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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Putin’s “In your face bitch” move to deploy S-400 missiles to the Russian air base in Latakia

Why Did Turkey Dare Shoot Down a Russian Plane? The Proxy War in Syria 

Posted on Nov 25, 2015
    An illustration of a Turkish fighter attacking a Russian bomber. Shutterstock
This post originally ran on Truthdig contributor Juan Cole’s website.

The Turkish government decision to down a Russian jet operating in the north of the Syrian province of Latakia is breathtaking in its boldness.  Russia may no longer be a superpower, but it is a nuclear-armed great power.  The newly elected Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his mentor President Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey can rule without the help of any other party in parliament, and seems determined to double down on its policy of intervening in Syria.

The Davutoglu government risks substantial economic harm.  Russian tourism has boosted the Turkish economy, and Russia was planning an important gas pipeline through Turkey as well as the building for Ankara of a nuclear power reactor.  All those activities have just been cancelled, and tour operators in Russia are looking for other tourist markets after pressure from the Putin government.  Russia is attributing the attack to an attempt by Turkish officials to protect gasoline smuggling routes from Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) to Turkey, but the geography of the shoot-down tells against this interpretation.  This was near al-Qaeda territory in the northwest, not Daesh territory in the northeast, and the issue is arms smuggling, not oil smuggling.

Turkey has backed a range of Muslim fundamentalist groups in northern Syria in hopes of eventually overthrowing the Baath government of Bashar al-Assad.  Turkey is also afraid of the leftist Kurds of northern Syria, which are accused of attempting to ethnically cleanse Arab and Turkmen villages that stand in the way of their establishing land bridges between the three major Kurdish cantons of northern Syria.  The People’s Protection Unites (YPG) or leftist Kurdish militias have already linked two of these cantons, defeating Daesh in order to do so.  The third, Afrin, is separated from Kobane by a set of Arab and Turkmen villages north of Aleppo.
But there are also Turkmen villages in the north of Idlib province west of Aleppo, and in the north of Latakia province to the west of Idlib.  Turkmen populations in those provinces have organized militias and have joined rebel groups fighting the al-Assad government.  Some of them have sometimes tactically allied with the Jabhat al-Nusrah, al-Qaeda in Syria, against government troops.

The Turkmen in the north of Latakia province live in an area called Turkmen Mountain near the Turkish border, including the sub-districts of Rabia and Qastal Maaf.  The Turks call this area Bayirbucak.  It is alleged that Turkey and the CIA are sending weapons for the rebel groups through Turkmen Mountain.  Rabia is just southwest of the Idlib city of Jisr al-Shughour, which fell to al-Qaeda and its allies in late April.  This city is a potential launching pad for the conquest of Latakia Province by hard line Salafi groups who are hand in hand with al-Qaeda.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 4.46.26 AM
Via Google Maps
One of Russia’s current strategic goals is to keep Latakia Province from falling to the rebels.  Latakia contains a crucial port of the same name, as well as the Tartous naval facility leased to the Russians.  Latakia is heavily Alawite, the Shiite group that is a mainstay of the al-Assad government.

Russia appears to have been attempting to cut off a smuggling route for CIA weapons such as T.O.W. anti-tank missiles through Jabal Turkmen by attacking the Turkmen militias of northern Latakia Province, in the interests of shoring up the al-Assad government there.  This attack may also have been intended to panic Turkmen populations into fleeing over the border into Turkey, thus removing a power base for Turkey on the Syrian side of the border and removing a group that would aid al-Qaeda and its allies in Jisr al-Shughour to move west.

The Turkish press has been extremely exercised about this Russian campaign against the Turkmen in Rabia and Jabal Turkmen more generally, and some newspapers appear to have foreseen the attack on the Russian jet.

The centrist Milliyet wrote (BBC Monitoring trans.): “The picture has totally changed in Syria. Russian jets have hit and Al-Asad’s Hezbollah-supported troops have started an operation to expel Turkmens from Bayirbucak. Was that a calculated move? Al-Asad’s intention is to widen his sphere of influence by taking control of the Turkmen region with Russia’s support… The more Ankara says that Al-Asad will go, the stronger Al-Asad makes his position.”

