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Turkey’s twisting the truth: There won’t be a joint anti-Kurdish op with Russia

Turkey is engaging in a cunning display of perception management techniques in hinting that it might coordinate a joint anti-Kurdish operation with Russia because it wants to put maximum pressure on the PYD-YPG Syrian Kurds in the run-up to next year’s “Syrian National Dialogue Congress”

Andrew Korybko

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Smashing “Political Correctness” In The War On Syria

The international media was hit with a bombshell earlier today when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared that his government no longer considers Damascus as a “threat”, thereby opening the door for a possible rapprochement between these once-close partners. The announcement comes less than 24 hours after President Putin traveled to Turkey to meet with President Erdogan, implying that Moscow had some role in convincing Ankara over the necessity in making this statement. After all, President Putin’s whirlwind three-country tour of the Mideast yesterday was largely designed to pave the way for next year’s “Syrian National Dialogue Congress”, the Russian leader’s personal initiative to bring about a “political solution” to the War on Syria.

Keeping in line with President Putin’s active diplomacy in laying the groundwork for this landmark event next year, it’s reasonable to presume that he did indeed convince his Turkish counterpart to publicly announce what keen observers were already well aware of ever since the failed pro-American coup attempt last summer and especially following the January commencement of the Astana peace process, namely that Ankara no longer has any real issues with Damascus. Of course, it was difficult for Turkey to openly admit this over the past 18 months due to domestic and international political reasons, but all the same, this “open secret” is now officially public knowledge. By making such an overture towards Syria, Turkey – likely in coordination with Russia – is now implicitly pressuring Damascus to reciprocate in taking the next step by legally accepting the presence of Turkish military forces in the “de-escalation zones” (DEZs).

The Chain Of “Compromises”

In accordance with Russia’s presumed plans for promoting a “political solution”, Syria absolutely has to “compromise” in accepting the Turkish troops that are active on its territory because they were deployed there as part of the Astana peace process. It’s possible that Damascus already held this position in secret, but just like Turkey, it was reluctant to express itself publicly for domestic and international political reasons, as well as to “save face” before both audiences just like Turkey was trying to do. Now, however, it will be increasingly difficult for Syria to keep this a secret because Turkey’s announcement pressures it to go public in return and therefore advance President Putin’s peacemaking vision. If successful, then there’s a chance that the same model could be applied to the US forces in northeastern Syria if Washington ever officially accepts that President Assad can remain in office until the country’s next presidential elections in 2021, which is what unconfirmed sources are reporting that Trump is ready to “compromise” on.

It shouldn’t be seen as a coincidence that these reports are only now just emerging one day after President Putin’s Mideast tour, since not only are they a reaction to this move, but they could have even been secretly coordinated with Russia per a “gentlemen’s agreement” that the Russian and American leaders may have clinched during their last personal meeting on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Vietnam. One should keep in mind that Russia is the most active and efficient mediating (or “balancing”) partner in Syria and the Greater Mideast right now, and in line with President Putin’s previous statement during the Sochi Summit with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts last month that all sides must “compromise”, it’s possible that he may have convinced the US of the need to accept the obvious fact that President Assad still solidly remains in office. In exchange for this superficial volte-face (as it was long ago presumed to be part of American calculations since the Russian intervention began), Syria could “compromise” by accepting the presence of American troops in the northeast.

The diplomatic deal-making spree that Russia convincingly seems to be on was catalyzed by its own decision to “compromise” in ordering the withdrawal of most of its Aerospace Forces from Syria, as it was this move which kicked into motion the preplanned statement given by the Turkish Foreign Minister a day afterwards and the news reports about the Trump Administration’s “compromise” (which could be interpreted as being in response to Russia’s). All of this is fine and dandy, so to speak, except that one actor is attempting to exploit the situation for its own advantage and inadvertently jeopardize this very delicate dance that Russia has begun with all parties, and the problem comes down to what the Turkish Foreign Minister misleadingly implied in his bombshell statement about Syria.

