Turkish, Saudi, French, British and US-backed terrorists have been operating in Syria for the past 4 years in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government. This cabal wants to remove Assad in order to a) pave the way for Qatari gas to supplant Russian gas to Europe, b) possibly open up a front for a jihadi invasion to destabilize and pressure Iran and Russia, and c) secure Turkish territorial integrity and its long-term role as a buffer zone for Western powers to play in the Middle East sandbox with impunity.
The overall goal then, from a Western perspective, is to do away with the historical crescent of resistance against Western Imperialism and anti-pan-Arab nationalism as represented or supported by Russia/Iran/Iraq/Syria and Lebanon. Israel, of course, is a major supporter of just such a ‘new Middle East’ because, without it, it might be wiped from the pages of history as a Jewish state. In this endeavor, Turkey, with its long border with northern Syria, has played a primary role in facilitating the training, arming and funding of jihadi head-chopping mercenaries in their four-year war against the Syrian people and government.
Turkey’s Kurdish Problem
After the First World War and the fall of the Ottoman Empire (and its reinvention as Turkey), a fledgling Turkey (!) chose to look primarily towards the West, playing an early divisive role in helping the British and Americans repress a nascent Arab nationalist movement. As part of this process, the Western powers gerrymandered the former Ottoman lands of the Middle East (all the better to exploit the sea of oil on which they happening to be floating), and the Kurds, like several other indigenous peoples of the area, saw their lands and people divided.
The incorporation of the Kurdish areas of the former East Anatolia into Turkey was opposed by many Kurds who hoped for a homeland of their own. During the 1920s and 1930s several rebellions against Turkish rule took place. These were forcefully put down by the Turkish authorities and the region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965. The use of Kurdish language was outlawed, the words Kurds and Kurdistan were erased from dictionaries and history books, and the Kurds were only referred to as Mountain Turks. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s Kurdish separatists also waged a guerrilla war against the Turkish military in which tens of thousands of people died.
Beginning in 2003 with the election of Erdogan as Prime Minister, the situation stabilized somewhat, as did Turkish/Syrian relations after the Syrian government pledged to stop harboring Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. Between 2003 and 2009, Syria and Turkey signed nearly 50 agreements of cooperation, announced the establishment of a “Senior Strategic Cooperation Council,” and conducted their first-ever joint military exercises. In 2010, Turkey and Syria signed an historic counterterrorism agreement, followed up by a counterinsurgency pact. Turkey had become Syria’s largest trading partner and so close was the relationship that, in 2009, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared that the states shared a “common fate, history, and future.”
So what happened in the last 6 years? The short answer is that, sometime around 2011, it was made clear to Erdogan’s government through NATO channels that Assad would be leaving, one way or another, and that Syria would be divided up into semi-autonomous regions. This plan, as detailed by both the US Brookings Institution in a 2015 paper titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war,”and an op-ed by the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Richard Haas titled “Testing Putin in Syria“, carried the threat of the likely creation of an autonomous Kurdistan, taking with it a sizeable chunk of Turkish territory.
So the Turkish government was faced with a choice: side with NATO in the destruction and dismemberment of Syria and safeguard Turkish territorial integrity, or risk losing it if the Assad government were somehow to prevail against the West’s jihadi army. NATO no doubt assured the Turks that the result of such a manufactured civil war in Syria was a foregone conclusion, and no doubt it would have been, had Russia not decided to step into the fray 2 months ago.
The result has been that Turkey has spent the last four years as the primary staging ground for NATO’s proxy mercenary army in Syria. No one doubts this, not even Western governments. In that role, Turkey has been given free reign to deal with a resurgent Kurdish militancy (PKK, YPG) who are so concerned about their fate in the event of a NATO/Turkish victory in Syria that they have been openly aligning themselves with both Russia and the Syrian government.
Direct Turkish Government Links to ISIS in Syria
When US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May this year, hundreds of flash drives and documents were seized revealing undeniable evidence of direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members. One senior western official familiar with the intelligence gathered said that it could “end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara.”
You might be thinking that this unnamed Western official meant that the West (UK, France and the US) would cut ties with the Turks over their alliance with ISIS headchoppers. But you’d be wrong because, 6 months later, there is no sign of any break in Western relations with Turkey. Indeed, just yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accused an opposition Labour MP of being an “apologist for Russian actions” for having the gall to sort of sympathize with Russia over the Su-24 shoot down.
Labour’s Dennis Skinner raised questions in Parliament about Turkey’s reliability as a British ally and pressed Hammond for his views on Turkey’s role against Islamic State. “When you consider that not only today that they’ve shot down a Russian jet – who are also trying to fight Isil – they’re buying oil from Isil in order to prop them up, they’re bombing the Kurds who are also fighting Isil.” Skinner said.
In response, Hammond insisted that Turkey and the UK and Europe will remain best buddies no matter what. “I see old habits die hard and you remain an apologist for Russian actions. On the question of Turkey, Turkey is an important NATO ally. It holds the key to a number of really very important questions, both in relation to the battle against Isil but also in relation to the migration challenge that Europe faces, and it will remain a very important partner for this country and for the European Union“.
