BEIRUT (AP) — Several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaida-linked faction, said Wednesday they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition, as U.N. inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.
In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.
The statement reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime. Syria’s civil war has killed over 100,000 people so far.
The statement also called on all those trying to topple Assad’s government to unite under a “clear Islamic framework” — an apparent reference to the al-Qaida faction’s aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.
It said the rebels do “not recognize” any future government formed outside Syria, insisting that forces fighting on the ground should be represented by “those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices.”
Meanwhile, a team of U.N. chemical weapons arrived in Damascus on Wednesday to continue investigating what officials from the world organization have described as “pending credible allegations” of the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war.
The visit of the six-member team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, follows a report by the inspectors after their previous trip in September, which said nerve agent sarin was used in an Aug. 21, attack near the capital, Damascus.
The U.S. and its allies say Assad’s regime was behind the attack, and Washington said it killed 1,400 people. Syrian activist groups gave significantly lower death tolls, but still in the hundreds.
Damascus blames the rebels for the attack, and Russia, a close ally of Assad, said the U.N. report did not provide enough evidence to blame the Syrian government. It has also demanded that U.N. inspectors probe other attacks that allegedly included chemical agents.
The United States and Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to give up its chemical weapons but U.N. diplomats say they are at odds on details of a Security Council resolution spelling out how it should be done and the possible consequences if Syria doesn’t comply.
In a speech at the U.N. on Tuesday, President Barack Obama challenged the Security Council to hold Syria accountable if it fails to live up to its pledges.
“If we cannot agree even on this,” Obama said, “then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.”
A statement by the U.N. on Tuesday said the inspectors will use their new visit to gather evidence from the alleged chemical weapons attack on March 19 on the village of Khan al Assal outside the city of Aleppo, which was captured by the rebels in July.
Wednesday’s rebel announcement, carried by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, came almost two weeks after the SNC, the main Western-backed opposition coalition, in Turkey elected Ahmad Saleh Touma as the opposition’s interim prime minister.
Syrian rebels have been deeply divided and clashes between rival groups over the past months left hundreds of people dead, mostly in northern and eastern Syria. Al-Qaida gunmen have been on the offensive against members of the more mainstream Free Syrian Army, though some of the groups that signed on to Wednesday’s statement also belong to the FSA umbrella.
Syria’s conflict has taken on increasingly sectarian tones in the past year, pitting predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The news media has been running wild lately over reports that the U.S. is “going to war” with Syria. The flurry began with Secretary of State John Kerry’s bold comments on Monday and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s subsequent comments that the U.S. was “ready to go” should President Barack Obama order military action. By “ready to go,” the administration is talking about providing air support to the Syrian rebels much as it did for the Libyan rebellion to oust Muammar Gaddafi two years earlier.
I still have my skepticism, though. If the U.S. were going to attack Syria in any way that would alter the balance of power in the Syrian civil war, it would not be telegraphing such strikes. But Obama’s red line on chemical weapons has trapped the administration; it does not want to militarily intervene, but it cannot sit idly by after having been so explicit about what would trigger military action (or the bluff of it anyway). What the administration is really trying to accomplish is convincing a war-weary American public that this will not be a protracted affair while giving Washington time to try to secure a broad coalition of support at the United Nations, NATO and/or with the Arab League.
But while isolationists (or non-interventionists) are panicking over a possible course of action that doesn’t involve boots on the ground, what I find ironic is that the U.S., along with several other actors across the globe, have already had a covert presence within Syria for the last two years – supplying everything from intelligence to weapons to both sides of the conflict. I think it’s important to remind everyone exactly which external actors are involved in this civil war as well as what their stake is in the conflict. This is not just a battle among Syrians. This is a battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Iran and the U.S., Turkey and Iran, Russia and the U.S., and others with each player pursuing very different interests.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a centuries-old ideological conflict, where fighters today are drawing their motivation from seventh century battles. Saudi support for the Syrian opposition is motivated by a decades-long desire to break the alliance between Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s chief rival for dominance in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East.