Kurdish Confusion

Overlooked by most commentators, Sputnik importantly reported that Turkey’s chief diplomat “has clarified that [his] country will coordinate an operation against Syria’s Kurds with Russia if it is necessary (and that) the minister explained that Turkey does not oppose the Kurds’ participation in the Syrian peace settlement, adding that the country has handed Russia a list of Kurdish forces it was ready to work with.” There are two parts to this passage that need to be analyzed separately before they can be understood together. About the first one, it’s unclear if President Putin did indeed consider a joint anti-Kurdish operation with Turkey, but the Foreign Minister is suggesting as much because of the presumption that his speech was prompted by the Russian leader’s meeting with President Erdogan yesterday evening. Turkey is masterfully attempting to utilize perception management techniques in order to put maximum pressure on its PYD-YPG Syrian Kurdish enemies by making it seem as though Russia is read to “backstab” them.

Nothing of the sort seems to be in the cards, however, as the author explained in his analysis last week about the evolving relations between Russia and the Syrian Kurds, but Turkey wants to sow distrust between these two parties in order to weaken the position of his foes and therefore allow them to be replaced by their Kurdish National Council (KNC) rivals. This group is originally from northeastern Syria but was driven out by the PYD-YPG Syrian Kurds and is now thought to be based in southern Turkey. The author wrote back in March how Ankara is training this pro-Turkish militia to take over the self-proclaimed region of “Rojava” in the event that an anti-“federalist” successor mission to “Operation Euphrates Shield” is ever launched. Though the speculative military campaign never transpired (at least not yet), it now appears as though Turkey is trying to win Russia’s ear in having Moscow host the KNC instead of the PYD in the forthcoming “Syrian National Dialogue Congress”.

Foreign Minister Cavusoglu’s twisting of the truth in hinting that Russia is planning an anti-Kurdish operation alongside Turkey is designed to get the PYD to concede into allowing the KNC to return to their homeland and enter into a political coalition with it, which could be the “face-saving” “compromise” that Turkey needs to have happen in order to accept the “decentralization” of northeastern Syria. There doesn’t seem to be any other way that Turkey would allow the PYD to remain in power there except if they reconciled with the KNC and had their new “partners” go to Astana and Sochi on their behalf. Anything less than that would be understood as an egregious affront to President Erdogan and a violation of the red line that he had sworn to his countrymen that he would protect, but at the same time, Ankara probably isn’t going to risk becoming the “global bad guy” by invading northeastern Syria, expelling the PYD-YPG, and being responsible for destroying President Putin’s personal peacemaking initiative there.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

That being said, the unintended consequence of Cavusoglu including his provocative statement about allegedly coordinating an anti-Kurdish operation with Russia in northeastern Syria in the same context as announcing his government’s change of policy towards Damascus, which itself came less than a full day after President Putin’s visit and is widely assumed to have been brought about by his personal diplomatic intervention, is that Moscow’s Mideast mediation efforts might fail if Ankara succeeds in driving a wedge between the Syrian Kurds and Russia. Moscow needs this group to behave constructively during this very sensitive time in transitioning the War on Syria from its fading military phase to the future political one, and if they or their US patrons come to believe that Russia isn’t “trustworthy” due to the Turkish Foreign Minister’s twisting of the truth, then they might get “cold feet” and refuse to continue with this process.

Russian Reassurances

To that end, it’s necessary for Russia to reassure its two partners behind closed doors and convey to them the self-interested reasons why Ankara alleged that such an operation is supposedly being considered. Some points in favor of Russia’s position is that it has already demonstrated that it has no desire whatsoever to directly confront the US in Syria and risk entering into a dangerous spiral that could lead to a nuclear standoff, which could inevitably happen if the 2000 US troops in the region and their 10 or so bases there come under threat in the course of a joint Russian-Turkish anti-Kurdish operation. In addition, Russia’s large-scale withdrawal of its Aerospace Forces signifies that it doesn’t intend to provide any significant in-field support to its allies anytime soon, further negating the Foreign Minister’s words to the contrary.

Finally, the most reassuring move that Russia could make right now to its American and Kurdish partners is for it to convince President Assad to reciprocate Turkey’s outreach but also extend it to the aforementioned two actors in order to strengthen the chain of “compromises” and make the upcoming “Syrian National Dialogue Congress” a success. That, however, might not be possible except under the condition of enormous pressure being put on President Assad, as he would essentially be backtracking on his government’s previous statements on the topics of uninvited foreign military forces in his country and “decentralization”, possibly representing a “bridge too far” for even for Russia to attempt to cross and potentially setting into motion the very same “law of unintended consequences” that it so desperately seeks to avoid.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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