Ankara suicide bombings cast long shadow over Turkey’s Syria policy

The twin attacks – Turkey’s most devastating in recent history – killed at least 97 civilians and wounded 246 more on Saturday during a predominantly Kurdish peace rally in the capital.

ISIL is the prime suspect in the suicide bombings, and investigators are close to identifying one of the perpetrators, prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish broadcaster NTV on Monday.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dangerously supported hardline militant groups – such as the Army of Conquest, a coalition that includes Al Qaeda’s Syria branch Jabhat Al Nusra and the Salafist group Ahrar Al Sham – to topple Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.

His contentious policy in Syria was already under strain before this, with Russia directly intervening in the war and the US forging close ties with Turkey’s other nemesis on the ground – the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The growing tussle of superpowers in the Syrian war is edging Turkey out of the equation, according to analysts.

“Turkey, in my judgement, is no longer a first rank player in the Syrian crisis. It will always have a role to play, but only because of its geography,” said Soli Ozel, professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.

Russia’s intervention has altered the course of war, not least for Turkey. One immediate effect will be the likely inclusion of Mr Al Assad in any transitional deal, a bitter pill Turkish leaders will have to swallow.

“Turkey will probably be part of any negotiating table, but I doubt that it will have much of a say as to who sits at the table,” Mr Ozel said.

Mr Erdogan will officially maintain his stance on ousting Mr Al Assad so as not to appear to have backed down from his position, but this may change should, as expected, Mr Erdogan’s AKP fail to win a majority in the upcoming elections, according to veteran Turkish journalist Semih Idiz.

“Turkey’s current policy [on Assad] is unsustainable and could change after the elections on November 1,” he said.

The shift appears even more likely, Mr Idiz added, given the West’s gradual gravitation towards accepting Mr Al Assad in any interim peace deal.

Turkey first emerged as a major player in the Syrian conflict when anti-regime protests began in 2011, pursuing a vigorous policy of backing mostly religiously conservative rebels to overthrow the Assad regime and empower the Muslim Brotherhood. But Ankara’s objectives are slowly blunting as the war draws in direct interventions from the US and Russia.

The priorities of the major powers have taken precedence, with Washington’s main focus on eradicating ISIL and Moscow determined to protect its key ally Mr Al Assad and prevent the Syrian state from crumbling further.

Another indicator of the zero-sum effect Russia’s intervention has had on Turkey’s influence in Syria is the question of Mr Erdogan’s proposed safe-zone within northern Syria.

“The Russian intervention has put the last nail into the coffin for Ankara in terms of its demand for a safe zone,” Mr Idiz said.

Russia’s violations of Turkish airspace last week demonstrate Moscow’s hostility towards a no-fly zone, and send a message to Turkey to respect Syria’s sovereignty, according to Mr Idiz.

Russian incursions into Turkey’s airspace and their close aerial encounters are also a power play that exposes Ankara’s inability to stop the Russians.

“[Russia is] showing its power and exposing Erdogan’s helplessness,” Mr Ozel said.

Pushed back by Russia and facing ISIL’s terror, Turkey is also being squeezed by its main ally, the US.

Washington’s war on ISIL has brought the Americans closer to the PYD, the only acceptable ground force that has proven capable of defeating ISIL extremists.

“Turkey is clearly displeased with the rising international profile of the PYD, which it is insisting is a terrorist organisation like the PKK, but appears to have little it can do to prevent this,” Mr Idiz said.

A key Turkish interest is to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in northeastern Syria, fearing it would inspire further unrest among its large Kurdish minority.

While a Kurdish state is unlikely, the importance of the PYD to Washington in its fight against ISIL has curtailed Ankara’s ability to weaken the group.

“The fact that the PYD, which is getting support from the US led-coalition against ISIL, is establishing warm ties with Moscow, is set to weaken Turkey’s hand even more against this group,” Mr Idiz said.

Mr Erdogan’s Syria policy was designed to expand Turkish influence in its southern neighbour.

Instead, he may be relegated to spectator status as he watches three worst case scenarios unfold: Mr Al Assad retaining interim power; the Kurds obtaining unprecedented power along the Turkey-Syria border; and radical ISIL with no qualms spreading its terror into the heart of Turkey.

