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Turkey and Iraq going to war?

The US plays a difficult and complex game as it tries to manipulate Turkish President Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions whilst pursuing its own geopolitical objectives in Iraq and Syria.

Joe Lauria

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As Turkey mobilises fresh troops on the Iraqi border, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned that an invasion of his country will mean war. “Turkey and its forces will be damaged and we warn them again, if their troops enter Iraq we will fight them and we will look at them and treat them as the enemy,” he said. 

Turkey has threatened to take part in the U.S.-led military operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with troops it already illegally has deployed in the country. The new invasion would be to take further Iraqi territory.

“If we engage in war with them, the Turks will pay a heavy price, they will be damaged,” al-Abadi vowed to reporters in Baghdad last Tuesday.  “We warn Turkey if they want to enter Iraq, they will end up becoming fragmented,” because Turkey is “not a country to able to fight outside their borders.” Turkey invaded Cyprus 50 years ago, he said. “but Iraq is not Cyprus.”

The silence from Washington is deafening. As corporate media depends on official U.S. sources, it too is silent on this new crisis. Are the hawks in Washington exploiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman dreams of capturing former imperial Turkish territory in Iraq (and Syria) to covertly achieve U.S. objectives?  Could this plan go horribly wrong if two of their major regional allies go to war?

Since American officials rarely explain fully what they are up to in the Middle East, beyond slogans like “Fighting ISIS” and “The War on Terror”, understanding U.S. policy in the region is reduced to educated guesses based on official and leaked statements and assessments of complex developments on the ground.

For instance, U.S. officials are backing Syrian Kurds, not Turkey, in the operation launched Sunday to take Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria.  Less than two weeks ago Erdoğan proclaimed that during its invasion of Syria Turkey “will go towards Raqqah.” In the last debate, Clinton said the U.S.-led operation to liberate Mosul should continue to Raqqah. Now it has. But she didn’t provide any details.

Events on the ground indicate Washington has two policies: one public and the other hidden. (Just as Clinton in general advocated for in one of her paid speeches.)  Publicly the U.S. opposes Turkish military intervention in Raqqa and Mosul, while privately it is effectively riding Erdoğan’s outsized ambitions to let Turkish NATO troops create Hillary Clinton’s desired safe area.  This is on territory taken mostly from ISIS that could eventually stretch from northeast Syria into western Iraq.

There is abundant evidence that Turkey has supported ISIS from its inception. If Erdoğan is now fighting the terrorist group it may well be because he wants something like the Caliphate for himself, bringing it back to Turkey, which abolished it in 1924. And that just might fit into U.S. plans—which Obama has already allowed to be catered to Clinton’s.

“The goal here is to take back Mosul,” she said at the last debate, “… and then continue to press into Syria to begin to take back and move on Raqqah.”

A safe area in eastern Syria stretching to western Iraq could implement the so-called Plan B:  dividing Syria to weaken it, while also creating a “Sunnistan” corridor for the gas pipeline from Qatar through the Iraq/Syria border area to Turkey and on to Europe. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected a Qatar pipeline through Syrian territory in 2009. Some analysts think that spurred the Gulf-backed insurgency to overthrow him.  Settling for Plan B, or partition, would be an admission that Plan A, regime change, had failed.

There might also be another crucial task for Turkey on behalf of Washington’s hawks in both Syria and Iraq. Erdoğan may well target the Shia Turkmen Tal Afar area in Iraq.  The Shia-led Iraqi government wants to get it under central government control to possibly open a corridor from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon—a corridor Clinton has vowed to close. Turkey could also cut this passage in northern Syria.

Is the U.S. allowing Turkish troops to create these facts on the ground?  It’s impossible to know for sure because of the lack of transparency coming out of Washington. But in this scenario Erdoğan gets to control Syrian Kurdish areas and possibly parts of Iraq, satisfying his neo-Ottoman fantasies, while Clinton gets her safe area with NATO troops, but without deploying U.S. soldiers on the ground.

Erdoğan’s Dreams of Ottoman Glory 

After Russia’s September 2015 intervention in the Syrian war seriously turned back the jihadists’ advances, their principal backers, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, became so alarmed that in  In February they demanded the U.S. allow them to invade Syria. It was a momentous decision for Obama.  Would he risk war with Russia to save another regime change?

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter “welcomed” the Saudi-Turk plan to launch an invasion by air from Turkey’s Incirlik NATO air base, and by land through the wastelands of Jordan or western Iraq. The Saudis staged a 30,000-man invasion war game in the desert. In the end Obama stood for reason and stopped it.

But in July an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was crushed. He seized the opportunity to eliminate almost all opposition to his nearly complete one-man rule. By late August Erdoğan was ready to make his move with no one left in Turkey to oppose him.

On August 24, with U.S. air cover, Turkey invaded Syria. This time Obama did not stop him. Washington clearly approved as its planes protected Turkish tanks and infantry rolling across the border. Vice President Joe Biden was in Ankara a day before the invasion.

