign ministry said Turkmen civilians were were subjected to “heavy bombardment” by Russian planes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier intensive Russian airstrikes in Azaz on Wednesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that the act by Turkey will have "serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations and will not go unanswered," according to a statement released by the Kremlin.

Source: http://mashable.com/2015/11/25/airstrike-aid-convoy-azaz-syria/#nA01Xxotsmqr

Heavy Russian raids in areas where plane was downed

http://www.hindustantimes.com/rf/image_size_640x362/HT/p2/2015/11/21/Pictures/syria-russia_f911149a-900b-11e5-8626-d6ed0b59308e.jpg

Russia on Thursday said its forces had wiped out Syrian rebel groups operating in the area where one of its jets was brought down, unleashing a huge bombardment after rescuing a pilot. "As soon as our pilot was safe, Russian bombers and artillery of the Syrian government forces carried out massive strikes in the indicated area for an extended period," military official Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies. "The terrorists operating in that area and other mysterious groups were destroyed," he said. Konashenkov added that the Russian strikes helped Syrian ground forces take control of the mountainous area in the north of the Latakia province. Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian jet in northern Syria alleging that it had crossed over into its air space and sparking a war of words with Moscow. One pilot that parachuted out was later rescued by Russian and Syrian special forces, while a second pilot from the jet and a soldier sent to rescue him were killed by rebels on the ground. The defence ministry said Thursday that it had deployed its advanced S-400 air defence system at the Russian airbase in Syria to ensure the security of its warplanes, which have been bombing the war-torn country since September 30. Konashenkov said that over the past three days its jets carried out 134 combat sorties over the war-torn country and struck 449 targets in the Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Raqa and Deir Ezzor provinces.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russia-says-destroyed-syria-rebels-area-where-jet-174019543.html#


Increased Russian Attacks Displacing Syrian Turkmen

Regime, Russian attacks displacing Syrian Turkmen: Group

Almost 7,000 Turkmen have recently been displaced due to repeated air and ground assaults by Syrian regime forces and Russian warplanes in Syria’s predominantly-Turkmen Bayirbucak region, according to a local Turkmen association. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ahmed Vezir, secretary-general of the Association of Syrian Turks, said that 20 villages in Bayirbucak -- where some 17,000 people are estimated to live -- had been entirely vacated as a result of the recent upsurge of violence. Vezir said that a number of Turkmen -- mostly women, children and elderly people -- had recently fled to the villages of Yamadi and Sallur near the Turkish border and to Turkey's southern Hatay province.

Turkey’s official disaster relief agency, AFAD, for its part, has set up a coordination center in Yamadi to organize the distribution of humanitarian aid to affected Turkmen families. Over the last several days, approximately 2,000 Syrian Turkmen, fleeing the violence in their home country, have reportedly arrived in southern Turkey. Turkmen are a Turkic ethnic group based largely in Syria and Iraq, where they live alongside large Arab and Kurdish populations. The Turkmen community, which includes both Sunni and Shia Muslims, shares close cultural affinities with the Turkish people. Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, head of the Ankara-based Council of Syrian Turkmen, told Anadolu Agency that only young Turkmen of fighting age still remained in Bayirbucak.

Turkmen civilians in Bayirbucak, which is located in Syria’s Latakia province, say the Daesh militant group has no presence in the area. A number of Turkmen told Anadolu Agency that Russian claims of a Daesh presence in Bayirbucak were little more than a pretext intended to justify ongoing Russian airstrikes in the area. "Everyone is using Daesh as a pretext to intervene in Syria," said Mustafa. "Daesh isn’t in the Turkmen Mountains; this is a big lie." "If Russia really wanted to strike Daesh, why don’t they hit them in northern Aleppo where we’re already fighting them?" he asked. Many Turkmen say they have been abandoned by the international community, saying they faced frequent attacks by Syrian regime forces, backed by Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russian air power.

Ahmed Yusuf, 45, a civilian in Bayirbucak, told Anadolu Agency that Russian warplanes frequently struck "civilians targets and mosques in the area". "Turkey has opened its borders to the [Turkmen] people," Bayirbucak resident Suhail Abdullah, 29, said. "But most of us don’t want to leave our villages." "We’ve lived here for ages," he added. "We won’t leave our ancestral lands to anybody." 

Source: http://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/regime-russian-attacks-displacing-syrian-turkmen-group/481841

Lavrov: Russia ready to coordinate steps to block Turkish-Syrian border

Turkish side of the border with Syria

Russia is ready to coordinate practical steps to block the Turkish-Syrian border in cooperation with Damascus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. Lavrov recalled that French President Francois Hollande earlier voiced the proposal to adopt specific measures to block the Turkish-Syrian border. "We actively support that. We are open for coordination of practical steps, certainly, in interaction with the Syrian government," he said. "We are convinced that by blocking the border we will in many respects solve the tasks to eradicate terrorism on Syrian soil." "We hope that initiative by President Hollande will be implemented within the framework of our joint work, including in the Group of Support for Syria," the minister said.

Russia has questions about Ankara’s commitment to anti-terror efforts

Lavrov pointed out that Russia has question about Ankara’s real plans, including those on counter-terrorist efforts. "The hotbed of terrorist treat is concentrated in vast territories of Syria and Iraq," he said. "It is the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and we have a common opinion that it can be exterminated only without any double standards. Special responsibility in terms of denouncing such double standards and acting in a united front against terrorism rests on Syria’s neighbor countries."
"We think it highly cynical when some of the countries speak about their commitment to the corresponding United Nations Security Council resolutions and declare themselves members of anti-terrorist coalitions but in reality are playing a game where terrorists are allocated the role of secret allies," Lavrov stressed. "We have more and more questions about Ankara’s real plans and the degree of its readiness to exterminate terrorism, in particular in Syria, and its commitment to the normalization of the situation in Syria."

The Russian top diplomat drew attention to the statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who stressed that terrorist threat could be countered through the efforts of the entire world community, with due respect to the norms of international law and the United Nations Security Council’s central role.

"We are ready to take due account of these or those concerns and interests of the countries committed to anti-terrorist efforts and are ready for such formats of coalition, cooperation and coordination that would cause no discomfort to anyone," he said. "Now it is up to our partners, including those who are members of the coalition formed last year by the United States, which has yielded no visible results as of yet."

Source: http://tass.ru/en/politics/840018

Russia’s Big Guns Reach Syria’s Frontlines


The Russian army is literally bringing its big guns to the war in Syria. U.S. military analysts said the decision to add artillery to the battlefield indicates a number of key developments, including the Kremlin’s growing influence in planning and executing Syrian military operations. It could be a sign that Russia is dedicated to a conventional ground war—not just air strikes—in support of Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad, a staunch ally long supported by Moscow. Since at least October, Russia fielded heavy artillery units [5] near the cities of Homs and Hama, pounding targets there, according to a top U.S. State Department official. However, most of Russia’s firepower was at Latakia air base in western Syria until recently. The Russian decision to move artillery to the front lines is a newer development. Officially, Moscow denies that it has ground forces engaged in military operations in Syria. There’s certainly Russian influence within the Syrian army . . . and lots of guns.

Gen. Ali Ayoub, the Syrian army’s chief of staff, made a brief televised statement last month declaring the launch of a broad ground offensive that would be coordinated with Russia’s air campaign. He said the attack would include newly formed ground units including a “4th Assault Corps.” In an article in OE Watch [6], a magazine published by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, analysts noted that pro-Assad media quickly hailed the new strategy. The article quoted the pro-Hezbollah Al Hadath News. “The (Syrian) forward forces are supported by mortar cover and artillery regiments behind the support lines, as well as aerial cover from the Russian Sukhois,” Al Hadathstated.

“The Syrian army surge is proof of a new tactical military model, spiced with Russian flavors and led by the Sukhois from above, and which also includes greater use of artillery batteries,” the article continued.

According to OE Watch, there is conflicting information about the composition and manpower the 4th Assault Corps.  But its formation could herald a new direction for the Syrian military and its battle against anti-Assad rebels, including a shift toward reliance on conventional forces and artillery. Russian military doctrine places far more emphasis on artillery than Western armies. In Ukraine, both Kiev and Kremlin-backed separatists make liberal use of artillery owing in part to their shared Soviet lineage. Before the war in Syria, Assad’s howitzer arsenal was universally Soviet and Russian in origin. The Syrian army could depend on thousands of static and self-propelled guns. Since the conflict, Moscow has further beefed up Assad’s artillery with more advanced 152-millimeter MTSA-B guns, BM-27 Uragan and BM-30 Smerch rocket launchers.

“Due to the Syrian army’s strong reliance upon artillery, it is unsurprisingly that providing artillery assets is one way that Russia is attempting to bolster the Assad regime,” OE Watch noted. “Perhaps what is surprising is the types of artillery systems that are being provided.”

The deadliest of all may be the TOS-1A Solnitsa rocket launcher, which was spotted on video launching its warheads in Latakia. Mounted on a T-72 tank chassis, the TOS-1A can fire 30 220-millimeter thermobaric or incendiary rockets in a single salvo.

“The resultant explosion—which is usually much larger than an equivalent weight of conventional ordnance—creates a massive high temperature blast and a high-pressure shock wave,” Dave Majumdar wrote at The National Interest. “Those who are in the affected area—who are not immediately incinerated—die when the overpressure destroys their lungs [7].”

In Syria, the increased use of artillery could also indicate a shift away from military operations organized around insurgent forces recruited by Iran to a different military model that relies on Russian organization. “Moscow is convinced of the need to strengthen conventional Syrian military forces and institutions and decrease the role of militias and the regime’s dependence on Iran,” journalist Ibahim Hamidi wrote in Al Hayat [8], one of the mostly widely read Arab newspapers in the region. One Russian military analyst believes the renewed emphasis on artillery made a major difference in the fight against anti-Assad rebels.

In a recent interview on a Russian news program [9], Konstantin Syvkov said more than 300 artillery pieces concentrated on a half-mile line outside of Hama produced a so-called “fire wave” that greatly aided the Syrian offensive at first. “This method consumes a lot of ammunition, but it is very effective in getting through fortifications,” Syvkov said. “This allowed the breakthrough via the enemy defenses.” The biggest problem was the Syrians ran out of ammunition, including artillery shells supplied by the Russians, he said. Reuters also recently reported [10] that Russia might have at least one artillery brigade armed with howitzers operating in an area between the cities of Homs and Damascus.

Russian state television footage of a briefing at the defense ministry headquarters on November 18 for President Vladimir Putin briefly showed a map that revealed the position of the Russian army’s 120th Artillery Brigade, according to a sharp-eyed military affairs blogger who spotted the position pinpointed on the chart. In response to the claim, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “In Syria there is a technical contingent linked with carrying out the Russian air force operation. There are no ground forces there and Russian soldiers are not carrying out a ground operation. The president has said that many times.”

Russia has conducted air strikes in Syria since September 30, including hundreds of attacks by fighter-bombers and missiles. Moscow insists it is hitting Islamic State targets as part of its anti-terrorism operation. However, U.S. officials say that up to 90 percent of Russia’s targets are so-called moderate rebel groups that oppose the Assad government, including some that have been trained and supplied with arms by the United States. Human rights groups say targets including marketplaces and mosques have been hit by Russian firepower, producing mounting civilian casualties.

Source: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-big-guns-reach-syrias-front-lines-14513

Russia is bringing its big guns to Syria. Literally


The Russian army is literally bringing its big guns to the war in Syria. U.S. military analysts said the decision to add artillery to the battlefield indicates a number of key developments, including the Kremlin's growing influence in planning and executing Syrian military operations. It could be a sign that Russia is dedicated to a conventional ground war — not just air strikes — in support of Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad, a staunch ally long supported by Moscow.

Since at least October, Russia fielded heavy artillery units near the cities of Homs and Hama, pounding targets there, according to a top U.S. State Department official. However, most of Russia's firepower was at Latakia air base in western Syria until recently. The Russian decision to move artillery to the front lines is a newer development. Officially, Moscow denies that it has ground forces engaged in military operations in Syria. There's certainly Russian influence within the Syrian army … and lots of guns.

Gen. Ali Ayoub, the Syrian army's chief of staff, made a brief televised statement last month declaring the launch of a broad ground offensive that would be coordinated with Russia's air campaign. He said the attack would include newly formed ground units including a "4th Assault Corps." In an article in OE Watch, a magazine published by the U.S. Army's Foreign Military Studies Office, analysts noted that pro-Assad media quickly hailed the new strategy. The article quoted the pro-Hezbollah Al Hadath News. "The (Syrian) forward forces are supported by mortar cover and artillery regiments behind the support lines, as well as aerial cover from the Russian Sukhois," Al Hadath stated. "The Syrian army surge is proof of a new tactical military model, spiced with Russian flavors and led by the Sukhois from above, and which also includes greater use of artillery batteries," the article continued.

According to OE Watch, there is conflicting information about the composition and manpower of the 4th Assault Corps. But its formation could herald a new direction for the Syrian military and its battle against anti-Assad rebels, including a shift toward reliance on conventional forces and artillery. Russian military doctrine places far more emphasis on artillery than Western armies. In Ukraine, both Kiev and Kremlin-backed separatists make liberal use of artillery owing in part to their shared Soviet lineage. Before the war in Syria, Assad's howitzer arsenal was universally Soviet and Russian in origin. The Syrian army could depend on thousands of static and self-propelled guns. Since the conflict, Moscow has further beefed up Assad's artillery with more advanced 152-millimeter MTSA-B guns, BM-27 Uragan and BM-30 Smerch rocket launchers.

"Due to the Syrian army's strong reliance upon artillery, it is unsurprisingly that providing artillery assets is one way that Russia is attempting to bolster the Assad regime," OE Watch noted. "Perhaps what is surprising is the types of artillery systems that are being provided."

The deadliest of all may be the TOS-1A Solnitsa rocket launcher, which was spotted on video launching its warheads in Latakia. Mounted on a T-72 tank chassis, the TOS-1A can fire 30 220-millimeter thermobaric or incendiary rockets in a single salvo.

"The resultant explosion — which is usually much larger than an equivalent weight of conventional ordnance — creates a massive high temperature blast and a high-pressure shock wave," Dave Majumdar wrote at The National Interest. "Those who are in the affected area — who are not immediately incinerated — die when the overpressure destroys their lungs."

In Syria, the increased use of artillery could also indicate a shift away from military operations organized around insurgent forces recruited by Iran to a different military model that relies on Russian organization.

"Moscow is convinced of the need to strengthen conventional Syrian military forces and institutions and decrease the role of militias and the regime's dependence on Iran," journalist Ibahim Hamidi wrote in Al Hayat, one of the mostly widely read Arab newspapers in the region. One Russian military analyst believes the renewed emphasis on artillery made a major difference in the fight against anti-Assad rebels. In a recent interview on a Russian news program, Konstantin Syvkov said more than 300 artillery pieces concentrated on a half-mile line outside of Hama produced a so-called "fire wave" that greatly aided the Syrian offensive at first. "This method consumes a lot of ammunition, but it is very effective in getting through fortifications," Syvkov said. "This allowed the breakthrough via the enemy defenses."

The biggest problem was the Syrians ran out of ammunition, including artillery shells supplied by the Russians, he said. Reuters also recently reported that Russia might have at least one artillery brigade armed with howitzers operating in an area between the cities of Homs and Damascus. Russian state television footage of a briefing at the defense ministry headquarters on Nov. 18 for Pres. Vladimir Putin briefly showed a map that revealed the position of the Russian army's 120th Artillery Brigade, according to a sharp-eyed military affairs blogger who spotted the position pinpointed on the chart. In response to the claim, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "In Syria there is a technical contingent linked with carrying out the Russian air force operation. There are no ground forces there and Russian soldiers are not carrying out a ground operation. The president has said that many times."

Source:  http://theweek.com/articles/593126/russia-bringing-big-guns-syria-literally

Russian Air Force Bombs Nearly 1,500 Militant Targets and Oil Fields Since Warplane Downing

Russia says its warplanes have targeted an Islamic State oil-processing facility in Syria

Russian airforce has struck nearly 1,500 targets all over Syria over the past nine days, the military said, its bombers now flying under cover of strategic fighter jets following the downing of a plane by Turkey last week. Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing that the Russian air contingent carried out 431 sorties and bombed 1458 targets in several regions of Syria, without mentioning whether any of them were affiliated with the Islamic State jihadist group.

