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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
(Reuters) – Damascus has sent a letter to the United Nations accusing some Lebanese areas of helping al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood to take root along the Syrian border, adding to its criticism of Turkeyand Libya for allegedly providing arms to Syrian rebels.
“Some Lebanese areas next to the Syrian border are incubating terrorist elements from al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are messing with the security of Syrian citizens and work on undermining the United Nations Special Envoy’s plan,” Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari wrote.
The letter, which was sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council, was delivered on Thursday and obtained by Reuters on Friday.
“In some areas (of Lebanon) … warehouses have been set up for weapons and ammunition that is arriving to Lebanon illegally, either by sea, or sometimes through using the planes of specific countries to transport weapons to Lebanon and then smuggle them to Syria, under the excuse that they (aircraft) are carrying humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees,” Ja’afari said.
He specifically said charities run by Lebanese Salafists and the Future Movement, led by the son of assassinated statesman Rafik al-Hariri, were being used to provide safe haven to terrorists in Lebanon.
Lebanon has had a complicated relationship with Syria, which continues to exercise some influence over its neighbor despite the 2005 departure of thousands of Syrian troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanese soil.
Last week Ja’afari accused Turkey and Libya arming Syria’s opposition, which forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have tried unsuccessfully for 14 months to crush, killing over 10,000 people in the process, according to the United Nations.
“The case of the ship Lutfullah 2, which was intercepted by the Lebanese Army, proves that Libya and Turkey are cooperating with other States to send murderous weapons to terrorist groups, in order to wreak more carnage and destruction,” he said in a letter to Ban and the Security Council last week.
Lebanese authorities said that they seized a large consignment of Libyan weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy caliber ammunition, from the ship, which it intercepted in the Mediterranean.
Turkey reacted this week with a vehement denial. “Turkey strongly rejects the unfounded allegations,” Turkish Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said in a response to Ban and the council.
NO ‘HARD EVIDENCE’ OF AL QAEDA LINK
A few miles from the the unfolding offensive in Homs, Syria, snow fell as people lined up outside a bakery in the town of Al Qusayr on Thursday morning. It was as close as most journalists were able to get to the besieged city, where two of their colleagues remained trapped alongside thousands of civilians after more than three weeks of steady government bombardment.
Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad pounded the Babr Amr district of Homs on Thursday in what appeared to be a final push on the opposition stronghold, activists said. On Wednesday, a Syrian official heightened fears of greater carnage to come when he said the government would “cleanse” the area.
Opposition activists remained defiant.
“Baba Amr will be the straw that will break the regime’s back,” Mohaimen al-Rumaid told Reuters from an area in Turkey near the Syrian border. “All of Syria is turning into Baba Amr.” Read more.