A little of both it seems. But, as usual, we must beware of treating “Turkey” as monolithic, even its political class. The same goes for the ‘pushing’ suspect that leaps first to mind, the US.
Turkey Mounts an ‘Invasion-by-Invitation’ into Iraq
Yesterday, confused reports were issued that Turkey had sent a few hundred, or a few thousand, or a battalion or several, across the border and into Iraq, to Bashiqa, fifteen miles north of Mosul. The most lavish of estimates said 14,000 troops were headed there. With Iraq’s outcry, echoed by its allies, Turkey today relented and said, OK, we won’t send any more (than we already have there). How many Turkish troops are now in Iraq? Latest voices say “hundreds.” This may be enough to do some damage, not to ISIS, but to efforts to diminish ISIS.
Turkey insists they went for “scheduled training exercises“. Except they forgot to schedule it with Baghdad. Ankara does business with Erbil, the capital of ‘autonomous’ Iraqi Kurdistan, where Masoud Barzani accommodates US, Turkish, and Israeli interests. The Turkish troops have taken up residence across the street from ISIS, and not far from their semi-official protectorate in Erbil. US SpecOps expected soon. House-warming party planned this weekend, all “moderate terrorists” and their sugar daddies invited.
This chummy relation between Erbil and Ankara, not to mention Ankara and ISIS, is one reason Baghdad has set up ever closer relations with Tehran and Moscow in the last few months, including an anti-ISIS information center in Baghdad. According to Veteran’s Today, the Turks are encamped next to Mosul to protect the remaining ISIS capital, now that Raqqa is cut off and likely lost. Sad to say, this indeed seems the most likely intent for the desperate allies of ISIS. Though Turkey has agreed to halt further transfers of troops, after “hundreds” have already entered (probably multiples of that) it will be difficult to mount an effective anti-ISIS action without “help” from the Turks.
Thus, Western-supported terrorism also implicates the Iraqi Kurds.The Barzani regime in Erbil has always been closer to Western interests than those of Baghdad, to Ankara than to Diyarbakir. Typically, the Iraqi Kurds were abused for their allegiance to NATO when room needed to be made for ISIS, but Erbil has plenty to show for its sacrifice. Barzani is known to be Israel’s greatest supplier of oil, bypassing Baghdad. Russian evidence already implicates Iraqi Kurdish collusion with Turkey and ISIS oil trade and the Turkish ‘invasion-by-invitation’ implicates Barzani even more. Indeed, Erbil is implicated in facilitating the transfer of Mosul to ISIS, in conjunction with Ankara, as charged by former Iraqi PM al-Maliki late this summer.
Present Iraqi PM al-Abadi, usually compliant to US influence but now more openly aligning with Moscow, ceded to Shi’a pressure (and national interest), forcefully arguing he wants the Turks out, whatever their “agreements” with Barzani and whatever the umbrella of the US. Al-Abadi said he would call for a UN resolution if they are not out in two days. More shockingly, he added that Iraq will regard it as “an act of war” if the US puts its 100 SpecOps on the ground, as Obama said recently, reversing a long-standing policy to not add ground troops.”Iraqi Shi’a militias, among the country’s most effective anti-ISIS forces, have said they will consider US forces enemy combatants. The US replied, we need to talk. The US continues to finagle with all sides and all ways it can. Its military activities remain highly ambiguous.
The US SpecOps forces already acknowledged (and unacknowledged) to be in Iraq have operated alongside Kurdish YPG forces, and perhaps the Syrian Democratic Forces in some anti-ISIS operations. The SDF (with other designations) is a hastily-assembled coalition of YPG, Assyrian Christians, and Syrian Arabs that the US put together when the Russian bombing campaigns began. The US dropped them 50 tons of arms at al-Hasaka, it was said, for an attack on ISIS held Raqqa. According to one report, instead of turning there, they seem to have moved west, to northern Syria.
Baghdad does not want the US or its ambivalent allies there any which way. Just like Damascus. For the moment, the US is pushing its nose across sovereign borders with galling abandon, with ‘allies’ and ‘enemies’ all the same. The US knows, but will never admit, its imperial presence is clearly contrary to the wishes of the majority of the peoples and parliaments in both Iraq and Syria.