Among the targets was a "command post" near the town of Khnaifess in the Homs region, and a "large ammunitions stockpile" near Morek in Hama region, which was captured from the Syrian army in early November. The airstrikes also "destroyed a large militant base" at a strategic location near Kassab in Latakia region, leading to Syrian army "taking the high ground," the ministry said. In Hama region, the airstrikes "liquidated" several field commanders near rebel-held Latamina, and bombed several strategic high-ground locations, including Hazm al-Abyad.

Some 40 large trucks and cisterns "used to transport oil" were destroyed during strikes on two groups of vehicles near Aleppo and Raqqa, while elsewhere 12 oil pumping stations and eight oil fields were targeted. Moscow is at loggerheads with Ankara following the downing of its warplane over the Syria-Turkish border on December 24. The incident caused Russia to send Su-30 fighters to give cover to its bombers on "all runs" during recent days.

Moscow has accused the Turkish leadership of participating in the smuggling of oil from IS-controlled territory. Last week President Vladimir Putin said after meeting French counterpart Francois Hollande that the two agreed to "exchange information" about the location of jihadists and indicated that he would avoid targeting the "healthy part of the opposition" in Syria. However the defence ministry gave no detail Friday in its briefing on what groups it has bombed since December 26, as it enters the third month of its air campaign to help government troops in Syria.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russia-bombs-nearly-1-500-syrian-targets-oil-200125109.html 

Why Will Russia Station 7,000 Soldiers on the Armenia-Turkey Border?

 Why Will Russia Station 7,000 Soldiers on the Armenia-Turkey Border?

The war between Russia and Turkey has taken another twist with Armenian government’s request for deployment of Russian troops. On the request of the government, Russian troops will be deployed near the Armenian border with Turkey. World Bulletin says that the proclamations have already been signed by President Vladimir Putin and the deployment will start soon. It also says that the Armenian government requested Russia to deploy its forces fearing attack on the country. The local media also suggests that Russia will station 7,000 soldiers from 58 Army Corps in the Armenia-Turkey border. The troops will be fully equipped with tanks and missiles.
 
As noted by another World Bulletin report, the summit, which was supposed to be held on December 15 between Russian president and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was cancelled after the downing of the Russian aircraft. The report adds that furious Putin refused to take calls from Erdogan. Russia also has slapped economic sanctions to Turkey in retaliation. Although the Turkish authorities claimed that the jet was in the Turkish territory, Russia refused to buy any argument and Putin called the incident as a “stab in the back”.

Meanwhile, the military deployment is considered as revenge by many. In the end of the previous month Russia launched a series of deadly strikes against the Syrian rebel-held border crossing Turkey to retaliate the shoot down of Russian jet. Earlier this month, a Russian warship fired warning shots at Turkish Vessel. According to Aljazeera, the Russian ministry statement says that the warship failed to establish radio contact with the Turkish vessel and it also failed to respond to the visual signals and flares. Many are speculating that Armenia, which is a long time ally with Russia, is the victim in the conflict between Russia and Turkey. Many on the other hand are blaming Russia for the deployment.

Source: http://www.australianetworknews.com/will-russia-station-7000-soldiers-armenia-turkey-border/

Russian Foreign Ministry: Turkey is clearly an accomplice of terrorists

A picture has emerged of Alpaslan Celik (centre), a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade, holding handles believed to be parts of a parachute belonging to a pilot of the downed Russian warplane
The Russian Foreign Ministry has grounds to believe the United States knows people who danced around the body of the killed Russian pilot

Turkey is clearly an accomplice of terrorists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariya Zakharova said Thursday. "If a strike was delivered at those who conducted an operation against terrorists, how else can the actions of that side by described? As those of accomplices of terrorists - unambiguously, there’s no other variant here," Zakharova said. Zakharova pointed out Turkey is using all available methods to protect armed criminals. "We assume that Ankara does not care for the fate of civilians but is concerned with the future of those whose faces everybody had a chance to see in a footage distributed by the world media after the Turkish Air Force had downed the Russian jet," the Russian diplomat went on to say.

"The people whom Ankara is trying to protect by using all available methods, some of which are criminal, have got nothing to do with peaceful civilians. We are talking about armed cutthroats who shot a Russian pilot and then mocked at his dead body," Zakharova stressed.

According to the spokeswoman, Russia is expecting statements from Turkey on what Ankara’s attitude is toward people who mocked the body of a killed Russian pilot. "If these are not people Ankara protects, then we are expecting relevant denials from Turkey’s official structures," Zakharova said. "We are expecting explanations." The diplomat stressed that Moscow has all grounds to believe the United States knows people who danced around the body of the killed Russian pilot. The ministry considers comments by US State Department on linking fate of catapulted Russian pilot with right to self-defense wild.

"These are wild comments, fi we say that we deal simply with civilized people - these comments by the US State Department on linking the catapulted Russian pilot’s shooting from the ground and the right to self-defense," the diplomat said. "This was seen by everyone. The plane was shot down and the catapulted pilot was being shot from the ground," the diplomat said. "Social networks have all the data on these people and also photos of those who were shooting down the pilots from the ground," Zakharova said.

"We have all the data to believe that the US State Department has information on who these people are," she said. ‘We are waiting for corresponding statements from the US State Department. Who, after all, are these people who danced around the body of the Russian pilot?" she said. "This is the case of the violation of humanitarian law," the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. "This is the case when people deprived of the possibility of combat actions were attacked," she added. Zakharova pointed out that Turkish fighters made no attempts to establish contact with Russia’s Sukhoi-24 frontline bomber, downed over Syria. "No attempts by the Turkish plane to contact the crew of our plane were registered by objective monitoring means," she said.
She said NATO allows Ankara to carry out actions threatening global peace and security, but the alliance should be aware of the possible consequences of this policy. "NATO’s position is causing total rejection. The alliance has apparently yielded to Turkey’s pressure," Zakharova said. "NATO has used the idea of notorious allied solidarity as a cover to give an indulgency to Turkey and other NATO members to any unlawful actions, which are not just undermining international efforts to fight the Islamic State (the terrorist group is banned in Russia) but are creating a direct threat to global peace and security," the Russian diplomat said.

The diplomat condemned NATO’s position, saying that the alliance has apparently yielded to Turkey’s pressure. "While hiding behind the notorious allied solidarity, NATO has in fact granted indulgence to Ankara and other members of the bloc to carry out any illegal actions," she said. These actions ruin international efforts in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group banned in Russia and create a direct threat for the global peace and security, Zakharova said. Zakharova also noted the alliance’s attempts to shift the blame for the incident on Russia. "NATO has not even bothered to offer condolences to us," the diplomat said. It’s a shame that the alliance has not voiced its stance on the incident when the Russian pilot was killed by gunfire as he parachuted from the plane, she said. Russia hopes that the NATO leadership is fully aware of the risks and negative consequences of such a short-sighted policy, she said. "Such a policy sets the alliance against the whole international community and joint efforts on countering real threat and modern challenges."
The official also dwelled upon the upcoming meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council . According to the spokeswoman, the meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade on December 3-4 will discuss the fight against terrorism. "The upcoming ministerial meeting will take place against the background of the terrorism wave that has already reached and practically flooded Europe and not only Europe but the neighboring regions," Zakharova told reporters. "The ministers of the OSCE member-states are expected to discuss the origin of terrorism and the need of uniting efforts in the fight against this evil." The diplomat stressed: "We expect an open and what is very important a depoliticized dialogue." 

Source: http://tass.ru/en/politics/839561

Turkmen commander who 'killed' Russian pilot turns out to be son of Turkish mayor and an ultranationalist

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A Syrian rebel commander who boasted of killing a Russian pilot after Turkey downed Russian jet on Tuesday appeared to be Turkish ultranationalist and a son of former mayor in one of Turkish provinces. Alparslan Celik, deputy commander of a Syrian Turkmen brigade turned out to be the son of a mayor of a Keban municipality in Turkey’s Elazig province. He also turned out to be the member of The Grey Wolves ultranationalist group, members of which have carried out scores of political murders since 1970s. Celic came under spotlight after he announced that as the two Russian pilots descended by parachute after the Su-24 jet was downed by Turkish military, both were shot dead by Turkmen forces on Tuesday. A graphic video posted earlier on social media purported to show a Russian pilot lying on the ground surrounded by a group of armed militants.

Source: https://www.rt.com/news/323658-turkmen-commander-turkish-ultra/


"Let Them Fly There Now": Putin Threatens To Shoot Down Turkish Jets In Syria, Calls Erdogan An Ass Kisser

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It’s been nearly a month since Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 in what not only represented the most serious escalation to date in Syria’s five year conflict but also marked the first time a NATO member has engaged a Russian or Soviet aircraft in at least six decades. The “incident” - which came several weeks after Ankara downed what certainly appeared to be a Russian drone - infuriated The Kremlin, setting off a war of words that culminated in a lengthy presentation by the Russian MoD which purported to prove that illicit Islamic State oil flows through Turkey.

Both Putin and a number of other Russian officials have implicated Erdogan and his family in the trafficking of illegal crude and there’s speculation that Ankara’s brazen move to fire on the Russian warplane stemmed from Erdogan’s desire to “punish” Russia for disrupting what Deputy Minister of Defence Anatoly Antonov sarcastically called “a brilliant family business.”

As for the Russian foreign ministry, Sergei Lavrov canceled a planned trip to Turkey and Maria Zakharova went so far as to reference Turkey’s infamous political blogger Fuat Avni (a pseudonym) on the way to suggesting that Ankara had been planning to shoot down a Russian fighter jet for at least a month. In an effort to ensure that the downing of a Russian warplane in Syria was a “one and done” event, Moscow deployed the Moskva off the coast of Latakia and sent in the S-400 air defense systems (which were rumored to have already been in place).

Those moves rattled the US and its partners who fear that a nervous Putin might “inadvertently” shoot down an American, French, or British warplane. Indeed Putin ratcheted up the rhetoric last week. While not detailing 'who' he was focused on, the President told a session of the Defense Ministry's collegium that "I order to act extremely tough. Any targets that threaten Russian forces or our infrastructure on the ground should be immediately destroyed."

Well, in case that wasn’t clear enough, Putin took it a step further on Thursday. During his annual news conference in Moscow, the Russian President literally dared Erdogan to send Turkish F-16s into Syrian airspace. As Bloomberg reports, “President Vladimir Putin signaled that Russia is ready to shoot down any Turkish military aircraft that strays into Syrian airspace." “Turkey constantly violated Syrian airspace in the past. Let them fly there now,” he said, pointing out that Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, the S-400, is covering all of Syria.

"This is the 11th press conference Putin will have with Russian and international journalists during the three terms he has served as head of state," Sputnik notes. "These large press meetings, held once a year, usually last several hours. Almost 1,400 journalists have received accreditation for this year’s event."

As for whether The Kremlin thinks the US was in any way involved in the downing of the Russian warplane, Putin said he wasn't aware of any American involvement, but did suggest (literally) that Erdogan may have been trying to kiss Washington's ass or, in Bloomberg's more politically correct terminology, "Turkey may have been trying to curry favor with the largest member of NATO".
Putin: “If someone in Turkey decided to kiss Americans on a certain body part, I don’t know whether it was right or not."
Source: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-17/let-them-fly-there-now-putin-threatens-shoot-down-turkish-jets-syria-calls-erdogan-a


Russia is already exacting its revenge on Turkey for downing a Russian warplane

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Just over 24 hours after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on after claiming the jet had violated Turkish airspace, Moscow is already exacting its revenge — albeit subtly. "We're not going to wage a war against Turkey. ... But we will seriously reconsider our agreements with the Turkish government," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a press call on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. "Our attitude to the Turkish people hasn't changed," Lavrov continued. "We only have questions about the Turkish leadership."

Turkey defended its decision to down the plane on Tuesday, contending that the plane was in Turkish airspace and had been warned repeatedly before it was shot down by Turkish F-16 jets. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane was destroyed by a Turkish missile while flying in Syrian airspace, roughly a mile from the Turkish border. By Wednesday morning, Russia had begun bombarding rebels — including Turkmen insurgents, who have ethnic ties to Turkey — in Syria's Latakia province, ignoring demands made by Turkey over the past week to end its military operations close to the Turkish border.

Russia also announced Wednesday that it would deploy state-of-the-art S-400 missile systems to the Russian Hemeimeem air base near Latakia, Syria — 30 miles south of the Turkish border, the AP reported. The missiles, which are able to hit a plane with extreme accuracy, are evidently meant to deter Turkish jets from shooting down Russian planes in the future. Additionally, Russia issued an official travel warning advising its citizens against visiting Turkey. And Russian travel agencies announced on Wednesday that they will withdraw their business in Turkey until next year, according to a translation by Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, DC-based think tank.

Russian tourists account for a huge portion of Turkey's tourism industry — 3.3 million Russian tourists visited Turkey in 2014, the second-largest number of tourist arrivals after Germany and around 12% of total visitors, according to Reuters. And in a largely symbolic gesture on Wednesday, the Russian parliament proposed a five-year jail term for anyone who denies that the mass killings of Armenians that began under Ottoman rule in 1915 constituted a "genocide," according to an article translated by Foreign Policy columnist and Russia commentator Julia Ioffe. Use of the word remains a charged issue in Turkey, which staunchly objects to such a characterization. Eastern Armenia remained part of the Russian Empire until its collapse in 1917. And there is one other way that Russia could retaliate against Turkey more directly: Namely, by drawing attention to the NATO ally's suspected ties to the Islamic State in Syria.

'Accomplices of terrorists'

As The Soufan Group noted on Wednesday in its daily briefing, Russia "is likely to use intelligence and disinformation to highlight Turkey’s dealings with the Islamic State."  Western officials have long harbored suspicions about Turkey's links to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh. One official told The Guardian's Martin Chulov in July that a US-led raid on the compound housing ISIS' "chief financial officer" produced "undeniable" evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIS members — namely, by purchasing oil from them.

Separately, experts, Kurds, and even US Vice President Joe Biden have suggested in the past that Turkey has helped enable ISIS by turning a blind eye to the vast smuggling networks of weapons and fighters during the ongoing Syrian war. For his part, Biden charged that countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were so focused on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they did not properly vet the opposition groups to which they sent money and weapons. (He later apologized.)

Turkey joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in late July, after a suicide bomber with links to the terrorist group killed 32 activists in the southeastern border town of Suruc. Still, lingering suspicions remained about Turkey's commitment to fighting ISIS, as it embarked on a dual campaign to wipe out a Kurdish insurgency in its southeast. Those suspicions were all but put to rest last month when an ISIS-linked suicide bomber killed more than 150 people at a peace rally in Ankara — the deadliest terror attack in Turkey's recent history. But one day after Turkey downed its warplane, Russia has already begun to bring Turkey's murky history with the group back into focus in order to discredit Ankara's role in the anti-ISIS coalition — and legitimize its own.

"Turkey has demonstrated that it is protecting ISIS," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday on Twitter, adding that the damage from "Turkey's criminal actions ... will be hard to repair."  Medvedev was seemingly echoing a statement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, when he referred to Turkey as "accomplices of terrorists." "We established a long time ago that large quantities of oil and oil products from territory captured by the Islamic State have been arriving on Turkish territory," Putin said from the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi before a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah.

