Can Obama Save Turkey From a Syrian Quagmire?

When Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met President Obama at the White House on Thursday, the most pressing topic was the war in Syria. Turkey has not faced a threat on this scale since Stalin demanded territory from the Turks in 1945.

In 2011, the Turkish government severed all diplomatic ties with the government of Bashar al-Assad and began to support the Syrian opposition groups seeking to oust him. But, thus far, this policy has failed, and it has exposed Turkey to growing risks, most recently two deadly bomb attacks in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli that were most likely planted by pro-Assad forces in retaliation for Turkish support of the Syrian rebels.

Turkey’s blessing over the past decade has been its reputation as a stable country in an otherwise unstable region. In November 2012, the global ratings agency Fitch rated Turkish bonds investment-grade for the first time since 1994. The country’s improved international reputation has alleviated a chronic economic problem: lack of capital. A steady infusion of foreign investment for over a decade has ushered in phenomenal growth, at some points exceeding 8 percent annually, and propelled Turkey into the Group of 20 industrialized nations.

Turkey has become a majority middle-class society for the first time in its history, helping Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party win three successive elections since 2002.

But the war in Syria threatens these gains, and Mr. Erdogan’s political future. Turkey will not be immune to the fallout from a Somalia-style failed state next door — or from a rump Assad regime seeking revenge against Turkey for supporting the rebels. Turkey grows because it attracts international investment; and Turkey attracts investment because it is deemed stable. A spillover of the mess in Syria risks ending the country’s economic miracle.

Soner Cagaptay & James F. Jeffrey

The New York Times, United States

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The Syria-Iran red line show

This eminently Bushist Obama “red line” business, applied to Syria, Iran or both, is becoming a tad ridiculous.

Take Pentagon head Chuck Hagel’s tour of Israel and the “friendly” GCC (the de facto Gulf Counter-revolution Club) last week. US defense contractors had the Moet flowing as Hagel merrily congregated with that prodigy of democracy – United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – to celebrate the sale of 25 F-16 fighter jets.

There’s more on the way; 48 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile interceptors, at a cool US$1 billion. The Pentagon is sending one of its only two of such systems to Guam this month to counter that other threat – missiles from North Korea.
The weaponizing free fest to Israel and the Gulf petro-monarchies – missile defense, fighter jets, mega-bombs – could not but be duly hailed as the proverbial “message” to “counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions”, or “the air and missile threat posed by Iran”, or the general “worry about Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon” or “Washington’s determination to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

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PKK sets date for withdrawal from Turkey

The Kurdish rebel group the PKK has announced it will withdraw its thousands of fighters from Turkey starting on May 8.

The rebels from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), who have been fighting the Turkish government for the last three decades, will move to northern Iraq after leaving Turkish territory.

During the announcement, the armed group warned Turkey’s powerful military against “provocations” which would result in the end of the pledged withdrawal.

Al Jazeera, Qatar

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Syria’s Forgotten Front

AS the civil war in Syria rages on, the risk that Israel will be drawn into the fray is rising.

Just last Friday, shells fired from Syria again hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and Israel fired back. It’s not the first time tensions in the area have flared.

On Jan. 30, Israel staged an airstrike on a weapons convoy in Syria, reportedly destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. On March 6, jihadist rebels kidnapped 21 Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. The risk that Israeli retaliation for cross-border fire could spiral into a major skirmish, or even a larger Israeli intervention to set up a buffer zone in Syria, is real. To prevent it, the United States should broker a tacit agreement between Israel and moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.

Israel and the Syrian opposition don’t have much in common, but they do share some important mutual enemies, namely Hezbollah and Iran, both of which are fighting furiously to save Bashar al-Assad’s government.

David Pollock

The New York Times, United States

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‘Chemical warfare’ plunges Syria to new lows

Recent reports of limited chemical warfare in Syria come amid a new government offensive against the rebels. The fog of war, which has thickened in the last weeks, makes it difficult to say who is winning, and a large-scale international intervention still appears distant, meaning that the violence that has claimed more than 70,000 lives in just over two years (a recent average of 150-200 a day) is only set to plunge to further horrors.

The latest claims of chemical weapons use state that a woman and two children were killed in a poison gas attack in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday. Several other such incidents were reported recently, with the rebels and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accusing each other of perpetrating the attacks. We may not know the full truth for some time to come, even though a United Nations team tasked with investigating these claims has been standing by and hoping to obtain permission to enter the country for at least a week now.

Victor Kotsev

Asia Times Online

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The Islamic Emirate of Syriastan

And now some breaking news coming from the Islamic Emirate of Syriastan. This program is brought to you by the NATOGCC corporation. Please also tune in for a word from our individual sponsors, the United States government, Britain, France, Turkey, the House of Saud and the Emir of Qatar.

It all started early this week, with a proclamation by the elusive leader of al-Qaeda Central, Ayman “The Doctor” al-Zawahiri, hidden somewhere in the Pakistani tribal areas; how come Double O Bama with his license to kill (list) and prime drone fleet cannot find him?

Puzzled infidels from Washington to Beijing may be entitled to believe this is straight from Monty Python – but it’s actually deadly serious; especially as the House of Saud, the Emir of Qatar, the neo-Ottoman Erdogan in Turkey and King Playstation from Jordan – vastly supported by Washington – continue to weaponize the Syrian “rebels” to Kingdom Come. And one of the top beneficiaries of this weaponizing orgy has been – who else – the M&A gang now known as the Islamic State of the Iraq and Levant.

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times Online

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A coordinated U.S. strategy on Syria

The growing reports of increased U.S. support for the armed opposition in Syria with the training of Free Syrian Army (FSA) militias in Jordan and the facilitating of arms shipments into the country through Turkey mark an increase in overall U.S. assistance over two years into the conflict. While such actions are tempting in efforts to bring an end to Syria’s deepening civil war, a military solution for either side has not been achievable these past two years. What is needed, instead, is to combine military assistance with a coordinated strategy of capacity building within the opposition, which can then have measurable results and reinforce international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.

A better-trained, organized opposition that is able to make political and military gains could change not only the situation on the ground, but also the perception of the crisis in Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle. Based on our conversations with former senior members of the Assad regime and individuals in contact with the regime presently, Assad is still confident that he can manage to suppress the uprisings and bring the opposition to the table to negotiate on his terms.

Edward P. Djerejian and Andrew Bowen

Foreign Policy

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