Tag Archives: Syria

Mark Collins – “The fall of Aleppo shows us exactly what we have become”

Terrible Terry Glavin roars his rage; amongst other things he excoriates feckless and irrelevant Canadian word-mongering at the UN General Assembly–an excerpt:

The truth of it is we’d just rather not take the trouble [see end of post]. We aren’t prepared to suffer the sacrifices demanded of the commitments to universal rights we profess, so we absolve ourselves by talking about “the Muslim world” as though it were a distant planet. We talk about Arabs as though they were a different species. It’s easier on the conscience that way.

Between the drooling bigotries of the isolationist Right and the clever platitudes of the “anti-imperialist” Left, the only place left to address the solemn obligations we owe one another as human beings is in negotiations over the codicils of international trade agreements, or in the rituals of deliberately unenforceable resolutions entertained by the United Nations General Assembly.

Just last Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and his diplomats conducted just such a ceremony in sponsoring a non-binding General Assembly resolution demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities in Syria, humanitarian aid access throughout the country, and an end to the siege of Aleppo. It passed, 122 to 13. This is what counts these days as a diplomatic coup [and heralded by our government–wowsers: “UN General Assembly calls for action on Syria in Canada-led resolution”].

Canadian Ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard was pleased to claim that the resolution was already having an effect even before it was voted on, because the day before, Russia announced it was temporarily halting its bombing of Aleppo and had even offered to open corridors to allow civilians to flee. This is what counts these days as a diplomatic triumph.

The UN human rights office later announced that it had received credible reports that hundreds of men who crossed into Aleppo’s regime-controlled districts had gone missing…

Whilst Aleppo was falling our government issued this clarion call; one is sure it had Assad and Putin furiously reconsidering their course. Why do we bother with this worthless verbiage?

Canada demands that Assad regime and backers stop violence now and respect human rights in Syria

And if they don’t? Bah and humbug.

The start of a post from April:

The West and the Middle East: No Guts

I wrote earlier:

What to Do About the Bloody Middle East?

Poor bloody locals. If the West is truly willing to sort things out right now, are we then willing to rule–one way or another–for some decades or so to try to ensure things work out wellish? Triple double HAH! Given no willingness for, or today in the West intellectual acceptance of, such a prospect, then let us just face things honestly…

We don’t. Thank goodness we have Mr Glavin.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnificent vs the Kurds (plus ISIS/Syria)

This murderous terrorism,

Istanbul bombing: Terror attack death toll rises to 38 including 30 police as officials accuse PKK
PKK blamed for attack which is the latest in an escalating scale of violence in the country

will only make this worse–at the NY Times:

As Turkey Cracks Down, Kurdish Mayors Pack Bags for Jail

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — When Kurdish officials here in Diyarbakir, the biggest Kurdish city in the world, say they’ve been “unavoidably detained,” it is not just an excuse for lateness.

Even before I arrived, the co-mayors, Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, were jailed on terrorism charges that rights groups say are trumped up. Interviews in prison are not possible because, officially, foreign journalists are barred from the city.

Ahmet Turk, 74, a Kurd despite his name and the venerable mayor of another Kurdish city, Mardin, was out of jail at the moment. But his press officer, Enver Ete, said that it would be hard to arrange an interview: “We can’t give a time since so many people are getting arrested we can’t foresee what will happen.”

Kamuran Yuksek, a Kurdish politician, was on the phone with a reporter when he was detained briefly — just after being released from five months in prison.

I could not see Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., the country’s third-largest, although he lives in Diyarbakir. He, too, was jailed, along with nine other H.D.P. members of Parliament, so I arranged to see his wife, Basak, instead.

She canceled, not because she was jailed, but perhaps because she worried she would be, and she had two small children at home.

Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish politicians, officials, news outlets, schools, municipalities, think tanks and even charities has been so thoroughgoing that it has left those who remain free expecting arrest at any moment. “My bag is packed for prison,” said Feleknas Uca, an H.D.P. member of Parliament. “Everybody has a bag in their house for prison. Now, everyone can be arrested at any moment.”

The crackdown on Kurds is part of a broader assault by the government on Turkey’s democratic freedoms after a failed coup in July, even though hard-line Islamists, followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who are rabidly anti-Kurdish and hardly democratic paragons themselves, are accused of the overthrow attempt…

The crackdown on democracy has been nationwide, but on the political front it has been concentrated in the mostly Kurdish southeast, though there is no evidence, or even a government accusation, that Kurdish parties, legal or illegal, had any role in the attempted coup.

