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Jadaliyya Co-Editor Bassam Haddad Speaks on Syria’s Internal Wars and External Interventions, on NPR’s Spectrum

March 18, 2018

[This is a transcript of an interview conducted by NPR-affiliate WOUB Public Media. It was transcribed by John Kallas. See the original audio post here.]

This month the uprising in Syria will enter its eighth year.

More than 400,000 have been killed and over one-third of the nation’s infrastructure has been destroyed, says Bassam Haddad.

Half the population has been displaced from their homes and other countries have felt the glut of millions of Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting.

What started as a revolt against dictatorship in 2011 has become a cauldron of regional and international intervention. In addition to the United States and Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Hizbollah have been involved in supporting one side or the other.

The “Islamic State,” ISIS, at one point controlled more than 40 percent of the country’s territories. ISIS was finally routed from most of their strongholds by various military coalitions after fierce battles in Fall 2017. (East Aleppo, Deir-Zour, Mosul…)

At the eight-year mark of the struggle for Syria, reminiscent of similar goals decades prior, the country still faces internal political unrest, external interventions, battles between Turkey and the Kurds, and a massive task to rebuild the physical part of the country and infrastructure destroyed by war.

The recent and ongoing incessant pummeling of Al-Ghouta suburb of Damascus by the Syrian regime and Russia speaks in terms of the Syrian regime’s determination to liberate other regions under international control in support of terrorist factions

Haddad talks to Spectrum about all of these issues. He puts the conflicts into historical context from the beginning of the uprisings and discusses the current challenges facing Syria and Syrians. (In context must go before and during France colonial mandate in 1919)

Haddad is a scholar, a teacher, an author, and a documentary film-maker.

His second book is provisionally titled “Understanding the Syrian Tragedy: Regime, Opposition and Outsiders” to be published by Stanford University Press. He also has been the co-producer/director of the award-winning documentary film, “About Baghdad” and he also directed the acclaimed film, “Arabs and Terrorism.”


Tom Hodson: Welcome to Spectrum. Spectrum features conversations with an eclectic group of people. Some are famous and some are not, but the common thread is that they all have captivating stories.

Today we are talking with Dr. Bassam Haddad, the Director of Middle East and Islamic Studies Program at George Mason University.

He’s also part of the core faculty there in philosophy, politics, and economics. He is working on his second book about Syria and its internal struggles. Dr. Haddad talked with us about the armed struggles in Syria, especially since the defeat of ISIS and the continuing struggles in this war-torn country.

Can you explain why the situation in Syria is so confusing to anybody outside? (Why outside? Is there anybody outside the Syrian international conflict?)

Bassam Haddad: I am delighted to speak on this topic and I would like to address what you asked by saying something a little different. That is: if you are actually following the news on Syria and the more you follow the news on Syria, in fact, you actually become more confused. (The story has been much clearer after the successive victories of Syria army)

So if you are confused, I always say it is probably because you are following the news. Those who do not follow probably have a sort of classical view of the situation where they understand that there is an uprising against dictatorship which is exactly correct in terms of the basic narrative.

It actually became much more than that. It might surprise people that the trajectory of the Syrian Uprising is actually one of the more cautionary trajectories of uprisings and revolutions. (Unlike Libya, Tunisia, Egypt?)

Not because the uprising was not legitimate—it was perfectly legitimate and kind of late, if you will, because of the forty-some odd years of dictatorship. But it is because of what happened to the uprising as a function of meddling of various regions and international players on both sides, who effectively hijacked the uprising and turned it into a proxy war that serves the interests of state and non-state actors that are supporting either of the sides.

Of course the regime, on the one hand, and the opposition—or oppositions with an S—on the other hand. And of course, you have the third player in the boxing ring, which made things even more complicated, which is ISIS, a group that was not interested in a revolution against dictatorship and for the purposes of democracy, but interested in territorial gains across Syria and Iraq to erect its own version of a state called a Caliphate or an Islamic state.

(What’s that crap ” for the purposes of democracy”? You can’t but kiss ass with US rhetoric?)

Tom Hodson: So once ISIS entered, and that was about 2013, is that about the time? (When Iraq turned down the proposal of Obama to retain indefinitely its military presence)

Bassam Haddad: It basically had a presence in Iraq. And then we basically have a number of developments where the Syrian border—the porous Syrian border—allowed the entry of what was called the Islamic State in Iraq into Syria with early potential alliances with Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is an Al-Qaeda affiliated group in Syria. That did not go very well. And then, of course, the Islamic State in Syria and Al-Sham, or ISIS, emerged out of this sort of experience between 2013 and 2014.

Tom Hodson: And ISIS in Syria meant to take over territory. It was not just an ideological movement, it was actually a territory movement.

Bassam Haddad: Absolutely, and this is what distinguishes ISIS from, say, Al-Qaeda. (Wrong. Al Nusra was controlled by Turkey and its activities delimited)

Given that ISIS actually had territorial aims, it wanted to establish a state of sorts with communities, with all the trappings of a state from a judiciary, to a bureaucracy, and so on and so forth, and of course an army.

And it aimed to establish its state in both Syria and Iraq and, in fact, at some point, ISIS controlled about 30% of Iraq and close to forty-five percent of Syria. And we are talking here mostly about non-metropolitan cities because ISIS was better equipped to seize and control non-metropolitan cities as a function of the existence of more equipped armies in metropolitan cities but also as a function of the social structure in more rural areas that was more susceptible to control by a group like ISIS with its own ideology and its own conservatism socially and otherwise.

Tom Hodson: And Mosul became sort of a focal point of ISIS, correct?

Bassam Haddad: And the only city that actually is a full fledged metropolitan city in either of these two countries that ISIS was able to seize. And it actually seized it sort of in an odd way because there was no battle, really, in Mosul.

They just almost like walked in. And that was a function of the dissatisfaction that people in Mosul had with the government, on the one hand, and the lack of readiness of the troops or the official presence of the Iraqi government in Mosul.

And ISIS was able to walk in without much of a battle. And that became, in 2014, the most significant territorial gain in terms of metropolitan areas for ISIS besides its, if you will, its wilaya or its statelet in Raqqa, in rural north Syria.

Tom Hodson: So let us summarize to this point, and then we will go on. But we had the Assad Regime trying to stay in power against multiple intersections of rebels that were not necessarily consolidated in one force. Then we had ISIS coming in, disrupting that battle between those two entities, and interjecting a third entity into this conflict.

Now ISIS, allegedly, has been pushed out. Were they pushed out by sort of a ceasefire or… how did ISIS get pushed out while the other two were still battling?

Bassam Haddad: Let me start from the beginning, perhaps, and that is always a thing when one talks about Syria; you get involved in more, so to speak, juicy or, if you will, exciting details and then you have to go back to the beginning.

The narrative about Syria, of course, is always contested. There are no narratives on Syria that are not contested. (Great news). What I would like to share with you are some of the basic narratives that are very difficult to contest, even by differing opinions—and they will still be contested to an extent.

So the most important thing I think we should recognize about the Syrian situation is that Syria has been ruled by a dictatorship since 1970 or 1963 depending on when you want to start the clock, but in all cases some four to five decades.

(Before the successive military coups funded by Saudi Kingdom, Syria was a democracy and most parity-like in laws and state practices)

And it does not mean that the pre-dictatorship era was rosy, it just means that we have a particular sort of dictatorship under a particular party that ruled since 1963 and then 1970 respectively when Assad Sr. took over.

The background is the context within which everything happens.

After forty years of dictatorship, we cannot expect an uprising of angels. We cannot expect allies of the dictatorship to actually be on the sidelines. they will actually intervene. We cannot expect that the opposition to this dictatorship is going to be supported also by angelic state actors or non-state actors. (But it was peaceful until the colonial powers decided to meddle in)

So the situation from the very beginning has been set up to attract problematic allies, supporters, and as we have seen, foreign fighters with the case of ISIS and other groups.

