Monday, July 21, 2014

Questions remaining about the MH17 disaster in Ukraine

As the US seems to jump to the conclusion that the pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the downing of the MH-17 there are still quite a few questions that should be answered:
- the Ukrainian government initially claimed that the plane had been shot down by Russian fighter jets. Where did that come from?
- According to Russia the Ukrainian Army had recently sent some Buk units to the East. Russia claims it caught their radar signal when the plane was downed. Given that the rebels have no air force this raises the question: why? The investigation should have a look at this subject. Russia has suggested that Ukraine should provide an inventory of its Buk missiles.
- There is the Twitter account of "Carlos" who claims to be a Spanish worker at Ukrainian Air Control. He claimed that the MH17 was accompanied by two Ukrainian fighter jets and that immediately after the shooting down of the plane all foreign employees there were put non-active. These claims should be checked and the man who has since disappeared - should be heard. Russia also claims to have seen at least one fighter.
- the communication between the control tower and the MH17 should be published - as was the communication between the MH370 and its control tower.
- Radar images of the last minutes/hours of the plane should be published by the Ukrainian government.
- the Ukrainian government published some fragments from telephone conversations of the rebels that should prove their guilt. These were fragments that were carefully selected by the Ukrainian secret service. It may very well be that none of those involved was aware whether their side had shot some missiles and that they were just assuming. So we should have access to the full conversations and other conversations that have been intercepted. And of course they should be checked by experts: Russian experts claim they were falsified.
- On previous flights on the same route Malaysian Airlines used a more southern route over the Sea of Azov. This raises the question why this time it followed a more northern route that went straight over a war zone. Where they ordered by Air Control? It has also been claimed that Air Control ordered them to fly at the lowest allowed height instead of 1 km higher as they wanted. Another point for investigation. Russia has also claimed that the war zone is not completely covered by radar.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Who enabled ISIS to capture Mosul?

Most news reports bring the fall of Mosul to ISIS as something sudden and unexpected. My interest was triggered by a (Dutch language) report from some people with local connections. The report paints a landscape of were most people are against the government, the army is seen as an occupational army and the police isn't very popular either. The sectarian politics of Maliki, widespread unemployment and the army attack on the protest camp in Hawija have led to a broad coalition where local tribes, the (underground) Baath Party and ISIS all work together against the government.

The big question is whether this is only local. The protest camp in Hawija showed the kind of color revolution tactics that suggest foreign involvement. It is well known that the Saudi's would love to turn Iraq back into a Sunni dictatorship. It is also well known that ISIS is well funded and rumored to be supported from the Gulf States. So I suspect that the Saudi secret service has a hand in what is now happening in Mosul. And very likely at this very moment Saudi diplomats are active in Washington to prevent US support for the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reaction to the ICG on Ukraine

The International Crisis Group has published a report ("Ukraine: Running out of Time") on the Ukraine crisis. I found it rather lacking so below you will find a refutal of some of the claims and recommendations they make. Quotes from their report are in italic.

The first thing that strikes the attention is the selective history. Victoria Nuland isn't mentioned once. Neither is the controversy on who did the Maidan shooting.

The report talks about the protests as if the Maidan protests were a single thing. In fact the forever changing subject of the protests (first the treaty with the EU, then new legislation regulating protests, then violence by the government and finally - mainly after the takeover - corruption and economic mismanagement) lends support to the claim that the desire to topple Yanukovich - probably funded by the US - was the real motive.

The separatists’ objective seems to be to provoke sufficient disruption and bloodshed so that President Vladimir Putin can assert, if he chooses, what he says is Moscow’s right to protect Russian speakers anywhere.
Most of the bloodshed came from the government. Putin doesn't seem very enthusiastic about annexation. It looks like he will only take that step if government repression from Kiev becomes so fierce that there is wide demand for it among the population.

President Putin appears to consider that a West-leaning Ukraine government born of mass protests would set a dangerous example at home and thwart his ambition of establishing dominant Russian influence over as much of the former Soviet republics as possible.
This is a standard claim from State Department propaganda. There is not a shred of evidence for this claim. It seems designed to divert the attention from the demands that Putin did make: no NATO on his doorsteps, continuation of the economic ties between East Ukraine and Russia, decent treatment of Ukraine's Russian speakers and reduction of the influence of right extremists.
In fact it is the US that has destabilized Ukraine by sponsoring two "revolutions".

A mid-April four-party – Russia, Kyiv, U.S., EU – Geneva agreement to calm the situation was ignored by the separatist forces, so is a dead letter.
In the report it is mentioned that this agreement should also cover end of occupations by Right Sektor. However, it fails to mention how the Kiev government has tried to circumvent the agreement, enlisting Right Sektor fighters in the National Guard and "legalizing" the occupation of buildings in Kiev. In the recommendations it is suggested that only the "separatist forces" were at fault. It is a common problem in ICG reports, where the summary and recommendations often look like they were censored by the State Department.

So too [high on the governments agenda] should preparing the population for the inevitable pain of deep reforms required to save an economy wrecked by two decades of endemic corruption and incompetence.
This is mixing things up. Under Yanukovich the country lived beyond its means, so it now needs urgent budget cuts. The Maidan revolution didn't help either: unrest is bad for the economy. But these are all recent problems, not 20 years old.
Other reforms are needed too but that is another story.

