Rebel defeat in northern Syria cripples Turkey’s plans

It is no longer a secret that when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had his series of meetings with top American officials in Washington last month, he had a specific plan to kick DAESH out from northern Syria. Erdoğan tried to convince the American leadership to give another shot to Syrian Arab groups near Azaz and asked for intensified American logistics support and air cover for their offensives along the Turkish border. That was not a surprise because General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter were already publicly signaling a revival of the train-and-equip program for Turkey-backed Syrian groups. These groups would receive military training, including how to call in airstrikes on the enemy.

Ankara has used every way to make sure the U.S. would stick with the red lines imposed on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey preventing the PKK-linked YPG’s entrance to Manbij and Jarablous requires an alternative and the U.S. seemed cautiously open to Turkish proposals. As U.S. Secretary of State Jon Kerry said earlier this month, the U.S. still considers sealing the 145kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border controlled by DAESH as a priority.

This is why the anti-DAESH coalition significantly increased its airstrikes and Turkish artillery fire around Azaz over the past two weeks, and the Syrian opposition seized the crucial town of al-Rai along the border. But the victory was short-lived since DAESH seized the area back and disgraced the Syrian rebels by burning refugee camps and even creating a new wave of refugees to Turkey. Meanwhile, the YPG in Afrin simultaneously continued to attack opposition-held territory and made sure the YPG has no intentions of brokering an alliance in the area with rebels.

Even worse, DAESH has begun to target Turkey’s border town of Kilis with Katyusha rockets, which has caused great harm on the civilian population. DAESH has targeted the town for the last two weeks and, as a result, five Syrian refugees, three of them children, and two Turkish citizens died while dozens of citizens were wounded.

Let’s face it, Ankara is backed into a tight corner with these developments. It cannot tolerate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) additional seizure of territory and it cannot transform weak rebels into a victorious force in a night either. And DAESH is still infiltrating into Turkey from across the border and targeting Turkish citizens and Syrian refugees. No problems are solved and U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, especially the pro-PYD officials, thinks their point is getting validated.

This is why we hear more American calls for a PKK cease-fire and a complete withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey to Syria and Iraq, because the U.S. believes the chances for a Turkish plan to succeed are not very high and pushing the PKK into its caves while it is aiding the fight against DAESH seems a calculated move.

The problem with this plan, however, is Ankara is still not giving up on its own plan. There is no other option for Ankara, which does not believe the PKK would abandon violence unless it is militarily defeated. The point is that Ankara tried to figure a way out regarding the PKK since 2009, and it has not worked. Now, a PKK affiliate ruling a large swathe of territory in Syria makes it even a lesser possibility that the PKK would return to the negotiating table.

If Washington is seriously planning to convince Ankara on this front, officials should make sure the PKK ends its violence at once and withdraws from Turkey without any preconditions. Maybe there might be some hope for this American adventure. Who knows?

Daily Sabah

PKK: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

On July 11, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the PKK, issued a written statement to unilaterally end the two-year cease-fire citing public projects, including the construction of dams, in southeastern Turkey. Several days later, a member of the KCK Executive Committee called on PKK militants to take up arms against the Turkish state. Finally, PKK militants killed two civilians and two police officers under the pretext of retaliating against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide attack on July 20. Four days later, Turkish F-16s started launching airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq in an effort to push the organization to reinstate the cease-fire and withdraw of armed militants from Turkey as a first step toward disarmament. More than a few international media outlets, however, would like you to believe that the Turkish government, specifically President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke the cease-fire in order to help the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reclaim its parliamentary majority. Although there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, more than a few reporters conveniently ignored the basic principles of journalism in order to pass off full-blown conspiracy theories as news.

It all began in 2011 when the Turkish government launched the Kurdish reconciliation process to sponsor public projects in the southeast and promote broader cultural rights for the Kurdish community. Despite paying lip service to the prospect of peace, the PKK seized the opportunity to stockpile weapons, recruit new members and draw out plans for future attacks, which enabled the organization, whose withdrawal from Turkey has been pending for two years, to perpetrate attacks with relative ease. Considering that the vast majority of Turkey’s Kurds continue to support the disarmament talks, it should be quite clear that the PKK not only disagrees with, but also ignores the demands of millions of Kurds for peace.