One has to wonder here what the French government thinks of a close ally like the UK declaring such unstinting support for Turkey when it has been recently revealed that the alleged mastermind of the recent Paris attacks, Abaaoud, crossed into and out of Syria to learn his trade craft from ISIL via the Jarabulus crossing in Syria, just 100 m from the Turkish border, which is manned by Turkish border guards and which Erdogan recently claimed was a ‘red line’ in terms of Russian airstrikes in the area.
“No Fly Zone” to Protect ISIS, thwart Russia and Beat the Kurds
While Western governments lambaste Russia for “bombing the moderate rebels” in Syria, Erdogan’s air force, with tacit consent from the US government, has almost exclusively bombed the Kurds who are actively fighting against ISIS. At the same time, however, Erdogan and Co. have undoubtedly been feeling a little paranoid. While the US government has repeatedly supplied Kurdish forces with weapons and other assistance ostensibly to fight ISIS, the truth is that a Kurdish autonomous region is fully a part of the US ‘balkanistaion’ plan for Syria. It’s just not a part of Turkey’s plan. So US support of the Kurds must appears to Turkey as a betrayal of the original US promise to turn a blind eye to Turkish suppression of the Kurdish threat. In September the US government further alarmed the Turks by saying that the Kurdish PYD was not a terrorist organisation.
Erdogan and Co. are no doubt well aware of likely US duplicity, and have been actively training and arming the Turkmen rebels in Syria in an effort to control the Northern Syrian border area and keep the Kurds at bay, or at least keep them from spreading West of the Euphrates into the Syrian government heartland and an alliance with Assad and Russia.
What both the Turkish government and NATO want (for different reasons) is a “buffer” or “no fly” zone along its border with Syria. NATO wants it primarily to secure a ‘rat line’ for NATO’s jihadis entry into and out of Syria and to push back the progress of Russian airstrikes. To this end, during an Oct. US Senate hearing on Russian strategy and military operations in Syria, retired US Army General John Keane made the nature and purpose of US military action in Syria very clear:
If we establish free zones – you know, for moderate opposition forces – but also sanctuaries for refugees, that gets world opinion support rather dramatically. If Putin is going to attack that, then world opinion is definitely against him. You take this issue right off the table in terms of why he’s in Syria and if you’re doing that [attacking free zones] and contributing to the migration that’s taking place by your aggressive military actions, then world opinion will have some rather – I think – significant impact on him.
As I’ve been saying for quite some time now, the subtext of the US ‘war on terror’ has always been about containing Russia.
For its part, Turkey is interested in a “no fly zone” to thwart the advance of the Syrian army towards the Turkish border and the possible future creation of an independent Kurdistan. But the Turkish government is playing a losing game. In their attempt to create a ‘buffer zone’ in Syria, they fail to realize that Turkey itself has been used for decades as one big ‘buffer zone’ between the racist EU and the US’ Middle Eastern wars, every one of them ultimately aimed at pushing back Russian influence in the region and the world.
NATO Shot Down the Russian Jet
The Turkmen rebels are Syrians of Turkish origin and it was over their territory along the north-eastern Syrian/Turkish border that the Russian plane was shot down yesterday. It was also these Turkmen “rebels” – who have been fighting alongside ISIS against Assad – that shot the two Russian pilots as they parachuted to the ground. While these particular rebels and the Turkish government have claimed that Russian airstrikes were targeting them, independent analysis has confirmed that there are also up to three separate groups of Chechen fighters in the area – militants from the Muslim autonomous republic in the Russian Federation with the longest history of Islamist violence. From the very beginning of their airstrikes, the Russian government has stated that one of the goals is to prevent Chechen jihadis in Syria from posing a threat to the Russian homeland.
Just before Russian airstrikes began on September 30th, John Kerry predicted that, if Russia “is there fighting them alone… Russian planes will fall out of the sky”. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made similar threats a week later. Immediately after the jet was brought down, rather than establish contact with the Russians, the Turkish government ran crying to mommy NATO, fearful of the Russian response to Turkish treachery. In addition, just last Friday the Turkish government warned Russia of “serious consequences” if it did not “immediately end its operations” in the Turkmen-controlled area.
Whatever the truth about exactly where the Russian jet was when it was shot down, there is no doubt that any alleged trespassing into a sliver of Turkish territory was no justification for Turkey’s murderous action. That the shoot down was pre-planned and deliberate, despite Turkish claims to the contrary, is best evidenced by the fact of the high-resolution images and video of the jet as it plummeted from the sky. The question that needs answered being: how was a Turkish TV crew in the right place, at the right time, filming in the right direction as the Russian plane came down? Old-fashioned luck?
Along with the destruction of the Russian commercial plane over the Sinai, the shoot-down of the Russian jet by NATO’s stool-pigeon Turkey constitutes the anticipated US response to the Russian attempt to prevent US terrorist regime change in Syria. It was characteristically cowardly and malicious, and absolutely futile.
In contrast, the Russian government’s response to the incident has been to show forbearance and maturity, with Putin opting to simply tell the truth: that Turkey is an accomplice in terrorism. A more pointed answer to NATO/Turkish perfidy will no doubt come, for now the most appropriate action for Russia to take would be to ‘double down’ on its ongoing jihadi clean-up operation along the Turkish/Syrian border – something Russia plans on doing. To protect Russian pilots from future NATO barbarity, a barrage of Russian cruise missiles from the Mediterranean or the Caspian falling on the heads of Erdogan’s and NATO’s jihadis would be most edifying.