The centrist, pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah wrote on Tuesday, according to BBC Monitoring, “Now, attacks conducted by the Russia-Iran-Asad alliance against Turkmens have been added to that. The aim is clear: to draw Turkey into the war or to weaken its hand at the table. There are some other intrigues as well.”

The religious-Right Yeni Safak wrote (BBC Trans.): “Turkmen Mountain? It is Turkey’s ‘red’ line! No-one should assume that Turkey is just watching and waiting. So many things are being done behind the scenes! We will soon see them. Ankara will not be deterred by Turkey’s enemies!.. What is going on is an ‘unannounced world war’! Briefly, independent Muslim Turkey is putting up a vital fight against the Crusader-Zionist alliance!”

This paper seems to see Putin’s Russia as an Eastern Orthodox Christian power allied with Israel against Turkmen populations.  (None of this is true).  Its sources appear to have predicted to it Turkey’s dramatic response to the Russian campaign.  The center-right Turkiye compared the Russian campaign against Jabal Turkmen as a “Second Gallipoli,” referring to Winston Churchill’s hope of taking the Gallipoli Peninsula in WW I and then marching right up to the then capital, Istanbul, thus cutting the war in the eastern Mediterranean short.  The British empire was thwarted in this plan by a strong Ottoman defense and use of machine guns and artillery.  Turkiye is hearkening back to WW I, when Russia attacked eastern Anatolia!

Source: Quotes package from BBC Monitoring, in Turkish 24 Nov 15

We may conclude that Russia’s targeting of Turkmen, an ethnic group that speaks a language similar to that spoken in Turkey, raised nationalist hackles in Ankara.  But in addition, these Syrian Turkmen are religious, just as is the leadership of the ruling AKP in Turkey.  And, further, they are a linchpin for Turkish, American and Saudi intervention in Syria, since they appear to be among the arms smugglers getting munitions to the rebels against the al-Assad government.  Although the CIA maintains that these weapons only go to some 45 “vetted” groups that are not extremists, they in fact get into the hands of al-Qaeda and its allies, grouped as the Army of Conquest, as well.  Russia must defeat the Army of Conquest and protect the Alawites of Latakia if it is to achieve its war aims in Syria, and appears to have decided to begin by blocking Turkmen smuggling.  The Turkmen had their revenge, killing one or both of the pilots who ejected from the downed fighter jet and also taking down a Russian helicopter that attempted to rescue them.
Russia and Turkey are now fighting a proxy war in Syria, and have been all this fall.  As of yesterday, they are not just using proxies, but are directly in conflict with one another.

Turkey and the Turkmen are carving out a sphere of influence in northern Syria and are insisting that Russia recognize it.  How severe the conflict becomes depends in part on how Russia responds to this setback for its war aims.  It also depends on whether Turkish goals are more ambitious, to help the al-Qaeda-led Army of Conquest take Latakia.  If Jabal Turkmen is a red line for Turkey, Latakia port is a red line for Russia.  Red lines have a way of turning into hot wars.



    Turkish military: We did not know jet’s nationality

    The Turkish military has said that they have been in contact with the Russian defence attaches and have told their Russian counterparts that they were unaware of the nationality of the jet when they issued the warnings.
    The military said they told the attaches that they implemented the rules of engagement when the jet did not heed their warnings.
    In an attempt to ensure the crisis does not become a full-blown diplomatic row, the military said they have been in contact with military authorities in Moscow and "expressed readiness for cooperation".

  2. You will recall that Israel has been trying to prevent Syria from acquiring the Russian S-300 system. Putin upped that game.


    The shooting down of an Israeli warplane by Syria has not been reported by Western and Israeli media sources. According to Sputnik, on August 21, “the Israeli Air Force resumed airstrikes on Western Syria, targeting a government army base at Khan Al-Sheih in Damascus province and another in the al-Quneitra province after a six-hour halt in attacks that followed their multiple air raids over the Golan Heights.”

    Fars News Agency (FNA) also confirmed the Israeli attacks and the shooting down of an Israeli fighter plane:

    The Syrian air defense system shot down an Israeli warplane violating the Arab country’s air space.

