Picture sleepless nights at ‘Sultan’ Erdogan’s palace in Ankara. Imagine him livid when he learns the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed by Russian air power, started a preemptive Battle of Aleppo – through the Bayirbucak region – cutting off Ankara’s top weaponizing corridor and Jihadi highway.
Who controls this corridor will control the final outcome of the war in Syria.
— RT France (@RTenfrancais) 9 Février 2016
Meanwhile, in Geneva, the remote-controlled Syrian opposition, a.k.a. High Negotiations Committee, graphically demonstrated they never wanted to meet with the Damascus delegation in the first place – “proximity” talks or otherwise, even after Washington and Moscow roughly agreed on a two-year transition plan leading to a theoretically secular, nonsectarian Syria.
The Saudi front wanted no less than Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and all Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, collaborators at the table in Geneva. So the Geneva charade, quicker than one can say “Road to Aleppo!” was exposed for what it is.
- And forget about NATO
Notorious Saudi intel mastermind Prince Turki, a former mentor of one Osama bin Laden, has been to Paris on a PR offensive; all he could muster was an avalanche of non-denial denials – and blaming the whole Syria tragedy on Bashar al-Assad.
The bulk of the Syrian ‘opposition’ used to be armchair warriors co-opted by the CIA for years, as well as CIA Muslim Brotherhood patsies/vassals. Many of these characters preferred the joys of Paris to a hard slog on Syrian ground. Now the ‘opposition’ is basically warlords answering to the House of Saud even for bottles of water – regardless of the suit-and-tie former Ba’ath Party ministers handpicked to be the face of the opposition for the gullible Western corporate media.
— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) 8 Février 2016
Meanwhile, the ‘4+1’ – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – is now winning decisive facts on the ground. The break down; there won’t be regime change in Damascus. Yet no one broke the news to the Turks and Saudis.
‘Sultan’ Erdogan is wallowing in a sea of desperation. He continues to divert the gravely serious issues at stake to his own war against the PYD – the umbrella organization of the Syrian Kurds – and the YPG (People’s Protection Units, their military wing). Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu wanted the PYD not only banned from Geneva but they want it smashed on the ground, as they see the PYD/YPG as “terrorists” allied to the PKK.
Un nouveau massacre aurait été commis par le régime fasciste Erdogan à Cizre, ville kurde assiégée depuis deux mois pic.twitter.com/602dqjfQxY
— Maxime Azadi (@MaximeAzadi) 7 Février 2016
'Me or terrorists?' Furious Erdogan tells US to choose between Turkey and Syrian Kurds
Riled by a meeting between a US official and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which controls the Syrian town of Kobane, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Washington to choose between Turkey and, as he put it, the “terrorists.”
A delegation featuring Brett McGurk, the United States' envoy to the coalition it leads against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), met the YPG over the last weekend in January. The YPG took full control of Kobane late last June, in what was a powerful symbol of Kurdish resistance.
The conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish insurgent groups demanding greater autonomy for the large ethnic group has been continuing for decades. With several failed ceasefires between the sides, Ankara has been blamed by a number of human rights groups for putting civilian lives at risk in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.
"Turks have a phobia of Kurds because they are scared of their Turkish Kurds, some 20 million of them living in Turkey,” Abd Salam Ali, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party's representative to Russia, told RIA Novosti, adding that “Kurds have interfered with Erdogan's plans in Turkey.” "Islamic State has military bases in Turkey, and is using it as a corridor. Turkey currently plays a role similar to the one Pakistan played in the 1980s. When the Soviet forces were stationed in Afghanistan, jihadists arrived there through Pakistan, along with the money and arms," Abd Salam Ali noted.
Yet what is ‘Sultan’ Erdogan going to do? Defy the recently arrived 4G++ Sukhoi Su-35S fighters – which are scaring the hell out of every NATO Dr. Strangelove? The Turkish Air Force putting its bases on “orange alert” may scare the odd vagrant dog at best. The same applies to NATO Secretary-General, figurehead Jens Stoltenberg, pleading to Russia “to act responsibly and fully respect NATO airspace.”
Moscow is going after the Turkmen with a vengeance and at the same time providing air support to the PYD west of the Euphrates. That hits the ‘Sultan’ in his heart of hearts; after all Erdogan has threatened multiple times that a PYD/YPG advance west of the Euphrates is the ultimate red line.
An already scared NATO won’t support the folly of an Erdogan war against Russia – as much as US and UK neocons may crave it; as NATO decisions must be unanimous, the last thing EU powers Germany and France want is yet another Southwest Asia war. NATO may deploy the odd Patriot missiles in southern Anatolia and the odd AWACs to support the Turkish Air Force. But that’s it.
Pick your favorite regime change
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, meanwhile, continues to profit from its own Jihadi highway across a 98 kilometer stretch of Turkish/Syrian border, especially in Jarablus and Al Rai across from Gaziantep and Kilis in Turkey.
Taking a cue from Israel, Ankara is building a wall – 3.6 meters high, 2.5 meters wide – covering the stretch between Elbeyli and Kilis, essentially for propaganda purposes. Because the Jihadi Highway, for all practical purposes, remains open – even as Turkish Armed Forces may apprehend the odd trespasser (always released). We’re talking about a monster smuggler/soldier scam; as much as $300 change hands for each night crossing and a noncommissioned Turkish officer may earn as much as $2,500 to look the other way for a few minutes.