Although conditions for the election are far from ideal, it is vital it takes place as planned and nationwide. The polls are needed, above all, to produce a new leader with enough public support to steer the country through a process of national reconciliation and painful economic reform.
Turchynov has turned out to be a divisive president, so replacing him could turn out to be beneficial. However, any look at the threats and violence directed at those parliamentarians and presidential candiadtes who don't agree with the Maidan revolution should be enough to destroy any doubt that these will not really free elections.
There is also the problem that the main candidates are all oligarchs. The fact that some see Tyahnybok as the only serious politician says enough.

The government inherited security, police and defence structures that had by accident or design almost ceased to exist under the deposed president.
Again a myth enthusiastically spread by Kerry and Yatsenyuk. It ignores the demonization of the police by the Maidan protesters. It ignores the dissolution of Berkut. It ignores that the government is asking the police to use much more violence against protesters than they did under Yanukovich.
As for the army, according to the constitution it can only be employed against civilians under a state of emergency. The government has tried to circumvent this rule by painting the protesters in the East as "terrorists".
What doesn't help is that the government refuses to negotiate with the protesters in the East and instead has sent Right Sektor thugs to impose "order".

Right Sector emerged directly from the Maidan demonstrations
This claim is simply wrong. Right Sektor is primarily a confederation of existing right extremist organizations. That this was connected to the Maidan protests is only of secondary importance.

The most recent polls do not indicate widespread fear among the majority of Russian-speakers or ethnic Russians.
This selective quotation of opinion polls ignores the main problem for the government in Kiev: that most people in the South and East consider the Turchynov administration illegal.

10. Express support for a post-election government of national unity
This is one of the recommendations. Interestingly the report mentions that the West of the country is overrepresented in the government but fails to mention that as a problem. I think it is. Before the takeover a national unity government had been promised. It is also usual rather usual in situations like the present one.

4. Distance itself publicly and as rapidly as possible from the extremist and anti-democratic ideology of the Svoboda (Freedom) Party and Right Sector.
This recommendation suggests a light disconnection from reality:
- the government is increasingly relying on Right Sektor fighters
- the report completely ignores the militia of Kolomoysky that has been accused to have played a major role in the violence in Odessa and Mariupol.
- Western leaders are meeting with those guys and lending them credibility.

A successful, democratic Ukraine, substantially integrated economically in the West, but outside military alliances and a close cultural, linguistic and trading partner mindful of Russian interests would benefit all.
It is not clear what the ICG really wants. At one moment they ask for economic integration with the West while at another they talk about a bridge function between Russia and the West.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Obama's misdirected foreign policy

When leaders get a lot of criticism it is often because people have the impression that they don't know what they is doing. That is my impression of Obama's foreign policy too.

The Far East
The Far East is probably the best example. It is well known that East Asians are very sensitive to loss of face. So the classical saying of "talk softly but carry a big stick" makes here extra sense. A good starting point when reacting to Chinese transgressions might be: what would we do if Israel did this?

Instead we saw a very noisy "pivot" to the East. This amounted to a public declaration that the US is now in a low level state of cold war with China. Very few troops were actually moved to the Far East, but the damage to the relations with China was done.

All this comes from a misguided look at foreign policy that constantly looks for the next threat to US dominance. That country is then treated as an enemy. It would be much more fruitful to aim for a role for the US as world leader. The US could have transferred troops to East Asia without much noise - using natural disasters and other incidents as convenient excuses. The end result would still have been a larger US presence and that would still have led people to pay more attention to what the US was saying.

Obama's recent Asia trip that very explicitly left out China was another example. Such an open declaration of conflict with China demanded a reaction from China and that we saw in the form of the employment of a drilling vessel to Vietnamese waters. The Chinese very cleverly managed to expose Obama as a phony who makes nice promises but can't deliver.

Obama doesn't understand this kind of subtle diplomacy. Take the case when the Chinese unilaterally expanded their Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Obama made a very noisy public declaration against it, sent a few planes through it and then basically started to respect it. His predecessors would have done that differently. The would have condemned the declaration, but only softly, so as not to cause their adversary too much loss of face when it retreated. They would know that the louder they condemned the zone, the harder they it would make for the other side to retreat. Yet they would have been very consistent in not respecting the zone.

Or take the gradual expansion of the Chinese occupation of islands claimed by the Philippines. The US has a lot of ways to react. It can expand some bases in South East Asia. It can provide some advanced weapons or training to Taiwan or other countries in the region. It can take some measures obstructing Chinese exports to the US. Etc. Such moves don't need to be published at all: the Chinese leaders will know and connect the dots. And if they occasionally don't there are diplomats to help them discretely.

If such indirect retaliation might not help there could be a next level of escalation. Again to be done discretely.

This is how soft power works. Unfortunately Obama is a former community organizer. That is: he organized people with little power against people with much more power. In such a position there is no soft power and naming and shaming is a major part of the strategy.

Unfortunately the US doesn't understand sanctions. They make a big show of them. And then they are surprised that the other side resists in order not to look weak and not to raise the impression that they are vulnerable to blackmail (sanctions are a form of blackmail).