The pretext was to fight ISIS, but it became clear immediately that Turkey’s main target is the Syrian Kurds—one of ISIS’ toughest foes on the ground. The U.S. protested, but Washington surely knew what Turkey’s intentions were.   

The date of August 24, 2016 is significant. Exactly 500 years to the day, on August 24,1516, the Ottomans left Turkey to begin their empire by invading their first country—Syria.

This is hardly a coincidence when one considers Erdoğan’s history. He spurred a violent police crackdown in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013 on demonstrators against his plan to build a replica of an Ottoman barracks in the park. In April, Erdoğan named a new bridge over the Bosphorus after Osman, founder of the Ottoman Empire. 

Turkish-backed rebels took the Syrian town of Dabiq from ISIS on Oct. 16. It was victory there in 1516 that established the Ottoman Empire.

The Safe Area

Hillary Clinton has been pushing for a no-fly zone and a safe area in Syria since she ran the State Department.  She has called for both as recently as the last presidential debate, despite the inherent dangers of confronting Russia. 

The safe area is supposed to shelter internally displaced Syrians to prevent them from becoming refugees. But it could also be used as a staging ground to train and quip jihadists intent on regime change, as was employed in Libya. A safe area would need ground troops to protect it. Clinton says there will be no US ground troops in Syria.

Turkey has also been clamouring for a safe area on the ground for the past few years. Erdoğan called for it (as well as a no-fly zone in northern Syria) as recently as last September in his address to the U.N. General Assembly.

The hawks appear to have bested Obama this time. He has not stood in the way of Clinton-allies in his administration letting Erdoğan pursue his neo-Ottoman fantasy (even fighting U.S.-backed Kurds) in exchange for Turkish NATO forces establishing a safe area without U.S. ground troops. Turkey and its rebel forces already control about 490 square miles in northern Syria.

Turkey and Iraq on the Boil

In early October Erdoğan began his war of words with Iraqi prime minister al-Abadi about 1,000 Turkish troops based at Bashiqa, around 10 kilometers from Mosul.  Iraq has been insisting the troops leave the country for months.

With the operation to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city about to begin last month it was clear to me that Erdoğan would threaten to take Mosul, based on a World War I-era Ottoman claim.

On Oct. 30, 1918 Britain and the Ottomans signed an armistice, but three days later British Lt. Gen. Sir William Marshall invaded Mosul and captured it on November 15. Arguing that they were double-crossed, Turkey continued to claim Mosul despite it being given to British-controlled Baghdad in the Treaties of Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923).

A 1926 League of Nations commission sided with Britain, and Turkey reluctantly agreed to its border with Iraq. But revanchists like Erdoğan still don’t buy it. “We did not voluntarily accept the borders of our country,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 27.

He then made no secret of his plans to enter Mosul.  “You are not on my level,’ Erdoğan told al-Abadi. “Know your place! Your screaming and shouting is of no importance to us. You should know that we will do what we want to do,” he said.

Al-Abadi insists that only the Iraqi Army and federal police are allowed inside Mosul. Even the Kurdish peshmerga have agreed to stay out. But Erdoğan continues to claim Mosul and even called for ethnic cleansing of Shia from the city, which had a pre-ISIS population of 2 million.

After American silence, al-Abadi threatened to fly to Washington to demand the U.S. stop Erdoğan.  Officially the U.S. has told Turkey to stand down. But it is not clear how much control Washington has over Ankara in this matter, or whether Erdoğan’s plans fit entirely into the hawks’ agenda.

And this has been the problem whenever the U.S. allows surrogates to think they are pursuing their own agendas in the service of America’s larger one.  One only has to think of the alliances with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s, General Noriega in Panama in 1989, and the frankenstein that the Islamic State has become.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint-chief-of-staffs, was in Ankara on Sunday meeting Erdoğan. It might well have been a tense meeting with a volatile leader. He said on  Sunday that Turkey is charting an independent course from the West, adding, “I don’t care if Europe calls me a dictator.”

The Americans must allow him to think he is acting independently, but without screwing things up for themselves.  After the meeting the two sides said the U.S. and Turkey would jointly “seize, hold and govern” Raqqa.

In Iraq, the biggest question for Washington is whether the U.S. can keep al-Abadi’s desire for Iraqi sovereignty and Erdoğan’s inner Sultan in check to prevent the two from going to war, while instead doing America’s bidding.

This won’t be easy if the U.S. intends for Turkey to take territory in northern Iraq.  A war between the two U.S. allies could threaten Washington’s aims in the region, whatever they may really be. 

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Wesa F.
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Wesa F.

This would be the perfect war for America, supply both sides for cheap oil, all they need to do is send Soros in and we can have a war that will last until the oil runs out.

Wesa F.
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Wesa F.

Sorry that won’t happen to much going on there for the West.

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Adolf! is that you? Wow you haven’t aged one bit. its been what 71 years now?

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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