Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Timely articles from the Voice of America online.

Clinton: US Increasing Help for Syrian Rebels
July 24, 2012

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton 24July2012Image: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton 24 July 2012.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is increasing its efforts to help Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Clinton gave no details, but she said Tuesday that the U.S. is giving such non-lethal aid as medical and communications support. She said Washington is working outside of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions that would have taken strong action against the Assad government.

The secretary said the Syrian opposition is seizing control of more and more territory, which she says will eventually become a safe haven and a base for more operations.

She said the opposition must be ready to start work on an interim government that protects the rights of all Syrians and safeguards the stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.

Opposition Demands Assad Step Down

The spokesman for the Syrian National Council says the main opposition grouping is still demanding President Bashar al-Assad leave power, denying that the coalition would consider having someone from the current government temporarily lead a political transition.

Syrian National Council spokesman George Sabra told VOA by phone from Paris Tuesday that he had been misquoted in an earlier news report in which he was reported to have said the SNC would agree to the departure of President Assad and the transfer of his powers to a regime figure, who would temporarily lead a transitional period.

“There is not any change with the position and opinion of SNC about the regime and the transition period,” he said. “The transition period should start after leaving Bashar al-Assad and his regime the power.

“And the principle of this transition period has been announced in a document issued by the most parties of the opposition in that meeting which has been held two weeks ago in Cairo,” Sabra said. “So nothing new about this thing.”

Opposition Squabbling

The opposition meeting earlier this month in Cairo was marked by squabbling among delegates. But ultimately a plan emerged for a framework for a post-Assad political transition period that includes an interim government and parliament. SNC spokesman Sabra indicated that talks continue within the opposition about the way forward if and when President Assad leaves power.

“We are discussing now between us in the council, and also with the Free Syrian Army, about the idea of the transition document,” he said.

Fierce Fighting

Meanwhile, Syrian jets flew overhead while helicopters fired missiles Tuesday in a new government push to put down the rebellion in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

The exact situation on the ground is not clear. But witnesses report heavy fighting in the streets. Opposition reports say thousands of Syrian troops are heading toward Aleppo from their positions near the Turkish border.

Aleppo was relatively calm until late last week when the rebels launched their operation to take the city.

The opposition-run Local Coordination Committees also reported Tuesday that government forces were shelling areas outside Damascus, as well as in Homs, and in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

Chemical Weapons

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama joined other world figures in warning Syria against using chemical weapons.

Obama’s comments came after a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the government would never use chemical weapons against its own people, but would unleash them against what he called foreign invaders. He said the military is securely guarding the nation’s weapons stockpile.

Syrian activists say more than 19,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March of last year.

http://www.voanews.com/content/syrian-activists-report-continued-aleppo-clashes/1444072.html

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Top US Security Envoy Holds Talks in Beijing
July 24, 2012

Image: U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (L) and China’s President Hu Jintao during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 24, 2012.

The U.S. National Security Advisor is in Beijing to meet with China’s top leaders and to discuss military and security issues as well as the China’s position on the Syrian conflict and Iran.

Thomas Donilon held talks on Tuesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Donilon told Hu that President Barack Obama is “fully committed to building a cooperative partnership with China” on issues in the region and the globe.

China’s Xinhua news agency quoted Dai Bingguo as saying that the U.S. envoy’s visit is “important considering the timing, the background and the mission.”

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the school of International Relations at Renmin University, says that although the U.S.-China relations are generally stable, the two countries have to work out conflicting opinions on a range of matters.

“The two sides do not trust each other. Donilon’s role as a national security advisor is important in defusing doubts between the two countries,” Jin said.

Syria, Iran diplomatic issues

Last week China again joined Russia in vetoing a U.N. resolution calling for sanctions on Syria. China perceives such a move as an interference in Syria’s internal affairs. Western countries, including the United States, strongly criticized China’s decision, calling the vote “deplorable”.

Jin Canrong says officials are likely to discuss Syria, but Chinese authorities are unlikely to be persuaded to adopt a more interventionist stance.

The two sides are also expected to discuss Iran, which is now subjected to tough economic sanctions that deter third countries’ imports of Iran’s crude oil. Last month, and in a surprising move, the Obama administration added China, Iran’s top customer of oil, to a list of exempted countries allowed to purchase oil from Iran for 180 days without incurring economic repercussions from the United States.