Wars of choice
Iraq was a war of choice. But so are Libya, Syria and Ukraine now. Obama believes that he is smart for keeping U.S. soldiers out so that he can't be blamed for dead soldiers. But for the local population there is hardly a difference.

Take Syria. Obama believes that he is smart for keeping Russia, Iran and Hezbollah forever bleeding on Syria's battle fields. Very probably he got the idea from his mentor Brzezinski who did something similar with Afghanistan in 1979. But in the end the US paid for that act of cynicism with 9/11. Most people - both inside and outside the US - consider the lack of respect for human life that this strategy shows disgusting and immoral.

Obama's "red line" on Syria's chemical arms was another example of ignoring "talk softly but carry a big stick". A superpower like the US shouldn't make big statements like this. When chemical arms are used it should send in investigators and slowly escalate the issue - without committing itself to any course of action. Unfortunately it looks like Obama never cared about the issue: he just wanted a pretext for intervention.

Since the testimony of Kubic we know that the war in Libya was not necessary and that openings from Gaddafi's side to negotiate about his departure were deliberately ignored by the Obama administration.

After Gaddafi had been driven out America's main activity in Libya seems to have been its failed Benghazi mission that is more and more rumored to have been an operation buy weapons that had been given to Libyans Islamists and to give transport them to Syria. In the mean time there was little attention for turning Libya into a working state.

Ukraine first saw a US sponsored "revolution" and now we see the US doing its best to keep the conflict going by obstructing all dialogue. It looks like Obama believes it is in the American interest to create as much hostility as possible between Ukraine and Russia.

Obama is listing the withdrawal from Iraq and the partial withdrawal from Afghanistan as achievements. But withdrawal was a logical consequence when there was nothing more to get for the neocons. Given that there were to be withdrawals it is hard to claim that Obama has done them particularly well.

The negotiations with Iran are about the only spot of light. But they are constantly under fire from interest groups.


NSA and CIA
Obama's obsession with sneaky methods is becoming proverbial. Whether NSA snooping, color revolutions, CIA waterboarding or killing by drones, intervening under false pretexts: he is in favor.

He seems to miss the harmful effects of these policies. Internally they have the effect of driving out all the honest people. What remains are organizations dominated by opportunists who can't be trusted to defend America's interests. Externally they destroy the image of leadership and responsibility that the US once had and replace it with an image of a bully on steroids.


Contact with reality has been lost
The State Department is in a sorry state. It has been underfunded for decades and as a consequence it has often had to play second fiddle to the Department of Defense. Things became even worse under Bush Jr when many senior diplomats left in disgust because they disliked being forced to defend Bush's undefendable aggressive foreign policy. Obama brought in the amateurs with his unprecedented level of appointments of campaign contributors to diplomatic posts.

Without a functioning national bureaucracy that keeps track of the issues involved and best practices US foreign policy has become a free for all feast. Lobbying groups fund "research" institutes that publish quasi-scientific articles promoting the policies they want. Loudmouth politicians like McCain profile themselves as warriors by anointing whoever they want as an enemy.

The invasion in Iraq was a good example. Iraq was not an enemy of the U.S.. No American interests were involved. Instead the main motives for the Iraq invasion were outside the area of America's national interests: Bush taking "revenge" for his father, greedy oil and defense companies and a climate where people feel empty when the U.S. is not involved in some foreign military adventure.

The lack of attention to the rebuilding of Libya and Iraq fits in this pattern. Although such attention would be crucial to turn those countries US friendly - what the interventionists saw as their goal - it doesn't get any attention from the US administration as it no political points can be scored inside the US with such unsexy work.

Kerry is very much a product of this system. He doesn't see the world as a group of collaborating countries. He doesn't have a vision of how the world should work. Instead he goes around the world trying to bully every country to support what is the newest fashion in U.S. foreign policy.

From the perspective of the common American this doesn't make sense. Their prosperity would be much better served by a stable world shaped and supported by a capable U.S. diplomacy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ukraine's revengeful revolution

It is not exactly clear what the Ukrainian government wants in the East of the country. At the one hand Yatsenyuk is asking for dialogue. At the other hand he is sending troops, including locally despised Right Sektor guys, has called the protests "terrorism" and has announced draconian anti-terrorism laws, has flatly rejected calls for federalism and has announced a harsh crackdown on the Eastern protests.

It is a pattern that the Maidan revolution has shown from the beginning. The talk never really covered the action.


The Maidan uprising

The uprising started as a protest against the refusal of Yanukovich to sign the DCFTA Treaty with the EU. Yet opinion polls showed that only 43% of the population supported signing that treaty. There were good reasons to oppose the treaty: it would open the Ukrainian market for EU products but did not offer any financial help or visa liberalization. That meant that Ukraine would face a wave of factory closings at the same time it faced an IMF "cure". The treaty would also open the EU market for Ukrainian products, but to make use of that opportunity many industries will first need to make major investments so that they can produce according to EU standards. Hard to do in a time when there is little money available. And it unlikely that there will be much foreign investment given Ukraine's reputation for corruption. So it was not surprising that after some time the protests subsided.