Lavrov added on Wednesday morning that "terrorists" have been using Turkish territory to plot attacks on other countries, the AP reported. He claimed that the Russian warplane Turkey shot down had been targeting the extremists' oil infrastructure in Syria.  In any case, this war of words may be as far as Russia is willing to go — for now. "Putin's initial reaction — calling the incident 'a stab in the back by the terrorists' accomplices' — is about as bellicose as could be imagined. But Putin is no stranger to harsh rhetoric, and he has broader interests to play for," geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Tuesday. Bremmer noted, however, that the "huge egos" of Turkish President Erdogan and Putin certainly won't help future efforts to mend Turkish-Russian relations.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/russi...ed-jet-2015-11


Russia Is Strangling Turkey: Country Could Soon Run Out of Gas



Shortly after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian bomber last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed revenge. Although some people worried he might do so militarily, Putin thus far has chosen a different path, focusing on hurting Turkey's economy. He's done that by, among other things, boycotting fruit and vegetable imports. For Turkey, that is a major problem. The numbers speak for themselves:
This isn’t  just a case of no more Turkish pistachio nuts or dates. Turkish fruits and vegetables account for 20 percent of Russia’s total fruit and vegetable consumption. This is a huge loss for the Turkish economy.  A $4 billion annual loss in fruit and vegetable revenue. Russia has said they will easily make up the loss by importing more from Iran and Israel.
Before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AK Party came to power in 2003, Turkey might have quickly found other export markets for its produce. But over the past few years, Turkey's relationships with most of its neighbors have deteriorated dramatically. As a result, it's difficult for Turkey to find new business partners. As long as Russia bought Turkish products, Ankara had nothing to worry about. That has changed now. Russia has also cancelled its holiday packages to Turkey. In last year alone, 3.3 million Russians vacationed in Turkey. That's ten percent of all tourism to the country. Losing these tourists will mean that Turkey will lose even more revenue; entire cities -- like Antalya -- built on the tourism industry will be in trouble. So far, so bad for Erdogan, but it gets worse. Boycotts are problematic, but what really has the potential to hurt Turkey is its dependence on Russian natural gas.
Gas is next. Russia will start pulling it.  They have already cancelled work on the underwater gas pipeline which, together with the [Russian-built] nuclear electric plants, would eventually make Turkey more energy independent. Turkey cannot get that much gas replaced.  They are in public conflict not only with Russia but also with alternative suppliers.  They sided with the Muslim Brotherhood so Egypt will not supply them.  They have been very aggressively critical of Saudi Arabia so they will not supply them.
Although Turkey is talking to other countries such as Israel in order to get its gas from them, the country has a very serious problem if Russia closes its pipelines. At best, Ankara may replace the gas only partially if Israel, a former ally, is willing to step up. No wonder then that Turkey has suddenly decided to join Saudi Arabia's anti-ISIS coalition:
Turkey says it welcomes the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism and agrees to join the coalition announced and led by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday... Turkey, the only country in the alliance that is also a NATO member, welcomed the new coalition. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called it the "best response to those who are trying to associate terror and Islam."
Clearly, Erdoğan understands the risks of being cut off from Russian gas. He's now rapidly positioning himself to do business with other major gas providers. It isn't clear, however, whether those countries are willing to give him what he wants, and at what price. It could very well cost Turkey dearly. 



Russia raiding Turkish firms and sending exports back

Protesters hurled eggs and stones at the Turkish embassy in Moscow on Wednesday, a day after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane [AP]
Moscow also preventing Turkish tourists from entering Russia, businessmen say, in apparent response to downing of plan

Russian police have been raiding Turkish companies in different regions of Russia and, in some cases, have suspended their operations, two Turkish businessmen with investments in the country have told Al Jazeera. Moscow has also started sending back Turkish trucks loaded with exports at the border and stopped Turkish tourists - who normally do not need visas  - entering the country, at least two businessmen said. Turkish and Russian foreign ministries, contacted by phone, had not replied to Al Jazeera's questions at the time of the publication of this story. Moscow's move comes after Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplane on Tuesday for allegedly violating Turkish airspace. The two sides, who are at odds over the Syrian crisis, have opposite claims over whther the airspace breach is true or not. "Turkish companies in Russia, particularly construction companies, are being raided," a Turkish executive with a manufacturing company active in Russia told Al Jazeera, on condition of anonymity. "They check if anyone with expired or no working visas is actively working in these companies or not. They check if working regulations were implemented or not. "There have been serious breaches in this area within construction companies and Russian authorities know it. Activities of some companies have been frozen on these grounds." Cevdet Seylan, a businessman with trade relations in the city of Kazan, also confirmed that police had been raiding Turkish companies there.

Trucks returned

Osman Bagdatlioglu, the chairman of Turkey's Ornamental Plants and Products Exporters Union, said that several trucks loaded with flowers returned back to Turkey on Wednesday after Russian authorities blocked their entry into the country. "Six trucks came back yesterday. We stopped all deliveries. We stopped deliveries by planes as well," Bagdatlioglu told Al Jazeera. "Officially there are no obstacles, but we come across unofficial ones. This will have a massive impact on our commercial segment in short and middle terms. In Europe, one of our largest partners is Russia," he said. The goods blockage was also reported by Adnan Dalgakiran, a member of the Turkish Exporters Assembly, who tweeted on Wednesday evening: "Entry of Turkish goods has been blocked at Russia customs." Another businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that all trucks suspected of carrying Turkish products are asked to wait at the border, regardless of their license plate. "At the border, they check every single truck, whatever license plate it carries. They check everything about the product," he said. "They count the products, check their weight, etc, and find an excuse to make them wait or send them back." Meanwhile, several Turkish citizens confirmed to Al Jazeera that Russia was sending back Turkish tourists trying to enter the country by finding "excuses" and was delaying entry of Turks with work or residence permit. Turkish and Russian tourists have been able to travel between the two countries without a visa since 2011, following an agreement signed between the two countries.

Wait at customs

Seylan, the businessman, said that Russian authorities made him and other Turkish nationals wait at Kazan's airport for an hour while entering the country on Wednesday. "Police went to our residence addresses, checked our information and then we were allowed to go into the country," Seylan told Al Jazeera. "On [the evening of] November 24, there have also been raids on Turkish residences and cafes that Turks go to. "Students and professionals were detained. They were released after being questioned." Russian authorities had hinted at new commercial measures against Turkey following the downing of the country's warplane. Russia carried out its first air strikes in Syria on September 30, saying the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and "other terrorist groups" were the targets. Turkey has long been campaigning for the ousting of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has joined other countries in criticising Russia's air campaign, saying the strikes are mainly hitting rebel groups opposed to Assad rather than ISIL. Turkey had warned Russia over violations of its airspace multiple times before Tuesday's downing by Turkish air forces, Ankara says.


Daily Saabah: It was Russia that stabbed Turkey in the back

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presidente de Turquía

Turkey's shooting down Russian military jet is a serious blow for President Vladimir Putin's calculated air offensive in Syria's Latakia. The offensive has not only harmed the Turkmen brigades who are basically holding the border area with other moderate rebels, but also strategically targeted Turkish plans for the Azez-Jarablous line.

Make no mistake, Turkey's response was an expected move considering its rules of engagement and also its several diplomatic warnings against Russian incursions into Turkish airspace. However, this incident is not only a Russian-Turkish brawl; it is a fight concerning all the parties involved in Syria in which the U.S. and Russia engage in clashing strategies. Russia props up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad with its air power and lends financial and logistical support while the U.S.'s only concern in the country is containing and destroying DAESH. Despite the recent Syria talks, these two separate strategies have been on a collision course for a while. Weakening the moderate Syrian rebels is obviously also harming the war against DAESH, and the Azez-Jarablous line was particularly important in all of this.

International media outlets, specifically Turkish ones, missed the story published on Nov. 1 by the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA), ushering the news that Turkish and American jets bombarded DAESH strongholds in northern Syria, in coordination with the Syrian opposition groups including Turkmen fighters. That was a first operation jointly conducted by Turkey and U.S.-backed Syrian opposition forces against DAESH. It was a clear sign that Turkey was adamant to clean DAESH from the last part of the border it holds. Since then, Turkey's air campaign around the Mar'a line intensified. An anti-DAESH coalition press release last week indicated that allied forces hit the area at least a dozen times in a day. One of the crucial ground forces in this area is Turkey-backed Turkmen groups.

While Turkey is trying to rid DAESH from this area, Russian war planes plowed the Turkmen mountain region on the west throughout the week and undermined Turkish plans for the Azez-Jarablous by risking all of northern Syria held by the opposition. It might be natural for Assad forces to secure Alawite-dominated Latakia and extend its rule over the border - the domestic repercussions in Turkey of Turkmen refugees running from the Russian airstrikes and the public outcry against Turkish inaction also must be noted. But ruining Turkey's plans to keep a specific territory along the border from both DAESH and the PKK-linked Democratic Union Party (PYD) is something that has deeply concerned Ankara. The failure of this plan would give significant leverage to the PYD's ambitions to connect Tal Abyad to Afrin, which is one of the government's nightmares considering the possible Kurdish state that could come to fruition in the future.

The immediate reaction from U.S. officials was supportive but it is clear that Washington is not a big fan of such serious escalation. The U.S. State Department's spokesperson, Mark Toner, avoided confirming that Russia had specifically been hitting the Turkmen rebels. He said the U.S. cannot verify the reports. Despite Turkey's intensive diplomatic work, including a phone call from Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu to Secretary of State John Kerry over the issue, the U.S. is not convinced that the composition of the rebels in the area only consists of Turkmens. Peculiarly enough, he admitted that Russia targeted moderate Syrian rebels along the border, without specifying their locations.

The impact of this incident to crucial Syria talks is negative, and there is a chance that the retaliation game would be in play for quite some time. Yet, it is very possible that Russia would ramp up its support for the PYD, both diplomatically and militarily, and continue to target Syrian rebels even more forcefully. Expect some bold moves by Russia, but their response is likely to be in Syria rather than on any diplomatic front. This is why Turkey will require NATO support more than ever in the coming days. It will also be under even more self-pressure to act swiftly to clear the Azez-Jarablous line.

Turkey’s Blocks Russian Naval Vessels’ Access to the Mediterranean

Russian Navy's large landing ship Korolev sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 1, 2015
The Strategic Role of the Bosphorus Straits and the Dardanelles linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean

Turkey has begun a de facto blockade of Russian naval vessels,  preventing transit through the Dardanelles and the Strait of Bosporus, between the Black Sea and Mediterranean. According to the AIS tracking system for the movement of maritime vessels, only Turkish vessels are moving along the Bosphorus, and in the Dardanelles there is no movement of any shipping at all.


At the same time, both from the Black Sea, and from the Mediterranean Sea, there is a small cluster of ships under the Russian flag, just sitting and waiting. The image below shows the situation with the ships using the GPS transponder onboard each vessel:


In addition, shipping inside the Black Sea from Novorossiisk and Sevastopol in the direction of the Bosphorus, no Russian vessels are moving. This indirectly confirms the a CNN statement that Turkey may have blocked the movement of Russian ships on the Dardanelles and the Strait of Bosporus. There is a Treaty specifically covering the use of these waterways by nations of the world.  That Treaty is the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits.

It is a 1936 agreement that gives Turkey control over the Bosporus Straits and the Dardanelles and regulates the transit of naval warships. The Convention gives Turkey full control over the Straits and guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime. It restricts the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states. The terms of the convention have been the source of controversy over the years, most notably concerning the Soviet Union‘s military access to the Mediterranean Sea. Signed on 20 July 1936 at the Montreux Palace in Switzerland, it permitted Turkey to remilitarise the Straits. It went into effect on 9 November 1936 and was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on 11 December 1936. It is still in force today, with some amendments.

The Convention consists of 29 Articles, four annexes and one protocol. Articles 2–7 consider the passage of merchant ships. Articles 8–22 consider the passage of war vessels. The key principle of freedom of passage and navigation is stated in articles 1 and 2. Article 1 provides that “The High Contracting Parties recognize and affirm the principle of freedom of passage and navigation by sea in the Straits”. Article 2 states that “In time of peace, merchant vessels shall enjoy complete freedom of passage and navigation in the Straits, by day and by night, under any flag with any kind of cargo.”

The International Straits Commission was abolished, authorizing the full resumption of Turkish military control over the Straits and the refortification of the Dardanelles. Turkey was authorized to close the Straits to all foreign warships in wartime or when it was threatened by aggression; additionally, it was authorized to refuse transit from merchant ships belonging to countries at war with Turkey. Turkey has now invoked its power, but has not publicly stated whether they are blocking Russian Naval Vessels because Turkey is “threatened with aggression” or whether Turkey considers itself to be “at war.”  Last week, Turkey shot down a Russian military jet over Syria and this has caused a major rift between the two nations.

This latest development of blockading Russian naval vessels is a massive and terrifyingly dangerous development.  Blockading Russia and preventing its Black Sea fleet from traveling to the rest of the world, or back to its home port,  is something that will not sit well with the Russians. Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of 150,000 Russian troops and equipment into Syria, but then ALSO ordered the deployment of 7,000 additional Russian Troops, tanks, rocket launchers and artillery, to the Russian Border of Turkey at Armenia, with orders to be “fully combat ready.” It is important to note two things:

1) Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as is the United States and most of Europe, AND;

2) Turkey took the first shot at Russia when they intentionally shot down a Russian jet last week.

It is important to remember these facts because, as a NATO member, Turkey can invoke Article 5 of the NATO Treaty which requires all NATO members to come to its defense if Turkey is “attacked.”  So if Russia decides to fight back against Turkey downing its military jet, the Turks might call NATO and claim they’ve been “attacked” thereby calling-up NATO forces to go to war against Russia. It bears remembering, however, that Turkey shot first.  Turkey was the nation which “attacked.” Before NATO and the world get dragged into a war between Russia and Turkey, the citizens of the world must be ready to remind our leaders that Turkey Shot First.

Why did the Turks shoot?  Because Turkey has been allowing the terrorist group ISIS to sell the oil it has stolen from countries it is conquering.  The oil is transported from the wells in countries where ISIS has seized power, is taken by truck to Turkey, and is then sold at cheap prices on the black market. This black market selling results in over 1 Million dollars per DAY flowing into ISIS to keep it equipped and supplied for its ongoing terrorist activities.  Only a fool would think that all this is going on through Turkey, without some Turkish officials having their hands out for money from the illegal oil sales.  Put simply, Turkey appears to be in business with ISIS and Russia is harming that by attacking ISIS in Syria.

So Turkey shot down one of the Russian planes that was attacking ISIS.  Russia is quite furious; with the Russian President stating the shoot down was “a stab in the back of Russia” and was carried out by “accomplices to terrorism.” It would be shocking if NATO were to defend Turkey under such circumstances because by its actions, Turkey is providing material support to the terrorist group ISIS.  For NATO to defend that would make all of us accomplices to terrorism.

Source:  http://www.globalresearch.ca/turkeys-blockade-of-russian-naval-vessels-access-to-the-mediterranean-russias-black-sea-fleet-completely-cut-off/5492688

Iran-Russia Alliance


Russia’s strategic foreign policy goal is to prevent the consolidation of the United States’ global dominance. This strategy became even more apparent in 2014 from the Russian strong response to the ouster of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine and the emergence of a pro-West leadership. Russia was extremely worried about the close proximity of the newly pro-West government and was concerned about the possibility of a NATO military presence in its back yard. This sparked a tit-for-tat chain of actions and reactions between Russia and the West, led by the United States.

In pursuit of the same objective, Russia began its intensive air campaign in Syria in September 2015. The Russian military operation in Syria elevated the US-Russia conflict into a geopolitical confrontation. As events unfolded in Syria, the rise of jihadists added a new element for serious concern. Russia has been in a state of war with radical Islamists from Chechnya and other North Caucasian republics since the 1990s, and the country has been targeted by several terrorist attacks. In June 2015, the Chechen jihadi group pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
 
Iran’s strategic interest in Syria

For a host of reasons, Iran's hostility toward Israel has been the most entrenched determinant of its foreign policy since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. To counter Israel's unchallenged hegemony in the region, Iran organized Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to serve as a proxy force. Iran viewed Hezbollah as a deterrent force and a constant potential threat to Israel's security. In this respect, Syria, as an anti-Israel, anti-American strategic ally of Iran, served as a vital corridor connecting Damascus to Tartus on the Mediterranean coast. This corridor enabled Iran to continue to provide weapons to Hezbollah.