Antoun Issa
October 12, 2015 Updated: October 12, 2015 06:20 PM

Find this story at 12 October 2015

Copyright http://www.thenational.ae/

Turkey Pays Former CIA Director and Lobbyists to Misrepresent Attacks on Kurds and ISIS

Thousands of articles have been published worldwide in recent weeks exposing Turkey’s strategic trickery — using the pretext of fighting ISIS to carry out a genocidal bombing campaign against the Kurds who have courageously countered ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal reported on August 12 that a senior US military official accused Turkey of deceiving the American government by allowing its use of Incirlik airbase to attack ISIS, as a cover for President Erdogan’s war on Kurdish fighters (PKK) in northern Iraq. So far, Turkey has carried out 300 air strikes against the PKK, and only three against ISIS! Erdogan’s intent in punishing the Kurds is to gain the sympathy of Turkish voters in the next parliamentary elections, enabling his party to win an outright majority and establish an autocratic presidential theocracy.

To conceal its deception and mislead the American public, within days of starting its war on the Kurds, Ankara hired Squire Patton Boggs for $32,000 a month, as a subcontractor to the powerful lobbying firm, the Gephardt Group. Squire Patton Boggs includes former Senators Trent Lott and John Breaux, and retired White House official Robert Kapla. The Gephardt lobbying team for Turkey consists of subcontractors Greenberg Traurig, Brian Forni, Lydia Borland, and Dickstein Shapiro LLP; the latter recently added to its lobbying staff former CIA Director Porter Goss. Other firms hired by Turkey are: Goldin Solutions, Alpaytac, Finn Partners, Ferah Ozbek, and Golin/Harris International. According to U.S. Justice Department records, Turkey pays these lobbying/public relations firms around $5 million a year. Furthermore, several U.S. non-profit organizations serve as fronts for the Turkish government to promote its interests in the United States and take Members of Congress and journalists on all-expense paid junkets to Turkey.

Among the U.S. lobbyists for Turkey, perhaps the most questionable is Porter Goss, CIA Director from 2004 to 2006, who has agreed to sell his soul and possibly U.S. national secrets for a fistful of Turkish Liras.

It is noteworthy that in a report Mr. Goss filed with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, he avoided answering the question regarding his compensation from the Turkish government. He simply wrote: “Salary not based solely on services rendered to the foreign principal [Turkey]”!

In the same form, filed on April 23, 2015, Mr. Goss described his services for Turkey as follows:

1) Provide counsel in connection with the extension and strengthening of the Turkish-American relationship in a number of key areas that are the subject of debate in Congress, including trade, energy security, counter-terrorism efforts, and efforts to build regional stability in the broader Middle East and Europe;
2) Educating Members of Congress and the Administration on issues of importance to Turkey;
3) Notifying Turkey of any action in Congress or the Executive Branch on issues of importance to Turkey;
4) Preparing analyses of developments in Congress and the Executive Branch on issues of importance to Turkey.
It is significant that Dickstein Shapiro LLP, Mr. Goss’s employer, misled the Justice Department, by reporting two days prior to the start of his employment and three days before the Armenian Genocide Centennial, that the former CIA Director had already met on behalf of his lobbying firm with nine members of Congress to discuss “US-Turkish relations.”

Most probably, hiring Porter Goss as a lobbyist for Turkey was a reward for his staunch support of Turkish issues, while serving as a Republican congressman from Florida from 1989 to 2004. During the October 2000 debate on the Armenian Genocide resolution in the House International Relations Committee, Cong. Goss, the then Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, testified against the adoption of the resolution, using the excuse that it would harm U.S.-Turkey relations. Nevertheless, the genocide resolution was adopted by a vote of 24 to 11.

It is bad enough that former Members of Congress are selling themselves to anyone who is willing to pay them. But, the former director of the CIA…? This is more than unethical; it is a grave risk to U.S. national security. The American government must not allow the sale of its top spymaster to the highest bidder! What if North Korea offered him a higher price? Would Mr. Goss jump ship and lobby for an enemy state just to make a few more dollars?

Harut Sassounian
Posted: 08/19/2015 11:49 am EDT Updated: 08/28/2015 8:59 am EDT

Find this story at 19 August 2015

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