Saudi reaction to the Arab Spring has been two-fold: Containing the unrest before it reaches Saudi territory, and ensuring that Iran does not benefit from any changes to the regional balance of power. In this context, the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in the spring of 2011 came as a golden opportunity for the Saudis to strike at Iran’s key Arab ally. While Saudi Arabia lacks the military capacity to intervene directly, it has been using its oil wealth to arm Syrian rebels and, in the event that Assad falls, ensure his regime is replaced by a Sunni-friendly government.
Turkey has been looking for a regional opportunity to showcase itself as a model and leader for the Islamic world for the last decade. The ironic part is prior to the current uprising, Turkey looked at Syria as a cornerstone in its plans to become a political, economic and “moral” leader in the Middle East. Now Turkey has committed itself, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Arab League actors, to bring about regime change in Damascus. It has allowed the Syrian opposition to set up headquarters in Istanbul, and it is arming and training the Sunni rebels.
In fact, Turkey has embraced an exclusively Sunni cause in Syria. Ankara is not only embroiled in a confrontation with the Alawite Syrian regime but is also in conflict with the Shi’ite regime in Iraq over Kurdish territories. In addition, the historic, geopolitical rivalry between Turkey and Iran, the patron of Syria, has resumed after a brief interlude during which Turkey appeared to be “drifting eastward,” siding for a while with Iran and against its Western partners over the Iranian nuclear issue. This rivalry now is being played out in Syria and Iraq.
Iran has few allies in the Arab world and its most important one is Syria. Their relationship dates back to the years after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. They needed to come together to fight their common rival, Saddam Hussein of Iraq. They also allied in order to check Israeli advances into Lebanon. Syria has consistently provided Iran with an element of strategic depth. It gives Iran access to the Mediterranean and a supply line to Iran’s Shia Muslim supporters in southern Lebanon – Hezbollah – next to the border with Israel.
Losing this support would be a major blow to Iran. So Iran has supported the Assad government (uninterrupted during the transition of Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hasan Rouhani) with weapons in the current conflict, and Iranians are fighting on Assad’s side.
Israel had maintained a complex and not always transparent relationship with the Syrian government. In spite of formal hostilities, the two shared common interests in Lebanon. Israel did not want to manage Lebanon after Israeli failures in the 1980s, but it still wanted Lebanon – and particularly Hezbollah – managed. Syria wanted to control Lebanon for political and economic reasons and did not want Israel interfering there. An implicit accommodation was thus achieved.
Israel continued to view the Alawite regime in Syria as preferable to a radical Sunni regime (sort of a “go with the devil you know” strategy). In the context of the U.S. presence in Iraq, the threat to Israel came from radical Sunni Islamists; Israel’s interests lay with whoever opposed them. Today, with the U.S. out of Iraq and Iran a dominant influence there, the Israelis face a more complex choice. If the regime of President Bashar al-Assad survives (with or without Assad himself), Iran will maintain its sphere of influence from the Mediterranean to western Afghanistan. Accordingly, Israel has shifted its thinking from supporting the Assad regime to wanting it to depart so that a Sunni government hostile to Iran, but not dominated by radical Islamists, could hopefully emerge.
Russia is looking for another noisy Middle Eastern maelstrom to bog the U.S. down while it continues to reassert its presence and influence – with little Western interference – in the former Soviet Union. Moscow also has long-standing strategic and financial interests in Syria.
Syria hosts a Russian naval base on the Mediterranean, and contracts for Russian weapons sales to Syria – those signed and those under discussion – total $5 billion. The fall of Gaddafi has also contributed to Putin’s support of Assad. The Kremlin lost about $4 billion worth of weapons contracts when the Libyan regime fell, and it wants to avoid a repeat in Syria. Beyond weaponry, Russian companies have invested $20 billion in Syria since 2009. If Assad loses power, these contracts would be forfeited. Summing up Russia’s interests in supporting yet another regime hostile to Western interests, to quote a line from The Godfather, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.”
While China seems more than happy to let Russia and Iran take on the role as Assad’s main supporters, it is nonetheless far from neutral. Much like Russia, China’s interests in the Syrian conflict are purely practical. Kadri Jamil, Syrian deputy prime minister for the economy, boasted that China has joined Iran and Russia in delivering $500 million a month in oil and credit to Syria. The majority of Syria’s oil is in the largely rebel-held north and northeast of the country and the network of pipelines connecting the wells to the population centers are vulnerable to rebel attack. As a result, Syrian oil production has fallen by as much as 95% during the ongoing conflict, and the importance of Chinese aid should not be underestimated. Chinese financial and material support supplements Russian and Iranian aid and has allowed the Assad war machine to remain militarily effective.