With the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, in 2003, Iran emerged as a major player in Iraq thanks to the armed Iraqi opposition groups that Iran had supported for over two decades. This paved the way for the formation of the Iran-led "axis of resistance" which extends from Iran to Lebanon and passes unobstructed through Iraq and Syria. “Resistance,” as it is called by the Iranians, is also tasked to act as a deterrent to thwart American hegemony in the region. As chaos grew in Syria, the rise of the anti-Shia Salafist group, Daesh (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Islamic State, or IS) became a formidable threat not only to Iran’s strategic interests in Iraq and Syria but also to its own national security. Iran could no longer rely on the Syrian army to continue to prop up the Bashar al-Assad regime, which was in a brutal asymmetric war with Daesh as well as with numerous opposition groups.

The opposition groups were being backed by several Arab countries in the region as well as by Turkey and the United States. The US supported these opposition groups in a strategic attempt to curb Iran’s influence in the region. To combat this situation, Iran created the National Defense Forces, a large paramilitary base in Syria modelled after its success at organizing proxies in Iraq and Lebanon.
 
A temporary friendship?

As the Russia-Iran de facto alliance in Syria has emerged, opinion pieces and analyses increasingly appear in the Western media arguing that this partnership will not survive in the long term. The predominant arguments to support this position are as follows:

Distrust

Some experts argue that there is a history of distrust between the two countries dating back to the 19th century when Russia annexed Iranian territories. They also refer to the USSR’s support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Russia’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear program and its support of UN sanctions on Iran. They also point to the suspension of the delivery of S-300 missiles in 2011 that Iran had already paid for. Tehran filed a lawsuit against Russia in return.

The reality is that alliances between countries are not based on trust - they are based on self-interest. A country’s self-interest leads a government to enter into alliances with other countries. The more these interests converge, the stronger the relations. As evidenced by numerous cases, even close allies do not trust each other: Israelis spy on Americans, Americans spy on Israelis, Germany helps Americans spy on its neighboring European countries, and all the while Germany's own Chancellor’s mobile phone is being tapped by Americans.

To determine the strength of the ties between two countries, one should examine how well their interests converge. Russia and Iran’s major common interest is denying US hegemony. The United States has lost the view of building friendly relations based on equal partnerships or on taking the interests of other parties into account. This frustrates its relations with countries whose worldview, principles, values, and interests are different from that of the United States.

Logically, it is in Russia’s national security interests to support sanctions if it perceives that there is a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. However, that does not mean Russia will turn its back on Iran as the most reliable partner in the region helping it to thwart US dominance.

Competing in the global energy market

Some observers argue that Iran and Russia are competitors in energy markets. They claim that Iran may become Russia’s competitor if it begins exporting natural gas to Europe where Russia dominates the market. Contrary to this argument, Russia desperately needs Iran’s market and has already well-placed itself as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the removal of sanctions on Iran. 

Last September, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding worth $74bn to develop their trade and economic ties in an array of sectors. These sectors are mainly in gas and oil but also include heavy industries, mining, trade, agriculture, tourism, banking, technology, and electricity. According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Iran and Russia are in the process of negotiating oil and gas swap contracts. They can also “establish a bank that will finance the joint [oil and gas] projects,” according to Novak.

Further evidence that Russia does not view Iran as a competitor can be seen in the active role Russia played in the culmination of the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany), a role that resulted in Iran’s leader expressing his appreciation for Russia’s help.

Iran, Russia have differing motives in Syria

A group of experts, in an effort to prove that the Iran-Russia alliance will be short-lived, claim that the national interests of the two countries differ in Syria. As described earlier, while it is true that Russia and Iran view their strategic interests in Syria from different angles, these are not contradictory. Russia realizes that without a motivated and reliable ground force, their military operations will not have the slightest chance of success in the Syrian asymmetric war. The two most severe bombing campaigns in history - by the United States in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan - illustrate how insurgents can absorb tremendous losses and still continue to fight.

This is where Iran’s presence, through its ally Hezbollah of Lebanon, and the National Defense Forces organized by Iran in Syria, becomes crucial to the realization of Russian objectives in Syria. As Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed it, Russia’s “complex” campaign in Syria “would be impossible” without Iran. Without a highly ideologically and politically motivated ally, Russia would face what the Soviet Union faced in Afghanistan.
Russia’s strategic foreign policy goal is to prevent the consolidation of the United States’ global dominance. This strategy became even more apparent in 2014 from the Russian strong response to the ouster of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine and the emergence of a pro-West leadership. Russia was extremely worried about the close proximity of the newly pro-West government and was concerned about the possibility of a NATO military presence in its back yard. This sparked a tit-for-tat chain of actions and reactions between Russia and the West, led by the United States.
In pursuit of the same objective, Russia began its intensive air campaign in Syria in September 2015. The Russian military operation in Syria elevated the US-Russia conflict into a geopolitical confrontation.
As events unfolded in Syria, the rise of jihadists added a new element for serious concern. Russia has been in a state of war with radical Islamists from Chechnya and other North Caucasian republics since the 1990s, and the country has been targeted by several terrorist attacks. In June 2015, the Chechen jihadi group pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Iran’s strategic interest in Syria

For a host of reasons, Iran's hostility toward Israel has been the most entrenched determinant of its foreign policy since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
To counter Israel's unchallenged hegemony in the region, Iran organized Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to serve as a proxy force. Iran viewed Hezbollah as a deterrent force and a constant potential threat to Israel's security. In this respect, Syria, as an anti-Israel, anti-American strategic ally of Iran, served as a vital corridor connecting Damascus to Tartus on the Mediterranean coast. This corridor enabled Iran to continue to provide weapons to Hezbollah.
With the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, in 2003, Iran emerged as a major player in Iraq thanks to the armed Iraqi opposition groups that Iran had supported for over two decades. This paved the way for the formation of the Iran-led "axis of resistance" which extends from Iran to Lebanon and passes unobstructed through Iraq and Syria. “Resistance,” as it is called by the Iranians, is also tasked to act as a deterrent to thwart American hegemony in the region.
As chaos grew in Syria, the rise of the anti-Shia Salafist group, Daesh (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Islamic State, or IS) became a formidable threat not only to Iran’s strategic interests in Iraq and Syria but also to its own national security. Iran could no longer rely on the Syrian army to continue to prop up the Bashar al-Assad regime, which was in a brutal asymmetric war with Daesh as well as with numerous opposition groups.
The opposition groups were being backed by several Arab countries in the region as well as by Turkey and the United States. The US supported these opposition groups in a strategic attempt to curb Iran’s influence in the region. To combat this situation, Iran created the National Defense Forces, a large paramilitary base in Syria modelled after its success at organizing proxies in Iraq and Lebanon.

A temporary friendship?

As the Russia-Iran de facto alliance in Syria has emerged, opinion pieces and analyses increasingly appear in the Western media arguing that this partnership will not survive in the long term. The predominant arguments to support this position are as follows:
Distrust
Some experts argue that there is a history of distrust between the two countries dating back to the 19th century when Russia annexed Iranian territories. They also refer to the USSR’s support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Russia’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear program and its support of UN sanctions on Iran. They also point to the suspension of the delivery of S-300 missiles in 2011 that Iran had already paid for. Tehran filed a lawsuit against Russia in return.
The reality is that alliances between countries are not based on trust - they are based on self-interest. A country’s self-interest leads a government to enter into alliances with other countries. The more these interests converge, the stronger the relations.
As evidenced by numerous cases, even close allies do not trust each other: Israelis spy on Americans, Americans spy on Israelis, Germany helps Americans spy on its neighboring European countries, and all the while Germany's own Chancellor’s mobile phone is being tapped by Americans.
To determine the strength of the ties between two countries, one should examine how well their interests converge. Russia and Iran’s major common interest is denying US hegemony. The United States has lost the view of building friendly relations based on equal partnerships or on taking the interests of other parties into account. This frustrates its relations with countries whose worldview, principles, values, and interests are different from that of the United States.
Logically, it is in Russia’s national security interests to support sanctions if it perceives that there is a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. However, that does not mean Russia will turn its back on Iran as the most reliable partner in the region helping it to thwart US dominance.
Competing in the global energy market
Some observers argue that Iran and Russia are competitors in energy markets. They claim that Iran may become Russia’s competitor if it begins exporting natural gas to Europe where Russia dominates the market. Contrary to this argument, Russia desperately needs Iran’s market and has already well-placed itself as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the removal of sanctions on Iran.
Last September, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding worth $74bn to develop their trade and economic ties in an array of sectors. These sectors are mainly in gas and oil but also include heavy industries, mining, trade, agriculture, tourism, banking, technology, and electricity.
According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Iran and Russia are in the process of negotiating oil and gas swap contracts. They can also “establish a bank that will finance the joint [oil and gas] projects,” according to Novak.
Further evidence that Russia does not view Iran as a competitor can be seen in the active role Russia played in the culmination of the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany), a role that resulted in Iran’s leader expressing his appreciation for Russia’s help.
Iran, Russia have differing motives in Syria
A group of experts, in an effort to prove that the Iran-Russia alliance will be short-lived, claim that the national interests of the two countries differ in Syria. As described earlier, while it is true that Russia and Iran view their strategic interests in Syria from different angles, these are not contradictory. Russia realizes that without a motivated and reliable ground force, their military operations will not have the slightest chance of success in the Syrian asymmetric war. The two most severe bombing campaigns in history - by the United States in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan - illustrate how insurgents can absorb tremendous losses and still continue to fight.
This is where Iran’s presence, through its ally Hezbollah of Lebanon, and the National Defense Forces organized by Iran in Syria, becomes crucial to the realization of Russian objectives in Syria. As Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed it, Russia’s “complex” campaign in Syria “would be impossible” without Iran. Without a highly ideologically and politically motivated ally, Russia would face what the Soviet Union faced in Afghanistan.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/iran-russia-alliance-tactical-or-strategic-1719997937#sthash.KoRZkgdW.dpuf

Source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/iran-russia-alliance-tactical-or-strategic-1719997937

Russian deputies seek accountability for Armenia genocide denial

The Russian State Duma (Source: Reuters)

Russian lawmaker Sergei Mironov said on Wednesday that his party had submitted a bill to parliament on holding to account anyone who denies that the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces was a genocide. “We have just submitted a bill on responsibility for failure to acknowledge the fact of a genocide of Armenians by Turkey in 1915,” Mironov, the leader of the opposition Just Russia party, said on his Twitter account, a day after the Turkish air force shot down a Russian jet. In related news, Russia’s State Duma has supported the idea of returning Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Cathedral to the Christian church, RBK reports. Sergey Gavrilov, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) representative and coordinator of inter-faction deputy group on protecting Christian values, urged this to Turkey. “We expect from the Turkish side a friendly step—to return the Hagia Sophia Cathedral to the Christian church. The Russian side is ready to participate materially, and also to engage the best Russian restorers and scientists to the restoration of the ecumenical Christian monument. This step would help Turkey and Islam to demonstrate that the good will is above politics,” Gavrilov said. According to the CPRF, as Russian-Turkish relations are experiencing a strength test after the downing of a Russian jet near the Syrian border, “mutual friendly initiatives and proposals are especially important.”

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/25/us-turkey-armenia-russia-bill-idUSKBN0TE1WL20151125

Russian politician calls on Armenia to liberate Western Armenia

 Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Speaking on Russia 1TV this week, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, called on Putin’s government to support Armenians in liberating western territories long controlled by Turkey. “Armenians could do that in 1918 if Moscow supported them, but it [Moscow] was on the Turkish side,”

Zhirinovsky said. “If we allow Armenians to liberate their western territories, they will be glad to do that,” he said. Zhirinovsky, a controversial ultra-nationalist politician, has a reputation for making bellicose – and often crude and vulgar – statements that have caused detractors to refer to him as the Clown Prince of Russian Politics. Among his tamer demands is that Russia forcibly take back Alaska because it would be “a great place to keep the Ukranians.” His outsider rhetoric, notwithstanding, Zhirinovsky and his party are seen as “an instrument of the Kremlin,” according to the Foreign Policy Journal, rarely diverging from the legislative proposals drafted by the “party of power.”

Despite episodes of fistfights in the Russian legislative chamber or putting opponents in headlocks, Zhirinovsky is a colonel in the Russian army, vice-chairman of the lower house of Russia’s legislature, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe, and founder and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia since 1991. Zhirinovsky finished third in Russia’s first presidential election in 1991 and his party captured nearly 23 percent of the vote in 1993. His party’s platform is based on restoring the Russian empire. Zhirinovsky is a Turkologist by profession. Following the Armenian genocide of 1915, Turkey applied the name “Eastern Anatolia” to what had long been known as Western Armenia. It is that territory Zhirinovsky believes should be repatriated.

The politician also called on Russia to support the Kurds in their desire for independence from Turkey. “Kurds expect our support. If we tell the Kurds that we recognize their independence, their population reaches, as we know, to 20 million, and the capital is already known, it is Diyarbakir. Hence, Eastern Anatolia will cease to exist in the form we know. As a result, there will be independent Kurdistan and Great Armenia,” he said. Whether Zhirinovsky’s ultranationalist proposal will gather support remains to be seen, but another initiative by Russian lawmakers is certain to anger Turkey. Sergei Mironov, chairman of upper house of the Russian parliament, said Wednesday his party, Fair Russia, has submitted a bill “on holding to account” anyone who denies the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces was “genocide.”

“We have just submitted a bill on responsibility for failure to acknowledge the fact of a genocide of Armenians by Turkey in 1915,” Mironov tweeted. Adding fuel to the fire, Russia’s State Duma has given support to the idea of Turkey returning Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Cathedral to the Christian church, Reuters reported. Sergey Gavrilov, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) representative and coordinator of inter-faction deputy group on protecting Christian values, suggested Turkey do something tangible to restore good will following the shootdown of Russia’s jet.

“We expect from the Turkish side a friendly step – to return the Hagia Sophia Cathedral to the Christian church” said Gavrilov. “The Russian side is ready to participate materially, and also to engage the best Russian restorers and scientists to the restoration of the ecumenical Christian monument. This step would help Turkey and Islam to demonstrate that the good will is above politics.”

 Source: http://www.wnd.com/2015/11/russian-politician-calls-on-armenia-to-liberate-territory/

Joint Defense System With Armenia to 'Keep Russia Safe From ISIL, NATO'

By signing an agreement with Armenia to create a joint missile air defense system in the South Caucasus, Russia has made a wise geopolitical move, US global intelligence company Stratfor reported.

Ten days ago, the Russian government worked out a joint missile air defense system with Armenia in the region. Afterwards, the government in Yerevan confirmed the upcoming visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Armenia in later November to officially sign the new defense deal between the two countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin made a brilliant move, as by signing the agreement with Armenia Russia essentially killed two birds with one stone. First of all, Russia would boost its southern borders, as Moscow becomes more militarily involved in Syria. The possibility of ISIL jihadists slipping into Russia's southern Islamic republics is still a concern for Moscow.

"Moscow is keen to increase its ability to monitor its southern borders — a goal that a military presence in Armenia, with its proximity to the Middle East, is ideally suited to achieve," Stratfor reported. 

Secondly, as NATO's increased activity in Eastern Europe and Turkey frustrates Moscow, Russia's joint defense system with Armenia is intended to counter the Western alliance's military buildup near Russian borders, the US intelligence company explained. The Russo-Armenian military cooperation in the Southern Caucasus would certainly upset Turkey's ambitions in the region.Furthermore, as Georgia is moving closer to the West — the country recently opened a NATO training center and regularly holds joint military exercises with the US Army — Russia made a good move by signing the joint defense agreement with Armenia, thus enhancing Moscow's military presence in the region, Stratfor said.

"It would also be located in a geopolitically complex region where many other regional players have significant strategic interests," Stratfor commented about the Russo-Armenian cooperation in the Southern Caucasus. In late September, despite not being a NATO member, Georgia became a member of the NATO Response Force (NRF).

The NRF is a technologically-advanced high-readiness unit comprising land, air, and maritime forces within the alliance. The initiative was launched in 2002, and members created an operational group in 2014, as a response to changing security needs. Finland, Sweden and Ukraine also participate in the NRF program.