So we have a situation where a legitimate uprising emerged in Syria in 2011, very much instigated by the uprisings and somewhat successful quick results in Tunisia and Egypt. (I guess how the uprising in Libya unfolded reminded the Syrians of the grave situation when colonial powers step in)

This uprising was civilian in character, was peaceful.

However, those early days and weeks of the uprising, and in some cases months, were disrupted by a number of developments. The first development that disrupted this uprising against dictatorship which then, as I shared earlier, was transformed into some sort of a proxy war was the weaponization of the uprising, the militarization of the uprising.

Which changed the character of the situation and provided an already brutal regime that was content to crush even civilian protesters voices was even more intent on doing so and went the extra mile with the justification that the uprising is not civil or civilian.

And that began to change the character of the uprising and changed the conflict from an uprising against dictatorship to somewhat of a war with a significant number of people on the side of the uprising.

Forming various groups that became quickly empowered, not just militarily but also politically from the outside.

And that created a war-like situation that gave a carte-blanche, from the regime’s perspective, to crack down even more brutally on the protestors as well as, of course, the rebel armies.

That transformed the context from an uprising against dictatorship to, as I shared, a proxy war in which various groups—on both sides—supporting both sides regionally, were trying to use this context of the Syrian Uprising to transform the region or to redraw the map of the region according to their own interests, each assuming that they will be victors.

The tragedy of the Syrian situation is that there are no victors, especially several years down the line. There are only victims. And those victims are the majority of the Syrian population that ended up being exhausted by what was going on on all sides.

Not necessarily supporting the area or the leadership within which they live because territoriality, they were confined to a particular area. And you root for where you are at, for the most part, unless you are able to flee or become a refugee like most Syrians.

The idea here is that the exhaustion of the majority of Syrians made them step back, actually, from the conflict— not in a neutral way. I believe that the majority of Syrians—the overwhelming majority of Syrians—want a change in Syria, want a removal of this regime.

What became more complex, and that is what a lot of people sometimes miss, is that the alternatives were becoming less and less desirable.

It is not that the regime became more attractive, it is that the alternatives, given what was happening on the ground, the nature of the rebel force, was changed from a civilian military rebel force that wanted a more progressive alternative to a rebel force that actually was bent of formulas that did not necessarily meet the aspirations of the revolutionaries—the original revolutionaries in Syria. (Actually, when the regime decided to let the army step in instead of the Presidential guards, there was an actual  regime change since then)

Within that context, various actors—state actors and non-state actors— locally, regionally, and internationally tried to take advantage of this mess to basically settle their own scores and to serve their own interests.

Whether it was the pro-opposition camp represented by countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the United States or whether it is the pro-regime camps represented by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, and when it came to diplomatic relations, China. (I believe China was the deep pocket behind Russia forceful intervention)

So we ended up producing a disillusionment among most Syrians as far as who to support—again not because the lack of clarity that the regime needs to go—but because the lack of certainty that this alternative on the ground is the way to go.

 

 

Tom Hodson: And this uprising—this civil uprising—became an international conflict. And that internationalism made people wonder what interests were going to prevail and what countries were going to interfere, correct?

Bassam Haddad: Absolutely, and that is the tragedy we are actually encountering year after year and today. So if you want to look at the larger context, if we want to establish a bird’s-eye-view, we find that the Syrian Uprising that started in March 2013 has gone through a couple of phases and each of these phases include various stages.

The first stage was a civilian uprising which was transformed into a militarized uprising and then into a proxy war. So these represent stages within the first phase that ended in December 2016 when the regime was able to seize the entire city of Aleppo from the rebels, which constituted the retaking all major metropolitan cities by the regime because the regime did in fact control it beforehand, of course.

At this point the civil war ended for Syria.

Those who wanted to remove the regime, whether they really cared about the Syrian people or not but wanted to remove the regime for one reason or another, that signaled the end of that goal, or the end of that objective because the regime was able to control most of what is called “Useful Syria” or “Syria Al-Mufida” by December 2016.

The second phase is what started after this process, which is basically: we moved from a war over Syria to a number of smaller wars within Syria that really represent at least a couple of goals; either settling scores for certain countries such as Turkey with its war against the Kurds, or retaking what is left of Syria by the regime.

These constitute the two major dynamics today in Syria, even though there are other dynamics at work. And what made those dynamics dominant, especially today in 2018, frankly, is the dramatic degradation of ISIS over the past year, which freed up most players who actually were together; even though they oppose each other on everything else they actually worked together as in, maybe I should not say work together but they actually all had a goal of degrading ISIS

Tom Hodson: That was a common enemy.

Bassam Haddad: That was a common enemy and they had a similar opposition.

Even if, in my view, whether it is the US, the Syrian Regime, the Iranians, the Russians, or the opposition—at least in some cases, there is some sort of a utility for leaving ISIS degraded but not completely destroyed because that can be used as a card in various situations down the line.

And this is a speculation but there is enough reason to believe that there is not an intent to completely rote out ISIS from the very small remaining parts of Syria.

And that represents the second phase of the Syrian Uprising, whereby we no longer have a war to take over the central government of Syria, at least nothing extant and evident.

And more smaller fragmented wars that represent the interests of various countries, in using Syria to settle scores or to actually prevent further development of a conflict or threat in the case of Turkey and the Kurds.

Turkey’s invasion and incursion into Syria, happening today, in the city of Afrin in Syria is meant to basically dismantle and defeat the YPG, a Kurdish movement that is accused of being connected to the KPP, which is the Kurdish Workers Party, a separatist party with which the Turks have been at war for many years.

(KPP leader, Abdullah Ocalan, a Turkish Kurd, is in Turkish prison since 1999, after Hafez Assad delivered him to avoid a war with Turkey)

And it accuses both of them, by association, of being terrorist groups. Turkey is trying to do this because it claims to secure its southern border and is now in conflict with other groups and actors that view this as a violation of sovereignty, including the Syrian regime, whose militias—or pro-regime militias—are now in this fight.

So we have a very complex train in that regard and it is actually proceeding at very high losses of course on the side of the Kurds in Afrin, but also on the side of the Turks who were not able to push forth as fast as they wanted.

(Afrin was captured by Turkey and the terrorist factions that Turkey hired, including members of ISIS. Over 400,000 civilians fled to the regime liberated territory in the city of Nobol. Looting of Afrin is going on unperturbed)

The regime, on the other hand, is trying to retake various parts of Syria that have been lost to the rebels over the past several years. And we see the tragedy unfold today in Eastern Damascus, in the Ghouta region, where the regime and the Russians are pummeling the region of some 380,000 people that have been besieged for years. (After the USA gave the green light to pound Damascus every day with missiles and harvesting hundreds of casualties)

In response, they claim to various rockets that are sent to Damascus and claims about the proliferation of terrorist groups inside. Of course all groups name terrorists as the enemy or the enemy becomes terrorist respective of the veracity. And that is one, or the first attempt right now, after Aleppo, to retake one of several major strategic areas. Ghouta has now suffered the deaths of about 600-700 civilians, even though the regime claims they are mostly military personnel or militia fighters.

And it seems that the next step in this campaign will be a hotbed of the rebel opposition that is controlled by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the North, and that’s the Idlib province, where it is said that Ghouta is basically either the training ground or the first step before getting into that region. (Al Ghouta is now occupied by the Syrian army. The terrorist groups have boarded the regime buses to Edlib)

Because this is the only major stronghold of the opposition that is well equipped in terms of military might. And then of course other parts of the country seem to be in the sights of the Syrian regime including the South—which is actually pretty much stable as a function of the lack of one military authority controlling that region, though it is actually a coalition and it is confined or bound by various treaties and agreements made with Syria, Jordan, Israel as well in terms of what kinds of movements can happen there.

Then you have the big question which is the latent potential conflict between the Syrian regime and the Kurds—who have been friends at certain points, fighting similar enemies, and they actually are in opposition structurally and ideologically. But they have not really entered into a full-fledged war. (There won’t be any war with the Kurds: They Syrians first of all and no foreign mercenaries)

And one of the reasons has to do with economics, given that the Kurds control more than 65% of (inland) oil fields now in Syria. (Talking of the potential in the future. Currently it can produce just 25% of inland gas and oil. And they have no refineries)

Tom Hodson: What you have described really helps us, I think, understand the regionalism here and the historical dynamics. It seems, though, to an outsider that the American foreign policy, as it relates to Syria, has been one that is in flux. It is confusing. It is fragmented. Is that a correct characterization?

