Thursday, June 30, 2016

Turkey, Kurds, ISIL and the U.S.

By Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN)The organizer of the Istanbul airport massacreis a well-known terrorist who served as a top soldier inthe ISIS war ministry, a U.S. official said.
Akhmed Chatayev, from Russia's North Caucasus region, directed the three suicide bombers who killed 43 people Tuesday, said rep Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Turkish media reported that a man nicknamed "Akhmed One-Arm" organized the attack.
While his whereabouts are unclear, his ties to jihadist activities are well documented, McCaul said.
"He's ... probably the No. 1 enemy in the Northern Caucus region of Russia. He's traveled to Syria on many occasions and became one of the top lieutenants for the minister of war for ISIS operations," he told CNN's Brianna Keilar.
--, it's the Kurds attacking in Turkey - that's who Saddam was bombing with scud missles when I was in high school, and as I recall we used that as a partial excuse to begin Desert Storm, to defend the Kurds as victims of ethnic cleansing. 

Other justifications for foreign involvement included Iraq's history of human rights abuses under Saddam. Iraq was also known to possess biological weapons and chemical weapons, which Saddam had used against Iranian troops during theIran–Iraq War and against his own country's Kurdish population in the Al-Anfal Campaign. Iraq was also known to have anuclear weapons program, but the report about it from January 1991 was partially declassified by the CIA on 26 May 2001.[93]
Although there were human rights abuses committed in Kuwait by the invading Iraqi military, the alleged incidents which received most publicity in the U.S. were inventions of the public relations firm hired by the government of Kuwait to influence U.S. opinion in favor of military intervention. Shortly after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the organization Citizens for a Free Kuwait was formed in the U.S. It hired the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton for about $11 million, paid byKuwait's government.[94]


Istanbul had already been subjected to three terrorist attacks in the first half of 2016, including suicide attacks in January and in March that were both linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and a car bombing in early June claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a "radical offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party(PKK)".[6][7] Reports are that the terrorists spoke a language unfamiliar to their taxi driver and may be Chechen.[8]

ISIL is Sunni, and Kurds are majority Sunni:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISILIPA /ˈsl/), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria[note 1] (ISIS/ˈss/),[31] and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh (داعش‎ dāʿishIPA: [ˈdaːʕiʃ]),[32][33]is a Salafi jihadist militant group that follows an Islamic fundamentalistWahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam.[34]

We support and fund the Kurds (see article below):

Allegations of Turkish support

A carnival float depicts Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Turkish PresidentErdoğan, 2016
Turkey has long been accused by experts, Syrian Kurds, and even U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden of supporting or colluding with ISIL.[408][409][410] According to journalist Patrick Cockburn, there is "strong evidence for a degree of collaboration" between the Turkish intelligence services and ISIL, although the "exact nature of the relationship ... remains cloudy".[411] In July 2014, Cockburn stated that "Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein's monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 820-kilometer-long (510 mi) Turkish-Syrian border open."[412] David L. Phillips of Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights, who compiled a list of allegations and claims accusing Turkey of assisting ISIL, writes that these allegations "range from military cooperation and weapons transfers to logistical support, financial assistance, and the provision of medical services".[413] Several ISIL fighters and commanders have claimed that Turkey supports ISIL.[414][415][416] Within Turkey itself, ISIL is believed to have caused increasing political polarisation between secularists and Islamists.[417]

We directly support the Kurds, and apparently our relations with Turkey aren't so hot:

The friendliness of Turkey towards the United States has declined markedly since 2003, primarily a result of the United States' action in the Iraq War in 2003. Turkey views the Iraq war as a significant threat because northern Iraq acts as a safe-haven for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Furthermore, Turkey views the destabilization of Iraq as a possible impetus for Kurds to claim their independence from Turkey, Iraq, and/or other Middle Eastern countries with significant Kurdish populations. A further strain in relations has been attributed to disagreements over the American support of Kurdish YPG fighters in the Syrian Civil War, with Turkey openly targeting them militarily.


It's also the Kurds who are in conflict in Syria.


As of February 2016: the government held 40% of Syria[18] (66% of the population);[19] ISIL-held territory constituted 20–40% of Syria;[18][20] 20% controlled by rebel groups (including the al-Nusra front);[18] 15–20% held by the Kurds[21][18]

The Assad government opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Bush administration undertook to destabilize the regime by increasing sectarian tensions, showcasing and publicising Syrian repression of radical Kurdish and Sunni groups and financing political dissidents.[125] In addition Assad opposed the Qatar-Turkey pipeline in 2009. A classified 2013 report by a joint U.S. army and intelligence group concluded that bringing down Assad would have drastic consequences, since the opposition supported by the Obama administration was dominated by jihadist elements. The report was ignored, according to Michael T. Flynn, the then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, by the U.S. administration.[125]

Human rights[edit]

