Sunday, November 17, 2013

Turkey confronts policy missteps on Syria

It appears the the tide is turning..... on Turkey

 A group affiliated with al-Qaeda controls the road leading south into Syria from this key border crossing on the front line of the debacle that Turkey’s Syria policy has become.
For more than a year, Turkey turned a blind eye as thousands of foreign volunteers from across the Muslim world streamed through the country en route to fight alongside Syria’s rebels, perhaps calculating that the fighters would help accelerate President Bashar al-Assad’s demise.

Now the extremists whose ranks the foreigners swelled are gaining ascendancy across northern Syria, putting al-Qaeda on NATO’s borders for the first time, raising fears of cross-border attacks and exposing how terribly Turkey’s efforts to bring about Assad’s removal have gone awry.

Meanwhile, in Damascus, Assad is showing every sign that he will ride out the revolt and perhaps remain in power for years, sustained in part by Western alarm at the rise of the extremists. 
( Recall the previous post mentioning the changing narrative? From Arab spring to fighting terrorism. An emerging rebrand) The United States has served notice that it has no intention of intervening militarily, and Turkey, once the most vocal proponent of action to oust Assad, has been left to confront the consequences of what appears to have been a grave policy miscalculation.

*Turkey,  has been left to confront the consequences of what appears to have been a grave policy miscalculation.

“This was not the outcome Turkey wanted,” acknowledged a Turkish official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the subject of Syria is so sensitive.

Critics say Turkey has only itself to blame for a state of affairs that Turkish authorities appear, at least indirectly, to have encouraged. President Obama rebuked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan when they met at the White House in May for not doing more to restrict the flow of foreign fighters, and the issue is expected to be on the agenda when the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, visits Washington on Monday.

Turkey has only itself to blame for a state of affairs that Turkish authorities appear, at least indirectly, to have encouraged

Almost all of the foreign fighters contributing to al-Qaeda’s strength in northern Syria traveled there via Turkey, flying into Istanbul and transferring to domestic commercial flights for the trip to the border. With their untrimmed beards and their backpacks, the foreigners are often conspicuous in the sedate, Western-oriented towns of southern Turkey.

There they check into hotels if they have some money, or get put up in safe houses if they don’t, before heading either for the legal border crossings or the well-worn smuggler routes crisscrossing the 500-mile-long border.

“It’s so easy,” said a Syrian living in Kilis who smuggles travelers into Syria through the nearby olive groves and asked to be identified by only his first name, Mohammed. He claims he has escorted dozens of foreigners across the border in the past 18 months, including Chechens, Sudanese, Tunisians and a Canadian.

“For example, someone comes from Tunisia. He flies to the international airport wearing jihadi clothes and a jihadi beard and he has jihadi songs on his mobile,” Mohammed said. “If the Turkish government wants to prevent them coming into the country, it would do so, but they don’t.”

         Rumors of training camps
Some opposition politicians have accused the Turkish government of going further than simply tolerating the traffic, saying that it also has helped transport, train and arm the foreign fighters. In the Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria, which Turkey fears may be seeking independence, rumors abound of secret training camps and mysterious military buses filled with fighters dispatched to aid Syrian rebels battling the Kurds.

Foreign fighters captured by Kurds have claimed that they were trained in Turkish camps and that Turkish instructors teach at rebel camps in Syria, according to Saleh Muslim, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the biggest Kurdish faction in Syria.
“In the beginning, Turkey helped them directly, and very clearly,” he said in a telephone interview.

Turkey strenuously denies that it has done anything to facilitate the flow of extremists. The Syrian war has overwhelmed Turkey in multiple ways, officials say, and as authorities struggled to accommodate an influx of 600,000 refugees while also aiding the mainstream rebels, they simply overlooked the foreign travelers.
“I don’t think anything was done on purpose,” the Turkish official said. “You can’t tell who is a jihadi or not, and a lot of Muslim people come to our country. Our visa procedure is not so strict.”

“Now, I think, everyone is realizing how much of a problem these extremist groups are,” he added. “At the end of the day, you can’t work with them, and you can’t even count on them to topple Assad.”

Turkey also may not have minded that the foreigners appeared to be contributing to the effort to oust Assad, said Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Turkey believed so firmly that Assad would fall and the good guys would take over they did not see a problem with allowing anyone and everyone to go and fight,” he said. “But the entire premise is not coming to fruition.”

The realization that both Assad and the jihadists may endure is prompting what one analyst familiar with government thinking called “adjustments” to Turkey’s policy. Ankara is not going to drop its insistence that Assad must go, he said, but it is exploring more nuanced ways to pursue the objective.

Erdogan has softened his once-colorful anti-Assad rhetoric, denounced the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups active in Syria and reached out to some former friends who had been alienated by his staunch support for the Syrian opposition, including Iraq and Iran.

Tightening border crossings
Turkey has taken steps to crack down on some of the cross-border activity. A truck loaded with 1,200 rockets destined for the rebels was intercepted this month, raids have been conducted against suspected al-Qaeda hideouts in Istanbul and foreigners are being turned back from border crossings into ­Syria — although not from the airport.

Muslim, the Kurdish leader, said Turkey has not provided any direct assistance recently to the extremists fighting in northeastern Syria, leading him to suspect that U.S. pressure is having an effect. “They should have done it before, but it is late now,” he said.