Bassam Haddad: From the point of view of people living in the United States, like you and me, it might seem like there is hesitation. It might seem that there is a kind of confusion as to what to do about Syria.

But in reality, the confusion is not all that much. The appearance of confusion actually is evident, yes, is palpable. But in reality, the United States under the Obama Administration—and interestingly under the Trump Administration—if you notice there has not been a dramatic change on actual policy in Syria.

There has been rhetoric that spoke of difference but in reality, states operate based on national interests usually, that are rather stable. And the single most important point for the US Administration has always been that the prize in Syria is Not that high, on the one hand. (Actually, the Silk Road and train transport do Not cross either Iraq or Syria)

So we are not looking at a conflict where the returns or the rewards are evident and the costs can be minimized. That is a central component of the US position on Syria.

Another component has to do with the extent to which the US public and the US Military and US Government is willing to go into a full-fledged war generally. And that has been perspired by the problems that took place in Iraq—and in a way, not recognizing the catastrophe that befell Iraqis themselves—but what the United States went through in Iraq has actually tempered our appetite for war.

Whether it was in Syria in 2005 when some were calling for striking Syria or the ongoing appetite for war with Iran where there is calls, this administration with its very blunt rhetoric is actually treading very carefully on the question of war.

So this second issue of appetite for war in the region or full-fledged war is also Not high.

The third is a factor that allows us to understand US foreign policy over and above the zig-zagging of rhetoric is the combination of the two in recognizing the context in Syria. The simple fact is, and that is part of the reason why the uprising was Not successful, is that all the supporters—if not most of the supporters—of the Syrian Uprising, the uprising for democracy, are for the most part not genuine supporters of an uprising for democracy.

If anything, they were betting on removing the regime for purposes that served their interests. The coincidence of wanting to remove dictatorship with the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Syrians created an alliance that was very fragile, between the uprising, if you will, and external forces.

However, what the US administration—the previous administration, recognized is that this fight, this conflict, for the regime and its allies is an existential conflict. (For the survival of Israel that is going fast downhill)

Whereas for the supporters of the uprising, it’s a strategic conflict in which they could actually withdraw at any moment when the threat and the danger becomes higher than a particular threshold, which is exactly what happened in the case of Qatar and Saudi Arabia who recently were actually arguing among each other who messed up in dealing with Syria and the Syrian rebels; who weaponized which groups and radicalized the situation in Syria or the uprising.

Tom Hodson: It became a point of conflict between those two.

Bassam Haddad: Absolutely. And they both withdrew their, you know, ample support to a large extent, not completely. Turkey no longer was willing to make its border open and porous to incoming fighters from which many thousands of fighters came to fight “the good fight” and got into its own trouble with the islamists or with ISIS who began to blow things up in Turkey.

And Turkey therefore hit the brakes on its rhetoric against the Syrian regime and its facilitation of various forces fighting the regime—state or non-state actors, as well as individual foreign fighters.

It became more, as you shared, involved with the Kurdish situation. And the United States, of course, has no stake compared to, for instance: Iran, Hezbollah, and the Russians who actually went in full force and did what the United States was not necessarily willing to do in terms of going all-out vis-a-vis ISIS, even though the Russians also did this as a cover to help the regime root out the remaining rebels in the name of fighting terrorist, not distinguishing between groups that they do not like that are against the regime and groups that they do not like like ISIS—

Tom Hodson: Whether you are ISIS or a rebel, either one, you are an enemy of the state so you are the same—

Bassam Haddad: And there was some sort of manipulation on the part of the Russians whereby they grouped these movements together like Jabhat Al-Nusra that was mostly Syrian and fighting the regime (Moslem Brotherhoods in Syria and Turkey) as opposed to ISIS that is significantly non-Syrian and not interested in revolution in Syria; more interested in its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, and creating a state of its own that goes against, almost literally, most of what the rebels want, even the fighting rebels.

So in a way, the US readiness for anything from establishing a no-fly zone to committing to significant troops on the ground—because obviously there are some troops on the ground— was extremely low within the Obama Administration for those three reasons I mentioned and continue to be low under Trump with the one exception, and that is: should there be an event that might spin things out of control in Syria? The Trump Administration will be more likely to respond in ways that, perhaps, the Obama administration would not.

Tom Hodson: If we look at the country, at least from the news clippings that we see and from the newscasts that we see, Syria is destroyed. The infrastructures, the buildings, there is widespread damage, at least in some of the cities and some of the areas where they were fighting. How will that be rebuilt? And who will help pay the bill to have it rebuilt?

Bassam Haddad: I recently gave a talk at both UCLA and George Mason University precisely about this question. The question of reconstruction, rebuilding, reconciliation, potential peace. And the unfortunate fact is that the problem in Syria—as opposed to what many believe, especially in the international community who are looking for lucrative entry points into Syria—the unfortunate fact is that the problem in Syria is not one of destruction.

(Syria is claiming that it can reconstruct with $200 bn and is Not about to sell off its sovereignty and accumulate any foreign debt in that process)

I mean that is a component of the problem, but it is wrapped up in profound political rivalries, decades of repression, and various other factors that make the resolution not simply one of reconstruction. The destruction is evident.

Besides the more than 400,000 Syrians killed, we have, of course, more than a million injured severely, we have hundreds of thousands of disabled Syrians, and we have the destruction of at least a third of the infrastructure, and the destruction of various institutions of learning, various healthcare centers and hospitals—thanks to the purposeful regime bombing and Russian bombing for the most part—and for the most part in rebel held areas.

(Yes, blame it all on Russia, as if the USA, France and Britain were angels, angels of death everywhere they sent troops )

We have more than half the Syrian population—a population of about twenty-four million—displaced. Some, about half or a little bit less than half, displaced from Syria to other countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and various other countries like Egypt, Europe, and so on. And then the rest are internally displaced.

We also have a considerable amount of damage that is not concrete and tangible, that a lot of people do not talk about, and that is a very destructive development in Syria.

The trauma that has affected all Syrians. The psychological issues that—you know, we talk here about our own tragedies, our small tragedies like the high school shootings. And you can imagine the trauma of some of these people who did not even witness firsthand what happened.

And we get concerned about them and we put their pictures on CNN and we talk to these people who are traumatized by just being in the territory of the school when this happened. So you can imagine after seven years of death and destruction the extent of the trauma in Syria.

There are developmental consequences. For seven years, many people did not have the proper education in a country that is used to actually having almost full literacy. So we have seven years blacked out from the lives of many people—not all, because schools continue to operate here and there in various places.

The working force, imagine the extent to which Syria lost a workforce with skills who are now actually doing a good job in places like Germany and elsewhere in terms of being able to use their skills.

So Syria now is bereft of all sorts of dignity and resources. So we have a damage that is profound. The rebuilding, however, cannot continue or even start properly without some form of establishing… not peace, even, but territorial integrity. There are at least four major semi-sovereign or sovereign divisions in Syria.

The regime which has the largest portion now, the Kurds who have the second largest portion in most of northern and northeast Syria, and then of course the opposition who have some strongholds in the North in Idlib and around Damascus and some in the South, and then, of course, ISIS which is mostly in eastern Syria in smaller patches (protected by the USA) of land and they are now trying to, if you will, close their businesses and smuggle out weapons, people, and money (cash).

Without having some sort of territorial integrity, the rebuilding is going to be fragmented and it will actually not serve the average Syrian. It is, in fact, starting in Syria—in the Syrian regime controlled territories—where they are actually engaged in heavy reconstruction.

But this reconstruction does not seem to be aimed on the account of the best analysts and field researchers to actually serve those Syrians who lost their lives and their homes. It is actually reconstruction that is more aimed at propping up the state and basically providing housing for people who can afford this sort of housing. And it is tragic that most people who lost their houses and are displaced within and outside Syria will not be able actually to come back to those areas.