Believing that anyone with a basic sense of time can figure out that the PKK shot first, let us offer an often ignored yet quite crucial question: What exactly does the PKK aim to accomplish through violence? The government has already taken steps to promote Kurds’ cultural rights by forcing the authorities to deal with the Kurdish question through dialogue and democratization as opposed to violence. The fact that international journalists are too busy with softball interviews for the record does not relieve the PKK leadership of their responsibility to explain, without resorting to conspiracy theories, why they thought it was a good idea to turn their back on peace and started walking around guns blazing. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has neither been able to distance itself from terrorism and make a genuine effort to push for the PKK’s disarmament.

The real reason behind the PKK’s most recent attacks has been the understanding that they can translate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) territorial gains in northern Syria and international popularity into political momentum in Turkey. Moving forward, the PKK leadership aims to expand the conflict zone into residential areas and town centers in order to promote violence among the general population. In other words, the organization seeks to trigger an ethnic conflict, akin to the sectarian tensions across the Middle East, which will be fought at the grassroots level.

Daily Sabah believes that the rising tide of violence takes a disproportionate toll on the Kurdish community. Not only are many Kurds affected by terrorist attacks in their vicinity but the organization itself not infrequently launches direct attacks against Kurdish members of the security forces and civilians. In order to promote peace and stability in Turkey, bridging the development gap between the country’s various parts remains a must. The PKK, as such, must reinstate the cease-fire without further delay in order to continue negotiations with Turkish authorities and find meaningful alternatives to violence.

For weeks, the media and the international community have given the PKK a free pass citing the organization’s role in fighting ISIS. Another serious problem with the media coverage is that major news outlets tend to present Turkey’s ongoing military effort as a war against the Kurdish people, which simply does not reflect the truth. Excited by the PYD’s advances against ISIS in Syria, many observers seem to have forgotten that not only Turkey, but also the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist organization. In the age of global terrorism, there is no room to play favorites.

Daily Sabah

6 PKK terrorists killed in SE Turkey

Six PKK terrorists have been killed on Wednesday after an attack was launched by the group on a gendarme command in the Bitlis province. Four soldiers were also injured during the clashes with the PKK group.

The PKK terrorists initiated an armed attack on Hizan district’s gendarmerie command on Wednesday morning. The soldiers retaliated and a clash between the sides pursued. Four soldiers were injured and six terrorists were killed during the armed conflict.

The wounded soldiers were taken to Tatvan military hospital via helicopter. One of the soldiers, whose condition was critical, was referred to another hospital in the Van province.

Security forces have launched an operation to track the terrorists in the region.

In a separate attack on Wednesday, PKK terrorists commenced fire on a minibus carrying police officers in the eastern province of Iğdır. The incident occurred at around 11 a.m. near the Taşburun village. The police officer named O.Ş. was injured in the attack and was taken to Iğdır State Hospital.

Formed in 1978, the PKK terrorist organization had been fighting the Turkish government for an independent state until the early 2000’s. The group then shifted its goal to autonomy in predominately Kurdish inhabited regions of Turkey.

The PKK announced on July 11 that the cease-fire which was declared via a message from the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan in 2013 has ended.

Daily Sabah

Turkish civilian firearm sales up 640%

Annual firearm sales to civilians in Turkey have increased by 639% since 1997, a report by Turkey’s Association for Defence Industry Manufacturers (SASAD) revealed. These figures cover only licensed, registered firearms, a statement underlined.

There are currently an estimated 28 million firearms in the hands of civilians in Turkey, of which only a little over 9 million are registered with the state.

This means that there are 35 firearms (12 registered) available for every 100 Turks.

The increase in sales over the last decade is mostly attributed to relaxed regulations that allow for easier access to weapons and larger availability of both domestically manufactured and foreign firearms. Turkish firearms sales by category for the year of 2013 were as follows: handguns 54%, rifles 27%, shotguns 15%, accessories & other 4%.

Cities with top sales in 2013 were Istanbul, Adana, Ankara, Trabzon, Bursa, Izmir, Diyarbakir, Samsun, Kocaeli and Gaziantep.

 

Terrorists fire on military helicopter

Diyarbakir, Turkey – A Turkish army UH-60 transport helicopter came under terrorist fire on Tuesday in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, security officials said.