Assad’s survival is also tied up in a Chinese geostrategic consideration of the energy-rich Middle East, whereby supporting Assad is seen as an effective block on Western power in the region. Moreover, the Chinese government is nervous of creating a precedent for intervention on human-rights grounds due to its own insecurities at home.
Europe had an obvious interest in Libya: It’s the North African country’s No. 1 oil consumer. European leaders were also vilifying Gaddafi for decades while simultaneously putting up with him, even as he provided sanctuary for countless terrorist organizations from the northern Irish IRA to the Palestinian PLO. By 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were the two leaders strongly pushing the most to initiate a NATO campaign to oust Gaddafi, with U.S. President Obama and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reluctantly following behind.
Cameron and France’s new President Francois Hollande both seemed ready to “punish Assad” over the alleged gas attacks the regime has been employing as of late, but now seem to be wavering or scaling back a bit in the wake of new UN reports claiming the chemical weapons may have been used by the rebels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel certainly won’t risk taking any action just weeks away from nationwide elections – precisely why she didn’t want to risk unpopularity during the Libyan intervention two years ago as well.
To put it bluntly, the U.S.’s strategic interest is to avoid becoming drawn further into another age-old sectarian vendetta that saps the U.S.’s ability to maintain its balance in the world. Still, as frequently happens, many in the U.S. and Europe are appalled at the horrors of the civil war, some of whom have called on the U.S. to “do something.” The U.S. has been reluctant to heed these calls. While Washington has no love for the Assad regime, it does not have a direct interest in the outcome, since all possible outcomes are bad from its perspective. Moreover, the people who are most emphatic that something be done to stop the killings will be the first to condemn the U.S. when its starts killing people to stop the killings (surprise).
The Obama administration therefore adopted an extremely cautious strategy. It said that the U.S. would not get directly involved in Syria unless the Assad regime used chemical weapons. When Obama proclaimed his red line on Syria and chemical weapons, he assumed the issue would not come up. Unless Obama can get overwhelming, indisputable proof that Assad did not – and that isn’t going to happen – Obama will either have to act on the red line principle or be shown that he was bluffing. But there is no political support in the U.S. for intervention. That’s the hand the president has to play, so it’s hard to see how he avoids military action and retains credibility. It is also hard to see how he takes military action without a political revolt against him if it goes wrong, and it could.
But as you can see, we’re not the only ones involved in this global game of chess within Syria.
editors note:I don’t know if this can be confirmed but I am going to post anyway
source : examiner
Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad and his family arrived in Tehran Aug 28, landing at Khomeini Airport aboard his presidential jet. Iranian foreign ministry sources confirmed this with the Lebanese newspaper a-Nahar.
Accompanying the Assad family was a group of senior Syrian government officials who together with Assad are officially there to hold talks with the Iranian government about a Syrian response to a possible US strike on Syrian WMD assets which is expected to take place in the near future.
As this information made its way into a-Nahar, Syrian Army generals continued their dire warning that if Syria is attacked, ‘Israel will burn’ and that if Syria weakens, ‘certain irresponsible groups’ will be formed that would endanger Israel.
Pres. Assad and his family fleeing to Tehran is no surprise. Iran and Syria have been decade’s long allies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Assad’s are Alawite Muslims, which are an offshoot of Shia Islam which is the predominant Muslim sect in Iran.
Syria under the Assad Dynasty of first Hafez and then son Bashar al-Assad were instrumental in helping Iran build, train, equip and supply the terror army known as Hezbollah in southern Lebanon to threaten Israel. Without Assad in control of Syria, Hezbollah can not survive.
Assad’s fleeing likely means a Western military strike cannot be far off. If the strike is limited strictly to a brief missile and air campaign, then Assad could return to Damascus once it’s over. If however, events lead to a sustained campaign and/or a ground invasion of Syria by Turkey, Israel or a coalition of nations then Assad’s departure will be permanent.