If there is a plan to rebuild Syria, whether it is the World Bank or the IMF’s support. Whether it is the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, the United States, and various international institutions like the UN and the UNDP and so on, the question is: who will they make these deals with? If it is the regime, then the rebuilding will happen according to the interest of the regime and its immediate partners, not according to the interest of most Syrians who have lost their lives and their homes. (Going off to standard generalization and rhetoric of academics) 

If it is others, well one worries how long these others will be in their place. The rebels, the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, for instance, in Northern Syria, who are not exactly admired by most Syrians… it is not exactly tenable.

The Kurds have a very similar precarious future. Of course ISIS is not even a contender. So the best case scenario which is: the regime yields undesirable results and then you move on from there. (How that? Can this war be won without the people backing the regime?)

Tom Hodson: You have a new book coming out shortly—the second book that you have written about this area.

Bassam Haddad: I cannot claim that I have written it completely, every time I try to finalize what needs to be part of this document, things develop—and not small things, either. So I tried from 2013 to finalize things, and then ISIS emerged, of course. I was both busy enough and lucky enough to not have finished it.

So I am working now on—my first book was on the collusion between the regime and big business moguls in Syria. The collusion that actually led to the deterioration of the Syrian economy and to the dramatic social polarization in Syria which was the background to the uprising.

My second book is the continuation of the story that starts with the first ten years of Bashar Al-Assad’s rule starting in 2000 that demonstrates the extent to which that rule drove discontent to a higher degree and set the stage in very tangible ways for an uprising that was long overdue to begin with. And it continues to address the dynamics of the Syrian Uprising by first looking at why is it that it is so complex, even more complex than the other uprisings around the same region, in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.

And looks at the pivotal role—the regional role—of Syria and how it is at the center of various conflicts simultaneously—local, regional, and international. And then goes to address the transformation of the uprising to something that does not any longer resemble the original sentiments of the uprising and addresses the driving—or the drivers—for the prolongation of the uprising including what is called the “War Economy” from which all rebels benefit and from which all fighters benefit and all states benefit, which sort of explains to an extent why there is very little interest locally and regionally in ending the war—because that is an economy that has benefited various players who are not really interested in revolution… on all sides.

And it addresses the dynamics of the uprising in the sense that it allows us to understand the formation, reformation, and breakdown of various coalitions and groups amongst the opposition. What explains this roller coaster of emergence and disappearance and breakdown of groups within the opposition. Instead of doing what a lot of think tank papers do or a lot of analysis does sometimes—or news—which is basically follow this or that group and how they emerged and how they coalesced and how they broke down,

I tried to develop a framework to understand what governs these processes—the larger picture that governs these processes—so that we could link pre-2011 Syria with the dynamics of the uprising itself locally, in the interest of regional and international players that come together in basically providing the incentive structure for formation breakdown of these various coalition groups.

And then it ends with this discussion of reconstruction. Basically, in my view it is a bit of a farce. At the same time that you cannot not reconstruct, right? So I am not critiquing the reconstruction for the purpose of rebuilding hospitals and schools and homes. What I am concerned about is that this has become an opportunity for capital gain. This has become an opportunity for increasing revenue of various actors. And this has become an opportunity to replenish state coiffers in some ways and support various international allies and enemies by offering them a piece of the pie.

Tom Hodson: And graft and corruption is along the way I am sure.

Bassam Haddad: That is a constant, unfortunately. And the bottom line is that after this tragedy of more than seven years soon—this month, actually—we will not be serving the Syrian people, even after everything that I just shared in terms of damage. The reconstruction might well not serve the majority of Syrians, but serve to prolong the life and security of the supposed victors. (Wrong conclusion. Bassam is trying hard to abide by the US standard wishes and rhetoric)

 

ISIS survives largely because Turkey allows it to: the evidence

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Kurdish (YPJ) frontline troops

The real frontline confronting ISIS is not US or French bombers (the latter currently targeting Raqqa, a city with 140,000 civilians, who are virtual prisoners of ISIS) but the Kurds of Iraq and northern Syria.

Just over a week ago the combined Kurd forces, under the command of the Yezidis, liberated Sinjar from ISIS.

For the Kurds, their war is not just about defeating ISIS, but about creating their own autonomous region – a region that would link all the Kurd cantons.

This will not be easy, especially as the Iraq-based Kurds (Peshmerga) are allied with Iran and benefit from US support (nor are the Iraqi Kurds in any hurry to secede from Iraq).

But the largest hurdle to an autonomous Kurdistan is Turkey, which not only has rekindled its war with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), but has done everything it can over the last 12 months or so to ensure Kurd victories against ISIS were minimised.

So where is the evidence for this? It comes from a a range of sources, including the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (Columbia University) and leading commentators/analysts Nafeez Ahmed and David Graeber. See below…

A. Introduction

The Kurds of northern Syria, together with the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq, have been at war with ISIS since the latter rose up and declared their so-called caliphate. It was the Syrian Kurds and their Kurdish comrades in Turkey who helped rescue the Yezidis, after they had fled the ISIS onslaught to take refuge in the Sinjar mountains. It was the Syrian Kurds and their comrades in Turkey who liberated the city of Kobani from ISIS.

But the Kurds of northern Syria have not just been waging war. They have also been waging peace: creating new, democratic structures, declaring autonmous cantons; setting up schools, universities, hospitals. They have taken their inspiration from the Zapatistas of Mexico, who in their thousands retreated into the jungles of Chiapas and together with the Mayans created a new society, free from the oppression of the Mexican authorities.

In short, the northern Syrian Kurds have created and are living a social revolution. It is no wonder, therefore, that the authoritarian and neo-Islamist Erdogan Government of Turkey is doing everything it can to break the Kurds, including providing covert support to the Kurds’ main enemy, to ISIS.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Professor David Graeber of the London School of Economics stated how “Back in August, the YPG, fresh from their victories in Kobani and Gire Spi, were poised to seize Jarablus, the last Isis-held town on the Turkish border that the terror organisation had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits – Isis supply lines pass directly through Turkey.”

Graeber added: “Commentators predicted that with Jarablus gone, Raqqa would soon follow. Erdoğan reacted by declaring Jarablus a “red line”: if the Kurds attacked, his forces would intervene militarily – against the YPG. So Jarablus remains in terrorist hands to this day, under de facto Turkish military protection.”

B. Turkey’s support for ISIS

For well over a year the Turkish Government has been secretly supporting ISIS, but the US and NATO turn a blind eye to this because of Turkey’s geopolitical position. ISIS as an armed force – though not ISIS terrorists outside the Mid East region – would most likely have been defeated long ago had it not been for Turkey’s support.

According to journalist, Nafeez Ahmed: “Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that “more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports” had been given to ISIS. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper added, “has been accused of supporting the terrorist organization by turning a blind eye to its militants crossing the border and even buying its oil…

Based on a 2014 report, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that ISIS terrorists fighting in Syria claimed to have been treated in hospitals in Turkey.”

Dr Ahmed adds: “In January, authenticated official documents of the Turkish military were leaked online, showing that Turkey’s intelligence services (MIT) had been caught in Adana by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition via truck “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation” in Syria. According to other ISIS suspects facing trial in Turkey, the Turkish national military intelligence organization (MIT) had begun smuggling arms, including NATO weapons to jihadist groups in Syria as early as 2011.”

Also: “Turkey has also played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country. Last summer, an opposition politician estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million — that was over a year ago.”