US Press Reports, and Lack Thereof
No report of our unwelcome filters back stateside though we are told Turks are not welcome in Iraq and Assad is not welcome in Syria (sic). Our pontificators argue about whether we should admit Russia into the Council of Good in our Ambivalent Attacks on ISIS, and just how far we should go to “help” Syrians and Iraqis liberate themselves from ISIS. Following the highly suspicious San Bernardino attacks, 53% of US pansies believe more US boots should be on the ground in Syria fighting ISIS.
If US reports celebrate isolated US-Kurdish ground successes against ISIS, global news remembers that not long ago US jets bombed the Aleppo power plants and water sanitation facilities for 2.5 million people, and that only recently, and reluctantly, did the US admit that ISIS was worse scourge to humanity than Assad. Sad to say, despite much protestation, the “ambivalent anti-ISIS alliance” has still shown little effective anti-ISIS activity. After much Cameronian bluster, the British airstrikes from Cyprus “dealt a serious blow” to oil refineries that they had already “obliterated” two months ago. The recent French strikes too, have been strikingly ineffective, as those of the “ambivalent alliance” usually are.
The Turkish breach of Iraqi sovereignty also ignited little fanfare in the US press. They convey curtailed reports that the Turks have agreed to cease the build-up in response to al-Abadi’s threat to go to the UN. The tone is not alarmist; San Bernardino claims all alarm, not NATO-allied designs to risk WW3. The US press also little followed the Turkish shootdown of the Russian F-16. This was carried for a day then replaced in the news by K-butt. Now Russia calls it an “ambush” facilitated by US intelligence. One would think the US press would ponder the significance of this event, but that is soooo last week.
My suspicions remain that the US, ever-ambivalent in its fight against ISIS, and officially protecting its NATO allies, is nevertheless pushing its erstwhile ally Turkey, or at least Erdogan, into the fire. It is still too early to tell how the US will spin the invasion-by-invitation, but even ambiguity is revealing.
This is evident if one contrasts ‘official’ pronouncements on the downing of the F-16 from Obama and the State Department with less-official ones. The less-official pronouncements are still weighty weighing-ins by a host of US retired generals that have appeared, mostly in the foreign press. To varying degrees these attack Turkey’s impulsiveness, and even acknowledge as correct the Russian claims that Turkey “planned” the takedown. These same generals conspicuously neglect to comment about Russian charges regarding the US.
As I said last post, Russia is waging an effective information war; this has given Erdogan the global labeling of terrorist-supporter, and the US is squirming uncomfortably. It is obvious that Turkey was not the only G-20 country among the 40 Putin said he had the dirt on, though Turkey was the only one so muddied in Antalya. Erdogan has prominently said he would resign if charges of his collaboration with ISIS, or that of his son, the Minister of Energy Bilal, could be proven. Well, I hope he’s packing his bags. Angry Turks are saying the dictator should heat his new imperial mansion with “dung” now that he has ruined their trade and energy imports from Russia.
Russia has backed its charges with extensive satellite footage. This illicit, “industrial-scale” cross-border traffic strongly implies the Erdogan family and associates, under cover of the state and the military, are huge profiteers of the ISIS oil-for-weapons trade. Especially the MIT (Turkish National Intelligence) has been caught so dealing, and this cost US reporter Serena Shim her life. The half-hour Russian press conference where extensive satellite evidence was officially presented was but the first of several installments, the generals said. Next week they will supply evidence of traffic of weapons the other way, and show other means of financing ISIS that point to Turkey. The world knows that any week they could turn to suggesting some of the other links between ISIS and the US, France, Great Britain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Ukraine and Israel. Putin no doubt holds an embarrassment of information riches.
What Retired Generals Say
The US press does not cover the charges with even a fraction of the prominence that the beaten-and-battered opposition Turkish press still courageously manages to put forward, conveying at least the gist of the Russian charges, sometimes slyly. But the US has not backed out of the media game, the “war for hearts and minds”. Its only that the purveyors seem to be either mindless or heartless, or both.
