“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
Monday, November 30, 2015
Sunday, November 29, 2015
War with Isis: President Obama demands that Turkey close stretch of frontier with SyriaINDEPENDENT
The complete closure of the 550-mile-long border would be a serious blow to Isis, which has brought tens of thousands of Islamist volunteers across the frontier over the past three years.
Turkey is now under heavy pressure from the US and Russia, with President Vladimir Putin directly accusing Ankara of aiding Isis and al-Qaeda. In the wake of the shooting down of a Russian aircraft by a Turkish jet, Russia is launching heavy air strikes in support of the Syrian army’s advance to control the western end of the Syrian Turkish border. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a Russian air strike on the town of Ariha yesterday killed 18 people and wounded dozens more. Meanwhile Turkey said it had now received the body of the pilot killed when the plane was shot down and would repatriate it to Moscow.
Meanwhile in Iraq, officials said three more mass graves had been found in the northern town of Sinjar, which Kurdish forces backed by US-led air strikes recaptured from Isis earlier this month.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Putin responds to the Turkmen that killed the Russian pilot but hold on. Here is what Russia has been doing to the Turkmen prior to the Russian plane being shot down:
BACKGROUND ON TURKMENS:
Turkmen card plays into hands of AK Party gov’t in times of crisis
GÜLTEN ÜSTÜNTAĞ / ISTANBUL TODAY’S ZAMAN
Controversial remarks on MİT-trucks brought Turkmens to the fore
Turkmens in Syria prominent element of country
Experts: Turkmens abandoned to their fate
Friday, November 27, 2015
Obama should just tell Turkey and Erdogan to shut up - Jesse Ventura makes more sense than our A-Team Rulers and Masters
Moscow (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had given prior information to the United States of the flight path of the plane downed by Turkey on the Syrian border.
"The American side, which leads the coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our planes' flights, and we were hit exactly there and at that time," Putin said at a joint press conference with French counterpart Francois Hollande in the Kremlin.
Ahead of the Hollande talks, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traded barbs, with the Russian leader saying he was waiting for an apology and Erdogan ruling out any such move.
Putin on Thursday dismissed as "rubbish" Turkey's claim that it would not have shot down the jet if it had known it was Russian.
"They [our planes] have identification signs and these are well visible," Putin said. "Instead of [...] ensuring this never happens again, we are hearing unintelligible explanations and statements that there is nothing to apologise about."
Putin has also accused Turkey of buying oil from the Islamic State jihadist group, whose financing heavily relies on the sale of energy resources.
Putin said there was "no doubt" that oil from "terrorist-controlled" territory in Syria was making its way across the border into Turkey.
"We see from the sky where these vehicles [carrying oil] are going," Putin said. "They are going to Turkey day and night."
“These barrels are not only carrying oil but also the blood of our citizens because with this money terrorists buy weapons and ammunition and then organise bloody attacks," he added.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Why Did Turkey Dare Shoot Down a Russian Plane? The Proxy War in Syria
Posted on Nov 25, 2015
By Juan Cole
This post originally ran on Truthdig contributor Juan Cole’s website.
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.
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.