The next wave of protests came after Yanukovich announced some legislation that regulated protests. Although minor parts were rather restrictive and probably inspired from the Russian example, most of it was just common sense and common in Western countries. In no Western capital, for example, it would be accepted that protesters kept the main square occupied for months.

A third wave arose after during a shooting on the Maidan dozens of people had been killed. The protesters accused Yanukovich, who has always denied. His denials got some support due to the leaked Ashton-Paet telephone conversation where Estonian minister of foreign affairs Paet tells that during a stay in Kiev he was told by a doctor that victims from both sides had the same type of gun wounds - what raised the suspicion that one shooter had targeted both sides. Paet called for an investigation. There is an investigation but it seems very partial and refuses even to keep the family of those who were shot informed. Instead the new government in Kiev has destroyed evidence by cutting bullets-ridden trees in central Kiev.

In the end the focus of the protests came on the corruption of Yanukovich and the lack of economic growth under his reign. This resonated well with the population, who is disgusted by the corruption. However, as the Maidan protesters are dominated by oligarchs too, it is a rather weak argument. Yatsenyuk tried to make it a major issue by claiming that his government would commit "political suicide" by taking a lot of unpopular but necessary measures. Close to two months after he rose to power we have yet to see anything beyond announced IMF measures. Instead of efforts to make the state more efficient so that the budget cuts can be less severe we see the opposite: a boycott of Transdniester that costs Ukraine money, extra expenses for the army and a confrontational policy with the East that keeps tension high and investment low.

The one thing that remained constant during the protests was that it was against Yanukovich. They protested against someone, not for something. This and their methods showed great similarity with the color revolutions. And indeed it has been reported that many of the people involved in the Maidan Revolution were also involved in the 2005 Orange Revolution. And just as in 2005 now too there have been claims that the uprising was coordinated from the US embassy.

Another aspect of the revolution was treacherousness. First the insurgents used an armistice to occupy government buildings in other cities. And when an agreement was made for early elections they used the agreed withdrawal of security forces as an opportunity to grab power immediately. This didn't show much respect for the other side. More importantly perhaps, it created a climate of contempt and distrust that clouds the present situation.


Revolutionary revenge

When the revolution had acquired power it didn't start an extensive reform program. Neither did it make any effort to make up with those it had vanquished so that the situation stabilized and the country could refocus again on its economy. Instead we saw a revengeful revolution. Many people have been fired from their jobs for being pro-Yanukovich. And despite the fact that Yanukovich's relations with Russia were mediocre he was painted as a Russian pawn and the revolutionaries indulged in a number of anti-Russian measures. They initiated a boycott against Transdniester, adopted a law to degrade the status of the Russian language (stopped by the president) and fielded proposals to throw the Russians out of their Crimean bases on some flimsy pretext.

We are told that in May there will be presidential elections so that from then on there can be no doubt about the legality of the president. However, this legality will be doubtful when the elections take place in a climate of violence and intimidation. Do we really believe that the people from Right Sektor would accept it if of a candidate from the Party of the Regions wins?


Trouble in the East

In March came the annexation of Crimea by Russia. We still don't know what motivated this. Had the Russians intelligence that Kiev's new rulers were serious about throwing them out of their bases? Were they really worried about maltreatment of Russians?

Another interpretation is that Russia expects that the new rulers will make Ukraine a kind of de facto NATO member and want to limit the damage. There are some indications that this might be indeed the case. The cleansing of the Ukrainian security sector is advertised as removing Russian spies but the effect is also to create the framework for a de facto West-Ukrainian dictatorship and that might be the real goal. The DCFTA agreement contains a clause that states a desire for "convergence of positions on bilateral,regional and international issues of mutual interest, taking into account the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)". This interpretation might explain the present events in East Ukraine. Full NATO membership is unlikely as that requires that a country has full control over its territory.

Another scenario is that Russia's primary goal is pressure to force Kiev to adopt a friendlier attitude. In that case Kiev's aggressive reaction in the East is counterproductive as it forces the pro-Russians to expand the building occupations in order to prevent them from being crushed. It antagonizes the population and might even force Russia to do further annexations.

The US plays an unclear role too. It could easily have encouraged Kiev to make a few small concessions to prevent the annexation of Crimea but it didn't. Except for some vague threats with sanctions it stayed calm. One explanation is that it may have wanted the annexation in order to drive a wedge between Russia and Ukraine. Given that the America's Russia policy is in the hands of known Russia haters that option cannot be excluded.

The government in Kiev shows some strange behavior too. It is under the influence of Russia hating extremists from West Ukraine so one can expect some anti-Russian policies. What is less easy to explain is why it never made any serious effort to make up with Russia. It gives me the impression that they are influenced by US advisers.

The armed operations of the Ukrainian government seems to me foolish. Even if they win they will leave the country so divided that it is de facto destroyed.


Negotiations

Kiev has shown very little desire for negotiations. Yatsenyuk has visited the East once and he has talked a bit about decentralization. But he hasn't produced any concrete proposals so he may well be just buying time. The fact that he simultaneously sent troops and even Right Sektor militia to East Ukraine seems to point to the latter. Neither does his talk about the protesters in the East as terrorists and the introduction of draconian anti-terror laws point to a desire for compromise. His flat rejection of federalization - that might help to limit the ethnic strife that helps the oligarchs to maintain control - doesn't show any openness to dialogue either.