Finally, Dr. Ahmed shows how consistent transfers of CIA-Gulf-Turkish arms supplies to ISIS have been fully documented through analysis of weapons serial numbers by the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR), whose database on the illicit weapons trade is funded by the EU and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Latest – see link in tweet below – is an article that reports on a group “involved in making arms deals on behalf of the Islamic State leaders in Syria, including buying FN-6 portable air defence systems and other weaponry, which were shipped to ISIL in Syria through Turkey… transferring money to Turkish bank accounts…

Other allegations re Turkey’s support for ISIS:

[Note: the following is compiled from a Report by Columbia University’s Program on Peace-building and Rights, which assigned a team of researchers in the United States, Europe, and Turkey to examine Turkish and international media, assessing the credibility of allegations made against Turkey. This report draws on Turkish sources (CNN Turk, Hurriyet Daily News, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, and Radikal among others) as well as a variety of mainstream media – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, BBC, Sky News, etc.]

1. Turkey Provides Military Equipment to ISIS

• An ISIS commander told The Washington Post on August 12, 2014: “Most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.”

• Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), produced a statement from the Adana Office of the Prosecutor on October 14, 2014 maintaining that Turkey supplied weapons to terror groups. He also produced interview transcripts from truck drivers who delivered weapons to the groups. According to Kiliçdaroglu, the Turkish government claims the trucks were for humanitarian aid to the Turkmen, but the Turkmen said no humanitarian aid was delivered.

• According to CHP Vice President Bulent Tezcan, three trucks were stopped in Adana for inspection on January 19, 2014. The trucks were loaded with weapons in Esenboga Airport in Ankara. The drivers drove the trucks to the border, where a MIT agent was supposed to take over and drive the trucks to Syria to deliver materials to ISIS and groups in Syria. This happened many times. When the trucks were stopped, MIT agents tried to keep the inspectors from looking inside the crates. The inspectors found rockets, arms, and ammunitions.

• Cumhuriyet reports that Fuat Avni, a preeminent Twitter user who reported on the December 17th corruption probe, that audio tapes confirm that Turkey provided financial and military aid to terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda on October 12, 2014. On the tapes, Erdogan pressured the Turkish Armed Forces to go to war with Syria. Erdogan demanded that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT), come up with a justification for attacking Syria.

• Hakan Fidan told Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Yasar Guler, a senior defense official, and Feridun Sinirlioglu, a senior foreign affairs official: “If need be, I’ll send 4 men into Syria. I’ll formulate a reason to go to war by shooting 8 rockets into Turkey; I’ll have them attack the Tomb of Suleiman Shah.”

• Documents surfaced on September 19th, 2014 showing that the Saudi Emir Bender Bin Sultan financed the transportation of arms to ISIS through Turkey. A flight leaving Germany dropped off arms in the Etimesgut airport in Turkey, which was then split into three containers, two of which were given to ISIS and one to Gaza.

2. Turkey Provided Transport and Logistical Assistance to ISIS Fighters

• According to Radikal on June 13, 2014, Interior Minister Muammar Guler signed a directive: “According to our regional gains, we will help al-Nusra militants against the branch of PKK terrorist organization, the PYD, within our borders…Hatay is a strategic location for the mujahideen crossing from within our borders to Syria. Logistical support for Islamist groups will be increased, and their training, hospital care, and safe passage will mostly take place in Hatay…MIT and the Religious Affairs Directorate will coordinate the placement of fighters in public accommodations.”

• The Daily Mail reported on August 25, 2014 that many foreign militants joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq after traveling through Turkey, but Turkey did not try to stop them. This article describes how foreign militants, especially from the UK, go to Syria and Iraq through the Turkish border. They call the border the “Gateway to Jihad.” Turkish army soldiers either turn a blind eye and let them pass, or the jihadists pay the border guards as little as $10 to facilitate their crossing.

• Britain’s Sky News obtained documents showing that the Turkish government has stamped passports of foreign militants seeking to cross the Turkey border into Syria to join ISIS.

• The BBC interviewed villagers, who claim that buses travel at night, carrying jihadists to fight Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, not the Syrian Armed Forces.

• A senior Egyptian official indicated on October 9, 2014 that Turkish intelligence is passing satellite imagery and other data to ISIS.

3. Turkey Provided Training to ISIS Fighters

• CNN Turk reported on July 29, 2014 that in the heart of Istanbul, places like Duzce and Adapazari, have become gathering spots for terrorists. There are religious orders where ISIS militants are trained. Some of these training videos are posted on the Turkish ISIS propaganda website takvahaber.net. According to CNN Turk, Turkish security forces could have stopped these developments if they had wanted to.

• Turks who joined an affiliate of ISIS were recorded at a public gathering in Istanbul, which took place on July 28, 2014.

• A video shows an ISIS affiliate holding a prayer/gathering in Omerli, a district of Istanbul. In response to the video, CHP Vice President, MP Tanrikulu submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister of the Interior, Efkan Ala, asking questions such as, “Is it true that a camp or camps have been allocated to an affiliate of ISIS in Istanbul? What is this affiliate? Who is it made up of? Is the rumor true that the same area allocated for the camp is also used for military exercises?”

• Kemal Kiliçdaroglu warned the AKP government not to provide money and training to terror groups on October 14, 2014. He said, “It isn’t right for armed groups to be trained on Turkish soil. You bring foreign fighters to Turkey, put money in their pockets, guns in their hands, and you ask them to kill Muslims in Syria. We told them to stop helping ISIS. Ahmet Davutoglu asked us to show proof. Everyone knows that they’re helping ISIS.” (See HERE and HERE.)

• According to Jordanian intelligence, Turkey trained ISIS militants for special operations.

4. Turkey Offers Medical Care to ISIS Fighters

• An ISIS commander told the Washington Post on August 12, 2014, “We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals.”

• Taraf reported on October 12, 2014 that Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, a founder of the AKP, said that Turkey supported terrorist groups and still supports them and treats them in hospitals. “In order to weaken the developments in Rojova (Syrian Kurdistan), the government gave concessions and arms to extreme religious groups…the government was helping the wounded. The Minister of Health said something such as, it’s a human obligation to care for the ISIS wounded.”

• According to Taraf, Ahmet El H, one of the top commanders at ISIS and Al Baghdadi’s right hand man, was treated at a hospital in Sanliurfa, Turkey, along with other ISIS militants. The Turkish state paid for their treatment. According to Taraf’s sources, ISIS militants are being treated in hospitals all across southeastern Turkey. More and more militants have been coming in to be treated since the start of airstrikes in August. To be more specific, eight ISIS militants were transported through the Sanliurfa border crossing; these are their names: “Mustafa A., Yusuf El R., Mustafa H., Halil El M., Muhammet El H., Ahmet El S., Hasan H., [and] Salim El D.”

5. Turkey Supports ISIS Financially Through Purchase of Oil

• On September 13, 2014, The New York Times reported on the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Turkey to crack down on ISIS extensive sales network for oil. James Phillips, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argues that Turkey has not fully cracked down on ISIS’s sales network because it benefits from a lower price for oil, and that there might even be Turks and government officials who benefit from the trade.

• Fehim Taştekin wrote in Radikal on September 13, 2014 about illegal pipelines transporting oil from Syria to nearby border towns in Turkey. The oil is sold for as little as 1.25 liras per liter. Taştekin indicated that many of these illegal pipelines were dismantled after operating for 3 years, once his article was published.

• According to Diken and OdaTV, David Cohen, a Justice Department official, says that there are Turkish individuals acting as middlemen to help sell ISIS’s oil through Turkey.

• On October 14, 2014, a German Parliamentarian from the Green Party accused Turkey of allowing the transportation of arms to ISIS over its territory, as well as the sale of oil.

6. Turkey Assists ISIS Recruitment

• Kerim Kiliçdaroğlu claimed on October 14, 2014 that ISIS offices in Istanbul and Gaziantep are used to recruit fighters. On October 10, 2014, the mufti of Konya said that 100 people from Konya joined ISIS 4 days ago. (See HERE and HERE.)

• OdaTV reports that Takva Haber serves as a propaganda outlet for ISIS to recruit Turkish-speaking individuals in Turkey and Germany. The address where this propaganda website is registered corresponds to the address of a school called Irfan Koleji, which was established by Ilim Yayma Vakfi, a foundation that was created by Erdogan and Davutoglu, among others. It is thus claimed that the propaganda site is operated from the school of the foundation started by AKP members.

