Tag Archive | "Turkey"

Islamic State (ISIS-Daesh) Claims New Year Attack on Istanbul Nightclub Killing 39


Yesterday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia claimed a bloody terror attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub. Around 700 people were celebrating the New Year at the nightclub when, at 1:30 a.m. on January 1, an individual armed with an assault rifle shot unarmed security guards at the nightclub and entered the premises, shooting and killing 39 patrons, including 15 foreigners. Sixty-five others were wounded.

Police operations had been stepped up in Istanbul in the two weeks before the attack, after Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) received warnings that ISIS was preparing attacks on nightclubs or parties in Istanbul, the capital city of Ankara, or other major Turkish cities. A total of 147 ISIS suspects were detained, including at least 63 ISIS members, according to Interior Ministry sources. Eight ISIS members were detained in Ankara while planning an attack on New Year’s Eve.

On New Year’s Eve itself, amid a state of emergency in Turkey, some 25,000 police officers were on duty and patrolling the streets in Istanbul to guard against a possible terror attack. The US embassy warned of terror attacks on New Year’s Eve and recommended that American citizens in Turkey not celebrate the New Year in crowded places.

Astonishingly, a lone gunman nevertheless was able to take a taxi to a location near the upscale nightclub, which is across the street from a police station. He then walked to the club, pulled an assault rifle from his bag, and launched an assault that killed or wounded over 100 people—largely Turks and tourists from other Muslim countries.

ISIS hailed the horrific attack in a statement it released, denouncing Turkey for allying with the United States and the European powers against it in the fighting in Iraq and Syria. It declared, “In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday.”

“We let infidel Turkey know that the blood of Muslims that is being shed by its airstrikes and artillery shelling will turn into fire on its territories,” the statement added.

Immediately after the attack, Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) announced a gag order, submitting reporting of the attack to state censorship. A massive man-hunt is still underway across Turkey to locate the shooter and identify potential accomplices.

Anti-terrorism experts who looked at footage of the security cameras at the nightclub said that the shooter seemed well-trained and efficient in the use of his assault rifle and shot wounded victims in the head, execution-style. He cleaned his weapon and changed his clothes, spending 13 minutes in the nightclub’s kitchen, and later escaped the scene by hailing a taxi. Police who examined the videos are working on the hypothesis that he is an ISIS fighter aged roughly 25, from the ex-Soviet republics of Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, or the Xinjiang region of western China.

The initial account of the attack that is emerging raises serious political issues, however. How was a lone gunman, who was carrying out a mass shooting near a police station amid a high alert and under a state of emergency, allowed to slaughter people undisturbed for over a quarter of an hour, and then to escape?

In the aftermath of the attack, rumors spread that police deployments to secure the area around the nightclub had been deliberately scaled back just before the attack—raising the issue of whether some section of the authorities had foreknowledge of the shooting.

Yesterday, the US Embassy in Ankara felt compelled to react to these rumors by issuing a statement denying any US foreknowledge that an ISIS attack would target the Reina nightclub. “Contrary to rumors circulating in social media, the US government had no information about threats to specific entertainment venues, including the Reina Club, and the US government did not warn Americans to stay away from specific venues or neighborhoods,” it said.

Turkish and international officials simply issued statements condemning the attack, however. Turkeys ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) promised to “end” terror, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the goal of the attack was to spread chaos. The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called for intensifying the security crackdown in Turkey and attacked recent Islamist statements by some AKP deputies denouncing New Year’s celebrations.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said that US President Barack Obama “expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted.”

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini condemned the attack from her Twitter account, writing: “2017 starts with an attack in Istanbul. Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies.”

In fact, this horrific shooting flows from the military intervention of the United States and the EU into the Middle East and Turkey and, in particular, the AKP government’s collaboration with the US-led proxy war in Syria. If ISIS has a large network of dozens or even hundreds of operatives inside Turkey, this is because the CIA and its European and Middle East allies used Turkey as a staging ground to arm and support Islamist opposition militias operating across the border in Syria.

The Turkish ruling elite’s decision to turn Turkey into a major staging post to arm opposition militias carrying out raids, terror bombings, and war crimes in Syria has not only had horrific consequences for the population of Syria. The devastation and depopulation of Syria also plunged Turkey into escalating bloodshed.

ISIS has repeatedly carried out terror attacks, and the Turkish army’s crackdown on the Kurdish population—fearing that Washington would strengthen Kurdish nationalists too much by arming Syrian Kurdish militias as proxies in Syria—plunged the country’s Kurdish areas into civil war.