The US claims that it wants negotiations too. But it says the same about Syria and we know how the US negotiates on that subject. Fact is that the US hasn't made a single move to push the Ukrainian government towards moderation. Its calls that Moscow should negotiate directly with Kiev sounded insincere as everyone knew that that implied recognition. It could easily have mediated initial contacts so that some common ground could be found on which such recognition could be based, but it didn't.

And so we have three parties - Russia, the Kiev government and the US - whose motives are not clear. That makes very difficult for the other parties to understand what they want to do. This opens the risk of misunderstandings and escalation.

If the Ukrainian government really wants to change the dynamics of the situation it should change its behavior:
- stop sending Right Sektor militia to the East and withdraw those that are there
- end the boycott of Transdniester
- involve the Party of the Regions in the government so that it becomes a national unity government
- stop firing people for being "pro-Yanukovich" or "pro-Russian"
- make a proposal for decentralization and introduce it now. Don't hide behind a referendum.
- stop introducing draconian anti-terror laws directed at those in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ukraine veterans causing problems

We read a lot in the Western press about Western Muslim extremists going to volunteer in support of the uprising in Syria and the fear that when they come back they might use their newly acquired fighting skills to make trouble in their homelands.

Now it appears that we have a similar problem with Ukraine. Western volunteers - mainly neo-fascists - have gone there to help the uprising and now the first report of them making trouble back home has appeared.

Fascist knife attack in Malmö, Sweden on the night of International Women's Day

Late last night [8 March] several people were attacked in central Malmö by members of the fascist Svenskarnas Parti (Swedes Party). They were on their way home after having taken part in celebrations for International Women's Day.
[]
According to witnesses at the scene, a high ranking member of the Swedes Party - Andreas Carlsson, was involved in the attempted murder. He was seen attacking feminists with a knife. Andreas Carlsson is one of the members of the Swedes Party who travelled down to Kiev as "Ukrainafrivilliga" (Ukraine Volunteers) to support the Svoboda party's efforts in taking power. On Realisten he has reported on the Swedish Nationalist delegation's operation.Some of the delegations participants have stayed, according to their own reports, "to enlist in the Ukrainian army", while Carlsson's group returned to Sweden only a few days before the 8th of March.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Peace between Israel and Palestinians not possible now

I don't believe that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is possible at the moment. It would mean that the Palestinians would have to publicly resign to the theft of their lands. The wounds are simply too fresh for that. It will take decades before that changes. On the other hand it is understandable that the Israeli's won't sign an agreement when the Palestinians see that only as a step to bring them closer to victory. They have been burned twice this way already: first after the Oslo Agreements and then after their withdrawal from Gaza.

Instead I believe the focus should be on how the Israeli's treat the Palestinians. The continuing theft of Palestinian land on the West Bank and the economic blockade of Gaza and to a lesser extent also the West Bank are both unfair and a violation of international law.

Unfortunately the Palestinians have little leverage to change their situation outside violence and seeking international recognition. But neither will be really helpful. Violence will only backfire - like it has done in the past - and worsen their position. More international recognition is nice but the US will do anything to prevent that it really hurts. Outside pressure by the US could do the job for the Palestinians to at least improve their lives but unfortunately Obama is wasting his leverage on vainglorious peace talks instead of aiming for concrete goals.

Israel should gradually reduce its presence on the West Bank. However, to prevent any triumphalism on the Palestinian side, this should happen gradually.

In the mean time the whole negotiations look more and more like a shadow play where both sides try to avoid to be blamed in the press for obstructing the negotiations.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Turkey considers starting war with Syria with false flag operation

Many Western media have reported that Turkey is forbidding Youtube. Unfortunately few have discussed the two videos that is the reason for that prohibition. As the Today's Zaman website has already disappeared I think it is important to spread the text as wide as possible.

The video is an allegedly leaked phone conversation between intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, FM Ahmet Davutoğlu, FM undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and General Yaşar Güler. They discuss the possibility of false flag attack on the Suleiman Shah Tomb that should serve as an excuse to invade Syria.

Suleiman Shah Tomb is a Turkish enclave in Syria's Raqqa province some 35 kilometer from the Turkish border. It is the assumed grave of the grandfather of the first Turkish sultan. When Syria was separated from Turkey Turkey was allowed to keep this grave. It is guarded by some 25 Turkish soldiers and officially Turkish territory.

Raqqa province is mostly ISIS territory and ISIS has made some threats against the grave. Yet the gentlemen in the phone conversation see that only as an opportunity.