The Bad Blood Between Russia and Turkey Is Spreading to Armenia and Azerbaijan

http://gdb.rferl.org/6A996C6D-1D59-4032-880A-F777BAA67A32_cx0_cy7_cw0_mw1024_s_n_r1.jpg

Escalating tensions between Russia and Turkey have spread to the Caucasus, a volatile region where both powers have long contested each other's influence. After Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane that allegedly flew into Turkish airspace last week, a Cold War-style war of words erupted between Ankara and Moscow. Turkey has refused to apologize for the incident, while Russia has blocked sales of tourism packages to Turkey, imposed sanctions on Turkish fruits and vegetables, and accused Turkey of buying oil from the Islamic State. Now the two sides are squaring off over the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two tiny former Soviet republics that have been at loggerheads since a six-year war over an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994.

"This is largely talk right now, but the problem is neither Turkey nor Russia really need war in the Caucasus," said Paul Stronski, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been pretty dangerous already. It's clear that things can easily get out of hand."
Armenia, a Russian ally, now controls Nagorno-Karabakh. But most of the international community recognizes the enclave as part of Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally. Russia maintains a military base in Armenia, which experts say has had a stabilizing influence. "For 15 years, Russian support for Armenia has kept Azerbaijan from mounting another viable challenge to retake Nagorno-Karabakh," according to a recent analysis by the intelligence company Stratfor, which added that Azerbaijan has recently increased its cross-border raids and shootouts against Armenian forces. The Stratfor report suggested that Azerbaijan's bolder stance reflects its growing political clout in the region. Azerbaijan is an ethnically Turkic, Muslim country with a 1,100-mile pipeline that brings oil to Turkey via Georgia, bypassing Russia and undercutting Moscow's influence in the region's energy sector.
'If things develop into a proxy war in the Caucasus, this is something very serious and something very scary.'
Turkey has come down firmly on Azerbaijan's side in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. On November 26 — two days after the Russian plane went down — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rattled his saber in the dispute. "Turkey will do everything possible to liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan," he said, according to Kommersant, a Russian newspaper. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Armenia on November 9, according to Stratfor. At the time, the visit was billed as a potential move to de-escalate the friction between the two sides. Azerbaijan is an authoritarian state that conceivably could be closer to Moscow. But the downing of the jet has complicated those efforts. Davutoglu is slated to journey to Azerbaijan for a one-day visit on Thursday. In Russia, policymakers are doubling down on their alliance with Armenia at the expense of Turkey. A day after the Russian jet went down, Russian lawmakers proposed a $7,500 fine on citizens who deny the 1915 genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire — the Islamist predecessor to today's Turkish republic, Radio Free Europe reported.
Armenia claims Ottoman troops exterminated 1.5 million Armenians in the waning days of World War I by killing fighting-age men and forcing women, children, and the elderly to march through the Syrian desert without food and water. Turkey denies the deaths qualified as genocide, and has laws that prohibit books or statements acknowledging it occurred. Taner Akcam, an expert in the Armenian genocide at Clark University in Massachusetts, said it's common for Turkey's antagonists to bring up the issue. Individually, the proposed Russian law was no big deal, he said. As part of a larger context, however, he was concerned about it. "It won't have any effect. Everyone in Turkey understands it's a political issue, and people will laugh at it," Akcam told VICE News. "The Armenia- Nagorno-Karabakh-Azeri issue is more serious. I don't think the genocide recognition is a serious problem for Turkish-Russian relations. Turks will say 'So what?' But if things develop into a proxy war in the Caucasus, this is something very serious and something very scary."



Պուտինը կարող է վերադարձնել Արարատ լեռը (քարտեզ)


ՍՏԵՓԱՆԱԿԵՐՏ, նոյեմբերի 28, ԱՐՑԱԽՊՐԵՍ: 168.am-ի փոխանցմամբ, չճշտված տեղեկությունների համաձայն, որոնց հարկավոր է զգուշորեն վերաբերվել, անանուն աղբյուրները հայտնում են, որ «Ռուսաստանը պատրաստվում է խզել Կարսի ու Մոսկվայի պայմանագրերը, ինչի հետևանքով Թուրքիան կարող է զրկվել իր տարածքների մինչև 30 տոկոսից»,- գրում է Vesti.Lv-ն: Մոսկվայի պայմանագիրը ռուս-թուրքական պայմանագիր է «Բարեկամության ու եղբայրության» մասին, որը ստորագրվել է 1921թ. մարտի 16-ին Թուրքիայի Մեծ ազգային ժողովի կառավարության ու Ռուսաստանի Խորհրդային Սոցիալիստական Հանրապետության կառավարության միջև: Պայմանագրի համաձայն՝ հայկական Կարս ու Արդահան քաղաքներն անցան Թուրքիային: Արարատ լեռը նույնպես մնաց Թուրքիայի տարածքում: Պայմանագրի համաձայն՝ Ռուսաստանն այն երկարաձգում է յուրաքանչյուր 25 տարին մեկ, ու հիմա մոտենում է պայմանագրի հերթական ստորագրման ժամկետը, ինչը Ռուսաստանը կարող է օրինական հիմունքներով չկատարել: Այդ դեպքում Թուրքիան ստիպված կլինի հսկայական տարածքներ վերադարձնել: Նշվում է, որ այդ տարածքները Թուրքիայի կազմում մինչ օրս բնակեցված չեն 1853 -1923թթ. Հայոց ցեղասպանությունից հետո, քանի որ Թուրքիան միշտ դիտարկել է 20-րդ դարասկզբին օկուպացված տարածքները վերադարձնելու հնարավորությունը, ինչի պատճառով էլ այդտեղ չեն ուղղվում ներդրումներ ու բացակայում են ժամանակակից ենթակառուցվածքները:

qartez

Աղբյուր: http://artsakhpress.am/arm/news/32411/putiny-karox-e-veradardznel-ararat-lery-qartez.html


 «Ժամանակ». Մոսկվան կարող է վերանայել Կարսի պայմանագիրը

http://www.lragir.am/upload/img/eng144475875950.JPG

«Ժամանակ» թերթը զրուցել է ռուս պատմաբան եւ քաղաքագետ, Մերձավոր Արեւելքի հարցերով փորձագետ Ստանիսլավ Տարասովի հետ:

Պարոն Տարասով, թուրքական օդուժի կողմից ռուսական «Սու-24» օդանավի կործանումը առաջացրեց բուռն աշխարհաքաղաքական զարգացումներ: Ձեր կարծիքով՝ որքանո՞վ է սա փոխում իրադրությունը տարածաշրջանում եւ ինչպե՞ս կազդի Հայաստանի վրա՝ այն իմաստով, որ Հայաստանը Ռուսաստանի դաշնակիցն է:

Իրավիճակն իսկապես փոխվում է, փլուզվում է Ադրբեջանի դաշինքը Թուրքիայի հետ, եւ Թուրքիայի դիրքերը կտրուկ թուլանում են տարածաշրջանում: Առաջինը՝ եթե նախկինում մենք շատ զգույշ էինք մոտենում Հայաստանին, Ղարաբաղին, չէինք ուզում փչացնել հարաբերությունները մյուս երկրների հետ, ինչ-որ ձեւով փորձում էինք հավասարակշռել, հիմա հասկանում ենք, որ Հայաստանը տարածաշրջանում Ռուսաստանի միակ դաշնակիցն է, եւ Հայաստանը՝ ներառյալ Ղարաբաղը, շատ լուրջ աջակցություն է ստանում իր պաշտպանությունը ամրապնդելու համար: Իսկ Ադրբեջանի դիրքերը կտրուկ թուլանում են:

Երկրորդը՝ այսօր շատ են քննարկում այն հարցը, թե Թուրքիան սադրանքների է դիմելու Հայաստանի սահմանին: Պետք է ասեմ, որ Թուրքիան ի վիճակի չէ դա անելու, քանի որ ներկայումս Թուրքիայի ողջ բանակը ՆԱՏՕ-ի հրամանով հսկում է թուրք-սիրիական սահմանը, իսկ Թուրքիայի՝ Հայաստանի հետ սահմանակցող արեւելյան շրջաններում թուրքական բանակի ներկայությունը խիստ թուլացել է՝ քուրդ զինյալների հետ բոլոր մարտերը պարտվելու պատճառով: Տվյալ պարագայում եթե այնտեղ հանկարծ որեւէ սպառնալիք առաջանա, ռուսական ռազմական խմբավորումը Հայաստանում, բնականաբար, կուժեղացվի, եւ ռուսական զորքերը հայկական բանակի հետ կկանգնեն սահմանին: Հայ ժողովուրդը չպետք է անհանգստանա:

Հատկանշական է, որ նախորդ շաբաթ Թուրքիայի արտգործնախարար Մեւլյութ Չավուշօղլուն գնաց Բաքու եւ հանդիպեց Ադրբեջանի նախագահի ու արտգործնախարարի հետ, եւ ռուսական մամուլում կարծիքներ հնչեցին, թե Թուրքիան կարող է Ադրբեջանին հրահրել սադրանքների Հայաստանի դեմ: Ինչպե՞ս կմեկնաբանեք սա:

Մենք գիտենք, որ դեկտեմբերի 3-ին Բաքու կայցելի նաեւ վարչապետ Դավութօղլուն: Սա կլինի նրա առաջին պաշտոնական այցը Թուրքիայի կառավարության կազմը հաստատելուց հետո: Նրանք կորցնում են Ադրբեջանը: Գիտեք, Չավուշօղլուն Բաքվում Ադրբեջանի արտգործնախարարի հետ զրույցում ասել է, որ իրենք կաջակցեն Ադրբեջանին «օկուպացված տարածքները ազատագրելու հարցում», ինչին ի պատասխան՝ Մամեդյարովն ասել է, թե «մեզ մոտ էլ Լավրովի ծրագրի նախագիծը կա», թեեւ իրականում Լավրովի ծրագիր պարզապես գոյություն չունի: Կրկնում եմ՝ Հայաստանի եւ Ղարաբաղի անվտանգության միջոցները շարունակվելու են ամրապնդվել, որովհետեւ այս իրադարձություններն, ըստ երեւույթին, երկար են շարունակվելու, եւ Ռուսաստանը կշարունակի ամրապնդել իր դիրքերը Անդրկովկասում: Իսկ այստեղ Հայաստանից բացի՝ ուրիշ դաշնակից չկա:

Դուք ասացիք, որ Թուրքիան կորցնում է Ադրբեջանը: Նկատի ունեք, որ Ադրբեջանը Ռուսաստանի եւ Թուրքիայի կոնֆլիկտում կանցնի Ռուսաստանի՞ կողմը:

Այո, նա ուրիշ ելք չունի. նա սեղմված է Ռուսաստանի եւ Իրանի միջեւ: Եթե նրանք այլ կերպ իրենց պահեն՝ թուրքի պես, այնպես, ինչպես իրեն պահեց Էրդողանը, Ադրբեջանին պարզապես կհոշոտեն:

Դիվանագիտական-քաղաքական հարթության վրա ռուսական կողմը սկսել է ակտիվորեն օգտագործել հայկական գործոնը Թուրքիայի դեմ: Այս իմաստով Թուրքիան կարո՞ղ է «ձիով քայլ» անել, օրինակ՝ վերսկսել թուրք-հայկական հաշտեցման գործընթացը:

Տեսեք, թե որն է խնդիրը. Հայաստանը, նախ, անկախ եւ ինքնուրույն պետություն է, երկրորդը՝ ՀԱՊԿ-ի, իսկ երրորդը՝ Եվրասիական միության անդամ է: Հայաստանի եւ Թուրքիայի սահմանը նաեւ Եվրամիության, Եվրասիական միության եւ ՀԱՊԿ-ի սահմանն է: Հասկանո՞ւմ եք: Այո, թուրքերը կարող են խաղարկել հայկական խաղաքարտը, հայտարարել՝ եկեք հաշտվենք, ստորագրենք, օրինակ, Ցյուրիխյան արձանագրությունները: Հայաստանը կարող է գնալ դրան, բայց կրկին հաշվի առնելով իր դաշնակիցների շահերը: Ես գրեթե 100 տոկոսով համոզված եմ, որ ինչ էլ հիմա թուրքերը առաջարկեն, հայերին դա ձեռնտու չէ, եւ նրանք չեն համաձայնվի:

Ընդհակառակը՝ Հայաստանի համար բացվում են նոր աշխարհաքաղաքական հեռանկարներ, որովհետեւ եթե իրականացվի ամերիկացիների քրդական նախագիծը, Հայաստանն այլեւս կսահմանակցի ոչ թե Թուրքիային, այլ Քրդական պետությանը: Այստեղ միայն Հայաստանի խնդիրը չէ: Կարող է սկսվել Թուրքիայի փլուզման գործընթացը: Թուրքիայի տարածքային ամբողջականության միակ երաշխավորը Պուտինն էր: Նա վստահում էր Էրդողանին, եւ վերջինս համարձակ էր գործում: Այժմ Էրդողանն այդ վստահությունը կորցրել է, եւ եթե Թուրքիան սկսեն պառակտել, Ռուսաստանը ձայն չի հանի: Աշխարհաքաղաքական փոփոխությունները սկսվելու դեպքում կփոխվի Թուրքիայի հետ սահմանային ռեժիմը: Իր ուժը կարող են կորցնել Մոսկվայի եւ Կարսի պայմանագրերը, եւ առաջ կգա Նախիջեւանի խնդիրը: Համենայնդեպս, հիմա շատ փորձագետներ կարծում են, որ Թուրքիան կփորձի օկուպացնել Նախիջեւանը, ոչ թե ճնշում գործադրել Հայաստանի վրա: Խնդիրն այն է, որ Նախիջեւանը սահմանակից է Իրանին, որը Ռուսաստանի դաշնակիցն է եւ թույլ չի տա Թուրքիային այդ քայլն անել: Իսկ Հայաստանի տարածաշրջանային եւ գլոբալ դիրքերը այժմ օբյեկտիվորեն սկսել են ամրապնդվել»:


Աղբյուր: http://news.am/arm/news/299458.html


Predictably, some Westerners are gloating -



Memo to Putin: Syria Is Turkey's Ukraine


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Russian leaders have evidently been shocked by Turkey's deliberate decision to shoot down one of their planes, which they say was motivated by Turkey's alleged support for Islamic State and greed for the proceeds of smuggled terrorist oil. A simpler explanation is that Russia would have done the same. Here is the hypothetical: What would President Vladimir Putin do if civil war broke out in a neighboring country, which had been part of the Russian empire for centuries before breaking away under circumstances, and with borders, that Russians still found difficult to accept? What would he do if, in that war, some of the rebels were ethnic Russians at risk of being brutally crushed by the armed forces of the neighboring state?

Actually, that's not so hypothetical; it pretty much describes eastern Ukraine. And we know what Russia did -- it became heavily involved in a poorly concealed invasion. Syria was under Ottoman control from 1516 until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Russian Empire took over the Donbass region in the mid-1700s. The "Turkmen" rebels that Russia's Su-24 aircraft was bombing at the time it was shot down are ethnic Turks. They ended up on the wrong side of the border when it was imposed by a 1921 treaty (shortly before the Donbass region was incorporated into Soviet Ukraine).

Even the strange psychology of how former empires feel they still have a special right, even responsibility, to intervene in long-since amputated parts is similar. When pro-democracy protests began in Syria in 2011, Erdogan said Turkey had to view the turmoil in Syria as a domestic issue. He was affronted when President Bashar al-Assad refused to do as he was told. Since the shoot-down earlier this week, Turkey's President has all but admitted that his country deliberately targeted the Sukhoi because of what Russia was doing to the Turkmen rebels. "We have no intention to escalate this incident. We are just defending our security and the rights of our brothers," Erdogan said. As aggressive as the Turkish decision to down a Russian jet over a technical, 17-second airspace infringement was, Erdogan has not gone as far as Putin to assert his right to intervene militarily to protect ethnic kin, anytime, anywhere.

Now consider how Putin would react if the U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Alliance decided to get involved militarily in eastern Ukraine, placing an airbase and Patriot missile batteries 50 miles from the Russian border. Picture NATO aircraft providing airpower for an all-out Ukrainian ground assault against the Russian-backed rebels, aided by troops from Poland and Chechnya (in Syria's case, that's Iran and Hezbollah). Imagine Turkish and American jets flying into Russian airspace as they try to optimize their bombing runs. Just a wild guess here, but it would not take Putin three months before he shot down one of the NATO aircraft. Nor would he take seriously any comment from the President of the United States that it was obvious the NATO pilots and bombers had "in no way threatened" the Russian Federation, the words Putin used as he raged that: “We received a stab in the back from accomplices of terrorism.”