ISIS was responsible for the bloodiest single attack in Turkey’s history, on October 10, 2015, killing at least 109 people and wounding more than 500 in a twin suicide bombings against a peace rally in Ankara. In 2016, the Islamic State carried out six terrorist attacks in Turkey, in which 127 people were killed and some 320 others wounded.

Split-offs from the Kurdish nationalist movement such as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) also carried out several terror attacks, including bombings in December in Istanbul and Kayseri.

In this New Year’s attack, the specific grievance cited by ISIS was the Turkish government’s alliance with Russia and Iran to try to crush Islamist opposition militias like ISIS inside Syria. Last week, Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in Syria with Russian and Iranian officials covering much of Syria, but it has pressed on with bloody attacks on Al Bab aiming to seize ISIS’ capital in Syria, Raqqa. ISIS appears to have retaliated by organizing another terror attack on Turkish soil.

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Turkey’s about-face


President Vladimir Putin has announced that he has concluded a cease-fire agreement for Syria, with Turkey, which until now has been the main operational support for the jihadists. How may we explain this astonishing turn of events? Will President Erdoğan be able to turn his country away from the influence of the United States and towards that of Russia? What are the causes and the consequences of this dramatic reversal?

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Turkey is a member of NATO, an ally of Saudi Arabia, a patron of international jihadism since the hospitalisation of prince Bandar ben Sultan in 2012, and godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi and the quarrel between Doha and Riyad in 2013-14. Besides this, it attacked Russia in November 2015, destroying a Sukhoi-24 and causing the interruption of diplomatic relations with Moscow.

And yet this is the same Turkey which has just sponsored the cease-fire in Syria, imagined by Russia [1]. Why?

Since 2013, Washington no longer considers Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a trusted partner. The CIA has therefore launched various operations, not against Turkey, but against Mr. Erdoğan personally. In May-June 2013, it organised and supported the Taksim Gezi Park protest movement. During the general elections in June 2015, it financed and supervised the party of the minorities, the HDP, so as to limit the power of the President. It played the same tactic during the elections of November 2015, which the Power had rigged. The CIA then moved on from political influence to secret action. It organised four assassination attempts, the last of which, in July 2016, turned ugly, forcing the Kemalist officers to attempt a coup d’etat for which they were unprepared.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan therefore finds himself in a position similar to that of the Italian Prime Minister of the 1970’s, Aldo Moro – both men heading a NATO member-state, and both having to face the hostility of the United States. NATO managed to eliminate the Italian by manipulating an extreme left-wing group [2], but has failed to kill the Turk.

Moreover, in order to win the elections in November 2015, Erdoğan flattered the Turko-Mongol supremacists by unilaterally expanding the conflict with the Kurdish minority. By doing so, he added the alleged «nationalists» of the MHP to his Islamist electoral base (AKP). In a few months, he caused the deaths of more than 3,000 ethnically-Kurd Turkish citizens, and destroyed several villages, even certain neighbourhoods of major cities.

Finally, by transmitting arms to al-Qaïda and Daesh which were sent by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO, he wove close relations with the jihadist organisations. He did not hesitate to use the war against Syria to make money for himself. First of all by dismantling and pillaging the factories of Aleppo, then by trafficking the oil and antiques stolen by the jihadists. Progressively, his entire clan became linked with the jihadists. For example, his Prime Minister, mafia gangster Binali Yıldırım, organised factories for the confection of counterfeit goods in the territories administrated by Daesh.

However, the intervention of Hezbollah in the second war against Syria, from July 2012, then that of the Russian Federation, in September 2015, turned the fortunes of war. From this moment on, the gigantic coalition of the «Friends of Syria» lost a lot of the terrain they had occupied, and encountered increasing difficulty in recruiting new mercenaries. Thousands of jihadists deserted the battle-field and fled to Turkey.

But in fact, most of these jihadists are incompatible with Turkish civilisation. Indeed, the jihadists had not been recruited to form a coherent army, but simply to swell the numbers. There were at least 250,000 of them, perhaps even many more. At first, these men were Arab delinquants supervised by the Muslim Brotherhood. Progressively, were added Naqshbandi Sufis from the Caucasus and Iraq, and even young Westerners in a quest for Revolution. This implausible mixture can not hold together if it is displaced to Turkey. First of all because now, what the jihadists want is a state of their own, and it seems impossible to proclaim another Caliphate in Turkey. And then for all sorts of cultural reasons. For example – the Arab jihadists have adopted the Wahhabism of their Saudi benefactors. According to this desert ideology, History does not exist. They have therefore destroyed many antique vestiges, allegedly because the Qu’ran forbids idolatry. While this has not caused problems in Ankara, there is no question of allowing them to touch the Turko-Mongol patrimony.