The most likely reason for the mass chemical weapons attack in the first place, was that Assad’s Fourth Armored Division was in danger of being overrun and they were the last line of defense in central Damascus. Rebels are likely regrouping for a renewed offensive and if Assad does not have any WMD as an option, then returning to Damascus would mean his capture or execution.
There is now a coalition of 36 nations forming for a strike on Syria including Britain, France, Turkey, Australia and Canada among the more powerful nations. It remains to be seen however, whether the United States will participate.
Pres. Obama has been dragging his feet with US allies eager to strike Syrian WMD delivery vehicles and weapons by insisting on a UN Security Council Resolution on Syria, awaiting a UN weapons inspector report when those inspectors have indefinitely postponed any further inspections; and telling world leaders that there has to be accountability assigned before any strike can be authorized.
The governments of Britain, France and Turkey have indicated a willingness to go ahead without the UN on board and have each called their respective Parliaments in to special session for legislative authorization for the use of force. Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan has taken the further measure of asking the Turkish Parliament for a new mandate with language allowing him to act in Syria without a UN mandate or NATO sanction. The existing Syria mandate required one or the other for anything more than defensive operations.
Pres. Assad fleeing to Iran, and with wife and family in tow along with senior regime cronies, is indication that and attack is forthcoming with or without the United States onboard and that someone has tipped off Assad that the attack is pending.
“Afghans affiliated to the al-Qaeda constitute over 65% of the Jihadi Salafi groups in (the Syrian province of) Deir Ezzor and they have come to Syria from Iraq,” the military source told FNA on the condition of anonymity.
The CIA and US special operational troops and have been secretly training Syrian rebels at bases in Jordan and Turkey since November 2012. Up to 100 from all over Syria have gone through courses in the last month alone, according to US media reports.
At the two-week courses trainees are taught to use Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter anti-tank rifles, anti-tank missiles, as well as 23-millimeter anti-aircraft weapons, Los Angeles Times reported citing anonymous US officials and rebel commanders.
One of such US covert training session, conducted by American, Jordanian and French, has allegedly been taking place in Jordan for the last month or so, the newspaper cited Brig. Gen. Yahya Bittar, the head of intelligence for the Free Syrian Army.
The exact number of rebels given instruction in both countries since the training began at a new American base in southwest Jordan could not be determined. But according to a different rebel commander the training in Jordan involves 20 to 45 insurgents at a time.
The training reportedly started months before President Obama approved sending arms to anti-Assad rebels for the first time in mid-June. The secret courses have involved fighters from the Free Syrian Army, according to US official, who spoke to the newspaper anonymously. They have been selected when US military set up supply lines to provide nonlethal assistance to rebels, according to the official.
So far, about 100 rebels from Dara have attended four courses, while rebels from Damascus have attended three courses, according to a rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara.
“Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training and afterward, they would try to get information on the situation inside” Syria, said the commander, who helps oversee weapons acquisitions.
Graduates are sent back across the border to re-join the fight, Brig. Gen. Bittar said.
The rebels have been promised supplies of armor-piercing anti-tank weapons and other arms to resist President Assad’s army, the Dara commander said. Since last year, the weapons sent through the Dara military council, apparently from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, have included four or five Russian-made heavy Concourse anti-tank missiles, 18 14.5-millimeter guns mounted on the backs of pickup trucks and 30 82-millimeter recoilless rifles, the commander told the newspaper.
“I’m telling you, this amount of weapons, once they are spread across the province [of Dara] is considered nothing,” the rebel commander was quoted as saying. “We need more than this to tip the balance or for there to even be a balance of power.”
The White House and CIA officials have declined to comment on the alleged training programs while other US officials have confirmed the training, though disputed details provided by rebels.
rest of story:
A maelstrom is sweeping the Middle East and Turkey is in the center of it; is in fact the cause of it.
The only member of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization military bloc in Asia, and one moreover bordering Syria, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is intensifying military attacks inside Syria and Iraq and threatening to plunge the entire region into destabilization and war.
Having shelled targets inside Syria daily for a week after a mortar shell landed inside its southeastern territory on October 3, which Ankara blamed on the Syrian military, the Turkish armed forces have again, as they did two months ago, moved tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile defenses and troops to the border and have deployed 25 warplanes to a base in Diyarbakir in the Kurdish region of the country, both actions allegedly targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) though in fact part of a general military mobilization that will not be limited to strikes against that group’s fighters and supporters.