Translated transcript:

ELECTION DRIVEN WAR PLANS – I
PART 1

Ahmet Davutoğlu:
“Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen
as an opportunity for us.”
Hakan Fidan:
“I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile
attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”
Feridun Sinirlioğlu:
“Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”
Yaşar Güler:
“It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”
——–
FIRST SCREEN:

Ahmet Davutoğlu: I couldn’t entirely understand the other thing; what exactly does our foreign
ministry supposed to do? No, I’m not talking about the thing. There are other things we’re supposed
to do. If we decide on this, we are to notify the United Nations, the Istanbul Consulate of the Syrian
regime, right?
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: But if we decide on an operation in there, it should create a shocking effect. I
mean, if we are going to do so. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but regardless of what we
decide, I don’t think it’d be appropriate to notify anyone beforehand.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: OK, but we’re gonna have to prepare somehow. To avoid any shorts on regarding
international law. I just realized when I was talking to the president (Abdullah Gül), if the Turkish
tanks go in there, it means we’re in there in any case, right?
Yaşar Güler: It means we’re in, yes.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yeah, but there’s a difference between going in with aircraft and going in with
tanks…

SECOND SCREEN:

Yaşar Güler: Maybe we can tell the Syrian consulate general that, ISIL is currently working alongside
the regime, and that place is Turkish land. We should definitely…
Ahmet Davutoğlu: But we have already said that, sent them several diplomatic notes.
Yaşar Güler: To Syria… Feridun Sinirlioğlu: That’s right.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yes, we’ve sent them countless times. Therefore, I’d like to know what our Chief
of Staff’s expectations from our ministry.
Yaşar Güler: Maybe his intent was to say that, I don’t really know, he met with Mr. Fidan.
Hakan Fidan: Well, he did mention that part but we didn’t go into any further details.
Yaşar Güler: Maybe that was what he meant… A diplomatic note to Syria?
Hakan Fidan: Maybe the Foreign Ministry is assigned with coordination…

THIRD SCREEN:

Ahmet Davutoğlu: I mean, I could coordinate the diplomacy but civil war, the military…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: That’s what I told back there. For one thing, the situation is different. An
operation on ISIL has solid ground on international law. We’re going to portray this is Al-Qaeda,
there’s no distress there if it’s a matter regarding Al-Qaeda. And if it comes to defending Suleiman
Shah Tomb, that’s a matter of protecting our land.
Yaşar Güler: We don’t have any problems with that.
Hakan Fidan: Second after it happens, it’ll cause a great internal commotion (several bombing events
is bound to happen within). The border is not under control…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: I mean, yes, the bombings are of course going to happen. But I remember our
talk from 3 years ago…
Yaşar Güler: Mr. Fidan should urgently receive back-up and we need to help him supply guns and
ammo to rebels. We need to speak with the minister. Our Interior Minister, our Defense Minister.
We need to talk about this and reach a resolution sir.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: How did we get specials forces into action when there was a threat in Northern
Iraq? We should have done so in there, too. We should have trained those men. We should have sent
men. Anyway, we can’t do that, we can only do what diplomacy…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: I told you back then, for God’s sake, general, you know how we managed to get
those tanks in, you were there.
Yaşar Güler: What, you mean our stuff?
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Yes, how do you think we’ve managed to rally our tanks into Iraq? How? How did
manage to get special forces, the battalions in? I was involved in that. Let me be clear, there was no
government decision on that, we have managed that just with a single order.

FOURTH SCREEN:

Yaşar Güler: Well, I agree with you. For one thing, we’re not even discussing that. But there are
different things that Syria can do right now. Ahmet Davutoğlu: General, the reason we’re saying no this operation is because we know about the
capacity of those men.
Yaşar Güler: Look, sir, isn’t MKE (Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation) at minister’s
bidding? Sir, I mean, Qatar is looking for ammo to buy in cash. Ready cash. So, why don’t they just
get it done? It’s at Mr. Minister’s command.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: But there’s the spot we can’t act integratedly, we can’t coordinate.
Yaşar Güler: Then, our Prime Minister can summon both Mr. Defence Minister and Mr. Minister at
the same time. Then he can directly talk to them.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: We, Mr. Siniroğlu and I, have literally begged Mr. Prime Minster for a private
meeting, we said that things were not looking so bright.

FIFTH SCREEN:

Yaşar Güler: Also, it doesn’t have to be crowded meeting. Yourself, Mr. Defence Minister, Mr.
Interior Minister and our Chief of Staff, the four of you are enough. There’s no need for a crowd.
Because, sir, the main need there is guns and ammo. Not even guns, mainly ammo. We’ve just talked
about this, sir. Let’s say we’re building an army down there, 1000 strong. If we get them into that war
without previously storing a minimum of 6-months’ worth of ammo, these men will return to us after
two months.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: They’re back already.
Yaşar Güler: They’ll return to us, sir.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: They’ve came back from… What was it? Çobanbey.
Yaşar Güler: Yes, indeed, sir. This matter can’t be just a burden on Mr. Fidan’s shoulders as it is now.

It’s unacceptable. I mean, we can’t understand this. Why?



SIXTH SCREEN:

Ahmet Davutoğlu: That evening we’d reached a resolution. And I thought that things were taking a
turn for the good. Our…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: We issued the MGK (National Security Council) resolution the day after. Then we
talked with the general…
Ahmet Davutoğlu: And the other forces really do a good follow up on this weakness of ours. You say
that you’re going to capture this place, and that men being there constitutes a risk factor. You pull
them back. You capture the place. You reinforce it and send in your troops again.
Yaşar Güler: Exactly, sir. You’re absolutely right.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Right? That’s how I interpret it. But after the evacuation, this is not a military
necessity. It’s a whole other thing.