It was the capture in September of the town of Azaz, just across the border from Kilis, that brought home to Turkey the costs of its policy, said Amr al-Azm, a professor of history at Shawnee State University in Ohio and a Syrian who backs the opposition.

Warnings from authorities that al-Qaeda is planning bombings in Turkey have put the town on edge, prompting extra army patrols and police checkpoints. Last month, Turkish artillery fired mortars into Azaz after two people in Turkey were injured by stray bullets.
“It’s like closing the stable after the horses have bolted,” Azm said. “These guys have so many resources, they could fight for another two years.”

Considering the Muslim Brotherhood bashing in Egypt....... Turkey may be the next country on the 'remake the middle east' agenda


  1. Owen Jones, Mother Agnes, and Stop the War Coalition
    Posted by John Wight on 18 November, 2013

    For those who don’t know, Mother Agnes is mother superior at the Monastery and Convent of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria.
    She risks her life every day not only due to her stance against the western backed insurgency that is ripping Syria apart, but because she happens to be a nun – a member of Syria’s Christian minority – and as such deemed ripe for the slaughter by the savages who are cutting off the heads of people like her for sport.
    She has spoken in Ireland and Australia about what is unfolding in Syria, and she has organised an international delegation led by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire to come to Syria to see for themselves. She is one of the main organizers of Mussalaha (“Reconciliation”), a popular movement in Syria that mediates disputes and organizes ceasefires between opposing forces.
    Mother Agnes was invited to speak at a Stop the War conference in London on November 30. However after hearing that two other speakers scheduled to speak at the event – Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill – were threatening to withdraw unless her invitation was rescinded by the organisers, Mother Agnes took the decision to withdraw from the conference of her own volition.
    She has been demonised by her detractors as a ‘pro regime stooge’. Undoubtedly she supports the Syrian Government. But as with the majority of Syrians who support their government – and none more so than Syria’s various minority communities – this is probably on the basis that she lives in Syria and understands that the only force capable of preventing her country being turned into a killing field by western and Saudi backed savages is the Syrian Government, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.
    Below is Mother Agnes’ statement on her decision to withdraw from the conference:

  2. Jeremy Scahill eh????
    So he has a problem with free speech?
    Another gate keeper on the left maybe?

    1. Scahill: gatekeeper. Now that is resolved.
      And he plays the 'insulting to those that have died' card
      Or using guilt/shame to shut people up
      So the obvious connections between the AQ scary guy and US/Israeli/NATO
      war machine as abundant as they are are lost on Scahill

    2. freethinker: don't know why your comment went to spam?
      but it's out now and I thank you for it

    3. What amazed me was the applause he got at the end. I wonder who the audience was?

      Tuesdays Lebanon bombing shows (once again) that AQ are working directly for Israel.

  3. Agent of Chaos @blacbloc 10h
    You are a VIce President of Stop the War Coalition, How do you feel about the treatment of Mother Agnes? @georgegalloway
    ...See More
    25 minutes ago · Like

    anti #motheragnes Owen is a classic No-to-islamicterrorists-no-to-Assad type ! Owen Jones @OwenJones84 3h
    @HibaSyriana @liberalfish Nope, I oppose the Islamist rebels, and I oppose the murderous regime of Assad. Now stop spamming me please.
    15 minutes ago · Like

    a comment from Jeremy! jeremy scahill @jeremyscahill 16 Nov
    Twitter should give the option of untagging yourself from unhinged trolls' rants, including those gainfully employed by media outlets
    Retweeted by Owen Jones
    10 minutes ago · Like

    Arabsyndikatet @Arabsyndikatet 17h
    Re-invite #MotherAgnes campaign launched. (:

    1. brian I took a minute to look at the twitter feed of Owen Jones
      admittedly I do not know who this character is

      but "I oppose the Islamsists" I oppose the murderous regime of Assad

      But he does not oppose the murderous US/ Israeli regime?
      Mr Jones does not support the right of the Syrians to be free from covert destabilization?
      Of course not because he touts the 'popular uprising' agenda/meme which is so convenient for the NATO/Israeli/GCC destabilization campaign
      He does not support Mother Agnes as a Syrian and her right to speak on what happened at Ghouta. Regardless of her political leanings

      Mr Jones is an obfuscater/or
      He spouts half truths
      He is a gate keeper
      Con artist

  4. Let's face the facts people, Syrians are fighting a world war on their own, it is the west with their jihadist terrorists VS the Syrian people/army, the al-qeida groups are trained by the CIA and funded by saudi arabia, otherwise why ahsn't any al-qeida group killed and americans or jews (which they claim are their sworn enemies)? our western governments are putting all our lives in danger for money which they get paid from saudi arabia and qatar.

  5. You no doubt have heard about the Mother Anges contraversy.

    Sharmine said a couple of days ago she was going to try to contact her for an article.
    Last night before bed, she tweeted this info.

    "Just had a 80 minute call with Mother Agnes - didn't get thru most of the questions though. Will follow up in 2 days when she is in the UK."

    We can look forward to a good article soon. :)


    1. hey karin
      yup, I heard about it
      it appears mr scahill and some other fellow owen jones did their gatekeeping duties

      keep me post karin, please :)