“But the exemption is of only 6 months, after that what will they do?” Jin said, suggesting that Donilon’s visit could help define what the two countries’ will do next.

On Tuesday, Chinese media widely reported on Japanese protests against a U.S. military aircraft, the Osprey V-22, that had just arrived in Japan where it will be deployed to the American military base of Okinawa. Japanese opposition came from local officials and citizens concerned about the plane’s safety record.

China did not release any official statement on the matter and Jin Canrong thinks that Donilon’s visit will not prompt China’s leaders to express their view on the subject. “It’s a tactics’ weapon that does not change the strategic balance,” he said adding that China still views it as a U.S-Japan issue.

North Korea, China Sea issues

Other areas of discussion might include North Korea and conflicts over disputed territory in the East and South China Sea.

Donilon is scheduled to meet other Chinese senior military and state officials on Wednesday, including Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, foreign minister Yang Jiechi, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and Xi Jinping, the current vice president and Hu Jintao’s most likely successor after the next Party Congress scheduled for this fall.

After China, the U.S. envoy will fly to Japan to consult with senior Japanese officials on U.S.-Japan security cooperation and other bilateral issues.

http://www.voanews.com/content/top-us-security-envoy-holds-talks-in-beijing/1444109.html

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Fighting Rages in Syria, Turkey Closes Key Crossings
ONCUPINAR, Turkey, July 25, 2012

Image: A Syrian rebel takes position as a helicopter hovers over the northern city of Aleppo, July 23, 2012.

Fierce fighting continued in Syria on Wednesday. Rebels sent reinforcements to the battered historic city of Aleppo as government forces stepped up attacks with helicopters and machine guns.

Activists say rebels set fire to a police station near Aleppo. They also say clashes and heavy shelling have continued in regions including Homs, Hama, Deir el-Zour and the Damascus suburbs as President Bashar al-Assad tries to maintain his grip on power.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 40 people have been killed across Syria on Wednesday.

Turkey Closes Border

Neighboring Turkey has closed key border crossings to commercial traffic from Syria but says they remain open for refugees.

Ankara says it is taking the measure due to security concerns. Last week, Turkish drivers said their trucks were looted and burned as rebels captured the Syrian side of the Cilvegozu crossing from government forces. Analysts say the closures will affect Syria’s economy by hitting cross-border trade.

At the Kilis refugee camp near Oncupinar, Syrian refugee Abu Hasan expressed support for Turkey’s policy. “I think this is an appropriate decision,” he said. “Turkey is making the decision to protect its border as well as to protect us.” The Killis camp houses more than 11,000 Syrians.

Refugees Increasing

The number of refugees is increasing, with most using clandestine smuggling routes over the border. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay says more than 44,000 refugees are now sheltered in Turkey.

“There is an expectation that more people may come in,” he said. “Therefore, today we have decided to build new camps in several locations including Osmaniye, Kahramanmaras and Nizip.”

The Arab League has pledged $100 million to help the Syrian refugees. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says Turkey welcomes donations of equipment, but does not need personnel.

“Some of this assistance has arrived, in the sense of material assistance, and we are ready to receive more of the selected items that we have announced,” he said. “And our open door policy will continue.”

Reducing the U.N. Mission

Meanwhile, U.N. observers in Syria say their mission is dwindling. Herve Ladsous, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, said the Syrian operation continues on a “reduced basis.” He told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that the security situation in many parts of the country is “extremely delicate.”

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution renewing the observer mission for up to 30 days. The resolution allows for a pullout if the violence does not stop.

Earlier this week, the European Union decided to strengthen its arms embargo against the Syrian regime, blacklist nearly 30 government-associated people and companies, and ban the Syrian national airline from landing in EU countries.

On Wednesday, Russia’s foreign ministry expressed opposition to the EU sanctions, saying they could be seen as a “blockade” of the country.

http://www.voanews.com/content/syria-adds-troops-to-aleppo-fight/1444737.html

This intervention force is “…composed almost entirely of fighting men drawn from the ranks of al Qaeda and its extremist Islamist affiliates and allies… silently backed by the US and NATO members… the hard core is made up of Iraqi Islamists which carried out 15 coordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad last Thursday, killing 72 people and injuring 200″

Why would al Qaeda and other terrorists be better than Assad in running Syria?

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 27, 2011

Libyan ex-al Qaeda's Abdel Hakim BelhajThe Qatar oil emirate, encouraged by its successful participation in the campaign to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, has established a Sunni Arab intervention force to expedite the drive for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ouster, debkafile’s military sources report.