Nor would Putin have been impressed by NATO claims that the Russian-backed rebels it was bombing in the Donbass were terrorists. Putin says he is bombing Islamic State in the Turkmen mountains, yet there are no recorded Islamic State forces in that area or for some distance beyond. These are rebels fighting Assad.

Of course, there are as many differences as similarities between the situations in Northern Syria and Ukraine, past and current -- it is the attitudes of Russia and Turkey that are similar, not the conflicts. And both Russia's leadership and Turkey's are using the cover of popular concern for the fate of fellow Russians and Turks to pursue more strategic, less noble goals. Among those goals for Erdogan is one that will be all too familiar to the Kremlin: A determination to show not just Russia, but also the U.S., France and others looking to agree a common strategy with Putin that no solution for Syria can be reached unless Turkish interests are fully taken into account. These do not allow for an alliance with Assad to crush fellow Sunnis, whether Turkmen or Arab.

The smart thing for Russia to do now would be to recognize that it misjudged Turkish sensitivities, and adjust accordingly. Surely Putin has enough hostile neighbors and former friends already. But it will be tempting to go further, because Erdogan has also miscalculated: He has a far weaker hand in Syria than Putin has in Ukraine.

To state the obvious, Turkey is not a nuclear power. In addition, despite huge errors of judgment in supporting Islamist extremists once they arrived in Syria one to two years after the conflict began, Turkey did not manufacture Syria's civil war, as Russia manufactured the one in Ukraine. Nor have the Turks put large numbers of "volunteer" troops and heavy equipment into the Syrian battlefield. So Turkey's ability to influence or respond to events in Syria is extremely limited. In the Donbass region, Putin has been able to turn the conflict on and off, more or less at will.

For the moment, Russian retaliation is shaping up as economic sanctions, deploying additional anti-aircraft missile systems in Northern Syria and, according to some reports, redoubling its bombing campaign in the Turkmen mountains. Erdogan will be powerless to respond effectively, unless he takes even more reckless risks in a fight he cannot win. 


Putin’s Strategy for Mideast Takes a Hit

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Downing of plane along Syria threatens his ability to build Russia-led coalition against Islamic State

The downing of a Russian jet fighter by Turkey threatens to disrupt President Vladimir Putin’s plan to bring more countries into his antiterrorism tent, as well as any potential rapprochement with the West. Since launching airstrikes in Syria at the end of September that he said were directed against Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Mr. Putin had called on other countries to join an alliance that includes Iran, Iraq and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Analysis

The recent terror attacks in Paris created an opening for the Kremlin: Moscow is preparing for a visit Thursday by French President François Hollande to talk about expanded cooperation. Mr. Hollande’s visit, two days after he met President Barack Obama, was supposed to be a crowning moment for Mr. Putin’s new strategy, offering a potential way out of the isolation Russia has suffered after Washington and the European Union imposed sanctions on Moscow over its intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. But the downing of the Russian Su-24 jet—the first loss of a fighter aircraft by any of the foreign powers engaged militarily in Syria—is likely to redraw the lines of engagement in Syria and affect Russians’ perceptions of their country’s intervention, analysts say.

“Hollande’s mission was to reach some kind of coordination with Russia,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director at Center for Political Technologies. “Now it is very, very doubtful that it is even possible to coordinate actions. The maximum that we can talk about now is avoiding shooting each other.”

Mr. Putin pulled no punches while speaking on state television, accusing Turkey of funding Islamic State through oil purchases that could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. French President Hollande plans to meet with U.S. President Obama and Russia President Putin to try to reach an agreement on the way forward in Syria -- and the fight against ISIS. WSJ's Jerry Seib explains.

“We long ago established the fact that a large amount of oil and oil products enter Turkey from territory seized by Islamic State, which represents a large monetary replenishment for the group,” Mr. Putin said.

He also chided Turkey for contacting its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies before Moscow over the downed plane. Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed a military helicopter carrying out a search-and-rescue mission for the downed aviators was damaged and subsequently destroyed over Syrian territory. A Russian marine was killed in the rescue operation, the Russian military said. Russia launched bombing raids on Syrian rebel and Islamic State targets on Sept. 30, prompting the wrath of the U.S. and its allies, who accused Moscow of trying to prop up Mr. Assad and targeting U.S.-backed opposition groups. 

The Russian military stepped up its strikes on Syrian rebel and Islamic State targets after Moscow confirmed that a terrorist attack brought down a Russian-operated passenger jet over Egypt late last month, killing all 224 people on board. But the strategic dynamic appeared to shift after the terror attacks in Paris. Mr. Putin was among the first to offer his condolences and to call for a united international effort to combat terrorism. Mr. Putin has seen broad domestic approval for his Middle Eastern gambit. His approval rating rose to record highs following Moscow’s launch of its military operation in Syria, with almost two-thirds of Russians supporting the military operation, according to Kremlin-friendly pollster Vtsiom.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has also touted the accuracy and professionalism of Russia’s bombing runs, releasing flashy video of Russian bombs hitting their targets and images of cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea. The shootdown of the Russian plane conflicts with the official narrative of a surgical military campaign. But the Kremlin and Russian state-dominated media were quick to blame Turkey as an Islamic State accomplice and facilitator. Franz Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee of Russia’s upper chamber of parliament, said he believed Turkey had been acting aggressively. If the plane was brought down by Turkish armed forces, it was an attempt by NATO to complicate Russia’s fight with terrorism, he added.

“NATO countries are trying to create a scandal by demonizing Russia and discredit its actions aimed at fighting international terrorism,” he said in remarks on state television. Mr. Klintsevich said consultations were needed with Ankara and Washington. “Any rash action could potentially lead to a conflict,” he said.

Diplomatic fallout also ensued. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was canceling his trip to Istanbul on Wednesday where he had planned to meet with his Turkish counterpart. Vasily Kashin, an analyst at Moscow-based defense think tank CAST, said Russian jet fighters may increasingly turn their attention to Syrian rebel groups supported by Turkey, including the Turkmen. “No one will attack a NATO country and a significant military power, but the talks over the future of Syria and the billions of dollars in trade relations are likely to suffer consequences,” said Mr. Kashin. Turkey is a major customer for Russian energy and a popular destination for Russian vacationers. Added Mr. Kashin: “Russia will likely expand its operations in a way that will directly negatively affect Turkish interests on the ground.”

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/putins-strategy-for-mideast-takes-a-hit-1448399478

Is Syria the beginning of the end of Putinism?


“They all laughed when President Obama warned Russia about getting into a Syrian quagmire. They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round. They all laughed when Edison recorded sound. They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother when they said that man could fly. Well check out Russian President Vladimir Putin in Syria: For oh, ho, ho, who’s got the last laugh now.” (Apologies to George and Ira Gershwin.)

Of course what’s happening to nuclear-armed Moscow is no laughing matter. Mired in an economic crisis at home, Russia is enmeshed in propping up a weak but vicious Middle East ally, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. And the Kremlin is straining to keep Assad in power and at considerable and unexpected costs. Russians are going home in body bags. To wit:

— A Russian airliner with 224 on board was brought down in Egypt by a bomb planted by the Islamic State in retaliation for Putin’s military action in Syria;

— A Russian fighter jet was shot down after it veered into Turkish airspace, in the first shoot-down by a NATO member of a Russian plane in 60 years.

— A Russian helicopter dispatched on a search-and-rescue mission for the surviving jet pilot was shot down by Syrian rebels.

Coffins highlight the costs of Putin’s unilateral and reckless military intervention in the Middle East where tensions are now at their highest. Meanwhile, the Russiannews agency Tass reported that unlike previous economic crises, for the first time since the early 2000s, Russia is seeing a decline in real incomes. “Government measures to support the economy of the population are not enough” Alexei Kudrin, former finance minister and chairman of the Committee of Civil Initiatives told the third All-Russian Civic Forum in Moscow.

While Putin’s eyes are on Syria, inflation is rising in Russia, the economy is shrinking, poverty is rising, growth has flat-lined and the ruble is taking a fall. Western sanctions are squeezing the Kremlin, and Russia’s mother’s milk — oil revenue — is taking a hit because of weak prices. As David W. Lesch wrote in Foreign Policy:
“Perhaps Putin’s intervention in Syria will result in something akin to Egypt’s Pyrrhic victory in 1957 or to the Soviet Union’s sudden expansion of influence in the late 1950s that was accompanied by an exponential increase in foreign-policy headaches. Fifty years from now, historians may identify Russia’s 2015 push in Syria as the beginning of the end of Putinism, just as the 1957 landing was the beginning of the end of Nasserism.”
 That is no cause for cheering, not as long as Putin has pipe dreams of being a super-power. The Russian bear has been wounded. But his thirst for adventurism is not yet slaked by the Islamic State’s setbacks and military blunders. Fortunately the means to becoming a superpower equal to the United States are way beyond Russia’s reach. If national success is measured by economic strength, Russia is way back in the pack. It trails the United States in economic and population growth, in troops under arms and in most weaponry. And the Russian government, wasting precious resources on Putin’s world-power aspirations, is in no position to meet its social obligations to its people.

Obama is correct to not give in to Putin’s desire to be regarded as more important than he is. Or to give credence to Russia’s imagined influence on the world stage. And Obama is also right to keep a cool head and to continue building an international coalition of heavy hitters to launch attacks on global terrorism.
As for desk-bound defense hawks such as GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, who is calling for the deployment of 20,000 U.S. ground troops, the response is quite simple: Get Republicans who control Capitol Hill to pass a joint resolution of Congress demanding that the president place tens of thousands of Americans on foot in Syria and Iraq.

Every good wish, Mr. Graham. Granted, Putin’s capacity to trouble the waters is huge. But Russia’s ability to rival the United States as a world power and dominate events in the Middle East is not — though some Obama critics appear to wish it were so, if for no other reason than to disable this president. And that, too, is no laughing matter.

Source:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-putinism/2015/11/27/5080978c-9462-11e5-8aa0-5d0946560a97_story.html

Turkey Shoots Down a Paper Tiger

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His neighbors don’t find Mr. Putin quite as impressive as some Americans do.

Vladimir Putin is not the master strategist some make him out to be. He’s a gambler and maneuverer whose bold moves are not testaments to vision or cojones but to the unhealthiness of his domestic political situation. His choice of words in reaction to Turkey’s downing over Syria of a Russian jet—he called it “a stab in the back”—was redolent of another leader who spoke of stabs in the back, and not one whose regime broke any records for longevity. Mr. Putin presumably has two immediate goals: Remove sanctions so Russian companies can start rolling over their debts again, without which many may collapse. He also needs higher oil prices to stave off the eventual insolvency of his state.

The Putin regime, let’s recall, arose to loot the benefits of Russian integration in the world economy, not as a reaction against it, despite claims by some today that Russia is motivated by eternal geopolitical insecurities prompted by (largely mythical) Western expansionism. He needs conflict with the West to justify his people’s privation and his failure to allow the diversification and modernization of the Russian economy under a rule of law. He also needs the West’s complicity, which he has mostly gotten. It’s hard to fathom, for instance, why his cheating athletes were allowed at the London Olympics, much less why he was allowed to host the Sochi Olympics. Both would have been unthinkable if the West had publicly recognized his regime’s likely complicity in nuclear terrorism on British soil in the polonium murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

His salvation, though he would not phrase it this way, is to become the West’s client regime, while masquerading as a superpower-equal. Truth be told, there are Westerners who would like to accommodate him, but Western politics is not likely to allow it, especially the politics of a post-Obama America. A related problem likely guarantees failure in any case: There is quite probably nothing that U.S. or Western appeasement can do to save the Putin regime from itself in the long run. Which brings us to the shootdown. Whatever he woke up thinking on Tuesday morning, Mr. Putin now appears to be contemplating playing the victim of NATO aggression (Turkey is a NATO member). Where he goes from here is hard to forecast. Pathological gamblers who get themselves in holes tend to double down. KGB colleagues recall that as a youthful agent Mr. Putin was sidelined to an East German backwater because his recklessness and propensity for miscalculation were unwelcome at a time when the Soviet Union was weak and the KGB had become risk averse.

 Otto Dietrich, Hitler’s press aide, noted the Fuhrer’s own devolution from “domestic reformer” into a “foreign-policy desperado and gambler in international politics,” who “began to hate objections to his views and doubts on their infallibility. . . . He wanted to speak, but not to listen.”

It’s not exactly reassuring that Mr. Putin’s reaction to Turkey’s defense of its airspace seems to have emerged almost instantly, unlike the shilly-shallying that proceeded his reaction to the blowup of a Russian airliner over Sinai (perhaps partly because Mr. Putin was trying to figure out if his own security apparatus was involved). If he’s paying attention, Mr. Putin should by now have learned his leverage is much less than he imagines. At least while Angela Merkel is around, he has only managed to turn his important German friend into a quasi-enemy. He has turned a formidable Turkish friend into an actual enemy. On Friday the Turkish government called in the Russian ambassador for a tongue lashing over Russia’s bombing of ethnic Turks in northern Syria. Tuesday’s downing was clearly not an accident. The Turkish government doesn’t seem to find Mr. Putin quite as impressive as some of his American admirers do.

Then again, only the misguided ever did. By March of this year, Russian economist Sergei Guriev estimated that Russia had already spent half its 2015 military budget. Russia’s spending plan was premised on $100 oil. This year’s budget hopes for $50 oil. Meanwhile, capital flight is running at perhaps $100 billion a year. Meanwhile, some of Russia’s biggest companies are verging on default. The Russian army has had to cease recruiting in the fertile Caucasus region due to a worrisome overreliance on Muslim troops. Moscow also faces a growing liability in economically failing Crimea and eastern Ukraine, complicated this week by partisan sabotage of Crimea’s electricity supply. Global stock markets dipped only modestly on the Turkish shootdown. Oil jumped a buck. This muted reaction should not be seen as a testament that Mr. Putin or his regime have much of a future.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-shoots-down-a-paper-tiger-1448406008

Russian 'antique' falls to pimped-out F-16s

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Sometimes it's just too easy and alluring to take advantage of an advantage. That's what may have happened in the skies along the Turkish-Syrian border today as two Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24 bomber. The Turks say the Russian jet was flying into Turkish airspace. The Russians deny that. The political squabbling will go on perhaps for years. But from a military and industrial standpoint, there are things we know now that are crystal clear and they should have an impact on the bottom lines for defense contractors all over the globe.

First, I'd like to put this nicely but why mince words? A Russian SU-24 going up against an F-16 is like a Pop Warner football team taking on the New England Patriots. No contest. The F-16 is a far superior machine and Lockheed Martin also completed and delivered a $635 million upgrade to Turkey's F-16 fleet just seven months ago. One SU-24 going up against even a non-upgraded F-16 is still a mismatch. But an SU-24 going up against two upgraded F-16's is a laugher, especially since bombers don't usually have a chance against supersonic jet fighters of any kind. Is it possible this incident was the product of Turkish pilots who were just unable to resist their huge advantage in the skies? Someone will have to ask them.

But the advantages and mismatches won't stop there. Because the established worldwide defense industry is already finding the continuing Syrian civil war and the war on ISIS to be a bonanza for its business. It was one thing when the worldwide war against terrorism was simply against the terrorists. As scary as they can be, ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah etc. don't use the most sophisticated weapons and they certainly don't have fighter jets or bombers, and that includes outdated ones like the SU-24. The most frightening thing these groups do often use are ground-to-ground missiles like Hamas and its offshoots use against Israel. That created the need for the impressive "Iron Dome" missile defense system that the Israeli and American designers have already begun to successfully sell to some of their allies.

