Just as things were beginning to look up for the various Kurdish factions fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, reports out of Turkey indicate that the authorities there are contemplating a major cross-border expedition to uproot the potential seeds of an independent “Greater” Kurdistan before they can grow. While the rest of the world focuses on the butchery carried out in the name of the would-be caliphate in Al-Raqqah or the mass-murders perpetrated in defence of Assad’s besieged regime in Damascus, the mandarins of Ankara are obsessed with the possibility of the Kurds gaining enough momentum, both on the ground and in the eyes of the international community, to establish an independent nation-state for themselves. Such a transnational entity could potentially stretch from beyond the present borders of Iran to the shores of the Mediterranean, taking chunks from several existing countries – including Turkey.
“Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning a military intervention into northern Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds from forming their own state there, despite concerns among his own generals and possible criticism from Washington and other NATO allies, according to reports in both pro- and anti-government media.
In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains by Kurdish fighters against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in recent weeks.
After the speech, several news outlets reported that the president and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had decided to send the Turkish army into Syria, a hugely significant move by NATO’s second-biggest fighting force after the U.S. military.
The reports said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers deep and 100 kilometers long that is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare. This “Mare Line,” as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday.”
Worryingly the more cautious New York Times is reporting similar rumours out of the region. Meanwhile the conflict in the Middle East abounds with further contradictions and ironies, as illustrated by this report from Newsweek:
“An American-born Al-Qaeda leader denounced ISIS terrorist group for being too extreme and warned there is no place for its militants in paradise if they continue killing Muslims.
In an interview with an Al-Qaeda magazine conducted last fall and obtained by ABC News, Adam Gadahn, born Adam Pearlman, said that “while no one can deny” the military strength of ISIS, continued attacks against Muslims, as well as the brutal murder of British humanitarian aid worker Alan Henning, mean militants face severe punishment, as their crimes “cannot simply be overlooked or forgotten with time, because in Islam there is no statute of limitations.”
In January, Gadahn was killed by a drone in a counterterrorism operation at an Al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan. He was born in California and converted to Islam in 1995.
Despite once being sympathetic toward ISIS when it was “seen as a weak and oppressed force valiantly fighting brutal tyrannies,” Al-Qaeda can no longer continue to support ISIS after the attacking, displacing, killing and enslaving of “largely powerless and defenseless minorities,” said Gadahn.
“But now that it has become clear that [ISIS] has—unfortunately—adopted some of the traits, methods and tactics of those same tyrannies, it no longer holds the same place in our hearts that it did once upon a time,” said Gadahn.”
As the conflict in Syria and Iraq continues will we eventually see the United States and it allies directly or indirectly supporting militias linked to Al-Qaeda in their fight against the Islamic State? Er… actually I do believe that has happened already.
Talking of former enemies becoming frenemies, one of the reasons why Iran sees the “Great Satan” the way it does, from the New Yorker:
“Back in the eighties, Western intelligence agencies questioned whether Iran’s eighteen-month-old revolution could survive for even a few weeks after Saddam Hussein’s surprise invasion. Tehran scrambled to mobilize remnants of the Shah’s army, the new Revolutionary Guards, and almost anyone, of any age, for a volunteer paramilitary. Tehran’s Holy Defense Museum has pictures of thirteen-year-old kids and eighty-year-old men who signed up. (Three per cent of the dead were fourteen or younger.)
Instead, the war dragged on for eight years. Most of the top Iranian officials in power today either fought in this grisliest of modern Middle East conflicts or were in key political positions trying to keep the country going.
In the end, Iran couldn’t hold off the Iraqis, especially after the United States, along with France, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq’s other longtime arms suppliers and allies started to aid Saddam. In 1988, for the final big Iraqi offensive, the Reagan Administration spent months advising Baghdad on how to retake the strategic Faw Peninsula, where the Shatt al Arab waterway flows into the Persian Gulf. (The war was originally over which country controlled the Shatt.)
Officially, the United States was neutral. But Washington did not want Iran to win, so U.S. intelligence provided satellite imagery of Iranian positions to Iraq, along with military options. With American and other foreign guidance, the Iraqis constructed a replica of Faw for practice runs.
Iraq also used U.S. intelligence to unleash chemical weapons against the Iranians in Faw. U.N. weapons inspectors documented Iraq’s repeated use of both mustard gas and nerve agents between 1983 and 1988. Washington opted to ignore it. At Faw, thousands of Iranians died. Syringes were littered next to bodies, a U.S. intelligence source told me; Iranian forces had tried to inject themselves with antidotes. The battle lasted only thirty-six hours; it was Iraq’s biggest gain in more than seven years. The war ended four months later, when Iran agreed to a cease-fire.
A U.N. report said that Iraq dropped almost twenty thousand chemical bombs over the course of six years. It also fired more than fifty-four thousand chemical artillery shells and twenty-seven thousand short-range chemical rockets. Almost two-thirds were used during the final eighteen months of the conflict. U.S. intelligence estimated, at the time, that Iran suffered more than fifty thousand casualties—deaths and injuries–from Iraq’s use of nerve agents and toxic gases. A senior Reagan Administration official told me that he was ashamed of the covert U.S. role at Faw and during the final period of the war.”
The Iranian obsession with gaining nuclear weapons did not come from nowhere…