Turkey’s Doğan News Agency reported that 25 F-16 fighter jets and other aircraft arrived at the air base on October 8 and Today’s Zaman announced that 12 F-16s struck what were identified as PKK sites on Mount Qandil on the Iraqi-Iranian border.
The following day Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denounced the violation of his nation’s sovereignty, stating “These Turkish attacks on Iraqi territories are not acceptable and we will take the necessary diplomatic measures” and adding, “We do understand the reasons behind such acts, yet we do not tolerate such breaches.”
Recently the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Iraqi parliament announced its intention to demand Turkish military forces leave the north of the country where committee member Safia al-Suhail stated there were 16 Turkish military bases inside Iraq near the two countries’ border.
Revealingly, on October 8 Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Moscow where he visited the foreign ministry and will meet with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss closer ties in the military and energy spheres.
A week ago the top military commander of NATO, Admiral James Stavridis, paid an unannounced visit to the Turkish capital to meet with Chief of General Staff General Necdet Özel and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz.
According to the Turkish press:
“The Allied Air Command in İzmir came under scrutiny during the discussions. The command in İzmir was most recently on the public agenda during the debates over NATO’s early warning system in Kürecik, Malatya, which is a part of NATO’s missile defense shield. The Kürecik radar system was installed to observe Iranian skies for any missile threat.”
After the incident of October 3, NATO’s main civilian governing body, the North Atlantic Council, met in Brussels on Turkey’s prompting to discuss a joint strategy against Syria.
A statement issued after the unprecedented late-night meeting confirmed that, “In view of the Syrian regime’s recent aggressive acts at NATO’s southeastern border, which are a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security of one of its Allies, the North Atlantic Council met today, within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty…”
In language more evocative of the military bloc’s Article 5 war clause, the statement added: “In the spirit of indivisibility of security and solidarity deriving from the Washington Treaty, the Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally…”
Ahead of a two-day meeting of NATO defense chiefs, including the Pentagon’s Leon Panetta, to convene on October 9, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen proclaimed “I can assure you we have all necessary plans in place to defend and protect Turkey, our ally.”
On the same day Turkey’s head of state, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatened: “The state that is not ready for war at any moment is not fully developed. Turkey must be ready for war in any case.”
Hürriyet Daily News cited an unnamed Turkish official as confirming that NATO “was active on the issue [the escalating military conflict with Syria] behind the scenes,” with his comments paraphrased as follows:
“NATO has increased its military presence in the region with vessels patrolling in the Mediterranean Sea under Operation Active Endeavor and routine flights heading to its operations to Afghanistan, but these moves were not announced officially to avoid a reaction.”
Last week, only hours before the shelling incident that has provided Turkey the occasion for authorizing ongoing military attacks inside Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters in Moscow that his country had warned NATO and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) against conspiring to manufacture pretexts for military intervention inside Syria such as demanding so-called humanitarian corridors or buffer zones inside the latter nation and launching armed provocations on the Turkish-Syrian border.
He said, “In our contacts with our partners both in NATO and in the region, including on international forums, we have called on them not to look for pretexts in order to carry out a [military] operation.”
The next day just such an incident occurred.
On October Ali Akbar Velayati, former Iranian foreign minister and current senior adviser to Ali Khamenei, accused NATO of laying the groundwork for war against Syria, stating, “Today, NATO is ready to issue a threat against Syria and intends to enter Syria under the pretext that one of the members of this organization [Turkey] has been threatened.”
Turkish is harboring, arming and training thousands of so-called Free Syrian Army forces while conducting major air strikes inside Iraq and near the Iranian border and massing troops and military hardware on the Syrian border in a campaign to exterminate the PKK, a lawless rampage fully supported by the U.S. and NATO.
Turkey and its NATO allies have lit a short fuse to a large powder keg
The mortar used to attack the Turkish town of Akcakale is a design specific to NATO and was given to Syrian rebels by Ankara, according to Turkey’s Yurt newspaper. The mortar killed one adult and four children from the same family on Wednesday.
An article by the paper’s Editor-in-Chief, Merdan Yanardag, states that the newspaper received information from a reliable source, which claimed that Turkey itself sent the mortars to rebels in the so-called “free army.”