Interestingly, US generals complaining about Erdogan and Turkey, and boasting their own anti-ISIS credentials appear on Russian press more often than hier bei uns. But with 25 minutes of every half-hour of news devoted to sports and weather, its hardly a wonder. Still, it is surprising how much rancor about Turkey has spurted through the hypnotic torpor of mass media content.
The US press did carry a few words about Iraq’s silly sovereignty complaint, in their Antiquities and Curiosities section, but still this did reflect poorly on our ‘crazy’ allies, those Turks. Those Muslims. Those “Sunnis” as the generals like to ignorantly pronounce, unaware that the Islam of Erdogan and ISIS is Wahhabist extremism, unrecognizable by traditional Sunni standards or Muslim standards at all.
It is still too early to tell how US official, non-official, and mass media voices will spin this standoff, but the US and international media have carried angry voices of several retired US brass charging Turkey various degrees of perfidy. These include retired Major General Vallely, General Flynn (ex-DIA chief who confirmed that allowing ISIS to arise was a “willful intent”), General Wesley Clark, and ex CIA-boss, General Petraeus, who in August called for alliance-with and funding-of al-Qaeda in Syria (Jubhat al-Nusra). They were all high-and-mighty and full of sanctimony and to the extent they thought they could get away with it, were saying, I told you so. That dang Erdogan. They all appear to place present importance on eliminating ISIS, but have not given up hopes of taking out Assad. They are all evidently playing the same game the US officialdom is also playing with Turkey: eventually to carve up Syria and Iraq into sections, parts of which they may control, though Damascus and Baghdad themselves seem a lost cause.
Ex DIA-chief Flynn, whose al-Jazeera interview was one of the revelatory mainstream highlights of 2014, is still kicking himself, and US, for being “dumb” in allowing ISIS to rise. In an interview with DerSpiegel, he backed off a bit from his earlier statements, which confirmed an FOIA release of a DIA document from 2012, during his watch, that the rise of ISIS was a “willed intent” (though not necessarily directly supported).He thinks it was an Obama “re-election” narratives prevented accurate assessments. But while lambasting “dumb” US policy, he is all “gee whiz” in his assessments of the astounding statemanship of al-Baghdadi, who really caught them all off guard. He’s not a ragamuffin with an AK-47 like Osama bin Laden, Flynn says, repeating two-year old motifs dreamed up by the CFR, that ISIS is different than the others for two reasons: its commanding statecraft and its media savvy. In this interview, General Flynn plays up the motif of ISIS essential differences than other terrorist groups, seeming to echo Hakan Fidan, head of Turkish MIT, who said ISIS is a fact of life and we just all oughta get used to it. Here is General Flynn, speaking in hushed tones:
“al-Baghdadi brought himself to a mosque in Mosul and spoke from the balcony, like the pope, dressed in appropriate black garb. He stood there as a holy cleric and proclaimed the Islamic caliphate. That was a very, very symbolic act. It elevated the fight from this sort of military, tactical and localized conflict to that of a religious and global war”
That is exactly how thin the CIAliphate is. Dress up like one, and poof! you’re a CIAliph. Take a picture and send it back to Tel Aviv! Let me for the moment withhold my scorn. I will elsewhere write an extended essay on why ISIS is even less Islamic than Erdogan is Ottoman, imperial though they both may be, and why historical dumbing-down, about Islam, US democracy, basic human decency, has been programmatically applied by Western oligarchies to achieve global domination. Now back to our own aged warriors in funny costumes with lots of shiny pins and symbols on them. Damn, just makes you wanna fall in line, doesn’t it?
Vallely is angriest, and thinks we should kick Turkey out of NATO. He goes so far as to thank the Russians for kicking ISIS butt. This is refreshing, a little bumbling truth-telling we might expect from Trump. It took a long time to get there, but that “we all hate ISIS” is now the standard line of the administration. But thanking Russians is something you would never here from Obama or the State Department, and would constitute hell to hear for McCain. Is there some dissension in the ranks?