The new highly mobile force boosts the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army, whose numbers have jumped to 20,000 fighters, armed and funded by Qatar and now forming into military battalions and brigades at their bases in Turkey.

When they saw the Syrian massacre continuing unabated this month, the Qatari and Saudi rulers approved a crash program for the Qatari chief of staff Maj.-Gen Hamas Ali al-Attiya to weld this mobile intervention Sunni Muslim force out of al Qaeda linked-operatives for rapid deployment on the Turkish-Syrian border.

A force of 2,500 has been recruited up until now, our sources report. The hard core is made up of 1,000 members of the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya-IFGL, which fought Qaddafi, and 1,000 operatives of the Ansar al-Sunna, the Iraqi Islamists which carried out 15 coordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad last Thursday killing 72 people and injuring 200.

Qatar has just had them airlifted from Libya and Iraq to the southern Turkish town of Antakya (Antioch) in the border province of Hatay.

It is in this town of quarter-of-a- million inhabitants that the new Sunni force has located its command center and separate camps for the two main contingents to undergo intensive training for combat missions in the embattled Syrian towns and provinces of Idlib, Homs, Jabal al-Zawiya, scenes of the fiercest clashes between Syrian troops and rebels.

debkafile also reveals that the man appointed top commander of the Sunni intervention force headquartered in Antioch is none other than Abdel Hakim Belhaj, whose militia last August seized control of Tripoli after it was captured from Qaddafi by NATO and Qatari forces.

He has picked his deputies – Al-Mahdi Hatari, former head of the Tripoli Brigade and loyal crony Kikli Adem.
Qatari officers have set up communication links between the Libyan and Iraqi camps and since last week are coordinating their operations with the Free Syrian Army.

This flurry of military activity is taking place under the watchful gaze of the Turkish military and its intelligence services but they are not interfering.

debkafile’s military and counter-terror analysts stress that the rise of a new Qatari-led Sunni Muslim rapid intervention force breaks fresh strategic ground with ramifications for the United and Israel as well as for the Gulf Arab countries, Syria, Libya and Iraq.

1. A year has gone by since the Arab Revolt first broke out in December 2010. Yet this is the first time a Sunni Muslim power has established an intervention force – one moreover which is composed almost entirely of fighting men drawn from the ranks of al Qaeda and its extremist Islamist affiliates and allies.

2. The new Sunni force, funded by the Persian Gulf oil states, is silently backed by the US and NATO members, with Turkey in the forefront of this support group. This means that the Sunni-Shiite divide is spiraling into overt conflict with Western support afforded to one side.

3. Despite finding itself increasingly isolated by its Arab neighbors, Tehran has so far not intervened directly in conflicts in which it owns an interest – such as Gulf Cooperation Council-GCC intervention against a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain, and now Sunni militias and terrorists enlisted to battle the Allawite regime of Iran’s closest ally, Bashar Assad in Damascus.

4. Iran’s Lebanese proxy. Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, must also be feeling an uncomfortable draft coming from a Sunni fighting force near his strongholds and carrying out raids against his closest ally, Bashar Assad. He can’t ignore the possibility of that force conducting similar excursions against his own Shiite militia.

5. Israel too must find cause for concern in the rise of a Sunni military intervention force capable of moving at high speed from one arena to another and made up almost entirely of Islamist terrorists. At some time, Qatar might decide to move this force to the Gaza Strip to fight Israel.

http://www.debka.com/article/21602/

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
October 12, 2010

Chinese Su-27 over Iran and TurkeyThe arrival of a new Middle East player startled Washington and Jerusalem: debkafile’s military sources disclose that when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan met Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus Monday, Oct. 11, they talked less about the Kurdish question and more about the role China is willing to play in the military-intelligence alliance binding Syria, Iran and Turkey.

Erdogan took the credit for China’s unfolding involvement in the alliance in the role of big-power backer. Two recent events illustrate Beijing’s intent:

1. From Sept. 20 to Oct. 6, the Turkish Air Force conducted its regular annual Anatolian Eagle exercise, this time without US and Israeli participation. Israel was not invited and America opted out. However, their place was taken by Chinese Sukhoi Su-27 and Mig-29 warplanes making their first appearance in Turkish skies.

Our military sources report that the Chinese warplanes began touching down at the big Konya air base in central Turkey in mid-September for their debut performance in the Middle East and Europe. Konya has served NATO and the United States for decades as one of their most important air bases.