Two shots hit the helicopter, which was carrying national high school entrance exam papers, in the Lice district.

Officials said no one was hurt and the helicopter landed safely at a local gendarmerie command. Damage on the helicopter is said to be “only cosmetic”.

Security officers say they have launched an operation to capture the terrorists.

 

Greek court rejects extradition of terror suspect

The Thessaloniki Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled Hüseyin Fevzi Tekin who was arrested last February will not be extradited to Turkey at least until his political asylum request is concluded.

Tekin, along with Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) members İsmail Akkol, Murat Korkut and Bilgehan Karpat, was arrested in Athens. When captured, he was in possession of a passport issued in the name of Bulgarian national Petrov Petar.

Greek police found a cache of weapons and explosives in his house. The court said that Tekin will remain in detention on charges related to the possession of weapons.

In a related development, Hasan Koşar, a DHKP-C member recently arrested for his involvement in a 2011 bombing in Thessaloniki, was released on bail. Koşar and 14 others, including two other DHKP-C members, were arrested after the explosion that killed one. He was released only to be arrested again as further investigation found he was involved in the attack. The Thessaloniki court ruled for his release as he has been a resident of Greece for over 23 years and “was not expected to flee abroad.”

Last week, the Thessaloniki Court of Appeals rejected an extradition demand for Kadir Kaya, another DHKP-C member, who was jailed last year but freed. The court also decided not to extradite two other DHKP-C members who were captured in a boat carrying arms and explosives from Greece’s Chios island on July 30.

Tekin is a high-ranking official in the DHKP-C who rose to the top after the death of its leader Dursun Karataş in 2008. He was arrested after a series of bombings were carried out in Istanbul’s Fatih district in 1999. After his release on parole, he disappeared. He is accused of commanding the organization from Greece.

Greece has long been a favorite hideaway for terrorists from the DHKP-C and PKK.

Terrorists fleeing Turkey took shelter at refugee camps in Lavrion under the guise of asylum seekers, especially in the 1980s.

The DHKP-C, founded in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist party, was designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Under the name of Dev Sol until 1994, the organization claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile murders, including the assassination of nationalist politician Gün Sazak and former prime minister Nihat Erim in 1980. The group also killed several Turkish intelligence officials. In 1994, it was founded as the DHKP-C after Dev Sol splintered. The group’s terror activities remained relatively minor compared to the PKK, another terrorist organization targeting Turkey.

The DHKP-C attempted to stage a bloody comeback in the last two years by carrying out attacks against the police. In 2012, about ten years after its last known lethal attack in Turkey, the DHKP-C conducted a suicide bombing at a police station in Istanbul, killing a policeman.

It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which killed a Turkish security guard in February 2013. This was followed one month later by rocket attacks against the Ministry of Justice in Ankara and the headquarters of the ruling AK Party. In September 2013, the DHKP-C claimed responsibility for a rocket attack against the headquarters of Turkish police in the capital.

No casualties were reported in all three attacks. The DHKP-C, originally established as a left-wing movement opposed to “fascist regimes in Turkey controlled by the West” targeted U.S. interests, including U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and facilities and NATO personnel and facilities since the 1990s. During the Gulf War in 1991, the organization claimed responsibility for the killing of two U.S. soldiers in Turkey and targeted NATO and U.S. logistical facilities in various attacks.

Following those attacks, Turkey launched a massive crackdown against the group in 1992 and an unknown number of its senior leaders were killed in operations in Istanbul. The terrorist organization restricted its activities in late 1990s, although it made headlines after a series of hunger strikes by its imprisoned members in 1999 that concluded with a violent crackdown by Turkish security forces against the prisoners. The group changed its tactics in the subsequent years, using terminally ill people as suicide bombers.

Daily Sabah

Pakistan denies plans to arm Syrian rebels

syrian-rebelPakistan on Thursday strongly denied it had any plans to send weapons to Syrian rebels, following reports that Saudi Arabia was holding talks with it about arming the opposition.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said at a regular briefing that Islamabad did not supply arms to “entities”, meaning rebel groups, and respected Syria’s sovereignty.

“The policy guidelines for the sale of arms that we have are in line with the adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN charter,” she said.

Pakistan recognized the right of all states to protect their security, she said, and wanted an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

She stressed that “regime change from outside by any means is something that Pakistan has persistently and very strongly opposed”.