“Turkey is a longtime member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and they’re going to act in conjunction with other NATO powers, so it’s unsurprising that this has happened,” editor of the Pan-African news wire, Abayomi Azikiwe, told RT.
NATO has so far shunned any military involvement in the conflict, but Azikiwe says the alliance is deeply involved in every decision that Turkey makes.
“Ankara isn’t taking any military actions or contemplating any type of military strategy without being in full cooperation with NATO forces,” he said.
Turkey retaliated at Syria for a sixth consecutive day on Monday, after a mortar from Syria landed in Turkey’s Hatay province.
And as Turkey fights to defend its border towns, the country’s president says the country’s military will take any action necessary.
“The worst-case scenarios are taking place right now in Syria … Our government is in constant consultation with the Turkish military. Whatever is needed is being done immediately as you see, and it will continue to be done,” President Abdullah Gul said in a statement on Monday.
But it’s not only leaders within Turkey that are stating their opinions on the conflict.
Earlier on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned of the consequences that the conflict could bring to the region.
“The escalation of the conflict along the Syrian-Turkish border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon are extremely dangerous,” Ban said at the opening of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.
The exchange of fire began last Wednesday, when Syrian mortar shells killed a woman and four children from the same family in Akcakale.
Many fear the situation will lead to regional conflict, with political analyst Dan Glazebrook, saying that Ankara aims to drag NATO into a war with Syria.
“On the one hand the [Turks] are trying to give cover to the rebels to continue their fight, as they know that the rebels are getting defeated on the ground so they are bombarding Syria as a way to help the rebels not lose too many of their positions,” Glazebrook told RT. “But I think also they may be hoping that they can somehow nudge, provoke NATO into taking action as well, into prompting a kind of blitzkrieg that is actually the only thing really that would enable the rebels to win now at this state.”
American officials confirmed Turkish news reports on Friday that two Tunisian men had been detained in Turkey in connection with the killing of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in the attack on a United States diplomatic post in Libya on Sept. 11.
But the officials said they were awaiting more information from the Turkish authorities, and it remained unclear whether the two were considered to be suspects or witnesses in the violent attack in Benghazi, which fell on the 11th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Kanal D, a private Turkish television network, said the two were stopped at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Wednesday as they tried to enter the country using false passports.
Another report, in Sabah, a Turkish newspaper, said that immigration officials had matched the names of the men, who were said to be in their mid-30s, to a list of possible suspects that American intelligence agencies had given to security services in the region.
Turkish police officials declined to comment.
Video: Benghazi attack likely pre-planned, officials say (on this page)
A State Department spokesman, Mark C. Toner, said Friday that American officials “have been in contact with the Turkish government on this issue,” but he referred more detailed inquiries to the F.B.I. Asked about the detained Tunisians, an F.B.I. spokesman, Paul E. Bresson, said officials were not “ready to discuss at this point or in any way characterize what their involvement may or may not have been.”
President Obama has repeatedly pledged to “bring to justice” those responsible for the deaths of Mr. Stevens, a popular ambassador whose death provoked a protest by Benghazi residents, as well as Sean Smith, a computer specialist, and Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, both former members of the Navy SEALs.
But investigators have faced many obstacles. So far, Libyan officials have issued sometimes conflicting reports about arrests that offer little hard information. And security concerns had prevented an F.B.I. team from visiting Benghazi until Thursday, when they spent several hours on the scene of the attack.
At a news conference on Thursday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declined to comment in detail on the investigation. But he suggested that the F.B.I. team’s limited access to the crime scene in Benghazi had not prevented investigators from following other leads.
“You should not assume that all that we could do or have been doing is restricted solely to Benghazi,” Mr. Holder said. “There are a variety of other places in country and outside the country where relevant things could be done and have been done.”
American investigators have been compiling information on the militants implicated in the attack, drawing in part on witness accounts and interviews with suspected attackers identifying some as members of a local militia, Ansar al-Shariah. That raises questions about what kind of role the detained Tunisians might have played.
Senior American military and counterterrorism officials say they are preparing for operations to kill or capture the suspected perpetrators, though any American action will be politically delicate. Much of the Libyan population is friendly to the United States, which supported the revolution that overthrew Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, while some of the country’s many militias are not. Unilateral American military action, including drone strikes or commando raids, could set off resentment that might cut across such divides.