• Minister of Sports, Suat Kilic, an AKP member, visited Salafi jihadists who are ISIS supporters in Germany. The group is known for reaching out to supporters via free Quran distributions and raising funds to sponsor suicide attacks in Syria and Iraq by raising money.

• OdaTV released a video allegedly showing ISIS militants riding a bus in Istanbul.

7. Turkish Forces Are Fighting Alongside ISIS

• On October 7, 2014, IBDA-C, a militant Islamic organization in Turkey, pledged support to ISIS. A Turkish friend who is a commander in ISIS suggests that Turkey is “involved in all of this” and that “10,000 ISIS members will come to Turkey.” A Huda-Par member at the meeting claims that officials criticize ISIS but in fact sympathize with the group (Huda-Par, the “Free Cause Party”, is a Kurdish Sunni fundamentalist political party).

BBP member claims that National Action Party (MHP) officials are close to embracing ISIS. In the meeting, it is asserted that ISIS militants come to Turkey frequently to rest, as though they are taking a break from military service. They claim that Turkey will experience an Islamic revolution, and Turks should be ready for jihad. (See HERE and HERE.)

Seymour Hersh maintains in the London Review of Books that ISIS conducted sarin attacks in Syria, and that Turkey was informed. “For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups.

‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”

• On September 20, 2014, Demir Celik, a Member of Parliament with the people’s democratic party (HDP) claimed that Turkish Special Forces fight with ISIS.

8. Turkey Helped ISIS in Battle for Kobani

• Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: “Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobane’s east?

Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.” In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey. (See HERE and HERE.)

• Released by Nuhaber, a video shows Turkish military convoys carrying tanks and ammunition moving freely under ISIS flags in the Cerablus region and Karkamis border crossing (September 25, 2014). There are writings in Turkish on the trucks.

• Salih Muslim, PYD head, claims that 120 militants crossed into Syria from Turkey between October 20th and 24th, 2014.

• According to an op-ed written by a YPG commander in The New York Times on October 29, 2014, Turkey allows ISIS militants and their equipment to pass freely over the border.

• Diken reported, “ISIS fighters crossed the border from Turkey into Syria, over the Turkish train tracks that delineate the border, in full view of Turkish soldiers. They were met there by PYD fighters and stopped.”

• A Kurdish commander in Kobani claims that ISIS militants have Turkish entry stamps on their passports.

• Kurds trying to join the battle in Kobani are turned away by Turkish police at the Turkey-Syrian border.

• OdaTV released a photograph of a Turkish soldier befriending ISIS militants.

9. Turkey and ISIS Share a Worldview

• RT reports on Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks detailing Turkish support to ISIS.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News on September 26, 2014, “The feelings of the AKP’s heavyweights are not limited to Ankara. I was shocked to hear words of admiration for ISIL from some high-level civil servants even in Şanliurfa. ‘They are like us, fighting against seven great powers in the War of Independence,’ one said.” “Rather than the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK on the other side, I would rather have ISIL as a neighbor,” said another.”

• Cengiz Candar, a well-respected Turkish journalist, maintained that MIT helped “midwife” the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, as well as other Jihadi groups.

• An AKP council member posted on his Facebook page: “Thankfully ISIS exists… May you never run out of ammunition…”

• A Turkish Social Security Institution supervisor uses the ISIS logo in internal correspondences.

• Bilal Erdogan and Turkish officials meet alleged ISIS fighters.

 Next in line for Nobel Peace Prize: Erdogan, Turkey’s PM 

In December 18, 2004 I wrote “Turkey: A Regional Power in the Making “.  In February 4, 2009 I updated my article “A Regional Power out of hibernation in the Near East“.  Another update is required because Turkey seems to vigorously and quickly act everywhere.

Turkey forgot the Islamic world for over 60 years since the dictator Ataturk snatched power after WWI. Turkey relied on its military to impose a secular state and emulate the Western culture in alphabet characters and in dress codes.

Basically, Turkey of Ataturk and the successive governments considered that protecting the “Republic” is first in priority, far ahead of human rights…

Ataturk wanted to shed away the image of backward Ottoman Empire that lost an Empire, extending from Hungry to Iraq to Arabic Peninsula, the Near East, Egypt and all Northern Africa.  The other Empire to the east was the Persian Safafid Dynasty that extended to Pakistan. The Safafid Empire was founded by another Turkish leader and opted to adopt the Shiaa Moslem sect as the religion of his Empire.

Turkey is part of NATO (this year is its turn to lead the NATO forces in Afghanistan), thanks to the cold war against the defunct neighbor of Soviet Union: Turkey was the main effective ally to the US in the region during the cold war. Turkey was denied full membership in the European Union after the Soviet Union disintegrated into “independent States” recognized by the UN.

France and Germany offered a rational for their refusal on the ground of Turkey not satisfying the basic social and political requirement of a homogenous member.  For 60 years Turkey had turned its back to the Arab problems, and decided to be allied to the USA, the State of Israel, and the Shah of Iran.

Things are changing fast after the horrors of Gaza and the tearing down of the mask of the Zionist ideology of terror, expansion, and apartheid.  Turkey was playing the fair mediator between Syria and Israel in order for the return of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Turkey was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians to render the life of the Palestinians under occupation more bearable during the peace negotiations for a separate Palestinian State.  Israel Olmert PM lied to the Turkish PM Erdogan before the barbaric re-incursion into Gaza.

Erdogan, Turkey’s PM is undeniably the most powerful leader criticizing the Zionist State for its genocide in Gaza. He canceled a joint military maneuver with the US and Israel. The US has nobody else to conduct military maneuvers but Israel in this region; the latest naval one is to last two weeks with objective to save Israel of mass missile attack!

Turkey, under Erdogan, is currently more powerful than the whole of Europe in the Near East for establishing peace, stability and equitable political resolutions.  Turkey is a self-sufficient, independent Nation and has ruled the whole Middle East for four centuries. Turkey has awakened from a long hibernation and decided to be a major regional power broker.

Turkey is demanding and acting as the main power broker in the Near East because it has interest in the stability of its south-eastern borders with Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  So far, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq were peons for the larger policies of the US, Europe, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Turkey’s current policies beg to differ: “no more war zones at my borders and in my back yards“.  The US and Israel must have understood the message clearly and loudly. The so-called “moderate” Arab States of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cowering down and are taken by surprise to the emergence of the new revitalized Turkey siding with the underdogs.

We are not hearing anymore about the Turkish war on the Kurdish self-autonomous movement.  I wholeheartedly wish that negotiations are secretly and seriously underway with the Kurdish Workers’ Party for a peaceful resolution.  The Kurdish problem was used by the USA and Israel to blackmail Turkey.

I have a feeling that the Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran appreciate the new directions of Erdogan’s government and would find in Erdogan a viable interlocutor and would cooperate with Turkey to lighten up this heavy burden of a useless and fruitless civil war. The new policy in Turkey is to open peaceful negotiations with the opposition Kurds; around 200 Kurdish leaders in the resistance movement have turned themselves in and all indicates that a resolution is palpable.

Turkey will be asked to exercise its beneficial influence in restoring peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.  It will inevitably join the European Union with the unavoidable important changes that Turkey will have to accept and undergo in matters of democracy, liberty, human rights, social and economical constraints.

This transformation of a powerful neighbor will transcend into a drastic transformation of the societies surrounding Turkey. The benefits are already materializing in closer ties with Syria, pressures on Israel to agree on a Palestinian State, and greater normalization with Iran.

Turkey is obviously the main power that can provide autonomy to the Kurdish nationalism spreading among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Turkey is the main power that can efficiently check US omnipotence in the Middle East and any resurgence of Russia militarism. Turkey prevented Bush Junior to invade Iraq through its territory; the US air base in Interlink was prohibited to launch air raids on Iraq.  I have great hope in this new power amongst us, especially that the current Turkish government has proven to be far-sighted and confident in its power and role in this region.