Thus, today Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has to face three simultaneous enemies – not counting Syria ;
- The United States and their Turkish allies, the FETÖ (Fethullah Terrorist Movement) of the Islamist bourgeois Fethullah Gülen;
- The independentist Kurds, and more particularly, the PKK;
- The Sunni state ambitions of the jihadists, particularly Daesh.

While the main interest of Turkey would be, as a priority, to dial down the interior conflicts with the PKK and the FETÖ, Erdoğan’s personal interest would be to find a new ally. He was the ally of the United States when their influence was at its height, and presently hopes to become the ally of Russia, now the leading conventional military power in the world.

This about-face would seem all the more difficult to navigate since his country is a member of the Atlantic Alliance, an organisation that no-one has ever been able to leave. Perhaps at first he could leave the integrated military command, as France did in 1966. At that time, President Charles De Gaulle had to weather an attempted coup d’etat and numerous assassination attempts by the OAS, an organisation which was financed by the CIA [3].

Even supposing that Turkey might manage to handle this evolution, it would still have to deal with two other major problems.

First of all, although we do not know precisely the number of jihadists in Syria and Iraq, we may estimate that they are are now no more than between 50,000 and 200,000. Given that these mercenaries are massively irrecuperable, what is to be done with them? The cease-fire agreement, the text of which is deliberately imprecise, leaves open the possibility of an attack against them in Idleb. This governorate is occupied by a bevy of armed groups who have no links with one another, but are coordinated by NATO from LandCom in Izmir, via certain «humanitarian» NGO’s. Contrary to Daesh, these jihadists have never learned how to organise themselves correctly, and remain dependent on aid from the Atlantic Alliance. This aid comes to them across the Turkish border, which may soon be closed. However, while it is easy to check trucks which travel on well-defined routes, it is not possible to control the passage of men crossing the fields. Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of jihadists could soon flood into Turkey and destabilise it.

Turkey has already begun changing its rhetoric. President Erdoğan accused the United States of continuing to support the jihadists in general and Daesh in particular, suggesting that if he had done the same in the past, it was under the evil influence of Washington. Ankara hopes to make money by handing over the reconstruction of Homs and Aleppo to his construction and public works company. However, it is difficult to imagine how Turkey can escape from its responsibilities, after having paid hundreds of thousands of Syrians to leave their country, after having pillaged the North of Syria, and after having supported the jihadists who have destroyed this country and killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

Turkey’s about-face, if it is to be confirmed in the months to come, will provoke a chain-reaction of consequences. Beginning with the fact that President Erdoğan now presents himself not only as the ally of Russia, but also as the partner of Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in other words, the hero of the Chiite world. The end, therefore, of the mirage of Turkey as leader of the Sunni world, fighting the «heretics» with Saudi money. But the artificial inter-Muslim conflict launched by Washington will not end until Saudi Arabia also lets it go.

The extraordinary shift by Turkey is probably difficult to understand for Westerners, according to whom politics are always public affairs. Leaving to one side the arrest of Turkish officers in a NATO bunker in East Aleppo, two weeks ago, it is easier to understand for those who remember the personal rôle of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the first Chechen war, when he was director of Millî Görüş; a rôle which Moscow has never mentioned, but concerning which the Russian Intelligence services have conserved a quantity of archives. Vladimir Putin has preferred to transform an enemy into an ally, rather than taking him down and having to keep fighting his country. President Bachar el-Assad, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have gladly followed his lead.

Keep in mind:
- After having hoped to conquer Syria, President Erdoğan now finds himself – due only to his own policies – opposed on three fronts – by the United States and Fethullah Gülen’s FETÖ; by the independentist Kurds of the PKK; and by Daesh.
- These three adveraries might once again be joined by Russia, which has in its possession a wealth of information concerning Erdoğan’s personal record. So President Erdoğan has chosen on the contrary to ally himself with Moscow, and may leave the integrated command of NATO.

[1] The Syrian cease-fire documents (complete)”, “Resolution 2336 (Syrian Ceasefire, Astana Talks)”, Voltaire Network, 31 December 2016.

[2] « La guerre secrète en Italie », par Daniele Ganser, Réseau Voltaire, 6 février 2010.

[3] « Quand le stay-behind voulait remplacer De Gaulle », par Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, 10 septembre 2001.

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Russia and Turkey Broker Ceasefire in Syria


A ceasefire brokered by the governments of Russia and Turkey went into effect at the beginning of Friday, December 30, with the Syrian army announcing that it had “declared a comprehensive cessation of hostilities across all the territories of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The ceasefire deal comes just one week after the Syrian army and allied militias restored government control over all of Aleppo, depriving militias led by the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front, of their last urban stronghold, the eastern sector of the city, which they had held since 2012.