SEVENTH SCREEN

Feridun Siniroğlu: There are some serious shifts in global and regional geopolitics. It now can spread
to other places. You said it yourself today, and others agreed… We’re headed to a different game
now. We should be able to see those. That ISIL and all that jazz, all those organizations are extremely
open to manipulation. Having a region made up of organizations of similar nature will constitute a
vital security risk for us. And when we first went into Northern Iraq, there was always the risk of PKK
blowing up the place. If we thoroughly consider the risks and substantiate… As the general just said…
Yaşar Güler: Sir, when you were inside a moment ago, we were discussing just that. Openly. I mean,
armed forces are a “tool” necessary for you in every turn.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Of course. I always tell the Prime Minister, in your absence, the same thing in
academic jargon, you can’t stay in those lands without hard power. Without hard power, there can
be no soft power.

EIGTH SCREEN

Yaşar Güler: Sir.
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: The national security has been politicized. I don’t remember anything like this in
Turkish political history. It has become a matter of domestic policy. All talks we’ve done on defending
our lands, our border security, our sovereign lands in there, they’ve all become a common, cheap
domestic policy outfit.
Yaşar Güler: Exactly.
Feridun Siniroğlu: That has never happened before. Unfortunately but…
Yaşar Güler: I mean, do even one of the opposition parties support you in such a high point of
national security? Sir, is this a justifiable sense of national security?
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: I don’t even remember such a period.

NINTH SCREEN:

Yaşar Güler: In what matter can we be unified, if not a matter of national security of such
importance? None.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: The year 2012, we didn’t do it 2011. If only we’d took serious action back then,
even in the summer of 2012.
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: They were at their lowest back in 2012.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Internally, they were just like Libya. Who comes in and goes from power is not of
any importance to us. But some things…
Yaşar Güler: Sir, to avoid any confusion, our need in 2011 was guns and ammo. In 2012, 2013 and
today also. We’re in the exact same point. We absolutely need to find this and secure that place. Ahmet Davutoğlu: Guns and ammo are not a big need for that place. Because we couldn’t get the
human factor in order…



PART 2

FIRST SCREEN

Yaşar Güler: I mean on which subject will we be able to act together? If we can’t act together for national security, on which subject will we act together? None.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: We did not do it on 2012, 2011. If we could make bold decisions on 2012..

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: They were at their weakest on 2012.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: It was like Libya inside. People were rising and falling and changing but it wasn’t our concern.

Yaşar Güler: Sir don’t get me wrong, in 2011 our primary needs were guns and ammo. It’s was the same in 2012 and 2013. We are still at the same point. We need to find them and save this place.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Guns and ammo are not needed that much there. We couldn’t organize the people, that’s why…

SECOND SCREEN

Hakan Fidan: We sent about 2000 trucks full of supply there.

Yaşar Güler: I think guns are not needed there. My personal view is that ammo is needed. Yes sir. Mr. Hakan is here, we said that we could send one general. Mr. Hakan wanted this too. We designated a general and sent him.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: To be practical, I think our defense minister should sign the documents needed for our people as soon as possible.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Actually tonight…

Yaşar Güler: Tonight sir, we have no problem.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Operation is ordered for tonight.

Yaşar Güler: We sent an operation order message, Mr. Hakan may have knowledge.

THIRD SCREEN

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Hakan, if send tanks what are the possible complications?

Hakan Fidan: Without coordination, if we don’t take the power balance into account…

Yaşar Güler: That’s why we want MIT’s cooperation sir.

Hakan Fidan: It’s not possible without armed personnel and capacity.

Yaşar Güler: That’s why we stipulate MIT coordination. There is nothing you should be worried about tonight or for the future. But there is something we must solve in the long run.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: I think about that thing as an option but we couldn’t convince those people. We are planning to enter with tanks. We need to consider ourselves at war after that, but between entering war and that we are operating.

FOURTH SCREEN

Yaşar Güler: It’s an act of war. What we are going to do is directly an act of war.

Hakan Fidan: Not with Syria.

Yaşar Güler: No the man…

Hakan Fidan: But my point is; we know that two plus two is four. Now if we, I mean that thing there has no strategic importance to us but it’s about our image. I mean if we are going to enter war, let’s plan it and do it. Now my…

Yaşar Güler: We are saying the same thing since day one.

FIFTH SCREEN

Hakan Fidan: What I can’t accept is, now if we consider using weapons for a tomb like Suleyman Shah, I mean as just 10 acres of Turkish land we risk using weapons, for 22-28 soldiers there, there are thousands of kilometers of Turkish soil, millions of poeple near the border, that why we don’t take that risk.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: There is an excuse for that…

Hakan Fidan: Using that as an excuse is different.

Yaşar Güler: Foreign Ministry can not find an excuse for the other thing but we can for this…

Hakan Fidan: Look, I’ll tell you something…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Between us, on the phone prime minister said this (an attack on Suleyman Shah Tomb) must be utilized as an opportunity in this conjuncture.