But a peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., broke down last year, and since then fighting has claimed 2,393 lives on all sides, including civilians, according to a tally by the International Crisis Group.

Mr. Erdogan’s government had been stunned in 2015 elections when the H.D.P. decimated the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., in the east especially, winning six million votes, sending 80 candidates to Parliament, and becoming overnight a nationwide political force and the third-largest party. Critics accused Mr. Erdogan of deliberately rekindling violence in Kurdish areas to stir nationalist passions and reverse his flagging fortunes.

Since the coup attempt, the government has focused on jailing officials of the H.D.P. and its local sister parties, arresting at least 45 mayors of Kurdish towns beginning in late October. New arrests are coming practically every day. This year, 2,700 local Kurdish politicians affiliated with the H.D.P. have been jailed…

Kurds have borne the brunt of the crackdown, not just in politics but also in the news media and other areas. The publications and media organizations ordered closed by the government included nearly every Kurdish outlet, except for the government’s Kurdish television channel. Some Kurdish publications have begun publishing under other names…

Meanwhile the Kurdish complication vs ISIS in Syria:

U.S. to Send 200 More Troops to Syria in ISIS Fight

The military advance is complicated by the predominant role played by Kurdish militia members, who make up a majority of the 45,000 fighters and are the most effective American partner against the Islamic State in Syria. But the Kurdish militia fighters are viewed by Turkey — a pivotal American ally — as a terrorist threat.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known collectively as the Y.P.G., as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Kurdish rebel group that has sought autonomy from Turkey since the 1980s. Ankara has demanded that the Y.P.G. not take part in the fight to retake Raqqa.

Turkish forces in recent months have swept across the border into Syria to attack Islamic State strongholds, an offensive the Pentagon has applauded [e.g. recently: “Turkish Troops, Syrian Rebels Attack Key Town Held by Islamic State”]. But the Turkish advance has also served to blunt the Kurdish fighters’ efforts to carve out a contiguous swath of territory inside Syria stretching to the Iraqi border.

As Turkish and Kurdish forces repeatedly clashed, American officials and commanders intervened to curtail the fighting. Washington desperately needs the two sides to focus on fighting the Islamic State in Raqqa, not each other.

To that end, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has met twice in the last month with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, to consult on battle plans for Raqqa. American Special Operations troops were assigned to accompany Turkish troops in Syria, giving the Pentagon on-the-ground liaisons.

In another unusual move, Brig. Gen. Jon K. Mott of the Air Force, a senior operations officer from the Pentagon’s Central Command, was recently dispatched to the Turkish Army’s operations center in Ankara to help coordinate the war effort and defuse any conflicts with the Kurds.

Pentagon officials are also toning down their vocal support for Kurdish fighters to avoid further inflaming Turkish domestic political sensitivities about any collaboration between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters…

Where it will all end knows only…Earlier (Operation Euphrates Shield— this from August):

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Syria/Iraq Update: ISIS, Raqqa, Kurds…and Turkey, Plus Mosul

Further to this post,

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

the latest on the explosive ex-Ottoman mixture at the invaluable MILNEWS.ca:


“US Expects Anti-Daesh Operations in Raqqa, Mosul to Drag On”“Battlefield developments threaten to trigger Turkish intervention in Iraq and Syria against Kurdish and Iraqi Shia militias”…

Raqqa Latest “Raqqa: US, Turkey agree to develop plan for ISIS-held city”“U.S. Tries Convincing Turkey to Work with Kurds Against Islamic State in Raqqa”“US, Iraq Back Syrian Kurdish-led March on Raqqa, Turkey Objects”“Syria’s SDF: a risky US ally to take Raqqa”“Isolation, Liberation of Raqqa Key in Defeating ISIL, (Pentagon) Spokesman Says”“Turkey paranoid that Syrian Kurds will take Raqqa as their capital after dislodging Daesh”…

Mo’ on Mosul “The Campaign for Mosul: November 4-7, 2016” (ISW blog) “Mosul battle rages as IS strikes around Iraq”“Food Pre-Positioned for 1.25 Million People in Mosul”“Kurdish Peshmarga Storm Daesh-Held Town in Iraq as Army Battles in Mosul”“Peshmerga storm Daesh town in Iraq as army battles in Mosul”

Very interesting but dangerously messy.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

The ever more maximum president is certainly making things difficult for POTUS and many others:

Erdogan reasserts Turkey’s role in wars in Syria and Iraq

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday [Oct. 27] that he had informed President Obama of Turkey’s intent to participate in an offensive in northern Syria. His remarks are a reminder of the strategic conundrum facing the United States, which is working to defeat the extremist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq with both cooperation from Turkey as well as from Syrian Kurdish militias being targeted by the Turks.