For a couple of years after Europe shut off the door for Turkey entering the Union, Turkey felt the need to crawl in a cave and hibernate.  Turkey shook off its lethargic attitude and is now in the driving seat and operating a strategy that befits its power in the Middle East.  It has surmounted tough obstacles in economic difficulties, human rights issues that are frequently re-emerging, and demonstrations that are occasionally broken by brute force. Turkey is no longer allowed to relax.

Turkey is quickly learning that it has to keep pace with the culture of Europe and to fight harder to catch up with lost time. Its dialogue with Syria has brought fruits: no visas are needed to cross joint borders, seasonal water resource shortages are frequently revised, and the western world had come to term that it can no longer circumvent Syria in this volatile region with Turkey’s backing.

Europe must be appreciating the decision of Turkey to play a major role in the Near East, but the US is very wary because it refuses to share pre-eminence in the Middle East.  Turkey active diplomacy and clear policies should weight heavier in the decision process for joining the European Union.  The frustrations of Turkey with the EU must have given it a clear hint of what its policies should be based on and where its focus should be directed to.

Turkey is the new pivotal power in the Middle East in the coming decades.  It is the cornerstone for new emerging Northern Middle East Block with Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  This strategic block in formation is inevitable after the US troops leave Iraq and would constitute the best guarantee for this volatile region to peace and security.

Erdogan should have received the Nobel Award for Peace instead of Barak Obama who has no active records to show for earning this prize (Read my post “What that! Nobel Prize for Passivity?”  Erdogan has already executed peace treaties with his archenemies: Syria, Armenia, the Kurds, soon with Cyprus, and has definitely sided with the Palestinians against apartheid Israel.

Normally, Erdogan should be in line for the peace prize. Judging from the trend, the cynical Nobel Committee never feels comfortable awarding Peace Prizes to Middle Eastern leaders unless it is shared with the devils such as Began and Peres. Erdogan got my highest prize and we all feel much more optimist in our future.

Note 1:  Political events have accelerated since I published this article, and I changed my mind: Erdogan is not supposed to be considered for Peace Nobel award, unless the US administration wants to push his nomination forward!  Turkey has changed policies to accommodate drastic mass uprising in the Arab States.  The Kurds are being persecuted by mass military interventions…

Turkey is kind of demonstrating that it is acting in full cooperation with the US administration.  Turkey has resumed military activities against the Kurds, within Iraq boundaries.  Turkey is alienating Syria by showing off as the neighboring Big Brother with suggestions and tacit threats.  The Arab States are becoming more worried of this close cooperation between Turkey and the US…

Islamist Erdogan has not demonstrated that he will turn over power, if he ever lost an election, a rule that has been in its tenth year and going stronger…

Note 2: Last week in May, 2013, the Kurdish Workers’ Party agreed to leave Turkey and move its military forces to Iraq. Turkey is in cohort with Israel for bombing Damascus and wrecking havoc in Syria…

Note 3: This May 2013, Turkish people mass demonstrated in Taksim Square (Istanbul) to prevent the erasing of a popular park to build yet another Mall. Over 1,000 were arrested, 4 died when tanks run them over and the police forces were ordered to retreat when faced with steadfast obstruction.

Turkey: A Regional Power out of hibernation (February 2, 2009)

 

Erdogan, Turkey’s PM is undeniably the most powerful leader criticizing the Zionist State for its genocide in Gaza.  Turkey, under Erdogan, is currently more powerful than the whole of Europe in the Near East for establishing peace, stability and equitable political resolutions.  Turkey is a self sufficient independent Nation and has ruled the whole Middle East for four centuries. Turkey has awakened from a long hibernation and decided to be a major regional power broker. 

For over seven decades, Turkey was the main effective ally to the US in the region during the cold war with the former Soviet Union, had turned its back to the Arab problems, and allied to the State of Israel.  Things are changing fast after the horrors of Gaza and the tearing down of the mask of the Zionist ideology of terror, expansion, and apartheid.  The so-called “moderate” Arab States of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cowering down and taken by surprise to the emergence of the new revitalized Turkey. 

Turkey is demanding and acting as the main power broker in the Near East because it has interest in the stability of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.  So far, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq were peons for the larger policies of the US, Europe, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.  Turkey’s current policies beg to differ: “no more war zones at my borders and in my back yards”.  The US and Israel must have understood the message clearly and loudly.

We are not hearing anymore about the Turkish war on the Kurdish self-autonomous movement.  I wholeheartedly wish that negotiations are secretly and seriously underway with the Kurdish Workers’ Party for a peaceful resolution.  The Kurdish problem was used by the USA and Israel to blackmail Turkey.  I have a feeling that the Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran appreciate the new directions of Erdogan’s government and would find in Erdogan a viable interlocutor and would cooperate with Turkey to lighten up this heavy burden of a useless and fruitless civil war.

 

In December 18, 2004 I wrote a short article on Turkey and then four months ago published it on wordpress.com “A Regional power in the making”.  I decided to re-post it.

 Turkey is the new pivotal power in the Middle East in the coming decades. Turkey will be asked to exercise its beneficial influence in restoring peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.  It will inevitably join the European Union with the unavoidable important changes that Turkey will have to accept and undergo in matters of democracy, liberty, human rights and social and economical constraints.

This transformation of a powerful neighbor will transcend into a drastic transformation of the societies surrounding Turkey. The benefits are already materializing in closer ties with Syria, pressures on Israel to agree on a Palestinian State and greater normalization with Iran.  Turkey is obviously the main power that can provide autonomy to the Kurdish nationalism spreading among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Turkey is the main power that can efficiently check US imperialism in the Middle East and any resurgence of Russia militarism. Turkey prevented Bush Junior to invade Iraq through its territory; the US air base in Interlink was prohibited to launch air raids on Iraq.  I have great hope in this new power amongst us, especially that the current Turkish government has proven to be far sighted and confident in its power and role in this region.

Since writing this excerpt Turkey felt the need to crawl in a cave and hibernate after surmounting the imminent obstacles to joining the European Union. Turkey thinks that it can relax for a while but it will quickly learn that it has to keep pace with the culture of Europe and to fight harder to catch up with lost time. Human rights problems are reemerging, demonstrations are being broken by brute force; its dialogue with Syria not much publicized except the frustration of Turkey of the US pressures not to return the diplomatic visit of its President to Syria.

Turkey’s involvement was badly needed in our current problems with the UN resolution 1559 and it failed in this critical moment to demonstrate its regional power.

 

Note:  Europe must be appreciating the decision of Turkey to play a major in the Near East. A powerful and active Turkey should weight heavier in the decision process for joining the European Union.  The frustrations of Turkey with the EU must have given it a clear hint of what its policies should be based on and where its focus should be directed to.

The Kurdish “Abbo” or Abdullah Ocalan by Nabil Al Milhem

Note:  If you are following the current military attacks of Turkey on the Kurds then this book might help understand the problems.  The leader of the Kurdish Workers Party has been in prison for over 6 years but the movement is strong.

“Abbo”by Nabil Al Milhem (Written on November 23, 2006)

This is a review of an interview conducted in Arabic by Nabil Al Milhem with Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of Kurdish Workers Party (better known under the acronym of PKK). This interview spanned 7 days in a secret meeting place after many attempts to sidetrack the Turkish intelligence services or MIT.

The Kurdish meaning for Abdullah’s family name Og Alan is “the one seeking revenge“.  In fact, revenge has been a widespread behavior among the Kurds. Abbo’s mother Aicha, from a second marriage, used to harass Abdullah since his early childhood to seek revenge with the kids; she would frequently threaten him that she would disown him if he ever showed leniency to harm done to him. The partisans or kirilla of the PKK affectionately shortened Abdullah to “Abbo”.

The PKK is located mainly in the heartland of Turkey in thesouthern region of Anatolia.  The home town of Abbo is named Amarley five kilometers from the Euphrates River and 80 km from the Syrian border. The town of  Amarley is surrounded by six villages, one Armenian village, two Turkish, and the other three are Kurdish.