Contrary to the administration, Vallely says we should join with the Russians in a rigorous anti-ISIS fight. While this might seem to twist the knife in the neo-cons back, the knife turns out to be a dime-store fake. Vallely goes on to propose that alliance consist of the US, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and maybe, if he wants to join in, Sisi of Egypt. Nice way to shove the founder out of the clubhouse. This no doubt evoked a soothed smile from the sugar-daddy the terrorists call “Johnny, ” (as in their frantic “those are your arms, Johnny!” pointing to depots blown to smithereens by Russian bombs.)
Of course, Vallely is not so radical as it might seem, even if he has to sneak away to RT to speak his mind. He still insists on a “forward strategy” that is the same old story of needing to remove Assad in the end. He revives the sad specter of the original Free Syrian Army, long a figment. In a recent meeting with Russian Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov, Vallely said he argued that the FSA have more validity than Assad. He considers this group, which mostly disappeared more than a year ago, consists of the ex-generals and army that defected from Assad in the early years of the rebellion. It is not clear how much of this, like the Arab Spring at large, was genuine, and how much was Western intel infiltration. But those times are past. The reign of folks calling themselves FSA in some provinces made ISIS look good, for they, and al-Nusra, another favorite of US honchos, behaved like rapacious mercenary gangs, pure and simple, while ISIS has established a fascist order.
Vallely makes the argument that we should declare war against ISIS. This is a bit of a curiosity, since I thought the US just didn’t do that anymore. But this would serve the interests of Langley to christen the CIAliphate a true “state” that could be the object of a war declaration.Despite the impassioned protestations of our ex-generals, “I told those Turks not to get their hands dirty with that stuff!”, the US is up to its eyeballs in the terror-support business. Much, very much, remains hidden and occult.
There is every indication that the Turkish, US, and Saudi governments are all riven with factionalism and disagreement which goes beyond that which boils up to the surface. Putin says, through his press, that he has reached a private understanding with Obama, but Obama says nothing of the same. Is the former just trying to force the issue? By assessment of those 50 CENTCOM intel analysts who charged in September that their reports were always optimistically doctored by the ranking administrators before they got to the president, Obama has little understanding about what is happening in the Middle East. He seems to act as a broker for other interests, more or less obvious, without knowing what is really happening on the ground at all.
James Corbett proposes that a consortium of US/NATO and Turkish generals conspired to take down the Russian jet and embarrass Erdogan. Corbett goes so far as to suggest Erdogan is being set up for a coup. Certainly, opposition voices are fierce in Turkey, and this is an extreme, but not impossible, scenario.However, we may also consider that a war between internal factions is occurring in DC as well as in Ankara.
A final word about the press. Besides the economic sanctions and military adjustments, Russia is playing a different kind of war, with information, and here the war is very one-sided. Turkey has been cornered, and in the media battles the US wields but “sports and weather.”
However, it is not as if wielding information alone Putin can storm the walls of Erdogan’s press enclosure, or break through the turbid hypnosis of US mass media. Erdogan has declared he would resign if evidence emerged of his collusion with ISIS, but evidently he meant if it emerged in the newspapers he controls.
Entirely ignored in the US press or the comments of US generals are the charges directed from Russia towards US. Russia has said that the US oversight of the Turkey-ISIS trade “smacks of direct patronage.” Putin said Russia had given the downed flight’s coordinates to the US, implying they were given to the Turks.
Other damning accusations are left to unofficial quarters in Russia as well, at least, perhaps, until next week’s press conference. Sputnik, RT, FortRuss, and other Russian media have also several times pointed to the US involvement in ISIS support, and the Turkish-ISIS oil trade. But their most serious present charge is that US and Saudi AWACS had to be positioned in radar support for the Turkish “ambush” of the Su-24 to succeed.
Needless to say, those are serious charges. Interestingly, much of this was anticipated by the US-based Veteran’s Today. Veteran’s Today similarly has accused a collusion in the downing of the Russian passenger jet over Sinai, this time including Israel and Egypt (or factions within.) But this too indicates ‘information’ Russia certainly has at its disposal which it has not revealed. Russia has not even officially refuted the idiotic ISIS explanation of a soda-pop bomb. They use their information effectively, and when needed. The US is severely disadvantaged in this war of information, and would no doubt respond with the weapons it most revels in using. That is what Turkey seems to be doing, with US coaxing or shoving, as the case may be.