In a televised speech from the Turkish capital, Ankara, Erdogan said he told Obama that Syrian rebels backed by Turkey in an ongoing operation called “Euphrates Shield” would advance on the Syrian border town of al-Bab, which is held by the Islamic State. They would then march on to Manbij, a northern Syrian city that earlier this year was liberated from the Islamic State by a coalition of Syrian militias led by a Kurdish faction known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The Turkish government considers the YPG an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist faction that has waged a decades-long insurgency within Turkey and is deemed a terrorist group by both Ankara and Washington.

Then, Erdogan said, “we will go toward Raqqa” — the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria.

raqqa.jpg

…[In Iraq] too , Turkey hopes for “a place at the table.” As WorldViews noted earlier, Erdogan has demanded a role for Turkish troops in the Mosul campaign that nobody — neither the Americans, nor the Iraqis — has planned for and has invoked grievances from World War I and sectarian rhetoric while doing so.

“We did not voluntarily accept the borders of our country,” Erdogan said, referring to the defeated Ottoman parliament’s disregarded 1920 territorial claim to Mosul and its oil-rich environs…

Oh dear. More here on President Erdogan.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Syria: Russia Threatening Nuclear “De-Escalation”? NATO?

Further to this post,

Syria: POTUS be Prudent vs Assad and Bad Vlad

we now see this:

Russia’s top spin doctor in nuclear warning
Russian state TV host Dmitry Kiselyov [more here] has a reputation for attacking the West.

Critics call him the “Kremlin’s chief propagandist”. And like many other top Russian officials, he is on the Western sanctions blacklist.

But the warning he delivered to Washington in last night’s edition of his show News of the Week was, even for him, particularly dramatic. “Impudent behaviour” towards Russia may have “nuclear” consequences, he said.

“A Russian takes a long time to harness a horse, but then rides fast,” said the news anchor, quoting a famous Russian saying.

By “riding fast”, Kiselyov was referring to a string of recent Russian military deployments:

*Last week, Moscow sent three warships from the Black Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean: on board, cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads

*Russia deployed nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into the Kaliningrad region bordering Poland…

Kiselyov said that in recent days there had been a “radical change’ in the US-Russian relationship.

Moscow was taking action, he said, because of “the loud talk in Washington of a ‘Plan B’ for Syria. Everyone understands what this plan means: direct military force in Syria against President Assad’s forces and the Russian military”…

As for Russia and nukes, they have a strategic rationale:

NORAD and Russian Cruise Nukes: “de-escalation”? 

NORAD and Russian Cruise Nukes: “de-escalation”? Part 2

And what about NATO and nukes?

Tough Question for NATO: “Would we really go nuclear to protect Estonia?”

Just remember those Canadian Forces going to Latvia. The planned NATO Baltic strengthening certainly could not beat the Bear conventionally according to an earlier RAND study. One hopes the NATO presence can deter, trip-wire in the nuclear sense.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Syria: POTUS be Prudent vs Assad and Bad Vlad

While I have often been sceptical about President Obama’s handling of international matters, and awful as things are in Syria and as great the moral outrage, I not think this is the time to develop a steely backbone; where it would all end knows only–perhaps–President Putin:

Why the United States Should Exercise Restraint Before Launching A New War in Syria
The Russians might not be willing to back down in a confrontation with American forces.
Dave Majumdar

Tensions between Russia and the United States are coming to a head over the civil war in Syria. Washington has suspended bilateral talks with Russia to end the five-year old war. Moscow has suspended an agreement to destroy 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium that was reached during the year 2000, using especially harsh rhetoric. Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces—with the backing of Russian airpower—are continuing to mount a fierce attack on the partially rebel-held city of Aleppo with Washington seemingly powerless to influence events on the ground.