A few years ago, Turkey threatened Hafiz Assad of Syria of invasion and the stopping of the Euphrates River flowing through Syria if Assad failed to deliver Abdullah to the Turkish authorities. Currently, Abdullah, or best known by his partisans as Abbo, lingers as prisoner for perpetuity on a Turkish island. The Turkish government was ready to execute him but listened to the European appeals for a stay of execution.

The entire village of Amarley feared Abbo’s mother and she enjoyed the support of her fierce 5 brothers who visited her occasionally.  Abdullah did not believe in the revenge attitude. Instead, he turned his society behavior into seeking close friendship with the kids categorized as belonging to the family enemies.

Abdullah did not fit well and spent most of his days hunting or resting on top of trees because he felt that his vocation is to fly free like birds.

Abdullah’s father, much older than his mother, was practically a non entity in family affairs, in contrast to his grandfather who was a fierce and renowned knight and who made his offspring live in his shadows.

One day, Abdullah got upset with his younger brother who kept ruining the plants instead of working and chased him with stones to his house; his father tried to stop Abdullah and he threw stones at his father too; then he left home for good.

He headed toward the capital Ankara and worked as a daily laborer until he saved enough money to continue his journey.  He was first in his classes and retained the respect of his teachers.

Abdullah graduated as a technical geodesic and worked as a government employee in the Diar Bakr region where he amassed riches from bribery and got acquainted with the Kurdish peasants’ conditions.  The Turkish army would not hire officer Kurds in its ranks and Abdullah had to enroll in political science at the University of Istanbul with a student stipend.

Apo was deeply religious in his early youth, could recite around 30 short invocations to God, fled to the Mosques when in despair or for seeking peace of min. He is very knowledgeable about the personal and historical facts of the Prophet Mohammad and the early Caliphates, and it appears that he leans more heavily toward the Alawi sect, which is a splinter of the Shiaa.

He read the Communist and Socialist literature but never was a Party member to any political organization.  He is a socialist and comprehend that the fight of his Kurdish Workers Party against Turkey is targeting its Fascist and Kamalist (Ataturk) ideology which cannot conceive of any type of Federalist system for the Turkish minorities. 

The PKK is based in Anatolia, the Turkish heartland, where the majority of all the Kurds live.

The Kurds inhabit a land within the frontiers of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran; the Kurds’s homeland was historically the buffer zone for any major expansion toward the Near-East or Levant of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and current Jordan.

For instance, throughout historical subjugation of the Near East region by empires such as the Assyrians, Iranians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Tatars, and lastly the Ottomans, all these expansionist empires did not attempt to invade Syria until they managed to conquer all of Kurdistan.

The Ottoman Empire, under Sultan Selim Yawouz, had to defeat the Farsi Shiaa with the help of the feudal Kurdish leaders in the battle of Calderon in Anatolia in 1514 before it directed its attention and military force toward Syria and Egypt.

Recently, Kamal Ataturk managed to impress upon the French to turn over the regions of Antioch and Iskandaron, which were part of Syria around 1933, after he managed to occupy the Kurdish region of Dir Sim.

The leader of the PKK affirm that the Kurdish people, and specifically the PKK, is the main obstacle for the success of the US strategy in the Greater Middle East; he understand that the US plan is to divide the region into two antagonistic axes:

1.  The first axe is the Sunny axe composed of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey;

2. The second is the Shiaa axe composed of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

This US strategy is meant to keep the region in constant conflict and totally reliant on its mediation and support.

Abbo is a stoic; he can forfeit modern luxuries and can resist the temptations of sexual intercourse for many years. Actually, he married Kassira, from a bourgeois family that was close to Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey; the girl did not share his passion but she wed him to follow the order of the Turkish intelligence services.

For ten years, Abbo knew that she was a mole inserted in his Party by the Turkish establishment but he managed to confront the contrariety and did not punish her physically or executed her when she was tried for treason; they had no sexual intercourse. And during all that period he never entertained a girlfriend. His wife would never believe that he has been faithful to her physically.

The PKK confronted militarily the regular Turkish armies and the two other main Iraqi Kurdish movements of Barazani and Talbani.

For example, the Barazani Party relied on the tribal and feudal Kurdish warlords and sold his principles to the highest bidder in order to maintain the allegiance of the tribes;  but within 24 hours of a peace treaty between the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Barazani’s army of 100,000 soldiers strong laid down its arms.

Jallal Talbani Party relied on the Kurdish middle class and was constantly seeking political solutions with the Turkish government, even at the price of military confrontations with the PKK.  Lately, the two other Kurdish factions are seeking the mediation of the PKK to resolving their endemic confrontations between themselves.

Turkey sent three times its army to wipe out the PKK with over $100 billion US aids and failed.

Once, Turkey concentrated a force of 300, 000 soldiers in its attack, evacuated over one thousand Kurdish villages and could not dislodge the PKK from the mountains and in its strongholds of partisans.

The PKK had to face the direct cooperation among the governments of Turkey, the US, Israel, and Germany.

During the Ottoman Empire it was Great Britain that sustained this ailing Empire in order to prevent the Russian fleet from reaching the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.   It was Great Britain that stopped the advance of the Egyptian army headed by Ibrahim Pasha from entering Istanbul in 1840.

The war of attrition lasted twenty years but the PKK got stronger and more widespread among the Kurdish partisans throughout these upheaval and devastation.  In the early eighties, when the PKK got cornered, Abbo had to split his fighters. One group headed to the Turkish mountains in Anatolia and he led the other group toward the Middle East, I guess mainly to Syria and Lebanon.

The PKK fought against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 alongside the Palestinian and Lebanese Resistance; his fighters defended the castle of Beaufort (Kalaat Chkeef) in South Lebanon and 300 of his fighters managed to evacuate Beirut when Israel encircled the City.

Around 1990, Abbo directed his fighters to return to the Turkish mountains and had to confront many obstacles to that return home.

The PKK believes in friendship based on values and had strong connections with Hafiz Assad of Syrian, Greece, the Balkans, Russia, and the Armenians, though the Armenians still call Kurdistan “Arministan” because it was their kingdom in ancient history.

Abbo refused to appoint a second in command or instituting a central political committee for fear that the Turkish intelligence services would attract the prominent figures in the movement to split the revolution, and also to avoid the bureaucratic tendencies among the members of the Party, a tendency that he abhorred in the Communist Parties.

In fact, when his younger brother was made prisoner by the Kurdish leader Talbany, the latter tried to woo the Turkish government into offering a political solution in exchange of his prized prisoner.

Abbo never tried to remarry or associate himself with a girlfriend because he figured that any women would accept him solely because he is a famous figure and not for his personal characteristics.  He believes that love is the foundation for any marriage, and when love is over then the relationship between a husband and a wife is not distinguishable from a whoring business.

He thinks that the main struggle within a society is to spread the awareness of freedom and independence among the women in the families in order for society to enjoy freedom and liberty.  He looks favorably to the Prophet Mohammed marrying thirteen times because these wedding were not done under duress but consensual and he was soft and equitable and loving for his wives.

He believes that any marriage should not rest on religious dogma because the structure of families has changed through evolution and are different among societies.

Abbo claimed that the Kurdish people did not go through a slavery period, though it did not succeed in its evolution to experience any bourgeois period throughout history.

The Kurdish people is fundamentally a peasant and working class governed by a feudal and tribal system.  For this fact, Abbo believes that it is a much easier task to establish socialism in Kurdistan and be a role model for a happy and democratic society worldwide.  Actually, Abbo contends that the Kurdistan is the original bed of civilization that started 5 thousand years ago, and that the original Kurds fled Mesopotamia (current lower part of Iraq) to the northern mountainous region through successive waves of repressions and calamities.

The leader of the PKK affirms that he never carried a gun, shot a bullet, ordered an execution, or even ordered the start of the military alternative to the Kurdish struggle.

Note:  Abbo is still in Turkey’s prison but his confinement has been relaxed lately.  Abbo is ready to negotiate with Erdogan.

Currently, there are a few radical Kurdish factions, supervised by Israeli agents, trying to raise hell with Turkey because the current Turkish government has opened up with its Arabic neighboring States.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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