Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Turkish military convoys deploy at Syrian border noted in the Chicago Tribune.

The Turkish General Staff (GS) has the plans, the prepositioned stocks, the equipment, the forces and the resolve to execute the intervention. In truth, many are anxious to do so. Prime Minister Erdogan has successfully populated the Turkish Army with Sunni Islamists who share his Ottoman aspirations to lead the Sunni Muslim Middle East and Central Asia.

However, Erdogan is clever and recognizes the criticality of exercising restraint and patience. He will not act in Syria directly if he can avoid it. Right now, he’s helping to orchestrate the rebellion and doing so very effectively. He has the unconditional support of the Peninsular Arabs who are inclined to trade U.S. protection for his against Iranian encroachment. To this point in time, the Turks have focused on crushing Kurdish rebels and insurgents, but, until recently, refrained from actively supporting Sunni Islamist rebellions.

The Sunni Islamist “awakening” in the region has changed that condition putting them into the fight through proxies in Syria. Given Assad’s deal with the Kurds to expand their autonomy and freedom of action, the Turks may yet decide it’s time to end the Assad regime once and for all creating a satellite state for themselves in Damascus the way Tehran has created one in Baghdad. Refugees in the region are an enormous problem. If they cannot go home, they are a burden to the host country. The Palestinians are the prime, but not the only example. Erdogan is acutely sensitive to this potential for instability.

Again, Erdogan understands it all, but he has no wish to put Turkish national cohesion and economic strength at risk in Syria if he can avoid doing so. Erogan does not want war with Iran, but he is interested in containing and emasculating Tehran, a Shiite regime he privately loathes as much as Riyadh does.

In this sense, Syria is a proving ground for various kinds of subversion conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to achieve their strategic aims. For the Iranians, subversion comes naturally and has worked brilliantly in Iraq where a series of Army Four Stars created the conditions through the misuse of American lives and power for Iran’s success. The Saudis are not quite as good at subversion preferring to invest money in religious and social activities to cultivate Sunni Islamist thinking and behavior. For the moment, they are providing money and arms to Sunni Islamist forces in both Syria and Iraq. Even the arms flowing out of Turkey into Syria are largely funded by Riyadh.

To be blunt, Erdogan is the most impressive man to lead Turkey since Attaturk. His grasp of strategy and international politics is unsurpassed.

If the Turks do go into Syria, the Israelis will confront a very dangerous situation indeed, one they cannot easily master. This will not lead immediately to war with Israel, but Turkey is the regional military superpower with the national cohesion, economic strength and military power to dominate its “near abroad” including Syria. To be frank, it is the Turkish led Sunni Muslim alliance, not Iran, the Israelis should fear. Unfortunately, the Israelis have overplayed their hand on the Iranian issue; a grossly inflated threat none of the Europeans privately fear any more than the Russians do. As Admiral Fallon, former CENTCOM Commander said, “They (the Iranians) are ants. We can crush them anytime.” Fallon was and remains right. In contrast to the Turks, the Iranian military capacity to project any serious military power beyond its borders is nil.

Iran is weak, far weaker internally than Americans realize. It presents no tangible security threat, particularly given its fragile dependence on oil, 70 percent of which goes to China, Korea and Japan. The idea that the Iranians would willingly block the Strait of Hormuz is just not true. It would not only harm the world economy, it would destroy Iran’s economy and put the regime at real risk of collapse. Without oil revenues, Iran along with its Arab neighbors cannot import the food it needs to feed its population.

The Israeli civil and military leadership is understandably nervous and reinforcing security along its Northern Border, but Israeli military and intelligence leaders want nothing to do with direct military intervention in Syria. The IDF leadership knows the perils of involving themselves in neighboring squabbles. They intervened in Lebanon and were compelled to ignominiously withdraw leaving Hizbollah, a creature of Israeli occupation (much like al Qaeda in Iraq was a creature of US occupation) behind them.

We Americans should also stay out. We cannot shape the outcome in Syria. We simply cannot compete for influence in this Middle Eastern snake pit as we discovered in Iraq. In the end, these dysfunctional societies will struggle for decades internally and with each other. At some point, they will emerge under presumably Turkish rather than Iranian leadership. If and when they do, we can deal with them on terms that favor us, from a position of political, economic and military strength.

Meanwhile, the economic backwardness and enormous populations of the Muslim States leaves them little maneuver room in the world arena where, like it or not, to survive they must do business with the West. When they do, we hold all of the cards.

Cheers, Doug

Turkish military convoys deploy at Syrian border

Umit Bektas Reuters

11:35 a.m. CDT, July 30, 2012

KILIS, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey sent at least four convoys of vehicles carrying troops and missile batteries to the border with Syria on Monday amid growing concern in Turkey about security on its southern frontier, witnesses and news reports said.

It was the latest in a series of deployments in the region in recent weeks. There is no indication that Turkish forces will cross the border, and the troop movements may be strictly precautionary in the face of spiraling violence in Syria.

Two separate convoys of about 30 vehicles left a base in Gaziantep province to head south to Kilis and were now stationed along a fenced-off section on the border with Syria, witnesses said.

"This is part of a training exercise," said a high-ranking officer in a second convoy of nine vehicles with armored personnel carriers, tanks and other military vehicles.

A second officer in the same convoy said the troops would remain on the Turkish side of the border.

The state-run Anatolian news agency said ammunition and military vehicles were brought by rail to the town of Islahiye in Gaziantep from the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.

In a fourth troop movement, military vehicles, including tanks, were moved to Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, further east from Kilis and Gaziantep, and were now stationed at the Syrian border, Anatolian said.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has conducted in recent months a number of troop deployments along its 911-km (566 mile) border with Syria, which is in the throes of an insurgency seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a former Assad ally, is now among his most vocal critics, calling for him to step down from power amid the 16-month uprising that has killed thousands of Syrian civilians.

Tensions between the neighbors hit a peak on June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance aircraft, killing two pilots.

Kilis houses a major refugee centre for Syrians fleeing the violence at home. About 44,000 refugees are in Turkey.

Erdogan last week warned the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed militant group that has launched attacks inside Turkey, against setting up camps inside northern Syria.

That area, which has a large Kurdish population, has been spared much of the violence seen elsewhere in Syria, but Turkey is worried the PKK could exert influence there amid a power vacuum and threaten Turkish security at the border.

The PKK has waged a 27-year campaign for autonomy in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast, and more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds have died in the conflict.

(Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

Copyright © 2012, Reuters

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