As a result of the recent collapse of a ceasefire negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the subsequent Syrian regime offensive, there are many in Washington clamoring for firmer U.S. action—a so-called Plan B. However, President Obama and his National Security Council staff are faced with limited options.

Among the four options that may be under consideration are a no-fly-zone, safe zones, attacking the Syrian air force and arming the Syrian rebels with additional weaponry. But each option carries with it significant risk of escalation or blowback.

While the United States has the capability to defeat Russian and Syrian regime air forces and air defenses, which is necessary to establish a no-fly zone or safe-zone, or to destroy the regime’s airpower, there are several risks from a legal and military standpoint. The legal problem comes from the fact that the United States is not technically at war with the Syria, nor is there a UN resolution authorizing American forces to operate inside that nation.

Even ongoing U.S. military operations inside Syria are acts of war—and are technically illegal. The Obama Administration is aware of this technically as Secretary Kerry noted during conversations with Syrian rebel activists. “The problem is the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do,” Kerry told the rebels in a recording published by the New York Times. “We don’t have a basis—our lawyers tell us—unless we have a U.N. Security Council resolution—which the Russians can veto or the Chinese—or unless we are under attack from folks there or unless we are invited in. Russia is invited in by the legitimate regime.”

A no-fly zone or safe zone would require U.S. combat aircraft to intercept and possibly shoot down Russian and Syrian warplanes entering into the area designated by Washington and its allies. U.S. policymakers would have to make the gamble that Moscow—which is likely eager to avoid war with the United States—would back down and acquiesce to the American imposed no-fly zone. However, Washington is equally averse to fighting a war with the Russia, which, despite possessing only a fraction of the military might of its Soviet forbearer, remains the only power on Earth that can reduce the United States to charred radioactive cinders.

It is highly unlikely that any U.S. President would be willing to risk war against a nuclear-armed power with only four months left in office in a conflict with few—if any—vital American interests at stake. The Russians know that and might not be willing to back down in the event of an air-to-air confrontation with American forces because too much national prestige—and even Mr. Putin’s personal prestige—would be on the line. Thus, such an encounter could escalate in unpredictable ways. One only needs to look to history to demonstrate the unforeseen consequences stemming from relatively localized events—no one could have predicted that the  assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand would have precipitated the events leading to the First World War in 1914 [read on]…

Awful though it may be one puts it bluntly: what vital US national interests–not to mention the interests and safety of many, many others–are worth the risks? Pride and credibility are not enough.

More here on 1914

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Aussies vs ISIS: Targeted Assassinations by Air Strikes?

That seems one reasonable inference from this change in their ROEs–at MILNEWS.ca:


“Australia to expand anti-ISIL campaign in Iraq and Syria”“The Australian Defence Force now has the full authority needed to target all members of Daesh, in accordance with international law. This ensures we can continue to meet the evolving national security threat of this decade and well beyond. The Government has reviewed its policy on targeting enemy combatants and made an important decision to ensure our forces are empowered to act against Daesh in Iraq and Syria to the maximum extent allowed by international law. This now includes targeting those who may not openly take up arms but are still key to Daesh’s fighting capability …” (AUS PM statement) – “Australia outlines tough new measures against Islamic State”“Australia Foreshadows Expanding Role in Fight Against Daesh in Syria and Iraq”…

Rather more robust than anything that would fly in Canada, one thinks. Relevant:

Who’s Doing What in Anti-ISIS Coalition?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Who’s Doing What in Anti-ISIS Coalition?

Compare our effort with others’, listing starts at p. 10 PDF at link below–at Foreign Policy’sSituation Report“:


Crib sheet. Here’s a very handy little report from the Congressional Research Service listing what countries are taking part in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS in Iraq, what their contributions are, and where their troops [and air personnel] are based…

Even without CF-18s engaged in bombing (the current government clearly does like the routine application of deadly force), our contribution does not appear inappropriate to me. Especially given the CAF’s operation in Ukraine and the ones upcoming in with NATO in  Latvia and with the UN in  Africa (somewhere).