2. Our sources add that the Chinese planes refueled only once on their journey to Turkey – in Iran. When they touched down at the Gayem al-Mohammad air base in central Iran, their crews were made welcome by the Iranian air force commander Gen. Ahmad Migani.

It was the first time Chinese fighter-bombers are known to have visited the Islamic Republic.

The Gayem al-Mohammed facility, located near the town of Birjand in South Khorasan, is situated directly opposite the big American base of East Afghanistan near the Afghan-Iranian border town of Herat.

The Turkish prime minister painted the military alliance binding Tehran, Ankara and Damascus in rosy colors for Assad’s benefit as more central to the region and more powerful than Israel’s armed forces after overcoming the IDF’s military edge.

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 23, 2010, 1:23 PM (GMT+02:00)

In a rare move, Iran has declared a state of war on its northwestern border, Debkafile’s military and Iranian sources report. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps men and equipment units are being massed in the Caspian Sea region against what Tehran claims are US and Israeli forces concentrated on army and air bases in Azerbaijan ready to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The announcement came on Tuesday, June 22 from Brig.-Gen Mehdi Moini of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), commander of the forces tasked with “repelling” this American-Israeli offensive. He said: “The mobilization is due to the presence of American and Israeli forces on the western border,” adding, “Reinforcements are being dispatched to West Azerbaijan Province because some western countries are fueling ethnic conflicts to destabilize the situation in the region.”

In the past, Iranian officials have spoken of US and Israel attacks in general terms. Debkafile’s Iranian sources note that this is the first time that a specific location was mentioned and large reinforcements dispatched to give the threat substance.

Other Iranian sources report that in the last few days, Israel has secretly transferred a large number of bomber jets to bases in Azerbaijan, via Georgia, and that American special forces are also concentrated in Azerbaijan in preparation for a strike.

No comment has come from Azerbaijan about any of these reports. Iranian Azerbaijan, the destination of the Revolutionary Guards forces reinforcements, borders on Turkey, Iran and Armenia. Witnesses say long IRGC convoys of tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft units and infantry are seen heading up the main highways to Azerbaijan and then further north to the Caspian Sea.

On Tuesday, June 22, Dr. Uzi Arad, head of Israel’s National Security Council and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest adviser, said “The latest round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran is inadequate for thwarting its nuclear progress. A preemptive military strike might eventually be necessary.”

Debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources point to three other developments as setting off Iran’s war alert:

1. A certain (limited) reinforcement of American and Israeli forces has taken place in Azerbaijan. Neither Washington nor Jerusalem has ever acknowledged a military presence in this country that borders on Iran, but Western intelligence sources say that both keep a wary eye on the goings-on inside Iran from electronic surveillance bases in that country.

2. Iran feels moved to respond to certain US steps: The arrival of the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea and its war games with France and Israel, which included live-fire bombing practices against targets in Iran.

3. The execution of Abdolmalek Rigi, head of the Sunni Baluchi rebel organization (including the Iranian Baluchis), on June 20 was intended as a deterrent for Iran’s other minorities. Instead, they are more restive than ever. Several Azeri breakaway movements operate in Iranian Azerbaijan in combination with their brethren across the border. Tehran decided a substantial buildup in the province would serve as a timely measure against possible upheavals.

http://www.debka.com/article/8868/

This morning I did a search for “Turkey” from within Fars News online (Iranian news site). The results beg the question, Who is doing what with the Gaza Flotilla? Notice the date on the following article. FYI, Turkey is working closely with Iran to further Iran’s nuclear ambitions. There are quite a lot of Fars News articles on that.
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Iran Seeking to Maximize Cooperation with Turkey
Farsnews online 25 May 2010

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi hailed the brotherly ties between Tehran and Ankara, stressing that the ground is ready for a stride in the expansion of the two countries’ joint cooperation.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran pursues expansion of ties and joint cooperation with Turkey in a brotherly and full-scale manner,” Rahimi said on Monday in a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Tehran Umit Yardim.

He … reiterated that Iran and Turkey should strive to promote their cooperation as fast as possible, cautioning that paused movement on this course would lead to the delayed attainment of the desired results(emphasis added).

Rahimi also pointed to the Tehran-Ankara agreement on increasing the volume of trade exchanges to $30bln….