The state of human rights in Syria had long been the subject of harsh criticism from global organizations.[140] The country was under emergency rule from 1963 until 2011, and rights of free expressionassociation and assembly were strictly controlled,[141] public gatherings of more than five people were banned,[142] and security forces were effectively granted sweeping powers of arrest and detention.[143][144] Women and ethnic minorities (particularly Kurds) faced discrimination,[141][145][146][147]


Beyond More US Commandos, Mosul Push Includes $415 Million for Kurds

Kurdish peshmerga fighters will get $415 million from the U.S. to join the Mosul offensive that will be aided by 217 additional U.S. Special Operations troops working down to the battalion level as advisors with frontline Iraqi forces, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday.
On a brief visit to Baghdad, Carter also said that additional AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and another Lockheed Martin M142High Mobility Artillery Rocket System would be sent to Iraq to "accelerate" the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The Apaches flown by U.S. crews have thus far only been used to counter threats to American forces but Carter's announcement suggested that they could be sent to support Iraqi Security Forces now struggling to make headway against ISIS from a staging base at Makmour, about 60 miles southeast of Mosul.
Because of Iraq's internal politics, and pressure from Iran not to appear overly-reliant on U.S. support, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abad has in the past rejected the use of Apaches to back up Iraqi Security Forces in such actions as the retaking of Ramadi in Anbar province earlier this year.
HIMARS missile systems have already been positioned to defend U.S. troops at the Taqqadam airbase in Iraq's southern Anbar province, and another system in Jordan last month fired into Syria to support a U.S.-backed militia group against ISIS.
The 217 additional U.S. Special Operations troops will boost the official count of U.S. troops in Iraq to more than 4,000 for the first time since ISIS fighters swept out of Syria in June 2014 to occupy large swathes of Iraq.
The authorized level of U.S. troops had been 3,870, and the addition of the 217 would put the official count at 4,087. However, the actual number of U.S. troops in Iraq has routinely exceeded 5,000 for the last several months due to overlaps in troop rotations and the deployment of personnel on temporary assignments that do not count against the official total, according to U.S. military spokesmen.
In an interview with CBS' Charlie Rose, President Barack Obama said that the deployment of more U.S. advisers and additional weapons systems were part of the overall plan to back local forces in the fight against ISIS, but he essentially conceded that retaking Mosul won't happen before he leaves office.
"As we see the Iraqis willing to fight and gaining ground, let's make sure that we're providing them support," Obama said. The added support will "tighten the noose" on ISIS, he said, but he suggested that the retaking of Mosul would be left to his successor in the White House.
Carter last month said Obama continually asked him what could be done to retake Mosul this year. The president told CBS, "My expectations is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall."
In a visit with U.S. troops at Baghdad International airport, Carter said that the escalation of the campaign against ISIS and the deployment of the 217 Special Ops troops was intended "to make sure the defeat of [ISIS] is lasting.
"The Iraqis are still in the lead. That doesn't change," the secretary said in separate remarks to NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. The additional troops and weapons systems "are capabilities that will continue the process of accelerating the defeat" of ISIS, he said, adding that "I'm very comfortable our operational approach is the right one."
However, "in the end, the Iraqi forces will have to do the defeating. We can help them, we cannot substitute for them," he said, even though "Americans are at risk today every single day here. As secretary of defense, I take that more seriously than anything else."
Carter suggested that Americans will be at more risk as the campaign accelerates in the effort the defeat ISIS. "We need to get that done as soon as possible and that means being more aggressive in the moves we make," he said.
Last month, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed and eight other Marines were wounded by ISIS rocket fire that hit a fire base for 155mm howitzers set up by Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit near Makhmour.
Of the $415 million in U.S. funding for the Peshmerga, Carter said only that the money would go to support "selected peshmerga units." Kurdish officials, struggling with a financial crisis that has left the Peshmerga fighters unpaid for the last three months, were ecstatic over the announcement and took to Twitter to praise Carter's action.
Lahur Talabani, director of the Kurdish Regional Government's intelligence agency, tweeted, "We thank the U.S. government for their commitment & support to our brave peshmerga forces who have been fighting ISIS on the world's behalf."
"In response to a request from the Kurdistan Regional Government for economic assistance, the Department of Defense will provide these funds on a monthly basis to support selected Peshmerga units," Pentagon spokesman Matthew Allen told the Kurdish news agency Rudaw.
"These forces have been among the most effective in the fight against ISIL and will be critical in the retaking of Mosul," Allen said, using another name for ISIS.
In response to Carter's announcement, Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, renewed his criticism of the Obama administration's approach to the conflicts in both Iraq and Syria, saying that the deployment of the additional Special Ops troops was another example of "grudging incrementalism."
The deployment of the additional troops was welcome, McCain said, but the piecemeal dispatch of U.S. forces to conflict zones was a tactic that "rarely wins wars, but could certainly lose one.
"This deployment is also representative of the increasing operational demands imposed upon our military that are not funded in the President's already inadequate defense budget request," the senator said in a statement.
McCain said failing to devote more money to defense puts "the lives of our service members at increased risk."
--Richard Sisk can be reached at