The retaking of Aleppo was a strategic defeat for the United States and its regional allies, which orchestrated, armed and supported the Islamist militias that served as their proxy forces in a nearly six-year-old war aimed at regime change.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the agreement Thursday in a meeting with the Russian foreign and defense ministers. He said that three documents had been accepted by the government of President Bashar al-Assad and seven armed opposition groups. The first was an agreement to cease hostilities; the second to develop means of monitoring and enforcing the ceasefire; and the third to prepare for peace talks to be held in Kazakhstan early in the new year.

While the deal may lead to an end to hostilities in some areas of Syria, it hardly signals a full halt to the violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and driven some 11 million people, half the country’s population, from their homes.

Like earlier abortive ceasefire deals brokered between Washington and Moscow, the latest agreement excludes those organizations classified by the United Nations as “terrorist,” including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Fateh al-Sham Front (formerly the Al Nusra Front, Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliate). These two groups have been the most active fighting forces in the war against the Assad government, with the latter having fought in close alliance with weaker so-called “moderate rebels” backed by the CIA, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf oil monarchies.

This means that fighting will certainly continue in the areas controlled by ISIS, which are under siege by not only the Syrian government, but also US-backed Kurdish fighters as well as Turkey and militias that it is backing.

The Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), is apparently not a party to the agreements. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu acknowledged Thursday that there was not an agreement on Ankara’s labeling of the YPG as a “terrorist” organization. He insisted, however, that the Kurdish group and its political arm, the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), would be excluded from the peace talks in Astana. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish groups to be an extension of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, against which it has waged a protracted counterinsurgency campaign.

The status of the YPG is a subject of substantial friction between Washington and Ankara. The Pentagon has funneled arms and aid to the Syrian Kurdish militia and has deployed US special operations troops to support it, even as the Turkish government has vowed to carry out military action to prevent the YPG from consolidating control over a de facto Kurdish state on its border.

The possibility that the ceasefire has been reached at the expense of the Kurdish factions appeared likely with the report by Turkey’s Dogan news agency that Russian warplanes had launched airstrikes for the first time against ISIS positions around the Syrian town of Al-Bab. Turkish forces have launched an offensive aimed at preventing the Kurdish militia from taking the town and thereby furthering their aim of linking up two separate Kurdish-held zones.

A rapprochement began earlier this year between Turkey and Russia. This followed a sharp deterioration of relations after Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian jet carrying out airstrikes on the Syrian-Turkish border in November 2015, raising the specter of war between the NATO member and Russia. Relations grew closer after an abortive military coup last July which Turkish officials blamed on Washington.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that seven separate “rebel” groups comprising 60,000 fighters had signed onto the ceasefire deal. Later in the day, however, one of these groups, Ahrar al-Sham, a hardline Islamist faction that had been closely aligned with Al Qaeda, denied it had accepted the agreement stating unspecified reservations.

The exclusion of the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate from the ceasefire also raises serious questions as to its future. Strikes against it are likely to also affect so-called “moderates” who are allied with and fight closely alongside it. This was a continuous subject of conflict in previous ceasefire deals between Moscow and Washington. Russia demanded that the US carry through on its promise to separate its “moderates” from Al Nusra, while the State Department claimed this was nearly impossible because these US-backed factions had become “marbleized” with the Al Qaeda affiliate.

The Syrian government Thursday said that the truce agreement excluded ISIS, the Al Nusra Front and “groups linked to them.” It also stressed the obligation of groups that had signed the deal to separate themselves from these two Islamist factions.

Çavuşoğlu, meanwhile, said that his government would refuse to negotiate with representatives of Syria’s Assad government in any peace talks and that it had reached an agreement with Russia to “leave aside for now” the future of the Syrian president. Previously, Ankara has insisted that any settlement must include Assad’s removal from the Syrian presidency.

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, meanwhile, told the state news agency Sana that while Damascus accepted Moscow as a guarantor of the ceasefire, “We don’t trust the Turkish role,” because of Ankara’s backing for the Islamist militias.

A State Department official Thursday described the ceasefire as a “positive development,” but clearly the exclusion of Washington from the deal–Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the incoming Trump administration could participate–reflects the failure of the US policy of regime change in Syria and a reversal in its drive for hegemony over the entire region.

The US ruling establishment will continue to be racked by recriminations over who lost Syria even after the change of administration, laying the foundations for a new upsurge of US militarism in the Middle East.

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