“We also have what is known as end users’ certificate which ensures that our weapons are not resold or provided to a third country,” she said.

“Our position on Syria has been very clear and has been articulated again and again.”

A Saudi source said Sunday that Riyadh was seeking Pakistani anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets for forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebels have long sought anti-aircraft rockets to defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordnance.

The United States has opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists.

But Syrian opposition figures say the failure of peace talks in Geneva seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.

The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Aslam said Pakistan had taken note of the humanitarian situation in Syria and wanted to see the Syrian people getting the supplies they needed.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, on Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying the rebels with shoulder-launched rocket launchers, saying it would endanger security across the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Syria shipped out a consignment of mustard gas for destruction at sea under a disarmament deal approved by the UN Security Council to dispose of its chemical weapons.

DefenceTalk

CIA chief holds talks in Ankara on Syria, PKK

The United States’ top intelligence chief paid an unannounced two-day visit to Ankara to discuss deepening instability in Syria and the joint fight against terrorism.

David Petraeus, chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), held meetings with top Turkish officials both yesterday and on March 12, the Hürriyet Daily News learned.

Petraeus met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday and his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the previous day. The visit is Petraeus’ second to Ankara since he was appointed CIA chief last July.

According to Prime Ministry officials, Erdoğan and Petraeus exchanged views on the ongoing crisis in Syria while also discussing the joint battle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The officials further discussed an intelligence-sharing mechanism launched in 2007.

Petraeus’ visit coincided with that of Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League’s special envoy to Syria.

Though both officials stayed in the same hotel in Ankara, there was no confirmation of a potential meeting between the two.

Annan, who is trying to push the Syrian leadership to end its measures against anti-government rebels, is the latest international figure to have met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

8 PKK members killed in clashes in southeast Turkey

Turkish security forces killed eight alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party during clashes in the southeastern province of Bingöl today. 

AA photo
AA photo

Bingöl Gov. Hakan Güvencer said the militants were killed in a clash near Yayladere town of the province.

Güvencer said security forces were conducting an operation on a house where suspected PKK members were hiding when. Security forces called for the residents to surrender, Güvencer said, to which the militants responded by opening fire.

“Eight PKK members, of whom five were women, were killed in the ensuing firefight,” Güvencer said.

Meanwhile, 28 people were arrested for alleged links to the PKK in a separate operation in the Aydıncık town of southern province of Mersin.

Security forces seized 12 kilograms of explosives, 32 bomb mechanisms, 18 hand grenades and five long-range assault rifles.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

 

 

BİNGÖL – Anatolia News Agency

December/15/2011

Al-Qaeda plotted attack on Turkish Parliament, report says

Suspected al-Qaeda militants who are accused of planning to attack the US Embassy in Ankara had also plotted to target Turkey’s Parliament and a number of churches, according to a report from the Taraf daily on Friday.

In July police carried out an operation targeting an al-Qaeda cell that had received orders from al-Qaeda administrators in Afghanistan. The police operation prevented an attack on the US Embassy. Police apprehended the suspected al-Qaeda members with 700 kilograms of explosives on July 14. Taraf, which claims to have seen the indictment against 11 suspects, reported on Friday that the militants were almost ready to attack the embassy when they were captured in July, just ahead of a visit to Turkey by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It says police also seized floor plans of Parliament, a list of churches, as well as names and home addresses of church staffers in Ankara. Some 1,500 pounds (700 kilograms) of chemicals were seized along with instructions for making bombs.

The indictment stated that documents found at the militants’ address had labeled Turkey a war zone (dar al-harb) and its statesmen were described as “renegades.” The state system was described as “evil.” One document stated that it is more beneficial to fight against Turkey than against the US or other Western countries.

Police seized documents in the house and found printed dialogues of Internet chats between the militants and senior organization leaders from Afghanistan. These documents advise: “Just stay calm during interrogations, if you ever get caught. Don’t ever accept the allegations. Don’t give any information regarding the organization.”

Militants were captured at a house in Ankara’s Sincan district, where militants had been trained on how to use Kalashnikov rifles, and recorded these trainings on DVDs. The police operation against the al-Qaeda militants first began when a family of an al-Qaeda militant called police and said their son had been kidnapped by the Turkish arm of al-Qaeda.

09 December 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL