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Decoding Erdogan’s latest contradictions

Turkey’s Erdogan’s latest contradictions are amongst his most baffling yet. Here is a guide to help understand what he might be thinking and where it might lead.

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President Erdogan has just publicly shamed his American NATO ally by ‘exposing’ that the US has been supporting ISIS and other radical Islamist terrorist groups in Syria.

This is as revelatory as a recent declassified dossier revealing that the Pope is Catholic.

Clearly therefore, this is some sort of publicity stunt, but who is Erdogan’s intended audience and what point is he ultimately trying to make?

Like Stalin who killed some of his most capable political comrades, military leaders and scientists prior to the Great Patriotic War, Erdogan’s great purges have similarly left him isolated. By cleansing the political class, judiciary, military and police of many sensible, experienced and level headed Kemalist opponents, all that is left are those who are unintelligent but blindly loyal to Erdogan, in addition to Gulenist loyalists, and ISIS/Al-Qaeda sympathisers/agents, who are far more supine, and who are therefore harder to purge than a typical Kemalist.

Unlike Putin who rules through respect and straightforward political transparency (contrary to what the Western mainstream media say) Erdogan is often crass, vain and totally unpredictable.

In many ways he is worse than unpredictable, he is constantly changing his political tune, with such changes often coming hours apart.

Whilst publicly shaming America, as The Duran’s Alexander Mercouris reported, Erdogan is simultaneously trying to court the aid of the US Air Force in his face saving operation in Al-Bab. This comes in the aftermath of Turkish soldiers being slaughtered by ISIS, with two of them being burnt alive in an ISIS propaganda video.

To complicate matters further, since the liberation of Aleppo, Turkey’s goal in Syria has shifted from trying to defeat Kurdish YPG forces whilst simultaneously trying to overthrow the government in Damascus, to simply fighting YPG forces.

The trouble is that one of the few areas in recent Middle East policy making where the US and Russia have any common ground is over the Kurds.

In 1998 Abdullah Öcalan, a prominent leader in the PKK, travelled to Moscow to try to win Russian support for the Kurdish cause in Turkey. Whilst he met with many sympathetic people including Turkophile Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russia ultimately cast Öcalan aside. One has to remember that Russia in 1998 was at her weakest point in history, whilst in 2016 Russia is arguably at her strongest in geopolitical terms since the death of Brezhnev.

However, many in Russia remain sympathetic to the Kurds, but so too do many in America who have half expected Kurdish forces in Iraq to fight the battle against ISIS that the Iraqi army is in many cases ill-prepared for, and which many in the American political class don’t particularly want to fight.

There is an added irony here that of all the states with a Kurdish minority, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ended up being one of the most amenable to Kurdish autonomy, after Saddam Hussein more or less washed his hands of his long standing ‘Kurdish problem’.

In this sense Russia’s sympathy towards the Kurds is based on historic geopolitical conditions between Russia and the Turkish and Arab worlds which the Kurds inhabit, whilst for the US, the Kurds represent something of a well-trained and well-armed clean-up force which ideally will fix the mess the US has made in Iraq.

On the one hand, Turkey is politically committed to the Trilateral Peace Process in Syria whose senior partners are Russia and Iran, two consistent supporters of the legitimate government of Syria. Yet Turkey still wants American help in her ongoing ambitions in Syria which are far removed from the statements of respecting Syria’s territorial integrity that Turkey signed up to when forming the Trilateral group with Russia and Iran.

The US cannot afford more enemies let alone unwilling partners in the region. Like Ankara, Washington wants to have it both ways.  The US wants Turkey as part of its anti-Assad coalition, but also wants to keep on good terms with the Kurds.

Similarly, Erdogan realises that Russia is ultimately a more honest and reliable partner than America, in spite of Turkey’s NATO membership.

Erdogan continues to blame this summer’s coup attempt on Gulenist forces, and by unambiguous extrapolation, he blames the US for granting Gulen asylum.

Russia by contrast tipped Erdogan off about the coup, possibly saving his Presidency if not his life.

Furthermore Russia was the first foreign power to unconditionally condemn the coup, one led by mid-level military personnel as opposed to the top brass military leadership responsible for Turkey’s previous modern coups.

The only conclusion to this multifaceted scenario is that so long as Turkey seeks to have political influence on her neighbours, Erdogan will eventually have to pick a side.

His contradictory positions cannot last forever, especially since many of his Islamist chickens have now come home to roost, with few strong patriotic Kemalists left to protect what remains of the traditional secular Turkish Republic.

Much too will depend on Donald Trump.

Trump may be so uninterested in the Turkish mess that he may take a hands off approach to the country with NATO’s second largest army but least consistent and most stubborn political leader. In that case Trump might ironically push Erdogan even closer to Russia by leaving him with no other practical option.

This is only augmented by the fact that Erdogan has a great deal of internal opposition ranging from Al-Qaeda style extremists and Gulenists on one side, to angry Kemalists and Europeanised youths on the other. Turkey’s Kurds who can relate with neither of the previous three are yet another internal issue.

How ironic that the fate of Turkey’s most peculiar cowboy is now partly in the hands of the US’s next leader, a man who is far more pragmatic than not only Erdogan but many of the NATO countries who have been fighting Turkey’s losing battle in Syria.

 

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America the Punitive

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common?

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


There has been a dramatic shift in how the United States government carries out its business internationally. Admittedly, Washington has had a tendency to employ force to get what it has wanted ever since 9/11, but it also sometimes recognized that other countries had legitimate interests and accepted there was a place for diplomacy to resolve issues short of armed conflict. The Bush Administration reluctance to broaden its engagement in the Middle East after it recognized that it had blundered with Iraq followed by Obama’s relaxation of tensions with Cuba and his negotiation of a nuclear agreement with Iran demonstrated that sanity sometimes prevailed in the West Wing.

That willingness to be occasionally accommodating has changed dramatically, with the State Department under Mike Pompeo currently more prone to deliver threats than any suggestions that we all might try to get along. It would be reasonable enough to criticize such behavior because it is intrinsically wrong, but the truly frightening aspect of it would appear to be that it is based on the essentially neoconservative assumption that other countries will always back down when confronted with force majeure and that the use of violence as a tool in international relations is, ultimately, consequence free.

I am particularly disturbed with the consequence free part as it in turn is rooted in the belief that countries that have been threatened or even invaded have no collective memory of what occurred and will not respond vengefully when the situation changes. There have been a number of stunningly mindless acts of aggression over the past several weeks that are particularly troubling as they suggest that they will produce many more problems down the road than solutions.

The most recent is the new sanctioning of Russia over the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury England. For those not following developments, last week Washington abruptly and without any new evidence being presented, imposed additional trade sanctions on Russia in the belief that Moscow ordered and carried out the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th. The report of the new sanctions was particularly surprising as Yulia Skripal has recently announced that she intends to return to her home in Russia, leading to the conclusion that even one of the alleged victims does not believe the narrative being promoted by the British and American governments.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded with restraint, avoiding a tit-for-tat, he is reported to be angry about the new move by the US government and now believes it to be an unreliable negotiating partner. Considering the friendly recent exchanges between Putin and Trump, the punishment of Russia has to be viewed as something of a surprise, suggesting that the president of the United States may not be in control of his own foreign policy.

Turkey is also feeling America’s wrath over the continued detention of an American Protestant Pastor Andrew Brunson by Ankara over charges that he was connected to the coup plotters of 2016, which were allegedly directed by Fetullah Gulen, a Muslim religious leader, who now resides in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump has made the detention the centerpiece of his Turkish policy, introducing sanctions and tariffs that have led in part to a collapse of the Turkish lira and a run on the banking system which could easily lead to default and grave damage to European banks that hold a large party of the country’s debt.

And then there is perennial favorite Iran, which was hit with reinstated sanctions last week and is confronting a ban on oil sales scheduled to go into effect on November 4th. The US has said it will sanction any country that buys Iranian oil after that date, though a number of governments including Turkey, India and China appear to be prepared to defy that demand. Several European countries are reportedly preparing mechanisms that will allow them to trade around US restrictions.

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common? All are on the receiving end of punitive action by the United States over allegations of misbehavior that have not been demonstrated. Nobody has shown that Russia poisoned the Skripals, Turkey just might have a case that the Reverend Brunson was in contact with coup plotters, and Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear arms agreement signed in 2015. One has to conclude that the United States has now become the ultimate angry imperial power, lashing out with the only thing that seems to work – its ability to interfere in and control financial markets – to punish nations that do not play by its rules. Given Washington’s diminishing clout worldwide, it is a situation that is unsustainable and which will ultimately only really punish the American people as the United States becomes more isolated and its imperial overreach bankrupts the nation. As America weakens, Russia, Turkey, Iran and all the other countries that have been steamrolled by Washington will likely seek revenge. To avoid that, a dramatic course correction by the US is needed, but, unfortunately, is unlikely to take place.

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NATO Repeats the Great Mistake of the Warsaw Pact

NATO expansion continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war.

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Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Through the 1990s, during the terms of US President Bill Clinton, NATO relentlessly and inexorably expanded through Central Europe. Today, the expansion of that alliance eastward – encircling Russia with fiercely Russo-phobic regimes in one tiny country after another and in Ukraine, which is not tiny at all – continues.

This NATO expansion – which the legendary George Kennan presciently warned against in vain – continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war. Far from bringing the United States and the Western NATO allies increased security, it strips them of the certainty of the peace and security they would enjoy if they instead sought a sincere, constructive and above all stable relationship with Russia.

It is argued that the addition of the old Warsaw Pact member states of Central Europe to NATO has dramatically strengthened NATO and gravely weakened Russia. This has been a universally-accepted assumption in the United States and throughout the West for the past quarter century. Yet it simply is not true.

In reality, the United States and its Western European allies are now discovering the hard way the same lesson that drained and exhausted the Soviet Union from the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to its dissolution 36 years later. The tier of Central European nations has always lacked the coherence, the industrial base and the combined economic infrastructure to generate significant industrial, financial or most of all strategic and military power.

In fact the current frustrating experience of NATO, and the long, exhausting tribulations that faced Soviet diplomats and generals for so many decades was entirely consistent with the previous historical record going back at least until 1718.

From 1718 until 1867 – a period of a century and a half – most of Central Europe, including even regions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, were consolidated within the Austro –Hungarian Empire, However even then, the Habsburg multi-national empire was always militarily weak and punched beneath its weight. After Emperor Franz Josef recklessly proclaimed his famous Compromise of 1867, the effectiveness of the imperial army was reduced to almost zero. The autonomous and feckless conduct of the Hungarian aristocracy ensured a level of confusion, division, incompetence and ineptitude that was revealed in the army’s total collapse against both Russia and Serbia in the great battles of 1914 at the start of World War I.

Germany moved in to occupy and consolidate the region in both world wars. But far from making Germany a global giant and enabling it to maintain its domination of Europe, the Central European regions – whether as part of Austro-Hungary during World War I or as independent nation-states allied to the Nazis in World War II – proved miniscule and worthless against the alliances of Russia, the United States, Britain and France that the Germans fought against in both global conflicts.

After the Soviet Union militarily destroyed the genocidal military power of Nazi Germany in World War II, Russia’s Great Patriotic War, the political consolidation of East Germany and Poland were strategically necessary for Russia’s security. But occupying and organizing the rest of the region was not. Far from strengthening the Soviet Union, those nations weakened and distracted it. Today, NATO is repeating the Soviet Mistake and that fatal move is inexorably draining the alliance of all its strength and credibility.

NATO is also repeating the disastrous mistake that France made in 1920-21 when it created a “Little Entente” of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania to supposedly counterbalance the revival of Germany. The plan failed completely.

Today those very same nations – enthusiastically joined by Hungary, Poland and the three little Baltic states – are relentlessly distorting both NATO and the EU. They generate weakness and chaos in the alliances they are in – not unity and strength.

As I have noted before in these columns, the great British historian Lord Correlli Barnett drew the important distinction between militarily powerful nations that are generators and exporters of security and those, either tiny or disorganized, pacifist and weak nations that have to import their security from more powerful states.

One might call such small countries “feeder” or “parasite” states. They siphon off energy and strength from their protector partners. They weaken their alliance partners rather than strengthening them.