In March, Iranian and Turkish officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to expand mutual cooperation in different industrial fields, specially in textile, auto-manufacturing and power industries.

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8903040861

Israel attacks Gaza aid fleet
Excerpts from Aljazeera online news article 31 May 2010

Photo: Israel commandos board boat in pro-Palestinian flotilla.

Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country’s siege on Gaza. At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, Israeli radio reported.

The Israeli military said four soldiers had been wounded and claimed troops opened fire after “demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs”.

Condemnation has been quick to pour in after the Israeli action. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, officially declared a three-day state of mourning over Monday’s deaths.

Turkey, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden have all summoned the Israeli ambassador’s in their respective countries to protest against the deadly assault.

Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke. The protesters shouted “Damn Israel” as police blocked them.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/201053133047995359.html
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Israel braces for Turkish, Hizballah, Hamas reprisals. Greece halts joint drill.
DEBKAfile Special Report May 31, 2010, 1:45 PM (GMT+02:00)

“Far from being a humanitarian mission, the flotilla was sponsored personally by Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and permit arms supplies and terrorist to reach the Strip unrestricted.”

Debkafile’s military sources report Israeli concerns that Turkey may not confine itself to strong diplomatic retaliation for the Israel Navy’s seizure Monday, May 31, of the Marmora, the Turkish vessel leading the flotilla for breaking the Gaza blockade and resort to military action along with the Iranian-backed Hizballah and Hamas.

A statement from Ankara threatened “unprecedented and incalculable” reprisals, following which the Turkish chief of staff Gen. Ilker Basbug was recalled urgently to Ankara from a visit to Egypt. Greece has since halted its joint exercise with Israel in protest against the naval action.

Debkafile reports from Ankara that the Turkish government is planning to continue pounding the Israeli blockade with more flotillas and have them escorted by Turkish warships and fighter jets. Israel merchant vessels moored outside Ashdod port have been instructed to sail into port and take shelter in case of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Monday morning, Israeli warplanes headed west over the Mediterranean in support of the still ongoing Israeli commando operation aboard the Turkish Marmora, the scene of violent clashes between Israeli troops and the 600 “peace activists,” some of them armed. Ankara later reported 15 dead aboard the vessel.

Israeli army spokesman, Col. Avi Beneyahu, called the incident “an act of terror on the high seas.” Far from being a humanitarian mission, the flotilla was sponsored personally by Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and permit arms supplies and terrorist to reach the Strip unrestricted.

It aimed at provoking a widely publicized international incident with fatalities and showing Israel using strong-arm tactics against unarmed peace-lovers.

Its leaders and the nations involved therefore refused to heed warnings that the vessels would be prevented from entering Gaza Port and rejected Israeli offers to ferry their aid cargo overland to the Gaza Strip. Population within missile range of Gaza advised to take shelter in secured areas.

The pro-Hamas passengers were described as mobbing the Israeli commandos as they were dropped onto the Marmara’s deck, using knives and iron bars to beat them and shooting with a sidearm snatched from a soldier and at least two other pistols recovered empty from two of the bodies.

Israeli security forces are preparing for the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas to go back to shooting missiles and rockets against Israeli towns, in support of the seaborne attack on Israeli commandos.

The police are also on special alert in and around Israeli Arab communities, after Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyah called them out on a general strike, and the Holy Places, especially in Jerusalem.

Egypt will face pressure to end its joint embargo on Gaza with Israel at the Arab League Council meeting urgently Tuesday, June 1. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas demanded the session.

Demonstrations against Israel were staged in Syrian and Lebanese towns. Jordan hands stiff complaint to head of Israeli diplomatic mission in Amman.

http://www.debka.com/article/8823/

“Follow the money” is always good advice. Money / power / control… lots to be had in and around the Caspian Sea. It’s not only Middle Eastern nuclear power (weaponry) they’re interested in controlling.

Iran to drill Caspian Sea for oil soon
Tehran Times 8 Dec 2009

According to estimates, the southern part of the Caspian Sea holds at least 32 billion barrels of oil reserves.

http://bit.ly/5OGLzQ

Iran to privatize northern oil exploration rights
Tehran Times 11 Aug 2009

Photo caption: Recently launched Iran-Alborz oil exploration platform in the Caspian Sea.

The Iranian Privatization Organization has been given the rights to privatize 80 percent of the rights to explore oil in the country’s northern sector and the Caspian Sea.

http://bit.ly/8hj1O5

“Privatize,” right.