This story, Turkey Detains 2 in Connection With Killings in Libya, originally appeared in the New York Times.
Copyright © 2012 The New York Times
source:the new york times
By TIM ARANGO
DOHUK, Iraq — Just off a main highway that stretches east of this city and slices through a moonscape of craggy hills, a few hundred Syrian Kurdish men have been training for battle, marching through scrub brush and practicing rifle drills.
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The men, many of them defectors from the Syrian Army living in white trailers dotting a hillside camp, are not here to join the armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. They are preparing for the fight they expect to come after, when Mr. Assad falls and there is a scramble across Syria for power and turf.
These men want an autonomous Kurdish region in what is now Syria, a prospect they see as a step toward fulfilling a centuries-old dream of linking the Kurdish minorities in Iraq, Turkey and Iran into an independent nation.
But that desire, to right a historical grievance for a people divided and oppressed through generations, also threatens to draw a violent reaction from those other nations. They have signaled a willingness to take extreme actions to prevent the loss of territory to a greater Kurdistan.
‘After the fall’
The first step is already in motion, as the Iraqi Kurds provide haven, training and arms to the would-be militia.
“They are being trained for after the fall, for the security vacuum that will come after the Assad government collapses,” said Mahmood Sabir, one of a number of Syrian Kurdish opposition figures operating in Iraq.
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That the Kurds are arming themselves for a fight, one that could prove decisive in shaping post-revolutionary Syria, adds another element of volatility to the conflict. It suggests that the government’s fall would not lead to peace — but, instead, an all-out sectarian war that could drag in neighboring countries.
Against the backdrop of the raging civil war, Syrian Kurds have already etched out a measure of autonomy in their territories — not because they have taken up arms against the government, but because the government has relinquished Kurdish communities to local control, allowing the Kurds to gain a head start on self-rule.
Video: German foreign minister: UN has ‘failed’ Syria (on this page)
Kurdish flags fly over former government buildings in those areas, and schools have opened that teach in the Kurdish language, something the Assad government had prohibited.
“We are organizing our society, a Kurdish society,” said Saleh Mohammed, the leader of the Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D., which is viewed with deep suspicion by other Kurdish groups for its ties to Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K.
The P.K.K. is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe and has lately stepped up its guerrilla attacks in Turkey.
Ready to fight Assad or rebels
The Kurds say they are girding for a fight, should the government try to reclaim Kurdish cities or if the Sunni-dominated militias, loosely organized under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and fighting to bring down the government, try to move into Kurdish areas.
“Of course, we’ll defend ourselves,” Mr. Mohammed said. “According to Kurdish tradition, we have weapons in our houses. Every house should have its own weapon.”
‘Senseless acts of torture and violence’: Charity appeals for help for Syria’s childrenMuch of the Syrian Kurds’ efforts are being guided by Masoud Barzani, the head of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, whose autonomy and relative prosperity serves as a model for Syrian Kurds. The men at the camp are being trained and provided weapons by an Iraqi Kurdish special forces unit that is linked to Mr. Barzani’s political party.
Mr. Barzani has sought to play a kingmaker role with his Syrian brethren by uniting the various factions, like he has in the sectarian and ethnic tinderbox of Iraqi politics. In July he reached a deal to organize more than a dozen Kurdish parties under the Kurdish Supreme Council, and many of the officials work out of an office in Erbil, in a mixed-use complex of cul-de-sacs and tidy subdivisions called the Italian Village.
PhotoBlog: Amid Syria’s civil war violence, a strange calm in the capital
Oppressed for decades under Arab autocrats, denied rights by one post-Ottoman Turkish leader after another, and betrayed after World War I by Allied powers who had once promised Kurdish independence, this time the Kurds are determined to seize the upheaval of the Arab Spring and bend history to their will.
Time to make history?
The civil war in Syria, whose nearly two million Kurds are mostly clustered near its northeastern border with Turkey, has excited the aspirations for statehood that the Kurds have held for centuries. These dreams have been kept in abeyance since the Western victors of World War I set down arbitrary new borders for the Middle East that divided the Kurdish people among four nations: Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.