The consistent lessons of more than 300 years of Central European history are therefore clear: Leading and organizing the tier of Central European nations in the Warsaw Pact did not strengthen the Soviet Union: Instead, those activities relentlessly weakened it.

Incorporating most of the small nations in Central Europe into any empire or alliance has never been a cause or generator of military or national strength, regardless of the ideology or religious faith involved. At best, it is a barometer of national strength.

When nations such as France, Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States are seen as rising powers in the world, the small countries of Central Europe always hasten to ally themselves accordingly. They therefore adopt and discard Ottoman Islamic imperialism. Austrian Christian imperialism, democracy, Nazism, Communism and again democracy as easily as putting on or off different costumes at a fancy dress ball in Vienna or Budapest.

As Russia rises once again in global standing and national power, supported by its genuinely powerful allies China, India and Pakistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the nations of Central Europe can be anticipated to reorient their own loyalties accordingly once again.

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Why Russia will NOT fall victim to emerging markets financial crisis (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 81.

Alex Christoforou

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As the Turkish Lira collapses, sending emerging market economies into turmoil, Russia is being slapped with additional US sanctions dubbed the US Congress ‘bill from hell’.

The full text the newest sanctions bill has been released. The sanctions are deliberately designed to punish Russia’s economy for a Skripal poisoning hoax for which no evidence of Russian state involvement has been presented. The new bill even goes so far as to suggest designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The “sanctions bill from hell” officially entitled ‘Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018’ was introduced by a group of Republican and Democratic senators on the 2nd of August.

According to RT, the bill would place restrictions on US cooperation with Russia’s oil industry, target Russian sovereign debt transactions as well as Russian uranium imports. In addition, the legislation calls for sanctions against “political figures, oligarchs, and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris explain why, unlike the financial meltdown in Turkey, Russia is well equipped and properly prepared to weather the US sanctions storm… and may, in the end, come out of the latest emerging markets turmoil stronger and more independent from western petrodollar control than ever before.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via RT

The bill, which was recently published in full on Congress’ official website, also pledges full support for NATO and would require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate if the United States ever wishes to exit the transatlantic alliance.

The legislation also declares that “the United States will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation” and that Washington, in conjunction with NATO, should “prioritize efforts to prevent the further consolidation of illegal occupying powers in Crimea.”

The pending ‘Kremlin Aggression Act’ decrees that Congress should also determine whether Russia “meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

The bill also accused Russia of “enabling the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to commit war crimes,” adding that Moscow has shown itself to be “incapable or unwilling” to compel Assad to “stop using chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.”

The Act calls for a congressional committee to investigate “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity attributable to [Russia]” and resolves to “punish the Government of the Russian Federation for, and deter that Government from, any chemical weapons production and use through the imposition of sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and the use of the mechanisms specified in the Chemical Weapons Convention for violations of the Convention.”

The legislation is just the latest addition to a laundry list of sanctions and laws passed in the months following the 2016 presidential election.

Republican hawk Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who both sponsored the bill, said in a joint statement that the legislation is designed to show that the US will “not waver in our rejection of [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] effort to erode western democracy as a strategic imperative for Russia’s future.” The Russia-obsessed Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) was one of the five co-sponsors of the bill.

Moscow has brushed off the new wave of accusations as a projection of internal US struggle. Some elements in the US government are trying to “keep afloat” the conspiracy that Russia meddled in the US elections, in hopes of derailing constructive relations with Moscow and using the issue “purely for internal American purposes,” Senator Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Upper House Committee for International Relations, has said in response to the latest sanctions.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the adoption of any US legislation that targets Russian banking operations and currency trade would be considered a declaration of economic war.

“If they introduce something like a ban on banking operations or the use of any currency, we will treat it as a declaration of economic war. And we’ll have to respond to it accordingly – economically, politically, or in any other way, if required,” Medvedev said last week. “Our American friends should make no mistake about it.”

Moscow has vowed to respond to any new sanctions. Russia’s Finance Ministry said it would continue to sell off its holdings of US Treasury securities, while some lawmakers have called for Russia and its allies to stop using the US dollar for mutual payments.

 

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