    The Israeli fighter jet was targeted over the city of Al-Quneitra on Friday.
    Israel regularly violates the Syrian airspace and it launches missile attacks against the Arab country.

    On Friday, the Israeli Air Force resumed airstrikes on Western Syria, targeting Brigade 68 Base in Khan Al-Sheih in Damascus province and Brigade 90 Base in the al-Quneitra province after a six hour halt in attacks that followed their multiple air raids over the Golan Heights.
    * * *
    Yesterday, Friday, August 21, 2015 in the early hours, Damascus time, an Israeli US made F-16 fighter-bomber, flew into Syrian airspace brazenly and fired at Brigade 68 and, then, turned and flew back toward Brigade 90 in Qunaytra in order to insure a safe landing in occupied Palestine if the aircraft was struck. It was struck. An SA-9 from the Iftiraas Air Defense Base and an SA-2 near the Khalkhaala AB were fired. But, the technical wizardry was most on display when an S-300 (SA-10 “Grumble) super-air-defense missile was fired from the Republican Guard base near the Mazza AB at the foot of Qaasiyoon Mountain west of Damascus. This was done so that the F-16’s electronic countermeasures would first fix on the SA-2 and SA-9 while the S-300 plowed forward to exterminate the vermin inside the Israeli aircraft. The S-300 vaporized the Israeli bomber. No evidence was seen of the pilot ejecting. Instead, eyewitness accounts described a ball of fire over the Golan and the remains scattering into the air over the Huleh Valley in Palestine.

  4. The government of Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week voted against the six resolutions condemning Israel which were passed by the UN General Assembly, a move hailed by the UN Watch NGO.


    Trudeau’s Liberals have also expressed support for Israel, and he recently noted that he would "support Israel and any Canadian government will." However, some analysts predicted a more critical line for Israel and a boost in support for the Palestinians in the event of a Trudeau win.

  5. November 26, 2015
    US government officially closes its eyes to genocide against ME Christians
    By Carol Brown

    The Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to deny Christians in the Middle East any relief from their horrific plight. The door to the United States has been closed using an obscure bureaucratic angle that withholds recognition of official refugee status for Christians fleeing ISIS. And now an unnamed State Department representative has signaled that Middle Eastern Christians may be excluded from an official declaration of genocide. Per a report at NRO, Yazidis will be officially recognized as victims of genocide. And rightfully so. But Christians are not slated to be. And while this may seem like meaningless bureaucratic garbage compared to the reality that is unfolding in the Middle East, the implications are significant.

    First, it would continue to render invisible the genocide that is being committed against Christians in the Middle East. There are no words to describe this disgrace, but sin comes to mind. For an overview of the savagery that has been, and continues to be, inflicted upon Christians in the Middle East, see the short summary of part of NRO article, below.

    ISIS has been enforcing its “convert or die” policy against Christians.

    Thousands of have been kidnapped and murdered by ISIS.

    Some executions are videotaped and used as threats against those held captive.

    Those who refuse to renounce their faith have been raped, beheaded, or crucified.

    Women and girls have been enslaved and sexually abused.

    Christians have been systematically stripped of all their wealth.

    Christian homes are marked with the red letter N for “Nazarene.”

    Members of the clergy have been assassinated.

    Churches and ancient monasteries have been demolished or desecrated.

    Second, whether or not a group receives an official genocide designation has far reaching implications. Again, summarizing part of the NRO article pertaining to how a genocide designation impacts American policy toward persecuted groups:

    The US can assist with the restoration of stolen land and property.

    Various forms of aid start to flow.

    Asylum can be granted.

    Most significantly, according to the Geneva Convention, without an official designation of genocide, no country, including the United States would be legally bound to take any action to protect or prevent the assault – the genocide – against Christians.

    As madness reigns, transforming the United States and the entire world into a place where evil is taking hold, there are echoes of sanity here and there. On the matter of an official genocide designation for Christians in the Middle East, bipartisan House Resolution 75 proposes that genocide is being faced no only by Yazidis, but by Christians and other minority groups in the Middle East.

    Please call your elected officials and urge them to support this bill. Like so many things, it’s a no brainer. And yet we are living in a time when the most obvious things require a massive grass roots effort. And even then, we are more often than not, thwarted. But we must always try.