But with the Russians now getting into the mix in Syria with air and ground power, the weapons and deterrence wish list is growing for countries involved directly and indirectly in the Syrian fighting. The headlines have been hard to miss. It seems like every country from Britain to Japan is beefing up defense budgets and looking to acquire the best weapons and surveillance equipment available. No other Middle Eastern nation wants the Syrian war to bleed into its borders. That's one reason why Syria's neighbors have accepted so few Syrian refugees. Perhaps they're worried they will suffer the same fate Lebanon did in the 1970's after a massive amount of refugees flooded its border fleeing Jordan's "Black September" purge.

 The other big market maker in this space is Iran. The nuclear deal with the mullahs pushed by President Obama and signed by the Western powers has Israel and Iran's Arab neighbors in a very acquisitive mood. The Israelis have recently forged an agreement with Lockheed to buy several F35 fighters the Israelis have re-designed to double their radar-defeating stealth range. The Saudis began a massive arms build up last year not only for their own defense, but they also are acting as lending bank to nations like Egypt, Jordan and the UAE so they can buy more weapons too. The funny thing is many of those Saudi-funded arms deals are for Russian weapons, which just goes to show how mixed up and maybe even desperate this situation is.

The bottom line is the stocks of the major defense contractors like Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon are all outperforming the overall market for this year. And while we may not see a major upside move in the next few days, it's hard to believe this shoot down incident isn't a bullish sign for the defense sector for the coming year and beyond.


Russia's military: Don't believe the hype


The Bear is back. Or so the headlines would have you believe. The Russian military, led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has taken the offensive in recent months in the Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and now in Syria. Russia is also focusing to project power in the Pacific and Arctic regions. On top of that, the Russian military is being rebuilt, with plans for new tanks, aircraft carriers, and submarines. Is the Bear really back? How much of the talk about a resurgent Russian military is just that — talk — and how much is reality?

Russia has the world's fourth largest defense budget, with Moscow spending $54 billion on the military in 2015. Russian defense spending is finally trending upward, after decades of starvation budgets brought on by the end of the Cold War and a poorly performing economy. Most of Russia's military equipment is left over from that period. Almost all of the Russian Ground Forces' tanks and armored vehicles date back to the 1980s. Russia's lone carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was launched in 1990. All three types of Russian heavy bombers pounding Syria were built by the Soviet Union and only inherited by Russia.

In 2010, the Russian government announced an ambitious program to replace 70 percent of Cold War-era equipment with new weapons by 2020. The spending program would cost at least $700 billion and included a new generation of tanks, a new class of aircraft carriers, and new generation of heavy bombers. International sanctions, brought on by Russia's annexation of the Crimea as well as plunging oil prices have quickly taken a heavy toll on the economy. The Russian economy has slipped into recession, with GDP alone slipping 4 percent in the past 12 months.

A falling economy has affected military spending. In 2015, Russia's defense budget increased by a staggering 33 percent. However, before the year was over some of that spending had to be taken back, and the increase was revised downward to 25 percent. Unable to forecast an end to Russia's economic problems, the defense budget is slated to go up less than 1 percent in 2016. Needless to say, Russia's ambition to spend $700 billion on armaments is as dead as Julius Caesar.

Meanwhile, Russian defense projects, already struggling to catch up with 21st century warfare, are also running into difficulties. The high profile PAK-FA project designed to produce a fighter the equal of the American F-22 Raptor has stalled over technical issues, and the Russians now plan on buying — initially, anyway — a mere squadron's worth of jets. That's a tenth of what they were originally going to buy. Russian promises to build new aircraft carriers and a new generation of heavy bombers have been merely promises.

Sanctions will also effect defense production. Russia is not self-sufficient in a great deal of high tech industry and relies on international vendors — when the Russian shipyard Sevmash refurbished an aircraft carrier for India, a large amount of equipment was sourced from the West and Japan, likely without their knowledge. That sort of sourcing is just not going to happen anymore. Struck by sanctions, Russia's defense production will be hampered by a lack of a domestic high tech industry, sometimes in the unlikeliest of ways: For example, modern fighters and the Armata tank make extensive use of LCD displays to convey information to the crew. Russia, unlike the much smaller South Korea, has no domestic LCD industry.

Finally, it's important to understand Russia's military power relative to the rest of the world. That's a mere one tenth America's defense budget, and less than a quarter of what China is estimated to spend. Russia has one, barely functioning aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to America's 10 fully-functioning carriers. One bright spot for Russia? Its nuclear triad, which is for the most part functional and provides a powerful nuclear deterrent. Yet nukes only protect a country from existential threats, such as invasion or nuclear attack, and are useless in the broad spectrum of conflict in today's modern warfare.

The Russian military is a major power, but it's no longer a superpower. And it probably never will be again. More importantly, we now have proof that in today's global economy, aggressive states such as the Russian Federation can be in part curbed by punitive financial measures. Let's hope other states are watching and absorbing the lesson.

Source: http://theweek.com/articles/596822/russias-military-dont-believe-hype

Now’s the Time for NATO to Rally Around Turkey

The downing of a Russian jet by Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters illuminates the significant turbulence Ankara faces in its increasingly shattered neighborhood. The Iraqi and Syrian civil wars, the rise of the Islamic State, the continuing instability in Lebanon, historic and ongoing antipathy with Armenia, and an uneasy relationship with NATO ally Greece are all significant challenges. Both Russian and Turkish heads of state are publicly outraged, no apologies seem forthcoming, and sophisticated new anti-air missiles will be placed in Syria by Russia. It is a tactical and operational crisis, with high-stakes considerations.

But the chaotic region hasn’t always been the central organizing fact set driving Turkish foreign policy. Indeed, a decade ago, the Turks sought regional harmony under then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who articulated a foreign policy of “zero problems with neighbors.” This is a pretty good approach — until all your neighbors start to have problems, of course, which is the situation in which Turkey finds itself today.

What therefore faces Turkey and the West is a geopolitical choice of extraordinary importance: whether Ankara will continue to pursue membership in the European Union and maintain itself as a strong transatlantic-oriented nation; or to turn away in frustration from its failure to gain membership in the EU — abetted by a sense that NATO and the United States do not take their concerns (refugees, the dangers of the Assad regime, regional instability) seriously.

We here in the United States should do all in our power to encourage Turkey to be part of the European and transatlantic communities. Letting them drift away would be a profound geopolitical mistake for the West. Turkey has a population of nearly 80 million, positive demographic trends, a diversified and growing economy that is easily in the global top 20, excellent infrastructure and industrial capability, the second largest military in NATO, and a deep sense of national pride. Despite a current economic slowdown, a huge Syrian refugee population (approaching 2 million), significant political challenges presented by the Kurdish minority, and an active insurgency, the nation has maintained a democratic and secular tradition, albeit under some internal pressure to move in a more Islamic direction.

But the Russian shoot-down is merely a symptom of what has been building in the region. Leading up to the downing yesterday, Ankara and Moscow have had an uneasy relationship for several years given the Turkish antipathy to the Assad regime and the staunch Russian support for it. Yet the nations have managed to cooperate across a variety of issues, including a major gas pipeline, tourism from sun-seeking Russians, significant counternarcotics cooperation, a high level of trade, and diplomatic engagement with Iran.

But the events in the months before the shoot-down were increasingly confrontational: a brewing war of words over Assad’s legitimacy; Russian drones and aircraft violating Turkish airspace; and growing disagreements about energy policy in the eastern Mediterranean. Now, that relationship will probably crater. Turkey has turned to NATO for emergency consultations, which will occur this week. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin pulled no punches proclaiming the attack on the jet was a “stab in the back.” As the world assesses the fallout from the Russian shoot-down, there are several lessons that emerge at each level:

At the tactical level, this was an entirely predictable event which must be avoided going forward. There are too many militaries flying missions over Syria without any level of cooperation. The international community should use this as an object example to create a high-level expert group to untangle the dangerous battle space. This could be done by standing up a combined air operations center in the region as a setting for such tactical engagement and discussions, either in Turkey or the Gulf states. One such center is at the Al-Ueid Air Base in Qatar. We desperately need tactical protocols for aircraft to use with each other to avoid another inadvertent incident.

One level up, operationally, there is a need for a battle management system across the theater. This would ideally be an airborne radar and air control system which is found on the U.S. and NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) E-3 aircraft. These large and capable planes can provide a look-down radar picture and provide de-confliction assistance. They could do so operating out of Turkish airbases and over Turkish airspace. If the coalition moves to set up a no-fly zone, they’ll be necessary.

Strategically, the shoot down crystallizes the difficult choices ahead in Syria. Turkey, the United States, and NATO all support the anti-Assad forces (except, of course, al Qaeda-affiliated groups and the Islamic State). Russia and Iran support Assad, but are also opposed to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. It is time to focus on the common enemy, prioritizing the fight against the Islamic State by creating a functioning anti-IS strike coalition. At the same time, a diplomatic and economic solution is necessary for the Assad regime, perhaps using the lessons learned from the resolution of the Bosnian War in the Balkans two decades ago.

But the grand strategic choice here involves Turkey and the West. Ankara must be persuaded to continue its pursuit of membership in the European Union and a track that aligns itself with the transatlantic community. But that requires of Turkey a political process that is demonstrably democratic, an open press, and a focus on human rights and anti-corruption. The European Union should work to encourage Turkish membership. This means working in a sincere and meaningful way together to find some resolution and sustainable solution to the enormous flow of Syrian migrants. The European Union needs Turkey as a cooperative and engaged partner on a host of issues, including its membership in NATO, energy policy, and Ankara’s unique capacity to be the model of a secular, democratic Islamic state.

In this regard, NATO needs to recognize the good work of Turkey in the alliance. The Turks have been present in virtually every NATO operation with significant impact: training Afghan Security Forces and leading coalition efforts in the central district, including Kabul; sending ships and aircraft to Libya; participating in counterpiracy operations; maintaining a steady presence in the security and peacekeeping force in the Balkans. Turkey is a front-line state in the Syrian civil war, and now is the time for NATO to stand firmly alongside them.

The United States should likewise support Turkey across the diplomatic and political spectrum; the geopolitical importance of keeping Ankara aligned with the West is far too crucial to let some disagreements get in the way. But both sides need to create the conditions to make this a reality. As NATO meets this week to discuss the shoot-down and try to deescalate tensions, we need to think through the implications from the tactical to the grand strategic — and make the right choices.

Turkey Shoot-Down Shows How Putin Pushes the Envelope


There is a much bigger lesson to be learned from Turkey's downing of a Russian jet than that Moscow’s pilots need better map-reading skills. This latest incident stands as object lesson in how Russians conduct foreign policy. For starters, start by believing this was a deliberate provocation on the part of Putin. “Russia regularly probes and illegally enters the airspace of other NATO members, especially the Baltic states and the United Kingdom,” explains foreign policy analyst Luke Coffey. Further, the Russians were well aware they were encroaching on Turkish airspace. “Moscow knows that the Hatay province is a source of tension between Syria and Turkey," Coffey adds, “so flying Russian jets near the border serves as a useful way to keep local tensions high while testing Turkey, and by extension NATO’s air defenses.”

But it is not just about the air up there. Russia has a well-established habit of elbowing itself into where it wants to go. That is exactly what they did in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014). They tested Estonia in a 2007 cyber-attack. Moscow also is practiced at elbowing others out of the way. In 2011, for example, Russian military intelligence was responsible for a bomb blast at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, sending the White House a not-so-subtle signal. Make no mistake that what the latest incident shows is how Moscow plays with others—it pushes the envelope to see what it can get away with—and Russia will do that anywhere and everywhere Russia has an interest to advance.

Predictably, when Turkey pushed back, Moscow tried to change the story with its well-practiced policy of obscuring bad behavior with disinformation. In this case, Putin’s line is that Turkey is protecting ISIS. “Our troops are fighting heroically against terrorists, risking their lives. But the loss we suffered today came from a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists,” Putin proclaimed. While there may be some on the Turkish side that have some “murky connections” with regional bad guys, that is not really Putin’s problem. He is just trying to change the subject. That is what Moscow always does when it muscles others around—Putin magically becomes the good guy.

Putin Takes Ineffectual Aim at Turkey

<p>The feeling is mutual.</p>
 Photographer: Cagdas Erdogan/AFP/Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin is so angry with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that he won't talk to him on the phone or meet with him at the United Nations climate talks in Paris. But Putin can't do much to hurt Erdogan or his country; he can only make life a little more difficult for Russians. Putin has demanded an apology and compensation from Turkey for shooting down a Russian bomber that had strayed into its airspace. Erdogan wants Russia to apologize. The war of words, waged through the media, has given rise to an outpouring of anti-Turkish rhetoric from the Kremlin's propaganda outlets. It became difficult for Turks to visit Russia or bring goods there. Yet Russia hasn't done much to impose specific economic sanctions or taken military action, making Putin's emotional reaction look puerile and ill-considered.

Immediately after the downing of the warplane, Russia promised that its bombers flying missions in Syria would always be accompanied by fighter planes, and it deployed S-400 antiaircraft systems at its airbase in that country. Russian propaganda outlets are reporting that the presence of the air defenses has prevented the U.S.-led coalition from conducting airstrikes in Syria. The allies have denied that claim, and even if it were correct, the only beneficiary would be the Islamic State, which Russia has called its enemy No. 1 in Syria. None of this much affects Turkey, because it isn't conducting airstrikes. There's also little risk that more Russian planes might fly into Turkish airspace or that Turkey might shoot down another one: Neither country wants war, and that is a better deterrent than the S-400s.

Russia's domestic propaganda machine churns on all the same. Dmitri Kiselyov, host of the weekly Vesti Nedeli program, the most popular news show on state television, has accused Erdogan of a range of evils, from buying Islamic State oil to trying to restore the Ottoman Empire. The ultranationalist legislator Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded that 100 Turkish pilots be killed as revenge for the Russian who died after bailing from the aircraft last week. The Russian airwaves are filled with vows that the Turkish affront will never be forgotten or forgiven.

There also have been dozens of incidents of Turkish citizens being denied entry to Russia despite the visa-free regime between the two countries, and of Turkish goods being declared unfit for sale in Russia on "sanitary" grounds. In Moscow, several hundred people threw eggs and stones at the windows of the Turkish Embassy as the police looked on. In Ulyanovsk, locals pulled down a Turkish flag at the local brewery, owned by Anadolu Efes, which is based in Istanbul. In addition, on Nov. 28, Putin ordered visas for Turks reintroduced starting in January and controls strengthened for Turkish trucks and ships. He also banned the hiring of Turkish workers starting next year and asked the government to develop an economic sanctions package.

On Monday, top government officials discussed ideas for punishing Turkey, and came up with a ban on the sale of package tours and charter flights, curbs on truck traffic and an embargo on fruit and vegetables. The latter won't be effective immediately: Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said any measures must not lead to price rises. Russia's food embargo against most Western countries, imposed last summer, led to 20 percent to 30 percent price jumps. As it is, Russia reported an 11.7 percent drop in retail sales in October, compared with a year earlier.

The fruit and vegetable embargo and the disruption to tourism are painful for both sides, but could hurt ordinary Russians most. Turkey's agricultural exports to Russia reached $1.2 billion last year, about 7 percent of total food exports. Turkish farmers probably will close the gap without much trouble. Last year, their counterparts in Europe experienced an increase in exports despite the Russian embargo. For Russia, the loss is greater: About 20 percent of vegetable imports are from Turkey, as are about 90 percent of citrus fruit sold in major retail chains.

And Turkey was by far the biggest tourist destination for Russians last year, attracting 3.3 million visitors, almost 19 percent of the Russian tourists who traveled overseas. Turkish resorts made billions, but losing this trade won't be a matter of life and death for the industry. According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, last July, at the height of the tourist season, Turkey received 686,256 Russian visitors and almost 3.1 million from Europe. The ruble devaluation has made European vacations too pricey for most Russians. Egypt, the second most popular destination last year, has been off-limits since a terror attack brought down a passenger plane last month.

Putin could have hurt Erdogan much more by cutting off the flow of Russian natural gas -- Turkey is 60 percent dependent on it -- or scrapping the construction of Turkey's first nuclear plant by Russia's state-owned Rosatom. Russia's energy suppliers would lose a lucrative market, and the natural gas supplier Gazprom would stand to lose southern Europe, too -- to suppliers such as Azerbaijan and Iran. Azerbaijan already pipes gas to Turkey, and would be happy to supply more. Instead of risking that, the Russian government is imposing new costs on its own citizens, hoping it can offset them with inflammatory propaganda.