The real question is why Gaziantep is not under a curfew imposed from Ankara, with thousands of Turkish Special Forces actually fighting a “war on terra” on the spot. That’s because Ankara and provincial authorities couldn’t give a damn; the real priority is Erdogan’s war on the Kurds.
This brings us to the only leverage the ‘Sultan’ may enjoy at the moment. From Brussels to Berlin, sound minds are terrified that the EU is now actually hostage to Erdogan’s Kurd “priority”, while Ankara is doing next to nothing to fight massive migrant smuggling.
When Davutoglu went to Berlin recently not only did he make no promises; he re-stressed Erdogan’s vow to “annihilate” the Syrian Kurds.
And that explains German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own desperation. How could the alleged most powerful politician in Europe falls for such a crude extortion racket? The ‘Sultan’ wants a lot of cash, a lot of concessions, and even a further shot at entering the EU. Otherwise, he won’t turn off the tap on the grim refugee flood.
— Pilotos (@Pilotos000) 9 Février 2016
No wonder the regime change rumor mill is frantic. In Ankara? No; in Berlin.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Turkey’s Erdogan threatened to flood Europe with migrants
According to Reuters, “aspiring Sultan” Tayyip Erdogan threatened in November to flood Europe with migrants if European Union leaders did not offer him a better deal to help manage the Middle East refugee crisis, a Greek news website said on Monday.
Publishing what it said were minutes of a tense meeting last November, the euro2day.gr financial news website revealed deep mutual irritation and distrust in talks between Erdogan and the EU’s two top officials, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk.
— Edward Movius Jr. (@emovius) 9 Février 2016
In internal EU memo obtained by Greek media reveals the blatant Turkish blackmail on the refugee crisis. The memo contains a summary of the dialogue between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with European Commissioner Jean Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk on 16th November 2015 during the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey. The three Presidents were discussing the Action Plan to tackle the Refugees and Migrants Crisis.
According to the memo, the bargain was hard and Turkey demanded 30 billion euro from the European Union in order to refrain from sending refugees and migrants to Europe through Greece.
EU’s offer was 3 billion euro in two years, but Erdogan demanded 3 billion euro per year.
The EU officials were trying to enlist Ankara’s help in stemming an influx of Syrian refugees and migrants into Europe. Over a million arrived last year, most crossing the narrow sea gap between Turkey and islands belonging to EU member Greece.
Tusk’s European Council and Juncker’s European Commission declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the document, and Erdogan’s office in Ankara had no immediate comment.
He also claimed that “Greece received 400 billion euro from Europe” during the economic crisis and that in fact Turkey should get a huge amount of money too. The two EU Officials told him, not to compare the Greek economic crisis with the refugee crisis. He claimed that the 3 billion euro will go for the refugees and not for Turkey.
The three-party meeting ended without an agreement.
What is worth noting is that neither Juncker, nor Tusk informed the other EU-member states about Turkey’s approach. Also the media covering the G20 summit were apparently told that “the ball was rolling”. but in fact there was a total media blackout on the EU-Turkey negotiations.
The account of the meeting, in English, was produced in facsimile on the website. It does not state when or where the meeting took place, but it appears to have been on Nov. 16 in Antalya, Turkey, where the three met after a G20 summit there.
“We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses … So how will you deal with refugees if you don’t get a deal? Kill the refugees?” Erdogan was quoted in the text as telling the EU officials.
— Syria Intelligence (@syriaintel) 8 Février 2016
It also quoted him as demanding 6 billion euros over two years. When Juncker made clear only half that amount was on offer, he said Turkey didn’t need the EU’s money anyway.
The EU eventually agreed a 3 billion euro fund to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey, revive Ankara’s long-stalled accession talks and accelerate visa-free travel for Turks in exchange for Ankara curbing the numbers of migrants pouring into neighboring Greece.
In heated exchanges, Erdogan often interrupted Juncker and Tusk, the purported minutes show, accusing the EU of deceiving Turkey and Juncker personally of being disrespectful to him.
The Turkish leader was also quoted as telling Juncker, a former prime minister of tiny Luxembourg, to show more respect to the 80-million-strong Turkey. “Luxembourg is just like a little town in Turkey,” he was quoted as saying.
The tense dialogue highlighted the depth of mutual suspicion at a time when the EU is banking on Turkish help to alleviate its worst migration crisis since World War Two.
The EU says the flow of people from Turkey, which hosts more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, has not decreased in any significant way since the bloc’s joint summit with Ankara in November, when they had agreed the fund for refugees there.
The report prompted a member of the European Parliament from the Greek centrist party To Potami to ask the European Commission to confirm the purported talks.
“If the relevant dialogues between the EU officials and the Turkish President are true, it seems that there are aspects of the deal between Ankara and the EU which were concealed on purpose,” Miltos Kyrkos said in the question he submitted to the Commission.
“We want immediately an answer on whether these revelations are true and where the Commission’s legitimacy to negotiate, using Turkey’s accession course as a trump card, is coming from,” Kyrkos said.
Erdogan using migrants to extort funds from EU pic.twitter.com/Gg6gVnTuVf
— Andy Carling (@quarsan) 9 Février 2016