Hakan Fidan: General look, if we need an excuse I can send four men to the other side, send eight rockets to an empty ground. It’s no problem. We can produce reason. We just need such will. We are displaying a will for war, then we make the same mistake we always do, we think too much.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Now it’s ten acres of land. 10 acres of Turkish soil is a great excuse in international law, as for legitimacy if we attack ISIL all the world will back this operation. There is no hesitation.

Yaşar Güler: We have no hesitation.

SIXTH SCREEN

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: No, I’m saying this to all of us, I mean on that matter…

Yaşar Güler: Our forces there have been ready and waiting for a year sir. It’s not a measure we took yesterday, they have been there for one year.

Hakan Fidan: Why are we waiting for Suleyman Shah, I don’t get it?

Ahmet Davutoğlu: We made every possible diplomatic move.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: We need an excuse, a solid excuse.

Hakan Fidan: I can produce that, no problem.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Producing is another thing, there is already a solid excuse.

Hakan Fidan: We can attack there (Tomb of Suleyman Shah) if needed, we can make them attack there. What I’m trying to understand is…

SEVENTH SCREEN

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Of course these can be done, we can do everything.

Hakan Fidan: If we are ready to use these, let’s designate time and place and do it.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Hakan, if you mean there is a lack of strategy and that’s why we need to produce reason, you are right. Against these men…

Official: Sir before that thing happens…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Ok we’ll move there, I’ll be coming. We cannot tell US foreign ministry again that we need to take harsh measures.

Hakan Fidan: Now sir, what I mean is…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: They will tell us that we couldn’t defend our own lend. We had friendly conversations before, Kerry asked me if we had decided to use force several times before.

EIGTH SCREEN

Yaşar Güler: Sir we gave, we gave a hundred times. With America…

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Three days ago general staff held an emergency meeting. I’m seeing that for the first time. The Americans…

Yaşar Güler: No, we do that all the time!

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: No no, Americans distributed No Fly Zone plans in this meeting. Did you know that?

Hakan Fidan: Sir if we are ready to make such an important decision now about the Tomb of Suleyman Shah…

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: No, not just Suleyman Shah.

NINTH SCREEN

Hakan Fidan: What I’m saying is, if we are ready to do that, we should have made the decision by now. Because of the threats and profits. I mean weakness as a state and strategic decisions…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yes if we did make taht decision on a smaller scale before, we wouldn’t have been forced to make this one today.

Yaşar Güler: No wait, we did make that decision.

Hakan Fidan: It wasn’t carried out.

Yaşar Güler: We can’t carry it out, we are paralyzed for several reasons sir, that’s our problem. State instruments are not working right now.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Let me be clear; I’ll be looking at my own side, the state manners I was trained for dictates that. Would you accept that if someone told the Foreign Ministry that things are not working because of political debates…

TENTH SCREEN

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Such a thing wouldn’t be legitimate! Everyone will carry out what they must with resolution. What would you do if an ambassador told you “They are taking everyone in sir, they might take me in too!”? Won’t we tell him to retire and bring someone else who can do the job? It’s how we should look at this situation. That’s how democracy works.

Yaşar Güler: You are right sir.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Now the state is driven by a few people and agencies who can make proper decisions. This is…

Yaşar Güler: Definitely sir, definitely.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Are we going to give up on this?

Yaşar Güler: No sir, we won’t give up.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Ok, whatever. Let’s move to the other place.


Another transcipt - with both Turkish and English text - can be found here.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Creating facts on the ground

The Western policy towards Ukraine is reminding me more and more of what went went wrong in Yugoslavia. Then as now we see Western countries addicted to creating facts on the ground. And while that sometimes may be a quick way to achieve desired changes there is always a risk that the other side doesn't give in and starts applying the same tactic. And then you are on the brink of war.

In Yugoslavia it started with the secession of Croatia and Slovenia. These republics seceded without following the procedures specified in the Yugoslav constitution that specified mutual agreement. They got support from the Western countries in the form of the "advice" of the Badinter Commission that declared Yugoslavia in "dissolution". Problems arose when the Serbs started to apply similar unilateral tactics.

I don't want to put all the blame on the unilateral secession of Croatia and Slovenia. Before that there were other unilateral acts like Milosevic's takeovers in Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvodina and his grab into the national bank account. My point is rather that this is an unacceptable type of behavior in modern society and that the Western countries should have gotten the local parties together to find new common rules.

We now see similar processes in Ukraine. First we had the secession of Crimea that very likely was triggered by attempts to throw the Russian navy out of their bases. It may be years - if ever - before we hear the true story. But the first Ukrainian parliamentarians had already asked for a closure of the bases and found all kinds of easy excuses. What happened behind the screens is unknown to us but will have been known to Russian intelligence. But it is clear that the Americans have a huge influence on the present Ukrainian government and are playing dangerous games.

A similar dirty scenario is also playing out regarding Transnistria. Ukraine has closed its border with this area. That puts Transnistria under pressure to make up with Moldova as that is the only other neighbor it has. In the mean time we hear the Americans uttering all kinds of threats and warnings towards the Russians not to interfere.

It looks like we have a madman in the White House who likes to see how close he can get to World War III without falling into it.