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“It’s a historical moment for the Kurds to take advantage of, to achieve change,” said Kawa Azizi, a Syrian who is a professor of politics and a Kurdish opposition politician. He works out of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, serving now as a hub for the Syrian Kurdish militia and civilian activities.
When the uprising began nearly 18 months ago, some observers worried that the Kurds could make common cause with Mr. Assad in exchange for more rights and autonomy. Many described the Kurds as sitting on the fence, waiting to choose sides. Many Kurds dispute that analysis. They say they have always hated President Assad.
Slideshow: Syria uprising (on this page)
In ceding control of the Kurdish cities, the Assad government has been able to focus its heavy weapons on the fight with the Sunni-led opposition. The move has also antagonized Turkey, which has supported the opposition but worries that an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria could become a free zone for Kurdish insurgents to launch attacks on Turkey.
In Turkey, the fight with the P.K.K. has recently resulted in casualties at a level not seen since the late 1990s, according to a recent report published by the International Crisis Group.
NYT: Rebels besiege Syria air base, shoot down jets
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has suggested that Turkey has a right to intervene in Syria’s Kurdish areas if it believes Turkey’s security is under threat.
‘They are Arabs’
The Kurds of Syria, divided among more than a dozen factions of shifting alliances, seem united in at least two respects: they are opposed to the Assad government, but deeply suspicious of the ambitions of the Free Syrian Army.
“First of all, they are Arabs,” Mr. Azizi said of the Free Syrian Army. “We do not want the Arabs to control us.”
While there is little fighting in the Syrian Kurdish towns, and officials interviewed in Iraq say that a measure of calm has settled over the areas, Kurdish refugees are steadily streaming into northern Iraq. Refugees say government intelligence operatives are still harassing Kurds, and threatening them if they do not join the government’s army.
Food and medical supplies are also running low, contributing to the exodus of refugees. At the Domiz refugee camp near Dohuk, a tent city of nearly 25,000 people, about 150 to 200 new refugees arrive each day. “The only place we could come was Kurdistan in Iraq,” said Jawan Suleiman, 32, who has lived at the camp since April.
Mr. Suleiman earns money selling snacks and cigarettes to other camp residents. In his home, a concrete husk with a tented roof, he hangs a placard of Mr. Barzani’s late father, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, a famous Kurdish military and political leader. As Mr. Suleiman drank peach nectar and smoked cigarette after cigarette, he explained that the Kurds were never on the fence in Syria’s uprising.
“We suffered a lot,” he said. “Now it’s time that we stand and have our own region so we can get our rights.”
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The price of Saladin’s victory?
The Syrian military has kept a low profile in Kurdish areas. For now, with the focus on Syria, Kurdish leaders acknowledge the ambition of an independent nation that unites the Kurdish communities in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, but they say they will settle for independence within a united Syria — as an interim step.
In the Middle East, historical grievances are never fully in the past, but only prologue to current circumstances. As some Kurds see it, the historical roots of their oppression stretch back centuries, to the exploits of a Muslim Kurdish warrior named Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt, who achieved victory over European crusaders in the 12th century.
Some Kurds believe that what followed in the 20th century — the denial of a Kurdish state by the allies after World War I, support by the international community for Arab autocrats who shunned Kurds as second-class citizens, policies of forcibly removing Kurds from their lands and resettling Arabs, the gassing of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein — was cosmic retribution for Saladin’s victories.
Mr. Azizi, the professor and politician, said: “The West had been punishing us for what he did. Now I think that punishment is over.”
Duraid Adnan and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Dohuk and Erbil.
This article, headlined “Kurds to Pursue More Autonomy in a Fallen Syria,” was first published in The New York Times.
President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorising US support earlier this year allowing the sharing of intelligence information by American agencies to help oust Bashar al-Assad, sources told the Reuters news agency.
The Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some “non lethal” backing for Assad’s opponents – including $25 million set aside for assistance this week – but the sharing of intelligence had not been known.
According to the source, the order has allowed US agents to work closely with a clandestine command centre based in Turkey, believed to be in Adana, a city 60 miles from the Syrian border. Incirlik, a US airbase, is also in the city.
The White House has stopped short of arming rebel forces although some US allies have been actively supplying weapons.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are largely financing the anti-Assad effort, supplying guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.