Despite the tactic's past efficiency, it's getting hard to sustain given how many enemies Putin has made during his third presidential term. As their country clashes with a growing number of its neighbors and the world closes in, Russians may eventually realize that perhaps Putin is the problem, not the solution. For now, though, Putin's angry rhetoric finds support at home -- and is feeding a similar vindictive mood in Turkey, which is making Russian cargo ships wait for hours before they're allowed to pass through the Bosphorus. Erdogan is as adept as Putin at using foreign threats to distract his citizens, but he doesn't have as many adversaries. He's likely to benefit more than Putin from the crisis.

Source: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-11-30/putin-takes-ineffectual-aim-at-turkey

Russian Defense Industry Hits Speed Bumps

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The Russian military has shown off its new fighting power during its airstrikes in Syria, releasing slick videos of cruise-missile launches and satellite-guided bombs hitting their targets. But at the same time, parts of the military-industrial complex at home are faltering. Russia’s economy has been hit hard by plummeting oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, and some of its biggest arms makers fear dwindling government support. The Armata tank, produced in a town in the Urals, is a case in point. The next-generation tank—designed to beat anything the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has on the battlefield—is considered a centerpiece of Russia’s $300 billion plan to rearm its military by 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the factory in 2012 and again this week to give it a personal endorsement. Last year, however, the Armata became an object of rare public criticism as it ran behind schedule and over budget. Now the military is slashing its initial orders.

“The government can’t pay for everything. These are new times, because of the fall in oil prices,” military analyst Alexander Golts said.

Russia has already deployed one of its top air-defense systems at its base in Syria in response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet on the Syrian border this week, which underscored the limits of its forces in the Middle East, military experts said. Russia’s military has undergone painful restructuring in its fighting forces to move away from a conscript army toward professional, contract-based service. But the defense industry is still plagued by Soviet-era problems of inefficiency and corruption, Mr. Golts said, leaving in doubt its capacity for mass producing some of its most powerful weapons.

“Unfortunately, the Russian defense industry has not passed though the same severe reforms as the armed forces, which is why the Russian arms industry looks like a parody of the Soviet military-industrial complex,” he said.

Russia is eager to play up large-scale plans. This month, state television—supposedly inadvertently—leaked military plans to create a submarine that could launch a nuclear torpedo that would irradiate an enemy’s shores. But some of the more traditional programs have fallen behind schedule. This year, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said the Russian military was reducing its first purchases of the newly designed fifth-generation T-50 jet fighter to around a dozen. A person close to the defense ministry said the initial order was for as many as 100. The navy is expecting at least eight next-generation Borei nuclear submarines to be produced by 2020, but Andrey Frolov, an analyst at Moscow-based defense think tank CAST, said it is likely only six would be completed by the deadline. While Mr. Putin has publicly protected the armed forces from budget cuts, defense industry officials say firms have been asked privately to make voluntary cuts in expenditures. That has raised questions about the industry’s ability to fulfill 2015 procurement orders.

“For the first half of the year, Russia’s arms industries only fulfilled 38% of their contracts,” Mr. Borisov said in July, adding that state companies that failed on their contracts would be punished. Even Kalashnikov, maker of Russia’s noted assault rifles, had fallen behind and was in arrears of $78 million to the ministry, Interfax quoted him as saying. The Russian technology on display in Syria also has its limitations. The defense ministry has defended the accuracy of its airstrikes, but it has mostly been dropping old-fashioned bombs, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Russia’s financial crisis, along with the devaluation of the ruble, has hit its spending power. Ahead of the crisis last year, Russian military spending was ranked as the third-highest in the world in dollar terms. Now, expenditures rank seventh or eighth globally, CAST says.

The flaws of the Armata tank program were painfully on display when one of the units intended for Moscow’s annual military parade on Red Square on May 9 broke down during a rehearsal. The tank’s producer Uralvagonzavod, among the companies on the U.S. and European sanctions list, is also facing difficulties. The factory, which owes around 87 billion rubles—more than $1 billion—has been called to court by its creditors, including Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest privately held banks. A court order this year to seize more than $7 million in UVZ bank accounts was later lifted. The company’s management says it has obtained a government guarantee to help refinance its debt. Those difficulties have translated to slower output and Nizhniy Tagil, where UVZ’s headquarters are, is feeling the squeeze. In 1941, the main factory pumped out more than 1,000 T-34 tanks a month for the war effort, making it at the time the biggest producer of tanks in the world. During the Cold War, UVZ produced the T-44 and T-62, both formidable battle tanks.

While the factory’s workers wait for serial production of the Armata to begin, they are being kept busy with a large contract to modernize Russia’s T-72 tanks. Even so, frustration is mounting. Walking out of the UVZ factory after a seven-hour shift, Yevgeny Prodany, 28 years old, said business is slowing because of the U.S. sanctions. “No one wants to see a strong Russia that is going to defend its interests,” he said. “The U.S. wants to keep Russia on its knees and it needs sanctions to do it.”


Putin may be testing NATO’s resolve, and the Turks need U.S. support

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A pair of Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Su-24 over Turkish airspace on Tuesday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a “stab in the back” that would have “serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.” This is what we mean when we say the last months of the Obama Administration will be the most dangerous since the end of the Cold War. Turkish military officials said the Russian pilots ignored 10 warnings over five minutes to return to Syrian airspace before their plane was shot down. That rings true given Ankara’s warnings against previous intrusions. Russian planes twice violated Turkish airspace in early October, incidents NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said did “not look like an accident.” Around the same time a Russian MiG-29 locked its radar on a pair of Turkish jets patrolling the Syrian border for more than four minutes. Next a Russian-made drone entered Turkish airspace and was shot down. Moscow denies it was one of theirs.

More recently, the Turks summoned Russia’s ambassador to Ankara after an attack on ethnic Turkmen in Syria. “It was stressed that the Russian side’s actions were not a fight against terror, but they bombed civilian Turkmen villages and this could lead to serious consequences,” according to Turkey’s foreign ministry. This fits the Russian pattern of bombing enemies of the Assad regime except Islamic State—a useful reminder that Mr. Putin is not a fit partner in the coalition to fight ISIS. The larger question is why Mr. Putin would risk provoking Turkey, with its powerful military and NATO ties. Part of the answer may lie with Moscow’s alliance with Iran and its Shiite Muslim proxies in Damascus and Beirut, who see themselves as competing with the Sunni Turks for regional dominance.

Mr. Putin may also be testing NATO cohesion. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an impulsive leader who has alienated his allies with his autocratic instincts and Islamist sympathies. If Russia continues to prick Turkey and NATO fails to support Ankara, it will expose the hollowness of NATO’s Article 5 collective-defense obligations. The Obama Administration failed to invoke Article 5 on France’s behalf after the Paris massacre. And on Tuesday President Obama said that while Turkey had the right to defend its airspace, his priority is to “discourage any escalation.” But what if Mr. Putin retaliates against Turkey? Mr. Obama should have said that the U.S. will stand with its NATO partner.  At his Tuesday press conference with French President François Hollande, Mr. Obama also said his visit to Paris later this month for a global-warming summit would be “a powerful rebuke to the terrorists.” We can only imagine what Mr. Putin makes of that.

 Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkeys-warning-shot-1448407379



In other news


Syria air strikes: Russia accused of ethnic cleansing of Turkmen


Moscow is waging a relentless campaign of aerial bombardment intended specifically to “drive out” the Turkmen minority from north-western Syria, the community’s political leader has warned. Abdurrahman Mustafa, who as president of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly is the figurehead for the ethnic minority, accused the Russian air force of trying purge the area in order to carve out a safe enclave for its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, amid growing global pressure for an end to the conflict. In an interview with The Independent, Mr Mustafa said thousands of Turkmen civilians had been forced from their homes in the region known as Bayirbucak. “There are not many left,” he said. “It is nearly impossible to survive amid this bombing.”

The Turkmen of Syria found themselves at the centre of world attention after Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 jet last week, igniting a major row and plunging the prospects of a co-ordinated global push against Isis into doubt. The Russian plane was operating in the north of Latakia province when it was shot down in an area with a large concentration of Turkmen. Syrian government forces and their allies from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah have been fighting rebel groups in the region. They include Turkmen brigades backed by Ankara, which is fiercely opposed to Mr Assad. Syrian Turkmen share ethnic and familiar ties with Turkey, as well as a common language and a mutual suspicious of Kurdish factions.

Mr Mustafa, whose assembly forms part of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition opposition group, accused Russia of seeking to force Turkmen permanently from the coastal region. He said the push was part of an effort to strengthen the Syrian army’s hold on the area, which is the familial seat of Mr Assad and a stronghold of his Alawite sect. Some believe that Syria could eventually be carved up, despite opposition to such a solution from the US and most opposition groups.

“If there is going to be a partition in Syria, and Assad is going to build his own state in Latakia, Bayirbucak is a strategic point and the Turkmen will be have to be driven out,” Mr Mustafa said.

He said Russian jets had attacked civilian targets in the area, including a camp for displaced civilians and an ambulance, and issued a plea for more support: “The world has to protect us,” he said. Russia has insisted that its air strikes are targeting only Isis positions and groups it views as terrorists. The US says that Moscow has focused its energies on attacking rebel groups in order to bolster the Syrian government. Moscow appears to have sought revenge for the downing of its plane by redoubling its efforts against opposition groups in the north of Syria and allies of Turkey. One of Turkey’s biggest aid groups, IHH, accused Russia of bombing a bakery it ran in the northern province of Idlib. The facility is said to have supplied daily bread to 40,000 Syrians.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group, said that the total number of civilians killed by Russian air strikes since September had risen to 485, including 117 children. Mr Mustafa rejected Russia’s claims that it was targeting only terrorists. While Turkmen fighters are viewed as among more moderate, they are said to have worked alongside groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. This was denied by Mr Mustafa. “They are not in our area. We are in different places,” he said.

However, in an example of the difficulties faced by Western leaders in working solely with moderate partners, his claim appeared to be contradicted by the group. Video footage posted by Jabhat al-Nusra purportedly showed its fighters battling on Mount Zawiya, a mountaintop recently secured by the Turkmen brigade the Second Coastal Division. Fierce fighting has continued in the area over the past week, with several key hilltops changing hands repeatedly and casualties on both sides. Syria has accused Turkey of firing shells across the border at Syrian army positions in Latakia province. It also said that Turkey had upped its supplies of weapons and ammunition to fighters in the area to prevent the border region falling into the hands of pro-government forces.

Mr Mustafa did not deny that Turkmen forces received military support from Ankara. Asked about claims that Turkish state intelligence last year sent trucks of weapons to Turkmen fighters, he said only: “I can say that Turkey has always supported us.” He defended Turkey’s decision to shoot down the Russian plane but would not be drawn on who killed one of its pilots. A Turkmen commander initially claimed that rebel fighters killed both men before it emerged that one had been rescued. Mr Mustafa would not condemn the killing, saying: “He was killing us, the pilot. He didn’t come here to travel.”

The diplomatic standoff continued as the Russian President Vladimir Putin snubbed his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the climate conference in Paris. Mr Putin’s spokesperson said no meeting with Mr Erdogan was planned and ruled out a telephone conversation between the two men. It came amid a report by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai that Russia is planning to open a second air base inside Syria, a move that would further alarm Turkey. 

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-accused-of-ethnic-cleansing-of-turkmen-in-syria-air-strikes-a6755186.html

Seymour Hersh report on Syria: White House knew US was arming Islamic State


Pulitzer-prize-winner journalist Seymour Hersh reports that the administration of President Barack Obama, in particular the CIA, has knowingly armed militant Islamists in Syria, including the Islamic State. "Barack Obama's repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office -- and that there are 'moderate' rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him -- has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon's Joint Staff," Hersh writes in the London Review of Books.

"Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration's fixation on Assad's primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn't adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington's anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped."

Hersh writes that a highly classified 2013 Defense Intelligence Agency/Joint Chiefs of Staff report on Syria forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to "chaos" and possibly to Islamist extremists taking over Syria. Hersh reports that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, told him that his agency sent a "constant stream" of warnings to the "civilian leadership" about the dire consequences of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The DIA's reporting "got enormous pushback" from the Obama administration, Hersh quotes Flynn as saying. "I felt that they did not want to hear the truth."

The report, published in the Jan. 7, 2016 edition of the London Review of Books, relies heavily on an anonymous former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hersh writes that the adviser told him the DIA/Joint Chiefs report took a "dim view" of the Obama administration's insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups and found that the covert U.S. program to arm and support those "moderate" rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, which then morphed the program into an "across-the-board technical, arms and logistical program for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State."

"The assessment was bleak: there was no viable 'moderate' opposition to Assad, and the U.S. was arming extremists," Hersh wrote.

In October, the Pentagon announced that it was discontinuing its program to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria, saying the program cost $500 million and only succeeded in training a "handful" of recruits. In November, however, the CIA increased its shipments of arms to rebels in Syria, joining with U.S. allies in challenging Russia and Iran's involvement in Syria in support of the Assad regime. U.S. officials, according to a Nov. 4 article in The Wall Street Journal, said the Obama administration is pursuing a dual-track strategy in Syria, to keep military pressure on Assad while U.S. diplomats "see if they can ease him from power through negotiations."

The White House has not responded directly to the allegations raised in the article in the London Review of Books. Its author, Seymour Hersh, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his reporting on the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and has continued to write on national security for many newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker. He was widely criticized for his The Killing of Osama bin Laden report that accused President Barack Obama and his administration of lying about the circumstances surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Many media establishments, intelligence analysts and officials, including the White House, rejected the claim.

Hackers trace ISIS Twitter accounts back to internet addresses linked to Department of Work and Pensions

 Teenage computer experts unveil astonishing web of unpublicised interactions linking extremist social media mouthpieces to the British government

Hackers have claimed that a number of Islamic State supporters' social media accounts are being run from internet addresses linked to the Department of Work and Pensions. A group of four young computer experts who call themselves VandaSec have unearthed evidence indicating that at least three ISIS-supporting accounts can be traced back to the DWP's London offices. Every computer and mobile phone logs onto the internet using an IP address, which is a type of identification number. The hacking collective showed Mirror Online details of the IP addresses used by a trio of separate digital jihadis to access Twitter accounts, which were then used to carry out online recruitment and propaganda campaigns. At first glance, the IP addresses seem to be based in Saudi Arabia, but upon further inspection using specialist tools they appeared to link back to the DWP.

"Don't you think that's strange?" one of the hackers asked Mirror Online. "We traced these accounts back to London, the home of the British intelligence services."

VandaSec's work has sparked wild rumours suggesting someone inside the DWP is running ISIS-supporting accounts, or they were created by intelligence services as a honeypot to trap wannabe jihadis. However, when Mirror Online traced the IP addresses obtained by VandaSec, we found they actually pointed to a series of unpublicised transactions between Britain and Saudi Arabia. We learned that the British government sold on a large number of IP addresses to two Saudi Arabian firms. After the sale completed in October of this year, they were used by extremists to spread their message of hate. Jamie Turner, an expert from a firm called PCA Predict, discovered a record of the sale of IP addresses, and found a large number were transferred to Saudi Arabia in October of this year.

He told us it was likely the IP addresses could still be traced back to the DWP because records of the addresses had not yet been fully updated. The Cabinet Office has now admitted to selling the IP addresses on to Saudi Telecom and the Saudi-based Mobile Telecommunications Company earlier this year as part of a wider drive to get rid of a large number of the DWP's IP addresses. It said the British government can have no control over how these addresses are used after the sale.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The government owns millions of unused IP addresses which we are selling to get a good return for hardworking taxpayers. "We have sold a number of these addresses to telecoms companies both in the UK and internationally to allow their customers to connect to the internet. "We think carefully about which companies we sell addresses to, but how their customers use this internet connection is beyond our control." The government did not reveal how much money was made from selling the IP addresses to the pair of Saudi firms, because it regards this information as commercially sensitive.

Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/hackers-trace-isis-twitter-accounts-7010417

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