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Turkey into Syria vs ISIS and Kurds; Chinese Military Help to Assad

Further to this post,

Turkey Update: EU, US, ISIS, Syria (Kurds), Israel

President Erdogan certainly is asserting himself–at MILNEWS.ca(China at end, Putin must be pleased about their help but not happy about Turks):


– TUR into SYR “More Turkish tanks enter northern Syria, Kurds say”“Turkey sends more tanks to Syria , demands Kurdish fighters retreat”“Some 350 Turkish Troops Deployed in Euphrates Shield Operation in Syria”“Syria operation ‘to protect Turkish, European security’” – “Turkey says has ‘every right to intervene’ if no Syrian Kurd withdrawal”
– “Russia says ‘deeply concerned’ at Turkish operation against Kurds in Syria”“Russia: Syrian crisis must be resolved through talks with all sides, including Kurds”
– “KCK says Turkey aims to attack Kurds in Syria, not ISIS”
“HDP: Turkish incursion into Syria ‘a grave mistake’ that will deepen the crisis”
– “Did the Syrian regime approve the Turkish invasion?”
“Why Turkey has gone after ISIS in Syria”
“Turkey invades Syria. To destroy whom?”
“Terry Glavin: How Barack Obama sold out Syrians to appease Iran”
“Following US Orders, Kurdish Forces Withdraw from Manbij, Other Areas East of Euphrates River”“Turkish-led Forces Gain More Areas near Jarablus amid YPG Withdrawal from Area”“Turkey & USA: Syrian Jarablus Region Must Be Cleared of Kurds”
“Syrian rebels seize town of Jarablus from Islamic State”
CHN into SYR “Chinese military will train Syrian troops”“Chinese military will train Syrian troops: govt”“China military says it is providing medical training for Syria”…

What a maelstrom.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Turkey Update: EU, US, ISIS, Syria (Kurds), Israel

Turkey certainly has an awful lot to cope with these days–both internally and externally–and many feel beleaguered indeed:

1) EU is humiliating Turkey rather than helping: Turkish FM: ‘Despite Turkey’s years of efforts spent for becoming an EU member, Europe only threatens’ says Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that the European Union was humiliating Ankara instead of supporting Turkey following the July 15 bloody coup attempt.

In an interview with the German daily, Bild, Çavuşoğlu said the EU only threatens Ankara despite all efforts to become a member of the 28-state bloc and obtain visa free travel. He stated the Turkish nation was “traumatized” by the failed putsch on July 15, but Europe did not stand beside them…

2) Turkey [not government] blames U.S. for coup attempt

ISTANBUL — In the wake of the weekend coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turks increasingly point to a culprit outside their country’s borders: the United States.

“It’s all America’s fault,” said Erkan Gul, 22, a sandwich shop worker. His evidence is the U.S. haven granted to Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for orchestrating the failed military coup…

3) Erdoğan blames Isis for suspected suicide attack at wedding in Gaziantep: Turkish president says bombing that killed more than 50 people and wounded nearly 100 was carried out by child aged 12-14

4) Turkey announces more active role in Syria conflict: Prime minister Binali Yildirim says he wants to prevent the war-torn country being divided along ethnic lines

Turkey will take a more active role in addressing the conflict in Syria in the next six months to prevent the war-torn country being divided along ethnic lines, the prime minister, Binali Yildirim, has said.

Yildirim also said that while the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, could have a role in the interim leadership, he must play no part in its future.

Syria’s five-year conflict has taken on an ethnic dimension, with Kurdish groups carving out their own regions and periodically battling groups from Syria’s Arab majority, whose priority is to overthrow Assad.

Turkey fears the strengthening of Kurdish militant groups in Syria will further embolden its own Kurdish insurgency, which flared anew following the collapse of a ceasefire between militants and the state last year.

“Turkey will be more active in the Syria issue in the coming six months as a regional player. This means to not allow Syria to be divided on any ethnic base; for Turkey this is crucial,” Yildirim said…

5) Turkish parliament approves deal ending rift with Israel [one opportunity knocking for those who feel the need of friends]

Turkey’s parliament approved a reconciliation agreement signed with Israel in June which has brought to an end a six-year rift between the two regional powers, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday [Aug 20]…

Both countries are to appoint ambassadors under an agreement which is partly driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals.

The accord, signed on June 28, was a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East, also driven by mutual fears over growing security risks. Two weeks afterwards more than 240 people were killed in an attempted coup in Turkey…

Earlier:

Turkey Through the Magnificent Mirror of the Sublime Erdogan

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds